Nuclear War and Clashing Ukraine Narratives

“[A]s far as it is possible to do so, these two wonderful vessels are designed to be unsinkable” – White Star Line publicity brochure circa 1910 for the twin ships Olympic and Titanic

Two years later the world would learn just how catastrophic hubristic complacency can be.

TitanicWhen the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock to Three Minutes to Midnight, citing climate change and the threat of a renewed arms race between Russia and the U.S., it reserved just a single sentence to the conflict in Ukraine.  Perhaps not even the folks at the Bulletin are immune to propaganda.

Uncle Sam v Bear in UkraineRobert Parry has written an excellent article regarding misinformation about the conflict in Ukraine titled “Nuclear War and Clashing Ukraine Narratives”


The U.S. government and mainstream media are swaggering toward a possible nuclear confrontation with Russia over Ukraine without any of the seriousness that has informed this sort of decision-making throughout the nuclear age. Instead, Official Washington seems possessed by a self-righteous goofiness that could be the prelude to the end of life on this planet.

Nearly across the U.S. political spectrum, there is a pugnacious “group think” which has transformed what should have been a manageable political dispute in Ukraine into some morality play where U.S. politicians and pundits blather on about how the nearly year-old coup regime in Kiev “shares our values” and how America must be prepared to defend this regime militarily.

This distorted American narrative has represented one of the most unprofessional and dangerous performances in the history of modern U.S. journalism, rivaling the false conventional wisdom about Iraq’s WMD except in this case the media propaganda is aimed at a country in Russia that really does have weapons of mass destruction.

Putin also does not object to Ukraine building closer economic ties to Europe and he offered a new referendum in Crimea on whether the voters still want to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, said a source familiar with the Kremlin’s thinking. But Putin’s red lines include no NATO expansion into Ukraine and protection for ethnic Russians by disarming the neo-Nazi militias, the source said.

If such an arrangement or something similar isn’t acceptable and if the killing of ethnic Russians continues, the Kremlin would support a large-scale military offensive from the east that would involve “taking Kiev,” according to the source.

A Russian escalation of that magnitude would likely invite a vigorous U.S. response, with leading American politicians and pundits sure to ratchet up demands for a military counterstrike against Russia. If Obama were to acquiesce to such bellicosity – to avoid being called “weak” – the world could be pushed to the brink of nuclear war.

Parry’s article provides a good starting point for understanding why Putin made this remark during a news conference last December:

Putin: You know, at the Valdai [International Discussion] Club I gave an example of our most recognisable symbol. It is a bear protecting his taiga. You see, if we continue the analogy, sometimes I think that maybe it would be best if our bear just sat still. Maybe he should stop chasing pigs and boars around the taiga but start picking berries and eating honey. Maybe then he will be left alone. But no, he won’t be! Because someone will always try to chain him up. As soon as he’s chained they will tear out his teeth and claws. In this analogy, I am referring to the power of nuclear deterrence. As soon as – God forbid – it happens and they no longer need the bear, the taiga will be taken over.

 I’ve highlighted the portions of the transcript from Putin’s news conference dealing with Ukraine and Russia’s conflict with the West here.  When you click on the link, it will take you to the first of seven highlighted sections I created. In the left margin you’ll find a toggle to bring you up or down to each of the seven highlighted sections.

And since it’s Saturday, here’s a Pink Floyd song that’s apparently become relevant again:










This entry was posted in American History, Barack Obama, Denialism, Government Propaganda, NATO, Neoconservatives, Russia, Ukraine, United States. Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Nuclear War and Clashing Ukraine Narratives

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Excellent information that far surpasses my earlier efforts this week to examine the craziness of this new “cold war”. Parry’s article certainly sets the context and then Putin’s remarks presents a view from Russia. Putin is certainly no favorite of mine, but I also reject the propaganda image projected on him of being an egotistic madmen. Putin is an intelligent despot, whose rise to power in Russia evinces a good tactical mind. No doubt he is privately motivated by a vision of an expanding Russian empire, however, in that aspect he is no different from many in power on our side of the issue. Unfortunately, there are many fools overflowing with hubris, who are accorded respect in our Foreign Policy establishment, abetted by their media flacks, who stupidly long for the “excitement” of the good old days of the “Cold War”. As in your Titanic metaphor, they may well succeed in launching the nukes.

  2. Ukraine’s massive agriculture sector totally absent from mainstream media narratives:

  3. Bob Stone says:


    I think you’ll find this interview with Stephen Cohen interesting:

    I think I caught a glimpse of Stephen Cohen on Fareed Zakaria this morning; some sort of roundtable discussion of Ukraine and Russia. So I DVR’d the afternoon repeat.

    I’ll let you know.

  4. Bob Stone says:


    Here’s one of the Stephen Cohen segments from GPS I’m still looking for his comments about the unprecedented demonization of a Russian leader.

    • Mike Spindell says:


      Thanks for the transcript. My take away from the discussion is that we are faced with the same old issues that fueled the original “cold war”. Putin is taking care of Putin, which means his direct constituency of oligarchs. His position is no longer secure and so he must provide distractions. In doing so he has overstepped. However, lest we paint him as the only “bad guy” we also have an American constituency of oligarchs taking care of their own economic issues, which are the maintenance of the US as a dominant empire and enriching themselves in the process. That there is an amount of delusion on both sides is apparent because these “leaders” see themselves as an Elite, that are the only ones capable of assessing the “big picture”. The problem is that they are all blinded by their self anointed expertise. One of the best history books I’ve read is Barbara Tuchman’s “Guns of August” which dealt with the beginning of World War I. The “wise old international policy people” kept making stupid decisions that led inexorably towards a war none wanted, yet all the powerful giddily welcomed.

  5. Bob Stone says:

    ZAKARIA: The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has already left more than 5,000 dead and 12,000 wounded, according to numbers from the United Nations this week. And this doesn’t get at the creeping danger of a new Cold war between East and West. Why has it been so hard to end this tussle? What are the prospects for a genuine and lasting accommodation between Moscow and Kiev? To help answer these questions, joining me now are Bill Browder, once the largest foreign investor in Russia, he’s the author of the new book called “Red Notice”, a non-fictional thriller about his experience in Russia. Stephen Cohen is a Russia scholar and professor emeritus at both Princeton and NYU. Chrystia Freeland, a former top editor at the FTN Reuters is now a member of parliament in Canada. And Stephen Sestanovish has worked on Russian and Soviet issues at the highest levels of government, academia and in think tanks. So, Steve, as the dispassionate think tanker here looking at really at the, you know, from the point of your – geopolitics, why is this problem getting worse, not better?

    STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Putin has no reason to stop that can – that has persuaded him. He has – he made a decision last year that his success in Crimea was so incredible, created such a nationalist sensation in Russia that he was going to try for more. Putin has only benefited from it at home except for the blowback, the diplomatic isolation, the economic costs. He faces a difficult situation because in many ways this policy has played out very badly for him internationally. But domestically, not so much.

    ZAKARIA: Steve, when it all happened, and we were talking, you did predict that Putin, that this is core to Putin and to Russia. And you see it, I assume, somewhat differently in the sense that you see this as essentially a kind of core Russian national security interest.

    STEPHEN COHEN, SENIOR FELLOW BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, the other Steve and I fundamentally disagree. First of all, let’s say where the it is, where we are at now. We are in a new Cold War, the crypt is crypt, we may be approaching a war with Russia, Ukraine is in ruins East and West. Europe is split, this probably will last, it may be a fracture in the Transatlantic Alliance. I think – and I speak as a historian and somebody who has followed this for years because it began a while ago. Putin did not initiate this crisis, he did not want it. It’s bad for him, contrary to Steve, and he wants it ended. But he’s not going to end it on terms of capitulation. The argument that if we arm Kiev and that train we have led the station, there is a lot of movement in that direction, will only make things worse. There is a way out. But the only people at a statesmen level who seem interested in exploring that way out are President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel and they are not very strong. The war parties in Washington, Kiev and NATO are now running this and we literally may be heading, as I told you in February, I think, to an a Cuban missile crisis-like confrontation with Russia.

  6. Bob Stone says:

    ZAKARIA: Chrystia, you have a long piece in “Prospect” magazine, the time is, what does Putin want? So, what’s the answer? What does he want?

    CHRYSTIA FREELAND, MEMBER OF THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENT: Well, just falling out from what Steve has said, I think the key to understanding Putin is ultimately what he wants is power and money. Putin ultimately established it — and Bill knows this very well — a personal kleptocracy in Russia. That’s what he was about. But for the first 14 years, Putin was lucky because he was able to do as the Russians say, rule like Stalin, but live like Abramovich. Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea. So, like if you think in the mind of an autocrat, perfect world, right? You can have – you know, go on yachts in the Mediterranean, have London football clubs but also authoritarian at home.

    Putin’s problem had been even before the Ukraine crisis, this was breaking down somewhat because the Russian economy wasn’t working. It wasn’t delivering the results needed to sustain this. He was looking for some other source of legitimacy. Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president partly offered that. He could have a sort of mini Putin meaning cleptocracy next door reinforce him a little bit. What he’s discovered now, I think somewhat to his surprise, I don’t think he has a master plan, I think it’s been tactical, is he can use extreme nationalism as a new source of legitimacy. The thing is, it’s not going to last. This is a house of cards.

    ZAKARIA: Bill, paint a picture of the Russian economy. You know this economy backwards and forwards. You were the most successful investor in Russia. What does the Russian economy today look like and why is what I assume, is a somewhat bleak picture, why is it not deterring Putin.

    BIL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Well, the Russian economy is one big — it’s a crook sitting at a gas station. It’s a world gas station, it’s all they do. That if you break it down, I think more than half of all the revenues in Russia come from fuel exports. And if you add on aluminum, steel, et cetera. So, they don’t make stuff that people want to buy. Anything that they consume has to come from the West. And so, in addition to all the problems that they have with sanctions and capital flight, they also have the problem, which was totally unintended, it wasn’t like the Western policymakers organize this, but the price of oil has collapsed. It’s gone down by half. And so, it’s created a really bad situation. And so, so what’s happened in Russia, is that everybody is trying to get their money out as fast as they can. The ruble has devalued by more than 50 percent. So, if you’re a Russian citizen buying your consumer goods, they are twice as expensive as they were before. And so, this war wasn’t created as a – this war was created as Christya said, as a distraction from the cleptocracy, but now he’s got to create – keep on doing this war and invade other countries, probably, to keep a distraction going from the economic problems.

    ZAKARIA: When we come back we’re going to talk more about this new Cold War and also about Bill Browder’s fascinating story of his battle against the Russian state when we come back.

  7. Bob Stone says:

    ZAKARIA: And we are back with Stephen Cohen, Stephen Sestanovich, Chrystia Freeland and Bill Browder. You said earlier, Steve Cohen that you thought we were in a ?old War. And it certainly seems like that when you listen to some of the rhetoric of Russian planes flying over the English Channel. You know, these are bombers. Do the Russians really have an appetite for something like this? I mean Russia is today 2.5 percent of global GDP. This is not the Soviet Union.

    COHEN: If by Russia you mean the Russian people, they have no appetite for this. Neither does the American people. This is something given to us by the elites of two countries. Not only are we in a new Cold War, but it’s potentially much more dangerous than the last one. Because the center of this Cold War is right on Russia’s border, it’s not in Berlin, in Ukraine. It’s existential. When you hear already Russian generals talking about the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons, you know that Russia is, shall we say, stressed. The problem here in part are the remarks about Putin. Something strange has happened. The demonization of Putin, which is beyond any factual basis, leads to a kind of amnesia among people here who should know better. The cleptocracy, and that’s not a characteristic of the Russian economy, they had the biggest grain bumper crop in decades this year. They manufacture a lot of stuff. If they are dependent on minerals as they are, blame God, not Putin. The fact is this economic system was created by Yeltsin, Mr. Browder knows that, he worked in Russia at that time. Miss Freeland knows that because she wrote one of the best books about this.

    But suddenly it’s about Putin, he inherited this system. But something has happened here. This vilification of Putin, I’ve been doing this — I’m probably the oldest person at this table – I’ve been following Russia since the ’60s. I do not recall this kind of official public vilification, referring to the Russian leader as a Hitler, which is completely incorrect that ever having been done to a Soviet communist leader, at least after Stalin. And the result is a kind of analysis you’re hearing here. It’s all about Putin. There’s no Russia. Russia has no agency. But here is the point.

    Henry Kissinger said back in March of last year the demonization of Putin is not a policy, it’s an alibi for not having a policy. But it’s worse than what Dr. Kissinger has said, it’s completely obscured. It’s degraded, any kind of rational analysis of this country as to who is to blame for this and how we get out of it. And the result is as we talk — as we talk, and this is not idle rhetoric, we may be hurtling toward actual war with Russia.

  8. Bob Stone says:

    ZAKARIA: So, I mean partly there’s an interesting test of international relations theory here, which is, you know, when a country, when a leader faces fewer – it has fewer resources, faces more constraints, faces more pressure, does he back down or does he lash out? Right? And so far, I mean certainly on the upside the argument has been that as oil revenues have increased, Putin’s ambitions have grown over the last 15 years, right? I mean that’s been the general thesis, that when Russia needed debt forgiveness in 2000, Putin was nice. And Bush said I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. So, why wouldn’t that work? Why wouldn’t the fact that oil revenues are declining make him more cautious, make him more accommodating?

    FREELAND: I would say two things. You know, first of all, maybe contrary to a lot of international relations theory. I think that the domestic nature of the regime matters and it makes a difference. A Democratic Russia did and would behave differently from an increasingly authoritarian Russia. To the point about oil revenue, I think that we shouldn’t be deceived by Putin’s bluster, by his ability as he and his ministers proudly say — these are guys who proudly say we can take casualties, we can take losses, but we shouldn’t be deceived by that to believe this is the Soviet Union and that this is a very strong regime. Their economy is weak. I think there are internal pressures on Putin right now. His cronies, the sort of the Putin oligarchs are really unhappy. And I think there is – you know, the Russian bourgeoisie is now destroyed, all of those hopes in the middle class – So I do think that Putin didn’t want to get here, he thought it was all going to be simple, he thought Yanukovych was going to join his customs union and it was all going to be fine. And then he did Crimea, I think impulsively. It worked better than he thought and he just has kind of kept on going since then.

    ZAKARIA: So a lot of the conversation has been about Putin, the personal nature of his regime, him as a person. You’ve battled in a way personally with this regime. He’s talked about you personally. What are the conclusions you come – you know, what’s your conclusion in reading of the regime based on the struggles you recount in your book?

    BROWDER: Well, first of all, Putin is entirely rational. He doesn’t do anything irrationally, he’s just operating with the different set of motives and constraints than we are. So, the first thing that you have to understand about Putin, is throw all morality out the window when it comes to his decision making. He will kill people, he will start wars, he will destroy the Russian population, if it enhances his position, if it makes him wealthier or saves him from being arrested.

    What this whole Ukrainian situation is about, is an extension of everything else he’s been doing. He started out as a kleptocrat, who wanted to accumulate as much money as he could. And then all of a sudden he found himself in this position where Russian people were starting to get mad at him. And it got to the point where he was afraid that he was going to suffer the same fate as Yanukovych, if he didn’t change the whole narrative. So, he starts a war, which went really well with Crimea. And they are bombarding the Russian people with propaganda to tell them that the Ukrainians are fascist Nazis backed by America, and we have to fight against them. So, he started this war. He’s got an 88 percent approval rating. All of a sudden everybody is in this nationalist fervor. He can’t now just say, OK, thank you, I’ll take my 88 percent and be done with it. He’s got to keep the nationalist fervor going for this 88 percent. And that’s when things started going horribly awry for him. Because going into eastern Ukraine wasn’t going into Crimea. They are taking casualties. The Russian people don’t want casualties, the economy is now crashing because of sanctions.

    ZAKARIA: Steve, a question to you. Do you believe that not only are we in a Cold War, but that there’s a possibility of something worse?

    SESTANOVICH: I think we are getting toward a Cold war that meets a lot of the definitions that we used to have of the old one. It’s taken on an ideological character. It involves tests of strength. It does involve a lot of elite hostility, involves a lot of uncertainty as to what each side wants. Whenever you’ve got a cold war, there’s a danger that it can get hot. This is a dangerous situation in Ukraine. It calls for calm and resourceful and determined policy because it can get plenty worse than it is now.

    ZAKARIA: The most dangerous overall security situation since the end of the Cold war?

    SESTANOVICH: Clearly.

    ZAKARIA: On that happy note, thank you all. Fascinating conversation.

  9. Bob Stone says:


    I can’t help but see Stephen Cohen as the one in that group that seems to have the best grasp of what’s going on.

    It was hubristic complacency that sank the Titanic. The arrogance of the Edwardian era.

    And where are we now?

    Propaganda is far more powerful and immediate than ever. It not only reaches everyone immediately, but the delivery mechanism itself has caused a catastrophic decrease in attention spans and depth of thinking.

    to wit:

    What’s more, the juice box generations that followed ours never lived during the cold war….

    Put it together and you’ve got hubristic complacency regarding what’s happening in Ukraine.

  10. Bob Stone says:

    Wretched US Journalism on Ukraine
    February 9, 2015

    The U.S. news media has failed the American people often in recent years by not challenging U.S. government falsehoods, as with Iraq’s WMD. But the most dangerous violation of journalistic principles has occurred in the Ukraine crisis, which has the potential of a nuclear war, writes Robert Parry.

  11. Bob Stone says:

    Further supporting the “natural gas motive” is the fact that it was Vice President Joe Biden who demanded that President Yanukovych pull back his police on Feb. 21, a move that opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias and the U.S.-backed coup. Then, just three months later, Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      “President Joe Biden who demanded that President Yanukovych pull back his police on Feb. 21, a move that opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias and the U.S.-backed coup. Then, just three months later, Ukraine’s largest private gas firm, Burisma Holdings, appointed Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to its board of directors”

      Say it ain’t so….Joe. Alas but it is and the coincidence is just too coincidental..

  12. swarthmoremom says: “Stephen Cohen was once considered a top Russia historian. Now he publishes odd defenses of Vladimir Putin……..”

  13. Bob Stone says:


    You just proved the author’s point:

    ‘Group-Thinking’ the World into a New War

    January 30, 2015

    Exclusive: The armchair warriors of Official Washington are eager for a new war, this time with Russia over Ukraine, and they are operating from the same sort of mindless “group think” and hostility to dissent that proved so disastrous in Iraq, reports Robert Parry.

    By Robert Parry

    If you wonder how the lethal “group think” on Iraq took shape in 2002, you might want to study what’s happening today with Ukraine. A misguided consensus has grabbed hold of Official Washington and has pulled in everyone who “matters” and tossed out almost anyone who disagrees.

    Part of the problem, in both cases, has been that neocon propagandists understand that in the modern American media the personal is the political, that is, you don’t deal with the larger context of a dispute, you make it about some easily demonized figure. So, instead of understanding the complexities of Iraq, you focus on the unsavory Saddam Hussein.


  14. Bob Stone says:

    Anyone who dares protest the unrelentingly one-sided coverage is deemed a “Putin apologist” or a “stooge of Moscow.” So, most Americans – in a position to influence public knowledge but who want to stay employable – stay silent, just as they did during the Iraq War stampede.

    One of the ugly but sadly typical cases relates to Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, who has been denounced by some of the usual neocon suspects for deviating from the “group think” that blames the entire Ukraine crisis on Putin. The New Republic, which has gotten pretty much every major issue wrong during my 37 years in Washington, smeared Cohen as “Putin’s American toady.”

    And, if you think that Cohen’s fellow scholars are more tolerant of a well-argued dissent, the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies further proved that deviation from the “group think” on Ukraine is not to be tolerated.

    The academic group spurned a fellowship program, which it had solicited from Cohen’s wife, Katrina vanden Heuvel, because the program’s title included Cohen’s name. “It’s no secret that there were swirling controversies surrounding Professor Cohen,” Stephen Hanson, the group’s president, told the New York Times.

    In a protest letter to the group, Cohen called this action “a political decision that creates serious doubts about the organization’s commitment to First Amendment rights and academic freedom.” He also noted that young scholars in the field have expressed fear for their professional futures if they break from the herd.

    He mentioned the story of one young woman scholar who dropped off a panel to avoid risking her career in case she said something that could be deemed sympathetic to Russia.

    Cohen noted, too, that even established foreign policy figures, ex-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, have been accused in the Washington Post of “advocating that the West appease Russia,” with the notion of “appeasement” meant “to be disqualifying, chilling, censorious.” (Kissinger had objected to the comparison of Putin to Hitler as unfounded.)

    In other words, as the United States rushes into a new Cold War with Russia, we are seeing the makings of a new McCarthyism, challenging the patriotism of anyone who doesn’t get into line. But this conformity of thought presents a serious threat to U.S. national security and even the future of the planet.

    It may seem clever for some New Republic blogger or a Washington Post writer to insult anyone who doesn’t accept the over-the-top propaganda on Russia and Ukraine – much as they did to people who objected to the rush to war in Iraq – but a military clash with nuclear-armed Russia is a crisis of a much greater magnitude.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      I didn’t realize that Cohen was married to Katrina Vanden Heuvel, which only raises his credibility in my mind. Her father Bill, was a great man and a great thinker and I deeply respect her integrity on many issues. Also too being branded a “traitor” by The New Republic and Washington Post is to my mind a badge of credibility. When “Hawks” like Brezinski and Kissinger ask for moderation and are denounced it seems tht we are facinf a tide of propaganda leading to groupthink.

  15. swarthmoremom says:

    Pat Buchanan is another Putin apologist. He and Cohen make strange bedfellows on this one. Ron Paul probably falls in with this crew also. The Ukrainian leaders are not exactly stellar themselves but Putin constantly arrests gays, has invaded Crimea, has wrecked his countries economy and has very poor relations with the Jewish community because of throwing Jewish oligarchs in prison while advancing his “white” Russian christianist agenda. If Cohen’s point is to avoid war then that is commendable but to apologize for someone who is more popular than Darren Wilson on the stormfront websites seems a bit strange.

  16. swarthmoremom says:

    country’s economy….. oops

  17. swarthmoremom says:

    “Pussy Riot was just the start. How Russia is turning into a dark nation of fear, paranoia and repression.”

    Read more:

  18. Mike Spindell says:


    Putin is not a good man, but all of the evils you detail are true as well for China, North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. The first three are also nuclear powers, while Iran is working on it. Interestingly, Russia’s greatest source of wealth lately is oil. There seems to be some sort of attraction for our country to denounce and attack major oil producers that aren’t close to the oil industry. Why is that do you think?

  19. swarthmoremom says:

    Mike S, Who knows…. Since the price of oil has dropped dramatically and will probably continue to be low for a very long time due to massive production in the US, the politics surrounding oil are in a state of flux. Both Putin and the Saudi’s would like to get the price back up but it does not appear to be in the cards due to over production and lower demand.

  20. Mike Spindell says:


    Call me a foolish cynic, or a conspiracy theorist, but I think the rapid fall of oil prices might in itself be a manipulation to punish and subdue Russia. 🙂

  21. swarthmoremom says:

    Mike S, I think it is more complicated but it definitely does hurt the Russian economy along with all the other economies that are dependent on high oil prices. Brazil is really suffering.

  22. Bob Stone says:

    I thought I posted this elsewhere:

    Another Conspiracy Theory Becomes Fact: The Entire Oil Collapse Is All About Crushing Russian Control Over Syria

    While the markets are still debating whether the price of oil is more impacted by the excess pumping of crude here, or the lack of demand there, or if it is all just a mechanical squeeze by momentum-chasing HFT algos who also know to buy in the milliseconds before 2:30pm, we bring readers’ attention back to what several months ago was debunked as a deep conspiracy theory.

    Back then we wrote about a certain visit by John Kerry to Saudi Arabia, on September 11 of all days, to negotiate a secret deal with the now late King Abdullah so as to get a “green light” in order “to launch its airstrikes against ISIS, or rather, parts of Iraq and Syria. And, not surprising, it is once again Assad whose fate was the bargaining chip to get the Saudis on the US’ side, because in order to launch the incursion into Syrian sovereign territory, it “took months of behind-the-scenes work by the U.S. and Arab leaders, who agreed on the need to cooperate against Islamic State, but not how or when. The process gave the Saudis leverage to extract a fresh U.S. commitment to beef up training for rebels fighting Mr. Assad, whose demise the Saudis still see as a top priority.”

    We concluded:

    Said otherwise, the pound of flesh demanded by Saudi Arabia to “bless” US airstrikes and make them appear as an act of some coalition, is the removal of the Assad regime. Why? So that, as we also explained last year, the holdings of the great Qatar natural gas fields can finally make their way onward to Europe, which incidentally is also America’s desire – what better way to punish Putin for his recent actions than by crushing the main leverage the Kremlin has over Europe?


    It was conspiratorial, that is, until today, when thanks to the far less “tinfoil” NYT one more conspiracy theory becomes conspiracy fact, following a report that “Saudi Arabia has been trying to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon his support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using its dominance of the global oil markets at a time when the Russian government is reeling from the effects of plummeting oil prices.”

    (continued with links)

  23. swarthmoremom says:

    Ah, Oky’s favorite website, zero hedge. So the whole shale oil industry came on line just to get rid of Putin. Don’t buy it.

  24. swarthmoremom says:

    Of course lower oil prices are having their impact on international relations

  25. Then that more respectable source should have been primary over the very questionable zerohedge, Bob. Even Alex Jones gets something right from time to time. Doesn’t make what he does journalism.

  26. swarthmoremom says: Just saying the drop in oil prices have more to do with production than revenge, but that is not to say that hard times for Putin are a side effect.

  27. swarthmoremom says:

    Hard times for Putin are a much wanted side but not the cause in my opinion. His oil oligarchs are having a hard time purchasing the NYC condos these days.

  28. There’s probably some component of leverage in OPEC going along with dropping prices, but if their goal is to destablize Syria via undercutting the market for Russian oil and reducing their material support is probably a gross miscalculation if you consider the sheer scale of the Russian economy and the nature of their support of Syria to date. They can probably maintain the current strategy and supply levels indefinitely regardless of oil prices should Putin and the FIS decide it is in their best interests.

  29. Bob Stone says:

    NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda


    There’s no sign that the New York Times has any regrets about becoming a crude propaganda organ, but just in case someone is listening inside “the newspaper of record,” let’s reprise the actual narrative of the Ukraine crisis. It began not last spring, as the Times would have you believe, but rather in fall 2013 when President Yanukovych was evaluating the cost of an EU association agreement if it required an economic break with Russia.

    This part of the narrative was well explained by Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, even though it has generally taken a harshly anti-Russian line. But, in a retrospective piece published a year after the crisis began, Der Spiegel acknowledged that EU and German leaders were guilty of miscalculations that contributed to the civil war in Ukraine, particularly by under-appreciating the enormous financial costs to Ukraine if it broke its historic ties to Russia.

    In November 2013, Yanukovych learned from experts at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine that the total cost to the country’s economy from severing its business connections to Russia would be around $160 billion, 50 times the $3 billion figure that the EU had estimated, Der Spiegel reported.

    The figure stunned Yanukovych, who pleaded for financial help that the EU couldn’t provide, the magazine said. Western loans would have to come from the International Monetary Fund, which was demanding painful “reforms” of Ukraine’s economy, structural changes that would make the hard lives of average Ukrainians even harder, including raising the price of natural gas by 40 percent and devaluing Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, by 25 percent.

    With Putin offering a more generous aid package of $15 billion, Yanukovych backed out of the EU agreement but told the EU’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Nov. 28, 2013, that he was willing to continue negotiating. German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with “a sentence dripping with disapproval and cool sarcasm aimed directly at the Ukrainian president. ‘I feel like I’m at a wedding where the groom has suddenly issued new, last minute stipulations,” according to Der Spiegel’s chronology of the crisis.

    After the collapse of the EU deal, U.S. neocons went to work on one more “regime change” – this time in Ukraine – using the popular disappointment in western Ukraine over the failed EU agreement as a way to topple Yanukovych, the constitutionally elected president whose political base was in eastern Ukraine.

    Assistant Secretary of State Nuland, a prominent neocon holdover who advised Vice President Dick Cheney, passed out cookies to anti-Yanukovych demonstrators at the Maidan Square in Kiev and reminded Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations.”

    Sen. McCain, who seems to want war pretty much everywhere, joined Ukrainian rightists onstage at the Maidan urging on the protests, and Gershman’s U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy deployed its Ukrainian political/media operatives in support of the disruptions. As early as September 2013, the NED president had identified Ukraine as “the biggest prize” and an important step toward toppling Putin in Russia. [See’s “Neocons’ Ukraine-Syria-Iran Gambit.”]

    By early February 2014, Nuland was telling U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt “fuck the EU” and discussing how to “glue this thing” as she handpicked who the new leaders of Ukraine would be; “Yats is the guy,” she said about Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

    As violent disorders at the Maidan grew worse – with well-organized neo-Nazi militias hurling firebombs at police – the State Department and U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych. On Feb. 20, when mysterious snipers – apparently firing from positions controlled by the neo-Nazi Right Sektor – shot to death police officers and protesters, the situation spun out of control – and the American press again blamed Yanukovych.

    Though Yanukovych signed a Feb. 21 agreement with three European countries accepting reduced powers and early elections, that was not enough for the coup-makers. On Feb. 22, a putsch, spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias, forced Yanukovych and his officials to flee for their lives.

    Remarkably, however, when the Times pretended to review this history in a January 2015 article, the Times ignored the extraordinary evidence of a U.S.-backed coup – including the scores of NED political projects, McCain’s cheerleading and Nuland’s plotting. The Times simply informed its readers that there was no coup. [See’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]

    But the Times’ propaganda on Ukraine is not just wretched journalism, it is also a dangerous ingredient in what could become a nuclear confrontation, if Americans come to believe a false narrative and thus go along with more provocative actions by their political leaders who, in turn, might feel compelled to act tough because otherwise they’d be attacked as “soft.”

    In other words, even without computers seizing control of man’s nuclear weapons, man himself might blunder into a nuclear Armageddon, driven not by artificial intelligence but a lack of the human kind.

    • Mike Spindell says:

      Good stuff as background, but let’s ask another question that perhaps gets to the heart of the matter. Why was the EU so anxious to court the Ukraine in the first place. It doesn’t take great geopolitical knowledge to know that Russia would see the courtship as a threat? Now some of the foreign policy pundits might opine that there is no reason to recognize a Russian sphere of influence. However, how then do we treat China’s stamping out freedom in Hong Kong? America;s insistence on embargoing Cuba, etc.? Nothing in international relations has ever been about morality, or justice. It’s all about power and money. Unfortunately many die, or are maimed for their simple trust in patriotism.

  30. blouise17 says:

    This is an interesting article from a source that reports on the global mining sector. A different point of view, if you will.

    “The impact of this is already showing up in the Kremlin’s finances. Not only does Russia forgo extra revenue towards its budget, but it also hurts the exchange rate of the country’s currency. So far this month, Russia has spent upwards of $7 billion propping up the rouble, which is trading at record lows.

    A previous crash in oil prices in the 1980s was at least partly responsible for bankrupting the Soviet Union, and this time the stakes could also be high. Putin’s support will stay high as long as business is good and the country keeps its pro-Russia stance. However, it remains to be seen what kind of pressure that a more long-term low oil environment will put on Putin and his administration.”

  31. blouise17 says:

    The above article was written in October of 2014 and Putin’s problems have only worsened over the 4 months since.

  32. blouise17 says:


    I found the following helpful and apologize if someone has already referenced it. Read the whole article to understand the Kohl references included in the portion I chose to post.

    After courting Ukraine, Europe has no plan for Russia

    “By failing to strengthen and diversify its economy over the last 20 years, Russia is now vulnerable to U.S. and European sanctions. But many of these problems will be felt more in the longer rather than shorter term.

    Tension over Ukraine will support energy prices, at least for the moment. Despite efforts to diversify energy sources toward more stable areas of the world, Europe (particularly Germany) probably has more to lose from sanctions in the short term than Russia, showing how difficult it will be for the West to present a united front in the next few weeks.

    At this particular juncture of history, President Vladimir Putin may be an impossible person for the West to deal with. In confronting a man who sees his mission as repairing the stigma of Soviet collapse and rebuilding a Greater Russia, Kohl, too, may well have been out of his depth.

    But at least, before wading into the deep end, Kohl would have been more aware that he was moving into turbulent and treacherous waters — and would have been slightly more adept in arranging lifeboats and rescue mechanisms to deal with the danger of drowning in his own hubris.”

  33. blouise17 says:

    In essence the situation is where it’s at now because the EU foolishly tried a power play without considering what could be done if the play failed. The play failed. Everyone is trying desperately to cover that up by blaming Putin. Hubris followed by more hubris? Wars have started over less.

    “Henry Kissinger said back in March of last year the demonization of Putin is not a policy, it’s an alibi for not having a policy.” (from Bob Stone’s post at 10:50am 2/9/15 Cohen to Zakaria)

  34. Bob,

    Recognizing the flaws with the NYT does nothing to change that zerohedge has credibility only roughly better than WND.

  35. swarthmoremom says:

    “Tension over Ukraine will support energy prices, at least for the moment. Despite efforts to diversify energy sources toward more stable areas of the world, Europe (particularly Germany) probably has more to lose from sanctions in the short term than Russia, showing how difficult it will be for the West to present a united front in the next few weeks. ” David Marsh, the author of the marketwatch article, must not be known for his abilities to predict markets. Oil has been cut in half since he wrote that article and those low prices have changed the whole dynamic.

  36. Bob Stone says:

    From: NYT Is Lost in Its Ukraine Propaganda (above)

    … It began not last spring, as the Times would have you believe, but rather in fall 2013 when President Yanukovych was evaluating the cost of an EU association agreement if it required an economic break with Russia.

    This part of the narrative was well explained by Der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine, even though it has generally taken a harshly anti-Russian line. But, in a retrospective piece published a year after the crisis began, Der Spiegel acknowledged that EU and German leaders were guilty of miscalculations that contributed to the civil war in Ukraine, particularly by under-appreciating the enormous financial costs to Ukraine if it broke its historic ties to Russia.

    In November 2013, Yanukovych learned from experts at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine that the total cost to the country’s economy from severing its business connections to Russia would be around $160 billion, 50 times the $3 billion figure that the EU had estimated, Der Spiegel reported.

    The blow by blow description of what happened with the EU negotiations…

    Summit of Failure: How the EU Lost Russia over Ukraine

    By SPIEGEL Staff


    The story of the run-up to Vilnius is one filled with errors in judgment, misunderstandings, failures and blind spots. It is a chronicle of foreign policy failure foretold — on all sides. Russia underestimated the will of Ukrainians to steer their country toward the EU and was overly confident in its use of its political power over Kiev as a leverage.

    For its part, the EU had negotiated a nearly 1,000-page treaty, but officials in Brussels hadn’t paid close enough attention to the realities of those power politics. Even in Berlin, officials for too long didn’t take Russian concerns — about the encroachment of NATO and the EU into Eastern Europe — seriously enough. The idea that Moscow might be prepared to use force to prevent a further expansion of the Western sphere of influence didn’t seem to register with anyone.

  37. Bob Stone says:

    “Recognizing the flaws with the NYT does nothing to change that zerohedge has credibility only roughly better than WND.”


    Do you really think I’d never cite “Tyler Durden” as a reliable source? It was just a quick shout back to Mike with the article providing the links to the reliable sources.

    The sarcastic NY Times segue was just too tempting to pass up.

    Don’t worry, I hit the “make everything ok” button and it worked.

  38. blouise says:


    “Tension over Ukraine will support energy prices, at least for the moment.” Marsh

    The article was written 11 months ago in March of 2014. The fall in prices began in late June of that year with the real impact beginning in earnest in September. Marsh’s “for the moment” held for longer than a moment. However, oil prices were not the subject of his article. The subject was hubris on the part of the EU in mounting a power play without adequate safety measures to withdraw if the power play failed thus ignoring Kohl’s Law:

    “Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who with a mixture of cunning intelligence and good fortune led his country’s unification with the Communist east of the country, used to say that you should never enter a room without knowing how to get out.”

    Kissinger put it more succinctly (as I previously noted), “Henry Kissinger said back in March of last year the demonization of Putin is not a policy, it’s an alibi for not having a policy.”

  39. Bob,

    That’s just dandy, but by the same token I don’t want to run into the same sourcing issues that other blog did (toward the end, Jon was sourcing from all kinds of unreliable outlets) or readers to think we endorse the tin foil culture either. There’s a big difference between pointing at the man behind the curtain when man and curtain are both real and saying the moon landing was a hoax. Which might get you punched in the face by Buzz Aldrin (your mileage may vary).There are reasons I would put up with Oky using zerohedge and call him on it and while I haven’t enacted a strict “no zerohedge” policy, let’s just say it is a strong editorial preference when it comes to columnists. Unless, of course, you are parodying or satirizing or lampooning them. I’m 100% okay with that.

  40. swarthmoremom says:

    Blouise, I think Putin has “demonized” himself. Has the west assisted with that? Probably

  41. Putin certainly seems to like the “tough guy” image. It probably serves him better domestically than internationally though. When it comes to open Russian military aggression, it is ultimately a game of diminishing returns . . . unless he’s crazy. Eventually the price for unleashing that dog is all the other dogs will gang up and severely wound or kill it (a lesson certain other “leaders” should learn as well).

    I don’t think he’s crazy, but he is engaging in some very high stakes brinksmanship.

  42. Gene,
    The good news about Putin’s “tough guy” persona: He is infinitely more intelligent than our own former Presidentin’ fellow who liked to play the part of a “tough guy.” Any doubt which one would win, no matter if it was chess, checkers, Jeopardy, or a cage fight?

    Putin is smart enough to avoid starting a fight he knows he is not likely to win. Unlike our own Presidentin’ guy.

  43. Elaine M. says:


    Our embarrassing, servile media: Does the New York Times just print everything the government tells it?
    The paper of record is carrying Washington’s water in its Ukraine reporting — all too believing, once again

  44. Pingback: Ukraine War: A Reverse Cuban Missile Crisis | Flowers For Socrates

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