Those Who Voted for the “Lesser Evil” Voted for NATO Expansion

Photograph Source: DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison – Public Domain

It’s bad form to quote oneself. But I did suggest the following during the last presidential election, in a Counterpunch piece Aug. 21, 2020, explaining why I could not see Biden as the “lesser evil” than Trump.

It seems to me quite likely that Joe Biden will be elected in November. He has stated that Ukraine will be at the top of his foreign policy priorities. He continues to focus on Ukrainian corruption. Why? And why was he so involved in that issue as vice president? Because a too-corrupt Ukraine can’t join NATO! The plan is: clean up corruption, get Ukraine into NATO, and then (as is the norm) join the EU.

The planned inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia into NATO was announced in 2008 but since delayed, mostly due to rational German hesitation to provoke Russia. Biden is a major proponent of expansion.

I believe that the expansion of NATO since 1999, with the ultimate design of encircling Russia, is the most likely trigger of another world war. The organization’s relentless expansion, contrary to the promise that George H. W. Bush had made to Mikhail Gorbachev (that NATO would not expand “one inch” eastward after 1989), can only be seen by Russia as threatening. This is why the Russians invaded Georgia in 2008 (recall how John McCain urged war at the time) and re-annexed Crimea to secure its Sevastopol naval base in 2014.

The Trump period has seen further expansion of NATO (to include Montenegro and Northern Macedonia) and a substantial increase in European spending at Trump’s insistence. But he began his term dubious about NATO’s ongoing “relevance.” (Recall how that panicked all mainstream commentators. How could any U.S. politician question the “Atlantic Alliance” and the diplomatic architecture that has “maintained security and peace” in Europe since 1945?)

Trump has treated his European allies as ingrates ripping off the American taxpayer, and is withdrawing thousands of troops from Germany, for whatever reasons. He has avoided conflict with Russia, even while boasting that he has applied the toughest sanctions ever against Moscow. He even flirted at one point with recognizing Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

Biden on the other hand is an ardent NATO supporter. I can envision, after the election, a changed, progressive atmosphere for a time. Statues of racists falling all over the U.S. and progressive new laws being passed—while Joe Biden and Secretary of State Susan Rice push for Ukraine’s membership, the Donbas region requests Russian annexation, Moscow (which has been denying the requests) annexes the Donbas prior to NATO admission and the U.S. is involved in a war that would make Iraq look like a picnic. And I can see war leading to a massive crackdown on dissent in this country, and yes, maybe fascism. Real fascism.

End quote. Okay, I was wrong about Susan Rice. The even more odious Anthony Blinken got that job. And I was wrong about progressive new laws being passed. Biden has been unable to achieve anything remotely “progressive” in thirteen months. (The deal with the Sanders progressives has fallen through. It was never intended to do more that unite the Democrats behind the worse, most unreconstructed post-Cold War relic, so that the “aberrant” Putin-coddling regime would be replaced by a business-as-usual regime eager to return to the task, sadly neglected during the Trump years, of strangling Russia through NATO expansion. And—I am quite sure the reasoning went—if the progressives want to break off at some point, no problem, Biden will have been elected by then and might not need their loyalty in 2024. And today’s parliamentary “progressive” can surely become tomorrow’s corporate toady, in the grand coalition of diverse viewpoints that is the Democratic Party.)

But I was right about Biden’s provocation of Russia over Ukraine. And it seems that general failure on “domestic issues” inclines the dotard towards global messianic aspirations. He’ll be 80 in November. He wants to cap his career with a glorious foreign victory, and that means—ideally, if only Germany can be strongarmed to agree–getting Ukraine into NATO and dotting it with missiles that can strike Moscow in minutes.

God bless America, and God bless our troops! And nothing’s changed in my lifetime! That’s how he really thinks. What did it tell us when, last year, Biden met the Pope in Rome and gifted him a medallion coin with the insignia of the 261st Signal Brigade of the Delaware National Guard—with which his beloved son Beaux had “served” in a war zone, in a criminal “war of choice,” from 2008 to 2009? He really believes God blesses “our” troops! ,Hence the Pope does too! What Trumpian delusion could be more nuts?

Now the U.S. “liberal” media—that basks smugly in its pretenses of wokenness, advertises its sensitivity to all manner of oppressed people, stands up for trans rights while wagging fingers at those who don’t, and increasingly defines itself in relation to Fox and its viewers—stands united in purveying lies more toxic than those of Trump. The news anchors and their chosen “experts,” drawn from former intelligence and military officials and unofficial State Department spokespersons, or bearing such dignified titles as “senior foreign correspondent” and “senior international analyst,” ridicule all who deny the State Department talking points they’re taught to recite.

The Media Maintains a Solid Front

I haven’t seen since 2001 the U.S. media so united in pressing a case—in this instance persuading the people that the expansion of NATO is NOT an aggressive thing, but that RUSSIA is the aggressor—because it keeps invading countries and trying to reestablish the Soviet Union! (Putin has no more said that he wants to reestablish the USSR than Ahmadinejad ever said Iran would wipe Israel off the map. But both of these manufactured quotes are cited authoritatively, simply because Big Lies with repetitions become true.)

Biden had been predicting that Russia will invade. Now Russia HAS, in fact, invaded! Not just positioning troops in the secessionist people’s republics, or fanning out throughout the Donbass region, but taking Kherson, seizing Chernobyl, and advancing on Kyiv. The prophecy has been fulfilled.

(Aside: Pat Robertson, a certified Evangelical idiot who once urged George W. Bush, in 2015, to “take out” Chavez in Venezuela, now finds in this Russian invasion of Ukraine the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. As we all know, the Book of Revelation foretold all this, and how it will all lead to that rapturous Apocalypse centered on Jerusalem. In which case Putin is indeed doing God’s work, and so is Biden. And so of course was Jim Jones when he urged his faithful flock to drink the cool aid. But I digress.)

There is no need here to detail the host of lies, distortions, ignorant premises and deployment of Cold War anti-Soviet memes purveyed by the media to win public support for moves to complete NATO’s encirclement of Russia, in the nearer or shorter term. To outline the barest relevant historical facts, over the long and short durees, is to challenge the average person’s attention span. Its highly time-consuming and I’ve been doing it for years. The important thing is to recognize that there stands now, as we speak, a solid front of the bourgeois media, or at least its “liberal progressive” mainstream, behind an equally solid State Department-dictated, Cold War-like, concerted propaganda effort to unite the masses around the vapid theme of Democracy (led, by God’s will, by the U.S.) versus Autocracy (or often used synonym, Authoritarianism) as manifest by Russia.

The frequent confusion of the experts as to the duration of the actual Soviet Union (which dissolved in 1991) is manifest in their frequent use of the term “Soviet” as a substitute for “Russian.” Sometimes it’s a slip-up, and nobody finds such trifling details significant anyway, but increasingly it seems conscious and deliberate. They are still living in the era in which the Soviets were feared as agents of an expanding international communist movement, whereas now Russia is ruled by a capitalist oligarchy trending towards some sort of state-capitalism officially anti-fascist (and anti-communist!) but actually quite fascistic itself. Lacking the old (“communist”) Soviet Union, the customary boogeyman, facing something entirely different in essence and self-conception, the warmongers here are unable to target it merely on the grounds that its “authoritarian.” (“Jesus,” the paid “expert” with any shred of integrity left might think, “like how many dictators are there out there, some of them our friends?”)

As it is the talking heads shift easily from analysis to pure racism: the Russians, more than one sober “expert” on Russia has averred, are expansionist, antipathetic to democracy and inclined to back strong, brutal leaders. The implication is that these are inherited traits, dictated by genes rather than the features of U.S.A. people—whose “exceptional” fate to make the world democratic is dictated by God as their Manifest Destiny. CNN doesn’t say that specifically but any schoolchild watching Jake Tapper might conclude as such.

So it’s no longer communism that Russians represent, but a vague thing called “autocracy” which Anthony Blinken—as though talking to pre-schoolchildren—tells CNN viewers is the enemy of “democracy.” Democracy = Biden, the Leader of the Free World. It’s thus precisely to PROTECT democracy that Europe must be severed from Russia and wedded more firmly to the 1949 anticommunist alliance. Isn’t it clear, kids? Good, versus Evil.

Forces of sheer Goodness want to use NATO—not to ward off any invasion from the east, certainly not a “communist” one, but to ensure that the U.S retains its leadership of (most of) Europe. Only evil forces want to see Russia invade its neighbors or make excuses for Russia. That’s the degree of nuance allowed in the free capitalist press, which is to say there is no nuance.

The experts put up a solid front, like when they suggest that the U.S., with its electoral system exposed to the world as a sham—manipulated by Wall Street that approves the candidates, the corporate media that shapes public opinion, superPACs that fund whoever wins—is somehow a model for anybody. Is THAT what the posited “autocrats” are up against? Is a system in which local racist officials gerrymander districts and obstruct voting by people of people of color a global model? The U.S., with its bogus elections, broken institutions, plunging share of the world marketplace, legacy of failed wars based on lies based on lies, history of arm-twisting for its corporations’ ends, and generally slipping prestige—is this atrophying capitalist thing worthy of continuation, much less emulation? Excuse me for asking the fundamental question.

The experts never note that the U.S. presence in Europe, in the form of its ongoing network of bases, especially in the defeated Italy and Germany, was obtained as a result of the victory over fascism, led by none other than the Soviet Union in 1945. (In Europe the U.S. played, as all schoolchildren should be taught, an honorable secondary role in the war against fascism.) The experts are not allowed to note that NATO was formed soon after the war to consolidate U.S. “Atlantic” allies, and that the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact was only formed six years later as a modest response; and that while the Warsaw Pact closed up shop as the USSR dissolved in 1991, NATO, with no clear enduring mission, not only didn’t dissolve but rather expanded relentlessly towards the Russian border. This was in violation of George H.W. Bush’s promise to Mikhail Gorbachev that the alliance wouldn’t expand “one inch” towards Russia—a promise alternately denied by the experts aloud to speak (“there was nothing in writing,” they say), and then confirmed with the smirking observation that “anyway that was an agreement between the USSR and U.S., and the USSR. no longer exists”). That’s how the authorities gracing Tiffany Cross’s Saturday show think.

But there is no time to go into all that. The greater part of the masses is going to buy the bullshit, for the time being, as they always do, given the corporate media’s control of popular perceptions of reality. Russia has invaded Ukraine! All the news anchors have rushed to Ukraine to pose as sudden specialists and impress the reality of the bombing and brutality on the global bullshit consumer. Profanity is allowed, dead bodies are shown (you might want to take your children from the room), due to the seriousness of the matter. What more do you have to know? Biden was right on this one! We have to punish Russia!

That will be the constantly reiterated message as Biden seeks to push the Europeans to sacrifice their interests (including to opening of Nord Stream II) for the greater cause of the “democratic” alliance, as the consequent European energy crisis (which the NATO allies are asked to suffer, so Biden can demonstrate his “leadership”) hits home as well.

Talking Reality to Your Friends and Other People

A young relative of mine was noting the other day how efficiently the propaganda apparatus was working, even impacting “progressives” like AOC, and wondering what he might to say to them, succinctly, however complicated the historical context and however limited the other’s patience. What are the basic points?

It’s all about NATO! The absolutely pointless expansion of NATO to encircle Russia. The great ongoing geopolitical strategy of the U.S., that is virtually ignored and never problematized in the media. Ask: Why is this never discussed? Ask: Why wasn’t NATO dissolved like the Warsaw Pact, after the end of the Cold War? What is the purpose for it doubling in size since 1999?

Keep hammering in these points, if need be, by mere repetition. Or repetition with slight variations, depending on the person you’re talking too. Keep pressing your point until your friend begs you to stop.

Mention that NATO that is not supported by the majority of people in a number of NATO countries (including Spain and Greece). Mention that French president Macron has stated (Nov. 2019) that NATO is suffering from “brain death.” (Better, ask rhetorically: “Why does the president of France, a founding NATO member, declare that the alliance is brain-dead? What does that tell you, for god sakes?”) Mention that NATO that has gone to war only three times, all in the post-Cold War era—to destroy Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya (with “democracy” having NOTHING to do with the matter, and all far from the “North Atlantic” NATO supposedly defends). Recall to your friend’s attention the fact that these wars were all based on lies and did nothing but produce dysfunctional puppet states (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo), mass death to no purpose (Afghanistan), and the levelling of North Africa’s most affluent state.

Mention that the people of this country have never voted to join NATO, and no more can explain why NATO exists than can locate Ukraine on the map. Point out that ALWAYS when the U.S. makes a case for war it accuses the target of “genocide” (in both Bosnia and Kosovo, Iraq in relation to the Kurds, Libya, etc.) and of military moves threatening the world. Ask: Have you learned nothing from the last 30 years? The U.S. government LIES, and the corporate media is so wedded to the Pentagon and State Department it also lies, professionally. It’s their job.

The point is to throw out the question, the essential one so rarely asked—the “Question That Must Not Be Posed”—“Why does NATO exist? Why is it, in the first place?” Just planting this question may be the best thing you do all day.

With that question lingering, perhaps uncomfortably, in your friend’s mind, ask: “Why does NATO want to add Ukraine to the expanding alliance? And why do you think Russia might oppose that?”

You may be asked: “But does NATO REALLY want to add Ukraine? I thought Rachel Maddow said that definitely WASN’T the issue since there was no way Ukraine would be admitted.” In that case answer: “In 2008 NATO announced Ukraine would join. That was AFTER Russia had told Washington that Ukraine was a red line, and that it could not tolerate Ukraine’s entry into a hostile alliance. You know what ‘crossing a red line’ means? It means war!

Russia has repeated its opposition firmly, politely, even while NATO has expanded more (by four countries) since then. In 2000, the new president Putin proposed that Russia itself join the alliance, after it had expanded inexplicably to include Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, but was rebuffed. NATO insists it is not an anti-Russian alliance. It just looks, talks and acts like it is.

Biden has a keen advocate of Ukraine’s’ inclusion as soon as possible. He was the Obama Administration’s point man on Ukraine after the U.S.-backed 2014 coup; his main job was to clean up corruption so that Ukraine could be considered for NATO admission. His son Hunter “served” for years on the board of the country’s largest gas company. What was that all about? Hint: it has something to do with getting Ukraine into NATO!

NATO secretary general Stoltenberg repeated in Kyiv recently that Ukraine would join. The Russians have every reason to be concerned. Wouldn’t the U.S. be, faced with encirclement by a hostile alliance more powerful than itself?”

Don’t say anything about Kant and the moral imperative, or even cite the Golden Rule. Just go with “How would YOU feel?” and hope that some inherently human capacity for empathy kicks in. Confront your friend with truths so contrary to all the reportage that surrounds us they might in their very outrageousness persist and convince. It is the U.S., not Russia, that is the aggressor here. It is Russia, not the U.S., that responds defensively, to thwart NATO expansion to include Georgia (another red line) and Ukraine.

And about this business of NATO being a non-issue, something not in the cards for the near future, tell whoever you’re speaking to that Maddow doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Sure Ukraine’s “eventual” NATO membership announced in 2008 has been put on hold, largely because other NATO countries think it would be insane to include it and needlessly provoke Russia with which they want friendly relations and depend on for many commodities. What Maddow means to say is that Biden’s well-known desire to bring Ukraine into the alliance to cap his career has been on hold due to these persistent objections, and she wants you to think therefore that the Russians have no beef here and that NATO has nothing to do with it. (What an abject apologist for imperialism this once halfway perceptive critic of the criminal Iraq War has become; what an effective spokesperson for the State Department! But I digress again.)

It was the U.S., not Russia, that broke what people at the State Department call—with perfectly straight faces—“the rules-based international order.” (When exactly did that ever BEGIN, I wonder. 1945, when the UN was founded by the US, USSR, UK, France and China, the first four primarily to maintain peace in Europe? And wasn’t peace maintained in Europe until after the Cold War, after the Soviet collapse, when the U.S. used NATO to bomb Bosnia and Serbia, subjecting Belgrade to a blitzkrieg unseen on the continent since Nazi days? Seems to me that “rules-based order” broke down in 1999 when the U.S. and NATO broke it.)

It was the U.S. that pioneered in rule breaking when, having taken NATO to war with Serbia (to prevent genocide), it carved out a NATO base called Kosovo from the historic Serbian heartland and in 2008 announced it would recognize this dependency as an independent state.

Yes, the U.S. invaded a sovereign country that did not threaten itself. How terrible was that? Yes, the U.S. recognized a breakaway region as an independent country. How awful a precedent was that?

Moscow of course protested the clear violation of the rules, that is, of international law. U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice, who’d predicted a mushroom cloud over New York City if the U.S. didn’t invade Iraq, now explained cutely that this was a thing sui generis. Remember? The Russians concluded the rules of “the rules-based order,” had somehow changed. They responded by recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, over Washington’s howls of righteous protest.

If your friend is Christian, you might want to allude to Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees. Biden and Blinken are hypocrites who pretend great (“democratic”) piety while destroying houses or preparing to do so. (Mention Matthew 23:13 if useful, if not Matthew 7:3.)

Ask: So how does the Russian recognition of the People’s Republic of Luhansk differ from the U.S. recognition of Kosovo? Let the import of that question sink in. If your friend volunteers something like, well, Luhansk is close to Russia, and was historically part of Russia, and has a Russian-speaking population, while Kosovo is far from the U.S., was never part of the U.S., and is not culturally North American—encourage that line of comparison. You’re speaking to my point! you should say.

But basically, encourage your friend to notice that the people who’ve purveyed the worst disinformation in the past are declaring themselves morally appalled that a country would invade another (“in this day and age!) and to unilaterally recognize breakaway republics’ independence! They’re “shocked, shocked!” they say, with all the sincerity of Capt. Renault in Casablanca.

Another question to just let ferment in the other’s mind: Why did the Ukrainians, in the 2010 presidential election—which was certified free and fair by the usual international observers— elect the leader of the Party of Regions, popular in the Donbas but also throughout the country, known to want friendly relations with Russia, be open to EU membership but opposed to NATO? Why did the U.S. State Department (whose Ukraine operations were directed by the neocon warmonger Cold War relic Victoria Nuland) spend billions, much of that from the (bipartisan) Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, to topple a democratically elected government in 2014?

The answer of course was to get Ukraine into NATO, by installing in power a Russophobic cabinet intending to expel the Russians from the Crimean Peninsula and make the Black Sea into a NATO Lake. It had ZERO to do with “Democracy”! Ask whether Russian actions at the time—depicted universally in the Free Press of the west as one or more “invasions” were truly such, or measured responsive actions to a coup with an overtly neofascist coloration?

At least raise the question. But again, the point is to select a few talking points and promote the understanding that NATO is a profoundly bad thing, not something to be urgently bolstered with Finland and Sweden to say nothing of Ukraine.

One has to, as Mao says, be conscious of “the problem of audience,” and the need to adjust to your hearers’ level of political awareness. There’s might include some from the third of the population that has backed Trump and whose current “populist” form of “isolationism” has nothing in common with Marxist anti-imperialism or for that matter, libertarian antiwar sentiment or Quaker pacifism. As it happens, Fox figures are, for whatever reasons, asking some of the questions we should all ask, if usually in a crude, confused fashion: “Why,” asks Tucker Carlson, usually the grotesque spokesperson for almost all that is evil, “should we support Ukraine, and not Russia?” As though “we” should support anyone at all in the conflict! Or as though U.S. “support” is ever really support for the people depicted as crying out for the U.S. to intervene! Still, the implicit question of why people in this country should support U.S. provocations of Russia is a valid one. And it’s more good than bad that there be division in the ruling class on this matter. May it intensify!

I read just that among Republicans, Putin is more popular than Biden. This is perhaps an instance of what Hegel calls the Cunning of Reason in History. I don’t care if the advocate of NATO dissolution also believes that Biden eats children in Nancy Pelosi’s office. (This—while quite likely untrue—is surely less foolish, and less likely to invite nuclear holocaust, than the delusion that the United States stands for freedom and democracy in the world, or even within itself, and is somehow the “Exceptional Nation.”) And if some people hate Biden for the wrong reasons, and like Putin because Biden doesn’t like him—and so won’t swallow the mainstream coverage of Ukraine they perceive as glorifying Biden—they at least will not be among the most avid warmongers.

And when Trump and Pompeo both praise Putin’s brilliance, you know that’s going to weaken Biden regardless of what he decides to do. (The next major decision appears to be whether or not to impose a no-fly zone. You know, like in Iraq and Libya, except that the Iraqis and Libyans had no nukes.)

That said, a neofascist presence within the antiwar movement would be most unwelcome, especially if most of the self-advertised “progressives” capitulate to the pressures of the moment, joining their condemnations of the Russian invasion with those of the wholesale reactionaries (“moderates”) of both parties, avoiding all context, and disabusing anyone so imagining that they could ever progress from their paltry advocacy of social justice at home to a genuine critique of U.S. capitalism imperialism. Among elected “progressive” officials, anti-fascism (if not Antifa) is tolerated; anti-imperialism is positively discouraged. Among activists, many still believe you can’t even TALK about imperialism “because the word puts people off.”

No Movement Yet

But I speak of an antiwar movement (as in this case, necessarily, an anti-NATO movement) as though there really WERE such a thing; as though there were anything like the global 2002 movement to prevent the crime of the century (to that point) from happening actually EXISTED. But I don’t see it just now, nor any party to lead it. (The last time there was such a party it petered out into a ludicrous personality cult.) A real antiwar movement must be anti-imperialist, and I’m not sure one is anywhere near to forming this point. Correct me if I’m wrong.

AOC has signed a bipartisan letter condemning the Russian invasion but demanding that Congress be consulted before any commitment of U.S. troops. No mention of NATO, which means no mention of context. There are no anti-imperialist legislators, with a clear understanding of what is happening, with some inkling about the reasons Russia is finally responding forcibly to the Question That Must Not Be Named.

This is what makes the situation uniquely terrifying. A cocky, unsteady old man with his mind in the 1950s, struggling to reassert U.S. “leadership” following a generation of events that have inevitably diminished its clout, making the expansion of NATO his last final goal in life, is rallying the still influential mainstream bourgeois press to trot out all the tired old propaganda about freedom, democracy, national sovereignty, inviolability of borders, international law, etc.—and, for the time being, it appears, succeeding!

This shows the malleability of public opinion, the shortness of memories, the lack of critical thinking, the prevalence of just the sort of ignorance the media likes to cultivate. Everything could happen very quickly, and there isn’t much time for education, beyond the basic agitation that begins with the slogan: ABOLISH NATO!

Lenin on Imperialist Wars

Vladimir Lenin, a most brilliant Russian, would today consider Russia an imperialist country, by his definition (1916). As such, it is involved in ongoing inter-imperialist rivalry, principally with the U.S. that is trying to exclude it from the global marketplace. The Russian economy is about 8% the size of the U.S. economy, its military expenditure about 17% of the U.S. figure; it is not a real military or economic threat to the distant U.S. But its state energy companies compete with U.S. gas companies, and to maintain NATO countries’ dependency on itself the U.S. must sell what the Russians are better equipped to do, because buying from Russia weakens the Alliance designed above all else to benefit U.S. capitalism. That goes for the whole period since 1949.

So if two imperialist countries (Russia and U.S. through its Ukraine proxy) go at it, why should people anywhere support one capitalist oppressor over another? Lenin’s response of course, was to support neither; hadn’t Marx and Engels declared that the workers of the world HAVE no country to defend? One should encourage fraternization between warring armies, in the spirit of proletarian solidarity. And what was the task of Russians, during World War I? Lenin stated that they had the particular duty to contribute to the tsarist state’s collapse; he promoted “revolutionary defeatism.” One would think that among the 145 million Russians there are some who share Lenin’s view. and without tainting themselves with complicity in western plots can lead a genuinely anti-imperialist movement in Russia. One would think too that in Ukraine some are more influenced by Lenin, the revolutionary communist, than by Stepan Bandera, the fascist patron saint of the new Ukraine, enough to see that their country has been a pawn in a new Cold War, governed by traitorous pawns bought by foreign powers, victimized now by Washington’s interminable effort to expand its teetering military alliance.

In this country, the demand to end NATO needs to be joined with HANDS OFF UKRAINE! Whether the U.S. observes the public assurances that U.S. troops will not be sent, popular opinion needs to be alerted to the possibility and encouraged to view it with maximal alarm.

Europe Capitulating to U.S. Imperialism, and the Treason Charge

Europe has risen from the ashes since 1945. The European Union now unites much of the continent, including Germany, France and Italy, whose three economies alone are half the size of the U.S. one. Germany and Italy have generally been abjectly deferential to the U.S.; this has something to do with their having been fascist and defeated (in part) by the U.S. From the U.S. imperialist point of view, these two prime conquered countries must ALWAYS, FOREVER host U.S. military bases to protect themselves from…from any foreign countries that might want to invade and occupy them! France with its own imperial tradition has sometimes broken ranks. Europe has been much impacted by the repercussions of U.S. wars and has all the reason in the world to question Washington’s judgement.

But present Europe has capitulated to U.S. demands with greater obsequiousness than I expected. That Germany, having resisted U.S. pressure so long, should suspend Nord Stream II, was a shocker. It shows that Europe (that is, the various European imperialisms) has not attained the degree of independence needed to resist U.S. imperialism. The reports of potential near term Finnish and Swedish NATO membership are ominous. We will see how much clout U.S. imperialism will be able to exercise through its control of SWIFT, and how effective the dollar will be from now on in dominating commercial transactions globally. We may be in for a period of severe economic crisis, along with the NATO countries, creating the kind of confusion and hardship that fascist movements thrive on and inclining state forces to adopt fascist measures.

Meantime in this country the mainstream media is using the term “treasonous” to refer to statements by high-profile people that they don’t support the war—that is, U.S. participation in the war, or provocation of the war by NATO expansion and “color revolutions.” The casual news consumer is left with the impression that the world is united against Russia; that U.S. efforts to maintain and expand NATO—not on an anti-communist, anti-Soviet (ideological) basis but purely to oppose Russia, the nation (or an essentializing, racist, Russophobic basis) and impede its natural trading activity with “the West” were spot on all along; and that the U.S. should arm the Ukrainians to the teeth if not establish a no-fly zone in the country (an idea much more popular with professional warmongering senior foreign correspondents like MSNBC’s airheaded Richard Engel than with military officials); and that the U.S. response of seeking to (further) cripple Russia with sanctions will force Russia to back off. If the media is not advocating war, it is preparing public opinion to accept a war with Russia, by minimizing dissent by selectively building a case requiring no historical knowledge, context or even knowledge of basic facts. Fascism loves a climate of ignorance, requires it in fact. It relies on fear to rally support.

With no mainstream media access, genuine critics are confined to internet sites. When will social media start blocking NATO critics—for spreading false information? I see the RT channel has been shut down in this country. Why not Fox too, if Tucker Carlson keeps asking why the U.S. shouldn’t support Russia, rather than Ukraine? When do the censors go for Counterpunch, for spreading the (false and publicly demoralizing) claim that NATO expansion provoked the war?

I’ve heard reports—quite likely disinformation of the usual sort, but maybe accurate—that faced with widespread anti-war protests at home, Putin may order martial law in Russia. Do you suppose Biden less capable of such a move, here? Hawai’i was under martial law for the duration of the Pacific War; there is ample precedent “here.” Can you imagine a swelling anti-imperialist, anti-NATO movement, met by the full repressive power of the state? I can see war leading to a massive crackdown on dissent in this country, and yes, maybe real fascism. I can that fascism, rooted less in the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other uncoordinated cosplay cults linked to the Mike Flynn rogue types at the Defense Department, than in the dangerous dreams of State Department and Pentagon planners, and the need to enforce a consensus at home.

Lesser evil? Really? Does any serious “socialist” now regret voting for Biden (NATO), in order to—what was it?—“prevent fascism”?

***

Saturday morning. The odiously ignorant Tiffany Cross lords over her MSNBC program, interviewing experts. “If there is a nuclear conflict,” she asks cheerily, “how will it affect us on domestic soil?” (That’s domestic soil, I guess, as opposed to European soil, although Europe is richly planted with U.S. bases that are extensions of the North American continent, designed since 1949 to “keep the Germans down and the Russians out.”) This clueless pawn talks flippantly about mushroom clouds. We’re at that point.

Coming up after the break: why the Ukrainian present is furious that NATO won’t establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, “perhaps rightfully so,” Tiffany shamelessly editorializes. She suggests Zelensky has a case, even though the U.S. and NATO have said a no-fly zone would mean World War III. After the foreign affairs piece she moves on to her habitual praise for Democratic efforts to ensure fair voting. Voting, you see, is much more important than knowing anything. When you vote you register your support for “American democracy,” in the absence of such, and your conviction that elections are the only way to produce change in a democracy. It’s the cable news anchor’s primary job to convey that state religious orthodoxy, surely not to educate the masses about how capitalism works, how imperialism works, and how NATO is a savage imperialist alliance responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, just within recent memory, from the Hindu Kush, to North Africa, to the Balkans.

Later Saturday: More attention is being given to Ukrainian appeals to establish a no-fly zone. For humanitarian reasons, of course, like earlier no-fly zones imposed by U.S. imperialism over Serbia, Syria and Libya in the past (always to prevent “genocide”!). Zelensky shown appealing directly to Congress for a no-fly zone. He argues: You say that will mean World War III, well, we are in World War III! The foreign minister is shown asking why the Ukrainians should have to all the fighting against Russia? Indeed, why not have World War III? Why would that be so terrible? Especially if what’s left of NATO can expand after the war to fully encircle the still inhabited regions of what was once a large populous country. Surely Paris could be rebuilt?

This is getting serious. Putin is quite right in saying that no-fly zones mean Russian attacks on the territory of participating NATO members. So what? think the eager newscasters, serving in their own imaginations as the Conscience of the World, with dramatic scenes behind them. It’s their JOB to generate and exacerbate anti-Russian outrage among the viewers. They are, inadvertently or not, gunning for World War III.

Sunday afternoon. Some push-back by the saner bourgeois commentators: no, look, folks, a no-fly zone is just not feasible. NATO must exercise RESTRAINT, having pushed things so far. Because a no-fly zone would mean…well, a more serious conflict, don’t you see?

The message (as I read it): So go on looking at our coverage. Let us turn your stomach and make you weep tears of rage and indignation! Let us make you howl, “What can we do for these poor people, for god sakes!” Let us help you focus your demand, until it becomes a bipartisan demand of the insane: NO FLY ZONE! NO FLY ZONE!

Marx noted that labor struggles were not to be judged on their immediate results but their success in uniting the workers. Here whatever the outcome of the NATO-provoked confrontation, Biden can boast that he has united NATO and the corporate press, and to some extent the confused masses, in favor of the malignant alliance’s expansion.

Just the thing that Russia’s said, for good reason, must stop.

Sunday evening. More calls eagerly aired from dignitaries in Ukraine appealing for a no-fly zone. Who cannot be moved? Yes, you students in campus-orchestrated displays of unity with Ukraine, demanding aid for Ukraine, why not campaign for that very thing? “White House surrounded today by student protestors demanding the U.S. impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to protect human life.” That could be next.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu