After the Trumpquake — Что делать?

Question: (Coming together to generate ideas for a new foreign policy agenda). In the end, the 2016 US presidential campaign did what democracies are supposed to do: it gave the electorate a clear choice between two different visions of the country’s future and the policies each party proposed to take us there.  When faced with the prospect of “more of the same,” meaning more impoverishment of the middle and lower classes, more risks of new wars:  it ‘threw the bums out.”

Unfortunately, on the way to this happy outcome the level of political culture on display by the presidential candidates and their campaign staffs sank to unprecedented lows and vicious personal attacks on each other often obscured the policy differences between the candidates.

Nevertheless now that the outgoing President Obama and the incoming President Trump have shaken hands at their first transition meeting in the White House, it is time for the rest of us to make our peace with one another.  This, however, should not mean ending our differences of opinion on policies.  On the contrary, what the country needs now is a good dose of debate and in particular partisan, as opposed to nonpartisan discussion of our foreign policy issues, since we have for the past 4 years at least been stumbling into a very dangerous confrontation with both Russia and China without the benefit of free public discussion of our options.

What concretely can we all do to force the media, the foreign policy establishment to ‘come out and play’ now rather than sulk and spit venom at the victorious Trump team?

The encouraging truth is that reality eventually triumphs; the discouraging truth is that it only does so over a long and painful time. Trump’s victory is, in its way, a victory for reality but a mighty effort remains.

What can we do in forums like this one? Keep talking about reality I suppose: the reality that the neocon domination of Washington has failed in every way possible; the reality that Washington’s endless wars have been failures; the reality that every failed war has planted the seeds of the next; the reality that a extraordinary opportunity was squandered in the 1990s; the reality that making Russia into an enemy is stupid, unnecessary and extremely dangerous; the reality that “exceptionalism” is exceptionally dangerous, destructive and stupid; the reality that the MSM is lying about Syria, about Russia, about Ukraine and about almost everything else; the reality that Putin is not a “thug” determined to re-create the USSR; the reality that Russia is not “isolated”, in “economic freefall” or on the edge of “regime change”; the reality that “The West” has been on the wrong course for two decades. The reality that the neocon/liberal interventionist route leads to destruction.

We may eventually hope that our little drops of water wear away the stone. Perhaps some of us have had an effect on Trump’s thinking, or Flynn’s thinking, or Bannon’s thinking. But we will probably never know and, in truth, it’s almost impossible to work out the influence.

But if Trump can get the Russia relationship right, then a great number of Washington’s international entanglements will be easier to remedy. And he does seem to be interested in getting that right.

But I think, in the last analysis, we have to agree with the great physicist Max Planck:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

In short, a new foreign policy for the USA will have to advance, to paraphrase Planck again, “one political funeral at a time”.

But it’s encouraging that Trump’s election has produced so many political funerals.


TRUMP AND PUTIN. Strange as it may seem, Trump and Putin have the same job: they both want to get their countries working again; or, if you prefer, to make America/Russia great again. There are more similarities than an American jingoist would like to think of: unemployment, failing infrastructure, poverty, loss of production ability, hopelessness, corruption, failed wars. The difference is that Russia is 20 years further along the curve, having got through the collapse of empire and the death of ideological fantasy. The USA has (we hope) reached the end of the New World Order/Neo-Con fantasy and given up its “imperial overreach“. Moscow did, long ago: “I felt an enormous sense of relief, as if a huge leech had dropped from my back“. In this endeavour, wars are not only a distraction but make the internal decay worse. In my opinion, too many wars are what kill off empires most of the time: empires end up losing the war while winning every battle. Trump seems to understand this; at their end, empires are simply a losing proposition by every measurement.

PRESIDENT TRUMP. At a minimum, the worst case of more and more wars and accelerating confrontation with Russia and China leading to nuclear destruction all round has been avoided. Trump’s idea that the US and Russia can collaborate in fighting Daesh et al takes us right back, in fact, to Putin’s phone call to Bush on 911. Trump has been very persistent in his assertion that Washington and Moscow should work together and has held to it despite much abuse. It’s all very encouraging so far.

WAR PREPARATIONS. My belief is that Moscow, like most everyone else, expected Clinton to win and the two meetings on war preparations were scheduled well before. I would expect Moscow to continue war preparations for the following reasons. 1) Obama & Co are still in office (remember недоговороспособны). 2) Moscow has just learned (again) that Washington’s policy can suddenly change 3) while both willing and hoping, Moscow is prudently waiting to see what Trump and his people really do. It awaits actual meetings, discussions and actions (most of which will be stopping actions) in Syria and NATO. Washington is the driver for most everything and Moscow will wait for the drive to be turned off. Washington long ago squandered the trust and good will that Moscow had for it in the 1990s. If Trump can get the Washington-Moscow relationship right, many other international entanglements will disappear and he will have the time and money for his ambitious domestic programs.

CORRUPTION. At last a serving minister has been arrested and fired (“due to the loss of trust“). I’ve long said that I’ll believe the anti-corruption effort is really biting when someone in an office near Putin or Medvedev is busted. Pretty close, this time. But Serdyukov and the Luzhkovs walk free (although I have sympathy for Yuriy – I remember the immediate improvement he brought to Moscow)

FAILED SLOGAN. Putin wants you to vote Brexit! Putin wants you to vote Trump! Bulgaria! Moldova! Now Putin wants you to vote a certain way in Germany and France. Not a winning accusation, as it turns out. Like the “Assad-must-go curse”: the more you say it, the less you get.

RUSSIA IN THE WORLD. It’s not so surprising (if you ignore the rubbish the WMSM pumps out and think about it) that, one after another, people are scrambling to make an arrangement with Moscow. It hasn’t been beaten, it hasn’t backed down, it hasn’t collapsed. Rather it has gone from strength to strength and its opponents are the ones that are staggering. Even Obama has changed his tune: now Russia is a “superpower” with “influence around the world”; only two and a half years ago he said it was only a regional power acting out of weakness.

WESTERN VALUES™. Remember when the USSR censored our stuff and we didn’t care about theirs because they were lying and we weren’t? Neither does the EU which condemns Russian media together with “violent jihadi terrorist groups”. Hopefully all this will be swept away by the Trumpquake.

WHITE HELMETS BUSTED! This organisation, which has been much hailed in the West and has received much money, is a complete fake. Many of us have know that for a long time – here and here – but here, at last, is the film. Make sure everyone is in position, check the fake blood, is there enough dust? (oops, the black overalls are too clean; were they teleported to the site? Pretty slapdash!); then Action! Screams, movement and another dramatic rescue! The fakers are getting sloppier – Bellingcat’s stuff now refutes itself. (PS anybody remember “Green Helmet”? I do.) Aren’t you glad they didn’t get a Nobel Prize? Where do you suppose the money actually goes?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Obama changes his mind on Russia

It’s been quite a progression, hasn’t it?

Part One: Weak, Regional, Failing

Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness.

Netherlands, 25 March 2014

But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking. And so we have to respond with resolve in what are effectively regional challenges that Russia presents. We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy. And as long as we do that, then I think history is on our side.

Economist interview, 2 August 2014

Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with frontline states, Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve. (Applause.)

State of the Union Address, 20 January 2015

Part Two: Maybe not

The bottom line is, is that we think that Russia is a large important country with a military that is second only to ours, and has to be a part of the solution on the world stage, rather than part of the problem.

Washington, 18 October 2016

Part Three: Powerful, Worldwide

With respect to Russia, my principal approach to Russia has been constant since I first came into office. Russia is an important country. It is a military superpower. It has influence in the region and it has influence around the world. And in order for us to solve many big problems around the world, it is in our interest to work with Russia and obtain their cooperation.

Berlin, 17 November 2016

“constant since I first came into office”

Media Bias

(Response to a question from Sputnik inviting my comments on a poll finding that 80% thought the US media had been biased in the election.)

Why as few as 80%? The bias and general worthlessness of the MSM as a source of information has been apparent for years. In this particular case, as Wikileaks shows, the owners of the US media had invested in a Clinton future and the Clintons had invested in the media. One of the reasons Trump won was that the more the MSM reviled him, the more support he gained: if the liars accuse him of something, he must be innocent of it.

The principal difference between the Eatanswill Gazette and the NYT, the WaPo, the Economist and the rest of them is that the first freely admitted its bias.

What to do? Turn off your TV, cancel your newspaper subscription and let them go bust faster. Oh, and shut down all the “journalism degree” mills.

Let the new rise from the compost of the old.


I’ve been at this business for a while. I’ve been collecting quotations for a while.  I do my best to find an active link for quotations from my collection that I post on my site.

But I often can’t find a live link for the early ones. So you have to take my word for it sometimes. But, I think you recognise the flavour. For example, The Economist has hated Russia since, as far as I know, Cardigan invented his sweater.

It’s actually rather interesting, now that I root through my back files, to discover (well, depressing more than interesting) how hostile the WMSM has been to Russia for how long. From the very beginning, in fact.

Even Yeltsin, after he got off his tank, was spun as Cthulhu Redevivus.

People come and go (anybody out there remember when Chernomyrdin was on the Forbes’ world billionaire list? I do.) but the Russia The Eternal Enemy meme remains.

Personally. I don’t get it. What’s Russia ever done to us?

But, maybe, this period is coming to an end and Russia will at last be treated by Washington as a normal country — argue with it sometimes, cooperate with it other times; but normal business.

As a last teaser, I leave you with what will be (I hope) Ed’s finale before going into retirement.

Is blitz on Aleppo the start of Putin’s war to rebuild USSR? As Russian missiles rain down on besieged city – and Trump cosies up to Putin – a Kremlin expert’s chilling warning.


Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

Why do the Russians still give us trouble even though the Cold War has long ended? Why do they invite the terrorist Hamas leaders to Moscow? Why do they cut off natural gas to Ukraine and thereby reduce its flow to Western Europe? Why do they harass foreign non-governmental organizations, accusing them of espionage and incitement to revolution? Why do they carry out joint military exercises with the Chinese, clearly aimed at Taiwan?

Richard Pipes: “Why the Bear Growls”, Wall Street Journal, 1 Mar 2006;

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

Since the Cold War ended, Russian leaders have built a shadow empire on the territories of Russia’s sovereign neighbors, extending Russian power where it is unwarranted and unwelcome by sponsoring “frozen conflicts” in southeastern Europe and the South Caucasus. This behavior, designed to maintain political and economic influence beyond Russia’s borders, impedes democratic development in states that aspire to join the West. It exports instability, criminality and insecurity into Europe. It threatens regional military conflict that could draw in the United States and other powers. It also bolsters anti-democratic forces within Russia who believe Russia’s traditional approach of subverting its neighbors’ independence is a surer path to security than the democratic peace enjoyed by the nations of Europe.

Ana Palacio and Daniel Twining (Palacio is the former Foreign minister of Spain. Twining is an Oxford-based consultant to the German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington Post, 11 March 2006.


SYRIA. Moscow and Damascus have evidently had enough after the US attack on Syrian soldiers. A Russian military spokesman warned that Russian forces in Syria have capable air defences, are spread around the country and will shoot first. The Syrians said, on their part, that they had upgraded systems and would also shoot first. The Americans, for once (no we’ll beat you harder than you’ve ever been beaten before bluster), are not so cocky: “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.The Russians are increasing their forces: new SAMs specialised to deal with cruise missiles are now there and a naval flotilla (including their aircraft carrier) is on the way. A lot of air defence will be there. So, probably no “no fly zone” now. Russia and Syria stop airstrikes on the jihadist-held part of Aleppo for a humanitarian pause; today extended as residents try to get out. No more talks says Washington on the 3rd, phonecall on the 6th, face-to-face on the 15th. Anybody in charge in Washington? My take on what Moscow has done in a year.

CIVIL DEFENCE. A big civil defence drill at the beginning of the month. As I’ve said before, Russia is preparing for a big war. Others agree. It doesn’t want one but it fears one may come anyway.

RUSSIA INC. The IMF’s Deputy Director of Research said the economy was headed in the right direction and the government had done the right things. Fitch agrees and improved its risk rating. “Tatters” 21 months ago; “free fall” 17 months ago; “collapse” 10 months ago. Nope.

OIL. A few weeks ago OPEC announced that it would restrain production. Putin, Russia having pumped its record since the USSR days, said Moscow was ready to freeze production too. We will see.

CORRUPTION. The FSB amused itself by revealing it had gathered evidence against a bribetaker by means of a bugged samovar they had presented him. “A present from your friends at the FSB” indeed!

WESTERN VALUES™. From the NYT: “At the meeting last week, Mr. Kerry was trying to explain that the United States has no legal justification for attacking Mr. Assad’s government, whereas Russia was invited in by the government. ‘The problem is the Russians don’t care about international law, and we do.'” No comment.

WADAYATHINK? 583 therapeutic use exemptions for US athletes in 2015.Their athletes cheat and get banned from sporting events. Whereas ours take performance-enhancing drugs solely to combat their crippling asthma attacks which might otherwise prevent them from winning the Tour de France.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Always possible to say something stupider, isn’t it? “If the past 15 years show anything, it is that Putin, like a marauding Red Army tank, has no reverse gear.”.

TURKEY. Turkstream is back on. December 2019 is the new completion date. I wonder how the EU is doing in building the pipelines to Turkey to pick up the gas. Because it won’t be coming through Ukraine.

NEW NWO. Serious subject, fatuous title: Bromance Between Xi and Putin Grows as U.S. Spats Escalate.” I’ll say it again: arguably the most important result of the US’s “era of global dominance” will be the Moscow-Beijing alliance.

US ELECTION. The Obama administration has “officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations” and counter attacks are promised. No evidence and “inflammatory and irresponsible” says one who knows about these things. But now that Trump is talking about the election being rigged, and lots of people agree, they’re trying to walk the story back. The NYT neatly squares the circle by saying it won’t be “rigged” but it could be “hacked”. And Putin was mentioned more than anything else in the four US debates. How remarkable that nobody is talking about Seth Rich.

GEORGIA. Georgian Dream won the parliamentary election; presumably normal relations with Russia.

UKRAINE. Pretty scathing attack on Poroshenko in Kyiv Post. I have no idea what this means but am not inclined to think either coincidence or “speaking truth to power”.

POLAND-UKRAINE. Movie about massacres of Poles by Ukrainian nazis in the war. Kiev not happy: “an element of the anti-Ukrainian propaganda conducted by Russia.

FROM LAPUTA’S KITCHENS TO YOU. “The Pentagon paid a UK PR firm half a billion dollars to create fake terrorist videos in Iraq.Of course, you may all rest assured that they don’t do that anymore and certainly not in Syria.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

The Greatest Kremlinological Theory Ever: Bald and Hairy

Note: a version of this appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail in 1996 and I am amazed to see it preserved on the Web. I think I originally wrote it for the now-defunct Moscow Tribune about that time.

It was delightful to read Jennifer Rossa’s piece in the Moscow Tribune on 29 February 1996 resurrecting the greatest of all Kremlinological theories. What is known among the professionals as the Hirsute Analytical Tool – the alternation of bald and hairy Soviet leaders – was greatly relied on after its discovery in 1955. A theory of great predictive power, it was the crown jewel of the science of Kremlinology.

However, the HAT has greater power yet: as it survived the communist period so it pre-dated it. Alexander I (1801-1825) was balding; Nicholas I (1825-1855) was also balding. But then the cycle settled down: Alexander II (1855-1881) had a full head of hair, Alexander III (1881-1894) was balding and Nicholas II (1894-1917) had hair. Note, however, the Imperial Corollary: emperors are balding, communists are fully bald.

Unnoticed by other researchers, and here presented for the first time, is the Facial Fur Addendum. Facial fur started gently in the 19th century, rose to a crescendo, died away among the communists and bald faces have been the rule ever since. Alexander I was clean shaven, Nicholas I had a moustache, Alexander II had mutton chops, Alexander III and Nicholas II had full beards. Lenin had a beard, but only a goatee, and Stalin, the last in the series, had a moustache.

The HAT refers only to male rulers of course and Russia had several female rulers in the eighteenth century but not since. Tentative analysis suggests the existence of a long term cycle – possibly involving Big Hair (which Catherine certainly had). The return of women rulers is indicated for the next century.

The HAT is worthless at predicting length of term. For example, Stalin, a Hairy Guy, was in power for nearly 30 years while Chernenko, another Hairy Guy, was in power for only eighteen months. Therefore, it is quite wrong to suggest that the HAT predicts that President Yeltsin will lose the June election. The Hat was discovered in an imperial period when rulers tended to hold office for life. It may not apply to a republican, democratic Russia. If it is still valid, all it predicts is that President Yeltsin’s eventual successor will be a Bald Guy, possibly with a neat moustache.

Note: I was greatly amused to see, when Putin re-appeared as President, that the HAT has lost none of its power. And here is the latest version:

bald and hairy