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13 August 2015


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An anti-Putin organ which lobbied for the putsch in Kiev sets Russia into a bad light? Who what have expected THAT?

Ishmael Zechariah

"What the West Gets Wrong"= arrant nonsense.
Ishmael Zechariah

Margaret Steinfels

Now, now gents (or ladies) important to consider contrary views.

FB Ali

Complete hogwash!

These days the NYT is reduced to a propaganda organ of what Col Lang calls the Borg. And a pretty low-level one at that.

This is what we shouldn't forget!

Making any argument, or advancing any position, based on such "arrant nonsense" is to demean this blog.


Margaret, why do you think we haven't?

FYI, some years ago I thought the writers at the New York Times were the cream of the crop and tended to believe all that I read there. Then once I had the time to study certain topics (like history, foreign policy, propaganda, etc) on my own, and with the internet available so I could read a much wider variety of news sources, I started to realize just how limited, propagandistic and establishment friendly the NYT is in it's worldview.

I do think the NYT does have great articles on science, history, health and cultural phenomenon, and I like to have a reference point for "establishment thinking" so therefore I subscribe. But when it comes to anything to do with "power and money" (foreign policy, politics, gov't, economics) I tend to be extremely skeptical of the content of those articles.

The NYT and WaPo primarily serve the interests of "Versailles on the Potomac" and the US oligarchs/plutocrats (aka Wall Street, big money) and I always factor that in when reading their articles. Certainly, once in a while those papers will surprise me with some good critical thinking on gov't or financial issues, but that is not the norm IMO.


Contrary views, fine. Gossipy bs, transparent propaganda, not so fine. After Judith Miller's agit prop, after the Times' witholding publication of politically-embarassing stories at the request of the G.W. Bush administration (I could multiply examples), I have no further patience with the "Liars of Record" and their little games. When I see a story attributed to them, I reach for my Browning.


The distortions embedded in the NYT's coverage of all things Ukrainian and Russian is appallingly irresponsible. We should bear in mind that its news service is subscribed to by regional papers all around the country - more so now that so many have closed their Washington bureaus.

We should also note the distortions in the NYT's coverage of China which is more indirect but, in the long term, perhaps more pernicious. On a routine basis, the paper features stories crying havoc about the condition of the Chinese economy with intimations that somehow this entire unprecedented and historic accomplishment represents a "bubble." Such a sky-is-falling misrepresentation is linked (either in the same story or a companion piece)to a story about how the regime is crumbling from within and/or losing credibility and authority with its people. All of this, of course, is absurdist nonsense. Its significance registers not in Beijing (where bemusement is the likely reaction) than in the escapist pseudo-reality it generates in the United States. Classic ostrich behavior of this extreme sort is a sign of a serious pathological condition- - especially when the symptoms are most pronounced among our political elite.

Paul Escobar

Margaret Steinfels,

You prefer Ukraine where trade union members must jump to their deaths because Ukraine nationalists set their entire building on fire? Or where entire parties, symbols, and journalists are banned for defying state propaganda?

I have friends in Russia who live their lives happily, make fun of Putin when they see fit, and consume whatever media they want. I also have Russian-speaking friends who live & work in Kiev...and they are absolutely quiet and careful about what they say or convey. The difference is glaring.

I think the Russian-speaking volunteers fighting in the east will forgive some "disarray" when the alternative is Ukrainian persecution leading to submission or death.

Paul Escobar

Babak Makkinejad

Margaret Steinfels:

I am sorry to see that yet another country's life is disrupted and her citizens' lives and livelihoods destroyed because of the strategies of super/hyper powers pursue.

When there was an earthquake in Bam, Iran, on Christmas Day 2003, the largest contingent of foreign medical staff offering assistance and service was the one from Ukraine; not from China, or Russia, or EU or US.

I hope that those kind people from Ukraine who were in Iran offering help in 2003 - when 25,000 people had been killed in a few minutes - are safe (together with their families and friends).

I am sorry about what has happened to Ukraine, I do not believe it had to be this way.

Margaret Steinfels

All: When I said this was from the NYTimes, I hoped to divert those who can't take it seriously from reading on. Didn't work.

I have been reading the NYTimes for fifty years, and every year people tell me it is worse than the year before. They are right. Yet they keep people around the globe, unlike other media I could mention.

So if you don't trust it, don't read this comment or the rest of the post.

What the Times reporter, Neil MacFarquhar reported, or so it seemed to me, was that the corruption of oligarchs continues: Russian Os are no different than Ukrainian Os. And the added honey to the pot, Russian funds are being siphoned off by who knows who. Russians are behaving as the Ukrainians would. The only benefit here is that Crimeans are not shooting one another. Is this so surprising? I think not. But you who know: Is it true?

The op ed piece linked to: I looked for some information. Who is the author? What validity has the argument he cites? Is Putin bored with Ukraine?

Hope this sets the discussion on course.

Margaret Steinfels


Ishmael Zechariah

Ms. Steinfels,
You might have read NYT for 50 years, but not very carefully it seems.
Please read Safire: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/opinion/22iht-edsafire.html?_r=0

BTW, anyone who equates Putin with Stalin (What the West Gets Wrong) is an arrant fool (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/arrant ) who knows nothing of either person.
Ishmael Zechariah

G. I. Hazeltine

Margaret - Stop digging!

Stephen J

Here's a little piece of apparent hokum by Pavlovsky from several years back. Seems 'spinning' is in his blood and 'deception' the primary aim.

I wondered when the 'Biden might run' piece by Maureen Dowd ran in the Times if that was an early shot across Clinton's bow from the wargasm crowd to refrain from skewing away from continuing the international hegemonic fantasy against all possible challengers around the world else they'd install Biden instead of her at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Maybe this idiotic Op-Ed is another installment on that little personal PsyOp reminder directed at Clinton that 'the wars must go on'.



I hink that oligarch joke is a dud, and simply pandering to stereotypes, but it doesn't reflect reality. A Russian oligarch isn't the same as a Ukrainian oligarch functionaly - not anymore, that is.

Unlike Ukrainain oligarchs, Russia's oligarchs were reigned in by Putin when they tried what Ukrainian oligarchs continue doing. The Russian oligarchs are still there, and there is still corruption, but oligarchs have been told to keep their stolen money, start to pay some taxes but cease buying political influence with their stolen money, or else.

The most notable example for someone who didn't get the message is of course Chodorchovski, who has reinvented himself as a martyr and dissident (actually, a quite American thing to do). Then there were the others who chose to move west because they did get the message.

The degree to which oligarchs in Russia bought political influence can be shown in the following episode:

Iirc a director of Chodorchovski's bank Menatep had a seat in parliament. At one point another represtative had his turn to speak in the merits of banking regulation. He went to Chodorkowski's director who handed him his mobile and the representative intermittendly listened and spoke as he had his speech literally dictated to him, denouncing the regulation.

That was how blatant Chodorkowski bought political influence with his stolen money.

There is to my knowledge no Russian oligarch who has ever set up private batallions and armed them. The Ukrainian oligarchs are essentuially still in the Jelzinian wild, wild west mode. That is over in Russia. In Ukraine it still continues. Ukraine never had a Putin to do that for them.


re. the NYT piece: "Mr. Putin’s Kremlin is the assertion of its right to break international rules. In fact, breaking the rules without being punished is the Kremlin’s peculiar definition of being a great power."

There is this wonderful dialogue in Breaker Morant, that perfectly captures America's problem with Russia's 'breaking the rules without being punished':

Lord Kitchener: Needless to say, the Germans couldn't give a damn about the Boers. The diamonds and gold of South Africa they're after.

Major Bolton: They lack our altruism, sir.

Lord Kitchener: Quite.

Obviously, violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries ... only the Russians would do such a dastardly thing.

It wasn't Putin or Russia who invaded Iraq with laugh-in-your-face-disregard for international law (to wit: no UN mandate, no self defence, individual or collective) and got away with violating the UN charter, without being punished.

The difference between US breaking international law and Russia's breaking of international law lies in the fact that the incorporation of Crimea resulted in territorial expansion. In contrast, America's violations were supposedly altruistic.

After all, were the US not greeted as liberators by grateful Iraqis? Arguably, Putin's polite green men were greeted as liberators by Crimea's ethnic Russians.

I'll stop here because obviously, this leads into a dangerous relativistic quagmire, and who wants that. Fortunately there is a way out of it: The hegemonic premise saves one from having to undertake the effort to judge by actions, not actors.

I propose as a thesis that two decades of US lawlessness and expansion of US influence as an end in itself have established destabilising precedents and created situations in which (predictable) conflicts of interest over spheres of influence have arisen and the precedents set are now being emulated.

Is the US really in a position to condemn Russia over breaking international law?

When they are not talking about bombing Iran in Congress, they are talking casually about how to violate the Nicaragua precedent rules by arming Syrian opposition, pretty much on the level of ordering french fries or croquettes to the menu (just TOW, or should they get Stingers and Javelins too ... oh it's a toss up, I take both, and supersize me!).

To me this suggests that by this point respect for and consciousness about violating international law is so alien to the American political system that their denunciations of others take on an entirely surreal character.

It would be so much easier to accept American self-righteousness on international law if they at least superficially adhered to the norms they accuse others of breaking.



Agree totally. AS you note, the Kremlin clearly has the upper hand when it disagrees with the Russian Oligarchs, whereas "Too Big to Jail" says everything about the US oligarchs and their power. Yet no such mention in the NYT propanganda... Oh my. And why oh why wont Putin micromanage his country, like he used to? Otherwise, you know, the trash doesn't get picked up in Red Square. Red herrings still smell like rotting fish.


No, "arrant" was the correct word. See this entry from the Oxford English Dictionary.


See definitions 3b, 5, and 6 for the sense likely intended by Ishmael Zechariah.

Margaret Steinfels

Thanks for the info and the corrections.

The U.S. is in no position to condemn anyone, I concur. However, the criticism in the story was coming from a citizen of Crimea.

ex-PFC Chuck

Per CP: "The difference between US breaking international law and Russia's breaking of international law lies in the fact that the incorporation of Crimea resulted in territorial expansion."

A true description in a narrow, 2014 snapshot sense. But in a geo-politically broad and temporally deep sense, it was a defense of what Russian leaders have recognized as a vital strategic interest for over three centuries and the recovery of territory that had been under direct Russian (including USSR) control for over two.

David Habakkuk

Margaret Steinfels,

I was amused to see this article restating the common myth that the 'Long Telegram' sent by George Kennan on 22 February 1946 'laid the foundations for America's containment policy'. And I was even more amused to discover that this book by Pavlovsky 'relies heavily on Mr. Kennan’s ideas to offer a timely critique of the West's assumptions about Mr. Putin's Russia'.

If you read the transcripts of the interviews for the CNN Cold War series which was rebroadcast last year, you will find different accounts of Stalin's restatement of the Marxist-Leninist theory of the inevitability of war in his 9 February 1946 election speech, which was the occasion for the 'Long Telegram'.

From the interview with Paul Nitze:

'I read the speech with care and interpreted it as being a delayed declaration of war against the United States ... Why this enormous effort for three years – three five year plans? And it could only mean that he was getting ready for the contingency of war with the United States at the end of fifteen years … In fact if you read it today you'll see that it is, can't be interpreted any other way.'

This interview was recorded in 1995. Almost half a century after the events, one of the most influential American Cold War strategists had not grasped that the Leninist theory of the relationship of war originated as an attempt to explain a war between capitalist states.

As amended to define the security problems of a lone socialist state in 'capitalist encirclement', the supposedly inevitable war could be a direct attack on the Soviet Union, or the result of its being drawn into a war between capitalist states. The degree of sheer ignorance required to believe, half a century later, that Stalin, in 1946, had decided he would be fighting the United States at some time around 1961 almost passes belief.

When moreover the programme-makers interviewed the historian Robert C. Tucker, who had at the time been a subordinate of Kennan's in the American Moscow Embassy, he suggested that Stalin had the contingency of the Soviet Union being drawn into war between 'imperialists' primarily in mind:

'And what Stalin was saying in February 9, 1946 is that because of the nature of imperialism, as it was called, wars are inevitable. They will usually begin between two sets of imperialist states. As World War Two had begun between the British and the French on the one hand, and the Germans and the Italians on the other. But, as the experience of World War Two showed, he didn't say this in the speech, one of these sets of belligerents had then turned upon Russia in 1941 when Hitler launched his aggression.'

(See http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/coldwar/interviews/episode-2/nitze1.html ;http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/coldwar/interviews/episode-2/tucker1.html .)

So what seems to have happened is that a principal part of Kennan's influence lay in enabling Nitze and James Forrestal to claim the 'Long Telegram' vindicated a sophomoric misreading of Stalin's thinking which actually its author knew to be false, but made no attempt to correct. The idea that Kennan's thinking was moving in harmony with that of his colleagues at any point is a myth making the understanding of the early Cold War impossible.

To understand what happened, one needs to go back to the arguments of the Thirties. The interview with Nitze actually gives you a vivid picture of the very many genuine reasons that American policymakers had to be apprehensive about communist encroachment in the chaotic circumstances immediately following the end of the war. Precisely the scenarios that had materialised were those that the supporters of 'appeasement' had feared – and had believed that Stalin was consciously scheming to bring about.

So what Tucker does not point out is that the study of 'Stalin in Power' he had published some years before he was interviewed for the programme is a major restatement of the view of the 'appeasers' that the war 'between two sets of imperialist states' which had broken out in 1939 had been one that the Soviets had been deliberately trying to precipitate.

As I have argued commenting on the views of 'Fred82' on another thread, this was why, in the 'Long Telegram', Kennan presented the propaganda position taken by the Soviets back in 1931 as though it was still the current position. Before Hitler's rise, the 'false friends of the people' – aka the SPD, otherwise described as 'social fascists' – had indeed been portrayed as 'most dangerous elements' in 'bourgeois-capitalist society' against whom 'relentless battle' had to be waged.

But the 'popular front' strategy had replaced this approach following Hitler's consolidation of power – a fact Kennan obscured from his audience.

When Kennan realised that – contrary to what the 'appeasers' had anticipated – Stalin intended to stick with the 'Popular Front' strategy, he could have fallen in with Roosevelt's more sanguine view of Soviet policy. Instead, he rethought his view of what Stalin had been playing for in 1931.

Rather than a failed attempt to communise Germany, he now concluded that Stalin had been all too happy to encourage the coming to power of Hitler, as the opening move in his supposed strategy to finesse Germany and the Western powers into war. One can see indications of Kennan coming to this view as early as February 1947, and it is the view set out in Tucker's study.

Unfortunately, as I noted in my earlier comments, the 1999 study 'Grand Delusion' by the Israeli historian Gabriel Gorodetsky completely demolished Tucker. And, as the 'h-net' reviewer writes:

'Critical to the argument is the compelling portrayal of Stalin as a scared and delusional practioner of realpolitik. This portrait of Stalin as a realpolitiker in foreign policy not only fits with the evidence discussed in the book, but is also quite consistent with Stalin's foreign policy before, during, and especially after the war, which was hardly indicative of a fomenter of world revolution. Of course, Stalin's foreign-policy decisions were shaped by ideological concerns and visions, but the range of choices within his ideological framework permitted policies of relative accommodation with the West in order to preserve Soviet security, even if those relations were also marked by extreme suspicion and hostility. Then, too, it is important to remember that even pragmatists can be self-delusional, and can make mistakes.'

(See http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=7659 .)

After 1945, Stalin was not prepared to abandon his vision of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe consolidated as a Soviet sphere of influence in the interests of good relations with the West. Moreover, he was – probably, from his own point of view, with good reason – obsessively suspicious of contact between his subjects and Westerners. And – last but hardly least, with a characteristic brutalism and lack of self-control, he pushed his luck with regard to Iran and Turkey, which was foolish. Likewise, while he was right in not interpreting the Marshall Plan as a purely defensive move, his characteristically brutal response did immense damage to Soviet interests.

Ironically, however, in the same year that the interviews with Nitze and Tucker were published, policy papers prepared in the Soviet Foreign Ministry in 1944-5 were analysed in an account by the contemporary Russian historian Vladimir Pechatnov in 1995, entitled 'The Big Three After World War II'. These show conclusively that the central argument of the 'Long Telegram' – that Stalin believed his security depended on the destruction of the United States – was simply wrong.

(See http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/ACF17F.PDF .)

The papers – by Maisky, Litvinov, and Gromyko were the work of 'westernisers' predisposed to cooperation with the West. But what is striking about them is not simply the emphasis on the continuation of the 'Popular Front', and on spheres of influence and Big Three cooperation – it is, as Pechatnov notes, the absence of any contingency planning about alternatives to these options.

This was the result of the patient effort which Roosevelt had put into alleviating the 'extreme suspicion' of the Soviet leaders. However difficult the problems of dealing with Stalin were, it is eminently possible that, had Roosevelt survived, something more of a 'modus vivendi' might have been worked out.

After all, the State Department Soviet expert co-opted into his entourage was Charles 'Chip' Bohlen, who learned much of his Sovietology from contact with his German Embassy colleagues in Moscow, among whom was one of the most incisive and courageous of the opponents of 'appeasement', Hans 'Johnnie' von Herwarth.

If Pavlovsky thinks that Kennan's analyses of 1946-7 are right about Stalin, he is
wrong. If he thinks they have any relevance to Putin, he is delusional.

Margaret Steinfels

ex-PFC: "But in a geo-politically broad and temporally deep sense, it was a defense of what Russian leaders have recognized as a vital strategic interest for over three centuries and the recovery of territory that had been under direct Russian (including USSR) control for over two."

Not sure how far this argument gets you: cf. England in Ireland (and around the world), France, Spain, Portugal, etc.

Though your implicit point is right: Russia will not give Crimea back, and no one will force them to....oh, but wait! What about the Tartars?

Margaret Steinfels

"If Pavlovsky thinks that Kennan's analyses of 1946-7 are right about Stalin, he is wrong. If he thinks they have any relevance to Putin, he is delusional."

Well thanks. Answers my question about the op ed piece. Though what do you make of the argument that Putin is hands-off on Ukraine, and leaves it to others.

On a previous matter: I asked you about Andrew Wilson's Ukraine Crisis (2014). You recommended "Frontline Ukraine" by Richard Sakwa, which I am making my way through. You suspected Wilson's treatment was "nationalist"; I think you are more or less right about that. On the other hand, Sakwa's is strikingly pro-Russian, I say strikingly because he claims a Polish family. But even without that, I find his stance not simply pro-Russian, and strongly so, but strongly anti-Ukrainian as well. Maybe from here in Fortress America, they all look hopelessly embroiled in a conflict that no one can win.

Apropos of Nitze and Kennan...A bio of the two by a Nitze grandson suggested to me that they were not on the same wave length, and probably detested each other.


"What about the Tartars?"

IMO, probably, unless someone stirs them they sill settle and find a modus vivendi.

Richard Armstrong

Let's substitute Washington for Kremlin... "Washington is populated not by mere survivors of the of the Cold War but by survivalists, people who think in terms of worst-case scenarios, who believe that the next disaster is just around the corner, who thrive on crises, who are addicted to extraordinary situations and no-rules politics."

Is this not accurate?

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