When Will Putin Die?

16 09 2022

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

It is relatively easy to chronicle the Russian butcher Vladimir Putin’s rise to power.[2]  What is not crystal clear is when he will die, and what savagery will he unleash between now and then.

Will he be killed like Julius Caesar by those around him who betray him?  What will he do beforehand, in a desperate attempt to postpone the inevitable and cling to power?  Launch World War III, with Russia’s axis of evil partner China?

In a real sense, that war began long ago when China unleashed the deadly Coronavirus pandemic on the world, which still rages as the virus mutates.  Pat Buchanan—an adviser to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, and a former GOP presidential aspirant himself—has offered his views about a possible scenario as follows:

A desperate Vladimir Putin is a dangerous Vladimir Putin, and there are signs Putin’s situation in Ukraine may be becoming desperate.

In the last week, the Russian army in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine was driven out of some 2,200 square miles of territory, according to the Ukrainians, whose soldiers are now two miles from the Russian border.

The Kharkiv battle was a rout for the surprised Russians who tore off their uniforms, threw down their weapons and fled, some on stolen bicycles.  For Russia, it was the worst defeat of the war.

That Moscow sustained a stunning setback is attested to by the news that Russian nationalists back home have begun to grumble openly about Putin’s management of the war he launched on Feb. 24.

Where does Putin stand now?

He is in the seventh month of a war he launched last winter, and he appears to be headed into this coming winter with no victory and no end to the war in sight.

His early offensives, while successful north of Crimea and in the Donbas, failed to capture Kiev, Kharkiv or Odessa on the Black Sea, Ukraine’s three largest cities, which were Russia’s strategic objectives.

Putin’s gains in the Donbas are the one great prize he has.  But his army is now demoralized and on the defensive.  The momentum of the war has shifted in Kiev’s favor.

Western and, in particular, the U.S. weapons Ukraine is being provided have proven devastating to the Russian forces, whose losses in tanks, armor and troops are major.

Thousands of Russian soldiers have been killed, wounded or captured.  Putin has no available reserves in Russia without imposing conscription to replace them.

The Ukrainians now appear to be guaranteed an endless supply of the modern U.S. weapons they have used to decimate the Russian army.

The present prospect for Putin is thus no victory, no end to the war, no end to the weekly casualty lists of dead, wounded and missing, a continued stalemate now, and the prospect of eventual defeat ahead.

Could Putin survive perceived defeat in a war he launched, and the personal, political and national humiliation he and Russia would sustain from such a defeat?  Would Putin be able to survive that and remain president of Russia after 22 years in power?

In short, in a war history will call Putin’s War, the tide is turning against the Russians, and Putin faces the prospect of having been the ruler who launched Russia’s least necessary and lost war.

What are Putin’s options?

The first is to stay the course, cut off oil and gas exports to NATO Europe, and hope Ukraine’s losses and Europe’s hardships this winter compel Kiev and its allies to accept a truce that allows Russia to retain some of the new territory it has gained since Feb. 24.

The problem with this course of action is that it is Ukraine’s army that appears to have time on its side now and the wind at its back.

The alternative to a war that lasts as long as the Ukrainians are willing to fight to drive the Russians out is for Russia to escalate and win, and force an end to the fighting.

How could Moscow do this?

First, Putin could raise the stakes, say we are at war with NATO, call up Russian’s army reserves, as in World War II, and conscript enough new soldiers to replace those already lost.

Second, there is the Grozny option, the devastating artillery, air and rocket assault the Russians visited upon the Chechen capital to bring an end to a separatist moment in 2000.

But would the Russians, before the eyes of the world, do to Kiev or Kharkiv what they did to Grozny a quarter century ago?

Beyond the Grozny option, there is the nuclear option.

Russia has thousands of tactical atomic weapons, the largest such arsenal in the world, and the threat to use, or the actual use of one or more of these weapons, would raise the stakes in the war exponentially.

Early in this war, Russia’s hawks talked openly of the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons.  That talk has begun anew.

The basic question comes down to this:

Would Putin threaten or use nuclear weapons to prevent a defeat and humiliation for himself and Russia?  And, if so, how and where would he use them?  And how would Kiev and the West respond?

America, Britain and France are all three both NATO and nuclear-weapons states.  But none has a vital interest in the outcome of this Ukraine war to justify a nuclear war with Russia, even if Russia resorts to first use of such a weapon.

The longer this war goes on, and the sooner the Russian bleeding becomes intolerable to Putin, the more likely it is that he will escalate, rather than capitulate and accept defeat and humiliation for his country and himself, leading to his removal from power.

Again, a desperate Putin is a dangerous Putin.[3]


© 2022, Timothy D. Naegele


[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  See, e.g., Timothy D. Naegele Resume-21-8-6  and https://naegeleknol.wordpress.com/accomplishments/   He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service).  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/articles/ and https://naegeleknol.wordpress.com/articles/), and studied photography with Ansel Adams.  He can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/07/30/will-putin-lead-us-to-world-war-iii-or-die-trying/ (“Will Putin Lead Us To World War III, Or Die Trying?”)

[3]  See https://buchanan.org/blog/putins-narrowing-options-159644 (“Putin’s Narrowing Options”)

Will Putin Lead Us To World War III, Or Die Trying?

30 07 2022

  By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

The UK’s Economist has a comprehensive article or editorial about Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his “grand designs,” which is worth reading in its entirety:

What matters most in Moscow these days is what is missing.  Nobody speaks openly of the war in Ukraine.  The word is banned and talk is dangerous.  The only trace of the fighting going on 1,000km to the south is advertising hoardings covered with portraits of heroic soldiers.  And yet Russia is in the midst of a war.

In the same way, Moscow has no torch processions.  Displays of the half-swastika “z” sign, representing support for the war, are rare.  Stormtroopers do not stage pogroms.  Vladimir Putin, Russia’s ageing dictator, does not rally crowds of ecstatic youth or call for mass mobilisation.  And yet Russia is in the grip of fascism.

Just as Moscow conceals its war behind a “special military operation”, so it conceals its fascism behind a campaign to eradicate “Nazis” in Ukraine.  Nevertheless Timothy Snyder, a professor at Yale University, detects the tell-tale symptoms: “People disagree, often vehemently, over what constitutes fascism,” he wrote recently in the New York Times, “but today’s Russia meets most of the criteria.”

The Kremlin has built a cult of personality around Mr Putin and a cult of the dead around the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.  Mr Putin’s regime yearns to restore a lost golden age and for Russia to be purged by healing violence.  You could add to Mr Snyder’s list a hatred of homosexuality, a fixation with the traditional family and a fanatical faith in the power of the state.  None of these come naturally in a secular country with a strong anarchist streak and permissive views on sex.

Understanding where Russia is going under Mr Putin means understanding where it has come from.  For much of his rule, the West saw Russia as a mafia state presiding over an atomised society.  That was not wrong, but it was incomplete.  A decade ago Mr Putin’s popularity began to wane.  He responded by drawing on the fascist thinking that had re-emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This may have begun as a political calculation, but Mr Putin got caught up in a cycle of grievance and resentment that has left reason far behind.  It has culminated in a ruinous war that many thought would never happen precisely because it defied the weighing of risks and rewards.

Under Mr Putin’s form of fascism, Russia is set on a course that knows no turning back.  Without the rhetoric of victimhood and the use of violence, Mr Putin has nothing to offer his people.  For Western democracies this onward march means that, while he is in power, dealings with Russia will be riven by hostility and contempt.  Some in the West want a return to business as usual once the war is over, but there can be no true peace with a fascist Russia.

For Ukraine, this means a long war.  Mr Putin’s aim is not only to take territory, but to crush the democratic ideal that is flourishing among Russia’s neighbours and their sense of separate national identity.  He cannot afford to lose.  Even if there is a ceasefire, he is intent on making Ukraine fail, with a fresh use of force if necessary.  It means that he will use violence and totalitarianism to impose his will at home.  He is not only out to crush a free Ukraine, but is also waging war against the best dreams of his own people.  So far he is winning.

War is peace

What is Russian fascism?  The F word is often tossed around casually.  It has no settled definition, but it feeds on exceptionalism and ressentiment, a mixture of jealousy and frustration born out of humiliation.  In Russia’s case, the source of this humiliation is not defeat by foreign powers, but abuse suffered by the people at the hands of their own rulers.  Deprived of agency and fearful of the authorities, they seek compensation in an imaginary revenge against enemies appointed by the state.

Fascism involves performances—think of all those rallies and uniforms—laced with the thrill of real violence.  In all its varieties, Mr Snyder says, it is characterised by the triumph of the will over reason.  His essay was entitled “We should say it. Russia is fascist”.  In fact the first to talk about it were Russians themselves.  One of them was Yegor Gaidar, the first post-Soviet prime minister.  In 2007 he saw a spectre rising from Russia’s post-imperial nostalgia.  “Russia is going through a dangerous phase,” he wrote.  “We should not succumb to the magic of numbers but the fact that there was a 15-year gap between the collapse of the German Empire and Hitler’s rise to power and 15 years between the collapse of the USSR and Russia in 2006-07 makes one think…”

By 2014 Boris Nemtsov, another liberal politician, was clear: “Aggression and cruelty are stoked by the television while the key definitions are supplied by the slightly possessed Kremlin master… The Kremlin is cultivating and rewarding the lowest instincts in people, provoking hatred and fighting.  This hell cannot end peacefully.”

A year later Nemtsov, by then labelled a “national traitor”, was murdered beside the Kremlin.  In his final interview, a few hours before his death, he warned that “Russia is rapidly turning into a fascist state.  We already have propaganda modelled after Nazi Germany.  We also have a nucleus of assault brigades… That’s just the beginning.”

Nobody has signalled the growing influence of fascism more loudly than Mr Putin and his acolytes.  Far from Moscow’s prosperous streets, the Kremlin has marked tanks, people and television channels with the letter Z.  The half-swastika has been painted on the doors of Russian film and theatre critics, promoters of “decadent and degenerate” Western art.  Hospital patients and groups of children, some kneeling, have been arranged to form half-swastikas for posting online.

In the 1930s Walter Benjamin, an exiled German cultural critic, analysed fascism as a performance.  “The logical result of fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life,” he wrote.  These aesthetics were designed to supplant reason and their ultimate expression was war.

Today the two faces of the war on television, Vladimir Solovyov and Olga Skabeeva, are caricatures of Nazi propagandists.  Mr Solovyov is often dressed in a black double-breasted Bavarian-style jacket.  Ms Skabeeva, severe and chiselled, has a hint of the dominatrix.  They project hatred and aggression.  They and their guests decry the West for having declared war on Russia and plead theatrically with Mr Putin to reduce it to ashes by unleashing the full might of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

This fantasy Armageddon is matched by real violence, the basis of the relationship between the Russian state and its people.  A Levada poll commissioned by Committee Against Torture (now itself blacklisted) showed that 10% of the Russian population has experienced torture by law-enforcement agencies at some point.  There is a culture of cruelty.  Domestic abuse is no longer a crime in Russia.  In the first week of the war young women protesters were humiliated and sexually abused in police cells.  Nearly 30% of Russians say torture should be allowed.

Atrocities committed by the Russian army in Bucha and other occupied cities are not just excesses of war or a breakdown in discipline, but a feature of army life that is spread more widely by veterans.  The 64th Motor Rifle Brigade, which allegedly carried out the atrocities, was honoured by Mr Putin with the title of “Guards” for defending the “motherland and state interests” and praised for its “mass heroism and valour, tenacity and courage”.  The brigade, based in the far east, is notorious in Russia for its bullying and abuse.

Like much else coming from the Kremlin, fascism is a top-down project, a move by the ruling elite rather than a grassroots movement.  It requires passive acceptance rather than mobilisation of the masses.  Its aim is to disengage people and prevent any form of self-organisation.  The Kremlin and television bosses can turn it up and down.  In the early years of his presidency Mr Putin used money to keep the people out of politics.  After the economy stalled in 2011-12 and the urban middle class came out on the streets to demand more rights, he stoked nationalism and hatred.  During the political calm after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 fascism was turned down as suddenly as it had come up.

Its resurgence in 2021-22 followed the decline in Mr Putin’s legitimacy, protests against the poisoning and arrest of Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader, and the growing alienation of younger Russians who are less susceptible to television propaganda and more open to the West.  To them Mr Putin was an ageing, vengeful and corrupt grandpa who had a secret palace exposed by Mr Navalny’s much-watched YouTube film in 2021.  Mr Putin needed to turn the volume back up again and Ukraine offered him the means.

Freedom is slavery

Russian fascism has deep roots, going all the way back to the early 20th century.  Fascist ideas flourished among White émigrés after the Bolshevik revolution and they were partly re-imported to the Soviet Union by Stalin after the war.  He feared that a victory over fascism, won with America and Britain, would empower and liberate his own people.  So he turned Soviet success into the triumph of totalitarianism and Russian imperial nationalism.  He re-branded war allies as enemies and fascists hellbent on destroying the Soviet Union and depriving it of its glory.

In the decades that followed, fascism was constrained by official communist ideology and by Russians’ personal experience of fighting the Nazis alongside the Western allies.  After the Soviet collapse, however, both of these constraints disappeared and the dark matter was released.  In addition, the liberal elite of the 1990s completely rejected the old Soviet values, sweeping away a strong tradition of anti-fascist literature and arts.

All the while fascism had festered undercover, within the KGB.  In the late 1990s Alexander Yakovlev, the architect of democratic reforms under Mikhail Gorbachev, talked openly about the security services as a cradle of fascism.  “The danger of fascism in Russia is real because since 1917 we have become used to living in a criminal world with a criminal state in charge.  Banditry, sanctified by ideology—this wording suits both communists and fascists.”

Such ambiguity was on full display in “Seventeen Moments of Spring”, a hugely popular 12-part television series made on the KGB’s orders in the 1970s.  On the face of it, the series was nothing more than an attempt to rebrand the Stalinist secret police.  Yuri Andropov, then KGB chief and later Soviet leader, wanted to glamorise Soviet spies and attract a new generation of young men into the service.  As it turned out, the programmes helped introduce a Nazi aesthetic into Russia’s popular culture—an aesthetic that would eventually be exploited by Mr Putin.

The hero is a fictional Soviet spy who infiltrates the Nazi high command under the name Max Otto von Stierlitz.  He is a high-ranking Standartenführer in the SS, whose mission is to foil a secret plan forged between the CIA and Germany near the end of the war.  Played by the best-loved Soviet actors, the Nazis in the film are humane and attractive.  Vyacheslav Tikhonov, who played the role of Stierlitz, was a model of male perfection.  Tall and handsome, with perfect cheekbones, he shone in a sleek Nazi uniform that had been tailored in the Soviet defence ministry.

Ordinary Russians were mesmerised.  Dmitry Prigov, a Russian artist and poet, wrote: “Our wonderful Stierlitz is the perfect fascist man and the perfect Soviet man at the same time, making transgressive transitions from one to the other with subduing and untraceable ease… He is the harbinger of a new age—a time of mobility and manipulativeness.”

Mr Putin was the beneficiary.  In 1999, just before he was named as Russia’s president, voters told pollsters that Stierlitz would be one of their ideal choices for the office, behind Georgy Zhukov, the Red Army’s commander in the second world war.  Mr Putin, a former KGB man who had been stationed in East Germany, had cultivated the image of a latter-day Stierlitz.

When VTSIOM, one of the pollsters, repeated the exercise in 2019, Stierlitz came in first place.  “An inversion has occurred,” the pollsters said.  “In 1999 Putin seemed the preferred candidate because he looked like Stierlitz; in 2019 the image of Stierlitz remains relevant because it is being implemented by the country’s most popular politician.”  On June 24th this year a statue to Stierlitz was unveiled in front of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) headquarters that was part of the Soviet KGB.

For Mr Putin, the fascist aesthetic is matched by a distinctively Russian fascist philosophy.  He and most of his former KGB peers embraced capitalism and rallied against liberals and socialists. They also projected the humiliation they had suffered in the first post-Soviet decade onto the whole country, portraying the end of the cold war as a betrayal and defeat.

Their prophet is Ivan Ilyin, a thinker of the early 20th century who was sent into exile by the Bolsheviks in the 1920s and embraced fascism in Italy and Germany.  Ilyin saw fascism as a “necessary and inevitable phenomenon…based on a healthy sense of national patriotism”.  He provided justification for their self-appointed role as the state’s guardians.  As such, they were entitled to control its resources.

After the second world war, Ilyin rejected what he saw as Hitler’s errors, such as atheism, and his crimes, including the extermination of the Jews.  But he retained his faith in the fascist idea of national resurgence.  In 1948 he wrote that “fascism is a complex, multifaceted phenomenon and, historically speaking, far from being outlived.”  Accordingly, Mr Putin embraced religion, rejected anti-Semitism and eschewed collective leadership for his own direct rule, confirmed by plebiscites.

Ilyin’s book, “Our Tasks”, was recommended by the Kremlin as essential reading to state officials in 2013.  It ends with a short essay to a future Russian leader.  Western-style democracy and elections would bring ruin to Russia, Ilyin wrote.  Only “united and strong state power, dictatorial in scope and state-national in essence” could save it from chaos.

The Ilyin work Mr Putin is said to have read and reread is “What Dismemberment of Russia Would Mean for the World”, written in 1950.  In it the author argues that Western powers will try “to carry out their hostile and ridiculous experiment even in the post-Bolshevik chaos, deceptively presenting it as the supreme triumph of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘federalism’… German propaganda has invested too much money and effort in Ukrainian separatism (and maybe not only Ukrainian)”.

In 2005, following the first popular uprising in Ukraine, known as the Orange revolution, Mr Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.  Drawing on anti-Ukrainian feelings in Russia, he then set his country on a path of confrontation with the West.  That same year Ilyin’s body was brought back to Russia from Switzerland, where he had died in exile in 1954.  Mr Putin reportedly paid for the gravestone from his own savings.  In 2009 he laid flowers on Ilyin’s grave.

Ignorance is strength

The fact that Mr Putin has embraced fascist methods and fascist thinking holds an alarming message for the rest of the world. Fascism works by creating enemies. It makes Russia the brave victim of others’ hatred even as it justifies feelings of hatred towards its real and imagined foes at home and abroad.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and “moderniser”, recently posted on social media: “I hate them.  They are bastards and degenerates.  They want us, Russia, dead… I’ll do all I can to make them disappear.”  He did not bother to say who he had in mind.  But Russia’s hostility has three targets: the liberal West, Ukraine and traitors at home.  All of them need to take stock of what Russian fascism means.

Mr Putin has long sought to undermine Western democracies.  He has supported far-right parties in Europe, such as National Rally in France, Fidesz in Hungary and the Northern League in Italy.  He has interfered in American elections, hoping to help Donald Trump defeat the Democrats.

Even if fighting stops in Ukraine, the devotee of Ilyin in the Kremlin will not settle into an accommodation with Western democracies.  Mr Putin and his men will do everything in their power to battle liberalism and sow discord.

For centuries Russia has been partly European, but Kirill Rogov, a political analyst, wrote recently that the war in Ukraine enabled Mr Putin to cut off that part of its identity.  As long as Mr Putin is in power, Russia will build alliances with China, Iran and other anti-liberal countries.  It will, as ever, be in the ideological vanguard.

The outlook for Ukraine is even more bleak.  A few weeks after the start of the war Ria Novosti, a state news agency, published an article that called for the purging “of the ethnic component of self-identification among the people populating the territories of historical Malorossia and Novorossia [Ukraine and Belarus] initiated by the Soviet powers.”

Ukraine, Mr Putin said, was the source of deadly viruses, home to American-funded biological labs experimenting with strains of coronavirus and cholera.  “Biological weapons were being created in direct proximity to Russia,” he warned.

On Russian state television, Ukrainians are called worms.  In a recent talk show Mr Solovyov joked: “When a doctor is deworming a cat, for the doctor it is a special operation, for the worms it is a war and for the cat it is cleansing.”  Margarita Simonyan, the boss of RT, a state-controlled international tv network, stated that “Ukraine cannot continue to exist.”

The purpose of the invasion is not just to capture territory but to cleanse Ukraine of its separate identity, which threatens the identity of Russia as an imperial nation.  Along with its punitive forces, the Kremlin has also dispatched hundreds of schoolteachers to re-educate Ukrainian children in the occupied territories.  It equates an independent sovereign Ukraine with Nazism.  Either Ukraine will cease to exist as a nation state or Russia itself will be infected by the idea of emancipation that will destroy its imperial identity.

The bleakest of all is the outlook for Russia.  Mr Putin did not plan on a war of attrition.  He imagined that a strike on Kyiv would rapidly lead to a new regime in Ukraine and the submission of Ukrainian society to his will.  So far, Mr Putin has failed to defeat Ukraine.  But he has succeeded in defeating Russia.

Talk of bodily contamination and cleansing is not limited to Ukraine.  Russia also contains alien elements—oyster-slurping, foie-gras-eating traitors who mentally live in the West and are infected with ideas of gender fluidity.  The Russian people, Mr Putin declared in a tv address, will “simply spit them out like an insect in their mouth” leading to “a natural and necessary self-detoxification of society”.

Like Stalin, Mr Putin distrusts and fears the people.  They need to be controlled, manipulated and, when necessary, suppressed.  He excludes them from real decision-making.  As Greg Yudin, a Russian sociologist, argues, they are needed for the ritual of elections that demonstrate the legitimacy of the ruler, but the rest of the time they should be invisible.  Mr Yudin calls this attitude “people on call”.

The war changed everything.  As Hitler told Goebbels in the spring of 1943, “the war…made possible for us the solution of a whole series of problems that could never have been solved in normal times”.  Soon Mr Putin was able to impose de-facto military rule and censorship.  He blocked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and any remaining independent media, isolated the country from poisonous Western influence and chased anyone who objected to the war out of the country.  Any public statement that challenges the Kremlin’s version of events in Ukraine is punishable by a 15-year prison sentence.

Gregory Asmolov, of King’s College London, argues this new political reality was unimaginable only months ago and is the Kremlin’s most significant achievement in the conflict.  The war has enabled Mr Putin to transform Russia into what Mr Asmolov calls a “disconnective society”.  He wrote that “These efforts are driven by the notion that it’s impossible to protect the internal legitimacy of the current leadership and keep citizens loyal if Russia remains relatively open and linked up to the global networked system.”

So far Mr Putin’s aim has been to paralyse Russian society rather than rally the crowds.  The show of unity and mobilisation is achieved by television operating in the information space cleared of alternative voices.  Among television viewers—mostly people over 60—more than 80% support the war.  Among 18- to 24-year-olds, who get their news from the internet, it is less than half.  This is perhaps why the symbolic representatives of the Z-operation are not working men and women, but a babushka with a red-flag and an eight-year-old “grandson” (painted on murals and imprinted on chocolate wrappers, respectively).  They are the ideal television viewers and reality-show extras.

The combination of fear and propaganda produces what Mr Rogov calls an “imposed consensus”.  The state publicises opinion polls showing that the majority of Russians support the “special military operation”.  The main reason people support Mr Putin is that they think everybody else does, too.  The need to belong is powerful.  Even when people have access to information, they “simply ignore it or rationalise it, just to avoid destroying the concept of self, country and power…created by propaganda,” notes Elena Koneva, a sociologist.

The engine of fascism does not have a reverse gear.  Mr Putin cannot turn back to a reality-based brand of authoritarianism.  Expansion is in its nature.  It will seek to expand both geographically and into people’s private lives.  As the war drags on and casualties mount, the question is whether Mr Putin can mobilise the passive majority or whether they start to grow restive.  The elites in the Kremlin, the army and the security services will watch closely.

Two plus two make four

Victor Klemperer, a German Jew who fought in the first world war and survived the second, wrote that “Nazism permeated the flesh and blood of the people through single words, idioms and sentence structures which were imposed on them in a million repetitions.”  His book, “The Language of the Third Reich”, describes how the dissociating prefix ent- (de-) gained prominence in Germany during the war.

As Russian tanks stormed Ukraine in the small hours of February 24th, Mr Putin began his war against Ukraine with that same dissociating prefix.  The goal, he said, was denatsifikatsia (de-Nazification) and demilitarizatsia (de-militarisation).  Ria Novosti, the state news agency, later added that “De-Nazification inevitably will be also de-Ukrainisation.”

“Germany was almost destroyed by Nazism,” Klemperer wrote, “The task of curing it of this fatal disease is today termed ‘de-Nazification’.  I hope, and indeed believe, that this dreadful word…will fade away and lead no more than a historical existence as soon as it has performed its current duty… But that won’t be for some time yet, because it is not only Nazi actions that have to vanish, but also…the typical Nazi way of thinking and its breeding-ground: the language of Nazism.”[2]

A fascinating and thought-provoking summary of history, which can change in an instant:

  • “Dead men tell no tales.”  Putin can and may be snuffed out by one or more assassins; or cancer or some other ailment may take his life.

 • I have written extensively about Putin[3], and was in Berlin when the Soviet Union collapsed and its soldiers were selling their uniforms and plumbing fixtures from their barracks, and retreating to “tent cities” in the USSR.

  • Russians may be treated as pariahs globally for at least a generation.

  • What I wrote several years ago is worth repeating:

Russia is weaker today than the former USSR before it collapsed.  It spans nine time zones and includes 160 ethnic groups that speak an estimated 100 languages.  It is by no means monolithic, and may crumble “overnight.”  Once Putin is gone, Russia may be dismembered—never to rise again—with China taking part (e.g., Siberia, which it covets) and the rest becoming independent states like the former Yugoslavia.

Each of the new states will act in its own best interests, just as has been true in the former Yugoslavia, and among the countries that were spun off from the USSR—which have thrived as part of the West.  Putinism will not survive Putin.  It will suffer an ignominious death, like its namesake; and constitute a tragic watershed in history, like Adolf Hitler’s “Thousand Year Reich” and Nazism.[4]


© 2022, Timothy D. Naegele


[1]  Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  See, e.g., Timothy D. Naegele Resume-21-8-6  and https://naegeleknol.wordpress.com/accomplishments/   He has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commendation_Medal#Joint_Service).  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/articles/ and https://naegeleknol.wordpress.com/articles/), and studied photography with Ansel Adams.  He can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2]  See https://www.economist.com/briefing/2022/07/28/vladimir-putin-is-in-thrall-to-a-distinctive-brand-of-russian-fascism (“Vladimir Putin is in thrall to a distinctive brand of Russian fascism”)

[3]  See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/ (“Russia’s Putin Is A Killer”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/the-death-of-putin-and-russia-the-final-chapter-of-the-cold-war/ (“The Death Of Putin And Russia: The Final Chapter Of the Cold War”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/02/is-putin-right/ (“Is Putin Right?”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2021/12/07/a-cowards-approach-to-russias-pygmy-putin/ (“A Coward’s Approach To Russia’s Pygmy Putin?”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/01/27/ (“Will Putin Seize Ukraine, And If So When?”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/02/24/russias-kgb-trained-killer-putin-may-be-more-dangerous-than-hitler-or-stalin/ (“Russia’s KGB-Trained Killer Putin May Be More Dangerous Than Hitler Or Stalin”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/02/25/sever-the-head-of-a-snake-and-it-dies/ (“Sever The Head Of A Snake, And It Dies”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/02/27/putin-must-be-treated-as-a-war-criminal/ (“Putin Must Be Treated As A War Criminal”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/03/12/terminate-putin-now-and-the-war-in-ukraine-may-end-and-world-war-iii-might-be-avoided/ (“Terminate Putin Now, And The War In Ukraine May End, And World War III Might Be Avoided”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/03/20/rip-joe-biden-and-vladimir-putin/ (“RIP Joe Biden And Vladimir Putin”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/04/16/putin-must-die-now/ (“Putin Must Die Now”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/04/23/russians-are-the-walking-dead/ (“Russians Are The Walking Dead”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2022/04/30/russia-must-not-be-crippled-but-destroyed-like-the-soviet-union-before-it/ (“Russia Must Not Be Crippled, But Destroyed Like The Soviet Union Before It”)

[4]  See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/the-death-of-putin-and-russia-the-final-chapter-of-the-cold-war/ (“The Death Of Putin And Russia: The Final Chapter Of The Cold War”)

The Next Major War: Korea Again?

22 12 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

A series of events has been unfolding for some months now, which may culminate in another shooting war on the Korean peninsula that might prove devastating.  North Korea has warned that a war with South Korea would go nuclear[2]; and the ramifications are enormous.  In discussing this potential tragedy of epic proportions, it is useful to review recent events that have brought us to the present state of affairs:

  • The Sinking Of A South Korean Navy Vessel In March Of 2010—The facts were unknown when it happened, except that an explosion took place aboard the ship, and efforts were underway to save as many of the crew members as possible.  Whether this would turn into an international incident, testing the South Koreans and President Barack Obama, remained to be seen.[3] However, the Wall Street Journal noted:

The possibility of a violent, potentially apocalyptic regime collapse in North Korea within the decade is one that all countries with an interest in the region should keep in mind.[4]

The Journal added:

The latest incident comes days after a conference in which some experts described the Kim dictatorship as being in the first stage of collapse.  Americans should be paying attention: If North Korea decides to go out in a blaze of nuclear glory—and its current penchant for kamikaze rhetoric suggests it might—the enormous number of casualties would likely include many of the U.S. troops stationed on the peninsula.[5]

  • South Korean Ship Was Hit By North Korean Torpedo—Among other publications, the London Times reported that North Korea had launched one of the worst military acts of provocation since the Korean War, killing 46 South Korean sailors, which had amounted to a deliberate and unprovoked attack by North Korea.[6]
  • Finally, In May Of 2010, South Korea Blamed North Korea For Launching The Torpedo At Its Warship, Causing The Explosion That Killed 46 Sailors[7]—The Wall Street Journal reported that South Korea had convincing evidence.[8]
  • There Is Reason To Believe That North Korea’s Dictator Kim Ordered The Sinking Of The Cheonan, To Help Secure The Succession Of His Son—The New York Times reported that an American intelligence analysis of the deadly torpedo attack on the South Korean warship concluded that Kim Jong Il, the ailing leader of North Korea, must have authorized the torpedo assault.[9]
  • China Shields North Korea—Bloomberg News reported that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was likely to resist pressure to acknowledge that North Korea had torpedoed the South Korean warship.[10]
  • North And South Korea On The Brink Of War, Russian Diplomat Warned.[11]
  • North Korea Fired At South Korea As It Prepared To Host G-20 Summit Of Wealthiest Nations.[12]
  • North Korea Fired On South Korean Island.[13]
  • China Warned U.S. About Joint U.S.-South Korean Military Exercise As Korea Tensions Rise[14]—In turn, North Korea responded angrily to the maneuvers: “The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war.”
  • America’s Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff, Admiral Mullen, Rebuked China For Failing To Curb North Korea.[15]
  • Firing Drill Increased Korea Tensions—South Korea test-fired artillery from the island that North Korea attacked, defying North Korean threats of another attack and asserting its rights in a maritime area it has controlled since the Korean War of the 1950s.[16]
  • North Korea Said It Would Not Strike Back—As the Wall Street Journal noted, North Korea stood pat after a South Korean artillery drill, easing fears of armed conflict and suggesting that the North Koreans might be using provocations to seek economic inducements.

The Journal added:

Fighter jets patrolled the air and destroyers sailed in nearby waters ready to counter another North Korean attack.

. . .

[F]or decades Pyongyang’s power has been tied to its ability and willingness to surprise Seoul. Analysts say it is more likely to stage another provocation when the South’s guard goes down in the months ahead, depending on its need to further its broad goals of securing economic assistance and security guarantees for its authoritarian regime.

For now, the episode appeared to take its place in a long series of provocations South Koreans have gotten used to.

. . .

Earlier in the day the North made another conciliatory gesture—announced by a visiting U.S. dignitary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, making an unofficial visit—to let the international nuclear inspectors it kicked out last year come back to the country.

. . .

For longtime North Korea watchers, Pyongyang’s official statement and offer to Mr. Richardson showed that it continued to operate in a familiar pattern: heating things up with provocative actions that draw attention, and then cooling them down with peace-making gestures in hopes of winning economic and security favors.[17]

  • WikiLeaks Cables Reveal China Ready To Abandon North Korea—The UK’s Guardian reported:

China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a “spoiled child”.[18]

North Korea’s latest series of provocations might prove little more than that, even as deadly as they were.  However, miscalculations may take place, which could be catastrophic.  While America is tied down militarily in Iraq, and its forces are mired in the Afghan War, North Korea may feel emboldened to strike against South Korea and set the Korean peninsula ablaze.  Similarly, other trouble spots around the world may flare up, such as a war in the Middle East involving Israel and Iran or its surrogates.

Given Barack Obama’s perceived weakness and naïveté, as well as global economic problems confronting the United States and other countries, its enemies may choose now or in the not-too-distant future as an opportune time to strike.  The use of nuclear weapons, or the ultimate EMP Attack[19], would send America and its allies reeling.  Let’s hope and pray it never happens.

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele

[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com

[2] See http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.4fb1629dc68392c48ffbd287f0cd9a66.931&show_article=1

[3] See, e.g., http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7077655.ece and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704100604575146940411764282.html?mod=WSJ_newsreel_world

[4] See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704100604575145672974954144.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLEForthNews

[5] See id.

[6] The Times article added:

[South Korean President Lee Myung Bak]’s government appears to be struggling to find an appropriate response that would demonstrate its resolve in the face of aggression but stop short of a costly and unpredictable war.

. . .

The speculation is that this was an act of retaliation for a naval skirmish in November last year in which the North came off worse.

. . .

Some security officials favour a tit-for-tat response to any North Korean aggression. But the risk is that this could escalate into a war, which might result in eventual victory for the South and its US allies, but could be ruinously destructive and expensive.

A limited war might be exactly what the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, is hoping for. After decades of economic decline and famine in the 1990s which killed as many as a few million people, his economy is in chronic decline.

A military adventure against the routinely demonised “imperialist” US and its South Korean “lackeys” could serve as a welcome and unifying distraction.

. . .

“No one wants to say it out loud,” wrote Song Ho Keun, a professor at Seoul National University in the Joong-Ang Ilbo newspaper.

“We told ourselves to be patient and cool, not to jump to conclusions as there is no definitive evidence implicating the North. But if we find one little piece of evidence pointing definitely at North Korea, the rage we have forcibly suppressed will gush forth.”

See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7104498.ece

[7] See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/18/AR2010051803094.html?hpid=topnews

[8] For example, the Journal noted:

[W]hen the South Korean joint military-civilian investigation team presented their findings at a nationally-televised news conference, they unveiled a surprise: virtually the entire unexploded portion of the torpedo that destroyed the ship.

Searchers found the torpedo parts—including its propulsion system, steering section and propellers—last Saturday in the waters where the ship was destroyed. A marking inside the propulsion system reads “No. 1” in Korean lettering and, investigators said, is consistent with markings in a North Korean torpedo that the South Korean military obtained several years ago.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703691804575255162754594880.html?mod=WSJ_hps_SECONDTopStories

[9] See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/23/world/asia/23korea.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1274612566-rHxXHrx8DGOehpG3vtFz9Q

In an editorial entitled, “Lessons From a Torpedo”—and subtitled “Placating Kim Jong Il doesn’t change North Korea’s behavior”—the Wall Street Journal stated explicitly:

President Obama . . . sent Kim a personal letter spelling out a “future vision” for the two countries, including the promise of a peace treaty, a guarantee of regime security and economic aid in exchange for the North’s denuclearization. The North’s response arrived by torpedo.

. . .

Engaging Kim has done little to improve his behavior, except in brief intervals, and if anything that behavior has become worse since Mr. Obama took office.

. . .

The larger strategic insight is to recognize that North Korea won’t change until Kim dies or his regime falls. The goal of the West should be to increase pressure on the North toward the latter goal, especially given signs of increasing discontent in the North.

. . .

[T]he long U.S. attempt to persuade Beijing to control its client has nothing to show for it.

. . .

If Kim and his generals can sink a South Korean ship without serious consequences, they might well conclude that they should escalate. The proper response is to give up the illusions of engagement, and methodically and coolly treat the North as the rogue state it is.

See http://www.naegele.com/documents/LessonsFromaTorpedo.pdf

In an article entitled, “Kim Jong-il ‘laying the ground for succession’ with military attacks”—and subtitled, “Palace power-struggles between North Korea’s new-generation political leadership and its hawkish military establishment could spark off a full war on the Peninsula, South Korean and US authorities are warning”—the UK’s Telegraph reported:

Last week’s attack on Yeonpyeong island, a senior South Korean defence official told The Daily Telegraph, was personally approved by North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-il and his son and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un, in an effort to curry favour with hostile military hawks.

“I fear we’re going to see much more fighting in weeks to come,” the official said.

. . .

Kim Jong-il, US government sources said, is determined not to rejoin talks aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear programme in return for aid, fearful of upsetting military leaders. He hopes precipitating a crisis will lead the generals to rally behind his son and compel South Korea and the West to engage in dialogue on his terms.

Kim Jong-un was made a four-star general and named vice-chairman of the country’s National Defence Commission in September—even though the Swiss-educated 27-year-old had no military experience. “The generals saw Kim Jong-un as a puppy who wasn’t even lavatory trained,” said Kongdan Oh Hassig, a North Korea expert, “not a credible leader. There was lots of fuming.”

Bruce Bennett, another North Korea specialist, said the succession left generals “asking themselves how much longer they would have a role in government”. He noted that replacements of officials in North Korea “usually occur as the result of a purge or a ‘traffic accident,’ so that could be cause for some instability.”

“Every time there’s been a succession in North Korea,” Dr. Hassig noted, “you’ve had trouble, because the leadership has needed to reassure the military.”

Kim Jong-il ordered the bombing of a Korean Air plane in 1987, killing all 115, and an attack on officials which left 17 dead.

Little noticed in the West, tensions with the military have often threatened North Korea’s ruling family. In 1991-1992, there were reports that a group of generals had been planning to assassinate Kim Il-sung, in order to implement a programme of radical modernisation. Later, in 1995, elements of North Korea’s VI corps in famine-hit North Hamgyong province almost revolted.

“The Kims are playing the Crazed Fearsome Cripple Gambit,” a US military official told The Daily Telegraph, referring to a term coined by the strategic analyst George Friedman.

North Korea’s regime, Mr Friedman argued, wilfully chose to be an economically-crippled state to make itself unattractive as a target for intervention. Then it sought to inspire fear by developing nuclear weapons.

Finally, Mr Friedman argued, “having established that they were crippled and fearsome, the critical element was to establish their insanity”. Since no one would wish for a nuclear-armed North Korea to engage in a crazed military adventure, it would give the regime what it wanted.

Both Koreas are now holding out threats of further fighting. North Korea’s official news agency warned on Saturday that the “situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war”.

Lieutenant General Yoo Nak Joon, commander of the South Korean Marine Corps, meanwhile, called on his troops to “put our feelings of rage and animosity in our bones and take our revenge on North Korea”.

See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8166343/Kim-Jong-il-laying-the-ground-for-succession-with-military-attacks.html

[10] Specifically, Bloomberg reported:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is likely to resist pressure to acknowledge that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship when he flies to Seoul tomorrow to meet South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama.

. . .

China wants to avoid a conflict on the Korean peninsula, and is concerned that taking South Korea’s side may provoke North Korea into further escalations and even lead to war, said Shen Dingli, vice dean of the Institute of International Affairs at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“North Korea is dying, and we can make things worse,” Shen said. “We have assumed North Korea is not a rational actor.”

See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-26/china-may-shield-north-korea-as-lee-clinton-seek-action-over-ship-sinking.html

[11] See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/8020972/North-and-South-Korea-on-the-brink-of-war-Russian-diplomat-warns.html

[12] The AP reported:

North Korea fired two rounds toward South Korea at their tense border and South Korean troops immediately fired back, an official said Friday.

The exchange of fire at the heavily armed border highlights the security problems faced by Seoul as it prepares to host the Group of 20 economic summit next month.

North Korean troops fired at a South Korean guard post in the Demilitarized Zone, said an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul.

. . .

The guard post is 73 miles (118 kilometers) northeast of Seoul.

. . .

The spike in tensions Friday came two weeks ahead of a global economic summit in Seoul to be attended by President Barack Obama and other leaders.

. . .

In May, a multinational investigation led by Seoul concluded that a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine sank the 1,200-ton Cheonan warship. North Korea has denied involvement in the sinking, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The sinking heightened tensions between the rival Koreas, which remain technically at war because their 1950-53 war ended with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

See http://apnews.myway.com/article/20101029/D9J5B8OG0.html; see also http://www.naegele.com/documents/NorthKoreaFiresShotsAcrossBorder.pdf and http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-10-29-north-south-korea-fire_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

[13] The Los Angeles Times reported:

North Korea on Tuesday fired dozens of artillery rounds onto a populated South Korean island, killing two and injuring 19 others after Pyongyang claimed that Seoul was readying for “an invasion,” officials said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called an emergency session of his national security-related ministers in an underground bunker at the presidential residence late Tuesday to devise a response to the attack, which occurred near the disputed western border between north and south.

The Seoul government later called North Korea’s artillery attack a “clear military provocation” and warned that the secretive regime would face “stern retaliation” should it launch further attacks.

. . .

The South Korean military was placed on high alert, with fighter jets sent into the air, after officials confirmed that two Marines were killed and 19 others—including three civilians—were injured.

. . .

The White House . . . said the U.S. would stand by South Korea. “Earlier today North Korea conducted an artillery attack against the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. We are in close and continuing contact with our Korean allies,” said a statement.

“The United States strongly condemns this attack and calls on North Korea to halt its belligerent action and to fully abide by the terms of the Armistice Agreement.” It added that the U.S. “is firmly committed to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea, and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability.”

See http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-korea-shelling-web-20101124,0,958943,full.story; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703904804575631763523837910.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories and http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101123/wl_afp/nkoreaskoreamilitarynuclearweapons_20101123092327

A USA Today article added:

The skirmish came amid high tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent.

. . .

The existence of North Korea’s new uranium enrichment facility came to light over the weekend after Pyongyang showed it to a visiting American nuclear scientist, claiming that the highly sophisticated operation had 2,000 completed centrifuges. Top U.S. military officials warn that it could speed the North’s ability to make and deliver viable nuclear weapons.

See http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-11-23-korea-artillery_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

[14] The Wall Street Journal reported:

Beijing [has] lodged its first official protest of a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise planned for Sunday, even as the aircraft carrier USS George Washington steamed toward the region.

North Korea also responded angrily. “The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war,” the state controlled Korean Central News Agency responded Friday to the maneuvers, which are set to take place in the Yellow Sea between the Koreas and northeastern China.

The strong talk was the latest fallout from North Korea’s hour-long artillery attack of a South Korean island on Tuesday that killed four people. The next day, the U.S. and South Korea said planned joint exercises would go ahead over the weekend, heightening fears in some quarters that already-tense relations between North and South Korea—and their respective international protectors, China and the U.S.—could be heading for a showdown.

Yet China’s outwardly defiant response belies a more delicate political reality: Beijing’s continued support of North Korea’s erratic, martial regime is beginning to extract real costs. China’s statement Friday included a face-saving formulation that appeared to open the door for a scenario China has long sought to avert—a U.S. aircraft carrier, a potent symbol of U.S. military might, plying the edge of Chinese waters.

. . .

China has long frustrated U.S. efforts to bring its nuclear-armed neighbor to heel, fearing any radical change could sow chaos in the region and potentially lead to a unified Korea with a U.S. military presence directly on its border. Beijing refused this week to blame North Korea for Tuesday’s attack. Privately, its officials maintain, the weekend’s exercises could be a grave mistake that risk further provoking the North.

But current and former U.S. officials who have worked on North Korea said Friday that they saw China in a growing quandary in how to square its support for Pyongyang with the regime’s continued provocations.

Beijing has sought in recent months to deepen its economic and strategic relationship with North Korea, despite U.S. objections, arguing it would help contain leader Kim Jong Il’s nuclear work and military provocations. As Pyongyang has continued to challenge the international community, however, China has been placed in an increasingly weakened position to protest U.S. military action.

“China is having a much harder time in defending its policy, but they only have themselves to blame,” said Michael Green, who oversaw Asia policy for the White House during George W. Bush’s first term. “You talk to any Chinese official, and they’re furious with the North Koreans.”

Beijing is also facing renewed criticism from Chinese foreign-policy experts, journalists and Internet activists who question whether unqualified support for North Korea is still in China’s interests.

China’s apparently softened stance on Yellow Sea exercises appears to demonstrate a concern that the North Korean crisis will overshadow a planned trip to Washington in January by President Hu Jintao. It may also reflect an acknowledgment that China would be unlikely to prevent the U.S. and South Korea from staging their drills following the week’s attack, requiring a compromise to avoid appearing weak before an increasingly nationalist and demanding Chinese public.

“The very recent developments put China in an awkward position,” said Jin Canrong, an international relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing. “China’s not pleased to see that, but it has to face it. So its immediate concern is to contain the crisis.”

U.S. military officials insisted Friday that the exercise scheduled for this weekend shouldn’t be interpreted as anything but an attempt to deter North Korea from further attacks on the South.

“This exercise is not directed at China,” said Capt. Darryn James, a Pentagon spokesman. “The purpose is to strengthen the deterrence against North Korea.”

U.S. officials on Friday said the Obama administration continues to focus its diplomacy in Northeast Asia on gaining China’s cooperation to exert more pressure on North Korea.

. . .

[In] a speech by [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton[,] she said that the U.S. had a national interest in protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Ever since, China and the U.S. have been engaged in a tussle for influence in the region, where many Southeast Asian nations that have territorial disputes with China are looking to beef up defense relations with the U.S.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704008704575638420698918004.html

[15] The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the chairman of America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in Seoul that Beijing’s inaction gives tacit approval to its ally North Korea’s aggression:

The most senior U.S. military official delivered a sharp rebuke to China on Wednesday, blaming Asia’s top power for failing to rein in its North Korean ally in the escalating dispute over the fate of the Korean peninsula.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, blasted China for refusing to condemn North Korea over the Nov. 23 artillery barrage that killed four people on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. He spoke in Seoul, where he met with his South Korean counterpart in a public display of resolve to deter any North Korean aggression.

But Mullen directed some of his most pointed criticism at Beijing.

“The Chinese have enormous influence over the North, influence that no other nation on Earth enjoys,” said Mullen at a press conference at the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. “And yet, despite a shared interest in reducing tensions, they appear unwilling to use it.”

“Even tacit approval of Pyongyang’s brazenness leaves all their neighbors asking, ‘What will be next?’ ”

At the joint news conference Wednesday, Han Min-koo, South Korea’s own top commander, said that rules of engagement are being strengthened to allow commanders on the ground to fire back immediately in case of another North Korean attack.

. . .

“It is not just that China is turning a blind eye to what North Korea is doing, they are enabling North Korea,” [L. Gordon Flake, a Korea specialist with the Mansfield Foundation] said. ” China’s overt support for North Korea is blunting the effectiveness of diplomatic measures to curb their behavior.”

. . .

The U.S. administration has also signaled that it is not ready to return to the previous diplomatic path of the six-party talks, a position Mullen reiterated Wednesday.

“We first need an appropriate basis for the resumption of talks,” he said. “There is none so long as North Korea persists in its illegal, ill-advised and dangerous behavior. I do not believe we should continue to reward that behavior with bargaining or new incentives.”

See http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-mullen-china-korea-20101209,0,6920379.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29

[16] See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704138604576029240348016046.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories; see also http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304879604575582343372934982.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories (“A History of Korean Tensions”)

[17] Also, the Journal article stated:

With its Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong Island and in statements since, North Korea has tried to effectively redraw a maritime border in the Yellow Sea that it has long disputed with South Korea. Four South Koreans, including two civilians, died in the attack.

North Korea claimed that waters around the island, into which South Korea has test-fired artillery since the mid-1970s, belong to it and that any South Korean military test amounts to an attack on its territory. South Korean officials insisted on continuing the drill on the island to assure that North Korea’s attack wouldn’t create a de facto change of its territory in the maritime border area.

. . .

North Korea’s statements caused more alarm in other countries than they did in South Korea, where North Korea’s rhetoric is part of the daily noise. Analysts in Seoul over the weekend noted that Pyongyang’s threats were issued by lower-level sources than the agencies affiliated with its dictator Kim Jong Il. As well, military officials said they saw no unusual preparations by the North’s military over the weekend.

As a result, no special precautions were ordered on South Korea’s mainland and in the capital city of Seoul, just 30 miles from the border, and business proceeded as usual Monday.

. . .

North Korea’s offer to restart international nuclear inspections may have less impact now after its announcement last month of a uranium enrichment program. When the North’s nuclear-weapons development work was confined to plutonium reprocessing, it was easy for inspectors to monitor.

But, analysts note the uranium program Pyongyang revealed last month is likely housed in multiple locations and easily hidden, making the inspections process less reliable as a means of holding North Korea to disarmament agreements.

See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703886904576031232770698532.html?mod=WSJ_hp_MIDDLENexttoWhatsNewsForth

[18] See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/29/wikileaks-cables-china-reunified-korea

[19] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/; see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/#comment-1170

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