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Learning from the USSR: Markers of the collapse of the American Empire

The Course of Empire
© Wikimedia Commons
In thinking through the (for now) gradually unfolding collapse of the American empire, the collapse of the USSR, which occurred close through three decades ago, continues to perform as a goldmine of useful examples and analogies. Certain events that occurred during the Soviet collapse can serve as useful signposts in the American one, allowing us to formulate better guesses about the timing of events that can suddenly turn a gradual collapse into a precipitous one.

When the Soviet collapse occurred, the universal reaction was "Who could have known?" Well, I knew. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a surgeon in the summer of 1990, right as I was going under the knife to get my appendix excised, waiting for the anesthesia to kick in. He asked me about what will happen to the Soviet republics, Armenia in particular. I told him that they will be independent in less than a year. He looked positively shocked. I was off by a couple of months. I hope to be able to call the American collapse with the same degree of precision.

I suppose I was well positioned to know, and I am tempted to venture a guess at how I achieved that. My area of expertise at the time was measurement and data acquisition electronics for high energy physics experiments, not Sovietology. But I spent the previous summer in Leningrad, where I grew up, and had a fair idea of what was up in the USSR. Meanwhile, the entire gaggle of actual paid, professional Russia experts that was ensconced in various government agencies in Washington or consuming oxygen at various foundations and universities in the US had absolutely no idea what to expect.

I suspect that there is a principle involved: if your career depends on the continued existence of X, and if X is about to cease to exist, then you are not going to be highly motivated to accurately predict that event. Conversely, if you could manage to accurately predict the spontaneous existence failure of X, then you would also be clever enough to switch careers ahead of time, hence would no longer be an expert on X and your opinion on the matter would be disregarded. People would think that you screwed yourself out of a perfectly good job and are now embittered. Right now I am observing the same phenomenon at work among Russian experts on the United States: they can't imagine that the various things they have spent their lives studying are fast fading into irrelevance. Or perhaps they can, but keep this realization to themselves, for fear of no longer being invited on talk shows.

I suppose that since expertise is a matter of knowing a whole lot about very little, knowing everything about nothing-a thing that doesn't exist-is its logical endpoint. Be that as it may. But I feel that we non-experts, armed with the 20/20 hindsight afforded to us by the example of the Soviet collapse, can avoid being similarly blindsided and dumbfounded by the American one. This is not an academic question: those who gauge it accurately may be able to get the hell out ahead of time, while the lights are mostly still on, while not everybody is walking around in a drug-induced mental haze, and mass shootings and other types of mayhem are still considered newsworthy.

This hindsight makes it possible for us to spot certain markers that showed up then and are showing up now. The four that I want to discuss now are the following:

1. Allies are being alienated
2. Enmities dissipate
3. Ideology becomes irrelevant
4. Military posture turns flaccid

Comment: Interestingy, we just heard of the US decision to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council. Those at the helm of the collapsing US Empire fail to see that by petulantly isolating themselves they will end isolated. If that is not a confirmation of the excellent analysis above, we don't know what is!


Light Saber

Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev: US slamming door on UNHRC shows weakness, not strength

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
© Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
The US decision to quit the UN Human Rights Council demonstrates its weak position, Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev has said. The official suggested that Washington always slams doors when it fails to get its way.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley announced the country's withdrawal on Tuesday, calling the council a "hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."

Washington's decision demonstrates political weakness, according to the head of Russia's Upper House Committee for Foreign Relations, Konstantin Kosachev.

Comment: See also: Because Israel: Nikki Haley proudly announces US leaves 'hypocritical and self-serving' UN Human Rights Council


USA

State Dept says US wants rapprochement with Russia - Trump-Putin meeting in the works

Trump i Putin
© SPUTNIK/AFP/File Mikhail KLIMENTYEV
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that the US wants rapprochement with Russia.

"Overall, I can say that the United States government would certainly prefer to have a stronger relationship with the Russian government," Nauert told reporters.

What's more, on Friday, Trump said it is possible that he might meet with Russian President Putin this summer. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has confirmed this possibility.

On Monday, Russian congressman Konstantin Kosachev revealed to reporters that US Senators have requested a meeting with the Council of the Federation, Russia's equivalent of the US Senate, and that such could be held in early July.

Since 2014, relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine. Washington imposed anti-Russian sanctions in response to Crimea's reunification with Russia and alleged Russian involvement in the war in Donbass.

Russia has denied all these charges and has launched its own economic sanctions in retaliation.

Comment: Trump campaigned on better relations with Russia. If his track record is anything to go buy, we may just see it happen.


Info

No deal: Syrian Army begins battle for Daraa, Hezbollah to participate

daraa
The battle of Daraa against the "Islamic State" (ISIS) group (known under the name of Jaish Khaled Bin al-Waleed), al-Qaeda and the "Free Syrian Army" is happening without doubt. The Syrian government won't take into consideration the US menace to bomb the Syrian Army, or Israel's threat - Israel which is supporting Jihadists for years offering to these finance, intelligence information and medical assistance - to prevent the Damascus forces from reaching the borders. Damascus will also ignore the Russian-US-Jordanian agreement of protecting and respecting the de-escalation zone for very long.

Damascus asked its special forces under the command of General Suheil al-Hassan (known as al-Nimer - Tiger) to move to Daraa. These forces have been operating exclusively under the Russian military command over the entire Syrian geography. The Syrian government is also gathering anti-air missile units in Daraa and also at the back of the front around Damascus and have commanded its strategic missile units to be ready to intervene offering protection to the ground forces. This indicates the forthcoming battle is expected to be harsh and doesn't exclude the intervention of the regional forces in Syria.

The Syrian command ignored the US and the Israeli requests to exclude Hezbollah and the Iranian allies from being present in Daraa. Thus, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad asked Hezbollah al-Ridwan Special Forces to take positions in Daraa and around it to participate in the forthcoming attack.

Comment: The offensive hasn't yet begun in full, but there is already fighting in the eastern part of the rebel-held area. Moon of Alabama writes:
First airstrikes were launched by the Syrian government today against villages in the eastern part of the Deraa area. Some local fighting is ongoing. This is not yet the expected all out attack on the 'rebel' held areas but the testing of enemy forces. The Syrian army has assembled a large force to liberate the southwest. It includes ten thousands of soldiers, more than 100 tanks and lots of artillery. Short range air defenses have been moved into the area to protect the Syrian troops. A well coordinated attack on several front and multiple axes should allow for a quick victory.
The Americans and Israelis will probably regret not making a deal with Russia. See:


Bad Guys

Mad Dog Mattis, the ruthless destroyer of Raqqa, actually thinks US has a moral authority that can be undermined

mattis
© Sven Hoppe / Global Look Press
It's parallel universe time when US Pentagon chief James 'Mad Dog' Mattis complains that America's "moral authority" is being undermined by others - specifically Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

This is the ex-Marine general who gained his ruthless reputation from when illegally occupying US troops razed the Iraqi city of Fallujah in the 2004-2005 using "shake and bake" bombardment of inhabitants with banned white phosphorus incendiaries.

A repeat of those war crimes happened again last year under Mattis' watch as Pentagon chief when US warplanes obliterated the Syrian city of Raqqa, killing thousands of civilians. Even the pro-US Human Rights Watch abhorred the repeated use of white phosphorus during that campaign to "liberate" Raqqa, supposedly from jihadists.

These are but two examples from dense archives of US war crimes committed over several decades, from its illegal intervention in Syria to Libya, from Iraq to Vietnam, back to the Korean War in the early 1950s when American carpet bombing killed millions of innocent civilians.

Chess

South Korean President Moon speaks highly of Kim Jong-un following 'long, frank discussions' between the two leaders

moon jai-in and kim jong un coffee pictures
© Reuters
Pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in
The young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has made a good impression on southern president Moon Jae-in and treated his counterpart with respect, Moon has revealed to Russian media.

"Despite his [Kim's] youth, it seemed to me that he is a very polite and sincere person. He has always treated me as an elder, with respect. We had long, frank conversations with him," Moon said in an interview to Russian media, as cited by TASS. The remarks were published on Wednesday, one day before a South Korean state visit to Russia.

The image of the North Korean leader has been changing rapidly since he began holding an unprecedented number of summits with foreign leaders. A landmark March summit between the two Koreas saw a smiling Kim and Moon hugging and shaking hands.

Info

Grassley rips McCabe, Comey and Lynch for pulling no-shows for Inspector General testimony

Loretta Lynch
Department of Justice [OIG] Inspector General Michael Horowitz and FBI Director Christopher Wray took questions in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon about the OIG's recent report, released last week. The report surrounds FBI behavior during the 2016 presidential election and the decision not to prosecute former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information.

Earlier this year, a separate OIG report found former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lied repeatedly to FBI and Inspector General investigators. He played a large role in the FBI's handling of the criminal investigation into Clinton. Today, he pleaded the Fifth and refused to testify.

"The Committee also invited Former Attorney General Lynch, Former FBI Director Comey, and former Deputy Director McCabe to testify today. Mr. McCabe's lawyer wrote that his client would rely on his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering any questions here today," Chairman Chuck Grassley said during his opening statement.

Comment: See also:


Blackbox

FBI had probable cause to review Abedin's emails but did not do so according to IG report

Hillary Abedin
© Getty
In its extensive report on the Hillary Clinton email probe, the Justice Department's internal watchdog raised significant questions about why the FBI did not examine the contents of Clinton aide Huma Abedin's private email accounts and did not seek to obtain Abedin's personal devices to determine whether classified information was exchanged.

The report noted Abedin should have been a point of interest since the FBI obtained from other sources classified email exchanges between Clinton and Abedin that were missing from the 30,490 emails turned over to the State Department by Clinton's attorneys. Clinton had claimed the remaining emails were not work-related.

Also, the report documented that the FBI did not go after Abedin's emails or devices even though she was "the only State Department employee, besides Clinton, with an account on the clintonemail.com domain on Clinton's server."

The 500-plus page report authored by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General cited witnesses saying they believed "there was a flaw in the culling process, which resulted in the exclusion of most of Abedin's clintonemail.com emails from the State Department production."

Comment: Perhaps they didn't want to look in case they found incriminating evidence there. See also: IG Report: FBI Lawyer #1 Tashina Gauhar and burying the Huma/Weiner laptop issue


Briefcase

McCabe invoking 5th Amendment rights - won't testify at Senate Judiciary hearing on IG's FBI report

McCabe
© Eric Thayer/Reuters
Now ex-FBI Director Andrew McCabe
On Monday, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe refused to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the IG report's findings on the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation.

McCabe invoked his 5th Amendment rights on Monday after failing to receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

In a letter sent to Chairman Grassley on June 4th, Andrew McCabe's attorney Michael Bromwich requested the Senate Judiciary Committee grant the former FBI official immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying at next week's Congressional hearing on the FBI's handling of the Clinton investigation.

Comment:


Network

Putin and XI take China and Russia relationship to next level and sign major declaration on their alliance

Putin and Yi
On June 8th, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping signed a joint statement touching on some of the most urgent issues in international relations. In so doing, the Russian and Chinese leaders also pledged to take the two countries' cooperation "to a new level."

Putin and Xi's joint declaration condemned the US' withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, called for the plan to be preserved, and emphasized "the principal importance of defending the interests of all states' trade and economic cooperation with Iran from unilateral extraterritorial sanctions."

Another unilateral aggression on the part of the US was condemned in the document: the deployment of US missile systems in both Asia and Europe under "pretexts." On this note, Putin and Xi seized the occasion to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria and to support the fight against terrorism "without double standards."