Tag Archives: Putin

Formula for Disaster

Since my Youtube channel is currently dedicated to more entertainment-related topics, I figured I might as well do a little serious writing here for the time being (typically I publish that sort of material at Nihilist.li these days). It just occurred to me that apart from scattered tweets, I never really gave a comprehensive opinion on the so-called “Steinmeier formula” that’s been dominating news in Ukraine lately, which is of course another argument against using Twitter. So in case you were wondering, here is my position on Steinmeier, which is inevitably going to piss off a lot of people because Ukraine. 

 

My opinion is as follows: Steinmeier, both the man Frank-Walter Steinmeier (seriously who hyphenates their first name?!), and his “formula,” suck. Powerfully. That being said, Zelenskyy’s position on the matter isn’t necessarily the cause for panic that some see it as. The question is whether Zelenskyy sticks to his guns about the manner in which it is to be implemented. Zelenskyy says he insists on control over the border and foreign troops out of Ukraine before holding elections, which must be held according to Ukrainian law. This is different from what the “formula” originally states.

 

As presented in 2016, the plan could be extremely problematic because it calls for elections to be held before restoring control of the border to Ukraine. While they must be certified as free and fair by the OSCE, there’s nothing specifying exactly what degree of “free and fair” they must achieve to be considered valid under the formula. The OSCE’s ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) does not simply rate elections in a black and white, pass/fail style basis. This means that Russia’s proxies could potentially rig the elections in such a way that they get their people in key positions in the region but not so much that the OSCE declares them invalid (Russia would also no-doubt send their typical delegation of neo-Nazi and backward Communist “election monitors” who would declare the whole process free and fair). 

 

On the other hand, if Zelenskyy insists on return of the border and removal of troops first, then it is possible that actual free and fair elections could be held on those territories. The catch in this case is that Russia would most likely refuse to abide by the plan because they aren’t going to risk losing their foothold in Ukraine without some kind of guarantee that they’ll have their agents well-entrenched in the political system. So if Zelenskyy doesn’t go back on his promises, Russia is likely to refuse to cooperate and we stay at the long bloody status quo. 

 

Personally speaking, as bad as the status quo is, it is preferable to any scenario which could be presented as capitulation by the Kremlin and its propaganda organs. Apart from the demoralization in Ukraine, Russia would inevitably use such a “victory” to lobby for the removal of all sanctions related to their involvement in eastern Ukraine by severing them from those covering Crimea. This is why I think it’s good that people came out and protested the matter, if only to remind Zelenskyy not to cave to Russian or European demands. It is of course unfortunate that right wing fifth columnist organizations like the National Corps are trying to capitalize on and monopolize this protest movement, but grifters gonna grift, after all. 

 

On the other hand I can’t help but see a lot of the anger being misdirected at Zelenskyy when there are others far worthier of ire. The Poroshenko dead-enders, for example, seem to forget that St. Petro himself had endorsed and tried to push through similar “special status” laws back in 2015. Those moves also provoked major protests and a bomb attack that killed four people. Earlier he’d even voiced willingness for a referendum on federalization, one of Russia’s main demands, back in 2014. Sure, he said he personally was against the idea, and he had to have known the majority of Ukrainians would vote it down, but Ukrainian politics are a minefield where saying the wrong thing or even saying something innocuous with the wrong wording gets called out as ZRADA! (treason), and some of his fans seem to be forgetting these actions, quite conveniently. Furthermore, Poroshenko and his fans seem to forget that they have been pushing the “no alternative to Minsk” line this whole time. This crowd never ceases talking tough about the war and labeling any opponent as being in favor of “capitulations,” but I know from personal experience that when you press them on what their great military solution is they retreat to mumbling about Minsk, “isolating Russia,” and poorly understood military history about Croatia’s Flash and Storm offensives of 1995. It’s all just empty posturing, and Ukrainians see through it. The majority, in fact. 

 

It seems to me that the most anger should be directed at, after the Kremlin of course, Europeans like Frank-Walter Steinmeier. One of the most infuriating things about the behavior of Ukraine’s so-called “friends,” the OSCE, etc. is the constant both-sides tone you hear in their statements and recommendations. Obviously being the victim of military aggression isn’t a license to wantonly engage in any kind of morally reprehensible behavior, but in the case of this war Ukraine has demonstrated great patience and restraint given the circumstances. If there were a will, Ukraine could be fighting this war far more dirtier than it currently is (Yo, Ze, hit me up!). Yet despite this, European states and their leaders, and at times even the US government, still often act as though peace in Ukraine is equally on the shoulders of Kyiv as much as it is on Moscow. Even Emmanuel Macron, who won an election in which he was the only major candidate without an obvious soft-spot for Putin, was recently demonstrating his desire to reintegrate Russia in the West.

 

Zelenskyy himself is something of a mixed bag, but given everything I’ve covered above, it’s hard to imagine him seeing any alternatives. Since 2015 the world as well as Ukraine’s own president had been saying the only way out is Minsk, and Steinmeier is basically a simplified version of key points of that agreement. And bear in mind they were singing this refrain of “no solution but Minsk” even as the very first point on that agreement was flagrantly violated on a daily basis for years, even up to the present. Ukraine’s establishment and its supposed allies all demanded that the corpse called Minsk II be worshipped, insisted there was no substitute, and now people are supposed to get angry that a former comedian is basically acquiescing to that very notion? 

 

If one wants to rage against Zelenskyy over this, by all means do so, but don’t exclude those that came before him and set the rules of the game. Better yet, don’t engage in chest-beating posturing only to seek refuge in “fulfill Minsk!” whenever someone asks about your supposedly non-capitulationist position. At the moment I hope Zelenskyy sticks to his guns, causing the Russians to refuse, and maintaining the status quo, as bad as it may be. However, because I have a bit more imagination than “Minsk II then Operation Storm somehow,” I can see plenty of opportunities for Ukraine to strike back even if they did accept the formula as is and gave Donetsk and Luhansk  “special status.” But whatever happens, perhaps instead of pointing the finger at this or that Ukrainian politician it would be better to attack the bigger problems such as Minsk II and the broken, capitalist international nation-state system that leads Ukraine’s so called “allies” to treat Ukraine equally to Russia when apportioning blame for the war while chomping at the bit to reconcile with Tsar Putin. Ukraine’s hope was never going to come from some president. 

 

Emergency Serious Post: Protests in Moscow

So the last thing I wanted to do was write another serious post about Russia on this blog, but as my mic is nowhere near up to par for the video I wanted to make, I feel like I should write my thoughts about the recent protests in Moscow here.

Is this tEh rvOlUtIoN?!! No, far from it. But there were several things that jumped out at me when watching the footage of the protests. For one thing, the level of civil disobedience seemed much higher than in the past. Apparently the Garden Ring road near Tsvetnoi Bulvar was closed off. For those not familiar with Moscow, this is a major important street encircling the center of the city. After one day, over 1,300 protesters were detained.

What I also noticed was the more violent response from the riot police, which included a lot of swinging batons and there was even some blood drawn. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, Russian riot police, particularly in Moscow, are still often much more reserved than their counterparts like Berkut in Yanukovych-era Ukraine or even in Western countries. When Berkut went after the students on Maidan in the end of November 2013, they came in swinging and broke bones. From my experience and observations, Russian riot police snatch people. It’s forceful, it’s scary, and they often do it to people who aren’t actually involved with the demonstration, but it’s efficient and doesn’t tend to cause serious injury. We may be seeing an end to those days. Mark Galeotti seems to suspect  it has to do with authorities’ fears about provoking a Maidan-like reaction. After all, excessive use of force by police was what turned a small student protest focused on a single issue into a revolution that drove out a regime, and there’s nothing Putin fears more than being driven out of power.

I think this leads to a sort of paradox because while on one hand Putin and other authorities are wary, perhaps unrealistically so, about provoking a larger resistance movement, on the other hand it’s crystal clear that Putin and his cronies have zero reservations about unleashing the full violence of the state against unarmed civilians if they should feel the threat of revolution is immanent. We know from his own words and the message of his media machine that Putin believes the masses need a strong hand and a strong leader does not show weakness in their eyes. Putin is of that mindset that believes that leaders cannot forfeit their legitimacy via rigged elections, massive corruption, or gross human rights violations. This same mindset only sees problems with Russia’s historical leaders when they make concessions to rebelling masses. Both Nikolai II and Gorbachev were “weak” because they didn’t murder enough of their own citizens and that is why they were toppled.

And the leader of the Kremlin regime has demonstrated these beliefs not only in word, but in deed. Apart from producing numerous conspiracy theories about the sniper massacre on Maidan in 2014 (and in fact Putin himself repeated one of these conspiracy claims to Oliver Stone), Putin continues to back Bashar al-Assad, arguably the most murderous person of the past decade, to the hilt. He continues to do so despite the rampant use of chemical weapons and the continued use of barrel bombs. Assad famously took this “not me” approach in response to protests after the flight of two other Middle Eastern leaders, and I have no doubt Putin has drawn conclusions from Assad’s experience and praxis. Indeed, when something resembling revolution is brewing in Russia, it will be “Putin or we burn the country.”

We haven’t seen anything approaching that level of violence yet, however, which suggest to me that the authorities don’t yet feel so threatened, even despite Putin’s record-low ratings this year. In fact they’ve even granted another protest permit in a few days. While the authorities can’t necessarily rely on the working masses in the hinterland anymore, those people don’t seem ready to join any mass Russia-wide movement, and while the opposition has made a lot of inroads outside the capital in recent years, it may be that the authorities still believe this to be a Moscow-based phenomenon, one they are confident they can handle.

Russian society is still very atomized and divided by distance, which makes it easy for people to ignore the plight of others in different locales. Moreover, it is still afflicted with the great power delusion, which may not be strong enough to stop Russians from standing up for their own rights, but isn’t strong enough for them to go as far as they need to and put an end to the last major European empire. They demand to live in dignity, yet they still think Tatars should be happy speaking Russian and that Crimea is theirs. Until they realize that these are lies and paltry privileges they get in exchange for bondage under authoritarian regimes in the Kremlin, I don’t think any truly revolutionary movement will build within Russia. But then again, I’ve believed more or less the same about this since at least 2008.

 

Kremlin Admits Past Five Years Was Elaborate April Fools’ Day Joke

MOSCOW– In what may be called one of the most elaborate pranks in history, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that the past five years of Russian foreign policy had been a “massive April Fools’ joke” at a briefing on Monday.

“Andy Kaufman has got nothing on us,” Peskov said, tears streaming down his face as he clearly struggled to contain his laugher.

“The look on your faces this whole time- priceless! Absolutely priceless!”

Over the next two hours, Peskov revealed how Putin and other members of his government and security apparatus plotted to play what they called “the greatest prank of all time” on the West. Summarizing the plan, Peskov explained that it would begin first with the annexation of the Crimea, then a war in Ukraine, and finally a host of various international scandals and incidents over the following five years. The events themselves, however, were not the most important part of the plan.

“Of course starting wars and poisoning people in other countries, in and of themselves, are really just acts of aggression and assassination,” Peskov explained.

“The real prank, the thing that made the whole five-year affair so hilarious, was that we planned to just stupidly deny everything despite overwhelming evidence that we were guilty. To that end, we harnessed the entire state media apparatus.”

Peskov then broke down laughing as he recounted the ways in which some independent media outlets and commentators in the West actually took Russia’s denials seriously, even as the Kremlin knew its deliberate lies were “totally idiotic.”

“Can you believe there were- there are people in the West who after all these years seriously believe we didn’t shoot down MH17?” Peskov asked reporters.

“There are. There really are. The Ukrainian military had zero reason to fire at a single plane flying at that altitude, from east to west, while they were fighting a war against an enemy with no air force whatsoever. And yet despite that, and despite the fact that we must have put out no fewer than two dozen different stories, many of which blatantly contradicted each other, some of your citizens still bought it! And they thought they were the clever skeptics who don’t fall for government lies!”

Peskov again broke down laughing after that point and needed to take a few minutes to regain his composure before moving onto the topic of Syria.

“Syria was another one where your gullible audiences totally fell for the flimsiest lies. Remember how many times in 2018 our Ministry of Defense said it knew that the White Helmets and possibly Western special forces were about to stage a fake chemical attack? Did you ever get suspicious when that never happened? What kind of idiot would you have to be to believe something that stupid?  Sure, the false flag to bring Western intervention could have made sense that one time in 2013, but after that, two, three times? Come on? You’d have to be the dumbest imbecile in the world to believe that!”

According to Peskov, “only a total, utter moron” could believe the claims and denials of the Russian government.

“Bellingcat had us dead to rights on the identity of the Salisbury poisoning culprits,” he said.

“If we had been telling the truth about these two men, we had the perfect opportunity to totally discredit those Bellingcat nerds forever. And yet despite the fact that we never even attempted this and instead kept spinning more and more unbelievable alternative theories about the poisoning, so many of your self-proclaimed media skeptics totally believed our side! Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious!”

Putin’s spokesman also told reporters that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the encouragement of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, even treated the prank like a type of competition, whereby different Russian embassies around the world would compete for whose official Twitter account could “tweet the dumbest thing” and still have followers believing them.

“The competition was fierce, but our embassy in the U.K. won ever year, hands down,” Peskov said.

When asked if the revelation of this five-year prank meant that Russia would pull its forces out of Ukraine and apologize for incidents such as the downing of MH17 and the Salisbury poisonings, Peskov said it would not.

 

Russia Mulling Switch to ‘Western Cyrillic’ in Bid to Popularize Language Abroad

MOSCOW– Russia’s State Duma is currently proposing a historic language reform bill that would see the Russian language switch from Cyrillic to what they are calling “Western Cyrillic.” The new alphabet is based on the way Cyrillic often appears in advertising and art in the West, particularly in the United States. Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin explained the basis and rationale for the new alphabet in an address to the legislative body on Friday.

“Westerners apparently think the letter ‘ya’ is an R, and that our letter ‘D’ is an A- well soon they could be right,” Volodin said.

To demonstrate how the new alphabet would work, Volodin presented slides of various advertisements, book covers, t-shirts, and video game cases in order to explain how words would be pronounced in the new alphabet. One example was the cover of the book Once Upon a Time in Russia: The Rise of the Oligarchs―A True Story of Ambition, Wealth, Betrayal, and Murder

cyrillicabuse.PNG

Cover of Once Upon a Time in Russia, which Duma Chairman Volodin claims is a good example of why the alphabet needs to change

“In our current alphabet, this cover would be very confusing to read,” Volodin said.

“As a Russian speaker, your mind wants to read ‘Oisye Uroi a Time Ii Yaussia.’ With the new alphabet, however, what the Westerners call ‘those backwards N’s or backwards R’s’ will actually be N’s and R’s.”

The new alphabet was designed at Moscow State University’s linguistics department, whose researchers scoured the internet for Western media containing examples of faux-Cyrillic to use as a basis for new letters. At times different Cyrillic letters have been used to replace Latin ones, which means that linguists sometimes have to debate which replacement is more common and therefore more suitable. Many examples come from the 1980’s, however, even recent media can be useful, such as the promotional material for HBO Films The Romanovs, and the very popular FX series The Americans.

theamericans

In the current Russian Cyrillic alphabet, this would read “The Amyeyaisans,” but if the new language reform passes, it will be read as it appears in English

bourne

Unfortunately not all examples are salvageable. This name shown in the film The Bourne Identity cannot be corrected in any was as to be pronounceable by a human being.

So far it isn’t clear whether Vladimir Putin will approve the new reform should it pass the State Duma. However, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently hinted that the Russian President could see the reform as a way to secure his historical legacy.

“This would be the biggest reform of the Russian language since the Bolshevik Revolution,” Peskov said.

“We could finally start to improve our relations with the rest of the world. Instead of telling them they’re writing our language incorrectly, we’d essentially be telling them they were right all along, and that our Cyrillic alphabet is really just a funny looking equivalent to their Latin alphabet- nothing more.”

During the same briefing, Peskov showed reporters a slide to demonstrate how President Putin’s name would be written in the new alphabet: “VLДDIMIЯ РЦТIИ.”

Welcome to Camp Reality!

Post dedicated to John, who came up with the name Camp Reality.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re from an authoritarian country whose dictatorial leaders rob the population of the nation’s natural wealth, squirreling it away in Western banks and real estate. It’s so bad that you had to leave your homeland. But, as it turns out, the regime you fled publicly attacks the United States and blames economic problems on being “surrounded by enemies?” Now, every time you try to explain the plight of your people to American leftists who are in many cases fighting for the same social justice you’d like to see in your country, you’re accused of being a secret millionaire, billionaire, or a dupe of the CIA. You try to explain why the sources they are using are worthless and you suggest other info, but they act as though their access to internet makes their opinion equal to yours, even if they’ve never had so much as a passport. Is there anything you can do? NOW THERE IS! 

You can recommend your friends take a very special summer vacation to Camp Reality (TM)! At Camp Reality, they won’t be able to hide from the truth using the internet and confirmation bias to pick sources of information which confirm their worldview. No, here at Camp Reality, they’ll get the most realistic hands-on experience of living under a 21st century authoritarian kleptocratic regime! Inspired by the groundbreaking work on racism by Jane Elliot, Camp Reality teaches people who live in the privileged West who like to live vicariously through countries, regimes, and people they may never have encountered in person what it’s actually like to live under those regimes they have deemed to be “anti-imperialist” simply due to public rhetoric and propaganda.

After signing an extremely detailed 45-page legal waiver which temporarily suspends any rights they might have under their own government, entrants to the camp will have their choice of three different “difficulty levels” based on three different types of real-world authoritarian regimes.

 

Level 1: Easy Mode

This mode is designed to replicate conditions in a 21st century soft dictatorship, specifically the Russian Federation. In the early days you’ll experience chaos as corrupt officials and police either fail to protect your property or actively help criminal groups. After week one, attendees may breathe a sigh of relief when a new leader promises to bring stability. All seems well and you’re prospering until you start to realize that the old gangsters have just been replaced by new ones, and now the state becomes more and more overbearing. Eventually the “economy” starts to decline, the leader changes the constitution so he doesn’t have to leave office, and suddenly you can be facing criminal charges for sharing a joke on social media. If you speak out, you’ll be deemed a traitor who hates your country, often by simulated leaders whose own simulated family members live in luxury in Europe. Hopefully your business doesn’t get raided by someone connected or wiped out when the leader starts a needless war and invents “counter-sanctions” in response to the sanctions he provoked with his own short-sighted actions.

Level 2: Hard Mode

This mode is modeled after countries like Venezuela. Your leader endlessly rants about “Yankee imperialism” while his cronies skim money out of the state oil company and stash it away in Yankee banks and real estate. After a while, the store shelves are empty and you’ll spend at least one whole week trying to scrounge for food. You’ll get a chance to tell simulated Western social media users about the conditions in your country, only to be told that you’re just some “millionaire who lost his land” or a dupe of the CIA calling for military intervention for “regime change.” These people will then bombard you with articles from “your” country’s state media and the state media outlets of government friendly regimes to tell you what’s really happening.

Level 3: NIGHTMARE! 

This mode is based on Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. We ask that attendees choosing this mode please read the legal waiver very thoroughly and wear comfortable, NON-FLAMMABLE clothing.

After surviving attending Camp Reality, your friends and family members will have learned a valuable lesson in empathy and how social justice without internationalist solidarity can often be a slippery slope to fascism. But don’t take our word for it, read these testimonials from actual attendees of Camp Reality!

“Since I came of age around 2003, I used to compare every international crisis to the Iraq invasion of that year. After attending Camp Reality, I learned that not every regime the US government criticizes is really just trying to fight for its people against the influence of transnational corporations. As it turns out, some regimes really do just suck, and criticism from the US government isn’t the same as openly advocating for a massive invasion as the Bush administration clearly did in late 2002 to early 2003!”    -Carla, 32,  Hard Mode

 

“I used to think the only reason Western media was so critical of Putin is because he made Russia strong again and he opposed NATO. After spending a month in a simulated regime modeled after Putin’s I realized that NATO encirclement was really just an excuse for authoritarian measures and for why my country lagged behind Europe despite massive wealth in natural resources. I also learned that when I posted about this online, I was accused of being a traitor and a Western agent even though I really just wanted to see my country succeed. I think the best touch was how when I brought up problems, people would tell me about something terrible in America as though that had any relevance to the issue I was trying to discuss. It’s the same thing I used to do online!”   –Ryan, 26, Easy Mode

 

“Oh God! Oh God! I…I…I can’t….I don’t even…Who, who are you? Am I safe? Is this safe?!”    –Meghan, 28, NIGHTMARE!

So why delay? Tell your insufferably edgy little shit of a cousin to put their money where their mouth is today and send them to CAMP REALITY!

A Very Special Message

So I was happy to see the blog is once again getting a lot of engagement, seemingly due mostly to one of my recent posts, The Foreigner’s Guide to Appropriate Protests. I was a bit less amused to find that some of this attention is due to it being shared on several conservative and liberal subreddits. So while I made a decision to make this a humorous/satirical site a while back, forgive me for getting a bit serious for a moment.

If you’re one of those centrist liberals or conservatives who enjoyed the piece, here’s a special message for you: Fuck you, you hypocrite.

Yes, Western, particularly American leftists are ignorant about the situation in the rest of the world and arrogantly lecture people on how to behave in their own countries, but people like you not only do the same thing with protest movements abroad, but you even do it to your own people. You ignore the cause of a mass protest to focus on a window getting smashed or an upended trashcan. You whine about the lack of “civility.” Conservatives in particular are extremely fond of deliberately misinterpreting the message of a protest movement so that they can knock down a strawman, e.g. “All lives matter.”

And for the leftists whose nerves were struck by that satirical work- tough shit. You make fun of conservatives for not knowing the difference between Shiites and Sunni (though you probably couldn’t say what that is if asked right now), or for not knowing that Iranians aren’t Arab, but the truth is that so many years after 9/11 and Iraq, you’re not really that much more informed. What you’ve got is a serious case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome about the outside world, which is what happens when your frame of reference for how informed you are is comparing yourself to the dumbest people in the country. Think I’m being unfair? I just spent about half of my Twitter day slowly explaining to a bunch of self-proclaimed leftists that no, the Taliban wasn’t created or set up by the CIA, that it in fact didn’t exist as a fighting force until 1994, well after the US had all but abandoned Afghanistan, and no, they didn’t fund Bin Laden and he and his Arab volunteers actually weren’t a significant force in the mujahideen. Yes, I’ve been reading a lot of books on Afghanistan in recent years, but a lot of this stuff isn’t too hard to find. For example, you can learn about the role of Afghan Maoists in the Afghan-Soviet War from Wikipedia, of all places.

These days much of my timeline is filled with Syrians, Venezuelans, and Afghans all making a futile effort to get Western, mostly American leftists to actually listen to them and acknowledge that they might actually know a little more about their own countries’ history than people who may not even have a passport. Indeed, they may even know more than Oliver Stone or…gasp! St. Chomsky! The really infuriating thing about this is how all that intersectionality and respecting “lived experience” flies right out the window when it comes to a foreigner voicing an “incorrect” opinion. Look, being from a country doesn’t automatically make someone right, but at the very least, it demands you act a little less arrogant, and maybe listen more than you talk. Ask some follow up questions for a change. Again, it’s amazing that people who will call out someone for “mansplaining” will happily lecture a Syrian or Afghan on the politics of their own country, to which they’ve never been, whose language they cannot speak, based on shit they heard on RT or Democracy Now! 

You want to know the secret as to why I’ve never been a Chavez/Maduro backer despite being a socialist and at one time a self-identified Marxist-Leninist? It’s not just because Chavista Venezuela was never even remotely socialist. Part of it has to do with Venezuelans I’ve met over the years (oh I’m sure they were secretly millionaires in disguise though, right?) of course. But one of the biggest reasons was simply living in another authoritarian state where the leadership blames all its failures on shadowy Western conspiracies. That, and I’ve had friends who either lived under similar regimes. What you learn from this experience is that virtually all these regimes operate the same way. They all have a ruling class that siphons off money, usually form the export of natural resources, into the offshore accounts of the leader and his cronies. When times are good and commodity prices are high, some of that does manage to trickle down in the form of social safety nets. But when times get rough and it comes down to social programs for the masses or more luxury villas for the ruling class, the latter wins every time. And if the US and its allies criticize this or better yet, levy targeted sanctions- so much the better.

All of these regimes use similar tactics. Harassment of dissidents with plausible deniability. Consolidation and control over the media. Pro-regime rallies consisting of paid pensioners, public school and university students, and state workers. Constant promotion of bullshit conspiracy theories. Most of all, there’s always some kind of narrative about how the regime is coming under pressure because it has some great worldview that is opposed to the greedy Yankee hegemony. In Venezuela it was “21st century socialism.” In Syria it’s Baathism. In Russia it was “sovereign democracy.” In virtually every case, we’re told that this is an expression of the country’s sovereignty and self-determination, and the only reason why the US or the West criticizes it is because this country is going its own way and now kowtowing to the imperialist hegemony. The problem is, that in most cases the vast majority of people in those nations were never asked if they wanted to live under a corrupt and authoritarian regime that steals their country’s national wealth in exchange for supposedly “standing up to the West.” Believe it or not, but most of these people want things like food, shelter, and the opportunity to better their lives without having to have personal connections to the right family, bureaucrat, military officer, etc.

Do these experiences of mine make me an expert on Venezuela? Hell no. But living so long under Putin, plus the experiences related to me by people who lived under other dictatorial regimes has given me an ability to understand and filter information a little bit better because I’ve personally witnessed things that are near-identical to what these people are describing. Could I be wrong? Perhaps. Maybe these near identical things are just a coincidence, i.e. Maduro’s a genuine leftist who really is under siege by the US and this is responsible for his situation as opposed to his own mismanagement, while Putin is totally lying when he says similar things. But you know what? Occam’s Razor says we live in a capitalist world where states are run by ruling classes, not their working people, and it also says that if some country has some great popular ideology, it would probably be a lot more successful and the masses would support it. It’s a rule of thumb, but a pretty useful one.

The basis of a moral society, a socialist society, must in large part be empathy. It must be the concept that other people, in your community or thousands of miles away, have many of the same desires you have. If you have the desire for a better life and the will to resist oppression, you must recognize that other people also have a right to these things, regardless of their government’s relationship with the US. If not, you’re essentially dismissing those people as inferior, something less than human.

A while back, I encountered a rather burnt-out individual who turned on the left due to encountering so many leftists who refused to listen to anything Syrians had to say about their country, instead dismissing them as dupes of the CIA and Islamophobic caricatures of “jihadist headchoppers.” According to this individual, Western leftists are racists who “want these problematic people to die,” people referring not just to Syrians but also Afghans, Ukrainians, Nicaraguans, and other nationalities whose right to resist is denied by the privileged Western left.

I decided that person is far too burnt out and angry to have any use in politics, but after seeing how some icons of the American left write about Afghans and now Venezuelans, it almost makes me wonder if on some subconscious level maybe these people do want all those masses whose reality contradicts their personal narrative to die. Not so much to be killed, but to simply disappear, to be erased. If all these people would simply be silenced one way or another, the Western leftist would never have to struggle with the failings of their simplistic worldview. It’s so easy to dismiss someone’s lived experience, contemporary or historical, if you can just write them off as a kulak, a bourgeoisie, a jihadist, a dupe of the CIA. Then you don’t have to feel bad about your fetish for Soviet aesthetics or your admiration for a regime in a country you’ve never visited.

I realize this is a hard pill for a lot of the Western left to swallow, but look at it this way. You’ve been doing things more or less the same way for a long time now. Where are your results? What genuine US imperialism have you genuinely prevented? Who is in power in your country and what policies are they promoting? For nearly all my life, you’ve had a parade of neoliberals and fascists. You’re at a point now where voting for neoliberals has often becoming your only way to keep literal fascists out of power. Hell, the fascists in America are some of the dumbest people on the planet and yet they’re still running circles around you. So with that track record of solid failure after failure, maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start reevaluating your movement and your ideology to see if there aren’t any flaws in there that might actually be benefiting the far-right and hampering your own success.

Or you can dismiss me as an “ultra-leftist” or “Ukrainian fascist” (because associating ethnic groups with political ideologies is fine for some countries!), and we can watch this all play out. Me, I’ve already seen this show. All those things you think can’t happen here; I see them happening. So if you don’t know what life is like under people like Yanukovych, Putin, Maduro, or perhaps worst of all, Assad, keep on doing what you’re doing, and one day you’ll get a taste of it right here.

 

WORLD WAR THREE!!!

So something has been bugging me today. Since 2014 we’ve seen a familiar pattern of responses to Russian aggression. It goes like this:

  1. Russia commits flagrant act of military aggression.
  2. Western leaders insist there’s no military solution, call for restraint, express concern, etc.
  3. Pundits come up with responses.
  4. Other pundits warn that these responses could lead to World War III.
  5. REPEAT

Russia seized the Crimea, but Western leaders urged the new Ukrainian government to maintain restraint. Russia put about 700 tanks and armored vehicles in Ukraine, but selling Ukraine Javelins would “escalate the conflict” that Putin already escalated on several occasions in the past. Russia attacks and seizes Ukrainian naval vessels, but any show of force, such as sending a few more NATO ships to the Black Sea, would provoke World War III. It’s really strange how responding to Russia’s aggression is the thing that’s going to provoke World War III, but nobody’s warning Russia about doing this when they make their aggressive moves on their own initiative. It’s almost like some kind of bias.

Let’s take a moment to remember some of the things which were sure to provoke WWIII with Russia, yet didn’t:

-The downing of a Russian Su-24 by a NATO state (Turkey) for briefly crossing its airspace

-Supply non-lethal, then lethal aid to Ukraine

-Accidentally bombing Russia’s Syrian allies

-Intentionally bombing the crap out of Russian mercenaries near Deir-ez-Zor

-Several large-scale NATO military exercises near Russia’s border

-Ukraine sending armed patrol boats to protect a tugboat from Russian coast guard vessels

Now if Russia is going to launch World War III over some NATO ships coming to support Ukraine’s right of passage through the Kerch strait (guaranteed by a bilateral treaty with Russia from 2003), then perhaps Russia, and not NATO, is the aggressive party we should be worried about, right?

See the thing about appeasement of aggressive military powers is that the logic of avoiding war only goes so far. By tacitly encouraging or ignoring further military aggression, the aggressor advances further and further until there is no more buffer zone and war becomes inevitable. We have the perfect example of this in 1938. At that time, the Third Reich could have been totally wrecked had Britain and France stood with Czechoslovakia, whose army was one of the largest and well-equipped in Europe. Czechoslovakia also had potential backing from Poland and the Soviet Union, which was offering up to 1 million troops to defend the last democracy in Central/Eastern Europe (though getting transit rights was an issue at the time). Most people are unaware of how weak the Third Reich actually was in those days, and how many of their famous war-time accomplishments had more to do with taking bold risks and capitalizing off the mistakes of their enemies than a highly advanced war machine. In fact, one of the things that war machine depended on in the early years of the war were weapons, particularly tanks, captured from Czechoslovakia when they invaded and broke up that country in the spring of 1939. The Third Reich survived to commit its unprecedented atrocities because no one was willing to call its bluff.

Upon seeing how Hitler had hoodwinked him by taking Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain and his French allies were forced to try to draw the line somewhere else, this time in Poland. Of course they knew they would not fight for Danzig, as did Hitler. Once again, appeasement encouraged aggression, and at this point Britain and France had no choice but to declare war or be totally discredited. Imagine, if they had stood firm for Czechoslovakia. Imagine if they’d stood up for Austria, or even better- stood up for Austria in 1934 when Hitler didn’t even have Mussolini on his side. But because the British and French couldn’t fathom a local European war, they ended up with a world war, the most destructive in history.

Those who have read my work know that I don’t believe anyone can win Ukraine’s war for it. I do not want NATO or other foreign troops fighting in Ukraine. Support and aid is fine, but this is Ukraine’s fight. That being said, I do still believe that had one U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team or a USMC Regimental Combat Team arrived in Ukraine with air support as soon as the Little Green Men showed up in Crimea, things would have gone a lot differently. Ditto with the Donbas. Remember, Putin denied they were Russian troops. Nothing wrong with the US helping its ally deal with some armed “separatists,” right? Putin would be forced with an ultimatum- fight and risk war with NATO and everything that entails, or run and avoid the humiliation of Russia’s best troops getting trounced by a small force of American professionals. Remember, this is an empire built on narratives and propaganda. Putin had a big flank in the wind and yet he got away with everything because the West immediately decided there was no military solution when he had already decided there was.

Of course we don’t want war. Nobody really wants it. But what do you do when war is at your doorstep? What do you do when an aggressor shows you time and time again that they will continue to act in an aggressive manner toward your country or its allies? And if responding to that aggression may escalate the conflict, isn’t that primarily the fault of the side who started it in the first place? If a man is walking around a bar punching people, shouldn’t someone stop him, or do we engage in pearl-clutching and whine about “escalation” and the possibility of drawing more people into a brawl?

If we’re going to keep worrying about WWIII every time Russia embarks on another military adventure, we might as well just surrender every country they would claim as Russia’s sphere of influence and allow Putin and his cronies to further corrupt our system with money-laundering and organized crime. Sure, we’ll end up living in a neo-feudal dystopia and the Earth will become unable to support our species a few decades after that, but hey, at least we’ll have only had two world wars.*

So please, if you’re concerned about provocative military gestures that could spark a third world war, please direct your complaints to the side initiating them first and foremost.

 

 

*Assuming you don’t count the dozens of multinational conflicts that will inevitably break out due to the lack of resources and the promotion of xenophobia and nationalism.