Thursday 28th of August 2014

obama is black as a black pot...


pot kettle

President Vladimir Putin has delivered a robust defence of Russia's actions in Crimea, saying he would use force in Ukraine only as a last resort.

US president Barack Obama has hit back, saying Mr Putin is "not fooling anybody" with his reasons for invading the Ukrainian peninsula.

Tension remains high on the ground, with Russian forces firing warning shots in a confrontation with Ukrainian servicemen at an air base.

Russia's military has also successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile near the Caspian Sea, though US officials say they were notified of the plan before the current crisis erupted.

In his first news conference since the crisis began, Mr Putin said Russia reserved the right to use "all means" to protect compatriots who were living in "terror" in Ukraine.


the fairfax voice of america...


The supposedly 'independent always' Fairfax press has shown itself to be an arm of American foreign policy by its skewed reporting of the Ukrainian conflict, writes Dr Evan Jones.

THERE’S NOT MUCH GOOD NEWS these days but, with recent events in the Ukraine, things are looking up. A mass uprising of peaceful protestors has toppled tyranny, albeit with some martyrs to the cause of democracy. The nasties running Venezuela are reeling. Right will win out in the end.

Well that’s what we right-thinking people read in the Fairfax press — we who disdain to go near Murdoch’s hysterical Australian and his reactionary populist tabloids.

Fairfax media ended its broadsheet tradition in March 2013. From tabloid in form, it has long been tempted into tabloid in substance. Its reporting of world events already puts it in that category.

After the fall of Muammar Gaddafi and his murder, we were reminded several times in Fairfax that he masterminded the Lockerbie bombing. A throwaway line, as part of a larger narrative of yet another embodiment of evil incarnate who has met his just deserts.

Yet it isn’t true.

Ah well, who cares; it doesn’t matter. He could have, that’s what matters, and it saves us the trouble of digging up the unsavoury saga that surrounds the Lockerbie tragedy.

The chaos now engulfing post-Gaddafi Libya is not a subject of interest to Fairfax. The caravan has moved on to the next hot spot of multi-coloured revolutions.

On 21 February, we had Will Dobson, reproduced from Slatereferring to the Venezuelan regime. Peculiarly, this is a ‘regime’ that has consistently won unimpeachably run elections, unlike Dobson’s own country, where George W. Bush Jr had both his electoral ‘victories’ stolen for him.

But Dobson is an esteemed journalistic expert on dictatorships and authoritarianism (at least of those that U.S. administrations don’t favour), so he must be right.

Then to the Ukraine, on 22 February, we had David Blair from the UK Telegraph,in Grimms’ fairy tale-style prose, describing the carnage caused by the heinous government-backed snipers. But he gives us a fairy-tale happy ending:

'Yet, after the security forces had gone to such lengths to terrorise and break their enemies, the result was that the protesters were still the masters of the Maidan. They regained every inch of ground lost on Wednesday.'

There is no account of the escalation of riots immediately after President Viktor Yanukovych had agreed to negotiations with Opposition leaders and to the holding of early elections, or that those riots were accompanied by violence. And who were these snipers? Their clothing was not a ready identifier.

The idiosyncratic Germany-based author William Engdahl has another perspective. Engdahl claims that U.S. intelligence sources informed him that the snipers belonged to

'… an ultra-right-wing military organization known as Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNA-UNSO). … Ever since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 the crack-para-military UNA-UNSO members have been behind every revolt against Russian influence.'

Conspiratorial mumbo jumbo?

We outsiders have no idea. But the timing of the sniping murders seems to offer a clue. What would Yanukovych have to gain? He was deposed soon after.

On 23 February, hogging the Opinion pages, was Ross Douthat, reproduced from the New York Times. The NYT’s original heading is The Games Putin Plays. But the SMH subs retitled it Russia bares claws in clash with West. Actually Putin’s Russia wasn’t baring its claws at all. The EU offered economic austerity and Yanukovych decided that Russia had the better proposition for much needed financial support.

Douthat’s article – android journalism – is a masterpiece of utter puerility. But the author has the imprimatur of the NYT — the United States ‘newspaper of record’.

Douthat notes:

‘… even [the EU’s spectacular post-GFC mismanagement] record hasn't persuaded the majority of Ukrainians to warm to Moscow's embrace instead.’

Well, the majority of Ukrainians did precisely that in 2010, in an ostensibly above-board election — in contrast with Yanukovych’s 2004 corrupt involvement in a rigged election.

The Kyiv Post noted at the time:

'More than 3,000 international observers, including a delegation led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, dubbed the vote as a democratic milestone for Ukraine. The OSCE, for example, called it an “impressive display of democratic elections,” and called upon Ukraine’s politicians to respect the results ...'

Douthat claims that

'… events in Kiev have been a lesson in the limits of Russian influence and the implausibility of Putin's claim to offer a rival civilisational model to the liberal democratic West. That such a rivalry is Putin's goal seems clear enough.'

That such a rivalry is Putin’s goal is not clear at all.

Putin’s goal, defensive not offensive, appears to be the prevention of the dismemberment of Russia itself from the predations of the neo-conservatives, for whom the Cold War never ended. Apparently, Mikhail Gorbachev did a deal with George H. W. Bush that, if the former abandoned the Warsaw Pact (the Soviet Union’s answer to the creation of NATO) then NATO’s suzerainty would be retained at the then status quo.

But the Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic trio were soon swallowed into NATO, and NATO’s neo-con newcomers are on Russia’s borders  — precisely the same scenario that drove Stalin’s ill-fated country grab in 1947.

The U.S. attempted infiltration through Georgia, which came unstuck — albeit it’s now back on the table.

The U.S. is interested in the Ukraine secondarily, but primarily in Russia. Poland is already playing the U.S. agent in the Ukrainian transformation.

As for Douthat’s ‘liberal democratic West’ — I reach for my gun when this hoary old chestnut is brandished.

‘Liberal democracy’ is a 19th century shotgun marriage from when the forces of economic liberalism (read capitalism) – bearing a new servitude – were faced with the threat then inevitability of the adult franchise.

Over the 120 years or so from mid-19th century to 1970, political and economic compromises were effected and the labels ‘social liberalism’ and ‘social democracy’ given to associated ideas and practices. But liberalism and democracy were never a loving couple and liberalism has been aggressively suing for divorce since the end of the post-War long boom, while appropriating the entire marital nest egg.

The imperial U.S., both for raison d’état and in support of corporate interests, has always exposed the contradictions. Domestically, formally democratic structures are being eviscerated in both substance (the Supreme Court re-legitimisation of corporate campaign funding, the enduring strike of capital against taxes, repression of dissent) and in form (voter disenfranchisement).

Globally, full spectrum dominance remains the imperative, now assisted by comprehensive surveillance.

Recent peccadilloes, adding to a long list, include involvement in the coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti in 2004, the public indifference and de facto support to the rigged election that returned Felipe Calderón to power in Mexico in 2006, support of the coup against Manuel Zelaya in Honduras in 2009 and the subsequent murderous regime, and the indifference and de facto support to the coup by oligarchs against Fernando Lugo in Paraguay in 2012.

Add the simultaneous destabilisation of elected governments in the Ukraine and Venezuela.

‘Liberal democracy’? Pah.

Even Douthat’s language of a ‘civilisational model’ has been lifted from strategic sources — namely a 2013 British government Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘blueprint’.  The document foresees the signing of the first stage of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in November 2013.

To quote at length:

This will have political importance, because it will demonstrate a real and informed choice of the Ukrainian authorities in favour of reforming the country in the framework of the European civilization model (sic). The AA including [the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area] will be the most ambitious agreement that the EU has ever concluded with countries outside the community. … The AA should become the ’engine for reforms’, encouraging the modernisation of Ukraine in more than 30 areas …

The AA will entrench common values, democratic standards, real guarantees of rights and opportunities that have become the norm in the European Union, and from which Ukrainians will benefit if the AA is successfully implemented. As for encouraging economic reform and growth, the [DCFTA] will go further than classic free trade areas. The introduction of the DCFTA will lead to a restructuring of the Ukrainian market, growth of investments as a result of the introduction of EU standards, as well as legal and administrative support for this process.

What? Common values, democratic standards, real guarantees of rights and opportunities that have become the norm in the European Union?

Who writes this stuff? Do they actually believe it themselves? No wonder Yanukovych said ‘no thank you very much’.

Ironic that in late 2013, the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the autocratic character and brutal methods of the ‘troika’ – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF – in dealing with the GFC.

More, other deputies linked to employment and social policy, mindful of the moderateness of the Economics Committee deputies, have launched their own inquiry and report in furious denunciation of the troika.

Further ironies exist in that the IMF has admitted that the medicine was too tough, while the EC and ECB remain unrepentant. The catastrophe suffered by a range of EU Countries  – all to save the profligate European banking sector – is to be imposed on the Ukraine under the rubric of democratic standards, rights and opportunities and so on.

During a session of the European Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, headed ‘Ukraine’s Future and U.S. Interests’, in May 2004, then Representative Robert Wexler claimed:

“… the majority of Ukrainians ... support further Euro-Atlantic integration including membership in NATO and the European Union."

In fact they don't

Other participants also talked of closer ‘Euro-Atlantic integration’. 

Yet, in the bugged telephone exchange in early February between the U.S. Eurasian ‘diplomat’ Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland exclaims

"Fuck the EU!"


What the American strategists mean, apparently, is Atlantic integration — that is, assimilation purely to American interests.

Surprisingly, Yanukovych himself has already been accommodating NATO.

On a Russian website, we have the interviewee Rick Rozoff noting:

'So the process of integrating Ukraine into NATO has been going on for decades. It has been intensified in recent years rather than the opposite. And that opportunity now presents the US and its allies with the opportunity to further absorb and consolidate control over Ukraine.'

No half measures for NATO under its Neo-con Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. We want total Ukraine integration and subservience and we want it tomorrow.

On 24 February, we saw Janet Daley from the UK Telegraph reproduced on all Fairfax daily websites. This blanket coverage includes the Canberra Times, whose once editorial autonomy was abolished with the John B. Fairfax-driven merger of Rural Press and Fairfax. The Daley article is a shocking grab bag of rubbish.

For example:

'Meanwhile, ministers from Germany, France and Poland were trying to talk turkey through the gunfire.” No, the gunfire began after the Ministers reached an agreement. More, “It was clear from the outset that the EU ministers saw the urgency of their mission very much in terms of their own particular national interests.'


The problem for Daley is that, for once, the EU Ministers were not playing American lackeys.


'Ever since the Assad regime in Syria was allowed to gallop gleefully over Obama's ‘red line’ by using chemical weapons on its own people …'

Well, no, the evidence points to the Saudi/Qatari/Western-supported jihadis using chemical weapons as a false flag device.

Daley continues the sentence:

'… thus showing the world that you could now openly defy America and suffer no consequences.'

Ah, there’s the rub. A rising China and a Russia that refuses to roll over (Putin’s ‘neo-imperial brazen power game’) openly defying America and its satrap Britain — this is the cause of Daley’s hysteria.

After the 22 February coup, events moved to the autonomous predominantly Russian region of Crimea in the face of immediate ‘de-russification’ initiatives from Kiev.

The articles reproduced in Fairfax reflected the shifted focus of Anglo-American strategists, post-victory, in demanding that Russia refrain from violating the Ukraine’s ‘territorial integrity’. The chutzpah of it all.

One author has drawn attention to an AFP report that claimed that Rinat Akhmetov, wealthy owner of the Shakhtar Donetsk and backer (and sometime deputy) of Yanukovych’s Regions Party, was threatened in December with crippling sanctions if he didn’t withdraw support from Yanukovych.

Subsequently, in January, Akhmetov publicly called calling for calm, non-violence and negotiations. A significant number of deputies have since withdrawn from the Party of Regions grouping.

The U.S. diktat has perennially been: don’t do what I do, do what I say.

Unfortunately, the one group that won’t be satisfied by post-coup developments are those protesting entrenched oligarchic and political corruption. That will continue.

The now formal legitimisation in the interstices of the state apparatus of the fiercely nationalistic, socially reactionary and Russophobic Svoboda Party and the violent Right Sector movement will ensure both that prospects of fair elections will be vitiated indefinitely and that the grounds are set for civil war and possible partition.

In the meantime, Ukraine will be subject to a Greek-style haircut under its appointed Prime Minister, the former Central Banker Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Its economy will be subject to plunder not merely by the oligarchs but by Western interests. The details of the road map are already there in the EU-Ukraine agreement that Yanukovych rejected.

Bizarrely, we have the U.S. business journal Forbes telling it like it is:

'Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, may prove to be arsenic to the beleaguered nation.'

The article quotes a mainstream investment analyst:

'“Recall the phone exchange between the Ukraine ambassador and Victoria Nuland (Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs) that got leaked out, where she basically said ‘we want Yats in there.’ They like him because he’s pro Western,” says Vladimir Signorelli, president of boutique investment research firm Bretton Woods Research LLC in New Jersey.'

The article continues:

'"Yatsenyuk is the the kind of technocrat you want if you want austerity, with the veneer of professionalism,” Signorelli said. “He’s the type of guy who can hobnob with the European elite. A Mario Monti type: unelected and willing to do the IMFs bidding,” he said.'

Thus, on this extraordinarily important conflict, Fairfax has delivered us a stew of glib factual inaccuracies, consistently partisan omissions and linguistic blather.

As I previously noted in an article on Fairfax’s sacking of journalist Paddy Manning, the bottom line of media companies is supposed to be the bottom line. I can’t, then, understand why management, especially of a financially bleeding company, would expect readers to pay for the privilege of being misinformed.

Imagine if the same standards were applied to the sports page and the form guide? There’d be hell to pay.

Is it laziness?  Merely the accidental by-product of cost-cutting and Fairfax’s long-term agreements with ‘prestigious’ Anglo-American media? After all, with Fairfax having a reporter on the ground in another hot-spot, Thailand, Lindsay Murdoch can give readers a more nuanced approach to the anti-government protests.

However, the consistency of the slant regarding the Ukraine coverage indicates that the message itself must be a factor in the partisan selection process. It’s all crude white-black good guys versus bad guys.

In the first instance, the line is consistent with the mentality of Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood. His journalism was perennially in the white-black mould.

Two pieces from April 2004 are indicative (here and here), with Hywood fretting over Opposition leader Mark Latham’s questioning of the Australian-U.S. alliance, and Latham’s proposal to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq.

Claims Hywood:

… the deterioration of US political and military control in Iraq has made overt success in that messy conflict unlikely. For allies like Australia it is a particularly sensitive time. This is why Mark Latham's criticism of the US-Australian alliance is so fraught with danger. … Real friends rally around in times of need. Fair-weather types watch from the sidelines and are remembered for it. … There are still strong reasons to justify the invasion. … the Howard Government made the right call. There was no real choice but to send an Australian contingent. And once deployed, there needed to be a presence until the US was able to withdraw.

Some medium-term perspective is available from analyses I made (on the sadly defunct Workers Online site) of Australian media coverage of two significant events — the prospective U.S. response to 9/11 and the politics behind the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The general lesson is that it’s more of the same — the world is coloured white or black.

As I wrote in June 2003:

'But the opinion pages on international affairs are wretched. Is it by accident or on purpose? … Tellingly, the reproduction of foreign correspondents is monopolised by the Establishment media of Anglo-America.'

There seems to have been a couple of changes.

There are now less domestic columnists (at least in Fairfax) parroting the correct opinions, with even greater reliance on Anglo-American media. If the local establishment pundits are merely reproducing the correct line, why not rationalise the staffing and good riddance.

However, the Australian media post-9/11 coverage did include a significant minority of dissenting voices, both domestic and from Anglo-America. That allowance is now passé, so things have deteriorated.

In this context, James Aronson’s 1970 The Press and the Cold War is instructive.

In 1945, Aronson worked for the Occupying Force’s Information Control Division to establish a democratic press in West Germany, uncensored by U.S. authorities. The ‘absence of editorial bias’ meant that, almost immediately, the military command moved in — anti-Nazi Germans were replaced by former Nazi sympathisers.

The U.S. press itself has since been under constant pressure from the authorities, and has generally (with occasional exceptions) succumbed. The U.S. mainstream media now voluntarily walks in step with and is an arm of officialdom. Hence the stuff that Fairfax reproduces.

The lessons for media censorship were learnt during wartime (World War I was a turning point). But the U.S. is permanently at war, hence the need for permanent censorship, Western style. Alas, any attempt to understand from the mainstream media why the West, under U.S. tutelage, is permanently at war is an adventure doomed to failure.,6243


the palin voice of madness...


 Sarah Palin has offered unsolicited advice to US President Barack Obama on containing Russian aggression, saying ''the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke''.

The Republican former vice-presidential candidate used a predominantly crass tone throughout her appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

But she hit home by attacking what she called a feckless Obama foreign policy that she said has helped embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Failing to show peace through strength has allowed some ''very, very, very bad dudes [to] gain ground'', said Ms Palin, who remains a darling of the far-right.

Mr Obama ''would gut our arsenal while he allows others – enemies – to enrich theirs'', she said.

''Mr President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.''

The comments follow Russia's move into neighbouring Ukraine, action which sent tensions soaring and US-Russia relations to perhaps their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

The remark may have sounded flippant, but it was red meat to conservatives mindful of similar language used by the head of the National Rifle Association, America's largest gun lobby.

Read more:

It has to be said here that this is not a good guys versus bad guys contest.

In the context of the "disastrous" campaigns by the US against Iraq and against Afghanistan (let's be frank here — the result of both these wars has been far less than satisfactory despite "mission accomplished" claims to the contrary), one needs to have a certain historical perspective.

A) The "revolution" in Ukraine has been led by thugs, using some of the naive population and a popular leader, to revolt against a legitimately elected government. Those thugs are made up of extreme right, nazis and possibly Al Qaeda aligned terrorsist. Strange bedfellows but there.

B) the "west" has tried to destabilise the Ukraine government with cash (that the west does not have without printing more deficit) for a long time.

C) Most of the Crimean population is RUSSIAN.

D) Obviously, using nukes is not a solution — contrary to what the woman who fights bears bare handed says. Presently there are many US intercontinental missiles aimed at Moscow and the Russians have many aimed at New York and other US cities. It's called mutually assured destruction and this is a reality. In a game of nuke, the good guy does not win. No-one wins. Sarah Palin is a nutcase to suggest such a thing. I suppose Alaska is also a major target for Russian missiles. 

E) I am sure that the Russians would be annoyed at Ukraine becoming "aligned" with the west. I believe though, secretly the Russians know that this would be a disaster for Ukraine. 

F) The main area of concern for the Russians is to loose Crimea. Crimea is a Russian province attached to Ukraine via the vagaries of border games played about 50 years ago. 

G) it's not for old Gus to tell the Yanks what to do. But I would suggest a bit of diplomacy and accept the Russian claim on Crimea and for the Russians to allow Ukraine to hang itself with the thugs from the west... The trade off would cool the west and the Russians aspirations, though Ukraine might try to fight off such a deal. It may have no choice but to accept the deal reluctantly. The west cannot help Ukraine militarily without starting a major conflict of unthinkable proportion, because eventually, the Chinese would come into this equation.

H) Our Orstralyan primal minister and his foreign minister should shut up or at least listen to the doyen, Malcolm Fraser, who has expressed a more realistic view of the situation... 




WASHINGTON — They wanted to break away from a country they considered hostile. The central government cried foul, calling it a violation of international law. But with the help of a powerful foreign military, they succeeded in severing ties.

The Kosovars’ secession from Serbia in 1999 drove a deep wedge between the United States and Russia that soured relations for years. Washington supported Kosovo’s bid for independence, culminating in 2008, while Moscow saw it as an infringement of Serbia’s sovereignty.

Now 15 years later, the former Cold War rivals again find themselves at odds, but this time they have effectively switched sides: Russia loudly proclaims Crimea’s right to break off from Ukraine while the United States calls it illegitimate. The showdown in Ukraine has revived a centuries-old debate over the right of self-determination versus the territorial integrity of nation-states.

sarcastic putin vs hypocrite obama...

President Obama even said that he could see through Putin's tricks clearly, or something to that effect. This is funny in itself because when you lose your sense of humour, you start losing sight of the overall picture as well.  

Here is what happened that day. Having had a chat with his closest advisors, Putin had decided that it was time to make a point about the West's rather strange position on the overthrow of the regime in Kiev.

The West had labelled armed groups "peaceful protesters" and neo-Nazis and extreme nationalists "patriots" and "supporters of democracy". So President Putin came out to journalists and told them that no, there were no Russian troops in Crimea.

And if you think that this was over the top, then imagine that the current interim government in Kiev includes four cabinet ministers from a political party "Freedom", who are closely linked to neo-fascist groups.

So President Putin's comments about the absence of Russian troops in Crimea were - at best - mischievous, compared to the take that the West has on the present realities in Ukraine.

But of course there are Russian troops in Crimea! They are based at the Sevastopol naval base since 1999, in accordance with a treaty between Moscow and Kiev. And there are  local volunteers there as well, with the regular troops carrying out the most important tasks and making sure that the military bases of the Ukrainian army on the peninsula are not raided by enthusiastic supporters of the interim regime.

This had already happened in several cities in mainland Ukraine, in Lviv for example, where thousands of automatic rifles vanished, only to appear later in Kiev, distributed among the "passionate protesters" against the tyranny of President Viktor Yanukovich.

So the people in Crimea decided that it would be better to keep the military bases intact and asked the Russian army to see that it stays that way.

So here's an idea from a humble former Kremlin adviser. Why don't Western political leaders, including the ones in the US, cool off for a while, to let the situation simmer while diplomats do their thing behind the scenes, and then try to bring the two sides of the conflict in Ukraine together to attempt to resolve their issues.

Because all that aggressive posturing and tough talking doesn't really help to solve the crisis.

tartuffes of the west...

Russia is not a superpower. Its population was shrinking, and so is its military, political, and economic might. Yes, Russians have their oil money to organise Olympics or buy fancy flats in London, but Russia itself is a far cry from the big nasty "bear" that was invading Afghanistan, when I emigrated from this evil colossus in search of a political freedom so lacking at home. Yet, this cherished western freedom is being threatened by a stifling hypocrisy.

For reasons that are both obvious and complex, Russia, the main heir of the collapsed Soviet Union, continues to be seen as an evil country. So any politician down on his luck - Senator McCain from Arizona is a case in point - is more than happy to invoke the ghosts of the Cold War and use Russia as a stepping stone for his failing attempts to stay relevant. What could be simpler? Just get on the Fox news, or if you are more sophisticated, on the pages of New Republic, Weekly Standard, or NYT Review of Books, and pontificate about the need to get tough on Russia. You gain immediate access to the deep recesses of the American psyche raised in constant fear of the Evil Empire. The public is yours to take.

The same strategy works well in Great Britain as well, where anti-Russian phobia runs even deeper, into 19th century with its almost pathological and racist fear of Russia's rising power. That fear, by the way, has already resulted in the Crimea War of 19th century. (David Fromkin's 1989 prize winning study, A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East offers a superb analysis of the power and geopolitical legacy of this fear).

But this combination of opportunism with self-induced blindness, clearly obscures the reality of the situation. Most importantly, Russians feel humiliated as a result of the collapse of their empire. And everyone knows you don't taunt or mock your defeated enemy. Western leaders, however, are forever ready to do so and while engaging in this morally dubious enterprise, they keep congratulating themselves for their moral uprightness.

"Pussy Riot", "gay propaganda law", Olympics and everything else in between are the subject of endless moralizing, while Western scandals and abuses are dismissed as the sign of the healthy democratic process.

The situation in Ukraine reminds of Moliere's famous play Tartuffe in which the main character is a selfish and manipulative person, who pursues his materialist interests under the guise of piety. Russia falls into its role of Moliere's gullible Orgon, while the west plays a convincing Tartuffe.

Dealing with such an exotic country as Russia, separated from the West by its unique geography, history, religion, and political system, the West has fully internalised utterly undemocratic and hypocritical attitude captured by the maxim: "quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi" (What is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to an ox). Furthermore, as late comers to the Western civilisation, Russians themselves seem to accept this unhealthy attitude without challenging it.

This situation has persisted after the collapse of the Soviet Union  Despite its self-congratulations on the triumphant power of democratic values and its demands that Russia treats its citizens and neighbours with equanimity, the West continues to lecture it on its inadequacies. Consequently, Western militaristic adventures be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, or Kosovo are disguised as some sort of noble and moral endeavours.

Russia's assertions of its country national interests are presented, however, as an act of blatant aggression. One would expect that the endless amount of economic, political, social, and military abuses that we witness around us would make modern day Tartuffes more modest in their pious claims, but it doesn't.

Furthermore, if the West preaches equality but treats other countries as second best, why can't Russia do that too? Why can't it treat Ukraine in the same way it has been treated by the West? And if Russia is the subject of double standards, was the West lying to the Russians all along, convincing them that there's nothing to fear and can peacefully disarm and withdraw, while at the same time secretly expanding NATO towards its borders? To push the analogy with Moliere's play even further, Tartuffe is not just a sanctimonious hypocrite; he eventually tries to repossess the house of Orgon, whose gullibility he uses precisely for that purpose.

I suspect that the collapse of Ukraine has brought this fact to the surface, and Russians - in the manner of Orgon - suddenly realised that they've been taken advantage of, that Tartuffe wants to re-possess their house, that all these assurances that Russia is an equal member of G8 were empty talk. It can see nuclear arms at its border, which the West will surely place there after it buys Ukraine out of its economic crisis. Western response? Blame Russian aggression again. It is a classic case of blaming the victim.  Now the West will surely surround Russia with nuclear arms.

I hope that the West will come back to its senses, sit at the table and negotiate with Russia a solution to the Ukrainian crisis and create a military neutral space there. Because if it doesn't, the next Russian political leader might be less accommodating than Putin, whose foreign policy was to give the West everything it wanted while getting very little in return.

Like the US, the UK, and France, Russia has its legitimate national interests that have to be defended. Why should Russia tolerate NATO at its borders and the potential loss of the Sevastopol navy base to the modern-day Tartuffes?

Vladimir Golstein teaches Russian literature and film at Brown University. He was the 2013-2014 Pembroke Center Faculty Fellow. He is the author of Lermontov's Narratives of Heroism(1999) and numerous articles on all major Russian authors. He was born in Moscow, went to the US in 1979, and studied at Columbia and Yale Universities.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


more from vladimir (golstein)...


On uses and abuses of historical memory

Comparing Russia to Nazi Germany is not only a historical mistake but also immoral abuse of the memory of millions.
Last updated: 14 Mar 2014 09:17

Vladimir Golstein

My grandfather moved to Moscow in the 1920s and that saved his life. His brothers and cousins, who stayed in Kiev, were killed by the Nazis at the notorious Babi Yar massacre of 1941. My father was drafted into the Red Army to fight the Nazis. He was wounded, and this wound, as well as the hard life in the Soviet Union, took his life at the early age of 55.

I just visited his grave two days ago. I wonder what the World War II veterans would think of the indiscriminate use of the term Nazi nowadays. How do they feel, when this word gets applied to Russians who lost 20 million people in their war against them, or Serbians who were one of the few nations which heroically resisted the German occupation? I certainly feel outrage. Thousands of sacred memories worldwide, Russian, Serbian, Polish, Ukrainian and others are violated when the word Nazi is misapplied.

The ideological war

I understand that all is fair in love and war; that a propaganda war has started; that the first victim of the war is truth. But there are degrees of use and abuse, and the Western propaganda machine has steeped very low indeed, with blatant impunity, one might add. There are objections here and there, including the one from the great film director, Emir Kusturica, but where is the outrage?

Where is the Jewish Lobby when one needs it? Who will stop this linguistic pollution, this attack on the sacred memory of the victims and fighters against the Nazis. How does this Lobby feel about some former Nazis (I am sure some of them are still alive) feeling shadenfreude over the fact that their bitter opponents who dared to stand up to them are not getting the thrashing?

And this campaign is gaining strength. Now Hillary Clinton compares Putin to Hitler. It seems that for some US politicians any NATO enemy can now be called Nazi and then bombed. Now various posters have flooded the internet depicting Russians in Nazi uniforms, while Russian demagogues compare the potential Russian annexation of Crimea to Hitler's Anschluss.One wants to believe that the Holocaust is not just an industry, with its advertisement or promotion campaigns: Call this product historic and sell it, call this group of people "Nazi" and bomb them. Or maybe we are already so confused in our moral sense, that we can't tell things apart?

Russia gives plenty of ammunition to its critics: Its leader is authoritarian; its economic and political system is corrupt; it harasses its political opponents; it neglects and abuses its own population. There are plenty of arguments to be made for anyone who wants to criticise Russia.

However, do we really need this verbal nuclear option here, the invocation of the N(azi) word, the blatant abuse of truth? And why? Just to score a talking point and utilise the world's simplest and most abused metaphor? Is it a sign of intellectual laziness of the West, that doesn't want to waste time on arguments, when simple naming will do? Or maybe it is an attempt to hide something and to acknowledge that without the N-word, we cannot win the ideological war?

When President Ronald Reagan appealed to Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down Iron Curtain, it was to enable Germany to unite and freedom and democracy to reign. Or was it to let the Western military and economic engines roll eastward? If good fences make good neighbours why is the West pushing its fences all the way to Ukraine?

Political immorality

Russia finally decided to push the fence back. Some might view their desperate action as that of a bad neighbour, but was there a good stable fence to begin with, right where the line was drawn originally?

If Russia broke the rules, there should be legal arguments, or sanctions, or whatever, but does it justify this hysterical rhetoric? Is it worth it? Is it worth it to resort to the rhetoric that obscures the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, that introduces the Orwellian world where Heroes become Nazis and Nazis - Heroes? Such lies wound the world's soul and soil and split it apart in a more terrifying way than any amount of fracking, or drilling, or even bombing does.

Moral considerations, fine as they are, rarely have an impact on politics. So let me conclude on a pragmatic note. If that type of rhetoric offends me - I, who live in the sheltered world of academia and see the graves of my relatives once in a while - what about the Russians who can visit the 20 million World War II graves every day?

Russia is surely the wrong country to be labelled Nazi. In the context of Russian culture, which regards World War II as the true unifying moment of its recent history, that type of rhetoric would only strengthen the Russians' resolve.

Once again they will clench their teeth, and remember that they have always been attacked by those who looked down on them throughout the centuries: Mongols, Swedes, Poles, Frenchmen, or Germans. So let NATO do it this time.

Vladimir Golstein  teaches Russian literature and film at Brown University. He is the author of Lermontov's Narratives of Heroism (1999) and numerous articles on all major Russian authors. He was born in Moscow, went to the US in 1979, and studied at Columbia and Yale Universities. 

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


I must correct Vladimir here... The propaganda war of the "west" against the Russians started a long long time ago... Possibly around 1917... And the west has just kept adding to the sauce as to keep a "whipping boy" in reserve, after having demonised Iraq, Iran or anyone who does not play the dirty game according to the rich boys' "rules"...