Shoot ‘without warning’ to quash revolt, Kazakhstan president orders troops | Courthouse News Service

Shoot ‘without warning’ to quash revolt, Kazakhstan president orders troops | Courthouse News Service
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Ukraine and Zelensky Alone

5 January 2022

Volodymyr Zelensky was an actor when he was elected President of Ukraine in 2019.  Zelensky had appeared regularly on a TV series where he played a history teacher whose rant against political corruption vent viral and made him president.  The Ukrainians, widely disillusioned with their own politicians, were so enchanted with the fictional story they made Zelensky the real president.  The political party of the history teacher character on the television series, the “Servant of the People,” became the actual political party of Zelensky when he ran for president against incumbent Petro Poroshenko.

Zelensky was what all disaffected voters love – an outsider at least from conventional politics.  And, he had said in his fictional viral rant, what many people knew to be true, i.e., that corruption was strangling the life out of the country.  Hopes were high for Zelensky when he won election with 73% of the vote.

Two years later, Zelensky is struggling to fulfill some of the promises for fundamental social change he made during his campaign.  In 2014, after pro-Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych (for whom Paul Manafort worked) was ousted from the presidency and had to flee.  Russia then seized Crimea and backed (or created) separatists who took over large areas of the region.

When Zelensky came to power, he promised to bring peace to the region and to end conflict in the Dunbas, another region where Russian separatists were taking over.  Zelensky criticized his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, for not negotiating effectively to end these conflicts.

But, Zelensky has not been able to deliver on his promises of peace.  The war between Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists continues and now there is a massive built up of troops on the Ukrainian border.

Zelensky initially made an effort to compromise with the Russians over their territorial claims. There were peace talks between the two countries, prisoner exchanges and moves toward establishing a peace process, known as the Minsk agreement.  But, after Russia began issuing passports to the Russian-speakers in the contested territories, talks soured. 

To make matters worse, the dictator of Belarus, Alyaksandre Lukashenka, has ceased to be a defender of Ukraine in its struggle with Russia. 

When the Russian attack on Ukraine began in 2014, Lukashenka made great efforts to publicize his neutrality.  He refused to recognize Russia’s claims to Crimea, politically declared that he would not permit an attack on Ukraine from Belarusian territory, and ridiculed Putin’s historical arguments justifying an invasion of Ukraine.

But, in August of 2020, Lukashenka launched a brutal response to nationwide protests over rigged presidential elections.  This made him an international pariah.  In the aftermath of the vote there were mass anti-regime demonstrations across the country.  Lukashenka appeared to be in danger of losing power entirely.  But, Vladamir Putin intervened and propped Lukashenka up with financial assistance, Kremlin propagandists and a public promise of security forces. 

From this point onward, the dependence of Lukashenka on Putin only increased.  Lukashenka launched a prolonged crackdown on domestic opposition and escalated an increasingly acrimonious confrontation with the West.  One of the most widely publicized acts was a May 2021 incident where a commercial EU airliner was forced down while going over Belarusian airspace and a dissident Belarusian journalists was abducted from among the passengers.

After recent talks with Putin, Lukashenka has announced plans to deploy Russian air defense systems along the Ukrainian border.

Zelensky is making a courageous effort to confront corruption in Ukrainian society and fulfill his campaign promises, but he is also confronting a dangerous situation with Russia.  It appears that Zelensky has reached the conclusion that Putin cannot be negotiated with and given the retreat of the West from foreign conflicts, he and the Ukrainians face this perilous situation by themselves. 

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59667938

Podcast: Ukraine World

If you are at all interested in the build up of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine, you should listen to the podcast “Ukraine World.”  It is by far the most intelligent discussion of the situation.

The following are notes from several of the Ukraine World podcasts.

  • Ukrainian president Zelensky came to office arguing that more negotiation was needed with Russia and that the previous administration in Ukraine had done a bad job of negotiating.  Two years later, halfway through Zelensky’s term, he has come to the conclusion that Putin cannot be negotiated with and does not want peace. 
  • Even though the situation on the border is extremely serious, Zelensky seems to be also fighting major battles domestically.  As one commentator phrased it, Zelensky seems to be “waging a war against everybody else in Ukrainian politics.”  These “internal turbulences” are creating an unstable situation inside Ukraine.
  • It is unclear whether Zelensky is battling against powerful domestic players and interests for reasons of his own, or is being manipulated by others.  Who these others might be was not explained.
  • The rhetoric coming out of Russia seems to be intended to prepare the Russian population for war.  As one commentator said, Putin is almost promising that Russia will invade Ukraine.  Another commentator stated: Putin is “preparing the Russian public to the fact that the war is inevitable.”
  • It also seems clear that the West is unwilling to engage in a full-fledged war with Russia over Ukraine.  Russia perceives the West as withdrawing.
  • After the feckless and disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is almost certain not to involve itself in another war.
  • Even though the Biden administration has made clear that there will be sanctions if Russia invades, many point out that Russia has already invaded Ukraine.  Sanctions have already been applied to Russia and the Russians have not withdrawn.
  • The Russian government has been taking steps to make the economy sanction proof, or at least more sanction proof so that sanctions are unlikely to have a significant impact.
  • In addition, meaningful sanctions would affect powerful economic interests and are unlikely to be implemented no matter how much they are touted by the Biden administration. 
  • There is extensive ideological work going on in Russia preparing the population for war.  Even on popular talk shows on television, there is discussion about Ukraine having plans to militarily take back the territories.  Russia is distributing Russian passports to Russian-speakers in occupied territories.
  • There is a distinct advantage in exporting chaos.  Conflicts rouse nationalistic fervor in Russia and help distract people from their stalled economy and decreased standard of living.
  • The underlying narrative is that there are serious external threats but also victories against those threats (such as in Crimea).  The taking of territory is a success, so don’t complain about how you are living.
  • The west was reluctant to encourage Ukraine to become a separate country after the fall of the Soviet Union.  George Bush, Sr. went to Kiev in 1991 in an attempt to calm down the Ukrainians and persuade them not to leave the Soviet Union.  The west is afraid of a breakup of the Soviet Union.  The narrative inside Russia, however, is completely different.
  • There, the Zelensky administration is portrayed as being a puppet of the West.   And, there are dire warnings that just as the U.S. left Afghanistan, it will leave Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainians in fact helped support U.S. troops in the withdrawal from Afghanistan.  At a time when it was too dangerous politically to risk U.S. soldiers leaving the airport in Kabul, Ukrainian troops went into Kabul and helped people get to safety at the airport.  Ukraine was anxious to demonstrate that it could be a helpful ally, a country that could help as well as ask for assistance.
  • Internal polling inside Ukraine indicates that if a presidential election were held today, Zelensky would get approximately 24% of the vote, but there are three parties opposing him.  Two of them are pro-Russian. 
  • The Zelensky administration is being drained by the conflict on the border.  And Zelensky’s own conflicts domestically are fracturing the country.
  • Ukrainians are understandably distrustful of their politicians.  Hopes for Zelensky when he was elected were extremely high.  Calmer souls warned that Zelensky could not possibly deliver on the promises he was making.  Now, disenchantment has set in. 
  • Corruption remains a serious problem and hopes that Zelensky could do anything about this ingrained corruption were probably misplaced.

Russia Has Already Invaded Ukraine

There has been a great deal of discussion in the media lately about what the West will do if Russia launches an invasion of Ukraine.  But, as has been pointed out on the podcast, Ukraine Without Hype (12/10/21), Russia has already invaded Ukraine.

The United States and the members of the G7 have threatened “massive consequences” if this current military and support structure build-up on the border with Ukraine turns into yet another full scale invasion by Russia, but what those consequences might be, has not been specified. 

It is difficult to imagine Biden approving a military defense of Ukraine just after he orchestrated a disastrous unilateral withdrawal from Afghanistan.  Putin is well aware of this.

And, a number of commentators are arguing that invading Ukraine now would be much less costly and risky than waiting until some future date.  Putin has made it crystal clear in an article published last summer that the Russian government considers Ukraine part of Russia, not an independent country.

The Russian kleptocratic autocracy is working overtime to ideologically legitimate an invasion of Ukraine.  In Putin’s article (described on MSNBC as a “letter from an abusive spouse”) he clearly appeals to Russian nationalism, arguing that Ukraine as a separate entity is a fiction imposed on people who did not see themselves as Ukrainian.  This “Ukrainization” by the leaders of modern Ukraine and their “external patrons,” is a “tragedy” and “forced assimilation” and is “comparable in its consequences to the use of weapons of mass destruction against” Russia.  

In an article published by the Atlantic Council, it is argued that in order to maintain the loyalty of elites and the population Putin has found it effective to engage in “small victorious wars.”  These distract from the fact that the Russian economy has barely grown since 2014.  Small wars are profitable and also whip up the nationalism of Russians.

The five-day war in Georgia in August of 2008, was a great popular success in Russia.  For the first time ever Putin’s popularity figures reached 88%.  Also popular was Putin’s seizure and annexation of Crimea.  Once again Putin’s popularity rose. 

Whatever the goal, actual invasion or mere threat, Putin already has some of what he wants, the West negotiating over the status of Ukraine in a way that would have been unthinkable in the past. 

UKRAINE: WHAT WE SHOULD KNOW

Russian House of Soviets, Lenin on Moscow Square. St. Petersburg.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

  • The 2014 uprising in Ukraine, the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, and the overthrow of the Ukrainian government were severe blows to the pride of Vladamir Putin and the Russian establishment/oligarchy.
  • Added to the economic importance of Ukraine is the profound cultural centrality of Ukrainian history as part of the Soviet Union, and the political significance of the independence gained by the Ukrainian people.
  • Putin has reportedly never gotten over the breakup of the Soviet Union, the independence of Ukraine or the movement of the Ukrainian people towards the West.
  • As was pointed out in the Ukraine World Podcast, Putin and the Russian oligarchy have never conceived of Ukraine as an independent state.  They have never considered Ukraine as independent and cannot now accept the status quo.
  • As Timothy Snyder pointed out, Putin and Russia have never considered Ukrainians as anything but vassals.  They do not even negotiate with Ukrainians, but with the West over Ukraine.
  • And, the status quo, as unpalatable as it may seem, may not remain the status quo much longer.
  • Putin may feel that the window of time for pressuring Ukraine back into the Russian sphere is rapidly closing.
  • Not long after Biden took office, Russia announced itself fed up with the status quo relating to Ukraine and NATO expansion.
  • Also, around the first of the year, Zelensky expressed more publicly than he had in the past, an interest in Ukraine joining NATO.
  • Since Ukraine is not currently a member of NATO, there is no automatic responsibility of the West to react if Ukraine is invaded.  If Ukraine joins NATO, however, this changes completely.
  • Note: I cannot see after withdrawing from Afghanistan, Biden involving military troops in any conflict in Ukraine.  Putin, of course, knows this and it adds to the likelihood of intervention.
  • There is, of course, a great deal of debate about whether Putin intends to invade or just threaten.  But, as has been pointed out, not only is there an unprecedented movement of troops, but also a structuring of support for an invasion, like locating medical supplies near the border. 
  • It would probably be an error to suppose that Putin’s choice is binary.  Even though U.S. officials persist in talking about the choice as either an invasion with a full scale military operation and seizure of territory, or backing down and not invading.  But, as others point out, Putin has stated that he would never invade any territory unless he were certain of victory.
  • So, a number of regional experts foresee an operation that includes pinpoint strikes and then strategic withdrawals.  The object, according to these commentators, is to destroy Ukrainian military capability.  Occupation is not the goal.
  • Putin, so the theory goes, wants to demonstrate to Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet Block that all their efforts towards independence can be negated easily and quickly, leaving them vulnerable and back inside the Russian sphere.
  • While there have been strides in the development of Ukrainian military capability, it cannot even compete with the highly technological, mobile Russian military expertise.
  • Putin pursued economic strategies to block Ukraine from moving out of the Russian sphere of influence and toward the west.   
  • In 2014, it became evident that that strategy had failed.  Ordinary people rose and drove out the pro-Russia president who had to flee to Moscow to keep from being imprisoned.  The Ukrainians made their choice clear when they drove out a Russia friendly president and ushered in the pro-western government.
  • Putin saw this as a coup engineered by the West and the CIA to divide the Russian sphere of influence.  So, Putin seized Crimea. 
  • Putin intended to demonstrate that he cares more about the fate of Ukraine than the west.
  • Putin also sees the writing on the wall in the policies and actions of Zelensky.  In early 2021, Zelensky’s government began cracking down on Russian controlled media inside Ukraine and a Russian connected oligarch.  The government also participated in military exercises with Western forces.
  • Putin’s actions have actually alienated people in Ukraine.  Polls indicate that more people than when Zelensky first took office support joining NATO and a move toward the West.
  • Putin, evidently, does not believe this.  He has indicated that a move toward Russia is the will of the people and that Russian forces would be welcomed, regarded as liberators. 
  • And, Putin may estimate that a war now could be less costly than later.
  • While U.S. officials bandy around the threats of “sanctions” according to specialists, Putin has been sanction proofing the Russian economy since 2014. 
  • And, sanctions on Russia will affect powerful interests around the world.  In order to enact meaningful sanctions, Biden would not only have to take on the Russians, but banking and other interests internationally.  There is little indication that he is prepared to do this.
  • What Putin wants is not to annex Ukraine, but to influence it.  He wants to alter and control the structure of security in Eastern Europe.
  • While this mobilization near the border of Ukraine may be only an example of “coercive diplomacy,” the intent is to keep Ukraine out of NATO and get an agreement to limit NATO expansion in Eastern Europe.
  • If Biden agrees to this in order to avoid a war, he will violate the concept of self determination that has influenced policy in the post-war era. 

Sources:

Podcasts:

The Daily, NYT (12/8/21) Interview with Moscow Bureau Chief, NYT, Anton Troianovski

Ukraine World Ep. 58: The New Russian Attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine World Ep. 57: Ukraine in November 2021.

MORNING NEWS RUNDOWN

News Roundup

Police

  • On the internet: Video after video of police officers behaving abusively, escalating situations, cursing at people, threatening them, intimidating them, killing them, all over the country.  CNN has an expert on to explain that our brains work differently when we’re under stress. 
  • The “stress professor” and the Vanderbilt guy both agreed that we need more training for police.
  • I’ve been involved in criminology in one way or another for fifty years.  I did research on female police partners and male use of deadly force in the 70s.  Training is not the problem.  Minneapolis, for example, spent a small fortune on training. 
  •  Police culture will win out over all the training and policy in the world.
  • If you look at the Derek Chauvin case as an example, Chauvin didn’t take the stand because basically his defense is that he didn’t do anything wrong and that he would do it again if he had the chance.

Authoritarians

  • It appears that Alexander Navalny is dangerously close to dying.  In the past, he told colleagues he couldn’t understand people using hunger strikes to advance their cases.  It seemed, to him, merely a way to hand the state a tool.  But, evidently the situation for him in prison was so bad, he resorted to using his own body as a tool to try to get help.  It’s unlikely to work. The world stands by and watches. 
  • Gary Kasperov, former Russian chess player and current activist, pointed out on Twitter that the West continues to deal with Putin as if he were some quasi-democratic head of state.  Kasperov noted that Biden’s decision to turn around a ship to try to appease Putin was the wrong tactic.  Autocrats, kleptocrats, authoritarians view offers of compromise as weakness.
  • Biden deals with Putin the way the Democrats deal with the Republicans.  When will they learn that authoritarians cannot be compromised with or appealed to?

Corporate News

  • Joe Scarborough, who helped elect Trump, is now back to his rabid Republican heckling.  It is difficult for me to understand how anybody could think that Scarborough was an ally.  He and the dreadful Mika were up Trump’s ass until Trump threatened to reveal their adulterous affair.  People need to remember we have Mika on tape asking Trump’s permission to ask him a “hard” question.  Morning Joe as outlived its usefulness if it ever had any.  It belongs in the Chris Matthews trash bag of programming.  MSNBC needs to do better. 
  • While I’m on MSNBC, the nightly news programs continue to use Jason “island of misfit black girls” Johnson as a commentator.  He lost his job at the Root for his nasty, racist comment about the women who worked for Bernie Sanders, and MSNBC punished him with a few weeks off air.  But, he’s back now with a vengeance.  Joy Reid loves him because she actively worked to destroy Sanders’ campaign.  The lesson here?  You can say anything and get away with it if it’s about Bernie Sanders or his campaign. 

Cats

  • The new feral cat we are socializing woke me up at 3:30 in the morning because his food bowls were empty.  I’m wide awake, but he’s back asleep, stretched out at the foot of the bed on a quilt. They learn so quickly.  Cats are the masters of psychological manipulation.  His name is Oliver Wendell Holmes.

MORNING RUNDOWN: Belarus, Putin, DoInJ; Barr, Post Office, RICO, “The Chickenshit Club”

joe biden

MORNING RUNDOWN

  • Widespread protests continue in Belarus. Protests have been happening in the major city of Khabarovsk for weeks after Putin “removed a popularly elected governor and replaced him with a hand-selected loyalist.  Putin is now in the position of allowing Lukashenko to flee to Russia (as he did with Yanukovych in Ukraine) and gobbling up parts of Balarus, or does he modulate his interference.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/08/15/putin-lukashenko-belarus-russia/
  • The Department of inJustice: The case against a company  charged with conspiring to defraud the government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere with the 2016 election was dropped in March by the Barr Justice Department.  This was a prosecution that had been pursued for two-years and was dropped weeks before the case was to come to trial. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/08/foreign-hackers-have-made-it-harder-us-prosecute-them
  • David Plouffe, along with others stress that the destruction of the effectiveness of the Post Office, is an emergency (see also Jesse Eisinger). He recommends prime-time hearings, now; subpoenas to Trump WH and other officials.  “This is a RICO case,” says Plouffe. Twitter  From the Democrats, silence, strongly worded letters.
  • Lest we Forget: Don McGahn is the nephew of mafia attorney, Pat McGahn, who brokered the AC Taj Mahal land deal between Donald Trump and mob boss, Little Nicky Scarfo.
  • Jesse Eisinger’s book “The Chickenshit Club” is one of the most important books in understanding what is happening with the Republican party and the Trump administration. Tweet (8/16/20)  “…cutting government and then pointing to a crippled government as proof that government doesn’t work has been a Republican strategy for 40 years.”  Republicans who are surprised at the inaction of the federal government in the pandemic and at the dismantling of the post office have not been paying attention to the policies of the Republican party they have been voting for.
  • Fascism not only “can happen here” it “has happened here.”  There have been other fascist movements in the United States.  Also, the Republicans are using flaws in the system to establish this Christian Nationalist authoritarian state.  Hint: Trump didn’t think of these flaws himself.     https://www.alternet.org/2020/08/expert-explains-how-trump-has-exploited-our-legal-infrastructure-to-advance-true-fascism-in-america/
  • Biden is already caving on health care for Americans. Democratic operatives tell “The Hill” that the most likely strategy is to “fix” Obamacare without providing a public option.   This is just one example of what a Biden/Harris administration will be like.  There will be repeated caving to corporate interests and the abandoning of the people they are begging to vote for them now.  “Powerful health care industry groups, ranging from drug companies to health insurers to hospitals, are strongly opposed to a public option, worried about its impact on their bottom line, and would fight any legislative push on the subject next year.  The industry is instead pushing the idea of a more modest ObamaCare fix that does not include a public option.”
  • https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/511909-battle-looms-over-biden-health-care-plan-if-democrats-win-big

 

 

From Russia with Love: Russian Influence in Brexit, Russian Assassinations and Trump Wishing Maxwell Well

jeffrey epstein

The British government and intelligence agencies failed to conduct a proper assessment of Kremlin attempts to interfere with the 2016 Brexit referendum, according to a long-delayed Russia report.

The contents of the report indicate that the government and intelligence agencies failed to investigate Russian interference because they didn’t want to know, and that they delayed a report until after the election that would have revealed the fact.

Stewart Hosie, a Scottish National party MP who sits on the cross-party committee that issued the report stated:

“The UK Government have actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered. We were told that they hadn’t seen any evidence, but that is meaningless if they hadn’t looked for it.”

Britain has become “a favourable destination for Russian oligarchs and their money”, observed the committee.

Citing no names, the committee also warned that it was “notable that a number of members of the House of Lords have business interests linked to Russia, or work directly for major Russian companies linked to the Russian state.”

Article: Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/21/russia-report-reveals-uk-government-failed-to-address-kremlin-interference-scottish-referendum-brexit

So, Britain as well as the United States is awash with Russian money and corruption and this is more evidence that those in authority will not move to uncover it or stop it.

The following link is to a series of articles that appeared in Buzzfeed in 2018 about Russian assassinations in Britain.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/heidiblake/poison-in-the-system?utm_term=.qj09P41jm#.bx0arEWRk

And, just to add the final touch to the day, Trump wished Maxwell well today in his public appearance.

Notes From “Hiding in Plain Sight” by Sarah Kenzior

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America

Kendzior, Sarah

“To millionaire elites, many of whom already had an apocalyptic bent, a depopulated world is not a tragedy but an opportunity—…”

“American exceptionalism—the widespread belief that America is unique among nations and impervious to autocracy—is the delusion that paved Trump’s path to victory.”

“Oligarchs and government officials have a synergistic relationship aimed at streamlining state corruption and facilitating white-collar crime.”

“Deutsche Bank—is notorious for facilitating Russian money-laundering.”

Harry “Reid wrote that Russian operatives sought to falsify election results and begged Comey to give the American people the full story before they went to the polls.”

“Comey refused, and refused again after Reid wrote a follow-up letter in October.”

“Once an autocrat gets into office, it is very hard to get them out. They will disregard term limits, they will purge the agencies that enforce accountability, they will rewrite the law so that they are no longer breaking it. They will take your money, they will steal your freedom, and if they are clever, they will eliminate any structural protections you had before the majority realizes the extent of the damage….That is why it is important to act early…”

“Trump is part of a complex illicit network including individuals from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Kingdom, the United States, and more—some of whom do not have loyalty to any particular country. Their loyalty is to themselves and their money. Many are criminals without borders who have moved from hijacking businesses to hijacking nations. Some call them fascists; I avoid this term because being a fascist requires an allegiance to the state. To these operatives, the state is just something to sell.:

“This elite criminal network has been building for decades. It is linked to other groups: right-wing Republican extremists, apocalyptic religious movements of varied faiths, social media corporations, advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association, and parts of the mainstream media.”

“But over the course of decades, disparate parties have joined together to destroy democracy.”

“Naomi Klein phrases it, “disaster capitalists” who see opportunity in a dying planet, and who will spare no expense in pursuit of their own preservation.”

“His rise was made possible by a coterie of criminals who do not want to be punished but delight in being caught. Flaunting their criminal impunity is part of the thrill.”

“Their belief that they would never be held accountable is logical since they had never faced serious consequences despite spending decades committing illegal acts. In fact, they had reaped ample rewards. Now, finally, they had the greatest reward of all: the power to rewrite law itself.”

“…vulnerable people waited for responsible officials to intervene. They are still waiting.”

“Pundits and politicians like to say that “No one saw it coming,” but what they mean is that they consider the people who saw it coming to be no one.”

“February 2014, he went on Fox News to defend Russia. Why a reality TV host was on Fox News defending Russia is its own story, but here is what he said about his desired outcome for the United States: “You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.”

“Public leverage is disappearing along with the concept of the public good as a priority of the powerful.”

“What they’re trying to do is establish power: they are lying to flaunt power. They are saying to us: ‘We know that you know that this is a lie, and we don’t care, because there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.’”