Friday, 28 August 2015


     Since my blog #092 of 16 March 2014, entitled “Russia et al”, that gave some historical background and that argued, even though most of Russia is in Asia, its soul is in Europe where it originated, criticisms of Vladimir in the Western press continue to outweigh praise.  Not so in the rest of the globe - and I am actually finding increasing numbers of Western books and articles heaping praise on him.
Is the time nigh when we can ask Peter the Great and Catherine the Great to allow Vladimir the Great into the club?
The old adage about casting the first stone behooves us to first look at ourselves:
There are many signs that some Western nations, or oligarchs within those nations, have joined others to revive, for personal gain and control, the “Great Game”, that started in 1838 to contain the Russian Bear and keep him from warm water ports.  Is there any other reason for us being so rude and vindictive to Putin?
In sympathy for the losses of 9/11/2001 he presented the US with an impressive 100-foot-tall split structure, steel coated in bronze, embracing a 40-foot nickel tear drop, and containing the names of all those killed in 9/11/01 and in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.  Vladimir and Bill Clinton attended the 2006 unveiling of this caring gift but, instead of it being erected near ground zero, it was hidden 7 miles away in a Brooklyn naval terminal no longer in use where few New Yorkers ever see or hear about it.
At a G8 heads of state meeting Canada’s Stephen Harper greeted Putin with, “All I have to say to you is: Get out of Ukraine!”.  Putin was too polite to tell Harper to get out of Quebec (Ukraine was a founding part of Russia while Quebec a founding part of Canada).
In 2013, when San Francisco invited a Putin delegation to attend ceremonies thanking the Russian Navy that happened to be there and which had lost 6 sailors in saving hundreds from the fire, 150 years ago, not one US state or federal official attended.
Obama and Merkel failed to attend the Sochi Olympics which were a success and a boost to Russian pride.
Western leaders boycotted the 09 May 2015 Russian WWII Victory Parade.
It must be galling for many world politicians to live with the fact that G8 citizens give the following favourable assessments to their leaders: Putin 87%, Merkel 67, Cameron 49, Obama 45, Abe 38, Renzi 36, Harper 32, Hollande 28.   (as of 23 July 2015).
I understand Putin’s feelings when he states that the breakup of the USSR is a world catastrophe.  I too feel a loss as the British Commonwealth and Empire drift apart.  Belonging to such a vibrant, multi-cultural organization that did more good than harm for the world gave me a sense of pride. If circumstances offer Putin a peaceful opportunity to restore some of it, who can blame him if he does?    
So, what has Putin actually accomplished to earn the world’s highest rating?  Mikhail Gorbachev (President 1985-91) in agreeing to the breakup of the Soviet Empire got the promise from the US and the rest of NATO that they would not move one inch towards Russian borders.  His successor Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) did mess things up so that Russian oligarchs seized much of former Soviet enterprises for their own, rather than the people’s, benefit.          When Putin succeeded Yeltsin in 1999, did he not follow the old advice of keeping your enemies near you when he appeared to embrace many of them.  He has erased a few oligarchs by using corruption charges but far from enough while remaining one himself.
But, Putin came to power during mass discontent and drunkenness among a disillusioned populace and he  gradually improved the economy, increasing the GDP from $754 billion in 2006 to $2,907 in 2014.  He and president Dmitry Medvedev stood up to Georgian aggression against Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008. George W. Bush sent Condoleeza Rice there with aid for Georgia while the 2009 UN mission declared Georgia the aggressor.
Chechnya presents a real challenge for Putin.  Fighting Russian expansion since 1800 it has suffered oppression and mass deportations with only Islamic terrorists supporting their cause.  Putin’s crackdown on them brought US approval in its war against terrorism.  How Putin handles this festering sore in the face of world indifference will influence his road to greatness.
Self-defeating Western sanctions against Putin’s inferred interference in Crimea and Ukraine continue to hurt Europe’s exports and its need for Russian oil and natural gas - and to force Putin to successfully embrace BRICS, a country association offering a huge challenge to US world dominance even with their scary world ratings for Corruption.  With 100 = no corruption, they rank: Brazil 43, Russia 27, India 38, China 36, South Africa 44. This compares with: Denmark 92, Canada 81, UK 78, Germany 78, Japan 76, US 74, France 69, and Ukraine 26.  
Our sacred promises not to move NATO one inch closer to Russia?  All shamefully broken!  Today NATO tanks and aircraft, including Canadian and USAF, hold exercises along Russian borders - something no Russian president should tolerate.  Putin has had to divert funds needed elsewhere to increase his military budget in 2015 to $81 billion, still well below the US spending of $610 billion.  China spends $216 billion, Saudi Arabia 81,  France 62, UK 61, South Korea 59, Germany 47, Japan 46, and Brazil 32. 
In 2014 there were 186,382 wealthy Russians move abroad, many choosing London, and taking $150 billion with them, a sizable loss to Russia. 
The Russian population, declining for years, has stabilized under Putin jumping from 142 million in 2008 to 146 million in 2014.
An active sportsman, Putin has a black belt in Judo and is the honorary president of the European Judo Union.  He enjoys skiing, hockey, white-river rafting, and horseback riding.  He is noted for his solo jaunts on horseback into back country which he claims gives him a chance to rest.  Meeting people like shepherds he is known to stop for brief visits to their homes.  He champions wildlife, actively helping conservation groups for tigers, whales, leopards, and polar bears.  He is a strong supporter of the Russian Geographical Society. 
Is that not the sort of guy you would like to call friend?  Why do so many westerners think otherwise?
In 1991, with the breakup of the USSR, the Ukraine chose independence with elected president ViktorYanukovych who desired good relations with both Europe and Russia.  What followed is much too murky to adequately explain or understand. Soviet job security gave way to capitalist opportunists seeking instant wealth, so unrest grew.  Political rivalries among Viktor Yushchenko, Yulia Tymoshenko, Petro Poroshenko (preferred by Obama), and Yanukovich did not help as rent-a-mobs infiltrated peaceful protests.  Violence and much bloodshed added great misery.  In 2014 Putin did send a huge convoy of humanitarian aid to Russian-oriented Eastern Ukraine and is accused of providing military assistance and some of this is likely true, especially the missile that shot down in July 2014 the Malaysian airliner with a large loss of Dutch lives.     While Russian troops did mass for a while on the border, Putin showed remarkable restraint even though NATO was increasing its presence on Russia’s western borders. He ordered troops back from the border and, during the Crimean uprising to rejoin Russia, he had Russian troops, legally stationed there, remain in their barracks.  But he did not need them to persuade Crimeans who were mostly Russian, to rejoin Russia. 
     The new, non-Soviet, Ukraine and Russia are only 24 years old. They both have immense problems.  The loss of Soviet controls have allowed corruption to flourish in both countries. Forced bribes, that amounted to $30 billion in 2005 have jumped to $306 billion in 2010.  They do not need Western interference, well meaning according to our media, but with ulterior motives.  Europe also is not free of immense problems.
Confrontation is deadly to both.  We have had heart-warming Russian co-operation in our space and other programs.    Putin is not the ogre we paint him to be and we are not the saints we think we are.  We do need to reassess our empathy and respect.  
When the world has only one super power, peace, on its terms, can last hundreds of years but when the  inevitable collapse occurs, chaos can be widespread and long lasting.
Humans are difficult to educate, manage, control, and keep free of Greed but the dangers our world now faces demand we try.                                                                                                                                  

Tuesday, 4 August 2015


The War Hawks and Deniers of Reality that find refuge in the US Congress where Money rules are sullying, and often nullifying, the immense good the US has, and is, doing for the world at large.      This frightens me and forces me to repeat myself on many topics, but you can expect that because repetition is a perk we Oldies have  due to our failing memories preventing us from remembering what we said or to whom we said it.   Most topics demand a book rather than a blog so, with Iran, may I refer you to my previous blogs on the subject: 
Blog #033 of 17 June 2010   “Cry Wolf!”
Blog #068 of 03 February 2012 “War Drums”
Blog #073 of 02 April 2012 “War Drums, Netanyahu, and Jenkins’ Ear”
Blog #121 of 08 March 2015 “Prophet Netanyahu Came To Town.”
  That done, I can start with this #132 Blog that limits itself to our harassment of Iran.
It pains me to admit that we have done far more harm to many countries than they have ever done to us.  Long an advocate of FAIR PLAY, I try to refrain from judgement until I walk in the shoes of the  persons or countries under scrutiny, an impossible but essential task.  If I were Iranian what would be my gripes?
I would be angered, resentful, and insulted that the insensitive West, especially the USA, manipulated by Israel, considers us a rogue and untrustworthy nation that needs to be punished and humiliated with harsh sanctions in spite of our long and mostly praiseworthy history when not controlled by foreigners.   The US with the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal, now spending billions to update it,  supports an aggressive Israel that gained its arsenal by stealth minus sanctions, is lecturing us who have no desire to join the “Nuke” club.  Naturally, we are highly suspicious of the true motives of the bullies on our block.
Yes, our record on Human Rights, that were abysmal under the UK–US imposed  Shah, have not been  sufficiently improved since.    Neither has the massive and cruel US penal system.  Both need softening.
Like you, we have shameful periods like the 1736-47 Nader Shah’s invasion of India that slaughtered thousands and brought home enough booty to let us eliminate taxes for 3 years.  But . . . .  
I would be proud of much of my Persian heritage as over half of our 78 million people are Persian with 25% Azeri, 7% Kurds, 3% Arab, 2% Baloch, and 2% Turkmen.  Our heritage can be traced from Cyrus the Great (died 530 BC) through Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) to Iran’s “Greatest Generation” that with enormous sacrifice fought off the unprovoked 1980-88 invasion from Iraq, that was supported by France, Germany, the UK, and US with chemical weapons against which our Shi’a  religion dictated we could not retaliate in kind, nor go on to embrace nuclear weapons that the West shamefully insists we are doing.
I would remind you that many of your religious beliefs originated with us.  From Animism to Mithraism from which Christianity borrowed much (Virgin birth, resurrection, December 25 birth of Mithra, etc) to Zoroaster who, 4,000 years ago, was the first monotheist giving us an afterlife with judgement, heaven, hell, and purgatory, charitable obligations, holy days, foods to avoid, rituals, etc.  Akhenaten in Egypt, died 1365 BC,  was also a first.         We fought hard against the Arab Muslim invaders from 633 to 651 when Islam was forced upon us, but we evolved our own Shi’a version with sizable Christian, Sunni, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Baha’i minorities with all tolerated and protected except Baha’i which, although originating in Iran and fast-growing elsewhere, is considered an apostate Islamic faith.  
Then, I would argue: Our heritage and opposition to one nation controlling another has earned us respect and, we hope, a little love from much of the world.   Because of our location and our resources such as oil we have been exploited by both Russia and the West.  I would praise the 1979 founder of our republic, Seyed Ruhollah Mustafavi Mousavi Hindi Khomeini born in 1902, and named for his home town of Khomein in central Iran and Hindi for his Kashmir origin.  A profuse writer and poet, he was well liked at the Qom seminary.  Western preferences forced us to exile him to Iraq, then France.  He wrote that Islam was a comprehensive religion whose duty it was to oppose corruption, injustice, and one nation dominating another.  He promoted equality among people and nations.  On his 1989 death.  he was succeeded by Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei who, along with the ten following elected presidents, have continued Khomenei’s policies.  These honest elections prove our people want to retain these including the guiding influence of our version of Islam.
We share borders with 15 states and have no strategic depth so living in peace is vital to us.  We have been humiliated by Russia, the UK, and the US who use us to further their own interests.             When we rebelled against this and elected Mohammad Mossadegh as prime minister in 1951 and nationalized our oil, the US and UK  overthrew him in 1953 to instal Reza Pahlavi as Shah and arm him to the extent of offering him the wherewithal to produce nuclear weapons by the George W. Bush administration.         When we rallied against the cruel shah, the US national security advisor, Zhigniew Brzezhnski urged deadly force be used by the shah against us.  So we seized the US embassy in 1979, holding all but 6, whom Canadians help escape, for 444 days, and welcomed Khomeini back.  We knew the US would invade Afghanistan after 9/11/01 and offered the US the use of the Northern Alliance that we had organized and funded to be the only effective anti-Taliban force.  We even helped the US install Hamid Karzai as president.  Our co-operation faded when we realized the US intended to stay on after victory as an occupier and as a base for further expansion.      Khomeini explained that Afghanistan is a swamp that no one emerges from not covered in mud.
What gripes me if that, although we have never used a suicide bomber, biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon and made it clear we repudiate their use, unlike Israel that unfairly persecutes us, and in face of the fact that the West has never uncovered any intention on our part, since the Shah, to pursue such weapons, leaving our survival to a good missile defence that a recent US exercise revealed would cost them 20,000 lives to destroy, we have been saddled with blocking us access to our money abroad and the imposition of cruel sanctions while no action is taken against daily Israeli aggression against Palestines, Bedouins, etc.  They call Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups when, with our help, they were formed to resist Israeli invasions.  
Our parliament (Majles) has 290 seats, with at least 5 being reserved for Christian, Zoroastrian, and Jewish communities, and with all encumbents elected for 4-year terms.  The President is limited to two terms.  Let us look at one of these presidents the West has criticized heavily: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was elected with large majorities to 2 terms, 2005-2013,winning a second term with 62.5% of an 85% voter turnout..  He spent time in all 31 provinces, often in remote rural area, increased wages and pensions, lowered interest rates, improved infrastructure, gave stipends to assist young couple marry and get established.  He and other presidents helped triple the literacy rate for women (doubled for men), grant them 6 months paid maternity leave, and set the stage for the fact that women are now the majority in universities.  Scientific papers have increased from a 700 rate in 1978 to 20.000 in 2011.
A crossroads of commerce and migrations among 3 continents, the Middle East contains scores of ethnic groups all desirous of their place in the sun.  A fair number of these resort to violence.  France, Germany, Russia, the UK, Serbia, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and the US have all been guilty of recent atrocities there. Our last aggressive move was 260 years ago.  Our parliamentary debates are freer than in most Muslim countries.
In no way does Iran deserve the invasions, cyber attacks, scorn, assassinations, and humiliation to which it has been subjected.  It can be a beacon of peaceful co-existence.  Let it be.
We have more pressing needs, a few of which are: banning all weapons of mass destruction and the weaponization of space, providing the UN with the power to eliminate weapons and people trafficking, over population, climate change, inequalities, cruelties to humans and animals, rescuing failing paper money, and so on.  
Our species has evolved to where it has control of some of its destinies.  It would be a cardinal sin to allow it to destroy itself to which goal a conflict with Iran could be the start.