Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands by Richard Sakwa Review – an Unrivalled Account

At last, a balanced assessment of the Ukrainian conflict – the problems go far beyond Vladimir Putin

By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, February 19, 2015

When Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine’s prime minister, told a German TV station recently that the Soviet Union invaded Germany, was this just blind ignorance? Or a kind of perverted wishful thinking? If the USSR really was the aggressor in 1941, it would suit Yatsenyuk’s narrative of current geopolitics in which Russia is once again the only side that merits blame.

When Grzegorz Schetyna, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, said Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz, did he not know that the Red Army was a multinational force in which Ukrainians certainly played a role but the bulk of the troops were Russian? Or was he looking for a new way to provoke the Kremlin?

Faced with these irresponsible distortions, and they are replicated in a hundred other prejudiced comments about Russian behaviour from western politicians as well as their eastern European colleagues, it is a relief to find a book on the Ukrainian conflict that is cool, balanced, and well sourced. Richard Sakwa makes repeated criticisms of Russian tactics and strategy, but he avoids lazy Putin-bashing and locates the origins of the Ukrainian conflict in a quarter-century of mistakes since the cold war ended.

Latin America Unites Against U.S. Attack on Venezuelan Democracy

By Frederick B. Mills, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, February 9, 2015

A special commission of the two largest associations of Latin American nations, CELAC (which includes all of the Latin America and the Caribbean) and UNASUR (which represents South American countries) met today in Montevideo, Uruguay, to analyze the relationship between the United States and Venezuela as well as the situation inside Venezuela. The commission, which has been convened at the request of the President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, includes the foreign ministers Delcy Rodríguez (Venezuela), Ricardo Patiño (Ecuador), María Ángela Holguín (Colombia) and Mauro Vieira (Brazil), as well as the Secretary General of UNASUR, Ernesto Samper.

Early indications are that this broad based association is calling for the U.S. to cease interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela; for Caracas to resume a dialogue inside Venezuela; as well as for the commencement of a U.S.–Venezuela dialogue. This call is only the latest in a series of statements of solidarity with Caracas and the rejection of U.S. meddling in the internal affairs of member states issued by regional political and economic associations as well as social movements.

Philosophical Foundations of Civilizational Dialogue

The Hermeneutics of Cultural Self-Comprehension versus the Paradigm of Civilizational Conflict

A Paper presented by Dr. Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization, at the Third Inter-Civilizational Dialogue, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, September 15-17, 1997

I: The Eurocentric Paradigm of Civilizational Encounters

Since the colonial era, the Western world has been used to exporting its civilization[1] through its imperial and colonial policies. All other civilizations have been measured by Western standards based on the anthropocentric and individualistic world view of the Graeco-Roman and Christian traditions and on the criteria of rationality and scientific methods defined in those traditions and supposedly refined in 18th-century Enlightenment and 20th-century rationalism. These standards center around the preeminent role of the individual versus the collective subject (in the sense of the community, whether as family or nation) and, derived from the former, around the meaning and value of democracy.

This tendency of Eurocentrism is particularly virulent in our post-colonial period – or more precisely: the period of re-colonization – of a so-called “New World Order” through which the West, on top of it the United States as its self-declared spokesperson, tries to monopolize the global discourse on democracy and human rights.[2]

The Uses, and Abuses, of History in the Middle East Conflict

By William Pfaff, Truthdig, February 17, 2015

Egypt has just joined the war against the Islamic State in the Levant (also known as ISIL or, in Arabic, Daesh). Its air force has attacked the jihadist army in retribution for the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christian Copts held in Libya, whom they described as “Crusaders.”

As usual, jihad polemics were ignorant. Coptic Christianity goes back to the earliest Christian conversions in Egypt, centuries before the Crusades, and its adherents are mostly members of the original population of Egypt. They were Christians long before Egypt’s incorporation into the Islamic Arab caliphates in the seventh century and after.

This is one more instance of the sheer ignorance influential in driving events in the Middle East in modern times. The United States’ invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush was conceived as a crusade by many evangelical American Protestant churches, and so seen by many others in the U.S. (At the time, President George W. Bush even called it a crusade). It has so been seen in the Islamic countries.

Among the results of America’s modern crusades has been the retaliatory murderous attacks by jihadists against the ancient Christian churches founded in Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine in Apostolic times following the death of Christ—all of them taken as agents of the modern Americans. How many American churchmen know?

Fred Dallmayr on Minsk Talks

Fred Dallmayr, Co-Chairman and member of the Presidency of the World Public Forum "Dialogue of Civilizations":

On behalf of WPFDC I fully and whole-heartedly endorse the statement by Professor Hans Koechler, President of IPO, on the Minsk talks. This statement very clearly charts the course which needs to be followed to ensure peace in Europe and in the world. We strongly urge the powers involved in the Minsk talks to implement the excellent recommendations contained in Dr. Koechler's statement.

Statement by Dr. Hans Köchler, President of the International Progress Organization, on Ukraine peace talks in Minsk

Vienna, February 12, 2015

The conflict in the eastern Ukraine region can only be resolved at the political level: on the basis of (a) recognition of the right to self-rule, (b) federalism, and (c) an international status of neutrality of the Republic of Ukraine.

Agreement on a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy arms and on a demarcation line between the warring parties can only be a first step towards a broader political settlement. In order to achieve durable peace, all parties will have to agree on the right to self-rule of the people in the conflict zone. In modern international law, self-determination is the core principle that is at the roots of democracy and legitimacy of any political system. National (state) sovereignty is ultimately based on the right of the people to decide, as citizens, on the political identity of the territory they are living in.

Because the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine is also the result of unconstitutional and violent change of government in the Republic of Ukraine, confidence among ethnic groups on the territory of Ukraine can only be restored on the basis of a federal system that provides for genuine autonomy of the territories in Eastern Ukraine.

In view of the international dimension the conflict has acquired, the security interests of neighboring countries, including Russia, will have to be considered. This means that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) can have no role in the ongoing conflict, and that the Republic of Ukraine should commit itself to a status of permanent neutrality (similar to the status the Republic of Austria committed itself to in 1955, during the time of rivalry between the era’s two superpowers). The Ukraine must not be part of a geostrategic plan that is aimed at the so-called “containment” of Russia. This would not only endanger peace and stability in Europe, but at the global level. A lasting solution will also require that the member states of the European Union refrain from using the instrument of economic sanctions, which are part and parcel of a violent approach, not of a political strategy aimed at a negotiated settlement.

It is to be hoped that the European Union (EU) will eventually be able to act independently of United States influence, and that its member states will seek a consensus with the Russian Federation in the common European framework. The negotiations of the “Normandy 4” in Minsk (comprising the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine) that have this morning led to a ceasefire agreement are an encouraging sign in that regard.

The Statement in German

The Statement in French

Why India Needs to Be Hard-headed in Dealing with the US

By Kanwal Sibal, DailyO, February 10, 2015

If being on board for revitalised relationship with the US makes sense today going overboard in wanting this would be a mistake. If much good can flow in many areas from improved ties with the US, conversely its policies can also harm our interests.

President Obama’s visit to India was undoubtedly a success and the positive momentum generated by it should of course be maintained, but we should no allow our minds to be flooded by the euphoria surrounding the visit and drown out our common sense. The barriers in our thinking towards the US should be lowered but not all our mental defences.

A Global State of Nature? Pleading for a Renewed Covenant

By Fred Dallmayr, Co-Chairman, World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”

Our time illustrates a state of increasing brutalization.
Tzvetan Todorov

These days, whenever one reads a paper or watches the news on television, one is faced with an avalanche of atrocities and mayhems. For example, on January 27, 2015, these were the main news items: U.S. drone kills 12 years-old Yemeni boy; Shiite militias accused of executing 70 unarmed civilians; eight die in attack on Libyan hotel; nine Ukrainian soldiers die; thousands protest in Mexico over disappearance of students. These are just the headlines on one day. Other, equally grim stories were reported on the previous days. And we know: the flow of horror stories will not stop during the following days. So, what is happening in our world? Is world history really the relentless slaughter bench—as Hegel once surmised?


Drones and the New Ethics of War

By Neve Gordon, OpEdNews, January 23, 2015

This Christmas small drones were among the most popular gift under the tree in the U.S. with manufacturers stating that they sold 200,000 new unmanned aerial vehicles during the holiday season. While the rapid infiltration of drones into the gaming domain clearly reflects that drones are becoming a common weapon among armed forces, their appearance in Walmart, Toys "R" Us and Amazon serves, in turn, to normalize their deployment in the military.