RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 30 NOVEMBER 2017

FOREIGN MEDIA. I don’t know what Sputnik’s and RT’s audiences actually are in the USA or elsewhere but indications are that they are small or even tiny. But this hasn’t affected the year’s conniption fit and so we must be protected from their influence by Google, Twitter and now the US government. Well, apart from the mockery this makes of common-sense, proportionality and those Western values they’re always boasting about, Moscow has reacted. And, as usual, in a much more powerful way. Putin signed the amendment; now “foreign media outlet distributing printed, audio, video and other messages and materials designed for an unlimited number of people may be recognised (может быть признано) as a foreign agent.” Quid quo pro. Whining has begun: the BBG, HRW, State Department.

CORRUPTION. According to Transparency International’s 2017 report, a third of Russians say they had to pay a bribe for some public service. Like Karlin, I can believe this (plus or minus – there is some tradition of giving gifts there) because, unlike the easily cooked perception scores, this is a yes or no question. But, as I argue here, this is the lowest and least important form of corruption: the worst forms aren’t even detected by the little guy because the service was stolen long before he tried to buy some of it. And I would further observe that, whatever you may say about the Duma, you can’t say it’s run by “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests“: it pretty much does what the popular and elected government tells it to do. In short, not all corruptions are equally bad.

RUSSIAN STATE DOPING. I don’t believe it: it’s a “Gish Gallop“. Counter arguments here and here.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Aspergers, gunslinger, now tired. The website – you decide.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. It’s not working. 52% believe it’s better to have Russia on “our side” than not; 76% of Republicans and 51% of independents agree but only 29% of Democrats. (I presume Dems find it easier to believe that Trump won because Putindunnit than that he beat their candidate fair and square). It’s not working in Europe either: another poll show large majorities in Germany, Poland, France and UK would like better relations with Russia. But the effluent is still pumped out: “weaponised information“. (As a readers’ guide to this sort of thing, you won’t go wrong assuming that whatever US/NATO accuse Russia of doing, they are actually doing. For example, the Pentagon “weaponised information” years ago: “Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media“.)

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. “FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier.” The collapse of the Fusion GPS operation will unravel the whole construction. And it’s coming. (And don’t forget Awan.) All this because the Dems fixed their nomination and then lost anyway.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE. There has been some kind of coup or prevented coup in Lugansk. The head of State, Igor Plotnitsky, has resigned and is said to be in Moscow. The official story is that a “criminal group” controlled from Kiev has been arrested and a coup averted. A group of Ukrainian saboteurs have been arrested. No doubt, more information will trickle out.

PAPER TIGER. Further to my suggestion that NATO is a paper tiger we learn that half of Germany’s tanks are not ready for action. Less belligerent behaviour might be prudent: Moscow doesn’t get the joke: “We need to plan and undertake measures that will help us to respond to such a scenario quickly…“.

SYRIA. Lots of action. Trump has cut off arms supplies to Kurds in Syria (but, as always, can a mere POTUS make them do it?). Putin has been talking to everyone in and around the neighbourhood and lots of meetings. Patrick Lang, a connected observer, thinks it’s about over.

MAIDAN SNIPERS. One of the founding myths of the “Revolution of Dignity” was the massacre on the Maidan. Ivan Katchanovski has proved, to anyone with the capacity for objective thought, that it was a false flag operation; here is his paper; here is a summary. Two Georgian snipers have come forward to confess; here is a summary of what they said with links to the original. The story continues to develop and Katchanovski is following it.

UKRAINE. A country put together out of bits and pieces of other countries should worry as it fails further: Poland does not hide its ambiguous intentions towards western Ukraine. First, create positions of influence, then formulate territorial claims“. Meanwhile, Maidan II seems to be going nowhere (no support from outside, I guess).

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

NATO: A DANGEROUS PAPER TIGER

(First published at https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/11/16/nato-dangerous-paper-tiger.html)

The Chinese have a genius for pithy expressions and few are more packed with meaning, while immediately understandable, than “paper tiger”. NATO is one, but paper tigers that overestimate their powers can be dangerous.

Some Russians are concerned that there are today more hostile troops at the Russian border than at any time since 1941. While this is true, it is not, at the moment, very significant. The Germans invaded the USSR with nearly 150 divisions in 1941. Which, as it turned out, were not enough.

Today NATO has – or claims to have – a battle group in each of the three Baltic countries and one in Poland: pompously titled Enhanced Forward Presence. The USA has a brigade and talks of another. A certain amount of heavy weaponry has been moved to Europe. These constitute the bulk of the land forces at the border. They amount to, at the most optimistic assessment, assuming everything is there and ready to go, one division. Or, actually, one division equivalent (a very different thing) from 16 (!) countries with different languages, military practices and equipment sets and their soldiers ever rotating through. And, in a war, the three in the Baltics would be bypassed and become either a new Dunkirk or a new Cannae. All for the purpose, we are solemnly told, of sending “a clear message that an attack on one Ally would be met by troops from across the Alliance“. But who’s the “message” for? Moscow already has a copy of the NATO treaty and knows what Article V says.

In addition to the EFP are the national forces. But they are in a low state: “depleted armies” they’ve been called: under equipped and under manned; seldom exercised. The German parliamentary ombudsman charged with overseeing the Bundeswehr says “There are too many things missing“. In 2008 the French Army was described as “falling apart“. The British Army “can’t find enough soldiers“. The Italian army is ageing. Poland, one of the cheerleaders for the “Russian threat” meme, finds its army riven over accusations of politicisation. On paper, these five armies claim to have thirteen divisions and thirteen independent brigades. Call it, optimistically, a dozen divisions in all. The US Army (which has its own recruiting difficulties) adds another eleven or so to the list (although much of it is overseas entangled in the metastasising “war on terror”). Let’s pretend all the other NATO countries can bring another five divisions to the fight.

So, altogether, bringing everything home from the wars NATO is fighting around the world, under the most optimistic assumptions, assuming that everything is there and working (fewer than half of France’s tanks were operational, German painted broomsticks, British recruiting shortfalls), crossing your fingers and hoping, NATO could possibly cobble together two and a half dozen divisions: or one-fifth of the number Germany thought it would need. But, in truth, that number is fantasy: undermanned, under equipped, seldom exercised, no logistics tail, no munitions production backup, no time for a long logistics build up. NATO’s armies aren’t capable of a major war against a first class enemy. And no better is the principal member: “only five of the U.S. Army’s 15 armored brigade combat teams are maintained at full readiness levels“. A paper tiger.

This reality was on display – for those who could see – in the “Dragoon Ride” of 2015. Intended “to assure those allies that live closest to the Bear that we are here“, it was a parade of light armoured vehicles armed with heavy machine guns. Although breathlessly covered in the US media (“Show the world some of the firepower the United States and its NATO partners have in Eastern Europe“), it is unlikely that any watcher who had served in a Warsaw Pact army was impressed by what was in effect a couple of dozen BTR-50s. And neither was the US Army when it thought about it: a rush program was put into effect to give the vehicles a bigger weapon. The first one was delivered a year later. So now the US Army has a few lightly armoured vehicles with cannons. Something like the Soviet BTR-80 of the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Russians have the Bumerang-BM turret. Years of kicking in doors and patrolling roads hoping there are no IEDs are poor preparation for a real war.

No wonder NATO prefers to bomb defenceless targets from 15,000 feet. But there too, the record is unimpressive. Consider NATO’s last “successful” performance against Libya in 2011. No air defence, no opposition, complete freedom of movement and choice of action; and it took 226 days! Kosovo, a similar air action against a weak opponent, took 79 days. Meanwhile the years roll by in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not, in short, a very efficient military alliance even when it is turned on against more-or-less helpless victims.

But there is one obvious question: does NATO take all its Russian threat rhetoric seriously, or is it just an advertising campaign? A campaign to bring in £240 million from the Baltics, an extra eighty billion for the US military-industrial complex, US$28 billion for Poland, Patriot missiles for Sweden, billions for F-35s for Norway (but no hangars for them), spending increases in the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Czech Republic and so on. A Russian threat is good for business: there’s poor money in a threat made of IEDs, bomb vests and small arms. Big profits require big threats. As I have written elsewhere, Russia was thought to be the right size of threat – big enough, but not too big. And they thought it was a safe target too – remember Obama in 2015 and his confidence that Russia didn’t amount to much?

Or so they thought then. What is amusing is that NATO is starting to worry about what it has awoken: “aerial denial zones“, British army wiped out in an afternoon, NATO loses quickly in the Baltics, unstoppable carrier-killer missile, “eye-watering” EW capabilities, “black hole” submarines, generational lead in tanks, “devastating” air defence system, “totally outmatched“. Russian actions, both diplomatic and military, in Syria gave NATO a taste: the Russian military is far more capable than they imagined. And far better wielded. The phantom conjured up to justify arms sales and NATO expansion now frightens its creators. A particularly striking example comes from General Breedlove, former NATO Supreme Commander who did much to poke Russia: he now fears that a war “would leave Europe helpless, cut off from reinforcements, and at the mercy of the Russian Federation.” Not as negligible as they thought.

To what should we compare this weak, incompetent but endlessly boastful and belligerent alliance? In the past I have suggested that NATO is a drunk that drinks to cure the effects of its last bender. Is it a child in an endless tantrum, frightening itself with the stories it tells itself? Like the Warsaw Pact it is frightened of contradicting information or opinion and insists they be blocked. Certainly it is an exemplar of complacent self delusion: “Projecting Stability Beyond Our Borders” boasts about the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. The unicorns roam free in NATOland.

There is no reason to bother to read anything that comes out of NATO Headquarters: it’s only wind. There is one response. And that is Libya. When they say stability, respond Libya. When they say terrorism, respond Libya. When they say peace, respond Libya. When they say dialogue, respond Libya. When they say values, respond Libya. NATO is dangerous in the way that the stupid and deluded can be. But, when its principal member starts demanding its members “pay their share”, and the people of five members see Washington a greater threat than Moscow, maybe its final days are upon us.

But incessant repetition becomes reality and that’s where the danger lies. Hysteria has reached absurd proportions: 2014’s “gas station masquerading as a country” decides who sits in the White House; directs referendums in Europe; rules men’s minds through RT and Sputnik; dominates social media; every Russian exercise brings panic. This would all be amusing enough except for the fact that Moscow doesn’t get the joke. While the NATO forces on their border may be insignificant at the moment, they can grow and all armies must prepare for the worst. The First Guards Tank Army is being re-created. I discuss the significance of that here. When it is ready – and Moscow moves much faster than NATO – it will be more than a match, offensively or defensively, for NATO’s paper armies. And, if Moscow thinks it needs more, more will come. And there will be no cost-free bombing operations at 15,000 feet against Russia. NATO’s naval strength, which is still real, is pretty irrelevant to operations against Russia. And still the paper tiger bares its paper teeth.

In other words – and I never tire of quoting him on this – “We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way”. NATO has been kiting cheques for years. And rather than soberly examine its bank account, it writes another, listening to the applause in the echo chamber of its mind.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We can only hope that NATO’s coming destruction does not destroy us too.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 16 NOVEMBER 2017

WESTERN VALUES™. So now RT America is a “foreign agent“. (Remember all the faux outrage about Russia’s FARA imitation law? No? But it was only a year ago: “Russia: Four years of Putin’s ‘Foreign Agents’ law to shackle and silence NGOs“. Hard to keep up, isn’t it?) In case you think this reflects poorly on the “champion for free speech and free press”, John McCain, channelling Brezhnev, explains why it doesn’t. In the Cold War they blocked us but we didn’t bother to block them. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out: the side that mostly lies wants to stop its population hearing the side that mostly tells the truth. One reason is that telling (mostly) the truth is just easier. For example, Russian propaganda for the home audience lets the Western side say whatever it wants as long as it wants. Why? “the Russians have no need to lie, their propaganda is fundamentally truthful, fact based and logical…. unlike their American counterparts, the Russians are not engaging in policies which they cannot justify before their own public opinion or before the public opinion of the rest of the planet”. In Syria the Russians are doing what they say they are doing; no need to explain why Russian troops supposedly in Ukraine can’t be seen; there are no Pokemon stories in Russia. In short, Russian propaganda is all made in the West and every idiotic story is re-played. “So yes, the Russians are using the immense arrogance and poorly-concealed hatred for Russia of some of the more pompous and least intelligent representatives of the West to paint an absolutely fair and accurate representation of the western ruling elites”.

SPEAKING OF THINGS HARD TO JUSTIFY before the Western public. “Raqqa’s dirty secret…. a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters…. escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition…“. “Some of the U.S.-made weapons available on these markets likely first entered Syria as part of an ill-fated Pentagon program to train and equip fighters in northern Syria to take on the Islamic State.” Are these bugs or features? Either way, the West isn’t doing what it says it is doing.

RELIGION. I found this video interesting: Putin and most of the Russian religious establishment (named here, but not the RC Ordinary for some reason) honour Minim and Pozharsky. That’s diversity.

RUSSIA INC. Inflation fell to 2.7% in October; this is a post USSR record low. Slowly but surely.

BOMB SCARES. There have been a series of hoax bomb scares across Russia lately. Phoned in from abroad we are told. Wondered that myself: I’m not suggesting it was governments but the panic is constantly pumped higher and there are a lot of excitable people out there.

REMITTANCES. A study shows that all FUSSR states except Russia and Kazakhstan are “intensely dependent” on remittances. Author’s summary: “a new system of transnational, cross-border dependency, unprecedented in its intensity”. The two “magnets” are the EU and Russia. An interesting take on the post-Soviet reality; at the end of the day, you’re either a dependent of one or of the other.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Best summary of the story so far: “The two sources that originated the allegations claiming that Russia meddled in the 2016 election… were both paid for by the Democratic National Committee…“. Even the MSM is starting to notice (WSJ): “The Clinton campaign commissioned a foreign ex-spy to gin up rumors, which made it to U.S. intelligence agencies, and then got reporters to cite it as government-sourced.” Crowdstrike and Fusion GPS are the ur-sources. We get closer: a Fusion GPS exec spent seven hours with the House Committee on Tuesday. Bershidsky, no friend to Putin & Co, points out how ludicrous the theories have become. This was never expected to become public; it was supposed to stay in the background of her march to the White House.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Spreading fast. “How the Russian meddling machine won the online battle of the illegal referendum” (El Pais). “Putin’s lying machine: Revealed, how Russia’s spewing out ruthless propaganda… “. Enjoy the map which shows how the Kremlin is “stoking discord” around the world. Again we see that lying takes more effort. And a constant effort too: always plugging holes in the narrative which gets ever more preposterous. (But read the comments: the story isn’t selling well).

MAYBE FILE. “American” LNG delivered to Europe is actually purchased in Russia. Same source said “American” coal for Ukraine also came from Russia. It wouldn’t surprise me, but I await confirmation.

SYRIA. The Syrians have liberated Abu Kamal, the last urban hold of Daesh in Syria; 25 months after Russia intervened. Some American talking heads are still in denial (more convolution).

UKRAINE. Maidan II continues but the WMSM doesn’t see it. On Sunday Saakashvili led a march demanding Poroshenko’s impeachment. Couldn’t make this stuff up.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

THE RIDDLE OF THE POTOMAC

(Inspired by questions from Sputnik asking my thoughts about US involvement in Syria: what it wants, what it’s doing and what will happen. My answer grew so large that it turned into this essay. Sputnik version https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201710311058699400-us-syria-strategy-failure/)

First published https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/11/02/riddle-of-potomac.html

These questions are rather like asking someone to Unveil the Mysteries of the Universe and answer the Riddle of the Sphinx all in one go. I cannot: Washington is a mystery today and it has been since the early Obama days. At the heart of the mystery are two questions:

Who is in charge?

What do they want?

The United States of America is de-laminating: when even so solemn an outlet as Foreign Policy magazine wonders “Is America a Failing State?” it starts to become a commonplace.

What were the motives or aims of US involvement in trying to overthrow Assad in Syria? I can think of the following:

  1. Build a gas pipeline from Qatar into Europe.

  2. Weaken Russia by striking at an ally and cutting its gas sales.

  3. Obey orders from Jerusalem and Riyadh to weaken Syria/Iran.

  4. Arrogance, ignorance, overconfidence, “exceptionalism” and other delusions.

  5. Create chaos so the USA will still be king of the hill even if the hill is smaller.

  6. Something I haven’t thought of.

  7. Some or all of the above.

But trying to work out Washington’s policy is, to quote an alleged Churchillism about the USSR, like watching bulldogs fighting under a rug. You see that something is happening, you hear growls, but you don’t know who is doing what to whom or why. For example, last year then US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov spent days negotiating a truce in Syria; within a few days the US military attacked the Syrian Army at Deir ez Zor. Who was in charge then? And what was the purpose of either of these actions? No wonder the Russians have concluded that Washington is недоговороспособны: no agreement is possible either because it can’t make one or it won’t keep it.

But what we can say is: whatever Washington, in whole or parts thereof, its sponsors or controllers, was or were trying to do in Syria, they have failed. The momentum, which seemed to be swinging against Assad two years ago, has reversed since Russia’s intervention and been replaced with the mockery of the “Assad must go curse“. Assad remains in power and supported by the population; Iran has gained power and influence; Jerusalem and Riyadh are nervous and unhappy; Russia is more influential and – most consequentially – shown to be reliable and effective; no gas pipeline will be built without the agreement of the Syrian government. Chaos has been reduced, order increased. Syria is the Thermopylae of the new New World Order. Every day the USA loses its position in the neighbourhood in proportion as Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey increase theirs. Failure. Defeat.

Washington isn’t good at admitting defeat and it always comes up with another gimcrack scheme to postpone the day. But the Kurdish surrogates aren’t doing well and the latest bright idea in Afghanistan is a loser too. So we have to contemplate the shape of The End.

US wars end in one of three ways:

  1. A surrender ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

  2. Destruction, overthrow, walk away, amnesia; the proclaimed success is never connected to the consequent chaos. (This is today’s prevailing pattern – see Kosovo, Somalia or Libya).

  3. Helicopters lifting off the Embassy roof in Saigon.

It won’t be number one, it’s probably too late for number two so I guess we must look forward to helicopters on American Embassy roofs.

Unless President Trump can break the habit. Which brings us to another unanswerable question. When campaigning, his rhetoric suggested that he had the beginnings of understanding. His slogan, “Make America Great” had the important addition “Again”. Which suggested that it wasn’t “Great” any more. It seemed to me that he understood that the endless (and unsuccessful) wars were a cause of that loss of “greatness”. This was encouraging to those of us who hoped for an end to the wars. His Inauguration Address continued the theme that Washington should mind its own business.

But, since his election he has been hobbled by the accusation that he is Putin’s poodle. The US media, the US intelligence agencies (or, more correctly, “hand-picked, seasoned” members of same) have banged this drum since the DNC, caught fixing the nomination, blamed Russia. This hysteria has crippled his attempts to have better relations with Russia and move away from the neocon and humanitarian bomber catastrophes of the past. No one could have foreseen this month-in-month-out shrieking. Nor predict how loudly stupid it would become: “Catalonia held a referendum. Russia won”, Pokemon and cute puppies. Trump has been under constraints he could never have expected. Maybe the lunacy will turn on its creators with the new revelations about Uranium One and the Steele dossier, maybe it won’t: I’ve given up trying to predict the craziness.

So we must add the Trump Mystery to the other Mysteries. Although there may be a clue. He has had four foreign affairs issues to deal with so far: Russia, North Korea, Iran and Syria. He is very constrained on the first, loud and boorish on the second and third but interestingly quiet on the fourth. There was the cruise missile strike but I was and still am convinced that that was a theatrical production. What we do have is his decree ending CIA support for anti-Assad rebels. That is an action, the rest is talk. Maybe we should watch what he does, not what he says.

But still: we don’t know. We don’t know what Washington was trying to do in Syria. We don’t know whether all Washington was agreed on what it was trying to do in Syria. We don’t know if any agency in Washington had a plan in Syria. We don’t know who was making decisions in Washington then. We don’t know who’s making decisions in Washington now. We don’t know whether there is any unified position in Washington on Syria. Or anything else. We don’t know what Trump wants. We don’t know what Trump can do. We don’t know who’s running the place. Or whether anyone is.

We don’t know.

An unknown number of bulldogs fighting under a rug of unknown size.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 2 NOVEMBER 2017

BOOK PLUG. Phil Butler’s “Putin’s Praetorians”. A number of us explain how we came to our present views on Putin and Russia. Many simply couldn’t believe the absurdly one-sided accounts of, especially, the Sochi Olympics and Ukraine. A little digging uncovered the lies and they’ve never gone back.

REMINDER. A big nuclear forces exercise last week with an ICBM and 3 SLBMs fired. Dramatic night sky effects in Siberia: they saw their tax rubles at work.

GOLD. The Central Bank of Russia holds 1800 tonnes of gold. China (the world’s largest gold producer – Russia is number three) holds a similar amount. Many connect this with the coming “petroyuan“.

RUSSIA INC. Russia continues its climb up the World Bank’s rankings for ease of doing business.

ELECTION. There’s no real opposition to Putin. And why would there be? Sneering as much as it can, even the Guardian gets it.

PROPAGANDA. Putin attends the opening of a prominently-placed monument to the victims of the Soviet repressions. The monument. Paul Robinson catalogues how the lügenpresse spun this into an attack on Putin for supporting Stalin or being repressive or something. I read the Soviet media back then and it was non-stop lies, belittling, twisting of everything in the West: a complete reversal today.

SYRIA REVELATIONS. Perhaps not coincidentally with revelations on “Russiagate” and Hollywood, come revelations about Syria. First, Washington admits (quietly) that the Syrian “rebels” have used chemical weapons. Second, a senior Qatari official reveals that Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the USA began shipping weapons to jihadists in Syria in 2011. The Syrian army has found stocks of Western and Israeli weaponry in captured Daesh areas. Everything, Dear Readers, your governments and media have told you about Syria has been a lie. (BTW, how many US troops in Syria? Anybody know?).

WHAT NOW? Washington wants genetic material from Russians? Bio war? No, no, only a paranoid Russian would suggest that: for benign, even laudable, reasons. Of the US Air Force. More.

WESTERN VALUES™. RT says Twitter approached it with a scheme to sell ads during the election but RT turned it down. Twitter has banned ads from RT because of “election interference”. We learn today that Twitter actually interfered by burying things harmful to Clinton.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. It’s rare that the alternative media and the MSM report the same thing on the same date, but it just happened. Philip Giraldi notes that, now that we know that the Clinton campaign paid for most of the Steele dossier, “Russiagate began within the Clinton Campaign headquarters”. The WSJ says the same but still thinks that it was “Russia” that dunnit; but it dunnit to the other side. Jatras marvels that, despite the collapse of Version A, they still blame Russia. But not so fast, we’re not there yet: the Steele dossier is 99% fake – enough money was spend to manufacture the wanted stories – “Russia”, as in the government, had nothing to do with it even if individual Russians did. (But why bother to get actual Russians when you’re making it up? We only have Steele’s word for it that he did). One hopes we are only a few weeks away from the contrived mess exploding. Meanwhile, in what may be the very last idiocy, we are informed that Russia Is Using Marxist Strategies, and So Is US President US President Trump“. The suicide of American soft power, Andrew Korybko perceptively calls it.

HUNGARY CLEARS ITS THROAT. Ukraine’s neighbours remember the OUN and its deeds. Poland put out the movie Volyn, for example. Now it’s Hungary’s turn. Kiev just passed a law insisting on Ukrainian instruction, there are a lot of Hungarian speakers (many of whom have Hungarian passports), Budapest has just announced it will block Kiev’s efforts to gain greater connection to NATO. (More) The most likely future of Ukraine is that parts break off the edges.

A NEW CHERNOBYL? Not at all, merely the utterance of “information terrorists working in the interests of Russian propaganda.” All will be well; better than well, even. (Read November 1, 2017 Update.) (Information terrorists – that’s a good one, eh?)

UKRAINE. Another tent city in Kiev. Saakashvili has a plan. Crooks, clowns and nazis. Ten thousand casualties from non-military causes – morale is terrible. Life in Kherson. Ukraine continues to test the limits of Adam Smith’s apophthegm that there is much ruin in a nation.

NEW NWO. Russia and the Philippines take another step in their courtship.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

HOW I GOT HERE

Reprints

      http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/10/how-i-got-here.html

      http://russia-insider.com/en/how-i-became-kremlin-troll-patrick-armstrong/ri21379

(Now that the book is out I publish my entry. Most of the people who wrote their “how I got here” sections were awakened by the relentlessly one-sided coverage of Russia by the MSM: they suspected that it couldn’t possibly be that one-sided and started looking.

Putin’s Praetorians: Confessions of the Top Kremlin Trolls Kindle Edition; Phil Butler (Author), Patricia Revita (Illustrator), Pepe Escobar (Foreword)

I started work for the Canadian Department of National Defence in 1977 in the Directorate of Land Operational Research of the Operational Research and Analysis Establishment. I participated in many training games in real time and research games in very slow time. The scenarios were always the same: we (Canada had a brigade group in West Germany) were defending against an attack by the Soviet/Warsaw Pact side. In those days NATO was a defensive organisation and, as we later found out, so was the other side: each was awaiting the other to attack. Which, come to think of it, is probably why we’re all here today.

I enjoyed my six years, often as the only civilian in a sea of uniforms, but I realised that a history PhD stood no change of running the directorate so, when the slot opened, I contrived to switch to the Directorate of Strategic Analysis as the USSR guy. I should say straight off that I have never taken a university course on Russia or the USSR. And, in retrospect, I think that was fortunate because in much of the English-speaking world the field seems to be dominated by Balts, Poles or Ukrainians who hate Russia. So I avoided that “Russians are the enemy, whatever flag they fly” indoctrination: I always thought the Russians were just as much the victims of the ideology as any one else and am amused how the others have airbrushed their Bolsheviks out of their pictures just as determinedly as Stalin removed “unpersons” from his.

That was November 1984 and Chernenko was GenSek and, when he died in March 1985, Gorbachev succeeded. While I didn’t think the USSR was all that healthy or successful an enterprise, I did expect it to last a lot longer and when Gorbachev started talking about glasnost and perestroyka I thought back to the 20th Party Congress, the Lieberman reforms, Andropov’s reforms and didn’t expect much.

In 1987 two things made me think again. I attended a Wilton Park conference (the first of many) attended by Dr Leonid Abalkin. He took the conference over and, with the patient interpretation of someone from the Embassy, talked for hours. The Soviet economy was a failure and couldn’t be reformed. That was something different. Then, on the front page of Pravda, appeared a short essay with the title “A New Philosophy of Foreign Policy” by Yevgeniy Primakov. I pricked up my ears: a new philosophy? But surely good old Marxism-Leninism is valid for all times and places. As I read on, I realised that this was also something new: the author was bluntly saying that Soviet foreign policy had been a failure, it was ruining the country and creating enemies. These two were telling us that the USSR just didn’t work. As Putin told Stone, “it was not efficient in its roots”.

These things convinced me that real change was being attempted. Not just fiddling around at the edges but something that would end the whole Marxist-Leninist construct. As far as I was concerned, it had been the communist system that was our enemy and, if it was thrown off, we should be happy. Sometime around then I was interviewed for a job at NATO and the question was what, with all these changes, was NATO’s future. I said it should become an alliance of the civilised countries against whatever dangers were out there: the present members of course, but also the USSR, Japan and so on.

Well, that didn’t happen did it? I remember a very knowledgeable boss assuring me that NATO expansion was such a stupid idea that it would never happen. He was wrong too.

In 1814 the victors – Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria – sat down in Vienna, with France, to re-design the world. They were wise enough to understood that a settlement that excluded France wouldn’t last. In 1919 this was forgotten and the settlement – and short-lived it was – excluded the loser. In 1945 Japan and Germany were included in the winners’ circle. At the end of the Cold War, repeating the Versailles mistake, we excluded Russia. It was soon obvious, whatever meretricious platitudes stumbled from the lips of wooden-faced stooges, that NATO was an anti-Russia organisation of the “winners”.

But I retained hope. I think my most reprinted piece has been “The Third Turn” of November 2010 and in it I argued that Russia had passed through two periods in the Western imagination: first as the Little Brother then as the Assertive Enemy but that we were now approaching a time in which it would be seen as a normal country.

Well, that didn’t happen did it?

And so the great opportunity to integrate Russia into the winners’ circle was thrown away.

For a long time I thought it was stupidity and ignorance. I knew the implacably hostile were out there: Brzezinski and the legions of “think” tanks (my website has a collection of anti-Russia quotations I’ve collected over the years) but I greatly underestimated their persistence. Stupidity and ignorance; you can argue with those (or hope to). But you can’t argue with the anti-Russians. Russia wants to re-conquer the empire so it invaded Georgia. But it didn’t hold on to it, did it? No but that’s because we stopped it. Putin kills reporters. Name one. You know, whatshername. Provocative exercises on NATO’s borders. But NATO keeps moving closer to Russia. Irrelevant, NATO’s peaceful. Putin is the richest thief in the world. Says who? Everybody. Putin hacked the US election. How? Somehow.

I quoted Hanlan’s razor a lot – “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. And, stupidity and ignorance there were (a favourite being John McCain’s notion that the appropriate venue for a response to a Putin piece in the NYT was Pravda. And then he picked the wrong Pravda! (But he won’t hate Russia or Putin any the less if he were told that, would he?) At some point I came to understand that malice was the real driver.

I suppose it grew on me bit by bit – all the stupidity converged on the same point and it never stopped; but real stupidity and ignorance don’t work that way: people learn, however slowly. I think the change for me was Libya. I started out thinking stupidity but, as it piled up, it became clear that it was malice. I’d seen lies in the Kosovo war but it was Libya that convinced me that it wasn’t just a few lies, it was all lies. (My guess is that Libya was an important development in Putin’s view of NATO/US too.)

Naive perhaps but, for most of history stupidity has adequately explained things and malice is, after all, a species of stupidity.

So what’s the point of writing? I’ll never convince the Russia haters, and there’s little chance of getting through to the stupid and ignorant. And most people aren’t very interested anyway.

Well, this is where malice meets stupidity. If we consider the Project for a New American Century, the neocon game plan “to promote American global leadership”, what do we see twenty years later? Brzezinski laid out the strategy in The Grand Chessboard at the same time. What today? Well, last year he had to admit that the “era” of US dominance, he was so confident of twenty years earlier, was over. There’s no need to belabour the point: while the US by most measures is still the world’s dominant power, its mighty military is defeated everywhere and doesn’t realise it, its manufacturing capacity has been mostly outsourced to China, domestic politics and stability degenerate while we watch and there’s opioids, spectacular debt levels, incarceration, infant mortality, недоговороспособны and on and on. Donald Trump was elected on the promise to Make America Great…. Again. Hardly the hyperpower to lead the globe is it?

The Twentieth Century was the “American Century” thanks to limitless manufacturing capacity allied to great inventiveness anchored on a stable political base. What is left of these three in 2017? Can America be made “great” again? And wars: wars everywhere and everywhere the same. And what other than malice has brought it to this state? Malice has become stupidity: the neocons, Brzezinskis, the Russia haters, the Exceptionalists, scheming “to promote American global leadership”, have weakened the USA. Perhaps irreparably.

So, who’s the audience today? The converted and people at the point when a little push can break their conditioning have always been there. But now there is a potentially huge audience for our efforts: the audience of the awakening.

Which brings me back to where I started. Except that it’s the USA this time:

IT’S NOT WORKING

We’re here and we’re waiting for you: you’ve been lied to but that doesn’t mean that everything is a lie.

NEW US OPERATIONS IN AFGHANISTAN

(Asked by Sputnik for comments on US scheme to use “small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants.”)

“Precise”, “targetted”, “pinpoint”, “experienced”. All exciting words that look good on the prospectus but they all require accurate and detailed intelligence. And that is something that the ever-expanding US intelligence apparatus – “all 17” – does not have very much of. The US intelligence establishment was surprised by Pearl Harbor, the Soviet A bomb, the invasion of South Korea…. the fall of the Berlin Wall, 911, virtually every subsequent terrorist attack on US soil… the rise of ISIS, Russia’s operations in Syria, North Korean nukes… (Of course there are those who insist that half of these were actually CIA operations and therefore no surprise at all….).

In short a lot of activity, a lot of killings, a lot of doors kicked in, a lot of personal grudges paid off by fooling the Americans into doing your dirty work and not much else. Shades of Operation Phoenix in Vietnam.

And why go after the Taliban anyway? It’s not ISIS/DAESH or Al Qaeda: it’s a purely Afghan phenomenon and it has been getting stronger because it embodies the long Afghan desire to be left alone by foreigners.

So the result will be more deaths, more Taliban and another signpost on the road to American overextension.

But the program will succeed in getting the USA to the milestone of being in Afghanistan twice as long as the USSR was.

WHY SELL S-400s TO THE OTHER SIDE’S ALLIES?

(First published at https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/10/16/why-sell-s400-other-sides-allies.html)

Moscow is selling S-400 air defence systems to Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In the first case, a down payment has apparently been made while in the second the intention has been announced. This immediately presents the question of why Moscow would agree to sell one of its crown jewel weapons systems to countries which are not only not solid allies but are, in fact, American allies.

The “Atlanticist View” answer to the question would run something like this: Putin’s “hold on power” is trembling, the Russian economy is in trouble, Russia is running out of money and because it has only two exports, weapons and energy, it is desperate to sell either to anyone. And, right on cue, from the usual people, we had this a couple of weeks ago:

Putin’s hold on Russia may be more fragile than it appears. One reason is Western economic sanctions, which are biting and causing hardship to Russian businesses and ordinary citizens. Another is the dependence of Russia’s economy on fossil fuels at a time when oil prices are down and not expected to rebound soon. To the extent that Putin’s legitimacy rests on prosperity, Russia’s economic woes are a problem for him.

While no one in the report stated that “Putin’s Russia” might sell weapons, the participants would probably see such sales as another indications of “economic woes”. To them “Russia has effectively declared political war on the West, even if Europe and the United States haven’t quite grasped that yet.” Such people think that, in order to “keep Russians under his autocratic thumb, he needs them to see that the freedoms of Berlin, London and Washington are nothing to be envied”. This is a continuation of the fantasies that have ruled in such circles (and paid the participants generously) for years and makes them always surprised by what Moscow does. A year ago, for example, some of the “best security minds” of the “POLITICO Cabinet” quoted above were rabitting on about how Russia was in a quagmire in Syria and that “time is not on Russia’s side”. And, a year before, one of them was saying Russia was economically weak and politically “brittle”. Flat learning curves all of them. Syria was not a quagmire, Russia is not isolated, it’s not failing, its leaders are not fools, its economy is not collapsing, support for the Putin team is strong, sanctions are not “biting” and weapons sales are not the last gasp before collapse.

Where these people profess to perceive an innate Russian malevolence and hostility to “freedom”, others see a wholly rational response to years of NATO expansion and Washington’s flouting of international law and custom, regime change operations and invasions wrapped in sanctimonious protestations of virtue. Moscow believes – quite rationally – that it is on Washington’s target list and it is my opinion that it was the destruction of Libya under “human rights” cover that finally convinced the Putin Team that it had better look to Russia’s defences. Subsequent experience of Ukraine and Syria would only have strengthened their resolve. The S-400 sale is better seen as component in a prophylactic policy against further Washington-NATO chaotic wars and to safeguard Russia itself than malicious resistance to counselling from its betters.

The S-400 sales are actually a geostrategic move of some significance.

The first question to be asked is what, exactly, will be sold to NATO member Turkey and US ally Saudi Arabia? I doubt it is the full-capability S-400 system that Russia itself is using. First, Almaz-Antey is already working on the next in the evolving series. Secondly I would be very surprised if there weren’t, buried inside the circuits, an IFF system that would prevent firing at a Russian aircraft and a self-destruct failsafe if anyone should try to tamper with the inside. As for those who think that no one would buy systems with such limitations, the simple response is this: who apart from the makers would know whether there were such limitations, where and what they were and how to nullify them? We have the confirmation of all that here:

“We won’t give them any of the electronic codes or ‘internals.’ Under the agreement, technical servicing will only be done by Russia and they [the Turks] won’t gain entry to the systems,” a Russian military source told Gazeta.ru.

and here:

“All the fears about the leak of technology are greatly exaggerated, especially so far as anti-aircraft missiles are concerned,” Khodarenko said. “Even if they were to disassemble the system down to the last bolt to try to pull out some military secrets, they would still be left with nothing.”

So, as to the question of Moscow’s risking the secrets of the S-400 falling into the wrong hands, I would assess that it is greatly reduced if not altogether eliminated.

The S-400 system is generally considered to be pretty capable even there has been – as far as we know – no combat use of it. Its threat may have reduced US coalition aircraft operations in Syria and a US general said that “the introduction of an A2/AD bubble in Syria would be Russia’s third denial zone around Europe“. It is a complete mobile system involving several different missiles and a full suite of radars, management and command centres. There are a number of variations and combinations of parts possible – it’s not yet public exactly what parts either will be buying – with effective ranges out to 400 kilometres against targets including ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and all kinds of aircraft. A large number of targets can be tracked and many missiles controlled at once by the integrated detection and command package. Like most Russian (and Soviet) systems it is the product of years of evolution, testing and learning. So, on paper, it is very formidable. And, since it has a number of customers, one has to assume that they are convinced that it is as good as it is advertised. In conclusion, therefore, it is likely that the systems sold to Turkey and Saudi Arabia will be protected against being used against the Russian Aerospace Forces and protected against prying eyes trying to get its secrets. But they are buying an air defence system effective against non-Russian targets.

And why would they want that? They know that Washington has a history of turning against former associates. Saddam Hussein was useful until he wasn’t, so was Manuel Noriega, bin Laden & Co ditto, Qaddafi had his moment of cooperation, even Bashar Assad had his after 911. It is more dangerous to be Washington’s former friend than to be its permanent enemy. Both Ankara and Riyadh could be contemplating the possibility of becoming Washington’s former friend. One should remember that Erdoğan attributes last year’s coup attempt against him to Washington’s influences and Riyadh may be contemplating another switch of Western patron.

In short, should either Ankara or Riyadh be contemplating a move away from Washington, precedent suggests they should prepare for the worst. And, as Hussein, Noriega, bin Laden, Qaddafi and Assad can all attest, air attacks are the principal expression, in military form, of Washington’s displeasure. If all you have are antiquated and poorly maintained Soviet air defences from the 1980s (or US equipment with hidden IFF settings) you are pretty helpless and US air power will have a free run.

But, with S-400s, you have a chance. Or at least an alternative. And that is the geopolitical significance of the sales.

The possession of S-400 system gives the owner the possibility of a foreign policy independent of Washington.

Therefore it’s not just another weapons sale, it could be a geopolitical game-changer.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 19 OCTOBER 2017

SAUDI ARABIA. The visit of Salman bin Abdulaziz was pretty significant I think. The deal on the petrodollar was that Riyadh would insist on USD for payment in return for protection. Because Washington’s wars in the MENA have only made Iran stronger, Riyadh cannot think the deal is working out and it may be looking for a new sponsor: it happened before when Abdulaziz switched from London to Washington. My thoughts here. I believe that the sale of S-400 air defence systems could be a geopolitical gamechanger. Another of Moscow’s strengths is that it talks to everybody: and so it has offered to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran. Because Washington takes sides, it is useless should Riyadh want to negotiate its way out of messes with its neighbours. “The success of the Euro-Asian triptych is based on the essential principle of transforming enemies into neutral players, neutral players into allies, and further improving relations with allied nations.” Slowly, patiently, bit by bit the long game is played.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The world has entered an era of rapid change. Things that were only recently referred to as fantastic or unattainable have become a reality and have become part of our daily lives.” I don’t think Putin’s referring to the latest computer game, do you? History didn’t end, after all.

RUSSIA INC. I expand on something I wrote some time ago. Russia is a “full-service” economy. One of four on the planet. It and China are going up; the USA and the EU are going down.

CW. It was announced that the last of Russia’s chemical weapons inherited from the USSR have been destroyed. The USA, not completed its own program, is now aiming for 2023. Neither country hit the first deadline of 2007, nor the second of 2012. The NYT does its best to blame Russia for finishing early.

PUTINVILLE. Moscow has been named the fourth safest megacity for women and St Petersburg the best tourist destination in Europe. I don’t put a lot of stock in these ratings but they are useful counters to the Russia as hellhole nonsense that clogs the Western MSM.

WESTERN VALUES™. This should be good for a laugh: Petr Pavlenskiy has been arrested for setting a fire at the Bank of France. Paris granted him asylum after he was fined for setting a fire at the FSB headquarters in Moscow. Does “protest art” in Russia become arson in France?

GETTING SCARED. Russia used to be feeble and falling apart and the danger was that some crazy general would get hold of “loose nukes” and do something bad. Now the Russia-as-enemy campaign is starting to frighten the people who created it. Some of the alarm is feigned as part of the campaign for more money but I think they’re really starting to understand that they have woken a sleeping giant and filled him with resolve (as Admiral Yamamoto is said to have said). And they fear that the US military, after a couple of decades of fighting people who can only fight back with car bombs and suicide belts, isn’t ready for Prime Time. Some US military connected outfit has put out a how to fight Russia manual (rather amusingly based on the assumption that Kiev forces were fighting the Russian Armed Forces in Donbass – won’t they be surprised if they were to meet the real thing!). Meanwhile the Heritage Foundation laments that “Our military has undoubtedly grown weaker“. This shouldn’t be unexpected, Washington assumed too much and pushed too much. But, still, nothing much has been learned: Kiev wasn’t fighting the Russian Armed Forces and Heritage’s idea that Congress should “pass a budget that will truly provide for the common defense” is laughable. The problem isn’t money. But here we are: another step towards the new new world order.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Latest top hits from the three principal fake news outlets: “Catalonia held a referendum. Russia won” from the WaPo; Pokemon from CNN; cute puppies from the NYT. Meanwhile Senator Burr admits that, after months of hearings, “I’m not going to even discuss any initial findings because we haven’t any” and the real Russian scandal emerges from the shadows. (But, Dear Readers, before the usual drivel about corrupt and corrupting Russians starts up, if your government is for sale, can you blame people for buying it?)

UKRAINE. Another coup in the making? Demonstrations kicked off by a torchlight parade. Demands (at the moment) are a new election law for parliamentarians, an anti-corruption court, ending parliamentary immunity. Signed by Tymoshenko and Saakashvili among many others including some of the nazi battalions. Perhaps not coincidentally, an investigation into fraud committed by President Poroshenko has been opened. Did the coal from Pennsylvania actually come from Russia? Nuclear fears. Another huge ammunition dump fire. The collapse continues.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer