Common Grounds

Our Friday News Analysis | In Search of a Nation's Soul (Part 2)

September 09, 2022
Our Friday News Analysis | In Search of a Nation's Soul (Part 2)


               "There are four blind men who discovered an elephant. Since the men have never encountered an elephant before, they grope about, seeking to understand and describe this new phenomenon.

               One grasps the trunk and concludes it is a snake.

               Another explores one of the elephant's legs and describes it as a tree.

               A third finds the elephant's tail and announces it is a rope.

               And the fourth blind man, after discovering the elephant's side, concludes that it is, after all, a wall.

               Which one is right?

               Each in his blindness is describing the same thing: an elephant.

               Thus, all are right, but none wholly so.

Adapted from the Buddhist Sutra

Nouwen, Henri J. M. Spiritual Direction (p. 71). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.


What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive?


By Abraham A. van Kempen


Ohrid, Macedonia, 9 September 2022 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.


In War, Truth is the First Casualty – disinformation is often the first weapon deployed.


               __ Greek writer/poet Aeschylus (525BC - 456BC)


Intelligence and espionage agencies worldwide, leaders of states, diplomats, political commentators, and journalists are all trying to fathom Russian President Vladimir Putin's intentions and understand the aim of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.


To justify NATO aggression that lured the Russian Federation to attack, invade, and decimate Ukraine systematically, the West clones President Vladimir Putin as another Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. From the Americas through the European Union to Australia and beyond, the propaganda machinery even tries to exalt Mr. Putin as Alexandr Dugin’s preeminent disciple. I will cover Alexandr Dugin soon. I will also write about Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible when the time is right.


The EU-US (NATO) assessment of Mr. Putin is dead wrong. Vladimir Putin's roots are grounded in Mother Russia’s KGB. He is not a mindless sheep who follows other mindless sheep. Look at his eyes. They’re made of steel. ‘Don’t mess with me. Get out of my backyard.’ In my lifetime, I have not (yet) met a world leader with such chutzpah (extreme self-confidence or audacity). My friends at the hotel frequented by Mr. Putin tell me that his valet meticulously places his toiletries and hangs his clothes precisely according to exacting standards and measures. He is systematically methodical and painstakingly duteous; in a word, punctilious.

As a red-blooded Russian, he can exude his ‘human side.’ In June 2001, US President George W. Bush "looked Putin in the eye" and said:

               "I found President Putin to be very direct and trustworthy … I could get a feel for his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."


In 2014, my source on Red Square replicated President Bush’s assessment of Mr. Putin: “He (Putin) has everything. He wants to make Russia great, not by expanding Russia’s lebensraum but by working together with the West.


To repeat what I stated last week in, 'In Search of a Nation's Soul (Part 1)':


               "Mr. Putin wants to increase his market share to improve the Russian economy, not by grabbing land but by selling Russian oil, gas, foodstuffs, and other natural resources. Yes, Mr. Putin intends to expand his sphere of influence to make money, not to hoist the Russian flag all over Europe."

Russia’s prime national interest was not to conquer Ukraine but to work out a way to secure free access to the Black Sea. Had the West been willing to compromise, war could have been avoided. In his 9 May 2022 Victory Speech, President Putin addressed the nation and said:


               “In December [2021] last year, we proposed to secure an agreement guaranteeing this security. Russia called on the West to engage in honest discussion to find fair compromises which accounted for each other’s interests. All of this was in vain! They didn’t want to listen to us. And this means that, in reality, they had entirely different plans, and we have seen this.

               NATO began the active military assimilation of territories along our borders – which became an unacceptable threat directly at our borders.

               Let me repeat: we saw all this military infrastructure being set up. We saw hundreds of foreign advisors beginning to work and the regular deliveries of the most modern weaponry from NATO countries. The danger grew with each passing day. So Russia launched a preemptive attack against this aggression. It was necessary, timely, and the only choice—the decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country.”


Putin’s Revenge


Lauded in the West as ‘Putin’s War,’ it is more accurate to proclaim it as ‘Putin’s Revenge.’ Mr. Putin’s action was a direct response to Western aggression that precipitated as early as 2020. The proof is in the pudding, with thirty NATO members pointing NATO’s nuclear arsenals at Russia reinforced with conventional weaponry stockpiled in Ukraine months before Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine.

A Local Tug of War Sparked a Tectonic Change in the World Order

How does one explain the ‘tug of war’ in and around Ukraine? It’s got nothing to do with Ukraine. It’s got EVERYTHING to do about Ukraine.


  1. Ukraine, a sovereign nation since December 1991, is the buffer zone between Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation that borders Russia’s backyard.
  2. Like many Palestinians and Jews, many Ukrainians and Russians share family trees. Nikita Khrushchev is born in Ukraine. Mikhail Gorbachev’s mother is Ukrainian. Until recently, the Russian population in Ukraine numbered approximately 8 million Ukrainian Russians, of whom most populated the Eastern part of Ukraine.
  3. A tug of war, a civil war, between Ukrainian Nationalists in the Western part of Ukraine and Ukrainian Russian Separatists in the Eastern part of Ukraine disrupted the social fabric between the ‘cousins’ in the region.
  4. The extremists on both sides impose on the other: “what is mine is mine. What is yours is mine also.”
  5. The West (the EU-US-NATO Axis, including Australia and New Zealand) supports the Ukrainian Nationalists in the West.
  6. The East (the Russian Federation, Eurasia, the Sub-Continent, the Middle East, Africa, Cuba, and South America) champions the Ukrainian Separatists in the East.
  7. Today, the ‘greater’ Tug of War has NOTHING to do about Ukraine. It is about world dominion between East and West.
  8. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian serve the warlords in the West and East as cannon fodder and human shields.


Paradoxically, most people want peace, including all Ukrainians and Russians. To add insult to injury, nearly 80 percent of all Russians support the Kremlin’s policy to ‘liberate the Ukrainians and to bring order in Ukraine.’ Most Russians doubt that the average ‘Joe’ in Ukraine still feels allegiance to the EU-US (NATO) policies steering Ukraine. Why should Ukrainians sacrifice their lives to either the West or East?


Hopefully, when the East-West meddling stops in Ukraine, Ukraine will again profit from being the go-between of East and West. Geopolitically, it is against Ukraine’s national interest to become a NATO member state. It would be wonderful if the EU would consider accommodating Ukraine as an EU member. Unfortunately, the EU requires all member candidates first to become full-fledged NATO members, a catch-22.


“A new, multipolar world is being built before our eyes,” says Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, 7 September 2022, at the Easter Economic Forum (EEF), a four-day international business meeting in the port city of Vladivostok.


               “The world cannot ignore it: ‘tectonic changes’ are underway that have turned the world order upside down. Changes brought about by the ‘sanction fever’ of the ‘aggressive’ West, which seeks to ‘rob’ other countries of their sovereignty and, as always, to ‘submit’ to its will.


               Russia loses nothing at all because of the “military operation” in Ukraine. On the contrary, it only offers the country opportunities.”


Mr. Putin's geopolitical thunderous speech echoes in the packed plenary hall on the campus of the city's Far Eastern University. The ultramodern university is located on the idyllic green Russky Island between the Bay of Vladivostok and the Sea of Japan, a seven-hour flight from Moscow. Next to Mr. Putin on the podium are the prime ministers of Armenia, Mongolia, and Myanmar and the Chinese party chief Mr. Li Zhanshu. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks by video link. The session is the most important summit since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February.


Hundreds of delegations from more than 60 countries have gathered to conduct business, conclude contracts, and exchange scientific and technical knowledge and information about the environment, climate, and raw materials. This seventh summit of the EEF takes place at a time when international political tensions surrounding Russia, as well as the death toll in Ukraine, are rising. Adding to this was an energy war this week when the Kremlin announced Friday's Nord Stream gas pipeline closure as Russia's response to European sanctions.


It is clear to the Russian president that the international sanctions are unjustified in Russian eyes, just like the international outcry about the Russian grain blockades. Putin will shift the blame for this to Ukraine and the West in one go on Wednesday, which he believes would have provoked an international food crisis. “This is deception by the international community, by partners in Africa and other countries in urgent need of food. This is just fraud,” Putin fulminates.


Now that the window to the West has been slammed shut by war and sanctions, Russia must do everything possible to pry it open to the East. This requires a Russian "turn to Asia," which Putin says is the solution to Russia's problems and the world. “Russia's turn to Asia is the answer to today's geopolitical challenges. A new, multipolar world is being built before our eyes, in which Russia and the Eastern countries occupy key positions,” reads the opening text of the conference glossy, which will be distributed in the dozens of business pavilions around the forum.


Window to the East


But to realize its "multipolar" dream, solid political allies and significant investments are needed. And so, beyond the geopolitical vistas in Vladivostok, more prosaic matters are on the agenda: attracting much-needed foreign investment to turn Russia's east coast into an international trade hub. “Russia is the only country in the world that can fully support itself regarding raw materials. That benefits the population," Putin says with great pleasure.


In Putin's dreams for the future, development is not only taking place in the coastal area but also in the resource-rich Arctic area. There are minerals, diamonds, and energy resources up for grabs, and the exploitation of the Northern Sea Route, thanks to climate change, is looming. In Putin's vision, there will soon be new train tracks and gas pipelines to China to share Russia's riches with Asia. "Russia's development is unstoppable," said the president from behind his podium. And certainly not because of Western sanctions.


The question is whether China and other countries will allow themselves to be tempted. Beijing is ambivalent about Putin's eastern escapades. Whether China, which did not condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, will answer Putin's dreams is also highly questionable. Nevertheless, Putin's rhetoric is one that China understands very well. Chinese Ambassador to Russia, Zhang Hanhui, praised the excellent relations between the two countries, the trade turnover of nearly $100 billion, and the recently fancied Heihe-Blagoveshchensk car bridge on Russia's southern border with China, the first between the two countries. It all seems to be the prelude to the announced meeting between Putin and Xi Jinping later this month in Uzbek Samarkand.


Vostok 2022 – Large-Scale Military Exercises in the Sea of Japan


The Russian president already has an intensive travel schedule for his arrival on Wednesday. After a visit last week to the far western exclave of Kaliningrad, he flew 11 time zones east to the eastern tip of Russia on Monday. On Tuesday, he visited the large-scale military exercises "Vostok 2022" held in the Sea of Japan this week. Fifty thousand soldiers from Russia, supplemented by two thousand men from China, India, Mongolia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Laos, and Syria, carried out military maneuvers by sea, land, and air.


In Tokyo, Vostok military exercises have sparked unrest in recent days. The warships sailed perilously close to the Kuril Islands, disputed by Japan. Japanese Defense Minister Mr. Yasukazu Hamada said he interpreted the exercises as "a display of force against Japan" and "monitored them very closely."


In a speech Monday on the neighboring Kamchatka Peninsula, Mr. Putin proclaimed Russia the new "land of the Rising Sun." His greatest geopolitical ambition is to create a multipolar world order — with Russia firmly entrenched in the Asian team.




Breaking News (Thursday, 8 September 2022 at 13:27 hours


The US announces $2.9 billion in defense aid for Ukraine and other European countries as US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visits Kyiv

Key points:

  • The financing will go to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors "at risk for future Russian aggression."
  • It's on top of a $1 billion package of heavy weaponry, ammunition, and armored vehicles for Ukraine.
  • Since Joe Biden took office, US aid to Ukraine totals $22.5 billion.

Editor’s Note | How many body parts can the war machine harvest from freshly killed soldiers? Their organs, garnered from healthy young men and women, sell at a premium in the open market. How disgusting! Yes, pumping $22.5 billion to kill Russians will only trigger the slaughter of more Ukrainians. It’s good for business.


Why don’t Biden and Blinken sue for peace? There is no money in peace.


Read more: ‘Explainer: What weapons could North Korea send to Russia?’ by Josh Smith, Reuters, 7 September 2022.

               An American intelligence report that Russia is buying millions of artillery shells and rockets from North Korea is the latest sign that the war in Ukraine is bringing the two Cold War allies closer together.

               The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations says: “Not true … fake news.”

Editor’s Note | The North Koreans and the Chinese won’t let Russia hang out to dry. They will make sure that the Russian Federation will win the war. Otherwise, they’ll be next.

Read more: ‘Battle for Kyiv: Ukrainian valor, Russian blunders combined to save the capital,’ by By Paul Sonne, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Serhiy Morgunov, and Kostiantyn Khudov, Washington Post, 24 August 2022.

               Noam Chomsky says: “It’s a good article. Read it! Curious though, the British and American generals don’t understand the Russian military strategy.”


Read more: ‘Ukraine’s Tale of Two Colonizations, by Slavoj Žižek, Project Syndicate, 30 August 2022.

               “It would be tragic if Ukraine defeated Russian neo-imperialism only to yoke itself to Western neoliberalism. While being a Western economic colony is better than being absorbed into a new Russian empire, neither outcome is worthy of the suffering Ukrainians are now enduring.”


Editor’s note | Ukraine is geographically and ethnically positioned as a go-between of East and West. Why should Ukraine not yoke itself to the European Union and the Russian Federation? It can produce healthy dividends.





From Berlin! Next week, Our Friday News Analysis will come from Berlin. How can Mr. Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, say the words below with a straight face?


               “Something that held throughout the Cold War no longer applies.


               Russia is no longer a reliable energy supplier.


               That is part of the new reality.”


For decades, dating to the days of the Soviet Union, Moscow had insisted to Germany and others that it was a stable energy partner.


Mr. Scholz, if Germany refuses to pay in Russian Rubles, expect what they say in New York: “No ticky, no washy.”




Related articles recently posted on


Our Friday News Analysis, ‘In Search of a Nation’s Soul (Part 1),’ 2 September 2022.


Our Wednesday News Analysis, ‘The Palestinian March for Freedom is Relentless,’ 7 September 2022.


The Evangelical Pope, ‘Justice the Chief Desire of the Mind,’ 5 September 2022.








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