September 13, 2014, Saturday — Little Wars = World War III?

“War is caused not only by those who wage it directly but also by those who do not do everything in their power to avoid it.”—St. John Paul II, 1979

Has “World War III” already begun, without any formal declaration?

Perhaps… if Pope Francis is right.

This morning, Francis visited a cemetery in northern Italy, near Venice.

He went to the cemetery to commemorate soldiers who died in World War I, which began exactly 100 years ago, and continued for more than 4 years (Summer 1914-Autumn 1918).

In his reflection, Francis suggested that all of the “little wars” now occurring around the world — especially in the Middle East and in Ukraine — actually make up “World War III” which has already begun.

The devastation that a “World War III” is bringing and will bring, the suffering for all of us, means that those of us (even ordinary journalists) who would like to protect our families, our children, our parents, our friends, from harm, must do what we can to prevent the outbreak of such a tragedy.

Or, if the tragedy has already begun to unfold, we must do what we can to prevent it from unfolding completely — to stop it before it grows wider.

And that is a fundamental purpose of these letters (and why they are sometimes so long).

The Pope’s message today was essentially this: “No more war.”

Resolve disputes by peaceful means, by negotiation, by the use of reason, not by maiming and killing, Francis is saying.

And, like several of the Middle Eastern Christian Patriarchs who were in Washington D.C. this week to draw attention to the sad plight of the region’s Christians, who are fleeing the region due to civil war, the Pope denounced the global armaments industry which provides weapons to all sides in these conflicts.

The mysterious army of ISIS (the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”), for example, has no technological infrastructure, no modern weapons’ factories, to produce the up-to-date weapons it is using. Who do they get them from?

Essentially, the Pope, and the Patriarchs, are saying this: the world’s manufacturers of arms, and the merchants who sell those arms, have a real share in the responsibility for the death and destruction that follows the production and distribution of these weapons.

Francis and the Patriarchs are calling on all of us to “beat swords into plowshares” — to put the  astonishing technological capacities of mankind at the service of human welfare, of the common good of all, of providing food, shelter, clothing, running water, for all, rather than to expend and explode our limited resources in the service of military agendas, costing countless lives.

To become effective good stewards of this fragile earth would take all of our energy and daring. All of our time and money. That would be a “battle” requiring commitment and courage.

But we are far from committing ourselves to such a noble “war.”

The words of Pope Francis and of the patriarchs are falling on deaf ears, and the relatively small global conflicts now occurring continue to widen and grow more numerous.

We must find a better way.

We are faced, in fact, with a spiritual battle, a battle for the soul of the West — and for the soul of Russia.

The West should return to its ancient Christian faith, and in that faith find a basis for friendship, collaboration, and the building globally of a just peace.

And Russia should do the same.

We should not be witnesses to a tragic Third World War.

The desired end is rather mutual conversion, truth-telling about our past, and then, a strong, mutually respectful America-Russia alliance — not a Third World War.

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Here is a Reuters account of what the Pope said today, with a key phrase in italics:

Francis: “This is the time to weep”

Pope says world’s many conflicts amount to piecemeal World War Three

Reuters

By Stefano Rellandini

REDIPUGLIA Italy (Reuters) — Pope Francis said on Saturday the spate of conflicts around the globe today were effectively a “piecemeal” Third World War, condemning the arms trade and “plotters of terrorism” sowing death and destruction.

“Humanity needs to weep and this is the time to weep,” Francis said in the homily of a Mass during a visit to Italy’s largest war memorial, a large, Fascist-era monument where more than 100,000 soldiers who died in World War One are buried.

The Pope began his brief visit to northern Italy by first praying in a nearby, separate cemetery for some 15,000 soldiers from five nations of the Austro-Hungarian empire which were on the losing side of the Great War that broke out 100 years ago.

“War is madness,” he said in his homily before the massive, sloping granite memorial, made of 22 steps on the side of hill with three crosses at the top.

“Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction,” he said.

In the past few months, Francis has made repeated appeals for an end to conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Gaza and parts of Africa.

“War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying,” he said. “Greed, intolerance, the lust for power. These motives underlie the decision to go to war and they are too often justified by an ideology …,” he said.

Last month the Pope, who has often condemned the concept of war in God’s name, said it would be legitimate for the international community to use force to stop “unjust aggression” by Islamic State militants who have killed or displaced thousands of people in Iraq and Syria, many of them Christians.

In his homily, read at a sombre service to thousands of people braving the rain and which included the hauntingly funereal sound of a solitary bugle, Francis condemned “plotters of terrorism” but did not elaborate.

Link: http://news.yahoo.com/pope-says-worlds-many-conflicts-amount-piecemeal-world-104917232.html

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Pope’s Words: Full Text

Below is the full text of the prepared homily of the Holy Father:

“After experiencing the beauty of travelling throughout this region, where men and women work and raise their families, where children play and the elderly dream… I now find myself here, in this place, able to say only one thing: War is madness.

“Whereas God carries forward the work of creation, and we men and women are called to participate in his work, war destroys. It also ruins the most beautiful work of his hands: human beings. War ruins everything, even the bonds between brothers. War is irrational; its only plan is to bring destruction: it seeks to grow by destroying.

“Greed, intolerance, the lust for power…. These motives underlie the decision to go to war, and they are too often justified by an ideology; but first there is a distorted passion or impulse.  Ideology is presented as a justification and when there is no ideology, there is the response of Cain: ‘What does it matter to me?  Am I my brother’s keeper?’ (cf. Gen 4:9).  War does not look directly at anyone, be they elderly, children, mothers, fathers…. ‘What does it matter to me?’

“Above the entrance to this cemetery, there hangs in the air those ironic words of war, ‘What does it matter to me?’ Each one of the dead buried here had their own plans, their own dreams… but their lives were cut short.  Humanity said, ‘What does it matter to me?’

“Even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction…

“In all honesty, the front page of newspapers ought to carry the headline, ‘What does it matter to me?’ Cain would say, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’

“This attitude is the exact opposite of what Jesus asks of us in the Gospel.  We have heard: he is in the least of his brothers; he, the King, the Judge of the world, he is the one who hungers, who thirsts, he is the stranger, the one who is sick, the prisoner… The one who cares for his brother or sister enters into the joy of the Lord; the one who does not do so, however, who by his omissions says, ‘What does it matter to me?’ remains excluded.

“Here lie many victims. Today, we remember them. There are tears, there is sadness. From this place we remember all the victims of every war.

“Today, too, the victims are many…  How is this possible? It is so because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms, which seem to be so important!

“And these plotters of terrorism, these schemers of conflicts, just like arms dealers, have engraved in their hearts, “What does it matter to me?”

“It is the task of the wise to recognize errors, to feel pain, to repent, to beg for pardon and to cry.

“With this ‘What does it matter to me?’ in their hearts, the merchants of war perhaps have made a great deal of money, but their corrupted hearts have lost the capacity to cry. That ‘What does it matter to me?’ prevents the tears. Cain did not cry. The shadow of Cain hangs over us today in this cemetery. It is seen here. It is seen from 1914 right up to our own time. It is seen even in the present.

“With the heart of a son, a brother, a father, I ask each of you, indeed for all of us, to have a conversion of heart: to move on from ‘What does it matter to me?,’ to tears: for each one of the fallen of this ‘senseless massacre,’ for all the victims of the mindless wars, in every age. Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep.”

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Important Analysis of Ukraine by American Prof. Mearsheimer

Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago is not a “nobody.” He is a respected, mainstream, though sometimes controversial, American scholar of US foreign policy.

He is best known, perhaps, for an article he wrote together with  Stephen M. Walt of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, entitled “The Israel Lobby” and published in the London Review of Books in March 2006. That article provoked howls of outrage but also cheers of thanks because it shed light on what had been a taboo issue in America: the considerable impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy.

Now, in the article below, just published in the September-October issue of the influential US foreign policy journal Foreign Affairs, Mearscheimer gives a startling, “politically incorrect” interpretation of what has been happening in Ukraine: he blames the conflict not on Russia’s President Putin, but on Western policy-makers. This is surprising.

Also surprising is his proposal to solve the crisis: “There is a solution to the crisis in Ukraine — although it would require the West to think about the country in a fundamentally new way. The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer between NATO and Russia, akin to Austria’s position during the Cold War.”

Because Foreign Affairs is such an influential US policy journal, it seemed useful to publish excerpts from Mearscheimer’s article here. Perhaps it reflects one strand of opinion in the US foreign policy establishment.—The Editor

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Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin (Excerpts)

By John J. Mearsheimer

Foreign Affairs, September-October 2014

According to the prevailing wisdom in the West, the Ukraine crisis can be blamed almost entirely on Russian aggression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, the argument goes, annexed Crimea out of a long-standing desire to resuscitate the Soviet empire, and he may eventually go after the rest of Ukraine, as well as other countries in eastern Europe. In this view, the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 merely provided a pretext for Putin’s decision to order Russian forces to seize part of Ukraine.

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis.

The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West.

At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine — beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 — were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion.

For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president — which he rightly labeled a “coup” — was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.

Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly (…)

THE WESTERN AFFRONT

As the Cold War came to a close, Soviet leaders preferred that U.S. forces remain in Europe and NATO stay intact, an arrangement they thought would keep a reunified Germany pacified. But they and their Russian successors did not want NATO to grow any larger and assumed that Western diplomats understood their concerns. The Clinton administration evidently thought otherwise, and in the mid-1990s, it began pushing for NATO to expand. (…)

The West’s final tool for peeling Kiev away from Moscow has been its efforts to spread Western values and promote democracy in Ukraine and other post-Soviet states, a plan that often entails funding pro-Western individuals and organizations. Victoria Nuland, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, estimated in December 2013 that the United States had invested more than $5 billion since 1991 to help Ukraine achieve “the future it deserves.” As part of that effort, the U.S. government has bankrolled the National Endowment for Democracy. The nonprofit foundation has funded more than 60 projects aimed at promoting civil society in Ukraine, and the NED’s president, Carl Gershman, has called that country “the biggest prize.” After Yanukovych won Ukraine’s presidential election in February 2010, the NED decided he was undermining its goals, and so it stepped up its efforts to support the opposition and strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.

When Russian leaders look at Western social engineering in Ukraine, they worry that their country might be next. And such fears are hardly groundless. In September 2013, Gershman wrote in The Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.” He added: “Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.” (…)

Although the full extent of U.S. involvement has not yet come to light, it is clear that Washington backed the coup. Nuland and Republican Senator John McCain participated in antigovernment demonstrations, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, proclaimed after Yanukovych’s toppling that it was “a day for the history books.” As a leaked telephone recording revealed, Nuland had advocated regime change and wanted the Ukrainian politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk to become prime minister in the new government, which he did. No wonder Russians of all persuasions think the West played a role in Yanukovych’s ouster.

For Putin, the time to act against Ukraine and the West had arrived. (…)

THE DIAGNOSIS

Putin’s actions should be easy to comprehend. A huge expanse of flat land that Napoleonic France, imperial Germany, and National Socialist Germany all crossed to strike at Russia itself, Ukraine serves as a buffer state of enormous strategic importance to Russia. No Russian leader would tolerate a military alliance that was Moscow’s mortal enemy until recently moving into Ukraine. Nor would any Russian leader stand idly by while the West helped install a government there that was determined to integrate Ukraine into the West.

Washington may not like Moscow’s position, but it should understand the logic behind it. This is Geopolitics 101: great powers are always sensitive to potential threats near their home territory. (…)

The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer. (…)

For some, Putin represents a modern-day Adolf Hitler, and striking any kind of deal with him would repeat the mistake of Munich. Thus, NATO must admit Georgia and Ukraine to contain Russia before it dominates its neighbors and threatens western Europe.

This argument falls apart on close inspection.

If Putin were committed to creating a greater Russia, signs of his intentions would almost certainly have arisen before February 22. But there is virtually no evidence that he was bent on taking Crimea, much less any other territory in Ukraine, before that date. Even Western leaders who supported NATO expansion were not doing so out of a fear that Russia was about to use military force. Putin’s actions in Crimea took them by complete surprise and appear to have been a spontaneous reaction to Yanukovych’s ouster. Right afterward, even Putin said he opposed Crimean secession, before quickly changing his mind.

Besides, even if it wanted to, Russia lacks the capability to easily conquer and annex eastern Ukraine, much less the entire country. Roughly 15 million people — one-third of Ukraine’s population — live between the Dnieper River, which bisects the country, and the Russian border. An overwhelming majority of those people want to remain part of Ukraine and would surely resist a Russian occupation. Furthermore, Russia’s mediocre army, which shows few signs of turning into a modern Wehrmacht, would have little chance of pacifying all of Ukraine. Moscow is also poorly positioned to pay for a costly occupation; its weak economy would suffer even more in the face of the resulting sanctions.

But even if Russia did boast a powerful military machine and an impressive economy, it would still probably prove unable to successfully occupy Ukraine. One need only consider the Soviet and U.S. experiences in Afghanistan, the U.S. experiences in Vietnam and Iraq, and the Russian experience in Chechnya to be reminded that military occupations usually end badly. Putin surely understands that trying to subdue Ukraine would be like swallowing a porcupine. His response to events there has been defensive, not offensive.

A WAY OUT

(…)

There is a solution to the crisis in Ukraine, however — although it would require the West to think about the country in a fundamentally new way. The United States and its allies should abandon their plan to westernize Ukraine and instead aim to make it a neutral buffer between NATO and Russia, akin to Austria’s position during the Cold War. Western leaders should acknowledge that Ukraine matters so much to Putin that they cannot support an anti-Russian regime there. This would not mean that a future Ukrainian government would have to be pro-Russian or anti-NATO. On the contrary, the goal should be a sovereign Ukraine that falls in neither the Russian nor the Western camp.

To achieve this end, the United States and its allies should publicly rule out NATO’s expansion into both Georgia and Ukraine. The West should also help fashion an economic rescue plan for Ukraine funded jointly by the EU, the International Monetary Fund, Russia, and the United States — a proposal that Moscow should welcome, given its interest in having a prosperous and stable Ukraine on its western flank. And the West should considerably limit its social-engineering efforts inside Ukraine. It is time to put an end to Western support for another Orange Revolution. Nevertheless, U.S. and European leaders should encourage Ukraine to respect minority rights, especially the language rights of its Russian speakers.

Some may argue that changing policy toward Ukraine at this late date would seriously damage U.S. credibility around the world. There would undoubtedly be certain costs, but the costs of continuing a misguided strategy would be much greater. Furthermore, other countries are likely to respect a state that learns from its mistakes and ultimately devises a policy that deals effectively with the problem at hand. That option is clearly open to the United States.

(…)

The United States needs Russia’s assistance to withdraw U.S. equipment from Afghanistan through Russian territory, reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, and stabilize the situation in Syria. In fact, Moscow has helped Washington on all three of these issues in the past; in the summer of 2013, it was Putin who pulled Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire by forging the deal under which Syria agreed to relinquish its chemical weapons, thereby avoiding the U.S. military strike that Obama had threatened. The United States will also someday need Russia’s help containing a rising China. Current U.S. policy, however, is only driving Moscow and Beijing closer together.

The United States and its European allies now face a choice on Ukraine. They can continue their current policy, which will exacerbate hostilities with Russia and devastate Ukraine in the process — a scenario in which everyone would come out a loser. Or they can switch gears and work to create a prosperous but neutral Ukraine, one that does not threaten Russia and allows the West to repair its relations with Moscow. With that approach, all sides would win.

Link: www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141769/john-j-mearsheimer/why-the-ukraine-crisis-is-the-wests-fault

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A Catholic View from Inside Ukraine

Meanwhile, inside Ukraine, representatives of the Catholic Church are lamenting the continuing bloodshed.

The leadership of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (united with Rome, but celebrating a Byzantine or “eastern” liturgy, like the Orthodox) released a statement this week containing a heartfelt plea for an end to the violence.

Some statements made here — that there have been large-scale Russian troop incursions into Ukraine, and that Malaysian Flight 27 was shot down by “the (Russian) aggressor” — remain in dispute (the Russians have denied such mass incursions, and have denied shooting down the airliner).

Here is the text of the appeal:

UKRAINE IS FLOWING IN BLOOD!

Appeal of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Appeal for a prayer for Ukraine to all Christians (Excerpts)

We, the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church from Ukraine and from countries of Ukrainian settlements in North and South America, Australia, and Europe, gathered at the annual Holy Synod in Lviv, conscious of the responsibility entrusted to us for our flock, raise our voice on behalf of the people of Ukraine and call out to the people of the world: “Ukraine is flowing with blood!”

This peaceful sovereign nation has been subjected to a direct military intervention by a northern neighbor. Hundreds of units of heavy weaponry and technology, thousands of armed mercenaries and soldiers of Russia’s standing army are crossing the borders of Ukraine, sowing death and destruction, in disregard for the terms of the ceasefire and recent diplomatic efforts (…).

The entire world has been able to witness how, over the last months, the aggressor commits crimes against humanity on the territory of Ukraine. The whole world was shocked with the criminal act of the downing of the Malaysian plane, in which 298 people from 10 different countries died. Thousands of people, especially women and children, have been recklessly killed; and it has not been possible to even bury them with dignity. Many of the wounded are forced to simply wait for death due to the inaccessibility of medical assistance.

(…)

In the face of such grave crimes we call out to the consciences of believers of all religions and faiths, we appeal to all people of good will, to heads of state, and members of the international community: “Stop the bloodshed in Ukraine!”

Today, silence or inaction, reluctance to recognize the gravity of the situation, which has arisen in our country, cannot only turn everyone into a mute or indifferent witness, but also into an accomplice of the sin of murder, which cries to heaven for justice as the Scripture says: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10).

How can we not recall the words of Saint John Paul II, who in the distant year of 1979, in the vicinity of the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, said: “War is caused not only by those who wage it directly but also by those who do not do everything in their power to avoid it.”

We especially call for responsible action from those whom the Lord has given authority, to take the necessary decisions at the political level in order to restore peace and security in Europe. And once again we call all believers and people of good will to urgent prayers for the end of aggression and the restoration of a lasting and comprehensive peace in Ukraine.

Convinced that God is with us in our sufferings and troubles, that He will hear our common pleas and prayers, and with the coordinated efforts of the international community, we will be able to stop the bloodshed, to defend human dignity, and restore life-giving peace.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)
Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych

His Grace Ihor (Vozniak)
Metropolitan of Lviv

His Grace Volodymyr (Vijtyshyn)
Metropolitan of Ivano-Frankivsk

His Grace Vasyl (Semeniuk)
Metropolitan of Ternopil

His Grace Ivan (Martyniak)
Metropolitan of Przsemysl and Warsaw

His Grace Lawrence (Huculak)
Metropolitan of Winnipeg

His Grace Stephen (Soroka)
Metropolitan of Philadelphia

His Grace Volodemer (Koubetch)
Metropolitan of Curitiba

His Excellency Borys (Gudziak)
Eparch of the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr the Great in Paris for the Ukrainians of the Byzantine rite (and another 32 Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops)

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A Russian Orthodox Report on “Strelkov” from the “Vineyard of the Saker” Website

One of the key figures of the Ukrainian crisis is Igor Girkin, more commonly known as Igor Strelkov, 44, a military leader. (“Strelkov” comes from the Russian word for “rifleman” or “shooter,” so his nickname would mean “Igor Rifleman”).
Born in Moscow in 1970, Strelkov is said to have served in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) from 1996 to March 2014 (the FSB is the successor organization to the old Soviet KGB).
He reached the rank of colonel, reportedly in the FSB’s anti-terrorism unit, then retired.
During his nearly 20-year career, he is said to have fought in Transnistria, in Bosnia as a volunteer on the Serbian side, and in Chechnya from 1999 to 2005.
He emerged this spring as the undisputed “leader” of the “rebel resistance” in eastern Ukraine. That resistance has been fighting against the Ukrainian army dispatched by Kiev to prevent a portion of eastern Ukraine, which is predominantly Russian-speaking (and which was a part of Russia in some prior centuries), from being “integrated” into “post-coup” Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government considers the rebels “terrorists,” and regards Strelkov as the chief terrorist, to be arrested and executed.
Strelkov is a key reason the eastern Ukrainian resistance was not crushed already in May or June. Without him, the conflict that is continuing today might have ended in the spring.
Strikingly, some opinion polls have shown that, in Russia, Strelkov is more popular than Putin himself(!).
So, though the Western press tends to depict Putin as a dictator ruling with an iron hand and taking decisive actions (like absorbing Crimea), it seems that the Russian public may think (if these polls are to be trusted) that Putin was not  decisive enough in protecting the ethnically Russian citizens of eastern Ukraine, and that it appreciates Strelkov’s success in leading a numerically inferior group of “rebels” through the summer campaign to the current ceasefire.
More important, however, is the worldview Strelkov expresses. That view sees Russia as threatened by external and internal enemies who wish to defeat and break up the country. It is a glimpse into the mindset of a key group of Russian military men, and in this sense, worth taking into account.
Rather than second-hand comments on Strelkov’s views, however, it seems useful to let him speak for himself. So below is a link to a press briefing he gave on September 11 (two days ago), in which he sets forth at some length this worldview.
So below please find:
(1) Selections from a commentary on the briefing by an increasingly influential pro-Russian blogger, known as “The Saker” (a Saker is a large falcon).
(2) A link to the Strelkov press briefing on Youtube. (It is worth watching if you have the 10 minutes time to do so.)
(3) The English transcription of Strelkov’s remarks in the video.
Here is #1, the internet article interpreting Strelkov’s remarks (link then text):

Strelkov: From Swimming with Piranhas to Swimming with Great White Sharks (Excerpts)

By “The Saker” from “The Vineyard of the Saker” Website

[Editor’s Note: Who is “the Saker”? No one knows — he is anonymous. But his website analyses of the Ukrainian situation, fro a Russian perspective, have become well-known in the blogosphere. He has written that he is “a Russian Orthodox Christian, of a very traditionalist kind” and “an analyst.” He has said that he lives in Florida and is of Russian descent from a family of anti-Soviet dissidents who left Russia. One reader writes: “At one point, he was a military analyst during the Kosovo war, and very pro-war, pro-West, until some of his experiences during that war changed him and he left that profession in disgust. He was anti-Soviet but has gradually become pro-Putin. He gets a bit effusive about his Orthodox Christianity sometimes (he evidently is studying for a theology masters degree or something along those lines), and despite his realism and pessimism in some respects is surprisingly idealistic (about political change, etc) in others.” He believes the US, not Russia, is primarily to blame for the present crisis in Ukraine.]

September 12, 2014

INTRODUCTION:

Yesterday’s press conference by Strelkov is, I believe, a historical moment because it marks the move of Strelkov from the Novorussian military struggle into the much larger, and far more dangerous struggle, the struggle for the political future of Russia. This in itself is no necessarily unexpected, but the way he did it was a surprise, at least for me.

ZOOMING OUT TO THE GREATER CONTEXT

Before going further into my analysis of Strelkov’s statements, I think that it is crucial to keep the bigger context in mind.  His words are not just the words of a man speaking for the Novorussian Armed Forces (NAF) or a Novorussia hero, this time Strelkov is diving straight into the big and dangerous world of Russian “deep state” politics (though the term “deep state” does not really apply to Russia). So I will now return to a topic I have been covering for many years now.

Long-time readers will probably recall that I often spoke of a behind-the-scenes struggle between what I called the “Eurasian Sovereignists” (ES) and the “Atlantic Integrationists” (AI)…

The “5th column” Strelkov refers to are the very same people I call Atlantic Integrationists (…)

Russian and Novorussian interests are not only one and the same, they are in direct opposition on a crucial matter: Novorussia wants full independence from Kiev (whoever is in power) while Russia wants regime change in Kiev and maintain a unitary Ukraine. Second, while the fact that Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs are trying to hammer out a deal to stop the war and maintain a unitary Ukraine this might or might not be bad for Russia (...)

Let’s remember where Strelkov came from. While little is certain about him, he appears to be an ex-FSB Colonel (in anti-terrorism), who fought as a volunteer in Yugoslavia, Transnistria and Chechnya. He is also a historian, a columnist and he likes to participate in military recreations. He is a monarchist, an Orthodox Christian and and admirer of the White movement during the civil war. In Novorussia, however, he entered a totally different level jumping in one rapid, gigantic most successful leap from anti-terrorism Colonel to what could be roughly described as an divisional or even army corp commander who turned a volunteer militia force into a more or less regular army.

That is a huge feat: From almost nobody he became the #1 hero and commander of the entire Novorussian resistance. And yet, Novorussia is tiny compared to Russia and big Novorussian politics are tiny compared to big Russian politics.  And yet, in yesterday’s press conference Strelkov made yet another huge leap — he jumped from Novorussian military issues straight into the single most complex and dangerous struggle I can imagine: the secret behind-the-scenes struggle for power in the Kremlin.

It is far too early to tell if this move will be as successful as his previous one, Strelkov went from swimming with Piranhas to swimming with Great White sharks, but I am cautiously optimistic. Here is why:

Strelkov’s potential in the Russian struggle for power

Putin is acutely aware of the fact that his official power base (the state apparatus) is chock-full of 5th columnists. The best proof for that is that he did two very interesting things:

a) He created the All-Russia People’s Front (ARPF) which unlike the official party in power, United Russia, was not created with a strong Medvedev/Atlantic Integrationist component, but was created by Putin alone. Officially, the ARPF is not a party but a “political-social movement” which is supposed to bring together a large segment of generally pro-Kremlin organizations and individuals and to provide a way for the common people to convey their concerns to Putin.  In reality, however, it is also a “political party in waiting”, very large, very well connected and which Putin can “turn on” at any time, especially if challenged from inside United Russia.

b) Putin’s security services have contributed to the creation of a plethora of “near-Kremlin entities” (околокремлевские круги) which officially have no subordination to the Kremlin, but which can get a lot of things done without the government involved or, even, informed. These near-Kremlin entities include some news outlets, some commercial entities, a number of clubs, some youth organizations, news agencies, etc. There is no formal list, no admission procedure, no one leader. But somehow, there are always people with contacts to the security agencies near or in these circles.

This is where Strelkov fits in.

Strelkov will first and foremost represent the interests of the people of Novorussia, but since he correctly identified the Russian 5th column as the main threat to Novorussia, he also is objectively becoming an ally of Putin in a common struggle against the Atlantic Integrationists.

Now, let us be clear here. Strelkov and Putin will not agree on a number of issues. Strelkov clearly indicated that when he said: “No matter how critical I am about certain internal or external policy decision of president in conditions of war started against us, I consider it necessary to support him as the only legitimate superior commander the main guarantor of freedom and independence of the state.”

The fact that he concluded that  Putin must be supported does not change the fact that he is clearly very critical of some Putin decisions…

But where Strelkov and Putin are in full agreement is the need to crush the 5th column. Putin was the first to speak about a “Russian 5th column” (when he addressed the Federal Assembly) and Strelkov picked up his expression. This 5th column of Atlantic Integrationists are a mortal danger to both Putin and Strelkov and, as Strelkov correctly points out, Putin is a mortal danger to them.  When Strelkov speaks of a “Putin revolution” and of a “Russian Spring” he is referring to the very same struggle which I in the past described as a struggle of Atlantic Integrationists against the Eurasian Sovereignists. The labels are different, but the process described is the same one.

In this context Strelkov could become a very powerful ally for Putin. By speaking up for Novorussia Strelkov is also very clearly promoting the same ideology, the same worldview, as Putin. In fact, I recommend to you all to take the time and listen to (or read):

Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly (March 18th)

The press conference by by Alexander V. Zakharchenko (August 26th)

Yesterday’s Strelkov’s press conference (September 11th)

Putin, Zakharchenko and Strelkov all three fully realize that what is going on is nothing short of a war on Russia, but waged, at least for the time being, by non-military means.

All three know that the biggest threat to Russia is an internal one. But all three can claim that the other two do not speak for him. After all, one is the President of Russia, the second one is a top representative of Donetsk and Novorussia, while the third one is, technically speaking, a retired officer and a private individual. Yet all three together are politically encircling the Russian 5th column into a “political cauldron” in which they either support Putin or look like traitors. A potentially very effective technique.

The second role of Strelkov is to denounce and discredit the Putin-bashers who are constantly declaring that “Putin is backstabbing or betraying Novorussia.”

I predict that in a near future the very same circles who until now had taken the position that Putin is a villain and Strelkov a hero will declare that Strelkov is a villain and a traitor too.

Some of these guys are manipulated by western PSYOP specialists, others are simply paid by them, but their goal is to convince the world that Putin is the bad guy and that a “real” patriot needs to replace him. In other words, that Russia can only be saved by making the AngloZionist dream of a regime change in Russia come true. But then, these are the very same people who wanted to save Novorussia by making the other AngloZionist dream, of having an overt Russian military intervention in the Donbass, also come true. My advice in regards to such “sorrow-patriots” as they are called in Russia is simple: beware of those who want to save Russia by making an AngloZionist dream come true.  If you keep that in mind, the enemies of Russia will be fairly easy to spot 🙂

CONCLUSION

I was amazed and tremendously encouraged by Strelkov’s very sophisticated presentation of his position yesterday. Though this might be too early to conclude, and I might be uncharacteristically optimistic about this, I believe that Strelkov has the potential to become the Novorussian leader I was hoping would emerge. If that is so, then I will gladly plead guilty of having underestimated him. Still, I will also admit that I am very concerned for him.

The fact that apparently the Russia media has given his press conference little or no attention combined with the rumor that he had killed himself is a powerful message sent to him by the 5th column who is showing how powerful it still is.

In particular, I consider the rumor about his suicide as a very serious death threat. Even worse, and maybe these are my paranoid inclination speaking here, there are a lot of people on both sides who might be interested in seeing Strelkov killed. The Atlantic Integrationists and their 5th column would want him dead because he is so openly denouncing them, but make no mistake, there could also be Eurasian Sovereignists who might want him dead to have him as a martyr and symbol of Russian heroism. Is that cynical and ugly? Yes. And so is the struggle for power in Russia. Most people in the West have no idea how ruthless this struggle can be. Unlike Putin, Strelkov is not protected by an extremely powerful state security apparatus and, considering that he can be hit from either side. He better be very *very* careful.

Just for accepting to play the role he is playing now (and he, being an ex-FSB colonel, fully knows the risks)  I consider him a hero and he has my sincere admiration. “They” will try to use him, threaten him, manipulate him, discredit him and use every dirty trick possible to either control him or crush him. Truly, his fate is already a tragic one and his courage remarkable. Fighting the Ukie National Socialists, the Chechen Wahabis or the Croat Ustashe was a relaxing vacation compared to the kind of “warfare” going on in the struggle for the control of Russia.

Since Russia is the de facto leader of both the BRICS and the SCO the struggle for Russia is really a struggle for the future of the planet. I believe that Strelkov understands that.

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Video with English Subtitles of Strelkov Press Conference

Here is the video of a September 11 press briefing by Igor Strelkov, a retired Russian army colonel, who was the leader of the rebels in eastern Ukraine until one month ago.

Strelkov reads a statement explaining why he abruptly resigned last month as leader of the rebels in eastern Ukraine. He also sets forth his worldview, and future plans. In brief, he is now planning to focus on Russian politicial conflicts, especially, to defend President Putin from alleged “traitors” in Russia whom he says are planning to overthrow Putin and deliver the country to “liberals” who will weaken and divide Russia in the interest of the West.

Here is the English transcription (given as it appears on the internet, without any corrections despite a few minor textual errors; it is Strelkov speaking):

Igor Strelkov briefing, 11.09.14

“As Anatoly has already stated I will start with reciting (reading) certain text… I decided not to learn it by heart, excuse me. But I completely assure you that all these are indeed my thoughts, from the first till the last word. So I start.

“One month has passed since the moment I had to leave the post of Minister of Defence of Donetsk People’s Republic and commander of the militia. I can’t say that it was an easy decision for me. And difficult were circumstances in which I had to make it.

“Donetsk and whole group of DPR armed forces were in state of operative encirclement. And only with enormous difficulties managed to repel constant enemy attacks. And only few persons among the Republic leaders knew that the situation was about to change soon and enemy will suffer serious, brutal defeat in the very next days. I was among the small circle of these people.

“But I couldn’t give my subordinates even a tiniest hint that we will start offensive operation and liberate positions captured by enemy soon. Even more difficult for me was realizing that commanding the liberation of towns and settlements of Donbass abandoned (according to my direct orders, among other reasons) will be done not by me.

“It was morally difficult to part with my comrades during the last hour before the dawn when darkness is the densest so to speak. When failure of our cause appeared inevitable for many. I won’t focus on the circumstances that forced me to resign.

“I can only tell that decision I’ve made has justified itself allowing to unite the DPR militia command before the offensive, avoid numerous conflicts, that were as leprosy corroding the Republic from inside, and also to provide reliable supplies of everything necessary for our units and groups.

“During the last few weeks situation on the Novorossian frontlines has changed dramatically. Punitive forces have been pushed back on the majority of directions and were forced to switched to defense. Conditions for complete liberation of territories of Donbass from the punitive troops and squads controlled by Kiev government have been formed.

“Under the DPR strikes, snarling enemy began rolling back on West, his troops and leaders were devoured by panic. But what has happened next? Right before our eyes forces who had already almost killed “Russian spring” are kept attempting to eliminate People’s Liberation movement of Russian people of Novorossiya ever since then, have interfered once again.

“There is no villainy these forces that already have shown themselves the most malicious way many times in modern history of our Motherland wouldn’t commit. Exactly them, controlled from abroad, played the crucial role in destruction of USSR in 1991.

“And after that have openly tortured people [ed. in fact, he says ‘peoples,’ meaning all nations], starting bacchanalia of pillage of enormous soviet economical and cultural heritage.

“They’ve conducted liberal experiments terrible by their consequences over the remnants of our Motherland. Which they used to (and keep doing it now) call with contemptuous epithet ‘this.’ Bacchanalia of destruction was followed by bloody wars, wild criminality, amorality rampage, moral decay, propaganda of all thinkable disgusting vices, elimination of economic independence and foreign policy sovereignty. Even after failing attempts to destroy Russia completely in the beginning of 2000’s, these forces have never disappeared , covertly continuing their destructive activities, hoping that their hour will come again and they will finish their job.

“However, when the dawn of ‘Russian Spring’ began glimmering on the horizon, when our country began rising from its knees, not in words, but in reality, attempting to revise for themselves the results of Gorbachev’s capitulation and return historically owned territories, achieve real independence, Fifth column has instantly mobilized all its forces available.

“Returning of Crimea has not just caused shock for them, and uprising of Novorossiya caused real panic, but also forced to reveal their true colours and their numerous agents alerted and thrown into a battle.

“Agents who have successfully disguised as patriots and statesmen reaching the highest echelons of power and even in surroundings of President of Russia under this disguise. After actually moving out against people’s and country’s interests, they however keep openly stating that they are President’s friends and calling their obviously subversive and harmful actions the only right way to defend the Russian statehood.

“You would ask ‘Where does such impudence and confidence in their own invincibility come?’ Explanation is extremely simple: all that members of the fifth column value: money and other material resources as well as families and offsprings have been evacuated abroad long time ago, and its safety completely depends on will of their Western masters.

“During 5 months of struggle Russian people of Novorossiya have tasted fruits of this kind of subversive actions fully. When Russian military aid was vitally necessary for practically almost weaponless militia and when it could lead to practically bloodless liberation of all Russian-speaking regions, agents of influence howled in unison about impossibility and inadmissibility of direct military aid to the rebels. Chasteners burnt people alive in Odessa, shelled with heavy artillery in Slavyansk, and rapidly formed combat-efficient army, and their accomplices who infiltrated the leadership of Russian foreign policy have not just sabotaged any military or political help to rebels, but also in full cooperation with Poroshenko, Akhmetov, Turchinov, Taruta and other figures of Ukrainian oligarchy splitted ranks and command of militia; not allowing to create united command center and with joined effort attempted to lead President of Russia to their traps.

“Only persistence and dedication of militia didn’t allow punishers to suppress the rebellion before the moment real Russian aid reached its destination.

“Militia switched to the offensive. But here traitors also have manifested themselves fully again. They have immediately lend a helping hand to the punitive army which was on the brink of collapse organizing the ceasefire trying to surrender all results of militia offensive during the negotiations, abandoning them at the mercy of Kiev junta. It was impossible to come up with more discreditable conditions that those discussed in Minsk negotiations.

“Meanwhile, Kiev hastily replenishes, rearms and trains its army preparing to continue genocide of Russian people of Novorossiya. As a result we have completely the same situation that we had in the very beginning of our movement, only in way more difficult initial positions. If during April-May Kiev hadn’t got neither efficient army nor support of the population, now punishers are mobilized and armed to the teeth, and Ukrainian people suffering the massive affection of propaganda which makes extensive use of neuro linguistic programming methods, is significantly zombified, not able to distinguish truth from falsehood, black from white.

“During the same few months several packages of sanctions had been imposed against Russia. And Western high military ranks and diplomats, once again started talking about now a bit forgotten presentations concerning South Ossetia and Abkhazia; direct threats heard from US controlled islamist terrorists. They are preparing for long and serious war with Russia. West and its 5th column here, practically don’t even hide their plans to overthrow President Putin with following complete dismantling of Russia; and their influence agents with all their strength attempt to persuade that conciliation is not just acceptable, but is the only possible way.

“The fact that enemies of Russia won’t tolerate anything but the complete capitulation is carefully concealed from the public and, I don’t exclude this possibility, from President himself. This way all relatively favorable possibilities Russia had in spring, were left unrealized. And on the contrary we are facing the constantly growing military threat. Role of 5th column in this result is undeniable. Why have our liberals opposed President’s course so irreconcilably and maybe somewhat suicidally? What made them so brave to openly challenge him and his policy?

“In my opinion two main factors take place here. First of them is that 5th column hasn’t got other option but to rebel for now covert, but its insurgency. Revolution from the top, started by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin doesn’t leave any chances for their political survival. and their foreign masters don’t let them just flee country to their “fairly earned” manors abroad.

“The second factor is even more obvious: occupying serious positions in government and having significant financial and material resources traitors seriously expect to seize the power themselves and on this new stage enthusiastically continue the process of pillage of remnants of once great country and utilization of nations inhabiting it. But to implement this plan they have yet to conduct many preparations. First of all to deprive President Putin of that great support of people he has fairly gained in the result of this external and internal policy cations of last years.

“And what can be more profitable for this cause than betraying Russians of Novorossiya, with following laying all responsibility for it personally on President? As figures of 5th column, as hyenas, diligently hide in his shadow, avoiding any publicity.

“Plan outlined by enemy is now completely clear for us: maximal prolongation of war with following maximal amount of victims of Russian people on the both sides of border possible, that’s their task; don’t leave militias even a chance to win; create growing bleeding ulcer at the Russian borders; to cure which Russia will be forced to pour its resources drop after drop where in result of “step forward, then two steps backwards” policy any decisive success won’t be reached.

“At the same time burden of hundreds of thousands, and then millions of refugees will be placed upon Russian Federation, and then Western sanctions will eventually undermine socio-economic health of state especially when oligarchy will try to compensate the losses of it at the expense of the general population. As a result, traitor hope to lead the situation to the most disgraceful and humiliating peace treaty betraying Russian population of Ukraine to cause additional wave of protests inside Russia.

“And after that, according to the techniques well-tested back in the beginning of 20th century ‘Moscow Maidan’ where in alleged righteous outrage ‘righties’ and ‘lefties,’ ‘patriots’ and ‘liberals,’ will join. Proven scenario of 1905-1917 years by the ‘humiliating defeat — economic crisis — government discreditation — people’s unrests — palace coup’ scheme, in actions once again. In this respect defense of Novorossya and support of its people are vitally important to save Russia, and disruption of 5th column plans.

“If we will manage to achieve victory there, we will manage to save Russia, if we fail — we will lose the remnants of our Motherland.

“No compromises are possible now, and the ones who will try to state opposite, willingly or not, will be working according to enemy’s plans. It’s either-or.

“Either Russia fully restores real sovereignty or it will be destroyed by coalition of external and internal oligarchy clans.

“Estimating my role in struggle against the plans of subversive forces, I’d like to say that I made my choice. Main front line of this struggle is now here. I hope that exactly in Russia I will be the most useful.

“At the same time I emphasize once again: the ones who hope or used to hope to use me personally, or my name in destructive purposes will have to be seriously disappointed.

“No matter how critical I am about certain internal or external policy decision of President in conditions of war started against us, I consider it necessary to support him as the only legitimate superior commander, the main guarantor of freedom and independence of the state.

“In my opinion, to really save Novorossiya suffering National Socialist genocide against itself, its ‘supporters’ who have lead it to the brink of the military failure have to be exposed and deprived of their positions in the 1st place.

“And the ones who started creating the image of ‘colonel Strelkov, leader of people’s protest,’ I inform that they can rest not even hoping to buy me with fake praises. The meaning of officer’s duty is to serve his country and his people. Trade even often unrewarding but faithful service for fake glory and fleeting popularity in favour of my country’s enemies is the ultimate dishonor for me.

“Let them finally realize, that there are still people (I am not talking about myself only) who value own duty and honesty more than personal profits and vainglory.

“As events in Novorossya have shown, there are still lots of such people. We won’t allow to tear apart and loot Russia once again, as they destroyed Russian Empire in 1917 and USSR in 1991. That’s all.”

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