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A Brave New World: New Cold War Hysteria and a Chinese Century

Dr. Can Erimtan

21st Century Wire

We are now living in the Raging Twenties and its first two years will probably go down in history as the short period that saw the beginning of the end of the American Empire. Following last year’s Afghan debacle, the Biden White House tried to pick up where President Obama had left off: the pivot to Asia (as in the Pacific Rim and specifically, China). But then, the long term effects of the Obama Administration’s 2014 Ukraine policy suddenly blew up in a spectacular fashion on the morning of 24 February 2022, when Russia’s President Putin announced a “special military operation” to “demilitarise and denazify” the Ukraine.

But now, the octogenarian Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi single-handedly irritated and awakened the Chinese Dragon by performing a Blitz visit to the island of Taiwan (2-3 August 2022) . . . thereby supposedly forcing Joe Biden’s hand to return to his Re-Pivot to Asia.

The New Cold War: From Libya over Syria to the Ukraine

Before dealing head-on with the Raging Twenties, a little bit of history seems in order. At the outset of the previous decade, the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ not-so fortuitously provided a launching pad for the development of a proxy-conflict. The U.S. State Department seems to have had a hand in planning and organizing Arab youth and other malcontents – one just has to think about John Bolton’s confession on live television last month to understand the logic of my contention – “As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat — not here, but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work.”

The groundwork for the ‘Arab Spring’ was executed at the ‘Alliance of Youth Movements‘ summit at Columbia University in New York on Dec. 3 -5, 2008. An event that brought together ‘Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School and the U.S. Department of State . . . to Find Best Ways to Use Digital Media to Promote Freedom and Justice, Counter Violence, Extremism and Oppression.’ At the time, the then-tech journalist Caroline McCarthy mused that the the summit’s aim was to engender a “successful anti-extremism campaign on Facebook as a springboard for more social-media activism.” McCarthy adds that the State Department was “inspired by a movement against a Colombian extremist group that was formed and organized on Facebook” to realize the ‘Alliance of Youth Movements‘ summit. The kind of social-media activism the State Department was aiming for was supposed to mobilize people in the real world to agitate for ‘regime change,’ a term that has now become all but commonplace, but that was introduced into the mainstream in the year 2002 by members of the Bush administration (2001-9) while talking about “Saddam” and ‘Iraq.” Effectively, the Bush State Department’s best efforts at New York’s Columbia University momentarily turned the Middle East into the shadow of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s famous “arc of crisis” – from Tunisia, over Egypt to Libya and finally into Syria.

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And from Syria, this regime change operation-in-disguise moved to the Ukraine, Europe’s second-largest country after Russia. Historically, a substantial section of the Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and later, the Soviet Union, which wholesale adopted most of the Russian imperial legacy and institutions. Prior to the World Wars (1914-18. 1940-45) in the 20th century, the Ukraine was but part of “east and Central Europe [area that] existed primarily as ‘the borderlands’ over which [the German, Polish and Russian states] competed in occasional geopolitical struggles,” as worded by the American military historian Mark von Hagen (1954-2019) as long ago as 1995. In the present context, the focus is on the Ukraine as seen within a Russian prism.

Russia and Ukraine: Ukrainophiles and Little Russians

Officially, Russia became but an empire under Tsar Peter the Great (1682-1725) on 22 October 1721, when he proclaimed his Muscovite Tsardom the Rossiiskaia Imperiia (or Russian Empire). Inside the Russian Empire, Ukrainians were commonly seen and referred to as ‘Little Russians,’ and only by the middle of the 19th century, a small group of the Ukrainian intelligentsia started developing a ‘Ukrainian national ideology,’ as pointed out by the Swiss historian Andreas Kappeler. According to the Russian Professor Alexei I. Miller, so-called ‘Little Russians’ were seen as integral parts of the Russian or all-Russian community in the 19th century. Miller explains that some time later, [a]fter 1907,” to be precise, “Russian nationalism developed most actively in the southwestern territories [of the Russian Empire], in the area of present-day Ukraine.” In 1910, for instance, a certain Grigorii A. Andriichuk, representing the area of Podolia in the Imperial Duma (or the Lower House, a part of the legislative assembly in the late Russian Empire, which held its meetings in the Taurida Palace in St. Petersburg) declared his allegiance unequivocally:

We reject all Ukrainophile propaganda because we never have and
never will consider ourselves non-Russian. Regardless of how cleverly
the accommodating Miliukovs try to push us towards a break with the
Great Russian, they will not succeed. We, Little Russians as well as
Great Russians, are, for all intents and purposes, Russians.

And the Ukrainian population seems to have stayed a mixture of ‘Ukrainophiles’ and ‘Little Russians’ right through the 20th and into the 21st. centuries – the people living in the large land at Europe’s eastern edge were either West-leaning or ‘Ukrainophiles’ or East-leaning or ‘Little Russians.’

Following the Soviet demise (25 December 1991), the Ukraine became an independent nation with a mixed population, neatly spread out according to an east-west axis. And this country neighbouring Russia, with part of its population opposed to the idea of Russia and any kind of Russian influence on Ukraine, was just an opportunity the U.S. could not help by exploit. And in this context, the name Victoria Nuland invariably pops up. At present, she serves as Under Secretary for Political Affairs since April last year. Prior to that, Nuland served as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs from September 2013 until January 2017 under President Obama and Secretary Kerry. In the latter capacity she was all over the Ukraine, achieving notoriety when a telephone conversation of hers concerning U.S. designs on the Ukraine (designs aimed at replacing Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych) was leaked on YouTube – Nuland can be heard saying the now-infamous phrase “and, you know, Fuck the EU,” as transcribed by none other than the BBC. Under Obama’s indirect successor, President Biden, she is once again dealing with all things Ukrainian. Last year, when Nuland was in the process of becoming a Biden appointee, the American politically progressive/liberal news and opinion website Salon (salon.com) published an article carrying the ominous headline “Who is Victoria Nuland? A really bad idea as a key player in Biden’s foreign policy team.”

Arguably, her reasons for being overly concerned with what happens in the Ukraine are somewhat personal. Victoria Nuland’s father, the surgeon Sherwin B. Nuland, was himself namely born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants – in fact, originally he carried the surname Nudelman, but as he was planning to enter medical school in 1947, Sherwin changed his surname to Nuland with his father’s permission.

Heady with enthusiasm upon getting the job in September 2013, in early December, Victoria Nuland proceeded to spill the beans in public:

[The U.S. government] has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic
skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good
governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its
European aspirations. We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in\
these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and
democratic Ukraine … [s]ince Ukraine’s independence in 1991

Let me repeat the salient words again, one time slow: the U.S. has spent “over $5 billion [s]ince Ukraine’s independence in 1991″ on Russia’s next-door neighbour to the west. The Obama administration (2008-16) “redoubled earlier American efforts to detach former Soviet republics from Russian influence and, indeed, to encourage ‘regime change’ in Russia itself,” argues the former U.S. Ambassador Jack F. Matlock recently. In 2011, the political scientist Dr Mark R. Beissinger called Ukraine’s so-called “Orange Revolution [late November 2004 to January 2005] . . . one of the most spectacular displays of protest seen on the European continent since the end of the Cold War,” an event that mobilized up 9 million people on the streets of Kiev (or Kyiv) and elsewhere in the Ukraine in temperatures as cold as minus 12 degrees centigrade. A spectacular turnout that has led critics and commentators to speak of an actual “Miracle on the Maidan.” From the point of the U.S. State Department realizing a miracle is clearly money well-spent. A fact that is arguably underlined by the Atlantic Council‘s Peter Dickinson pointing out that this Orange Revolution “succeeded in preventing Kremlin-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych from stealing the Ukrainian presidency.” Instead, a man clearly favoured by the State Department was given the opportunity to lead the Ukraine on a westward path – Viktor Yushchenko. Alas, as explained by Dickinson: due to a variety of reasons, in his five-year term at the helm, Yushchenko proved “unable to lead Ukraine decisively towards Euro-Atlantic integration.” And as a result, Yanukovych was able to make an unlikely yet effective comeback and won the 2010 presidential election race.

Dickinson argues that the Orange Revolution led many Ukrainians to become ‘Ukrainophiles’ and turn against Moscow by claiming their “national identity,” unburdened by the past and boldly stepping into the future. Alas, the reality on the ground proved somewhat different: “A contentious election in 2010 saw pro-Russia candidate and former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych win with narrow margins over Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovych won with strong support in the Eastern regions, with most regions in the West favoring Tymoshenko,” as reported by CNN. This means that six years after the “Miracle on the Maidan,” the nation was still pretty much divided between ‘Little Russians’ in the east and ‘Ukrainophiles’ in the west.

War in Europe: The MSM maintain silence

The present Russian “special military operation” in the Ukraine is the direct consequence of events that took place less than ten years ago – the so-called ‘Maidan Revolution.’ This revolution-to-revive-the-so-called “Miracle on the Maidan” started on 21 November 2013 as a ‘popular’ movement advocating a pro-European course away from Russia. This ‘popular’ movement was thus primarily the ‘work’ of ‘Ukrainophiles’ inhabiting the western part of the huge country. The population of the Donbas region in the east reacted quite differently. Dr Andrew Wilson argues in 1995 that the Donbas has been “historically poised between Ukraine and Russia, part of the newly independent Ukraine since 1991 but still the subject of bitter argument between the two states.” Wilson explains why what happens in the Donbas counts as follows:

The Donbas (the area of the Don river basin, 85 per cent of which is currently
within the modern-day Ukrainian oblasts of Donets’k and Luhans’k) is
[important] for two reasons. First, it is strategically important, having been
one of the leading industrial centres in both the Russian empire and the
USSR. The Donbas only accounts for 9 per cent of Ukrainian territory, but for
17 per cent of its population and 21 per cent of its industrial output (much of
which is admittedly now chronically inefficient). Secondly, the Donbas is the
geographical lynchpin to a whole arc of Ukrainian territory from Kharkiv in the
north-east to Odesa in the southwest . . . More than three-quarters (9.1
million) of Ukraine’s 11.4 million Russian minority live in this arc (eastern and
southern Ukraine).

Speaking to journalists in March 2014, Russia’s President Putin stated that “over all the years of its independence Ukraine has never been able to really overcome its ongoing political and governmental crisis. Its most recent exacerbation has led to an armed takeover in Kiev.” What Putin here calls an “armed takeover” could be interpreted as a concept corresponding to what people nowadays habitually call ‘regime change operations,’ as had been witnessed some years previously in the Arab Spring. The BBC reported about the so-called “Maidan Revolution” as follows: “Security forces kill at least 77 protesters in Kyiv. President Yanukovych flees to Russia, opposition takes over [in February 2014 . . which led] Russian forces [to] annex Crimea, prompting biggest East-West showdown since [the] Cold War. US and European Union impose ever-harsher sanctions on Russia.”

The events that follow led the way to the current war in the Ukraine, as explained in some detail below:

Protests in Eastern Ukraine . . . against the new Ukrainian government began almost immediately after the Maidan protests prompted Yanukovych’s flight from power . . . [T]he Rada [Ukraine’s unicameral parliament] voted to repeal the official status of the Russian languageon February 23, stoking fear and anger in the east, where most citizens spoke Russian. This measure, coupled with Russia’s operation in Crimea, encouraged the mobilization of both leftist and right-wing organizations in Eastern Ukraine. Their leaders, previously existing on the margins of Ukrainian political life, proclaimed themselves as “people’s mayors” and “people’s governors.” . . . The protesters portrayed their actions as spontaneous and self[-]initiated, driven by public anxiety about the future after the victory of the Maidan movement in the capital. The Ukrainian government dismissed the outbreak of protests as provocations organized by pro-Russian agitators and intelligence operators.

The above summary of events was provided by the RAND Corporation, an American nonprofit global policy think tank created in 1948 by Douglas Aircraft Company to offer research and analysis to the United States Armed Forces.

The Kiev government wasted no time and started shelling the east of the country. When Ukraine’s PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk (2014-5) visited Germany in January 2015, he was questioned by a Frankfurter Allgemeine reporter about the allegations made by Hurman Rights Watch (HRW) regarding the use of cluster bombs and Grad multiple rocket launchers against towns and villages in southeast Ukraine. The Ukrainian PM flatly rejected the allegation, adding that “there is no evidence to that. No evidence.” At the time, on the other hand, HRW’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that “Human Rights Watch has produced considerable evidence of Ukraine’s failure to always distinguish between military targets and civilians, as the laws of war require.” Though his language apears rather equivoval, Roth continues by saying that “[o]ur researchers determined the party responsible for the attacks by establishing their incoming direction and examining which forces were located in that direction within the range of the weapon.” In other words, Roth was clearly accusing Yatsenyuk of being rather untruthful, which is but a roundabout way of saying that the Ukrainian PM was lying to the German paper. For the past eight years, the Kiev government has persisted in indiscriminatly attacking the population the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). Russian media have over the past years scrupulously kept track of these ostensible war crimes, whereas the Western mainstream media have remained all but silent on the topic.

War in Europe: Russophobia rearing its ugly head

But now, now the situation has completely changed. Now, Russia is cast as the aggressor and President Putin as the evil autocrat hell-bent on exterminating Ukrainianas and destroying the world The eight-year preamble is not mentioned nor is the increasing presence of NATO in Russia’s near abroad. Meanwhile, the West keeps on sending more and more weapons and more and more money to the Ukraine: “Western countries pledge $1.55 billion in military aid to Ukraine,” is a shameless headline carried by Reuters on 11 August. And Ukraine’s current president has become a veritable media star in the West, befitting an actor and comedian propelled into presidential office. On television, Volodymyr Zelensky played a character called Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko – an absent-minded high-school history teacher who becomes president via the good offices of the internet. The New York Times‘ TV critic, James Poniewozik asserted last March that, in real life, “Mr. Zelensky ran for president in a social-media-savvy campaign so tightly bound up with his fictional persona that his political party was also called ‘Servant of the People’,” like that of his fictional alter ego Holoborodko. Following the start of Russia’s “special military operation,” Zelensky has been using all of his acting skills to whip a veritable New Cold War hysteria predicated on Russophobia, a hatred of Russians and all things Russian that is on the verge of outright racism. And the audiences in the West are lapping up his words, admonitions and telegenix poses. Poniewozik explains:

Mr. Zelensky’s appearances throughout the war, from handmade videos to interviews, have had a [particularly] personal feel. He wears fatigues, not a suit. This tells his people that he knows what they’re going through, and it reminds Western leaders that they can scarcely imagine what he’s going through. He opens a video from the presidential office selfie-style, shooting the street outside his window — again, I am here — then carrying you down the hall to his desk.

And Western audience are lapping it up . . . as if Zelensky were a performance artist practicing his craft against a backdrop of Russian bombs and explosions. Far from the madding crowd, the U.S. President Joe Biden has committed a mere ‘$9 billion in U.S. military aid; [and] more than $50 billion overall’ to the Ukraine since the end of last February. While domestically, he has been struggling to pass bill to benefit Americans at home – the one exception being the so-called Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, an oddly-titled bill that Democrats hail as the first stepping stone towards saving the world from ‘climate catastrophe.’ As pointed out by the writer David Srirota on Twitter, the reality is rather different (6:16 pm 10 Aug 2022).

The Irish campaigner, for independent journalism Chay Bowes points out that “increasing numbers of mainstream journalists, commentators and ordinary individuals [have] rushed to ‘Stand with Ukraine’.” While people on the street all around seem quite happy to voice their Russophobia, as illustrated by this disturbing example from Germany: ‘Outside a Berlin elementary school attended by Russian children [graffiti written on street]: “Let’s kill Russian kids!”,’ as documented on Facebook by a certain Leigh Fellner. Russia’s “special military operation” and subsequent armed conflict in the Ukraine sees “the pro-Western media machine cultivate and disseminate disinformation, propaganda and fake news on a previously unseen scale,” declares Bowes. The Irishman next points out that “the U.S. and its NATO allies prosecute [a] proxy conflict on the ground, in the air, and at sea, [while] another illicit battle is being fought on social media, TV and radio.”

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The present crisis at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine – supposedly, the largest nuclear power plant in the whole of Europe – is telling in this instance. While the Russian authorities have occupied the plant since last March in order to secure the dangerous site and protect the world from another potential Chernobyl disaster, the propaganda machinery keeps pounding the message that the Russian are shelling their own positions on the grounds of the nuclear facility – even writing this last sentence seems quite surreal, but that is what’s happening in the world today. The revived Russophobia of yesteryear has apparently made the public believe that Russians are not human, but monsters capable of anything. While the media portray the utterly rational and extremely knowledgeable Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin as an unthinking caveman-like monster that wants to kill and destroy anyone and everything for no good reason other than sheer bloodlust and resentment: “Why Vladimir Putin Hates Us” was a headline carried by The Observer as long ago as 11 December 2016.

A Farewell to the American Empire: Increasing De-Dollarization

As I pointed out in October last year, President Biden actually intended “to return Washington’s ship to its Pacific course that had first been set by Obama and his famous ‘pivot to Asia,’ centred on China and the Pacific Rim.” But before he could do that, the situation in the Ukraine blew up – a situation which is actually yet another holdover from the Obama adminsitration, as explained earlier. In fact, the Obama-Biden continuity is all but personified by Victoria Nuland. While the U.S. and NATO are merely conducting a proxy operation in the Ukraine, the situation is rather different for Russia, as announced by the Russian intellectual whom the West likes to vilify as a “political scientist known as ‘Putin’s Rasputin’ or ‘Putin’s Brain,’ as well as an occult fascist.” This man, Alexandr Dugin made a post on Facebook, significantly on 22 February 2022: “Long live Novorossiya! The Great Slavic Reconquista Begins,” with a link to his article carrying that very headline:

Today, February 21, 2022, we recognized the DNR and LNR. Moreover, within the borders before the start of the punitive operation. The civilian population is rapidly leaving the Donbass. It means exactly what you think. We have now passed the point of no return. You can no longer turn back. It’s late . . . I don’t even have the faintest idea why now. And how was the process of geopolitical planning the previous 7 years. Someone thinks that we have bought time. I think we have lost it . . . Congratulations to the people of Novorossiya. It is you, with your life, with your blood, with your faith, that made this day possible. This is your victory.

Dugin’s usage of the term Novorossiya is significant. The noun harks to the 18th and 19th centuries. The French historian, sociologist, and political scientist, Dr Marlène Laruelle, gives a succinct definition as well as some contextual information:

Use of the term “Novorossiya” has been documented since the end of the eighteenth century. It designates the regions north of the Black Sea that Catherine the Great won from the Ottoman Empire during the Russo-Turkish wars of 1768–1774. In the nineteenth century, Novorossiya was the name of the general governorate in Odessa.

While Biden and his cronies think they are conducting a proxy-conflict in the New Cold War, as masterfully laid out by Manlio Dinucci, Putin and his men regard the conflict ‘next door’ as an existential issue that will determine the very survival of Russia, as deftfully elaborated by Andrew Korybko.

In this context, one needs to understand that the notion of a New Cold War is a living actuality, a fact that seems to bypass most. This reality has led to the re-configuration of alliances and oppositions – to what I’ve termed “New Cold War Realignments” in 2018. These new alliances stretch from east to west and from north to south: primarily Russia (backed by Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia or the Eurasian Economic Union/EEU) and China (in turn supported by India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization/SCO); with two more nations that at present are but somewhat loosely associated with the two juggernauts – Turkey and Iran. In fact, rumour has it that the latter will formally join the SCO shortly, while the former seems to be dancing around between Washington and Moscow, while having a strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China. These realigned states are collectively facing up to the U.S. and its NATO allies in the EU. As illustrated by President Trump’s wanton use of sanctions as an economic weapon, primarily against China, it stands to reason that the New Cold War rivalry also affects the economic life of the planet. And in this context the term “de-dollarization” pops up as a phenomenon that threatens Washington. Since the end of World War II, the U.S. Dollar has effectively been the world’s reserve currency. But now, the “New Cold War Realignments” has led many to re-think the situation in order to abandon the dollar in favour of their local currencies.

The Sun sets in the West: A Farewell to the American Empire

Against this backdrop of growing American impotence in the face of new and different challenges, the U.S. seems to have strengthened its grip on the EU, which is now facing the prospect of a cold winter without cheap Russian gas. Alas, U.S. politicians don’t really care about Europe’s woes, instead preferring to focus on their own personal agendas. In this vein, the now-octogenarian Speaker of the U.S. House, Nancy Pelosi decided to visit Asia, in an apparently feeble attempt to return the Biden White House to its intended renewed pivot to Asia. In fact, Pelosi went a step further and threatened to visit the island of Taiwan – one of China’s red lines, as the People’s Republic regards the heirs of Chiang Kai-chek (1887-1975) as wayward children who need to return home. The speaker landed on the island late Tuesday (2 August) evening local time. And, minutes after Pelosi landed, China’s Eastern Theatre Command announced that live fire military exercises would begin as soon as Tuesday in six zones encircling Taiwan. These military operations reminded some commentators of what happened in the Ukraine last February, thus worrying that the Chinese would now do as the Russians did then. Alas, the military operations were but meant to frighten and send a message across the Pacific. Still, President Biden might very have gotten the message, but just 12 days after a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a delegation of American lawmakers arrived in Taiwan on Sunday (14 August), as reported by the AP. This visit led to a similar Chinese reaction and now more Chinese military drills around the self-governing island are in the works. While the American influence is waning across the world, U.S. politicians like to behave as if they were still in charge, as if the Yankee Dollar were still everyone’s favourite lubricant, and the world but America’s backyard. But, the world has changed, and changed forever.

I would like to conclude by quoting the always eloquent and insightful Pepe Escobar – an old friend of mine and a veritable fount of geopolitical knowledge and analysis. He puts forward that we are now living through an “historical process,” a process which encompasses the “physical, psychic and moral cognitive degeneration” of “NATOstan’s manifest desperation in trying to contain Eurasia.” For what Biden and his buddies do not seem to understand is the simple fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. And at the moment, we are at near dark and the vampires are about to emerge and suck the West (or NATOstan, if you will) dry . . . This is the beginning of the Chinese century, as introduced by the Pelosi stunt – a century predicated on Eurasian integration and the completion of the New Silk Road that is China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

21WIRE special contributor Dr. Can Erimtan is an independent historian and geo-political analyst who used to live in Istanbul. At present, he is in self-imposed exile from Turkey. He has a wide interest in the politics, history and culture of the Balkans, the greater Middle East, and the world beyond. He attended the VUB in Brussels and did his graduate work at the universities of Essex and Oxford. In Oxford, Erimtan was a member of Lady Margaret Hall and he obtained his doctorate in Modern History in 2002. His publications include the revisionist monograph “Ottomans Looking West?” as well as numerous scholarly articles. In Istanbul, Erimtan started publishing in the English language Turkish press, culminating in him becoming the Turkey Editor of the İstanbul Gazette. Subsequently, he commenced writing for RT Op-Edge, NEO, and finally, the 21st Century Wire. You can find him on Twitter at @TheErimtanAngle. Read Can’s archive here.

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