RUSSIA IS WEAPONISING…. EVERYTHING. NATO commander Breedlove, a source of illumination on all things Putin, informs us that Russia is “weaponising” refugees in order to destabilise Europe. A strange word this “weaponising” which we now hear all the time; not exactly certain what it means but clearly it’s a bad thing. The good folks at MofA have taken the trouble to collect examples of Russian “weaponising” things and found that it’s quite a long list. Refugees, of course, and information too, but also weather and Photoshop. I am interested to learn that the word was actually around as early as 2007 and not specially invented after the coup in Kiev, as I had thought.

SOCIAL SAFETY NET. Helmer looks at polls and find rising concerns in Russia that the welfare system is wobbling. But overall, Russians understand it’s a war and support their government.

KADYROV. “My time in the post of head of Chechnya has ended“: presumably he will not run when his term expires next month. I am surprised: I thought Moscow was stuck with him for as long as he wanted to stay. He will, to put it mildly, have some input into who his successor is.

SYRIA. Some 100 groups are said to have signed on to the ceasefire and the Russian spokesman says it is generally holding. It only applies to groups that have stopped shooting; fighting against Daesh continues, now moving towards Palmyra. The NATO report alluded to below is impressed that Russia with 20% of the aircraft of the US coalition manages more than three times the sorties. Ankara seems to have backed off from its threats to intervene but some Saudi aircraft have arrived at Inçirlik.

MH17. Did the USA have absolutely rock-solid evidence and give it to the Dutch? Here’s Kerry saying it did. Here’s a (rather incoherent) RT report of hearings in the Dutch parliament which suggests the information didn’t get to the Dutch-run inquiry. Helmer says something did but it doesn’t seem to be very decisive. A Dutch account says it was handed to the Dutch security services (but then hurts its credibility by saying Ukraine supplied “raw” radar data). Watch the spokesmen for the US State Department and Pentagon dodge the question; surely a simple “yes we did” would suffice, wouldn’t you think? Read the Dutch report saying Ukraine didn’t provide primary radar coverage (down for maintenance) and chiding Russia for not doing so. But read the Russians saying that they did provide primary radar data. Despite Kerry’s statement “we detected a launch from that area” the DSB report does not pinpoint said “area”; ergo it wasn’t shown Kerry’s data. I still say that the lack of Kerry-style evidence is telling: the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Further: one of the key pieces of “evidence”, mentioned by Kerry, are three short videos showing a Buk being moved around in rebel held areas. This argues that such videos are easily faked (and proves it by adding in other vehicles) and that these particular videos have indeed been faked. If it were as done-and-dusted as Kerry said it was, we wouldn’t be wondering, would we? I am coming around to the theory that it was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter (Not necessarily sent by official Kiev: the Kolomoysky video is interesting); my principal reason is that there are not enough lethal fragments to be from a Buk (Buk warheads with “I-beam” lethal fragments have more than 2000 of them; given the detonation location, 600 or so would have struck the plane; assuming half didn’t pass right through, there should be 100-300 in the wreckage. The DSB found 3 (and not very convincing examples either). So more confusion, not less.

THE PECULIAR VIEW FROM NATOLAND. Always fun to visit NATOland and rummage through its delusions. Remember Putin trolls and Russia’s “information war” which had to be fought? Well, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (sic) says it has examined 200,000 comments on Latvia’s three main news portals between 29 July and 5 August 2014 and found – wait for it – are you ready? – that 1.45% (1.45%!) of those comments were from “hybrid trolls”. Whatever “hybrid trolls” are. Breedlove says – in public – that Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria is “indiscriminate”, but a private NATO study leaked by a German paper says just the opposite: “efficient and accurate”. And finally the people in Latvia tell us that Putin is funding extremist forces in Europe and stirring up anger against refugees. Comments, as usual, are worth reading: the audience – Putin trolls every one, I guess – is pretty scornful: my favourite “Not sure Russia needs to get involved in toppling Merkel. She’s done most of the hard work herself “. “My cleaner is sure they are coming.” Beyond parody.

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


NATO, Alcoholism and Homer Simpson

That great American philosopher Homer Simpson once observed that alcohol was the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

One might say, as Pepe Escobar has, that “NATO may indeed incarnate the ultimate geopolitical/existential paradox; an alliance that exists to manage the chaos it breeds.”

They’re both right: NATO now exists to attempt to – or more accurately, to pretend to – manage the problems it created the last go round. That is now NATO’s chief purpose. Apart, of course, from making money for weapons companies. Which it does quite satisfactorily.

NATO is a geopolitical alcoholic: last night’s binge is the need for this morning’s hair of the dog which lays the foundation for tonight’s bender. Every weekend is a lost weekend for NATO.

The first case of alcohol causing the problems it solved was NATO expansion itself. In 1998 George Kennan predicted the future: “There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else…. Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.” NATO expanded; Russia reacted; Russia is a threat; NATO was right to expand.

In my diplomat days in Moscow in the early 1990s NATO expansion was just beginning: it will bring stability said wooden American diplomats when I and a colleague from another NATO country questioned its wisdom. Well, we have had at least two wars now – the Ossetia War of 2008 and the ongoing civil war in Ukraine – that have a connection to NATO expansion. But they are both used as a justification for the application of more alcohol to solve the problems of the earlier binge.

Now, apparently, Russia is about to invade the Baltics. (Of course Kennan foresaw that too: “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 attacked Libya on flimsy grounds. Indeed, as the Clinton e-mails tells us, on the most meretricious grounds. But grabbing Libya’s gold is what you might call the real NATO (the distillers’ profits, so to speak) and supporting the heist by fake atrocity stories and R2P is the advertising campaign. But the NATO bender in Libya, or as we say in Canada “defence of our cherished democratic principles“, has led to another drinking problem. Quite apart from waking Moscow up to the reality of NATO.

And the other problem, requiring another lost weekend, is of course the thousands of refugees/migrants from Syria, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya and Afghanistan – all places that have received the blessings of NATO’s attention. But, never fear, NATO steps up to the bar to buy another round: “We have just agreed that NATO will provide support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis.” When it’s not blaming Russia for it, that is.

But, says Robert Kagan, the ur-neocon and husband to the Baker of the Maidan, just one more war and all will be well. One more drink and it’s solved.

First, it would require establishing a safe zone in Syria, providing the millions of would-be refugees still in the country a place to stay and the hundreds of thousands who have fled to Europe a place to which to return. To establish such a zone, American military officials estimate, would require not only U.S. air power but ground forces numbering up to 30,000. Once the safe zone was established, many of those troops could be replaced by forces from Europe, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, but the initial force would have to be largely American.

NATO will be curing its hangovers with the hair of the dog for years to come.

Memes Shape the Story

Note February 2016: Written in 2012 as an explanation of what I meant; still relevant, I think.

Memes function as an epistemological filter determining what the facts and motives are and where to look to find them. The memes told their believers what Moscow’s motives were in the case of Georgia – Moscow’s motive and principle of its actions was an attempt to reverse the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The 2008 war was commonly fitted into the pre-existing story that Moscow was seizing its chance to defeat and humiliate Georgia and regain control over its behavior. But the adherence to the memes, together with the general ignorance of the context and Tbilisi’s ambitions, blinded their adherents to Moscow’s real concern. And that was that Moscow feared that a fire set in Georgia would spread across the mountains into the Russian Caucasus. Moscow feared this in 2008 because it had seen it happen in the 1990s. Moscow feared a repeat of what had already happened once before.

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

Chernomyrdin does not hide the fact that he stands for a more assertive foreign policy…Moscow shows every sign of playing the ethnic Russian card as a way of exerting pressure on the Baltics…Russia has allowed the former 14th Soviet Army and local Russian Communists to carve out a separatist ‘Dnestr Republic’…Russia has also intervened decisively in the wars in Georgia, forcing Eduard Shevardnadze to take his country into the Commonwealth of Independent States, and in Tajikistan. The economic union with Belarus is part of the same process…But when Russia’s leaders deal with the ‘near abroad’ and Eastern Europe, they put on their flak jackets and pursue policies not far removed from those of the old Soviet Politburo. This means bringing the Baltic region, Transcaucasia and Central Asia back into Moscow’s orbit, and it means putting pressure on Eastern European counties not to join Nato. It is a policy of unspoken military intimidation….

Tony Barber, “Back to the USSR”, The Independent on Sunday, 23 Jan 94

Canada-Russia Staff Talks Memories

June 1997, more Canada-Russia staff talks. We were on the Besstrashnyy and the conversation was a little stilted. So I commented on the quality of the ropework on the ship — real eye splices rather than metal clamps and so forth. He gave the word and one of his people came back with an example of the very complicated mast head knot and presented it to me. I still have it; it was obviously taken from a display board somewhere on the ship because it has little nail holes in it.