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Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Europe better tread carefully in the future.

For the past year and a half, we all been watching a terrible disaster unfolding. This time not in the Middle East or Asia, but right on our doorstep; Ukraine.

"Putin's War", as Western media often portray it, is anything but though. These kind of conflicts have happened many times before in history, one of such times it was Greece that suffered the consequences of the struggle between East and West, with the Greek Civil War happening back in the post WW2 '40s.

That conflict was the first proxy war of the Cold War and represents the first example of postwar involvement on the part of the Allies in the internal affairs of a foreign country, an implementation of George F. Kennan's containment policy. Greece in the end was funded by the United States (through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan) and joined NATO (1952), while the insurgents were demoralized by the bitter split between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin, who wanted to end the war, and Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito, who wanted it to continue. (Wikipedia)

Drawing parallel's from one disaster, we can see what future awaits Ukraine for the coming decades, if it manages to win this war and maintain its territorial integrity; it cannot do it alone, unless NATO goes to war with Russia, but no one is prepared to do this yet. We have a stalemate as it stands, with Russia still occupying roughly the same amount of territory, since the start of the war.

The West insists on helping the embattled nation at all costs, "for as long as it takes" to achieve victory! The problems is, does any of them care about the human casualties, or teaching Putin another lesson is the only thing that matters? In addition, does any of the Western leaders have any vision of what will happen to Ukraine, once it joins NATO and EU, will it be just another unstable, problematic member like Greece or the Balkans?

This is clearly another war between the West and Russia for supremacy, similar to that of the Greek Civil War. Ukraine is being used by both sides to settle old scores once and for all, and one can only wonder why don't Americans just don't go to war with Russia themselves in the Pacific and their shared borders close to Alaska, but insist on dragging everyone else in the vortex of their power struggles with their old arch-enemy. Whoever wins that slaughter, gets Greece, Ukraine and Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter.

Europeans already pay a high cost for this war, we have all noticed our cost of living sky rocketing, despite all anti-Russian propaganda by our media, and Ukraine cheering. This war could have been easily avoided, if the two sides just gave up the "super-power" complex. But no, this bras de fer is not new, in fact it never went away. The West has maintained the arrogant "winner" complex of the Cold War, and wishes that neither Russia, China or anyone else ever challenge their hegemony again. But the world is changing. Plus, for how long can the West maintain this unethical monopoly in the world's riches and when poorer nations'citizens pour into Western lands, the solution they can think of is "building walls and make them pay for it?"

The struggles between Russia and the West started with the emergence of Vladimir Putin, as a dominant figure in Russian politics. And partly, this is the West's fault too. In a recent BBC documentary series, "Putin, Russia and the West" we can see that ever since the Libyan Civil War and the West's involvement in it, relations started going sour between NATO and Putin, after a few very promising years of reconciliation efforts. Russia's view was the any outside involvement in Libya should not be a "regime change", rather a humanitarian assistance, to save lives. Putin, who was acting as a Prime Minister, while Dmitry Medvedev was Russia's President at the time, openly clashed back then even, as Medvedev tried to approach and please the West, negotiating the conflict with them. Putin on the other hand, a former KGB man, knew from the start that this is a regime change operation.

US President Obama and his Western allies, proved Putin right, as they ousted Muammar Gaddafi from Libya despite Russia's objections, making it very difficult for Medveden to defend any trust in the West again among his country's elites, pushing of course the Russian public opinion, firmly behind Putin. In the Syrian Conflict, Putin was able to solidify his dominance in Russian politics, again after Western insistance of another "regime change" and a decisive victory in favor of Assad.

It is then a wonder why then Western Powers condemn Russia when they meddle in other nation's affairs, while they do exactly the same in regions of their interest. I would wholeheartedly support the Western cause, if I saw that in the aftermath of each Western invasion or bombardement, countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan saw their political, financial and societal standards rise. But this is not the case. In fact what we have seen, is that these regions are far worse after the "removal" of their "dictators", so why do we continue messing countries up, and then we do not like dealing with the consequences; refugees, migration, instability.

We are proving Putin right all the time. His stance of "no regime change", sounds much better, than the hypocrytical Western "humanitarian cause". If our leaders trully cared about human rights, there would be no need for "Black Lives Matter" demonstrations in America, or riots in France over the killings of migrant youths. Why we do not focus on bettering our own societies first, but insist on meddling in other nations' affairs?

It is simple; our leaders do not like "dictators", because they are harder to handle and manipulate. Little do they care about human rights in other nations. If a "dictator" is not West friendly, our governments and elites, cannot get access to the wealth and riches of that nation, under favorable for Western interests terms. We never bother Saudi Arabia, despite their terrible human rights records (women and LGBT individuals or migrant worker treatment). They play nice with USA and many of its Western allies, notable the UK. However Gaddafi and Assad, were not nice to the West like the Saudis, nor is Putin.

If the West establishes a new puppet regime, it can then achieve its goals in the region. This is not a conspiracy theory. John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former White House national security adviser, admitted that he had helped plan attempted coups in foreign countries. He made the remarks to CNN after the day's congressional hearing into the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

So how can the US blame Russia for doing exactly the same? The Americans do not even show any regard for their own allies. In 2012, a Greek prosecutor pressed charges of treason and trying to destabilize Greece against unknown suspects, over an alleged 2008 plot to overthrow the then-conservative prime minister, Costas Karamanlis. Court officials said the plan was hatched to thwart efforts by Karamanlis efforts to improve energy relations with Russia and included overthrowing and even killing the premier. It was not clear who was behind it. Eeehmmm...

Karamanlis pursued closer cooperation with Russia on energy issues, annoying Greece’s western allies. He supported the South Stream gas pipeline, which would bring Russian natural gas to Greece and western Europe and rival the Nabucco, the U.S.-backed pipeline that will convey gas from central Asia to the West. Yeah sure, it is "not clear who was behind it", just like there is not enough evidence to explain the 2022 Nord Stream pipeline sabotage. Funny because every time Russia or China do something wrong, the West always finds enough evidence to condemn them, yet when it is them staging coups even in allied nations, somehow there is never enough proof!

Former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss allegedly sent a message saying ‘It’s Done’ to the U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately after the Nord Stream attack. Yet the US as always refuses to admit the obvious. Who else would blow Russian pipes in the North Sea, since the Russians paid to built it and they could just turn it off, instead of blowing it to stop the gas flowing into Europe?

Is it any wonder also, that the Greek Economic Crisis, started in 2009, a year after the attempted coup to kill or overthrow Karamanlis in 2008, for his pro-Russian stance? Suddenly scandal after scandal hit Greece and the whole of Europe and America turned on Greece, ridiculing the country, bringing it to its knees with bullying and debt, all because the intentions of a Greek PM. The works of John Bolton come to mind here for sure. No other EU nation receiving an IMF bailout (ie Ireland, Portugal) faced such humiliation like Greece.

With attitudes such as these by Western leaders, is it any wonder why Putin has this bullish and standoffish attitude towards the West? I am not sure I agree with his stance, but I totally understand it after all the things the West has done over the years. Ideally I would like closer relations between Europe and Russia, but America and the European puppet governments it has established over the years, are a thorn. When the USA does not hesitate to plot to assasinate a Prime Minister of an allied nation, in order to push for their gas pipes and interests in Europe, in an ever ongoing effort to "de-Russify" our continent, how can Russia trust us and cooperate nicely?

The West keep hiting Russia economically hard, by sabotaging any projects that will allow closer EU-Russian collaboration, then it cries wolf when Russia fights back and acts the same way in Georgia and Ukraine. We do not just expand NATO and EU, we are cutting away partners, markets and source of income for Russia, to push for American ones and we are doing this by staging coups like the ones in Greece, or bribing the aspiring EU/NATO member states' leadership with money in order to join our "club" and denounce Russia. Any efforts for closer relations with Russia are faced with the threat of assasination or coup, just like the case of Greece.

Why does it always have to be us or them, and why we can never be with both and either of them? If America portrays itself as the "land of the free", it surely does not allow for much freedom to its allies once they join their club, unless they do its biding. These are developments that should worry all European citizens. This is a proof of democratic deficit in the West, evidence of corruption, of a fascist regime similar to what we accuse Russia of.

Anyone who does not hate Russia at the moment in Europe is being treated as "Putin's mouthpiece", a "paid troll paid by Kremlin" (including me most of the times), and no one wants to see things for what they are. We are not allowed to express our concerns openly, think or question the current status or our government's actions in Ukraine. We are forced to pay for this war, just as we were forced to save European and American banks in the economic crisis of 2009 (remember the crisis started in the USA, plus no bailout money stayed in Greece, Ireland etc) and no amount of protests can change anything. We are not being heard. This is scary.

I for one would worry more about the state of European democracy, as I am a European. If Russians love Putin, it does not affect me as I am not a Russian citizen, but that does not mean I must not cooperate or trade with them, as we do with Turkey (a brilliant example of Western democracy by the way) or Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

It really does bother me where Europe is heading, right under US control, with the full collaboration of our own "elected" leaders. We are becoming a US colony and it is obvious (something that I suspected but did not want to accept that it could not be changed in the future) that the EU itself is nothing more than a US tool to bring the whole of Europe under their absolute control, and we as citizens have no say whatsoever in our own future. European leaders must reconsider and stop this path we are heading. They lied to us and promised that a "united Europe" would stand with Russia, China AND the USA as an equal partner and contender, becoming a global player for the betterment of the lives of all EU citizens. But sadly all we see is the sell out of our future and reputation as Europeans, to the interests of the "few" in the West.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Yes Mr Scholz..... But!

In his speech in Prague’s Charles University on Monday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pushed for the idea of ending national vetos, and gradually transitioning to majority voting on foreign policy and tax issues in the European Union. The goal is to prevent the bloc from becoming paralysed by the vetoes of individual states, as it is about to take in new members. It is not the first time that a high profile European leader, has openly called for such radical step in EU. Mr Scholz's speech, comes almost five years after Emmanuel Macron’s in Sorbonne, that laid out his grand EU agenda.

As a pro-European and a federalist myself, I am partially intrigued and excited that European leaders are finally mulling over ditching their national vetoes, something that brought so many delays, frictions, disagreements and missed opportunities during the past decades in Europe. However the ride is not going to be easy, as it will be very hard to persuade small states like Malta, Ireland, Greece plus so on; and rightly so.

It will require some serious negotiating, convincing the leaders but also the citizens of the smaller members- Ireland requires a referendum for any constitutional changes remember, that Europe is ready for the big leap, it is mature enough to think collectively in solidarity and "European". For example, the EU Commission early in 2019 kick-started a debate on reforming decision-making for areas of EU taxation policy, which currently requires unanimity among member states. Malta and a number of other small nations have traditionally opposed any move towards tax harmonisation on an EU level.

If these states, such as Ireland, are to be convinced to abandon a policy which gives them competitiveness and wealth, what guarrantees will they get in return, that their economies will receive substantial assistance to compensate for the loss of revenue? Since by abandoning their veto will inevitably mean that a part of what contributed to their prospetity, will be compromised for the greater European cause. What will the rest of the EU offer them as an alternative; industries, job creation or simply subsidies?

Or what if the EU Council decide to allow refugess to enter its territories on the grounds of humanitarianism, but decline to agree on ditching the Dublin III Regulation and distribute the refugees or asylum seekers equally among the member states. As result, the countries on the outer borders of EU like Greece or Spain, will have no say or opportunity to dispute what is being unfairly enforced on them. Will the rest of their European partners think "European", do what is right and help in a situation that they took part agreeing upon? Until now, all we have seen was bickering among EU member states, but so far we had the unanimity decision making to blame.

This development will also bring new challenges and questions elsewhere. How will the three EU governing bodies (European Parliament, EU Commission and the EU Council) be affected by the new reality? The most interesting case of course, is that of the Council, since it is there that the national vetoes happen. If majority voting will replace unanimity, how can a nation safeguard its interests, if the rest do not share or understand its sensitivities?

In addition, since the bigger, richer countries like Germany, even if they lose their own veto, they could bribe, pressure, blackmail or influence enough governments to get their point accross, how smaller poorer EU states like Bulgaria can secure their red lines on a issue and if they cannot, how will they be convinced by Macron and Scholz, to abandon their veto.

If we fail in this attempt for decision making streamlining, the only other two alternatives would be firstly if we aimed for the gradual full empowerment of the European Parliament, as the main decision making of the EU. Leaving out of course, the bickering of national governments, by merging the Council and the Commission in one single body, acting like a Senate, Congress of any form of a bicameral government. But that is something even more radical, plus I doubt that Europeans are ready for such fully fledged federalist solution. Never mind our governments. Secondly, we could leave things as they are, leaving Europe always a tail follower in global developments.

Finally, how do Macron and Scholz view the future EU foreign policy that they so much want to form, since Europe is still a dwarf in the global stage on this matter and on defense, thus it requires US support and protection? I have never hidden that I am not an Atlanticist and this reliance of Europe on America, is increasingly troublesome for me.

The US Administration has recently opened not just one front with the war in Ukraine-fighting Russia, but they are also itching over Taiwan, potentially angering China. If they are not carefull, they could start a global conflict and Europe-as their side-kick, won't have other option but to take sides and join them, with whatever the outcome and consequences. As it did in the case of Ukraine and is paying a much higher price, both than the US and Russia, on economic terms. Instead of our American cousins, waiting to see how will the war in Ukraine conclude, they are keen on sending their Senators in Taiwan, "as a message to China", that the US will always support the Republic. Is this the right time to do it? They should be pulling Russia and China apart, not uniting them as a common enemy!

Clearly they are troubled by what is happening in the world, like the BRICS enlargement , or the "de-dollarization" of the global economy, as attempted by Russia and its partners in BRICS, notably India. The two countries have agreed to create "RuPay",a system of cards based on Russia’s Mir payment system be accepted at ATMs and POS in India. In addition, during 2021, 53.4 percent of all payments from India to Russia were made in rubles while 38.3 percent were in dollars. India emerged as a leading foreign country to switch to the Russian currency.

The aim is obviously to topple the dollar and to wean the world of the American economic dominance. So where does this leave Europe then? If the world changes and BRICS achieve their goal, will a unified Europe always fight the US corner, or form its own destiny? Unless the plan of Scholz and Macron is to crush any dissidents in EU ranks, making it easier for the US influence to be maintained, at least in Europe. Then should we allow such thing?

Hungary for example, announced in mid-August that it is importing more Russian gas than previously planned under trade deals, following a visit by its top diplomat to Moscow in July. Bulgaria also stated recently, that talks to resume Russian gas supplies are 'inevitable.' It is clear that EU member states are "cracking" in their support for sanctions against Russia, since Europe failed to provide them until now, with viable, long term solutions or alternatives. The pressure by the US to keep up the hard-line stance towards Russia in support of Ukraine is mounting, however Europeans are afraid of what will happen this winter.

As businesses suffer, many fearing closure and households struggling to pay their bills, could European leaders successfully push now for such a radical and bold development in Europe, plus how will it be received by the voters, who are angry and desperate at the moment? As we have witnessed before in difficult times, citizens tend to turn to national politicians, not the "Brussels bubble" for solutions, nor they rely on other European partners to save them.

Only today, 6 months after the war in Ukraine broke out, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said officials were “working on an emergency intervention and a structural reform of the electricity market”. She stated that the current crisis was “exposing the limitations” of the current structure, with EU energy ministers set to hold urgent talks in Brussels on 9 September. MEPs called for an “EU wide cap” on prices and said that efforts must be made to”decouple electricity and gas prices altogether.” Will that be enough to save the face of EU in the voter's eyes and maintain their confidence in its institutions?

To conclude, Mr Scholz' suggestions are long overdue, plus much welcomed in most pro-European and federalist circles. They get a reserved "yes" from me. However their timing, implementation, willingness of the national governments and of course of the citizens, in a such challenging time such as this, could potentially defeat and derail his plans; no matter how useful, or righteous. It remains to be seen if Europe is mature and ambitious enough to decide and press ahead on its own, or remain in America's shadow forever. Sadly with the collaboration of our leaders, as the globe moves quickly forward to a new era and a multipolar world.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Is Europe prepared for a Multipolar World?

It has been 5 months since Russia invaded Ukraine. During this time, most of us hoped for a quick compromise by either side, to end this war, limiting the losses in human lives. Obviously this is not the case. Another aspect that has been made absolutely clear, is that this is not just a war between Ukraine and Russia. It is a proxy war between the West and Russia, with Ukraine being the battlefield.

The saddest thing is that this conflict could have been totally avoided. The West insists on blaming the Russian President, Vladimir Putin for everything regarding this war, simplifying the reasoning behind it, as him being a dictator and war monger, thirsty for more land, expanding the former Russian empire, that Russia is not a democracy rather a fascist regime, citing the Soviet Union's role in WW2 and many other outrageous things. A blatant propaganda, anything as an excuse for their voters, on why they decided to pump billions of their money into this war, arming and supporting Ukraine in a conflict it cannot win, unless the West decides to put boots to the ground; starting of course WW3.

How to explain to American, Canadian and European citizens, that this winter, their homes are going to be cold, their house bills and grocery prices higher, their transport and petrol super expensive, because that evil dictator Putin decided to invade a peaceful neighbouring country. This is laughable. The war was being waged in Ukraine for 8 years and during this time, no Western media really explained what was going on in that region.

No government of a NATO country, informed their citizens that since 2014 the alliance had a presence in Ukraine and was training Ukrainian soldiers, in preparation and anticipation of this war. They knew what was coming, but instead of trying to prevent it with diplomacy, they poured more oil into the fire, by deploying troops in the war torn region, arming the Ukrainian side. Has any of us, the citizens been informed about this all this time?

There is a YouTube video, in which we see former US Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain in Ukraine in 2016, literally preparing the Ukrainians for this proxy war, encouranging them-or lying to them most likely, that they can win this conflict with the aid of USA. How many Ukrainians are the Americans prepared to sacrifice I wonder, to achieve their goals in the region? Them being of course, cutting the ties between Europe and Russia, weaning our continent off cheap Russian energy and removing Vladimir Putin from Russian leadership. They clearly want a reliant Europe on their energy and arms and a weaker, more managable Russia, without authoritarian strongmen like Putin. A win-win for USA. That is not what they may be getting though.

To think that Europe can be cut off from its reliance on cheap Russian energy, and hook itself on that of USA in a matter of months is simply daft. This should have been planned and worked on for decades, but now our American friends want us to achieve this within a year. And to achieve this, we will have to rely on Saudi oil, or Russian oil via countries like Azerbaijan, and other very "democratic" nations such as Iran. The American President had to go begging for more oil from Saudi Arabia, a nation that they scorned before, but not as much as Russia, obviously.

In a published telephone conversation between French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin which took place just 4 days before the Russian invasion, we see that the reasons that the war was allowed to happen were stubborness, pride, petty drama and quasi legalities and treaties, past agreements and intransigence, instead of reason and common sense. Macron is trying to convince Putin to meet with US President Biden, while Putin called for pressure on Zelensky to allow Ukraine to begin direct talks with “D/LPR” militants, something that Macron described as impossible, since "in a sovereign state, the texts of laws are not made up by separatist groups, but democratically elected authorities". That of course made Putin angry as he added: "this is not a democratically elected government. They came to power as a result of a coup, people were burned alive there, it was a bloodbath, and Zelensky was one of those responsible".

Instead of trying avoid this war, as this will be detrimental for everyone involved apart the arms industries, our leaders insist on arguing on legalities and engaging in power-games. On the other hand, there has been little exposure in Western media, of the bombarments of the Donbas and Luhansk regions, by the Ukrainian army, but only the damages that Russia is now inflicting on Ukraine. We are not exposed to the full background of the war, which started after the alleged regime change, the Euromaidan, instigated by US agents in Ukraine-according to Putin's point of view. Where was a grilling on Irish television of the Russian ambassador all these 8 years for example, to request an explanation of Russia's clear involvement and support of the Russian speaking separatists in Ukraine? Nothing, there has been an utter silence.As if Ukrainian soldiers were not killing Russian speaking civilians all these 8 years, but then how did these 14,000 or so victims of the civil war (prior the Russian invasion) occured?

The fact that we are only shown one side of this war, should alarm us. This is not a balanced, but biased portrayal of the conflict, to suit the West's narrative and interests in the region. The question is, why is Europe following US foreign policy so blindly, even if it is clear that we will pay for this war a higher price.

The euro slid towards parity with the American dollar, the first time in 20 years. The last time the euro fell below the dollar was November 2002, when the common currency was still in its infancy. A sliding euro will add to the burden on European households and businesses already reeling from record-high inflation. A weaker currency would make imports, which are mostly denominated in dollars, more expensive. When those items are raw materials or intermediate goods, their higher costs can further drive up local prices.

Riots are already errupting in the Netherlands over new greener farming practices, in Italy we have taxi driver riots over new regulations liberalizing taxi services to include ride-sharing operators like Uber. In addition, German farmers are joining un support for their Dutch counterparts, as the Uber files scandal is shaming the EU Commission and officials, as well many goverments like that of Macron. In this volatile environment in Europe, after 2 years of a pandemic, in which many saw their businesses facing closure, prices of goods, rents and services going up, now we have a war that adds extra expenses to the average European household.

How long before there are more intensive quarrels, frictions and divisions in the EU, as a recession is almost a certain reality for most European households during this winter. Inflation is rising across the eurozone and in some cases like that of Estonia, it has reached the whooping year-high of 22% this month. In Germany, residents make plans amid fears of a winter gas shortage, as the country dims the lights to cope with Russia energy supply crunch. Fears of winter energy crisis bring calls for shorter hot showers and cooler swimming pools. The green agenda is out of the window, as Germany and several of its European neighbours are returning to coal-fired power plants in order to conserve precious reserves of natural gas. How will all the above impact the German or European industries and economy, the backbone of our continent's political and social structure, plus way of life?

If we add to the mix the number of Ukrainian refugees into Europe, which get immediate access to social welfare, housing and work in most EU countries, then the European economy is heading for a big crash. More than 9 million Ukrainian refugees have flooded Europe since the Russian invasion. In some countries like Ireland which took in 50,000 fleeing Ukrainians, this refugee crisis is becoming a big problem and they country is struggling to cope in finding accomodation, no matter how generously and valiantly they are trying to house the ever increasing new arrivals. The problem is how long will the Irish, or in fact European people, be willing to pay for all this, the billions thrown into Ukraine for support, the arms and weaponry provided, the housing expenses for all the refugees, as their own household bills are rising and life standards are being erroded.

Two European Prime Ministers resigned already; the UK PM Boris Johnson, who after a series of scandals finally gave in due to the high cost of living, plus his Italian counterpart, Mario Draghi for similar reasons. Italy’s economic prospects have soured as inflation bites due to the Russo-Ukrainian war. The optimism seen at start of 2022 is fading fast as country undergoes cost-of-living squeeze. So one has to wonder if all the bravado of the European leaders against Russia and Vladimir Putin for the past 8 years and since the start of the war, all the economic sanctions they came up with to hurt the Russian economy and bring down its President, do they now realize that they have backfired? The Russian rouble not only did not collapse, but it is the strongest currency so far this year, contrary to the euro. Europe 'shot itself in the lungs' with sanctions on Russia, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stated recently, and how spot on he is on this. Russia is a country with vast resources, plus the world is not only comprised by the West. If Europe rejects Russian energy, there are plenty more regions on the planet eager for Russian cheap gas!

Why must Europe remain the lap-dog of USA, rely on its army for its own protection, but in return do not have its own foreign policy and must do whatever the US lobbies decide to do? From this war, the US and Russia are the big winners so far, while we Europeans-especially the Ukrainians are paying the highest price. Wouldn't it better to maintain good relations with Russia all this time, negotiate and try to find a solution to the conflict peacefully? What if we don't like the Russian leadership, we do dealings with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, themselves very autocratic countries, lacking democracy and with a very bad human rights or freedom of the press records. Turkey is always being referred as a "valued ally" by NATO's Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, despite the Turks humiliating Sweden and Finland in order for them to be allowed in the alliance, demanding these two countries go against their traditional stance on the Kurdish and other similar problems. Despite Turkey openly threating Greece, an EU and NATO member with war in a Twitter post, plus dealing and negotiating with Russia as they do not join the sanctions against the country, by other Western nations.

We do not object or feel outraged when the Turks invade Syria and Iraq, or when the Saudis bombard with NATO tolerance and support, Yemen for the past 7 years. It is this Western hypocricy and arrogance which inevitably will lead to its own downfall. We have been prospering through conflict and other people's suffering for too long and we should be ashamed of ourselves. The whole so called "Western Civilization" has thrived on war, arms sales, economic bullying and domination, inequality and American hegemony, with the collaboration and support of Europe. How long can we exist like this, being such hypocrites and become outraged by the actions of Russia, but not our own and those countries like Turkey that we "need" to achieve our goals in a region?

The world is changing mind you. As the West is boasting about NATO getting two new members, Sweden and Finland, the so called BRICS (the economic block of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is also expanding. Argentina, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have applied to join the group, with Indonesia also thinking of following suit. The developing world wants a change, is getting organized, creating an alternative to Western hegemony. They clearly had enough of our condescending, arrogant and hypocritical attitude towards them. They understandably want to work and trade with their own rules, not those imposed by the West, which often do not suit them, or they are unfair to their economies since they are created to perpetuate Western economic dominance.

The war in Ukraine most likely will be lost, if we leave the country on its own. At some stage, European but also American voters will have enough of financing this lost case. Ukraine has 3 times or less the population of Russia and even with our military support, they will one day simply run out of people. The Russians have shown how determined they are in winning this. For them, it is all in now, either win or face more humiliation from the West, like the one they suffered back in the '90s. They will not allow this to happen, the West must expect this. The Russians have been preparing for this conflict, as the West were arming and training Ukrainian soldiers. We had the chance to stop it and do as Putin has asked us, allow negotiations between the two warring sides to take place, but with our arrogance and idiotic, short sighted, "treaty obsessed" legalities, we did not take this chance. We should have. Now that the war has started, there is simply no way back. The Russians will play all their cards to win this.

The US does not want an open conflict between the two, as it will lead to a WW3 and this one may become a nuclear one. So they will not put boots on the ground. Europe is already struggling financially, so why on Earth are we not giving up and save Ukrainian and Russian lives, our economy and world peace? And for what really, a decades old grudge between America and Russia? We do not have to be destroyed again as a continent, so that these two can settle their scores. Europe should distance itself from America, seek to restore its relations with Russia and be ready to join the new, multipolar world that is emerging. The age of American/Western hegemony is coming to an end, even the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated it recently. It does not have to be catastrophic or end up in a global, generalized conflict. We should let it happen and join the new era. It will be a fairer world, with Europe being one of the pillars, if of course we remain united and strong. If we do not, then our worse fears will be materialized and we will become a divided, poor continent, relying on those countries which up until now we scorned.

So far we tried so desperately to avoid this fate, by attaching ourselves on the military might of the USA. In this case though, we chose wrong. The USA's power is weakening and so will its appetite to always put up with our need for "mothering" and protection. Even if we remain attached to their hip, bigger blocks are prepared to challenge them and inevitably, we will be caught in the middle. A multipolar world is not all that bad and it looks inevitable at this stage. Why go in an all-out war with Russia and China with a potential annihilation, just so we help USA maintain their grip on the world, as we hope for a better and favourable treatment by them? Instead of taking the plunge into adulthood, truly unite as a continent, create our own foreign policy backed by a European defense mechanism, independent from the USA, and join this multipolar world and new reality, together with the challenges and opportunities it offers?

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Europe is at war again!

It is hard to believe that Europe is at war once more. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the situation has been escalated and it hangs by a thread, with every European hoping that it will end soon. However, we have to realize that it most likely won't, plus that it is not only Ukraine and Russia that are at war right now.

An economic and information war has also been waging for the past 20 days, starting with the sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia- all 4 rounds of them, which will obviously retaliate as these sanctions get worse; and everything indicated that they would from the beginning. Europe and the US are determined to support Ukraine, but the only way they can at the moment, is with arms and financial aid. They will not risk an open war with Russia, so we are all left watching as this tragedy unfolds in disbelief.

But the war does not stop on finances. Propaganda and counter propaganda has been circulating on social media and news channels from all sides.European universities hit by an apparent piece of Russian disinformation have had to quash rumours circulating online after the country’s human rights commissioner claimed Russian students are being expelled from campuses in Europe. Several organisations and institutions have had to clarify they are not expelling Russian students after claims by the Kremlin-supporting official circulated on social media.

That was most likely an exaggerated reaction to what European countries resolved to, in order to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Not only has Russia been stripped of two prestigious events – the Champions League men’s final and Formula One’s Russian Grand Prix –but an increasing number of performances by Russians are being cancelled worldwide. Concerts, dance recitals and exhibitions have been postponed indefinitely .

In Greece for example, Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni ordered the suspension of any current or upcoming activities and events held in Greece in collaboration with Russian cultural organisations, the ministry said. In addition, Greece’s biggest gaming firm OPAP on Monday halted betting on Russian sport events in solidarity with Ukraine where a Russian invasion continues. OPAP said it has stopped offering betting on any match related to Russian competitions, including football, basketball and volleyball, either online or through its outlets in Greece.

This indicates that European nations are determined not only to hit Russia hard, but to humiliate it for its actions against Ukraine. I wonder though if Vladimir Putin and his supporters are really bothered by all this, or is the West just acting bitterly for what it cannot control. Is cancelling Russian arts throughout the continent, which have been an integral part of our collective heritage, the way to solve the impasse? Western nations lost the chance to help Ukraine 8 years ago, when the civil war started; they should have pulled the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy aside, to try and mediate a solution between the two warring communities, before Putin decided to intervene himself. But is this what Western nations really sought as a solution after all in the first place.

Europe's hysteric Russophobia.

Four years ago, I had the unique privilege to work as an election observer in the last Russian presidential elections in the city of Kazan, which of course Putin won. The fear and hysteria that I received about my decision to accept the invitation was phenomenal. Some of my friends warned me to be careful of what the Russians offer me to drink, in case they poisoned and killed me. But why would Russian officials ask me over to their country to assassinate me, since they could easily do it while I was in Ireland. Or why would I become a target, as I never wrote anything in favor or against Vladimir Putin and his government.

All I ever insisted on saying for years, is that Europe should try and work on its relations with Russia, if they were ever in the mood for the same of course. After all, it is a country which shares borders with us and will never go away thus we should do so, not for their sake, but for ours. In various articles that I wrote for this blog and Europa United- which have been translated in french for the now banned in Europe, Sputnik channel, I presented a scenario where Europe achieves its own military and foreign policy, distances slightly itself from USA, while remaining in close cooperation with it, but approaching somewhat Russia, in order to achieve long lasting peace on the continent, putting aside our differences.

And by only writing sympathetically about EU-Russian relations, it was enough sometimes to put me in the same basket as many "Putinists", individuals that are rather on the payroll of Putin or his "usefull idiots", spreading propaganda and lies. For starters, the only article I ever got paid was the one I did for Euronews, plus I really wish someone had paid me a penny for the over 300 articles I wrote in my 12 year blogging experience.

I remember the debates we had with my other editors of the various online platforms I contributed, on how to present these articles, reporting from the Russian elections and explaining my position on why we could benefit from stable and somewhat "good relations" with our neighbours; without of course sounding like a Putin propaganda platform, or having to "neutralize" them with an contradicting opinion piece for balance afterwards. As if in a real democracy we must be apologetic for our opinion, principles or merits. If only one point of view is accepted, then we are not too different than the autocratic "regimes" we so much love to criticise.

It is evident that it is Europe and America that have a real problem with Russia and not just the other way around. European progressives, liberals and other intellectuals, usually see Russia as the "enemy", their ideological nemesis that they must constantly bash in order to validate their positions, whilst presenting the country as a threat, in order to convince Europeans to unite. That is something that I always disagreed with, since I do not think that a federal, united Europe should be forced or based upon fear, of Russia or anyone else, rather the realisation of a common set of values and future that we must all aspire to. America's problem of course is wanting to keep Russia out of Europe altogether, as they see our continent their own playground and "sphere of influence".

In addition, countries on the Eastern front of the continent, that sadly fell beyond the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, are understandably very suspicious and wary of Russia and its interests. But if the Russians wanted to claim their countries back, they would have made a move or staged a protest prior to 2004 and their mass entry in the EU. It is the military Western expansion they object to, especially when it comes to Ukraine and Caucasus. So any hysteria or fears that after Ukraine, others will follow must stop, unless the war escalates further into a NATO-Russia war. The only way for Eastern Europe to soothe its relations with Russia and build up trust again, is if the latter acknowledges and apologises for its mistakes during the Soviet era-in which Russians suffered too by the way, plus Eastern Europeans are willing to do so; no military alliance and build-up, or American influence and "protection" can achieve this, in fact the US military presence may be exactly what pours more oil to the flame.

Moreover, I always found it rather hypocrytical that Western nations have no problem collaborating with worse regimes than Russia, like Saudi Arabia for example. Have any of the Western expats in United Arab Emirates, dared to stage a campaign there about LGBT rights, democracy, gay pride etc.? How do we expect to change a country like Russia to fit our standards in order to do business with it, since we are unable to change EU member states like Hungary and Poland- hardly beacons of liberal democracies themselves, while they are integrated in our institutions? Besides, why must everyone in the world share our own values, in order to be worthy of our acceptance and praise? I am a proud European, thus a Westerner, but unlike some of my kind, I do not expect other nations to share my values in order to coexist, trade or interact with them.

The West had always varied rules for different nations too. Bashing Greece for its bail-out prgramme, while giving Ireland just a slap on the wrist for the same. Proceeding in quick sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine, but never acting as decisively for other ongoing conflicts like Yemen, Syria, Cyprus and the Palestine issue. Scolding Russia for its wars, but never USA for its failures in the Middle East that resulted in thousands trying to flee into Europe. Being so keen in receiving Ukrainian refugees, but making it as awkward in finding a solution for those from Syria. The latter have to stay in refugee camps, while the Ukrainians are being given visa free access to EU nations.

In a recent televised interview on the Irish national broadcaster RTE, TV presenter David McCullagh has gone viral after his "priceless" interview with the Russian Ambassador in the country. The journalist spoke to Ambassador Yury Filatov as Russian troops continued to invade Ukraine, whilst he maintained an agressive tone of voice, barely allowing his guest to speak or explain. The news anchor said the ambassador was giving the "Russian version of events" which are "misleading". It was slightly embarassing to watch, as if journalists are meant to be openly biased and "grill" plus embarass their guests, not try to get answers from them, thinking that we as viewers are stupid and cannot, or should not make our own minds, if what Mr Filatov was saying was true or nonsense.

He also asked "why does our government entertain your presence here when you're acting as an apologist for slaughter?".Mr Filatov responded: "It is a good question. You might ask your government. It's up to them. I can leave any time." This has become viral on the internet, especially in the US where they happily made a laughing stock of Mr Filatov. Such incident of course would never happen to a US Ambassador, or any other Western diplomat in Ireland, since the country relies heavily on US investments and companies to accumulate its wealth. Ireland would never "grill" any US official like this, questioning him for example about their involvement in Afghanistan and their failure to secure a victory in the country after of 20 years of presence, which resulted in a massive humanitarian crisis, only a few months ago.

The only good thing that came out of this, is that Ireland is finally abandoning the taboo of "neutrality" and for the first time in the 18 years that I live in this country, I viewed a debate on national television about this long cherished policy. It was finally admitted that Ireland is neutral "only militarily" and not politically, and that we as a country have chosen sides long ago. Finland is having the same debate and I believe also Sweden. Because if these countries feel they belong into a "block", then they should start exploring ways to contribute more to its security. Until now, Finland had a rather high military spending to protect itself from Russia (allegedly), while Ireland like Austria and Switzerland, enjoyed the so called necessary "protection and stability" that NATO offers to Europe, rather for free.

Don't get me wrong, I also hate militarization. In this age and time I feel it is disgraceful that we all have to resolve in high military spending to protect one from the other, while we fail to solve issues with diplomacy. It is shameful that instead of hospitals and schools, we must make bombs to kill other peoples, because they have different views than us. I am a staunch pacifist. But if we have to keep NATO for "protection", then all countries of Europe that are for US military presence and investments in the continent and have chosen "sides", should contribute to its budget. Why must countries like Poland and Greece for example, be the spear heads against any "Russian threat" after all?

Europe is at war!

However all the above is about to change. Ireland recently published a Commission on the Defence Forces report, which recommended that the Government work towards three levels of "ambition" on military reform and upgrade. Level one is maintaining the current status quo, while level two would mean plugging gaps in the current security apparatus by acquiring capabilities such a military radar system and modern aircraftcost, for an extra €500 million a year. Level three would see Ireland upgrading the Defence Forces to the level of other countries of similar size, which would bring the defence budget to about €3 billion a year.The commission recommended that the Government work towards level two, for now.

So you see what that the consequences of Russia's invasion- because it is an invasion, no matter how the Russians try to call it or mask it, are far reaching and not only Ukraine is affected. Europe is at war. On the 13th of March, the Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin whilst on a diplomatic trip to London on the UK's response to the refugee crisis, stated that Ireland is heading into a war economy, further pressure on food and fuel over the coming weeks. We are all in this together and there is no going back now.

Sadly, all of this could have been avoided, if America, Europe and Russia found a way to soothe out their differences, but I doubt if any party was really keen. In a 2019 Forbes article, the view was that here’s no real reason to sanction Russia anymore, other than just hating Russia because it’s run by Vladimir Putin. This opinion came after the Special Counsel investigation was over and the only thing that the US Senator Robert Mueller could find involving Russians that was worth punishing with an actual crime, were these 13 “troll farms” that had no impact on the US election outcome, according to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And whose participants will never see a U.S. court or prison, sanctioning bonds was "passé". Russia, for Wall Street anyway, has been exonerated. The Mueller testimony was a total face plant for the Democrats and anyone looking to link Trump to a villainous Russia.

So why did the Russophobia and hysteria in Europe continued? In the same article, they described that Russia was until 2019 the hottest-performing emerging market. The VanEck ETF was up 26% while No. 2 Brazil was up 18.9% and the MSCI Emerging Markets benchmark was up 9.3%. Since the summer of 2014, Russian oil and gas firms and Russian banks have been sanctioned by the U.S. and to some extent Europe, though Europe did not sanction oil and gas entities. The sanctions were all due to Russian involvement in a separatist movement in East Ukraine. “The conclusion of the Mueller investigation reduces the urgency for the U.S. Congress to impose additional sanctions on Russia,” stated Federico Kaune, head of emerging-markets fixed income at UBS Asset Management.

Thus, if only three years ago relations between the West and Russia seemed to be normalizing, what happened since then that tipped the scales and drove Vladimir Putin so "mad", that he decided to invade Ukraine? Could it be the change of American leadership? There has been a video being circulated on social media, of current US President Joe Biden, "predicting" that if NATO ever expands to the Baltics, there will be war in Europe.

So why didn't he follow his own"predictions"? Many others foresaw that Nato expansion would lead to war. It has long been clear that it would lead to tragedy. "We are now paying the price for the US’s arrogance", as we read in a Guardian article. Bill Clinton’s administration had made the decision to push for including some former Warsaw Pact countries into the alliance. The administration would soon propose inviting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to become members, and the US Senate approved adding those countries to the North Atlantic Treaty in 1998. Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state during the Clinton administration, described then the Russian reaction; “Many Russians see Nato as a vestige of the cold war, inherently directed against their country. They point out that they have disbanded the Warsaw Pact, their military alliance, and ask why the West should not do the same.” It was an excellent question, and neither the Clinton administration nor its successors provided even a remotely convincing answer.

And the same sentiment is what I got when I was working as and election observer in Russia. Many of the country's youth were supporting Vladimir Putin, something that we in the West cannot understand. Young people in our countries are usually backing progressive parties that push for liberal reforms, however in Russia they seem to stand behind Putin, who we see as an "oligarch and authoritarian dictator". And that is because not only we do not understand Russia and its society, but rather we push them towards people like Putin.

Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in 1990s came amid the tumultuous years of low-living standards, corruption and unbridled capitalism that benefited a small sector of society following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991; the so called "Oligarchs", that the West so much loaths but is pleased to receive their money. When Putin became Russia’s president in the year 2000 many Russians were happy to see a leader come to power who promised to reconstruct the country economically and politically. Since that first presidential election Putin has certainly overseen Russia’s restoration to the international stage and a sense of national pride among many Russians. He went after many of the "oligarchs", making enemies while trying to reform Russia, the way he thought best.

So any wave of sanctions that endangers what Putin has built all these years, do not necessarily "work" on the Russian public opinion, the way we expect them to do. Harming the Russian economy to spite Putin, often helps achieve the opposite. Many of these "Putin's youths" that I spoke with during my stay in Moscow and Kazan in 2018, expressed not only the love for their country, their support for Putin's "reforms", but also a fear, perhaps unfounded, that their country will be again humiliated and mistreated by the West, forced to shrink and become impoverished once more. They are bitter of the way the West is treating their country, when in their words "27 million of their soldiers died suring WW2 to save Europe from fascism.

As I wrote in my 2018 articles, Russia is not a homogenous society, but is rather comprised by many ethnic and religious groups, living in a vast area spanning two continents; Europe and Asia. Thus perhaps, the Western liberal democratic model cannot work for them, since they are so keen to hold their country together and not lose any more territory. Something similar to the Greek paranoic mentality of losing more islands to a NATO ally of theirs, Turkey. A Western model, with all the freedoms that it offers, perhaps is not appropriate at this stage, when the Russian society is transitioning still into a capitalist one, but in a different pace in its regions. So any financial sanctions that the West imposes, could be triggering an even more conservative reflex among its population. But that does not seem to bother Western liberals. In their mind, everyone must abide by Western values, even if they are not suitable for them, or face ridicule and economic sanctions, for daring to challenge the Western economic hegemony.

Because ultimatelly, this is what is all about. Financial interests and poor Ukraine is caught in the middle and pays the ultimate price. Americans do not want a prosperous Russia, nor any other country that they see as a threat. Ideally they want them out of Europe, which they see as their sphere of influence. So how dare the Russians seek closer relations and trade, or to become members of NATO and contribute to the North Atlantic Alliance's security? If in 2019 the Trump administration decided to end sanctions against Russia, but now Biden forced Putin to invade Ukraine- a bad decision and a huge mistake by all means that it may be, but clearly indicates a war between the West and Russia, hidden under the facade of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

With Western companies exiting Russia and talks of Russia of nationalizing them, economic sanctions, trade wars, rise of oil and gas prices due to the halt of imports from Russia, the situation is a fully fledged conflict already. And it has been brewing for years and both sides were preparing for it. While I was visiting Kazan, I was taken to see the "Russian Silicon Valley", a newly built small town complete with apartments and shops at the outskirts of the Tatarstan capital, aimed to act as an alternative to the American hegemony and dominance of the internet; at least in Russia. Or maybe perhaps, prepare the country for a pull-out from the world wide web; sounds familiar? Only a few months before the war in Ukraine, Greece approved new US military bases around the port city of Alexandroupolis in the northern region of Thrace. Propaganda and information wars were already in full swing in both Russian and Western media, for a considerable amount of time, prior to the Russian invasion.

The issue is, why Putin now decided to cut off ties with the West, exit the Council of Europe, turn his country into a pariah and isolated from most of the rest of the world? Did he get pissed off by the Biden administration and decided, "the hell with it, this will never work, I am out"! However this is nothing to celebrate in Europe. A poor, unstable, humiliated and hostile Russia right to our doorstep, is far worse and more dangerous that what we already had. Plus, Ukraine may be sadly partitioned in the aftermath for good and any further EU/NATO expansion eastwards and to the Caucasus, could be permanently put on ice, if a rogue, hostile and desperate Russia wants revenge.

Many Western "analysts" who are so keen comparing the "dictator" Putin to Hitler and how he built up his propaganda prior his invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia, conveniently forget how the Allied obsession of humilating Germany after WW1, encouraged the Germans to bring someone like Hitler in power. This is also something to learn from, but Westerners prefer only to see the links between Hitler and Putin, not what actually drove their victory and establishment in their countries and so we repeat the same mistakes.

With scores of anti-war Russians leaving Russia to escape to Finland and the Caucasus countries, any hope for maintaining a West-friendly movement within Russia, fades. So how can we expect to have any allies within the country, in order to reconcile sometime in the future? In addition, since some in the West desire to make Putin answer for his "crimes" in the International Criminal Court, they will need a Western friendly movement within Russia to achieve this. We are not dealing with Serbia, which was easier to subdue by war back in the '90s, in order as a condition to their surrender to demand the hand-over of any of their officials to be trialed. Russia has nukes and is better prepared for a conflict with the West. Thus, maintaining some relations with Russia could prove wise in the future.

It is very sad and regretful that Vladimir Putin chose war, in which thousands will die, so that he can make a stand against Western selfishness. His nation will suffer, as well as us Europeans and there is no turning back now. It will take decades for our relations to go back to what they were before, if ever. Europe is determined now to stop its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Who wins from all that? NATO and USA, something that is not good for either Europe or Russia. The first comes totally under America's "umbrella" and influence, is getting militarized and faces years of financial difficulties, in order to transition from relying on Russian energy for too long; only to replace this reliance with one to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, themselves often described as authoritarian "regimes". How hypocritical. On the other hand, the US government has pledged to ramp up liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, to help cut Europe's reliance on Russian gas. However, progress is slow due to concerns about the impact on climate change.. Seriously?

Russia consequently, becomes isolated and cut off from the West and much of the world that is allied to it. NATO wins members and sees its budget increased, while America and its oil, gas and arms industries are saying "BINGO"..!! They are going to gain big time out of this. Russia is finally out, Nord Stream 2 most likely will be scrapped, Europe will rely on USA for energy, protection and everything really so yes, this is great, thanks Mr Putin! This has been a bad decision, which we are all going to pay with our taxes for decades to come. I plead to all our leaders, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Emmanuel Macron and all the governments of Europe and EU officials, please think this again and stop this war while there is still time! There can be no winners from this and how would you like to be remembered in the future; as the ones who plundged the world into despair and poverty?

Monday, February 28, 2022

Hands off Ukraine please, unless they are helping!!

I cannot believe that I will have to write yet another article on Ukraine. It has been more than two months since I wrote for this blog, and my hopes were that by now things would have been improved. On February the 24th, Russian President Vladimir Putin, decided to invade Ukraine. We all were hoping he was bluffing, or that common sense would prevail; not this time again sadly.

Condemnations came from the Western countries, and support for Ukraine from all over the world. But really, what was everyone doing for the past 8 years? The war was silently waging since 2014, when a civil war broke out between ethnic Russians or Russian speakers in the east of the country, and the Ukrainian state forces.

One would have thought that during all this time, the so called "powers" that are now involved- Russia, Europe and America, would have sat down and solved the problem; quite the contrary. They all brought their own interests on the table, making a solution almost impossible to reach. And one would have also thought that the United Nations, whose motto is "Peace, Dignity and Equality on a Healthy Planet" and its aim to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations would have done its job and stepped in.

Clearly not. The United Nations has instead become a useless relic of the past. It is a hotbed of quarreling and bitching among the world's self declared "powers" which have established themselves as such after the WW2, to promote and safeguard their own interests. Things have moved on since then, and I believe a UN overhaul is long overdue. These "powers", and I am sorry to say they are not only Russia and China, but also America and its European partners, who afterall were the first to disregard the UN's decision on the war on Iraq, are opting for dishonoring the organisation's initial purpose; which is to safeguard peace and stability, or resolve conflicts.

Neither Russia, or America, China and Europe, should ever take it upon themselves to fix things as it suits them. And that is exactly what Putin has tried to do and we can all agree it has been a huge mistake. The need or rather excuse to protect and support the Russian/Russian speaking community in Ukraine, can never justify an invasion, rather requires increased cooperation and collaboration with the Ukrainian government, under the UN's and only supervision.

What should have happened all those 8 years, would be for Russia with some other Western negotiating power, preferably the EU (well that's another Western failure here, the EU remaining only a trading block for ages), to sit with UN officials and agree or break a deal for a ceasefire between the two sides. Ideally one that would leave the territory of Ukraine intact, after the two communities there compromised and were able to live side by side once again. If a deal would be unreachable, then the negotiating sides would examine if more autonomy would satisfy the breakaway regions, a federalization of Ukraine or sadly in the case of unresolvable differences, partition. However after years that neither side managed to agree and compromise, Mr Putin thought that the best way to end this, or hit the nail on the head, was an invasion.

The West on the other hand-especially America, kept chewing and spewing the same bubblegum, bullshit argument about the "freedom of choice" of any country to join NATO! Even if Ukraine is not the right candidate for the alliance, which its very existence is based on Russophobia and the alledged threat from Russia. With millions of ethic Russians loyal to their "motherland" in the East of Ukraine, how does the alliance see them complying with military bases in the country, aiming towards Russia? Plus, this "freedom" is usually accompanied with some billions of worth of US and NATO investments in a new member, so is it really a "free" choice to join NATO, or rather a bribery?

The Western media kept mentioning about how bad the "Finlandization" of Ukraine would be, and that is something to be avoided. Excuse me, but last time checked, Finland was doing brilliantly and if Ukraine came any close to the standards of Finland, it would be a country to be envied. Finland is in the EU, fully integrated but outside of NATO and right next to Russia, which forces it to spend a substantial amount of money, to defend itself from Russia; which in fact hasn't threatened its much smaller neighbour since the end of Cold War. Understandably the large portion of the country's GDP that goes into its own defense, is a burden; but look at Greece, which is in NATO and still has to spend much more than Finland for its defense, to protect itself from another NATO ally, Turkey! Plus compromise a lot in order to keep the balance around Cyprus and the Aegean. Surely, Greece has it much worse than Finland in this aspect whilst in NATO.

In addition, Finland does not have millions of Russian speakers in its territory, that are loyal to Russia. Thus making the comparison between the two countries, rather daft! Ukraine must join the EU, but stay outside of NATO, not just because Putin wants it, but because roughly 20% of its own population will not be happy or complying with such decision. And what use would they be to their country or the alliance after all, which should have been abolished together with its adversary, the Warsaw Pact and replaced by a European defense policy by now. If it wasn't of course for US interests and European lack of unity and initiative; it is cheaper to rely on someone else for your protection, both financially and responsibility wise.

So the Western complexes and financial interests, are coming in clash with the Russian ones- or rather those of a handfull Russian elites, because I doubt that any ordinary citizen of the country will benefit either way, regarding Ukraine's future. The Russian sphere of influence should not necessarily be threatened by Western expansion, if this is not a military one. This is the age of globalization, everyone should be with anyone by now. However, the mistake that the West does, is that it is making EU and NATO membership inseparable, plus antagonizing and frown upon Russia always. All other Russian hysteria on Ukraine being an integral part of Russian identity, the Russian-Ukrainian Patriarchate separation, the loss of territory, the collapse of the Soviet Block and so on, should have been dealt and digested by now by them as a society. Ukraine got its independence, there is no going back. And they have made it clear that they do not wish to have closer relations with the Kremlin, like Belarus does; well at least its leadership. Russia needs to move on beyond all this and become a modern country, however we must understand how recent this transition was for them.

Thus basically the only issue that should remain, is that of the considerable Russian minority and perhaps we should re-examine it, taking into account the sensitivities of all communities in Ukraine. Instead we have a rather childish, immature, bullish and utterly unacceptable Russian stance towards Ukraine, and the excuse is- like a child would say- if America can act this way and disregard our red lines, destroy countries like Yugoslavia, so can we. Which is of course a reflection of a similar Western tone of the past, "nobody will tell us what to do, the hell with the UN's resolution". The result is, and I will use a quote I came across on Twitter recently, "the big buffaloes are about to fight over the swamp, and the little frogs will be caught and squashed in the middle." Putin's behavior indicates either desperation, anger and loss of patience (for whatever reason, even if this is the constant Western refusal to compromise too), or simply loss of political skills. And in a leader of a country such as Russia, this is dangerous.

Wouldn't it preferable if everyone understood that we are better when we collaborate and work together, independently of where we are financially, politically, historically, or how developed our political and social system is. What is Putin actually hoping to achieve in Ukraine, overthrow the government and establish a new pro-Russian puppet one? Absorb the country or parts of it back into Russia, or maybe forbid it from joining NATO? Perhaps just punish it for daring to "flirt" with the West? Either way, did he really expect that Europe and America would just stay passive and did he for once concider the consequences for ordinary Russians, Ukrainians and Europeans? I guess not.

He is allegedly trying to stop the expansion of NATO, but by invading he is justifying the very existence of this alliance and have kickstarted a debate in neutral EU nations like Sweden and Finland, of potentially joining themselves. The image of Russia to the world has been tarnished as an aggressor, they very thing he accuses the West to be. Never mind potentially its economy will be also badly affected. Europe and America have been announcing wave upon wave of sanctions and measures against Russia, himself and his close circle of officials. I guess the richer Russian officials won't mind them much, but the sanctions could hit the ordinary citizens of his country, and in the Russian relatiation and all consequencequences that will follow, we all are going to pay for this financially. But ultimately, this could contribute to his final defeat at home.

Marches in support of Ukraine have been staged in many European countries, never mind the anti-war ones in Russia itself. It seems that the Russians are finally emerging and standing up en-masse, against Putin's policies. What years of anti-West propaganda hasn't done, it could be achieved by his own very mistake. And here is where Europe must play it smart. For years the West adopted a blantantly anti-Russian hysteria, because it did not approve of Putin and his policies. The result was providing his establishment with arguments, on why Russia needed a "strong man", to stand up to the West and restore their country's reputation and place in the world. The West's hysteria and complex towards Russia, in fact strengthened his grip on the country as his popularity soared with each West-Russia confrontation.

Obviously this is not the way to go. I am very pleased to see, European and Western officials, finally abandoning their habbit of bashing Russia as a country for the acts of its leadership and reaching out directly to its citizens with encouraging messages. We need to keep doing this, plus if possible, limit the effects of the sanctions for the ordinary citizens, that are as opposed to this war as any of us in Europe. Not one European or American citizen had to face harsh sanctions, even though they protested against the wars our governments have went ahead with after all. If we make the Russians suffer another harsh punishment and humiliation, we may achieve getting rid of Putin, but whoever comes after may be as bad for Europe. Be careful. Russia is never going to go away from our doorstep.

In the end, what will all this madness and death worth to anyone I wonder? A massaging of our chauvinism, our nationalistic pride, sense of moral, social and financial supperiority over the other maybe? What continent will we leave to the future generations, one of divisions and high military expenditures, just to prove a point and maintain our beloved "spheres of influence" ? The only ones who have gained from all this, are the war mongers on each side; NATO got a huge boost, military spending is going up on both sides; thanks Mr Putin! And who is going to be paying for all this I wonder. The rest of us luckily only with our taxes, but the Ukrainians with their own blood and lives. Shame on you all!! Russia, please GET OUT from Ukraine now, America please STAY OUT from Ukraine with your missiles, Europe please SUPPORT Ukraine financially to cope with this and all of you back off and let the United Nations take over and do what they were supposed to do in the first place, bring peace.

I would like to offer my deepest sympathy and condolences to the people of Ukraine, plus all the victims of this senseless war, either Ukrainian, Russian or Russian speaking. I am so sorry!!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Europe must be wise and prevent an all-out war in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin will speak via video call on Tuesday (07/12/2021), the White House says, amid mounting tensions over Ukraine. It comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US had evidence that Russia had made plans for a "large scale" attack on Ukraine. But he added it was unclear if Mr Putin had made a final decision to invade. Russia has denied any such intention, and accused Ukraine of executing its own troop build-up.

The conflict in Ukraine is not recent. In fact, it has been going on for more than 7 years now, mounting to a loss of life in the thousands; around 13,200 people were killed in the conflict, about 3,350 of them civilians, as of today. It is evident that this war won't stop, unless there is a decisive action, or the will by all sides involved to end it. So if the Russians have indeed plans to terminate it by invading, it will be Pyrrhic Victory for everyone no doubt.

I have written many articles on Ukraine in the past, so I will try not to repeat myself. I feel for the Ukrainian people, because their land is a territory that is being "pissed on by the big dogs of the world", in order to mark their territory and sphere of influence. Who are these dogs? In one hand is Russia of course and USA on the other, with Europe being America's little poodle, siding always with its big brother or master. To me both sides are on the wrong, and Ukraine's population pays the price.

As I have already mentioned previously, the West ignores that Ukraine's population is (before Crimea's annexation) 17.3% ethnically Russian. So if the West thinks that integrating Ukraine it is institutions would be easy, while being constantly hostile to Russia is deluding itself. Unless of course it uses Ukraine to annoy and black-mail Russia, but has no real interest in including the country in its own sphere of influence.

The one point in which the Russians are right, is that Ukraine must never join NATO, even if it wants to. If it does, the USA will no doubt install missiles and military bases in its territory, and that understandably is something that Russia wishes to avoid. Except naturally, if by a miracle the US and Russia ever become friends and allies, something that could have happened, if NATO accepted Russia as a member when Putin himself, in the early days of his Presidency, allegedly wanted. If that outcome ever took place, it would save Europe a lot of trouble and headache, but I guess what would be the need for NATO then, plus how would USA and Russia would cooperate, if they both saw themselves as leaders or equal partners of the block?

If Ukraine wishes closer ties with the West, an EU membership should suffice. But is this something that Russia really wants and is willing to allow? We have many examples of countries being technically neutral, whilst in the EU; Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden. So I really do not understand Ukraine's or the EU's insistence on the country joining NATO as well, if this aspiration is something that will ultimatelly split Ukraine, politically or territorially because of Russian objection and fear.

With around 7 million ethnic Russians approximatelly in the country- that is equal or more than the Baltic states population in the EU, how does the West or Ukraine itself, envisage its military participation against a potential conflict with Russia for example? But once in the EU, the Russian minority could act as a link between the two blocks, if the Russians of Ukraine are allowed to be voted as MEPs in the European Parliament. They could help mending relations, assist the West better understand Russia and vice versa, and kickstart a new chapter in the European-Russian relations, something that we all need, especially Ukraine right now. Plus, this could act as the carrot, which will entice Russia to allow Ukraine into the EU.

Naturally, if Ukraine wants to join either institutions (NATO and EU), Russia cannot really stop it. But it can sabotage it with from within, as it does and that is something that just needs to be accepted no matter how wrong it is. The West has its own legacy of meddling and intervention (the Greek Junta back in the'70s for example, supported by the USA), so how can it point the finger towards the Russians now and expect them to just back off? Instead, we should try and reach the root of what drives the Russian leadership to such actions. What Russia most likely and conveniently takes into consideration,is the 1990 conversation was limited to discussion about unified Germany’s status in NATO. There was no promise or even a discussion about countries like Poland and Hungary.

Part of the persisting confusion stems from that fact that what was said at the time sounds pretty clear in retrospect. On January 31, 1990, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared, “What NATO must do is state unequivocally that whatever happens in the Warsaw Pact, there will be no expansion of NATO territory eastwards, that is to say, closer to the borders of the Soviet Union.” In February, Baker then told Gorbachev in Moscow that “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.” Gorbachev then stated “any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable.” Baker replied, “I agree.”

However, U.S. officials backed away from these statements during the negotiations that followed, and the discussions focused on what troops and infrastructure would be allowed in the former East Germany, not whether a unified Germany would be a full member of NATO. Even Gorbachev agreed later that the entire discussion was about Germany and the terms of unification, not about the rest of Europe. (From Jim Goldgeier) The Russian hardliners though who back Putin, empowered by the West's humiliation efforts of Russia and lack of credence towards their country, prefer to react negatively towards any aspiration of their former territories-now independent democracies, to join the West.

In other words, because the US and Russia do not trust or understand each other, countries caught in the middle of their aspired "spheres of influence" suffer and will continue to suffer. Consequently, we get accusations and counter accusation by both sides, threats and propaganda, thus if God forbid this escalates into a full-on conflict between NATO and Russia, I cannot see any winners. Europe notably will pay a high price, especially these nations which are already in NATO; they will have no option but to take side and participate, while others such as Sweden and Ireland, will once more stay neutral and watch us as we destroy each other. The impact won't be equal either in the aftermath, as the rich "powers" of Europe will be able to recover faster, while small NATO members, especially those to the East, will either be obliterated or financially cripled for decades to come.

Therefore, this is not just about Ukraine any more. After 7 years with no solution in sight, and with increasing military presence, the whole stability of Europe is at stake. I urge both the Russian and the American leadership, as well that of the EU and Europe, to be cautious and reasonable. Solutions that have not been considered until now, must be taken into account in order to solve the stalemate once and for all.

A new pact between the West and Russia should happen, a renewed approach and compromise, if not a serious effort for permanent reconciliation and peace. Firstly, the West must accept that Crimea has been permanently lost to Russia. A poll of the Crimean public in Russian-annexed Crimea was taken by the Ukrainian branch of Germany's biggest market research organization, GfK, on 16–22 January 2015. According to its results: "Eighty-two percent of those polled said they fully supported Crimea's inclusion in Russia, and another 11 percent expressed partial support. Only 4 percent spoke out against it. The West always rejects elections and referendums in Russian territories, but this was conducted by a German organization.

Understandably, Ukrainians oppose this and plead to the West to never recognise Crimea's annexation, nor any further loss of territory. But we have been through this many times before, not just in Ukraine but other territories, when the West refuses to recognise an outcome that Russia approves and vice versa, so we end up in stalemates that last decades and hinder any progress and prospetity in those regions. The West was happy to let Yugoslavia fall apart, its fragmentation to mini states and territories that can never become stable and prosperous without European financial support or EU membership. It activelly took part to the complete disintegration of Yugoslavia in order to guarantee peace near Europe's borders and generally in the continent, however now it stands stubbornly firm against any loss of territory in Ukraine.

Russia won't change under Putin, we know this. Especially since the US insists like a child to keep reminding them that they lost and treat them as the losers. The more the West treats Russia as the enemy because of Putin, the more Putin or someone like him-once he eventually is forced to withdraw from the country's leadership (he will not live forever) will be a villain to the West and try to sabotage any plans for European expansion to the East. The solution either we like it or not, lies solely in colaboration and cooperation, or even reconciliation.

Depending the extend of the damage this conflict has done to Ukraine, we must consider the partition of the country, or its restructuring and reformation to a more federal political entity like Spain or the UK. If the Russian minority cannot remain citizens of their country, without retaliation by the Ukrainian majority, then we must accept partition like Kosovo and Serbia. Or sadly even the redrawing of the borders between Russia and Ukraine. If their differences can be solved by greater autonomy for the Russian majority teritories, then a Spanish/British model could work (assuming that "Spain" or the "United Kingdom" work); besides, aren't we all in Europe heading for a federal model? However they can never be part of Ukraine again, unless not only the country, but the West itself restore their relations with Russia.They will keep acting as Russian pawns indefinitely, to sabotage Ukrainian entry into Western institutions.

Of course, there are no guarrantees that even if Ukrainians accept the above radical and unpopular for them solutions, Russia will cooperate and let the country join the West. It is then when European and American diplomacy and change of attitude towards Russia must happen, to assure that Ukraine's entry into the EU can be of benefit to Russia, via the Russian ethnic minority, should they of course wish to stay Ukrainian citizens. NATO expansion won't happen and will not be a requirement for EU expansion in the future and potential Eastern European members. Unless of course Russia and the USA solve their differences and missunderstandings. Anything is better than an invasion or war. We should not let WW2 mentality and its aftermath, poison our future.

We have gone through a financial crisis and recently a pandemic, both which left European citizens tired, economically strained, angry and prone to euroscepticism. A war between NATO and Russia, or further sanctions and counter sanctions, instability in Ukraine will destroy all the progress we have made and test us even more, but not everyone equally. Some will be able to cope, others to stay neutral, few may gain but ultimately, nobody will remain the same. I believe the Russian citizens do not really want another generalized war, so Putin may find himself at odds with his own voters too, if the reason is Ukraine for their own suffering. So, leaders of Europe, Russia and America, can you please take into consideration that your citizens want no more wars, but peace and stability? I for one, have no interest in any country's supremacy,or to maintain the Cold War mentality and politics. What I wish is for Europe to be a united, peaceful and prosperous continent for everyone in it.