The biggest threat to Russia is ineffective economic policy.
Interview with Tom Brokaw NBC NEWS 1 Jun 2000
The biggest threat to Russia is ineffective economic policy.
Interview with Tom Brokaw NBC NEWS 1 Jun 2000
DEMOGRAPHICS. I was going to write about demographic trends but Karlin has done it first and better. In the early 1990s more died than were born, a decade later the two trends began to reverse direction and today births slightly exceed deaths. He believes that the TFR has stabilised at 1.75 making it one of the higher rates in Europe. Life expectancy has risen from a low of 64 in the mid 1990s to nearly 72 today. The abortion rate has declined a lot – cut in half in the last four years – since the mid-1990s. Karlin sees this as a return to demographic normalcy, suggesting that he expects it to stabilise at these rates. I’m not sure: Russia has reversed the decline, something very few countries in modern times have done. Maybe Russia’s population will continue to grow. Why people en masse decide to have or not have that extra child is rather puzzling. Certainly (for once) Russians are confident their country is moving in the right direction (fourth in the world in fact – ahead of any in the “West”). So, if having confidence in the future makes a lot of parents have another kid…
FAKE NEWS ON RUSSIA. I hope this becomes a regular series: five in a week and a half.
KERCH BRIDGE. A photo from the ISS of the portion to Tuzla Island (Now also on Google Maps).
PHONE PRANKS. Russian phone pranksters, pretending to be Ukraine’s PM, got Rep Walters to express concern over Putin’s fixing the Limpopo election and invading Gabon. Then they called McCain.
NAVALNIY. He has been given a 5 year suspended sentence over embezzlement of funds from the KirovLes company. He still plans political activity but his day is over: another oppositionist with minimal support at home boomed by Western GONGOs. The truth is that there is very little opposition to Putin & Co – maybe 25% tops – and probably half of that thinks he’s too soft.
SANCTIONS. I believe Western sanctions and Russia’s counter sanctions have been good for Russia. I am interested to see a poll in which nearly half of Russians claim to be unaffected by Western sanctions. I think people who expect Moscow to offer a lot of concessions to end them have got it backwards.
MILITARY TECHNOLOGY. A mobile laser system designed to “dazzle” laser-guided weapons. A jam-proof radio using rapid frequency-hopping. The “Soratnik” armed robot vehicle, tested in Syria, will be put into service this year. The all-round anti missile radar detection system is complete. The Armed Forces are over half equipped with “new weaponry”. I and others have said it before: Moscow has given up expecting anything from the West and fears that it may have to fight a defensive war. Hahn describes Putin’s evolution from optimism to distrust concisely here. I believe that NATO’s gratuitous destruction of Libya was the turning point. Can Trump reverse the trend?
NEW NWO. Some interesting Western polls. Four NATO members – Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey – say Russia is their preferred ally in case of a military threat! Support for NATO in Ukraine – never very high despite all Washington’s investment – has declined: in 2014 36% saw it as protection and 33% as threat; now it’s 35% to 29% the other way around. In Finland, despite considerable effort, opposition to NATO membership has increased from 58% in 2015 to 61% in 2016. Russia places only sixth on a list of enemies/unfriendlies for Americans. A very recent poll finds Americans exactly divided (43%-43%) on whether Russia is friendly or not. Karlin presents a very interesting hypothesis. That’s pretty amazing given six months of intense anti-Russia propaganda from all sources. The anti Russia mob are over-egging the pudding. (Not to mention that if Putin really is that all-powerful maybe it’s prudent to get on his good side). And, as Swedes are discovering right now, they have more pressing concerns than imaginary Russian submarines in the Archipelago.
MAIDAN MASSACRE. Third anniversary last Monday; it is a key founding myth of today’s Ukraine. Ivan Katchanovski has proved “that the massacre was a false flag operation.” A long read but apodictic.
DONBASS. Putin has signed a decree recognising certain low-level documents issued by the rebel authorities in the Donbass. This will no doubt get people excited but it should be recalled that Moscow supports – indeed is one of the authors of – the Minsk agreement that envisages the area remaining part of Ukraine (however unrealistic that may seem today). His decision may be related to the constant shelling of towns there – which even RFE knows was started by Kiev – and reports of ballistic missiles fired into the civilian areas and would perhaps be a form of pressure on Kiev. There is also a humanitarian motive to allow easier border crossing – at least a million Ukrainians have fled to Russia.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer
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.
NOTE 2017: I originally wrote this in December 2014; the resolution referred to is H.Res.758 — 113th Congress (2013-2014) against Russia’s “aggression”. If anything, more recent developments make my point even more strongly: Russia is more capable now than it was three years ago.
With the hyper-aggressive resolution just passed by the US House of Representatives we move closer to open war. Thus what follows may be apposite. In short, the US and NATO, accustomed to cheap and easy victories (at least in the short term – over the long term Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo are hardly victories), will have a shattering shock should they ever fight the Russian Armed Forces.
At the beginning of my career, in the 1970s, I spent some years engaged in combat simulations. Most of these exercises were for training staff officers but some were done in-house to test out some weapon or tactic. The scenario was usually the same: we, NATO, the good guys, Blue, would be deployed, usually in Germany; that is, on the eastern edge of West Germany. There we would be attacked by the Warsaw Pact, the bad guys, Red. (The colours, by the way, date from the very first war game, Kriegspiel; nothing to do with the Communist Party’s favourite colour).
Over several years of being on the control staff I noticed two things. Naturally both Red and Blue were played by our people, however interesting it might have been to borrow some Soviet officers to play Red. What always fascinated me was how quickly the people playing Red would start getting aggressive. Their fellow officers, on the Blue side, were very risk-averse, slow and cautious. The Red players just drove down the road and didn’t mind losing a tank, let alone a tank company. What was really interesting (we tested this in the office, so to speak) was that, at the end of the day, the full speed ahead approach produced fewer casualties than the cautious approach. The other thing – rather chilling this – was that Red always won. Always. And rather quickly.
I developed a great respect for the Soviet war-fighting doctrine. I don’t know whether it was based on traditional Russian doctrine but it certainly had been perfected in the Second World War where the Soviets carried out what are probably the largest land operations ever conducted. Nothing could be farther from the truth than the casual Western idea that the Soviets sent waves of men against the Germans until they ran out of ammunition and were trampled under the next wave. Once the Soviets got going, they were very good indeed.
The Soviet war-fighting doctrine that I saw in the exercises had several characteristics. The first thing that was clear is that the Soviets knew that people are killed in wars and that there is no place for wavering; hesitation loses the war and gets more people killed in the end. Secondly, success is reinforced and failure left to itself. “Viktor Suvorov”, a Soviet defector, wrote that he used to pose a problem to NATO officers. You have four battalions, three attacking and one in reserve; the battalion on the left has broken through easily, the one in the middle can break through with a little more effort, the one on the right is stopped. Which one do you reinforce with your reserve battalion? He claimed that no NATO officer ever gave the correct answer. Which was, forget the middle and right battalions, reinforce success; the fourth battalion goes to help the lefthand one and, furthermore, you take away the artillery support from the other two and give it to the battalion on the left. Soviet war-fighting doctrine divided their forces into echelons, or waves. In the case above, not only would the fourth battalion go to support the lefthand battalion but the followup regiments would be sent there too. Breakthroughs are reinforced and exploited with stunning speed and force. General von Mellenthin speaks of this in his book Panzer Battles when he says that any Soviet river crossing must be attacked immediately with whatever the defender has; any delay brings more and more Soviet soldiers swimming, wading or floating across. They reinforce success no matter what. The third point was the tremendous amount of high explosives that Soviet artillery could drop on a position. In this respect, the BM-21 Grad was a particular standout, but they had plenty of guns as well.
An especially important point, given a common US and NATO assumption, is that the Soviets did not assume that they would always have total air superiority. The biggest hole, in my opinion, of US and NATO war-fighting doctrine is this assumption. US tactics often seem to be little more than the instruction to wait for the air to get the ground forces out of trouble (maybe that’s why US-trained forces do so poorly against determined foes). Indeed, when did the Americans ever have to fight without total air superiority other than, perhaps, their very first experience in World War II? The Western Allies in Italy, at D-day and Normandy and the subsequent fighting could operate confident that almost every aircraft in the sky was theirs. This confident arrogance has, if anything, grown stronger since then with short wars in which the aircraft all come home. The Soviets never had this luxury – they always knew they would have to fight for air superiority and would have to operate in conditions where they didn’t have it. And, see General Chuikov’s tactic at Stalingrad of “hugging the enemy”, they devised tactics that minimized the effectiveness of enemy aircraft. The Russians forces have not forgotten that lesson today and that is probably why their air defence is so good.
NATO commanders will be in for a shattering shock when their aircraft start falling in quantity and the casualties swiftly mount into the thousands and thousands. After all, we are told that the Kiev forces lost two thirds of their military equipment against fighters with a fraction of Russia’s assets, but with the same fighting style.
But, getting back to the scenarios of the Cold War. Defending NATO forces would be hit by an unimaginably savage artillery attack, with, through the dust, a huge force of attackers pushing on. The NATO units that repelled their attackers would find a momentary peace on their part of the battlefield while the ones pushed back would immediately be attacked by fresh forces three times the size of the first ones and even heavier bombardments. The situation would become desperate very quickly.
No wonder they always won and no wonder the NATO officer playing Red, following the simple instructions of push ahead resolutely, reinforce success, use all your artillery all the time, would win the day.
I don’t wish to be thought to be saying that the Soviets would have “got to the the English Channel in 48 hours” as the naysayers were fond of warning. In fact, the Soviets had a significant Achilles Heel. In the rear of all this would have been an unimaginably large traffic jam. Follow-up echelons running their engines while commanders tried to figure out where they should be sent, thousands of trucks carrying fuel and ammunition waiting to cross bridges, giant artillery parks, concentrations of engineering equipment never quite in the right place at the right time. And more arriving every moment. A ground-attack pilot’s dream. The NATO Air-Land Battle doctrine being developed would have gone some distance to even things up again. But it would have been a tremendously destructive war, even forgetting the nuclear weapons (which would also be somewhere in the traffic jam).
As for the Soviets on the defence, (something we didn’t game because NATO, in those days, was a defensive alliance) the Battle of Kursk is probably the model still taught today: hold the attack with layer after layer of defences, then, at the right moment, the overwhelming attack at the weak spot. The classic attack model is probably Autumn Storm.
All of this rugged and battle proven doctrine and methodology is somewhere in the Russian Army today. We didn’t see it in the first Chechen War – only overconfidence and incompetence. Some of it in the Second Chechen War. More of it in the Ossetia War. They’re getting it back. And they are exercising it all the time.
Light-hearted people in NATO or elsewhere should never forget that it’s a war-fighting doctrine that does not require absolute air superiority to succeed and knows that there are no cheap victories. It’s also a very, very successful one with many victories to its credit. (Yes, they lost in Afghanistan but the West didn’t do any better.)
I seriously doubt that NATO has anything to compare: quick air campaigns against third-rate enemies yes. This sort of thing, not so much.
Even if, somehow, the nukes are kept in the box.
To quote Field Marshal Montgomery “Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: ‘Do not march on Moscow’. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule.”
(His second rule, by the way, was: “Do not go fighting with your land armies in China.” As Washington’s policy drives Moscow and Beijing closer together…. But that is another subject).
It is not prudent to deny or forget a thousand years of Russian history. It is replete with wars of imperial aggrandizement, the Russification of ethnic minorities, and absolutist, authoritarian, and totalitarian rule.
My comment: Substitute any other country here and what difference would there be? Note in the thousand years he ignores periods in which Russia was prey and not predator – the Mongols, the Time of Troubles, Teutonic Knights and so forth. A fine example of selective facts and how much easier it is to say something than it is to refute it.
Ariel Cohen (Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation) “A New Paradigm for U.S.-Russia Relations: Facing the Post-Cold War Reality.” 6 March 1997.
RUSSIA INC. Summarising three recent authorities, Wikipedia says Canada’s GDP is greater than Russia’s and Germany’s is about two and a half times greater. There’s something deeply misleading and, in fact, quite worthless about these GDP comparisons. Russia has a full-service space industry including the only other operating global satellite navigation system. Neither Canada nor Germany does. It has an across the board sophisticated military industry which may be the world leader in electronic warfare, air defence systems, silent submarines and armoured vehicles. Neither Canada nor Germany does. It has a developed nuclear power industry with a wide range of products. Ditto. It builds and maintains a fleet of SSBNs – some of the most complicated machinery that exists. Ditto. Its aviation industry makes everything from competitive fighter planes through innovative helicopters to passenger aircraft. Ditto. It has a full automotive industry ranging from some of the world’s most powerful heavy trucks to ordinary passenger cars. It has all the engineering and technical capacity necessary to build complex bridges, dams, roads, railways, subway stations, power stations, hospitals and everything else. It is a major and growing food producer and is probably self-sufficient in food today. Its food export capacity is growing and it has for several years been the leading wheat exporter. It has enormous energy reserves and is a leading exporter of oil and gas. Its pharmaceutical industry is growing rapidly. It is intellectually highly competitive in STEM disciplines – a world leader in some cases. Its computer programmers are widely respected. (Yes, there is a Russian cell phone.) It’s true that many projects involve Western partners – the Sukhoy Superjet for example – but it’s nonetheless the case that the manufacturing and know-how is now in Russia. Germany or Canada has some of these capabilities but few – very few – countries have all of them. In fact, counting the EU as one, Russia is one of only four. Therefore in Russia’s case, GDP rankings are not only meaningless, but laughably so. While Russians individually are not as wealthy as Canadians or Germans, the foundations of wealth are being laid and deepened every day in Russia. What of the future? Well there’s a simple answer to that question – compare Russia in 2000 with Russia in 2017: all curves are up. Of course Russians support their government – why wouldn’t they? It’s doing what they hired it to do; we others can only dream of such governments. For what it’s worth, PwC predicts Russia will be first in Europe in 2050, but, even so, I think it misses the real point: Indonesia and Brazil ahead of Russia? No way: it’s not GDP/PPP that matters, it’s full service. Russia is a full-service power and it won’t become any less so in the next 30 years. Autarky. Very few aren’t there? And… in that little group of four autarkies on the planet, who’s going up and who’s going down? A big – fatal even – mistake to count Russia out.
TREASON. A couple of weeks ago it was revealed that a computer security specialist and an FSB officer had been arrested under treason charges. Another arrest followed. Theory 1. Connected with a group of hackers known as Шалтай-Болтай (Humpty-Dumpty) for whom the FSB has been looking for some time. Theory 2. Connected with the “golden showers” dossier. If so, this is evidence that the dossier is fake – the FSB would not publicise arrests if it really had kompromat on Trump. But passing even fake information to Western intelligence could be treasonous. Theory 3. Something else. But the treason aspect does suggest information passed to foreign intelligence operatives.
FAMILY LAW. Decriminalisation of domestic violence brings out the usual stuff from the usual sources. The reality is much more complicated and John Helmer explains the background: “An amendment adopted last year by the Duma decriminalized a first battery offence between strangers but left battery between kin or spouses as it was. The practical effect was anomalous — strangers beating children could be treated with more leniency than parents.” The new law equalises things. But the proof will be in the results and there’s no guarantee the law won’t be changed again.
FREE LAND. Last year a program offering free land in the Far East was begun. According to the website, there have been 55,000 applications and about 5000 plots handed out.
UKRAINE. US Senators McCain and Graham visit Poroshenko and urge him to attack: “Your fight is our fight. 2017 will be the year of offence.” Even RFE/RL admits Kiev re-started the war. Is there a US law against Americans doing this? Maybe, under the new management, we will find out.
NEW NWO. Another wheel comes off the juggernaut.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer
In which I collect all the examples of this strange mental defect that have caught my attention in the last month of the seventeenth and first month of the eighteenth years of The New American Century.
The dominant story through December and early January was that Putin had “hacked”, or controlled the outcome of or influenced the outcome of – exactly what was never precisely expressed – the US presidential election. Even so, the result had not been affected or so we were assured by the White House itself in “What Obama Said to Putin on the Red Phone About the Election Hack“: President Obama picked up the “red phone” and warned Putin to stop. “Did the message work? ‘Look at the results,’ said an Obama administration official. ‘There was nothing done on Election Day, so it must have worked.'” As ever, the WaPo led the charge and the day after the election told us “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House“.
But when we finally saw the “secret assessments” they proved to be laughably damp squibs. The DHS/FBI report of 29 December 2016 carried this stunning disclaimer:
This report is provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.
Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the DNI report of 6 January 2017 was the space – nearly half – devoted to a rant about the Russian TV channel RT. A report that had been published four years earlier. What that had to do with the Russian state influencing the 2016 election was obscure. But, revealingly, it also said this:
We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.
In other words, DHS told us to ignore its report and the one agency in the US intelligence structure that would actually know about hacking and would have copies of everything – the NSA – wasn’t very confident. Both reports were soon torn apart: John McAfee: “I can promise you if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians”. (See 10:30). Jeffrey Carr: “Fatally flawed“. Julian Assange: not a state actor. Even those who loath Putin trashed them.
The last gasp was the “golden showers dossier”. Commissioned from a former UK SIS officer by one of Trump’s Republican opponents and then taken over by a Democrat supporter, this collection of bottom-feeding stories had been floating around for months looking for a taker. Allegedly a record of compromising material on Trump collected from an improbably wide circle of informants it was finally published by Buzzfeed. In my opinion, it is good that Buzzfeed did so, otherwise it would have remained a poisonous rumour in the background. Once in the open, it was swiftly savaged. John Helmer probably did the best job of taking it apart, “Scott” examined the Ukrainian connection as did George Eliason. (In my opinion, many of the stories in the dossier had the sloppy quality of SBU inventions.) Finally, not even Newsweek, the source of many a PDS panic itself (“How Vladimir Putin Is Using Donald Trump to Advance Russia’s Goals“) bought it: “Thirteen Things That Don’t Add Up in the Russia-Trump Intelligence Dossier“.
So, altogether, the two intelligence reports sagged on internal evidence and the “golden shower” dossier was pretty much laughed out of court. It is not, therefore, surprising that we have heard little more since the first half of January. But more on this curious pause later.
But the memory of this (hopefully) short-lived pundit cottage industry lingers: “Russia’s American coup: The U.S. is finally waking up to the fact that it has been turned into a subordinate ally to Russia, thanks to Putin and Trump“; “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.“; “Trump refuses to face reality about Russia“; “Today, as the U.S. grapples with a Russia with resurgent global ambitions, with a Kremlin that hacks our emails, manipulates our news—and, according to the CIA, actively worked to elect Donald Trump“; “Donald Trump: The Russian Poodle” and “Is Trump a Russian Stooge?“.
The allegations (and I think we may confidently say unfounded allegations – the intelligence reports are deeply unconvincing) have sparked off similar excitement in other countries. Not content with the hacking – or whatever it was – of the US election, we are told that Putin wants more. In Germany: “Putins hybrider Großangriff zur Bundestagswahl 2017; Propaganda-Feldzug sogar mit Sexmobs” (Putin’s hybrid major attack on the Bundestag election 2017; Propaganda campaign even with sexmobs). Anne Applebaum eagerly picked up the theme: “In 2017, the Russian government will mount an open campaign to sway the German elections.” But why stop at Germany? “Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning? With three consequential European elections occurring in 2017, the former K.G.B. officer has more potential to undermine free societies than he could have ever fathomed during his Cold War days.” And so on: lots of this out there. Complete nonsense: anyone who thinks about it knows the globalists’ election reverses are not because Putin seduced their subjects from proper deference, but because they have had enough.
It’s absolutely absurd how ready people are to say that Russia controls everything – in the most recent of a very long series, a couple of days ago the the UK Defence Minister went on a rant about how Russia is “weaponising information“. RT’s and Sputnik’s budgets are a fraction of the BBC’s let alone all those of the other Western state-run outlets. Western news outlets have a world-wide presence that utterly dwarfs RT; their audience is many times greater no matter how RT boasts about its YouTube hits. And yet Western politicians expect their listeners to believe that, somehow, Putin has wormed his way into everybody’s head, directs voting at a distance and is on the very edge of ruining everything. Derangement indeed.
“Immortal Vladimir Putin? Russian leader visits anti-ageing pill factory“.
“Vladimir Putin’s Face Appears to Contain More Botulism Than Drug-Store Sushi”
“From Russia With Hate: Vladimir Putin’s Newest Export: Terrorists“.
“Russian treachery is extreme and it is everywhere.”
“‘Vlad Will Smash Britain In One Day!’ Russians plot to turn UK into Siberian-style labour camp.”
“Why 2017 is the most dangerous year for Britain since the Cold War: With the US and France both set to be run by Putin acolytes, it will fall to us to defend the Baltic states if Russia strikes. Yet we’ve cut our military to the bone…” “The Kremlin had succeeded where foreign invaders had failed since the Norman Conquest of 1066. Britain had been not just defeated, but crushed…”. Encouragingly, the best-rated comments are contemptuous of what he’s saying.
And who can forget the WaPo, formerly leading the struggle against “fake news”, now trying to “retire” the term, telling us that a “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say“? This sample of fake news hilariously survives with an Editor’s note appended: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” That particular piece of PDS didn’t even survive a day.
In September I wondered, given that Western demonisations of enemies typically stopped upon their overthrow, how intense they would become when they couldn’t get at their latest target. Would the accusations get crazier and crazier? Well, they did get crazier and crazier. But we are entering a rather interesting phase in which we will learn whether two forms of Derangement Syndrome can co-exist.
Since Trump was inaugurated on 20 January, I have noticed that Putin Derangement Syndrome is being pushed aside in the punditry by a crescendo of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Just as Putin has been diagnosed at a distance, so has he: “Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct ‘A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation'” and his signature gives cause for concern. “As Trump prepares his kissy face for Putin, a glimpse into the dictator’s soul“. PDS is replete with such remote sensing of Putin’s inner self. The student of PDS will recognise the magazine covers about Trump of which the standout is Der Spiegel’s (no small purveyor of PDS itself) showing Trump decapitating Lady Liberty à la Daesh. Since under-estimating Trump was so successful, why not continue to? Some writer thinks he’s just a puppet of Steve Bannon. But maybe they’re converging: “Manchurian Presidency: Why Angry White America Fell for Putin“. But the most beautiful example of convergence, one that brings everything together is: “The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin“!
So, will Putin Derangement Syndrome be replaced by Trump Derangement Syndrome? Or are we entering a new state of delusion in which separate derangement syndromes converge and Putin, Trump, bin Laden as well as lesser figures like Milosevic and Gaddafi are revealed to be all part of a single Hidden Masters Derangement Syndrome?