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The Saker
A bird's eye view of the vineyard

offsite link Roger Waters ? ?The Bravery of Being Out of Range? Sat Apr 17, 2021 21:39 | The Saker
Roger Waters, a “one man peace movement”, released this superb video just a few hours ago. This man is truly a musical genius and one of the greatest people of

offsite link Russian amphibious options and how to debunk a Ukie lie (OPEN THREAD #13) Sat Apr 17, 2021 19:23 | The Saker
You probably have heard that Russian moved almost the entire Caspian Flotilla to the Black Sea, including quite a few amphibious assault ships. What you might not know is that

offsite link So Who Wants a Hot War? Sat Apr 17, 2021 17:27 | amarynth
by Pepe Escobar and widely cross-posted It?s not by accident that the Hegemon is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash Eurasian integration by all means available.

offsite link Russian official statements about counter-actions to US sanctions Fri Apr 16, 2021 23:58 | The Saker
16 April 202119:28 Foreign Ministry statement on measures in response to hostile US actions The latest attack by the Biden administration against our country cannot go unanswered. It seems Washington

offsite link Moveable Feast Cafe 2021/04/16 ? Open Thread Fri Apr 16, 2021 22:00 | Herb Swanson
2021/04/16 21:00:02Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of

The Saker >>

Public Inquiry
Interested in maladministration. Estd. 2005

offsite link Mainstream media: Failing to speak truth to power

offsite link David Quinn’s selective tolerance Anthony

offsite link A Woulfe in judges clothing Anthony

offsite link Sarah McInerney and political impartiality Anthony

offsite link Did RTE journalists collude against Sinn Fein? Anthony

Public Inquiry >>

Human Rights in Ireland
A Blog About Human Rights

offsite link Poor Living Conditions for Migrants in Southern Italy Mon Jan 18, 2021 10:14 | Human Rights

offsite link Right to Water Mon Aug 03, 2020 19:13 | Human Rights

offsite link Human Rights Fri Mar 20, 2020 16:33 | Human Rights

offsite link Turkish President Calls On Greece To Comply With Human Rights on Syrian Refugee Issues Wed Mar 04, 2020 17:58 | Human Rights

offsite link US Holds China To Account For Human Rights Violations Sun Oct 13, 2019 19:12 | Human Rights

Human Rights in Ireland >>

Lockdown Skeptics

Lockdown Sceptics

Stay Sceptical. Control the Hysteria. Save Lives.

offsite link Pub Landlord Who Banned Keir Starmer is Sceptic of the Week Mon Apr 19, 2021 15:49 | Toby Young
We have a new 'Sceptic of the Week' ? Rod Humphris, landlord of The Raven in Both, who threw Keir Starmer out of his pub at lunchtime today because the Labour leader has done so little to oppose the lockdown policy.
The post Pub Landlord Who Banned Keir Starmer is Sceptic of the Week appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.

offsite link ?First Do No Harm? Means Not Giving the Covid Vaccination to Young People Mon Apr 19, 2021 15:36 | Toby Young
Today we're publishing an original piece by Dr Alan Mordue, a retired public health consultant, about the risk to young people of being vaccinated against COVID-19. He thinks healthy people under 50 shouldn't have the jab.
The post ?First Do No Harm? Means Not Giving the Covid Vaccination to Young People appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.

offsite link Police Unable to Deal With Crowds Due to Outdoor Hospitality Rules Mon Apr 19, 2021 14:32 | Michael Curzon
The rule that all hospitality customers must sit outdoors has led to large crowds gathering at makeshift beer gardens in city centres, making it difficult for police to enforce social distancing guidelines.
The post Police Unable to Deal With Crowds Due to Outdoor Hospitality Rules appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.

offsite link Closing Playgrounds during Covid Has Fuelled ?Pandemic of Mental Health Problems? among Children, ac... Mon Apr 19, 2021 12:52 | Michael Curzon
A parliamentary committee has said that one of the causes of "a pandemic of mental health problems" among children was the closure of playgrounds in the first lockdown.
The post Closing Playgrounds during Covid Has Fuelled “Pandemic of Mental Health Problems” among Children, according to Parliamentary Committee appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.

offsite link U.K. Trial Launched to Deliberately Infect People with Covid after They?ve Already Had It Mon Apr 19, 2021 11:32 | Michael Curzon
Researchers at Oxford University have launched a trial that will deliberately expose people who have already had Covid to the coronavirus again to study the level of immune protection needed to prevent reinfection.
The post U.K. Trial Launched to Deliberately Infect People with Covid after They’ve Already Had It appeared first on Lockdown Sceptics.

Lockdown Skeptics >>

Joel Abbott - Mon Apr 19, 2021 10:49

Y'all okay up there in Canada?

The member of parliament was a Quebec representative named William Amos, who said he was changing out of his gym clothes.

Canadian lawmaker caught naked during virtual legislative meeting

William Amos, 46, said that he was changing after returning from a jog when the video accidentally turned on, allowing his colleagues to see him in the buff on Wednesday.

Bro, we're over a year into the insane world we've created in reaction to the Rona. Have you not learned yet that it's a bad idea to walk in front of a computer camera without pants??

If you're a member of a national government, please, for the love of everything good on God's green earth – shut your computer lid or buy a $20 webcam with a privacy shutter!

The best reaction was from another member of parliament:

"It may be necessary to remind the members, especially the male ones, that a tie and jacket are obligatory, but so are a shirt, boxer shorts, or pants. We have seen that the member is in great physical shape, but I think members should be reminded to be careful and control the camera well."

Source: The Babylon Bee

Y'all okay up there in Canada?

The member of parliament was a Quebec representative named William Amos, who said he was changing out of his gym clothes.

Canadian lawmaker caught naked during virtual legislative meeting

William Amos, 46, said that he was changing after returning from a jog when the video accidentally turned on, allowing his colleagues to see him in the buff on Wednesday.

Bro, we're over a year into the insane world we've created in reaction to the Rona. Have you not learned yet that it's a bad idea to walk in front of a computer camera without pants??

If you're a member of a national government, please, for the love of everything good on God's green earth – shut your computer lid or buy a $20 webcam with a privacy shutter!

The best reaction was from another member of parliament:

"It may be necessary to remind the members, especially the male ones, that a tie and jacket are obligatory, but so are a shirt, boxer shorts, or pants. We have seen that the member is in great physical shape, but I think members should be reminded to be careful and control the camera well."

Source: The Babylon Bee

Catholic Vote - Mon Apr 19, 2021 08:16

The Vatican will host Anthony Fauci, Chelsea Clinton, and the leaders of pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer at a health care conference next month.

Co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, “the Conference will bring together the world’s leading physicians, scientists, leaders of faith, ethicists, patient advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and influencers,” the event announcement states, “to engage in powerful conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery and prevention, as well as the anthropological outcomes and the cultural impact of technological advances.”

The speaker list on the conference website includes Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Chelsea Clinton, whom the site credits as an executive of the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton, a devoted abortion advocate, has called pro-life laws “unconscionable,” and once said of restricting abortion access: “as a deeply religious person, it’s also un-Christian to me.”

“Together we will focus on advances in medical innovation and the creation of healthier communities,” the Vatican conference announcement states, “and seek to catalyze new, interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships to improve health and wellbeing, as well as understand human uniqueness.”

Source: Catholic Vote

The Vatican will host Anthony Fauci, Chelsea Clinton, and the leaders of pharmaceutical giants Moderna and Pfizer at a health care conference next month.

Co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, “the Conference will bring together the world’s leading physicians, scientists, leaders of faith, ethicists, patient advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and influencers,” the event announcement states, “to engage in powerful conversations on the latest breakthroughs in medicine, health care delivery and prevention, as well as the anthropological outcomes and the cultural impact of technological advances.”

The speaker list on the conference website includes Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Chelsea Clinton, whom the site credits as an executive of the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton, a devoted abortion advocate, has called pro-life laws “unconscionable,” and once said of restricting abortion access: “as a deeply religious person, it’s also un-Christian to me.”

“Together we will focus on advances in medical innovation and the creation of healthier communities,” the Vatican conference announcement states, “and seek to catalyze new, interdisciplinary approaches and partnerships to improve health and wellbeing, as well as understand human uniqueness.”

Source: Catholic Vote

Charles Walker - Mon Apr 19, 2021 08:02

The Government should not let its drive for health certification stall at Covid-19 passports. If it is serious about saving lives and promoting personal responsibility then it must target the avoidable and identifiable disease of obesity.

It’s an absurd idea, of course. Yet as a thought experiment, it perfectly illustrates the dangers of handing such powers over to government.

In the same way that we can now test for Covid, we have long had the medical know-how to spot obesity. We use the body mass index (BMI) to identify people of a healthy weight. Those with a BMI above 25 are deemed to be overweight, those with one over 30 are classed as obese.

And obesity is no laughing matter. The British Medical Journal recently carried research conducted in the United States which suggests that a BMI of 30 or more increases the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation by 113 per cent, admission to intensive care by 74 per cent and death by 48 per cent. Public Health England has reported that your risk of dying from Covid-19 increases by 90 per cent if you have a BMI of over 40. It is an inescapable fact that a great many hospital beds, doctors and NHS resources have been absorbed over the past year by the clinically obese.

The Government’s own research shows that 63 per cent of adults in England are overweight and 27 per cent of all adults are obese, with a BMI above 30. The cost of this fat epidemic to the NHS and wider economy is put at £27 billion a year. How many lives could be saved and improved with this £27 billion? It is clear that by sucking resource away from deserving illnesses and social causes, the obese kill those of a healthy weight.

But at last change might be possible. In the same way that people will soon have to prove their Covid status, we could also be at the stage where technology could be deployed to monitor people’s obesity status. Such a breakthrough would finally allow the state to restrict the overweight’s access to certain dining facilities and high-calorie foods.

Think of it. Upon entering a restaurant, the business could scan a mobile phone app that showed your BMI. Those within the healthy range could order what they wished off the menu, while the overweight could be restricted to ordering size-limited portions. As for the obese, they could be asked to settle for a salad or simply invited to leave. For takeaway orders, companies such as Just Eat or Deliveroo could use the same data, taken over the telephone, to weed out the obese from placing a fast-food order. In supermarkets, your BMI status could be scanned at checkout, with fatter customers having certain foods removed from their baskets or replaced with healthier options.

People’s weight does change and restrictions on accessing high calorie food may cause some to want to lose weight. Any fluctuations in your body mass could be captured monthly at NHS weigh-in stations, with your new weight and BMI immediately uploaded on to your smartphone.

At all times it has to be remembered this scheme is voluntary. There will be no requirement to carry a BMI certificate, but the Government should make clear that any restaurateur or fast-food chain must assume that a person not in possession of such a certificate is obese and therefore should not be served.

It is absolutely the case that being overweight and obese is a choice, but it is only right that choices carry consequences. Why should those 37 per cent of us adults who aren’t fat have to put up with the selfish conduct of the wilfully heavy. No, fat people have had it easy for too long. Removing them from fast-food chains, restaurants and the snack aisles of supermarkets will be both good for them and good for us. Clamping down on the voluntarily obese will free up money, beds and resources in the NHS. Quite frankly, it will save lives.

Of course I don’t believe in taking any of the above actions – in fact, even suggesting them makes me feel ill. But I can certainly make a reasonable argument for them, in the same way that many people are making the argument for vaccine passports. Please, given what is at stake in the complex relationship between citizen and Government, let us all tread cautiously and be careful what we wish for.

Sir Charles Walker is Conservative MP for Broxbourne

Source: The Telegraph

The Government should not let its drive for health certification stall at Covid-19 passports. If it is serious about saving lives and promoting personal responsibility then it must target the avoidable and identifiable disease of obesity.

It’s an absurd idea, of course. Yet as a thought experiment, it perfectly illustrates the dangers of handing such powers over to government.

In the same way that we can now test for Covid, we have long had the medical know-how to spot obesity. We use the body mass index (BMI) to identify people of a healthy weight. Those with a BMI above 25 are deemed to be overweight, those with one over 30 are classed as obese.

And obesity is no laughing matter. The British Medical Journal recently carried research conducted in the United States which suggests that a BMI of 30 or more increases the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation by 113 per cent, admission to intensive care by 74 per cent and death by 48 per cent. Public Health England has reported that your risk of dying from Covid-19 increases by 90 per cent if you have a BMI of over 40. It is an inescapable fact that a great many hospital beds, doctors and NHS resources have been absorbed over the past year by the clinically obese.

The Government’s own research shows that 63 per cent of adults in England are overweight and 27 per cent of all adults are obese, with a BMI above 30. The cost of this fat epidemic to the NHS and wider economy is put at £27 billion a year. How many lives could be saved and improved with this £27 billion? It is clear that by sucking resource away from deserving illnesses and social causes, the obese kill those of a healthy weight.

But at last change might be possible. In the same way that people will soon have to prove their Covid status, we could also be at the stage where technology could be deployed to monitor people’s obesity status. Such a breakthrough would finally allow the state to restrict the overweight’s access to certain dining facilities and high-calorie foods.

Think of it. Upon entering a restaurant, the business could scan a mobile phone app that showed your BMI. Those within the healthy range could order what they wished off the menu, while the overweight could be restricted to ordering size-limited portions. As for the obese, they could be asked to settle for a salad or simply invited to leave. For takeaway orders, companies such as Just Eat or Deliveroo could use the same data, taken over the telephone, to weed out the obese from placing a fast-food order. In supermarkets, your BMI status could be scanned at checkout, with fatter customers having certain foods removed from their baskets or replaced with healthier options.

People’s weight does change and restrictions on accessing high calorie food may cause some to want to lose weight. Any fluctuations in your body mass could be captured monthly at NHS weigh-in stations, with your new weight and BMI immediately uploaded on to your smartphone.

At all times it has to be remembered this scheme is voluntary. There will be no requirement to carry a BMI certificate, but the Government should make clear that any restaurateur or fast-food chain must assume that a person not in possession of such a certificate is obese and therefore should not be served.

It is absolutely the case that being overweight and obese is a choice, but it is only right that choices carry consequences. Why should those 37 per cent of us adults who aren’t fat have to put up with the selfish conduct of the wilfully heavy. No, fat people have had it easy for too long. Removing them from fast-food chains, restaurants and the snack aisles of supermarkets will be both good for them and good for us. Clamping down on the voluntarily obese will free up money, beds and resources in the NHS. Quite frankly, it will save lives.

Of course I don’t believe in taking any of the above actions – in fact, even suggesting them makes me feel ill. But I can certainly make a reasonable argument for them, in the same way that many people are making the argument for vaccine passports. Please, given what is at stake in the complex relationship between citizen and Government, let us all tread cautiously and be careful what we wish for.

Sir Charles Walker is Conservative MP for Broxbourne

Source: The Telegraph

Sebastien Roblin - Sun Apr 18, 2021 10:36

On April 10, 1945 a Soviet freighter slipped up to a quay at a frozen military base on a remote tip of Alaska aptly named Cold Bay. Inside her were over 500 sailors of the Soviet Navy.

The Soviets had arrived to train on the first of 149 vessels the U.S. Navy was transferring to the Soviet Union. That fleet’s secret mission: to transport the Red Army for an invasion of Japan, even while Moscow and Tokyo remained officially at peace.

By early 1945, the U.S. military had ample evidence that an amphibious invasion of the Japanese home islands would prove exceptionally bloody and destructive. If Japanese troops were ready to fight to the death for distant, barren islands like Pelelieu or Iwo Jima, how much worse would the struggle be on densely populated Honshu or Hokkaido?

As a result, U.S. President Franklin R. Roosevelt was keen to draw Stalin’s massive Red Army to support an invasion—but the Soviet leader initially wasn’t interested. Earlier in October 1939, Soviet tanks and Mongolian cavalry had crushed Japanese forces in Mongolia in the decisive Battle of Khalkin Gol. Afterwards, the two nations signed a neutrality pact; the Japanese Kwangtung Army had little appetite for a rematch, while the Soviet Union soon had its hands full repelling the horrific Nazi invasion, which would ultimately cost the lives of 20 million Soviet civilians and seven million military personnel. Finally, in October 1944, Stalin told Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he would only commit the Red Army to fight the Japanese three months after the defeat of Nazi Germany—and only then if he was given the ships to do so.

Though the Soviet Navy executed smaller-scale amphibious operations in Arctic, Baltic and Crimean Seas throughout World War II, their land power never developed the massive and specialized amphibious landing capabilities of the Western Allies. Not only did Soviet ships lack cutting-edge technologies, but they were mostly deployed on the Atlantic-facing side of Russia for the anti-Nazi struggle. If the United States wanted Soviet assistance for an invasion of Japan, it not only needed to pitch in the ships to pull it off, but it would have to train Soviet sailors how to operate them. What happened next is detailed by Richard Russell in his study “Project Hula: Secret Soviet-American Cooperation in the War Against Japan.”

In February 1945, Washington and Moscow agreed to arrange a transfer of vessels in Cold Bay, Alaska because the site harbored the abandoned Army base of Fort Randall and had no civilian population. Because the Soviets remained officially neutral, it was essential that the naval buildup, codenamed Project Hula, remain secret.

In the end a transfer of 180 ships was approved. The most capable were thirty 1,415-ton Tacoma-class patrol frigates optimized for anti-submarine operations, with three 3-inch guns and multiple flak cannons and depth charge projectors. These were supplemented by thirty-four similarly-armed Admirable-class minesweepers that were under half the displacement. There were also ninety-two smaller submarine chasers and wooden-hulled auxiliary motor torpedo boats s as well as four hulking floating workshops to administer repairs at sea. However, the most important donation consisted of thirty Landing Craft Infantry (Large), equipped with ramps that could discharge over 200 soldiers onto a beachhead.

In March, a Soviet Navy delegation arrived in Cold Bay to hash out the training program with U.S. Navy staff of 1,350 led by Captain William Maxwell, a genially-mannered veteran battleship officer. The Russians favored hands-on training at sea while the Americans had more classroom instruction in mind, but in the end both sides reached a compromise.

The first five Soviet ships arrived from April 10 through 14 bearing more than 2,358 Soviet sailors and their commander, Rear Admiral Boris Popov, a former destroyer officer. They were trained over the subsequent weeks while the U.S. vessels filtered into Cold Bay, many necessitating repairs due to shoddy upkeep and difficult Arctic waters. Predictably, language barriers proved a major challenge, particularly for explaining sonar and radar technology the Soviets were largely unfamiliar with. English-language training manuals had to be rapidly translated and prodigal Soviet students were retained to train subsequent cohorts.

The Americans and Soviets by all accounts got along well though, and the latter reportedly loved shooting the deck guns.

Despite linguistic challenges and breakdown-prone sub chasers, starting May 17 a steady stream of ships was decommissioned from U.S. Navy service in special ceremonies and sent to the Soviet Union with trained crews. By July 31, over 100 vessels had arrived at the port of Petropavlovsk.

Eight days later, on August 8—three months to the day after the surrender of Nazi Germany—the Red Army’s mechanized juggernaut rolled into action against the hopelessly outgunned Japanese Kwangtung Army in Manchuria.

Even as Project Hula continued, the Soviet Navy put its newly acquired vessels to use in the waters adjacent Japan and Russia. Their targets were two parallel island chains that led like stepping stone to the Japanese home island of Hokkaido: the huge Sakhalin island, which ran parallel to the Russian coastline and was split between Japanese and Soviet control, and the Kuril island chain running from the Russian Kamchatka peninsula to the Japanese home island of Hokkaido.

Soviet ground forces in North Sakhalin began their invasion of the southern half of the island on August 11. On August 15, Japanese forces were ordered to cease resistance and the Soviet Navy began a series of amphibious landings starting on the 16. However, the Japanese garrison continued to fight back, and so the landing sustained casualties seizing the coastal ports of Toro and Maoka after the official surrender.

The assault on the Kuril Islands, begun at dawn on September 18, proved even messier. Sixteen Project Hula LCIs were deployed to land Soviet marines on Takeda Beach of Shumshu island. [Out of the total of 62 transport ships.] However, coastal batteries on Cape Kokutan sank five of the LCIs, leaving the marines stranded without their radios or heavy weapons. The beachhead was nearly overrun by counter-attacking Japanese armor, though Soviet air support, anti-tank rifles and naval gunfire ultimately defeated the lightly armored Type 94 and 97 tanks. After several days, the Japanese garrison finally adhered the surrender order, and Soviet naval forces began securing the remainder of the Kurils.

Project Hula was only terminated on September 4, two days after the official Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri, having trained 12,000 Soviet sailors and transferred 149 ships into Soviet hands. Four months later, the U.S. Navy began demanding the return of the ships.

However, a little thing called the Cold War had by then begun to gum up U.S.-Soviet cooperation. Twenty-seven of the patrol frigates were finally returned in October 1949, minus one which had run aground. Fifteen of the twenty-five surviving Landing Craft wouldn’t follow until 1955. By then the vessels were in such poor condition the U.S. Navy didn’t even wish to incur the expense of scrapping them, so the remaining ninety vessels were scuttled or sold for scrap back to the Soviets.

Though Soviet military leaders briefly considered landing troops on the home island of Hokkaido, thirty LCIs would have proven inadequate for all but a token Soviet presence. Besides, some considered that a Soviet presence on the home islands had by then been ruled out at the Yalta Conference. However, the amphibious craft did enable the landing on the Kuril Islands, reshaping international boundaries. Japan still maintains the Kurils are part of its northern territories in a dispute with Russia that continues to this day.

Source: The National Interest

On April 10, 1945 a Soviet freighter slipped up to a quay at a frozen military base on a remote tip of Alaska aptly named Cold Bay. Inside her were over 500 sailors of the Soviet Navy.

The Soviets had arrived to train on the first of 149 vessels the U.S. Navy was transferring to the Soviet Union. That fleet’s secret mission: to transport the Red Army for an invasion of Japan, even while Moscow and Tokyo remained officially at peace.

By early 1945, the U.S. military had ample evidence that an amphibious invasion of the Japanese home islands would prove exceptionally bloody and destructive. If Japanese troops were ready to fight to the death for distant, barren islands like Pelelieu or Iwo Jima, how much worse would the struggle be on densely populated Honshu or Hokkaido?

As a result, U.S. President Franklin R. Roosevelt was keen to draw Stalin’s massive Red Army to support an invasion—but the Soviet leader initially wasn’t interested. Earlier in October 1939, Soviet tanks and Mongolian cavalry had crushed Japanese forces in Mongolia in the decisive Battle of Khalkin Gol. Afterwards, the two nations signed a neutrality pact; the Japanese Kwangtung Army had little appetite for a rematch, while the Soviet Union soon had its hands full repelling the horrific Nazi invasion, which would ultimately cost the lives of 20 million Soviet civilians and seven million military personnel. Finally, in October 1944, Stalin told Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that he would only commit the Red Army to fight the Japanese three months after the defeat of Nazi Germany—and only then if he was given the ships to do so.

Though the Soviet Navy executed smaller-scale amphibious operations in Arctic, Baltic and Crimean Seas throughout World War II, their land power never developed the massive and specialized amphibious landing capabilities of the Western Allies. Not only did Soviet ships lack cutting-edge technologies, but they were mostly deployed on the Atlantic-facing side of Russia for the anti-Nazi struggle. If the United States wanted Soviet assistance for an invasion of Japan, it not only needed to pitch in the ships to pull it off, but it would have to train Soviet sailors how to operate them. What happened next is detailed by Richard Russell in his study “Project Hula: Secret Soviet-American Cooperation in the War Against Japan.”

In February 1945, Washington and Moscow agreed to arrange a transfer of vessels in Cold Bay, Alaska because the site harbored the abandoned Army base of Fort Randall and had no civilian population. Because the Soviets remained officially neutral, it was essential that the naval buildup, codenamed Project Hula, remain secret.

In the end a transfer of 180 ships was approved. The most capable were thirty 1,415-ton Tacoma-class patrol frigates optimized for anti-submarine operations, with three 3-inch guns and multiple flak cannons and depth charge projectors. These were supplemented by thirty-four similarly-armed Admirable-class minesweepers that were under half the displacement. There were also ninety-two smaller submarine chasers and wooden-hulled auxiliary motor torpedo boats s as well as four hulking floating workshops to administer repairs at sea. However, the most important donation consisted of thirty Landing Craft Infantry (Large), equipped with ramps that could discharge over 200 soldiers onto a beachhead.

In March, a Soviet Navy delegation arrived in Cold Bay to hash out the training program with U.S. Navy staff of 1,350 led by Captain William Maxwell, a genially-mannered veteran battleship officer. The Russians favored hands-on training at sea while the Americans had more classroom instruction in mind, but in the end both sides reached a compromise.

The first five Soviet ships arrived from April 10 through 14 bearing more than 2,358 Soviet sailors and their commander, Rear Admiral Boris Popov, a former destroyer officer. They were trained over the subsequent weeks while the U.S. vessels filtered into Cold Bay, many necessitating repairs due to shoddy upkeep and difficult Arctic waters. Predictably, language barriers proved a major challenge, particularly for explaining sonar and radar technology the Soviets were largely unfamiliar with. English-language training manuals had to be rapidly translated and prodigal Soviet students were retained to train subsequent cohorts.

The Americans and Soviets by all accounts got along well though, and the latter reportedly loved shooting the deck guns.

Despite linguistic challenges and breakdown-prone sub chasers, starting May 17 a steady stream of ships was decommissioned from U.S. Navy service in special ceremonies and sent to the Soviet Union with trained crews. By July 31, over 100 vessels had arrived at the port of Petropavlovsk.

Eight days later, on August 8—three months to the day after the surrender of Nazi Germany—the Red Army’s mechanized juggernaut rolled into action against the hopelessly outgunned Japanese Kwangtung Army in Manchuria.

Even as Project Hula continued, the Soviet Navy put its newly acquired vessels to use in the waters adjacent Japan and Russia. Their targets were two parallel island chains that led like stepping stone to the Japanese home island of Hokkaido: the huge Sakhalin island, which ran parallel to the Russian coastline and was split between Japanese and Soviet control, and the Kuril island chain running from the Russian Kamchatka peninsula to the Japanese home island of Hokkaido.

Soviet ground forces in North Sakhalin began their invasion of the southern half of the island on August 11. On August 15, Japanese forces were ordered to cease resistance and the Soviet Navy began a series of amphibious landings starting on the 16. However, the Japanese garrison continued to fight back, and so the landing sustained casualties seizing the coastal ports of Toro and Maoka after the official surrender.

The assault on the Kuril Islands, begun at dawn on September 18, proved even messier. Sixteen Project Hula LCIs were deployed to land Soviet marines on Takeda Beach of Shumshu island. [Out of the total of 62 transport ships.] However, coastal batteries on Cape Kokutan sank five of the LCIs, leaving the marines stranded without their radios or heavy weapons. The beachhead was nearly overrun by counter-attacking Japanese armor, though Soviet air support, anti-tank rifles and naval gunfire ultimately defeated the lightly armored Type 94 and 97 tanks. After several days, the Japanese garrison finally adhered the surrender order, and Soviet naval forces began securing the remainder of the Kurils.

Project Hula was only terminated on September 4, two days after the official Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri, having trained 12,000 Soviet sailors and transferred 149 ships into Soviet hands. Four months later, the U.S. Navy began demanding the return of the ships.

However, a little thing called the Cold War had by then begun to gum up U.S.-Soviet cooperation. Twenty-seven of the patrol frigates were finally returned in October 1949, minus one which had run aground. Fifteen of the twenty-five surviving Landing Craft wouldn’t follow until 1955. By then the vessels were in such poor condition the U.S. Navy didn’t even wish to incur the expense of scrapping them, so the remaining ninety vessels were scuttled or sold for scrap back to the Soviets.

Though Soviet military leaders briefly considered landing troops on the home island of Hokkaido, thirty LCIs would have proven inadequate for all but a token Soviet presence. Besides, some considered that a Soviet presence on the home islands had by then been ruled out at the Yalta Conference. However, the amphibious craft did enable the landing on the Kuril Islands, reshaping international boundaries. Japan still maintains the Kurils are part of its northern territories in a dispute with Russia that continues to this day.

Source: The National Interest

John Helmer - Sun Apr 18, 2021 09:36

Related: Podcast talk with author on the subject.


“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere”. It’s a well-known Chinese maxim, especially in Myanmar (Burma), China’s backdoor to the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Indian Navy’s forward defence line.

Russia’s policy towards Myanmar since the military takeover on February 1 is a case of proving the maxim mistaken. Although experts and officials in Moscow won’t say so aloud, it’s possible for Russia to pursue one strategy with two tactics; three more like.

The putsch by the Myanmar armed forces command (the Tatmadaw ) was timed to prevent the first meeting of the parliament elected at the poll of November 8, 2020, when the majority of the anti-military National League for Democracy (NLD) increased by a landslide, and the future for the Tatmadaw’s control over the lucrative elements of the economy threatened directly. A state of emergency has been declared for a year; the civilian political leadership is under arrest; the armed forces have mobilized to crush public opposition. The casualty count is in the thousands; several hundred have been reported dead.

The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, claimed to be acting against vote fraud in the balloting. “Although the sovereignty of the nation must derive from the people,” the general’s television announcement said, “there was terrible fraud in the voter list during the democratic general election which runs contrary to ensuring a stable democracy. A refusal to settle the issue of voter list fraud and a failure to take action and follow a request to postpone lower-house and upper-house parliament sessions is not in accordance with article 417 of the 2018 constitution that refers to ‘acts or attempts to take over the sovereignty of the Union by wrongful forcible means’ and could lead to a disintegration of national solidarity.”

The Irrawaddy, a relatively independent, pro-democracy newspaper in the country, editorialised on what had happened with the Thai analyst, Kavi Chongkittavorn.

“Sad as it is, the singular question needs to be asked: Why does Myanmar find itself in this black hole?  Who failed Myanmar? Frankly, the answer is quite simple—everyone who is involved, directly and indirectly.”

“While the international community, especially the UN, has been ferocious in its condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) since its power seizure on Feb. 1, it has been completely forgotten that this horrible situation was not only of the Tatmadaw’s making. It takes two to tango; in this case, the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Tatmadaw locked horns, leading to a breakdown. Indeed, the positions and personalities of those institutions’ leaders—Daw Aung San Sun Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing—and their perceptions of one another, must be factored in.”

“The Tatmadaw has sought to maintain what it sees as its political legitimacy throughout Myanmar’s nascent experiment with parliamentary democracy, as stipulated in the 2008 Constitution.

The NLD, meanwhile, emboldened by its overwhelming poll victory in November, believed falsely that it could govern Myanmar solely and proceed with long-delayed constitutional amendments to reduce and eventually eliminate the military from the political arena—perhaps for good.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry knows this; it has carefully avoided saying so. Instead, it issued a brief response on February 1 neither endorsing the takeover nor condemning it. “We are following closely developments in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,” announced the ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova.

“Unfortunately, the main political forces of this country failed to resolve the differences that arose following the results of the parliamentary elections held in November 2020. We hope for a peaceful settlement of the situation in accordance with the current legislation through the resumption of political dialogue and the preservation of the country’s sustainable socio-economic development. In this regard, they drew attention to the statement of the military authorities about their intention to hold new parliamentary elections a year later. We recommend that Russian citizens in Myanmar avoid crowded places.”

This statement implied condemnation of the arrests and of the subsequent violence.

In the weeks between the November election and the putsch, the Foreign Ministry had been issuing brief but supportive bulletins balancing between the Tatmadaw and the civilian government led by the Anglo-American icon, Aung San Suu Kyi.  On November 19, the ministry endorsed the vote as an “an important milestone in Myanmar’s progress along the path of democratic development and national reconciliation. Despite the continuing difficult situation in certain regions, the election campaign and voting took place in an overall stable and peaceful environment and in accordance with Myanmar’s legislation and was marked by a high turnout. We reiterate our principled commitment to further strengthen the traditionally friendly Russia-Myanmar relations and mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation in the interests of the peoples of our countries.”

On December 21 Nikolai Listopadov, the Russian Ambassador in Myanmar, published a summary of his discussion with U Chan Aye, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar. “The parties discussed the development of friendly Russia-Myanmar relations, exchanged views on the positions of Russia and Myanmar on international platforms, including in the UN, which, as it was stated are close or coincide”.  The ambiguity in the last three words is the telling one — two roads at once.

As the domestic situation worsened, the last Foreign Ministry statement was on March 3: “It was noted that the situation in Myanmar had been discussed during the informal meeting of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Foreign Ministers on 2 March. We share the call made in the statement of the Brunei presidency of the ‘dozens’ to all parties to avoid further violence and to exercise maximum restraint and flexibility, to seek a peaceful solution through constructive dialogue. We hope that the position of Myanmar’s neighbors in the region will contribute to the normalization of the situation in this country. We are ready to cooperate with ASEAN in this direction both on international platforms and within the framework of aseanocentric mechanisms.”

The strategic principle is non-intervention in the domestic affairs of Myanmar. The tactic has been to avoid beating breasts in public, as the former colonial power in London has been doing, and its successor in Washington. “Aseanocentric” meant — John Bull, Yankee stay out.

The second Russian tactic has been to prevent the Anglo-American attempt at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to legislate for coordinated international sanctions, as well as intervention across Myanmar’s borders. Russia and China used the threat of their Security Council veto to stop a British initiative, and lowered both the level of threat and the legal authority of intervention to a UNSC statement, not a resolution. India and Vietnam also joined the bloc against the Anglo-American thrust.  None of this is new policy. Tempering and blocking have been consistent Russian tactics for Myanmar at the UN for more than a decade.

The UNSC’s statement of March 10 , agreed with Russia and China, registered “deep concern at developments in Myanmar following the declaration of the state of emergency imposed by the military on 1 February and the arbitrary detention of members of the Government, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and others. The Security Council reiterates its call for their immediate release.”

There was no agreement on Anglo-American sanctions or for cross-border intervention, including increased arms supplies to the ethnic armies of the northern regions. Camouflage for air drops was included in the sentence: “The Security Council continues to call for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need”. The last sentence ruled out such secret operations. “The Security Council reaffirms…its strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial  integrity and unity of Myanmar.”

THE STRATEGIC SITUATION MAP OF MYANMAR

On Russia’s map of eastern and southeast Asia, compared to China, India, Vietnam, Thailand,  Indonesia, and Malaysia,Myanmar plays a minor part in trade, tourism, and business investment. Russia warfighters in the British and US governments exaggerate this.  A Norwegian think-tank report in 2017 judged Russian policy toward Myanmar to be aimed at countering US efforts at isolating and attacking China.

At President Putin’s meeting with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in China two years ago, Putin had said: “We are committed to the further development of political dialogue and the continuation of inter-parliamentary exchanges. Our ministries of foreign affairs also have well-established contacts. Although quite modest in absolute terms, our mutual trade is growing rapidly, having gained more than 50 percent last year.” Putin wasn’t counting the arms trade.

This is the third of Russia’s Burma roads — the military relationship with the Tatmadaw has been considerable and growing steadily.  The supplies have included combat and trainer aircraft for the air force — MiG-29, Su-30MK, Mi-24 and Mi-35P helicopters — armoured vehicles for the army and police, anti-aircraft missile batteries,  electronic surveillance and counter-measures, and to come – the Pantsir-S1 air defence system, Orlan-10E surveillance drones and radar equipment. The programme has also included Burmese officer training in Russia.

According to the 2019 study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia is the second arms supplier to Myanmar after China, accounting for 20% of its procurement from 2014-2018; 43% over the period, 1999-2018. By contrast, China has provided 61% and 44%, respectively. Myanmar spent $2.4 billion on weapons from 2010-2019,  including $807 million on Russian-made arms. The money spent has generated a 96% increase in Myanmar’s military inventory between 2008 and 2017 – the biggest growth of any of the southeast Asian states.

The US government tried to stop it; it failed. China, Russia and Israel have all supplied arms to the Tatmadaw when the US and European Union states observed an arms embargo.

According to SIPRI, “disputes over maritime boundaries, most notably with Bangladesh where oil and gas are at issue, are likely to have partly driven higher levels of spending.These maritime issues would explain the expansion of the navy over the past decade from a limited coastal force to a force of several frigates that provides some blue-water capabilities, and the interest in submarines.”

To date, the Myanmar navy has been equipped with larger vessels from India, China and the US; smaller ones have been sold by Israel or built in local shipyards. Russia’s role to date has been to provide shipboard weapons and other technology, including equipment for the new Burmese submarine force. The Russian Navy is expected to establish regular portcall facilities on the coast.

The list of military purposes identified at the signing of the 2016 defence cooperation agreement between the two countries,   and the list of officers identified in General Min Aung Hlaing’s April 2019 visit to Moscow show how extensive the military supply relationship has become.

High-level Russian defence ministry visits to Myanmar just before the putsch and since then reinforce the third road approach. On January 21-22, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (lead image) held talks in Naypyitaw (Yangon, Rangoon) with the Tatmadaw. They finalised an agreement to deliver the Pantsir and other equipment.

The Irrawaddy reported:  “it is not yet known where Myanmar’s military…plans to deploy the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile system, but military analysts suspect it will be positioned along the border with Bangladesh. The Irrawaddy has learned that the anti-aircraft missile system could also be deployed in Shan State, close to the Wa Self-Administered Zone controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanmar’s largest ethnic armed organization. In February last year, China provided military hardware, drones and training to the UWSA. The organization confirmed it had acquired a helicopter, making the northeast-based rebel group the nation’s first to possess such an aircraft. The helicopter was reportedly ordered and delivered from China.”

The price and payment terms for the new Russian arms have not been revealed.

On March 12, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying: “We assess the situation as alarming, and we are concerned about the information coming from there about the growing number of civilian casualties. This is a matter of worry for us. We are very closely monitoring what is happening there.” That was the Foreign Ministry line.

Peskov added that Moscow was “also weighing the possibility of suspending military cooperation with Myanmar.” This was no one’s line, certainly not the Russian Defence Ministry’s.

The visit on March 26 to Yangon of Russian deputy defence minister General Alexander Fomin has been dramatised in the Anglo-American media as a show of Russian support for military force in the country. Fomin, however, was not the only foreign military representative at the Tatmadaw military parade that day. India, Bangladesh and China were also demonstratively  present.

Fomin has been quoted in the Russian press as backing a “strategic” relationship with Myanmar. The leading daily newspaper of Moscow, Moskovsky Komsomoletspublished a highly unusual interview with Min Aung Hlaing at the same time.   Min Aung Hliang tried accentuating the positive; Pavel Gusev, the MK editor in chief, eliminating the negative.

“Russia is an old and loyal friend to us,” the general said. “The law enforcement forces and the army serve to protect the safety of citizens” Gusev said, adding “all the dirty methods of the ‘colour revolutions’  are  used against them. Events often develop according to the scenario known since the Maidan in Kiev.”

According to Min Aung Hliang, “I would like to invite the Russian side and Russian businessmen to participate in these projects. We need your technologies that will help us develop the manufacturing industry and mechanical engineering…you have very developed technologies for processing agricultural products. In Myanmar, fresh fruit is grown all year round. And, as a rule, they are also consumed fresh. You could help us organize the production of canned vegetables and fruits. Why not? This would help to increase the export of our agricultural products to Russia.”

The general also promised to investigate why Russian tourism to Myanmar has been dropping off, and to consider offering a visa-free regime. “I agree”, he told Gusev, “that the need for a visa is one of the factors that complicate the arrival of tourists. Your businessmen and rich people have flown to us on their private planes, including as tourists. We had a significant flow of Russian tourists. But then their number decreased. The reason is still unknown to me. I think that I, together with the relevant departments, will deal with this issue, find out the reason. Most likely, the issue is the weak economic ties between Russia and Myanmar. If your investments came to us, then tourism would also develop. – But for the development of mass tourism, the issue of a visa is important.”

Russian military experts in Moscow say they have not been following the military relationship closely. One commented that Moscow’s policy at present is for stability in the country, not for taking sides — “Russia is going to work with any leader up to the task in Myanmar”. Two of Russia’s acknowledged experts on Myanmar, Aida Simonia, a researcher at the Centre for Southeast Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Gleb Ivashentsov, ambassador to Myanmar from 1997 to 2001, were asked if they detect a difference of assessment or policy between the Russian Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry. They declined to reply.

The Chinese government directs the largest foreign investment in Myanmar, and to the east guards the longest of Myanmar’s borders – 2,129 kilometres. Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi do not differ on the priority they assign to preserving their relationship with Beijing.

Along and across that frontier China has been supplying arms to both the Tatmadaw and to several of the ethnic forces in permanent rebellion against the government in Yangon. They include the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Arakan Army (AA). Follow the history of British, Japanese, Chinese and US involvement in the Burmese opium and methamphetamine trade, the ethnic army wars, and the evolution of military and civilian power-sharing in Yangon in this essay by London-based analyst, Gary Busch.

Busch also notes that China’s need to retain the southward flow of river water to generate electricity creates a long-term disadvantage for Myanmar and other downstream countries. “Myanmar is in a strategic location in the struggle by China to resolve its water supply problem. In a recent study, it was pointed out that China has 20 percent of the world’s population but only seven percent of its fresh water. And 80 percent of China’s water is in the south, whereas half of its population and two-thirds of its farmland are in the north. While total water usage in China increased by only 35 percent between 1980 and 2010, water usage in households increased elevenfold and in industrial sectors, threefold. But per capita available water in China amounts to only a quarter of the world average. Climate change will also increase China’s vulnerability to water scarcity…China’s water diplomacy in the region is a major destabilising force and one which will have devastating consequences for its neighbours, including Myanmar.”

The future of China’s hydroelectric, port, mining, and gas and oil projects in Myanmar is at risk if domestic opposition to the Tatmadaw’s putsch generates chronic chaos. A Hong Kong analyst reports that from Beijing’s perspective, “the coup does not serve Beijing’s interests. A stable political environment in Myanmar [is needed] for BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] projects to thrive. To them, Chinese leaders would prefer to work with the Aung San Suu Kyi… rather than the military junta.”

Busch concludes:

“The February coup by the Tatmadaw was not an unmixed blessing for the Chinese, particularly because of the violent civilian protests against the coup saw the destruction by the locals of eighty-three Chinese factories whom the civilians blamed for unfair labour practices and widespread pollution of the environment through spillages and polluted air.

The Tatmadaw were less than supportive of the Chinese, which angered their Chinese overseers and partners. The Tatmadaw had made a lot of money collecting fees and owning shares in Chinese operations in ethnic areas but knew that the military support of the ethnic armies also came primarily from China and the drug smugglers who operated with Chinese blessing. The Chinese had some of their power in Myanmar curtailed by the retreat of the Tatmadaw in face of the NLD. The coup restricted them further.”

The Indian assessment is that there can be no advantage in taking sides in protracted domestic conflict.  “New Delhi,” reports a retired Indian diplomat,   “attaches high importance to the security cooperation with Myanmar. This reflects a realistic assessment that the Myanmar military remains an enduring factor in regional politics and current history. A ‘boycott’ of the military is impractical while cordial ties have proven to be helpful to safeguard the security of the volatile northeastern regions.” The Indian Government regards American, Japanese and Australian efforts (the anti-China Quad – Quadrilateral Security Dialogue)  to attack the Tatmadaw as “clumsy”.

The Indian military suffers from the serious geographic disadvantage that its border with Myanmar – 1,468 kms long – cannot be reinforced quickly through the narrow Siliguri corridor.

Indian strategy is therefore opposed to covert western intervention in Myanmar destabilising its border regions with the objective of “bleed[ing] the Myanmar military in a protracted guerrilla war with the minority ethnic groups in the remote lawless border lands.” It is equally uncomfortable with what New Delhi views as propaganda incitement from the BBC and Radio Free Asia, the US organ. From the Indian perspective, “that leaves Russia as the mainstay of support of Myanmar military (aside from the Thai military next door, which is also combating separatism by pro-western ethnic groups.)”

For Russia, weaning the Indians away from the US-directed Quad is almost as important as preserving the strategic alliance with China, also against the US.  It is thus in the common interest of the Troika – Russia, China and India – for Myanmar to be stable enough to allow Chinese trade to move into the Bay of Bengal, bypassing the chokepoint controlled by Singapore for the US at the Malacca Strait.

“Ideally,” comments the Indian source, “this should be a joint Russian-Indian-Chinese common enterprise of three emerging powers with overlapping strategic interests to transition toward a democratised world order away from the oppressive, unequal western-dominated one of present-day. That may appear wishful thinking in the prevailing circumstances.”

According to Busch in London, “the solution to the problem of Myanmar is very complicated; especially since there seem to be no “good guys” to rely on except for the [Myanmar] workers. They deserve the world’s support but there seems to be no easy way to do so.”

Source: Dances With Bears

Related: Podcast talk with author on the subject.


“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere”. It’s a well-known Chinese maxim, especially in Myanmar (Burma), China’s backdoor to the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Indian Navy’s forward defence line.

Russia’s policy towards Myanmar since the military takeover on February 1 is a case of proving the maxim mistaken. Although experts and officials in Moscow won’t say so aloud, it’s possible for Russia to pursue one strategy with two tactics; three more like.

The putsch by the Myanmar armed forces command (the Tatmadaw ) was timed to prevent the first meeting of the parliament elected at the poll of November 8, 2020, when the majority of the anti-military National League for Democracy (NLD) increased by a landslide, and the future for the Tatmadaw’s control over the lucrative elements of the economy threatened directly. A state of emergency has been declared for a year; the civilian political leadership is under arrest; the armed forces have mobilized to crush public opposition. The casualty count is in the thousands; several hundred have been reported dead.

The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, claimed to be acting against vote fraud in the balloting. “Although the sovereignty of the nation must derive from the people,” the general’s television announcement said, “there was terrible fraud in the voter list during the democratic general election which runs contrary to ensuring a stable democracy. A refusal to settle the issue of voter list fraud and a failure to take action and follow a request to postpone lower-house and upper-house parliament sessions is not in accordance with article 417 of the 2018 constitution that refers to ‘acts or attempts to take over the sovereignty of the Union by wrongful forcible means’ and could lead to a disintegration of national solidarity.”

The Irrawaddy, a relatively independent, pro-democracy newspaper in the country, editorialised on what had happened with the Thai analyst, Kavi Chongkittavorn.

“Sad as it is, the singular question needs to be asked: Why does Myanmar find itself in this black hole?  Who failed Myanmar? Frankly, the answer is quite simple—everyone who is involved, directly and indirectly.”

“While the international community, especially the UN, has been ferocious in its condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) since its power seizure on Feb. 1, it has been completely forgotten that this horrible situation was not only of the Tatmadaw’s making. It takes two to tango; in this case, the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Tatmadaw locked horns, leading to a breakdown. Indeed, the positions and personalities of those institutions’ leaders—Daw Aung San Sun Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing—and their perceptions of one another, must be factored in.”

“The Tatmadaw has sought to maintain what it sees as its political legitimacy throughout Myanmar’s nascent experiment with parliamentary democracy, as stipulated in the 2008 Constitution.

The NLD, meanwhile, emboldened by its overwhelming poll victory in November, believed falsely that it could govern Myanmar solely and proceed with long-delayed constitutional amendments to reduce and eventually eliminate the military from the political arena—perhaps for good.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry knows this; it has carefully avoided saying so. Instead, it issued a brief response on February 1 neither endorsing the takeover nor condemning it. “We are following closely developments in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar,” announced the ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova.

“Unfortunately, the main political forces of this country failed to resolve the differences that arose following the results of the parliamentary elections held in November 2020. We hope for a peaceful settlement of the situation in accordance with the current legislation through the resumption of political dialogue and the preservation of the country’s sustainable socio-economic development. In this regard, they drew attention to the statement of the military authorities about their intention to hold new parliamentary elections a year later. We recommend that Russian citizens in Myanmar avoid crowded places.”

This statement implied condemnation of the arrests and of the subsequent violence.

In the weeks between the November election and the putsch, the Foreign Ministry had been issuing brief but supportive bulletins balancing between the Tatmadaw and the civilian government led by the Anglo-American icon, Aung San Suu Kyi.  On November 19, the ministry endorsed the vote as an “an important milestone in Myanmar’s progress along the path of democratic development and national reconciliation. Despite the continuing difficult situation in certain regions, the election campaign and voting took place in an overall stable and peaceful environment and in accordance with Myanmar’s legislation and was marked by a high turnout. We reiterate our principled commitment to further strengthen the traditionally friendly Russia-Myanmar relations and mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation in the interests of the peoples of our countries.”

On December 21 Nikolai Listopadov, the Russian Ambassador in Myanmar, published a summary of his discussion with U Chan Aye, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar. “The parties discussed the development of friendly Russia-Myanmar relations, exchanged views on the positions of Russia and Myanmar on international platforms, including in the UN, which, as it was stated are close or coincide”.  The ambiguity in the last three words is the telling one — two roads at once.

As the domestic situation worsened, the last Foreign Ministry statement was on March 3: “It was noted that the situation in Myanmar had been discussed during the informal meeting of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Foreign Ministers on 2 March. We share the call made in the statement of the Brunei presidency of the ‘dozens’ to all parties to avoid further violence and to exercise maximum restraint and flexibility, to seek a peaceful solution through constructive dialogue. We hope that the position of Myanmar’s neighbors in the region will contribute to the normalization of the situation in this country. We are ready to cooperate with ASEAN in this direction both on international platforms and within the framework of aseanocentric mechanisms.”

The strategic principle is non-intervention in the domestic affairs of Myanmar. The tactic has been to avoid beating breasts in public, as the former colonial power in London has been doing, and its successor in Washington. “Aseanocentric” meant — John Bull, Yankee stay out.

The second Russian tactic has been to prevent the Anglo-American attempt at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to legislate for coordinated international sanctions, as well as intervention across Myanmar’s borders. Russia and China used the threat of their Security Council veto to stop a British initiative, and lowered both the level of threat and the legal authority of intervention to a UNSC statement, not a resolution. India and Vietnam also joined the bloc against the Anglo-American thrust.  None of this is new policy. Tempering and blocking have been consistent Russian tactics for Myanmar at the UN for more than a decade.

The UNSC’s statement of March 10 , agreed with Russia and China, registered “deep concern at developments in Myanmar following the declaration of the state of emergency imposed by the military on 1 February and the arbitrary detention of members of the Government, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and others. The Security Council reiterates its call for their immediate release.”

There was no agreement on Anglo-American sanctions or for cross-border intervention, including increased arms supplies to the ethnic armies of the northern regions. Camouflage for air drops was included in the sentence: “The Security Council continues to call for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need”. The last sentence ruled out such secret operations. “The Security Council reaffirms…its strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial  integrity and unity of Myanmar.”

THE STRATEGIC SITUATION MAP OF MYANMAR

On Russia’s map of eastern and southeast Asia, compared to China, India, Vietnam, Thailand,  Indonesia, and Malaysia,Myanmar plays a minor part in trade, tourism, and business investment. Russia warfighters in the British and US governments exaggerate this.  A Norwegian think-tank report in 2017 judged Russian policy toward Myanmar to be aimed at countering US efforts at isolating and attacking China.

At President Putin’s meeting with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in China two years ago, Putin had said: “We are committed to the further development of political dialogue and the continuation of inter-parliamentary exchanges. Our ministries of foreign affairs also have well-established contacts. Although quite modest in absolute terms, our mutual trade is growing rapidly, having gained more than 50 percent last year.” Putin wasn’t counting the arms trade.

This is the third of Russia’s Burma roads — the military relationship with the Tatmadaw has been considerable and growing steadily.  The supplies have included combat and trainer aircraft for the air force — MiG-29, Su-30MK, Mi-24 and Mi-35P helicopters — armoured vehicles for the army and police, anti-aircraft missile batteries,  electronic surveillance and counter-measures, and to come – the Pantsir-S1 air defence system, Orlan-10E surveillance drones and radar equipment. The programme has also included Burmese officer training in Russia.

According to the 2019 study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia is the second arms supplier to Myanmar after China, accounting for 20% of its procurement from 2014-2018; 43% over the period, 1999-2018. By contrast, China has provided 61% and 44%, respectively. Myanmar spent $2.4 billion on weapons from 2010-2019,  including $807 million on Russian-made arms. The money spent has generated a 96% increase in Myanmar’s military inventory between 2008 and 2017 – the biggest growth of any of the southeast Asian states.

The US government tried to stop it; it failed. China, Russia and Israel have all supplied arms to the Tatmadaw when the US and European Union states observed an arms embargo.

According to SIPRI, “disputes over maritime boundaries, most notably with Bangladesh where oil and gas are at issue, are likely to have partly driven higher levels of spending.These maritime issues would explain the expansion of the navy over the past decade from a limited coastal force to a force of several frigates that provides some blue-water capabilities, and the interest in submarines.”

To date, the Myanmar navy has been equipped with larger vessels from India, China and the US; smaller ones have been sold by Israel or built in local shipyards. Russia’s role to date has been to provide shipboard weapons and other technology, including equipment for the new Burmese submarine force. The Russian Navy is expected to establish regular portcall facilities on the coast.

The list of military purposes identified at the signing of the 2016 defence cooperation agreement between the two countries,   and the list of officers identified in General Min Aung Hlaing’s April 2019 visit to Moscow show how extensive the military supply relationship has become.

High-level Russian defence ministry visits to Myanmar just before the putsch and since then reinforce the third road approach. On January 21-22, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (lead image) held talks in Naypyitaw (Yangon, Rangoon) with the Tatmadaw. They finalised an agreement to deliver the Pantsir and other equipment.

The Irrawaddy reported:  “it is not yet known where Myanmar’s military…plans to deploy the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft missile system, but military analysts suspect it will be positioned along the border with Bangladesh. The Irrawaddy has learned that the anti-aircraft missile system could also be deployed in Shan State, close to the Wa Self-Administered Zone controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Myanmar’s largest ethnic armed organization. In February last year, China provided military hardware, drones and training to the UWSA. The organization confirmed it had acquired a helicopter, making the northeast-based rebel group the nation’s first to possess such an aircraft. The helicopter was reportedly ordered and delivered from China.”

The price and payment terms for the new Russian arms have not been revealed.

On March 12, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying: “We assess the situation as alarming, and we are concerned about the information coming from there about the growing number of civilian casualties. This is a matter of worry for us. We are very closely monitoring what is happening there.” That was the Foreign Ministry line.

Peskov added that Moscow was “also weighing the possibility of suspending military cooperation with Myanmar.” This was no one’s line, certainly not the Russian Defence Ministry’s.

The visit on March 26 to Yangon of Russian deputy defence minister General Alexander Fomin has been dramatised in the Anglo-American media as a show of Russian support for military force in the country. Fomin, however, was not the only foreign military representative at the Tatmadaw military parade that day. India, Bangladesh and China were also demonstratively  present.

Fomin has been quoted in the Russian press as backing a “strategic” relationship with Myanmar. The leading daily newspaper of Moscow, Moskovsky Komsomoletspublished a highly unusual interview with Min Aung Hlaing at the same time.   Min Aung Hliang tried accentuating the positive; Pavel Gusev, the MK editor in chief, eliminating the negative.

“Russia is an old and loyal friend to us,” the general said. “The law enforcement forces and the army serve to protect the safety of citizens” Gusev said, adding “all the dirty methods of the ‘colour revolutions’  are  used against them. Events often develop according to the scenario known since the Maidan in Kiev.”

According to Min Aung Hliang, “I would like to invite the Russian side and Russian businessmen to participate in these projects. We need your technologies that will help us develop the manufacturing industry and mechanical engineering…you have very developed technologies for processing agricultural products. In Myanmar, fresh fruit is grown all year round. And, as a rule, they are also consumed fresh. You could help us organize the production of canned vegetables and fruits. Why not? This would help to increase the export of our agricultural products to Russia.”

The general also promised to investigate why Russian tourism to Myanmar has been dropping off, and to consider offering a visa-free regime. “I agree”, he told Gusev, “that the need for a visa is one of the factors that complicate the arrival of tourists. Your businessmen and rich people have flown to us on their private planes, including as tourists. We had a significant flow of Russian tourists. But then their number decreased. The reason is still unknown to me. I think that I, together with the relevant departments, will deal with this issue, find out the reason. Most likely, the issue is the weak economic ties between Russia and Myanmar. If your investments came to us, then tourism would also develop. – But for the development of mass tourism, the issue of a visa is important.”

Russian military experts in Moscow say they have not been following the military relationship closely. One commented that Moscow’s policy at present is for stability in the country, not for taking sides — “Russia is going to work with any leader up to the task in Myanmar”. Two of Russia’s acknowledged experts on Myanmar, Aida Simonia, a researcher at the Centre for Southeast Asia at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Gleb Ivashentsov, ambassador to Myanmar from 1997 to 2001, were asked if they detect a difference of assessment or policy between the Russian Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry. They declined to reply.

The Chinese government directs the largest foreign investment in Myanmar, and to the east guards the longest of Myanmar’s borders – 2,129 kilometres. Min Aung Hlaing and Aung San Suu Kyi do not differ on the priority they assign to preserving their relationship with Beijing.

Along and across that frontier China has been supplying arms to both the Tatmadaw and to several of the ethnic forces in permanent rebellion against the government in Yangon. They include the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Arakan Army (AA). Follow the history of British, Japanese, Chinese and US involvement in the Burmese opium and methamphetamine trade, the ethnic army wars, and the evolution of military and civilian power-sharing in Yangon in this essay by London-based analyst, Gary Busch.

Busch also notes that China’s need to retain the southward flow of river water to generate electricity creates a long-term disadvantage for Myanmar and other downstream countries. “Myanmar is in a strategic location in the struggle by China to resolve its water supply problem. In a recent study, it was pointed out that China has 20 percent of the world’s population but only seven percent of its fresh water. And 80 percent of China’s water is in the south, whereas half of its population and two-thirds of its farmland are in the north. While total water usage in China increased by only 35 percent between 1980 and 2010, water usage in households increased elevenfold and in industrial sectors, threefold. But per capita available water in China amounts to only a quarter of the world average. Climate change will also increase China’s vulnerability to water scarcity…China’s water diplomacy in the region is a major destabilising force and one which will have devastating consequences for its neighbours, including Myanmar.”

The future of China’s hydroelectric, port, mining, and gas and oil projects in Myanmar is at risk if domestic opposition to the Tatmadaw’s putsch generates chronic chaos. A Hong Kong analyst reports that from Beijing’s perspective, “the coup does not serve Beijing’s interests. A stable political environment in Myanmar [is needed] for BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] projects to thrive. To them, Chinese leaders would prefer to work with the Aung San Suu Kyi… rather than the military junta.”

Busch concludes:

“The February coup by the Tatmadaw was not an unmixed blessing for the Chinese, particularly because of the violent civilian protests against the coup saw the destruction by the locals of eighty-three Chinese factories whom the civilians blamed for unfair labour practices and widespread pollution of the environment through spillages and polluted air.

The Tatmadaw were less than supportive of the Chinese, which angered their Chinese overseers and partners. The Tatmadaw had made a lot of money collecting fees and owning shares in Chinese operations in ethnic areas but knew that the military support of the ethnic armies also came primarily from China and the drug smugglers who operated with Chinese blessing. The Chinese had some of their power in Myanmar curtailed by the retreat of the Tatmadaw in face of the NLD. The coup restricted them further.”

The Indian assessment is that there can be no advantage in taking sides in protracted domestic conflict.  “New Delhi,” reports a retired Indian diplomat,   “attaches high importance to the security cooperation with Myanmar. This reflects a realistic assessment that the Myanmar military remains an enduring factor in regional politics and current history. A ‘boycott’ of the military is impractical while cordial ties have proven to be helpful to safeguard the security of the volatile northeastern regions.” The Indian Government regards American, Japanese and Australian efforts (the anti-China Quad – Quadrilateral Security Dialogue)  to attack the Tatmadaw as “clumsy”.

The Indian military suffers from the serious geographic disadvantage that its border with Myanmar – 1,468 kms long – cannot be reinforced quickly through the narrow Siliguri corridor.

Indian strategy is therefore opposed to covert western intervention in Myanmar destabilising its border regions with the objective of “bleed[ing] the Myanmar military in a protracted guerrilla war with the minority ethnic groups in the remote lawless border lands.” It is equally uncomfortable with what New Delhi views as propaganda incitement from the BBC and Radio Free Asia, the US organ. From the Indian perspective, “that leaves Russia as the mainstay of support of Myanmar military (aside from the Thai military next door, which is also combating separatism by pro-western ethnic groups.)”

For Russia, weaning the Indians away from the US-directed Quad is almost as important as preserving the strategic alliance with China, also against the US.  It is thus in the common interest of the Troika – Russia, China and India – for Myanmar to be stable enough to allow Chinese trade to move into the Bay of Bengal, bypassing the chokepoint controlled by Singapore for the US at the Malacca Strait.

“Ideally,” comments the Indian source, “this should be a joint Russian-Indian-Chinese common enterprise of three emerging powers with overlapping strategic interests to transition toward a democratised world order away from the oppressive, unequal western-dominated one of present-day. That may appear wishful thinking in the prevailing circumstances.”

According to Busch in London, “the solution to the problem of Myanmar is very complicated; especially since there seem to be no “good guys” to rely on except for the [Myanmar] workers. They deserve the world’s support but there seems to be no easy way to do so.”

Source: Dances With Bears

Tim Black - Sat Apr 17, 2021 11:36

And so, after over a year in the making, the British government’s Integrated Review, outlining its approach to security, defence and foreign policy – entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age – has finally been published.

Setting out ‘the UK’s role in the world over the next decade’, it combines breezy rhetoric about openness and opportunity, a deliberately ambiguous attitude to China, and a lot of self-aggrandising puff about Britain’s moral mission in the world, best captured in the awkward-sounding phrase, the ‘force-for-good agenda’ – which, in many parts of the Greater Middle East, will sound like a threat.

There is also a troubling pledge to increase the UK’s nuclear warhead stockpile for the first time since the end of the Cold War. This not only makes a mockery of the British state’s own commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; it also exposes the hypocrisy of its lecturing and punishing the likes of Iran over their nuclear ambitions.

But one aspect of the review that has received relatively little attention is the role played in it by Russia. Not the actual nation Russia, of course. No, the imaginary Russia. The Russia that haunts the Cold War-hewn imagination of the British establishment like no other. In this sense, Russia’s role here is similar to that of climate change. It is the threat that justifies action, the evil that provides the soon-to-be nuked-up British state with a sense of moral mission.

So we’re told several times that Russia is ‘the most acute threat to our security’. We’re told it wants to ‘exploit and undermine democratic systems and open economies’. We’re told that, alongside North Korea and Iran, with which it is routinely grouped, that it is a ‘destabilising’, ‘opportunistic state’.

There is not even a cursory attempt to explain any of this. No attempt to say why Russia is persistently up to no good. That is just a given. Like Kevin, you see, there’s just something about Russia. Something off. Something not right. Something a bit, well, evil.

But then that is the point of Russia. It is the bad guy to Britain’s good guy. Without it, some clearly fear that the British state will lose its moral direction. They need this Russia. They need this chemical-weapon wielding violation of the moral order so as to be for something. ‘We will uphold international rules and norms and hold Russia to account for breaches of these’, the review declares, as if ‘international rules and norms’ were invented precisely for the policing of Russia.

The problem is that this anti-Russian sentiment, which has hung in the air of Britain’s corridors of power for too long, often turns into outright bigotry. After all, there’s a gossamer-thin line between demonising Russia the nation and demonising Russian people. The review’s authors even feel the need to state that ‘the UK respects the people, culture and history of Russia’.

It is a caveat that should not be necessary. But it clearly is, given the tendency of politicians and media alike to brand Russians living in the UK, especially London, as agents of Putin – something The Times had to apologise for recently after it alleged Alexander Temerko, a critic of Putin, was some sort of Kremlin agent.

And no wonder. If anything, we’ve seen an escalation of elite anti-Russian sentiment over the past two decades. In part this has been a reaction to the rise of Vladimir Putin, helped by the arrival of many of his fiercest, most vocal critics in the UK, after arguments and fallouts in the post-Soviet carve-up. They helped create the hellish image of Putin’s Russia that many in politics, academia and the media now hold to be true.

But it was also a product of the elite response to Brexit, when many Remainers, fastening on to this growing anti-Russian sentiment, decided to blame their defeat in the EU referendum on Putin. Indeed, last year’s parliamentary report into allegations of Russian interference in British politics rehearsed many of the same prejudices running, like a red thread, through the Integrated Review. There the Russian state was described, incredibly, as ‘fundamentally nihilistic’. ‘Any actions [Russia] can take which damage the West’, it read, ‘are fundamentally good for Russia’ – which makes it sound less like a nation state than Darth Vader.

And this is just the official caricature of Russian malevolence. Below that we’ve seen the media routinely pin all sorts of wrong on Russia, be it suggesting Dominic Cummings was a Russian spy, or that Russian donors to the Tory Party are doing Putin’s dirty work for it, or even the horrifying portraits of Russian society ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

It seems there is an almost existential need among parts of the British political and media classes to cast Russia as the enemy. Yes, the Russian state is far from a saintly force in the world. But it demands understanding not demonisation. Its annexation of Crimea in 2014, for example, needs to be understood as a strategic, defensive action in the face of perceived NATO expansion, not as an expression of Putin’s evil plan.

And that is what is missing from the integrated review: any understanding of Russia, from its politics to its society. Instead, we have a phantasm. But one that could provoke an all-too-real conflict.

Source: Spiked

And so, after over a year in the making, the British government’s Integrated Review, outlining its approach to security, defence and foreign policy – entitled Global Britain in a Competitive Age – has finally been published.

Setting out ‘the UK’s role in the world over the next decade’, it combines breezy rhetoric about openness and opportunity, a deliberately ambiguous attitude to China, and a lot of self-aggrandising puff about Britain’s moral mission in the world, best captured in the awkward-sounding phrase, the ‘force-for-good agenda’ – which, in many parts of the Greater Middle East, will sound like a threat.

There is also a troubling pledge to increase the UK’s nuclear warhead stockpile for the first time since the end of the Cold War. This not only makes a mockery of the British state’s own commitment to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; it also exposes the hypocrisy of its lecturing and punishing the likes of Iran over their nuclear ambitions.

But one aspect of the review that has received relatively little attention is the role played in it by Russia. Not the actual nation Russia, of course. No, the imaginary Russia. The Russia that haunts the Cold War-hewn imagination of the British establishment like no other. In this sense, Russia’s role here is similar to that of climate change. It is the threat that justifies action, the evil that provides the soon-to-be nuked-up British state with a sense of moral mission.

So we’re told several times that Russia is ‘the most acute threat to our security’. We’re told it wants to ‘exploit and undermine democratic systems and open economies’. We’re told that, alongside North Korea and Iran, with which it is routinely grouped, that it is a ‘destabilising’, ‘opportunistic state’.

There is not even a cursory attempt to explain any of this. No attempt to say why Russia is persistently up to no good. That is just a given. Like Kevin, you see, there’s just something about Russia. Something off. Something not right. Something a bit, well, evil.

But then that is the point of Russia. It is the bad guy to Britain’s good guy. Without it, some clearly fear that the British state will lose its moral direction. They need this Russia. They need this chemical-weapon wielding violation of the moral order so as to be for something. ‘We will uphold international rules and norms and hold Russia to account for breaches of these’, the review declares, as if ‘international rules and norms’ were invented precisely for the policing of Russia.

The problem is that this anti-Russian sentiment, which has hung in the air of Britain’s corridors of power for too long, often turns into outright bigotry. After all, there’s a gossamer-thin line between demonising Russia the nation and demonising Russian people. The review’s authors even feel the need to state that ‘the UK respects the people, culture and history of Russia’.

It is a caveat that should not be necessary. But it clearly is, given the tendency of politicians and media alike to brand Russians living in the UK, especially London, as agents of Putin – something The Times had to apologise for recently after it alleged Alexander Temerko, a critic of Putin, was some sort of Kremlin agent.

And no wonder. If anything, we’ve seen an escalation of elite anti-Russian sentiment over the past two decades. In part this has been a reaction to the rise of Vladimir Putin, helped by the arrival of many of his fiercest, most vocal critics in the UK, after arguments and fallouts in the post-Soviet carve-up. They helped create the hellish image of Putin’s Russia that many in politics, academia and the media now hold to be true.

But it was also a product of the elite response to Brexit, when many Remainers, fastening on to this growing anti-Russian sentiment, decided to blame their defeat in the EU referendum on Putin. Indeed, last year’s parliamentary report into allegations of Russian interference in British politics rehearsed many of the same prejudices running, like a red thread, through the Integrated Review. There the Russian state was described, incredibly, as ‘fundamentally nihilistic’. ‘Any actions [Russia] can take which damage the West’, it read, ‘are fundamentally good for Russia’ – which makes it sound less like a nation state than Darth Vader.

And this is just the official caricature of Russian malevolence. Below that we’ve seen the media routinely pin all sorts of wrong on Russia, be it suggesting Dominic Cummings was a Russian spy, or that Russian donors to the Tory Party are doing Putin’s dirty work for it, or even the horrifying portraits of Russian society ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

It seems there is an almost existential need among parts of the British political and media classes to cast Russia as the enemy. Yes, the Russian state is far from a saintly force in the world. But it demands understanding not demonisation. Its annexation of Crimea in 2014, for example, needs to be understood as a strategic, defensive action in the face of perceived NATO expansion, not as an expression of Putin’s evil plan.

And that is what is missing from the integrated review: any understanding of Russia, from its politics to its society. Instead, we have a phantasm. But one that could provoke an all-too-real conflict.

Source: Spiked

World Affairs - Sat Apr 17, 2021 10:33

Whenever people face a huge loss in life — like a sudden divorce or death of a family member — they go through five stages of grief. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The U.S. is about to lose its top spot as the biggest economy and is, in a textbook manner, going through the same stages.

Denial: Some people like Kishore Mahbubani predicted twenty years ago that China will eventually be the leading economic powerhouse. But Americans chose denial and laughed at the concept. The popular beliefs behind the denials were:

  • China’s economy will collapse any moment now!
  • China will eventually become just like the West and then we will have nothing to worry about.
  • China is a totalitarian, communist country. They don’t understand capitalism or free market, and thus will never be rich.
  • China can never innovate. Chinese workers are just slaves and bots.
  • China makes only crappy products and thus can never compete with western brands.
  • As soon as Chinese people travel to the West and see how glorious the West is, they will go back to China and overthrow the tyrannical and corrupt communist government.
  • China’s GDP numbers and other stats are fake!
  • China’s patents and scientific publications are of low quality.
  • Chinese products will never succeed outside China.
  • We can always nuke China and maintain our hegemony.
  • COVID19 will surely bring China down. And all the countries will start decoupling from China.

Alas, none of those happened. China miraculously kept advancing. Without a single recession in forty years, the engine of China kept roaring. China’s communist party grew the GDP 50x in forty years, lifted 800 million people out of poverty, created the world’s largest middle class, fostered innovative companies, and built a vibrant and all-around successful society. (See my blog on China’s global leadership).

Anger: After denying reality for a while, people become angry. They feel like victims and start blaming others. That’s exactly what’s been happening, especially since Trump came to office. The anger is reflected in following ways:

  • China stole America’s jobs.
  • China stole intellectual property from the U.S. (after all, Chinese can’t innovate, remember?)
  • Chinese are spies and hackers.
  • China doesn’t buy anything from us.
  • China doesn’t treat U.S. corporations fairly. China is too protectionist.
  • China subsidizes its corporations. Not fair!
  • China made the coronavirus in the Wuhan lab. China tricked us into a lock down.
  • China bad, China bad, China bad!

Bargaining: This is the hopeful phase. It’s like saying after the divorce, “Maybe I can get my wife back.” This phase is not always benign; it can involve a lot of ruthless scheming as seen in the last four years:

  • If we can just force China to buy more from us, we can close the trade deficit and make America great again.
  • Tariffs will cripple China and also force American companies to bring manufacturing jobs back.
  • If we just arrest Huawei’s CFO and kill the company with sanctions, China will bend its knee.
  • Let’s go on an all-out attack on every successful Chinese company. That should do the trick!
  • Let’s use Hong Kong and Uyghur separatists to disrupt China. How about using India and Taiwan to start a war?

None of these seem to be working, although military conflicts are possible (with devastating impact on global economy). America’s tech war will only spur more Chinese innovation and self-reliance.

Depression and Acceptance: We are not here yet. The U.S. is still trying hard to stop China, rather than planning for an inevitable post-American era, which will start within five years. The geopolitically smart strategy will be to skip the stage of depression and go to acceptance. That will translate to embracing multilateralism and partnering with China, EU and Russia to forge a multi-polar world order for the 21st century. However, with so much Sinophoba and hubris in the U.S., no politician or think tank will dare propose such a solution. So … get ready for American depression.

Source: World Affairs

Whenever people face a huge loss in life — like a sudden divorce or death of a family member — they go through five stages of grief. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The U.S. is about to lose its top spot as the biggest economy and is, in a textbook manner, going through the same stages.

Denial: Some people like Kishore Mahbubani predicted twenty years ago that China will eventually be the leading economic powerhouse. But Americans chose denial and laughed at the concept. The popular beliefs behind the denials were:

  • China’s economy will collapse any moment now!
  • China will eventually become just like the West and then we will have nothing to worry about.
  • China is a totalitarian, communist country. They don’t understand capitalism or free market, and thus will never be rich.
  • China can never innovate. Chinese workers are just slaves and bots.
  • China makes only crappy products and thus can never compete with western brands.
  • As soon as Chinese people travel to the West and see how glorious the West is, they will go back to China and overthrow the tyrannical and corrupt communist government.
  • China’s GDP numbers and other stats are fake!
  • China’s patents and scientific publications are of low quality.
  • Chinese products will never succeed outside China.
  • We can always nuke China and maintain our hegemony.
  • COVID19 will surely bring China down. And all the countries will start decoupling from China.

Alas, none of those happened. China miraculously kept advancing. Without a single recession in forty years, the engine of China kept roaring. China’s communist party grew the GDP 50x in forty years, lifted 800 million people out of poverty, created the world’s largest middle class, fostered innovative companies, and built a vibrant and all-around successful society. (See my blog on China’s global leadership).

Anger: After denying reality for a while, people become angry. They feel like victims and start blaming others. That’s exactly what’s been happening, especially since Trump came to office. The anger is reflected in following ways:

  • China stole America’s jobs.
  • China stole intellectual property from the U.S. (after all, Chinese can’t innovate, remember?)
  • Chinese are spies and hackers.
  • China doesn’t buy anything from us.
  • China doesn’t treat U.S. corporations fairly. China is too protectionist.
  • China subsidizes its corporations. Not fair!
  • China made the coronavirus in the Wuhan lab. China tricked us into a lock down.
  • China bad, China bad, China bad!

Bargaining: This is the hopeful phase. It’s like saying after the divorce, “Maybe I can get my wife back.” This phase is not always benign; it can involve a lot of ruthless scheming as seen in the last four years:

  • If we can just force China to buy more from us, we can close the trade deficit and make America great again.
  • Tariffs will cripple China and also force American companies to bring manufacturing jobs back.
  • If we just arrest Huawei’s CFO and kill the company with sanctions, China will bend its knee.
  • Let’s go on an all-out attack on every successful Chinese company. That should do the trick!
  • Let’s use Hong Kong and Uyghur separatists to disrupt China. How about using India and Taiwan to start a war?

None of these seem to be working, although military conflicts are possible (with devastating impact on global economy). America’s tech war will only spur more Chinese innovation and self-reliance.

Depression and Acceptance: We are not here yet. The U.S. is still trying hard to stop China, rather than planning for an inevitable post-American era, which will start within five years. The geopolitically smart strategy will be to skip the stage of depression and go to acceptance. That will translate to embracing multilateralism and partnering with China, EU and Russia to forge a multi-polar world order for the 21st century. However, with so much Sinophoba and hubris in the U.S., no politician or think tank will dare propose such a solution. So … get ready for American depression.

Source: World Affairs

Asia Briefing - Sat Apr 17, 2021 09:36

A common mistake made by many Western based China observers – and global media, when it comes to China is to assume that the figurehead at the top of Government is in complete charge. This derives in part from the all-encompassing position of the US President, from whom an assumption is that top-down decisions filter down. The same, incorrect assumption is often levelled at the British Prime Minister of the day, and of most Western leaders. Taking up the responsibility for the pros and cons of their leadership, they are the characters most seen to be explaining and even appearing to own Government. This Western perceptive is also how people often view China. Common headlines refer to China as ‘autocratic’, a ‘dictatorship’ and other such dubious terms. However, China is far more subtle than this, and its days of dictators long gone.

The United States, and much of the West has not, and does not, understand that the Premier of China does not make policies. Xi Jinping might review policy in its final stages, he might sometimes announce them, but rarely, but he does not run China. He runs the Government.

The CPC and the Government of China have a very decentralized policy system, in which experts follow the “scientific method” over many years, even decades, until policies are tested, and tested again for linkage to other national priorities. The CPC makes policy, the Government implements. The policy groupings contain many from Government. But it is the CPC which leads the development of policy.

Therefore, the US placing sanctions on Chinese individuals – be it Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Wang Chen, a member of the 25-person Politburo, one of China’s top decision-making bodies, or Tam Yiu-chung, the only Hong Konger on the committee to have drafted China’s national security law makes no sense. In China, it is viewed as individually spiteful. It is also frustrating for the China Government as it demonstrates that the US has no idea how to approach dialogue or direct targets, either for negative issues such as sanctions, or for positive issues such as trade talks and other more positive areas of cooperation.

The United States Government has erred in what it sees as targeting culpable individuals. This in turn is why the Alaska talks have deteriorated – Chinese diplomats, lawmakers and officials are made to feel as if they have been personally singled out and made individually responsible for national policy. No wonder the Chinese delegation referred to the US side as ‘condescending’ when seeming to ignore the entire Chinese Governmental decision-making process. The United States policy of placing sanction on individuals has had the effect of making the US as a country appear to be dealing with specific, targeted personnel and not with the Chinese Government.

It has the same approach to Russia, with US President Biden referring to Russian President Putin as ‘a killer’ when there is an entire state apparatus to contend with. While Putin is not everyone’s cup of tea, he is still the head of state of a powerful nation. Meanwhile, Mohammed Bin Salam, who the FBI stated was ‘culpable’ for the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is not sanctioned. These are double standards, and the Chinese know this too.

The initial approach by the new Biden administration towards China and Russia has not been ideal. Instead of diplomacy, Washington’s modus operandi appears to be leaning towards making it personal. With negotiating more favorable trade terms with India next up, and an increasingly nationalistic Prime Minister Modi in power, the United States is potentially well on course to be having disagreements with just about everybody, making US-India talks even more important. Should they not proceed well, that should be indication enough that a re-think of how Washington engages with other countries Governments would be well overdue.

Source: Asia Briefing

A common mistake made by many Western based China observers – and global media, when it comes to China is to assume that the figurehead at the top of Government is in complete charge. This derives in part from the all-encompassing position of the US President, from whom an assumption is that top-down decisions filter down. The same, incorrect assumption is often levelled at the British Prime Minister of the day, and of most Western leaders. Taking up the responsibility for the pros and cons of their leadership, they are the characters most seen to be explaining and even appearing to own Government. This Western perceptive is also how people often view China. Common headlines refer to China as ‘autocratic’, a ‘dictatorship’ and other such dubious terms. However, China is far more subtle than this, and its days of dictators long gone.

The United States, and much of the West has not, and does not, understand that the Premier of China does not make policies. Xi Jinping might review policy in its final stages, he might sometimes announce them, but rarely, but he does not run China. He runs the Government.

The CPC and the Government of China have a very decentralized policy system, in which experts follow the “scientific method” over many years, even decades, until policies are tested, and tested again for linkage to other national priorities. The CPC makes policy, the Government implements. The policy groupings contain many from Government. But it is the CPC which leads the development of policy.

Therefore, the US placing sanctions on Chinese individuals – be it Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Wang Chen, a member of the 25-person Politburo, one of China’s top decision-making bodies, or Tam Yiu-chung, the only Hong Konger on the committee to have drafted China’s national security law makes no sense. In China, it is viewed as individually spiteful. It is also frustrating for the China Government as it demonstrates that the US has no idea how to approach dialogue or direct targets, either for negative issues such as sanctions, or for positive issues such as trade talks and other more positive areas of cooperation.

The United States Government has erred in what it sees as targeting culpable individuals. This in turn is why the Alaska talks have deteriorated – Chinese diplomats, lawmakers and officials are made to feel as if they have been personally singled out and made individually responsible for national policy. No wonder the Chinese delegation referred to the US side as ‘condescending’ when seeming to ignore the entire Chinese Governmental decision-making process. The United States policy of placing sanction on individuals has had the effect of making the US as a country appear to be dealing with specific, targeted personnel and not with the Chinese Government.

It has the same approach to Russia, with US President Biden referring to Russian President Putin as ‘a killer’ when there is an entire state apparatus to contend with. While Putin is not everyone’s cup of tea, he is still the head of state of a powerful nation. Meanwhile, Mohammed Bin Salam, who the FBI stated was ‘culpable’ for the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is not sanctioned. These are double standards, and the Chinese know this too.

The initial approach by the new Biden administration towards China and Russia has not been ideal. Instead of diplomacy, Washington’s modus operandi appears to be leaning towards making it personal. With negotiating more favorable trade terms with India next up, and an increasingly nationalistic Prime Minister Modi in power, the United States is potentially well on course to be having disagreements with just about everybody, making US-India talks even more important. Should they not proceed well, that should be indication enough that a re-think of how Washington engages with other countries Governments would be well overdue.

Source: Asia Briefing

Deutsche Welle - Sat Apr 17, 2021 08:36

Many Polish journalists describe the relationship between the People's Republic of Poland and the German Democratic Republic until the fall of the Berlin Wall as a "forced friendship." Even if the rulers of both countries celebrated their harmonious alliance in public, behind the scenes there was a profound distrust between Warsaw and East Berlin.

Many Poles considered their neighbors on the Western side of the Oder River as potentially dangerous "red Prussians," while East Germans considered their Polish comrades as unreliable allies whose liberal reforms put the whole Communist bloc at risk.

For a long time, it was believed that the relationship between the countries' secret services was an exception to this rule: The fact that both agencies shared a common enemy in the West meant they were supposed to cooperate closely.

According to new archive evidence, this was not the case: While the rivalry between the two countries was palpable on a political and social level, it was considerably more apparent in intelligence.

In his book entitled "Von einer Freundschaft, die es nicht gab. Das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit der DDR und das polnische Innenministerium 1974-1990" in German ("About a friendship that didn't exist: The State Security Ministry in the GDR and the Polish Interiror Ministry from 1974-1990"), the Polish political scientist Tytus Jaskulowski from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) dispels some of the myths that continued to exist long after the collapse of communism.

"The GDR's Stasi was considered to be a powerful institution with tremendous intelligence and operative capacities, capable of infiltrating and influencing Polish life. The Polish Interior Ministry for its part was considered to be weak and no match for the Stasi [short for the East German state security ministry]. Despite this, the cooperation between the two institutions was thought to be comparably harmonious," Jaskulowski told DW. "But new archive findings have dispelled the myth."

Solidarnosc scared the Stasi

The series of strikes that took place on Poland's Baltic coast in the summer of 1980 and led to the emergence of the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) trade union marked a turning point in the relationship. The East Berlin leadership thought that the developments in Poland represented an existential threat to its existence and that of the whole Eastern Bloc.

Stasi head Erich Mielke and his entourage were stricken with panic by the attempts of Poland's communist leadership to find a compromise with Solidarnosc. GDR politicians accused their Polish comrades of being weak and yielding to "anti-socialist enemies."

Therefore, there was a great deal of relief in East Berlin when the Polish government introduced martial law on December 13, 1981. But the Stasi doubted that this would resolve the crisis. On December 14, Mielke issued a series of orders outlining steps to be taken against Poland. One order was given the codename "Besinnung" ("reflection”) and put Poland in the same category as West Germany and other Western countries: Poland was declared an "Operational Area" and thus an enemy.

The Stasi had already set up the Warsaw Operations Group (OGW) within the GDR's embassy in the Polish capital. Its staff members were tasked not only with preventing GDR citizens from escaping to the West but also with spying on Poland.

Fewer spies in Poland than estimated

After the strikes of 1981, East Germany tried to recruit more spies who could report on what was going on east of the Oder River, the border with Poland. After the fall of communism, it was estimated that the Stasi had at least 1,500 IMs ("Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter," or unofficial informers) in Poland. Later, this number was revised to 200. Jaskulowski guesses there were about 100 sources but only a dozen GDR IMs were able to carry out complicated operations such as infiltrating Solidarnosc circles.

Jaskulowski pointed out that Mielke and his colleagues became increasingly arrogant with regard to building up contacts in Poland. They strengthened conservative forces in the apparatus of Poland's ruling Communist Party and were very open about their misgivings about more liberal comrades.

The Polish side could do little to resist, considering they were often in a position of having to ask favors as a result of the deep economic crisis Poland found itself in. The Polish Interior Ministry asked its East German counterpart for support to develop its stock of batons, rubber truncheons and shields as well as shoes, socks and warm underwear. There was nothing in the shops at the time.

Poland takes revenge

The Poles took their revenge for the humiliation that the Stasi had subjected them to after the transition to democracy in Poland. In the summer of 1989, East Germans crossing the border into Poland in order to reach the West German Embassy in Warsaw were allowed in by Polish border guards despite binding agreements with East Germany.

Warsaw did not react to the protests from East Berlin. In early 1990, when Mielke was behind bars awaiting trial, General Czeslaw Kiszczak, who was still interior minister, wrote a telegram congratulating his new GDR counterpart Peter-Michael Diestel, the head of the Stasi's successor, the "Office for National Security."

The Stasi, which had always been better equipped in terms of staff, logistics and funds than Poland's secret service, had now lost "everything that could be lost," explained Jaskulowski. "As opposed to their Polish colleagues, the Stasi people were incapable of understanding the world as it was because of their ideological narrow-mindedness."

Though German-Polish relations flourished after 1991, the secret services of both countries continued to distrust each other. In 1993, a Polish officer was convicted of spying for Germany. German diplomats were reportedly expelled after allegations of spying.

In 2013, at the height of the spy row with the US, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that "spying on friends was not on at all." Jaskulowski is more realistic: "Spying on friends was and is tolerated in politics. However, this tolerance has limits."

Source: Deutsche Welle

Many Polish journalists describe the relationship between the People's Republic of Poland and the German Democratic Republic until the fall of the Berlin Wall as a "forced friendship." Even if the rulers of both countries celebrated their harmonious alliance in public, behind the scenes there was a profound distrust between Warsaw and East Berlin.

Many Poles considered their neighbors on the Western side of the Oder River as potentially dangerous "red Prussians," while East Germans considered their Polish comrades as unreliable allies whose liberal reforms put the whole Communist bloc at risk.

For a long time, it was believed that the relationship between the countries' secret services was an exception to this rule: The fact that both agencies shared a common enemy in the West meant they were supposed to cooperate closely.

According to new archive evidence, this was not the case: While the rivalry between the two countries was palpable on a political and social level, it was considerably more apparent in intelligence.

In his book entitled "Von einer Freundschaft, die es nicht gab. Das Ministerium für Staatssicherheit der DDR und das polnische Innenministerium 1974-1990" in German ("About a friendship that didn't exist: The State Security Ministry in the GDR and the Polish Interiror Ministry from 1974-1990"), the Polish political scientist Tytus Jaskulowski from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) dispels some of the myths that continued to exist long after the collapse of communism.

"The GDR's Stasi was considered to be a powerful institution with tremendous intelligence and operative capacities, capable of infiltrating and influencing Polish life. The Polish Interior Ministry for its part was considered to be weak and no match for the Stasi [short for the East German state security ministry]. Despite this, the cooperation between the two institutions was thought to be comparably harmonious," Jaskulowski told DW. "But new archive findings have dispelled the myth."

Solidarnosc scared the Stasi

The series of strikes that took place on Poland's Baltic coast in the summer of 1980 and led to the emergence of the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) trade union marked a turning point in the relationship. The East Berlin leadership thought that the developments in Poland represented an existential threat to its existence and that of the whole Eastern Bloc.

Stasi head Erich Mielke and his entourage were stricken with panic by the attempts of Poland's communist leadership to find a compromise with Solidarnosc. GDR politicians accused their Polish comrades of being weak and yielding to "anti-socialist enemies."

Therefore, there was a great deal of relief in East Berlin when the Polish government introduced martial law on December 13, 1981. But the Stasi doubted that this would resolve the crisis. On December 14, Mielke issued a series of orders outlining steps to be taken against Poland. One order was given the codename "Besinnung" ("reflection”) and put Poland in the same category as West Germany and other Western countries: Poland was declared an "Operational Area" and thus an enemy.

The Stasi had already set up the Warsaw Operations Group (OGW) within the GDR's embassy in the Polish capital. Its staff members were tasked not only with preventing GDR citizens from escaping to the West but also with spying on Poland.

Fewer spies in Poland than estimated

After the strikes of 1981, East Germany tried to recruit more spies who could report on what was going on east of the Oder River, the border with Poland. After the fall of communism, it was estimated that the Stasi had at least 1,500 IMs ("Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter," or unofficial informers) in Poland. Later, this number was revised to 200. Jaskulowski guesses there were about 100 sources but only a dozen GDR IMs were able to carry out complicated operations such as infiltrating Solidarnosc circles.

Jaskulowski pointed out that Mielke and his colleagues became increasingly arrogant with regard to building up contacts in Poland. They strengthened conservative forces in the apparatus of Poland's ruling Communist Party and were very open about their misgivings about more liberal comrades.

The Polish side could do little to resist, considering they were often in a position of having to ask favors as a result of the deep economic crisis Poland found itself in. The Polish Interior Ministry asked its East German counterpart for support to develop its stock of batons, rubber truncheons and shields as well as shoes, socks and warm underwear. There was nothing in the shops at the time.

Poland takes revenge

The Poles took their revenge for the humiliation that the Stasi had subjected them to after the transition to democracy in Poland. In the summer of 1989, East Germans crossing the border into Poland in order to reach the West German Embassy in Warsaw were allowed in by Polish border guards despite binding agreements with East Germany.

Warsaw did not react to the protests from East Berlin. In early 1990, when Mielke was behind bars awaiting trial, General Czeslaw Kiszczak, who was still interior minister, wrote a telegram congratulating his new GDR counterpart Peter-Michael Diestel, the head of the Stasi's successor, the "Office for National Security."

The Stasi, which had always been better equipped in terms of staff, logistics and funds than Poland's secret service, had now lost "everything that could be lost," explained Jaskulowski. "As opposed to their Polish colleagues, the Stasi people were incapable of understanding the world as it was because of their ideological narrow-mindedness."

Though German-Polish relations flourished after 1991, the secret services of both countries continued to distrust each other. In 1993, a Polish officer was convicted of spying for Germany. German diplomats were reportedly expelled after allegations of spying.

In 2013, at the height of the spy row with the US, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that "spying on friends was not on at all." Jaskulowski is more realistic: "Spying on friends was and is tolerated in politics. However, this tolerance has limits."

Source: Deutsche Welle

Caitlin Johnstone - Fri Apr 16, 2021 11:36

I saw a line in a recent New Yorker article about America’s endless wars, and it’s been been rattling around in my head ever since:

“In Syria, McKenzie visited the Green Village, a community of decrepit apartment blocks near a bombed-out oil facility that served as the operational headquarters for the final push to erase the caliphate, in 2019. These days, the only military action there is from U.S. forces firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert, at no specific target, ‘just to say we’re here,’ one officer told me.”

U.S. forces firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert, at no specific target, “just to say we’re here.”

Tell me that’s not the sexiest line you have ever read in your entire life. The poetical beauty! The ennui! The oh-so-relatable existential ache! Oh God, I need a cigarette.

I mean it just hits on so many different levels. Could you ask for a better snapshot of life within the soulless US war machine than a small cast of Beckettian soldiers, waiting around near a bombed-out oil facility for a Godot who never arrives, firing heavy artillery rounds into the desert twice a week for no reason whatsoever? You just want to hang it in an ornate wooden frame with the caption “YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK, LADIES AND GENTS” and then shove it so far up Tom Cotton’s personal anatomy that it takes an entire emergency room team to extract it.

And isn’t it such a wonderfully concrete, in-your-face iteration of the meaningless struggle so many of us are going through in this decaying fustercluck of end-stage metastatic global capitalism? Firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert at no specific target “just to say we’re here” is simply the military’s version of working at a desk forty hours a week doing essentially nothing other than making the boss and the shareholders a tiny bit richer than they already were. Working to pay the bills so you can afford the car you drive to work and the food and shelter which sustains your ability to work is no less pointless and absurd than what those soldiers were doing in the Green Village in 2019.

If you think about it, aren’t we all in our own way firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert at no specific target “just to say we’re here”? Lost and despondent in the wilderness, boxing with shadows, firing giant guns at imaginary enemies, watching our expensive artillery shells disappear into the emptiness and wondering why it hurts to live? Screaming a loud, violent noise into the abyss just to show we exist, and then seeing the abyss roll its eyes like an annoyed teenager and return its attention to its iPhone?

We are such silly, confused little ape mutants. We could be using these giant brains we just evolved to create a chill, harmonious world where everyone has enough and we work in collaboration with each other and our ecosystem, where creativity has space to flourish and art gushes from our heads like the air we exhale. Instead we’re coasting to armageddon under the thumb of an empire that pours its wealth and resources into an endlessly expanding worldwide military campaign while impoverishing its people at home and keeping them in line with an increasingly violent and militarized police force.

We could have paradise on earth; there’s not one single valid reason why we cannot. Instead we’re letting governments controlled by a few idiotic sociopaths wave nuclear weapons at one another in the name of an imaginary god called unipolarity. Instead we’re letting ourselves be pressed into an absurd competition-based model where we must step on our neighbor’s head just to keep our own above water while destroying the environment we depend on for survival. Instead we’re firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert, at no specific target, “just to say we’re here.”

This world is so silly. So beautifully, insanely, bittersweet cup of extinction noodles silly. We hurdle on a spinning rock we do not understand, through a universe we do not understand, made of particles we do not understand, and we behold one another in a field of consciousness we do not understand, and we shrug.

God I love us. I love us so much.

I really hope we make it.

Source: Caitlin Johnstone

I saw a line in a recent New Yorker article about America’s endless wars, and it’s been been rattling around in my head ever since:

“In Syria, McKenzie visited the Green Village, a community of decrepit apartment blocks near a bombed-out oil facility that served as the operational headquarters for the final push to erase the caliphate, in 2019. These days, the only military action there is from U.S. forces firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert, at no specific target, ‘just to say we’re here,’ one officer told me.”

U.S. forces firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert, at no specific target, “just to say we’re here.”

Tell me that’s not the sexiest line you have ever read in your entire life. The poetical beauty! The ennui! The oh-so-relatable existential ache! Oh God, I need a cigarette.

I mean it just hits on so many different levels. Could you ask for a better snapshot of life within the soulless US war machine than a small cast of Beckettian soldiers, waiting around near a bombed-out oil facility for a Godot who never arrives, firing heavy artillery rounds into the desert twice a week for no reason whatsoever? You just want to hang it in an ornate wooden frame with the caption “YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK, LADIES AND GENTS” and then shove it so far up Tom Cotton’s personal anatomy that it takes an entire emergency room team to extract it.

And isn’t it such a wonderfully concrete, in-your-face iteration of the meaningless struggle so many of us are going through in this decaying fustercluck of end-stage metastatic global capitalism? Firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert at no specific target “just to say we’re here” is simply the military’s version of working at a desk forty hours a week doing essentially nothing other than making the boss and the shareholders a tiny bit richer than they already were. Working to pay the bills so you can afford the car you drive to work and the food and shelter which sustains your ability to work is no less pointless and absurd than what those soldiers were doing in the Green Village in 2019.

If you think about it, aren’t we all in our own way firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert at no specific target “just to say we’re here”? Lost and despondent in the wilderness, boxing with shadows, firing giant guns at imaginary enemies, watching our expensive artillery shells disappear into the emptiness and wondering why it hurts to live? Screaming a loud, violent noise into the abyss just to show we exist, and then seeing the abyss roll its eyes like an annoyed teenager and return its attention to its iPhone?

We are such silly, confused little ape mutants. We could be using these giant brains we just evolved to create a chill, harmonious world where everyone has enough and we work in collaboration with each other and our ecosystem, where creativity has space to flourish and art gushes from our heads like the air we exhale. Instead we’re coasting to armageddon under the thumb of an empire that pours its wealth and resources into an endlessly expanding worldwide military campaign while impoverishing its people at home and keeping them in line with an increasingly violent and militarized police force.

We could have paradise on earth; there’s not one single valid reason why we cannot. Instead we’re letting governments controlled by a few idiotic sociopaths wave nuclear weapons at one another in the name of an imaginary god called unipolarity. Instead we’re letting ourselves be pressed into an absurd competition-based model where we must step on our neighbor’s head just to keep our own above water while destroying the environment we depend on for survival. Instead we’re firing a 155-millimetre howitzer twice a week into the surrounding desert, at no specific target, “just to say we’re here.”

This world is so silly. So beautifully, insanely, bittersweet cup of extinction noodles silly. We hurdle on a spinning rock we do not understand, through a universe we do not understand, made of particles we do not understand, and we behold one another in a field of consciousness we do not understand, and we shrug.

God I love us. I love us so much.

I really hope we make it.

Source: Caitlin Johnstone

Anti-Empire >>

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