ReasonINC

Reason; as the supreme authority in matters of opinion, belief, or conduct

Category: Conflict

Putin’s book on Russian neutrality rewritten as fantasy

Internationally it has been clear since early on that Russia has been central in both destabilising eastern Ukraine and in supplying troops, armour and support to separatists probably always lead by Russians.

Moscow orchestrated a campaign of disinformation before the Georgia war of 2008. The conflict with Ukraine is an information war and however lame Putin’s pretences seem to us, the key is that there has been enough support garnered for things to reach this point at least. His operatives have been shouting slogans through megaphones in Ukraine for months now and at home he has a stifling grip on political dissidence.

In the wake of the shooting down of MH17 I think a lot of us thought Putin had tied himself up. The Ukrainian military was making real ground having taken Slovyansk and was threatening to capture back Luhansk (a key position between the 60 mile separatist-controlled border region and Donetsk).

At a peak of international tension, surely Putin would have to step back. His campaign had fooled no one on the international stage and he had been caught red handed. But this is a man who has fired 18 generals and Colonels in recent months. As separatists were violating an international crime scene, and despite the steady flow of Russian military personnel and support, Russia were at risk of losing their own war. It’s a shame the Ukrainian side of the border couldn’t have been secured. NATO troops could have helped to trap the separatists and force Russia’s hand. But in the end it didn’t need forcing.

Like in Georgia, Putin’s plan must have always been to engineer the ‘justification’ to invade, but that has unquestionably failed. Alarmingly it seems Putin’s response is to move now. In the last few days the Ukrainian army has been engaged on many new fronts and Russian soldiers have been captured in Ukraine. Russia are attacking Ukraine outright and nothing is uncertain now.

A lot of questions do remain though. How will NATO respond? They have talked openly of the Russian artillery and armour moving into Ukraine and have said they will establish bases in eastern Europe. Russia are moving fast now though. Will we fight them here? Or will we consolidate after they capture eastern Ukraine, which sadly seems imminent. Is there a course of action from here that isn’t inflammatory? It appears those moves can only come from Russia.

In one sense Putin is fighting an information war that fits the modern era. Creating influence has been his goal. But, as with the chronic ineptitude of western politicians to understand the tech age, he has shown himself to be glaringly out of touch. As it was put at the emergency UN meeting called today, ‘the evidence is overwhelming’ showing Russia’s direct involvement. We have all seen irrefutable video evidence of so much that might have been occluded by political rhetoric in a previous generation. And one question that remains for Putin is how much support does he really have at home?

Can he really stop the truth from spreading? Given the likelihood that his elections have been rigged I think the figures released on public support should be discarded. I wonder if people would really fight for him if it came to it. Or how far would it go? It’s come this far and it will go further still, but already I read translated Russian reports of skepticism. The families of dead Russian soldiers are outraged. Their children, it seems, have been covertly buried in the Pskov region. There is even a video of Russian journalists visiting a graveyard being attacked by two thuggish men in tracksuits. This whole affair has been full of such coincidences.

The west learns nothing new from this, but how will the Russian people square Putin’s propaganda with internal evidence of his lies? Are we seeing his pride out of control before his fall? Or what will transpire before then? The idea of Russia and China allying in aggression is scary but can a populous be lied to enough to die for their state in an age of increasing skepticism and unregulated communication? I hope not but I worry we will soon find out exactly where the line is drawn.

For anyone who wants to see an end to unnecessary suffering, a maturity towards our shared future and doesn’t subscribe to the hollow claims of those who make personal gain from our faith, for those people, eventually you will have to spend a lot of time watching humans fuck things up. No time to look at the sinking ship of planetary sustainability right now, there’s a feverish punch up breaking out on deck. No one’s even talking about bilge pumps or lowering life boats, this is a time to kill for someone who isn’t even present. It’s been too long.

(http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/26/nato-east-european-bases-counter-russian-threat)

(http://nyti.ms/1AUzeuo)

(http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-nato-deployments-poland-baltics/26553229.html)

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_war_during_the_Russo-Georgian_War)

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Just trust the state to do the thinking for us

“We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the U.K. may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation.”

This is part of a statement from London’s Metropolitan Police in response to the apparent beheading of James Foley by a seemingly British Islamic State militant. It is positions like this, wilfully playing on what people fear, that ‘democratic’ states use to promote the idea of internet censorship. Aaron Swartz became a martyr for internet freedom and unrestricted networks of communication are our greatest asset in trying to undermine the deliberate distraction of our governments.

It is no coincidence that states around the world continually try to control that communication. They can sense that an ability to see and spread the truth freely is dangerous to the systems of control they have established. The notion of letting people with such a glaring track record of corruption decide what is legal for their citizens to see, the notion that we should leave them to analyse the truth and report back to us what they deem fit, is despairingly incompatible with the social progress we need to stop them from continuing to abuse the positions they hold.

(https://www.goldenfrog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/infographic_blog1.png) – Internet censorship around the world.

Greenwald weighing in masterfully against Netanyahu

In this typically clear, fair and representative piece Glenn Greenwald dissects the rhetoric of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

I highly recommend following some of the links in the text, they lead to some excellent resources. I paste the link to one that really stood out below the article.

(https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/21/netanyahus-telegenically-dead-comment-original/)

(http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003508.html)

“An army marches on its stomach. He – or that – who controls our stomachs controls it all.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

An unconvincing charade?

An unconvincing charade?

Simon Ostrovsky’s fearless efforts to bring us the truth in his correspondence from Ukraine have been highly commendable. His report after the recent checkpoint shooting was one of my favourites. It began by showing the two involved cars’ charred remains being transported away from the scene by pro-Russian forces. Bullet holes could be seen on the cars but why the evidence was burnt has of course not been explained. We were assured of the specifics (that favour Russia) by Sloviansk’s self-proclaimed mayor, Vacheslav Ponomarev.

It was Vacheslav who gave a colourful array of different explanations for Simon’s abduction. Like all his explanations, Vacheslav delivered preposterous stories – like that Simon was compiling a report on the SBU facilities from within – with the air of indifference and confidence that his watchers have become accustomed to. For me his demeanour is significant.

Ostrovsky is right, those ‘little green men’; the silent elite soldiers who are clearly in charge; they are the key. If we could see their documents, or their backgrounds, there might be a link to the Kremlin. Frankly their secrecy is enough. That aside, for me it would be astounding at this point if there wasn’t a connection to Russia. Internationally we need confirmation. Even more generally it’s fair to say that in the public sphere, tangible proof is essential. Of course this is great dismay to me personally. Logic alone is irrelevant.

I have watched Vacheslav Ponomarev closely in his public appearances. Wearing his tracksuit he stares people down provocatively, speaking of the repercussions awaiting journalists who ‘lie’. We may not have evidence of Russian forces’ involvement, but can we not learn enough from this man and his surrounding circumstances? This is not a man ‘yielding to the masses’, like we expect of our power-seeking politicians. What I mean is, there is no public facade here. There is no considering, no attempts to seduce public confidence. This is a man who clearly doesn’t feel he needs to be popular, which is the primary objective of most politicians. So why not?

As he dishes out his threats – and they are threats if they’re anything at all – he may betray the power behind him. Vacheslav probably hasn’t ever considered what would make his performance convincing, and I would argue that the absence of attempts to even appear a legitimate politician, to the extreme of such abandon; well to me that suggests he does not fear for the security his power. It is certainly consistent with him being a puppet politician installed as an arm of a higher body.

He seems a thug. Of all his former graces, if you told me conflict or espionage was one I wouldn’t exactly recoil in shock. If he is secret service then the power that might have been the irresistible draw into that line of work in the first place, has left him so brazen now that his illegitimacy is, I would argue, to anyone of any discern obvious. Who could possibly be fooled by this?

I know this is a juvenile fantasy, but I just wish I could be in some of these public showings to ask a few questions of my own. Am I alone in wishing the truth would be put to these people in more glaring terms? Of course, I would love to ask Putin himself if he regrets that Ponomarev is so bad at pretending to be a real politician. But most of all I would have liked to be in one of Vacheslav’s public appearances during Simon Ostrovsky’s detention. “Vacheslav,” I would have enquired, “I don’t know if you are a fan of psychology – I’m an amateur enthusiast – but if you are, I wonder if you ever consider how your actions appear to the outside? You have locked up Simon on the grounds that he was reporting lies, but if they were lies he wouldn’t have been a threat to you. If they were lies, you could have shown us the truth and his credibility would be on the table instead of yours – and your credibility is on the table, let me tell you. The only reason you would detain a journalist is because they are approaching what is for you a dangerous truth. A truth that you are attempting to occlude.”

In recent weeks we have seen more that is hard to digest: A column of APCs, allegedly in Western Russia, that was too long to record reasonably in one video (we can’t confirm that they were full, where they were, or even when the video was recorded); A rally in Donetsk supporting Ukrainian unity, of around 2000 people, was attacked by baseball-bat wielding pro-Russian ‘separatists’; Putin continues to maintain that the only legitimate political position in Ukraine is the pro-Russian movement, and that the intolerable interference from outside will be any that undermines them. Everything points to some hybrid between a clandestine invasion of Ukraine and the engineering of a situation where Russia will claim they have no option but to intervene.

The irony for me is who can throw the first stone? Bull shit is what all these polticians deal in and Putin’s position is no weaker than the positions of other world leaders on any number of intolerable issues. But where will it go next? Can Putin really continue this? Is his pride now a dangerous component? None of us can believe this could lead to large-scale conflict, but what if Russian troops crossed the border? For now, we can only watch. And until evidence shows Russia’s complicity, any opinion can be argued as influentially as the truth.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQGRJN4Radk)