This is all shit. This guy cannot be as naive as this. He is a fraud, a classical left-cover operative. I guess they all are at Salon. He should be right at home. Greenwald got his chops there. But what is really happening is utterly different from what Smith claims to think is happening, and I can say with more justification than Smith that what I was writing years ago has been proved right: the USrael bloc is definitely dissolving. But the divorce will not immediately be recognised as permanent; it will look like merely an unusually long episode of Dems versus Likudniks. I can hear a voice in my mind saying, “ze qol ahad.” (it makes no difference). And that’s true: it makes no difference because, from the Jewish point of view, we’re all already dead – RB
The Ukraine story the media won’t tell, and why Pindo retreat is a good thing
Patrick Smith, Salon.com, May 19 2015
It is just as well that Jackass Kerry’s momentous meetings with Russian leaders last week took place in Sochi, the Black Sea resort where President Putin keeps a holiday home. When you have to acknowledge that two years’ worth of pointless hostility in the bilateral relationship has proven none other than pointless, it is best to do so in a far-away place. Arriving in the morning and leaving in the afternoon, Jackass spent three hours with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s
very competent foreign minister (Jesus Fuck! This really is Amateur Hour! – RB), and then four with Putin. After struggling with the math, these look to me like the most significant seven hours the former senator will spend as this nation’s face abroad. Who cannot be surprised that the Obama administration, having turned the Ukraine question into the most dangerous showdown since the Cold War’s worst, now declares cordiality, cooperation and common goals the heart of the matter?
The question is not quite as simple as one may think. On the one hand, the policy cliques’ long swoon into demonization has been scandalously juvenile, and there has been no sign until now of sense to come. Grown men and women advancing the Putin-is-Hitler bit with straight faces. Getting the Poles, paranoids for understandable reasons on all questions to with Russia, to stage ostentatious displays of teenagers in after-school military exercises. Pindosi soldiers in those silly berets they affect (what a daring dismissal of the military – RB), drilling Ukrainian
Beetle Baileys (fuck your TV shows – RB) in “war-making functions,” as the officer in charge put it. When the last of these theatrics got under way in mid-April, it was time for paying-attention people to sit up (Notice the recourse to baby talk here. This line is aimed specifically at women voters. Lara, if you’re still reading, forget your NLP and pay attention to this example – RB).
As noted in this space, it seemed to indicate that we Pindosis were prepared to go to war with another nuclear power to rip Ukraine from its past and replant it in the neoliberals’ hothouse of client states, doomed to weakness precisely because corrupt leaders were enticed with baubles to sever their people from history (not a completely successful sentence, in my view – RB). On the other hand, it took no genius to see what would eventually come. This column predicted long back, within weeks of the Pindo-cultivated coup that deposed Pres Yanukovych in February of last year, that the Obama administration would one day be forced to retreat before it all came to resolution (this being the genius-level illusion created so promptly at the time by this Patrick Smith – RB). It was hard then to see how anyone could anticipate any other outcome, and so it has remained (That is just a moronic statement., Obviously, the majority of Pindo policy-makers anticipate another outcome, and if you pretend not to be able to see why, Smith, it is just to flatter your liberal day nursery of readers – RB). You cannot turn basic miscalculation, indifference to history and diplomatic insensitivity into a winning hand (Oh yes, you can. As a matter of fact, all of actual real history consists of people doing just that – RB). You turn it into an overplayed hand. And that is what sent Jackass to Sochi last week. Surprise and no surprise, then.
What does the Sochi visit make Kerry? Is he Neville Chamberlain just back from Munich? The appeasement paranoids are not in evidence yet, which is curious (rubbish – RB). In fact. But the question is interesting nonetheless. “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” Hillary Clinton said of Putin’s Ukraine policy a month after the Yanukovych coup. Given the corner Clinton has painted herself into, can you wait to hear how she fields questions about Kerry’s new démarche (You won’t hear anything, cos there hasn’t been one. This is all total fiction – RB)? To hear her explain how she would, if elected, address Putin? I have trouble keeping my seat. Emphatically, let us forget Clinton’s problems and dismiss any argument that Jackass is an appeaser before one is even made. There is no question of appeasement, a loaded word implying a false equivalence. Jackass is caving to realities, a very different thing (There is no ‘caving in’ whatever. This is the most shameless red herring I have seen this year – RB).
As I have argued, the best thing Pindo diplomats can do now is admit the failure of our long-expired strategies abroad. Implicitly, at least, Jackass has just done so in one of the most important theaters of Pindosi foreign policy (aha, that is why no-one else in the world is detecting this historic Pindosi surrender to the Kremlin. It’s ‘implicit’ – RB) . This is a sensible, productive thing to do. When you hit a wall, you can either sit there indefinitely or turn around. What are these realities Jackass has caved to? I count five, two more than the State Dept listed when it outlined Kerry’s agenda in Sochi:
1. My sources in Moscow tell me that 80% of the exchange concerned the pending deal governing Iran’s nuclear program (This is just Smith’s opening bluff – RB). Looking back, Jackass and Obama have one significant foreign policy success to their credit, the opening to Cuba, the exception. And a string of messy failures and successes (the restored dictatorship in Egypt, for instance) that would have been better had they failed. Looking forward, Jackass and Obama, both ambitiously aware of “legacy,” have 18 months to land a big one. It does not get much bigger than rapprochement with Tehran. Jackass should have come to his senses on Iran long before this. Lavrov has been instrumental in bridging an imposing divide between Iran and the P5+1. Most immediately, it was the Russian foreign minister who persuaded Tehran to consider (for a second time) shipping its uranium stockpiles to Russia and re-importing what it needs for peaceful applications. This provision is on the table now and could prove make-or-break as the Jun 30 deadline for a deal approaches. More broadly, relations between Russia and what is now Iran are 250 years older than Pindostan and make a complex, on-again-off-again tale. They are very “on” now (Russia does not give a fuck about Iran, or any other ex-ally, and Iran knows that, as do the other ex-allies, starting with Syria. Russia itself is doomed to disntegration within the next decade or so – RB). Of all P5+1 members, Russia holds more keys to the kingdom than any other (this sentence combines elementary lack of syntax with blanket ignorance of the facts – RB).
2. Same in Syria: A nearby neighbor, long-time relations. Moscow has supported Damascus since the 1940s and signed a non-aggression pact in 1950. Given how evident Pindosi impotence in the Syria crisis has become since the bombing campaigns began last September, and how obvious the common cause between Washington and Damascus, Jackass has been saying the unsayable since March: It is time to talk to Assad. And there is no point talking to Assad without talking to Moscow (all nonsense – RB). Let us not forget that it was Lavrov, once again, who got Obama and Kerry out of a serious political jam in Sep 2013, a month after the gas attacks in Damascus the administration instantly and implausibly (and wrongly, it soon turned out) assigned to Assad. The “red line” Obama drew brought Pindostan to the eve of airstrikes, Lavrov then persuading Assad to give up his chemical-weapons inventories (I don’t recall feeling such euphoria when Pindo refrained from declaring an air war directly against Syria. They don’t need to: the air war has begin unofficially, under the pretence of bombing ISIS. I predicted this at the time, as did the rest of us, but unfortunately we don’t have Smith’s lucky talent for predictions that suit the market – RB)
3. Ukraine, like Syria, got 10% of Kerry’s time in Sochi. I would have thought more, but this is what I am advised by sound Moscow sources (By now we should be full of awe at this man’s sources – RB). Of all the questions Jackass raised in Sochi, indeed, the new stance on Ukraine amounts to capitulation as well as a request for cooperation. Readers will recall a rapid-fire sequence of events earlier this year. As the week of Feb 1 opened, the administration let it be known via a NYT story that it was considering arming the Kiev regime. Next day came an announcement that Jackass was travelling to Ukraine for meetings Thursday. The topic seemed obvious. That Wednesday, things got interesting. Merkel called Hollande and told him to fly to Kiev immediately. Why interesting: These three were there the same day, talking to the same government, and did not meet. All three then went to Moscow, again separately. So far as I can make out, all that has occurred since flowed from that week. Merkel, Hollande and Putin convened another round of ceasefire talks with the Ukrainians in Minsk, where the Minsk II agreement was signed on Feb 11. Short work, which tells us something. Minsk II is fragile but still in effect, and remains the basis for a negotiated settlement. The Pindosis were excluded from Minsk point blank, so far as one can make out. And I love the NYT sentence on this in Monday’s paper:
Russia, Germany and France previously made it clear that they did not necessarily welcome the Pindosis at the negotiating table.
It reminds me of Hirohito announcing the surrender on Japanese radio:
The war has not necessarily proceeded to our advantage.
At the moment described a long-simmering confrontation between the Europeans and Pindosis was about to boil over. It was the suggestion that Pindo arms might begin to flow into the Ukrainian conflict that prompted Merkel, with Hollande behind her, to tell Washington, “Enough. Cut it out. We are not with you. We settle this at the table, not with missile systems.” (As we know, though Smith’s readers at Salon.com presumably do not, Pindo and half the EU bloc are already supplying a comprehensive range of light, heavy, offensive and defensive weapons to Kiev – RB). What we saw in Sochi was Jackass’ acceptance that Washington has been trumped in Ukraine. No one else will any longer stand by as Washington agitates for a military solution, no one is on board for ever-heightened confrontation with Moscow and no one else will any longer pretend that the Poroshenko government is other than a new crop of corrupt incompetents. Where else does a Pindosi diplomat go at such a moment but to a Black Sea beach?
4. EU leaders are due to meet next month to consider whether to renew or drop sanctions against Russia that expire in July. What I get from sources in Europe (I think we know enough about these sources now – RB) is that six EU members are likely to oppose renewal and that Germany may make seven by the time of the EU talks. Since renewal requires a unanimous vote, the outcome seems to be clear. As noted at the start of this year, Washington’s overly assertive strategy toward Russia risked a breach in one of two relationships: Europe’s with Russia or Pindostan’s with Europe. In my view, the increasing risk of trans-Atlantic damage was another factor in Jackass’ travels last week.
5. Last but maybe first, in the best outcome the Obama administration has learned the most important lesson available to it in its foreign relations. No need to do any other than quote Stephen Cohen, the Russianist interviewed here a few weeks ago (yeah, let the ‘progressive Jews’ lead you round in circles, what a great idea – RB). Cohen said with that conviction that comes of long experience (about which no-one in power gives a flying fuck – RB):
The road to Pindosi national security still runs through Moscow. There is not a single major regional or issue-related national security problem we can solve without the full cooperation of whoever sits in the Kremlin, period, end of story. Name your poison: We’re talking the Middle East, we’re talking Afghanistan, we’re talking energy, we’re talking climate, we’re talking nuclear proliferation, terrorism, shooting airplanes out of the sky, we’re talking about the two terrorist brothers in Boston. (Can’t any of these fuckers write without unrelated folksy colloquialisms? – RB)
My reservation about the best outcome is that it is unlikely. To draw lessons from errors you have to acknowledge them, and our policy cliques rarely do, so missing all opportunity to learn from them. Jackass’s démarche has failure written all over it, but, per usual, it is advanced as merely the successful outcome of a successful strategy. This is how you will read of it, I assure you. More interesting choreography comes our way already. Jackass was in Sochi last Tuesday. The frightening Victoria Nuland, his assistant secretary for European affairs, was in Kiev by Friday. There, and then in Moscow, Nuland was a misleading claim a minute, suggesting, among much else, that she and Jackass were “fully committed to Minsk implementation” (What gives you the right to assume Nuland was committing an arrogant faux pas, while Jackass was offering the real line? Nothing, Mr Smith, except the salary you get for misleading your readers – RB). What a charade. No one other than Pindosis bamboozled by bad media can take this stuff seriously (double bluff of the reader, a professional touch – RB). Not only were Pindosis kept away from Minsk, or not necessarily invited, as I should say, but Nuland and her boss vigorously sought to undermine it as soon as it was signed. (Did Nuland miss the memo from Jackass this time? This is so thin, it’s pathetic – RB).
Remember Al Haig at the White House after Reagan was shot in 1981? “I’m in charge here!” (Of course Salon.com readers don’t remember 1981! Smith has a whole barrel of tricks to manipulate his readers, from his long experience “writing for the IHT, the New Yorker, the NYT, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications” – RB) This is Victoria Nuland bouncing between Kiev and Moscow as we speak. She runs to catch up while claiming to lead, having been left behind by ministers and diplomats with better things to do than provoke confrontation (like hell she does. You aren’t this stupid, Smith, but then you aren’t that honest – RB). We will have to see where this latest turn leads. I credit Jackass (sure you do, Pat, maybe it’s cos you’re both Irish – RB). I do not assign him any transcendently (sic – RB) imaginative new take on Pindosi strategy in the Middle East, in Ukraine, or in Washington’s ties to Moscow (like what you or I would have, dear reader, cos we’re all such superlative observers, perceivers, judges, and general gods on earth – RB). He has acknowledged failure without admitting it. It is force of circumstance, not more. It is not everything, but it could be a lot more than nothing.
Patrick Smith is the author of Time No Longer: Pindosis After the Pindosi Century. He was the IHT’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the NYT, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter, @thefloutist.