NATO

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The Reckless Brinkmanship With Russia Just Keeps On Escalating

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/06/2024 - 10:32pm in

Tags 

Russia, News, NATO

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

https://medium.com/media/7ce1c20fbe11095213d557df68b98fda/href

It’s damn near impossible to keep up with all the warmongering of the western empire these days.

In response to the frightening steps that NATO has been taking to allow western-supplied weapons to be used by Ukraine to strike Russian territory, Vladimir Putin warned last week that these escalations can lead to “serious consequences”.

“This constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” Putin said. “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the US behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons? Hard to say. Do they want global conflict?”

We can get a more concrete idea of what Putin was talking about from the blatant threat Moscow formally made to the UK last month, saying that Ukraine using any British weapons to attack Russian territory could result in direct Russian attacks on British military targets in Ukraine “and beyond”, which would place Russia in a profoundly dangerous state of hot warfare with NATO forces.

https://medium.com/media/cacb6c577dea2486bbaed3024f84345c/href

On Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg dismissed Putin’s warnings, saying, “This is nothing new. It has … been the case for a long time that every time NATO allies are providing support to Ukraine, President Putin is trying to threaten us to not do that.”

This cavalier attitude toward nuclear brinkmanship that empire managers have been demonstrating lately was addressed on Monday by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who said the US is close to making a “fatal” miscalculation.

“I would like to caution American officials against miscalculations which may have fatal consequences. For some unknown reason, they underestimate the seriousness of the rebuff they may receive,” Ryabkov reportedly said.

“I am urging these officials who seemingly are not bothered by anything, to take some time away from playing computer games, which is apparently what they are doing, given their light-hearted approach to serious issues, and take a closer look at what Putin said,” Ryabkov added.

https://medium.com/media/2c6152eabccd1b5ba9d66cc725e09731/href

American officials appear to be doing the exact opposite of what the deputy foreign minister recommends, with White House spokesman John Kirby telling the press on Monday that the Biden administration is open to discussions about expanding the use of US-made weapons further into Russian territory.

Asked about President Zelensky’s complaint that US permissions to conduct limited strikes on Russian territory weren’t enough and comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggesting a greater range of Russian territory may soon be authorized, Kirby said it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Zelensky wants more, and that the US will keep talking to Ukraine about the possibility of US-backed strikes deeper into the Russian mainland.

“And so we’ll have those talks, we’ll have those conversations with the Ukrainians,” Kirby said. “Absolutely, we will. And whether it leads to any additional policy changes, I can’t say at this point, but we’re not going to turn our back on what Ukraine needs. And we’re going to continue to try to, again, evolve our support to them as the battlefield evolves as well.”

I wrote just the other day that Biden’s authorization for limited strikes on Russian territory with US weapons would immediately be followed by a push for even more escalations with strikes deeper into Russia, and here we are. Every time the warmongers get one escalation, they immediately start pushing for another.

There is a limit to how many escalations Russia will tolerate before taking drastic action against NATO to re-establish deterrence credibility, and nobody really knows exactly where that limit is. They seem bound and determined to find it however, and when they do we may already be on an irreversible free fall toward nuclear armageddon.

https://medium.com/media/6a5929e0b9fbb2d57aafa0afd7bbc927/href

This all comes as the Dutch foreign minister publicly gives the green light for Ukraine to use F-16s to attack Russian territory. As Antiwar’s Kyle Anzalone notes of this news, F-16s are nuclear-capable warplanes.

It’s important to push back against brinkmanship with Russia well before we go over the brink into nuclear war, because obviously by then it’s too late for anyone to do anything — and indeed a full-scale nuclear war between NATO and the Russian Federation could mean that nobody will ever do anything ever again. Nuclear armageddon is the one foreign policy mistake that you can’t course-correct for after you make it, so it’s extremely urgent to course-correct long before we get to that point.

The biggest risk for nuclear war isn’t that either side will knowingly choose to enter into one, but that one will be set off by miscalculation, miscommunication or technical malfunction in the chaos and confusion of soaring tensions, as nearly happened numerous times during the last cold war. The higher tensions get, the more likely such an incident becomes, and the more hair-trigger everyone’s nuclear systems will be.

It’s a lot like a standoff where people are pointing guns at each other, like the end scene of Reservoir Dogs. The more guns there are and the more tense the situation becomes, the more likely it is that someone will make a move that sets the whole thing off and gets everyone killed.

And that’s why it’s very disturbing that these tensions are being ramped up so casually by the empire with no resistance from anybody — not from western governments, not from the media, and not even from ordinary people in any meaningful numbers.

These freaks are playing chicken with armageddon weapons, and nobody’s got a foot anywhere near the brake pedal. They’re not even looking at it. They’re not even thinking about it.

At the very least we’ve got to find some way to get people thinking about this. This would be such a damn stupid way for humanity to annihilate itself.

________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to find video versions of my articles. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

Bitcoin donations: 1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Featured image via Adobe Stock.

China Incorporated: The Politics of a World Where China is Number One – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/05/2024 - 8:44pm in

Kerry Brown‘s China Incorporated examines how China’s rise has reshaped the global political order, previously dominated by the US. Examining the impacts of Cold War modernisation paradigms and conflicting values between East and West, this book is an excellent resource for those interested in researching beyond the traditional narratives about China, writes Burak Elmalı.

China Incorporated: The Politics of a World Where China is Number One. Kerry Brown. Bloomsbury Academic. 2023.

Kerry Brown’s China Incorporated: The Politics of a World Where China is Number One offers a thought-provoking perspective on the implications of China’s rise in a global context dominated by the long-standing leadership of the United States. Comprising eight chapters, Brown’s analysis encourages readers to adopt a fresh mindset through a comprehensive examination of China’s dynamics from start to finish.

The book delves deeply into the often-overlooked theme of values within the realm of great power competition between China and the US

The book’s contribution is twofold. Firstly, it delves deeply into the often-overlooked theme of values within the realm of great power competition between China and the US, notably highlighted through Brown’s frequent use of the term “Enlightenment West” to describe the US-led Western perspective in contrast to China. Secondly, it prompts us to question the established modernisation paradigm (a theory that posits that economic development in societies is a catalyst for democratisation) inherited from Cold War, stressing the inseparability of economic development and democratisation, thereby giving way to a re-evaluation of traditional viewpoints.

The first chapter provides a comprehensive overview of key themes, which are detailed in the rest of the book. It delineates three critical aspects: China is no longer weak, its ascendancy in both land and naval capabilities, and the distinctiveness of its value system vis-à-vis the West. This exposition transcends the commonplace discourse surrounding China’s rise, which has become the talk of the town in the last decade, directing attention to how to make sense of this reality. The recognition of China’s transition from a perceived state of weakness is contextualised as a simultaneously relative decline of Western powers, stimulating parallel discussions concerning China, the US, and European powers. Moreover, the emphasis on the burgeoning maritime power of China underscores the necessity of broadening the discourse on China-West relations beyond the confines of the Taiwan issue to encompass a broader naval domain, the South China Sea.

The recognition of China’s transition from a perceived state of weakness is contextualised as a simultaneously relative decline of Western powers, stimulating parallel discussions concerning China, the US, and European powers.

As mentioned earlier, the emphasis on values and philosophy compared with the Enlightenment is most intriguing. This undoubtedly reminds us that we need to question the less inclusive and intriguing aspects of the ideational pillars of a global actor that is often touted as a future superpower, such as “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” and “Harmonious Society,” which are frequently used by Beijing.

The second chapter illustrates China’s behaviour in the virtual domain and cyberspace amid its global growth, showcasing its ability to create Made in PRC versions of domains with high levels of censorship and surveillance, a significant capability. It also discusses the overestimation of Confucius Institutes (hosted by universities, Confucius Institutes are educational and cultural organisations affiliated with the Chinese government, established around the world with the aim of promoting Chinese language and culture, supporting Chinese language teaching, and facilitating cultural exchanges) as examples of China’s soft power, cautioning against exaggerating their impact. These examples highlight China’s subtle, exclusionary actor behaviour and its challenges in attracting interest in its values. It is, therefore, highly unlikely for a passionate researcher or enthusiast to solely emerge from Confucius Institutes in a university with a rich liberal arts tradition.

Brown underscores two turning points in China’s perception of the West: the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the Arab Spring, highlighting the failures of Western capitalism and interventionist foreign policies in the post-Cold War era.

The third chapter outlines a significant shift in the Enlightenment West’s attitude towards China, evolving from patronising to openness for collaboration and eventually seeing China as a threat. This last attitude reflects what we saw in the long communique issued after last year’s NATO Summit in Vilnius. Brown underscores two turning points in China’s perception of the West: the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the Arab Spring, highlighting the failures of Western capitalism and interventionist foreign policies in the post-Cold War era. They solidified China’s reluctance to heed Western advice, resonating with critiques of interventionist liberalism in John Mearsheimer’s The Great Delusion. The notion of a crusader state promoting liberal values, with each Western failure now serving as rhetorical leverage for China, stands as a noteworthy observation.

In the fourth and fifth chapters, we observe a dual analysis, which is highly necessary. These chapters, elaborated upon with the questions “What Does the World Want from China?” and “What Does China Want from the World?” clearly illustrate the stark contrast between China’s ambition to wield power without taking too much responsibility with binding commitments in global issues like climate change and the Western perception of a China constrained within the boundaries of the liberal international order. This inherent disparity is central to understanding how China and the West perceive each other. The sixth chapter presents a rich and necessary example, both from Brown’s own experiences and in the context of the discussions on China and the alternative global order. Accordingly, the Xinjiang issue, where the Chinese government is accused of a series of ongoing human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang, serves as a microcosm for understanding China’s stance on human rights within the international system. The vast disparity between how the Enlightenment West and China perceive the surveillance state mechanism in this autonomous region underscores the differing perceptions detailed in the fourth and fifth chapters.

The seventh and eighth chapters are crucial, especially concerning the future of modernisation theory and whether China will adopt a paradigm-shifting approach. The assertion that, “We have been using Stone Age tools to address a space age problem. Getting rid of the ‘evil/good’ dichotomy is a great place to start addressing this,” (170) is particularly noteworthy. Brown conveys the message that differentiating our observations and analyses from the past is no longer optional, but a necessity to understand and contextualise China.

Though his enquiry is robust, Brown’s analysis lacks examples of China’s actor behaviour through global regimes and international institutions. For instance, China’s behaviour under the UNFCCC regarding global climate change, its stance in WTO negotiations, or its voting behaviour in the UNSC could have been included in the discussion. Comparing China’s nuanced approach of exploiting or utilising existing potentials within UN frameworks to the goal-oriented strategies of the West, as mentioned in the second chapter, could have made the differences clearer and more understandable. For example, contrasting the EU’s stance with the Green Deal against China’s revisionist approach in COPs as the leader of the G-77 would give readers a better understanding of the contrasting engagements with international institutions at play.

Comparing China’s nuanced approach of exploiting or utilising existing potentials within UN frameworks to the goal-oriented strategies of the West [… ] could have made the differences clearer and more understandable.

Overall, the author’s emphasis on values and the call to evaluate China’s rise concurrently with the relative weakening of the West are thought-provoking and significant. This book provides an excellent resource for those interested in researching beyond the traditional narratives about China. Additionally, through this work, Brown highlights the need for new methods in examining China’s rise in international politics literature.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credit: The White House on flickr.

Robert Fico’s failed assassination raises specter of Western plotting

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 31/05/2024 - 2:41pm in

Slovak PM Robert Fico’s independent stance earned him the wrath of NATO and the EU. Did a Western-directed plot to remove his troublesome government from office trigger his assassination attempt? On May 15, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was almost murdered in broad daylight. While shaking hands with supporters during a public appearance, a gunman shot him twice in the abdomen and once in the shoulder. The attack left him fighting for his life while authorities raced for clues, and […]

The post Robert Fico’s failed assassination raises specter of Western plotting first appeared on The Grayzone.

The post Robert Fico’s failed assassination raises specter of Western plotting appeared first on The Grayzone.

US-EU assets pushing color revolution in Georgia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 27/05/2024 - 8:19am in

Tags 

georgia, eu, NATO, NGOs, Russia, USAID

Over 25,000 NGOs are active in Georgia, and most rely on funding from Europe and the US. A new bill aiming to reign in Western meddling has sparked furious anti-government protests explicitly encouraged by Washington. A dark political atmosphere is swirling over the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, and grows more ominous by the day. Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has been told by an EU commissioner he will suffer the fate of Robert Fico, the Slovakian leader still fighting for his […]

The post US-EU assets pushing color revolution in Georgia first appeared on The Grayzone.

The post US-EU assets pushing color revolution in Georgia appeared first on The Grayzone.

Meanwhile, We’re Still WAY Too Close To Nuclear Armageddon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 12:52pm in

Tags 

Russia, News, NATO

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

https://medium.com/media/31d9758921c3b2f3058a864898511a28/href

While the antiwar zeitgeist has been quite understandably focused on the genocide in Gaza, over the past few weeks we’ve been seeing some very disturbing reports about empire managers ramping up nuclear brinkmanship escalations in Ukraine that are worth going over.

Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp has been doing a great job covering these developments, as usual. Here are a few recent stories from Antiwar.com which deserve some attention today.

https://x.com/Antiwarcom/status/1793704011289501945

In an article titled “Blinken Pushing To Let Ukraine Hit Russian Territory With US Weapons,” DeCamp goes over a New York Times report about a “vigorous debate” within the Biden administration over whether to let Ukraine use US-supplied war machinery to attack targets in the Russian Federation itself. This would risk direct hot war between Russia and NATO, as Moscow already made explicitly clear recently with regard to similar developments in the UK.

“Moscow recently warned the UK that if Ukraine used British weapons on Russian territory, Russian forces would target UK military sites in Ukraine ‘and beyond’,” DeCamp writes. “The warning came after British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said Ukraine had the ‘right’ to use British arms in attacks on Russia.”

Obviously Ukraine has the “right” to attack Russia since Russia is attacking Ukraine; nobody disputes this. What is of course disputed is that it is wise or moral to risk the life of every terrestrial organism by tempting hot warfare between Russia and NATO over who controls Kharkiv.

https://medium.com/media/fdd3cf05f11a184389107c3e19e2745d/href

In “Speaker Johnson Thinks Ukraine Should Use US Weapons on Russian Territory,” DeCamp reports on a letter sent by a bipartisan group of House representatives urging the president to lift any restrictions on the Ukrainians using US-supplied weapons to strike Russian territory “in the way they see fit.” Which means pressure is mounting both within the White House and on Capitol Hill to escalate nuclear tensions in this way.

In “Estonia Says NATO Countries Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Sending Troops to Ukraine for Training,” we learn of Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ casual support for openly sending large numbers of NATO forces into Ukraine for training purposes. Small, unofficial special operations forces from NATO powers have long been active in Ukraine, but what the Estonian PM is advocating would be a significant escalation from there. DeCamp notes that “Estonia, Lithuania, and France have all expressed interest in deploying troops” in Ukraine.

All this insanely hawkish rhetoric is already drawing a response from Moscow. In “Russia Begins Nuclear Weapons Drills Near Ukrainian Border,” The Libertarian Institute’s Kyle Anzalone reports on new war games which were announced by the Russian government “in response to Western leaders suggesting NATO troops could enter Ukraine.”

https://x.com/Antiwarcom/status/1793392837683544559

There was a lull in nuclear brinkmanship between NATO and Russia as the uncertainties of the Ukraine war and the influence the hawks would have over it got clearer, and things reached a cruel and bloody semblance of stability. But as Ukraine loses ground and runs out of manpower we’re starting to see some frantic flailings throughout the western empire on a front where cool heads are of existential importance to the survival of our species.

It would feel so unbelievably idiotic if we woke up to learn that nuclear war has begun after a series of reckless escalations and unpredictable developments led to a rapid sequence of events from which there could be no return. But that’s not an unreasonable fear at this point in history, and we are moving much, much too close to that ledge.

______________

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Lessons from Regional Responses to Security, Health and Environmental Challenges in Latin America – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/05/2024 - 8:47pm in

Lessons from Regional Responses to Security, Health and Environmental Challenges in Latin America explores these three areas in terms of governance challenges post-COVID-19. Editor Ivo Ganchev brings together diverse regional perspectives that critically analyse US influence in the region, regional versus national approaches and alternative tools for governance. While its contemporary focus may risk obsolescence, the book is a valuable resource for understanding and addressing current challenges in Latin America, writes Tainá Siman.

Lessons from Regional Responses to Security, Health and Environmental Challenges in Latin America. Ivo Ganchev (ed.). Vernon Press. 2024. 

Lessons from regional responses book coverThis volume edited by Ivo Ganchev presents an assessment on the current challenges for governance in Latin America in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, considering three under-researched topics in Latin America: security, health and environment. These three topics were not selected randomly, but on the basis of the results of a survey among 78 political scientists asking which themes lacked further research in the Latin American context. In a compelling introduction dividing scholarship on regionalism in Latin America into three different groups – optimists, sceptics and innovators – Ganchev sets out the volume’s aim of reflecting on appropriate governance tools to regionally address common challenges in the protection of borders (security), lives (health) and land (environment) (iv).

The choice to address these issues at regional versus national levels is the core point discussed in most of the chapters. Why should countries opt to solve problems by cooperating with regional organisations? Or why should they opt for dealing with them at the national level? These reflections address why these paths were chosen and why they failed or succeeded, span the three broad topics almost equally (security has four and health and governance have each three chapters).

Why should countries opt to solve problems by cooperating with regional organisations? Or why should they opt for dealing with them at the national level?

Considering the context of Post-Hegemonic Regionalism, signifying weakened US hegemony in Latin America, Ganchev’s opening chapter examines coups and coup attempts from a security perspective. Coups and coup attempts are a recurring theme throughout Latin American academic literature, even under the framing of democracy clauses. Democracy clauses are tools that foresee sanctions or suspension of members that have experienced coups or democracy breaches. This topic is usually taken under the discussion of regional politics or appropriateness in institutional design, so framing it as a security issue is innovative. A significant aspect of this perspective deals with relations to the United States (US) and Organization of American States (OAS) responses (or lack thereof). Each coup and coup attempt is scrutinised to determine whether it served US interests to intervene, considering the potential outcomes (success or failure of coup attempts), as well as the US interest in activating or not regional organisations.

In the section of chapters focusing on health, Ruvalbaca (Chapter Six) presents a significant reflection of how the COVID-19 crisis impacted the power of Latin American countries in the international arena. Alongside analysing internal political and economic dynamics, Ruvalbaca discusses how each country’s response to COVID-19 impacted its international overall power performance along three dimensions: material, immaterial and semi-material. The chapter gives an interesting account of how some countries experienced economic crises but performed relatively well in dealing with the pandemic (Costa Rica and Cuba), others performed well economically while (not) dealing well with the pandemic (Ecuador). However, it lacked a clear categorisation that would allow measurement of how greatly the pandemic contributed (or not) to the gain or loss of relative power at the global level.

Ruvalbaca discusses how each country’s response to COVID-19 impacted its international overall power performance along three dimensions: material, immaterial and semi-material.

Situated within the volume’s dedicated third section on the environment, Chapter Ten by Combs and Buganza reflects about Mesoamerican regional constructions concerning the environment. They provide insight into the beginnings of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor as a non-institutionalised initiative, describing how its development progressed, in an interesting twist, to being incorporated as part of a regional organisation. A series of accomplishments, such as its decades-long further institutionalisation, as well as challenges, such as lack of financial resources for funding, enable a reflection on the level of structuring, formalisation and effectiveness of environmental transnational policies.

Two important characteristics makes this book stand out. The first is that the chapters do not merely cover regional organisations, though they are well-discussed, being the most common arena to debate regional issues. Other chapters highlight transnational solutions (Villa, Braga, Alaya in Chapter Three) international funds (Gomis in Chaper Four), and transgovernmental networks (TGNs) (Segovia, Mugica, Chapter Five). It makes us reflect, as the title suggest, that when we talk about “regional responses” we should think broadly about what format these solutions will take and the best approach to each specific challenge. It presents a broader sample of tools for regional governance instead of the common solution of regional organisations.

when we talk about ‘regional responses’ we should think broadly about what format these solutions will take and the best approach to each specific challenge.

The second positive feature is the wide range of regions and sub-regions in Latin America that are addressed. such as the Andes (Chapter Three), the Caribbean (Chapters Four, Núñes in Chapter Seven and Borzona in Chapter Eight), Mexico (Chapter Ten) and South America in relation to Continental America (Chapter One). The final chapter also has a recommendation of exercises on policy transfer between regions, arguing that it would be useful to have a mechanism similar to the Escazú Agreement into African countries (Mballa, Chapter 11). Having authors with diverse backgrounds and coming from a diversity of regions also gives some freshness on how the issues are framed. Considering external factors impacting the region, such as the Ukraine and Russia war, China and NATO (Konolvalova and Jeifets, Chapter Two) and Africa (Chapter 11) give us some ideas of how wider issues interfere with regional Latin-American challenges.

In times of post-hegemonic regionalism, it shows that the US still shapes regional architecture, whether to interfere as an actor, or to cause ruptures or disagreements between countries in regional initiatives.

Something that’s present in most of the chapters is the influence of the US in Latin American regional affairs. In this sense, what stands out is the US’s contribution to these challenges. In times of post-hegemonic regionalism, it shows that the US still shapes regional architecture, whether to interfere as an actor, or to cause ruptures or disagreements between countries in regional initiatives. Even in cases where chapters don’t explicitly discuss ties between Latin American states and the US, the analysis of intra-regional intergovernmental relations still shows how these relationships were affected was still very highly connected with the government’s alignment or non-alignments with the US.

If there is a con to this book is that, since its framing has a highly contemporary component to it, its lessons may become outdated relatively soon. However, it serves as a diagnostic collection, highlighting what has proven effective and areas in need of improvement. Ultimately, its relevance will only diminish if we fully move past these problematics, and diagnosing these problematics is the initial step to overcome them. Another issue is that the volume lacks a conclusion which would have been a useful means of drawing together discussion points and themes across the chapters and looking ahead to the future of the region. That said, the volume examines a diverse range of pressing issues across Latin America from the COVID-19 pandemic onwards, and will be worthwhile reading for anyone interested in Latin America, regionalism (in terms of international institutions) or in one of its three specific agendas (security, health and environment).

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Image credits: Banco Mundial América Latina y el Caribe on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

Inside Job? Ominous New Questions Surround Navalny’s Death

On April 27, the Wall Street Journal published an investigation based on as yet unpublished U.S. intelligence community assessments and anonymous briefings courtesy of “security officials from several European capitals,” which concluded that Vladimir Putin neither orchestrated Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny’s death in prison two months earlier nor desired it to happen.

It was a belated and confounding intervention in a case that, after an initially intense frenzy of mainstream speculation and accusations, quickly went cold before vanishing from mainstream consideration entirely.

While exerting little domestic influence outside atypically liberal enclaves in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities, Navalny was the U.S. and Europe’s most cherished and prominent Putin detractor by some margin for over a decade before his death. His every publicity stunt garnered universal media attention, and the regular publications of his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) on state official embezzlement and grift in Russia invariably broke the internet. Western human rights awards were routinely forthcoming.

After purportedly being poisoned on an inter-Russian flight by the FSB in August 2020, then recovering in Germany, he made a much-publicized “hero’s return” to Moscow, at which point, he was summarily jailed. Despite giving regular interviews to the Western media from prison and testifying to the rotten conditions in which he was held, Navalny had largely faded from public consciousness by the time news of his death broke on February 16.

Immediately, the entire Western political, media, and pundit sphere was apoplectic. “Make no mistake. Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death!” U.S. President Joe Biden forcefully declared. Meanwhile, Navalny’s widow, Yulia, accused Russian authorities of “hiding his body” as they were “waiting for the traces of yet another of Putin’s novichoks to disappear”:

My husband could not be broken. And that’s exactly why Putin killed him. Shameful, cowardly, not daring to look into his eyes or simply say his name. We will tell you about it soon. We will definitely find out who exactly carried out this crime and how exactly. We will name the names and show the faces.”

Yet, on February 26, Ukrainian military chief Kyrylo Budanov “disappointed” everyone by announcing Navalny, in fact, died as a result of simple health complications – namely, a blood clot. The U.S. intelligence assessments cited by the Wall Street Journal, based on “some classified intelligence and an analysis of public facts,” reportedly draw the same conclusion. Quite why this apparent confirmation took so long to surface isn’t clear, although it delivered a “coup de grâce” to any and all suggestions Navalny was deliberately assassinated.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began, Western spying agencies and officials in Kiev have relentlessly spewed oft-intelligence insulting, illogical black propaganda about the proxy conflict. We must ask ourselves why the same sources that would have us believe Russian forces were at one point fighting with shovels, and Moscow blew up its own Nord Stream 2 pipeline, seek to shut down suggestions Navalny was murdered.

 

‘Cataclysmic Loss’

Budanov’s declaration decisively shunted Navalny’s demise from international headlines. Such is the pace with which events move these days that it is perhaps forgotten that immediately following February 16, there was a concerted campaign by highly influential Western anti-Russian actors for the EU and U.S. to adopt a “Navalny Act.” Under its auspices, the approximately $300 billion Russian assets frozen by Western financial institutions in the wake of Moscow’s invasion would be seized and given to Ukraine.

At the forefront of this effort was billionaire Bill Browder, an investment manager who reaped untold sums from privatization and asset stripping in Russia during the 1990s and supported Putin’s rise to power before being turfed from the country in 2005 on national security grounds. Since then, he has transformed himself into the Kremlin’s most pugnacious overseas critic and an “anti-corruption” campaigner, despite giving up his U.S. citizenship to evade tax. Speaking to UnHerd on February 20, Browder talked a big game:

Now is the moment…Putin is willing to lose one million men, but to lose $300 billion would be a cataclysmic loss. All world leaders are looking for a way to hit Putin back for this murder. I’ve been working on confiscating these assets for the last two years, and the Navalny murder is the impetus to get it done.”

Browder had good reason to believe this campaign would bear fruit. For almost 15 years, he has traveled the world telling journalists, lawmakers, and human rights organizations a shocking story of corruption, fraud, and murder at the highest levels of the Kremlin. In brief, he claims local officials forcibly seized the Russian division of his company, Hermitage Capital Management, to carry out a massive tax scam, reaping $230 million in the process.

According to Browder’s narrative, he then set his “friend” Sergei Magnitsky, a gifted lawyer, on the case to determine what happened. The diligent sleuth duly uncovered the fraud and alerted authorities but ended up jailed on bogus charges for his courageous whistleblowing. He was then viciously tortured in prison in an attempt to make him retract his testimony before being beaten to death by guards for refusing.

Typically, Browder’s audiences have been highly receptive. Over the years, his story has been immortalized in multiple articles, books, official reports and documentaries, influencing legislation and prosecutions in numerous countries. Every member of the “Five Eyes” global spying network and the EU have been successfully lobbied to adopt a “Magnitsky Act,” which sanctions government officials overseas—particularly in Russia—for purported human rights abuses.

 

‘Navalny Act’

In reality, Browder’s entire Magnitsky fable is a tangled web of lies, fabrications, distortions, exaggerations, and libel. From the very moment he started spinning this deceptive yarn, sufficient open-source, public-domain evidence was available to disprove its every aspect comprehensively. Yet, it took a decade for mainstream journalists to conduct serious due diligence on his assertions. In November 2019, leading German news outlet Der Spiegel published a comprehensive demolition job, savagely indicting Browder’s integrity in the process.

In the publication’s words, Brodwer “has a talent for selling a set of facts so it supports his own version of events.” Magnitsky was, in fact, neither a lawyer nor a whistleblower. He was a crooked accountant who had long-abetted Browder’s fraudulent financial dealings in Russia and was justly imprisoned for these activities. This was confirmed by a damning ruling in August of that year by the European Court of Human Rights in a case brought by Browder and Magnitsky’s family.

While the ECHR ordered Moscow to pay Magnitsky’s relatives $37,500 due to a failure to protect his life and health, having identified shortcomings in the medical treatment he was provided in prison, no mention of murder or even unlawful killing was made in the judgment. Conversely, the court rejected suggestions his arrest and subsequent detention were “manifestly ill-founded” or that “authorities had…acted with bad faith or deception:”

The Court reiterated the general principles on arbitrary detention…It found no such elements in this case. The decision to arrest him had only been made after investigators learned he’d previously applied for a UK visa, booked tickets to Kiev, and hadn’t been residing at his registered address. Furthermore, the evidence against him, including witness testimony, had been enough to satisfy an objective observer that he might have committed the offense in question.”

Der Spiegel’s investigation contained a striking passage, the obvious import of which was bizarrely ignored by the outlet. In it, Zoya Svetova, a Moscow-based human-rights activist who investigated Magnitsky’s death in 2009, said:

What sense would it make to murder him? Magnitsky did not reveal any secret. They wanted testimonies against Browder. That was the motivation. He should have accused Browder of not paying taxes. Magnitsky was a hostage. He himself was of no interest to them. They wanted Browder.”

Bill BrowderAnti-Russia campaigner Bill Browder speaking to the media outside the Old Bailey in London, December 19, 2018. Mr Perepilichnyy, 44, Dominic Lipinski | PA Wire

In other words, it was Browder who benefited from Magnitsky’s death, not Russian authorities, which raises the grave prospect that it was the “anti-corruption” campaigner himself who was, one way or another, responsible for his accountant’s tragic passing. Such a reading is amply reinforced by the sworn deposition of Russian opposition activist Oleg Lurie in a failed legal case brought by U.S. authorities against Russian-owned company Prevezon, based on Browder’s bogus claim the firm’s owners were beneficiaries of the $230 million fraud.

Lurie was concurrently incarcerated in the same prison as Magnitsky, and the pair crossed paths twice. The first time, the accountant was in a “happy mood,” boasting of how he was held in a “big special block” for “white crime inmates,” where cells had “plasma TV sets, refrigerators, kettles” and illegally installed telephones. The reason for his buoyancy, Magnitsky explained to Lurie, was that his Western employers would “save him…they would take him out of there” in a matter of days.

As Browder et al. wished for Magnitsky to “keep silence about their actions” and his own crime to be “not serious,” he seemed assured that freedom was impending. Lurie warned him that “his attorneys and people who claim to be standing behind him are lying to him,” but the accountant was unconvinced. Fast-forward a few weeks, and they met again. Magnitsky was “a completely different person at that time…a tangle of nerves,” Lurie testified.

Magnitsky revealed that the “Western people who stood behind him deceived him…they demanded him to sign various documents” completely unrelated to his case, which would’ve implicated him in numerous serious crimes he didn’t commit. As a result, “he had a feeling that he would never get out.” Navalny, like Magnitsky, wasn’t leaving prison anytime soon and almost certainly knew too much. Did his Western backers similarly consider it necessary to silence him?

At the very least, it is supremely puzzling that the Ukrainian government effectively torpedoed the “Navalny Act.” After all, Kiev has, since the start of the proxy conflict, implored Western leaders to hand Russia’s frozen assets to them in service of the country’s reconstruction and the purchase of ever-more weapons and ammunition. The Act would’ve delivered on those demands. There was no clear need at all for Budanov to electively sabotage the narrative of Navalny as a Kremlin murder victim.

 

‘British Spy’

There are also sinister echoes in the sudden mainstream “reverse ferret” on Navalny’s untimely demise with the similarly mysterious and abrupt November 2019 passing of James Lemesurier, longtime British mercenary and military intelligence operative. Immediately following his fatal fall from the window of his lavish Istanbul apartment, Western sources rushed to convict Russia without evidence, claiming his death may have been – or was likely – a targeted assassination. The most prominent was Mark Urban, veteran BBC “defence” editor.

Within hours of Lemesurier’s lethal crash landing, Urban took to Twitter, urging Turkish authorities to “conduct a thorough investigation” and “ascertain whether there was state involvement.” His misgivings were in part perked by an “extensive black propaganda campaign by Russian and Assad media and their acolytes” in the months prior. In other words, critical, independent reporting raises grave questions about whether Lemesurier’s “White Helmets” were the crusading humanitarian group universally portrayed in the mainstream or something far darker.

More substantively, “a former colleague” – whether of Lemesurier or Urban isn’t clear – told the BBC journeyman, “I know the flat well, [and] it’s not possible to ‘fall’ from that balcony.” They strongly suspected foul play as a result. Seismic stuff, although curiously, these posts were quickly deleted due to Urban allegedly receiving “new information.” The nature of this “information” and who supplied it has never been revealed. But immediately after that, the same sources that hitherto cried murder began labeling Lemesurier’s death an unambiguous suicide.

To say the least, Urban is extremely well-connected in the Western military, security, and intelligence sphere and highly adept at withholding salient facts from public view. In July 2018, he revealed he’d serendipitously spent much of the previous year interviewing Sergei Skripal, who, along with his daughter, was purportedly poisoned in the British city of Salisbury three months earlier. In the intervening time, Urban fronted multiple BBC Newsnight reports about the incident without ever mentioning his personal relationship with the GRU defector.

For Urban – coincidentally once part of the same British Army tank regiment as Pablo Miller, Skripal’s MI6 recruiter, handler, and Salisbury neighbor – to delete his incendiary tweets surely required a high-level intervention. At that time, as now, blaming Russia or Putin for anything and everything – including quite literally the weather – was a thoroughly safe option in the West, without any consequences attached. We are thus left to ponder how and why a long-serving, spook-adjacent British state ‘journalist’ was compelled to retract these charges.

Evidently, though, Urban’s sources – the “former colleague” who clearly said too much aside – were keen that Lemesurier’s end not be perceived or investigated as murder by anyone. Turkish media reports in the aftermath may provide a rationale for this. One article revealed James and his wife, Emma Winberg, a self-professed MI6 operative, “fought violently” outside an Istanbul restaurant just before his deadly plunge. Another suggested Lemesurier – a “British spy” – was “likely running away from someone before his death.”

Fast forward to today, and again, interested parties are eager to dismiss suggestions a high-profile Western asset’s death was the result of foul play. In Navalny’s case, as with Lemesurier, those shadowy elements – the Ukrainian government and the CIA being just two publicly confirmed so far – had every reason to accuse Moscow of murder. Yet, they not only didn’t but instead went to great lengths to remove any insinuation of deliberate killing from the equation. Make of that what you will.

Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPress News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.

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Meet Centuria, Ukraine’s Western-trained neo-Nazi army

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/04/2024 - 5:35am in

A uniquely Ukrainian strain of Neo-Nazism is spreading throughout Europe, which openly advocates violence against minorities while seeking new recruits. With Kiev’s army collapsing and a narrative of Western betrayal gaining currency, the horror inflicted on residents of Donbas for a decade could very soon be coming to a city near you. Centuria, an ultra-violent Ukrainian Neo-Nazi faction, has cemented itself in six cities across Germany, and is seeking to expand its local presence. According to Junge Welt, a Berlin-based […]

The post Meet Centuria, Ukraine’s Western-trained neo-Nazi army first appeared on The Grayzone.

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‘Trump’s Second Presidential Run and the Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Have a Lot In Common’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/04/2024 - 11:59pm in

Many of us will have seen the horrifying footage of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore harbour last week, after a huge container ship, the Dali, rammed into one of its supporting pillars, apparently after losing power on board.  

One of the most shocking aspects of the disaster, in which six construction workers lost their lives, was how quickly most of the bridge fell, even though only one element of the structure suffered a direct impact. It was a reminder that even the sturdiest-looking construction has its weak points.  

The disaster was a perfect metaphor for the kind of crisis we may be facing in Europe if Donald Trump is re-elected as US President in November.

He is the large container ship threatening to ram into the foundation of European security established after the Second World War – the NATO alliance. Trump was reportedly only narrowly dissuaded from pulling out of NATO during his first term in office. During the current presidential campaign, he has again hinted at his unhappiness with the organisation – and raised doubts about whether he would be willing to come to the defence of those members who, in his view, do not contribute enough to its funding.  

President Donald Trump with Vladimir Putin at the 2019 G20 Japan Summit. Photo: Shealah Craighead/UPI

Recognising the danger a second Trump presidency may present to NATO, the usually divided US Congress came together in late 2023 to pass legislation preventing any president from withdrawing the United States from NATO without the approval of the Senate or an Act of Congress.   

But the damage may already have been done.

Trump does not actually need to withdraw the US from NATO to cause it fundamental harm. Through his words alone, he has already weakened the alliance by undermining its very cornerstone – the notion that an attack on one is an attack on all – represented by the Article V commitment that all members will come to the aid of any country which is under attack. 

NATO, which depends on the US for most of its funding and the vast majority of its military capability, is nothing without US leadership.  

Perhaps Trump does not mean it in practice. Perhaps, faced with a real invasion of a NATO member, Trump will command the US military into action. But perhaps not.

In this uncertain environment, Vladimir Putin might be tempted to test the limits, not just by doubling-down on his aggression against Ukraine and neighbouring states such as Georgia and Moldova, but even by moving against a vulnerable NATO member such as one of the Baltic countries. Would Trump come to the aid of Estonia, Lithuania or Latvia? I’d like to believe so, especially since NATO has deliberately stationed multinational forces in each country, as well as Poland, to act as a tripwire. But I am no longer so sure – and it is precisely this element of doubt which creates risk.    

Perhaps an even stronger metaphor arising from the bridge disaster concerns the vulnerability of Western democracies to critical collapse. Speaking about why the bridge fell down, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that “a bridge like this one, completed in the 1970s, was simply not made to withstand a direct impact on a critical support pier from a vessel that weighs about 200 million pounds – orders of magnitude bigger than cargo ships that were in service in that region at the time that the bridge was first built”. 

By the same token, most Western democratic systems were designed in a different era and may not forever be able to withstand today’s assaults upon them – whether by hostile foreign actors seeking to sow chaos through spreading misinformation or buying influence through corrupt means, or by homegrown populist leaders, stoking up divisive cultural wars, or undermining vital institutions, such as an independent judiciary, strong media, and neutral civil service, for their own nefarious ends.  

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore in 2021. Photo: Jeffrey Kahan/Alamy

Ultimately, democracy, like the NATO alliance, relies upon trust – in NATO’s case, that every member will uphold its commitment to come to each other’s rescue in their moment of need; in democracy’s case, that leaders will not exploit loopholes in their systems, but always act with integrity, and adhere not just to the letter of the law, but its spirit also.

Public trust is eroded, and our entire democratic system weakened, when any one party or faction starts to chip away at those unwritten norms and values.  

Engineers are already discussing how to rebuild the Francis Scott Key bridge so that if one part of it ever again suffers major damage, it will not trigger the collapse of its entire span. They call this “building redundancy” – the practice of adding  back-up systems or components to ensure that a system or structure can continue to operate in the event of a failure. This will also include installing stronger barriers around each pillar to buffer ships (called 'dolphins’) away from ramming into them in the first place.  

We need to do the same both for NATO and our democracies.   

NATO needs to build more redundancy into its system, with every member state increasing their own military capabilities and military contributions to the alliance so that it is not so dependent on America.  

Western democracies need to build redundancy by building more guardrails into their systems, including through tightening their financial controls, making stronger efforts to combat disinformation and the misuse of artificial intelligence, protecting free speech and civic activism, and shoring up the independence of the media, judiciary, and civil service.  

In the UK’s case, we also need to install our own version of dolphins – by adopting a written constitution, with much stronger guidelines on ethical behaviour in office, and stronger penalties for transgressions, as a way to deter such violations in the first place.   

Alexandra Hall writes an exclusive column, 'An Englishwoman Abroad’, for the monthly Byline Times print edition. Subscribe now

Kosovo War at 25: Blair’s secret invasion plot to ‘topple Milosevic’ revealed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/03/2024 - 4:11pm in

Top secret papers reviewed by The Grayzone reveal Tony Blair demanded strikes on civilian targets in Yugoslavia days before NATO attacked them. While the UK military acknowledged a NATO strike on Hotel Jugoslavia would mean inflicting “some civilian casualties,” it insisted the deaths were “worth the cost.” Declassified British Ministry of Defence (MOD) files reviewed by The Grayzone reveal that officials in London conspired to embroil US troops in a secret plan to occupy Yugoslavia and “topple” President Slobodan Milosevic […]

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