RF Sitrep 20150723


EID AL-FITR. Interesting video that shows Russia is also a rather Muslim country. The Chief Mufti supports Putin, by the way. (For those of you who think it’s some evil scheme cooked up by Orthodoxy).

MH17. Watch this BBC interview. Shootdown by Buk “most credible scenario” but also looking at Buk fired “from another region, another place” and scenario of “an air-to-air missile.” Can only mean 2) Buk fired from the Kiev side or 3) Kiev aircraft shot it down. Somebody’s lost control of the narrative. We are told by a Ukrainian official that the report will be published 10 August but not made public. (If scenarios 2 and 3 are really being considered, why is Ukraine even part of the investigation?) Retired US int professionals again call on Washington to release what it has. Simply put, here’s all you need to know: the absence of evidence is the evidence.

UKRAINE: THE WAR. The rebels have announced a pull-back of weapons under 100mm calibre (Minsk II requires 100mm+ weapons moved out of range). Why? I think the Saker is correct: to show they are abiding by Minsk II; but it’s also a trap. OSCE observers corroborate that at least some weapons have been withdrawn and they are off to confirm full withdrawal. But they have also said – I don’t recall this before – that Kiev forces are shelling civilians: “In both cases, the SMM was able to conclude the direction of fire to have been from the area of government-controlled Pisky (11km north-west of Donetsk) and Pervomaiske (17km north-west of Donetsk).So much for the US Ambassador’s retort “How do you know? Were you personally present for this?”. Or RL’s reprinting Kiev claims that the rebels are shelling themselves.

UKRAINE: TRANSCARPATHIA. Ethnically mixed, many former owners, little enthusiasm for Kiev regime. Smuggling: tobacco and borders. Right Sector people got into a fight in Mukachevo; Poroshenko ordered the Interior Ministry to restore order (perhaps a regime split on how to handle it? Certainly no one is very popular in Ukraine today.) Right Sector ran for cover and now the place is full of Interior Ministry forces and small-scale fighting. Stay tuned. (Of course, maybe Putindunnit.)

UKRAINE: RIGHT SECTOR. A headline to remember: “Kiev Forced to Fight Its Own Fascist Militias“. After Mukachevo, Right Sector declared mobilisation, demanded resignations all round and set up blockposts here and there. There was a sizeable demonstration in Kiev on Tuesday; Yarosh demanded a referendum on confidence in the government and an end to obedience to it. Analyses of the situation from Gordon Hahn, Alexander Mercouris and Nikolai Petro. BBC actually notices. Many of us have been awaiting the next stage of the Ukrainian demolution (a new word coined by Miquel Puertas: demolition + revolution) – Nazi Spring, as it were. We are a step closer. But it’s extremely fluid: witness what Yarosh is saying now. A weak government to be sure but Right Sector may not have the street power it thinks it has.

UKRAINE: NEIGHBOURS. Very interesting article by a Polish writer who contemplates where the burning fuse is going: a Ukrainian “Banderland” is not in Poland’s interests and (so much for NATO and the EU) “if the West needs Poland, it’s only as a battlefield for a possible conflict with Russia”; maybe better if Ukraine were partitioned. Other Poles are concerned about the glorification of Bandera and the OUN; and a movie is on the way. Hungary has cleared its throat, so to speak, about Hungarians living in Transcarpathia. The violence in Transcarpathia has made neighbouring countries strengthen their borders – after all the armed Right Sector people are hiding somewhere nearby. Meanwhile, Schengen members are cutting down on issuing visas to Ukrainians. Remember “the end of history”? Neither do they.

???!!! Did Washington supply Stingers to Kiev? Anyway, the Donbass fighters now have them. This may make sense in some universe, but not the one we’re living in.

KYRGYZ REPUBLIC. Several people have suspected an American attempt to start a “colour revolution” there – to many the choice of mission head is diagnostic. In this respect the announcement of a “human rights” award to a dissident was protested by the government. When the US did nothing, the PM denounced the 1993 assistance agreement with the USA.

IRAN DEAL. We’ll see. Many in the USA want to denounce it and that may happen. In which case who will follow Washington and who won’t? It’s good (and proper) that Obama thanked Russia, but I don’t expect much. As to European missile defence being cancelled, let’s ask Putin. But undeniably a major event.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada Websites: ROPV, US-Russia, Russia Insider

Bubble Media Confuses Itself: But not us


An Australian MSM outlet known as news.com.au has published a video and transcript with the breathless title of “Full transcript: Russian-backed rebels ransack the wreckage of MH17 in shocking 17-minute video”. The sub-title is :”For 17 minutes, they ransacked the luggage of innocent people who had just been shot out of the sky. The full transcript of the never-before-seen footage reveals what they were looking for.” We are helped to the correct feelings with comments like: “No respect … Rebels taking what they want ” “Disgusting … A rebel going through the bag of a victim”.

Here it is: see for yourself.
So, this news outlet thought it had a scoop that would further cement the Accepted Western Story about MH17 and put more all-round blame on the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

But instead….

The problem with living in the bubble is that you don’t know that you are inside the bubble. You do not understand that 1) there is no evidence worthy of the name that the rebels or the Russians shot MH17 down and 2) that your job is to manufacture more fake evidence.

What being in the bubble really means is that you are so far inside the bubble, that everybody you talk to is in the bubble with you, that everything you read or see is selected for the bubble-view that the bubble-view becomes the only view. And you come to believe that there’s no one outside the bubble except conspiracy theorists and Putin trolls. The walls of the bubble are thick and impenetrable. So you do not know what a “Sukhoi” is because you’ve never seen the evidence that a Ukrainian Sukhoi-27 shot MH-17 down.

So you have no idea when you rush to publish another smear job that what you have actually done is add another piece of evidence to the Sukhoi shoot down theory.

Here is some of the evidence (there is more)that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter plane:

  1. The suppressed (but not suppressed enough) BBC report of eyewitnesses.
  2. The witness of the Ukrainian air force technician.
  3. Not necessarily on order from Kiev, by the way.
  4. An eyewitness.
  5. Another eyewitness.
  6. A report arguing an air-to-air missile destroyed it.
  7. And, thank you news.com.au, now there is your evidence.

Read these excerpts from the transcript. These people are not looting; they are trying to figure out which bits are from MH-17 and which from the Sukhoi fighter they shot down. They are going through the wreckage trying to understand what they have here.

Here are the excerpts that the inhabitants of Bubble-land didn’t understand:

They say the Sukhoi (Fighter) brought down the civilian plane and ours brought down the fighter.

Background: But where is the Sukhoi?

There it is … it’s the passenger plane.


Background: [Undistinguished]. Where is the Sukhoi then?

Background: It’s confusing. No idea where the Sukhoi is, it’s burning here and there and debris everywhere

Background: Who’s opened a corridor for them to fly over here?


Cmdr: Hello, yes. They saw a pilot crawling at Rassipnaya. A pilot was seen crawling.

Cmdr: It’s a civilian.

Cmdr:…F***. Passenger plane was f*****.


Cmdr: The other plane that fell down, they are after them, the pilots.

Background: The second one?

Cmdr: Yes, there’s 2 planes taken down. We need the second.

Background: The second one is a civilian too?

Background: The fighter jet brought down this one, and our people brought down the fighter.

Background: They decided to do it this way, to look like we have brought down the plane.


Yes Kalyian. I understood you, but we’re already at the crash site. A passenger plane was brought down. They brought down the passenger plane and we brought down the fighter.

We’re at the crash site.


Cmdr: The parachute jumpers are there.

Background: But there are two planes, from my understanding.

Background: And what’s the other one? A Sukoi?

Cmdr: A Sukhoi.

The Sukhoi brought down the plane and we brought down the Sukhoi.

Is it far from here? Where did it fall?

Looks like … Where’s the smoke coming from?

Somewhere else is burning, the 49 village.

I mean … the two pilots landed on parachutes.


Cmdr: Five parachutes jumped off this plane. Five people jumped off this plane on the bird site. How to get there?

Fools 10, Wise Men 0


Author’s note, July 2015: I wrote this in Spring 2008 for a website that has since disappeared. Someone asked me for a copy the other day and I decided to re-print it on RI. The main interest today, I think, is as an example of how the anti-Russia diatribe has hardly changed over the years: Putin remains defined by his time in the KGB, he’s still vaguely responsible for mysterious deaths, actions that are benign when the West does them are hostile when Russia does and so on. And, of course, as a finally cherry on the sundae, the misquotation.

As I say, these things take very little effort to write – just string together the usual accusations, add the twist of the day – but they can be quite time-consuming to contradiction.

I have changed nothing but repaired all the hyperlinks.


There is a popular saying: “A fool can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer”. What the expression means is that it is much easier to assert something than it is to refute it. A great deal of the commentary on Russia these days is little more than a brief for the prosecution: a list of easily made assertions that can only be refuted with difficulty. A recent piece provides a good example. I will not identify the author of this jeremiad except to say that he is an academic (X, we’ll call him or her) and the piece was published by a respected institution and an earlier version was published in a major newspaper. In any case, anyone who knows his way around Google can find the original quite easily. The piece is a cascade of easily-made accusations, many of which do not stand up to scrutiny. But, refutations of X’s throw-away lines are difficult and time-consuming.

Russia is important. It’s not the most important thing there is, but it’s important enough. It has been a major player in the world for a couple of centuries and there is every indication that it will continue to be. It is therefore of considerable importance to discuss it without clichés and without writing either briefs for the prosecution or briefs for the defence. It would be a grave disservice to ourselves and our descendents to make policy towards Russia based on “bumper sticker” analysis: loaded and imprecise words (all taken from X’s piece) like “belligerence”, “self-righteousness”, “authoritarian”, “cunning”, “menace”, “brutally” are poor preparations for actually dealing with the real Russia.

Perhaps X’s key assumption is shown in the concluding sentence: “Once a Chekist, always a Chekist.” We do hear this one a lot. All you need to know is that Putin was in the KGB and, therefore, thanks to this apparent iron law of Russian analysis, he still is. But, amusingly – and we saw this in the Litvinenko case – people who are prone to say this nevertheless take it for granted that some ex-Chekists, like Litvinenko himself, or Oleg Gordievskiy, or Vassiliy Mitrokhin, or Oleg Kalugin, actually are ex-Chekists and what they say can be relied upon. Despite the silliness of this assertion as a basis for serious argument, X is so pleased with it that he quotes it twice.

X mentions the “sequence of murders of reporters” under Putin. The clear assumption is that a lot of reporters have died in Russia and Putin is responsible. But how accurate is the charge? Fedia Kriukov has analysed the list as given by the Committee to Protect Journalists. His piece is here. It should be read in full but the conclusion is this: “Examination of each case found that out of 17 claims, only 5 were correct, 8 were complete falsification, and 4 were partial falsifications.” In no case does Kriukov find anything to suggest that the government was involved. How long did it take X to write that one sentence and how long did it take Kriukov to research and write his piece? A few seconds on the one hand and several hours on the other.

Here’s another of X’s charges: “His submariners have planted Russia’s flag on the Arctic ocean bed, signalling a determination to secure national rights to oil and gas exploitation there.” Perfectly true, of course but why make it sound so sinister? Here’s the calm and contextual take on the subject by the former Canadian Ambassador to Russia: “In the Arctic, for a start, Mr. Putin is playing by the same Law of the Sea rules we endorse. The truth is that if we could have, we would have, long ago done much the same thing the Russians have just done. We were not amused, but Russia’s gambit was an entirely legitimate use of an impressive technology that we wish we had to highlight a claim.”

Mr X says “Russian warplanes recently infringed upon British airspace and had to be escorted out of it by Royal Air Force fighters.” Did they? I doubt it and I never saw that reported. They probably flew into the UK’s air defence warning zone. But that’s not the same thing at all. Again, it would take much more time to refute this than it took X to write.

“[Putin] has threatened to permanently suspend his country’s observance of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty if the United States refuses to back down.” That’s one way to put it, another is to at least give some slight consideration to the reasons that Moscow has given. “All 30 of the original treaty’s states-parties must ratify the adapted treaty for it to take effect, but only four have done so.” But it’s much easier to write what X wrote than to take the time to discover just what Moscow has said. And it makes a better case for the prosecution.

“When Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London in November 2006, Putin took umbrage at foreign suspicions that his security agencies were behind the crime”. Perhaps his umbrage was because he had nothing to do with it; false accusations are irritating. While the case is certainly not solved, to believe that Putin ordered it is to believe that the Cheka decided to kill someone using a rare (but not as rare as all that) and highly lethal poison. Then, despite the fact that polonium-210 is easily shielded, the crack KGB assassins were clumsy enough to contaminate half of central London. There must be easier ways to do it. Edward Jay Epstein went to Russia and was shown the evidence the British prosecutor passed to Moscow and was not convinced. Epstein spent more time waiting for his flight to Moscow than X spent writing his whole attack.

I could go on but won’t except for this last one: “Putin has referred to the dismantling of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 as ‘the greatest political catastrophe’ of the twentieth century.” X presumably reads Russian. The actual statement made by Putin was this “что крушение Советского Союза было крупнейшей геополитической катастрофой века” “a major geopolitical disaster of the century”. Well, that’s an opinion and X may disagree with it, but Putin did not say “the greatest”. And, of course, finding the speech on the website and reading it took me a much longer than it took X to write the misquotation in the first place.

Altogether a sloppy, context-free brief for the prosecution masquerading as serious analysis. And typical of so much that is written about Russia today.

But I have already taken longer to write this than X took to write his piece so I will stop.

RF Sitrep 20150709


SAME AGAIN. The USA’s new National Military Strategy finds threats everywhere: “the most unpredictable I have seen in 40 years of service”. Russia, Iran, North Korea and China are specifically named as, in order, undermining, destabilising, threatening and adding tension. Some questions it neither asks nor answers: since, say 2002, is jihadism a bigger threat or a smaller threat? Iraq more stable or less stable? Afghanistan ditto? Russia more friendly or less friendly? China ditto? What makes them think that another dozen years of the same thing will get different results?

PUTIN’S RESPONSE. In what I agree was probably not an accident, Putin uses the expression “our geopolitical opponents” rather than his more usual “partners” at a recent meeting of the Security Council. “We cannot hope that some of our geopolitical opponents will change their hostile course anytime in the foreseeable future.” This is as close as I have seen him come to publicly stating Russia is under attack. He remains confident: “It is clear today that attempts to split and divide our society, play on our problems, and seek out our vulnerable spots and weak links have not produced the results hoped for by those who imposed these restrictive measures on our country and continue to support them.” He is correct to be confident, in my opinion.

N”G”Os. The Russian Federation Council has listed foreign organisations operating in Russia it considered to be undesirable and asked the Prosecutor General to rule on them. The idea presumably being to get a ruling that allows them to be expelled. They are the usual array of so-called non-government organisations which are part and parcel of Suzanne Nossel’s “smart power”. That is to say, agents of US foreign policy usually funded by the US State Department (eg, NDI, Freedom House, NED). These are the incubators of “colour revolutions”.

KHODORKOVSKIY. The Russian Investigative Committee spokesman says Khodorkovskiy could have ordered the murder of Nefteyugansk mayor Vladimir Petukhov in 1998. An investigation will begin.

SANCTIONS. One could make a reasonable argument that the sanctions are doing more harm to Europe than to Russia. An Austrian estimate puts the long term cost at 90 billion with over 2 million lost jobs. Meanwhile here’s someone wondering if the sanctions against Russia even exist any more.

UKRAINE’S MISERY. “The habit of hunger“. (Translation). A UN report estimates a third of the population will be in poverty by the end of the year. Even the World Bank, optimistic as it tries to be, knows the economy is disappearing. Saakashvili is quoted as saying it will be 20 years before it returns to the pre-Maidan state. Default is coming. Another UN report says Russia leads the world in asylum requests: the vast majority are from Ukraine. (“Some 172,000 people had applied for asylum in neighbouring countries in Europe, including more than 168,000 people in the Russian Federation. A further 149,000 applied for other forms of legal stay in the Russian Federation.” (So much for the “Russia is the enemy” trope.) The Cyberberkut hackers claim to have turned up a document from the Ukrainian Procuracy saying the so-called “volunteer battalions” are out of control and little more than criminal organisations. OSCE observers report they were told by one of the most eminent, Pravy Sektor, that they had their own orders and did not fall under the command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces“. They demand a return to war. Corruption and inefficiency remain, even in the war effort: generals are accused of writing off equipment so they can sell it. Weapon repair facilities are a joke. Desertions and defections said to be increasing; more than one million men of military age are said to be hiding in Russia alone. Craziness proliferates. Time is not on Kiev’s side. Putin Cunctator.

WESTERN VALUES™. The Greek referendum “was neither factually nor legally correct“; the Ukraine coup was OK (never mind Art 108 of the Constitution); the Crimea referendum was illegal.

SHARK JUMPING. Georgia’s quondam president (wanted there on various charges) and new Governor of Odessa tells us on 6 July that the US Ambassador has promised to bankroll him and his team.

NEW NWO. More data points. Greek referendum – no idea where that will go but it’s unlikely to solidify the EU. BRICS meeting in Ufa then SCO meeting: India and Pakistan are expected to join latter. Iran’s President visits. BRICS bank officially launched. Saudi Arabia wants to invest in Russia. Doubling Nord Stream. China buys some Russian debt. Hungary signs on to the Chinese “Belt and Road”.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada Websites: ROPV, US-Russia, Russia Insider