Byzantium, February 21, 2015
The EU is cracking up with Greece as potentially the first domino to fall as unsustainable debts collapse across the Washington-promoted transnational bloc.
When we started this column in November as a space to discuss ‘the big picture’ with an emphasis on Russia’s relationship to Euro-Atlantic relations, we could not have imagined that some nameless editor at BBC Monitoring would fancy our term ‘Russophobic hack pack’. Unfortunately, we cannot trademark this label and sell it on t-shirts along Old Arbat to tourists, next to the tees of Putin and a housecat cozying up to the ‘Polite People’ of Crimea. As a link to the original source made clear, this pithy phrase comes from the tweets of a Muscovite Irishman, RT social media editor Ivor Crotty.
Greeks Bearing Bonds and Where the Eurocrats Can Stick Them – an EU/NATO ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ for Greece?
As we hoped Russia Insider readers would pick up on, the name ‘Byzantium’ is itself a parody of The Economist’s unsigned ‘Charlemagne’ columns on Europe (upon the advice of RI’s editors we opted against calling ourselves Constantine Palailogos, since the name might prove too obscure for a broad audience). We chose the ‘Byzantium’reference last year in anticipation that the Greeks would soon rise up against their Eurocrat overlords, and that Brussels invoking its own version of the Brezhnev doctrine but enforced via bank runs, ‘bail ins’ (what Depression-era Americans used to call ‘theft’ by the banks when it was done to depositors of the Bailey Savings and Loan), and bad press. Our instincts from November have proven correct as the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has proven the old saw correct: if you owe the bank 10,000 euros, you have a problem. If you owe the bank 100 billion euros and cannot pay, the bank, in this case the European Central Bank backed by the IMF and German Bundesbank, has a big problem. A headache so massive that it cannot be cured via the US Federal Reserve elixir of massive electronic money printing, at least not without making Germans whose postwar motto was ‘never Weimar hyperinflation again’ nervous. The Germans led by Wolfgang Schauble are predictably digging in against any debt jubilee, because if Greece’s debt of a paltry few hundred billion euros can be either forgiven or inflated Japanese-style into oblivion, why not the debts of 40%+ youth unemployed Italy, Spain or Portugal?
Meanwhile, the same Russia-loathing circles that denied the coup in Kiev one year ago was funded in part by the United States government are seeing Kremlin influence everywhere, from Syriza’s big win in Athens to the rise of Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France and Podemos in Spain. The message from The Economist with its story “In the Kremlin’s Pocket” is plain: any developments in Europe adverse to continued US domination of the Continent and preserving EU sanctions against the Russians must be the result of Moscow’s ‘active measures’. Meanwhile, any suggestion that the State Department, George Soros, Sen. John McCain’s friends at the National Endowment for Democracy, orBandera/OUN-worshipping Galician exiles cultivated by Paul Goble types at the CIA for decades had a hand in the events on the Maidan and years of ‘Colored Revolutions’ in the post-Soviet space remains pure Kremlin ‘agitprop’. If one believes The Economist, there is absolutely no reason, even after the ‘bail ins’ of March 2013 on Cyprus and years of Great Depression-level impoverishment, for Greeks to blame the European Union and the utopianism of yoking Athens and Berlin together in the same monetary union for their troubles.
Instead we’re told the EU must continue to throw billions of euros at Kiev for war, but not a penny in tribute to those lazy, corrupt and notoriously Russophilic Hellenes. Especially when certain Greek ministers in the new government have recently — shock horror! — traveled to Crimea for a wedding to show what they really think of Washington and Brussels sanctions against Russia over the Crimeans voting overwhelmingly to rejoin the Motherland. Cue Peter Pomerantsev, typing away in his London flat, conjuring for readers of The Atlantic magazine the image of Kremlin grey cardinal Vyachislav Surkov cackling like George C. Scott in the movie Patton, “Gene Sharp and Joe Nye, you magnificent bastards, I read your soft power subversion books!” For our part we think the latest howls about alleged Kremlin money or influence everywhere in Euro-politics are motivated by paranoia that Russia is ‘mirror imaging’ what the US has done in European politics since the CIA funded the Italian Christian Democrats campaigns in postwar Italy, or numerous other indisputable documented episodes of directing Europe’s politics in a pro-NATO direction. Nonetheless, the evidence of a massive, sustained effort to manipulate Europeans to see the world Moscow’s way along the lines of the old Comintern just isn’t there.
The paranoia though continues to spike, not only due to the Kremlin in the last several years having the financial wherewithal and savvy to play Washington’s soft power game in Europe, but due to even hardcore Putin-haters conceding in the past week that the Russian leader appears to be ‘winning’, by cutting Washington’s representatives out of peace talks over the future of Ukraine. After months of declaring the Russian economy to be collapsing and sustained only by the unreality of Kremlin TV, it’s Washington’s client state in Kiev that’s experiencing hyperinflation, a demoralized military short on manpower and armor, and disdain even among ‘patriots of a united Ukraine’ for the regime’s cheery lies from the front.
Germany Throws Poroshenko and the Washington/Kiev ‘Party of War’ Under the Bus
The French and Germans, once ‘arm twisted’ in President Obama’s words into sanctioning Russia over the MH17 airliner shoot down only a certain crankish British blogger still talks about, are bailing on Cold War 2.0 and fighting pro-Russian Donbass to the last Ukrainian. After all, it’s bad for business, even if one sets aside the negative PR for Berlin of Germans seeing Ukrainian Azov Battalion members wearing swastikas and SS Wolfsangel logos on their helmets or pro-NATO German media blowing their credibility by depicting Russian tanks photographed in South Ossetia back in 2008 as invading Ukraine in 2015.
According to Der Spiegel and Bild, Victoria ‘f### the EU’ Nuland, the infamous Undersecretary of State for European affairs who handed out cookies on the Maidan, has issued Der Untergang type-rants against the betrayal of Merkel and Hollande from the neocon bunker beneath Foggy Bottom, or actually a hotel room at the annual Munich Security Conference. We suspect the room was either bugged by the BND, or the more mundane alternative that Sen. McCain and Graham’s delegation was full of the usual middle aged, lonely loose-lipped Senate staffers told the story to some frauleins from Bildor Der Spiegel at the hotel bar. If I were Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the Germans plainly throwing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko under the bus for being clueless about the collapsing state of his own army and the Americans for being in denial about it would have me drinking. Hard. Sorry Senator McCain but no number of A-10s deployed to Ramstein Air Force Base can solve the problem of a key American ally with the largest economy in Europe that is economically turning towards the East and tiring of Washington’s game.
If you want someone to blame for this sorry state of affairs, look to the dumbing down, mass culture of postmodern apathy that has generally permitted the ‘masters of the universe’ who tell The Economist what to write to have their way on domestic issues like open borders or gay marriage. This same general sense of ‘blah’ greeting hysterical headlines about Russian bomber flights and submarines off Stockholm has interfered with mustering any genuine enthusiasm for fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian. Yes, not only in the US captivated by deflated footballs and Kardashians family member sex changes, but even in countries like Poland where marinating in eternal victimhood at the hands of the Russians is a national recipe. You can post endless photos of this tank or that air defense system allegedly only manufactured in Russia being photographed in the Donbass — hardly anyone in the real world off Twitter cares anymore.
We’ve noted for some time that even in Warsaw, where the politicians issue weekly warnings about the ‘threat’ of imminent Russian aggression, the actual presence of Polish volunteers fighting for Kiev is relentlessly denied. If the Polish government is so certain that Kiev’s cause is righteous and its defending a neighbor from Russian aggression, why not just come clean and say, ‘Yes, these ‘Ukrainian National Guardsmen caught on camera outside Slavyansk in May unable to speak broken Russian or stammering in Polish accented English were ours‘? (This is to not mention a Ukraine National Guardsman speaking to journalists from Italy in fluent Italian last May, or attempts to conflate a bearded British ‘volunteer’ Chris “Swampy” Garrett with the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion recently filmed in Mariupol with a clean shaven American speaking with a clear northeastern US accent saying ‘outta my face’ caught on camera the same weekend). Why all the denials that NATO indeed, had a ‘foreign legion’ in Ukraine even if it has proven too small to be effective?
For our part, we suspect there was a major influx of Polish ‘volunteers’ at the start of the ‘ATO’ last April with the numbers tapering off as Kiev’s forces suffered heavier casualties, and any ‘vacationing’ Polish MiG-29 or Su-25 pilots in Kiev’s service were likely withdrawn after the heavy aircraft losses to SAMs of last summer. In Poland the borders remain firmly shut to mass Ukrainian migration, lest there be any embarrassing incidents involving Polish nationalists caught on camera beating Bandera flag waving Right Sector migrants trying to have a peaceful Nuremberg-style torchlight rally. All the nationally conscious ‘heroes of Ukraine’ can look forward to from Poland it appears when this war is over is symbolic photo ops, denied Schengen visas, and WWII Volyn massacre-commemoratingPolish ultras’ chants of ‘Bandera is a d—‘ or banners saying ‘Lvov are Vilnius are Poland’ whenever Wisla Krakow plays FC Karpaty Lviv.
What Do You Mean by W.E.I.R.D and ‘Us Westerners’, Kemosabe?
Speaking of hard drinking from despair over Europeans’ lack of the right martial stuff, that brings us to another frequent topic of lampooning by this columnist: John R. Schindler. Like hitting the piñata at a birthday party after imbibing one too many poolside, we’d like to pass but the prospect of taking one more swing is too amusing to pass up. The ex-NSA analyst forced to resign last summer by the US Naval War College continues to get enthusiastically retweeted by US Ambassador Geoff Pyatt in Kiev and Canada’s Mission to NATO, oblivious to Schindler’s super seriously blogged allegations that NATO’s no. 2 Sandy Vershbow might be a Russian spy. Like the rest of the Internet that Googles up his name and thinks ‘Anthony Weiner 2.0‘, we wouldn’t take Schindler too seriously — but for the fact that lots of very serious people like Pyatt or at the US conservative magazines National Review and The Federalist still treat the man and his tattered reputation with kid gloves.
This week Schindler published a column at his XX Committee blog titled “Why the West is Losing”. While starting out with a discussion as to why the US has failed to seriously wage war against the Islamic State barbarians in Syria and Iraq, the real topic of the article is why Washington is being diplomatically outmaneuvered in Ukraine by Moscow. Schindler, as with any Moscow-loathing Euro-Atlanticist triumphalist, believes Russia is winning despite its grossly inferior position both militarily and economically to something called ‘the West’.
It hasn’t occurred to Schindler, as the big boss man told Howard Beale in an infamous scene in the 1976 film Network, that the view of the elites the late Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington dubbed ‘Davos Men’ is that “there is no West, there are no Russians, there are no Arabs….we no longer live in a world of nations or ideologies…” Or at least, for masters of the universe like George Soros who demand bailouts of their investments in the post-Maidan Kiev regime, it’s globalism for me but blood and borders to be defended for thee, Ukrainian and NATO peasants. Globalism or transnational oligarchy is the great unspoken ideology of the Davos elites, and anyone who dares to mention it (Schindler uses the euphemism ‘WEIRD’ for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) surely deserves an immediate tin foil hat awarded for their pains.
For this columnist’s part, we think the more accurate term for millions from the Rio Grande to Rotterdam today rather than W.E.I.R.D would be post-Western, mal-educated, de-industrialized (in favor of Russia’s new biggest customer of energy and banker, China), with debt and money-printing fueled delusions of being rich, and post-democratic in the case of the unelected European Commissioners and Congress’ Soviet Politburo levels of retention thanks to gerrymandering. Thanks to the (mostly uncensored, despite President Obama’s ominous pronouncements of late) Internet and RT with its two BILLION YouTube downloads, millions of people worldwide are catching on to these unpleasant facts. This is probably why Edward Lucas wants former RT employees from the US and Europe blacklisted from working in journalism as a prelude to the hated ‘Kremlin propaganda channel’ being banned on some pretext or another.
Denying the Body Count, Massive Draft Resistance, and Other Realities of Kiev’s Civil War
Today even mainstream media are starting to admit the truth that many Ukrainian males of military age are now evading Kiev’s draft. Thanks to the Ft. Rus blog and Russia Insider, we also know some draft evaders have noticed that Ukraine’s President negotiates with Putin over desperately needed Russian gas and coal deliveries even as he declares with armies of hashtaggers that #RussiaInvadedUkraine. Over a million male Ukrainian passport holders of military age are living and working in the belly of the Moskal beast, and hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled into the arms of the ‘aggressor nation’ as refugees, but nevermind that because #RussiaInvadedUkraine. Total war is demanded by the bloodthirsty on Twitter while the oligarchs and their children are off to the Alps for ski vacations and the volunteer battalion commanders are safely ranting on Facebook and VK from the confines of the Rada.
Schindler of course, gets all of that. He declares that Kiev cannot expect NATO to fight its battles for it when it hasn’t declared a full national mobilization or martial law. Even though it doesn’t compute for Schindler that the mobilizations have failed because millions of Ukrainians don’t want to fight a civil war over Donbass rather than a Russian invasion, Schindler persists. You see, John R. Schindler is a serious man in a profoundly unserious time. He has the courage (and the massive quantities of free time since his resignation from teaching) to tell the Ukrainian hooray patriots on Twitter that Poroshenko is an incompetent commander in chief, and endure the slings and arrows of their cries of defeatism.
That Poroshenko is incompetent is without a doubt. But it doesn’t occur to Schindler that Poroshenko or the current Ukrainian high command might be the best Kiev can do, with the so-called ‘parallel staff’ being established by the Right Sector Nazis under Dmitry Yarosh as likely to be even more inept. They don’t seem to comprehend that Ukraine’s capacity to wage war has been fundamentally compromised by hundreds of burned out pieces of armor and thousands of combat deaths since last summer. Schindler may not be able to do the math regarding over 600 shot up tanks and APCs since June, but the military advisers to Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande most certainly can. They also know thatKiev’s troops have fired so many shells at civilians in Donetsk and Gorlovka with no real military purpose that its front line units were left low on ammo as the non-dud artillery shell stockpiles of every Warsaw Pact nation have been steadily drained since last summer.
For all his claims to be a bold truth teller, even Schindler cannot admit that since the Donetsk Airport and Debaltseve debacles between 12 and 14,000 Ukrainian men have died in Kiev’s failed war to reclaim the Donbass, with perhaps an equal or greater number of wounded (which would approach the 30,000+ total casualties figure cited by some pro-Novorossiya sources). This taboo against credible estimate of Kiev’s casualties is seen across the board, from the lying Kyiv Post whose editor Maxim R. Tucker knows the real numbers are vastly higher than he dares to publish to the carefully scrubbed pagesof Wikipedia to Schindler’s enthusiastic re-tweeters from Canada in NATO and Ambassador Pyatt. It’s as if altogether these people believe lies not only to the Ukrainian people but to themselves about the true ghastly cost of the Ukrainian Civil War can be sustained forever. But the leaks by Der Spiegel, stating that as many as 50,000 Ukrainians both fighters and civilians have perished since last year and that the Ukrainian forces are crumbling, proves otherwise.
The leaks also prove that not everyone in Germany, including among Schindler’s former counterparts in Berlin’s spy agencies, appreciates the smothering embrace of German-export ruining EU sanctions against Russia or NSA mass surveillance. What Schindler and Edward Lucas call ‘the Snowden Op’ which revealed the NSA and its British GCHQ partners’ pervasive, obsessive quest ‘to collect it all’ on friends as well as adversaries has taken its toll and undermined trust in ‘American leadership’ across Europe. German business elites may want to believe the BND when they say there’s no evidence the NSA or GCHQ have been used to steal patent pending designs from Bosch or Siemens, for example, but they’d rather encrypt sensitive designs and emails just in case. (You can read about more BND/German government leaks that contradicted NATO/Eliot Higgins propaganda about MH17 in our previous column in this space).
In short, post-Maidan Ukraine, which New York Times satirist Gary Shteyngart recently admitted is a kind of ‘anti-Russia’, resembles the Borat-like country that Peter Pomerantsev and John Schindler imagine the Russian Federation to be: a place where nothing is true and everything is possible. A country whose president recently admitted that one region, Galicia, has sought to define nation’s identity for decades if not centuries. A society so brittle from years of corruption and division that it has shattered in the West’s hands as an instrument of proxy war against Russia, and that is now despised by millions who once were content to hold Ukrainian passports from Yalta to Yasinovata. Ukrainian partisans on Twitter can insist that the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics are ‘fake countries’ as they like, but thousands of determined coal miners, truck drivers and farmers with guns have proven otherwise and been willing to fight and die for Novorossiya.
Hundreds of thousands of healthy Ukrainian males including from the allegedly ultra-nationalist ‘heartland’ of western Ukraine, meanwhile, are finding their way to Romania or Russia, while their mothers and sisters back in TransCarpathia burn the draft notices and scream at the recruiting commissars to go away. It seems not everyone was either paying attention in school to those lessons about Ukrainian patriotism or more likely these men who might defend Kiev or Kharkov from a real as opposed to imaginary invasion aren’t willing to kill and die for this government in a civil war.
Schindler says he served in the Balkans, and learned a great deal from the breakup of Yugoslavia, but like the 18th century Bourbon monarchs he appears to have learned nothing and forgotten everything — including that the only reason Washington was able to bomb Serbia without any seeming consequences at the time was because Russia was weak. Had Russia been stronger in 1999 the Kosovo war either wouldn’t have happened, or it would’ve ended with some combination of NATO bombing; or more war criminal bombing of Serb civilian targets, Serbian soldiers sending thousands of NATO troops home in body bags before the US Army could seize the ruins of Belgrade, or President Bill Clinton’s impeachment for waging an illegal and unconstitutional war over the objections of a Republican Congress. A ‘holiday from history’ and extraordinarily rare ‘unipolar’ moment in world history was somehow accepted as the norm, as is Schindler’s suspect assumption that NATO would have no trouble establishing conventional military superiority over Russia were it insane enough to fight for Donbass (as one veteran of NATO tabletop exercises back in the 1980s ‘Shellback’ informed Russia Insider and its readers, NATO would probably lose any conventional fight with Russia east of the Dnieper and thence escalate to nuclear weapons, hence the cold peace).
Setting military hypotheticals and known facts aside (for example, Israel’s defeat by the Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war which was waged by an Israeli military far better equipped and competent than Kiev’s ragtag army), there’s a more fundamental issue. Why would Schindler and other advocates of a military solution to Ukraine’s crackup presume that human beings would respond any more favorably to months of shelling by their former government in Donetsk any differently than they would in Sarajevo? This thought does not seem to have even crossed Schindler’s mind or that of his fellow pro-Kiev cyber warriors. Perhaps they simply have a blind spot for any pre-existing ‘soft power’ Russia may have in any region, including eastern Ukraine, Greece, or the Balkans, or for any nationalisms that aren’t particularly anti-Russian. Or perhaps deep down they realize the window for massive American military interventions around the world without the likes of nuclear armed Russia, China or even France saying ‘NO!’ that opened after 1991, has now slammed shut forever. Hence the panic. Because as former Reagan Administration deputy Treasury Secretary Dr. Paul Craig Roberts likes to say, if the United States dollar and its use by the rest of the world cannot be backed by force, what ultimately is the dollar backed by?
How to Learn to Stop Worrying and Accept that EU and NATO Will Decline into Irrelevance
In any case, when this Yugoslav-style war finally ends with the exhaustion of its participants, Ukrainians east and west must find a way to survive and pick up the pieces, hopefully free of the Quixotic, Russophobic quest for national purity that ‘friends of Ukraine’ like Schindler imagined for them. For the likes of Schindler and Lucas, we must conclude with this warning: Greece’s pro-Russian turn, the Franco-German Ukrainian peace deal with Putin are just the beginning. For those who self-esteem revolves around Washington’s ability to impose its will on other nations and entire continents, the pain of the EU and NATO being ‘dissed’ and rejected by millions of Europeans has only just begun.
As we stated in our first column in this space, Edward Lucas’ fantasies about Russia needing to invade any NATO country to undermine the Alliance rather than roll it back like the Warsaw Pact was peacefully dissolved back in the late 1980s are just that, fantasies. For our part, we hope that the ‘Russophobic hack pack’ who has provided us with so much free entertainment over the last few years won’t rush to self-medicate their neuroses — as they provide instructive ‘teaching moments’ about the world moving on without Washington!