Took the death of a Cypriot war hero to accomplish it:
"Greek, Turkish leaders inch toward unity on Cyprus" by Menelaos Hadjicostis Associated Press May 24, 2015
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders took a stroll together on both sides of the divided capital’s medieval center on Saturday to raise the feel-good factor as talks aimed at reunifying the ethnically split island kick into gear.
It is the first time that the leaders have done so since the east Mediterranean island was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey, which maintains more than 30,000 troops in the breakaway north, recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci met inside the United Nations-controlled buffer zone before sitting down at cafes on both sides of the divide for coffee, olives, smoked ham, pastries, and Zivania, a traditional vodka-like clear spirit.
A smattering of applause and shouts of ‘‘well done’’ greeted both leaders as they walked through the narrow, shop-lined streets on both sides of the divide. One Turkish Cypriot man strumming a mandolin-like instrument serenaded the leaders with a song appealing for peace.
‘‘I want to send a strong message that we shall work tirelessly in order to find a peaceful solution at the earliest possible [date],’’ Anastasiades said.
Akinci said the leaders must avoid yet another failure after decades of talks have led nowhere. ‘‘We very much would like to give the message of hope because after so many disappointments we need this hope,’’ said Akinci, a moderate who handily defeated the hard-line incumbent in the north’s leadership election last month.
‘‘Both sides want peace and this thing has to finally end, we’re all Cypriots,’’ said Turkish Cypriot Mehmet Ekingen, the 70-year-old owner of a handicrafts shop inside the Buyuk Han, a 16th century inn in the north where the leaders first sat.
In the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south, the leaders sat at a cafe in the shadow of the 19th-century Phaneromeni Greek Orthodox Church.
Greek Cypriot Miltiades Philippou, 58, said the stroll would create a positive atmosphere that will help the leaders in negotiations.
UN-facilitated peace talks resumed this month after an eight-month break. The leaders said they would unveil a number of measures aimed at building trust between the two sides.
A peace accord would bring a huge boost to the island’s economy, improve regional security, and unlock cooperation on the region’s offshore gas reserves. But many thorny issues need to be tackled, including how to share power in an envisioned federation, and military intervention rights.
Greece has much larger concerns these days:
"Finance ministers from eurozone countries were scheduled to meet Monday as Greece drew perilously close to running out of money and defaulting on its debt. Still, the likelihood of an imminent deal with the leftist government in Athens continued to look remote. Uncertainty about Greece’s economy led European Union officials last week to sharply pare back its growth prospects. Greece, it seems, has enough money to meet Tuesday’s deadline to repay 750 million euros ($840 million) to the International Monetary Fund. Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis indicated Greece would make the payment. But analysts say Greece could soon face acute difficulties paying government salaries and has almost no chance of making far larger debt repayments in coming months without tapping funds worth 7.2 billion euros (just over $8 billion) from its rescue program and negotiating a third bailout package. Greece had been expected to have a deal by now with its international creditors after a preliminary agreement in February. Instead, the wearying standoff looks set to continue as European lenders hold back on disbursements of rescue aid while Greece’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, resists far-reaching changes in areas like labor and taxation."
Who is keeping them down?
"Greece moves to pay debt, but finance ministers unsatisfied" by Liz Aldermanand James Kanter New York Times May 12, 2015
BRUSSELS — As Greece quickly runs out of cash, the government moved on Monday to quell fears of an imminent default on its debts, authorizing its treasury to pay a big loan installment to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday.
Word of that payment of 757 million euros ($848 million) was virtually the only bright news to emerge from a meeting of Greece’s creditors, who packed a large room to discuss whether they should free up fresh financial aid for the embattled country, even as the economy risks relapsing into recession.
Eurozone finance ministers, who were joined by representatives of the IMF and the European Central Bank, indicated Monday that Greece had made some progress on a proposed list of economic overhauls since an acrimonious meeting two weeks ago in Riga, Latvia.
But the finance ministers, known as the Eurogroup, said Athens would need to do more work before it could hope to receive any further loan aid under the country’s current bailout program. Greece’s creditors have been demanding that the government make economic overhauls in areas like pensions, labor rules, and taxation.
Athens has again managed to pull together just enough cash to avoid a default, but it is not clear how much longer Greece can continue to scrape by. Unless creditors are willing to agree to more aid, Greece will have trouble making a series of looming debt payments.
Even if Greece does survive summer without defaulting, the budgetary strains and cuts required would seem only to add to the country’s staggering debt load, while doing little to revive its economy or ease its towering unemployment rate....
Anybody have any an$wers?
"A call by hardliners in Greece’s ruling Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) party to not pay the next installment to the International Monetary Fund on its bailout loans and to nationalize the country’s banks has been narrowly defeated. Syriza’s central committee rejected the proposal by the party’s Left Platform on a vote of 95-75 and one blank vote. Thirty other members of the 201-member central committee had already left for their hometowns. Earlier Sunday, Left Platform leader Panayiotis Lafazanis had declared that ‘‘it would not be a catastrophe to exit the euro [nor] a terrorist act not to pay the next installment to the IMF.’’ Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis, a senior Syriza member, said in a TV interview Sunday that Greece can’t pay the IMF installments, a total of 1.6 billion euros, in June."
Some might con$ider such!
"Greek officials will use Tuesday to revive their bid to access financial aid, with their finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis (left), blaming creditors’ insistence on more austerity for an impasse. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s spokesman, Gabriel Sakellaridis, said Monday that a deal can be reached by May 31 but admitted that disagreements remain in key areas such as budget targets, sales tax rates, and pension and labor market rules. “Our government cannot — and will not — accept a cure that has proven itself over five long years to be worse than the disease,” Varoufakis wrote in a op-ed piece, referring to the demands from Greece’s creditors for austerity measures. Greece has fallen back into recession. Record deposit withdrawals and the state’s increasing difficulty in meeting debt payments have renewed doubts about the country’s ability to stay in the euro currency union. Yet with just over five weeks before the euro area’s offer of financial aid expires, Tsipras remains defiant. Greece won’t take measures that deepen the country’s recession further, the prime minister said Saturday. Greece has met external payments by slowing spending, building up arrears to suppliers and vendors, encouraging citizens to pay overdue taxes, and seizing cash reserves of regional governments, hospitals, universities, and other public entities. But those buffers are being depleted and Sakellaridis declined to say if Greece can meet payments to the International Monetary Fund in June totaling almost 1.6 billion euros."
The snapshot says it all. That same old $inking feeling for Greeks.
"The US Treasury secretary urged Europe to quickly find a solution for the crisis in Greece, stressing that it poses a threat to the global economy. “Failure to agree on a path forward would create immediate hardship for Greece and broad uncertainties for Europe and the global economy,” the Treasury Department said in a statement summarizing Jacob J. Lew’s remarks, made in London before he arrived in Dresden for a Group of 7 meeting. Lew said there was a risk events could get out of control. “Brinkmanship is a dangerous thing when it only takes one accident,” he said. Greece is not on the G-7 meeting agenda; it’s focused on global growth, tax issues, and bank regulation. But Lew’s comments signaled he is likely to use the meeting to press European leaders to show more willingness to compromise on aid to Greece."
Everyone is on edge.
"A solution to the Greek crisis is still out of reach, but Mario Draghi can count on at least one piece of good news this week: Euro-area consumer prices are rising, easing fears of deflation and stagnation. Economists in a Bloomberg survey estimate the inflation rate rose to 0.2 percent in May from zero in April. But the European Central Bank president and fellow policy makers will be distracted by a looming Greek loan repayment that could make or break months of negotiations aimed at keeping the country afloat and preventing a splintering of the euro currency bloc. The inflation news partly reflects a rebound in oil prices since they fell to a six-year low in January. Policy makers may also see it as a sign their $1.2 trillion stimulus plan is working. ECB policy makers meet in Frankfurt this week."
The rich shall get richer in Europe as well.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the island:
"Less than three weeks before Turkey’s general election, two separate explosions in buildings housing the local headquarters of a pro-Kurdish political party injured at least six people, the party said. The private Dogan news agency said the explosions were caused by bombs placed in a package delivered to the Adana branch and in a pot of flowers left outside the door of the Mersin branch. The HDP is expected to play a key role in Turkey’s general election June 7. If HDP passes a 10-percent threshold, it could prevent the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from getting a sufficient majority in Parliament to allow for a change in the constitution, effectively thwarting Erdogan’s plans of turning Turkey’s parliamentary system into a system with an all-powerful president."
Looks like Turkey is coming apart:
"Turkey on the brink" by Robert Ellis May 29, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vindictive assault on Boston Globe contributing columnist Stephen Kinzer, canceling his honorary citizienship of the city of Gaziantep and declaring him “an enemy of our government and our country,” is yet another example of the paranoia of an increasingly despotic leader.
It all started off so well. As Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol, a now-disillusioned supporter of Erdogan’s governing AK Party put it this week, Turkey was once seen as “the shining star of the Muslim world — an increasingly liberal democracy and a booming economy led by a cadre of reformist Islamists.’’
Now the gilt has worn off and the stark reality of AKP rule has come to light.
The AKP, which came to power in 2002, adopted the guise of liberal reform to redress the balance after decades of secular, Kemalist rule and removed restrictions on the role of Islam in public life.
There has been an explosive increase in the budget allocated to the Religious Affairs Directorate, and students from imam-hatip religious vocational high schools can now enter university on an equal footing with students from other high schools. The National Educational Council has proposed the introduction of compulsory religious classes from the start of primary school, instead of from fourth grade, and “values education’’ in kindergarten.
Meanwhile, AKP cadres have taken over leading posts in state and provincial administration and independent regulatory boards are no longer independent. The Public Procurement Law has been rendered opaque, making it possible to reward AKP followers with lucrative contracts in return for ‘‘donations’’ to party coffers and charitable foundations.
Erdogan’s electoral success in three successive elections, which topped in 2011 with 50 percent of the vote, was crowned with his election as president last August with support from 52 percent. However, Turkey’s credit and construction driven economy is faltering, unemployment is rising, and foreign debt now exceeds more than half the national income.
On June 7 Turkey faces a new election but on different terms. Erdogan has been replaced as party leader and prime minister by his former foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, but still calls the shots and has chaired three cabinet meetings. With his hateful rhetoric and persecution of opponents (he has already filed complaints against 236 people for ‘’insulting’’ him since he became president), Erdogan has departed from the impartial role expected of a Turkish president.
In February Bülent Arinc, deputy prime minister and co-founder of the AKP, stated that the AKP was once respected by its opponents but now the 50 percent who didn’t vote for party members look at them with hate. As Turkish editor Barcin Yinanc concluded: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan is going to go down in history as a president that continuously harassed the other half of society that did not vote for him.”
Now it is a question of mathematics. Erdogan has taken control of all the instruments of power, legislative, administrative and judicial. But to achieve absolute control as executive president, a constitutional change is required. To do it without a referendum, the AKP needs 367 seats out of the Turkish parliament’s 550 seats. At present it has 312, so President Erdogan is storming round Turkey with Koran in hand calling on voters to elect 400 AKP members. Whether or not they follow his call will be decided June 7. In the meantime, woe to those who challenge his ambition of becoming Turkey’s absolute ruler, because they, like Stephen Kinzer and so many others, will be on the receiving end of Erdogan’s wrath.
What is worse is they won't even meet with him.
Kinzer Too Kind
Here is the rest of the Kinzer collection. It's a limited hangout that accepts the basic narratives while allowing for fringe criticism of U.S policy. Must make the political cla$$ feel better.
"French, British colonialism grew a root of terrorism" by Stephen Kinzer February 11, 2015
It is no coincidence that during the Golden Age of colonialism — from about the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries — France and Britain were the most rapacious conquerors. If these and other European powers had not crashed into countries around the world and sown the seeds of hatred, those seeds would not be flowering into the poisonous weeds that are now spreading across Europe.
Maybe, but this is all about the here and now. Most people alive today have no connection to that whatsoever.
Many factors, personal as well as political, shape the twisted terrorist mind. Religious fanaticism and resentment over social exclusion are among the most potent. Nonetheless the legacy of colonialism lurks behind the current wave of violence in Europe.
This legacy has not plagued every former colonial power. Belgians massacred Congolese by the millions, but no Congolese terror group has emerged to take revenge. Portugal has not been hit by terrorist “blowback” for its depredations in Angola and Mozambique. Yet the existence of large groups of immigrants from formerly brutalized lands can easily lead to conflict.
Many people in the former imperial powers were barely aware that those immigrants arrived with deep beliefs of their own. They presumed their new citizens would quickly see the superiority of European values — and abandon their own. That meant there was no urgent reason to care for their welfare or help them integrate.
Cast adrift in unfamiliar and sometimes hostile societies, some of these immigrants — or their children — have become outraged at what they see as Europe’s hypocrisy. They connect that hypocrisy to past European claims that their colonial invasions and occupations were aimed principally at “civilizing” the people they oppressed. If France, Britain, and other European countries had resisted the imperial temptation — if they had never sent armies to places like Syria, Iraq, India, or North Africa — they would not be facing the terror that afflicts them today. History does not always punish aggressors quickly, but one day, long after the truly guilty have passed from the scene, the punishment may come.
In the form of false flag attacks, of course,
Time to push the agenda a bit:
"National sovereignty is so yesterday" by Stephen Kinzer March 26, 2015
Maps of the world are deceptive. By showing neat borders, they trick us into believing countries are independent and separate from each other. They also suggest countries and governments are the main forces in world politics. That was the case for a few centuries, but it won’t be for long. National sovereignty is so yesterday.
States are slow-moving behemoths. Few are nimble enough to adapt to a rapidly changing world. State power, which used to be nearly absolute, is withering under a sustained assault from increasingly empowered forces like corporations, terrorist groups, mercenary armies, and international organizations.
The decline of the nation-state, already well underway, will be one of the most important developments of the 21st century. National borders are likely to change. Places we now know as Spain, Nigeria, Libya, Russia, and Saudi Arabia may cease to exist in their present forms. More important than possible changes in borders, however, is their decreasing importance. Local governments will become more influential than national ones. Tribalism will return, as disparate peoples forced together by brutal nation-building processes will separate.
This is not as radical a transformation as it seems. In fact, it is a return to the way the world was run for most of human history. The idea of sovereign nations, which was based on the belief that long-existing forms of group identification would fade away, is a modern construct. It shaped global politics for nearly 300 years. That era is slowly ending.
The first sustained assault on the nation-state came when multinational corporations began to emerge a century ago. They considered themselves entitled to resources and markets in foreign countries. Today, these corporations command more resources than many nations. Their wealth and power allows them to tell governments what to do. Those that comply remain in power, though with limited freedom of action. Those that resist risk destruction.
He did get that right; we are in the midst of the purest form of fa$ci$m ever.
The creation of the United Nations in 1945 marked the beginning of an era in which global organizations undermined national sovereignty. The UN, and the concept of “international law,” embody the seductive dream that countries can be persuaded to live according to rules set by others. This principle was embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It continued with UN-sanctioned wars against countries like Yugoslavia that were deemed uncooperative.
Today, it finds its most radical expression in the concept of “responsibility to protect,” which holds that faraway nations or groups of nations can decide whether a particular government is good or bad and, if it is too bad, attack and seek to crush it.
Nongovernmental organizations have jumped onto this bandwagon. Many consider themselves defenders of the oppressed. Regardless of whether one approves of their work, it is indisputably an attack on the idea of national sovereignty. Denouncing governments that are judged unfair to dissidents, women, religious minorities, gays, children, the handicapped, or anyone else is based on the premise that outside forces know better than local leaders how a country should be governed.
The most striking proof of the decline of the nation-state is the dramatically growing power of mercenary armies. Some countries — notably, the United States — now contract out much war-fighting to private corporations. Global charities like World Vision and Save the Children routinely hire “security contractors” to protect their enclaves. German mercenaries are reportedly fighting alongside pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Nigeria has hired South African mercenaries to fight the terror group Boko Haram. Private armies are the wave of the future.
Part of the past, too. That's what empires do.
To any student of ancient history, or even the history of the Middle Ages, this world order looks very familiar. Outposts such as the Venetian Republic and cities of the Hanseatic League were established mainly for trading purposes. Ottoman principalities were small and mostly homogenous, governed by local satraps within guidelines set by a distant potentate. The British hired German mercenaries to fight colonists in North America. National armies, where they existed, paled before the power of Crusaders, and armies-for-hire like the Knights Templar — not to mention rampaging hordes bent on conquest for looting.
In a world of true national sovereignty, every country would be free to set its own domestic and foreign policies. We pretend that we live in such a world. That is a delusion, as any Tibetan, Ukrainian, or Guatemalan could attest. The idea of nation-states with territorial integrity seemed like a good answer to the chaos of the 17th century. It may not survive the 21st.
Only problem is, we know what is the alternative.
Sorry, but globalism has failed for the vast majority of this planet.
"The world of threats to the US is an illusion" by Stephen Kinzer Globe Staff April 12, 2015
When Americans look out at the world, we see a swarm of threats.
China seems resurgent and ambitious. Russia is aggressive. Iran menaces our allies. Middle East nations we once relied on are collapsing in flames. Latin American leaders sound steadily more anti-Yankee. Terror groups capture territory and commit horrific atrocities. We fight Ebola with one hand while fending off Central American children with the other.
In fact, this world of threats is an illusion. The United States has no potent enemies. We are not only safe, but safer than any big power has been in all of modern history.
And the enemies we have -- ISIS and the like -- are government-created, funded, and directed entities, if they exist at all.
Geography is our greatest protector. Wide oceans separate us from potential aggressors. Our vast homeland is rich and productive. No other power on earth is blessed with this security.
Our other asset is the weakness of potential rivals. It will be generations before China is able to pose a serious challenge to the United States — and there is little evidence it wishes to do so. Russia is weak and in deep economic trouble — not always a friendly neighbor but no threat to the United States. Heart-rending violence in the Middle East has no serious implication for American security. As for domestic terrorism, the risk for Americans is modest: You have more chance of being struck by lightning on your birthday than of dying in a terror attack.
Promoting the image of a world full of enemies creates a “security psychosis” that misshapes our view of the world. It tempts us to interpret defensive steps taken by other countries as threatening. In extreme cases, it pushes us into wars aimed at preempting threats that do not actually exist.
I read one everyday, what of it?
Arms manufacturers profit from the security psychosis even more directly than militarists. Americans take our staggeringly large defense budget almost for granted, and lament continuously that other countries do not build as many exotic weapons systems as we do. Finding new threats is always good business for someone.
With the United State so dominant in global politics, it’s time to secure this low-threat world. Our strategic goal should be to keep our country as safe as it is now. That means bringing troublemaking countries out of their isolation. Ignoring their interests, or seeking “full-spectrum dominance” to assure that they cannot rise, provokes reactions that will be bad for us in the long run.
Last year, after Russia began encouraging upheaval in Ukraine, NATO decided to “suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia.
See what I mean? It was the U.S. that initiated the overthrow of Yanukovich for rejecting the EU offer in favor of Russia's more generous terms.
This stuff is as good as far as it goes; however, what used to elicit squeals of excitement (dissent in the Globe!) is now met with a jaundiced jade.
Moments of crisis, however, are precisely the times when contact is most urgent. We took advantage of Russia when it was powerless a quarter-century ago. Future peace requires taking its security concerns seriously rather than treating the country as an enemy that is always seeking to best us.
Our policy toward China is less aggressive, but beneath its surface is often a presumption that one day there must be a showdown between our two countries. The recent deal between Western nations and Iran is being sold as the taming of an enemy — although Iran is not our enemy. Neither is Cuba, despite the warnings of revanchists in Washington and elsewhere. Nor are most of the enemies-for-a-day that we eagerly seek, from Sandinistas in Nicaragua to Houthis in Yemen.
I recently asked a United States Navy officer what threats he believed the United States might confront in the future. To my astonishment, he answered, “Venezuela.” The South American country is in political crisis and careening toward bankruptcy. Its combat navy counts six frigates and two submarines, none of them seaworthy. Yet last month President Obama designated Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to US national security.” The search for enemies can lead to odd places.
See: World War III: South American Sphere
This impulse is not peculiarly American. Feeling threatened strengthens group solidarity. Some thinkers have gone so far as to suggest that since societies become more united and resolute in the face of enemies, those that have none should find some.
“It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love,” Freud wrote, “so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.” Nietzsche believed the nation-state’s “profound appreciation of the value of having enemies” produced a “spiritualization of hostility.” A young country especially, he said, “needs enemies more than friends: in opposition alone does it feel itself necessary.”
When Americans see threats everywhere, we fall into this trap. Believing we are besieged is strangely comforting. To recognize how safe we are would require a change of national mindset that we seem reluctant to make.
"America’s next president will carry a big stick" by Stephen Kinzer April 21, 2015
Our next president will be more interventionist, more likely to threaten and use military force, and less eager to negotiate.
America’s enthusiasm for waging foreign wars swings back and forth, like a pendulum. One generation is seized with fervor for fighting evil around the world. When these interventions fail or trigger “blowback,” the next generation becomes more cautious. This pendulum has been swinging for more than a century. We are now near the end of one pendulum swing.
Obama has expanded drone warfare and involved the United States dangerously in Yemen, but on other occasions he has bravely resisted pressure for military action. He brought most American troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. Later he rejected irresponsible calls to promote war in Georgia and Ukraine and to arm factions in Syria’s civil war.
!!!!!!!!!! There he goes citing the conventional narrative again!
Then Obama moved on to bigger game. His spectacular reconciliation with Cuba and Iran will stand as his greatest foreign policy achievement. No president since Nixon has so successfully rearranged pieces on the global chessboard.
When Obama assumed the presidency six years ago, he still embraced the presumption that military power can decisively advance American interests around the world. This is an article of faith in Washington. Obama has pinpointed the moment he stopped believing it.
In 2011 his advisors were deeply divided over whether to plunge the United States into war against the Khadafy regime in Libya. He finally sided with the interventionists, and ordered American fighter jets into action. That led to Khadafy’s overthrow and death, but it also turned Libya into a chaotic haven for terrorists. Obama says this taught him “a lesson I had to learn that still has ramifications to this day . . . a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene militarily?”
Libya’s collapse showed Obama that violent intervention in distant lands can lead to unforeseen disasters. Iraq taught the same lesson. Yet our next president will resist this truth. Beginning in January 2017, American foreign policy will drift closer to the snarling, ready-to-fight, “gunslinger nation” end of the pendulum.
“Our foreign policy is detente, which I’m pretty sure is French for surrender,” Senator Ted Cruz cracked a few months ago. That crystallized the world view of Republican presidential candidates. They compete to show belligerence and contempt for diplomacy.
Rand Paul wants the United Nations to “dissolve” because he doesn’t like the way “two-bit Third World countries with no freedom attack us and complain about the United States.” Marco Rubio favors sanctioning Cuba indefinitely. Scott Walker says facing down labor unions in Wisconsin equips him to deal with America’s enemies in the Middle East because “if I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Jeb Bush’s list of foreign policy advisors is thick with enablers of the Iraq war. Chris Christie vows intervention so that “freedom is not only protected where it is, but is pushed forward.” All these candidates are in various degrees of apoplexy over Obama’s overture to Iran.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has the benefit of diplomatic experience but is also a reflexive interventionist. She is a former Goldwater Girl who still sees the world through a Cold War lens. Her dogged support for the invasion of Iraq defines her approach to foreign policy. She was among those who urged Obama to order the disastrous bombing of Libya — and although he has expressed regrets, she never has. Like the Republican candidates, she caters to pro-Israel donors who promote US intervention in the Middle East while dangling campaign contributions.
WOW! He didn't say AIPAC, but....
We will look back on Obama longingly....
I'm afraid he may be right.
"Putin’s push into Ukraine is rational" by Stephen Kinzer February 25, 2015
A hyper-aggressive Russia, in the view of some Americans, is setting off a new and dangerous Cold War. Loud voices in Washington depict the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, as a richly empowered thug who is using his vast resources to lash out against his neighbors, Europe, the United States and the world. In fact Putin is a dangerously weak thug who is desperately trying to prevent the consummation of a Washington-based plan to surround his country with unfriendly forces.
Wrong. He's a statesman.
The immediate reason for American outrage at Russia is its intervention in Ukraine. Washington’s goal is to turn Ukraine and other countries bordering on Russia into political partners. That would bring Western power directly to Russia’s borders. American weaponry already stares into Russia from Latvia and Estonia. If Ukraine can be brought into NATO, as some in Washington openly hope, that would be another step toward the encirclement of Russia.
Rather than allow this to happen, Russia has mobilized its allies in Ukraine to resist.
Russia’s enemies, based principally in Washington, consider this a form of aggression. Yet any Russian leader who allowed Ukraine to join an enemy alliance would be betraying his country’s vital security interests.
All countries try to prevent the emergence of enemies on or near their borders. They seek what geo-politicians call “strategic depth.” It means the seizure, overtly or covertly, of control over enough adjacent territory to protect their homeland.
Like what Israel done.
Russia knows the value of “strategic depth” as well as any country on earth. It was invaded by Napoleon’s army in the 19th century and by Nazi Germany in the 20th century. The reason it brutally subjugated nations in Eastern Europe after World War II was that it wanted a buffer to prevent history from repeating itself.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the NATO alliance, which is dominated by the United States, saw its chance to advance against a prostrate Russia. Taking advantage of the trusting and naive Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the worst negotiators in modern history, NATO pushed Western military power into the Baltic states. The next step in this plan was to advance that power into Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.
The Ukraine piece of this strategy nearly worked. In 2013 American-supported protesters succeeded in overthrowing Ukraine’s elected government. The new regime endorsed the idea of inviting anti-Russian forces into Ukraine. That raised the specter of more American weapons directly on Russia’s borders. No responsible Russian leader could tolerate this.
The United States, unlike Russia, respects the sovereignty of its neighbors — but only because they are friendly. If Mexico were to invite Russia to build a military base in Tijuana, or if Canada were to allow Chinese missiles to be deployed in Vancouver, the United States would certainly react.
Related: World War III: Real Canadian Bacon
We would not wait to be attacked but would preempt the threat — by military means if necessary. This is precisely what Russia is doing in Ukraine. Rather than wait to be encircled, it is acting to defend its security perimeter.
These cold calculations are little comfort to suffering Ukrainians. Both of Ukraine’s main political factions — those favoring and opposing Russia — are sacrificing their country’s stability to big-power conflict. This does not perturb politicians or generals in Moscow and Washington. They are engaged in a high-stakes political battle in which the lives of ordinary people are expendable. Behind their crocodile tears, few Russian or American leaders care about Ukraine itself. They treat it as a pawn in big-power rivalry.
In the West, President Putin is often portrayed as a scheming despot determined to project Russian power as far as he can. That he is — but it is not the whole story. Putin leads a declining nation that is politically and militarily weak, riddled with corruption, and on the brink of economic collapse.
By pushing potentially hostile power onto Russia’s borders, Western leaders give Putin a chance to divert public attention away from his failures and cloak himself in the garb of Russian nationalism. Putin now enjoys sky-high approval ratings despite having guided his country into a pitiful morass.
Putin rules Russia in ways most Americans find repugnant, but his job is not to please Americans. Like any head of state or government, though, he must devote himself above all to defending his country against foreign power. Western support for Ukraine may be aimed in part at promoting democracy, but the parallel goal is to intimidate Russia. Putin is responding to this challenge. Before the United States sends weapons or military advisers to Ukraine, we should stop to consider how we would react if Russia did that in Mexico or Canada.
"Many countries, including US, are in denial" by Stephen Kinzer May 06, 2015
Denying historical truth is an impulse as old as history itself. In some countries it has become an ingrained reflex. Yet until we examine our own history more honestly, we should resist the impulse to point accusatory fingers at the deniers.
Last month marked the 100th anniversary of the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in what is now eastern Turkey. The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lashed out at countries that have recognized this slaughter as genocide. He was wrong to assert that these are “claims constructed on Armenian lies.” His advice to countries that have accused the Ottoman Empire of genocide, however, was trenchant: “They should first, one by one, clean the stains on their own histories.”
Denial is a seasonal sport in Turkey, reaching a peak every April when the genocide of 1915 is commemorated. In other places it is year-round. Japan is a perennial champion in the denial business, steadfastly refusing to recognize the crimes its forces committed during World War II, including massacres in China and the sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of Korean women. On his recent tour of the United States, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe missed another chance to break out of his cocoon of historical mendacity.
Any more advice?
Polish and Hungarian leaders protested when the director of the FBI asserted recently that some people in their countries helped the Nazis kill Jews — although this is a clearly documented historical fact. In Russia, a new museum exhibition about World War II barely mentions the fact that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were partners in a non-aggression pact. Another museum, Perm-36, which documents Soviet repression and was built on the site of a former labor camp, has said it will soon close because the government has cut off funding.
States, like people, shape their histories to serve the needs of the present. Remembering the good we have done makes us feel positive. We often minimize or even deny what we have done wrong. This can be unhealthy for individuals. For countries, it is pernicious.
Recognizing or apologizing for the wrongs of one’s nation is painful, but it can be powerfully effective. In 2010, after an official report showed that British soldiers had killed civilians in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister David Cameron did not try to sugarcoat the truth. He began his apology by saying he is “deeply patriotic,” but then called the killings “unjustified and unjustifiable,” and said he was “deeply sorry.”
Words like those do not come easily to leaders of Turkey, Japan, Poland, Hungary, Russia — or the United States. In 1988, an American missile destroyed an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people aboard. Every year on the anniversary, Iranians mark the tragedy by throwing flowers into the sea. The United States has remained faithful to what President George H. W. Bush said at the time: “I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are.”
Some admissions of past guilt become easier as time passes. It took half a century for France to recognize that French leaders helped the Nazis deport Jews during World War II; by that measure, sometime around 2034 France may get around to acknowledging its role in the Rwandan genocide. A century passed before the United States apologized to Hawaiians for deposing their native government and seizing their country in the 1890s.
Facing history is easier in countries with open societies, but even in those countries it is as rare as it is painful. Only a few nations — Germany is the sterling example — examine the past honestly. Most stress their achievements and minimize what is unflattering. Americans never tire of stories about World War II because they show us as we believe we are: liberators who fight tyranny and bring democracy. Textbooks that devote long chapters to that war rarely even mention American operations that destroyed democracy in places like Guatemala, Iran, and Chile.
No country willingly abases, accuses, or flagellates itself. Often this impulse leads to denial of historical truth. We are right to condemn nations that seek to shape history to their liking. It would be a mistake, however, to believe that we are not among them.
The Kinzer collection is now closed, and while speaking of shaping history:
A New Look at the Good War
How Hitler Saved Europe
That's not the history I was taught.
UPDATE: Turkey’s Erdogan sued over gold toilet remark
That's $weet $melling $hit then.