NORDSTREAM

(Answer to question from Sputnik.)

Washington invested a lot of time and effort into blocking the pipeline and has wisely admitted defeat, even going so far as to order its Tabaqui in Kiev to stop complaining. One can wonder whether Washington was trying to “keep Russia out” or “keep Germany down” but, as in the 1980s, it failed in both. The Biden-Merkel communique papered over this reality with guff about common values and empty threats should Moscow use “the gas weapon” – something it has never done but is always accused of. Berlin promised some money to Kiev but future money is not the same as present money. Nothing substantial there.

What of the future? There are too many uncertainties to answer. Merkel is apparently going in a couple of months; will her successor agree that her subservience to Washington on all issues but this one really was the best choice for Germany? Will Biden still be in office then? Will Germans assess their US connection as worth the cost? This failure of interference in Germany’s affairs, coming after the failure in Afghanistan into which Berlin sunk so many resources, make US-German relations rather fluid in the future.

As for Kiev, it has learned that loyalty to Washington is a one-way street; it can join the Afghanistan government in lamentation.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 22 JULY 2021

UKRAINE LEGAL CASE. Maidan and post-Maidan Ukraine is a construction of half-truths, lies and atrocities; now we see why Moscow has been patiently collecting data. Today it filed a complaint with the ECHR accusing Kiev of numerous crimes. Here it is in Googlish. “The appeal is intended to draw the attention of the European Court and the entire world community to gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Ukrainian authorities, to record numerous facts of criminal acts in the international legal field, to force the Ukrainian authorities to stop committing them, conduct a proper investigation and immediately bring the perpetrators to justice, restore peace and harmony on the territory of Ukraine.” Watch the Western media ignore and twist this and the court squirm out of it. Western values in practice.

PUTIN UKRAINE SPEECH. (Eng Rus) and follow-up. Lots of people are reading all sorts of things into this. I take a minimalist approach. Putin was speaking to those Ukrainians not lost to the Galician nazi fantasy and putting down a marker for the future. It was a coup, Kiev is not independent and Russia patiently awaits the people’s decision. He knew the court case was coming: there will be a future.

JUST A GAS STATION. RosStat finds that oil and gas made up about 15% of GDP in January; down from 19% the year before. Some of this is surely a consequence of COVID lockdowns.

GUNS. Big week. 13th successful test of S-500. 19thtest of ship launched hypersonic missile: 350kms in 2.5 minutes (about 4 minutes from Crimea to the Bosphorus exit). Pentagon not happy. 20thinexpensive single-engine STOL fighter (presumably for export, rudely named “Checkmate”.)

BUTTER. Russian exports.

CAN’T MAKE IT UP. Russian security (not a CCTV!) followed and filmed an American diplomat stealing a piece of railway equipment – here’s the video. The Americans whisked him out. I invite you, Dear Reader, to figure out what that was about.

NAVALNIY. Yavlinskiy says Yabloko doesn’t want any votes from his supporters: views are “fundamentally different“. Well past his best before date – everybody got what they wanted from him.

COMPUTER HACKING. Not Russia, not China but Israel. Too big for the compliant media to ignore.

BIDEN-MERKEL. A lot of the usual guff about values and democracy to paper over Washington’s defeat on Nord Stream. (And Washington told Kiev to shut up about it too.) Germany doesn’t seem to be on net with the anti-China summons, either. Money and vague promises to Ukraine, but future money is not present money and Merkel is supposed to be gone in September and where Biden will be by then?

MH17. Good summary of all the things you have to swallow and forget to accept the standard story.

TERRORISM. The FSB says it arrested somebody planning an attack in Moscow.

CORRUPTION. The head of the Stavropol region traffic police and a lot of his senior staff were arrested for bribery and abuse of power. Russian crime detection is easy – monitor toilet sales from Gold Я Us.

TRUMPUTIN. Guardian and Harding on Putin and Trump. What more is there to say?

AFGHANISTAN. Taliban visits Moscow, RFE/RL impotently fulminates. Escobar’s thoughts: he thinks Taliban has changed, is much more representative and “wants to be embraced”.

FAKE NEWS. It’s not Russia but it sure is fake news. Whatever the agenda calls for.

TRAVEL. A piece showing that Washington is making it more difficult for Americans to visit Russia and for Russians to visit the USA. Don’t Go to Rome. Despite the Boccaccio story, Washington is not supposed to be the earthly representative of a heavenly kingdom – it’s supposed to be here and now as it is. Clearly its occupants want to hide it. On the other hand. Moscow is making it easier to visit. Another of those curious reversals that we have seen in the post Cold War period.

BELARUS POLL. Lukashenka is losing support but still has quite a bit, Russia is very popular, the majority dreams of good relations with both EU and Russia (but that’s not possible any more, is it?). A lot of the questions are designed to elicit anti-Lukashenka sentiments but what I take from this is that he is good for another year or so and that she, despite the booming in the West, hasn’t much support (calling for sanctions on her own country isn’t a great campaign platform.) I’m still betting the end state will be Lukashenka retiring and the two countries moving much closer together.

THE DEATH OF IRONY. The EU thinks Spanish border guards should patrol Gibraltar; London thinks Ukrainian border guards should patrol Crimea. But, alas, HMS Defender is far away patrolling the South China Sea.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

THE NEWS KILLED SATIRE

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

A couple of years ago a colleague suggested the idea that a group of us attempt to counter the rising passion of anti-Russia propaganda by satirising it. My reaction was that that was probably going to be a waste of effort because – this was in Trump’s time with Rachel Maddow and the rest spewing ever more preposterous conspiracy notions 24/7 – they were already well past the point of even being capable of noticing satire.

Nothing has made me change my mind since. Read this, for example, from Australia’s most-read newspaper – it’s about China but the point stands.

cuddly elephants are the latest weapon in President Xi Jinping’s propaganda offensive to present a more “lovable” global image of China.

In other words, to distract the West from noticing the millions of Uyghers shackled together in chain gangs tearing down mosques while being force-fed pork sandwiches, the communist dictators in Beijing have unleashed stories of cute cuddly animals. How could anybody satirise that? And if someone tried, would anyone notice that it was satire? How would you tell the difference between satire and earnest pronouncements from “scholars” at “think” tanks? Cuddly elephants are believable but cuddly pandas are over the top?

Or how about the BBC solemnly explaining three years ago How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon. What’s next? Putin weaponises cheese? Oops, Masha Gessen’s already done that with her unforgettable paean to

My little Gorgonzola. My little mozzarella. My little Gruyere, chevre and Brie. I held them all in my arms — I didn’t even want to share them with the shopping cart – – and headed for the cash register.

Putin weaponises your breakfast cereal! Falls rather flat after that, doesn’t it? All you’re left with is killer squids – nope, that’s been done too: Is 14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin? (That cunning Putin has even managed to add six killer tentacles to the octopod – another breakthrough in Russian darkside science!) Beluga whales? No, too late!

In 2018 Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, which modestly describes itself as “the premier destination for in-depth analysis of daily headlines”, spent nearly three in-depth minutes explaining in depth that Russia had a border with North Korea which, somehow, showed that Putin’s stooge Trump was doing something horrible. Watch it yourself, unless you have a root canal appointment you’d rather go to. Again, satirise that! Now it is possible that she was performing an education service for those Americans who thought North Korea was in Australia or Oman. But, on the other hand, given that a court determined that

Maddow’s show is different than a typical news segment where anchors inform viewers about the dailynews. The point of Maddow’s show is for her to provide the news but also to offer her opinions as to that news.

perhaps it already was a sort of satire.

These “news” items above are, of course, themselves deflections. The Uygher stories are mostly nonsense as this former believer explains. The torn down mosques are selectively-used satellite pictures as this explains (and here’s the ever-ready Bellingcat selectively using the very same pictures). And the witnesses are always changing their stories as documented here. So it’s not actually Beijing that’s using stories about wandering elephants to distract attention, in fact: it’s just the other way around. Putin’s “weaponised humour” was directed at the ever-changing Skripal story – here is a short list of the preposterosities the officials expect us to swallow – so the BBC’s accusation is another deflection from reality. Weaponising cheese was anti-Putin nonsense that has already blown up now that Russia is basically self-sufficient in food – just another missed prediction from her ever-expanding list. As to Maddow, well she’s still weaving a Brownian movement of dots into webs of Russian conspiracies.

In the past I’ve done my own attempts at collecting the ever-churning nonsense about Russia and Putin that we’ve been subjected to: here in 2015 (Asperger’s syndrome, gunslinger walk), in 2019 at the height of the Trumputin insanity – remember this one?: Trump wanting to buy Greenland is yet another sign of Putin’s puppetry. How do you satirise that? Or this disgusting cartoon from the source of “All the News that’s Fit to Print“; that’s already been turned up so far past eleven that no satirist could turn the volume higher.

I challenge any satirist to do a skit on how four years of shrieking about Putin’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election came to a sudden slamming stop with the most secure election in history of 2020. Did Putin & his league of spooks suddenly forget how to rig foreign elections after, we were told, many many successful attempts? Was there a change of heart in the Kremlin and they tearfully realised it was wrong to swing foreign elections? Did they decide Biden would be better than Trump in their scheme to bring down the USA? Did Putin’s stooge Trump somehow so fortify the American election system that Putin was unable to put him back in? Has Rachel Maddow ever explained what happened? Or the WaPo? Or CNN? Four years of ranting about Putin’s control of US elections disappeared in an instant. Widespread knowledge of Why US Elections Are So Vulnerable to Russian Hacking turned, overnight, into a despicable conspiracy theory – Donald Trump’s Big Lie explained. And this at a time, mind you, when Russian hackers were supposedly hacking everything in the USA except its election. Satirise that, if you dare.

Of course the real answer is obvious: this time the “right guy” won and there was no need to invent a Russian collusion story to weaken the “wrong guy”.

I am 100% going to say it, and I 100% believe that if it wasn’t for CNN, I don’t know that Trump would have got voted out. I came to CNN because I wanted to be a part of that.

So, when the need disappeared, so did the story and US elections became airtight again. But how do you satirise that? They knew what they were doing and telling the truth was the least part of it.

Which brings us to the real point and the reason why satire is a waste of time: you’re not supposed to remember the details; they don’t put details into their propaganda stories so you can remember them and compare them with other details. Not at all: the point is to leave an impression behind. In the foregoing case the object was to leave a bad smell around Trump’s victory – it was somehow – the details changed but the smell remained – wrong and illegitimate. Pee tapes came and went, Mueller rose and fell, Maddow found a map; always something new when the last thing rolled away. Satire can’t touch that – by the time the satirist has got his skit together about pussies, it’s time for the “all 17 intelligence agencies”; when the Mueller prayer candles burn out, Putin’s bribing Afghans to do what they happily do for free. But always Trump is somehow – can’t quite remember exactly how – suspiciously linked to an evil – forgotten the details there too, but undeniably evil – foreign bad guy. The show rolls along always with a new squirrel to distract you.

One of the delights of the Biden/Harris Administration is the return of old favourites, Here’s John Kirby explaining in 2014 why it’s Russia’s fault that it’s at NATO’s doorstep and, returned in 2021 as Pentagon spokesman, why Russia was “typically” disinforming us about firing warning shots at HMS Defender. I defy anyone to satirise that. Masters of BS – can’t say anything more than that, can you? Psaki and Kirby, together again. And where’s Harf, no mean practitioner herself? Prove them liars, they don’t care.

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false.

For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose. (Harry G Frankfurt: On Bullshit)

For satire to be effective, there must be some connection to reality; but these people don’t care about reality so there can’t be any satire. Putin weaponises humour, children’s cartoons, vaccines and many more – here’s a list – but, O would-be satirist, anything you can imagine is probably already been solemnly discussed by the usual consortium of ex-security organ apparatchiks posing as objective experts.

And, given what they say every day, how would you tell the difference between solemn official announcements and mischievous satire anyway?

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 8 JULY 2021

PUTIN DIRECT LINE. Annual marathon Q&A Rus, Eng. A sort of durbar; you can’t imagine any Western leader daring to or capable of doing it. Much on COVID: it’s clear he believes it’s real and he encourages people to get vaccinated. Most of it was minutiae: the price of things, infrastructure, garbage collection and disposal again and so on. “Naturally, the time will come when I hope I will be able to say that a certain person deserves to lead such a wonderful country as our Motherland – Russia”. Ukraine-Russia: Ukrainians and Russians are one people; the Kiev government is hostile but its decisions are mostly made in Washington. (In short, Moscow will patiently wait.) Foreign social media must follow Russian law. US-Russia relations: “I really hope that an awareness that the world is changing and a rethinking of their own interests and priorities in this changing world will lead to a more attractive world order, and our relations with the United States will get back on track.”

PUTIN AMUSES HIMSELF. What you think you learned was what we wanted you to think you learned.

PROBLEMS OF THE NEW RUSSIA. Having been in the business so long, I can’t resist mentioning this new Russian problem: “Mr President, please tell me why is it more expensive to spend a vacation at a Russian resort than abroad?”. Infrastructure, Putin replied and they’re working on it.

FAVOURITE FAIRYTALE. Kolobok: “I want all my colleagues in high offices to pay attention to this story. Why? Because as soon as you, my dear colleagues, begin to take flattery for the truth and sink into this atmosphere under the influence of what they are telling you, you risk being eaten”.

DOOMED RUSSIA. Still doomed.

COVID. I was certainly wrong last Sitrep. But, they say, people are rushing to be vaccinated.

UNDESIRABLE ORGANISATIONS. Moscow has been steadily clamping down on these colour-revolution “NG”Os; Here is a list from RFE/RL: USA 19, UK 8, others (all NATO) 12.

AFGHANISTAN. USA/NATO, defeated, is getting out and Taliban, victorious, is taking over. I think we can assume that a majority of Afghans are willing to give Taliban their support as the only force capable of uniting – as far as it is possible – the country and that much quiet negotiating has happened. Washington has dreams of leaving something; if it does it will be helicopters off the Embassy roof. Taliban will likely be in control everywhere soon, probably without much fighting. Then what? Will Ankara’s ambitions allow Afghanistan to add the neo-Ottomans to its collection of scalps? What about northern neighbours? Tajikistan is concerned and Moscow has promised to help. What about the Belt and Road Initiative? I don’t know and neither does anyone else – my bet is that Taliban will meet general acceptance, China will do business and the area will be reasonably quiet. We’ll see. It’s not the end of two decades of US involvement, it’s the end of four. Another Brzezinski/neocon/PNAC disaster. For amusement, here’s NATO’s spin: “We have denied terrorists a safe haven… We will now open a new chapter… hard-won gains of the last 20 years… training and financial support…”.

BELARUS/RUSSIA. Newton’s Third Law of Geopolitics holds: Minsk suspended its membership in the EU Eastern Partnership initiative and announced closer links with Russia.

RUSSIA/CHINA. The two presidents spoke and renewed the treaty.

FAKE NEWS. Something to watch – will anti-China propaganda become more idiotic than anti-Russia propaganda? China weaponises elephants while Russia weaponises humour. The race is on!

MH17. The Dutch trial hops along: no you can’t ask any questions.

TABAQUIS WIN ANOTHER. Berlin, Paris and Vienna think an EU-Russia summit is a good idea, Balts and Warsaw say no. The problem with consensus organisations is that otherwise insignificant players get their way on Their One Big Obsession. And so we move a little closer to the end of the EU.

NATO EXERCISE. So far so good, nothing foolish. Of course, the lack of foolishness might have something to do with Moscow’s statements (I do think Moscow will do something next time – black holes? EW? Cripple the ship?). And there are two MiG-31Ks in Syria.

WESTERN VALUES™. Tired of Western moral sanctimony, Beijing and Moscow call for an “impartial investigation” into Canadian aboriginal residential schools; the truth is terrible: “TB incubators and superspreaders.” Trudeau tries to deflect. (Speaking of Uyghers – read this or this.)

NOT ON YOUR “NEWS” OUTLET. Julian Assange Case: Key Witness Admits He Lied.

CYBERATTACKS. Highly reliable experts (in an opposite sense) say Putindunnit, “reportedly” “believed” is good enough for the WaPo, but at least Biden holds back.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer