RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 JANUARY 2022

MY LATEST WRITINGS: RUSSIA, UKRAINE ET AL: WHAT NEXT?

ULTIMATUM. The EU is not in the picture – too weak and the US won’t fight for it; NATO ditto. Do Berlin and Paris start to see reality? London has invited Shoygu but is shipping PAWs to Ukraine. Russia keeps up the pressure – a not-very-reliable source says a nuke boat surfaced off the US coast. Lots of exercises – Guards Tank Army, social media videos of military equipment moving around. Live firing of the formidable Iskanders. Lost submarines in the Med. A representative tough-guy piece from a couch warrior (she of we have good int on Russia fame). It is now clear the US/EU/NATO are not going to fight for Ukraine – empty threats and futile sanctions are all Kiev can expect. But the SWIFT threat would be a big shot to the foot. Somebody notices that Russia is pretty sanction proof (Googlish from INOSMI). In short, Russia pretty much has the hammer. We see the fruits of Putin & Co’s long game.

DONBASS. It should be understood that the official position in Moscow at present is that the rebel areas are part of Ukraine and the Minsk Agreement provides a method for resolving grievances. (Note, BTW, given the constant refrain that Moscow must “comply”, that it has no obligation). But this position could suddenly change given that Kiev has never fulfilled any part (especially No 4) and that Kiev’s “allies” haven’t tried to make it. One of the many possible “Or Elses“.

GUNS. Improved Pantsir AD system coming. Completely modernised White Swan makes maiden flight. Three new subs this year. China-Russia-Iran naval drills start tomorrow.

TALK SHOWS. Russian TV loves long talk shows – Doctorow has an interesting piece on one of the most important. “Russian elites talk WAR: ‘Evening with Vladimir Solovyov,'”

PEDOPHILES. The Duma has passed a bill providing for life imprisonment for serial pedophiles.

HACKERS. Russian security is arresting members of the REvil hacking group at Washington’s request. They are thought to be behind the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline last year.

COVID. The Duma has postponed a bill requiring QR code proof of vaccination. There is a good deal of resistance to this in Russia.

NAVALIY. Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, close allies of Navalniy, have been added to the state register of extremists. Neither is in Russia.

RUSSIAN DOLPHINS OFF US COAST. For your amusement.

CIA TRAINING. We learn that the CIA has been running training programs in Ukraine since 2014. Moscow has a good deal of experience of dealing with Washington-supported nazi resistance in Ukraine.

GALICIA. Anybody know why Ioseb Bissarionis-dze decided to put it in the Ukrainian SSR rather than giving it back to Poland in 1945? An important decision as it’s turned out.

KAZAKHSTAN. That didn’t take long, did it? All the CSTO troops are back home. They say at least 225 (including 19 police and soldiers) died, about 4500 injured. A lot of people in the security organs have been arrested, starting with Masimov, the head of the National Security Committee, some defenestrated; so the plot ran deep. (Here’s a photo of Masimov with – of all people – Hunter and Joe). If this were an attempt by some part of the US deep state to answer Moscow, it only shows how profoundly out of touch they are. Nazarbayev appears, everything’s calm. Interesting take on what it was all about here.

LESSONS LEARNED. Little countries often try to play off the big guys against each other. But Kazakhstan and Belarus have just learned that this isn’t possible today because Washington wants total control. Others will learn from these examples.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. I don’t remember Soviet propagandists assuming their consumers to be as stupid as the creators of this do. Ummm – you told us that Putin tried to kill him, he’s completely in his power now: shouldn’t you at least spend a little effort coming up with some explanation for why he’s still alive to give interviews to you?

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. ICAO supports Minsk on the Ryanair grounding last year – a few inconsistencies but no “air piracy“. And “Havana syndrome” bites the dust. Ah well, on to the next…

RUSSIA-IRAN. The two Presidents are meeting. The beginning of something big. Very Mackinderish.

SWEDEN. This week drones, last week the Russians were going to snatch Gotland. Years ago somebody in the Swedish security apparatus told me that these stories – “submarine sightings” in those days – were faked up by the people in the Swedish security organs who want it to join NATO.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIA, UKRAINE ET AL: WHAT NEXT?

First published Turcopolier, picked up by Unz Review, JRL 2022/15/11, Sitrepworld,

To Moscow, Ukraine is not the problem, Washington is. Or, as Putin might put it: Tabaqui does what Shere Khan tells him to and there is no point in dealing with him, go straight to Shere Khan. That is what Moscow is trying to do with its treaty proposals.

For the same reason, Moscow is not much concerned with what the EU or NATO says; it assesses that they are Tabaquis too.

The current propaganda meme in Washington is that Russia is going to “invade Ukraine” and absorb it. It will not: Ukraine is a decaying, impoverished, de-industrialised, divided, corrupt and decaying mess; Moscow does not want to take responsibility for the package. Moscow is fully aware that while its troops will be welcomed in many parts of Ukraine they will not be in others. Indeed, in Moscow, they must be wishing that Stalin had returned Galicia to Poland rather than giving it to the Ukrainian SSR after the War and stuck Warsaw with the problem. This does not, however, rule out the eventual absorption of most of Novorossiya in ultimo.

The second delusion in Washington is that if Moscow did “invade Ukraine” it would start as far away from Kiev as possible and send tank after tank down a road so that the US-supplied PAWs could exact a heavy cost. That is absolutely not what Moscow would do as Scott Ritter explains. Moscow would use standoff weapons to obliterate Ukrainian troop positions, C3I assets, assembly areas, artillery positions, ammunition dumps, airfields, ports and the like. At its choice. It would all be over quite quickly and the Javelins would never be taken out of their boxes. But that is the extreme option as Ritter explains.

Unfortunately the Blinkens, Sullivans, Farkas’, Nulands and others who seem to be driving USA policy don’t understand any of this. They remain convinced that the US is a mighty power, that Russia is feeble and fading, that Putin’s position is shaky, that sanctions are biting, that Russia’s economy is weak and so on. And that they understand modern warfare. Everything in the past twenty years contradicts their view but they hold to it nonetheless.

Take, for example, Wendy Sherman who was the principal American negotiator in Geneva this month. Look at her biography on Wikipedia. Social worker, money raiser for Democratic Party candidates, political campaign manager, Fanny Mae, Clinton appointee to the State Department, negotiator with Iran and North Korea. Is there anything in that record to indicate any knowledge or understanding of Russia or modern war? (Or skill at negotiations for that matter?) And yet she’s the one on point. Jake Sullivan: lawyer, debate preparer, political advisor, ditto.

Perhaps there’s an American general officer who sees reality – certainly there are those who have spoken of Russia’s formidable air defence or EW capabilities; others understand how weak NATO would be in a war on Russia’s home field. But, as Colonel Lang points out, maybe not.

Overconfidence rooted on nothing is the problem. Moscow has made a proposal that is based on the undeniably true position that security is mutual. If one side threatens the other, then the threatened one will take steps to shore up its position and the threat level will rise and rise. During the Cold War both sides understood that there were limits, that threats were hazardous and that negotiating prevented worse things from happening. But Washington is lost in its delusion of everlasting superiority.

The so-called “Thucydides trap” is the name given to a condition when one power (Sparta then, USA now) fears the rising power of (Athens then, China and Russia today) and starts a war because it fears its position can only weaken. The brutal truth is that that point has already been passed: Russia+China are more powerful than the USA and its allies in every measurable matter – more steel, more food, more guns, more STEM, more bridges, more money – more everything. NATO/US would lose a conventional war – American military wargamers know this to be true.

In short, how can Moscow compel these people to see reality? This, in a word, is the problem: if they can see it, then something better is possible; if they can’t, then it’s the worse. For everybody’s sake – Washington’s too – Washington has to pay attention to Moscow’s security concerns and dial down its aggressions. Moscow has asked – demanded really – and it’s not yet clear that the attempt has failed. The negative reaction of the Tabaquis doesn’t matter – Moscow only talked to them as a matter of form – it’s Shere Khan’s answer that matters. And we haven’t had it yet.

Perhaps the aborted colour revolution in Kazakhstan was an answer from some portion of the US deep state/Borg but, if so, it was a swift and powerful demonstration of how poor an understanding of the true correlation of forces the US deep state has.

We await Washington’s final answer but the prospects are not very encouraging at the moment: the cheap threats and bragging op-eds pour out. So what is Moscow’s Plan B?

I have elsewhere listed some responses that I can imagine and others have done so too. I am thinking that Moscow has to do something pretty dramatic to shatter the complacency. I see three principal fronts.

  • The United States has not been threatened with a conventional attack on its home territory since 1814; Russia has several ways that it can do so. The problem will be to reveal the threat in a way that cannot be denied or hidden. A demonstration of Poseidon’s capabilities on some island somewhere followed by the announcement that a significant number are already deployed near US coastal cities?
  • Washington must be presented with a demonstration of Russia’s immense destructive military power that it cannot pretend away. Ukraine is the obvious field for such a demonstration. (See Ritter).
  • A world-changing diplomatic move like a formal military alliance with China with a provision that an attack on one is an attack on both. This would be a demonstration of the correlation of forces that not even the most deluded could miss. Mackinder’s Heartland plus population, plus manufacturing, plus STEM, plus resources, plus military and naval might joined in a military pact.

We shall see. The negotiations are not over and something better may come from them. Doctorow, a capable observer, gives some hope. But to get to a better result would require a pretty major change in attitude in Washington.

We can hope. The stakes are high.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 6 JANUARY 2022

MY LATEST WRITINGS. SOMETHING HOPEFUL FOR THE NEW YEAR – SORT OF

KAZAKHSTAN. Major trouble. Started, they say, with the doubling of the price of LPG but now clearly another “colour revolution”, complete with a “leader” who is out of the country. (Page 121 in RAND report). Korybko, Escobar and Bernhard worth reading. President Tokayev promises to be “as tough as possible“. CSTO troops already on the ground and very strong counter-actions underway. We’ll soon see if I was correct in what I wrote. But the authorities’ reaction is promising: lay down your weapons or be destroyed. Who wants to live in Ukraine. Libya, Afghanistan or other recipients of NATO’s democracy promotion? (Interesting speculation: “The best way to root out such problems is to let them unfold first as it reveals the actors.”) My guess is that the authorities will regain control pretty quickly.

TWO DIFFERENT LEAGUES. NATO likes to gas on about its quick reaction forces. Russian spetsnaz were in Kazakhstan 13 hours after Tokayev asked for CSTO help (agreed). More are coming.

PRESS CONFERENCE. (Rus) (Eng) Very much internally-focussed, not so much about garbage disposal as in the last couple of years (I guess it’s getting better) and markedly less of “Batyushka, can you fix my roof?”. Foreigners given less opportunity to pose, hector and interrogate. But those who did gave Putin a chance to put the Russian POV: “And you are demanding guarantees from me. It is you who must give us guarantees, and you must do it immediately, right now..”

A THOUGHT. I have long been puzzled why Putin has evidently fallen for the COVID hoax (yes, Virginia, there’s a disease there but it’s not very deadly and mostly kills people with one foot in the grave. I’m just a simpleton who looks at the data: check out Canada’s official data on ages of deceased.) I think that Waggaman is on to something here: Putin may be, as Atlas might put it, being “Trumped”.

GUNS. New things keep coming. The S-500 SAM tested in Arctic (I wonder how many of NATO;s weaponry has been). The S-550 is already in service. Volley-firing of Tsirkons. An American study finds that one little Russian ship has the same hitting power as two of the USN’s main destroyers. Palate-cleansers, so to speak, before the security talks.

DOESN’T MAKE ANYTHING. Another monster icebreaker: four-metre ice.

RUSSIA DOESN’T FORGET. Two suspects in the Khattab/Basayev 1999 invasion of Dagestan arrested.

BRITISH INTERFERENCE IN RUSSIA. Hackers – Underside – have released documents showing London’s investment in “democracy” “civil society” and so on in Russia. (Docs) (Docs) (Docs). All sounds very nice but it’s aimed at subversion. Imagine the reaction in the West if it had actual documents from Russian sources rather than invented nonsense like Putin weaponising humour.

MEMORIAL. Memorial International and Memorial Human Rights Centre have been shut down. Whatever Memorial was when it started (and I remember it from then) getting money from the UK for LGBT matters is some distance from its beginnings in the 1970s.

NOT JUST FOR KILLING PEOPLE. Tank art and – look down the comments – tank bartending.

WHAT RUSSIA WILL DO IN UKRAINE. My bet anyway. “Товарищи, отойдите подальше!” But only if it has to. And maybe Kiev is seeing reality: sees no troop buildup at the border now. But Kiev doesn’t control the Ukronazis. Lieven suggests “Finlandisation” for Ukraine: it’s a solution, but I don’t see it as likely these days. But Ukraine did start out with neutrality hard-wired into its Constitution…

A GOOD THING TOO: the P5 have just declared “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Now if US/NATO would only understand that they can’t win a conventional war against Russia, maybe we could all calm down.

THOSE PESKY RUSSIANS. “Putin outsmarts EU as new China gas deal to pump ‘same amount’ as banned German pipeline“. The commenters are pretty scornful of the absurd headline.

THE DEATH OF IRONY. Make up stuff, get caught, whine.

TABAQUI REPORT. Just after saying only “winners” can demand, Borrell demands.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Poland next? Now, if only Warsaw could realise that, in terms of values, it and Moscow are singing from the same songsheet…

NEW NWO. China’s Excellent, Very Good Year.

UKRAINE NPP. I very much hope this report is not true.

THERE ARE NO NAZIS IN UKRAINE. The New Year’s march is becoming a Kiev fixture too.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

SOMETHING HOPEFUL FOR THE NEW YEAR – SORT OF

The wise men of that Academy of Wisdom (aka The Atlantic Council) tell us “How to deal with the Kremlin-created crisis in Europe“. The piece is mostly codswallop, boasting, cheap threats and hot air but there is one good thing about it:

It doesn’t threaten war.

Never mind that Russia won’t “invade Ukraine” for a host of reasons which I (for one – I certainly don’t pretend to be the only person who can see the obvious) laid out in 2014: Why Russia Hasn’t and Won’t Invade Ukraine. These reasons are only stronger now because Ukraine has become more decayed, more poor, more nazi, more corrupt, more divided and more hopeless. It is a huge hostile expensive liability that Moscow doesn’t want to pay for and police. Let those who broke it, pay for it.

But these guys think “Moscow appears to be setting the stage for launching a major conventional assault on Ukraine”. The signers are the usual “Putin whisperers“; none very tightly connected to reality: the lead signer suggested that “Ukraine should invite the United States and NATO to send a fleet of armed ships to visit Mariupol.“. They’d better be pretty small ships – the Sea is very shallow. Especially near Mariupol. Another signer is the author of the ridiculous “Dragoon Ride”. Another is the expert in wrongness.

However pitiful their suggestions, one may take comfort from the fact that they do not suggest that the USA/NATO go to war with Russia if it “invades Ukraine”. The truth, of which one signer has a some dim awareness, is simple:

if USA/NATO get into a conventional war with Russia, they will lose;

if USA/NATO get into a nuclear war with Russia, everybody will lose;

therefore, there is no war solution for USA/NATO

What do they suggest? What are the “immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations”; “raising the costs”? Only worn-out repetition of past failures. One may be encouraged because it shows the paucity of thought among the warmongers but, at the same time, discouraged because it shows their paucity of thought. Stasis. Decay. Petrifaction. But never a reflective silence.

Here they are:

  1. “a package of major and painful sanctions”;
  2. “enhance the deterrent strength of Ukraine’s armed forces”;
  3. “NATO should act now to begin bolstering its military presence on its eastern flank”;
  4. USA/NATO should utter statements and hold consultations “to highlight the unacceptability…”;
  5. “the United States and its allies should continue to make clear their readiness for dialogue with Russia, to include concerns of NATO and other parties about Russian military and other aggressive activities”.

All that need be said about still more sanctions on Russia is that the EU is complaining to the WTO right now about the effectiveness of Russian counters to the sanctions Europe imposed on it because of past alleged sins. In a word, sanctions have made Russia stronger. Food is the most obvious example but there are plenty of others: the latest being forcing the Russian aircraft industry to home produce wings and engines for the MC-21. Past sanctions have given Russia a degree of immunity against future sanctions.

Of course these strategists of Laputa don’t miss this one: “prevent Nord Stream 2 from going into operation in the event of a Russian attack.” What they haven’t the wit to understand is that stopping Nord Stream will only cost Moscow money of which it has plenty but it will cost Germany much more. It’s a curious state of mind that threatens enemies by damaging allies. (Although George Friedman would suggest that that is precisely the point.)

The weapons they suggest are “Javelin anti-armor missiles and Q36 counter-battery radar systems as well as Stinger and other anti-aircraft missiles.” There won’t be a chance to use them – if the Ukronazis provoke a Russian reaction, it will resemble this story: “Товарищи, отойдите от своей базы подальше. У вас 10 минут“.

As to the threat of NATO bolstering its deployments to “its eastern flank”, taking the British Army as an example, cuts, not increases are the reality; as it is now, it has one fully-staffed infantry battalion. The US Army isn’t much better. Once a paper tiger, NATO is now merely a paper pussycat.

Nobody in Moscow cares any more about statements and consultations. And neither do they in Tehran and Beijing.

The withered carrot that makes up the final suggestion amounts to talk to Russia if it admits its sins. Too late: Moscow’s not in the mood.

Altogether the work of epigones.

But at least it’s not a call for war.

THE MISQUOTATION

Translated into French

NOTE: Given that we’re going to hear this one a lot in the next little while, I have joined the two parts for ease of reference. I wrote the first in 2014, JRL picked it up and I got a lot of flak from flacks. But I proved my point in Part 2. Johnson sent me a lot of private messages from translators and interpreters saying that I was right. The essence of it is that English has three forms for adjectives: (big, bigger, biggest) but Russians have a fourth in between bigger and biggest. That’s the form Putin used and is so frequently misquoted.

Part 1 https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2014/07/30/deadly-quotation-part-1/

Part 2 https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2014/08/01/deadly-quotation-part-2/

PART 1

The idea for what follows came from a Facebook discussion. One individual, certain that Russia was to blame for the situation in Ukraine, said, among other things, that Putin claimed the biggest mistake was the collapse of the USSR and that he wanted to restore it. I said Putin did not say anything like that and challenged him to find the original. I was hoping to make a point and lead him to understanding something for himself. He dug up a number of statements from the Western media saying the Putin had called the end of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the Twentieth Century”. Not so hard to find examples: Google returns 15 pages of hits for that exact search, starting with the BBC and ending with it used as a put-down by a commentator on a mildly approving Polish newspaper piece about Putin. The phrase has now become something like what Pravda used to say when it wanted to spread a lie, but had no real evidence, как известно: as is well-known. Over and over we see it used as the triumphant final proof of the argument. “Putin wants a new Russian empire”; “Ukraine PM: Putin wants to rebuild Soviet Union”; “Putin longs to be back in the USSR”; “Putin’s obsession is the restoration of Russia’s pride through the restoration of its imperium.”

Perhaps the most interesting reference my correspondent pulled up, however, was this from an essay by Anders Åslund:

In his annual address in April 2005, Putin went all out: ‘the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical disaster of the century…. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory…old ideals [were] destroyed.’ He presented himself as a neoimperialist.

What is interesting about it is that he actually footnotes the original source. I assume Åslund expected that no one would bother to look it up or be unable to find it. But it’s out there on the Internet.

So it is now perhaps time to see what it was that Putin actually said. Here it is: first in Russian, “Прежде всего следует признать, что крушение Советского Союза было крупнейшей геополитической катастрофой века.” and then in the official translation into English, “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” Hyperlinks take you to Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly on 25 April 2005 on the Presidential website. That is the “original source”.

Not the greatest; not the most important; not the largest of anything. Not Number One. Not the superlative. One of many geopolitical disasters of the century, but a “major” one. If you like, you could argue with Putin about whether it was “major” or “minor” – here are his reasons for putting it on the “major” side of the list; you put yours:

As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere. Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.

(Note, by the way, how deceptive Åslund was with his second ellipsis).

Certainly big; anyone would agree that it was a bad enough disaster at least for those who lived through it. But bigger than any other disaster? No, but Putin isn’t saying it was. It ought to be perfectly obvious what he’s talking about: not a desire to re-create the USSR but an accurate description of how miserable the 1990s were for Russians (and, actually, for most other people in the former USSR). But, read on. This statement was part of the orator’s pattern, after the bad times, things are getting better: “Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years…”. And so on. Ex tenebris lux, or something like that.

The message is plain: Putin thought Russia was over the worst and better things can now happen (he was right, wasn’t he?). To use this as “proof” that he wants the USSR back, or is a “neo-imperialist” is wilfully to misunderstand what he said.

But just think how feeble your assertion that Putin wants to re-build the empire would be if the only quotation direct from his mouth that you had to nail your argument down tight with was “Putin did say that the collapse of the USSR was a pretty big disaster because people lost their savings, a lot of crooks stole stuff and many other sufferings ensued”. Doesn’t have quite the same ring does it?

So, the point that I was trying to get my correspondent to understand is that you simply cannot trust Western media reports on Putin or Russia. There is so much distortion, mis-quoting and outright falsifications that nothing you read in your newspaper, see on your TV or hear from your politicians can be accepted at face value. This particular quotation was ripped out of its context and made to serve another purpose; then it was endlessly repeated to cap the assertion that Putin is the world’s enemy because he wants to conquer his neighbours. The history of its use is a perfect illustration that the default position is always antiPutin. No secondary source can be trusted, always go to the original: is it an accurate quotation? what is the context? If you cannot find the original (both President and Prime Minister have a site in English, by the way; it’s not that hard to find the original), then doubt.

But there is a greater point. The West, NATO, the USA and its followers, we are at war with Russia. A rhetorical war with economic aspects at the moment but it may already be a shooting war by proxy. It will get closer to a real war if the Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 is passed. The authors of the bill are quite certain that Russia is expansionist, aggressive and wishes domination over its neighbours. The famous quotation is not in the bill but it is alive in the US Senate:

“The reality, however, is that Putin is not concerned with international law or historical justice. His sole focus is on correcting what he considers to be the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’ by reassembling the Soviet Union.” (Sen Ted Cruz)

“He sees the fall of the Soviet Union as the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.’ He does not accept that Russia’s neighbors, least of all Ukraine, are independent countries.” (Sen John McCain)

“His grip on the Russian presidency is central to his designs to restore Russian dominance. After all, Putin once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe’ of the last century’.” (Sen Roger Wicker)

And it’s in the White House too: “‘He’s been willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union,’ Obama said of Putin in that interview.”

An influential mis-quotation, wouldn’t you say? Creating and supporting anti-Russian propaganda since 2005. It would, of course, be wrong to say that we are creeping closer to war with Russia only because of a mis-quotation, but the mis-quotation has certainly played its part in the creep.

PART 2

A number of people have challenged my (and the official Kremlin translators’) choice of “a major” for “krupneyshey” in Putin’s famous sentence “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” I stand by what I said: he did not say that there was no worse geopolitical disaster in the century. Neither did he mean that he wanted the empire back.

1. Meaning of the word “krupneyshey”. I take my authority from Pekhlivanova and Lebedeva: “Russian Grammar in Illustrations”; Moscow 1994; p 161. Here it is stated “To say that an object possesses some quality in extraordinary degree, without comparing it to other objects, the Russian uses a special adjectival form ending in -eyshiy (or -ayshiy, after zh, ch, sh, shch). A footnote tells us “These forms are used more frequently in bookish speech”.

To express the meaning “the object possesses the quality in the highest degree as compared to other objects” the modifier samyy is used.

A photograph of that page of the book is below

2. There is the argument from common sense: no Russian would ever say that any “geopolitical disaster” was bigger than the Second World War. His tongue couldn’t even form the syllables.

3. One must assume that Putin chooses his words carefully and knows what they mean especially in a formal speech like his address to the Federal Assembly in 2005 from which the sentence is taken.

4. One must assume that the Kremlin English translators know what they are doing. They chose the word “a major” for “krupneyshey”. By the way, I read the speech when it was given and downloaded the text in Russian and English at the time. There has been no change since. (It occurs to me, given that, in Latin, “maior” is the comparative of “magnus” – big, or great – the translators by that word choice might have been trying to suggest some quality that was on the high side of the scale without being “maximus”; in short “krupneyshey”; not just big but bigger than most? The comparative meaning of “major” seems to be hard-wired: can you even say “more major” or “most major” in English without sounding illiterate?)

5. The context makes it quite clear that Putin is not talking about loss of empire or anything like that. Here is the text around the famous sentence:

I consider the development of Russia as a free and democratic state to be our main political and ideological goal. We use these words fairly frequently, but rarely care to reveal how the deeper meaning of such values as freedom and democracy, justice and legality is translated into life.

Meanwhile, there is a need for such an analysis. The objectively difficult processes going on in Russia are increasingly becoming the subject of heated ideological discussions. And they are all connected with talk about freedom and democracy. Sometimes you can hear that since the Russian people have been silent for centuries, they are not used to or do not need freedom. And for that reason, it is claimed our citizens need constant supervision.

I would like to bring those who think this way back to reality, to the facts. To do so, I will recall once more Russia’s most recent history.

Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.

Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere.

Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.

But they were mistaken.

That was precisely the period when the significant developments took place in Russia. Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years, the people of Russia had to both uphold their state sovereignty and make an unerring choice in selecting a new vector of development in the thousand years of their history. They had to accomplish the most difficult task: how to safeguard their own values, not to squander undeniable achievements, and confirm the viability of Russian democracy. We had to find our own path in order to build a democratic, free and just society and state.

When speaking of justice, I am not of course referring to the notorious “take away and divide by all” formula, but extensive and equal opportunities for everybody to develop. Success for everyone. A better life for all.

In the ultimate analysis, by affirming these principles, we should become a free society of free people. But in this context it would be appropriate to remember how Russian society formed an aspiration for freedom and justice, how this aspiration matured in the public mind.

Above all else Russia was, is and will, of course, be a major European power. Achieved through much suffering by European culture, the ideals of freedom, human rights, justice and democracy have for many centuries been our society’s determining values.

It is bordering on dishonesty, to take that one sentence out of that context and use it as the capstone of an accusation that Putin wants to get the USSR back. It obvious that he is saying the Russian people are not doomed to become slaves or failures, they have come through this disaster and will grow again; freedom and democracy are possible for them. Ex tenebris lux.

Text of the speech in Russian (http://archive.kremlin.ru/appears/2005/04/25/1223_type63372type63374type82634_87049.shtml) in English (http://archive.kremlin.ru/eng/speeches/2005/04/25/2031_type70029type82912_87086.shtml)

6. More quotations.

Speaking of freedom and democracy, if one must quote Putin, why not this one? “History proves all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are intransient.” (“Russia at the turn of the millennium” 1999). Interesting point, isn’t it? Democracies will outlive dictatorships, no matter how tough the former appear at the beginning.

What’s he mean by “democracy”? “Authoritarianism is complete disregard for the law. Democracy is the observance of the law.” (Interview with reporters, 24 Dec 2000). Depends on the laws, of course, but not a silly or trivial statement, is it?

Or, if we want his opinion on the USSR, how about this one? “In the Soviet Union, for many decades, we lived under the motto, we need to think about the future generation. But we never thought about the existing, current, present generations. And at the end of the day, we have destroyed the country, not thinking about the people living today.” (Putin, press conference in Washington, 16 Sept 2005, White House website). The failure of the USSR was built-in from the start.

I could go on – I have a file of quotations collected over the years – Putin has said a lot about a lot of things. Almost all of it carefully considered and embedded in a deep and broad context. But I’ll stop at one more:

“Our goals are very clear. We want high living standards and a safe, free and comfortable life. We want a mature democracy and a developed civil society. We want to strengthen Russia’s place in the world. But our main goal, I repeat, is to bring about a noticeable rise in our people’s prosperity.” (Address to the Federal Assembly, 26 May 2004”.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 23 DECEMBER 2021

Happy Christmas, so to speak, as it were, sort of. Let’s hope.

ULTIMATUM. Moscow has had enough. “Do they really think we do not see these threats [угроз]? Or do they think that we will just stand idly watching threats to Russia emerge? This is the problem: we simply have no room to retreat“. Excellent backgrounder from Doctorow. Here they are: draft USA/Russia treaty and draft Russia/NATO agreement. Short summary: after enumerating all the agreements these people have signed up to (remember all the stuff about “Rules-Based International Order”?) the drafts flesh out the principle that security is mutual. Neither should make the other nervous; if one party feels threatened, the issue will be resolved by negotiation. Neither is to station nuclear weapons outside its territory (which means the USA will have to pull back); no further expansion of NATO. Or to put it another way, USA/NATO must formally commit in writing to what they promised back then: “U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous ‘not one inch eastward’… was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders… according to declassified documents…”. Maybe Washington hears. USN seems to get it. We stand at the edge.

OR ELSE. All ultimatums have an “Or Else” – possibilities that I see. Two points – Russia will not “invade” Ukraine – it is a huge decaying, lawless, collapsed, unstable liability and Russia doesn’t want to rescue it, pay for it or police it. (This has been clear to me for years.) But it will respond powerfully to any foolishness from the Ukronazis. Second, stopping Nord Stream only costs Moscow money (it has plenty: USD620 billion-worth) but it will cost Germany much more.

TREATIES. There were four key Cold War arms control treaties, negotiated with much effort. The CFE Treaty controlled conventional weapons. The INF Treaty banned medium range nuclear weapons. START regulated the big nuclear weapons. Open Skies, the least of the four, allowed inspection flights (Moscow withdrew Saturday). All that remains is a feeble version of START. For all their deficiencies they kept the lid on things and created a level of trust and interaction. All were killed by Washington (blaming Moscow of course). This is part of Moscow’s motive to force a re-start.

KENNAN saw it all coming a quarter of a century ago: “a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs”.

GUNS. Since last Sitrep: super anti-submarine torpedo, Okhotnik dropping PGM, RPV shooting down helicopter target, mass production of Tsirkon begun, two new SSNs and two new Airborne regiments.

CORRUPTION. University report suggests extensive kickbacks in state contracts.

JUST NUKES AND OIL. A large maternity centre opened in Khanty-Mansi Region.

PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE. I’ll cover it next Sitrep. Summary from Sputnik.

BATTLE ON THE ICE MEMORIAL. Check it out. Powerful. Speaking of Russia’s attitude today…

RUSSIA/CHINA. The two presidents talk (Kremlin) (Beijing). Xi: “China and Russia need to launch more joint actions to uphold the security interests of the two sides more effectively. China and Russia need to step up coordination and collaboration in international affairs, be more vocal on global governance”. Washington should understand that Beijing is a co-signer of Moscow’s ultimatum.

MH17. The Dutch “trial” hops along to its pre-ordained conclusion.

WESTERN VALUES™. CSIS comes to call. Knowing what my American colleagues went through, and knowing that when Shere Khan growls, Tabaqui obeys, I informed SCF that I would stop writing for them and thanked them – always published what I sent, never tried to shape it, never changed a word and always treated me right. More from Ron Paul’s site.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. This takes the cake – boy oh boy when we do a whole bunch of stuff that there’s no way we ever will, you’ll be sorry then, you nasty people!

RUSSIA-UKRAINE RELATIONS. A Levada poll shows some interesting results. (Googlish) To me the most important finding is that about half of each think relations should be those of separate countries but without visa and customs barriers. (I suspect the Kremlin gets its views about Ukraine from sources like this rather than opeds in the WaPo or Guardian. Where does the White House get its do you suppose?)

UKRAINE. Zelensky likes to live dangerously – he’s shutting down the largest opposition party, attacked one of the plutocrats and decided to charge his predecessor with treason. Whole thing will probably blow up soon. In the cold.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

WE’VE SEEN THE ULTIMATUM, WHAT IS THE “OR ELSE”?

We are making it clear that we are ready to talk about changing from a military or a military-technical scenario to a political process that really will strengthen the military security… of all the countries in the OCSE, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space. We’ve told them that if that doesn’t work out, we will create counter-threats; then it will be too late to ask us why we made such decisions and positioned such weapons systems.

Мы как раз даем понять, что мы готовы разговаривать о том, чтобы военный сценарий или военно-технический сценарий перевести в некий политический процесс, который реально укрепит военную безопасность <…> всех государств на пространстве ОБСЕ, Евроатлантики, Евразии. А если этого не получится, то мы уже обозначили им (НАТО – прим. ТАСС), тогда мы тоже перейдем в вот этот режим создания контругроз, но тогда будет поздно нас спрашивать, почему мы приняли такие решения, почему мы разместили такие системы.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko quoted by TASS

Moscow has issued an ultimatum to USA/NATO. It is this: seriously negotiate on the issues laid out here and here. Some of them are non-negotiable.

Ultimatums always have an “Or Else” clause. What is the “or else” in this case? I don’t know but I’ve been thinking and reading other peoples’ thoughts and some ideas/guesses/suppositions follow. They are the order that they occurred to me. Whether Moscow has such a list in front of it or not, it certainly has many “counter-threats” it can use.

Why now? Two possible answers, each of which may be true. US/NATO have been using “salami tactics” against Russia for years; Moscow has decided that a second Ukraine crisis in one year is one thin slice too many. Second: Moscow may judge that, in the USA’s precipitous decline, this will be the last chance that there will be sufficient central authority to form a genuine agreement; an agreement that will avoid a catastrophic war. (The so-called Thucydides Trap).

Of course I don’t know what Putin & Co will do and we do have to factor in the existence of a new international player: Putin, Xi and Partners. Xi has just made it clear that Beijing supports Moscow’s “core interests”. It is likely that any “counter-threats” will be coordinated. The Tabaquis have responded as expected but maybe (let’s hope so) Washington is taking it more seriously.

Other commentaries I think are worth reading: Martyanov, Bernhard, Saker, Doctorow. The Western media is worthless as a source of independent thinking (typical clichéfest from the BBC – bolstered by The Misquotation) but maybe the WaPo shows that the wind is starting to blow from a different quarter: “The Cold War is over. Why do we still treat Russia like the Evil Empire?

To my CSIS readers: the world is at a grave inflection point and the West had better concentrate its attention. Moscow and Beijing don’t depend on me for advice and I’m not talking to them: regard this as one of the briefing notes that I used to write. Moscow is serious and it does have real “counter-threats”.

MILITARY MEASURES

  • Moscow could publish a list of targets in NATO countries that can and will be hit by nuclear or non-nuclear standoff weapons in the event of hostilities. These would likely include headquarters, airbases, port facilities, logistics facilities, ammunition dumps, military bases, munitions factories and so on.
  • Moscow could station medium and short-range nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad and Belarus. The latter requires agreement from Minsk but Belarus President Lukashenka has hinted that it will be granted. Moscow could then make it clear that they are aimed at NATO targets.
  • Moscow could station Iskanders and have lots of aircraft in the air with Kinzhals and let it be known that they are aimed at NATO targets.
  • Moscow could make a sudden strike by stand-off weapons and special forces that destroys the Azov Battalion in Eastern Ukraine. Moscow would see two advantages: 1) it would remove the principal threat to the LDNR and 2) it would change the correlation of forces in Kiev. It would also be a live demonstration of Russia’s tremendous military power.
  • Moscow could remind the West of the meaning of Soviet Marshal Ogarkov’s observation that precision weapons have, to a degree, made nuclear weapons obsolete. A prescient remark, somewhat ahead of its time 35 years ago, but realised now by Russia’s arsenal of hypersonic precision missiles.
  • The Russian Navy operates the quietest submarines in the world; Moscow could could make and publish a movie of the movements of some NATO ship as seen through the periscope.
  • I believe (suspect/guess) that the Russian Armed Forces have the capability to blind Aegis-equipped ships. Moscow could do so in public in a way that cannot be denied. Without Aegis, the US surface navy is just targets. Objection: this is a war-winning secret and should not be lightly used. Unless, of course, the Russian Armed Forces have something even more effective.
  • Russia has large and very powerful airborne forces – much stronger than the light infantry of other countries, they are capable of seizing and holding territory against all but heavy armoured attacks. And they’re being increased. Moscow could demonstrate their capability in an exercise showing a sudden seizing of key enemy facilities like a port or major airfield, inviting NATO representatives to watch from the target area.
  • The Russian Armed Forces could do some obvious targetting of the next NATO element to come close to Russia’s borders; they could aggressively ping ships and aircraft that get too close and publicise it.
  • Moscow could make a public demonstration of what Poseidons can do and show in a convincing way that they are at sea off the US coast. Ditto with Burevestnik. In short Moscow could directly threaten the US mainland with non-nuclear weapons. Something that no one has been able to do since 1814.
  • Does the Club-K Container Missile System actually exist? (If so, Moscow could give a public demonstration, if not pretend that it does). Either way, Moscow could publicly state that they will be all over the place and sell them to countries threatened by USA/NATO.

DIPLOMATIC/INTERNATIONAL MEASURES

  • Moscow could publicly transfer some key military technologies to China with licence to build them there.
  • Moscow could make a formal military treaty with China with an “Article 5” provision.
  • Moscow could make a formal military treaty with Belarus including significant stationed strike forces.
  • Moscow could station forces in Central Asian neighbours.
  • Russia and Chinese warships accompanied by long-range strike aircraft could do a “freedom of navigation” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Moscow could recall ambassadors, reduce foreign missions, restrict movement of diplomats in Russia.
  • Moscow could ban all foreign NGOs immediately without going through the present process.
  • Moscow could recognise LDNR and sign defence treaties.
  • Moscow could work on Turkey, Hungary and other dissident EU/NATO members.
  • Moscow could give military aid to or station weapons in Western Hemisphere countries.
  • Beijing could do something in its part of the world to show its agreement and coordination with Moscow raising the threat of a two front conflict.

ECONOMIC MEASURES

  • Moscow could close airspace to civil airlines of the countries that sanction Russia.
  • Moscow could declare that Russian exports must now be paid for in Rubles, gold, Renminbi or Euros (Euros? It depends).
  • Moscow could announce that Nord Stream 2 will be abandoned if certification if delayed past a certain date. (Personally, I am amused by how many people think that shutting it down would cause more harm to Russia than to Germany: for the first it’s only money and Russia has plenty of that; for the second….)
  • Moscow could stop all sales of anything to USA (rocket motors and oil especially).
  • Moscow could announce that no more gas contracts to countries that sanction it will be made after the current ones end. This is a first step. See below.
  • As a second and more severe step, Moscow could break all contracts with countries that sanction Russia on the grounds that a state of hostility exists. That is, all oil and gas deliveries stop immediately.
  • Moscow could announce that no more gas will be shipped to or through Ukraine on the grounds that a state of hostility exists.
  • Russia and China could roll out their counter-SWIFT ASAP.

SUBVERSIVE MEASURES

  • Moscow could stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine (Novorossiya) supporting secession movements.
  • Moscow could order special forces to attack key nazi organisations throughout Ukraine.
  • Moscow could order special forces to attack military facilities throughout Ukraine.

*********************************************

But I’m sure that whatever “counter-threats” Moscow comes up with will be powerful and surprise the West. My recommendation is that USA/NATO take the ultimatums seriously.

After all, the Russian proposals really are mutually beneficial – their theme is that nobody should threaten anybody and if anybody should feel threatened, there should be serious talks to resolve the issue.

Security is mutual:

if all feel secure, then all are secure;

if one feels insecure, then none is secure.

As we now see: when Russia feels threatened by what USA/NATO do, it can threaten back. Better to live in a world in which nobody is threatening anybody and everybody feels secure.

George Kennan foresaw this a quarter of a century ago:

I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.

AMERICANS NEED A CONSPIRACY THEORY THEY CAN ALL AGREE ON

No subtlety of thought survives in the culture of unreason. Public space is populated with poseurs, cutouts, and imposters. Public discourse, with some exceptions, is much of the time not worth bothering with.

Patrick Lawrence: Obituary for Russiagate.

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

There is a conspiracy theory that the CIA put the very expression into general use to discredit alternate theories about the murder of President Kennedy. Perhaps that’s true – there is a CIA document – but the expression has been around for a long time. At any event it has become a slur to discredit political opponents. The accusation replaces rational discussion.

There have been actual conspiracies in history. There was a conspiracy to murder Caesar. And to murder Anwar Sadat. The Bolsheviks did conspire to take power and so did Guy Fawkes. Sometimes they succeeded – often surprising the conspirators – and sometimes they didn’t. Many times the conspirators thought the deed itself was all that needed to be done but Caesar was succeeded by Caesar and Sadat by his chosen successor. There are probably fewer conspiracies than people imagine but they do exist.

Conspiracy theories abound in the USA today. But, it should be made clear from the outset of this discussion that there are two different kinds of conspiracy theories – unacceptable ones and acceptable ones. An example of the first kind is the assertion that Trump was cheated of victory by vote-faking in key areas. The assertion is “baseless”, pushed by the “far-right-wing” and the “deluded“; has been “debunked” in detail; its so-called arguments are “bogus, none credible“; there is “no evidence” and so on. The full weight of the corporate media stands against this idea and it flourishes only in the undergrowth. Nonetheless, 29% of Americans in a March survey “completely” or “mostly” agreed that the election had been stolen from Trump (66% of Republicans, 27% of independents and 4% (!) of Democrats). So that particular conspiracy theory has significant support.

Other conspiracy theories are respectable: for example the one that the Russians got Trump elected in the first place. Loudly trumpeted by the corporate media for the entirety of his term, the indictment of a principal source of the famous dossier ought to have killed it. But no: to the believers the revelation that a key foundation of the conspiracy theory was a made-up and paid-for fraud makes no difference – “Even if every single word in the Steele dossier was wrong, that would not change the fact that the Russians sought to manipulate the US election“; “it wasn’t a hoax“; the fact that it was a fake was further proof that it was Kremlin-managed.

And so the American population is divided between those who think that Putin won the 2016 US presidential election and those who think Trump won the 2020 election. There is no common ground.

A lot has been written about conspiracy theories, the how and why of them – here’s one and there’s plenty more. But something that is seldom mentioned in these discussions is falsifiability. As Karl Popper argued, a real theory must be capable of being proved false. There must be some imaginable empirical datum that would disprove it. Sometimes, as with the addition of the Lorentz transformations to Newtonian/Galilean transformations, an old theory is proven to be accurate but incomplete. Sometimes an old theory is completely disproven as the aether theory was by the Michelson-Morley experiment. But all real theories are falsifiable. A scientific theory, in short, is true until someone proves that it isn’t. As Richard Feynman said: “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”. And, as another great physicist observed, these changes are not necessarily accomplished by rational argument: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents… but rather because its opponents eventually die.”

This principle can also be applied to conspiracy theories. For example, if it could be established that Dominion voting machines can not be connected to the Internet, that fact would be a fatal blow to one of the pillars of the Trump won story. Likewise, if it could be established that a fundamental source of the Dossier was a fake then a pillar of the Putin elected Trump story falls. A theory that cannot be falsified is nonsense. Likewise a theory whose believers will never accept any contrary evidence is nonsense. Q-Anon rolls on for years promising the Complete Revelation every tomorrow and the one after that; the Russiagate conspiracy theory rolls on mutating as required. The more contrary evidence, the more tightly believers cling to them. Actual conspiracy theories therefore are not falsifiable because they’re all conspiracy and no theory.

If they are falsifiable, therefore, “conspiracy theories” are theories; no modifier. The examples in the article cited above – Pizzagate, Q-Anon, Obama’s place of birth and Soros – all happen to be theories that violate conventional wisdom and therefore are tossed into the conspiracy theory bin by the conventionally-inclined. Typically, the author makes no mention of a conspiracy theory that occupied far more space and effort and had much greater effect on the real world than any of these. And that’s because Trumputin was conventional wisdom, pushed every day by the corporate media, and the others weren’t. Trumputin was said to have “a mountain of evidence” and “proof“; the others were dismissed without consideration.

In short, rather than using the useless expletive “conspiracy theory”, it would be more accurate to say that theories that run counter to conventional wisdom abound in the United States today. Some of them – Q-Anon – fail the test of falsifiability, others do not. Some have received enough attention to make them more or less probable, others have not. In this respect, it is appropriate to look at what Americans think of their mass media. To an older generation “I read it in the paper” meant something but a Gallup poll in October tells us that it doesn’t mean much today. Only 7% of US adults surveyed had a “great deal” of “trust and confidence” and 29% “a fair amount”; the “trusters” were outnumbered by the 29% who had “none at all” and 34% “not very much”; in 1997 the trusters were 53%. Does anyone expect that decline to reverse? Another poll says the USA ranks last in media trust of 86 countries. One more shows a major political division. No one should be surprised – the mainstream media was full of one conspiracy theory and ignored the other.

COVID-19 is another revelation that there are two separate islands of opinion. Take, for example, the simple factual question – yes or no – did Dr Fauci’s organisation fund gain-of-function experiments in the Wuhan laboratory? A rather important matter, one would think. Snopes, that reliable defender of the status quo, says “unproven” in May in a long-winded piece. Denied by Fauci in May: The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” Two Pinocchios said the WaPo. But finally admitted in October: “a top official at the National Institutes of Health has conceded that contrary to the repeated assertions of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the NIH did indeed fund highly dangerous gain-of-function research on bat-borne coronaviruses in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.” And more: “The annual report described the group’s work from June 2017 to May 2018, which involved creating new viruses using different parts of existing bat coronaviruses and inserting them into humanized mice in a lab in Wuhan, China. The work was overseen by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is headed by Anthony Fauci.” And so May’s conspiracy theory became October’s fact.

Did the virus leak from these US-funded experiments? No one knows but it cannot be ruled out. As to Dr Fauci himself, he may have overreached by telling his critics that he represents science; when even the WaPo carries a piece entitled “Fauci Can’t Use Science to Excuse His Missteps” perhaps his best-before date is nearing. Despite the prayer candles. In this respect, the fate of Robert Kennedy’s book, The Real Dr Fauci, is indicative; it’s Number One on Amazon with 96% five-star ratings. This is the more remarkable because of the full-scale attack on him from the establishment media: he is “the dumbest Kennedy“; “race-baiting ‘documentary’ and disinformation to advance bogus theories and seed anti-vaccine sentiment“; “documented history of promoting debunked theories about vaccines“; banned on social media. Tucker Carlson, in “a new escalation of his anti-science rhetoric”, had an interview “with longtime anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.” Nonetheless, a lot of people are buying and reading it. These media campaigns don’t work as well as they used to. Indeed the 29% who had no trust at all probably believe the reverse of what the conventional media says. I know I do: if they’re all shouting the sane thing, I take it as a powerful indicator that the opposite is true. We should read Western media the way the Soviets read theirs.

However, there are unrelenting attempts to create conspiracy theories that all Americans can agree on. For years we have had the conspiracy theory that Putin is behind everything bad; in its current manifestation he’s about to invade Ukraine (or as the US Defense Secretary put it: “an incursion by the Soviet Union into the Ukraine“). Another fast-growing set of conspiracy theories focus on China, the “Wuhan lab leak” being one example. (Dangerous that because of Fauci’s funding of GoF research in Wuhan). China is about to invade Taiwan or starving Uyghers are forced to stuff themselves with pork or tennis players are disappeared; these conspiracy theories are safer. One of the principal pushers of the first conspiracy theory is switching to the other: he senses the change in the party line. And there’s always North Korea where the rats eat the babies and the babies eat the rats.

The China conspiracy theory seems to be working – a survey by the Reagan Foundation found that 52% saw China as the “greatest threat” to the USA (Russia well behind at 14% and North Korea just behind it at 12%). Three years ago Russia was 30% to China’s 21%. More striking is that China has gained twenty points since February. Can the Putin-won-2016/Trump-won-2020 divide be bridged by a Chinadunnit conspiracy theory?

But agreeing on a common enemy is one thing, the internal divisions are something else. In this respect the Reagan Foundation survey cited above is indicative. It finds that disbelief is spreading rapidly in the American population: trust in all institutions is dropping; confidence in the US military is dropping; support for active global leadership is dropping. A survey just now shows a slight majority of American youth regarding their democracy as in trouble. Not the strongest foundation for more foreign adventures.

A deeply divided country: there is no common conversation in the United States today – one person’s conspiracy theory is another’s truth.