Showing posts with label Alfred W. McCoy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alfred W. McCoy. Show all posts

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Holding My Breath Over Donbas(s)

It's been difficult for me to watch  and read about the Battle of Donbas(s) and the fate of the survivors of Mariupol unfold. I am hoping that our Government and our Military have on purpose downplayed information on Ukraine's capabilities of dealing with this siege. 

But, when I was watching the hundreds of Soviet tanks zooming and roaring unabated down the roads and read of the thousands of Syrian ground troops plus looked at the Soviet's strategy to encircle the Ukrainians from the north,east and south I shuddered.  Are y'all worried about this or is it just me?

Here is another look at the Russian strategy in the Donbas(s) Region:


From Sky News: video on the link

Ukraine War: Russia's Apparent Strategy in Donbass Region 

Wednesday 20 April 2022 12:28, UK 


 More links: 

 ~ From CNN:

LIVE UPDATES : Russia Invades Ukraine

 Updated 11:59 p.m. ET, April 20, 2022


From AP News:

Russian - Ukraine War 


Two reports you might find interesting:


  ~ From: Informed Comment


Historian Adam Michniki: Putin's Invasion of Ukraine Will end Like Brezhnev's Afghan War, And Spark a 'New Wave'

By Vadim Dubnov -

"( RFE/RL ) – Vladimir Putin “has driven Russia into a trap” by invading Ukraine, the former Polish dissident Adam Michnik has said, predicting ultimate defeat for the Russian leader and a chance for much-needed liberal reforms afterward.

“In Russia, changes took place after wars were lost — after the Finnish war, the Japanese war, the Afghan war, and now Ukraine,” Michnik recently told RFE/RL’s Echo of the Caucasus in an interview.

Michnik, a leading intellectual of the Cold War era and longtime critic of Russian domination of Eastern Europe, is now, at age 75, the editor in chief of the liberal Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

 In a column for the paper, Michnik placed the struggle of Ukrainians as just the latest chapter in the historical repression by the Soviet Union and Russia. “We must say it loud and clear,” he wrote. “We are all Ukrainians now.”

In his interview with RFE/RL, Michnik said Putin was likely deluded into thinking events during his latest invasion of Ukraine would largely mirror those in Crimea in February 2014, when Russian soldiers without insignia on their green uniforms seized control of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula.

[Putin] did not think that there would be such a heroic response from the Ukrainian Army and Ukrainian society. It’s fantastic.”

“His hope that there would be a repeat of what happened in Crimea. The enthusiasm, as there was during Crimea, did not occur,” Michnik explained.

A month after illegally annexing Crimea in March 2014, Putin sent arms, funds, and other aid to separatists in southeastern Ukraine, sparking a conflict that has left at least 13,200 dead.

In his calculus to go to war, Putin was driven by a belief — held by many Russians — that Ukrainians aren’t a separate people, said Michnik.

“He thinks, as probably some of our common Russian friends do, that Ukraine is not Ukrainians, they are little Russians, one nation. This is a big mistake, not only for Putin but also for many absolutely honest and intelligent people in Russia,” he said.

A Russian flag flies next to buildings destroyed by Russian shelling in Mariupol on April 12.

Exiled Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky recently told CNN that Putin became “literally insane” when his invasion of Ukraine wasn’t met with a friendly reception from its citizens.

Putin also got the West’s response wrong, Michnik said, hoping what many have criticized as the hasty retreat from Afghanistan by the United States and its NATO allies was a sign of cracks among the allies.

“[Putin] thought the United States was dead after Kabul, that [Joe] Biden didn’t have a [Donald] Trump illusion, that Biden didn’t think like Trump did, that Putin was a benevolent genius. Biden is a calm, normal person who knows that [Putin] is a bandit, how to behave with a bandit,” said Michnik.

Putin also likely brushed off the capabilities of the Ukrainians, Michnik said, admitting he was himself among the initial skeptics.

“[Putin] did not think that there would be such a heroic response from the Ukrainian Army and Ukrainian society,” he said. “It’s fantastic. No one thought it would happen, and I didn’t think it would either. The Ukrainians told me that this would happen, but I did not believe them.”

An aerial view of destroyed Russian armor on the outskirts of Kyiv on March 31.

Ukraine has estimated as of April 13 that 19,800 Russian soldiers have died since the beginning of the war, citing its own recovery of bodies and intercepted Russian communications. Russia has called the Ukrainian numbers inflated and only twice announced its own figures, a fraction of those tabulated by Kyiv.

The war with the Poles was not a war with the Poles — no, they were the white Poles…. When there was a winter war with Finland, they were white Finns. Now, not Ukrainians, but fascists, Nazis….”

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, said on April 7 that the country had “significant losses of troops and it’s a huge tragedy for us” during an interview on Sky News, a rare official admission of the scale of the Russian losses.

What support Putin has among average Russians is difficult to gauge, said Michnik, amid worsening repression and the muzzling of any opposition media.

Ordinary Russians can face up to 15 years in prison for questioning or contradicting the Kremlin’s war narrative, with thousands detained so far by police nationwide for speaking out.

“I don’t believe Russians are 100 percent supportive of Putin; 200,000 Russians have gone abroad. In 1968, during the intervention in Czechoslovakia, seven people took to Red Square in Moscow. Today, 8,000 have already been arrested for taking to the streets with the slogan, ‘No To War,'” said Michnik, referring to estimates of how many Russians have left the country since the Russian invasion started on February 24.

Russia has adopted many Soviet tactics in defining those opposed to them, Michnik explained, with Ukrainians dehumanized as “just Nazis, fascists,” in a never-ending barrage on state-run media.

“Even during the time of the Bolsheviks, the war with the Poles was not a war with the Poles — no, they were the white Poles,” Michnik said, noting the term used by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviet authorities to designate “enemies” of its communist rule.

“When there was a winter war with Finland, they were white Finns. Now, not Ukrainians, but fascists, Nazis…. But if they tell you so in the morning, after dinner, in the evening, one day, another day, a third day, after all, you think there is something to it,” Michnik said.

“I remember it well, how in Poland in Soviet times there was anti-German propaganda that all Germans were Nazis. But not these Germans, not ours from East Germany — they were good Germans. Ukrainians from Luhansk and Donetsk who support the Kremlin’s policy are good, but they are not Ukrainians either. They are little Russians.”

Ultimately Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will end with defeat for Putin, Michnik said, and judging by previous Russian military defeats in the past, an opportunity for change may emerge.

“I am sure that Ukraine will become for Putin what Afghanistan became for [Leonid] Brezhnev,” Michnik said, referring to the former Soviet leader who ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

That conflict would lead to the death of some 15,000 troops and 2 million Afghans before its end in 1989, hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Now, Michnik holds out hope that a Russian defeat in Ukraine could be the spark to ignite democratic change in Russia.

“Russia made a bad choice. But we still have hope that it is still possible. I will not live to see it, but my son will live, [and] a new wave will come…” 

With additional reporting by Tony Wesolowsky

Vadim Dubnov is a correspondent for RFE/RL’s Echo of the Caucasus, which broadcasts in Russian to Georgia.




Originally from Tom Dispatch,  then picked up by both Counterpunch & Informed Comment.


 ~ From Counterpunch :


How to End the War in Ukraine: a Solution Beyond Sanctions 



"As the war in Ukraine heads for its third month amid a rising toll of death and destruction, Washington and its European allies are scrambling, so far unsuccessfully, to end that devastating, globally disruptive conflict. Spurred by troubling images of executed Ukrainian civilians scattered in the streets of Bucha and ruined cities like Mariupol, they are already trying to use many tools in their diplomatic pouches to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to desist. These range from economic sanctions and trade embargoes to the confiscation of the assets of some of his oligarch cronies and the increasingly massive shipment of arms to Ukraine. Yet none of it seems to be working.

Even after Ukraine’s surprisingly strong defense forced a Russian retreat from the northern suburbs of the capital, Kyiv, Putin only appears to be doubling down with plans for new offensives in Ukraine’s south and east. Instead of engaging in serious negotiations, he’s been redeploying his battered troops for a second round of massive attacks led by General Alexander Dvonikov, “the butcher of Syria,” whose merciless air campaigns in that country flattened cities like Aleppo and Homs.

So while the world waits for the other combat boot to drop hard, it’s already worth considering where the West went wrong in its efforts to end this war, while exploring whether anything potentially effective is still available to slow the carnage.

Playing the China Card

In January 2021, only weeks after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Moscow began threatening to attack Ukraine unless Washington and its European allies agreed that Kyiv could never join NATO. That April, Putin only added force to his demand by dispatching 120,000 troops to Ukraine’s border to stage military maneuvers that Washington even then branded a “war threat.” In response, taking a leaf from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s tattered Cold War playbook, the Biden administration initially tried to play Beijing off against Moscow.

After a face-to-face summit with Putin in Geneva that June, President Biden affirmed Washington’s “unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” In a pointed warning to the Russian president, he said,

“You got a multi-thousand-mile border with China… China is… seeking to be the most powerful economy in the world and the largest and the most powerful military in the world. You’re in a situation where your economy is struggling… I don’t think [you should be] looking for a Cold War with the United States.”

As Russian armored units began massing for war near the Ukrainian border that November, U.S. intelligence officials all-too-accurately leaked warnings that “the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive… involving up to 175,000 troops.” In response, over the next three months, administration officials scrambled to avert war by meeting a half-dozen times with Beijing’s top diplomats and beseeching “the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade.”

In a video conference on December 7th, Biden told Putin of his “deep concerns… about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine,” warning that “the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.”

In a more amicable video conference just a week later, however, Putin assured China’s President Xi Jinping that he would defy any human-rights boycott by Western leaders and come to Beijing for the Winter Olympics. Calling him his “old friend,” Xi replied that he appreciated this unwavering support and “firmly opposed attempts to drive a wedge into our two countries.” Indeed, during the February Olympics opening ceremony, the two of them publicly proclaimed a de facto alliance that had “no limits,” even as Beijing evidently made it clear that Russia should not spoil China’s glittering Olympic moment on the international stage with an invasion right then.

In retrospect, it’s hard to overstate the price Putin paid for China’s backing. So desperate was he to preserve their new alliance that he sacrificed his only chance for a quick victory over Ukraine. By the time Putin landed in Beijing on February 4th, 130,000 Russian troops had already massed on the Ukrainian border. Delaying an invasion until the Olympics ended left most of them huddled in unheated canvas tents for three more weeks. When the invasion finally began, idling vehicles had burned through much of their fuel, truck tires sitting without rotation were primed for blow-outs, and the rations and morale of many of those soldiers were exhausted.

In early February, the ground in Ukraine was still frozen, making it possible for Russia’s tanks to swarm overland, potentially encircling the capital, Kyiv, for a quick victory. Because the Olympics didn’t end until February 20th, Russia’s invasion, which began four days later, was ever closer to March, Ukraine’s mud month when average temperatures around Kyiv rise rapidly. Adding to Moscow’s difficulties, at 51 tons, its T-90 tanks were almost twice as heavy as the classic go-anywhere Soviet T-34s which won World War II. When those modern steel-clad behemoths did try to leave the roads near Kyiv, they often sank deep and fast in the mud, becoming sitting ducks for Ukrainian missiles.

Instead of surging across the countryside to envelop Kyiv, Russia’s tanks found themselves stuck in a 40-mile traffic jam on a paved highway where Ukrainian defenders armed with shoulder-fired missiles could destroy them with relative ease. Being enveloped by the enemy instead of enveloping them cost the Russian army most of its losses to date — estimated recently at 40,000 troops killed, wounded, or captured, along with 2,540 armored vehicles and 440 rocket and artillery systems destroyed. As those crippling losses mounted, Russia’s army was forced to abandon its five-week campaign to capture the capital. On April 2nd, the retreat began, leaving behind a dismal trail of burned vehicles, dead soldiers, and slaughtered civilians.

In the end, Vladimir Putin paid a high price indeed for China’s support.

President Xi’s foreknowledge of the plans to invade Ukraine and his seemingly steadfast support even after so many weeks of lackluster military performance raise some revealing parallels with the alliance between Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, and China’s Mao Zedong in the early days of the Cold War. After Stalin’s pressure on Western Europe was blocked by the Berlin airlift of 1948-1949 and the formation of NATO in April 1950, the Soviet boss made a deft geopolitical pivot to Asia. He played upon his brand-new alliance with a headstrong Mao by getting him to send Chinese troops into the maelstrom of the Korean War. For three years, until his death in 1953 allowed an armistice to be reached, Stalin kept the U.S. military bogged down and bloodied in Korea, freeing him to consolidate his control over Eastern Europe.

Following this same geopolitical strategy, President Xi has much to gain from Putin’s headstrong plunge into Ukraine. In the short term, Washington’s focus on Europe postpones a promised (and long-delayed) U.S. “pivot” to the Pacific, allowing Beijing to further consolidate its position in Asia. Meanwhile, as Putin’s military flattens cities like Kharkiv and Mariupol, making Russia an outlaw state, a mendicant Moscow is likely to become a cut-rate source of much-needed Chinese fuel and food imports. Not only does Beijing need Russia’s gas to wean its economy from coal but, as the world’s largest consumer of wheat, it could achieve food security with a lock on Russia’s massive grain exports. Just as Stalin capitalized on Mao’s stalemate in Korea, so the elusive dynamics of Eurasian geopolitics could well transform Putin’s losses into Xi’s gains.

For all these reasons, Washington’s initial strategy had little chance of restraining Russia’s invasion. As retired CIA analyst Raymond McGovern argued, drawing on his 27 years studying the Soviet Union for the agency, “Rapprochement between Russia and China has grown to entente.” In his view, the sooner Biden’s foreign-policy team “get it through their ivy-mantled brains that driving a wedge between Russia and China is not going to happen, the better the chances the world can survive the fallout (figurative and literal) from the war in Ukraine.”


Since the Russian invasion began, the Western alliance has been ramping up an array of sanctions to punish Putin’s cronies and cripple Russia’s economic capacity to continue the war. In addition, Washington has already committed $2.4 billion for arms shipments to Ukraine, including lethal antitank weapons like the shoulder-fired Javelin missile.

On April 6th, the White House announced that the U.S. and its allies had imposed “the most impactful, coordinated, and wide-ranging economic restrictions in history,” banning new investments in Russia and hampering the operations of its major banks and state enterprises. The Biden administration expects the sanctions to shrink Russia’s gross domestic product by 15% as inflation surges, supply chains collapse, and 600 foreign companies exit the country, leaving it in “economic, financial, and technological isolation.” With near unanimous bipartisan support, Congress has also voted to void U.S. trade relations with Moscow and ban its oil imports (measures with minimal impact since Russia only supplies 2% of American petroleum use).

Although the Kremlin’s invasion threatened European security, Brussels moved far more cautiously, since Russia supplies 40% of the European Union’s gas and 25% of its oil — worth $108 billion in payments to Moscow in 2021. For decades, Germany has built massive pipelines to handle Russia’s gas exports, culminating in the 2011 opening of Nordstream I, the world’s longest undersea pipeline, which Chancellor Angela Merkel then hailed as a “milestone in energy cooperation” and the “basis of a reliable partnership” between Europe and Russia.

With its critical energy infrastructure bound to Russia by pipe, rail, and ship, Germany, the continent’s economic giant, is dependent on Moscow for 32% of its natural gas, 34% of its oil, and 53% of its hard coal. After a month of foot-dragging, it did go along with the European decision to punish Putin by cutting off Russian coal shipments, but drew the line at tampering with its gas imports, which heat half its homes and power much of its industry.

To reduce its dependence on Russian gas, Berlin has launched multiple long-term projects to diversify its energy sources, while cancelling the opening of the new $11 billion Nordstream II gas pipeline from Russia. It has also asserted control over its own energy reserves, held inside massive underground caverns, suspending their management by the Russian state firm Gazprom. (As Berlin’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck put it, “We won’t leave energy infrastructure subject to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin.”)

Right after the Ukraine invasion, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced a crash program to construct the country’s first Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals on its north coast to unload supplies from American ships and those of various Middle Eastern countries. Simultaneously, German officials flew off to the Persian Gulf to negotiate more long-term deliveries of LNG. Still, the construction of such a multibillion-dollar terminal typically takes about four years, and Germany’s vice-chancellor has made it clear that, until then, massive imports of Russian gas will continue in order to preserve the country’s “social peace.” The European Union is considering plans to cut off Russian oil imports completely, but its proposal to slash Russian natural-gas imports by two-thirds by year’s end has already met stiff opposition from Germany’s finance ministry and its influential labor unions, worried about losses of “hundreds of thousands” of jobs.

Given all the exemptions, sanctions have so far failed to fatally cripple Russia’s economy or curtail its invasion of Ukraine. At first, the U.S. and EU restrictions did spark a crash in Russia’s currency, the ruble, which President Biden mockingly called “the rubble,” but its value has since bounced back to pre-invasion levels, while broader economic damage has, so far, proved limited. “As long as Russia can continue to sell oil and gas,” observed Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson International Economics Institute, “the Russian government’s financial situation is actually pretty strong.” And he concluded, “This is the big escape clause of the sanctions.”

In short, the West has seized a few yachts from Putin’s cronies, stopped serving Big Macs in Red Square, and slapped sanctions on everything except the one thing that really matters. With Russia supplying 40% of its gas and collecting an estimated $850 million daily, Europe is, in effect, funding its own invasion.


Following the failure of both Washington’s pressure on China and Western sanctions against Russia to stop the war, the international courts have become the sole peaceful means left to still the conflict. While the law often remains an effective means to mediate conflict domestically, the critical question of enforcing judgements has long robbed the international courts of their promise for promoting peace — a problem painfully evident in Ukraine today.

Even as the fighting rages, two major international courts have already ruled against Russia’s invasion, issuing orders for Moscow to cease and desist its military operations. On March 16th, the U.N.’s highest tribunal, the International Court of Justice, ordered Russia to immediately suspend all military operations in Ukraine, a judgment Putin has simply ignored. Theoretically, that high court could now require Moscow to pay reparations, but Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, could simply veto that decision.

With surprising speed, on day five of the invasion, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at Strasbourg ruled in the case of Ukraine v. Russia (X), ordering the Kremlin “to refrain from military attacks against civilians and civilian objects, including residential premises, emergency vehicles and… schools and hospitals” — a clear directive that Moscow’s military continues to defy with its devastating rocket and artillery strikes. To enforce the decision, the court notified the Council of Europe, which, two weeks later, took the most extreme step its statutes allow, expelling Russia after 26 years of membership. With that not-terribly-painful step, the European Court seems to have exhausted its powers of enforcement.

But matters need not end there. The Court is also responsible for enforcing the European Convention on Human Rights, which reads in part: “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.” Under that provision, the ECHR could order Russia to pay Ukraine compensation for the war damage it’s causing. Unfortunately, as Ivan Lishchyna, an adviser to Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice, points out: “There is no international police or international military force that can support any international court judgment.”

As it happens, though, there is a blindingly obvious path to payment. Just as a U.S. municipal court can garnish the wages of a deadbeat dad who won’t pay child support, so the European Court of Human Rights could garnish the gas income of the world’s ultimate deadbeat dad, Vladimir Putin. In its first five weeks, Putin’s war of choice inflicted an estimated $68 billion dollars of damage on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure (its homes, airports, hospitals, and schools), along with other losses worth about $600 billion or three times that country’s total gross domestic product.

But how would Ukraine collect such a sum from Russia? Any Ukrainian party that has suffered damage — whether individuals, cities, or the entire nation — could petition the European Court of Human Rights to enforce its judgement in Ukraine v. Russia (X) by awarding damages. The Court could then instruct the Council of Europe to direct all European corporations buying gas from Gazprom, the Russian state monopoly, to deduct, say, 20% from their regular payments for a Ukraine compensation fund. Since Europe is now paying Gazprom about $850 million daily, such a court-ordered deduction, would allow Putin to pay off his initial $600 billion war-damage debt over the next eight years. As long as his invasion continued, however, those sums would only increase in a potentially crippling fashion.

Though Putin would undoubtedly froth and fulminate, in the end, he would have little choice but to accept such deductions or watch the Russian economy collapse from the lack of gas, oil, or coal revenues. Last month, when he rammed legislation through his parliament requiring Europe’s gas payments in rubles, not euros, Germany refused, despite the threat of a gas embargo. Faced with the loss of such critical revenues sustaining his economy, a chastened Putin called Chancellor Scholz to capitulate.

With billions invested in pipelines leading one-way to Europe, Russia’s petro-dependent economy would have to absorb that war-damage deduction of 20% — possibly more, if the devastation worsened — or face certain economic collapse from the complete loss of those critical energy exports. That might, sooner or later, force the Russian president to end his war in Ukraine. From a pragmatic perspective, that 20% deduction would be a four-way win. It would punish Putin, rebuild Ukraine, avoid a European recession caused by banning Russian gas, and prevent environmental damage from firing up Germany’s coal-fueled power plants.

Paying for Peace

Back in the day of anti-Vietnam War rallies in the United States and nuclear-freeze marches in Europe, crowds of young protesters would sing John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s hope-filled refrain, even though they were aware of just how hopeless it was even as the words left their lips: “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” But now, after weeks of trial and error over Ukraine, the world just might have a chance to make the aggressor in a terrible war at least begin to pay a price for bringing such devastating conflict back to Europe.

Perhaps it’s time to finally deliver a bill to Vladimir Putin for a foreign policy that has involved little more than flattening one hapless city after another — from Aleppo and Homs in Syria to Chernihiv, Karkhiv, Kherson, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Mykolaiv, and undoubtedly more to come in Ukraine. Once the world’s courts establish such a precedent in Ukraine v. Russia (X), would-be strongmen might have to think twice before invading another country, knowing that wars of choice now come with a prohibitive price tag."


Noted from Informed Comment: Alfred W. McCoy is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, who specializes in Southeast Asia. He has written about, and testified before Congress on, Philippine political history, opium trafficking in the Golden Triangle, underworld crime syndicates, and international political surveillance. He is the author of In the Shadows of the American Century (Dispatch Books) and A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror (Metropolitan Books).



 Back later with a bit more on Mexico...meanwhile Pulse has the pulse. We're getting the final boosters at the end of the week, Doc put me on a stronger pain med for knee, so I'm loopy, but no pain. Operation sometime in July wish it would just hurry up. Paris says woofers !