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FTR#1247 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lies?, Part 20

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“Polit­i­cal language…is designed to make lies sound truth­ful and mur­der respectable, and to give an appear­ance of solid­i­ty to pure wind.”

— George Orwell, 1946

EVERYTHING MR. EMORY HAS BEEN SAYING ABOUT THE UKRAINE WAR IS ENCAPSULATED IN THIS VIDEO FROM UKRAINE 24

ANOTHER REVEALING VIDEO FROM UKRAINE 24

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FTR#1247 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Colonel Jacques Baud

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram fea­tures a read­ing of an inter­view done with Colonel Jacques Baud by The Pos­til.

Key Points of Dis­cus­sion and Analy­sis: As with the two ana­lyt­i­cal pieces Baud did on the con­duct and progress of the war itself, Colonel Baud stress­es that the pic­ture of the Ukraine War being pre­sent­ed by West­ern politi­cians and media voic­es con­sists of what they want to hap­pen, rather than the infor­ma­tion that would be pro­vid­ed by a good intel­li­gence ser­vice, which would present the sit­u­a­tion as it actu­al­ly exists:

  • “ . . . . As a result, we tend to por­tray the ene­my as we wished him to be, rather than as he actu­al­ly is. This is the ulti­mate recipe for fail­ure. . . .”
  • . . . . First, most peo­ple, includ­ing politi­cians and jour­nal­ists, still con­fuse Rus­sia and the USSR. For instance, they don’t under­stand why the com­mu­nist par­ty is the main oppo­si­tion par­ty in Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Most peo­ple, includ­ing the top brass, tend to con­fuse ‘Rus­sia’ and ‘USSR.’ As I was in NATO, I could hard­ly find some­one who could explain what Russia’s vision of the world is or even its polit­i­cal doc­trine. Lot of peo­ple think Vladimir Putin is a com­mu­nist. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In 2014, dur­ing the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion in Kiev, I was in NATO in Brus­sels. I noticed that peo­ple didn’t assess the sit­u­a­tion as it was, but as they wished it would be. This is exact­ly what Sun Tzu describes as the first step towards fail­ure. . . .”
  • “ . . . . We like to call him [Putin] a ‘dic­ta­tor,’ but we have a hard time to explain what we mean by that. As exam­ples, peo­ple come up invari­ably with the assas­si­na­tion of such and such jour­nal­ist or for­mer FSB or GRU agents, although evi­dence is extreme­ly debat­able. . . .”
  • “ . . . . the Ger­man doc­tors in the Char­ité Hos­pi­tal in Berlin, were not able to iden­ti­fy any nerve agent in Navalny’s body. Sur­pris­ing­ly, they pub­lished their find­ingsin the respect­ed med­ical review The Lancet, show­ing that Naval­ny prob­a­bly expe­ri­enced a bad com­bi­na­tion of med­i­cine and oth­er sub­stances. The Swedish mil­i­tary lab that ana­lyzed Navalny’s blood—redact­ed the name of the sub­stance they dis­cov­ered, which is odd since every­body expect­ed ‘Novi­chok’ to be men­tioned. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In fact, it appeared clear to me that nobody in NATO had the slight­est inter­est in Ukraine. The main goal was to desta­bi­lize Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The prob­lem here is that these far-right fanat­ics threat­ened to kill Zelen­sky were he to try to make peace with Rus­sia. As a result, Zelen­sky found him­self sit­ting between his promis­es and the vio­lent oppo­si­tion of an increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful far-right move­ment. In May 2019, on the Ukrain­ian media Obozre­va­tel, Dmytro Yarosh, head of the ‘Pravy Sek­tor’ mili­tia and advis­er to the Army Com­man­der in Chief, open­ly threat­ened Zelen­sky with death, if he came to an agree­ment with Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . I am not sure about the so-called ‘col­or-rev­o­lu­tions’ aim at spread­ing democ­ra­cy. My take is that it is just a way to weaponize human rights, the rule of law or democ­ra­cy in order to achieve geo-strate­gic objec­tives. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Ukraine is a case in point. After 2014, despite West­ern influ­ence, it has nev­er been a democ­ra­cy: cor­rup­tion soared between 2014 and 2020; in 2021, it banned oppo­si­tion media and jailed the leader of the main par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion par­ty. As some inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions have report­ed, tor­ture is a com­mon prac­tice, and oppo­si­tion lead­ers as well as jour­nal­ists are chasedby the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice. . . .”
  • “ . . . . But as soon as you come up with west­ern data that do not fit into the main­stream nar­ra­tive, you have extrem­ists claim­ing you ‘love Putin.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . Our media are so wor­ried about find­ing ratio­nal­i­ty in Putin’s actions that they turn a blind eye to the crimes com­mit­ted by Ukraine, thus gen­er­at­ing a feel­ing of impuni­ty for which Ukraini­ans are pay­ing the price. This is the case of the attack on civil­ians by a mis­sile in Kramatorsk—we no longer talk about it because the respon­si­bil­i­ty of Ukraine is very like­ly, but this means that the Ukraini­ans could do it again with impuni­ty. . . .”
  • “ . . . . With the end of the Cold War, Rus­sia expect­ed being able to devel­op clos­er rela­tions with its West­ern neigh­bors. It even con­sid­ered join­ing NATO. But the US resist­ed every attempt of rap­proche­ment. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The pur­pose of this incred­i­ble polar­iza­tion is to pre­vent any dia­logue or nego­ti­a­tion with Rus­sia. We are back to what hap­pened in 1914, just before the start of WWI. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Since 2014, I haven’t met any intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­al who could con­firm any Russ­ian mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Don­bass. In fact, Crimea became the main ‘evi­dence’ of Russ­ian ‘inter­ven­tion.’ Of course, West­ern his­to­ri­ans ignore superbly that Crimea was sep­a­rat­ed from Ukraine by ref­er­en­dum in Jan­u­ary 1990, six months before Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence and under Sovi­et rule. In fact, it’s Ukraine that ille­gal­ly annexed Crimea in 1995. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Regard­less of what Rus­sia does, US and west­ern strat­e­gy is to weak­en it. From that point on, Rus­sia has no real stake in its rela­tions with us. Again, the US objec­tive is not to have a ‘bet­ter’ Ukraine or a ‘bet­ter’ Rus­sia, but a weak­er Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . As Hen­ry Kissinger said in the Wash­ing­ton Post: ‘For the West, the demo­niza­tion of Vladimir Putin is not a pol­i­cy; it is an ali­bi for the absence of one.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . I think the decay of US hege­mo­ny will be the main fea­ture of the next decades. . . . . The loss of con­fi­dence in the US dol­lar may have sig­nif­i­cant impact on the US econ­o­my at large. . . . a sig­nif­i­cant dete­ri­o­ra­tion could lead the Unit­ed States to engage in more con­flicts around the world. This is some­thing that we are see­ing today . . . .”

1.  We begin by read­ing an inter­view The Pos­til did with Colonel Baud. We will con­tin­ue with this inter­view next week.

Key Points of Dis­cus­sion and Analy­sis: As with the two ana­lyt­i­cal pieces Baud did on the con­duct and progress of the war itself, Colonel Baud stress­es that the pic­ture of the Ukraine War being pre­sent­ed by West­ern politi­cians and media voic­es con­sists of what they want to hap­pen, rather than the infor­ma­tion that would be pro­vid­ed by a good intel­li­gence ser­vice, which would present the sit­u­a­tion as it actu­al­ly exists:

  • “ . . . . As a result, we tend to por­tray the ene­my as we wished him to be, rather than as he actu­al­ly is. This is the ulti­mate recipe for fail­ure. . . .”
  • . . . . First, most peo­ple, includ­ing politi­cians and jour­nal­ists, still con­fuse Rus­sia and the USSR. For instance, they don’t under­stand why the com­mu­nist par­ty is the main oppo­si­tion par­ty in Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Most peo­ple, includ­ing the top brass, tend to con­fuse ‘Rus­sia’ and ‘USSR.’ As I was in NATO, I could hard­ly find some­one who could explain what Russia’s vision of the world is or even its polit­i­cal doc­trine. Lot of peo­ple think Vladimir Putin is a com­mu­nist. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In 2014, dur­ing the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion in Kiev, I was in NATO in Brus­sels. I noticed that peo­ple didn’t assess the sit­u­a­tion as it was, but as they wished it would be. This is exact­ly what Sun Tzu describes as the first step towards fail­ure. . . .”
  • “ . . . . We like to call him [Putin] a ‘dic­ta­tor,’ but we have a hard time to explain what we mean by that. As exam­ples, peo­ple come up invari­ably with the assas­si­na­tion of such and such jour­nal­ist or for­mer FSB or GRU agents, although evi­dence is extreme­ly debat­able. . . .”
  • “ . . . . the Ger­man doc­tors in the Char­ité Hos­pi­tal in Berlin, were not able to iden­ti­fy any nerve agent in Navalny’s body. Sur­pris­ing­ly, they pub­lished their find­ingsin the respect­ed med­ical review The Lancet, show­ing that Naval­ny prob­a­bly expe­ri­enced a bad com­bi­na­tion of med­i­cine and oth­er sub­stances. The Swedish mil­i­tary lab that ana­lyzed Navalny’s blood—redact­ed the name of the sub­stance they dis­cov­ered, which is odd since every­body expect­ed ‘Novi­chok’ to be men­tioned. . . .”
  • “ . . . . In fact, it appeared clear to me that nobody in NATO had the slight­est inter­est in Ukraine. The main goal was to desta­bi­lize Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The prob­lem here is that these far-right fanat­ics threat­ened to kill Zelen­sky were he to try to make peace with Rus­sia. As a result, Zelen­sky found him­self sit­ting between his promis­es and the vio­lent oppo­si­tion of an increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful far-right move­ment. In May 2019, on the Ukrain­ian media Obozre­va­tel, Dmytro Yarosh, head of the ‘Pravy Sek­tor’ mili­tia and advis­er to the Army Com­man­der in Chief, open­ly threat­ened Zelen­sky with death, if he came to an agree­ment with Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . I am not sure about the so-called ‘col­or-rev­o­lu­tions’ aim at spread­ing democ­ra­cy. My take is that it is just a way to weaponize human rights, the rule of law or democ­ra­cy in order to achieve geo-strate­gic objec­tives. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Ukraine is a case in point. After 2014, despite West­ern influ­ence, it has nev­er been a democ­ra­cy: cor­rup­tion soared between 2014 and 2020; in 2021, it banned oppo­si­tion media and jailed the leader of the main par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion par­ty. As some inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions have report­ed, tor­ture is a com­mon prac­tice, and oppo­si­tion lead­ers as well as jour­nal­ists are chasedby the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice. . . .”
  • “ . . . . But as soon as you come up with west­ern data that do not fit into the main­stream nar­ra­tive, you have extrem­ists claim­ing you ‘love Putin.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . Our media are so wor­ried about find­ing ratio­nal­i­ty in Putin’s actions that they turn a blind eye to the crimes com­mit­ted by Ukraine, thus gen­er­at­ing a feel­ing of impuni­ty for which Ukraini­ans are pay­ing the price. This is the case of the attack on civil­ians by a mis­sile in Kramatorsk—we no longer talk about it because the respon­si­bil­i­ty of Ukraine is very like­ly, but this means that the Ukraini­ans could do it again with impuni­ty. . . .”
  • “ . . . . With the end of the Cold War, Rus­sia expect­ed being able to devel­op clos­er rela­tions with its West­ern neigh­bors. It even con­sid­ered join­ing NATO. But the US resist­ed every attempt of rap­proche­ment. . . .”
  • “ . . . . The pur­pose of this incred­i­ble polar­iza­tion is to pre­vent any dia­logue or nego­ti­a­tion with Rus­sia. We are back to what hap­pened in 1914, just before the start of WWI. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Since 2014, I haven’t met any intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­al who could con­firm any Russ­ian mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Don­bass. In fact, Crimea became the main ‘evi­dence’ of Russ­ian ‘inter­ven­tion.’ Of course, West­ern his­to­ri­ans ignore superbly that Crimea was sep­a­rat­ed from Ukraine by ref­er­en­dum in Jan­u­ary 1990, six months before Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence and under Sovi­et rule. In fact, it’s Ukraine that ille­gal­ly annexed Crimea in 1995. . . .”
  • “ . . . . Regard­less of what Rus­sia does, US and west­ern strat­e­gy is to weak­en it. From that point on, Rus­sia has no real stake in its rela­tions with us. Again, the US objec­tive is not to have a ‘bet­ter’ Ukraine or a ‘bet­ter’ Rus­sia, but a weak­er Rus­sia. . . .”
  • “ . . . . As Hen­ry Kissinger said in the Wash­ing­ton Post: ‘For the West, the demo­niza­tion of Vladimir Putin is not a pol­i­cy; it is an ali­bi for the absence of one.’ . . .”
  • “ . . . . I think the decay of US hege­mo­ny will be the main fea­ture of the next decades. . . . . The loss of con­fi­dence in the US dol­lar may have sig­nif­i­cant impact on the US econ­o­my at large. . . . a sig­nif­i­cant dete­ri­o­ra­tion could lead the Unit­ed States to engage in more con­flicts around the world. This is some­thing that we are see­ing today . . . .”

“Our Inter­view with Jacques Baud”; The Pos­til; 5/1/2022.

In this pen­e­trat­ing inter­view, Jacques Baud delves into geopol­i­tics to help us bet­ter under­stand what is actu­al­ly tak­ing place in the Ukraine, in that it is ulti­mate­ly the larg­er strug­gle for glob­al dom­i­nance, led by the Unit­ed States, NATO and the polit­i­cal lead­ers of the West and against Rus­sia.

As always, Colonel Baud brings to bear his well-informed analy­sis, which is unique for its depth and grav­i­ty. We are sure that you will find this con­ser­va­tion infor­ma­tive, insight­ful and cru­cial in con­nect­ing the dots.

The Pos­til (TP): We are so very pleased to have you join us for this con­ver­sa­tion. Would you please tell us a lit­tle about your­self, about your back­ground?

Jacques Baud (JB): Thank you for invit­ing me! As to my edu­ca­tion, I have a master’s degree in Econo­met­rics and post­grad­u­ate diplo­mas in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions and in Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty from the Grad­u­ate Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al rela­tions in Gene­va (Switzer­land). I worked as strate­gic intel­li­gence offi­cer in the Swiss Depart­ment of Defense, and was in charge of the War­saw Pact armed forces, includ­ing those deployed abroad (such as Afghanistan, Cuba, Ango­la, etc.) I attend­ed intel­li­gence train­ing in the UK and in the US. Just after the end of the Cold War, I head­ed for a few years a unit in the Swiss Defense Research and Pro­cure­ment Agency. Dur­ing the Rwan­da War, because of my mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence back­ground, I was sent to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Con­go as secu­ri­ty advis­er to pre­vent eth­nic cleans­ing in the Rwan­dan refugee camps.

Dur­ing my time in the intel­li­gence ser­vice, I was in touch with the Afghan resis­tance move­ment of Ahmed Shah Masood, and I wrote a small hand­book to help Afghans in dem­i­ning and neu­tral­iz­ing Sovi­et bomblets. In the mid-1990, the strug­gle against antiper­son­nel mines became a for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty of Switzer­land. I pro­posed to cre­ate a cen­ter that would col­lect infor­ma­tion about land­mines and dem­i­ning tech­nolo­gies for the UN. This led to the cre­ation of the Gene­va Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Human­i­tar­i­an Dem­i­ning in Gene­va. I was lat­er offered to head the Pol­i­cy and Doc­trine Unit of the UN Depart­ment of Peace­keep­ing Oper­a­tions. After two years in New York, I went to Nairo­bi to per­form a sim­i­lar job for the African Union.

Then I was assigned to NATO to counter the pro­lif­er­a­tion of small arms. Switzer­land is not a mem­ber of the Alliance, but this par­tic­u­lar posi­tion had been nego­ti­at­ed as a Swiss con­tri­bu­tion to the Part­ner­ship for Peace with NATO. In 2014, as the Ukraine cri­sis unfold­ed, I mon­i­tored the flow of small arms in the Don­bass. Lat­er, in the same year I was involved in a NATO pro­gram to assist the Ukrain­ian armed forces in restor­ing their capac­i­ties and improv­ing per­son­nel man­age­ment, with the aim of restor­ing trust in them.

TP: You have writ­ten two insight­ful arti­cles about the cur­rent con­flict in the Ukraine, which we had the great priv­i­lege to trans­late and pub­lish (here and here). Was there a par­tic­u­lar event or an instance which led you to for­mu­late this much-need­ed per­spec­tive?

JB: As a strate­gic intel­li­gence offi­cer, I always advo­cat­ed pro­vid­ing to the polit­i­cal or mil­i­tary deci­sion-mak­ers the most accu­rate and the most objec­tive intel­li­gence. This is the kind of job where you need to keep you prej­u­dice and your feel­ings to your­self, in order to come up with an intel­li­gence that reflects as much as pos­si­ble the real­i­ty on the ground rather than your own emo­tions or beliefs. I also assume that in a mod­ern demo­c­ra­t­ic State deci­sion must be fact-based. This is the dif­fer­ence with auto­crat­ic polit­i­cal sys­tems where deci­sion-mak­ing is ide­ol­o­gy-based (such as in the Marx­ist States) or reli­gion-based (such as in the French pre-rev­o­lu­tion­ary monar­chy).

Thanks to my var­i­ous assign­ments, I was able to have an insid­er view in most recent con­flicts (such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syr­ia and, of course, Ukraine). The main com­mon aspect between all these con­flicts is that we tend to have a total­ly dis­tort­ed under­stand­ing of them. We do not under­stand our ene­mies, their ratio­nale, their way of think­ing and their real objec­tives. Hence, we are not even able to artic­u­late sound strate­gies to fight them. This is espe­cial­ly true with Rus­sia. Most peo­ple, includ­ing the top brass, tend to con­fuse “Rus­sia” and “USSR.” As I was in NATO, I could hard­ly find some­one who could explain what Russia’s vision of the world is or even its polit­i­cal doc­trine. Lot of peo­ple think Vladimir Putin is a com­mu­nist. We like to call him a “dic­ta­tor,” but we have a hard time to explain what we mean by that. As exam­ples, peo­ple come up invari­ably with the assas­si­na­tion of such and such jour­nal­ist or for­mer FSB or GRU agents, although evi­dence is extreme­ly debat­able. In oth­er words, even if it is true, we are not able to artic­u­late exact­ly the nature of the prob­lem. As a result, we tend to por­tray the ene­my as we wished him to be, rather than as he actu­al­ly is. This is the ulti­mate recipe for fail­ure. This explains why, after five years spent with­in NATO, I am more con­cerned about West­ern strate­gic and mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties than before.

In 2014, dur­ing the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion in Kiev, I was in NATO in Brus­sels. I noticed that peo­ple didn’t assess the sit­u­a­tion as it was, but as they wished it would be. This is exact­ly what Sun Tzu describes as the first step towards fail­ure. In fact, it appeared clear to me that nobody in NATO had the slight­est inter­est in Ukraine. The main goal was to desta­bi­lize Rus­sia.

TP: How do you per­ceive Volodymyr Zelen­sky? Who is he, real­ly? What is his role in this con­flict? It seems he wants to have a “for­ev­er war,” since he must know he can­not win? Why does he want to pro­long this con­flict?

JB: Volodymyr Zelen­sky was elect­ed on the promise he would make peace with Rus­sia, which I think is a noble objec­tive. The prob­lem is that no West­ern coun­try, nor the Euro­pean Union man­aged to help him real­ize this objec­tive. After the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion, the emerg­ing force in the polit­i­cal land­scape was the far-right move­ment. I do not like to call it “neo-Nazi” because “Nazism” was a clear­ly defined polit­i­cal doc­trine, while in Ukraine, we are talk­ing about a vari­ety of move­ments that com­bine all the fea­tures of Nazism (such as anti­semitism, extreme nation­al­ism, vio­lence, etc.), with­out being uni­fied into a sin­gle doc­trine. They are more like a gath­er­ing of fanat­ics.

After 2014, Ukrain­ian armed forces’ com­mand & con­trol was extreme­ly poor and was the cause of their inabil­i­ty to han­dle the rebel­lion in Don­bass. Sui­cide, alco­hol inci­dents, and mur­der surged, push­ing young sol­diers to defect. Even the British gov­ern­ment not­ed that young male indi­vid­u­als pre­ferred to emi­grate rather than to join the armed forces. As a result, Ukraine start­ed to recruit vol­un­teers to enforce Kiev’s author­i­ty in the Russ­ian speak­ing part of the coun­try. These vol­un­teers were (and still are) recruit­ed among Euro­pean far-right extrem­ists. Accord­ing to Reuters, their num­ber amounts to 102,000. They have become a size­able and influ­en­tial polit­i­cal force in the coun­try.

The prob­lem here is that these far-right fanat­ics threat­ened to kill Zelen­sky were he to try to make peace with Rus­sia. As a result, Zelen­sky found him­self sit­ting between his promis­es and the vio­lent oppo­si­tion of an increas­ing­ly pow­er­ful far-right move­ment. In May 2019, on the Ukrain­ian media Obozre­va­tel, Dmytro Yarosh, head of the “Pravy Sek­tor” mili­tia and advis­er to the Army Com­man­der in Chief, open­ly threat­ened Zelen­sky with death, if he came to an agree­ment with Rus­sia. In oth­er words, Zelen­sky appears to be black­mailed by forces he is prob­a­bly not in full con­trol of.

In Octo­ber 2021, the Jerusalem Post pub­lished a dis­turb­ing report on the train­ing of Ukrain­ian far-right mili­tias by Amer­i­can, British, French and Cana­di­an armed forces. The prob­lem is that the “col­lec­tive West” tends to turn a blind eye to these inces­tu­ous and per­verse rela­tion­ships in order to achieve its own geopo­lit­i­cal goals. It is sup­port­ed by unscrupu­lous far-right biased medias against Israel, which tend to approve the crim­i­nal behav­ior of these mili­tias. This sit­u­a­tion has repeat­ed­ly raised Israel’s con­cerns. This explains why Zelensky’s demands to the Israeli par­lia­ment in March 2022 were not well received and have not been suc­cess­ful.

So, despite his prob­a­ble will­ing­ness to achieve a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment for the cri­sis with Rus­sia, Zelen­sky is not allowed to do so. Just after he indi­cat­ed his readi­ness to talk with Rus­sia, on 25 Feb­ru­ary, the Euro­pean Union decid­ed two days lat­er to pro­vide €450M in arms to Ukraine. The same hap­pened in March. As soon as Zelen­sky indi­cat­ed he want­ed to have talks with Vladimir Putin on 21 March, the Euro­pean Union decid­ed to dou­ble its mil­i­tary aid to €1 bil­lion on 23 March. End of March, Zelen­sky made an inter­est­ing offer that was retract­ed short­ly after.

Appar­ent­ly, Zelen­sky is try­ing to nav­i­gate between West­ern pres­sure and his far right on the one hand and his con­cern to find a solu­tion on the oth­er, and is forced into a “back-and-forth,” which dis­cour­ages the Russ­ian nego­tia­tors.

In fact, I think Zelen­sky is in an extreme uncom­fort­able posi­tion, which reminds me of Sovi­et Mar­shal Kon­stan­tin Rokossovsky’s dur­ing WWII. Rokossovsky had been impris­oned in 1937 for trea­son and sen­tenced to death by Stal­in. In 1941, he got out of prison on Stalin’s orders and was giv­en a com­mand. He was even­tu­al­ly pro­mot­ed to Mar­shall of the Sovi­et Union in 1944, but his death sen­tence was not lift­ed until 1956.

Today, Zelen­sky must lead his coun­try under the sword of Damo­cles, with the bless­ing of West­ern politi­cians and uneth­i­cal media. His lack of polit­i­cal expe­ri­ence made him an easy prey for those who were try­ing to exploit Ukraine against Rus­sia, and in the hands of extreme right-wing move­ments. As he acknowl­edges in an inter­view with CNN, he was obvi­ous­ly lured into believ­ing that Ukraine would enter NATO more eas­i­ly after an open con­flict with Rus­sia, as Olek­sey Arestovich, his advis­er, con­firmed in 2019.

TP: What do you think will be the fate of the Ukraine? Will it be like all the oth­er exper­i­ments in “spread­ing democ­ra­cy” (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.)? Or is Ukraine a spe­cial case?

JB: I have def­i­nite­ly no crys­tal ball… At this stage, we can only guess what Vladimir Putin wants. He prob­a­bly wants to achieve two main goals. The first one is to secure the sit­u­a­tion of the Russ­ian-speak­ing minor­i­ty in Ukraine. How, remains an open ques­tion. Does he want to re-cre­ate the “Novorossiya” that tried to emerge from the 2014 unrests? This “enti­ty” that nev­er real­ly exist­ed, and it con­sist­ed of the short-lived Republics of Odessa, Donet­sk, Dne­propetro­vsk, Kharkov and Lugan­sk, of which only the Republics of Donet­sk and Lugan­sk “sur­vived.” The auton­o­my ref­er­en­dum planned for ear­ly May in the city of Kher­son might be an indi­ca­tion for this option. Anoth­er option would be to nego­ti­ate an autonomous sta­tus for these areas, and to return them to Ukraine in exchange of its neu­tral­i­ty.

The sec­ond goal is to have a neu­tral Ukraine (some will say a “Fin­lan­dized Ukraine”). That is—without NATO. It could be some kind of Swiss “armed neu­tral­i­ty.” As you know, in the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry, Switzer­land had a neu­tral sta­tus imposed on it by the Euro­pean pow­ers, as well as the oblig­a­tion to pre­vent any mis­use of its ter­ri­to­ry against one of these pow­ers. This explains the strong mil­i­tary tra­di­tion we have in Switzer­land and the main ratio­nale for its armed forces today. Some­thing sim­i­lar could prob­a­bly be con­sid­ered for Ukraine.

An inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized neu­tral sta­tus would grant Ukraine a high degree of secu­ri­ty. This sta­tus pre­vent­ed Switzer­land from being attacked dur­ing the two world wars. The often-men­tioned exam­ple of Bel­gium is mis­lead­ing, because dur­ing both world wars, its neu­tral­i­ty was declared uni­lat­er­al­ly and was not rec­og­nized by the bel­liger­ents. In the case of Ukraine, it would have its own armed forces, but would be free from any for­eign mil­i­tary pres­ence: nei­ther NATO, nor Rus­sia. This is just my guess, and I have no clue about how this could be fea­si­ble and accept­ed in the cur­rent polar­ized inter­na­tion­al cli­mate.

I am not sure about the so-called “col­or-rev­o­lu­tions” aim at spread­ing democ­ra­cy. My take is that it is just a way to weaponize human rights, the rule of law or democ­ra­cy in order to achieve geo-strate­gic objec­tives. In fact, this was clear­ly spelled out in a memo to Rex Tiller­son, Don­ald Trump’s Sec­re­tary of State, in 2017. Ukraine is a case in point. After 2014, despite West­ern influ­ence, it has nev­er been a democ­ra­cy: cor­rup­tion soared between 2014 and 2020; in 2021, it banned oppo­si­tion media and jailed the leader of the main par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion par­ty. As some inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions have report­ed, tor­ture is a com­mon prac­tice, and oppo­si­tion lead­ers as well as jour­nal­ists are chased by the Ukrain­ian Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice.

TP: Why is the West only inter­est­ed in draw­ing a sim­plis­tic image of the Ukraine con­flict? That of “good guys” and the “bad guys?” Is the West­ern pub­lic real­ly now that dumb­ed down?

JB: I think this is inher­ent to any con­flict. Each side tends to por­tray itself as the “good guy.” This is obvi­ous­ly the main rea­son.

Besides this, oth­er fac­tors come into play. First, most peo­ple, includ­ing politi­cians and jour­nal­ists, still con­fuse Rus­sia and the USSR. For instance, they don’t under­stand why the com­mu­nist par­ty is the main oppo­si­tion par­ty in Rus­sia.

Sec­ond, since 2007, Putin was sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly demo­nized in the West. Whether or not he is a “dic­ta­tor” Is a mat­ter of dis­cus­sion; but it is worth not­ing that his approval rate in Rus­sia nev­er fell below 59 % in the last 20 years. I take my fig­ures from the Lev­a­da Cen­ter, which is labeled as “for­eign agent” in Rus­sia, and hence doesn’t reflect the Kremlin’s views. It is also inter­est­ing to see that in France, some of the most influ­en­tial so-called “experts” on Rus­sia are in fact work­ing for the British MI‑6’s “Integri­ty Ini­tia­tive.”

Third, in the West, there is a sense that you can do what­ev­er you want if it is in the name of west­ern val­ues. This is why the Russ­ian offen­sive in Ukraine is pas­sion­ate­ly sanc­tioned, while FUKUS (France, UK, US) wars get strong polit­i­cal sup­port, even if they are noto­ri­ous­ly based on lies. “Do what I say, not what I do!” One could ask what makes the con­flict in Ukraine worse than oth­er wars. In fact, each new sanc­tion we apply to Rus­sia high­lights the sanc­tions we haven’t applied ear­li­er to the US, the UK or France.

The pur­pose of this incred­i­ble polar­iza­tion is to pre­vent any dia­logue or nego­ti­a­tion with Rus­sia. We are back to what hap­pened in 1914, just before the start of WWI

TP: What will Rus­sia gain or lose with this involve­ment in the Ukraine (which is like­ly to be long-term)? Rus­sia is fac­ing a con­flict on “two fronts,” it would seem: a mil­i­tary one and an eco­nom­ic one (with the end­less sanc­tions and “can­cel­ing” of Rus­sia).

JB: With the end of the Cold War, Rus­sia expect­ed being able to devel­op clos­er rela­tions with its West­ern neigh­bors. It even con­sid­ered join­ing NATO. But the US resist­ed every attempt of rap­proche­ment. NATO struc­ture does not allow for the coex­is­tence of two nuclear super­pow­ers. The US want­ed to keep its suprema­cy.

Since 2002, the qual­i­ty of the rela­tions with Rus­sia decayed slow­ly, but steadi­ly. It reached a first neg­a­tive “peak” in 2014 after the Maid­an coup. The sanc­tions have become US and EU pri­ma­ry for­eign pol­i­cy tool. The West­ern nar­ra­tive of a Russ­ian inter­ven­tion in Ukraine got trac­tion, although it was nev­er sub­stan­ti­at­ed. Since 2014, I haven’t met any intel­li­gence pro­fes­sion­al who could con­firm any Russ­ian mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Don­bass. In fact, Crimea became the main “evi­dence” of Russ­ian “inter­ven­tion.” Of course, West­ern his­to­ri­ans ignore superbly that Crimea was sep­a­rat­ed from Ukraine by ref­er­en­dum in Jan­u­ary 1990, six months before Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence and under Sovi­et rule. In fact, it’s Ukraine that ille­gal­ly annexed Crimea in 1995. Yet, west­ern coun­tries sanc­tioned Rus­sia for that…

Since 2014 sanc­tions severe­ly affect­ed east-west rela­tions. After the sig­na­ture of the Min­sk Agree­ments in Sep­tem­ber 2014 and Feb­ru­ary 2015, the West—namely France, Ger­many as guar­an­tors for Ukraine, and the US—made no effort what­so­ev­er to make Kiev com­ply, despite repeat­ed requests from Moscow.

Russia’s per­cep­tion is that what­ev­er it will do, it will face an irra­tional response from the West. This is why, in Feb­ru­ary 2022, Vladimir Putin real­ized he would gain noth­ing in doing noth­ing. If you take into account his mount­ing approval rate in the coun­try, the resilience of the Russ­ian econ­o­my after the sanc­tions, the loss of trust in the US dol­lar, the threat­en­ing infla­tion in the West, the con­sol­i­da­tion of the Moscow-Bei­jing axis with the sup­port of India (which the US has failed to keep in the “Quad”), Putin’s cal­cu­la­tion was unfor­tu­nate­ly not wrong.

Regard­less of what Rus­sia does, US and west­ern strat­e­gy is to weak­en it. From that point on, Rus­sia has no real stake in its rela­tions with us. Again, the US objec­tive is not to have a “bet­ter” Ukraine or a “bet­ter” Rus­sia, but a weak­er Rus­sia. But it also shows that the Unit­ed States is not able to rise high­er than Rus­sia and that the only way to over­come it is to weak­en it. This should ring an alarm bell in our coun­tries…

TP: You have writ­ten a very inter­est­ing book on Putin. Please tell us a lit­tle about it.

JB: In fact, I start­ed my book in Octo­ber 2021, after a show on French state TV about Vladimir Putin. I am def­i­nite­ly not an admir­er of Vladimir Putin, nor of any West­ern leader, by the way. But the so-called experts had so lit­tle under­stand­ing of Rus­sia, inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty and even of sim­ple plain facts, that I decid­ed to write a book. Lat­er, as the sit­u­a­tion around Ukraine devel­oped, I adjust­ed my approach to cov­er this mount­ing con­flict.

The idea was def­i­nite­ly not to relay Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da. In fact, my book is based exclu­sive­ly on west­ern sources, offi­cial reports, declas­si­fied intel­li­gence reports, Ukrain­ian offi­cial medias, and reports pro­vid­ed by the Russ­ian oppo­si­tion. The approach was to demon­strate that we can have a sound and fac­tu­al alter­na­tive under­stand­ing of the sit­u­a­tion just with acces­si­ble infor­ma­tion and with­out rely­ing on what we call “Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da.”

The under­ly­ing think­ing is that we can only achieve peace if we have a more bal­anced view of the sit­u­a­tion. To achieve this, we have to go back to the facts. Now, these facts exist and are abun­dant­ly avail­able and acces­si­ble. The prob­lem is that some indi­vid­u­als make every effort to pre­vent this and tend to hide the facts that dis­turb them. This is exem­pli­fied by some so-called jour­nal­ist who dubbed me “The spy who loved Putin!” This is the kind of “jour­nal­ists” who live from stir­ring ten­sions and extrem­ism. All fig­ures and data pro­vid­ed by our media about the con­flict come from Ukraine, and those com­ing from Rus­sia are auto­mat­i­cal­ly dis­missed as pro­pa­gan­da. My view is that both are pro­pa­gan­da. But as soon as you come up with west­ern data that do not fit into the main­stream nar­ra­tive, you have extrem­ists claim­ing you “love Putin.”

Our media are so wor­ried about find­ing ratio­nal­i­ty in Putin’s actions that they turn a blind eye to the crimes com­mit­ted by Ukraine, thus gen­er­at­ing a feel­ing of impuni­ty for which Ukraini­ans are pay­ing the price. This is the case of the attack on civil­ians by a mis­sile in Kramatorsk—we no longer talk about it because the respon­si­bil­i­ty of Ukraine is very like­ly, but this means that the Ukraini­ans could do it again with impuni­ty.

On the con­trary, my book aims at reduc­ing the cur­rent hys­te­ria that pre­vent any polit­i­cal solu­tion. I do not want to deny the Ukraini­ans the right to resist the inva­sion with arms. If I were Ukrain­ian, I would prob­a­bly take the arms to defend my land. The issue here is that it must be their deci­sion. The role of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty should not be to add fuel to the fire by sup­ply­ing arms but to pro­mote a nego­ti­at­ed solu­tion.

To move in this direc­tion, we must make the con­flict dis­pas­sion­ate and bring it back into the realm of ratio­nal­i­ty. In any con­flict the prob­lems come from both sides; but here, strange­ly, our media show us that they all come from one side only. This is obvi­ous­ly not true; and, in the end, it is the Ukrain­ian peo­ple who pay the price of our pol­i­cy against Vladimir Putin.

TP: Why is Putin hat­ed so much by the West­ern elite?

JB: Putin became West­ern elite’s “bête noire” in 2007 with his famous speech in Munich. Until then, Rus­sia had only mod­er­ate­ly react­ed to NATO expan­sion. But as the US with­drew from the ABM Treaty in 2002 and start­ed nego­ti­a­tions with some East Euro­pean coun­tries to deploy anti-bal­lis­tic mis­siles, Rus­sia felt the heat and Putin vir­u­lent­ly crit­i­cized the US and NATO.

This was the start of a relent­less effort to demo­nize Vladimir Putin and to weak­en Rus­sia. The prob­lem was def­i­nite­ly not human rights or democ­ra­cy, but the fact that Putin dared to chal­lenge the west­ern approach. The Rus­sians have in com­mon with the Swiss the fact that they are very legal­is­tic. They try to strict­ly fol­low the rules of inter­na­tion­al law. They tend to fol­low “law-based Inter­na­tion­al order.” Of course, this is not the image we have, because we are used to hid­ing cer­tain facts. Crimea is a case in point.

In the West, since the ear­ly 2000s, the US has start­ed to impose a “rules-based inter­na­tion­al order.” As an exam­ple, although the US offi­cial­ly rec­og­nizes that there is only one Chi­na and that Tai­wan is only a part of it, it main­tains a mil­i­tary pres­ence on the island and sup­plies weapons. Imag­ine if Chi­na would sup­ply weapons to Hawaii (which was ille­gal­ly annexed in the 19th cen­tu­ry)!

What the West is pro­mot­ing is an inter­na­tion­al order based on the “law of the strongest.” As long as the US was the sole super­pow­er, every­thing was fine. But as soon as Chi­na and Rus­sia start­ed to emerge as world pow­ers, the US tried to con­tain them. This is exact­ly what Joe Biden said in March 2021, short­ly after tak­ing office: “The rest of the world is clos­ing in and clos­ing in fast. We can’t allow this to con­tin­ue.”

As Hen­ry Kissinger said in the Wash­ing­ton Post: “For the West, the demo­niza­tion of Vladimir Putin is not a pol­i­cy; it is an ali­bi for the absence of one.” This is why I felt we need to have a more fac­tu­al approach to this con­flict.

TP: Do you know who was involved and when it was decid­ed by the US and NATO that regime change in Rus­sia was a pri­ma­ry geopo­lit­i­cal objec­tive?

JB: I think every­thing start­ed in the ear­ly 2000s. I am not sure the objec­tive was a regime change in Moscow, but it was cer­tain­ly to con­tain Rus­sia. This is what we have wit­nessed since then. The 2014 events in Kiev have boost­ed US efforts.

These were clear­ly defined in 2019, in two pub­li­ca­tions of the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion [James Dob­bins, Raphael S. Cohen, Nathan Chan­dler, Bryan Fred­er­ick, Edward Geist, Paul DeLu­ca, For­rest E. Mor­gan, Howard J. Shatz, Brent Williams, “Extend­ing Rus­sia : Com­pet­ing from Advan­ta­geous Ground,” RAND Cor­po­ra­tion, 2019; James Dob­bins & al., “Overex­tend­ing and Unbal­anc­ing Rus­sia,” RAND Cor­po­ra­tion, (Doc Nr. RB-10014‑A), 2019]. .This has noth­ing to do with the rule of law, democ­ra­cy or human rights, but only with main­tain­ing US suprema­cy in the world. In oth­er words, nobody cares about Ukraine. This is why the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty (that is, West­ern coun­tries) make every effort to pro­long the con­flict.

Since 2014, this is exact­ly what hap­pened. Every­thing the West did was to ful­fill US strate­gic objec­tives.

TP: In this regard, you have also writ­ten anoth­er inter­est­ing book, on Alex­ei Naval­ny. Please tell us about what you have found out about Naval­ny.

JB: What dis­turbed me about the Naval­ny case was the haste with which West­ern gov­ern­ments con­demned Rus­sia and applied sanc­tions, even before know­ing the results of an impar­tial inves­ti­ga­tion. So, my point in the book is not “to tell truth,” because we do not know exact­ly what the truth is, even if we have con­sis­tent indi­ca­tions that the offi­cial nar­ra­tive is wrong.

The inter­est­ing aspect is that the Ger­man doc­tors in the Char­ité Hos­pi­tal in Berlin, were not able to iden­ti­fy any nerve agent in Navalny’s body. Sur­pris­ing­ly, they pub­lished their find­ings in the respect­ed med­ical review The Lancet, show­ing that Naval­ny prob­a­bly expe­ri­enced a bad com­bi­na­tion of med­i­cine and oth­er sub­stances.

The Swedish mil­i­tary lab that ana­lyzed Navalny’s blood—redact­ed the name of the sub­stance they dis­cov­ered, which is odd since every­body expect­ed “Novi­chok” to be men­tioned.

The bot­tom line is that we don’t know exact­ly what hap­pened, but the nature of the symp­toms, the reports of the Ger­man doc­tors, the answers pro­vid­ed by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment to the Par­lia­ment, and the puz­zling Swedish doc­u­ment tend to exclude a crim­i­nal poi­son­ing, and there­fore, a for­tiori, poi­son­ing by the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment.

The main point of my book is that inter­na­tion­al rela­tions can­not be “Twit­ter-dri­ven.” We need to use appro­pri­ate­ly our intel­li­gence resources, not as a pro­pa­gan­da instru­ment, as we tend to do these days, but as an instru­ment for smart and fact-based deci­sion-mak­ing.

TP: You have much expe­ri­ence with­in NATO. What do you think is the pri­ma­ry role of NATO now?

JB: This is an essen­tial ques­tion. In fact, NATO hasn’t real­ly evolved since the end of the Cold War. This is inter­est­ing because in 1969, there was the “Harmel Report” that was ahead of its time and could be the fun­da­ment of a new def­i­n­i­tion of NATO’s role. Instead, NATO tried to find new mis­sions, such as in Afghanistan, for which the Alliance was not pre­pared, nei­ther intel­lec­tu­al­ly, nor doc­tri­nal­ly, nor from a strate­gic point of view.

Hav­ing a col­lec­tive defense sys­tem in Europe is nec­es­sary, but the nuclear dimen­sion of NATO tends to restrict its abil­i­ty to engage a con­ven­tion­al con­flict with a nuclear pow­er. This is the prob­lem we are wit­ness­ing in Ukraine. This is why Rus­sia strives hav­ing a “glacis” between NATO and its ter­ri­to­ry. This would prob­a­bly not pre­vent con­flicts but would help keep them as long as pos­si­ble in a con­ven­tion­al phase. This is why I think a non-nuclear Euro­pean defense orga­ni­za­tion would be a good solu­tion.

TP: Do you think that NATO’s proxy war with Rus­sia serves to pla­cate inter­nal EU ten­sions, between con­ser­v­a­tive Central/Eastern Europe and the more pro­gres­sive West?

JB: Some will cer­tain­ly see it that way, but I think this is only a by-prod­uct of the US strat­e­gy to iso­late Rus­sia.

TP: Can you say some­thing about how Turkey has posi­tioned itself, between NATO and Rus­sia?

JB: I have worked quite exten­sive­ly with Turkey as I was in NATO. I think Turkey is a very com­mit­ted mem­ber of the Alliance. What we tend to for­get is that Turkey is at the cross­roads between the “Chris­t­ian World” and the “Islam­ic World;” it sits between two civ­i­liza­tions and in a key region of the Mediter­ranean zone. It has its own region­al stakes.

The con­flicts waged by the West in the Mid­dle East sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact­ed Turkey, by pro­mot­ing Islamism and stim­u­lat­ing ten­sions, in par­tic­u­lar with the Kurds. Turkey has always tried to main­tain a bal­ance between its desire for West­ern-style mod­ern­iza­tion and the very strong tra­di­tion­al­ist ten­den­cies of its pop­u­la­tion. Turkey’s oppo­si­tion to the Iraq War due to domes­tic secu­ri­ty con­cerns was total­ly ignored and dis­missed by the US and its NATO Allies.

Inter­est­ing­ly, when Zelen­sky sought a coun­try to medi­ate the con­flict, he turned to Chi­na, Israel and Turkey, but didn’t address any EU coun­try.

TP: If you were to pre­dict, what do you think the geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of Europe and the world will look like 25 years from now?

JB: Who would have pre­dict­ed the fall of the Berlin Wall? The day it hap­pened, I was in the office of a Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er in Wash­ing­ton DC, but he had no clue about the impor­tance of the event!

I think the decay of US hege­mo­ny will be the main fea­ture of the next decades. At the same time, we will see a fast-grow­ing impor­tance of Asia led by Chi­na and India. But I am not sure Asia will “replace” the US strict­ly speak­ing. While US world­wide hege­mo­ny was dri­ven by its mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex, Asia’s dom­i­nance will be in the research and tech­nol­o­gy area.

The loss of con­fi­dence in the US dol­lar may have sig­nif­i­cant impact on the US econ­o­my at large. I don’t want to spec­u­late on future devel­op­ments in the West, but a sig­nif­i­cant dete­ri­o­ra­tion could lead the Unit­ed States to engage in more con­flicts around the world. This is some­thing that we are see­ing today, but it could become more impor­tant.

TP: What advice would you give peo­ple try­ing to get a clear­er pic­ture of what is real­ly dri­ving com­pet­ing regional/national and glob­al inter­ests?

JB: I think the sit­u­a­tion is slight­ly dif­fer­ent in Europe than in North Amer­i­ca.

In Europe, the lack of qual­i­ty alter­na­tive media and real inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism makes it dif­fi­cult to find bal­anced infor­ma­tion. The sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent in North Amer­i­ca where alter­na­tive jour­nal­ism is more devel­oped and con­sti­tutes an indis­pens­able ana­lyt­i­cal tool. In the Unit­ed States, the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty is more present in the media than in Europe.

I prob­a­bly could not have writ­ten my book based only on the Euro­pean media. At the end of the day, the advice I would give is a fun­da­men­tal one of intel­li­gence work:

Be curi­ous!

TP: Thank you so very much for your time—and for all your great work.

Discussion

7 comments for “FTR#1247 How Many Lies Before You Belong to The Lies?, Part 20”

  1. Ques­tions of ‘how did we get here?’ are bound to pro­lif­er­ate as the con­flict in Ukraine inten­si­fies and deep­ens in the coun­try’s east. But if the warn­ings in the fol­low­ing Opin­ion piece recent­ly pub­lished in the New York Times pan out, those ques­tions are going to be asked for the fore­see­able future because this con­flict may already be at a point where it can’t real­ly be stopped. That’s the con­clu­sion arrived at by con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ist Christo­pher Cald­well, who writes about the warn­ings issued by Heni Guaino, a top advis­er to Nico­las Sarkozy when he was pres­i­dent of France, about how Europe was “sleep­walk­ing” into a war with Rus­sia. A sleep­walk that appeared to be part of a kind of “Peace through Strength” US strat­e­gy that was pred­i­cat­ed on pre­vent­ing a Russ­ian inva­sion by build­ing up Ukraine’s mil­i­tary strength. A strat­e­gy that obvi­ous­ly already failed. But a strat­e­gy that’s still in place. It’s that strat­e­gy — a strat­e­gy of “peace through strength, and if that does­n’t work win­ning the war through more strength” — that Cald­well warns is effec­tive­ly unstop­pable. Each side has to win...or else.

    But Cald­well also points out an event that should­n’t be glossed over in answer­ing the “how did we get here?’ ques­tion: back on Novem­ber 10, 2021, the US and Ukraine signed a “char­ter on strate­gic part­ner­ship” that called for Ukraine to join NATO, con­demned “ongo­ing Russ­ian aggres­sion” and affirmed an “unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment” to the rein­te­gra­tion of Crimea into Ukraine. Accord­ing to Guaino, that char­ter “con­vinced Rus­sia that it must attack or be attacked.” As Guaino wrote, “It is the ineluctable process of 1914 in all its ter­ri­fy­ing puri­ty.”

    Recall how this isn’t the first time Ukraine’s NATO ambi­tions have been pub­licly tout­ed. Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko had a sim­i­lar kind of NATO ambi­tion cer­e­mo­ny back in Feb­ru­ary 2019 involv­ing Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, who attend­ed the cer­e­mo­ny where Ukraine adopt­ed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments that includ­ed an amend­ment com­mit­ting Ukraine to join­ing NATO by 2023.

    As we’re also going to see, it was dur­ing this sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny where we heard some of the first pub­lic warn­ings about the threat of a Russ­ian troop build up and inva­sion plans. At that same cer­e­mo­ny we hear Ukraine’s for­eign min­is­ter basi­cal­ly artic­u­late this ‘Peace through Strength’ doc­trine and his hopes that by mak­ing it clear that Ukraine has pow­er­ful mil­i­tary allies that Rus­sia can be dis­suad­ed. A strat­e­gy that obvi­ous­ly did­n’t work. But we’re dou­bling and tripling down on it any­way:

    The New York Times

    The War in Ukraine May Be Impos­si­ble to Stop. And the U.S. Deserves Much of the Blame.

    By Christo­pher Cald­well
    May 31, 2022

    In the Paris dai­ly news­pa­per Le Figaro this month, Hen­ri Guaino, a top advis­er to Nico­las Sarkozy when he was pres­i­dent of France, warned that Europe’s coun­tries, under the short­sight­ed lead­er­ship of the Unit­ed States, were “sleep­walk­ing” into war with Rus­sia. Mr. Guaino was bor­row­ing a metaphor that the his­to­ri­an Christo­pher Clark used to describe the ori­gins of World War I.

    Nat­u­ral­ly, Mr. Guaino under­stands that Rus­sia is most direct­ly to blame for the present con­flict in Ukraine. It was Rus­sia that massed its troops on the fron­tier last fall and win­ter and — hav­ing demand­ed from NATO a num­ber of Ukraine-relat­ed secu­ri­ty guar­an­tees that NATO reject­ed — began the shelling and killing on Feb. 24.

    But the Unit­ed States has helped turn this trag­ic, local and ambigu­ous con­flict into a poten­tial world con­fla­gra­tion. By mis­un­der­stand­ing the war’s log­ic, Mr. Guaino argues, the West, led by the Biden admin­is­tra­tion, is giv­ing the con­flict a momen­tum that may be impos­si­ble to stop.

    He is right.

    In 2014 the Unit­ed States backed an upris­ing — in its final stages a vio­lent upris­ing — against the legit­i­mate­ly elect­ed Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment of Vik­tor Yanukovych, which was pro-Russ­ian. (The cor­rup­tion of Mr. Yanukovych’s gov­ern­ment has been much adduced by the rebellion’s defend­ers, but cor­rup­tion is a peren­ni­al Ukrain­ian prob­lem, even today.) Rus­sia, in turn, annexed Crimea, a his­tor­i­cal­ly Russ­ian-speak­ing part of Ukraine that since the 18th cen­tu­ry had been home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

    One can argue about Russ­ian claims to Crimea, but Rus­sians take them seri­ous­ly. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Russ­ian and Sovi­et fight­ers died defend­ing the Crimean city of Sev­astopol from Euro­pean forces dur­ing two sieges — one dur­ing the Crimean War and one dur­ing World War II. In recent years, Russ­ian con­trol of Crimea has seemed to pro­vide a sta­ble region­al arrange­ment: Russia’s Euro­pean neigh­bors, at least, have let sleep­ing dogs lie.

    But the Unit­ed States nev­er accept­ed the arrange­ment. On Nov. 10, 2021, the Unit­ed States and Ukraine signed a “char­ter on strate­gic part­ner­ship” that called for Ukraine to join NATO, con­demned “ongo­ing Russ­ian aggres­sion” and affirmed an “unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment” to the rein­te­gra­tion of Crimea into Ukraine.

    That char­ter “con­vinced Rus­sia that it must attack or be attacked,” Mr. Guaino wrote. “It is the ineluctable process of 1914 in all its ter­ri­fy­ing puri­ty.”

    This is a faith­ful account of the war that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has claimed to be fight­ing. “There were con­stant sup­plies of the most mod­ern mil­i­tary equip­ment,” Mr. Putin said at Russia’s annu­al Vic­to­ry Parade on May 9, refer­ring to the for­eign arm­ing of Ukraine. “The dan­ger was grow­ing every day.”

    Whether he was right to wor­ry about Russia’s secu­ri­ty depends on one’s per­spec­tive. West­ern news reports tend to belit­tle him.

    The rocky course of the war in Ukraine thus far has vin­di­cat­ed Mr. Putin’s diag­no­sis, if not his con­duct. Though Ukraine’s mil­i­tary indus­try was impor­tant in Sovi­et times, by 2014 the coun­try bare­ly had a mod­ern mil­i­tary at all. Oli­garchs, not the state, armed and fund­ed some of the mili­tias sent to fight Russ­ian-sup­port­ed sep­a­ratists in the east. The Unit­ed States start­ed arm­ing and train­ing Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, hes­i­tant­ly at first under Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma. Mod­ern hard­ware began flow­ing dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, though, and today the coun­try is armed to the teeth.

    Since 2018, Ukraine has received U.S.-built Javelin anti­tank mis­siles, Czech artillery and Turk­ish Bayrak­tar drones and oth­er NATO-inter­op­er­a­ble weapon­ry. The Unit­ed States and Cana­da have late­ly sent up-to-date British-designed M777 how­itzers that fire GPS-guid­ed Excal­ibur shells. Pres­i­dent Biden just signed into law a $40 bil­lion mil­i­tary aid pack­age.

    In this light, mock­ery of Russia’s bat­tle­field per­for­mance is mis­placed. Rus­sia is not being stymied by a plucky agri­cul­tur­al coun­try a third its size; it is hold­ing its own, at least for now, against NATO’s advanced eco­nom­ic, cyber and bat­tle­field weapons.

    And this is where Mr. Guaino is cor­rect to accuse the West of sleep­walk­ing. The Unit­ed States is try­ing to main­tain the fic­tion that arm­ing one’s allies is not the same thing as par­tic­i­pat­ing in com­bat.

    In the infor­ma­tion age, this dis­tinc­tion is grow­ing more and more arti­fi­cial. The Unit­ed States has pro­vid­ed intel­li­gence used to kill Russ­ian gen­er­als. It obtained tar­get­ing infor­ma­tion that helped to sink the Russ­ian Black Sea mis­sile cruis­er the Mosk­va, an inci­dent in which about 40 sea­men were killed.

    And the Unit­ed States may be play­ing an even more direct role. There are thou­sands of for­eign fight­ers in Ukraine. One vol­un­teer spoke to the Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion this month of fight­ing along­side “friends” who “come from the Marines, from the States.” Just as it is easy to cross the line between being a weapons sup­pli­er and being a com­bat­ant, it is easy to cross the line from wag­ing a proxy war to wag­ing a secret war.

    In a sub­tler way, a coun­try try­ing to fight such a war risks being drawn from par­tial into full involve­ment by force of moral rea­son­ing. Per­haps Amer­i­can offi­cials jus­ti­fy export­ing weapon­ry the way they jus­ti­fy bud­get­ing it: It is so pow­er­ful that it is dis­sua­sive. The mon­ey is well spent because it buys peace. Should big­ger guns fail to dis­suade, how­ev­er, they lead to big­ger wars.

    A hand­ful of peo­ple died in the Russ­ian takeover of Crimea in 2014. But this time around, matched in weapon­ry — and even out­matched in some cas­es — Rus­sia has revert­ed to a war of bom­bard­ment that looks more like World War II.

    Even if we don’t accept Mr. Putin’s claim that America’s arm­ing of Ukraine is the rea­son the war hap­pened in the first place, it is cer­tain­ly the rea­son the war has tak­en the kinet­ic, explo­sive, dead­ly form it has. Our role in this is not pas­sive or inci­den­tal. We have giv­en Ukraini­ans cause to believe they can pre­vail in a war of esca­la­tion.

    ...

    The Unit­ed States has shown itself not just liable to esca­late but also inclined to. In March, Mr. Biden invoked God before insist­ing that Mr. Putin “can­not remain in pow­er.” In April, Defense Sec­re­tary Lloyd Austin explained that the Unit­ed States seeks to “see Rus­sia weak­ened.”

    Noam Chom­sky warned against the para­dox­i­cal incen­tives of such “hero­ic pro­nounce­ments” in an April inter­view. “It may feel like Win­ston Churchill imper­son­ations, very excit­ing,” he said. “But what they trans­late into is: Destroy Ukraine.”

    For sim­i­lar rea­sons Mr. Biden’s sug­ges­tion that Mr. Putin be tried for war crimes is an act of con­sum­mate irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty. The charge is so seri­ous that, once lev­eled, it dis­cour­ages restraint; after all, a leader who com­mits one atroc­i­ty is no less a war crim­i­nal than one who com­mits a thou­sand. The effect, intend­ed or not, is to fore­close any recourse to peace nego­ti­a­tions.

    The sit­u­a­tion on the bat­tle­field in Ukraine has evolved to an awk­ward stage. Both Rus­sia and Ukraine have suf­fered heavy loss­es. But each has made gains, too. Rus­sia has a land bridge to Crimea and con­trol of some of Ukraine’s most fer­tile agri­cul­tur­al lands and ener­gy deposits, and in recent days has held the bat­tle­field momen­tum. Ukraine, after a robust defense of its cities, can expect fur­ther NATO sup­port, know-how and weapon­ry — a pow­er­ful incen­tive not to end the war any­time soon.

    But if the war does not end soon, its dan­gers will increase. “Nego­ti­a­tions need to begin in the next two months,” the for­mer U.S. sec­re­tary of state Hen­ry Kissinger warned last week, “before it cre­ates upheavals and ten­sions that will not be eas­i­ly over­come.” Call­ing for a return to the sta­tus quo ante bel­lum, he added, “Pur­su­ing the war beyond that point would not be about the free­dom of Ukraine but a new war against Rus­sia itself.”

    In this, Mr. Kissinger is on the same page as Mr. Guaino. “To make con­ces­sions to Rus­sia would be sub­mit­ting to aggres­sion,” Mr. Guaino warned. “To make none would be sub­mit­ting to insan­i­ty.”

    The Unit­ed States is mak­ing no con­ces­sions. That would be to lose face. There’s an elec­tion com­ing. So the admin­is­tra­tion is clos­ing off avenues of nego­ti­a­tion and work­ing to inten­si­fy the war. We’re in it to win it. With time, the huge import of dead­ly weapon­ry, includ­ing that from the new­ly autho­rized $40 bil­lion allo­ca­tion, could take the war to a dif­fer­ent lev­el. Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky of Ukraine warned in an address to stu­dents this month that the blood­i­est days of the war were com­ing.

    ———-


    The War in Ukraine May Be Impos­si­ble to Stop. And the U.S. Deserves Much of the Blame” By Christo­pher Cald­well; The New York Times; 05/31/2022

    “Even if we don’t accept Mr. Putin’s claim that America’s arm­ing of Ukraine is the rea­son the war hap­pened in the first place, it is cer­tain­ly the rea­son the war has tak­en the kinet­ic, explo­sive, dead­ly form it has. Our role in this is not pas­sive or inci­den­tal. We have giv­en Ukraini­ans cause to believe they can pre­vail in a war of esca­la­tion.

    The US has giv­en Ukraini­ans cause to believe they can pre­vail in a war of esca­la­tion. Which is obvi­ous­ly a recipe for ever greater esca­la­tion. That’s the thrust of Cald­well’s argu­ment.

    But the US has­n’t giv­en Ukraine this impres­sion that it can win a war of esca­la­tion just by flood­ing the coun­try with weapons. On Novem­ber 10, 2021, the Unit­ed States and Ukraine signed a “char­ter on strate­gic part­ner­ship” that called for Ukraine to join NATO, con­demned “ongo­ing Russ­ian aggres­sion” and affirmed an “unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment” to the rein­te­gra­tion of Crimea into Ukraine.

    It was just the US and Ukraine who signed this char­ter. But don’t for­get how Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko had a sim­i­lar kind of NATO ambi­tion cer­e­mo­ny back in Feb­ru­ary 2019 involv­ing Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk, who attend­ed the cer­e­mo­ny where Ukraine adopt­ed con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments that includ­ed an amend­ment com­mit­ting Ukraine to join­ing NATO by 2023. So when the US and Ukraine made this mutu­al com­mit­ment to get Ukraine in NATO, it’s a com­mit­ment that real­ly does include more than just the US and Ukraine:

    ...
    One can argue about Russ­ian claims to Crimea, but Rus­sians take them seri­ous­ly. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Russ­ian and Sovi­et fight­ers died defend­ing the Crimean city of Sev­astopol from Euro­pean forces dur­ing two sieges — one dur­ing the Crimean War and one dur­ing World War II. In recent years, Russ­ian con­trol of Crimea has seemed to pro­vide a sta­ble region­al arrange­ment: Russia’s Euro­pean neigh­bors, at least, have let sleep­ing dogs lie.

    But the Unit­ed States nev­er accept­ed the arrange­ment. On Nov. 10, 2021, the Unit­ed States and Ukraine signed a “char­ter on strate­gic part­ner­ship” that called for Ukraine to join NATO, con­demned “ongo­ing Russ­ian aggres­sion” and affirmed an “unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment” to the rein­te­gra­tion of Crimea into Ukraine.

    That char­ter “con­vinced Rus­sia that it must attack or be attacked,” Mr. Guaino wrote. “It is the ineluctable process of 1914 in all its ter­ri­fy­ing puri­ty.”

    This is a faith­ful account of the war that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin has claimed to be fight­ing. “There were con­stant sup­plies of the most mod­ern mil­i­tary equip­ment,” Mr. Putin said at Russia’s annu­al Vic­to­ry Parade on May 9, refer­ring to the for­eign arm­ing of Ukraine. “The dan­ger was grow­ing every day.”

    ...

    In a sub­tler way, a coun­try try­ing to fight such a war risks being drawn from par­tial into full involve­ment by force of moral rea­son­ing. Per­haps Amer­i­can offi­cials jus­ti­fy export­ing weapon­ry the way they jus­ti­fy bud­get­ing it: It is so pow­er­ful that it is dis­sua­sive. The mon­ey is well spent because it buys peace. Should big­ger guns fail to dis­suade, how­ev­er, they lead to big­ger wars.

    ...

    The Unit­ed States is mak­ing no con­ces­sions. That would be to lose face. There’s an elec­tion com­ing. So the admin­is­tra­tion is clos­ing off avenues of nego­ti­a­tion and work­ing to inten­si­fy the war. We’re in it to win it. With time, the huge import of dead­ly weapon­ry, includ­ing that from the new­ly autho­rized $40 bil­lion allo­ca­tion, could take the war to a dif­fer­ent lev­el. Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky of Ukraine warned in an address to stu­dents this month that the blood­i­est days of the war were com­ing.
    ...

    It’s a rather high stakes strat­e­gy: com­mit to pro­vid­ing Ukraine with what­ev­er sup­port it needs to defeat Rus­sia as a means of dis­suad­ing a Russ­ian inva­sion. It’s the kind of strat­e­gy that ignores the fact that arm­ing Ukraine with advanced weapons and pledg­ing to have it join NATO are, from the Krem­lin’s per­spec­tive, basi­cal­ly bait to force Rus­sia into doing some­thing. There are no easy answers when it comes to these kinds of seem­ing­ly intractable inter­na­tion­al crises. And yet flood­ing Ukraine with more and more weapons while mak­ing pledges to make Ukraine a NATO mem­ber are basi­cal­ly being treat­ed as a kind of easy answer to this sit­u­a­tion. And easy answer that’s already proven wrong.

    But it’s also worth not­ing some­thing else the US and Ukraine were declar­ing on Novem­ber 10, the day of the “char­ter on strate­gic part­ner­ship” was signed: dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the State Depart­ment, US Sec­re­tary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrain­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Dmytro Kule­ba expressed their con­cerns about large Russ­ian mil­i­tary build up along Ukraine’s bor­der and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of an upcom­ing Russ­ian inva­sion.

    Now, what is not at all men­tioned in the arti­cle is the NATO ambi­tions expressed dur­ing that sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny. There’s a ref­er­ence to the sign­ing of a renewed Ukraine-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship, but that’s it. Nei­ther is there a men­tion of the large build up of Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces in the east fol­low­ing the March 24, 2021, decree by Zelen­sky to recap­ture Crimea that began a rede­ploy­ment of Ukrain­ian forces which Jacque Baude has talked about. And that more or less cap­tures the dynam­ic Cald­well is warn­ing about. After all, the US did indeed fol­low the strat­e­gy of arm­ing Ukraine to the teeth and pledg­ing ever deep­er mil­i­tary alliances, osten­si­bly as part of a strat­e­gy of ward­ing off a Russ­ian response. That’s what this sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny and renewed strate­gic part­ner­ship sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny were all about. The strat­e­gy of mak­ing ever deep­er mil­i­tary com­mit­ments was fol­lowed. And either back­fired entire­ly or worked exact­ly as planned:

    CNN

    Blinken says US is con­cerned Rus­sia may be ‘attempt­ing to rehash’ 2014 inva­sion of Ukraine

    By Nicole Gaou­ette, Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood and Jim Sciut­to
    Updat­ed 6:55 PM ET, Wed Novem­ber 10, 2021

    (CNN)US Sec­re­tary of State Antony Blinken said Wednes­day that the Unit­ed States is “con­cerned by reports of unusu­al Russ­ian mil­i­tary activ­i­ty” and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Rus­sia may be “attempt­ing to rehash” its 2014 inva­sion of Ukraine.

    Blinken’s com­ments came a week after Rus­si­a’s pow­er­ful secu­ri­ty chief did not deny that Moscow was mov­ing troops or assuage the US’ con­cerns about Rus­si­a’s inten­tions dur­ing a meet­ing with CIA direc­tor Bill Burns, accord­ing to four peo­ple briefed on the dis­cus­sion.

    Speak­ing along­side Ukrain­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Dmytro Kule­ba at the State Depart­ment, Blinken said that the US is “con­cerned by reports of unusu­al Russ­ian mil­i­tary activ­i­ty,” and is “mon­i­tor­ing very close­ly” the Rus­sia activ­i­ty.

    “Our con­cern is that Rus­sia may make a seri­ous mis­take of attempt­ing to rehash what it under­took back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the bor­der, crossed into sov­er­eign Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry and did so claim­ing false­ly that it was pro­voked,” Blinken said, refer­ring to Rus­si­a’s inva­sion of Crimea. “So the play­book that we’ve seen in the past was to claim some provo­ca­tion as a ratio­nale for doing what it, what it intend­ed and planned to do. All which is why we’re look­ing at this very care­ful­ly.”

    The top US diplo­mat also reit­er­at­ed the US’ com­mit­ment to Ukraine’s sov­er­eign­ty and inde­pen­dence, call­ing it “iron­clad.”

    In a post on his Face­book page Wednes­day, Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky thanked the US for its sup­port and for intel­li­gence it had shared about the sit­u­a­tion.

    “Our West­ern part­ners have pro­vid­ed data on the active move­ment of Russ­ian troops along the Ukrain­ian bor­der and the increase in their con­cen­tra­tion,” he wrote. “Fore­most, we are very grate­ful to our part­ners for this infor­ma­tion. This is a proof of sup­port of Ukraine.”

    He echoed Blinken’s remarks about Rus­si­a’s play­book, say­ing that “from [the] Russ­ian side, we hear accu­sa­tions that it is Ukraine that is delay­ing the peace process. ... I hope now the whole world can clear­ly see who real­ly wants peace and who is con­cen­trat­ing almost 100,000 troops on our bor­der.”

    ‘Demo­ti­vate them’

    Kule­ba also said the US and Ukraine shared “ele­ments” with each oth­er Wednes­day regard­ing the Russ­ian mil­i­tary activ­i­ties. “What we heard and saw today in Wash­ing­ton, DC, cor­re­sponds to our own find­ings and analy­sis, adds some new ele­ments, which allow us to get a bet­ter and more com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture,” he said.

    Blinken and Kule­ba addressed reporters at the con­clu­sion of a strate­gic dia­logue that led to the sign­ing of a renewed Ukraine-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship. The Ukrain­ian offi­cial expressed grat­i­tude to the US for deep­en­ing defense and secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion “to help Ukraine build its capac­i­ty to defend itself and also to deter Rus­sia to demo­ti­vate them from tak­ing fur­ther aggres­sive actions.”

    “The best way to deter aggres­sive Rus­sias is to make it clear for the Krem­lin that Ukraine is strong,” Kule­ba said. “I have repeat­ed on numer­ous occa­sions that Russ­ian aggres­sion against Ukraine will end on the day Ukraine’s place as part of the West is insti­tu­tion­al­ized and undoubt­ed. Today, we have made anoth­er impor­tant step in that direc­tion.”

    Blinken said the US would con­tin­ue to “con­sult close­ly as well with allies and part­ners” about Rus­si­a’s troop move­ments. On Fri­day, the US sent out a for­mal diplo­mat­ic note, known as a démarche, to NATO allies pro­vid­ing them with addi­tion­al intel­li­gence and request­ing fur­ther coor­di­na­tion in response to the irreg­u­lar troop move­ments, a per­son famil­iar with the mes­sage said.

    “As we make clear, any esca­la­to­ry or aggres­sive actions will be of great con­cern to the Unit­ed States,” Blinken said Wednes­day. He added that the US will con­tin­ue to sup­port deesca­la­tion in the region and a diplo­mat­ic res­o­lu­tion to the con­flict in east­ern Ukraine.

    Vig­i­lant and resilient

    Kule­ba indi­cat­ed that find­ing a diplo­mat­ic way out could be dif­fi­cult. Point­ing to var­i­ous Russ­ian efforts to desta­bi­lize Europe — includ­ing its coer­cive use of ener­gy sup­plies, “pro­pa­gan­da efforts, dis­in­for­ma­tion, cyber­at­tacks, mil­i­tary buildups, an attempt of Rus­sia to digest Belarus” — the Ukrain­ian diplo­mat warned that “in this com­pli­cat­ed game, we have to remain vig­i­lant, we have, have to be resilient.”

    The joint press appear­ance is just the lat­est effort by the Biden admin­is­tra­tion to demon­strate sup­port for Ukraine, some of which has hap­pened behind closed doors.

    Burns met with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Rus­si­a’s secu­ri­ty chief, Niko­lai Patru­shev, last week, as the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has grown increas­ing­ly con­cerned about Rus­si­a’s recent troop move­ments near Ukraine. As CNN report­ed Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden dis­patched Burns to Moscow to deliv­er a clear mes­sage to the Krem­lin that the US is mon­i­tor­ing the move­ments close­ly.

    ...

    The flur­ry of high-lev­el diplo­ma­cy under­scores how seri­ous­ly the Biden admin­is­tra­tion is tak­ing the lat­est Russ­ian troop move­ments, even after an ear­li­er buildup this spring ulti­mate­ly did not lead to a renewed inva­sion. Ten­sions between Ukraine and Rus­sia have also been exac­er­bat­ed in recent weeks by a deep­en­ing Ukrain­ian ener­gy cri­sis that Kiev believes Moscow has pur­pose­ful­ly pro­voked.

    “The buildup, cou­pled with the ener­gy black­mail, does sug­gest a more aggres­sive Russ­ian pos­ture,” an advis­er to Zelen­sky told CNN.

    Pen­ta­gon press sec­re­tary John Kir­by said on Fri­day that the “scale” and “the size of the units that we’re see­ing” from Rus­sia is “unusu­al.”

    “We con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor this close­ly, and as I’ve said before, any esca­la­to­ry or aggres­sive actions by Rus­sia would be of great con­cern to the Unit­ed States,” he said.

    ———-

    “Blinken says US is con­cerned Rus­sia may be ‘attempt­ing to rehash’ 2014 inva­sion of Ukraine” by Nicole Gaou­ette, Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood and Jim Sciut­to; CNN; 11/10/2021

    Blinken and Kule­ba addressed reporters at the con­clu­sion of a strate­gic dia­logue that led to the sign­ing of a renewed Ukraine-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship. The Ukrain­ian offi­cial expressed grat­i­tude to the US for deep­en­ing defense and secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion “to help Ukraine build its capac­i­ty to defend itself and also to deter Rus­sia to demo­ti­vate them from tak­ing fur­ther aggres­sive actions.”

    A renewed Ukraine-US Strate­gic Part­ner­ship cer­e­mo­ny that involves a com­mit­ment to hav­ing Ukraine join NATO. So at a cer­e­mo­ny where the US and Ukraine were pledg­ing to do some­thing that has long been viewed as a kind of ‘red line’ by the Krem­lin — hav­ing Ukraine join NATO — was the venue last Novem­ber where we some some of the first pub­lic pro­nounce­ments from the US gov­ern­ment about con­cerns of Russ­ian inva­sion. Ukrain­ian for­eign min­is­ter Kule­ba was quite explic­it bout this “Peace through Strength” pol­i­cy, declar­ing that the “best way to deter aggres­sive Rus­sias is to make it clear for the Krem­lin that Ukraine is strong.” So, if noth­ing else, this sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny real­ly cap­tured an impor­tant aspect of that under­ly­ing dynam­ics dri­ving this con­flict. There real­ly was a strat­e­gy of mak­ing con­flict inevitable by adopt­ing a kind of ‘Peace Through Strength’ pol­i­cy and act­ing like that was was­n’t a mas­sive provo­ca­tion:

    ...
    Speak­ing along­side Ukrain­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Dmytro Kule­ba at the State Depart­ment, Blinken said that the US is “con­cerned by reports of unusu­al Russ­ian mil­i­tary activ­i­ty,” and is “mon­i­tor­ing very close­ly” the Rus­sia activ­i­ty.

    “Our con­cern is that Rus­sia may make a seri­ous mis­take of attempt­ing to rehash what it under­took back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the bor­der, crossed into sov­er­eign Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry and did so claim­ing false­ly that it was pro­voked,” Blinken said, refer­ring to Rus­si­a’s inva­sion of Crimea. “So the play­book that we’ve seen in the past was to claim some provo­ca­tion as a ratio­nale for doing what it, what it intend­ed and planned to do. All which is why we’re look­ing at this very care­ful­ly.”

    The top US diplo­mat also reit­er­at­ed the US’ com­mit­ment to Ukraine’s sov­er­eign­ty and inde­pen­dence, call­ing it “iron­clad.”

    ...

    Kule­ba also said the US and Ukraine shared “ele­ments” with each oth­er Wednes­day regard­ing the Russ­ian mil­i­tary activ­i­ties. “What we heard and saw today in Wash­ing­ton, DC, cor­re­sponds to our own find­ings and analy­sis, adds some new ele­ments, which allow us to get a bet­ter and more com­pre­hen­sive pic­ture,” he said.

    ...

    “The best way to deter aggres­sive Rus­sias is to make it clear for the Krem­lin that Ukraine is strong,” Kule­ba said. “I have repeat­ed on numer­ous occa­sions that Russ­ian aggres­sion against Ukraine will end on the day Ukraine’s place as part of the West is insti­tu­tion­al­ized and undoubt­ed. Today, we have made anoth­er impor­tant step in that direc­tion.”

    ...

    Kule­ba indi­cat­ed that find­ing a diplo­mat­ic way out could be dif­fi­cult. Point­ing to var­i­ous Russ­ian efforts to desta­bi­lize Europe — includ­ing its coer­cive use of ener­gy sup­plies, “pro­pa­gan­da efforts, dis­in­for­ma­tion, cyber­at­tacks, mil­i­tary buildups, an attempt of Rus­sia to digest Belarus” — the Ukrain­ian diplo­mat warned that “in this com­pli­cat­ed game, we have to remain vig­i­lant, we have, have to be resilient.”
    ...

    That’s the dynam­ic Cald­well is warn­ing about: ‘Peace Through Strength’ for Ukraine has been a dri­ving force for get­ting us into this sit­u­a­tion and also the core strat­e­gy for get­ting us out. So while we don’t know how this is going to end, we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent Ukraine is going to be a giant pile of rub­ble by the end up it. Per­haps a vic­to­ri­ous pile of rub­ble. We’ll see. But the only peace that’s going to be allowed in Ukraine clear­ly going to come through one side win­ning by force. It’s a reminder that ‘Peace through Strength’ does­n’t mean there’s nev­er going to be war. It just means war, or the threat of war, is the only way any­thing is going to be solved.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 4, 2022, 4:19 pm
  2. The war in Ukraine has obvi­ous­ly been a mas­sive boon for US defense con­trac­tors. A gift that promis­es to keep on giv­ing. So it should­n’t come as any sur­prise to learn that Palan­tir is report­ed­ly involved in the Ukrain­ian war effort. We don’t yet know exact­ly what ser­vices Palan­tir is pro­vid­ing to Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, but as the fol­low­ing Bloomberg arti­cle from a few days ago makes clear, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is quite inter­est­ed in expand­ing Palan­tir’s involve­ment in Ukraine’s mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. Some­thing that Palan­tir is also very inter­est­ed in, And as Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp also makes clear.

    But as we’re going to see in the fol­low­ing arti­cles, Palan­tir’s inter­est in the war in Ukraine isn’t just about get­ting anoth­er gov­ern­ment client. As Karp has been express­ing in inter­views in recent months, Palan­tir views the war in Ukraine as a pos­si­ble inflec­tion point for civ­i­liza­tion. An inflec­tion point that could bring about a bifur­ca­tion of the glob­al econ­o­my and a New Cold War between the ‘West’ on one side and Chi­na and Rus­sia on the oth­er side. Karp also includ­ed his now stan­dard crit­i­cisms of Sil­i­con Val­ley firms that are will­ing to do busi­ness in Rus­sia and Chi­na. So in this sense, Karp’s com­ments were an exten­sion of the ‘Yel­low-per­il’ kind of com­men­tary we’ve been hear­ing from fig­ures like Peter Thiel and Steve Ban­non for years. It’s a reminder that when Karp warns about a glob­al bifur­ca­tion, he’s also call­ing for it.

    But Karp isn’t just warn­ing about the risk of the con­flict in Ukraine trig­ger­ing a glob­al bifur­ca­tion. He’s also warn­ing that the West­’s insti­tu­tions appear to be inca­pable of deal­ing with today’s stress­es and pre­dict­ing mas­sive insti­tu­tion­al fail­ure and social dis­rup­tions. But there’s a far more dire warn­ing: Karp put the odds of nuclear war at 20–30% if the war in Ukraine becomes a long-term con­flict.

    Inter­est­ing­ly, Karp isn’t pre­dict­ing a renewed nuclear arms race. Instead, he fore­sees a new Cold War with AI as the key tech­nol­o­gy instead of nukes. As Karp sees it, the coun­tries with the most advanced AIs will in effect have the most pow­er in com­ing decades, much like how nuclear weapons defined pow­er in the last cen­tu­ry. This is obvi­ous­ly a high­ly self-serv­ing pre­dic­tion giv­en that this is the exact ser­vice Palan­tir pro­vides. But that does­n’t mean there’ isn’t more than a grain a truth to what Karp is pre­dict­ing. AI real­ly is set to be increas­ing­ly impor­tant in the nation­al secu­ri­ty realm.

    So how does Karp address con­cerns about the poten­tial gov­ern­ment abus­es that will sure­ly come as nation­al secu­ri­ty AIs play ever greater roles in our lives? Well, he assures us that Palan­tir’s soft­ware makes third-par­ty audit­ing avail­able. That’s it. So if Palan­tir’s clients decide to police them­selves, they can do so.

    Final­ly, as we’re going to see an in inter­view Karp gave back in April, Palan­tir won’t just be pro­vid­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty intel­li­gence to gov­ern­ment clients. Karp also envi­sions Palan­tir facil­i­tat­ing data shar­ing between nations. In par­tic­u­lar, Japan’s data shar­ing with the Five Eyes. Karp thinks Palan­tir can help with that. It’s a hint about the com­pa­ny’s ambi­tions. Palan­tir wants to become the West­’s inter­na­tion­al intel­li­gence bro­ker. A role that it will assume as part of a long-term new AI Cold War con­flict that will play out in a bifur­cat­ed world. And if this sce­nario plays out, Palan­tir also envi­sions a major pos­si­bil­i­ty of nuclear war and mass insti­tu­tion­al fail­ure. So the com­pa­ny that gov­ern­ments hire to ana­lyze data and make pre­dic­tions is both call­ing for a major New Cold War and also pre­dict­ing pre­dict­ing a glob­al melt­down will result from it:

    Bloomberg

    Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp Met With Zelen­skiy in Ukraine

    Ukrain­ian vice prime min­is­ter says Karp is first CEO to vis­it since Russ­ian inva­sion.

    By Lizette Chap­man
    June 2, 2022 at 1:29 PM CDT
    Updat­ed on June 2, 2022 at 2:14 PM CDT

    Alex Karp, the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies Inc., vis­it­ed Ukraine and met with Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy to dis­cuss ways its tech­nol­o­gy could help the coun­try resist the con­tin­u­ing Russ­ian inva­sion.

    Palan­tir, co-found­ed by con­tro­ver­sial right-wing bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel, makes data min­ing soft­ware and ser­vices and pow­ers dozens of agen­cies with­in the US gov­ern­ment and its allies, as well as large insti­tu­tions.

    “We are hon­ored to be includ­ed in these dis­cus­sions and rec­og­nize the lead­ing role tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies can play to rein­force their mis­sion,” Palan­tir said in a state­ment. At the meet­ing, Karp and Zelen­skiy “dis­cussed how Palan­tir can con­tin­ue to use its tech­nol­o­gy to sup­port Ukraine,” the state­ment said. “With geopo­lit­i­cal ten­sions ris­ing all over the world, enhanc­ing secu­ri­ty and pro­tect­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions has nev­er been more impor­tant.”

    In a tweet on Thurs­day, Ukraine’s vice prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter for dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, Mykhai­lo Fedorov, said that Karp was the first CEO to vis­it the coun­try since the begin­ning of the Russ­ian inva­sion. Sev­er­al gov­ern­ment offi­cials, includ­ing US House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and UK Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, have also made the trip.

    Den­ver-based Palan­tir has pre­vi­ous­ly won sig­nif­i­cant defense con­tracts aimed at updat­ing gov­ern­ment soft­ware. In recent months, Palantir’s Karp has warned of the large nation­al secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions of the war in Ukraine. In the company’s annu­al let­ter to share­hold­ers in May, Karp wrote that the world is at an “inflec­tion point,” and that the “glob­al pan­dem­ic and war in Europe have now con­spired to shat­ter our col­lec­tive illu­sions of sta­bil­i­ty and per­pet­u­al peace.”

    Palantir’s tech­nol­o­gy has been in use by Ukraine, the US and oth­er NATO coun­tries since the begin­ning of the con­flict three months ago, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the com­pa­ny who asked not to be iden­ti­fied dis­cussing pri­vate infor­ma­tion.

    The com­pa­ny, which got its start near­ly two decades ago help­ing intel­li­gence agen­cies aggre­gate data, said in a recent investor pre­sen­ta­tion that gov­ern­ments in the region had used a range of Palan­tir ser­vices. “Every prod­uct and capa­bil­i­ty has been employed by our cus­tomers to sup­port mis­sion out­comes for Ukraine—and across Poland, Lithua­nia and oth­er nations to pow­er refugee relief,” the com­pa­ny said.

    ———-

    “Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp Met With Zelen­skiy in Ukraine” By Lizette Chap­man; Bloomberg; 06/02/2022

    Palantir’s tech­nol­o­gy has been in use by Ukraine, the US and oth­er NATO coun­tries since the begin­ning of the con­flict three months ago, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the com­pa­ny who asked not to be iden­ti­fied dis­cussing pri­vate infor­ma­tion.”

    We don’t know what exact­ly Palan­tir is doing in rela­tion to Ukraine’s war effort. But as the first for­eign CEO to vis­it the coun­try since the start of the con­flict, Palan­tir is clear­ly very inter­est­ed in Ukraine.

    But if we take Alex Karp at his word, his inter­est in Ukraine isn’t just the poten­tial new mar­ket Ukraine presents for Palan­tir’s ser­vices. Accord­ing to Karp, the con­flict in Ukraine rep­re­sents a kind of glob­al secu­ri­ty inflec­tion poin. An inflec­tion point that could “shat­ter our col­lec­tive illu­sions of sta­bil­i­ty and per­pet­u­al peace.” It’s a pro­found­ly dark pre­dic­tion:

    ...
    In a tweet on Thurs­day, Ukraine’s vice prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter for dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, Mykhai­lo Fedorov, said that Karp was the first CEO to vis­it the coun­try since the begin­ning of the Russ­ian inva­sion. Sev­er­al gov­ern­ment offi­cials, includ­ing US House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi and UK Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, have also made the trip.

    Den­ver-based Palan­tir has pre­vi­ous­ly won sig­nif­i­cant defense con­tracts aimed at updat­ing gov­ern­ment soft­ware. In recent months, Palantir’s Karp has warned of the large nation­al secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions of the war in Ukraine. In the company’s annu­al let­ter to share­hold­ers in May, Karp wrote that the world is at an “inflec­tion point,” and that the “glob­al pan­dem­ic and war in Europe have now con­spired to shat­ter our col­lec­tive illu­sions of sta­bil­i­ty and per­pet­u­al peace.”
    ...

    So what kinds of tur­moil is Karp pre­dict­ing might come with this glob­al insti­tu­tion­al melt­down? Well, we got a hint for Karp in an inter­view a cou­ple weeks ago where he shared a pre­dic­tion: If the war in Ukraine turns into a long-term con­flict, Karp puts the odds of a nuclear war at 20–30%:

    CNBC

    Palan­tir CEO weighs in on the Ukraine war: ‘The les­son for every big coun­try is holy s—’

    * The tech exec said every large nation is cur­rent­ly eval­u­at­ing its offen­sive and defen­sive abil­i­ties.
    * Karp added that he believes there is a 20–30% chance of a nuclear war tak­ing place in the long term.
    * It’s worth not­ing that Palan­tir stands to ben­e­fit if every­one thinks a nuclear war on the way as the com­pa­ny sells its soft­ware to mil­i­taries around the world.

    by Sam Shead
    Pub­lished Tue, May 24 2022 11:54 AM EDT
    Updat­ed Tue, May 24 20221:22 PM EDT

    Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp believes that the war between Rus­sia and Ukraine is mak­ing big coun­tries re-con­sid­er their mil­i­tary strate­gies.

    Asked by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin if there is a les­son for Chi­na from the war, Karp said: “The les­son for every big coun­try is ‘holy s—. We’ve been buy­ing all this heavy stuff and if peo­ple are will­ing to fight as heroes, fight to the last per­son ... they might actu­al­ly be able to beat us’.”

    Karp, who was inter­viewed at the World Eco­nom­ic Forum in Davos on Tues­day, said every large nation is cur­rent­ly eval­u­at­ing its offen­sive and defen­sive abil­i­ties.

    “Is our offen­sive capa­bil­i­ty actu­al­ly offence? Or will defense-offense like in Ukraine be able to beat us? Every sin­gle large coun­try in the world is look­ing at this. Not just our adver­saries but also our allies.”

    ...

    Nuclear risk

    Karp said he believes there is a 20–30% chance of a nuclear war tak­ing place in the long term as the war in Ukraine shows no sign of dis­si­pat­ing.

    He added that the risk of nuclear war is cur­rent­ly being under­es­ti­mat­ed, adding that most peo­ple see it as being below 1%.

    “I think, of course, it depends on the dura­tion. If you have a long dura­tion, I think the risk is modellable and it’s prob­a­bly in the 20–30% range.”

    One of the rea­sons peo­ple are under­es­ti­mat­ing the risk of nuclear war is because there has been a “sys­tem that’s func­tioned” ever since World War II, accord­ing to Karp, who believes the sys­tem has allowed more peo­ple in the West to become more edu­cat­ed and wealth­i­er.

    “But we’re now in a moment where the sys­tem actu­al­ly flips,” Karp said, adding that times like this can lead to moments of com­plete irra­tional­i­ty.

    “Our insti­tu­tions have not taught us how to deal with that,” Karp added. “And there­fore we sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly under­es­ti­mate the risk.”

    Palantir’s data ana­lyt­ics tech­nol­o­gy aims to try to help lead­ers join the dots so they can make deci­sions, be it in busi­ness or on the bat­tle­field. It’s worth not­ing that Palan­tir stands to ben­e­fit if every­one thinks a nuclear war is on the way as the com­pa­ny sells its soft­ware to mil­i­taries around the world. The com­pa­ny works with armed forces in the U.S. and Europe although it keeps the exact nature of most mil­i­tary part­ner­ships secret.

    ———-

    “Palan­tir CEO weighs in on the Ukraine war: ‘The les­son for every big coun­try is holy s—’” by Sam Shead; CNBC; 05/24/2022

    ““I think, of course, it depends on the dura­tion. If you have a long dura­tion, I think the risk is modellable and it’s prob­a­bly in the 20–30% range.””

    A 20–30% change of nuclear war. Those are the odd Karp was plac­ing on the risk of a nuclear war between Rus­sia and the West if the con­flict in Ukraine ends up becom­ing a long run­ning con­flict. But beyond that grim pre­dic­tion, Karp appears to be sug­gest­ing that the world is poised for a peri­od of mass insti­tu­ta­tion­al fail­ure and com­plete irra­tional­i­ty. He’s pre­dict­ing a kind of glob­al men­tal melt­down:

    ...
    One of the rea­sons peo­ple are under­es­ti­mat­ing the risk of nuclear war is because there has been a “sys­tem that’s func­tioned” ever since World War II, accord­ing to Karp, who believes the sys­tem has allowed more peo­ple in the West to become more edu­cat­ed and wealth­i­er.

    “But we’re now in a moment where the sys­tem actu­al­ly flips,” Karp said, adding that times like this can lead to moments of com­plete irra­tional­i­ty.

    “Our insti­tu­tions have not taught us how to deal with that,” Karp added. “And there­fore we sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly under­es­ti­mate the risk.”
    ...

    So will the nuclear war hap­pen before or after the insti­tu­tion­al melt­downs? We’ll find out.

    But the inva­sion of Ukraine and Palan­tir’s role in that fight has­n’t just prompt­ed fears of a nuclear exchange in Karp’s mind. As he describes in the fol­low­ing Asahi Shim­bun arti­cle from back in April, Karp views the West as being locked in a long-term strate­gic full spec­trum Cold War with Russ­ian and Chi­na. But unlike the last Cold War, AI will be the crit­i­cal tech­nol­o­gy in the future of nation­al secu­ri­ty.

    And what about the con­cerns about the kinds of ser­vices Palan­tir offers gov­ern­ments being abused as these nation­al secu­ri­ty AIs become more and more pow­er­ful and inva­sive? Well, Karp assures us that Palan­tir’s soft­ware allows for over­sight by third par­ties with­in orga­ni­za­tions who do not have a stake in project out­comes. In oth­er words, Palan­tir isn’t active­ly mon­i­tor­ing its clients for abus­es, but if those clients want­ed to mon­i­tor them­selves the tools are avail­able. It’s not exact­ly assur­ing.

    But we also get a rather remark­able state­ment about Palan­tir’s ambi­tions in rela­tion to Japan: the com­pa­ny wants to play a role in facil­i­tat­ing intel­li­gence shar­ing between Japan and the Five Eyes alliance. So Palan­tir is warn­ing about a com­ing AI Cold War. A Cold War that’s going to require mas­sive vol­umes of data col­lec­tion and shar­ing shared inter­na­tion­al across the West and its part­ners, with Palan­tir at the heart of it as the West­’s intel­li­gence shar­ing hub:

    The Asahi Shim­bun

    INTERVIEW/ Meet Palan­tir, the big data firm ana­lyz­ing the Ukraine con­flict

    By NAOATSU AOYAMA/ Staff Writer

    April 20, 2022 at 10:30 JST

    An offi­cial at the U.S.-based data-analy­sis firm Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies Inc. point­ed to a loca­tion on a screen at the company’s head­quar­ters in Den­ver, Col­orado, as Russ­ian troops massed on the Ukrain­ian bor­der.

    “This image was tak­en of a site just north of Ukraine,” he said on Feb. 10 dur­ing a demon­stra­tion of soft­ware that coor­di­nates satel­lite imagery. “A plan­ner might want to know how fre­quent­ly this site needs to be imaged so that they could detect new move­ments.”

    Palantir’s soft­ware pro­vides analy­sis of the cri­sis unfold­ing in Ukraine and oth­er regions around the world to assist the U.S. gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary.

    “Over just a two-day time peri­od, for exam­ple, there have been 1,200 satel­lite fly­overs,” the offi­cial con­tin­ued.

    The firm, which has grown much clos­er to Wash­ing­ton than oth­er IT giants and Sil­i­con Val­ley dar­lings, uses its soft­ware to sched­ule image col­lec­tion from hun­dreds of satel­lites orbit­ing the Earth to deliv­er crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion to deci­sion mak­ers.

    The offi­cial then pulled up an image of the South Chi­na Sea, where Chi­na con­tin­ues to increase its naval pow­er. The company’s soft­ware enables its cus­tomers to con­tin­u­ous­ly mon­i­tor the move­ments of Chi­nese sub­marines, destroy­ers, air­craft car­ri­ers and oth­er ves­sels, pro­vid­ing vital tac­ti­cal infor­ma­tion for strate­gic and pol­i­cy deci­sions.

    “How can our tech­nol­o­gy enable our cus­tomers to make deci­sions faster than their adver­saries? To do that, we need more eyes,” the offi­cial said.

    ...

    Although Google LLC or Face­book Inc., now Meta Plat­forms Inc., main­tain some dis­tance from the U.S. gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary, Palan­tir is one exam­ple of how Big Data is work­ing close­ly with Wash­ing­ton.

    When the firm was list­ed in 2020, its reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments said that it would not trade with adver­sar­i­al coun­tries or the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty.

    Over the past decades since the end of the Cold War, a con­sen­sus had been reached that glob­al­iza­tion would fos­ter world peace because inter­na­tion­al businesses–IT giants and multi­na­tion­al companies–deepen mutu­al depen­dence among nations.

    But the emer­gence of Chi­na as a hege­mon­ic world pow­er, and now Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, are begin­ning to shake that belief.

    AI WILL ‘DICTATE NORMS OF THE FUTURE’

    Alex Capri, an expert at the Hin­rich Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it think tank focused on trade issues, believes the world has entered an era of tech­no-nation­al­ism, when nations–particularly the Unit­ed States and China–struggle for hege­mo­ny over data and AI.

    “Data is a com­mod­i­ty. It’s trade­able. But it’s also a tool and a resource for all kinds of activ­i­ties, pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive,” Capri said.

    These activ­i­ties include state attempts to dis­sem­i­nate fake news or con­tro­ver­sial infor­ma­tion to under­mine polit­i­cal adver­saries.

    “As glob­al­iza­tion becomes more region­al­ized and local­ized, we will see more ring-fenc­ing around strate­gic data indus­tries.”

    Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp also empha­sizes the impor­tance of data. Known as a unique busi­ness­man who majored in phi­los­o­phy and earned a doc­tor­ate in Ger­many, Karp said in an inter­view with The Asahi Shim­bun that his indus­try is now the key to the suc­cess of nations.

    “The coun­try that con­trols the best soft­ware, in this case AI soft­ware and its many man­i­fes­ta­tions, will dic­tate the norms of the future, the same way the coun­tries that con­trolled the nuclear bomb in the last half decade de fac­to defined the rules of the game,” Karp said.

    Karp showed dis­sat­is­fac­tion with U.S. IT giants that have expand­ed their busi­ness­es world­wide after the Cold War end­ed, regard­less of the norms embod­ied by dif­fer­ent states.

    “Sil­i­con Val­ley 1.0 believed it should build tech­nol­o­gy pri­mar­i­ly for the mil­i­tary and repur­pose that tech­nol­o­gy so that it would be use­ful for the rest of human­i­ty,” he said.

    Then, “Sil­i­con Val­ley 2.0” mar­ket­ed its prod­ucts as things that help peo­ple, while at the same time was trans­form­ing their users into the prod­ucts being con­sumed, he said.

    In oth­er words, Google and Face­book are essen­tial­ly adver­tis­ing com­pa­nies. Con­sumers use their ser­vices because they are free, but the com­pa­nies vac­u­um up their per­son­al data and put it up for sale at enor­mous prof­its.

    More recent­ly, Big Tech com­pa­nies have come under fire for dis­tort­ing democ­ra­cy through monop­o­lis­tic busi­ness mod­els that exac­er­bate wealth dis­par­i­ties and allow states such as Chi­na and Rus­sia to eas­i­ly prop­a­gate dis­in­for­ma­tion online.

    Con­verse­ly, Palan­tir has become a major con­trac­tor for the U.S. gov­ern­ment, includ­ing the mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence agen­cies, a fact that has drawn its own crit­i­cism from observers.

    While Palan­tir works to pro­tect the U.S. and its allies from Islamist ter­ror­ism and infringe­ment on free­doms by author­i­tar­i­an states, there is also con­cern that Palantir’s soft­ware can be per­vert­ed by gov­ern­ments to sur­veil the pub­lic or cur­tail civ­il lib­er­ties.

    Respond­ing to these crit­i­cisms, Karp not­ed that while it is true any tech­nol­o­gy can be abused, Palantir’s soft­ware allows for over­sight by third par­ties with­in orga­ni­za­tions who do not have a stake in project out­comes. All oper­a­tions of the soft­ware deliv­ered to the gov­ern­ment are record­ed, mak­ing it hard­er to mis­use, he said.

    Palantir’s oper­a­tions are not lim­it­ed to the nation­al secu­ri­ty realm, how­ev­er. Amid the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, the firm also built a com­put­er sys­tem for the U.S. government’s vac­ci­na­tion roll­out.

    In Japan, Som­po Hold­ings Inc. has invest­ed in Palan­tir since 2020. It is work­ing to deploy Palantir’s soft­ware in elder­ly nurs­ing care facil­i­ties and med­ical busi­ness­es.

    Palan­tir like­wise coop­er­at­ed with the Kana­gawa pre­fec­tur­al gov­ern­ment to ana­lyze the spread of COVID-19 across the local com­mu­ni­ty. More than half of Palantir’s cus­tomers are now in the pri­vate sec­tor.

    Karp said he pays close atten­tion to the rela­tion­ship between the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment and the Five Eyes countries–the Unit­ed States, Britain, Cana­da, Aus­tralia and New Zealand–which share con­fi­den­tial intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary infor­ma­tion.

    Palan­tir is “very inter­est­ed in help­ing Japan play an even big­ger role in the Five Eyes com­mu­ni­ty,” he not­ed.

    Matthew Turpin, who works at Palan­tir as Senior Advis­er, is a for­mer U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cer who pre­vi­ous­ly served as the U.S. Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s Direc­tor for Chi­na dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    He helped for­mu­late eco­nom­ic and secu­ri­ty coun­ter­mea­sures against Chi­na, includ­ing sanc­tions, tar­iffs and export con­trols, while also coor­di­nat­ing actions among allies.

    Turpin sees rela­tions with Chi­na and Rus­sia as a com­pre­hen­sive, long-term strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion across a broad range of eco­nom­ic, intel­li­gence, diplo­mat­ic and mil­i­tary domains, just like the Cold War with the for­mer Sovi­et Union. The key to this new com­pe­ti­tion is data.

    Chi­na is using the data gen­er­at­ed by its enor­mous pop­u­la­tion of 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple to improve AI tech­nolo­gies, such as facial recog­ni­tion, which it exports to author­i­tar­i­an states for domes­tic sur­veil­lance and cen­sor­ship.

    It is wide­ly believed to be wag­ing a “hybrid war” against demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ments such as Tai­wan by exploit­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to cyber­at­tacks and pro­pa­gan­da.

    While some argue that author­i­tar­i­an regimes have an advan­tage in the data race, Turpin said democ­ra­cies “should be quite con­fi­dent about the plu­ral­is­tic natures of our sys­tems.”

    “Democ­ra­cies have to both ensure secu­ri­ty and civ­il lib­er­ties. As a com­pa­ny, we feel you can pro­tect sen­si­tive data while also shar­ing data when it’s mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial. This also over­laps with the Japan­ese government’s pol­i­cy of ‘data free flow with trust.’”

    After Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, Karp issued a state­ment titled “On the Defense of Europe.”

    There he assert­ed, “Our soft­ware is in the fight around the world. The cen­ter will hold. But we need an allied tech­nol­o­gy indus­try in Europe to step up and fight this bat­tle along­side us in order to win.”

    Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine could be the begin­ning of a glob­al bifur­ca­tion, but Karp believes that Palantir’s data ana­lyt­ics soft­ware will be on the right side of the fight.

    Here are some excerpts from the inter­view:

    Q: Are demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­tries like the Unit­ed States or Japan at a major infor­ma­tion dis­ad­van­tage when com­pared to Chi­na and its strat­e­gy to reign in its big tech firms and main­tain exclu­sive gov­ern­ment con­trol over data flows?

    A: Palan­tir is play­ing a very large role on a num­ber of clas­si­fied projects in the con­text of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and very sophis­ti­cat­ed machine learn­ing. There’s a gen­er­al asser­tion that non-demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­tries have an advan­tage in build­ing soft­ware because they have unfet­tered access to data. But the most impor­tant advan­tage is the know-how about build­ing a tech com­pa­ny. And the kind of tech com­pa­nies that build our kind of soft­ware are most­ly, almost exclu­sive­ly, built here in the Unit­ed States.

    Now, soft­ware comes down to build­ing a soft­ware cul­ture that retains and recruits and trains peo­ple. The West in gen­er­al, and Amer­i­ca, in par­tic­u­lar, are still by far the best at build­ing enter­prise soft­ware.

    I’d be very pas­sion­ate about chang­ing that so there are more soft­ware com­pa­nies in Japan and Europe.

    America’s form of cap­i­tal­ism, inno­va­tion, and, quite frankly, abil­i­ty to build the bomb, con­vinced peo­ple around the world Amer­i­ca’s val­ues were right. It was not that the val­ues them­selves, in the absence of these accom­plish­ments, con­vinced peo­ple that the Amer­i­can mod­el was the best.

    Q: What is your out­look for tomor­row? Will we see an increas­ing­ly bifur­cat­ed world between dig­i­tal democ­ra­cies and tech­no-author­i­tar­i­an states, con­test­ing data and AI?

    A: As you would say in Eng­lish, “buck­le up.” It’s going to be very, very rough waters, I think–politically, eco­nom­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly. I believe we’re going to see mas­sive dis­rup­tions, both inside and out­side coun­tries.

    ———-

    “INTERVIEW/ Meet Palan­tir, the big data firm ana­lyz­ing the Ukraine con­flict” by NAOATSU AOYAMA; The Asahi Shim­bun; 04/20/2022

    ““The coun­try that con­trols the best soft­ware, in this case AI soft­ware and its many man­i­fes­ta­tions, will dic­tate the norms of the future, the same way the coun­tries that con­trolled the nuclear bomb in the last half decade de fac­to defined the rules of the game,” Karp said.”

    AI is the new nukes. That’s how Karp was char­ac­ter­iz­ing the role he envi­sions AI play­ing in the geostrate­gic land­scape of tomor­row. The coun­tries with supe­ri­or AI capa­bil­i­ties will dom­i­nate the future.

    Of course, under this AI-cen­tric vision, that also means the mass col­lec­tion of data to feed these AIs are going to be more and more of a nation­al secu­ri­ty issue. So how to Karp envi­sion this bat­tle of super-AIs play­ing out in the con­text of an osten­si­ble glob­al divide between the ‘free’ West and author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments? Author­i­tar­i­an regimes would obvi­ous­ly have a mas­sive advan­tage in terms of data col­lec­tion and uses. Karp echoed the ‘yel­low per­il’ crit­i­cism Peter Thiel and Steve Ban­non have long issued against Palan­tir’s Sil­i­con Val­ley rivals for their will­ing­ness to do busi­ness in coun­tries like Chi­na. He goes on to warn about a glob­al bifur­ca­tion. A bifiru­ca­tion that, of course, he is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly call­ing for when he makes his demands that West­ern com­pa­nies sim­ply stop doing busi­ness with Rus­sia or Chi­na.

    So how does Karp address con­cerns that Palan­tir’s ser­vices are pro­vid­ing tools ripe for gov­ern­ment abuse as this AI Cold War plays out? Well, Karp offers bland assur­ances about how “soft­ware allows for over­sight by third par­ties with­in orga­ni­za­tions who do not have a stake in project out­comes.” In oth­er words, Palan­tir isn’t actu­al­ly mon­i­tor­ing how its soft­ware is used, but if its clients want to set up their own inter­nal abuse-track­ing mea­sures they are free to do so. It’s the kind of none-answer answer that’s a remind that the issue of civ­il rights abus­es by gov­ern­ment AIs is poised dur­ing the upcom­ing AI Cold War. An AI Cold War that will be guid­ed by fig­ures like Alex Karp who want to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly assure us that the AI ser­vices pro­vid­ed by Palan­tir are both absolute­ly vital for inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty and also safe from abuse:

    ...
    Karp showed dis­sat­is­fac­tion with U.S. IT giants that have expand­ed their busi­ness­es world­wide after the Cold War end­ed, regard­less of the norms embod­ied by dif­fer­ent states.

    “Sil­i­con Val­ley 1.0 believed it should build tech­nol­o­gy pri­mar­i­ly for the mil­i­tary and repur­pose that tech­nol­o­gy so that it would be use­ful for the rest of human­i­ty,” he said.

    Then, “Sil­i­con Val­ley 2.0” mar­ket­ed its prod­ucts as things that help peo­ple, while at the same time was trans­form­ing their users into the prod­ucts being con­sumed, he said.

    In oth­er words, Google and Face­book are essen­tial­ly adver­tis­ing com­pa­nies. Con­sumers use their ser­vices because they are free, but the com­pa­nies vac­u­um up their per­son­al data and put it up for sale at enor­mous prof­its.

    More recent­ly, Big Tech com­pa­nies have come under fire for dis­tort­ing democ­ra­cy through monop­o­lis­tic busi­ness mod­els that exac­er­bate wealth dis­par­i­ties and allow states such as Chi­na and Rus­sia to eas­i­ly prop­a­gate dis­in­for­ma­tion online.

    Con­verse­ly, Palan­tir has become a major con­trac­tor for the U.S. gov­ern­ment, includ­ing the mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence agen­cies, a fact that has drawn its own crit­i­cism from observers.

    While Palan­tir works to pro­tect the U.S. and its allies from Islamist ter­ror­ism and infringe­ment on free­doms by author­i­tar­i­an states, there is also con­cern that Palantir’s soft­ware can be per­vert­ed by gov­ern­ments to sur­veil the pub­lic or cur­tail civ­il lib­er­ties.

    Respond­ing to these crit­i­cisms, Karp not­ed that while it is true any tech­nol­o­gy can be abused, Palantir’s soft­ware allows for over­sight by third par­ties with­in orga­ni­za­tions who do not have a stake in project out­comes. All oper­a­tions of the soft­ware deliv­ered to the gov­ern­ment are record­ed, mak­ing it hard­er to mis­use, he said.

    ...

    Turpin sees rela­tions with Chi­na and Rus­sia as a com­pre­hen­sive, long-term strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion across a broad range of eco­nom­ic, intel­li­gence, diplo­mat­ic and mil­i­tary domains, just like the Cold War with the for­mer Sovi­et Union. The key to this new com­pe­ti­tion is data.

    Chi­na is using the data gen­er­at­ed by its enor­mous pop­u­la­tion of 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple to improve AI tech­nolo­gies, such as facial recog­ni­tion, which it exports to author­i­tar­i­an states for domes­tic sur­veil­lance and cen­sor­ship.

    It is wide­ly believed to be wag­ing a “hybrid war” against demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ments such as Tai­wan by exploit­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to cyber­at­tacks and pro­pa­gan­da.

    While some argue that author­i­tar­i­an regimes have an advan­tage in the data race, Turpin said democ­ra­cies “should be quite con­fi­dent about the plu­ral­is­tic natures of our sys­tems.”

    “Democ­ra­cies have to both ensure secu­ri­ty and civ­il lib­er­ties. As a com­pa­ny, we feel you can pro­tect sen­si­tive data while also shar­ing data when it’s mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial. This also over­laps with the Japan­ese government’s pol­i­cy of ‘data free flow with trust.’”

    After Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, Karp issued a state­ment titled “On the Defense of Europe.”

    There he assert­ed, “Our soft­ware is in the fight around the world. The cen­ter will hold. But we need an allied tech­nol­o­gy indus­try in Europe to step up and fight this bat­tle along­side us in order to win.”

    Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine could be the begin­ning of a glob­al bifur­ca­tion, but Karp believes that Palantir’s data ana­lyt­ics soft­ware will be on the right side of the fight.

    ...

    Q: What is your out­look for tomor­row? Will we see an increas­ing­ly bifur­cat­ed world between dig­i­tal democ­ra­cies and tech­no-author­i­tar­i­an states, con­test­ing data and AI?

    A: As you would say in Eng­lish, “buck­le up.” It’s going to be very, very rough waters, I think–politically, eco­nom­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly. I believe we’re going to see mas­sive dis­rup­tions, both inside and out­side coun­tries.
    ...

    And then we get this fas­ci­nat­ing hint about anoth­er area of growth Palan­tir has in mind in this future AI Cold War land­scape: As AI becomes more and more impor­tant for glob­al secu­ri­ty, so will infor­ma­tion shar­ing between nations. As such, Karp appar­ent­ly envi­sions Palan­tir play­ing a role in that infor­ma­tion shar­ing glob­al infra­struc­ture. For exam­ple, facil­i­tat­ing the shar­ing of infor­ma­tion between Japan and the Five Eyes. So Palan­tir is try­ing to become a kind of Five Eyes inter­na­tion­al data broke mid­dle-man:

    ...
    Karp said he pays close atten­tion to the rela­tion­ship between the Japan­ese gov­ern­ment and the Five Eyes countries–the Unit­ed States, Britain, Cana­da, Aus­tralia and New Zealand–which share con­fi­den­tial intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary infor­ma­tion.

    Palan­tir is “very inter­est­ed in help­ing Japan play an even big­ger role in the Five Eyes com­mu­ni­ty,” he not­ed.
    ...

    It’s worth keep­ing in mind the­bizarre con­tra­dic­tion in Palan­tir’s stance here: it wants to be a hyper-nation­al­is­tic com­pa­ny with a focus on nation­al­ist secu­ri­ty while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly offer­ing sim­i­lar ser­vices to just about any gov­ern­ment on the plan­et that isn’t Rus­sia or Chi­na. It’s the kind of busi­ness plan that rais­es the ques­tion of how long before Palan­tir has more access to intel­li­gence than any oth­er enti­ty on the plan­et? And what are the glob­al secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions of giv­ing a pri­vate enti­ty run by known fas­cists that much pow­er? We’ll find out. But don’t be shocked if it ends in glob­al calami­ty. That is what Palan­tir is pre­dict­ing, after all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 6, 2022, 4:25 pm
  3. The unof­fi­cial — yet basi­cal­ly offi­cial — crack­down on Con­sor­tium New had an dis­turb­ing, if not unex­pect­ed, new twist: fol­low­ing on Pay­Pal’s deci­sion to per­ma­nent­ly cut off Con­sor­tium News from its pay­ment ser­vices for mys­te­ri­ous unex­plained rea­sons, we’re now learn­ing that Con­sor­tium News has been “reviewed” by a new US gov­ern­ment affil­i­at­ed enti­ty called “News­Guard”, which has assumed the role of judg­ing news out­lets for the qual­i­ty of their news cov­er­age. So in addi­tion to cut­ting off Con­sor­tium News’s abil­i­ty to finance itself, the site is also being attack as a pur­vey­or of false news by an app being pushed on the pub­lic with gov­ern­ment back­ing.

    As we should expect, News­Guard has charged Con­sor­tium News with pub­lish­ing “false con­tent”. As we should also expect, those charges of “false con­tent” are focused on the out­let’s cov­er­age of the events in Ukraine. Charges of “false con­tent” that are absolute­ly out­ra­geous and eas­i­ly refut­ed using a myr­i­ad of main­stream sources. And that’s more or less what the fol­low­ing arti­cle by Joe Lau­ria of Con­sor­tium News lays out in exten­sive detail. It’s just one giant refu­ta­tion of News­Guard’s attacks, filled with main­stream news reports back­ing Con­sor­tium News’s report­ing. A giant refu­ta­tion of News­Guard filled with main­stream news reports back­ing Con­sor­tium News’s report­ing that will pre­sum­ably be entire­ly ignored by News­Guard and the rest of the main­stream media:

    Con­sor­tium News

    US State-Affil­i­at­ed News­Guard Tar­gets Con­sor­tium News

    June 2, 2022

    The Pen­ta­gon and State Dept.-linked out­fit, with an ex‑N.S.A. and C.I.A. direc­tor on its board, is accus­ing Con­sor­tium News of pub­lish­ing “false con­tent” on Ukraine, reports Joe Lau­ria.

    By Joe Lau­ria
    Spe­cial to Con­sor­tium News

    Con­sor­tium News is being “reviewed” by News­Guard, a U.S. gov­ern­ment-linked orga­ni­za­tion that is try­ing to enforce a nar­ra­tive on Ukraine while seek­ing to dis­cred­it dis­sent­ing views.

    The orga­ni­za­tion has accused Con­sor­tium News, begun in 1995 by for­mer Asso­ci­at­ed Press inves­tiga­tive reporter Robert Par­ry, of pub­lish­ing “false con­tent” on Ukraine.

    It calls “false” essen­tial facts about Ukraine that have been sup­pressed in main­stream media: 1) that there was a U.S.-backed coup in 2014 and 2) that neo-Nazism is a sig­nif­i­cant force in Ukraine. Report­ing cru­cial infor­ma­tion left out of cor­po­rate media is Con­sor­tium News‘ essen­tial mis­sion.

    But News­Guard con­sid­ers these facts to be “myths” and is demand­ing Con­sor­tium News “cor­rect” these “errors.”

    Who is News­Guard?

    News­Guard set itself up in 2018 as a judge of news orga­ni­za­tions’ cred­i­bil­i­ty. The front page of NewsGuard’s web­site shows that it is “part­ners” with the State Depart­ment and the Pen­ta­gon, as well as with sev­er­al major cor­po­ra­tions, such as Microsoft. The nature of these “part­ner­ships” is not entire­ly clear.

    News­Guard is a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion that can shield itself from First Amend­ment oblig­a­tions. But it has con­nec­tions to for­mer­ly high-rank­ing U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials in addi­tion to its “part­ner­ships” with the State Dept. and the Pen­ta­gon.

    Among those sit­ting on NewsGuard’s advi­so­ry board are Gen. Michael Hay­den, the for­mer Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency direc­tor; Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Home­land Secu­ri­ty direc­tor and Anders Fogh Ras­mussen, a for­mer sec­re­tary gen­er­al of NATO. New­Guard says its “advi­sors pro­vide advice and sub­ject-mat­ter exper­tise to News­Guard. They play no role in the deter­mi­na­tions of rat­ings or the Nutri­tion Label write ups of web­sites unless oth­er­wise not­ed and have no role in the gov­er­nance or man­age­ment of the orga­ni­za­tion.”

    The co-CEO, with for­mer Wall Street Jour­nal pub­lish­er Louis Gor­don Crovitz, is Steven Brill, who in the 1990s pub­lished Brill’s Con­tent, a mag­a­zine that was billed as a watch­dog of the press, cri­tiquing the role of the media to hold gov­ern­ment to account. News­Guard is a gov­ern­ment-affil­i­at­ed orga­ni­za­tion judg­ing media like Con­sor­tium News that is total­ly inde­pen­dent of gov­ern­ment or cor­po­ra­tions.

    News­Guard has a rat­ing process that results in a news orga­ni­za­tion receiv­ing either a green or red label. Fox News and oth­er major media, for exam­ple, have received green labels.

    Get­ting a red label means that poten­tial­ly mil­lions of peo­ple that have the News­Guard exten­sion installed and oper­at­ing on their browsers will see the green or red mark affixed to web­sites on social media and Google search­es. (For indi­vid­u­als that do not already have it installed and oper­at­ing on Microsoft’s brows­er, it costs $4.95 a month in the U.S., £4.95 in the U.K., or €4.95 in the EU to run the exten­sion.)

    Accord­ing to News­Guard, libraries in the U.S. and Britain have had it installed on their com­put­ers, and it is also being put on com­put­ers of U.S. active duty per­son­nel. Slate report­ed in Jan­u­ary 2019 that News­Guard:

    struck a deal with Microsoft to incor­po­rate those rat­ings into the tech giant’s Edge brows­er as an option­al set­ting. That’s when the Guardian noticed that the Mail Online had been tagged by News­Guard with a ‘red’ label, a reli­a­bil­i­ty score of 3 out of 9, and the fol­low­ing warn­ing: ‘Pro­ceed with cau­tion: This web­site gen­er­al­ly fails to main­tain basic stan­dards of accu­ra­cy and account­abil­i­ty.’ For Microsoft Edge users with the ‘News Rat­ings’ fea­ture turned on, that warn­ing appeared along­side every link to the Mail Online—whether in Google search results, Face­book or Twit­ter feeds, or the Mail’s own home­page.”

    Approach to Con­sor­tium News

    Con­sor­tium News was con­tact­ed by News­Guard ana­lyst Zachary Fish­man. In his request to speak to some­one at Con­sor­tium News he said cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly that CN had pub­lished “false con­tent” and that the inter­view would be on the record. “I’m hop­ing to talk with some­one who could answer a few ques­tions about its struc­ture and edi­to­r­i­al process­es — includ­ing its own­er­ship, its han­dling of cor­rec­tions, and its pub­li­ca­tion of false con­tent,” he wrote in an email.

    As edi­tor-in-chief, I informed him that our founder, edi­tors and writ­ers came from high lev­els of estab­lish­ment jour­nal­ism. I told him that in thou­sands of press inter­views I’ve con­duct­ed over near­ly half a cen­tu­ry in jour­nal­ism I had nev­er known any­one accus­ing a prospec­tive inter­vie­wee of mis­con­duct upfront and then deter­min­ing that the inter­view would be on the record, when the ground rules are usu­al­ly set by the per­son being inter­viewed.

    Fish­man apol­o­gized and tried to say his mind wasn’t made up about Con­sor­tium News, when he had clear­ly stat­ed that it was. “I do apol­o­gize that the word­ing of my email insin­u­at­ed that I had come to a pre­de­ter­mined con­clu­sion on whether your web­site has pub­lished false con­tent, when I have not — be sure that I am inter­est­ed in your respons­es to my ques­tions,” he wrote in an email.

    Accord­ing to his LinkedIn pro­file, Fish­man had one pre­vi­ous job in sci­ence and finan­cial jour­nal­ism that last­ed 15 months for a com­pa­ny called Fastin­form that is now defunct. Last month, all the links of his pub­lished pieces on LinkedIn went to a site that no longer exists. The links have now been removed.

    Fish­man has degrees in health, envi­ron­ment and sci­ence jour­nal­ism and engi­neer­ing physics. He has no expe­ri­ence in polit­i­cal report­ing and espe­cial­ly of the pol­i­tics of East­ern Europe and U.S.-Russia rela­tions.

    NewsGuard’s deter­mi­na­tion on Con­sor­tium News will be made by the ana­lyst and, “At least one senior edi­tor and NewsGuard’s co-CEOs review every Nutri­tion Label pri­or to pub­li­ca­tion to ensure that the rat­ing is as fair and accu­rate as pos­si­ble.”

    Charge: There Was ‘No US-Backed Coup’

    News­Guard alleges that Con­sor­tium News has pub­lished “false con­tent” by report­ing that there was a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and that ne0-Nazis have sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence in the coun­try.

    Fish­man took issue with a:

    “Feb­ru­ary 2022 arti­cle ‘Ukraine: Guides to Reflec­tion,’ [which] assert­ed, ‘Hence, the infla­tion of Russ­ian behav­ior in Ukraine (where Wash­ing­ton orga­nized a coup against a demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment because we dis­liked its polit­i­cal com­plex­ion) … .’

    Fish­man then wrote:

    “The U.S. sup­port­ed the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion that oust­ed then-Ukraine Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanikovych (sic) in 2014 — includ­ing a Decem­ber 2013 vis­it by John McCain to Kyiv in sup­port of pro­test­ers — but there is no evi­dence that the U.S. ‘orga­nized’ a ‘coup.’ Instead, it has the mark­ings of a pop­u­lar upris­ing, pre­cip­i­tat­ed by wide­ly cov­ered protests against Yanukovych’s deci­sion to sus­pend prepa­ra­tions for the sign­ing of an asso­ci­a­tion and free-trade agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union.”

    Vik­tor Yanukovych was demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed as pres­i­dent of Ukraine in 2010 in an elec­tion cer­ti­fied by the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe, a fact not men­tioned in NewsGuard’s writ­ings on the change of gov­ern­ment in Ukraine. Even though Yanukovych agreed to an EU polit­i­cal set­tle­ment and ear­ly elec­tions, vio­lence forced him to flee from the cap­i­tal on Feb. 21, 2014. Report­ing that the neo-Nazi Right Sec­tor was at the fore­front of the vio­lent over­throw, The New York Times (green check) wrote ear­li­er that day:

    “Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sec­tor, a coali­tion of hard-line nation­al­ist groups, react­ed defi­ant­ly to news of the set­tle­ment, draw­ing more cheers from the crowd.

    ‘The agree­ments that were reached do not cor­re­spond to our aspi­ra­tions,’ he said. ‘Right Sec­tor will not lay down arms. Right Sec­tor will not lift the block­ade of a sin­gle admin­is­tra­tive build­ing until our main demand is met — the res­ig­na­tion of Yanukovych.’ He added that he and his sup­port­ers were ‘ready to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the fur­ther devel­op­ment of the rev­o­lu­tion.’ The crowd shout­ed: ‘Good! Good!’

    A study on the vio­lence used to over­throw the gov­ern­ment, by Prof. Ser­hiy Kudelia, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Bay­lor Uni­ver­si­ty, says the over­throw suc­ceed­ed because of “the embed­ded­ness of vio­lent groups” in a non-vio­lent protest. The vio­lence began on Dec. 1, 2013 when these vio­lent groups attacked police with “iron chains, flares, stones and petrol bombs” and tried to ram a bull­doz­er through police lines. The police vicious­ly fought back that day.

    As the Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times (IBT) (green check) wrote about these groups at the time:

    “Accord­ing to a mem­ber of anti-fas­cist Union Ukraine, a group that mon­i­tors and fights fas­cism in Ukraine, ‘There are lots of nation­al­ists here [Euro­Maid­an] includ­ing Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of pro­test­ers.

    Dif­fer­ent groups [of anar­chists] came togeth­er for a meet­ing on the Maid­an. While they were meet­ing, a group of Nazis came in a larg­er group, they had axes and base­ball bats and sticks, hel­mets, they said it was their ter­ri­to­ry. They called the anar­chists things like Jews, blacks, com­mu­nists. There weren’t even any com­mu­nists, that was just an insult. The anar­chists weren’t expect­ing this and they left. Peo­ple with oth­er polit­i­cal views can’t stay in cer­tain places, they aren’t tol­er­at­ed,’ a mem­ber of the group con­tin­ued.”

    The vio­lence by far-right groups was evi­dent­ly con­doned by Sen. John McCain who expressed his sup­port for the upris­ing by address­ing the Maid­an crowd lat­er that month. Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Vic­to­ria Nuland and then U.S. ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt vis­it­ed the square after the vio­lence had bro­ken out.

    NewsGuard’s account of the events of Feb. 21, 2014 says that even though Yanukovych agreed to the ear­ly elec­tions, “angry pro­tes­tors demand­ed Yanukovych’s imme­di­ate res­ig­na­tion,” and he fled on that day after “hun­dreds of police guard­ing gov­ern­ment build­ings aban­doned their posts.” News­Guard then says “pro­tes­tors took con­trol of sev­er­al gov­ern­ment build­ings the next day.”

    Gov­ern­ment Build­ings Seized

    But pro­tes­tors had already seized gov­ern­ment build­ings as ear­ly as Decem­ber 2013. On Jan. 24 pro­tes­tors broke into the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry build­ing in Kiev and occu­pied it. On the same day bar­ri­cades were set up near the pres­i­den­tial head­quar­ters. Gov­ern­ment build­ings in the west of the coun­try had also been occu­pied. The Guardian (green check) report­ed on Jan. 24:

    “There were dra­mat­ic devel­op­ments in the west of the coun­try on Thurs­day as hun­dreds of peo­ple forced their way into the office of the region­al gov­er­nor in the city of Lviv, and forced him to sign a res­ig­na­tion let­ter. Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee in a city where sup­port for the pres­i­dent is in the low sin­gle dig­its, lat­er said he signed the let­ter under duress and was rescind­ing his res­ig­na­tion.

    Thou­sands also stormed region­al admin­is­tra­tion head­quar­ters in Rivne on Thurs­day, break­ing down doors and demand­ing the release of peo­ple detained in the unrest there, Unian news agency report­ed. In the town of Cherkasy, 125 miles south of Kiev, about 1,000 pro­test­ers took over the first two floors of the main admin­is­tra­tion build­ing and lit fires out­side the build­ing.

    Sim­i­lar action took place in Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmel­nyt­sky in west­ern and cen­tral Ukraine, as well as parts of the north-east, the Par­ty of the Regions said.”

    Pro­tes­tors had begun occu­py­ing Kiev City Hall in Decem­ber, with a por­trait of Ukraine’s World War II fas­cist leader Stepan Ban­dera hang­ing from the rafters. On the night of Feb. 21, the leader of the Neo-fas­cist Right Sec­tor, Andriy Paru­biy, announced that the Verk­hov­na Rada (par­lia­ment), the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion, the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters and the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs had all come under con­trol of the pro­tes­tors.

    There­fore News­Guard has pub­lished “false con­tent” by report­ing that gov­ern­ment build­ings were occu­pied the day after Yanukovych fled the cap­i­tal. It should print a cor­rec­tion.

    On the day after Yanukovych fled, the Rada vot­ed with­out the pres­ence of Yanukovych’s par­ty — the largest in the coun­try — to impeach him after the fact of his vio­lent over­throw. News­Guard omit­ted the key fact that the impeach­ment vote was taint­ed by the absence of Yanukovych’s par­ty and that the impeach­ment became large­ly irrel­e­vant after vio­lence forced him to flee the cap­i­tal.

    Demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed lead­ers are removed by elec­toral defeat, impeach­ment or votes of no con­fi­dence, not by vio­lence. News­Guard writes that “hun­dreds of police guard­ing gov­ern­ment build­ings aban­doned their posts” on the day Yanukovych was forced out, but doesn’t say why. As Jacobin (News­Guard green check) mag­a­zine reports:

    “What­ev­er one thinks of the Maid­an protests, the increas­ing vio­lence of those involved was key to their ulti­mate vic­to­ry. In response to a bru­tal police crack­down, pro­test­ers began fight­ing with chains, sticks, stones, petrol bombs, even a bull­doz­er — and, even­tu­al­ly, firearms, all cul­mi­nat­ing in what was effec­tive­ly an armed bat­tle in Feb­ru­ary, which left thir­teen police offi­cers and near­ly fifty pro­test­ers dead. The police ‘could no longer defend them­selves’ from pro­test­ers’ attacks,’ writes polit­i­cal sci­en­tist Sergiy Kudelia, caus­ing them to retreat, and pre­cip­i­tat­ing Yanukovych’s exit.”

    News­Guard calls the events a “rev­o­lu­tion,” yet rev­o­lu­tions in his­to­ry have typ­i­cal­ly been against mon­archs or dic­ta­tors, not against demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed lead­ers. For instance, the 1776 Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, the 1789 French Rev­o­lu­tion, the 1917 Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, the 1952 Egypt­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, the 1979 Iran­ian Rev­o­lu­tion and count­less oth­ers were against mon­archs. Coups have been against both elect­ed and non-elect­ed lead­ers. Rev­o­lu­tions change polit­i­cal sys­tems, usu­al­ly from monar­chies to republics. Ukraine’s polit­i­cal sys­tem was not changed, only its leader.

    ...

    Cir­cum­stan­tial Evi­dence

    In its ver­sion of these events, News­Guard only refers to cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence of the coup, inter­pret­ing it as U.S. “sup­port” for a “rev­o­lu­tion” against a demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-elect­ed pres­i­dent.

    News­Guard fails to point out that McCain, Sen. Christo­pher Mur­phy (D‑CT) as well as Nuland appeared on stage in the Maid­an with Oleh Tyah­ny­bok, leader of the Neo-fas­cist Svo­bo­da Par­ty, for­mer­ly known as the Social Nation­al Par­ty.

    News­Guard does not con­sid­er how such events would be seen in the Unit­ed States if a senior Russ­ian for­eign min­istry offi­cial, two lead­ing Russ­ian law­mak­ers and Russia’s ambas­sador to the U.S. appeared on stage with a far-right Amer­i­can leader to address a crowd on the Wash­ing­ton Mall seek­ing to oust an elect­ed U.S. pres­i­dent. If that pres­i­dent were over­thrown vio­lent­ly, would Amer­i­cans think it a Russ­ian-backed the coup?

    News­Guard dis­cuss­es Nuland’s 2013 speech in which she revealed that since 1991 the U.S. had spent $5 bil­lion to help bring about Ukraine’s “aspi­ra­tions.” What it fails to point out is that U.S. aspi­ra­tions were to turn Ukraine towards the West and away from Rus­sia. And the U.S. had work to do.

    In a 2008 poll, 17 years after this U.S. effort began, and the year in which the U.S. said Ukraine would one day join NATO, 50 per­cent of Ukraini­ans actu­al­ly opposed NATO mem­ber­ship against just 24.3 per­cent who favored it. A 2010 Gallup poll showed that 40 per­cent of Ukraini­ans viewed NATO as more threat than pro­tec­tor. Just 17 per­cent had the oppo­site view. So build­ing up civ­il soci­ety through U.S.-funded NGOs to favor the West was the U.S. chal­lenge.

    News­Guard does not men­tion that part of the $5 bil­lion the U.S. spent was to help orga­nize protests. There was gen­uine pop­u­lar dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Yanukovych that the NED nur­tured and trained. Jacobin report­ed of the 2014 events:

    “US offi­cials, unhap­py with the scut­tled EU deal, saw a sim­i­lar chance in the Maid­an protests. Just two months before they broke out, the NED’s then pres­i­dent, point­ing to Yanukovych’s Euro­pean out­reach, wrote that “the oppor­tu­ni­ties are con­sid­er­able, and there are impor­tant ways Wash­ing­ton could help.”

    In prac­tice, this meant fund­ing groups like New Cit­i­zen, which the Finan­cial Times report­ed “played a big role in get­ting the protest up and run­ning,” led by a pro-EU oppo­si­tion fig­ure. Jour­nal­ist Mark Ames dis­cov­ered the orga­ni­za­tion had received hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from US democ­ra­cy pro­mo­tion ini­tia­tives.”

    Writ­ing in Con­sor­tium News six days after Yanukovych’s ouster, Par­ry report­ed that over the pre­vi­ous year, the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy (NED), which funds NGOs in coun­tries the U.S. tar­gets for regime change, had bankrolled 65 projects in Ukraine total­ing more than $20 mil­lion. Par­ry called it “a shad­ow polit­i­cal struc­ture of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment didn’t act as desired.”

    The NED, on Feb. 25, the day after the Russ­ian inva­sion, delet­ed all projects in Ukraine it fund­ed, which are archived here. The NED med­dled in Ukrain­ian pol­i­tics in 2004 in the so-called Orange Rev­o­lu­tion. The Wash­ing­ton Post (green check) wrote in 1991 that what the C.I.A. once did in secret — desta­bi­liz­ing and over­throw­ing regimes — the NED was now doing open­ly.

    C.I.A. or NED-led coups are nev­er made up out of whole cloth. The U.S. works with gen­uine oppo­si­tion move­ments with­in a coun­try, some­times pop­u­lar upris­ings, to finance, train and direct them. This U.S. has a long his­to­ry of over­throw­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments, the most infa­mous exam­ples being Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Chile in 1973.

    In Sep­tem­ber 2013, before the Maid­an upris­ing began, long-time NED head Carl Gerhs­man called Ukraine “the biggest prize” in a Wash­ing­ton Post op-ed piece, and warned that “Rus­sians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find him­self on the los­ing end not just in the near abroad but with­in Rus­sia itself.”

    In 2016 he said the NED has been involved in Ukraine since the 1980s and he praised the “over­throw of Yanukovych.”

    Nuland-Pyatt Tape Omit­ted

    Most sig­nif­i­cant­ly, NewsGuard’s attempt to refute U.S. involve­ment in the coup omits the 2014 inter­cept­ed and leaked tele­phone call between Nuland and Pyatt, the then U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine, in which the two dis­cuss who will make up the new gov­ern­ment weeks before Yanukovych was over­thrown.

    On the leaked tape, Nuland and Pyatt talk about “mid­wif­ing” a new gov­ern­ment; Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s role, and set­ting up meet­ings with Ukrain­ian politi­cians to make it hap­pen. Nuland says the prime min­is­ter should be Arseniy Yat­senyuk, and indeed he became prime min­is­ter after the coup.

    At the time, the BBC (green check) wrote of the leak: “The US says that it is work­ing with all sides in the cri­sis to reach a peace­ful solu­tion, not­ing that ‘ulti­mate­ly it is up to the Ukrain­ian peo­ple to decide their future’. How­ev­er this tran­script sug­gests that the US has very clear ideas about what the out­come should be and is striv­ing to achieve these goals.”

    The U.S. State Depart­ment nev­er denied the authen­tic­i­ty of the video, and even issued an apol­o­gy to the Euro­pean Union after Nuland is heard on the tape say­ing, “Fu ck the EU.” Main­stream media at the time focused almost exclu­sive­ly on that off-col­or remark as a dis­trac­tion from the greater sig­nif­i­cance of U.S. inter­fer­ence in Ukraine’s inter­nal affairs.

    Why did Nuland say, “Fu ck the EU”? At the time she said it, France, Ger­many and Poland were work­ing for the EU on a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment with Rus­sia to the Maid­an cri­sis that would leave Yanukovych in pow­er.

    Indeed the E.U. bro­kered a deal with Yanukovych, who agreed to ear­ly elec­tions by Decem­ber, a restora­tion of the 2004 Con­sti­tu­tion and an amnesty for all pro­tes­tors, clear­ing the way for no one to be held respon­si­ble for the vio­lent ouster. Yanukovych announced the agree­ment, with E.U. offi­cials at his side in Kiev, on Feb. 21, 2014. Lat­er that day he was vio­lent­ly dri­ven from pow­er.

    Leav­ing the his­toric role of the NED and the essen­tial Nuland-Pyatt con­ver­sa­tion out of its report­ing is an omis­sion of evi­dence by News­Guard, typ­i­cal of cor­po­rate media. Omit­ting cru­cial ele­ments of a sto­ry changes its mean­ing and in this case under­mines NewsGuard’s account of the events of 2014.

    This is an excel­lent exam­ple of why Par­ry start­ed Con­sor­tium News: to report on cru­cial infor­ma­tion that cor­po­rate media some­times pur­pose­ly and decep­tive­ly leave out to change the mean­ing of a sto­ry. News­Guard should cor­rect its sto­ry about the coup, not Con­sor­tium News. News­Guard invites read­ers to request cor­rec­tions by email­ing them at corrections@newsguardtech.com.

    ...

    Charge: Nazi Influ­ence ‘Exag­ger­at­ed’

    The U.S. rela­tion­ship with Ukrain­ian fas­cists began after the Sec­ond World War. Dur­ing the war, units of the Orga­ni­za­tion of Ukrain­ian Nation­al­ists (OUN‑B) took part in the Holo­caust, killing at least 100,000 Jews and Poles. Myko­la Lebed, a top aide to Stepan Ban­dera, the leader of the fas­cist OUN‑B, was recruit­ed by the C.I.A. after the war, accord­ing to a 2010 study by the U.S. Nation­al Archives.

    The gov­ern­ment study said, “Bandera’s wing (OUN/B) was a mil­i­tant fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion.” Bandera’s clos­est deputy, Yaroslav Stet­sko, said: ““I…fully appre­ci­ate the unde­ni­ably harm­ful and hos­tile role of the Jews, who are help­ing Moscow to enslave Ukraine…. I there­fore sup­port the destruc­tion of the Jews and the expe­di­ence of bring­ing Ger­man meth­ods of exter­mi­nat­ing Jew­ry to Ukraine….”

    The study says: “At a July 6, 1941, meet­ing in Lwów, Ban­dera loy­al­ists deter­mined that Jews ‘have to be treat­ed harsh­ly…. We must fin­ish them off…. Regard­ing the Jews, we will adopt any meth­ods that lead to their destruc­tion.’”

    Lebed him­self pro­posed to “’cleanse the entire rev­o­lu­tion­ary ter­ri­to­ry of the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion,’ so that a resur­gent Pol­ish state would not claim the region as in 1918.” Lebed was the “for­eign min­is­ter” of a Ban­derite gov­ern­ment in exile, but he lat­er broke with Ban­dera for act­ing as a dic­ta­tor. The U.S. Army Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence Corps termed Ban­dera “extreme­ly dan­ger­ous” yet said he was “looked upon as the spir­i­tu­al and nation­al hero of all Ukraini­ans….”

    The C.I.A. was not inter­est­ed in work­ing with Ban­dera, pages 81–82 of the report say, but the British MI6 was. “MI6 argued, Bandera’s group was ‘the strongest Ukrain­ian orga­ni­za­tion abroad, is deemed com­pe­tent to train par­ty cadres, [and] build a moral­ly and polit­i­cal­ly healthy orga­ni­za­tion….’” An ear­ly 1954 MI6 sum­ma­ry not­ed that, “the oper­a­tional aspect of this [British] col­lab­o­ra­tion [with Ban­dera] was devel­op­ing sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly. Grad­u­al­ly a more com­plete con­trol was obtained over infil­tra­tion oper­a­tions … “

    Britain end­ed its col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ban­dera in 1954. West Ger­man intel­li­gence, under for­mer Nazi intel­li­gence chief Rein­hard Gehlen, then worked with Ban­dera, who was even­tu­al­ly assas­si­nat­ed with cyanide dust by the KGB in Munich in 1959.

    Instead of Ban­dera, the C.I.A. was inter­est­ed in Lebed, despite his fas­cist back­ground. They set him up in an office in New York City from which he direct­ed sab­o­tage and pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tions on the agency’s behalf inside Ukraine against the Sovi­et Union. The U.S. gov­ern­ment study says:

    “CIA oper­a­tions with these Ukraini­ans began in 1948 under the cryptonym CARTEL, soon changed to AERODYNAMIC. … Lebed relo­cat­ed to New York and acquired per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus, then U.S. cit­i­zen­ship. It kept him safe from assas­si­na­tion, allowed him to speak to Ukrain­ian émi­gré groups, and per­mit­ted him to return to the Unit­ed States after oper­a­tional trips to Europe. Once in the Unit­ed States, Lebed was the CIA’s chief con­tact for AERODYNAMIC. CIA han­dlers point­ed to his ‘cun­ning char­ac­ter,’ his ‘rela­tions with the Gestapo and … Gestapo train­ing,’ that the fact that he was ‘a very ruth­less oper­a­tor.’”

    The C.I.A. worked with Lebed on sab­o­tage and pro-Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tions inside Ukraine until Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence in 1991. “Myko­la Lebed’s rela­tion­ship with the CIA last­ed the entire length of the Cold War,” the study says. “While most CIA oper­a­tions involv­ing wartime per­pe­tra­tors back­fired, Lebed’s oper­a­tions aug­ment­ed the fun­da­men­tal insta­bil­i­ty of the Sovi­et Union.”

    Ban­dera Revival

    The U.S. thus covert­ly kept Ukrain­ian fas­cist ideas alive inside Ukraine until at least Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence was achieved. “Myko­la Lebed, Bandera’s wartime chief in Ukraine, died in 1998. He is buried in New Jer­sey, and his papers are locat­ed at the Ukrain­ian Research Insti­tute at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty,” the U.S. Nation­al Archives study says.

    The suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion to the OUN‑B in the Unit­ed States did not die with him, how­ev­er. It had been renamed the Ukrain­ian Con­gress Com­mit­tee of Amer­i­ca (UCCA), accord­ing to IBT.

    “By the mid-1980s, the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion was hon­ey­combed with UCCA mem­bers. Rea­gan per­son­al­ly wel­comed [Yaroslav] Stet­sko, the Ban­derist leader who over­saw the mas­sacre of 7,000 Jews in Lviv, in the White House in 1983,” IBT report­ed. “Fol­low­ing the demise of Yanukovich’s regime, the UCCA helped organ­ise ral­lies in cities across the US in sup­port of the Euro­Maid­an protests,” it report­ed.

    That is a direct link between Maid­an and WWII-era Ukrain­ian fas­cism.

    Despite the U.S. favor­ing the less extreme Lebed over Ban­dera, the lat­ter has remained the more inspir­ing fig­ure in Ukraine.

    In 1991, the first year of Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence, the Neo-fas­cist Social Nation­al Par­ty, lat­er Svo­bo­da Par­ty, was formed, trac­ing its prove­nance direct­ly to Ban­dera. It had a street named after Ban­dera in Liviv, and tried to name the city’s air­port after him. (Svo­bo­da won 10 per­cent of the Rada’s seats in 2012 before the coup and before McCain and Nuland appeared with its leader the fol­low­ing year.)

    In 2010, pro-West­ern Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko declared Ban­dera a Hero of Ukraine, a sta­tus reversed by Yanukovych, who was over­thrown.

    More than 50 mon­u­ments, busts and muse­ums com­mem­o­rat­ing Ban­dera have been erect­ed in Ukraine, two-thirds of which have been built since 2005, the year the pro-Amer­i­can Yuschenko was elect­ed. A Swiss aca­d­e­m­ic study says:

    “On Jan­u­ary 13, 2011, the L’vivs’ka Oblast’ Coun­cil, meet­ing at an extra­or­di­nary ses­sion next to the Ban­dera mon­u­ment in L’viv, react­ed to the abro­ga­tion [ska­su­van­nya] of Vik­tor Yushchenko’s order about nam­ing Stepan Ban­dera a ‘Hero of Ukraine” by affirm­ing that ‘for mil­lions of Ukraini­ans Ban­dera was and remains a Ukrain­ian Hero notwith­stand­ing pitiable and worth­less deci­sions of the courts’ and declar­ing its inten­tion to rename ‘Stepan Ban­dera Street’ as ‘Hero of Ukraine Stepan Ban­dera Street.’”

    Torch­lit parades behind Bandera’s por­trait are com­mon in Ukrain­ian cities, par­tic­u­lar­ly on Jan. 1, his birth­day, includ­ing this year.

    ...

    NewsGuard’s Objec­tions

    NewsGuard’s argu­ment against the major influ­ence of neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine rests on Neo-fas­cist polit­i­cal par­ties far­ing poor­ly at the polls. This ignores the stark fact that these groups engage instead in extra-par­lia­men­tary extrem­ism.

    In its charge against Con­sor­tium News for pub­lish­ing “false con­tent” about Neo-fas­cism in Ukraine, NewsGuard’s Fish­man wrote:

    “There isn’t evi­dence that Nazism has a sub­stan­tial influ­ence in Ukraine. Rad­i­cal far-right groups in Ukraine do rep­re­sent a ‘threat to the demo­c­ra­t­ic devel­op­ment of Ukraine,’ accord­ing to 2018 Free­dom House report. But it also stat­ed that far-right extrem­ists have poor polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Ukraine and no plau­si­ble path to pow­er — for exam­ple, in the 2019 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, the far-right nation­al­ist par­ty Svo­bo­da won 2.2 per­cent of the vote, while the Svo­bo­da can­di­date, Rus­lan Koshu­lyn­skyy, won just 1.6 per­cent of the vote in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.”

    But this argu­ment of focus­ing on elec­tions results has been dis­missed by a num­ber of main­stream sources, not least of which is the Atlantic Coun­cil, prob­a­bly the most anti-Russ­ian think tank in the world. In a 2019 arti­cle, a writer for the Atlantic Coun­cil said:

    “To be clear, far-right par­ties like Svo­bo­da per­form poor­ly in Ukraine’s polls and elec­tions, and Ukraini­ans evince no desire to be ruled by them. But this argu­ment is a bit of ‘red her­ring.’ It’s not extrem­ists’ elec­toral prospects that should con­cern Ukraine’s friends, but rather the state’s unwill­ing­ness or inabil­i­ty to con­front vio­lent groups and end their impuni­ty. Whether this is due to a con­tin­u­ing sense of indebt­ed­ness to some of these groups for fight­ing the Rus­sians or fear they might turn on the state itself, it’s a real prob­lem and we do no ser­vice to Ukraine by sweep­ing it under the rug.” [Empha­sis added.]

    “Fear that they might turn on the state itself,” acknowl­edges the pow­er­ful lever­age these groups have over the gov­ern­ment. The Atlantic Coun­cil piece then under­scores how influ­en­tial these groups are:

    “It sounds like the stuff of Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da, but it’s not. Last week Hro­madske Radio revealed that Ukraine’s Min­istry of Youth and Sports is fund­ing the neo-Nazi group C14 to pro­mote ‘nation­al patri­ot­ic edu­ca­tion projects’ in the coun­try. On June 8, the Min­istry announced that it will award C14 a lit­tle less than $17,000 for a children’s camp. It also award­ed funds to Holosiyiv Hide­out and Edu­ca­tion­al Assem­bly, both of which have links to the far-right. The rev­e­la­tion rep­re­sents a dan­ger­ous exam­ple of law enforce­ment tac­it­ly accept­ing or even encour­ag­ing the increas­ing law­less­ness of far-right groups will­ing to use vio­lence against those they don’t like.

    Since the begin­ning of 2018, C14 and oth­er far-right groups such as the Azov-affil­i­at­ed Nation­al Mili­tia, Right Sec­tor, Karpats­ka Sich, and oth­ers have attacked Roma groups sev­er­al times, as well as anti-fas­cist demon­stra­tions, city coun­cil meet­ings, an event host­ed by Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, art exhi­bi­tions, LGBT events, and envi­ron­men­tal activists. On March 8, vio­lent groups launched attacks against IInter­na­tion­al Women’s Day marchers in cities across Ukraine. In only a few of these cas­es did police do any­thing to pre­vent the attacks, and in some they even arrest­ed peace­ful demon­stra­tors rather than the actu­al per­pe­tra­tors.”

    The Atlantic Coun­cil is not the only anti-Russ­ian out­fit that rec­og­nizes the dan­ger­ous pow­er of the Neo-fas­cist groups in Ukraine. Belling­cat pub­lished an alarm­ing 2018 arti­cle head­lined, “Ukrain­ian Far-Right Fight­ers, White Suprema­cists Trained by Major Euro­pean Secu­ri­ty Firm.”

    NATO has also trained the Azov Reg­i­ment, direct­ly link­ing the U.S. with far-right Ukrain­ian extrem­ists.

    The Hill report­ed in 2017 in an arti­cle head­lined, “The real­i­ty of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is far from Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da,” that:

    “Some West­ern observers claim that there are no neo-Nazi ele­ments in Ukraine, chalk­ing the asser­tion up to pro­pa­gan­da from Moscow. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, they are sad­ly mis­tak­en.

    There are indeed neo-Nazi for­ma­tions in Ukraine. This has been over­whelm­ing­ly con­firmed by near­ly every major West­ern out­let. The fact that ana­lysts are able to dis­miss it as pro­pa­gan­da dis­sem­i­nat­ed by Moscow is pro­found­ly dis­turb­ing.

    Azov’s logo is com­posed of two emblems — the wolf­san­gel and the Son­nen­rad — iden­ti­fied as neo-Nazi sym­bols by the Anti-Defama­tion League. The wolf­san­gel is used by the U.S. hate group Aryan Nations, while the Son­nen­rad was among the neo-Nazi sym­bols at this summer’s dead­ly march in Char­lottesville.

    Azov’s neo-Nazi char­ac­ter has been cov­ered by the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC, the Tele­graph and Reuters, among oth­ers. On-the-ground jour­nal­ists from estab­lished West­ern media out­lets have writ­ten of wit­ness­ing SS runes, swastikas, torch­light march­es, and Nazi salutes. They inter­viewed Azov sol­diers who read­i­ly acknowl­edged being neo-Nazis. They filed these reports under unam­bigu­ous head­lines such as “How many neo-Nazis is the U.S. back­ing in Ukraine?” and “Vol­un­teer Ukrain­ian unit includes Nazis.”

    How is this Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da?

    The U.N. and Human Rights Watch have accused Azov, as well as oth­er Kiev bat­tal­ions, of a litany of human rights abus­es.”

    Neo-facism has infect­ed Ukrain­ian pop­u­lar cul­ture as well. A half-dozen neo-Nazi music groups held a con­cert in 2019 com­mem­o­rat­ing the day Nazi Ger­many invad­ed the Sovi­et Union.

    Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al in 2019 warned that “Ukraine is sink­ing into a chaos of uncon­trolled vio­lence posed by rad­i­cal groups and their total impuni­ty. Prac­ti­cal­ly no one in the coun­try can feel safe under these con­di­tions.”

    ...

    ———-

    “US State-Affil­i­at­ed News­Guard Tar­gets Con­sor­tium News” by Joe Lau­ria; Con­sor­tium News; 06/02/2022

    Get­ting a red label means that poten­tial­ly mil­lions of peo­ple that have the News­Guard exten­sion installed and oper­at­ing on their browsers will see the green or red mark affixed to web­sites on social media and Google search­es. (For indi­vid­u­als that do not already have it installed and oper­at­ing on Microsoft’s brows­er, it costs $4.95 a month in the U.S., £4.95 in the U.K., or €4.95 in the EU to run the exten­sion.)”

    The threat is clear: News­Guard is threat­en­ing to put a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored “False News!” label that will show up next to any links to any Con­sor­tium News sites on com­put­ers where the News­Guard app is installed. That’s part of what makes the gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship of News­Guard so sig­nif­i­cant. News­Guard does­n’t just have a kind of US gov­ern­ment stamp of approval. It’s also going to have the gov­ern­men­t’s implic­it sup­port in pay­ing for the News­Guard ser­vices at places like pub­lic libraries:

    ...
    News­Guard set itself up in 2018 as a judge of news orga­ni­za­tions’ cred­i­bil­i­ty. The front page of NewsGuard’s web­site shows that it is “part­ners” with the State Depart­ment and the Pen­ta­gon, as well as with sev­er­al major cor­po­ra­tions, such as Microsoft. The nature of these “part­ner­ships” is not entire­ly clear.

    News­Guard is a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion that can shield itself from First Amend­ment oblig­a­tions. But it has con­nec­tions to for­mer­ly high-rank­ing U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials in addi­tion to its “part­ner­ships” with the State Dept. and the Pen­ta­gon.

    Among those sit­ting on NewsGuard’s advi­so­ry board are Gen. Michael Hay­den, the for­mer Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency direc­tor; Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Home­land Secu­ri­ty direc­tor and Anders Fogh Ras­mussen, a for­mer sec­re­tary gen­er­al of NATO. New­Guard says its “advi­sors pro­vide advice and sub­ject-mat­ter exper­tise to News­Guard. They play no role in the deter­mi­na­tions of rat­ings or the Nutri­tion Label write ups of web­sites unless oth­er­wise not­ed and have no role in the gov­er­nance or man­age­ment of the orga­ni­za­tion.”

    The co-CEO, with for­mer Wall Street Jour­nal pub­lish­er Louis Gor­don Crovitz, is Steven Brill, who in the 1990s pub­lished Brill’s Con­tent, a mag­a­zine that was billed as a watch­dog of the press, cri­tiquing the role of the media to hold gov­ern­ment to account. News­Guard is a gov­ern­ment-affil­i­at­ed orga­ni­za­tion judg­ing media like Con­sor­tium News that is total­ly inde­pen­dent of gov­ern­ment or cor­po­ra­tions.

    News­Guard has a rat­ing process that results in a news orga­ni­za­tion receiv­ing either a green or red label. Fox News and oth­er major media, for exam­ple, have received green labels.
    ...

    And as Joe Lau­ria lays out in his piece, not only was News­Guard accus­ing Con­sor­tium News of pub­lish­ing false­hoods about the forces behind the 2014 Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion, but News­Guard’s own ver­sion of the ‘truth’ of those events is itself filled with bla­tant false­hoods. Like the objec­tive­ly false asser­tion that pro­test­ers only took con­trol of gov­ern­ment build­ings fol­low­ing the col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment. It under­scores how News­Guard’s mis­sion isn’t just to dis­cred­it inde­pen­dent media out­lets but also to rein­force offi­cial lies:

    ...
    News­Guard alleges that Con­sor­tium News has pub­lished “false con­tent” by report­ing that there was a U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014 and that ne0-Nazis have sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence in the coun­try.

    Fish­man took issue with a:

    “Feb­ru­ary 2022 arti­cle ‘Ukraine: Guides to Reflec­tion,’ [which] assert­ed, ‘Hence, the infla­tion of Russ­ian behav­ior in Ukraine (where Wash­ing­ton orga­nized a coup against a demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment because we dis­liked its polit­i­cal com­plex­ion) … .’

    Fish­man then wrote:

    “The U.S. sup­port­ed the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion that oust­ed then-Ukraine Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanikovych (sic) in 2014 — includ­ing a Decem­ber 2013 vis­it by John McCain to Kyiv in sup­port of pro­test­ers — but there is no evi­dence that the U.S. ‘orga­nized’ a ‘coup.’ Instead, it has the mark­ings of a pop­u­lar upris­ing, pre­cip­i­tat­ed by wide­ly cov­ered protests against Yanukovych’s deci­sion to sus­pend prepa­ra­tions for the sign­ing of an asso­ci­a­tion and free-trade agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union.”

    Vik­tor Yanukovych was demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed as pres­i­dent of Ukraine in 2010 in an elec­tion cer­ti­fied by the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Coop­er­a­tion in Europe, a fact not men­tioned in NewsGuard’s writ­ings on the change of gov­ern­ment in Ukraine. Even though Yanukovych agreed to an EU polit­i­cal set­tle­ment and ear­ly elec­tions, vio­lence forced him to flee from the cap­i­tal on Feb. 21, 2014. Report­ing that the neo-Nazi Right Sec­tor was at the fore­front of the vio­lent over­throw, The New York Times (green check) wrote ear­li­er that day:

    “Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of Right Sec­tor, a coali­tion of hard-line nation­al­ist groups, react­ed defi­ant­ly to news of the set­tle­ment, draw­ing more cheers from the crowd.

    ‘The agree­ments that were reached do not cor­re­spond to our aspi­ra­tions,’ he said. ‘Right Sec­tor will not lay down arms. Right Sec­tor will not lift the block­ade of a sin­gle admin­is­tra­tive build­ing until our main demand is met — the res­ig­na­tion of Yanukovych.’ He added that he and his sup­port­ers were ‘ready to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for the fur­ther devel­op­ment of the rev­o­lu­tion.’ The crowd shout­ed: ‘Good! Good!’

    A study on the vio­lence used to over­throw the gov­ern­ment, by Prof. Ser­hiy Kudelia, a polit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Bay­lor Uni­ver­si­ty, says the over­throw suc­ceed­ed because of “the embed­ded­ness of vio­lent groups” in a non-vio­lent protest. The vio­lence began on Dec. 1, 2013 when these vio­lent groups attacked police with “iron chains, flares, stones and petrol bombs” and tried to ram a bull­doz­er through police lines. The police vicious­ly fought back that day.

    As the Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times (IBT) (green check) wrote about these groups at the time:

    “Accord­ing to a mem­ber of anti-fas­cist Union Ukraine, a group that mon­i­tors and fights fas­cism in Ukraine, ‘There are lots of nation­al­ists here [Euro­Maid­an] includ­ing Nazis. They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of pro­test­ers.

    Dif­fer­ent groups [of anar­chists] came togeth­er for a meet­ing on the Maid­an. While they were meet­ing, a group of Nazis came in a larg­er group, they had axes and base­ball bats and sticks, hel­mets, they said it was their ter­ri­to­ry. They called the anar­chists things like Jews, blacks, com­mu­nists. There weren’t even any com­mu­nists, that was just an insult. The anar­chists weren’t expect­ing this and they left. Peo­ple with oth­er polit­i­cal views can’t stay in cer­tain places, they aren’t tol­er­at­ed,’ a mem­ber of the group con­tin­ued.”

    The vio­lence by far-right groups was evi­dent­ly con­doned by Sen. John McCain who expressed his sup­port for the upris­ing by address­ing the Maid­an crowd lat­er that month. Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Vic­to­ria Nuland and then U.S. ambas­sador Geof­frey Pyatt vis­it­ed the square after the vio­lence had bro­ken out.

    NewsGuard’s account of the events of Feb. 21, 2014 says that even though Yanukovych agreed to the ear­ly elec­tions, “angry pro­tes­tors demand­ed Yanukovych’s imme­di­ate res­ig­na­tion,” and he fled on that day after “hun­dreds of police guard­ing gov­ern­ment build­ings aban­doned their posts.” News­Guard then says “pro­tes­tors took con­trol of sev­er­al gov­ern­ment build­ings the next day.”

    ...

    But pro­tes­tors had already seized gov­ern­ment build­ings as ear­ly as Decem­ber 2013. On Jan. 24 pro­tes­tors broke into the Agri­cul­ture Min­istry build­ing in Kiev and occu­pied it. On the same day bar­ri­cades were set up near the pres­i­den­tial head­quar­ters. Gov­ern­ment build­ings in the west of the coun­try had also been occu­pied. The Guardian (green check) report­ed on Jan. 24:

    “There were dra­mat­ic devel­op­ments in the west of the coun­try on Thurs­day as hun­dreds of peo­ple forced their way into the office of the region­al gov­er­nor in the city of Lviv, and forced him to sign a res­ig­na­tion let­ter. Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee in a city where sup­port for the pres­i­dent is in the low sin­gle dig­its, lat­er said he signed the let­ter under duress and was rescind­ing his res­ig­na­tion.

    Thou­sands also stormed region­al admin­is­tra­tion head­quar­ters in Rivne on Thurs­day, break­ing down doors and demand­ing the release of peo­ple detained in the unrest there, Unian news agency report­ed. In the town of Cherkasy, 125 miles south of Kiev, about 1,000 pro­test­ers took over the first two floors of the main admin­is­tra­tion build­ing and lit fires out­side the build­ing.

    Sim­i­lar action took place in Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk and Khmel­nyt­sky in west­ern and cen­tral Ukraine, as well as parts of the north-east, the Par­ty of the Regions said.”

    Pro­tes­tors had begun occu­py­ing Kiev City Hall in Decem­ber, with a por­trait of Ukraine’s World War II fas­cist leader Stepan Ban­dera hang­ing from the rafters. On the night of Feb. 21, the leader of the Neo-fas­cist Right Sec­tor, Andriy Paru­biy, announced that the Verk­hov­na Rada (par­lia­ment), the Pres­i­den­tial Admin­is­tra­tion, the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters and the Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs had all come under con­trol of the pro­tes­tors.

    There­fore News­Guard has pub­lished “false con­tent” by report­ing that gov­ern­ment build­ings were occu­pied the day after Yanukovych fled the cap­i­tal. It should print a cor­rec­tion.
    ...

    It’s also worth recall­ing one of the oth­er major aspects of the 2014 Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion that is con­ve­nient­ly obscured by News­Guard’s nar­ra­tive: by not acknowl­edg­ing the pro­test­er’s pres­ence in these build­ings, it’s a lot eas­i­er to also obscure the evi­dence of the role far right snipers played in the sniper attacks that cat­alyzed the final col­lapse of the Yanukovych gov­ern­ment.

    And, again, that was all just a sub­set of Lau­ri­a’s giant arti­cle that does­n’t just shred News­Guard’s attack but also points out how News­Guard’s own nar­ra­tives are false. A mas­sive refu­ta­tion of News­Guard that relies almost entire­ly on the cita­tion of the very same main­stream news sources News­Guard endors­es. It’s that kind of gross bad faith from News­Guard that pos­es the ever present ques­tion: what’s next? Since the out­break of the con­flict in Ukraine less than four months ago, Con­sor­tium News has had its finances attacked and now its edi­to­r­i­al cred­i­bil­i­ty smeared. Con­sor­tium News’s report­ing is clear­ly seen as a threat. The kind of threat that can’t real­ly be dealt with direct­ly and remains threat­en­ing just by exist­ing. The truth is like that. So what’s next in this war on the truth of what’s hap­pen­ing in places like Ukraine? We’ll see. Although we pre­sum­ably won’t see if every­thing goes accord­ing to plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 8, 2022, 4:28 pm
  4. Fol­low­ing up on the dis­turb­ing sto­ry of News­Guard — the US gov­ern­ment-backed app that pur­ports to give ‘nutri­tion’ labels to var­i­ous news out­lets — and its absurd attacks on Con­sor­tium News’s cov­er­age of events in Ukraine, here’s a stun­ning new report out The Gray­zone about a par­al­lel intel­li­gence recent­ly set up in the UK to car­ry­ing out the same mis­sion. The oper­a­tion is run by for­mer Trot­sky­ist and BBC jour­ney­man, jour­nal­ist Paul Mason and Amil Khan, the founder of a shad­owy intel­li­gence con­trac­tor called Valent Projects. Accord­ing to a series of leaked emails, Mason and Khan have been work­ing with UK spies to orches­trate an attack on The Gray­zone that won’t just deplat­form the site but poten­tial­ly finan­cial destroy it.

    At the cen­ter of this scheme is an assump­tion that The Gray­zone must be secret­ly financed by Rus­sia and Chi­na. It’s an assump­tion that Mason and Khan appear to hold about vir­tu­al­ly all inde­pen­dent media that ques­tion offi­cial nar­ra­tives on for­eign con­flicts, includ­ing Con­sor­tium News. Amus­ing­ly, Mason even reached out the now-for­mer US Dis­in­for­ma­tion Czar, Nina Jankow­icz, about his con­cerns about Con­sor­tium News’s Krem­lin fund­ing. Jankow­icz report­ed­ly saw Con­sor­tium News as a case of “use­ful idiots rather than fund­ing,” but Mason’s sus­pi­cions of Krem­lin fund­ing appar­ent­ly remained. It’s one of aspects of Mason’s think­ing that comes out in these emails: the guy real­ly seems to gen­uine­ly be absolute­ly con­vinced that inde­pen­dent media out­lets must be fund­ed by hos­tile for­eign pow­ers. Con­sid­er­ing we’re talk­ing about a for­mer Troskyite-turned-spy, It’s the kind of per­spec­tive that gives you a hint as to how pro­found­ly cyn­i­cal Mason’s view of the world must be. If you’re chal­leng­ing offi­cial lies, you must be a spy.

    It also sounds like fil­ing for­mal com­plaints in the UK against The Gray­zone is also part of the plan. The idea would be to get a com­plaint sub­mit­ted by the var­i­ous ‘tar­gets’ of The Gray­zone’s report­ing, and use that a pre­text to start an offi­cial UK inves­ti­ga­tion into the Gray­zone’s financ­ing. The UK’s new­ly formed psy­cho­log­i­cal oper­a­tions unit, the Gov­ern­ment Infor­ma­tion Cell, could also be involved in these efforts.

    Oh, an it also turns out that Mason and Khan are plan­ning on set­ting up their own “Inter­na­tion­al Infor­ma­tion Brigade” ded­i­cat­ed to coun­ter­ing what it deems to be Russ­ian or Chi­nese pro­pa­gan­da. So over­all, between the US gov­ern­ment-backed News­Guard attacks on Con­sor­tium News and this new­ly revealed UK gov­ern­ment plot against The Gray­zone, it’s pret­ty clear that the kind of report­ing chal­leng­ing offi­cial nar­ra­tives on these for­eign con­flicts has been deemed to be too dan­ger­ous be allowed to con­tin­ue:

    The Gray­zone

    Paul Mason’s covert intel­li­gence-linked plot to destroy The Gray­zone exposed

    Kit Klaren­berg and Max Blu­men­thal
    June 7, 2022

    Leaked emails reveal British jour­nal­ist Paul Mason plot­ting with an intel con­trac­tor to destroy The Gray­zone through “relent­less deplat­form­ing” and a “full nuclear legal” attack. The scheme is part of a wider planned assault on the UK left.

    A for­mer Trot­sky­ist and BBC jour­ney­man, jour­nal­ist Paul Mason has made a career as the establishment’s favorite gate­keep­er of the UK left. Since the Russ­ian mil­i­tary incur­sion into Ukraine, he has cement­ed his posi­tion as one of Britain’s most vocal “left” cheer­lead­ers for West­ern mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion.

    While lead­ing a “U.K. left” del­e­ga­tion to Kiev and a demon­stra­tion through the streets of Lon­don in sup­port of NATO mil­i­tary esca­la­tion against Rus­sia, Mason has accord­ing­ly used his plat­form to assail jour­nal­ists, aca­d­e­mics, Labour par­ty mem­bers and pri­vate cit­i­zens who oppose ship­ping piles of advanced weapon­ry to Ukraine.

    In a series of recent columns, Mason called for the state-enforced sup­pres­sion of facts and per­spec­tives he con­sid­ers over­ly sym­pa­thet­ic to the Krem­lin, and demand­ed “state action” against mem­bers of the media that oppose the NATO line on Ukraine. He placed The Gray­zone at the top of his fan­ta­sy cen­sor­ship tar­get list.

    Mason has since announced a run for par­lia­ment on the Labour tick­et to wage his cru­sade against “dis­in­for­ma­tion” from inside the House of Com­mons.

    The Gray­zone, mean­while, has learned through anony­mous­ly leaked emails and doc­u­ments that Mason has been engaged in a mali­cious secret cam­paign that aims to enlist the British state and “friend­ly” intel­li­gence cut-outs to under­mine, cen­sor and even crim­i­nal­ize anti­war dis­senters.

    In one leaked email, Mason thun­dered for the “relent­less deplat­form­ing” of The Gray­zone and the cre­ation of “a kind of per­ma­nent rebut­tal oper­a­tion” to dis­cred­it it.

    In anoth­er, the celebri­ty jour­nal­ist declared that “the far left rogue aca­d­e­mics is who I’m after,” then rants that he is moti­vat­ed by fear of an emer­gent “left anti impe­ri­al­ist iden­ti­ty” which “will be attrac­tive because lib­er­al­ism doesn’t know how to counter it.”

    [see screen of email]

    Mason is joined in his covert cru­sade by Amil Khan, the founder of a shad­owy intel­li­gence con­trac­tor called Valent Projects. In the cache of leaked emails, Khan pro­posed to Mason the ini­ti­a­tion of a “clever John Oliv­er style stunt that makes [The Gray­zone] a laugh­ing stock,” as well as a “full nuclear legal to squeeze them finan­cial­ly.”

    The Gray­zone has pre­vi­ous­ly revealed Khan’s exten­sive involve­ment in the Syr­i­an dirty war, dur­ing which he pro­vid­ed pub­lic rela­tions guid­ance to jihadist groups, trained anti-gov­ern­ment activists in com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies, and secret­ly over­saw sup­posed cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist col­lec­tives backed by for­eign gov­ern­ments. His goal was to flood inter­na­tion­al media with pro-oppo­si­tion pro­pa­gan­da, desta­bi­lize the gov­ern­ment of Bashar Assad, and ready the ground for West­ern regime change.

    This eth­i­cal­ly dubi­ous work was con­duct­ed for a vari­ety of intel­li­gence-adja­cent British For­eign Office con­trac­tors, such as ARK, a firm found­ed by prob­a­ble MI6 oper­a­tive Alis­tair Har­ris, and IncoS­trat, which has been plau­si­bly accused of pro­duc­ing pro­pa­gan­da for the blood-stained UK and Sau­di-backed insur­gents.

    After leav­ing the Mid­dle East, Khan rein­vent­ed him­self as an expert in coun­ter­ing “dis­in­for­ma­tion”, and has since charged a num­ber of blue chip clients a pre­mi­um for his dubi­ous ser­vices. As this out­let report­ed, the same tech­niques of manip­u­la­tion and infor­ma­tion war­fare that Khan honed in Syr­ia were turned against West­ern cit­i­zens when he over­saw a British qua­si-state fund­ed astro­turf YouTube project designed to counter pub­lic skep­ti­cism of Covid-relat­ed restric­tions.

    Khan’s email com­mu­ni­ca­tions with Mason illus­trate the grudge he has har­bored since The Gray­zone exposed his devi­ous exploits. In the mis­sives, he descends into self-delu­sion, insist­ing this outlet’s fac­tu­al report­ing was, in fact, state-spon­sored retal­i­a­tion for his cru­sad­ing work “oppos­ing mil­i­tary dic­ta­tors and klep­to­crats.”

    Togeth­er, Khan and Mason plot­ted to assem­ble a coali­tion of anti-Gray­zone actors, includ­ing the US and UK gov­ern­ment-fund­ed “open source” out­let Belling­cat, which Mason reveal­ing­ly described as a chan­nel for “intel ser­vice input by proxy.” Khan pro­posed con­ven­ing the de fac­to Vic­tims of Gray­zone Memo­r­i­al Foun­da­tion at an in-per­son sum­mit to “come up with a plan that address­es [The Grayzone’s] objec­tives and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.”

    At one point, he even reached out across the Atlantic for advice from Nina Jankow­icz, the dis­graced for­mer head of the Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Dis­in­for­ma­tion Gov­er­nance Board.

    It is uncer­tain how Mason and Khan became acquaint­ed, but their mutu­al coin­ci­dence of needs, motives and vendet­tas is obvi­ous. The pub­lic inter­est in releas­ing the pair’s pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions is also abun­dant­ly clear. If their planned crim­i­nal­iza­tion of The Gray­zone for pub­lish­ing facts and opin­ions they abhor is suc­cess­ful, it will have dire ram­i­fi­ca­tions for any and all jour­nal­ists and inde­pen­dent media insti­tu­tions seek­ing to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo.

    When approached by The Gray­zone, Paul Mason declined to com­ment on the incrim­i­nat­ing cor­re­spon­dence with Khan, and claimed to have informed local police that “an attempt was made” to hack his email account. While dis­miss­ing the leaked con­tent as “like­ly to be edit­ed, dis­tort­ed or fake,” he went on to pledge he would “not cease to iden­ti­fy and rebut Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion oper­a­tions mas­querad­ing as jour­nal­ism.”

    In oth­er words, Mason implied he plans to car­ry on with the very activ­i­ty exposed in the leaked emails.

    Any­one who wants to see the com­plete intel­lec­tu­al col­lapse of @paulmasonnews under pres­sure from @OwenJones84 and @michaeljswalker should watch this.Paul can’t explain why he thinks what he thinks.(Clip below and in full here: https://t.co/xqI011FVMu)pic.twitter.com/75tibsletf— Alex Nunns (@alexnunns) May 8, 2022

    Khan and Mason col­lude to form anti-Gray­zone coali­tion and shat­ter Cor­bynite left

    On April 30 this year, Paul Mason emailed Amil Khan, mak­ing clear he was “keen to help” de-plat­form The Gray­zone.

    He attached a bizarrely con­struct­ed “dynam­ic map of the ‘left’ pro-Putin infos­phere” that resem­bled a spider’s web, with a mess of arrows link­ing the names of mem­bers of par­lia­ment, media out­lets, activists, caus­es, and British minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties.

    The bare­ly coher­ent, racial­ly-tinged chart con­nect­ed the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, Russ­ian state broad­cast­er RT, the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, and Bei­jing-based tech mil­lion­aire-financier Roy Sing­ham to the “Mus­lim Com­mu­ni­ty,” “Young Net­worked Left” and “Black Com­mu­ni­ty” through a series of left­ist out­fits and UK Labour fig­ures. No evi­dence was pro­vid­ed to sup­port Mason’s link­ages.

    At the cen­ter of Mason’s chart (see below) is Jere­my Cor­byn. When Cor­byn served as Labour leader, Mason plot­ted against him in pri­vate while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pos­ing as one of his most ardent pub­lic sup­port­ers. He also sought to influ­ence Shad­ow Chan­cel­lor John McDon­nell in a pro-war direc­tion.

    The impli­ca­tion behind Mason’s Nixon­ian ene­mies chart was clear: Rus­sia and Chi­na have weaponized the British left to cor­rupt key Labour con­stituen­cies – there­fore the left must be neu­tral­ized.

    [see chart]

    Mason sug­gest­ed to Khan that he enlist the help of “pro traf­fic ana­lysts to map” how these “dif­fer­ent echo cham­bers inter­act, where their mate­r­i­al begins – and work out who might [empha­sis added] be pulling the strings.”

    He nonethe­less seemed cer­tain about the dark forces ani­mat­ing The Gray­zone, bom­bas­ti­cal­ly charg­ing that its “attacks” on Khan and oth­ers are “fed by Russ­ian and Chi­nese intel,” includ­ing hack­ing, “elec­tron­ic war­fare” and human intel­li­gence.

    Mason com­pared this process to Belling­cat receiv­ing “a steady stream of intel from West­ern agen­cies.” The US and UK gov­ern­ment-fund­ed out­let Belling­cat has fre­quent­ly been accused of laun­der­ing CIA and MI6 dirt, a charge which the oper­a­tives behind it aggres­sive­ly repu­di­ate. How­ev­er, Khan – a long-time advo­cate and asso­ciate of the out­let – did not once chal­lenge Mason’s repeat­ed char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the sup­posed cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist col­lec­tive as a clear­ing house for friend­ly spy agen­cies.

    Under­lin­ing the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the pair’s mali­cious plans for The Gray­zone, Mason stressed the need for their work to be con­duct­ed via “white label organ­i­sa­tions oper­at­ing with firm infos­ec – Signal/ProtonMail, clean phones.”

    [see screen of email]

    Khan was clear­ly amenable to his sug­ges­tions. Five days lat­er, he out­lined two options for tak­ing down The Gray­zone: “some sort of clever John Oliv­er style stunt that makes them a laugh­ing stock” – ref­er­enc­ing a sting oper­a­tion tar­get­ing aca­d­e­m­ic Paul McK­eigue con­duct­ed by the dubi­ous, intel­li­gence-linked Com­mis­sion for Inter­na­tion­al Jus­tice and Account­abil­i­ty back in 2021 – “or full nuclear legal to squeeze them finan­cial­ly.”

    Mason was enthused by the lat­ter prospect, sub­mit­ting that it should be “com­bined with relent­less deplat­form­ing,” includ­ing cut­ting off The Gray­zone from dona­tion sources such as Pay­Pal, in the man­ner of Con­sor­tium News and Mint­Press, and set­ting up “a kind of per­ma­nent rebut­tal oper­a­tion.”

    [see screen of email]

    Khan agreed, propos­ing the pair “get a few peo­ple togeth­er who are look­ing at/been tar­get [sic] by this togeth­er and do a cen­tre of grav­i­ty analy­sis,” pool­ing “what we’ve all learnt about how they oper­ate” in order to “come up with a plan that address­es their objec­tives and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, not just their argu­ments.”

    Mason respond­ed by launch­ing into a con­spir­a­to­r­i­al aside assert­ing that the Orga­ni­za­tion for Secu­ri­ty and Co-oper­a­tion in Europe’s (OSCE) post-Feb­ru­ary 16, 2022 reports show­ing a dra­mat­ic Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary esca­la­tion against pro-Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the Don­bas region rep­re­sent­ed “manip­u­lat­ed facts.”

    He then pro­posed “cre­at­ing a dynam­ic ref­er­ence cat­a­logue debunk­ing all [The Grayzone’s] allegetions[sic] and ‘facts,’” pitch­ing the ini­tia­tive as an alter­na­tive to direct engage­ment or “toe to toe” debate.

    [see screen of email]

    “Keen” to move on the project, Mason sug­gest­ed sev­er­al infor­ma­tion war­riors to join them; Emma Bri­ant, an aca­d­e­m­ic research­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion; Chloe Had­ji­math­eou, the British intel­li­gence-linked BBC jour­nal­ist who pro­duced a mul­ti-part pod­cast series smear­ing crit­ics of the NATO-backed Syr­i­an White Hel­mets orga­ni­za­tion as Krem­lin stooges and fas­cists; and Belling­cat, which he said could pro­vide “intel ser­vice input by proxy.”

    Khan said he was “hap­py” to host a secret meet­ing of these indi­vid­u­als at Valent Projects’ Lon­don offices.

    [see screen of email]

    After Mason pro­posed invit­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UK For­eign Office to the anti-Gray­zone meet and greet, the Valent Projects chief reached out to a friend at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­torate, a White­hall unit “tasked with hybrid threats.”

    His Direc­torate source said the British gov­ern­ment would be averse to send­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the gath­er­ing, “as it could jeop­ar­dise out­comes lat­er.” Nonethe­less, they advo­cat­ed con­ven­ing peo­ple “tar­get­ed” by The Gray­zone, to col­late evi­dence that could be sub­mit­ted to OFCOM, Britain’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions reg­u­la­tor, and/or Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the name of both a gov­ern­ment depart­ment and par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee, “as part of a for­mal com­plaint.”

    They imag­ined that this process could some­how trig­ger an inves­ti­ga­tion into The Grayzone’s “fund­ing and activ­i­ties,” lead­ing the gov­ern­ment to “get prop­er­ly involved.”

    Khan added that his pal sug­gest­ed also approach­ing Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion and BBC Media Action for the initiative.The Gray­zone has pre­vi­ous­ly exposed these media char­i­ties as hav­ing par­tic­i­pat­ed in covert British state-fund­ed efforts to “weak­en the Russ­ian state’s influ­ence.”

    Khan said he would also be in touch with the For­eign Office’s new­ly-found­ed psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare unit, the Gov­ern­ment Infor­ma­tion Cell.

    [see screen of email]

    Mason’s reac­tion was mixed. While hail­ing the prospect of trig­ger­ing an offi­cial gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tion into The Gray­zone as “a good idea,” he seemed crest­fall­en the plan did not include secur­ing mate­r­i­al from British intel­li­gence on who funds the site, and “what their ulti­mate deliv­er­ables are on behalf of the ppl [peo­ple] their work ben­e­fits.”

    “An inves­ti­ga­tion into them would lead to what? Deplat­form­ing? Any­way that’s progress,” he con­clud­ed.

    Khan reas­sured Mason that OFCOM and DCMS could task “oth­er bits of gov­ern­ment to get that intel; and the find­ings will auto­mat­i­cal­ly enter the sys­tem” – mean­ing The Gray­zone and its con­trib­u­tors could end up slapped with “Russ­ian state affil­i­at­ed media” labels on social media, lead­ing to algo­rith­mic dis­crim­i­na­tion and poten­tial shad­ow ban­ning, among oth­er penal­ties.

    “I think/hope there’s poten­tial to go fur­ther [empha­sis added]. It’s too easy for them to flip deplat­form­ing with ‘the sys­tem is scared of us’. We need to look at their influence/legitimacy with audi­ences,” Khan stat­ed.

    [see screen of email]

    Yet Khan is like­ly to be extreme­ly dis­ap­point­ed if he and Mason fol­low through on their dream of sub­mit­ting for­mal com­plaints about The Gray­zone to OFCOM and/or DCMS.

    For one, OFCOM’s remit extends to domes­tic broad­cast media, such as TV, radio, and stream­ing plat­forms. In oth­er words, it does not and can­not scru­ti­nize or sanc­tion online con­tent, let alone that of US web­sites. On the same grounds, it is unclear what juris­dic­tion DCMS has to inves­ti­gate The Gray­zone. Fur­ther, no British gov­ern­ment depart­ment, except per­haps for MI6, could pos­si­bly be tasked with unearthing dam­ag­ing “intel” on this pub­li­ca­tion or its staff.

    It is there­fore stun­ning that vet­er­an main­stream media pros like Mason and Khan were unaware of such an obvi­ous, fatal flaw in their scheme. More impor­tant­ly, The Gray­zone does not and nev­er will receive fund­ing or direc­tion of any kind from the Chi­nese or Russ­ian gov­ern­ments, or any oth­er for­eign state or con­nect­ed enti­ty.

    Khan and Mason plan pro-Ukraine pro­pa­gan­da shop backed by NATO states “through cutouts”

    Mason and Khan’s brazen attempt to de-plat­form and finan­cial­ly crip­ple an inde­pen­dent media out­let on the slan­der­ous, fic­tion­al pre­text it is actu­al­ly a hos­tile for­eign infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion is espe­cial­ly per­verse giv­en that oth­er leaked emails in The Grayzone’s pos­ses­sion reveal that Khan and Mason appar­ent­ly plan to con­struct a hos­tile for­eign infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion of their own.

    Dubbed by Khan “Inter­na­tion­al Infor­ma­tion Brigade,” the pro­posed project would rep­re­sent an astro­turfed civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tion which serves as “the major, for­ward lean­ing play­er in the infor­ma­tion war.” While pub­licly oper­at­ing as an NGO, the Brigade would be fund­ed by West­ern states “through cutouts,” and close­ly inter­twined with intel­li­gence ser­vices.

    [see screen of email]

    Mason respond­ed that Khan’s plan for a state-backed pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tion pre­sent­ed as a grass­roots civ­il soci­ety ini­tia­tive was a “good idea,” and pro­posed “imme­di­ate trans­la­tion of Kyiv inde­pen­dent stuff,” not­ing that “the Euro­pean Young Social­ists are doing this already and have raised funds.”

    The Young Euro­pean Social­ists is a social demo­c­rat-ori­ent­ed youth orga­ni­za­tion spon­sored by the Euro­pean Union. And the Kyiv Inde­pen­dent is a key pro­pa­gan­da organ of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment which has received finan­cial sup­port from the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment and Euro­pean Union.

    Khan drafts invite to secret anti-Gray­zone sum­mit

    Whether Khan and Mason’s bold plans for an anti-Gray­zone sum­mit have been put into action remains unclear. How­ev­er, by May 12, Khan had draft­ed an invi­ta­tion for prospec­tive mem­bers to attend the ini­tial brain­storm­ing ses­sion. In his note, he con­jured up a vast and fear­some nexus of “pro-Russ­ian trolls” destroy­ing any­one in the Kremlin’s way, at the cen­ter of which rests The Gray­zone Death Star.

    ...

    [see screen of email]

    Mason sug­gest­ed a minor amend­ment to “avoid libel risk”: revis­ing the pas­sage refer­ring to The Gray­zone as “in fact an infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion of a dic­ta­tor­ship.” He felt this should be soft­ened to The Gray­zone “present them­selves as jour­nal­ists when their modus operan­di looks more like [an] infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion – whether vol­un­tary or co-ordi­nat­ed – of a dic­ta­tor­ship.”

    Khan agreed to the alter­ation and pro­posed more sum­mit guests. They includ­ed the BBC’s “first spe­cial­ist dis­in­for­ma­tion and social media reporter,” Mar­i­an­na Spring, who recent­ly smeared sev­er­al British aca­d­e­mics for scru­ti­niz­ing West­ern claims relat­ing to the NATO proxy war in Ukraine. He also sug­gest­ed includ­ing for­mer BBC and Jew­ish Chron­i­cle edi­tor Mar­tin Bright, who he said may be “head­ing up a group look­ing at the legal side of this sort of thing.”

    For fur­ther par­tic­i­pants in the anti-Gray­zone sum­mit, Khan referred Mason to Paul Hilder, the Ted Talk-ing, Labourite co-founder of the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy-fund­ed OpenDemocracy.net and Avaaz, which has lob­bied for NATO mil­i­tary inter­ven­tions in both Libya and Syr­ia.

    [see screen of email]

    Con­sult­ing Nina Jankow­icz on para­noid scheme against Con­sor­tium News

    On April 8, Mason emailed Khan to express alarm about a piece in Con­sor­tium News, the inde­pen­dent news plat­form found­ed by the late Robert Par­ry in 1995, ques­tion­ing the West­ern nar­ra­tive of the Bucha mas­sacre. “Who’s behind Con­sor­tium News?”, the sub­ject head­er read.

    Khan respond­ed that he had con­sult­ed Nina Jankow­icz, for­mer chief of the Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Dis­in­for­ma­tion Gov­er­nance Board, who resigned her post in dis­grace just three weeks after being appoint­ed due to intense crit­i­cism of her pro­fes­sion­al his­to­ry, bizarre behav­ior, and record of cen­so­ri­ous state­ments.

    Accord­ing to Khan, Jankow­icz saw Con­sor­tium News as a case of “use­ful idiots rather than fund­ing,” pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to Krem­lin finan­cial sup­port. Khan was by con­trast “not so sure,” sug­gest­ing “the gap” in its out­put “between 2005 and 2011” was “of a lot of inter­est.”

    [see screen of email]

    Joe Lau­ria, edi­tor-in-chief of Con­sor­tium News, expressed bewil­der­ment at the pur­port­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion expert’s obser­va­tions, and out­rage at the defam­a­to­ry impli­ca­tion that the site might be in receipt of illic­it Russ­ian fund­ing.

    “There was nev­er any ‘gap’ in our pub­li­ca­tion,” Lau­ria told The Gray­zone. “Our founder, Bob Par­ry, sim­ply switched to Word­Press in 2011 and trans­ferred some of the most impor­tant arti­cles from the old sys­tem. There were thou­sands of arti­cles so he couldn’t pos­si­bly trans­fer all of them, it had to be done man­u­al­ly. The arti­cles that weren’t trans­ferred can be found on Way­back Machine.”

    Indeed, any­one perus­ing Consortium’s archive of “most impor­tant” past pieces can see that numer­ous arti­cles from the peri­od cit­ed by Khan have been avowed­ly repub­lished, with their orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion dates clear­ly stat­ed. This rais­es the ques­tion of whether such con­spir­a­to­r­i­al think­ing influ­enced PayPal’s deci­sion to ter­mi­nate Consortium’s account in May 2022.

    ...

    ———

    “Paul Mason’s covert intel­li­gence-linked plot to destroy The Gray­zone exposed” by Kit Klaren­berg and Max Blu­men­thal; The Gray­zone; 06/07/2022

    “It is uncer­tain how Mason and Khan became acquaint­ed, but their mutu­al coin­ci­dence of needs, motives and vendet­tas is obvi­ous. The pub­lic inter­est in releas­ing the pair’s pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions is also abun­dant­ly clear. If their planned crim­i­nal­iza­tion of The Gray­zone for pub­lish­ing facts and opin­ions they abhor is suc­cess­ful, it will have dire ram­i­fi­ca­tions for any and all jour­nal­ists and inde­pen­dent media insti­tu­tions seek­ing to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo.”

    Yes, while we don’t know how these two British spies became acquaint­ed, it’s clear they have a shared mis­sion. And that mis­sion appears to start with the destruc­tion of The Gray­zone. But it obvi­ous­ly won’t end there because their shared mis­sion is to destroy inde­pen­dent out­lets that put out report­ing con­tra­dict­ing the UK nation­al secu­ri­ty state’s pre­ferred nar­ra­tives on for­eign con­flicts. They’re going after The Gray­zone because they see it being at the cen­ter of this net­work of inde­pen­dent voic­es. A net­work they are appar­ent­ly con­vinced is being financed and oper­at­ed by the gov­ern­ments of Rus­sia and Chi­na. Or at least that’s the con­ve­nient excuse. And on one lev­el it should­n’t be too shock­ing that these obvi­ous intel­li­gence assets view every­one else as also being an intel­li­gence asset. Paul Mason and Amil Khan inhab­it a hall of mir­rors world where the truth goes to die. It’s got to be tempt­ing to assume every­one is cyn­i­cal­ly run­ning an intel­li­gence oper­a­tion when that’s the envi­ron­ment you’re oper­at­ing in:

    ...
    In a series of recent columns, Mason called for the state-enforced sup­pres­sion of facts and per­spec­tives he con­sid­ers over­ly sym­pa­thet­ic to the Krem­lin, and demand­ed “state action” against mem­bers of the media that oppose the NATO line on Ukraine. He placed The Gray­zone at the top of his fan­ta­sy cen­sor­ship tar­get list.

    Mason has since announced a run for par­lia­ment on the Labour tick­et to wage his cru­sade against “dis­in­for­ma­tion” from inside the House of Com­mons.

    The Gray­zone, mean­while, has learned through anony­mous­ly leaked emails and doc­u­ments that Mason has been engaged in a mali­cious secret cam­paign that aims to enlist the British state and “friend­ly” intel­li­gence cut-outs to under­mine, cen­sor and even crim­i­nal­ize anti­war dis­senters.

    ...

    Mason is joined in his covert cru­sade by Amil Khan, the founder of a shad­owy intel­li­gence con­trac­tor called Valent Projects. In the cache of leaked emails, Khan pro­posed to Mason the ini­ti­a­tion of a “clever John Oliv­er style stunt that makes [The Gray­zone] a laugh­ing stock,” as well as a “full nuclear legal to squeeze them finan­cial­ly.”

    The Gray­zone has pre­vi­ous­ly revealed Khan’s exten­sive involve­ment in the Syr­i­an dirty war, dur­ing which he pro­vid­ed pub­lic rela­tions guid­ance to jihadist groups, trained anti-gov­ern­ment activists in com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies, and secret­ly over­saw sup­posed cit­i­zen jour­nal­ist col­lec­tives backed by for­eign gov­ern­ments. His goal was to flood inter­na­tion­al media with pro-oppo­si­tion pro­pa­gan­da, desta­bi­lize the gov­ern­ment of Bashar Assad, and ready the ground for West­ern regime change.

    This eth­i­cal­ly dubi­ous work was con­duct­ed for a vari­ety of intel­li­gence-adja­cent British For­eign Office con­trac­tors, such as ARK, a firm found­ed by prob­a­ble MI6 oper­a­tive Alis­tair Har­ris, and IncoS­trat, which has been plau­si­bly accused of pro­duc­ing pro­pa­gan­da for the blood-stained UK and Sau­di-backed insur­gents.

    ...

    Whether Khan and Mason’s bold plans for an anti-Gray­zone sum­mit have been put into action remains unclear. How­ev­er, by May 12, Khan had draft­ed an invi­ta­tion for prospec­tive mem­bers to attend the ini­tial brain­storm­ing ses­sion. In his note, he con­jured up a vast and fear­some nexus of “pro-Russ­ian trolls” destroy­ing any­one in the Kremlin’s way, at the cen­ter of which rests The Gray­zone Death Star.
    ...

    And note how the assump­tion that The Gray­zone is secret­ly being financed by Rus­sia and Chi­na is treat­ed like such an arti­cle of faith by Mason that he appar­ent­ly con­tin­ued to sus­pect Con­sor­tium News was for­eign asset even after Nina Jankow­icz, the per­son tapped for the short-live role of US Dis­in­for­ma­tion Czar, told him the web­site was more just a bunch of “use­ful idiots”. It under­scores how the label of for­eign asset appears to be at the cen­ter of this intel­li­gence oper­a­tion:

    ...
    On April 30 this year, Paul Mason emailed Amil Khan, mak­ing clear he was “keen to help” de-plat­form The Gray­zone.

    He attached a bizarrely con­struct­ed “dynam­ic map of the ‘left’ pro-Putin infos­phere” that resem­bled a spider’s web, with a mess of arrows link­ing the names of mem­bers of par­lia­ment, media out­lets, activists, caus­es, and British minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties.

    The bare­ly coher­ent, racial­ly-tinged chart con­nect­ed the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment, Russ­ian state broad­cast­er RT, the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, and Bei­jing-based tech mil­lion­aire-financier Roy Sing­ham to the “Mus­lim Com­mu­ni­ty,” “Young Net­worked Left” and “Black Com­mu­ni­ty” through a series of left­ist out­fits and UK Labour fig­ures. No evi­dence was pro­vid­ed to sup­port Mason’s link­ages.

    At the cen­ter of Mason’s chart (see below) is Jere­my Cor­byn. When Cor­byn served as Labour leader, Mason plot­ted against him in pri­vate while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pos­ing as one of his most ardent pub­lic sup­port­ers. He also sought to influ­ence Shad­ow Chan­cel­lor John McDon­nell in a pro-war direc­tion.

    The impli­ca­tion behind Mason’s Nixon­ian ene­mies chart was clear: Rus­sia and Chi­na have weaponized the British left to cor­rupt key Labour con­stituen­cies – there­fore the left must be neu­tral­ized.

    [see chart]

    Mason sug­gest­ed to Khan that he enlist the help of “pro traf­fic ana­lysts to map” how these “dif­fer­ent echo cham­bers inter­act, where their mate­r­i­al begins – and work out who might [empha­sis added] be pulling the strings.”

    He nonethe­less seemed cer­tain about the dark forces ani­mat­ing The Gray­zone, bom­bas­ti­cal­ly charg­ing that its “attacks” on Khan and oth­ers are “fed by Russ­ian and Chi­nese intel,” includ­ing hack­ing, “elec­tron­ic war­fare” and human intel­li­gence.

    ...

    On April 8, Mason emailed Khan to express alarm about a piece in Con­sor­tium News, the inde­pen­dent news plat­form found­ed by the late Robert Par­ry in 1995, ques­tion­ing the West­ern nar­ra­tive of the Bucha mas­sacre. “Who’s behind Con­sor­tium News?”, the sub­ject head­er read.

    Khan respond­ed that he had con­sult­ed Nina Jankow­icz, for­mer chief of the Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Dis­in­for­ma­tion Gov­er­nance Board, who resigned her post in dis­grace just three weeks after being appoint­ed due to intense crit­i­cism of her pro­fes­sion­al his­to­ry, bizarre behav­ior, and record of cen­so­ri­ous state­ments.

    Accord­ing to Khan, Jankow­icz saw Con­sor­tium News as a case of “use­ful idiots rather than fund­ing,” pre­sum­ably a ref­er­ence to Krem­lin finan­cial sup­port. Khan was by con­trast “not so sure,” sug­gest­ing “the gap” in its out­put “between 2005 and 2011” was “of a lot of inter­est.”

    [see screen of email]

    Joe Lau­ria, edi­tor-in-chief of Con­sor­tium News, expressed bewil­der­ment at the pur­port­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion expert’s obser­va­tions, and out­rage at the defam­a­to­ry impli­ca­tion that the site might be in receipt of illic­it Russ­ian fund­ing.

    “There was nev­er any ‘gap’ in our pub­li­ca­tion,” Lau­ria told The Gray­zone. “Our founder, Bob Par­ry, sim­ply switched to Word­Press in 2011 and trans­ferred some of the most impor­tant arti­cles from the old sys­tem. There were thou­sands of arti­cles so he couldn’t pos­si­bly trans­fer all of them, it had to be done man­u­al­ly. The arti­cles that weren’t trans­ferred can be found on Way­back Machine.”

    Indeed, any­one perus­ing Consortium’s archive of “most impor­tant” past pieces can see that numer­ous arti­cles from the peri­od cit­ed by Khan have been avowed­ly repub­lished, with their orig­i­nal pub­li­ca­tion dates clear­ly stat­ed. This rais­es the ques­tion of whether such con­spir­a­to­r­i­al think­ing influ­enced PayPal’s deci­sion to ter­mi­nate Consortium’s account in May 2022.

    ...

    And that brings us to Mason’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UK For­eign Office, where they imag­ined cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where the UK gov­ern­ment filed a for­mal com­plaint against The Gray­zone. A scheme that will poten­tial­ly involve the UK’s new­ly found­ed psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare unit, the Gov­ern­ment Infor­ma­tion Cell. Under this scheme, the peo­ple ‘tar­get­ed’ by The Gray­zone would get togeth­er and sub­mit mate­ri­als required to get a for­mal com­plaint issued, at which point the UK gov­ern­ment could begin inves­ti­gat­ing The Gray­zone’s finances:

    ...
    After Mason pro­posed invit­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the UK For­eign Office to the anti-Gray­zone meet and greet, the Valent Projects chief reached out to a friend at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Council’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­torate, a White­hall unit “tasked with hybrid threats.”

    His Direc­torate source said the British gov­ern­ment would be averse to send­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the gath­er­ing, “as it could jeop­ar­dise out­comes lat­er.” Nonethe­less, they advo­cat­ed con­ven­ing peo­ple “tar­get­ed” by The Gray­zone, to col­late evi­dence that could be sub­mit­ted to OFCOM, Britain’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions reg­u­la­tor, and/or Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the name of both a gov­ern­ment depart­ment and par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee, “as part of a for­mal com­plaint.”

    They imag­ined that this process could some­how trig­ger an inves­ti­ga­tion into The Grayzone’s “fund­ing and activ­i­ties,” lead­ing the gov­ern­ment to “get prop­er­ly involved.”

    Khan added that his pal sug­gest­ed also approach­ing Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion and BBC Media Action for the initiative.The Gray­zone has pre­vi­ous­ly exposed these media char­i­ties as hav­ing par­tic­i­pat­ed in covert British state-fund­ed efforts to “weak­en the Russ­ian state’s influ­ence.”

    Khan said he would also be in touch with the For­eign Office’s new­ly-found­ed psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare unit, the Gov­ern­ment Infor­ma­tion Cell.

    [see screen of email]
    ...

    Also note how Mason does­n’t just want deplat­form­ing. He wants the finan­cial destruc­tion of inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism:

    ...
    Khan was clear­ly amenable to his sug­ges­tions. Five days lat­er, he out­lined two options for tak­ing down The Gray­zone: “some sort of clever John Oliv­er style stunt that makes them a laugh­ing stock” – ref­er­enc­ing a sting oper­a­tion tar­get­ing aca­d­e­m­ic Paul McK­eigue con­duct­ed by the dubi­ous, intel­li­gence-linked Com­mis­sion for Inter­na­tion­al Jus­tice and Account­abil­i­ty back in 2021 – “or full nuclear legal to squeeze them finan­cial­ly.”

    Mason was enthused by the lat­ter prospect, sub­mit­ting that it should be “com­bined with relent­less deplat­form­ing,” includ­ing cut­ting off The Gray­zone from dona­tion sources such as Pay­Pal, in the man­ner of Con­sor­tium News and Mint­Press, and set­ting up “a kind of per­ma­nent rebut­tal oper­a­tion.”

    ...

    And note how Mason was report­ed­ly unim­pressed by the scope of this plan. A for­mal UK inves­ti­ga­tion into The Gray­zone was­n’t enough. But Khan assured Mason that such an inves­ti­ga­tion could result in actions like algo­rith­mic dis­crim­i­na­tion and shad­ow ban­ning:

    ...
    Mason’s reac­tion was mixed. While hail­ing the prospect of trig­ger­ing an offi­cial gov­ern­ment inves­ti­ga­tion into The Gray­zone as “a good idea,” he seemed crest­fall­en the plan did not include secur­ing mate­r­i­al from British intel­li­gence on who funds the site, and “what their ulti­mate deliv­er­ables are on behalf of the ppl [peo­ple] their work ben­e­fits.”

    “An inves­ti­ga­tion into them would lead to what? Deplat­form­ing? Any­way that’s progress,” he con­clud­ed.

    Khan reas­sured Mason that OFCOM and DCMS could task “oth­er bits of gov­ern­ment to get that intel; and the find­ings will auto­mat­i­cal­ly enter the sys­tem” – mean­ing The Gray­zone and its con­trib­u­tors could end up slapped with “Russ­ian state affil­i­at­ed media” labels on social media, lead­ing to algo­rith­mic dis­crim­i­na­tion and poten­tial shad­ow ban­ning, among oth­er penal­ties.

    “I think/hope there’s poten­tial to go fur­ther [empha­sis added]. It’s too easy for them to flip deplat­form­ing with ‘the sys­tem is scared of us’. We need to look at their influence/legitimacy with audi­ences,” Khan stat­ed.

    [see screen of email]
    ...

    Final­ly, note the broad­er con­text that this oper­a­tion is tak­ing place in: Mason and Khan aren’t just try­ing to destroy out­lets like The Gray­zone that punch holes in the offi­cial nar­ra­tives. They’re also plan­ning on set­ting up a new “Inter­na­tion­al Infor­ma­tion Brigade”. So this attack on the The Gray­zone should be viewed as in part a response to impact The Gray­zone’s past report­ing has had in reveal­ing state sanc­tioned lies. But it’s also a pre­emp­tive move to neu­tral­ize The Gray­zone in antic­i­pa­tion of set­ting up even more brazen pro­pa­gan­da oper­a­tions:

    ...
    Mason and Khan’s brazen attempt to de-plat­form and finan­cial­ly crip­ple an inde­pen­dent media out­let on the slan­der­ous, fic­tion­al pre­text it is actu­al­ly a hos­tile for­eign infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion is espe­cial­ly per­verse giv­en that oth­er leaked emails in The Grayzone’s pos­ses­sion reveal that Khan and Mason appar­ent­ly plan to con­struct a hos­tile for­eign infor­ma­tion oper­a­tion of their own.

    Dubbed by Khan “Inter­na­tion­al Infor­ma­tion Brigade,” the pro­posed project would rep­re­sent an astro­turfed civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tion which serves as “the major, for­ward lean­ing play­er in the infor­ma­tion war.” While pub­licly oper­at­ing as an NGO, the Brigade would be fund­ed by West­ern states “through cutouts,” and close­ly inter­twined with intel­li­gence ser­vices.

    [see screen of email]
    ...

    How will the “Inter­na­tion­al Infor­ma­tion Brigade” fare when actu­al­ly tasked with wag­ing these infor­ma­tion wars? Well, as we saw with Joe Lau­ri­a’s dev­as­tat­ing take down of News­Guard’s attacks on Con­sor­tium News, they’re prob­a­bly not going to do very well. At least not in any direct debate. But they can poten­tial­ly silence the oppo­si­tion. Hence the plan.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 9, 2022, 4:44 pm
  5. As report­ing on the inten­si­fy­ing fight­ing in East­ern Ukraine con­tin­ues to depict slow but steady Russ­ian gains, ques­tions about what exact­ly Rus­sia has in mind for Ukraine in the long run are grow­ing all the more rel­e­vant. Espe­cial­ly after Palan­tir CEO Alex Karp recent­ly pre­dict­ed a 20–30% prob­a­bil­i­ty of a nuclear war emerg­ing should this end up becom­ing a long-term con­flict. So what’s the plan? Well, we’re get­ting a bet­ter idea of what that long-term plan might be: ter­ri­to­r­i­al expan­sion, with parts of East­ern Ukraine join­ing Rus­sia via pub­lic ref­er­en­dum. In oth­er words, the Crimea play­book. At least that’s what we can infer based on reports out of the Russ­ian-installed admin­is­tra­tion in the occu­pied part of Ukraine’s Zapor­izhzhia region, where offi­cials have announced plans for a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum to join Rus­sia that will be held some time this year. The exact tim­ing is unclear, but it sounds like it will hap­pen at some point in the next 6 months.

    Now, we have no idea how real­is­tic these declared plans are. But it does give us at least a puta­tive time­line for this open­ing phase of this con­flict: at point this Rus­sia, these Russ­ian occu­pied regions in East­ern Ukraine could poten­tial­ly decide to join Rus­sia. Now, what hap­pens at that point is entire­ly unclear. Per­haps we achieve a new kind of frozen stale­mate. But there’s also the obvi­ous­ly pos­si­bil­i­ty that this is exact­ly the kind of sce­nario that turns this into a long-term con­flict, with NATO resolv­ing to pro­vide Ukraine with what­ev­er it deems is nec­es­sary to recap­ture these ter­ri­to­ries. It’s the kind of sce­nario that makes direct con­flict between Rus­sia and NATO all the more like­ly, espe­cial­ly if Rus­sia con­sid­ers it a NATO inva­sion of Rus­sia at that point. So as we’re hear­ing these reports about planned ref­er­en­dums in Russ­ian occu­pied regions of Ukraine, it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that we could be see­ing what is the next major piv­ot point in this con­flict unfold­ing. Per­haps it’s a piv­ot back to a frozen con­flict. Or maybe a piv­ot towards WWIII. Time will tell:

    Reuters

    Russ­ian prox­ies plan vote in Ukraine’s Zapor­izhzhia region on join­ing Rus­sia

    June 8, 2022 9:52 AM CDT
    Updat­ed

    LONDON, June 8 (Reuters) — The Russ­ian-installed admin­is­tra­tion in the occu­pied part of Ukraine’s Zapor­izhzhia region plans to stage a ref­er­en­dum lat­er this year on join­ing Rus­sia, Russ­ian news agen­cies quot­ed one of its mem­bers as say­ing.

    “The peo­ple will deter­mine the future of the Zapor­izhzhia region. The ref­er­en­dum is sched­uled for this year,” the offi­cial, Vladimir Rogov, was quot­ed by TASS as say­ing, giv­ing no fur­ther details about the tim­ing.

    ...

    Around two-thirds of the region is under Russ­ian con­trol, part of a swathe of south­ern Ukraine that Moscow seized ear­ly in the war, includ­ing most of neigh­bour­ing Kher­son province where Russ­ian-installed offi­cials have also dis­cussed plans for a ref­er­en­dum. read more

    Rogov said the admin­is­tra­tion would draw up plans for how to pro­ceed with a ref­er­en­dum even if Rus­sia could not gain con­trol over the entire region. Zapor­izhzhia city, the main urban cen­tre, is still held by Ukraine.

    The region was home to around 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple before Rus­sia invad­ed Ukraine on Feb. 24.

    Bids to incor­po­rate Kher­son or Zapor­izhzhia into Rus­sia would con­tra­dict Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s asser­tion at the start of the inva­sion that Moscow had no plan to occu­py Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry.

    The Krem­lin has said it is for peo­ple liv­ing in the regions to decide their future.

    ...

    The may­or of Meli­topol, a city in the Zaporozhzhia region, poured scorn on the lat­est ref­er­en­dum plan.

    “They start­ed by open­ly say­ing they were prepar­ing to stage a ref­er­en­dum in our city and the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ry of the Zapor­izhzhia region. But today they clear­ly under­stand that even at gun­point they will not be able to gath­er peo­ple to vote,” said the major, Ivan Fedorov.

    “Now they are start­ing a pro­pa­gan­da war, under­stand­ing that they don’t have the sup­port, and that it is unclear when it will appear. In my opin­ion, it nev­er will,” Fedorov, who was abduct­ed by Russ­ian forces in the first days of the war, said on Ukrain­ian TV.

    Rogov, the Russ­ian-installed offi­cial, also said the first ship­ments of grain would depart from the Berdyan­sk port on the Sea of Azov lat­er this week, TASS report­ed.

    Ukraine says any such ship­ments from occu­pied ports would amount to ille­gal loot­ing. A block­ade of exports from Ukraine — one of the world’s largest grain exporters — has dri­ven up glob­al prices and trig­gered fears of a world­wide food cri­sis. The Krem­lin blames Kyiv and West­ern sanc­tions for the sit­u­a­tion.

    ———-

    “Russ­ian prox­ies plan vote in Ukraine’s Zapor­izhzhia region on join­ing Rus­sia”; Reuters; 06/08/2022

    ““The peo­ple will deter­mine the future of the Zapor­izhzhia region. The ref­er­en­dum is sched­uled for this year,” the offi­cial, Vladimir Rogov, was quot­ed by TASS as say­ing, giv­ing no fur­ther details about the tim­ing.”

    We don’t know when the ref­er­en­dum is going to hap­pen in the Zapor­izhzhia region. Nor will the region nec­es­sar­i­ly be entire­ly under Russ­ian con­trol when it hap­pens. But a ref­er­en­dum appears to be in the works for some time in the next six months:

    ...
    Around two-thirds of the region is under Russ­ian con­trol, part of a swathe of south­ern Ukraine that Moscow seized ear­ly in the war, includ­ing most of neigh­bour­ing Kher­son province where Russ­ian-installed offi­cials have also dis­cussed plans for a ref­er­en­dum. read more

    Rogov said the admin­is­tra­tion would draw up plans for how to pro­ceed with a ref­er­en­dum even if Rus­sia could not gain con­trol over the entire region. Zapor­izhzhia city, the main urban cen­tre, is still held by Ukraine.
    ...

    So does a ref­er­en­dum actu­al­ly stand a chance of pass­ing a legit­i­mate pop­u­lar vote? It seems like a dicey propo­si­tion. Keep in mind that these are the cities that chose not to join the inde­pen­dent republics back in 2014 and have been expe­ri­enc­ing a low lev­el con­flict for the past eight years. Odds are opin­ions are pret­ty entrenched at this point. But at the same time, let’s not for­get that it’s the cities in the East where the bru­tal­i­ties of Nazi bat­tal­ions like Azov and Right Sec­tor are going to be most direct­ly felt. Bru­tal­i­ties that have pre­sum­ably only got­ten worse since the start of Rus­si­a’s inva­sion. And pre­sum­ably, in some cas­es, by the local author­i­ties. Don’t for­get that, while regions like Zaporozhzhia chose to stay in Ukraine, a large per­cent of the pop­u­lace like­ly had deep sym­pa­thies for the inde­pen­dent republics. How are those ele­ments of the pop­u­lace been treat­ed by the far right ele­ments of Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment in the East? It’s a poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant aspect of this sto­ry that we haven’t real­ly have very much cov­er­age of in the report­ing.

    And that brings us to the com­ments by Ivan Fedorv, the may­or of Meli­topol, dis­miss­ing the prospect that the pop­u­lace would ever sup­port a ref­er­en­dum to join Rus­sia. Recall how Federov, a mem­ber or Right Sec­tor, was abduct­ed by Russ­ian forces for inter­ro­ga­tion ear­ly on in the con­flict. Abduct­ed and returned unharmed. It was an episode that under­scored how unusu­al this mil­i­tary adven­ture real­ly is in terms of stat­ed aims. Aims that might now include ter­ri­to­r­i­al expan­sion via ref­er­en­dum that is guar­an­teed to illic­it the most extreme kind of response from Ukraine’s nation­al­ists:

    ...
    The may­or of Meli­topol, a city in the Zaporozhzhia region, poured scorn on the lat­est ref­er­en­dum plan.

    “They start­ed by open­ly say­ing they were prepar­ing to stage a ref­er­en­dum in our city and the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ry of the Zapor­izhzhia region. But today they clear­ly under­stand that even at gun­point they will not be able to gath­er peo­ple to vote,” said the major, Ivan Fedorov.

    “Now they are start­ing a pro­pa­gan­da war, under­stand­ing that they don’t have the sup­port, and that it is unclear when it will appear. In my opin­ion, it nev­er will,” Fedorov, who was abduct­ed by Russ­ian forces in the first days of the war, said on Ukrain­ian TV.
    ...

    Will Ukraine’s far right get nasty enough to con­vince the local pop­u­lace to join Rus­sia? It’s part of the dynam­ic of this sit­u­a­tion.

    But there’s also the ques­tion of how Ukraine’s inter­na­tion­al allies are going to respond to these ref­er­en­dums, espe­cial­ly if they result in these regions join­ing Rus­sia, whether or not the vote is valid. How will ter­ri­to­r­i­al expan­sions affect the abil­i­ty for this con­flict to come to an end? Will annex­ing parts of East­ern Ukraine be the events that effec­tive­ly end the con­flict? Or deep­en it? Again, don’t for­get Alex Karp’s pre­dic­tion: if this con­flict turns into a long-term one, there’s a 20–30% chance of nuclear war. So when we’re see­ing ear­ly indi­ca­tions of these kinds of ter­ri­to­r­i­al ambi­tions, are we see­ing the pre­text for the res­o­lu­tion of this con­flict? Or a dra­mat­ic esca­la­tion of it? We’ll find out. But as the fol­low­ing TPM piece makes clear, the top­ic of ter­ri­to­r­i­al expan­sion is some­thing Vladimir Putin isn’t shy­ing from. So if Ukraine’s NATO allies want to use these ref­er­en­dums as an pre­text for dra­mat­i­cal­ly deep­en­ing NATO’s involve­ment in the con­flict they’ll have plen­ty of excus­es to do so:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    News

    Putin Sug­gests Rus­sia Is Enter­ing A Peri­od Of Indef­i­nite Expan­sion
    How much land does Putin need?

    By Josh Koven­sky
    June 9, 2022 1:15 p.m.

    Vladimir Putin sug­gest­ed on Thurs­day that it’s time for Rus­sia to stay in the busi­ness of ter­ri­to­r­i­al expan­sion — draw­ing direct allu­sion to long wars with the West to that end.

    It comes as the Russ­ian army has spent weeks try­ing to take the Don­bas — Ukraine’s east­ern region that, accord­ing to Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da, should be full of eth­nic Rus­sians wait­ing for Moscow’s arrival.

    Instead, and after ear­li­er retreats from Ukraine’s north, Putin has found him­self stuck in a slow, slog­ging cam­paign. Russ­ian rhetoric and saber-rat­tling has increased as the stag­na­tion con­tin­ues.

    So on Thurs­day, after vis­it­ing an exhi­bi­tion ded­i­cat­ed to Peter the Great’s 350-year anniver­sary, Putin remarked on how lit­tle had changed over the inter­ven­ing cen­turies.

    “Peter I fought the North­ern War for 21 years,” Putin remarked. “It seemed then, fight­ing with Swe­den, that he took some­thing away … but he wasn’t tak­ing any­thing away, he was return­ing!”

    Putin added that Peter I found­ed Russia’s impe­r­i­al cap­i­tal — St. Peters­burg — on ter­ri­to­ry tak­en from Swe­den dur­ing that war.

    “When he laid the new cap­i­tal, not one coun­try of Europe rec­og­nized this ter­ri­to­ry as Rus­sia, they all rec­og­nized it as Sweden’s,” Putin said. “And there, since time immemo­r­i­al, the slavs had lived along­side the Finno-Urgic peo­ples, and this ter­ri­to­ry was locat­ed under the con­trol of the Russ­ian state.”

    ...

    But Putin insert­ed anoth­er ref­er­ence in his Wednes­day remarks: Peter the Great’s cam­paign to take Nar­va, a city that’s cur­rent­ly part of Esto­nia.

    Peter I fought two cam­paigns for the city — the first one, an embar­rass­ing fail­ure. The sec­ond was a suc­cess.

    “It’s the same in the West­ern direc­tion, with Nar­va, his first cam­paigns,” Putin said. “Why did he go that way? He was return­ing and for­ti­fy­ing [this land] — that’s what he did.”

    Putin added that Russia’s des­tiny today is the same: return­ing and for­ti­fy­ing lost slav­ic lands.

    “Judg­ing from every­thing, it’s fall­en to us to also return and strength­en,” he added. “And if we start from these basic val­ues form­ing the foun­da­tion of our exis­tence, we will uncon­di­tion­al­ly suc­ceed in solv­ing the tasks that stand before us.”

    ———-

    “Putin Sug­gests Rus­sia Is Enter­ing A Peri­od Of Indef­i­nite Expan­sion” by Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 06/09/2022

    ““Judg­ing from every­thing, it’s fall­en to us to also return and strength­en,” he added. “And if we start from these basic val­ues form­ing the foun­da­tion of our exis­tence, we will uncon­di­tion­al­ly suc­ceed in solv­ing the tasks that stand before us.””

    Return­ing and strength­en­ing. It’s an omi­nous theme for Putin to be pub­licly cham­pi­oning. Espe­cial­ly omi­nous when the his­toric cap­ture of places like the capi­tol of Esto­nia are brought up. It’s the kind talk that is guar­an­teed to fuel claims that Putin is plan­ning on tak­ing land from NATO mem­bers next:

    ...
    “Peter I fought the North­ern War for 21 years,” Putin remarked. “It seemed then, fight­ing with Swe­den, that he took some­thing away … but he wasn’t tak­ing any­thing away, he was return­ing!”

    ...

    But Putin insert­ed anoth­er ref­er­ence in his Wednes­day remarks: Peter the Great’s cam­paign to take Nar­va, a city that’s cur­rent­ly part of Esto­nia.

    Peter I fought two cam­paigns for the city — the first one, an embar­rass­ing fail­ure. The sec­ond was a suc­cess.

    “It’s the same in the West­ern direc­tion, with Nar­va, his first cam­paigns,” Putin said. “Why did he go that way? He was return­ing and for­ti­fy­ing [this land] — that’s what he did.”

    Putin added that Russia’s des­tiny today is the same: return­ing and for­ti­fy­ing lost slav­ic lands.
    ...

    Will talk of Russ­ian expan­sion have a kind of sober­ing effect on world lead­ers or will this be treat­ed as cause for greater alarmism and esca­la­tion? Again, time will tell. If the ref­er­en­dum time­line is accu­rate we’re going to find out how world lead­ers will react with­in the next six months or so. It’s omi­nous. On the one hand, some sort of ref­er­en­dum like this is almost the default kind of end to this con­flict. But it could also be the trig­ger point for some­thing far worse. In oth­er words, we’re look­ing at the begin­ning of the end. We’re just not sure which end.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 11, 2022, 4:03 pm
  6. What is the actu­al casu­al­ty rate for the Ukrain­ian forces in the Don­bas? It’s large­ly been a mys­tery from the out­break of the con­flict, although we could be pret­ty con­fi­dent the true num­ber was high­er than the offi­cial num­bers. Recall those reports from a few weeks about Ukrain­ian vol­un­teers in the Don­bas con­tact­ing reporters to share with the world the awful con­di­tions under which they were expect­ed to fight, with lit­tle to no train­ing or equip­ment. That’s all part of the con­text of a dis­turb­ing pair of new offi­cial updates to the Ukrain­ian death rate in the Don­bas.

    First, that offi­cial num­ber jumped from 100 to 200 troops a day in a BBC report last week. Then, just yes­ter­day, anoth­er Ukrain­ian offi­cial just bumped it up to 200–500 deaths per day for Ukraine’s forces. Despite that, Ukraine main­tains that no peace nego­ti­a­tions are pos­si­ble as long as Rus­sia holds Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry. Nego­ti­a­tions can only start after Ukraine wins back its lost ter­ri­to­ry. So in the last week, the offi­cial death rate has jumped 2–5 fold at the same time the gov­ern­ment dou­bled and tripled down on no peace nego­ti­a­tions until it starts win­ning:

    BBC

    Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties: Kyiv los­ing up to 200 troops a day — Zelen­sky aide

    Pub­lished
    06/09/2022

    A senior Ukrain­ian pres­i­den­tial aide has told the BBC that between 100 and 200 Ukrain­ian troops are being killed on the front line every day.

    Mykhay­lo Podolyak said Ukraine need­ed hun­dreds of West­ern artillery sys­tems to lev­el the play­ing field with Rus­sia in the east­ern Don­bas region.

    He also said Kyiv is not ready to resume peace talks with Moscow.

    Ukrain­ian troops are under relent­less bom­bard­ment as Russ­ian forces attempt to take con­trol of the whole of Don­bas.

    “The Russ­ian forces have thrown pret­ty much every­thing non-nuclear at the front and that includes heavy artillery, mul­ti­ple rock­et launch sys­tems and avi­a­tion,” Mr Podolyak said.

    He repeat­ed Ukraine’s appeal for more weapons from the West, say­ing that the “com­plete lack of par­i­ty” between the Russ­ian and Ukrain­ian armies was the rea­son for Ukraine’s heavy casu­al­ty rate.

    “Our demands for artillery are not just some kind of whim... but an objec­tive need when it comes to the sit­u­a­tion on the bat­tle­field,” he said, adding that Ukraine needs 150 to 300 rock­et launch sys­tems to match Rus­sia — a much high­er num­ber than it has received so far.

    Mr Podolyak also said peace talks could only resume if Rus­sia sur­ren­dered the ter­ri­to­ry it had gained since it invad­ed on 24 Feb­ru­ary.

    Mr Podolyak’s sug­ges­tion that 100 to 200 Ukrain­ian sol­diers are dying each day is high­er than pre­vi­ous esti­mates. On Thurs­day, Ukraine’s Defence Min­is­ter, Olek­sii Reznikov, said Ukraine was los­ing 100 sol­diers a day, and 500 more were injured.

    The dif­fer­ing casu­al­ty fig­ures are a sign of how dif­fi­cult it is to get pre­cise infor­ma­tion from the bat­tle­field.

    ...

    In addi­tion to the front­line fight­ing, two Britons and a Moroc­can man who fought for Ukraine’s armed forces were sen­tenced to death on Thurs­day by an unrecog­nised court in the so-called Donet­sk Peo­ple’s Repub­lic.

    They were found guilty of being mer­ce­nar­ies and of “tak­ing action towards the vio­lent seizure of pow­er”.

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties: Kyiv los­ing up to 200 troops a day — Zelen­sky aide”; BBC; 06/09/2022

    Mr Podolyak’s sug­ges­tion that 100 to 200 Ukrain­ian sol­diers are dying each day is high­er than pre­vi­ous esti­mates. On Thurs­day, Ukraine’s Defence Min­is­ter, Olek­sii Reznikov, said Ukraine was los­ing 100 sol­diers a day, and 500 more were injured.”

    It was just a week ago when the offi­cial esti­mates for the dai­ly num­ber of killed Ukrain­ian sol­diers jumped from 100 to 200. And yet, despite this dire news, the mes­sage com­ing out of the Ukrain­ian side was that nego­ti­a­tions are still off the table and peace talks could only resume fol­low­ing a com­plete Russ­ian with­draw­al back to the Feb 24 pre-con­flict lines. Ongo­ing mass casu­al­ties are the plan:

    ...
    Mr Podolyak also said peace talks could only resume if Rus­sia sur­ren­dered the ter­ri­to­ry it had gained since it invad­ed on 24 Feb­ru­ary.
    ...

    So how much longer is Ukraine plan­ning on sus­tain­ing these casu­al­ty rates? Well, we got a rather dis­turb­ing update on that front yes­ter­day from David Arakhamia, who leads Ukraine’s nego­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia and is described as one of Zelen­sky’s clos­est advis­ers. Accord­ing to Arakhamia, 200–500 Ukrain­ian sol­diers are being killed each day in the Don­bas region. In just over a week, the offi­cial esti­mates have jump from 100 to 200–500 deaths per day.

    How is this cat­a­stroph­ic death rate affect­ing the peace nego­ti­a­tions? Well, accord­ing to Arakhamia, he con­tin­ues to con­tact his Russ­ian coun­ter­parts once or twice a week but “both sides clear­ly real­ize that right now, there is no place for nego­ti­a­tion.” “Our nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion is actu­al­ly quite weak, so we don’t want to sit at the table if we are in this posi­tion. We need to reverse it in some way,” Arakhamia said, who went on to stress the need for a counter-oper­a­tion to regain lost ter­ri­to­ry.

    Arakhamia also point­ed out that Ukraine has recruit­ed one mil­lion peo­ple into the army and has the capac­i­ty to recruit two mil­lion more, leav­ing it ade­quate poten­tial man­pow­er. It’s weapons that the coun­try needs. In oth­er words, the worse the war goes for Ukraine, the less pos­si­ble nego­ti­a­tions become and the greater the call for more weapons because Ukraine will accept as high a casu­al­ty rate as is nec­es­sary to win the war. That’s the mes­sage com­ing out of Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment.

    So how long can we expect Ukraine to be able to main­tain this death rate? Well, we got a bit of a hint from Arakhamia on that mat­ter. When dis­cussing the rel­a­tive lack of eco­nom­ic impact sanc­tions have had on Rus­si­a’s econ­o­my, Arakhamia coun­tered that it will take three to four years for the sanc­tions to ful­ly take effect, adding “The ques­tion is if we (Ukraine) are still here in three or four years to enjoy the show”:

    Axios

    Ukraine suf­fer­ing up to 1,000 casu­al­ties per day in Don­bas, offi­cial says

    Dave Lawler, author of Axios World
    06/15/2022

    Up to 1,000 Ukrain­ian sol­diers are being killed or wound­ed each day in the Don­bas region of east­ern Ukraine, with 200 to 500 killed on aver­age and many more wound­ed, a top Ukrain­ian offi­cial said on Wednes­day.

    The big pic­ture: Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky said on June 1 that 60 to 100 Ukrain­ian troops were being killed dai­ly as Rus­sia stepped up its Don­bas offen­sive. Over the past two weeks that num­ber has climbed sig­nif­i­cant­ly accord­ing to David Arakhamia, who leads Ukraine’s nego­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia and is one of Zelen­sky’s clos­est advis­ers.

    * Ukraine has recruit­ed one mil­lion peo­ple into the army and has the capac­i­ty to recruit two mil­lion more, Arakhamia said, so it has the num­bers to con­tin­ue the fight in Don­bas, where Rus­sia has been grad­u­al­ly gain­ing ter­ri­to­ry.

    * Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mark Mil­ley was asked about the rate of Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties on Wednes­day and said it was dif­fi­cult to esti­mate but pre­vi­ous media reports of around 100 killed and up to 300 injured each day had been “in the ball­park of our assess­ments.” He was not respond­ing to the lat­est Ukrain­ian esti­mate.

    ...

    What Ukraine lacks, Arakhamia con­tend­ed, is the weapon­ry and ammu­ni­tion to match Rus­sia in “one of the biggest fights of the 21st cen­tu­ry.” He said: “We have the peo­ple trained to attack, to coun­ter­at­tack, but we need weapons for this.”

    * “Our nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion is actu­al­ly quite weak, so we don’t want to sit at the table if we are in this posi­tion. We need to reverse it in some way,” Arakhamia said, stress­ing the need for a counter-oper­a­tion to regain lost ter­ri­to­ry.

    Dri­ving the news: Arakhamia is lead­ing a Ukrain­ian del­e­ga­tion in Wash­ing­ton this week to lob­by the Biden admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress to increase the pace of weapons ship­ments and to rec­og­nize Rus­sia as a state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism — a top­ic he said they plan to raise with House Speak­er Nan­cy Pelosi (D‑Calif.).

    * Pres­i­dent Biden spoke with Zelen­sky Wednes­day and informed him of addi­tion­al mil­i­tary and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, the White House said. The $1 bil­lion in weapons to be shipped to Ukraine include rock­ets and artillery ammu­ni­tion.
    * In a round­table Wednes­day at the Ger­man Mar­shall Fund, Arakhamia and oth­er mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion not­ed that while Biden had signed a $40 bil­lion pack­age to aid Ukraine in May, it was only very grad­u­al­ly trans­lat­ing into actu­al weapons ship­ments.
    * Mean­while, Ukraine’s part­ners — par­tic­u­lar­ly in Europe — are begin­ning to focus on replen­ish­ing their own stock­piles rather than arm­ing Ukraine, Arakhamia said. He not­ed that the Ger­man gov­ern­ment was still very reluc­tant to approve export licens­es to arm Ukraine, per­haps due to “inter­nal fear” of Rus­sia.

    What to watch: While for­mal nego­ti­a­tions are frozen, Arakhamia said he and his team speak by phone with their Russ­ian coun­ter­parts “one or two times per week” to check in, even though “both sides clear­ly real­ize that right now, there is no place for nego­ti­a­tion.”

    * He said there was domes­tic back­lash to the idea of nego­ti­at­ing with Rus­sia at all after the alleged war crimes in cities like Bucha and Mar­i­upol, but also not­ed the war would have to end through “com­pro­mise.”

    More from the round­table:

    * Arakhamia said Rus­sia was using neigh­bor­ing Geor­gia to evade sanc­tions, with the com­pli­ance of the “obvi­ous­ly pro-Russ­ian” gov­ern­ment, which Geor­gia denies.
    * Arakhamia said “our mil­i­tary peo­ple” strong­ly oppose the idea of de-min­ing Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in exchange for Rus­sia allow­ing grain exports, because there would be “no guar­an­tee” Rus­sia would­n’t use those cor­ri­dors to attack by sea.
    * The Ukrain­ian nego­tia­tor said Rus­sia was large­ly insu­lat­ed from sanc­tions due to high oil prices, but would feel the full effects in three or four years. “The ques­tion is if we (Ukraine) are still here in three or four years to enjoy the show.”

    ————-

    “Ukraine suf­fer­ing up to 1,000 casu­al­ties per day in Don­bas, offi­cial says” by Dave Lawler; Axios; 06/15/2022

    Up to 1,000 Ukrain­ian sol­diers are being killed or wound­ed each day in the Don­bas region of east­ern Ukraine, with 200 to 500 killed on aver­age and many more wound­ed, a top Ukrain­ian offi­cial said on Wednes­day.”

    The offi­cial death rate jumped 2–5 fold in just a week. It’s the kind of jump that rais­es the obvi­ous­ly ques­tion of whether or not this new death rate is even accu­rate. Could it be even worse? Don’t for­get the recent reports about new con­scripts being sent to the front lines in the Don­bas with lit­tle or not train­ing and equip­ment. Ukraine is going to have to start tap­ping that reserve capac­i­ty for its armed forces soon rather than lat­er because it appears to be treat­ing its sol­diers as an expend­able resource:

    ...
    * Ukraine has recruit­ed one mil­lion peo­ple into the army and has the capac­i­ty to recruit two mil­lion more, Arakhamia said, so it has the num­bers to con­tin­ue the fight in Don­bas, where Rus­sia has been grad­u­al­ly gain­ing ter­ri­to­ry.

    * Joint Chiefs Chair­man Gen. Mark Mil­ley was asked about the rate of Ukrain­ian casu­al­ties on Wednes­day and said it was dif­fi­cult to esti­mate but pre­vi­ous media reports of around 100 killed and up to 300 injured each day had been “in the ball­park of our assess­ments.” He was not respond­ing to the lat­est Ukrain­ian esti­mate.
    ...

    And yet, despite this dire news, Arakhamia is reit­er­at­ing the posi­tion that no peace nego­ti­a­tions are pos­si­ble until Ukraine wins back its lost ter­ri­to­ry:

    ...
    * “Our nego­ti­at­ing posi­tion is actu­al­ly quite weak, so we don’t want to sit at the table if we are in this posi­tion. We need to reverse it in some way,” Arakhamia said, stress­ing the need for a counter-oper­a­tion to regain lost ter­ri­to­ry.

    ...

    What to watch: While for­mal nego­ti­a­tions are frozen, Arakhamia said he and his team speak by phone with their Russ­ian coun­ter­parts “one or two times per week” to check in, even though “both sides clear­ly real­ize that right now, there is no place for nego­ti­a­tion.”

    * He said there was domes­tic back­lash to the idea of nego­ti­at­ing with Rus­sia at all after the alleged war crimes in cities like Bucha and Mar­i­upol, but also not­ed the war would have to end through “com­pro­mise.”

    ...

    * The Ukrain­ian nego­tia­tor said Rus­sia was large­ly insu­lat­ed from sanc­tions due to high oil prices, but would feel the full effects in three or four years. “The ques­tion is if we (Ukraine) are still here in three or four years to enjoy the show.”
    ...

    How long will this con­tin­ue? Three to four years maybe? Will Ukraine still have a func­tion­ing mil­i­tary by that point? It’s an open ques­tion. And yet, despite that open ques­tion, Ukraine appears to be absolute­ly com­mit­ted to the cur­rent strat­e­gy. A strat­e­gy that appears to demand that Ukraine com­mit itself ever more to win­ning at all costs the more lives are lost. It’s a recipe for an extreme­ly bloody even­tu­al vic­to­ry. Or an extreme­ly bloody even­tu­al defeat. Maybe it’s not the best strat­e­gy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2022, 3:43 pm
  7. The purg­ing of all things Russ­ian from Ukrain­ian soci­ety got anoth­er boost: Ukraine’s par­lia­ment just passed a law ban­ning books and music from Rus­sia.

    But it’s not just con­tent from Rus­sia. Even Russ­ian-lan­guage con­tent from oth­er coun­tries will need to get a spe­cial exemp­tion for import. In oth­er words, this is effec­tive­ly an attempt to ban the Russ­ian lan­guage, mak­ing it the lat­est exten­sion of a trend of sup­press­ing the Russ­ian lan­guage that was start­ed imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing the 2014 Maid­an revolt and pre­cip­i­tat­ed the ensu­ing civ­il war.

    So in a coun­try where ~1/3 of the pop­u­lace are native Russ­ian speak­ers, how much sup­port does the new law have? ~2/3 of MP sup­port­ed it and 1/3 opposed. Imag­ine that. So while the law is being tout­ed as the lat­est exam­ple of Ukraine fight­ing back against Russ­ian cul­tur­al impe­ri­al­ism or some­thing, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that we’re look­ing at the lat­est exam­ple of the same Ukrain­ian chau­vin­ist impuls­es that helped spark Ukraine’s civ­il war in the first place:

    Reuters

    Ukraine to restrict Russ­ian books, music in lat­est cul­tur­al break from Moscow

    By Max Hun­der
    June 19, 2022 1:58 PM CDT
    Updat­ed

    KYIV, June 19 (Reuters) — Ukraine’s par­lia­ment on Sun­day vot­ed through two laws which will place severe restric­tions on Russ­ian books and music as Kyiv seeks to break many remain­ing cul­tur­al ties between the two coun­tries fol­low­ing Moscow’s inva­sion.

    One law will for­bid the print­ing of books by Russ­ian cit­i­zens, unless they renounce their Russ­ian pass­port and take Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen­ship. The ban will only apply to those who held Russ­ian cit­i­zen­ship after the 1991 col­lapse of Sovi­et rule.

    It will also ban the com­mer­cial import of books print­ed in Rus­sia, Belarus, and occu­pied Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry, while also requir­ing spe­cial per­mis­sion for the import of books in Russ­ian from any oth­er coun­try.

    Anoth­er law will pro­hib­it the play­ing of music by post-1991 Russ­ian cit­i­zens on media and on pub­lic trans­port, while also increas­ing quo­tas on Ukrain­ian-lan­guage speech and music con­tent in TV and radio broad­casts.

    The laws need to be signed by Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy to take effect, and there is no indi­ca­tion that he oppos­es either. Both received broad sup­port from across the cham­ber, includ­ing from law­mak­ers who had tra­di­tion­al­ly been viewed as pro-Krem­lin by most of Ukraine’s media and civ­il soci­ety.

    Ukraine’s Cul­ture Min­is­ter Olek­san­dr Tkachenko said he was “glad to wel­come” the new restric­tions.

    “The laws are designed to help Ukrain­ian authors share qual­i­ty con­tent with the widest pos­si­ble audi­ence, which after the Russ­ian inva­sion do not accept any Russ­ian cre­ative prod­uct on a phys­i­cal lev­el,” the Ukrain­ian cab­i­net’s web­site quot­ed him as say­ing.

    DERUSSIFICATION

    The new rules are the lat­est chap­ter in Ukraine’s long path to shed­ding the lega­cy of hun­dreds of years of rule by Moscow.

    Ukraine says this process, pre­vi­ous­ly referred to as “decom­mu­ni­sa­tion” but now more often called “derus­si­fi­ca­tion,” is nec­es­sary to undo cen­turies of poli­cies aimed at crush­ing Ukrain­ian iden­ti­ty.

    ...

    This process gained momen­tum after Rus­si­a’s 2014 inva­sion of Crimea and sup­port for sep­a­ratist prox­ies in Ukraine’s Don­bas, but took on new dimen­sions after the start of the full-scale inva­sion on Feb. 24.

    Hun­dreds of loca­tions in Ukraine’s cap­i­tal, Kyiv, have already been ear­marked for renam­ing to shed their asso­ci­a­tions with Rus­sia, and a Sovi­et-era mon­u­ment cel­e­brat­ing the friend­ship of the Ukrain­ian and Russ­ian peo­ple was torn down in April, elic­it­ing cheers from the assem­bled crowd. read more

    ————

    “Ukraine to restrict Russ­ian books, music in lat­est cul­tur­al break from Moscow” by Max Hun­der; Reuters; 06/19/2022

    ““The laws are designed to help Ukrain­ian authors share qual­i­ty con­tent with the widest pos­si­ble audi­ence, which after the Russ­ian inva­sion do not accept any Russ­ian cre­ative prod­uct on a phys­i­cal lev­el,” the Ukrain­ian cab­i­net’s web­site quot­ed him as say­ing.”

    Any “cre­ative prod­uct” gen­er­at­ed by Russ­ian authors or musi­cians is offi­cial­ly phys­i­cal­ly reject­ed by Ukraini­ans, accord­ing to Ukraine’s Cul­ture Min­is­ter Olek­san­dr Tkachenko. It’s just the lat­est exam­ple of the “decommunisation”/“derussification” agen­da that’s been increas­ing­ly both purg­ing Ukrain­ian soci­ety of any­thing asso­ci­at­ed with Rus­sia while Ukrain­ian-lan­guage con­tent is offi­cial ele­vat­ed. Even Russ­ian-lan­guage books from coun­tries oth­er than Rus­sia or Belarus will require spe­cial import per­mis­sions. That’s a key aspect to keep in mind here in this coun­try where ~1/3 of the pop­u­lace speaks Russ­ian at home: this isn’t just an attempt to ban con­tent for Rus­sia. It’s designed to purge the Russ­ian lan­guage out of Ukrain­ian soci­ety:

    ...
    One law will for­bid the print­ing of books by Russ­ian cit­i­zens, unless they renounce their Russ­ian pass­port and take Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen­ship. The ban will only apply to those who held Russ­ian cit­i­zen­ship after the 1991 col­lapse of Sovi­et rule.

    It will also ban the com­mer­cial import of books print­ed in Rus­sia, Belarus, and occu­pied Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry, while also requir­ing spe­cial per­mis­sion for the import of books in Russ­ian from any oth­er coun­try.

    Anoth­er law will pro­hib­it the play­ing of music by post-1991 Russ­ian cit­i­zens on media and on pub­lic trans­port, while also increas­ing quo­tas on Ukrain­ian-lan­guage speech and music con­tent in TV and radio broad­casts.

    ...

    The new rules are the lat­est chap­ter in Ukraine’s long path to shed­ding the lega­cy of hun­dreds of years of rule by Moscow.

    Ukraine says this process, pre­vi­ous­ly referred to as “decom­mu­ni­sa­tion” but now more often called “derus­si­fi­ca­tion,” is nec­es­sary to undo cen­turies of poli­cies aimed at crush­ing Ukrain­ian iden­ti­ty.
    ...

    .
    And while we’re told that this new lawa has ‘broad sup­port’ in the the par­lia­ment, it’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize just how lim­it­ed that broad sup­port real­ly was. AS the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, 303 of the 450 deputies vot­ed for the new law. So in a coun­try where ~1/3 of the pop­u­lace prefers to speak Russ­ian, 32% of the MP vot­ed against his law. In oth­er words, while we’re being told that this is move is wide­ly embraced by the Ukrain­ian pop­u­lace, that does­n’t actu­al­ly appear to be the case. Quite the con­trary:

    BBC News

    Ukraine to ban music by some Rus­sians in media and pub­lic spaces

    By Alys Davies
    06/19/2022

    Ukraine’s par­lia­ment has vot­ed in favour of ban­ning some Russ­ian music in media and pub­lic spaces.

    The ban will not apply to all Russ­ian music, but rather relates to music cre­at­ed or per­formed by those who are or were Russ­ian cit­i­zens after 1991.

    Artists who have con­demned Rus­si­a’s war in Ukraine can apply for an exemp­tion from the ban.

    ...

    Many of those liv­ing in areas of east and south Ukraine have his­tor­i­cal­ly felt a strong con­nec­tion to Rus­sia, often speak­ing Russ­ian as their first lan­guage.

    But Rus­si­a’s inva­sion of Ukraine has led many Ukraini­ans to want to sep­a­rate them­selves from Russ­ian cul­ture.

    The bill, approved by MPs on Sun­day, bans some Russ­ian music from being played or per­formed on tele­vi­sion, radio, schools, pub­lic trans­port, hotels, restau­rants, cin­e­mas and oth­er pub­lic spaces.

    It secured sup­port from 303 of the 450 deputies in the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment.

    The doc­u­ment says the ban will “min­imise the risks of pos­si­ble hos­tile pro­pa­gan­da through music in Ukraine and will increase the vol­ume of nation­al music prod­ucts in the cul­tur­al space,” BBC Mon­i­tor­ing reports.

    The ban will apply to musi­cians who have or had Russ­ian cit­i­zen­ship at any time after 1991 — the year Ukraine declared inde­pen­dence — except for those who are Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens or were so at the time of their death.

    This means the works of long-dead Russ­ian com­posers such as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich can still be per­formed.

    Russ­ian artists who con­demn the war in Ukraine can apply for an exemp­tion for their music by sub­mit­ting an appli­ca­tion to Ukraine’s secu­ri­ty ser­vice. In it, they must state that they sup­port the sov­er­eign­ty and integri­ty of Ukraine, call on Rus­sia to imme­di­ate­ly stop its aggres­sion against Ukraine, and under­take to refrain from any steps that con­tra­dict these writ­ten state­ments, the BBC’s Ukrain­ian Ser­vice reports.

    The doc­u­ment also includes laws to increase the share of Ukrain­ian songs played on the radio to 40%, as well as increas­ing the use of Ukrain­ian in dai­ly pro­grammes to 75%, Ukraine’s pub­lic broad­cast­er (Sus­pilne) reports.

    Russ­ian books also banned

    In a par­al­lel bill to that affect­ing music, books import­ed from Rus­sia, Belarus and occu­pied Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ries will also banned, as well as mate­r­i­al in Russ­ian import­ed from oth­er coun­tries.

    This law will ban the pub­lish­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing of books writ­ten by Russ­ian cit­i­zens (with sim­i­lar exemp­tions to those for music) though this will not apply to books already pub­lished in Ukraine.

    In addi­tion, trans­la­tions of books will only be pub­lished in Ukrain­ian, offi­cial EU lan­guages or indige­nous Ukrain­ian lan­guages.

    ———–

    “Ukraine to ban music by some Rus­sians in media and pub­lic spaces” By Alys Davies; BBC News; 06/19/2022

    “It secured sup­port from 303 of the 450 deputies in the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment.”

    Yep, in a coun­try where ~1/3 of the pop­u­lace prefers to speak Russ­ian, ~1/3 of the par­lia­ment vot­ed against effec­tive­ly ban­ning the Russ­ian lan­guage. Imag­ine that.

    On one lev­el, this is just the lat­est move in a trend that’s been going on 2014. It’s also a grim reminder that the civ­il war that erupt­ed in 2014 was very much fought along these lan­guage-iden­ti­ty lines.

    But it’s hard to ignore the real­i­ty that its the regions of the coun­try with the largest Russ­ian-speak­ing pop­u­la­tions that are being occu­pied by Russ­ian forces, poten­tial­ly with end goal of annex­ing these ter­ri­to­ries. It’s part of the dark con­text of this move by the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment: at the same time the Russ­ian-speak­ing parts of the coun­try are being cleaved off, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is tak­ing steps to ensure those Russ­ian-speak­ers know they are seen as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens in their soci­ety. The vil­lainiza­tion of Ukraine’s Russ­ian-speak­ers con­tin­ues. Even now.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 22, 2022, 3:49 pm

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