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Truth is always the first casualty of war – and no less so than the current conflict in Ukraine. Russia insists it’s a localized police action to uproot a new Nazi uprising. Ukraine, which has become a US protectorate, insists it’s fighting to halt Russian aggression against a freedom-seeking nation. No mention that Ukrainians used to be called Russians.

For interesting contrast, go back to the first Chechen War from 1994 to 1996 and the second one from 1999 to 2009. The 1.4 million Chechen, a fierce Muslim people of the Caucasus Mountains, who had been battling Russian imperial expansion for 300 years, rose up and waged two David v. Goliath wars to regain their freedom from Russia.

In the first war, Chechen fighters routed Russian forces. Moscow agreed to independence for the Chechen Islamic Republic. But then hardliners, led by security chief Vladimir Putin, resumed the war after a staged fake bombing of Moscow apartments by the renamed KGB, the SVR that killed 200-300 people.

At that time, the US was actively supporting the Yeltsin regime in Moscow, particularly so with massive financial aid. Yeltsin had long-established links to CIA and Britain’s intelligence agency, MI6.

The US refused to help the Chechen resistance or recognize its fight for independence. I know this because I was closely following this tragic story and trying to raise some support for free Chechnya.

As fighting raged in Chechnya, the US called on the then Chechen leader, Gen, Dzhokhar Dudayev, to negotiate with Boris Yeltsin. Dudayev was given a special mobile phone supposedly connected to one held by Yeltsin for the ’peace talks.’

As so as Dudayev and Yeltsin were connected, a covert US aircraft launched a missile that homed in on Dudayev’s phone receiver. The Chechen leader was blown to bits. With further help from US intelligence, the Chechen resistance was relentlessly ground down and eliminated. Chechens were arrested and tortured en masse in so-called Russian ‘filtration camps.’ A Chechen warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, was named ‘gauleiter’ of Chechnya. Chechen leaders were hunted down and assassinated by KGB or Kadyrov’s agents.

Chechnya was literally thrown to the wolves by the US. What a contrast this is to the current situation in Ukraine which has been flooded by \$15-20 billion of modern US weapons in recent months and aided by a massive propaganda campaign directed by the US and Britain.

Unlike 1991, the US sees the war in Ukraine as a rare chance to tear a big chunk of Russia away or even go on to crush the Russian Federation into fragments. Many Ukrainians would be happy to see this outcome. The memory of how Stalin’s USSR starved or shot some six million Ukrainians in the 1920’s and 1930’s lingers among the older generation.

But younger Ukrainians must question what will happen if their war with Russia continues. Will Ukraine invade Russia and try to regain Crimea? Will the US or some European powers support an attack on Crimea? Poland and Britain are already deeply involved in the war. Who will be next?

The right wing of the US Democratic Party, now in power, is far more warlike and anti-Russian than most Americans realize. In fact, it’s the real `war party.’

If this half-baked war continues, the risks of a nuclear or chemical confrontation grow daily. So does an accidental clash in the Black Sea between Russia and the US. Off on the sidelines the Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Azeris, Egyptians. Iranians and Israelis may be spoiling for a fight.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Chechnya, NATO, Russia, Ukraine 

It was an unforgettable evening in Moscow.

I was taken by Russian friends to the city’s then largest cathedral which had been closed for decades by Stalin’s orders.

Amid clouds of incense and the glow of countless candles, a chorus sang the old Orthodox liturgy. Most of the worshippers openly wept. This was the first time that Russians had been allowed to celebrate Orthodox Christmas mass since the 1930’s. Though not myself religious, I was swept away by the deep emotions and beauty of the moment.

The new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had allowed his nation’s churches to reopen. This historic act, and a host of other liberalizations, restored Russia to its cultural roots and brought a dawn to the benighted Soviet Union after the dark Communist times.

Mikhail Gorbachev, a soft-spoken bureaucrat from the rural Stavropol region, seemed unlikely to assume leadership of the mighty Soviet Union. But three previous chairmen of the Union had died from age-related infirmities. The Communist Party’s ruling circles decided that their nations needed youth, rejuvenation and a battle against corruption.

So Gorbachev was named the new party chairman. He wasted no time in unleashing a torrent of reforms known a ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika.’ Gorbachev was hugely aided in this revolution by the tough KGB chief of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze whose primary role in Gorbachev’s revolution was not understood by the west. We used to call him ‘Chevy Eddy.’ He enjoyed this sobriquet.

Gorbachev wanted a Europeanized, liberal Russia living in harmony with the western powers. He partly dismantled the fearsome KGB, guardian of the communist party. I interviewed the KGB’s two most senior officers at the notorious Lubyanka Prison and learned of their tentative support for Gorbachev’s reforms.

The most important action taken by Gorbachev was his refusal to use force against ethnic nationalists in the Baltic states, Ukraine, Central Asia and, increasingly, Eastern Europe. Force and fear had held the old Soviet Union together. Once removed, the union quickly began to disintegrate.

Gorbachev also sought to end the Cold War confrontation with the US and its allies, rightly understanding that the USSR could not sustain a ruinous military confrontation with the western powers. Russia at one time had 50,000 tanks and 5,000 nuclear warheads but no food in its miserable markets.

So Gorbachev bravely called an end to the Cold War and embarked on nuclear disarmament programs. He ended the hopeless war in Afghanistan and recalled the Red Army. As rebellions erupted in East Germany, the Baltics and Central Asia a bunch of drunken Communist Party bigwigs tried to overthrow Gorbachev in August 1991 while he was vacationing in Crimea. The coup was a comic fiasco, but it ended Gorbachev’s authority. Boris Yeltsin, secretly supported by the US and Britain, seized power.

The USSR collapsed, splintering into pieces. Gorbachev and his allies were unwilling to employ brute force to stop the process. Had they done so, nuclear war with the US and NATO would have been likely. While Gorbachev avoided war and allowed the historic reunification of Germany, the US invaded Iraq. Many Russians warned that the US was determined to destroy the Russian Union. Washington’s vows not to expand NATO east turned out to be untruths that delivered the final fatal blow to Gorbachev. He became the most reviled man in Russia, an outcast in his own country. His lovely, cultured wife Raisa was denounced as a snob, but she would form the model for modern Russian women, transformed from dumpy versions of Mrs. Khrushchev into stunning beauties.

Former President Mikhail Gorbachev died last week aged 91 after a long illness. Like the late US president Jimmy Carter, he struggled to spare the world from the threat of nuclear war. He made many mistakes, but Gorby was a great man, a great statesman and a great human being.

Rest in peace, Mikhail Sergeyevich. I salute you.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Cold War, Gorbachev, Russia, Soviet Union 

They used to call it `the million-man swim.’ That was the US Navy’s sneering dismissal of any Chinese attempt to seize the island of Taiwan by a massive amphibious invasion.

The US Navy’s strike carriers, submarines and surface combatants, backed by the Marines and Army in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea and Guam, would tear to shreds any Chinese invasion force. That, at least, was a decade ago.

Today things look very differently. US naval and air power in the western Pacific have declined by about 20%. America is tired after waging its decade-long war in Afghanistan, which cost \$1 trillion and achieved none of the US imperial goals. While the US was blowing up Afghan villages and paying off Afghan mercenaries, the Chinese were diligently building up their amphibious and air forces. Their goal was conquering next door Taiwan.

I’ve been over some of Taiwan’s fixed defenses. Many of the island’s beaches are amenable to amphibious operations. Rugged mountains with many caves further inland. In short, excellent defensive topography. Taiwan’s armed forces are well trained and motivated. Most Taiwanese appear to prefer independence from Red China and their current democratic system. Taiwan is also the world’s leading producer of high-tech computer chips. The world electronic industry would grind to a halt without Taiwan’s chips.

China makes a huge noise over Taiwan as it tries to whip up nationalism. In fact, not so many Chinese care about Taiwan aside from a few slogans and drumbeating. But it has become the Pacific’s version of Alsace Lorraine, a permanent ‘casus belli’ that provides the politicians with grist for their mills. Interestingly, whether Taiwan has ever really been a part of China – or maybe of Japan – is uncertain.

However, the rugged island appears fated to become of Greater China. Those other non-Han Chinese regions, Tibet, Mongolia, and Eastern Turkestan have been absorbed into China. This leaves northern Manchuria as the last remaining region of the former Chinese Empire. It is ruled by Russia – at least for now. Interestingly, I once asked a senior Chinese intelligence general how long it would take for China to capture the Russian port of Vladivostok, Russia’s principal Far East port.

‘Two days,’ he replied.

Confrontation over Taiwan has simmered between the US and China since the 1950’s when anti-communist Chinese forces fled from the mainland to Taiwan, or Formosa as it used to be called. War almost erupted in the 1950’s over the small, Nationalist Chinese offshore islands of Matsu and Quemoy. This could happen again.

To understand just how angry US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s whistlestop visit made the prickly Chinese, imagine if a delegation of Chinese Communist officials went to the US state of Hawaii and proclaimed its ‘independence’ from Washington. The US has a less than noble record in Hawaii. American planters staged a coup that overthrew its legitimate Hawaiian government and annexed the territory – rather as the US recently did in Ukraine.

What will Chinese do next? Probably huff and puff and impose a limited naval blockade on the independent island. Taiwan relies on maritime and air trade so any punitive Chinese action would be highly painful. A full blockade cutting off oil, food, medicine and spare parts would be catastrophic.

In the recent past, China would not have managed to effectively blockade the island. Its ‘brown water’ coastal navy could not confront the mighty US Seventh Fleet in the Taiwan Strait. Hence the ‘million-man swim.’ By wasting billions on useless colonial wars, the US has seriously weakened its naval and air forces. Washington’s Asian allies are not anxious to go to war with China over Taiwan.

As Soviet Brezhnev used to say, ‘quantity has its own quality.’ The US Navy is a superb, deadly military instrument. But China now has more warships, subs and coastal aircraft. Even so, its military forces would be decimated. But they could also impose severe damage on US Naval forces, notably with their new DF-21 anti-ship missile – if it really works as well as advertised. In this case, US aircraft carriers could be in jeopardy. The same applies to Chinese submarines firing volleys of anti-ship missiles.

Having said that, I’ve been at sea on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and nuclear attack submarine Minneapolis St. Paul and can attest to their crew’s impressive skills and professionalism. Those skills began at the battle of Midway and Guadalcanal in WWII. The Chinese are still in day one of naval school.

 

It is unsettling to see a democratic government like the United States beating its chest over the high-tech murder of a retired jihadist, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The 71-year-old al-Zawahiri succeeded the assassinated Osama bin Laden as chief of the anti-US underground group, al-Qaeda. The mild-mannered, Egyptian had been a local doctor in Cairo, when the brutal secret police of US-backed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, arrested him. Though al-Zawahiri was not directly involved in the opposition, he was savagely tortured by Mubarak’s secret police, who were directly advised and financially assisted by US security experts and intelligence.

I never met Dr. al-Zawahiri, but I spent long hours with his teacher and mentor, Sheik Abdullah Azzam – who was also bin Laden’s spiritual guide and instructor. Call him the father of jihad.

After torture and jail, Dr. al-Zawahiri became radicalized, joining Osama bin Laden’s underground movement that was dedicated to ousting American influence from the Muslim world. Al-Zawahiri later joined bin Laden in Afghanistan, a free-fire zone for Islamic jihadists. According to Washington, any groups opposing US presence in the Mideast were without doubt `terrorists.’ Israel developed this terminology to discredit all Palestinian resistance groups.

The US claims Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were the architects of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. But bin Laden and al-Zawahiri denied being involved though they applauded the bloody attacks. Bin Laden stated the attack on New York was payback for Israel’s destruction of PLO-occupied West Beirut in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon. No one in the West paid any attention.

To this day, I question if bin Laden and his group were actually behind 9/11. Tapes of bin Laden discussing the attack on New York shown on CNN turned out to be poorly made fakes.

My contacts in Afghanistan and Pakistan insist the attack came from extreme anti-American groups in Saudi Arabia and were planned in Germany and Spain. Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. Neither did Iraq, as the Bush administration falsely claimed. Hamid Gul, the former head of ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, told me that the Saudis were behind 9/11.

But why al-Zawahiri was openly living in Kabul – if he really was – remains a mystery. Relations between al-Qaeda and Taliban were always bad. So too with Iran. Yet al-Zawahiri supposedly chose to live in a downtown apartment surrounded by informers, spies, and former regime secret police with a \$25 million price on his head? One also questions why Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad, a Pakistani military cantonment, openly and unguarded.

What we do know is that both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were pretty much retired from being militants. Normally, they would have been playing golf or cricket and playing with their grandkids. Neither was well hidden or heavily protected. That’s curious, to say the least. Al-Qaeda had gone almost out of business. Both old jihadists were, ailing old men.

Bin Laden was buried at sea by the US Navy. According to Washington, this was done to prevent his burial site from becoming a shrine. If involved in the mass crime on 9/11, he should have been brought to New York to stand trial.

According to this writer, it was also done because, as pirates used to say, dead men tell no tales. Bin Laden used to be a US ally at one time, and no one wanted to hear about that. Al-Zawahiri had skeletons in his closet. As Stalin used to quip, ‘no man, no problem.’

Sheikh Abdullah Azzam told me when we were in Peshawar, Pakistan that ‘once we have liberated Afghanistan, we will go on to liberate Saudi Arabia from American rule.’ Azzam was a Palestinian refugee who had lost his family home to Israeli settlers. He was murdered by a car bomb outside that city before he could move against the Saudis. Who killed Azzam remains unknown. He had many enemies. Equally suspect are the Americans, Indians, Afghan Communists, Tajiks, Uzbeks, backers of Benazir Bhutto, or Soviet KGB.

Al-Zawahiri proved a lackluster leader and allowed al-Qaeda to fade almost to obscurity. The younger, more militant group, Islamic State, accused al-Qaeda of selling out to the western powers and becoming feeble and even attacked Taliban. Both al-Zawahiri and bin Laden had paled to insignificance by the time they were assassinated by the CIA. But even in death they remained potent symbols of resistance to western domination.

 

n the Mideast, it’s customary for less important people to go call on their betters, not vice versa. The more important you are, the longer you keep callers waiting.

US President Joe Biden ignored all these customs on his recent pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, whose de facto ruler he had previously termed a ‘pariah.’

Everyone knew Biden had come to Saudi to politely grovel before its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the potentate whom CIA claims ordered critical Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi kidnapped and chopped up into little pieces.

Prince Mohammed denies any responsibility.

The real reason for Biden’s supplication was, of course, the worldwide shortage of oil which was partly caused by the US-led embargo on Russian oil exports. Americans are deeply outraged by high oil prices which can be the kiss of death for many a politician.

Americans care about three things above all: gasoline, God and guns.

As everyone knows, gasoline prices have hit the roof just when US midterm elections are on the horizon. The Biden White House is rightly panicking as the president’s feeble approval ratings drop ever lower.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump sits in his Floridian version of Elba waiting for the time to return to power. No current Democrat looks capable of standing up to Trump. One even wonders if the frail-looking Biden will make it to election day.

Many Republicans question Biden’s pouring of at least \$74 billion in arms and aid into Ukraine (plus \$5 billion to overthrow the democratically elected former government in Kiev). More US weapons are on the way to Ukraine.

Washington’s plunge into the Ukraine has threatened to provoke a nuclear clash with Moscow over a part of the world in which the US has never had any strategic or historic interest.

This matters little to most Americans or Congress. The US and Canada are swamped by pro-independence Ukraine agitation. To some, Ukraine has become a sort of second Israel and is seen as a potential refuge for persecuted European, or even Israeli, Jews.

Democrats will lose the election unless telegenic California governor Gavin Newsome decides to run for president from the perch once held by Ronald Reagan.

Biden’s Democratic Party has long received substantial funding from ardently pro-Israel groups. Biden is a strong supporter of Israel, both its leftwing and rightist parties. Trump was a booster for Israel’s hard right-wing expansionists. He redirected US Mideast policy to suit Israel’s needs and curry favor with the Christian far right. Biden is simply continuing Trump’s pro-Israel policies, albeit with a bit more subtlety and a bit less bible thumping.

The so-called ‘Abraham Agreements’ forged by Trump & Co. were a cynical bad joke. They forced despotic Arab regimes to reveal that their under the table dealings with Israel that had been going on for decades. Saudi Arabia just beheaded 81 prisoners last week. The accords openly linked some of the Mideast’s most repressive regimes and worst violators of human rights to oppose Iran.

As a former columnist for leading newspapers in Dubai and Qatar, I watched all this happen. First under Obama, Trump, and now Biden, the Mideast’s people were relentlessly squeezed by dictatorial rulers backed and armed by the United States and Britain. The US Air Force and British RAF provided the aircraft, pilots, and ground crews that ravaged remote Yemen and slew large numbers of its people – just as they did in Afghanistan.

The Saudis, Egyptians and Emiratis hope to rule the Arab world and Red Sea littoral as cat’s paws for what I call the ‘American Raj.’ It’s brutal and cynical but readily understood by the Mideast’s people.

 

I’ve seen many coups in my decades as a journalist and connoisseur of exotic, turbulent places. The most exciting coup occurred in Paris under President Charles de Gaulle as I waited at Place de la Concorde with heavily armed paramilitary police as we prepared for an attack by elite paratroopers from French Algeria. Amid crackling radios and the rasp of machine guns being loaded, armored vehicles took position for combat. De Gaulle urged civilians to block the streets running from the airports to central Paris. And so, we did.

In the end, French paras did not come from Algiers because the Air Force commander grounded all the military transport aircraft. Interestingly, an attempt by anti-Gorbachev communist rebels to fly special forces into Moscow to back their coup was similarly thwarted when Russia’s then air force commander grounded all military transport aircraft.

Traditionally, air forces are more liberal/left than ground forces – and sometimes sailors are farthest to the left, as witnessed when mutinous sailors of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet seized the battleship “Potempkin” at Odessa.

I remember being in the middle of attempted coups in Trinidad and Haiti, Kuwait, Italy and Peru. But none, save France, can compare to the current explosive Washington investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempt to reverse his electoral loss and re-seat himself in the White House. This was one of the most disturbing and ugly events in US history, and akin to the attempt to crush the Roman Republic, on which the US political system in based.

It’s by now clear that Trump and his far-right allies tried to stage a bureaucratic coup, using some of the myriads of lawyers floating in Trump’s orbit. I was considered for a senior foreign policy job by the incoming Trump administration but declined after meeting many of its key members, including Trump.

I was a lifelong conservative Republican, but the people I met at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida HQ, were nothing like the old guard Republicans I had known. They were shady denizens of New York City’s real estate industry and until then obscure far right. Not my cup of tea. My Republican Party lived on Manhattan’s Upper East side, not darkest Queens or the remote burbs.

I watched the January coup unfold with horror and dismay. Whose idea was it to send a mob of yahoos to storm the Capitol, the heart of our democracy? What kind of half-ass attempt was this?

Long ago, I helped organize and mount a coup against my Swiss school’s unliked student government, then led by a little leftwing worm from California.

We declared the student government dissolved, appointed ourselves as committee of public safety, and promised new free elections in six months. All classic coup blarney. One of our chief coup committee members was a chap named Firdaus whose father, a general, had helped overthrow the government of Indonesia. Another coup member was my Turkish pal Turgut. His father had been hanged by the US-directed military junta in Ankara.

All the parts of our coup in Geneva fell right into place. There was none of the rioting and window smashing, none of the storm of obscenities and fighting that we saw in Washington on 6 January. What transpired in Washington last January was worthy of a mob riot in some small African country. Its leaders deserved a long time in jail – for a brazen crime against US democracy, and for galloping incompetence.

Trump and his hillbilly mob should have read military strategist Edward Luttwak’s fine book about how to stage coups. Instead, they swallowed Fox TV propaganda and puerile internet rubbish.

The rioters should all stand trial for sedition. Starting with Mr. Trump, who has much to explain.

 

A blitzkrieg Russian invasion of Ukraine it was not. Marshall Zhukov, the Soviet Union’s famed tank general, must be rolling in his grave. Had Stalin still been in the Kremlin, Russia’s generals and defense minister would have by now been shot. At that time, the Red Army and its 50,000 tanks were believed able to burst through Germany’s Fulda Gap and central Austria and reach the key US supply base at Rotterdam in a week.

After three months of desultory fighting, the Russian army has managed to occupy some border areas in Ukraine and the key communications hub of Mariupol, cutting off Ukraine from its access to the Black Sea. Ukraine’s very important exports of grains have been blocked, undermining its economy but not proving a decisive move to end the war between self-proclaimed independent Ukraine and its western allies on one side and Russia and neighboring Belarus on the other. The proposed joining of Finland and Sweden to NATO is a political backfire for the Kremlin, but means little from a military viewpoint since both nations have long been covert NATO allies. ‘Neutral’ Switzerland has also been another not-so-secret member of the alliance.

But in fact, the US and its NATO allies have been locked in a nasty, covert war against Russia that threatens to erupt at any time into a conventional, then nuclear conflict. This quasi-war is the result of the refusal by the US and NATO to exclude their alliance from formerly Soviet-ruled Eastern Europe and pushing it to Russia’s very borders. The conflict has re-awakened dangerous problems that date back to the end of World War I when the victorious British and French, along with the credulous Americans, sought to alter Europe’s map. Vast swathes of territory were torn away from Germany, Austro-Hungary and Russia leaving dangerous disputes active to this day.

What’s wrong today with Russia’s current army, once the terror of Europe? First, it’s too small. Early on, President Vlad Putin ordered serious reductions in the size of Russia’s then huge armed forces. China did the same. That was fine for peace-time, but not for waging war. Russia sent only 100,000 men to occupy and subjugate Ukraine, a vast territory the size of Western Europe. I suspect that Putin’s goal was to annex key border regions, then leave independence-minded Ukraine isolated and in grave economic distress. The expected western economic war against Russia would be partially mitigated by the economic/financial distress caused to the west and its vassal states like Egypt.

A Russian airborne attack on capital Kiev failed miserably due to Western special forces and a new supply of top-attack anti-tank weapons. Usually reliable Russian military intelligence was ignored. Civilian intelligence was allowed to design the military campaign which as we have seen turned into a stalemate. It is no coincidence that Putin was a civilian KGB intelligence officer and his powerful defense minister Sergei Shoigu was never a military officer. Russia’s forces also suffered from logistical problems. This was surprising since during WWII Soviet forces became masters of fast-moving supply support. This was a fascinating subject that I studied in depth while serving in the US Army – where I also taught military strategy and history. War is too important to be left to civilians.

What about air power, vaunted as the Queen of Battle? It’s not been much in evidence in Ukraine. NATO dares not openly intervene in Ukraine for the very good reason that Russia will likely riposte with tactical missiles against NATO air bases and major arms depots. Welcome WWIII. Convoys of tanks, armored vehicles, supply trucks, fuel and soldiers are legitimate targets for Russia’s tactical missiles, notably the accurate Iskander missiles. Cash-strapped Russia has kept its air strikes to a modest level for fear of losing valuable warplanes that it cannot afford to replace, a problem I also witnessed in Afghanistan where the deadly US Stinger missile held the Red Air Force at bay.

We have so far been very lucky that a full-scale clash has not yet occurred between the US and Russia over Ukraine, a land of no importance at all to the United States but of fundamental importance to Russia. Amid the blizzard of anti-Russian propaganda, it’s easy to forget that in 1990 Ukraine was still an integral part of the Soviet Union. Or that the US staged a coup d’état in Ukraine that brought a pro-US regime to power that shakes its fist today at Moscow. But US intelligence agencies and NATO had moved uncommonly fast to arm Ukraine with state the art anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons as well as huge amounts of ammunition. US military and economic aid to Ukraine alone exceeded \$40 billion.

There’s no doubt that Russia has lost the information war in Ukraine. The massed western media has been acting as an amen chorus for the Kiev regime. Ukraine has become another ‘brave, little Belgium’ of World War I renown. Biden just ordered \$40 billion more US military and economic aid on top of the \$25 billion or so spent by Washington to prop up the government in Kiev. Billions more will without doubt be needed.

Meanwhile, US, British and Canadian TV are accusing Russia of massive war crimes in Ukraine. There was little such reporting when the US invaded and destroyed important parts of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen or Somalia. Afghanistan was ravaged for nearly 20 years, with B-52 heavy bombers used to raze villages and towns. All wars are a crime against mankind. There are no ‘good’ wars.

 

Those familiar with Russian history know that wars usually begin with disastrous muddles. It’s the Russian way.

But Russians are also renowned for surmounting great obstacles after enormous sacrifices and finally achieving victory. World War II, in which the Soviet Union lost around 8.6 million soldiers killed, is a mighty example.

Right now, Russia is in its typical early war muddle in Ukraine, which not so long ago was an integral part of the Soviet Union/Russia. The initial Russian offensive in Ukraine has broken down and ground to a halt. NATO spokesmen and anti-Russian Ukrainians are crowing about an apparent military defeat for Moscow’s invasion forces. Most estimations are absurdly exaggerated.

There is lots of loose talk about chemical and nuclear weapons – all designed to scare the other side. The deeply anti-Russian British establishment is using its influential BBC to whip up sentiment against Moscow – as the Brits have done since 1917.

So have the forces of light and good in Ukraine really defeated Russia’s army of wicked ‘orcs’?

It depends on Moscow’s real goal in Ukraine. It’s very likely that President Putin’s strategic goal in Ukraine is to dismantle its independent nationalist government and re-attach minor Russian-speaking parts to the Russian federation. Recall that some 36% of Ukrainians use Russian as their native language; many want no part of Ukraine.

In fact, a low intensity civil war has flared in Ukraine for the past 14 years between anti-Russian nationalists (‘Nazis’ according to the nationalists) and pro-Russians (‘traitors’ say the nationalists), notably in the border enclaves of the Donets Basin, the center of that nation’s heavy industry and mining.

Ukraine will remain steeped in profound corruption no matter who rules it.

The best way out of this dangerous mess would be partition into pro and anti-Russian zones. But the pro-Russians have weak leadership and the current government forces see themselves as world heroes backed by NATO – which is another name for American military power.

While the fighting goes on, the conflict in Ukraine is increasingly dangerous. Defeat in Ukraine would fatally undermine the Russian Federation which went to war to prevent NATO/US from taking over Ukraine, then breaking up what’s left of Russia. That is Washington’s ambition before it turns on China.

This is playing with nuclear fire. The prime goal of the US should be to end the Ukraine conflict and stop pouring weapons and encouragement into Ukraine. But a wounded nation – particularly a past or former enemy – is too much of a target to ignore. Ukrainians must re-learn co-existence with Russia, like Finns.

They must end their conflict before the rupture of Ukraine’s vital exports of wheat, other key grains, uranium and metals sends world trade into a tailspin. Middle East stability alone depends on US-subsidized Ukrainian wheat exports.

What if the hard men in Moscow get fed up watching hundreds of millions worth of US and British arms pour across the Polish-Ukraine border? Sound military sense suggests Russia should attack these supply lines, depots and railroads.

Good statecraft demands that Washington move mountains to settle the conflict in Ukraine in which it has no vital national interest but faces nuclear peril. But the Ukraine civil war is a political godsend for the Biden administration which has lost much of its voter support due to charges it is weak and timid. A Russian defeat in Ukraine would nicely compensate for the humiliating US defeat in Afghanistan for which Biden is blamed though it was mainly Donald Trump who lit the fuse of that disaster.

Unfortunately, Ukraine has become what little Belgium was in 1914, a highly emotional issue propelling the mad rush to war. Westerners feel the sorrow of Ukrainians while totally ignoring the terrors they inflicted on Gaza, Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Somalis and Libyans. Our media wails for Ukrainians while ignoring the waves of B-52 heavy bombers carpet bombing Afghan villages.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, NATO, Russia, Ukraine 

The brazenly biased western media is giving us the impression that the Ukraine fighting is some sort of sports competition. Russia’s media, now shamefully silenced in the west by the banning of Russia Today and Sputnik News, portrays the so far modest war in Ukraine as a renewed struggle against WWII fascism. Both views are totally wrong.

In reality, Moscow has been complaining about the West’s meddling in Ukraine for over 14 years. Russian forces are now waging a slow-motion offensive against parts of Ukraine and, so far, trying to keep down casualties. Compare this strategy to the utter devastation inflicted by Russia (with some US help) on secessionist Chechnya in 1990. Compare this to the wide-scale US destruction of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Palestine. Where was CNN when these threadbare nations were being bombed back into the Stone Age? Or Yemen, poorest of Mideast nations, which is being turned to rubble by US and British bombing?

At least \$4 billion of mostly US and British-made arms poured into Ukraine before Russia invaded – and continue to do so now. Some western leaders actually seemed to believe that Moscow would do nothing in response to their intervention in Ukraine.

Imagine that Florida’s crackpot Republicans declared independence from the United States and began importing Russian or Chinese war material?

But far crazier than this has been growing calls by Ukraine’s leadership and many US legislators for old MiG-29 fighters stored in Poland to be refurbished and handed over to Ukrainian pilots for use against Russian targets. It seems America is ready to fight to the last Ukrainian.

This is crazy business. The minute Polish-supplied MiG’s go into action against Russian forces in Ukraine we will go from a minor regional conflict to a real war. Russia will riposte with strikes by their very accurate Iskander missiles against Polish air bases, government centers and logistic hubs. The outgunned Poles will call for military help from Washington – in an election year in which the deflated Democrats will need every ethnic Polish vote in the Midwest.

In any event, air wars have no neat boundaries. The politically powerful US Air Force will demand permission to strike Russian air bases, Black Sea ports and army bases in Crimea. US naval forces in the Black Sea will be choice targets.

US bases in Romania and Bulgaria will quickly join Moscow’s target list. Add NATO bases in Scandinavia. Russian forces are merely a taxi ride from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

NATO’s eastern bulwark is in reality a house of cards. Fortunately, Moscow is too weak to re-invade the whole Eastern front. Moscow spends only one tenth as much on its military as does the US. Stalin’s once seemingly endless armies are now enfeebled. Yet they must defend a mammoth nation of 11 times zones stretching from the Baltic shores to North Korea. Before invading Ukraine, Moscow actually had to bring military units from Vladivostok on the Pacific which is a key potential target for attacks by the US Navy.

The best, fastest way to end the Ukrainian civil war is to partition off its Russian-speaking eastern regions, quench its surging nationalism, and promise Russia it will not join NATO or any other foreign alliance for 20 years. And tell CNN to refocus its hysteria on surging crime in New York City and Chicago.

So far, one of the few American politicians to get this right is Donald Trump.

 

Having been a soldier and correspondent in 14 wars, I’m trying to see through the inevitable fog of war that beclouds the current conflict in Ukraine.

This is no easy task. Moscow has done a poor job of explaining its position and scared the hell out of everyone with its nuclear alert.

Western media has championed the cause of Ukraine in a totally one-sided manner. So, we have plucky David v. evil Goliath. Never mind that civil war between Ukrainian nationalists, militant rightists and the Kiev regime has been flaring for 14 years.

Russia, which ruled Ukraine with a few pauses since the 1700’s, sought to rapidly overthrow the western-backed Ukrainian nationalist government in Kiev by launching what the French calls ‘un coup de main’, a lightening attack to seize Ukraine’s centers of power.

But this effort did not work out. Ukrainian government forces, secretly armed with the latest antitank and anti-aircraft weapons by the Western powers, blunted Moscow’s initial attacks. I strongly suspect the presence of US and/or British Special Forces. More heavy offensives appear to be on the way. An initial attack on the key port of Odessa quickly petered out.

Did the Russian soldiers lack enthusiasm? Hard to say at this point. Many were reportedly loathe to attack their Ukrainian ‘brothers.’ This conflict was not popular in Mother Russia.

We have not yet seen any eruption of ever-mighty Russian nationalism that was so powerful in World War II. Nor the pure racial-religious hatred seen in the crushing of Chechen independence in 1990. In that gruesome conflict, Russia destroyed the Chechen capitol and many towns across Chechnya. But the fierce Chechen were Muslims, not fellow Orthodox Slavs.

So far, Russian forces, whose doctrine calls for massive artillery use, have been sparing in their use of big guns and rocket batteries. Much more is very likely to come. The Russian Air Force and Black Sea Fleet have also been notably absent. Perhaps President Vladimir Putin has sought to keep the Ukraine conflict to a low-key punitive action.

But many other dangers are evident. Turkey says it will adhere to the important 1936 Montreux Convention that limits the entry of warships into the Black Sea. The US Navy plans a very aggressive campaign against Russia in the Black Sea – and around Vladivostok in the North Pacific. Will Turkey bar the US Navy from that inland sea?

Regarding the nuclear scare. President Putin has previously stated that because of Russia’s reductions in its conventional forces it would henceforth rely increasingly on tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. Anyone who attacked Russia could expect at least a limited nuclear riposte.

Western politicians have had a field day denouncing the ‘barbarity” (Boris Johnson’s words) of Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets. This is shameless bunkum. British pilots and mechanics have kept the Saudi air forces pounding Yemen’s cities and villages. The US Air Force and Navy have destroyed many of Iraq, Libya’s and Syria’s urban areas, notably Falluja, Aleppo and Mosul. Israel’s US-supplied air force flattened parts of Gaza.

Our side is not without sin.

The western powers need to abate their righteous jeremiads against Russia and work to find a face-saving way for Russia out of this dangerous morass. France has made a good start. By contrast, Germany has again shown its total lack of independent policy.

As much as we feel sympathy for Ukraine, we must also remember that Russia remains a great power of sorts and needs to be shown a clear exit from this mess. America must not be carried away by glee at Russia’s discomfort and try to complete the destruction of the once mighty Soviet Union into an eastern Yugoslavia.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: NATO, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin 
Eric Margolis
About Eric Margolis

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.

He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, Lew Rockwell. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

His internet column www.ericmargolis.com reaches global readers on a daily basis.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow.

A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

A native New Yorker, he maintains residences in Toronto and New York, with frequent visits to Paris.


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