Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, The Moscow Times and other voices are speculating that Russia is about to trade the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics back to Kiev in return for the U.S. lifting some sanctions and Washington working with Moscow to resolve the Syria conflict on terms more favorable to Assad. Crimea is reportedly not apart of any 'deal' that has supposedly been the subject of talks between Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland and top Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov held this mid-month in Kaliningrad, and thus some U.S. sanctions over the 'illegal annexation' supported by over 90% of the Crimean people will remain in place in this promulgated scenario.
Maybe I'm still too optimistic, but Putin appears ready to give up Donbass in exchange for sanctions relief. Could be biggest news of 2016.
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) January 25, 2016
If this triumph for the Obama Administration's 'smart diplomacy' is about to take place, it seems no one informed Vladimir Putin, judging by the Russian president's remarks this week about how the Donbass historically was a part of Russia, and how attaching the region to the newly formed Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in the early 1920s was a huge mistake by Vladimir Lenin. Yes that same Lenin whose statues many Ukrainian activists have sent tumbling across the former Soviet republic and sought to ban since the U.S.-backed Maidan coup d'etat of February 2014. The same Lenin who founded the USSR which Putin is regularly accused of seeking to revive, and of dragging the Ukrainians if not the Balts back into the Evil Empire against their will. The same Lenin whose Bolsheviks promoted policies of militant atheism and Ukrainization, at the expense of older Carpatho-Rusyn, Cossack 'hetman' and Orthodox Christian identities that had defined Malorussians' sense of identity in the centuries before many of them started calling themselves Ukrainians in the late 19th century.
Also this week, Putin's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Secretary of State John Kerry. The two diplomats exchanged warm handshakes and words, while Lavrov quite pointedly ignored 'Tolia 'F--- the EU' Nuland as the cameras rolled.
UPDATE: Moscow-based Aussie journalist John Helmer has more thoughts on Lavrov's snub of Nuland here.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held a meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, last Wednesday, January 20, with US Secretary of State, John Kerry. The meeting-room and press opportunity were set up by State Department officials.
One of the Kerry delegation was Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. She is one of several Washington officials directing the war against Russia on the Ukraine front.
In her arsenal, Nuland’s mouth has been used to attack European governments reluctant to join her war, as her “Fuck the EU” remark to US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, revealed at the start of 2014, before President Victor Yanukovich was ousted in Kiev.
The sequence of stills showing Lavrov greeting the US delegation for the press, ahead of the Zurich talks, has been extracted from a videotape recorded by a Russian press camera crew. Lavrov’s hand shakes every US official introduced by Kerry (1), except for Nuland.
Her hand was extended (2), then slipped, or slapped past, as Lavrov turned to his left to greet each of the junior US officials lining the wall. As he did so, Lavrov presented Nuland with his right shoulder. Nuland’s mouth fell open (3); the microphones recorded that nothing came out.
As with President Barack Obama and the Anglo-American mainstream media's claims of just a few weeks ago that 'Russia is getting bogged down in another Afghanistan-style quagmire in Syria', 'the Russians and the pro-Assad forces aren't making any gains on the ground' -- draw your own conclusions as to the validity of the latest set of U.S./UK MSM talking points about the Russians.
Moscow's economy may be hurting from oil prices falling through the floor, but on the battlefields of the Donbass and Syria the Russians still holds the high cards, and Secretary of State Kerry knows it. It's a hallmark of Washington's preference for fantasy over reality, that even as American foreign policy is failing on nearly every front or is only 'succeeding' via fiat money printing to bribe 'allies' or major concessions to 'enemies', that declaring victory (peremoga in Ukrainian) is now all the rage.
After all, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinpeng and Hassan Rouhani are just a few boogeyman too many right now. The new enemy no. 1 of the Beltway bandits and neocons today is Donald Trump. Vlad and his allies in China and Iran might threaten team neocon's geopolitical pretensions to lead the world's only superpower and to represent The Indispensable Nation™, but The Donald winning the GOP nomination could mean people cancel their own g-d-amn subscriptions to National Review and might even quit watching Megyn Kelly smirk or Glenn Beck cry. And who really knows where that could end, the suckers might force us all to - gasp! - get real non-K Street jobs or do something besides run money-losing magazines for Boss Murdoch or the Saudi/Qatari princes funding our pro 'Syrian rebel' L Street/Massachusetts Avenue slush funds think tanks!
From Yury Orlov ["Defeat is Victory", January 19, 2016]:
On the wall of George Orwell's Ministry of Truth from his novel 1984 there were three slogans:
WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
It occurred to me that these apply just a little bit too well to the way the Washington, DC establishment operates.
War certainly is peace: just look at how peaceful Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Ukraine have become thanks to their peacemaking efforts. The only departures from absolute peacefulness which might be taking place there have to do with the fact that there are some people still alive there. This should resolve itself on its own, especially in the Ukraine, where the people now face the prospect of surviving a cold winter without heat or electricity.
Freedom is indeed slavery: to enjoy their “freedom,” Americans spend most of their lives working off debt, be it a mortgage, medical debt incurred due to an illness, or student loans. Alternatively, they can also enjoy it by rotting in jail. They also work longer hours with less time off and worse benefits than in any other developed country, and their wages haven't increased in two generations.
And what keeps it all happening is the fact that ignorance is indeed strength; if it wasn't for the Americans' overwhelming, willful ignorance of both their own affairs and the world at large, they would have rebelled by now, and the whole house of cards would have come tumbling down.
But there is a fourth slogan they need to add to the wall of Washington's Ministry of Truth. It is this:
DEFEAT IS VICTORY
The preposterous nature of the first three slogans can be finessed away in various ways. It's awkward to claim that American involvements in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Syria or the Ukraine have produced “peace,” exactly, but various lying officials and assorted national teletubbies still find it possible to claim that they somehow averted worse (totally made-up) dangers like Iraqi/Syrian “weapons of mass destruction.” What they have produced is endless war financed by runaway debt which is leading to economic ruin. But ignorance helps a lot here.
Likewise, it is possible, though a bit awkward, to claim that slavery is freedom—because, you see, once you have discharged your duties as a slave, can go home and read whatever crazy nonsense you want on some blog or other. This is of course silly; you can stuff your head with whatever “knowledge” you like, but if you try acting on it you will quickly discover that you aren't allowed to. “Back in line, slave!”
You can also take the opposite tack and claim that freedom is for layabouts while we the productive people have to rush from one scheduled activity to another, and herd our children around in the same manner, avoiding “unstructured time” like a plague, and that this is not at all like slavery. Not at all. Not even close. Nobody tells me what to do! (Looks down at smartphone to see what's next on today's to-do list).
With ignorance, you don't even have to make the case: ignorant people are some of the most knowledgeable people on earth—according to them. I see that all the time in the hundreds of blog comments I delete; ones that start with “Surely you must know that [something I don't know]” or “By now it should be clear to everyone that [something unclear]” are particularly amusing. On some days I find such ignorance almost overpowering, and so ignorance is indeed strength.
But it is very hard to claim that defeat is victory, and herein lies a great challenge for the Washington, DC establishment. When they are victorious, your leaders get to have their way with the world; when they are defeated, the world has its way with them. This is something that is hard to hide: your leaders say what it is they want to do; and then they either succeed at it or fail. When they fail, they still try to call it a success, but if you look at their original statements of purpose, and then the results, and the two don't match at all, then it looks just a bit like a defeat-ish sort of thingy no matter how they writhe and squirm and twist. This is a good thing, because with all the propaganda the Ministry of Truth puts out, it is hard for the average person to ascertain the nature of the “facts on the ground.” But when it comes to victory vs. defeat, you can usually take it straight from the horse's rectum. Yes, the Ministry's public relations consultants can still claim that “we forced the enemy to give us a free deep-tissue massage of our glutei maximi,” but a precocious 8th-grader can still decode that to “We got our asses kicked.”
So, allow me to enumerate some American victories. Or should I say defeats? Your choice; the two are the same.
• Thanks to the trillion or so spent on the war effort, the 1.5 million Iraqi casualties, and the 5,000 dead US soldiers, there is no longer any al Qaeda in Iraq now (just like there was under Saddam Hussein) and the country is free and democratic. • Thanks to many years of continuous effort which cost well over half a trillion dollars and the lives of 3500 or so coalition soldiers, the Taleban in Afghanistan have been vanquished and the country is now at peace.
• The Syrian regime has been overthrown and Syria is now peaceful and democratic, and not at all a war-torn basket case that has produced over a million refugees, a large part of it ruled by Islamic militants that are too radical even for al Qaeda.
• Overall, the problem of Islamic extremism has been dealt with once for all, and George W. Bush's “Islamofascists” (remember that term?) are but a vague memory. ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State are something else entirely, plus us bombing them sporadically at great expense has “degraded” them a tiny bit... maybe.
• Thanks to a perfectly legal and very necessary US-managed coup, Ukraine is on its way to being a stable and prosperous member of the EU and NATO, and the freedom-loving Ukrainians are no longer at all dependent on Russian gas, coal and nuclear fuel for being able to merely survive the winter of 2014-15, [sic 2016 JWS] or on Russian good will to send in humanitarian relief convoys, house and feed the refugees from their civil war, or broker their peace agreements with each other.
• In accordance with our grand geopolitical strategy for eternal world domination, we successfully kicked Russia out of Crimea and are busy building a huge NATO military base there to make sure that Russia never becomes a great world power again but is forced to comply with our every whim.
• Thanks to our relentless diplomatic efforts, Russia is now completely isolated, which is why it can't be constantly signing gigantic trade agreements with countries around the world or championing the cause of non-western nations who don't like being pushed around by the West and have no desire to westernize.
• Our sanctions have really hurt Russia, and not at all the EU which didn't lose a huge export market and is not at all at risk of losing access to Russia's natural gas which it doesn't need anyway. Nor did they provide any sort of a huge protectionist benefit to Russia's domestic producers, or a big new export market to our economic rivals.
• Regime change in Moscow is a white ribbon's throw away, and our expensively nurtured political pets inside Russia are more popular than ever and are feeling all sorts of love from the Russian people. After all, fewer than 90% of Russians respect and support Putin for the great things he has achieved for them, so our stooges like Khodorkovsky or Kasparov should have no problem getting at least 1% in the next presidential elections, sending them straight into the Kremlin.
• Thanks to our relentless political pressure, Putin is now a chastised man, ready to be reasonable and bend to our will, and not at all saying things like “This will never happen!” in an internationally televised annual address to his nation's elected leaders. In any case, nobody listens to his speeches because our national media doesn't need cover them because they are so long and boring.
...and, last but not least...
• America is the world's indispensable nation, world's (second) greatest economic power (but rising fast), and American leadership is respected throughout the world. When President Obama said so in a recent speech he gave in China, the audience did not at all laugh out loud right in his face, roll their eyes, make faces or move their heads side to side slowly while frowning...