RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 24 SEPTEMBER 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. As far as I can see it’s pretty much under control in Russia. CNN has a (surprisingly) intelligent discussion; counting is everything (vide: with or from?) and the Russians are stricter on their counting. They also treat early with an effective drug. Meanwhile in the USA and UK, supposedly the best prepared… I recommend Stephen Walt’s essay again: The Death of American Competence. And I reiterate: 2020 will go down as the year the West lost its mojo.

MEDICAL. Russian researchers claim to have found a powerful new antibiotic.

HYPERSONIC. Putin said it was the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 that forced Russia to start designing hypersonic weapons. One of the chief designers, refuting stories that Russia stole the technology from the USA, said research began long ago.

LENIN. A recent poll finds 40% want Lenin’s body out of Red Square and buried; 22% want it left there and 17% think it should stay there until last person alive in communist days is gone. Putin’s line has always been that it will be moved when a majority wants it so we’re not there yet. (I was premature nine years ago). Will the whole of the Communist pantheon on the wall – Stalin and all – have to go too? One of these days…

KAVKAZ-20. Big international exercise. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the 80,000 – Russians tend to count everyone involved, even if at a desk in Moscow.

OOPS. Russian cop who planted marijuana to get his arrest numbers up, becomes an arrest number.

RUSSIA INC. Now the second-largest car market in Europe after Germany.

RT AMUSES ITSELF. Trump’s new job post-November. Fun to watch the Trumputin conspiracists’ reactions; a humourless bunch.

RUSSIA BASHING. Easy money. Someone should develop a program. Putin’s latest victim X, one of a series DATA DUMP. Putin attacks Rules-Based International Order DATA DUMP. And so on.

NAVALNIY. I can’t be bothered keeping up with the latest nonsense – John Helmer follows the twists and turns and asks the questions. EG: why would Navalniy thank a diabetes and kidney specialist?

VENEZUELA. It appears that Venezuela’s large oil tanker has been switched to Russian ownership. An interesting move. Presumably to reduce the chance of US piracy.

IRAN. A Russian official suggests Moscow will sell arms to Iran as soon as embargo ends on 18 October. I’ll bet they’re discussing details now. Let me predict: air defence and EW will lead the list.

BELARUS. Still demos. Lukashenka sworn in. EU fails to agree on sanctions.

YEAH, WHATEVER I. Facts just don’t matter: re-type whatever “the sources” tell you as long as it’s anti-Trump, -Russia, -Iran or -China. Bounties. Trump insulting soldiers. US Ambassador.

YEAH, WHATEVER II. Fine example of what passes for reporting in the USA these days: first the fakery then, at the end, the reality. Finally, in the very last para: “Russia has an exceptionally good track record on managing clinical trials”. But who reads to the end?

YEAH, WHATEVER III. “C.I.A. Reasserts Putin Is Likely Directing Election Influence Efforts to Aid US President Trump“. And then we’re told “The C.I.A. has moderate confidence in its analysis… in part because the intelligence community appears to lack intercepted communications or other direct evidence… “. Now read this and wonder what’s going on: “Everyone who works here knows that analytic objectivity is beyond reproach”.

THE DEATH OF IRONY. “US must demand equal access to Russian airwaves.”

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Macron insists Europe will not compromise over Iran.

BIDEN/UKRAINE. Son of the man at the head of the table? Nothing to see here; move along.

UNGA SPEECHES. Interesting to compare; Putin and Xi about cooperation; Trump boasting and hostility (par for the course – here’s Obama in 2015.) Sure it’s PR from the first two but effective in comparison. The so-called Rules-Based International Order is dying of failure.

NEW NWO. I note that Beijing is becoming much tougher in its statements (check this video). Moscow’s countermoves are also becoming more direct – as we see with the latest moves on the Venezuelan tanker and arms sales to Iran. I guess they feel that the correlations of forces is shifting. I think they’re right: the USA seems to be heading for really dramatic domestic problems. Lots of talk, anyway, from both sides.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

WHATEVER…

In answer to a question from Sputnik about Trump’s UN address.

The United States has become a place where anything at all can be said and someone will believe it. Its elections are determined by foreign countries spending trivial amounts of money. Joe Biden is mentally capable of becoming president. Trump is to blame for COVID deaths in Democrat controlled areas. Iran must be punished because Washington broke the agreement. Guilt is known before the investigation. Science is settled. Only a conspiracy theorist would doubt the official conspiracy theory. Whatever. Anything goes. Were it not for its immense destructive power, who would care what Americans said? Blaming China for COVID makes as much sense as anything else.

TRUMP AND THE GORDIAN KNOT, YEAR 3

First Published Strategic Culture Foundation

In January 2018 I advanced the hypothesis that US President Trump understood that the only way to “Make American Great Again” was to disentangle it from the imperial mission that had it stuck in perpetual wars. I suggested that the cutting of this “Gordian Knot of entanglements” was difficult, even impossible, to accomplish from his end and that he understood that the cutting could only come from the other side. I followed up with another look the next March. I now look at my hypothesis as Trump’s first term comes to an end.

While we are no closer to knowing whether this is indeed Trump’s strategy or an unintended consequence of his behaviour, it is clear that the “Gordian knot of US imperial entanglements” is under great strain.

German-American relations provide an observation point. There are four demands the Trump Administration makes of its allies – Huawei, Iran, Nord Stream 2 and defence spending – and all four converge on Germany. Germany is one of the most important American allies; it is probably the second-most important NATO member; it is the economic engine of the European Union. Should it truly defy Washington on these issues, there would be fundamental damage to the US imperium. (And, if George Friedman is correct in stating that preventing a Germany-Russia coalition is the “primordial interest” of the USA, the damage could be greater still.) And yet that is what we are looking at: on several issues Berlin is defying Washington.

Washington is determined to knock Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, out of the running for 5G networks even though, by most accounts, it is the clear technological leader. In March Berlin was told that Washington “wouldn’t be able to keep intelligence and other information sharing at their current level” if Chinese companies participated in the country’s 5G network. As of now, Berlin has not decided one way or the other (September is apparently the decision point). London, on the other hand, which had agreed to let Huawei in, reversed its decision, it is reported, when Trump threatened to cut intelligence and trade. So one can imagine what pressures are being brought on Berlin.

Berlin was very involved in negotiating the nuclear agreement with Tehran – the JCPOA – and was rather stunned when Washington pulled out of it. German Chancellor Merkel acknowledged that there wasn’t much Europe could do about it: but added that it “must strengthen them [its capabilities] for the future“. When Washington forced the SWIFT system to disconnect from Iran, thereby blocking bank-to-bank transactions, Berlin, Paris and London devised an alternate system called INSTEX. But, despite big intentions, it has apparently been used only once – in a small medical supplies transaction in March.

Thus far, Berlin’s resistance to Washington’s diktats has not amounted to much but on the third case it has been defiant from the start. Germany has been buying hydrocarbons from the east for some time and it is significant that, throughout the Cold War, when the USSR and Germany were enemies, the supply never faltered. And the reason is not hard to understand: Berlin wants the energy and Moscow wants the money; it’s a mutual dependence. The dependence can be exaggerated: a BBC piece calculated two years ago that Germany got about 60% of its gas from Russia but that only about 20% of Germany’s energy came from gas: a total of 12%. But it is very likely that that 12% will grow in the future and Russian supply will become more important to Germany. On the other hand, while it is happy to get the business, given the limitless demand from China, Russia could give up the European market if it had to. But, at present, it remains a mutually beneficial trade.

Given the problems of gas transit through Ukraine, the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic was built and began operation in 2011. As demand and the unreliability of Ukrainian politics grew, a second undersea pipeline, Nord Stream 2, began to be constructed. It was nearing completion when Washington imposed sanctions and the Swiss company that was laying the pipe quit the job. A Russian pipe-laying ship appeared and the work continues. Meanwhile Washington redoubles its efforts to force a stop. Ostensibly Washington argues security concerns – making the not-unreasonable argument that while Germany talks about the “Russian threat” it nevertheless buys energy from Russia: which is it? dangerous or reliable? Many people, on the other hand, believe that the true motive is to compel Germany to buy LNG from the USA; or “freedom gas” as they like to call it. This passage deserves to be pondered

LNG is significantly more expensive than pipeline gas from Russia and Norway, which are currently the two main exporters of gas to Europe. But some EU countries – chiefly Poland and the Baltic states – are ready to pay a premium in order to diversify their supplies. Bulgaria, which is currently 100% reliant on Russian gas, said it was ready to import LNG from the US if the price was competitive, suggesting a $1 billion US fund could be used to bring the price down. But Perry dismissed any suggestion that the US government would interfere on pricing, saying it was up to the companies involved to sign export and import deals.

Freedom isn’t free, as they say.

In July the US Congress added to the military funding bill an amendment expanding sanctions in connection with Nord Stream 2 to include any entity that assists the completion of the pipeline. Which brings us to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. This extremely open-ended bill arrogates to Washington the right to 1) declare this or that country an “adversary” 2) sanction anyone or anything that deals with it, or deals with those who deal with it and so on. Eventually, virtually every entity on the planet could be subject to sanctions (except, of course, the USA itself which permits itself to buy rocket engines or oil from “adversary” Russia). In short, if you don’t freely choose to buy our “freedom gas”, we’ll force you to. The latest from US Secretary of State Pompeo is: “We will do everything we can to make sure that that pipeline doesn’t threaten Europe” (the pretext of security again). Berlin has re-stated its determination to continue with it. 24 EU countries have issued a démarche to Washington protesting this attempt at extraterritorial sanctions. The convenient “poisoning” of Navalniy is being boomed as reason for Berlin to obey Washington’s diktat. This far Merkel says the two should not be linked. But the pressure will only grow.

Another of Trump’s oft-stated themes is that the US is paying to defend countries that are rich enough to defend themselves. NATO agreed some years ago that its members should commit 2% of governmental spending to defence. Few have achieved this and Germany least of all – 2019’s spending was about 1.2%; the undertaking to raise it to 1.5% by 2024 will probably not be fulfilled. Presumably as a consequence, or because he imagines he’s punishing Germany for its contumacy, Trump has ordered 12,000 troops to be removed from Germany. It is significant that most Germans are pretty comfortable with that reduction; about a quarter want them all gone. Which suggests that Germans are not as enthusiastic about their connection with the USA as their governments have been and so one may speculate that a post-Merkel Chancellor might be prepared to act on this indifference and cut the ties.

Iran is on Washington’s “adversary list” and Washington is determined to break it. Having walked out of the JCPOA, Washington is now trying to get the other signatories to impose sanctions in it for allegedly breaking the deal. This ukase is proving to be another point of disagreement and Paris, London and Berlin have refused to join in this effort stating that they remain committed to the agreement; in Pompeo’s chiaroscuric universe this was “aligning themselves with the Ayatollahs“. This failure followed another at the UNSC a week earlier. Again, the knot is not severed but it is weakened as the US Secretary of State comes ever closer to accusing Washington’s principal allies of being “adversaries” and they refuse obedience.

And so we can see that the Trump Administration is stamping around the room, smashing the furniture, brusquely ordering its allies to do as they’re told or else. One could hardly find a better exponent of this in-your-face style than “we lied, we cheated, we stole” Mike Pompeo. If your object were to outrage allies so much that they quit themselves, he’s ideal. Washington’s demands, stripped of the highfalutin accompanying rhetoric of freedom, are: join its sanctions against China and Iran; buy its gas; buy its weapons; if not, risk being declared “adversaries” in a sanctions war. Germany is defiant on Huawei, Iran, Nord Stream and weaponry; much of Europe is as well and Berlin’s example will have much effect on the others.

Point-blank demands to instantly fall in with Washington’s latest scheme is certainly no way to treat allies. But is this part of a clever strategy to get them to cut the “Gordian Knot of entanglements” themselves or just America-firstism stripped of politesse? Some see an intention here:

For Trump, I believe he sees Nordstream 2 as the perfect wedge issue to break open the stalemate over NATO and cut Germany loose or bring Merkel to heel.

If re-elected, the reality is that a Trump administration, given four more years, will tear down the entire NATO edifice.

Even The Economist, that reliable indicator of the mean sea level of conventional opinion, wonders:

But it is only under President Donald Trump that America has used its powers routinely and to their full extent, by engaging in financial warfare. The results have been awe-inspiring and shocking. They have in turn prompted other countries to seek to break free of American financial hegemony.

A year ago French President Macron said Europe could no longer count on American defence. German Chancellor Merkel at first disagreed, but as Berlin’s struggles with Washington intensify, now sounds closer to Macron’s position. Just words to be sure, but evolving words.

If Trump gets a second term (the better bet at this moment, I believe) these words may become actions. At least one calculation assesses that the sanction wars have cost the EU more than Russia and very much more than the USA which has carefully exempted itself. Many Europeans must be coming to appreciate that there is more cost than gain in the relationship. (Which, of course, explains the rolling sequence of anti-Russian and anti-Chinese stories calculated to frighten them back into line.) As the slang phrase has it, the Trump Administration is saying “my way or the highway”. The Europeans are certainly big enough to set off on the highway by themselves.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 10 SEPTEMBER 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 1046K; total deaths 18,263; tests per 1 million 270K. Russia has done 39.5 million tests (fourth after China, USA and India); among countries with populations over 10M it’s done the most tests per million. Lancet paper on Russian vaccine. Photographs of the vaccine production line. Claims that Surfactant drugs are effective treatment. A machine capable of detecting numerous pathogens including COVID-19 unveiled.

CAR CRASH. The famous actor Efremov was given an 8-year sentence for causing fatal car crash.

TREASON. A military historian and reservist has been imprisoned on charges of high treason; no details given and the trial was in camera. There have been several recent trials. I wonder what’s going on. Renewed attacks on Russia, or a decision to clean things up?

NAVALNIY. Notice Novichok doesn’t need people in hazmat suits this time? Noticed the mysterious bottle? (Helmer and Cunningham have). Hard to keep the lies straight – another hole in Skripalmania.

CONTEMPT. Now they come right out and tell us they think we’re stupider than pond scum: “a variant that the world did not know until this attack, but which is said to be more malicious and deadly than all known offshoots of the Novichok familyThe fact that he is still alive… is only due to a chain of happy circumstances.

IN THE COUNTRY THAT MAKES NOTHING. “The President drove an Aurus limousine along a newly-built section of the Taurida motorway.”

UBI. Medvedev, leader of the majority party, floats the idea of universal basic income. Something to watch.

VODKA. Continues its decline as Russia’s booze of choice. Another change to the Russia of clichés.

AGRICULTURE. Short piece on how effectively Russia has used sanctions and counter sanctions to make its agricultural sector an important international player. It’s been a stunning achievement in fact and unimaginable in the 1990s – I remember an agricultural guy then just shaking his head. I reiterate – Russia, far from being the feeble and failing entity described by Western propaganda, is the closest thing to an autarky on the planet today. Twenty years of peace and you won’t recognise Russia.

THE HUMBLE SOYBEAN. China imports a lot from the USA. But, given the way things are going, it’s probably reconsidering: Commerce Minister Zhong calls for a “soybean industry alliance” with Russia.

DOOM AVERTED. AGAIN. Russia’s military, formerly “hamstrung” by lack of parts from Ukraine, has replaced the lack. COVID-19 didn’t finish Russia and Putin off. Relying on Western coverage of Russia makes you more ignorant. Continuing to, failure after failure, makes you stupid.

RATINGS. New Levada poll puts Putin back in the high 60s.

ANOTHER ONE. The Admiral Nakhimov (remember seeing it in the distance in the 1990s) put in water after years of reconstruction. Prestigious-looking ships packed with weapons.

COOLEST PLANE EVER. Is back. Did you know it’s actually younger than the American B-52?

PROBABLY NOT A COINCIDENCE. Film of biggest nuclear weapon ever declassified.

WESTERN VALUES™. Navalniy. Assange. MH17 trial. Meng. Sacoolas. Sterling examples all.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. “Vote because Russian lessons are expensive“. But suppose Putin doesn’t care whether you speak Russia as long as you obey? But see below – Farsi is probably a better choice.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. China Russia and Iran are “are seeking to disrupt our election“. Has there ever been such a fearful superpower? I still bet that Tehran will make the choice because the other two will cancel each other out.

PROBLEMS WITH THE NARRATIVE. Remember when we said Russia was dangerously fast tracking its vaccine? Forget we said that.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Pompeo says the European Allies “chose to side with the Ayatollahs“. Time to sanction them all I guess.

BELARUS. The shape of the settlement is appearing: a referendum on constitutional changes; Lukashenka steps down; new election; solid alliance with Russia.

UKRAINE. A poll shows 49% distrust and 44% trust President Zelensky. Not so surprising: he hasn’t delivered on anything. Not that anybody would let him. Ukraine continues its misery.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

LET’S POISON SOMEBODY

(Overheard by our secret source in the Kremlin)

– What a day! The Americans are really putting the boots to Merkel on Nord Stream, we’ve got demos in Khabarovsk and now Batko’s screwing up. Some days it’s just too much.

– We gotta come up with something to take people’s minds off things, Boss.

– Yeah, but what? No military anniversaries coming up. Do we have any new weapons which we can show?

– Not unless you count the re-done Bear.

– Nah, that won’t work – the Americans will just say it’s obsolete. Why it’s almost as old at their B-52!

– How about a video of the Tsar Bomba?

– Always good to remind the neo-cons that they may have Big Democracy but we’ve got Big Bomb. But I want something else.

– We could do a video of pretty girls singing that they’re Putingirls.

– Didn’t Obama did that? That’s as fake as the reset was.

– Wait Boss! I’ve got it. Let’s poison somebody! That’ll change the headlines. Sure worked that last few times.

– Hmmmm, sounds good, keep talking.

– We’ll poison that Navalniy guy…

– Who?

– You know, the guy the Americans think you’re obsessed with.

– Isn’t he in France, in a lunatic asylum?

– No, the other guy.

– Oh yeah, I think I remember. OK so we poison him, then what?

– Well, he won’t die of course – our poisons are no good – and, after a day or two we let him go to some NATO country and they’ll say he was poisoned.

– Well, that will certainly change the headlines, let’s do it.

– OK Boss, and while people are obsessed with that, we can swing a few elections in the West.

– Ah yes, gotta remember to talk to Xi and coordinate our efforts. I’m still pissed off that he thinks he can fix a US election. He can do Japan, Australia, Korea and the others. That’s what multipolarism is – you do yours, we do ours.

THE ABYSS OF DISINFORMATION GAZES INTO ITS CREATORS

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

The other day the US State Department published “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem“. The report should have a disclaimer like this:

Everything you read in the NYT or hear Rachel Maddow say about Russia is true: Putin is a murderer, a thief and a thug, he shot down MH17, poisoned the Skripals, elected Trump, invaded Georgia and stole Crimea. If you question any part of this, you are controlled and directed by Russian Disinformation HQ.

Freedom of speech does not entitle you to doubt The Truth.

The methodology of all of these things – this is one of several – is uncomplicated. Paul Robinson has commented on the dependence of so much comment about Russia, and this report in particular, on the myth of central control.

  1. Anything anywhere on Russian social media, whether sensible or crazy, was personally put there by Putin to sow discord and weaken us. All social media or websites based in Russia are 100% controlled by Putin.
  2. The Truth about Russia is found in the West’s official statements and in the “trusted source media”. Anyone who questions it benefits Putin, who wants to bring us down, and is therefore acting as a servant of Russian Disinformation HQ.

The argument really is that simple and can be found in its baldest (and stupidest) version on the EU vs DiSiNFO site, The NATO Centre of Excellence is pretty bad while The Integrity Initiative seems to have been embarrassed into silence. Note the “disinfo”, “excellence” and “integrity” bits – that’s called gaslighting. Who funds these selfless truth seekers? The EU, NATO and the British government. But they’re good and truthful, unlike those tricky Russians.

In this particular effusion they look at seven websites, six of which are registered in Russia and one in Canada. The report declares that they are in an ecosystem directed from Russian Disinformation HQ. In reality they are sites in which publish writers who – to take one example – think that it is a bit unusual that a deadly nerve agent smeared on a door handle requires the roof of the house to be replaced. But doubt, these days, is the outward sign of an inward Putinism.

Door handle!

Yeah, OK, but why the roof?

Putinbot!

One of the websites mentioned in the report is the one you’re reading now – Strategic Culture Foundation.

The Strategic Culture Foundation is directed by another Russian intelligence agency, the S.V.R., according to two American officials.

Could these be the officials who told the NYT about the bounties? Or gave it the photos it had to walk back a few days later? Or said their sources had “mysteriously gone quiet?” Or told it all 17? Or said it was probably microwave weapons? Or gave us years of scoops about how Mueller was just about to lock him up? Or told the NYT that Russia’s “economy suffers from flat growth and shrinking incomes“? Probably, but you’re not supposed to ask these questions.

The report has a good deal of speculation about who backs Strategic Culture Foundation (p 15). Personally I don’t much care who runs it (and I very much doubt that the Kremlin understands the point of running an opinion website). I’ve been in the USSR/Russia business for some time and what I think hasn’t changed much since 1986 or so. I’ve written for a number of sites which have faded away and I will not permit having what I write changed; the one time it happened twelve years ago, I immediately switched my operations elsewhere. Strategic Culture Foundation has never changed anything I’ve submitted and only twice suggested a topic – this one and Putin’s weaponised crickets. (And the warning is still up at the US State Department site!) The other writers on the site whom I know haven’t changed their views either. Strategic Culture Foundation hasn’t created something that didn’t exist before, it’s collected something that already existed. What do we writers have in common? Well, Dear Reader, look around you. Certainly we question The Truth. Or maybe SCF is a place where people “baffled by the hysterical Russophobia of the MSM and the Democratic Party since the 2016 election” can find something else? Or maybe it’s part of Madison’s “general intercourse of sentiments”?

There was a theory in the Cold War that the two sides would eventually converge. I often think that they met and then kept on going and passed each other. In those days the Soviets did their best to block what they considered to be – dare I suggest it? – disinformation. And so RFE/RL, BBC, Radio Canada and so on were jammed. We, on our side, didn’t care who listened to Radio Moscow or read Soviet publications. Today it’s the other way round. Which fact prompts the easy deduction that the side that’s confident that it has a better connection to reality and truth doesn’t waste effort trying to block the other. In a fascinating essay, the Saker describes Russian propaganda for its home audience: “give as much air time to the most rabid anti-Kremlin critiques as possible, especially on Russian TV talkshows”. They even took the trouble to dub Morgan Freeman’s absurd “we are at war” video. That’s brilliant – we won’t tell you they hate you, we’ll let them tell you they hate you.

The report talks as if this “ecosystem” were big and influential. But it’s a tiny mouse next to a whale. Total followers on Twitter of all seven sites are 156 thousand (p65). That’s nothing: the NYT has 47.1 million Twitter followers, BBC Breaking News 44.8, WaPo 16.1. Why even Rachel Maddow has ten million followers eager to hear her explain how Russia is going to turn off your furnace next winter. So the rational observer has a choice to make after reading this report: either the report ludicrously over-exaggerates the influence of this “ecosystem” or 156,000 website followers are astonishingly influential and I, with my Strategic Culture Foundation pieces, personally control several Electoral College votes.

The real message of “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem“, to someone who isn’t invested in spinning – ahem – theories about a Kremlin disinformation conspiracy, is that the “pillars” are feeble and the “ecosystem” small: Maddow alone has three times the followers of these seven plus the RT (3 million) the “all 17” report spent nearly half its space irrelevantly ranting about. Or maybe it’s saying that American voters are so easily influenced that “the Lilliputian Russians, spending a pittance compared to the Goliaths of the Clinton and Trump campaigns, was the deciding factor in 2016“.

Ironically this thing appeared at the same time as two that suggest Washington’s view of Moscow needs some work: It’s Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy and The Problem With Putinology: We need a new kind of writing about Russia. Good to see titles like that but they aren’t really rethinking anything: they still agree that Putin’s guilty of everything that Maddow says he is. Real re-thinking might get a toehold, for example, were people to contemplate why it is imbecilic to say that Moscow holds military exercises close to NATO’s borders. But you’ll only see that sort of thing on Strategic Culture Foundation and the others.

But now the abyss gazes back.

Clinton loses an election, blames Russia, the intelligence agencies pile on, the media shrieks away. Americans are told patriotic Americans don’t doubt. And now we arrive at the next stage of insanity. William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, informs us that “Russia is backing Donald Trump, China is supporting Joe Biden and Iran is seeking to sow chaos in the US presidential election…”. I guess that means that Russia and China will cancel each other out and that he’s telling us that Iran will choose the next POTUS. Who would have thought that the fate of the “greatest nation in earth” (as Presidents Trump, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, Bush Sr and Reagan like to call it) would be hidden under a turban somewhere in Iran?

So, American, know this: your “trusted sources” are telling you not to bother to vote in November – it’s not your decision.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 AUGUST 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 942K; total deaths 16,099; tests per 1 million 229K. Russia has done 33.5 million tests (third after China and USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s done the most tests per million.

SPUTNIK VACCINE. Bernhard covers the meretricious headlines in the Western media. CNN’s deduction is especially irrelevant “Putin and his interests are routinely supported by an unbelievable three quarters of voters. Three-quarters of Americans don’t agree on much of anything“. The foundation the vaccine is built on. Production photos. Official website so you can see for yourself what they claim.

WARNING. In what we must assume an official statement, two senior officers state that any incoming ballistic missile will be assumed to be a nuclear attack. So this is where we are after low-yield nukes, Obama’s modernisation program and killing arms control treaties. Balance of terror and MAD return.

SAME SAME. Navalniy “poisoned“. Again. He does appear to be seriously sick this time, though.

PRISONS. Russia has a large prison population, but has been gradually reducing it. It has fallen below 500K which is about half what it was twenty years ago. But still high by European standards.

MEDIA. “There is more diversity of thought – and criticism of government foreign policy – in the Russian mainstream print media than the American equivalent. That’s a fact.” (Brian MacDonald, an Irish reporter working for RT and living in Russia.)

EDUCATION. Russian universities rank low. USA UK rank best in pandemics. Ranking lists are GIGO.

US TROOP WITHDRAWAL. 12K out of Germany, half to USA, 1000 to Poland, rest stay in Europe.

THE DEATH OF IRONY. Twitter has decided to label “state media” starting with the P5. Amazingly enough, only two of the five qualify to be labelled. RFE/RL (“funded by the U.S. Congress“) is not. BBC World Service (government-funded) is not. And so on. Gaslighting.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem“. Everything on Russian media is controlled by Putin. Everything Rachel Maddow says about Putin is true. Anyone who questions this is a dupe or puppet. Repeat for 77 pages. Senate report: ditto but take 1000 pages.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. Russia is backing Donald Trump, China is supporting Joe Biden and Iran is seeking to sow chaos in the U.S. presidential election…”. I guess that means that Russia and China will cancel each other out and Iran will choose the winner.

BELARUS. Obviously another colour revolution directed from outside. Lukashenka won the election (not by 80% – my guesstimate – 60% or so) but a lot of people are tired of him. He tried to play both sides but now understands that the West wants him dead or gone and only Putin can save him; that is why he has invoked the Union Treaty. And there is the military alliance. So, if Belarus’s independence is threatened from the outside (as it is) Moscow can intervene on request. The Russian mercenary story was a (typically incompetent) SBU plot; all are back in Russia. The West sternly warns Lukashenka not to shoot protesters in the eye with rubber bullets or kneel on their necks. (Pompeo, when asked if it’s hypocrisy: “Even your question is insulting.”) I expect the colour revolution to fail but Lukashenka will, as they used to say, “retire at his own request for health reasons”. Putin told Merkel and Macron outside interference was “unacceptable” (strong language for him). Lukashenka has told the Interior Ministry to restore order. Two facts you may not know: Lukashenka says he was offered a World Bank loan if he did a COVID lockdown and Belarus is important for OBOR. A third: the white-red-white flag the protesters all seem to have (another sign of a colour revolution – where do they all come from so suddenly?) was used by nazi collaborators. (The conductors of these performances really have no idea, do they? Belarus lost a quarter of its population in the war).

MOSCOW AND BELARUS. Moscow doesn’t care what kind of government Belarus has. Become part of Russia? Nice, maybe, someday; but not if its economy is a drain. What Moscow will not permit (and the treaties give it the entry) are Belarus becoming 1) a hostile military alliance base 2) a constant source of problems. Moscow would have been perfectly happy with a neutral, independent and prosperous Ukraine. (And in retrospect, I’ll bet most of the supporters of Maidan would prefer it too).

BELARUS AND ITS NEIGHBOURS. Not leaking population like the Baltics. Much better off than Ukraine. No wars like Russia. OK there’s Poland, but it got enormous help from the EU (and still does). Not such a paltry record, is it?

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

AMERICANS, WAR – SLOW LEARNERS

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

Nothing short of genius can account for losing so consistently given the enormous resources available to American forces. In light of this very low level of military competence, maybe wars are not our best choice of hobby.

– Fred Reed (who probably learned this in Vietnam)

According to a popular Internet calculation, the United States of America has not been at war with somebody for only 21 years since 1776. Or maybe it’s only 17 years. Wikipedia attempts a list. It’s a long one. You’d think that a country that had been at war for that much of its existence, would be pretty good at it.

But you’d be wrong. The “greatest military in the history of the world” has doubled the USSR’s time in Afghanistan and apparently it’s unthinkable that it should not hang in for the triple. Should the President want to pull some troops out of somewhere, there will be a chorus shrieking “dangerous precedent” or losing leadership and months later nothing much will have happened.

One cannot avoid asking when did the USA last win a war. You can argue about what “win” looks like but there’s no argument about a surrender ceremony in the enemy’s capital, whether Tokyo Bay or Berlin. That is victory. Helicopters off the Embassy roof is not, pool parties in a US Embassy is not, “Black Hawk down” is not. Doubling the USSR’s record in Afghanistan is not. Restoring the status quo ante in Korea is not defeat exactly, but it’s pretty far from what MacArthur expected when he moved on the Yalu. When did the USA last win a war? And none of the post 1945 wars have been against first-class opponents.

And few of the pre-1941 wars were either. Which brings me to the point of this essay. The USA has spent much of its existence at war, but very seldom against peers. The peer wars are few: the War of Independence against Britain (but with enormous – and at Yorktown probably decisive – help from France). Britain again in 1812-1814 (but British power was mostly directed against Napoleon). Germany in 1917-1918, Germany and Japan 1941-1945.

Most American opponents have been small fry.

Take, for example, the continual wars against what the Declaration of Independence calls “the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions“. (Starting, incidentally, a long American tradition of depicting enemies as outside the law and therefore deserving of extermination.) The Indians were brave and skilful fighters but there were always too few of them. Furthermore, as every Indian warrior was a free individual, Indian forces melted away when individuals concluded that there was nothing it for them. Because there were so few warriors in a given nation, Indian war bands would not endure the sort of casualties that European soldiers did. And, always in the background, the carnage from European diseases like the smallpox epidemic of 1837 which killed tens of thousands in the western nations. Thus whatever Indian resistance survived could usually be divided, bought off, cheated away and, if it came to a fight, the individual Indian nation was generally so small and so isolated, that victory was assured. The one great attempt to unite all the western nations was Tecumseh’s. He understood that the only chance would come if the Indians, one united force, showed the Americans that they had to be taken seriously. He spent years trying to organise the nations but, in the end, the premature action of his brother Tenskwatawa led to defeat of his headquarters base in 1811. Tecumseh himself was killed two years later fighting a rear-guard action in Ontario. It is because defeats of American forces were so rare that Little Big Horn has passed into legend; but the American casualties of about 250 would have been a minor skirmish a decade earlier. And the victory led to nothing for the Indians anyway; they lost the Black Hills and were forced into reservations. Brave and spirited fighters, but, in the end, no match for industrialised numbers.

The USA fought several wars against Spain and Mexico, gaining territory as it did. Despite the occasional “last stand” like The Alamo, these were also one-sided. The Spanish-American War is the outstanding example: for about 4000 casualties (half from disease), the USA drove Spain completely out of the Americas and took the Philippines, obliterating the Spanish Fleet at Manila Bay. More easy victories over greatly outmatched adversaries.

The other group of wars the US was involved in before 1941 were the empire-gathering wars. One of the first was the take over of the independent and internationally-recognised Kingdom of Hawaii; the sugar barons organised a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the help of troops from US warships and no shooting was necessary. Not so with the long bloody campaign in the Philippines, forgotten until President Duterte reminded the world of it. And there were many more interventions in small countries; some mentioned by Major General Smedley Butler in his famous book War is a Racket.

Minor opponents indeed.

Andrei Martyanov has argued that the US military simply has no idea what a really big war is. Its peer wars off stage (since 1812) made it stronger; its home wars were profitable thefts. It believes wars are easy, quick, profitable, successful. Self delusion in war is defeat: post 1945 US wars are failure delusionally entered into. To quote Fred Reed again:

The American military’s normal procedure is to overestimate American power, underestimate the enemy, and misunderstand the kind of war it is getting into.

The only exceptions are the Korean War – a draw at best – and trivial successes like Grenada or Panama. As I have argued elsewhere, there is something wrong with American war-fighting doctrine: no one seems to have any idea of what to do after the first few weeks and the wars degenerate into a annual succession of commanders determined not to be the one who lost; each keeping it going until he leaves. The problem is kicked down the road. Resets, three block war fantasies, winning hearts and minds, precision bombing, optimistic pieces saying “this time we’ve got it right“, surges. Imagination replaces the forthright study of warfare. Everybody on the inside knows they’re lost – “Newly released interviews on the U.S. war reveal the coordinated spin effort and dodgy metrics behind a forever war“; that’s Afghanistan, earlier the Pentagon Papers in Vietnam – but further down the road. When they finally end, the excuses begin: “you won every major battle of that war. Every single one”, Obama lost Iraq.

And always bombing. Bombing is the America way in war. Korea received nearly four times as much bomb tonnage as Japan had. On Vietnam the US dropped more than three times the tonnage that it had in the whole of the Second World War. Today’s numbers are staggering: Afghanistan received, between 2013 and 2019, 26 thousand “weapons releases“. 26,171 bombs around the world in 2016 alone. Geological bombing. Precision attacks, they say. But the reality is quite different – not all of the bombs are “smart bombs” and smart bombs are only as smart as the intelligence that directs them. The truth is that, with the enormous amount of bombs and bad intelligence directing the “smart bombs”, the end result is Raqqa – everything destroyed.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble… In addition, to catch the essence of such war in this century, two new words might be useful — rubblize and rubblization.

The US Army once really studied war and produced first-class studies of the Soviet performance in the Second World War. These studies served two purposes: introducing Americans who thought Patton won the war to who and what actually did and showing how the masters of the operational level of war performed. Now it’s just silliness from think tanks. A fine example of fantasy masquerading as serious thought is the “Sulwaki Corridor” industry of which this piece from the “world’s leading experts… cutting-edge research… fresh insight…” may stand as an amusing example. The “corridor” in question is the border between Lithuania and Poland. “Defending Suwalki is therefore important for NATO’s credibility and for Western cohesion” and so on. The authors expect us to believe that, in a war against NATO, Russia would have any concern about the paltry military assets in the Baltics. If Moscow really decided it had to fight NATO, it would strike with everything it had. The war would not start in the “Sulwaki Corridor” – there would be salvoes of missiles hitting targets all over Europe, the USA and Canada. The first day would see the destruction of a lot of NATO’s infrastructure: bases, ports, airfields, depots, communications. The second day would see more. (And that’s the “conventional” war.) Far from being the cockpit of war, the “Sulwaki Corridor” would be a quiet rest area. As Martyanov loves to say: too much Hollywood, too much Patton, too many academics saying what they’re paid to believe and believe to be paid. The US has no idea.

And today it’s losing its wars against lesser opponents. This essay on how the Houthis are winning – from the Jamestown Foundation, a cheerleader for American wars – could equally well be applied to Vietnam or any of the other “forever wars” of Washington.

The resiliency of the Houthis stems from their leadership’s understanding and consistent application of the algebra of insurgency.

The American way of warfare assumes unchallenged air superiority and reliable communications. What would happen if the complacent US forces meet serious integrated air defence and genuine electronic warfare capabilities? The little they have seen of Russian EW capabilities in Syria and Ukraine has made their “eyes water“; some foresee a “Waterloo” in the South China Sea. Countries on Washington’s target list know its dependence.

The fact is that, over all the years and all its wars the US has rarely had to fight anybody its own size or close to it. This has created an expectation of easy and quick victory. Knowledge of the terrible, full out, stunning destruction and superhuman efforts of a real war against powerful and determined enemies has faded away, if they ever had it. American wars, always somewhere else, have become the easy business of carpet bombing – rubblising – the enemy with little shooting back. Where there is shooting back, on the ground, after the initial quick win, it’s “forever” attrition by IED, ambush, sniping, raids as commanders come and go. The result? Random destruction from the air and forever wars on the ground.

There is of course one other time when the United States fought a first class opponent and that is when it fought itself. According to these official numbers, the US Civil War killed about 500,000 Americans. Which is about half the deaths from all of the other US wars. Of all the Americans killed in all their wars – Independence, Indians, Mexico, two world wars. Korea, Cold War, GWOT – other Americans killed about a third of them.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 6 AUGUST 2020

RUSSIA AND COVID. Latest numbers: total cases 870K; total deaths 14,606; tests per 1 million 203K. Russia has done 29.7 million tests (third after China and USA); among countries with populations over 10M it’s second in tests per million and of those over 100M first. The Health Minister says mass vaccinations will begin by October. Has Russia really won the vaccine race? this researcher believes so and gives his explanation.

KHABAROVSK. Protests continue (video of Sunday’s). A lot of things going on: Furgal was popular, his replacement, while from the LDPR, is unknown in the area, Khabarovsk feels ignored (Moscow is only 700kms closer than Vancouver), outside activists coming in, corruption. Moscow has handled it badly.

RUSSIA INC. Despite the usual predictions from the usual sources, Russia Inc is healthy: big FOREX kitty; low debts. And, furthermore, it’s about the closest thing to an autarky that exists today. Entertaining argument that it can only get better in the rest of the year. It’s just been suggested that there may be even more money available in a couple of oil and gas companies.

PUTINOLOGY. Sarkozy and Bill Clinton agree: he always keeps his word. I agree after years of observation: he says what he means and means what he says.

CHURCH. Some of the Church’s officials live very well indeed. An Abbess was requested to sell her Mercedes. This is drawing some attention. The Patriarch says such speculations “are designed to prevent the spread of God’s word”. Which is not an entirely satisfactory response. In the Yeltsin days the ROC was given a piece of the action of certain imports (tobacco for one) so as to fund itself. That seems to have stopped and revenue today comes from the state, sale of articles for church use and some business entities. Scandals come up from time to time and are forgotten as this one probably will be too. The wealth of religious organisations is not, of course, just an issue with the ROC.

FOREIGN CONNECTIONS. A Constitutional amendment prohibits certain officials from having foreign citizenship or residency permits. A KPRF Deputy says 39 Deputies from the pedestal party have; the Speaker has promised to look into it. Some one else has published a list of officials with a second passport. Quite a few; something to watch: presumably they formally renounce these things or are fired.

MOON. The Roscosmos head says that Russia and China are likely to build a Moon research base. Another sign neither sees Washington as reliable. I note Beijing is becoming blunter: a “bully” “undermining international law and order” “reckless provocation” “conspiracy theories“.

MILITARY. Airborne exercise video and a reminder that they’re the only one that routinely drops AFVs. Eastern Military District. Mediterranean. Sea of Japan. Black Sea. Baltic. Practice and messages.

BEIRUT DISASTER. First Russian aid arrived yesterday, more coming today.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Source of The Dossier finally revealed – unimpressive, to put it mildly. Interesting link with Fiona Hill and Brookings. Even the CIA thought it was junk but the FBI insisted. Comey “went rogue”. (Are we ever going to get to the arrest and handcuff phase of this so that even WaPo and NYT readers can learn what happened?)

DOUMA. The Douma fake CW attack, the FUKUS attack, leaks from the OPCW and its cover-up finally hit the MSM thanks to Aaron Maté and The Nation. Neither fake attack nor coverup news to my readers.

BELARUS. Pretty mystifying. The Russians-sent-to-destabilise story is absurd (vide.) I know that Lukashenka has been playing Russia and the West, I see signs of a “colour revolution” (colours. Slogans). I’ve heard that the arrested Russians were on their way to be security guards for a facility in Libya. Now Lukashenka says US citizens have been arrested and that Putin’s his “elder brother“. It’s smelling to me like a Western regime change operation that hasn’t been very well prepared. I would expect Lukashenka to prevail and suggest he check his immediate entourage.

GERMANY-USA. Little by little the split grows. Some recent German polls show good support for American troop reduction. And good support for reducing dependence on the USA and improving relations with Russia.

FREUDIAN SLIP. “So we can all deter Russia and avoid peace in Europe“.

NORDSTREAM. Washington huffs and puffs, last opposition from Copenhagen over.

PROBLEMS WITH THE NARRATIVE. Sloppy, sloppy: the latest UK Russian hacker story debunks itself: documents reported in UK media two days before “Russian hackers” “hacked” them!

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

THE REAL “RUSSIAN PLAYBOOK” IS WRITTEN IN ENGLISH

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

I hadn’t given The Russian Playbook much attention until Susan Rice, Obama’s quondam security advisor, opined a month ago on CNN that “I’m not reading the intelligence today, or these days — but based on my experience, this is right out of the Russian playbook“. She was referring to the latest US riots.

Once I’d seen this mention of The Russian Playbook (aka KGB, Kremlin or Putin’s Playbook), I saw the expression all over the place. Here’s an early – perhaps the earliest – use of the term. In October 2016, the Center for Strategic and International studies (“Ranked #1“) informed us of the “Kremlin Playbook” with this ominous beginning

There was a deeply held assumption that, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined NATO and the European Union in 2004, these countries would continue their positive democratic and economic transformation. Yet more than a decade later, the region has experienced a steady decline in democratic standards and governance practices at the same time that Russia’s economic engagement with the region expanded significantly.

And asks

Are these developments coincidental, or has the Kremlin sought deliberately to erode the region’s democratic institutions through its influence to ‘break the internal coherence of the enemy system’?

Well, to these people, to ask the question is to answer it: can’t possibly be disappointment at the gap between 2004’s expectations and 2020’s reality, can’t be that they don’t like the total Western values package that they have to accept, it must be those crafty Russians deceiving them. This was the earliest reference to The Playbook that I found, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

Russia has a century-old playbook for ‘disinformation’… ‘I believe in Russia they do have their own manual that essentially prescribes what to do,’ said Clint Watts, a research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former FBI agent. (Nov 2018)

The Russian playbook for spreading fake news and conspiracy theories is the subject of a new three-part video series on The New York Times website titled ‘Operation Infektion: Russian Disinformation: From The Cold War To Kanye.’ (Nov 2018)

I found headlines such as these: Former CIA Director Outlines Russian Playbook for Influencing Unsuspecting Targets (May 2017); Fmr. CIA op.: Don Jr. meeting part of Russian playbook (Jul 2017); Americans Use Russian Playbook to Spread Disinformation (Oct 2018); Factory of Lies: The Russian Playbook (Nov 2018); Shredding the Putin Playbook: Six crucial steps we must take on cyber-security—before it’s too late. (Winter 2018); Trump’s spin is ‘all out of the KGB playbook’: Counterintelligence expert Malcolm Nance (May 2019).

Of course all these people are convinced Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Somehow. To some effect. Never really specified but the latest outburst of insanity is this video from the Lincoln Project. As Anatoly Karlin observes: “I think it’s really cool how we Russians took over America just by shitposting online. How does it feel to be subhuman?” He has a point: the Lincoln Project, and the others shrieking about Russian interference, take it for granted that American democracy is so flimsy and Americans so gullible that a few Facebook ads can bring the whole facade down. A curious mental state indeed.

So let us consider The Russian Playbook. It stands at the very heart of Russian power. It is old: at least a century old. Why, did not Tolstoy’s 1908 Letter to a Hindu inspire Gandhi to bring down the British Indian Empire and win the Great Game for Moscow? The Tolstoy-Putin link is undeniable as we are told in A Post-Soviet ‘War and Peace’: What Tolstoy’s Masterwork Explains About Putin’s Foreign Policy: “In the early decades of the nineteenth century, Napoleon (like Putin after him) wanted to construct his own international order…”. Russian novelists: adepts of The Playbook every one. So there is much to consider about this remarkable Book which has had such an enormous – hidden to most – role in world history. Its instructions on how to swing Western elections are especially important: the 2016 US election; Brexit; “100 years of Russian electoral interference“; Canada; France; the European Union; Germany and many more. The awed reader must ask whether any Western election since Tolstoy’s day can be trusted. Not to forget the Great Hawaiian Pizza Debate the Russians could start at any moment.

What can we know about The Playbook? For a start it must be written in Russian, a language that those crafty Russians insist on speaking among themselves. Secondly such an important document would be protected the way that highly classified material is protected. There would be a very restricted need to know; underlings participating in one of the many plays would not know how their part fitted into The Playbook; few would ever see The Playbook itself. The Playbook would be brought to the desk of the few authorised to see it by a courier, signed for, the courier would watch the reader and take away the copy afterwards. The very few copies in existence would be securely locked away; each numbered and differing subtly from the others so that, should a leak occur, the authorities would know which copy read by whom had been leaked. Printed on paper that could not be photographed or duplicated. As much protection as human cunning could devise; right up there with the nuclear codes.

So, The Russian Playbook would be extraordinarily difficult to get hold of. And yet… every talking head on US TV has a copy at his elbow! English copies, one assumes. Rachel Maddow has comprehended the complicated chapter on how to control the US power system. Others have read the impenetrably complex section on how to control US voting machines or change vote counts. Many are familiar with the lists of divisions in American society and directions for exploiting them. Adam Schiff has mastered the section on how to get Trump to give Alaska back. Susan Rice well knows the chapter “How to create riots in peaceful communities”.

And so on. It’s all quite ridiculous: we’re supposed to believe that Moscow easily controls far-away countries but can’t keep its neighbours under control.

There is no Russian Playbook, that’s just projection. But there is a “playbook” and it’s written in English, it’s freely available and it’s inexpensive enough that every pundit can have a personal copy: it’s named “From Dictatorship To Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation” and it’s written by Gene Sharp (1928-2018). Whatever Sharp may have thought he was doing, whatever good cause he thought he was assisting, his book has been used as a guide to create regime changes around the world. Billed as “democracy” and “freedom”, their results are not so benign. Witness Ukraine today. Or Libya. Or Kosovo whose long-time leader has just been indicted for numerous crimes. Curiously enough, these efforts always take place in countries that resist Washington’s line but never in countries that don’t. Here we do see training, financing, propaganda, discord being sown, divisions exploited to effect regime change – all the things in the imaginary “Russian Playbook”. So, whatever he may have thought he was helping, Sharp’s advice has been used to produce what only the propagandists could call “model interventions“; to the “liberated” themselves, the reality is poverty, destruction, war and refugees.

The Albert Einstein Institution, which Sharp created in 1983, strongly denies collusion with Washington-sponsored overthrows but people from it have organised seminars or workshops in many targets of US overthrows. The most recent annual report of 2014, while rather opaque, shows 45% of its income from “grants” (as opposed to “individuals”) and has logos of Euromaidan, SOSVenezuela, Umbrellamovement, Lwili, Sunflowersquare and others. In short, the logos of regime change operations in Ukraine, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Burkino Faso and Taiwan. (And, ironically for today’s USA, Black Lives Matter). So, clearly, there is some connection between the AEI and Washington-sponsored regime change operations.

So there is a “handbook” but it’s not Russian.

Reading Sharp’s book, however, makes one wonder if he was just fooling himself. Has there ever been a “dictatorship” overthrown by “non-violent” resistance along the lines of what he is suggesting? He mentions Norwegians who resisted Hitler; but Norway was liberated, along with the rest of Occupied Europe, by extremely violent warfare. While some Jews escaped, most didn’t and it was the conquest of Berlin that saved the rest: the nazi state was killed. The USSR went away, together with its satellite governments in Europe but that was a top-down event. He likes Gandhi but Gandhi wouldn’t have lasted a minute under Stalin. Otpor was greatly aided by NATO’s war on Serbia. And, they’re only “non-violent” because the Western media doesn’t talk much about the violence; “non-violent” is not the first word that comes to mind in this video of Kiev 2014. “Colour revolutions” are manufactured from existing grievances, to be sure, but with a great deal of outside assistance, direction and funding; upon inspection, there’s much design behind their “spontaneity”. And, not infrequently, with mysterious sniping at a expedient moment – see Katchanovski’s research on the “Heavenly Hundred” of the Maidan showing pretty convincingly that the shootings were “a false flag operation” involving “an alliance of the far right organizations, specifically the Right Sector and Svoboda, and oligarchic parties, such as Fatherland”. There is little in Sharp’s book to suggest that non-violent resistance would have had much effect on a really brutal and determined government. He also has the naïve habit of using “democrat” and “dictator” as if these words were as precisely defined as coconuts and codfish. But any “dictatorship” – for example Stalin’s is a very complex affair with many shades of opinion in it. So, in terms of what he was apparently trying to do, one can see it only succeeding against rather mild “dictators” presiding over extremely unpopular polities. With a great deal of outside effort and resources.

His “playbook” is useful to outside powers that want to overthrow governments they don’t like. Especially those run by “dictators” not brutal enough to shoot the protesters down. It’s not Russian diplomats that are caught choosing the leaders of ostensibly independent countries. It’s not Russians who boast of spending money in poor countries to change their governments. It’s not Russian diplomats who meet with foreign opposition leaders. Russia doesn’t fabricate a leader of a foreign country. It’s not Russia that invents a humanitarian crisis, bombs the country to bits, laughs at its leader’s brutal death and walks away. It’s not Russia that sanctions numerous countries. It’s not Russia that gives fellowships to foreign oppositionists. Even the Washington Post (one of the principals in sustaining Putindunnit hysteria) covered “The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere“; but piously insisted “the days of its worst behavior are long behind it”. Whatever the pundits may claim about Russia, the USA actually has an organisation devoted to interfering in other countries’ business; one of whose leading lights proudly boasted: “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.

The famous “Russian Playbook” is nothing but projection onto Moscow of what Washington actually does: projection is so common a feature of American propaganda that one may certain that when Washington accuses somebody else of doing something, it’s a guarantee that Washington is doing it.