RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 APRIL 2017

TWO UNBELIEVABLE THINGS. I’ve been at this since the days of Chernenko and I just read something that, while not all that important, furnishes a concrete example of the unbelievable changes since those days; something that, had you suggested it was possible at almost any time in the intervening years, people would have thought you crazy. Here it is: TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice best airline in Europe was Aeroflot and it was rated the best business class in the world. It was also the world’s “most powerful” airline brand. And one of the safest. Scaroflot! Impossible to imagine, as I said, in 1985, 1995 or 2005. And here’s another unimaginable event: I well remember the grain shortages in the USSR and the annual negotiations with Canada to supply wheat and two decades I saw it when I visited a huge grain elevator complex in Murmansk that had been built to handle Canadian imports. Those days are long gone: today Russia is the leading wheat exporter and, as an extra, FT informs us that “agriculture has overtaken arms sales to become Russia’s second-biggest export sector“. In the 1970s and 80s USSR meant food shortages, by the 1990s half the food in Russia was imported. I think that we are standing at the threshold of a huge growth in Russia’s food industry; its potential has never been tapped – serfdom, the village mir and collectivisation were powerful production brakes. Despite the expected tripe from the FSM – “Soviet-style shortages” “worst days of the USSR” “hurt Russia more” “backfires“(And who can forget Masha Gessen and her cheese?) it was, as I said at the time, a “clever move“. A summary of the benefits. And, something else: here is Russia’s spiffy new military base at 80º North. “Eurasian economic basketcase” indeed! Russia is on a roll and consumers of the Western FSM haven’t a clue.

RUSSIA INC. Not doing badly: Medvedev reports. Notable increases are pharmaceuticals (up about 24%) and agriculture (up 5%). Unemployment is 5.5% and inflation is down to 5%. IMF head Lagarde agrees: she has praised Russia’s economic management and agrees that the economy is now growing. (Without, it should be noted, recourse to the standard IMF-style austerity package either.)

MESSAGES. Lots of messages being sent this month – Syria strike, MOAB, carriers on the move. By Russia too. Hypersonic anti-ship missile. Lots of EW equipment. And, a bigger bomb, by the way.

TILLERSON IN MOSCOW. Too early to know the results. See below.

SYRIA STRIKE. My theory here: it was aimed at Trump’s domestic enemies and appears to have hit the target. But another month will show the theory falsified or not. (Rather encouraged to see that Scott Adams has the same idea. But so does Maxine Waters). Moscow suspended the Russia-US MOU on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents. The CW attack was, of course, a fake.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. With the election call in the UK there will be more insanity/absurdity.

WESTERN VALUES™. “West Rattled Over Russian Missiles on NATO Border“. Or, as you could put it: “Russia Rattled Over NATO on Russian Missiles’ Border”. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. But it’s not Russia that’s moved, is it? “Light-hearted actions” have consequences down the line.

G7 FM MEETING. No sanctions on Russia. We know that London wanted them, Ottawa was ready to go along and Paris, Berlin and Rome grumble but sign in the end. Deduction: Washington didn’t want them.

UKRAINE. Finally someone in the West notices what may prove to be the longest-lasting consequence of the Maidan coup. Ukraine’s nuclear power plants: “corruption, which is breeding a lack of accountability and mismanagement”; “many positions at the regulatory body remain empty”; “started using dubious firms that do not possess the necessary experience”. The writer even knows about the Westinghouse fuel danger “The West has been pushing the Japanese-owned Westinghouse as an alternative source to Russian nuclear fuel… The Westinghouse product is simply not as good as the Russian fuel made for the Russian-designed reactors, creating a highly dangerous situation where the reactor could fail”. Sooner or later…

MORE UKRAINE. And the NYT notices the new history of the new Ukraine. “The O.U.N. and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or U.P.A., are now being glorified as freedom fighters. What is not mentioned is the O.U.N.’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic ideology…”. What took it so long?

STILL MORE UKRAINE. “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” asked Tillerson. What you might call a reverberative question.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Daesh and CW

Quick response to a query from Sputnik about reports of a mustard attack on US troops attached to an Iraqi unit and what Washington should do.

Mustard and chlorine aren’t the same as Sarin. But as Aum Shinrikyo taught us, Sarin, of a deadly enough purity, can be made under rather primitive conditions. That’s one. Second, it is thought that Daesh got hold of some of the government’s stockpiles before they were destroyed. A third possible source is Libyan stocks. And a fourth is via Turkey. So the assertion that Daesh can’t have it is naive. That it won’t use it is naiver still.

The US should address the problem by giving up its wrong-headed and disastrous belief – held since the heyday of Fuller and Brzezinski in Afghanistan in the late 1970s – that it can turn jihadists on here but turn them off there. The jihadists have their own agenda and, as Putin asked: “So, it’s a big question: who’s playing whom here?”

In short, Washington must cooperate with those countries actually fighting Daesh. But, given that they include Syria, Iran and Russia, Washington is going to have to change a lot before it can.

The US Missile Strike on Syria: a Theatrical Production for the Simple-Minded?

(I advanced this theory on Andrew Korybko’s show on Sputnik this morning.)

When I first heard that the US had attacked the airfield in Syria, my heart sank. I had hoped that US President Trump would avoid the endless wars that are bringing us all to Armageddon. This action made me fear that either he had been lying to us all along or that the war party had seized control.

But, as I read further and thought more, another possibility occurred to me. The first thing I wondered was why 59 cruise missiles? There simply aren’t 59 thousand-pound warhead targets at that or any other Syrian airfield. Examination of videos and photos showed little damage (and clearly no fear of sarin or other nerve agents either, as people wandered around without any protection). Had I wanted to stage a loud and exciting (“beautiful” missile launches at night) show with minimum results I would have done something like this. Was it a show, theatre. Art of the deal?

Then I asked myself: if this were a show, for whom was it a show and to what purpose? That led me to consider Trump’s biggest problem. It is that a significant portion of US “elite opinion” regards him – or pretends to regard him – as an illegitimate president. To bring him down, they tried recounts, appeals to “faithless electors“, the 25th Amendment; all failed.

All they were left with was the Russia story and that was being pumped out at full blast. Pumped out for months, since July in fact. Never mind the absence of evidence; it was pumped out ever louder and ever louder; pumped out to such an extent that it was hampering Trump’s program; his foreign program in particular but also his domestic program. It was amorphous and self-replicating at the same time. Did Putin secure Trump’s victory by hacking voting machinesby revealing DNC skulduggery… by some mysterious but never explained influence… by thousands of Putinbots spreading “fake news”… by broadcasts by RT and Sputnik which produce emanations that “undermine democracy“… were the Russians blackmailing him?

What exactly? Nothing that could be pinned down. Like trying to nail Jello to the wall. The allegations were vague, elusive, yet all-embracing. Nothing you could actually test. Shining the light of reason and fact on a particular detail was useless: the accusation skittered away into the shadows like a cockroach: voting machines, propaganda, influence, putinbots, association, something, nothing. But the sum effect, day after day, week after week, month after month, was that no one should take Trump seriously, no one needed to take him seriously, for he was Putin’s stooge and, sooner or later, would be forced from office. Soon gone. Not my president. It’s now April 2017 and this stuff has been festering away since the DNC cheating was revealed in July 2016. Nine months. It is not going to go away by itself. Neither is it going to go away for lack of evidence. It’s deeply embedded in the fantasy world (in this site’s universe, Clinton won) and too much has been invested in it.

In the real world, there is no rational way to stop the accusations.

59 cruise missiles later, all that has evaporated, Trump’s former critics are fawning and slobbering: “America is back, and you’re not allowed to do whatever you want” and “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” simpered two former critics. Generally popular – if only rather shallowly – too. No more Putin puppet. And so on – here is a compendium of drool. So, if the strike were a piece of theatre designed for domestic consumption, it hit the target. A “precision strike” indeed. (By the way, Scott Adams, who has read the Trumpian tea leaves very accurately, agrees that it was theatre.)

But the strike was of questionable morality and legality, to be sure; it was potentially dangerous and many argue that now that Trump has given in once to the War Party, he will find it harder to resist the next time. While it is true that supping with the Devil requires a long spoon, I think Trump has neutered his enemies. The next time there’s another (faked-up – and this attack was obviously not Damascus’ doing) event, he can call fake and what will they do then? Retract their fawning praise? Say he “became” President in April but “ceased” to be in July or August? Or (and I admit the probability of this is vanishingly small) when the truth does comes out, could Washington even apologise and pay compensation to the victims? If that were to happen – and I agree it would be a first – it would be a stunning blow to the War Party. In short, I don’t think the game is over and I don’t think the curtain has come down on the theatrical production.

What will Moscow’s reaction be? Well, if the theatre theory is correct, very little because Moscow was in on the deception to some extent. So, the test will be whether the incident is passed off with some minor harrumphing all round (the story of the Russian-Iranian “red line” is not true). We’ll have a better idea when the results of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Moscow visit emerge. Does Putin also believe it was theatre? Perhaps he does; this is what he said yesterday:

many European countries adopted an anti-Trump position during the election campaign. Syria and Russia, as a common enemy, provide a wonderful platform for consolidation.

Every decent theory must be falsifiable. I will agree that this theory – the theory that the US strike was really domestic theatre – would be falsified if the story, reactions, statements and so on keep building. We should know either way in a month.

But, so far so good: the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting yesterday passed off with minor harrumphing and none of the sanctions UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wanted. In fact the final 30-page communique managed to set a new record of logical incoherency by both blaming Damascus and calling for an inquiry to find out who was to blame:

We are shocked and horrified by the reports of use of chemical weapons in an airstrike in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib on 4 April… The subsequent US military action against Shayrat Airfield was a carefully calibrated, limited in scope response to this warcrime and was directed against Syrian military targets directly connected… We express full support to the OPCW Fact Finding Mission investigation and stress that if the Fact Finding Mission concludes that chemical weapons have or have likely been used, the OPCW – UN Joint Investigative Mechanism should immediately carry out its investigation in accordance with its mandate to identify the perpetrators.

As to Washington’s touching concern about “crimes against innocents“, it is appropriate to note that one of the West’s favourite goto sites, the UK-based Syrian Network for Human Rights and a much-quoted source for accusations that Damascus routinely uses CW, declared that the USA and its allies “killed 260 civilians, including 70 children and 34 women” in Syria last month. More than ISIS did, it says.

As to whether the attack will have much effect on Pyongyang (some think it was the real audience), I am inclined to doubt it. The national mythos in North Korea is resistance – resistance to the Japanese in the first half of the Twentieth Century and defiance of the USA and its allies in the second half; all firmly based on the memory of the ultimately successful resistance to Hideyoshi’s invasion in the 1500s. It seems unlikely that the leadership will be much impressed by anything Washington does this century. And, as this report suggests, it isn’t.

As to its effect on Beijing, again I suspect not very much: the Chinese leadership is neither as gullible nor as easily impressed as US media personalities. Beijing might decide that that trying to influence Pyongyang would be more cost effective than another Korean War; on the other hand, it might decide that a USA bogged down in an unwinnable war (just what would “victory” look like anyway?) would be to its advantage. We shall see.

But its effect on the talking heads and media never-Trumpers at home was profound.

Why Russia Ran Rings Around the USA in the Obama Years

These pieces are papers that I believe to be still relevant; they were published earlier elsewhere under a pseudonym. They have been very slightly edited and hyperlinks have been checked.

Originally written in October 2015 but I don’t see much to change my opinion about. When the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the West had it all – prestige, success, power, a winning example. It is astounding how much it has thrown away in the succeeding three decades.

Admittedly, there is a new Administration in the USA with new promises to mind its own business:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

Can Trump get the USA to stop its (wasteful, destructive, murderous and counterproductive) meddling and can he, as he has promised, find a better relationship with Russia? Can he emplace a better, more coherent, more intelligent, more focussed team than the arrogant incompetents of the last eight years? It is the biggest question today.

The anti-Russian hysteria gripping the chattering classes shows that Trump’s up against a lot of opposition.

But I don’t believe the story is over yet.

Despite its “failing economy“, “isolation“, “ancient weapons“, “instability” and all the other tired (and ageless: Russia was “failing” in 2005 and in 2000) tropes, time and time again, Moscow confounds, surprises and outmanoeuvres Washington. How does it do it?

Moscow has a competent team; Washington has ??? Putin, Medvedev, Ivanov, Shoygu, Lavrov. On the other side… well, you fill in the names. [Note Apr 2017: There is a new Administration and we will see what difference that makes.] The proof is that Russia has risen from a negligible position in 2000 to one that sets a lot of the agenda.

Moscow stays at home; Washington goes abroad. John Quincy Adams advised the young American republic not to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. But today…. US special forces deployed to 150 countries in the past three years; hundreds and hundreds of foreign military bases. Not even the most dedicated anti-Russia conspiricist could name 15 countries he thought Russian special forces had been deployed in nor more than a handful of foreign bases. And so, while Moscow sticks to its own interests, Washington sticks its interests into everything and everywhere.

Moscow is grounded in reality; Washington grounded in illusion. I don’t think we could have a better illustration than the two leaders’ speeches at the UNGA [in 2015]. In which, together with all the hypocritical piffle about “we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law”, “fidelity to international order”, “basic principles of freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce”, “helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant” is the meat: “I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.” As this writer put it, the schoolyard bully condemns bullying. Putin stuck to his themes of multilateralism (and so did Xi Jinping; something to be noticed: that’s two nuclear powers, two UNSC permanent seats and the first and fifth economies (World Bank, PPP) agreeing that “The future of the world must be shaped by all countries. All countries are equals.”). Putin asked “do you at least realize now what you’ve done?” and answered his question realistically “But I’m afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity.” And finally: “Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it’s a big question: who’s playing whom here?” Who, indeed? (One of the top ISIS commanders was trained by the US back when it was thought useful to have jihadists it “controlled” fighting Russia. Who was playing whom then?) But Obama’s still rearranging the li-los in cloud cuckoo land: Putin went into Syria out of weakness and he’s only got Syria and Iran while the USA has the rest of the world.

Moscow plans; Washington assumes. It seems that Israel got more than the brusque one-hour announcement the US received of the coming strikes. A coordination centre is operating in Baghdad. There are constant stories that China is on board (I don’t believe Debka’s reports that Chinese military assets are already there but China may well appear in some way). [Note Apr 2017: not militarily but it will likely play a part in rebuilding Syria]. Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the Kurds are all on board. Obviously this was carefully planned over some time. In short, Putin & Co got their ducks in a row and moved very quickly. [Note Apr 2017: and so it continues]. Compare the light-hearted way in which the Ukraine disaster began: cookies and cell phone chats, the premature US Navy bid for Sevastopol, the silly confidence that it would be all wrapped up soon. To say nothing of the “surprising” fallout from the Libya and Iraq wars. Of course if the aim of Washington is to create chaos, as some wonder, then it has been all carefully thought out. And chaos it has.

Moscow has consistency; Washington has confusion. Take Syria for example. The Russian policy is to fight ISIS and its attachments; it supports Assad because it saw in Libya and Iraq that overthrowing the incumbent leads to worse. The only way to do this is by supporting the forces that are actually fighting ISIS on the ground. As well there is the principle that Assad is the recognised government of the country. And so Russia has forged agreements with the forces actually fighting ISIS. The US policy is to attack ISIS (but not very effectively) but also to attack Assad using its “four or five” moderate rebels. Oh, wait, you tell us there’s a CIA-trained group we haven’t heard about before somewhere? Or should Washington ally itself with Al-Qaeda? ISIS has a lot of US weapons: accident? Intention? some secret operation? who knows? No consistency or coherence there.

Moscow has a united team; what does the USA have? As I have written earlier, I suspect that the US intelligence community has been shut out of Washington’s decisions and now wants to clear itself of blame for the ever unrolling disaster. We won’t hear anything from Moscow like that; and it’s not because Putin’s a “dictator”.

So it’s not that complicated: competency, attention to first principles, reality, planning, consistency of purpose and unity of execution beats incompetency, interfering in everything everywhere, illusion, sloppy assumptions, confusion and disunity.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 30 MARCH 2017

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The story continues to fall apart. No evidence says Clapper. Not even Krauthammer believes it. Morell, previously calling Trump an “unwitting agent” now says “no fire, at all“. Rogers says no evidence. Nunes says no evidence. The authors of the hysteria are backing off. The source of the “evidence” – Crowdstrike – looks fishier by the moment (even VoA doubts it. It’s just another NATO tool.) In short, fake news. The New Yorker bravely tries to keep it alive, “worked together to halt… a sweeping investigation of Russian interference”, but it’s dying. As a reminder of just how feeble the whole story was, here’s what “All of Trump’s Russia Ties, in 7 Charts” tells us about Flynn: while DIA head he visited his Russian opposite number, he met with the Russian Ambassador and appeared on RT; pretty thin. Maybe we will find out who really leaked the evidence of rigging the DNC.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Pretty much displaced by TDS (humans soon to be extinct, thanks to him) but still some good ones: “Russia’s coming attack on Canada”, “The Senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” “Russia’s 5th Column” (pretty well anybody anywhere who disagrees with the Establishment line).

DEMOS. I’m not going to spend much time on the demos – I am rather surprised that they happened at all given the gradual elimination of foreign GONGOs and Navalniy’s Western cookie cutter views on Crimea and Ukraine: “referendum at the barrel of a gun”, “invasion” . Karlin was there. I doubt that there will be much in the way of aftereffects. Western hypocrisy was in full cry: Toronto 7 years ago, Washington a year ago, London half a year ago. Nobody likes unsanctioned protests.

TRUCKERS’ STRIKE. Another strike against the Plato system has begun. I don’t know much about it – here’s something – but I believe it to be a genuine protest.

SEPARATION. The Russian defence industry has almost completed its separation from Ukraine. Safeguards against the risk of being shut out of international transaction systems such as SWIFT have been introduced. More evidence of Moscow’s foresight and determination.

RUSSIA INC. Bloomberg says Russia is out of its recession and S&P has raised its sovereign outlook to positive. Which doesn’t stop tripe like this and this from being extruded by the fake stream media.

FREELAND’S GRANDFATHER. It’s not Russia that is the source of the story, it’s Poland: “The records now being opened by the Polish government in Warsaw reveal that Freeland’s maternal grandfather Michael (Mikhailo) Chomiak was a Nazi collaborator from the beginning to the end of the war.” Warsaw is starting to be concerned about what it helped to revive in its neighbour (desecration of graves of Poles in Ukraine). And that neighbour is noticing back: a grenade attack on a Polish consulate in Western Ukraine the other day.

NEW NWO. One of the unintended by-products of the neocon direction of American foreign policy has been the increase in Iran’s power. The destruction of Iraq removed a barrier and the attempted destruction of Syria gave it an opportunity: it now dominates its immediate surroundings, from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, in a way almost unimaginable in 2000. It grows closer to Russia: its S-300s are now operating, a port visit to Makhachkala and President Rouhani visited Moscow. Relations will only get closer (China too). It really is remarkable how much the West has squandered in a couple of decades.

US SENATORS NOTICE SOROS. Something to watch.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. Remember – it’s only a year ago – when “Russia [was] stoking and exploiting Europe’s migrant crisis to extract concessions“? Neither does anyone else: now it turns out that Norway was playing games with migrants on the border. I can’t say it often enough: practically everything you read in the Western media about Russia is fake news.

UKRAINE. Complete blockade both ways of rebel Donbass: another step towards independence. Two and a half million Ukrainian refugees in Russia and more elsewhere. The nazis join up: their principles; (remember that in Remnant Ukraine, guns get a vote too). The IMF postpones its next disbursement. Kiev loses case. Since the “revolution of dignity“, Ukraine has slipped (p 27) in the “world happiness ranking” and now sits at 132/155 (p22). 80% are in poverty. Catastrophic explosion at arms dump near Kharkov (pretty casual behaviour there). A former Russian Duma member shot on the street. It should be pointed out, by the way, that everything bad in Ukraine is immediately blamed on Russia (including attacks on Polish consulates); the WaPo and other FSM outlets usually parrot the accusation.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Really Stupid Things Said About Russia

Moscow is being forced to play these aggressive and risky games out of desperation. The country is in bad shape and it is getting worse. [Not according to Bloomberg which says it’s out of the recession.] The once great superpower now has an economy smaller than Canada’s and it continues to shrink. [This is just stupid and a byproduct of exchange rates. Russia is one of the very few “full service” economies in the world. Canada is not one of those]. Even though they spend 5 per cent of their GDP on defence, Russia’s military forces have grown so rusted out they can barely get their last aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean and back without breaking down. [Even so, it got where it was going, did what it had to do, and got home again]. Even the ragtag Ukrainians have fought them to a standstill. [They wish – they’ve been beaten by a civilian militia]. Diplomatically, Moscow has never been so isolated and powerless. You can count its friends on one hand, and it’s not an impressive list: Syria, Iran, Belarus. [Oh, and China too.]

Russia’s coming attack on Canada by Scott Gilmore, MacLean’s, 8 March 2017.

[My comments]

US Senators Notice Soros

The letter from six Republican senators to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a rather interesting development. To many in the general public, Soros retains a reputation as a benign do-gooder but the Senators charge that the US Mission in Macedonia has “intervened in party politics of Macedonia, as well as in the shaping of its media environment and civil society” through USAID funds given to Soros’ foundation as one of the “implementing agencies”; they make mention of other interferences in other countries. They ask Tillerson to investigate and review these activities.

Whether this will lead anywhere remains to be seen – Soros’ organisations and American GONGOs are inextricably linked in regime change operations around the world – indeed the co-founder of the National Endowment for Democracy (“Funded largely by the U.S. Congress“) boasted in 1991 “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Soros’ organisations are only one of the so-called independent vehicles that deliver these “spyless coups”.

But, despite their rather quaint objection to the supposed “left-leaning” bias of Soros’ activities – “left” and “right” is hardly the real issue here – their letter is a start at openly questioning Washington’s obsession with undermining and overthrowing governments it doesn’t like via the agency of so-called independent foundations.

The new Administration’s foreign policy mantra is supposed to be:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

The Administration’s reaction to this letter will be a test. And, if another motive is needed, Soros has many connections to the anti-Trump movement and was a significant donor to the Clinton campaign.

So, the reaction will be interesting to watch.

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

The world now faces a choice between the cooperative exploitation by the East and West of natural resources or a wasteful struggle that could cost a fortune in blood and treasure. Regional conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia threaten to deny Western access to the vital oil and gas reserves the world will need in the 21st century. The wars in Chechnya, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Georgia were started or exacerbated by the Russian military, and the outcome of these wars may determine who controls future pipeline routes. Moscow hopes that Russia will. Powerful interests in Moscow are attempting to ensure that the only route for exporting the energy resources of Eurasia will pass through Russia.

Ariel Cohen, Senior Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation “The New ‘Great Game’: Oil Politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia”; 25 January 1996.