TWO WAYS TO APPROACH MOSCOW

(I wrote this under a pseudonym four years ago today. Another reminder of the present mess.)

Apparently the Soviets were really concerned about Ronald Reagan; I guess they believed the propaganda that the liberal US media put out about low intelligence, fanatic anti-Soviet stance, ignorance and all round crazy unreliability. In fact Reagan was quite different and maintained at least one alternate source of information as Suzanne Massie retails in this fascinating memoir. She acted as a confidante, teacher and emissary and had many meetings with him. He wanted a different view of the USSR than he got from his advisors and she gave it to him.

Of course, I knew nothing of this at the time; I sensed relations were tense but, at my low level, I wasn’t aware of how dangerous it actually was in the early 1980s. Fortunately we were in touch with a Soviet undercover agent – Oleg Gordiyevskiy – who told us how worried and nervous the Soviets were. The story that I heard later was that the Soviets feared that a planned NATO exercise around this time might be a cover for the real thing – a surprise nuclear attack (remember the Western liberal press was saying Reagan was crazy enough to nuke ‘em). I already knew that, for the Soviet war doctrine, surprise was so important an advantage, that it could not be permitted. In short, if they really thought that we were about to strike them, they would face enormous pressure to make a pre-emptive strike. When all this was understood, the exercise was greatly scaled down so as to assuage the Soviet fears. In those days Reagan and other Western leaders understood that Moscow’s point of view was important.

Going back to Massie’s memoir, “So what was different about President Reagan’s approach and what is its relevance to today? From the beginning Reagan, who was always an extremely courteous man, treated Gorbachev with respect – as an equal. He did not scold him as if he were a bad child who didn’t do his homework – but as partner with whom one could talk and work out problems.”

Let’s compare this with President Obama’s approach as revealed in his interview with The Economist last month. “We had a very productive relationship with President Medvedev. We got a lot of things done that we needed to get done.” It’s clear who the first “we” is, who’s the second? Probably the same as the first: ie Washington. Doesn’t it sound as if Obama is saying that, at long as Washington got its way, relations were good? Then there’s “But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything…” Doesn’t that sound like he’s saying that Russia isn’t important enough to bother taking its point of view into account?

Quite a different approach, isn’t it? From Reagan’s respect and mutual effort to casual dismissal.

No wonder Washington’s policies are failing across the board and a Gallup poll finds the USA heads the world’s choice as the “greatest threat to peace”.

 

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 OCTOBER 2018

WAR. I didn’t notice this at the time, but it’s effectively a declaration of war against Russia. I will be writing more but, in essence, the US State Department official responsible for Russia has given the game away. “It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.” It’s a Mackinder war; so far fought by sanctions (the economic fundament) and propaganda (political fundament). Ignore details of the latest accusations against Russia (Star Wars, organic food); they’re only there because, unlike the Romans, the Americans are uncomfortable about their imperium unless they drizzle moralistic cant over it. But think about it: when American businessmen outsourced manufacturing to China, Beijing took advantage of the gift. NATO expansion destroyed better relations with Russia. Washington alienates the Iran that its failed wars make more influential. Its wooing of India isn’t going well (see below). Destruction is its policy in MENA. And CAATSA will alienate everyone else. I call it a series of unforced errors.

SKRIPALMANIA. Has now been completely outsourced to Bellingcat. Which tells the discerning observer two things: 1) there is no evidence 2) the truth is probably the opposite. (And for those of you who take Bellingcat seriously: become discerning.)

LATEST. Do the Russians spy? They’d be fools not to. Do I believe this? Not from these sources.

THE CONSPIRACY. Bit by bit, slowly (far too slowly) the story comes out. A DNC/FBI/CIA conspiracy to discredit Trump. I just read Shattered where it is stated that the Russia story was invented as the excuse for failure: but the book establishes that defeat was the consequence of never being able to articulate a reason to vote for her, a disorganised campaign and not observing the dissatisfaction that Sanders and Trump (and Bill Clinton) perceived. The Russia stuff is 1) a distraction from failure, 2) a hook on which to hang Trump and 3) propaganda for the “Mackinder war”.

RETURN. Moscow has been quietly trying to get some of its rich emigrés to return. Here’s one interesting story. I am amused by the conceptual difficulties the authors have with his story: fear for his life or that his money will be lifted? Berezovskiy – and just after begging Putin to let him back, Perepilichniy, Glushkov, Golubev and Skripal and Litvenenko. Russian exiles don’t last as long in the UK as elsewhere; maybe GRU hitmen only have maps of England. And remember the “Cyprus haircut“.

LAUNCH FAILURE. The emergency system worked and both passengers landed safely. Videos.

BATTLEFIELD TESTING. Russia’s Military Operation in Syria: Three Years On” is a round-up of all the weapons they have tested. A lot.

S300s. Have been delivered to Syria – video. 24 S300PM launchers and 300-plus missiles. They were formerly in Russian service until replaced by S400s and were handed over for free. Tough talk from Israel. An alternative opinion: an Israeli writer thanks Russia for “saying to Israel: Stop right there”.

VICTIM OF RUSSIA. Says Volker. No, of Kiev. Americans do swallow whatever Kiev feeds them – remember Senator Imhofe and his photos of Russians invading through the Ukrainian mountains?

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The Daily Beast has forgotten the first rule of decision-based evidence-making when it says there’s no evidence of Russian interference in US midterms: after the decision, you create the evidence. If the Dems win, then the Russians didn’t; if the Repubs win, they must have.

INDIA. Putin visited and business was conducted. Washington will not be happy: Delhi will buy Russian warships and S400s and oil from Iran. Some think Delhi has capitulated to Washington but I don’t agree. I think it’s doing what every wise middle power does: don’t be drawn into anyone’s orbit and avoid offending the mighty. Beijing’s very successful strategy: “hide your ambitions and disguise your claws”.

CHEAP AND STUPID. More nuggets from the Stupidity Mine. The US Navy will blockade Russia (are there no atlases in Washington?). Syria “that flopping cadaver of a regime“. Britain will defend the Arctic from Russian land grabs (atlas please). Destroy Russian missiles. They’re so frustrated: other people they’ve demonised have gone (Aidid, Saddam, Milosevic….) but Putin goes on and on.

US BIOWEAPON LAB? Suggested by a former Georgian minister; reiterated by the Russian MoD; denied by everybody else. Some reporting and a discussion; you decide; I don’t know, information wars go both ways. This story, however, does seem to be real.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

OCKHAM’S RAZOR AS A GUIDE TO SLICING NONSENSE AWAY

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation)

Why “razor”? Because it cuts away the unnecessary and redundant. Several Latin versions but this is the one I remember: noli multiplicare entia praeter necessitatem. Literally: “do not multiply essences without necessity” which is Medieval for “don’t make your theory any more complicated than it has to be” or “the simplest explanation is the best”. Or Newton (another Englishman, four centuries later): “Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes“. The modern American equivalent would be KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

On the anniversary of 911 we were again inundated with theories about “controlled explosions“. A great deal, if not almost all, of the “evidence” that 911 was an inside job is the presumed “free fall” of the buildings, jet fuel can’t melt steel, thermite and many many other supposed “proofs” that the buildings were actually collapsed by a planned implosion. I have never found this convincing and am perplexed why so much energy is spent arguing back and forth.

A more productive approach is to turn the question upside down which is the practical application of “Ockham’s Razor”. “Turning the question upside down” is a technique I recommend. And there is much relevance to an intelligent and independent-minded assessment of the Western propaganda war: Litvinenko, Skripal, US election interference, Assad and chemical weapons. If the West really had evidence for its accusations, it wouldn’t be relying on Bellingcat. Ockham’s Razor slices off the nonsense.

The essence of the “conspiracy theory” conspiracy theory is that everyone is so busy arguing over minutiae that they never ask whether the fundamental assumption makes sense. Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would try to kill Skripal years after he was traded? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about perfume bottles? Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would kill Litvinenko by such a convoluted and detectable way? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about tea rooms? Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would try to swing the US election without using his best information? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about a ten minute meeting with a Russian lawyer? Does it fundamentally make sense that Assad would kill children with Sarin in the hour of victory? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about holes in roads? The more we argue about perfume bottles, holes or tea cups, the more the lies stick. And maybe that’s the intention: “The point of propaganda is to leave an impression after the details have been forgotten“.

Ockham’s Razor starts to cut when you ask yourself:

if it was a conspiracy, what is the simplest conspiracy?

911 is an illustration. Let’s pretend that our Secret Hidden Masters decide that a “War on Terror” would be good for them and that an attack on some American landmark by Crazy Muslim Fanatics will start it off. Angry Muslims are set up; easy enough: entrapments are done all the time. The Masters figure out a way to control the planes because they can’t be sure the dummies can or will do what what they’re supposed to do. They block communications because passengers phoning to say the hijackers are panicking too would wreck the story. And, on The Day, the planes hit the Twin Towers, they burn out leaving a memorable and exploitable image: lower two-thirds white, black above: “Candles of freedom” “Re-Light Freedom!” “Remember the Candles!”. The slogans write themselves. Chalked on bombs: 9 and two white stripes with black tops! Not too complicated: most of the people who could reveal the conspiracy die and the few others (who aren’t already in “The Club”) can have quiet car accidents off stage. A powerful effect at minimum exposure.

But suppose that one conspirator wants the buildings to come down. But this would be absurdly over-complicated: it takes a long time to openly prepare an empty building for a planned detonation; how much longer when you have to do it in secret? Every night you have to bet that several hundred people will notice nothing; every day you have to bet that several thousand notice nothing. They all know that the buildings were a target before and they will phone security. And if one person does, the plot is blown. Odds of millions to one, risking everything, for no discernible advantage.

Competent conspirators want their conspiracies to be simple, manageable and easy to execute. They want the risk of discovery to be as low as possible. Keep the buildings standing; it will serve the purpose just as well, or even better, and at a fraction of the risk. So, William of Ockham tells you to stop poring over videos: the controlled demolition stuff didn’t happen because it would have added immense and unproductive complication.

And he tells us that Putin didn’t kill Litvinenko by dribbling radioactive poison in every restaurant in London; he didn’t try to kill Skripal by scattering a nerve agent randomly around Wiltshire; he didn’t manipulate Americans “to get me out of the way”, ignoring his most powerful weapon; Assad doesn’t gas children to make his enemies attack him; Kerry doesn’t actually have data on MH17.

It’s not all that complicated once you think about the fundamental probability.

Noli multiplicare entia praeter neccesitam

What actually did happen? Who killed Litvinenko, brought down MH17, executed 911, what’s the story on the Skripals? It’s not our job to refute the Gish Gallop of accusations; the accusers are obliged to prove their cases. They have to prove them not by megaphone, petitio principii, Bellingcat’s inventions or by starting other false hares; they have to use the same old boring methods that we used to see English detectives do in dozens of BBC TV series: evidence, argument, proof. So, less “Litvinenko: A deadly trail of polonium“, more Miss Marple and Poirot from the BBC, please. To quote another fictional English detective who would be unable these days to get a job either in the BBC or in Her Majesty’s Government:

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

But I forget Ockham’s Razor: these accusations are not the result of detection, they do not involve reasoning, they’re Goebbels, they’re not Holmes. Propaganda.

(PS. I have referred to 911 to show that not all examples of petitio principii are done by the Establishment. It is depressingly common to assume the answer and remain in the bubble: confirmation bias, it’s called.)

NATO THEN AND NATO NOW

(I wrote this under a pseudonym four years ago today. Any updating needed do you think?)

Then I supported NATO and believed in the “Soviet threat”. I didn’t really think that the Soviets were planning to attack the West (although it wasn’t a bad idea to keep NATO strong, just in case) but I believed that they – the system, that is – were opposed to us. NATO was a necessary balancer. And nothing I have learned since has changed my mind.

But the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union disappeared. So what to do with NATO? Some said it had served its purpose, “won” the Cold War (everybody won it actually), and could justifiably pack up and sell off the Brussels headquarters. On the other hand, others argued, as the most successful peace-time alliance ever, it would be a pity to get rid of it. About this time I was interviewed for a job on NATO’s International Staff (big tax-free salaries, not very heavy work schedule, good location) and one of the questions was: What’s NATO’s future? Well, said I, to become an alliance of the civilised countries against whatever was coming next. Who might these “civilised countries” be? Present members of course but more too: Russia (or was it still the USSR then? can’t remember), Japan, Australia, Brazil, quite a few in fact. I didn’t get the job (not, I think, because of my answers but because it wasn’t my country’s turn to get a job on the IS).

Well, that’s not what happened. As we all know NATO expanded (amusingly somebody after a year or so decided “expansion” sounded bad and “enlargement” became the compulsory word). I remember one of my bosses (a well-connected one who had spent three years in NATO HQ) assuring me that NATO expansion was such a stupid idea that it would never happen.

But it did happen and today there are lots and lots of new members – can anyone outside the NATO bureaucracy name them all? (there’s a story that the Canadian PM mixed up Slovenia and Slovakia and so they both got in) – and possibly more coming. Open to all who want in; why NATO wouldn’t dream of interfering with a country’s free right to choose. But oddly enough, no one in Africa has applied. Or South America, or Australasia, or Asia. And as to Russia, well, you know its application will be lost in the mail.

So we came to Kosovo. And NATO discovered a new role doing “humanitarian interventions” (and everybody there preserved his job! Hurray!) Kosovo set a pattern we’ve seen several times since. Every media outlet reporting exactly the same thing. One side committing every possible crime: terrible human rights violations, aggression, racism, whatever. The other side painted as the victim. (They say Kosovar men are being marched around; walking blood banks suggests a NATO mouthpiece. No women from Serbian rape camps have been be found; their culture tells them to be ashamed suggests a CNN mouthpiece. What’s the collateral damage in a village of a 500-lb bomb dropped on some target identified from 20,000 feet? Nobody asks. Why was the bridge in Novy Sad destroyed? Nobody knows.) We must intervene! Short. Easy. Justified. Preferably by air. No casualties. On our side, that is.

And so it happens. It takes a LOT longer than it was supposed to. And there’s nervousness about an actual land invasion being maybe necessary. But it ends eventually; thanks (not that they are given) to Russia’s Chernomyrdin. (Not, come to think of it, the last time Russia saves Washington and NATO from its folly).

Doubts and difficulties are immediately forgotten. Human rights professionals, like a certain Canadian Harvard personality, praise the intervention as a model of power wisely used in a good cause. Best-selling military authors hail it as the first time air power has won a war all by itself. All is well, in the best of all possible worlds. And you’ll be glad to hear that Albright and Clark are doing OK in their business interests in Kosovo.

And there’s another pattern set by this first NATO “humanitarian bombing” mission. Later – in the actual case of Kosovo fifteen years later – we learn that we weren’t quite told everything:

unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions… ethnic cleansing… violence and intimidation… extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions, and inhumane treatment. We believe that the evidence is compelling that these crimes… were conducted in an organized fashion and were sanctioned by certain individuals in the top levels of the KLA leadership.

NATO gave these people a whole country. Well done NATO! Well done Western media outlets!

But, learning nothing, ever praising itself for making “a more secure world”, NATO tramples on. It has now become a box of spare parts from which Washington chooses its next “coalition of the willing” for the next “humanitarian bombing”. And what are the results? Kosovo is a major crime centre. Afghanistan is about the same as it was before but at least Al Qaeda isn’t running it. Iraq is worse than anything Saddam Hussein or his two loathsome sons could ever have produced. Libya is a jihadist playground. Ukraine, in the eleven months from postponement of the EU agreement to postponement of the EU agreement, is a horrible nightmare with worse coming. Al Qaeda is back, bigger and better, as ISIS. How exactly has NATO made a more secure world?

All NATO does nowadays is visit chaos, bloodshed, disaster and destruction on countries using justifications we later learn are exaggerated or faked. But no one asks what’s going on or how we could be so mistaken over and over again. The monster lurches on, destroying and threatening.

NATO is a serious threat to the security of its members. To say nothing of the rest of the world.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 27 SEPTEMBER 2018

CONSEQUENCES KEEP COMING. Moscow’s story is that the Israeli F16s (or at least one) hid behind the Russian aircraft. Jerusalem denies this but the Air Force commander did immediately hustle off to Moscow. Other theories. Minister of Defence Shoygu sets out the consequences here. S300s with IFF ASAP. But, to my mind, the most significant is his third point: “In the regions adjacent to Syria and over the Mediterranean Sea, all satellite navigation, on-board radars and communications systems of aircraft engaging targets in Syrian territory will be jammed”. Everybody suspects that Russian communications jamming technology is very effective and powerful. We’ve had some revelations of what they can do with their capture of drones and the last cruise missile attack on Syria (unless you believe the Pentagon’s idiotic statement of 76 missiles at one complex). Given that the US and its allies have been fighting enemies without any such capacity for decades, I suspect that Russia is far ahead of anyone in these capabilities. (And I would make the same argument about its air defence: it’s probably the world leader there too. And I would also bet that the Russians practise operations with no communications and no air superiority and that nobody in NATO does.) The mere fact that Shoygu – nobody’s idea of a blowhard – has made the statement shows that he is confident that Russia can do it. Given that the armed forces of the USA & Co cannot function without GPS and easy secure communications, Russia turning off the switch would be a stunning blow. Which leads me to suspect that whatever capabilities Russia reveals in the coming time will not be its full powers. I reiterate: NATO has already lost any future fighting war with Russia on its own territory or near to it. The consequences of “light-hearted actions” just keep coming: “Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.”

MH17. Russia was immediately blamed and it’s been a fact-free Gish gallop since then: flight routes changed retroactively, sudden discoveries of “evidence” defying the laws of physics, faked up intercepts, a potential suspect gets a veto but the owners of the airplane are shut out, blame Russia before the inquiry is finished, no sign of Kerry’s promised data but “social media and common sense” instead, radars switched off, damage ignored when it doesn’t fit the story. But, finally, a mistake: the Ukrainians came up with a fact. Missile parts have serial numbers, those serial numbers are recorded in logbooks, logbooks exist and the numbers can be looked up. Those parts were from a Buk missile supplied to a Soviet AD unit in the Ukrainian SSR in 1986 and the missile remained there when the USSR broke up. Oh, and Bellingcat’s favourite video is a fake. Conclusions: 1) that particular missile had nothing to do with MH17; 2) the Ukrainians shot MH17 down either on purpose or by accident (wouldn’t be the first time). But let’s gallop round the fact-free track again.

SYRIA. As I suspected, lots of talking and manoeuvring in the background. Russia holds most of the cards. Putin and Erdoğan have cut a deal and the battle is postponed. You can watch the rough cuts of the next “CW attack” yourself. (Was the whole thing a ploy to get the White Helmets to expose themselves?) In any case, with Shoygu’s new jamming decree, a FUKUS attack would be much more difficult.

WADA YA KNOW? Ban lifted, sour grapes. But, again, the damage has been done. The purpose of propaganda is to leave an impression when the details are forgotten. (A theory that dear little Canada was behind the accusation. I dunno: I just put it out there for interest: but two Canadians led the charge.)

WHO’S DRIVING THE CLOWN CAR? “Mnuchin’s slip-up forced Treasury officials to scramble to come up with a plan that would match the secretary’s under-oath statement, according to four congressional sources directly involved in the sanctions process. And in April, the department sanctioned Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska and his aluminum company Rusal”. Daily Beast – not a Trump-friendly source but the story sounds plausible to me. As experience shows, US knowledge and intelligence about Russia is pretty poor. Nevertheless, more sanctions for some reason or other. Soon, the way things are going, the only country the USA won’t be sanctioning will be itself.

SKRIPALMANIA. Poisoned, not poisoned. Murderers” says BoJo. More Bellingcrap.

NEW NWO. Trump blew up some more of the globalist NWO in his UN speech. But still the rubbish about Iran the “leading sponsor of terrorism” and let’s sanction Venezuela for the “restoration of democracy”. Confused? So am I: is it the “right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions” or does the USA still “tell you how to live or work or worship”?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

USA MIDTERMS

1. Dims get control of HofR in which case all investigations stop and the war against Trump intensifies. Result USA weaker. Rest of us happy.

2. Dims do not get control of HofR. In which case Trump triumphs and kills off Deep State. Result USA less aggressive. Rest of us happy.

So what’s not to hope for?

RUSSIAN MH17 BRIEFING

(Also published at Sic Semper Tyrannis. Picked up by JRL/2018/171/27)
My thoughts on yesterday’s Russian MoD briefing.
1. The Russians have powerfully argued (and the logbooks are ready for inspection if you think they’re forged. Ought to be possible to show they really are 30 years old) that the Buk fragments suddenly discovered by Ukraine in May are from a missile that has always been in Ukraine. (Personally, I remain to be convinced that a Buk brought it down: not enough “bowtie” fragments.)
2. The videos are fake. The sightline evidence is, to my mind, apodictic. I’ve seen other arguments that they are fake but these are the most convincing. (I do like the backwards driving TEL).
3. The voice recording. Well, we’ll see. But don’t forget the Ukrainians did shoot down a civilian airliner in 2001 and lied about it until they could lie no longer.
4. Why have the Russians waited until now? Well the missile fragments only appeared in May, and it would take some time to search through all these mouldy old paper booklets to find it and there’s the usual security BS in clearing SS documents. As to the rest, all I can assume is that the Russians decided they might as well tack them on too.
5. Notice the hint that they have the radar info. (Kiev’s official line was that everything was down for maintenance.)
I expect the West/JIT to just pretend this never was said. But (one can naively hope) that now that the Netherlands have stopped supporting AQ-in-Syria and the “white helmets” that… maybe….
…but NO. Too naive of me. Too many lies, too hard to back out of them.
The West is lost and it won’t happen.

Addendum 19 Sep

Petri Krohn is unconvinced by the vanishing point argument pointing out that the Buk TEL does not sit flat on the trailer. But the vanishing point for the truck itself is wrong as the picture below shows. (Video at 15:03) The picture shows three vanishing points – the true one (green), the truck’s (blue) and the Buk TEL’s (yellow).

BUK VANISHING POINT

The second thing that occurs to me is that the Russians are now looking for the log book for all the rest of the missile: warhead, guidance system, fusing system and so forth which would (as far as I know) have been made in different factories.

Why would they keep such detailed notes? If a missile misfired they would want to be able to check all the missiles from that batch in order to see if they were defective too. Plus, in the full employment Soviet system, there were lots of jobs that didn’t necessarily make much economic sense from a free enterprise perspective.

RUSSIA-TURKEY IDLIB

(Quick response to Sputnik question about significance of Russia-Turkey agreement on Idlib)

It’s not the end of the war, as the recent attack shows, but it’s another step. It presumably defers the threatened FUKUS attack until a different political constellation forms as Ankara-Washington relations worsen and the US mid-term elections either free Trump from the Russia hoax or lead the USA further towards dysfunction.

Meanwhile Moscow gives us a master class in war, showing that it’s more than just killing and destruction: diplomacy, talk and patience are also needed to move towards a settlement.

And FUKUS+I have been shown to be nothing but spoilers: all they can do is blow things up or induce their hired “moderate rebels” to do so. There have no positive role to play in Syria or, for that matter, elsewhere in the MENA area.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 13 SEPTEMBER 2018

WHAT IS TO BE DONE? PCR asks. Martyanov and Saker answer. PCR responds. More, more. A collapsing imperium is dangerous:What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta“. We are in serious times, folks.

ELECTIONS. The pedestal party won most but the communists and Zhirinovskiy won some. The same boring scene for years: the ruling party is dull but people support what stands on its pedestal. They’re not very enthusiastic (turnout in the low 30s) but neither are they very discontented. The political system works well enough. Pension protests continue.

RUSSIA INC. IMF predicts 1.7% growth this year (North America 2.8% and Europe 2.4%). Deloitte CIS expresses confidence; Fitch says coped with sanctions well. I say, considering the economic war being waged against it, that Russia isn’t doing badly.

SYRIA. Two facts: Idlib is the last stronghold of jihadists in Syria and Damascus sooner or later will have to take it. Numerous threats out of FUKUS about CW attacks (Assad must be a disciple of Sun Tznever). (Check this story out and see what you think.) Very dangerous. Optimistic view that the people running the US military aren’t that stupid; pessimistic view that the neocons are that stupid; Russia is winning with the patient game; no, it’s time to sink a US ship, it’s the only way Washington will get the message. Erdoğan is playing games. BUT. Fisk finds no signs of a big offensive (but would he?) and the Kremlin feigns ignorance. Which leads me to these thoughts. Moscow is certainly aware of the correlation of forces. Moscow is talking to everybody. The clearing out of the south was accomplished with very little fighting: most of it seems to have been pre-negotiated. Russians are masters of deception in war. So I suspect that the West is being played and that what, how and when will, again, surprise the punditocracy. But it is a very dangerous situation and, as VIPS says to Trump: “The best way to assure Mr. Putin that you are in control of U.S. policy toward Syria would be for you to seek an early opportunity to speak out publicly, spelling out your intentions. If you wish wider war, Bolton has put you on the right path.Watch this video and decide who runs State. As always, the most important question is who’s in charge in Washington? Well, maybe the truth is leaking: go to 4:20; the Netherlands awakes.

A REMINDER. OPCW Report “Destruction of declared Syrian chemical weapons completed” 4 Jan 2016. And a US company did it on a US ship.

VOSTOK 2018. Videos. MoD page. The parade. Of course the exercises are staged (I was on NATO exercises in The Day and so were they). Moscow is trying to get Washington to understand that your average gas station can’t do this.

CLINTON-YELTSIN. To summarise: please Bill, I beg you; Hah hah Boris, stick it in your ear. (IMO Yeltsin is doing what he can, but Russia is weak and USA is triumphant.) But Putin remembers.

SKRIPALMANIA. Nonsense piled on nonsense. The fabled principles of British law — presumption of innocence, prosecution must prove its case — are tossed when it’s Russians: now it’s petitio principii and “probably” all the way. The “executed” “hitmen” speak. Murray’s take: bad presentation but quite possible.

ANOTHER REMINDER. As wannabe “Russian poisoning” cases pop up, remember Karinna Moskalenko. It’s an old and tired movie.

WHO’S IN CHARGE IN GERMANY? Merkel supports Russia in Syria but may do a bit of bombing after the false flag CW attack. With its 4 planes? Unconstitutional and illegal. Last ditch desperation?

THE GWOT. Only 17 years from attacking al Qaeda to defending it. Even Graham Fuller, a creator of the policy of supporting jihadists there but not here, doubts the efficacy of the program.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES. Theories then, facts now. “Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Back Syrian Rebels“. “AQ is on our side in Syria“. Official admits Skripalmania and Syria are connected.

DONETSK. The leader was killed in an indiscriminate restaurant bombing. Probably the work of Kiev. Maybe a bit of help from Washington.

UKRAINE. The US Special representative for Ukraine wants the US to supply weapons to Kiev. (Why do none of these people ever wonder what became of Ukraine’s gigantic USSR legacy arsenal? Shipped to Georgia. (Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.) Well, Russia can play that game a lot more effectively. And perhaps it’s time it openly did. Again: who’s in charge in Washington?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

WHAT WE THREW AWAY

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation)

Forty years ago I was quite impressed by the books of Jean François Revel in which he argued that The West was pretty much doomed because it was messy and indecisive. On the other hand, the communist world was decisive, centrally controlled, had a goal in mind and was patient and cunning in achieving that goal (the communisation of the planet, of course). They pushed on all fronts, where the West woke up and pulled itself together enough to push back, the communists recoiled, but the advance continued elsewhere. And so, bit by bit, the world became redder. These were, as I recall, the principal arguments of The Totalitarian Temptation (1977) and How Democracies Perish (1983). And there were plenty of other people bemoaning the fact that the inchoate Western democracies were frittering away valuable time.

And then, suddenly, the Warsaw Pact and the USSR fall apart and essentially took communism into the grave with them. The West was left standing. Still argumentative, inchoate, indecisive and all the rest of it but – and this is my point – still existing when the other was dead. And come to think of it, we’d outlasted that other stainless-steel perfection of centrally directed will and power, Nazi Germany. And there had been plenty of people in the 1930s who thought that, between communism and naziism, the West was doomed. This set me to thinking that Revel and the others had missed something in their analysis.

We outlived them. We survived, they didn’t. And that what I wondered about – there must be something in the West’s way of doing things that led to survival and something in the nazi or communist systems that led to death. I thought some more and the analogy that occurred to me is that there are many kinds of trees. Big ones, little ones, in-between sized ones. Some live in the wet, others in the dry, others half drowned by the sea and so on. There is in fact, a tree, or several trees, for almost any conceivable environmental condition. And therefore, there will always be trees. Why? Because instead of one Perfect Tree, there is a multitude of different trees. And of fishes, beetles, birds and so on. Nature is pluralistic: many many solutions for every imaginable situation and the ability to change to meet new challenges. Arnold Toynbee called this “challenge and response”; a society responds to a challenge: a good response and it survives to meet the next challenge, a bad response and it fades away.

Could this be the clue? Naziism and communism had One Big Answer for every question. That answer worked for a time until it met some questions it couldn’t answer and down it went. To grossly oversimplify things: the nazis loved force and they went to war with everybody, but you can’t win against everybody else, although you may do well for a while; a hammer and a sickle do not really mentally equip you for life in the later twentieth century; “a road to a blind alley” as Putin called it. Grossly simplified to be sure. If you prefer, ideological societies can only function inside the ontological assumptions of that ideology. But no ideology is any more than a small subset of boundless reality.

So what do we (or, sadly I have to ask, did we) have in the West? I think the three fundamental freedoms in the West are free speech, free politics and free enterprise. Looking at these through the lens of pluralism, they are pluralism of thought, pluralism of power and pluralism of action. Remember that the question I was trying to answer was why did the West survive? I wasn’t asking who’s better, more ideal, more moral; just why is one still around and the other two not? To me the answer was the same thing that allows us to be certain there will still be trees and beetles around in the future – pluralism: lots of different trees and beetles.

Take free speech or pluralism of thought. Everybody’s different, everybody has different ideas, insights, points of view. Let’s assume that, for some issue, mine is the winning idea today. But tomorrow you may have a better solution for the problem that appears tomorrow. If I suppressed you (“no man no problem”, as Stalin used to say) or otherwise prohibited your irrelevant (today) but relevant (tomorrow) idea, we would be in trouble tomorrow and less likely to survive until the next day. So, since we don’t know what tomorrow’s problems are, it’s best to let everybody think his thoughts because who can say whose ideas will be winners tomorrow? The same argument can be made for the other two pluralisms/freedoms. And so, by practising pluralism of thought, power and action, a society improves its chances of survival. That’s all: survival. But that was the question I asked myself in the first place.

So, to my mind, that was the great secret that communism’s fall had revealed – social or national survivability is best assured by pluralism of thought, power and action. So, in all humility, we should have understood that and proclaimed it. And, of course, the essence of pluralism is that you are free to be, and should be, yourself. All nations should be themselves: Russians should be Russian, Hungarians Hungarian and so on. Who can say who will have the next good idea? Who is so wise that he can direct his neighbour’s life? That to me was what should have been done and, had that been the message the West had preached, I think we’d all be better off today.

What instead? We had the fatuous proclaiming of “values”: we had ’em and they didn’t. All over the West stuffed shirts got up in parliaments to boast of “our values”. How we got them no one knew. Did God hand them out to some people but not to others? Russians, too lazy or shiftless or something, having missed the ceremony? Had they mysteriously grown in some national soil over long time? A relict of ancient Saxon customs that only their descendants could inherit? The product of centuries of learning? And what is a “value” anyway? A practical guide to action or a virtue that you either have or don’t? Was it something innate or something learned? Could they get these values? Could they be taught? But, whatever, we had ’em and they didn’t; we were virtuous, they weren’t. And there was another tiresome thing about this, especially when, as it often was, the values were given the adjective “European”. Franco, Hitler, Marx, Engels, Mussolini, Robespierre, Napoleon, Quisling and all the rest of them were Europeans. Every single one of them based his ideas and political views on sources deeply rooted in European thought and experience. And, for certain, had it not been for the Soviets and the Anglosphere, the “European values” Eurocrats and their flunkeys would have been boasting about today would have involved a lot more leather, jackboots and stiff-armed salutes. The whole enterprise resembled something from the movie Idiocracy: “Brawndo has what plants crave because plants crave what Brawndo has“. It was weirdly fascinating to watch.

Our “values” and our “virtue” entitled us to rule the world. We were licensed to do just about anything because we had “what plants crave”. And so triumphalist arrogance and complacent ignorance combined with the West’s monopoly of exportable brutal power. And so it went. An unexamined conceit, frighteningly widespread, became the justification, and cover, for less noble actions.

But some responses to challenges are not so successful and we must ask what has become of our boasted “values” today? Well, we’re still free to speak our minds. Not of course if it’s hate speech or fake news; who could defend that? And not, certainly, to offend anyone’s safe space. And you’d probably better not say anything in Russian. Political freedom? Not entirely gone I suppose, in those little corners not already bought up by lobbyists. And it would certainly be wrong to question anything said or done by “those brave men and women who put their life on the line for our safety”. Free enterprise of course still flourishes. In whatever tiny spaces a few gigantic and well-connected corporations have not yet got to.

Altogether, we can’t be very happy with the state of pluralism in the West. And if I’m correct that pluralism is the key to survival, how much longer do we have?

So who did win the Cold War in the end?