Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Obama: "Russia is a Regional Power" - And Other Moronic Remarks

No, I am emphatically not an "Obamabot" as would be obvious if thinking people read my posts critical of him.  I voted for him twice given the horrific alternatives, but was never on his "band wagon" in the sense of turning a blind eye to his flaws and misguided policies, i.e. drone killings, "debt commission", Chained CPI, supporting NSA mass spying, anti-whistleblower stance etc. Now, in hindsight, I still congratulate him when I believe he's made a policy choice, speech or decision that's wise and justified, and I criticize him when I believe he's veering off course, doing something ill-advised or stupid (perhaps because of bad advice).

In the latter category, Obama delivered a talk at a Nuclear Security summit in the Netherlands yesterday that was remarkable for its abysmal failure to grasp basic geopolitics, his dismissal of Russia as any kind of power on the global stage, and his failure (or unwillingness) to grasp the Ukraine crisis at any more than a Neoliberal media level.

Of course, the superficial content of his spiel could well also reflect  Obama’s “chameleon-like nature” in taking on the hues of the venue he addresses, first pointed out by writer David Bromwich in his recent piece, ‘Obama’s Disappearing Act – What Happened to the President He Wanted To Be?   As Bromwich observed:

"More than most people, Obama has been a creature of his successive environments. He talked like Hyde Park when in Hyde Park. He talks like Citigroup when at the table with Citigroup. And in either milieu, he likes the company well enough and enjoys blending in. "

So, it may well be that Obama’s ridiculous rhetoric could be attributed to this trait, we don’t know. I merely highlight here some of the examples of all the wrong things he said yesterday. Things which others might seriously misinterpret or read more into than warranted.

Among the absurd rhetoric we heard was that “Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors, not out of strength but out of weakness.”

In fact, given how Putin has immensely assisted Obama in both Iran and Syria,  this is a putdown that boggles the mind. Putin and Russia’s influence, in finding alternative approaches to both the Iranian nuclear program, and the events in Syria – in July- enabled Obama to ease out of what would surely have been two disastrous new conflicts he (and the country) didn’t need.  If Russia is  merely a “regional power” this would never have been feasible nor would Obama have been so dependent on Putin for this assistance - which he has yet to acknowledge in any public speech (one reason why Robert Parry has shown he's been at the mercy of the neocons - see e.g.

The U.S. political elites,  as ensconced in the Neoliberal political class and media,  DO like to believe this stupid meme,because it resonates with their long time (20 year) narrative of a “defeated” superpower which now can barely take care of itself. The Neolibs and their neocon allies  and media fifth columnists may like to believe this horse shit, but no critically thinking citizen should.

They ought to understand instead that any Russian "weakness" was incurred by its willingness to partake of the Neolib New World Order itself – which at the time  (1991) was proffered to Mikhail Gorbachev in return for the U.S. not expanding NATO.  That  acceptance caused much pain, as described in Naomi Klein’s book, ‘The Shock Doctrine:  The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' (2007), since it reduced or obliterated  Russian citizens’ long time support systems while allowing entry of a parasitical form of capitalism.

Despite that, Russia has found a way, predicated on its vast resources and emerging energy sector to become the 2nd largest producer of gas and oil next to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, much of Europe depends upon it – so the EU nations dare not become too enamored of their sanctions, lest the energy plug be pulled.  In addition, lest Obama forget, Russia still retains more than 3,000 nuclear warheads on as many ICBMs which surely merits equal superpower status – given it’s the only nation with the ability to reduce the U.S. to ashes, as one of its ministers recently put it.  This capability alone demands no one in a leadership role in the U.S. dismiss Russia, or cast it as only a "regional power". Any nation that has the nuclear capacity to incinerate the globe is no "regional power".

This is not something to take lightly or write off to appease an audience which stock and trade is terrorism. Nor is it an excuse to make a glib comment such as Obama also rendered yesterday: i.e.  that “Russia is not the number one US national security threat  and he is "more concerned about the possibility of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan" (by terrorists).  If he really believes that is his number one concern, right now, he ought to consider resigning from the Presidency.  Because in his position, I’d damned well be more worried about the Ukraine situation overheating to the point nukes are used in a limited conflict and then escalates to all out nuclear war.

In respect of this overheating Obama didn’t help matters with two other stupid remarks he made:

We (the US) have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them,"

Hmmmmm….. “we generally don’t need to invade them” but we WILL if we find a national security smokescreen to invoke! (As opposed to Russia's legitimate right to occupy the Crimea according to an existing treaty- see below-  and, in its own sphere of influence,).  In other words, Obama is saying the U.S. can invade if and when it chooses to, as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has in more than 20 nations since the end of World War II – based on the ‘Monroe doctrine” or whatever specious basis it can find (NSC-68), but no other nation has a right to protect or exercise its self –interest.

Obama then compounded this foolishness by adding that: the United States "would use its military to come to the defense of any NATO country that is threatened " adding "We will act in their defense against any threats. That’s what NATO is all about.”
Actually, no – it isn’t what NATO is "all about". NATO is a Cold War relic, now  exploited by the U.S. to expand its sphere of influence, in this case  against Russia’s – since the end of the Soviet Union. (I believe part of it is also to act like a bully and rub Russia's 'nose' in the dirt. "Nya, nya - see what we can do and you can't stop us!") Indeed one can argue that NATO is a war mongering entity as noted herein:
NATO's Warmongers
I hate to be the one to have to remind Obama that this is a promise he’s not likely to keep, say if Russia feels threatened by a belligerent NATO puppet, e.g. Lithuania or Poland,  and strikes against it. The reason is that the Russians have retained a “limited use" nuclear doctrine by which they reserve the right to employ nukes if they feel overwhelmed by conventional outside forces, say NATO’s, see e.g.
As noted therein:

"On March 13, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ran a piece by Nikolai Sokov with the paradoxical title Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike “de-escalation.” He writes, “In 1999, at a time when renewed war in Chechnya seemed imminent, Moscow watched with great concern as NATO waged a high-precision military campaign in Yugoslavia.” It became concerned both that “the United States would interfere within its borders” and that the “conventional capabilities that the United States and its allies demonstrated seemed far beyond Russia’s own capacities.”

In response, Russia

… issued a new military doctrine whose main innovation was the concept of “de-escalation”—the idea that, if Russia were faced with a large-scale conventional attack that exceeded its capacity for defense, it might respond with a limited nuclear strike.

In the unnerving 1983 film ‘Threads’ such a scenario played out in a future Iran, after the U.S. and NATO allies bombed a nuclear plant at Isfahan. The Russians used tactical nukes to even the score and halt advancing NATO forces, the U.S. did likewise, and within days the exchange could no longer be controlled and had escalated into a full scale nuclear war. Is this what Obama really wants? Then he better be careful what promises he makes and how he wields his rhetoric.

The most utterly arrogant comment made, however, was that:  Russia of course has the legal right to have troops in its own country” – as if this is a big deal or carries some profound, hitherto unknown concept.

Of course they can have troops in their own country!  So can the U.S.!  SO what? The issue isn’t having troops in one’s own country, but the willingness to deploy them where and when a nation feels its sphere of influence threatened. This is why Russia has deployed troops (more than 20,000 in Crimea, which are LEGAL btw, according to a treaty – see:
And the U.S. has no business challenging that or referring to it as "invasion" or "aggression" etc.. True, CIA director Brennan (the same guy who spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee - that had Dianne Feinstein in an uproar),  "didn't believe this justified Russia's moves", but I revert back to what Col. Wilkerson (Ret.) noted 3 weeks ago on MSNBC - that given the U.S. neocons conducted a putsch, a coup - Russia  WAS justified and Wilkerson would have done it too if in Putin's place as he himself noted. 

The U.S. meanwhile, has deployed tens of thousands of troops wherever it damned well pleases and in flagrant disregard of any international norms or laws. It instead creates its own "laws" or "doctrines" (i.e. "Bush doctrine") to justify incursion and interference  wherever it sees some vague “threat” that has no direct bearing whatever on national security – such as the illegal Iraq invasion

Don’t bother to tell the Russians where and how their troop deployments are “legal” or allowed if you don’t adhere to the same standards or to international courts of law or previously established international legal norms and principles such as Nuremberg Principle VI. (Condemning "crimes against Peace", i.e. "Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression" as in the case of the Iraq War.)

I do believe, assuming Obama wasn’t putting on his “chameleon act” for the nuclear security audience in The Hague, that he needs to study my post on a game theory perspective to the Ukraine crisis. He will get more out of it than listening to Victoria Nuland or Robert Kagan!
On that note, let me applaud Obama for his forceful words yesterday on the need to pull back NSA bulk phone data collection. But I would like to see scaling back the NSA's dragnet of the internet via its PRISM and MUSCULAR programs too. And until something is actually done, and there is pull back, it remains only  interesting rhetoric.

See also:

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