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March 5, 2014

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

Wikinews interviews specialists on Russian intervention in Ukraine

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Map of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and of Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Image: PANONIAN.

People in Ukraine protesting against Russia’s intervention “Crimea is Ukraine”.
Image: ВО Свобода.

A Crimean self-defense group with shields painted as the flag of the autonomous republic.
Image: E. Arrott.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In the past few days, tension has been increasing due to conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation which has led to the United States, the United Kingdom, and France increasing pressure on Russia to remove their troops from Crimea.

Wikinews interviewed specialists in Russian foreign policy and specialists in international law about the legality of Russia’s actions and the consequences of any sanctions imposed by G7 nation economies.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Jane Burbank, Professor of History and Russian and Slavic Studies at the New York University, New York
  • Jeremy Morris, Senior Lecturer in Russian Studies at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham
  • Craig Brandist, Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield
  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow for Russia at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Yanni Kotsonis, Director, New York University Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia in New York.

Wikinews Q&A

File photo of interviewee Craig Brandist.
Image: Craig Brandist.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Are Russian troop deployments into Ukrainian territory a clear violation of sovereignty?

  • Morris: Yes.
  • Burbank: Yes, the borders of the Ukrainian state were drawn up in 1991 and reinforced by the 1994 Budapest accords. See the article by Paul Goble on these accords.
  • Brandist: It would be hard to describe it otherwise. That said, however, it is quite extraordinary hypocrisy for the US and UK to strike moral poses about this, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia clearly has strategic interests in the region, and there is a large Russian-speaking population in much of Ukraine, a majority in Crimea and an important part of the east of the country, and the arrangement after the collapse of the USSR was clearly fragile, especially when NATO expansion took place. None of this is to excuse Russian actions, but they cannot be understood without focus on the ‘great game’ of which it is part.
  • Blank: By any standard Russia’s actions represent a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and integrity, a premeditated break with numerous treaties signed by Russia guaranteeing Ukraine’s security, integrity, and sovereignty, and thus Premier Yatsenyuk is right these are acts of war.
  • Kotsonis: On the surface it seems so. Mind you, it is complicated because Russia has been given rights to the bases on the Crimea and this may give Russia the pretext for a larger intervention. But it does not seem to be a clear-cut legal case for intervention and everyone understands that this is Russia smarting over the loss of an ally in Yanukovich and guarding its own back yard interests.

File photo of interviewee Yanni Kotsonis.
Image: Yanni Kotsonis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Are we going to see a proxy war between the United States and Russia?

  • Morris: No.
  • Burbank: I doubt that we will have a real war, but note that the Russians who falsely accused the “West” and the U.S. for instigating the political activism of Ukrainians (denying that Ukrainians themselves wanted to change their corrupt government for a more democratic and inclusive one) now have managed, through provocation, to get the “West” involved in the conflict. (So far this involvement is only diplomatic and verbal.) Moreover, the analysis so common in the Western media of a divided Ukraine (East vs West) has played into Russia’s hands, setting up a scenario for strife and divisiveness.
  • Brandist: I think it unlikely at present. Russia humiliated the US when it entered Georgia to stop it becoming part of NATO, exposing the limits of US power in areas where Russia has an overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons. Russia clearly cannot contest the US on a global basis in the way that the USSR once could, but it remains a great power with a powerful regional presence, while the limits of US power have been graphically illustrated in the Middle East and Caucasus. This is another illustration of that.
  • Blank: It is too soon to know what we are going to see but a proxy war is one possibility as is a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia (note I did not say war). In my personal opinion resolute NATO action combined with economic and political action of a similarly robust nature would force Russia to back down because it knows it cannot afford to go up against NATO. Indeed this operation was undertaken because Putin et al openly and […] publicly declared their belief that Obama and other Western leaders are weak, irresolute, and afraid to act. This calculation must be reversed decisively if peace is to hold.
  • Kotsonis: I doubt it. The US has used stern language but so far has taken direct intervention off the table. On the other hand Russia has declared publicly that it can intervene militarily and has decided that the US will not. “Proxy” does not capture it because Russia is actually in Ukraine and the US won’t be.

File photo of interviewee Jane Burbank.
Image: Jane Burbank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png In response to Russia’s build-up of its forces in Crimea, Ukraine has ordered a full military mobilisation. To what extent can Ukrainian troops hold back and successfully fight Russian forces?

  • Morris: Anything is possible, but I think Ukraine lacks the political will to enter large-scale conflict. There may be insurgency-like fighting.
  • Brandist: Russia has overwhelming superiority in both the south and east of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian forces are not necessarily reliable in a conflict with Russia given the support for Russia among a substantial part of the Ukrainian population. Ukraine does, however, have substantial assets elsewhere and if Russia was to try to move into the Ukrainian heartland it would be a substantial operation. This is precisely why it is unlikely to do it. Moreover, Russia does not want a division of Ukraine, which could lead NATO to become established within the borders of the ex-USSR, so it is more likely it is seeking to change the facts on the ground so to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. It is difficult to predict how events will unfold on the ground, however, given the informal and extreme nationalist forces who are operating.
  • Blank: It is unlikely that Ukraine could prevail in such a conflict but I think it would unhinge Russian calculations, create the basis for protracted conflict, including guerrilla war for which Russia is not prepared, and thus force the West to act and begin the process of imposing costs on Russia that Putin did not foresee. Indeed that is one reason why this is an incredibly reckless action on Putin’s part.
  • Kotsonis: No one thinks Ukraine can stand up to Russia. It’s partly because Russia is bigger and better equipped, partly because Russia has bases in Ukraine, and partly because Russia is relatively united. One will have to see whether Ukraine will unite when so many of its citizens identify with Russia. We do not know the answer to this, only anecdote.

File photo of interviewee Jeremy Morris.
Image: Jeremy Morris.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would penalties imposed on Russia by the ‘Western nations’ being the United States, UK and France have severe consequences for the Russian economy?

  • Morris: Not really, so much depends on oil price for Russia, but fall in [the] rouble due to lack of confidence may affect ordinary Russians’ ability to buy imported goods.
  • Brandist: Clearly such measures would have negative effects, and the business community in Russia is clearly worried. That said, however, the likelihood of any coherent action against Russia is not great, not least because much of Europe is reliant of Russian gas. Moreover, it is European states that would face any potential flood of refugees and so European states will not be keen on too much pressure that could lead Russia to press Ukraine even more. Germany effectively vetoed Georgia’s attempt to be part of NATO, and it would have even more interests in trying to stabilize the situation now. In this situation the ‘Western nations’ mentioned have limited leverage, though it clearly would have an impact.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is meaningless. Sanctions that would register are sanctions on Putin et al so they cannot access their money, action in the WTO [World Trade Organization] to arraign Russia for violating its statutes, legislation placing sanctions on Russia equivalent to those on Iran that have crippled it, staging a run on the rouble, and if necessary blockading the Baltic and Black Seas to prevent maritime commerce. Most importantly but this is over time, Europe must reorient its gas and oil purchases away from Russia on a long-term basis. All these moves must be taken together and in tandem with military-political moves to uphold Ukraine’s integrity and sovereignty and thus preserve peace by deterring Russia and imposing excessive costs upon it.
  • Kotsonis: It will probably make matters worse for Russia but it won’t be a causal factor. Russia is overly dependent on commodities exports and is at the mercy of world prices. The world wants those resources and will probably not renounce them, but they may not be enough to keep the economy growing in Russia. Any penalties would only accelerate the secular trend.

Soldiers without insignia guard buildings in the Crimean capital, Simferopol, March 2, 2014.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png There are reports that Russia could be ejected from the G8 group of developed economies. Would this be a major blow for Putin’s domestic popularity?

  • Morris: Not really.
  • Brandist: In present circumstances not. There is a substantial constituency in Russia that is nostalgic about its imperial status, especially after the humiliation inflicted on the state during the Yeltsin period, and these conflicts are presented in this context. Certainly recognition of Russia at the G8 was a prestige factor, but there are clearly compensations on an ideological level in the present situation. This is an illustration of Russia’s ascendency vis-a-vis the US and the EU [European Union] in one sense. What it all means in the longer term depends on a significant amount of variables, however.
  • Blank: Ejecting Russia from the G8 is necessary but insignificant in its own right.
  • Kotsonis: No, it would probably increase his popularity in an us-v-them dynamic. Putin thrives politically on autarky and it may be treated as an attack on Russian prestige. But less on Putin’s reputation at home.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the Russian general public in full support of the deployment of their own troops into Ukraine, a separate sovereign nation?

  • Morris: No, this is a distraction by Putin from increasing economic and political problems in Russia. A minority of Russians support deployment and I think support from ordinary Russians will fall when they realise deployment may result in the killing of fellow Slavs.
  • Burbank: There is no such thing as a united Russian public. There are many views in Russia, as elsewhere. Clearly, some people in Russia oppose this assault on Ukraine, as we have seen from the arrests and beating of demonstrators in Moscow. There is a section of the academic “community” — also a deceptive word — that is opposed to the invasion.
If you are interested in this, read the discussion on Ab Imperio’s Facebook site, where many young academics are expressing their views.
I would like to repeat one point: the notion of a simple nationalized divide between East and West Ukraine is both false and counter-productive. There are nationalists in many areas of the country, but there are also people with other political commitments. It is dangerous for the Western media to reinforce the notion that nationalist sentiment (pro-Russian or pro-Ukrainian) is the only political force in Ukraine. A whole generation has grown up since Ukraine’s independence and many people, old and young and in the middle, have ideas about sovereignty and politics that are not simply “ethnic.”
  • Brandist: Russia does not have a unified or stable ‘public opinion’ any more than anywhere else. Moreover, the Crimea and east of Ukraine are not necessarily viewed as fully a separate nation among many Russians. Many Russians have relatives there and go there for vacations. At present the majority are in support for the reasons I’ve just outlined. However, we have seen significant opposition movements in recent years, which shows that if things turn out badly then Putin may be vulnerable. There is clearly an assessment of risks that has been carried out by the Kremlin, and so far it has paid off. Indeed, it probably strengthens Putin’s compromised standing at home, but if things do go wrong then this could change quickly.
  • Blank: It is probably the case that Putin enjoys public support in Russia but that is irrelevant since the media’s been so thoroughly cowed as to be unreflective of reality and the issue is not public opinion there but Putin and the ruling clique.
  • Kotsonis: Yes, this seems to be the case. You need to understand that Ukraine is in Russian minds somewhere between a close friend and a back yard. It was always assumed that this was the key alliance for Russia and tacitly understood that Russia’s geopolitical interests would be respected. Europe’s gamble last year was to pull Ukraine into the Euro orbit by forcing Ukraine to choose. Almost anyone in Russia saw this as a direct challenge. I can’t say for certain but I imagine a large majority think the intervention is justified.



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September 8, 2013

Wikinews interviews Scott Lucas, Eyal Zisser, Majid Rafizadeh about risks of US military intervention in Syria

Wikinews interviews Scott Lucas, Eyal Zisser, Majid Rafizadeh about risks of US military intervention in Syria

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Politics and conflicts
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Image: Scott Lucas.
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The United States President Barack Obama announced last Saturday he was seeking Congressional authorisation for military intervention in Syria.

Looking for more-qualified input, Wikinews interviewed: professor Scott Lucas, an expert in American Studies, from the UK’s University of Birmingham; the President of the International American Council on the Middle East, Majid Rafizadeh; and, professor Eyal Zisser, a Syrian expert, from Tel Aviv University.

Discussing the risks involved with US military intervention in Syria, Wikinews posed a range of questions to these experts on the region’s political climate.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Is it possible for the US to take military action to deter further use of chemical weapons without getting dragged into the civil war?

  • Prof. Scott Lucas: The US is already involved in the civil war — the question is to what extent.
The US has given political support to the opposition and insurgency since late 2011, and from summer 2012, it has pursued covert support to the opposition fighters.
However, the Obama Administration has been hesitant about overt support for insurgents throughout the conflict, and that has affected co-ordination of covert efforts. In June, the Administration finally said it would provide overt military assistance, but then pulled back and failed to deliver any public aid.
Had it not been for the August, 21 chemical weapons attack, that position would have persisted.
  • Majid Rafizadeh: It depends on the scope of the military operation. If United States conducts limited military operation, as the adminstration argues, and if US only targets some of the Syrian government’s military installments, it is less likely that United States will be drawn into the Syria’s civil war. It would be a political suicide for Syria, Iran or Hezbollah to respond.
On the other hand, if Assad observes that the balance of power is tilting against him inside the country, he might use chemical weapons in the future despite US limited strikes.
  • Prof. Eyal Zisser: Yes, it[sic] the attack is limited. And If the Americans only use missiles. They can cause severe damage, but leave Assad in his palace, and not being dragged into the civil war.

The United States President Barack Obama with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year.
Image: Pete Souza.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Will military intervention from the US affect long term relations between the United States and Russia?

  • SL: Of course, significant military intervention by Washington will affect relations between the US and Russia, but the long-term effect cannot be predicted.
It is dependent on Russia’s reaction — so far, Moscow has been able to pressure the US into caution, but a decision for intervention by the US might call Russia’s bluff, so to speak, and force some caution by the Russians. Already, Moscow has said it will not join a fight against any US military action.
And, of course, the long-term relationship is dependent on the political and military success of any US intervention.
  • MR: Military intervention, in the classic sense of putting troops on the ground, will definitely affect US-Russian long term political relationships. It might heighten the diplomatic tensions. However, the limited military operation is less likely [to] change US-Russian long term economic, geopolitical, and political relationships.
  • EZ: No. They need each other in many other places of the world. Russia knows that the US is a super power and will not be interested in a real conflict with Washington.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The British Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria, do you think this has affected their relations with the United States?

  • SL: No — had the Obama Administration been united and decisive for intervention, there might have been some effect. But the Obama Administration’s divisions mean its first priority is getting some coherence in Washington, rather than blaming London.
  • MR: I don’t think so. I believe that [the] UK has been [the] staunchest ally of the United States for decades. One instance of opposing parliamentary vote will not have impact on US-UK relations.
  • EZ: Maybe. But Britain is not an important power any more, so the affect will be only in the symbolic field.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia could back Syrian intervention if there was conclusive proof of regime guilt. What sort of evidence would be needed and can this level of assurance be given?

  • SL: This is not a scientific question — we already have extensive evidence establishing the near-certainty of major regime attacks with chemical weapons on 7 towns on August 21.
Putin’s statement was a political move: it ostensibly re-confirmed the Russian opposition to US intervention while giving Moscow a way to step back if the UN inspectors return a damning report.
  • MR: It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide Moscow with the evidence that they are looking for. In order to provide that specific information several criterions should be met. First of all, the soil of the location where the alleged chemical weapons are used, should immediately be examined after the incident. The Syrian government has not allowed immediate access to these places and usually reports come out days after. Second, and more fundamentally, a concrete and observable evidence is needed for Russia showing that Assad’s government has used it as opposed to the rebels.
  • EZ: No the Russians are not after the truth but after their interests even if Assad admits that he used such weapon the Russians will be against any intervention.

Bombed out vehicles in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would US military intervention on Syria be a violation of International law?

  • SL: This is a grey area, especially as there will not be an endorsement by the United Nations Security Council. Supporters of the action say it can be justified under the recent doctrine of humanitarian intervention, but that is more a political rather than legal judgement.
  • MR: Legally speaking, it is [in] violation of [the] United Nations Charter. According to [the] UN Charter, use of force is permitted only in case of self-defense or UNSC’s [United Nations Security Council] approval. Neither of these two cases apply for US use of military force against Syria. However, this does not mean that our current international law is devoid of any shortcomings. The International system has some shortcomings because of the structure of the UNSC, where one member can veto a resolution and block actions.
  • EZ: Technically — yes because they did not get an approval from the UN.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does the United States seem to be wanting to engage in regime change in Syria as opposed to preventing further chemical attacks?

  • SL: No, the Obama Administration has been uncertain about — and many of its members opposed to — regime change, and that is still the situation. The military, in particular, is opposed to significant, long-term intervention because of its concerns over a fragmented, diverse opposition and what happens if Assad falls.
  • MR: If there was an efficient alternative to Assad, US would have seen the regime change to its political benefits and interests. However, United States does not seem to have articulated any precise agenda towards Syria yet. The policy is more ” Wait and See” policy; observing and reacting as things unfold in Syria and the region.
  • EZ: No Obama does not want it, he finds himself being dragged into a war he has no interest in.
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September 4, 2013

Wikinews interviews Dr Thomas Scotto and Dr Steve Hewitt about potential US military intervention in Syria

Wikinews interviews Dr Thomas Scotto and Dr Steve Hewitt about potential US military intervention in Syria

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

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The United States President, Barack Obama, announced on Saturday he was seeking Congressional authorisation for military intervention in Syria.

Wikinews interviewed Professor of Government Dr. Thomas Scotto from the UK‘s University of Essex and Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies Dr. Steve Hewitt from the UK’s University of Birmingham about the proposed military intervention by the USA in Syria.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is your job role?

Dr. Thomas Scotto: I am a Professor of Government, teaching courses in quantitative methods, public opinion, political behaviour, and American Politics. I have been at Essex since January, 2007. I am the Principal Investigator of a major ESRC grant on public opinion on foreign policy attitudes in five nations (Great Britain, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy).
Dr. Steve Hewitt: Dr. Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer in American and Canadian Studies [at the University of Birmingham].

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The Republican speaker John Boehner is endorsing Barack Obama’s strategy, do you think this will lead to Congress authorising military intervention?

TS: Ultimately, I believe that the President will succeed, but I doubt it will be a neat voter — there will be a significant number of Democrats and Republicans who do not fall into line and vote against intervention.
I think the real story is that in the past two weeks, we have seen an amazing shift in how the Executives of the United States (President Obama) and the United Kingdom (Prime Minister Cameron) execute foreign policy. In the post-War period, committing the nation to take military action was seen as the prerogative of the President and Prime Minister, with the legislatures of both countries providing, at best, weak oversight.
In the United States, there is the War Powers Act and the authorisation of the first Gulf War, but the President’s authority was rarely challenged nor was it really believed that the President needed to consult Congress. In the UK, you would have to go back to the late 1700s to find the last time a Prime Minister was truly rebuffed on a matter of military intervention.
Why is that? I think it’s war fatigue on the part of the public and the average member of the UK Parliament and the US Congress. A significant number of those sitting on the backbenches of Parliament and in the Congress are thinking of balancing their nations’ budgets in times of fiscal austerity, and they have ties to constituencies, which don’t want to see their country shed blood and treasure in another prolonged conflict in the Middle East where the backgrounds of the rebel groups the US and UK are supporting is not well defined and the end goals are uncertain.
SH: Not necessarily. Boehner has not been able to carry Republicans in the past. His being onside increases the chances of authorization but it doesn’t make it inevitable.

US State Department map of Damascus areas of influence and areas reportedly affected by by chemical attack on August 21.
Image: US State Department.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the US general public in support of taking military intervention in Syria?

TS: No, not at all. We’ve polled a representative sample of the American public in June of 2012, February of 2013, and this summer. Support for intervention in Syria has not moved. In our surveys fewer than 1 [in] 5 respondents were open to the idea of sending American ground troops into Syria. This was true regardless whether their aim was to provide humanitarian assistance or topple al-Assad. There are also low levels of support for arming the rebels. What is amazing is that, despite the reported use of chemical weapons and the deaths and displacement of 100,000s of Syrians, there has been little change in support levels over the time period we’ve been in the field with our surveys.
SH: No, clearly the American public is not in favour of intervening in Syria. About 60% are opposed in the latest poll.

A file photo of Barack Obama.
Image: The White House.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The British Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria, do you think this has led Obama to put a vote to Congress?

TS: I think Obama wants Congress to own this. Some in Congress believe that the United States would be doing too little if it only carried out limited missile strikes to punish al-Assad. Other Members are dead set against intervention of any type. The President was finding it impossible to please everyone, and instead, basically said sort out what you want me to do. It is an amazing turn of events where the President might be constraining himself in terms of the response he could take. Obama’s decision may have ramifications for Executive-Legislative relations in the US for years to come.
SH:That may have played a role but it is still not clear why President Obama has taken this course. It may also be the case that he is looking to share the political risk that goes with attacking with Republicans and Congress in general.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png After more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, does the US general public feel disillusioned in taking military action?

TS: Yes, definitely. Less than half of the American public believes the Iraq war was a success, and we have found that those who believe that the previous conflicts in the Middle East were a failure are likely to be those opposing action against Syria. So many people think the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions cost too much and did little good — it’s really weighing on the public’s mood at this time.
SH: Yes, there clearly is fatigue in relation to interventions and the lack of clear resolutions of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think military intervention in Syria will affect Russia–United States relations?

TS: It is hard to say — in the short term, yes. In the long term, it really depends on how Putin sees the long term interests of himself and his nation vis-à-vis the United States and America’s western allies.
SH: Yes, although relations are already tense. How extensive any attack by the US on Syria will determine the full impact on US–Russia relations.
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June 3, 2007

Ancestors of humans learned to walk in trees, study says

Ancestors of humans learned to walk in trees, study says

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An orangutan.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Scientists from the United Kingdom who spent one year watching orangutans have revealed in a study that humans may have learned to walk while still living in the trees, and that humans may not be that closely related to chimpanzees.

“An increasing number of people have been questioning this old ‘up from the apes’ idea” of how bipedalism evolved. As the forests became sparse, the strategy of our human ancestors was more or less to abandon the canopies and come down to the ground, where they could use this bipedalism immediately to get around,” said one University of Liverpool scientist who headed the study, Robin Crompton.

Museums and schools across the world have been teaching that humans evolved from an animal much like that of a chimpanzee and that humans started to walk along the forest floors, with their arms hanging, and knuckles scraping across the ground. It is also taught that those animals then began to walk upright once they adapted to living on the ground.

Orangutans were observed by researcher Susannah Thorpe of the University of Birmingham in Sumatra, Indonesia for one year. She documented that the orangutans would generally walk on their hands and feet, but when food was at a height that they could not reach, the orangutans would stand on their feet, extend upright, and grab the fruit or food item they want. This movement also allowed them to swing from the branches of trees more efficiently, without having to touch the forest floor.

‘Lucy’ replica in Senckenberg-Museum, Frankfurt, Germany.
Image: Gerbil.

“When they move to the skinniest branches, where the tastiest fruit grows, they stand stiffly straight-legged, like a person. It’s energetically quite economical for orangutans to feed and move on these bendy branches using bipedalism,” said Thorpe who also has over 3,000 different movements on film that show orangutans standing on their own 2 feet, upright, and reaching for objects.

“Our conclusion is that arboreal bipedalism had very strong adaptive benefits. So, we don’t need to explain how our ancestors could have gone from being quadrupedal to being bipedal,” added Thorpe.

The researchers also compared evidence from the remains of Lucy, past climate conditions on the planet and fossils to the workings of orangutans, and all suggest that humans were living and swinging in the trees for a much longer period of time than previously thought. The study shows that humans may have learned to walk at least 24 million years ago, rather than 6 million years ago.

Some experts disagree with the study.

“The main evidence is that our closest living relatives are not orangutans, they’re chimps and gorillas, and since both climb trees and walk on their knuckles, it’s most likely our ancestors did that too. One of the only anatomical features we share explicitly with chimps and gorillas is that we only have eight wrists bones, while almost all other primates have nine. In humans, chimps and gorillas, two bones have fused into one to stabilise the wrist, making it stronger for knuckle-walking. It’s not a smoking gun, but it’s the best evidence we have,” said anthropologist at George Washington University, Brian Richmond.

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