Further Thoughts: Vladimir Putin’s Planned Constitutional Changes

I had the good fortune to be among the first non-mainstream commentators to publish an in-depth analysis of the planned constitutional amendments Vladimir Putin set out on Wednesday in his annual Address to Russia’s bicameral legislature. “Vladimir Putin Plans His Succession” was a runaway success in readership, attracting many times the normal daily number of visitors to my website in a global audience that reached 82 countries. I owe this success in large part to the generous references to my article made by bloggers with large established audiences, in particular to investment analyst Tom Luongo of Gold, Goats ‘n Guns (re-broadcast by Tyler Durden’s zerohedge.com) and to the Canadian retired diplomat and active online commentator Patrick Armstrong, who commands several sites. The article was also re-posted in full by Antiwar.com, who frequently carry my essays, as well as by Johnson’s Russia List, which has a select audience among U.S. universities.

Now, in these “further thoughts” I will address several important issues surrounding the planned constitutional reforms which I did not have the time or space to deal with in my first essay. Moreover, I must consider here elements of the ongoing flow of news from Russia bearing on any evaluation of the reforms, namely the results of the first meeting of the 75-member Working Group on constitutional change which Vladimir Putin convened already on Thursday and the exchanges between the incoming prime minister Mikhail Mishustin and members of the State Duma during and after his confirmation hearings.

I will deal in this essay mainly with significant matters that have not been discussed in the alternative media, not to mention in the establishment media, both of which have devoted a great number of column inches to the reforms since I first went to press.

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Tom Friedman’s Hapless Fear-Mongering

Originally appeared at The American Conservative.

Tom Friedman’s latest column obviously wasn’t fact-checked before it was published:

And then, a few weeks later, Trump ordered the killing of Suleimani, an action that required him to shift more troops into the region and tell Iraqis that we’re not leaving their territory, even though their Parliament voted to evict us. It also prompted Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program [bold mine-DL], which could well necessitate U.S. military action.

Friedman’s claim that Iran restarted a “nuclear weapons program” is completely false. That isn’t what the Iranian government did, and it is irresponsible to say this when it is clearly untrue. Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and it hasn’t had anything like that for more than sixteen years. The Iranian government took another step in reducing its compliance with the JCPOA in the days following the assassination, but contrary to other misleading headlines their government did not abandon the nuclear deal. Iran has not repudiated its commitment to keep its nuclear program peaceful, and it doesn’t help in reducing tensions to suggest that they have. Trump’s recent actions are reckless and dangerous, but it is wrong to say that those actions have caused Iran to start up a nuclear weapons program. That isn’t the case, and engaging in more threat inflation when tensions are already so high is foolish. Friedman is not the only one to make this blunder, but it is the sort of sloppy mistake we expect from him.

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Concerned Veterans for America Launch Campaign To Bring Our Troops Home

Concerned Veterans for America is running an $1.5 million dollar ad campaign on TV in key states and digitally nationwide calling for a complete withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan.

Sign the letter of support that will be forwarded to the White House and your congressional representative here.

Dear Officials:

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The Stable Genius Is Good at Names

So, Trump wants to add Middle Eastern nations (so far unspecified) to NATO so that the alliance can be more involved in the region. We need another obligation to go to war there like a hole in the head. That’s very peculiar for a Putin marionette who supposedly dislikes NATO, which by the way has grown already during his tenure. One always proposes larger missions for useless organizations. Such is the incoherence we’ve come to expect for the 45th occupant of the White House.

According to Politico, Trump said to reporters while describing in a call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg:

I think that NATO should be expanded, and we should include the Middle East. Absolutely … because this is an international problem…. And we can come home, or largely come home and use NATO. It’s an international problem. We caught ISIS. We did Europe a big favor.

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Robert Koehler on Nuclear Hubris

One thing that becomes clear to me when I wander into the world, and the minds, of geopolitical professionals – government people – is how limited and linear their thinking seems to be.

When I do so, an internal distress signal starts beeping and won’t stop, especially when the issue under discussion is war and mass destruction, i.e., suicide by nukes, which has a freshly intense relevance these days as Team Trump plays war with Iran.

The question for me goes well beyond democracy – the right of the public to have a say in what "we" do as a nation – and penetrates the decision-making process itself and the prevailing definition of what matters . . . and what doesn’t. What doesn’t matter, apparently, is any awareness that we live in one world, connected at the core: that the problems confronting this planet transcend the fragmentary "interests" of single, sovereign entities, even if the primary interest is survival itself.

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