Syria: a crack in the Western facade?

[Response to a question from Sputnik on what I think of the reports out of the Élysée. Published https://sputniknews.com/politics/201707181055633335-macron-russia-china-syria/]

If these reports are accurate, I think that we are possibly (possibly) in the early days of important changes regarding the West and Syria. But inertia is a powerful force.

Hitherto Paris was one of the main centres of the “Assad must go” cry. But Macron seems to have dropped the condition. The Western consensus used to be that the Syria question must be settled from outside. Settled by the Western powers, that is: not with Russian involvement, let alone Chinese and certainly never with the involvement of the Syrian government. Macron’s remarks about involving the P5 as well as Damascus changes this position too. Moscow and Beijing will have their say (even if the latter is a silent partner).

Moscow has insisted, over and over again, that important issues can be only settled with the involvement of all parties and, in particular, the UN. And, however short the UN may have fallen from its lofty intentions, it cannot be denied that there isn’t anything any better. Two decades of the hyperpower and its minions making up the rules have, to put it mildly, had little success. The stupidity and incompetence of the West’s elites, their indifference to their own true interests, has been astonishing.

Therefore, there is a shred of hope that at last some movement away from further disaster may be possible. Clearly, the only possible settlement for Syria has to involve all the players, not just Washington and its flunkies’ notions of who they should be.

But there is a huge amount of opposition to this suggestion – see, for example, the apoplectic reaction of “Making Peace With Assad’s State of Barbarism” or from these War Party spokesmen to suggestion of cooperation with Moscow or Damascus.

But Trump was elected partly on a promise to stop the wars and Macron appears to have a similar thought. The West’s wars of the Twenty-First century have been failures. Maybe something else will be tried.

(Who, in 2000, that year of triumphalism, would have expected that Syria, a country, one would have thought, quite peripheral to the interests of Europe and North America, would become a world-historical pivot? But so it is becoming: the Thermopylae of the new world?)

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 13 JULY 2017

WHICH G2? Another G20. People met inside, ate, said things and outside Sorosian rioters rioted – watch the video! – (but not spun as a Maidan-like celebration of Europeanness, just car burnings). But the important part was the G2 when Trump and Putin finally met. As everyone knows, the meeting seems to have gone well and went well over time. Some level of agreement on Syria, Ukraine and cyberstuff. But we’ll see whether Washington keeps the agreement: with its inconsistent messaging and Deep State sabotage against Trump (did Comey cook the latest nothingburger?), it is unclear whether Trump can deliver. Or maybe the really important meeting was the other G2 with Putin and Xi in Moscow. Both of them can deliver on their promises. The “Chinese-Russian comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation” grows deeper and stronger. Europe sings “Freude, schöner Götterfunken” to the thump of Molotov cocktails and the pop of car windows blowing out. The world is changing.

CORRUPTION. Putin has signed a law creating an online register of former officials dismissed because of corruption. From which I deduce that there are a lot of them. By the way there is a Presidential Council for Countering Corruption which meets periodically.

WHERE IS PUTIN? It’s time for another where is Putin panic. He just visited the monastery at Valaam where he often goes on retreat.

RUSSIA INC. “The Russian economy is increasingly becoming self-sufficient and less oil-price dependent.” Sanctions do work! (Not necessarily as intended, however.)

FREE LAND. The program of free land in the Far East is about a year old and has been reasonably successful. A problem is that a hectare is either too big or too small. At any event, about 20,000 plots have been registered and nearly 100,000 people have applied.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. More blows. Craig Murray, who claims inside knowledge, reminds us of Seth Rich’s murder. Another lawsuit simmers away. An analysis shows the Guccifer 2.0 data had to be a local leak. The latest NYT nonsense is collapsing fast (and may boomerang). Carr remains unconvinced: “The public evidence isn’t enough to identify Russian government involvement, or even identify the nationality of the hackers involved.” Oh, and “The FBI requested direct access to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) hacked computer servers but was denied“, “it was CrowdStrike that told the FBI that it was the Russians.A reminder on how unreliable Crowdstrike is. And how selective the “analysis” was; violating all of the post-Iraq-fiasco procedures, in fact. And, finally, the NYT admits not “all 17” (just a few “hand-picked” analysts, but that’s next month’s correction). The question remains: what are the Russians supposed to have done?

NONSENSE. Even Newsweek gets it: the US State Department, in its latest Russia-is-the-worst-place-in-the-world report, refers to a lonely bright spot – the city of Kitezh. Which is a mythical Russian city saved from the Mongols by miraculously sinking into a lake.

SYRIA. The ceasefire agreed to by Trump and Putin started on Sunday. Will it last? One must remember that the Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire collapsed when the US attacked Syrian soldiers and, ominously, the US military claims ignorance. This one will be monitored by Russians; Chechen MPs actually. Who would dare meddle with Chechens? And, just out, Macron calls for a “new approach“.

WHO YA GONNA BELIEVE? “[T]he Russians are there, they say to fight ISIS. They haven’t fought them much and mostly they just support Assad” says Secdef Mattis. Russians just killed our leader says Daesh. (By the way, you should read the interview – “Iran is certainly the most destabilizing influence in the Middle East”. Really!!!! isn’t he supposed to be such a student of history? And I guess his reputedly huge library doesn’t include Mahan: “We fought on this planet mostly with ground armies until navies became something one hundred years ago.” Sheesh!)

THE BUBBLE. Robinson reveals the “Overton Bubble” (read it) that our masters live in. The same people are asked to repeat the same things that they said before; nothing else is acceptable or imaginable.

UKRAINE. A recent Ukrainian poll shows positive views of Russia (44%) outweigh negative (37%) and the regional divide remains. If we add in Donbass, Crimea and the refugees in Russia, it’s probably a positive majority. All that suffering, poverty and destruction and nothing’s changed. How much longer until Rump Ukraine breaks into its immiscible parts?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Something for them to talk about

US President Trump and Russian President Putin are due to have their first face-to-face meeting in Hamburg in a few days. This meeting should have taken place in April or May and, had that happened, by now the two would be well into substantive issues. But thanks to the devotion of the lügenpresse to the anti-Russia tarradiddle, Trump was unable to move. And, exploded as a “nothingburger” it may be, and devoid of evidence as we are continually told it is, people are still banging away at it: “You must state bluntly to Putin that Russia can never again violate our sovereignty by stealing and publishing our data, and must stop cyber probes of our electoral machinery.”

So Trump may be wary that anything he does or says to Putin, short of outright rudeness or a punch in the face, will be spun as further “proof” that he is Putin’s puppy. Although – one can hope – Trump, empowered by his contempt for the fake news media and emboldened by CNN’s troubles, may ignore the yapping.

From Russia’s perspective the meeting is easy enough. Putin is self-controlled, intelligent and disciplined: he’s ready and capable of talking about anything; he knows what Russia’s interests are; he has an open mind; I believe he is hopeful but not deluded. He knows that the WaPo and NYT think Trump is an idiot but I doubt he looks to these propaganda rags for guidance. He is smart enough to know that a man who became POTUS against all opposition could not possibly be an idiot but, at the same time he is experienced enough not to hope for too much (as he told Oliver Stone: presidents come and go but US policy doesn’t change).

The commonly suggested subjects for discussion present some difficulties. In Syria Washington is simply too involved with fantasies of “moderate rebels”, confusion from moment to moment and speaker to speaker about what Assad’s future should be. Added to which, there is more than a little evidence that, whatever official Washington may say, the generals on the ground will attack Syrian units or aircraft ad libitum. Therefore it is too complicated a subject for a first discussion. Countering terrorism is another suggestion but, for a serious discussion to be possible, Washington must first decide what side it is really on: it has too long a history of supporting jihadists here but fighting them there to be believed (and especially not by Putin who told Stone that he had proof that Washington had supported jihadists in Chechnya). So, neither of these subjects makes for a good first discussion.

But there is one serious subject that would work and that is North Korea and its nuclear and missile programs. It drew attention to itself in the most dramatic way by launching a rocket that could reach Alaska on the most sacred holiday of the American mythos. There is no reason to think that either Beijing or Moscow are much pleased with this development either. Chinese President Xi was just in Moscow with Putin and the two discussed North Korea and a joint statement was issued. They call for the cessation of missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang and cessation of US-South Korean military exercises near the border; Beijing calls this the “double suspension”. If a solution is found, it will have to be that; threats from Washington do nothing to solve anything. Pyongyang isn’t scared and it has every reason to hate and distrust Washington: US aircraft dropped 25% more bombs on North Korea than it did on Japan, killing, one US general estimated, 20% of the population. Americans may have forgotten that, but North Koreans have not.

This, therefore, is a subject that is topical; it is a problem that all three capitals recognise; there is a solution. While the solution will necessitate some climbdown by Washington, it can be accomplished in the spirit of Catch-22’s Colonel Scheisskopf by the announcement, every year, that this year’s exercise has been cancelled.

North Korea’s missile launch will certainly be on the G20 agenda. Trump has met with Xi, Xi has met with Putin; Xi and Putin have the solution, they’re all going to be in the same place at the same time. So I would suggest that a meeting of the three of them to discuss the “Korean peninsula” issue would make for some fruitful results. Xi could, as it were, make the introduction.

I don’t suppose that any of the three has people devoted to reading my website so I don’t expect one of them to pick up the suggestion.

But I think that it is something to watch for and there isn’t any reason not to think that bilateral discussions in North Korea couldn’t segue into a three-sided conversation.

Democracy or Regime Change?

Asked by Sputnik about DIA report mentioned here. Probably won’t bother to read it — got some paint I want to watch dry and there’s always grass growing out there — because I’m sure all it will say is It’s All Russia’s Fault.

Perhaps I was a little hasty: Paul Robinson has read it and is interested “that at least somebody in the American security establishment is willing to admit that people elsewhere in the world don’t all appreciate what the United States is doing.”

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201706301055103084-russia-reasons-usa-wants-topple-government/

In the simplest possible terms: Washington has been trying to bring “democracy USA-style” to Russia. Russians, observing the consequences of “democracy USA-style” in Iraq, Libya and especially in Ukraine, regard this as regime change. So they’re both right.

Thus far, the most effective “weakeners of US influence on the world stage” have been the neocons and humanitarian bombers that have driven Washington’s policy this century. Failed interventions and losing wars are doing a far more effective job of destroying the USA than anything Moscow or Beijing could do. Osama bin Laden ought to be quite happy about what 911 began because the formerly “strong horse” looks more and more like a “weak horse”: immensely brutal and destructive, but nothing else.

Whether Trump can overcome the “deep state’s” sabotage remains to be seen. He promised a policy of non interference but his first five months have been burned up by the Russian interference “nothing burger”.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 29 JUNE 2017

PUTIN DIRECT LINE. English, Russian. Mostly domestic nuts and bolts, a lot of “Batyushka, my roof is leaking” and the usual declaration that Russia is open to cooperation with its “partners”. Memorable lines: “the history of Russia shows that we have usually lived under sanctions whenever Russia started to become independent and feel strong” and “‘What do you do in your spare time?’ I work.” The customary mastery of detail and directness; I doubt any Western leader could match it. Pre-cooked or not.

RUSSIAGATE. This crazy clown show has just taken some big hits. After four losses in a row, many Democrats want their leadership to find some slogan other than “Trump is a crazy racist and Putin’s pet”. A majority of voters agrees. CNN, one of the pack leaders, had to retract another bogus story, the CNN brass then decreed that all Russia-Trump stories must be run by them first and three reporters “resigned”. (Lawsuit, they say, no sudden rush of “journalistic ethics”). Then it was hit by a Veritas report in which a producer admitted the story is just for ratings, is probably BS and, however “adorable” they may be, “journalist ethics” have nothing to do with reality. A big “nothing burger” says another CNN personality. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee is closing in on Fusion GPS which is probably the origin of the whole thing. One can hope that the story is on its last legs and the lügenpresse will take a fatal hit. I’ve said all along there was no Russian attempt to interfere with the election and no collusion with Trump: the story began as deflection from the DNC’s rigging of the primaries and was seized upon by the opponents of rapprochement with Russia. The logical fallacy at the heart of the story is that if the DNC hadn’t rigged the process Moscow would have had no handle with which to affect the outcome. Deflection, projection and manipulation. (And ratings!) It has done great damage.

THOSE CUNNING RUSSIANS. Later, the Russian government repeatedly introduced resolutions calling for cyberspace disarmament treaties before the United Nations. The United States consistently opposed the idea.” Published eight years ago Tuesday.

RUSSIA’S AGGRESSIVE BORDERS. The Armed Forces newspaper says 14 reconnaissance aircraft were intercepted near Russia’s borders in the last week. Here is a video of a NATO F-16 getting close to the Russian Defence Minister’s aircraft in the Baltic: the escort fighter chases it off.

WASHINGTON’S LATEST INCOHERENCE. First Washington warns that “potential preparations” for a CW attack have been detected in Syria and then it takes credit for stopping it. What on earth are “potential preparations”? One theory I’ve heard is that the White House got wind of a false flag and made this statement to show it was on to it. Another is that Kushner was suckered by a false flag, thought it was real but was corrected by the adults. But who knows? Is there any connection with Macron’s recent statement that Assad can stay? Or with Hersh’s piece showing that US intelligence knew there was no CW attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Of course Hersh is correct that the Khan Sheikhoun “attack” was theatre but I suspect that Trump’s attack was too. I speculate here that the ludicrous “intelligence assessments” that are produced to justify these actions are faked up. As for the “deep state” conspiring against Trump with the partial objective of wrecking rapprochement with Moscow, I simply observe that the FBI Director admitted to leaking in order to weaken him; that moves the notion out of the sphere of dank imagination, doesn’t it? There is more swamp to be drained.

SYRIA. When the Americans shot down a Syrian aircraft in Syria (it took two missiles and the pilot was rescued) Moscow responded. It cancelled the flight coordination agreement. But, more to the point, it declared that in the areas in which it was operating, all aircraft of the US coalition west of the Euphrates “will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets”. The Saker explains in greater detail here, but what this means is that any coalition aircraft will detect a tracking radar signal; that will set off a cockpit alarm and there would be no way for the pilot to know whether he was just being “pinged” by a radar or if a missile was coming at him. And, given the speed of the missile, he’d better decide quickly. The alarm is designed to attract attention (go to 0:57). So, something to spoil your day of otherwise low-risk bombing. It may be that a Russian S-300 shot down an American drone over the Mediterranean last Thursday. If so, that would a suitable response. Meanwhile, the Syrian Army continues its advances and whatever it was that the part of the Washington Incoherency that makes these decisions was trying to do in south-east Syria seems to have been checkmated. Here, by the way, is President Assad moving around Hama – somewhat staged no doubt, but a far cry from what we are told about him.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIA-US RELATIONS? QUESTION MARK. QUESTION MARK. ?

Answer to a question from my guy at Sputnik.

Haven’t a clue really: half of me thinks we’re in the Last Days and I and all of mine will become radioactive dust in a few years and the Ultimate Cockroach will write the history of God’s Failed Monkey Experiment.

The other half of me hasn’t a clue. My Weirdshitometer broke long ago when it was pushed to 11. And then waaaaay past 11. None of it makes any sense. Think about it: McCain spent years as a POW in a useless and lost war; why would he want more wars?  But, it’s actually a true fact that Hitler went through the whole thing in the trenches, very dangerous, decorated for bravery and decided that he wanted more. So what do I know?

What you see below is my best guess (given that I haven’t a clue and things  just get weirder and stupider as time goes on).

(BTW How did the West manage to throw it ALL away? And so quickly? A couple of decades. How is that possible?)

[Note 17 June. Not all of these things hit the street but this one did] https://sputniknews.com/politics/201706171054712317-trump-faces-conspiracy-block-russia-ties/

In today’s Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President repeated what he has said many times: Russia, he, the Russian government, and, for all I know, every Ivan and Natasha on the street, is open to cooperation with Washington on many matters. But Washington has closed the door and only it can open it.

One of the reasons Trump was elected was his observation, which he stuck to against much opposition, that it was better to have good relations with Russia than not. When the DNC’s cheating was revealed, its response was to distract attention from its malfeasance by blaming Russia for the “hack”. The presstitute media (to steal Paul Craig Roberts’ useful term) obediently bayed the same theme. And the anti-Russia crowd happily repeated every rumour and added their own.

Now that the former FBI Director has admitted that he leaked, only the most unobservant and simple-minded can deny a deepstate/borg/blob (different names for the same thing) conspiracy to block any attempt to better relations with Russia.

The ultimate objective is, at maximum, to reverse the election by impeachment of Trump as Putin’s puppy; at minimum, to make him into a lame duck.

Two agents, two aims, one method.

This is all pretty evident and it’s been going on, full blast, for the better part of a year. My conjecture is that Trump knew there would be opposition to his intentions but he’s pretty stunned by its extent and not sure how to counter it.

So, the question is whether Trump, who is, after all, POTUS with all the considerable powers of that office, can confound the knavish tricks of his enemies. I don’t know whether he can but it’s an observable fact that Donald Trump has surprised and outwitted better people than I. So we shall see.

Meanwhile, in the real world outside the Washington beltway, China advances. In 10-20 years the world will be run by China (and Russia, India and Persia). So, in the Great Scheme of Things, maybe none of this matters very much. That Endpoint isn’t all that far away – we’re not talking about geological epochs here. Nor Brzezinski’s era of US dominance from 1997 to 2016.

Presidential Election 1996

I was an official observer on several elections when I was posted there. This is the start of counting at the Kubinka air base in Moscow Oblast. We were made welcome and I was even given a filled-in copy of the protocol of the results. Lebed 640, Yeltsin 394, Zyuganov 238, Yavlinskiy 190. Brintsalov — anybody remember him? — 6. 21 years ago today.

My wife just read this and made the intelligent observation that I had written it to look as if we arrived and were immediately given the final result. Not at all: we watched, over several hours, the whole tedious process of the ballots being sorted, counted and registered. We wandered around as much as we wanted, looked at anything we wanted to and oversaw the whole process. Didn’t see anything that looked wrong anywhere in the 20 or so polling stations we looked at (other than the whole family , children and all, going into the voting booth). 

And, as a followup, when we got home and voted in an election in Ottawa, we discovered that someone we had never heard of and had never rented our house to, was on the list at our address. We protested and Lo and Behold! another list, with our names on it was discovered.

Should have raised a stink but was too dumbfounded.

Cheating. On elections. In Dear Old Canada!

(BTW. I must have been in 60 or 70 Russian voting stations and never saw anything like  that.)

19960616-kubinka-ballot

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 15 JUNE 2017

PUTIN Q&A SESSION. Today so I haven’t had time to look at it. The Western media will report what fits its agenda so you should read it yourself. English here as they translate it, Russian here.

STONE-PUTIN INTERVIEWS. Website with first three parts. Transcript for Kindle.

FAKE NEWS I. Navalniy applies for a permit to hold a demonstration on Russia Day. City grants him a permit for Akademik Sakharov Avenue, a large reasonably central area that has been used before. Navalniy decides that’s not good enough and moves his rally to Tverskaya Street which is filled with historical re-enactors. The cops move in, the Western media laps it up and pundits pontificate about what This All Means for Putin. Some demos in other cities, but nothing much. A flop, actually, says Karlin (who prefers evidence to the clairvoyance of the Western journo – see this idiotic example). (What do you suppose would happen if Occupy Wall Street moved a licensed demo – yes, you need a permit there too – to the Mall on July 4? This and this of course. Russia’s no different.)

FAKE NEWS II. Oh, and lots of the stories you read about Russiagate were, according to Comey, “dead wrong” (as in “NYT Scrambles To Fix ‘Almost Entirely Wrong’ Russia Scoop After Comey Testimony“). In short, Dear Readers, if it’s about Russia, it’s probably fake.

WHO YA GONNA BELIEVE? Macron e-mail dump. “The NSA Confirms It: Russia Hacked French Election ‘Infrastructure‘” or “French Cyber Security Leader: No Trace of Russian Hacking Group in Emmanuel Macron Campaign Leaks“.

RECOMMENDED READING. From a former Ambassador to Russia: “The Common Wisdom About Russia Is Not Wise“. From a former intelligence officer “Fake News and the Russian Interference Lie“.

RUSSIA-US RELATIONS. As plenty of us suspected: “In the early weeks of the Trump administration, former Obama administration officials and State Department staffers fought an intense, behind-the-scenes battle to head off efforts by incoming officials to normalize relations with Russia… “. A lot is invested in bad relations: to do otherwise would be to betray democracy, apparently.

RUSSIA INC. The Governor of the Bank of Russia said that the influence of Western sanctions on economy had been exaggerated and their effect was practically over; she also said that the economy had adapted to the lower oil prices in the last two years.

POLITKOVSKAYA. The man convicted of organising her murder has died in a penal colony.

QATAR BLOCKADE. Moscow is involved in two ways: it sent food there and it is diplomatically involved: the Presidential Website mentions calls with Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. However it ends, Moscow will come out stronger with a better reputation.

SYRIA. Apparently talks between Washington and Moscow are quietly going on in Jordan. Meanwhile the Syrian Army has advanced to the Iraq border cutting off the US-supported “moderate rebels” from their base of supply. Tillerson is quoted as saying that the US has no authorisation to use force against the Syrian Army. Meanwhile the USAF attacks the Syrian Army. Paul Robinson looks for, but is unable to find, Washington’s strategy. So, same-same. 1) Damascus with its allies from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah is winning slowly but steadily; 2) Washington remains incapable of either keeping its word or controlling its people. And, for once, the UN notices and the Guardian publishes something about the “‘staggering loss of civilian life’ caused by the US-backed campaign to reclaim Raqqa“.

UKRAINE. Profound dissatisfaction with the state of affairs at home plus visa-free travel to the EU. What could go wrong?

WESTERN VALUES™. Of the ten least peaceful countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index, Syria, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, Sudan and Libya have all had US/NATO interventions or involvements. Syria, Ukraine and Libya, in particular, were far more peaceful before: Syria 163rd today, 99th in 2008; Ukraine 156/101 and Libya 154/85. The USA itself dropped 11 places in the last year. Still they boast: “America has guaranteed freedom, security and peace for a larger share of humanity than any other nation in all of history“. NATO is about “Projecting Stability Beyond Our Borders“.

SHANGHAI COOPERATION ORGANISATION. India and Pakistan are now members. The new world is forming quickly; China and Russia will big players in it and I don’t think there will be much room for the USA. Martin Jacques suggests Europe had better get on board soon. I recommend his book.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

Russia’s superpower ambitions are not limited to exercising, sometime in the future, greater control over its next-door neighbors. Its avowed primary objective is still to reduce America’s global influence as much as possible. As long as Russia’s leadership indulges every opportunity to damage U.S. interests abroad, any effort to treat today’s Russia as a genuine partner would have to be based on a significant degree of self-deception. There is an expansionist mentality among Russia’s ruling elite, deeply rooted in the country’s past, which makes it difficult for them to consider forming a partnership with the West. This almost permanent urge for territorial expansion has at the same time become a scourge for the Russian people, who continue to live in appalling poverty in a country rich in resources

Jan Nowak “What NATO can do for Russia” Washington Times, 19 Apr 2000 (Nowak is a former consultant to the National Security Council on Central and Eastern European Affairs. For 25 years he was director of the Polish Service for Radio Free Europe).