TFF PressInfo # 383 – Fearology and militarism but the real enemy is us

By Jan Oberg

Published on July 8, 2016, the day of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. It’s the 5th in the TFF Series “The New Cold War”

Russia and NATO have offensive capacities and MIMACs (Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex) but NATO’s is a much larger potential threat to Russia than the other way around

Why does an alliance with such an overwhelming superiority shout and scream and see ghosts on the horizon when, in reality, there are none?

Why does it seem to be intellectually unable to see things from the side of its opponent? Is the show of strength in reality a sign of weakness?

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A threat consists of two main things: An intention to do something negative to you + a capability to actually carry it through – thus I + C.

Whenever NATO S-G Stoltenberg – a person who has gone through a serious personality change – speaks, he says nice things like: NATO does not seek confrontation and none of its moves are directed at Russia. NATO countries just have to protect themselves against Russia which they see as a threat.

Typically the talk is about an actor, a country, a leader – not about issues or trends that challenge the Alliance and certainly not that its own war adventures have weakened it in moral and legitimacy terms.

On their own side, NATO leaders buy none of – similar – Russian peace rhetorics. If you ask them why, they would say: Because as long as the Russians have offensive capabilities, there is also a risk that good/defensive official motives may – within weeks – be turned into an offensive, aggressive stance and we will be attacked. Can’t trust them!

But NATO itself excels in offensive projects, plans and capabilities – such as forward positioning, bases, long-range bomber and fighter planes, Ballistic Missile Defense and nuclear weapons – nuclear weapons are by definition never defensive because of their unlimited destructive capacity and because they can, by definition, not be used on one’s own territory.

To put it crudely: If you have no aggressive intentions directed at anyone – then scrap your offensive capabilities including long-range, particularly destructive and nuclear weapons and preserve only what can be used for defense – i.e. if you are attacked.

Why should you scrap the offensive elements? Because, no matter what you say about your intentions, the other side will see you as potential aggressive because you offensive weapons can reach them: If you don’t plan to come to our territory, then why do you have systems that can reach our territory and create unspeakable destruction on our people and culture??

Upholding offensive arsenals is a clear indicator of the possibility that officially stated defensive intentions can change to the opposite – how should NATO otherwise feel threatened by today’s Russia?

The eternal but non-credible threat needed by MIMAC

There are good-hearted people who believe that countries have competent experts who along a series of indicators measure and judge which security challenge are waiting in the future – and a series analyses of the threat towards their country on this or that time horizon.

The probability of each threat is also evaluated – to help politicians with limited budgets to allocate money to guard against some ‘realistic’ but not all possible/thinkable threats.

The – again very good-hearted – people believe that politicians and the industry then decide about the appropriate national defence, the necessary minimum of what we call a (military) defence policy and other measures to meet the challenges.

Unfortunately, as has been known since the last 50 years – except to politicians and the media – this description of security politics has nothing to do with reality.

Here is how it works, instead.Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 378: A new Cold War between Russia and the West?

By Jonathan Power

June 7th. 2016.

The second article in the TFF Series on The New Cold War

George Orwell, the author of “Animal Farm” and “1984”, was the first person to use the phrase “Cold War” in a 1945 newspaper article, written just after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He argued that “the surface of the earth is being parceled off into three great empires, each self-contained and cut off from contact with the outer world, and each ruled, under one disguise or another, by a self-elected oligarchy. He counted the US and Western Europe as one, the Soviet Union as the second and China as the third. He concluded that, “the atomic bomb is likeliest to put an end to large-scale wars at the cost of prolonging indefinitely a peace that is no peace”.

I think he got it nearly right – or so it seems as a new Cold War erupts between the West and Russia and China spars with the US over the South China Sea and its islands.

Of course it’s more complicated than that. China and Russia have a fair relationship. China and the US are perhaps doing nothing much more than annoying each other and the bonds of commerce and student exchanges bind both the elites and the populaces close together.

To me a new Cold War is nonsense on stilts. Even more than the original one.

George Kennan, the US former ambassador to Moscow and the author of how to contain the Soviet Union, always insisted that Stalin had no intention of rolling his tanks into Western Europe. As Robert Legvold summarizes Kennan’s views in his interesting new book, “Cold War”, “The threat the Soviet Union posed was political, a threat accentuated by these countries’ vulnerability to Soviet subversion because of their economic frailty and political instability – a threat requiring a political and economic response, not a military one”.

In 1948 Kennan wrote, as he observed the creation of Nato, “Why did they [Western leaders] wish to divert attention from a thoroughly justified and promising program of economic recovery by emphasizing a danger which did not actually exist but which might be brought into existence by too much discussion of the military balance and by the ostentatious stimulation of military rivalry?”Read More »

Udsigten fra månen…

Af Claus Kold

Fra Månen kan man ikke se Danmark, lige meget hvor godt man kigger. Det kan man ikke, fordi Danmark er en kulturlig konstruktion, som er inde i danskernes hoveder, og som derfor ikke kan ses. Man kan heller ikke se Rusland, USA eller Indien.

Disse stater er nemlig også kun inde i hovederne på de mennesker, der tilfældigvis er født og opvokset i det, de har valgt at kalde fx Israel. Danmark er m.a.o. en tilfældighed. Det kunne lige så godt ikke eksistere, eller ligge et andet sted eller danskerne kunne tale et andet sprog, som de godt nok ville kalde dansk, men som ikke lød dansk – for os, de rigtige danskere.

Stater og statssystemer har ikke altid eksisteret, og op gennem tiden har de, der eksisterede, haft meget forskellige form. De har været religiøse, familieeje, enemandsvælder, étpartistater – i dag er det dominerende ideal territorialt afgrænsede demokratiske stater, hvor befolkningerne helt principielt skal inddrages i beslutningsprocesserne. De forskellige demokratiske stater, der udgør hovedparten af det internationale samfund i dag er dog langt fra ens, og det kan derfor være svært for staterne at forstå hinandens motiver og handlinger.

Til det tilfældige system af tilfældige stater hører lige så tilfældigt menneskeskabte systemer som politik, territorie, økonomi, sikkerheds- og forsvarspolitik, konkurrence, etc. Systemer som kunne være anderledes, men som i dag er bundet til sine egne logikker, som de er blinde for og derfor ikke sætter sig ud over. Systemer kan typisk ikke se og tænke ud over sig selv. Blindheden er farlig, for der tegner sig i stigende grad et billede af at disse tilfældige menneskelige systemer står i kviksand og kæmper med hinanden, uden at opdage at de synker dybere og dybere i, ligesom det heller ikke opdages at konflikterne ikke er nødvendige men systemskabte, kulturlige. Der er nok af globaliserede udfordringer: global opvarming, udryddelse af plante- og dyrearter, krige, terror og flygtninge.

Det statslige system, vi lever med i dag, blev til under helt andre befolkningsstørrelser, livs- og forbrugsformer, økonomier og teknologier end dem, der dominerer i dag. Overfor de globale udfordringer er disse stater på samme tid for store til hverdagens små problemer og for små til de globale udfordringer. I deres forsøg på at forholde sig til globale udfordringer, betjener politikere sig således af forældede instrumenter, og forsøgene på at forholde sig til de globale problemer falder tilbage på politikerne, der fremstår som utroværdige, som musikerne på Titanics stadig mere hældende dæk. Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 376: North and South Korea: Can be solved if…!

By Johan Galtung

Jeju Peace Forum, Kwangju National University, Seoul; South Korea

Like the Israel-Palestine conflict, the world has gotten tired of it, “what, the two Koreas still unable to sort it out”? Also, like Israel-Palestine, the USA is in it; making the situation complicated.

Never has the situation been so tense after the end of the war in Korea more than 60 years ago. Not only because of the nuclear bomb with missiles in North Korea, and the hawkish pro-nuke reaction in South Korea and Japan, but because of no moves forward to solve the underlying conflict. And where is that conflict? Not between North and South Korea, but between North Korea and USA that after 140+ years of victorious warfare had to accept armistice, not victory, in Korea.

Conflict means incompatible goals. Travel to Pyongyang and find that their goals are peace treaty, normalization of relations, and a nuclear free Korean Peninsula.

And the US goal is the collapse of the present NK regime; failing that, status quo. Given the threat of a major war, even nuclear war, that goal is untenable. Some points.

Why does NK have nuclear capability?

Because NK is threatened by the USA-South Korea alliance in general and their “Team Spirit” in particular to deter conventional, or nuclear attacks; failing that to fight back, and particularly against where the attack might come from: US bases in Okinawa-RyuKyu, and from Japan proper. Militarily trivial.

AND to have a bargaining chip in any denuclearization that of course has to be monitored; given the US cheating in connection with Austrian neutralization in 1955 focused particularly on that one.

AND to show that we are not collapsing, we are capable of making nuclear bombs and the missiles to carry them; far from collapsing.Read More »

China’s Silk geopolitics

By Johan Galtung

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web. It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

The Silk Roads – so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877 – connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization.

The modern Silk Road East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. See www.bulwarkreview.com

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics.Read More »

Brazil’s great achievement must survive

By Jonathan Power

April 12th, 2016

If worst comes to worst and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff is deposed and her widely beloved predecessor, Luiz “Lula” da Silva, is discredited they will long be remembered for the “Bolsa Familia”. This is a government program that has cut Brazil’s once appalling poverty rate by half and reduced the number of poor very sharply to 3% of the population. It reaches 55 million people and 36 million have been lifted out of poverty. It has been such a winner that around sixty countries have sent their experts to study it. Indeed, it has been so successful politically that we shouldn’t be surprised that if Rousseff is felled by the shenanigans of Congress masses will go out on the street and riot.

Before the Bolsa Familia program was put into effect by Lula, Brazil had many welfare and food subsidy programs. Like in most developing countries the benefits didn’t reach the poor in the way that was intended. Middle men, black marketeers, corrupt officials and politicians skimmed and diverted much of them.

Bolsa Familia absorbed these into one direct cash payment. If you were a poor mother of a family- women were more trusted than men- you received an electronic card which you could slip into a bank cash dispenser and immediately get your monthly allowance, often doubling your cash income. There would be no intermediaries and no skims and no scams.

There were some conditions. Her children had to go to school, be immunized and have regular health check ups. She herself, if pregnant again, had to go to the maternity clinic. So not only were incomes being raised above the poverty line but infant and maternal mortality rates fell fast.

The income of the poorest 20% of Brazilians rose by 6.2% between 2002 and 2013, while that of the country’s richest 20% rose by only 2.6%. (In the US in the same time period the income of the richest 10% rose by 2.6% and that of the poorest 10% shrank by 8.6%.)

Innoculations reached 99% of the population. Deaths from malnutrition fell by 58%. Longevity steadily increased. Literacy became almost universal and education gave young people a better chance in life. The number of children forced to work instead of attending school dropped by 14%.

I’ve been out to the villages in the North East and seen with my own eyes the visible and dramatic improvements. I’ve been visiting Read More »

World economy, what next?

By Johan Galtung

Washington, DC

The Big View is the West doing badly, euro and pound down with miserable growth rates; US $-growth rate better but erratic; China, India, Islam growing, Latin America (CELAC) getting its act together and probably growing. This matters for essentially bankrupt USA: China, India, Islam, CELAC are huge powers with huge minorities inside the USA: they could move in, take over. Last week’s prediction about Trump’s foreign policy came true the next day (Washington Post 22 Mar 2016): less wars, not affordable, less NATO, let Europe do it, no nation-building, building our own. He was then branded “isolationist” with US incapacity for a third option: foreign policy by peacefare.

Diagnosis
Any economy has two key faultlines: high vs low class, with inequality by exploitation; real vs finance economy, with crises by speculation. LEAP Press Review (noreply@leap2020.net 17 Feb 2016) traces “something Big was about to happen” to February 2006: no more M3 published (money printing); Iran’ stock market based on the euro, Iraq following (invasion). Before that, the Rest manufacturing, beating the West. Slow in coming, but then quickly; leaving the USA with agriculture and speculation, maybe to be followed by a Brexit UK.

Martin Wolf (Financial Times, english@other-news.info 24 Feb 2016) points to the world exhausting “monetary policy 1,2”-lower interest, printing money-and calls for nº 3: more spending, less saving to beat the “chronic demand crisis”. A non-starter: given the inequalities and crises, people will save for worse to come and for their children, not spend unnecessarily, and not accumulate debts to their children.

Joseph Stiglitz (above) puts it this way: “Banks choose financial speculation over lending /for/ economic growth”. The money supply “stimulated sharp increases in-financial-sector profitability”.

Rune Skarstein, the leading Norwegian global economist, focuses on the slipping locomotive effect from the Chinese economy;Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 369 – A Sunni-Salafist-Zionist Coalition Changing Middle East?

By Jan Oberg

Please try Google “Gulf states want nuclear weapons against Iran – Israel “ and only one Western mainstream media will appear, an excellent article by The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem.

The only other media carrying the story is Russia Today and Vigilant Citizen and MintPress News also carries the story and offers a wider background

What is this about?A new coalition?

So the usual Western media filter, meaning it must be interesting. And it is a quite sensational story: Saudi Arabia and Israel are up to a nuclear mischief against a country that has just been prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by means of a huge legally binding document, UN Security Council endorsement and extremely tight monitoring mechanism. What’s it about?

It’s about Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon saying in public at the recent Munich conference that Arab states are “not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear bomb”.

He thinks that Iran was liable to break the agreement as their economic situation improves with the lifting of international sanctions. Ya’alon is quoted as saying that “I speak about the Gulf states and North African states too…For them, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are the enemy. Iran is the bad guy for us and for the Sunni regimes. They are not shaking hands [with Israelis] in public, but we meet in closed rooms.”

So not only Jordan’s monarchy and Egypt’s dictatorship but also Gulf and North African states: A coalition lead by Saudi Arabia and Israel – Israel as the only nuclear weapons power in the region and Saudi Arabia as the most likely next nuclear weapons state.

For much too long the world’s attention has been on Iran’s imagined nuclear weapons, not on the dozens or hundreds real nukes that Israel possesses as a non-member of which is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One can say that Israel and Saudi Arabia lost the political battle against the nuclear deal with Iran concluded with the five permanent UNSC members and Germany last year – and now will do their utmost to use Iran’s non-nuclear weapons status as a pretext for others going nuclear against, predominantly, Iran.

Propaganda hysteria dominates in an age where knowledge plays a diminishing role

The problem for them, however, is that Iran will be difficult to sell as a real threat – but we live of course in Read More »

Boko Haram in Nigeria

By Jonathan Power

If there is one man in Africa who combines kindness, authoritarianism of right and rationed proportions with nevertheless a deep commitment to democracy, business proficiency learnt on his now large-scale farms, political nous that outsmarts all competitors, a demanding Christian belief, honed while he was in prison for 3 years under the military dictatorship and a not overdone portion of charisma, it is Olusegun Obasanjo, the man who returned Nigeria, Africa’s most populated country and largest economy, to democracy twice and was himself the elected president for 8 years from 1999 to 2007.

No wonder a majority of Nigerians consider the Obasanjo years as the best in Nigeria’s history.

I have to say in my 40 years of being a writer on foreign affairs and interviewing over 60 heads of government he is the one who has impressed me the most, for sheer brainpower, idealism and wisdom.

Boko Haram, the Islamic fundamentalist group who has terrified the poor northern part of Nigeria – and are believed to have close contact with ISIS – came on to the scene after Obasanjo was out of office. Still, he has been very much in touch with the situation and twice, at least, tried to arbitrate between the movement and the government. This is what he had to say to me recently about the situation:

“Boko Haram is not simply a menace based on religion or one directed to frustrate anybody’s political ambition. It is essentially a socio-economic problemRead More »

A pope, a patriarch, a spiritual revolution

By Johan Galtung

The first editorial here at Transcend of March 3 2008, “50 Years of Fidel Castro” celebrated a political revolution that changed the world, and spelt the end of US-Western imperialism. This editorial celebrates a spiritual revolution that may also change the world, spelling the end of Western materialism, and spread from there.

We are talking about processes, not events, and of structures and cultures more than of actors.

Again, Cuba played a major role, as meeting place between two major parts of Christianity, Catholic and Orthodox. In the Great Schism of 1054 they had excommunicated each other; and the Roman empire had split Catholic/Orthodox in 395. Fidel’s Catholic brother and successor Raúl was a condition for this historic meeting for peace; so was the meeting between Putin–an Orthodox Christian–and Francis in June 2015. However, not many pairs of brothers rival the two Castros in shaping history.

They met, Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia – after earlier meetings between popes and the patriarch of Constantinople – with a Joint Declaration on 12 Feb 2016 in 30 articles. There were 17 quotes from the Bible; showing that they are “brothers in the Christian faith”, “pained by the loss of unity”, “divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts”. Not from the Bible are the many references to “the Most Holy Mother of God, Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate”. Problematic for Protestants.

The bulk of the Joint Declaration is about the fate of Christians in the Middle East, meaning mainly Orthodox; like “the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation”. However, together they “invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony”.

They also jointly argue strongly against abortion and euthanasia, and in favor of “respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan”. Do not destroy God’s creation.Read More »