Monthly Archives: March 2014

Is his terminating of a genocide the reason why the West despises Putin?

A thought experiment: suppose that two million people had died in Venezuela as a direct consequence of reforms enforced by Hugo Chávez. What reactions would we expect? Well, since established western politicians and journalists already considered Chávez a thug and a dictator despite that he accomplished the opposite, prolonging the lives of the poor, it’s almost a truism that he would have been crushed, one way or the other.

The exact equivalent mega-deaths occurred in Russia, directly caused by the capitalist revolution  under Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. Yeltsin was generously supported and guided by a handful of western “experts” who believed so deeply in the blessings of capitalism and free markets that they totally ignored the horrendous consequences of their recommendations. It would be too mean to suggest that they didn’t realize what the outcome would be when they advocated the crushing of half the Russian industrial capacity. That would be to imply that they were both ignorant and stupid, and they weren’t. But they probably just didn’t care.

The pattern and causes behind the unparalleled mass deaths have been studied by two American specialists in health and medicine, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, publishing their findings in The Body Economics: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books 2013). The chapter in which they investigate the effects of the capitalist revolution in Russia opens with the following sentence:

“In the beginning of the 1990s, ten million Russian men vanished.”

Then they support this statement with forceful demographic data from the period in question. During just five years in the beginning of the decade life expectancy for men in Russia fell from 64 to 57 years, an unprecedented drop for an industrial country in peacetime. The deaths affected primarily younger men in productive ages. But what killed them?

There seem to be some resemblance with the disappearing of millions of Indians in North America. The Russian men were hit by deceases seldom seen among young people, such as infarction. Also supposedly eradicated diseases like tuberculosis reappeared, even in new resistant forms, as an effect of worsening living conditions. But the main causes behind the deaths can be classified as self destruction.

The rate of alcohol poisoning, suicide, murder and deaths from accidents shot way up. The reasons behind this fatal development were obvious when half the Russian industrial structure was crushed almost overnight. People’s possibilities to support themselves were destroyed, together with social safety nets and prospects for the future. Russian corporations were indeed ineffective, but they played an important role for welfare in a broad sense (in a way that western advisors totally neglected).

Stuckler & Basu demonstrates convincingly that Holocaust in the deteriorating eastern block after 1989 is tightly connected with the manner in which the privatization processes were enforced. In countries where Jeffrey Sachs, Anders Aslund and other extremists had their way when they strongly advocated a shock therapy with swift transition to private capitalism, death crisis became worst. Apart from Russia also countries like Kazakhstan, Latvia and Estonia suffered increasing death rates.

In Poland, Belarus, Slovenia and the Czech Republic on the other hand, where the transition process had taken place in a controlled manner, no increase in mortality followed. The Swedish “expert” Anders Aslund (seemingly lacking empathy) consequently and patronizingly called Belarus “a mini Soviet” for resisting shock therapy methods.

What is most disturbing for us westerners in our safe societies should be the complete silence that our media and all others have submerged this virtual genocide in. It must be completely unprecedented that ten million fairly young people just vanish from an industrial society like they did in Russia, moreover without any obvious reaction abroad. History will eventually rectify this and judge us properly; just as we Europeans finally have to accept responsibility for the Indian genocide on the American continent (and correct our schoolbooks accordingly).

Our ignorance on the mass deaths in Russia has contributed to our misunderstanding of that country’s internal politics. The man who put an end to the human catastrophe was Vladimir Putin. Judged by our mass media it seems inconceivable how this man can be reelected time and again, but the Russians of course know what happened to their country, something our “propaganda agencies” effectively have kept us from recognizing.

One power factor in the capitalist decomposition of Russia was the oligarchs, who – with implicit support of the western world – shamelessly robbed their fellow countrymen of anything of value (and often disappeared with the loot abroad). It took harsh methods to stop the looting and to reclaim some of the people’s property. It took a former KGB man, Putin. His intervention also stopped the death epidemic.

Judging from the mainstream view in the west we had rather seen the oligarchs continue their robbing, leaving the country in total wreck and ruin and the death toll still rising. That’s us, the moral and political role models for the whole world!

What did we do to encourage Russia’s grabbing of Crimea?

When John Kerry refers to international law in his condemnation of Russia for the Crimea secession it’s of course more hilarious than anything that George Orwell could have conjured up. For a country that consistently defies international law when confronted with it by others it’s not just hypocrisy to its nth degree, but politics devoid of all logic. One just has to imagine US being in Russia’s position. Had bombing of Kiev then been a surprise? Hardly.

When Putin says that a spring tightened too hard eventually will snap back, it’s not a far fetched metaphor. He has lived through the largest secession operation in modern history: the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. To top it all he had to watch Boris Yeltsin invite “economic experts” from western countries (among the “experts” a notorious Swede) who manage to engineer the worst social catastrophe in memory, pulverizing half of the Russian industrial capacity and in a decade driving 10 million people to a premature death, mostly men in productive age. (The total Russian death toll in WW2 was just twice as high.)

The guilty advisors creating this virtual genocide have not been held responsible for anything, and Yeltsin was sober enough to demand immunity when he retired as president. (The Swedish hero in that process is today cited as an expert on Ukraine.) The man who put an end to the death epidemic was Vladimir Putin. Just as the millions of dead are unknown to us, Putin’s role in ending the catastrophe is just as concealed. That’s a tribute to our well-educated journalists trained not to disclose the wrong things. In that self censorship lays also an explanation to our surprise that Putin, with all his shortcomings, is reelected time and again.

And it didn’t stop there as we know. The leftovers from the Russian scramble were readily taken care of by western powers under the usual pretext: “democracy and human rights” (if that includes overthrowing of democratically elected governments is of no interest; that just follows a very common procedure). In blunt violation of unambiguous (but vocal) promises to Gorbachev, NATO immediately started to expand eastwards. All in all it was a demonstration of power with no other reasonable aim than to subdue and contain Russia as much as possible.

Western powers have certainly tightened the spring, and now it has snapped back. Provocations are no excuse for a misdemeanor, nor are they an excuse for the actions of the provocateurs. And since the leaders of the western powers are responsible for the provocations, we are responsible for letting our leaders get away with that. The price we pay is an increasing risk of a dangerous war.

(For an enlightening inquiry of the capitalist death crisis in Russia 1990-2000, see for instance David Stuckler & Sanjay Basu The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills (Basic Books 2013)).

Russia: a ghost to scare Swedes with – since centuries

For at least one of our Swedish politicians the Crimea incident has come about particularly handy. I’m thinking of our Foreign minister Carl Bildt, by an American politician portrayed as “a small dog barking like a big dog”. He is supposed to lead our Department of Foreign Affairs, but is usually crisscrossing around the world in airplanes, supposedly working to create some lasting impression of his own person.

Carl Bildt was born with glasses and a right wing manifesto in his hand, from infancy anxious to surpass a string of prominent conservative ancestors. One of his main tools in politics has always been to promote Russophobia. Not that he necessarily is afraid himself, but he knows that Swedes for centuries have been susceptible to this irrational scare of the Russians. And of course he is clever enough to know that one of the simplest and cheapest ways to control people is to alarm them.

It started right off with a Soviet submarine stranded on an islet in southern Sweden in 1981. Bildt was then 29 years old and already a shrewd politician who thus was served an issue that he could profit on many years to come (and still does).

The submarine – U 137 – had gone 8 knots on surface with rumbling diesel engines, heard far away by witnesses, right into a narrow strait too shallow for the submarine to hide in, and impossible to escape from. The speed and the fact that U 137 hadn’t gone by electric motors should be enough to reveal that they had no idea where they were. The best guess would then be that they were incompetent or drunk.

But Bildt, and others who thought they could profit from a different idea, maintained that U 137 had been on a deliberate spying mission. The fact that the crew in such a case must have been not just drunk but complete lunatics has not bothered Bildt & Co.

Given U 137 it was no surprise that a submarine frenzy broke out in Sweden and particularly in the Stockholm archipelago. During the 1980s some 4,000 observations of various kinds were made. It was taken for granted that all of them were about Soviet submarines. The navy and coastal defense gladly participated in the hunting of what some called “budget submarines”. No real object was ever caught on film and the evidences were overall of a circumstantial type. People naturally saw a lot of things that looked like submarines. Eventually it was confirmed that a sound captured by the coastal defense with acoustic equipment, and long presented as evidence, derived from swimming minks.

A first commission to investigate the submarine question issued its report in 1983. It concluded that there was sufficient evidence for submarine intrusion into Swedish waters, and that the Soviet Union was the perpetrator. A second commission stated in 1995 that possibly eight maybe more intrusions had been made, but found no evidence for any specific nationality of the submarines. A third investigation in 2001 claimed with certainty that four intrusions had been made. An investigation team set up by Swedish Television held that the intrusions observed since U 137 were made by NATO submarines.

Regardless of commissions Bildt withheld the politically correct opinion for him, namely that Soviet had offended Swedish waters. As Prime Minister in 1994 he wrote an impertinent letter to President Yeltsin of Russia with this accusation, at first kept secret at home, but eventually disclosed by his Social Democrat successor causing turbulence.

Since 1990 Bildt has been busy trying hard to extract the new eastern European nations from Russian influence and draw them into the EU sphere. The pre-1990 hostility towards the Russians had consequently very little to do with (so called) communism. It’s just a power game on a larger scale and Bildt is more than happy to function as a minor lieutenant in service of the real masters of mankind.

Is Russia breaking international law in Crimea? Definitely! Carl Bildt was a member of a support group for the US war of aggression against Iraq. A war of aggression is the ultimate international crime which entails responsibility “for all the evil that follows” (Nuremberg), i.e. the murderous attacks going on in Iraq right now. Shouldn’t Bildt be put under sanctions?