Weekend Edition

January 27th, 2023

Kellogg: Eat Corn Flakes; avoid self play

January 27th, 2023

by B. R. GOWANI

Dr John Harvey Kellogg, and the Corn Flakes launched and popularized by his brother Will IMAGE/Medium

Ellen G. White co-founded Seventh-day Adventist Church

according to her, she was also recipient of messages from God

White and her followers refrained from indulging in four things:

no sex; no coffee; no alcohol; no eating of animal meat

this would aid their souls/bodies to be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus

besides shunning animal flesh, White was compassionate towards animals

[The animals] manifest sympathy and tenderness toward their companions in suffering. Many animals show an affection for those who have charge of them, far superior to the affection shown by some of the human race. They form attachments for man which are not broken without great suffering to them. What man with a human heart, who has ever cared for domestic animals, could look into their eyes, so full of confidence and affection, and willingly give them over to the butcher’s knife? How could he devour their flesh as a sweet morsel?”

avoiding animal flesh was a move going against the eating practices

consumption of animal flesh was defended by using Genesis 1:26

where God gave man control over everything, including animals

proponents of vegetarianism cited Genesis 1:29 to propagate their views

Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham was also one of the proponents

opposing meat consumption, White argued in a logical manner

“Those who eat flesh are but eating grains and vegetables at second hand; for the animal receives from these things the nutrition that produces growth. The life that was in the grains and vegetables passes into the eater. We receive it by eating the flesh of the animal. How much better to get it direct, by eating the food that God provided for our use!”

Seventh Day Adventists live around 6 years longer than an average person

the major impetus behind veggie & bland diet was to restrain sexual urges

Graham believed that masturbation could

“Inflame the brain more than natural arousal.”

which could lead the person involved to madness

graham crackers was one of the food recommended by Graham

the graham crackers were much different than today’s Nabisco product

coming back to the Second Coming

for many, the new Millennium and Christ’s coming were just on the horizon

White, like many, felt let down during the time of the Great Disappointment

i.e, Jesus will return to earth in 1844, as per Baptist preacher William Miller

Jesus didn’t return, he couldn’t, even if he wanted to, because he was dead

so in 1844, White established direct contact with God rather than his Son

God talked to White in over 100s of dreams and revelations (1844-1863)

God in Christianity, in one of her visions, dictated her to open up a spa

Western Health Reform Institute opened at Battle Creek in Michigan

the 1866 location was also selected by the Christian God

the “religion of wellness” was the in thing with gyms/spas & bland food

a decade later, White handed the management to Dr John Henry Kellogg

Battle Creek Sanitarium, a new name, John ran it with his brother Will

John married Ella Ervilla Eaton but had no sexual relations

sex bred evil diseases, especially in men” was his reason for no sex

they had 42 foster kids, including black, 7 of them were adopted legally

John Harvey Kellogg thought playing with oneself was a sin

“If illicit commerce of the sexes is a heinous sin, self pollution, or masturbation, is a crime doubly abonimable. As a sin against nature, it has no parallel except sodomy (see Genesis 19:5; Judges 19:22).

cruel punishment was Kellogg’s cure to stop children from masturbating

“A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed.” [4]

contrary to popular belief, J. H. Kellogg never advertised corn flakes as

an “anti-masturbatory morning meal.”

Kellogg also opposed little girls touching or playing with their genitals

the method he suggested was applying carbolic acid to little girls’ clitorises

“The application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris [is] an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.”

Kellogg believed that playing with one’s own genitals was very harmful

[Masturbation could cause] cancer of the womb, urinary diseases, nocturnal emissions, impotence, epilepsy, insanity, and mental and physical debility” “[and] dimness of vision.”

when Dr. Kellogg was not mutilating genitals of boys & girls

[He would be] bandaging or tying their hands, covering their genitals with patented cages, sewing the foreskin shut and [applying] electrical shock.”

he had several type of contraptions

John Kellogg made tons of money through sleek ads about his San

“The single healthiest spot on the planet.”

“A physical-fitness class at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, ca. 1890s. Director John Harvey Kellogg saw outdoor exercise, particularly in cold weather, as fundamental to health.” IMAGE/University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library/Science History Institute

some of Battle Creek Medical Surgical Sanitarium’s notable customers:

  • US President Warren G. Harding
  • Tarzan (i.e., actor Johnny Weissmuller)
  • Henry Ford (of Ford Motor Company)
  • Thomas Edison (inventor of light bulb, motion picture camera, etc.
  • Amelia Earhart (1st female aviator)
  • John D. Rockefeller (wealthy business magnate)
  • James Cash Penney (of J. C. Penney department stores)
  • Sojourner Truth (former slave, abolitionist & women’s rights activist
  • Ida Tarbell (investigative journalist)
A 1916 advertisement for Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium. IMAGE/Jay Paull/Getty Images/History

San offered various services to clients, many of them plain rip-off:

usual enemas: 1/2 or 1 quart, San had a 15 quarts enemas: water or yogurt

Kellogg:

“More people need washing out [their bowels] than any other remedy.”

(Indian leader M. K. Gandhi was into enemas and sexual abstinence too)

San offered 46 diverse types of baths, per 1906 Good Housekeeping mag ad

one of them was the “continuous bath” lasting days, weeks, or months

patient was permitted to honor nature’s call

Kellogg claimed the “continuous bath” could treat:

  • persistent diarrhea
  • psychological illnesses
  • skin disorders

any “continuous” service or sale means continuous income, sans hustling

that’s what the US businesses are extremely good at

“Two women laying on tables receiving artificial sun light treatment at the Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, circa 1924.” IMAGE/Underwood Archives/Getty Images/History

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Human rights ‘fact’ production and why it matters: Myanmar as a case in point

January 27th, 2023

by KEN MACLEAN

Human rights fact-finding, as conventionally understood, entails the objective determination of what transpired, who bears responsibility for it, and what actions are recommended in response. But how answers to these questions are reached rarely receives critical reflection, except in the form of informal conversations among practitioners. The neglect of these issues is unfortunate because close attention to the investigative decisions made, the field methods employed, the analytical practices utilized, and the advocacy strategies mobilized demonstrates both how ‘fact’ production occurs and why it matters to human rights ‘truth’ claims.

Myanmar is the geographic focus of my latest book, Crimes in Archival Form: Human Rights, Fact Production, and Myanmar (MacLean 2022); however, my arguments are far from limited to that country. Sociologist Howard Becker, in a recent work on the philosophy of knowledge, makes an important point that supports my contention: ‘The word accepted in accepted fact reminds us that the evidence has to convince someone of its validity, its weight, to become evidence’ (2017: 5). Persuasion, in other words, is an inescapable element of human rights documentation from the very start. Becker’s point is a useful reminder that the issue is not information per se that matters, but rather ‘what kind of information, produced by whom, and authorized by what symbolic and material powers that make it persuasive’ (Becker 2017: 5). Or, to restate the point more bluntly, as put forward by human rights philosopher Frédéric Mégret: ‘Facts are argumentative practices’ (2016: 38).

For these reasons, a process-oriented account of ‘fact’ production is needed to better illustrate the interplay between what happened in empirically verifiable terms and what is interpretatively said to have happened. The interplay, which can at occur at several different moments in the lifecycle of a human rights ‘fact’, consequently disrupts conventional understandings that sharply distinguish positivist approaches to human rights documentation as being inherently ‘true’ and constructivist ones as politically biased at best. Conversations about ‘fact’ production are thus urgent in our contemporary moment, given that perpetrators of large-scale human rights violations exploit misinformation, weaponize disinformation, and employ outright falsehoods, including deep fakes, to undermine the credibility of those who document abuses and demand accountability. 

The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus for more

Wealth safari

January 27th, 2023

by VANESSA BAIRD

ILLUSTRATION/Simon Kneebone

It’s not all doom and gloom in the world today.

Sure, billions of low-and-middle income people are struggling to keep up with rising food, energy and housing costs. But it’s boom time for billionaires and the super-rich.

The number of ultra-high net worth individuals – those with $50 million or more – hit a record 218,200 last year. And at 2,668, there are 573 more billionaires in the world today than in 2020, their combined wealth equal to nearly 14 per cent of total global GDP.

How have they done it? With a bit of help.

Disruptions in supply chains provide great opportunities for speculation by those with mega bucks. And remember that $9 trillion fiscal stimulus that central banks unleashed during the pandemic? Well, much of it went into the financial markets, and from there straight into the pockets of the super-rich.

So, let’s meet some of them. They can show us that as long as the system’s right (and for them it really is) there are eye-popping profits to be made from growing inequality – and the pain and immiseration of others.

Every bite you eat…

James Cargill II is one of 12 billionaire heirs to the giant food corporation Cargill Inc. As the UN reported a devastating rise in global food prices, Cargill posted a record 63 per cent increase in profits, which rose to $5 billion in 2021. In 2022, these were expected to be even higher.

Rosy-cheeked James, aged 73, saw his own net worth swell accordingly, from $2.7 billion in 2020 to $5 billion in 2022. Brother Austen and sister Marianne kept pace, with all three joining Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index of the 500 richest people alive.

Don’t expect the Cargills to spill the beans on their money-making ruses though. The ‘famously quiet’ family keep a ‘low profile’ on their various ranches in Wisconsin and Colorado. But the modus operandi of the corporation they 90-per-cent own is all about ‘aggressive consolidation’ rather than reticence. Result: you can barely move without encountering some Cargill ingredient, product or service, ranging from wheat, meat, poultry, oils, starches, animal feed, transport, steel, pharmaceuticals, to, crucially, commodities-trading financial services.

Cargill’s record on labour relations and pollution, meanwhile, is lamentable. Still, the company website insists: ‘Cargill is helping the world’s food system work for you.’ Well, it sure is working for them…

BP’s ‘company man’

Bernard Looney is CEO of energy giant BP. He may not be a billionaire just yet, but the Irish-born oil-and-gas chief won’t be struggling to pay his energy bill. He saw his salary double in 2021 to $5 million and he was tipped to trouser another $13.2 million in 2022. The rise in fuel costs that is causing hardship worldwide has turned BP into ‘a cash machine’ – to use Looney’s expression – with profits tripling to $8.45 billion in just three months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

New Internationalist for more

Will the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem be built on confiscated Palestinian land?

January 26th, 2023

by RASHID KHALIDI

The US embassy in Israel is slated to have a new diplomatic complex in Jerusalem. IMAGE/Getty/The New Arab

The Biden administration is doubling down on its predecessor’s reckless decision to recognize Israel’s claims to Jerusalem as its capital, a break with nearly 70 years of policy. The State Department is advancing plans to erect an embassy building in Jerusalem partly on land stolen by Israel shortly after its establishment from Palestinian refugees, including American citizens.

In 2017, the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved its embassy there from Tel Aviv in 2018. Since then, the embassy has been housed in the neighborhood of Arnona, in what had been the consulate building. In November, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee published detailed blueprints provided by U.S. officials in 2021 for a diplomatic compound on a tract once known as the Allenby Barracks.

The majority of the Allenby Barracks site is owned by Palestinians, including parts of it by my family, whose roots in Jerusalem go back more than 1,000 years. My ancestors and many other Jerusalem families rented this land to Britain at the tail end of its rule over Palestine.

While State Department officials have not confirmed these plans publicly, they have stated that the new embassy will be in Jerusalem — which the Biden administration has affirmed is recognized by Washington as Israel’s capital. “The United States has not yet made a decision on which site to pursue,” a spokesperson told The Intercept. “A number of factors, including the history of the sites, will be part of our site selection process.”

Yet the plans submitted for the new embassy and made public by Israeli authorities clearly indicate that the project on the Allenby Barracks site is moving ahead.

Our title to this land is clear. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, recently unearthed the rental contracts from Israeli state archives, which document how Britain signed lease agreements to rent this site from our family and others through 1948. But after Israel’s founding, the government took over that property and for several years the border police used it as a station. Since then, it has sat vacant.

This year is the 75th since the nakba, meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic. The nakba refers to the imposition of Israel’s rule in 1948 over more than three-quarters of Palestine against the wishes of the majority-Palestinian inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of whom it drove out of their homes or forced to flee.

Instead of permitting these Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as called for by international law and United Nations resolutions supported by the United States, Israel destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages, and confiscated from Palestinians whatever property it deemed useful.

Columbia University Center for Palestine Studies for more

Jeremy Corbyn and Noam Chomsky

January 26th, 2023
VIDEO/Not the Andrew Marr Show/Youtube

John Oliver on Elon Musk & Twitter

January 26th, 2023
VIDEO/John Oliver TV/Youtube

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (26 October 2017 – 25 January 2023)

January 25th, 2023

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern resigns

by TOM PETERS

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at press conference at parliament in Wellington, Oct. 11, 2021. PHOTO/AP Photo/Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP

In a shock announcement on Thursday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the media she would step down from the position by February 7 and leave parliament in April.

After more than five years leading the Labour Party-led government, Ardern offered little explanation for her sudden departure, other than saying she was burnt out. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It is that simple,” she said, adding, “I am looking forward to spending time with my family again.”

Ardern’s resignation apparently took most Labour politicians by surprise and has thrown the government into turmoil ahead of a national election scheduled for October. Labour MPs will meet on Sunday to try and choose a new leader, but according to the New Zealand Herald there is “no clear consensus on who should succeed Ardern.” Deputy prime minister and finance minister Grant Robertson has ruled himself out as a contender.

Ardern claimed she was “not leaving because I believe we can’t win the election, but because I believe we can and will, and we need a fresh set of shoulders for that challenge.” This is not credible. In recent months Labour has polled around 33 percent—a dramatic decline since the 2020 election when it won more than half the votes.

The opposition National Party is only polling around 38 percent, reflecting widespread hostility towards both the major capitalist parties. This is an international phenomenon: everywhere, including in the United States, Europe and Australia, voters see little difference between any of the established parties. Traditional parliamentary and two-party systems are increasingly discredited and are breaking apart under the impact of the economic crisis, soaring social inequality and class polarisation, the out-of-control pandemic and the headlong rush towards another world war.

The NZ Labour Party, under Ardern’s leadership was barely able to form a government in 2017 in a coalition with the Greens and the far-right New Zealand First. In 2020, Labour won just over 50 percent of the votes, partly due to the shambolic state of the National Party, beset by factional warfare and conflicts over foreign policy.

Wealthy areas of the country switched their support to Labour largely because of the Ardern government’s multi-billion dollar handouts to big business and the rich during the first year of the pandemic—which are now being paid for by the working class through rampant inflation and austerity measures.

To the extent that Labour was supported by the working class in 2020, it was because the government had implemented a series of lockdowns and other public health measures which kept the country almost entirely free from COVID-19. The elimination strategy was implemented out of fear of a movement developing among healthcare workers, in particular, pushing for a nationwide lockdown, outside of the pro-government trade unions.

Labour’s and Ardern’s support began falling sharply in early 2022, coinciding with a major deterioration in workers’ living standards and the government’s disastrous adoption of the homicidal policy of mass COVID-19 infection. In late 2021, the government acceded to the demands of big business to abandon its “zero COVID” policy. As a result, the death toll from COVID has surged from just 30 in October 2021 to more than 3,000. Hospitals are overwhelmed and tens of thousands of people are likely to be suffering from Long COVID.

Meanwhile, inflation is driving broad sections of the working class into poverty. In her speech yesterday Ardern said her government had “turned around child poverty statistics” and “improved the pay and conditions of workers, and shifted our settings towards a high wage, high skilled economy.” This is a lie. That same day, statistics were released showing food prices went up 11.3 percent in the past year, the biggest jump since 1990 and far outstripping wages, which increased only 3.7 percent in the year to September.

New Zealand is experiencing a severe housing crisis, with more than 102,000 homeless people in a population of 5 million—the highest rate of homelessness in the OECD. The waiting list for public housing has increased fivefold since Labour formed a coalition government in 2017 and made false promises to fix the crisis by building 100,000 “affordable” homes. Only 1,500 homes were built in five years under the Kiwibuild scheme.

Since 2018, the Ardern government has repeatedly confronted nationwide strikes by nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers, as well as teachers and firefighters, demanding decent pay and safe working conditions. These actions have been systematically shut down and sold out by the union bureaucracies, which have also worked closely with the government and big business to dismantle public health restrictions and reopen schools and workplaces.

Ardern is bailing out at precisely the point where the ruling elite is demanding a major escalation in the attacks on the working class to make it pay for the global economic crisis. Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr has admitted that it is lifting interest rates in order to engineer a recession, to increase unemployment and drive down wages.

The implicit message contained in Ardern’s vague speech was that she does not feel up to the task of implementing this brutal agenda and confronting the resistance that will emerge in the working class. In a telling statement comparing the present period to a war, she told the media: “It’s one thing to lead your country in peace times, it’s another to lead them through [a] crisis; there’s a greater weight of responsibility.”

It also cannot be ruled out that Ardern’s resignation was prompted by pressure from New Zealand’s allies in Washington and Canberra, which are seeking a stronger commitment from Wellington to the far-advanced preparations for world war against Russia and China.

World Socialist Web Site for more

One of a kind?

by MAHIR ALI

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will soon give birth to her first child. PHOTO/ Getty Images AsiaPac/Special Broadcasting Service

The gushing panegyrics Jacinda Ardern has attracted from liberal media outlets pretty much (but not only) across the English-speaking world since unexpectedly announcing her resignation last Thursday are unprecedented for a New Zealand prime minister.

It is, after all, a tiny country — population: five million — at the bottom of the southern hemisphere, and relatively inconsequential in global affairs. It’s unusual for any of its political leaders to stand out on the international stage, which makes Ard­ern’s achievement all the more impressive.

Much of the praise that has flowed her way of late is well-deserved. Her innate sense of empathy translated into demonstrations of compassion when it particularly mattered, notably after the Christchurch mosque massacre in 2019. Her first thought as the terrorist attack unfolded was “they are us”, referring to the victims. She didn’t send them thoughts and prayers, but instead, donned a headscarf and went and hugged family members and survivors. And right away banned assault weapons.

The Whakaari/White Island eruption la­­t­­­er the same year elicited a similar res­p­o­nse. And when Covid-19 emerged shortly aft­­­erwards, the government capitalised on New Zealand’s splendid isolation by closing its borders and implementing no-nonsense lockdowns in an effort to eliminate the virus. The nation’s life expectancy actually increased, and by the time the barriers were removed, most people had been immunised.

As of this month, New Zealand’s 2,500 Covid death toll is the smallest rate of fatalities in any comparable country. During 2020, Ardern’s popularity soared to 80 per cent and she led Labour in October that year to a landmark electoral triumph. Even then, though, some were getting riled up about the Covid-19 response, and subsequent vaccine mandates fed into conspiracy theories, sparking a vitriolic resistance among a small but vocal segment of the population.

A year ago, hooligans yelling obscenities forced the van she was travelling in to go off the road. This was followed by a violent protest outside parliament in Wellington, where protesters screamed death threats and displayed nooses. Even some of her political rivals have lately lamented the level of hatred that they suspect contributed to Ardern’s decision to step out of the limelight.

Dawn for more

She did not explicitly cite these sorts of pressures in her resignation speech, but obliquely admitted burnout: “I no longer have enough in the tank” to do the job. She wanted to find the time to marry her partner, and to be at home when her daughter first goes to school. Ardern was only the second serving prime minister, after Benazir Bhutto, to bear a child. Ardern has made it clear, though, that the inspirational example she offered to young women as a working mother should not be discounted because of her early exit.

That’s all very well, and admirable. Less so are her government’s failures on the domestic front; notably, its promise to build 100,000 new houses over 10 years (success rate so far: 1,300 homes) to ease the housing crisis, and to tackle child poverty and societal inequality more broadly. The latter probably cannot be achieved without dismantling ‘Rogernomics’ — the model of neo­­liberal capitalism a Labour finance min­ister introduced to the region in the 1980s.

One would like to think that Ardern and her successor, Chris Hipkins — who takes over today — are both philosophically resistant to the thrust of Rogernomics, but there’s little practical evidence of that. And if Labour loses the October election, as the polls predict, this will become an academic question.

Soaring inflation in the aftermath of the pandemic is by no means exclusive to New Zealand, but it’s a reminder that markets and banks have greater control over economies than do elected governments. Redressing that structural anomaly was never a part of Ardern’s agenda.

Dawn for more

South Carolina’s execution by firing squad: The last reenactment of the Civil War?

January 25th, 2023

by MARK M. SMITH

This June 18, 2010, photo shows the firing squad execution chamber at the Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah. IMAGE/Trent Nelson/Salt Lake Tribune via AP, Pool, File
Execution of five V Corps deserters, Army of the Potomac, Virginia, Aug. 29, 1863. IMAGE/House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College

Americans have an appetite for reenacting the past, especially the battles of the U.S. Civil War, which took place from 1861 to 1865. Every year, in an effort to relive something of the nation’s bloodiest war, thousands don blue and gray uniforms and gather on fields where the distant echoes of war have since faded.

There are dozens of Civil War reenactments in the U.S. every year. Participants take them very seriously. Food, uniforms, even the smells of war – all are recreated to lend authenticity to the events. Only the bullets and shells are not “real.”

Now, the U.S. reenactment community has a potential new member: the state of South Carolina.

That’s courtesy of the state’s decision in 2021 to allow its inmates on death row the option of execution by firing squad. With that move, South Carolina has elected to deploy a form of capital punishment not used in the state since the Civil War.

A target placed over his heart

The reason South Carolina adopted the firing squad is straightforward: The state apparently has trouble securing enough lethal injection drugs to execute prisoners. That leaves the electric chair as an option. And now the firing squad.

The firing squad method has yet to be used and is currently under appeal at the state Supreme Court. I am an expert witness in this case and a historian of the Civil War.

South Carolina’s Department of Corrections has drafted firing squad protocols. The firing squad will be made up of three members drawn from prison staff. They will be behind a wall, all three of their rifles loaded with live ammunition and aimed at the inmate through an opening in the wall.

After entering the chamber, the inmate will be strapped into a chair, a hood placed over his head, and a target placed over his heart.

At this point, the warden will read the execution order aloud. Members of the squad will then fire their rifles. After the inmate is declared dead, witnesses leave.

Exclusively military punishment

Firing squad executions are extremely rare in U.S. history.

Only four states currently have it on the books: South Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. Only Utah has used it as an actual execution method. Since 1976, just three executions have been carried out by firing squad in Utah.

Execution by firing squad has, in fact, never been common in U.S. history. While the term “firing squad” can be found in U.S. newspapers before the Civil War, the phrase was usually used to describe a different custom, akin to a salute, when guns were fired into the air to honor an individual of note after death.

The use of the firing squad was also rare during the Civil War. It was used principally to punish soldiers who deserted from either the Union or Confederate Army.

The Conversation for more

Can the United States provide an off-ramp for Putin?

January 25th, 2023

by MELVIN GOODMAN

IMAGE/MARKUS SPISKE

If you believe that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, then perhaps you should read no further.  And, if you believe that Vladimir Putin will allow the United States and Europe to bring Ukraine into the Western security orbit, then once again you should read no further.

But if you acknowledge the provocations that the United States has made in dealing with Russia over the past 20 years, then consider the possibility that U.S. concessions could provide an opening for high-level talks with the Kremlin and perhaps a cease-fire.  One way to slow the spiral of horrific fighting and Western delivery of increasingly lethal military weaponry, which now includes more sophisticated armored combat vehicles and mobile artillery, is to start talking.

Initially, this requires understanding the importance of Ukraine to Russia’s strategic thinking, particularly its national security concerns.  Unlike the United States, with secure borders because of oceans and friendly neighbors, Russia exists in an extremely rough neighborhood.  Russia faces unstable states in the west, insurgencies on its “sensitive southern frontier,” and concerns about a land border with a China that wasn’t always the benign neighbor that it is today.  Of these concerns, the importance of Ukraine to Russia’s security is paramount.

In the past, an unstable or weak Ukraine faced major invasions aimed at Russia or the Soviet Union.  In the 18th century, Sweden’s Charles XII joined forces with Cossacks to eliminate any Russian threat to its Baltic lands.  The Great Northern War dragged on for 12 years before the Swedes sued for peace and ceded their Baltic lands to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad.  In the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte sent 600,000 troops into Russia; 100,000 returned.  In the 20th century, Adolf Hitler’s campaign witnessed the loss of 100,000 forces that froze or starved to death.

Putin’s recent speeches have emphasized the Western threat to Russia, particularly the “cynical use of Ukraine and its people to weaken and divide Russia.”  Putin emphasized that “We have never and will never allow anyone to do this to us.”  The United States is counting on diplomatic isolation and international sanctions to stop the Russian invasion, but this is unlikely.    The fact that Russia is internationally isolated and economically challenged will not deter Putin from his objectives in Ukraine.  Russia has always believed it was exceptional in terms of its spiritual superiority, particularly its ability to make the kind of major sacrifices that ultimately led to the defeat of Napoleon and Hitler.

The Clinton administration made a fateful and wrongful decision in the 1990s, when it ignored the verbal commitments of President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker not to “leap frog” over East Germany in order to gain a stake in East Europe.  The Bush administration had made this commitment in order to obtain Soviet withdrawal of 380,000 troops from East Germany, allowing the Germans to reunite without confronting the Red Army.  George Kennan, the father of containment, was one of many critics of Clinton’s decisions, and he warned that the United States needed to “anchor” Moscow to the West, not encircle Moscow with NATO.  Clinton and George W. Bush were responsible for the encirclement of Russia, long before the political turmoil in Ukraine led to the Russian seizure of Crimea, which had been part of Russia since the time of Catherine the Great.

Counterpunch for more