RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 5 DECEMBER 2019

POWER OF SIBERIA. Putin and Xi turned on the pipeline on Monday. It carries gas from Russia’s Far East into China and has a carrying capacity of 61 billion M3 per year. There’ll be more. This has no small strategic significance: previously, for foreign sales, Russia was dependent on customers in Europe who are all, to a greater or lesser extent, subject to pressure from the war party. Added to which transport was affected by Kiev’s whims. Turkstream (scheduled to start next month) and the two pipelines to Germany help with the second problem and this one with the first. Sooner or later, Russia-China pipelines would have appeared but I think Ishchenko’s argument that the Western war on Russia speeded up the process is credible. (Come to think of it, now that Putin’s hand is imagined everywhere, maybe it’s time to consider that he’s the American war party’s real backer; after all, everything it’s touched has turned to dust: from the forever wars, to Iran’s increased influence, to the Russia-China alliance and now the furore in the USA over Ukraine – itself another disastrous project.)

WEAPONS. More and more projects are surfacing. The Ground Forces commander says the Kungas robot family is ready for the next stage of tests – the Uran-9 UCGV is already in service. In accordance with the New START Treaty, Avangard was shown to US inspectors and it’s expected to be in service this month: a very hypersonic re-entry vehicle – there’s no defence against it because it’s less than 30 minutes from anywhere. These super weapons are not cost free: Putin confirmed that the August explosion in Severodvinsk did involve an unique weapon (one assumes either the Buravestnik or the Poseydon); work will continue said he. An over-the-horizon radar station is opened. The first upgraded White Swan strategic bomber is being tested.

SOFTWARE. A law has passed requiring electronic gadgets to have Russia software in them. The BBC idiotically says: “Others have raised concerns that the Russian-made software could be used to spy on users”. “Idiotically” because one of the reasons for the law is that US-made software is spying on users.

DEMOGRAPHICS. Karlin sees a small increase in Russia’s population over the next 30 years.

TOURISM. Moscow – World’s Leading City Destination 2019. Russia does show well.

CORRUPTION. The Russian Investigative Committee has opened a case into large scale theft during construction at the Vostochniy launch complex.

BROWDER. His story has been swallowed whole all over the West, “Magnitsky laws” passed and he has been pretty successful in quashing Nekrasov’s documentary. But, finally, a major Western news outlet takes up the story: Der Spiegel: “The case of Magnitsky: How true is the history on which US sanctions against Russia are based?” How true is it? Not very. (DS did it because of the ECHR decision?) DS merely repeats what Nekrasov discovered: watch the documentary and see the lies taken apart.

NATO SUMMIT. “NATO is obsoleteargues withNATO is brain dead“. “The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan“: next month NATO will have doubled the USSR’s time there; can it triple it? Busy busy busy: “much broader range of threats than in the past”: Russia, Middle East, Africa, weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks, threats to energy supplies, environmental challenges. Add China. And space. More money. Trump leaves early. Brain dead and obsolete.

OPCW. Corrupted over Douma, how about Skripal? Helmer tweets: “British Ministry of Defence document reveals it is missing chain of custody over Skripal blood samples which the ministry’s DSTL laboratory at Porton Down claims to prove a Russian Novichok attack. Publishing shortly.” Somebody could have added “type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state” or BZ to the sample? Nah, who’d do that?

WADA. A other corrupted organisation. (Tinfoil hat alert!) Dear Little Canada behind it?

THE FULL AMERICAN DELUSION IN 45 SECONDS. No comment.

THE DEMS STEP ON THE RAKE. Impeachment. Only question is how big will Trump’s win be?

NEW NWO. “Macron offers a very coherent geopolitical view of the world. He’s probably now the only western leader to have one.” Very interesting read. The Normandy meeting will tell us if he’s serious.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Six more EU countries join the INSTEX payment system to bypass US sanctions on Iran. US Germany Ambassador not amused. German poll: US down, Russia up.

UKRAINE MISCELLANY. A discussion of how dangerous the decision to use US fuel in Ukraine nuclear power plans could be. A Maidan participant realises that it was all for nothing. Ukronazis spotted in Hong Kong. The scourge has spread to the USA. Tails, dogs, chickens, roosts.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIA THE ETERNAL ENEMY QUOTATIONS

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Michael Edward “Mike” Luckovich (born January 28, 1960) is an editorial cartoonist who has worked for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1989. He is the 2005 winner of the Reuben, the National Cartoonists Society’s top award for cartoonist of the year, and is the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes. He says “Normally with my cartoons I try to use humor to get across my point. After Sept. 11th, you just couldn’t use humor. The tragedy was so enormous, you couldn’t be funny. It’s almost like you have to come up with cartoons using a different part of your brain. I was just trying to come up with images that expressed the emotions that I was feeling and tried to focus in on different aspects of the tragedy that I thought were important.” (Wikipedia)

WE’RE NOT JUST TALKING TO OURSELVES – OTHERS FIND US

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation

Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired.

(Often rephrased as: “You cannot reason people out of something they were not reasoned into”).

Jonathan Swift

This site (Strategic Culture Foundation) has attracted a large stable of writers; by and large, most of the time, generally speaking, we agree with each other pretty well. The point of view of most of the writers is counter Establishment. In today’s frenzied Russophobia that opens us to the charges of being Putinbots but, in truth, we write against the prevailing WaPo/NYT/Economist/Guardian view on many subjects. The fact that that commentary is now penetrated with demented fears that Putin is shaping minds and getting his stooges elected and so on, means that any denial of that delusion makes them call us Putin apologists. Just as, to take another case, Tulsi Gabbard’s condemnation of Washington’s addiction to regime change wars makes her an Assad apologist and – insanity seeks out insanity – Putin’s favourite candidate. I have never had a word changed in anything I have written, but then what I write fits the editorial model of Strategic Culture Foundation. And so does what I read there.

On the other side of the divide are the writers and readers of the WaPo/NYT/Economist/Guardian established media. They also generally agree with what they read, approve of each other’s writing and nod their heads in agreement. They are in their comfort zone.

Two solitudes – two bubbles. An agreeable agreement bubble for each: different bubbles to be sure but the same warm comfortable feeling of reassurance that they’re well-informed.

So what’s the point of writing? I already agree with you, you already agree with me. Our readers are here because they also agree. Writing becomes a mechanical operation, moving along a pre-determined course. No minds are changed, no minds are even engaged.

But there is one big and important difference between the two solitudes which leads us out of the my bubble/your bubble stalemate.

The well-informed person will be less often surprised than the poorly informed person.

There is an objective reality and people who actually do have a pretty good take on things, see that reality more clearly than those who don’t. In short, those who actually are well-informed will be less often surprised than those who aren’t. Surprise is the clue: it is both the consequence and the evidence of ignorance.

Surprise.

Here the difference between the two camps is very clear. We, over on our side of the great divide, were not surprised by what the leakers in the OPCW have to say. We were always sceptical of the proffered statements on Libya. We knew Trump’s communications were being listened to. We were not surprised that Milosevic was found not responsible. We are not surprised that the Russian economy is doing reasonably well. We already knew about Malaysia’s scepticism about the JIT. We are not surprised that protests in Moscow have pretty well fizzled out. We are not surprised that Guaidó’s coup is faltering. We comprehend the discontent in the Western World. We expect Beijing to be several steps ahead of Washington. We see through faked up colour revolutions. We weren’t surprised that Mueller found no collusion. We knew Browder was making it up.

(Of course we were surprised but in a different way: leaks from the sewn-up OPCW? The stooge ICTY makes an objective ruling? ECHR actually considers evidence? The Mueller investigation stops? But it’s a cynical – an informed – surprise.)

But the readers and writers of the WaPo/NYT/Economist/Guardian bloc were surprised. They are certain that Assad gasses his own people when there’s no reason to; they believe that Qaddafi “bombed his own people“; they laughed when Trump said he was taped; they called Milosevic the “butcher of the Balkans“; they expect the Russian economy to collapse; they’re confident that the JIT is an honest investigation; they expect the protests will weaken Putin; they believe the “world community” recognises Guaidó; they are confident the West would be happy if Putin weren’t sowing discord; they expect that the next world problem will be managing China’s decline; they know where to find democracy in Hong Kong. And, especially, they were confident that Mueller will find a bombshell to blow up Trump. They remain believers in Browder’s story.

The devotees of the establishment media bloc are almost always surprised by the way things turn out. That, by itself, shows that they are poorly informed about reality. Everybody is surprised some of the time but the poorly informed are surprised all of the time.

Another indicator of which bubble is better grounded in reality is that we know both bubbles – it’s not possible for us in the alternative media not to know what the WaPo/NYT/Economist/Guardian bloc is saying (if for no other reason than we delight in searching for examples of their errors as I just did above). They, on the other hand, have been drilled to regard us as conspiracy theorists, fringe extremists or Putin/Assad/villain-of-the-moment bots: our opinions are doubleplusungood and must be prevented and the Atlantic Council, Big Brother’s ideal fact-checker, is helping Facebook weed out crimethink. We have a very good idea of what they say; they have very little idea of what we say. In short, we’ve been there but they haven’t been here.

Which brings me to my final point and the answer to the question of why do we in the Strategic Culture Foundation stable and the many other new media sources do it. Why do we spend hours obsessing, researching and writing if all we’re doing is painting the inside of our bubble? It is very unlikely – we’ve all tried it and we’ve all failed – to reason the consumers of the establishment media out of their assumptions. These are typical responses: “How do you know these things?” “Why do you think your sources are always better than mine?” “Don’t call me stupid”. They weren’t reasoned into their complacency and they won’t be reasoned out of it. There is little chance that some conventional believer will stumble across some piece in any alternative source and change his mind.

But people do change and our audience is growing. How can that be happening if we change no minds?

Because the individual makes the first step on his own.

Phil Butler’s 2017 book Putin’s Praetorians has stories of how people came to change their views. What struck me was that, in almost every case, these people had found us, we hadn’t found them. A very common cause of the conversion of Butler’s individuals was the coverage of the Sochi Olympics three years earlier. It was so one-sided, so over-the-top, so meretricious that they couldn’t believe it and went looking for alternate points of view. For Butler’s people it was mostly Sochi; for another it was the “hysterical Russophobia of the MSM and the Democratic Party since the 2016 election” that sent him looking “for sources that would broaden and deepen my perspective. Indeed, I found an avalanche of web material that rarely makes it through the gatekeepers in the U.S.”. The triumphant success of the Russian-hosted World Cup demolished the ranting of the Establishment (“England football fans visiting Russia for the World Cup are at serious risk of homophobic, racist and anti-British attacks“); it will surely lead more to conversions.

I use the word “conversion” because it is, like religious conversion, a life-changing revelation to realise that the WaPo/NYT/Economist/Guardian bloc, when it’s not careless with the facts or mindlessly re-typing official handouts, is just out and out lying. (Paul Robinson points out a recent example from the WaPo.) To understand that a great deal if not almost all that you have been told by “trusted sources” is false; that a great deal of what is in your head is just plain wrong; that much of what you thought was true is not, is a life-changing event. It’s frightening and disturbing but, once you have absorbed that into your belly-feel, there’s no going back. This young man and his father will never again believe anything the conventional media tells them about Russia; and neither will this man – “Everything they told us about this place was a lie.” And not just everything “they” told you about Russia is a lie: the WaPo/NYT/Economist/Guardian bloc’s coverage of Iran, Syria and Ukraine is almost 100% lies, most of the coverage of China is ludicrously off-target, Venezuela is another subject of fake news, certain subjects are never mentioned, the Trump obsession is now as fact-free as the Putin obsession – indeed the two delusions merged long ago in a crescendo of craziness – watch this video from the NYT. It’s like unravelling a sweater: once you pull on one thread, it all comes apart. Apart from sports coverage or the comics, what is there left to trust in the “trusted sources”? Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is a fundamental legal principle for a good reason: liars lie.

So this is the reason why we write and speak and – religious allusion again – testify. People we’ve never heard of, disgusted by the strident one-sided nonsense, surprised by some unexpected reality they bump into, stop passively believing, begin to doubt, search around and find us. Our writings then show them they were right to doubt and lead them to a better appreciation of reality. We don’t persuade them, they persuade themselves; we don’t convert them, they convert themselves. But we reinforce their conversion and show them that there is more reality (less surprise) on our side. Once gained to our side, they won’t leave. It’s conversion.

It’s happening: we’re growing, they’re shrinking. How fast I don’t know but I know it’s happening. And the attempts to regulate Twitter, Facebook and the others shows that they know it’s happening too.

So, it is worth the effort, even if we seldom hear of our successes.

 

 

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 21 NOVEMBER 2019

RUSSIA INC. The Russian economist Mikhail Dmitriev says “the Russian economy does not give a damn about the world recession [which he sees coming soon].” And he’s right – the Russian economy is the most self-reliant large economy in the world: very little external debt, few imports and a big nest egg of foreign currency and gold. Very self-sufficient (but no French cheese – remember that nonsense?) Ironic, isn’t it? the West’s war against Russia has strengthened it.

HE’S EVERYWHERE! Putin has the UK election covered they shriek: the Labour leader is a “useful idiot“, soft on Russia, a “Putin stooge“; and the Conservative leader hobnobs with ex-KGB agents and suppresses reports on the Russian interference. We’re watching the brain death of Western democracy.

NATO. Speaking of brain death, Macron conjured up another kerfuffle in an interview. Europe, said he, can no longer count on Washington and has to stand up on its own. Second time he’s said things that should not be said. So far it’s only talk but a test of his sincerity is coming on 9 December when he hosts a Ukraine meeting to which he has invited Putin, Zelensky and Merkel. The Kremlin spokesman had no opinion about NATO’s health: “We are not forensic pathologists“.

BUTINA. Finally released and back in Russia. Still a “spy” or “agent” to corporate media consumers.

NORD STREAM. At last, resisting much pressure from Washington, Denmark has granted permission for the pipeline to pass through its sea floor.

NEOLOGISMS. Adding to his useful Russophrenia, Bryan MacDonald has coined “Putophrenia“: “A condition where the sufferer believes Vladimir Putin is a crazed Russian nationalist who wants to destroy the West, and simultaneously, is, together with his cronies, robbing Russia blind & hiding all the dosh in the same West.” These two neatly point up the absurdities of the Western propaganda line.

“INTEGRITY” INITIATIVE. “British Government Disinformation Shop Lost Charity Status – Continues In New Format“. Of course it’s what you don’t see in propaganda operations that’s important.

IMPEACHMENT CIRCUS. We learn two things. Yes, there is a deepstate/blob/borg/groupthink in the US government that believes that only it – “consensus views of the interagency” – has the right to make foreign policy and is prepared to weaken a POTUS who steps out of line. Second, Washington’s policy on Ukraine is being run by people who have a dog in the fight.

CUBAN NOISES. Mass hysteriadancing mania. But the lie is half way round the world already and the State Department still bangs on about “unexplained health incidents“.

SKRIPALMANIA. More delay on the Sturgess inquest. Sounds like Litvinenko eh? Same scriptwriers.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. “US Man Warns of ‘Russian Mind Controlling Devices’ in Americans’ Ears, Turns Himself In to FBI“. “Mental illness” or too much corporate media?

OPCW. Corrupted: “Fairweather, the chef de cabinet, invited several members of the drafting team to his office. There they found three US officials who were cursorily introduced without making clear which US agencies they represented. The Americans told them emphatically that the Syrian regime had conducted a gas attack….” Faked: “Its conclusions contradicted the inspector’s version.” False. “Most of the Douma team felt the two reports on the incident, the Interim Report and the Final Report, were scientifically impoverished, procedurally irregular and possibly fraudulent.

WESTERN VALUES. OPCW. MSF. HRW. Squandering credibility that took years to build.

RATS, SHIPS, UKRAINE. Kolomoisky’s interview. Shattering: a major player in post-Maidan Ukraine; funded Azov; fully supported the coup although he fell out with the others; thought by many to be the power behind President Zelensky. Key points. It’s time for Ukraine to turn toward Russia. Washington is forcing Ukraine to be at war – a “war against Russia to the last Ukrainian”. The EU and NATO will never take Ukraine in and it’s time to accept reality. Russia will give money. If the Americans “get smart with us, we’ll go to Russia. Russian tanks will be stationed near Krakow and Warsaw. Your NATO will be soiling its pants and buying Pampers.” He is trying to end the war but is afraid that the Americans “will mess it up and get in the way.” When a Kolomoisky switches sides, it’s over. Stay tuned.

UKRAINE. Just when you thought that everything that could be stolen, had been stolen, they come up with something else. Land sales. Not to foreigners of course; well, maybe a referendum. Big foreign companies have been wanting in and in a country as corrupt as Ukraine laws are a flimsy barrier

MH17. Now there’s some hope in Ukraine, it’s time for the JIT to “discover” something or other.

SHIPS. Moscow has returned to Kiev the ships it captured in November. Video.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

MCCARTHYISM AND ME

Watching bits of the absurd circus in Washington with all these (thank you for your service you outstanding diplomat, you) brave bureaucrats worrying that the USA is not fighting Russia hard enough, I am reminded of this little story.

When I was a kid in public school in a small Canadian town (let’s say 1957ish) on Friday afternoons (all? some?) we had a time for skits and stories and so forth.

One of the skits I remember involved a number of kids stepping forward and saying “I’m so-and-so (some famous person – Pat Boone was one, I remember) and I’m a Russian”. This went on for several iterations and then some kid, carrying a roll of toilet paper, rushed from the back of the room shouting “I’m Bob and I’m a-rushin’ too!”

All fall about with laughter.

Well, Joe McCarthy blew up in 1954 so, in a small town far from anywhere, I guess the skit was reasonably au courant a couple of years later.

What sticks in my mind was the “Russian” bit – not “communist” which was what McCarthy was talking about, not “Soviet”, which is what they were.

Now you can say the joke, such as it was, wouldn’t have worked without “Russian” but my guess is that the “Russian” bit was the origin of the joke and not the other way round.

So commies were Soviets and Soviets were Russians and Russians were our enemies busy infiltrating us back then and I guess they still are.

REALLY STUPID THINGS SAID ABOUT RUSSIA

No wonder the East Coast elites and the “interagencies” know so little about Russia: they really think tripe like this means something.

It is cheese that Russians write home about when they go abroad. “It’s my first time in Europe after all that’s happened,” the journalist and filmmaker Inna Denisova, a critic of the annexation of Crimea, wrote on her Facebook page in February. “And it’s exceedingly emotional. And of course it’s not seeing the historic churches and museums that has made me so emotional — it’s seeing cheese at the supermarket. My little Gorgonzola. My little mozzarella. My little Gruyere, chevre and Brie. I held them all in my arms — I didn’t even want to share them with the shopping cart – – and headed for the cash register.” There, Ms. Denisova wrote, she started crying. She ended her post with a sort of manifesto of Europeanness and a question: “Je suis Charlie et je suis fromage. I want my normal life back — can it be that it’s gone forever?”

Masha Gessen (who else?): What the Russians Crave: Cheese;

NYT (where else?), 4 July 2015

RUSSIA IS FINISHED QUOTATIONS

I publish this, partly for fun, but also because it gives an idea of what people expected from all the sanctions. Once again, Putin & Co thought longer and better.

Here are the first two things I could find that I wrote at the time saying Russia was surviving quite well: Sitreps 20160519 and 20160623. Another illustration of the fact that we, on our side of the divide, are less often surprised that the others are.

U.S. billionaire philanthropist George Soros has predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime will face bankruptcy in 2017, when the nation’s economic troubles erode its leader’s domestic approval ratings, according to a column Soros published this week.

“Putin’s popularity, which remains high, rests on a social compact requiring the government to deliver financial stability and a slowly but steadily rising standard of living,” Soros wrote in his column on the Project Syndicate website on Wednesday. “Western sanctions, coupled with the sharp decline in the price of oil, will force the regime to fail on both counts.”

Moscow Times 12 February 2016

WHAT ABOUT WHATABOUTISM?

(First Published Strategic Culture Foundation Picked up by JRL,)

Vladimir Putin has made a national sport of what-abouting. In 2014, when a journalist challenged him on his annexation of Crimea, Putin brought up the U.S. annexation of Texas. The American invasion of Iraq is constantly what-abouted on state television, to excuse all kinds of Russian behavior.

– Dan Zak: “Whataboutism: The Cold War tactic, thawed by Putin, is brandished by Donald Trump“. Washington Post, 18 August 2017

“Trump Embraces One Of Russia’s Favorite Propaganda Tactics — Whataboutism”

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR, 17 March 2017

Essentially, it’s an appeal to hypocrisy ― a logical fallacy also known as “tu quoque.” Instead of proving that your opponent’s claim is wrong on its face, whataboutism argues that it’s hypocritical of the opponent to make that claim at all.

And, the author helpfully goes on to explain: “Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the Trump administration’s murky ties to Vladimir Putin and his associates, whataboutism is viewed by many as a Russian import.” Trumputin again! (Written, of course, before Mueller crashed.)

The author is half right: it’s hypocrisy, but it’s not an appeal to it, it’s a revelation of it.

As the quotations above show it’s a real meme: Google has thousands of hits on “trump putin whataboutism” – accusing someone of whataboutism, as apparently routinely practised by both, is supposed to be a final, complete and crushing response. Whataboutism is “a constant diversion away from actual relevant news items, facts, and arguments into constant accusations of hypocrisy” and a commonplace of Russian propaganda.

In a court of law someone who is accused of murder cannot defend himself by saying that his accuser has a dirty nose or, even, that he is himself a murderer. And neither is it accepted that the defence against an accusation of a dirty nose is saying that the accuser is a murderer. In a court of law the charge, whether dirty nose or murder, has to be proven to the satisfaction of the judge or jury; the personal behaviour of the accusing lawyer is not relevant.

But we’re not talking about a court of law here – we’re talking about an information war in which accusations are crafted to sway public opinion. In that “court” it is relevant to point out when the accusing dirty pot is calling the accused kettle black. Not to do so is a “diversion away from actual relevant facts” by changing the subject and pretending that the only subject is your crimes, not mine.

For example. Russia is routinely accused of violating the “Rules-Based International Order”. (What a great name: who wouldn’t want to live in a Rules-Based International Order and shun those who tried to overturn it?) A quick search turns up these accusations: “The Russian government wears its disdain for the rules-based international order as a badge of pride“; “What can the West do to keep Russia in check, when the country’s state policy is fundamentally at odds with the rules-based international order“; “It is Russia’s actions which threaten the international order on which we all depend“; “Today, I will set out how the Russian government under President Putin is taking steps that are weakening the rules-based order“; “Russia – a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council – has repeatedly attacked the global rulebook of normal behaviour.” Lots more examples can easily be found. Said Rules-Based International Order is praised as having kept world peace, as a “cornerstone” and other kinds of goodnesses. So, clearly, Putin & Co, by trying to overthrow it, are committing a crime.

But, actually, the accusation is only another propaganda shot at the contumacious Putin. Leaving aside the self-satisfied hype, we’re supposed to agree that this “order” is worldwide although few in, say, Africa or Asia would have happy feelings about it. But, most significantly we are required to not listen to what Putin actually says; over and over again, year after year: (this month): “Let me reiterate: truly mutually respectful, pragmatic and consequently solid relations can only built between independent and sovereign states“, or his essay in the NYT in 2013 when he said “The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus”.

But enough of reality, back to whataboutism.

Many of these fulminations cite Crimea as the moment when Putin’s Russia irredeemably breached the Rules-Based International Order but the accusation was commonplace long before Putin appeared. Russia wanted “the right to do what it pleases in its own backyard” in 1994; was probably not going to be “an equal and fair player” and believed that “countries become strong only by making other countries weak” in 1996; was “subverting its neighbors’ independence” in 2006. In short “Russia is remarkably resistant to progress, material and moral“. In other words, fashions change but Russia is always the enemy: Russia wanted to dominate the energy reserves in the Caspian in 1997, but signed on to an equitable division in 2019. Never mind that accusation (and who remembers it now?) on to the next accusation! In 1997 we knew Russia wanted to trash the Rules-Based International Order, in 2019 we still know but fresh accusations replace the worn-out ones.

So, setting aside the fact that the Ukrainian constitution was nullified with the violent overthrow of the elected President, ignoring the fact that violence against Crimeans had already started, forgetting that the first action of the coup was to outlaw their language, ignorant that Crimea had the status of an autonomous republic, never mentioning there were already Russian troops legally there, pretending that the referendum was done at gunpoint, shedding crocodile tears over the suddenly discovered Crimean Tatars, carefully refusing to visit the place to see whether reality conforms to illusion and all the rest of it, let us do a little whataboutism.

If the return home of Crimea – that’s what the Crimeans call it – is to be considered a violation of the Rules-Based International Order, what was the smashing up of Yugoslavia? A popular expression of the self-determination of peoples or a foreign intervention for less shiny principles? What was the invasion of Afghanistan? Rules-Based or not? If the invasion of Afghanistan was “Rules-Based” on self-defence principles (still – 18 years later!) what was the “Rules-Base” for the invasion of Iraq? How about the destruction of Libya? By what principle of the Rules-Based International Order are US and allied troops in Syria? Especially “guarding” the oil fields? Where’s the “Rules-Base” that says Washington should care about what Maduro does in Venezuela, or is it a fundamental principle of the Rules-Based International Order that “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela“?

I reiterate that we are not in some courthouse in which, say the case of Crimea’s incorporation into the Russian Federation is being tried in Courtroom Number 1 and the NATO attack on Libya in Courtroom Number 2, the NATO presence in Syria in Courtroom Number 3 and so on. In that case the Russian defence team would not be justified in saying that the other guys are in court too; it would have to argue the case at hand (relying no doubt heavily on Article 1.2 of the UN Charter); in the other courtroom the defence would be relying on… good question.

We are in the “court of public opinion” and here it is relevant that NATO & Co accuse Russia of doing things without admitting that they do much worse. After all, in Russia’s so-called sins – Crimea, South Ossetia and Abkhazia – we can find solid majority support from the local population. NATO would have a harder time finding that support in its various post Cold War interventions. Or, to put it more plainly: Ossetia, Abkhazia and Crimea are pretty peaceful places; the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya etc etc are not. (To say nothing of the departure of US troops from Syria being hastened with jeers and stones.)

Occasionally Western news/propaganda outlets will confess to “the long history of the US interfering with elections elsewhere” but only to airily dismiss the issue because “the days of its worst behavior are long behind it”. (Ukraine, Venezuela, Russia and Hong Kong are not, we must assume, “interferences” and it would be “whataboutism” to suggest that they are somehow worse than the imaginary Russian intervention in the US election.)

In short, what is dismissed as “whataboutism”, and therefore unworthy of discussion, is reminder to the listener of reality; in a world of moralistic accusations that Russia has violated the sacred Rules-Based International Order it is a pointer to the West’s hypocrisy. If we are supposed to think that Russia did something bad and unlawful in Ossetia or Crimea violating the so-called Rules-Based International Order why is it wrong to point out that NATO this century has never paid a moment’s attention to the UN Charter or any other part of the, admittedly feeble, structure of international law?

The Bible advises us not to obsess about the tiny speck in the other person’s eye while ignoring the big hunk of wood in our own: “For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And if that’s not “whataboutism” what is?

 

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME: CRAZIESTER AND MORE CRAZIESTER

Remember the Spinal Tap scene where the witless band member explains that because their numbers go to 11 they can always get that little bit extra? Putin Derangement Syndrome went past 11 a long time ago: we need a whole new set of superlatives, “craziest” just won’t do any more

After writing this compendium of nonsense about Putin from Western sources in 2015, I ran a short series on Putin Derangement Syndrome; I gave up when Putin Derangement Syndrome and Trump Derangement Syndrome merged into a crescendo of craziness, far past what I could have imagined.

(And Trump Derangement Syndrome is also past 11 – “Why Ivanka Trump’s new haircut should make us very afraid“.)

In the past, American hysteria campaigns against the enemy-of-the-moment ended when their target did. Noriega went to jail, Milosevic died in jail, Hussein and Qadaffi were killed, bin Laden was killed, Aidid – but who remembers him? The frenzy built up and up and stopped at the end before it got to 11. But Putin is still there and growing stronger by the moment. And the frenzy therefore has to go past 10, past 11 and ever upwards. One of the craziest (to say nothing of disgusting) things was this absurd cartoon from the (formerly) staid NYT. But that was a whole year ago.

No longer bare chests, Aspergers, big fish, gunslinger walks – in 2015 they were laughing; today Putin has super powers. Two events sent it past 11. Somebody leaked e-mails from the DNC showing that it was rigging the nomination for Clinton and she lost a 99% certain election. Immediately, her campaign settled on blaming Russia for both.

That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [9 November 2016] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument. (From Shattered, quoted here.)

The bogus – bogus because most of the people on his team were part of the conspiracy and knew there was no collusion – Mueller investigation dragged on until – despite the endless “bombshells” – it finally stopped. But the crazies insist… not guilty but… not exonerated! And Trumputin’s principal conspiracist rants on.

Wikipedia tells us that “A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable.” The CIA, referring to the Kennedy assassination, is said to have coined the expression in 1967. The “trusted source” media (an description it likes to award itself) is dead set against “conspiracy theories” and quick to denounce them as crazy, prejudiced and criminal. For example, Trump’s statement that Mueller was a hitman, is a “conspiracy theory” as are Trump’s ideas about the Bidens and Ukraine.

Everything I mention below comes from “trusted sources”. Therefore we must assume that all of them – Putin wants Trump to buy Greenland, Russians want to get Americans arguing about pizza, Russians have no moral sense and all the rest – are not “conspiracy theories” but honestly “more probable”.

Mere evidence – for example that the DOJ Admits FBI Never Saw Crowdstrike Report on DNC Russian Hacking Claim… or No Evidence – Blame Russia: Top 5 Cases Moscow Was Unreasonably Accused of Election Meddling or U.S. States: We Weren’t Hacked by Russians in 2016 or The Myth of Russian Media Influence by Larry C Johnson.. or Biden admitting to doing what USA Today insists is nothing but a conspiracy theory invented by Trump – makes no difference. The dial is turned up one more and we are solemnly and (incoherently – Paul Robinson again) warned that Russia might/could meddle in Canada’s forthcoming election.

Anti-Russia prejudice can have unhappy consequences. We have just learned that Putin phoned Bush a couple of days before 911 to warn him that something long-prepared and big was coming out of Afghanistan. Other Russian warnings had been dismissed by Condoleezza Rice – supposedly a Russia “expert” – as “Russian bitterness toward Pakistan for supporting the Afghan mujahideen”. One is reminded of Chamberlain’s dismissal of Stalin’s attempts to form an anti-Hitler alliance because of his “most profound distrust of Russia” (see Habakkuk comment). In some alternate universe they listened to Moscow in the 1930s and in the 2000s, but, in the one we live in, they didn’t. And they don’t.

Or maybe (foolish optimism!) this is starting too end: after all, it’s been a complete failure. I especially enjoyed the NYT, that bastion of the Russian-conspiracy/Putin-superpowers/Trump-treason meme, solemnly opining: “That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China. But his approach has been ham-handed and at times even counter to American interests and values.” Ham-handed! – here’s the NYT’s view of the Trump-Putin “love affair” again if you missed it the first time. And now it’s Trump’s fault that relations with Russia aren’t better! French President Macron has recently said that “I believe we should rebuild and revise the architecture of trust between Russia and the European Union.” And Trump rather brutally delivered the message to Ukraine’s new president that he ought to talk to Putin.

Well, we’ll see. Russophobia runs deep and the Russians have probably got the message. As long as we’re stuck in a mindset of “Nine Things Russia Must Do Before Being Allowed to Rejoin the G7” it’s not going to change. An arrogant invitation is not an invitation.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 24 OCTOBER 2019

SYRIA. A master class on patient, intelligent diplomacy engaging all players combined with the judicial application of force, supported by the bravery and skill of its military culminating in the recent screenplay in seven acts. 1 Ankara says it will invade; 2 Washington pulls out (helped along with stones, jeers and vegetables, note the contrast with the Russian reception); 3 Kurds instantly do a deal with Damascus; 4 Syrian army and Russian MPs immediately move; 5 Trump sends some minions to “negotiate” a “ceasefire”; 6 Putin and Erdoğan wrap it up; 7 Ankara says no need for more fighting. Trump announces. Everybody wins except the war party. I have two questions: how involved was Trump in writing the script? (certainly he outwitted the war party) and did any Turkish troops actually cross the border? (don’t see why they needed to). Next stop Idlib. (Russian MP video – Syria owes these men (and women) a lot – usually the first into no man’s land.) I can’t resist saying that consumers of the Western corporate media would have been dumbfounded by every act of the playstill are; NATO and the US Senate ditto. The Four A’s of American Policy Failure in Syria. Saker’s analysis.

DELAMINATION. Did US Secretary of State Pompeo just threaten military action against a NATO ally? Where would that leave the famous Article 5? Anyway, we have the latest failure of the neocons’ PNAC – stones and jeers, bomb your own base because you left so fast, Iraq refuses to take you.

FAKE NEWS. ABC shows Turks slaughtering Kurds – actually a mad minute at a US gun range. But, whatever, an honest mistake that anyone could make.

DIPLOMACY. “But Russia will never be friends with one country against another” and that is why Moscow can put together solutions in places like Syria; people who think it should take sides will be disappointed. It’s a cold-blooded, realistic but effective point of view and Putin has been saying it for years. Moralistic foreign policy is a bust – especially hypocritical moralism. (Putin & Co remember that Moscow used to be “exceptionalist” and have learned from its failure.)

TERRORISM. The FSB Director says law enforcement agencies prevented 39 terrorist attacks and eliminated 49 terrorist cells so far this year; some with US help.

HOLIDAYS. The two most popular air routes are Moscow to Simferopol and Moscow to Sochi. Apart from showing that Russians like sun and sea and are finding them at home, I make two observations. Crimea is, as it used to do, attracting lots of tourists and Sochi was not $15 billion squandered on a once-off Olympics; it was an investment in a sports and tourist destination. Both are paying off.

AIRLINERS. In another blow to the staggering Boeing enterprise, Aeroflot has cancelled its order for 22 Dreamliners. Martynov suggests that this may in fact be another case of import substitution: the MC-21 covers the medium ranges and a new Il-96 (arguably the safest passenger plane in the world) is in the works for long range. So, make them at home, use them at home and sell them to China and the other victims of the “Rules-Based International Order“. Boeing and Airbus can have their little markets.

AURUS the Russian luxury car brand and supplier of the Putinmobile, says it has 600 private pre-orders already. I’m not surprised – I can see Russian plutocrats, who would otherwise buy a luxury Merc, wanting to show their patriotism (or suck up to The Boss) by buying Russian.

TRAIN CARS. Fans of long-range Russian trains can see the new sleeper cars.

ISOLATED. Remember when Putin and Russia were isolated? In the last two weeks, visits to Saudi Arabia and UAE, meeting Erdoğan, calls to Assad, Macron and Merkel. Now a Russia-Africa meeting.

COUP ATTEMPT. Larry Johnson sums up the moving parts of the conspiracy against Trump.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. A retired admiral appears to call for a coup and Tulsi is a Russian asset. Taibbi sums it up “Everyone Is a Russian Asset“.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. At least it was a warship and not a cruise ship. (The comments add another coating of stupidity.)

UKRAINE. Chairman of the National Corps Andrei Biletsky gave President Zelensky until Friday to drop all Minsk obligations. The guns have spoken, all Zelensky has is the support of the population; now what happens? There’s a theory (but how can he pull it off? – the guns will go nuts) that he “renounces” the contested territories – the so-called Cyprus scenario. Meanwhile some congressmen have called on the US State Department to declare Azov to be international terrorists.

SANCTIONS. Another failure: Huawei VP says sanctions pushed it to self-reliance.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer