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Spanish Civil War Redux

NATO’s Tentacles Choking Ukraine

by NORMAN POLLACK

Ernest Hemingway wannabes are all out to pasture, burrowing into rat holes of Alienation characterizing the current American mindset, rather than examining critically the culture, institutions, and values which promote a national temper of unrepentant destruction toward the great Other, i.e., whether citizens at home (massive surveillance) or countries judged hostile (for starters, Russia and China) to a US-defined and –defended world order via the military implementation of market fundamentalism and unilateral action affecting global political-structural arrangements.  No social revolution wanted.  No threats to capitalism tolerated (even not acceptable, capitalism presumably tainted with past associations with socialism).  Instead, Americanization pure and simple: a permanent war economy and society; “friends and allies” in lockstep through suitable incentives (financial, military, and if necessary, outright pressure) in support of US foreign policy; and the usual economic paraphernalia, beginning with a comprehensive system of deregulation and removal of controls on corporate antisocial behavior; all complemented by the steady infusion of FEAR, transforming yesterday’s anticommunism into today’s counterterrorism, providing a popular mandate for USG’s continued militarism in the service of world counterrevolution.

Welcome to Newport, Wales, Sept. 4-5, 2014, an international festival showcasing the West’s hegemony vis-à-vis Russia and points beyond, orchestrated by the US with NATO fulfilling its role of spearhead for American interests and EU allowing the military tail to wag the dog.  Neat, juicy, subservient, Cameron on the battlement, Hollande, abjectly capitulating to Washington, and Merkel, joining her colleagues in a  chorus of denunciation of Russia and sounding the tocsin of possible war.  Spanish Civil War redux?  Yes, in the sense that although the actors have changed, the ideological division serving to define the 1930s culminating in the run-up to and final outbreak of World War II is the same: Fascism and Anti-Fascism as world-historical forces.  How can this still be true?  The oft-repeated phrase, “History repeats itself,” has value when the foundations of deep ideological divisions, supported by accompanying social structures and political economies, have not been eradicated.  Participants change, the base remains constant.begging slogans6

I do not wish to trot out an arid interpretation of Marxism (in any case, I’ve always preferred “Marxian analysis,” to avoid rigid application of a richly-endowed intellectual system), but the constant historical pattern corresponds to and is inseparable from the advanced stage of capitalism, capitalism perhaps at the end of its tether, except for the resort to extreme measures—war, social control at home, cultural sanction for xenophobia and ethnocentrism, a doctrine of superiority, and the perceived necessity for Imperialism, whether in one case, territorial, or the other, financial-commercial penetration—to stave off enervation and decline.  Capitalism in extremis is a tip-off of increased predatory behavior in the world, precisely as the supposed remedy for a stage of consolidation which, requiring a systematized hierarchy of wealth and power, and resulting widening of class differences, endemic underconsumption, and weakening of labor rights, in order to satisfactorily work, risks the structural conditions of economic stagnation and social unrest, thereby intensifying the role of business-government interpenetration in promoting the power of the State for stabilizing internal economic and class relations and achieving, via expansion, a favorable position in international markets.

Based on the foregoing, I hypothesize the analogous conditions for capitalist development, including comparable stages of the respective political economies, of Germany in the 1930s and the US from say 1970 to the present, specifically, a prefascist configuration, actualized as fascism in the German context and threatening to do so in the American, possibly dragging the European Union and Japan with it.  The extent to which the US is contributing to a world trend toward fascism can be seen in the similarities with the earlier German case, beyond an evident retrograde posture in the world, the actual degree of consolidation and concentration, both of banking and industry, the function of interpenetration for the stabilization AND militarization of capitalism, and the customary hierarchical consequences of wealth-and-income distribution, including that which leads to the Leadership Principle: mass acceptance of the moral superiority of the political-cultural heroes, whether at the pinnacle of business, government, or the military.  As for the Spanish Civil War redux, Ukraine serves as the surrogate for Spain because of a world fissure rapidly taking form which could eventuate in fuller conflict.  For historians, the Spanish Civil War was the dress rehearsal for World War II; Ukraine, one fervently hopes, will not complete the picture.

***

The tables are turning.  NATO has all the trappings of a Spenglerian nightmare—the decline of the West, for our purposes, the US-EU nucleus of World Civilization, meeting as I write in the Welsh resort of Celtic Manor, nominally to discuss Ukraine, ISIS, and Afghanistan, but in fact, the latter two as sideshow, to use Ukraine as the means for firming up a central core of power (let’s include Japan and Israel here) able to withstand pressures for decentralizing the US sponsored and enforced international framework based on American military-financial dominance.  Russia, China, but what also of an increasingly restive Latin America, even, opening in Africa and Southeast Asia to Chinese economic penetration, and down the list of nations sliding away from colonial-imperial Western supervision?  The West is becoming desperate, as if to resurrect the falling-domino theory (which it never really abandoned, its anticommunism always operating on and energizing that principle), so that Ukraine is fast being reduced to an all-or-nothing proposition, and Putin the Rasputin behind the scene ready to strike at all of Europe.  More than likely, Li awaits on the Pacific side—so there is no excuse but to face down the Enemies at the Gate.  NOW, not when it’s too late.

Here the silence of Boisto is deafening, the Finnish island where US and Russian experts gathered to issue a 24-point plan for defusing the conflict, elements of which Putin (see below) adopted, e.g., UN peacekeepers in a supervisory capacity, and closely related to the Poroshenko-Putin demarche to lessen tensions with respect to Ukraine that Celtic Manor is fearful of accomplishment.  A British official (quoted in The Guardian, Sept. 4) stated: “The meeting will provide leaders with the opportunity to hear [P]resident Poroshenko’s [present to brief NATO leaders] assessment of the latest situation on the ground and his discussion with President Putin.  It will also send a clear signal of their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and that the ONUS IS ON RUSSIA to de-escalate the situation.” (caps., mine)  Prejudgment and conviction, vital for the pending business, a rapid-reaction force to halt a putative Russian takeover.  And this force, it is becoming clearer, is meant, as the prototype, to legitimize NATO intervention anywhere in the world, NATO’s Euro-centered mission deftly shelved (it had been already, in Iraq and Afghanistan) on the premise that whatever is disfavored however distant places Europe and America in danger.  We now see as part of the defense for airstrikes against ISIS that the movement, and presumably even more sinister offshoots, will be landing off the beaches of Long Island and Florida, or at least sending their agents on flights to New York, Chicago, and L.A.  Mixing the issues together at the NATO summit conjures up, and I believe is so intended, thus does the US-EU-NATO policymaking mind work, a UNIVERSALIZED threat to all that Western society holds dear.

Thus the Obama-Cameron joint-editorial in The Times of London the day preceding the summit meeting [Sept. 3] linked ISIS and Russia together as interrelated threats to US-European security: “Whether it is regional aggression [i.e., Russia in Ukraine] going unchecked or the prospect that foreign fighters could return from Iraq and Syria [i.e., ISIS] to pose a threat in our countries, the problems we face today threaten the security of the British and American people, and THE WIDER WORLD.” (caps.,mine)  A neat extension of meaning and jurisdiction, for they go on to say that NATO must make itself into a “more effective security network that fosters stability around the world,” to which they add, NATO members must do more in the way of military spending.

This is a busy agenda, not quite an inverted Yalta or even Dumbarton Oaks, but, perhaps as we’ll see in retrospect, a collaboration to halt the historical process before the world that the US and Europe knew and largely dominated completely unravels.  Putin surmises as much.  The West is ideologically tied in knots, making it overreach, as now, flirting with disaster in Ukraine, until hastening its relative decline by having counterterrorism create far more enemies than its resources—here, think drones—can address, it collapses in a paroxysm of hatred, arrogance, and misplaced dreams of glory.  Obama incorporates the destructive tendencies in his own person, a fit candidate to preside over the Sisyphean climb downward of a nation whose pretentious ambition was world dominance, each step from now on a further descent into Hades.

***

Further clarification of the immediate diplomatic setting for the NATO meeting reveals that Putin, on Sept. 3, had indeed engaged with Poroshenko, and presented a specific 7-point plan for a permanent ceasefire which stands in marked contrast to Obama’s bellicose statement in Estonia of the same date, and to the general tenor of the meeting itself, which clearly was out for blood—Putin and Russia’s.  Neil MacFarquhar’s NYT article, “Putin Lays Out Proposal to End Ukraine Conflict,” (Sept. 3), counterpoints a plan of conciliation to summit histrionics and demonization.  MacFarquhar: “On the eve of a NATO summit meeting focused on Russian aggression [bless The Times’ unbiased usage]… Putin… unveiled on Wednesday [Sept. 3] a seven-point peace plan for Ukraine while… Obama and other Western leaders tried to keep the spotlight on the Kremlin’s role in stoking the conflict there and the penalties it should suffer for doing so.”  In essence, “both sides ‘end active offensive operations,’” while, for the reporter, the plan “seemed to raise more questions than it answered,” yet, let the world judge both its feasibility and rationality for ending the crisis.  Succinctly, MacFaquhar again: “Aside from the cease-fire, the plan laid out by Mr. Putin called for Ukrainian artillery to pull back and out of range of the eastern separatists’ strongholds [i.e., population centers, as I brought out in a previous article]; an end to airstrikes; an exchange of all detainees; opening up humanitarian corridors for residents of the separatist areas [Putin had also called for safety corridors for Ukrainian army troops to return home]; repairing damaged infrastructure; and deploying international observers to monitor the cease-fire.”

I think, reasonable, particularly because he made no mention of the region’s changed political status as a condition or demand.  Not surprisingly, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Victoria Nuland’s favorite statesman, at least in promoting the coup, said, “’Putin’s real plan is the destruction of Ukraine and the resumption of the U.S.S.R.,’” i.e., the double-barreled charged of invasion/ conquest and the return of Stalin and Communism.  Not to be outdone, Obama tossed cold water on the plan from the outset, in his Estonian news conference saying, “’We haven’t seen a lot of follow-up on so-called announced cease-fires.”  But then, coming out swinging about the putative invasion: “’It is a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, a sovereign and independent European nation.  It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system: that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun, that nations have the right to determine their own future.’”  Sounds great, were not regime change, intervention, and war second-nature to US foreign policy—territory, as I noted previously, being no longer a primary objective, as developed in the Gallagher and Robinson article, “The Imperialism of Free Trade.”

My NYT Comment on the MacFarquhar article, same date, follows:

The chief casualty of the impending Putin-Poroshenko rapproachement is Barack Obama, warmonger of the first water. Poor NATO summit, gunning for war, doing everything possible–witness Rasmussen’s irresponsible statements–to generate tension. Should peace break out, what will happen to the demonization of Putin? Perhaps NYT will stop throwing around the word “aggression” so casually, and strike a balance by re-examining fascist elements in the Kiev government.

Yes, we are in the Cold War, and seem–judging from Congressional support for Ukraine–to like it that way. America without war might be forced to consider the sad state of the domestic economy, health care system, infrastructure. Better these distractions, than solving internal problems.

Maybe CIA could be used to “disappear” Poroshenko, for his latest move toward civility and moderation is the last thing the US-EU-NATO complex wants. Perhaps Nuland can help engineer another COUP, with Svoboda and Right Sector openly praised and given the keys of government.

Also, in this immediate setting, we see, just prior, Peter Baker and Steven Erlanger’s NYT article, “U.S. and Europe Are Struggling With Response to a Bold Russia,” (Sept. 2), implying what the heart of the NATO summit is about: Russia, of course, but walking a tightrope in calibrating the punishment.  They write: “American and European officials are struggling to devise a response as Russia bears down on Ukraine, searching for new measures that will have more impact than the economic sanctions imposed so far, without risking major damage to their own industries or a military escalation that could spiral out of control.”  In fact, only two days later, we see caution being thrown to the wind as hostility toward Russia, Obama’s function judging by his Estonian remarks and joint-editorial with Cameron, as contrasted with a certain demurring on the part of Italy and France, no longer dwelled on the economic impact for the EU of sanctions, while planning for the rapid-strike force was hardly calculated to assuage Russian fears of military engagement.

Despite media efforts to emphasize unanimity, and Obama’s exhortations to achieve it, Baker-Erlanger are loathe to admit that “[d]espite anger at Russian actions, there are few signs that Europe has the stomach for a more confrontational policy if the White House does not [the fiction here that Obama is devoted to peace and eschews conflict].  In the end, European leaders whose economies are dependent on Russian energy are reluctant to widen the conflict beyond additional sanctions.  Instead, they may seek an outcome that makes some concessions to the Kremlin.”  This is very much the White House’s party line—blame Europe for not standing firm in the face of Soviet aggression.  As one defense guru put the matter: “It may be ‘deeply unappetizing’…but Europe favors ‘some form of cease-fire and some degree of negotiation that will give eastern Ukraine more autonomy than Kiev wants and a clear sign that Ukraine won’t join NATO.’”  Not to worry!  If Obama, Cameron, and Rasmussen have their way, none of the above will happen, negotiation per se the devil’s work that compromises freedom and democracy.

My NYT Comment on the Baker-Erlanger article, same date, follows:

Despite their flippant charge of “Russian aggression,” the reporters make a signal contribution by telling us of the BOISTO plan, which has otherwise gone unnoticed. Signers are no pushovers or Russophiles, and for them to talk sense while others like Menendez and Strobe Talbott dangerously push the envelope toward confrontation alerts us to just how extreme Congress, most of the think-tanks, and the Obama administration are in demonizing Putin and overlookingNazi-like elements in the Kiev government.

Actually, the NATO summit in Wales tomorrow, with Obama attending, may disappoint the US-EU-NATO hawks because Poroshenko seems–by today’s MacFarquhar report–less desirous of conflict than all those rushing to his side. Scream all one wants to about the nasty Russkie bear, but Putin has been circumspect, and NYT should be more accurate in its reporting of the “I can take Kiev in two weeks” statement, which a) was taken out of context, and b) points up the obvious: that he did NOT order Russian forces to that end.

NYT is having a problem with BIAS, its anti-Putin, anti-Russian position interfering with its reporting. I don’t mind the Editorial Board’s steady pummeling of Russia, but the front page requires greater journalistic integrity. Board of mediators, delete this Comment if you will; you have to live with your pretensions of a free and independent press.

Norman Pollack has written on Populism. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.