Jeffrey Sachs on the roots of the Ukraine war

May 30, 2023 at 3:15 pm (By Amba) ()

I am committing the breach of copying and pasting a part of Glenn Greenwald’s interview with economist Jeffrey Sachs, because I think it is so important that people see it who would not ordinarily be exposed to points of view in the alternative media, and who may even feel it is unsavory, kooky, or dangerous to go there.

Jeffrey Sachs is an insider turned class traitor, Davos man gone rogue, a fallen angel from the philanthropy–diplomacy empyrean, a whistleblower on neocon meddling. I can’t emphasize enough that he was there in 1989 and 1990 when one thing was said and another set of things began to be done.

Jeffrey Sachs: I posted a piece on Common Dreams, which people can take a look at, to gather a lot of hyperlinks and a lot of the underlying data and evidence but this story really goes back 34 years. It goes back to 1989, 1990, the U.S. and Germany were both very clear to Gorbachev – who was a godsend for the world, by the way, because he really was a man of peace, and I was profoundly honored to try to help him on the economic side, though, the White House was having none of it at the time – but in any event, Gorbachev believed in peace and he unilaterally disbanded the Warsaw Pact, which was the Soviet side NATO and Baker and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the German foreign minister, repeated, time and again, to Gorbachev, and in many, many different forms, and so did the NATO secretary general and others: “We will not move NATO one inch eastward. We won’t do it.”  

I spoke to a wonderful historian who is working on this right now, who tells me that in the archives he’s come across, in 1992, not only the plans for NATO expansion, but Ukraine was already on the list for NATO expansion in 1992 when supposedly, in the public, there is no such thing as NATO expansion at all. But remember, in 1992, that was Cheney, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld in the Bush senior administration. I thought: what could be worse? Well, we kept learning things can get worse even. And then in the Democratic Party, the love affair with the so-called ‘liberal hegemony,’ I don’t know what the liberal part is, but I know what the hegemony part is. That has been Nuland’s thing. And of course, her husband, Robert Kagan’s thing, for decades. This has been underway since the early 1990s. 

The Russians have been saying, and Gorbachev said, Don’t move eastward, we want peace, we want openness. I was actually an adviser to Gorbachev. I was an economic advisor to Yeltsin. I was an economic adviser to Leonid Kuchma, the first president of independent Ukraine. I’ve seen all of these people. Do you know what they wanted? They wanted normal life. They wanted to stop the Cold War. They did not want crazy things. They wanted normalcy and we wouldn’t give it – what we said: Normalcy? Yeah, that’s U.S. hegemony. That’s U.S. indispensable power. That’s the U.S. “We do what we want anywhere, we want when we want it.” And that has been the story all along. And frankly, I couldn’t imagine it at the time because I was watching with my own eyes as a young guy. Suddenly, the world had a chance for peace – and peace didn’t mean U.S. global hegemony, peace meant normal cooperation – but we couldn’t accept the deal of just being normal and cooperative. We had to say, “Now we lead” on everything. And that’s been the story since the beginning.

There are many steps to it. Clinton was the first violator of the promises, and Clinton was so inconsistent on everything. But this is one of the things he was inconsistent on. So, the first NATO expansion took place under Clinton and that was Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic; the next NATO expansion, seven countries by Bush Junior in 2004 – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea. So, you had the Baltic states, you had Romania and Bulgaria. You’re starting to right up against Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia. 

Putin says, in 2007, stop, already, “Stop,” he says it in a famous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007. We don’t listen at all. 2008, Bush says “NATO is going to enlarge to Ukraine.” The European leaders, by the way, were aghast, and one of the European top leaders at the time called me, and said, What is your president doing? Of course, European leaders don’t say any of this publicly, but they say it privately, “This is crazy.” “This is so dangerous.” But of course, they were quiet. Bush pushed this through in 2008. 

Then there was a reprieve for Ukraine. The reprieve was that the president, Viktor Yanukovych, said, look, we’re in between two giants. We don’t want to be smashed in the middle. We take neutrality. But neutrality was a red flag for Victoria Nuland and her friends. And so, at the end of 2013, when demonstrations against the decision that Yanukovych had made to postpone signing an agreement with the EU started protests, believe me, the U.S., covertly and overtly in every other way, stirred that up massively. But in January and February 2014, they supported a violent insurrection that overthrew Yanukovych. And of course, notoriously Nuland was caught on tape, something we don’t talk about. But anyone go listen to it! […] 

G. Greenwald:  She picked the next leader! She picked the new leadership. 

Jeffrey Sachs: She’s planning the government weeks before the overthrow, calling exactly who would be the prime minister, by the way. It’s amazing. But the whole thing is amnesia – Don’t talk about any of this, though it’s so obvious! 

I had a weird experience personally, which was that when the government was overthrown and Yanukovych fled and Yatsenyuk was prime minister, just as Nuland said, I got a call: ‘Yatsenyuk wants to meet you. It’s a deep economic crisis.’ Okay. You know, I actually respond to those things when a government says we’re in a very deep financial crisis. So, I flew to Kyiv and I had an NGO brag to me about the role they played in the overthrow. And it was ugly. It left me shaking, you know, the kind of thing you just want to wash off. Don’t tell me this awful stuff, you had no business being part of a violent insurrection, but that’s the role we played. I went home. I didn’t go back. I was disgusted by the whole thing. But it was obvious then we were on a path toward war. This didn’t start with an “unprovoked invasion” on February 24, 2022. This started in February 2014 and it started with the U.S. participation in a coup. 

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Privilege and Sacrifice

September 15, 2021 at 7:09 pm (By Amba) (, )

Much of my time in Chicago has been spent rereading the journal and letters of my uncle,* Alan Gottlieb, who died in a Naval Air Force training accident in Vero Beach, Florida, in 1943, two months to the day before his 23rd birthday. (I had read them decades ago, but remembered only highlights.) My mom wants to include his voice in an appendix to her memoir, the very purpose of which is to gather the lost—including two suicides, whose names were never spoken again per Jewish tradition—back into the ongoing family.

Alan’s death has been handed down as a tragic accident and a noble, if wasteful, sacrifice. To my surprise, as I read his thoughts and his voice danced to life in me, I came to see it, instead, as both a totally routine budget item of war and a kind of heroic, quixotic suicide. I wrote in my journal about his.

I went through Alan’s journals almost word for word, inhabiting his lively voice and immersing myself in his living presence to the extent that I began to struggle in protest as I was pulled toward the inexorable falls of his fate, No! No! Don’t extinguish this light! but it already happened almost 80 years ago! Mom grieving it again as if it was something I accompanied and comforted her in rather than something I instigated (at her behest, to get Alan’s voice into the memoir). I typed out passages into the new computer, and there were things missing that I remembered: a kinesthetic description of standing on the pedals of a dive bomber during a run; a paradox about the “constructively destructive” use of his new skills in war. I rummaged in the disorganized files (so like mine) and found both, one among letters a girl friend (not girlfriend) had given his mother, the other on file cards typed out by Dad, perhaps the best saved of faded or damaged letters. (How did he do it?)

Two things became clear. One was that if Alan hadn’t died as and when he did, there’s a high chance he would’ve died as a dive bomber pilot working off a carrier, the role he was training for. Those guys were the next thing to kamikazes. Even dying in training as he did was commonplace; he’d lost several friends in crashes before his. I told David it was as if they (the masters of war) were just throwing handfuls of flesh into a spinning fan blade. . . . The second is that Alan chose this self-sacrificial role. If his death was in part the Navy’s fault, it was also his own. He was being groomed for leadership and could have saved himself for that role. Should he have? He would have been a liberal leading light, a Jewish Kennedy, surely a senator, maybe even the first Jewish president—he was WASPy-looking enough. 😜And, in the supremest of ironies, he might well have been assassinated. His loss was anyway an early falling spark in that arc that led us to this dark place.

It’s easy to fall into fantasies of “the best and the brightest,” to flatter oneself that the loss of a sensibility so gently reared, so cultivated and self-cultivated, was a bigger loss than the closing of any anonymous consciousness that never was incubated in the Ivy League or singled out by the spotlight of Eleanor Roosevelt’s attention. But that was exactly what Alan felt obliged to escape. He had an early sense of the injustice and also of the emasculation of “privilege.” He felt he had to put himself at physical risk both to purge himself of that and to stretch himself, to break out of that coddling and self-congratulatory confinement.

I can relate.

The biggest paradox of all for me is that *he could only be my uncle dead. If he had lived for however much longer, the world would have been shifted the millimeter or more it took for a different sperm to meet a different egg at a different time and place, and someone else would exist in my place—in all our places.

It might have been better that way. But this is what we’ve got.

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Berlinski Burrows into Iran

January 14, 2020 at 7:40 pm (By Amba) (, , , )

in its full complexity, which is less about us than we would like (and, insofar as it is about us, in ways we don’t like).

if the Iranian regime falls, it will not be because of Trump. It will be because it is a regime that’s capable of shooting a civilian airliner out of the sky and then trying to bulldoze the evidence. It will be because that regime is rotten to the core. 

If the regime survives, it will not be because of Trump, either. It will be because it is a regime capable of killing as many of its own citizens as it needs to quell these protests. 

As I write this, the news that the Iranian regime has opened fire on the protesters has come across the transom. That is not Trump’s fault—but this point does seem very hard for some to grasp. . . .

Unless we invade and occupy Iran, the future of that regime is in Iranian hands, not ours. 

Read to the end if you have some notion of how to apportion the “blame” for Iran’s enlargement of power between Obama and Trump. Clue: Berlinski says “If you deplore one but not the other, partisanship has taken over your frontal lobe.” But what has ultimately empowered Iran is the wars in Iraq and Syria.

The bottom line:

The issue is not Obama versus Trump, Democrats versus Republicans. It is that we wish for things that cannot both be true. We don’t want to be at war, but we don’t want the world to be overrun by hostile and despotic regimes. We don’t want to go to war to prevent Iran from acquiring the Bomb, but we don’t want Iran to acquire the Bomb. We want to scare Iran. But we don’t want to be scared.

We busily project half of our incompatible desires onto the other political party, rather than acknowledging that our own desires are in conflict. Meanwhile, no one mentions that we have no recognizable strategy for anything and haven’t had one since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Iran: This Isn’t Over.

January 8, 2020 at 6:16 pm (By Amba) (, , )

“President Trump said in a White House address Iranian strikes resulted in no casualties and Iran now ‘appears to be standing down.'” ~ Axios

Just a guess:

Iran, unlike Trump, is focused on results, not optics. And they can wait. They announced that they would take the high road and retaliate proportionately and lawfully on an appropriate, military target. They then immediately launched a strike that proved ineffectual.

That was way too easy. It looked phony, diversionary, like a decoy.

Looking humbled now is good cover if you’re dealing with a fool like Trump plus a whole lot of Americans indulging in wishful thinking about American invincibility. It isn’t even that wily.

Watch them strike hard just pre-election and cut him off at the legs. (Despite the tingle of Schadenfreude, this is not something to look forward to or exult in. Many people will die. So I hope I’m wrong.)

And with that: off to the laundromat. Life goes on, until it doesn’t.

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Doggie Wag

January 3, 2020 at 10:03 pm (By Amba) (, )

In regard to the conversation Tom Strong and I were having in the comments of an earlier post, Peter Nicholas wrote in The Atlantic:

Typically, when the U.S. is threatened—as the Trump administration says it was with an “imminent” Soleimani-planned attack—voters have tended to stand behind the president. George W. Bush’s approval rating jumped about 40 points, reaching 90 percent, in the days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to Gallup. (The good feeling didn’t last: As Bush’s Iraq War soured, so did his approval rating, though he won a second term.) His father, George H. W. Bush, enjoyed 74 percent approval in 1990 after he sent troops to the Middle East following the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. (Two years later, Bush lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton.)

Trump, though, is a unique case. His approval rating has never cracked 50 percent in Gallup surveys, and experts on the presidency have rated him the most polarizing chief executive in history. Trump’s handling of the crisis will test the reflexive loyalty Americans show in such fraught times. It’s not at all clear that, outside of Trump’s base, people will trust his motivations, especially when he’s under serious political pressure. He is up for reelection in November, and he’s facing a potential impeachment trial in the Senate. Tweets he sent out years ago show that he’s well aware a president’s popularity spikes in wartime: In 2011, a year before Obama won reelection, Trump claimed, “In order to get elected, Obama will start a war with Iran.”

Trump’s critics suspect that he’s inflaming tensions with Iran to suit his own needs, deliberate preparation be damned. They see a “wag the dog” scenario—the term for presidents who manufacture overseas crises to divert attention from embarrassments at home.

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Love in the valley of the shadow

January 3, 2020 at 7:57 pm (By Amba) (, , )

Prisoners in Auschwitz who both survived by obtaining privileged positions (which she, at least, used to covertly help others), they were lovers in the camp. (The ordinary camp inmate was far beyond caring. Even in the less uniformly fatal Gulag, Jacques told me, the Russians said, “Zhit’ buditsh, no debat’ nye zakhochesh. You’ll live, but you won’t want to fuck.”) He was 17, she was 25; she taught him everything. They promised to meet when it was over if they made it. Shrewd survivors to the end, they both escaped Nazi death marches in the last throes of the war. He stood her up in Warsaw; years later, both of them married to others, she stood him up in New York. She was 98, bedridden, hearing- and sight-impaired, when they were at last reunited. And got to tell each other . . . well, read the story

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