Month: May, 2014
A China-Russia alliance?
| May 28, 2014 | 9:38 pm | Action, Analysis, Economy, International | No comments

Havana. May 28, 2014

http://www.granma.cu/idiomas/ingles/international-i/28may-A%20China.html

A China-Russia alliance?

Xulio Ríos

Has an alliance between China and Russia been conceived in Shanghai? Without a doubt we are seeing a substantial increase in strategic cooperation. Within the framework of Chinese foreign policy, the high profile collaboration based on the country’s own development interests and the international situation, rule out the establishment of traditional alliances, primarily based on military cooperation and support agreements signed before a third party. Caution must also been taken in regards to the current political situation, given that China is unlikely to support each and every step Russia takes, for example, in the Ukrainian crisis, or that Russia seconds China’s actions in its dispute with Japan.

Despite concerns, it is certain that, as of the second meeting held this year between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, cooperation between the two countries has crossed a new frontier, resulting in mutually preferential treatment in the nations’ respective foreign polices. After signing an agreement to supply Russian gas to China – valued in excess of 400 billon dollars, the largest contract in the Russian gas company’s history – other economic accords regarding major sectors, such as civil aviation – looking to compete with Boeing and Airbus; construction; automation; aerospace; transport; infrastructure – with the construction of the symbolic bridge over the Amur river, the first to link the countries; the creation of Special Economic Zones in Serbia and the Far East; and an increase in payments made in national currency – further isolating the dollar – were agreed upon.

All of this should result in an increase in trade and investments, currently well below their potential. Ninety billion dollars in 2013 could increase to 200 billion in 2020. If the countries are able to diversify their trade and move beyond energy, complementing this sector with industrial goods and advanced technology, Russia will not only be able to reduce its dependency on the European market, a current concern given the Ukrainian crisis, but also introduce substantial changes in its economic relations with China.

The two parties must work out differences over projects which could survive in some form. Such is the case with the revitalization of the Silk Road which China and the Euro-Asian Union led by Moscow are proposing. Or in development projects in Siberia, where demographic challenges might enter into the picture. Also in regards to the respective difficult relations the two countries maintain with other important nations.

More important than strategic energy cooperation and economic collaboration in general, the geopolitical factor is key in this new chapter of rapprochement. The understanding Russia and China share in their evaluation of global trends and the role of the West in their containment, could have consequences not only in the context of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or the BRICS group, but also in the G20 and other multilateral forums in which their common position against unilateralism and hegemony is evidenced through concrete actions designed to weaken the power of their strategic rivals.

In a joint statement, the two countries reaffirmed their intention to resist “external interference” and “unilateral sanctions”, denouncing the damage caused by new information technologies to their sovereignty and demanding the internationalization of internet guidelines. Additionally, China and Russia emphasized their right to the preservation of their own political systems, values and lines of development.

Military cooperation is also advancing, although both nations are taking precautions not to give the wrong impression. A series of naval exercises, such as those carried out recently in the East China Sea, are accompanied by symbolic measures including the first joint inspection of shared borders. For 2015, the countries announced a new round of large-scale military exercises intended to reclaim the legacy of World War II, which they consider to be threatened, given negative interpretations which underestimate the role of the former USSR in defeating Nazi Germany and the minimizing of Japan’s responsibility for aggression in Asia.

If the rapprochement which we saw in Shanghai – an expression of greater cooperative and constructive collaboration – is added to initiatives not only intended to stop the plans of strategic rivals which seem to want to control the two countries, but also transform global architecture, we could see another leadership emerging. This will not only affect Asia, as Russia will recover space, influence and prominence, but the entire world. The U.S. is pursuing a strategic restructuring of relations in Asia, to contain China and station themselves in Russia’s periphery, to stop the consolidation of a tri-polar world. Working together, China and Russia could create the basis for a strategic global shift. (Rebelión)

Comment on: “Krugman: How American Capitalism Fails—and Northern European ‘Socialism’ Succeeds—at Job Creation”
| May 28, 2014 | 9:16 pm | Action, Analysis, Economy, International, National | No comments

By Andre Brochu

Krugman is always good at peddling his snake oil.

There is no Scandinavian socialism and the universal welfare states in Sweden and
Denmark are at the morgue waiting for the coroners to go to work.
If you live in Scandinavia you can wonder about Krugman’s sources of data and analysis. There is more substance in good SciFi.

Any degree of Keynesianism to promote employment and public investment has
been reduced drastically since the Social Democrats joined the bourgeois parties
in promoting membership and integration in the EU. The false promise of a Social
EU has proven to be a lie before and after the last crisis. The EU is a neoliberal
project since its infancy with the Treaty of Rome. The so-called freedoms are for capital
and finance. Some people from the establishment have woken up. However, it is a little
late. Rightwing xenophobic populists have reaped a bumper crop of voters in the lastest EU
elections since their false but down to earth arguments and propaganda have
convinced many of the unemployed, frustrated and scared electorate. The Social Democrats
and the parliamentary left don’t address economically or ideologically the problems
of the unemployed, underemployed, and youth who face at best job insecurity and
an inability even when working to gain basic social benefits.

The late Peter Cohen wrote cogently on what was developing in Scandinavia
twenty years ago in an article in Monthly Review which is still relevant :
Sweden: The Model That Never Was by Peter Cohen
1994, July-August, Volume 46, Monthly Review
This article is essential to any analysis and debunking of Krugman’s mythology.

Before the referendum for Sweden’s EU membership in 1994 the CEO of Volvo Per
Gyllenhammar delineated the goal of the EEC/EU : long-term low wage increases,
reduced taxation, dismantling of the public sector and reduced welfare benefits.
The Swedish Rockefeller, Peter Wallenberg, said that an EEC/EU membership would result in the most dramatic changes in Sweden in the last hundred years. He drew the same conclusions as Gyllenhammar adding that public services would be privatized to a great degree. Today we have an underfinanced public sector with dire consequences for public health, employment, education, housing and infrastructure.

In conclusion there is at least a burgeoning protest movement against the EU-USA Free Trade Treaty (TTIP/TAFTA) throughout the EU. There should be Transatlantic cooperation on this
issue.

Krugman is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Let him sleep on like Rip Van
Winkle.

Krugman: How American Capitalism Fails—and Northern European ‘Socialism’ Succeeds—at Job Creation
| May 28, 2014 | 9:11 pm | Action, Analysis, Economy, National | No comments

http://www.alternet.org/economy/krugman-how-american-capitalism-fails-and-northern-european-socialism-succeeds-job-creation

AlterNet / By Janet Allon

And why that’s not a story the mainstream media likes to tell.

May 26, 2014 |

Paul Krugman wrote his column this morning in the New York Times from Europe, a place which—conservatives like Paul Ryan would like you to believe—demonstrates the complete failure of the welfare state. That’s because, as Krugman points out, “Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism — the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative.”

France, a country that the American media and conservatives particularly love to bash, is having particular success in employment rates. Krugman reports this “startling, little-known fact: French adults in their prime working years (25 to 54) are substantially more likely to have jobs than their U.S. counterparts.”

Hmmm. There’s a story you won’t hear told in the mainstream media.

He continues:

It wasn’t always that way. Back in the 1990s Europe really did have big problems with job creation; the phenomenon even received a catchy name, “Eurosclerosis.” And it seemed obvious what the problem was: Europe’s social safety net had, as Representative Paul Ryan likes to warn, become a “ hammock” that undermined initiative and encouraged dependency.

But then a funny thing happened: Europe started doing much better, while America started doing much worse. France’s prime-age employment rate overtook America’s early in the Bush administration; at this point the gap in employment rates is bigger than it was in the late 1990s, this time in France’s favor. Other European nations with big welfare states, like Sweden and the Netherlands, do even better.

What about young people? Doesn’t America, with all of its problems, still kick France’s ass when it comes to the employment rate of those younger than 25. Yes, Krugman concedes. Then he wonders if that is something we should be bragging about, since it is certainly due in part to the fact that French students receive a lot more financial aid for their education than American students do, so they are not immediately saddled with huge debt to work off, much less work their way through school.

“Is that a bad thing”” Krugman wonders.

Us too.

Also, the French take more vacations and retire earlier than we do.

How horrible! Who would want to live in a place like that.

But, getting back to Krugman’s main point: “On the core issue of providing jobs for people who really should be working, at this point old Europe is beating us hands down despite social benefits and regulations that, according to free-market ideologues, should be hugely job-destroying.”

In fact, he writes, our “cruel experiment” in depriving so-called lazy unemployed Americans of their long-term benefits so they will get off their asses and look for work has been an abject failure. Did people in terrible straits find jobs?

“No — not at all,” Krugman replies. “Somehow, it seems, the only thing we achieved by making the unemployed more desperate was deepening their desperation.”

Will people listen to the European example? Krugman is doubtful. He concludes:

I’m sure that many people will simply refuse to believe what I’m saying about European strengths. After all, ever since the euro crisis broke out there has been a relentless campaign by American conservatives (and quite a few Europeans too) to portray it as a story of collapsing welfare states, brought low by misguided concerns about social justice. And they keep saying that even though some of the strongest economies in Europe, like Germany, have welfare states whose generosity exceeds the wildest dreams of U.S. liberals.

“Today I was not supposed to be sad”
| May 27, 2014 | 9:11 pm | Action, Cuban Five | No comments

“Today I was not supposed to be sad”.

These were some of the words of Irma Gonzalez which stunned the audience of 2000 people into silence at the concert organised as part of the International Commission of Inquiry into the case of the Cuban Five in London. Irma informed the crowd that the UK Government had just refused a visa to her father to travel to London to give his testimony in person.

Irma Gonzalez on stage at BarbicanIrma-Gonzalez-Barbican

Irma, daughter of Rene Gonzalez, the first of the Cuban Five to be released, is just one of over 20 witnesses featured in a magnificent new film ‘Justice in London’ by renowned Cuban Director Roberto Chile, which covers the wide range of events held in London during those memorable days in March 2014.

Official Film, Justice in London, released

Watch ‘Justice in London’ http://www.voicesforthefive.com/news/article/124/official-film-report-on-the-international-commission-of-inquiry—now-available?utm_source=emailcampaign78&utm_medium=phpList&utm_content=HTMLemail&utm_campaign=Cuban+Five+Commission+film%2C+%27Justice+in+London%27+-+Watch+it+here

It is narrated by Irma herself and features special guests including Olga Salanueva, wife of Rene, US novelist Alice Walker, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clarke and Ricardo Alarcon, former President of the Cuban National Assembly. It features the testimony of victims of the terrorist attacks that have been carried out against Cuba since 1959, and legal scrutiny of the United States government’s manipulation of the case, including their pay-offs to journalists so as to prejudice the jury pool.

The panel of prominent judges from India, South Africa and France finish off their verdicts by the end of the Inquiry by urging the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, to “pardon immediately all these Five persons and release, immediately and unconditionally, the three persons that continue to languish in prison in the United States”. Read reports and witness statements here. The report will be presented during the Five days for the Five in Washington June 5th – 9th. You can find out more and support these important events

Over 6000 people have added their Voices for the Five and over 1000 people have followed Voices for the Five on Twitter. Please help us gather more Voices to help raise our call for justice and forward this email to friends and colleagues.

‘Ukraine president-elect has absolutely no intention of conducting negotiations with eastern Ukrainians’
| May 27, 2014 | 8:30 pm | Action, Analysis, International | No comments

http://rt.com/op-edge/161712-ukraine-new-president-opposition-talks/

Published time: May 27, 2014 15:19

Ukraine’s new President Poroshenko says the “anti-terrorist operation” needs to be stepped up and needs to be “more efficient” which means more violence and resistance until there is decisive victory, political analyst Daniel Patrick Welch told RT.

RT: On the day of his election victory, Petro Poroshenko said he wants negotiations with the east… but that the military operation needs to be stepped up… Isn’t he contradicting himself?

Daniel Patrick Welch: He has no interest in that. He is lying, he is not contradicting himself. He has absolutely no intention of conducting negotiations, and he has said so in various others forms. He said that the operation needs to be stepped up and needs to be what he called “more efficient”. And we see what it means today, that means involving shelling against civilians, bombs that fall through the air, occupied apartment blocks, fighter jets and helicopter gunships and grenade launchers against urban populations.

RT: We are now seeing intense fighting in the east of Ukraine. Given the incoming president’s position – are we going to see more bloodshed?

DW: Yes, there already has been shelling at the Donetsk airport on Tuesday, which was followed by the RPG attack on a truck evacuating the wounded, in which it is reported to be 35 dead and 50, wounded, according to self-defense sources. It is a huge ramp up, and it is a very scary thing. Remember that he [Poroshenko] refers to all of them as terrorists. Just a couple of weeks ago when we had the referendum in the east, you had an enormous, overwhelming majority of people voting. So what they are saying now is that the entire population of the east oblast are in fact terrorists or as the more radical, the Right Sector and “Svoboda”, call them “kolorady”, Colorado beetles – insects. People are insects and what you do with insects is that you stamp on them and that is the only thing they have in store for these people. It is a very dangerous and scary development, a huge escalation.

RT: Why the West is ok with the way elections were held and with a new president who wants to continue military action against his own people?

DW: They put this puppet in control, Willy Wonka as the Ukrainians have taken to calling him; Chocolate King, in control in a farcical election in order just to provide a fig leaf to what they have been planning all along which is Zbigniew Brzezinski’s plan to scare and encircle Russia. Doing it through killing large numbers of people in southeast Ukraine does not bother them at all.

RT: Kiev describes its actions in the east as an anti-terror operation. So how can they justify the air assault on Donetsk Airport on Monday, where there were civilian casualties?

DW: I do not know. Even though I was expecting it, I was shocked by the brutality and ruthlessness that came to life. Actually, what happened while the election was going on, while the farce has been played out, there were people shelling Slavyansk on Monday, not just on Tuesday. This is going to further escalate unless and until the fascists are stopped. The only trouble is that whether there are negotiations or not they do not want any negotiations. And what the people of the east, and not just in the east, there was an attack in Carpathian Ruthenia against the Right Sector’s block post as well. So this is oligarch returning despite all that [has been] made and promised, and you are going to have further resistance until there is a decisive victory. There has to be some help from outside and a much broader mobilization of Donbas because they have ruthless people against them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Just imagine… If Russia had toppled the Canadian government
| May 26, 2014 | 6:35 pm | Action, Analysis, International | No comments

Neil Clark is a journalist, writer and broadcaster. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com . Follow him on Twitter

Published time: May 20, 2014 11:28

Just imagine if the democratically-elected government of Canada had been toppled in a Russian-financed coup, in which far-right extremists and neo-Nazis played a prominent role.
That the new unelected ‘government’ in Ottawa cancelled the law giving the French language official status, appointed a billionaire oligarch to run Quebec and signed an association agreement with a Russian-led trade bloc.

Just imagine…

If Russia had spent $5 billion on regime change in Canada and then a leading Canadian energy firm had appointed to its board of directors the son of a top Russian government politician.

Just imagine…

If the Syrian government had hosted a meeting in Damascus of the ‘Friends of Britain’- a group of countries who supported the violent overthrow of David Cameron’s government.

That the Syrian government and its allies gave the anti-government ‘rebels’ in Britain millions of pounds and other support, and failed to condemn ‘rebel’ groups when they killed British civilians and bombed schools, hospitals and universities.

That the Syrian Foreign Minister dismissed next year’s scheduled general election in the UK as a ‘parody of democracy’ and said that Cameron must stand down before any elections are held.

Just imagine…

If in 2003, Russia and its closest allies had launched a full-scale military invasion of an oil-rich country in the Middle East, having claimed that that country possessed WMDs which threatened the world and that afterwards no WMDs were ever found.

That up to 1 million people had been killed in the bloodshed that followed the invasion and that the country was still in turmoil over 10 years later.

That Russian companies had come in to benefit from the reconstruction and rebuilding work following the ‘regime change’.

Just imagine…

If the pro-Russian journalists who had faithfully parroted the claims that the Middle Eastern country that Russia had invaded in 2003 had WMDs did not apologise afterwards or show any contrition despite the enormous death toll; but instead carried on in their well-paid jobs to propagandize more illegal wars and ’interventions’ against other independent countries, and attacked those honest journalists who didn’t peddle the war lies.

Just imagine…

If over forty people protesting against the central government had been burnt to death by pro-government extremists in Venezuela.

That the Venezuelan government had launched a military offensive against people protesting for greater autonomy/federalization following visits by the head of the Russian SVR and Dmitry Medvedev to Caracas.

Just imagine….

If last August over six hundred people protesting in camps against the government in Minsk in Belarus had been massacred by armed forces. That this spring, the courts in Belarus had handed out death sentences to over 600 supporters of opposition parties.

Just imagine….

If Russia had spent the years following the end of the old ‘Cold War’ surrounding the US with military bases and pushing for Canada and Mexico to join a Russian military alliance. That earlier this month Russia carried out major military exercises in Mexico.

Just imagine….

If we had heard leaked telephone calls between a high ranking official from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Ambassador in Canada in which they discussed who should/shouldn’t be in the Canadian government. That their approved candidate subsequently became the new, unelected Prime Minister following a Russian-financed ‘regime change’.

That the high ranking Russian official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said : ‘Fxxx the EU’.

Just imagine…

If the Syrian air force had bombed a weapons depot in Israel and also bombed convoys which security officials said were carrying weapons to anti-government forces in Syria.

Just imagine…

If leading Russian politicians attended anti-austerity street protests in western Europe, handed out cookies to those protesting, and supported the protestors’ calls for the governments to step down.
Imagining what would happen if any of the above events occurred, and comparing it to what has happened in reality is highly instructive as it shows us what is wrong with the world today.
Actions have been taken by the US and its allies which would be considered totally outrageous if carried out by other countries. All we have to do is to switch the names of the countries concerned to see the double standards.

If Russia had attacked an oil-rich Middle Eastern nation in 2003, and pro-Russian journalists peddled the same sort of deceitful pro-war, WMD propaganda that neocons and faux-leftists did in the west when the US invaded Iraq, then we can be sure that Russia would have been regarded as an international pariah, and the journalists who acted as cheerleaders for the illegal invasion would be discredited for the rest of their lives. But the US is not subject to sanctions or treated as an outcast, its President in 2003, George W. Bush and his close ally Tony Blair, have yet to stand trial for war crimes, and the media ‘pundits’ who supported the invasion of Iraq are still in place and now pushing for a new Cold war against Russia and new military ‘intervention’ against Syria.

If Russia had spent $5bn on toppling the democratically-elected government of either Canada or Mexico, and installed a pro-Russian junta in its place, we can be sure that within hours, a full scale military invasion by the US would have taken place, in order to remove the new ‘government’ from power. Western television news channels and elite pundits would be enthusiastically supporting the US action – declaring it to be a ‘response to Russian aggression’ and saying it was totally justified. But when the regime changing was done by the US in Ukraine, and a pro-US junta installed in power in Kiev, it’s a very different story. The same people who would cry ‘foul’ at the top of their voices if Russia engineered a coup in Canada or Mexico, celebrate the unlawful toppling of the legitimate government of Ukraine.

We already know how the US would respond, if another country sought to put nuclear weapons close to its territory – in 1962 the world came to the brink of war in the Cuban missile crisis. But while a third world war would undoubtedly be threatened again if Russian forces held military exercises in Mexico, it’s not considered provocative for NATO to hold military exercises in Estonia.

If the governments of Belarus and Venezuela had responded as brutally towards anti-government protesters as the Egyptian military regime did last August, or sent in the tanks and used heavy weaponry against their own people as the western-backed Kiev junta has, then we can be sure that the great ‘humanitarians’ of the faux-left would be screeching not just for punitive sanctions but for air strikes too and for Presidents Lukashenko and Maduro to be carted off to The Hague.

We all know too what would have followed if it had been the Syrian air force that had bombed a weapons depot and convoys in Israel and not the other way round. Why do we tolerate such brazen hypocrisy?

There is no legal or moral basis for saying that the US and its allies should be able to do things, which if done by other countries, would be condemned as wrong and punished with the imposition of sanctions and/or military attack or invasion. International law and the principles of non-interference in other nations should apply equally to all: regardless of the country’s political system or form of government. The British government has no more right to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria than the Syrian government has to interfere in the internal affairs of Great Britain. The US has no more right to ‘regime change’ in countries bordering Russia, than Russia has to ‘regime change’ in countries bordering the US.

We need a new international order based on the equality of all sovereign nations: a new “World of Equals”, as envisaged by this year’s Belgrade Forum, whose declaration can be read here. If we can imagine that and work to put it in place by exposing current western hypocrisy and double standards whenever they occur then the world would be a much safer place.

The State Department’s Ukraine Fiasco
| May 26, 2014 | 6:28 pm | Action, Analysis, International, National | No comments

May 24, 2014

http://consortiumnews.com/2014/05/24/the-state-departments-ukraine-fiasco/

Exclusive: The State Department’s handling of the Ukraine crisis may go down as a textbook diplomatic fiasco, doing nothing to advance genuine U.S. interests while disrupting cooperation with Moscow and pushing Russia and China back together, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

American diplomacy, by definition, is supposed to advance the national interests of the United States, not contribute to international crises that undermine those interests. Yet, by that standard, the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State John Kerry have failed extraordinarily during the current Ukraine crisis.

Besides ripping Ukraine apart – and getting scores of Ukrainians killed – the U.S.-supported coup in February has injected more uncertainty into Europe’s economy by raising doubts about the continued supply of Russian natural gas. Such turbulence is the last thing that Europe’s fragile “recovery” needs as mass unemployment now propels the rise of right-wing parties and threatens the future of the European Union.

Any new business downturn in Europe also would inflict harm on the U.S. economy, which itself is still clawing its way out of a long recession and needs a healthy Europe as an important trading partner. But the crisis in Ukraine, spurred on by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and other anti-Russian hardliners, is now complicating the U.S. recovery, too.

There’s also the problematic impact of pulling Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and locking it into Europe’s: the scheme would shift the financial burden for Ukraine’s impoverished population of 45 million people onto Europe’s back, even as the EU is straining to meet the human needs of the jobless in Greece, Spain and other countries devastated by the Great Recession.

One of Ukraine’s principal exports to Europe has been low-wage Ukrainian workers, including participants in the criminal underworld, most notably prostitution. The willingness of Ukrainians to take the lowest-paying jobs across Europe has exacerbated the Continent’s unemployment situation and is sure to become an even bigger problem if a bankrupt Ukraine is more fully integrated into Europe.

Plus, the State Department’s endless stoking of tensions between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin has caused other complications for U.S. foreign policy, including what is emerging as a historic rapprochement between China and Russia, a coming together highlighted by the signing of a major new gas deal on Wednesday.

The $400 billion pact means that Putin, in effect, has countered U.S. efforts to use limited U.S./EU sanctions to isolate Russia by deftly playing the China card and aligning the two emerging countries as an economic and political counterforce to American dominance.

Though the natural gas deal has been in the works for months, the Ukraine crisis provided the urgency to get the agreement signed. The crisis also provided the impetus to solidify the closer geopolitical bonding between China, the world’s ascending economy, and Russia, its resource-rich neighbor.

The two longtime adversaries, who faced off as communist rivals during the Cold War, have joined together recently as a bloc on the United Nations Security Council to block Western initiatives on Syria, for instance. That means that instead of isolating Russia at the UN, the State Department’s hawkish approach to Ukraine has had the opposite effect. Russia now has a new and powerful ally.

The Ukraine crisis could inflict other collateral damage on President Obama’s initiatives toward resolving thorny disputes around Syria’s civil war and Iran’s nuclear program. In both areas, President Putin provided important assistance to President Obama in securing agreements: Syria to surrender its chemical weapons and Iran to accept constraints on its nuclear activity.

Though the Russians have not pulled out of those U.S. collaborations yet, the strains over Ukraine – if they are not eased – could undermine valuable cooperation toward reaching resolution of those two complicated and dangerous Mideast problems.

Pouring Fuel in the Fire

Yet, even as President Putin and other Russian leaders have tempered their rhetoric regarding Ukraine in recent weeks, the U.S. State Department continues to talk tough, bombarding Putin with both warnings and insults.

Typical were the comments in the lead story of the Washington Post on Saturday with writer Karen DeYoung quoting State Department and other U.S. officials berating Putin despite his conciliatory remarks about his willingness to work with the new Ukrainian government that will emerge from a disputed election on Sunday.

She wrote: “Western governments express deep uncertainty at what Russia will do, and it was symptomatic of their equally deep mistrust of Putin that few took him at his word [about working with the new government]. U.S. officials parsed his language as leaving a hole big enough to drive a brigade of Russian soldiers through.”

The Post quoted the harsh rhetoric emanating from State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who told the Russians: “Pull the rest of your troops back. … Put your money where your words are. Come on.”

DeYoung herself termed the Russian military deployment along Ukraine’s eastern border “threatening,” but didn’t mention the Russian rationale for the initial deployment, as an effort to deter the slaughter of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine who objected to the violent overthrow of their elected President Viktor Yanukovych. This context of what’s happening in eastern Ukraine is almost always missing.

Instead, the major U.S. news media, particularly the New York Times, has made great fun by mocking Putin as a liar for saying that, first, he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the border, and then that he ordered some to return to their bases. The Times conflated these two different statements as one and then favorably quoted NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as saying there was no evidence of a Russian pullback. Gotcha, another Putin lie!

Yet, while showing their trust in Rasmussen’s honesty and forthrightness, the Times and other mainstream outlets haven’t bothered to inform their readers that this was the same Anders Fogh Rasmussen who as Danish prime minister last decade was a staunch supporter of the Iraq War and a gullible believer in President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq’s non-existent WMD.

For instance, Prime Minister Rasmussen declared, “Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know. Iraq has itself admitted that it has had mustard gas, nerve gas, anthrax, but Saddam won’t disclose. He won’t tell us where and how these weapons have been destroyed. We know this from the UN inspectors, so there is no doubt in my mind.”

Pretty much everything in that statement was wrong — and Rasmussen appears to have been wrong, too, about Russia’s pullback of troops, which has now been confirmed, at least in part, by the Pentagon. But, for days, the Times let Rasmussen, in effect, call Putin a liar without any independent checking, just one more sign of the long pattern of U.S. media bias against Russia during the Ukraine crisis. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Twisting Putin’s Words on Ukraine.”]

Blaming Russia

In line with that bias pervading the mainstream U.S. media for months, the Post’s DeYoung added her own inflammatory rhetoric, stating “if Russian-inspired violence breaks out, it could be the start of far more serious and widespread international upheaval.” All violence, it seems, must be “Russian-inspired.”

DeYoung is presumably referring to the resistance in eastern Ukraine against the imposition of the coup regime’s authority. The U.S. media has repeatedly treated these ethnic Russians in the east as Putin’s “minions,” being armed and directed by Russian special forces although no evidence has emerged to support that allegation.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop.”]

But DeYoung’s characterization of “Russian-inspired violence” fits with Official Washington’s “group think” that has treated the Ukraine crisis as instigated by Putin supposedly so he can begin reclaiming territory lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

But the evidence clearly indicates that the uprising in Kiev was driven by a mix of popular dissatisfaction with Yanukovych, Western support and encouragement for the disorders, and violent neo-Nazi militias that despise the ethnic Russians in the east and spearheaded the Feb. 22 putsch that drove Yanukovych from office.

Still, the U.S. mainstream media has insisted on whitewashing the neo-Nazis brown shirts because their key involvement complicates the preferred American narrative of white-hat idealistic protesters taking on black-hat Yanukovych, backed by even blacker-hat Putin. Any reference to the well-documented role of neo-Nazis militias in the putsch is dismissed as “Russian propaganda” or the “Russian narrative.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Inconvenient Neo-Nazis.”]

So, instead of a balanced account, the American people have been fed Official Washington’s “group think” of some master conspiracy engineered by Putin that requires your believing that Putin first orchestrated the EU’s reckless association offer to Ukraine last year, then got the International Monetary Fund to insist on draconian austerity measures which Yanukovych rejected, then arranged the angry demonstrations at the Maidan while also secretly training neo-Nazi militias in western Ukraine to provide the muscle to carry out the February putsch – all the while pretending that he was trying to save Yanukovych’s government and appearing to be distracted by the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Of course, this grand conspiracy theory never made any sense and also lacked any evidence. What really happened was that neoconservatives in and around the State Department and Congress fed the flames of western Ukraine’s discontent against Yanukovych’s government that had been elected primarily with votes from the southern and eastern ethnic Russian sections.

The Neocon Role

There were, of course, legitimate complaints about Ukraine’s pervasive political corruption, which has been an endemic problem since the hasty privatization that followed the Soviet collapse in 1991 and turned Ukraine into a country dominated by a handful of extremely wealthy oligarchs.

But the evidence is clear that powerful neoconservatives in Washington, including some still ensconced at the State Department, helped organize U.S. support for the protests that led to Yanukovych’s ouster.

In late September, the neocons were furious over Putin helping Obama find a way out of an impending U.S. attack on Syria, an intervention that the neocons hoped might notch another “regime change” on their belts. So, their focus quickly turned to driving a wedge between the two leaders, with Ukraine becoming that wedge.

Carl Gershman, a leading neocon and longtime president of the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to urge the U.S. government to push European “free trade” agreements on Ukraine and other former Soviet states and thus counter Moscow’s efforts to maintain close relations with those countries.

The ultimate goal, according to Gershman, was isolating and possibly toppling Putin in Russia with Ukraine the key piece on this global chessboard. “Ukraine is the biggest prize,” Gershman wrote. “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 furtherance of these goals, NED funded scores of projects in Ukraine, training activists, financing “journalists” and organizing business groups, according to NED’s annual report.

After Yanukovych rejected the IMF’s terms for European association as too drastic – because they would hit the already hard-hit Ukrainian people even harder – his removal from power became the State Department’s goal, as Assistant of State Nuland urged on the demonstrators in the Maidan by passing out cookies and reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.”

Sen. John McCain, a leading neocon hawk, also showed up in Kiev to rally the protesters, speaking next to a Svoboda party banner honoring World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera whose paramilitary force helped exterminate Jews and Poles. Bandera is a hero to the right-wing nationalists in western Ukraine though despised by the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

In an intercepted phone call, Nuland was caught telling U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt that her preference to replace Yanukovych was Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whom she called “Yats.” After the Feb. 22 coup, Yatsenyuk emerged as the new prime minister with the neo-Nazis gaining control of four ministries, including the office of national security headed by neo-Nazi Andriy Parubiy. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Through the US ‘Looking Glass’.”]

One of Yatsenyuk’s first moves was to approve the IMF austerity plan, while Parubiy incorporated some of the neo-Nazi militias into the National Guard and dispatched them as storm troopers to confront the resistance to the coup regime in the east.

Amid all the political chaos and violations of the Ukrainian constitution (which was ignored in the abrupt impeachment of Yanukovych), Crimea arranged a hasty referendum which showed some 96 percent support for seceding from Ukraine and rejoining Russia, a request that Putin and the Russian government accepted.

Typically, the New York Times and other major outlets summarize the Crimean switch as a Russian “invasion” with Putin supposedly dispatching troops to seize control of the peninsula with the help of a “sham” referendum.

Almost never does the U.S. press note that the Russian troops were already in Crimea under an arrangement with Ukraine allowing Russians to maintain their historic naval base at Sevastapol. The vote also clearly reflected the popular will of the Crimean people given their historic ties to Russia and the chaos in Ukraine.

Medvedev’s Comments

“We did not annex any part of Ukraine,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Bloomberg News this past week, “The population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum and voted for self-determination and for joining Russia in accordance with the existing procedure. And that’s what they did.

“They started by proclaiming independence and after that, they asked to join Russia. We satisfied their request. The Russian Constitution was amended so that Crimea could join Russia as the result of a popular vote. Crimea is a special and unique story.” That was a reference to Crimea being a longtime part of Russia.

Regarding any other parts of Ukraine, Medvedev added, “Any conjectures about Russia wanting to annex some territories are mere propaganda. … It is essential to calm tensions in Ukraine. We all see what’s happening there: the situation is nothing short of a civil war, as a matter of fact. This is what we should all be thinking about.”

Pressed by Bloomberg’s Ryan Chilcote on guaranteeing that Russia would not accede to requests from Ukrainian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Medvedev responded, “we (I’m referring to all those who sympathize with Ukraine – European countries and as far as I understand, the United States and, of course, Russia, which is the closest to Ukraine) should do all we can to de-escalate tensions – a measure that everyone is talking about now.

“In other words, we should do everything to stop the spread of civil war on Ukrainian territory. As for the positions of people in Lugansk, Donetsk and other [eastern] parts of Ukraine, our stance is simple – their positions deserve respect. If they hold some referendums, we should understand what they want and why they express such views.

“So in the future, the main point is to make sure that Ukraine’s central, de facto authorities and those who live in these parts of Ukraine establish a fully-fledged dialogue based on mutual respect and understanding, a dialogue that takes into account the position of eastern Ukraine. This would ease tensions; otherwise the conflict will continue, and we will most likely hear the same appeals [for secession] that were discussed at the referendums.”

Medvedev added: “Let our partners in the dialogue, namely the EU and the United States, guarantee us something, for example, that they won’t interfere in Ukraine’s internal affairs. Let our Western partners guarantee us that they won’t lure Ukraine into NATO, that the Russian language won’t be prohibited in eastern Ukraine, and that some senseless movement such as the Right Sector won’t start killing people there. Let our partners guarantee this.”

The key Ukraine question now is: Can Putin and Obama overcome Official Washington’s chest-thumping hysteria and deescalate the violence — along with the rhetoric — for the good of all rational parties in the dispute?

I’m told that Putin, though stung by Obama initially joining the anti-Russian stampede, has begun working again with Obama with the goal of a possible summit meeting in Normandy on June 6 during the ceremonies honoring the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Yet, even if the pieces of a shattered Ukraine can be glued back together, one still has to wonder why the U.S. State Department and other parts of Official Washington undertook this provocative project in the first place: contributing to the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government, violently destabilizing the country, heightening tensions with Russia, stirring up new threats to the EU and U.S. economies, and pushing Russia and China back together.

It may be understandable at some level that the still-powerful neocons saw the Ukraine wedge as a useful tool in splintering the Putin-Obama cooperation that had eased tensions over Syria and Iran – two of the neocons’ top targets for “regime change” – but it remains a mystery how anyone could think that the Ukraine adventure has served U.S. national interests.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).