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Happy to have anybody quote or reprint anything anywhere at any time. The only rules are the usual ones of common decency and behaviour.
Until last fall I perceived the president as a person lacking initiative, who was either chronically late to respond to developments or preferred not to respond at all. However, after last September my (and many others’) opinion of Mr. Putin changed. The president dared a breakthrough in Russia’s relations with the rest of the world. He made a strategic choice in favor of the West. He also caught Western leaders by surprise after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when he unconditionally supported the anti-terrorist coalition, and when he called NATO Secretary General Robertson and stated directly that relations between Russia and the Alliance couldn’t have been worse and that something had to be done to improve them… And President Putin goes on breaking these stereotypes by not overreacting to the US withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, or to America’s military presence in Central Asia, or to Washington’s plans for Iraq. The nation demands that the president show some strength, but I believe he feels that any door-slamming would only result in another humiliation for Russia. What happened in September, exactly, was that Russia consciously and voluntarily undertook the role of another great power’s junior partner – an unprecedented case in world history. Thus, President Putin ended an entire era in the history of the Russian Empire’s development.
Interview with Lilia Shevtsova, Novaya Gazeta No. 15 March 4-6, 2002
There is still a lot that is murky about it, the most murky being US involvement and foreknowledge, but I believe some conclusions can be drawn.
Asked by Sputnik what I thought of Trump’s foreign policy statements, I said:
“The reality is that, while US Presidents are rather constrained in what they can do domestically, they can start wars wherever and whenever they want ad libitum. So, if Trump is less willing to start wars — as he sounds is if he is — he should be able to refrain from doing so. A little inaction would be better — as he memorably said, if former Presidents had taken a day at the beach instead of starting wars in the Middle East, everybody would be better off.”
FIRST BIG THING. I don’t know what Washington’s involvement in the coup attempt was but, in one respect, the reality doesn’t matter because Erdoğan & Co are blaming it. And more and more directly too: “The US tried to kill Erdoğan” says a connected newspaper editor. Erdoğan has specifically blamed Fethullah Gulen and has demanded his extradition from the USA – quite rudely. I am inclined to think that Ankara has gone through a cost-benefit analysis. Turkey is never going to be admitted into the EU (not that that is so attractive these days); the US lead in the Middle East has brought it nothing but disaster and, rightly or wrongly, Ankara doesn’t trust Washington. Therefore the Western orientation is mostly on the cost side. On the other hand, Ankara has just learned, in the most dramatic possible way, how much Russia’s enmity can cost it (and what its friendship can give if it’s true that Moscow tipped it off to the coup). Then there are the future benefits: tangible in the shape of becoming Russia’s gas spigot to Europe and the potential enormous gain from China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy. It begins to look as if Erdoğan is going to turn Turkey towards Eurasia. And, if it’s true that the US did try to overthrow him, then his decision will only be strengthened. Another indication “Today, we are determined more than ever before to contribute to the solution of regional problems hand in hand with Iran and Russia and in cooperation with them” so we can probably expect changes affecting Syria too since it’s pretty clear what side Russia and Iran are on. The official line is that the Russian aircraft was shot down by people associated with the coup plotters; again, whether that’s true or not is less important than the fact that it is being said. We will learn more when Erdoğan and Putin meet next month. A turn by Turkey to the Eurasian side would be a geostrategic event of no small significance that would effectively take Turkey out of NATO (even if it never quite formally leaves). I am reminded again of bin Laden’s strong horse and weak horse. The USA is looking more and more like the weak horse – its immense power is so incompetently wielded that it becomes weaker with every blow that it strikes. I suspect more and more capitals are making cost-benefit analyses to calculate the winners.
SECOND BIG THING. The UK has a new government and the new PM says Brexit means Brexit. I remember that the USSR was one of the first federations to develop a procedure for getting out but the thing fell apart before anyone even initiated the first step. I wonder if the EU will hang together long enough for the procedure of Article 50 to get well under way. In what presumably was a response, the EU and NATO have just (8 July 2016 – did your MSM outlet report it?) merged their operations making plain what was formerly concealed. “In light of the common challenges we are now confronting, we have to step-up our efforts: we need new ways of working together and a new level of ambition; because our security is interconnected; because together we can mobilize a broad range of tools…” Et cetera. “Boost our ability to counter hybrid threats”. Since Moscow doesn’t actually practise “hybrid war” but NATO & Co do, expect more restrictions of liberty.
RUSSIAN SPORTS DOPING. Here we go again: we have all the information on MH17 but we won’t show it; Putin “probably” had Litvinenko killed. Why bother to talk to the Russians — they would just deny it. Mercouris discusses it. Who’s who in the scandal – it hangs on a rather small number of people.
PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. “Is Donald Trump Working for Russia?” “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin“. Both writers are mainstream.
NATO COMMUNIQUE. I discuss it here. After years of trying to interest new members in interminable wars in dusty places where the people hate you and big money weapons are irrelevant, NATO has returned to the old days. Russia is to blame for everything. Hard to pick a favourite line but these three stand out: Russia carries out “provocative military activities near NATO borders” (never mind that NATO keeps moving its borders closer to Russia) , “[Russia’s] long-standing non-implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty” (Russia actually ratified the Treaty, nobody in NATO did), and delusional complacency on past catastrophes: “These efforts mark an important step to strengthen Libya’s democratic transition” (!!!!). The unicorns have completely taken over in NATOland. Here’s the whole 16,000 words. I’m told that at the summit actually all they talked about was Brexit. 2016 is looking more and more like the year the race for the exits begins.
TRUMP. “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine” – ie his minions took out the bit about supplying Ukraine with “lethal weapons”.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer
Note July 2016. A favourite quotation. Of course, it wasn’t “Trotskiy’s” Red Army: the Soviet takeover of Georgia was orchestrated by the two Georgians in the Bolshevik government: Stalin-Jugashvili and Orjonikidze. And Abkhazia these days is predominantly Christian. And Georgia is still independent today. An early example of the Economist’s anti-Russia at any cost editorial policy.
An independent state of Georgia existed for 2 1/2 years, until Trotsky’s Red Army snuffed it out in 1921. Mr Yeltsin has given its successor exactly the same amount of time. More or less secretly, Russian forces have backed rebellions by Muslims in the Abkhaz region and by Georgian followers of the former president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia. In this squeeze the current president, Eduard Shevardnadze…despairingly appealed to Moscow for help, and got it on terms that in effect mortgage his country’s independence.
The Economist 13 November 1993
Nevertheless, it is clear that the storming of the White House will increase the army’s influence, particularly in foreign policy.
The Economist, 9 Oct 93
Spare a thought for the travails of NATO drones over the past couple of decades. About 25 years ago I was in competition for a job on the International Staff at NATO. I’ve forgotten most of the details but it would have paid about US$100,000. Tax free. Plus benefits. What would have been the equivalent salary, in the real world, to that, do you suppose? In return, NATO started work sometime Monday afternoon and knocked off early on Friday and essentially took meetings the rest of the time. And Brussels is a convenient base for travelling around Europe. But I didn’t get the job.
The Warsaw Pact imploded, followed by the USSR and NATO’s raison d’être disappeared. A colleague who finally got a position on the Canadian delegation (no big IS salaries for them!) seriously wondered whether NATO would last through his time there.
Well, it did. Expansion (soon officially changed to the more anodyne “enlargement”) gave employment. NATO, it piously said, cannot stop people from freely applying to join, can it? Of course, given that most of these countries wanted to be neutral originally – the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Ukraine in 1990 has these words: “The Ukrainian SSR solemnly declares its intention of becoming a permanently neutral state that does not participate in military blocs…” – it took time and money to persuade people to “freely” apply. In the case of Ukraine two decades, two colour revolutions and five billion USD and 500 thousand Euros. We see similar efforts today with the campaigns in Sweden and Finland. Nothing spontaneous at all, actually.
Kosovo was a problem for the NATO drones. Not in the initial execution that is; that narrative was smoothly crafted – walking blood banks, rape camps, genocide, the monster Milosevic – the MSM obediently fell into line. No, the problem was the terrifying realisation that it wasn’t working and that a land invasion might have to be fumbled together. But Chernomyrdin persuaded Milosevic to give up, the worst did not come to pass and everybody could congratulate themselves on writing a new page of military history: “virtual war“, air power alone can win wars and similar certainties that are not so certain today.
Then came 911 and NATO was required in Afghanistan. Expansion and Kosovo had been fun for NATO drones: visiting European centres as honoured guests treated to the best of everything, making speeches about stability and the necessity to make a stand against evil but not much in the way of hard or unpleasant work. Afghanistan, on the other hand, was a nasty dangerous place where the locals all hated you but concealed their hatred until you stopped paying them. Like most of the regime-change wars with which we have grown so familiar, Afghanistan started with a bang and the Taliban government was overthrown in weeks. But the war goes on and on. Obama will leave 8400 US troops there for his successor; he had promised to end it in 2014. John McCain thinks the US needs a “permanent presence” there. Complete, of course, with NATO allies.
In short, NATO membership is not attractive if all it involves is interminable rotations through Afghanistan. A dreary prospect indeed.
Besides the multitude of unpleasant locations with few hotels and bars, another problem with the “War on Terror” is that the enemy is small and feeble – IEDs, suicide vests, small arms. Small money weapons that don’t require big money weapons systems to counter.
A third problem, of course, is that NATO & Co is not exactly winning these wars. So either it must stop talking about them (the word “Afghanistan” appears only 8 times in the Warsaw Summit communiqué) or start uttering complete nonsense as in “These efforts mark an important step to strengthen Libya’s democratic transition” (§30).
NATO must remain and expand – it’s a necessary control mechanism for Washington (and so is the EU, as we have just learned with the EU-NATO amalgamation). Let a former American official explain Why NATO is vital for American interests: “Vladimir Putin’s aggression”, “weakening and potentially fractured European Union” and “tsunami of violence spreading from the Levant and North Africa into Europe itself”. In short: Russia’s resistance to NATO expansion; the EU’s failure; instability resulting from NATO attacks in the Middle East. Compelling reasons indeed. To paraphrase that great American Statesman, Homer Simpson, NATO is the solution to the problems it creates. But it badly needs a new raison d’être in order to keep the members in, attract new ones and to allow bigger profits. Jihadists in Afghanistan don’t serve the purpose any more.
So, our drones need something more attractive to retain their enthusiasm, pay and perqs. The communiqué from the Warsaw NATO summit is their answer. This 16,489 word panegyric to itself modestly states that NATO is “an unparalleled community of freedom, peace, security, and shared values, including individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law” (§2). The Warsaw Summit brings us back to the tried and true – Russia. The communiqué uses the word “Russia” 57 times and “Ukraine” 32 times for a total of 89. By contrast, “terrorism” and “ISIL” only 27 times, “jihad”, “Islam” and “Ebola” not at all. It’s clear where the emphasis now is.
Section 10 will serve as a summary of it all:
Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace. In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.
Nevertheless, NATO, ever patient and ever virtuous, says “We remain open to a periodic, focused and meaningful dialogue” (§2) with Russia.
NATO’s relentless expansion, its untrustworthiness (see Libya), military exercises in and around Russia, overthrow of governments in Ukraine and other neighbours, fall in this screed somewhere between unremarkable and non-existent: Russia is to blame for everything. The “serious deterioration of the human rights situation on the Crimean peninsula” is its fault (§7), the non-fulfilment of the Minsk Agreement is its fault (§9), Russia’s reaction to BMD is “unacceptable and counterproductive” (§59), as are its provocations “in the periphery of NATO territory” (§5).
NATO-Land is like Laputa – it floats in some imaginary place where Crimea is a hellish nightmare for the inhabitants, Libya ever “transitions” towards democracy and scholars, looking for sunbeams in cucumbers, find Russians hiding under the cucumber beds. What “deterioration of human rights” in Crimea? The Minsk Agreement requires nothing from Russia: the word “Russia”does not appear in it; has any of these people read it? Is it Russia’s fault that this clause still awaits fulfilment “On the first day after the pullout a dialogue is to start on modalities of conducting local elections“? Is it really so outrageous that the Russians don’t believe that NATO has “no intention to redesign this [BMD] system”? (§59) There was “no intention” to expand NATO or to blow up Libya either; no wonder Moscow won’t trust NATO’s word. (Oh, and it would be wrong to suggest that NATO promised not to permanently station troops in its new territories – that promise only held until enough accusations could be manufactured. In any case, these new troops NATO promises (§40) won’t be permanent; they’ll just be permanently rotating.) Yes, Russia does have military exercises on the edge of NATO now that NATO has expanded to the edge of Russia; is it supposed to only have exercises in central Siberia now, or would they be provocatively close to American troops in Japan, South Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria?
Always difficult out of this catalogue of nonsense to pick a favourite but I think this one is the standout: “[Russia’s] long-standing non-implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty” (§69) Russia actually ratified the amended treaty: no one in NATO did!
And, lest we forget weapons sales: “We welcome Allied efforts to address, as appropriate, existing dependencies on Russian-sourced legacy military equipment.” (§78)
So, after dreary years of trudging through the inhospitable mountains of Afghanistan or the deserts of Iraq, years of defeat, years of trivial profits, NATO drones have entered the sunny uplands. Russia is again the enemy, NATO has a big enemy that needs big money projects like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship, trillion dollar nuclear weapons programs, Crusader SPGs and decades-long deployments in places with good restaurants where the people don’t hate you.
Europe will again be united against the Russian Threat© under Washington’s leadership even more tightly now that the EU and NATO are openly under the same management. Promotions and prosperity all round!
All is well.
Apart for the niggling facts that NATO & Co are still losing their wars, haven’t got the money they used to have, are actually under attack from different enemies, have populations that are growing restive, are in a demographic decline, have militaries that are rusting out and fading away, have stagnant economies and populations that don’t actually want to go to war for Estonia. Oh, and European banks need a bailout. And NATO’s pressure brings Russia and China (0 mentions) ever closer. Repeating lies, nonsense and fantasies at twice the volume is not actually a sign of strength.
So, it’s not really a bright new future, it’s just Miss Havisham reliving the happiness of her engagement day.
TWO BIG THINGS. Brexit is one; too early to say what the long-term effects will be but they are likely to be large: support for the EU has been dropping pretty steadily. The anti-Russia crowd had the usual take: “How Brexit is a win for Putin” “Brexit Is a Russian Victory” Moscow invested in it and much more. Mind you, so frazzled are the neocons by the result that we see the admission of that which was never to be said out loud: “For decades, NATO and the European Union have silently worked in unison.” So, given that the EU and NATO are two sides of the same coin, maybe Putin & Co are happy. The other event to give Putin a smile was that Erdoğan has folded. One is reminded of bin Laden’s strong horse and weak horse: Washington’s activities over the last decade and a half have been powerful, immensely destructive but thoroughgoing failures; Moscow has played its hand rather skilfully. It would be surprising if countries were not recalculating costs and benefits.
“FROM RUSSIA WITH HATE“. Well, not that simple, actually. From Russia originally, to be sure, but not extradited as requested either. The suspected mastermind of the Istanbul airport bombing was given refugee status by Austria and Russian extradition requests were refused because he said he had been “tortured”. There is also a Georgian connection: read about it here – RFE Feb 2015 and Civil Georgia Apr 2013 – because your local news outlet won’t tell you. Story that he had a Georgian passport and was protected by Saakashvili. Another consequence of the delusion that the US and its surrogates can use jihadists in one place, fight them in another and that the jihadists will never move from the one place to the other. Speaking of which, another instantaneous collapse of a US-trained -paid and -equipped “moderate rebel” force in Syria last week; Daesh gets more weaponry from the US taxpayer.
GMO. As many people expected, Russia is establishing itself as GMO-free: “Government may ban the import into Russia of genetically modified organisms designed to be released into the environment and (or) products obtained from or containing such organisms.” Medvedev just said that “Now, Russia is able to feed itself without foreign food imports“; I think he’s a bit premature but not by much. Putin just extended food counter-sanctions for another 18 months. I don’t believe that Russia’s agricultural potential has ever been realised. But it’s starting to.
SANCTIONS. French report puts loss of business at $US60 billion, 77% borne by EU. Figures a year old; more by now. Just extended. Non-completion with Minsk II one of the reasons; here is the text: find the word “Russia” in it. But they’ve been good for Russia and bad for the EU.
THE “RUSSIAN THREAT”. Hacked e-mails show Gen Breedlove, when NATO commander, trying to force the White House’s hand. “The emails, however, depict a desperate search by Breedlove to build his case for escalating the conflict, contacting colleagues and friends for intelligence to illustrate the Russian threat.” The Germans and French were correct to say that he was making stuff up. So here we are today. Perhaps, in 15 years, there will be another Chilcot report.
RUSSIA-CHINA. “China and Russia vowed to unswervingly deepen their comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.” Year 16 of the New American Century isn’t turning out so well, is it? China-Russia alliance, stronger Iran, unending wars with no victory in sight. Wobbly allies too.
REFUGEES. Remember when Russia’s intervention in Syria was going to create a “new wave of refugees” or when refugees were Russia’s new “weapon of choice“? Well, numbers are well down these days. Why? The EU-Turkey agreement is one reason but Syrians are returning to Syria.
SCO. India and Pakistan are about to be accepted as members and Iran is not far behind. The organisation quietly grows, stitched together by the Belt and Road.
PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. “Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.”
WESTERN VALUES™. Reactions to the Brexit vote: “This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics.” “the central injustice of democracy” “Democracy has never meant the tyranny of the simple majority” “Racism is to blame” “I fear tolerant Britain is lost for ever“. And so on. In short, voting is good but only if it gives the correct answer. I look forward to reading these people excoriate Russia in the coming elections for lack of “democracy”.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada
Will a neo imperialist Russia (aided and abetted by Iran) dominate the development of Eurasian oil and its exports, or will Russia be an equal and fair player in the region…the West has a paramount interest in assuring that the Caucasian and Central Asian states maintain their independence and remain open to the West. Otherwise, Moscow will capture almost monopolistic control over this vital energy resource, thus increasing Western dependence upon Russian dominated oil reserves and export routes.
Ariel Cohen, Senior Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation “The New ‘Great Game’: Oil Politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia”; 25 Jan 1996.