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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

24 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
  8. When the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment fired Omduds­man Lyud­mi­la Deniso­va back in May, in part, over her dis­sem­i­na­tion of unver­i­fied claims of Russ­ian atroc­i­ties against civil­ians it raised the ques­tion of whether or not we were going to see a pull back in the num­ber of unground­ed claims from the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment of Russ­ian geno­cide and ter­ror­ism. Well, on July 1, we sort of got an answer: : Dmytro Lubi­nets will be replac­ing Deniso­va. And accord­ing to this tweet by jour­nal­ist Leonid Dragozin, Lubi­nets hap­pens to be an MP with a large far right fan base that was quite excit­ed to this “Friend of nation­al­ists” ele­vat­ed to such a posi­tion:

    Azov-linked TG chan­nel Tales of the Fourth Reich cel­e­brates Dmytro Lubi­nets’ appoint­ment as Ukraine’s new ombudsmen:“The only pro-Ukrain­ian MP from Don­bas… Friend of nation­al­ists. Fan of Sva Stone [far right fash­ion brand]”. Pic: Lubi­nets in a Fortress Europe t‑shirt pic.twitter.com/0foYnpbaFw— Leonid ?? Ragozin (@leonidragozin) July 1, 2022

    That’s all part of the con­text of the fol­low­ing set of arti­cles about the recent mis­sile attack near a mall in the city of Kre­manchuk a week and a half ago. There’ no ques­tion as to whether or not the mall was destroyed as a result of a June 27 mis­sile strike. No one dis­putes that hap­pened. The first dis­pute is over whether or not the mall actu­al­ly tar­get­ed by a mis­sile. Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment asserts that the mall itself was direct­ly tar­get­ed as part of a ter­ror strike intend­ed to kill civil­ians. Rus­sia insists that the Kre­manchuk mechan­i­cal plant adja­cent to the mall was the actu­al tar­get and that fire from the plant spread to the mall.

    The sec­ond major dis­pute about the basic facts of the attack is whether or not the mall was open and crowd­ed, or large­ly emp­ty. As we’re going to see, the evi­dence on this front is quite con­flict­ed. On the one hand, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment claim that over 1000 civil­ians were shop­ping at the mall at the time. Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy described the death toll as like­ly “unimag­in­able” at the time. And yet that does­n’t seem to square with avail­able evi­dence. For starters, video of the min­utes after the attack show a large­ly emp­ty park­ing lot. That’s jux­ta­posed to a video post­ed on June 25 on Telegram show­ing what appears to be a full mall filled with peo­ple and with a full park­ing lot too. Vlodymyr Zelen­skiy him­self claimed that the mall had been evac­u­at­ed after air sirens went off ear­li­er in the day, which was a con­tra­dic­tion of his own claims about 1,000 civil­ians being inside. So the recent cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests the mall may indeed have been open to the pub­lic in recent weeks, but was­n’t actu­al­ly full of peo­ple at the time of the attack.

    Yet we were warned by Zelen­skiy in the wake of the attack that the num­ber of dead would be “unimag­in­able”, with ini­tial reports of at least 18 killed. And as we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle except below fea­tur­ing an inter­view of a woman who claimed to have been at the mall in the min­utes before the attack, this wit­ness claims the mall was filled with young fam­i­lies and large­ly staffed by young women. The wit­ness, who is described in the arti­cle as “a local polit­i­cal activ­i­ties”, also claims that she learned that 9 peo­ple in the com­put­er store she was just in had died in the attack. So based on these claims, we should expect a large num­ber of addi­tion­al deaths to have been con­firmed in the fol­low­ing days. And yet that’s not at all what we’ve found. A July 2 update on the casu­al­ty num­bers puts the num­ber of dead at 21 and there does­n’t appear to be any addi­tion­al updates. In oth­er words, the total num­ber of dead in this mall full of young fam­i­lies has appar­ent­ly bare­ly budged from that ini­tial report of 18 dead. Which does seem rather unimag­in­able if you think about it:

    Covert Action Mag­a­zine

    Is Russia’s Bomb­ing of the Mall in Kre­manchuk Anoth­er False Atroc­i­ty Sto­ry Being Used to Jus­ti­fy Ongo­ing Mil­i­tary Inter­ven­tion in Ukraine?

    By Jere­my Kuz­marov and Steve Brown — July 1, 2022

    Emp­ty mall park­ing lot and exis­tence of a muni­tions plant near­by raise ques­tions about offi­cial nar­ra­tive advanced in main­stream U.S. media

    On Tues­day June 28, main­stream media out­lets report­ed that at least 18 peo­ple were killed and dozens injured in a Russ­ian mis­sile strike on a “crowd­ed shop­ping mall” in the cen­tral Ukrain­ian city of Kre­menchuk on Mon­day.

    Thir­ty-six oth­er peo­ple were said to be miss­ing and a sur­vivor was on record say­ing that she had been shop­ping with her hus­band when the blast threw her into the air.

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Reuters, The New York Times, NPR and oth­er news out­lets report­ing on the sto­ry used Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials as their pri­ma­ry source, notably May­or Vitaliy Malet­skiy—who wrote on Face­book that the attack “hit a very crowd­ed area, which is 100% cer­tain not to have any links to the armed forces.”

    But they made no inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion as to the truth of the self-serv­ing state­ment. Also with­out ver­i­fi­ca­tion they quot­ed Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky—who said in a Telegram post that the num­ber of vic­tims was “unimag­in­able,” and cit­ed reports that more than 1,000 civil­ians were inside at the time of the attack.

    How­ev­er, oth­er reports con­tra­dict Zelen­sky and sug­gest that the Russ­ian mis­sile attack in Kre­menchuk is just one more false sto­ry about alleged Russ­ian atroc­i­ties known to have been fab­ri­cat­ed by Ukraine’s very active pro­pa­gan­da mill.

    For exam­ple, there are reports that the mall—which Zelen­sky claims was filled with 1,000 civil­ian shoppers—had actu­al­ly been closed for months. Zelen­sky him­self claimed that the mall had been evac­u­at­ed after air sirens went off ear­li­er in the day—con­tra­dict­ing his own claims about 1,000 civil­ians being inside.

    This seems cred­i­ble because there were vir­tu­al­ly no cars in the mall park­ing lot dur­ing the attack, let alone enough cars for 1,000 shop­pers. And accord­ing to satel­lite imagery, adja­cent to the mall was a machine plant that man­u­fac­tured weapons.

    This plant, Rus­sia said, was the tar­get of a legit­i­mate mil­i­tary strike, which result­ed in a fire in the adja­cent mall that had been closed to busi­ness since the war began in Feb­ru­ary.

    First Casu­al­ty of War is Truth

    The cru­cial Russ­ian coun­ter­claim was not report­ed by most news media out­lets, includ­ing alter­na­tive media. The Ukrain­ian com­mis­sion­er for human rights, Lyud­mi­la Deniso­va, was recent­ly fired by par­lia­ment in part because she was fab­ri­cat­ing and feed­ing false reports of Russ­ian atroc­i­ties to West­ern news media.

    This looks poten­tial­ly to be anoth­er case of that. Since the war began, a large per­cent­age of the tor­ture, muti­la­tion, rape and mass killings fea­tured dai­ly in West­ern media have been com­mit­ted by Ukrain­ian forces–sometimes out of mere bru­tal­i­ty, as revealed by their own videos that they have post­ed online–but also as “false flag” events blamed on Rus­sia to inflame world anger and encour­age the West to send Ukraine more mon­ey and arma­ments.

    Most promi­nent­ly impli­cat­ed in mul­ti­ple war crimes is Ukraine’s noto­ri­ous Azov Bat­tal­ion, which boasts of its love for Hitler and has been com­mit­ting tor­ture, muti­la­tion, rape and mass mur­ders of Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukrain­ian women and chil­dren in the Don­bas region since 2014.

    RT News Report

    An RT News report fea­tured Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment videos from the scene of the mis­sile attack—videos which cor­re­lat­ed with pho­tographs fea­tured on NPR’s web­site and those of oth­er media outlets—that showed dozens of men, many in mil­i­tary uni­forms, run­ning in the most­ly emp­ty park­ing lot out­side the burn­ing build­ing as black smoke rose into the sky.

    The peo­ple run­ning curi­ous­ly did not seem to be run­ning out of the build­ing but next to it.

    The arti­cle raised the legit­i­mate ques­tion about why there were so few cars in the park­ing lot if 1,000 peo­ple were real­ly inside the mall as Zelen­sky claimed.

    It also ref­er­enced the fac­to­ry next to the mall and a rail­way junc­tion that was often a tar­get of Russ­ian mis­sile strikes.

    “Just Scru­ti­nize the Facts”

    Moon of Alabama’s June 28th polit­i­cal blog pro­vid­ed a link to satel­lite imagery con­firm­ing that the shop­ping mall in Kre­manchuk was next to a large machine plant, which Moon said man­u­fac­tured arma­ments that were being deliv­ered to Ukrain­ian troops in Don­bass.

    ...

    Moon goes on to report about the emp­ty park­ing lot and fact that only 16 peo­ple died and 25 were injured–meaning that over 900 sur­vived unscathed. The video showed at most sev­er­al dozen peo­ple in the park­ing lot, rais­ing ques­tions as to where all the sur­vivors went.

    The Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment pub­lished sur­veil­lance video from a park locat­ed next to the machine plant which caught the moments of the two explo­sions, Moon notes.

    A large flash appeared and peo­ple began run­ning away as some debris—coming obvi­ous­ly from the machine plant after it was struck—fell down.

    Moon con­clud­ed that: “the shop­ping cen­ter was obvi­ous­ly as emp­ty as its large emp­ty park­ing space…It some­how came on fire after the fac­to­ry next door was bombed. Those who died were most like­ly sol­diers or fac­to­ry work­ers who were prepar­ing ‘west­ern’ weapons for deliv­ery to the front.”

    More Evi­dence to Cast Doubt

    In response to Moon’s col­umn, one read­er wrote:

    “Peo­ple with far more com­mon­sense than me posed a sim­ple ques­tion: if it is a shop­ping mall then like all shop­ping malls around the world, there will be shop­pers who will post—for good or for ill—their opin­ions of how good or bad their expe­ri­ence was. So they went out and looked and, sure enough, you can find online rat­ing on a zero-to-five star scale for that shop­ping cen­tre. All of those reviews—all of them—ceased at the end of Feb­ru­ary of this year i.e. when Rus­sia launched its spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion. The rea­son­able con­clu­sion is that the moment this war began, that shop­ping mall was closed and its floor space turned over to the use of the Kred­mash machine plant. 1,000 shop­pers were inside that build­ing? Bullsh**t.”

    Google reviews of the Amstor mall in Kre­manchuk con­firm what the read­er was say­ing in that the reviews end four months ago when the war start­ed and state that the mall was tem­porar­i­ly closed.

    A video sur­fac­ing on telegram on June 25 did sug­gest that the mall was open by show­ing shop­pers (the date though was hard to ver­i­fy), and Human Rights Watch said it spoke to 15 peo­ple, includ­ing local offi­cials and some of those they said were injured in the attack, who said the cen­ter was open.

    Claims about a crowd­ed mall being struck are still mis­lead­ing, nev­er­the­less, because a) we don’t yet know if the mall was ever direct­ly struck by a mis­sile; b) the emp­ty park­ing lot could be explained by the mall’s hav­ing been evac­u­at­ed ear­li­er in the day if it was open to shop­pers.

    A drone view of the mall fur­ther­more and pho­to of the rear facade shows that it burned—from the back where the fac­to­ry is locat­ed—but there is no impact crater.

    On June 29, Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky released a new video pub­lished on CNN which claimed to pro­vide more proof of the Russ­ian strike on the shop­ping mall. How­ev­er, the video actu­al­ly showed an explo­sion next to some kind of indus­tri­al facil­i­ty or scrap yard and no evi­dence of a mall being hit, lend­ing greater cred­i­bil­i­ty to the Russ­ian nar­ra­tive.

    ...

    Pre­text For Fur­ther Esca­la­tion of War

    The alleged mall attack is being used now to val­i­date the fur­ther expan­sion of West­ern involve­ment in Ukraine.

    At the G‑7 sum­mit in Madrid this week, Pres­i­dent Joe Biden pro­claimed that the Unit­ed States was strength­en­ing its forces in Europe and announced the estab­lish­ment of a per­ma­nent mil­i­tary base in Poland, Russia’s tra­di­tion­al ene­my.

    British Prime-Min­is­ter Boris John­son said that the mall attack showed “the depths of cru­el­ty and bar­barism to which the Russ­ian leader will sink,” just as British troops were set to be part of a mas­sive expan­sion of NATO forces in East­ern Europe.

    French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron mean­while on Tues­day called the Russ­ian attack in Kre­manchuk “a new war crime,” while Zelen­sky addressed the UN Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil say­ing Rus­sia was a “ter­ror­ist state,” com­mit­ting “dai­ly ter­ror­ist acts.”

    “We need to act urgent­ly to do every­thing to make Rus­sia stop the killing spree,” Zelen­sky said.

    1. The BBC dis­put­ed that the plant man­u­fac­tured any mil­i­tary equip­ment, claim­ing that it made road equip­ment, and machines for road con­struc­tion.

    ————

    “Is Russia’s Bomb­ing of the Mall in Kre­manchuk Anoth­er False Atroc­i­ty Sto­ry Being Used to Jus­ti­fy Ongo­ing Mil­i­tary Inter­ven­tion in Ukraine?” By Jere­my Kuz­marov and Steve Brown; Covert Action Mag­a­zine; 07/01/2022

    “The cru­cial Russ­ian coun­ter­claim was not report­ed by most news media out­lets, includ­ing alter­na­tive media. The Ukrain­ian com­mis­sion­er for human rights, Lyud­mi­la Deniso­va, was recent­ly fired by par­lia­ment in part because she was fab­ri­cat­ing and feed­ing false reports of Russ­ian atroc­i­ties to West­ern news media.

    Yes, Ukraine was just forced the replace its com­mis­sion­er for human rights because the last com­mis­sion­er, Lyud­mi­la Deniso­va, was fired for list of com­plaints that includ­ed pro­mot­ing unver­i­fied claims of civil­ian atroc­i­ties. Her replace­ment, Dmytro Lubi­nets — the new ombuds­man who is being cheered on by the Azov Bat­tal­ion on social mediawas­n’t actu­al­ly appoint­ed until July 1. So these claims of an inten­tion­al Russ­ian attack on a mall filled with civil­ians took place dur­ing the inter­im peri­od between the ombuds­man who was fired for fab­ri­ca­tions and the new one being cham­pi­oned by Azov. That’s the sad con­text of this con­tro­ver­sy. So when we hear claims about this shop­ping mall being filled with more than 1,000 civil­ians and an “unimag­in­able” num­ber of deaths, jux­ta­posed with images show­ing an emp­ty mall park­ing lot and only 20 deaths, it’s hard not to avoid sus­pi­cions that we’re being fed a garbage sto­ry­line:

    ...
    Thir­ty-six oth­er peo­ple were said to be miss­ing and a sur­vivor was on record say­ing that she had been shop­ping with her hus­band when the blast threw her into the air.

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press, Reuters, The New York Times, NPR and oth­er news out­lets report­ing on the sto­ry used Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials as their pri­ma­ry source, notably May­or Vitaliy Malet­skiy—who wrote on Face­book that the attack “hit a very crowd­ed area, which is 100% cer­tain not to have any links to the armed forces.”

    But they made no inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion as to the truth of the self-serv­ing state­ment. Also with­out ver­i­fi­ca­tion they quot­ed Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelensky—who said in a Telegram post that the num­ber of vic­tims was “unimag­in­able,” and cit­ed reports that more than 1,000 civil­ians were inside at the time of the attack.

    How­ev­er, oth­er reports con­tra­dict Zelen­sky and sug­gest that the Russ­ian mis­sile attack in Kre­menchuk is just one more false sto­ry about alleged Russ­ian atroc­i­ties known to have been fab­ri­cat­ed by Ukraine’s very active pro­pa­gan­da mill.

    For exam­ple, there are reports that the mall—which Zelen­sky claims was filled with 1,000 civil­ian shoppers—had actu­al­ly been closed for months. Zelen­sky him­self claimed that the mall had been evac­u­at­ed after air sirens went off ear­li­er in the day—con­tra­dict­ing his own claims about 1,000 civil­ians being inside.

    This seems cred­i­ble because there were vir­tu­al­ly no cars in the mall park­ing lot dur­ing the attack, let alone enough cars for 1,000 shop­pers. And accord­ing to satel­lite imagery, adja­cent to the mall was a machine plant that man­u­fac­tured weapons.

    This plant, Rus­sia said, was the tar­get of a legit­i­mate mil­i­tary strike, which result­ed in a fire in the adja­cent mall that had been closed to busi­ness since the war began in Feb­ru­ary.

    ...

    An RT News report fea­tured Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment videos from the scene of the mis­sile attack—videos which cor­re­lat­ed with pho­tographs fea­tured on NPR’s web­site and those of oth­er media outlets—that showed dozens of men, many in mil­i­tary uni­forms, run­ning in the most­ly emp­ty park­ing lot out­side the burn­ing build­ing as black smoke rose into the sky.

    The peo­ple run­ning curi­ous­ly did not seem to be run­ning out of the build­ing but next to it.

    The arti­cle raised the legit­i­mate ques­tion about why there were so few cars in the park­ing lot if 1,000 peo­ple were real­ly inside the mall as Zelen­sky claimed.

    It also ref­er­enced the fac­to­ry next to the mall and a rail­way junc­tion that was often a tar­get of Russ­ian mis­sile strikes.
    ...

    Then there’s the evi­dence about the mal­l’s cur­rent activ­i­ty that is open­ly avail­able online: all of the online reviews for the mall end four months ago. Now, as the arti­cle points out, there’s a June 25 video that appears to show the mall being open and full of civil­ians. But if you watch that video, it’s also hard not to notice how full the park­ing lot is with cars, a com­plete jux­ta­po­si­tion to the images of an emp­ty lot on the day of the attack. So while that video does rep­re­sent cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence that the mall was at least par­tial­ly open to the pub­lic in recent weeks, that same cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gests it was­n’t open to the pub­lic when the attack actu­al­ly hap­pened:

    ...
    In response to Moon’s col­umn, one read­er wrote:

    “Peo­ple with far more com­mon­sense than me posed a sim­ple ques­tion: if it is a shop­ping mall then like all shop­ping malls around the world, there will be shop­pers who will post—for good or for ill—their opin­ions of how good or bad their expe­ri­ence was. So they went out and looked and, sure enough, you can find online rat­ing on a zero-to-five star scale for that shop­ping cen­tre. All of those reviews—all of them—ceased at the end of Feb­ru­ary of this year i.e. when Rus­sia launched its spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion. The rea­son­able con­clu­sion is that the moment this war began, that shop­ping mall was closed and its floor space turned over to the use of the Kred­mash machine plant. 1,000 shop­pers were inside that build­ing? Bullsh**t.”

    Google reviews of the Amstor mall in Kre­manchuk con­firm what the read­er was say­ing in that the reviews end four months ago when the war start­ed and state that the mall was tem­porar­i­ly closed.

    A video sur­fac­ing on telegram on June 25 did sug­gest that the mall was open by show­ing shop­pers (the date though was hard to ver­i­fy), and Human Rights Watch said it spoke to 15 peo­ple, includ­ing local offi­cials and some of those they said were injured in the attack, who said the cen­ter was open.

    Claims about a crowd­ed mall being struck are still mis­lead­ing, nev­er­the­less, because a) we don’t yet know if the mall was ever direct­ly struck by a mis­sile; b) the emp­ty park­ing lot could be explained by the mall’s hav­ing been evac­u­at­ed ear­li­er in the day if it was open to shop­pers.
    ...

    So was the mall actu­al­ly open to shop­pers or not? Was it per­haps some sort of hybrid sit­u­a­tion, where the mall had a few shops open but was large­ly emp­ty? That remains unclear, in large part because the claims by wit­ness­es and the avail­able evi­dence just isn’t align­ing. Beyond that, we’ve received basi­cal­ly no infor­ma­tion on the iden­ti­ties of the peo­ple killed at the mall. Were they ran­dom civil­ians or peo­ple work­ing in the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary? Well, here’s a report out of CBC Radio with one of the few inter­views of some­one who claims to have been at the mall when the attack hap­pened. Oksana Gui­da, described only as ‘a local polit­i­cal activist’, claims she had been at a com­put­er store at the mall min­utes before the attack. She asserts that the mall was filled with young fam­i­lies and pri­mar­i­ly staffed by young women. So, at a min­i­mum, we should expect the dead should include a num­ber of women and chil­dren. Gui­da had left the store because they did­n’t have what she need­ed and had gone back to her car with her fam­i­ly and suf­fered head trau­ma and hear­ing dam­age. Gui­da also claims that she lat­er learned that 9 peo­ple in the com­put­er store died in the attack. The arti­cle states that 18 peo­ple we con­firmed dead at the time of the report. So half of the con­firmed dead were appar­ent­ly in this one com­put­er store in a mall full of over a 1000 peo­ple, filled with young fam­i­lies. The sto­ry just does­n’t add up:

    CBC Radio

    A Ukrain­ian woman went to buy a com­put­er. Moments lat­er, a mis­sile hit the mall

    Mis­sile destroyed crowd­ed shop­ping mall in city of Kre­menchuk on Mon­day

    Post­ed: Jun 29, 2022 1:32 PM ET | Last Updat­ed: June 29

    On Mon­day, Oksana Gui­da went to a mall in Ukraine’s cen­tral city of Kre­menchuk to buy a com­put­er. Min­utes lat­er, that same mall was engulfed in flames after being hit by a Russ­ian mis­sile attack.

    Gui­da, a local polit­i­cal activist, had gone back to her car with her fam­i­ly, when the store did­n’t have what she need­ed.

    Twelve min­utes lat­er, a Russ­ian mis­sile hit the shop­ping cen­tre, with report­ed­ly 1,000 peo­ple inside. So far, 18 deaths have been con­firmed, with dozens injured and many more miss­ing.

    Gui­da was about 160 metres from the explo­sion, and suf­fered head trau­ma and dam­age to her hear­ing.

    Through a trans­la­tor, she told The Cur­rent that the mall had been filled with young fam­i­lies, and main­ly staffed by young women. She said she saw smoke in the imme­di­ate after­math of the attack, and then fire. Peo­ple were run­ning from the build­ing, but also oth­ers ran back inside, to help.

    She would lat­er learn that nine peo­ple in the com­put­er store she just vis­it­ed had burned to death.

    Kre­menchuk has a pop­u­la­tion of about 220,000. Gui­da said that many peo­ple know some­one who was trapped or killed in the shop­ping cen­tre, and the city is in shock.

    The attack unfold­ed as G7 lead­ers met in Ger­many, and released a joint state­ment pledg­ing fresh sanc­tions on Rus­sia, and to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

    Inna Sov­sun, a mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment, said it was a “nice state­ment,” but she wants to see efforts to stop the four-month-old war from becom­ing a long-term con­flict.

    “In order to make it short, we need arm sup­plies not some­time in the future, we need them today,” she said.

    She wel­comed U.S. Pres­i­dent Joe Biden’s pledge to send rock­et sys­tems ear­li­er this month, but said Ukraine has been ask­ing for help with air defence from the very begin­ning.

    “Oksana’s friends who have been burned alive in that build­ing, they could have lived if our voic­es were heard a bit ear­li­er,” she said.

    Rus­sia tar­get­ing civil­ians, says MP

    Rus­sia has claimed that its mis­sile tar­get­ed a near­by ammu­ni­tion stor­age, set­ting off a fire that spread to the shop­ping mall. Those claims have been denied by Ukrain­ian offi­cials.

    Sov­sun said Rus­sia “is specif­i­cal­ly tar­get­ing civil­ians,” point­ing to oth­er attacks, includ­ing an April strike on a train sta­tion in Kram­a­torsk that left at least 52 peo­ple dead.

    “They knew per­fect­ly well what they were doing and they need to be pun­ished for what they have done to Kre­menchuk and oth­er cities, all over Ukraine,” she said.

    She wants G7 lead­ers to meet Rus­si­a’s inva­sion “not by voic­ing their con­cern, not by say­ing that they are extreme­ly out­raged by what hap­pened, but by actu­al­ly increas­ing the arms sup­plies to Ukraine.”

    ...

    ———–

    “A Ukrain­ian woman went to buy a com­put­er. Moments lat­er, a mis­sile hit the mall”; CBC Radio; 06/29/2022

    “On Mon­day, Oksana Gui­da went to a mall in Ukraine’s cen­tral city of Kre­menchuk to buy a com­put­er. Min­utes lat­er, that same mall was engulfed in flames after being hit by a Russ­ian mis­sile attack.”

    Oksana Gui­da, a ‘local polit­i­cal activist’, nar­row­ly escaped a fiery demise. A fiery demise that would pre­sum­ably have been the fate of the many young fam­i­lies she claims filled the mall at the moment of the attack. In fact, nine peo­ple were killed in the com­put­er store she had just vis­it­ed. Keep in mind that, at the time of that report, 18 peo­ple were con­firmed dead. So half of the con­firmed dead appar­ent­ly were killed in the com­put­er store she was just inside right before it hap­pened:

    ...
    Gui­da, a local polit­i­cal activist, had gone back to her car with her fam­i­ly, when the store did­n’t have what she need­ed.

    Twelve min­utes lat­er, a Russ­ian mis­sile hit the shop­ping cen­tre, with report­ed­ly 1,000 peo­ple inside. So far, 18 deaths have been con­firmed, with dozens injured and many more miss­ing.

    Gui­da was about 160 metres from the explo­sion, and suf­fered head trau­ma and dam­age to her hear­ing.

    Through a trans­la­tor, she told The Cur­rent that the mall had been filled with young fam­i­lies, and main­ly staffed by young women. She said she saw smoke in the imme­di­ate after­math of the attack, and then fire. Peo­ple were run­ning from the build­ing, but also oth­ers ran back inside, to help.

    She would lat­er learn that nine peo­ple in the com­put­er store she just vis­it­ed had burned to death.
    ...

    It’s quite an eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny. The kind of tes­ti­mo­ny that does­n’t actu­al­ly seem to align with the oth­er avail­able facts. The death count start­ed off in the mid teens and by July 2 had risen to 21, with no appar­ent new deaths hav­ing been con­firmed since. Should­n’t there be dozens more con­firmed dead by now? How is it pos­si­ble that this mall alleged­ly filled with peo­ple got hit by a direct mis­sile strike and how the death count had bare­ly budged from the ini­tial shock­ing­ly low tal­ly?

    But per­haps the biggest part of this eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny that does­n’t align with the oth­er wit­ness tes­ti­monies is the fact that Oksana Guida’s name is being used, mak­ing her basi­cal­ly the only named eye wit­ness in any reports about the activ­i­ty at the mall dur­ing the attack. For exam­ple, here’s a report­ing in the Guardian pur­port­ing to debunk the Russ­ian gov­ern­men­t’s claims about the tar­get of the attack being the adja­cent fac­to­ry and not the mall. As we’re going to see, the report refers to dozens of work­ers and peo­ple who lived near­by who con­firm that the mall was open to the pub­lic. Not one of those wit­ness­es is named or even quot­ed.

    The report does claim that parts of a mis­sile were found in the mall. If true, that would indeed sug­gest the mall was struck. Whether it was tar­get­ed or not would still be in ques­tion, but mis­sile frag­ments would be pret­ty con­clu­sive evi­dence. Of course, pieces of mis­sile frag­ments could have sim­ply been tak­en from the fac­to­ry. Stag­ing that kind of evi­dence would be triv­ial, which is why the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­men­t’s cred­i­bil­i­ty on these mat­ters is so para­mount when it comes to these kinds of ques­tions and why the world real­ly needs inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tions of these events if there’s going to be any hope of mak­ing sense of them.

    Anoth­er part of this report’s appar­ent debunk­ing of the Russ­ian gov­ern­men­t’s claims that the mall itself was nev­er tar­get­ed or direct­ly struck by a mis­sile involves a CCTV video released by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment that does indeed show a mis­sile hit­ting some­thing but it’s entire­ly unclear from the video which build­ing is being struck. That footage is fol­lowed by a mono­logue of Zelen­skiy insist­ing that the attack was an inten­tion­al ter­ror strike tar­get­ing civil­ians.

    Anoth­er inter­est­ing fact tucked away in this arti­cle has to do with the mys­tery of Zelen­skiy’s claims that the mall had been evac­u­at­ed after air sirens went off ear­li­er in the day. Accord­ing to this Guardian report, mul­ti­ple employ­ees at the mall were giv­en orders to ignore the air raid sirens and con­tin­ue work­ing. So it’s as if that dis­crep­an­cy in Zelen­skiy’s sto­ry was being address in this sub­se­quent report­ing. But that’s quite a rev­e­la­tion if true: mall employ­ees were appar­ent­ly told to ignore air raid sirens. And an air raid siren appar­ent­ly went off before the attack. Should­n’t that be a scan­dal?

    The Guardian

    Evi­dence con­tra­dicts Russ­ian claims about Kre­menchuk mall attack

    Wit­ness accounts and expert analy­sis dis­cred­it Moscow’s claim fire spread from arms cache to emp­ty mall

    Loren­zo Ton­do in Kre­menchuk
    Wed 29 Jun 2022 12.27 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Thu 30 Jun 2022 00.12 EDT

    First-hand accounts from sur­vivors and expert analy­sis have dis­cred­it­ed Moscow’s account of the dead­ly mis­sile strikes on a shop­ping mall in the Ukrain­ian city of Kre­menchuk.

    Igor Konashenkov, a spokesper­son for Russia’s defence min­istry, said its mil­i­tary fired a “high-pre­ci­sion air attack at hangars where arma­ment and muni­tions were stored”, and the explo­sion of those weapon caches caused a fire in the near­by shop­ping cen­tre, which he said was “non-func­tion­ing” at the time.

    How­ev­er, wit­ness state­ments, infor­ma­tion released by Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors and analy­sis by inde­pen­dent mil­i­tary experts point to three pos­si­ble erro­neous state­ments in that account – that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary was hid­ing weapons near­by, that the mall was not a tar­get, and that nobody was using it.

    [see video]

    CCTV footage shows the first mis­sile struck the mall at 3.51pm on Mon­day, and a sec­ond short­ly after­wards hit a fac­to­ry that Moscow con­tends was stor­ing west­ern muni­tions.

    Out­side the mall, Ukrain­ian police set up a table to col­lect twist­ed bits of a mis­sile found inside. It is believed to have been an X‑22 Russ­ian cruise mis­sile fired from a Tu-22M long-range bomber.

    Satel­lite images show the fac­to­ry is 500 metres from the mall. Accord­ing to inde­pen­dent mil­i­tary experts and researchers from Mol­far, a glob­al open source intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, the explo­sion there could not have pro­voked a fire strong enough to reach anoth­er build­ing that far away.

    Dur­ing a vis­it to the area between the mall and the fac­to­ry, lit­tle to no dam­age to build­ings or roads was observed, sug­gest­ing no spread­ing fire.

    Dozens of work­ers who sur­vived, as well as wit­ness­es who lived near­by, told the Guardian that the mall was open and busy when attacked. Debris includ­ed the remains of work­ers’ badges, and prod­ucts sold that day at the super­mar­ket.

    The Guardian has seen a phone mes­sage alleged­ly sent by the local man­age­ment of the mall on 23 June urg­ing employ­ees not to leave the shop­ping cen­tre in case of air raid sirens. “Start­ing from today, this shop­ping cen­tre will not close dur­ing the air alarms,” the mes­sage stat­ed. “The shop­ping cen­tre is open from 8am till 9pm. No breaks.” At least five employ­ees con­firmed they had received the mes­sage.

    Belling­cat, a non-prof­it online jour­nal­ism col­lec­tive ded­i­cat­ed to war crime inves­ti­ga­tions, col­lect­ed receipts from pur­chas­es at the mall in recent days that were post­ed on social media by res­i­dents in Kre­menchuk to show that the mall was indeed open.

    #??????????, ?? ???????? ? ?????, ????? ?? ?????, ???? ?????????????????? (?) ???????https://t.co/QhFdLVXpU8 https://t.co/b8XEitNX6X #????????? #war­crimes pic.twitter.com/wlIxmic1ne— Necro Mancer (@666_mancer) June 27, 2022

    As for the alleged weapons depot, the Kred­Mash fac­to­ry, Kre­menchuk Road Machin­ery is a com­pa­ny pro­duc­ing equip­ment to repair and main­tain roads or to repair vehi­cles used by con­struc­tion work­ers.

    Belling­cat said: “Although one report in 2014 stat­ed that the fac­to­ry had been used to repair three mil­i­tary vehi­cles, this in itself does not prove that it was a stor­age site for US and Euro­pean weapons and ammu­ni­tion eight years lat­er, as Rus­sia has claimed.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Evi­dence con­tra­dicts Russ­ian claims about Kre­menchuk mall attack” by Loren­zo Ton­do; The Guardian; 06/29/2022

    “How­ev­er, wit­ness state­ments, infor­ma­tion released by Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tors and analy­sis by inde­pen­dent mil­i­tary experts point to three pos­si­ble erro­neous state­ments in that account – that the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary was hid­ing weapons near­by, that the mall was not a tar­get, and that nobody was using it.”

    Wit­ness state­ments, gov­ern­ment reports, and inde­pen­dent mil­i­tary expert analy­sis. That’s the array of evi­dence this Guardian report is claim­ing to have deployed to debunk Rus­si­a’s claims. Let’s take a clos­er look at that evi­dence.

    First, there was the CCTV video that pur­ports to show the mis­sile hit­ting the mall. Watch the video. It’s basi­cal­ly impos­si­ble to tell what exact­ly the mis­sile is hit­ting because it’s strik­ing some­thing below the hori­zon. Is it hit­ting the mall or an adja­cent build­ing? We have no idea:

    ...
    [see video]

    CCTV footage shows the first mis­sile struck the mall at 3.51pm on Mon­day, and a sec­ond short­ly after­wards hit a fac­to­ry that Moscow con­tends was stor­ing west­ern muni­tions.
    ...

    Then there’s the inde­pen­dent mil­i­tary experts for Mol­far who insist that an explo­sion at the fac­to­ry could­n’t have trig­gered a fire strong enough to reach a build­ing 500 m away. Of course, that rais­es a ques­tion these ana­lysts prob­a­bly don’t want to ask: so what about if the fac­to­ry was sto­ry weapons as Rus­sia claims? What kind of explo­sion can we pre­dict from a weapons depot?

    ...
    Satel­lite images show the fac­to­ry is 500 metres from the mall. Accord­ing to inde­pen­dent mil­i­tary experts and researchers from Mol­far, a glob­al open source intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, the explo­sion there could not have pro­voked a fire strong enough to reach anoth­er build­ing that far away.

    Dur­ing a vis­it to the area between the mall and the fac­to­ry, lit­tle to no dam­age to build­ings or roads was observed, sug­gest­ing no spread­ing fire.
    ...

    Then there’s the X‑22 Russ­ian mis­sile frag­ments alleged­ly found inside the mall. Note how the evdi­dene as obvi­ous­ly already been moved. But also keep in mind what we aren’t being shown: pic­tures show­ing an obvi­ous mis­sile explo­sion at the mall. There’s plen­ty of footage of a burn out struc­ture con­sisent with a vicious fire. But it seems like a mis­sile strike should have an impact zone. Where are the pic­tures of that impact zone?

    ...
    Out­side the mall, Ukrain­ian police set up a table to col­lect twist­ed bits of a mis­sile found inside. It is believed to have been an X‑22 Russ­ian cruise mis­sile fired from a Tu-22M long-range bomber.
    ...

    Final­ly, there’s the dozens of wit­ness­es who claim to have been work­ing there at the time. While these wit­ness­es aren’t named, note their remark­able claims: the local man­age­ment told mall employ­ees on June 23 to stop respond­ing to air raid sirens:

    ...
    Dozens of work­ers who sur­vived, as well as wit­ness­es who lived near­by, told the Guardian that the mall was open and busy when attacked. Debris includ­ed the remains of work­ers’ badges, and prod­ucts sold that day at the super­mar­ket.

    The Guardian has seen a phone mes­sage alleged­ly sent by the local man­age­ment of the mall on 23 June urg­ing employ­ees not to leave the shop­ping cen­tre in case of air raid sirens. “Start­ing from today, this shop­ping cen­tre will not close dur­ing the air alarms,” the mes­sage stat­ed. “The shop­ping cen­tre is open from 8am till 9pm. No breaks.” At least five employ­ees con­firmed they had received the mes­sage.
    ...

    Will a more sen­si­ble pic­ture even­tu­al­ly emerge? Like the actu­al names of dead shop­pers and employ­ees? Mourn­ing over the death and dev­as­ta­tion at the com­put­er store where at least nine peo­ple died? We’ll see. But so far, the sto­ry of the Kre­menchuk mall attack is such a mess that the only thing we can con­fi­dent­ly con­clude is that the near­by fac­to­ry was hit with a mis­sile and the neigh­bor­ing mall burned down as a result. Where’s a cred­i­ble ombuds­man when you need one?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 7, 2022, 5:12 pm
  9. We’re get­ting reports about anoth­er major announced shake­up in Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment. This time, it sounds like Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy is look­ing for a replace­ment for Ivan Bakanov, the head of the pow­er­ful SBU and a long-time friend of Zelen­skiy. It’s the kind of sto­ry that echos back to the alarm­ing warn­ings we got from Zelen­skiy back in Decem­ber about a loom­ing coup plot by a group of oli­garchs. Is Zelen­skiy fac­ing a new round of inter­nal threats? It’s hard to avoid sus­pi­cions after news like this.

    And that renewed reports of poten­tial secu­ri­ty con­cerns inside the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment brings us to a fas­ci­nat­ing recent piece in Jacobin about the rad­i­cal, and deeply desta­bi­liz­ing, eco­nom­ic and mon­e­tary poli­cies being effec­tive­ly imposed on Ukraine by its West­ern finan­cial back­ers in the US, EU, and IMF. It’s a sto­ry that, at this point, is pret­ty famil­iar. Don’t for­get how Vik­tor Yanukovych report­ed­ly ulti­mate­ly backed out of the EU Trade Asso­ci­a­tion talks due pri­mar­i­ly to the harsh aus­ter­i­ty the EU was going to demand in exchange. Decades of harsh aus­ter­i­ty with min­i­mal finan­cial assis­tance. The cost of join­ing the EU was putting Ukraine through the neolib­er­al meat grinder. For gen­er­a­tions to come.

    And, of course, that’s exact­ly the path Ukraine end­ed up going down fol­low­ing the Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion and large-scale adop­tion of poli­cies demand­ed by Ukraine’s new West­ern back­ers. This isn’t a new path for Ukraine. But it sounds like the war has dra­mat­i­cal­ly accel­er­at­ed Ukraine down this path. A path of no return as Ukraine’s increas­ing­ly dire eco­nom­ic and finan­cial posi­tion makes it even more depen­dent on West­ern aid. As a result, the pop­u­la­tion of Ukraine can expect low­er wages, few­er employ­ee pro­tec­tions, low­er gov­ern­ment sup­port, and poten­tial­ly the loss of their sav­ings in engi­neered bank col­laps­es designed to week out the ‘weak’ finan­cial insti­tu­tions. That’s all part of the plan. A plan that envi­sions Ukraine as a grand exper­i­ment in what hap­pens what you just allow ‘mar­ket forces’ to reign supreme and deter­mine the devel­op­ment of a coun­try. That’s actu­al­ly how Canada’s for­mer ambas­sador to Ukraine describe the nation in 2020: a lab­o­ra­to­ry for ide­al-world exper­i­men­ta­tion.

    That’s part of the con­text of any reports rais­ing ques­tions about the sta­bil­i­ty of Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment: A rad­i­cal neolib­er­al desta­bi­liza­tion of Ukrain­ian soci­ety is the plan for Ukraine. Or, rather, is the planned ‘ide­al-world exper­i­ment’ for Ukraine:

    Jacobin

    Ukraine’s War Econ­o­my Is Being Choked by Neolib­er­al Dog­mas

    By Peter Koro­taev
    07.14.2022

    States at war gen­er­al­ly adopt inter­ven­tion­ist eco­nom­ic poli­cies to mobi­lize resources and man­pow­er. Ukraine hasn’t fol­lowed suit, instead pur­su­ing dog­mat­ic free-mar­ke­teer mea­sures that suit West­ern cred­i­tors more than its own pop­u­la­tion.

    In a 2020 lec­ture, Canada’s for­mer ambas­sador to Ukraine said that after Euro­maid­an the coun­try had become a lab­o­ra­to­ry for ide­al-world exper­i­men­ta­tion. In oth­er words, the eco­nom­ic lib­er­al­iza­tion unac­cept­able at home could instead be tried out in Ukraine.

    But how is this “exper­i­ment” deal­ing with con­di­tions of total war? And if such a sit­u­a­tion gen­er­al­ly push­es states toward eco­nom­ic inter­ven­tion­ism, is Ukraine fol­low­ing suit?

    Ukraine’s Finan­cial Needs

    First is the prob­lem of Ukraine’s ris­ing debts. Accord­ing to the Ukrain­ian Finance Min­istry, from Jan­u­ary to June the state bud­get record­ed $35 bil­lion in expen­di­tures and $21.8 bil­lion in rev­enues. This sit­u­a­tion has been wors­en­ing. June’s $1.5 bil­lion in rev­enues, down from $2.5 bil­lion in May, only cov­ered 19.4 per­cent of expen­di­tures.

    Over Jan­u­ary to June 2022, $19 bil­lion of the total rev­enues came from var­i­ous forms of cred­it and for­eign aid. Over half, $11.8 bil­lion, owed to state bonds, while $7.6 bil­lion (35 per­cent) was sim­ply mon­ey print­ed by the nation­al bank and giv­en to the Finance Min­istry. The remain­ing $7.2 bil­lion came from var­i­ous for­eign cred­its and grants.

    Finance min­is­ter Ser­hii Marchenko has repeat­ed­ly stat­ed that with­out an immense increase in aid, Ukraine will be forced to fur­ther cut non­mil­i­tary spend­ing with­in months. The strain has already made itself felt on state employ­ees. Work­ers at the state rail­way com­pa­ny, who have been play­ing an impor­tant and dan­ger­ous role in sav­ing the lives of mil­lions of civil­ians, receive their wages with delays of sev­en to ten days, and when they do receive them, they are cut by a third, leav­ing about $150 a month. Many teach­ers and uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors haven’t received wages for months. At ports, work­ers who used to earn $260 a month now earn a lit­tle over $50 and that with delays.

    Despite much talk of West­ern gen­eros­i­ty, in May Ukraine only received one-third of the $5 bil­lion it needs in aid. By mid-May the Econ­o­mist report­ed that Ukraine had run up a fis­cal short­fall of $15 bil­lion and received only $4.5 bil­lion worth of for­eign grants. The Finance Min­istry reports that ful­ly 21 per­cent ($7.3 bil­lion) of all Jan­u­ary-June bud­get expen­di­tures were ded­i­cat­ed to pay­ments on state debt. The sit­u­a­tion will only wors­en, with Bloomberg cal­cu­lat­ing that Ukraine will face a $1.4‑billion debt-repay­ment dead­line in Sep­tem­ber.

    The extent of Ukraine’s exter­nal pub­lic debt (the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment also recent­ly announced that it hopes for $200-$300 bil­lion in West­ern cred­its for post­war recon­struc­tion) means that it will have even less abil­i­ty to refuse the pol­i­cy demands imposed by West­ern cred­i­tors. The finance min­is­ter and the direc­tor of tax­es have con­stant­ly reit­er­at­ed through­out the war that Ukraine will con­tin­ue ser­vic­ing its sov­er­eign debt, under­lin­ing their will­ing­ness to fol­low cred­i­tor demands.

    Cor­rup­tion and Nation­al­iza­tion

    Since 2014 — but with renewed vig­or in recent days — Ukraine’s West­ern part­ners have pushed Ukraine to “fight cor­rup­tion.” This “strug­gle” has many impor­tant eco­nom­ic effects. Gen­er­al­ly, states at war tend to nation­al­ize key sec­tors of the econ­o­my to max­i­mize arma­ments pro­duc­tion and sta­bi­lize the civil­ian econ­o­my, both to pre­vent chaos in the rear and feed the army. Strange­ly, this has not tak­en place in Ukraine, despite what the gov­ern­ment declares a “total war” sit­u­a­tion. Remark­ably, a law was even passed in late June that aims to “restart pri­va­ti­za­tion of state assets on a new lev­el.” Some politi­cians have cri­tiqued this approach — Vadym Deny­senko, assis­tant to the inte­ri­or min­is­ter ear­li­er in the war, urged a turn toward “direct state man­age­ment of the econ­o­my.” But so far, his call has gone unheed­ed.

    Call­ing for nation­al­iza­tion, Deny­senko not­ed that “it is no longer time for the Nation­al Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).” He said this because over the past eight years, a flur­ry of “anti-cor­rup­tion organs” — NGOs, state organs, and in-between — have focused on elim­i­nat­ing state inter­ven­tion in the econ­o­my.

    Set up by Ukraine’s lib­er­al “civ­il soci­ety,” the Unit­ed States Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (USAID), and the Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tion, such organs have cre­at­ed web­sites such as Pro­zor­ro (“trans­paren­cy”), which han­dles Ukrain­ian state pur­chas­es. The may­or of Dnipro has harsh­ly crit­i­cized Pro­zor­ro in recent months, due to the government’s deci­sion to require all pur­chas­es of mil­i­tary equip­ment to go through this pro­gram. He insists that such pub­lic trans­paren­cy in mil­i­tary affairs and the bureau­cra­ti­za­tion of urgent mil­i­tary ten­ders is only help­ing the Russ­ian army.

    The web­site, telling­ly, has no func­tion for ensur­ing domes­tic local­iza­tion of state pur­chas­es. Accord­ing to Pro­zor­ro and its allies, domes­ti­cal­ly local­iz­ing state ten­ders is in the inter­ests of a cor­rupt “oli­garchy” that depends on state rents rather than effi­cien­cy. And any­way — as Ukraine’s lib­er­al press nev­er tires of remind­ing us — why buy a low­er-qual­i­ty Ukrain­ian prod­uct if it can be bought cheap­er else­where?

    The require­ment that state ten­ders be made with a min­i­mum amount of domes­tic sup­pli­ers is com­mon in most coun­tries, and its absence in Pro­zor­ro was called “extreme­ly strange” by the new econ­o­my min­is­ter in 2021. As a result of this neu­tral­iza­tion of the “cor­rup­tion risks” pre­sent­ed by the domes­tic local­iza­tion of state pur­chas­es, around 40 per­cent of Ukrain­ian state pur­chas­es are from for­eign pro­duc­ers. By com­par­i­son, the Unit­ed States and Euro­pean Union (EU) coun­tries make around 5 and 8 per­cent of their state pur­chas­es abroad respec­tive­ly. The imper­a­tives of “stop­ping cor­rup­tion” take pri­or­i­ty over Ukraine’s eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment.

    When Ukrain­ian leg­is­la­tors tried to pass a bill in 2020 ensur­ing local­iza­tion of state pur­chas­es, the anti-cor­rup­tion bureaus (as well as the EU and the Unit­ed States) fran­ti­cal­ly tore it down, cit­ing the “pos­si­bil­i­ties for the cor­rupt use” of this patent­ly ordi­nary mea­sure. The law was even­tu­al­ly passed — but amend­ed, so that local­iza­tion restric­tions were only applied to non–EU or North Amer­i­can nations. In short, Ukraine’s vast anti-cor­rup­tion ecosys­tem is a con­trol mech­a­nism that keeps its econ­o­my per­pet­u­al­ly open to dec­i­ma­tion by for­eign exporters who often enjoy pref­er­en­tial treat­ment from their own gov­ern­ments. The idea that “cor­rup­tion” is the great­est bar­ri­er to devel­op­ment is a fic­tion used to jus­ti­fy trade lib­er­al­iza­tion in which the stronger West­ern cap­i­tal­ists inevitably win, to the detri­ment of the Ukrain­ian econ­o­my.

    Large­ly a result of this valiant “anti-cor­rup­tion” strug­gle, Ukraine has dra­mat­i­cal­ly dein­dus­tri­al­ized over the past eight years. From 2013 to 2019, exports of aero­space pro­duc­tion declined by 4.8 times, of train wag­ons by 7.5 times, of met­al­lur­gi­cal prod­ucts by 1.7 times, and of chem­i­cal prod­ucts by 2.1 times. The sit­u­a­tion was par­tic­u­lar­ly bad in the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex, with Sovi­et Ukraine’s once-great ship­build­ing and rock­et com­plex­es essen­tial­ly dis­ap­pear­ing. Not a bud­get passed by with­out grandiose — and cost­ly — pur­chas­es of West­ern mil­i­tary equip­ment. Over 2018 to 2021, $1 bil­lion was even spent to buy 110 French heli­copters for the Ukrain­ian police, despite Ukraine pos­sess­ing an excel­lent Sovi­et heli­copter fac­to­ry, albeit one falling into dis­use due to the pref­er­ence for for­eign pur­chasers. This immense dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, even if in the ser­vice of such admirable ideals as “Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion,” haven’t served Ukraine well in a war decid­ed by the size of each army’s rock­et and heavy-artillery stocks.

    The var­i­ous scan­dalous per­son­al­i­ties of the anti-cor­rup­tion courts have, since the begin­ning of the war, remained under the radar in rel­a­tive­ly peace­ful Lviv, or sim­ply left for Paris. Sev­er­al famous such fig­ures, such as Artem Syt­nyk, have even been con­vict­ed in court of cor­rup­tion but are not removed from their posts due to the direct demands of the Unit­ed States and the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF). Syt­nyk was revealed to have received $30,000 in sev­er­ance pay from one anti-cor­rup­tion organ in the ear­ly months of the war, before being giv­en a new post at a dif­fer­ent one. Receiv­ing the high­est wages of all state employ­ees, $83 mil­lion of the 2021 Ukrain­ian bud­get was ded­i­cat­ed to the three biggest anti-cor­rup­tion organs, though they are often crit­i­cized for fail­ing to make any large-scale arrests for cor­rup­tion. While ordi­nary state work­ers have seen their wages decrease to absurd lev­els, Ukraine’s over­strained bud­get finds space for such “essen­tial work­ers.”

    These courts have very unclear juridi­cal sta­tus, and the method by which their man­agers are cho­sen was even ruled uncon­sti­tu­tion­al by the Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court in 2020, fol­low­ing which Volodymyr Zelen­sky unsuc­cess­ful­ly (and ille­gal­ly) tried to sack the con­sti­tu­tion­al judges. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, one of the EU’s biggest demands, repeat­ed in recent days, is for Ukraine to “reform” this court, which has also ruled against such sym­bols of EU inte­gra­tion as the pri­va­ti­za­tion of agri­cul­tur­al land. Wartime has pro­vid­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty for the dis­taste­ful judges final­ly to be pushed out.

    The EU has already begun demand­ing that Ukraine con­tin­ue giv­ing the anti-cor­rup­tion organs unim­ped­ed con­trol as one of the con­di­tions for its “Euro­pean inte­gra­tion” (or rather, the grant­i­ng of a con­di­tion­al EU can­di­date sta­tus). The “strug­gle against cor­rup­tion” bodes ill for any wartime attempts to increase state eco­nom­ic inter­ven­tion, though anti-cor­rup­tion organs have already done enough to elim­i­nate any dirigiste politi­cians in Ukraine over the past eight years. When finance min­is­ter Marchenko list­ed off what ter­ri­ble things the gov­ern­ment might be forced to do with­out suf­fi­cient aid, he list­ed “nation­al­iza­tion” along­side cat­a­stroph­ic bud­get cuts.

    Instead of large-scale nation­al­iza­tions of cru­cial sec­tors, there has been a mix of failed nation­al­iza­tions, “nation­al­iza­tion” by Ukraine’s most lib­er­al fig­ures, and takeovers by neolib­er­al­ized state com­pa­nies. In terms of failed nation­al­iza­tion, the past months have seen sev­er­al attempts to reg­u­late prices on petrol, short in sup­ply due to tar­get­ed bomb­ing cam­paigns. Giv­en the lack of state capac­i­ty, this reg­u­la­tion has gen­er­al­ly failed, and the gov­ern­ment reg­u­lar­ly switch­es between tem­porar­i­ly reg­u­lat­ing the price or let­ting it float. Spec­u­la­tion-dri­ven short­ages have inten­si­fied once again in recent days.

    ...

    Mean­while, the gas sec­tor has become monop­o­lized by the infa­mous state-owned gas com­pa­ny, Naftogaz. Its head, Yuri Vit­renko, enjoys regal­ing sacked ener­gy-sec­tor work­ers with lessons from Adam Smith, as part of his expla­na­tion for why they should sim­ply go work in Poland instead of Ukraine’s super­flu­ous ura­ni­um refiner­ies. Nev­er­the­less, the com­pa­ny “can­celed the gas mar­ket” by tak­ing con­trol of 93 per­cent of the sec­tor in March–May.

    In May, Naftogaz announced a 300 per­cent increase in gas prices for sup­pli­ers. The gov­ern­ment quick­ly assured the pub­lic that con­sumer gas prices would not increase any­more dur­ing the war thanks to West­ern finan­cial help. But what about after the war, when Naftogaz will face no com­peti­tors? One of the IMF’s most con­stant demands has been the lib­er­al­iza­tion of the gas mar­ket such that its price con­verges with that in Ger­man mar­kets. Though the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment was often forced to reg­u­late gas prices due to protests, in 2021 it signed a mem­o­ran­dum with the IMF, where a first $700 mil­lion loan was con­di­tion­al on the agree­ment that by May 2022, 50 per­cent of the gas mar­ket would be sold at (Euro­pean) mar­ket prices, and by 2024, 100 per­cent. This would mean increas­ing con­sumer gas prices by more than 400 per­cent. Since Ukraine became depen­dent on IMF cred­its in 2014, con­sumer gas prices have already increased by 650 per­cent. Giv­en Ukraine’s grow­ing depen­den­cy on the IMF, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine that it will con­tin­ue freez­ing con­sumer gas prices at a low lev­el thanks to West­ern aid.

    In short, though this move toward nation­al­iza­tion of the ener­gy sec­tor in wartime is cer­tain­ly bet­ter than the alter­na­tive of let­ting the mar­ket decide prices, and the deci­sion to ban export of coal, gas, and fuel in wartime is praise­wor­thy, the fact that Naftogaz has a his­to­ry of being more inter­est­ed in prof­its than pub­lic good makes it dif­fi­cult to be opti­mistic about any post­war future. Many ener­gy experts also doubt that Naftogaz has the capac­i­ty to deal with tak­ing con­trol of the entire Ukrain­ian ener­gy sys­tem. Had Ukraine not been so pre­oc­cu­pied with build­ing a “Euro-inte­grat­ed gas mar­ket” over past years, it could have been bet­ter pre­pared.

    Lib­er­al­iza­tion of Labor Law

    Aside from gas prices, Ukrain­ian work­ers will have even more rea­son to head to Poland, as their bar­gain­ing pow­er vis-à-vis boss­es declines due to lib­er­al­ized labor laws. Over the past three decades, almost every year has seen new leg­is­la­tion to lib­er­al­ize the labor code, and in May the most max­i­mal­ist ver­sion yet was passed. Instead of the pro­vi­sion of uni­fied labor rights for all and the abil­i­ty to cre­ate col­lec­tive agree­ments, work­ers at enter­pris­es with under two hun­dred employ­ees (i.e., most work­ers) will now only have the “option” of indi­vid­u­al­ly agree­ing to rules pro­posed by the employ­er — effec­tive­ly can­cel­ing leg­isla­tive cov­er­age for most work­ers. These reforms allow busi­ness­es to fire work­ers at will with­out even nom­i­nal con­sul­ta­tion with trade unions and removes employ­ers from the oblig­a­tion to pay wages for work­ers mobi­lized to the front. While this mod­el had often been pro­posed in Ukraine, it was gen­er­al­ly soft­ened due to trade-union protests. Wartime — with its mass unem­ploy­ment and sup­pres­sion of labor activism — was the per­fect time to pass it.

    The politi­cians who cre­at­ed this leg­is­la­tion did so under the aus­pices of a USAID pro­gram. Rich West­ern coun­tries have always been eager to push such laws in Ukraine. IMF reports on Ukraine often ref­er­ence the need for more labor-mar­ket lib­er­al­iza­tion, and some­times this was even the con­di­tion of fur­ther IMF loans. In 2021, leaked doc­u­ments emerged of the British For­eign Office orga­niz­ing work­shops for Ukraine’s Econ­o­my Min­istry explain­ing how best to con­vince vot­ers of the need for such laws.

    Giv­en the depen­dence of the post-Brex­it UK econ­o­my on low-paid Ukrain­ian migrant work­ers — with 67 per­cent of its farm­work­er visas in 2021 going to Ukraini­ans — it is no won­der that the British For­eign Office spon­sors such dereg­u­la­tion in Ukraine. A wors­ened labor mar­ket in Ukraine would push even more Ukraini­ans to work in the UK for wages far below British lev­els. Since the war has seen Ukraine become increas­ing­ly indebt­ed to the IMF and the EU, it is also entire­ly like­ly that part of the moti­va­tion in pass­ing this leg­is­la­tion was to show the EU Ukraine’s fideli­ty to the “reform path.”

    Fis­cal Pol­i­cy

    At the start of the war, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment can­celed import tax­es and tar­iffs. This was great news for auto deal­ers, with thou­sands of cars cross­ing the bor­der for far low­er prices than they would usu­al­ly sell for. But it was bad for Ukraine’s bud­get, which lost around $100 mil­lion a month. It also wors­ened Ukraine’s fuel deficit as petrol trucks were halt­ed by the immense traf­fic jams at the bor­der. As a result, the Nation­al Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and the finance min­istry lob­bied hard for the return of this tax, final­ly suc­ceed­ing in late June.

    Although the gov­ern­ment dis­plays some will­ing­ness to restore basic tax­es, it oth­er­wise does not con­sid­er increased tax­a­tion of big busi­ness nec­es­sary. In a Bloomberg inter­view, “Marchenko reit­er­at­ed that he does not favor amend­ing the tax­a­tion sys­tem in any form, either through eas­ing or tight­en­ing it.” Wartime Ukraine’s fis­cal pol­i­cy has hence not depart­ed from the post-Euro­maid­an con­sen­sus that sees decreased tax­a­tion as the key to growth and pros­per­i­ty. Indeed, by can­cel­ing so many tax­es and main­ly speak­ing of post­war recon­struc­tion in terms of tax-free export zones, the war has para­dox­i­cal­ly seen an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of this fis­cal mod­el.

    ...

    Mon­e­tary Pol­i­cy

    One of the most impor­tant and con­stant demands made on Ukraine by the IMF and oth­er West­ern cred­i­tors since 2014 has been “cen­tral bank inde­pen­dence.” This means choos­ing NBU fig­ures approved by the IMF, who ensure that it obeys the strictest of ortho­dox lib­er­al log­ics, con­sid­er­ing “infla­tion tar­get­ing” through mon­e­tary means the only accept­able form of state inter­ven­tion. Busi­ness can’t get cred­it and the coun­try dein­dus­tri­al­izes, but at least the cur­ren­cy is sta­ble. In Ukraine, the NBU is cer­tain­ly “inde­pen­dent,” though some ana­lysts joke that this real­ly means that it is inde­pen­dent of Ukraine’s inter­ests alto­geth­er. This has been par­tic­u­lar­ly stark­ly illus­trat­ed by the NBU’s wartime deci­sions.

    The finance min­is­ter cre­at­ed spe­cial war bonds upon the inva­sion, hop­ing to receive around 400 bil­lion hryv­nia ($13.5 bil­lion) by appeal­ing to “patri­ot­ic cit­i­zens.” But after two months, only 57 bil­lion ($2 bil­lion) had been raised through these war bonds on the open mar­ket. The nation­al bank was forced to step in, buy­ing 70 bil­lion hryv­nias’ worth. But the NBU instant­ly start­ed wor­ry­ing because of the ten­den­cies toward infla­tion and cur­ren­cy deval­u­a­tion, wors­ened by its print­ing mon­ey to buy war bonds. By late June, the NBU had bought $7.5 bil­lion of bonds — some 17 per­cent of Ukraine’s pre­war bud­get. As Bloomberg notes, its print­ing of mon­ey has low­ered Ukraine’s gold reserves by $3 bil­lion, with $25 bil­lion left, while infla­tion has risen to 20.1 per­cent.

    Cit­ing these mon­e­tary dan­gers, on June 1 the NBU hiked inter­est rates from 10 to 25 per­cent. This had two aims — first, hop­ing to stop infla­tion and cur­ren­cy deval­u­a­tion by tight­en­ing the mon­ey sup­ply for busi­ness and con­sumers; and sec­ond, to allow the finance min­istry to make more mon­ey to cov­er the bud­get, since its war bonds would be pushed by NBU rate com­pe­ti­tion to increase its yield rate, there­by attract­ing more buy­ers.

    Alex­ey Kusch, a pop­u­lar Ukrain­ian econ­o­mist, pub­lished a long Face­book post about the deci­sion, writ­ing that it made him “have doubts for the first time since the start of the war, not in vic­to­ry, but in the pos­si­bil­i­ty that after it our coun­try might start devel­op­ing in anoth­er way” than the lib­er­al course he has always cri­tiqued. He cit­ed the adop­tion of a fixed exchange rate, the cre­ation of war bonds, and cer­tain con­trols on cap­i­tal exports at the war’s begin­ning as signs of the emer­gence of a wis­er and less lib­er­al eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy in Ukraine. In con­trast, the NBU’s deci­sion was an ortho­dox mon­e­tarist solu­tion total­ly inad­e­quate to the wartime con­text.

    First, this is because no inter­est rate is high enough to con­vince for­eign cap­i­tal to invest in Ukraine, giv­en the mil­i­tary risks and dev­as­ta­tion. Kusch cites the fact that Ukrain­ian Eurobonds with a Sep­tem­ber mat­u­ra­tion rate (Ukrain­ian war bonds have a thir­ty-year mat­u­ra­tion rate, mak­ing them even less attrac­tive) were being resold on the sec­ondary mar­ket with a yield of 250 per­cent. The gov­ern­ment has mis­placed faith in pri­vate investors’ desire to save a war-torn state.

    Sec­ond, because infla­tion in Ukraine is caused by sup­ply-side fac­tors such as the glob­al ener­gy cri­sis, petrol short­ages due to Russ­ian mil­i­tary attacks and bor­der traf­fic jams, and so on. This means that the stan­dard mon­e­tarist solu­tion of cut­ting demand will have lit­tle effect in stop­ping infla­tion. There instead needs to be state inter­ven­tion at the lev­el of sup­ply.

    Third, because the fixed exchange rate a pri­ori pre­vents any mon­e­tary attempts to influ­ence the exchange rate. In Kusch’s words, if the nation­al bank plans to float the exchange rate, “then things are real­ly bad.” He recalls the 2014–15 cur­ren­cy lib­er­al­iza­tion, when the hryv­nia went from eight to around thir­ty to the US dol­lar. This float­ing rate allowed elites to mas­sive­ly with­draw cap­i­tal from the coun­try while the pop­u­la­tion became impov­er­ished, with over 80 per­cent of Ukraini­ans on under $5 a day in 2015.

    Back then Ukraine had a port sys­tem — now, noth­ing can leave the ports because of the war, and exports have dropped to no high­er than 40 per­cent of pre­war lev­els. Kusch hence prog­noses a dra­mat­ic deval­u­a­tion of the cur­ren­cy if importers are allowed to buy for­eign cur­ren­cy on an active inter­bank mar­ket.

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, things “real­ly are bad.” This move toward a “mar­ket-dri­ven” float­ing cur­ren­cy is pre­cise­ly what was announced by the NBU sev­er­al days after its inter­est rate hike. Exchange rates have begun increas­ing, although infla­tion rates, as Kusch pre­dict­ed, have con­tin­ued increas­ing. In July, the NBU removed cur­ren­cy restric­tions on var­i­ous import goods, fur­ther increas­ing the deval­u­a­tion of the cur­ren­cy. “The main ben­e­fi­cia­ries” of the NBU’s inter­est rate hike and inevitable exchange rate deval­u­a­tion, Kusch writes, “are struc­tures that want to with­draw their cap­i­tal from the coun­try.”

    As for war bonds, Kusch pre­dict­ed that there would be lit­tle inter­est in buy­ing them even if the yield is increased, because the lim­it of Ukrain­ian domes­tic sav­ings for this pur­pose has already been reached. Fur­ther­more, the uncer­tain­ty of future Ukrain­ian exchange rate behav­ior makes such an asset even less attrac­tive. What would be bought would have to have a very high, 30-per­cent-plus rate and would only inter­est short-term domes­tic and for­eign spec­u­la­tors. Mean­while, to pay for this, the bud­get hole would become even vaster. Accord­ing to an NBU state­ment in July, the Ukrain­ian state bud­get has received less from its sale of bonds than it has had to pay the bond own­ers.

    For this rea­son, the finance min­istry refused to increase the rate of yield of its war bonds to the astro­nom­i­cal height demand­ed by the NBU’s inter­est rate. This was why pur­chas­es of war bonds hit a record low of $79 mil­lion in the three weeks fol­low­ing the rate hike, as oth­er assets became rel­a­tive­ly much more attrac­tive. The first auc­tion on state bonds in July brought in lit­tle over $4 mil­lion.

    The fact that the NBU inter­est rate is high­er than that of the yields on the bonds sold by the finance min­istry cre­ates anoth­er dan­ger­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty — the col­lapse of Ukraine’s “bond pyra­mid.” This scheme — pop­u­lar through­out the post-2014 peri­od but par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing the COVID lock­downs, when inter­est rates were espe­cial­ly low — con­sist­ed of buy­ing NBU cred­its at around 5–6 per­cent and using them to buy high­er-yield­ing finance-min­istry bonds with around 11 per­cent yields. This gave Ukraine’s banks easy prof­its, with the two biggest Ukrain­ian banks invest­ing almost 40 per­cent of their cap­i­tal in this finan­cial pyra­mid. But this all falls apart if NBU inter­est rates are high­er than NBU bond yields. All but two of Ukraine’s banks depend in some degree or oth­er on NBU cred­it: such cred­it makes up 20–85 per­cent of almost a third of all Ukrain­ian banks’ repay­ment oblig­a­tions.

    The last time the NBU hiked inter­est rates, in 2015, the so-called “bank-o-fall” began, with over 60 per­cent of Ukraine’s banks going bank­rupt and dis­ap­pear­ing over the next two years. While the IMF praised this clo­sure of “cor­rupt ghost banks,” many depos­i­tors lost their mon­ey, and cred­its for busi­ness and con­sumers became very hard to come by. It only took a day for the NBU’s lat­est inter­est hike to destroy one bank, leav­ing six­ty-eight remain­ing.

    Both because of com­pe­ti­tion with the NBU’s new rate and faced with the bur­den of repay­ing NBU cred­its involved in the enor­mous “bond pyra­mid,” banks have harshened con­di­tions for debtors, result­ing in a wave of com­plaints from busi­ness and the broad­er pop­u­la­tion. Inter­est rates increased by 15 per­cent overnight for many busi­ness­es; con­sumer and busi­ness cred­it rates are pre­dict­ed to rise toward 25–40 per­cent, where­as before the inter­est rate hike they were clos­er to 15 per­cent.

    In the weeks fol­low­ing the inva­sion, the trade and indus­try cham­ber rec­og­nized the war as force majeure: a spe­cial law (No. 2120-IX) was passed that pro­hib­it­ed banks from plac­ing fines or penal­ties on debtors. Yet banks are get­ting around this by sim­ply increas­ing the rate of inter­est. One refugee from the Kharkiv area report­ed that the biggest Ukrain­ian bank start­ed using his pen­sion funds to repay his cred­it debt. Oth­ers who have lost their jobs due to the war com­plain that banks refuse to give cred­it hol­i­days. The best deal that banks are giv­ing so far — only to peo­ple in ter­ri­to­ries cur­rent­ly con­trolled by Rus­sia — is can­cel­ing 30–40 per­cent of the owed amount but with the rest still paid at a low­er inter­est rate. There are reports of harsh nego­ti­a­tions where banks threat­en to block access to assets in areas con­trolled by Ukraine to busi­ness­men who have lost their assets in areas no longer con­trolled by Ukraine and hence can­not pay. For its part, the NBU was quite clear about which side it was on when law 2120-IX first came out, rec­om­mend­ing indi­vid­u­als come to an indi­vid­ual agree­ment with their bank about cred­it rates.

    ...

    Future Promis­es

    Faced with such an array of eco­nom­ic crises, wors­ened by the lib­er­al treat­ment of them, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has stuck to what it does best: promis­ing that for­eign donors will resolve these prob­lems. It has promised that for­eign aid will sub­si­dize the 300 per­cent increase in gas prices while Russia’s seized for­eign assets will be used to rebuild hous­ing and pay for cred­it sub­si­dies. Even aside from the ques­tion of how real­is­tic it is to assume that the West will pay for the monop­o­liza­tion of the Ukrain­ian gas mar­ket, the Wall Street Jour­nal and the Swiss gov­ern­ment each tell us that seized Russ­ian assets are high­ly unlike­ly to end up in Ukraine’s hands.

    We’ve seen that West­ern aid is already insuf­fi­cient in cov­er­ing Ukraine’s bud­get deficit, forc­ing the state to embark on infla­tion­ary print­ing of cur­ren­cy. Now even that finan­cial assis­tance seems to be under ques­tion: the Ukrain­ian finance min­is­ter has con­firmed West­ern media reports that Ger­many is block­ing a €9 bil­lion EU loan to Ukraine.

    The most like­ly result will sim­ply be that, lack­ing for­eign aid, Ukraine will declare low tax­es in var­i­ous war-torn regions and wait for investors to come and build — a solu­tion already pro­posed by var­i­ous may­ors. No doubt, West­ern coun­tries’ promis­es to rebuild Ukraine will also bring some impres­sive show projects. To give an exam­ple of how seri­ous these pro­pos­als look, Esto­nia has promised to rebuild Zhy­to­myr region, which is only 33 per­cent small­er than Esto­nia itself.

    This per­spec­tive was made explic­it on July 7, when Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment unveiled its plan for how a hypo­thet­i­cal $750 bil­lion could be used to recon­struct the econ­o­my. Appar­ent­ly, $200-$250 bil­lion will come from for­eign grants and $200-$300 bil­lion from for­eign loans. Fur­ther, $250 bil­lion will come from pri­vate investors, who the gov­ern­ment clear­ly believes will be des­per­ate to invest in a coun­try destroyed by war that is spend­ing only $5 bil­lion of its recon­struc­tion fund on edu­ca­tion. The fact that anoth­er $5 bil­lion will be spent on “improv­ing the busi­ness envi­ron­ment” (fur­ther lib­er­al­iz­ing labor law?) and $200 mil­lion on anti-cor­rup­tion organs and the “cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion of state enter­pris­es” fur­ther goes to show the depth of the government’s faith in the pow­er of the free mar­ket.

    While the plan does involve rebuild­ing infra­struc­ture, noth­ing is said about any state-led recon­struc­tion of Ukraine’s indus­tri­al com­plex. No doubt, it is assumed that “effi­cient pri­vate investors” will accom­plish this with gus­to. If they don’t, Ukraine’s final trans­for­ma­tion into a dein­dus­tri­al­ized source for agri­cul­tur­al goods and labor pow­er is sim­ply nat­ur­al — and in accor­dance with lib­er­al prin­ci­ples of each nation’s com­par­a­tive advan­tage.

    Instead of effec­tive wartime inter­ven­tions, the gov­ern­ment sticks to its old for­mu­la of jus­ti­fy­ing present sac­ri­fices in the name of promised EU pros­per­i­ty. Wors­en­ing labor con­di­tions, the “Euro­peaniza­tion” of gas prices (but with Ukrain­ian wages), the cen­tral bank’s “inde­pen­dence” from “its” country’s nation­al inter­ests — all this is jus­ti­fied in the name of the shin­ing Euro­pean Future, or rather, pos­si­bly receiv­ing the mar­gin­al sta­tus EU-can­di­date coun­try Turkey has had for decades. Ukrain­ian and inter­na­tion­al media nev­er cease to remind us that this war is being fought in the name of Ukraine’s “Euro­pean Future” — and what are these eco­nom­ic sac­ri­fices com­pared to all the blood being shed for this “grand ide­al”?

    The EU has plen­ty of inter­est in keep­ing up the illu­sion of Ukraine’s “Euro­pean inte­gra­tion.” In the glob­al con­text, the EU is increas­ing­ly eco­nom­i­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble, with high wages and much high­er ener­gy costs due to sanc­tions on Rus­sia. Many Euro­pean coun­tries have in recent decades become increas­ing­ly reliant on Ukrain­ian migrant work­ers, many of them dri­ven out of Ukraine pre­cise­ly because of the unem­ploy­ment and low wages cre­at­ed by the EU’s wise reforms. Accord­ing to Poland’s cen­tral bank, 11 per­cent of Poland’s GDP growth from 2015 to 2020 owed to Ukrain­ian migrants. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Poland has always been among the most active in encour­ag­ing Ukraine’s “West­ern civ­i­liza­tion­al choice,” with Pol­ish diplo­mats being the first at Maid­an Square in 2013. Inter­est­ing­ly, the Ukrain­ian government’s $750 bil­lion recon­struc­tion plan includes a high-speed train from Ukraine to Poland.

    Much of US lend-lease aid is going toward prepar­ing the EU to accom­mo­date Ukrain­ian migrants. By pay­ing for hous­ing, lan­guage edu­ca­tion, and bud­get ben­e­fits, many of the refugees will choose to stay and work in the EU. What this means is that this aspect of aid “for Ukraine” is sub­si­diz­ing the inte­gra­tion of a cheap, edu­cat­ed work­force that will not return to or earn mon­ey in Ukraine. Unlike pre­vi­ous migra­tion to the EU, where a sin­gle fam­i­ly mem­ber left and sent back tax­able mon­ey to Ukraine, this form of migra­tion involves entire fam­i­lies that are becom­ing tax­pay­ing cit­i­zens of for­eign coun­tries. While the nation­al bank facil­i­tates the flight of mon­ey cap­i­tal, the “West­ern part­ners” do their best to facil­i­tate the flight of human cap­i­tal.

    ———–

    “Ukraine’s War Econ­o­my Is Being Choked by Neolib­er­al Dog­mas” by Peter Koro­taev; Jacobin; 07/14/2022

    Instead of effec­tive wartime inter­ven­tions, the gov­ern­ment sticks to its old for­mu­la of jus­ti­fy­ing present sac­ri­fices in the name of promised EU pros­per­i­ty. Wors­en­ing labor con­di­tions, the “Euro­peaniza­tion” of gas prices (but with Ukrain­ian wages), the cen­tral bank’s “inde­pen­dence” from “its” country’s nation­al inter­ests — all this is jus­ti­fied in the name of the shin­ing Euro­pean Future, or rather, pos­si­bly receiv­ing the mar­gin­al sta­tus EU-can­di­date coun­try Turkey has had for decades. Ukrain­ian and inter­na­tion­al media nev­er cease to remind us that this war is being fought in the name of Ukraine’s “Euro­pean Future” — and what are these eco­nom­ic sac­ri­fices com­pared to all the blood being shed for this “grand ide­al”?”

    This isn’t you’re father’s ‘wartime inter­ven­tion’ tak­ing place in Ukraine. What we’re see­ing is effec­tive­ly a grand exper­i­ment on a nation­al scale: what hap­pens for strict neolib­er­al eco­nom­ic ortho­doxy is imposed on a poor nation at war? We’re all going to find out, with Ukraini­ans learn­ing the lessons of these grand exper­i­ment first hand. As the arti­cle describes, Ukraine is in the midst of a eco­nom­ic and fis­cal melt­down. A melt­down that is obvi­ous­ly pre­cip­i­tat­ed by the Russ­ian inva­sion, but is being deep­ened and exac­er­bat­ed by the kind of ‘eco­nom­ic ortho­doxy’ being demand­ed by Ukraine’s West­ern back­ers. And with Ukraine increas­ing­ly reliant on these cred­i­tors the worst its finan­cial sta­tus gets, the more invest­ed it gets in this neolib­er­al exper­i­ment. A long-term exper­i­ment that leaves Ukraine increas­ing­ly reliant on for­eign donors and investors. And there­fore increas­ing­ly unable to say ‘no’ to their demands. In oth­er words, Ukraine isn’t just fac­ing the loss of ter­ri­to­ry to Rus­sia as a con­se­quence of this war. It’s also los­ing the eco­nom­ic free­dom to gov­ern­ment itself:

    ...
    In a 2020 lec­ture, Canada’s for­mer ambas­sador to Ukraine said that after Euro­maid­an the coun­try had become a lab­o­ra­to­ry for ide­al-world exper­i­men­ta­tion. In oth­er words, the eco­nom­ic lib­er­al­iza­tion unac­cept­able at home could instead be tried out in Ukraine.

    ...

    Over Jan­u­ary to June 2022, $19 bil­lion of the total rev­enues came from var­i­ous forms of cred­it and for­eign aid. Over half, $11.8 bil­lion, owed to state bonds, while $7.6 bil­lion (35 per­cent) was sim­ply mon­ey print­ed by the nation­al bank and giv­en to the Finance Min­istry. The remain­ing $7.2 bil­lion came from var­i­ous for­eign cred­its and grants.

    Finance min­is­ter Ser­hii Marchenko has repeat­ed­ly stat­ed that with­out an immense increase in aid, Ukraine will be forced to fur­ther cut non­mil­i­tary spend­ing with­in months. The strain has already made itself felt on state employ­ees. Work­ers at the state rail­way com­pa­ny, who have been play­ing an impor­tant and dan­ger­ous role in sav­ing the lives of mil­lions of civil­ians, receive their wages with delays of sev­en to ten days, and when they do receive them, they are cut by a third, leav­ing about $150 a month. Many teach­ers and uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sors haven’t received wages for months. At ports, work­ers who used to earn $260 a month now earn a lit­tle over $50 and that with delays.

    Despite much talk of West­ern gen­eros­i­ty, in May Ukraine only received one-third of the $5 bil­lion it needs in aid. By mid-May the Econ­o­mist report­ed that Ukraine had run up a fis­cal short­fall of $15 bil­lion and received only $4.5 bil­lion worth of for­eign grants. The Finance Min­istry reports that ful­ly 21 per­cent ($7.3 bil­lion) of all Jan­u­ary-June bud­get expen­di­tures were ded­i­cat­ed to pay­ments on state debt. The sit­u­a­tion will only wors­en, with Bloomberg cal­cu­lat­ing that Ukraine will face a $1.4‑billion debt-repay­ment dead­line in Sep­tem­ber.

    The extent of Ukraine’s exter­nal pub­lic debt (the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment also recent­ly announced that it hopes for $200-$300 bil­lion in West­ern cred­its for post­war recon­struc­tion) means that it will have even less abil­i­ty to refuse the pol­i­cy demands imposed by West­ern cred­i­tors. The finance min­is­ter and the direc­tor of tax­es have con­stant­ly reit­er­at­ed through­out the war that Ukraine will con­tin­ue ser­vic­ing its sov­er­eign debt, under­lin­ing their will­ing­ness to fol­low cred­i­tor demands.

    ...

    Faced with such an array of eco­nom­ic crises, wors­ened by the lib­er­al treat­ment of them, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment has stuck to what it does best: promis­ing that for­eign donors will resolve these prob­lems. It has promised that for­eign aid will sub­si­dize the 300 per­cent increase in gas prices while Russia’s seized for­eign assets will be used to rebuild hous­ing and pay for cred­it sub­si­dies. Even aside from the ques­tion of how real­is­tic it is to assume that the West will pay for the monop­o­liza­tion of the Ukrain­ian gas mar­ket, the Wall Street Jour­nal and the Swiss gov­ern­ment each tell us that seized Russ­ian assets are high­ly unlike­ly to end up in Ukraine’s hands.
    ...

    As part of that loss of sov­er­eign­ty, note how Ukraine is effec­tive­ly being forced by agen­cies like USAID and George Soro’s Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tion to adopt mea­sures that pre­vent Ukraine from pre­fer­ring domes­ti­cal­ly pro­duced goods and ser­vices when mak­ing gov­ern­ment expen­di­tures. So not only is Ukraine being blocked from engag­ing in the kind of nation­al­iza­tions that are his­tor­i­cal­ly rou­tine dur­ing a time of war, it’s also being forced to aban­don the state’s sup­port for domes­tic pri­vate indus­try. All under the ban­ner of ‘anti-cor­rup­tion’ mea­sures. Inter­na­tion­al­ly imposed anti-cor­rup­tion mea­sures that ensure Ukraine imports more than ever from its inter­na­tion­al part­ners:

    ...
    Since 2014 — but with renewed vig­or in recent days — Ukraine’s West­ern part­ners have pushed Ukraine to “fight cor­rup­tion.” This “strug­gle” has many impor­tant eco­nom­ic effects. Gen­er­al­ly, states at war tend to nation­al­ize key sec­tors of the econ­o­my to max­i­mize arma­ments pro­duc­tion and sta­bi­lize the civil­ian econ­o­my, both to pre­vent chaos in the rear and feed the army. Strange­ly, this has not tak­en place in Ukraine, despite what the gov­ern­ment declares a “total war” sit­u­a­tion. Remark­ably, a law was even passed in late June that aims to “restart pri­va­ti­za­tion of state assets on a new lev­el.” Some politi­cians have cri­tiqued this approach — Vadym Deny­senko, assis­tant to the inte­ri­or min­is­ter ear­li­er in the war, urged a turn toward “direct state man­age­ment of the econ­o­my.” But so far, his call has gone unheed­ed.

    Call­ing for nation­al­iza­tion, Deny­senko not­ed that “it is no longer time for the Nation­al Anti-Cor­rup­tion Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).” He said this because over the past eight years, a flur­ry of “anti-cor­rup­tion organs” — NGOs, state organs, and in-between — have focused on elim­i­nat­ing state inter­ven­tion in the econ­o­my.

    Set up by Ukraine’s lib­er­al “civ­il soci­ety,” the Unit­ed States Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (USAID), and the Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tion, such organs have cre­at­ed web­sites such as Pro­zor­ro (“trans­paren­cy”), which han­dles Ukrain­ian state pur­chas­es. The may­or of Dnipro has harsh­ly crit­i­cized Pro­zor­ro in recent months, due to the government’s deci­sion to require all pur­chas­es of mil­i­tary equip­ment to go through this pro­gram. He insists that such pub­lic trans­paren­cy in mil­i­tary affairs and the bureau­cra­ti­za­tion of urgent mil­i­tary ten­ders is only help­ing the Russ­ian army.

    The web­site, telling­ly, has no func­tion for ensur­ing domes­tic local­iza­tion of state pur­chas­es. Accord­ing to Pro­zor­ro and its allies, domes­ti­cal­ly local­iz­ing state ten­ders is in the inter­ests of a cor­rupt “oli­garchy” that depends on state rents rather than effi­cien­cy. And any­way — as Ukraine’s lib­er­al press nev­er tires of remind­ing us — why buy a low­er-qual­i­ty Ukrain­ian prod­uct if it can be bought cheap­er else­where?

    The require­ment that state ten­ders be made with a min­i­mum amount of domes­tic sup­pli­ers is com­mon in most coun­tries, and its absence in Pro­zor­ro was called “extreme­ly strange” by the new econ­o­my min­is­ter in 2021. As a result of this neu­tral­iza­tion of the “cor­rup­tion risks” pre­sent­ed by the domes­tic local­iza­tion of state pur­chas­es, around 40 per­cent of Ukrain­ian state pur­chas­es are from for­eign pro­duc­ers. By com­par­i­son, the Unit­ed States and Euro­pean Union (EU) coun­tries make around 5 and 8 per­cent of their state pur­chas­es abroad respec­tive­ly. The imper­a­tives of “stop­ping cor­rup­tion” take pri­or­i­ty over Ukraine’s eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment.

    When Ukrain­ian leg­is­la­tors tried to pass a bill in 2020 ensur­ing local­iza­tion of state pur­chas­es, the anti-cor­rup­tion bureaus (as well as the EU and the Unit­ed States) fran­ti­cal­ly tore it down, cit­ing the “pos­si­bil­i­ties for the cor­rupt use” of this patent­ly ordi­nary mea­sure. The law was even­tu­al­ly passed — but amend­ed, so that local­iza­tion restric­tions were only applied to non–EU or North Amer­i­can nations. In short, Ukraine’s vast anti-cor­rup­tion ecosys­tem is a con­trol mech­a­nism that keeps its econ­o­my per­pet­u­al­ly open to dec­i­ma­tion by for­eign exporters who often enjoy pref­er­en­tial treat­ment from their own gov­ern­ments. The idea that “cor­rup­tion” is the great­est bar­ri­er to devel­op­ment is a fic­tion used to jus­ti­fy trade lib­er­al­iza­tion in which the stronger West­ern cap­i­tal­ists inevitably win, to the detri­ment of the Ukrain­ian econ­o­my.
    ...

    But Ukraine isn’t just being effec­tive­ly forced to import more goods from its West­ern back­ers. It’s also being forced adopt labor laws that will like­ly see even more Ukraini­ans becom­ing eco­nom­ic refugees. Labors laws that appear to be anoth­er gift from USAID:

    ...
    Aside from gas prices, Ukrain­ian work­ers will have even more rea­son to head to Poland, as their bar­gain­ing pow­er vis-à-vis boss­es declines due to lib­er­al­ized labor laws. Over the past three decades, almost every year has seen new leg­is­la­tion to lib­er­al­ize the labor code, and in May the most max­i­mal­ist ver­sion yet was passed. Instead of the pro­vi­sion of uni­fied labor rights for all and the abil­i­ty to cre­ate col­lec­tive agree­ments, work­ers at enter­pris­es with under two hun­dred employ­ees (i.e., most work­ers) will now only have the “option” of indi­vid­u­al­ly agree­ing to rules pro­posed by the employ­er — effec­tive­ly can­cel­ing leg­isla­tive cov­er­age for most work­ers. These reforms allow busi­ness­es to fire work­ers at will with­out even nom­i­nal con­sul­ta­tion with trade unions and removes employ­ers from the oblig­a­tion to pay wages for work­ers mobi­lized to the front. While this mod­el had often been pro­posed in Ukraine, it was gen­er­al­ly soft­ened due to trade-union protests. Wartime — with its mass unem­ploy­ment and sup­pres­sion of labor activism — was the per­fect time to pass it.

    The politi­cians who cre­at­ed this leg­is­la­tion did so under the aus­pices of a USAID pro­gram. Rich West­ern coun­tries have always been eager to push such laws in Ukraine. IMF reports on Ukraine often ref­er­ence the need for more labor-mar­ket lib­er­al­iza­tion, and some­times this was even the con­di­tion of fur­ther IMF loans. In 2021, leaked doc­u­ments emerged of the British For­eign Office orga­niz­ing work­shops for Ukraine’s Econ­o­my Min­istry explain­ing how best to con­vince vot­ers of the need for such laws.

    Giv­en the depen­dence of the post-Brex­it UK econ­o­my on low-paid Ukrain­ian migrant work­ers — with 67 per­cent of its farm­work­er visas in 2021 going to Ukraini­ans — it is no won­der that the British For­eign Office spon­sors such dereg­u­la­tion in Ukraine. A wors­ened labor mar­ket in Ukraine would push even more Ukraini­ans to work in the UK for wages far below British lev­els. Since the war has seen Ukraine become increas­ing­ly indebt­ed to the IMF and the EU, it is also entire­ly like­ly that part of the moti­va­tion in pass­ing this leg­is­la­tion was to show the EU Ukraine’s fideli­ty to the “reform path.”

    ...

    And then there’s the ‘trick­le-down’ poli­cies: when war broke out, Ukraine slashed import tax­es and tar­iffs, while talk of post-wear tax-free export zones grows. Ukraine is being posi­tioned to be a post-war export hub. An export hub dom­i­nat­ed by inter­na­tion­al investors with low tax­es, low labor pro­tec­tions, and a shrunk­en ‘effi­cient’ gov­ern­ment set up to cater to these inter­na­tion­al investors. This is actu­al goal of the West­’s grand ‘ide­al-world exper­i­men­ta­tion’ in Ukraine:

    ...
    At the start of the war, Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment can­celed import tax­es and tar­iffs. This was great news for auto deal­ers, with thou­sands of cars cross­ing the bor­der for far low­er prices than they would usu­al­ly sell for. But it was bad for Ukraine’s bud­get, which lost around $100 mil­lion a month. It also wors­ened Ukraine’s fuel deficit as petrol trucks were halt­ed by the immense traf­fic jams at the bor­der. As a result, the Nation­al Bank of Ukraine (NBU) and the finance min­istry lob­bied hard for the return of this tax, final­ly suc­ceed­ing in late June.

    Although the gov­ern­ment dis­plays some will­ing­ness to restore basic tax­es, it oth­er­wise does not con­sid­er increased tax­a­tion of big busi­ness nec­es­sary. In a Bloomberg inter­view, “Marchenko reit­er­at­ed that he does not favor amend­ing the tax­a­tion sys­tem in any form, either through eas­ing or tight­en­ing it.” Wartime Ukraine’s fis­cal pol­i­cy has hence not depart­ed from the post-Euro­maid­an con­sen­sus that sees decreased tax­a­tion as the key to growth and pros­per­i­ty. Indeed, by can­cel­ing so many tax­es and main­ly speak­ing of post­war recon­struc­tion in terms of tax-free export zones, the war has para­dox­i­cal­ly seen an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of this fis­cal mod­el.
    ...

    Then there’s the mon­e­tary pol­i­cy: West­ern back­ers have demand­ed Ukraine’s cen­tral bank (the NBU) be set up on the mod­el of strict “inde­pen­dence” where infla­tion con­cerns reign supreme over all oth­ers. So what do we find the NBU doing dur­ing this peri­od of extreme nation­al mon­e­tary stress? Mak­ing that stress worse by pri­or­i­tiz­ing infla­tion con­cerns and hik­ing inter­est rates. Who ben­e­fits from this? Pow­er­ful inter­ests who want to move their wealth out of the coun­try as bet­ter for­eign exchange rates, that’s who:

    ...
    One of the most impor­tant and con­stant demands made on Ukraine by the IMF and oth­er West­ern cred­i­tors since 2014 has been “cen­tral bank inde­pen­dence.” This means choos­ing NBU fig­ures approved by the IMF, who ensure that it obeys the strictest of ortho­dox lib­er­al log­ics, con­sid­er­ing “infla­tion tar­get­ing” through mon­e­tary means the only accept­able form of state inter­ven­tion. Busi­ness can’t get cred­it and the coun­try dein­dus­tri­al­izes, but at least the cur­ren­cy is sta­ble. In Ukraine, the NBU is cer­tain­ly “inde­pen­dent,” though some ana­lysts joke that this real­ly means that it is inde­pen­dent of Ukraine’s inter­ests alto­geth­er. This has been par­tic­u­lar­ly stark­ly illus­trat­ed by the NBU’s wartime deci­sions.

    The finance min­is­ter cre­at­ed spe­cial war bonds upon the inva­sion, hop­ing to receive around 400 bil­lion hryv­nia ($13.5 bil­lion) by appeal­ing to “patri­ot­ic cit­i­zens.” But after two months, only 57 bil­lion ($2 bil­lion) had been raised through these war bonds on the open mar­ket. The nation­al bank was forced to step in, buy­ing 70 bil­lion hryv­nias’ worth. But the NBU instant­ly start­ed wor­ry­ing because of the ten­den­cies toward infla­tion and cur­ren­cy deval­u­a­tion, wors­ened by its print­ing mon­ey to buy war bonds. By late June, the NBU had bought $7.5 bil­lion of bonds — some 17 per­cent of Ukraine’s pre­war bud­get. As Bloomberg notes, its print­ing of mon­ey has low­ered Ukraine’s gold reserves by $3 bil­lion, with $25 bil­lion left, while infla­tion has risen to 20.1 per­cent.

    Cit­ing these mon­e­tary dan­gers, on June 1 the NBU hiked inter­est rates from 10 to 25 per­cent. This had two aims — first, hop­ing to stop infla­tion and cur­ren­cy deval­u­a­tion by tight­en­ing the mon­ey sup­ply for busi­ness and con­sumers; and sec­ond, to allow the finance min­istry to make more mon­ey to cov­er the bud­get, since its war bonds would be pushed by NBU rate com­pe­ti­tion to increase its yield rate, there­by attract­ing more buy­ers.

    Alex­ey Kusch, a pop­u­lar Ukrain­ian econ­o­mist, pub­lished a long Face­book post about the deci­sion, writ­ing that it made him “have doubts for the first time since the start of the war, not in vic­to­ry, but in the pos­si­bil­i­ty that after it our coun­try might start devel­op­ing in anoth­er way” than the lib­er­al course he has always cri­tiqued. He cit­ed the adop­tion of a fixed exchange rate, the cre­ation of war bonds, and cer­tain con­trols on cap­i­tal exports at the war’s begin­ning as signs of the emer­gence of a wis­er and less lib­er­al eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy in Ukraine. In con­trast, the NBU’s deci­sion was an ortho­dox mon­e­tarist solu­tion total­ly inad­e­quate to the wartime con­text.

    ...

    Third, because the fixed exchange rate a pri­ori pre­vents any mon­e­tary attempts to influ­ence the exchange rate. In Kusch’s words, if the nation­al bank plans to float the exchange rate, “then things are real­ly bad.” He recalls the 2014–15 cur­ren­cy lib­er­al­iza­tion, when the hryv­nia went from eight to around thir­ty to the US dol­lar. This float­ing rate allowed elites to mas­sive­ly with­draw cap­i­tal from the coun­try while the pop­u­la­tion became impov­er­ished, with over 80 per­cent of Ukraini­ans on under $5 a day in 2015.

    ...

    Unfor­tu­nate­ly, things “real­ly are bad.” This move toward a “mar­ket-dri­ven” float­ing cur­ren­cy is pre­cise­ly what was announced by the NBU sev­er­al days after its inter­est rate hike. Exchange rates have begun increas­ing, although infla­tion rates, as Kusch pre­dict­ed, have con­tin­ued increas­ing. In July, the NBU removed cur­ren­cy restric­tions on var­i­ous import goods, fur­ther increas­ing the deval­u­a­tion of the cur­ren­cy. “The main ben­e­fi­cia­ries” of the NBU’s inter­est rate hike and inevitable exchange rate deval­u­a­tion, Kusch writes, “are struc­tures that want to with­draw their cap­i­tal from the coun­try.”
    ...

    And note how these actions by the NBU appear to be risk­ing the col­lapse of the “bond pyra­mid” that could trig­ger a major col­lapse in Ukraine’s bank­ing sys­tem. Again. A col­lapse that the IMF appar­ent­ly sees as desir­able because it got rid of “cor­rupt ghost banks”. Ghost banks that hap­pened to be hold­ing a lot of peo­ple’s sav­ings. Even a col­lapse of Ukraine’s bank­ing sys­tem is seen as fine by Ukraine’s West­ern ‘part­ners’ as long as that col­lapse hap­pens in response to poli­cies dic­tat­ed by neolib­er­al ortho­doxy:

    ...

    The fact that the NBU inter­est rate is high­er than that of the yields on the bonds sold by the finance min­istry cre­ates anoth­er dan­ger­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty — the col­lapse of Ukraine’s “bond pyra­mid.” This scheme — pop­u­lar through­out the post-2014 peri­od but par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing the COVID lock­downs, when inter­est rates were espe­cial­ly low — con­sist­ed of buy­ing NBU cred­its at around 5–6 per­cent and using them to buy high­er-yield­ing finance-min­istry bonds with around 11 per­cent yields. This gave Ukraine’s banks easy prof­its, with the two biggest Ukrain­ian banks invest­ing almost 40 per­cent of their cap­i­tal in this finan­cial pyra­mid. But this all falls apart if NBU inter­est rates are high­er than NBU bond yields. All but two of Ukraine’s banks depend in some degree or oth­er on NBU cred­it: such cred­it makes up 20–85 per­cent of almost a third of all Ukrain­ian banks’ repay­ment oblig­a­tions.

    The last time the NBU hiked inter­est rates, in 2015, the so-called “bank-o-fall” began, with over 60 per­cent of Ukraine’s banks going bank­rupt and dis­ap­pear­ing over the next two years. While the IMF praised this clo­sure of “cor­rupt ghost banks,” many depos­i­tors lost their mon­ey, and cred­its for busi­ness and con­sumers became very hard to come by. It only took a day for the NBU’s lat­est inter­est hike to destroy one bank, leav­ing six­ty-eight remain­ing.
    ...

    How many more bank col­laps­es should Ukrain­ian savers expect in response to teh NBU rate hikes? We’ll see. The more the mer­ri­er appar­ent­ly, at least from the IMF’s per­spec­tive. Neolib­er­al­ism as a built-in plan for mass bank col­laps­es: at some point the strongest insti­tu­tions will just gob­ble of the remains of the weak and be even stronger. Prob­lem solved. At least the finan­cial prob­lems for the strongest remain­ing finan­cial insti­tu­tions will be solved. It’s unclear how this eco­nom­ic ortho­doxy is plan­ning on solv­ing all of the social prob­lems cre­at­ed by these kinds of events. And that rais­es what is one of the grimmest ques­tions we have to ask in this sit­u­a­tion: So what is the neolib­er­al solu­tion that Ukraine’s West­ern spon­sors have in mind for the col­lapse of the Ukrain­ian pub­lic’s faith in this grand neolib­er­al exper­i­ment? And a col­lapse of faith in the via­bil­i­ty of Ukraine’s future as a Euro­pean part­ner? What hap­pens with the hope of a bet­ter futures is replaced with a sense of betray­al and despair as none of the West­’s imposed ‘solu­tions’ actu­al­ly work? We’ll see...although we have a pret­ty good idea of what to expect.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 18, 2022, 4:32 pm
  10. And it’s offi­cial. Almost: Ukraine’s his­toric strip­ping of labor rights is almost com­plete with the pas­sage of two new bills by Ukraine’s par­lia­ment. The bills now await Pres­i­dent Zelen­skiy’s sig­na­ture. One of the bills for­mal­izes gig-style short term labor con­tracts. The oth­er, Bill 5371, promis­es to rad­i­cal­ly trans­form the nature of labor rela­tions in Ukraine. As we’ve seen, in real­i­ty this is a promise to trans­form Ukraine’s labor laws back to the pro-col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing modal­i­ty of the 19th cen­tu­ry, where indi­vid­u­als and employ­ers all sep­a­rate­ly nego­ti­ate their own labor con­tracts. And as we’ve also seen, that bill was craft­ed in part­ner­ship with groups like USAID and the Open Soci­ety Foun­da­tion. Drag­ging Ukraine’s work­ers back to the 19th cen­tu­ry was­n’t just a ran­dom scheme by Ukraine’s par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. Its part of the envi­sioned future of Ukraine held by the coun­try’s West­ern back­ers. Or, as Canada’s for­mer ambas­sador for Ukraine described it in 2020, post-Maid­an Ukraine had become a lab­o­ra­to­ry for ide­al-world exper­i­men­ta­tion. That ‘ide­al-world exper­i­ment’ is about to enter its next phase.

    So how are Ukraine’s work­ers going to react to have their rights to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing stripped away? We’ll see, but that points towards one of the oth­er intrigu­ing aspects to this whole sit­u­a­tion: the back­ers of this law are por­tray­ing it to the pub­lic as a move that puts Ukraine more in line with EU labor stan­dards. Now, as we’re going to see, labor experts see the new laws as going in the exact oppo­site direc­tion from EU stan­dards. This is a loss of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights, after all. So the new laws appear to be in con­flict with EU stan­dards and yet these laws were craft­ed in part­ner­ship with agen­cies like USAID and are tak­ing place at the same time Ukraine is a mem­ber of a trade asso­ci­a­tion with the EU and on track for EU mem­ber­ship. So if any Ukrain­ian work­ers got the impres­sion that this real­ly is an EU-backed law, you can’t blame them. The EU appears to be more than hap­py to stand by and watch this hap­pen.

    And let’s also not for­get that attack­ing labor rights was one of the key fea­tures of so many of the aus­ter­i­ty bat­tles fought with­in the EU not that long ago. It was just 2015 when EU lead­ers were demand­ing that Greek PM Alex­is Tsipras not restore the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights that had been stripped away under Greece’s aus­ter­i­ty regime. And that’s part of what makes this sto­ry much big­ger than just the lat­est sto­ry of Ukraine’s descent into a new Dark Age. What’s hap­pen­ing to Ukraine’s labor pro­tec­tions is a mod­el for the rest of the EU. That’s why there’s so lit­tle inter­na­tion­al out­cry:

    OpenDemocracy.net

    Ukraine uses Russ­ian inva­sion to pass laws wreck­ing work­ers’ rights

    Zero-hours con­tracts set to be legalised and 70% of work­force exempt­ed from work­place pro­tec­tions

    Thomas Row­ley Ser­hiy Guz
    20 July 2022, 10.09am

    The Ukrain­ian par­lia­ment has passed two new rad­i­cal mea­sures on labour lib­er­al­i­sa­tion, prompt­ing fears of Ukraini­ans los­ing work­place rights per­ma­nent­ly as Russia’s war puts huge pres­sure on the country’s econ­o­my.

    In two laws passed on Mon­day and Tues­day, MPs vot­ed to legalise zero-hours con­tracts and made moves towards remov­ing up to 70% of the country’s work­force from pro­tec­tions guar­an­teed by nation­al labour law.

    The lat­ter mea­sure means the nation­al labour code no longer applies to employ­ees of small- and medi­um-sized enter­pris­es; instead, it is pro­posed that each work­er strikes an indi­vid­ual labour agree­ment with their employ­er. It also removes the legal author­i­ty of trade unions to veto work­place dis­missals.

    Draft law 5371 had pre­vi­ous­ly been crit­i­cised by the Inter­na­tion­al Labor Orga­ni­za­tion, as well as Ukrain­ian and Euro­pean trade unions, on the basis that it could “infringe inter­na­tion­al labour stan­dards”.

    Ukraine’s rul­ing Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty argued that the “extreme over-reg­u­la­tion of employ­ment con­tra­dicts the prin­ci­ples of mar­ket self-reg­u­la­tion [and] mod­ern per­son­nel man­age­ment”.

    Red tape in Ukraine’s HR laws, it sug­gest­ed, “cre­ates bureau­crat­ic bar­ri­ers both for the self-real­i­sa­tion of employ­ees and for rais­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of employ­ers”.

    The Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions of Ukraine will now ask pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyi to veto draft law 5371 when it goes to him for sig­na­ture – but will not make the same request over the pro­posed law on zero-hours con­tracts, Ukrain­ian MP Vadym Ivchenko told open­Democ­ra­cy.

    Natali­ia Lomonoso­va, an ana­lyst at Ukrain­ian think tank Cedos, warned that the two laws could fur­ther dete­ri­o­rate an already dif­fi­cult socio-eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion for Ukraini­ans suf­fer­ing from Russia’s mil­i­tary cam­paign.

    Accord­ing to the UN’s lat­est num­bers, Russia’s inva­sion has led to at least sev­en mil­lion peo­ple becom­ing dis­placed inside Ukraine itself, which has been com­pound­ed by a severe eco­nom­ic cri­sis hit­ting fam­i­lies and indi­vid­u­als hard. At the same time, the World Bank has pre­dict­ed that Ukraine’s econ­o­my will con­tract by 45% this year.

    With these fac­tors in mind, Lomonoso­va argued that Ukraini­ans have lit­tle choice or bar­gain­ing pow­er when it comes to employ­ers – the num­ber of avail­able vacan­cies is vast­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate to the num­ber of peo­ple now look­ing for work in the coun­try. “Peo­ple right now have no bar­gain­ing pow­er, and trade unions can­not pro­tect them,” she said.

    Speak­ing to open­Democ­ra­cy, Lomonoso­va expressed a fear that, as a result of the dis­place­ment, “many peo­ple will find them­selves in the sit­u­a­tion of Ukrain­ian migrant work­ers” in their own coun­try – mean­ing, for instance, peo­ple will have lit­tle choice but to accept poor con­di­tions and to be ever more depen­dent on their employ­ers.

    ‘Win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty’

    A lead­ing mem­ber of Zelenskyi’s par­ty promised fur­ther lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of Ukraine’s labour leg­is­la­tion ear­li­er this month.

    “These are draft laws that busi­ness is wait­ing for, draft laws that will pro­tect the inter­ests of all entre­pre­neurs. And work­ers, too, by the way,” wrote MP Dany­lo Het­mant­sev on Telegram on 9 July.

    A work­er should be able to reg­u­late his rela­tion­ship with an employ­er him­self. With­out the state,” not­ed Het­mant­sev, who is head of the Ukrain­ian parliament’s finance com­mit­tee.

    This is what hap­pens in a state if it’s free, Euro­pean and mar­ket-ori­ent­ed. Oth­er­wise, the coun­try will be trav­el­ling with one leg on an express train to the EU, and with anoth­er inside a Sovi­et-era train going in the oth­er direc­tion.

    Ukrain­ian labour lawyer George San­dul pre­vi­ous­ly told open­Democ­ra­cy that MPs had used Russia’s inva­sion of the coun­try as a “win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty” in which to try to push through dras­tic changes to labour leg­is­la­tion.

    Lomonoso­va, of Cedos, agreed with San­dul, argu­ing that dereg­u­la­tion and the strip­ping back of social guar­an­tees was a long-term pol­i­cy of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment even before the war, and was like­ly part of an effort to attract for­eign investors.

    She point­ed to the fact that both of the laws passed this week date to an ear­ly attempt by the Zelen­skyi admin­is­tra­tion and the rul­ing par­ty to dereg­u­late labour leg­is­la­tion in 2020–21. This attempt was beat­en back as a result of a protest cam­paign by Ukrain­ian trade unions, a prospect now hard to imag­ine due to the war and mar­tial law, Lomonso­va said.

    As she put it, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and rul­ing par­ty are also now increas­ing­ly talk­ing about the fact that the state “can­not afford wel­fare, employ­ment ben­e­fits or pro­tec­tion of labour rights” because of the war.

    In con­trast to the dereg­u­la­tion trend, Lomonso­va says that there is clear sup­port among the Ukrain­ian pub­lic for social democ­ra­cy.

    “Year on year, opin­ion sur­veys have shown that Ukraini­ans have strong social demo­c­ra­t­ic atti­tudes, includ­ing in favour of wel­fare,” Lomonoso­va said. “They expect the gov­ern­ment to pro­tect their labour rights and offer a com­plete social pack­age. Not even war can change this.”

    Zero-hours con­tracts

    Under Ukraine’s new zero-hours leg­is­la­tion, employ­ers who choose to use the con­tract option will be able to call up work­ers at will, though con­tracts must define the method and min­i­mum time­frame for inform­ing an employ­ee of work, and the response time of the work­er to agree or refuse to work.

    The leg­is­la­tion also says peo­ple employed on these new con­tracts must be guar­an­teed a min­i­mum of 32 hours’ work a month, and that the per­cent­age of employ­ees on zero-hours con­tracts at com­pa­ny can’t be more than 10%.

    In its expla­na­tion of the law, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment stat­ed that peo­ple involved in irreg­u­lar work are cur­rent­ly employed “with­out any social or labour guar­an­tees”.

    There­fore, it says, zero-hours con­tracts – a term the gov­ern­ment used – will help “legalise the work of free­lancers, who most­ly work on short-term projects and are not lim­it­ed to work­ing for a sin­gle client”.

    Labour lawyer and activist Vitaliy Dudin told open­Democ­ra­cy that, as a result of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis caused by the war, Ukraini­ans are fac­ing ever greater “eco­nom­ic risks” and pover­ty – and this means that Ukrain­ian employ­ers “will be able to rad­i­cal­ly reduce labour costs”.

    The new con­tracts pro­posed under zero-hours leg­is­la­tion, he sug­gest­ed, could also lead to two-tier work­places, where employ­ers offer secure jobs to loy­al or non-unionised staff, while oth­ers face pre­car­i­ous employ­ment or imme­di­ate dis­missal for rea­sons man­u­fac­tured by the employ­ers.

    This could affect work­places with hun­dreds of work­ers, includ­ing pub­lic sec­tor jobs at risk of aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies, such as hos­pi­tals, rail­way depots, post offices and infra­struc­ture main­te­nance, Dudin said.

    ...

    What hap­pens after the war?

    Euro­pean trade union groups have long crit­i­cised the grow­ing trend towards labour lib­er­al­i­sa­tion in Ukraine since Zelen­skyi and his polit­i­cal par­ty, Ser­vant of the Peo­ple, came to pow­er in 2019.

    On 14 July, as rumours of a new vote on draft law 5371 spread, three Euro­pean trade union con­fed­er­a­tions expressed their con­cern that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and rul­ing par­ty “con­tin­ue to reject the EU’s val­ues of social dia­logue and social rights” with its labour lib­er­al­i­sa­tion pro­gramme.

    “We are strong­ly con­cerned about regres­sive labour reforms con­tin­u­ing after the emer­gency of war is over,” the unions’ let­ter said, claim­ing the reforms “go in the oppo­site direc­tion to EU prin­ci­ples and val­ues”.

    Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have pre­vi­ous­ly crit­i­cised draft law 5371 as a poten­tial dan­ger to the country’s inte­gra­tion into the Euro­pean Union. Ukraine was grant­ed EU can­di­date sta­tus in late June.

    Both Ukraine’s 2014 Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU and its 2020 Polit­i­cal, Free Trade and Strate­gic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment with the UK con­tain pro­vi­sions on ensur­ing work­place pro­tec­tions – includ­ing against attempts to attract inter­na­tion­al invest­ment.

    Lás­zló Andor, a for­mer EU com­mis­sion­er for employ­ment, social affairs and inclu­sion between 2010 and 2014, told open­Democ­ra­cy that he believed this new leg­is­la­tion sug­gest­ed that Ukraine was going in a “com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent direc­tion” from EU norms on decent work.

    “This case is a big dose of oppor­tunism,” said Andor, now sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Foun­da­tion for Euro­pean Pro­gres­sive Stud­ies, a Brus­sels think tank.

    “Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers need to under­stand bet­ter what the dif­fer­ence is between a con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean mod­el and these moves towards a very pre­car­i­ous labour mar­ket.

    “Ukrain­ian trade unions are not being lis­tened to suf­fi­cient­ly. This would be ele­men­tary in the Euro­pean Union.“

    “There is an enor­mous amount of nation­al cohe­sion in Ukraine, which the rest of the world admires,“ Andor con­tin­ued. “But these moves, in my opin­ion, can also under­mine nation­al uni­ty – some­thing very much need­ed for resist­ing a for­eign inva­sion.“

    ...

    While rul­ing par­ty MPs have sug­gest­ed that draft law 5371 will passed as a tem­po­rary, wartime mea­sure, MP Mykhai­lo Volynets, a mem­ber of the same Batkivshchy­na par­ty as Ivchenko, argued “it is clear that no one will be able to undo this sit­u­a­tion lat­er” in a post on Face­book.

    “The labour code will no longer apply, col­lec­tive agree­ments will be elim­i­nat­ed, and even those mech­a­nisms of employ­ee pro­tec­tion that are in place today will not work. This is a brazen vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al norms and stan­dards in the field of labour,” he said.

    ———-

    “Ukraine uses Russ­ian inva­sion to pass laws wreck­ing work­ers’ rights” by Thomas Row­ley Ser­hiy Guz; OpenDemocracy.net; 07/20/2022

    “In two laws passed on Mon­day and Tues­day, MPs vot­ed to legalise zero-hours con­tracts and made moves towards remov­ing up to 70% of the country’s work­force from pro­tec­tions guar­an­teed by nation­al labour law.”

    The writ­ing was on the wall for months now, so we can’t real­ly be sur­prised. Still, it’s a shock­ing move by Ukraine’s par­lia­ment, made all the more shock­ing by the dis­turb­ing neolib­er­al lan­guage being used by the back­ers of these laws. Lan­guage mim­ic­k­ing the 19th cen­tu­ry far­ci­cal notion that employ­ers and employ­ees can nego­ti­ate with each oth­er on a lev­el play­ing field, and there­fore col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is unnec­es­sary. Ukraine real­ly is being turned into a giant exper­i­ment. An exper­i­ment of shack­ling a pop­u­lace in the mid­dle of a war-trig­gered eco­nom­ic melt­down with 19th cen­tu­ry labor laws. The kind of exper­i­ment where we more or less already know how it’s going to turn out. That’s part of what makes this such a shock­ing move: it’s guar­an­teed to cre­ate mas­sive hard­ship for the Ukrain­ian pop­u­lace. Unless you hap­pen to be a busi­ness own­er, you’re life is poised to get A LOT worse as a result of this law. And that’s on top of all of the hard­ship from the war. The pas­sage of these kinds of laws at any point would be an act of cru­el­ty, but doing this in the mid­dle of war is just a shock­ing lev­el of cru­el­ty:

    ...
    The lat­ter mea­sure means the nation­al labour code no longer applies to employ­ees of small- and medi­um-sized enter­pris­es; instead, it is pro­posed that each work­er strikes an indi­vid­ual labour agree­ment with their employ­er. It also removes the legal author­i­ty of trade unions to veto work­place dis­missals.

    ...

    Ukraine’s rul­ing Ser­vant of the Peo­ple par­ty argued that the “extreme over-reg­u­la­tion of employ­ment con­tra­dicts the prin­ci­ples of mar­ket self-reg­u­la­tion [and] mod­ern per­son­nel man­age­ment”.

    Red tape in Ukraine’s HR laws, it sug­gest­ed, “cre­ates bureau­crat­ic bar­ri­ers both for the self-real­i­sa­tion of employ­ees and for rais­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of employ­ers”.

    ...

    A lead­ing mem­ber of Zelenskyi’s par­ty promised fur­ther lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of Ukraine’s labour leg­is­la­tion ear­li­er this month.

    These are draft laws that busi­ness is wait­ing for, draft laws that will pro­tect the inter­ests of all entre­pre­neurs. And work­ers, too, by the way,” wrote MP Dany­lo Het­mant­sev on Telegram on 9 July.

    A work­er should be able to reg­u­late his rela­tion­ship with an employ­er him­self. With­out the state,” not­ed Het­mant­sev, who is head of the Ukrain­ian parliament’s finance com­mit­tee.

    This is what hap­pens in a state if it’s free, Euro­pean and mar­ket-ori­ent­ed. Oth­er­wise, the coun­try will be trav­el­ling with one leg on an express train to the EU, and with anoth­er inside a Sovi­et-era train going in the oth­er direc­tion.
    ...

    And it’s not like the real motive for draft law 5371 was the war despite the cur­rent claims by the law’s back­ers. As we saw, Zelenkskiy’s par­ty has been try­ing to pass this law for over a year. As we also saw, the politi­cian who craft­ed 5371 did so under the aus­pices of a USAID pro­gram. They just could­n’t get the par­lia­men­tary sup­port until now. That’s why the assur­ances by some of the law’s back­ers that bill 5371 is just a tem­po­rary wartime mea­sure can’t be tak­en seri­ous­ly. Ukraine has clear­ly been turned into a inter­na­tion­al neolib­er­al exper­i­ment. The kind of exper­i­ment that might get start­ed with the war but obvi­ous­ly isn’t meant to end with the war. It’s intend­ed to be a per­ma­nent exper­i­ment:

    ...
    Natali­ia Lomonoso­va, an ana­lyst at Ukrain­ian think tank Cedos, warned that the two laws could fur­ther dete­ri­o­rate an already dif­fi­cult socio-eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion for Ukraini­ans suf­fer­ing from Russia’s mil­i­tary cam­paign.

    ...

    Speak­ing to open­Democ­ra­cy, Lomonoso­va expressed a fear that, as a result of the dis­place­ment, “many peo­ple will find them­selves in the sit­u­a­tion of Ukrain­ian migrant work­ers” in their own coun­try – mean­ing, for instance, peo­ple will have lit­tle choice but to accept poor con­di­tions and to be ever more depen­dent on their employ­ers.

    ...

    Ukrain­ian labour lawyer George San­dul pre­vi­ous­ly told open­Democ­ra­cy that MPs had used Russia’s inva­sion of the coun­try as a “win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty” in which to try to push through dras­tic changes to labour leg­is­la­tion.

    Lomonoso­va, of Cedos, agreed with San­dul, argu­ing that dereg­u­la­tion and the strip­ping back of social guar­an­tees was a long-term pol­i­cy of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment even before the war, and was like­ly part of an effort to attract for­eign investors.

    She point­ed to the fact that both of the laws passed this week date to an ear­ly attempt by the Zelen­skyi admin­is­tra­tion and the rul­ing par­ty to dereg­u­late labour leg­is­la­tion in 2020–21. This attempt was beat­en back as a result of a protest cam­paign by Ukrain­ian trade unions, a prospect now hard to imag­ine due to the war and mar­tial law, Lomonso­va said.

    As she put it, the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and rul­ing par­ty are also now increas­ing­ly talk­ing about the fact that the state “can­not afford wel­fare, employ­ment ben­e­fits or pro­tec­tion of labour rights” because of the war.

    ...

    While rul­ing par­ty MPs have sug­gest­ed that draft law 5371 will passed as a tem­po­rary, wartime mea­sure, MP Mykhai­lo Volynets, a mem­ber of the same Batkivshchy­na par­ty as Ivchenko, argued “it is clear that no one will be able to undo this sit­u­a­tion lat­er” in a post on Face­book.

    “The labour code will no longer apply, col­lec­tive agree­ments will be elim­i­nat­ed, and even those mech­a­nisms of employ­ee pro­tec­tion that are in place today will not work. This is a brazen vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al norms and stan­dards in the field of labour,” he said.
    ...

    But when we lis­ten to the advo­cates for the new law, they don’t describe what is hap­pen­ing in Ukraine as a grand exper­i­ment. Quite the con­trary, they describe it as being in line with EU stan­dards. A claim that’s hard to dis­miss con­sid­er­ing all of this is hap­pen­ing in the con­text of Ukraine’s EU mem­ber can­di­date sta­tus. And yet, as we’ve seen, labor experts warn that Ukraine’s moves are decid­ed­ly against the EU’s labor stan­dards that includes the right to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing. How are Ukrain­ian atti­tudes towards join­ing the EU going to shift as a result of what is effec­tive­ly a giant betray­al:

    ...
    Draft law 5371 had pre­vi­ous­ly been crit­i­cised by the Inter­na­tion­al Labor Orga­ni­za­tion, as well as Ukrain­ian and Euro­pean trade unions, on the basis that it could “infringe inter­na­tion­al labour stan­dards”.

    ...

    The Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions of Ukraine will now ask pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skyi to veto draft law 5371 when it goes to him for sig­na­ture – but will not make the same request over the pro­posed law on zero-hours con­tracts, Ukrain­ian MP Vadym Ivchenko told open­Democ­ra­cy.

    ...

    On 14 July, as rumours of a new vote on draft law 5371 spread, three Euro­pean trade union con­fed­er­a­tions expressed their con­cern that the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and rul­ing par­ty “con­tin­ue to reject the EU’s val­ues of social dia­logue and social rights” with its labour lib­er­al­i­sa­tion pro­gramme.

    “We are strong­ly con­cerned about regres­sive labour reforms con­tin­u­ing after the emer­gency of war is over,” the unions’ let­ter said, claim­ing the reforms “go in the oppo­site direc­tion to EU prin­ci­ples and val­ues”.

    Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have pre­vi­ous­ly crit­i­cised draft law 5371 as a poten­tial dan­ger to the country’s inte­gra­tion into the Euro­pean Union. Ukraine was grant­ed EU can­di­date sta­tus in late June.

    Both Ukraine’s 2014 Asso­ci­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU and its 2020 Polit­i­cal, Free Trade and Strate­gic Part­ner­ship Agree­ment with the UK con­tain pro­vi­sions on ensur­ing work­place pro­tec­tions – includ­ing against attempts to attract inter­na­tion­al invest­ment.

    Lás­zló Andor, a for­mer EU com­mis­sion­er for employ­ment, social affairs and inclu­sion between 2010 and 2014, told open­Democ­ra­cy that he believed this new leg­is­la­tion sug­gest­ed that Ukraine was going in a “com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent direc­tion” from EU norms on decent work.

    “This case is a big dose of oppor­tunism,” said Andor, now sec­re­tary gen­er­al of the Foun­da­tion for Euro­pean Pro­gres­sive Stud­ies, a Brus­sels think tank.

    “Ukrain­ian law­mak­ers need to under­stand bet­ter what the dif­fer­ence is between a con­ti­nen­tal Euro­pean mod­el and these moves towards a very pre­car­i­ous labour mar­ket.

    “Ukrain­ian trade unions are not being lis­tened to suf­fi­cient­ly. This would be ele­men­tary in the Euro­pean Union.“
    ...

    So what’s going on here? Is Ukraine actu­al­ly craft­ing laws that are anti­thet­i­cal to EU labor pro­tec­tions? Or is Ukraine ahead of the curve on these mat­ters? Again, let’s not for­get that it was­n’t that long ago that the EU was impos­ing bru­tal aus­ter­i­ty on the work­ers of coun­tries like Greece that includ­ed mass pri­va­ti­za­tions and oth­er mea­sures fol­low­ing neo­liober­al dog­ma. It was just 2015 when EU lead­ers were demand­ing that Greek PM Alex­is Tsipras not restore the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights that had been stripped away under Greece’s aus­ter­i­ty regime. The EU of 2022 is a lot less ‘labor friend­ly’ than it was in 2002, before all of the var­i­ous crises pre­sent­ed one oppor­tu­ni­ty after anoth­er to pare back those pro­tec­tions. And as the rad­i­cal nature of the changes in Ukraine demon­strate, long-term crises present long-term oppor­tu­ni­ties for even more rad­i­cal changes. It’s some­thing EU work­ers will prob­a­bly want to keep in mind as the war in Ukraine steadi­ly morphs into a long-term eco­nom­ic cri­sis across the EU. A long-term eco­nom­ic cri­sis that dou­bles as a very juicy long-term oppor­tu­ni­ty for the same forces cur­rent­ly ‘help­ing’ Ukraine in its time of need.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 22, 2022, 3:43 pm
  11. The fact that a Saky air base in Crimea suf­fered a sig­nif­i­cant attack isn’t real­ly in dis­pute at this point. But just about every­thing else involv­ing the attack on the air base locat­ed at least 150 kilo­me­ters from the clos­est launch sites usable by Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary forces remains mys­tery. In part that’s because the Ukraine gov­ern­ment itself is treat­ing the attack like state secret. The only thing reporters are being told by anony­mous gov­ern­ment offi­cials is that “a device exclu­sive­ly of Ukrain­ian man­u­fac­ture was used.”

    So a Russ­ian air base thought to be well out of range of the longest-range Ukrain­ian mis­sile sys­tems is struck by a num­ber of explo­sions and the only infor­ma­tion being released by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment about the attack is that a domes­ti­cal­ly-pro­duced “device” was used. What’s going on here?

    Well, as we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle except below from the Kyiv Post, observers are start­ing to sus­pect the Ukrain­ian-built Grim heavy mis­sile launch­ing plat­form was used in the attacks. The Grim launch­er was devel­oped between 2013–2019 and has four times the range of US-deliv­ered HIMARS.

    There’s a prob­lem with this Grim the­o­ry. Only two copies were known to exist as of 2019: one for test­ing and one for over­seas sales. And yet, as we’re going to see, the quick suc­ces­sion of explo­sion at the air­base sug­gests that Ukraine would have need­ed at least 6 of these sys­tem in oper­a­tion. These are the kinds of nag­ging detail that has at least one observ­er sug­gest­ing that the Grim nar­ra­tive is just a diver­sion.

    If Ukraine did­n’t car­ry out that attack using Grim mis­siles, what did it use? Sab­o­tage is one pos­si­bil­i­ty, but the Krem­lin is already mak­ing anoth­er obvi­ous sug­ges­tion: secret US-deliv­ered long-range mis­sile sys­tems, which would be in vio­la­tion of the White House­’e repeat­ed pledges to not deliv­er long-range mis­siles to Ukraine.

    So while we don’t yet know if Ukraine is in secret pos­ses­sion of a game-change long-range mis­sile sys­tem that it devel­oped domes­ti­cal­ly, we had prob­a­bly bet­ter hope that’s the case. Because the alter­na­tive is that Ukraine is sport­ing long-range mis­sile sys­tems secret­ly deliv­ered by its West­ern part­ners despite assur­ances that no such esca­la­tions would take place, which would be an act of MAD­ness:

    The New York Times

    Explo­sions Rip Through Russ­ian Base on Crimea

    A senior Ukrain­ian offi­cial said his country’s forces were respon­si­ble, which Ukraine did not pub­licly con­firm or deny. Russ­ian offi­cials said only that muni­tions had det­o­nat­ed.

    By Michael Schwirtz
    Aug. 9, 2022

    ODESA, Ukraine — A series of explo­sions rocked a key Russ­ian air base in Krem­lin-occu­pied Crimea on Tues­day, killing at least one per­son and sow­ing con­fu­sion among local offi­cials about the cause and whether Ukraine’s mil­i­tary could threat­en tar­gets on the penin­su­la.

    Pub­licly, Ukrain­ian offi­cials would not con­firm the involve­ment of Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, as Russ­ian and occu­pa­tion offi­cials scram­bled to deter­mine the source of the blasts, rais­ing the ter­ror­ist threat lev­el in the area. But a senior Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary offi­cial with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion said that Ukrain­ian forces were respon­si­ble, hav­ing car­ried out an attack on the Saki air base on the west­ern coast of Crimea.

    Speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mil­i­tary mat­ters, the offi­cial said the air base was one from which planes reg­u­lar­ly took off for attacks on Ukrain­ian forces. The offi­cial would not dis­close what type of weapon caused the explo­sions, say­ing only that “a device exclu­sive­ly of Ukrain­ian man­u­fac­ture was used.”

    A Ukrain­ian attack on Russ­ian forces in the Crimean Penin­su­la would rep­re­sent a sig­nif­i­cant expan­sion of Ukraine’s offen­sive efforts, which had most­ly been con­fined to push­ing Russ­ian troops from ter­ri­to­ries occu­pied after Feb. 24, when the inva­sion began. For weeks, how­ev­er, Ukraine has been shift­ing troops and strik­ing deep­er behind the front lines than before, as it sig­nals that it is prepar­ing a major coun­terof­fen­sive in the Kher­son region and uses longer-range weapons sup­plied by the West.

    Crimea, shield­ed by the Russ­ian Navy and heav­i­ly for­ti­fied after eight years in Russ­ian con­trol, has large­ly been spared the vio­lence. Last month, a small explo­sive device deliv­ered by drone blew up at the head­quar­ters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean port of Sev­astopol, injur­ing six but caus­ing lit­tle dam­age. Rus­sia blamed Ukrain­ian forces for the attack, but Ukrain­ian offi­cials vocif­er­ous­ly denied it.

    A strike in Crimea would also be an embar­rass­ment for Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin of Rus­sia, who often speaks of Crimea, which he ille­gal­ly annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as if it were hal­lowed ground. Ukraine pos­sess­es few weapons that can reach the penin­su­la, aside from air­craft that would risk being shot down imme­di­ate­ly by Russia’s heavy air defens­es in the region. The air base, which is near the city of Novofed­eriv­ka, is well over 100 miles from the near­est Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary posi­tion.

    The senior Ukrain­ian offi­cial said the attack involved par­ti­san resis­tance forces loy­al to the gov­ern­ment in Kyiv, but he would not dis­close whether those forces car­ried out the attack or assist­ed reg­u­lar Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units in tar­get­ing the base, as has some­times occurred in oth­er occu­pied Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ries. It was not clear how many det­o­na­tions there were, but wit­ness­es and Russ­ian offi­cials cit­ed mul­ti­ple blasts, which videos post­ed to social media appeared to con­firm.

    As with past explo­sions and fires in occu­pied ter­ri­to­ry or with­in Russ­ian bor­ders, Ukrain­ian offi­cials made no pub­lic admis­sions, but hint­ed at involve­ment.

    Ukraine’s Defense Min­istry said in a state­ment that it could not “deter­mine the cause of the explo­sion,” and sug­gest­ed that per­son­nel at the base adhere to no-smok­ing reg­u­la­tions. It then tweet­ed, with a pho­to of black smoke ris­ing over the penin­su­la, “the pres­ence of occu­py­ing troops on the ter­ri­to­ry of Ukrain­ian Crimea is not com­pat­i­ble with the high tourist sea­son.”

    ...

    Russia’s Defense Min­istry said in a state­ment that the explo­sions were caused by the det­o­na­tion of avi­a­tion ord­nance at the base. While the min­istry offered no spec­u­la­tion about whether Ukrain­ian forces might have been involved, the deci­sion by Crimea’s Krem­lin-installed leader, Sergei Aksy­onov, to raise the ter­ror­ist threat lev­el to yel­low sug­gest­ed offi­cials were con­cerned about secu­ri­ty on the penin­su­la.

    “This mea­sure is exclu­sive­ly pro­phy­lac­tic, because the sit­u­a­tion in the region is under full con­trol,” Mr. Aksy­onov said in a state­ment on Telegram.

    In the eight years of Russia’s occu­pa­tion of Crimea, the penin­su­la has trans­formed from a qui­et south­ern Ukrain­ian beach des­ti­na­tion into a major base of Russ­ian mil­i­tary oper­a­tions. It is from there that the Kremlin’s forces lunged into south­ern Ukraine in a light­ing oper­a­tion after Feb. 24 that gob­bled up a huge swath of ter­ri­to­ry, includ­ing the neigh­bor­ing Kher­son region, which Russ­ian forces almost ful­ly con­trol.

    Short­ly after the explo­sions, Mr. Aksy­onov arrived at the scene. Stand­ing in front of a large black plume of smoke, he said that a three-mile perime­ter had been erect­ed around the site of the base to pro­tect res­i­dents.

    “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, one per­son died,” he said. “I express my most sin­cere sym­pa­thies to fam­i­ly and friends.” Crimea’s health min­istry report­ed that at least nine peo­ple were injured.

    To reach tar­gets deep behind ene­my lines, Ukraine has increas­ing­ly turned to par­ti­sans, often res­i­dents of Russ­ian-occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries who are loy­al to Ukraine, offi­cials said. Such peo­ple have helped Ukraine’s mil­i­tary strike Russ­ian bases and ammu­ni­tion depots, Ukrain­ian offi­cials say.

    Oth­ers have car­ried out attacks them­selves. Over the week­end, the Krem­lin-installed may­or of the city of Kher­son sud­den­ly fell ill and had to be evac­u­at­ed to Moscow, where there were reports that he was in a coma. Less than 24 hours lat­er, the deputy head of a major town in the region was shot and killed at his home, a spokes­woman for the region said.

    The senior Ukrain­ian offi­cial said that both instances were the work of local par­ti­san forces, though his claim could not be inde­pen­dent­ly ver­i­fied.

    In May, an explo­sion in Meli­topol, an occu­pied city north­east of Crimea, appeared to tar­get — and miss — the region­al chief installed by Moscow.

    Since the inva­sion began, Rus­sia has peri­od­i­cal­ly suf­fered attacks with­in its own bor­ders, includ­ing a heli­copter assault on a fuel depot and fires at anoth­er fuel depot — both sites rel­a­tive­ly close to Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry — and a blaze much deep­er into Rus­sia, at a mil­i­tary research insti­tute in Tver, near Moscow.

    Rus­sia accused Ukraine of car­ry­ing out the heli­copter strike, and ana­lysts have sug­gest­ed that Ukrain­ian sab­o­tage was prob­a­bly behind the fires. But Ukrain­ian only indi­rect­ly sug­gest­ed any involve­ment, and declined, and declined to pub­licly con­firm it.

    ...

    ———-

    “Explo­sions Rip Through Russ­ian Base on Crimea” By Michael Schwirtz; The New York Times; 08/09/2022

    “Speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mil­i­tary mat­ters, the offi­cial said the air base was one from which planes reg­u­lar­ly took off for attacks on Ukrain­ian forces. The offi­cial would not dis­close what type of weapon caused the explo­sions, say­ing only that “a device exclu­sive­ly of Ukrain­ian man­u­fac­ture was used.”

    Some sort of very suc­cess­ful mys­tery attack was car­ried out against the Saky air base in Crimea. Ukraine won’t say what it used in the attack but still insists that “a device exclu­sive­ly of Ukrain­ian man­u­fac­ture was used.” We’re also told that par­ti­san resis­tance forces were involved, but noth­ing about whether they played a direct role:

    ...
    A strike in Crimea would also be an embar­rass­ment for Pres­i­dent Vladimir V. Putin of Rus­sia, who often speaks of Crimea, which he ille­gal­ly annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as if it were hal­lowed ground. Ukraine pos­sess­es few weapons that can reach the penin­su­la, aside from air­craft that would risk being shot down imme­di­ate­ly by Russia’s heavy air defens­es in the region. The air base, which is near the city of Novofed­eriv­ka, is well over 100 miles from the near­est Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary posi­tion.

    The senior Ukrain­ian offi­cial said the attack involved par­ti­san resis­tance forces loy­al to the gov­ern­ment in Kyiv, but he would not dis­close whether those forces car­ried out the attack or assist­ed reg­u­lar Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary units in tar­get­ing the base, as has some­times occurred in oth­er occu­pied Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ries. It was not clear how many det­o­na­tions there were, but wit­ness­es and Russ­ian offi­cials cit­ed mul­ti­ple blasts, which videos post­ed to social media appeared to con­firm.
    ...

    So is Kyiv being coy about a net­work of sabo­teurs oper­at­ing in Crimea? It’s pos­si­ble. But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle in the Kyiv Post describes, observers have oth­er sus­pi­cions. Sur­pris­ing sus­pi­cions cen­tered on the Grim long-range mis­sile sys­tem. It’s been far from con­firmed that Grim mis­sile sys­tems were used, but they’re the log­i­cal sus­pect for a sim­ple rea­son: Ukraine does­n’t have any oth­er long-range mis­siles capa­ble of strike a tar­get that far away. The sur­pris­ing part is that Ukraine has any Grim mis­sile sys­tems at all. The weapon was being devel­oped between 2013 and 2019 and only two sys­tems were thought to have been built. This is why some experts sus­pect the talk about Grim mis­siles is just a dis­trac­tion. Rus­sia has already start­ed sug­gest­ing that US-deliv­ered long-range miss were used. If so, a Grim dis­trac­tion makes sense giv­en the US’s repeat­ed pledges of not deliv­er­ing any long-range mis­siles to Ukraine. So did Ukraine use a domes­ti­cal­ly-pro­duced long-range mis­sile sys­tem that it secret­ly pos­sess­es? Or is that just a cov­er for secret­ly-deliv­ered long-range mis­siles deliv­ered by the West?:

    Kyiv Post

    Evi­dence mount­ing that weapon used in Crimea air­field strikes may be Ukraine-made mis­sile sys­tem

    By Ste­fan Kor­shak.
    Pub­lished Aug. 10 at 4:59 pm

    A day after a wave of unex­pect­ed and destruc­tive strikes against a crit­i­cal Russ­ian air force air base in Crimea, evi­dence was mount­ing on Aug. 11 that the weapon used most like­ly was a high­ly-capa­ble Ukraine-pro­duced mis­sile sys­tem pos­si­bly thought by Moscow not to be in oper­a­tion.

    Saky air base, as the mis­sile flies, is at least 150 kilo­me­ters from the clos­est launch sites usable by Ukrain­ian Armed Forces (UAF) units. Until Tues­day, it was unclear to the Krem­lin and inde­pen­dent observers alike whether Ukraine had a weapon capa­ble of shoot­ing even close to that dis­tance.

    Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary sources on Wednes­day said that the Saky strikes destroyed at least nine Russ­ian air force planes parked at the base, and det­o­nat­ed mul­ti­ple muni­tions depots. Kyiv offi­cial sources made no com­ment on how, and by what means, the attacks were car­ried out.

    Andriy Tsaplienko, a high-pro­file Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary jour­nal­ist, in an August 10 Telegram post said that the only pos­si­ble tool Ukraine has to cause all that dam­age, at that range, was a weapon called the Grim heavy mis­sile launch­er. Oth­er sources said the evi­dence sup­port­ing Grim sys­tems as is not con­clu­sive.

    Also known as Sap­san, the truck-mount­ed Grim sys­tem was devel­oped by Ukraine’s Dnipro-based Yuzh­mash aero­space com­pa­ny from 2013–2019. Twin mis­siles car­ried aboard would have a range of at least 280 km – twice the reach of the Ukrain­ian army’s aging Tochka‑U rock­ets, and four times the range of US-deliv­ered HIMARS mis­siles known to be oper­at­ed by the Ukraine Armed Forces. Each Grim mis­sile, per design, car­ries close to a half ton of explo­sives, and is, per Yuzh­mash adver­tis­ing, capa­ble of pul­ver­iz­ing 10,000 square meters of tar­get area.

    Field­ing the Grim was slow and dif­fi­cult, due to lim­it­ed financ­ing of Ukraine’s defense sec­tor, the exact­ing tol­er­ances in bal­lis­tic mis­sile man­u­fac­tur­ing, and Kyiv’s loss of access to Russ­ian-man­u­fac­tured parts after Russ­ian inva­sion of Crimea and Don­bas in 2014. By 2019 only two sys­tems had report­ed­ly been built: one a test copy for the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, and one a sam­ple for over­seas arms sales, pos­si­bly to Sau­di Ara­bia. In 2021 Ukraine’s Defense Min­istry announced it intend­ed to field a “divi­sion” of Grim sys­tems, with­out say­ing when or how the sys­tems would be paid for.

    Some well-informed mil­i­tary observers sug­gest­ed talk of Grim mis­siles hit­ting Crimea could be mis­di­rec­tion. “I think a Grim is just a clever cov­er for the actu­al means to deliv­er that long-range strike (on Saky),” said Olek­sii Izhak, an ana­lyst for Ukraine’s Nation­al Insti­tute of Strate­gic Research. “Tar­get­ing and con­trol sys­tems need some test­ing and (the mis­siles) were hard­ly test­ed in real flights.”

    “But it (com­bat use of mul­ti­ple Grim sys­tems against Saky) is possible…and I hope it is,” Izhak added. He is a for­mer Yuzh­mash staffer.

    Russ­ian state media has flat­ly reject­ed even the pos­si­bil­i­ty Ukraine could man­u­fac­ture a world-class bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tem. Fol­low­ing the Saky strikes, Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da plat­forms have offered expla­na­tions for the blasts split rough­ly even­ly between a fire start­ed acci­dent­ly by a Russ­ian air force mem­ber, and deliv­ery of long-range Amer­i­can pre­ci­sion rock­ets to Ukraine, notwith­stand­ing flat, White House denials, first made in April, that the US will not trans­fer long-range strike sys­tems to Ukraine.

    Since inva­sion in Feb­ru­ary, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has hit Yuzh­mash only once, on July 15, launch­ing at least four long-range cruise mis­siles at the site, killing three peo­ple and dam­ag­ing some build­ings. Oth­er­wise, notwith­stand­ing more than 3,000 mis­siles fired at “strate­gic” tar­gets across Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s announced goal of destroy­ing all Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary infra­struc­ture, Moscow has left Yuzh­mash untouched. One pos­si­ble expla­na­tion may be in the plant’s design: As Sovi­et-era crit­i­cal mil­i­tary infra­struc­ture, Yuzhmash’s pro­duc­tion lines are wide­ly thought to be deep under­ground, in sites designed to resist a nuclear strike.

    What Yuzh­mash is man­u­fac­tur­ing and how capa­ble the pro­duc­tion lines are of hold­ing out against bom­bard­ment are Ukrain­ian state secrets, as is the num­ber of Grim sys­tems oper­at­ed by the UAF, and where they are locat­ed.

    Open-source news reports and hun­dreds of videos and social media posts fol­low­ing the Saky strikes showed between ten and twelve pow­er­ful explo­sions in and around the Saky air sta­tion. The scale of each of the det­o­na­tions – among oth­er dam­age blow­ing out auto­mo­bile win­dows a half-kilo­me­ter away – was con­sis­tent with the Grim missile’s 500 kg war­head. Alter­na­tive­ly, but the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, aer­i­al bombs or, even less like­ly, Ukrain­ian sabo­teurs, the­o­ret­i­cal­ly could also have been behind the blasts.

    The US news­pa­per New York Times, in a Tues­day arti­cle, cit­ed an unnamed Ukrain­ian offi­cial as say­ing “a device exclu­sive­ly of Ukrain­ian man­u­fac­ture was used” in the Saky strikes. If the Grim was used in the Saky strikes, giv­en the quick suc­ces­sion of the explo­sions on Wednes­day after­noon, it would like­ly mean Ukraine is oper­at­ing at min­i­mum six sys­tems – three times as many as were thought to be oper­a­tional in 2019.

    ...

    ————

    “Evi­dence mount­ing that weapon used in Crimea air­field strikes may be Ukraine-made mis­sile sys­tem” By Ste­fan Kor­shak; Kyiv Post; 08/10/2022

    ” Saky air base, as the mis­sile flies, is at least 150 kilo­me­ters from the clos­est launch sites usable by Ukrain­ian Armed Forces (UAF) units. Until Tues­day, it was unclear to the Krem­lin and inde­pen­dent observers alike whether Ukraine had a weapon capa­ble of shoot­ing even close to that dis­tance.

    No one was expect­ing an attack like this was even pos­si­ble. That’s why sus­pi­cions were imme­di­ate­ly direct­ed at the Grim heavy mis­sile launch­er, which has four times the range of the US-deliv­ered HIMARs. And yet no one thought Ukraine had any Grim sys­tems ready to field, hence the Krem­lin’s sug­ges­tions that Ukraine may have received long-range mis­siles from the US:

    ...
    Andriy Tsaplienko, a high-pro­file Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary jour­nal­ist, in an August 10 Telegram post said that the only pos­si­ble tool Ukraine has to cause all that dam­age, at that range, was a weapon called the Grim heavy mis­sile launch­er. Oth­er sources said the evi­dence sup­port­ing Grim sys­tems as is not con­clu­sive.

    Also known as Sap­san, the truck-mount­ed Grim sys­tem was devel­oped by Ukraine’s Dnipro-based Yuzh­mash aero­space com­pa­ny from 2013–2019. Twin mis­siles car­ried aboard would have a range of at least 280 km – twice the reach of the Ukrain­ian army’s aging Tochka‑U rock­ets, and four times the range of US-deliv­ered HIMARS mis­siles known to be oper­at­ed by the Ukraine Armed Forces. Each Grim mis­sile, per design, car­ries close to a half ton of explo­sives, and is, per Yuzh­mash adver­tis­ing, capa­ble of pul­ver­iz­ing 10,000 square meters of tar­get area.

    ...

    Some well-informed mil­i­tary observers sug­gest­ed talk of Grim mis­siles hit­ting Crimea could be mis­di­rec­tion. “I think a Grim is just a clever cov­er for the actu­al means to deliv­er that long-range strike (on Saky),” said Olek­sii Izhak, an ana­lyst for Ukraine’s Nation­al Insti­tute of Strate­gic Research. “Tar­get­ing and con­trol sys­tems need some test­ing and (the mis­siles) were hard­ly test­ed in real flights.”

    “But it (com­bat use of mul­ti­ple Grim sys­tems against Saky) is possible…and I hope it is,” Izhak added. He is a for­mer Yuzh­mash staffer.

    Russ­ian state media has flat­ly reject­ed even the pos­si­bil­i­ty Ukraine could man­u­fac­ture a world-class bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tem. Fol­low­ing the Saky strikes, Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da plat­forms have offered expla­na­tions for the blasts split rough­ly even­ly between a fire start­ed acci­dent­ly by a Russ­ian air force mem­ber, and deliv­ery of long-range Amer­i­can pre­ci­sion rock­ets to Ukraine, notwith­stand­ing flat, White House denials, first made in April, that the US will not trans­fer long-range strike sys­tems to Ukraine.
    ...

    Adding to the mys­tery is that only two Grim sys­tems were known to have been built, and one of those sys­tems was a sam­ple for over­seas sales. And yet, based on the quick suc­ces­sion of explo­sions in Crimea, that would sug­gest more than one Grim sys­tem was used to launch that attack. A min­i­mum of six Grim launch­er would have been need­ed to car­ry out that attack. So that would be quite a debut for this pre­vi­ous­ly secret mis­sile sys­tem if true:

    ...
    Field­ing the Grim was slow and dif­fi­cult, due to lim­it­ed financ­ing of Ukraine’s defense sec­tor, the exact­ing tol­er­ances in bal­lis­tic mis­sile man­u­fac­tur­ing, and Kyiv’s loss of access to Russ­ian-man­u­fac­tured parts after Russ­ian inva­sion of Crimea and Don­bas in 2014. By 2019 only two sys­tems had report­ed­ly been built: one a test copy for the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary, and one a sam­ple for over­seas arms sales, pos­si­bly to Sau­di Ara­bia. In 2021 Ukraine’s Defense Min­istry announced it intend­ed to field a “divi­sion” of Grim sys­tems, with­out say­ing when or how the sys­tems would be paid for.

    ...

    The US news­pa­per New York Times, in a Tues­day arti­cle, cit­ed an unnamed Ukrain­ian offi­cial as say­ing “a device exclu­sive­ly of Ukrain­ian man­u­fac­ture was used” in the Saky strikes. If the Grim was used in the Saky strikes, giv­en the quick suc­ces­sion of the explo­sions on Wednes­day after­noon, it would like­ly mean Ukraine is oper­at­ing at min­i­mum six sys­tems – three times as many as were thought to be oper­a­tional in 2019.
    ...

    So did Ukraine secret­ly build 4 extra Grim mis­siles launch­ers and mis­siles? Because if not, sab­o­tage or West­ern-deliv­ered long-range mis­siles are the only oth­er real­is­tic options left. And it does­n’t real­ly sound like this was sab­o­tage.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 11, 2022, 3:46 pm
  12. Here’s a recent WaPo arti­cle that under­scores one of the most impor­tant facts about the con­flict in Ukraine to keep in mind: Ukraine is a glob­al min­er­al pow­er­house filled with not just boun­ti­ful stores of tra­di­tion­al min­er­als like coal but the rare earth met­als like lithi­um that are cru­cial to mod­ern high-tech economies. A lot of cov­er­age has been giv­en to sto­ries involv­ing Ukraine’s vast nat­ur­al gas reserves. It’s easy to for­get that Ukraine also has 117 of the 120 most wide­ly used min­er­als and met­als. Tens of tril­lions of dol­lars in min­er­al reserves are at stake.

    And as the arti­cle also points out, those min­er­al reserves are now trad­ing at deep dis­counts as the war cre­ates enor­mous investor uncer­tain­ty. As the arti­cle also points out, that fire sale on Ukraine’s min­er­al wealth is unlike­ly end until a long-term peace agree­ment with Rus­sia has been achieved. Frozen con­flicts are bad for invest­ment. So as long as Ukraine and Rus­sia are tech­ni­cal­ly at war, Ukraine’s vast min­er­al wealth is going to be for sale. .

    So it’s worth keep­ing in mind that Ukraine’s pos­ses­sion of one of the largest reserves of strate­gic min­er­al wealth in Europe was prob­a­bly a major fac­tor moti­vat­ing the years-long efforts to pull Ukraine into a ‘West­ern’ orbit, cul­mi­nat­ing in all of the West­ern involve­ment with the 2014 Maid­an rev­o­lu­tion. And it’s also worth keep­ing in mind that, the more own­er­ship of Ukraine’s min­er­al wealth is in the hands of inter­na­tion­al investors, the greater the inter­na­tion­al pres­sure will be for the con­flict in Ukraine to not just come to a peace­ful set­tle­ment but to end with Ukraine back in con­trol of all of the areas where those investors own those reserves:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    In the Ukraine war, a bat­tle for the nation’s min­er­al and ener­gy wealth

    By Antho­ny Faio­la and Dal­ton Ben­nett
    August 10, 2022 at 2:00 a.m. EDT

    Less than 100 miles east, artillery salvos pound Ukrain­ian defen­sive posi­tions as Russ­ian forces inch for­ward. But below the sur­face of this sprawl­ing Don­bas coal field, a dwin­dling num­ber of min­ers are still work­ing, extract­ing a fuel that is emblem­at­ic of one of Ukraine’s biggest chal­lenges.

    The Krem­lin is rob­bing this nation of the build­ing blocks of its econ­o­my — its nat­ur­al resources.

    After near­ly six months of fight­ing, Moscow’s slop­py war has yield­ed at least one big reward: expand­ed con­trol over some of the most min­er­al-rich lands in Europe. Ukraine har­bors some of the world’s largest reserves of tita­ni­um and iron ore, fields of untapped lithi­um and mas­sive deposits of coal. Col­lec­tive­ly, they are worth tens of tril­lions of dol­lars.

    The lion’s share of those coal deposits, which for decades have pow­ered Ukraine’s crit­i­cal steel indus­try, are con­cen­trat­ed in the east, where Moscow has made the most inroads. That’s put them in Russ­ian hands, along with sig­nif­i­cant amounts of oth­er valu­able ener­gy and min­er­al deposits used for every­thing from air­craft parts to smart­phones, accord­ing to an analy­sis for The Wash­ing­ton Post by the Cana­di­an geopo­lit­i­cal risk firm SecDev..

    Rus­sia pos­sess­es vast amounts of nat­ur­al resources. But deny­ing Ukraine its own has strate­gi­cal­ly under­mined the country’s econ­o­my, forc­ing Kyiv to import coal to keep the lights on in cities and towns. Should the Krem­lin suc­ceed in annex­ing the Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry it has seized — as U.S. offi­cials believe it will try to do in com­ing months — Kyiv would per­ma­nent­ly lose access to almost two-thirds of its deposits.

    Ukraine would also lose myr­i­ad oth­er reserves, includ­ing stores of nat­ur­al gas, oil and rare earth min­er­als — essen­tial for cer­tain high-tech com­po­nents — that could ham­per West­ern Europe’s search for alter­na­tives to imports from Rus­sia and Chi­na.

    “The worst sce­nario is that Ukraine los­es land, no longer has a strong com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my and becomes more like one of the Baltic states, a nation unable to sus­tain its indus­tri­al econ­o­my,” said Stanislav Zinchenko, chief exec­u­tive of GMK, a Kyiv-based eco­nom­ic think tank. “This is what Rus­sia wants. To weak­en us.”

    Late last month, 1,200 feet under­ground in the Don­bas region mine, soot-caked work­ers clawed at the black coal seams with a sense of urgency. The coal hewed from the walls fuels a near­by pow­er plant, part of an ener­gy grid strained and weak­ened by the war.

    “Those that left to fight at the front are fight­ing for us down here,” said Yuri, a 29-year-old exca­va­tor oper­a­tor. “We need to get as much coal as we can. The coun­try needs it.”

    $12.4 tril­lion in lost wealth

    Ukraine is wide­ly known as an agri­cul­tur­al pow­er­house.. But as a raw-mate­r­i­al moth­er lode, it’s home to 117 of the 120 most wide­ly used min­er­als and met­als, and a major source of fos­sil fuels. Offi­cial web­sites no longer show geolo­ca­tions of these deposits; the gov­ern­ment, cit­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty, took them down in ear­ly spring.

    Yet SecDev’s analy­sis indi­cates that at least $12.4 tril­lion worth of Ukraine’s ener­gy deposits, met­als and min­er­als are now under Russ­ian con­trol. That fig­ure accounts for near­ly half the dol­lar val­ue of the 2,209 deposits reviewed by the com­pa­ny. In addi­tion to 63 per­cent of the country’s coal deposits, Moscow has seized 11 per­cent of its oil deposits, 20 per­cent of its nat­ur­al gas deposits, 42 per­cent of its met­als and 33 per­cent of its deposits of rare earth and oth­er crit­i­cal min­er­als includ­ing lithi­um.

    Some of those deposits are hard to reach or require explo­ration to assess their via­bil­i­ty. Some were over­tak­en dur­ing either Moscow’s 2014 annex­a­tion of Crimea or the Ukrain­ian government’s eight-year war with Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in the east.

    Since the inva­sion began in Feb­ru­ary, how­ev­er, the Krem­lin has steadi­ly expand­ed its hold­ings. Accord­ing to SecDev and Ukrain­ian min­ing and steel indus­try exec­u­tives, it has seized: 41 coal fields, 27 nat­ur­al gas sites, 14 propane sites, nine oil fields, six iron ore deposits, two tita­ni­um ore sites, two zir­co­ni­um ore sites, one stron­tium site, one lithi­um site, one ura­ni­um site, one gold deposit and a sig­nif­i­cant quar­ry of lime­stone pre­vi­ous­ly used for Ukrain­ian steel pro­duc­tion.

    Roman Opi­makh, direc­tor gen­er­al of the Ukrain­ian Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, said the gov­ern­ment is still assess­ing the war’s impact on its min­er­al resources. But giv­en how much of Ukraine’s raw mate­ri­als are in the east and south, he sug­gest­ed that the val­ue of lost reserves exceeds the total cal­cu­lat­ed in the inde­pen­dent analy­sis.

    “There is a neg­a­tive asset, which we’ve lost — resources which we use right now to sup­port our indus­tri­al activ­i­ties and to gen­er­ate pow­er,” he not­ed. “But there’s anoth­er dimen­sion of min­er­als of the future which are still under the ground. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is a risk that the Ukrain­ian peo­ple will not get the ben­e­fits of the devel­op­ment of those mate­ri­als.”

    The bulk of the country’s oil and gas reserves remain under its con­trol. But for West­ern Europe, Russia’s expand­ed land grab in Ukraine amounts to a tac­ti­cal set­back.

    “Russ­ian occu­pa­tion of Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry has direct impli­ca­tions for West­ern ener­gy secu­ri­ty,” said Robert Mug­gah, SecDev co-founder. “Unless the Euro­peans can rapid­ly diver­si­fy oil and gas sources, they will remain high­ly depen­dent on Russ­ian hydro­car­bons.”.”

    The great­est threat is to Ukraine’s future. Dur­ing the 2014 Russ­ian inva­sion, in which Ukraine lost rough­ly 7 per­cent of its land mass, crit­i­cal West­ern invest­ment in the ener­gy and min­ing sec­tor was scared away. The cur­rent war has had the same impact.

    Pol­ish-Ukrain­ian invest­ment com­pa­ny Mill­stone & Co, for instance, struck a 2021 deal with an Aus­tralian min­ing com­pa­ny for active explo­ration at two untouched lithi­um sites. Once the war start­ed, the com­pa­nies froze those plans, said Mill­stone man­ag­ing part­ner Mykhai­lo Zher­nov.

    One site — a deposit cov­ered by farm­land — now is so close to the front lines that Zher­nov remains uncer­tain whether it is under Ukrain­ian or Russ­ian con­trol. Ini­tial plans to build a lithi­um bat­tery fac­to­ry there have also been shelved.

    Ana­lysts say licens­es for oth­er min­er­al deposits sold by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment last year are now trad­ing at deep dis­counts as investors ques­tion the via­bil­i­ty of extrac­tion.

    “Every day, Ukraini­ans are los­ing their econ­o­my,” Zher­nov said. “I know many investors who start­ed geol­o­gy research, but they have stopped because [of the war]. Every­thing, it’s a bet now.”

    The blow to Ukraine is far worse because of the Russ­ian seizure of key Ukrain­ian ports and a broad block­ade of the Black Sea. Some ana­lysts see the lost sea tran­sit routes as more sig­nif­i­cant than the lost min­er­al reserves — par­tic­u­lar­ly coal, despite its cur­rent val­ue — as oth­er coun­tries switch to green­er ener­gy.

    “Raw mate­ri­als like coal are not the future, they’re the past,” said Anders Aslund, an econ­o­mist who has long stud­ied Ukraine. “It’s more about whether Ukraine los­es its ports, which I don’t think they will. If they did not have those ports, they would need to build a com­plete­ly new infra­struc­ture for exports.”

    Coal’s prac­ti­cal and sym­bol­ic val­ue

    Coal is by far the most abun­dant of the deposits in Russ­ian-con­trolled parts of Ukraine. The approx­i­mate­ly 30 bil­lion tons of hard coal deposits there have an esti­mat­ed com­mer­cial val­ue of $11.9 tril­lion, SecDev esti­mates. They also have sym­bol­ic val­ue as a sto­ried ener­gy source, with the region­al metrop­o­lis­es of Donet­sk and Luhan­sk being built on the backs of coal min­ers and steel­work­ers.

    The tox­ic com­bi­na­tion of a loss of raw mate­ri­als plus dam­aged, destroyed or seized infra­struc­ture has vast impli­ca­tions for a core indus­try like steel, which until the war sus­tained 4 mil­lion Ukraini­ans. Two large fac­to­ries were destroyed or over­run in the siege of Mar­i­upol. Oth­er fac­to­ries have reduced pro­duc­tion and face a host of chal­lenges.

    Across the coun­try, many of the Sovi­et-era steel plants still run on coal. But the nation’s loss­es to Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in the east between 2014 and 2017 forced Kyiv to begin import­ing sig­nif­i­cant amounts of coal, both for those plants and ther­mal pow­er plants. In 2021, imports amount­ed to almost 40 per­cent of Ukraine’s coal con­sump­tion.

    Along with coal mines, Rus­sia has recent­ly seized a sig­nif­i­cant lime­stone deposit used for steel pro­duc­tion. The impact of that has been min­i­mized because Ukrain­ian steel pro­duc­tion has dropped so much because of the war — 60 per­cent to 70 per­cent — that fac­to­ries have been able to make do with low­er-qual­i­ty lime­stone deposits in the west. But Yuriy Ryzhenkov, chief exec­u­tive of the Ukrain­ian steel and min­ing giant Met­invest, warned that ramp­ing back up to nor­mal lev­els will mean “we will have to import it.”

    ...

    DTEK chief exec­u­tive Max­im Tim­chenko doesn’t think the Rus­sians real­ly need these raw mate­ri­als. “They are just try­ing to destroy our econ­o­my,” he said.

    But such loss­es, if per­ma­nent, would com­pel what’s left of Ukraine to realign its econ­o­my. The pos­si­ble upside: a mod­ern­iza­tion that could make its dat­ed steel plants more effi­cient and green­er. Ear­ly esti­mates sug­gest the price tag for rebuild­ing the broad­er econ­o­my range upward of $750 bil­lion.

    Some eco­nom­ic experts sug­gest the war’s longer-term impact could be blunt­ed even if Ukraine were to cede sig­nif­i­cant land, as long as it were to ful­ly embrace the tech­nol­o­gy and ser­vice sec­tors that helped fuel growth in recent years and expand its pur­suit of alter­na­tive ener­gies.

    Still, it would face a mas­sive task. Ukraine’s more recent attempt to mod­ern­ize its ener­gy grid has been upend­ed by war. Almost half its renew­able ener­gies plants — includ­ing 89 per­cent of its wind farms — are locat­ed in seized ter­ri­to­ry or con­flict zones. More than half of its wind farms are shut down.

    Any rebuild­ing effort with large-scale for­eign invest­ment would also prob­a­bly require a true end to the fight­ing — as opposed to anoth­er pro­tract­ed but con­tained con­flict with Rus­sia, as was seen in 2014.

    “Not only will Ukraine have lost a lot of its ter­ri­to­ry and its resources, but it would be con­stant­ly vul­ner­a­ble to anoth­er onslaught by Rus­sia,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a fel­low at the Wash­ing­ton-based Peter­son Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ics. “No one in their right mind, a pri­vate com­pa­ny, would invest in the rest of Ukraine if this were to become a frozen con­flict.”

    ———–

    “In the Ukraine war, a bat­tle for the nation’s min­er­al and ener­gy wealth” by Antho­ny Faio­la and Dal­ton Ben­nett; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 08/10/2022

    “After near­ly six months of fight­ing, Moscow’s slop­py war has yield­ed at least one big reward: expand­ed con­trol over some of the most min­er­al-rich lands in Europe. Ukraine har­bors some of the world’s largest reserves of tita­ni­um and iron ore, fields of untapped lithi­um and mas­sive deposits of coal. Col­lec­tive­ly, they are worth tens of tril­lions of dol­lars.

    Tril­lions of dol­lars in min­er­al wealth are at stake in this con­flict. Ukraine is an inter­na­tion­al min­er­al pow­er­house and home to some of Europe’s largest reserves of rare earth min­er­als like lithi­um that are cru­cial for the mod­ern econ­o­my:

    ...
    Ukraine is wide­ly known as an agri­cul­tur­al pow­er­house.. But as a raw-mate­r­i­al moth­er lode, it’s home to 117 of the 120 most wide­ly used min­er­als and met­als, and a major source of fos­sil fuels. Offi­cial web­sites no longer show geolo­ca­tions of these deposits; the gov­ern­ment, cit­ing nation­al secu­ri­ty, took them down in ear­ly spring.

    Yet SecDev’s analy­sis indi­cates that at least $12.4 tril­lion worth of Ukraine’s ener­gy deposits, met­als and min­er­als are now under Russ­ian con­trol. That fig­ure accounts for near­ly half the dol­lar val­ue of the 2,209 deposits reviewed by the com­pa­ny. In addi­tion to 63 per­cent of the country’s coal deposits, Moscow has seized 11 per­cent of its oil deposits, 20 per­cent of its nat­ur­al gas deposits, 42 per­cent of its met­als and 33 per­cent of its deposits of rare earth and oth­er crit­i­cal min­er­als includ­ing lithi­um.

    Some of those deposits are hard to reach or require explo­ration to assess their via­bil­i­ty. Some were over­tak­en dur­ing either Moscow’s 2014 annex­a­tion of Crimea or the Ukrain­ian government’s eight-year war with Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in the east.

    Since the inva­sion began in Feb­ru­ary, how­ev­er, the Krem­lin has steadi­ly expand­ed its hold­ings. Accord­ing to SecDev and Ukrain­ian min­ing and steel indus­try exec­u­tives, it has seized: 41 coal fields, 27 nat­ur­al gas sites, 14 propane sites, nine oil fields, six iron ore deposits, two tita­ni­um ore sites, two zir­co­ni­um ore sites, one stron­tium site, one lithi­um site, one ura­ni­um site, one gold deposit and a sig­nif­i­cant quar­ry of lime­stone pre­vi­ous­ly used for Ukrain­ian steel pro­duc­tion.

    ...

    The bulk of the country’s oil and gas reserves remain under its con­trol. But for West­ern Europe, Russia’s expand­ed land grab in Ukraine amounts to a tac­ti­cal set­back.

    “Russ­ian occu­pa­tion of Ukrain­ian ter­ri­to­ry has direct impli­ca­tions for West­ern ener­gy secu­ri­ty,” said Robert Mug­gah, SecDev co-founder. “Unless the Euro­peans can rapid­ly diver­si­fy oil and gas sources, they will remain high­ly depen­dent on Russ­ian hydro­car­bons.”.”
    ...

    But the war is cre­at­ing a pow­er­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for one group: there’s a fire sale on those min­er­al deposits. And as experts warn, that fire-sale is expect­ed to last as long as the con­flict in Ukraine con­tin­ues. Even a frozen con­flict would con­tin­ue to sup­press those prices. Tril­lions of dol­lars in min­er­al wealth stuck in a fire sale, with an long-term peace agree­ment being the nec­es­sary ingre­di­ent for end­ing that sale:

    ...
    Ana­lysts say licens­es for oth­er min­er­al deposits sold by the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment last year are now trad­ing at deep dis­counts as investors ques­tion the via­bil­i­ty of extrac­tion.

    “Every day, Ukraini­ans are los­ing their econ­o­my,” Zher­nov said. “I know many investors who start­ed geol­o­gy research, but they have stopped because [of the war]. Every­thing, it’s a bet now.”

    ...

    DTEK chief exec­u­tive Max­im Tim­chenko doesn’t think the Rus­sians real­ly need these raw mate­ri­als. “They are just try­ing to destroy our econ­o­my,” he said.

    But such loss­es, if per­ma­nent, would com­pel what’s left of Ukraine to realign its econ­o­my. The pos­si­ble upside: a mod­ern­iza­tion that could make its dat­ed steel plants more effi­cient and green­er. Ear­ly esti­mates sug­gest the price tag for rebuild­ing the broad­er econ­o­my range upward of $750 bil­lion.

    Some eco­nom­ic experts sug­gest the war’s longer-term impact could be blunt­ed even if Ukraine were to cede sig­nif­i­cant land, as long as it were to ful­ly embrace the tech­nol­o­gy and ser­vice sec­tors that helped fuel growth in recent years and expand its pur­suit of alter­na­tive ener­gies.

    ...

    Any rebuild­ing effort with large-scale for­eign invest­ment would also prob­a­bly require a true end to the fight­ing — as opposed to anoth­er pro­tract­ed but con­tained con­flict with Rus­sia, as was seen in 2014.

    “Not only will Ukraine have lost a lot of its ter­ri­to­ry and its resources, but it would be con­stant­ly vul­ner­a­ble to anoth­er onslaught by Rus­sia,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a fel­low at the Wash­ing­ton-based Peter­son Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Eco­nom­ics. “No one in their right mind, a pri­vate com­pa­ny, would invest in the rest of Ukraine if this were to become a frozen con­flict.”
    ...

    Also keep in mind that any inter­na­tion­al­ly-backed rebuild­ing of Ukraine will almost cer­tain­ly involve turn­ing the coun­try into a neo-lib­er­al exper­i­men­tal employ­ee hell hole, which is already hap­pen­ing whether or not the con­flict ends.

    And don’t for­get one the oth­er ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this con­flict: coal exporters. Ukraine was import­ing 40 per­cent of its coal con­sump­tion in 2021:

    ...
    Across the coun­try, many of the Sovi­et-era steel plants still run on coal. But the nation’s loss­es to Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in the east between 2014 and 2017 forced Kyiv to begin import­ing sig­nif­i­cant amounts of coal, both for those plants and ther­mal pow­er plants. In 2021, imports amount­ed to almost 40 per­cent of Ukraine’s coal con­sump­tion.
    ...

    Note that the EU’s ban on Russ­ian coal just kicked in a day ago. It’s a grand time for coal exporters. And it will even­tu­al­ly be a grand time for the investors in Ukraine’s strate­gic min­er­al reserves. But only after the war is over and Ukraine has com­plete­ly recap­tured con­trol of the coun­try. In the mean time, the Ukrain­ian fire sale con­tin­ues to smol­der.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 12, 2022, 3:05 pm
  13. With the prospect of the US’s nuclear secrets being traf­ficked by a for­mer pres­i­dent sud­den­ly in the news fol­low­ing last week’s FBI raid of a Mar-a-Lago, it’s a weird­ly appro­pri­ate to see a new inter­view of Hen­ry Kissinger sud­den­ly show up in the Wall Street Jour­nal. The 99 year old for­mer sec­re­tary of state just pub­lished a new book pro­fil­ing var­i­ous 20th cen­tu­ry lead­ers. And while the inter­view is in part about his new book, Kissinger shares his con­cerns about the state of the world today and his fears of a dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um tak­ing hold in the strug­gles between the world pow­ers, in par­tic­u­lar when it comes to brew­ing con­flicts with Russ­ian and Chi­na. Kissinger appears to take a gen­er­al­ly crit­i­cal view of the deci­sions made by the West in rela­tion to the foment­ing of both con­flicts.

    But it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly worth not­ing his take on the sit­u­a­tion in Ukraine, in large part because he’s been a crit­ic of the US’s pol­i­cy in Ukraine. It’s espe­cial­ly worth not­ing Kissinger’s per­spec­tive giv­en the lack of any viable ‘off ramp’ for the cur­rent war in Ukraine: As Kissinger describes it, Ukraine should have nev­er been seen as a future mem­ber of NATO, espe­cial­ly giv­en that many of its ter­ri­to­ries were long viewed by Rus­sia as essen­tial­ly Russ­ian lands, even if the Ukraini­ans dis­agreed. But, as Kissinger sees it, the die has been cast now that the inva­sion has hap­pened. As Kissinger puts it, “now I con­sid­er, one way or the oth­er, for­mal­ly or not, Ukraine has to be treat­ed in the after­math of this as a mem­ber of NATO.” So that’s a pret­ty big state­ment com­ing from Kissinger. But there’s a catch. Kissinger goes on to add that he fore­sees a set­tle­ment that pre­serves Russia’s gains from its ini­tial incur­sion in 2014, when it seized Crimea and por­tions of the Don­bass region. Now, Rus­sia has already seized quite a bit of ter­ri­to­ry well beyond Crimea and the the sep­a­ratist republics, so it would appear that Kissinger is tak­ing a stance that sug­gests Ukraine and NATO should set a goal of dri­ving Rus­sia back to the pre-2022 inva­sion bor­ders. But giv­en that this is Kissinger we’re talk­ing about we can rea­son­ably assume he would be flex­i­ble on those details.

    So in Kissinger’s view, the US and the West kind of blun­dered its way into this show­down with Rus­sia dri­ven, in part, from a lack of long-term strate­gic think­ing on the part of US pol­i­cy-mak­ers. Long-term real­is­tic strate­gic think­ing that goes beyond sim­ply con­tain­ing Rus­sia and Chi­na and envi­sions how to live and sur­vive in a world where the US isn’t the sole mil­i­tary super­pow­er. The kind of strate­gic think­ing that man­aged to get the world through the Cold War with­out things get­ting to ‘hot’. But here we are with a major cri­sis in Ukraine. And in Kissinger’s view the way out of that cri­sis will include both the kind of resolve that kept the West unit­ed cur­ing the Cold War — like grant­i­ng Ukraine a kind of de fac­to NATO-like sta­tus — while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly rec­og­niz­ing the need for real­is­tic com­pro­mise in areas like Crimea and the Don­bass. A strate­gic main­te­nance of a nuclear equi­lib­ri­um that Kissinger sees as cur­rent­ly wild­ly out of bal­ance:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal

    Hen­ry Kissinger Is Wor­ried About ‘Dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um’

    The 99-year-old for­mer sec­re­tary of state has just pub­lished a book on lead­er­ship and sees a dan­ger­ous lack of strate­gic pur­pose in U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy

    By Lau­ra Sec­or
    Aug. 12, 2022 1:27 pm ET

    At 99 years old, Hen­ry Kissinger has just pub­lished his 19th book, “Lead­er­ship: Six Stud­ies in World Strat­e­gy.” It is an analy­sis of the vision and his­tor­i­cal achieve­ments of an idio­syn­crat­ic pan­theon of post-World War II lead­ers: Kon­rad Ade­nauer, Charles DeGaulle, Richard Nixon, Anwar Sadat, Lee Kuan-Yew and Mar­garet Thatch­er.

    In the 1950s, “before I was involved in pol­i­tics,” Mr. Kissinger tells me in his mid­town Man­hat­tan office on a steamy day in July, “my plan was to write a book about the mak­ing of peace and the end­ing of peace in the 19th cen­tu­ry, start­ing with the Con­gress of Vien­na, and that turned into a book, and then I had about a third of a book writ­ten on Bis­mar­ck, and it was going to end with the out­break of World War I.” The new book, he says, “is a kind of con­tin­u­a­tion. It’s not just a con­tem­po­rary reflec­tion.”

    All six fig­ures pro­filed in “Lead­er­ship,” says the for­mer sec­re­tary of state and nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, were shaped by what he calls the “sec­ond Thir­ty Years’ War,” the peri­od from 1914 to 1945, and con­tributed to mold­ing the world that fol­lowed it. And all com­bined, in Mr. Kissinger’s view, two arche­types of lead­er­ship: the far­sight­ed prag­ma­tism of the states­man and the vision­ary bold­ness of the prophet.

    ...

    One nev­er goes long in con­ver­sa­tion with Mr. Kissinger with­out hear­ing that word—pur­pose—the defin­ing qual­i­ty of the prophet, along with anoth­er, equi­lib­ri­um, the guid­ing pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the states­man. Since the 1950s, when he was a Har­vard schol­ar writ­ing on nuclear strat­e­gy, Mr. Kissinger has under­stood diplo­ma­cy as a bal­anc­ing act among great pow­ers shad­owed by the poten­tial for nuclear cat­a­stro­phe. The apoc­a­lyp­tic poten­tial of mod­ern weapons tech­nol­o­gy, in his view, makes sus­tain­ing an equi­lib­ri­um of hos­tile pow­ers, how­ev­er uneasy it might be, an over­rid­ing imper­a­tive of inter­na­tion­al rela­tions.

    “In my think­ing, equi­lib­ri­um has two com­po­nents,” he tells me. “A kind of bal­ance of pow­er, with an accep­tance of the legit­i­ma­cy of some­times oppos­ing val­ues. Because if you believe that the final out­come of your effort has to be the impo­si­tion of your val­ues, then I think equi­lib­ri­um is not pos­si­ble. So one lev­el is a sort of absolute equi­lib­ri­um.” The oth­er lev­el, he says, is “equi­lib­ri­um of con­duct, mean­ing there are lim­i­ta­tions to the exer­cise of your own capa­bil­i­ties and pow­er in rela­tion to what is need­ed for the over­all equi­lib­ri­um.” Achiev­ing this com­bi­na­tion takes “an almost artis­tic skill,” he says. “It’s not very often that states­men have aimed at it delib­er­ate­ly, because pow­er had so many pos­si­bil­i­ties of being expand­ed with­out being dis­as­trous that coun­tries nev­er felt that full oblig­a­tion.”

    Mr. Kissinger con­cedes that equi­lib­ri­um, while essen­tial, can’t be a val­ue in itself. “There can be sit­u­a­tions where coex­is­tence is moral­ly impos­si­ble,” he notes. “For exam­ple, with Hitler. With Hitler it was use­less to dis­cuss equilibrium—even though I have some sym­pa­thy for Cham­ber­lain if he was think­ing that he need­ed to gain time for a show­down that he thought would be inevitable any­way.”

    There is a hint, in “Lead­er­ship,” of Mr. Kissinger’s hope that con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can states­men might absorb the lessons of their pre­de­ces­sors. “I think that the cur­rent peri­od has a great trou­ble defin­ing a direc­tion,” Mr. Kissinger says. “It’s very respon­sive to the emo­tion of the moment.” Amer­i­cans resist sep­a­rat­ing the idea of diplo­ma­cy from that of “per­son­al rela­tion­ships with the adver­sary.” They tend to view nego­ti­a­tions, he tells me, in mis­sion­ary rather than psy­cho­log­i­cal terms, seek­ing to con­vert or con­demn their inter­locu­tors rather than to pen­e­trate their think­ing.

    Mr. Kissinger sees today’s world as verg­ing on a dan­ger­ous dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um. “We are at the edge of war with Rus­sia and Chi­na on issues which we part­ly cre­at­ed, with­out any con­cept of how this is going to end or what it’s sup­posed to lead to,” he says. Could the U.S. man­age the two adver­saries by tri­an­gu­lat­ing between them, as dur­ing the Nixon years? He offers no sim­ple pre­scrip­tion. “You can’t just now say we’re going to split them off and turn them against each oth­er. All you can do is not to accel­er­ate the ten­sions and to cre­ate options, and for that you have to have some pur­pose.”

    On the ques­tion of Tai­wan, Mr. Kissinger wor­ries that the U.S. and Chi­na are maneu­ver­ing toward a cri­sis, and he coun­sels steadi­ness on Washington’s part. “The pol­i­cy that was car­ried out by both par­ties has pro­duced and allowed the progress of Tai­wan into an autonomous demo­c­ra­t­ic enti­ty and has pre­served peace between Chi­na and the U.S. for 50 years,” he says. “One should be very care­ful, there­fore, in mea­sures that seem to change the basic struc­ture.”

    Mr. Kissinger court­ed con­tro­ver­sy ear­li­er this year by sug­gest­ing that incau­tious poli­cies on the part of the U.S. and NATO may have touched off the cri­sis in Ukraine. He sees no choice but to take Vladimir Putin’s stat­ed secu­ri­ty con­cerns seri­ous­ly and believes that it was a mis­take for NATO to sig­nal to Ukraine that it might even­tu­al­ly join the alliance: “I thought that Poland—all the tra­di­tion­al West­ern coun­tries that have been part of West­ern history—were log­i­cal mem­bers of NATO,” he says. But Ukraine, in his view, is a col­lec­tion of ter­ri­to­ries once append­ed to Rus­sia, which Rus­sians see as their own, even though “some Ukraini­ans” do not. Sta­bil­i­ty would be bet­ter served by its act­ing as a buffer between Rus­sia and the West: “I was in favor of the full inde­pen­dence of Ukraine, but I thought its best role was some­thing like Fin­land.”

    He says, how­ev­er, that the die has now been cast. After the way Rus­sia has behaved in Ukraine, “now I con­sid­er, one way or the oth­er, for­mal­ly or not, Ukraine has to be treat­ed in the after­math of this as a mem­ber of NATO.” Still, he fore­sees a set­tle­ment that pre­serves Russia’s gains from its ini­tial incur­sion in 2014, when it seized Crimea and por­tions of the Don­bas region, though he does not have an answer to the ques­tion of how such a set­tle­ment would dif­fer from the agree­ment that failed to sta­bi­lize the con­flict 8 years ago.

    The moral claim posed by Ukraine’s democ­ra­cy and independence—since 2014, clear majori­ties have favored EU and NATO membership—and the dire fate of its peo­ple under Russ­ian occu­pa­tion fit awk­ward­ly into Mr. Kissinger’s state­craft. If the avoid­ance of nuclear war is the great­est good, what is owed to small states whose only role in the glob­al equi­lib­ri­um is to be act­ed upon by larg­er ones?

    “How to mar­ry our mil­i­tary capac­i­ty to our strate­gic pur­pos­es,” Mr. Kissinger reflects, “and how to relate those to our moral purposes—it’s an unsolved prob­lem.”

    Look­ing back over his long and often con­tro­ver­sial career, how­ev­er, he is not giv­en to self-crit­i­cism. Asked if he has regrets from his years in pow­er, he replies, “From a manip­u­la­tive point of view, I ought to learn a great answer to that ques­tion, because it’s always being asked.” But while he might revis­it some minor tac­ti­cal points, on the whole, he says, “I do not tor­ture myself with things we might have done dif­fer­ent­ly.”

    ———–

    “Hen­ry Kissinger Is Wor­ried About ‘Dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um’” By Lau­ra Sec­or; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 08/12/2022

    ““In my think­ing, equi­lib­ri­um has two com­po­nents,” he tells me. “A kind of bal­ance of pow­er, with an accep­tance of the legit­i­ma­cy of some­times oppos­ing val­ues. Because if you believe that the final out­come of your effort has to be the impo­si­tion of your val­ues, then I think equi­lib­ri­um is not pos­si­ble. So one lev­el is a sort of absolute equi­lib­ri­um.” The oth­er lev­el, he says, is “equi­lib­ri­um of con­duct, mean­ing there are lim­i­ta­tions to the exer­cise of your own capa­bil­i­ties and pow­er in rela­tion to what is need­ed for the over­all equi­lib­ri­um.” Achiev­ing this com­bi­na­tion takes “an almost artis­tic skill,” he says. “It’s not very often that states­men have aimed at it delib­er­ate­ly, because pow­er had so many pos­si­bil­i­ties of being expand­ed with­out being dis­as­trous that coun­tries nev­er felt that full oblig­a­tion.””

    The chal­lenge isn’t just main­tain­ing the equi­lib­ri­um. It’s an equi­lib­ri­um of equi­lib­ri­ums. A bal­ance of val­ues and ambi­tions cou­pled with a bal­ance of con­duct and self-imposed lim­i­ta­tions. A bal­ance that has swung wild­ly out of whack in the case of the West­’s rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia. So much so that Kissinger now views some sort of de fact NATO-like sta­tus for Ukraine fol­low­ing Rus­si­a’s inva­sion. And yet, cru­cial­ly, Kissinger isn’t call­ing for some sort of NATO-backed expul­sion of Rus­sia from all of Ukraine. Some sort of set­tle­ment that pre­serves Rus­si­a’s pre-2022 ter­ri­to­r­i­al gains in the Don­bass and Crimea is going to be required. How that set­tle­ment dif­fers from the failed Min­sk agree­ments remains unclear, but Kissinger does­n’t appear to see an alter­na­tive to con­ced­ing those ter­ri­to­ries:

    ...
    Mr. Kissinger court­ed con­tro­ver­sy ear­li­er this year by sug­gest­ing that incau­tious poli­cies on the part of the U.S. and NATO may have touched off the cri­sis in Ukraine. He sees no choice but to take Vladimir Putin’s stat­ed secu­ri­ty con­cerns seri­ous­ly and believes that it was a mis­take for NATO to sig­nal to Ukraine that it might even­tu­al­ly join the alliance: “I thought that Poland—all the tra­di­tion­al West­ern coun­tries that have been part of West­ern history—were log­i­cal mem­bers of NATO,” he says. But Ukraine, in his view, is a col­lec­tion of ter­ri­to­ries once append­ed to Rus­sia, which Rus­sians see as their own, even though “some Ukraini­ans” do not. Sta­bil­i­ty would be bet­ter served by its act­ing as a buffer between Rus­sia and the West: “I was in favor of the full inde­pen­dence of Ukraine, but I thought its best role was some­thing like Fin­land.

    He says, how­ev­er, that the die has now been cast. After the way Rus­sia has behaved in Ukraine, “now I con­sid­er, one way or the oth­er, for­mal­ly or not, Ukraine has to be treat­ed in the after­math of this as a mem­ber of NATO.” Still, he fore­sees a set­tle­ment that pre­serves Russia’s gains from its ini­tial incur­sion in 2014, when it seized Crimea and por­tions of the Don­bas region, though he does not have an answer to the ques­tion of how such a set­tle­ment would dif­fer from the agree­ment that failed to sta­bi­lize the con­flict 8 years ago.

    The moral claim posed by Ukraine’s democ­ra­cy and independence—since 2014, clear majori­ties have favored EU and NATO membership—and the dire fate of its peo­ple under Russ­ian occu­pa­tion fit awk­ward­ly into Mr. Kissinger’s state­craft. If the avoid­ance of nuclear war is the great­est good, what is owed to small states whose only role in the glob­al equi­lib­ri­um is to be act­ed upon by larg­er ones?

    “How to mar­ry our mil­i­tary capac­i­ty to our strate­gic pur­pos­es,” Mr. Kissinger reflects, “and how to relate those to our moral purposes—it’s an unsolved prob­lem.”
    ...

    On one lev­el, it’s not par­tic­u­lar­ly remark­able that Hen­ry Kissinger feels some sort of realpoli­tik solu­tion is going to be required. Of course that’s his approach. He’s Hen­ry Kissinger.

    What is notable, how­ev­er, is that Kissinger feels the need to pub­licly express these views in an inter­view where he is lament­ing what appears to be a long-term strat­e­gy by the US that lacks a strate­gic vision beyond con­tain­ing Rus­sia and Chi­na. In oth­er words, the long-term strate­gic vision for the US does­n’t appear to real­ly go beyond main­tain­ing the long-term strate­gic dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um of a unipo­lar world dom­i­nat­ed by a sin­gle mil­i­tary hyper­pow­er. That’s kind of the start and end of it. And main­tain­ing that kind of dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um in sta­tus invari­ably involves a dis­e­qui­lib­ri­um in action. It’s a recipe for the kinds of dis­as­ter Kissinger spent a lot of time think­ing about decades ago. At least that’s how Kissinger sees it.

    It will be inter­est­ing to see if Kissinger’s com­men­tary trig­gers any response from the US for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment. But giv­en that Kissinger’s the­sis appears to be that the US for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment lacks a coher­ent vision, a lack of a coher­ent response from that for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment might be more telling.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 15, 2022, 3:50 pm
  14. @Pterrafractyl–

    Hen­ry the K is 99 years old!

    Well, as they say, the good die young.

    NB: As dis­cussed in FTR#‘s 1244 and 1245, among oth­er pro­grams, there is no con­vinc­ing evi­dence that Rus­sia ever “invad­ed” either the Don­bass or Crimea.

    https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr1244-how-many-lies-before-you-belong-to-the-lie-part-17/

    https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr1245-how-many-lies-before-you-belong-to-the-lie-part-18/

    Anoth­er, major, prob­lem con­cerns would Rus­sia believe what the U.S. says?

    Uncle Same and his sup­port­ing cast lied about, and/or, with­drew from:

    1.–The march­ing of NATO to the East.

    2. The ABM Treaty.

    3.–The Open Skies Treaty.

    4.–The Inter­me­di­ate Range Mis­sile Treaty.

    5.–The Min­sk Accords.

    Why would Rus­sia believe them now?

    Hav­ing lived through Rock­e­feller pro­tégé Kissinger’s man­ag­ing of the secret B‑52 raids into Cam­bo­dia dur­ing the Viet­nam War, with the con­scious and achieved aim of killing 10,000 civil­ians a day, I would have a tough time believ­ing the Nobel Peace Prize win­ner’s words.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 15, 2022, 4:13 pm
  15. I’ve read quite a few of your posts and lis­tened to many of your pod­casts, in fact I briefly vol­un­teered at KKUP maybe 44 years ago. Your research as always is impec­ca­ble, but I have one sim­ple ques­tion: At this point what do we do about it, oth­er than “get­ting the word out.”

    Per­haps some clues are in a new book by Halik Kochan­s­ki: Resis­tance: the under­ground war against Hitler 1939–1945

    The book cov­ers all of the resis­tance move­ments in Europe, not only in Poland (best orga­nized), Yugoslavia (largest), and France (over­hyped by Hol­ly­wood), but in all of the occu­pied coun­tries.

    Myself, I believe we need to get smart and get stealthy, quick­ly.

    Cheers.

    Posted by Khane Eudigette | August 17, 2022, 10:16 am
  16. @Khane Eudi­gette–

    I’ve only been on the air for 43 years.

    Oth­er than “get­ting the word out,” I don’t think there is any­thing to be done.

    Social con­trol is main­tained by con­trol­ling the flow of infor­ma­tion.

    Build­ing any kind of mil­i­tary resis­tance would play right into the hands of the Pow­ers That Be.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 17, 2022, 3:40 pm
  17. Are we see­ing the start of a new phase in the con­flict between Rus­sia and the West? A phase that might involve vio­lent regime change oper­a­tions and tar­get­ed assas­si­na­tions? Those are the huge ques­tions raised by a stun­ning assas­si­na­tion of Daria Dug­i­na — daugh­ter of far right Krem­lin strate­gist Alexan­der Dug­in — over the week­end in a plot that appears to have tar­get­ed her father.

    The FSB is point­ing the fin­ger as an alleged mem­ber of the Azov bat­tal­ion, Natalya Vovk, who appar­ent­ly slipped into the coun­try some time under cov­er with her 12 year old daugh­ter in July and man­aged to get an apart­ment on the same block of Dug­i­na. From there, Vovk sur­veilled Dug­i­na for a month before plant­i­ng a bomb on her car and then slip­ping out of the coun­try with her daugh­ter fol­low­ing the bomb­ing. The FSB has released video of the alleged assas­sin. It has­n’t yet been con­firmed if the women was indeed Vovk.

    But if what the FSB claims is true it would be a huge intel­li­gence fail­ure, in part because Vovk was report­ed­ly doxxed back in April by Russ­ian hacked. And in that doxxed mate­r­i­al she was shown to be a mem­ber of the Azov bat­tal­ion. Russ­ian media is already cir­cu­lat­ing pho­tos of this doxxed Azov ID:

    Krem­lin-linked media is post­ing what they say is Natalya Vovk’s ID card, which iden­ti­fies her as a mem­ber of the nation­al­ist Azov regiment.Not the most obvi­ous thing to take with you when you plot a car bomb­ing in Rus­sia pic.twitter.com/RNlBlGxfv6— max sed­don (@maxseddon) August 22, 2022

    Note that while Max Sed­don under­stand­ably notes that it would be an unusu­al choice to take your Azov ID card with you on an under­cov­er assas­si­na­tion mis­sion, don’t for­get that she was report­ed­ly doxxed in April so that’s pre­sum­ably where these pho­tos came from.

    At the same time, if you’ve been recent­ly doxxed and shown to be a mem­ber of Azov, it was be all the more remark­able that you choose to go on an under­cov­er assas­si­na­tion mis­sion in Rus­sia. With your 12 year old daugh­ter, no less. But that’s what the Russ­ian author­i­ties are claim­ing. It’s a wild sto­ry.

    And it gets a lot wilder. Because we already have a group claim­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for the bomb­ing: Ilya Pono­marev — a for­mer “lib­er­tar­i­an com­mu­nist” mem­ber of the Russ­ian Duma who was the only mem­ber to vote against the annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014 — appeared on Ukrain­ian TV claim­ing his group — the Nation­al Repub­li­can Army (NRA) — car­ried out the attack. Pono­marev read from a man­i­festo that promised many more attacks on Rus­si­a’s lead­er­ship. It was basi­cal­ly a dec­la­ra­tion of vio­lent regime change cam­paign.

    As Pro­fes­sor Ivan Katchanovs­ki not­ed in a series of tweets, Pono­marev also assert­ed that the tar­get­ing of Dug­i­na was in part revenge for the deaths of the Avoz POWs in Russ­ian-con­trolled prison camp in Oleniv­ka. It’s an impor­tant detail that’s left out of vir­tu­al­ly all of the cov­er­age of Pono­marev’s tele­vised claims:

    Ex-oppo­si­tion mem­ber of Russ­ian par­lia­ment, who lives in exile in #Ukraine, relays admis­sion by “Nation­al Repub­li­can Army” of assas­si­na­tion of #Dug­in daugh­ter in revenge for killing of POWs from Neo-Nazi-led Azov in sep­a­ratist prison in #Don­bas & plan to assas­si­nate both of them— Ivan Katchanovs­ki (@I_Katchanovski) August 21, 2022

    Keep in mind that the bomb­ing of the Azov POWs took place on July 29, just over three weeks pri­or to Dug­i­na’s bomb­ing. So if Vovk arrive in Rus­sia in July, it was pre­sum­ably before that bomb­ing took place.

    But then Pro­fes­sor Katchanovs­ki makes this cru­cial obser­va­tion about Pono­marev’s claims of respon­si­bil­i­ty: Pono­marev also admit­ted links between the NRA and a group of Russ­ian neo-Nazis were where involved with an appar­ent pipeline-sab­o­tage plot inside Rus­sia last week. That’s part of the con­text of Dug­i­na’s assas­si­na­tion: it was a week after Russ­ian author­i­ties killed two mem­bers of a Russ­ian neo-Nazi gang alleged­ly involved with a pipeline plot they were coor­di­nat­ing with mem­bers of Azov:

    Ex-mem­ber of Russ­ian par­lia­ment in exile in #Ukraine states his sup­port for NRA that admit­ted assas­si­na­tion of #Dug­in daugh­ter. He admits links to NRA & to group of Russ­ian neo-Nazis, who were report­ed­ly linked to neo-Nazi-led Azov & were recent­ly killed in Vol­gograd in #Rus­sia.— Ivan Katchanovs­ki (@I_Katchanovski) August 21, 2022

    So last week we have Russ­ian author­i­ties appar­ent­ly thwart a Russ­ian neo-Naz­i/A­zov sab­o­tage plot. Then a week lat­er we have the car bomb­ing of Daria Dug­i­na, which Russ­ian author­i­ties imme­di­ate­ly blame on an alleged Azov mem­ber Natalya Vovk — with her 12 year old daugh­ter — who was doxxed months ago as an Azov mem­ber. At the same time, a for­mer mem­ber of the Russ­ian Duma appears on Kyiv-based TV claim­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty while acknowl­edg­ing that his group was involved with that Azov-con­nect­ed pipeline plot.

    Oh, and it turns out Pono­marev gained Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen­ship in 2019 and made his claims of respon­si­bil­i­ty on a Russ­ian-lan­guage oppo­si­tion TV chan­nel that was allowed to launch in Kyiv ear­li­er this year. So while the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment is insist­ing it had no involve­ment in the plot, the guy claim­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty just got to open a Kyiv-based TV chan­nel a few months ago. Again, it’s a wild sto­ry. And poised to get a lot wilder if Pono­marev’s claims about a sleep­er assas­sin army ready to wage more high pro­file attacks are true.

    Ok, first, here’s a report in the Tele­graph describ­ing the FSB’s claims against Vovk. Note how the ana­lysts dis­miss­ing the claims are bas­ing their dis­missals on the idea that Vovk should­n’t have been able to slip in and out of Rus­sia unde­tect­ed after hav­ing already been doxxed back in April. So it sounds like the cred­i­bil­i­ty of the FSB’s claims hinge, in part, on whether or not it’s real­is­tic to imag­ine that some­one plan­ning an assas­si­na­tion cam­paign would be able to ade­quate­ly hide their iden­ti­ty:

    The Tele­graph

    Daria Dug­i­na: Moscow claims female ‘Azov fight­er’ behind car bomb escaped to Esto­nia in Mini Coop­er

    Russ­ian offi­cials say Natalya Vovk brought her 12-year-old daugh­ter to Moscow to help her stake out Daria Dug­i­na, who died on Sat­ur­day

    By James Kil­ner and Roland Oliphant, Senior For­eign Cor­re­spon­dent 22 August 2022 • 6:37pm

    A moth­er serv­ing in the Ukrain­ian army slipped into Moscow to assas­si­nate a pro-war jour­nal­ist before escap­ing to Esto­nia in a Mini Coop­er, Russia’s FSB secu­ri­ty ser­vice claimed on Mon­day.

    Russ­ian offi­cials said Natalya Vovk brought her 12-year-old daugh­ter to the cap­i­tal to help her stake out Daria Dug­i­na, 29, who was killed by a bomb plant­ed under the seat of her car on Sat­ur­day evening.

    The FSB released a pass­port pho­to of Vovk along­side a video pur­port­ing to show her in Moscow. Pro-Krem­lin web­sites claimed she was part of the nation­al­ist Azov reg­i­ment, which Rus­sia accus­es of “Nazism”.

    Ana­lysts raised doubts over the FSB’s swift res­o­lu­tion of the case and sug­gest­ed it was unlike­ly — or a sign of wor­ry­ing incom­pe­tence — that a Ukrain­ian sol­dier could have trav­elled so eas­i­ly into and out of the coun­try.

    Dugina’s father, Alexan­der Dug­in, a blood­thirsty philoso­pher who backed the inva­sion, said only “total vic­to­ry” over Ukraine would make up for his loss.

    Vladimir Putin announced Dug­i­na would receive a posthu­mous medal, and Ukrain­ian offi­cials sug­gest­ed the bar­rage of Krem­lin pro­pa­gan­da could be the pre­lude to fur­ther attacks on Ukraine’s inde­pen­dence day on August 24.

    Kyiv denies hav­ing any­thing to do with the assas­si­na­tion and offi­cials said Dug­i­na was too incon­se­quen­tial for them to both­er with in any case.

    Accord­ing to the FSB, Vovk, 43, rent­ed an apart­ment in the same block as Dug­i­na and car­ried out sur­veil­lance for a month before tail­ing her to a fes­ti­val on the out­skirts of Moscow.

    There she placed a bomb under Dugina’s car, the agency said, before escap­ing with her daugh­ter in a Mini Coop­er with fake license plates across the Rus­sia-Esto­nia bor­der.

    The FSB released video of a woman dri­ving a Mini Coop­er in Moscow and enter­ing the apart­ment block where Vovk was said to have stayed. It was unclear if the woman in the video, who wore sun­glass­es in one sec­tion, was the same per­son in the pass­port pho­to.

    In a state­ment released on Telegram, the Azov reg­i­ment denied hav­ing any link to Vovk and said the Krem­lin was seek­ing an excuse to car­ry out grue­some show tri­als of its fight­ers on Inde­pen­dence Day.

    “The ter­ror­ist attack itself is a prepa­ra­tion for the ‘tri­bunal’ over the peo­ple of Azov,” the state­ment said. “After all, in this way, Rus­sia warms up the pub­lic opin­ion of its cit­i­zens regard­ing the ‘neces­si­ty’ of such a court”

    Russ­ian media has already released images of cages being built for the tri­als in Mar­i­upol. As the Donet­sk People’s Repub­lic (DPR) per­mits the death penal­ty, the Azov fight­ers, who are accused of war crimes by Moscow, could be put to death.

    In a state­ment released by the Krem­lin, Putin called the assas­si­na­tion of Dug­i­na a “cru­el crime”.

    “She was a jour­nal­ist, sci­en­tist, philoso­pher, war cor­re­spon­dent, she hon­est­ly served the peo­ple, the father­land, she proved by deed what it means to be a patri­ot of Rus­sia,” he said.

    Dug­in, whose ultra­na­tion­al­ist writ­ings Putin has cit­ed, said his “beau­ti­ful, ortho­dox” daugh­ter was assas­si­nat­ed before his eyes.

    “We only need our vic­to­ry. My daugh­ter sac­ri­ficed her young woman’s life to its altar. So please, achieve it!” he said.

    Mar­gari­ta Simonyan, the head of Rus­sia Today media hold­ings, threat­ened to poi­son Vovk, tweet­ing that Rus­sia might send a team to “admire the spires” of Tallin — a ref­er­ence to the GRU assas­si­na­tion team who car­ried out the Sal­is­bury Novi­chok attack.

    Ana­lysts ques­tioned the FSB’s the­o­ry of the case.

    Let­ting Vovk in and out of the coun­try “would sug­gest a pret­ty major fail­ure” on its part, said Mark Gale­ot­ti, an author on Rus­sia and direc­tor of Mayak Intel­li­gence con­sul­tan­cy.

    “I think this is a major Krem­lin blindspot, to fail to appre­ci­ate how its evolv­ing nar­ra­tive is actu­al­ly paint­ing it as incom­pe­tent”.

    Chris­to Gorozev, of the inves­tiga­tive web­site Belling­cat, said Russ­ian hack­ers were aware Vovk was a mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary in April, hav­ing post­ed her details on a site encour­ag­ing “doxxing” as harass­ment on the inter­net is known.

    “How did she get into Rus­sia with that eas­i­ly dis­cov­er­able mil­i­tary foot­print?” he said.

    A range of alter­na­tive expla­na­tions for the killing was offered on Mon­day.

    Ilya Pono­mary­ov, a for­mer Russ­ian law­mak­er turned Ukraine-based Krem­lin crit­ic, said on Sun­day evening that a pre­vi­ous­ly unknown group of Russ­ian mil­i­tants called the Nation­al Repub­li­can Army was respon­si­ble for Dugina’s killing.

    No evi­dence was pro­vid­ed for the exis­tence of the group.

    ...

    Gov­ern­ment work­ers in Kyiv were on Mon­day told to work from home this week over fears of strikes on min­istry build­ings in the city cen­tre, and civil­ians have been told not to cel­e­brate the bank hol­i­day in pub­lic.

    It came as Mr Zelen­sky warned Rus­sia will destroy any chance of a nego­ti­at­ed peace with Ukraine if it goes ahead with a Nurem­berg-style tri­al of Azov pris­on­ers of war.

    “If our peo­ple are made to take part in this spec­ta­cle in vio­la­tion of all agree­ments, all inter­na­tion­al rules, if there is abuse... This will be the line beyond which any nego­ti­a­tions are impos­si­ble,” he said.

    ————

    “Daria Dug­i­na: Moscow claims female ‘Azov fight­er’ behind car bomb escaped to Esto­nia in Mini Coop­er” By James Kil­ner and Roland Oliphant; The Tele­graph; 08/22/2022

    “The FSB released a pass­port pho­to of Vovk along­side a video pur­port­ing to show her in Moscow. Pro-Krem­lin web­sites claimed she was part of the nation­al­ist Azov reg­i­ment, which Rus­sia accus­es of “Nazism”.”

    Yes, the FSB almost imme­di­ate­ly point­ed the fin­ger in the direc­tion of Natalya Vovk, who Rus­sia also accus­es of being a mem­ber of Azov, which the West­ern press still can’t open­ly acknowl­edge is a Nazi out­fit, hence the phras­es like “which Rus­sia accus­es of “Nazism””.

    But if what the FSB asserts is true, it would indeed be an intel­li­gence fail­ure since it sounds like Vovk alleged­ly man­aged to rent an apart­ment on the same block of Dug­i­na and had her under sur­veil­lance. But intel­li­gence fail­ures hap­pen:

    ...
    Accord­ing to the FSB, Vovk, 43, rent­ed an apart­ment in the same block as Dug­i­na and car­ried out sur­veil­lance for a month before tail­ing her to a fes­ti­val on the out­skirts of Moscow.

    There she placed a bomb under Dugina’s car, the agency said, before escap­ing with her daugh­ter in a Mini Coop­er with fake license plates across the Rus­sia-Esto­nia bor­der.

    The FSB released video of a woman dri­ving a Mini Coop­er in Moscow and enter­ing the apart­ment block where Vovk was said to have stayed. It was unclear if the woman in the video, who wore sun­glass­es in one sec­tion, was the same per­son in the pass­port pho­to.

    ...

    Inter­est­ing­ly, while Azov denies any links to Vovk, it sounds like Russ­ian hack­ers doxxed her back in April as a mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary. It’s that doxxing that is cit­ed is cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence sug­gest­ed that it could have been Vovk who car­ried this out since she was already a known enti­ty of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary. And as we saw, the Krem­lin is already cir­cu­lat­ed pur­port­ed pho­tos of Vovk’s doxxed mil­i­tary ID card that clear­ly iden­ti­fies her as being a mem­ber of Azov. So hack­ers doxxed her as a mem­ber of Azov (which would like­ly the point of the doxxing in the first place) back in April, then she appar­ent­ly slipped into Rus­sia with her 12 year old daugh­ter back in July and man­aged to rent an apart­ment on the same block as Dug­i­na and sur­veilled her for a month, and slip back out. It’s a pret­ty wild sto­ry if true. But, again, intel­li­gence fail­ures do hap­pen and it’s not like peo­ple don’t have means of con­ceal­ing their iden­ti­ties. Still, tak­ing her 12 year old daugh­ter with her on a mis­sion like that would be a rather extreme move:

    ...
    In a state­ment released on Telegram, the Azov reg­i­ment denied hav­ing any link to Vovk and said the Krem­lin was seek­ing an excuse to car­ry out grue­some show tri­als of its fight­ers on Inde­pen­dence Day.

    “The ter­ror­ist attack itself is a prepa­ra­tion for the ‘tri­bunal’ over the peo­ple of Azov,” the state­ment said. “After all, in this way, Rus­sia warms up the pub­lic opin­ion of its cit­i­zens regard­ing the ‘neces­si­ty’ of such a court”

    ...

    Ana­lysts ques­tioned the FSB’s the­o­ry of the case.

    Let­ting Vovk in and out of the coun­try “would sug­gest a pret­ty major fail­ure” on its part, said Mark Gale­ot­ti, an author on Rus­sia and direc­tor of Mayak Intel­li­gence con­sul­tan­cy.

    “I think this is a major Krem­lin blindspot, to fail to appre­ci­ate how its evolv­ing nar­ra­tive is actu­al­ly paint­ing it as incom­pe­tent”.

    Chris­to Gorozev, of the inves­tiga­tive web­site Belling­cat, said Russ­ian hack­ers were aware Vovk was a mem­ber of the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary in April, hav­ing post­ed her details on a site encour­ag­ing “doxxing” as harass­ment on the inter­net is known.

    “How did she get into Rus­sia with that eas­i­ly dis­cov­er­able mil­i­tary foot­print?” he said.
    ...

    Final­ly, note how the planned Nurem­burg-style tri­al of the Azov sol­diers is being treat­ed by Kyiv as a deal­break­er for any peace nego­ti­a­tions. It under­scores the sym­bol­ic sig­nif­i­cance that group has been ele­vat­ed to in Ukrain­ian soci­ety:

    ...
    Russ­ian media has already released images of cages being built for the tri­als in Mar­i­upol. As the Donet­sk People’s Repub­lic (DPR) per­mits the death penal­ty, the Azov fight­ers, who are accused of war crimes by Moscow, could be put to death.

    ...

    Gov­ern­ment work­ers in Kyiv were on Mon­day told to work from home this week over fears of strikes on min­istry build­ings in the city cen­tre, and civil­ians have been told not to cel­e­brate the bank hol­i­day in pub­lic.

    It came as Mr Zelen­sky warned Rus­sia will destroy any chance of a nego­ti­at­ed peace with Ukraine if it goes ahead with a Nurem­berg-style tri­al of Azov pris­on­ers of war.

    “If our peo­ple are made to take part in this spec­ta­cle in vio­la­tion of all agree­ments, all inter­na­tion­al rules, if there is abuse... This will be the line beyond which any nego­ti­a­tions are impos­si­ble,” he said.
    ...

    So the FSB is imme­di­ate­ly blam­ing Azov, which denies any cul­pa­bil­i­ty. That brings us to the remark­able claims made by Ilya Pono­marev — a for­mer mem­ber of the Russ­ian Duma and the sole vote against the 2014 annex­a­tion of Crimea — claimed respon­si­bil­i­ty for the bomb­ing in a man­i­festo that promised many more attacks to come on Rus­si­a’s lead­er­ship. It was basi­cal­ly a dec­la­ra­tion of a vio­lent regime-change cam­paign.

    And while the fol­low­ing arti­cle does­n’t men­tion how Pono­marev admit­ted that the attack was done in part as retal­i­a­tion for the bomb­ing of Azov POWs last month, don’t for­get that Pro­fes­sor Katchanovs­ki report­ed that Pono­marev did indeed make that claim. So we have what amount to a kind of dec­la­ra­tion of war against the Krem­lin made by some­one who was just giv­en per­mis­sion to launch their Kyiv-based Russ­ian-lan­guage oppo­si­tion TV chan­nel ear­li­er this year. At a min­i­mum it com­pli­cates the Kyiv gov­ern­men­t’s claims of no involve­ment:

    The Guardian

    Ex-Russ­ian MP claims Russ­ian par­ti­sans respon­si­ble for Moscow car bomb

    Speak­ing in Kyiv, Ilya Pono­marev alleges bomb that killed daugh­ter of Putin ally was work of under­ground group

    Luke Hard­ing
    Sun 21 Aug 2022 13.54 EDT

    A for­mer mem­ber of Russia’s Duma who was expelled for anti-Krem­lin activ­i­ties has claimed that Russ­ian par­ti­sans were alleged­ly behind a car bomb which blew up the daugh­ter of one of Vladimir Putin’s close polit­i­cal allies on the out­skirts of Moscow.

    Speak­ing in Kyiv, where he is based, Ilya Pono­marev alleged the explo­sion on Sat­ur­day evening was the work of the Nation­al Repub­li­can Army, which he claimed was an under­ground group work­ing inside Rus­sia and ded­i­cat­ed to over­throw­ing the Putin regime.

    ...

    “This action, like many oth­er par­ti­san actions car­ried out on the ter­ri­to­ry of Rus­sia in recent months, was car­ried out by the Nation­al Repub­li­can Army (NRA),” Pono­marev said. He was speak­ing in a 7pm broad­cast on Feb­ru­ary Morn­ing, a Russ­ian-lan­guage oppo­si­tion TV chan­nel he launched in Kyiv ear­li­er this year.

    He added: “A momen­tous event took place near Moscow last night. This attack opens a new page in Russ­ian resis­tance to Putin­ism. New – but not the last.”

    The blast killed Darya Dug­i­na, the 30-year-old daugh­ter of the Russ­ian polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor and far-right ide­o­logue Alexan­der Dug­in, both of whom had been sanc­tioned by the UK and US for act­ing to desta­bilise Ukraine.

    Pono­marev said par­ti­sans inside Rus­sia were ready to con­duct fur­ther sim­i­lar attacks against high-pro­file Krem­lin-con­nect­ed tar­gets, includ­ing offi­cials, oli­garchs and mem­bers of Russia’s secu­ri­ty agen­cies.

    The for­mer deputy read what pur­port­ed to be an NRA man­i­festo: “We declare Pres­i­dent Putin a usurp­er of pow­er and a war crim­i­nal who amend­ed the Con­sti­tu­tion, unleashed a frat­ri­ci­dal war between the Slav­ic peo­ples and sent Russ­ian sol­diers to cer­tain and sense­less death.

    “Pover­ty and coffins for some, palaces for oth­ers – the essence of his pol­i­cy. We believe that dis­en­fran­chised peo­ple have the right to rebel against tyrants. Putin will be deposed and destroyed by us!”

    Pono­marev con­firmed his com­ments in a mes­sage sent by text. A left­wing mem­ber of Russia’s par­lia­ment, he was the only deputy to vote in 2014 against the annex­a­tion of Crimea.

    A venge­ful Krem­lin barred him when he was on a trip to the US from re-enter­ing his own coun­try. He became a Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen in 2019. In March, after the inva­sion of Ukraine, he launched Feb­ru­ary Morn­ing and Roz­par­ti­san, a Telegram chan­nel which gives news updates of anti-war actions in Russ­ian towns and cities.

    Ponomarev’s feud with Putin is well known. His claim there is an active indige­nous under­ground move­ment seek­ing to assas­si­nate promi­nent sup­port­ers of the war inside Rus­sia would, if true, mark a dra­mat­ic esca­la­tion. It is like­ly to enrage – if not nec­es­sar­i­ly con­vince – the Krem­lin.

    The alleged man­i­festo declared that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and region­al admin­is­tra­tions are Putin’s “accom­plices”.

    “Those who do not resign their pow­er will be destroyed by us,” it said.

    Oth­er tar­gets include cor­rupt busi­ness­men, the homes and prop­er­ties of those who fail to con­demn the Krem­lin and its war, and “employ­ees of pow­er struc­tures”. Mil­i­tary car­goes and peo­ple who prof­it from them will also be wiped out, it said.

    ...

    Promi­nent Russ­ian hawks have demand­ed the Krem­lin respond by tar­get­ing gov­ern­ment offi­cials in Kyiv. “Deci­sion-mak­ing cen­tres!! Deci­sion-mak­ing cen­tres!!!” wrote Mar­gari­ta Simonyan, the edi­tor-in-chief of the state-fund­ed RT tele­vi­sion sta­tion, repost­ing a call to bomb the head­quar­ters of the Ukrain­ian SBU intel­li­gence agency.

    ———–

    “Ex-Russ­ian MP claims Russ­ian par­ti­sans respon­si­ble for Moscow car bomb” by Luke Hard­ing; The Guardian; 08/21/2022

    ““This action, like many oth­er par­ti­san actions car­ried out on the ter­ri­to­ry of Rus­sia in recent months, was car­ried out by the Nation­al Repub­li­can Army (NRA),” Pono­marev said. He was speak­ing in a 7pm broad­cast on Feb­ru­ary Morn­ing, a Russ­ian-lan­guage oppo­si­tion TV chan­nel he launched in Kyiv ear­li­er this year.

    So Ilya Pono­marev made these claims on a Russ­ian-lan­guage oppo­si­tion TV chan­nel he launched in Kyiv ear­li­er this year. Mak­ing state­ments like that on a new­ly-launched Kyiv plat­form cer­tain­ly makes it more dif­fi­cult for Kyiv to deny any involve­ment.

    And this was just an open­ly blow, accord­ing to Pono­marev. The Nation­al Repub­li­can Army (NRA) is ready for more high pro­file attacks on Rus­si­a’s lead­er­ship. That’s accord­ing to a Pono­marev’s man­i­festo:

    ...
    Pono­marev said par­ti­sans inside Rus­sia were ready to con­duct fur­ther sim­i­lar attacks against high-pro­file Krem­lin-con­nect­ed tar­gets, includ­ing offi­cials, oli­garchs and mem­bers of Russia’s secu­ri­ty agen­cies.

    The for­mer deputy read what pur­port­ed to be an NRA man­i­festo: “We declare Pres­i­dent Putin a usurp­er of pow­er and a war crim­i­nal who amend­ed the Con­sti­tu­tion, unleashed a frat­ri­ci­dal war between the Slav­ic peo­ples and sent Russ­ian sol­diers to cer­tain and sense­less death.

    “Pover­ty and coffins for some, palaces for oth­ers – the essence of his pol­i­cy. We believe that dis­en­fran­chised peo­ple have the right to rebel against tyrants. Putin will be deposed and destroyed by us!”

    ...

    The alleged man­i­festo declared that the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and region­al admin­is­tra­tions are Putin’s “accom­plices”.

    “Those who do not resign their pow­er will be destroyed by us,” it said.

    Oth­er tar­gets include cor­rupt busi­ness­men, the homes and prop­er­ties of those who fail to con­demn the Krem­lin and its war, and “employ­ees of pow­er struc­tures”. Mil­i­tary car­goes and peo­ple who prof­it from them will also be wiped out, it said.
    ...

    Final­ly, note how Pono­marev was report­ed­ly a left­wing mem­ber of Rus­si­a’s par­lia­ment, and the only deputy to vote against the annex­a­tion of Crimea in 2014. He described him­self as a “lib­er­tar­i­an com­mu­nist” dur­ing an inter­view with the Wash­ing­ton Post in 2015. It’s a rather neb­u­lous term, at a min­i­mum:

    ...
    Pono­marev con­firmed his com­ments in a mes­sage sent by text. A left­wing mem­ber of Russia’s par­lia­ment, he was the only deputy to vote in 2014 against the annex­a­tion of Crimea.

    A venge­ful Krem­lin barred him when he was on a trip to the US from re-enter­ing his own coun­try. He became a Ukrain­ian cit­i­zen in 2019. In March, after the inva­sion of Ukraine, he launched Feb­ru­ary Morn­ing and Roz­par­ti­san, a Telegram chan­nel which gives news updates of anti-war actions in Russ­ian towns and cities.
    ...

    So giv­en Pro­fes­sor Katchanovk­i’s obser­va­tion that Pono­marev has appar­ent­ly admit­ted links to a group of Russ­ian neo-Nazis recent­ly killed in Vol­gograd with an Azov-linked plot, here’s a report from least week about that plot. Accord­ing to the FSB, it was a planned pipeline attack being devised by were part of the so-called Restruct group, cre­at­ed by the nation­al­ist Max­im Martsinke­vich. Martsinke­vich was a Russ­ian neo-Nazi pre­vi­ous­ly jailed by Russ­ian author­i­ties after he made a video of him­self beat­ing and tor­tur­ing a gay Iraqi man in 2014. So it sounds like Pono­marev’s NRA has been palling around with Russ­ian neo-Nazi gangs. And based on Pro­fes­sor Katchanovski’s tweet it sounds like Pono­marev is open­ly admit­ting this. And that all sug­gests Pono­marev’s claims of addi­tion­al plots might be more than just puffery:

    Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da

    Russia’s FSB kills 2 Rus­sians, say­ing they “pre­vent­ed a ter­ror­ist attack” on oil pipeline

    UKRAINSKA PRAVDA — MONDAY, 15 AUGUST 2022, 18:22

    The Fed­er­al Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion (FSB) announced that they had killed two Rus­sians who were sup­pos­ed­ly prepar­ing a “ter­ror­ist attack” on an oil pipeline in Vol­gograd Oblast “under the con­trol of Ukraine’s spe­cial ser­vices.”

    Source: Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da news agency TASS with ref­er­ence to the Fed­er­al Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice of the Russ­ian Fed­er­a­tion

    Details: The Rus­sians say that the cit­i­zens killed dur­ing the deten­tion were part of the so-called Restruct group, cre­at­ed by the nation­al­ist Max­im Martsinke­vich (Tesak); he com­mit­ted sui­cide in a Russ­ian pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­tre in 2020.

    Accord­ing to the FSB, one of those who organ­ised the “sab­o­tage” alleged­ly serves in the Azov bat­tal­ion; the oth­er is a Russ­ian from the Ura­han [Hur­ri­cane] bat­tal­ion.

    The FSB reports that dur­ing their “oper­a­tion” they seized a high-pow­ered impro­vised explo­sive device, as well as two trau­mat­ic guns mod­i­fied for fir­ing live ammu­ni­tion.

    ...

    ———-

    “Russia’s FSB kills 2 Rus­sians, say­ing they “pre­vent­ed a ter­ror­ist attack” on oil pipeline”; Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da; 08/15/2022

    The Rus­sians say that the cit­i­zens killed dur­ing the deten­tion were part of the so-called Restruct group, cre­at­ed by the nation­al­ist Max­im Martsinke­vich (Tesak); he com­mit­ted sui­cide in a Russ­ian pre-tri­al deten­tion cen­tre in 2020.”

    The alleged pipeline sab­o­tage plot was being devised by the so-called Restruct group, cre­at­ed by the nation­al­ist Max­im Martsinke­vich. An impor­tant detail left out of this report is that Martsinke­vich was a Russ­ian neo-Nazi pre­vi­ous­ly jailed by Russ­ian author­i­ties after he made a video of him­self beat­ing and tor­tur­ing a gay Iraqi man in 2014. So if this is the crew Pono­marev has been hang­ing around with he appears to have strayed pret­ty far from his far left roots.

    Also note the claims by Russ­ian author­i­ties that one of the orga­niz­ers of the plot serves in the Azov bat­tal­ion. A mem­ber of a Nazi bat­tal­ion work­ing with a Russ­ian neo-Nazi gang. Who knows if it’s true, but It tracks:

    ...
    Accord­ing to the FSB, one of those who organ­ised the “sab­o­tage” alleged­ly serves in the Azov bat­tal­ion; the oth­er is a Russ­ian from the Ura­han [Hur­ri­cane] bat­tal­ion.
    ...

    All in all, it’s quite a wild mys­tery. Last week, we had Russ­ian author­i­ties killing two cit­i­zens who appeared to be mem­bers of a Russ­ian neo-Nazi gang that was plot­ting pipeline attacks in con­cert with mem­bers of Azov. That was the FSB’s claims. Flash for­ward a week, and we have the bomb­ing of the daugh­ter of one of the most promi­nent fig­ures in Rus­sia. The FSB imme­di­ate­ly blames a pre­vi­ous­ly-doxxed mem­ber of Azov who alleged­ly man­aged to pull off a dar­ing under­cov­er assas­si­na­tion cam­paign with her 12 year old daugh­ter tag­ging along. But then a dis­si­dent for­mer par­lia­men­tar­i­an based in Kyiv claims respon­si­bil­i­ty on a Kyiv-based TV chan­nel he start­ed ear­li­er this year, claim­ing the bomb­ing was done in retal­i­a­tion for the deaths of the Azov POWs while and promis­ing many more attacks in the future. And this dis­si­dent, by his own admis­sion, also appears to have some sort of con­nec­tion to last week’s Azov-con­nect­ed pipeline plot. A lot of the details in this sto­ry seem rather unbe­liev­able and yet there’s no deny­ing the fact in this mys­tery are start­ing to gel. We’ll pre­sum­ably get a lot more updates on the nature of group behind this if Pono­marev’s warn­ings about many more attacks to come are cred­i­ble.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2022, 4:20 pm
  18. @Pterrafractyl–

    Byzan­tine indeed!

    A prob­a­ble expla­na­tion involves the com­plex nature of counter-intel­li­gence, dou­ble and triple agents.

    The car­di­nal rule for a good dou­ble agent is to make one­self indis­pens­able to the effort.

    A dou­ble agent work­ing for the oppo­si­tion is going to do things to fur­ther the cause they are osten­si­bly work­ing for.

    My guess is that those con­sid­er­a­tions are at work here.

    The fact Vovk was an appar­ent­ly doc­u­ment­ed Azov per­son may have facil­i­tat­ed her entry, with FSB attempt­ing to track her to iden­ti­fy oth­er ele­ments of the Nazi net­work that is alleged­ly at work in the coun­try.

    In the ear­ly stages of the war, an SBU offi­cial claimed they had pen­e­trat­ed Russ­ian intel.

    Note, also, the lev­el of lying that we have seen in the cov­er­age of the war: Ukraine win­ning (not), No Nazis in Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment and nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment (not) etc.

    Also, note that Ukrain­s­ka Prav­da is an overt­ly OUN/B pub­li­ca­tion.

    https://covertactionmagazine.com/2022/05/12/army-of-secret-propagandists-in-ukraine-funded-by-u-s-to-win-western-hearts-and-minds-for-nato-policies/

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 23, 2022, 4:15 pm
  19. Here’s a pair of arti­cles relate to the Russian/Iranian push to cre­ate a ‘Gas OPEC’ at the same time the ongo­ing Euro­pean ener­gy cri­sis con­tin­ues to only get worse as win­ter approach­es. They also indi­rect­ly relate the expect­ed dura­tion of war in Ukraine and the West­’s eco­nom­ic show­down with Rus­sia, because it sounds like Big Oil is prepar­ing the West for a future with­out Russ­ian oil and gas. A future that’s going to involve a lot more record prof­its for the ener­gy sec­tor:

    So how much longer can we expect oil and gas short­ages across the con­ti­nent, bleed­ing into a ele­vate prices around the world? For years to come. That was pre­dic­tion recent­ly made by the heads of Shell and Total, and echoed by Euro­pean ener­gy min­is­ters. Bel­gium’s ener­gy min­is­ter pre­dict­ed dif­fi­cult times for Euro­pean ener­gy con­sumers for the next 5 to 10 years. Beyond that, there’s talk of tran­si­tion the EU to a future where it’s not reliant on Russ­ian oil and gas at all. A post-Rus­sia-pow­ered EU econ­o­my. Those were the kinds of com­ments were heard from the heads of Shell and Total and var­i­ous EU ener­gy min­is­ters dur­ing a sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny for a new car­bon cap­ture and stor­age facil­i­ty. Com­ments that do indeed sug­gest the EU — and the West in gen­er­al — is going to be deal­ing with high ener­gy prices for years to come.

    Now, if the EU takes this oppor­tu­ni­ty to actu­al­ly tran­si­tion to renew­able green ener­gy tech­nolo­gies, well, that could make an extend­ed peri­od of ele­vate prices worth it. If, on the oth­er hand, this ends up just being an extend­ed peri­od of record prof­its the ener­gy sec­tor, that would obvi­ous­ly be awful. So while it sounds like the EU is increas­ing­ly poised for an extend­ed mul­ti-year peri­od of painful­ly high ener­gy prices, it’s not at all clear what kind of EU econ­o­my we can expect by the end of that pain: is the EU going to expe­ri­ence a painful tran­si­tion to a green ener­gy tomor­row? Or just a painful peri­od of high prices and no green tomor­row and extra huge record prof­its for the ener­gy sec­tor?

    The Guardian

    Euro­pean gas short­ages like­ly to last sev­er­al win­ters, says Shell chief

    Warn­ing rais­es prospect of con­tin­ued rationing, as Total boss says Europe has to plan for future with­out Russ­ian sup­plies

    Gwyn Topham
    Mon 29 Aug 2022 13.47 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Tue 30 Aug 2022 02.33 EDT

    Gas short­ages across Europe are like­ly to last for sev­er­al win­ters to come, the chief exec­u­tive of Shell has said, rais­ing the prospect of con­tin­ued ener­gy rationing as gov­ern­ments across the con­ti­nent push to devel­op alter­na­tive sup­plies.

    Cuts to the sup­ply of Russ­ian gas since the inva­sion of Ukraine have plunged Euro­pean coun­tries into a dev­as­tat­ing ener­gy cri­sis, dri­ving up whole­sale prices to leave con­sumers fac­ing huge bills and the high­est rates of infla­tion since the 1980s.

    Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Nor­way on Mon­day, Ben van Beur­den said the sit­u­a­tion could per­sist for sev­er­al years. “It may well be that we will have a num­ber of win­ters where we have to some­how find solu­tions,” he said.

    Van Beur­den said solu­tions to the ener­gy cri­sis would have to found through “effi­cien­cy sav­ings, through rationing and a very, very quick build­out of alter­na­tives”.

    “That this is going to be some­how easy, or over, I think is a fan­ta­sy that we should put aside,” he added.

    ...

    Rus­sia, the major sup­pli­er of gas to most of the EU before the war in Ukraine, has throt­tled exports in response to west­ern sanc­tions imposed since Vladimir Putin’s inva­sion six months ago. While not all EU coun­tries are direct­ly reliant on Russ­ian sup­plies, com­pe­ti­tion for scarce resources has pushed whole­sale Euro­pean gas prices up by a fac­tor of 12 com­pared with a year ago.

    Britain sources lit­tle of its gas direct­ly from Rus­sia, although is exposed to soar­ing prices on the whole­sale mar­ket. Liz Truss, who is like­ly to be the next British prime min­is­ter, has so far refused to spell out what help she would give to house­holds as the price cap on ener­gy bills jumps 80% to £3,549 a year from Octo­ber.

    Speak­ing on Mon­day, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Ursu­la von der Leyen, said a pack­age of emer­gency mea­sures would be unveiled soon. Speak­ing in Slove­nia as EU offi­cials work on a plan, which could be announced as ear­ly as this week, Von der Leyen said “emer­gency inter­ven­tions” would be intro­duced in addi­tion to longer-term ener­gy mar­ket reforms.

    “Sky­rock­et­ing elec­tric­i­ty prices are now expos­ing, for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, the lim­i­ta­tions of our cur­rent elec­tric­i­ty mar­ket design,” she said.

    The French prime min­is­ter, Eliz­a­beth Borne, warned com­pa­nies that ener­gy could be rationed this win­ter, while Belgium’s ener­gy min­is­ter said the next five to 10 years could be dif­fi­cult.

    Speak­ing along­side the Shell chief exec­u­tive in Nor­way, the head of anoth­er ener­gy com­pa­ny, TotalEnergies’s Patrick Pouyan­né, said Europe’s gov­ern­ments and pol­i­cy­mak­ers would have to plan for a future with­out Russ­ian gas.

    The com­ments were made at a cer­e­mo­ny to mark a car­bon cap­ture and stor­age deal between the two firms, the Finan­cial Times report­ed. “If you think with­out it [Russ­ian gas], we will man­age. There is enough ener­gy in this plan­et to do with­out it,” Pouyan­né added.

    ...

    Main­te­nance work is expect­ed to take place this week by Russ­ian state-owned com­pa­ny Gazprom on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that links Rus­sia and Ger­many via the Baltic Sea, com­pli­cat­ing efforts to fill up gas stor­age sites.

    Whole­sale gas prices fell back on Mon­day after Germany’s econ­o­my min­is­ter said he expect­ed the country’s stor­age to be 85% full next month. How­ev­er, prices still remain more than triple the lev­el at the start of this year.

    Soar­ing ener­gy prices have helped oil and gas com­pa­nies to record bumper prof­its, prompt­ing demands for wind­fall tax­es to help finance emer­gency sup­port for strug­gling house­holds and busi­ness­es. Shell made record prof­its of near­ly £10bn between April and June and promised to give share­hold­ers div­i­dends worth £6.5bn.

    ————

    “Euro­pean gas short­ages like­ly to last sev­er­al win­ters, says Shell chief” by Gwyn Topham; The Guardian; 08/29/2022

    “Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Nor­way on Mon­day, Ben van Beur­den said the sit­u­a­tion could per­sist for sev­er­al years. “It may well be that we will have a num­ber of win­ters where we have to some­how find solu­tions,” he said.”

    The ener­gy emer­gency is going to be the sta­tus quo for years to come. That was the pre­dic­tion from Shell CEO Ben van Beur­den dur­ing a sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny for a new car­bon cap­ture stor­age deal. As Van Beur­den describes, the nec­es­sary solu­tions includ­ing a “very, very quick build­out of alter­na­tives”. He, of course, made these state­ments at the same time Shell is expe­ri­enc­ing record prof­it, which is reminder that Shel­l’s investors may not actu­al­ly share the expressed sense of urgency. The emer­gency sta­tus quo is going quite nice­ly for Shell:

    ...
    Van Beur­den said solu­tions to the ener­gy cri­sis would have to found through “effi­cien­cy sav­ings, through rationing and a very, very quick build­out of alter­na­tives”.

    “That this is going to be some­how easy, or over, I think is a fan­ta­sy that we should put aside,” he added.

    ...

    Soar­ing ener­gy prices have helped oil and gas com­pa­nies to record bumper prof­its, prompt­ing demands for wind­fall tax­es to help finance emer­gency sup­port for strug­gling house­holds and busi­ness­es. Shell made record prof­its of near­ly £10bn between April and June and promised to give share­hold­ers div­i­dends worth £6.5bn.
    ...

    Echo­ing those sen­ti­ments at the sign­ing cer­e­mo­ny was the head of Total­En­er­gy, Patrick Pouyan­né, who indi­cat­ed that Euope need­ed to build a future with­out Russ­ian gas at all. In oth­er words, record prof­its for the ener­gy sec­tor for years to come...at least until that ener­gy sec­tor final­ly builds out the alter­na­tives that could replace Russ­ian ener­gy:

    ...
    Speak­ing along­side the Shell chief exec­u­tive in Nor­way, the head of anoth­er ener­gy com­pa­ny, TotalEnergies’s Patrick Pouyan­né, said Europe’s gov­ern­ments and pol­i­cy­mak­ers would have to plan for a future with­out Russ­ian gas.

    The com­ments were made at a cer­e­mo­ny to mark a car­bon cap­ture and stor­age deal between the two firms, the Finan­cial Times report­ed. “If you think with­out it [Russ­ian gas], we will man­age. There is enough ener­gy in this plan­et to do with­out it,” Pouyan­né added.
    ...

    Now, if this was just ener­gy com­pa­ny exec­u­tives mak­ing these kinds of pre­dic­tions of ele­vat­ed ener­gy prices for years to come it would be eas­i­er to dis­miss this as wish­ful think­ing from the indus­try. But when you have Belgium’s ener­gy min­is­ter pre­dict­ing 5 to 10 more years of “dif­fi­cult” ener­gy prices, it sounds like EU gov­ern­ments are think­ing along sim­i­lar lines:

    ...
    The French prime min­is­ter, Eliz­a­beth Borne, warned com­pa­nies that ener­gy could be rationed this win­ter, while Belgium’s ener­gy min­is­ter said the next five to 10 years could be dif­fi­cult.
    ...

    And as the lessons from the UK price spikes remind us, this isn’t just an EU issue. The Euro­pean scram­ble to replace that Russ­ian gas and oil has been push­ing up whole­sale prices for every­one:

    ...
    Rus­sia, the major sup­pli­er of gas to most of the EU before the war in Ukraine, has throt­tled exports in response to west­ern sanc­tions imposed since Vladimir Putin’s inva­sion six months ago. While not all EU coun­tries are direct­ly reliant on Russ­ian sup­plies, com­pe­ti­tion for scarce resources has pushed whole­sale Euro­pean gas prices up by a fac­tor of 12 com­pared with a year ago.

    Britain sources lit­tle of its gas direct­ly from Rus­sia, although is exposed to soar­ing prices on the whole­sale mar­ket. Liz Truss, who is like­ly to be the next British prime min­is­ter, has so far refused to spell out what help she would give to house­holds as the price cap on ener­gy bills jumps 80% to £3,549 a year from Octo­ber.

    ...

    Whole­sale gas prices fell back on Mon­day after Germany’s econ­o­my min­is­ter said he expect­ed the country’s stor­age to be 85% full next month. How­ev­er, prices still remain more than triple the lev­el at the start of this year.
    ...

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing arti­cle about the glob­al nature of the ener­gy price cri­sis. A glob­al cri­sis that’s lead­ing to record-break­ing prof­its for one oil and gas multi­na­tion­al after anoth­er:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Amid world crises, ‘grotesque greed’ wins out

    Analy­sis by Ishaan Tha­roor
    August 8, 2022 at 12:00 a.m. EDT

    For months, spik­ing infla­tion has roiled poor and rich nations alike. The ris­ing costs, which have reached 40-year highs, are large­ly thanks to the cas­cad­ing glob­al effects of the pan­dem­ic com­bined with the sud­den sup­ply chain and ener­gy mar­ket dis­rup­tions that fol­lowed Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine, as read­ers of this newslet­ter are well aware. Their effects have been deep and far-reach­ing.

    Some coun­tries are already in the grips of painful eco­nom­ic con­trac­tions; for oth­ers, includ­ing the Unit­ed States, the prospect of reces­sion seems around the cor­ner. Europe, ensnared by its reliance on Russ­ian gas, is brac­ing for what’s being billed as a “win­ter of despair.” Aid agen­cies and U.N. offi­cials warn of hunger stalk­ing the plan­et, as price ris­es push sta­ples out of reach for tens of mil­lions of peo­ple. The glob­al macro­eco­nom­ic mael­strom has already col­lapsed one debt-rid­den, devel­op­ing econ­o­my (Sri Lan­ka), while oth­er nations (Zam­bia, Laos and Pak­istan, to name a few) find them­selves on the brink.

    But for major multi­na­tion­al fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies, it’s the best of times.

    Recent sec­ond-quar­ter earn­ings reports prof­fered eye-pop­ping fig­ures: BP post­ed sec­ond-quar­ter prof­its worth $8.5 bil­lion, its biggest wind­fall in 14 years. Exxon­Mo­bil went one fur­ther — its $17.9 bil­lion in net income was its largest-ever quar­ter­ly prof­it. U.S. com­pa­ny Chevron, Lon­don-based Shell and France’s Total­En­er­gies also record­ed block­buster results. Put togeth­er, these five major com­pa­nies made $55 bil­lion this past quar­ter, as hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world bore the brunt of surg­ing prices at the pump.

    And it’s not just oil and gas — coal, which cli­mate cam­paign­ers are des­per­ate­ly seek­ing to phase out, is surg­ing, too. Glen­core, the world’s largest coal ship­per, gen­er­at­ed record prof­its in the first half of 2022 and plans to pay out an addi­tion­al $4.5 bil­lion in div­i­dends and buy­backs to share­hold­ers.

    The com­bined prof­its of the largest ener­gy com­pa­nies in the first quar­ter of this year are close to $100 billion.This grotesque greed of the fos­sil fuel indus­try and their financiers is pun­ish­ing the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, while destroy­ing our only home.— António Guter­res (@antonioguterres) August 4, 2022

    Unit­ed Nations Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al António Guter­res believes this state of affairs is abhor­rent. In remarks made last week, he ham­mered ener­gy com­pa­nies for price goug­ing at a time of glob­al cri­sis and urged gov­ern­ments to aggres­sive­ly tax these cor­po­ra­tions’ prof­its.

    “It is immoral for oil and gas com­pa­nies to be mak­ing record prof­its from this ener­gy cri­sis on the backs of the poor­est peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties, at a mas­sive cost to the cli­mate,” Guter­res said, assum­ing once more his peren­ni­al role as the world’s town crier on the threat of cli­mate change and the need for gov­ern­ments to dras­ti­cal­ly reduce emis­sions.

    “This grotesque greed … is pun­ish­ing the poor­est and most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, while destroy­ing our only home,” he added.

    A host of coun­tries, espe­cial­ly in Europe, have attempt­ed to raise funds off com­pa­nies that raked in mam­moth prof­its in the wake of Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine. There have been mixed results. Italy’s lame-duck gov­ern­ment recent­ly report­ed that its 25 per­cent wind­fall tax on Ital­ian ener­gy com­pa­nies had so far not yield­ed what author­i­ties expect­ed, with some com­pa­nies appear­ing to snub pay­ment. The funds are expect­ed to be redis­trib­uted to help strug­gling house­holds and busi­ness­es.

    Last month, Britain’s Con­ser­v­a­tive gov­ern­ment pushed through its own 25 per­cent wind­fall tax on com­pa­nies oper­at­ing in the North Sea, which offi­cials think will help raise an addi­tion­al 5 bil­lion pounds ($6 bil­lion) over the next year to help ordi­nary Britons with their ener­gy costs. The move was cast as insuf­fi­cient by oppo­si­tion Labour politi­cians, who want to see fur­ther tax breaks and sub­si­dies to oil com­pa­nies scrapped.

    The Tories’ coun­ter­parts across the Atlantic are even more pro­tec­tive of fos­sil fuel con­cerns. Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tion that would rein in price goug­ing and impose a form of wind­fall tax on U.S. com­pa­nies face a fun­da­men­tal road­block in Con­gress, with Repub­li­cans in the Sen­ate staunch­ly opposed to impos­ing such mea­sures on the oil indus­try.

    Oil indus­try exec­u­tives have insist­ed they are rein­vest­ing some of their prof­its into projects that are part of a broad­er green ener­gy tran­si­tion. Some oil experts also con­tend that prof­itabil­i­ty in the ener­gy sec­tor is cycli­cal and sub­ject to the volatil­i­ty of the mar­ket. “The indus­try is cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing record lev­els of prof­itabil­i­ty, but two years ago the covid-relat­ed com­mod­i­ty crash was an epic deba­cle,” Pavel Molchanov of Ray­mond James invest­ment bank told my col­leagues.

    Cli­mate cam­paign­ers argue that the bal­loon­ing prof­its of the past half-year and the snail’s pace of the ener­gy tran­si­tion are all part of the plan for fos­sil fuel cor­po­ra­tions, many of which have spent vast sums lob­by­ing Group of 20 major economies on curb­ing the scale and speed of their decar­boniza­tion poli­cies.

    “For decades cli­mate pol­i­cy has been designed based on a the­o­ry that we can reduce demand for fos­sil fuels and increase the price of car­bon and that the mar­ket — tur­bocharged by alter­na­tives such as wind and solar that are now cheap­er than fos­sil fuels — will respond by con­strain­ing sup­ply,” wrote Tzepo­rah Berman in the Guardian. “But that’s not hap­pen­ing fast enough because there is cur­rent­ly no mech­a­nism to coun­ter­act the tax breaks, fos­sil fuel sub­si­dies and delay tac­tics that are dis­tort­ing the mar­kets.”

    Down­stream from the boon of oil com­pa­ny share­hold­ers is the mount­ing hard­ship faced by hun­dreds of mil­lions of ordi­nary peo­ple around the world. Accord­ing to U.N. data, glob­al food prices have risen about 50 per­cent since Decem­ber 2019 — that is, before the onset of the pan­dem­ic. And since the start of this year, the price of crude oil rose 26 per­cent and, con­se­quent­ly, glob­al ship­ping prices surged 22 per­cent.

    ...

    ———-

    “Amid world crises, ‘grotesque greed’ wins out” by Ishaan Tha­roor; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 08/08/2022

    “But for major multi­na­tion­al fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies, it’s the best of times.”

    It’s not just great times. It’s the best of times. At least if you’re a major multi­na­tion­al oil and gas firm. Not just Euro­pean firms. Chevron and Exxon­Mo­bil joined Shell and Total in record­ing block­buster returns. Even coal min­ers are get­ting in on the action. And when EU coun­tries have tied to claw back some of those exor­bi­tant prof­its, the com­pa­nies are appar­ent­ly just ignor­ing the wind­fall tax­es. Good times:

    ...
    Recent sec­ond-quar­ter earn­ings reports prof­fered eye-pop­ping fig­ures: BP post­ed sec­ond-quar­ter prof­its worth $8.5 bil­lion, its biggest wind­fall in 14 years. Exxon­Mo­bil went one fur­ther — its $17.9 bil­lion in net income was its largest-ever quar­ter­ly prof­it. U.S. com­pa­ny Chevron, Lon­don-based Shell and France’s Total­En­er­gies also record­ed block­buster results. Put togeth­er, these five major com­pa­nies made $55 bil­lion this past quar­ter, as hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple around the world bore the brunt of surg­ing prices at the pump.

    And it’s not just oil and gas — coal, which cli­mate cam­paign­ers are des­per­ate­ly seek­ing to phase out, is surg­ing, too. Glen­core, the world’s largest coal ship­per, gen­er­at­ed record prof­its in the first half of 2022 and plans to pay out an addi­tion­al $4.5 bil­lion in div­i­dends and buy­backs to share­hold­ers.

    ...

    A host of coun­tries, espe­cial­ly in Europe, have attempt­ed to raise funds off com­pa­nies that raked in mam­moth prof­its in the wake of Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine. There have been mixed results. Italy’s lame-duck gov­ern­ment recent­ly report­ed that its 25 per­cent wind­fall tax on Ital­ian ener­gy com­pa­nies had so far not yield­ed what author­i­ties expect­ed, with some com­pa­nies appear­ing to snub pay­ment. The funds are expect­ed to be redis­trib­uted to help strug­gling house­holds and busi­ness­es.

    ...

    And note the obser­va­tions from cli­mate activists regard­ing the claims from these oil giants that high ener­gy prices will help fuel a tran­si­tion to green­er alter­na­tives: It’s all talk and not actu­al­ly hap­pen­ing. And why would it with­out gov­ern­ments forc­ing it to hap­pen? The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is per­fect for the ener­gy giants. Why ruin it:

    ...

    Oil indus­try exec­u­tives have insist­ed they are rein­vest­ing some of their prof­its into projects that are part of a broad­er green ener­gy tran­si­tion. Some oil experts also con­tend that prof­itabil­i­ty in the ener­gy sec­tor is cycli­cal and sub­ject to the volatil­i­ty of the mar­ket. “The indus­try is cur­rent­ly enjoy­ing record lev­els of prof­itabil­i­ty, but two years ago the covid-relat­ed com­mod­i­ty crash was an epic deba­cle,” Pavel Molchanov of Ray­mond James invest­ment bank told my col­leagues.

    Cli­mate cam­paign­ers argue that the bal­loon­ing prof­its of the past half-year and the snail’s pace of the ener­gy tran­si­tion are all part of the plan for fos­sil fuel cor­po­ra­tions, many of which have spent vast sums lob­by­ing Group of 20 major economies on curb­ing the scale and speed of their decar­boniza­tion poli­cies.

    “For decades cli­mate pol­i­cy has been designed based on a the­o­ry that we can reduce demand for fos­sil fuels and increase the price of car­bon and that the mar­ket — tur­bocharged by alter­na­tives such as wind and solar that are now cheap­er than fos­sil fuels — will respond by con­strain­ing sup­ply,” wrote Tzepo­rah Berman in the Guardian. “But that’s not hap­pen­ing fast enough because there is cur­rent­ly no mech­a­nism to coun­ter­act the tax breaks, fos­sil fuel sub­si­dies and delay tac­tics that are dis­tort­ing the mar­kets.”
    ...

    End­less war cou­pled with end­less dither­ing on alter­na­tives is indeed the indus­try’s sweet spot. There’s no real deny­ing it. False promis­es from Big Oil about a green­er tomor­row is a cot­tage indus­try. A cot­tage indus­try set to get tur­bo charged with record prof­its for years to come. Record prof­its that are going to be a lot more sus­tain­able with­out green alter­na­tives or Russ­ian ener­gy.

    That’s the depress­ing take­away les­son from these arti­cles: while it might be tempt­ing to assume that a peri­od of ele­vat­ed ener­gy prices is just what ‘the mar­ket’ needs to finance a tran­si­tion to a green ener­gy tomor­row, ‘the mar­ket’ might have oth­er ideas for how to spend those wind­fall prof­its. It’s all a reminder that the indus­tri­al scale col­laps­ing of the envi­ron­ment isn’t just an exis­ten­tial threat. It’s also the great­est prof­it oppor­tu­ni­ty in his­to­ry. Most­ly short-term prof­its, obvi­ous­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 30, 2022, 3:56 pm
  20. The cel­e­bra­tion over Ukraine’s rapid recap­ture of lost ter­ri­to­ries around Kharkiv has unsur­pris­ing­ly already led to talk about the ‘lib­er­a­tion’ of the entire­ty of Ukraine’s lost ter­ri­to­ries, includ­ing the sep­a­ratist republics of Luhan­sk and Donet­sk. We’re even hear­ing talk of Ukraine dri­ving Rus­sia out of Crimea. And while all of that talk may be wild­ly pre­ma­ture, it’s worth not­ing what we aren’t hear­ing amidst all this talk about the recap­ture of those lost ter­ri­to­ries: what to do with all of the Russ­ian-speak­ing Ukraini­ans who actu­al­ly live in those ter­ri­to­ries, many who no longer feel any sense of loy­al­ty to a Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment that has long treat­ed them as an ene­my? What’s the plan for all of these peo­ple?

    That’s the ques­tion the fol­low­ing piece wres­tles with. A piece made all the more pow­er­ful by the fact that it was writ­ten by a Ukrain­ian who clear­ly oppos­es Rus­si­a’s role in this con­flict and wants Ukraine to ulti­mate­ly win back all those lost ter­ri­to­ries. As the author puts it, the “super­flu­ous peo­ple” of East­ern Ukraine are basi­cal­ly going to be two choic­es: go live in Rus­sia, or stay in Ukraine in a soci­ety locked in a per­ma­nent men­tal war with Rus­sia and all things ‘Russ­ian’ includ­ing any inter­nal ‘Russ­ian’ ene­mies. A soci­ety defined by its oppo­si­tion to Rus­sia. An obses­sive oppo­si­tion poised to become the new ‘Great Rea­son’ for a per­ma­nent war foot­ing and a per­ma­nent inter­nal war against any­thing or any­one per­ceived to be sym­pa­thet­ic with a per­ma­nent ene­my always just over the bor­der. That’s the plan for these ‘super­fuous peo­ple’. At least that’s what we have to assume since there’s nev­er any talk about any oth­er plans for them:

    Left East

    The Super­flu­ous Peo­ple of East­ern Ukraine

    By Ana­toli Ulyanov
    Sep­tem­ber 10, 2022

    Imag­ine you are a Russ­ian-speak­er in some bombed-out East­ern Ukrain­ian city, wait­ing to be lib­er­at­ed. Some of the “lib­er­a­tors” will be first check­ing your clos­ets for young men to mobi­lize and use as a Z‑branded canon fod­der. The oth­er lib­er­a­tors make it clear that they see you ?s noth­ing more than a “vat­nik,” a Homo Sovi­eti­cus. All that remains for you to choose is which knife you would like to be lib­er­at­ed with: the good knife of the vic­tim or the evil knife of the aggres­sor?

    Lis­ten­ing to Olex­ey Danilov, the Sec­re­tary of Ukraine’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty and Defense Coun­cil, I under­stand that nobody is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the “rein­te­gra­tion of Don­bas.” What mat­ters is ter­ri­to­ry, prefer­ably cleared of the “superfluous”population. Peo­ple are gen­er­al­ly incon­ve­nient. All of them are so dif­fer­ent and nuanced, with their own views and iden­ti­ties. They need to be some­how glued togeth­er, rep­re­sent­ed. Nobody wants to trou­ble with this.

    For if you want­ed to be in dia­logue with the inhab­i­tants of the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, you don’t tell them “It’s you who need to find a com­mon lan­guage with us, not the oppo­site”; you don’t accuse the granny of trea­son because she has chewed on human­i­tar­i­an aid from the Z‑truck; you don’t wipe your feet on the Sovi­et symbols–by now no longer ide­o­log­i­cal but social and cultural–that are part of someone’s mom and dad’s iden­ti­ties to the point that their destruc­tion means less of a polit­i­cal revenge (decom­mu­niza­tion) and more of social exclu­sions. Even the [Russ­ian] invaders thought of includ­ing Ukrain­ian lan­guage in Kher­son schools because pub­lic rela­tions mat­ters while the Ukrain­ian side can­not con­vey some image of tol­er­ance and inclu­sive­ness even at the lev­el of pro­pa­gan­da.

    When you want the cit­i­zens of the invad­ing coun­try to rise up against their regime, you don’t call for their visas to be tak­en away and for them to be locked in a cage with Putin because they hap­pened to be born in the wrong place. You don’t say that all of them with­out excep­tion are “like that,” you don’t burn cul­tur­al bridges, you don’t chip off tablets with Bul­gakov, cas­trat­ing your­self to spite the ene­my …

    Rus­sia is the aggres­sor here. This is crys­tal clear. What is not clear is what should attract these “super­flu­ous” Ukraini­ans to a coun­try that makes no effort to find a space for them. Noth­ing except for the sheer hor­ror of Rus­sia. It will be worse there; here it’s just bad. What is bet­ter – worse or bad? Bad is bet­ter, of course! That’s all the choice you are giv­en.

    ...

    Now the uni­ty of soci­ety is ensured by the Russ­ian aggres­sion and the pres­ence of an exter­nal ene­my. As soon as the war is over, inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions will sharp­en.

    War will become a uni­ver­sal argu­ment. It will serve to jus­ti­fy any prob­lems in the econ­o­my, any repres­sion, arbi­trari­ness. The vic­tim is always right. The vic­tim is allowed every­thing and not respon­si­ble for any­thing.

    Since Rus­sia won’t dis­ap­pear from the globe, the prox­im­i­ty to it and the mem­o­ry of the inva­sion will always make it pos­si­ble, even nec­es­sary, to pre­pare for war. This is how the war becomes the Great Rea­son, the ques­tion and the answer, the uni­fy­ing, ini­ti­at­ing force, nation’s idea, our very orbit. In the mean­time, while the main exter­nal ene­my remains out of reach, we will deal with the reach­able, inter­nal “ene­my.”

    Every­thing Sovi­et will be erased as part of the rejec­tion of this part of your­self; it will become shame­ful, repressed, lead­ing to the impov­er­ish­ment of cul­ture, dimin­ished inclu­siv­i­ty, the reduc­tion in the range of accept­able iden­ti­ties. Who is guilty here? Rus­sia. But this does not make it any eas­i­er for the “super­flu­ous” cit­i­zens.

    We will see many grotesque per­for­mances of reject­ing “the lan­guage of the invaders,” as many peo­ple fol­low either the direc­tion of the pre­vail­ing winds or the log­ic “since my grand­moth­er was Rus­si­fied, I will now rape myself in pub­lic.”

    Ukraini­ans who sur­vived the war in Ukraine will nat­u­ral­ly feel more enti­tled than those who sur­vived it in Berlin, but peo­ple in Lviv or Kiev won’t apply this log­ic to the IDPs and res­i­dents of the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, who had the most imme­di­ate expe­ri­ence of the war. Because it’s “them” who have to find a com­mon lan­guage with “us”.

    Any appeals to pro­tect the rights of “super­flu­ous” cit­i­zens will be declared some­thing sus­pi­cious, fake, Krem­lin-backed, and arti­fi­cial, unre­al­is­tic or even dan­ger­ous. Some­thing that the Ukrain­ian state had tol­er­at­ed far too long, some­thing that led to the cur­rent war, so now is the time to deal with it once and for­ev­er.

    I see noth­ing good in store for these “super­flu­ous” Ukrain­ian cit­i­zens. Some­thing like dou­ble-life in silence and per­formed con­sent with “patri­ot­ic stan­dards,” at best. Being a stranger in your own coun­try. The new oppres­sions will be jus­ti­fied by the old ones, mak­ing them con­tin­u­ous, end­less and, seem­ing­ly, just.

    ...

    ————

    “The Super­flu­ous Peo­ple of East­ern Ukraine” by Ana­toli Ulyanov; Left East; 09/10/2022

    “Since Rus­sia won’t dis­ap­pear from the globe, the prox­im­i­ty to it and the mem­o­ry of the inva­sion will always make it pos­si­ble, even nec­es­sary, to pre­pare for war. This is how the war becomes the Great Rea­son, the ques­tion and the answer, the uni­fy­ing, ini­ti­at­ing force, nation’s idea, our very orbit. In the mean­time, while the main exter­nal ene­my remains out of reach, we will deal with the reach­able, inter­nal “ene­my.”

    The writ­ing is on the wall. It’s abun­dant­ly clear that there is zero inter­est insid­er the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment in any mean­ing­ful rein­te­gra­tion of the ‘super­flu­ous’ pop­u­la­tions in the coun­try’s east. On the con­trary, all signs point towards these pop­u­la­tions becom­ing the new inter­nal ene­my who pre­cip­i­tat­ing the war and who will have to be dealt with once and for­ev­er:

    ...
    Lis­ten­ing to Olex­ey Danilov, the Sec­re­tary of Ukraine’s Nation­al Secu­ri­ty and Defense Coun­cil, I under­stand that nobody is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the “rein­te­gra­tion of Don­bas.” What mat­ters is ter­ri­to­ry, prefer­ably cleared of the “superfluous”population. Peo­ple are gen­er­al­ly incon­ve­nient. All of them are so dif­fer­ent and nuanced, with their own views and iden­ti­ties. They need to be some­how glued togeth­er, rep­re­sent­ed. Nobody wants to trou­ble with this.

    ...

    Every­thing Sovi­et will be erased as part of the rejec­tion of this part of your­self; it will become shame­ful, repressed, lead­ing to the impov­er­ish­ment of cul­ture, dimin­ished inclu­siv­i­ty, the reduc­tion in the range of accept­able iden­ti­ties. Who is guilty here? Rus­sia. But this does not make it any eas­i­er for the “super­flu­ous” cit­i­zens.

    We will see many grotesque per­for­mances of reject­ing “the lan­guage of the invaders,” as many peo­ple fol­low either the direc­tion of the pre­vail­ing winds or the log­ic “since my grand­moth­er was Rus­si­fied, I will now rape myself in pub­lic.”

    Ukraini­ans who sur­vived the war in Ukraine will nat­u­ral­ly feel more enti­tled than those who sur­vived it in Berlin, but peo­ple in Lviv or Kiev won’t apply this log­ic to the IDPs and res­i­dents of the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, who had the most imme­di­ate expe­ri­ence of the war. Because it’s “them” who have to find a com­mon lan­guage with “us”.

    Any appeals to pro­tect the rights of “super­flu­ous” cit­i­zens will be declared some­thing sus­pi­cious, fake, Krem­lin-backed, and arti­fi­cial, unre­al­is­tic or even dan­ger­ous. Some­thing that the Ukrain­ian state had tol­er­at­ed far too long, some­thing that led to the cur­rent war, so now is the time to deal with it once and for­ev­er.
    ...

    And let’s not for­get that it’s going to be groups like Azov and oth­er mod­ern-day off­shoots of the OUN‑B/UPA per­pe­tra­tors of Holo­caust in Ukraine who are like­ly to be play­ing increas­ing­ly promi­nent roles in Ukraine’s nation­al secu­ri­ty state for the fore­see­able future.

    So while it may seem like there’s no plan for these ‘super­flu­ous’ pop­u­la­tions, we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent that groups like Azov or polit­i­cal par­ties like Svo­bo­da have a plan for deal­ing with pop­u­la­tions they would rather just dis­ap­pear. That’s all part of the grim con­text of this sto­ry: just because we aren’t hear­ing from Ukraine’s lead­er­ship about plans for the rein­te­gra­tion of the Don­bass and Crimea, that does­n’t mean there aren’t plans. These move­ments do have a his­to­ry of get­ting away with unspeak­ably hor­rif­ic plans no one was open­ly talk­ing about, after all.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 14, 2022, 3:18 pm
  21. With Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin declar­ing a nation­al mobi­liza­tion for the war in Ukraine and the prospects of years-long con­flict grow­ing by the day, here’s a pair of arti­cles to keep in mind regard­ing the grow­ing role of the US as Europe’s ener­gy-sup­pli­er of choice. Because as the arti­cles make clear, the longer this war in Ukraine goes, the greater the fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tions to both the Euro­pean and US economies. Because the longer the con­flict goes, the more we should expect to see Euro­pean heavy indus­tries lit­er­al­ly relo­cate their long-term oper­a­tions to the US in search of steady cheap ener­gy. Euro­pean indus­tries can han­dle a cou­ple of years of ele­vat­ed ener­gy prices, but beyond that they’re going to to start look­ing else­where.

    And with the recent pas­sage of the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act by the Biden admin­is­tra­tion, the US is an even more tempt­ing long-term des­ti­na­tion. That’s large­ly thanks to the indus­tri­al sub­si­dies for ‘blue hydro­gen’ — hydro­gen pro­duced from fos­sil fuels where the car­bon pro­duced is cap­ture — that form one of the cen­ter­pieces of the bill. Sub­si­dies for pro­duc­tion of blue car­bon are guar­an­teed for the next decade and will obvi­ous­ly like­ly be extend­ed. And thanks to those sub­si­dies, there’s an expect­ed explo­sion of invest­ments in US hydro­gen pro­duc­tion. Hydro­gen that is pro­ject­ed to be dom­i­nat­ed by use in the trans­porta­tion indus­try (to pow­er elec­tric vehi­cles) but can also be used for every­thing from elec­tric­i­ty pro­duc­tion to cok­ing coal in steel pro­duc­tion. In oth­er words, thanks to a war with no end, the new­ly sub­si­dized US hydro­gen econ­o­my is exact­ly what ener­gy-hun­gry Euro­pean indus­tries are increas­ing­ly look­ing for:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal

    High Nat­ur­al-Gas Prices Push Euro­pean Man­u­fac­tur­ers to Shift to the U.S.

    The Ukraine war is dri­ving up ener­gy costs in Europe, while rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble prices and green-ener­gy incen­tives are lur­ing com­pa­nies to the U.S.

    By David Uber­ti
    Sept. 21, 2022 7:00 am ET

    AMSTERDAM—A big win­ner from the ener­gy cri­sis in Europe: the U.S. econ­o­my.

    Bat­tered by sky­rock­et­ing gas prices, com­pa­nies in Europe that make steel, fer­til­iz­er and oth­er feed­stocks of eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty are shift­ing oper­a­tions to the U.S., attract­ed by more sta­ble ener­gy prices and mus­cu­lar gov­ern­ment sup­port.

    As wild swings in ener­gy prices and per­sis­tent sup­ply-chain trou­bles threat­en Europe with what some econ­o­mists warn could be a new era of dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, Wash­ing­ton has unveiled a raft of incen­tives for man­u­fac­tur­ing and green ener­gy. The upshot is a play­ing field increas­ing­ly tilt­ed in the U.S.’s favor, exec­u­tives say, par­tic­u­lar­ly for com­pa­nies plac­ing bets on projects to make chem­i­cals, bat­ter­ies and oth­er ener­gy-inten­sive prod­ucts.

    “It’s a no-brain­er to go and do that in the Unit­ed States,” said Ahmed El-Hoshy, chief exec­u­tive of Ams­ter­dam-based chem­i­cal firm OCI NV, which this month announced an expan­sion of an ammo­nia plant in Texas.

    ...

    Dan­ish jew­el­ry com­pa­ny Pan­do­ra A/S and Ger­man auto mak­er Volk­swa­gen AG announced U.S. expan­sions ear­li­er this year. Last week, The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed Tes­la Inc. is paus­ing its plans to make bat­tery cells in Ger­many as it looks at qual­i­fy­ing for tax cred­its under the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act signed by Pres­i­dent Biden in August.

    Europe remains a desir­able mar­ket for advanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and boasts a skilled indus­tri­al work­force, ana­lysts and investors say. With pent-up demand from the pan­dem­ic, many com­pa­nies that have seen explod­ing ener­gy prices in recent months have passed them on to cus­tomers. The ques­tion is how long the high­er nat­ur­al-gas prices will last.

    Some econ­o­mists have warned that nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­ers from Cana­da to the U.S. and Qatar may strug­gle to ful­ly replace Rus­sia as a sup­pli­er for Europe in the medi­um term. If so, the con­ti­nent could face high prices, at least for gas, well into 2024, threat­en­ing to make the scar­ring on Europe’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor per­ma­nent.

    “I think we’ll mud­dle through two win­ters,” said Ste­fan Bor­gas, chief exec­u­tive of RHI Mag­ne­si­ta NV. If the con­ti­nent can’t find cheap­er gas or ramp up renew­able ener­gy, he added, “com­pa­nies will start to look else­where.”

    The Aus­tri­an busi­ness, which makes mate­ri­als used by firms such as steel­mak­ers to with­stand intense heat, is spend­ing about 8 mil­lion euros, equiv­a­lent to about $8 mil­lion, on its Euro­pean plants so cer­tain process­es run on alter­na­tive fuel such as coal or oil. It is also stor­ing nat­ur­al gas in a rent­ed under­ground facil­i­ty for­mer­ly owned by Krem­lin-con­trolled Gazprom and seized by the Aus­tri­an gov­ern­ment.

    Mr. Bor­gas is bull­ish on steel demand in the U.S., where incen­tives have also bright­ened the green-ener­gy out­look. Man­u­fac­tur­ers like RHI Mag­ne­si­ta see hydro­gen as key to replac­ing fos­sil fuels and reduc­ing emis­sions in plants across Europe, the U.S. and else­where. Promised spend­ing on such projects by Wash­ing­ton is expect­ed to boost the pro­duc­tion of hydro­gen and even­tu­al­ly low­er its price.

    “We are increas­ing our invest­ments [in the U.S.] also in order to stay with all of our part­ners who are invest­ing,” he said. “We are very, very pos­i­tive on the U.S.”

    Lux­em­bourg-based Arcelor­Mit­tal SA, which this month said it would cut pro­duc­tion at two Ger­man plants, report­ed bet­ter-than-expect­ed per­for­mance by an invest­ment this year in a Texas facil­i­ty that makes hot bri­quet­ted iron, a raw mate­r­i­al for steel pro­duc­tion. In a July earn­ings call, Chief Exec­u­tive Aditya Mit­tal attrib­uted the facility’s val­ue in part to being in a “region that offers high­ly com­pet­i­tive ener­gy and, ulti­mate­ly, com­pet­i­tive hydro­gen.”

    “I would just add that we also own 100% of future expan­sion in that facil­i­ty,” Mr. Mit­tal said.

    Many com­pa­nies remain cau­tious about chang­ing their strate­gies because of the dif­fi­cul­ty of build­ing projects such as alu­minum smelters, which can cost bil­lions and take years to com­plete.

    “It remains to be seen whether this will be a struc­tur­al change or one of a tem­po­rary nature,” said a spokes­woman for Ger­man chem­i­cal giant BASF, one of Europe’s largest buy­ers of nat­ur­al gas, which has cut pro­duc­tion in Bel­gian and Ger­man plants.

    OCI, which has slashed its Euro­pean ammo­nia out­put, has instead ramped up imports to its facil­i­ty at the Dutch port of Rot­ter­dam. To facil­i­tate such ship­ments, OCI is expand­ing its Beau­mont, Texas, plant with an invest­ment val­ued in the “high hun­dreds of mil­lions” of dol­lars, said Mr. El-Hoshy, the chief exec­u­tive.

    At the new facil­i­ty, OCI will make ammo­nia derived from so-called blue hydro­gen, which relies on nat­ur­al gas, and then cap­ture car­bon diox­ide giv­en off by the process. Mr. El-Hoshy said the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act made the deal more appeal­ing by offer­ing cred­its for stor­ing such emis­sions.

    “That, cou­pled with what’s hap­pen­ing with Rus­sia, are two rea­sons to say, well, maybe over time you don’t need to con­sume nat­ur­al gas [in Europe] and pro­duce the prod­uct,” he said.

    Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers may strug­gle to stay com­pet­i­tive with­out the low­er ener­gy prices or green incen­tives cur­rent­ly offered in the U.S., said Svein Tore Holsether, chief exec­u­tive of Nor­we­gian fer­til­iz­er giant Yara Inter­na­tion­al ASA.

    “Some indus­tries, as a result of that, will per­ma­nent­ly relo­cate,” he said.

    ————-

    “High Nat­ur­al-Gas Prices Push Euro­pean Man­u­fac­tur­ers to Shift to the U.S.” By David Uber­ti; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 09/21/2022

    “Dan­ish jew­el­ry com­pa­ny Pan­do­ra A/S and Ger­man auto mak­er Volk­swa­gen AG announced U.S. expan­sions ear­li­er this year. Last week, The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed Tes­la Inc. is paus­ing its plans to make bat­tery cells in Ger­many as it looks at qual­i­fy­ing for tax cred­its under the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act signed by Pres­i­dent Biden in August.

    The US isn’t just becom­ing Europe’s new nat­ur­al gas provider of choice as a result of the war in Ukraine. With the pas­sage of the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act, and with the war in Ukraine look­ing like it could last for years, the US is increas­ing­ly being viewed as the loca­tion for future major indus­tri­al invest­ments under the premise of more sta­ble of afford­able long-term ener­gy costs. Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers can han­dle a cou­ple of years of ele­vat­ed ener­gy prices. But if this goes on much longer than that, the US starts look­ing more and more like the place for major future indus­tri­al invest­ments. Invest­ments backed by the new US gov­ern­ment ‘blue hydro­gen’ sub­si­dies found in the new­ly-passed Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act. In oth­er words, the longer the war in Ukraine keeps ener­gy prices ele­vat­ed in Europe, the bet­ter the prospects for the US econ­o­my. It’s not exact­ly a healthy dynam­ic:

    ...
    Europe remains a desir­able mar­ket for advanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and boasts a skilled indus­tri­al work­force, ana­lysts and investors say. With pent-up demand from the pan­dem­ic, many com­pa­nies that have seen explod­ing ener­gy prices in recent months have passed them on to cus­tomers. The ques­tion is how long the high­er nat­ur­al-gas prices will last.

    Some econ­o­mists have warned that nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­ers from Cana­da to the U.S. and Qatar may strug­gle to ful­ly replace Rus­sia as a sup­pli­er for Europe in the medi­um term. If so, the con­ti­nent could face high prices, at least for gas, well into 2024, threat­en­ing to make the scar­ring on Europe’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor per­ma­nent.

    “I think we’ll mud­dle through two win­ters,” said Ste­fan Bor­gas, chief exec­u­tive of RHI Mag­ne­si­ta NV. If the con­ti­nent can’t find cheap­er gas or ramp up renew­able ener­gy, he added, “com­pa­nies will start to look else­where.”

    ...

    Many com­pa­nies remain cau­tious about chang­ing their strate­gies because of the dif­fi­cul­ty of build­ing projects such as alu­minum smelters, which can cost bil­lions and take years to com­plete.

    ...

    OCI, which has slashed its Euro­pean ammo­nia out­put, has instead ramped up imports to its facil­i­ty at the Dutch port of Rot­ter­dam. To facil­i­tate such ship­ments, OCI is expand­ing its Beau­mont, Texas, plant with an invest­ment val­ued in the “high hun­dreds of mil­lions” of dol­lars, said Mr. El-Hoshy, the chief exec­u­tive.

    At the new facil­i­ty, OCI will make ammo­nia derived from so-called blue hydro­gen, which relies on nat­ur­al gas, and then cap­ture car­bon diox­ide giv­en off by the process. Mr. El-Hoshy said the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act made the deal more appeal­ing by offer­ing cred­its for stor­ing such emis­sions.

    ...

    Euro­pean man­u­fac­tur­ers may strug­gle to stay com­pet­i­tive with­out the low­er ener­gy prices or green incen­tives cur­rent­ly offered in the U.S., said Svein Tore Holsether, chief exec­u­tive of Nor­we­gian fer­til­iz­er giant Yara Inter­na­tion­al ASA.

    “Some indus­tries, as a result of that, will per­ma­nent­ly relo­cate,” he said.
    ...

    As we can see, the US made a very big bet on hydro­gen and this is coin­cid­ing with a Euro­pean ener­gy cri­sis with no end in sight. And the worse the sit­u­a­tion gets for Euro­pean indus­tries, the more tan­ta­liz­ing the ener­gy-sub­si­dized US-econ­o­my looks for those indus­tries. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle excerpt describes, the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act is grant­i­ng these sub­si­dies for 10 years, although we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent they’ll be extend­ed. Sub­si­dies for the ener­gy indus­try tend to linger. But that’s just part of what is expect­ed to be a mas­sive nation­al invest­ment in the hydro­gen econ­o­my and all of the infra­struc­ture need­ed for this econ­o­my. It’s a long-term agen­da. The kind of long-term agen­da that aligns well with the kinds of long-term decades-long invest­ments major indus­tries make when decid­ing where to locate their pro­duc­tion facil­i­ties. That’s part of the con­text of the temp­ta­tion the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Europe cre­ates for Euro­pean indus­tries: Europe’s war-dri­ven ener­gy cri­sis is tempt­ing these indus­tries to make very long-term deci­sions to relo­cate at the same time the US promis­ing long-term sub­si­dies to indus­tries:

    CNBC

    The clean hydro­gen ener­gy econ­o­my was a dream. The cli­mate bill could make it a real­i­ty this decade

    Cather­ine Clif­ford
    Pub­lished Thu, Sep 8 2022 1:26 PM EDT
    Updat­ed Fri, Sep 9 20223:13 PM EDT

    * Hydro­gen could help decar­bonize some very large sec­tors of the econ­o­my that are oth­er­wise a real chal­lenge, like long haul truck­ing and mak­ing iron and steel.
    * But hydro­gen has to be syn­the­sized with zero car­bon emis­sions, oth­er­wise it’s not a clean ener­gy source.
    * A tax cred­it tucked into the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act gives the max­i­mum tax cred­it, $3 per kilo­gram, to hydro­gen pro­duced with renew­able ener­gy and nuclear ener­gy.

    A tax cred­it tucked into Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act could tur­bocharge the nascent clean hydro­gen indus­try and turn it into a mul­ti­tril­lion-dol­lar busi­ness in the com­ing decades.

    The tax cred­it will spur hydro­gen pro­duc­ers to devel­op clean­er ways to syn­the­size hydro­gen, which is used to make fer­til­iz­er and in oth­er indus­tri­al process­es. But it could also cat­alyze a whole new cat­e­go­ry of com­pa­nies look­ing to use clean hydro­gen as a replace­ment for fos­sil fuels in areas such as ship­ping, avi­a­tion, heavy indus­try, and as a way to store and trans­port ener­gy.

    Cur­rent­ly, 98 per­cent of hydro­gen is made in a way that uses fos­sil fuels, accord­ing to the Cen­ter on Glob­al Ener­gy Pol­i­cy at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. But “all the cur­rent hydro­gen pro­duc­ers are look­ing to pro­duce clean hydro­gen,” explained Eli­na Teplin­sky, a lawyer who serves as the spokesper­son for the Nuclear Hydro­gen Ini­tia­tive, a group work­ing to advance the devel­op­ment of the nuclear hydro­gen indus­try.

    The law will make it more eco­nom­i­cal­ly fea­si­ble to use car­bon cap­ture and stor­age tech­nol­o­gy to reduce the car­bon emis­sions from hydro­gen cre­ation. It will also open the door to a whole range of com­pa­nies look­ing for clean­er ways to make hydro­gen, and to use hydro­gen as a replace­ment for fos­sil fuels in cer­tain areas.

    By 2050, between 60 and 80 per­cent of hydro­gen pro­duc­tion will be pow­ered by renew­ables, accord­ing to a Novem­ber report on the indus­try pub­lished by the Hydro­gen Coun­cil, an indus­try group, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with McK­in­sey & Co. (This pre­dic­tion was pub­lished before the tax cred­it was passed.)

    This kind of indus­try tran­si­tion will require a lot of invest­ment — as much as $7 tril­lion to $8 tril­lion through 2050. But on the plus side, by that date the hydro­gen econ­o­my could gen­er­ate about $3 tril­lion in annu­al rev­enue, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Coun­cil and McK­in­sey report.

    What is hydro­gen used for today, and how could it fight cli­mate change?

    Cur­rent­ly, rough­ly half of the hydro­gen pro­duced is used to make fer­til­iz­er and ammo­nia, with the bal­ance used in petro­chem­i­cal refiner­ies or pro­duc­tion, accord­ing to the Cen­ter on Glob­al Ener­gy Pol­i­cy. The push for clean hydro­gen is moti­vat­ed both by a need to decar­bonize cur­rent process­es and because the use cas­es for hydro­gen are expand­ing.

    Indus­tri­al appli­ca­tions, which make up near­ly all the demand for hydro­gen today, will rep­re­sent only 15% of total hydro­gen demand by 2050, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Council/McKinsey report.

    Hydro­gen has the high­est ener­gy per mass of any fuel and does not release any car­bon emis­sions when it is burned or turned to elec­tric­i­ty in a fuel cell. Entre­pre­neurs and advo­cates believe hydro­gen could be use­ful to decar­bonize some very large sec­tors of the econ­o­my like long-haul truck­ing and indus­tri­al process­es includ­ing mak­ing iron and steel, mar­itime car­go ship­ping, and avi­a­tion.

    “If it weren’t for cli­mate change, we prob­a­bly wouldn’t be expand­ing into all of these new use cas­es” for hydro­gen, Emi­ly Kent, the U.S. direc­tor of zero-car­bon fuels at Clean Air Task Force, a glob­al cli­mate non­prof­it, told CNBC.

    The largest end use for hydro­gen by 2050 is expect­ed to be mobil­i­ty, includ­ing heavy truck­ing, long-range flights and con­tain­er ships, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Council/McKinsey report. In these cas­es, hydro­gen would pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty through a fuel cell, in which hydro­gen atoms and oxy­gen atoms are com­bined in an elec­tro­chem­i­cal reac­tion to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty, heat and water.

    Cur­rent elec­tric bat­tery-pow­ered vehi­cles can’t meet this need because bat­ter­ies that could store enough ener­gy for long-haul jour­neys would be too heavy and would take too long to recharge, Kent explained. A hydro­gen tank and fuel cell would weigh less, take up less space and have the refu­el­ing time sim­i­lar to gas or diesel.

    “It’s pos­si­ble that there’ll be huge break­throughs and bat­ter­ies or some­thing else that would change things. But as it stands today, there aren’t great solu­tions,” Kent told CNBC.

    Hydro­gen can also be burned to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty in a tur­bine, sim­i­lar to nat­ur­al gas. Cur­rent­ly, up to 20% hydro­gen can be blend­ed with nat­ur­al gas burned in con­ven­tion­al nat­ur­al gas tur­bines with­out need­ing to do any infra­struc­ture changes, accord­ing to Kent.

    “For high­er blends of hydro­gen or pure hydro­gen, we’ll like­ly need adjust­ments to the tur­bines and infra­struc­ture,” Kent told CNBC. “There are com­pa­nies work­ing on 100% hydro­gen-ready infra­struc­ture where pure hydro­gen can be burned in a tur­bine to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty.”

    Hydro­gen can be a way to store ener­gy, which is going to be crit­i­cal as renew­able ener­gy like wind and solar are ramped up and deployed across the coun­try. Wind and solar ener­gy don’t work when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, and so ener­gy has to be stored some­how to be able to pro­vide con­tin­u­ous, reli­able ener­gy. Mean­while, bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy is being ramped up, but bat­ter­ies are not yet at the point in their devel­op­ment where they can store enough ener­gy for long enough to make them suf­fi­cient back­up for a ful­ly renew­able grid.

    “If you pro­duce a ton of solar in the sum­mer, and you want to store a bunch of it away for the win­ter, hydro­gen can be stored for sort of that many month­s­long sea­son­al peri­ods, and pro­vide elec­tric­i­ty back to the sys­tem when it’s need­ed,” Kent said.

    Clean­ly pro­duced hydro­gen is also being con­sid­ered as a replace­ment for cok­ing coal in a key part of the process in pro­duc­ing steel, a heavy-emis­sions indus­try which is con­sid­ered a real chal­lenge to decar­bonize. And clean hydro­gen will be need­ed for indus­tri­al process­es that require espe­cial­ly high-grade heat, tem­per­a­tures above 752 degrees Fahren­heit, like cement plants, glass­mak­ing, and alu­minum remelt­ing, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Council/McKinsey report.

    What is clean hydro­gen?

    ...

    Cur­rent­ly, it only exists in com­pound forms, accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (CSIS), a bipar­ti­san, non­prof­it pol­i­cy research orga­ni­za­tion. Of the hydro­gen that Chi­na makes, 60 per­cent is made using coal and about 25 per­cent comes from using nat­ur­al gas, accord­ing to CSIS. Out­side of Chi­na, the largest hydro­gen pro­duc­ers are indus­tri­al gas com­pa­nies like Linde and Air­Prod­ucts, accord­ing to Teplin­sky.

    Sev­en­ty-six per­cent of hydro­gen pro­duced glob­al­ly and 95% in the U.S. is pro­duced with a process called steam methane reform­ing, in which a source of methane, like nat­ur­al gas, reacts with steam at very high tem­per­a­tures, accord­ing to the Cen­ter on Glob­al Ener­gy Pol­i­cy. Nat­ur­al gas releas­es green­house gas emis­sions when burned, and also from so-called fugi­tive methane leaks as it’s extract­ed and trans­port­ed.

    Glob­al­ly, 22% (and 4% in the U.S.) is made with a process called coal gasi­fi­ca­tion, where coal reacts with oxy­gen and steam in hot tem­per­a­ture and high pres­sure.

    Some com­pa­nies are work­ing to cap­ture the car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from these process­es and store it in tanks under­ground. Hydro­gen made this way is some­times called “blue hydro­gen.”

    More promis­ing­ly from an emis­sions per­spec­tive, an elec­trolyz­er can be used to split a water mol­e­cule into hydro­gen and oxy­gen, and it can be pow­ered with almost any ener­gy source — includ­ing zero-emis­sions sources like solar or wind, cre­at­ing what is known as “green hydro­gen.”

    Today, two per­cent of the hydro­gen made glob­al­ly and 1 per­cent in the U.S. is made with an elec­trolyz­er.

    Nuclear ener­gy can also be used to pow­er hydro­gen syn­the­sis with almost no addi­tion­al CO2 emis­sions (this is some­times called “pink hydro­gen,” but the nomen­cla­ture varies). As a bonus, the steam and heat pro­duced as byprod­ucts of nuclear ener­gy can be used in a high tem­per­a­ture elec­trol­y­sis process, which is much more effi­cient. And with the advanced nuclear reac­tors in devel­op­ment that run at even hot­ter tem­per­a­tures than con­ven­tion­al nuclear reac­tors, hydro­gen can be pro­duced in a ther­mo-chem­i­cal water-split­ting process that doesn’t use an elec­trolyz­er at all.

    Because the major­i­ty of the cost of pro­duc­ing hydro­gen with elec­trol­y­sis is the cost of the elec­tric­i­ty that goes into it, mak­ing hydro­gen with nuclear ener­gy and steam “real­ly could have a tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tion on low­er­ing the costs of clean hydro­gen pro­duc­tion,” Teplin­sky told CNBC.

    The cost of pro­duc­ing hydro­gen with these dif­fer­ent meth­ods varies tremen­dous­ly and swings based on input costs, like nat­ur­al gas and the source of pow­er. Because of the Russ­ian war in Ukraine and cli­mate change, these input costs have them­selves been swing­ing. A report pub­lished by non­par­ti­san non­prof­it Resources for the Future in Decem­ber 2020 said a kilo­gram of hydro­gen made with steam methane reform­ing cost between $1 and $2 (includ­ing the costs of some car­bon cap­ture). Hydro­gen made with elec­trol­y­sis pow­ered by wind and solar ranged from between $3 and $7 per kilo­gram.

    That’s where the tax cred­it comes in.

    How does the new bill help?

    The tax cred­it in the IRA is avail­able for 10 years and scales depend­ing on how clean the hydro­gen pro­duc­tion is. If hydro­gen is pro­duced with­out releas­ing any car­bon emis­sions, the tax cred­it is maxed out at $3 per kilo­gram of hydro­gen pro­duced. It then scales down pro­por­tion­al­ly based on the amount of emis­sions released, as long as it’s less than cur­rent pro­duc­tion tech­niques.

    If hydro­gen is pro­duced with some car­bon emis­sions, but few­er than are emit­ted in cur­rent pro­duc­tion tech­niques, the tax cred­it is incre­men­tal­ly small­er, pro­por­tion­al to the emis­sions reduc­tions.

    The tax cred­it is “an absolute game-chang­er,” Akshay Hon­nat­ti, the leader of EY’s sus­tain­abil­i­ty tax divi­sion for the Unit­ed States, told CNBC. “There was no incen­tive to have hydro­gen be clean­er. It costs to get hydro­gen to be clean­er,” Hon­nat­ti added. “Now there’s a cred­it avail­able for some­one to make that addi­tion­al lev­el of invest­ment and be able to jus­ti­fy that lev­el of invest­ment to their stake­hold­ers and share­hold­ers.”

    The $3 per kilo­gram cred­it makes nuclear hydro­gen high­ly com­pet­i­tive with fos­sil fuel pro­duced hydro­gen, Teplin­sky said. The U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy has as a goal, one of its Ener­gy Earth­shots Ini­tia­tives, to reduce the cost of clean hydro­gen to $1 per kilo­gram in a decade.

    For many of these bur­geon­ing use cas­es for clean hydro­gen, the tax cred­it includ­ed in the cli­mate bill is going to give com­pa­nies the chance to enter the mar­ket for mak­ing clean hydro­gen with­out los­ing mon­ey. “They could go back to their share­hold­ers, and they can say, ‘Look, we can we can do this eco­nom­i­cal­ly — today. We don’t have to project a loss for the next five years to enter this mar­ket. We can actu­al­ly enter this and have it be eco­nom­ic, or at least a breakeven project in the near future,’” Teplin­sky said.

    The Bipar­ti­san Infra­struc­ture Law passed in Novem­ber also includ­ed $8 bil­lion to devel­op region­al clean hydro­gen hubs in the U.S. Between the two laws, the U.S. should be able to devel­op a clean hydro­gen econ­o­my in sev­en to eight years, Teplin­sky said.

    ———–

    “The clean hydro­gen ener­gy econ­o­my was a dream. The cli­mate bill could make it a real­i­ty this decade” Cather­ine Clif­ford; CNBC; 09/08/2022

    “The tax cred­it will spur hydro­gen pro­duc­ers to devel­op clean­er ways to syn­the­size hydro­gen, which is used to make fer­til­iz­er and in oth­er indus­tri­al process­es. But it could also cat­alyze a whole new cat­e­go­ry of com­pa­nies look­ing to use clean hydro­gen as a replace­ment for fos­sil fuels in areas such as ship­ping, avi­a­tion, heavy indus­try, and as a way to store and trans­port ener­gy.

    It’s an indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion. At least that’s the hype/promise of the next-gen­er­a­tion hydro­gen econ­o­my get­ting tur­bo-charged with by the new­ly-passed Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act, with a 10 year tax cred­it that will pre­sum­ably be extend­ed for decades to come. As long as com­pa­nies cap­ture the car­bon released in the process­es used to make the hydro­gen, they get the sub­si­dies. And expec­ta­tions are that these incen­tives are enough to get the kind of infra­struc­ture need­ed for this tech­nol­o­gy in 7–8 years. So at the same time Europe is see­ing its indus­tries face a mul­ti-year freeze, the US is dou­ble-down on a major invest­ments poised to lure those Euro­pean indus­tries away. The key ingre­di­ent is an extend­ed war in Ukraine and extend­ed high Euro­pean ener­gy prices:

    ...
    The tax cred­it in the IRA is avail­able for 10 years and scales depend­ing on how clean the hydro­gen pro­duc­tion is. If hydro­gen is pro­duced with­out releas­ing any car­bon emis­sions, the tax cred­it is maxed out at $3 per kilo­gram of hydro­gen pro­duced. It then scales down pro­por­tion­al­ly based on the amount of emis­sions released, as long as it’s less than cur­rent pro­duc­tion tech­niques.

    ...
    For many of these bur­geon­ing use cas­es for clean hydro­gen, the tax cred­it includ­ed in the cli­mate bill is going to give com­pa­nies the chance to enter the mar­ket for mak­ing clean hydro­gen with­out los­ing mon­ey. “They could go back to their share­hold­ers, and they can say, ‘Look, we can we can do this eco­nom­i­cal­ly — today. We don’t have to project a loss for the next five years to enter this mar­ket. We can actu­al­ly enter this and have it be eco­nom­ic, or at least a breakeven project in the near future,’” Teplin­sky said.

    The Bipar­ti­san Infra­struc­ture Law passed in Novem­ber also includ­ed $8 bil­lion to devel­op region­al clean hydro­gen hubs in the U.S. Between the two laws, the U.S. should be able to devel­op a clean hydro­gen econ­o­my in sev­en to eight years, Teplin­sky said....

    The appeal to heavy indus­try includes using hydro­gen as a replace­ment for ener­gy inten­sive indus­tri­al process­es like cok­ing coal in the pro­duc­tion of steal. And yet note how heavy indus­try is still only viewed as a minor con­sumer of the hydro­gen-based econ­o­my. It’s trans­porta­tion where the usage is expect­ed to be exten­sive. That’s part of the con­text of this over­all sto­ry: the emer­gence of the US hydro­gen econ­o­my that could lure away Euro­pean heavy indus­try is real­ly just a sub-chap­ter in a much larg­er sto­ry of a planned indus­tri­al trans­for­ma­tion across the trans­porta­tion econ­o­my:

    ...
    Indus­tri­al appli­ca­tions, which make up near­ly all the demand for hydro­gen today, will rep­re­sent only 15% of total hydro­gen demand by 2050, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Council/McKinsey report.

    ...

    The largest end use for hydro­gen by 2050 is expect­ed to be mobil­i­ty, includ­ing heavy truck­ing, long-range flights and con­tain­er ships, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Council/McKinsey report. In these cas­es, hydro­gen would pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty through a fuel cell, in which hydro­gen atoms and oxy­gen atoms are com­bined in an elec­tro­chem­i­cal reac­tion to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty, heat and water.

    ...

    Clean­ly pro­duced hydro­gen is also being con­sid­ered as a replace­ment for cok­ing coal in a key part of the process in pro­duc­ing steel, a heavy-emis­sions indus­try which is con­sid­ered a real chal­lenge to decar­bonize. And clean hydro­gen will be need­ed for indus­tri­al process­es that require espe­cial­ly high-grade heat, tem­per­a­tures above 752 degrees Fahren­heit, like cement plants, glass­mak­ing, and alu­minum remelt­ing, accord­ing to the Hydro­gen Council/McKinsey report.
    ...

    Anoth­er part of this sto­ry is how it relates to the dis­as­ter-prone Texas elec­tric­i­ty grid. 95% of the hydro­gen pro­duced in the US is based on a process called steam methane reform­ing, based on a source like nat­ur­al gas. At the same time, hydro­gen can be used to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty in tur­bine sim­i­lar to nat­ur­al gas and can even by spiked into exist­ing nat­ur­al gas tur­bines. It’s a sit­u­a­tion that sug­gests Texas is going to be cen­tral in both pro­duc­ing and con­sum­ing hydro­gen-based ener­gy. With all of the night­mare this such a sit­u­a­tion entails. So good luck to the res­i­dents of Texas as they are increas­ing­ly liv­ing in the mid­dle of giant ener­gy-indus­try prof­it-cen­ter. A prof­it cen­ter focused on export­ing as much of that ener­gy out of the area as pos­si­ble:

    ...
    Hydro­gen can also be burned to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty in a tur­bine, sim­i­lar to nat­ur­al gas. Cur­rent­ly, up to 20% hydro­gen can be blend­ed with nat­ur­al gas burned in con­ven­tion­al nat­ur­al gas tur­bines with­out need­ing to do any infra­struc­ture changes, accord­ing to Kent.

    “For high­er blends of hydro­gen or pure hydro­gen, we’ll like­ly need adjust­ments to the tur­bines and infra­struc­ture,” Kent told CNBC. “There are com­pa­nies work­ing on 100% hydro­gen-ready infra­struc­ture where pure hydro­gen can be burned in a tur­bine to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty.”

    ...

    Sev­en­ty-six per­cent of hydro­gen pro­duced glob­al­ly and 95% in the U.S. is pro­duced with a process called steam methane reform­ing, in which a source of methane, like nat­ur­al gas, reacts with steam at very high tem­per­a­tures, accord­ing to the Cen­ter on Glob­al Ener­gy Pol­i­cy. Nat­ur­al gas releas­es green­house gas emis­sions when burned, and also from so-called fugi­tive methane leaks as it’s extract­ed and trans­port­ed.
    ...

    Also note how the hydro­gen pro­duced in Chi­na is, cur­rent­ly, pri­mar­i­ly based on coal gasi­fi­ca­tion. In oth­er words, some sort of vari­a­tion on the Fischer–Tropsch reac­tion. It will be inter­est­ing to see if the US attempts to devel­op its own Fis­ch­er-Tropsh indus­try in response as this hydro­gen econ­o­my is fleshed out:

    ...
    Cur­rent­ly, it only exists in com­pound forms, accord­ing to the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (CSIS), a bipar­ti­san, non­prof­it pol­i­cy research orga­ni­za­tion. Of the hydro­gen that Chi­na makes, 60 per­cent is made using coal and about 25 per­cent comes from using nat­ur­al gas, accord­ing to CSIS. Out­side of Chi­na, the largest hydro­gen pro­duc­ers are indus­tri­al gas com­pa­nies like Linde and Air­Prod­ucts, accord­ing to Teplin­sky.

    ...

    Glob­al­ly, 22% (and 4% in the U.S.) is made with a process called coal gasi­fi­ca­tion, where coal reacts with oxy­gen and steam in hot tem­per­a­ture and high pres­sure.
    ...

    As long as the hydro­gen gen­er­at­ed from fos­sil fuels is cap­ture, it’s con­sid­ered ‘blue hydro­gen’ and open to these sub­si­dies. But the hydro­gen does­n’t just have to come from fos­sil fuels. Elec­tric­i­ty from any source is all that’s required to gen­er­ate hydro­gen from sim­ply water. Solar, wind, and any oth­er renew­able can pro­duce hydro­gen. Still, with just 1 per­cent of hydro­gen in the US pro­duced using green elec­tric­i­ty, it’s clear that the fos­sil fuels have a huge advan­tage in this sec­tor. Hope­ful­ly the sub­si­dies shift that bal­ance:

    ...
    Some com­pa­nies are work­ing to cap­ture the car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from these process­es and store it in tanks under­ground. Hydro­gen made this way is some­times called “blue hydro­gen.”

    More promis­ing­ly from an emis­sions per­spec­tive, an elec­trolyz­er can be used to split a water mol­e­cule into hydro­gen and oxy­gen, and it can be pow­ered with almost any ener­gy source — includ­ing zero-emis­sions sources like solar or wind, cre­at­ing what is known as “green hydro­gen.”

    Today, two per­cent of the hydro­gen made glob­al­ly and 1 per­cent in the U.S. is made with an elec­trolyz­er.
    ...

    But then there’s the pal­pa­ble inter­est in nuclear-pow­ered hydro­gen, or ‘pink hydro­gen’. Recall how a group of US bil­lion­aires includ­ing Bill Gates have been aggres­sive­ly push­ing next-gen­er­a­tion ‘cheap’ nuclear reac­tor designs for US elec­tric­i­ty pro­duc­tion. It sounds like hydro­gen-pro­duc­tion could be the end-use for some of that ‘cheap’ nuclear pow­er:

    ...
    Nuclear ener­gy can also be used to pow­er hydro­gen syn­the­sis with almost no addi­tion­al CO2 emis­sions (this is some­times called “pink hydro­gen,” but the nomen­cla­ture varies). As a bonus, the steam and heat pro­duced as byprod­ucts of nuclear ener­gy can be used in a high tem­per­a­ture elec­trol­y­sis process, which is much more effi­cient. And with the advanced nuclear reac­tors in devel­op­ment that run at even hot­ter tem­per­a­tures than con­ven­tion­al nuclear reac­tors, hydro­gen can be pro­duced in a ther­mo-chem­i­cal water-split­ting process that doesn’t use an elec­trolyz­er at all.

    Because the major­i­ty of the cost of pro­duc­ing hydro­gen with elec­trol­y­sis is the cost of the elec­tric­i­ty that goes into it, mak­ing hydro­gen with nuclear ener­gy and steam “real­ly could have a tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tion on low­er­ing the costs of clean hydro­gen pro­duc­tion,” Teplin­sky told CNBC.

    ...

    The $3 per kilo­gram cred­it makes nuclear hydro­gen high­ly com­pet­i­tive with fos­sil fuel pro­duced hydro­gen, Teplin­sky said. The U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy has as a goal, one of its Ener­gy Earth­shots Ini­tia­tives, to reduce the cost of clean hydro­gen to $1 per kilo­gram in a decade.
    ...

    Let’s hope this does­n’t end up becom­ing a nuclear ‘boom’. Don’t for­get one of the major down­sides of those new Natri­um sodi­um-cooled nuclear reac­tors Bill Gates keeps pro­mot­ing: they run on Ura­ni­um so high­ly enriched it could poten­tial­ly be used to make nuclear weapons. Pro­mot­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of indus­tri­al uses for weapons-grade nuclear weapons seems like a rather high price to pay for clean ener­gy.

    And along those lines, we had bet­ter not hope WWIII devel­ops as a result of war that’s going to be dri­ving this his­toric trans­for­ma­tion to both the US and Euro­pean economies. Plen­ty of nuclear-weapons-relat­ed risks there too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 23, 2022, 4:39 pm
  22. With infla­tion caused by the glob­al ener­gy cri­sis and sanc­tions against Russ­ian gas poten­tial­ly remain­ing ele­vat­ed for years to come, here’s a pair of arti­cle that under­score one of the big deci­sions the EU has to make soon. Big deci­sions with poten­tial­ly big long-term com­mit­ments behind them. Deci­sions like whether or not to focus on expand­ing the EU’s renew­able ener­gy capac­i­ty vs sign­ing up for new decades-long LNG invest­ments with exporters like Qatar.

    It’s not going to be an easy deci­sion. As we’re going to see, the EU is already gen­er­at­ing record lev­els of renew­able ener­gy, which is played a sig­nif­i­cant role in tamp­ing down infla­tion this year. But there’s been anoth­er fac­tor help­ing to keep a lid on ener­gy prices as Europe enters the win­ter months: the con­ti­nent man­aged to near­ly fill up its nat­ur­al gas stor­age capac­i­ty this year.

    And as we’re also going to see, there’s no guar­an­tee the EU is going to be able to repeat that goal of top­ping off the tanks next year. That’s the pre­dic­tion we’re get­ting from Qatar’s ener­gy min­is­ter, Saad al-Kaabi, who is pre­dict­ing that the EU isn’t going to be able to refill those stor­age tanks next year with­out Russ­ian gas. It’s just not pos­si­ble, in al-Kaabi’s view, even with a renewed empha­sis on renew­ables. With­out Russ­ian gas, the EU is going to be forced to restart nuclear pow­er plants and deep­en its reliance on coal and oth­er dirty fos­sil fuels. That’s just the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion, as Qatar sees it.

    In addi­tion, al-Kaabi is warn­ing that Qatar isn’t inter­est­ed in short-term con­tracts. It prefers to deal in con­tracts that last decades. So if EU mem­bers want to use Qatar gas to fill in the gap cre­at­ed by lost sup­plies of Russ­ian gas, they might have to make mul­ti-decade-long con­tracts.

    This is a good time to recall how Rus­sia and Iran are report­ed­ly eye­ing Qatar for the cre­ation of a ‘gas OPEC’ and Qatar has indi­cat­ed some inter­est in the idea. Will the EU be refill­ing its stor­age tanks in the face of a new ‘gas OPEC’ this time next year? It sounds pos­si­ble.

    Also recall how we’ve been hear­ing warn­ings about Euro­pean gas short­ages for years to come from the petro­le­um indus­try itself. Recall how the chief of Shell was pre­dict­ing Euro­pean gas short­ages for “sev­er­al win­ters” back in August.

    Final­ly, recall how Chi­na accounts for near­ly half of the world’s renew­able ener­gy capac­i­ty. That’s also a fac­tor in this sit­u­a­tion: Chi­na is mov­ing fur­ther and fur­ther ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to renew­able ener­gy. And as Europe and cur­rent learn­ing, renew­ables have a lot of advan­tages.

    That’s all part of the what makes the deci­sions the EU needs to make soon incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult deci­sions to make. The EU is locked in a short-term cri­sis that threat­ens to become a per­ma­nent cri­sis. How should the con­ti­nent respond? Are decades-long Qatari LNG con­tracts a good response to what might be a short-term con­flict in Ukraine? Should the con­ti­nent use this as an excuse to build for the future with an empha­sis on renew­ables? Those deci­sions have to be made and made soon. Because as cold as this win­ter is look­ing for Europe, it’s going to be a warm cozy delight com­pared to what’s com­ing next year:

    CNN

    EU pro­duces record wind and solar ener­gy as it shirks Russ­ian gas

    By Chris­t­ian Edwards,
    Pub­lished 6:01 PM EDT, Mon Octo­ber 17, 2022

    Wind and solar pow­er have made up a record 24% of the Euro­pean Union’s elec­tric­i­ty mix since Rus­sia launched its war on Ukraine, a new report says, a boost that has also helped the bloc bat­tle soar­ing infla­tion.

    The growth in renew­able pow­er capac­i­ty has saved the 27-nation bloc €99 bil­lion ($97 bil­lion) in avoid­ed gas imports between March and Sep­tem­ber, which is €11 bil­lion ($10.8 bil­lion) more when com­pared with the same peri­od from last year, accord­ing to the report pub­lished by cli­mate think tanks E3G and Ember.

    The boost in renew­ables comes as Europe tries to wean itself off Russ­ian gas, as Moscow reduces, even cuts off, , Euro­pean nations’ ener­gy sup­plies to gain lever­age in the con­flict. The war has forced the the EU to con­front its cost­ly depen­dence on Russ­ian gas, which in 2020 account­ed for 41% of the EU’s imports of the fos­sil fuel.

    Nine­teen of the EU’s 27 mem­ber states have achieved record wind and solar gen­er­a­tion since March, the report found.

    Poland had the great­est per­cent­age year-on-year increase of 48.5%, while Spain record­ed the great­est absolute gen­er­a­tion increase with 7.4 ter­awatt hours (TWh). Spain’s renew­able gen­er­a­tion alone avoid­ed €1.7 bil­lion ($1.7 bil­lion) in import­ed gas costs.

    The think tanks warned, how­ev­er, that there was still a long way to go in reach­ing the bloc’s renew­ables poten­tial. Fos­sil gas still made up around 20% of the EU’s elec­tric­i­ty in the same peri­od, at a cost of around €82 bil­lion ($80.7 bil­lion).

    “Wind and solar are already help­ing Euro­pean cit­i­zens,” Chris Ross­lowe, senior ana­lyst at Ember, said in a state­ment. “But the future poten­tial is even greater.”

    ‘More renew­ables, less infla­tion’

    Wind and solar gen­er­at­ed 345 TWh of elec­tric­i­ty across the EU from March to Sep­tem­ber this year – a record year-on-year increase of 13%. Total renew­able capac­i­ty would have been far high­er, had hydro­elec­tric­i­ty not been down 21% due to droughts this sum­mer, which sci­en­tists say have been made worse by the human-caused cli­mate cri­sis.

    The report’s key mes­sage is sim­ply: “More renew­ables, less infla­tion.”

    Nonethe­less, Euro­pean ener­gy prices are still high. Russia’s gas restric­tions to Europe have result­ed in “the largest infla­tion­ary shocks in Europe since World War II, beat­ing that of the oil cri­sis in the 1970s,” the report said. In Sep­tem­ber 2022, ener­gy costs were up 40.8% on last year, account­ing for 36% of the EU’s over­all infla­tion fig­ures.

    Some EU coun­tries have announced fis­cal sup­port pack­ages worth hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars to try to lim­it this infla­tion, large­ly through sub­si­diz­ing the use of fos­sil fuels for heat­ing – but many busi­ness­es and house­holds are still left with bills they can­not afford to pay.

    The report warns that gov­ern­ments will be unable to sus­tain such cost­ly pro­grams “to com­pen­sate for high fos­sil ener­gy prices over a long peri­od of time.”

    The EU has man­aged to fill its gas stor­age con­tain­ers to get through the win­ter, but ques­tions have been raised over how the bloc will fill the gap the fol­low­ing warm­ing sea­son. Accord­ing to the report’s authors, this makes it “even more impor­tant now to shift the focus to mea­sures that go beyond the 2022/23 win­ter.”

    ...

    ———–

    “EU pro­duces record wind and solar ener­gy as it shirks Russ­ian gas” By Chris­t­ian Edwards; CNN; 10/17/2022

    “Nine­teen of the EU’s 27 mem­ber states have achieved record wind and solar gen­er­a­tion since March, the report found.”

    Record renew­ables across Europe. It’s unam­bigu­ous­ly good news, even if this good news is hap­pen­ing with­in the con­text of the war in Ukraine. Increased renew­ables may not be enough to fill the gap cre­at­ed by the sanc­tions on Russ­ian gas. But its unde­ni­able that the EU’s untapped renew­able ener­gy capac­i­ty — which is final­ly being tapped this years — has been play­ing a major role in coun­ter­ing the mas­sive infla­tion sweep­ing the con­ti­nent. It’s a valu­able les­son: renew­ables aren’t just vital for com­bat­ing the exis­ten­tial long-term risk of cli­mate change. They’re great hedges against ener­gy-relat­ed infla­tion:

    ...
    The growth in renew­able pow­er capac­i­ty has saved the 27-nation bloc €99 bil­lion ($97 bil­lion) in avoid­ed gas imports between March and Sep­tem­ber, which is €11 bil­lion ($10.8 bil­lion) more when com­pared with the same peri­od from last year, accord­ing to the report pub­lished by cli­mate think tanks E3G and Ember.

    ...

    The think tanks warned, how­ev­er, that there was still a long way to go in reach­ing the bloc’s renew­ables poten­tial. Fos­sil gas still made up around 20% of the EU’s elec­tric­i­ty in the same peri­od, at a cost of around €82 bil­lion ($80.7 bil­lion).

    “Wind and solar are already help­ing Euro­pean cit­i­zens,” Chris Ross­lowe, senior ana­lyst at Ember, said in a state­ment. “But the future poten­tial is even greater.”

    ‘More renew­ables, less infla­tion’

    Wind and solar gen­er­at­ed 345 TWh of elec­tric­i­ty across the EU from March to Sep­tem­ber this year – a record year-on-year increase of 13%. Total renew­able capac­i­ty would have been far high­er, had hydro­elec­tric­i­ty not been down 21% due to droughts this sum­mer, which sci­en­tists say have been made worse by the human-caused cli­mate cri­sis.

    The report’s key mes­sage is sim­ply: “More renew­ables, less infla­tion.”
    ...

    Let’s hope Europe inter­nal­izes this les­son, but let’s also hope it’s not just Europe. The whole world needs to be tran­si­tion­ing to renew­ables, after all.

    And also note the impor­tant detail that has helped the EU avoid even high­er ener­gy prices head­ing into this win­ter: the EU’s LNG stor­age capac­i­ty is near­ly full. A sit­u­a­tion that’s obvi­ous­ly not going be main­tained through­out the win­ter:

    ...
    The EU has man­aged to fill its gas stor­age con­tain­ers to get through the win­ter, but ques­tions have been raised over how the bloc will fill the gap the fol­low­ing warm­ing sea­son. Accord­ing to the report’s authors, this makes it “even more impor­tant now to shift the focus to mea­sures that go beyond the 2022/23 win­ter.”
    ...

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing Finan­cial Times arti­cle with an omi­nous warn­ing from Qatar’s ener­gy min­is­ter Saad al-Kaabi. Recall how Rus­sia and Iran are report­ed­ly eye­ing Qatar for the cre­ation of a ‘gas OPEC’ and Qatar has indi­cat­ed some inter­est in the idea. That loom­ing ‘gas OPEC’ should be kept in mind when inter­pret­ing al-Kaabi’s pre­dic­tions for the EU’s ener­gy cri­sis head­ing into next win­ter. Pre­dic­tions that the EU won’t actu­al­ly be able to refill its gas stor­age tanks by this time next year. At least not with­out Russ­ian gas:

    Finan­cial Times

    Europe at risk of ‘much worse’ ener­gy cri­sis next year, warns Qatar
    Sup­ply prob­lem could last until 2025 if Ukraine war con­tin­ues and Russ­ian gas does not return, says ener­gy min­is­ter

    Andrew Eng­land and Tom Wil­son in Lon­don
    10/18/2022 6:24 am

    Stay across the lat­est Ukraine coverage.Join the FT’s Telegram chan­nel

    Qatar’s ener­gy min­is­ter has warned that while Europe should have suf­fi­cient gas for pow­er and heat­ing this win­ter, the tougher chal­lenge will come in 2023 as reserves are deplet­ed.

    Saad al-Kaabi said it would be “much worse next year” if there was a harsh win­ter, adding that the ener­gy cri­sis could extend to the mid­dle of the decade if Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine con­tin­ued and gas “does not start flow­ing back again” from Rus­sia.

    “This com­ing win­ter, because of the stor­age capac­i­ty being full, it’s fine,” said Kaabi, who is head of state gas com­pa­ny QatarEn­er­gy. “It’s real­ly replen­ish­ing the reserves, or the stor­age, for next year that’s going to be the issue.

    “So . . . next year and the fol­low­ing year, even up to 2025, are going to be the issue.”

    Many Euro­pean coun­tries have held talks with Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas, as they seek to wean them­selves off Russ­ian fos­sil fuels. But Kaabi warned that he could not envis­age a future where “zero Russ­ian gas” flowed to Europe.

    “If that’s the case, then I think the prob­lem is going to be huge and for a very long time,” he said. “You just don’t have enough vol­ume to bring [in] to replace that gas for the long term, unless you’re say­ing ‘I’m going to be build­ing huge nuclear [plants], I’m going to allow coal, I’m going to burn fuel oils.’”

    ...

    How­ev­er, replac­ing all Russ­ian gas into Europe would need an annu­al 112mn tonnes of LNG, equiv­a­lent to almost a third of today’s entire mar­ket, accord­ing to Bern­stein Research.

    Qatar, which tra­di­tion­al­ly ships 70 per cent of its LNG to Asian clients on long-term fixed con­tracts, said it would be able to divert only 10–15 per cent of cur­rent pro­duc­tion to Europe until new projects come online.

    But Kaabi said no new, size­able gas projects glob­al­ly would start pro­duc­ing until 2025, when QatarEnergy’s Gold­en Pass joint ven­ture with Exxon­Mo­bil is expect­ed to add 16mn tonnes of LNG per annum to the mar­ket.

    ...

    Qatar signed a pro­vi­sion­al agree­ment with Ger­many in March, but those talks have been dogged by dis­agree­ments over the length of the con­tracts. Doha has also been in dis­cus­sions with France, Spain, Italy, Bel­gium, Poland and Slo­va­kia about expand­ing exports to those coun­tries.

    QatarEn­er­gy prefers to sell its gas via long-term con­tracts, which offer it cer­tain­ty as it invests bil­lions of dol­lars in ener­gy infra­struc­ture. Qatar’s state-affil­i­at­ed Asian buy­ers typ­i­cal­ly agree to sup­ply con­tracts of 15 to 20 years.

    Kaabi said the main issue affect­ing Qatar’s nego­ti­a­tions with Euro­pean states was relat­ed to the chal­lenges gov­ern­ments face in work­ing out how best to pro­cure the gas through fixed con­tracts in an envi­ron­ment where the ener­gy com­pa­nies are pri­vate­ly owned.

    He also cau­tioned that Europe had to “get off the dis­cus­sion that gas is not need­ed for a long time”, a ref­er­ence to hopes that the con­ti­nent can move away from fos­sil fuels and tran­si­tion to renew­able sources.

    “Because every­body who’s going to invest in the gas sec­tor, they’re look­ing at 25, 30, 40-year hori­zons to invest and to get rea­son­able returns on the invest­ments,” he said. “If gov­ern­ments are not going to be sup­port­ive of that, it’s going to be dif­fi­cult for investors to come in.”

    Kaabi added that Euro­pean nego­ti­a­tions for Qatari gas had cre­at­ed “huge com­pe­ti­tion” with Asian importers seek­ing to lock in long-term sup­plies as Qatar expands it out­put.

    “Because of this pull of Europe want­i­ng addi­tion­al gas . . . the Asian buy­ers are look­ing at the same thing and say­ing ‘hold on, we need to be able to secure our future devel­op­ment needs,’” he said. “We’re talk­ing to almost every cus­tomer in Asia where they are very seri­ous­ly try­ing to close deals.”

    LNG prices have soared glob­al­ly since Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine. Bench­mark prices for north Asia hit $70 per mil­lion British ther­mal units (mmb­tu) in August, more than twice the price at the start of the year. TTF, the Euro­pean bench­mark for pipeline gas and LNG, reached €311 per megawatt hour ($88.5/mmbtu) in August, up near­ly 250 per cent com­pared with the start of the year. Prices have since fall­en in both Europe and Asia because of milder weath­er and Europe’s gas stor­age reach­ing near­ly full capac­i­ty.

    ———-

    “Europe at risk of ‘much worse’ ener­gy cri­sis next year, warns Qatar” by Andrew Eng­land and Tom Wil­son; Finan­cial Times; 10/18/2022

    “LNG prices have soared glob­al­ly since Russia’s inva­sion of Ukraine. Bench­mark prices for north Asia hit $70 per mil­lion British ther­mal units (mmb­tu) in August, more than twice the price at the start of the year. TTF, the Euro­pean bench­mark for pipeline gas and LNG, reached €311 per megawatt hour ($88.5/mmbtu) in August, up near­ly 250 per cent com­pared with the start of the year. Prices have since fall­en in both Europe and Asia because of milder weath­er and Europe’s gas stor­age reach­ing near­ly full capac­i­ty.

    It could be worse. That’s the omi­nous assess­ment of the EU’s dis­as­trous ener­gy mar­kets. It could be a lot worse if the EU had­n’t man­aged to top off its gas stor­age capac­i­ty and the weath­er was­n’t rel­a­tive­ly mild. It could have been worse and will be worse next year if Qatari ener­gy min­is­ter Saad al-Kaabi’s pre­dic­tion is cor­rect. A pre­dic­tion that Europe isn’t going to be able to repeat the goal of fill­ing up those stor­age tanks. In oth­er words, next win­ter could be an excep­tion­al­ly cold one for the EU. Bru­tal­ly cold if it hap­pens to be a cold­er-than-aver­age win­ter:

    ...
    Saad al-Kaabi said it would be “much worse next year” if there was a harsh win­ter, adding that the ener­gy cri­sis could extend to the mid­dle of the decade if Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine con­tin­ued and gas “does not start flow­ing back again” from Rus­sia.

    “This com­ing win­ter, because of the stor­age capac­i­ty being full, it’s fine,” said Kaabi, who is head of state gas com­pa­ny QatarEn­er­gy. “It’s real­ly replen­ish­ing the reserves, or the stor­age, for next year that’s going to be the issue.

    “So . . . next year and the fol­low­ing year, even up to 2025, are going to be the issue.”

    Many Euro­pean coun­tries have held talks with Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas, as they seek to wean them­selves off Russ­ian fos­sil fuels. But Kaabi warned that he could not envis­age a future where “zero Russ­ian gas” flowed to Europe.

    “If that’s the case, then I think the prob­lem is going to be huge and for a very long time,” he said. “You just don’t have enough vol­ume to bring [in] to replace that gas for the long term, unless you’re say­ing ‘I’m going to be build­ing huge nuclear [plants], I’m going to allow coal, I’m going to burn fuel oils.’”
    ...

    So what’s the EU going to do in prepa­ra­tion for next win­ter? This is where al-Kaabi’s warn­ings get par­tic­u­lar­ly omi­nous. Because it does­n’t sound like there’s a lot the EU can in the short-run. Ener­gy infra­struc­ture takes years to build. The short-term deci­sions are large­ly lim­it­ed to fight­ing over exist­ing gas sup­plies in the glob­al mar­kets and/or approv­ing the use of read­i­ly avail­able ener­gy alter­na­tives that aren’t already being used at max­i­mum capac­i­ty like coal, nuclear, and oth­er fos­sil fuels. And with renew­ables already get­ting maxed out it’s not like there’s read­i­ly avail­able extra renew­able capac­i­ty to tap. New renew­able infra­struc­ture will have to be invest­ed in, which takes time.

    At the same time, as EU nations are dis­cov­er­ing, LNG sup­pli­ers like Qatar aren’t inter­est­ed in short-term con­tracts. If the EU wants to secure new LNG sup­plies from Qatar its going to have to make mul­ti-decade com­mit­ments for sup­plies that aren’t going to be avail­able for years. And as al-Kaabi also warned, all of this new Euro­pean inter­est in secur­ing new LNG con­tracts has Asian nations scram­bling to secure their own long-term con­tracts with sup­pli­ers like Qatar:

    ...
    Kaabi said the main issue affect­ing Qatar’s nego­ti­a­tions with Euro­pean states was relat­ed to the chal­lenges gov­ern­ments face in work­ing out how best to pro­cure the gas through fixed con­tracts in an envi­ron­ment where the ener­gy com­pa­nies are pri­vate­ly owned.

    He also cau­tioned that Europe had to “get off the dis­cus­sion that gas is not need­ed for a long time”, a ref­er­ence to hopes that the con­ti­nent can move away from fos­sil fuels and tran­si­tion to renew­able sources.

    “Because every­body who’s going to invest in the gas sec­tor, they’re look­ing at 25, 30, 40-year hori­zons to invest and to get rea­son­able returns on the invest­ments,” he said. “If gov­ern­ments are not going to be sup­port­ive of that, it’s going to be dif­fi­cult for investors to come in.”

    Kaabi added that Euro­pean nego­ti­a­tions for Qatari gas had cre­at­ed “huge com­pe­ti­tion” with Asian importers seek­ing to lock in long-term sup­plies as Qatar expands it out­put.

    “Because of this pull of Europe want­i­ng addi­tion­al gas . . . the Asian buy­ers are look­ing at the same thing and say­ing ‘hold on, we need to be able to secure our future devel­op­ment needs,’” he said. “We’re talk­ing to almost every cus­tomer in Asia where they are very seri­ous­ly try­ing to close deals.”
    ...

    The EU has some major deci­sions to make with the war in Ukraine show­ing no sign of abat­ing and the grow­ing prospect of no Russ­ian gas for years to come. Short-term and long-term deci­sions. With the con­ti­nent refo­cus on expand­ing its renew­ables capac­i­ty? Open the flood gates to nuclear and coal? Or com­mit to decades of LNG sup­plies from places like Qatar? The answer will pre­sum­ably be a mix of all of the above. But it’s still going to be inter­est­ing to see how that mix is allo­cat­ed. Grim­ly inter­est­ing as the case may be.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 19, 2022, 4:23 pm
  23. Is a new ‘Iron Cur­tain’ on the way for Europe? Yes, if Poland has any­thing to say about it. At least that’s the con­clu­sion that’s hard to avoid arriv­ing at when watch­ing the bor­der spat between Poland and the Russ­ian enclave of Kalin­ingrad play out. As we’re going to see, Poland is rais­ing the alarm about a new form of Russ­ian war­fare that’s about be launched against it out of Kalin­ingrad. Hybrid war­fare in the form of swarms of Mid­dle East and North African refugees who are going to be forced into Poland by Russ­ian author­i­ties. Yep, Poland is lay­ing down razor wire across its entire bor­der with Kalin­ingrad over fears that hordes of peo­ple from the Mid­dle East and North Africa are going to invade Poland from the enclave.

    So how exact­ly are peo­ple from the Mid­dle East and North Africa going to reach this Russ­ian enclave in the first place? Rus­sia is going to fly them all in. That’s the accu­sa­tion Poland’s gov­ern­ment is mak­ing fol­low­ing the deci­sion by Rus­si­a’s avi­a­tion author­i­ties to allow flights from the Mid­dle East and North Africa into Kalin­ingrad. It’s all part of a giant plot to fly in thou­sands of refugees who will be unleashed on Poland. Hence the need for razor wire across the entire Poland-Kalningrad bor­der.

    Keep in mind that Kalin­ingrad only shares bor­ders with two coun­tries: Poland and Lithua­nia. Also recall how Lithua­nia cut off rail access to Kalin­ingrad over the sum­mer, only lift­ing the block­ade in July after EU courts order a rever­sal of the pol­i­cy. So both of Kalin­ingrad’s direct neigh­bors appear to be very keen to cut of land access to the Russ­ian enclave.

    How is this going to play out? As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Poland has already built a high steel wall on its bor­der with Belarus in responds to refugees from the Mid­dle East flow­ing to Poland from Belarus. Is the razor wire along the bor­der of Kalin­ingrad set to be replaced with a steel wall? We’ll see, but Poland is clear­ly in a wall-build­ing mood.

    And let’s not for­get that the under­ly­ing fac­tor dri­ving all this wall-build­ing fer­vor — the con­flict with Rus­sia — does­n’t look like­ly to end any time soon. In oth­er words, Poland and Lithua­nia are both going to have plen­ty of time to fin­ish any desired walls before the under­ly­ing ten­sions are allowed to dis­si­pate. And that’s all why we have to start ask­ing whether or not we’re in store for a new kind of ‘reverse-Berlin-Wall’ built by the West designed to keep peo­ple from reach­ing the West and impose and eco­nom­ic stran­gle­hold on that enclave:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Poland lays razor wire on bor­der with Russia’s Kalin­ingrad

    By VANESSA GERA
    Novem­ber 2, 2022

    WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Pol­ish sol­diers began lay­ing razor wire Wednes­day along Poland’s bor­der with the Russ­ian exclave of Kalin­ingrad after the gov­ern­ment ordered the con­struc­tion of a bar­ri­er to pre­vent what it fears could become anoth­er migra­tion cri­sis.

    Defense Min­is­ter Mar­iusz Blaszczak said a recent deci­sion by Russia’s avi­a­tion author­i­ty to launch flights from the Mid­dle East and North Africa to Kalin­ingrad led him to rein­force Poland’s 210-kilo­me­ter (130-mile) bor­der with Kalin­ingrad.

    “Due to the dis­turb­ing infor­ma­tion regard­ing the launch of flights from the Mid­dle East and North Africa to Kalin­ingrad, I have decid­ed to take mea­sures that will strength­en the secu­ri­ty on the Pol­ish bor­der with the Kalin­ingrad oblast by seal­ing this bor­der,” Blaszczak said.

    Blaszczak said the bar­ri­er along the bor­der would be made of three rows of razor wire mea­sur­ing 2½ meters (eight feet) high and 3 meters (10 feet) wide and fea­ture an elec­tron­ic mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem and cam­eras. The Pol­ish side also will have a fence to keep ani­mals away from the razor wire.

    Before now, the sparse­ly inhab­it­ed bor­der area was patrolled but had no phys­i­cal bar­ri­er.

    To the south, Poland’s bor­der with Belarus became the site of a major migra­tion cri­sis last year, with large num­bers of peo­ple from the Mid­dle East enter­ing ille­gal­ly. Pol­ish and oth­er EU lead­ers accused the Belaru­sian gov­ern­ment — an ally of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin — of mas­ter­mind­ing the migra­tion to cre­ate chaos and divi­sion with­in the 27-nation bloc.

    Poland erect­ed sim­i­lar rolls of razor wire before build­ing a per­ma­nent high steel wall on the bor­der with Belarus, which was com­plet­ed in June.

    Blaszczak, the defense min­is­ter, said the gov­ern­ment was per­suad­ed to install fenc­ing near Kalin­ingrad because of Poland’s expe­ri­ence at the Belarus bor­der, where a sim­i­lar action “pre­vent­ed a hybrid attack from Belarus or sig­nif­i­cant­ly slowed down this attack.”

    The chief exec­u­tive of Khrabro­vo Air­port in Kalin­ingrad, Alexan­der Kory­t­nyi, told Russia’s Inter­fax news agency on Oct. 3 that the facil­i­ty would seek to “attract air­lines from coun­tries in the Per­sian Gulf and Asia,” includ­ing the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates and Qatar.

    In the last month, Poland’s Bor­der Guard agency has not detect­ed any­one attempt­ing to enter the coun­try ille­gal­ly from Kalin­ingrad, although a few mush­room pick­ers wan­dered into the area by mis­take, agency spokes­woman Miroslawa Alek­sandrow­icz told state news agency PAP.

    ...

    Zuzan­na Dabrows­ka, a com­men­ta­tor writ­ing for the con­ser­v­a­tive dai­ly new­pa­per Rzecz­pospoli­ta, wrote Wednes­day that the bar­ri­er would be inef­fec­tive and a haz­ard because razor wire is dan­ger­ous for ani­mals and peo­ple who try to cross it.

    She argued that peo­ple from the Mid­dle East and Africa were still try­ing to ille­gal­ly enter Poland from Belarus despite the bor­der wall.

    “The bar­ri­er did not scare them away, because they have no safe retreat, pres­sured by Belaru­sian bor­der guards,” Dabrows­ka wrote.

    Poland’s gov­ern­ment has strong­ly crit­i­cized crit­ics of the Belarus bor­der wall, depict­ing them as help­ing those who seek to harm Poland.

    ...

    Sol­diers began lay­ing the razor wire in Wisz­tyniec, the place where the bor­ders of Poland, Rus­sia and Lithua­nia meet. Lithua­nia, like Poland, is a mem­ber of both NATO and the Euro­pean Union.

    Krem­lin spokesman Dmit­ry Peskov declined Wednes­day to com­ment on the Kalin­ingrad bor­der bar­ri­er, describ­ing it as “a Pol­ish mat­ter.”

    ———-

    “Poland lays razor wire on bor­der with Russia’s Kalin­ingrad” By VANESSA GERA; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 11/02/2022

    “Defense Min­is­ter Mar­iusz Blaszczak said a recent deci­sion by Russia’s avi­a­tion author­i­ty to launch flights from the Mid­dle East and North Africa to Kalin­ingrad led him to rein­force Poland’s 210-kilo­me­ter (130-mile) bor­der with Kalin­ingrad.”

    Kalin­ingrad is allow­ing peo­ple from the Mid­dle East and North Africa to fly into the coun­try. WE BETTER BUILD A WALL! That’s the over-the-top antics Poland’s gov­ern­ment has been engag­ing in over the past few weeks. And that’s on top of the high steel wall Poland built on its bor­der with Belarus over the past year. It’s the era of ‘Fortress Poland’, appar­ent­ly:

    ...
    To the south, Poland’s bor­der with Belarus became the site of a major migra­tion cri­sis last year, with large num­bers of peo­ple from the Mid­dle East enter­ing ille­gal­ly. Pol­ish and oth­er EU lead­ers accused the Belaru­sian gov­ern­ment — an ally of Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin — of mas­ter­mind­ing the migra­tion to cre­ate chaos and divi­sion with­in the 27-nation bloc.

    Poland erect­ed sim­i­lar rolls of razor wire before build­ing a per­ma­nent high steel wall on the bor­der with Belarus, which was com­plet­ed in June.

    Blaszczak, the defense min­is­ter, said the gov­ern­ment was per­suad­ed to install fenc­ing near Kalin­ingrad because of Poland’s expe­ri­ence at the Belarus bor­der, where a sim­i­lar action “pre­vent­ed a hybrid attack from Belarus or sig­nif­i­cant­ly slowed down this attack.”

    ...

    Poland’s gov­ern­ment has strong­ly crit­i­cized crit­ics of the Belarus bor­der wall, depict­ing them as help­ing those who seek to harm Poland.
    ...

    First we had Lithua­nia cut­ting off Kalin­ingrad’s rail access until the EU forced the coun­try to lift the block­ade back in July. And now we have Poland lay­ing down razor wire across the entire bor­der, with the prospects for build­ing a full steel wall. What’s next?

    Beyond the ques­tion of ‘what’s next’ is are all the ques­tions of what’s after ‘what’s next’? This is a con­flict that could go on for years. These kinds bor­der games are pre­sum­ably only going to get ampli­fied over time. Both of Kalin­ingrads direct neigh­bors have an appetite for some sort of Kalin­i­grad block­ade. So what are the odds that we aren’t going to see a full block­ade by the time this con­flict is over?

    And with the prospects for a ‘steel cur­tain’ ring­ing Kalin­ingrad grow­ing as this con­flict deep­ens, it’s worth tak­ing a look at what kinds of lessons we can take from the Berlin Wall expe­ri­ence. Europe is is build­ing itself a new political/economic enclave. What can we learn from that last enclave of this nature? So here’s a recent­ly repub­lished piece by William Blum — first pub­lished in 2011 — look­ing back on the gen­er­al mis­un­der­stand­ing in the West about the nature of why the Berlin Wall was put up in the first place. Con­trary to the pop­u­lar myths, the wall was­n’t set up to pre­vent the oppressed cit­i­zens of East Ger­many from get­ting exposed to West­ern free­doms. Thou­sands of East Ger­mans rou­tine­ly com­mut­ed to jobs in the West only to return home in the East in the evening and many went back and forth for shop­ping or oth­er rea­sons. There were con­cerns about East Ger­mans ‘flee­ing’ to the West, although it was­n’t so much flee as get­ting aggres­sive­ly recruit­ed as part of a West­ern cam­paign of recruit­ing as many East Ger­man skilled pro­fes­sion­als. Pro­fes­sion­als whose val­ue to the West Ger­man econ­o­my became very appar­ent after the Wall was put up and West Berlin suf­fered eco­nom­i­cal­ly after expe­ri­enc­ing the loss of ~60,000 skilled work­ers who made dai­ly com­mutes.

    But beyond this aggres­sive recruit­ment cam­paign of East Ger­man skilled pro­fes­sion­als was an out­right sab­o­tage cam­paign being orches­trat­ed by the CIA and oth­er US intel­li­gence agen­cies. Agents report­ed­ly used explo­sives, arson, short cir­cuit­ing, and oth­er meth­ods to dam­age pow­er sta­tions, ship­yards, canals, docks, pub­lic build­ings, gas sta­tions, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, bridges, etc. The Berlin Wall less about pre­vent­ing the East Ger­man pub­lic was get­ting seduced by the allure of the West than it was an eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty move dri­ven by an active sab­o­tage cam­paign. The sab­o­tage made free com­merce too expen­sive. It’s a rather salient fact giv­en that Poland is now basi­cal­ly jus­ti­fy­ing its walls on the pre­text of pre­vent­ing Russ­ian ‘hybrid war­fare’. It was lit­er­al­ly hybrid eco­nom­ic war­fare that the East Ger­mans were deal­ing with. Real eco­nom­ic war­fare, as opposed to Poland’s hyped claims.

    And as Blum also points out, flash for­ward to 1999 — 10 years after the fall of the Berlin wall — polls found East Ger­mans were large­ly dis­ap­point­ed with life under cap­i­tal­ism and look­ing back fond­ly on what com­mu­nism pro­vid­ed. A major­i­ty of East Ger­mans at the time said their lives were hap­pi­er under com­mu­nism. It’s not exact­ly the sto­ry the West tells itself about why the Berlin Wall went up in the first place and what hap­pened after it fell. So with a new political/economic ‘wall’/blockade pop­ping up in Europe look­ing increas­ing­ly pos­si­ble, it’s worth recall how we still don’t real­ly under­stand why the last ‘wall’ hap­pened in the first place:

    Con­sor­tium News

    The Oth­er Side of the Berlin Wall

    Novem­ber 9, 2022

    On the 33rd anniver­sary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, we look back on why the wall was built in this essay by the late William Blum, pub­lished on July 28, 2011 on Con­sor­tium News.

    The Berlin Wall became the icon­ic sym­bol of the Cold War, sup­pos­ed­ly prov­ing the supe­ri­or­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ism over com­mu­nism. How­ev­er, there is anoth­er, lit­tle under­stood side to the sto­ry regard­ing why the wall was erect­ed a half cen­tu­ry ago, writes his­to­ri­an William Blum.

    By William Blum
    Con­sor­tium News
    July 28, 2011

    The West­ern media will soon be revving up their pro­pa­gan­da motors to sol­em­nize the 50th anniver­sary of the erect­ing of the Berlin Wall, August 13, 1961.

    All the Cold War clich­es about The Free World vs. Com­mu­nist Tyran­ny will be trot­ted out and the sim­ple tale of how the wall came to be will be repeat­ed: In 1961, the East Berlin com­mu­nists built a wall to keep their oppressed cit­i­zens from escap­ing to West Berlin and free­dom.

    Why? Because com­mies don’t like peo­ple to be free, to learn the “truth.” What oth­er rea­son could there have been?

    First of all, before the wall went up thou­sands of East Ger­mans had been com­mut­ing to the West for jobs each day and then return­ing to the East in the evening; many oth­ers went back and forth for shop­ping or oth­er rea­sons. So they were clear­ly not being held in the East against their will.

    Why then was the wall built? There were two major rea­sons:

    First, the West was bedev­il­ing the East with a vig­or­ous cam­paign of recruit­ing East Ger­man pro­fes­sion­als and skilled work­ers, who had been edu­cat­ed at the expense of the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. This even­tu­al­ly led to a seri­ous labor and pro­duc­tion cri­sis in the East.

    As one indi­ca­tion of this, The New York Times report­ed in 1963: “West Berlin suf­fered eco­nom­i­cal­ly from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled work­men who had com­mut­ed dai­ly from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.” [New York Times, June 27, 1963]

    In 1999, USA Today report­ed: “When the Berlin Wall crum­bled [1989], East Ger­mans imag­ined a life of free­dom where con­sumer goods were abun­dant and hard­ships would fade. Ten years lat­er, a remark­able 51 per­cent say they were hap­pi­er with com­mu­nism.” [USA Today, Octo­ber 11, 1999]

    Ear­li­er polls would like­ly have shown even more than 51 per­cent express­ing such a sen­ti­ment, for in the ten years many of those who remem­bered life in East Ger­many with some fond­ness had passed away; although even 10 years lat­er, in 2009, The Wash­ing­ton Post could report:

    “West­ern­ers say they are fed up with the ten­den­cy of their east­ern coun­ter­parts to wax nos­tal­gic about com­mu­nist times.” [Wash­ing­ton Post, May 12, 2009]

    It was in the post-uni­fi­ca­tion peri­od that a new Russ­ian and East­ern Europe proverb was born: “Every­thing the Com­mu­nists said about Com­mu­nism was a lie, but every­thing they said about cap­i­tal­ism turned out to be the truth.”

    It should also be not­ed that the divi­sion of Ger­many into two states in 1949, set­ting the stage for 40 years of Cold War hos­til­i­ty, was an Amer­i­can deci­sion, not a Sovi­et one: Car­olyn Eisen­berg, Draw­ing the Line: The Amer­i­can Deci­sion to Divide Ger­many, 1944–1949 (1996); or see a con­cise review of this book by Kai Bird in The Nation, Decem­ber 16, 1996]

    Sec­ond, dur­ing the 1950s, Amer­i­can cold war­riors in West Ger­many insti­tut­ed a crude cam­paign of sab­o­tage and sub­ver­sion against East Ger­many designed to throw that country’s eco­nom­ic and admin­is­tra­tive machin­ery out of gear.

    The C.I.A. and oth­er U.S. intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary ser­vices recruit­ed, equipped, trained and financed Ger­man activist groups and indi­vid­u­als, of West and East, to car­ry out actions which ran the spec­trum from juve­nile delin­quen­cy to ter­ror­ism; any­thing to make life dif­fi­cult for the East Ger­man peo­ple and weak­en their sup­port of the gov­ern­ment; any­thing to make the com­mies look bad.

    It was a remark­able under­tak­ing.

    “The Unit­ed States and its agents used explo­sives, arson, short cir­cuit­ing, and oth­er meth­ods to dam­age pow­er sta­tions, ship­yards, canals, docks, pub­lic build­ings, gas sta­tions, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seri­ous­ly injur­ing work­ers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pres­sure hoses of oth­ers; used acids to dam­age vital fac­to­ry machin­ery; put sand in the tur­bine of a fac­to­ry, bring­ing it to a stand­still; set fire to a tile-pro­duc­ing fac­to­ry; pro­mot­ed work slow-downs in fac­to­ries; killed 7,000 cows of a co-oper­a­tive dairy through poi­son­ing; added soap to pow­dered milk des­tined for East Ger­man schools; were in pos­ses­sion, when arrest­ed, of a large quan­ti­ty of the poi­son can­tharidin with which it was planned to pro­duce poi­soned cig­a­rettes to kill lead­ing East Ger­mans; set off stink bombs to dis­rupt polit­i­cal meet­ings; attempt­ed to dis­rupt the World Youth Fes­ti­val in East Berlin by send­ing out forged invi­ta­tions, false promis­es of free bed and board, false notices of can­cel­la­tions, etc.; car­ried out attacks on par­tic­i­pants with explo­sives, fire­bombs, and tire-punc­tur­ing equip­ment; forged and dis­trib­uted large quan­ti­ties of food ration cards to cause con­fu­sion, short­ages and resent­ment; sent out forged tax notices and oth­er gov­ern­ment direc­tives and doc­u­ments to fos­ter dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion and inef­fi­cien­cy with­in indus­try and unions … all this and much more.” [See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Mil­i­tary and CIA Inter­ven­tions Since World War II, p.400, note 8, for a list of sources for the details of the sab­o­tage and sub­ver­sion. ]

    The Woodrow Wil­son Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for Schol­ars, of Wash­ing­ton, DC, con­ser­v­a­tive cold war­riors, in one of their Cold War Inter­na­tion­al His­to­ry Project Work­ing Papers (#58, p.9) states: “The open bor­der in Berlin exposed the GDR [East Ger­many] to mas­sive espi­onage and sub­ver­sion and, as the two doc­u­ments in the appen­dices show, its clo­sure gave the Com­mu­nist state greater secu­ri­ty.”

    Through­out the 1950s, the East Ger­mans and the Sovi­et Union repeat­ed­ly lodged com­plaints with the Sovi­ets’ erst­while allies in the West and with the Unit­ed Nations about spe­cif­ic sab­o­tage and espi­onage activ­i­ties and called for the clo­sure of the offices in West Ger­many they claimed were respon­si­ble, and for which they pro­vid­ed names and address­es.

    Their com­plaints fell on deaf ears.

    Inevitably, the East Ger­mans began to tight­en up entry into the coun­try from the West, lead­ing even­tu­al­ly to the infa­mous Wall. How­ev­er, even after the wall was built there was reg­u­lar, albeit lim­it­ed, legal emi­gra­tion from east to west.

    In 1984, for exam­ple, East Ger­many allowed 40,000 peo­ple to leave. In 1985, East Ger­man news­pa­pers claimed that more than 20,000 for­mer cit­i­zens who had set­tled in the West want­ed to return home after becom­ing dis­il­lu­sioned with the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. The West Ger­man gov­ern­ment said that 14,300 East Ger­mans had gone back over the pre­vi­ous 10 years. [The Guardian (Lon­don), March 7, 1985]

    ...

    ————-

    “The Oth­er Side of the Berlin Wall” By William Blum; Con­sor­tium News; 11/09/2022 [orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished 07/28/2011]

    “It was in the post-uni­fi­ca­tion peri­od that a new Russ­ian and East­ern Europe proverb was born: “Every­thing the Com­mu­nists said about Com­mu­nism was a lie, but every­thing they said about cap­i­tal­ism turned out to be the truth.””

    It’s one of the West­’s best kept and worst kept secrets: life under cap­i­tal­ism actu­al­ly sucks for most peo­ple. At least sucks in com­par­i­son to what it could be. Sure, it could be worse. But it could be so much bet­ter. And was bet­ter for the peo­ple of East Ger­many. The long­ing for that bet­ter life was still pal­pa­bly there in 2009, 20 years after the fall:

    ...
    In 1999, USA Today report­ed: “When the Berlin Wall crum­bled [1989], East Ger­mans imag­ined a life of free­dom where con­sumer goods were abun­dant and hard­ships would fade. Ten years lat­er, a remark­able 51 per­cent say they were hap­pi­er with com­mu­nism.” [USA Today, Octo­ber 11, 1999]

    Ear­li­er polls would like­ly have shown even more than 51 per­cent express­ing such a sen­ti­ment, for in the ten years many of those who remem­bered life in East Ger­many with some fond­ness had passed away; although even 10 years lat­er, in 2009, The Wash­ing­ton Post could report:

    “West­ern­ers say they are fed up with the ten­den­cy of their east­ern coun­ter­parts to wax nos­tal­gic about com­mu­nist times.” [Wash­ing­ton Post, May 12, 2009]
    ...

    But beyond a gen­er­al mis­un­der­stand­ing of what the qual­i­ty of life was like under com­mu­nism — a col­lec­tive mis­un­der­stand­ing that assures valid cri­tiques of how cap­i­tal­ism is prac­tice are nev­er real­ly learned — is the mis­un­der­stand­ing of why the Wall was put up in the first place. It was a response to sab­o­tage. Dead­ly sab­o­tage in some cas­es includ­ing arson and mass poi­son­ings:

    ...
    Why then was the wall built? There were two major rea­sons:

    First, the West was bedev­il­ing the East with a vig­or­ous cam­paign of recruit­ing East Ger­man pro­fes­sion­als and skilled work­ers, who had been edu­cat­ed at the expense of the Com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment. This even­tu­al­ly led to a seri­ous labor and pro­duc­tion cri­sis in the East.

    As one indi­ca­tion of this, The New York Times report­ed in 1963: “West Berlin suf­fered eco­nom­i­cal­ly from the wall by the loss of about 60,000 skilled work­men who had com­mut­ed dai­ly from their homes in East Berlin to their places of work in West Berlin.” [New York Times, June 27, 1963]

    ...

    Sec­ond, dur­ing the 1950s, Amer­i­can cold war­riors in West Ger­many insti­tut­ed a crude cam­paign of sab­o­tage and sub­ver­sion against East Ger­many designed to throw that country’s eco­nom­ic and admin­is­tra­tive machin­ery out of gear.

    The C.I.A. and oth­er U.S. intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary ser­vices recruit­ed, equipped, trained and financed Ger­man activist groups and indi­vid­u­als, of West and East, to car­ry out actions which ran the spec­trum from juve­nile delin­quen­cy to ter­ror­ism; any­thing to make life dif­fi­cult for the East Ger­man peo­ple and weak­en their sup­port of the gov­ern­ment; any­thing to make the com­mies look bad.

    It was a remark­able under­tak­ing.

    “The Unit­ed States and its agents used explo­sives, arson, short cir­cuit­ing, and oth­er meth­ods to dam­age pow­er sta­tions, ship­yards, canals, docks, pub­lic build­ings, gas sta­tions, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, bridges, etc; they derailed freight trains, seri­ous­ly injur­ing work­ers; burned 12 cars of a freight train and destroyed air pres­sure hoses of oth­ers; used acids to dam­age vital fac­to­ry machin­ery; put sand in the tur­bine of a fac­to­ry, bring­ing it to a stand­still; set fire to a tile-pro­duc­ing fac­to­ry; pro­mot­ed work slow-downs in fac­to­ries; killed 7,000 cows of a co-oper­a­tive dairy through poi­son­ing; added soap to pow­dered milk des­tined for East Ger­man schools; were in pos­ses­sion, when arrest­ed, of a large quan­ti­ty of the poi­son can­tharidin with which it was planned to pro­duce poi­soned cig­a­rettes to kill lead­ing East Ger­mans; set off stink bombs to dis­rupt polit­i­cal meet­ings; attempt­ed to dis­rupt the World Youth Fes­ti­val in East Berlin by send­ing out forged invi­ta­tions, false promis­es of free bed and board, false notices of can­cel­la­tions, etc.; car­ried out attacks on par­tic­i­pants with explo­sives, fire­bombs, and tire-punc­tur­ing equip­ment; forged and dis­trib­uted large quan­ti­ties of food ration cards to cause con­fu­sion, short­ages and resent­ment; sent out forged tax notices and oth­er gov­ern­ment direc­tives and doc­u­ments to fos­ter dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion and inef­fi­cien­cy with­in indus­try and unions … all this and much more.” [See William Blum, Killing Hope: US Mil­i­tary and CIA Inter­ven­tions Since World War II, p.400, note 8, for a list of sources for the details of the sab­o­tage and sub­ver­sion. ]

    ...

    Inevitably, the East Ger­mans began to tight­en up entry into the coun­try from the West, lead­ing even­tu­al­ly to the infa­mous Wall. How­ev­er, even after the wall was built there was reg­u­lar, albeit lim­it­ed, legal emi­gra­tion from east to west.

    In 1984, for exam­ple, East Ger­many allowed 40,000 peo­ple to leave. In 1985, East Ger­man news­pa­pers claimed that more than 20,000 for­mer cit­i­zens who had set­tled in the West want­ed to return home after becom­ing dis­il­lu­sioned with the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. The West Ger­man gov­ern­ment said that 14,300 East Ger­mans had gone back over the pre­vi­ous 10 years. [The Guardian (Lon­don), March 7, 1985]
    ...

    Full-spec­trum eco­nom­ic sab­o­tage. That was the West­’s actu­al covert pol­i­cy and the under­ly­ing rea­son for the Wall in the first place. Flash for­ward to 2022, and we have Poland jus­ti­fy­ing the con­struc­tion of walls across two of its bor­ders based entire­ly on accu­sa­tions of Rus­sia and Belaru­sian ‘hybrid-war­fare’. The kind of ‘hybrid-war­fare’ that requires a wall to stop it. As they say, his­to­ry does­n’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. So it’s also worth recall­ing that it was the side that built the wall last time that ulti­mate­ly end­ed up tear­ing it down in an act of col­lec­tive pub­lic defi­ance fueled by a sense of pro­found dis­il­lu­sioned with the gov­ern­ment. It will be inter­est­ing to see how much rhyming of that nature we end up hear­ing this time around.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 14, 2022, 5:25 pm
  24. Here’s a set of sto­ries that are par­tic­u­lar­ly alarm­ing in light of the bust of the “Order of Hagal” Ital­ian ter­ror plot by neo-Nazi group with close ties to Ukrain­ian Nazi bat­tal­ions and a mem­ber cur­rent­ly fight­ing with Azov. The kind of sto­ry that rais­es the ques­tion, “what if those Ital­ian neo-Nazis plan­ning the ter­ror plot also had weaponized drones capa­ble of drop­ping bombs?” Ques­tions like that. Along with ques­tions about the gen­er­al bud­get of Nazi ter­ror cells because it sounds like the weaponized drones they’re using in Ukraine to drop bombs can be put togeth­er for around $20k. And that’s only going to get cheap­er.

    The threat of drone-based ter­ror­ism isn’t new for the US. We’ve been get­ting warn­ings about that grow­ing threat for years, includ­ing an attack on the elec­tri­cal grid at a Penn­syl­va­nia elec­tric sub­sta­tion last year with a cheap com­mer­cial­ly avail­able drone. A still-anony­mous attack.

    But as we’re going to see in the fol­low­ing set of arti­cles, there is some­thing new about today’s drone-based threat envi­ron­ment. Com­mer­cial­ly-avail­able drones haven’t always being heav­i­ly used as weapons of war on the bat­tle­field. But they are now. Drones are turn­ing out to be cen­tral to Ukraine’s war effort. Mil­i­tary-grade drones but increas­ing­ly com­mer­cial­ly avail­able drones too. Mod­i­fied com­mer­cial­ly avail­able drones that are being turned into sophis­ti­cat­ed bomb-deliv­ery sys­tems proven capa­ble of tak­ing out hun­dreds of Russ­ian armor vehi­cles. In addi­tion­al to pow­er­ful bat­tle­field intel­li­gence tools.

    And as we’re also going to see, the sophis­ti­cat­ed mod­ern bat­tle­field infor­ma­tion sys­tems Ukraine is using — a sys­tem that shares real-time bat­tle­field intel­li­gence from dis­parate sources that helps makes deci­sions on when and where to attack — was devel­oped with NATO and rep­re­sents a cut­ting-edge bat­tle­field plat­form that NATO is increas­ing­ly learn­ing from. In oth­er words, Ukraine is turn­ing into a next-gen­er­a­tion weapons-test­ing giant exper­i­ment. Lessons that will shape NATO mil­i­tary invest­ments for decades to come are being learned. And it sure sounds like those lessons are that drones are increas­ing­ly the future.

    Sure, we already knew drones are the future of war­fare. But that future is look­ing even more drone-cen­tric thanks to the lessons being learned in Ukraine. Lessons like the pow­er of remote-con­trolled boats packed with explo­sives. And also lessons about the mil­i­tary util­i­ty of Elon Musk’s Star­link satel­lite clus­ter. There’s going to be a lot more satel­lite clus­ters in the future. Drone war­fare will depend on them. At least until there’s a cat­a­stroph­ic ‘Kessler’s Syn­drome’ chain-reac­tion event that takes the clus­ters out.

    That’s all part of the con­text of the lat­est warn­ing issued by the US gov­ern­ment about the grow­ing domes­tic ter­ror posed by drones. As FBI direc­tor Christo­pher Wray acknowl­edge dur­ing a con­gres­sion­al hear­ing, “As the threat con­tin­ues to grow, we’re inves­ti­gat­ing, even as we speak, sev­er­al instances with­in the US, of attempts to weaponize drones with home­made IEDs [impro­vised explo­sive devices], and that is the future that is here now.” The future of home­made IED drones is here now. That was Wray’s com­ment dur­ing a hear­ing about a bill co-spon­sored by Sen­a­tors Gary Peters and Ron John­son that would renew and expand author­i­ty under the Jus­tice Depart­ment and Home­land Secu­ri­ty to track, seize, or even destroy an unmanned drone when it pos­es a cred­i­ble threat. Sen­a­tor Peters specif­i­cal­ly expressed con­cern about the use of com­mer­cial drones in Ukraine to drop bombs and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of that com­ing home to the US.

    The US government’s exist­ing author­i­ty to counter mali­cious drones is set to expire on Dec. 16, so we’re pre­sum­ably going to see some sort of reau­tho­riza­tion of that author­i­ty. It’s kind of hard to imag­ine that not hap­pen­ing at this point. Meth­ods for weaponiz­ing com­mer­cial drones into lethal anony­mous­ly con­trolled weapons sys­tems are being honed in Ukraine, today’s inter­na­tion­al hub for white suprema­cist ter­ror net­works. It’s the kind of threat is pre­sum­ably freak­ing out gov­ern­ments around the world. And espe­cial­ly gov­ern­ments in the West where so many of the for­eign fight­ers who are going to be bring­ing home these drone-mod­i­fi­ca­tion skills hail from. The killer-drone future is now thanks to the war in Ukraine:

    PC Mag­a­zine

    FBI Prob­ing Cas­es of Weaponized Drones Car­ry­ing Bombs in US

    FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray urges Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion designed to help fed­er­al author­i­ties counter mali­cious drone activ­i­ty.

    By Michael Kan
    Novem­ber 17, 2022

    The FBI has been inves­ti­gat­ing sev­er­al cas­es in the US where drones were weaponized to car­ry home­made bombs. 

    In a Con­gres­sion­al hear­ing on Thurs­day, FBI Direc­tor Christo­pher Wray men­tioned the inves­ti­ga­tions while dis­cussing the dan­ger of drones being used for attacks on US soil.  

    As the threat con­tin­ues to grow, we’re inves­ti­gat­ing, even as we speak, sev­er­al instances with­in the US, of attempts to weaponize drones with home­made IEDs [impro­vised explo­sive devices], and that is the future that is here now,” he said. 

    Wray didn’t elab­o­rate on the inves­ti­ga­tions. But he said the FBI has also “locat­ed hun­dreds of drones” act­ing in vio­la­tion of fed­er­al law while pro­tect­ing major pub­lic events, such as the Super Bowl and New Year’s Eve in Times Square. 

    Wray made the state­ment to urge US law­mak­ers to pass leg­is­la­tion designed to help fed­er­al author­i­ties counter mali­cious drone activ­i­ty. US Sen­a­tors Gary Peters (D‑Michigan) and Ron John­son (R‑Wisconsin) have spon­sored a bill to renew and expand author­i­ty under the Jus­tice Depart­ment and Home­land Secu­ri­ty to track, seize, or even destroy an unmanned drone when it pos­es a cred­i­ble threat. 

    Com­mer­cial drones are already being used in the war in Ukraine for both sur­veil­lance and to drop drop bombs. Sen. Peters is now wor­ried the same could take place in the US.

    “Small drones, which can be pur­chased off the shelf at any elec­tron­ic store can be weaponized by mali­cious actors to dam­age our nation’s crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture, or inflict mass casu­al­ties,” he said dur­ing the hear­ing, adding that the US’s exist­ing author­i­ty to counter mali­cious drones is set to expire on Dec. 16.

    ...

    ———-

    “FBI Prob­ing Cas­es of Weaponized Drones Car­ry­ing Bombs in US” By Michael Kan; PC Mag­a­zine; 11/17/2022

    Com­mer­cial drones are already being used in the war in Ukraine for both sur­veil­lance and to drop drop bombs. Sen. Peters is now wor­ried the same could take place in the US.”

    Yeah, that’s quite an alarm­ing warn­ing to get from the head of the FBI: com­mer­cial drones might be used in the US the same way they’re cur­rent­ly being used in Ukraine. As lethal weapons of war. Afford­able DIY weapons of war.

    The kind of weapons that are per­fect for a domes­tic desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign. This is a good time how the US was report­ed­ly work­ing with the Venezue­lan mil­i­tants that car­ried out a drone assas­si­na­tion attempt against Nico­las Maduro that near­ly worked.

    And, of course, there’s the fact that the US has already been sup­ply­ing Ukraine with mil­i­tary-grade drones like the qua­si-autonomous Switch­blade drones and Phoenix Ghost drones, with min­i­mal abil­i­ty to track where these weapons go after they reach the bat­tle­field. So while the cur­rent warn­ings from the FBI are specif­i­cal­ly relat­ed to cheap lethal com­mer­cial­ly-avail­able drones being used in the US, there’s also the very real risks of these mil­i­tary-grade drones falling into the wrong hands.

    But as the fol­low­ing Busi­ness Insid­er arti­cle from back in April makes clear, these com­mer­cial­ly avail­able drones are plen­ty lethal. At least if you know what you’re doing. That’s been one of the pow­er­ful lessons mil­i­tary observers are draw­ing from the fight­ing in Ukraine. In par­tic­u­lar, the fight­ing done by Aero­rozvid­ka, a unit of vol­un­teers spe­cial­iz­ing in tak­ing com­mer­cial­ly avail­able drones and con­vert­ing them in lethal bat­tle­field weapons. For exam­ple, the octo­copter R‑18 built from scratch has a range of 4km, a 40 minute flight time, and can drop 5kg bombs. It cost ~$20k to build and can be reused over and over.

    As the arti­cle describes, Aero­rozvid­ka is bro­ken up into three units: the drone team, a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty team, and the Delta team. Delta is a NATO-sup­port­ed web-based sit­u­a­tion aware­ness sys­tem that cre­ates a map of Russ­ian tar­gets using infor­ma­tion from var­i­ous sources. Drone recon­nais­sance data from the drone team is part of the Delta infor­ma­tion streams. So when it comes to the ques­tion of what types of intel­li­gence the FBI is work­ing from when it issued its warn­ings about drone-based IEDs, the fact that NATO is work­ing with a Ukrain­ian unit that spe­cial­izes in mak­ing bomb-drop­ping drones is pre­sum­ably one of the alarm­ing pieces of intel­li­gence they were work­ing with:

    Busi­ness Insid­er

    Inside the elite Ukrain­ian drone unit found­ed by vol­un­teer IT experts: ‘We are all sol­diers now.’

    Alia Shoaib
    Apr 9, 2022, 3:19 AM

    * Aero­rozvid­ka is an elite Ukrain­ian drone unit found­ed by vol­un­teer IT experts.
    * The unit cus­tom-builds or mod­i­fies off-the-shelf con­sumer drones to bomb Russ­ian tanks and armor.
    * The unit is a key part of the Ukrain­ian resis­tance against invad­ing Russ­ian forces.

    An elite Ukrain­ian drone unit found­ed by vol­un­teer IT experts is becom­ing a cru­cial part of the resis­tance against invad­ing Russ­ian forces.

    Aero­rozvid­ka cus­tom-builds or mod­i­fies off-the-shelf con­sumer drones to work in a mil­i­tary con­text and drop bombs on Russ­ian vehi­cles under the cov­er of night.

    “Now, we are all sol­diers, but our roots are very dif­fer­ent,” Mykhai­lo, a board mem­ber and head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Aero­rozvid­ka, told Insid­er.

    “Some of us have PhDs. Some have mas­ters. Some are from the IT indus­try and many oth­er indus­tries. The main thing which unites us is a desire to win this war.”

    The unit was found­ed in 2014 in response to Rus­si­a’s annex­a­tion of Crimea and Russ­ian-backed groups launch­ing a sep­a­ratist insur­gency in the Don­bas region.

    Tech-savvy vol­un­teers came togeth­er to design machines for drone-based aer­i­al recon­nais­sance to sup­port the Ukrain­ian army.

    Aero­rozvid­ka’s founder, an invest­ment banker, and father of four, Volodymyr Kochetkov-Sukach, was killed in action in Don­bas in 2015.

    “The inva­sion began not months ago. It began in 2014,” Mykhai­lo said.

    Aero­rozvid­ka now oper­ates as a non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion that close­ly sup­ports Ukraine’s mil­i­tary.

    The unit uses a range of drones, many of which are com­mon­ly avail­able store-bought drones that they mod­i­fy and mil­i­ta­rize, includ­ing Chi­nese DJI drones and Autel drones, French Par­rot drones, and more.

    Its most prized drone is the octo­copter R‑18, which they build from scratch. It has a range of 4km, a 40 minute flight time, and can drop 5kg bombs.

    Each R‑18 costs $20,000 to build, mak­ing them much cheap­er than anti-tank mis­siles such as NLAWs, or New gen­er­a­tion Light Anti-tank Weapons, cost­ing $40,000 per unit.

    Unlike NLAWs, which are sin­gle-use, the R‑18s can also be used repeat­ed­ly– unless they suf­fer dam­age by Russ­ian fire.

    The team has drones fly­ing 20 hours of the day on recon­nais­sance or com­bat mis­sions, Mykhai­lo said.

    Aero­rozvid­ka is divid­ed into the drone team, the Delta team, and a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty team.

    Delta is a NATO-sup­port­ed web-based sit­u­a­tion aware­ness sys­tem that cre­ates a map of Russ­ian tar­gets using infor­ma­tion from var­i­ous sources, includ­ing agents on land and recon­nais­sance data from the drone team.

    The unit also uses Elon Musk’s Star­link satel­lite sys­tem, which helps ensure con­nec­tiv­i­ty even if there are inter­net or pow­er out­ages.

    The unit car­ries out around 300 recon­nais­sance mis­sions dai­ly and has destroyed “dozens, pos­si­bly hun­dreds”” of Russ­ian vehi­cles, Mykhai­lo said.

    Aero­rozvid­ka typ­i­cal­ly car­ries out mis­sions under cov­er of night because their drones’ ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras give them an advan­tage. Equipped with night-vision gog­gles and sniper rifles, the drone sol­diers would use quad bikes to move stealth­ily through the forests and get in posi­tion to attack the Russ­ian forces.

    Its most sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ry was help­ing to halt the 40-mile Russ­ian con­voy head­ing to attack the cap­i­tal Kyiv.

    ‘I think it’s log­i­cal to say they are adapt­ing. But they are still Rus­sians’

    The unit typ­i­cal­ly tar­gets the most valu­able vehi­cle in a con­voy to make the most effec­tive use of their lim­it­ed bombs.

    In this case, the team tar­get­ed vehi­cles at the head of the con­voy, which suc­ceed­ed in block­ing the con­voy and demor­al­iz­ing Russ­ian forces.

    ...

    Mykhai­lo said that he could not dis­close exact­ly how many peo­ple are part of the orga­ni­za­tion, but that there are “dozens.”

    The unit often shares videos of their mis­sions on social media, occa­sion­al­ly set to the back­drop of music by Ukrain­ian rap artist Skof­ka.

    #Ukraine: A Ukrain­ian drone drop­ping muni­tions onto Russ­ian vehi­cles. A seri­ous toll; cir­ca 4x Command/Comms/EW Trucks, 3x Sup­ply Trucks, 2x BMP/MT-LB armoured vehi­cles, 1x BMP‑2 and 2S19 Msta‑S 152mm SPG (Pre­vi­ous­ly posted).Usually RKG-1600 or adapt­ed RPG muni­tions are used. pic.twitter.com/W5fp5tIGoV— ???? Ukraine Weapons Track­er (@UAWeapons) March 30, 2022

    A sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge fac­ing Aero­rozvid­ka is fund­ing and sup­ply issues. It relies upon crowd­fund­ing and dona­tions to get hold of much-need­ed com­po­nents such as advanced modems and ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras.

    Many US and Cana­da-made parts are sub­ject to export con­trols pro­hibit­ing them from being sent to Ukraine.

    ...

    ————

    “Inside the elite Ukrain­ian drone unit found­ed by vol­un­teer IT experts: ‘We are all sol­diers now.’ ” by Alia Shoaib; Busi­ness Insid­er; 04/09/2022

    “The unit uses a range of drones, many of which are com­mon­ly avail­able store-bought drones that they mod­i­fy and mil­i­ta­rize, includ­ing Chi­nese DJI drones and Autel drones, French Par­rot drones, and more.”

    The weaponiza­tion of com­mer­cial­ly-avail­able drones. It’s quite a skillset. And that skillset is get­ting honed with each pass­ing month in Ukraine, and has been devel­op­ing since the Aero­rozvid­ka group’s start in 2014. They had eight years already to learn how to do this:

    ...
    The unit was found­ed in 2014 in response to Rus­si­a’s annex­a­tion of Crimea and Russ­ian-backed groups launch­ing a sep­a­ratist insur­gency in the Don­bas region.

    Tech-savvy vol­un­teers came togeth­er to design machines for drone-based aer­i­al recon­nais­sance to sup­port the Ukrain­ian army.

    Aero­rozvid­ka’s founder, an invest­ment banker, and father of four, Volodymyr Kochetkov-Sukach, was killed in action in Don­bas in 2015.

    “The inva­sion began not months ago. It began in 2014,” Mykhai­lo said.

    Aero­rozvid­ka now oper­ates as a non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion that close­ly sup­ports Ukraine’s mil­i­tary.
    ...

    For just $20k, you can build a drone capa­ble of drop­ping 5 kg bombs, which have proven to be enough to destroy Russ­ian vehi­cles. Imag­ine the ter­ror poten­tial from such a device. How many peo­ple know how do build these things by now? It’s unclear, but what is unam­bigu­ous is that Ukraine has an incen­tive to ensure a large num­ber of peo­ple know how to build them. In oth­er words, this is pre­sum­ably a skill that pro­lif­er­at­ing in Ukraine right now:

    ...
    Its most prized drone is the octo­copter R‑18, which they build from scratch. It has a range of 4km, a 40 minute flight time, and can drop 5kg bombs.

    Each R‑18 costs $20,000 to build, mak­ing them much cheap­er than anti-tank mis­siles such as NLAWs, or New gen­er­a­tion Light Anti-tank Weapons, cost­ing $40,000 per unit.

    Unlike NLAWs, which are sin­gle-use, the R‑18s can also be used repeat­ed­ly– unless they suf­fer dam­age by Russ­ian fire.

    The team has drones fly­ing 20 hours of the day on recon­nais­sance or com­bat mis­sions, Mykhai­lo said.
    ...

    But the bomb-drop­ping drones are just one part of what Aero­rozvid­ka does. There’s also the Delta team, which works with the NATO-devel­oped Delta bat­tle­field sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness sys­tem:

    ...
    Aero­rozvid­ka is divid­ed into the drone team, the Delta team, and a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty team.

    Delta is a NATO-sup­port­ed web-based sit­u­a­tion aware­ness sys­tem that cre­ates a map of Russ­ian tar­gets using infor­ma­tion from var­i­ous sources, includ­ing agents on land and recon­nais­sance data from the drone team.

    The unit also uses Elon Musk’s Star­link satel­lite sys­tem, which helps ensure con­nec­tiv­i­ty even if there are inter­net or pow­er out­ages.

    The unit car­ries out around 300 recon­nais­sance mis­sions dai­ly and has destroyed “dozens, pos­si­bly hun­dreds”” of Russ­ian vehi­cles, Mykhai­lo said.
    ...

    And that ref­er­ence to the Aero­rozvid­ka’s Delta team brings us to the fol­low­ing New York Times arti­cle about the trans­for­ma­tion of Ukraine into a next-gen­er­a­tion weapons-test­ing plat­form that could shape the nature of mil­i­tary invest­ments by mil­i­tary pow­ers around the world for years to come. Pow­er­ful lessons are being learned about the next gen­er­a­tion of war­fare. And as the arti­cle makes clear, one of those pow­er­ful lessons is vital impor­tance of drones in mod­ern com­bat. Whether it’s intel­li­gence-col­lect­ing drones or bomb-drop­ping drones, or even drone-boats capa­ble of attack­ing large ships, the future if war­fare is remote­ly con­trolled:

    The New York Times

    For West­ern Weapons, the Ukraine War Is a Beta Test

    Though the bat­tle for Ukraine remains large­ly a grind­ing artillery war, new advances in tech­nol­o­gy and train­ing there are being close­ly mon­i­tored for the ways they are start­ing to shape com­bat.

    By Lara Jakes
    Nov. 15, 2022 Updat­ed 2:00 p.m. ET

    Three months ago, as Ukrain­ian troops were strug­gling to advance against Russ­ian forces in the south, the military’s head­quar­ters in Kyiv qui­et­ly deployed a valu­able new weapon to the bat­tle­field.

    It was not a rock­et launch­er, can­non or anoth­er kind of heavy arms from West­ern allies. Instead, it was a real-time infor­ma­tion sys­tem known as Delta — an online net­work that mil­i­tary troops, civil­ian offi­cials and even vet­ted bystanders could use to track and share des­per­ate­ly need­ed details about Russ­ian forces.

    The soft­ware, devel­oped in coor­di­na­tion with NATO, had bare­ly been test­ed in bat­tle.

    But as they moved across the Kher­son region in a major coun­terof­fen­sive, Ukraine’s forces employed Delta, as well as pow­er­ful weapon­ry sup­plied by the West, to push the Rus­sians out of towns and vil­lages they had occu­pied for months.

    The big pay­off came on Fri­day with the retreat of Russ­ian forces from Kher­son City — a major prize in the near­ly nine-month war.

    Delta is one exam­ple of how Ukraine has become a test­ing ground for state-of-the-art weapons and infor­ma­tion sys­tems, and new ways to use them, that West­ern polit­i­cal offi­cials and mil­i­tary com­man­ders pre­dict could shape war­fare for gen­er­a­tions to come.

    The bat­tle for Ukraine, to be sure, remains large­ly a grind­ing war of attri­tion, with relent­less artillery attacks and oth­er World War II-era tac­tics. Both sides pri­mar­i­ly rely on Sovi­et-era weapons, and Ukraine has report­ed run­ning low on ammu­ni­tion for them.

    But even as the tra­di­tion­al war­fare is under­way, new advances in tech­nol­o­gy and train­ing in Ukraine are being close­ly mon­i­tored for the ways they are chang­ing the face of the fight. Beyond Delta, they include remote-con­trolled boats, anti-drone weapons known as Sky­Wipers and an updat­ed ver­sion of an air-defense sys­tem built in Ger­many that the Ger­man mil­i­tary itself has yet to use.

    “Ukraine is the best test ground, as we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to test all hypothe­ses in bat­tle and intro­duce rev­o­lu­tion­ary change in mil­i­tary tech and mod­ern war­fare,” said Mykhai­lo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter of dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion.

    He was speak­ing in Octo­ber at a NATO con­fer­ence in Nor­folk, Va., where he pub­licly dis­cussed Delta for the first time.

    He also empha­sized the grow­ing reliance on the remote-con­trolled air­craft and boats that offi­cials and mil­i­tary experts said have become weapons of choice like those in no pre­vi­ous war.

    “In the last two weeks, we have been con­vinced once again the wars of the future will be about max­i­mum drones and min­i­mal humans,” Mr. Federov said.

    Since last sum­mer, Ukraine and its allies have been test­ing remote-con­trolled boats packed with explo­sives in the Black Sea, cul­mi­nat­ing in a bold attack in Octo­ber against Russia’s fleet off the coast of Sev­astopol.

    Mil­i­tary offi­cials large­ly have declined to dis­cuss the attack or pro­vide details about the boats, but both the Unit­ed States and Ger­many have sup­plied Ukraine with sim­i­lar ships this year. Shau­rav Gairo­la, a naval weapons ana­lyst for Janes, a defense intel­li­gence firm, said the Black Sea strike showed a sophis­ti­cat­ed lev­el of plan­ning, giv­en the appar­ent suc­cess of the small and rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive boats against Russia’s might­i­er war ships.

    The attack “has pushed the con­flict enve­lope,” Mr. Gairo­la said. He said it “impos­es a par­a­digm shift in naval war doc­trines and sym­bol­izes an expres­sion of futur­is­tic war­fare tac­tics.”

    The use of remote-con­trolled boats could become par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant, mil­i­tary experts said, show­ing how war­fare at sea might play out as the Unit­ed States and its allies brace for poten­tial future naval aggres­sions by Chi­na in the East and South Chi­na Seas, and against Tai­wan.

    Inevitably, the Rus­sians’ increased use of drones has spurred Ukraine’s allies to send new tech­nol­o­gy to stop them.

    Late last year, Ukraine’s mil­i­tary began using the new­ly devel­oped drone-jam­ming guns known as Sky­Wipers to thwart Russ­ian sep­a­ratists in the east­ern Don­bas region. The Sky­Wipers, which can divert or dis­rupt drones by block­ing their com­mu­ni­ca­tion sig­nals, were devel­oped in Lithua­nia and had been on the mar­ket for only two years before they were giv­en to Ukraine through a NATO secu­ri­ty assis­tance pro­gram.

    Near­ly nine months into the war, the Sky­Wipers are now only one kind of drone jam­mer being used in Ukraine. But they have been sin­gled out as a high­ly cov­et­ed bat­tle­field asset — both for Ukrain­ian troops and ene­my forces that hope to cap­ture them.

    It is not known how many Sky­Wipers have been sent to Ukraine, although Lithua­nia report­ed­ly sent sev­er­al dozen in Octo­ber 2021. In a state­ment to The New York Times, Lithuania’s defense min­istry said it sent 50 Sky­Wipers in August after Ukrain­ian offi­cials called it “one of the top pri­or­i­ties.”

    Dalia Gry­bauskaite, who was Lithuania’s pres­i­dent when the Sky­Wipers were being designed, said her country’s defense indus­try made a cal­cu­lat­ed turn toward pro­duc­ing high-tech equip­ment dur­ing her time in office, from 2009 to 2019, to update a stock­pile of weapons that “were main­ly Kalash­nikovs” and oth­er Sovi­et-era arms.

    “We’re learn­ing in Ukraine how to fight, and we’re learn­ing how to use our NATO equip­ment,” Ms. Gry­bauskaite said in an inter­view last week. “And, yes, it is a teach­ing bat­tle­ground.”

    She paused, then added: “It is shame­ful for me because Ukraini­ans are pay­ing with their lives for these exer­cis­es for us.”

    The West­ern lethal aid that is being sent to Ukraine con­sists, for the most part, of recent­ly updat­ed ver­sions of old­er weapons. That was the case with the Ger­man-made infrared, medi­um-range hom­ing mis­siles and launch­ers known as IRIS‑T, which pro­tect against Russ­ian rock­et attacks.

    They have a longer range than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of air-defense sys­tems that debuted in 2015. Germany’s own mil­i­tary has not yet used the updat­ed ver­sion of the sys­tems, which were shipped to Ukraine last month. Addi­tion­al mis­siles were deliv­ered last week.

    ...

    More than an ear­ly alert sys­tem, Delta com­bines real-time maps and pic­tures of ene­my assets, down to how many sol­diers are on the move and what kinds of weapons they are car­ry­ing, offi­cials said.

    That is com­bined with intel­li­gence — includ­ing from sur­veil­lance satel­lites, drones and oth­er gov­ern­ment sources — to decide where and how Ukrain­ian troops should attack.

    Ukraine and West­ern pow­ers deter­mined they need­ed the sys­tem after Rus­sia insti­gat­ed a sep­a­ratist-backed war in Ukraine’s east in 2014. It was devel­oped by Ukraine’s Defense Min­istry with NATO assis­tance and first test­ed in 2017, in part to wean troops off Russ­ian stan­dards of silo­ing infor­ma­tion among ground units instead of shar­ing it.

    It has been includ­ed in train­ing exer­cis­es between Ukraine’s mil­i­tary and oth­er NATO plan­ners in the years since.

    Infor­ma­tion shar­ing has long been a sta­ple for Amer­i­can and oth­er NATO forces. What NATO offi­cials said was sur­pris­ing about the Delta sys­tem was that the net­work was so broad­ly acces­si­ble to troops that it helped them make bat­tle­field deci­sions even faster than some more mod­ern mil­i­taries. In Kher­son, Delta helped Ukrain­ian troops quick­ly iden­ti­fy Russ­ian sup­ply lines to attack, Inna Hon­char, com­man­der of the non­govern­ment group Aero­rozvid­ka, which devel­ops drones and oth­er tech­nol­o­gy for Ukraine’s mil­i­tary, said in a state­ment on Sun­day.

    “Bridges were cer­tain­ly key points,” Ms. Hon­char added. “Ware­hous­es and con­trol points were dam­aged, and the pro­vi­sion of troops became crit­i­cal” as Rus­sians became increas­ing­ly iso­lat­ed, she said.

    Delta’s first real test had come in the weeks imme­di­ate­ly after the Feb­ru­ary inva­sion as a Russ­ian con­voy stretch­ing 40 miles long head­ed toward Kyiv. Ukrain­ian drones over­head tracked its advance, and troops assessed the best places to inter­cept it. Res­i­dents texted up-to-the-minute reports to the gov­ern­ment with details that could have been seen only up close.

    All the infor­ma­tion was col­lect­ed, ana­lyzed and dis­sem­i­nat­ed through Delta to help Ukraine’s mil­i­tary force a Russ­ian retreat, Ukrain­ian offi­cials said.

    “That was the very first moment when Delta capa­bil­i­ties were real­ized at max,” the Ukrain­ian Defense Min­istry said in a state­ment. It said Delta had since helped iden­ti­fy 1,500 con­firmed Russ­ian tar­gets across the coun­try on any giv­en day — with “hun­dreds of them being elim­i­nat­ed” with­in 48 hours.

    The test runs in Ukraine are help­ing senior offi­cials and defense plan­ners in the Unit­ed States and its allies decide how to invest mil­i­tary spend­ing over the next two decades.

    ...

    ———-

    “For West­ern Weapons, the Ukraine War Is a Beta Test” by Lara Jakes; The New York Times; 11/15/2022

    Delta is one exam­ple of how Ukraine has become a test­ing ground for state-of-the-art weapons and infor­ma­tion sys­tems, and new ways to use them, that West­ern polit­i­cal offi­cials and mil­i­tary com­man­ders pre­dict could shape war­fare for gen­er­a­tions to come.”

    Delta isn’t just a new weapons plat­form build for Ukraine. It’s a cut­ting edge state-of-the-art infor­ma­tion sys­tem. One of many NATO-devel­oped plat­forms get­ting test­ed on the Ukrain­ian bat­tle­field. Wild­ly suc­cess­ful­ly test­ed in the case of the drone use against the columns of Russ­ian vehi­cles advanc­ing towards Kiev:

    ...
    The soft­ware, devel­oped in coor­di­na­tion with NATO, had bare­ly been test­ed in bat­tle.

    ...

    More than an ear­ly alert sys­tem, Delta com­bines real-time maps and pic­tures of ene­my assets, down to how many sol­diers are on the move and what kinds of weapons they are car­ry­ing, offi­cials said.

    That is com­bined with intel­li­gence — includ­ing from sur­veil­lance satel­lites, drones and oth­er gov­ern­ment sources — to decide where and how Ukrain­ian troops should attack.

    Ukraine and West­ern pow­ers deter­mined they need­ed the sys­tem after Rus­sia insti­gat­ed a sep­a­ratist-backed war in Ukraine’s east in 2014. It was devel­oped by Ukraine’s Defense Min­istry with NATO assis­tance and first test­ed in 2017, in part to wean troops off Russ­ian stan­dards of silo­ing infor­ma­tion among ground units instead of shar­ing it.

    It has been includ­ed in train­ing exer­cis­es between Ukraine’s mil­i­tary and oth­er NATO plan­ners in the years since.

    ...

    Delta’s first real test had come in the weeks imme­di­ate­ly after the Feb­ru­ary inva­sion as a Russ­ian con­voy stretch­ing 40 miles long head­ed toward Kyiv. Ukrain­ian drones over­head tracked its advance, and troops assessed the best places to inter­cept it. Res­i­dents texted up-to-the-minute reports to the gov­ern­ment with details that could have been seen only up close.

    All the infor­ma­tion was col­lect­ed, ana­lyzed and dis­sem­i­nat­ed through Delta to help Ukraine’s mil­i­tary force a Russ­ian retreat, Ukrain­ian offi­cials said.

    “That was the very first moment when Delta capa­bil­i­ties were real­ized at max,” the Ukrain­ian Defense Min­istry said in a state­ment. It said Delta had since helped iden­ti­fy 1,500 con­firmed Russ­ian tar­gets across the coun­try on any giv­en day — with “hun­dreds of them being elim­i­nat­ed” with­in 48 hours.

    The test runs in Ukraine are help­ing senior offi­cials and defense plan­ners in the Unit­ed States and its allies decide how to invest mil­i­tary spend­ing over the next two decades.
    ...

    It’s also worth not­ing how much Delta resem­bles the orig­i­nal mis­sion of the inter­net’s ARPANET pre­de­ces­sor built for col­lect­ing dis­parate intel­li­gence sources for the Viet­nam war. Delta is like an advanced ARPANET, with addi­tion­al bomb-drop­ping capa­bil­i­ties.

    And then there’s the remote-con­trolled boats pro­vid­ed to Ukraine by the US and Ger­many. Remote con­trolled boats packed with explo­sives. It’s a reminder that the domes­tic ter­ror threat from drones includes a lot more than just the fly­ing drones every­one is now famil­iar with. Boat drones are an option too. And you can pack a lot more explo­sives onto a boat than you can into a fly­ing drone:

    ...
    But even as the tra­di­tion­al war­fare is under­way, new advances in tech­nol­o­gy and train­ing in Ukraine are being close­ly mon­i­tored for the ways they are chang­ing the face of the fight. Beyond Delta, they include remote-con­trolled boats, anti-drone weapons known as Sky­Wipers and an updat­ed ver­sion of an air-defense sys­tem built in Ger­many that the Ger­man mil­i­tary itself has yet to use.

    ...

    Since last sum­mer, Ukraine and its allies have been test­ing remote-con­trolled boats packed with explo­sives in the Black Sea, cul­mi­nat­ing in a bold attack in Octo­ber against Russia’s fleet off the coast of Sev­astopol.

    Mil­i­tary offi­cials large­ly have declined to dis­cuss the attack or pro­vide details about the boats, but both the Unit­ed States and Ger­many have sup­plied Ukraine with sim­i­lar ships this year. Shau­rav Gairo­la, a naval weapons ana­lyst for Janes, a defense intel­li­gence firm, said the Black Sea strike showed a sophis­ti­cat­ed lev­el of plan­ning, giv­en the appar­ent suc­cess of the small and rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive boats against Russia’s might­i­er war ships.

    The attack “has pushed the con­flict enve­lope,” Mr. Gairo­la said. He said it “impos­es a par­a­digm shift in naval war doc­trines and sym­bol­izes an expres­sion of futur­is­tic war­fare tac­tics.”

    The use of remote-con­trolled boats could become par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant, mil­i­tary experts said, show­ing how war­fare at sea might play out as the Unit­ed States and its allies brace for poten­tial future naval aggres­sions by Chi­na in the East and South Chi­na Seas, and against Tai­wan.
    ...

    And if the words of Mykhai­lo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter of dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion, are any indi­ca­tion of what to expect as this war plays out, Ukraine is only going to be more and more invest­ed in mil­i­tary drone tech­nol­o­gy for years to come. Pre­sum­ably with NATO’s assis­tance:

    ...
    “Ukraine is the best test ground, as we have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to test all hypothe­ses in bat­tle and intro­duce rev­o­lu­tion­ary change in mil­i­tary tech and mod­ern war­fare,” said Mykhai­lo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime min­is­ter and min­is­ter of dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion.

    He was speak­ing in Octo­ber at a NATO con­fer­ence in Nor­folk, Va., where he pub­licly dis­cussed Delta for the first time.

    He also empha­sized the grow­ing reliance on the remote-con­trolled air­craft and boats that offi­cials and mil­i­tary experts said have become weapons of choice like those in no pre­vi­ous war.

    “In the last two weeks, we have been con­vinced once again the wars of the future will be about max­i­mum drones and min­i­mal humans,” Mr. Federov said.
    ...

    Ukraine sees the “max­i­mum drones and min­i­mal humans” future because it’s liv­ing it. From the mil­i­tary-grade drone donat­ed by the US and oth­er NATO allies to the DIY com­mer­cial drone, the Ukrain­ian mil­i­tary is going to want all things drone and will for the fore­see­able future.

    Of course, ter­ror­ists of all stripes are also going to be sali­vat­ing over weaponized drones as these tech­nolo­gies become more and more acces­si­ble, which is what Christo­pher Wray was tes­ti­fy­ing about before Sen­a­tors wor­ried about drone tech in Ukraine com­ing home. We can be pret­ty con­fi­dent the US is going to extend its autho­riza­tion to take down sus­pi­cious drones. Drone defens­es are going to increas­ing­ly seen as vital to not just nation secu­ri­ty but pri­vate secu­ri­ty. Drones are only going to get more and more pow­er­ful. Along with all the tech­nolo­gies drones are going to be capa­ble of car­ry­ing. Today it’s cam­eras, bombs and mis­siles. Who knows what tomor­row will bring for the world of weaponized drones. But DIY drone weaponiza­tion tech­niques are get­ting tur­bo-charged in Ukraine right now so we can also be pret­ty con­fi­dent drone-deliv­ered ter­ror is com­ing home to a NATO mem­ber at some point.

    It’s just a mat­ter of time. Yes, it was always just a mat­ter of time. It’s just a lot less time thanks to all the inevitable blow­back.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 18, 2022, 10:47 pm

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