In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Lawmakers in Niger have approved a bill that clears the way for more foreign troops to be deployed in the country, which is fighting several jihadist insurgencies. The move comes as French and European forces withdraw from neighboring Mali, having fallen out with the ruling junta there. Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum had already announced plans in February to absorb some of the departing soldiers. But passing the bill through parliament formalizes the decision, amid rising anti-French sentiment in the country and the wider region.
Afghanistan authorities say some 60 civilians, including five children, were killed as Pakistan launched air-strikes across the border on Khost and Kunar provinces April 15 and 16. The strikes, carried out by both missiles and warplanes, follow a series of attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan's borderlands, including an April 14 ambush on a military convoy in North Waziristan district in the volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
In Episode 118 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the possibility that Putin's criminal adventure in Ukraine could backfire horribly, actually portending the implosion of the Russian Federation into its constituent entities, the "autonomous" republics, oblasts and krais. Troops from Russia's Far East were apparently involved in the horrific massacre at the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. But indigenous leaders from Siberia and the Russian Arctic are breaking with Moscow over the Ukraine war. Rumblings of separatist sentiment are now heard from Yakutia (Sakha), Khabarovsk, Kalmykia, Kamchatka, Tatarstan, Tuva, the Altai Republic, and the entirety of Siberia. China, which controlled much of what is now the Russian Far East until the 1850s, has its own expansionist designs on the region. Frederick Engels called for the "destruction forever" of Russia during the Crimean War, but it may collapse due to its own internal contradictions rather than Western aggression.
In Episode 117 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg recalls the history of the Neither East Nor West position taken by anarchists and anti-authoritarians in the Cold War—seeking to build solidarity between anti-war and left-libertarian forces on either side of the East-West divide. With the world now arguably closer to military confrontation between nuclear-armed powers than it ever was in the (first) Cold War, is such a position still possible? The recent controversy surrounding a planned art show in New York City featuring the work of Russian anti-war artists crystalizes the dilemma. Weinberg also explores the paradoxically parallel thoughts of democratic socialist George Orwell and conservative moralist CS Lewis, both writing in the era of fascism, on the dangers of a "pacifist" position that abets aggressive war and totalitarianism. It is critical that progressives in the West avoid this trap by supporting the courageous Russian anti-war protesters—not (as some have) the war criminal Vladimir Putin. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 116 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of geostrategic and political thinking on the criticality of Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine, from the Crimean War to the contemporary catastrophe. Despite contemporary misconceptions, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels shared the perception of a "Russian menace to Europe" with theorists of Western imperialism such as Halford John Mackinder, Lord Curzon, Alfred Thayer Mahan, Nicholas J. Spykman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Arch-reactionary or openly fascist conceptions of "Eurasianism" were taken up by the German Karl Haushofer and the Russians Mikhail Katkov and Ivan Ilyin—the latter a formative influence on Alexander Dugin, the intellectual mastermind of Vladimir Putin's revanchist imperial project.
Long-depressed oil prices are suddenly soaring in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with impacts already being felt globally. Kazakhstan, recently wracked by internal instability, is facing economic crisis as its crude exports are threatened. Most of these exports pass through a pipeline linking Kazakhstan's western oil-fields to Russia's Black Sea terminal at Novorossiysk. That terminal, owned by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), lies within 250 kilometers of the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, now besieged by Russian forces. This proximity is sufficient for tankers loading at the Novorossiysk terminal to incur a "war risk insurance premium." According to S&P Global Platts, the premium has been high enough to deter buyers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched late last month.
Belarus on Feb. 28 voted in a referendum to approve constitutional changes that include dropping the country's nuclear-free status. On the eve of the vote, President Alexander Lukashenko expressed his willingness to redeploy nuclear arms in the country's territory, saying: "If [the West] transfers nuclear weapons to Poland or Lithuania, to our borders, then I will turn to [Vladimir] Putin to bring back the nuclear weapons that I gave away without any conditions."