Kudos to the NYT editors

NYT Editorial Slams CIA Exploitation of Paris Attacks, But Submissive Media Role Is Key

Glenn Greenwald✉glenn.greenwald@​theintercept.comt@ggreenwald

A truly superb New York Times editorial this morning mercilessly shames the despicable effort by U.S. government officials to shamelessly exploit the Paris attacks to advance long-standing agendas. Focused on the public campaign of the CIA to manipulate post-Paris public emotions to demonize transparency and privacy and to demand still-greater surveillance powers for themselves, the NYT editors begin:
It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.
The editorial, which you should really read in its entirety, destroys most of the false, exploitative, blame-shifting claims uttered by U.S. officials about these issues. Because intelligence agencies knew of the attackers and received warnings, the NYT editors explain that “the problem in [stopping the Paris attacks] was not a lack of data, but a failure to act on information authorities already had.” They point out that the NSA’s mass surveillance powers to be mildly curbed by post-Snowden reforms are ineffective and, in any event, have not yet stopped. And most importantly, they document that the leader of this lowly campaign, CIA chief John Brennan, has been proven to be an inveterate liar:
It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the CIA had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the NSA’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.
Indeed, what more powers could agencies like the CIA, NSA, MI6 and GCHQ get? They’ve been given everything they’ve demanded for years, no questions asked. They have virtually no limits. Of course it’s “not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.” It’s like trying to buy a Christmas gift for Paris Hilton: what do you give to an omnipotent, terrorism-exploiting agency that already has everything it could ever dream of having?
Space constraints likely required the NYT editors to leave several specific CIA lines of deceit unmentioned. To begin with, there’s literally zero evidence that the Paris attackers used encryption. There are reasons to believe they may not have (siblings and people who live near each other have things called “face-to-face communications”).
Even if they had used encryption (which, just by the way, the U.S. government funds and the GOP protected in the 1990s), that would not mean we should abolish it or give the U.S. government full backdoor access to it — any more than face-to-face plotting means we should allow the government to put monitors in everyone’s homes to prevent this type of “going dark.” Silicon Valley has repeatedly said there’s no way to build the U.S. government a “backdoor” that couldn’t also be used by any other state or stateless organization to invade. And that’s to say nothing of all the lies and false claims that I documented several days ago embedded in the Snowden-is-to-blame-for-Paris trash — a low-life propaganda campaign that is not principally about Snowden but really about scaring Silicon Valley out of offering encryption lest they be viewed as ISIS-helpers.
But there’s one vital question the NYT editors do not address: Why do the CIA and other U.S. government factions believe — accurately — that they can get away with such blatant misleading and lying? The answer is clear: because, particularly after a terror attack, large parts of the U.S. media treat U.S. intelligence and military officials with the reverence usually reserved for cult leaders, whereby their every utterance is treated as Gospel, no dissent or contradiction is aired, zero evidence is required to mindlessly swallow their decrees, anonymity is often provided to shield them from accountability, and every official assertion is equated with Truth, no matter how dubious, speculative, evidence-free, or self-serving.
Like many people, I’ve spent years writing about the damage done by how subservient and reverent many U.S. media outlets are toward the government officials they pretend to scrutinize. But not since 2003 have I witnessed anything as supine and uncritical as the CIA-worshipping stenography that has been puked forward this week. Even before the Paris attacks were concluded, a huge portion of the press corps knelt in front of the nearest official with medals on their chest or who flashes covert status, and they’ve stayed in that pitiful position ever since.
The leading cable news networks, when they haven’t been spewing outright bigotry and fearmongering, have hosted one general and CIA official after the next to say whatever they want without the slightest challenge. Print journalists, without the excuse of the pressures of live TV, have been even worse: Article after article after article does literally nothing other than uncritically print the extremely dubious claims of military and intelligence officials without including any questioning, contradiction, dissenters, or evidence that negates those claims.
None of the facts the NYT pointed to this morning to show Brennan is lying and misleading are esoteric or obscure. They’re all right out in the public domain. Countless other people have raised them. But so many journalists steadfastly exclude all of that from their “reporting.” Especially after a terror attack, the already sky-high journalistic worship of security officials skyrockets. Many journalists are in pure servant-stenography mode, not reporting and definitely not questioning claims that emanate from the sacred mouths of these Pentagon and CIA priests. Just look at the reports I cited to see how extreme this obsequious behavior is. What can excuse “reporting” like this?
This, of course, is how propaganda is cemented: not by government officials making dubious, self-serving claims (they’ll always be motivated to do that), but by people who play the role of “journalist” on TV and in print acting as their spokespeople, literally suppressing all the reasons why the officials’ claims are so questionable if not outright false.
Kudos to the NYT editors for pulling no punches this morning in making all this deceit manifest. But the real culprits aren’t the government officials spewing this manipulative tripe but the journalists who not only let them get away with it but, so much worse, eagerly help.

Mass Surveillance Isn’t the Answer to Fighting Terrorism

The NYTimes Editorial Board

It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.
Speaking less than three days after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129 and injured hundreds more, Mr. Brennan complained about “a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”
What he calls “hand-wringing” was the sustained national outrage following the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to secretly collect information on millions of Americans’ phone records. In June, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which ends bulk collection of domestic phone data by the government (but not the collection of other data, like emails and the content of Americans’ international phone calls) and requires the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make its most significant rulings available to the public.

John Brennan, the director of the C.I.A. Win Mcnamee/Getty Images

These reforms are only a modest improvement on the Patriot Act, but the intelligence community saw them as a grave impediment to antiterror efforts. In his comments Monday, Mr. Brennan called the attacks in Paris a “wake-up call,” and claimed that recent “policy and legal” actions “make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging.”
It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking.
Most of the men who carried out the Paris attacks were already on the radar of intelligence officials in France and Belgium, where several of the attackers lived only hundreds of yards from the main police station, in a neighborhood known as a haven for extremists. As one French counterterrorism expert and former defense official said, this shows that “our intelligence is actually pretty good, but our ability to act on it is limited by the sheer numbers.” In other words, the problem in this case was not a lack of data, but a failure to act on information authorities already had.
In fact, indiscriminate bulk data sweeps have not been useful. In the more than two years since the N.S.A.’s data collection programs became known to the public, the intelligence community has failed to show that the phone program has thwarted a terrorist attack. Yet for years intelligence officials and members of Congress repeatedly misled the public by claiming that it was effective.
The intelligence agencies’ inability to tell the truth about surveillance practices is just one part of the problem. The bigger issue is their willingness to circumvent the laws, however they are written. The Snowden revelations laid bare how easy it is to abuse national-security powers, which are vaguely defined and generally exercised in secret.
Listening to Mr. Brennan and other officials, like James Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one might believe that the government has been rendered helpless to defend Americans against the threat of future terror attacks.
Mr. Comey, for example, has said technology companies like Apple and Google should make it possible for law enforcement to decode encrypted messages the companies’ customers send and receive. But requiring that companies build such back doors into their devices and software could make those systems much more vulnerable to hacking by criminals and spies. Technology experts say that government could just as easily establish links between suspects, without the use of back doors, by examining who they call or message, how often and for how long.
In truth, intelligence authorities are still able to do most of what they did before — only now with a little more oversight by the courts and the public. There is no dispute that they and law enforcement agencies should have the necessary powers to detect and stop attacks before they happen. But that does not mean unquestioning acceptance of ineffective and very likely unconstitutional tactics that reduce civil liberties without making the public safer.

Ripped From Hillary’s Emails

French intelligence plotted to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi to horn in on Libya’s oil and to provide access for French businesses.

By Conn Hallinan

“Philosopher“ Bernard Henri-Levy (aka, BHL) worked undercover as a journalist to engineer the deal with Libya, thus paving the way for yet more journalists to be accused of being spies. (Photo: Itzik Edri / Wikimedia Commons)
“Philosopher“ Bernard Henri-Levy (aka, BHL) worked undercover as a journalist to engineer the deal with Libya, thus paving the way for yet more journalists to be accused of being spies. (Photo: Itzik Edri / Wikimedia Commons)
For more of Conn Hallinan’s essays visit Dispatches From the Edge. Meanwhile, his novels about the ancient Romans can be found at The Middle Empire Series.
The Congressional harrying of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over emails concerning the 2012 death of an American Ambassador and three staff members in Benghazi, Libya, has become a sort of running joke, with Republicans claiming “cover-up” and Democrats dismissing the whole matter as nothing more than election year politics. But there is indeed a story embedded in the emails, one that is deeply damning of American and French actions in the Libyan civil war, from secretly funding the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi, to the willingness to use journalism as a cover for covert action.
The latest round of emails came to light June 22 in a fit of Republican pique over Clinton’s prevarications concerning whether she solicited intelligence from her advisor, journalist and former aide to President Bill Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal. If most newspaper readers rolled their eyes at this point and decided to check out the ball scores, one can hardly blame them.
But that would be a big mistake.
While the emails do raise questions about Hillary Clinton’s veracity, the real story is how French intelligence plotted to overthrow the Libyan leader in order to claim a hefty slice of Libya’s oil production and “favorable consideration” for French businesses.
The courier in this cynical undertaking was journalist and right-wing philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, a man who has yet to see a civil war that he doesn’t advocate intervening in, from Yugoslavia to Syria. According to Julian Pecquet, the U.S. congressional correspondent for the Turkish publication Al-Monitor, Henri-Levy claims he got French President Nicolas Sarkozy to back the Benghazi-based Libyan Transitional National Council that was quietly being funded by the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), the French CIA.
According to the memos, in return for money and support, “the DGSE officers indicated that they expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya.” The memo says that the two leaders of the Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil and General Abdul Fatah Younis, “accepted this offer.”
Another May 5 email indicates that French humanitarian flights to Benghazi included officials of the French oil company TOTAL, and representatives of construction firms and defense contractors, who secretly met with Council members and then “discreetly” traveled by road to Egypt, protected by DGSE agents.
Henri-Levy, an inveterate publicity hound, claims to have come up with this quid pro quo, business/regime change scheme, using “his status as a journalist to provide cover for his activities.” Given that journalists are routinely accused of being “foreign agents” in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan, Henri-Levy’s subterfuge endangers other members of the media trying to do their jobs.
All this clandestine maneuvering paid off.
On Feb. 26, 2011, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1970 aimed at establishing “peace and security” and protecting the civilian population in the Libyan civil war. Or at least that was how UNR 1970 was sold to countries on the Security Council, like South Africa, Brazil, India, China and Russia, that had initial doubts. However, the French, Americans and British—along with several NATO allies—saw the resolution as an opportunity to overthrow Qaddafi and in France’s case, to get back in the game as a force in the region.
Almost before the ink was dry on the resolution, France, Britain and the U.S. began systematically bombing Qaddafi’s armed forces, ignoring pleas by the African Union to look for a peaceful way to resolve the civil war. According to one memo, President Sarkozy “plans to have France lead the attacks on [Qaddafi] over an extended period of time” and “sees this situation as an opportunity for France to reassert itself as a military power.”
While for France flexing its muscles was an important goal, Al- Monitor says that a September memo also shows that “Sarkozy urged the Libyans to reserve 35 percent of their oil industry for French firms—TOTAL in particular—when he traveled to Tripoli that month.”
In the end, Libya imploded and Paris has actually realized little in the way of oil, but France’s military industrial complex has done extraordinarily well in the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall.
According to Defense Minister Jean-Yves Lodrian, French arms sales increased 42 percent from 2012, bringing in $7 billion, and are expected to top almost $8 billion in 2014.
Over the past decade, France, the former colonial masters of Lebanon, Syria, and Algeria, has been sidelined by U.S. and British arms sales to the Middle East. But the Libya war has turned that around. Since then, Paris has carefully courted Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates by taking a hard line on the Iran nuclear talks.
The global security analyst group Stratfor noted in 2013, “France could gain financially from the GCC’s [Gulf Cooperation Council, the organization representing the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf] frustrations over recent U.S. policy in the Middle East. Significant defense contracts worth tens of billions of dollars are up for grabs in the Gulf region, ranging from aircraft to warships to missile systems. France is predominantly competing with Britain and the United States for the contracts and is seeking to position itself as a key ally of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it looks to strengthen its defense and industrial ties in the region.”
Sure enough, the French company Thales landed a $3.34 billion Saudi contract to upgrade the kingdom’s missile system and France just sold 24 Rafale fighters to Qatar for $7 billion. Discussions are underway with the UAE concerning the Rafale, and France sold 24 of the fighters to Egypt for $5.8 billion. France has also built a military base in the UAE.
French President Francois Hollande, along with his Foreign and Defense ministers, attended the recent GCC meeting, and, according to Hollande, there are 20 projects worth billions of dollars being discussed with Saudi Arabia. While he was in Qatar, Hollande gave a hard-line talk on Iran and guaranteed “that France is there for its allies when it is called upon.”
True to his word, France has thrown up one obstacle after another during the talks between Iran and the P5 + 1—the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.
Paris also supports Saudi Arabia and it allies in their bombing war on Yemen, and strongly backs the Saudi-Turkish led overthrow of the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, even though it means that the French are aligning themselves with al-Qaeda linked extremist groups.
France seems to have its finger in every Middle East disaster, although, to be fair, it is hardly alone. Britain and the U.S. also played major roles in the Libya war, and the Obama administration is deep into the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen. In the latter case, Washington supplies the Saudis with weapons, targeting intelligence, and in-air refueling of its fighter-bombers.
But the collapse of Libya was a particularly catastrophic event, which—as the African Union accurately predicted—sent a flood of arms and unrest into two continents.
The wars in Mali and Niger are a direct repercussion of Qaddafi’s fall, and the extremist Boko Haram in Nigeria appears to have benefited from the plundering of Libyan arms depots. Fighters and weapons from Libya have turned up in the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. And the gunmen who killed 22 museum visitors in Tunisia last March, and 38 tourists on a beach July 3, trained with extremists in Libya before carrying out their deadly attacks.
Clinton was aware of everything the French were up to and apparently had little objection to the cold-blooded cynicism behind Paris’s policies in the region.
The “news” in the Benghazi emails, according to the New York Timesis that, after denying it, Clinton may indeed have solicited advice from Blumenthal. The story ends with a piece of petty gossip: Clinton wanted to take credit for Qaddafi’s fall, but the White House stole the limelight by announcing the Libyan leader’s death first.
That’s all the news that’s fit to print?


"Humans see what they want to see.” ~ RICK RIORDAN (b. 1964) American author

WASHINGTON — Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications, raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict.

The issue goes beyond old worries during the Cold War that the Russians would tap into the cables — a task American intelligence agencies also mastered decades ago. The alarm today is deeper: The ultimate Russian hack on the United States could involve severing the fiber-optic cables at some of their hardest-to-access locations to halt the instant communications on which the West’s governments, economies and citizens have grown dependent.

Igor V. Lavrenchuk, general manager of the Museum of the Cold War, in a conference room designed for the Soviet air force command.Moscow Journal: Amid a Revived East-West Chill, Cold War Relics Draw New InterestAPRIL 29, 2014
While there is no evidence yet of any cable cutting, the concern is part of a growing wariness among senior American and allied military and intelligence officials over the accelerated activity by Russian armed forces around the globe. At the same time, the internal debate in Washington illustrates how the United States is increasingly viewing every Russian move through a lens of deep distrust, reminiscent of relations during the Cold War.

Inside the Pentagon and the nation’s spy agencies, the assessments of Russia’s growing naval activities are highly classified and not publicly discussed in detail. American officials are secretive about what they are doing both to monitor the activity and to find ways to recover quickly if cables are cut. But more than a dozen officials confirmed in broad terms that it had become the source of significant attention in the Pentagon.

“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” said Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, commander of the Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific, who would not answer questions about possible Russian plans for cutting the undersea cables.

Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman in Washington, said: “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics.”

In private, however, commanders and intelligence officials are far more direct. They report that from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and even in waters closer to American shores, they are monitoring significantly increased Russian activity along the known routes of the cables, which carry the lifeblood of global electronic communications and commerce.

Just last month, the Russian spy ship Yantar, equipped with two self-propelled deep-sea submersible craft, cruised slowly off the East Coast of the United States on its way to Cuba — where one major cable lands near the American naval station at Guantánamo Bay. It was monitored constantly by American spy satellites, ships and planes. Navy officials said the Yantar and the submersible vehicles it can drop off its decks have the capability to cut cables miles down in the sea.

“The level of activity,” a senior European diplomat said, “is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War.”

One NATO ally, Norway, is so concerned that it has asked its neighbors for aid in tracking Russian submarines.

Adm. James Stavridis, formerly NATO’s top military commander and now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said in an email last week that “this is yet another example of a highly assertive and aggressive regime seemingly reaching backwards for the tools of the Cold War, albeit with a high degree of technical improvement.”

The operations are consistent with Russia’s expanding military operations into places like Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria, where President Vladimir V. Putin has sought to demonstrate a much longer reach for Russian ground, air and naval forces.

“The risk here is that any country could cause damage to the system and do it in a way that is completely covert, without having a warship with a cable-cutting equipment right in the area,” said Michael Sechrist, a former project manager for a Harvard-M.I.T. research project funded in part by the Defense Department.

“Cables get cut all the time — by anchors that are dragged, by natural disasters,” said Mr. Sechrist, who published a study in 2012 of the vulnerabilities of the undersea cable network. But most of those cuts take place within a few miles from shore, and can be repaired in a matter of days.

What worries Pentagon planners most is that the Russians appear to be looking for vulnerabilities at much greater depths, where the cables are hard to monitor and breaks are hard to find and repair.

Mr. Sechrist noted that the locations of the cables are hardly secret. “Undersea cables tend to follow the similar path since they were laid in the 1860s,” he said, because the operators of the cables want to put them in familiar environments under longstanding agreements.

The exceptions are special cables, with secret locations, that have been commissioned by the United States for military operations; they do not show up on widely available maps, and it is possible the Russians are hunting for those, officials said.

The role of the cables is more important than ever before. They carry global business worth more than $10 trillion a day, including from financial institutions that settle transactions on them every second. Any significant disruption would cut the flow of capital. The cables also carry more than 95 percent of daily communications.

So important are undersea cables that the Department of Homeland Security lists their landing areas — mostly around New York, Miami and Los Angeles — at the top of its list of “critical infrastructure.”

Attention to underwater cables is not new. In October 1971, the American submarine Halibut entered the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan, found a telecommunications cable used by Soviet nuclear forces, and succeeded in tapping its secrets. The mission, code-named Ivy Bells, was so secret that a vast majority of the submarine’s sailors had no idea what they had accomplished. The success led to a concealed world of cable tapping.

And a decade ago, the United States Navy launched the submarine Jimmy Carter, which intelligence analysts say is able to tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on communications flowing through them.

Submarines are not the only vessels that are snooping on the undersea cables. American officials closely monitor the Yantar, which Russian officials insist is an oceanographic ship with no ties to espionage.

“The Yantar is equipped with a unique onboard scientific research complex which enables it to collect data on the ocean environment, both in motion and on hold. There are no similar complexes anywhere,” said Alexei Burilichev, the head of the deepwater research department at the Russian Defense Ministry, according to sputniknews.com in May 2015.

American concern over cable cutting is just one aspect of Russia’s modernizing Navy that has drawn new scrutiny.

Adm. Mark Ferguson, commander of American naval forces in Europe, speaking in Washington this month said that the proficiency and operational tempo of the Russian submarine force was increasing.

Citing public remarks by the Russian Navy chief, Adm. Viktor Chirkov, Admiral Ferguson said the intensity of Russian submarine patrols had risen by almost 50 percent over the last year. Russia has increased its operating tempo to levels not seen in over a decade. Russian Arctic bases and their $2.4 billion investment in the Black Sea Fleet expansion by 2020 demonstrate their commitment to develop their military infrastructure on the flanks, he said.

Russia is also building an undersea unmanned drone capable of carrying a small, tactical nuclear weapon to use against harbors or coastal areas, American military and intelligence analysts said.

Admiral Ferguson said that as part of Russia’s emerging doctrine of so-called hybrid warfare, it is increasingly using a mix of conventional force, Special Operations mission and new weapons in the 21st-century battlefield.

“This involves the use of space, cyber, information warfare and hybrid warfare designed to cripple the decision-making cycle of the alliance,” Admiral Ferguson said, referring to NATO. “At sea, their focus is disrupting decision cycles.”


Greg Austin, Texas
Here goes the NYT again. Dealing in Russian Derangement Syndrome (RDS) once again as a proxy for the national security military industrial complex. This article appears just as the Congress is considering legislation to increase military spending. Coincidence?
Since we can hack into Russian communications anywhere anytime in the world, we should assume that the Russians can do the same to us, shouldn't we? Lord knows what our submarines are doing as we surround Russia daily.
This is all part of the NYT doing the bidding of the national security military industrial complex to reignite the Cold War, just in case the war in Foreverstan should diminish. That is an unlikely possibility, of course, but the NYT wants to make sure that there are plenty of reasons for Americans to live in fear.
Wouldn't it be nice if the NYT could return to being independent again as it once was?

DMS San Diego
I smell a request for more military spending.

What a coincidence! Just when we were thinking about reducing spending on battleships and destroyers that so many experts have told us are no longer necessary and not how we fight wars anymore, the pentagon starts sounding warning sirens and telling us about a new threat. Looks like our roads, infrastructure, veterans benefits, schools, healthcare, and investment in alternative energy sources will have to wait. Defense spending wins again.

bob garcia miami
Let me see if I understand the imperial mind set of official Washington. If we mess with Russian submarine cables, that is smart and something to be proud of. But if they go near our cables, or anyone else's that is very bad -- even if we have no reason to believe they are going to cut them.

Jon NM
As long as the cables are in international waters, there is little the U.S. can do. We can't patrol the entire sea floor.

Nor can we declare war on countries like Russia or China every time they hack our computers or mess with our cables.

WE Americans as a society have stupidly put ourselves in this position, just as WE have chosen to put our economy under the control of "President Xi", the chairman of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and people like Steve Jobs. WE chose to invade Iraq in 2003, which crippled and almost destroyed OUR army and which definitely destroyed Iraq.

Mel Farrell New York
Wow, setting up the next latest and greatest conflict, so soon.

1,400 American military bases all over the planet, fully operational, with Russia completely encircled, and our navy the largest in the world, shadowing every Russian vessel; what imbecile in the eternal war department came up with financial armegedan as a terror tactic against it's own people ?

Puttin is the only one really worried about the survival of his nation; we have him so effectively cornered, (a deliberate strategy), he will have no option but to do something stupid, and give our corporate owned government, and the military industrial complex the opportunity they have long sought to further their dream of control of the planet.

Does anyone remember a decade when we were not fomenting war and division somewhere on the planet.

And the mainstream media is entirely complicit, engaged in managing the people's perception.

R Stein Connecticut
Commenter opinion here runs toward disregarding this as beating of war drums, rather than any new threats to cables. I agree; we've been seeing more of this propaganda prep lately. So the admiral in charge of sub operations is "concerned" about what the Russians are doing. Well, that's his job -- nothing new there. So we have a major cable landing "near" our base in Cuba, which means on the shore of a recently antagonistic country. So cable disruption, as well as normal cable failures, isn't the subject of serious strategic workarounds?
Sorry, titans of war, I'm not buying this.

Santos-Dumont PA
Author James Bamford states in his books about NSA that Washington has been using special classified submarines to place taps on Russian undersea cables for decades.

K Henderson is a trusted commenter NYC
IT guy here: Severing those fiber cables (really just cutting the sheathing would be enough) would be very interruptive of normal global internet.

On the other hand: All the larger govts of the world already know this and this isnt at all new info -- so I have to wonder why our USA govt is announcing this to world media? At first glance, it seems intentionally alarmist. We are smart enough to see thru it.

Earl B. St. Louis
Matter of concern? Of course - but the idea of overtly cutting cables seems crude when compared to the value of simply intercepting communications, which apparently needs no actual physical interruption. If we can realize high quality pictures from a minimally-powered source somewhat further away than Pluto, surely it's possible to achieve inductional monitoring of communications no further away than our terrestrial seabed.

Since the first (Assyrian?) communications used incised clay tablets to share orders or information, there have been security concerns with the process. No level of sophistication has changed that; to this day no system is absolute. What is notable is that we have such naivete about our security in using electronic devices, telephones, internet; anything put into these systems might as well be on a billboard in our front yard, and expectations of privacy are nothing less than comic.

So the Russians are sniffing the cables? Nothing more than already "been there, done that," in our own history and indeed others. Our naval folk are concerned? Of course - it's in their job description, 24/7 and never-ending.

Knut Oslo / various
The Editor, NYT: This is silly, and pestered with Hollywood style of storytelling that does not belong in a newspaper. Please get a journalist to study the ITU-T standards for optical fibre technology, forget the US/FCC "technology", and skip "Popular Mechanics". The US does not have the technology to tap into these cable, James Bond does not nor the Russians. These cables us DWDM technology, where STM segments are placed beside one another and the signalling is done on the inference patterns generated between the two endpoints. Cut it and splice it, and the inference will be changed and signalling will not work. If nobody can listen to light, how special technology is available - why stop here, it would be easier to read people´s mind. They at least emit signals to the outside. Let them hit an international cable - there are numerous others that will replace it, but the owner of the cable will be deprived of the lease. I have seen an American fund well known to you: Carlyle investing in cables and communication technology infrastructure - so Frankie boy will get hurt, and send an invoice to the one that cut the fibre. Most fibres are dug into the ground by robots and covered by stones held in place by cement. National US cables may be laid as the FCC allows, and use technology that the FCC has approved - but these have no termination outside the US but these can be tapped and use a much simpler technology. Your journalism compares with Walt Disney.


On the Kennebunkport Clan

George and Barbara Bush, in Houston on Oct. 11, were introduced ahead of Game 3 of the American League Division Series between the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals. CreditBob Levey/Getty Images

Former President George Bush, 91 and frail, is straining to understand an election season that has, for his son and the Republican Party, lurched sharply and stunningly off script. And he is often bewildered by what he sees.

“I’m getting old,” he tells friends, appraising today’s politics, “at just the right time.”

These are confounding days for the Bush family and the network of advisers, donors and supporters who have helped sustain a political dynasty that began with the Senate victory by Prescott Bush, the older Mr. Bush’s father, in Connecticut 63 years ago. They have watched the rise of Donald J. Trump with alarm, and seen how Jeb Bush, the onetime Florida governor, has languished despite early advantages of political pedigree and campaign money.


AR is a trusted commenter Virginia
It is so nauseating, on so many levels, to read this kind of tripe about the Bush family. John Sununu, a truly nasty man who declared on TV that Barack Obama "should learn to be an American," is puzzled by the current GOP electorate? George H.W. Bush, the father of a hawkish non-participant in the Vietnam War (George W. Bush) who happily had his dirty operatives smear the war record of opponent John Kerry in 2004, can't understand how voters support Trump after he said negative things about John McCain? How about trying to understand how on earth anybody could vote for your own son over Kerry in 2004 after the Swift Boat attacks?

George H.W. Bush, I am sorry to say, is a pioneer among New England Yankee WASPs who decided to pander to the worst instincts of voters in ex-Confederate states like Texas and Florida. He hired junkyard dog of the first order Lee Atwater to run his despicable 1988 campaign for president. His two sons followed in his footsteps, with Jeb earlier this year declaring to a bunch of people in South Carolina that he wouldn't give "free stuff" to blacks. Never mind the sheer ludicrousness of a WASP child of privilege who was born with "free stuff" making a comment like this about the descendants of slaves.

The Bushes are like silk stockings filled with mud, some of the nastiest campaigners out there. Their demise in politics can't come soon enough, and that demise should be interpreted as a victory for all non-elite, non-wealthy Americans.

Hugh Centerville Wappingers Falls, NY
Poppy's memory must be failing. He fumed when Trump belittled McCain's service but when George II was running against John Kerry and the campaign needed George I to belittle Kerry's military service, Poppy was there for them.

Dave Monroe NY
I don't even know how to begin a response to this article! First, Neil Bush? Shouldn't he have done prison time for his role in the 1990s Savings & Loan scandals? Second, George H.W. Bush - he didn't lose because of Ross Perot; he lost because professional workers with advanced degrees (like me) couldn't get an interview or temporary job in 1992, and he seemed unaware and unconcerned about it. As for George W. Bush - well, books will be written for decades to come about his failures. Prescott Bush? The lawmaker who tried to remove FDR? I wish the Bushes would ride their motorized chairs into the sunset, never to be heard from again.

Steve CA
What Bush the Elder apparently fails to recognize is that he fathered not just a president and a presidential candidate, but in some ways the current Republican campaign as well. The Willie Horton issue that he exploited against Michael Dukakis in 1988 helped begat the scurrilous racial rumor-mongering that W employed about John McCain's child to win the South Carolina primary in 2000 and Karl Rove's swift-boating of Kerry that same year. Bush the Elder's campaign strategist, Lee Atwater, took dirty tactics to another level, and Karl Rove built on that for W.

Now, there is much more to the roots of the current Republican race than what George H.W. Bush did, not least in terms of the evolution of social media as a whole, right-wing blogging and the nastiness of Fox, Limbaugh, et al. And to his credit, the first President Bush (warts and all) really was a kinder, gentler and more policy-oriented soul than some current Republican contenders and many right-wing politicians. But if he wants to see who's partly responsible for his party's state of affairs, he need only look in the mirror.

V is a trusted commenter Los Angeles
"The elder Mr. Bush was fuming at the news of the day: Mr. Trump had belittled Sen. John McCain of Arizona for being taken prisoner in Vietnam.

“I can’t understand how somebody could say that and still be taken seriously,” said Mr. Bush."

Really, Mr. Bush?

Where was your outrage at the Swiftboating of war veteran Kerry in the 2004 election?

You Bushes with your Willie Horton ads and Swiftboating tactics have laid the groundwork for this disgusting political environment. And by the way, Jeb! is a lousy candidate with nothing to offer, except a Bush pedigree, which means nothing now. And the temerity of any Bush running after one of the worst presidencies in our history is breathtaking.

Thank you Donald Trump for this great public service you've accomplished in bringing down this political dynasty.

x WA
Better we should 'deeply wound' the Bush family pride than their family should do more damage to America.

California Teacher Healdsburg
Does his bewilderment also come from a place of entitlement? He can't understand what's happening because the populism fueling the GOP revolt is, in part, directed against the Bushes, who have for decades exercised the right to land their sons in coveted positions on the justification of nothing but birthright entitlement. Moreover, wasn't Bush's 1988 scorched earth campaign a harbinger of some of this nastiness in American politics? That slash-and-burn campaign prayed on emotions, focused on flag burning, the pledge, race cards, etc.

If George H.W. Bush is confounded by his party's turn from the mainstream, he can look at his son, George W. Bush. In spite of having Ivy-league degrees (however unmerited), he wore his ignorance on his sleeve. He referred glowingly to his then-foreign-policy tutor, Condi Rice, as explaining things in a way he can understand. He ran a nasty primary against John McCain which included insinuations that the Senator had fathered an illegitimate black child. He ascribed listening to "a higher father" for his reckless war policy. The bottom dropped out with George W. Bush's Presidency.

RealDeal New York, NY
Papa Bush has always had a hard time seeing over the walls of the family compound. His one-termer status is evidence of that. I'm not at all surprised that Fox News is how he gauges the nation -- let alone the GOP.

jlalbrecht Vienna, Austria
"Bush...is straining to understand an election season that has...lurched sharply and stunningly off script."

Nothing could be better for this country than for us (US) to throw away "the script" and get back to electing leaders that have the support of the majority of citizens, and not just a majority of major donors or the press.


Henry Paulson: “It would be totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal, the multilateral sanctions would remain in place.”
Paul Volcker: “This agreement is as good as you are going to get. To think that we can unilaterally maintain sanctions doesn’t make any sense.”

Bill Randle The Big A
Just listened to John Kerry's speech. Wow! I had no idea the man had that great a speech in him! Fantastic! Can't imagine how the rightwingers, warmongers, and Military Industrial Complex will respond. Secretary Kerry nailed them to the wall. Wish he had that kind of steam when he opposed Bush for the White House!

Way to go, John Kerry!!

Ric Fouad New York, NY
Every rational American should be gratified and relieved by this tremendous victory for the President—one that represents a moment of collective national sanity, and that showcased Mr. Obama's finest leadership qualities in the face of tremendous obstacles and Republican cynical partisanship.

But the struggle to gain these 34 votes also exposed the lack of leadership by Democratic Senator Chuck Schemer, who elevated crass politics above a monumental world goal.

Leaving aside Mr. Schumer's history of slavish devotion to Wall Street, support of the Iraq War, and other questionable behavior, this latest betrayal of Democratic principles—and blatant alignment with Republican obstructionists—makes plain that he should have no leadership role in the Democratic Party.

While an ideal outcome would be a primary challenger emerging to replace Senator Schumer in 2016, at a bare minimum, the Democratic leadership should desist from any further consideration of Mr. Schumer as the Senate Minority Leader.

If progressive values mean anything at all, the Democratic Party must end the affront of rewarding those within the party who betray its core principles. To impose Senator Schumer on us as the party's choice to lead Senate Democrats is a gross affront and will not be taken lightly by the party's rank-and-file. This time, Mr. Schumer has gone too far and consequences must follow.

Max duPont New York
Excellent. Now we will finally be safe from the over-the-top dramatics of the AIPAC lobby, Netanyahu, and their paid employees in the US Congress like Schumer, Menendez, the GOP "candidates" and others. Time for them to move on to other antics.

Brian P Austin, TX
The other side (which, this time, cannot be simply characterized as the GOP), lost for the same reason they have been losing through most of the Obama years: they did not present a reasonable, well-thought-out alternative. They didn't even try. Saying "This agreement is not good enough. We need to scrap it and start over" has become a joke. Republicans have not merely proven they cannot execute on ANYTHING -- they have proven they do not agree, or even approve, of the very concept of governing. I did not hear anyone opposed to the Iran deal present a solution to the single most important fact about the deal: the sanctions regime was on the verge of collapse (and the Russians waited, what, about 20 minutes before signing an arms deal with the Iranians.) Wake up, Republicans.

Delving Eye lower New England
History will look back on this time in America's military-industrial complex -- one that includes Dick "The Penguin" Cheney's war rants, Wall Street excesses, middle-class serfdom, school-loan burdens, healthcare exorbitancies, Donald Trump's clown car, and childhood hunger in the richest country on Earth (to name a few features of our pitiful landscape) -- and wonder how this sensible act of diplomacy actually occurred.

Ethan Ohio
Of course, support for the deal is not enthusiastic. The point of negotiations is that you negotiate and compromise. The final deal is the product of intense compromise and reflects a technical and political practice of realpolitik--what is good enough. The US doesn't run the world anymore, and congress isn't about to grasp that fact any time soon. Their behavior over this deal demonstrates why international treaties have been pursued as executive action over the last 40 years. If the legislature demands congress act like children, that's all we'll get, and the sum of our diplomacy will be war and temper tantrums.

cew Satellite Beach, FL
Great news. Glad to know that Addleson and Israel don't have total control of our congress and we can run our own country as we see fit with the help of a determined president. Right or wrong money and foreign pressure aren't in charge on this one.

Jaque Champaign, Illinois
It is good and bad news. Good is that Iran deal will go forward. Bad news is that 63 Senators are under the thumb of Israeli and Defense Lobby!

Jeff Cohen New York
This is good news on so many levels.
But don't forget this: a president stood up to the Israel lobby on a matter the lobby and Israel's prime minister said was vital to Israeli security and the president won.
Next time he or she should outline the terms of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement: ending the occupation in exchange for guarantees of both peoples' security. He should insist on its implementation, linking it to the continuation of US support for one or both parties.
Like the Iran deal, ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vital U.S. interest.
The lobby has been shown NOT to be a paper tiger (it is still powerful) but indeed one when a president says "US interests come before Israel's desires."
As the Iran debate showed, a president--and not only this one--will defeat the lobby when that is the choice.
Now it's time to end the occupation. Neither the lobby nor Israel's prime minister can defeat a resolute president.
And that is good news for the US, Israel and Palestine.

Adam Smith NY
IRAN Deal Is Too Big To Fail.

EVEN the opponents of the Deal know that and the rest of this spectacle has been to embarrass Mr. Obama and extract more Weapons free of Charge for Israel paid by the US Taxpayer.

AS for Netanyahu/Likud/AIPAC et al, they know that delaying the recognition of the Palestinian State is no longer possible and dread the upcoming French Resolution on Israel/Palestine Conflict at the UN.

THIS Deal has vastly reduced threats to Israel and America's own Security and it is incumbent on the remaining Ten Democratic Senators to all come on-side by the Weekend and avoid an Unnecessary Theatrical Vote in Congress.

ANY undecided Politician or Citizen just needs to consider that the P5+1 Deal with Iran has pushed Iran's "Breakout Capacity" to Arm a "DOZEN Bombs" from a matter of Weeks NOW to an ability to Arm ONLY "ONE Bomb" after 15 Years.

AND my message to the Naysayers is: "The Greatest Enemy Of A Good Deal, In This Case A Brilliant Deal, Is The Illusion Of Having A Perfect Deal".


Trade-Agreement Troubles


In 2012, Australia implemented tough anti-tobacco regulations, requiring that all cigarettes be sold in plain, logo-free brown packages dominated by health warnings. Philip Morris Asia filed suit, claiming that this violated its intellectual-property rights and would damage its investments. The company sued Australia in domestic court and lost. But it had another card to play. In 1993, Australia had signed a free-trade agreement with Hong Kong, where Philip Morris Asia is based. That agreement included provisions protecting foreign investors from unfair treatment. So the company sued under that deal, claiming that the new law violated the investor-protection provisions. It asked for the regulations to be discontinued, and for billions in compensation.

The case has yet to be decided, but the concerns it raises help explain President Obama’s embarrassing setback last week, when the House failed to give him fast-track authority over one of two big trade agreements that had been envisaged as a key part of his legacy. Both agreements—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with eleven Asian and Pacific countries, and an agreement with Europe called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership—include provisions very like the ones at the heart of Australia’s fight with Big Tobacco. Known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (or I.S.D.S.) provisions, they typically allow foreign investors to sue governments when they feel they have not received “fair or equitable treatment,” and to have their cases heard not by a domestic court but by an international arbitration tribunal made up of three lawyers.

These provisions have been opposed by an unusual coalition of progressives and conservatives, who contend that they will let multinationals override government policy, and, as Senator Elizabeth Warren put it, “undermine U.S. sovereignty.” On the other side, the Obama Administration and business groups insist that this is just fear-mongering. They point out that I.S.D.S. provisions have been around for fifty years, that lawsuits under them are rare, and that companies typically don’t win them. I.S.D.S., they argue, doesn’t limit the ability of governments to regulate but gives foreign investors some redress if they get treated unfairly. That makes them more likely to invest in countries that don’t have robust legal systems, which fuels economic growth. In the old days, aggrieved American investors would call on the Navy to protect their interests—thus the phrase “gunboat diplomacy.” How much better that now they just call their lawyers.

But these days signing such agreements is risky for countries. I.S.D.S. lawsuits used to be rare, but they’re becoming a growth industry. Nearly a hundred have been filed in the past two years, as against some five hundred in the quarter century before that. Investor protection, previously a sideshow in corporate law, is now a regular part of law-school curricula. “We’ve also seen an expansion in the types of claims that have been brought,” Lise Johnson, the head of investment law and policy at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, told me. I.S.D.S. was originally meant to protect investors against seizure of their assets by foreign governments. Now I.S.D.S. lawsuits go after things like cancelled licenses, unapproved permits, and unwelcome regulations.

This mission creep has been abetted by the fact that the language of I.S.D.S. provisions is often vague. Jason Yackee, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin who specializes in international-investment law, told me, “The rights given to investors are so open-ended and ambiguous that they allow for a lot of creative lawyering.” Canada lost a case where it had rejected, after an environmental study, a proposed mining and marine-terminal project. The country was also sued when Quebec imposed a moratorium on fracking. Germany is in the midst of a $4.7-billion lawsuit occasioned by its decision to phase out nuclear power. Uruguay is facing a lawsuit from Philip Morris International, much like the one brought against Australia.

There’s nothing wrong with domestic courts reviewing government regulations, but outsourcing the responsibility to international tribunals is troubling. “In effect, you’re giving these arbitrators the power of review over domestic law and regulation,” Yackee said. However you spin it, it’s an infringement on the democratic process. I.S.D.S. advocates insist that companies can sue only to receive compensation, not to roll back regulations, but Johnson said, “When you talk to government officials, it’s clear that there is a chilling effect.” After Philip Morris Asia sued Australia, New Zealand delayed similar regulations.

Furthermore, studies suggest that I.S.D.S. has little impact on investment flows, even for developing countries. And for the U.S. it’s totally superfluous, as we have no trouble convincing foreign investors that their money will be legally protected. Investors, too, can now buy political-risk insurance to protect themselves against the possibility of loss.

I.S.D.S.-style provisions may once have made sense. But they’re now outdated and unnecessary. And including them in trade agreements undermines the broader case for free trade, by making it look like exactly what people fear—a system designed to put corporate interests above public ones. If the Administration wants these deals to be seen as legitimate, it can start by excising the I.S.D.S. provisions. We no longer send out the gunboats. Let’s call back the lawyers, too. ♦


Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault

The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin
By John J. Mearsheimer

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

But this account is wrong: the United States and its European allies share most of the responsibility for the crisis. The taproot of the trouble is NATO enlargement, the central element of a larger strategy to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and integrate it into the West. At the same time, the EU’s expansion eastward and the West’s backing of the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine -- beginning with the Orange Revolution in 2004 -- were critical elements, too. Since the mid-1990s, Russian leaders have adamantly opposed NATO enlargement, and in recent years, they have made it clear that they would not stand by while their strategically important neighbor turned into a Western bastion. For Putin, the illegal overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected and pro-Russian president -- which he rightly labeled a “coup” -- was the final straw. He responded by taking Crimea, a peninsula he feared would host a NATO naval base, and working to destabilize Ukraine until it abandoned its efforts to join the West.

Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise. After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests, a point Putin made emphatically and repeatedly. Elites in the United States and Europe have been blindsided by events only because they subscribe to a flawed view of international politics. They tend to believe that the logic of realism holds little relevance in the twenty-first century and that Europe can be kept whole and free on the basis of such liberal principles as the rule of law, economic interdependence, and democracy.

But this grand scheme went awry in Ukraine. The crisis there shows that realpolitik remains relevant -- and states that ignore it do so at their own peril. U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.

U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border.


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

The first round of enlargement took place in 1999 and brought in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The second occurred in 2004; it included Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Moscow complained bitterly from the start. During NATO’s 1995 bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, for example, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said, “This is the first sign of what could happen when NATO comes right up to the Russian Federation’s borders. ... The flame of war could burst out across the whole of Europe.” But the Russians were too weak at the time to derail NATO’s eastward movement -- which, at any rate, did not look so threatening, since none of the new members shared a border with Russia, save for the tiny Baltic countries.

Then NATO began looking further east. At its April 2008 summit in Bucharest, the alliance considered admitting Georgia and Ukraine. The George W. Bush administration supported doing so, but France and Germany opposed the move for fear that it would unduly antagonize Russia. In the end, NATO’s members reached a compromise: the alliance did not begin the formal process leading to membership, but it issued a statement endorsing the aspirations of Georgia and Ukraine and boldly declaring, “These countries will become members of NATO.”

Moscow, however, did not see the outcome as much of a compromise. Alexander Grushko, then Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said, “Georgia’s and Ukraine’s membership in the alliance is a huge strategic mistake which would have most serious consequences for pan-European security.” Putin maintained that admitting those two countries to NATO would represent a “direct threat” to Russia. One Russian newspaper reported that Putin, while speaking with Bush, “very transparently hinted that if Ukraine was accepted into NATO, it would cease to exist.”

Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August 2008 should have dispelled any remaining doubts about Putin’s determination to prevent Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was deeply committed to bringing his country into NATO, had decided in the summer of 2008 to reincorporate two separatist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But Putin sought to keep Georgia weak and divided -- and out of NATO. After fighting broke out between the Georgian government and South Ossetian separatists, Russian forces took control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow had made its point. Yet despite this clear warning, NATO never publicly abandoned its goal of bringing Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. And NATO expansion continued marching forward, with Albania and Croatia becoming members in 2009.

The EU, too, has been marching eastward. In May 2008, it unveiled its Eastern Partnership initiative, a program to foster prosperity in such countries as Ukraine and integrate them into the EU economy. Not surprisingly, Russian leaders view the plan as hostile to their country’s interests. This past February, before Yanukovych was forced from office, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the EU of trying to create a “sphere of influence” in eastern Europe. In the eyes of Russian leaders, EU expansion is a stalking horse for NATO expansion.

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

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


Imagine the American outrage if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico.

The West’s triple package of policies -- NATO enlargement, EU expansion, and democracy promotion -- added fuel to a fire waiting to ignite. The spark came in November 2013, when Yanukovych rejected a major economic deal he had been negotiating with the EU and decided to accept a $15 billion Russian counteroffer instead. That decision gave rise to antigovernment demonstrations that escalated over the following three months and that by mid-February had led to the deaths of some one hundred protesters. Western emissaries hurriedly flew to Kiev to resolve the crisis. On February 21, the government and the opposition struck a deal that allowed Yanukovych to stay in power until new elections were held. But it immediately fell apart, and Yanukovych fled to Russia the next day. The new government in Kiev was pro-Western and anti-Russian to the core, and it contained four high-ranking members who could legitimately be labeled neofascists.

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

For Putin, the time to act against Ukraine and the West had arrived. Shortly after February 22, he ordered Russian forces to take Crimea from Ukraine, and soon after that, he incorporated it into Russia. The task proved relatively easy, thanks to the thousands of Russian troops already stationed at a naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Crimea also made for an easy target since ethnic Russians compose roughly 60 percent of its population. Most of them wanted out of Ukraine.

Next, Putin put massive pressure on the new government in Kiev to discourage it from siding with the West against Moscow, making it clear that he would wreck Ukraine as a functioning state before he would allow it to become a Western stronghold on Russia’s doorstep. Toward that end, he has provided advisers, arms, and diplomatic support to the Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, who are pushing the country toward civil war. He has massed a large army on the Ukrainian border, threatening to invade if the government cracks down on the rebels. And he has sharply raised the price of the natural gas Russia sells to Ukraine and demanded payment for past exports. Putin is playing hardball.


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

Washington may not like Moscow’s position, but it should understand the logic behind it. This is Geopolitics 101: great powers are always sensitive to potential threats near their home territory. After all, the United States does not tolerate distant great powers deploying military forces anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, much less on its borders. Imagine the outrage in Washington if China built an impressive military alliance and tried to include Canada and Mexico in it. Logic aside, Russian leaders have told their Western counterparts on many occasions that they consider NATO expansion into Georgia and Ukraine unacceptable, along with any effort to turn those countries against Russia -- a message that the 2008 Russian-Georgian war also made crystal clear.

Officials from the United States and its European allies contend that they tried hard to assuage Russian fears and that Moscow should understand that NATO has no designs on Russia. In addition to continually denying that its expansion was aimed at containing Russia, the alliance has never permanently deployed military forces in its new member states. In 2002, it even created a body called the NATO-Russia Council in an effort to foster cooperation. To further mollify Russia, the United States announced in 2009 that it would deploy its new missile defense system on warships in European waters, at least initially, rather than on Czech or Polish territory. But none of these measures worked; the Russians remained steadfastly opposed to NATO enlargement, especially into Georgia and Ukraine. And it is the Russians, not the West, who ultimately get to decide what counts as a threat to them.

To understand why the West, especially the United States, failed to understand that its Ukraine policy was laying the groundwork for a major clash with Russia, one must go back to the mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration began advocating NATO expansion. Pundits advanced a variety of arguments for and against enlargement, but there was no consensus on what to do. Most eastern European émigrés in the United States and their relatives, for example, strongly supported expansion, because they wanted NATO to protect such countries as Hungary and Poland. A few realists also favored the policy because they thought Russia still needed to be contained.

But most realists opposed expansion, in the belief that a declining great power with an aging population and a one-dimensional economy did not in fact need to be contained. And they feared that enlargement would only give Moscow an incentive to cause trouble in eastern Europe. The U.S. diplomat George Kennan articulated this perspective in a 1998 interview, shortly after the U.S. Senate approved the first round of NATO expansion. “I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies,” he said. “I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anyone else.”

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

Most liberals, on the other hand, favored enlargement, including many key members of the Clinton administration. They believed that the end of the Cold War had fundamentally transformed international politics and that a new, postnational order had replaced the realist logic that used to govern Europe. The United States was not only the “indispensable nation,” as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it; it was also a benign hegemon and thus unlikely to be viewed as a threat in Moscow. The aim, in essence, was to make the entire continent look like western Europe.

And so the United States and its allies sought to promote democracy in the countries of eastern Europe, increase economic interdependence among them, and embed them in international institutions. Having won the debate in the United States, liberals had little difficulty convincing their European allies to support NATO enlargement. After all, given the EU’s past achievements, Europeans were even more wedded than Americans to the idea that geopolitics no longer mattered and that an all-inclusive liberal order could maintain peace in Europe.

So thoroughly did liberals come to dominate the discourse about European security during the first decade of this century that even as the alliance adopted an open-door policy of growth, NATO expansion faced little realist opposition. The liberal worldview is now accepted dogma among U.S. officials. In March, for example, President Barack Obama delivered a speech about Ukraine in which he talked repeatedly about “the ideals” that motivate Western policy and how those ideals “have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power.” Secretary of State John Kerry’s response to the Crimea crisis reflected this same perspective: “You just don’t in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.”

In essence, the two sides have been operating with different playbooks: Putin and his compatriots have been thinking and acting according to realist dictates, whereas their Western counterparts have been adhering to liberal ideas about international politics. The result is that the United States and its allies unknowingly provoked a major crisis over Ukraine.


In that same 1998 interview, Kennan predicted that NATO expansion would provoke a crisis, after which the proponents of expansion would “say that we always told you that is how the Russians are.” As if on cue, most Western officials have portrayed Putin as the real culprit in the Ukraine predicament. In March, according to The New York Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel implied that Putin was irrational, telling Obama that he was “in another world.” Although Putin no doubt has autocratic tendencies, no evidence supports the charge that he is mentally unbalanced. On the contrary: he is a first-class strategist who should be feared and respected by anyone challenging him on foreign policy.

Other analysts allege, more plausibly, that Putin regrets the demise of the Soviet Union and is determined to reverse it by expanding Russia’s borders. According to this interpretation, Putin, having taken Crimea, is now testing the waters to see if the time is right to conquer Ukraine, or at least its eastern part, and he will eventually behave aggressively toward other countries in Russia’s neighborhood. For some in this camp, Putin represents a modern-day Adolf Hitler, and striking any kind of deal with him would repeat the mistake of Munich. Thus, NATO must admit Georgia and Ukraine to contain Russia before it dominates its neighbors and threatens western Europe.

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

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

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


Given that most Western leaders continue to deny that Putin’s behavior might be motivated by legitimate security concerns, it is unsurprising that they have tried to modify it by doubling down on their existing policies and have punished Russia to deter further aggression. Although Kerry has maintained that “all options are on the table,” neither the United States nor its NATO allies are prepared to use force to defend Ukraine. The West is relying instead on economic sanctions to coerce Russia into ending its support for the insurrection in eastern Ukraine. In July, the United States and the EU put in place their third round of limited sanctions, targeting mainly high-level individuals closely tied to the Russian government and some high-profile banks, energy companies, and defense firms. They also threatened to unleash another, tougher round of sanctions, aimed at whole sectors of the Russian economy.

Such measures will have little effect. Harsh sanctions are likely off the table anyway; western European countries, especially Germany, have resisted imposing them for fear that Russia might retaliate and cause serious economic damage within the EU. But even if the United States could convince its allies to enact tough measures, Putin would probably not alter his decision-making. History shows that countries will absorb enormous amounts of punishment in order to protect their core strategic interests. There is no reason to think Russia represents an exception to this rule.

Western leaders have also clung to the provocative policies that precipitated the crisis in the first place. In April, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden met with Ukrainian legislators and told them, “This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution.” John Brennan, the director of the CIA, did not help things when, that same month, he visited Kiev on a trip the White House said was aimed at improving security cooperation with the Ukrainian government.

The EU, meanwhile, has continued to push its Eastern Partnership. In March, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, summarized EU thinking on Ukraine, saying, “We have a debt, a duty of solidarity with that country, and we will work to have them as close as possible to us.” And sure enough, on June 27, the EU and Ukraine signed the economic agreement that Yanukovych had fatefully rejected seven months earlier. Also in June, at a meeting of NATO members’ foreign ministers, it was agreed that the alliance would remain open to new members, although the foreign ministers refrained from mentioning Ukraine by name. “No third country has a veto over NATO enlargement,” announced Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary-general. The foreign ministers also agreed to support various measures to improve Ukraine’s military capabilities in such areas as command and control, logistics, and cyberdefense. Russian leaders have naturally recoiled at these actions; the West’s response to the crisis will only make a bad situation worse.

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

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

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

One also hears the claim that Ukraine has the right to determine whom it wants to ally with and the Russians have no right to prevent Kiev from joining the West. This is a dangerous way for Ukraine to think about its foreign policy choices. The sad truth is that might often makes right when great-power politics are at play. Abstract rights such as self-determination are largely meaningless when powerful states get into brawls with weaker states. Did Cuba have the right to form a military alliance with the Soviet Union during the Cold War? The United States certainly did not think so, and the Russians think the same way about Ukraine joining the West. It is in Ukraine’s interest to understand these facts of life and tread carefully when dealing with its more powerful neighbor.

Even if one rejects this analysis, however, and believes that Ukraine has the right to petition to join the EU and NATO, the fact remains that the United States and its European allies have the right to reject these requests. There is no reason that the West has to accommodate Ukraine if it is bent on pursuing a wrong-headed foreign policy, especially if its defense is not a vital interest. Indulging the dreams of some Ukrainians is not worth the animosity and strife it will cause, especially for the Ukrainian people.

Of course, some analysts might concede that NATO handled relations with Ukraine poorly and yet still maintain that Russia constitutes an enemy that will only grow more formidable over time -- and that the West therefore has no choice but to continue its present policy. But this viewpoint is badly mistaken. Russia is a declining power, and it will only get weaker with time. Even if Russia were a rising power, moreover, it would still make no sense to incorporate Ukraine into NATO. The reason is simple: the United States and its European allies do not consider Ukraine to be a core strategic interest, as their unwillingness to use military force to come to its aid has proved. It would therefore be the height of folly to create a new NATO member that the other members have no intention of defending. NATO has expanded in the past because liberals assumed the alliance would never have to honor its new security guarantees, but Russia’s recent power play shows that granting Ukraine NATO membership could put Russia and the West on a collision course.

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

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

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

"In March, according to The New York Times, German Chancellor Angela Merkel implied that Putin was irrational, telling Obama that he was “in another world."
Question: Who the hell would leak just 3 words from a conversation between Obama and Merkel to the NYT?
Anyway, the Office of the Federal Chancellor told a German newspaper: Merkel did not say that Putin was irrational, what she said was Putin has a different perception, a different viewpoint concerning the situation in Crimea.
But the Guardian headlines: Vladimir Putin has lost the plot, says German chancellor
An Madeleine Albright goes on CNN to "agree" with Merkel.
Somebody in Washington sabotaged Merkel's attempt to diplomatically defuse the situation and used her for some nice Propaganda. If I were her I would be furious.

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      This isn't the case, Merkel is fully devoted to implementing Washington's war agenda against Russia. Germany is the real US trojan horse in Europe, not little and irrelevant Britain, and the country through which the Transatlantic policies are filtered and imposed on Europe. It helps a lot that Germany detached itself in the past from the military adventures of the US, unlike France and Britain, and always kept a a low profile when it came to war rhetoric to cover for its role as the main enabler and facilitator of the US agenda in Europe. BTW this isn't what Merkel said about Putin, only another example of the NYT being the official outlet of Washington's war agenda, assigned with the responsibility to twist facts and fabricate evidence to sell wars and regime change.

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        I am fairly certain that German's stance is mostly influenced by the derivatives schemes Deutsche Bank is wrapped up in. These are liabilities many times the size of Germany's economy, and the Fed has threatened to pull the plug on it.

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          The attack on the Euro and the dismantling of the European Union
          "This tactical action is coupled with a strategic operation, that of a drive to dismantle the EU to the advantage of an economic union spanning the two continents. The project to create a grand transatlantic market [5] is the most visible manifestation of this thrust. It is in light of the second objective that one is able to understand the attitude of Germany which, just as readily with the struggle against tax evasion as with the attack on the euro, has provided support for the American offensive.This two-fold approach is consistent with the commitment of this European state to the establishment of a transatlantic economic union."

    it seems the Professor has never visited Ukraine or Russia as he expresses the shallowest understanding of their economies. And that is the one thing that seems to be significantly missing from his arguments. Strategic This, Nato That and Cold War Other, the message holding this piece together. Long on historic knowledge and narrative but ignores the basic fact that Ukrainians - 'average' Ukrainians - seek to bind themselves to the EU because they see this as a means to deliver them from the crushing corruption which is Ukraine and which is, unsurprisingly, Russia too. That may seem naive to us, but corruption isn't just an occasional inconvenience as it may be in other parts of Europe, it is a *way of life* to them. And as far as Russian behaviour is concerned this is far more a question of Putin's misguided paranoia (fanned by the new rasputin on the block, Dugin) than it is a resurgent Russian bear. He's whipped the press who in turn have whipped up public nationalism like only the Great Choirmaster (Koroviev himself) could do.

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      Dugin? The man who has never once met Putin? And you are to be taken seriously?
      Where do you think Ukraine's corruption comes from? The oligarchs stash money in Western accounts - in England, the Netherlands, etc. That makes them a pro-Western oligarchy, which leaves a snowball's chance in hell that EU will do anything about corruption. Now EU is about empire building and bullying small countries into submission from Brussels, when it was founded to be a common market - nothing more.

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        More Ukrainian troll garbage

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          Troll?? нет!..... I mean No! OMG I've been outed :-(
          seriously, the summers here are far too bad to be anywhere close to Ukraine.
          (clue: we're about to have a referendum, like the one in Crimea - except without the little green men)

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          Spot on, where he just looks at the problem as a geopolitical game of chess, and that the Ukrainian population's views and aspirations are irreverent. As a sovereign nation Ukraine has every right to enter into any alliances, trade agreements and military pacts that they wish to.
          If their bullying neighbour and former occupiers of Ukraine had treated the Ukrainian people a little less cruelly and less corruptly over the last 100 years, then maybe the pull towards friendlier, free, democratic, much less corrupt nations to their west would not be so strong.
          My wife's family survived the 1932-33 Holodomor, many in their village didn't and talking to them it becomes clear that this was the point where they no longer wanted to be influenced or ruled in anyway by Russians or Russia.

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            I thought the views of the Ukrainians were expressed via elections, which were won by Mr Yanukovic, in a vote that even the US and the EU deemed as fair and valid. I doubt that there exists any majority in Ukraine, even now, who want to severe ALL the ties with Russia. There are MILLIONS of Ukrainians in Russia, and dozens of million Russians have Ukrainian roots (how many surnames in -enko?). They are all descendents of the same people (East Slavic tribes), they are part of the same linguistic continuum, they practice the same religion. People who can declare themselves "Ukrainians" today, can declare themselves "Russians" tomorrow, and vice versa, as already happened in the past. Things are complicated. Otherwise, there would not be a civil war there.

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              ....and guess what: there IS NO civil war there!! There is only a very thinly disguised Russian invasion (that has indeed recruited the local remnants of Yanukovich's power structures and various other local elements).
              Of course most Ukrainians do not want to "severe all ties with Russia"! That would be insane. A vast majority of Ukrainians would however like to have respectful neighbourly ties and engage in trade under WTO rules. But apparently, respect for Ukrainians is something that Russia and most Russians cannot muster.
              You are right, there are indeed millions of Ukrainians in Russia and millions more with Ukrainian roots; there is also NOT ONE Ukrainian school in Russia. A small Ukrainian library in Moscow put together by local Ukrainians was shut down. All Ukrainian schools in Crimea have been shut down since this spring (and bilingual public signs have had the Ukrainian removed). Every method imaginable, from mass murder and terror, to forced dislocation, to social pressure, has been used the Russian state in its various incarnations, to assimilate Ukrainians into the so-called "russkyj mir" (people were being thrown out of university in Kharkiv as late as the 80s for speaking Ukrainian in the hallways). I know the personal histories of my Russian-citizen "-enko" relatives. Look at the personal histories of all those "-enko" people in Russia (e.g. at Putin's bud Tymchenko) for a glimpse at how this Russification worked: it is not a pretty picture.

        Nice analysis. Except that the Ukraine crisis is not about NATO, nobody in Ukraine or outside sees this as something to pursue. The protests on Maidan were also not anti-Russian, all opposition leaders have a track record of working nicely with Russians in previous governments. The crisis is also not going to be solved in Washington, Brussels or Moscow. When the opposition signed the February 21 agreement with Yanukovich the people told them to shove it (and Klitchko's political career was over). Ukrainians have elected with an overwhelming majority a pro-western president not because they are anti-Russian (they still aren't, they are anti-Putin) but because they decided to get rid of post-Soviet cronyism which is keeping them economically far behind other nations next-door that used to be in the Soviet and prospered after becoming EU members. This is a risk for Putin's regime bigger than encirclement by a disarming NATO, that Russians inspired by Ukraine will one day demand the same freedom and rule of law.
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          The majority of protesters at all times on the Maidan were from Western Ukraine, and the Maidan "self-defense forces" were comprised of Right Sector.
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            Not true, Russian was spoken on Maidan as much as Ukrainian, the entire Ukrainian spectrum of language, ethnics and social background was on Maidan, from football hooligans to priests and the big majority in between. I myself met protesters from Belarus and Russia who mixed with Ukrainians driven by the same ideals. Of course, Western Ukraine with its more European than Mongol history and thousands of people working and trading across the border in Europe would be more inclined to stand up for freedom and rule of law than the blue collar workers of the East, although also there majorities support Ukraine's unity and independence from its former colonial master.

        Mearsheimer's focus is properly on Washington, though I don't think he provided an adequate account of the dynamics in play.
        For one thing, the reckless and aggressive policy in Ukraine and with Russia in general is hardly a liberal franchise. Yes, Clinton (the President) and Clinton (the Secretary of State) were driving figures to the dangerous conundrum being played out. But Hillary recruited the neo-Con faction in the person of Victoria Nuland, famously married into the Kagan clan. The neo-Cons are even more aggressive than the liberal "democracy" forces in confronting the Russians.
        In any case, Obama-Clinton forged a new Washington Consensus regarding Russia and East Europe.
        But let's add context. At the moment Ukraine is only one of at least three powder kegs set to ignite WW III, the others being, first, the Middle East, now little more than a pile of rubble presided over by Gulf States financed Islamist war lords. The second, of course, is the infamous Asian Pivot.
        It seems that the new Washington Consensus amounts to doubling down on full spectrum dominance and eradication of all potential rival blocs that might challenge American hegemony, the George W. Bush National Security Strategy referred to as "The Big Enchilada". Amid crumbling economic and financial prospects the Consensus is willing to risk nuclear confrontation with Russia to remain the sole SuperPower, right to the bitter end.
        The great danger is the brinksmanship this entails introduces accidental or miscalculated events that escalate to thermonuclear war.

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