RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 18 MAY 2017

RUSSIA INC. More Western sources agree that Russia’s economy is growing again – EBRD, UN and IMF. Even Stratfor, which predicted Russia’s collapse, now admits it’s doing well. Which is no big news for those of us who ignored the NYT, WaPo and their friends. All I can say is: stop drinking each other’s bath water and do the work.

VICTORY DAY. What struck my attention was the Arctic camouflage air defence systems. Here’s the full parade. Here is the first parade on 24 June 1945: limos have replaced horses, loudspeaker trucks are less important, Nazi banners are stored away, but otherwise recognisable.

HISTORY. Much has been written about Putin’s views on Russia’s tangled history; much of it rubbish. Let’s listen to the man himself as he unveiled a monument to a grand duke assassinated in the Kremlin. “Russia’s history is regaining its unity. We treasure each page in this history, no matter how difficult. These are our national spiritual roots.” It has to be all of it, doesn’t it? They’ve already been through years of changing history around to suit present needs.

OIL PRICES. Moscow and Riyadh have agreed agree to extend the oil production cut. The January cut was initially successful at boosting prices, but they have fallen of late.

SYRIA. We do appear to have a measure of agreement among the principals, including Washington. Here’s the text of the “de-escalation zones” agreement. Still much that is murky though: are Washington and Ankara about to shoot at each other? Has Washington stopped the Assad must go stuff or not? Faked up atrocity stories continue. Is Washington still недоговороспособны – incapable of making agreements – as this would suggest? It’s all rather ambiguous; but I do understand that it takes a long time to turn a big ship around, especially when it’s surrounded – to keep the analogy going – by little boats pushing the other way and people in the engine room resisting the timoneer. I believe that my theory on last month’s airstrikes has not been falsified. So, things appear to be happening.

RECONSIDERATION. Let me introduce you, Dear Readers, to Graham Fuller. One of the authors of Washington’s (disastrous as it turned out) policy of supporting jihadists in one place expecting to put them back into the toy box afterwards, he has reconsidered: read this. He believes that overthrowing Assad would make things much worse: “Syria Will Likely Be Run By Terrorists”. He, by the way, appears to agree with my theory on the airstrikes, see last two paragraphs.

NO COMMENT. From the WaPo “NSA officials worried about the day its potent hacking tool would get loose. Then it did.” At least no one is blaming Putin for this. Yet.

COMEY FIRING. Assange predicts leaks will begin. One: Russian hacker claims FBI tried to bribe him to say he hacked DNC. Two: “federal investigator” says Seth Rich sent e-mails to Wikileaks. Stay tuned.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Ever louder. But not working: Democrats dropped 5 points. Two years ago Russia was “a regional power”, last year it was “important”; today its influence is everywhere; next year it will rule the world. Then I guess it’s all over. I’ve given up my PDS series now it’s merged with TDS: “Here’s how the Russians might have snuck a recording device into the Oval Office” (WaPo of course), I can’t keep up. Dimwitted and dangerous. Roman comparisons are trendy: try Cato and the Optimates.

WESTERN VALUES. Ukraine has blocked a number of Russia-based social media networks. A NATO spokesman is quoted as saying that’s OK because it’s “security”. (NATO’s “enduring mission”, by the way, is “defending values”.) Western values, which had real content a couple of decades ago, are now bedraggled camp followers of the juggernaut of war. (To be fair, an EU official, whom you didn’t know existed, did “voice concern”.)

UKRAINE. US House of Representatives passed a DoD funding bill that expressly forbade funding the Azov Battalion (Sec. 8131.) Meanwhile, in a decision it will live to regret, the EU has allowed visa free visits from Ukrainians.

NEW NWO. China hosted the Belt and Road International Forum. (The Chinese have a genius for coming up with descriptive slogans and this is one: a belt ties things together and a road communicates.) Putin was the first foreign speaker (not a coincidence, I’m sure) (his speech). Many countries attended. As always, the fact of the event itself and the side meetings were the most important. North Korea sent a delegation so probably some developments there with all its neighbours present. Eurasia: it’s real, it’s happening and it’s the future.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, CanadaRussia Observer

Underestimate Russia and be surprised

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.

I originally wrote this in November 2015. It seems appropriate, around Victory Day, to republish it. The manufacturers of Nazi battle standards would have been surprised had they known where they would end up. Likewise French cannon foundries. As there is more and more war talk in the West, it is as well to remember that, while you can easily start a war with Russia, it probably won’t be you who finishes it.

The USA/NATO has been surprised – or is stunned a better word? – by the Russian operation in Syria. The fact that it intervened; the speed with which it did it; the secrecy with which it did it; the numbers of sorties being flown; the accuracy and effectiveness of the strikes. But especially by the discovery that insignificant boats in the Caspian Sea – of all places – have a surprisingly long reach. McCain’s gas station or Obama’s negligible Russia couldn’t possibly be expected to do such things. And, if half the rumours about Russia’s “A2/AD bubble” are true, there’s another huge surprise as well.

Russia, over its millennium of history, has been usually successful in war, and especially so when defeating invaders. The Mongols were eventually seen off, the Teutonic Knights sent home, the Polish-Lithuanian invaders driven out, the Swedes defeated and Napoleon and Hitler were followed home by avenging armies. The West is only faintly aware of this record: it tends to remember Russia’s rare defeats like the Japanese war or World War I and, when Russia (or the USSR) wins, the common opinion in the West is that victory was really owed to factors like “General Winter” or endless manpower. In short, the Western meme is that Russia doesn’t really win, the other side loses.

This is, to put it mildly, incorrect. Dominic Lieven’s book “Russia Against Napoleon” destroys the meme. The author establishes the case that the Emperor Alexander and his government foresaw that war with Napoleon was inevitable, studied how Napoleon fought and made the necessary preparations to defeat him. And defeat him they did. Fighting an army as big as the one that invaded in 1812 led by as brilliant a commander as Napoleon is never going to be easy and Alexander probably didn’t envisage a battle as bloody as Borodino, so close to Moscow, to be indecisive. I’m sure nobody planned for Moscow to be occupied and burned. But, even so, Alexander held to his purpose. He knew that Napoleon’s typical campaign was a swift battlefield victory, followed by negotiations, perhaps the loss of a few bits of territory, a relative or two being made into a prince, and then the gathering of the defeated power into the French camp. In short, Napoleon expected that he and Alexander would meet again when Alexander had been taught a lesson: Russia would then rejoin the “continental system” and its navy would keep the Royal Navy out of the Baltic. Something limited like that. But Alexander was fighting a different war and never came to him. Moscow burned and Napoleon gave up waiting and went home. Certainly, “General Winter” played his part, but the French retreat turned into a rout as they were driven faster and faster by the menacing proximity of the rebuilt Russian Army, harried by warmly dressed Cossack raiders with endless remounts and enraged partisans roused into the first Great Patriotic War. This famous graph tells the story: four hundred thousand went in, ten thousand came out and the Russian army followed Napoleon all the way back to Paris. Lieven explains the planning and the enormous logistics operation which sustained a large army all the 1500 miles from Moscow to Paris. Very far indeed from the Western story of masses of men hurled at a freezing enemy.

In short: Alexander understood how Napoleon did things and surprised him with proper preparation and a full strategy. This, I believe, is the essence of the “Russian way in warfare”. Know and understand the enemy and surprise him. We have just seen this again in Syria. And, for that matter, over and over again in the Ukraine crisis where nothing has gone the way Nuland & Co intended. And in Ossetia in 2008.

While the First World War was a disaster for Russia, surprise and intelligence was present. Germany’s plan to deal with enemies both east and west assumed Russia would take so long to mobilize that the bulk of the German Army could be sent west to knock France out quickly – as it had done in 1870 – and return in time to meet the Russians. The Russians, who perhaps knew this, attacked early and threw the Germans into consternation. Their attack, however, went wrong: the Russian commanders were incompetent, the German commanders weren’t and the Germans were saved. Intelligence and surprise were there, but the execution was bungled. A second intelligence/surprise was the Brusilov Offensive in 1916 (again something not much known in the West). The attack was notable for two innovations later adopted in the Western Front: a short, intense, accurate artillery bombardment immediately followed up by attacks of small specially trained shock troops. Very different indeed from the synchronous Somme offensive on the Western Front with its prolonged bombardment and the slow advance of thousands of heavily burdened soldiers. But, in the end, Russia was overwhelmed by the strains of the first industrial war and undermined by German and Austrian subterfuges and collapsed. Intelligence and surprise weren’t enough.

Intelligence and surprise returned in the Soviet period. In the Far East we saw the perfect combination of surprise in 1939 with the annihilation of a Japanese army at the battle of Khalkin-Gol and intelligence in 1941 with Richard Sorge‘s discovery that Japan was turning south. This intelligence allowed Stavka to transfer divisions, that the Germans had no idea existed, to Moscow and surprise them with the first Soviet victory at the Battle of Moscow. Certainly Hitler surprised Stalin with his attack (although he shouldn’t have because Soviet intelligence picked up many warning signs) but that appears to have been the last German surprise of the war. From then on it was the Soviets who foresaw German plans and surprised them time and time again – the counter attack at Stalingrad and the entire Battle of Kursk being two of the most dramatic examples of the Soviets preparing for what their intelligence told them was coming and achieving complete surprise with their counter-attack. [And, as I have just learned today, the Soviets knew the details of the final German thrust on Moscow]. Again, surprise and intelligence, almost all of it on the Soviet side. (Which should make one wonder what Reinhard Gehlen, head of the German Army’s Soviet intelligence section had to sell the Americans in 1945, shouldn’t it?)

So then, Syria is just the latest example of something that has been present in Russian and Soviet war-fighting doctrine for at least two centuries.

A good piece of advice, then: if you are contemplating a war (even a non-shooting war) against Russia you’d better assume that they have a pretty good idea of what you are doing but that you have very little idea of what they are doing.

It’s much more likely that you will be surprised than you will surprise them.

Lots of people in lots of places over lots of years have underestimated Russia. Most of them have regretted it.

Is there anything in the last couple of years in the West’s anti-Russia campaign that would cause anyone to think otherwise?

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 4 MAY 2017

RUSSIAN ISOLATION. Remember when Russia was “isolated“? Today it seems to be the essential hub: just in the last seven days Japan, Germany and Turkey have visited and USA has phoned. Patience, persistence, performance, principle; they take a while but they kick in eventually.

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been ruled an “extremist” organisation; there is still an appeal period. This seems a very wrong decision, and one based on a rather poorly-written law, as the conservative Fr Vsevolod Chaplin points out, with bad potential. On the other hand, I can well understand Russian concern about the true intentions of any US-based entity these days.

TRUST. The Levada survey of most trusted politicians has, as usual, Putin in the lead in the 80s, followed by Defence Minister Shoygu (who has been number two for many years) and Foreign Minister Lavrov. And why not? Westerners can only dream of such competency. PM Medvedev is in the 40s; I’m not sure that that means much: someone has to be blamed for things that go wrong.

CORRUPTION. Prosecutor General Chayka produced some data on corruption in 2016: 13,774 cases involving 15,207 people (both numbers down a trifle from 2015). He said that 97% of corruption crimes were detected (how did he detect the undetected examples?) The Moscow City Court sentenced the former head of the anti-corruption (!) department of the Interior Ministry to 22 years; subordinates received from 4 to 20 years. Western commentators often assume things should go faster than they do: the FSB started this back in 2010 and the case was formally opened in February 2014; the trial itself lasted about a year.

NAVALNIY. Big Western media coverage of a small subject. Yes, you are “fake news”.

SANCTIONS. A UN official, who has been examining the matter, praises the Russian government for taking “appropriate measures to insulate the population from the most adverse impact of the sanctions“. He estimates that Western countries lost more over the three years of sanctions and counter-sanctions: US$100 billion to Russia’s US$55 billion. This corresponds to what I (December 2015 for example) and many others not in Western governments, thinktanks and media outlets expected.

CHECHNYA. The NYT, quoting Novaya Gazeta, had this story: “Chechen Authorities Arresting and Killing Gay Men, Russian Paper Says“. Mark Ames, who holds to a quaint belief in the value of research, tells us this about the source. Hmmm…. НГ, NYT and Alekseyev. Not very reliable sources say I.

CHINA-RUSSIA. A Chinese official delivered a message to Putin from Xi. It should be read in full: it is a strong statement of the closeness and permanence of the Moscow-Beijing relationship. Any fantasies in Washington that the two can be separated should be abandoned.

NORTH KOREA. There is a solution to the dilemma and it has been around for some time. Beijing calls it the double suspension” (Pyongyang stops missile and nuclear tests and Washington and Seoul stop big military exercises near the border) and, with Moscow’s support, has put it on the table at the UNSC. The problem is that Washington, ever the virtuous one, has always refused to do so. But things are happening in the background and we shall see. By the way, I am fascinated to see this in the WaPo: “The U.S. war crime North Korea won’t forget“; it actually dares to suggest that Pyongyang’s point of view should be considered. Likewise “Let’s stop calling North Korea ‘crazy’ and understand their motives” and “Kim Jong Un Is a Survivor, Not a Madman“. All I can conclude is that the Party Line either hasn’t been formulated or hasn’t yet been sent to editorial offices. Normally, there is only one valid POV.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. “They went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.” And it still is part of the excuse package: “I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks“. The ever complaisant MSM followed its instructions (“we are not fake news!“) and we have the story. But it’s crumbling into incoherence; there’s no there there. Perhaps in a year or two the Democratic Party will stop blaming its catastrophe (more than 1000 elected positions lost in 8 years) on others. It will probably take more defeats, though, before it does: it’s pretty heavily invested in the anybody but us meme.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. Well worth the read – shows the Russian hacker story began with vague accusations during the Ossetia War and its fundamental shakiness; now it’s “a multibillion-dollar boondoggle, employing shoddy forensic techniques and politicized investigations”.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

The West actually lost the Cold War: it turned victory into defeat

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. This particular one dates from February 2015. Some of my illustrations may be dated but there are always new ones being created: for Tsarnaevs read San Bernardino attack, for Merkel’s cell phone read Trump’s; Kyrzbekistan has been forgotten but the NYT isn’t sure what Aleppo is; Duterte and Le Pen are the new targets to attack. Putin Derangement Syndrome has reached absurd heights. The wars grind on. So, two years later, the “victory” is even farther away.

Peace brings riches; riches bring pride; pride brings anger; anger brings war; war brings poverty; poverty brings humanity; humanity brings peace.

Peace, as I have said, brings riches and so the world’s affairs go round

– Luigi da Porto, Sixteenth Century

A quarter of a century ago the Berlin Wall came down and the West “won the Cold War”. But a quarter of a century later, it’s hard to see what it won.

The arrogance – anger – the victory brought, has given the erstwhile winners the following disasters:

Wars without end: Kosovo, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, ISIS. Each war leads to the next: overthrow Qaddafi, run guns into Syria, train up “moderate oppositionists” who soon join ISIS, whose leadership was created in US detention centres, which recruits more fighters from relatives of those blown up in drone attacks. Years of “security-building” in Iraq collapse in an instant. But, we’re assured, more bombing and more training will solve the problem. Forget that this strategy didn’t work the first time, we’ll just say it does: “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” No sooner had Obama finished saying this than Yemen blew up.

Billions and billions are spent on a Surveillance State that can’t stop the Tsarnaev brothers, even when it’s told where to look, but does know what’s on German Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone.

Human rights, once a concept with some content, is now just another another piece in the box of war toys: Qaddafi wasn’t “bombing his own people” but R2P was weaponised to overthrow him. Poroshenko is “bombing his own people” but R2P is kept in the box. Democracy and the other “Western values” we were so proud of in the 1990s have today been made into bedraggled camp followers trudging behind the Juggernaut of War.

A quick “regime change” in Ukraine to secure naval bases and weaken Russia becomes a nightmare of neo-nazis. war, destruction and chaos, with worse to come.

And, more: now Moscow fully understands that it is on Washington’s hit-list and Beijing knows that if Moscow can be brought down, it will be next. Washington’s latest regime change has pushed these two powers into an alliance. This is tremendously dangerous: even forgetting – if we can – that they are nuclear powers, Russia and China could collapse the Western economies any time they choose.

Putin can destroy NATO and the entire Western financial system whenever he wants. All he has to do is to announce that as NATO has declared economic war against Russia, Russia no longer sells energy to NATO members… To confront the exceptional, indispensable, unipower with the reality of its impotence, all China needs to do is to dump its massive dollar-denominated financial assets on the market, all at once…

Then there would be no need to debate who finally lost.

Some of the allies roped to the Juggernaut of War hesitate. Hungary chafes against the whip, Turkey may be quitting. The Czech President questions the Party Line. And now a new government in Greece appears out of nowhere to slow the Juggernaut. Greece! do the Obamoids even know where it is? Next door to Kyrzbekistan? Close to the Austrian-speaking world? Probably not one of the USA’s 58 states. The Juggernaut grinds on and the presstitutes obey the summons: Greece an “emerging hub for terrorists”, the President of the Czech Republic a “mouthpiece of Putin”, Putin, Orban and Erdogan a “band of brothers”. More enemies still and still more enemies.

Peace has brought the riches, the pride, the anger and now the war. Soon the poverty.

Today’s Putin Quotation

I am deeply convinced that we won’t have any development and the country will have no future if we suppress civil freedoms and the media. This is my deep conviction. It is a key institution that prevents the state from slipping down into the quagmire of totalitarianism. We have already lived in a totalitarian system and no matter how hard it tried to adapt itself to the external world, it didn’t work economically. A free press is the key instrument that guarantees the health of society.

Phone-in interview, ORT, 8 Feb 2000.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 APRIL 2017

TWO UNBELIEVABLE THINGS. I’ve been at this since the days of Chernenko and I just read something that, while not all that important, furnishes a concrete example of the unbelievable changes since those days; something that, had you suggested it was possible at almost any time in the intervening years, people would have thought you crazy. Here it is: TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice best airline in Europe was Aeroflot and it was rated the best business class in the world. It was also the world’s “most powerful” airline brand. And one of the safest. Scaroflot! Impossible to imagine, as I said, in 1985, 1995 or 2005. And here’s another unimaginable event: I well remember the grain shortages in the USSR and the annual negotiations with Canada to supply wheat and two decades ago I saw it when I visited a huge grain elevator complex in Murmansk that had been built to handle Canadian imports. Those days are long gone: today Russia is the leading wheat exporter and, as an extra, FT informs us that “agriculture has overtaken arms sales to become Russia’s second-biggest export sector“. In the 1970s and 80s USSR meant food shortages, by the 1990s half the food in Russia was imported. I think that we are standing at the threshold of a huge growth in Russia’s food industry; its potential has never been tapped – serfdom, the village mir and collectivisation were powerful production brakes. Despite the expected tripe from the FSM – “Soviet-style shortages” “worst days of the USSR” “hurt Russia more” “backfires” (And who can forget Masha Gessen and her cheese?) it was, as I said at the time, a “clever move“. A summary of the benefits. And, something else: here is Russia’s spiffy new military base at 80º North. “Eurasian economic basketcase” indeed! Russia is on a roll and consumers of the Western FSM haven’t a clue.

RUSSIA INC. Not doing badly: Medvedev reports. Notable increases are pharmaceuticals (up about 24%) and agriculture (up 5%). Unemployment is 5.5% and inflation is down to 5%. IMF head Lagarde agrees: she has praised Russia’s economic management and agrees that the economy is now growing. (Without, it should be noted, recourse to the standard IMF-style austerity package either.)

MESSAGES. Lots of messages being sent this month – Syria strike, MOAB, carriers on the move. By Russia too. Hypersonic anti-ship missile. Lots of EW equipment. And, a bigger bomb, by the way.

TILLERSON IN MOSCOW. Too early to know the results. See below.

SYRIA STRIKE. My theory here: it was aimed at Trump’s domestic enemies and appears to have hit the target. But another month will show the theory falsified or not. (Rather encouraged to see that Scott Adams has the same idea. But so does Maxine Waters). Moscow suspended the Russia-US MOU on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents. The CW attack was, of course, a fake.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. With the election call in the UK there will be more insanity/absurdity.

WESTERN VALUES™. “West Rattled Over Russian Missiles on NATO Border“. Or, as you could put it: “Russia Rattled Over NATO on Russian Missiles’ Border”. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. But it’s not Russia that’s moved, is it? “Light-hearted actions” have consequences down the line.

G7 FM MEETING. No sanctions on Russia. We know that London wanted them, Ottawa was ready to go along and Paris, Berlin and Rome grumble but sign in the end. Deduction: Washington didn’t want them.

UKRAINE. Finally someone in the West notices what may prove to be the longest-lasting consequence of the Maidan coup. Ukraine’s nuclear power plants: “corruption, which is breeding a lack of accountability and mismanagement”; “many positions at the regulatory body remain empty”; “started using dubious firms that do not possess the necessary experience”. The writer even knows about the Westinghouse fuel danger “The West has been pushing the Japanese-owned Westinghouse as an alternative source to Russian nuclear fuel… The Westinghouse product is simply not as good as the Russian fuel made for the Russian-designed reactors, creating a highly dangerous situation where the reactor could fail”. Sooner or later…

MORE UKRAINE. And the NYT notices the new history of the new Ukraine. “The O.U.N. and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or U.P.A., are now being glorified as freedom fighters. What is not mentioned is the O.U.N.’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic ideology…”. What took it so long?

STILL MORE UKRAINE. “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” asked Tillerson. What you might call a reverberative question.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Daesh and CW

Quick response to a query from Sputnik about reports of a mustard attack on US troops attached to an Iraqi unit and what Washington should do.

Mustard and chlorine aren’t the same as Sarin. But as Aum Shinrikyo taught us, Sarin, of a deadly enough purity, can be made under rather primitive conditions. That’s one. Second, it is thought that Daesh got hold of some of the government’s stockpiles before they were destroyed. A third possible source is Libyan stocks. And a fourth is via Turkey. So the assertion that Daesh can’t have it is naive. That it won’t use it is naiver still.

The US should address the problem by giving up its wrong-headed and disastrous belief – held since the heyday of Fuller and Brzezinski in Afghanistan in the late 1970s – that it can turn jihadists on here but turn them off there. The jihadists have their own agenda and, as Putin asked: “So, it’s a big question: who’s playing whom here?”

In short, Washington must cooperate with those countries actually fighting Daesh. But, given that they include Syria, Iran and Russia, Washington is going to have to change a lot before it can.

The US Missile Strike on Syria: a Theatrical Production for the Simple-Minded?

(I advanced this theory on Andrew Korybko’s show on Sputnik this morning.)

When I first heard that the US had attacked the airfield in Syria, my heart sank. I had hoped that US President Trump would avoid the endless wars that are bringing us all to Armageddon. This action made me fear that either he had been lying to us all along or that the war party had seized control.

But, as I read further and thought more, another possibility occurred to me. The first thing I wondered was why 59 cruise missiles? There simply aren’t 59 thousand-pound warhead targets at that or any other Syrian airfield. Examination of videos and photos showed little damage (and clearly no fear of sarin or other nerve agents either, as people wandered around without any protection). Had I wanted to stage a loud and exciting (“beautiful” missile launches at night) show with minimum results I would have done something like this. Was it a show, theatre. Art of the deal?

Then I asked myself: if this were a show, for whom was it a show and to what purpose? That led me to consider Trump’s biggest problem. It is that a significant portion of US “elite opinion” regards him – or pretends to regard him – as an illegitimate president. To bring him down, they tried recounts, appeals to “faithless electors“, the 25th Amendment; all failed.

All they were left with was the Russia story and that was being pumped out at full blast. Pumped out for months, since July in fact. Never mind the absence of evidence; it was pumped out ever louder and ever louder; pumped out to such an extent that it was hampering Trump’s program; his foreign program in particular but also his domestic program. It was amorphous and self-replicating at the same time. Did Putin secure Trump’s victory by hacking voting machinesby revealing DNC skulduggery… by some mysterious but never explained influence… by thousands of Putinbots spreading “fake news”… by broadcasts by RT and Sputnik which produce emanations that “undermine democracy“… were the Russians blackmailing him?

What exactly? Nothing that could be pinned down. Like trying to nail Jello to the wall. The allegations were vague, elusive, yet all-embracing. Nothing you could actually test. Shining the light of reason and fact on a particular detail was useless: the accusation skittered away into the shadows like a cockroach: voting machines, propaganda, influence, putinbots, association, something, nothing. But the sum effect, day after day, week after week, month after month, was that no one should take Trump seriously, no one needed to take him seriously, for he was Putin’s stooge and, sooner or later, would be forced from office. Soon gone. Not my president. It’s now April 2017 and this stuff has been festering away since the DNC cheating was revealed in July 2016. Nine months. It is not going to go away by itself. Neither is it going to go away for lack of evidence. It’s deeply embedded in the fantasy world (in this site’s universe, Clinton won) and too much has been invested in it.

In the real world, there is no rational way to stop the accusations.

59 cruise missiles later, all that has evaporated, Trump’s former critics are fawning and slobbering: “America is back, and you’re not allowed to do whatever you want” and “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” simpered two former critics. Generally popular – if only rather shallowly – too. No more Putin puppet. And so on – here is a compendium of drool. So, if the strike were a piece of theatre designed for domestic consumption, it hit the target. A “precision strike” indeed. (By the way, Scott Adams, who has read the Trumpian tea leaves very accurately, agrees that it was theatre.)

But the strike was of questionable morality and legality, to be sure; it was potentially dangerous and many argue that now that Trump has given in once to the War Party, he will find it harder to resist the next time. While it is true that supping with the Devil requires a long spoon, I think Trump has neutered his enemies. The next time there’s another (faked-up – and this attack was obviously not Damascus’ doing) event, he can call fake and what will they do then? Retract their fawning praise? Say he “became” President in April but “ceased” to be in July or August? Or (and I admit the probability of this is vanishingly small) when the truth does comes out, could Washington even apologise and pay compensation to the victims? If that were to happen – and I agree it would be a first – it would be a stunning blow to the War Party. In short, I don’t think the game is over and I don’t think the curtain has come down on the theatrical production.

What will Moscow’s reaction be? Well, if the theatre theory is correct, very little because Moscow was in on the deception to some extent. So, the test will be whether the incident is passed off with some minor harrumphing all round (the story of the Russian-Iranian “red line” is not true). We’ll have a better idea when the results of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Moscow visit emerge. Does Putin also believe it was theatre? Perhaps he does; this is what he said yesterday:

many European countries adopted an anti-Trump position during the election campaign. Syria and Russia, as a common enemy, provide a wonderful platform for consolidation.

Every decent theory must be falsifiable. I will agree that this theory – the theory that the US strike was really domestic theatre – would be falsified if the story, reactions, statements and so on keep building. We should know either way in a month.

But, so far so good: the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting yesterday passed off with minor harrumphing and none of the sanctions UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wanted. In fact the final 30-page communique managed to set a new record of logical incoherency by both blaming Damascus and calling for an inquiry to find out who was to blame:

We are shocked and horrified by the reports of use of chemical weapons in an airstrike in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib on 4 April… The subsequent US military action against Shayrat Airfield was a carefully calibrated, limited in scope response to this warcrime and was directed against Syrian military targets directly connected… We express full support to the OPCW Fact Finding Mission investigation and stress that if the Fact Finding Mission concludes that chemical weapons have or have likely been used, the OPCW – UN Joint Investigative Mechanism should immediately carry out its investigation in accordance with its mandate to identify the perpetrators.

As to Washington’s touching concern about “crimes against innocents“, it is appropriate to note that one of the West’s favourite goto sites, the UK-based Syrian Network for Human Rights and a much-quoted source for accusations that Damascus routinely uses CW, declared that the USA and its allies “killed 260 civilians, including 70 children and 34 women” in Syria last month. More than ISIS did, it says.

As to whether the attack will have much effect on Pyongyang (some think it was the real audience), I am inclined to doubt it. The national mythos in North Korea is resistance – resistance to the Japanese in the first half of the Twentieth Century and defiance of the USA and its allies in the second half; all firmly based on the memory of the ultimately successful resistance to Hideyoshi’s invasion in the 1500s. It seems unlikely that the leadership will be much impressed by anything Washington does this century. And, as this report suggests, it isn’t.

As to its effect on Beijing, again I suspect not very much: the Chinese leadership is neither as gullible nor as easily impressed as US media personalities. Beijing might decide that that trying to influence Pyongyang would be more cost effective than another Korean War; on the other hand, it might decide that a USA bogged down in an unwinnable war (just what would “victory” look like anyway?) would be to its advantage. We shall see.

But its effect on the talking heads and media never-Trumpers at home was profound.

Why Russia Ran Rings Around the USA in the Obama Years

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.

Originally written in October 2015 but I don’t see much to change my opinion about. When the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the West had it all – prestige, success, power, a winning example. It is astounding how much it has thrown away in the succeeding three decades.

Admittedly, there is a new Administration in the USA with new promises to mind its own business:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

Can Trump get the USA to stop its (wasteful, destructive, murderous and counterproductive) meddling and can he, as he has promised, find a better relationship with Russia? Can he emplace a better, more coherent, more intelligent, more focussed team than the arrogant incompetents of the last eight years? It is the biggest question today.

The anti-Russian hysteria gripping the chattering classes shows that Trump’s up against a lot of opposition.

But I don’t believe the story is over yet.

Despite its “failing economy“, “isolation“, “ancient weapons“, “instability” and all the other tired (and ageless: Russia was “failing” in 2005 and in 2000) tropes, time and time again, Moscow confounds, surprises and outmanoeuvres Washington. How does it do it?

Moscow has a competent team; Washington has ??? Putin, Medvedev, Ivanov, Shoygu, Lavrov. On the other side… well, you fill in the names. [Note Apr 2017: There is a new Administration and we will see what difference that makes.] The proof is that Russia has risen from a negligible position in 2000 to one that sets a lot of the agenda.

Moscow stays at home; Washington goes abroad. John Quincy Adams advised the young American republic not to go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. But today…. US special forces deployed to 150 countries in the past three years; hundreds and hundreds of foreign military bases. Not even the most dedicated anti-Russia conspiricist could name 15 countries he thought Russian special forces had been deployed in nor more than a handful of foreign bases. And so, while Moscow sticks to its own interests, Washington sticks its interests into everything and everywhere.

Moscow is grounded in reality; Washington grounded in illusion. I don’t think we could have a better illustration than the two leaders’ speeches at the UNGA [in 2015]. In which, together with all the hypocritical piffle about “we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law”, “fidelity to international order”, “basic principles of freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce”, “helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant” is the meat: “I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.” As this writer put it, the schoolyard bully condemns bullying. Putin stuck to his themes of multilateralism (and so did Xi Jinping; something to be noticed: that’s two nuclear powers, two UNSC permanent seats and the first and fifth economies (World Bank, PPP) agreeing that “The future of the world must be shaped by all countries. All countries are equals.”). Putin asked “do you at least realize now what you’ve done?” and answered his question realistically “But I’m afraid that this question will remain unanswered, because they have never abandoned their policy, which is based on arrogance, exceptionalism and impunity.” And finally: “Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it’s a big question: who’s playing whom here?” Who, indeed? (One of the top ISIS commanders was trained by the US back when it was thought useful to have jihadists it “controlled” fighting Russia. Who was playing whom then?) But Obama’s still rearranging the li-los in cloud cuckoo land: Putin went into Syria out of weakness and he’s only got Syria and Iran while the USA has the rest of the world.

Moscow plans; Washington assumes. It seems that Israel got more than the brusque one-hour announcement the US received of the coming strikes. A coordination centre is operating in Baghdad. There are constant stories that China is on board (I don’t believe Debka’s reports that Chinese military assets are already there but China may well appear in some way). [Note Apr 2017: not militarily but it will likely play a part in rebuilding Syria]. Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the Kurds are all on board. Obviously this was carefully planned over some time. In short, Putin & Co got their ducks in a row and moved very quickly. [Note Apr 2017: and so it continues]. Compare the light-hearted way in which the Ukraine disaster began: cookies and cell phone chats, the premature US Navy bid for Sevastopol, the silly confidence that it would be all wrapped up soon. To say nothing of the “surprising” fallout from the Libya and Iraq wars. Of course if the aim of Washington is to create chaos, as some wonder, then it has been all carefully thought out. And chaos it has.

Moscow has consistency; Washington has confusion. Take Syria for example. The Russian policy is to fight ISIS and its attachments; it supports Assad because it saw in Libya and Iraq that overthrowing the incumbent leads to worse. The only way to do this is by supporting the forces that are actually fighting ISIS on the ground. As well there is the principle that Assad is the recognised government of the country. And so Russia has forged agreements with the forces actually fighting ISIS. The US policy is to attack ISIS (but not very effectively) but also to attack Assad using its “four or five” moderate rebels. Oh, wait, you tell us there’s a CIA-trained group we haven’t heard about before somewhere? Or should Washington ally itself with Al-Qaeda? ISIS has a lot of US weapons: accident? Intention? some secret operation? who knows? No consistency or coherence there.

Moscow has a united team; what does the USA have? As I have written earlier, I suspect that the US intelligence community has been shut out of Washington’s decisions and now wants to clear itself of blame for the ever unrolling disaster. We won’t hear anything from Moscow like that; and it’s not because Putin’s a “dictator”.

So it’s not that complicated: competency, attention to first principles, reality, planning, consistency of purpose and unity of execution beats incompetency, interfering in everything everywhere, illusion, sloppy assumptions, confusion and disunity.