US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change accord should not be a surprise

 

Early last month, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States will be withdrawing from the 2015 Climate Change accord, which was signed by 195 countries in December 2016 to help address global warming.

Trump cited that the climate deal imposed unfair environmental standards on American businesses, calling it a “draconian” international pact. Although many met this announcement as a surprise and an insult to international cooperation, how Trump and the United States in general acted with arrogance should not be a surprise.

To cite America’s involvement in the affairs of other countries, for instance its unwelcome and illegal involvement in Syria, as the only example of its braggadocio is an understatement. Many have forgotten that Washington is non-signatory to other major international accords. In other cases it has been hostile and has repealed landmark international deals for its aggrandizement, immunity and benefit.

For one, the United States is not party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which governs the rights and obligations of nations on the use of the world’s oceans. UNCLOS is signed by 162 countries, including the European Union, yet the US refuses to ratify the treaty because it “infringes on its sovereignty as a state” and hence it should remain “independent from any international interference on international maritime matters.

Despite that, while the US is not party to UNCLOS, it is using that jurisdiction in order to subvert the interests of other nations, such as in the case of the South China Sea, when it actively lobbied for the Philippines, its ally in the region, to use UNCLOS to claim the country’s stake against China in the disputed waters.

Another noteworthy case is Washington’s hostility towards the International Court of Justice (ICJ) treaty, which is the principal judicial court of the United Nations (UN). The US government’s refusal to sign the treaty stems from its avoidance of liability if and when US military personnel and political leaders misbehaved overseas, thus giving them immunity from persecution.

In addition to avoiding the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United States has been actively undermining the global standard of justice, including when it threatened to withdraw from peacekeeping missions in Europe and South East Asia if US personnel were not given complete immunity from persecution. This is under the auspices of the relatively recent American Servicemember’s Protection Act (ASPA), which was passed by the Congress and signed by former President George Bush in the early 2000s. In addition, the US actively sought to sign bilateral agreements with other nations which required countries not to surrender American nationals to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

In the realm of nuclear arms control, the United States also withdrew from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, which imposed limits on the US and Russia (then the Soviet Union) regarding the deployment of defensive weapons. The treaty was signed in order to reduce the need to develop new anti-ballistic missile systems putting each country vulnerable and denying them any advantage of a first-strike nuclear capability. Despite Russia’s opposition, the United States withdrew from the treaty in June 2002.

As for the landmark Paris Climate accord, the US government’s refusal to be part of the global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions that will lead the world to its human-induced destruction speaks volumes about America’s behavior against being a responsible nation. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty also includes halting contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries adapt to climate change policies) as well as refusing to report on its carbon emissions.

The reaction across the world was expected, with major powers in Europe expressing their “regret” about Washington’s decision, and while Trump spoke of “renegotiating the treaty to benefit America”, leaders in France, Germany, and the UK said the Paris Climate Treaty is non-negotiable.

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American Independence: Delusional Liberals continue their toxic media assault on Russia

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It may not be surprising to see that the Western mainstream media (with the likes of CNN, and BBC), is nothing but the vessel for Washington’s adventurism anywhere it sees fit. What is interesting though is the persistent and stubborn disinformation emanating from the Western press, especially vis-à-vis the Russia-Ukraine issue.

In the past week, during the American Independence Day celebration, CNN has lambasted Russia’s actions, like the bomber planes sent by President Vladimir Putin near California and Alaska. The article stated that “the aircraft’s presence was clearly a warning for the US.”

It is not hard to overstate that the new Cold War has been triggered by the West, and not the East. Fundamentally, the illegal Ukraine crisis was hijacked by Washington and its cronies in Europe, which in turn triggered a knee jerk reaction from Russia. Being in Russia’s vicinity, and taking into account its deep historical ties with Kiev, the United States might have reacted the same if Moscow took the same opportunity of pitting Mexico against the United States.

Indeed, the Western media’s convenient framing of the cause and effects of recent world events are at an all-time high. Simply, pouring over their words is a trip down the hypocrisy hole, one that is hard to escape, especially for people who spend their days enslaving themselves to mainstream news.

The CNN article also went to accuse Russia of patrolling too close to Washington’s allies, from aircraft ‘incursions’ in international airspace and Moscow’s deployment of submarines near NATO countries. The author clearly and conveniently turned a blind eye on Washington’s regular, provocative, and relentless military exercises conducted on former Soviet soil. How will Washington react if Russia did the same to former US colonies?

It may be a bit cliché by now, but the root of all this Ukraine mess has its roots after the collapse of the USSR, when NATO, despite its assurances, expanded and devoured over the weak former Soviet republics and former Warsaw Pact members. The Soviet Union’s last president, Mikhail Gorbachev, dismantled the Warsaw Pact almost exclusively because of the West’s promise of no-expansion to the East.

The United States has spent much of its time spreading its propaganda that “the Russians are coming” and which presents an unprecedented threat to American security, while forgetting it has a military budget bigger than the next 10 militaries combined, and has the most military bases deployed abroad, not to mention the most at-war country in the world since World War II.

Berlin Wall Politics: 25 Years Later

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The past 25 years since the symbolic collapse of the Berlin Wall and the accompanying disintegration of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself has left many hopes unfulfilled and more fears realized. To the disappointment of many, the once euphoric atmosphere back then, stemming from the easing of East-West relations, has stayed only in that specific era.

The time marker may be 10, 15, 20, and now 25 years, but one thing has remained the same, the prime political situation in Europe remains: that of the continued antagonism between the West and Russia, especially because of the persistent expansion of NATO towards Eastern Europe and on to Russia.

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, a man thoroughly celebrated in the West because of his openness and reform policies and perhaps the last remaining ‘elder’ of that significant era, may have expired his relevance in Russian politics and international relations, but what has remained constant is his correctly-judged observations about who’s to blame in the revival of East-West tensions in Europe and beyond.

Gorbachev, ‘Gorby’ as he was fondly called in the West back then, has been assured of a military block that will not expand ‘an inch’ to the Soviet sphere of influence. Contrary to mainstream Western literature, the term ‘influence’ was agreed upon by the victors of World War II, the most tangible evidence of which is the agreed division of Germany and capital Berlin, together with the rest of Europe. Today, NATO, the first pan-European military alliance established after the Great War, remains, while its counterpart, the equally formidable Warsaw Pact, has ceased to exist. Gorbachev and his communist allies in Europe knew that to achieve peace in Europe, the arms race must go, and with it a promise that NATO will remain at bay ‘where they are right now’ back in the late 1980s.

Since that fateful day of German reunification, NATO has expanded four times since 1999, adding not only former Warsaw Pact members but also former Soviet republics, and has committed itself to the destruction of Yugoslavia (which deeply hurt a weak Russia in the 1990s), the Western-backed secession of Kosovo, and today the unnecessary blood bath in Ukraine, on the Russian border itself.

It is unfortunate that the only remaining elder statesman of that era (which include Reagan, Thatcher, Pope John Paul),only  Gorbachev has survived to tell how mistaken the situation in Europe has become because of the unchecked triumphalism and arrogance of leaders from the West has become, from crook American politicians John McCain to NATO’s top generals and EU plutocrats. The problem stems from how the West treats Russian national interests as irrelevant and similar to a deeply weakened and humiliated Russia in the 1990s.

An economic and military powerhouse today, Russia has stood in the way of continued Western bullying and disregard for ‘the rest’ opposite ‘the West’. From its reluctance to let Syria fall, to Ukraine’s destruction, Moscow has seen it fit to check this inexorable spread of bogus ‘democracy’ by getting in the way of the American habit of ‘regime change’ and ‘humanitarian intervention’. Indeed, Russia has come a long way since the dissolution of the USSR, and the time has come for the West to come to terms with a changing international order, one that has seen a multipolar world replace a once unipolar but abusive world lead by the United States.

Although talks of a new Cold War is in the air (some call it premature because of the lack of ideological differences), the wall that has deeply divided East and West relations is perhaps unparalleled in the past 25 years.  There is no comparable division that has existed since the end of the Cold War, from American-backed sanctions against Russia (insulating the US but harming the EU), treating Russia like a third-rate country (Russia’s nuclear weapons alone guarantee its weight in international relations), to increased encroachment of military spheres (the regular presence of American warships in the Black Sea, a Russian naval stronghold, and military aircraft patrols in former Soviet republics), to the relentless demonizing of Putin and Russia (Obama comparing Russia to Ebola), and the recent fear mongering against the Sochi Olympics.

As for Europe itself, it has become nothing but a tool of Washington’s arm to antagonize Moscow. It has become voiceless and surrogate to American wishes, perhaps making Gorbachev’s recent statement true, that “ instead of becoming a leader of change in a global world Europe has turned into an arena of political upheaval, of competition for the spheres of influence, and finally of military conflict. The consequence inevitably is Europe’s weakening at a time when other centers of power and influence are gaining moment. If this continues, Europe will lose a strong voice in world affairs and gradually become irrelevant.”

Understanding Russia’s Near Abroad Foreign Policy

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Much has been going on in Russia’s borders in recent months:  from last year’s violent “Euromaindan” protests sponsored by the West, to the annexation of Crimea, the Eastern and Southern Ukraine’s invalid independence referendum, the sorry (at least in the Western eyes) Sochi Olympics, the relentless economic and political sanctions, and the stepping up of military patrols in Eastern Europe by NATO.

Not long ago did the West portray Russia as rebuilding a “Soviet empire” when it went to war with Georgia in August 2008. Since then, Western politicians and the mainstream media have spread their usual fear-mongering propaganda against Russia.

What’s missing from this narrative is the question of why Russia is forced to tackle its present challenges, especially along its borders. For one, centuries of Russian empire and the 20th century’s Soviet experiment solely points to the immense and legitimate influence Russia has on its near abroad frontier, be it in greater Eastern Europe or former Soviet republics, which include Ukraine.

What the West fails to understand is Moscow’s right and obligation to protect ethnic Russians outside the country, especially in the former Soviet republics. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, millions of Russian suddenly found themselves second-class citizens in other former Soviet republics, including in Ukraine.

For instance, back in February, one of the first “legislation” of the new illegitimate government of Kiev was to ban Russian language in Ukraine. Seriously, can language alone be of matter national security concern? The judgment and intentions of those in power can be in doubt especially if your country’s new leaders do not even know the right flag for a country he is visiting. And yet the West has the nerve to spread lies about Russia being the aggressor in the Ukraine crisis rather than the other way around.

And how Western politicians and mainstream media portray Russia’s fictitious ambitions is pretty much the same as how they portray China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea: that hot foreign policy conceals and overrides domestic concerns; a way to consolidate public support against a foreign aggressor while forgetting the troubles at home.

And yet all that protection for minorities outside Russia is seen as part of Vladimir Putin’s “empire building”, which in contrast to the West’s military and covert interventions abroad pretty much vilifies those accusing the Russian president instead.

Now that Russia is firmly out of the G8, eyes are focused on where Russia’s economic potentials will go instead. Indeed, Russia is part of the greater and more important G20, as well as the economic collective known as the BRICS. For at least the past decade now, Russia and China has been busy building new pipelines to transport energy to countries East of Russia, which will help Moscow diversify its economy to where the global economy is happening most: in Asia.

And of course talks of a new Cold War with Russia (and China) has been circulating in the Western mainstream media. Politicians up to the highest levels, including Barack Obama himself, are trying to blame (or deny) the new Cold War. Indeed, for some politicians in the West, the old Cold War with the Soviet Union really did not go away.

A Reemerging Russia is indeed what they fancy; after all, the fear of enemies abroad means the sustainment of the military industrial complex which Eisenhower feared will sustain America’s insatiable appetite for a permanent war economy.

Social Upheaval of the Times: A New Perspective

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The span of time since the unraveling of socialism a little over twenty years ago has given us, contemporary observers, the opportunity to look at this event with unprecedented depth and a bigger perspective. Indeed, that span has uncovered and brought back from obscurity the real factors that contributed to the collapse of this ideology, very much like how history is vindicated well after it has unfolded. What is obvious to us today surely was not clear for that age’s participants and observers, thus, a better say on what truly happened, from the personalities who betrayed socialism to the unwelcome external elements that intervened, is aching to be told especially in this time of mass protests in Europe and privacy scandals plaguing America.

Almost exactly twenty years before the financial blunder of the West, Eastern Europe was undergoing a major political transformation; the masses are confronted with a choice that would dictate how their lives will be from then on: to keep under socialism or to succumb to the allure of the supposedly more democratic ways of their Western neighbors. The reverse is true today: Americans are increasingly becoming aware but less patient with how they should be governed, from how taxpayer money should be used in times of crisis to how their private lives are eroded by an increasingly paranoid government. Without realizing it, people are citing elements of socialism to serve as antidote (Occupy Movement) to the woes of contemporary life in ‘the land of the free.’ In Europe, calls for a loosening of the highly bureaucratic and elitist European Union is needless to say, gaining more ground as state after state succumb to strings-attached-ridden bailouts and the claws of austerity measures eating at people’s welfare and ultimately, their existence.

How can you preach ‘democracy’ when you treat your citizens with distrust, as with the recent Manning-Assange-Snowden expose reveal? In fact, even America’s allies can’t escape this inexorable surveillance menace. How can you preach ‘more integration’ for the so-called European Union if you continue to keep out the assignment of management of the continent beyond the approval of citizens? Such trappings were the wedge of classic anti-socialist/communist rhetoric during the Cold War. Can we look at who’s speaking now? Indeed we can, with the help of what others call “the ordeal of careful scrutiny.”

With Age Comes Greater Understanding: The Truth behind Socialism’s Collapse in the 1980s

The typical Western triumphalist thinking has all the success-over-socialism-the-enemy covered in the Cold War dialogue, where claims rest mostly in the belief that socialism is doomed from the beginning, as was the case with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. In the specific case of the dissolution of the USSR, there are six theories that try to ‘explain’ why socialism failed, including:

  • flaws of socialism
  • popular opposition
  • external factors
  • bureaucratic counter-revolution
  • lack of democracy and over-centralization, and
  • the Gorbachev factor

The first theory argues that socialism was doomed from the start because it had an inherent anti-human nature flaw. It is misguided thought because it requires a predisposition that socialism in the USSR should’ve failed before even more pressing challenges, such as collectivization or the Nazi invasion, had gripped the relatively young socialist state.

The second theory subscribes to the idea that popular opposition brought down socialism in the Soviet Union and even Eastern Europe. However, subscribers to this theory fail to explain the fact that a real opposition to Gorbachev did not turn out in the beginning of his reforms. To begin with, mass discontent did not appear during Gorbachev’s early years as General Secretary. Moreover, surveys showed that people were actually satisfied with their lives and the system.

While others falsely believed that, some were comfortable with blaming external factors as behind the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union. Proponents of this theory believe in the pressure that Reagan put on the reforming Soviet system, especially on military terms. On the contrary, despite rhetorical musings, there is no evidence of such triumphalism, especially on the buildup of arms that was supposed to ‘bankrupt’ the Soviets into spending. In fact, archives show that the American military buildup was not reciprocated by the armed forces of the Soviet Union. Proponents of this theory fail to cite the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the plan of Gorbachev to end conscription in the military as well as the eventual reduction of the armed forces.

The fourth theory promote the belief that as Gorbachev’s reforms unleashed forces beyond the control of the state, slow-moving leaders were left with no choice but to ride the waves of a fast-emerging market economy by privatizing state assets for their own wealth. Although some in the elite saw an opportunity in the unraveling of the centralized economy, it was motivated by their interest in hanging on to power, rather than subscribing to the return of capitalism.

The fifth theory traces the root of the Soviet collapse to the inability of the state to “democraticize”, at least in the Western sense of the word. However, over time, the meaning of democracy changes. In Roger Keeran’s and Thomas Kenny’s thesis, neither capitalism nor liberalism has an exclusive claim to democracy. To be sure, democracy came to the United States in gradual terms, and was constantly improved as rights became more pervasive and expanded. In fact, ‘popular participation’ was built-in in the Soviet political and decision-making system. Indeed, the spread of power was even more dispersed than in a Western democracy. As for over-centralization, scholars miss the fact that the USSR was the first socialist country to embark on such economic path; there is no guarantee the plan will work, but nevertheless it produced a system that will achieve the goals of socialism, including free education, housing, guaranteed jobs, zero-inflation and others.

The sixth theory also has the trappings of an incomplete thesis: that Gorbachev was the man to blame, especially because of his abandonment of traditional communism. There is no denying that Gorbachev’s policies unleashed wanton forces beyond his control. However, few recall that his earlier policies where a mirror of Andropov’s reforms. At best, this theory fails to fully convince, especially since Gorbachev, according to Keeran and Kenny, “was both a legatee of a certain tradition and the product of his times and not just a lone factor making history.”

Rebuffing Western Though on the Collapse: Other Areas of Discussion

Even after the end of the First World War, it is undeniable that the Soviet people underwent a major upheaval, when the country retreated from the major war and succumbed to civil war. To think that the ‘crisis’ from 1985 onward was an insurmountable challenge would therefore be invalid, after all, the USSR had survived far greater calamities after the Second World War.

Although the economy of the USSR was slowing down in the 1980s, economists still saw the single digit GDP growth as manageable, one that did not threaten the stability of the country’s economy. Although the price of oil surely caused trouble to Soviet finances, adjusted for inflation, the price of oil was higher than in the previous decade.

The Soviet Union’s military and diplomatic standing is correctly judged as having accomplished or managed well it’s objectives in the 1970s through to the 1980s. Even with Reagan’s military buildup, especially with the threat of SDI, this did not receive serious attention by military and economic planners in the USSR; simply SDI was treated as unfeasible in the short to medium term. Years later, historian Adam Ulam would quip that in 1985, “no government of a major state appeared to be as firmly in power, and its policies as clearly set in their course, as that of the USSR.”

The real situation then was, as with the previous decade, the USSR of the 1980s was a stable one, with no unemployment, no inflation, no mass protests and strength in its foreign policy. There were problems, but there was clearly no real crisis that can threaten the country’s existence. Perhaps more importantly for a country that had many autonomous republics and regions; there were no observable conflicts among its nationalities and ethnicities.

Even with a one-party system, the Soviet bureaucratic machine had many decision makers from top to bottom. Millions participated in the collective soviets, which are institutions of power. More than 150 million workers were involved in unions, and contrary to bourgeoisie denunciations, these institution are not ‘fake’ and functioned with vitality and much room for policy. As for the people themselves, a referendum as late as 1991 showed that the majority of Soviet people (75 percent) where in favor of keeping the Union intact.

Indeed even during the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, the Soviet central planning in politics and economics was more complex than ever because of the expansion of the economy and the increased freedoms of its people. In fact, as Roger Keeran says “it was the erosion of planning and the flowering of the second (underground) economy that raised barriers to economic growth in the USSR.”

As for the Soviet leader himself, Thomas Kenny rightly observes that “we do not believe that Gorbachev ever acted consciously at the outset to betray socialism and restore capitalism. In contrast to Andropov, who was a deep and genuine Marxist-Leninist, Gorbachev was a brilliant actor…without great theoretical preparation” but that over time Gorbachev “took the conscious decision that he was no longer a communist, but a social democrat…he no longer believed any more in planning, social ownership of the means of production, the role of the working class, socialist democracy.”