Archive | April 23rd, 2019

Planning Can Save the Planet: China Chooses Renewable Energy

NOVANEWS
Region: 

The very corporations that are responsible for the problem are denying global warming, with immediate consequences for the whole world.

Carbon emissions from the burning of oil, gas and methane are heating the planet, creating a crisis of rising sea levels, droughts, extreme weather, poisoned ground water and polluted air that puts all life at risk.

Is that problem reversible?

The United States and China are the largest consumers of coal and oil. The choices made by the leaders of the two largest industrialized economies are having an impact on climate and on air quality for everyone.

But the decisions being made in these two countries are going in totally different directions. Their choices reveal a lot about the different social and political bases of each country.

In China, dramatic changes in major population centers show that it is possible, if decisive actions are taken, to restore the environment and dramatically improve the quality of life.

The Trump administration, on the other hand, is not only ignoring the consequences of global warming, but actively and aggressively denying it.  Meanwhile, he’s pushing forward with coal mining, fracking and other methods of oil extraction, doing away with Environmental Protection Act clean air regulations and opening up drilling in pristine areas of Alaska’s Arctic preserves.

While this is immediately profitable for a few, it has dangerous consequences for the planet and all life forms.  Regardless of who is president, U.S. policy is set by the needs of the largest oil, gas and industrial corporations to maximize profit. U.S. policies are set by the relentless drive for wars to defend their empire. The Pentagon is the world’s biggest polluter, the largest user of oil and many more dangerous chemicals. Their wars have created the worst environmental devastation and humanitarian disasters.

Trump’s actions embolden other arrogant climate deniers. The extreme right-wing president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has decided to more forward with massive clear-cutting of trees in the Amazon region, the world’s largest tropical rainforest.

Capitalist media on China’s choices

It is especially noteworthy that major capitalist business publications are concerned with the implications of China’s drive for sustainable energy.

Their worry is not about the survival of the planet. It is whether China will get an economic advantage over Wall Street.

As a Jan. 11 headline in Forbes business magazine put it, “China is set to become the world’s renewable energy superpower.” Journalist Dominic Dudley cited a report issued that day by the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, which laid out the geopolitical implications of the changing energy landscape.

The commission’s report, said Dudley, showed that China had become “the world’s largest producer, exporter and installer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries and electric vehicles.”

“The report argues that the geopolitical and economic consequences of the rapid growth of renewable energy could be as profound as those that accompanied the shift from biomass to fossil fuels two centuries ago,” wrote Dudley. It will “change patterns of trade and the development of new alliances. It could also spark instability in some countries that have grown dependent on oil and gas revenue.”

However, Olaf Grimsson, chair of the commission that wrote the report, added that this shift is also bringing “energy independence to countries around the world.”

An article in the Economist magazine of March 15, 2018, had already reported that China,

“[T]hrough a combination of subsidies, policy targets and manufacturing incentives” had “spent more on cleaning up its energy system than America and the EU combined.”

Back on Jan. 5, 2017, an article in the London-based Financial Times titled “Wave of spending tightens China’s grip on renewable energy” quoted Tim Buckley, director of the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, who cautioned Wall Street: “As the U.S. owned the advent of the oil age, so China is shaping up to be unrivalled in clean power leadership today.”

A report from the same institute released a year later confirmed yet again that China continues to lead the world in clean energy investment.

China’s socialist revolution made the difference

Learning more about what China is doing to clean the environment and understanding why it is structurally and politically able to do so should open the eyes of environmental activists about what is possible.

To evaluate the historic significance of these gains, it is first important to understand that China is coming from a position of great poverty and semicolonial underdevelopment.

The revolution in China, led by Mao Zedong and the Communist Party, triumphed in 1949 after a generation of armed struggle. It ended 150 years of foreign occupation and civil war, which had produced uncontrollable droughts and famines.

U.S. corporate power had sided with the corrupt landlord and military grouping around Gen. Chiang Kai-shek as their best option for continued Western domination of China. After its defeat on the mainland, this grouping, with U.S. assistance, militarily occupied the island of Taiwan.

After 1949 the U.S., in an effort to economically strangle the revolutionary determination of the People’s Republic of China, imposed a total embargo on all trade and investment. This blockade lasted until the 1972 visit of President Richard Nixon to China, which normalized political relations — but China was still cut off from world trade and economic development.

Special economic zones: a compromise

In 1979, in an effort to gain access to modern technology and world markets, the Chinese government, then led by Deng Xiaoping, created four Special Economic Zones to attract Western corporations dominating the world economy to invest in China.

Western corporations surged into these zones. Their goal was to set up assembly factories and maximize profits through cheap labor costs by employing what had been a largely peasant population in zones with few regulatory restrictions. They also dreamed of overturning the Chinese government.

These corporations gave little thought or planning to their impact on the environment.

The British-controlled colony of Hong Kong sits at the tip of the Pearl River Delta just south of China. Especially attractive to foreign investors was a Special Economic Zone established in a rural area of China north of Hong Kong, where land was easily available and close to a world-class seaport.

These investors used the same tactics in China that had been used a century or two earlier when building thousands of capitalist factories created the crowded, polluted, industrial cities of London, Manchester, Chicago and Buffalo.

After opening up to foreign investment in the 1980s, China surged through 35 years of uneven rapid industrialization. Tens of millions of Chinese peasants, a floating migrant population, flooded into the newly created economic zones. They worked incredibly long hours for six months to two years and were then sent home when orders declined.

Even as capitalist private enterprises flourished in socialist China, state-owned industries in essential economic areas also gained strength through joint ventures and government investments. The contradictions and dangers were enormous.

This compromise policy of opening up to foreign capital, allowing the growth of Chinese capitalists and modernizing state-owned industries, is called “building socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

North of Hong Kong, the primarily agricultural area of the Pearl River Delta and Guangdong Province careened through an unprecedented growth spurt. In 30 years, it became the largest contiguous urban region in the world, according to the World Bank.

Its population in the 2015 census was 108 million. The zone had a staggering growth rate of 40 percent a year from 1981 to 1993. The Pearl River Delta is now the biggest economic hub in the country.

The city of Shenzhen in the Delta grew from a population of 30,000 in 1979 to a megacity today of 20 million, with the largest migrant population in China. It became a polluted factory town of sweatshops spewing out clouds of dark toxic smoke.

Shenzhen’s economic output ranks third, after Beijing and Shanghai, among 659 Chinese cities. It has the second-busiest container terminal in mainland China and the third busiest in the world.

Just north of Shenzhen, the city of Guangzhou, formerly known by its European name of Canton, became China’s most polluted city.

Over the years, factory production in the megacities of the Pearl River Delta went from predominantly labor-intensive consumer goods like toys and clothing to light industry, then heavy industry like machinery, chemical products and autos. Now it is focused on producing high-tech electronic equipment.

While the hundreds of factories and power plants drove economic growth forward, they also polluted the air, water and soil to the tipping point.

Turning point

Five years ago, on March 4, 2014, China made a serious national decision. The 3,000 delegates to the National People’s Congress voted to reassert greater national control over development through conscious plans to reduce poverty, increase social programs and benefits, combat extreme pollution and build a sustainable environment.

This was a break from China’s 35-year policy of stressing economic growth ahead of the environment and of health and social benefits for the working class.

An article titled “Four years after declaring war on pollution, China is winning” ran in the March 12, 2018, New York Times: “To reach these targets, China prohibited new coal-fired power plants in the country’s most polluted regions, including the Beijing area. Existing plants were told to reduce their emissions. If they didn’t, coal was replaced with natural gas. Large cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, restricted the number of cars on the road. The country also reduced its iron- and steel-making capacity and shut down coal mines.”

Shenzhen and Guangzhou: cities reimagined

Today, some of the most interesting and radical changes undertaken through environmental experiments are in the Pearl River Delta, which has become a new model of urbanization due to extensive state planning and spending.

“Science is so important,” says Tonny Xie of the Clean Air Alliance of China. “If you have better planning, you will have better air.” (BBC World News, March 7, 2017)

Shenzhen in five years’ time has become one of the most livable cities in China, with extensive parks, tree-lined streets and the largest fleet of electric buses in the world (16,000), along with all-electric cabs. The city aims to have 80 percent of its new buildings green certified by 2020. It is now full of apartment blocks, office towers and modern factories with advanced equipment manufacturing, robotics, automation and giant tech startups.

Once-smoggy Guangzhou, after extensive clean up and rebuilding, is now considered China’s most livable city. The Guangzhou-Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Corridor is a creative plan for future development.

All the cities of the Pearl River Delta are well connected by high-speed trains and modern highways. The world’s longest bridge-tunnel sea crossing connects Shenzhen, Macau and Hong Kong.

Even the World Economic Forum says the world can learn from China’s example. Some 90 percent of the world’s estimated 385,000 electric buses are in China today. Only 1.6 percent of the world’s electric city buses are in Europe, and less than 1 percent are in the U.S.

In just four years since the launch of its war on pollution, Chinese cities by 2018 had already cut concentrations of fine particulates in the air on average by 32 percent.

150 coal plants eliminated

Other decisions in the war on pollution included the dramatic decision to stop or delay work on over 150 planned or under-construction coal plants.

A newly formed Ministry for Ecology and Environment has broad powers and responsibilities to oversee all water-related policies, from ocean water to groundwater. It oversees policies on climate change that were once scattered among different departments.

It is important in a crisis to understand the problem and evaluate the direction in which developments are going. The changes happening in major population centers of China show that it is possible, if decisive actions are taken, to restore the environment.

The problem in the U.S. that holds back and even reverses programs to mitigate pollution and climate change is that this highly developed country is dominated by a decaying capitalist system and ruling class desperate to maximize its quarterly profits at the expense of any long-term planning.

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Bringing Julian Assange Home

NOVANEWS

This relevant article was first published on GR in June 2018.

The persecution of Julian Assange must end. Or it will end in tragedy.

The Australian government and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull have an historic opportunity to decide which it will be.

They can remain silent, for which history will be unforgiving. Or they can act in the interests of justice and humanity and bring this remarkable Australian citizen home.

Assange does not ask for special treatment. The government has clear diplomatic and moral obligations to protect Australian citizens abroad from gross injustice: in JulianE’s case, from a gross miscarriage of justice and the extreme danger that await him should he walk out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London unprotected.

We know from the Chelsea Manning case what he can expect if a US extradition warrant is successful — a United Nations Special Rapporteur called it torture.

I know Julian Assange well; I regard him as a close friend, a person of extraordinary resilience and courage. I have watched a tsunami of lies and smear engulf him, endlessly, vindictively, perfidiously; and I know why they smear him.

In 2008, a plan to destroy both WikiLeaks and Assange was laid out in a top secret document dated 8 March, 2008. The authors were the Cyber Counter-intelligence Assessments Branch of the US Defence Department. They described in detail how important it was to destroy the “feeling of trust” that is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”.

This would be achieved, they wrote, with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution” and a unrelenting assault on reputation. The aim was to silence and criminalise WikiLeaks and its editor and publisher. It was as if they planned a war on a single human being and on the very principle of freedom of speech.

Their main weapon would be personal smear. Their shock troops would be enlisted in the media — those who are meant to keep the record straight and tell us the truth.

The irony is that no one told these journalists what to do. I call them Vichy journalists — after the Vichy government that served and enabled the German occupation of wartime France.

Last October, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalist Sarah Ferguson interviewed Hillary Clinton, over whom she fawned as “the icon for your generation”.

This was the same Clinton who threatened to “obliterate totally” Iran and, who, as US secretary of State in 2011, was one of the instigators of the invasion and destruction of Libya as a modern state, with the loss of 40,000 lives. Like the invasion of Iraq, it was based on lies.

When the Libyan President was murdered publicly and gruesomely with a knife, Clinton was filmed whooping and cheering. Thanks largely to her, Libya became a breeding ground for ISIS and other jihadists.  Thanks largely to her, tens of thousands of refugees fled in peril across the Mediterranean, and many drowned.

Leaked emails published by WikiLeaks revealed that Hillary Clinton’s foundation – which she shares with her husband – received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the main backers of ISIS and terrorism across the Middle East.

As Secretary of State, Clinton approved the biggest arms sale ever — worth $80 billion — to Saudi Arabia, one of her foundation’s principal benefactors. Today, Saudi Arabia is using these weapons to crush starving and stricken people in a genocidal assault on  Yemen.

Sarah Ferguson, a highly paid reporter, raised not a word of this with Hillary Clinton sitting in front of her.

Instead, she invited Clinton to describe the “damage” Julian Assange did “personally to you”. In response, Clinton defamed Assange, an Australian citizen, as “very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence” and “a nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator”.

She offered no evidence — nor was asked for any — to back her grave allegations.

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The Essence of Evil: Sex with Children Has Become Big Business in America

Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”—John Ryan, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Children, young girls—some as young as 9 years old—are being bought and sold for sex in America. The average age for a young woman being sold for sex is now 13 years old.

This is America’s dirty little secret.

Sex trafficking—especially when it comes to the buying and selling of young girls—has become big business in America, the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

As investigative journalist Amy Fine Collins notes,

“It’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day—and a ‘righteous’ pimp confiscates 100 percent of her earnings.”

Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.

According to USA Todayadults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.

They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude.

It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

“Human trafficking—the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution—is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

This is an industry that revolves around cheap sex on the fly, with young girls and women who are sold to 50 men each day for $25 apiece, while their handlers make $150,000 to $200,000 per child each year.

This is not a problem found only in big cities.

It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.

As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out,

The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”

Don’t fool yourselves into believing that this is merely a concern for lower income communities or immigrants.

It’s not.

It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S. These girls aren’t volunteering to be sex slaves. They’re being lured—forced—trafficked into it. In most cases, they have no choice.

In order to avoid detection (in some cases aided and abetted by the police) and cater to male buyers’ demand for sex with different women, pimps and the gangs and crime syndicates they work for have turned sex trafficking into a highly mobile enterprise, with trafficked girls, boys and women constantly being moved from city to city, state to state, and country to country.

For instance, the Baltimore-Washington area, referred to as The Circuit, with its I-95 corridor dotted with rest stops, bus stations and truck stops, is a hub for the sex trade.

No doubt about it: this is a highly profitable, highly organized and highly sophisticated sex trafficking business that operates in towns large and small, raking in upwards of $9.5 billion a year in the U.S. alone by abducting and selling young girls for sex.

Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger.

The average age of those being trafficked is 13. Yet as the head of a group that combats trafficking pointed out,

“Let’s think about what average means. That means there are children younger than 13. That means 8-, 9-, 10-year-olds.

“For every 10 women rescued, there are 50 to 100 more women who are brought in by the traffickers. Unfortunately, they’re not 18- or 20-year-olds anymore,” noted a 25-year-old victim of trafficking. “They’re minors as young as 13 who are being trafficked. They’re little girls.”

Where did this appetite for young girls come from?

Look around you.

Young girls have been sexualized for years now in music videos, on billboards, in television ads, and in clothing stores. Marketers have created a demand for young flesh and a ready supply of over-sexualized children.

“All it takes is one look at MySpace photos of teens to see examples—if they aren’t imitating porn they’ve actually seen, they’re imitating the porn-inspired images and poses they’ve absorbed elsewhere,” writes Jessica Bennett for Newsweek. “Latex, corsets and stripper heels, once the fashion of porn stars, have made their way into middle and high school.”

This is what Bennett refers to as the “pornification of a generation.”

“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives,” concludes Bennett. “Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms. According to a 2007 study from the University of Alberta, as many as 90 percent of boys and 70 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have accessed sexually explicit content at least once.”

In other words, the culture is grooming these young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators. And then we wonder why our young women are being preyed on, trafficked and abused?

Social media makes it all too easy. As one news center reported,

“Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.”

Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.

Rarely do these girls enter into prostitution voluntarily. Many start out as runaways or throwaways, only to be snatched up by pimps or larger sex rings. Others, persuaded to meet up with a stranger after interacting online through one of the many social networking sites, find themselves quickly initiated into their new lives as sex slaves.

Debbie, a straight-A student who belonged to a close-knit Air Force family living in Phoenix, Ariz., is an example of this trading of flesh. Debbie was 15 when she was snatched from her driveway by an acquaintance-friend. Forced into a car, Debbie was bound and taken to an unknown location, held at gunpoint and raped by multiple men. She was then crammed into a small dog kennel and forced to eat dog biscuits. Debbie’s captors advertised her services on Craigslist. Those who responded were often married with children, and the money that Debbie “earned” for sex was given to her kidnappers. The gang raping continued. After searching the apartment where Debbie was held captive, police finally found Debbie stuffed in a drawer under a bed. Her harrowing ordeal lasted for 40 days.

While Debbie was fortunate enough to be rescued, others are not so lucky. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, nearly 800,000 children go missing every year (roughly 2,185 children a day).

With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.

For those trafficked, it’s a nightmare from beginning to end.

Those being sold for sex have an average life expectancy of seven years, and those years are a living nightmare of endless rape, forced drugging, humiliation, degradation, threats, disease, pregnancies, abortions, miscarriages, torture, pain, and always the constant fear of being killed or, worse, having those you love hurt or killed.

Peter Landesman paints the full horrors of life for those victims of the sex trade in his New York Times article “The Girls Next Door”:

Andrea told me that she and the other children she was held with were frequently beaten to keep them off-balance and obedient. Sometimes they were videotaped while being forced to have sex with adults or one another. Often, she said, she was asked to play roles: the therapist patient or the obedient daughter. Her cell of sex traffickers offered three age ranges of sex partners–toddler to age 4, 5 to 12 and teens–as well as what she called a “damage group.” “In the damage group, they can hit you or do anything they want to,” she explained. “Though sex always hurts when you are little, so it’s always violent, everything was much more painful once you were placed in the damage group.”

What Andrea described next shows just how depraved some portions of American society have become.

“They’d get you hungry then to train you” to have oral sex. “They put honey on a man. For the littlest kids, you had to learn not to gag. And they would push things in you so you would open up better. We learned responses. Like if they wanted us to be sultry or sexy or scared. Most of them wanted you scared. When I got older, I’d teach the younger kids how to float away so things didn’t hurt.”

Immigration and customs enforcement agents at the Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Va., report that when it comes to sex, the appetites of many Americans have now changed. What was once considered abnormal is now the norm. These agents are tracking a clear spike in the demand for harder-core pornography on the Internet. As one agent noted,

“We’ve become desensitized by the soft stuff; now we need a harder and harder hit.”

This trend is reflected by the treatment many of the girls receive at the hands of the drug traffickers and the men who purchase them. Peter Landesman interviewed Rosario, a Mexican woman who had been trafficked to New York and held captive for a number of years. She said:

“In America, we had ‘special jobs.’ Oral sex, anal sex, often with many men. Sex is now more adventurous, harder.”

A common thread woven through most survivors’ experiences is being forced to go without sleep or food until they have met their sex quota of at least 40 men. One woman recounts how her trafficker made her lie face down on the floor when she was pregnant and then literally jumped on her back, forcing her to miscarry.

Holly Austin Smith (image on the right) was abducted when she was 14 years old, raped, and then forced to prostitute herself. Her pimp, when brought to trial, was only made to serve a year in prison.

Barbara Amaya was repeatedly sold between traffickers, abused, shot, stabbed, raped, kidnapped, trafficked, beaten, and jailed all before she was 18 years old.

“I had a quota that I was supposed to fill every night. And if I didn’t have that amount of money, I would get beat, thrown down the stairs. He beat me once with wire coat hangers, the kind you hang up clothes, he straightened it out and my whole back was bleeding.”

As David McSwane recounts in a chilling piece for the Herald-Tribune:

“In Oakland Park, an industrial Fort Lauderdale suburb, federal agents in 2011 encountered a brothel operated by a married couple. Inside ‘The Boom Boom Room,’ as it was known, customers paid a fee and were given a condom and a timer and left alone with one of the brothel’s eight teenagers, children as young as 13. A 16-year-old foster child testified that he acted as security, while a 17-year-old girl told a federal judge she was forced to have sex with as many as 20 men a night.”

One particular sex trafficking ring catered specifically to migrant workers employed seasonally on farms throughout the southeastern states, especially the Carolinas and Georgia, although it’s a flourishing business in every state in the country. Traffickers transport the women from farm to farm, where migrant workers would line up outside shacks, as many as 30 at a time, to have sex with them before they were transported to yet another farm where the process would begin all over again.

This growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open.

Trafficked women and children are advertised on the internet, transported on the interstate, and bought and sold in swanky hotels.

Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs and crime—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, while doing little to make our communities safer.

So what can you do?

Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities.

Stop feeding the monster: Sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture—what is often referred to as the pornification of America—and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.

This epidemic is largely one of our own making, especially in a corporate age where the value placed on human life takes a backseat to profit. It is estimated that the porn industry brings in more money than Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.

Stop prosecuting adults for victimless “crimes” such as growing lettuce in their front yard and focus on putting away the pimps and buyers who victimize these young women.

Finally, the police need to do a better job of training, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and “johns,” the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; and hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds.

That so many women and children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.

But the truth is that we are all guilty of contributing to this human suffering. The traffickers are guilty. The consumers are guilty. The corrupt law enforcement officials are guilty. The women’s groups who do nothing are guilty. The foreign peacekeepers and aid workers who contribute to the demand for sex slaves are guilty. Most of all, every individual who does not raise a hue and cry over the atrocities being committed against women and children in almost every nation around the globe—including the United States—is guilty.

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Haiti’s Huge Gold Reserve: ‘Haiti, Give Me Your Gold, Not Your Weak and Weary!’

Haiti is back in the news with popular revolts against political corruption. Ordinary Haitians are being frustrated every step of the way as they strive to enjoy a better quality of life as is their right.

The discovery of a huge US$20 billion gold reserve in Haiti is no panacea since gold mining has always been surrounded by intrigue, skullduggery, and, perhaps, international plunder and piracy.

Americans, Canadians, and politically well-connected present and past Haitian political leaders stand to reap vast profits from the apparent plundering of Haitian gold.

Haitian workers, meanwhile, are paid a measly US$6.25 a day for working in the muddy, gold-mining pits.

Political Background

The historical evolution of Haitian society has been one in which the ordinary people have been exploited, brutalised, and oppressed – starting from the turn of the 19th century up until 1990, with Haiti’s very long history of American political and military interventions, dictatorship, militarism, cronyism, and official corruption.

There was a period from 1957 to 1971 when Haiti was ruled by François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier. Political opponents were suppressed by the infamous paramilitary group, the Ton-Ton Macoutes.

Following his death in 1971, Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier took power.

The political economic climate of these repressive regimes was aimed at maintaining “business-friendly environment”.

Popular revolt, like we are seeing in Haiti today, led to the collapse of the oppressive Duvalier rule.

Following this, in 1990, a progressive Catholic priest, President Jean Bertrand Aristide, was elected, winning 67 per cent of the popular vote.

President Aristide attempted many populist reforms, then in September 1991, a military coup d’état removed him from office.

He was again re-elected president in 2001. Then in 2004, right-wing paramilitaries, aided and abetted by foreigners, violently removed him from power.

President Aristide was put on a plane and dumped in a remote area of Africa.

The Clinton Connection

Haitians were once again going through the back and forth of corrupt governments under which politicians, the ruling elites, and foreigners got wealth while the ordinary people suffered.

Then came the 2010 earthquake and the entry of the Clinton Foundation, ostensibly to help with reconstruction.

Over 200,000 people were killed and a further 300,000 reportedly injured. Many poor neighbourhoods were devastated.

The Clinton Foundation and the Red Cross raised an estimated US$1 billion, but no one can say what happened to this money.

As to the work of the Clinton Foundation, well, what about it?

Tony Rodham is the brother of Senator Hilary Clinton. It was his company, VCS Mining, that according to the Daily Mail, was given a ‘very lucrative gold-­mining contract’.

VCS Mining will pay one of the lowest royalty rates in the world. The Haitian government charged a rate of 2.5 per cent over a 25-year period, with renewal. In comparison, Peru charges a royalty rate of 12 per cent, while Ecuador charges between five and eight per cent for its royalty rate of gold mining.

Political Cronyism

VCS Mining is a Delaware-­registered company with a “foreign qualification service” designation, allowing it to work overseas. Its board members include former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive along with former Clinton and Obama administration officials.

Georgianne Nienaber published a detail, well-sourced article, in Opednews, that reviewed leaked internal documents, showing VCS Mining’s connection to ‘cronyism and political corruption”.

“This is a complicated story fraught with intricate detail and begins with the fraudulent installation of a crooked Haitian president, a Korean trade deal, an industrial park facilitated by the Clinton Foundation,”and other unsavory elements, Georgianne Nienaber reports.

Nienaber quoted leaked emails that showed how a USAID-funded power plant, instead of supplying Haitian homes with electric power, was used to supply electric power to VCS Mining operations.

“It would be scandal enough if Tony Rodham and VCS Mining benefited from a gold mine permit in Haiti, but the potential electrical power lines for that gold lead straight to one of the biggest lies to come out of Haitian ‘reconstruction’,” the report stated.

“Meanwhile, there are severe environmental risks associated with gold mining. These risks include the possibility of cyanide spills poisoning the water-supply system.

The Future

Since gold mining will continue in Haiti, what then can be a reasonable expectation for the future?

At present, half of Haiti’s US$1 billion budget comes from foreign aid. Despite this, it is unclear if future gold-mining royalty payments will be placed in a National development fund.

Many nations do this. If this was done, it would certainly help to set aside money to further develop the country and to help the Haitian poor people.

The Haitian government must:

  • Seek better royalty terms for mineral mining;
  • Set up an independent, transparent national development fund to put some returns from gold exploration and mining towards improving the Haitian people’s lives, while;
  • Set up and maintain an effective, disaster-­management agency to help mitigate the possibility of a disaster.

Meanwhile, as Haitian gold continues to enrich a handful of people, the dislocated many, who sought refuge in America, are now being driven away by the Donald Trump administration.

In short, it is fine to say: ‘Haiti, give me your gold but not your weak and weary’.

This is the very, very, very sad, bitta truth!

Posted in HaitiComments Off on Haiti’s Huge Gold Reserve: ‘Haiti, Give Me Your Gold, Not Your Weak and Weary!’

Right on Cue: Indian Media Blames Pakistan for the Sri Lankan Terrorist Attacks

NOVANEWS

It was bound to happen sooner than later, but Indian media finally decided to play the “Pakistan card” by attempting to connect their neighbor’s ISI intelligence agency to the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks, a desperate narrative move that says a lot more about the Indian incumbent’s political vulnerability during the ongoing month-long electoral process than anything about Pakistan’s purported culpability in this tragedy.

The Cheap Shot That The Whole World Saw Coming

It was only a matter of time before Indian media predictably blamed Pakistan for the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks, which just happened earlier this week in a piece by Vicky Nanjappa for “Oneindia” about “How ISI radicalised Sri Lanka through the Pakistan High Commission“. The writer wasted no time in reminding the reader about a years-long scandal in Sri Lanka initiated by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) and claiming that a Pakistani diplomat on the island nation was responsible for plotting a Mumbai-style attack in South India, never mind the fact that the incident that this allegedly masterminded one was being based on was actually a false flag. In fact, it can be argued that one of the consequences of the Mumbai attacks is that India capitalized on the manufactured notion that Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency was behind it in order to portray its rival as a regional bogeyman who all of South Asia had to be suspicious of from then on out, so it’s logical in hindsight why India’s RAW intelligence agency would also cook up a conspiracy about this in Sri Lanka in an attempt to weaken historically strong Pakistani-Sri Lankan relations.

Convoluted And Conspiratorial Claims

The enduring motivation to divide Pakistan from its regional partners and opportunistically misportray it as a “state sponsor of terrorism” is what’s also behind the latest attempt trying to connect it to the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks. Mr. Nanjappa reminds his reader about the fake news claims that the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Buddhist nationalist organization is supposedly being bankrolled by the ISI, which is more than likely another weaponized narrative that ultimately originated with RAW. According to Mr. Nanjappa’s far-reaching theory, the Pakistani diplomat supposedly responsible for organizing a Mumbai-style attack in South Asia also paid the BBS to incite anti-Muslim violence in order to improve the ISI’s recruitment prospects of local Muslims afterwards, with the clear innuendo being that this somehow makes Islamabad responsible for last weekend’s Easter suicide bombings. This convoluted narrative is understandably confusing for most people to follow, but for as much as it turns off readers from outside the region, it nevertheless is meant to be ultra-intriguing for its intended audience in South Asia, especially the Indian one.

Fearmongering For Votes

It can’t be forgotten that Prime Minister Modi is battling for his political life during his country’s ongoing month-long electoral process and that he’s hoping to win re-election on a platform that heavily emphasizes national security. India was just utterly humiliated, however, following the dogfight that it initiated with Pakistan in late February after the Bollywood-style “surgical strike”, which led to New Delhi’s rival capturing one of the downed pilots prior to releasing him as a gesture of peace and then Modi’s own Defense Minister later publicly contradicting her own government by admitting that not a single person was injured in the Balakot attack. For a political leader who prides himself on his notion of national security, these events were certainly embarrassing and reduced his dwindling credibility among the electorate, hence the need to distract voters with more fearmongering scandals in the meantime so that he can improve his re-election odds. Therein lays the relevance of the ridiculous claims that Pakistan is conspiring with Russia and China to wage Hybrid Wars against the entire worldand specifically India, respectively.

The BJP’s Hybrid War On India

In reality, these public accusations by the state and civil society are actually a form of Hybrid War in and of themselves, one that’s being waged not only on the minds of the international audience that India intends to trick into thinking that Pakistan is a “state sponsor of terrorism” and therefore should be subject to unilateral US sanctions and multilateral UN ones, but also against its own citizens who these perception management practitioners want to imbue with a deep sense of fear that they can then exploit to mislead their targets into thinking that India can only be protected by re-electing Modi and continuing his “muscular” foreign policy. I predicted in my piece earlier this week about my “Initial Assessment Of The Terrorist Attacks In Sri Lanka” that “it’ll be tempting for some [international forces] to imply that their rivals’ intelligence agencies might have had a hand in the latest events, or at the very least present themselves as super tough on terrorism for domestic political reasons (e.g. Modi during the elections)” which is exactly what India is now doing.

Political Purposes

India’s “Hindi Heartland/Cow Belt”, the stronghold of the BJP’s support, has yet to go to the polls but is about to real shortly in the election’s upcoming phases, so spinning the narrative that Pakistan might have indirectly had a hand in the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks is meant to ensure that as many of Modi’s supporters come out to vote as possible in order to help him win this neck-and-neck election. As an added benefit, New Delhi would be delighted if Sri Lankan media picked up on Mr. Nanjappa’s piece and provoked one of their pro-Indian politicians to publicly praise it and/or demand an investigation into what India is framing as “Pakistan’s Hybrid War” in the country. Even better, since his article was written in English, international media further abroad might republish it too, especially some of the forces that have an interest in sparking a so-called “Clash of Civilizations”. It would be a dream come true for Modi if these weaponized fake news claims eventually made it to the UN, too.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s unsurprising that an Indian writer decided to opportunistically spin a convoluted and conspiratorial story purporting to link Pakistan’s ISI to the Sri Lankan terrorist attacks since the fake news claims and attendant innuendo being put forth appeal to the preconceived notions of the BJP’s base and will probably succeed in improving voter turnout for this constituency during the next phases of the country’s ongoing month-long electoral process. The introduction of this weaponized narrative into the Internet’s information ecosystem also carries with it the chance that it’ll be picked up by Sri Lankan media and consequently provoke a pro-Indian politician there to publicly praise the piece in order to trigger a crisis in Pakistani-Sri Lankan relations. Moreover, it’s too early to rule out the possibility of other forces republishing it with the intent of intensifying the so-called “Clash of Civilizations”, which might have the horrifying effect of inspiring right-wing “reprisal” attacks against the Western-based Pakistani diaspora in an attempt to trigger more inter-civlizational violence that would superficially advance this false divide-and-rule narrative.

Posted in India, Pakistan & Kashmir, Sri LankaComments Off on Right on Cue: Indian Media Blames Pakistan for the Sri Lankan Terrorist Attacks

Zioniat-Palestine: The End of the Two-State Solution Dream

NOVANEWS

Israel-Palestine: The End of the Two-State Solution Dream

  

Katja Hermann, director of the West Asia Unit at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Berlin, in conversation with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative (Mubadara), about the impact of the Israeli elections on the lives of everyday Palestinians.

***

Katja Hermann (KH): The preliminary results of the Israeli electionshow a likely victory for Benjamin Netanyahu from Likud and the right-wing coalition. What would that mean for the developments in the occupied Palestinian territories? [interview shortly prior to elections]

Mustafa Barghouti (MB): It is a very dangerous development. It means that the Israeli public has opted for extreme right wing parties that adopted a system of racism and national discrimination, the same parties that passed the Jewish Nationality Law, meaning systematic discrimination against Palestinians, whether citizens of Israel or of the Occupied Territories. Unfortunately, I would say that this is a vote for a system of apartheid. Taking into consideration that Netanyahu was elected three days after he declared his plan to annex the settlements, which means practically annexing the West Bank, this was a vote to end the dream of the two-state solution.

KH: If the two-state solution is no longer feasible, what kind of alternative scenarios do you envision?

MB: There are only two alternatives: one is what the Israeli government wants, which is apartheid, a system of racial discrimination keeping Palestinians in ghettos and Bantustans hoping they will eventually leave the country. Our alternative is the following: if they killed the two-state solution intentionally, we have nothing left to fight for but a one-state solution with full democratic rights, and unify all Palestinians in a struggle to end apartheid and racial discrimination and try to win people from Israel who believe in justice over to our camp against the system of apartheid.

KH: Do you believe that both societies, Palestinian and Israeli, are ready for a one-state solution?

MB: At the moment, of course, Palestinian society is much more ready, while Israeli society does not seem to be ready for any solution. In my opinion, to use a phrase that my friend Daniel Barenboim keeps using, “sometimes the impossible is easier than the difficult.” What we face here is a clear choice. It is not about us wanting to depart from the two-state solution and adopt a one-state solution, it is about the fact that Israel just killed the two-state solution. You cannot opt to dream about a dead option, you have to find an alternative option – out of necessity, out of objective reality.

KH: People here are talking about a new era, that a new chapter will be opened. How would you comment on that?

MB: I would say it is the end of the Oslo era, which means we have to go back to an era before Oslo, a time when the non-violent Palestinian resistance adopted three principles that I always believed in and practiced: self-organization, self-reliance, and defying injustice – whether of occupation or apartheid. To keep waiting for others to help us is not feasible. We have to rely on ourselves, we have to rebuild our structures, we have to self-organize, and we have to build a national unified front. That should be a democratic national front, because one major problem in Palestine now is the absence of democracy and the disappearance of democratic structures that we have built over the years, and the shrinking spaces of civil society.

That’s why I think that it’s time for us to think about democratic participation as well as building a unified national front. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) should be that structure if it opts to separate itself from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and return to its role as a leader of the Palestinian national movement.

KH: Where would you situate the Gaza Strip in these scenarios?

MB: Gaza is part of Palestine. Israel is trying to separate Gaza from Palestine because this is part of the so-called “Deal of the Century.” You separate Gaza but keep it under siege, that is the Israeli plan. The situation is one of an open prison – not even open, only an open sky, everything else is closed. We cannot have a Palestinian state without Gaza and we cannot have a state only in Gaza – that is nonsense. Gaza is a very small territory; it’s less than 1.5 per cent of Palestine and has two million people living there, the most densely populated area in the world. Gaza and the West Bank should be one unit.

KH: Alongside a new government in Israel we are also expecting a new government in Palestine to be announced in the coming days. What would the main challenges for the new Palestinian government be?

MB: There are many challenges, but the first challenge is how to bring back unity to the Palestinians. The Palestinian National Initiative (Mubadara) decided not to join this government, although we were offered to, mainly because we were afraid that forming this government would even deepen internal division and transform it into complete separation. Additionally, we don’t want to take a position in any government without being elected by the people, especially after dissolving the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The last elections happened in 2006 and we should have new elections soon, very soon. That’s why we’ve proposed not to form this government but to have a transitional national unity government for six months, prepare the ground for elections, hold elections, and then form the government.

I think the problem of internal division is a big one, but now this Israeli government and how it is cutting off our tax revenues and imposing its own legislation and arrangements on the PA is the biggest problem. The whole PA now faces a major challenge to either be completely obedient and submit to Israeli pressure or revolt against it. I think they should revolt.

KH: In light of these challenging developments, do you see another popular uprising on the horizon?

MB: Yes, I do, and I want it to be non-violent. I work for it to be non-violent. We spent the last 15 years not only demonstrating models of successful non-violent resistance but also convincing other parties including Hamas of the effectiveness of a non-violent approach.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Zioniat-Palestine: The End of the Two-State Solution Dream

Nazi regime Plans to Launch a Surprise War against Lebanon

NOVANEWS

Israel Plans to Launch a Surprise War against Lebanon

Hezbollah Leader: “The Possibility of a War with Israel Is Very High this Summer and I May No Longer be with You”

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah held a private meeting this week with his top military commanders in which he warned them to prepare for a hot Summer because Israel plans to launch a surprise war against Lebanon. Sayyed Nasrallah has asked his men to share the reality of the situation and the possibility of war when briefing their men, families and people in the villages and cities in which Hezbollah operates.

He also prepared them for the likelihood of his assassination and the killing of Hezbollah’s first line of command in the event of such a war and that they will have to run the war on their own, as they were trained for.

“I may not remain among you for very long; it is possible that the entire first level of leadership could be killed, including myself. Israel may succeed in assassinating many leaders and commanders. The death of some key personalities will not be the end of Hezbollah, because the party doesn’t rely merely on individuals but rather on the entire society that is an essential part of its existence”, said Sayyed Nasrallah to the gathering.

He added that

“measures and procedures have already been taken to be ready even if this extreme case (the killing of top leaders including Sayyed Nasrallah himself) happens.”

The team protecting the leader of Hezbollah imposes tight security procedures on any visitor, regardless of rank or function. No mobile phones or personal rings or belongings are allowed; they must be removed before reaching the meeting place. Commanders gather in different locations and are transported in black curtained buses, in small number, for security reasons. At the end of the meeting, his personal security team leaves the place with Sayyed Nasrallah first and the gathering leaves afterwards, driven back to their desired destination.

“There are strong indications that this war will take everybody by surprise, like the 2006 war. Nevertheless, (the Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin) Netanyahu is preparing himself, unlike (the former PM Ehud) Olmert who was hesitant, when the unprepared Israeli political decision was caught out in July (2006). Israel can surprise us all like it did in Gaza in 2008 with the objective of removing the threat on its borders once and for all. This is what our people (Hezbollah’s allies) should know, and they should from now on be prepared for the worse-case scenario”, Sayyed Nasrallah said.

Hezbollah believes Netanyahu has a unique opportunity to attack Hezbollah after forming his government, because Israel may not again enjoy a president in Washington like Trump who offers him (Netanyahu) unlimited support.

Hezbollah estimates that, in case of war, Israel will dislodge and relocate all Israeli settlements and villages bordering Lebanon from Naqoura to the Shebaa Farms. Israel would do this to prevent Hezbollah from crossing the borders and taking Israeli hostages. In this case, Hezbollah believes Israel would allow the militants to move in and encircle them from behind. This is called a mobile defensive strategy, with the aim of destroying the attacking forces.

“This is the first time Sayyed Nasrallah has offered such a bleak perspective, raising the chances of war with Israel from 50/50 to 70/30”, said a knowledgeable source.

No one within the Hezbollah leadership knows exactly when and how hard the next war with Israel will be. The first expectation is simple: Israel is expected to destroy between 1000 and 2000 objectives in the first days of the war.The Israeli military command believes it is possible to eliminate the threat from Hezbollah, Sayyed Nasrallah believes.

There is no doubt that Israel will start a war immediately if Sayyed Nasrallah is located. Domestic opinion in Israel would likely be able to digest a war for this price regardless of Hezbollah’s deadly retaliation.

Sayyed Nasrallah’s pessimistic expectation comes as a warning for his commanders to take all precautions and stay on alert for a sudden war, and to inform the people they are living with. He believes the Israelis, the USA, the British and many Arab states could all participate in the forthcoming war, which gives an indication of how destructive the next round is expected to be.

Moreover, Lebanon is going through a grave economic crisis in which the population can hardly afford a devastating war. The Middle East is entering a new configuration, with Israel expanding its relationship with Arab countries and certain to benefit from their financial and intelligence support in the case of war against Iran’s partners in Lebanon.

As far as Hezbollah is concerned, its arsenal seems sufficient. Its precious missiles are enough to sustain a long war against Israel with hundreds of rockets and missiles launched daily. Hezbollah has made sure no missiles are located next to civilian facilities to avoid casualties and financial losses. Sources believe the underground work in the south of Lebanon has become like the tunnels under Paris, similar to Gruyere cheese. Financially, Hezbollah is no longer in need of a high budget since its presence on the front line in Syria is significantly reduced.

For these reasons, would Israel tolerate the presence of a highly trained, organised and irregular army on its borders when the Prime Minister Netanyahu has changed his military strategy?

Sayyed Nasrallah believes Netanyahu is no longer following David Ben Gurion’s policy of being content to move the battle into the enemy’s territory. He is taking the initiative to eliminate threats anywhere in the region. Under Netanyahu, the Israeli Air Force bombed Iraq (Hashd al-Shaabi Iraqi security forces) on the borders with Syria. Every time he perceived the presence of a sophisticated arms shipment he bombs it immediately regardless of the consequences. He has destroyed warehouses and arms manufacturers in Syria to cripple the Syrian army. Not only that, Netanyahu is now living in a world where the Arab armies are absent or destroyed: they represent no danger to the existence of Israel. For Israel, the only remaining threat is Hezbollah. Why would Netanyahu put up with such a menace on his borders?

Russia, a superpower present in Syria and looking to gain a foothold in Lebanon, is not expected to react against Israel on the ground. Maybe at the UN, yes. But it is to the advantage of Russia to see Syria weaker and not dependant on a strong ally like Hezbollah. Russia can make a deal with the US over Syria – once Hezbollah is eliminated or weakened enough – to remove President Assad from power in exchange for regaining control of Idlib and re-taking the North-East currently under US occupation. Washington would be thrilled with such an option and Trump would be happy with a similar outcome ending the presence of his forces in Syria.

But why this sudden pessimism and increase likelihood of war in Lebanon?

Hezbollah is watching the movements of the US Air Force and Navy in the region, the behaviour of Netanyahu with Gaza (giving the Palestinians what they want to keep them – with Egypt as a guarantor – quiet in case of war against Hezbollah), the US’s unlimited support presenting a unique opportunity for Israel to take what it wants, Arab support for Netanyahu, the classification of Hezbollah as a terrorist country by more countries, the repeated warnings of the US establishment to Lebanon against embracing Hezbollah, the enmity against Iran by the Arab states and the tightening of sanctions on the Levants, the “Deal of the Century” scheduled for this summer and the extreme right-wing victory in Israel.

But how will Hezbollah and Iran react? Both are on the defensive and are not expected to take the initiative and attack first. Iran may develop its nuclear capability and surprise the world with an ultimate step to turn the tables and stop the war.But Hezbollah is not going to sit and watch. Measures are being taken to counter Israel’s bank of objectives. Hundreds of locations have been emptied and abandoned around the country. Its military leadership has been distributed and delegated and reserves have been prepared for the worse-case scenario.

Lebanon may not be far at all from paying the price. In 2008, Hezbollah occupied the capital Beirut when the government wanted to disrupt its communication system. It can do much more if there is a danger to its entire existence.

This is the pessimistic view that Hezbollah’s commanders are preparing for: they are preparing for the worst. It could well be that Israel is not preparing a military war and is happy to see the US working on its behalf– through economic sanctions on Lebanon, Syria and Iran. But the summer is not far away, a perfect time for Israel to start a war while the sky is clear. Will the Lebanese be able to enjoy a peaceful summer this year or should they instead be preparing to become refugees?

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, LebanonComments Off on Nazi regime Plans to Launch a Surprise War against Lebanon

‘Morally Despicable’: Trump Administration Threatens to Veto UN Resolution Combating Rape as Weapon of War

NOVANEWS

The U.S. is reportedly opposing the resolution over language on reproductive health for victims of rape

In what critics denounced as the Trump administration’s latest attack on women’s rights across the globe, U.S. officials are reportedly threatening to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution seeking to end the use of rape as a weapon of war over its language on reproductive health.

According to the Guardian—which first reported on U.S. opposition to the measure late Monday—Trump officials are objecting to the resolution’s “language on victims’ support from family planning clinics.”

“In recent months, the Trump administration has taken a hard line, refusing to agree to any U.N. documents that refer to sexual or reproductive health, on grounds that such language implies support for abortions,” the Guardian reported. “It has also opposed the use of the word ‘gender,’ seeing it as a cover for liberal promotion of transgender rights.”

The Trump administration’s opposition to the measure, proposed by Germany, quickly sparked international outrage.

“If we let the Americans do this and take out this language, it will be watered down for a long time,” an anonymous European diplomat told the Guardian. “It is, at its heart, an attack on the progressive normative framework established over the past 25 years.”

Heather Barr, acting co-director of the women’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, tweeted:

“In the latest step in Trump’s war on women, U.S. opposes healthcare for survivors of rape during war. Yes, you read that right.”

Others also took to Twitter to condemn the Trump administration’s efforts:

Mona Eltahawy

@monaeltahawy

The Trump administration is so obsessed with ensuring women remain walking incubators that it is willing to destroy an anti-rape resolution.

US threatens to veto UN resolution on rape as weapon of war, officials say https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/22/us-un-resolution-rape-weapon-of-war-veto 

US threatens to veto UN resolution on rape as weapon of war, officials say

Exclusive: US warns it will reject measure over language on sexual health in latest example of hardline abortion stance

theguardian.com

162 people are talking about this

Jonathan “Boo and Vote” Cohn@JonathanCohn

A reminder of how morally despicable the US is on the global stage https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/22/us-un-resolution-rape-weapon-of-war-veto?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR3XLPJehtcGTiz2Nw9HMkiKTx0svc38m-pFNZpMlS81UKptmYZQUZMDWIo 

US threatens to veto UN resolution on rape as weapon of war, officials say

Exclusive: US warns it will reject measure over language on sexual health in latest example of hardline abortion stance

theguardian.com

50 people are talking about this

Pramila Patten, U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told the Guardian that the resolution’s passage is now in serious doubt due to U.S. opposition.

“We are not even sure whether we are having the resolution [Tuesday], because of the threats of a veto from the U.S.,” Patten said.

The resolution seeks to improve monitoring of sexual violence in conflict, punish perpetrators, and increase support for victims.

Patten said the language on reproductive health “is being maintained for the time being and we’ll see over the next 24 hours how the situation evolves.”

“It will be a huge contradiction that you are talking about a survivor-centered approach and you do not have language on sexual and reproductive healthcare services, which is for me the most critical,” said Patten.

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The Buried Maidan Massacre and Its Misrepresentation by the West

The new Ukrainian government is faced with reopening an inquiry into evidence of an organized mass killing in Kiev that Poroshenko stonewalled. Ivan Katchanovski investigates.

***

Five years ago, the Maidan massacre in Kiev, Ukraine, of Feb. 18-20, 2014, was a watershed event, not only for the politics and history of Ukraine but also for world politics generally. This mass killing in downtown Kyiv set the stage for the violent overthrow of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine and a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Therefore, it is remarkable that five years after this massacre shook the world, no one has been sentenced for any of the Maidan killings. This was the best documented case of mass killing in history, broadcast live on TV and the internet, in presence of thousands of eyewitnesses. It was filmed by hundreds of journalists from major media in the West, Ukraine, Russia, and many other countries as well as by numerous social media users.  Yet, to this day, no one has been brought to justice for this major and consequential crime.

Police in Hrushevsky Street, Kiev, Feb. 12, 2014. (??????? ?????? via Wikimedia)

Police in Hrushevsky Street, Kiev, Feb. 12, 2014. (Wikimedia)

From the start, the dominant narrative promoted by the Ukrainian and Western governments and mainstream media has placed the blame for this tragedy firmly on the Yanukovych government. It contends that forces loyal to former President Victor Yanukovych — either snipers and/or the Berkut, a special anti-riot police— massacred peaceful Maidan protesters on the direct orders of Yanukovych himself. Such charges against Yanukovych, his ministers and commanders and a special Berkut unit—whose five ex-members were tried for the murder of 48 Maidan protesters on Feb. 20, 2014 — are generally taken at face value. With some limited exceptions, challenges to this narrative are treated dismissively.

For the most part, mainstream news media in the U.S. and other Western countries ignored trial evidence, public statements by officials and politicians and scholarly studies that put the standard narrative under question. This includes non-reporting about my own academic studies of the Maidan massacre.

Killing Protesters and Police

My work found that this was an organized mass killing of both protesters and the police, with the goal of delegitimizing the Yanukovych government and its forces and seizing power in Ukraine. Oligarchic and far right elements of the Maidan movement were involved in this massacre. For this reason, the official investigation was fabricated and stonewalled. I presented studies to support this as well as several online video appendixes with various evidence at the annual meetings of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco in 2015 and Boston in 2018, the 2017 World Convention of the Association for the Study of Nationalities in New York in 2017, and a joint conference by the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Uppsala University and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies in 2018, and published their summary in an academic press volume.

The prosecutor general of Ukraine recently announced that the investigation of the Maidan massacre is complete. He cited reconstructions of the Maidan massacre by a New York architecture company, working with a team of Ukrainian “volunteers” to provide a 3D model, as definite evidence that the Maidan protesters were massacred by the Berkut police and that snipers did not massacre the protesters.

This model was featured by The New York Times, in its May 30, 2018,  report “Who Killed the Kiev Protesters?” as a proof that the Berkut police massacred Maidan protesters.

However, no expert knowledge or familiarity with the Maidan massacre or Ukraine is needed to see blatant misrepresentation of elementary data in that 3D model.

The wound locations of the killed Maidan protesters in the 3D model do not match the wound locations in the forensic medical examinations of the bodies. The reports of those examinations were used in this simulation to determine the locations of the shooters. They are published in Ukrainian and English on the linked website. According to one such reportIhor Dmytriv was shot in the “right side surface” and the “left side surface” of the torso “from the right to the left, from the top to the bottom, and a little from the front to the back” with the entry wound 20.5cm (8 inches) higher than the exit wound. However, in the simulation, his wounds have been moved to the front and the back and made nearly horizontal.

Actual wound locations of Dmytriv and their misrepresentation.

Actual wound locations of Dmytriv and their misrepresentation.

A Maidan lawyer visually confirmed at the Maidan massacre trial that these wounds locations of were in the right and left sides. In the video of their examination of Dmytriv right after his shooting, Maidan medics also indicate such locations of his wounds with no wounds visible in the front area, contrary to the 3D model. The forensic medical reports also state that Dmytriv was wounded in his right shoulder from bottom to top direction, with this entry wound 5 cm lower, but the 3D animation also misrepresents this direction.

The wound locations of the other two victims have been similarly altered. The 3D model moved the exit wound location from around the middle line of the back of Andriy Dyhdalovych’s body in forensic medical and clothing examinations significantly to the right. It also changed a similar large vertical angle from a top and bottom direction and 17 cm difference in height of entry and exit wounds to nearly horizontal level.

Actual wound locations of Dyhdalovych and their misrepresentation.

Actual wound locations of Dyhdalovych and their misrepresentation.

In the case of Yuriy Parashchukforensic medical examinations found that his entry and exit wounds were in the back of his head on the left side. But the 3D analysis moved the entry wound location to the front area and changed its somewhat top-to-bottom direction to nearly horizontal. Frames from a videoby a French photographer shows a large bullet hole in the back of Parashchuk’s red helmet. How can he be shot in the back of his head by the Berkut police on a nearly similar horizontal level?

Changing the wound locations invalidates the entire reconstruction and, therefore, the conclusions of the SITU analysis and The New York Times article, that these and other Maidan protesters were shot from the Berkut positions.

One does not need to be a ballistic expert to see that locations of wounds in the back and on the sides and top-to-bottom directions of wounds specified in forensic medical reports and positions of these three killed protesters facing the Berkut in the videos cannot physically match with Berkut police positions located on a similar horizontal level on the ground in front of them. The forensic medical examinations conducted for the government investigation and made public at the Maidan massacre trial revealed that the absolute majority of the protesters were shot not in front and not from horizontal or near horizontal directions that are consistent with police positions. Rather, they were shot from a top-to-bottom direction and in sides or the back that are consistent with shooting from the Maidan-controlled buildings.

Government Investigation

The government investigation, conducted after the Maidan government came to power after this massacre, and which charged the Berkut police behind the barricades with killing these three protesters, raises the same concerns.

The complex medical examinations, which were published on the SITU website and which are presented by the government investigation in Ukraine as a key evidence that the Berkut police massacred the protesters, showed the same bullet trajectories as the 3D model. The text of these examinations, which are available in Ukrainian and in English translations, shows that these bullet trajectories were determined not by ballistic experts butby medical experts without any calculations or explanations.

Synchronized videos, which were used by the SITU to determine that the Berkut police behind a truck barricade killed Parashchuk, actually show that he and other protesters were in a blind spot below the line of police fire from behind a truck. It was physically impossible for the police behind the wide and tall truck to shoot at him below over the top of this truck. Dozens of other Maidan protesters who were killed and wounded around the same spot were in the same situation.

Parashchuk in the blind spot below the line of fire from the police behind the truck

Parashchuk in the blind spot below the line of fire from the police behind the truck.

The locations of the forces of the Yanukovych government during the massacre are well known, and they are identified in my studies, the government investigation charges, numerous videos, and in the SITU 3D model.

At the time of the killings of these three protesters, Berkut policemen were behind the barricades on Instytutska Street on the government side, while the protesters who were killed were in between Berkut and the Hotel Ukraina.

Forensic examinations of bullet holes by government experts described numerous bullet holes on the second, third, and higher floors and the roof of the Hotel Ukraina on the side that faced the government forces. But they did not identify a single bullet hole on the first floor on the Berkut facing side of the hotel behind these protesters. Simple positioning of the bullet hole locations described in these forensic reports clearly shows that almost all bullets from the Berkut and other positions flew above the heads of the protesters there or targeted poles, trees, and a flower box. This is also shown in vide and photos — including some I took there after the massacre — and in videos and reports of shooting at journalists in the hotel with a Google Street View image from the first Berkut barricade.

This confirms my study findings that the special Berkut police unit and the Omega unit of snipers of Internal Troops were shooting at snipers in the Hotel Ukraina.

After five long years, the failure by the Poroshenko government’s investigation to determine bullet trajectories by ballistic experts or conduct on-site investigative experiments for the same purpose — even after the Maidan massacre trial judges ordered them two years ago to do so — is therefore hardly surprising. It is impossible to bend physical reality. In a literal cover-up, large fences were recently erected on the crime scene for the construction of the Maidan massacre memorial, which would completely alter the landscape. The fences and the memorial would make it impossible to determine bullet trajectories on-site, which still has not been done by the investigation for five years after this mass killing.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, with Poroshenko, outside Presidential Palace in Kiev, Feb. 5, 2015, during Kerry’s first round of meetings with Poroshenko and members of the new government. (State Department via Flickr)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Poroshenko, outside Presidential Palace in Kiev, Feb. 5, 2015, during Kerry’s first round of meetings with the new government. (State Department via Flickr)

The SITU reconstruction also missed bullet holes that appeared in Dmytriv’s shield and in a shield of another protester in front of Dyhdalovych in videos of their shooting that were used in the reconstruction. The locations of these bullet holes are inconsistent with shooting from the Berkut barricades.

But these shields with clear locations of the bullet holes, like the helmet of Parashchuk and almost all the shields and helmets of protesters who were killed or wounded, mysteriously disappeared after the massacre, along with a lot of other crucial evidence, such as bullets and security-camera footage.

Similarly, crucial testimonies of Maidan protesters, who witnessed the killings of Dyhdalovych and Dmytriv, are ignored by the Times’ report, SITU and the official Ukrainian investigation. Dyhdalovych’s wife stated in her Ukrainian media interview that another protester told her that he saw that Dyhdalovych was killed by a sniper on the roof of the Bank Arkada. This protester was filmed following Dyhdalovych when they both went to evacuate Dmytriv after he was shot. The Bank Arkada is a tall green building in the front and to the right of both Dyhdalovych and Dmytriv, and it appears to match the apparent directions of their wounds. My Maidan massacre studies video appendices showed that it was in the Maidan-controlled area and that snipers on its roof during the massacre were reported by both numerous Maidan protesters, including many wounded who spoke at the Maidan massacre trial and investigation, and by Security Service of Ukraine commanders and snipers.

SITU diagram of victims' locations and names.

SITU diagram of victims’ locations and names.

A female Maidan medic during the massacre was pointing to the top of this green building and shouting about snipers. But her words were translated in BBC report as referring to six protesters killed by the snipers in that area. A Maidan protester and another Maidan medic, who were wounded near the same spot where these two protesters were killed, both testified at the Maidan massacre trial that they were shot from this building. Government ballistic experts confirmed this during on-site investigative experiments.

Western Press Silence

These revelations were not reported by any Western media. This includes The New York Times, which on April 5, 2014, profiled this wounded protester against the backdrop of an unquestioned report by the acting government in Kiev that blaming “former President Viktor F. Yanukovych, his riot police and their suspected Russian assistants for the violence that killed more than 100 people in Kiev in February.”

It also includes CNN, which filmed the shooting of this medic and attributed it to the government forces.

The government investigation simply denies that there were any snipers there and in other Maidan-controlled buildings, and refuses to investigate them. This is done despite videos of such snipers and testimonies of the absolute majority of wounded protesters at the trial and investigation and more than 150 other witnesses about snipers in these locations.

The assumption in the 3D model that Dmytriv was shot by the single bullet is also contradicted by testimony of another protester who saw that Dmytriv was shot by “a sniper” from the Hotel Ukraina. My Maidan massacre studies and their video appendices showed that this hotel was then controlled by the Maidan forces.

The New York Times article described collaboration of the New York architecture firm with a Ukrainian “volunteer” in creating the 3D model. It did not report 2017 admissions by the prosecutor general of Ukraine on Facebook that his government agency funded the work of  a group of anonymous “volunteers,” including this Ukrainian graduate student, in compiling and synchronizing various videos of the Maidan massacre in collaboration with a People’s Front party outlet.

Some of the People’s Front party leaders were accused by various Ukrainian politicians and Maidan activists, such as Nadia Savchenko, and by five ex-Georgian ex-military members in Italian and Israeli TV documentaries, of direct involvement in this massacre. Meanwhile, the Times lauds the Ukrainian government’s investigation and Maidan lawyers for drawing on such analyses by these “citizen investigators” and treats a New York architect firm as providing key evidence in the Maidan massacre trial.

Brad Samuels is a founding partner of Situ Research, the New York architecture company that produced the 3D model of the killing of three protesters, which was presented by the Times as  proof that such snipers did not exist and that 49 protesters were massacred by the Berkut police.

Samuels said in a video [start at 55:16] that “…eventually, there is a consensus that there was a third party acting. It is clear from forensic evidence that people were shot in the back. Somebody was shooting from rooftops.” His striking observation was not included anywhere in the SITU 3D model report that he produced. Nor was it reported by the Times.

Cases of protesters, who were shot in the back, were omitted from the SITU model. But even in the deliberately selected cases of the three protesters, who were presented by this simulation as shot in front, their actual wound locations suggest that they were also shot from a Maidan-controlled building, which was located in front and to the right of them.

There was not a single report in English-language media concerning testimonies at the Maidan massacre trial where 25 wounded Maidan protesters, with whose shootings Berkut policemen are charged, who stated that they were shot from Maidan-controlled buildings or areas.

Video still from 2016 trial.

Video still from trial.

Major outlets likewise neglected to cover the testimonies by 30 wounded protesters who said they witnessed snipers in those locations or were told about them by other protesters. This is stunning since these testimonies are publicly available in live online recordings of the Maidan massacre trial and they are complied with English-language subtitles into an online video appendix to my study. These testimonies represent the majority of wounded protesters with whose shooting Berkut was charged. They are consistent with video testimonies by about 100 witnesses in the media and social media and at the trial and the investigation. But the official investigation in Ukraine simply denies that there were any such snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings, even though the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine previously stated that snipers massacred many protesters from the Hotel Ukraina and other buildings.

Similarly, not a single media outlet reported segments of the Belgian VRT News video that showed Maidan protesters shouting during the massacre that they saw snipers in the Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina shooting Maidan protesters, pointing towards them, and asking them not to shoot. These segments were only shown to a small number of people at the Maidan massacre trial and are included in my online video appendix on YouTube. Other segments from this same video, however,were broadcast to some several hundred million viewers by major television networks in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Poland, Italy, and Ukraine, and many other countries as evidence that the government forces massacred the Maidan protesters.

With the notable exception of an Associated Press story quoting the charismatic politician Nadia Savchenko, news agencies have ignored the public remarks of several Maidan politicians and activists who said that they witnessed the involvement of specific top Maidan leaders in the massacre.

Testimonies by five Georgian ex-military members in ItalianIsraeli, Macedonian and Russian media and their published depositions to Berkut lawyers for the Maidan massacre trial have also been ignored. They stated that their groups received weapons, payments, and orders to massacre both police and protesters from specific Maidan and Georgian politicians.

They also said that they received instructions from a far-right linked ex-U.S. Army sniper and then saw Georgian, Baltic States, and Right Sector-linked snipers shooting from specific Maidan-controlled buildings.

Western media silence also greeted a recent statement by Anatolii Hrytsenko, one of the top Ukrainian presidential candidates, who was also a Maidan politician and minister of defense, that the investigation of the massacre has been stonewalled because of the involvement of someone from the current leadership of Ukraine in this mass killing.

In contrast, there were no such testimonies admitting involvement in the massacre or knowledge of such involvement by the Berkut policemen, ex-police and security services commanders; nor by ex-Yanukovych government officials. No specific evidence of orders by then-president Yanukovych or his ministers and commanders to massacre unarmed protesters has been revealed by the trials, investigations or news reporting. Nonetheless, the Western mainstream media report existence of such orders as a matter of a fact.

Image on the right: Yanukovych with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (President of Russia)

Yanukovych with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (President of Russia)

Not a single major Western media reported that a forensic ballistic examination, conducted by government institute experts on the prosecution request with use of an automatic computer-based IBIS-TAIS system, determined that bullets extracted from killed protesters did not match a police database of bullet samples from Kalashnikov assault rifles of members of the entire Kyiv Berkut regiment. The latter included the special Berkut company charged with the massacre of the protesters. The same concerns the forensic examination findings that many protesters were killed with hunting bullets and pellets.

There are no Western media reports, at least in English, concerning the investigation by the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine. This investigation determined, based on protester’s  testimonies and investigative experiments, that almost half of the protesters (77 out of 157) were wounded on Feb. 20 from other sectors than the Berkut police and that no one was charged with their shooting.

A female Maidan medic, whose wounding on the Maidan was highly publicized by Western and Ukrainian media and politicians and attributed to government snipers, is one of them. Since the official investigation determined that government snipers did not massacre the Maidan protesters, with a single implausible exception announced recently, this implies that these protesters were wounded from the Maidan-controlled buildings and areas.

Medic sniper vicim. (Youtube)

Medic sniper vicim. (Youtube)

There was Western media silence, including from the BBC, about revelations by the Prosecutor General Office that one of the leaders of far right party Svoboda, who was also a member of the Ukrainian parliament at the time of the massacre, occupied a Hotel Ukraina room from which a sniper in Maidan-style green helmet was filmed by the BBC shooting in the direction of the Maidan protesters and the BBC’s own journalists.

Similarly, there are no mainstream media reports of the visual examinations of bullet holes and their impact points by the government investigators that determined that one German ARD television room at the Hotel Ukraina was shot  from the direction of the Main Post Office, which was at the time the headquarters of the Right Sector.  The latter far-right group included radical nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations and football ultras. This bullet just narrowly missed a German ARD TV female producer. The government investigators also determined that another ARD room in the same hotel was shot at from the Music Conservatory building, which was then the headquarters of the Right-Sector-linked special armed Maidan Self-Defense company.

Likewise, nothing was reported about a forensic ballistic examination made public at the trial that revealed that an ABC News producer was shot in his Hotel Ukraina room by a Winchester caliber hunting soft-point bullet that did not match a caliber of Berkut Kalashnikovs.

Misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre and its investigation by Western media and governments is puzzling.

American independence leader John Adams once defended the British soldiers charged with the Boston massacre in 1770. He regarded this defense as important for the rule of law to prevail over politics. He famously stated at the Boston massacre trial that “facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” He not only won this politically charged case of a crucial massacre in U.S. politics and history but became U.S. president afterwards. The question is why this dictum is not heeded almost 250 years later in the case of the Maidan massacre in Ukraine.

Posted in UkraineComments Off on The Buried Maidan Massacre and Its Misrepresentation by the West

Governing Ukraine Is No Laughing Matter

Comedy, it is often said, is unusual people in real situations and farce is real people in unusual situations. No doubt, it can be said that by electing comedian Vladimir Zelensky as their new president in a landslide victory in Sunday’s runoff, the people of Ukraine find themselves in a farcical situation. To be sure, the country’s embrace of an inexperienced showman represented a verdict on three decades of political failure.

Ukraine’s first president in the ‘post-Soviet’ era Leonid Kuchma told the Russian paper Komsomolskaya Pravda,

“Ukraine is tired of its politicians, who for 28 years have been unable to organise life, deliver democracy, well-being or peace. The people are tired, and believe it’s time to turn over a new page.”

The Ukrainian voters perceived Zelensky as an upright candidate, a straightlaced and open person without a corruption-related past, who personified hope. He was quite tight-lipped about his policies or even about the team he’s picked to govern Ukraine. In fact, it’s a bit too early to form a full opinion about this political rookie. 

Zelensky has offered most things to everyone: from fighting corruption to rising wages and ending the war in the east. But there has been little detail. His slogan was “No promises. No apologies”. It worked.

Then, there is the ‘known unknown’ — his exact relationship with one of the most obnoxious Ukrainian oligarchs, Ihor Kolomoisky, who lives in self-exile in Israel but has extensive business interests in Ukraine and has been linked to organised crime. Putin once openly called the billionaire a ‘crook’. A Reuters report warns that Zelensky’s relationship with Kolomoiskiy could prove an Achilles’ heel. Indeed, it will be a major test of Zelensky’s strength of character whether he will be able to stand his ground. The jury is out. 

On the other hand, five years into the so-called ‘Euromaidan revolution’, a veritable coup that was funded and orchestrated by the West in 2014 to overthrow the elected ‘pro-Russian’ president Viktor Yanukovich, Ukraine remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. There’s hardly any foreign investment taking place, judiciary stands utterly corrupted along with the political class, and cronyism, nepotism and venality is rampant. 

All that the West achieved in these past 5 years has been to turn Ukraine against Russia but then, the Ukrainian economy was inextricably linked to the Russian production chain and even as President Petro Poroshenko morphed into a hard-liner and a rabid nationalist with links to neo-Nazi groups, Moscow’s attitude also hardened. 

Living standards are sliding. And then there’s the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine — the ‘Donbass question’ — and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. There aren’t any immediate prospects for a political solution in sight — not even for progress on the humanitarian front, for people on the front lines or for political prisoners.

Zelensky, like Poroshenko, favours Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and membership of the NATO and has promised to hold referendums to ascertain popular will. Russia will most certainly oppose the move. Arguably, everything concerning Zelensky’s presidency will largely depend on his equations with Moscow. Here, the signs are somewhat ambivalent. Some top Russian officials have voiced cautious optimism. 

The Russian Prime Minister Dmirty Medvedev wrote on Facebook,

“The result showed an explicit request for new approaches in solving the problems of Ukraine.”

He added that there are opportunities for improving Russia-Ukraine relations.

“We need a pragmatic and responsible approach, which takes into account all the political realities in Ukraine, including primarily the situation in the east of the country,” Medvedev wrote.

Medvedev urged “sanity” and an understanding of the deep value of relations between the two peoples.

On the other hand, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that it is premature to talk about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s congratulations to Zelensky or their cooperation until Zelensky takes concrete steps.

“It will only be possible to judge [Zelensky] by his actions.”

At the same time, back channels must be working and Moscow can be trusted to probe whether a new beginning is possible under Zelensky.

The defining fact in all this is that Ukraine straddles one of the world’s great fault lines. Zelensky’s best option might be to transform his country from being a battleground between east and west into a strictly neutral buffer state, a little like Finland used to be. But that is easier said than done. For that to happen, the regional balance of power ought to be symmetrical, which is, unfortunately, not the case. 

Russia regards Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence, and has profound cultural links with it at the people-to-people, which is almost mystical. The EU, on the contrary, is loathe to concede Russia’s legitimate interests but is also not willing or committed to absorbing Ukraine (with its low standard of living, controlled markets and corruption) fully into its economic and financial structures.

Faced with these geopolitical realities, Zelensky’s best choice could be a neutral future for his country. The present situation is inherently unstable, for, unsurprisingly, Russia will fight for its interests in Ukraine. It is even possible that Moscow may test Zelensky’s resolve at some point, sooner rather than later. But the logjam cannot be broken easily, either. Plainly put, it will be impossible for any Ukrainian leader to seek partnership with Russia in a foreseeable future so long as Crimea and the Donbass question remain unresolved. 

Having said that, everything really depends on the state of play in US-Russia relations. Arguably, it is not even so terribly important who is in power in Kiev. Through the past 5-year period, the US has programmed Ukraine into an ‘anti-Russian’ mode. And Washington holds the ‘software’. The bottom line is that the American calculus is also geared to ensuring the US’ trans-Atlantic leadership for which the sanctions against Russia provide a vital underpinning. 

This is where the contradiction lies: the “enemy” image of Russia as ‘aggressor country’, which is the leitmotif of NATO’s force projection in Central Europe and the Black Sea, cannot be sustained if the Ukraine crisis gets resolved. Simply put, Zelensky needs to be ‘pro-Ukraine’ than ‘pro-West’ — that is to say, he should realise that if Ukraine has any chance of prospering, it must somehow normalise relations with Moscow, which remains its largest trading partner. 

But will he be allowed by the West to open a dialogue with Moscow?  Therefore, the big question is how long will the momentum out of the wave of optimism that led to Zelensky’s election last before it begins to dissipate? The promised fresh start is difficult and comes with the high risk of failure. To be sure, Zelensky cannot solve the daunting problems with the comedian’s wit, charm or funny YouTube videos. 

Posted in UkraineComments Off on Governing Ukraine Is No Laughing Matter


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