Obama's Rhetoric Follows Leaders To Normandy

Posted June 06, 2014 09:50:16

Obama's stirring rhetoric>> Photo: The world seems dangerous again. But to listen to Barack Obama's tale of light, and his view of the US defence force, you wouldn't know it. (Reuters)

As Australian, Russian and US leaders gather in Normandy for D-Day commemorations today, the recent rhetoric of Barack Obama follows them all. And his simplistic view of America's role in the world could have very real consequences for Australia and Europe, writes Matthew Dal Santo.

Pity French president Francois Hollande. Today, when world leaders gather in Normandy to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Anglo-American landings that liberated France, he will have to host two separate celebration dinners - at the same time.

American president Barack Obama and Russian president Vladimir Putin, leaders of two of the "Big Three" that crushed the Nazi empire, aren't getting on. (Our own Tony Abbott will be in Normandy too, but he's not expected to cause so much trouble.)

In a year of anniversaries, the fallout risks becoming a theme.

2014: 100 years since the shattering of the peace of Europe in July 1914; 75 since Hitler's madness swept the world into a war that led to the four decade-long division of Europe between East and West; and 25, as Obama reminded us on Wednesday in Warsaw, since the fall of the Berlin Wall created a Europe "whole and free and at peace".

Elide those anniversaries together quickly enough and they're a movie reel of the 20th century victory of Western democracy over jackboot imperialism (the Kaiser's, Hitler's or Stalin's) - the "age-old contest of ideas", as Obama put it, "between freedom and authoritarianism, between liberty and oppression, between solidarity and intolerance".

Obama's 'dark tactics' warning


US president Barack Obama warns Russia over its 'dark tactics' and offers Kiev security aid.

Take note, Putin, Obama scolded: the forward march of human progress can't be stopped. "Because after investing so much blood and treasure to bring Europe together, how can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century?"

America would never accept Russia's annexation of Crimea, he said. How could it?

"The days of empire and spheres of influence are over." Now that America's reaches right up to Russia's doorstep, that is.

For that is how the Kremlin views NATO. And with Eastern Europe's leaders, flown in especially for the occasion, arrayed around Obama's lectern in adoring circle, it was for a moment easier to see the map through Russian eyes.

Obama was in Warsaw to show that NATO is serious about standing up to Putin's Russia and to meet Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko.

It was a funny way to prepare to meet the head of an old war-time ally - after all, for all their heroism and technical genius, everyone knows the Normandy landings would not have been attempted had not Stalin bled the German army to breaking point on the Eastern Front.

Some bemoan Obama's inconsistency. But the most alarming thing about his foreign policy is its simplicity.

Plagued by an apparently unrestrainable urge to transform every event in international politics into a struggle between Freedom and Oppression, the president struggles to cast himself into the shoes of those who aren't American allies or "friends".

When he said that to "bolster the security of our NATO allies and increase America's military presence in Europe", it "will mean increased support to help friends like Ukraine, and Moldova and Georgia provide for their own defence," did he consider that such words might conceivably conjure up - not only in the Kremlin but in the minds of millions of Russians beyond its walls - an American empire on historically Russian soil?

Did he not cringe to recall George W.H. Bush's promise to Mikhail Gorbachev not to expand NATO to Russia's borders?

The answer seems to be no; his idealism knows no moderating limits.

Strange in a man elected at least in part because he claimed to discern shades of East Coast grey where his predecessor saw only Texan black and white. Obama seems bereft of a sense of the world's tragic quality - of the necessity sometimes to cut a deal with someone you don't like, agree with or believe is wrong because politics, the rational calculation of interest and power, demands it.

Barely a week ago in a West Point speech widely derided by critics as "vacuous", "empty" or downright "dangerous", Obama denied that America was in decline ("those who ... suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics") and set out his vision for the use of its mighty armed forces.

"Think about it," he said as if the observation had only just dawned on him, "our military has no peer".

This supreme force, Obama declared, America will use "unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it - when our people are threatened, when our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger."

He went on to applause: "International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life."

But lest any suspect this signals a return to George W. Bush's gun-toting ways, Obama described the limits that would hedge in America's use of force when "core interests" aren't at stake:

When issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States, when such issues are at stake - when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction but do not directly threaten us - then the threshold for military action must be higher ... We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law; and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.

Fair enough. But what about the world this doctrine will play out in?

For, if China and other countries continue to grow as they have done, America will be in relative decline.

Even if America remains the world's single strongest country, its margin of strength will be slimmer. Yet Obama has done nothing to prepare his people, or their allies, for a multi-polar world no one has seen since 1947.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, other powers - China, Russia, India, perhaps, Brazil - will increasingly be in a position to refuse the equation that what's good for America is also good for the world.

But search Obama's recent speeches in vain for guidance on how America ought to pick its way in this unfamiliar landscape.

Are there ever circumstances where other great powers might also defend their interests unilaterally? Should America ever compromise the "pursuit of conscience" or the threat of a "dangerous direction" because, like America, another great power won't "ask permission to protect its people, its homeland, its way of life"?

We might not believe it, but from the start Russia has defended its actions in Crimea as doing precisely that.

And if the "core national interest" is to be the yardstick of American policy, why the breathless indignation when Russia asserted its national interest in Ukraine? The 19th century politics he denounced in March Obama has now elevated to the level of doctrine.

What both Obama and critics on the right seem to miss is that a foreign policy is also about the rest of the world. It's not just about America or the kind of world America, and it allies, would like to live in.

What role in it will China play? Russia? India? Brazil? Ever less will they play the part America assigns them; ever more will they resent the exceptional role America has arrogated to itself. From Europe's eastern steppes to Asia's busy seas, they'll increasingly have the power to make getting them to comply very costly - as Putin well knew regarding the EU's dependence on Russian gas.

Obama might have spelt his vision for how far America might accommodate their interests. He didn't.

Pro-Russian militants in Donetsk>> Photo: America would never accept Russia's annexation of Crimea, Barack Obama said, as pro-Russian troops continue to move forward. (Reuters: Yannis Behrakis)

The world seems dangerous again. But to listen to Obama's tale of light ("the spirit of Warsaw and Budapest and Prague and Berlin stretches to wherever the longing for freedom stirs in human hearts, whether in Minsk or Caracas, or Damascus or Pyongyang ... from Tbilisi to Tunis, from Rangoon to Freetown"), you wouldn't know it.

Where does all this leave Australia?

Europe's quarrels are, after all, far away - further than in 1914 or 1939. Russia is so distant, the threat it might pose to us so remote, that, really, Crimea is a spanner we can let others fish out of Europe's works.

Maybe. But if they do run into each other, what might Abbott say to Putin?

Men's men equally ill at ease in the delicate ambiguities of post-modern life, Abbott and Putin have, superficially, at least, not a little in common. He mightn't have wrestled a Siberian tiger to the ground with his bare hands, flown with long-legged Siberian cranes high above the taiga or dived bare-chested to retrieve fragile Greek vases from the Black Sea floor, but one gets the impression Abbott would quite like to.

But the truth is Australia still has a few interests in Europe, few of which Obama's foreign policy can be said to be serving.

The first is jobs. The EU remains Australia's second-largest trading partner - ahead of Japan - and its third-largest export market. But the world's largest economy has teetered on and off the brink of depression for four years.

A quarter of the population of Greece and Spain is unemployed - the result of a misguided austerity Germany has imposed on the rest of the continent. As the swing to the far left and right in recent European elections showed, such hopelessness threatens the liberal element of democracy itself.

A generation ago, a G7-led by America might have addressed this scandal. Obama has let German Chancellor Angela Merkel get away with it.

The second is a Russia not driven by Western indifference to its interests into Chinese arms. Russia, we forget, is a Pacific power too.

In both, America's interests align with Australia's, so America itself is as badly served by its president's current policies as we are.

How long does Obama plan to let Crimea warp the rest of American policy in Europe, its "grand strategy" for managing the changing balance of power in Eurasia?

To cling instead to a cotton-socks view of the world that has the leader of the world's most powerful country boast that he feels "at home" in Warsaw because of a Chicago food festival, the Taste of Polonia, where "with our kielbasa and pierogies, we're all a little bit Polish for that day", is to trade the burden of leadership for the most insipid banality.

Though the Poles have suffered greatly, nobody is truly innocent in Europe's blood lands - except, perhaps, the Jews.

In Poland, of all places, we remember, perhaps with shame, that even democracy is something so precious we at times buy or preserve it for ourselves at the expense of the worthy claims of others.

In Warsaw or in Normandy, we hallow our sites of memory to celebrate the triumph of democracy. Mr Abbott assures us, "The D-Day landings changed the course of history".

But in reality Hitler was defeated on the steppes of Russia - Stalingrad, Kursk, Sebastopol - by the almost inconceivable sacrifice of nine million Soviet soldiers and 20 million Soviet civilians.

Yet, in eastern Ukraine, we mock the remembrance of the victors as so much Soviet kitsch.

There are awkward anniversaries this year too - like last month in Sebastopol, where Vladimir Putin commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of what was then still a Russian city (Khrushchev handed Crimea to Ukraine only in 1954) by a Soviet army.

Humility, on the other hand, recognises that no nation is always right. That even mighty power has its limits. That, this side of the City of God, the victory of the good and the right is always partial, inevitably won through a compromise with that which we'd rather denounce or disown.

In Poland, of all places, we remember, perhaps with shame, that even democracy is something so precious we at times buy or preserve it for ourselves at the expense of the worthy claims of others.

There will be no Millennium.

Lincoln knew it. Roosevelt knew it. Truman knew it. Eisenhower knew it. Kennedy came to learn it.

To listen to Obama in Europe is to remember Clemenceau's account of American president Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919:

What ignorance of Europe and how difficult all understandings were with him. He believed you could do everything with formulas and his 14 points. God himself was content with 10.

But then the Old Testament describes a more tragic place than the world Obama, too, seems to live in.

Matthew Dal Santo is a freelance writer and foreign affairs correspondent. He previously worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. View his full profile here.

Topics: government-and-politics, world-politics, unrest-conflict-and-war, history

Comments (183)

Comments for this story are closed.

  • awake:

    06 Jun 2014 10:25:40am

    What the world needs is less greed, less crime, better spread of prosperity. And it is all too hard. Too much history to bury, too much blood. 57 Million died in WWII. I am unsure about Vietnam and Korea.

    Mega crime syndicates, drug cartels, extreme politics, extreme religion, bigotry and hate.

    What is so difficult about peace? Trade and money, gas and oil just greed.

    "Do unto others......." - I believe we have completely forgotten the rest.

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    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia:

      06 Jun 2014 6:25:47pm

      Sadly your hopes are not achievable. Australia is a small country peoplewise and we need to be realistic that the World is a really nasty place and we must try to look after ourselves with the help of other nations.

      Now is the time for Australia to ask USA to build a big military base similar to what it has on Okinawa Island. This is needed not just to defend Australia but for US to defend its strategic military assets in Australia and its nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean. Australia is the natural partner of US as we located on the opposite of the Earth to USA.

      It is unfortunate US has wasted trillions of dollars for no good reasons in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. By US in Afghanistan I do not mean post Sept 11 and the Taliban but being foolish to give weapons and training to Osama bin Laden as a way to beat the Soviets in Afghanistan.

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      • HPH:

        06 Jun 2014 7:00:37pm

        "It is unfortunate US has wasted trillions of dollars for no good reasons in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq."

        No it is not unfortunate... The Wall Street Banksters, The Corporations, Halliburton/KBR, Dick Cheney & Co. made billions of dollars from the Iraq/Afghan war.

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      • Mitor the Bold:

        06 Jun 2014 7:03:34pm

        If you think the USA would come to Australia's help for any reason other than that it served their interests then you're being naive. The USA let its 'shoulder-to-shoulder' closest ally Britain virtually fall in Europe twice before intervening for its own ends, then bled it dry in the post-war with debt repayment. That's the kind of friend to make enemies jealous.

        Australia with a US base would just be like having a dummy painted red, white and blue for the President's enemies to make target practice with. Do we really want to be another stage for a US proxy war like Vietnam and Korea?

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  • luke:

    06 Jun 2014 10:30:46am

    Good Article.


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    • the yank:

      06 Jun 2014 11:07:42am

      You reckon?

      Simplistic nonsense is closer to the truth.

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      • firthy:

        06 Jun 2014 12:12:02pm

        But why do you think that? I think the article makes some reasonable points - one being that the issues in question are not as clear cut as the American President makes out. Kosovo and Eastern Ukraine (as well as Crimea) are interesting cases in point. The west were quite happy supporting the separatist aims of Albanian's living in the

        Kosovo but not Russians in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. double standards if I've ever seen one.

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        • JoeBloggs:

          06 Jun 2014 1:38:19pm

          Sorry Firthy,

          When exactly did the military forces of the USA invade Kosovo? When did the USA military intelligence hold a faked referendum in Kosovo. When did Kosovo become the 51st State of the USA? did they primarily vote for Pres. Obama in the last election?

          You do realise that since the invasion and annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation Mr Putin has admitted publicly that Russian Federation military intelligence and regular forces conducted the invasion and annexation.

          ps. just to help you a little Milosevic accepted the conditions offered by a Finnish/Russian mediation team and agreed to a military presence within Kosovo headed by the UN. The first troops to land were Russian.

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        • Zing:

          06 Jun 2014 2:24:04pm

          Save your breath, Joe. People who oppose the west are hardly concerned with the truth.

          When Russia denied it's troops were involved in Crimea, people like firthy believed them. When Russia turned around and admitted their troops were involved, people like firthy see no issue.

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        • MikeS:

          06 Jun 2014 3:13:51pm


          You comparison is meaningless. Crimea was traditionally a part of Russia, complete with a majority of ethnic Russians (who democratically voted to rejoin Russia in line with UN protocols). How many Crimeans were killed in the 'invasion'? With a little rounding error, the number is ZERO!

          Contrast that to other UN backed or US unilateral invasion, including the Ukraine ethnic cleansing exercise currently underway and try to support the morality of your claims against Russia's 'invasion' of Crimea.

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        • artofthefirstpeople:

          06 Jun 2014 3:35:31pm

          Very well articulated and researched! Well done!!

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        • Khrushchev:

          06 Jun 2014 4:48:17pm

          "When exactly did the military forces of the USA invade Kosovo?"

          They threatened to invade when the air campaign from April 93 to December 95, culminating in Operation Deliberate Force during September 95, bombed Serbia but did not break them. Serbia accepted the proposal to avoid a ground invasion by the supposed good guys, US and NATO. There was NO referedum in Kosovo yet the West supported them and it was able to succeed.

          Putin was interviewed two days ago and he said nothing of the sort about Russia's 'involvement' in Crimea. Cite your source please because its simply not true.

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        • Stephen S:

          06 Jun 2014 5:11:35pm

          That is totally untrue! If anyone cares to search for "leaked phone conversation Ms Nuland, US State Secretary" you will find "overwhelming evidence", of whom staged the Ukraine Coup, and the intenitons behind the move!

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        • Terry:

          06 Jun 2014 5:44:35pm

          If you really think that is overwhelming evidence the USA staged the coup, I hope you are never on a jury.

          It is a call that clearly shows the USA has a "favourite" and supported the Ukrainians v the Soviets and was annoyed with the EU. that is closely monitored events and wanted to influence some of the major players.

          Hardly earthshattering.

          No mention of a coup, not even a sniff.

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      • Desert Woman:

        06 Jun 2014 12:17:57pm

        Simplistic Yank? How so? I think the article shows a fair degree of perspective. It certainly throws a couple of grenades into some common American myths but if we are to ever arrive at a more peaceful world without all the manoevering, spying and covert infiltrations by several nations, it might be better to put away the myths and deal with some hard facts.

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        • arf:

          06 Jun 2014 1:12:41pm

          For one thing, what is this 'millennium' that crops up at the end of the article of which there will be none?

          It seems to be a grab bag of sound bites wrapped in floral rhetoric intended to diss Obama's grasp of foreign affairs.

          That may or may not be a fair criticism to make, but the article presents it rather poorly.

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        • KevinS:

          06 Jun 2014 2:08:40pm

          Firthy and DW. I agree with the Yank. The article is as deficient as it is simple. It would be best for the world and the Asian region in particular if the US was like Britain before it, receding in influence, power and responses, even by force.

          Industrially, The US is continuing to undergo technological, including sophisticated robotics change that is radicalising the production of its manufacturing industry. It's investment in alternative energies and the refinement of its traditional energy sources, together with its close commercial arrangements with Canada has ensured its energy independence from other regions of the world.

          The US along with its major NATO partners (Britain, France and Germany) promised its support for Ukraine as it progressed towards the West and admission to NATO. France and Germany are both highly dependent on Russian gas to drive their domestic and exporting economies, particularly Germany. France and Germany because of the domestic implications are backing away from the commitment to Ukraine. If you know anything about the European Wars 1 and 2 you might just understand the significance of appeasement for domestic political and economic reasons emboldening aggressors. There was significance and complexity in the timing and nature of Obama's speech in the prelude to D Day landing commemorations.

          Although Eurocentric in its content, Matt Dal Santo should have included mention of Japanese imperialism and conquest from 1936 to 1945 a phase of aggression to Asian neighbours that began as early as 1910 with the annexation of Korea, eventually encompassing most of Asia, including parts of China. Currently, China is flexing its power by new claims to islands as far south as the Philippines. A concern to both the US and Australian governments.

          Russia and Russian sphere of influence on one front and China and a growing sphere of influence on another front. Obama has subtly but more than simplistically been appraising Americans and reminding allies and friends what such foreign policy conditions brought to the world for the first half of the 20th century. Think about that. Perhaps Matt dal Santo should be reminded of the fire and brimstone foreign policy speeches of George Bush Jr prior to 9/11.

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        • MikeS:

          06 Jun 2014 3:16:52pm

          There's plenty of your fire an brimstone to be found in Obama's statement 'we will unilaterally preserve our interests and way of life' while expressly denying to all others that same right.

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        • artofthefirstpeople:

          06 Jun 2014 3:37:39pm

          Yeah - same old same old! But one suspects that things are changing - but the old guard; the neoCons won't admit it until it is too late!

          Then the real danger starts - the threat of nuclear war!!

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        • Filz:

          06 Jun 2014 5:28:53pm

          That's the problem these days - America's military is simply too big to reduce down due to budget cuts or whatever reason one likes to dream up. When you have a Frankenstein on your hands, it's wise to keep him (or her!) firmly tethered. Not such an easy exercise these days with the "war on terror" taking so much effort, both at home and abroad.

          The world may become a slightly better place if America went back to its isolationist policies of pre WW2 - i.e. stop messing in other peoples' business.

          As for Obama - if you believe the opinion pieces in the media, he won't be around for long and he, like America domestically, has become something of an empty shell.

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        • Desert Woman:

          06 Jun 2014 3:23:56pm

          KevinS, All we all, including Dal Santo, can do in our few brief stabs at this is show some aspects of the complexities the world has undergone in the last few hundred years. If you compare Obama to George Bush, yes, it's Obama by a mile but Obama is as much a captive of USA history and national philosophy as any other President. USA foreign policy has been as duplicitous as any other, a fact which becomes better known now because of the internet and every nation's inability to totally control information. Despite the USA's attempts to maintain its military at strength, it is a fact that the USA is declining in influence. Obama's presentation can also be seen as an attempt to counteract that perception.

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      • MikeS:

        06 Jun 2014 3:07:06pm

        Simplistic?? Everything coming from US foreign policy official statements is hoping that the world is simplistic. One would have to be unbelievably ignorant to think the USA justified in inching ever closer militarily to Russia's borders via NATO, then laying a morality claim against Russia for protecting it's interests in Crimea.

        Picture Canada becoming a member of the European economic Union complete with Russian military bases, then ask yourself, would Obama facilitate a peaceful referendum in Toronto, or would he send in the boots (and drones)?

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        • JD:

          06 Jun 2014 4:08:59pm

          Obama's Arab spring policy of removing dictators that were originally installed by the US and UK than install moderate Islamic governments hoping they will be friendly to western nations speaks very clearly of US foreign policy and meddling in other countries affairs. We only have to look at Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq the constant pressure on Iran since the revolution which took back control of the coup government set up by the CIA and their continued involvement in south American countries to know the US is not the stalwarts of peace that they claim to be. They only want their version of peace and if that take war to achieve they will do it.

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        • Iswide:

          06 Jun 2014 5:36:10pm

          JD: " They only want their version of peace and if that take war to achieve they will do it."

          The US want no rivals, no states or bodies that do not kowtow to them. The turn to the Pacific to target China and the movement ever eastward across Europe to Russia's border. If the US pushes too far then the result could be very messy - even terminal.

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  • Alpo:

    06 Jun 2014 10:31:56am

    Well, although I am a fan of Obama, he made crystal clear to everyone upon receiving the Nobel Peace prize that although he humbly accepted the honour, the world has got to understand that he is first and above all the President of the USA and his first duty is to defend the selfish interests of his country..... Well, surprise, surprise, Putin has the right to say exactly the same!

    .... and so, we are back to the good old confrontation of the selfish national interests of the Super Powers, with everybody else trapped in between..... China says hello to everyone too, and India is just waking up to join the jolly party....

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    • Zing:

      06 Jun 2014 11:17:58am

      America considers itself the leader of the free world.

      It is always willing to forward the interests of the free world, provided that they are compatible with American and western interests. The issue is that the people who saw potential in Obama are the same people that tend to reject the concept of western hegemony or a modern world with America at the helm. No wonder they are disappointed.

      I doubt that China will ever rival the US in power. The world sees how China treats it's own people and will resist any attempt by China to influence the fate of people in other nations. And long before China has the ability to force the issue, it will be hit by rising fuel and food prices.

      As for India, it has no intention of becoming a regional power. What India wishes to do is replace China as the world's sweatshop. And given that the Chinese dictatorship has grown too powerful as a result of western trade, shifting this trade to India is becoming more tempting.

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      • Alpo:

        06 Jun 2014 12:20:00pm

        Zing, just one thing: All modern economic powers started as sweatshops, every single one of them. The English laughed at the potential for the US to become a true threat to their economic empire, the Americans laughed at the potential for Japan to do the same later on, everybody laughed at the potential of China.... and so on and so forth. The history of the world is punctuated by laughing people suddenly waking up to a reality that is no laughing matter anymore.

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        • Zing:

          06 Jun 2014 12:40:16pm

          All modern economic powers started as sweatshops. But not all sweatshops become economic powers - especially when their wealth revolves around the fact that they pay their employees $40 a week.

          America laughed at suggestions that Japan would become a threat to their economic dominance. Did America guess correctly? Japan doesn't seem to be rising any further.

          China's rise is based on other nation's economic decisions. So it is those nations who will decide how far China will rise and when this rise will stop.

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        • Alpo:

          06 Jun 2014 1:04:24pm

          Zing, Japan is the third largest economy in the world (if we do not consider the EU as a single economy, otherwise it's the fourth). Until recently the American economy grew through debt thanks to Japan being the greatest owner of American debt, now it's China (China can exert far more leverage on the USA than the other way around at the moment). So yes, the Americans are under serious economic threat, and of course they know it, and it's about time that they start doing something about it.

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      • aGuy:

        06 Jun 2014 3:32:58pm

        Obama got the peace prize for one reason.

        He was not Bush.

        Obama has done a better job than Bush, that dose not mean he is a role model for peace. The Nobel prize has become pointless, much like Alfred Nobel's invention to uproot trees. There are much better methods/candidates.

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      • Wildfire2013:

        06 Jun 2014 4:44:35pm

        I might raise some ire here as it's a popular pastime to bash America but a little bit of history is worth telling. Up to the Second World War the US was not the leader of the free world. It was not the world's policeman as so many now accuse them of now. When WW2 broke out the US, particularly its citizenry, were bleary eyed about yet another world conflagration. They looked at Europe and thought gee wiz can't this lot get their act together. They didn't want a bar of it but FDR thought they better help so they assisted the USSR and supplied materials etc but still didn't want to send its citizens to yet another European killing ground. It took Pearl Harbour to drag the US into the conflict kicking and screaming. As Isoroku Yamamoto stated "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant". And so they did. The US got involved and despite their main threat being Japan they decided to help their European mates and would deal with Japan a little later. Thank God they got involved and they were a game changer. Despite helping the USSR, Stalin being Stalin decided to hate on his ally at the end of WW2 and so the Cold War began. To be honest, and this might be simplistic, but I just think the US got sick to death of sorting messes out they didn't create and so as a preventative measure they got on the front foot (and also helped rebuild Germany and Japan, their enemies, to be the great nations they became). I don't blame them for basically saying OK this is how it's going to be. Since then they've made some mistakes (Vietnam and the 2nd Irag war...not the first, they did a great job in the first one) but to be honest there could be much worse world policemen than the US. Anyway, that's my take on it.

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        • Iswide:

          06 Jun 2014 5:48:28pm

          Wildfire2013, on the matter of post WWII activity, the Great Depression was still afflicting the US when WWII started. During the war the US economy expanded greatly due to the needs of the war. What would happen to the US economy when the war ended? A slide back to depression with the consequent decrease in economic activity? To maintain production the US needed overseas markets for its goods and customers with the funds to pay for them. They also didn't need an economic bloc that did not engage in trade with them, i.e., a communist bloc.

          From these factors came the Marshall Plan (and other assistance later) to help rebuild states damaged by the war and the efforts to limit the spread of communism.

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    • Todd:

      06 Jun 2014 11:38:00am

      How can you compare Russia to the USA? The US are only selfish in that a peaceful, free World is one that benefits them as well as everyone else. Yes, the US has influenced other countries....for the better. Like more countries becoming deomocratic, more countries (like China) enjoying the benefits of free trade and economic/individual liberties. This is not necessarily altruistic behaviour as the more free countries that exist, the better the opportunities for US interests, both economic and otherwise.

      Russia, on the other hand, stand for oppression and corruption at the highest levels. Just look at the personal wealth of Obama and Putin - both were born with little. Yet Putin is almost a billionaire on a salary of a couple of hundred thousand (USD). Seriously Alpo, if Russia influenced the World to the same extent that US has, then things would be a LOT darker. Obviously, I cannot prove this as Russia does not exert that level of influence. I sincerely hope that I am never able to prove that fact.

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      • Dove:

        06 Jun 2014 12:28:36pm

        It's easy to compare the two, just as you have done. Each of your statements could be inverted and they'd still have truth in them: The US has influenced some countries...for the worse; a peaceful world is also in Russia's interests; the USA has corruption at the highest levels; Obama is a millionaire (as are the senators and governors).

        You'd need to be taking some long swigs from the propaganda bottle to seriously think that the world is a case of black and white. Grey and greyer, perhaps?

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        • Todd:

          06 Jun 2014 1:21:01pm

          It is just speculation on both our parts as Russia has never had the same influence as the US.

          If you think corruption is the same in Russia as the US, that's fine. I humbly disagree. If you think civil liberties are equal in Russia, I would again disagree, but of course it is a matter of opinion. Some may say that extremely poor Americans are INDIRECTLY oppressed as much as gays or women in Russia. Again, though, I disagree in that at least in the US there is a chance of improving one's lot in life, however remote. Gays and other activists like Pussy Riot are DIRECTLY oppressed. And I would also say that the destitute in Russia are as economically oppressed (I would argue far more due to the reigning Kleptocracy) as the poorest in the US.

          I think the World is far better off under US influence and I do not see it as my being a victim of propaganda. I have formed the opinion freely. Unless, of course, the propaganda runs so deep that history is but a fairy tale. And that Pussy Riot weren't locked up for criticising Putin. I will admit I did not witness any of it, and so, if, by taking taking as true Russia's oppressive actions I see depicted in the (admittedly Western) media, that makes me, along with the entire Western media, a victim of propaganda. But we have far bigger problems with our society if in fact all the stuff about Russia's oppression of gays/women/[insert minority] is all lies and propaganda, wouldn't you agree?

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        • MikeS:

          06 Jun 2014 3:24:56pm

          Mate, your opinion of Russia dates back to the the 90's and 10's. Time to update yourself. Putin has made great progress in booting out the influence of the oligarchs in Russia and culling corruption. The restraint and levelheadedness he has demonstrated over the Ukraine / Crimea situation indicates that he is at least a responsible head of state. Can you picture ANY US president exercising similar restraint if Canada was in the throes of becoming a Russian ally??

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        • pmg:

          06 Jun 2014 3:33:15pm

          "Unless, of course, the propaganda runs so deep that history is but a fairy tale". You have hit the nail on the head and are clearly a victim of relentless propaganda. The US backed organised and funded the illegal coup in the Ukraine and have been demonising the Russians ever since - typical behavior I might add. The hypocrisy of the US is boundless.

          Search for the interview with Putin from yesterday and you will get a perspective on the situation missing in the West. Although I am guessing you have been convinced he is "Hitler" going by the fact you mindlessly repeated the western propaganda on this matter in your post.

          The western media are not victims of propaganda - they are complicit in it's distribution.

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      • Alpo:

        06 Jun 2014 12:36:54pm


        The desire for peaceful living, a say in the affairs of the country (= Democracy), a bit of social justice and sharing the wealth of the nation are pretty much widespread around the world. The Russians are no exception. They are not "evil", as Reagan wanted all of us to believe, or if you like, they are not more intrinsically evil than anybody else. Russia is now a Democracy, as "Democratic" as our countries in the west are. They have a Government that wants to exert a degree of control, as our Governments want. They have Businessmen who also want to control, often in ways that are bordering illegality or even well into illegality, in the same way as our Businessmen do. Let's not be naive, it's money and greed that corrupt, and this principle applies to everybody, not just the Russians.

        Look what's happening right now in Australia under Abbott, look at the favours, paybacks, a whole attempt at changing this country (through the Budget from Hell) to make it more subservient to the interests of Big Business, those who financed the despicable Liberal campaign of lies to get their puppet Abbott elected.... Are you proud of all that? Is that the kind of Democracy you want to show to the Russians so that they can "learn"?

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        • frangipani:

          06 Jun 2014 1:36:13pm

          Alpo, no one seriously believes Russia is a democracy in any meaningful sense. Have a look at its ratings on Freedom House, or by Reporters without Borders or Transparency International. It's at the bottom quartile when it comes to human rights, civil and political rights, free speech, freedom of the press, and transparency in governance and business. If you think Abbott's budget favours business, how do you feel about Russia, where 20% of the public purse goes in straight out corruption and bribery?

          20 years ago I thought Russia might just make the conversion into a democratic state notwithstanding its total lack of a democratic tradition. I don't believe it any more. Yet again, they have ceded power to an authoritarian who will sort it all out, or so they believe. Tsars, Commissars, Putin - no difference at all. They're in it for what they can get, not for what they can give to the people.

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        • Alpo:

          06 Jun 2014 2:19:29pm

          frangipani, it took somebody like Obama to get the USA to a merely decent level of democratic status. Corporate and media control of information, non-compulsory voting, easily disheartened economically worse off people who renounce their participation in the vote.... all that undermines the Democratic status of the USA.

          But I agree that historically Russia has a much lower democratic tradition than most western countries. However, you cannot compare their current levels of democratic participation with their situation under Soviet rule. Russia squandered their possibility to transition from their undemocratic past to an even more complete democratic future when the Western interests motivated by the loony Reagan got rid of the good Gorbachev and replaced him with Yeltsin the Drunkard. They thought that the trick was done, and Russia had become the playground of American Multinational Business interests (along with the mad American Christian activists who sent the traditional Russian Orthodox Church into overdrive). But they were wrong, Putin is a reaction to that attempt at colonising Russia. I am sure that with your international experience you can see what I am talking about.

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        • frangipani:

          06 Jun 2014 4:35:53pm

          Alpo - I don't share your opinion of Obama. I think he's a good orator and a lousy politician, with very little grasp of world affairs. Give me Bill Clinton over Obama any day of the week.

          As for media control of information, please. This is the age of the internet. No one controls information in the western world anymore. And I do not actually regard compulsory voting as being essential to democracy, or even as being inherently democratic in itself. Most democracies manage very well without it.

          I'm not sure that you can blame Reagan for the demise of Gorbachev, given that Gorbachev was still running the Soviet Union when Reagan had left office. Internal politics within the USSR pretty much made the collapse of the existing system inevitable, and that really had nothing to do with the Americans at all. Ukrainians wanted their independence, so did a number of the Muslim states who resented Russian dominance, and of course the Baltics loathed the Russians with a passion and were always going to spin off the moment they got the chance. No one, not Gorbachev nor anyone else, could have held that together.

          And, thanks to both Yeltsin and Putin, it's the homegrown oligarchs who've raped the Russian economy. The Americans and western Europeans haven't had a look in, while the ex-nomenclatura scoops up the spoils. There was never an attempt to "colonize" Russia - it was always about the internal victors squabbling over the spoils. And of course Putin's exercise in imperialism in Ukraine is fully backed by his buddies in the Russian Orthodox Church, who would love to get their clutches on Ukrainian Orthodox Church's holdings. Now that's colonialism.

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        • Alpo:

          06 Jun 2014 5:29:22pm

          " No one controls information in the western world anymore."... Oh please, frangipani, I expect better from you. To manipulate Democracy you don't need to have a Soviet or Nazi style control of information. You only need to be able to swing a sufficient majority. That's why Murdoch doesn't have any problem at all subsidising his newspapers in Australia. For as long as he can swing 10-15 % of the voters above the hard-core Talibanesque right-wingers, that's enough.

          Without compulsory voting the power of the media is even greater, hence compulsory voting is essential for a true Democracy, unless there is a true diversity of sources of information. The internet will achieve that in the future, but we are not there yet.

          For your information Reagan was still President (he ended his term in 1989, to be succeeded by his Vice President GHW Bush) when Gorbachev started and continued as head of state (1988-91). So, the Reaganite policies marked the US approach to Gorbachev.

          "There was never an attempt to "colonize" Russia"... Blessed innocence, frangipani.

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        • frangipani:

          06 Jun 2014 7:31:51pm

          I think you're the innocent here. People have access to more information these days than at any time in the past. At the flick of a mouse, I can read the American, Canadian, British, Australian, Russian, Indian, or Chinese "take" on any world issue. I can go from the Times to the Guardian to Le Monde to RT to Xinhua to the Globe and Mail or the Corriere della Sera. I can get opinions from every part of the planet and from every political perspective. This concept that Murdoch or whoever "controls" the media is so 1990s.

          And no, I disagree entirely about compulsory voting. Nothing will convince me that the Australian electorate is better informed, more committed, more concerned, than the Canadian or British or French or Italian electorates. The system here throws up people voting above the line, which is entirely anti-democratic, and it forces me to give a tick, however low, to someone I wouldn't ever want my vote to "flow" to. My last election, we had three reasonable candidates and six godawful ones, yet I had to give them numbers. That's wrong. I should have been able to say, right, I will number my first three, eliminate the rest and not have my vote discounted. That would be democracy. This is compulsion and I don't like it at all.

          I know about Reagan. I know about Gorbachev. The USSR collapsed two years after Reagan left office. How he could be blamed for Russian internal politics is beyond my ken.

          Colonize. Look it up. Ask the Hungarians or the Ukrainians what it means to them. They are not going to be talking about America. They are going to be describing 45 years of Russian colonization (the Hungarians) or 300+ years (the Ukrainians). The reality is that, when the USSR broke up, western companies hoped to invest there but the oligarchs had the joint sewn up. It's one of the reasons that the Russian economy is stuttering now notwithstanding their resources - no one is going to invest to modernize their industrial base, given the corruption at every level of the economy and the government. That's Russia's choice.

          But if you think that Russia's little expedition into Ukraine is anything but colonialism, sorry, but it's you that's naive. And ignoring hundreds of years of Russian history.

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  • stevie84:

    06 Jun 2014 10:35:55am

    fantastic article Mathew - a pleasure to read and I agree with most. I think Russia's assertivness is even more interesting, and possibly troubling, when looked at with its involvement with Iran, the Middle East and Syria

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    • MikeS:

      06 Jun 2014 3:35:05pm

      I'd be troubled if Russian objectives mirrored those of the USA. Indications are that they don't, rather they appear to disagree with the unilateral meddling in sovereign states that is the hallmark of US foreign policy.

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  • Terry:

    06 Jun 2014 10:37:23am

    " ... everyone knows the Normandy landings would not have been attempted had not Stalin bled the German army to breaking point on the Eastern Front ..."

    And, as everyone knows, the invasion of Poland would not have taken place had not Stalin agreed with Hitler to not only not retaliate, but to split the proceeds.

    Not to mention the thousands of Allied sailors who died transporting US and British equipment to the Soviet Union when it appeared on the brink of collapse. Equipment that was desperately needed by the Allies themselves.

    A very selective and one-sided view of US geo-politics. I could just as easily point out that from the start Obama has led a US retreat from the world. Within weeks of his inauguration he was making abject apologies in Cairo, seemingly accepting that the US was "anti-Muslim". Instead of pointing out that US force saved Bosnian and Kuwaiti Muslims, and freed Iraqi Muslims.

    Since that inauspicious start, Obama has done nothing that could be seen as even vaguely aggressive. That the Eastern European countries are eager to join NATO would indicate that Russian occupation for 40 years was not enjoyed. NATO has in fact been reluctant to accept them.

    Am I being too cynical to see this article as a response to and deflection of China's recent belligerence in our region, a belligerence which has seen many countries anxiously checking on the willingness of the USA to stand by them against the local bully?

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 11:04:22am

      "Am I being too cynical" ... not at all.

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    • M2M:

      06 Jun 2014 11:20:24am

      Excellent contribution to the discussion, Terry. History is a lot more complex than Matthew's article allowed for and what he was pointing the finger at Obama for doing.

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      • HPH:

        06 Jun 2014 3:03:08pm

        "Excellent contribution to the discussion, Terry."

        You think so?

        While the western-powers and the MSM -Murdoch's gutter rag- are too busy criticising the rule of the law in North Korea, Russia, and China for Tiananmen massacres there is not a single mention of the demonstrations in Bahrain.

        Why isn't our MSM not criticising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain? Why isn't The West calling for free elections and Democracy in these kingdoms?

        Well, we all know the answer to this question, don't we? Follow the MONEY.


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        • Oh Lordy:

          06 Jun 2014 3:29:26pm

          Relax, HPH..

          The 'money trail' will soon be stopping in the oil shales belts of the USA...

          ...you'll be able to drive in your car and fly in (gulf state) airlines to Bali and Singapore with a clear conscience...knowing that your own consumer habits are not financing "Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain"...

          ...win-win, eh??!!

          (Ohhh...you vote Green which means that you DON'T have a carbon footprint??...my mistake!)

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        • HPH:

          06 Jun 2014 6:20:19pm

          Your mistake all right! Your reply to me is meaningless in regard to my comment to M2M.

          But since you want to know:

          The Wall Street banksters control the lion share of the global oil trade with the U.S. currency, and as for the oil in the U.S., they couldn't care less if they are contaminating their own water supply by fracking. Profit first... Everything else can go to hell !!!

          Ps. How do you know whom I voted for?.. You made a mistake again!... *you* need to relax, OL

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    • kenj:

      06 Jun 2014 11:46:21am

      "I could just as easily point out that from the start Obama has led a US retreat from the world. Within weeks of his inauguration he was making abject apologies in Cairo, seemingly accepting that the US was "anti-Muslim". Instead of pointing out that US force saved Bosnian and Kuwaiti Muslims, and freed Iraqi Muslims."

      These are nonsense claims, Terry. The US has been actively involved in numerous Middle East "color revolutions" and "Arab Spring" uprisings. The US invasion of Libya, support for the Syrian and Ukrainian insurgencies, intensive diplomatic involvement in former Russian states in Asia -- all evidence of an active US involvement.

      Oh, and the US didn't "free Iraqi Muslims." The West illegally invaded and over half a million innocent Iraqi civilians died as a result. Some 'liberation' that one.

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      • Terry:

        06 Jun 2014 5:52:28pm

        I won't reply to all the claims - I'll leave to the common sense of the readers.

        But could we stop calling the invasion of Iraq "illegal"?

        If it were illegal, surely a charge would have been laid by now?

        That you would prefer Saddam Hussein to have remained in power, building his army for another but bigger and better Iran-Iraq or First Gulf War is up to you.

        But let's not let fantasy get in the way.

        PS I note that at least we no longer have the USA killing the half million people. However many died (and I doubt very much it was that many) the vast majority were killed by fellow Iraqis for religious, political or criminal, with many US troops dying to save the innocent.

        It would, of course, have been easier had not so many chosen to support a homicidal warmonger in the enthusiasm for anything or anyone anti-US

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    • R Supwood:

      06 Jun 2014 12:06:03pm

      In 1939, Stalin took back from Poland what the Poles had stolen in 1920. Hitler didn't like it, thnking the USSR had suddenly moved on his forces, but Stalin didn't want Poles to be governed; he merely repatriated Belorus and Ukrainian majorities, with some others, perhaps 4 millions.

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      • JoeBloggs:

        06 Jun 2014 12:57:32pm

        The Polish state began in 966, when Mieszko I converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it cemented a longstanding political association with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by signing the Union of Lublin, forming the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.

        The Commonwealth gradually ceased to exist in the years 1772 1795, when the Polish territory was partitioned among Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Austria.

        Poland regained its independence (as the Second Polish Republic) at the end of World War I, in 1918.

        Two decades later, in September 1939, World War II started with the invasions of Poland by Nazi Germany and the USSR (as part of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact). Six million Polish citizens died in the war began by Messers Hilter and Stalin.

        I note too you mention in passing the Polish Soviet War (1919 to 1921) when Poland inflicted a crushing defeat on the Red Army at the Battle of Warsaw, an event which is considered to have halted the advance of Communism into Europe and forced Vladimir Lenin to rethink his objective of achieving global socialism. Now the event is often referred to as the 'Miracle at the Vistula'. Any claim that Poland had "stolen" land from Russia during this period could of course by seen in relation to the partition of Poland in the 1700's where Russia "stole" vast areas of land (which then gave rise to Stalins devious and erronous claims of stolen lands to justify his invasion of Poland in 1939).

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        • taxedoff:

          06 Jun 2014 1:28:15pm

          a good response which can also be applied to other false empires which magically have large ethnic cultural nations effectively locked up inside the empires borders. . any group of people who share a language share a culture which differs to others . homogenous nations are comprised of a culture that shares a linguistic tradition and other mores. many empires mistakenly then get called nations when in fact they are the false collection of many stolen disenfranchised cultural groups who have no wish to be a part of the empire that debased them. in respect to ethnic russians who are the product of govt directed / forced migration into eastern crimea etc after the russian revolution they have a claim to be returned to russia if they so desire but the area should also revert abck to being no ethnically russian.

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        • R Supwood:

          06 Jun 2014 1:28:54pm

          Thanks for your observations, which we can't share personally. I stand by my brief comment, based lagely on works of Sir Lewis Namier and Andrew Rothstein. We are all liable to confuse and intermix attitudes to population, or territory, or tradition, or wars and treaties, the unscrupulous or uncaring choosing a path to suit. Stalin is tremendously misunderstood and underrated in the west, being of deep instincts allied to a formidable "computerised "mind and memory. His cold calculation in assessing Hitler is worth more thought. The map of Poland over centuries makes a mockery of who stole what, the name itself, Poland coming from Pola, a field or stretch of plain or prairie. Stalin had cause and revenge in mind, history more on his side than not. I do feel for the Polish people, so often the butt of jokes for political inopportunism. Once Stalin accommodated the Germans, it was a fourth partition for the Poles. To live safely, Poland has had to square off the borders, reconcile minorites in every direction, adopt the Curzon line, with no Polish enclaves outside, and no foreign enclaves inside...

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        • Grover Jones:

          06 Jun 2014 3:45:23pm

          A brilliant and well informed response, JB.

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      • Oh Lordy:

        06 Jun 2014 2:24:36pm


        ...Poland "stole" parts of Belarus and Ukraine from the Russians...

        ...which the Russians had previously 'stolen' from the Poles....

        ...Which the Poles had previously 'stolen' from the Ukrainians and Belarusians...

        ...which, in part, had previously been stolen from the Poles...

        ...Which means that the Soviets had full right to take it back (by force) in 1939....along with the Baltic States, parts of historic Finland and parts of historic Poland....regardless of the opinions of the local ethnic Ukrainians and Belarusians...

        ...in a military pact with Nazi Germany...which was forcibly taking back parts of historic Prussia...which was part of historic Germany...along with parts of historic Poland and Lithuania...

        Which means that Stalin was doing good and Hitler was doing bad...

        ...and fully justifies Putin's Russia in their forcible annexation of Crimea, which was "stolen" from the Tartars by the Russians...and "gifted" by Stalin to the Ukraine in 1954...having been ethnically cleansed of its indigenous Tartar population in 1944..by Stalin... and filled with Russian colonialists...

        ...but certainly does NOT justify the USA from promising ?to help friends like Ukraine, and Moldova and Georgia provide for their own defence? ...all of whom were forcibly colonised by Russia.... and are currently (no doubt, unreasonably) nervous about the prospects of Russia?s further forcible annexation of their territory....

        Because, after all, Russian sensibilities about ?lost spheres of influence? (read, colonies) are far more important in the 21st century than the rights of sovereign nations to peace and security within internationally agreed borders...

        I think I can see your point, Supwood!!

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    • aGuy:

      06 Jun 2014 3:39:34pm

      I agree with all, except the parts of "everyone knows". Its quite the opposite. Few people know (at least in the Western countries) that Russia played such a vital role in WW2.

      Absolutes are rarely true. WW2 required a combination of actions to result in the world we know today. Japan attacking Hawaii, Russia needing time to increase its military, European countries being caught with their pants down, Germany quickly reuniting with Austria, the WW1 convention being unsuitable for Germany, Italy invading Africa, Spain under the rule of dictatorship and more.

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    • graazt:

      06 Jun 2014 3:40:03pm

      No doubt the lend-lease program was crucial in supplying the Red Army.

      But fundamentally the author is correct. The Wehrmacht was broken by the East. The invasion of Normandy may have hastened the end of the war, and drastically changed post-war geopolitics. But the outcome of the war was determined on the Eastern front.

      And yes, that Artic supply run was nightmarish. And yet Western sailors were constantly shocked, upon running that gauntlet, that their Russian hosts in Murmansk and elsewhere weren't brimming with gratitude. Any insights into why?

      As for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, well, says it all really. A Polish alliance with France and England could be safely disregarded. Whereas poking the bear might have made the Germans think twice.

      There were plenty of instances of appeasement and cynical aggrandisement prior to Poland btw. Chamberlain and the Sudetenland. Belligerent neutrality by England during the Spanish Civil War.

      Unfair reparations clauses in the inter-war years.

      How far do you really want to go back when apportioning blame for outcomes...

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    • artofthefirstpeople:

      06 Jun 2014 4:15:01pm

      What sort of bubble do you live in mate?

      Don't you follow the horrors inflicted upon Iraq, Libya, Syria and now the Ukraine by Obama and his proxies?

      What is the forth largest company in the world - G4S - and who do they work for.................??

      Dig a little deeper - ask more questions - you will be surprised with what you uncover!

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    • Khrushchev:

      06 Jun 2014 5:01:36pm

      *sigh*, someone else who doesnt know history...i take it you never read mein kampf. Stalin knew Hitler was coming - regardless. It was in black and white in Mein Kampf that Hitler's Lebensraum was in the USSR. Stalin needed time. He bought some time with the non-aggression pact AFTER the Western allies rejected a plan for a pre-emptive attack on the Nazi's that would have involved Soviet troops crossing Polish territory. Poland refused. They sealed their own fate and brought the Nazi's on themselves. Sorry but that's what happened. Those millions of Soviet citizens need not have died if Poland has simply agreed.

      The West weren't desperate for the equipment since they didnt cross the channel until 44. The Africa campaign was a side show. The Germans didnt even have a full army there.

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      • Terry:

        06 Jun 2014 6:01:29pm

        There was no plan for a "pre-emptive strike". Britain and more importantly France, were simply not capable of such a war in 1939. And the public of neither nation would have tolerated it. It was hard enough to get them to go to war for Poland.

        The Poles refused access to the Red Army as they suspected, with good reason, that once the Russians had arrived, they would not leave. But the entry to Poland was not for the purpose of attacking Germany but for supporting Czechoslovakia.

        When the Munich crisis arose, Britain and France were desperate to find some way of exerting pressure on Germany, other than total war. One way was to help the Czechs in the event of a German takeover. Stalin insisted the only way he would assist would be if the Red Army had clear access through Poland.

        Stalin played both sides to his own advantage as he always did. Hitler won the bidding war.

        You only have to see the results of Yalta to see what Stalin was like in negotiations.

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      • Oh Lordy:

        06 Jun 2014 6:08:53pm


        A 'surprise' pre-emptive attack on Germany in, what, 1938??, by marching (yes..marching!, Soviet formations were notoriously non-mechanised in the early war period) through Poland, a distance of several hundred miles, would have caught the Wehrmacht completely unprepared and been an outstanding military success??

        But instead, "the Western allies" made the benevolent Soviets invade Poland, the Baltic states and Finland (yes, tiny, non-industrial, Finland), who handed the Red Army it's a%$&* in the Winter War of 1939-40.

        But the Red Army would have defeated Germany in a swift, successful campaign in 1938!!

        Then the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and, although "Stalin knew Hitler was coming...it was in black and white in Mein Kampf", the Wehrmacht handed the Red Army it's a#$% AGAIN in 1941.

        But the Red Army would have defeated Germany in a swift, successful campaign in 1938!!

        Good thing you live in a free country, Khrushchev (rather than your beloved Soviet Union), you're free to believe any sort of fantastical nonsense here...

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      • spud:

        06 Jun 2014 6:21:08pm

        That's crap Krushchy

        Stalin was as (deliberately) ignorant of Hitler's plans as everyone else in the west who had likewise had access to Mein Kampf. Otherwise if he did know, why did he underwrite and support the secret re-arming of Germany in the early Nazi years? Most of the equipment forbidden to Germany under Versailles was built in Russia.

        And if Stalin was really so intent on buying time, then why did he continue to provide Hitler with all the vital raw materials he needed to continue to build his war machine right up until the very morning of Barbarossa? And why did Barbarossa catch him so completely by surprise, when he was secretly warned of it by Churchill, and when, if he had been even slightly alert to the possibility, he would have seen all of the warning signs, ranging from a clear military build-up on his borders to increasing incursions of Nazi spy planes over Russian territory, and so on.

        He was either oblivious, or unconscious, or a politically na?ve fool, and there was no evidence of either of the latter two possibilities. That leaves the basic fact that Stalin wanted his part of Poland, and Hitler gave it to him. And if he had truly respected Poland's sovereignty and democracy, he would not have been responsible for the massacre of nearly 5000 Polish army officers at Katyn wood, and who knows how many others elsewhere. And he would not have deliberately incited the Polish resistance to rise up in Warsaw against the Nazis, and then not only refuse to send any assistance, but also refuse to allow the allies to fly any supplies to the uprising.

        Stalin was a filthy, bloodthirsty butcher, whose crimes rivalled Hitler's. In truth, he only escaped the gallows because he was with the final victors. He shouldn't have.

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  • JoeBloggs:

    06 Jun 2014 10:40:09am

    Matthew begins with "everyone knows the Normandy landings would not have been attempted had not Stalin bled the German army to breaking point on the Eastern Front."

    But he forgets to point out that the Germans would have broken the Eastern Front years before had it not been for:

    - the supply of war material to the Russians by the USA & UK

    - the fronts continuing in Africa (oh how the German high command could have done with those divisions in Russia, remember 250,000 Axis were captured in Tunisa)

    - the naval war which bled german forces and resources

    - the air war which destroyed the core of the german airforce and most importantly forced deployment of masses of air defense (in 1943 - the critical years - expenditures on anti-aircraft defenses were 39 million reichsmarks, whereas all the remaining weapons and munitions production amounted to 93 million, including 20 million of the navy budget and only nine million of the aircraft-related budged) and caused massive industrial damage in particular to the key petroleum production sites

    - the landings in Italy after the critical battle of Kursk began which caused the Kursk offensive to be cancelled (even though the southern pincer had broken through that day and victory in the east was in the offering)

    - even the risk of an allied invasion in the west and Norway caused the Germans to deploy vast quantities of resources and men which would have be sufficient to overwhelm the Russians.

    - Normandy was arranged to occur just before the Russian offensive Operation Bagration, and was responsible for causing the withdrawl of forces just before the Russian offensive began.

    While the conflict in the East can never be understated it is important to realise that without each other both the Allies and the the USSR would have collapsed.

    ps. not mentioning Stalin's non aggression pact with German which allowed WW2 to occur nor his hope that the Germans/French/UK would destroy each other leaving the door open to the USSR to walk right in and take over the lot.

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    • Zing:

      06 Jun 2014 11:38:46am

      Quite right.

      Without the German forces being depleted on the eastern front, the western campaign would have been doomed to failure. Without allied support to Russia, the German forces would have seized Moscow and the Baku oilfields.

      Japan lost the war because it awoke a sleeping giant. Germany lost the war because it woke too many enemies at once.

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      • Khrushchev:

        06 Jun 2014 5:08:59pm

        wrong wrong wrong! Moscow was saved before materiel started being delivered. Moscow was saved because Soviet divisions in Siberia reinforced Moscows defenders thanks to the game changing intel of the spy Richard Sorge.

        The West did help the USSR but this help is frequently exaggerated as we see here.

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        • Zing:

          06 Jun 2014 5:55:10pm

          In the years prior to Operation Barbarossa, Germany was involved in several military campaigns against allied forces. Germany had also been greatly affected by several years of trade embargo and blockade.

          Nobody is suggesting that the allies won the Eastern Front for Russia. But Germany may have won outright if it had seized Moscow and Baku oilfields. Allied support made a critical difference when it mattered.

          Allied victories helped Russia win in the East. Russia's victories helped the allies win in the West. And both sides eventually helped each other to reach the Elbe River.

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        • Khrushchev:

          06 Jun 2014 6:34:08pm

          Capturing Moscow doesnt win you the USSR or Russia as Napoleon found out. Moscow would have become an early Stalingrad.

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        • spud:

          06 Jun 2014 6:28:31pm

          Let's not forget that Stalin's duplicity achieved what Hitler had hoped to do; turn all of middle Europe into vassal states that were subsequently bled to economic ruin and poverty by Moscow. And the west helped Stalin in that aim by not hindering him, but simply indulging in empty rhetoric; rather like Obama does to Putin.

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    • kenj:

      06 Jun 2014 11:39:51am

      And let's not forget the continuation of post WW2 efforts by the West and the CIA to defeat Communist political parties in Europe by forming alliances with former Nazis (everywhere), mafia groups (Italy), drug trafficking syndicates(Turkey) and in Greece. These forces conducted terrorist bombings which they blamed on the Communist or Socialist Parties in their own countries. Usually the local agents of these movements included Right wing military and government officials. It was the 40s and 50s and the West was conducting a covert war against any European dalliance with Communism; terrorist bombings and assassinations were the CIA's modus operandi in achieving these ends.

      Many of these 'deep state' fascist movements have continued to this day in various forms with links to covert US foreign policy in Turkey and former Russian States: Operation Gladio, Strategy of Tension, Ergenekon, Turkish 'Deep State'.

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      • frangipani:

        06 Jun 2014 12:47:54pm

        That's a very one-sided take on the post-war years. Let's not forget that the Communists in east Germany recruited former Nazis as well, or that the KGB and its Warsaw Pact counterparts indulged in spying, financing extremist groups and the odd spot of assassination as well. Whatever the west's faults in that era, they didn't send in tanks to stop a popular uprising in Budapest or another in Prague.

        And when it comes to neo-fascism, it's kind of hard to beat Putin and his ethnic Russian chest-beating.

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      • JoeBloggs:

        06 Jun 2014 1:53:44pm

        G'day Kenj,

        Yeah the KGB agent (Mr Putin) seems to still be living in those spy "haydays" of the cold war when all sides were running around the planet killing each other as best they could.

        However, as Mr Obama has pointed out, it is now the 21st century and those 19th and 20th century behaviour are inappropriate and to be condemned.

        ps. Operation Gladio - the never used plan to create a resistence movement in the event the USSR took over Europe, Strategy of Tension - methods used by all geopolitical participants during the 20th century (and throughout history), Ergenekon and Deep State (the same thing) - again just the methology used by all geopolitical participants in the 20th century (and throughout history)... i'm disappointed you didn't include Red Bridages, Front Line, Revolutionary Cells and Red Army Factions

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  • Fredn:

    06 Jun 2014 10:43:43am

    " everyone knows the Normandy landings would not have been attempted had not Stalin bled the German army to breaking point on the Eastern Front."

    To paraphrase his words, does Matthew know that the invasion of Poland and its partition into German and Russian zones would not have been attempted had not Stalin entered into the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the USSR. Stalin didn't come to save the Allies from the Nazis like some hero. He happily sat on the sidelines supplying Germany with food and oil and manufactured goods while Britain held out alone and Germany pillaged occupied Europe. If he had not been attacked, Stalin would undoubtedly have stayed on the sidelines. We can thank Hitler's overreach for Germany's being bled white on the Eastern Front.

    At Hitler's invitation Russia occupied eastern Poland and the mass graves of the Polish officers they slaughtered bears witness to their ruthlessness. Maybe Eastern Europe has reason to look for friends in the west.

    If Dal Santo can overlook such a fact in east west relations, what else is he being selective about in this article?

    Not saying Putin is Stalin, but he is no hero in the current events either.

    The role of world policeman is not one that Obama volunteered the US for, and I think we need to cut him some slack as he negotiates the way between the hawks and the doves in the US, between being the worlds policeman and withdrawing and leaving a dangerous power vacuum. The world can't just ignore Russia's annexing a bit of the next country, nor can it go to war over it. I see a lot of criticism, but not a lot of real practical ideas of how to fix this.

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    • KevinS:

      06 Jun 2014 2:20:25pm

      Agree with you Fredn. There must be space constraints in these articles, but Dal Santo took on a complex situation involving Russia that has been evolving for 80 years and more and applied a simple and incomplete analysis.

      And Stalin was gone when Hitler invaded Russia, till the British and Americans ensured that convoys of food, medicine, supplies and weapons got through to Russia. Numerous merchant ships and lives were lost in the process of assisting Russia.

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  • Matthew:

    06 Jun 2014 10:45:03am

    Excellent article. Two things worth highlighting:

    1). "The days of empire and spheres of influence are over." Now that America's reaches right up to Russia's doorstep, that is.

    I can hardly belief Obama can keep a straight face during his speeches regarding Russia.

    2) But in reality Hitler was defeated on the steppes of Russia - Stalingrad, Kursk, Sebastopol - by the almost inconceivable sacrifice of nine million Soviet soldiers and 20 million Soviet civilians.

    Something the West doesn't like to admit. Not quite the historical narrative we like to glorify.

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    • Desert Woman:

      06 Jun 2014 11:19:05am

      Matthew, we are living in a dream world, one fuelled by the USA's belief in its 'exceptionalism' and transported by its major vehicle, Hollywood. Obama is as much a product of these dreams as any other USA citizen and pretty much ignores the realities of his country, its descent into poverty and squalor the same as many of its citizens do. Obama can fool himself and his population for a while but many around the world see the reality much more clearly.

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      • frangipani:

        06 Jun 2014 12:54:26pm

        Actually, I doubt the rest of the world sees things at all clearly. 40 years ago, America had the best standard of living in the world. Today, it hasn't gone backwards, but parts of the world have caught up. The standard of living there is still far above most of the world, though, and certainly above anything Russia has to offer (unless you're an oligarch, of course).

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        • Desert Woman:

          06 Jun 2014 1:52:55pm

          Frangipani, it hasn't gone backwards? Well no, not if you are really rich but what about the rest? Their standard of living is sometimes appalling and almost nothing is being done about it. The USA has one of the highest debts in the world however you measure it. It is an open secret that their politicians vote with a high degree of correlation to their donations. As I said, based on dreams and myths, and their foreign policy is really no different.

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        • frangipani:

          06 Jun 2014 4:38:31pm

          Desert Woman - the US has always been a nation of extremes, and has never had the social net that most of the rest of the western world does. That hasn't changed, but neither has the reality that it's still a largely middle class society. And if you don't think that politicians in this country vote according to donations, or indeed that voters don't vote the same way, I give you the PUP.

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        • Desert Woman:

          06 Jun 2014 6:14:46pm

          Frangipani, you claim it is still a middle class society but all the facts and figures say otherwise. Wage growth has stalled while inequality has increased even further. I don't like the way trends are going here either but to imply that democracy in Oz is as 'bought' as it has proven to be in the states defies all the evidence to date.

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        • Khrushchev:

          06 Jun 2014 5:12:55pm

          "Today, it hasn't gone backwards"

          Tell that to the citizens of Detroit for starters...

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    • Terry:

      06 Jun 2014 1:53:22pm

      Nobody can deny that the Soviets suffered in WW2. To call it a sacrifice would be a little disingenuous.

      While the Western Allies declared war on Germany following its invasion of Poland, the USSR joined in the annihilation of Poland, climaxing in the murder of the Polish elite at Katyn.

      The USSR only fought Nazism when Hitler attacked them. That they suffered could be attributed to their failure to object earlier and to support Hitler's war against democracy, a war they continued after 1945 when their erstwhile ally had been defeated.

      It took another 50 years for half of Europe to be finally liberated from totalitarian rule.

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      • Matthew:

        06 Jun 2014 4:01:27pm

        One can point out any number of atrocities perpetrated by the Soviet Union - but significantly, most were carried out against its own people. The same people who desperately defended their homeland against the Nazi invasion. It seems somewhat perverse to call into question use of the word sacrifice and to qualify their suffering. They sacrificed their lives to save their homeland. The policies of Stalin do not alter this fact. Nor the fact that this was the pivotal victory which ultimately broke the back of the Nazis.

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        • Terry:

          06 Jun 2014 6:05:55pm

          I merely pointed out that the Western Allies sacrificed their lives for others: the Soviets for themselves.

          Britain and France could have sat back and watched Poland be swallowed. They chose to do something about it. Stalin chose to join in, and only when he was attacked himself did he decide to become anti-fascist.

          If you cannot see a moral distinction, so be it.

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        • HPH:

          06 Jun 2014 6:48:25pm

          "I merely pointed out that the Western Allies sacrificed their lives for others: the Soviets for themselves."

          "God created war so that Americans would learn geography."

          -- Mark Twain

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  • CassiniBlue:

    06 Jun 2014 10:51:05am

    The international question: What then, is the right rhetoric that should be used at G7? How might Europe be conceived other than it is? Who has the vision?

    The national concern: Abbott has no idea about foreign policy or the EU. The rhetoric of Abbott is more vacuous than that of Obama. Our biggest concern is that EU leaders will pick up just how ignorant the new Australian PM really is.

    What we lack is true rhetoricians. Leaders who have a well developed critical understanding of human nature and the validity of multiple perspectives on international politics. Downtrodden Greece may well hold the intellectual key: a reinvigorated sense of Athenian democracy. How might we take Carthage in our own time?

    Obama need only look to his own philosophers, For Dewey and the pragmatists understood the value of a common unity in human diversity. A moral democracy. What is the greatest good of our times for every nation? Real rhetoricians have the tools of inquiry to pursue such questions.

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  • Mathew Dal Santo:

    06 Jun 2014 10:53:44am

    Hi Mathew,

    Thanks for a very well analysed and thought out opinion in your article" Obama rhetoric follows leaders to Norway." It's refreshing to read.

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  • Veganpuncher:

    06 Jun 2014 10:55:36am

    You're reading too much into this. Words are just words. The US doesn't care about Crimea, as the author states, it's in the Russian sphere. America will act in its own interests and POTUS will say whatever needs to be said to get people to go along, remember Weapons of Mass Destruction? The US has no interest in 'protecting' Europe, or in being mates with China, India, or anyone else. China will never be a peer challenger, its unbalanced demography and geographical isolation - permafrost to the north, mountains to the west and jungle to the south mean that China has two choices - an open market economy which will bring social chaos and decline, or a closed, controlled society which will bring a severe reduction in economic and military power.

    As for the other countries you mentioned, America just needs to play them off against one another to prevent them combining to challenge its power.

    As for American decline, I can assure you that America is just beginning to grow into its empire. 26% of everything in the world is created in the US. If the US doesn't like you, it can cut off your trade routes whenever it likes - ask the Iranians.

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    • Dove:

      06 Jun 2014 12:30:42pm

      Fair call

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    • MikeS:

      06 Jun 2014 4:14:59pm

      That's an ominously depressing outlook.. ('You like those drone strikes.. Get used to them, they ain't going away..')

      IF you are accurate though, erratic US military action becomes the hallmark of the world immediate future. On the other hand, US economic decline seems to be underway, so maybe there'll be a new norm. Less bombings please, is my request.

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  • JoeBloggs:

    06 Jun 2014 10:57:50am

    And if the "core national interest" is to be the yardstick of American policy, why the breathless indignation when Russia asserted its national interest in Ukraine?

    Simply because the people of Ukriane have a right to be allowed to live as they choose.

    No amount of pro Russian/Putin rhetoric will alter that one simple fact.

    If the Ukrianian people want to live in a free democratic land without being subjected to the whims and fancies of Kleptocrats in Moscow and their minions that were (and to a degree still are) in Ukraine then they have the right to do so.

    If they wish to do business with Europe because doing business with Russia has only bought them economic ruin then they have the right to do so.

    It is called freedom.... that thing Putin hates with a passion.

    What Putin failed to release before he invaded Ukraine and annexed a part of Ukriane (Crimea) and attempts to annex the south east of Ukraine by using his military intelligence operatives and irregular forces is that the Ukraines don't shy away from a fight, they are prepared to fight for their freedom and because of that Putin will fail in his designs and will only further push those nations bordering Russia closer to the West (for their own protection).

    The current invasion of Ukriane by Russian is an exact replica of their modus operandi which they used when they invaded during the (and during the build up to) Ukrainian - Soviet War of 1917 to 1921 .

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    • Fred:

      06 Jun 2014 1:54:45pm

      "the people of Ukraine have a right to be allowed to live as they choose"

      Does that also apply to the Russian-speaking citizens of eastern Ukraine?

      The people who democratically voted for a government that was then overthrown by force (especially when at the forefront of the 'overthrowing' were neo nazis)?

      The people who were then told by the unelected government that their language would no longer be recognised as an official language?

      The people who are now told to recognise Ukraine's 'elected' government, when voting by and large did not take place in their region? (the hypocrisy of America's approach to the elections in Ukraine and Syria is breathtaking)

      The government that is now carrying out air raids on the cities of eastern Ukraine?

      The government that looked the other way when more than 40 protestors were burned and bludgeoned to death in Odessa by neo nazis? (of which

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      • JoeBloggs:

        06 Jun 2014 3:30:12pm

        G'day Fred,

        "Does that also apply to the Russian-speaking citizens of eastern Ukraine? " - Yes, they just voted last month overwhelmingly for a new President, who won 58% of the vote in the first round (which is rather astonishing in Ukraine).

        In contrast the Right Sector (those right wing nationalists) fellow got less than 1% of the vote, much like the communist party. (Russian TV did run a story that Right Sector got 37% of the vote and won, but didn't realise the virus implanted in the electoral commission computer to generate such a result has been found and disabled about an hour before the Russians ran the story, much to the rest of the worlds chagrin)

        Yes, the last president fled the country after ordering the killing of over 100 euromaidan protestors (who were not neo nazis as you attempt to claim). Interestingly however the parliament of Ukraine didn't flee the country, they worked out amongst themselves how to share power fairly between the major parties and keep the country running until the elections could be held (they are hoping to hold parliamentary elections early, sometime in September).

        I see you have been watching Russian TV, you erroneously claim that the Russian "language would no longer be recognised as an official language". That is quite incorrect, an attempt was made to do that, but the Ukrainian parliament defeated the proposal and Russian has remained an official language (ummm... as if that justifies and invasion of a nation by another nation by the way!).

        I note you also claim that "The people who are now told to recognise Ukraine's 'elected' government, when voting by and large did not take place in their region?". This would be the population Donetsk who are subject to the whims of the Russian Federation military intelligence operatives who control the political and military wing of the Russian Federation created "Donetsk Peoples Republic" and the similar "Luhansk Peoples Republic", who were given the opportunity to vote but unfortunately were unable to as the Russian Federation military intelligence operatives and their irregular forces destroyed half the polling stations in Donetsk and Luhansk, and killed, kidnapped and tortured many of those who were to run the polls. Yes it would have been nice for them to vote too, in fact many still did. Though overall it wouldn't have altered the result as the next front runner only got 13% of the vote. Donetsk Oblast (Region) contains about 10% of the population of Ukraine.

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      • JoeBloggs:

        06 Jun 2014 3:35:36pm

        Yes I saw the footage which clearly shows the Russian Federation irregulars stuff up when they tried to fire their Russian supplied Man Portable Anti Aircraft Missile at an Ukrainian jet (that was firing at Russian Federation irregulars attacking a Ukrainian Border Guard base a number of miles away), it was a tragic event that the anti aircraft missile instead locked onto the wrong heat source (the aircon unit of the building) and was triggered when it grazed a tree (they come with a graze and proximity fuse) as it was fired from the centre of the park, the Strela 2 missile system also has a secondary trigger whereby all the unused fuel detonates, which is also clearly seen. The results of the missile?s HE and Pre-Fragmentation warhead was devastating on the women standing outside. Do note that the jet in question was on a flight path that had it fired any rockets at the building (which it didn?t) they would have impacted on the side of the building not the front of the building, the footage of the flight path is quite clear from video evidence.

        Yes, another tragedy when the pro Russian separatists attacked those pro Ukrainian football fans on the way to the match killing many of them, so too was the subsequent fire at the union building, but that is what happens when you play with fire and try to throw Molotov cocktails from inside the 3rd and 4th story of the building into a closed windows (that didn't break). Many were saved by the actions of those outside who managed to get scaffolding over to the building and helped those trapped inside to get out. A horrible event all round, though it must be said it is good to see the people of Odessa don?t want anything to do with the Russian Federation agents and irregulars.

        ps. Turn off RT and LifeNews for a while it just makes you look a bit silly really.

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        • artofthefirstpeople:

          06 Jun 2014 4:40:12pm

          By the way, most of the people of Odessa (but not all) see themselves as being Russian (and Russian speakers).

          It was mostly the Kiev right wing Neo-Nazi storm trooper blow-ins that perpetrated the fire and subsequent massacre!

          Speak to those who you may know who live, or have lived in in Odessa to get a handle on the truth!

          Do you know that even those who drove survivors to hospital are being jailed now, or worse still; disappeared?

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  • R Supwood:

    06 Jun 2014 11:01:01am

    Perceptive and informing, this article raises the need for deep and accurate forward thinking. Today, myth and honest gratitude mix in the D-Day remembrances, but, in June 1944, Twenty million USSR citizens were in uniform, had retaken Sevastopol and were bleeding Germany and its aliies, including Hungarians, Rumanians, some Poles, Bulgarians, Italians, etc, dry, of resources, equipment, manpower. D-Day shortened the war a little and spread the burden of sacrifice more evenly and fairly, but the USSR would have won and occupied all Europe by the end of 1946, if they had wished. At Potsdam, in July 1945, Stalin hosted a peace conference on ground his troops had captured and he eventually faced the fresh amateurs in Attlee and Truman. When we know that the USA suffered c. 350,000 deaths in WW2, as against the figure of over twenty five millions of the USSR, we might perceive the resolve and tradition that drives Putin and the childish pushy naivety of Obama and the obvious advice and support he gets domestically. Two weeks after D-Day, the great soviet offensive began,against which the Germans had no answer, no relief. Either Stalin would win all or Hitler would have done so. The border states between the USSR zone and the German central Europe line have been compromised, abused, occupied often, if and when greater world force has been unleashed. Obama and his advisors know so little. Merkel is needed to mediate and referee.

    There is a first smell of desperation here, as Obama seems to outline a final struggle for western greed and waste capitalism, a staus quo the domestic audience may vaguely perceive. But, in saying "our military has no peer", Obama knows and will not declare the fact that USA and Russian peoples will have about twenty minutes to reflect on their ultimate mistakes in the event of the all out third world and final war of mutually assured destruction. We'll all be in that, even if we get some days or weeks to die, miserable and doomed in far away Australia.

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    • frangipani:

      06 Jun 2014 1:40:52pm

      Perhaps the Russians wouldn't have had quite the problems they did in the war if they hadn't made that deal with Hitler which allowed him to fight a one-front war in 1939.

      The resolve that pushes Putin is the same resolve that pushed the Tsars, and for that matter Stalin when he expanded the Soviet Empire to the west. Keep the Russians focussed on glory and national pride, and you can get away with poor and corrupt governance, oppression, show trials, and a complete lack of rights. Not to mention stealing every state asset in sight.

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      • R Supwood:

        06 Jun 2014 2:31:48pm

        Fair enough, but consider this; Stalin had been betrayed twice, in 1938 and 1939, by conflict and irresolution. Only if USSR forces could use Czech and Polish territory for strategic and logistic reasons could a collective effort be made against a weak but rising Hitler. Stalin was sure, and probably right, that the west, in its confusion and denial (Stalin was not consulted), were ready to throw Hitler east and later blame Stalin and the Bolshies for any likely results. Stalin occupied an area of Poland east of the Curzon line that had been Russian imperial territory, with (1930's) eleven million people, mostly Belorus and Ukrainian, and c. two and a quarter to two and a half million Poles, including Jews and gypsies and others in both totals. In taking land in 1920 on traditional grounds in the east, but defending the grab for Danzig in the west, along with the corridor, on "democratic"or "strategic" grounds, Poland established an indefensible, worst case of both worlds.

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  • the yank:

    06 Jun 2014 11:06:07am

    "Plagued by an apparently unrestrainable urge to transform every event in international politics into a struggle between Freedom and Oppression," ... really? You don't think sending in units of Russian Special Forces to destabilise a country is a matter of concern?

    Putin had the chance to become part of the solution but choose to be part of the problem. Because countries don't want the form of dictatorship that Putin offers is a problem for you?

    That Bush thought he could work with Putin and Obama doesn't says a lot more about how stupid Bush was.

    Conservatives are pushing for stronger action from Obama and thank god he is trying a different approach.

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    • Andy:

      06 Jun 2014 2:01:36pm

      Do you have any proof that Russian forces are destabilising the country? That is, other than phony pictures in the New York Times and repeated, unsupported assertions by the US State Department?

      Its amazing how some people seem to think that the people of eastern Ukraine couldn't possibly hold opinions that differ from foreign Western officials, or have any legitimate grievances with being ruled by an unelected government in Kiev that came to power in violent coup. It must be a Russian conspiracy, right?

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      • JoeBloggs:

        06 Jun 2014 4:00:12pm


        Yes there is plenty of evidence. You can begin with the leadership.

        1. Mr Putin publicly stated that Russian Federation military intelligence operative and Regular Forces conducted the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

        2. The supreme commander of the military forces of the "Donetsk Peoples Republic" is none other than Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin from Moscow who is a Russian military intelligence colonel who openly confirms this and that he was involved with the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

        3. The self appointed Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed (and internationally unrecognized) Donetsk People's Republic is Alexander Yurevich Borodai from Moscow who worked as an advisor to the self appointed Crimea governor Sergei Aksyonov who was appointed by Putin during the invasion (the Chairman of the DPR is Denis Pushilin who ran a Ponzi scheme company MMM, and the Peoples Governor was a Santa Claus for hire).

        4. Igor Bezler (aka Bes), a leader of the DPR military wing, is a Lieutenant Colonel of the Russian General Staff GRU. Also involved in the invasion of Crimea, and who yesterday notably executed 2 Ukrainian army officers whom he had kidnapped as the Ukrainian authorities would not give him some of his Russian forces back.

        5. The hundreds of Russian irregulars from all over the Russian Federation who have openly spoken on camera about being paid to come and fight in Ukraine. You'd also note the truck loads of bodies of these fighters heading back over the border to Russia, particularly after their failed attack on the Donetsk Internationally Airport and after the recent success of the Anti Terrorist Operation around Slavyansk this week. Learn about the dozens of trucks loaded with Russian irregulars that try to cross into Ukraine every night, today the border forces are under attack from a few hundred coming from the Russian side and another 100 or so attacking from Ukrainian side as the DPR and LPR try to create a corridor to bring more troops and weapons from Russia. Note that Igor Girkin tried to raise a force from local Ukrainians in the Donetsk Oblast (Region) but few if any signed up, he then asked for women volunteers and men wouldn't come. Hence they now just principally use Russians from the Russian Federation.

        I could go on.....

        As for "grievances" all Ukrainians what to see a divestment of power from Kiev and see more state/regional level representation and political control (like here in Australia), it isn't just the good folks in South Eastern Ukraine who want that Andy. And that is exactly what the new President is proposing to the people.

        Kind regards

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  • kenj:

    06 Jun 2014 11:06:34am

    Obama says"America would never accept Russia's annexation of Crimea, he said. How could it?"

    Yeah, even the locals voted 95% in favor of it, overseen in a fair referendum by 128 international observers. How could anyone support such a travesty of democratic will that conflicts with a US policy need for a series of US client states in the region.

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    • Zing:

      06 Jun 2014 11:57:36am

      128 international observers - None of whom were officials from the UN or OSCE.

      Fact is, the authorities in the Crimea peninsula didn't have the legal power to hold the referendum. It was a unilateral action and considered illegal under Ukrainian law.

      Since Russian forces have occupied and annexed Ukrainian territory without Ukrainian permission, the action is in violation of the UN Charter and will be considered the opening act of a war of aggression. Russia might escape legal punishment, but the world will treat them accordingly.

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      • kenj:

        06 Jun 2014 12:46:31pm

        That the secession vote was 'illegal' under Ukrainian law is a nonsense in a setting where the Crimeans felt that the Kiev government no longer represented their genuine democratic interests. The right to self-determination is enshrined in the UN Charter and there are few restrictions placed upon any ethnic or national group achieving that aim. A non-binding UN General Assembly resolution was later adopted by a vote of 100 in favor vs. 11 against with 58 abstentions, which declared the referendum invalid and affirmed Ukraine's territorial integrity. However, a number of respected experts have made the obvious (and true) point, that if Kosovo?s secession from Serbia was legitimate under international law, then so is Crimea?s decision to separate from Ukraine. The Western alliance governments can't have it both ways -- that secession is legal and valid if done by a group they approve of, and otherwise not.

        The argument was made that the referendum was invalid while conducted under a Russian military presence, overlooking that the only Russian forces there were already present under a long-standing defence treaty between Ukraine and Russia. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) refused to attend on the claim that the the referendum was "illegitimate", so it is hardly surprising that the Crimeans had to rely on international observers drawn from nearly 30 countries who were free to go anywhere and report on any aspect of the referendum process. None of them reported any coercion or interference from Russian military. The OSCE did send a military observation team but these were refused entry on the grounds that they were not coming to monitor the referendum process. By all reasonable standards the referendum was fairly conducted.

        Secession or self-determination movements are never achieved without considerable political opposition so that of itself hardly invalidates the process. They key factors are: it was in line with the UN Charter; it had the same legitimacy as Kosovo (which was approved by the West); and the referendum was conducted fairly and with strong public approval.

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        • Zing:

          06 Jun 2014 1:59:47pm

          The referendum was illegal under Ukrainian law. The annexation is illegal under international law. Legality is not based on Russia's ability to march soldiers.

          You can try to compare the independence of Kosovo with Russia's annexation of Crimea, but you'll have an uphill climb. The international community is not impressed with Russia's excuses.

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        • artofthefirstpeople:

          06 Jun 2014 4:41:52pm

          As was the toppling of a democratically appointed president by force!

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        • Zing:

          06 Jun 2014 5:58:11pm

          I agree that the removal of the previous president was illegal.

          But the removal is a conflict between Ukraine's government and the Ukrainian courts. The annexation is a conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

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        • Andy:

          06 Jun 2014 2:16:30pm

          "The Western alliance governments can't have it both ways -- that secession is legal and valid if done by a group they approve of, and otherwise not."

          Spot on.

          That's the way it always is. Compare two recent elections, for example: in Syria and in Egypt. Because the US are supporting the Islamist rebels against the Assad regime, the election in Syria is declared illegitimate. However, in Egypt, where the military dictator al-Sisi is approved of by the US, the election is considered "fair and free". Both are repressive military regimes, but what makes an election "legitimate" or not is who the US is backing.

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      • AJC:

        06 Jun 2014 1:01:25pm

        The Government in Kiev doesn't have any legitimacy either, since it was installed by a coup. The leaders of that coup have zero credibility in regards to declaring what is "legal" or not, so their word for whether the referendum in Crimea was legal or not is also equally lacking in any legitimacy or credibility. Yet, as for the right of people to hold a referendum, vote democratically, any decent person should support them. The vote was monitored independently and passed as being fair according to those independent observers. That's the way it is. The Russian action wasn't illegal at all, I doubt you could cite where in the UN Charter that it would be. Seems to me that someone is just spouting propaganda that doesn't care a damn about whether a gang of thugs can take over a country, then shoot everyone who resists. Likewise it seems that same someone doesn't care for the ideals of self-determination or freedom either. I believe that the Ukrainian people fighting against the coup-gang in Kiev should be supported in their fight for freedom from those bullies in Kiev. Good on 'em. I hope that the gang in Kiev get to see their dreams shattered. I'll also cheer with the Ukrainian people who continue to resist the corporate resource-robbing, warmonger ambitions of the Western government leaders who back the thugs in Kiev.

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        • frangipani:

          06 Jun 2014 1:42:54pm

          Sorry, the government was not installed by a coup. The Parliament was the same before and after the President was deposed. Kind of like what happened when Gillard replaced Rudd. It's still an elected parliament.

          And you'll have to name a source for your claim that the poll was deemed fair by international monitors, because everything I've read says it was a farce.

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        • AJC:

          06 Jun 2014 5:15:04pm

          My apologies but your statements are misleading. The Kiev government was installed by a violent coup. A very clearly violent coup carried out by very violent thugs masquerading as representatives of the people's will. It was exposed only days later in recorded phone conversations, and a few weeks further exposed by leaked emails, that the coup plotters set out to take over the government of the Ukraine in an illegal manner. It was also exposed that snipers were hired to fire upon both demonstrators and police with the obvious intent to provoke more violence.

          Perhaps you confined your reading to only the mainstream corporate media of the same NATO nations that were exposed as backing the coup. I prefer to broaden my sources of news, and confirm for myself instead of blindly accepting what the TV and newspapers might repeat as "official". As far as I'm aware, the only ones claiming the election was a farce is are habitual liars like Obama and Cameron.

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        • JoeBloggs:

          06 Jun 2014 2:22:52pm

          "The Government in Kiev doesn't have any legitimacy either" - I guessed you missed the presidental elections last month huh? Though I am glad you used the word "either", at least you are honest about the illegal annexation of Crimea by Mr Putin.

          AJC, why don't you just post "arh right sector banderites are invading the peace loving folk from the Russian Federation military intelligence units and the irregular forces from all over the Russian Federation in Ukraine"... oh sorry it isn't Ukraine is it ... it is in fact "Novarussia" (New Russia) according to Mr Putin.

          psst. look out there is a pro-democracy activist under your bed!

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        • AJC:

          06 Jun 2014 5:19:27pm

          I suppose you missed that those "presidential" elections in Ukraine only had the same bunch and their buddies are the proposed members to be elected. You also apparently missed the exposure of the electoral rolls, with thousands of names all sharing the exact - same - residential - address. Independent observers called the Ukraine presidential elections are total, blatant fraud. Not surprising considering the previous facts. I prefer to stick to facts, they're a lot more appropriate for planning future actions by. Propaganda recycling such as the USA and NATO leaders love so much tends to make the propagandists look like liars, and those who repeat it appear either ignorant or sycophantic.

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      • MikeS:

        06 Jun 2014 3:47:41pm

        Illegal under Ukrainian law!? Do you hear yourself? There was no Ukrainian law at the time. The governemnt had been dispersed by a violent faction that didn't represent the people, and the first thing the self-appointed Maidan government did was to ban the use of the Russian language. Understandably, the ethnic Russians were concerned and wanted out, cause Europe is no stranger to what happens when a political faction begins to target an ethnic minority.

        They pulled the ejector seat and Russia, who undoubtedly has geo-political interests in retaining a Russia-friendly Crimea was happy to oblige.

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    • frangipani:

      06 Jun 2014 12:58:21pm

      That's odd. The reports I've seen do not support it as being a "fair referendum." Quite to the contrary. There is no way that the 15% or so of Crimean tatars would have voted for unity with Russia - so right away, that 95% + is extremely suspect.

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      • Andy:

        06 Jun 2014 2:06:34pm

        You are a bit confused. The 95% figure refers to 95% of those who turned out to vote, not 95% of the entire Crimean population. You are correct that most (if not all) of the Tatar population would not support unity with Russia, and most of them therefore chose to boycott the referendum. However, of the 80%+ of the population that DID turn out to vote, 95% voted in favour.

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        • AJC:

          06 Jun 2014 5:22:35pm

          Fortunate that it was the majority of the population that were of the age to vote, actually voted then. That the referendum in Crimea was fair was already supported by independent international observers. I go by what those experts stated, not what some habitual liar such as Obama might say about it. Nor do I trust the word of any of his "allies".

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 1:12:58pm

      Utter Rubbish Kenj.

      The actual voter turnout in Crimea was a mere 30% and less than 50% voted for annexation. So in reality a mere 15% of the population of the Ukrainian territory voted for annexation by the Russian Federation.

      As noted when the Russian Federation "Human Rights Council" accidently published the actual results online.

      Note too... the Ukrainian secret service intercepted communications between the Russian Federation Military Intelligence agent in South Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk region) and his handler in Russia whereby the discussed what the Donetsk referendum result would be days before the referendum, they decided on a result of 89% being in favour of establishing the the Donetsk Peoples Republic.

      Guess what the result of the vote was? ... yip you guessed it 89% in favour. And you take them seriously? Good'O!

      In the real world we call these sorts of Referendums "Frauds".

      ps. Note that according to article 73 of the 1996 Constitution of Ukraine and article 3 of the 2012 Ukrainian law "On all Ukrainian referendum", territorial changes can only be approved via a referendum where all the citizens of Ukraine are allowed to vote, including those that do not reside in Crimea. This did not occur.

      pps. the "international observers" were primarily from Russia.... funny huh. The actual international observers were not allowed into Crimea and those that tried to enter were shot at by the Russian forces.

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  • Culex:

    06 Jun 2014 11:09:13am

    Why is it that everybody who talks about the "rise of China" automatically assumes that the US military presence in Asia must decline as a result? Why must "China's rise" automatically be military? Can't it just be secure within its own borders and grow its economy without an expansion of its territory?

    Or are we all still stuck with a 19th century imperialist mindset when it comes to the power of nation states?

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    • AJC:

      06 Jun 2014 12:51:28pm

      The imperialist mindset of national leaders never went away, it's just better painted as something prettier thanks to modern media propaganda and political double-talk. China's economic might must be protected by military might, can't really have one without the other. Of course the neighbours will feel threatened. Of course the imperialistic ambitions of other nations' leaders will portray this is as a "bad thing" while avoiding any mention of the brutality of their own nations' military. They're all the same. Just as bad.

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    • Albo:

      06 Jun 2014 1:13:43pm

      " Why must "China's rise" automatically be military? Can't it just be secure within its own borders and grow its economy without an expansion of its territory?"

      Is that a question or a "fingers crossed " plea ?

      History is littered with very regular examples of countries seeking to expand their boundaries of land & resources available for them to call "their own " !

      At this point of time in our history, when we are experiencing totally unchecked massive population increases that sees the world scrambling for the globes finite resources, it is only inevitable that a country like China expanding rapidly in population, and depleting it's own resources, will seek new options to house & feed its people ! It has no other option ! If there is no room to house and feed your people what do you do ? Genocide ? or expand your realm ?

      It will surely have to focus on expanding to areas where resources & food generation potential is vast, where the current inhabitants are doing nothing to unlock the potential to assist them, and where the current owners can be easily overthrown with little resistance ! I can guess a possible target or 10 !

      It's really just a matter of time !

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  • PKD1:

    06 Jun 2014 11:12:09am

    This article sets out very clearly why Australia needs to become more independent in its foreign relations. Russia arrested a civil war in Crimea - the best outcome for all the people of Crimea and the Ukraine. What would the West bloc prefer - bloodshed and ongoing division so that it can fight a theoretical enemy.

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    • frangipani:

      06 Jun 2014 12:59:02pm

      Russia didn't "arrest" a civil war in Crimea? There was very little violence there but they invaded anyway.

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      • AJC:

        06 Jun 2014 5:25:34pm

        Russia did not "invade", they were already there. They had a major military presence in Crimea by decades old treaty. The western media hacks who repeated the dishonest garbage from the White House should be ashamed of themselves.

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 1:15:53pm

      "Russia arrested a civil war in Crimea"

      Utter rubbish.

      There was absolutely no conflict between within Crimean population.

      As Mr Putin has since stated the Russian Federation armed forces took over Crimea (and annexed it is a fake referendum).

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      • artofthefirstpeople:

        06 Jun 2014 2:29:33pm

        "fake referendum" - do you mean just like that one held in Kiev?

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        • JoeBloggs:

          06 Jun 2014 4:09:51pm

          Are you refering to the presidential elections in Ukraine last month where they had the highest voter turn out ever and the winner won in the first round (which was amazing for Ukraine) with 58% of the vote?

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      • AJC:

        06 Jun 2014 5:29:34pm

        It wasn't a "fake" referendum, it was carried out with international independent observers, verified as fair. There was also absolutely no Russian military invasion: the Russians had a military presence in Crimea for decades, by long standing treaty going back decades. The media propaganda pretending otherwise is so ridiculously dishonest, I'm still astonished that anyone would fall for the stories. They mislead, twist, and outright lie all the time.

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    • Albo:

      06 Jun 2014 3:06:48pm

      "Russia arrested a civil war in Crimea - "

      More accurately, Ukraine gave up Crimea without a whimper !

      Just as Obama did with the Taliban this week !

      In both cases, a most serious precedent has been meekly set, that could end with a lot more tears not so very far down the track !

      "This article sets out very clearly why Australia needs to become more independent in its foreign relations."

      And so when Putin decides he might want to take over Australia on behalf of Russia, because there are 3 Russian nationals here that want to stay Russian, and whilst here he may as well enhance his nation's economic influence in the burgeoning Asian region (and enjoy its good beaches !), how do you think our independence of foreign relations work out for us then?

      Will we accept this as just the way of the modern world ?

      And at least we will be "independent" and highly educated homeless persons !

      Will the Greens demonstrate at the Kremlin ?

      Will the academics furiously take to Twitter ?

      Will we get on our knees and beg for forgiveness and help from the US for being so uppity and rejecting them as our alliance partner, cause we wanted more independence ?

      I think I would prefer not being so "independent" when we are a significant resource target in a finite world, and with very little ability to defend ourselves should someone decide to want to grab us !

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  • Damage:

    06 Jun 2014 11:26:50am

    To listen to Obama is to long for a return of George W. Bush.

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    • MikeS:

      06 Jun 2014 3:58:55pm

      Well, there were less drone strike under Bush..

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  • Pth:

    06 Jun 2014 11:41:22am

    Ambiguity rules.

    The part in the article that seeks to suggest that Obama's rhetoric is too lofty actually makes me feel safer.

    The last thing we want is for Obama to be making specific guarantees that is Country A attacks Country B, the US will intervene. It'll be 1913 all over again.

    We know that self-interest rules and that the US will selectively (and increasingly on a far more discriminating basis into the future) intervene in global conflicts. This will especially be the case when it become energy self-sufficient.

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  • blax5:

    06 Jun 2014 12:12:59pm

    Thank you for using the word 'simplistic'.

    As a former West Berliner who grew in the rubble of history, and a person who had ties to a segment of Russian culture for decades without ever being there or speaking the language, I am horrified by what is being sold as the new world order.

    We in Germany were never in any doubt at all that the financial support which we received from the Mashall Plan was not because of our pretty blue eyes, freedom, and democrocy US style. It was to enable us to build a bullwark (NATO) on the border to East Germany, defend the Western system because sugary drinks, refrigerators, cars, and Hollywood movies would keep our hands busy and our minds happy. The older we got, the more we learned and experienced, the more we laughed about the democratic experiences around us.

    No ruler likes to abdicate to a multi-polar world.

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 1:27:34pm

      Beats ladas, collective starvation, gulags and Kleptocrats in Moscow though huh.

      How many germans died during the 'cleansing' of eastern europe after May 1945? Somewhere between 500,000 to 2,000,000 out of the population of around 8-12 million that was 'cleansed' from eastern europe wasn't it?

      The Marshall Plan killed how many germans?

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      • blax5:

        06 Jun 2014 1:47:07pm

        I am very familiar with Eastern Europe, because a relative of mine spent 2 years on the road walking from Breslau (Silesia) to the East German Harz mountains, from age 4 to 6. Early childhood education that was. My own grandmother died in Rostock (Soviet Zone, on the Baltic Sea) from starvation in 1947. My late father escaped the gulag by a whisker.

        What I am really thinking is, yes, sell us materialism (Marshall Plan) but stop talking about democracy when it really is about materialism and spreading the reach of powerful corporations which hollow out democracy.

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        • JoeBloggs:

          06 Jun 2014 2:29:59pm

          Whilst i'm sorry to hear your family had to experience the horrors of war (and the peace) I am glad you can share your knowledge about a topic virtually unheard off, and one certainly not spoken of.

          While democracy has its faults, overt materialism arguable being one strongly associated with democratic societies I firmly believe (like Churchill) that it is the best form of government humans have come up with so far, it certainly bets totalitarianism.

          ps. you don't have to buy into materialism, ... excuse the pun.

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        • Alphamikefoxtrot:

          06 Jun 2014 4:37:24pm

          I can see what you are trying to say blax, however from my experience living in Germany as part of the NATO forces (1989-91), it seemed that the Germans didn't need any lessons in becoming materialistic - we were having a hard time keeping up with them!

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  • wandererfromoz:

    06 Jun 2014 12:25:46pm

    I remember reading articles re the Boyer lectures on the Hegemony of the USA and how China feared it - well we have moved a long way away from that have we not? You criticize Mr Obama but go to far sir! Just imagine if that person who said 'I can see Russia from my doorstep' was in power and her follow on side-kick.

    Good heavens - we would be at war with Iran ( Mr Obama procrastinated of course! ) - we would have invaded Syria (neatly side-stepped by Mr Obama ) and heaven's knows what - so consider Sir the environment in which Mr Obama works and that includes his audience at West Point.

    It is said an aircraft carrier cannot maneouvre like a whippet destroyer - so also a nation like the USA cannot pirouette on its dainty feet like the o'so we are so superior French can - but did they pirouette so well in Vietnam.

    But your fear is my fear also - this Prime Minister we have runs the blood cold - what would he have done if the USA had boots on the ground in Syria and Iran? And true our sphere of influence is somewhat limited - Europe when thinking of us can only conjure up kangaroos.

    Compromise is important so given the historical settings Crimea will become part of Russia if over time Russia cools it strident claims and just lets the water settle on this issue - America has to at this point in time cry 'wolf' but in time it too will just quietly let the matter slip no matter what the Ukrainians think. But Mr Putin does have a great deal of blood on his hands re eastern Ukraine and he will live to regret the ever flowing amount of blood tarnishing his legacy as this crisis deepens unless he also learns to pirouette a little more and does he can to 'cool it'.

    Hegemony? Its history.

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  • Greg:

    06 Jun 2014 12:26:16pm

    You reckon Barack Obama is "plagued by an apparently unrestrainable urge to transform every event in international politics into a struggle between Freedom and Oppression"?

    Do you remember his predecessor? Thank God he's not in the job now.

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 1:29:45pm

      oh come now, his predecessor strongly believed that "human being[s] and fish can co-exist peacefully".

      I always thought that was nice, though I am keen to here what the fish think on the subject.

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  • Catherine:

    06 Jun 2014 12:50:18pm

    I am confused with the American position, if they take a position to support the universal freedoms of individuals surely they must support the people of Crimea and eastern Ukraine to freely choose their own destiny. Where is the evidence that the people actually living in these areas were forced to support Russia. It is Ukraine's fault for not creating a strong enough national identity for these people to want to be part of it. Of course they should be able to determine their own future, this is a role reversal of the American-Russian struggle of the seventies. Kennedy would be ashamed.

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    • frangipani:

      06 Jun 2014 1:51:36pm

      I think the Americans do support the right of people to choose their own destinies. What they don't support is the right of the Russians to choose the destiny of Ukrainians for them.

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      • R Supwood:

        06 Jun 2014 2:39:24pm

        The Americans are descended of individuals and governments that conquered, murdered, emplagued, betrayed, ravaged, appropriated, negotiated, treatied, bought and enslaved their way to "freedom". The USA is the profit of monstrous crime, done up as a god driven right. Do you think the ordinary people of South and Central America, or Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, would cop your statement?

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      • Khrushchev:

        06 Jun 2014 5:26:39pm

        Yeah that's right; that's the exclusive job of the US! (As we heard from the phone conversation between Ass Sec State Nuland and Geoff Pyatt, US Ambassador to Ukraine.)

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      • AJC:

        06 Jun 2014 5:33:06pm

        I believe otherwise, going by recent history since the end of WW2, USA governing administrations care not at all for any democratic movement which opposes their interests. They've knocked over democratic governments in other nations again and again. They've used violence, subversion, spies, sabotage, and blatant lies to carry out these policies. They did so again - openly - by sponsoring the coup in the Ukraine.

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    • artofthefirstpeople:

      06 Jun 2014 2:30:04pm


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  • Yakadeeyak:

    06 Jun 2014 12:52:03pm

    The one thing this article is totally correct with, Hitler & the Nazi's were defeated on the battlefields of Russia. And here again is where the west never totally understand the Russians.

    I work with some Russians who do not totally understand why the Allies focus so much on D-Day. They believe the turning point was in fact Kursk which was about a full year before D-Day, and on D-Day the Russians were only 200 km?s from the German border and they had twice as many men in uniform than the Germans, and this growing disparity was continuing well in the Russians favour. In their words there was nothing stopping the Russians in June 1944 from taking over the whole of Europe including France except for the Allies landing at Normandy. True or not true, is it fascinating to hear their views as they are certainly not the norm of what we are taught.

    Many people do acknowledge to have a a real effect on the course of the war, the Allied should have landed in France in 1942 which at the time of the German's commitment in the east France was even more vulnerable than in 1944, and I do agree with this, for by June 1944 the German's for all intent or purposes were already defeated. This of course takes nothing away from those who gave their lives and the bravery of those who had taken part in this huge event.

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 2:46:41pm

      "They believe the turning point was in fact Kursk .."

      Which would have ended in a German victory if the Allied forces hadn't have landed in Italy which forced the Germans to call off the offensive just as the southern pincer had broken through and achieved freedom of movement after destroying the vast majority of the armor in the south.

      Von Manstein argued that victory at Kursk was within their grasp, but instead the operation was cancelled and the elite panzer divisions where shipped to the western theatre of operations to sit idle just as the USSR launched its counter offensive.

      Once again the USSR was saved by an allied operation.

      The USSR/Allies only beat Germany because they worked together for their common good... there is a lesson in there somewhere for the wise.

      As for Normandy, it preceded Operation Bagration allowed the Germans time to withdraw key forces from the Eastern Front which assisted the Russian operation. Without Normandy Operation Bagration would not have been able to utterly destroy Army Group Centre (though the Germans still weren't using their flexible and defense in depth doctrines which caused huge unnecessary frontline loss from the initial artillery barrage).

      The Dieppe landing in August of 1942 showed exactly what would have happened if the Allies attempted a preature landing prior to Normandy. They first had to achieve air superiority, naval control over the water to be used, issolate the battle field using tactical and strategic bombing, create whole dummy armies to fool the German intelligence community, and most importantly build sufficient landing craft to land and deploy sufficient troop to not only take but hold the ground against the inevitiable armoured counter attack.

      I also note that like Stalin, your Russian friends, have a tendance to overlook the actual second fronts (ie. the desert war, the war in italy, and most importantly the air war which destoyed the german airforce giving the Russians air dominance for the first time, and most importantly causing around 25% of all german armaments to be spent on air defense instead of ground or air forces).

      It must also be wondered at what could have been achieved if the Russians weren't utterly wasteful with their troops lives for no particular purpose (ie. making unarmed troops walk slowly arm in arm into german machine gun fire while singing patriotic songs, and then gunning down any who retreated).

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      • R Supwood:

        06 Jun 2014 3:29:10pm

        Joe, you draw conclusions to suit and so do we all. I see the Kursk battle as one the USSR would never have lost as you suggest, though they (the Germans) might have done better and differently for a few weeks or more. German equipment, anything large, heavy, irreplaceable, could not be retained, regained, repaired, replaced; the USSR had a continuum of equipment and men to replace losses. The German tanks were narrowtracked, petrol driven, more flammable, complex, oversophisicated, electrically dodgy, badly lubricated, even (in the case of Elefants,) badly designed. Support in logistics is vital. Russians ate bad bread, chewed carrots or onions and just kept it up. The war was basically won there while the Russian leapfrog was ascendent. Size and total mobilisation of people and equipment gave the USSR, the allies in total, finality.

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      • graazt:

        06 Jun 2014 3:57:57pm

        Max Hastings makes a good argument in Inferno that the senior German officer corps basically gave up hope of winning the war after their failure to capture Moscow in the initial campaign.

        Stalingrad made it obvious to everyone.

        The Kursk campaign was never going to significantly reverse the outcome of the war. There was simply too little German manpower and equipment by that stage. Overwhelming success may have provided the Germans with scope for a negotiated peace, but it's doubtful Hitler would have opted for that anyway.

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      • Artful Dodger:

        06 Jun 2014 4:41:29pm

        Which came first -the chicken or the egg? Can we at least agree all those on the allied side contributed and recognise the millions of Russians who died and whose descendants some now seem to want to fight.

        Well I say to all those who are so keen to fight- YOU be the first to die!!

        So in this dispute every leader who is party to it should be among to first to fall if and when the shooting starts.

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      • Yakadeeyak:

        06 Jun 2014 6:02:13pm

        The Dieppe landing in August of 1942 was not a well planned event, co planned by the Allies, you can not seriously compare D-Day and Dieppe. No matter what you suggest Joe, Germany was equipped for short lighting wars, and the fact they did not take Moscow in 1941 and were drawn into a war that had no ending for them, they were going to be beaten by the Russians, had Kursk fallen, then what? The expanses of Russia were insurmountable to the forces available to the Germans. It is I am afraid to say, all over the top hype by the west re the importance of D-Day in regards to the turning point of the war, it had turned a year or more before this. As mentioned, it could be thus claimed with all the bells & whistles had they done this in 1942, a fact my friend. In 1914 to 1918 the British prolonged the war by not effectivly using their overwhelming Naval supriorirty, in WW2 it was them again via Churchill to attack secondary areas and avoiding where the main thrust should have come.

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  • Miowarra:

    06 Jun 2014 1:09:43pm

    Dal Santo consistently attacks Pres. Obama's "simplistic" understanding of foreign affairs. However, the only evidence he has from which to draw that conclusion are the published texts of Pres. Obama's speeches.

    Has Dal Santo considered that the speeches are written for US domestic consumption, for a populace notoriously ignorant of the world outside the USA and educationally ill-prepared to comprehend more nuanced political matters?

    I am quite able to believe that Pres. Obama's personal understanding of the wider implications of international politics is much more sophisticated than revealed in the speeches written by staff members, edited to make them palatable for a public with limited vocabulary and even less interest in "furriners" and their concerns.

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    • Artful Dodger:

      06 Jun 2014 1:49:51pm

      Which is precisely why we should not believe anything any politician says unless we do our own "fact check: first.

      BTW- are we any better informed or educated in matters

      outside our 'sovereign borders" than the yanks?

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      • RobP:

        06 Jun 2014 2:29:18pm

        An obvious question - how do you do a fact check without being privy to the insights and information that the US Government has amassed over the years?

        When it comes to these types of foreign affairs matters I think you just have to hope and assume that the politicians are interested in the welfare of the country overall and that they will get the best advice and thereby make the best decision after sifting trough all the pros and cons of the situation. That's what the US Government has got its Departments doing for a living, after all.

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    • AJC:

      06 Jun 2014 5:44:15pm

      I'm more able to accept that Obama doesn't know or understand most of what he's talking about. I've seen how his "eloquence" falls apart into mumbling confusion as soon as he's caught without a teledictor in front of him.

      As for the rest of the Obama Administration's policies, they seem to exercise in a fog of ignorance and delusion about the rest of the world outside the USA. Every war the USA has charged into since 2000 has been a mistake, all have become quagmires, with fake "victories" that hold no substance, tearing nations apar, and eroding the USA's credibility each time. They launch drones at victims without any confirmation of legitimacy or identity, to bomb civilians while always claiming afterwards that these were "terrorists" - whether they were or were not. Never admitting to the extent of their errors. Always lying about their crimes. Gitmo stands still as a reminder of the USA government leaders enthusiasm for torture, lack of respect for justice, uncaring for human rights, and dishonesty in portraying often innocent people as "terrorists" without trial.

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  • Rob:

    06 Jun 2014 1:11:02pm

    ;This supreme force-Obama declared.America will use. unilaterally if necessary. where our core interests demand it"

    And America's central core interest is its economy (ie money).

    An economy which many of its own on the right or left accuse of being a cabal between Government- Banks and the Military-Industrial complex.

    How would we like it if say China has missile bases in Indonesia- Malaysia- Singapore- TPNG- iji and maybe even NZ aimed at us? Well I guess that is how the Russians may feel at US bases surrounding their country.

    Particularly as the Ukraine crisis was engineered by US diplomacy- remember the deal which was done between the EU and the then President? What was it US ambassador Nolan said about the EU?

    There is more to this geo political game than meets the eye- does Med. sea gas have anything to do with it I wonder? Syria? Israel?

    In the end it will be about money and power.

    In the meantime we should remember the hundreds of thousands on all sides who died fighting for their individual countries and what they believed to be the truth.

    Even though the truth was as then distorted then as it is now.

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    • JoeBloggs:

      06 Jun 2014 2:55:41pm

      "In the meantime we should remember the hundreds of thousands on all sides who died fighting for their individual countries"

      Just as the Ukrainians are now dying fighting the Russian Federation military intelligence operatives and irregular forces from all over the Russian Federation who are attempting to destabilise and take over south eastern Ukraine, or as Mr Putin calls it "novarussia" ("New Russia").

      What Mr Putin (and others) appears to fail to understand is the west just wants to do business with people, they at no stage will ever invade Russia, such a concept is utterly preposterous.

      Though I would argue Mr Putin knows this and is really only after new territory to create a mythical character that will survive down the pages of history, a new Stalin or Khan as it were (a person with megalomaniac tendencies and a small man syndrome is a dangerous combination).

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      • Rob:

        06 Jun 2014 4:17:28pm

        Well Joe- some will say the Ukrainians in the East are fighting Western Intelligence Operatives- CIA and Brit engaged mercenaries.

        As I said there was a deal done between the EU leaders and the ex President-however that deal was broken by the EU and it led to what some say was engineered bloodshed.

        The facts seem to be there is a great divide between parts of the Ukraine- I think it was damn dumb of the West not to expect the pro Russians in Crimea and elsewhere not to feel disinfranchised, angry and not to react.

        Did they really expect Putin's Russia to simply cave in?-think the dummies may have.

        Well-the rest is history. After all this lot stuffed up in Iraq-Libya- Egypt and Syria- although I think that it all part of a bigger plan. A plan with many unintended outcomes.

        The only fair solution I can see is to hold an independent run referendum in disputed regions and let the people there decide.

        But I fear there is so much hatred generated by the sheer stupidity and arrogance of the West that that may not be possible. Welcome to the European version of Iraq and Libya.

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      • MikeS:

        06 Jun 2014 4:37:23pm

        JB, your effort to rob the citizens of Eastern Ukraine of their Ukrainian identity (by calling them Russians) and to turn their plight into Russia's devious machinations is the mindset that allows a military to bomb it's own civilians.

        Those who overthrew the govt through the Maidan openly stated a desire for ethnic cleansing of Russian interests in Ukraine. Why? Well, it would be a much better NATO / US client state if a significantly populated minority weren't partial to Russian interests..

        Ukrainians are dying fighting Ukrainians. Russians are involved because Russia and East Ukraine have a shared history and sometimes state borders don't define familial allegiances.

        Saying Ukrainians are fighting Russians attempts to legitimise the killing of civilians by their own national military. This act is inherently illegitimate and indefensible.

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        • Zing:

          06 Jun 2014 6:12:33pm

          Mike. The official line of the separatists in East Ukraine is that they consider themselves Russian.

          When civilians take up arms in an attempt to forcibly separate from their nation, they cease to be civilians and become traitors. If they resort to armed force to defy the government, the government can use armed force to subdue them.

          For every anti-western poster who claims Russia is not involved in East Ukraine, there is someone like you who says they *are* involved and they're right to do so. The reason nobody believes you is because your side can't get their story straight.

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  • VoR:

    06 Jun 2014 1:27:19pm

    Obama is a patriot and a second term President with one eye on his legacy, which he does NOT want to be the President who presided over the decline of the American Empire - insightfully, guidingly, or any other way. He was never going to say anything but the simplistic nonsense, but IMO it's for these reasons, not because he actually believes it.

    Putin likewise is indulging in simplistic nonsense.

    To listen to them it's all about who's the real best friend of Ukraine and who's the real victim, whereas we all know it's about the proximity of NATO to Russia.

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    • artofthefirstpeople:

      06 Jun 2014 2:39:12pm

      Indeed, NATO was supposed to be abandoned immediately after Perestroika - and look what followed, the complete strangulation of Russia until now by Putin who has drawn the red line, just like he has with both Iran and Syria!

      Interesting times indeed, as China and Russia move ever closer together, and work to engineer a new world order, and financial system backed with a new gold standard. India, Venezuela, Iran, Syria and other states joining in to create their new world order.

      No wonder Obama is rattling his sabre - albeit a rusty blunt old thing of the past?

      Halcyon Days perchance?

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    • artofthefirstpeople:

      06 Jun 2014 2:54:40pm

      America is not declining it is COLLASPING. Completely morally, spiritually and financially spent!

      Wall Street continues to slowly disintegrate and only QE has delayed the inevitable. The GFC is about to return big time.

      Blind Freddy can see this - one would suggest that the only theatre of war that this bankrupt state can afford to prosecute will be via Homeland Security.

      Is that why they sourced between 2.4-3.2 billion rounds of hollow point ammo recently?

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      • Artful Dodger:

        06 Jun 2014 3:55:14pm

        Yesterday I heard a Californian talk about a move in four counties of that State to separate from California and form 4 new Stats; he said he knows of 4 other states where there are similar moves.

        Which I guess means they could end up with upwards of 70 States. They cannot make it work now so how in the hell will they with yet more competing interests.

        So you could well be right arto- and our Government wants to take us down the same path? NOT IN MY NAME!!

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    • AJC:

      06 Jun 2014 5:49:38pm

      If Obama were truly a patriot, then why do his actions not support this claim? I haven't seen many corrupt financial executives go to prison in the USA for their crimes. I haven't seen Obama show any respect at all for the Constitution of the nation that he's supposed to be representing. I haven't seen any Obama shy from using executive orders like a Roman Caesar, without any care for the actual laws. Like it or not, I see no evidence of Obama being any more yet another selfish man in government, serving his own interests and those of his best buds.

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      • Artful Dodger:

        06 Jun 2014 6:28:05pm

        There were reports during the week that the US Justice Dept. is considering laying criminal charges against a few bank execs.

        The reaction from the industry and conservatives was to threaten a bigger and deeper recession.

        Financial capitalism has Obama, the US and I expect us. by the throat.

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      • VoR:

        06 Jun 2014 6:58:15pm

        Of course the real answer AJC is I dunno.

        But I think politics is the art of the possible. The impression he gives is that he wants to proceed in a positive direction, but not alone - only if the electorate is with him. How true this is, who can say?

        Apparently Goldman Sachs execs are now backing the Republicans due to his "regulatory attacks on their business and personal attacks on their character." That must count for something.

        He's got some form of affordable health care act through.

        There's a Clean Power Plan.

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  • Thelma T:

    06 Jun 2014 2:52:49pm

    Obama has been such disappointment. Many of us expected so much from him and he turned out to be nothing - but a truckload of hot air. He is a great orator - without any substance.

    Some naive people still listen what he's got to say. They never learn. People like listening to what they like to hear, so they still listen to Obama.

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  • MikeS:

    06 Jun 2014 2:59:21pm

    A refreshingly balancing perspective of the current global strife and discord being sown by the 'Nobel peace prize' winner, Obama.

    I've found myself saying 'did he really just say that!?' many times over when Obama opens his mouth about freedoms, 'spheres of influence' or nations efforts for self determination.

    You quoted Obama's motivation for global US military dominance as being an interest in 'maintaining (USA) way of life'. (This of course is excess consumption and the uncompromised preservation of corporate interests.)

    What exactly is being sacrificed for the USA way of life?

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  • Lehan Ramsay:

    06 Jun 2014 3:07:46pm

    Ah yes, as we have a party for a bunch of people who did not fight but who would like us to keep up the good work.

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  • Lehan Ramsay:

    06 Jun 2014 3:22:43pm

    Give those brave representatives a medal that they can bear to speak to each other. Even if they have to do it in separate rooms.

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  • FlapDoodle:

    06 Jun 2014 4:34:58pm

    Americans, despite their nation's wealth and power, have yet to come to an accurate understanding of how they are seen in the wider world and indeed, how their zeal to tell and pressure other States to adopt their cultural norms, are often counterproductive. As with all empires, whether imperial or economic, the US is not well equipped to foresee or plan for its demise as, or sharing of, the Alpha-male-of-the-pack status. Repetitive lectures of the type we hear from Obama, and his political contemporaries in the US, only hasten the disengagement of others from the conversation.

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  • pmg:

    06 Jun 2014 5:18:09pm

    As out "free" media refuses to publish anything the man says - it all must be filtered through our lens - I will attempt to publish parts of an interview with Putin this week here. My guess is they will refuse to post it but here goes:

    PUtin: This is an interview, which implies short questions and short answers. But if you have patience and give me a minute, I will tell you how we see it. Here?s our position. What actually happened there? There was a conflict and that conflict arose because the former Ukrainian president refused to sign an association agreement with the EU. Russia had a certain stance on this issue. We believed it was indeed unreasonable to sign that agreement because it would have a grave impact on the economy, including the Russian economy. We have 390 economic agreements with Ukraine and Ukraine is a member of the free trade zone within the CIS. And we wouldn?t be able to continue this economic relationship with Ukraine as a member of the free trade zone. We discussed this with our European partners. Instead of continuing the debates by legitimate and diplomatic means, our European friends and our friends from the United States supported the anti-constitutional armed coup. This is what happened. We did not cause this crisis to happen. We were against this course of events but after the anti-constitutional coup ? let?s face it, after all?

    QUESTION: But now we see so much tension in politics. Yet despite this, you will be in Normandy speaking about peace while Barack Obama keeps urging Europe to arm itself.

    VLADIMIR PUTIN: Well, we must always talk about peace but we should understand the causes and nature of the crisis. The point is no one should be brought to power through an armed anti-constitutional coup, and this is especially true of the post-Soviet space where government institutions are not fully mature. When it happened some people accepted this regime and were happy about it while other people, say, in eastern and southern Ukraine just won?t accept it. And it is vital to talk with those people who didn?t accept this change of power instead of sending tanks there, as you said yourself, instead of firing missiles at civilians from the air and bombing non-military targets.

    Any one who as been following this story closely would know this is an accurate summary of what happened

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    • Zing:

      06 Jun 2014 6:05:35pm

      If the separatists want to talk, they can put their guns down and talk. They prefer to shoot and get their way. And at the moment, the only tanks and missiles in Crimea are Russian.

      Putin knows this. The world knows this. Russians might support him, but only the most foolish believe him.

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  • GrumpiSkeptic:

    06 Jun 2014 5:41:46pm

    I quite like The Drum as there are such a variety of "expert" opinions and suggestions. I suspect there must be a lot of of retired barbers or hair dressers, taxi drivers, and kebab shop owners. Wouldn't it be nice if Obama and Putin take notice of some of the gems here?

    It is my believe that super powers like the USA will do whatever it bloody well feel like doing. The keywords are "National Interest".

    Remember the mantra "Never pay a ransom with terrorists"? Well, it just did. Five hard-core proven killers for one Yank. How good is that. I bet the Talibans will be looking out for more live captures to bail out their mates.

    France was with Obama all the way until when it came to selling two Mistral warships to Russia. See what I mean, "National Interest".

    International politics are not that much different than children playing in the sand pit. Tommy kicked sand in Johnny's face. That resulted in more sand kicking. Tommy spat the dummy and ran crying to mom. Fortunately, time heals, they say. Sooner or later, they will kiss and make up. Well, not quite kissing, but perhaps a handshake will do. G7 becomes G8 once again.

    So please don't get too stressed out about what Tommy and Johnny doing in the sand pit.

    Mind you, the EU is not exactly in a sweet spot right now as far as its economy is concerned. It is setting its interest rate into the negative territory. To fish up ten or so billions to help out Ukraine is going to be hard. Further more, NATO is not going to commit itself to a war with Russia because of a non-member nation. NATO's experiences in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan had not been a success story worth writing home about either.

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  • Peter Schmidt:

    06 Jun 2014 6:33:14pm

    Unfortunately the news on Ukraine on the ABC is as biased as on CNN.

    I just cannot believe that Obama's speech was reported with a straight face by our media. It was laughable, reminiscent of Hitler's speeches.

    I am originally from Eastern Europe, I cannot speak for everyone, but I know e.g. in Hungary, the US is already hated more than the Soviets were. That's a fact.

    Probably the US knows that, hence the REAL reason for massive troops deployments in Eastern Europe.

    As for Ukraine, there are just too many things to list. Perhaps searching for alternative news on the Internet might help those who are really interested.

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  • Peter Schmidt:

    06 Jun 2014 6:56:10pm

    Some of the dead in the Odessa massacre perpetrated by Kiev nazis:

    Papura Vadim, born in 1996, graduated from the school with a gold medal, admitted to the University as a gifted applicant;

    Vyacheslav Markin, a deputy of the regional council of Odessa, born in 1969 (after the fall beaten to death),

    Negaturov Vadim, born in 1959 (Odessa poet);

    Bezhanitsky Christine, born in 1992 (poetess)

    Brazhevsky Andrew G., born in 1987, programmer at Odessa University, the son of a woman-teacher at the same university,

    Eugene Losinsky, 34-year-old artist-restorer.

    Wonder about the silence from western MSM.

    Ukraine will never be the same after that. All thanks to US meddling, so the IMF can take Ukraine as a whole.

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  • Eastern European:

    06 Jun 2014 6:58:29pm

    This Obama guy comes across as a bit of a clown with this speech.

    He is trying to polarise the Europeans amongst other things (I liked the reference to the adoring circle of Eastern European head of states).

    I think there was an expectation that Putin will strong arm its way into Ukraine and he didn't. There is a possibility that this Putin guy is a smart fellow and does what the Russians do best: show resilience. It may be that while he shifts his economic interests to China he will quietly continue to encourage instability in the region, Ukraine, Transnistria etc. And once the Chinese deals take off the Russians will be able to afford to punish the Europeans who dared challenging them. Cut the gas, sever economic ties and encourage further local armed conflicts etc.

    In this light Obama's / US policy comes across as one of provocation and desperation to sow conflict and initiate crisis. However Putin doesn't seem to bite. Why would he, all he has to do is let the current murky situation continue while he dig in dip behind the trenches just as Stalin did in WW2.

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  • JMJ:

    06 Jun 2014 7:03:51pm

    Mathew, a lot has been written about Putin & the current crisis in Ukraine but history shows that the Slavic population in Europe is widespread especially in Germany. But having said that over the centuries the Slavs living outside of the Russian sphere of influence have been denied their human rights especially to speak their own language. And from this perspective Russia is now wary of those who have currently taken the high moral ground.

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Comments for this story are closed.

Source : http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-06/dal-santo-obamas-rhetoric-follows-leaders-to-normandy/5504588

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