United States

Obama’s Brussels Speech

The Kyiv Post has the full text of President Obama’s speech at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels today:

http://www.kyivpost.com/content/world/full-text-president-obama-gives-speech-addressing-russia-and-ukraine-on-march-26-341010.html

Excerpt:

…the world has an interest in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one. And we want the Russian people to live in security, prosperity, and dignity like everyone else – proud of their own history. But that does not mean that Russia can run roughshod over its neighbors. Just because Russia has a deep history with Ukraine does not mean it should be able to dictate Ukraine’s future. No amount of propaganda can make right something that the world knows is wrong.

In the end, every society must chart its own course. America’s path – or Europe’s path – is not the only ways to reach freedom and justice. But on the fundamental principle that is at stake here – the ability of nations and peoples to make their own choices – there can be no going back. It is not America that filled the Maidan with protesters – it was Ukrainians. No foreign forces compelled the citizens of Tunis and Tripoli to rise up – they did so on their own. From the Burmese parliamentarian pursuing reform, to the young leaders fighting corruption and intolerance in Africa – we see something irreducible that all of us share as human beings; a truth that will persevere in the face of violence and repression and, ultimately, overcome it.

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The Snowden Disaster

Edward Lucas’s newly published ebook The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster is available from Amazon as a Kindle Single. It gives a clear and concise all-round survey of the Snowden affair, setting it in the historical context of international espionage. In particular, it analyses the particular characteristics of Snowden’s disclosures, which the author says

are heavily spun and damaging to American and allied interests in a way that goes far beyond the purported goals of promoting a debate about digital security.

Writing About the Buildings

In Slon, David Satter is asked for his views on why he was expelled from Russia:

[There are] a large number of journalists who almost every day express opinions that are very critical of the policy of Russia and its leadership. Why were you picked on?

– I can’t answer that question. You can find out from the experts. What can I say? I’m the only one who wrote about the buildings (he is referring to the apartment bombings – Slon), the most important question in  post-Soviet history. Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe it’s something else.

 

Kerry Statement on Ukraine

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release December 10, 2013

2013/1555

Statement by Secretary Kerry

Statement on Events in Ukraine

The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.

Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern.

As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democractic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States’ approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine’s leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice.

We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people.

As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.

The Soviet Trace

Writing in svoboda.org, Andrei Piontkovsky assesses the probability of a “Soviet trace” in the assassination of President Kennedy:

Официальная версия комиссии Уоррена – убийца, действовавший в одиночку, – не убеждает ни экспертов, ни, судя по опросам, большинство американцев. Слишком много фактов, начиная с убийства самого Освальда, косвенно указывают, что, скорее всего, он действовал не в одиночку, а был элементом разветвленного заговора. Между тем, полвека попыток независимого расследования убийства Кеннеди десятками конспирологов, ориентированных на версии правоконсервативного заговора, не привели к убедительным результатам. Версия советского следа с первых же дней после трагедии сознательно на уровне идеологического табу отвергалась в США как властью, не заинтересованной в новом острейшем кризисе в отношениях с Советским Союзом, так и леволиберальными media, жаждавшими дискредитировать своих традиционных оппонентов. Тем более что людей, ненавидевших Кеннеди, действительно было много и среди южных расистов, и среди ультраправых консерваторов.

Dead End

Having read the Kindle edition of Peter Savodnik’s The Interloper I’m left with a sense of  incompleteness – the book aims to show that Oswald was a far less mysterious personality than most accounts make him out to have been, yet in doing so it raises many more questions than it answers.

In particular, the author’s analysis of Oswald’s inner life seems to lead merely to a confirmation of just how blank and uninteresting that life was. While the study of Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union is well researched, it reveals a dead end: although it’s clear that while in Belorussia Oswald did come into contact with many representatives of the KGB, and was deeply involved with them, there appears to be no link between this fact and anything that might have led him to assassinate the U.S. President. Indeed, as Inessa Yakhliel, who knew Oswald, has recently pointed out, he “spoke about Kennedy very sympathetically. He said he was the only sensible president. Those were his words.”

Savodnik makes much of the ease with which conspiracy theorists have set out to present their own versions of what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and advances his own “simple” explanation – Oswald was angry about issues in his confused personal life and took it out on the president – as most likely to be near the truth. Yet this eagerness to promote the “lone gunman” theory also has its questionable aspect: for in the same way as the conspiracy theories can be used to promote particular political agendas, so can the supposed absence of a conspiracy.

The Kindle edition of the book contains a number of typographical glitches, most of which are unconnected with Oswald’s own idiosyncratic English spelling (in letter and diary passages quoted frequently in the text). In particular, Russian street names and words are sometimes presented wrongly, as in the often-repeated “Kalinina Ulitsa” for “Ulitsa Kalinina”, and there are some odd transliterations that lead, for example, to the Cyrillic letter “у” being rendered as uy. I haven’t seen the book’s print edition, but hopefully these typos have been ironed out there.

Cyberwarfare and Propaganda

At Wired State, Catherine Fitzpatrick has compiled a detailed timeline that highlights the deep interrelation of events surrounding the WikiLeaks state security-breaking campaign, the Snowden affair and the involvement of the Russian government and intelligence services in both. As she points out, there is a clear mutual, though not necessarily causal connection between

Kremlin TV’s propagandistic celebration of US hackers in Anonymous; WikiLeaks and Occupy; Russia’s own crackdown on Internet freedom and “foreign agents” at home (mirroring its one-time championing of Western peace movements by the Soviet government even as it jailed pacifists at home).

Fitzpatrick also notes that

America has enemies from both domestic and foreign non-state and foreign state actors, some of whom show signs of collusion with each other; they are succeeding to alarming degrees; the pushback against them causes new backlashes and enables enemies to portray the US as “oppressive” and distract from the greater oppression of Russia, China, Iran and other authoritarian states…