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Notes on the New Cold War


“WASHINGTON – In response to Russia’s continued attempts to destabilize eastern Ukraine and its ongoing occupation of Crimea, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today imposed a broad-based package of sanctions on entities in the financial services, energy, and arms or related materiel sectors of Russia, and on those undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty or misappropriating Ukrainian property.”                                                              

                                                                  U.S. Department of The Treasury

                                                                   July, 16, 2014


Secretary of State John Kerry did the “John Kerry on all 5 Talk Shows” thing this Sunday, to address the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and I felt I owed it to him to watch. After all, the man has been pushing hard for so long now that I can’t remember anything else about him. And I don’t know what he’s riding on, but Sunday afternoon, after watching him break it all down for the fifth time—this time on FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace—I knew I needed a hearty dose of whatever pushes Kerry’s determined trip: But what is it? Obvious speculation points at faith, or speed—and from my place on the couch, I knew supplies of the former were running desperately low. 



On TV a committee of dead pundits went on rambling vacant and dangerous gibberish. I hit mute and turned on the radio, and Dick Dale synced up nicely with the flashing monsters, but it wasn’t enough to lighten my mood. I needed a physical jolt: a slap to the face, or a kick to the groin. Perhaps I could drive to Starbucks and pay the baristas to stomp me. And I think they would. After all, I always tip when I pay with cash. 


I went out to the second-floor balcony and lit a cigarette and stared down at the swimming pool below. A bit of ash fell and danced about the breeze, and landed atop the water in the center of the deep end and dispersed. I watched the drain at the bottom; there were a few clumps of leaves around it. I took my clothes off and climbed over the railing and jumped in, sank down to the bottom and sat there Indian-style by the leaves, releasing disciplined bubbles until there were no more, and my lungs were out of air. I kicked to the top and climbed out and felt a little better.


I stood there naked and dripping for a moment, peering out of the funk, and then went back up to the balcony and put my jeans back on and followed the secretary’s prescription and went to work. There were a few things he said on TV that I wanted to look into, for my own reasons, and because I spent all weekend writhing in anxiety over these wars—instead of going to rock-and-roll shows—I’ll have to slap a new sticker on the Arts Desk for this one and get political one more time, if nobody minds, because I owe Dennis Maley content by this afternoon and I don’t think he keeps those boxing gloves hanging in his office for no reason. He seems like a deliberate guy. Regardless—Here we go: 


Each time I watched Kerry on Sunday, what jumped out at me most was his defense of the sanctions Obama has imposed on Russia’s financial, energy and arms sectors. But John McCain has been saying since March that sanctions are not enough, so perhaps he was right.  


Either way, anybody who’s been paying attention to anything at all for the past seven months should be hip to the notion that the Kremlin is bad. And by this standard for awareness, anyone who’s really hip ought to know that, more specifically, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a Cold War Kahuna, with old Soviet motives and no regard for anyone who doesn’t indulge his malicious intent to expand Mother Russia’s borders by any means necessary—even if it means starting a proxy war in Ukraine, by bankrolling militant pro-Russian separatists who seem to have murdered the 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 last Thursday, with a Kremlin supplied surface-to-air missile which they shot at the fully-loaded commercial passenger jet.


There is some evidence to suggest that the rebels may have mistaken the jet for a Ukrainian military transport plane. In the last month, the rebels have downed a dozen Ukrainian crafts, two of which were transport planes. The rebels have been brazenly posting about these achievements on social media. President Obama said at least one of the victims of MH17 was an American. 


[ . . . ] 


But let’s back up a bit. This tragedy has left many Americans wondering why their President hasn’t done anything to stop Putin’s maniacal behavior—Why are we just letting Putin do this? What’s it gonna take for this guy to finally Get Tough? Why don’t we just go blow them up?—and every single one of those pondering Americans ought to have their fingers chopped off, so that they can never use the internet again. We don’t need their comments. Because the fact is, sanctions are how you fight a cold war; which, if you’ll recall from high school history class, is a “war of ideas,” and a war of fear. 


John Kerry said the White House stiffened sanctions against Russia as recently as last Wednesday—the day before MH17 was downed over Ukraine—but perhaps they need to be tougher still, and they probably will be. But for now, Kerry said, the best thing we can hope for is this tragedy will be “a wakeup call to some countries in Europe who have been reluctant to move.” In other words, hopefully MH17 will get European bystanding-states to back the sanctions.  


Well, what good are “sanctions” going to do against surface-to-air missiles?


[ . . .] 


“[Sanctions] do more than build upon previous steps to impose costs on separatists and the Russian government. By imposing sanctions on entities within the financial services and energy sectors, Treasury has increased the cost of economic isolation for key Russian firms that value their access to medium- and long-term U.S. sources of financing. By designating firms in the arms or related material sector, Treasury has cut these firms off from the U.S. financial system and the U.S. economy.” And being cut off from the U.S. financial system and the U.S. economy is really bad.


But the U.S. economy sucks. Will U.S. sanctions even hurt Russia?


Just yesterday Reuters reported that U.S. sanctions are hurting Russia.


Well, will being cut off from the U.S. financial system and the U.S. economy be bad enough to get Russia to cut the sh!t?


Only time will tell. And we can’t go blow them up because they still have their nukes. Cold War rules still apply in 2014. On Sunday I also saw Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tell the world she believes that U.S.–Russian relations have returned to Cold War levels, and I pray she’s wrong because that is a horrifying notion.




It was a long day with the news. Of course Secretary Kerry also discussed the war in Gaza—

And all I have to say, to that regard, is everyone involved in the matter should probably be listening to more Steel Pulse.



Oh!—On a side note, accounts vary, but this weekend I also learned that Putin named his personal jet “Board One” or “Aircraft One,” which either way is hilarious. 



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