Editor’s Note: This report was originally published by Antiwar.com.
CBS News retracted a documentary it briefly released on August 7 after pressure from the Ukrainian government. The original documentary (watch it here) CBS put out examined the flow of military aid to Ukraine and quoted someone familiar with the process who said in April that only 30 percent of the arms were making it to the frontline.
We removed a tweet promoting our recent doc, "Arming Ukraine," which quoted the founder of the nonprofit Blue-Yellow, Jonas Ohman's assessment in late April that only around 30% of aid was reaching the front lines in Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/EgA96BrD9O
“All of this stuff goes across the border, and then something happens, kind of like 30 percent of it reaches its final destination,” said Jonas Ohman, the founder of Blue-Yellow, a Lithuania-based organization that CBS said has been meeting with and supplying frontline units with aid in Ukraine since the start of the war in the Donbas in 2014. “30-40 percent, that’s my estimation,” Ohman said.
After the documentary sparked outrage from the Ukrainian government, it was removed from the internet by CBS. In an editor’s note, CBS said it changed the article that was published with the documentary and that the documentary itself was being “updated.”
The editor’s note also insisted that Ohman has said the delivery of weapons in Ukraine has “significantly improved” since he filmed with CBS back in April, although he didn’t offer a new estimate on the percentage of arms being delivered.
The editor’s note also said that the Ukrainian government noted U.S. defense attaché Brig. Gen. Garrick M. Harmon arrived in Kyiv in August for “arms control and monitoring.” Defense attachés are military officers stationed at U.S. embassies that represent the Pentagon’s interests in the country. Previously, it was unclear if there was any sort of military presence at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv after it reopened in May.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the retraction by CBS was not enough and called for an investigation into the documentary. “Welcome first step, but it is not enough … There should be an internal investigation into who enabled this and why,” he wrote on Twitter.
In the documentary, Ohman described the corruption and bureaucracy that he has to work around to deliver aid to Ukraine. “There are like power lords, oligarchs, political players,” he said. “The system itself, it’s like, ‘We are the armed forces of Ukraine. If security forces want it, well, the Americans gave it to us.’ It’s kind of like power games all day long, and so eventually people need the stuff, and they go to us.”
Other reporting has shown that there is virtually no oversight for the billions of dollars in weapons that the United States and its allies are pouring into Ukraine. CNN reported in April that the United States has “almost zero” ability to track the weapons it is sending once they enter Ukraine. One source briefed on U.S. intelligence described it as dropping the arms into a “big black hole.”
The arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich after his flight was diverted May 23 to the Belarusian capital of Minsk has generated more negative publicity for Belarus’ government and has raised questions about the extent of the new Cold War.
Protasevich, 26, is editor of outlawed Telegram channels that had stirred opposition to President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994. Telegram is a messaging application used on smartphones. High-profile individuals, media outlets and organizations also use it to broadcast one-way communications to their followers.
After the arrest, the Biden administration announced it would re-impose economic sanctions on state-owned companies in Belarus, and that it would add names to the list of sanctioned officials associated with “ongoing abuses of human rights and corruption.”
Dismissing Lukashenko’s claim that Protasevich’s flight contained a bomb threat, the New York Timeseditorialized that Lukashenko had “gone too far” in “hijacking a commercial airliner to kidnap an opposition journalist.” Aside from urging the U.S. response be “swift,” the Times referred to Lukashenko’s attempt as a “Jason Bourne plot.”
However, when former Bolivian President Evo Morales’ flight was forced to land in Vienna in 2013 because U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden was thought to be on board, the incident was dismissed as a mistake.
Belarus is one of the last remaining socialist countries in the world and a close ally of Russia, a country the United States has targeted for decades via the first “Cold War”—when it was the former Soviet Union—and thereafter with neoliberal policies and NATO troops at its border. This puts Belarus particularly at risk for U.S. subversion.
The U.S. government has funded opposition movements against Lukashenko, who has been caricatured as a brutal dictator and a “throwback to the regional bosses of the Soviet era,” as the Timesdepicted him.
While some aspects of the criticism are accurate, Lukashenko has a considerable degree of popular support in Belarus because he resisted Western-imposed privatization programs in the 1990s and preserved a social safety net, resulting in low poverty and inequality levels.
The opposition movement has been depicted heroically even though it was photographed during anti-regime protests in August flying the pre-revolutionary flag, implying its goal was to reverse socialist-type economic programs.
Some of its members have ties to far right-wing networks in Europe that went unreported in the media.
A May 26 profile in the Times depicted Protasevich as a precocious young man who had bravely “resisted his country’s tyranny since he was 16” when he “first witnessed what he described as the ‘disgusting brutality’ of Mr. Lukashenko’s rule.”
His first arrest came when he watched a “clapping protest”—considered an offensive gesture in Belarus—against Lukashenko, causing him to be expelled from high school and his mother to resign as an army academy teacher.
After being forced to abandon his university studies, Protasevich became an opposition journalist in Poland, helped establish a Telegram channel to resist Lukashenko and joined forces with opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Lithuania.
Left out of the fawning portrait was Belarusian courts had determined the Telegram channels he had worked for, Belamova and Nexta, were “extremist” and first set up by people such as Igor Losik, who had served as consultants with the U.S. propaganda organ, Radio Free Europe.
Protasevich furthermore enlisted in a militia that fought alongside the neo-Nazi Azov battalion in eastern Ukraine against Russian backed separatists, was wounded in battle and reportedly worked for the Azov battalion’s press service.
Protasevich’s selfie in an explicitly neo-Nazi brand Sva Stone. It’s extremely unlikely that one can wear these T-shirts without being “in”. pic.twitter.com/brpsUgEpPw
Photographed in a T-shirt featuring far-right iconography, Protasevich is even suspected of being the young man featured with an assault rifle and military uniform on the front of Azov’s propaganda magazine, which is emblazoned with a large neo-Nazi symbol.
Media’s Anti-Russia Bias
Fitting a century-long pattern of Russophobia, the Times has led the charge for a new Cold War against Russia and has supported regime change in Belarus.
When protests broke out over a contested election last summer, the Times erroneously predicted Lukashenko’s downfall many times, and in April chose not to report on a coup as well as an assassination plot led by an opposition politician holding a U.S. passport.
The biased coverage of Belarus has extended to alternative media like Counterpunch.
On May 31, it ran an article by an anti-Lukashenko playwright, Andrei Kureichik, titled “The Taking of Roman Protasevich,” which used hyperbolic language in characterizing Belarus as a “terrorist and criminal state.” In another exaggeration, Kureichik claimed Lukashenko had established “open air concentration camps” by “employing military weapons and special equipment against peaceful civilians without restrictions or liability.”
No mention was made of Protasevich’s ties to the Azov battalion in the article, nor about foreign backing of the anti-Lukashenko movement. The latter was confirmed by Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus, who tricked Nina Ognianova, a National Endowment for Democracy (NED) senior European program officer, into admitting the NED had trained and funded the leaders of the protest movement that was working to overthrow Lukashenko.
After writing a book about U.S. bombardiers in World War II titled, Bombs Away: The Story of a Bomber Team, famed author John Steinbeck wrote: “We were all part of the war effort… correspondents were not liars, but it is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies.”
These words apply very well to corporate media outlets—and sometimes even to the alternative press—when it comes to their coverage of Belarus, where it is in the things not mentioned that the untruth lies.
Jeremy Kuzmarov is Managing Editor of CovertAction Magazine and author of four books on U.S. foreign policy including, Obama’s Unending Wars (Clarity Press, 2019) and The Russians Are Coming, Again (Monthly Review Press, 2018), with John Marciano.
Armenia, a landlocked Caucasus nation-state of around 3 million people appears in a hopeless position. Following defeat in the 44-day war against Azerbaijan last autumn, the country remains stuck in the Russian geopolitical orbit, and has been forced to make painful concessions to its arch enemy, Azerbaijan.
On June 20, Armenia held parliamentary elections that led to the victory of the Civil Contract Party, whose leader is Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. Although he is seen by many Armenians as a traitor, given he failed to preserve Armenian control over Nagorno-Karabakh—a mountainous territory in Azerbaijan that ethnic Armenians have controlled since 1994—Pashinyan’s party won 54 percent of the vote. The opposition Armenia Alliance, led by former President Robert Kocharyan, garnered a distant second with 21 percent. Why did Armenians vote for the person who signed the de facto capitulation to Azerbaijan on November 10?
Choosing Between Traitor and Old Guard
From the perspective of an average Armenian voter, the choice they had was either “traitor” Pashinyan, who came to power in 2018 following the so-called “Velvet Revolution,” or Kocharyan, who represents the overthrown corrupted old guard.
According to Armenian analyst David Arutyunov, the opposition did not offer any practical alternative for resolving the issues of demarcation, a burning question in the country. Indeed, in May, Armenian authorities accused Azerbaijan’s army of advancing more than 3 kilometres (2 miles) into southern Armenia. They claimed the Azeri state was trying to lay siege on Lake Sev Lich (Black Lake), shared by the two countries. In other words, Armenia had lost control not only over most of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also over certain parts of the Republic of Armenia.
As Arutyunov points out, Azerbaijan likely will keep pressuring Armenia until the end in order to get as many concessions as possible in the process of resolving the border demarcation.
Some Armenian officials have announced Russian border guards will be deployed to those areas where Azerbaijani units allegedly advanced. At this point, however, it is highly uncertain how the border will be protected after demarcation—will the Russian troops permanently stay there, or will Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to guard borders on their own? As a result of the 44-day war, some 2,000 Russian peacekeeping troops were deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh to protect the region’s capital, Stepanakert, and the surrounding area, which is the only portion of the territory that is still de facto under Armenian control. From the Armenian perspective, Russian peacekeepers are seen as the only guardian of the remaining Armenian population in the region. Moreover, Armenia has become so dependent on Moscow, it expects the Kremlin to protect not just ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, but the borders of the Republic of Armenia, too.
Russia, on the other hand, is obligated to defend Armenia. The Caucasus country is a member of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is often described as a Russian version of NATO, having come into being after the former Soviet Union came apart. Other CSTO members include Belarus, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. However, during the war, Russia refused to provide help to its nominal ally, Armenia. According to Key Article 4 of the Treaty, “If one of the State Parties is subjected to aggression by any state or group of states, this will be considered aggression against all States Parties to this Treaty.” The problem for Armenia is that in 2020, Azerbaijan did not attack Armenia itself, but Armenian-backed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. That is why Moscow hesitated to directly intervene. But in May 2021, following the border incidents, Pashinyan wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for military assistance. To this day, however, no such aid has been provided.
Meanwhile, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have signed a protocol of alliance in a bid to further strengthen their ties. “In the event of a third state’s threat to the independence or territorial integrity of any of the parties, the parties will provide necessary assistance to each other,” the protocol stipulates.
Even before the two countries became formal allies, Turkey supplied Azerbaijan with modern, sophisticated weapons, including the Turkish-made Bayraktar drones that proved to be a game changer in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Russia promises to arm Armenia, although it remains unclear what prevented the Kremlin from selling modern weapons to its ally before the war broke out. Over the years, Russia aimed to preserve good relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia and at the same time to keep playing the role of the regional arbiter. However, indications suggest the Kremlin prioritized lucrative business and energy ties with Azerbaijan than its nominal alliance with Armenia.
Although the Armenian leadership may have felt because of Moscow’s unwillingness, it hardly has a choice but to keep playing the Russian card. The country depends on Russia economically, politically and militarily.
According to the Moscow-brokered peace deal, signed in November between Pashinyan and Aliyev, Azerbaijan will be able to cross to its exclave Nakhchivan—bordering Armenia, Turkey and Iran—through Armenian territory, and the Russian Federal Security Service will secure roads. Such an action could undermine remnants of Armenia’s sovereignty in the south, primarily in the area bordering Iran.
Azerbaijan, on the other hand, has insisted on the construction of the Nakhchivan corridor, also known as Zangezur Corridor, which would effectively connect the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with mainland Azerbaijan. Given that Azerbaijan, as the clear victor, has an upper hand to the defeated Armenia, sooner or later Armenia will have to agree to the Azeri terms and conditions regarding this transregional project. Thus, it is not surprising that Pashinyan, celebrating his election victory, said, “All agreements will be fulfilled.” His room for political maneuvers vis-à-vis Azerbaijan is rather limited.
In the short term—at least until 2025, when the 5-year mandate of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh expires—Russia will remain the dominant regional actor. In the mid and long term, Turkey is expected to improve its positions in the Caucasus, and possibly build a military base not far from the Russian border. Azerbaijan already benefited from its military ties with Turkey, while Armenia proved to be collateral damage in a wider geopolitical game played by Russia and Turkey.
And the game is far from over.
Nikola Mikovic is a Serbia-based contributor to CGTN, Global Comment, Byline Times, Informed Comment, and World Geostrategic Insights, among other publications. He is a geopolitical analyst for KJ Reports and Global Wonks.
Record-breaking heat waves and economic hits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted governments in the United States and the United Kingdom to consider enacting a Green New Deal (GND). But how might these GNDs play out? Will they curb emissions? More importantly, will they curb emissions while upholding the principles of social justice and equity?
In May 2021, Leon Sealey-Huggins, assistant professor in the global sustainable development division at the University of Warwick, wrote a detailed critique of GNDs, including those adopted by the U.S. Democrats and the U.K. Conservatives. Titled, “‘Deal or No Deal?’ Exploring the Potential, Limits and Potential Limits of Green New Deals,” the report calls for closer scrutiny. “GNDs that fail to address the fundamental questions of power, ownership and control will also fail to adequately ameliorate the injustices of climate breakdown,” the report stated.
GNDs also fail to address the need for drastic emissions reductions.
“Zero by 2050 is a global average target, and to be compatible with the principles of equity and justice under the Paris Agreement, rich nations have a responsibility to reduce emissions much more quickly than this, reaching zero by around 2030,” Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist in Eswatini, the southern African country formerly known as Swaziland, told Toward Freedom. Hickel serves on the advisory board of the Green New Deal for Europe and on the Harvard-Lancet Commission on Reparations and Redistributive Justice. Hickel said GNDs need to include clear and explicit language on scaling down fossil fuels to zero, with binding annual targets.
“Right now, this language is totally absent,” he added.
Current Green New Deals Will Perpetuate Injustice
Max Ajl, an associated researcher with the Tunisian Observatory for Food Sovereignty and the Environment, said Sealey-Huggins’ critique is spot on. Ajl explained GNDs aim at “recolonizing the Third World through monocrop tree plantations, converting the Third World into biofuel plantations and other coercive mechanisms, rather than figuring out ways to reconstruct the United States and the European Union, so they remain socially complex, modern and industrial, but become sustainable, egalitarian and non-imperialist societies.” (“Third World” originally referred to developing states that did not align with the United States nor with the former Soviet Union. In this context, it refers to countries in the global South.) Ajl also is author of the recent book, A People’s Green New Deal.
Others, too, have expressed similar fears about further colonialism via GNDs. For instance, in a op-ed for Al Jazeera, Myriam Douo, a steering group member of Equinox
Initiative For Racial Justice, writes that by employing corporate solutions for climate change, the “EU’s Green Deal will entrench further European neocolonial practices.” Douo notes demand for metals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium has been driving labor abuses and environmental destruction. Such is the case in the cobalt mines of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in lithium mines of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.
The transition to clean energy requires metals like cobalt, copper, lithium, manganese, nickel and zinc for battery technology in electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines. A March 2021 report identified that about half the global supply of cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); over 80 percent of the global supply of lithium comes from Australia, Chile and Argentina; and 60 percent of the global supply of manganese comes from South Africa, China and Australia.
Between 2010 and 2020, a total of 276 allegations of human-rights abuses were identified in connection with companies that hold a majority-market share in clean energy minerals like cobalt, lithium and manganese, according to the Transition Minerals Tracker report released in February 2021.
Community impacts in the areas of health, violence and Indigenous rights constitute the biggest chunk of human-rights violations, while environmental impacts rank second. Pays to note that many of the countries that hold vast reserves of such minerals are already vulnerable—whether in terms of climate impacts or quality of human life in general.
Space for Improvement
Hickel noted that GNDs, as drafted, focus on emissions to the exclusion of resource use.
“We are overshooting a number of other planetary boundaries, which is being driven by excess resource use,” Hickel said. “Rich nations are overwhelmingly responsible for this problem, with per capita resource use vastly in excess of sustainable levels. The GNDs need to incorporate binding targets to reduce resource use.”
Ajl agreed. “The existing GNDs, including those from most progressives, are oriented to maintaining private control over the means of production, to ignoring climate debt, and to using materials-intensive technologies to solve what are often social more than technical problems,” Ajl said.
In the critique, Sealey-Huggins references versions of the GND Resolution, which the Biden administration might adopt. The resolution first was introduced in 2019 by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-OR), both a part of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. It cites itself as the first comprehensive plan in the United States that aims to tackle the scale of the climate crisis by recognizing deep-rooted economic inequalities. In April 2021, they re-introduced the legislation after it failed to advance in the Senate in 2019.
The GND resolution aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers. More specifically, it calls for actions like overhauling the transportation system, supporting family farming and investing in sustainable farming and land-use practices that increase soil health and restoring natural ecosystems. Biden’s plan for clean energy and environmental justice references the GND as “a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.”
But according to Ajl, even the original GND legislation progressives are promoting has its share of problems because it doesn’t do enough to fundamentally transform the system.
Sealey-Huggins too pointed out GNDs in the United States and the United Kingdom show a preference for highly technical, emissions-focused policies. And that by doing so, fail to democratize ownership and control via tools like social organization, redistribution and repair. He went even further to criticize roles adopted by institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has conditioned aid on cuts to welfare services.
Sealey-Huggins suggests “reparative justice” as a path forward. That would involve global redistribution of power, wealth and resources; building grassroots power; and recognizing “shared goals” with movements led by the world’s Indigenous, African and oppressed peoples.
Rishika Pardikar is a freelance journalist in Bangalore, India.