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Stress for the soul. Climate change triggers stress and despair

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/05/20/18849844.php

Stress for the soul: what helps against the fear of the climate crisis?
Psychology Climate change triggers stress and despair in many people. Why is this so? And what would a therapy look like?
by Matthias Becker
[This article published on 5/19/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/psychologie-die-klimakrise-bewirkt-bei-vielen-menschen-angst-und-trauer.]
Looking away is not healthy, nor is looking: Climate change triggers hopelessness and sadness

This much is clear: more and more patients are coming to psycho-therapeutic practices because they are suffering from the ecological crisis and are afraid of climate change. Typical diagnoses are “depression” and “obsessive-compulsive disorder,” and the impairments range from sleep disorders to substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. Anxiety plays a key role, but despair, hopelessness and sadness are also involved. Younger people and women seem to be more affected; in any case, they seek professional help more often.

Psychiatrists and psychologists have long dismissed the problem or interpreted it as a mere symptom, “cover stories” of an underlying neurosis. More recent publications distance themselves from this. “We want to distance ourselves from the pathologization of the phenomenon,” write Bernd Rieken and Paolo Raile, for example, two psychotherapists and lecturers at Sigmund Freud Private University in Vienna. “We consider Eco Anxiety as fear of the real existential threat of global warming and its consequences.” Rieken and Raile distinguish between negative feelings and behaviors that are appropriate to the climate crisis, they say, and pathological emotions and behavioral strategies that require treatment.

Drawing this line, however, is more difficult than it might seem at first glance. An emotional reaction to the climate crisis is natural and inevitable. But which way of dealing with it is “the right one” – or even “a healthy one” – is difficult to answer.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines Eco Anxiety as “chronic fear of the destruction of the natural environment.” The influential Australian environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht speaks of a “generalized perception that the ecological foundations of our existence are collapsing.” Representative surveys show that this fear is spreading. In the fall of 2021, 1,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 were surveyed in each of ten countries. Of them, a total of 27 percent described themselves as “extremely concerned” about climate change, and 32 percent as “very concerned.” This group was particularly large in the Philippines (84 percent), India (68 percent) and Brazil (67 percent).

Desperation takes very different forms. For example, there’s a California high school student, 16. When fierce wildfires hit the state in late summer 2021, her school is closed for several days. The student becomes involved in a conservation organization and changes her diet to minimize greenhouse gases. “My behavior became obsessive, ultimately I developed an eating disorder.”

There’s a French mother, 29 years old. She is very worried about her son’s future: “Will he have enough to eat?” She wants another child, but because of the climate crisis, she thinks it’s irresponsible.

There’s David Buckel, a lawyer in New York, passionate about the environment. He burned himself to death in the spring of 2018, at age 60. “Our planet is being destroyed by pollution,” he wrote in a suicide note. “Laying down a life will hopefully raise some awareness that more countermeasures are needed.” And finally, there’s a Swedish girl with sleep and eating problems. Doctors diagnose Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The girl stands in front of Stockholm’s parliament. She carries a sign that reads, “School Strike for Climate.”

Displacement, like politics

The link between ecological and psychological crisis, however, is rarely so concrete and obvious. For most people, fear manifests itself primarily as defensiveness. “I’d rather not deal with that, it’s too much for me,” is often said.

In psychoanalytic literature, denial is distinguished from this “situational dosage”. Its manifestations range from crude denial to relativization. In the latter case, the fact of the ecological crisis is formally accepted, “acknowledged as truth.” However, this knowledge is not related to one’s own person, above all it is not experienced emotionally: “It will probably come, but elsewhere and for others …” This split becomes visible, for example, when the future of one’s own children is imagined in a world heated by two or three degrees, without consequences of global warming appearing at all.

This so to speak soft, more yielding form of denial corresponds to the state-political processing, which, after all, also combines formal acknowledgement with practical ignorance. It is by far the most frequent reaction. For obvious reasons, however, research does not focus on this majority. Anyone who states in a survey or before a psychological test that they themselves have no problems with climate change is apparently not affected by Eco Anxiety.

Psychology understands fear as an arousal that primarily causes displeasure. Fear is never rational, but sometimes it is appropriate and serves as an alarm. Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, according to the common definition, are directed at non-existent dangers or are unreasonably strong. They are considered to be in need of treatment if they prevent the affected person from coping with everyday family and professional life.

Psychologist Albert Bandura and sociologist Aaron Antonovsky showed as early as the 1970s that our psychological and mental health is essentially based on the assumption that we can survive dangers and upcoming stresses: “Bad things will happen, but I can handle them!” Bandura speaks of “self-efficacy expectancy” in this context. If this is lacking, persistent fear inevitably makes people ill. In relation to climate change, we are thus faced with an almost impossible task. A general reliance on one’s own strength is of little help in a crisis that affects all of humanity and that will take on unforeseeable forms. The scale of this danger makes us feel powerless.

Not only that, almost every everyday action results in the release of greenhouse gases that drive global warming. The infrastructure on which our way of life is based is maintained with fossil fuel energy. Even the road we take for a spin on our bikes and the Internet we use to check the latest scare stories about heat waves in the Arctic. No one can claim not to contribute to global warming.

“Eco-anxiety” is therefore often associated with “eco-guilt.” In the international survey mentioned earlier, 51 percent of young people said they felt guilt and shame – even though they, of all people, have contributed almost nothing to climate change!

In marketing and political rhetoric, climate change and ecological destruction are often explained as a matter of individual responsibility that consumers and voters should take for the planet. The flip side of responsibility is blame. This fosters neurotic attitudes on both sides of the climate debate. For guilt is also felt by those who deflect and trivialize the problem. “Increasing exploitation of our resources while denying the consequences reinforces the unconscious sense of guilt as well as the fear of retribution, which must be denied all the more rigidly, so that the unconscious fear becomes ever greater,” writes psychoanalyst Delaram Habibi-Kohlen.

Denial is not an individual failing, but an adapted, desired behavior. The strained silence among family and friends about climate change is based on the fact that other behaviors are tabooed and stigmatized. People with excessive climate anxiety therefore suffer in particular from their isolation. While others pretend that nothing is going on, they take on more responsibility than they can bear.

Hope would help

Psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and psychiatrists agree on one point: In order to cope with fear and despair, “realistic options for action” are needed. But how can we experience ourselves as effective – change shopping behavior, forgo air travel? Vote for less polluting parties? Participate in protest rallies?

From a therapeutic perspective, there’s little to be said against it. Such behavioral changes can be helpful if they relieve feelings of guilt. Isolation can be overcome through conversations and actions with like-minded people. But as long as there is no collective recognition of the situation and corresponding countermeasures, these are “simulations of self-efficacy” (as the activists Gregor Hagedorn and Felix Peter put it). They will not stop global warming. Eco Anxiety arises from the barely bridgeable gap between one’s own experience and society’s response.

Psychological treatments cannot resolve this dilemma, at most they can make us aware of it. They must leave room for despair and parting. Often, therapists and the treated will only be able to share their pain. “Hope is an essential factor in successfully confronting fears of climate change,” emphasize the two psychotherapists Rieken and Raile. But hope cannot be forced or trained.

Matthias Becker works as a freelance print and radio journalist in Berlin

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Great Reboot and Investing in death

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/05/16/18849745.php

The great reboot/ reset/ new start
Let’s not leave the change to the elites, who made it necessary in the first place by their irresponsible actions.
By Gustav Viktor ?migielski
[This article published on May 14, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/der-grosse-neustart-3.]

Every person with half a conscious mind has heard something about the “Great Reset,” the ruling class’s plan to create an even more efficient and, for the planet, more pleasant form of human existence – or so the PR department of the World Economic Forum (WEF) would put it. There is nothing wrong with such a noble goal, and the author believes that the elite is indeed concerned about the state of the planet. However, he doubts that the latter will ever admit to itself that, to a large extent, its own actions have produced this condition. Although it had the power to steer humanity’s destiny in the right direction, it did not, and it would be naive to think it will this time. Change must come from within society.

“You will own nothing and you will be happy.”

In the WEF’s promotional video with eight predictions/predictions for 2030, this “prophecy” is at the top of the list.

I consider ownership an illusion and have no problem with this statement, but in this video, right in the second sentence, a claim is made that reveals, at least in part, the type of society that is envisioned: Everything I want I will have to rent. Rent? From whom? Who will own this something I am to rent?

If we look at the history of mankind, we will very rarely read or hear of cases where powerful and materially wealthy people voluntarily donated their possessions to the common good. And so the suspicion suggests itself that this form of advertising is very unlikely to be seen in Monaco, and it is very unlikely to be directed at the owners of hundred-and-more-meter yachts there.

It is rather addressed to the part of the population that still owns something, is caught in the capitalist hamster wheel and constantly lives with the fear of still losing the little it owns.

To shed some light on the darkness, we only have to take a closer look at the propagated structures. Is there supposed to be a hierarchy? How many levels does this hierarchy have? How is it organized? Strictly hierarchically organized societies will always produce exactly the same results as before. In both capitalist and socialist societies, hierarchies of power have always emerged, which also harbored the seeds of their own demise.

The WEF continues to propagate a highly hierarchized society in which the most powerful actors decide how society should develop – far removed from democratic processes. The intention is to cement what is already taking place anyway.

The class of owners wants to expand its influence through the corporations it owns and make it quasi-legal. To this end, they are inventing new confusing terms such as “multistakeholder governance,” which sound nice, but are intended to disguise their influence. The consensus that is supposed to emerge through democratic processes is thus undermined. Instead of “the powerful” having a voice in the election, like any other person within a population, they elevate themselves directly to the eye level of entire states and exert direct influence on the development processes of a society.

They have long had politics in their pockets, but the political circus and the manipulation of public opinion are highly costly. One would like to get rid of a large part of it. The indoctrination as well as conditioning of people prevailing at the moment is so far advanced that it must be maintained only with small means.

A large part of the population is constantly exposed to the arbitrariness of other people and finds no way to defend itself against it. He is driven to work in order to subsequently pay an excessive cost of living and to maintain a social system that is not well-disposed towards him. It seems that man can only improve his situation by participating. The pyramidal system behind it is simply explained: the higher you climb, the fewer people are above you, who rule you and exercise arbitrariness.

Money Rain / Kings of the Modern Era

It doesn’t take a great deal of economic or sociological knowledge to understand that co-ownership of productive goods would be more beneficial to the majority rather than simply receiving a salary. If they were co-owners, it would hardly occur to them to distribute profits in the form of dividends to people outside the company and not participating in the production process. The following example will illustrate this:

Since 2011, i.e., directly after the conclusion of Agenda 2010, the annual dividends of BMW shares have been at a stable high level, with a peak in 2018. Almost 50 percent of the shares belong to the Quandt family, which has brought them large sums of money in recent years; in 2017, it was about one billion euros. But what does that mean? Money is a potential, a claim, and one that someone makes on the producing company. One billion euros would be an entitlement to 113,122,171 hours of work equal to the 2017 minimum wage, or an entitlement of still 50 million hours of work at the average wage from the same year. With this average wage, a person would have to work approximately 25,000 years for this sum. That is grotesque.

Instead of generating a billion euros in profit, the company could create around 20,000 jobs with an annual salary of 50,000 euros – by rule of thumb. On such a salary, a family of four in Germany could participate extensively in social life – that would be around 80,000 people. Eighty thousand people, for example, who would no longer be dependent on state transfer payments. The work to be done in the company could be distributed among more people, a 20-hour week would be within reach at BMW, and a form of work would be possible from which one would no longer need a vacation.

However, our society decides to transfer such high values to individual persons and in order to justify this madness somehow, they unabashedly claim that they are reinvesting the money and thus preserving jobs and creating new ones. Translated, this means: “For the money you have earned, you should go to work”.

Each one of us is a small investor, each one of us has the potential to create jobs with a good idea or at least to give himself a meaningful and socially enriching occupation. Everyone spends money and creates demand from which new jobs can be created. We don’t need to fool ourselves and we don’t need to romanticize the world of work. There is work that has to be done, even though it is unpleasant and consists of repetitive activities. But it is precisely this that we could make much more pleasant if we stopped imposing the profit constraint on ourselves, as well as trying to give all values a price expressed in monetary units.

How else could we live?

In a society that chooses to distribute created value more broadly, we would likely see production shift from large and luxurious goods to more smaller and less luxurious ones. To stay in the car industry: Mercedes Benz would produce and sell fewer S-Classes and more C-Classes instead. A wise society, on the other hand, would realize that it is not worth the effort to produce so many cars to fill up the cities and let them slowly rot there. At least in larger cities, this is obviously the reality.

Such a company would have organized urban transportation in such a way that the private car would become superfluous. This would save it work, because the effort is less to organize a mass-suitable as well as pleasant local traffic, instead of building millions of cars, which clog the cities and are qualitatively so badly manufactured that they are subject to endless maintenance intervals within their useful life. In doing so, we are describing only one area of human need, that of mobility. But the concept runs through all areas of society. We see the same problem in a different guise in the energy, food, real estate as well as healthcare industries.

In each of these industries, the greed for more, expressed through the profit as well as growth compulsion, shapes the production as well as distribution processes of our society considerably more than logic, integrity and symbiosis.

The age of robotics has begun, which allows us to become even more productive and thus reduce working hours or produce even more – at least in theory. In practice, we face a problem that has existed not only since the beginning of industrialization and has been described by many other economists besides Karl Marx. It says, in simple terms, that man somehow “must” pay for the goods that the machines build and take from him the labor for which he was previously paid. If these productive goods were common property, the only effort would be to build and maintain them, and people could thus enjoy the fruits of their labor much more directly.

But they do not belong to them and most of the time they do not even belong to those who built them with their own hands and ideas, but they belong to a small minority who can call them their property with the help of the ruling laws, and only make them available for consideration. And the majority sees no other way than to submit to it.

Understanding the Great Reset as an opportunity

The Great Reset is new wine in old bottles, and it is not inevitable. But we must ask ourselves what we want to stand for, what we want to “fight” for. Resist in order to preserve this system that is on the verge of disintegration? Surely no one can be serious about that. The changes are already taking place and it would not be wise to fight against them, but instead, as in certain martial arts, to use the momentum of the “opponent” to steer him in another direction. In this, our technological progress could prove to be an advantage.

The rapid pace of networking over the past two decades harbors an unpredictable and, above all, uncontrollable potential. All it takes is a small spark, a new idea, and our social order will topple. A first model – a precursor – of such an idea, is already there, namely the “Democracy-App”! There, people vote on the same resolutions as the members of the Bundestag, and already now one sees considerable discrepancies in voting behavior. As soon as several million citizens participate in voting, the question will have to be asked as to which voting results are truly representative. 736 votes from parliament or several million votes from the people? The answer is obvious.

Furthermore, sooner or later the question will arise as to what we are voting on in the first place. With the app, at the moment we only vote on questions that have been formulated and set beforehand – which is very constricting. It gets interesting when we start to rethink and reshape the framework within which we operate. That is, when we begin to formulate for ourselves the questions that will be voted on, and which will set the direction for the future development of society. The gateway for new narratives and new world views will be opened.

I hope we humans will soon realize that much of our problem lies in the very hierarchies we are constantly creating. Hierarchies are the one constant that we have not really rethought throughout all forms of society, and I locate the solution to our problem there as well. Both self-exaltation and self-abasement are both sides of the same coin, with the coin itself representing the idea of unlikeness. The great advantage of capitalist organized societies over socialist/communist ones was self-organization. If we think this thought further, we could come to the assumption that we should further develop the principle of self-organization to see if it does not make us even more effective and create an even better society.

In doing so, we cannot ask the ruling class to allow us to do this, because they will not allow us to undermine the pillars of their power. The easiest way to remove power from the powerful is to stop recognizing them. To accomplish this, however, an alternative idea for our organization must emerge from within society that will create the critical mass, bind them together, unite them, and allow the new idea to manifest.

Gustav Viktor ?migielski is a philosopher and author. He studied finance and accounting in Wroclaw and is on a quest to find answers to life’s existential questions – with success!
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Investing in Death
One of the largest nuclear weapons investors in the world is asset manager BlackRock.
By Heinrich Frei
[This article published on May 13, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/investition-in-den-tod.]

“Investment in the future” looks different. The unimaginable amount of money invested in nuclear armament exceeds any nuclear mushroom cloud. An endless list could be made of how these billions and billions of money could be used more sensibly for the world. A small crumb of this nuclear investment would be enough to end entire famines elsewhere. But instead of investing in life, major investors like the asset manager BlackRock prefer to invest in the potential to wipe out humanity several times over. In the event of a nuclear winter, profit would no longer be profit. If the world looks like a moonscape with black rocks after a nuclear war, the billions in earnings can no longer buy anything. However, this does not seem to be important for the calculations of the nuclear investors. Instead, this investment is also being cultivated. In Switzerland, the BlackRock functionary Philipp Hildebrand, of all people, is to become the new president of the Zurich Art Society.

At the end of May 2022, it will be decided whether Philipp Hildebrand will become the new president of the Zurich Art Society. So far, he is the only candidate for the office. The election of the new presidency is due to the death of Anne Keller Dubach. She led the sponsoring association of the Zürcher Kunsthaus for only two months and died last September.

The Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft is the sponsoring association of the Kunsthaus Zürich. It has been running the museum since 1787 and owns the art collection.

Philipp Hildebrand had been a member of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank since 2003 and was its chairman between January 1, 2010 and January 9, 2012. Perhaps it is hoped that Philipp Hildebrand will succeed in settling the dispute over the inclusion of the “Emil Bührle Collection” in the new wing of the new Kunsthaus. This collection of the arms manufacturer Bührle includes works by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet and others (1).

Zurich art society in the hands of the financial center

As Res Strehle writes in “Das Magazin”, the election of Philipp Hildebrand is intended to continue the tradition of the financial center presidency according to the will of the art society: “For over a hundred years, the financial elite has led the epicenter of the established art in Zurich”. Leading people of Zürcher Rentenanstalt, Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, today Credit Suisse, Union Bank of Switzerland, Bank Leu, Banca del Gottardo, Swiss Re mostly provided the president of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft during almost five decades. (2)

Today Philipp Hildebrand, the candidate for the presidency of the Zurich Art Society, is Vice Chairman of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. He is a member of the company’s Global Executive Committee there. He also oversees the BlackRock Investment Institute (BII) and BlackRock Sustainable Investing (BSI).

BlackRock investments in nuclear weapons: unsustainable

BlackRock’s investments in nuclear weapons production companies are not sustainable. According to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, BlackRock is the fourth largest investor in companies that produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction. BlackRock invested $44,792 million in the nuclear weapons industry in 2020 and $40,711 million in 2021, according to ICAN (3).

Poster of the Swiss peace movement from 1954 by Hans Erni, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection, Zurich University of the Arts.

Nuclear weapons cannot actually be used

Nuclear weapons can actually never be used after the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, if one does not want to risk that the whole of humanity is wiped out in a nuclear war. Even the use of 100 atomic bombs would lead to a nuclear winter, a drop in the earth’s temperature, followed by crop failures and famine.
The top ten investors in nuclear weapons:

A comparison of the top 10 investors with financial ties to nuclear weapons manufacturers: total investments are split, with slightly more invested in stocks and bonds than in loans and underwriting. The top ten investors are all from the United States and together account for $339 billion, or just under half of all investments, according to the 2021 ICAN report. The figures in the table are in millions of US dollars.

$100,000 a minute for the new nuclear arms race.

The nuclear arms race is a huge business with a lot of money to be made. Between January 2019 and July 2021, $685 billion was made available to the 25 companies that produce nuclear weapons. This is $44 billion more than the previous year.

The nine nuclear-armed countries are spending more than $100,000 per minute on the new nuclear arms race.

In addition, the World Food Program lacks funds to fight hunger, including in Somalia.
1.4 million children in Somalia at risk of acute malnutrition

By the end of this year, 1.4 million children in Somalia are at risk of acute malnutrition. “If nothing is done, it is feared, 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in the country will perish by this summer,” warns Adam Abdelmoula, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Somalia.

Source: World Food Programme website (4).

But right now, there is a funding gap of $192 million for the UN World Food Program’s assistance in Somalia through September 2022, meaning less than a third of the funding is available to save lives in Somalia. A very small fraction of the money wasted on nuclear armaments worldwide could close the World Food Fund funding gap in Somalia.

Easter march 2022 in Bremen, image: labor photography.

Germany’s nuclear sharing: practicing dropping nuclear bombs.

A modern fighter jet also costs about $192 million, which the World Food Organization is short in Somalia. Germany plans to procure 45 such new bombers at a cost of 8 billion euros. In connection with the nuclear sharing of the Federal Republic, German pilots will again practice dropping nuclear bombs with the new aircraft, as they do today with the Tornado fighter jets (5).
Switzerland did not sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons

A clear majority of parties in Switzerland demand that the Federal Council finally ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, there are tangible economic interests that “hinder” the signing of this treaty.

Today, major Swiss banks, insurance companies and pension funds, including my pension fund of SBB AG, also invest profit-consciously in companies involved in the production of nuclear bombs. A total of 4,883 million US dollars (USD). Credit Suisse placed 2,059 million USD in 2021, UBS placed 2,562 million USD and even the Swiss National Bank also placed 64 million USD in the nuclear monkey industry.

The new soccer stadium in Zurich, the “Credit Suisse Arena”, will probably then also be financed from the proceeds of the nuclear armament business. The arms manufacturer Emil Bührle financed the new building of the Kunsthaus in Zurich at that time, Credit Suisse, which invests its money in the nuclear bomb industry, will subsidize a soccer stadium … – Nice …
Swiss institutions investing in companies producing nuclear weapons:

Source: recent ICAN study “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” from 2021.

Legal ban on financing of banned weapons in Switzerland.

“The fact that Swiss banks invest money in the further development of weapons of mass destruction is all the more astonishing,” writes ICAN, “as this is prohibited in Switzerland. Since the revision of the War Material Act (KMG) on January 1, 2013, there has been a legal ban on the financing of prohibited weapons. This includes nuclear weapons, which are listed in Article 7(1)(a) of the KMG.”

Despite these legal provisions not to invest financial resources in companies developing nuclear weapons (systems), it is apparently possible and allowed to continue to invest in nuclear weapons production with impunity, because the financing ban is said to have “significant legal loopholes,” according to Bern.

The ex-National Councillor and current Bernese Government Councillor Evi Allemann recognized this problem and called for a ban on indirect financing of war materials in a motion back in 2013 (Motion 14.3253. But that was a long time ago and nothing has happened. Susan Boos wrote on July 6, 2013 in the weekly newspaper on this topic the article: “War material law and banks, hands off business with nuclear weapons” (6).

In conclusion, it should be recalled: Nuclear weapons can actually never be used at all after the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, if one does not want to risk wiping out all of humanity in a nuclear war. Even the use of 100 atomic bombs would lead to a nuclear winter, a drop in the earth’s temperature, followed by crop failures and famine.

Sources and notes:

(1) Heinrich Frei: Emil Bührle Collection in Zurich. Works of art financed with the proceeds of cannons and shells for wars. Neue Rheinische Zeitung, online flyer, May 5, 2022, , www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=27154
(2) Res Strehle: Emil and the Elite. Das Magazin Number 17, April 30, 2022. “Weapons manufacturer Emil Georg Bührle supplied the Nazis and profited from the persecution of wealthy Jews. The Swiss upper class courted and rehabilitated him.”, https://www.zsz.ch/wie-der-nazi-profiteur-mit-dem-kunsthaus-die-herzen-der-schweizer-elite-eroberte-770142496571
(3) ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons: www.icanw.org
(4) www.wfp.org/emergencies/somalia-emergency
(5) Nuclear sharing – Wikipedia: http://www.parlament.ch/d/suche/seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20143253
(6) Susan Boos: Hands off the business with nuclear weapons. WOZ Die Wochenzeitung, June 6, 2013, https://www.woz.ch/-40a9?msclkid=154944e7c88811ec964028413f2d214f

Heinrich Frei, born in 1941, is an architect and is involved in various peace policy initiatives in Switzerland. He also collaborates with Swisso Kalmo.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Great Reboot and Investing in death

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/05/16/18849745.php

The Great Reboot & Investing in death
by Gustav Viktor Smigielski & Heinrich Frei, 5/14

The WEF propagates a highly hierarchized society in which powerful actors decide how society should develop.The US is spending $100K per minute on new nuclear weapons!

The great reboot/ reset/ new start
Let’s not leave the change to the elites, who made it necessary in the first place by their irresponsible actions.
By Gustav Viktor ?migielski
[This article published on May 14, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/der-grosse-neustart-3.]

Every person with half a conscious mind has heard something about the “Great Reset,” the ruling class’s plan to create an even more efficient and, for the planet, more pleasant form of human existence – or so the PR department of the World Economic Forum (WEF) would put it. There is nothing wrong with such a noble goal, and the author believes that the elite is indeed concerned about the state of the planet. However, he doubts that the latter will ever admit to itself that, to a large extent, its own actions have produced this condition. Although it had the power to steer humanity’s destiny in the right direction, it did not, and it would be naive to think it will this time. Change must come from within society.

“You will own nothing and you will be happy.”

In the WEF’s promotional video with eight predictions/predictions for 2030, this “prophecy” is at the top of the list.

I consider ownership an illusion and have no problem with this statement, but in this video, right in the second sentence, a claim is made that reveals, at least in part, the type of society that is envisioned: Everything I want I will have to rent. Rent? From whom? Who will own this something I am to rent?

If we look at the history of mankind, we will very rarely read or hear of cases where powerful and materially wealthy people voluntarily donated their possessions to the common good. And so the suspicion suggests itself that this form of advertising is very unlikely to be seen in Monaco, and it is very unlikely to be directed at the owners of hundred-and-more-meter yachts there.

It is rather addressed to the part of the population that still owns something, is caught in the capitalist hamster wheel and constantly lives with the fear of still losing the little it owns.

To shed some light on the darkness, we only have to take a closer look at the propagated structures. Is there supposed to be a hierarchy? How many levels does this hierarchy have? How is it organized? Strictly hierarchically organized societies will always produce exactly the same results as before. In both capitalist and socialist societies, hierarchies of power have always emerged, which also harbored the seeds of their own demise.

The WEF continues to propagate a highly hierarchized society in which the most powerful actors decide how society should develop – far removed from democratic processes. The intention is to cement what is already taking place anyway.

The class of owners wants to expand its influence through the corporations it owns and make it quasi-legal. To this end, they are inventing new confusing terms such as “multistakeholder governance,” which sound nice, but are intended to disguise their influence. The consensus that is supposed to emerge through democratic processes is thus undermined. Instead of “the powerful” having a voice in the election, like any other person within a population, they elevate themselves directly to the eye level of entire states and exert direct influence on the development processes of a society.

They have long had politics in their pockets, but the political circus and the manipulation of public opinion are highly costly. One would like to get rid of a large part of it. The indoctrination as well as conditioning of people prevailing at the moment is so far advanced that it must be maintained only with small means.

A large part of the population is constantly exposed to the arbitrariness of other people and finds no way to defend itself against it. He is driven to work in order to subsequently pay an excessive cost of living and to maintain a social system that is not well-disposed towards him. It seems that man can only improve his situation by participating. The pyramidal system behind it is simply explained: the higher you climb, the fewer people are above you, who rule you and exercise arbitrariness.

Money Rain / Kings of the Modern Era

It doesn’t take a great deal of economic or sociological knowledge to understand that co-ownership of productive goods would be more beneficial to the majority rather than simply receiving a salary. If they were co-owners, it would hardly occur to them to distribute profits in the form of dividends to people outside the company and not participating in the production process. The following example will illustrate this:

Since 2011, i.e., directly after the conclusion of Agenda 2010, the annual dividends of BMW shares have been at a stable high level, with a peak in 2018. Almost 50 percent of the shares belong to the Quandt family, which has brought them large sums of money in recent years; in 2017, it was about one billion euros. But what does that mean? Money is a potential, a claim, and one that someone makes on the producing company. One billion euros would be an entitlement to 113,122,171 hours of work equal to the 2017 minimum wage, or an entitlement of still 50 million hours of work at the average wage from the same year. With this average wage, a person would have to work approximately 25,000 years for this sum. That is grotesque.

Instead of generating a billion euros in profit, the company could create around 20,000 jobs with an annual salary of 50,000 euros – by rule of thumb. On such a salary, a family of four in Germany could participate extensively in social life – that would be around 80,000 people. Eighty thousand people, for example, who would no longer be dependent on state transfer payments. The work to be done in the company could be distributed among more people, a 20-hour week would be within reach at BMW, and a form of work would be possible from which one would no longer need a vacation.

However, our society decides to transfer such high values to individual persons and in order to justify this madness somehow, they unabashedly claim that they are reinvesting the money and thus preserving jobs and creating new ones. Translated, this means: “For the money you have earned, you should go to work”.

Each one of us is a small investor, each one of us has the potential to create jobs with a good idea or at least to give himself a meaningful and socially enriching occupation. Everyone spends money and creates demand from which new jobs can be created. We don’t need to fool ourselves and we don’t need to romanticize the world of work. There is work that has to be done, even though it is unpleasant and consists of repetitive activities. But it is precisely this that we could make much more pleasant if we stopped imposing the profit constraint on ourselves, as well as trying to give all values a price expressed in monetary units.

How else could we live?

In a society that chooses to distribute created value more broadly, we would likely see production shift from large and luxurious goods to more smaller and less luxurious ones. To stay in the car industry: Mercedes Benz would produce and sell fewer S-Classes and more C-Classes instead. A wise society, on the other hand, would realize that it is not worth the effort to produce so many cars to fill up the cities and let them slowly rot there. At least in larger cities, this is obviously the reality.

Such a company would have organized urban transportation in such a way that the private car would become superfluous. This would save it work, because the effort is less to organize a mass-suitable as well as pleasant local traffic, instead of building millions of cars, which clog the cities and are qualitatively so badly manufactured that they are subject to endless maintenance intervals within their useful life. In doing so, we are describing only one area of human need, that of mobility. But the concept runs through all areas of society. We see the same problem in a different guise in the energy, food, real estate as well as healthcare industries.

In each of these industries, the greed for more, expressed through the profit as well as growth compulsion, shapes the production as well as distribution processes of our society considerably more than logic, integrity and symbiosis.

The age of robotics has begun, which allows us to become even more productive and thus reduce working hours or produce even more – at least in theory. In practice, we face a problem that has existed not only since the beginning of industrialization and has been described by many other economists besides Karl Marx. It says, in simple terms, that man somehow “must” pay for the goods that the machines build and take from him the labor for which he was previously paid. If these productive goods were common property, the only effort would be to build and maintain them, and people could thus enjoy the fruits of their labor much more directly.

But they do not belong to them and most of the time they do not even belong to those who built them with their own hands and ideas, but they belong to a small minority who can call them their property with the help of the ruling laws, and only make them available for consideration. And the majority sees no other way than to submit to it.

Understanding the Great Reset as an opportunity

The Great Reset is new wine in old bottles, and it is not inevitable. But we must ask ourselves what we want to stand for, what we want to “fight” for. Resist in order to preserve this system that is on the verge of disintegration? Surely no one can be serious about that. The changes are already taking place and it would not be wise to fight against them, but instead, as in certain martial arts, to use the momentum of the “opponent” to steer him in another direction. In this, our technological progress could prove to be an advantage.

The rapid pace of networking over the past two decades harbors an unpredictable and, above all, uncontrollable potential. All it takes is a small spark, a new idea, and our social order will topple. A first model – a precursor – of such an idea, is already there, namely the “Democracy-App”! There, people vote on the same resolutions as the members of the Bundestag, and already now one sees considerable discrepancies in voting behavior. As soon as several million citizens participate in voting, the question will have to be asked as to which voting results are truly representative. 736 votes from parliament or several million votes from the people? The answer is obvious.

Furthermore, sooner or later the question will arise as to what we are voting on in the first place. With the app, at the moment we only vote on questions that have been formulated and set beforehand – which is very constricting. It gets interesting when we start to rethink and reshape the framework within which we operate. That is, when we begin to formulate for ourselves the questions that will be voted on, and which will set the direction for the future development of society. The gateway for new narratives and new world views will be opened.

I hope we humans will soon realize that much of our problem lies in the very hierarchies we are constantly creating. Hierarchies are the one constant that we have not really rethought throughout all forms of society, and I locate the solution to our problem there as well. Both self-exaltation and self-abasement are both sides of the same coin, with the coin itself representing the idea of unlikeness. The great advantage of capitalist organized societies over socialist/communist ones was self-organization. If we think this thought further, we could come to the assumption that we should further develop the principle of self-organization to see if it does not make us even more effective and create an even better society.

In doing so, we cannot ask the ruling class to allow us to do this, because they will not allow us to undermine the pillars of their power. The easiest way to remove power from the powerful is to stop recognizing them. To accomplish this, however, an alternative idea for our organization must emerge from within society that will create the critical mass, bind them together, unite them, and allow the new idea to manifest.

Gustav Viktor ?migielski is a philosopher and author. He studied finance and accounting in Wroclaw and is on a quest to find answers to life’s existential questions – with success!
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Investing in Death
One of the largest nuclear weapons investors in the world is asset manager BlackRock.
By Heinrich Frei
[This article published on May 13, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/investition-in-den-tod.]

“Investment in the future” looks different. The unimaginable amount of money invested in nuclear armament exceeds any nuclear mushroom cloud. An endless list could be made of how these billions and billions of money could be used more sensibly for the world. A small crumb of this nuclear investment would be enough to end entire famines elsewhere. But instead of investing in life, major investors like the asset manager BlackRock prefer to invest in the potential to wipe out humanity several times over. In the event of a nuclear winter, profit would no longer be profit. If the world looks like a moonscape with black rocks after a nuclear war, the billions in earnings can no longer buy anything. However, this does not seem to be important for the calculations of the nuclear investors. Instead, this investment is also being cultivated. In Switzerland, the BlackRock functionary Philipp Hildebrand, of all people, is to become the new president of the Zurich Art Society.

At the end of May 2022, it will be decided whether Philipp Hildebrand will become the new president of the Zurich Art Society. So far, he is the only candidate for the office. The election of the new presidency is due to the death of Anne Keller Dubach. She led the sponsoring association of the Zürcher Kunsthaus for only two months and died last September.

The Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft is the sponsoring association of the Kunsthaus Zürich. It has been running the museum since 1787 and owns the art collection.

Philipp Hildebrand had been a member of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank since 2003 and was its chairman between January 1, 2010 and January 9, 2012. Perhaps it is hoped that Philipp Hildebrand will succeed in settling the dispute over the inclusion of the “Emil Bührle Collection” in the new wing of the new Kunsthaus. This collection of the arms manufacturer Bührle includes works by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet and others (1).

Zurich art society in the hands of the financial center

As Res Strehle writes in “Das Magazin”, the election of Philipp Hildebrand is intended to continue the tradition of the financial center presidency according to the will of the art society: “For over a hundred years, the financial elite has led the epicenter of the established art in Zurich”. Leading people of Zürcher Rentenanstalt, Schweizerische Kreditanstalt, today Credit Suisse, Union Bank of Switzerland, Bank Leu, Banca del Gottardo, Swiss Re mostly provided the president of the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft during almost five decades. (2)

Today Philipp Hildebrand, the candidate for the presidency of the Zurich Art Society, is Vice Chairman of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. He is a member of the company’s Global Executive Committee there. He also oversees the BlackRock Investment Institute (BII) and BlackRock Sustainable Investing (BSI).

BlackRock investments in nuclear weapons: unsustainable

BlackRock’s investments in nuclear weapons production companies are not sustainable. According to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, BlackRock is the fourth largest investor in companies that produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction. BlackRock invested $44,792 million in the nuclear weapons industry in 2020 and $40,711 million in 2021, according to ICAN (3).

Poster of the Swiss peace movement from 1954 by Hans Erni, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection, Zurich University of the Arts.

Nuclear weapons cannot actually be used

Nuclear weapons can actually never be used after the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, if one does not want to risk that the whole of humanity is wiped out in a nuclear war. Even the use of 100 atomic bombs would lead to a nuclear winter, a drop in the earth’s temperature, followed by crop failures and famine.
The top ten investors in nuclear weapons:

A comparison of the top 10 investors with financial ties to nuclear weapons manufacturers: total investments are split, with slightly more invested in stocks and bonds than in loans and underwriting. The top ten investors are all from the United States and together account for $339 billion, or just under half of all investments, according to the 2021 ICAN report. The figures in the table are in millions of US dollars.

$100,000 a minute for the new nuclear arms race.

The nuclear arms race is a huge business with a lot of money to be made. Between January 2019 and July 2021, $685 billion was made available to the 25 companies that produce nuclear weapons. This is $44 billion more than the previous year.

The nine nuclear-armed countries are spending more than $100,000 per minute on the new nuclear arms race.

In addition, the World Food Program lacks funds to fight hunger, including in Somalia.
1.4 million children in Somalia at risk of acute malnutrition

By the end of this year, 1.4 million children in Somalia are at risk of acute malnutrition. “If nothing is done, it is feared, 350,000 of the 1.4 million severely malnourished children in the country will perish by this summer,” warns Adam Abdelmoula, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special representative for Somalia.

Source: World Food Program website (4).

But right now, there is a funding gap of $192 million for the UN World Food Program’s assistance in Somalia through September 2022, meaning less than a third of the funding is available to save lives in Somalia. A very small fraction of the money wasted on nuclear armaments worldwide could close the World Food Fund funding gap in Somalia.

Easter march 2022 in Bremen, image: labor photography.

Germany’s nuclear sharing: practicing dropping nuclear bombs.

A modern fighter jet also costs about $192 million, which the World Food Organization is short in Somalia. Germany plans to procure 45 such new bombers at a cost of 8 billion euros. In connection with the nuclear sharing of the Federal Republic, German pilots will again practice dropping nuclear bombs with the new aircraft, as they do today with the Tornado fighter jets (5).
Switzerland did not sign the treaty banning nuclear weapons

A clear majority of parties in Switzerland demand that the Federal Council finally ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. However, there are tangible economic interests that “hinder” the signing of this treaty.

Today, major Swiss banks, insurance companies and pension funds, including my pension fund of SBB AG, also invest profit-consciously in companies involved in the production of nuclear bombs. A total of 4,883 million US dollars (USD). Credit Suisse placed 2,059 million USD in 2021, UBS placed 2,562 million USD and even the Swiss National Bank also placed 64 million USD in the nuclear monkey industry.

The new soccer stadium in Zurich, the “Credit Suisse Arena”, will probably then also be financed from the proceeds of the nuclear armament business. The arms manufacturer Emil Bührle financed the new building of the Kunsthaus in Zurich at that time, Credit Suisse, which invests its money in the nuclear bomb industry, will subsidize a soccer stadium … – Nice …
Swiss institutions investing in companies producing nuclear weapons:

Source: recent ICAN study “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” from 2021.

Legal ban on financing of banned weapons in Switzerland.

“The fact that Swiss banks invest money in the further development of weapons of mass destruction is all the more astonishing,” writes ICAN, “as this is prohibited in Switzerland. Since the revision of the War Material Act (KMG) on January 1, 2013, there has been a legal ban on the financing of prohibited weapons. This includes nuclear weapons, which are listed in Article 7(1)(a) of the KMG.”

Despite these legal provisions not to invest financial resources in companies developing nuclear weapons (systems), it is apparently possible and allowed to continue to invest in nuclear weapons production with impunity, because the financing ban is said to have “significant legal loopholes,” according to Bern.

The ex-National Councillor and current Bernese Government Councillor Evi Allemann recognized this problem and called for a ban on indirect financing of war materials in a motion back in 2013 (Motion 14.3253. But that was a long time ago and nothing has happened. Susan Boos wrote on July 6, 2013 in the weekly newspaper on this topic the article: “War material law and banks, hands off business with nuclear weapons” (6).

In conclusion, it should be recalled: Nuclear weapons can actually never be used at all after the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, if one does not want to risk wiping out all of humanity in a nuclear war. Even the use of 100 atomic bombs would lead to a nuclear winter, a drop in the earth’s temperature, followed by crop failures and famine.

Sources and notes:

(1) Heinrich Frei: Emil Bührle Collection in Zurich. Works of art financed with the proceeds of cannons and shells for wars. Neue Rheinische Zeitung, online flyer, May 5, 2022, , http://www.nrhz.de/flyer/beitrag.php?id=27154
(2) Res Strehle: Emil and the Elite. Das Magazin Number 17, April 30, 2022. “Weapons manufacturer Emil Georg Bührle supplied the Nazis and profited from the persecution of wealthy Jews. The Swiss upper class courted and rehabilitated him.”, https://www.zsz.ch/wie-der-nazi-profiteur-mit-dem-kunsthaus-die-herzen-der-schweizer-elite-eroberte-770142496571
(3) ICAN – International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons: http://www.icanw.org
(4) http://www.wfp.org/emergencies/somalia-emergency
(5) Nuclear sharing – Wikipedia: http://www.parlament.ch/d/suche/seiten/geschaefte.aspx?gesch_id=20143253
(6) Susan Boos: Hands off the business with nuclear weapons. WOZ Die Wochenzeitung, June 6, 2013, https://www.woz.ch/-40a9?msclkid=154944e7c88811ec964028413f2d214f

Heinrich Frei, born in 1941, is an architect and is involved in various peace policy initiatives in Switzerland. He also collaborates with Swisso Kalmo.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Real Zelensky by Lars Pohlmeier, Hannes Herbst and Teresa Sciacca

https://la.indymedia.org/news/2022/05/301070.php

https://la.indymedia.org/news/2022/05/301070.php
The real Zelensky
by Lars Pohlmeier, Hannes Herbst &Teresa Sciacca May. 11, 2022
[email protected]

A possible oil and gas embargo against Russia, for example, will bring the social question to the fore and bring many people to the streets. More and more voices, it is hoped, will then rise up against war and the militarization of our lives.

The real Zelensky: from prominent populist to unpopular Pinochet-style neoliberal

by Nachdenkseiten editors

[This article published on May 9, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=83634.]

Ukrainian scholar Olga Baysha has been studying Volodymyr Zelensky’s rise to power and the way he has wielded that power since his election as Ukrainian president. In an interview, she discusses Zelensky’s commitment to neoliberalism and his increasing authoritarianism – and how his actions have contributed to the current war, as well as his counterproductive leadership during it. We have taken this contribution from “Grayzone”. Translation by Heiner Biewer.

The following interview was published on TheGrayZone on April 28. The references are mostly taken from the original, in some cases translator Heiner Biewer added his own links, mostly to German sources.

Ukrainian scholar Olga Baysha describes how Zelensky pursued widely hated neoliberal policies, how he suppressed his rivals, and how his actions fueled the current war with Russia.

Zelensky, the comedian who ascended to the highest office in the land in 2019, was virtually unknown to the average American, except perhaps as a bit player in the theater surrounding Trump’s impeachment. But when Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Zelensky suddenly became an A-list celebrity in the U.S. media. The American news audience was inundated with images of a man who was overwhelmed and possibly overwhelmed by the tragic events, but ultimately seemed sympathetic. It did not take long for this image to morph into a tireless hero in khaki fatigues, ruling a defensible little democracy and single-handedly fending off autocratic barbarians from the East.

But behind this image, carefully crafted by the Western media, lies something much more complicated and less flattering. Zelensky was elected with 73 percent of the vote because he promised to work for peace, while the rest of his program remained vague. On the eve of the invasion, however, his approval rating had dropped to 31 percent because he pursued extremely unpopular policies.

Ukrainian scholar Olga Baysha, author of Democracy, Populism, and Neoliberalism in Ukraine, has examined Zelensky’s rise to power and the way he has exercised that power since his election as president. In the following interview, she discusses Zelensky’s commitment to neoliberalism and his increasing authoritarianism, how his actions have contributed to the current war, his counterproductive and oblivious leadership during the war, the diverse cultural and political views and identities of Ukrainians, the partnership between neoliberals and the radical right during and after the Maidan, and whether a Russian takeover of the entire Donbass region might be less popular with the local population than it would have been in 2014.

Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from and what led you to your current area of study?

I am ethnic Ukrainian, born in Kharkov, a Ukrainian city on the border with Russia, where my father and other relatives still live. Before the current war, Kharkov was one of Ukraine’s leading educational and scientific centers. The city’s residents are proud to live in the “intellectual capital” of Ukraine. In 1990, the first non-partisan television station was established there, and soon the first news program went on the air. At that time, I had already graduated from Kharkov University, and one day I was invited by a student friend to work as a journalist for this program. The next day, with no previous experience, I started reporting. After a few months, I was already a news anchor. My meteoric career was no exception.

The new, uncontrolled media, whose number was increasing enormously every day, demanded more and more media professionals. In the vast majority of cases, they were young, ambitious people without any journalistic training or life experience. What united us was a desire to Westernize, a lack of understanding of the social contradictions that characterized the post-Soviet transition, and deafness to the concerns of the working population that opposed the reforms. The latter were backward-looking in our eyes: They did not understand what civilization meant. We saw ourselves as the revolutionary vanguard and elected progressive reformers. It was we – the media professionals – who created a favorable environment for the neoliberalization of Ukraine, which was presented as Westernization and civilization, with all the disastrous consequences for society that it entailed. It was only years later that I realized this.

Later, while overseeing the production of historical documentaries at a Kyiv television station, I realized that the mythology of unilateral, historical progress and the inevitability of westernization of “barbarians” provided an ideological basis for neoliberal experiments not only in the former Soviet states, but around the world. This interest in the global hegemony of the ideology of Westernization led me first to the doctoral program in critical media studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and then to the research I am doing now.

According to the scholarly work of some Ukrainian sociologists, recent surveys have shown that most Ukrainians are not very interested in the question of identity, but are more concerned with issues such as jobs, wages, and prices. Your work is mainly about the neoliberal reforms that have been implemented in Ukraine since 2019 against the will of the population. Can you tell us how most Ukrainians think about economic issues and why?

In the social milieus where I lived – in the east of Ukraine, in Crimea and in Kiev – there were very few people who were concerned with the issues of ethnic identity. I emphasize “my social milieus” for a reason. Ukraine is a complex and divided country, where the far-flung East and West hold completely opposite views on all socially significant issues. Since Ukraine declared independence in 1991, two notions of national identity have competed in Ukraine: an “ethnic Ukrainian” versus an “Eastern Slavic” one. The ethnic Ukrainian national idea is based on the notion that Ukrainian culture, language, and ethnicized history should be the dominant integrating forces in the Ukrainian nation-state and has been much more popular in western Ukraine. The East Slavic notion that the Ukrainian nation is based on two primary ethnic groups, languages, and cultures-Ukrainian and Russian-has been accepted as normal in the Ukrainian Southeast. By and large, however, I can agree that most Ukrainians are much more concerned with economic issues, which has always been the case.

Indeed, Ukraine’s independence in 1991 was to a large extent also a matter of economic considerations. Many Ukrainians supported the idea of political detachment from Russia because they hoped it would improve Ukraine’s economic situation – or so propagandist leaflets promised us. This economic hope was not fulfilled. The collapse of the Soviet Union radically changed people’s lives for the worse in many ways, because Ukraine was neoliberalized – through the marketization of the social sphere and the dismantling of the Soviet welfare state.

As for the neoliberal reforms initiated by Zelensky, their popularity can be judged by opinion polls: as many as 72% of Ukrainians did not support his land reform, the flagship of Zelensky’s neoliberal program. After his party endorsed it despite popular outrage, Zelensky’s poll rating fell from 73 percent in spring 2019 to 23 percent in January 2022. The reason is simple: a deep sense of betrayal. In his unofficial election platform – the program “Servant of the People” – Zelesnky-Holoborodko [Holoborodko was Zelensky’s character in the television program] promised that if he could govern the country for just one week, he would “make the teacher the president and the president the teacher.” To put it mildly, this promise was not kept. People realized that once again they were deceived – the reforms were carried out not in the interests of Ukrainians, but of global capital.

To what extent do you think the prioritization of economic security over issues of identity has changed with the Russian invasion? How do you think this will affect the political future of the nationalists/ultranationalists compared to the moderate or leftist forces?

This is an interesting question. On the one hand, people are now primarily concerned with survival, which makes security their main concern. To save their lives, millions of Ukrainians, including my mother and sister with children, have left Ukraine for Europe. Many of them are ready to stay there forever, learning foreign languages and adapting to a foreign way of life – all these developments hardly put the concern for identity in the foreground. On the other hand, the intensification of ethnic sentiments and the strengthening of the nation in the face of the invasion is also evident. I can judge this from the public discussions on social media – some Kharkov people I know personally have even started posting in Ukrainian, which they had never used before, to emphasize their national identity and signal that they are against any foreign invasion.

This is another tragic aspect of this war. The Maidan Revolution of 2014, which was not supported by many people in the Southeast, transformed these people into “slaves,” “sovki” (according to Wordesense.eu, “a person who uncritically supports Soviet values or has a Soviet mentality”, n.d.) and “vatniki” (patriotic hick , a person who is stupid and blindly loves his fatherland, n.d.) – pejorative terms denoting their backwardness and barbarism. This is how the Maidan revolutionaries, who considered themselves a progressive force in history, saw the anti-Maidan “others”, because they adhered to the Russian language and culture. Never could this pro-Russian population have imagined that Russia would bomb their cities and ruin their lives. The tragedy of these people is twofold: first their world was symbolically destroyed by the Maidan, and now it is being physically destroyed by Russia.

The consequences of these developments are still unclear, because it is unclear how the war will end. If the southeastern regions remain in Ukraine, the ruin of all that opposes aggressive nationalism will most likely be completed. This will likely be the end of this unique border culture that never wanted to be fully Ukrainized or Russified. If Russia gains control of these regions, as it now boasts, I can hardly predict how it will deal with mass resistance – at least in significantly damaged cities like Kharkov.

Let’s turn to Zelensky in particular: You point out in your book that Zelensky acted as a kind of pied piper, using his celebrity and acting skills to get people to support him on behalf of a vague feel-good agenda (peace, democracy, progress, anti-corruption), but this masked another agenda that would not have been popular, namely a neoliberal economic agenda. How did he do that – how did he run his campaign and what were his priorities once he got into office?

The main argument in my recent book is that the astonishing victory of Zelensky and his party, which was later transformed into a parliamentary machine to push through and rubber-stamp neoliberal reforms (in what they called a “turbo regime”), cannot be explained other than by the success of his television series, which many observers believe served as Zelensky’s informal electoral platform. Unlike his official program, which was only 1,601 words and contained few policy details, the 51 half-hour episodes of his show provided Ukrainians with a detailed vision of what should be done for Ukraine to move forward.

The message Zelensky conveys to Ukrainians through his television series is clearly populist. In it, the Ukrainian people are portrayed as an unproblematic whole with no internal divisions, from which only oligarchs and corrupt politicians/officials are excluded. The country will not be healthy until it gets rid of the oligarchs and their puppets. Some of them are imprisoned or flee the country; their property is confiscated without regard to legality. Later, Zelensky, the president, will do the same to his political rivals.

Interestingly, the TV series ignores the issue of the Donbass war that broke out in 2014, a year before the series went on air. Since the Maidan and Russia-Ukraine relations are very divisive issues in Ukrainian society, Zelensky ignored them so as not to jeopardize the unity of his virtual nation, his viewers, and ultimately his voters.

Zelensky’s electoral promises, on the borderline between the virtual and real worlds, were primarily about Ukraine’s “progress,” understood as “modernization,” “Westernization,” “civilization,” and “normalization.” This progressive discourse of modernization allowed Zelensky to disguise his plans for neoliberal reforms, which were launched just three days after the new government took office. Throughout the election campaign, the idea of “progress” emphasized by Zelensky was never associated with privatizations, land sales, budget cuts, etc. Only after Zelensky consolidated his power as president by gaining full control of the legislative and executive branches did he make it clear that “normalization” and “civilization” of Ukraine meant privatization of land and state/public property, deregulation of labor relations, a reduction in the power of trade unions, an increase in the tariffs of public utilities, etc.

You pointed out that after the 2014 coup and before Zelensky’s tenure, many foreigners were appointed to important economic and social posts. Likewise, many of Zelensky’s officials have close ties to global neoliberal institutions, and you have suggested that there is evidence of them manipulating Zelensky, who has a poor understanding of economics/finance. Can you discuss this aspect of the impact of the pro-Western change in government in 2014? What are the larger interests at play here, and do they even have the interests of the general Ukrainian population in mind?

The change of power on the Maidan in 2014 marked the beginning of an entirely new era in Ukraine’s history in terms of the influence of the West on the country’s sovereign decisions. However, this influence has always existed since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations, the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council, the European Business Association, the IMF, the EBRD, the WTO, and the EU-all of these lobbying and regulatory institutions have had a significant impact on Ukraine’s policy decisions.

Before the Maidan, however, the country had never appointed foreign nationals to high ministerial posts – this became possible only after the Maidan. In 2014, U.S. citizen Natalie Jaresko was appointed Ukrainian Minister of Finance, Lithuanian citizen Aivaras Abromavi

ius as Ukrainian Minister of Economy and Trade, and Georgian citizen Alexander Kvitashvili as Minister of Health. In 2016, Ulana Suprun, a U.S. citizen, was appointed acting Minister of Health. Other foreigners assumed posts with lower ranks. Needless to say, all these appointments were made not by the will of Ukrainians, but by the recommendations of global neoliberal institutions, which is not surprising considering that the Maidan itself was not supported by half of the Ukrainian population.

As mentioned earlier, most of these anti-Maidan “others” reside in the southeastern regions. The further east one looked, the stronger and more uniform was the rejection of the Maidan and its European agenda. More than 75 percent of residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (two eastern regions of Ukraine inhabited predominantly by Russian speakers) rejected the Maidan, and only 20 percent of residents of Crimea supported it.

These statistical figures, presented by the Kyiv Institute of Sociology in April 2014, did not prevent Western institutions of power from presenting the Maidan as the uprising of the “Ukrainian people,” who were presented as an unproblematic whole-a very effective ideological ploy. When members of the “international community” visited Maidan Square and encouraged the revolutionaries to protest, they disregarded millions of Ukrainians who opposed the Maidan, contributing to the escalation of the civil war that eventually led to the disaster we helplessly observe today.

What about the foreign interests that invested in the neoliberalization of Ukraine, which was carried out in the name of the Ukrainian people? They are manifold, but behind the land reform, which I have carefully analyzed, were financial lobbies in the West. Western pension funds and investment funds wanted to invest funds that were losing value. Looking for assets to invest in, they enlisted the support of the IMF, the World Bank, the EBRD, and various lobby groups to push through their interests and create all the necessary conditions. Of course, this has nothing to do with the interests of Ukrainians.

What about democracy under Zelensky – freedom of speech and press, political pluralism and treatment of different political parties ? How does this compare to previous presidents of post-Soviet Ukraine?

I agree with Jodi Dean who argues that democracy is a neoliberal fantasy in the sense that it cannot exist in neoliberal systems of government controlled not by people but by supranational institutions. As noted above, this was particularly evident after the Maidan, when foreign ministers were appointed by these institutions to represent their interests in Ukraine. In his zeal for reform, however, Zelensky went even further. In early February 2021, three opposition television channels – NewsOne, Zik, and 112 Ukraine – were initially shut down. Another opposition station, Nash, was banned in early 2022, before the war began. After the war broke out, dozens of independent journalists, bloggers, and analysts were arrested in March; most of them represent leftist views. In April, the right-wing television channels Kanal 5 and Pryamiy were also closed. In addition, Zelensky signed a decree requiring all Ukrainian channels to broadcast a single telethon presenting only a pro-government view of the war.

All of these developments are unprecedented in the history of independent Ukraine. Zelensky’s supporters argue that all arrests and media bans should be dismissed on grounds of military expediency, ignoring the fact that the first media outlets were shut down a year before the Russian invasion. In my opinion, Zelensky is only using this war to strengthen the dictatorial tendencies within his government regime that emerged immediately after he came to power, when he created a party apparatus to control parliament and rubber-stamp neoliberal reforms without regard to popular sentiment.

The National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) was established by Zelensky in 2021 to sanction certain individuals, mostly political rivals. Can you explain what the NSDC is, why Zelensky did this, and whether or not it was legal?

After his popular support plummeted in 2021, Zelensky initiated the unconstitutional process of extrajudicial sanctions against his political opponents imposed by the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). These sanctions included the extrajudicial seizure of property without evidence of illegal activity by the individuals and legal entities in question. Among the first to be sanctioned by the NSDC were two members of parliament from the opposition platform “For Life” (OPZZh) – Viktor Medvedchuk (later arrested and shown on television with his face beaten up after interrogation) and Taras Kozak (who managed to flee Ukraine), as well as members of their families. This happened in February 2021; in March 2022, 11 opposition parties were banned. The decisions on banning opposition parties and punishing opposition leaders were taken by the NSDC and put into effect by presidential decrees.

The Ukrainian Constitution states that the National Security and Defense Council is a coordinating body: it “coordinates and controls the activities of the organs of executive power in the sphere of national security and defense.” Coordination has nothing to do with prosecuting political opponents and confiscating their property-something the NSDC has been doing since 2021. It goes without saying that this is unconstitutional – only courts are allowed to decide who is guilty or not and seize property. The problem, however, is that Ukrainian courts were not prepared to play Zelensky’s puppets. After Ukrainian Constitutional Court Chairman Oleksandr Tupytskyi called Zelensky’s unconstitutional reforms a “coup d’état,” Zelensky had no choice but to rely on the NSDC to push his unpopular policies. And what happened to the “dissident” Tupytskyi? On March 27, 2021, Zelensky signed a decree – also in violation of the Ukrainian Constitution – revoking his appointment as a judge of the Constitutional Court.

Under Stalin, the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) created “troikas” to convict people after simplified, quick investigations and without a public and fair trial. What we observe in the case of the NSDC is a very similar development, except that the unconstitutional trials of the NSDC are attended by a larger number of people – all the key figures of the state, including the President, the Prime Minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, etc. A single meeting of the NSDC can decide the fate of hundreds of people. In June 2021 alone, Zelensky put into action an NSDC decision to impose sanctions on 538 individuals and 540 companies.

I would like to ask you about the “peacemaker” list (Myrotvorets), which is reportedly linked to the Ukrainian Government and the SBU intelligence service. As I understand it, this is a list of “enemies of the state” where the personal information of these enemies is published. Several of the people who were on this list were subsequently murdered. Can you tell us about this list, how people end up on it, and how it fits in with a government that we are told is democratic?

The nationalist website Myrotvorets was launched in 2015, according to the UN report, “by a people’s deputy who works as an advisor to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.” This people’s deputy is Anton Gerashchenko, a former advisor to former Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Under his auspices, nationalist punitive battalions were created in 2014 and sent to the Donbass to suppress popular resistance to the Maidan. Myrotvorets was part of the general strategy to intimidate opponents of the coup. Any “enemy of the people” – anyone who dares to speak out publicly against the Maidan or question Ukraine’s nationalist agenda – can show up on this website. The addresses of Oles Buzina, a well-known publicist shot by nationalists near his home in Kiev, and Oleg Kalashnikov, an opposition MP killed by nationalists in his home, were also on Myrotvorets, which helped the killers find their victims. The names of the murderers are known; however, they are not imprisoned because they are considered heroes in today’s Ukraine, whose political life is controlled by radicals.

The website was not closed even after an international scandal when Myrotvorets published the personal data of well-known foreign politicians, including former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. But unlike Mr. Schröder, who lives in Germany, thousands of Ukrainians whose data is stored on Myrotvorets cannot feel safe. All those who were arrested in March 2022 were also listed on Myrotvorets. Some of them I know personally – Yuri Tkachev, the editor of the Odessa newspaper Timer, and Dmitry Dzhangirov, the editor of Capital, a YouTube channel.

Many of those whose names are on Myrotvorets were able to flee Ukraine after the Maidan; some were able to do so after the mass arrests in March. One of them is Tarik Nezalezhko, a colleague of Dzhangirov. On April 12, 2022, when he was already safe outside Ukraine, he published a post on YouTube in which he called the Ukrainian security service a “Gestapo” and gave advice on how to avoid being arrested by its agents.

That is, Ukraine is not a democratic country. The more I observe what is going on there, the more I think of the modernization course of Augusto Pinochet, who, by the way, is admired by our neo-liberals (A.d.Ü: even Wikipedia does not conceal this). For a long time the crimes of the Pinochet regime were not explained. But in the end, humanity discovered the truth. I only hope that this will happen sooner in Ukraine.

Ukrainian academic Volodymyr Ishchenko said in a recent interview with NLR that in post-Soviet Eastern Europe, unlike in Western Europe, there is more of a partnership between nationalism and neoliberalism. This has been observed even in the Donbass among the wealthier segments of the population. Do you agree with this? If so, can you explain how this combination developed?

I agree with Volodymyr. What we observe in Ukraine is an alliance of nationalists and liberals based on their common intolerance of Russia or of anyone who advocates cooperation with Russia. Given the current war, this unity of liberals and nationalists may seem justified. However, the alliance was formed long before this war – in 2013, during the emergence of the Maidan movement. The association agreement with the European Union advocated by the Maidan was seen by liberals primarily in terms of democratization, modernization, and civilization – bringing Ukraine closer to European standards of governance. In contrast, the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union was associated with a civilizational regression to Soviet etatism and Asian despotism. Here, the positions of liberals and nationalists met: the latter actively supported the Maidan not because of democratization but because of its clear anti-Russia stance.

From the beginning of the protests, radical nationalists were the most active Maidan fighters. The unity between liberals, who associated the Euromaidan with progress, modernization, human rights, etc., and radicals, who appropriated the movement for their nationalist agenda, was an important precondition for the transformation of the civil protest into an armed struggle that led to an unconstitutional overthrow of power. The crucial role of radicals in the revolution also became a decisive factor in the formation of the mass anti-Maidan movement in eastern Ukraine against the “coup d’état,” as the prevailing anti-Maidan discourse referred to the transfer of power in Kiev. At least in part, what we observe today is a tragic result of this short-sighted and ill-fated alliance formed during the Maidan.

Can you elaborate on Zelensky’s relationship with the far-right in Ukraine?

Zelensky himself has never expressed far-right views. In his series “Servants of the People,” which was used as an unofficial election campaign platform, Ukrainian nationalists are portrayed negatively: They appear as nothing more than stupid puppets of the oligarchs. As a presidential candidate, Zelensky criticized the language law signed by his predecessor Poroshenko, which made knowledge of Ukrainian a requirement for civil servants, soldiers, doctors and teachers. “We must initiate and adopt laws and decisions that consolidate society, not the opposite,” candidate Zelensky demanded in 2019.

After taking office as president, however, Zelensky turned to the nationalist agenda of his predecessor. On May 19, 2021, his government adopted an action plan to promote the Ukrainian language in all spheres of public life, strictly adhering to Poroshenko’s language law – to the delight of nationalists and the horror of Russophones. Zelensky has done nothing to prosecute the radicals for all their crimes against political opponents and the population of the Donbass. The symbol of Zelensky’s shift to the right was his endorsement by nationalist Medvedko – one of those accused of Buzina’s murder – who publicly endorsed Zelensky’s ban on Russian-language opposition channels in 2021.

The question is, why? Why did Zelensky make an about-face toward nationalism when people hoped he would pursue a policy of reconciliation? As many analysts believe, this is because radicals, despite being the minority of the Ukrainian population, do not hesitate to use violence against politicians, courts, law enforcement agencies, media workers, etc.-in other words, they are simply good at intimidating society, including the holders of public power. Propagandists may repeat the mantra “Zelensky is a Jew, so he can’t be a Nazi” as often as they like, but the truth is that radicals control the political process in Ukraine through violence against those who dare to oppose their nationalist and supremacist agendas. The case of Anatoliy Shariy – one of the most popular bloggers in Ukraine who lives in exile – is a good example to illustrate this. Not only do he and his family members constantly receive death threats, but radicals also constantly intimidate, beat, and humiliate the activists of his party (which was banned by Zelensky in March 2022). Ukrainian radicals call this “political safari.”

With regard to the Ukrainian conflict, , which may have serious consequences if it escalates, Zelensky is currently the most influential figure on the world stage. I am concerned that he is using the same manipulative show business skills to gain support for his image of the personified incarnation of democracy and righteousness against the forces of evil and autocracy. It’s like a movie based on a comic strip. This is exactly the kind of framing that runs counter to diplomacy. Do you think Zelensky is playing a constructive role as Ukraine’s war leader or not?

I regularly follow Zelensky’s war speeches and I can say with certainty that the way he frames the conflict can hardly lead to a diplomatic solution, as he constantly repeats that the forces of good are being attacked by the forces of evil. It is clear that there can be no political solution to such an Armageddon. What is missing from this mythical frame of reference for the war is the broader context of the situation: the fact that Ukraine has for years refused to implement the Minsk peace agreements signed in 2015 after the defeat of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass war. According to these agreements, the Donbass was to receive political autonomy within Ukraine-a point that is unimaginable and unacceptable to radicals. Instead of implementing the document ratified by the UN, Kiev has been fighting the Donbass along the demarcation line for eight long years. The lives of Ukrainians living in these territories have turned into a nightmare. For the radicals whose battalions have fought there, the people of the Donbass – who are called sovki and vatniki – deserve no mercy or leniency.

The current war is a continuation of the 2014 war that began when Kiev sent troops into the Donbass to suppress the anti-Maidan rebellion under the premise of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.” Considering this broader context does not require endorsing Russia’s “military operation,” but it does imply recognizing that Ukraine is also responsible for what happened. Framing the issue of the current war as a struggle of civilization against barbarism or democracy against autocracy is nothing more than manipulation, and that is essential to understanding the situation. Bush’s formula, “You are either on our side or on the side of the terrorists,” which Zelensky promotes in his appeals to the “civilized world,” has proven very convenient when it comes to dodging personal responsibility for the ongoing catastrophe.

When it comes to selling this one-dimensional story to the world, Zelensky’s artistic skills seem invaluable. He’s finally on the world stage, and the world is applauding. The former comedian doesn’t even try to hide his satisfaction. When asked by a French reporter on March 5, 2022 – the tenth day of the Russian invasion – how his life had changed with the start of the war, Zelensky replied with a smile of joy, “Today my life is beautiful. (Short version here). I believe that I am needed. I believe that is the most important meaning of life – to be needed. To feel that you are not just a void that just breathes, walks and eats something. You’re alive.”

To me, this construction is troubling: it implies that Zelensky enjoys the unique opportunity to perform on a global stage that war offers him. The war has made his life beautiful; he is alive. Unlike millions of Ukrainians whose lives are not beautiful at all, and thousands of those who are no longer alive.

Alexander Gabuev has suggested that the Russian leadership has a lack of knowledge about Ukraine. I have also heard from Russian commentators that Ukraine maintains a sense of superiority over the pro-Russian side with respect to its pro-Western attitude. Do you think that is an important factor for either side?

I am inclined to agree that the Russian leadership has not sufficiently understood the social processes that have taken place in Ukraine since the Maidan. In fact, half of the Ukrainian population did not welcome the Maidan, and millions of people in southeastern Ukraine wanted Russia to intervene. I know this for a fact, because all my relatives and old friends live in those areas. But what was true in 2014 is not necessarily the case today. Eight years have passed, a new generation of young people has grown up, raised in a new social environment, and many people have simply gotten used to the new realities. Even though most of them despise radicals and the politics of Ukrainization, they hate war even more. The reality on the ground has turned out to be more complex than the decision makers expected.

What about the sense of superiority of those Ukrainians who identify more with Westerners than with Russians?

That’s true, and for me that’s the most tragic part of the whole post-Maidan story, because it was precisely this sense of superiority that prevented the “progressive” pro-Maidan forces from finding a common language with their “backward” pro-Russian compatriots. This led to the uprising in the Donbass, the Ukrainian army’s “anti-terrorist operation” against the Donbass, Russia’s intervention, the Minsk peace accords, their non-fulfillment, and finally the current war.

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Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War “More diplomacy instead of more weapons”

Supplying weapons does not end the war in Ukraine, but prolongs the horror, Lars Pohlmeier of the organization “International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War” told Deutschlandfunk radio. He said everything must be done for a diplomatic solution – which would include Russia.

Lars Pohlmeier in conversation with Sebastian Engelbrecht

[This interview published on 5/8/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/lars-pohlmeier-ippnw-atomkrieg-verhindern-100.html.]

A Ukrainian flag flies at a monument in front of houses destroyed during attacks by the Russian army in the settlement of Borodyanka near Kiev

Destruction in Borodyanka near Kiev: There is a risk that the suffering in Ukraine will be increased by arms deliveries because the conflict will last longer, says Lars Pohlmeier (picture alliance / Photoshot/ Yuliia Ovsyannikova / Avalon)

Lars Pohlmeier is chairman of the German section of the organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). He calls on political leaders to continue searching for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. There must be a civilian solution, he said in this week’s interview on Deutschlandfunk radio. If the military conflict continues to escalate, that potentially plunges everyone into ruin, he said. “We have a lot to lose,” Pohlmeier stressed.

Greater risk of nuclear war

Concerns about a third world war are not unfounded, Pohlmeier added. There is a risk of a politically intended use of nuclear weapons, he said. The risk of an accidental use of nuclear weapons is also much greater, he said, if systems are put on alert. Everything must be done now, he said, to “take the drama out of this situation” and stop the killing in Ukraine.

Lars Pohlmeier, chairman of the German section of Physicians Against Nuclear War (IPPNW), at the anti-war demonstration under the slogan “Stop the war! Peace for Ukraine and all of Europe” in Berlin on Feb. 27, 2022.

Lars Pohlmeier, chairman of the German section of Physicians Against Nuclear War (IPPNW), at the anti-war demonstration under the slogan “Stop the war! Peace for Ukraine and all of Europe” on Feb. 27, 2022, in Berlin (picture alliance / SULUPRESS.DE / Marc Vorwerk)

The IPPNW organization was founded in 1980, during the Cold War, by a US cardiologist and his Soviet colleague. The acronym stands for International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. The name of the German section is IPPNW Germany – International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Physicians in Social Responsibility. The organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. It has 150,000 members worldwide who maintain international contacts and dialogue, even across ideological boundaries.

Arms deliveries prolonged suffering in Ukraine

Pohlmeier spoke out against the export of weapons to Ukraine. He said there was a danger that the suffering would be increased by arms deliveries because the conflict would last longer. In addition, he said, Germany had the right and the duty not to be drawn into the war. Ukraine would gain nothing from NATO’s entry into the war, Pohlmeier says. NATO involvement, in his opinion, would first and foremost mean the destruction of Ukraine and “secondarily, possibly, the destruction of Europe.”

A self-propelled howitzer 2000 fires a shell during an exercise at the Altengrabow training area.

Pros and consShould Germany become more militarily involved in Ukraine?

Political scientist Thomas Jäger criticizes the open letter by initiator Alice Schwarzer and co-signers.

Open letter to Chancellor Scholz Political scientist: “A simply inadequate analysis of the situation in the war”

Face-saving solution with Russia

In Pohlmeier’s view, Russia cannot be defeated “except at the price of possibly destroying itself.” Therefore, he said, everything must be done to find a “face-saving solution that includes the Russians.” First, he said, a “compromise peace” must be accepted, even if it is “perhaps a rotten peace” according to Western perceptions of the rule of law. He said there must be consistent discussion about who can mediate in this conflict and who can also be perceived by the Russian side as an honest broker.

Behind closed doors, Pohlmeier said, his organization is also trying to make contact with the Russian government.

The interview in full length:

Sebastian Engelbrecht: Physicians Against Nuclear War has 150,000 members worldwide. In 1985, they received the Nobel Peace Prize – five years after they were founded. And Lars Pohlmeier is also a co-founder of the international ICAN campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, which also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine began, fears of nuclear war have returned. Last week, the Russian army rehearsed the launch of mobile ballistic missiles with nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. The Iskander-M missile system can hit targets up to 500 kilometers away with cruise missiles or rockets. So the missiles can reach Warsaw or Berlin. And, Mr. Pohlmeier, the Second World War ended 77 years ago today. Are we on the verge of a third?

Lars Pohlmeier: Well, good morning to you first. The danger of a third world war is certainly not unfounded, because we are in danger that the momentum that has now been created in this terrible war of aggression against Ukraine will become uncontrollable, and we have to fear that we could also be drawn into this conflict. And unfortunately it is the case that nuclear weapons, which have still not been abolished, are now obviously playing a greater role again in military considerations and in propaganda, and the use of them is once politically intentional implicitly threatened and at the same time, of course, there is the great danger of accidental use. And this danger is much greater when these systems are put on alert.

Engelbrecht: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has threatened lightning-fast retaliation if NATO intervenes directly in the Ukraine war. Should the Western alliance really be intimidated by these deterrent words?

Pohlmeier: Well, what President Putin thinks and what he really wants, we don’t really know. I think that we have to do everything we can to stop the war in Ukraine and to stop the arms deals and to take the drama out of this situation, so to speak, also in terms of nuclear weapons. Not to mention stop the killing in Ukraine.

The open letters to the Chancellor

Engelbrecht: Now there are several lines of argument on this issue now. Leading intellectuals have written two open letters to Chancellor Olaf Scholz. In the first, 28 of them, led by women’s rights activist Alice Schwarzer, called for a categorical ban on accepting the risk of nuclear war.

Can you endorse this first letter?

Pohlmeier: Yes, I also co-signed it myself. Not as the first signatory, but several 100,000 people have now signed this letter, and I am one of them.

Engelbrecht: Can you elaborate a bit more? Why are you behind this letter?

Pohlmeier: It’s an incredibly difficult situation, the question of arms deliveries, which moves us very much. And there is no golden answer for it. We are struggling to find the right thing to do. Mrs. Baerbock spoke about this on German television, about the rapes by Russian soldiers, and took that as an argument for arms deliveries. And I share this terrible emotional consternation. The question is whether arms deliveries will end that more quickly, or whether, in practice, they will not prolong this terrible suffering. And that is sort of the problem we have with arms deliveries. We believe that the arms deliveries will prolong the conflict and thus prolong the horror and just not mitigate it and end it. And that is why I think that at this level this letter is a right initiative and is also right with regard to nuclear weapons, that everything must be done to get back into a dialogue. That is, after all, the call that is associated with this, to reach a diplomatic solution. Because that can be the only goal.

Engelbrecht: So, if I understand you correctly, if the Ukrainians are suffering now, that’s less suffering than if the whole world is suffering? Isn’t that cynical towards the Ukrainians?

Pohlmeier: No, I didn’t mean it that way. The question is whether arms deliveries can stop the raping, this image that Mrs. Baerbock used, whether it can stop that faster. And I’m afraid that the arms supplies, given the strength of the Russian army, will prolong the conflict, and that will increase the suffering in Ukraine in the end. I will say another example. I had a lot of hope at the beginning of the war that the soldier mothers in Russia would lead to when the first dead Russian soldiers come, as in the Afghanistan war, that there will be an emotional psychological turnaround in Russia from the dead boys coming home. And I am shocked that on Russian state television, parents are presented who are supposedly talking about their children who have died and saying, our boys must be avenged – avenged in Ukraine. And that, of course, will lead to a further escalation of this incredible violence. And then the arms deliveries would … is the danger that that will increase the suffering because it will prolong the conflict. And I have no doubt, unfortunately, that Vladimir Putin is ready, as he has shown in the past, to mercilessly destroy Ukraine as well. Then the people of Ukraine would have nothing from this conflict. That is my concern.

Military parade on “Victory Day” in Moscow in 2019.

Militarization of war commemoration

What is the significance of May 9 in Russia and Ukraine?

May 9 is celebrated in Russia as “Victory Day” of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. But the state constructs heroic stories instead of commemorating suffering – including in the current war in Ukraine. There, in turn, May 9 has had a very checkered history.

Engelbrecht: But isn’t this ultimately an expression of Western egoism? We in the West want to remain unmolested by this war in this way, by not sending weapons.

Pohlmeier: Well, again. For me, this has two levels. So, I have said that I think that the suffering in Ukraine is prolonged. This has nothing to do with selfishness. I think this is an act of solidarity to spare suffering and murder and also the … what I call destruction of souls that happens through war and that will last a long, long time. That’s why it’s important to stop the fighting. This is not an endorsement of any of these insane ambitions of Russia, and it is not an expression of a lack of solidarity; on the contrary, it is a humanitarian concern, which is what I am representing here with this. On the other hand, I am absolutely of the opinion that we have the right and the duty not to be dragged into this war, because Ukraine would have nothing to gain from it either: Ukraine would have nothing to gain from it either. In the event of NATO entry – and there may be attempts to draw NATO into this war – that would mean, first of all, the destruction of Ukraine and, secondly, the destruction of possibly Europe. And that is not in Ukraine’s interest either. That is also neither cynical nor lacking in solidarity, on the contrary. This is a humanitarian concern.

“This is not about giving in to Vladimir Putin.”

Engelbrecht: Now a second letter has been added by 58 German intellectuals and celebrities, initiated by the Green politician Ralf Fücks. These intellectuals are now, on the contrary, pleading for supplying weapons to Ukraine. They write that the danger of a nuclear war cannot be banished by concessions to the Kremlin, because these concessions would encourage it, the Kremlin, to further military adventures. What do you think of this rather apt argumentation?

Pohlmeier: Of course, I’m familiar with the letter and I’m skeptical that it hits the right point. I understand the severe criticism and the frustration. After all, there are many co-signers who know Russia well, some of whom come from there themselves. It is not about giving in to Vladimir Putin. And it can’t be … it’s in the letter: Vladimir Putin must not leave the field as the winner. But this is not about victory and defeat. We cannot defeat Russia except at the price of possibly destroying ourselves. That is why everything must be done to find – as terrible as this may sound – a face-saving solution that includes the Russians. And that tenor is what I think is missing from the letter. I understand the great criticism of Russia’s actions and also the reflex to show toughness. But I believe that since the West cannot defeat Russia militarily, there must be a bridge of some kind. And this aspect is not named enough there.

Engelbrecht: In these two letters, it is also clear that there is a different weighting of values. Ralf Fücks from the Green Party, who was mentioned earlier, has brought this to the point in an interesting way for his position and in his opinion. He said in connection with this debate that peace is not the highest value, but freedom and justice. Can you agree with that?

Pohlmeier: Yes and no. For me, peace actually only exists in freedom and justice. But unfortunately, in many countries of the world this is not possible. I have been observing the dismantling of democracy in Russia for many years now, and it distresses me greatly. It is quite terrible and hard to bear. This is also reflected by critical voices towards Russia. I share this assessment. The only problem is, and this is my concern, when you see, for example: In the Korean War, the war started at the 50th parallel. Then the front line crossed the country all the way to the south and then again all the way to the north. I myself was in Pyongyang in North Korea. There is not a single old house left there. In the end, they met again at the 50th parallel. I would like to spare Ukraine and the people from Ukraine this fate. And that is why I believe that in the balancing of interests, where there is no golden answer, I know that, it can be better to say that a peace, even if it is a compromise peace and perhaps a rotten peace in our sense of the rule of law, must be accepted first in order to create the possibility of developing justice and freedom again.

A NATO flag waves in the wind.

War in Ukraine

NATO and its Eastern Flank

With the Russian attack on Ukraine, the importance of NATO as a defense alliance has also come back into political focus. How has NATO’s presence in eastern Europe evolved since its founding, and how has it changed with the war in Ukraine?

Engelbrecht: Behind the idea of arming Ukraine is ultimately the idea of deterrence. The proponents of arms deliveries argue in this way. The danger of nuclear escalation must be countered by credible deterrence. Don’t they have a point there?

Pohlmeier: I think the deterrence ideology is a myth. And I can only say experts from the U.S. military, generals who then retire, who say that nothing has happened in the times of deterrence has been God and luck. There are so many possible sources of error in a high-armament, disarmament system that that cannot be the perspective. I believe that deterrence is error-prone. And, after all, all it takes is one mistake, one accident, if you wanted to massively threaten each other again in the future, to bring about the destruction of our continent within seconds, minutes. That is one thing. The second thing that concerns me about this issue is, when it comes to high armament, I believe, given the great challenges, we do not have the financial resources, nor do we have the intellectual resources to play that, to achieve that. What grieves me is we don’t have enough physicians. My son has to make a career decision now. Should he now consider becoming a rocket scientist or a fighter pilot? We don’t have the social resources for that. We should write off climate change as a phenomenon. We need money and intellect to solve these problems. In other words, it would be a trap to go in that direction.

Parallels to 1980

Engelbrecht: You are listening to the interview of the week on Deutschlandfunk. Today with Lars Pohlmeier, the chairman of the German section of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Your organization, Mr. Pohlmeier, was founded in the 1980s, or 1980, when the fear of nuclear war was also very high, similar to today. What is the difference between the situation now and then?

Pohlmeier: Basically, I would say I wasn’t around in 1980 because I’m too young for that. But I’m afraid that many things are similar now. Actually, our last feeling was that we had to start all over again from where we started in 1980. That was to say for our organization: we establish professional personal contacts between physicians from different countries with different ideologies, maybe also to get into a dialogue. And I think that we have managed to do that is a great value. And I would like our society as a whole to try to conduct this dialogue, especially with Russia, in order to build trust, to enter into a conversation and to contribute to peace from below. It’s not about approving government policies. It’s about opening up fields of dialogue. And that’s a great result of IPPNW, with great difficulties, with a lot of mistrust. It’s interesting to have observed that for me. But I think this is a very great value and in this respect also a model for many other activities, which unfortunately are now rather discontinued, with Russia.

Engelbrecht: What about the current situation? Are you in contact with your Russian colleagues, and what can you achieve? What can you do against a possible nuclear war?

Pohlmeier: Yes, we are in contact with Russian colleagues. It is clear that these contacts are taking place under the most difficult conditions at the moment because of the extremely restrictive legal situation. We all know that the word war cannot be mentioned, so our colleagues are under great pressure. In this respect, at the moment, it is on a level to keep contact, solidarity insurance, exchange messages of peace. But a free debate is unfortunately not possible at the moment. It’s important now to keep in touch so that you can survive this together.

Engelbrecht: I know the question is a bit impertinent, but nevertheless I want to ask it. Once again, what can your organization, whose goal is to prevent nuclear war, actually accomplish?

Pohlmeier: Well, we have now recently, that was after the beginning of the war, the Russian Academy of Sciences had its annual meeting. At that time, it was still possible for guest speakers from the United States to join in and call for nuclear weapons to be taken off high alert. There is our possibility, through traditionally high-ranking contacts in states of the world, not only in Russia of course, but in many other countries of the world, to try to exert influence with our humanitarian concerns. And on another level, which is one of the successes we have to show, we have succeeded in negotiating a treaty at the United Nations banning nuclear weapons. This treaty will not come into force until 2021, and it is a great event for our organization, in a large network as a campaign.

Engelbrecht: And now, in these days and weeks, you suggest that bridges have to be built to the Russian government. That’s a proposed solution, but what does that mean concretely? What could that mean?

Pohlmeier: Well, we called it that at our statement last weekend: more diplomacy instead of more weapons. We talk about supplying weapons, but we also have to talk about it consistently: Who can mediate in this conflict? We certainly regret that the United Nations, including Mr. Guterres, came to Moscow very late. The question is, who is an honest broker in this conflict? Or who can be perceived by the Russian side as an honest broker? Is it perhaps necessary to include China in a diplomatic solution after all? Which other countries could be involved? Traditionally for us actually the governments of Finland and Sweden as so far neutral countries. And we need to think more about that. Not which weapons systems we supply. And that is what we would demand politically.

Russian attack on Ukraine

Why are Sweden and Finland considering joining NATO?

Scandinavia is also undergoing a security transition because of the Russian war in Ukraine. Sweden and Finland are considering giving up their military neutrality and aiming to join the NATO alliance. But the countries have not yet decided.

Engelbrecht: Do you also have the channels to effectively introduce these thoughts in the current situation?

“In the end, sometimes you also have to go to bed with the devil in order to achieve something.”

Pohlmeier: You have to say that yes, the former health minister under Gorbachev, he is one of the founding fathers of the Russian IPPNW. So, there are channels into politics, and we are trying to get in touch here, so to speak, even behind closed doors.

Engelbrecht: Also with the current Russian government?

Pohlmeier: Also with the current Russian government.

Engelbrecht: Do you want to tell us more about that?

Pohlmeier: I don’t want to tell you more about that publicly. But I will say again clearly that when I say “build bridges,” that does not mean agreement with what is happening, but in the end there can only be a civilian solution. Let me put it this way: In the end, sometimes you have to go to bed with the devil in order to achieve something. Because the alternative of a military conflict that continues to escalate, that potentially plunges us all into ruin. And we have a lot to lose.

Engelbrecht: But the Russian government, namely Vladimir Putin, has ultimately rejected all diplomatic attempts with scorn and derision by starting the war. Do you really believe that you can make a difference?

Pohlmeier: I believe that Vladimir Putin also has an interest in agreeing to a solution, because he must have an interest, even as an autocrat, that the people live in a certain security in order to be able to maintain his own power. I know that it is incredibly difficult, for me personally as well, to endure that there is no diplomatic solution at the moment, which is obviously on the floor. It is incredibly difficult. And yet I see this as the only chance to keep trying, to re-enter into talks, because the alternative will only be annihilation at the end of the day.

Wish: Germany as mediator

Engelbrecht: You put it this way in one of your current texts, you plead for Germany to intervene in the war humanitarianly or diplomatically, i.e. as a mediator. But wouldn’t that be lacking in solidarity with NATO’s allies?

Pohlmeier: I believe that this can be coordinated, that roles can be distributed differently. I would have liked to see, or still wish to see, although this is of course now becoming more difficult, simply because the situation has escalated to such an extent, that the Federal Republic of Germany, with its traditionally good connections both to Ukraine and to Russia, plays a mediating role. That has now become more difficult because of the clear support, including military support, for Ukraine. But that’s what I would have liked to see.

Engelbrecht: Then in your current paper, “Risks and Side Effects of Arms Supplies,” you talk about “social defense.” This would mean that fewer people would be killed, and cities and infrastructure would be spared. But again, the question arises here, doesn’t that have to seem cynical to the people who are in the hail of bombs in Ukraine, in Mariupol, when you recommend social defense?

Pohlmeier: I don’t think so either. Should we call on the people in Mariupol to fight to the last man? Because that is what is threatening now. That there will be bombing until there is no one left. And then heroes are created, war heroes are now presented every evening on Russian television. That is cynical, of course. But then there is no mother who can take her son in her arms because he is dead. Does it help him that he is a hero, died as a hero in Mariupol? That’s the catastrophe, isn’t it? And this is so terrible that you can hardly stand it. But that’s the problem I see with the arms shipments. We fight to the last man, and then everybody is dead. That’s not solidarity.

Engelbrecht: Mr. Pohlmeier, you know Russia very well. Not only are you married to a St. Petersburg citizen, you speak Russian and travel a lot in the successor states of the Soviet Union. How do you explain the current confrontation between Russia and the West? What is actually at the heart of this dispute?

Pohlmeier: Yes, I have been traveling to the Soviet Union and its successor states since 1987. And I have also lived in France and the United States. I would say that Russia somehow remains incomprehensible and foreign to me in some places, and I am only ever five percent Russian. As much as I love the country and the culture, the good and beautiful things that exist in Russia or in Eastern Europe, there are many things that remain incomprehensible to me. I have been seeing what is happening here in Russia for years. On the one hand, I see a massive dismantling of democracy. I see colleagues and friends of mine losing their jobs or losing their positions because they don’t have the political stature. I see arrests of friends, loss of jobs as punishment for demonstrations. The cessation of freedom of the press. There is an unfortunate lack of rooting in democratic traditions. The awareness that the opinion of others has value. And unfortunately, in Russian society, as well as in civil society, there is a very strong notion, on the one hand, that one has nothing to do with politics, that one is not part of the community. There is no tradition of active involvement, as there is here. And the boss, Putin, will decide and fix it. Such a feeling.

“Putin has been totally incapable of modernizing his society and his economy as a whole.”

And then overall in society, I see what I call the total modernization failure of Russian society. Russia makes money selling raw materials, but Putin has been totally incapable of modernizing his society and his economy as a whole. After all, there is practically no industrial product that would be competitive from Russia. No cars, no airplanes, no medical equipment. One could imagine that new ideas, markets and a sustainable economic system would have emerged in Russia that could have competed with us, with lower prices. None of this has happened. And then, of course, someone has to be blamed for this failure. And then, at this point, it is also to some extent, that is my feeling, the West that is supposed to take the blame for this, which, as they say now, has always hated us. Which is, of course, completely insane.

Engelbrecht: The doctors against nuclear war should actually all be pacifists, I thought to myself – Mr. Pohlmeier, are you a pacifist?

Pohlmeier: Well, I wouldn’t say that. I’m not a pacifist. I think it’s a very interesting question, and I have a high regard for people who see themselves as pacifists. I see my role here, it is very much related to my profession of medicine, where I would say: I try to analyze and make a right decision to the best of my knowledge. And it’s often pacifist in that context. But it’s not a basic philosophical attitude that drives me there, but experience, analysis and then, of course, conviction.

Engelbrecht: My last question: What could be the hope that could move us in the near future? What could be a step that could still prevent the war?

Pohlmeier: Can end it, you mean. Yes, I am an extremely hopeful person. I always deal with the destruction of the world on a voluntary basis. And yet, I’m very hopeful. I think the act of reaching out and saying, we’re going to stop and stop this killing and stop this war and try to negotiate – that actually only takes five minutes. It takes political will, and it takes five minutes. And it needs someone to trigger this stone, to bring down this system, so to speak. All my political work, which is always done from a minority position vis-à-vis the big politics, when we talk at the United Nations or when we talk to government representatives, my idea is always that of a domino game. A whole room full of dominoes. But in order for this whole system to fall over for the better, there needs to be a little stone somewhere that falls. Where this stone falls, I do not know. Whether I can be the one to push this stone, I don’t know. But we must try, because I believe that this, which we are led to believe is all powerful and immovable, is ultimately unstable. With good will and the right historical happy moment, it will be possible to change it. I remain firmly convinced of that.

Engelbrecht: Mr. Pohlmeier, thank you very much for talking to us.

Pohlmeier: Thank you. Goodbye.

More interviews of the week

Jörg Hofmann, Chairman of IG Metall, warned in Dlf of the consequences of increased arms spending for social cohesion in Germany

IG Metall Chairman Jörg Hofmann Rearmament must not be at the expense of social security

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Days in May

by Detlef D. Pries

[This article published on May 9, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://das-blaettchen.de/2022/05/tage-im-mai-61515.html.]

The day before this issue of Blättchen appeared was May 8. As “Liberation Day” it is a day of remembrance in many places in Europe, on which the end of the Second World War, the liberation of the peoples from the yoke of German fascism is remembered and the liberators are respectfully commemorated. Leftists, trade unions, but above all the survivors of the concentration camps repeatedly demanded that May 8 be declared a public holiday in Germany. A petition to this effect with 175,000 signatures was handed over days ago by the Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime – Association of Anti-Fascists to the current president of the Bundesrat, Thuringia’s head of government Bodo Ramelow.

The demand will not remain without opposition. Certainly, since Richard von Weizsäcker’s memorable speech on May 8, 1985, even in the CDU the voices of those who said: “One does not celebrate defeats! Now, however, it will be said that one cannot celebrate a liberation when at the same time Russian descendants of the former liberators overrun their Ukrainian neighbors with brutal war.

“After difficult and very necessary discussions,” the Ravensbrück camp community recently commemorated the Red Army servicemen and women who liberated the women’s concentration camp near Fürstenberg an der Havel in April 1945. Those present remembered them “in their hearts and with respect” – and at the same time condemned the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine “just like the wars in other parts of the world”. They did this in the knowledge that the Russian invasion of Ukraine also turns their memory and the confrontation with fascism and nationalism into battlefields.

Even before May 8, the Soviet memorial in Treptower Park had been smeared with anti-Russian slogans and swastikas, and the Berlin CDU demanded that the historic tanks at the memorial in Tiergarten should disappear from the cityscape. The guns would no longer stand for the liberation of Germany and Europe from Nazi fascism, but they would become “symbols of the aggressive warfare of the Putin regime, which disregards territorial borders and human lives”. At this memorial lie the graves of 2500 Soviet soldiers and no one has yet distinguished whether the fallen were Russians, Ukrainians or members of other peoples of the Soviet Union. Never again war, never again fascism! This was once the hope of the survivors. Today, soldiers whose ancestors fought together in the Red Army against Hitler’s fascism face each other in Ukraine – and they call each other “fascists”!

Twelve years ago, troops from former republics of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, paraded across Moscow’s Red Square alongside forces from France, Poland, Great Britain and the United States. Together, 65 years after the end of the war, they celebrated “Victory Day,” which is traditionally celebrated on May 9 in the successor states of the USSR. Originally, even before military great power was demonstrated in Moscow, it was a silent commemoration day in the Soviet Union, a day “with tears in the eyes”. After all, almost every Soviet family had victims to mourn. Surviving veterans of the “Great Patriotic War” met in Gorky Park under the plaques of their units and exchanged memories. In 1991 it was when I approached Ivan Serdyukov under the shield of the 3rd Shock Army. Alone he stood there. Having gone to war at the age of 17, he had survived terrible bloodshed, indescribable suffering. Serdyukov would be 98 years old today. I don’t know if he is still alive. The number of veterans is dwindling, as is the number of concentration camp prisoners they liberated. The question remains: Would they, too, who knew the horrors of war, have succumbed to the nationalist frenzy that has gripped at least part of the Russian population since February 24, when their president once again launched a war? One may not believe it.

In any case, to call the merciless assault on the civilian population of Ukraine with rockets, bombs, grenades and machine guns “denazification” is absurd. And the slogan “For a world (peace) without Nazism” (the two are synonymous in Russian), behind which Putin’s entourage in Moscow may also be rallying on this May 9, is cynical.

Meanwhile, the argument rages in this country, too, about how to put an end to the bloodshed and destruction, how to put a stop to the warlord. By throwing more and more dangerous weapons into the fray, thus increasing the danger that the war will turn into a nuclear inferno? By bringing “the Russians” to their knees with stranglehold sanctions, under which Putin himself will suffer the least? Shouldn’t punitive measures and “sanctions packages” at least be linked to substantial offers of negotiations that do not ignore legitimate Russian interests? Even those who ask such questions are denounced as “Putin defenders.” Not arguments, but suspicions and insults are buzzing through the “social networks.”

“With Russia, we can only sign its capitulation,” rigorously declares the secretary of the Ukrainian Security Council, Olexiy Danilov, on Ukrainian television. And its president, Volodymyr Selensky, is in effect making Russian capitulation a precondition for a cease-fire. Those who call on both sides to compromise instead of intensifying the war, because ultimately only a peace agreement can put an end to the horror, are either counted among Moscow’s fifth column and denigrated as “lumpen pacifists” or even as “warmongers”.

Gloomy prospects in these May days!

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

On “The folly of those in power”

by Hannes Herbst

[This article published on May 9, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://das-blaettchen.de/2022/05/ueber-%e2%80%9edie-torheit-der-regierenden%e2%80%9c-61502.html.]

I am convinced

that we can learn from history.

Helmut Schmidt

[…] Passion and partisanship make our eyes blind

our eyes blind, and the light

that experience gives,

is a lantern at the stern

that only illuminates the waves behind us.

Samuel Colerigde

I admire […] Barbara Tuchman,” wrote Helmut Schmidt in 2004. After all, 30 years after the U.S. journalist – she reported from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s – and later historian published her investigation “The March of Folly. From Troi to Vietnam” published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. The author, who died in 1989, understood folly as political action against one’s own interests.

If someone were to start writing a sequel to the decades that have passed since then, he would certainly not have to begin with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, but just as certainly this aggression belongs in the pantheon of great follies. It is already inscribed in the annals of criminal wars kept since the time of human memory …

*

Tuchman had packed her starting point, and thus at the same time the driving motive of her research, right into the first sentence of her introduction: “All of history, regardless of time and place, is pervaded by the phenomenon of governments and rulers pursuing policies contrary to their own interests.” A variation on this follows shortly thereafter in question form: “Why do holders of high office so often act in ways contrary to reason and enlightened self-interest? Why do insight and reason so often remain ineffective?”

Of basic types of misgovernment in this context, Tuchman first identifies the following four:

– Tyranny or tyranny as historically so common a manifestation that the author refrains from naming individual examples;

– Self-aggrandizement, as in the case of the twofold attempt by the self-proclaimed German master race to subjugate Europe;

– incompetence or decadence, as in late Rome or the last Romanovs, and finally

– Folly or stubbornness in the form of political action “contrary to the self-interest of the respective state and its citizens”-that is, to “all that is to the welfare and advantage of the body politic.”

It is on the latter variety that Tuchman focuses her investigation, which she further circumscribes by three central criteria. According to these, “the concept of folly […] is used to describe a policy […] only if – firstly

firstly – this policy was already recognized as counterproductive at its time and not only in subsequent historical observation, because “every policy is dependent on the circumstances of its epoch”;

secondly – there was “a practicable alternative course of action to this policy at its time” and

thirdly – this policy was “pursued by a group and not by an individual ruler” and “endures beyond the political career of an individual”; folly as a merely “individually characterized phenomenon” is not worth “a generalized investigation”.

Having said this, Tuchman also formulates her conclusion already in the introduction to her book: “The occurrence of folly is not bound to a particular epoch or place; it is timeless and universal, although the form it takes is determined by the habits of life and outlook of a particular time and place. It is not limited to particular forms of government: Monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy all produce it equally. Nor is it a peculiarity of particular nations or classes. As recent history has clearly shown, the working class, represented by communist governments, exercises its power no more rationally or effectively than the bourgeoisie.”

Concluding her introduction, Tuchman points out, “One can speak of folly only where there is undiscerning adherence to policies that are demonstrably ineffective or work directly against one’s own goals.” And adds, “It is almost needless to say that the present study was prompted by the fact that we encounter this problem at every turn these days.”

As to the latter, however, Tuchman’s book provokes the reader to ask, at least rhetorically, whether this may actually ever have been different in human history. For in addition to her numerous cursory case histories, the author provides four detailed accounts that, beginning with the Trojan War and continuing through the blunders of the Renaissance popes who brought about the Reformation and the British governance of the time of George III that provoked the apostasy of the North American colonies, to the defeat of the United States in Indochina, thus covering a period of more than 3,000 years. (That the folly of the rulers can also bring about historically positive results in the interest of completely different actors is nevertheless conceded by Tuchman – as is hardly to be expected from a Protestant with regard to the Reformation). Whereby the “incalculable number of cases of military [emphasis – H.H.] folly”, which history records, remains completely excluded in her book, “because they would go beyond the scope of the present investigation”. Only two particularly glaring cases are touched upon by the author – namely the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare by Germany in early 1917 and the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Both events resulted in each case in the entry of the U.S. into the war – with the well-known consequences for the further course of the war …

In her search for the why (insight and understanding so often fall by the wayside with political decision-makers) Barbara Tuchman arrives at the following explanation: “Folly is a child of power. From Lord Acton comes the well-known saying ‘power corrupts’. We are less aware that power often also makes stupid and produces folly; that the power to command often leads to ceasing to think; that the accountability of power dwindles as its scope for action grows.”

A more recent example of how this works in practice has come down to us from the circle of the intellectually highly regarded President Barack Obama: Richard Holbrooke, appointed U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009, had learned the lesson in Indochina that such wars cannot be won militarily and can only be ended through negotiation, and he wanted to make the relevant experience productive for debates regarding the conflict in the Hindu Kush. His audio diary later included this passage: “In the first National Security Council meetings with the President, I mentioned Vietnam a couple of times, and Hillary [Holbrooke’s immediate superior at the time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – H.H.] subsequently informed me that the President did not want any reference to Vietnam.”

*

The reception of Tuchman’s book at the time of its publication was mixed, and in some cases highly critical. A review in the weekly DIE ZEIT in November 1984, for example, ended as follows: “With her all too narrow concept of political folly, Barbara Tuchman cannot do justice to history, nor to the politics of the day. She probably doesn’t even want to. At the end of her extensive book, she comes to the meager conclusion that was certain for her from the beginning: ‘We can only muddle on as we have done for these three or four thousand years …’ – That may be so, but to come to this ‘realization’ Barbara Tuchman would not have had to write this ‘investigation’ – as she calls her 550-page book.” Nevertheless, it can still be read with profit today.

*

Finally, back to Russia’s Ukraine war. If one applies Tuchman’s criteria of folly to it, the following picture emerges:

First – The stated goal of Russia’s policy toward Ukraine at least since 2008 (NATO’s Bucharest Summit Communiqué of April 3, 2008: “We have agreed today that these countries [Ukraine and Georgia – H.H.] will join NATO.”) has been to prevent the North Atlantic Treaty Organization from advancing further toward Russian borders. Since 2014 – Moscow’s annexation of Crimea as well as support for pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine – the counterproductive nature of the chosen path has been exposed: In addition to the economic sanctions and international exclusions of Russia by the West, which have been imposed and tightened several times since then, NATO has permanently deployed combat units to the Baltics and Poland, strengthened its Rapid Reaction Force, significantly increased the number and scope of its maneuvers from the North Cape to NATO’s eastern flank and Ukraine to the Black Sea, and systematically intensified equipment and training assistance to Ukrainian forces. Against this background, it was absolutely clear that a direct attack by Moscow on Kiev would lead to a further surge in confrontational military countermeasures by NATO countries. Such a development quickly occurred after February 24: NATO, which not so long ago was described by the French president as “brain dead,” is undergoing a renaissance that no one seriously expected. Finland and Sweden will join the pact. New NATO combat units will be stationed in Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. The German government wants to make the Bundeswehr fit for war again by greatly increasing military spending. Et cetera, et cetera …

Second – There was a “viable alternative course of action” until the February 24, 2022 raid: namely, serious negotiations to resolve the Ukraine issue, not only demanded by Moscow, but pursued as such. And that without ultimate theater, as was practiced by Russia with the so-called draft treaties (without any leeway for compromise) slapped on the table by NATO and the United States in December 2021. Moscow could have, indeed should have, adopted a corresponding course at the latest after Putin’s philippic at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, instead of just playing the offended liver and repeating warnings of red lines. And even on February 23, 2022, the possibilities for negotiation were by no means exhausted, because Ukraine had – according to Russian information – concentrated large parts of its armed forces around the Donbass for a possible reconquest, but the United States had publicly declared several times in the weeks and months before that it would not intervene with its own armed forces under any circumstances should war with Russia break out. Thus, even from Moscow’s point of view, it was not to be expected that the Ukrainian president would repeat the mistake of his Georgian counterpart in 2008, strike out and thus provoke Russia’s intervention …

Thirdly, as far as the author of this article is aware, the predominant view in local politics and the media that the Russian president alone is to blame for the invasion of Ukraine (“Putin’s war”) does not reflect the real balance of power in Moscow. Alexander Dubowy, who recently wrote in the Berliner Zeitung, is probably more correct: “The leadership of the Russian Federation is a heterogeneous mixture of different, competing elite groups. In this system, Vladimir Putin has the role of a very influential arbiter and moderator …” For “a personalist dictatorship,” on the other hand, “the current Russian system […] is far too complex.”

In other words, the war in Ukraine is not only illegal under international law, a crime, but also a classic folly according to Tuchman’s criteria. A folly that Russia and the world will have to bear heavily and for a long time – even if there is no further military escalation or even the use of nuclear weapons.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Evil pacifists

by Teresa Sciacca

[This article published on 5/8/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.ossietzky.net/artikel/boese-pazifisten/#.]

For a few weeks now I have been back in touch with old acquaintances from the student movement of the 1990s. Yesterday we met in front of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo to demonstrate against war and for reconciliation, armed with some peace flags. There were just a dozen of us. Where are all the others? I asked myself. The last time I saw most of them was thirty years ago in front of the American consulate at a demonstration against the first Iraq war. There were many of us then – and we were full of indignation.

In the meantime, the world has changed completely, we grew up, and our student movement was the last important young wave of protest that existed in Italy. The left is now fragmented. The Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI), which existed then, no longer exists, and the PD (Democratic Party) has been running after the right for years in order to remain the governing party. And now? Today we sit in front of the TV in shock, watching the people of Ukraine being slaughtered. The first reaction is deep pain and dark emptiness, as if the world has turned off the day and the light. Then you don’t want to watch anymore. My screen now remains dark as well. Only the same frightening and terrible images come on, as we have never seen them before in this clarity and on this scale. On television, there is only this war, and the way out that we are shown is an intensification and prolongation of the war. Until victory. But who is going to win here?

In the meantime, I just want to get away, maybe to a lonely village on the mountains, to the countryside, to escape from this reality. Of course, that is just as naive as turning off the television. For me, this flight started with the pandemic, when that was all the media were talking about. There was no reality other than protective measures and quarantine, curfew, vaccination advocates and vaccination opponents, as if the virus had wiped out everything. The virologists showed up on every talk show and called the shots. It was a matter of life and death, and they showed us the way to end the pandemic; the virus is still rampant. There was no more room for exchange of opinions and alternatives. Friendships were broken, many people were impossible to talk to. Anyone who did not share the same opinion became an enemy. The war has now made Corona almost forgotten, but the enemies are still there. We are surrounded by enemies, they tell us on television.

First it was the Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. For twenty years we were afraid of the Islamists. Then we were afraid of the virus, and now a new old enemy is coming back on the scene, and everyone is afraid of the Russians. Twenty years of fear. How long is this going to go on? Of course, I am afraid too. I am afraid of war and hatred, which is also spreading like a virus. Hatred of the Russians against the Ukrainians, hatred of the whole world against the Russians, hatred against the “Filo putiniani” or “Filorussi” (Putin understanders), as the pacifists are called nowadays. On TV and in the newspapers one hears and reads only about the need to supply weapons, to hate the enemy and his culture, and to rearm. Analyses of the background, possible causes or alternatives to the escalation that may follow the rearmament policy are frowned upon. There is no room on the talk shows for words expressing peace, reason, visions of a better and more just world. Everything that was learned in the pandemic period – the global reality of interconnectedness that makes it necessary to act with each other to prevent world catastrophes such as pandemic and climate crisis; the issue of social justice – everything is forgotten. Weapons are the only answer at the moment, and in this fog of anger and fear we no longer even see where we are going. We are just walking around blindly, trapped and driven by the problems that we ourselves have helped to create.

At least the Pope has now reminded us of this. He said he had heard that some heads of state wanted to increase funding for rearmament. “You are crazy!” He said. Our societies are run by madmen, said John Lennon in the sixties. These days, it seems to me that the Pope is the only celebrity with a vision. We must not spend more and more money on more weapons, he said, our resources should be invested in schools, hospitals, culture, only that would make our societies better. For this vision Francesco was attacked. He would probably be a friend of Putin and of course a communist, although Putin and being a communist are contradictory. His Good Friday action of having the cross carried by two women, one from Ukraine and one from Russia, has also been heavily criticized, not only by Ukrainian diplomats at the Vatican, but by Italian journalists who now seem to see their purpose and mission in defaming any attempt at dialogue and reconciliation as treason. Evil Pacifists. The anti-war pacifists have replaced the anti-vaccination pacifists as the internal enemy.

The ANPI (Associazione Nazionale Partigiani d’Italia) – the association of surviving partisans who fought against fascism and German occupation in World War II – is also attacked, because on a poster for the commemoration day of liberation from the Nazi-fascist regime on April 25, they mention the article of the Italian Constitution that outlaws and rejects war.

What is strange and worrying about all this is the disconnection between politics and the media, on the one hand, and the concerns and opinions of the population, on the other. The slogans of the media and politicians do not really correspond to the opinion of Italians. About 60 percent of the population thinks that both the delivery of weapons to the Ukrainians and the increase in funding for further rearmament are wrong. It’s an absurd situation: politicians in government and parliament make majority decisions that most Italians reject, while a large section of journalists rail against this majority of the population.

This split between politicians and opinion makers on the one hand and a large part of the population on the other is frightening. At the same time, I think that it is precisely this blindness and deafness on the part of decision-makers that will exacerbate the problems that are openly there. A possible oil and gas embargo against Russia, for example, will bring the social question to the fore and bring many people to the streets. More and more voices, it is hoped, will then rise up against war and the militarization of our lives. What is missing at the moment, however, is an organization that will unite the many isolated initiatives into one big movement. What is missing is the PD, which has always played this role in the peace movements, but which is now in government, faithfully spreading the slogan of militarism. Nevertheless, this very party will have to take into account the opinion of its voters if it wants to continue to exist. Already, therefore, some of its representatives are distancing themselves from the war zeal of Johnson and Biden and are urging negotiations in the foreseeable future. Therefore, I am pessimistic and optimistic at the same time. I count on the fact that we will be more and more numerous at the next demos.

https://marcbatko.academia.edu

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The price explosion of wheat, Freezing as a civic duty and Saving our mental health

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/05/07/18849505.php

The price explosion of wheat, Freezing as a civic duty and Saving our mental health
by Christoph Pflueger, Nicolas Riedl and Kersten Chavent – March, April and May 2022

Many people in this country develop the willingness to explicitly freeze for an ideal. Whether for freedom of whatever kind or for the climate. Every jitter, every pore of goose bumps serves the absolutely good and morally right. Already now one could marvel at signs on “peace demos”, on which was written: “Better freeze, than gas from Putin!”

The price explosion of wheat
It’s not primarily the Ukraine war that’s driving up food prices, it’s the speculative expectations of stock market traders.
by Christoph Pfluger
[This article published on 4/14/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/die-preisexplosion-des-weizens.]

Going to the bakery is getting more expensive, and Putin is being blamed for that. Yet the war in Ukraine has only a limited impact on rising food prices, which includes wheat. Those who attribute the price increases solely to Russia are criminally ignoring the neoliberal, transnational market mechanisms that contribute significantly to the immense increase in prices.

Because Putin has invaded Ukraine, prices are going up and famine threatens. This narrative spread by the media sounds realistic and therefore credible. After all, wheat exports from the two warring countries account for about a quarter of the world market, according to a New York Times warning of social unrest.

But the narrative is false in several respects. While Russia is a major wheat producer at 130 million tons, it lags far behind China at 615 million tons, the U.S. at 434 million tons and India at 335 million tons. Moreover, most wheat does not enter the world market at all, but is consumed domestically. Russia and Ukraine, however, are major exporters.

What the heralds of the threatening scenario also fail to mention is the fact that wheat is stored for an average of one year.

So, at the moment, the conflict does not affect the real supply of wheat. And if the war were to stop soon, farmers would be able to cultivate their fields in peace, and wheat supplies would be assured in the future.

This is where price comes into play: The decisive factor is not the domestic price, but the world market price, which is formed on the Chicago exchange. And here, the quantities that come onto the world market at all and the expectations play the decisive role. The world market price dominates domestic prices because traders can always buy on the world market if domestic prices are higher.

Price formation on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the largest exchange for commodities and raw materials, is determined by three factors: expectations of the future supply/demand relationship, the available money supply, and alternative investment opportunities.

The absolute peak in wheat prices was in 2008, when investors were fleeing the stock market in search of safer investments. The spikes of 2010 and 2012 were due to the increase in money supply as a result of the “financial crisis,” when confidence in the stock market’s sustained rise was not really there.

The bottom line is that the price of wheat is determined less by real conditions than by the speculative whims of the financial casino, but it does have some drastic effects on the supply situation in poorer countries.

An important factor for real supply is inflation expectations. Traders who have larger quantities of wheat and expect higher prices will tend to withhold the commodity, hoping to realize higher profits with a later sale. This fuels the inflationary spiral.

The failure of neoliberal markets to supply humanity will most likely result in government intervention. French President Emmanuel Macron is already talking about a global hunger crisis as a result of the war and has announced food stamps.

Of course, the solution to crises cannot be left to the “markets,” which, as a stock market adage goes, make the biggest profits when there is blood in the streets. But instead of easing the burden on end consumers and thereby driving them deeper into government dependency, prices would have to be regulated and markets disempowered. Otherwise, the speculation-fueled hunger crisis will become an instrument of the Great Reset.
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Freezing as a civic duty
The state-required sacrifice to “freeze for freedom” is a blueprint for restrictions on liberty in the name of climate protection.
by Nicolas Riedl
[This article published on 3/18/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/frieren-als-burgerpflicht.]

We should now be prepared to freeze for freedom. That’s what former German President Joachim Gauck is calling for. Mistakenly, he thereby speaks in the we-form. Because he himself will definitely not be among those who will freeze for “freedom.” What freedom Gauck actually means is a mystery in view of the immense restrictions on freedom of the last two years. Likewise, it is absurd to assume that renouncing Russian natural gas will change anything in Russian policy. Russia is not dependent on the West, but the reverse is very true. Moreover, it is hypocritical to think about boycotting Russian gas on the grounds of a breach of international law, while at the same time being prepared to buy gas from countries like Saudi Arabia and the USA. In the end, it will be the German population that will suffer. But even among them, the willingness to freeze for certain goals or ideals has been forming for a long time. A cold nation manifests itself in real, physical cold.

It is spring and we should already dress warmly. In the leading media, the population is already being told that it could get cold in the coming fall and winter. So not only outside, but also in the rented four walls. We would now have to freeze for freedom, because sourcing Russian natural gas would ultimately be forbidden to us, the value West. Turning away from Russian natural gas imports would logically lead to a horrendous increase in heating costs, if not to a failure of the heating system itself.

And all this for freedom. We would have to sacrifice ourselves for that. This is how former German President Joachim Gauck explained it. He spoke of dents in our prosperous lives that we could all put up with and went on to say: “We can also freeze once for freedom. And we can also once endure a few years of having less happiness and joy in life.”

Such statements are overflowing with arrogance and a distance from the population. At the same time, they are not new. During his time in office, Gauck also said that it was not the elites who were the problem, but the people. In this respect, his current statements are only a logical consequence. And yet they remain an outrageous slap in the face of the population, which has already been maltreated, worn out and severely wounded in two years of fake pandemics.

Who will give back to the population – especially the younger ones – these years of lost happiness and joy of life? And in what form?

And why at all should we now put up with the dents in our prosperous lives and lose years of happiness and joy in life? This is necessary – so we are told – to make Germany independent of Russia and to bring Putin to his knees by renouncing Russian natural gas. Such plans – if they are meant seriously at all – can hardly be surpassed in terms of their lack of realism and hypocrisy.

Double standards

One would like to become independent of the raw material supplies of a country, because this broke the international law and offended against the UNO prohibition of violence. What an honorable motive! Then, however, one should be consistent and make oneself independent of all states which trample the international law as well as the human rights with feet. It would prohibit itself then consequently completely naturally to refer further oil of Saudi Arabia. The country, in which still bestial punishments and executions are the order of the day. Not to mention the USA, where the breach of international law is part of good manners. Under no circumstances should we obtain “freedom gas” from this country!

Apropos “Freedom”. What kind of freedom is Mr. Gauck talking about, the critical citizen may ask, who has just been excluded from social life by the 3/2-G regime, who has been sent into lockdown by the state and who can be locked up in his own four walls for two weeks in case of an unfavorable test result? What freedom is this, please, that we are supposed to freeze for?

Think of this freedom when you sit in your cold apartment in the winter of 2022/23, which you are not allowed to leave after 10:00 p.m. because of the curfew.

Especially in the light of Corona, the difference in freedom between Germany and Russia shrank considerably. Strict Corona restrictions prevailed in both countries, differing only in the details of the regulations and in the duration of the measures. In a sense, we have two cages here, where simply the bars are closer or further apart, and in places a different color.

The hypocrisy is, of course, compounded by the fact that the former German president speaks of burdens that are not imposed on him himself. It is quite safe to assume that the former federal president will not freeze when heating costs rise. The horrendous sums of taxpayers’ money that former office holders receive throughout their lives will always enable them to sit in warm four walls.

No, those who will freeze are those who will have to choose between an empty bank account or a warm apartment, the former logically entailing the loss of the latter.

And beyond that, the objective is completely illusory. If Europe jumps off as a natural gas buyer for Russia, this will be disadvantageous for Europe, but certainly not for Russia. The giant country is virtually debt-free – something most Western countries cannot claim – and there are plenty of buyers in Asia for the natural gas volumes that have been made available to Europe. So for Russia, nothing changes at all.

From “freeze for freedom” to “freeze for future”

Analogies can certainly be drawn with the targeting strategy at Corona. Some may remember. In the beginning, it was all about “flattening the curve”, pushing down the R-value, then it was about not overloading the hospitals, then came the incidence figures, the vaccination rates and then the mutants Delta, Omikron, Deltakron, which had to be fought. In short, once one goal had been achieved, so that it could be assumed that the madness would now have to come to an end, a new goal was immediately defined, which had to be achieved.

The population was driven into a chase from one unattainable goal to the next. Comparable with a donkey, to which the rider holds out a carrot, which he always rushes after, without ever reaching it.

This method could now also be applied to the required willingness to sacrifice. Will concretely mean that the freedom, for which one is to freeze now, could be only one variable. In the Corona narrative of the mainstream, commentators on current events rejoiced over the “pleasant” side effects that the “pandemic” would have brought. For example, that digitization had taken a considerable step forward, so that many more people than before had now integrated the digital into their everyday lives. Or, for example, that many more people are now willing to make cashless payments.

And so one could also very quickly find such “positive side effects” in “Freezing for Freedom.” After the first winter with icy room temperatures, it would not be unreasonable to assume that some scientists would then be allowed to announce in the mass media that this “freezing for freedom” was extremely climate-friendly after all. And consequently one could freeze nevertheless – if the population already practiced to freeze for an ideal – then also for the future! How would it be then with “Freeze for Future”? This has the same acronym as “Fridays for Future” and can be sold to the masses very well.

The willingness and partly also the compulsion to freeze for something already existed in the old normality and established itself even more profoundly in the two years of fake pandemic.

Freezing as the norm

The demand to freeze for something is finding fertile ground in this country. And not just recently.

This phenomenon is observable when it comes to vanity. Since time immemorial, we have seen people in spring booking the “I-want-to-cold-at-all-costs” starter pack when they take their summer clothes out of the closet on the first spring day with an outside temperature of more than five degrees and hit the streets thinly and lightly clad. But even in the depths of winter, some can’t break away from the summer look and walk through the winter landscape with a wide neckline or bare ankles even at minus 10 degrees.

In the fake pandemic grew a real desire to freeze. It was hoped that the cold would be able to kill the evil coronaviruses.

Some health sheriffs did not miss the opportunity to tilt all windows when entering public transportation, so that all passengers were sitting in the cold train during the trip in a double sense. For the sake of health, of course.

The will to freeze bore particularly bizarre blossoms in German classrooms. Parents, who are usually pedantic about ensuring that their own child does not receive the wrong spelt cookies, now saw the urgent need for their offspring to sit in the icy classroom at sub-zero temperatures and for hours with the windows open so that they do not catch Corona.

On this basis, it is not far off that many people in this country develop the willingness to explicitly freeze for an ideal. Whether for freedom of whatever kind or for the climate. Every jitter, every pore of goose bumps serves the absolutely good and morally right. Already now one could marvel at signs on “peace demos”, on which was written: “Better freeze, than gas from Putin!”

Multiple crisis keyboard

People are being deprived of warmth. At all levels. In the two years of fake pandemic, social warmth was fully cooled down. Now it goes to the cold in the physical sense. Making the population freeze dovetails perfectly with the Great Reset agenda. On the one hand, with freezing as a civic duty, further illnesses are encouraged. Basically, it cannot be surpassed in absurdity what all has been done with the alleged goal of protecting people from getting sick. And now they are supposed to eke out their existence in cold apartments.

But in the end, this is just another consistent step in the agenda. One serves thereby three crisis keyboards at the same time: War, climate, Corona. People are plunged into an even deeper crisis, discontent grows and grows, which will inevitably cause riots and unrest. Then, when entire societies are in danger of drowning in chaos, the actors of the Great Reset agenda can stage themselves as great saviors who will now transfer people to a brave new world in which you own nothing, have no privacy, and will be happier than ever before.

From the cold

In view of the rising temperatures in spring, probably no one likes to think about the upcoming winter, whose icy temperatures may then even move inside their own four walls. But we should already be thinking about what it actually means to have to choose between the cold and an account in the red.

For pretty much everyone, their own – rented – four walls are likely to be the last retreat. Especially when we perceive the world outside as cold and dreary. But now even this last bastion of peace is to be taken away from people. Of domestic peace, to be precise. This has been up for grabs for some time since Corona, to ensure that there are not too many – unsprayed – people within the four walls. But now one must fear no longer only that the state power disturbs the domestic peace, now even with break-in of the cold season the cold of the policy is to penetrate by door and window. One’s own rooms become as cold as the compassion of the politicians who are foreign to the people themselves.

And finally still explicitly it is to be referred to the fact that the request to the people to freeze voluntarily is murder with announcement!

Weak, old, immune-weak and otherwise health-impaired humans will suffer substantial health disadvantages by the cold in the dwelling, with which it cannot be excluded that these lead in the long run even to the death.

For freedom, of course.

Nicolas Riedl, born in 1993, is a student of political science, theater and media studies in Erlangen. He got to know almost every type of school in the German education system from the inside and also the interpersonal coldness of the working world during a commercial apprenticeship. The media and Ukraine crisis in 2014 was a caesura for his world view and perception. Since then, he has been dealing in depth and self-critically with political, socio-economic, ecological as well as psychological topics and found his way back to his passion of writing through the Rubicon. As far as his technical skills allow, he produces films and music videos. He is a member of the Rubicon Youth Editorial Board and writes for the Young Feathers column.
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Saving our mental health
Social psychology professor Annemarie Jost describes how healing from corona can succeed in her new book.
By Kerstin Chavent
[This article published on 5/7/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/die-rettung-unserer-psychischen-gesundheit.]

What do continuous media bombardment and manipulation, isolation and constraints do to us? What impact do corona measures have on our mental health? In a courageous book, university professor Annemarie Jost analyzes the economic and political connections, points out undesirable developments and offers ways out of a messy situation. “Saving Our Mental Health. How we can get our act together now” is an attempt to uncover the sick structure in order to free ourselves from it.

It’s not over yet. While pandemic response measures continue to be scaled back this summer ahead of the next hot fall, the psychosocial consequences for all segments of the population are becoming more apparent. Inequalities in power and income continue to come to a head, educational and training lags are increasingly noticeable, and lack of opportunities for community action have led to an ominous digital bubble and massive solidification of (pre)judgments.

Collectively and individually, we suffer from a progressive fragmentation of society and the resulting consequences. Stress levels, lack of sleep, anxiety, guilt, losses, increase in partnership conflicts, thinning of support networks and fundamental material existential worries are just some of the effects we have to deal with today.

Annemarie Jost, professor of social psychiatry at the Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus-Senftenberg, psychotherapist and specialist in psychiatry, addresses the question of how we can protect ourselves against this background. In her book The Salvation of Our Mental Health (1), she courageously names, while many of her colleagues remain silent, the serious effects of the measures proclaimed to protect the population: mental stress, chronic illness, deficiency symptoms, loneliness, littering, alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, eating disorders, obesity, depression, anxiety, suicide. Many patients could often only be treated inadequately, if at all – absurd in view of the fact that it is supposed to be about our health after all.

New guidelines

How times have changed! The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion of the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1986 still focuses on enabling all people to have a high degree of self-determination over their health: “To achieve comprehensive physical, mental and social well-being, it is necessary for both individuals and groups to be able to satisfy their needs, to realize and realize their aspirations and wishes, and to master or change their environment.” In the 1990s, the so-called setting approach added that the social contexts in which people are situated are seen as conducive to health.

At the turn of the millennium, everything changed. Health-security concepts developed in the context of biological hazards took up an increasing amount of space. These strategies follow not only civilian but also military logics – and thus also the influences of the intelligence services, which are incompatible with participatory health promotion from below. Another strategic reorientation of the WHO in this direction concerns public-private partnerships, in which large private-sector organizations and foundations exert a decisive influence on global health measures.

In the jungle of manipulation

Annemarie Jost does not shy away from naming the concentration of power and interconnections between international organizations, governments, intelligence agencies, military, academia, educational institutions, news agencies, media, central banks, fund companies, global corporations, data aggregations, and advertising agencies. Nudging prevents the general public from recognizing it. Regular “nudging” ensures that we don’t turn to where the music is really playing.

Debates about the extent to which targeting emotions such as fear or guilt is ethically justifiable, or the extent to which a government may use psychological manipulation strategies without paternalistically undermining democracy, are virtually non-existent.

Techniques such as attention-focusing, worst-case scenarios, lurid headlines, frequently repeated scary images and media-effective staging of popular multipliers are used just as unobjectionably as the creation of feelings of shame and guilt, war rhetoric, catchy slogans, framing, contact guilt thinking, fines and isolation. Critics of the measures are seen as antisocial, selfish, and unsympathetic, while proponents of the measures are seen as caring, responsible, and considerate.

Faced with the stoking of general uncertainty and confusion, most people have no choice but to retreat into docility. Decision-makers are also affected by the resulting uncritical groupthink. Here Annemarie Jost refers to the so-called pre-mortem method developed by Gary Klein, which can help out of the blindness. Participants imagine themselves in the future and realize that the plan in its current version has ended in disaster. In this way, blind spots can be made visible and errors and weaknesses can be eliminated.

Only by recognizing our own mistakes, weaknesses and limitations can we free ourselves from our tendency to invent enemy images and scapegoats. Instead of projecting our own mental deficits and upsets onto others, we attend to the roots of the evil. In this way, we can become aware of how isolation, uprooting, alienated living conditions, lack of personal meaning, and weak social ties make us susceptible to seductions and distortions.

Ways out

Despite her critical observations, Annemarie Jost refrains from speaking of features of a totalitarian system. Her fear is primarily “that people insecure in their belonging due to technical innovations, radically changed communication possibilities and global structural change processes will become susceptible to believe promises of salvation if a new culture of connection, relationship formation and identity development does not emerge from this insecurity.”

Her particular focus here is on current biotechnological developments and mRNA vaccines that make it possible to “hack” into the genetics of psychotic disorders and regulate our lives. Artificial intelligence, combined with the systematic collection and processing of large amounts of data, also creates dependencies from which we risk not being able to escape. However, she believes it is possible to strengthen self-responsibility on a personal, communal and global level.

Surprisingly, it seems to her that there is little cause for concern in limiting self-reliance in crises in the short term through decrees and commandments coupled with psychological influence. The crisis should just not become a normal state of manipulation. So “a little manipulation” would be all right if it served a good purpose? Thus, especially in the last two chapters of the book, what the author is well aware of comes true: Some of her remarks will certainly cause contradictions.

In small steps

Annemarie Jost warns that even grassroots movements require special vigilance. Movements from below are not necessarily free from steering from above. A common technique here is astroturfing, the targeted establishment of civic, grassroots initiatives sponsored by corporations that in reality serve the interests of the sponsors.

To untangle all of this, he said, liberation from the web of manipulative entanglements takes a lot of time and is therefore only possible in small steps.

“It takes free and deep debate in all areas, especially in schools and universities, to free oneself step by step from the grip of an influence that has become overpowering, it takes historical analysis to identify parallels to past undesirable developments, it takes thought leaders who dare to break taboos, and it takes the genuine participation of very different people and the ability to listen to each other and communicate without violence.”

Above all, however, it needs a recognition that it is not in the interest of governing organisms to encourage this.

To hope that a system geared toward manipulation and surveillance will allow it to be taken apart does not capture the problem in its fundamental nature.

Free and deep discussion is deliberately prevented, as are historical analyses and any efforts to identify undesirable developments. The pioneers and taboo-breakers, who certainly exist, are defamed, marginalized, threatened and persecuted. They are not allowed to have their say, so as not to endanger the old order before the new order takes hold.

Thus, the recommendations for action in practice read a bit like a pious wish list: the revival of participation, the strengthening of care work, the social-psychiatric further development of therapies, the promotion of outdoor exercise, the further development of the culture of dying. Yes, all of these are important. It is good to know that there is interest and lively approaches to this. But there is an important intermediate step missing: what do we do about the system that seeks to prevent just that?

Coming into healing

It’s not that simple. Ideas and suggestions alone are not enough. We have to look deep inside ourselves to find a way out. Fighting the system doesn’t work, because any kind of violence would only strengthen it. Looking away does not work, because it also makes the problem worse. We can’t escape either, because the system is everywhere. So everything that animals do to escape a danger – attack, flee, play dead – doesn’t get us anywhere here. We are asked as humans. What do we have, what is available to us that distinguishes us from the other living beings on this planet?

We have – still – a free will and with it the possibility to decide. Instead of letting ourselves be completely wrapped up by what is sick, weak and dependent in us, we can strengthen our healthy parts. Recovery, as quoted by Annemarie Jost, is the initiation of a process of change in one’s beliefs, values, feelings, goals, skills and roles. It serves to strengthen the possibilities for development and support of essential personal goals.

This does not mean that we are symptom free. Symptoms are vital. They alert us to what in us still wants to be healed. However, their existence need not prevent us from realizing “a personally meaningful, hopeful life with opportunities for action and social participation and the realization of the deepest inner goals.” So we are not doomed to be victims of events. Because as human beings, we have a great gift that helps us become whole again: Resilience.

Resilience is the ability to overcome even severe crises and use them as an occasion for development. Great role models in psychology who have themselves survived the worst traumas include the American psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl and the French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik. With our resilience, our resistance, our self-preservation instinct, the self-healing powers of our body and various psychological coping strategies, we have powerful aids at our disposal.

In order for them to work, it is necessary to recognize the destructive structure and to develop the will to free ourselves from it.

Only what we see can we change.

What do we choose: Control or experience? Medial bombardment or inner peace? Expertism or self-efficacy? Hygiene mania or holistic health? Guilt or freedom? A technocratic-administrative narrative that dwarfs us and turns us into objects, or appreciative encounters and exchanges about what really matters to us?

The child has fallen into the well. Let us now descend to him and converse with him. Let’s do it according to all the rules of non-violent communication: What have you experienced? How do you feel? What do you need now? What do you wish for? (2). Let’s listen to him. Let’s reach out to it. And when it is ready, let us lead it out of the well into the light, where everything is clear and where no manipulation, no propaganda and no lie can hold on any longer.

Annemarie Jost “Saving Our Mental Health. How we can get our act together now.”

Sources and Notes:

(1) Annemarie Jost: Saving our mental health. How we can get our act together now, Frank and Timme 2022.
(2) https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/frieden-beginnt-im-gesprach

Kerstin Chavent is an author and language teacher living in the South of France. Published in German so far are “Die Waffen niederlegen”, “Das Licht fließt dahin, wo es dunkel ist”, “Krankheit heilt” and “Was wachsen will muss Schalen abwerfen”. It was her experience with cancer that led her to write. Her themes are dealing with illness, raising awareness of creative potential, and awakening consciousness in a changing world. Read more on her blog, “Conscious: Being in Transition.”

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The persecution of Julian Assange by Jonathan Cook

https://braveneweurope.com/jonathan-cook-the-persecution-of-julian-assange

The persecution of Julian Assange
by Jonathan Cook, May 4, 2022

Melzer has distilled his detailed research into a new book, The Trial of Julian Assange, that provides a shocking account of rampant lawlessness by the main states involved – Britain, Sweden, the US, and Ecuador. It also documents a sophisticated campaign of misinformation and character assassination to obscure those misdeeds.

Jonathan Cook – The persecution of Julian Assange
May 4, 2022 Fake News, Media, National Politics

According to UN torture expert, the UK and US have colluded to publicly destroy the WikiLeaks founder – and deter others from exposing their crimes

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001

Cross-posted from Middle East Eye

The British home secretary, Priti Patel, will decide this month whether Julian Assange is to be extradited to the United States, where he faces a sentence of up to 175 years – served most likely in strict, 24-hour isolation in a US super-max jail.

He has already spent three years in similarly harsh conditions in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison.

The 18 charges laid against Assange in the US relate to the publication by WikiLeaks in 2010 of leaked official documents, many of them showing that the US and UK were responsible for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one has been brought to justice for those crimes.

Instead, the US has defined Assange’s journalism as espionage – and by implication asserted a right to seize any journalist in the world who takes on the US national security state – and in a series of extradition hearings, the British courts have given their blessing.
trial? ?

The lengthy proceedings against Assange have been carried out in courtrooms with tightly restricted access and in circumstances that have repeatedly denied journalists the ability to cover the case properly.

Despite the grave implications for a free press and democratic accountability, however, Assange’s plight has provoked little more than a flicker of concern from much of the western media.

Few observers appear to be in any doubt that Patel will sign off on the US extradition order – least of all Nils Melzer, a law professor, and a United Nations’ special rapporteur.

In his role as the UN’s expert on torture, Melzer has made it his job since 2019 to scrutinize not only Assange’s treatment during his 12 years of increasing confinement – overseen by the UK courts – but also the extent to which due process and the rule of law have been followed in pursuing the WikiLeaks founder.

Melzer has distilled his detailed research into a new book, The Trial of Julian Assange, that provides a shocking account of rampant lawlessness by the main states involved – Britain, Sweden, the US, and Ecuador. It also documents a sophisticated campaign of misinformation and character assassination to obscure those misdeeds.

The result, Melzer concludes, has been a relentless assault not only on Assange’s fundamental rights but his physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing that Melzer classifies as psychological torture.

The UN rapporteur argues that the UK has invested far too much money and muscle in securing Assange’s prosecution on behalf of the US, and has too pressing a need itself to deter others from following Assange’s path in exposing western crimes, to risk letting Assange walk free.

It has instead participated in a wide-ranging legal charade to obscure the political nature of Assange’s incarceration. And in doing so, it has systematically ridden roughshod over the rule of law.

Melzer believes Assange’s case is so important because it sets a precedent to erode the most basic liberties the rest of us take for granted. He opens the book with a quote from Otto Gritschneder, a German lawyer who observed up close the rise of the Nazis, “those who sleep in a democracy will wake up in a dictatorship”.
Back to the wall

Melzer has raised his voice because he believes that in the Assange case any residual institutional checks and balances on state power, especially those of the US, have been subdued.

He points out that even the prominent human rights group Amnesty International has avoided characterising Assange as a “prisoner of conscience”, despite his meeting all the criteria, with the group apparently fearful of a backlash from funders (p81).

He notes too that, aside from the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, comprising expert law professors, the UN itself has largely ignored the abuses of Assange’s rights (p3). In large part, that is because even states like Russia and China are reluctant to turn Assange’s political persecution into a stick with which to beat the West – as might otherwise have been expected.

The reason, Melzer observes, is that WikiLeaks’ model of journalism demands greater accountability and transparency from all states. With Ecuador’s belated abandonment of Assange, he appears to be utterly at the mercy of the world’s main superpower.

Instead, Melzer argues, Britain and the US have cleared the way to vilify Assange and incrementally disappear him under the pretence of a series of legal proceedings. That has been made possible only because of complicity from prosecutors and the judiciary, who are pursuing the path of least resistance in silencing Assange and the cause he represents.

It is what Melzer terms an official “policy of small compromises” – with dramatic consequences (p250-1).

His 330-page book is so packed with examples of abuses of due process – at the legal, prosecutorial, and judicial levels – that it is impossible to summarise even a tiny fraction of them.

However, the UN rapporteur refuses to label this as a conspiracy – if only because to do so would be to indict himself as part of it. He admits that when Assange’s lawyers first contacted him for help in 2018, arguing that the conditions of Assange’s incarceration amounted to torture, he ignored their pleas.

As he now recognises, he too had been influenced by the demonisation of Assange, despite his long professional and academic training to recognise techniques of perception management and political persecution.

“To me, like most people around the world, he was just a rapist, hacker, spy, and narcissist,” he says (p10).

It was only later when Melzer finally agreed to examine the effects of Assange’s long-term confinement on his health – and found the British authorities obstructing his investigation at every turn and openly deceiving him – that he probed deeper. When he started to pick at the legal narratives around Assange, the threads quickly unravelled.

He points to the risks of speaking up – a price he has experienced firsthand – that have kept others silent.

“With my uncompromising stance, I put not only my credibility at risk, but also my career and, potentially, even my personal safety… Now, I suddenly found myself with my back to the wall, defending human rights and the rule of law against the very democracies which I had always considered to be my closest allies in the fight against torture. It was a steep and painful learning curve” (p97).

He adds regretfully: “I had inadvertently become a dissident within the system itself” (p269).
Subversion of law

The web of complex cases that have ensnared the WikiLeaks founder – and kept him incarcerated – have included an entirely unproductive, decade-long sexual assault investigation by Sweden; an extended detention over a bail infraction that occurred after Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador from political extradition to the US; and the secret convening of a grand jury in the US, followed by endless hearings and appeals in the UK to extradite him as part of the very political persecution he warned of.

The goal throughout, says Melzer, has not been to expedite Assange’s prosecution – that would have risked exposing the absence of evidence against him in both the Swedish and US cases. Rather it has been to trap Assange in an interminable process of non-prosecution while he is imprisoned in ever-more draconian conditions and the public turned against him.
Protesters hold up placards as they gather outside Australia House to take part in a march in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London on February 22, 2020,
A protest outside Australia House, London in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on 22 February 2020 (AFP)

What appeared – at least to onlookers – to be the upholding of the law in Sweden, Britain and the US was the exact reverse: its repeated subversion. The failure to follow basic legal procedures was so consistent, argues Melzer, that it cannot be viewed as simply a series of unfortunate mistakes.

It aims at the “systematic persecution, silencing and destruction of an inconvenient political dissident”. (p93)

Assange, in Melzer’s view, is not just a political prisoner. He is one whose life is being put in severe danger from relentless abuses that accord with the definition of psychological torture.

Such torture depends on its victim being intimidated, isolated, humiliated, and subjected to arbitrary decisions (p74). Melzer clarifies that the consequences of such torture not only break down the mental and emotional coping mechanisms of victims but over time have very tangible physical consequences too.

Melzer explains the so-called “Mandela Rules” – named after the long-jailed black resistance leader Nelson Mandela, who helped bring down South African apartheid – that limit the use of extreme forms of solitary confinement.

In Assange’s case, however, “this form of ill-treatment very quickly became the status quo” in Belmarsh, even though Assange was a “non-violent inmate posing no threat to anyone”. As his health deteriorated, prison authorities isolated him further, professedly for his own safety. As a result, Melzer concludes, Assange’s “silencing and abuse could be perpetuated indefinitely, all under the guise of concern for his health”. (p88-9)

The rapporteur observes that he would not be fulfilling his UN mandate if he failed to protest not only Assange’s torture but the fact that he is being tortured to protect those who committed torture and other war crimes exposed in the Iraq and Afghanistan logs published by WikiLeaks. They continue to escape justice with the active connivance of the same state authorities seeking to destroy Assange (p95).

With his long experience of handling torture cases around the world, Melzer suggests that Assange has great reserves of inner strength that have kept him alive, if increasingly frail and physically ill. Assange has lost a great deal of weight, is regularly confused and disorientated, and has suffered a minor stroke in Belmarsh.

Many of the rest of us, the reader is left to infer, might well have succumbed by now to a lethal heart attack or stroke, or have committed suicide.

A further troubling implication hangs over the book: that this is the ultimate ambition of those persecuting him. The current extradition hearings can be spun out indefinitely, with appeals right up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, keeping Assange out of view all that time, further damaging his health, and providing a stronger deterrent effect on whistleblowers and other journalists.

This is a win-win, notes Melzer. If Assange’s mental health breaks down entirely, he can be locked away in a psychiatric institution. And if he dies, that would finally solve the inconvenience of sustaining the legal charade that has been needed to keep him silenced and out of view for so long (p322).
Sweden’s charade

Melzer spends much of the book reconstructing the 2010 accusations of sexual assault against Assange in Sweden. He does this not to discredit the two women involved – in fact, he argues that the Swedish legal system failed them as much as it did Assange – but because that case set the stage for the campaign to paint Assange as a rapist, narcissist, and fugitive from justice.

The US might never have been able to launch its overtly political persecution of Assange had he not already been turned into a popular hate figure over the Sweden case. His demonisation was needed – as well as his disappearance from view – to smooth the path to redefining national security journalism as espionage.

Melzer’s meticulous examination of the case – assisted by his fluency in Swedish – reveals something that the mainstream media coverage has ignored: Swedish prosecutors never had the semblance of a case against Assange, and apparently never the slightest intention to move the investigation beyond the initial taking of witness statements.

Nonetheless, as Melzer observes, it became “the longest ‘preliminary investigation’ in Swedish history” (p103).

The first prosecutor to examine the case, in 2010, immediately dropped the investigation, saying, “there is no suspicion of a crime” (p133).

When the case was finally wrapped up in 2019, many months before the statute of limitations was reached, a third prosecutor observed simply that “it cannot be assumed that further inquiries will change the evidential situation in any significant manner” (p261).

Couched in lawyerly language, that was an admission that interviewing Assange would not lead to any charges. The preceding nine years had been a legal charade.

But in those intervening years, the illusion of a credible case was so well sustained that major newspapers, including Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, repeatedly referred to “rape charges” against Assange, even though he had never been charged with anything.

More significantly, as Melzer keeps pointing out, the allegations against Assange were so clearly unsustainable that the Swedish authorities never sought to seriously investigate them. To do so would have instantly exposed their futility.

Instead, Assange was trapped. For the seven years that he was given asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, Swedish prosecutors refused to follow normal procedures and interview him where he was, in person or via computer, to resolve the case. But the same prosecutors also refused to issue standard reassurances that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, which would have made his asylum in the embassy unnecessary.

In this way, Melzer argues “the rape suspect narrative could be perpetuated indefinitely without ever coming before a court. Publicly, this deliberately manufactured outcome could conveniently be blamed on Assange, by accusing him of having evaded justice” (p254).
Neutrality dropped

Ultimately, the success of the Swedish case in vilifying Assange derived from the fact that it was driven by a narrative almost impossible to question without appearing to belittle the two women at its centre.

But the rape narrative was not the women’s. It was effectively imposed on the case – and on them – by elements within the Swedish establishment, echoed by the Swedish media. Melzer hazards a guess as to why the chance to discredit Assange was seized on so aggressively.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Swedish leaders dropped the country’s historic position of neutrality and threw their hand in with the US and the global “war on terror”. Stockholm was quickly integrated into the western security and intelligence community (p102).

All of that was put in jeopardy as Assange began eyeing Sweden as a new base for WikiLeaks, attracted by its constitutional protections for publishers.

In fact, he was in Sweden for precisely that reason in the run-up to WikiLeaks’ publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. It must have been only too obvious to the Swedish establishment that any move to headquarter WikiLeaks there risked setting Stockholm on a collision course with Washington (p159).
A news ticker headline about the release of 400,000 secret US documents about the war in Iraq on the WikiLeaks website October 22, 2010 seen in New York’s Times Square. AFP PHOTO/Stan Honda
A news ticker headline about the release of 400,000 secret US documents about the war in Iraq on the WikiLeaks website on 22 October 2010, seen in New York’s Times Square (AFP/Stan Honda)

This, Melzer argues, is the context that helps to explain an astonishingly hasty decision by the police to notify the public prosecutor of a rape investigation against Assange minutes after a woman referred to only as “S” first spoke to a police officer in a central Stockholm station.

In fact, S and another woman, “A”, had not intended to make any allegation against Assange. After learning he had had sex with them in quick succession, they wanted him to take an HIV test. They thought approaching the police would force his hand (p115). The police had other ideas.

The irregularities in the handling of the case are so numerous, Melzer spends the best part of 100 pages documenting them. The women’s testimonies were not recorded, transcribed verbatim, or witnessed by a second officer. They were summarised.

The same, deeply flawed procedure – one that made it impossible to tell whether leading questions influenced their testimony or whether significant information was excluded – was employed during the interviews of witnesses friendly to the women. Assange’s interview and those of his allies, by contrast, were recorded and transcribed verbatim (p132).

The reason for the women making their statements – the desire to get an HIV test from Assange – was not mentioned in the police summaries.

In the case of S, her testimony was later altered without her knowledge, in highly dubious circumstances that have never been explained (p139-41). The original text is redacted so it is impossible to know what was altered.

Stranger still, a criminal report of rape was logged against Assange on the police computer system at 4.11pm, 11 minutes after the initial meeting with S and 10 minutes before a senior officer had begun interviewing S – and two and half hours before that interview would finish (p119-20).

In another sign of the astounding speed of developments, Sweden’s public prosecutor had received two criminal reports against Assange from the police by 5pm, long before the interview with S had been completed. The prosecutor then immediately issued an arrest warrant against Assange before the police summary was written and without taking into account that S did not agree to sign it (p121).

Almost immediately, the information was leaked to the Swedish media, and within an hour of receiving the criminal reports the public prosecutor had broken protocol by confirming the details to the Swedish media (p126).
Secret amendments

The constant lack of transparency in the treatment of Assange by Swedish, British, US, and Ecuadorian authorities becomes a theme in Melzer’s book. Evidence is not made available under freedom of information laws, or, if it is, it is heavily redacted or only some parts are released – presumably those that do not risk undermining the official narrative.

For four years, Assange’s lawyers were denied any copies of the text messages the two Swedish women sent – on the grounds they were “classified”. The messages were also denied to the Swedish courts, even when they were deliberating on whether to extend an arrest warrant for Assange (p124).

It was not until nine years later those messages were made public, though Melzer notes that the index numbers show many continue to be withheld. Most notably, 12 messages sent by S from the police station – when she is known to have been unhappy at the police narrative being imposed on her – are missing. They would likely have been crucial to Assange’s defence (p125).

Similarly, much of the later correspondence between British and Swedish prosecutors that kept Assange trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy for years was destroyed – even while the Swedish preliminary investigation was supposedly still being pursued (p106).

The text messages from the women that have been released, however, suggest strongly that they felt they were being railroaded into a version of events they had not agreed to.

Slowly they relented, the texts suggest, as the juggernaut of the official narrative bore down on them, with the implied threat that if they disputed it they risked prosecution themselves for providing false testimony (p130).

Moments after S entered the police station, she texted a friend to say that “the police officer appears to like the idea of getting him [Assange]” (p117).

In a later message, she writes that it was “the police who made up the charges” (p129). And when the state assigns her a high-profile lawyer, she observes only that she hopes he will get her “out of this shit” (p136).

In a further text, she says: “I didn’t want to be part of it [the case against Assange], but now I have no choice” (p137).

It was on the basis of the secret amendments made to S’s testimony by the police that the first prosecutor’s decision to drop the case against Assange was overturned, and the investigation reopened (p141). As Melzer notes, the faint hope of launching a prosecution of Assange essentially rested on one word: whether S was “asleep”, “half-asleep” or “sleepy” when they had sex.

Melzer write that “as long as the Swedish authorities are allowed to hide behind the convenient veil of secrecy, the truth about this dubious episode may never come to light” (p141).
‘No ordinary extradition’

These and many, many other glaring irregularities in the Swedish preliminary investigation documented by Melzer are vital to decoding what comes next. Or as Melzer concludes “the authorities were not pursuing justice in this case but a completely different, purely political agenda” (p147).

With the investigation hanging over his head, Assange struggled to build on the momentum of the Iraq and Afghanistan logs revealing systematic war crimes committed by the US and UK.

“The involved governments had successfully snatched the spotlight directed at them by WikiLeaks, turned it around, and pointed it at Assange,” Melzer observes.

They have been doing the same ever since.

Assange was given permission to leave Sweden after the new prosecutor assigned to the case repeatedly declined to interview him a second time (p153-4).

But as soon as Assange departed for London, an Interpol Red Notice was issued, another extraordinary development given its use for serious international crimes, setting the stage for the fugitive-from-justice narrative (p167).

A European Arrest Warrant was approved by the UK courts soon afterwards – but, again exceptionally, after the judges had reversed the express will of the British parliament that such warrants could only be issued by a “judicial authority” in the country seeking extradition, not the police or a prosecutor (p177-9).

A law was passed shortly after the ruling to close that loophole and make sure no one else would suffer Assange’s fate (p180).

As the noose tightened around the neck not only of Assange but WikiLeaks too – the group was denied server capacity, its bank accounts were blocked, credit companies refused to process payments (p172) – Assange had little choice but to accept that the US was the moving force behind the scenes.

He hurried into the Ecuadorean embassy after being offered political asylum. A new chapter of the same story was about to begin.

British officials in the Crown Prosecution Service, as the few surviving emails show, were the ones bullying their Swedish counterparts to keep going with the case as Swedish interest flagged. The UK, supposedly a disinterested party, insisted behind the scenes that Assange must be required to leave the embassy – and his asylum – to be interviewed in Stockholm (p174).

A CPS lawyer told Swedish counterparts “don’t you dare get cold feet!” (p186).

As Christmas neared, the Swedish prosecutor joked about Assange being a present, “I am OK without… In fact, it would be a shock to get that one!” (p187).

When she discussed with the CPS Swedish doubts about continuing the case, she apologised for “ruining your weekend” (p188).

In yet another email, a British CPS lawyer advised “please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request” (p176).
Embassy spying operation

That may explain why William Hague, the UK’s foreign secretary at the time, risked a major diplomatic incident by threatening to violate Ecuadorean sovereignty and invade the embassy to arrest Assange (p184).

And why Sir Alan Duncan, a UK government minister, made regular entries in his diary, later published as a book, on how he was working aggressively behind the scenes to get Assange out of the embassy (p200, 209, 273, 313).

And why the British police were ready to spend £16 million of public money besieging the embassy for seven years to enforce an extradition Swedish prosecutors seemed entirely uninterested in advancing (p188).

Ecuador, the only country ready to offer Assange sanctuary, rapidly changed course once its popular left-wing president Rafael Correa stepped down in 2017. His successor, Lenin Moreno, came under enormous diplomatic pressure from Washington and was offered significant financial incentives to give up Assange (p212).

At first, this appears to have chiefly involved depriving Assange of almost all contact with the outside world, including access to the internet, and telephone and launching a media demonisation campaign that portrayed him as abusing his cat and smearing faeces on the wall (p207-9).

At the same time, the CIA worked with the embassy’s security firm to launch a sophisticated, covert spying operation of Assange and all his visitors, including his doctors and lawyers (p200). We now know that the CIA was also considering plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange (p218).

Finally in April 2019, having stripped Assange of his citizenship and asylum – in flagrant violation of international and Ecuadorean law – Quito let the British police seize him (p213).

He was dragged into the daylight, his first public appearance in many months, looking unshaven and unkempt – a “demented looking gnome”, as a long-time Guardian columnist called him.

In fact, Assange’s image had been carefully managed to alienate the watching world. Embassy staff had confiscated his shaving and grooming kit months earlier.

Meanwhile, Assange’s personal belongings, his computer, and documents were seized and transferred not to his family or lawyers, or even the British authorities, but to the US – the real author of this drama (p214).

That move, and the fact that the CIA had spied on Assange’s conversations with his lawyers inside the embassy, should have sufficiently polluted any legal proceedings against Assange to require that he walk free.

But the rule of law, as Melzer keeps noting, has never seemed to matter in Assange’s case.

Quite the reverse, in fact. Assange was immediately taken to a London police station where a new arrest warrant was issued for his extradition to the US.

The same afternoon Assange appeared before a court for half an hour, with no time to prepare a defence, to be tried for a seven-year-old bail violation over his being granted asylum in the embassy (p48).

He was sentenced to 50 weeks – almost the maximum possible – in Belmarsh high-security prison, where he has been ever since.

Apparently, it occurred neither to the British courts nor to the media that the reason Assange had violated his bail conditions was precisely to avoid the political extradition to the US he was faced with as soon as he was forced out of the embassy.
‘Living in a tyranny’

Much of the rest of Melzer’s book documents in disturbing detail what he calls the current “Anglo-American show trial”: the endless procedural abuses Assange has faced over the past three years as British judges have failed to prevent what Melzer argues should be seen as not just one but a raft of glaring miscarriages of justice.

Not least, extradition on political grounds is expressly forbidden under Britain’s extradition treaty with the US (p178-80, 294-5). But yet again the law counts for nothing when it applies to Assange.

The decision on extradition now rests with Patel, the hawkish home secretary who previously had to resign from the government for secret dealings with a foreign power, Israel, and is behind the government’s current draconian plan to ship asylum seekers to Rwanda, almost certainly in violation of the UN Refugee Convention.

Melzer has repeatedly complained to the UK, the US, Sweden, and Ecuador about the many procedural abuses in Assange’s case, as well as the psychological torture he has been subjected to. All four, the UN rapporteur points out, have either stonewalled or treated his inquiries with open contempt (p235-44).

Assange can never hope to get a fair trial in the US, Melzer notes. First, politicians from across the spectrum, including the last two US presidents, have publicly damned Assange as a spy, terrorist, or traitor and many have suggested he deserves death (p216-7).

And second, because he would be tried in the notorious “espionage court” in Alexandria, Virginia, located in the heart of the US intelligence and security establishment, without public or press access (p220-2).

No jury there would be sympathetic to what Assange did in exposing their community’s crimes. Or as Melzer observes: “Assange would get a secret state-security trial very similar to those conducted in dictatorships” (p223).

And once in the US, Assange would likely never be seen again, under “special administrative measures” (SAMs) that would keep him in total isolation 24-hours-a-day (p227-9). Melzer calls SAMs “another fraudulent label for torture”.

Melzer’s book is not just a documentation of the persecution of one dissident. He notes that Washington has been meting out abuses on all dissidents, including most famously the whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

Assange’s case is so important, Melzer argues, because it marks the moment when western states not only target those working within the system who blow the whistle that breaks their confidentiality contracts, but those outside it too – those like journalists and publishers whose very role in a democratic society is to act as a watchdog on power.

If we do nothing, Melzer’s book warns, we will wake up to find the world transformed. Or as he concludes: “Once telling the truth has become a crime, we will all be living in a tyranny” (p331).

The Trial of Julian Assange by Nils Melzer is published by Penguin Random House

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Open letter and Breaking the Logic of Violence

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/05/05/18849475.php

Open letter and Breaking the logic of war
by Harald Neuber & Natylie Baldwin
Thursday May 5th, 2022 6:31 AM
The delivery of large quantities of heavy weapons, however, could make Germany itself a party to the war. A Russian counterattack could then trigger the mutual assistance clause under the NATO treaty and thus the immediate danger of a world war. Natylie Baldwin emphasizes how Zelensky’s outlawing of parties and dissenting media are dictatorial.
Open letter to the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Rheinmetall wants to supply Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine.

The escalating arms buildup could be the beginning of a global arms spiral with catastrophic consequences.
[This open letter published on April 28, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://krass-und-konkret.de/politik-wirtschaft/offener-brief-an-den-bundeskanzler-olaf-scholz/,]

Dear Chancellor,

we appreciate that you had so far so carefully considered the risks: the risk of the war spreading within Ukraine; the risk of spreading to all of Europe; indeed, the risk of a 3rd World War. We therefore hope that you will return to your original position and not supply, either directly or indirectly, further heavy weapons to Ukraine. On the contrary, we urge you to do everything you can to help bring about a ceasefire as soon as possible; a compromise that both sides can accept.

We share the verdict on Russian aggression as a breach of international law. But everything that can be deduced from it has its limit in other precepts of political ethics. We are convinced that two such boundary lines have now been reached: first, the categorical prohibition of accepting a manifest risk of escalation of this war into a nuclear conflict. The delivery of large quantities of heavy weapons, however, could make Germany itself a party to the war. A Russian counterattack could then trigger the mutual assistance clause under the NATO treaty and thus the immediate danger of a world war. The second borderline is the degree of destruction and human suffering among the Ukrainian civilian population. To this, even justified resistance against an aggressor is unbearably disproportionate.

We warn against a twofold error: First, that the responsibility for the danger of escalation to a nuclear conflict concerns only the original aggressor and not also those who, with their eyes open, provide him with a motive to act in a possibly criminal manner. And secondly, that the decision on the moral responsibility of the further “cost” in human lives among the Ukrainian civilian population falls exclusively within the competence of their government. Morally binding norms are universal in nature.

The escalating arms buildup taking place under pressure would be the beginning of a global arms spiral with catastrophic consequences, including for global health and climate change. It is necessary, despite all differences, to strive for a worldwide peace. The European approach of common diversity is a model for this.

We are convinced, Chancellor, that the head of the German government in particular can make a decisive contribution to a solution that would stand up in the eyes of history. Not only in view of our present (economic) power, but also in view of our historical responsibility – and in the hope of a common peaceful future.

We hope and count on you!
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“Breaking the logic of violence”.
Harald Welzer on the Emma Open Letter
[This article published on 5/4/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://taz.de/Harald-Welzer-zum-Offenen-Emma-Brief/!5847657/.]

Harald Welzer says he finds the escalation of the deployment of funds to Ukraine problematic. This is not the way to stop the processes of violence.
Three men and one woman stand in front of the rubble of their bombed house

A Russian bomb destroyed the house of these residents in Chernihiv on April 22, 2022 Photo: Emilio Morenatti/ap

taz: Mr. Welzer, you have faced a lot of headwind with your open letter. What were the last days like for you and your co-signers?

Harald Welzer: As expected. We have a relatively homogeneous attitude, especially in the media landscape, which is contrary to our letter. In this respect, I was not at all surprised that there was criticism or outrage or whatever. I don’t mind getting my head kicked in. After all, it’s about something.

Why did you sign this letter?

Because, first of all, I think the escalation of the deployment of funds to Ukraine is problematic. You don’t stop processes of violence by increasing the use of resources. And because secondly, I think that unifying the perspective on the apparent need to deliver more and heavier weapons obscures the search for other options. In such a volatile situation, one must look for opportunities to at least interrupt the escalating logic of violence.

Prominent figures warn against escalation

Open letter

In an open letter to Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) last Friday, 26 prominent figures from the cultural and media sectors warned against a further escalation of the Ukraine war. The signatories of the document published on the website of the magazine Emma include social psychologist Harald Welzer, filmmaker Andreas Dresen, writers Martin Walser and Juli Zeh, and Emma editor Alice Schwarzer. The open letter triggered a sharp controversy. (epd)

If you follow the wishes of the open letter and say: We prefer not to supply weapons, because otherwise Russia could attack us with nuclear weapons, you are handing yourself over to the Kremlin.

Why does that put you in the Kremlin’s hands?
Harald Welzer

We have a renaissance of imperialism. But the Russian actor is not the only imperialist in the geopolitical figuration.

Because the definition of what is reasonable for Russia is left to the Kremlin. Moreover, diplomacy did not help at all even immediately before February 24, including through Olaf Scholz.

But that doesn’t mean that we can do away with it for the rest of our days. After all, we can think up scenarios for how the whole story will continue now.

And what would those be, in your view?

I see three: number one is the supply of more weapons, and that would not stop with tanks. Logically, the demand can be increased at will. The means that Putin can use are also arbitrarily increasable. The most likely positive scenario is a permanent war of attrition. This is what the current development is leading to.

Understood.

The worse variant would be a de-limitation of this war, i.e. the spreading to other nations. Then you have the third world war. The third scenario would be nuclear war, which we all don’t know. We only know that it would not leave civilization as we knew it undamaged. I don’t find all three scenarios desirable, and that’s why the search for a fourth scenario is enormously important, at least once to break the logic of the inevitability of these three scenarios.
in the interview:

Harald Welzer is a social psychologist, non-fiction author and editor of the magazine for the future and politics, taz.FUTURZWEI.

The fourth scenario already exists: Russia is weakened militarily in Ukraine to such an extent that the willingness to reach an acceptable compromise increases.

After all, the use of means has already been increased without increasing Putin’s willingness to negotiate. In the background, however, our unarticulated war aims have radically changed, while on the front stage we have been discussing exclusively arms deliveries. To my great astonishment, the foreign minister on Sunday called for restoring Ukraine to its original state, including Crimea and Donbass. And on the taz lab it was said that it was about system change in Russia. I find that spectacular.

Why do you think Putin is waging this war against Ukraine?

Out of imperialist interests.

If Putin is not stopped now: wouldn’t we then have to deal with these imperialist dangers again and again, starting with the Baltic states?

Absolutely. That is precisely my problem. We have a renaissance of imperialism. But the Russian actor is not the only imperialist in the geopolitical figuration. He may just be the first one to make massive inroads. And precisely because we are dealing with a complete change and realignment of the complete geopolitical figuration, one cannot be so short-sighted as to think that one must now in some way produce regime change in Russia. That is really world war if you try to do that.

As an alternative, you call in your letter for a compromise that is acceptable to both sides. What should that look like?

That will have to be seen in negotiations. My goal is even more defensive. What matters to me is to activate all opportunities to somehow create a situation of communicability – such as a temporary ceasefire, so that perspectives can emerge on how to reach a compromise.

You call for a compromise, but you don’t say what it might look like. Aren’t you making it a bit easy for yourself?

Surely I have no hubris and I am not in a position to say what compromise Ukraine and Russia have to negotiate. I can’t do that at all.

Let us speculate. Luhansk, Donetsk, and Crimea remain Russian? There is a demilitarized zone?

That will have to be contoured somehow in accordance with the balance of power. I’ll be damned if I’m going to say now what the appropriate compromise would be, because then all Ukrainians would rightly get on my back. But perhaps we can agree on the minimal rationality that a civil dimension of conflict resolution needs to be considered again.

Can concessions for Ukraine be acceptable at all, given all the suffering it has experienced as a result of the war?

I don’t know. But I could ask the counter question: Can a further increase in violence be acceptable? People are right to point out the horror of the war crimes, the rapes, and the extreme killing violence. But if I make such a war permanent, I also make the war crimes and the rapes and the killing permanent.

From a Ukrainian perspective, your proposals could amount to political kowtowing.

We have to see that we have two logics that cannot be put into one: If I am attacked, I am concerned with my defense at all costs. If I am not a party to the war, I am concerned with preventing the war from de-escalating. Am I trying to move toward a peace order in a higher perspective and ventilate the mechanisms of how to get there? Or am I concerned with how to resist attack? The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. But they are not the same thing.

But you could also say: You can’t get to a peace order at all until Ukraine is able to defend itself.

You can also question that. The probability that they will come to a civil solution decreases with the escalation of the dynamics of violence. Relatively speaking: Unless nuclear weapons are used, it will happen sometime after five or six years, when the attritional process of war-making goes on until nothing works. Alexander Kluge has described in extenso what such a thing looks like.

The author and filmmaker said in an interview after the open letter was published that Ukraine should please capitulate. He said he had the experience himself in Halberstadt as a child. It is not that bad, he said.

Yes, that is a debatable position, isn’t it?

Halberstadt had to happen, it was about the victory over Nazi Germany. Now it’s about defense against the Putin regime.

The quote, I think, is to be understood differently. It is an autobiographically based quote. There he speaks from the perspective of the child who is a victim of war and from whose point of view surrender is quite a desirable attitude, because then he can survive. It is not about a universally valid theory about ending wars or that surrender is preferable in every case.

From the tradition of the West German peace movement, it was said in discourse with the anti-totalitarians: Better red than dead. In the sense of a struggle for freedom, such a thesis is perhaps no longer viable.

In such questions, precisely the problem of conventional arguments emerges: The culmination of the situation into something binary, where there is only one right or one wrong answer. It is also binary when you talk narrowly about supporting or not supporting Ukraine. I think that maybe you can do one thing without following the logic of escalating violence, but that you have to negotiate that and somehow see how you get somewhere.

Speaking of nuances, are you actually just against the supply of heavy weapons from Germany or against the supply of any weapons and from wherever?

If I’m honest, I was against arms deliveries from the start. Now, after two months, it is necessary to make a break. It is a great value, Without our open letter, this would not have been the case. Surely this is better than not speaking and leaving the ratiocination to the strangely morphic coalition of Anton Hofreiter and Mrs. Strack-Zimmermann.

If Ukraine had not received weapons from abroad in the first place, it would already be Russian.

How far back do we want to go now? Surely we can immediately establish a consensus that the reaction to 2014 was completely wrong. We can then go further and say: the whole discussion before February 24 was characterized by wishful misperceptions, including on your part. From this, we can also learn that the respective current assessment in an escalating situation may not be the one on the basis of which one should act immediately. With Brecht: He who says A does not have to say B. He can also recognize that A was wrong.
It won’t work without your support

Russia has ignited the war in Ukraine across the country. Air strikes continue, cities are encircled, the world continues to respond with sanctions, and more and more people are fleeing. With our Ukraine reporting, we try to do what we can: good, committed journalism. We make all the main points, reports and background information freely available, without a paywall. Especially now, carefully researched articles and verified information must be accessible to all.
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The real Zelensky: from celebrity populist to unpopular Pinochet-style neoliberal
by Natylie Baldwin·April 28, 2022
[This article published on April 28, 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, The real Zelensky: from celebrity populist to unpopular Pinochet-style neoliberal – The Grayzone.]

Ukrainian academic Olga Baysha details Volodymyr Zelensky’s embrace of widely loathed neoliberal policies, his repression of rivals, and how his actions fueled the current war with Russia.

A comedic actor who rose to the country’s highest office in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was virtually unknown to the average American, except perhaps as a bit player in the Trump impeachment theater. But when Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Zelensky was suddenly transformed to an A-list celebrity in US media. American news consumers were bombarded with images of a man who appeared overcome by the tragic events, possibly in over his head, but ultimately sympathetic. It didn’t take long for that image to evolve into the khaki-clad, tireless hero governing over a scrappy little democracy and single-handedly staving off the barbarians of autocracy from the east.

But beyond that carefully crafted Western media image is something much more complicated and less flattering. Zelensky was elected by 73 percent of the vote on a promise to pursue peace while the rest of his platform was vague. On the eve of the invasion, however, his approval rating had sunk to 31 percent due to the pursuit of deeply unpopular policies.

Ukrainian academic, Olga Baysha, author of Democracy, Populism, and Neoliberalism in Ukraine: On the Fringes of the Virtual and the Real, has studied Zelensky’s rise to power and how he has wielded that power since becoming president. In the interview below, Baysha discusses Zelensky’s embrace of neoliberalism and increasing authoritarianism, how his actions contributed to the current war; his counterproductive and self-absorbed leadership throughout the war, the complex cultural and political views and identities of Ukrainians, the partnership between neoliberals and the radical right during and after Maidan, and whether a Russian takeover of the entire Donbass region might be less popular among the local population than it would have been in 2014.

Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from and how did you become interested in your current area of study?

I am an ethnic Ukrainian born in Kharkov, a Ukrainian city on the borderline with Russia, where my dad and other relatives are still living. Before the current war, Kharkov was one of Ukraine’s leading educational and scientific centers. The city’s residents pride themselves on living in the “intellectual capital” of Ukraine. In 1990, the first television company free from party control was established there; soon, its first news program went on air. By that time, I had already graduated from Kharkov University, and one day, I was invited to work as a journalist in this program by a university friend. Next day, without prior experience, I started reporting. In a couple of months, I was a news presenter. My meteoric career was not an exception.

New uncontrolled media, the number of which was increasing at a huge rate daily, demanded more and more media workers. In the overwhelming majority of cases, they were young ambitious people without any journalistic education or life experience. What united us was the desire to westernize, a lack of understanding of societal contradictions characterizing the post-Soviet transition, and deafness to the concerns of working people who opposed reforms. In our eyes, the latter were “retrograde”: they did not understand what civilization was about. We saw [our]selves as a revolutionary vanguard and chosen progressive reformers. It is we—media workers—who created a favorable environment for Ukraine’s neoliberalization, presented as westernization and civilization, with all disastrous consequences for society they brought. Only years after, I realized this.

Later, while supervising the production of historical documentaries in a Kiev television company, I recognized that the mythology of unidirectional historical progress and inevitability of westernization for “barbarians” provided an ideological ground for neoliberal experiments not only in the former Soviet states but around the globe. It is this interest in the global hegemony of the ideology of westernization that led me first to the doctoral program in critical media studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and then to the research I am doing now.
According to the academic work of some Ukrainian sociologists, polling showed in the recent past that most Ukrainians were not very interested in the issue of identity but were more concerned with issues like jobs, wages, and prices. Your work focuses a lot on the Neoliberal reforms that were enacted in Ukraine since 2019 – against the popular sentiment. Can you talk about what the view is on economic issues for most Ukrainians and why?

In the social milieus [in which] I lived — the east of Ukraine, Crimea, and Kiev — there were very few people concerned with the issue of ethnic identity. I do not in vain emphasize “my social milieus.” Ukraine is a complex and divided country with its far east and far west holding diametrically different views on all socially significant issues. Since the declaration of Ukraine’s independence in 1991, two ideas of national identity have been competing in Ukraine: “ethnic Ukrainian” versus “eastern Slavic.” The ethnic Ukrainian national idea, based on the notion that Ukrainian culture, language, and ethnicity-centered history should be the dominant integrating forces in the Ukrainian nation-state, has been much more popular in the west of Ukraine. The eastern Slavic idea, which envisages the Ukrainian nation as founded on two primary ethnic groups, languages, and cultures — Ukrainian and Russian — has been accepted as normal in the Ukrainian southeast. However, in general, I can agree that most Ukrainians are much more concerned with economic issues, which has always been the case.

As a matter of fact, Ukraine’s independence of 1991 was to a big extent also a matter of economic concerns. Many Ukrainians supported the idea of political divorce from Russia because of an expectation that Ukraine would be better off economically — this is what propagandistic leaflets promised us. This economic hope was not realized. In many ways, the collapse of the Soviet Union radically changed people’s lives for the worse because of Ukraine’s neoliberalization — the marketization of the social sphere and ruination of the Soviet welfare state.

What about neoliberal reforms initiated by Zelensky? You can judge on their popularity by opinion polls – up to 72% of Ukrainians did not support his land reform, the flagship of Zelensky’s neoliberal program. After his party approved it despite people’s indignation, Zelensky’s rating fell from 73 percent in Spring 2019 to 23 percent in January 2022. The reason is simple: a deep sense of betrayal. In his unofficial election platform — the show “Servant of the People” — Zelesnky-Holoborodko [Holoborodko was Zelensky’s character in the television show – NB] promised that if he could rule the country for just one week, he would “make the teacher live as the president, and the president live as the teacher.” To put it mildly, this promise was not fulfilled. People realized that they were duped once again—the reforms have been carried out in the interests of not Ukrainians but global capital.

To what extent do you think that prioritizing of economic security versus identity issues has changed with the Russian invasion? How do you think that will work out for the political fortunes of the nationalists/ultranationalists versus moderates or leftists?

That is an interesting question. On the one hand, people’s priority now is to survive, which makes security their primary concern. To save their lives, millions of Ukrainians, including my mom and my sister with children, have left Ukraine for Europe. Many of them are ready to stay there forever, to learn foreign languages, and to adopt to a foreign way of life—all these developments can hardly prioritize identity concerns. On the other hand, however, the intensification of ethnic sentiments and the consolidation of the nation in the face of the invasion is also evident. I can judge on this from public discussions in social media—some Kharkovites whom I know personally even started making posts in Ukrainian [language], which they had never used before, to highlight their national identity and signal that they are against any foreign invasion.

This is another tragic aspect of this war. The Maidan revolution of 2014, which many people in the southeast did not support, transformed these people into “slaves,” “sovki” and “vatniki”—derogatory terms to denote their backwardness and barbarism. This is how Maidan revolutionaries, who considered themselves the progressive force of history, saw anti-Maidan “others” because of their adherence to Russian language and culture. Never ever could this pro-Russian population imagine Russia to shell their cities and ruin their lives. The tragedy of these people is twofold: first, their world was ruined symbolically by the Maidan, now, it is being destroyed physically by Russia.

The outcomes of these developments are unclear so far as it is unclear how the war will end. If the southeastern regions remain in Ukraine, the ruination of everything resisting aggressive nationalism will most likely be completed. This will be probably the end of this unique borderline culture that has never wanted to be either completely Ukrainized or Russified. If Russia establishes control over these regions, as it boasts now, I can hardly predict how it will be dealing with mass resentment—at least, in the cities that are damaged significantly, as in Kharkov.
Moving to Zelensky specifically – one thing you point out in your book is how Zelensky served as this sort of Pied Piper figure in that he used his celebrity and acting skills to get people to support him on behalf of this vague, feel-good agenda (peace, democracy, progress, anticorruption) but that really obscured another agenda that would not have been popular, specifically a Neoliberal economic agenda. Can you talk about how he did that – how did he run his campaign and what were his priorities after he got into office?

The basic argument presented in my recent book is that the astonishing victory of Zelensky and his party, later transformed into a parliamentary machine to churn out and rubber-stamp neoliberal reforms (in a “turbo regime,” as they called it), cannot be explained apart from the success of his television series, which, as many observers believe, served as Zelensky’s informal election platform. Unlike his official platform, which ran only 1,601 words in length and contained few policy specifics, the 51 half-hour episodes of his show provided Ukrainians with a detailed vision of what should be done so that Ukraine could progress.

The message delivered by Zelensky to Ukrainians through his show is clearly populist. The people of Ukraine are portrayed in it as an unproblematic totality devoid of internal splits, from which only oligarchs and corrupted politicians/officials are excluded. The country becomes healthy only after getting rid of both oligarchs and their puppets. Some of them are imprisoned or flee the country; their property is confiscated without any regard to legality. Later, Zelensky-the-president will do the same towards his political rivals.

Interestingly, the show ignores the theme of the Donbass war, which erupted in 2014, a year before the series started being broadcast. As the Maidan and Russia-Ukraine relations are very divisive issues in Ukrainian society, Zelensky ignored them so as not to jeopardize the unity of his virtual nation, his viewers, and ultimately his voters.

Zelensky’s election promises, made on the fringes of the virtual and the real, were predominantly about Ukraine’s “progress,” understood as “modernization,” “Westernization,” “civilization,” and “normalization.” It is this progressive modernizing discourse that allowed Zelensky to camouflage his plans for neoliberal reforms, launched just three days after the new government came to power. Throughout the campaign, the idea of “progress” highlighted by Zelensky was never linked to privatization, land sales, budget cuts, etc. Only after Zelensky had consolidated his presidential power by establishing full control over the legislative and executive branches of power did he make it clear that the “normalization” and “civilization” of Ukraine meant the privatization of land and state/public property, the deregulation of labor relations, a reduction of power for trade unions, an increase in utility tariffs, and so on.

You’ve pointed out that many foreigners were appointed to important economic and social posts after the 2014 coup and before Zelensky’s term. Similarly, many of Zelensky’s officials have close ties to global neoliberal institutions and you’ve suggested there is evidence that they manipulate Zelensky who has an unsophisticated understanding of economics/finance. Can you discuss that aspect of the ramifications of the pro-Western change of government in 2014? What are the larger interests at play here and do they have the interests of the general Ukrainian population in mind at all?

Yes, the Maidan change of power in 2014 marked the beginning of a completely new era in the history of Ukraine in terms of Western influence on its sovereign decisions. To be sure, since Ukraine declared its independence in 1991, this influence has always existed. American Chamber of Commerce, Center for US-Ukraine relations, US-Ukraine Business Council, European Business Association, IMF, EBDR, WTO, the EU—all these lobbying and regulating institutions have been significantly affect[ing] Ukrainian political decisions.

However, never in the pre-Maidan history of Ukraine had the country appointed foreign citizens to top ministerial posts—this became possible only after the Maidan. In 2014, Natalie Jaresko—a citizen of the US—was appointed Ukraine’s Minister of Finance, Aivaras Abromavi?ius—a citizen of Lithuania—became Ukraine’s Minister of Economy and Trade, Alexander Kvitashvili—a citizen of Georgia—the Minister of Healthcare. In 2016, Ulana Suprun—a citizen of the US—was appointed the acting Minister of Healthcare. Other foreigners assumed offices of lower ranks. Needless to say, all these appointments resulted not from the will of Ukrainians but from the recommendations of the global neoliberal institutions, which is not surprising given that the Maidan itself was not supported by half of Ukraine’s population.

As already mentioned, the majority of these anti-Maidan “others” reside in the southeastern regions. The farther east one looked, the stronger and more unified a rejection of the Maidan with its European agenda one would find. More than 75 percent of those living in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (two eastern regions of Ukraine predominantly populated by Russian-speakers) did not support the Maidan, while only 20 percent of people living in Crimea supported it.

These statistical figures, provided by Kiev Institute of Sociology in April 2014, did not prevent Western institutions of power from arguing that the Maidan was the uprising of “Ukrainian people” presented as an unproblematic totality—a very powerful ideological trick. When visiting the Maidan Square and encouraging its revolutionaries to protest, members of the “international community” disrespected millions of Ukrainians who held anti-Maidan views, thus contributing to the escalation of the civil conflict, which at the end of the day led to the disaster that we are helplessly observing today.

What about foreign interests invested in Ukraine’s neoliberalization, carried out in the name of the Ukrainian people? [T]hey are diverse, but behind the land reform, which I have been analyzing carefully, there were financial lobbies in the West. Western pension funds and investment funds wanted to invest money that was depreciating. Looking for assets to invest in, they enlisted support of the IMF, the World Bank, EBRD, and various lobbying groups to promote their interests and lay out all necessary groundwork. This has nothing to do with the interests of Ukrainians, of course.

How has Zelensky’s record been on democracy – freedom of speech and press, political pluralism and treatment of different political parties? How does it compare to past presidents of post-Soviet Ukraine?

I agree with Jodi Dean who argues that democracy is a neoliberal fantasy in a sense that it cannot exist in neoliberal systems of government controlled not by people but by supranational institutions. As mentioned earlier, this became especially evident after the Maidan when foreign ministers were appointed by these institutions to present their interests in Ukraine. However, in his reforming zeal, Zelensky went further. In early February 2021, first three oppositional television channels—NewsOne, Zik, and 112 Ukraine—were shut down. Another oppositional channel Nash was banned in the beginning of 2022, before the beginning of the war. After the war broke out, in March, dozens of independent journalists, bloggers, and analysts were arrested; most of them are of leftist views. In April, television channels of right-wing leaning—Channel 5 and Pryamiy—were shut down as well. Moreover, Zelensky signed a decree obliging all Ukrainian channels to broadcast a single telethon, presenting only one pro-governmental view on the war.

All these developments are unprecedented for the history of independent Ukraine. Zelensky’s proponents argue that all the arrests and media bans should be written off for military expediency, ignoring the fact that the first media closures happened one year before the Russian invasion. As for me, Zelensky only uses this war to strengthen dictatorial tendencies within his regime of government, which started being formed right after Zelensky came to power—when he created a party machine to control the parliament and rubber-stamp neoliberal reforms without regard to public mood.

The National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) was used by Zelensky in 2021 to sanction certain people – mostly political rivals. Can you explain what the NSDC is and why Zelensky was doing it and whether it was legal or not.

After his popular support plummeted in 2021, Zelensky launched the unconstitutional process of extrajudicial sanctions against his political opponents, imposed by National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). These sanctions involved the extrajudicial seizure of property without any evidence of illegal activities of the relevant individuals and legal entities. Among the first to be sanctioned by the NSDC were two parliamentary deputies from the Opposition Platform “For Life” (OPZZh)—Victor Medvedchuk (later arrested and shown on TV with his face beaten up after interrogation) and Taras Kozak (managed to escape from Ukraine), as well as members of their families. This happened in February 2021; in March 2022, 11 oppositional parties were banned. The decisions to ban oppositional parties and sanction oppositional leaders were taken by NSDC; they were put into effect by presidential decrees.

The Constitution of Ukraine states that The Council of National Security and Defense is a coordinating body: it “co-ordinates and controls the activity of bodies of executive power in the sphere of national security and defense.” This has nothing to do with prosecuting political opponents and confiscating their property—something NSDC has been doing since 2021. It goes without saying that this know-how of Zelensky’s regime is unconstitutional—only courts may decide on who is guilty or not and confiscate property. But the problem is that Ukrainian courts turned out to be unprepared to serve as Zelensky’s puppets. After the head of Ukraine’s Constitutional Court Oleksandr Tupytskyi called Zelensky’s unconstitutional reforms a “coup,” Zelensky had nothing to do but to rely on NSDC to push forward his unpopular policies. What about the “dissident” Tupytskyi? On March 27, 2021—also in violation of the Ukrainian Constitution—Zelensky signed a decree canceling his appointment as a judge of the court.

Under Stalin’s rule, the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) created “troikas” to issue sentences to people after simplified, speedy investigations and without a public and fair trial. What we observe in the case of NSDC is a very similar development, only NSDC unconstitutional trials have a bigger number of participants—all the key figures of the state, including the president, the prime minister, the head of Ukrainian security service, prosecutor general of Ukraine, etc. One NSDC meeting can decide destinies of hundreds of people. In June 2021 alone, Zelensky put into effect a NSDC decision to impose sanctions against 538 individuals and 540 companies.
I’d like to ask you about the “Peacemaker” (Myrotvorets) list that is reportedly affiliated with the Ukrainian government and SBU intelligence service. My understanding is that this is a list of “enemies of the state” and publishes said enemies’ personal information. Several of those who appeared on it have been subsequently murdered. Can you talk about this list, how do people end up on it, and how does it fit into a government that we’ve been told is democratic?

The nationalistic Myrotvorets website was launched in 2015 “by a people’s deputy holding a position of adviser to the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine”—this is how the UN report describes this. The name of this people’s deputy is Anton Gerashchenko, a former advisor to the former Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. It is under Avakov’s patronage in 2014 [that] nationalistic punitive battalions were created to be sent to Donbass for suppressing people’s resistance against the Maidan. Myrotvorets has been part of the general strategy of intimidating the opponents of the coup. Any “enemy of the people”—anybody who dares to express publicly anti-Maidan views or challenge Ukraine’s nationalistic agenda—may occur on this website. The addresses of Oles Buzina, a famous publicist [journalist], shot dead by nationalists near his apartment building in Kyiv, and Oleg Kalashnikov, an oppositional deputy killed by nationalists in his house, were also on Myrotvorets, which helped the killers to find their victims. The names of the murderers are well known; however, they are not imprisoned because in contemporary Ukraine, whose political life is controlled by radicals, they are considered heroes.

The site was not shut down even after an international scandal when Myrotvorets published the personal data of well-known foreign politicians, including the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. But, in contrast to Mr. Schröder residing in Germany, thousands of Ukrainians whose data are on Myrotvorets, cannot feel safe. All those arrested in March 2022 had been on Myrotvorets as well. Some of them I know personally – Yuri Tkachev, the editor of Odessa newspaper Timer and Dmitry Dzhangirov, the editor of Capital, a YouTube channel.

Many of those whose names are on Myrotvorets, managed to flee Ukraine after the Maidan; some were able to do it after mass arrests this March. One of them is Tarik Nezalezhko, Dzhangirov’s colleague. On April 12, 2022, already being safe outside of Ukraine, he made a post on YouTube, calling Ukraine’s Security Service “Gestapo” and giving advice to his viewers on how to avoid being captured by its agents.

That said, Ukraine is not a democratic country. The more I observe what is going on there, the more I think about the modernization path of Augusto Pinochet, who, as a matter of fact, is admired by our neoliberals. For a long period of time, the crimes of Pinochet’s regime had not been investigated. But in the end, humanity discovered the truth. I only hope that in Ukraine this will happen earlier.

Ukrainian academic Volodymyr Ishchenko said in a recent interview with NLR that, unlike in Western Europe, there is more of a partnership between nationalism and Neoliberalism in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. This was even observed in the Donbass among the more affluent. Do you agree with that? If so, can you explain how that combination evolved?

I agree with Volodymyr. What we observe in Ukraine is an alliance of nationalists and liberals based on their common intolerance to Russia and, respectively, to all who advocate for cooperation with it. It the light of the current war, this unity of liberals and nationalists may appear as justified. However, the alliance was created long before this war—in 2013, during the formation of the Maidan movement. By liberals, the Association Agreement with the European Union, advocated by the Maidan, was seen predominantly in terms of democratization, modernization, and civilization—it was imagined as a means of bringing Ukraine up to European standards of government. In contrast, the Eurasian Economic Union, led by Russia, was associated with civilizational regression to Soviet statism and Asian despotism. It is here that the positions of liberals and nationalists converged: The latter actively supported the Maidan not because of democratization, but due to its clear anti-Russia stance.

From the first days of the protests, radical nationalists were the most active Maidan fighters. The unity between liberals associating the Euromaidan with progress, modernization, human rights, etc., and radicals co-opting the movement for their nationalistic agenda was an important prerequisite for the transformation of the civic protest into an armed struggle resulting in an unconstitutional overturning of power. The decisive role of radicals in the revolution also became a crucial factor in the formation of a mass anti-Maidan movement in the east of Ukraine against the “coup d’etat,” as the hegemonic anti-Maidan discourse dubbed the change of power in Kyiv. At least partly, what we observe today, is a tragic outcome of this shortsighted and unfortunate alliance, formed during the Maidan.

Can you explain what Zelensky’s relationship has been with the far-right in Ukraine?

Zelensky himself has never expressed far-right views. In his series “Servant of the People,” which was used as an unofficial election platform, Ukrainian nationalists are portrayed negatively: they appear as nothing else but stupid oligarchs’ marionettes. As a presidential candidate, Zelensky criticized the language law signed by his predecessor Poroshenko, which made the knowledge of Ukrainian language a mandatory requirement for civil servants, soldiers, doctors, and teachers. “We must initiate and adopt laws and decisions that consolidate society, and not vice versa,” Zelensky-the-candidate claimed in 2019.

However, after assuming the presidential office, Zelensky turned to the nationalistic agenda of his predecessor. On May 19, 2021, his government approved an action plan for the promotion of the Ukrainian language in all spheres of public life strictly in line with Poroshenko’s language law, to the delight of nationalists and dismay of Russophones. Zelensky has done nothing to prosecute radicals for all their crimes against political opponents and the people of Donbass. The symbol of Zelensky’s right-wing transformation was his endorsement by nationalist Medvedko—one of those accused of murdering Buzina—who publicly approved Zelensky’s ban of Russian-language oppositional channels in 2021.

The question is why? Why did Zelensky make a U-turn to nationalism despite people’s hopes that he would pursue the politics of reconciliation? As many analysists believe, this is because radicals, although representing the minority of the Ukrainian population, do not hesitate to use force against politicians, courts, law enforcement agencies, media workers, and so forth—in other words, they are simply good at intimidating society, including all the branches of power. Propagandists may repeat the mantra “Zelensky is a Jew, so he cannot be a Nazi” as often as they want, but the truth is that radicals control the political process in Ukraine through violence against those who dare confront their nationalistic and supremacist agendas. The case of Anatoliy Shariy — one of the most popular bloggers in Ukraine living in exile—is a good example to illustrate this point. Not only does he, along with his family members, permanently receive death threats, radicals constantly intimidate the activists of his party (banned by Zelensky in March 2022), beating and humiliating them. This is what Ukrainian radicals call “political safari.”
Right now, Zelensky is the most influential figure on the world stage with respect to a conflict that has grave implications if it escalates. I’m concerned that he’s using those same manipulative show biz skills to rally support behind this image of some personal incarnation of democracy and righteousness against the forces of evil and autocracy. It’s like a movie based on a Marvel comic book world. It’s precisely the kind of framing that seems antithetical to diplomacy. Do you think Zelensky is playing a constructive role as the wartime leader of Ukraine or not?

I follow Zelensky’ war speeches on a regular basis, and I can confidently say that the way he frames the conflict can hardly lead to any diplomatic resolution as he permanently repeats that the forces of good are attacked by the forces of evil. Clearly, there can be no political solution for such an Armageddon. What falls out of this mythical frame of reference for the war is the broader context of the situation: the fact that for years Ukraine has been refusing to implement the Minsk peace agreements, which were signed in 2015 after the defeat of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass war. According to these agreements, Donbass had to receive a political autonomy within Ukraine—a point inconceivable and unacceptable for radicals. Instead of implementing the document, which was ratified by the UN, Kiev has been fighting with Donbass along the line of demarcation for eight long years. The life of Ukrainians living in these territories has been transformed into a nightmare. For radicals, whose battalions have been fighting there, Donbass people—imagined as sovki and vatniki—do not deserve mercy and indulgence.

The current war is a prolongation of the war of 2014, which started when Kiev sent troops to Donbass to suppress anti-Maidan rebellion under the premise of the so-called “anti-terrorist operation.” The acknowledgement of this broader context does not presuppose the approval of Russia’s “military operation,” but it implies the acknowledgement that Ukraine is also responsible for what is going on. Framing the issue of the current war in terms of a fight of civilization against barbarism or democracy against autocracy is nothing else but manipulation, and this is essential for understanding the situation. Bush’s formula “you are either with us or with terrorists,” propagated by Zelensky in his appeals to the “civilized world,” has turned out to be very convenient in terms of avoiding personal responsibility for the ongoing disaster.

In terms of selling this one-dimensional story to the world, Zelensky’s artistic skills appear invaluable. He is finally on the global stage, and the world is applauding. The former comedian does not even try to hide his satisfaction. Answering the question of a French reporter on March 5, 2022 — the tenth day of the Russian invasion — on how his life had changed with the beginning of the war, Zelensky replied with a smile of delight: “Today, my life is beautiful. I believe that I am needed. I feel it is the most important meaning in life – to be needed. To feel that you are not just an emptiness that is just breathing, walking, and eating something. You live.”

For me, this construction is alarming: it implies that Zelensky enjoys the unique opportunity to perform on a global stage provided by the war. It made his life beautiful; he lives. In contrast to millions of Ukrainians whose life is not nice at all and thousands of those who are not alive any longer.

Alexander Gabuev has suggested that the Russian leadership has a lack of expertise about the country that was a contributing factor to this conflict. I have also heard Russian commentators suggest that Ukraine has a superior attitude with regard to being pro-Western versus pro-Russian. Do you think this is a significant contributing factor for either side?

I am inclined to agree with the claim regarding the lack of an adequate understanding on the part of Russian leadership of social processes that have been going on in Ukraine since the Maidan. Indeed, half of Ukraine’s population did not welcome it, and millions living in the southeast wanted Russia to intervene. I know this for sure as all my relatives and old friends reside in these territories. However, what was true in 2014 may not be necessarily the case now. Eight years have passed; a new generation of young people, raised within a new social environment, has grown; and many people simply accustomed themselves to new realities. Finally, even if most of them despise radicals and the politics of Ukrainization, they hate the war even more. The reality on the ground has turned out to be more complex than decision-makers expected.
What about the sense of superiority among those Ukrainians who identify themselves with Westerners rather than with Russians?

This is true, and, as for me, this is the most tragic part of the whole post-Maidan story, because it is exactly this sense of superiority that prevented the “progressive” pro-Maidan forces from finding common language with their “backward” pro-Russian compatriots. This led to the Donbass uprising, the “anti-terrorist operation” of the Ukrainian army against Donbass, Russia’s intervention, Minsk peace agreements, their non-fulfillment, and, finally, the current war.

Natylie Baldwin is a writer on Russian and US foreign policy and the author of The View from Moscow: Understanding Russia & US-Russia Relations.

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“The population is deeply alienated from the leadership”

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/04/21/18849161.php

Russian culture is deeply individualistic. It has a very low level of trust. People can’t trust each other, they can’t trust their fellow human beings, and they can’t trust their leaders. It’s like Solzhenytsin’s famous formula: trust no one, fear no one, and demand nothing from no one.
“The population is deeply alienated from the leadership” (2/2)

Literary historian Andrei Zorin at a lecture in Moscow in 2019. © Skolkovo School of Management
Artem Efimov / 8.04.2022 In the second part of the interview, Andrei Zorin identifies three Russian myths that can direct this alienation outward.
[This interview published on 4/8/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.infosperber.ch/gesellschaft/kultur/die-bevoelkerung-ist-tief-entfremdet-von-der-fuehrung-2-2/,]

Andrei Zorin is a professor of Russian in the Department of Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford University. The interview was produced by the online journalistic magazine Meduza. It was conducted by Artem Efimov. Infosperber has translated it from English and published it in two parts.

Meduza was founded by journalist Galina Timchenko in Riga and is published in Russian and English. According to its own information, the medium is mainly financed by donations.

Report on Meduza in Radio SRF’s “Echo der Zeit” (March 29, 2022).

Interview with Timchenko in Der Spiegel (May 1, 2021).

This is the continuation of the interview with Andrei Zorin. The first part appeared on April 7, 2022.

Another quote from one of your public lectures: Russian political culture assumes the existence of a hostile outside world in which man cannot live, but only survive.

I have to say this, even though it is often seen as a paradox: Russian culture is deeply individualistic. It has a very low level of trust. People can’t trust each other, they can’t trust their fellow human beings, and they can’t trust their leaders. It’s like Solzhenytsin’s famous formula: trust no one, fear no one, and demand nothing from no one. This is a saying from prison, but it turns out that this wisdom from prison can apply to our whole reality. The world is dangerous and hostile, and it is difficult to live in.

So the mentality of the besieged fortress is an expression of this lack of trust, but in the geopolitical realm?

Yes, to a large extent. There is another problem: centuries of extreme alienation of the majority of the population from their leaders. At least since the reforms of Peter the Great, the elite has been separated from the ordinary people by a completely impenetrable barrier. Dostoevsky believed that he began to understand the Russian people when he was sentenced to hard labor. Tolstoy described Pierre Bezukhov in captivity alongside Platon Karatayev; he described Prince Andrew among the soldiers. Only in such extreme circumstances do the educated elite and the majority of the population begin to feel that they share a common fate.

The pre-revolutionary elite is destroyed or driven out of the country after 1917. Afterwards, however, it reproduces itself. As Yuri Slezkine has brilliantly shown in his recent book The House of Government, classical Russian literature becomes the template for this restoration. The Soviet elite begins to emulate the old aristocracy. At the end of the Soviet Union, the same level of hostility and alienation between the elite and the majority can be observed. The redirection of this hostility to the outside world is, among other things, a way to use internal social conflict for propaganda purposes.

This is still the case today. For a long time, we had megacities that prided themselves on being European and where everyday life was sometimes even more comfortable than in European cities. But on the other hand, we are a huge country, and this “European lifestyle” creates feelings of alienation and hostility among many residents, even in these cities. That’s why rhetoric like “now we’re all going to live in poverty” resonates with some people – at least for now.

I have a hypothesis that the ideology that is in the minds of the Russian ruling class and being disseminated in the state media originated in the 1970s. Although it is often attributed to Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Stalin, or whomever, I believe it comes from a wild mixture of Soviet propaganda, samizdat, and all the craziness printed in the popular science press: Veles’ book, for example. That’s where all the conspiracies like the Dulles Plan came from.

You are right. The current aging generation of heads of state, as you can easily deduce from their birth years, developed their worldview during that time. Just as those who came of age in the 1960s set the tone for perestroika.

But I think it is important to note another generational aspect. The ideology of this period, which Gorbachev unsuccessfully called the era of stagnation, was created by people who grew up in the postwar period, in late Stalinism. This was a time when the revolutionary ideology of communist universalism was eventually supplanted by the idea of Russian national-imperial messianism. This process began in the 1930s, but was somewhat delayed by the war, but accelerated considerably thereafter. Hence the withdrawal from the world, the “struggle against cosmopolitanism,” and the idea of a vast conspiracy against Russia.

When the political and even more so the intellectual leaders of the 1970s came to power, they began to reproduce the models from their own youth in a weakened form, even if they added some new elements, such as the idealization of pre-revolutionary Russia, occult beliefs, the Book of Veles, and things like that.

And why was this change necessary?

People adopt their most important ideas when they are young. Both individuals and whole societies or countries are able to change ideological scales because they are conscious and need to be articulated. But the layer of semi-conscious ideas – cultural and political mythology – is very difficult to change. Transitions take place – myths are not innate to any human society and are not inherited genetically; they emerge, are sustained, and then die. But profound changes require either decades of cultural and social upheaval or monumental catastrophes. Therefore, a generation that spent its childhood and adolescence in a particular era and then becomes the political and cultural leadership of the next generation will reproduce under new conditions what it was once taught.

It is also the case that every turn to isolation in Russia, at least in the 20th century, follows a failed attempt at “Europeanization.” In 1917, it was an attempt to present itself to the world as the leader of the global revolution. The failure of this concept became clear in 1920 during the so-called Miracle on the Vistula. The defeat of the Red Army led to Stalin’s doctrine of socialism in one country. After World War II, the borders of the empire expanded dramatically, but the logic remained the same: up to the border post we are, behind it are the enemies.

So it’s not just about Putin’s personal resentments after all?

Ideology, official ideology, ideological struggle – these are all important things. But the most important thing about ideologies is how they are consumed. Why do some ideological constructs sell well, while others remain mere thought exercises? A crucial factor is the ideas a person has about the world, which are often difficult for them to think about. This is what I call political and cultural mythology.

Resentment arises from disappointment. I often quote Yeltsin’s last speech, in which he said goodbye to the people and announced that he had chosen a successor. This is an amazing paragraph: “We thought that with one jolt, with one blow, we could leap from the gray, stagnant, totalitarian past to a bright, rich, civilized future. I believed it myself. But a jolt did not work. In some respects, I proved too naive.”

Yeltsin was not naive. He was a smart, skillful politician. But behind this admission was a “transformation myth”: now we will free ourselves from the communist ideology that kept us in chains for 70 years and immediately join the unified stream of world civilization. Initially, this idea worked. There was a feeling that we had a real czar who would turn our previous suffering into victory.

When this did not happen, it seemed as if we had been tricked and the tsar was an impostor. What looked like a breakthrough turned out to be a defeat. A neo-imperial nostalgia arose: suddenly it seemed as if our lives had been fine before, and above all we had had a great country – everyone had feared us. We were in Soviet heaven, and we had been seduced by the serpent of the evil West. Now we needed another breakthrough and another true tsar.

Myths work especially well when they resonate with each other. The great transformation and the true tsar – these are two important mythologisms. But there is also a third myth that is no less important: the people’s body. The people as a whole form an organic entity – a collective identity with one soul and one body. The idea that Russia’s historical defeat consists in the dismemberment of this body is based on this idea.

If you read Russian folk tales, you will remember the bogatyr being cut into pieces and having dead water poured over it to put the pieces back together. Then living water is poured over him – and he gets up again. But he can’t get up if his hands and feet are cut off. First, his body must be fused back together.

This is an idea that official propaganda has brought into people’s consciousness over a long period of time, but no one has paid much attention to it. Why was the collapse of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe”? Because it was the dismemberment of the people’s body. And now we see the war – the dead water. First we have to collect everything, and then we pour living water on it – and it will rise again.

To what extent was this myth conveyed to people through propaganda?

That is the difference between ideology and mythology. A myth is very difficult to internalize consciously. But it is possible to impose certain ideological models – and that can work if you rely on a strong mythology.

In this case, I suspect that this myth was present in the minds of both the consumers and the producers of the ideology. But it had to be put into a form: what was cut off from us, what first had to be put back together, and so on.

And that’s where the standard narrative of Russian history, going back to Kiev, worked well: Kiev is the main thing we lost.

I wrote about Crimea and the Crimean myth [that Crimea is historically Russian] back in 1997, long before these events. Then, in 2014, I was amazed at the number of calls I began to receive. I thought this work was long forgotten – and suddenly everyone called me and asked for a comment. I was asked to talk about Potemkin and the conquest of Crimea.

I said to one of these clients, “I’m only going to talk about the 18th century, but there might be a lot of questions [from the audience after the talk]. And remember, I’m not going to make a fool of myself.” He thought long and hard, then said, “Let’s make a deal: You can say ‘a serious mistake,’ but don’t say ‘international banditry.'”

Gentler times.

You tell me.

But Crimea, with all its Khersonese [ancient Greek colonies such as the Taurian Khersonesos near Sevastopol] and its religious-ancient associations – that’s still secondary. But now Kiev! Prince Vladimir [he Christianized the great empire of Kievan Rus founded by Scandinavians around 1000 ], the “mother of Russian cities”.

The authorities have tried before to solve the problem of “where the Russian land comes from”: the Izborsk club, Ladoga, Novgorod – historically, any of these explanations could work. Novgorod is really an important historical center. But the example of Novgorod shows that this concept quickly leads to a dead end. First of all, Novgorod was the calling of the Varangians, the beginning of the Rurik dynasty. They summoned strangers, “Come and rule over us.” This does not work well. And secondly, what is worse, this was the republic that was destroyed by Moscow – and with tremendous brutality. It proved impossible to incorporate Novgorod into a modern concept of the state. It was necessary to fall back on Kievan Rus.

Putin with his giant table and Zelensky in his green T-shirt – these are also conscious ideological decisions.

Yes, the meeting of the Russian Security Council that we all saw was another “scenario of power.” And what we see of Zelensky’s environment is a completely different story. But both are derived from certain myths. We have already talked about Russian historical and political mythology. Ukrainian mythology is completely different. It is not based on the figure of the “true tsar”, but on the idea of the military democracy of the Cossacks. You can listen to the Ukrainian national anthem:

Soul and body we will lay down for our freedom.

And show that we are brothers of the Cossack people

Against this background, there can be no discussion about the unity of the two peoples. When you have two political mythologies that are not only dissimilar but directly opposed, what is there to talk about?

Rather, I have the impression that the question no longer even arises. In recent months, history has resolved it in the bloodiest way, at a tremendous cost, but conclusively. In general, history has unlimited means to teach even the most careless students. But this is not much consolation for those who will pay or have already paid for these lessons with their lives.

This was the continuation of the interview with Andrei Zorin. The first part appeared on April 7, 2022.
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“Russia wants to turn defeat into victory” (1/2).
Russian literature professor Andrei Zorin. © Pushkin House
Artem Efimov
Russia’s national myth sees the country in constant danger. Russian literary historian Andrei Zorin says so in an interview.
[This interview published on 4/7/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.infosperber.ch/gesellschaft/ethnien-religionen/russland-will-eine-niederlage-in-einen-sieg-verwandeln-1-2/.]

psi. Andrei Zorin is a professor of Russian at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford University. The interview was produced by the online journalistic magazine Meduza. It was conducted by Artem Efimov. Infosperber has translated it from English and publishes it in two parts. The second part appeared on April 8, 2022.

Meduza was founded by journalist Galina Timchenko in Riga and is published in Russian and English. According to its own information, the medium is financed mainly by donations.

Report on Meduza in Radio SRF’s “Echo der Zeit” (March 29, 2022), interview with Timchenko in Der Spiegel (May 1, 2021).

A few years ago you said in an interview that today’s young people have no sense that they are living in history. Will they feel differently now in light of current events?

I do think that we are dealing with a historical paradigm shift. On a global level, it started after September 11, 2001, but now it is much more evident.

It is clear that postmodernism, which was dominant in the second half of the 20th century, is disappearing. By this I mean that the existence of truth and clear moral guidelines is being denied, that everything is considered a game of thought and subject to deconstruction, and an appeal to etiquette looks like an act of oppression.

We have already observed this process for 20 years. Now, I think it will accelerate greatly and enter a completely new phase. But whether it will take us back to a historical understanding of reality or whether some kind of religious, mystical, apocalyptic or completely new feeling will prevail is hard to say.

It is frightening and tragic that Eastern Europe has once again turned out to be the place where these global transitions are taking place.

This question is probably naive, but I ask it anyway: did it all have to happen this way? Or did someone bring us here with their personal idiosyncrasies?

This is really a question for a philosopher, not a historian. In my opinion, there are always several possibilities and forks in the road in history. Events cannot occur unless they have deep reasons and causes. But there is also no absolute predestination in history. It can take this or that path, and the choice depends on the decisions of individuals or groups of people.

One cannot say in retrospect that something was inevitable. Things could have gone differently. There were thirty years in which this development could have been prevented. But perhaps precisely because it seemed so unlikely, nothing was done about it.

In retrospect, I realized that I had assessed the situation completely differently as a person and as an expert. Everything I had written suggested that this kind of war, while not inevitable, was very likely. At the same time, as a human being, I kept saying to myself, Oh, come on. You’re going to bomb Kiev? Please, this is impossible.

History was used to justify this war, including by Putin himself. What do you think of his view of history?

The fact that Putin or his entourage have a poor understanding of history is not even the problem. Who knows what any of them knows or doesn’t know. No one really knows what happened a thousand years ago. Much more dangerous is the belief that the solutions to today’s problems can be found in history.

In Latin America, during the time of military coups, there was a slogan: Send the soldiers back to the barracks! I would suggest a new slogan: Send the historians back to their department!

We have lived here! We are one people! This country belongs to this group and not to that one! It is hard to imagine anything more damaging than using these kinds of arguments to solve historical problems. The argument between the so-called primordialists and the constructivists about what constitutes a nation may seem entirely theoretical. But they have gotten new blood. Suddenly, these primordialist ideas, which date back to the 19th century and have long been discarded by science, are not just a theoretical fallacy – they are a justification for mass murder.

I’m going to throw some of your old quotes at you that sound different in the current circumstances. A few years ago you said in a public lecture that in Russian political culture the sign of a strong tsar is not only the ability to win a victory, but also the ability to turn a failure into a victory. Is the war we are experiencing now an attempt at such a transformation?

Yes, of course. Russian culture is characterized by a constant sense that the country is under threat, a mortal danger that will be overcome by dramatic change and breakthrough. In addition, as Vladimir Sharov – in my opinion, one of the greatest Russian writers of recent decades – put it, Russian leaders are classified in the popular consciousness not as legitimate or illegitimate, but as real or not real. A real tsar, a real chief, a real leader is someone who leads a country on the brink of ruin to triumph.

Take the wars that are canonized in the Russian state narrative:

Early 17th century: the Poles are in Moscow, and Minin and Pozharsky form a militia and drive them from there.

Early 18th century: the Great Northern War begins with a defeat at Narva, which leads Peter to reshape the whole country, and eventually leads to the [Russian victory at] Poltava.

Early 19th century: Napoleon occupies Moscow – after which the Russians take Paris. Hitler did not manage to take Moscow, but he came close. The first months of 1941 were disastrous – and then we were victorious.

Official Russian ideology and propaganda won the battle for the mainstream interpretation of the events between 1989 and 1991. They were presented not as Russia’s liberation from neo-Stalinist dictatorship, Soviet communism, and imperial legacy, but as the West’s victory in the Cold War. Worse, the victory was won in the worst possible way: by deception.

Ingrained in our public consciousness was the not-yet-fully-formulated notion that there was some kind of contract between Russia and the West: Russia would dissolve its empire, and in return the West would somehow absorb it.

Where it would be absorbed was never clear – perhaps into the “civilized world” or into the ranks of “normal countries.” And we would immediately start living “as in all civilized countries” – that was the idea. But we were tricked. We fulfilled our part of the agreement, but they did not. They tricked us. That was the defeat that had to be turned into a victory. That was an important pillar of the “authenticity” of the current political leadership, and that was not concealed, but emphasized over and over again. And that was the rhetoric that all outside observers, myself included, somehow missed.

There is another fundamental difference: there were no enemy troops in Moscow or anywhere near it. It requires some mental effort and imagination to compare the situation to a military defeat.

This is what I want to say: this was a victory of official interpretation over historical reality. The collapse of the USSR, of course, came from within – economic failure, military setbacks in Afghanistan, ethnic conflicts on the periphery, and a whole host of other factors led to the complete de-legitimization of the system. The West, on the other hand, hoped to the end that the USSR could be preserved. Political leaders there preferred to deal with a single nuclear power [rather than several] and feared the collapse of the Soviet Union; there is ample evidence of this.

But that is the point of this kind of reinterpretation: those in power needed to portray the collapse of the empire as a failure and humiliation at the hands of outside forces.

https://marcbatko.academia.edu

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Waging war or building bridges

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/04/13/18849030.php

“NATO is de facto at war with Russia and using Ukraine as a tool to do it.” And further, “Everything about NATO is hypocrisy. They declare themselves the ‘peace alliance,’ but their history is nothing but war. Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, they all reveal that NATO is in fact the pirate power to implement corporate globalization.

Waging war or building bridges?
by Kai Ehlers.
[This article published on 4/12/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=82890.]

The war in Ukraine is currently shaking the world more than other simultaneous wars. Why? Because it is taking place in the middle of Europe? Because it falls out of the blue? Because Vladimir Putin is trampling on the peace that the West wants to secure for the world? The outrage over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which violates international law, is making waves. In the future, it is said, peace and security can no longer be secured with Russia, only against it. A gigantic campaign of sanctions against Russia, an unparalleled spiral of rearmament, and an exclusion of everything Russian that borders on the racist have been set in motion. Who benefits from this? By Kai Ehlers.

Let us pause for a moment: Was it really the case that since the end of the Soviet Union the West, the EU, and Germany in particular, have done everything to build a new security architecture for lasting peace with Russia in place of the collapsed “Cold Peace” system, as Russia has repeatedly proposed? Why did Ukraine have to be torn between the European Union and the Eurasian Union with Russia? Why does NATO have to penetrate all the way to Ukraine? Why can’t Ukraine be what it could be from its historical nature as a transit space between East and West, between North and South: a bridge connecting Russia and Europe in its cultural, historical and spiritual diversity?

We could talk to each other about these questions instead of participating in the deepening of the rifts that have already been created and falling into the hysteria of ideological and material rearmament.

Steinmeier’s self-criticism oblivious to history

For a better understanding of what the times now demand of people who care about building bridges, it will be good to remember what German President Steinmeier, after the events in Butsha, apparently driven by the militant agitation of Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk, believed he had to let the public know – self-critically, as he would have it understood, namely: he was wrong about Putin.

Literally, he declared: “We have failed with the establishment of a common European house, in which Russia is included. We have failed with the approach of including Russia in a common security architecture.” (FAZ, 5.4.2022)

That sounds like radical self-criticism, apart from who the “we” is based on. But what is radical about this “self-criticism” is only the inversion of the actual development and the bigoted self-forgetfulness of the role that Steinmeier himself, as a member of German politics, has taken in this development.

Was it not Mikhail Gorbachev, after all, who made the proposal of the “European house” in 1989? Was it not Boris Yeltsin who wanted to join NATO? Was it not Vladimir Putin who offered to renew the Cold War security order, dissolved after the end of the Soviet Union, through a security agreement for the whole of Eurasia? Was it not Putin and his interim successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who have since then repeatedly put forward to NATO, the “West,” the proposal of a “security architecture from Vladivostok to Lisbon,” which has virtually become canon? Wasn’t it Russia that put forward these proposals once again before the current escalation, most recently also in an ultimate manner? And have not all these efforts, which came from the Russian side, simply been countered by the NATO expansions, by the EU expansions to Russia’s borders, by the support of colorful revolutions up to the promotion of the coup-like takeover of Ukraine by the Maidan right-wing in 2014 and the subsequent blocking of an implementation of the Minsk resolutions on the part of the Kiev government promoted by the German government, NATO and the USA? No one would have had to be “involved” there, they would only have had to be willing to take up the proposals and negotiate the new order, which would take into account the security needs of Russia and the EU, with each other on an equal footing.

But now the Ukrainian civil war, which has been waged since the Maidan in 2014 as an “anti-terrorist action” from Kiev against the east of the country, has turned into a veritable war that threatens to chaotize the new order of Europe, and beyond that of Eurasia as a whole and worldwide.

One can only call out to the German president and the present German government, who are ready for self-criticism, to stop! It is nice if you, Mr. Steinmeier, placed in such a prominent position as that of a Federal President, recognize your error and even admit it publicly! The error, however, did not consist in not having “integrated” Russia into “our” security architecture. It was rather to have penetratingly pushed aside the proposals and efforts for a common Eurasian security architecture as suggested by Russia and to have answered them with unrestrained enlargement policy instead of accepting them as an invitation to work out a new peace order of Eurasia which would have been able to replace the disintegrated order of the Cold War.
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NATO’s global history of reaction

By Sara Flounders posted on April 4, 2022 https://www.workers.org/2022/04/63075/

The U.S.-commanded military alliance called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – NATO, was founded April 4, 1949. Its initials describe its early geographic reach but obscure NATO’s intent, and how NATO has acted, first from 1949 to 1991, and later from 1991 to the present.

From its founding moment, NATO was an aggressive military apparatus to coordinate the police and military and intelligence apparati among the ten founding West European member countries (plus U.S. and Canada) under U.S. command. NATO’s past 30 years of steady expansion is tied to its original purpose as an imperialist weapon against the working class.

The 1991 broken promise by Secretary of State Baker, echoed by many other Western politicians, to Soviet Prime Minister Gorbachev that if the reunification of Germany went forward “NATO would expand not one inch to the East” is often quoted today in discussing the encirclement of Russia and the root of the war in Ukraine.

What needs to be understood is why did NATO expand? Why was NATO’s expansion inevitable?

NATO expanded because the capitalist markets expanded. The defeat of socialism in Eastern Europe and the dismemberment of the Soviet Union and the auctioning off of formerly nationalized public property and industries was only possible with an enforcement organization.

Just as the U.S., as the center of finance capital, is held together by the largest repressive state apparatus, the largest internal police force, and the largest prison system in the world.

NATO’s founding principle was to ensure a strong U.S. military, political and economic presence in Europe. There was no plan to end the U.S. military occupation of Europe. Its stated purpose from its inception was a military alliance against the Soviet Union.

NATO claimed to be a collective security arrangement against Soviet expansion, even though the Soviet Union was hardly expanding. It was devastated by World War II and had suffered the overwhelming majority of the losses in human life (27 million) and in industrial capacity. Over 700 cities and towns lay in total ruin. Refugee camps and rationing dominated daily life.

The border between two social systems

But the fact that the Soviet Union had survived was threatening to the capitalist class.

In all the countries liberated by the Red Army from Nazi Germany’s occupation in Eastern Europe workers organizations were attempting to reorganize society. Only by organizing on a non-capitalist basis could they defend their countries from absorption by Western imperialism.

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had spoken in Missouri in 1946 denouncing this development and labeling it an Iron Curtain dividing Europe. His speech was a rallying cry to wall off all economic trade and technological assistance to the entire region the Red Army had liberated.

Socialism in Western Europe?

Capitalist domination of Western Europe was in question. What was labeled as Soviet expansion, imminent Soviet invasion, the Red Scare (with a media frenzy that matches today’s against Russia), was the growing influence of workers’ movements in Western Europe.

The organized power of the working class and of Communist parties was rapidly growing in national parliaments, city councils and powerful unions in war-torn Western Europe, especially in Italy and France. Communists had been the largest force in resistance to the Nazis during the years of German occupation.

In Greece the Communist Party, who had led the anti-fascist resistance, was openly contending for state power. From 1945 to 1949, U.S. and British active intervention in the Civil War in Greece, equipping and helping to coordinate the weak rightwing and monarchist forces, was crucial for defeating the Greek workers’ movement.

This Civil War helped convince the West European ruling class to follow the U.S. into a continent-wide military organization of the capitalist class.

A security umbrella for capitalism

NATO was understood as a security umbrella of Western European imperialist countries. It had, from its founding, a consolidated command structure, with the U.S. military on top.

U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), was the commander of this new military alliance. U.S.-commanded NATO and the Marshall Plan of U.S. loans and investment funds together stabilized capitalism in Western Europe and assured U.S. corporate domination.

The pre-World War II industrial capacity of much of the world was in ruins. Military security was the essential glue in Western Europe, binding the economic and political dominance of capitalist rule.

For decades NATO and the CIA operated throughout Western Europe, in tandem with the U.S. State Department, disrupting communist-led unions, financing interventions in elections and even using terror attacks against communists and socialist organizations and against the masses.

Operation Gladio was the codename for this ruthless capitalist subversion in Italy, some of which was revealed by Christian Democrat Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in October 1990.

Impact of nuclear stalemate

The second event in 1949 that consolidated the NATO military alliance was the Soviet Union’s detonation of an atomic bomb on Aug. 29, years ahead of what U.S. intelligence predicted. President Harry Truman immediately called for a re-evaluation of U.S. policies, as the U.S. could no longer simply threaten to wipe out Soviet cities without consequences.

NATO absorbed Greece and Turkey in 1952. Turkey’s membership in NATO meant that NATO had military control of the Bosporus Straits – the essential navigational waterway from the Mediterranean Sea into the Black Sea – a choke point for the Soviet ports of Odessa and Sevastopol.

It was only after West Germany’s acceptance into NATO that the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries formed the Warsaw Pact in 1955 in self-defense. The Soviet leaders saw West Germany’s military and industrial leaders as a continuation of the ruling class that backed the Nazis.

World’s largest military

Although the mass U.S. military during World War II had demobilized by 1949, with NATO U.S. troop presence in Europe tripled by 1950 and reached over 450,000 in 1957. In 1987 U.S. troops surged again to 340,000. (Stars and Stripes, March 15)

Today there are 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe. They are 1/35 of the 3.5 million NATO military force, among its 30 members, with another 2 million reservists and paramilitary forces. But U.S. officers still command this alliance – the largest military force in the world under a single command.

NATO has a permanent, integrated military command structure, composed of both military and civilian personnel from all member states. These forces are trained to follow a strict command structure, use the same equipment and deploy to whatever battlefront the U.S. commanders order them to, including Iraq, and Afghanistan. Each country is forced to pay for the maintenance of their own forces. (shape.nato.int)

Cold War leads to bankruptcy

The Cold War was a relentless war of military expenditures calculated to bankrupt the Soviet Union, which had less wealth and which did not exploit subject nations in the Global South.

According to a NATO report, “The Soviet Union was spending three times as much as the United States on defense with an economy that was one-third the size.” (nato.int) This policy of expanding military costs was enormously profitable to U.S. military industries.

The Soviet Union had to match each U.S./NATO escalation. The 1980 U.S. strategy to deploy nuclear-capable Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles in Western Europe aimed at bankrupting the Soviets.

Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative known as “Star Wars,” called for enormous new military expansion. The Soviet Union, starting in the mid-1980s, devoted 15-17% of its gross national product to military spending.

Concessions, enacted with great U.S. and Western applause by Mikhail Gorbachev, who became the Soviet leader in 1985, led to the complete unraveling and dismemberment of the Soviet Union by 1991.

U.S. victory opens endless war

Instead of the Cold War’s end ushering in the promised era of peace and stability, U.S. imperialism, now dominant, opened a new era of endless war and colonial reconquest. The targets were in Eastern Europe and a collapsed Russia, and in the energy-rich southwestern Asia and North Africa.

The Federal Republic of Germany annexed the German Democratic Republic in 1990 and both populations were absorbed into the NATO Alliance. A new era of open capitalist markets meant that major western corporations seized control of socially owned industries and resources in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Any country resisting complete takeover was targeted. Iraq in 1991 and then Yugoslavia in 1995 and 1999 were early victims of colonial style reconquest.

The corporate media bragged about the level of destruction of these modern, developed countries that had high levels of education, health care and infrastructure. But since they were countries that had no weapons capable of matching U.S. bombers they were destroyed with impunity. They were to serve as an example to others.

Pentagon document for world domination

What was in store for the world was discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. establishment.

In a 1992 article in Workers World newspaper, then WWP chairperson Sam Marcy wrote: “On March 8,1992, the New York Times published excerpts from a 46-page secret Pentagon draft document, (written by Paul D. Wolfowitz), that it said was leaked by Pentagon officials. This document is truly extraordinary.

“It asserts complete U.S. world domination in both political and military terms, and threatens any other countries that even ‘aspire’ to a greater role. In other words, the U.S. is to be the sole and exclusive superpower on the face of the planet. It is to exercise its power not only in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, but also on the territory of the former Soviet Union….

“‘Our first objective,’ it states, ‘is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. It is of fundamental importance to preserve NATO as the primary instrument of Western defense and security, as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs.’

“But then it adds: ‘While the United States supports the goal of European integration, we must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO, particularly the alliance’s integrated command structure.’ The latter, of course, is led by the U.S.” https://www.workers.org/marcy/cd/sam92/1992html/s920319.htm

April 4 is a day to remember not only the founding of NATO but the famous condemnation of the Vietnam War made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1967: “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world is my own government. I cannot be silent.”

NATO is the greatest purveyor of violence and we cannot be silent.

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Notes on the Ukraine War

by Bernhard Romeike
[This article published on 4/11/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://das-blaettchen.de/2022/04/anmerkungen-zum-ukraine-krieg-61183.html.]

The present mood of confrontation shows that the world has changed. This has become visible in recent months. The Western notion of a ‘rules-based world order’ has been shaped over the past 70 years by the outdated idea of a post-industrial world that, as the name suggests, dispenses with industrial development and is instead directed by an omnipresent financial empire. As recently as last November, the Davos Forum was demanding that the rest of the world renounce development. […] That has failed.” Where they got my mail address, I could not find out. The sender is a so-called Schiller Institute. This is based in the USA, has a German-speaking branch and goes back to the politician and “activist” Lyndon LaRouche. He died in 2019 at a ripe old age and was considered to be right-wing and a “conspiracy theorist”. However, this does not change the fact that the description quoted above is an accurate assessment of the situation in which we currently find ourselves. In addition, who would not want to help prevent a new world war?

Russia has started a war of aggression against Ukraine, which has already cost great victims within a few weeks, in human lives, material values and in the form of millions of refugees. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has now announced on April 6, 2022: “It must be our goal that Russia does not win this war.” Even though “democracy” is invoked today, this is now the third German chancellor in the course of the past nearly 120 years to declare this as the goal of German action.

The U.S. peace movement confirms Scholz’s concern in its own way. Bruce K. Gagnon, coordinator of a “Global Network” against weapons and nuclear power in space, from Brunswick, Maine, wrote these days: “NATO is de facto at war with Russia and using Ukraine as a tool to do it.” And further, “Everything about NATO is hypocrisy. They declare themselves the ‘peace alliance,’ but their history is nothing but war. Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and now Ukraine, they all reveal that NATO is in fact the pirate power to implement the globalization of big corporations. NATO’s job is to force submission to the demands of Western big business.” Now one may object that the man is far from the reality of war in Ukraine and the violent acts of Russian warfare. But he is close to U.S. global policy and strategy. Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois, drew attention (also on April 6) to the Pentagon’s “explicit and public rejection of supporting Biden and Blinken’s charges of Russian war crimes in Butscha.” Joseph Gerson, Quaker and well-known U.S. peace activist, commented, “probably because they have committed so many themselves.”

Now US wars in no way justify Russia’s, just as US war crimes do not excuse Russian ones. However, given the heated anti-Russian sentiments in Germany, noting the very different perspective of the American peace movement is helpful. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on the occasion of another meeting of NATO foreign ministers (also on April 6) that the war in Ukraine would continue for “many months or even years.” What seems to sound like concern is in fact the concept that the U.S. and NATO are pursuing: Russia is destroying its military and economic resources in this self-inflicted war in Ukraine, whether it ends up “winning” it or not. For its part, the West is determined to fight the Russians to the last Ukrainian. The arms supplies are actively contributing to this. At the same time, it is a convenient opportunity for the East-Central European countries that used to be in the Warsaw Treaty to cheaply dispose of old tanks that have now been sitting around for decades.

At present, there can only be approximations to the geopolitical consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine. One relates to the March 2, 2022, UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian invasion, where 141 states voted yes and only five, including Russia, voted no. Carefully overlooked is the fact that there were 35 abstentions, including China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which together make up about half of humanity. Michael von der Schulenburg, formerly a top diplomat for the UN and the OSCE, drew attention to the fact that most small and medium-sized countries supported this resolution not because they share the West’s position, but because they wanted to strengthen the UN Charter and the ban on all military action for political reasons, after three other permanent members of the Security Council, the United States, Great Britain and France, had previously broken international law and waged illegal wars. In Asia, too, only the West’s usual allies Japan, Australia and Singapore are participating in the sanctions against Russia; other states in Asia, Africa and Latin America are not. For the world of the South, this is again a war of the white men in the North, like the first and second world wars of the 20th century and the Cold War.

The global consequences of the war will be incalculable. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research recently announced that it believes the 1.5-degree goal to limit global warming is no longer feasible. It is becoming less likely that we will “still get our act together.” War brings its absurdities here as well. The smoke and subsequent emissions from warfare alone, the driving of thousands of tanks on diesel fuel, the burning out of tanks, the gunfire, the burning houses, the explosions of bombs, the smoke from burning tank farms are likely to have already put more particulate matter into the air than all the closures of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces in Germany can “save” in 100 years. The additional arms expenditures that the NATO countries are now making as a “response” to RuStarredssia, for tank weapons, combat aircraft, armed drones and other things, are in turn being diverted away from ecological restructuring. Unless now “short and painless” Russia and the U.S. wage a nuclear war against each other, which would be the short-term “solution” to the problem of humanity, we will have to prepare ourselves for a continuing economic and political descent.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The ban on violence

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2022/04/11/18848990.php

We can only free ourselves from this spiral of violence if we return to the principles of international law and end both the use and the threat of force.
For they both pursue the same goal – the subjugation of the adversary – and they lead inevitably to real violence.

The ban/ prohibition on violence
A single article of international law could bring peace.
By Christoph Pfluger
[This article published on 4/9/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/das-gewaltverbot.]

One thing that finds too little entry into the current debate is that the UN Charter prohibits not only the use of force, but also the threat of force. Both behaviors belong together and pursue one and the same purpose: the subjugation of the opponent. However, the threat in particular is often underestimated in its effects. Sometimes it creates the very problems it seeks to prevent by deterring. And it is by no means only Russia that violates these sensible guidelines. If the war is to be ended as quickly as possible, all parties must remember principles that have long existed but are almost routinely violated.

The UN’s prohibition of the use of force applies to both the use and the threat of force. If Article 2 of the UN Charter were respected, Russia, the U.S. and their vassals could end the conflict through negotiations.

Faster than on any issue in recent decades, the whole world split into two camps on March 31. They wish each other defeat and are doing everything they can to make it happen. Neutrality seems impossible. The world is neither safer nor more peaceful as a result. Whoever wins in this confrontation: a victory will be a defeat for all.

Article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations Charter states:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or otherwise inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

Those who are continually threatened with violence will sooner or later respond with violence.

So what is prohibited is not only the use of force, as Russia is doing now, but also the threat. The two aspects cannot be separated, not only because they are formulated in a single principle of international law, but because they are practically interrelated. A person who is continually threatened with violence will sooner or later respond by using violence.

A bully who terrorizes his classmates in the schoolyard with the threat of violence and thus secures privileges for himself will sooner or later reap real violence – namely, when the students or the school authorities realize that peace will not come until the oppressor is unequivocally put in his place or expelled from school or otherwise taught a lesson in a language he understands.

The threat and use of force must also be understood as one because they pursue the same goal: The subjugation of the adversary to one’s own will. Not for nothing did the famous strategist Carl von Clausewitz say that war is merely the continuation of politics by other means.

It is probably the greatest deficit of international political culture that the threat of force, although forbidden by the United Nations Charter, has become such a commonplace geopolitical instrument that we no longer even recognize, let alone sanction, its illegitimacy. The schoolyard of the humanity community is dominated by bullies who carry baseball bats and brass knuckles unhindered. And everyone thinks it’s normal.

The threat of violence sets in motion an ominous spiral

Getting used to the threat of violence is deceptive: we think it will stop at the threat. But: Either the threat is carried out sooner or later, or the threatened country itself responds with force – if it does not give up its self-determination guaranteed under international law. The threat thus sets in motion an ominous spiral that inevitably leads to the crossing of a red line.

This line has now been crossed in several respects in the Ukraine conflict. On the one hand, a war has been waged in the Donbass for eight years, which has led to more than 13,000 casualties, according to UN figures, despite the ceasefire commitment under the Minsk Agreement.

On the other hand, Russia has apparently come to the realization that the confrontation with NATO will sooner or later lead to greater use of force, given developments in Ukraine. It sees its self-determination so threatened by the repeated waves of NATO eastward enlargements and by the construction of anti-Russian missile bases in Poland and Romania that it believes it can only respond with force.

We can only free ourselves from this spiral of violence if we return to the principles of international law and end both the use and the threat of force.

For they both pursue the same goal – the subjugation of the adversary – and they lead inevitably to real violence.

What then is the story of the European schoolyard? There, for decades, a colossal bully with heavy youth wreaks havoc – the Soviet Union – and in 1991 collapses under the weight of its misdeeds. In the era of the drunkard Boris Yeltsin, other disciples, with the help of the United States and a few oligarchs, seize its coveted resources and, in a first expansion, include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in their military alliance.

By the time Vladimir Putin becomes prime minister in 1999 and president in 2000 of the former bully state, Russia’s early education and geopolitical positioning are already underway. Republican senator and presidential candidate John McCain will sum up the West’s attitude a few years later: “Russia is a giant gas station masquerading as a real country.”

To ensure that they can fill up there as cheaply as possible in the face of Russia’s opposition, the U.S. and, with it, NATO have done a number of things: They expanded their military alliance in 2004, 2009, 2017 and 2020 in four more waves to now 30 members, increasingly encircling Russia. In 2001, George W. Bush terminated the ABM disarmament treaty, and Trump buried the INF disarmament agreement in 2019, both unmistakable signals that, from the U.S. government’s point of view, the dispute between Russia and the United States may well once again take on military dimensions.

At the same time, hundreds of anti-government organizations in Russia and Ukraine received financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is a private but taxpayer-funded U.S. foundation. Those who currently want to check their grants on their website are served with the message that the database is out of order due to “maintenance work”.

Searching for “NED list of grants to Russia” with the search engine “Startpage” yields a promising preview, which leads to the NED website, but does not yield any countable results due to the dysfunctional database. In contrast, Swiss Policy Research provides a good overview. There are at least 73 pro-Western or anti-Russia organizations in Ukraine that are officially supported by the United States.

In summary, the U.S. has put considerable pressure on Russia over the past 20 years not only militarily, but also in terms of foreign policy – through the EU and its cooperation treaty with Ukraine – and domestically by funding a whole range of anti-government groups.

While the latter is not prohibited as a threat of violence, it is at least highly problematic as interference in internal affairs. No state likes its internal opponents to be financed from the outside.

Russia’s resistance to this development in the diplomatic arena has been largely ineffective. In 2007, during the Munich Security Conference, Vladimir Putin made it clear that NATO’s eastward expansion directly affected Russia’s security needs and was unacceptable. In response, so to speak, NATO welcomed the accession aspirations of Ukraine, with which a military partnership had already been agreed in 1997, at its 2008 summit in Bucharest.

As a final diplomatic measure, Vladimir Putin presented the U.S. and NATO with a series of demands in December 2021 – including NATO’s withdrawal to its 1997 positions and the de-installation of offensive weapons systems near the border. If these demands were not met, “technical-military” consequences would be inevitable. Observers puzzled over whether this was now an ultimatum or simply another urgent request to negotiate Russian security needs.

The two superpowers missed a final opportunity during a video conversation in mid-February 2022, when, according to the Kremlin, Putin told Biden that Washington had failed to address Russia’s key concerns and had not received a “substantive response” to critical issues, including NATO expansion and the deployment of offensive forces in Ukraine.
So how do we get out of the spiral of violence?

Sanctions – economic force – seem unlikely to do the trick. It can be assumed that the Western leaders who order them are also aware of this. Why they do it anyway, we do not know. To do so, we would need to know their longer-term strategic goals, about which, however, there is little confirmed knowledge.

What is certain is that the sanctions will hit Europe hard, while the U.S. will not only be able to supply its expensive shale gas to Europe, but will not boycott Russian oil.

At a Feb. 24 White House press briefing, the U.S. government’s deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, Daleep Singh, acknowledged dependence on Russian oil and said a breath later, “We’re not going to do anything that’s going to inadvertently disrupt the flow of energy because the global economic recovery is still underway.”

This means nothing other than that the U.S. will continue to purchase Russian oil and will certainly pay for it. After all, Russia is the largest supplier of oil to the U.S. after Canada. Like many wars, the “operation” in Ukraine will probably have a laughing third party.

Presumably, the West will now be concerned with preventing a quick success of the Russian troops and, given the weakness of the Ukrainian army, taking the war to the people. There is no other explanation for the stationing of heavy guns in residential areas and the indiscriminate distribution of small arms to the population. The support of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of volunteers to travel to Ukraine and intervene in the war seems downright desperate.

Of course, this short text and my small voice will not be able to end the war in Ukraine. But it seems to me important that the human community is aware that rules exist to end the conflict. They just need to be applied.

Editorial note: This article first appeared under the title “Ukraine: a single article of international law could bring peace.” in the April issue of Ze!tpunkt.

Christoph Pfluger, born in 1954, studied medicine and jurisprudence for several semesters. He has been working as a journalist since 1979. Initially, he worked for the Berner Zeitung and the news agency Deutscher Depeschendienst (ddp), and later for the business pages of major Swiss dailies, weeklies and magazines. Since 1992, he has been editor of the bimonthly magazine Zeitpunkt. His most recent publication was “Das nächste Geld – die zehn Fallgruben des Geldsystems und wie wir sie überwinden” (The next money – the ten pitfalls of the monetary system and how we can overcome them). For more information, visit http://www.christoph-pfluger.ch.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment