Posts Tagged ‘Gorbachev’

Lobster Review of Book Revealing Very Different View of the Crisis in the Ukraine

March 6, 2019

Lobster has posted a very interesting review by their long-term contributor, Scott Newton, of Richard Sakwa’s book on the current geopolitical tensions over Ukraine, Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (London: I.B. Tauris). Sakwa is the professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent.  In this book, he tackles and refutes the story peddled to us by the mainstream media that the current confrontation between NATO and Russia and the civil war in Ukraine are due to Russian imperialism under Putin.

Sakwa is under no illusions how brutal and corrupt Putin’s regime is, but the book argues that in this instance, Russia is the victim. He argues that at the heart of the crisis is a conflict between two forms of Ukrainian nationalism. One wants a strong, united Ukraine centred firmly on Kiev, with Ukrainian as the sole official language, looking to the EU and the West, with its economy based on free trade and private industry. This form of Ukrainian nationalism is hostile to Russia, which is particularly resents because of the Holodomor, the horrific artificial famine created by Soviet collectivisation in the 1930s. The government is roughly liberal, but includes Fascists. The second form of Ukrainian nationalism is popular in the south and east, which are predominantly Russian-speaking, whose families and businesses have links with Russia, and which is dominated by heavy industry and reliant on trade with Russia. This wants a federal Ukraine, with both Ukrainian and Russian as the official languages.

The review discusses the origins of the Maidan Revolution, directed against the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych, who had just signed a trade agreement with Russia. The nationalist regime which replaced him, led by Petro Poroshenko, was of the first, pro-western, anti-Russian type, was strongly influence by the Far Right, whose squads massacred anti-Maidan demonstrators. This regime set about demolishing Soviet-era monuments, establishing Ukrainian as the country’s only official language, and repudiating the agreement allowing Russia to station its ships in Sebastopol until 2042. As a result, Russia seized the Crimea, which had been Russian until 1954 and the Russian-speaking areas in the south and east seceded and split into different autonomous republics. Kiev responded by sending in troops, but this has led to a stalemate so far. The West supports Kiev, seeing Putin’s support of the Ukrainian separatists as the Russian president’s attempt to undermine the political order which emerged after the collapse of Communist in 1991.

Sakwa instead views Putin as reacting purely to preserve Russia from possible NATO aggression. This is the based on the original agreement with former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not expand into eastern Europe. Gorby also hoped to create a new international system in which the world would not be dominated by a single superpower, but there would be a number of different leading states, whose cultures and economic and political systems would differ. These difference would be respected, and they would all work together for international peace. This has been violated by the West, which has expanded eastward into Ukraine, which has also signed the Lisbon agreement with the EU. Putin’s response, which you don’t hear about, is to call for a federal, pluralist, non-aligned Ukraine, which cooperates with both Brussels and Moscow, and whose security is guaranteed by both sides.

There is also an economic dimension to this. The West wishes to promote laissez-faire capitalism. But this didn’t work when it was introduced into Russia by Yeltsin. This type of capitalism has been rejected, and 51 per cent of the Russian economy is owned by the state. Sakwa also notes that Putin has been active building up an alternative political and economic system across the globe, in eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Syria, and Cuba and Venezuela, as well as a system of alliances with the BRICS economies, as well as a Eurasian Economic Union with the former Soviet republics of central Asia. It is also cooperating with the China on the new silk road. The result has been that Russia has created a ‘second world alliance’ system with its own financial institutions and systems of international government.

Newton says of the book that

Sakwa’s argument that the Ukrainian crisis results from the destabilization of the country by forces committed to militantly anti-Russian nationalism, egged on by former Soviet bloc countries and external interference by the United States and the European Union, propelled by a dogmatic and triumphalist liberal universalism, is highly persuasive. 

This is how it appears to me, from reading previous discussions of events in Ukraine from Lobster and other, alternative news sources. As well as the fact that if Putin really did want to conquer all of Ukraine, he surely would have been able to do so, and not stopped with Crimea and the east.

Newton also wonders why we haven’t seen Sakwa, with his impressive command of Russian and eastern European history, in the media.

There can be very few academics now operating who possess Richard Sakwa’s expertise in modern Russian (including Soviet and post-Soviet) international history. Why, then, do we not seen more of him in the mainstream media, both broadcasting and print? He has been on RT, discussing the Skripal poisonings amongst other things (no doubt leading 
some to suspect him of being an apologist for Putin, which he certainly is not). But I have never seen him on (for example) BBC or Channel 4 (this does not of course mean he has never been interviewed there but it does suggest that any appearances have been somewhat limited). Why? Is this an accidental oversight, or are his opinions deemed by news and current affairs editors to be ‘unhelpful’?

That’s a very good question. My guess, given how the anti-Putin view is just about the only one accepted and promoted by the media, including Private Eye, is that current affairs editors really do see him as ‘unhelpful’. And this amounts, as Newton discusses at the beginning of his review, to fake news and fake history. 

For more information, go to:

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster77/lob77-frontline-ukraine.pdf

 

 

Advertisements

Steve Bell Cartoon in Guardian Spiked for Supposed ‘Anti-Semitism’

June 8, 2018

More fake accusations of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby to censor criticism of their barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Guardian editor Kath Viner had spiked a Cartoon by Steve Bell commenting on the shooting of the Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar. This showed May and Netanyahu having a cosy chat around the fireplace, in which al-Najjar is burning. The cartoon was intended to show the complete indifference to al-Najjar’s murder by the IDF. But Kath Viner decided it was anti-Semitic, because she thought it compared the actions of modern Jews to those of the Nazis in the Holocaust. Bell himself strongly rejects any such comparison, and wrote to her in an email, saying

“I cannot for the life of me begin to understand criticism of the cartoon that begins by dragging in ‘wood-burning stoves’, ‘ovens’, ‘holocaust’, or any other nazi-related nonsense.

“That was the last thing on my mind when I drew it, I had no intention of conflating the issues of the mass murder of European Jews and Gaza.

“It’s a fireplace, in front of which VIP visitors to Downing Street are always pictured… and the figure of Razan al-Najjar is burning in the grate. It’s a widely known photograph of her, becoming iconic across the Arab world and the burning is of course symbolic. She’s dead, she was shot and killed by the IDF while doing her job as a medic.”

He said he suspected “the reason that you did not get in touch was because you did not really have an argument. The cartoon is sensitive, not tasteless, not disrespectful, and certainly contains no anti-Semitic tropes.”

Mike makes the point here that the people making the accusation of anti-Semitism see what they want to see. They expect to see anti-Semitism, and so they see anti-Semitism. And so they ignore issues of authorial intent, context and commonsense.

Mike makes the point that it is not anti-Semitic to point out that an unarmed medic was murdered by an Israeli soldier, nor anti-Semitic to point out that Britain’s own response to the murder has been lukewarm. He goes on to say it is not anti-Semitic to question whether this lack of an appropriately strong response is due to the immense amount of trade Britain does with Israel, or whether the arms we sold them were used in her killing. He goes on to conclude that if the author’s intent is ignored in the interpretation of the image, then it’s the wrong interpretation.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/07/guardian-cartoonist-steve-bell-accused-of-anti-semitism-over-razan-al-najjar-image/

I’m not surprised that Bell has been censored because of this cartoon. The Israel lobby regularly responds to criticism of the barbarism it metes out the Palestinians with accusations of anti-Semitism, including cartoons. A few years ago, Mark Regev, the noxious, lying Israeli ambassador, sent an angry letter to the I attacking a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe about the construction of the anti-Palestinian wall as ‘anti-Semitic’. Why? The cartoon showed Netanyahu building the wall using the blood of murdered Palestinians as mortar. He decided that this was anti-Semitic because it referred to the ‘Blood Libel’, the vile anti-Semitic myth that Jews murder Christians and use their blood to make the matzo bread eaten at Passover. The cartoon did nothing of the sort, but nevertheless, the I caved and issued an apology.

And last week a German cartoonist was accused of anti-Semitism and sacked for the alleged anti-Semitism of his caricature of Netanyahu. Klein, the minister or civil servant responsible for rooting out anti-Semitism, decided that this was anti-Semitic because it exaggerated Netanyahu’s nose and lips, just like the caricatures of the Jews produced by the Nazis and other anti-Semites. It’s a highly debatable point. caricaturists work by exaggerating features, including, and often particularly, the nose and lips. Germany has been very pro-Israel since the end of the Second World War, partly out of guilt for the Holocaust, and Jews are actually treated very well there. So much so that it’s a favoured destination for young Israelis to go on holiday. a few weeks ago I found an article published in Counterpunch by a radical, anti-racist German journo, which followed the Israeli embassy in Germany in equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Which is what the real issue is here: suppressing criticism of Israel.

As for Bell’s cartoon, he is certainly not alone in depicting political figures holding their talks around the fireside. in the 1980s, the games comic Diceman ran one game story in which the reader played Ronald Reagan, desperate to save the world from nuclear war. One scene showed him and Gorbachev holding talks around a blazing fire. As Reagan droned on, Gorby dozed, and the artist, Hunt Emerson, had great fun drawing all kinds of figures in the fire. At one point the flames made little KKK figures, who joined hands and danced. I’m afraid I can’t put my hands on the issue at the moment, otherwise I’d put up the image, but it’s around here somewhere. There is nothing as strong as that in Bell’s cartoon.

And the Guardian has always, like other newspapers, been under pressure to spike any reports of Israeli atrocities. Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Guardian, described in the Channel 4 Despatches documentary on the power of the Israel lobby, how after accurately reporting them, he would be visited by someone from the Israel lobby or the Board of Deputies of British Jews, complete with their pet lawyer, who would rant and rave about how such reports were anti-Semitic. After his reporting of the Gaza bombardment, the two visitors claimed that the newspaper’s accounts were anti-Semitic, because they would encourage people to attack Jews in the street. Which didn’t happen.

Since then, the newspaper has been the conduit for the Israel lobby’s propaganda. For example, they once ran an article by Steve Pollard of the libel organisation the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which claimed that the far-right, anti-immigrant president of Poland couldn’t be anti-Semitic, because ‘he was a good friend of Israel’. Well, the Israelis have all kinds of ‘good friends’ who are Fascists and anti-Semites. They’ve welcomed Alt-Right leader Steve Bannon to one of their military jamborees, and had Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt-Right, on their television. Why? Spencer describes himself as a ‘White Zionist’, who admires Israel as the kind of racially pure ethnostate he’d like America to become, but for Whites only. Tony Greenstein was so angered by the Groan’s switch from objective reporting to servile pro-Israel commentary, that he wrote Viner or her subordinates a letter of complaint.

This isn’t about real anti-Semitism in the press. This is about censoring criticism of Israel, using the horrific suffering of Jews in the Holocaust as a pretext. It’s a disgusting desecration of their memory as well as a gross libel on the cartoonists. Viner, Klein and Regev should be ashamed.

More Warmongering by the Beeb and the Tories over Salisbury Poisoning

March 22, 2018

Quite a few people have put up pieces tearing great, raw chunks out of the government’s story that the Russians are responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Salisbury. Last week, Leftwingnobody, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted up a link on his blog to a piece in the Irish Times, which stated that it was unlikely the Russians were responsible. Leftwingnobody’s link is at https://leftwingnobody.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/unlikely-that-vladimir-putin-behind-skripal-poisoning/?wref=tp. Go to it, and follow the link for more information.
Craig Murray, who was formerly our man in Uzbekistan, before being kicked out because he had moral objections to our dealing with a corrupt, repressive tyrant, has also cast doubt on the government’s story. And Mike has also posted up continuing developments, which add more questions. Today he put up a piece quoting the Russians, who said that if they had used military grade nerve agents, then far more people would have been affected than the Skripals and the poor cop, who was poisoned. And they would all be dead, not incapacitated. Which is how it struck me. Furthermore, the Russians couldn’t use their original stocks of the Novichoks poison, because this would have decayed after 27 years. Quite apart from the fact that the international chemical weapons authority confirmed the Russians had destroyed them. But as the scientist, who developed the toxin revealed, the knowledge of how to manufacture it is now out in the public sector, and so any number of countries or individuals could be behind the attack. Porton Down has refused to confirm that the Russians were responsible, and stated only that the nerve agent was of ‘Russian manufacture’.

But as far as May and the Tories, and their lapdogs in the Beeb are concerned, the Russians are responsible, and we’re facing a new threat from Putin. Who, according to BoJo, is now like Hitler. At least in the way he’s going to use next year’s world cup in Moscow, which will be like the Berlin Olympics in 1938.

I caught May pontificating on the Six O’clock News about how the Russians were threatening us and our European allies. The report also said she was trying to persuade the other European leaders to join her. Queue a shot of Angela Merkel going down a corridor, looking grim and serious. Then it moved on to Boris, saying that he wasn’t trying to stoke tensions with his wild comparison with Hitler. And on the local news this evening, they were also talking about the Salisbury poisoning and described the chemical used as ‘the Russian nerve agent’, although this is still open to doubt. Back to the Six O’clock News, the Beeb showed an Estonian diplomat talking about the Russian threat.

This is dangerous talk, whatever nonsense BoJo might try to bluster in order to justify his absurd comments. The Russians lost 20 million people fighting Hitler during the War. Millions of their squaddies were starved and worked to death as slave labourers after being captured as P.O.W.s by the Nazis. It’s therefore highly offensive for BoJo to make this stupid, insulting comparison. Also, as Simon Reeve showed in his documentary series about Russia a few months ago, the Russians are genuinely proud of their armed forces and the way they defended their homeland during the Great Patriotic War. Their equivalent of Remembrance Day/ Veteran’s Day is far more like a party, with food and drink, as well as marches and speeches, than the very solemn and austere ceremonies we go through every November 11.

I don’t doubt that Putin will try to exploit the World Cup to promote his government and his country, but the accusation that he will is more than a little hypocritical. Every government uses international sporting events like the World Cup, or the Olympics, to promote themselves. I can still remember the Americans at the Atlanta Olympics in the 1980s. As for Russia threatening Europe, in many cases it’s the other way. Russia is ringed by NATO bases right along its borders. This was after the original treaty with Gorbachev pledged NATO not to expand up to its borders in return for Gorby withdrawing all their troops from eastern Europe and allowing the former satellites to go their own way. I’m sympathetic to the fears of the Baltic States, who were reincorporated into the USSR after a brief period of independence when Stalin threw the Germans back in World War II. But at the same time, the Estonians are building monuments to Nazi collaborators as national heroes. And the supposedly democratic government of the Ukraine includes real, uniformed Nazis, who are now out on the streets of Kiev to keep order. But you won’t find that mentioned on the news, because obviously, the vast majority of people in this country will not want to support a blatantly Fascist regime.

So once again, we’re being fed lies by the Tories and the media, lies which could take us to war. And who benefits? Well, May and the Tories, obviously. She was seven points behind Labour in the polls, and the Tories are looking at being wiped out in London. Thus, she’s trying to copy Thatcher, and act like a ‘bargain-basement Boadicea’, rattling her sabre furiously. The real reason for this tension is less a military threat from Russia, and far more the fact that the American multinationals, who thought they would get to control the Russian economy under Yeltsin, have found themselves stymied by Putin. It’s like the Iraq invasion all over again: dodgy claims of weapons of mass destruction, and economic motives – western corporate interests – disguised as an attack, or resistance to, an evil tyrant.

Putin is a thug, and a real enemy of democracy. Journalists and opposition politicians in Russia have been arbitrarily arrested, jailed, beaten and murdered by his thugs. And I don’t doubt that at least some of the 14 Russians, who’ve died over here in suspicious circumstances, have been assassinated by him. But Corbyn is right about the Salisbury poisoning. It isn’t clear that he’s behind it, and we need far more proof before stoking up international tensions.

But the Tories are doing it anyway, for their own cynical electoral advantage, and those of their corporate financers. And if there is a war, the people who will pay the price will be ordinary working people. When Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, the Republican Neocon leadership were very careful to make sure that none of their sons or daughters were likely to be posted to the conflict zone. As opposed to the poor and working class, whose districts were targeted by the recruiting sergeants.

As for Boris, looking at the way he has conducted himself as foreign secretary, I can only agree with the Russians. It is amazing that he is the spokesman of a nuclear power. Actually, it’s downright terrifying.

For all our sakes, we need the media to hold May and the rest to account, to ask the hard questions that Laura Kuenssberg and the rest of the Beeb’s pro-Tory lackeys aren’t asking. Before the Tories start another war for the benefit of multinational capital.

Spitting Image on Peter Wright and Spycatcher

January 16, 2015

Last week I put up long blog post about Adam Curtis’ article, ‘Bugger’ at his site on the BBC discussing the long history of incompetence and paranoia in MI5. In it I mentioned the fiasco over the former spy, Peter Wright, and the publication of his book, Spycatcher. Wright was one of the spies, like the head of the CIA, James Jesus Angleton, who believed that the British Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was a KGB agent. Wright published his book, Spycatcher, in 1987. This was immediately banned in Britain because it was considered to have broken the Official Secrets Act with one of its disclosures. The ban became an unenforceable farce, however, as the book was freely available just about everywhere else in the world, and so people took to ordering it from America. Never slow to mock the sheer stupidity of the authorities, Spitting Image made several sketches satirising it and Wright himself.

Here’s Spitting Image satirising the ban on Spycatcher:

In this sketch, the Gorbachevs watch Blind Date and discuss Spycatcher, concluding that Maggie would have made a great Soviet leader:

And in this sketch, ‘The Spy Who Came in from Australia’, a Bond spoof, Wright is portrayed as writing his book simply because he was annoyed about not getting his pension. The sketch mentions MI5’s bugging of CND’s phones, and their destabilisation of the Labour Party.