The Real War in Ukraine: The Battle over Ukrainian Identity

Nicolai N. Petro recently spoke at panel on “Russia in the Global Context,” held at New York University and his remarks were featured at The National Interest:

I quite agree with Jack Matlock, our first ambassador to Russia, with Tony Brenton, Britain’s former ambassador to Russia, with Chris Westdal, Canada’s former ambassador to Russia and Ukraine, and former German chancellors Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Schmidt, and Vaclav Klaus, former president of Czech republic.

The conflict in Ukraine is a conflict among indigenous communities that have very different ideas of what it means to be Ukrainian. It is a war over Ukrainian identity.

For the Westernmost regions (Galicia), being Ukrainian means suppressing Russian culture so that Ukrainian culture can thrive in its stead. Here, creating a Ukraine that is antithetical to Russia is commonly referred to as making a “civilizational choice” in favor of Europe.

For the eight Russophone regions of eastern and southern Ukraine (which I call the Other Ukraine), being Ukrainian means being a distinct nation that is still very close to Russia. These Ukrainians do not wish to join Russia, but neither do they wish to be forced to forsake Russian culture in order to be considered loyal Ukrainians. They do not accept the idea that there is any civilizational choice to make, but if forced to choose between a Ukraine in NATO or the EU and a Ukraine in alliance with Russia, they prefer Russia by a 2:1 margin.

At its core, therefore, this conflict is about whether Ukraine should be a monocultural or pluricultural nation, and peace is unlikely until Ukrainian politics are brought into conformity with the country’s cultural reality.’

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Putin: Ukraine army is NATO legion aimed at restraining Russia

RT reports:

Members of the Ukrainian armed forces drive armored vehicles in the town of Volnovakha, eastern Ukraine (Reuters / Alexander Ermochenko)‘The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says.

“We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions’,” said Putin.

He added that the intention of Ukrainian troops is connected with “achieving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.” Putin was addressing students in the city of St. Petersburg.

According to Putin, the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine.”’

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Death Toll in Ukraine Over 5,000 as Ceasefire Breaks Down: Interview with Serhiy Kudelia

Editor’s Note: Serhiy Kudelia is Assistant Professor of Political Scientist at Baylor University and co-author of ‘The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin‘. Professor Kudelia recently returned from a trip to Eastern Ukraine. He says that violence has increased since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in September of last year because the Kiev government has made no serious attempt to negotiate with the rebels. He also says that media coverage in the West has not done justice to the complex nature of the situation.

The Media’s Dangerous Anti-Russian Jingoistic Game: Interview with Stephen Cohen

Editor’s Note: Stephen Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, and he is a contributing editor to The Nation. He is also the author of ‘Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War‘. You can find more interviews and articles by Professor Cohen here.

Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev separately warn about Ukraine crisis blowing out of control

The National Post reports:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. left, and former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev both had dire warnings about the situation in Ukraine.As Russian-backed rebels scored another victory is Eastern Ukraine Thursday, two giants of 20th-century geopolitics issued separate warnings about the crisis, suggesting it could evolve into a deeper, direct conflict between the United States and Russia with dangerous consequences.

Testifying at a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Henry Kissinger, an ardent Cold Warrior who was Richard Nixon’s main foreign policy advisor, stopped short of endorsing a call by the committee chairman, Republican Senator John McCainof Arizona, to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine’s military as it battles Russian-backed separatists.

[…] Meanwhile, former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the West had “dragged” Russia into a new Cold War, one that risked outright confrontation.’

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Drone Footage Shows Auschwitz 70 Years After Camp Was Liberated

The Petulant Entitlement Syndrome of Journalists

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘[…] When political blogs first emerged as a force in the early post-9/11 era, one of their primary targets was celebrity journalists. A whole slew of famous, multi-millionaire, prize-decorated TV hosts and newspaper reporters and columnists – Tom Friedman, Tim Russert, Maureen Dowd, John Burns, Chris Matthews – were frequently the subject of vocal and vituperative criticisms, read by tens of thousands of people.

It is hard to overstate what a major (and desperately needed) change this was for how journalists like them functioned. Prior to the advent of blogs, establishment journalists were largely immunized even from hearing criticisms. If a life-tenured New York Times columnist wrote something stupid or vapid, or a Sunday TV news host conducted a sycophantic interview with a government official, there was no real mechanism for the average non-journalist citizen to voice critiques. At best, aggrieved readers could write a Letter to the Editor, which few journalists cared about. Establishment journalists spoke only to one another, and careerist concerns combined with an incestuous chumminess ensured that the most influential among them heard little beyond flowery praise.

Blogs, and online political activism generally, changed all of that. Though they tried – hard – these journalists simply could not ignore the endless stream of criticisms directed at them.’

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U.S. Law Enforcement Deploying Latest Tech For Super Bowl 2015 Security

Intervention in civil wars ‘far more likely in oil-rich nations’

Tom Bawden reports for The Independent:

According to academics from the Universities of Portsmouth, Warwick and Essex, foreign intervention in a civil war is 100 times more likely when the afflicted country has high oil reserves than if it has none. The research is the first to confirm the role of oil as a dominant motivating factor in conflict, suggesting hydrocarbons were a major reason for the military intervention in Libya, by a coalition which included the UK, and the current US campaign against Isis in northern Iraq.

It suggests we are set for a period of low intervention because the falling oil price makes it a less valuable asset to protect. “We found clear evidence that countries with potential for oil production are more likely to be targeted by foreign intervention if civil wars erupt,” said one of the report authors, Dr Petros Sekeris, of the University of Portsmouth. “Military intervention is expensive and risky. No country joins another country’s civil war without balancing the cost against their own strategic interests.”’

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The war on leaks has gone way too far when journalists’ emails are under surveillance

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

julian assange embassy windowThe outrageous legal attack on WikiLeaks and its staffers, who are exercising their First Amendment rights to publish classified information in the public interest—just like virtually every other major news organization in this country—is an attack on freedom of the press itself, and it’s shocking that more people aren’t raising their voices (and pens, and keyboards) in protest.

In the past four years, WikiLeaks has had their Twitter accounts secretly spied on, been forced to forfeit most of their funding after credit card companies unilaterally cut them off, had the FBI place an informant inside their news organization, watched their supporters hauled before a grand jury, and been the victim of the UK spy agency GCHQ hacking of their website and spying on their readers.

Now we’ve learned that, as The Guardian reported on Sunday, the Justice Department got a warrant in 2012 to seize the contents – plus the metadata on emails received, sent, drafted and deleted – of three WikiLeaks’ staffers personal Gmail accounts, which was inexplicably kept secret from them for almost two and a half years.’

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Bitter Lake by Adam Curtis (Documentary)

Victoria Nuland: Constant lying leaves RT unable to compete with “dynamic, truthful” US media

British scientists call for debate on ‘designer babies’

James Gallagher reports for BBC News:

BabiesDr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice.

He said huge advances in the past two years meant “designer babies” were no longer HG Wells territory.

Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue.’

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China’s gender imbalance “most serious and prolonged in the world”

Xavier Symons writes for Bio Edge:

‘China has by far the greatest gender imbalance of any nation in the world, with conservative estimates from 2014 putting the ratio at 115.8 males to every 100 females.

The peak body responsible for family planning in the country, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, this week made its strongest statement yet on the crisis.’

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Turkmenistan: Black cars ‘banned’ by customs officials

BBC News reports:

Officials in white cars at a military parade in AshgabatCustoms officials in the Central Asian country have reportedly refused to allow the importation of black vehicles, according to Chrono-tm.org, a Vienna-based opposition website. They haven’t given a reason for the decision, but are advising importers to buy white vehicles instead because it’s considered a lucky colour, the website says. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov recently started using a convoy of white limousines to travel to public events, and about 160 top-ranking officials, including the heads of the country’s main media outlets, promptly followed suit, Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported in September.’

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Why Animals Eat Psychoactive Plants

Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, recently published an excerpt from his book at Boing Boing:

‘The United Nations says the drug war’s rationale is to build “a drug-free world — we can do it!” U.S. government officials agree, stressing that “there is no such thing as recreational drug use.” So this isn’t a war to stop addiction, like that in my family, or teenage drug use. It is a war to stop drug use among all humans, everywhere. All these prohibited chemicals need to be rounded up and removed from the earth. That is what we are fighting for.

I began to see this goal differently after I learned the story of the drunk elephants, the stoned water buffalo, and the grieving mongoose. They were all taught to me by a remarkable scientist in Los Angeles named Professor Ronald K. Siegel.’

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Why We Need to Abolish Competition and Embrace Arguments: Interview with Margaret Heffernan

Abby Martin interviews Margaret Heffernan, author of ‘Willful Blindness’ and ‘A Bigger Prize’, about the destructive impact of competition and alternative models of incentivizing people to work together for the greater good.’ (Breaking the Set)

Jury Convicts Former CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling of Leaking to Journalist & Violating Espionage Act

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling has been convicted by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, of charges brought against him because the government argued he leaked classified information about a top secret CIA operation in Iran to New York Times reporter James Risen.

Sterling’s case was the first case involving an alleged leak to the press to proceed to a full trial in thirty years. The last case involved Samuel L. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan for leaking photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat.’

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Do corrupt governments breed political violence?

Carlos Lozada writes in her review of ‘Thieves of State’ by Sarah Chayes in The Washington Post:

Corruption, Compliance & Criminal Regimes: An Interview  with Sarah Chayes[…] The target of her zeal is government corruption around the world — an old challenge but one she recasts in urgent and novel terms. The trouble with fraud and bribery and the rest is not simply their moral evil or economic toll, Chayes argues. The real danger is that an abusive government can elicit violent responses, including religious extremism, putting the survival of the state at risk. The case she makes is anecdotal but alarming.

Chayes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, is something of a rarity among Washington analysts. The places she writes about (Afghanistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Nigeria, among others) she knows well, not in the fly-in-for-a-week-then-pitch-an-op-ed kind of way. A former NPR correspondent who covered Algeria’s civil war in the 1990s and the fall of the Taliban after 9/11, Chayes went on to launch a business in Afghanistan, advise coalition forces there and work for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She’s been on all sides of the problem — at times, she admits, even inadvertently causing it.’

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Stuffocation: The hazards of too much stuff

James Wallman, the author of ‘Stuffocation,’ writes for BBC Magazine:

‘[…] We are now living in an age of abundance in the West. Before, material goods were expensive and scarce. Clothes were so hard to come by that they were handed down from generation to generation. A historian called Eve Fisher has calculated that before 1750 and the onset of the industrial revolution a shirt would have cost around £2,000 in today’s money. But now, things – shirts, shoes, toys and a million other consumer items – are cheap.

Once again, our inbuilt impulses have yet to catch up. As a result, many millions of us are filling our homes and lives, and suffocating under too much stuff.

This problem, which I call “stuffocation”, is the material version of the obesity epidemic. Since obesity is one of the most worrying problems we face, as individuals and as a society, saying that stuffocation is similar is quite a statement.’

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Axe fell on playing field day after Olympic torch visit

BBC News reports:

‘Former education secretary Michael Gove overruled advice to stop a school playing field being developed on the day after the Olympic torch travelled through the borough, the BBC has learned.

In 2012 the School Playing Fields Advisory Panel rejected a plan for a Barratt Homes development on the playing field of Elliott School in Putney. It was the day the Olympic torch was travelling through Wandsworth. But the then education secretary overruled the advice.’

WATCH THE FULL REPORT…

Ex-spies infiltrate Hollywood as espionage TV shows and movies multiply

Ian Shapira reports for The Washington Post:

‘[…] The career afterlife of a CIA official has typically followed well-known paths: Work for a private military contractor. Launch an “intelligence-driven” LLC. Join a law firm. Consult for the CIA. Write a memoir. But the hunger for espionage on TV and movies in recent years is cracking open new career opportunities for ex-CIA personnel with a flair for drama, the kind that’s less clandestine.

“Hollywood tends to be a destination spot for a lot of Washingtonians,” said David Nevins, the president of Showtime, which produces the spy juggernaut “Homeland.”

“There was the ‘West Wing’ crowd of former politicos. I’ve met with more than one former Navy SEAL. And now, certainly the intelligence community has been the most recent in a long line of Washingtonians trying to come out and tell their stories.”’

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Abby Martin: US media should cover real news, not Tom Brady

‘In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Andrew Lack–the new head of the US’ $700 million per year international broadcasting efforts—cited RT, the Islamic State and Boko Haram as the three main entities challenging US power. The director of the Broadcasting Board of Governors took issue with RT’s viewpoints and coverage of events, insinuating that they pose a threat to America, while also associating the news network with the two infamous terrorist groups. Abby Martin, host of Breaking the Set, explains why alternative outlets like RT are needed to stand up to those who are not used to being challenged.’ (RT America)

Greece shows what can happen when the young revolt against corrupt elites

Paul Mason writes for The Guardian:

‘[…] The fact that a party with a “central committee” even got close to power has nothing to do with a sudden swing to Marxism in the Greek psyche. It is, instead, testimony to three things: the strategic crisis of the eurozone, the determination of the Greek elite to cling to systemic corruption, and a new way of thinking among the young.

Of these, the eurozone’s crisis is easiest to understand – because its consequences can be read so easily in the macroeconomic figures. The IMF predicted Greece would grow as the result of its aid package in 2010. Instead, the economy has shrunk by 25%. Wages are down by the same amount. Youth unemployment stands at 60% – and that is among those who are still in the country.’

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Greece’s New Finance Minister: “We Are Going To Destroy The Greek Oligarchy System”

Zero Hedge reports:

Over two years ago, we first highlighted Yanis Varoufakis’ perspectives on the destruction of Greece and Europe’s bogus growth pacts. Since then he has grown in both reason and popularity as his no-nonsense discussons of the mis-design of the euro (and potential solutions) have made him the front-runner to be Syriza’s new finance minister. Never one to  mince words or play politics, Varoufakis tells Channel 4’s Paul Mason in this brief (but chilling for Brussels) interview, what his party would do if it gets into government in Greece, and admits the prospect of power in Europe is “scary”. As he sums up, “we are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system,” and with it, we suspect, much of the narrative that holds the fragile European Union together…’

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The SYRIZA Challenge in Greece: Interview with Leo Panitch

Editor’s Note: Professor Leo Panitch is a distinguished research professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada and editor of the Socialist Register. He is also co-author of ‘The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire‘. The interview was recorded earlier last week, before the elections in Greece.

German Football: The Bundesliga’s Crystal Meth Problem

Kit Holden reports for The Independent:

Dr Petri has revealed that although alchohol is the main problem, crystal meth is regularly being takenChristian Seifert’s job is easy these days. On Thursday, for example, the chief executive of the German football league (DFL) gave a speech in which he rattled off the successes of the Bundesliga with its record revenues and ticket sales.

German football is booming. The TV deals are ever more lucrative, Die Nationalmannschaft have won the World Cup, and the few young players who do leave almost invariably end up being sold at astronomical prices to the best European clubs.

As its primary publicist, Seifert can just ride the wave. When the clubs return from the winter break next weekend, fans will arrive from all over the world, Britain included. In Germany, they will find wonderful atmospheres, old-fashioned terraces, cheap beer and maybe even the odd line of crystal meth.’

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Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chávez

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Compare and Contrast: Obama’s Reaction to the Deaths of King Abdullah and Hugo Chávez‘Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela four times from 1998 through 2012 and was admired and supported by a large majority of that country’s citizens, largely due to his policies that helped the poor. King Abdullah was the dictator and tyrant who ran one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

The effusive praise being heaped on the brutal Saudi despot by western media and political figures has been nothing short of nauseating; the UK Government, which arouses itself on a daily basis by issuing self-consciously eloquent lectures to the world about democracy, actually ordered flags flown all day at half-mast to honor this repulsive monarch. My Intercept colleague Murtaza Hussain has an excellent article about this whole spectacle, along with a real obituary, here.’

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As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes

Alec Hogg reports for The Guardian:

Private jet landing in the AlpsWith growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.

Johnson, who heads the Institute of New Economic Thinking and was previously managing director at Soros, said societies can tolerate income inequality if the income floor is high enough. But with an existing system encouraging chief executives to take decisions solely on their profitability, even in the richest countries inequality is increasing.”‘

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#AlbumoftheWeek ~ Buhloone Mindstate by De La Soul (1993)

1993’s Buhloone Mindstate was De La Soul’s third release and final album with producer Prince Paul who worked with them on their two classic LP’s, 3 Feet High and Rising and De La Soul Is Dead. The albums title is in reference to the group trying to stay grounded in light of their recent success which is echoed in the line: “It might blow up but it won’t go pop,” on the album’s intro. It’s a more upbeat album than their previous one having more in common with their debut release, though it is more reflective and not quite as colourful. The standout tracks include ‘Patti Dooke,’ ‘Ego Trippin’ (Pt. 2)‘ and ‘Breakadawn,’ the latter two being released as singles. But it’s Posdonus’ line on ‘In The Woods‘ that steals the show lyrically and in many ways sums up much of De La Soul’s style: “Fuck being hard, Posdonus is complicated.”