TBR News February 7, 2019

Feb 07 2019

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. February 7, 2019:”One of Trump’s top aides approached several Pentagon officials this week, wondering if Trump would have the support of the US military if he needed to ‘crack down’ on a number of dissidents who were ‘threatening his Presidency and the peace of the Republic.’

This feeler was received with politeness but the opinion of America’s military leadership is that Trump is unfit for his office and in all probability has too strong connections with the Putin people for comfort.

Will we now see tattered legions of militant farmers, amed with AK 47s, wearing bib overalls and rubber boots, storming the hedquarters of the DNC shooting clerks and small children with happy smiles?

And in support, will we see their wives, sagging breasts wrapped in American flags and wearing little red Trump-is-God hats, carrying extra magazines and screaming his name in frantic tones?

Trump might dream of enormous Hitlerian military parades in Washington with himself, alone on a high platform, saluting the cheering troops but in reality, there is more probability of him banging on the door of his cell in Leavenworth Federal Prison, demanding an earlier dinner.”

The Table of Contents

  • Democrat Schiff draws Trump ire with House intel probes
  • Making America Great Again: Trump’s Impossible Challenges
  • Trump’s State of the Union Address Reveals His Growing Anxiety Over Encroaching Left-Wing Populism
  • How the United States Got Russia Wrong
  • Russia’s “Kurdish Card” In Turkish-Russian Rivalry
  • Electric cars will kill oil demand within decade, Bank of America predicts
  • 2018 was world’s fourth hottest year on record, scientists confirm
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations


Democrat Schiff draws Trump ire with House intel probes

February 6, 2019

by Doina Chiacu


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House Intelligence Committee is set to pursue a wide investigation into attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including a look at Donald Trump’s financial transactions, the panel’s Democratic chairman Adam Schiff said on Wednesday. A day after the Republican president warned Democrats against “ridiculous partisan investigations” in his annual State of the Union address, Schiff said they would not be intimidated.

“We’re going to do our proper oversight,” he told reporters after the intelligence panel’s first meeting, which was closed.

The committee voted to provide transcripts of testimony it took behind closed doors in its probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to the special counsel for use in any prosecutions, something Schiff promised to do last month after a second Trump associate was charged with lying to Congress.

Schiff has said that an area of particular interest related to investigations of Trump are allegations that Russians might possess financial leverage over him.

“Our job involves making sure that the policy of the United States is being driven by the national interest – not by any financial entanglement, financial leverage or other form of compromise,” he said told reporters on Wednesday.

Trump, asked about Schiff’s comments at a White House appearance, retorted: “Under what basis would he do that? He has no basis to do that. He’s just a political hack. … There would be no reason to do that.”

Schiff, who assumed the committee chairmanship after Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in November elections, outlined lines of inquiry it intends to pursue on Russian election activities, possible Trump campaign ties and matters relating to Trump’s business dealings.

“Congress has a duty to expose foreign interference, hold Russia to account, ensure that U.S. officials – including the President – are serving the national interest and, if not, are held accountable,” Schiff said in a statement.

Schiff said the panel would release transcripts of all interviews after Roger Stone, a longtime ally of Trump, was charged with lying to Congress.

Stone is accused of lying to Congress about the 2016 campaign’s efforts to use stolen emails to undercut Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. He has pleaded not guilty.

Schiff said Special Counsel Robert Mueller had access to the transcripts but a formal release was necessary for him to be able to use them in any prosecutorial proceedings.

Trump’s longtime self-described “fixer,” lawyer Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to charges including lying to Congress.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Patricia Zengerle; editing by James Dalgleish


Making America Great Again: Trump’s Impossible Challenges

by Christian Jürs

Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country.

The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public

This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.

The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2018.

  • Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
  • Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.

This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.

  • Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
  • Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
  • The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
  • The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
  • The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.

By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.

It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.

Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.

About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent.  Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)

Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.

Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.

Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.

Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.

Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000.  Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.

Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.

The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:

  • One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
  • More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
  • The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.

The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.

There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

This results in the fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own.

Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.

This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.

Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.

America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.

A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.

Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.

But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.

The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.

Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.


Trump’s State of the Union Address Reveals His Growing Anxiety Over Encroaching Left-Wing Populism

February 6, 2019

by Briahna Gray

The Intercept

Last night’s State of the Union address and rebuttals were a fight over what constitutes “real America.” They weren’t a rehash of the debate about whether American authenticity is clustered at the coasts or spread out over the heartland. Rather, it was a contest for which politician, party, or movement has the most accurate assessment of what it feels like to be American today.

This is Trump’s home turf, or it used to be. Since he launched his presidential bid in June 2015, he’s painted a picture of an America in disarray. “Our country is in terrible trouble,” he said back then. “We don’t have victories anymore.” He evoked Mexicans invading and Chinese people stealing jobs. “When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist, folks. They beat us all the time,” he said.

The media at the time hashed and rehashed Trump’s remarks, fact checking lies and condemning his racism, laughing all the way. Trump’s candidacy was a joke, they said — a clumsy Charybdis of falsehoods and xenophobia that would swallow itself before it caused too much trouble. But of course, those predictions were wrong.

What most missed then, but which should be obvious now, is that between his bigoted bromides, Trump was painting a picture of an America that felt more familiar to millions of viewers than anything they’d been served for years.

He acknowledged that although unemployment numbers were low and declining, the “real unemployment” numbers were higher — “anywhere from 18 to 20 percent.”

“Don’t believe the 5.6,” he warned during that first Trump Tower address. “Don’t believe it.”

“A lot of people up there can’t get jobs,” he said. Health care costs were going up. We spent relatively more on education, with fewer returns. Deductibles were “going through the roof.” Obamacare needed to be replaced with something “much better for everybody.” The infrastructure, airports, roads, “everything” was like “a third world country.” And the thing is, he wasn’t all wrong.

He struck his darkest note on his first day in office, during his inaugural address:

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system, flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

Trump was successful in large part because he is impressively adept at diagnosing America’s problems. “Make America Great Again” is not only a regressive slogan that recalls more prejudiced and unequal historical periods fondly; it’s also an acknowledgement that America, as it is, needs improvement. Or as Barack Obama put it, it could be “more perfect.” In 2016, the Democratic Party at times lost sight of the fact that making America great was a goal shared by both parties. Instead, it defaulted into “America is already great,” offering a platitude which couldn’t compete with the reality of unpaid bills and soaring health care costs.

Increasingly, however, Trump is in a political pickle — one that flows from a promise made during that inaugural address: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” Trump’s brand is diagnosing America’s ills, but as he ages into his incumbency, those ills increasingly manifest on his watch, and he’s forced to lean more heavily on new manufactured crises that can’t be attributed to his leadership.

As in his January Oval Office address, Trump’s State of the Union remarks were full of inaccurate fearmongering about the border. He criticized the high cost of health care and, in a somewhat unexpected turn, the scourge of childhood cancers and HIV.

But now it is Trump who must defend his record. It’s Trump who feels pressured to make the case that America is already great.

In the first portion of his remarks, he did exactly that. He celebrated combat veterans from WWII (when America presumably was great) and then lauded American astronauts who are “once again” going into space, drawing a rhetorical line between these achievements. He bragged about an “unprecedented economic boom” — a boom that started before his presidency and continues despite it — and held up low unemployment numbers as evidence of his leadership prowess.

The Trump who advised Americans to consider “real unemployment” numbers is long gone. In his place stands a man so eager to defend his record that he reported employment statistics, his best Trump card, four different ways so as to magnify the impression of his success: “5.3 million new jobs”; “600,000 new manufacturing jobs”; blue-collar jobs, growing faster than anyone else thought possible; more people working than at any time during American history. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.

Trump’s focus on jobs numbers is understandable given how little else he has to brag about: Cutting more regulations in two years than any other administration had done in four; a transparent greed-driven tax cut for millionaires and billionaires that’s growing more difficult to spin as tax season approaches and Americans start to see the consequences on their returns; America becoming the world’s No. 1 oil producer at a time when scientific consensus says that oil dependence is a death sentence. The accomplishments enumerated during last night’s address were underwhelming at best.

But what’s important to note here is that Trump is facing is the impotence of incumbency. Without being able to point to policies that have materially improved people’s lives, he’s forced to argue that his paltry efforts have made America great. And given the state of the nation, that’s no enviable position to be in.

In her reply, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was able to capitalize on Trump’s new posture. To justify his lack of accomplishment, Trump had to invent a twisted fantasy-scape of marauding Mexican murderers, while tiptoeing around his broken promises with vague references to health care costs that didn’t directly implicate his attacks on existing health care infrastructure.

But Abrams was free to fill the role Trump once played so well, accurately identifying America’s problems: Voter suppression; farmers hobbled by a tariff war; factories closing; children caged at the border. Even Fox News pundits had to acknowledge: “She seemed to get more to what people’s lives are like in the reality.” With a diverse crowd standing behind her and a message that gave voice to a broad range of concerns, Abrams won the fight over what America really looks like.

Abrams deftly ran through the panoply of policy issues ignored by Trump, and offered a warm, compassionate alternative to Trump’s drowsy teleprompter recital. Our strength as a country, she argued, is our ability to pull together to advance common goals. “We may come from different sides of the political aisle, but our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable.” Unfortunately, Abrams argued, Republicans have bargained away their commitment to the ideals shared by most Americans. “Under the current administration, far too many hard-working Americans are fall behind, living paycheck to paycheck, most without labor unions to protect them from even worse harm. The Republican tax bill rigged the system against working people. Rather than bringing back jobs, plants are closing, layoffs are looming, and wages struggle to keep pace with the actual cost of living.”

Her message was concise and effective: “With a renewed commitment to social and economic justice, we will create a stronger America together. Because America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies, foreign and domestic. That is who we are, and when we do so, never wavering, the state of our union will always be strong.”

And while centrist hacks (and complicit mainstream media outlets) attempted to construe Sen. Bernie Sanders’s State of the Union response as a racially motivated upstaging, his State of the Union response, which he has given for the past two years, was, in fact, a complement to Abrams’s successful rebuttal.

Whereas Abrams had only 10 minutes to respond, a limitation intrinsic to the party’s official address, Sanders had the space to articulate, in detail, exactly where Trump went wrong. If winning the game is about accurately diagnosing the country’s problems, then Bernie came to play.

“I want to talk to you about the major crisis facing our country that, regrettably, President Trump chose not to discuss,” began Sanders. America is great again, he offered, appropriating Trump’s thesis before flipping it on its head: At least it is “for the members of his Mar-a-Lago country club.”

“For many of President Trump’s billionaire friends, the truth is they have never ever had it so good,” argued Sanders. “As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.’” Today, as then, the economy is great for the rich. Twenty-five hedge fund managers on Wall Street made nearly twice as much as all 140,000 kindergarten teachers in America, explained Sanders. Meanwhile, the “real wages for the average American worker are lower today then they were in 1972 … 46 years ago.” If Trump once wanted Americans to focus on “real wages,” Sanders was happy to oblige.

Sanders adroitly undermined Trump’s claim that his leadership resulted in low unemployment numbers, pointing out that job creation tapered off during Trump’s first year. He explained that the average worker received a raise of merely $1.60 a week, while “the three richest people in America saw their wealth increase by more than $68 billion.” He argued that Trump was right to want to address infrastructure, but wrong to try to privatize our highways — selling them off to the highest bidder for individual gain at the cost of citizens.

Sanders painted a clear picture of the winners and losers of the Trump era. Under this administration, Walmart, Pfizer, and other big corporations have paid out big bonuses to their CEOs while laying off employees — many of whom were already struggling to get by with the support of the social safety net. And the Vermont senator called Trump out for vowing to protect that social safety net as he supported cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Sanders pointedly highlighted Trump’s hypocrisy about violence committed by undocumented immigrants, explaining that they commit less crime than natural-born Americans. He called out Trump for talking about the murder of Americans by an undocumented man in Nevada while staying silent about the deadliest incident of gun violence to ever happen in America, which also took place in Nevada in 2017. Sanders castigated Trump for failing to mention climate change, and for undermining the security of “Dreamers.”

But in the most powerful part of his address, Sanders didn’t merely react to Trump. In an ad lib not captured in the official transcripts, Sanders asked the only question that really matters: “Why don’t you do what the American people want you to do rather than what wealthy campaign contributors want?”

What do the American people want? Sanders ran down the stats:

  • According to a Fox News poll, 70 percent of Americans support a tax increase on families making over $10 million.
  • According to Reuters, 70 percent of Americans and 52 percent of Republicans support “Medicare for All.”
  • Seventy-two percent of Americans, including 51 percent of Republicans, want to expand Social Security benefits.
  • According to Gallup, 76 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, want the country to spend on infrastructure.
  • Ninety-two percent of Americans want Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
  • Sixty-four percent of Americans, including 51 percent of Republicans, believe marijuana should be legal.
  • Over 94 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun purchases.

… And on and on and on.

A $15 minimum wage; free public college; government assistance for child care — what Americans want are progressive policies. So, Sanders asked, “why isn’t Congress and the White House doing what the American people want them to do?”

The answer is not complicated, he explained in a familiar but still salient refrain. “The answer has everything to do with the power of the monied interests.” Greed is destroying the nation, says Sanders, not Mexicans. The 1 percent is the source of American hardship, not the border.

In a separate response for the Working Families Party, Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s new lieutenant governor and a rising progressive star, hit some of the same notes as Sanders, singling out the wealthy few as a barrier to social justice advocacy. “We need a movement that sees our fights for economic justice, and racial justice, and climate justice, and for a real and reflective democracy as all bound up together,” he said. “Our movement seeks not only to change what is possible, but what is expected. We must commit ourselves to an America that works for the many, not the few.”

There was perhaps no greater testament to the power of Sanders’s reframing than the fact that Trump’s remarks seemed to anticipate not the official Democratic Party’s response, but rather the rhetoric most famously advanced by Sanders and fellow democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“Here, in the United States,” said Trump, “we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence — and not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”

But Sanders, who was spotted scribbling notes during Trump’s address, was prepared to respond to this line of attack: “Trump said, ‘We are born free, and we will stay free.’ Well, I say to President Trump: People are not truly free when they can’t afford to go to the doctor when they are sick. People are not truly free when they cannot afford to buy the prescription drugs they desperately need. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are exhausted because they are working longer and longer hours for low wages. People are not truly free when they cannot afford a decent place in which to live. People certainly are not free when they cannot afford to feed their families.”

By the end of Sanders’s remarks, it was clear why Trump felt the need to call out socialism. Genuine, progressive populism — messaging that put society’s and people’s interests first — is a threat to Trump’s oligarchy-dressed-in-populist-clothing. Ocasio-Cortez agrees.

“I think that he needs to do it because he feels like — he feels himself losing on the issues,” Ocasio-Cortez told Rachel Maddow following Trump’s remarks. “Every single policy proposal that we have adopted and presented to the American public has been overwhelmingly popular, even some with a majority of Republican voters supporting what we’re talking about.”

“I think he sees himself losing on the issues, he sees himself losing on the wall in the southern border, and he needs to grasp at an ad hominem attack, and this is his way of doing it. What we need to realize is happening is this is an issue of authoritarian regime versus democracy. In order for him to try to dissuade or throw people off the scent of the trail, he has to really make and confuse the public. And I think that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.”

Ocasio-Cortez is right; fear tactics and money only go so far. To paraphrase both Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders: They’ve got money, but we’ve got people.


How the United States Got Russia Wrong

The West today is paying for its collusion with Russia in the 1990s.

February 1, 2019

by Alexander Lukin

The National Interest

Russian-U.S. relations are now at their lowest point since the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to the ruling elite in Washington, the authoritarian and corrupt regime in Moscow pursues expansionist policies, supports anti-U.S. forces around the world, and works to undermine the so-called “liberal world order” that the United States has been trying to build for the last several decades. For their part, rulers in Moscow view Washington’s position as Russophobic and feel that the United States has cast Russia in the role of a McCarthyesque bogeyman, a scapegoat of sorts that is to blame for all of its problems. Moscow considers U.S. foreign policy to be senseless, if not plain stupid, and as undermining global stability as well as Russia’s own political system. Leaders in both Moscow and Washington believe that, under these circumstances, there is no reason to talk with the other country about seriously improving relations—and no one to discuss the subject with anyway.

This state of affairs leaves little hope for improved relations or for Russia to return to a pro-Western stance. But there is another question: Who is to blame for the fact that Russia gradually shifted its pro-U.S. position of the early 1990s to an anti-U.S. policy later? If Boris Yeltsin considered the United States a natural friend and ally in the early years, why did his successor, Vladimir Putin, come to view it as a dangerous opponent?

The key here is the period when bilateral relations were first developing. In a recent article  in Politico Magazine , Strobe Talbott, who developed Washington’s Russia policy of the time while serving as Deputy Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, compares the Russia policies of the Clinton and Trump administrations. Talbott argues that Clinton actively assisted Yeltsin, who was moving Russia in what the U.S. president considered a proper “democratic” and pro-U.S. direction, while Trump is allegedly helping Russia pursue an anti-democratic and anti-U.S. policy. For this reason, Trump’s policy runs counter to U.S. interests and constitutes collusion with the enemy.

What is interesting here is the admission that Washington helped Yeltsin, a fact that is undeniable now that the transcripts of talks between Clinton and Yeltsin have been published. Obviously, that assistance amounted to direct interference in Russia’s domestic policy. Yeltsin asked Clinton to persuade the International Monetary Fund to grant Russia $10 billion in loans prior to the presidential elections in 1996 so that Yeltsin could improve his ratings by paying overdue salaries and pensions. Clinton complied, knowing full well that by supporting Yeltsin against his main opponent—the Communist Party candidate—he was interfering in Russia’s internal political struggle. Clinton, however, warned the Russian president: “We are clear about what it is we support,” referring to the course he expected Yeltsin to pursue after his election win.

However, Talbott and his like-minded associates do not consider this collusion because it benefited the United States. Those who hold such views, however, should recall that this was not all Clinton did. He also approved NATO’s eastward expansion over Yeltsin’s objections. Of course, Yeltsin was unable to insist on this point while at the same time requesting money from the West. It is worth noting, however, that Yeltsin’s position on NATO differed little from Putin’s position today. The difference is that Putin managed to restore Russia’s financial independence, making it less dependent on the United States and better able to respond decisively. Clinton felt he could safely ignore Russia’s security concerns. This was the case when he ordered the bombing of Yugoslavia over Yeltsin’s strong objections, even prompting the Russian leader to warn: “Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO .”

According to Talbott, the United States was willing to cooperate  only on “what we deem to be [Russia’s] legitimate security concerns” and not on everything Moscow claimed was important. In other words, the Clinton administration felt that Washington, not Moscow, should decide what constituted Russia’s legitimate interests. Is it any wonder, then, that Moscow was dissatisfied with this approach?

From the time of Gorbachev’s rule, Moscow’s leadership had wanted to become a part of the West. But it wanted to do so on equal footing with the West, and with the freedom to determine its own policy and to have a say in how the whole “civilized world” would develop.

Clinton chose Yeltsin to pursue Russia’s interests—as determined by Washington—disregarding not only Yeltsin’s foreign policy objections, but also his corrupt and ineffective government, as well as his extremely unpopular economic policy. It is worth recalling here that the privatization program—that led to an enormous economic downturn in the GDP, a significant decline in the overall standard of living and to what leading U.S. expert on the Russian economy James Millar in 1996 called “a de facto fraud”—was carried out with the help of money from the U.S. government and international financial organizations under Washington’s control. The Russian Privatization Center headed by close Yeltsin associate Anatoly Chubais’ team, was funded by USAID, IBRD as well as the European Union and its individual members. Part of the funds reportedly funneled into Yeltsin’s election campaign. The entire story is described in the academic literature, and particularly in the book by Janine Wedel characteristically titled Collision and Collusion: A Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe.

Of course, Western money did not go directly into Yeltsin’s campaign. The scheme was not so primitive and retained an outward semblance of legality: the West provided money for privatization and those overseeing the process organized auctions at which major Russian business leaders acquired state-owned enterprises that often sold for a song. According to this scheme, the major business people supported Chubais as their front man, channeled their money through him and made him so indispensable to Yeltsin that the newly elected president appointed Chubais deputy prime minister and granted him unusually broad powers. Although they ostensibly did nothing illegal, Western donors essentially found a way to funnel material support to Chubais and his backers and to promote Yeltsin’s candidacy, thereby circumventing the Russian Constitution and election law. This was a very real collusion with the Russian regime, as compared to the alleged collusion of Trump’s campaign.

Clinton also supported the obviously fixed results of the 1996 presidential election and turned a blind eye when Chubais and his team used hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash that he and his staff obtained from questionable sources to run Yeltsin’s campaign.

Thus, although in word the Clinton administration supported democracy in Russia, the creation of a market economy, and its transition from an imperialist to a liberal foreign policy, in practice Washington helped create an ineffective, corrupt, anti-democratic regime whose primary purpose was seen as furthering U.S. interests. This only made the Russian people even unhappier with the Moscow regime and with the West. Riding the wave of that discontent, an even more authoritarian leadership came to power, but one that promised to satisfy the new demands of the Russian public. It has done this remarkably well, as seen by President Putin’s long-standing high ratings.

Yeltsin probably chose Putin as his successor because he saw him as a strong organizer and politician who could better promote and defend Russia’s national interests than he had been able to do. The proof is Yeltsin’s meeting with Clinton in 1999 at which he presented Putin as the person who was certain to win the election and become the next president. Clinton was entirely unfazed by Yeltsin’s confidence that Putin, a complete unknown, would win election—an assertion that clearly implied all Russian state structures were complicit in the plan. On the contrary, Clinton essentially approved of Putin’s candidacy, calling him a “very smart” person.

Although Putin turned out to be less of a democratic leader than Yeltsin had presented him as to Clinton, it was not Putin’s ascension to power that caused the subsequent changes in domestic and foreign policy or that prompted Russia to curtail numerous freedoms and to pursue its interests abroad more aggressively. Just the opposite: Putin’s rise to power was the result of Yeltsin’s bankrupt policies and the widespread dissatisfaction with the direction in which he was leading the country—a course that the Clinton administration’s policies had greatly facilitated. Many Russians who advocated democratic reforms in the early 1990s and for whom both the Yeltsin kleptocracy and the Communist dictatorship were anathema now have reason to blame Talbott and his like-minded associates for contributing to authoritarianism in Russia. Those policies served to discredit Russia’s pro-Western forces completely because everything was lumped together in the public’s perception—kleptocracy, corruption, Western aid, pro-Western policies, and Russia’s abasement. And it was the policies developed by Talbott and his associates that gave rise to this perception.

Actually, Putin was not initially opposed to the West. Not only did he make several significant concessions to the United States shortly after coming to power, but he was also the first world leader to call President George W. Bush after the terrorist attack in New York. He clearly hoped to establish equal relations with Washington. This contrasted with Yeltsin who, by the end of his term, had grown very unhappy with the United States. It was he, and not Putin, who during a visit to China in December 1999 said: “ Clinton apparently forgot for a few seconds what Russia is. Russia has a full arsenal of nuclear weapons, but Clinton decided to flex his muscles. I want to tell Clinton: he should not forget what sort of world he is living in. There was no way and there is no way that he can dictate to people how they should live, pass their free time . . . . We will dictate, and not he .”

The pivot to Asia and the search for a Chinese alternative to Western hostility began before Putin came to power. In fact, Putin went through the same stages as Yeltsin had: from hopes of establishing equal cooperation with the United States to the understanding that it was impossible and transitioning to a more independent course. Gorbachev went through a similar process, but only after he was no longer in power. Today, Gorbachev is extremely skeptical about the United States. The similar evolution in the views of three initially pro-Western Moscow leaders shows that it is nearly impossible to establish equal cooperation with the United States because Washington does not, in fact, accept this concept.

Why were U.S. liberals so persistent in implementing a policy that was both senseless and even harmful to U.S. interests, and why do they continue to defend it so zealously now? The reason is that their thinking is extremely ideologized. This ideology, which we might call “democratism,” bears a strong structural resemblance to communism. Like the “true communism” that never actually emerged, Western ideology anticipates a “liberal world order” that has never actually existed, but that the United States and its allies—as the global avant-garde—hope to create. The best way to integrate “backward” nations into the world of “freedom and democracy” is to submit them to political influence through economic and political alliances. For this to happen, they need leaders who understand that this will benefit their countries (that is, Western-leaning ones) and who will therefore work towards this end. Even if these forces fall short of “democratic” standards, it will not be a big issue. Once they submit economically and politically, they will be pushed up to the required level with Western prodding.

This scheme, however, does not work well with all countries. Although the West managed to bring the culturally similar countries of Eastern Europe into its sphere of influence, it ran into serious problems when trying to impose its political system on such major and culturally distinct countries as Russia, Iran, China, and the entire Arab world. Applying the policy of “democratism” in those regions led to either chaos or a strengthening of anti-Western ruling regimes that could protect their countries from such chaos.

Such ideology-driven Russia specialists as Strobe Talbott and Michael McFaul never really understood this country or wished it well. Rather, they believed that the best thing for Russia would be to fit it somehow into their utopian schemes. But the real Russia turned out to be very different from the Russia of their imaginations. In fact, the same can be said about the real America which also rejected their progressive ideological dream. When it became apparent that most Russians and Americans did not accept their plan, they became disappointed and made Putin and Trump into scapegoats. So now they demand to destroy the real Russia using all American might and accuse Trump of refusing to do it. But, as the Russia proverb says: “Don’t blame the mirror for your own ugly face.”

From this perspective, Trump’s policies are far more understandable because they are less ideologized and hypocritical. Trump candidly states that his goal is to preserve the U.S. hegemony and economic advantage. He wanted to improve relations with Moscow not because of some mythical collusion, but because he viewed Russia as less of a threat than China and Iran. This position is at least rational. Talbott and his like-minded associates in Washington’s political class, however, prevented Trump for pursuing this plan. I think both Russians and Americans will not be grateful to them for this, just as they will not be grateful to them for the U.S. foreign policy of the 1990s.

Alexander Lukin is head of the Department of International Relations at National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

The United States, eager to satisfy its growing energy hunger and ease its dependence on Middle East oil, has been eyeing the region with growing interest since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is witnessing America’s creeping influence with unease and is struggling to maintain the upper hand in its traditional backyard. China has been pulled in by energy prospects as well, but also by its desire to quash support for Uighur separatists in its western province of Xinjiang.

The oil has to be moved from its source to its market, a problem of pipeline politics that has yet to be solved and which affects not only producing countries, but also their neighbours. The Americans are pushing for a westward route from Azerbaijan via Georgia and Turkey, bypassing Russia; Moscow wants to keep control over pipelines delivering Caucasian oil; China has been negotiating an eastward route with Kazakhstan; Iran, whose oil is in the south of the country but whose energy needs are in the north, is dreaming of oil swaps with Central Asian countries, a nightmare for any American administration. And Pakistan argues for a pipeline to go, improbably, through Afghanistan.


Russia’s “Kurdish Card” In Turkish-Russian Rivalry

by  Ersel Aydinli

When Boris Yeltsin proclaimed the “five principles of Russia’s Caucasus policy” at the Kislovodsk meeting with the Transcaucasian heads of state and leaders of the republics of the North Caucasus on June 3, 1996, he pointed out that cooperation and stability in the Caucasus were a must for Russia’s normal development. According to his view, cooperation in the region “under a strong joint control” could only be done by way of strengthening “federalism,” and therefore Russia “intended to continue to carry out its peacekeeping functions” to maintain this process.(1)

In fact, while Yeltsin was proposing this cooperation concept based on Russian hegemonic leadership, he was representing the majority view in Russia which believes that the best way to unite and inspire Russians today is the unification of Russia’s peoples for the purpose of its revival as a “great power”.(2)  It is not an unwarranted conclusion to link this phenomenon to the imperial explanations of some politicians and elements of the old communist apparatus.  Russia appears determined to take initiatives to maintain its ‘big brother’ role in the region and also to take every precaution to meet any challenges from other regional powers to prevent its hegemonic policies.

During the early years of the post-Communist period, while Iran’s “pariah” position generally excluded it from filling the vacuum in Caucasian and Central Asian politics left by Russia’s “temporary departure”, the US and its western allies quickly appealed to their NATO ally Turkey to represent the secular and democratic role model for the newly emerging states.  With its cultural and ethnic ties to the region’s peoples, Turkey was prepared psychopolitically for the role, and rushed to fill it.

President Turgut Ozal, who was personally interested in Turkic and Islamic ties, traveled to the area many times and signed numerous agreements. Having strengthened his personal friendship with President Bush by supporting America in the Gulf War, he helped to build up the image of an emerging “Turkic world” stretching from the Adriatic to the Great Wall”.  Until 1993 Turkey took an escalating role in the Caucasus and Central Asia as the “westernchoice”.

As Russian authorities began recovering from the destabilizing affects of the rapid change, and realized there was little to be gained in Eastern Europe, they turned their attentions to the south as Peter the Great had done centuries before.  At that time, the Russian Empire’s challenge to the south brought a long front stretching from the Balkans to the Caucasus, a “competition line” along which it met with the Ottoman Empire.  During that period before the time of nation states and through thirteen major wars, this competition line determined the character of conflict in Turkish-Russian relations.  It also created a culture of skepticism regenerated by domestic conservative elements which even today poisons the chances for constructive cooperation.  With Moscow’s renewed perception of Turkey as a major threat to Russian interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Kremlin began conducting a unilateral and exclusionary policy at practically every point in its relations with Turkey, indicating a defection from their promises of cooperation.(3) Given the history of competition, such a defection was not unexpected.

After mid-1993 Russia’s unilateralism in its relations with Turkey would be very evident.  Russian authorities charged that the Minsk Group which includes Turkey and the US aims simply to sabotage Russian interests.  Aleksei Arbatov, Russia’s director of the Center for Geopolitical and Military Forecasts, has described Turkey as a military adversary of the near future.(5)  Long before these academic analyses, radical Russian politicians mentioned “wiping out Turkey in the process of re-creating the Russian Empire”.(6) It was even said that the 1992 Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Turkey was the result of rumors leaked that Turkey was planning to intervene in Azerbaijan.8  Russia’s unilateralism was a natural output of its Caucasian policy which saw “any attempts to encircle its southern borders” as a direct threat to its security, and led a unilateral, Russian-dominated joint action, and hegemonic stability in the region.(8)

The separatist movement in Chechnya, attempts to exclude Russians from Azerbaijani Caspian oil reserves, and the involvement of “third” parties, mainly Turkey, Iran, and multinational corporations backed by western powers, presented a threat to Russia’s integrative policies towards the Caucasus.  Since regional interests were categorized as being of vital interest to national security, the response would include every means available. Turkish attempts to broaden its presence in the Transcaucasus and Central Asia10, and Russian apprehension that Turkey might now fill the role of “big brother”(10) meant that Turkey fell into this threat category.

While Russia was desperately trying to crush the separatist movement in Chechnya to secure its interests in the Caucasus, the impression that Turkey was somehow supporting Chechen guerrillas provided a perfect counterattack platform to pacify Turkey not only in the Chechen issue but in overall Turkish foreign policy towards Caucasian oil issues and Central Asia.  This platform was the “Kurdish card”.

Long before the current post-Soviet rivalry began, there was concern about Russian/Soviet involvement in the Kurdish issue.  An article from a July 1946 issue of Foreign Affairs stated that the Kurdish independence movement was considered the most dangerous of all Middle East troubles because of the support it got from Soviet Russia, and that the Kurds’ “grievances, ammunition, and fighting nature could make them players in a Soviet game”.(11)

The PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) became active in the early 1970s as a Marxist-Leninist organization, and was a natural target for Soviet agitation which Turkey, as a NATO country, attracted. After the 1980 military coup in Turkey, the PKK survived as the only anti-establishment terrorist organization in the country, this time as a rural insurgency movement beginning to concentrate on Kurdish nationalism along with its Marxist ideology.  Since then Turkey has spent approximately $6-7 billion annually in this struggle which has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 Kurdish and Turkish civilians.

Most of the terrorist activity has occurred in southeastern Turkey, through which the projected Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will run.  A Kurdish threat against a proposed pipeline was discussed in August 1995 when Ahmad Dere, the Kurdistan National Liberation Front spokesman in the CIS, spoke of the Kurdish leadership’s intention to obstruct construction of a pipeline for shipping Caspian oil across Turkey.(12)  Thus Russia discovered the “Kurdish Card”, which could be used against Turkey’s rising influence in CIS countries.

The first sign of playing the Kurdish card came with a conference entitled “The History of Kurdistan” held in Moscow in February 1994, and organized by the Kurdistan Committee and the Kurdistan Liberation Front, both of which were affiliated with the PKK.(13)  After the Turkish press discovered that the Russian Ministry of Nationalities and Regional Policy was the co-organizer of the conference(14), the Turkish Foreign Ministry sent a protest to the Russian Ambassador, and received a response denying all allegations.  It went on to say that they would not allow similar conferences to be held in the future, but warned that Turkey should be very careful not to play similar trump cards, such as a Turkic-Muslim Chechen republic.(15)  A report published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta some time before the incident, suggested that Moscow might consider using the PKK to exert pressure on the Turkish leadership as a counterweight to Ankara’s alleged support for Chechen leader Dudayev.(16)  It was also reported by the Turkish press that the Russian Foreign Ministry had started to work on formulating a clear policy on the Kurdish problem in early 1994.(17)

While Kurdish groups from Turkey were exploiting the growing rift between Turkey and Russia, a convention of Kurdish organizations from the CIS ended on October 31, 1994 in Moscow with a decision to establish a “Kurdish Union,” with the PKK as its nucleus.  The PKK had chaired the three-day convention. It was noteworthy that Moscow refrained from any action against the gathering despite the fact that the organizers themselves acknowledged the PKK link.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Ozdem Sandberk, flew to Moscow to discuss the matter, but again the Russians denied the PKK link.  During the same period that the representative of Kurdistan’s National Liberation Front in the CIS was urging the Russian president to act as a “mediator and peacemaker between the Kurdish movement and Turkey, he was calling the Caspian pipeline project a “manifestation of pan-Turkic plans”.

At the end of 1994, Turkey was still treating the Chechnya  issue as an internal matter of the Russian Federation, but as the Russians began to intensify the attack in Chechnya and to perform indiscriminate air raids resulting in high civilian casualties, Turkey faced the dilemma of whether or not to speak out.  Moscow chose this time to host PKK officials in an effort to draw attention to Turkey’s sympathy for the Chechens and win more support from influential sources in Russia for the separatist Kurdish movement by opening a Moscow bureau.  The Russian official response to the Turkish Ambassador in Moscow was that the PKK bureau in Moscow was opened for “Kurdish cultural activities only”.

By early 1995, the PKK-Chechnya circle was becoming more apparent.  The Russian Ambassador to Ankara presented Turkish officials with evidence of a flow of weapons to Chechnya via Turkish territory.  As the Russians complained about the matter, two former Kurdish members of the Turkish parliament who had fled the country to found the Kurdish parliament in exile, came to Moscow to pursue their goals.  The Russian Foreign Ministry again denied any affiliation of Russian officials with these attempts, while simultaneously allowing the “Kurdish House”, a Kurdish center under PKK control, to open in Moscow.

Public opinion in Russia was becoming more sensitive about the alleged Chechnya-Kurdish connection, and began blaming the West for being softer on Turkish activities in Kurdistan than on Russian ones in Chechnya due to overlapping Turkish and Western interests on the ‘project of the century’ on Caspian oil”.(17)  As Turkey began to recognize the seriousness of the situation and of PKK dominance in “cultural activities” in Moscow, officials were sent to Russia, and a “Protocol to Prevent Terrorism” was signed.  Moscow would forbid the PKK in Russia.(20)

This first agreement marked the initiation of a cycle of PKK or Kurdish-related activities in Russia followed by Turkish protests, and Russian denials of any official responsibility but tacit approval of their continuation.  Turkey’s extreme sensitivity on the issue meant that subsequent negotiations would eventually end with oral or written agreements for Turkey’s not getting involved in the Caucasus in general, and Chechnya in particular. Russia had found Turkey’s most vulnerable side.

At the end of January 1995, Russian officials visiting Turkey repeated that Russia would not allow the Kurdish House and the PKK in Russia, in turn Turkey appeared to agree to taking a low profile regarding Russian efforts to reassert its presence in the Caucasus.(21)

Within this atmosphere, Russia started to storm Chechnya, and Turkey made only empty and weak protests.  Russia even conducted joint military maneuvers with Armenia near the Turkish border, demonstrating the seriousness of its intentions in the Transcaucasus.(22)  On the other side, Turkey was trying to fold up its six-week-old cross-border operation against PKK separatists in Northern Iraq, with little protest from Russia.(23)

Turkey and Russia reiterated on July 21, 1995 that they would not tolerate separatist movements threatening the other’s territorial integrity.(24)  While Turkish officials were assuring that the Chechen organizations in Turkey would not be allowed to engage in activities(25), Albert Chernyshev, former Russian Ambassador to Turkey and later Deputy Foreign Minister, having said previously that Russia considered the Kurdish problem to be Ankara’s “internal affair”(26), was saying, “we must understand each other.  People who live in glass houses should not throw stones”.  Chernyshev might well have been describing the hub of Turkish-Russian relations with a realistic approach.  This speech also marked the fact that Russia’s Kurdish card was operating still, and would be one of the strongest leverages of Russian foreign policy strategists to pacify Turkey and to thwart Turkish desires to become a regional power in the Caucasus.

Towards the end of 1995, Russia would play the card further. Members of the Russian Duma agreed to host the third international conference of the Kurdistan Parliament in exile.  The Russian executive branch blamed the Duma, but Turkey remained unconvinced, and the act was publicly considered as one of “Russian treachery”.(27)  Russia was also ignoring the Conventional Forces Reduction Agreement in which it had agreed to reduce its forces on NATO’s northern and southern flanks.  Turkey’s already intimidated position could not meet this challenge of Russian unilateralism.

In 1996 Russia applied to the Kurdish card repeatedly, placing Turkey in a defensive position which was often at the expense of the dynamism of its policies towards the Caucasus and Central Asia.  The year witnessed heavy diplomatic traffic to repair the wounded relations between the two countries.

The January 1996 seizure of the Avrasya sea ferry by the pro-Chechen terrorists escalated already tense communications between the parties.  Yeltsin showed his dissatisfaction with the handling of the crisis, claiming that Turkey had delayed liberating the hostages in order to keep international attention on the Chechnya issue(28).  In March, the Undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry conducted official talks in Moscow calling for a “new era in ties”, and stated that the Russians had prevented the setting up on Russian soil of a radio station operated by the PKK.(29)  The Russians, having secured the early Azerbaijani oil flow through the northern route as opposed to the Turkish route, were saying that they were satisfied with Turkey’s position on the Chechen crisis.(30)  Despite the rhetoric, Russia appeared determined to use the PKK card.  At a meeting with the PKK and Aleksandr Nevzorov, a department head of the ministerial-level Internal Intelligence Service, Russian government officials openly declared that the PKK was not a terrorist organization, and that Russia should use the Kurdish issue to pressure Turkey.(31)  In July, the Turkish Parliament Speaker was told by the Russian Prime Minister that he did not have specific information about PKK activities, but he would have the matter investigated.(32)

Shortly thereafter, Russian and Turkish journalists discovered a Kurdish camp, administered and sponsored by the PKK.  This camp had been used in part as a clinic to treat wounded PKK members and was located within a three hour drive of the Kremlin.  The correspondent of the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda ironically mentioned the similarity between this incident and the “Chechen guerrillas lick[ing] their wounds with the help of the Crimean Turks.”

Despite Turkey’s continued passive position on Chechnya and the Caucasus, Russia had become less conciliatory, deeming it unnecessary even to verbally support Turkey against the PKK. Turkish plans to set up a security zone in northern Iraq to prevent PKK attacks received stern warnings from Moscow.

In October 1996 Turkish President Demirel met with Russian Premier Chernomyrdin following meetings of the Black Sea Cooperation Organization. Chechnya and the PKK were the major topics of discussion at this high level meeting.  Once again Chernomyrdin promised the administration would stop any “political” PKK activities in Russia.  So far, an intimidated Turkish foreign policy caused by the cycle has helped Russia to gain time for dealing with the Chechnya problem, and to obtain one of the two early oil routes for Caspian oil.  When Viktor Ustinov, Chairman of the Committee for Geopolitics of the State Duma of Russia called on the Kurds and Russians for “joint work” to create an independent Kurdish state, it was clear that the separatist PKK organization was playing a sizable role in frustrating practical realization of the pipeline project’s “Mediterranean option”.

In December, Deputy Prime Minister Ciller paid a visit to Moscow to discuss PKK/Chechen affairs with the hope of normalizing relations.  Again the Russians made mention of arms shipments from Turkey to Chechnya, a charge which Turkey denied.  In turn Turkey brought up the PKK issue and was met with firm denials.  The visit seems destined to become another in the cycle of failed diplomatic rhetoric.

The skeptical and chaotic character of five centuries of Turkish-Russian relations continues to prevail and to promote defection from any cooperation in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In the current era, the syndrome of fear of being divided inherited from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, forces Turkey to try and stop the Russians from playing the Kurdish card at any cost. To do so they must stay away from Russia’s hegemonic policies in the Turkic world of the Caucasus and Central Asia.  There is no doubt that Russia has played the Kurdish card effectively, and the challenge of the PKK has severely restricted Turkey’s ability to play a strong role not only in the Caucasus and Central Asia but also in the Balkans, in particular the Bosnian conflict.  The Kurdish card has given Russia unprecedented leverage in its relations with Turkey. Unless Turkey is able to find a solution to its PKK problem, it seems likely that Russia will continue to use the Kurdish card to secure its strategic interests.


  1. “Kislovodsk: Yeltsin Speech, Reactions Cited”, FBIS-SOV-96-108, 4 June 1996.
  2. “The question of which idea could unite and inspire Russians today is included in the program of sociological studies conducted by the Russian Independent Institution of Social and Ethnic Problems, and based on Russia-wide and regional surveys”. FBIS-SOV-96-126-S, 28 June, 1996, 48-9
  3. During the then Prime Minister Demirel’s visit to Moscow, Boris Yeltsin said, “Russia and Turkey will regard each other as friendly states and will go for a full-blooded dialogue and cooperation in all areas”, ITAR-TASS, 25 May, 1992.
  4. Vadim Yegorov, “Opinion: The Russian Army has a likely Adversary”, Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press”, January 10, 1996, v. 47, n. 50, 12.
  5. Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky in The Wall Street Journal, 15 February, 1994.
  6. Anatoly Golitsyn, The Perestroika Deception, London, Edward Harle, 1995, 150, note 53.
  7. “Significance of Caucasus Region for Russia Viewed”, Rossiyskiye Vesti, May 31, 1996 in FBIS-Central Eurasia-Daily Report, June 28, 1996, 58-9.
  8. “Turkey Broadens Presence in Transcaucasus”, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Dec. 27, 1995 in FBIS-Central Eurasia-Daily Report, Jan.22, 1996, 45.
  9. “Turkish Influence in CIS Countries on Rise”, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Dec. 27, 1995 in FBIS-Central Eurasia-Daily Report, March 1, 1996, 8-9.
  10. Cited in William Linn Westermann, “Kurdish Independence and Russian Expansion”, Foreign Affairs, v.70, Summer 1991, 50.
  11. “Policy on Turkish Kurds Seen as Inconsistent”, FBIS-SOV, August 12, 1995.
  12. Reuters, 23 February, 1994.
  13. Turkish Daily News, March 17, 1994.
  14. Ozgur Ulke, Istanbul, 18 July, 1994, 4.
  15. Elizabeth Fuller, “Turkish-Russian Relations, 1992-1994,” RFE/RL Research Report, vol.3, no.18, 6 May, 1994, 9.

17.Ozgur Ulke, 4

  1. Robert Olson, “The Kurdish Question and Chechnya:  Turkish and Russian Foreign Policies Since the Gulf War”, Middle East Policy, vol. IV, No.3, March   1996, 111.
  2. “West Softer on Turks in Kurdistan than Russians in Chechnya”, FBIS-SOV, 29 March, 1995.
  3. Hurriyet, 25 January, 1995.
  4. Olson, 112.
  5. “Russian-Armenian War Games Scored”, FBIS-SOV, 8 April, 1995.
  6. “Kurdish Problem Seen as International”, Turkish Daily News, 1 May, 1995, A3.
  7. Turkish Daily News, 22 July, 1995, A3.
  8. Hurriyet, 23 July, 1995, 19.
  9. Irina Grudinina, “Ex Officio: Moscow Won’t Let Kurdish Organizations Build Nests in Russia”, Current Digest of the Post Soviet Press, 30 August, 1995, v.47, n.31, 23.
  10. Hurriyet, 3 November, 1995.

28.”Yeltsin Not Satisfied with the Handling of Avrasya”,  FBIS-SOV, 22   January, 1996.

  1. Turkish Daily News, 27 March, 1996.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Russia: Turkey Questions ‘Official Support’ for PKK,” FBIS-SOV, 22   May, 1996 and Cumhurriyet, 21 May, 1996.
  4. “Russia: Turkish Assembly Speaker on Talks with  Chernomyrdyn”,   FBIS-SOV, 18 July, 1996.

Ersel Aydinli is a faculty member in the International Relations Department,   Kirikkale University, Turkey.


Electric cars will kill oil demand within decade, Bank of America predicts

Bank of America Merill Lynch sees a peak in global demand for crude oil around 2030, followed by a period of rapid decline as a result of the electrification of transportation.

February 6, 2019


For the next decade or so, oil demand should continue to grow, although at a slower and slower rate. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the annual increase in global oil consumption slows dramatically in the years ahead. By 2024, demand growth halves, falling to just 0.6 million barrels per day (mb/d), down from 1.2 mb/d this year.

But by 2030, demand growth zeros out as consumption hits a permanent peak, before falling at a relatively rapid rate thereafter.

The main driver of the destruction in demand is the proliferation of electric vehicles.

Bank of America did offer a few caveats and uncertainties. The growth of EVs hinges on a handful of key metals. Lithium, for instance, is mined and produced in large concentrations in a few Latin American countries.

But cobalt looms as a larger concern for some automakers. Roughly 62 percent global cobalt output is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An executive from Ford said recently that automakers might feel compelled to invest directly in cobalt production over fears of securing adequate supply. “I fully anticipate we’re going to keep a lot of pressure on that cobalt production,” Ted Miller, head of energy storage strategy and research at Ford, said at a mining event in South Africa. “Today it looks feasible but it’s a scenario we’re going to have to watch.”

The DRC just held a divisive election, and although the transfer of power has been mostly peaceful, the country has historically suffered from political instability. “Any major disruption to cobalt today would likely curb EV proliferation in the early 2020s, in turn supporting long dated crude oil prices,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch warned.

There are alternatives to cobalt, but that would merely put pressure on other materials. “Car producers may gradually substitute from cobalt to nickel over the next two decades. In turn, this shift may lead to soaring demand for nickel, creating another supply squeeze as mine expansion plans are limited,” BofAML analysts wrote in their report.

There are a long list of other uncertainties that complicate such medium- and long-term forecasting. A brewing economic downturn, which may or may not hit in the next year or next few years, could linger into the 2020s. That would alter oil demand forecasts, but in complicated ways. Slower economic growth would put a dent in oil prices via lower demand, but a lower price itself could keep consumers hooked.

The EV market is also rife with uncertainty. EV sales are growing quickly, with the number of EVs on the roads picking up pace. Automakers are set to roll out dozens of new models, which will expand choice and awareness, while also making progress on price, range, and performance. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees EVs having a “meaningful negative impact” on oil demand from 2021 onwards.

Then, of course, there is the small matter of policy, which can cut both ways. Bank of America said that “the US’s feeble commitments to climate action, fuel efficiency standards, and sulphur-limit reductions in shipping (IMO),” could slow EV adoption. But the next administration could also reverse course and step up climate ambition.

Even when breaking down oil demand into various segments, there is a lot of change going on. “EVs are shifting demand away from gasoline, IMO causes switching into diesel, and strong petchems demand growth is shifting demand toward the light part of the barrel, including NGLs in particular,” BofAML wrote. “We are at the beginning of a new age of uncertainty for oil producers, refiners and miners alike.”

Nevertheless, despite all of those uncertainties, the outlines of the trajectory are clear. Oil demand in the developed world saw a temporary boost over the last four years or so because of the collapse of oil prices. That has mostly run its course.

Demand “should return to outright declines as the price effect wears off and efficiency takes over,” BofAML wrote.

Emerging market demand should continue to grow as more people acquire cars. China, however, has made a major EV push and its demand growth is already starting to slow.

“The major driver of structural change in oil demand trends in the next five years and beyond is expected to be electric vehicles,” BofAML said. By 2020, EVs will capture 5 percent of global vehicle sales, which will balloon to 40 percent by 2030, before rising to 95 percent by 2050.

All of that implies a peak in oil demand by 2030, a little over a decade from now. We are in the midst of the “biggest structural shift in demand growth since the proliferation of the car began in the early 1900s,” BofAML concluded.


2018 was world’s fourth hottest year on record, scientists confirm

  • World 1.5F hotter than average set between 1951 and 1980
  • Current five-year stretch the warmest since records began

February 6, 2019

by Oliver Milman in New York

The Guardian

Global temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest on record, US government scientists have confirmed, adding to a stretch of five years that are now collectively the hottest period since modern measurements began.

The world in 2018 was 1.5F (0.83C) warmer than the average set between 1951 and 1980, said Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). This means 2018’s average global temperatures were the fourth warmest since 1880, placing it behind 2016, 2017 and 2015.

This follows a broader pattern of human-induced climate change, which is boosting increasingly punishing heatwaves, sea level rises and extreme weather. Last year saw a pair of devastating hurricanes hit the eastern US, while record wildfires ravaged California.

There was disastrous flooding in India, a huge typhoon in the Philippines and deadly wildfires in Greece and Sweden. The Arctic, which had its second warmest year on record, experienced temperature highs that astonished scientists.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt – in coastal flooding, heatwaves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change.”

Schmidt said that 2018 was “quite clearly the fourth warmest year on record and it was probably warmer than many hundreds of years before that”.

He added he was “very concerned with what is going on in the Arctic”, which is heating up at around double the rate of the global average. Average extent of sea ice in the Arctic was the second smallest on record in 2018.

Nasa and Noaa’s annual climate reports, which were delayed because of the federal government shutdown, echo findings by Berkley Earth and Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, which both recently stated 2018 was the fourth warmest on record.Each new year may not set a temperature record but the long-term warming “resembles riding up an escalator over time and jumping up and down while on that escalator”, said Deke Arndt, chief of Noaa’s climate monitoring division, referring to variables such as the El Niño pattern. “The jumping up and down can be driven by internal processes.”

On Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organization announced it, too, measured 2018 as the fourth warmest on record. It said 2016 remains the warmest on record due to a particularly strong El Niño, which is a periodic event that warms parts of the Pacific Ocean and influences weather patterns around the world.

“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,“ said Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the WMO. “The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean.”

Taalas said the extreme weather events of the past year have had “devastating repercussions” for people, economies and ecosystems.

“Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate,” he said. “This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority.”

Schmidt said that without an El Niño, 2017 would be the warmest year on record, with 2018 the third warmest. This year has started with mild El Nino conditions, “which suggests 2019 will be warmer than 2018 but that’s more a rule of thumb than a firm prediction”, Schmidt said.

The relentless warming has highlighted the steep challenges faced by governments if they want to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The world needs to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by the 2030s to avoid breaching limits set out in the Paris climate agreement, the UN warned last year, at a time when global emissions show no sign of decline.

Britain’s Met Office on Wednesday warned the 1.5C temperature increase limit agreed in Paris, compared with a pre-industrial baseline, could start to be exceeded far sooner than many predicted. The Met Office said there is a 10% chance of at least one year between 2019 and 2023 temporarily exceeding 1.5C.

In January, the same organization warned that levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide will rise by a near-record amount in 2019. Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have not been as prevalent on Earth for at least 3 million years – a period when the seas were 10-20 meters higher.

“The Earth has taken a walloping since 2014,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Eighteen of the 19 warmest years since record keeping began have occurred since 2001. That means kids graduating from high school have only known a world of record-breaking temperatures.”


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

February 7, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney


On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.



RTC: I don’t think you would have much luck with a lobotomy, Gregory. Most creatures like that don’t have brains.

GD: No, Robert, they don’t. What they do have are knots on the top of their spine to keep their asses from plopping down onto the sidewalk.




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