The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Why Ukraine in NATO Is a Red Line for Russia

The border of the Ukraine is 523 miles from Moscow.

Imagine if Canada allied with Russia, and Russian troops and missiles were on the Canadian border. Four hundred and fifty-six miles to DC. Close to other major cities and military bases.

Be hard to defend, wouldn’t it?

The Cuban missile crisis happened because the Soviets decided to put missiles in Cuba.


Because the US had put missiles in Turkey.

The agreement that ended the stand-off removed those missiles from Turkey, though that was secret at the time.

The Russians have noted that, if NATO moves further towards their border, they will put missiles just as close to the US. The new Russian hypersonic missiles are small. They can be put on small boats, as well as submarines, and kept offshore from the US, ready to go on command.

“If you can hit our capital and major cities in minutes, we will make sure we can hit yours too.”

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What Russia wants is a guarantee of no troops and missiles from the US in that close a proximity to them. (They say “US” because they consider NATO nothing more than a US cat’s paw, and NATO members are subject states to the US, which is accurate in most, but not all, cases.)

The US has had Cuba under embargo for over half a century now. They’ve tried to invade and they often interferes with Cuba’s internal affairs. The US has overthrown the governments of Latin American nations multiple times, when it didn’t like them.

Russia, which was told at the end of the Cold War that NATO would not expand past Eastern Germany, wants nations near it to, at least, not hold troops and missiles from its greatest enemy (which is clearly what the US still is, which is stupid, but there you have it).

Doesn’t seem unreasonable to me, but Americans seem to think that behaviour that is okay when they do it is unacceptable from others.



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 26, 2021


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  1. bruce wilder

    I am sure the Russians are wondering, as I do, who and what evil force is running the U.S. and to what ends.

    In 1962, the Soviet Union was dealing in President Kennedy, with a rational actor consciously representing a national interest, not a blob. The blob already existed then and had done much harm, and having set up the crisis with aggression against the Castro government.

    I fear to even speculate who or what might be running the “Biden Administration” in the man’s less lucid moments(, or when he’s not ensuring a payday for Hunter). We caught a full view of the nutcases driving American “intelligence” and foreign policy during Russiagate and the first Trump Impeachment.

    Putin and Lavrov must be puzzled by the challenge of rousing some sentience from the delirium of imperial Washington capable of making and keeping an agreement. Ukraine is just one door — the whole panoply of self-restraint that reduced the risk of nuclear war, laid bare in 1962, has been knocked down or allowed to lapse or made moot by technology advances, and Teh Blob™ she don’t care.

    Does anyone else?

  2. Astrid

    I watched “Don’t Look Up” in Netflix on Xmas day. The director made clear that the story is supposed to be a send up of American handling of the climate crisis, but really it works as a guide for every major crisis of the last 21 years (election of GWBush by SCOTUS, 9/11, 2008, climate change, Covid, election of Trump…).

  3. different clue

    When Presidents Reagan and then Bush Elder verbally promised Gorbachev that there would be no NATO expansion eastward, they meant it and they believed it.

    They did not predict that the evil Clinton, a man with zero ethics, principles or honor, would gleefully cast that promise aside and move NATO east as fast and hard as he could (with the eager assistance of the racist antiRussianitic countries of East Europe) and then move on to try destroying Russia itself, as per the Prime Brzezinski Directive.

    What is the Blob? Probably only the Blobbos themselves really know. I think I see some pieces of it. The neoconservatives, the neoWilsonians and the R2P humanitarian liberal hegemonists, and the successors to all the Paperclip Nazis which the Dulles Brothers and others in government at and after the end of WWII brought into America and into government to make America a little bit Nazi, because they liked and admired Nazi Germany and Naziism so much. And they did, too. Lets admit that basic fact.

    (If the RussiaGov has any people reading this blog as part of a vast open-source intelligence fact-and-theory finding project, I hope they send this post and thread up the line to their analysts. Russia and Germany both might study the AmericaNazi roots of Naziism in Germany. By “AmericaNazi”, I mean the ruling class Nazi backers and sympathisers at the top of society here, the Prescott Bushes the OverClass Eugenicists, and all the rest. FDR and the pro-New Deal American masses held them back for a while, but could not beat them down in the end).

  4. Ché Pasa

    The US goal of dismantling the Soviet Union and taking apart and looting whatever rump Russian state remains was set by our foreign policy shop a loooong time ago.

    Russian government knows this and would prefer it not happen. They don’t want to wind up like a great big frozen Middle East. Who could blame them?

    But that’s what the US foreign policy operators want and will have or know the reason why.

    Biden, for his part, seems to be trying to thread the needle. How to appear tough while telling that foreign policy faction to desist.

    On the Sabbath Gasbag Shows, it was interesting to see the level of concession to Russian demands already; there will be no NATO membership for Ukraine in our lifetimes, no further expansions of NATO. No question. Saber rattling for show only. Seems to be true on both sides. Playing to domestic audiences. The implication is that “Peace in Our Time” is already secured. The January Face-to-Face, more show.

    We’ll see.

  5. Astrid

    The provocation against Russia is already far more extreme than just that Canada scenario, though missiles next to the Russian heartland would be a particular security concern.

    The equivalent North American situation to what’s already happened would be if Russia used a color revolution coup to install a virulently anti-US government in Mexico, perhaps a Black Panther party or the Shining Path, that actively engaged in paramilitary attacks on Mexican enclaves of USian retirees and also made a solid attempt to take over San Diego and turn the it into a Russian military base.

    Americans en mass don’t even have enough sympathetic imagination for why their family members might support “the other guy” or vaccinate/not vaccinate or mask/unmask. If they hear a narrative that’s not already in their heads, they will immediately tune you out and identify you as the “Other”.

  6. Mark Pontin

    Time for some real history.

    Everybody here has been fed the US propaganda version of the First Cuban Missile Crisis, which revolves around the canonization of John F. Kennedy as some wise saint of foreign policy and which was promoted by buffoons like Graham Allison (most recently guilty of promulgating the ‘Thucydides Trap’ pop-history garbage re. China and the US) at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Allison was a junior gopher on the edges of the EXCOMM group, which the Kennedy brothers set up to deal with the First Cuban crisis, and has been living off it ever since.

    There was a Second Cuban Missile Crisis — at least, potentially.

    That’s because the Soviets maintained serious nuclear strike-capable forces in Cuba — nuclear subs, bombers, and missiles — starting in 1970 and running through to the USSR’s fall in 1991. These forces were principally based around Cienfuegos Bay in Cuba —

    — and the Cubans’ cooperation with the Soviets’ basing was the reason for the financial and material support that the USSR extended to Cuba during those years, under which Cuba was admitted to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Сове́т Экономи́ческой Взаимопо́мощи, tr. Sovét Ekonomícheskoy Vzaimopómoshchi, СЭВ; English abbreviation COMECON, CMEA, CEMA, or CAME), a USSR-led organization of Warsaw Pact countries in the years 1949-1991.

    How come you’ve never heard of the Second Cuban Missile Crisis?

    Because Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger decided — rightly — that it really didn’t make any difference where the ICBMs were launched from once they were in the air and it wasn’t worth the risk of triggering a rerun of 1963’s events. Thus, after that 1970 NYT report I’ve linked to above, they simply suppressed Western media reporting of the Soviet nuclear build-up in Cuba and ignored it. As did Carter and Reagan.

    There are very limited accounts available of all this, since it doesn’t accord with official US propaganda. Those of you with access to university library networks can check out —

    ‘Handling the Cienfuegos Crisis’
    by Raymond L. Garthoff
    International Security
    Vol. 8, No. 1 (Summer, 1983), pp. 46-66 (21 pages)

    Also, these events are mentioned in —
    ‘The Revolutionary City: Socialist Urbanisation and Nuclear Modernity in Cienfuegos, Cuba’
    Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 September 2019

    Not incidentally, in the same period — 1971, IIRC — the USSR approached Nixon and Kissinger sub rosa and asked how the US would feel if the Soviets used nuclear weapons against Mao’s China, which the Soviet Union was then having a severe border confrontation with. Nixon and Kissinger indicated to the Kremlin that Washington would _very_ sternly disapprove of the Soviets using nukes against the Chinese.

    Ian W. wrote: “The Cuban missile crisis happened because the Soviets decided to put missiles in Cuba. Why? Because the US had put missiles in Turkey.’

    Now this part is true. In other words, Kennedy instigated the whole crisis. Then when Kruschev played tit-for-tat in Cuba, Kennedy over-reacted by threatening to bring on WWIII — a crisis in which the Kennedy brothers themselves believed there was a 33 percent chance of global nuclear war resulting.

    Again, this was a crisis which Nixon and Kissinger avoided repeating because they decided it really didn’t matter much where the ICBMs launched from. Subsequent events proved Nixon and Kissinger were absolutely correct. In which case, what was the point of Kennedy taking the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1963?

    Kennedy is the same president who escalated Vietnam into a full-blown war (which ultimately sank LBJ’s Great Society project) and the same rich kid whose gangster father Joe Kennedy bought him the presidency in 1960 —

    Bruce Wilder wrote: ‘In 1962, the Soviet Union was dealing in President Kennedy, with a rational actor consciously representing a national interest, not a blob.’

    With all respect, Bruce, not so. A few years ago, I spent some time going through the history of the lead-up to the First Cuban Missile Crisis and then what actually happened during the confrontation itself — which was even scarier than most people know — and my conclusion was that John Kennedy took the world to the brink of nuclear war completely needlessly, through his own toxic ego and bad judgement.

    I’ve no more idea who was responsible for Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas in November, 1963, than anyone else here. But having been through the real history, I’ve speculated sometimes that if (if?!?) US Deep State actor/actors were responsible, the reason might be Kennedy’s colossal ineptitude in creating the Cuban missile crisis and almost destroying the world.

  7. Occasional Poster

    American “diplomacy” is a joke. Making threats, delivering ultimatums and tearing up signed agreements on a whim is a great way to make other countries deeply distrust you. Genuine diplomacy involves good-faith negotiation and mutual respect for all sides and their concerns. Even that old goat Henry Kissinger was a better diplomat than the duplicitous clowns of the last 25 years.

    The USA behaves like a mafia state and as Sergei Lavrov, probably the most skilled diplomat at work today, accurately said, it is “agreement incapable.”

    Russia’s concern about NATO encroaching on its borders is legitimate and understandable given its geography and history – surely at some level the Americans and their ridiculous sycophantic enablers in Europe know this?

    One things is for sure: the US is not going to roll up its global empire and go quietly into the good night. If it can’t rule the world unilaterally it will, barring a miracle, choose to take the entire world down with it in a last apocalyptic hurrah rather than doing the reasonable thing and finding a constructive roll for itself in the world as a still powerful but “agreement capable” nation state.

  8. Mark Pontin

    different clue: “They did not predict that the evil Clinton, a man with zero ethics, principles or honor, would gleefully cast that promise aside and move NATO east as fast and hard as he could (with the eager assistance of the racist antiRussianitic countries of East Europe)”

    Clinton’s promise-breaking was actually driven by a desire to appeal to/repay Polish-American donors and voters in Chicago, in the version I heard (IIRC, from C. Hitchens).

    I can’t vouch for the truth of this as I can for events re. the two Cuban missile crises (in my comment now in moderation above). But it sounds right — the banality of evil, no moustache-twirling involved.

    Also, “racist antiRussianitic countries of East Europe” is a little silly. Poland, Lithuania, etcetera, have valid historical reasons to worry about the Russian giant on their borders.

    But, yes, the US and EU have no reason to feed this conflict; it cannot end well, as we are now learning.

  9. different clue

    @Mark Pontin,

    They had no reason to fear the newly liberated-from-communism Russia on their border, which after all was not the USSR which had occupied or controlled them for the prior few decades. I remember reading that Russia itself for a brief period was considering requesting membership in NATO as a sign of being welcome into “our common European home”. The NATO members rejected the idea of Russia being allowed to join their ” no Russians allowed” club.

    I have doubts about the usefulness of anything Hitchens might have to say about things. I would like serious evidence that Clinton diddit for these petty little Hitchensian reasons as against part of a “Brzezinski Plan” to divide Russia into colonial protectorates between America, Europe and Japan if possible, and certainly to loot every removable or privatizable thing in Russia down to the sub-basement.
    I doubt this was done for ” Polish votes ” or “Polish campaign contributions”.

    Are the Poles and Lithuanians less antiRussianitic than the Banderazi West-Ukranazis of Galicia? I hope you are correct.

    At any rate, the Blobbo Scum in charge of DC FedRegime foreign policy didn’t just feed this conflict. They have very carefully and with malice aforethought engineered it into existence.

  10. bruce wilder

    I should not like to argue the fitting of alternative narrative themes to Kennedy’s conduct of foreign policy on the basis of my thin knowledge base. I think the consensus view is that Kennedy blundered repeatedly in foreign affairs, helped not a little to blunder by the shadowy Dulles (the CIA brother) and other interested parties, and that he came to some realization of his own blundering as well as distrust of official advice. I cannot credit Kennedy for Vietnam — the key decisions were Johnson’s taken for reasons Kennedy would have despised, plus I’ve read Graham Greene and know that the blundering of nations has a lot to do with the mentality of the nation.

    Graham Allison cleaned up the narrative for both his political patrons and an academic audience that wants to analyze abstractly, without confronting the ugly, somewhat insane goals and practices of power, engaged in all too freely by reckless underlings and colonels — the Bonner Fellers and Oliver Norths who blunder as if it is a professional accomplishment, not to mention the all too numerous Pollards and Esterhazy’s, crowded by the John Perkins (Economic hitman) for whom the neoliberal cover story was invented. That is the sort of subterranean context I imagine Kennedy discovered under his feet as he struggled to act as he imagined statesman could and did. The great affairs of state are often the curtain drawn to hide the sordid affairs of little men.

    There were technical reasons that the comings and goings of the very noisy Soviet submarines were regarded more as a convenience than a threat by the U.S. Navy by 1970.

  11. Astrid

    Mark Pontin,

    Yes, the US not getting involved in regions that are ocean(s) away would be a good start, but let’s not excuse the hateful and exterminationist, Nazi adjacent views of a larger portion of contemporary Catholic Eastern Europeans with an “it’s complicated”. Whatever the past might be, the people of today should be able to control themselves and be answerable for their behavior now. Just as Zionist bigots in Israel deserve to be brought in front of war crimes tribunals for their actions against Palestinians.

    Racism and exterminationist rhetoric have not been internationally acceptable standards of behavior since WWII, at least on the surface. It wasn’t acceptable behavior for the peoples of Europe towards the postwar Germans not acceptable in Asians and Oceanians towards postwar Japanese. And for USians, let’s hope it’s not how the other Americans will treat USians after our fall from hegemony. So even if the Eastern Europeans were horribly oppressed by Russians in the past (and I don’t think there is strong evidence that they were), that’s not an excuse for being exterminationist Nazis.

    I find Bruce’s more standard interpretation of Kennedy’s behavior to be much more convincing than your interpretation of the Kennedy adminstration. Look at how the liberal anti-Communist Blob pushed for hostilities against USSR and China at every opportunity in the 1940s and 1950s. And the idea that the JFK assasination (particularly when rolled in with the very convenient MLK, Malcolm X, and RFK assasinations) is a rational and reasonable decision… I’m sure the men who ordered the hits also told themselves that before ordering coups and assasinations against “dangerous” democratically elected socialists in the third world.

  12. Trinity

    I see it as Bruce’s post is what we were told, and Mark’s post is what we were not told.

    RE JFK’s assassination: I was told all my life (literally) that on the fiftieth anniversary of his death, the “truth” would be released. So in late 2013 I googled “who killed JFK” and got the Google answer: the CIA. Google often still will answer a question with plain text, in addition to the links that follow, although their algorithm has changed drastically since.

    In checking that a few years later, of course, this no longer happens (today it’s different text). I’m not offering this as proof of anything, just sharing an activity of mine in the past.

    But it brings to mind that it’s important to also consider that statecraft has been married to economic and finance craft for a very, very, very long time. There is an economic consideration to everything the US does, always has been, and it’s looking like it always will be.

    This is not a consideration of the military or espionage budgets, this is consideration of economic opportunities for the civilian side. There is a regard for economic opportunities right alongside state decision making. Part of the appeal to “free” Cuba continues to be the installation of American hotel chains in Havana’s Malecon.

  13. Ché Pasa

    The assassination of President Kennedy launched a — perhaps unintentional — social revolution and shifted the ruling paradigm in foreign affairs from more or less evil to fully evil. His replacement with Lyndon Johnson was remarkable in every way. He was as determined a follower of FDR as has ever sat in the Oval Office, and he got a huge amount of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights done before social unrest, the appalling catastrophe of endless war in Southeast Asia (not just Vietnam) and implacable rightist opposition did him in.

    Ukraine at the time was fully a part of the Soviet Union; there was no open hint of its “liberation” and/or detachment from the USSR. It was not considered part of the Eastern Europe that had been seized and integrated (more or less) into the Soviet Empire — and was to be “liberated from slavery” one fine day.

    That Ukraine detached itself along with a number of Soviet Socialist Republics after the disintegration of the regime in Moscow — with the willing assistance of a cadre of rising oligarchs — came as something of a surprise and the rationale for it still has an post hoc feel. But despite independence, Ukraine was still very much in the Russian sphere until the Color-ish Revolution of the Maidan Square and the violent Nazi coup that installed a virulently anti-Russian ethnostate that has immiserated tens of millions of Ukrainians in a futile quest for… what, exactly? Domination over Russia? That’s what their rhetoric sometimes sounds like. They sound like they want NATO and the US to spearhead their (Nazi-ish) conquest of the tattered remnants of the Soviet Union — which would have happened in WWII if we’d been on the right side, you know?

    For reasons of their own, the Russian oligarchs don’t want to be conquered by the Ukrainian Nazi-adjacent oligarchs, and are pushing back, as they say in the trade. The US under Biden — despite the despicable Victoria Nuland in charge of the Eastern European Desk at State — appears to want to stay out of it for once, and even to have a thought of calming things down a bit.

    So far, the Nazi take over in Kiev appears to have done nothing good for the peoples of the Ukraine and very much bad. Moscow may not be such a bad suzerain after all. But whether the various ethnic groups and monetary interests can be convinced of that is an open and still bleeding question.

  14. bruce wilder

    Bringing this back around to Russia and Ukraine, I am struck by the extent to which the Russians are trying to signal to an uncomprehending West that the U.S. is on the verge of triggering a de-stabilizing situation of uncontrolled arms races (multiple) combined with local potential for provocations and aggressions.

    My point about Kennedy was not that he was a hero, but that he began a period when the adults took over to some unusual extent from the parasites and spooks and Dr Strangeloves. Much of what was accomplished in stabilizing the Cold War institutionally by committment to self-restraint has been abandoned or destroyed by the false moralizing fools in charge at every level in the West.

  15. Astrid

    I do agree with Mark Pontin that the distance argument doesn’t make much sense strategically. Russia can already place submarines significantly closer to DC, NYC, LA, and SF than 523 miles. The NATO forces are pathetically small compared to the Russian Federation. The only real concern is that a risk of inadvertent escalation in a crisis situation and we end up with WWI, extra crispy edition.

    The West is frankly specicidal for wanting to add any of the former USSR republics into NATO. They have exponentially increased everybody’s chances of planetary nuclear annihilation by expanding NATO after 1989.

  16. Mark Pontin

    @ Astrid —

    Astrid: “let’s not excuse the hateful and exterminationist, Nazi adjacent views of a larger portion of contemporary Catholic Eastern Europeans with an “it’s complicated”’

    You’re addressing someone whose mother’s people were in part jews from the Ukraine. Something good probably came out of the Ukraine at some point — well, besides Isaac Babel — but I struggle to think of what it might have been.

    That said ….

    “The Katyn massacre[a] was a series of mass executions of nearly 22,000 Polish military officers and intelligentsia carried out by the Soviet Union, specifically the NKVD … in April and May 1940 ….

    “(It) was initiated in NKVD chief Lavrentiy Beria’s proposal to Stalin to execute all captive members of the Polish officer corps, approved by the Soviet Politburo led by Joseph Stalin. Of the total killed, about 8,000 were officers imprisoned during the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, another 6,000 were police officers, and the remaining 8,000 were Polish intelligentsia the Soviets deemed … “intelligence agents, gendarmes, landowners, saboteurs, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests”. The Polish Army officer class was representative of the multi-ethnic Polish state; the murdered included ethnic Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Jews including the chief Rabbi of the Polish Army ….”

    And so on. Plenty of other historical reasons for bad blood on both sides of the borders between Russia and its neighbors, going back centuries. Everybody has their reasons.

    Astrid: “I’m sure the men who ordered the hits also told themselves that before ordering coups and assasinations against “dangerous” democratically elected socialists in the third world.”

    Everybody has their reasons. Including the psychopaths.

  17. Astrid

    Mark Pontin,

    The old Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth sheltered a lot of Jews. Two of my closest friends came from that stock. Another moved from Sebastopol to the US after the breakup of the USSR. Her family survived because they were able to retreat deeper into USSR in 1942.

    It’s a bit easier for me to think positively of Poles. My husband is half Polish, some very good movies came out of there, Chopin, and the Curies. Those good things almost evens out the horrible Pope (I think it would be helpful for Western leftists to understand that the Dalai Lama is essential a Tibetan JPII) and the general awfulness of the current Polish regime in my personal ledger for the country.

    Everybody has their reasons, but a post Nuremberg world also determined that they have agency for their actions and not cause suffering for others. That excuse doesn’t cut it for Zionists or private equity raiders or politicians or identity politics entrepreneurs of Loudoun County. I don’t excuse the evil actions and thoughts of others just because they have “reasons”.

    The Applebaum version of the Katyn Forest massacre got pounded into my head as an adolescent. Yes, I know it well. But the Japanese and Germans committed greater atrocities to their occupied populations, but that doesn’t make exterminationist rhetoric against the Japanese or Germans acceptable.. Evil acts don’t cancel each other out, they add and multiply .a s

  18. Mark Pontin

    Astrid: “Russia can already place submarines significantly closer to DC, NYC, LA, and SF than 523 miles.”

    Precisely. True for at least the last half-century, too.

  19. Mark Pontin

    Astrid: ‘I don’t excuse the evil actions and thoughts of others just because they have “reasons”. ‘

    Nor should you.

    And yet take Poland.

    In 1795, it was erased from the map after 800 years of existence, parceled out to the Hapsburg Monarchy, Prussia and Russia. For close on two centuries, the dream of restoring an independent state consumed Polish elites. A short era of sovereignty between WWI and WWII ended in 1939 with the country’s conquest and domination by Stalin’s USSR (see above), after which it experienced a half-century of occupation.

    And thus Polish aristocrat Zbigniew Brzezinski, and his ascent to the role of U.S. national security advisor and his manipulation of US foreign policy (as instigator of US support for the proto-Taliban/al Qaeda in Afghanistan so as to draw the USSR into its own Vietnam, etc, etc, etc).

    Thus now, too, Poland with sovereignty. I suspect many Poles see Brzezinski as a great and brilliant hero for this, perhaps akin to Churchill (who labored mightily to draw the US into WWII for the UK’s benefit, somewhat analogously). I’m pretty sure Bzrezinski saw himself that way.

    Disastrous for the rest of us, of course. Bzrezinski’s “brilliant, heroic” manipulations led to the blowback of 9-11, the subsequent US over-reaction leading now to its collapse, relapse of Aghanistan into a tribal Islamist state where women are subjugated, the current confrontation between the West and the Russian Federation, and so on and on.

  20. Astrid

    Mark Pontin,

    Modern westerners look upon liquidation of elites with horror, but I think there was a very good reason why it was the norm in human history. The lumpen masses can be reshaped but the elites can be a generational danger, remember greatness and horrors from hundreds of years ago. They must be thoroughly cleansed or effectively coopted. The Soviets were insufficiently thorough with their purges (obviously not from a lack of trying). I think the Chinese effort of coopting is more productive and humane, but the Taiwanese bendiren are frisky at the moment.

    That the reconstituted Poland is a wasteland of old people, declining economic indicators, and far right politics (ditto the Baltics, ditto ditto the Ukraine) show the bitter fruits of this program, even for the purported beneficiaries. The aristos such as the Applebaum husband benefit, the people by and large suffer, ironically many becoming less Polish due to economic necessity and emigration.

    I am fortunate that my husband’s lineage is obscure and his heritage limited to suffering through perogies, sauerkraut, and Christmas soup once a year. The proles are content with a warm home and a potato heavy diet.

  21. Astrid

    I know Poland as currently constitutes existed since WWII, but presumably not in an acceptable format for emigres like Brzezinski (and Nuland for Ukraine). They had to be “free” from the Russian influence and “protected” by American interests.

  22. bruce wilder

    Humans invest a lot of power into explanatory narratives. The most basic narrative template “explains” the behavior of the individual hero — motivation, struggle, intention — and links behavior to consequences — defeat, triumph, accomplishment, tragedy — all without acknowledging or fully understanding circumstantial necessities imposed by the natural world or inherent in the social and also with inadequate means of accounting for collective action, intentional projects and conflicts and contests among groups variously organized. These narratives are not merely explanatory, notably covering a dearth of understanding of necessitous cause-and-effect impinging on the case, but the narratives are also tools themselves of social motivation, organization and conflict, forming the stuff of shared faith and myth.

    I got into an argument with an academic student of scientific linguistics recently and it shed some light for me on the current politics of this.

    Liguistics as an academic discipline embraces as a radical principle the presumption that all languages and dialects are of equal moral value and dedicates itself to the descriptive study of their grammar, syntax, orthography, and so on, and the “natural” processes of language evolution. It is easy to see why a linguist striving to be scientific would want to detach herself from the political projects of language prescriptivism, which may denigrate some slang or dialect as “wrong”. Some linguists will defend the proposition that a native speaker never makes a grammatical error, per se, making the formal teaching of grammar outside of foreign language instruction a curious activity.

    The difficulty for me is that I know as a matter of historical fact of a great many instances in which language projects have been undertaken as part of nationalist projects and not infrequently driven language change as well as consolidated national identity and culture. Language can be deeply rooted in personal identity in a psychological way that makes language an appealing, strategic means of political organizing.

    The linguist had turned his commitment to scientific neutrality and objectivity embodied in the principles of a descriptive linguistics into a preachy, woke evangelism against the legitimacy and/or efficacy of prescriptivism in almost any context. To correct someone else’s grammar or even spelling was denigrated as motivated from ignorance of the natural variation of dialect. All prescriptive projects were quixotic and doomed to failure, as ridiculous as “i before e except . . .”

    All this may seem far afield from Ukraine and Russia or the doings of statesmen like Zbig Bzrezinski, but it made me think about how our current “woke” mentality of moral shorthand interferes with seeing the complexity of the programmes, actions and conspiracies of states. The physical distance from Kiev to Moscow cannot matter as much as the cultural differences and the determined pulling apart, despite economic interdependence. Language is an issue as the Ukrainian nationalists have pushed extreme measures of hostility to use and teaching of Russian. The main body of the Ukrainian Orthodox church has broken its theoretic dependence on the Moscow patriarch.

    I know a fellow who is well-accepted inside the culture of the U.S. military-industrial complex and in his narrative, Putin is the enormously wealthy first oligarch among the oligarchs, who is worried primarily about the destabilizing effect of Ukrainian economic success in the EU inspiring a fatal envy in the Russian masses. (Because Poland and Hungary are such happy places and selling the black soil to French bankers is a sound plan.) In his telling, Ukraine has been making fine progress since 2014, in contrast to the reality of sinking deeper into desperate poverty and hysterical political rhetoric. Russia is delusional to think it is entitled to a sphere of influence. (Notice how the moral judgment against spheres of influence serves to wipe out any consciousness of why spheres of influence ever became a concept for stabilizing expectations and relations among states.) Putin speaks in a diplomatic language and uses concepts of state interest that simply cannot be heard in the West. In the meantime, the U.S., driven I think by the dementia of corruption in the military-industrial complex and foreign policy establishment, seeks to arm anti-Russian fanatics on Russia’s borders and to support subversion of the Russian state, without any awareness that 1.) successful subversion of the Russian state is likely to be catastrophic in its consequences as chaos may follow, and 2.) the Russian state will resist subversion.

    In a discursive comment ridiculously long, I will add that Putin’s regime is nearing the end of its useful life — the normal processes of anacyclosis will bring about a fairly dramatic change circa 2024 in the structure of Russian political economy. The logic of American imperium seems to be bound to continue to overextend everywhere until it finally breaks, its instruments of power projection, economic and military-technical (as the Russians might say) break, hollow and brittle. It is like waiting for a runaway train to crash, as it runs steady on its tracks but with no intelligence at the controls choosing speed or destination.

  23. Astrid


    Bravo, you given me a lot to think about.

    It’s amazing that the linguist failed to notice the political and nationalist motivation behind every education system, which sorts for ability to confirm to the linguistic (and historical) expectations of the respective nation state.

    But as Ian’s newer post indicates, perhaps what Western experts have the greatest expertise in overlooking the bleeding obvious. I have some friends who are considered high level experts in their fields and the unconsidered, unexamined words that come out of their mouths!

  24. Astrid

    In that vein, Sterling Newberry’s comment in the next thread seems to me an expert opinion, nicely overlooking Russia’s continued tolerance for Ukrainian bad behavior for the sake of peaceful coexistence, that the color revolution occurred because the Ukrainians elected someone who was too friendly to Moscow and subverted the current one who claimed to be a moderate until elected to office, and no mention of the murderous field behavior by the Banderites. Just a unsupported accusation against Putin the oligarch.

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