A NEW YEAR’S FANTASY

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation

History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind

– Edward Gibbon

Counterfactual history is generally a waste of time because, in the end, it’s just speculation. But it’s fun and it can sometimes illuminate factual history.

For example, take the aborted Soviet-French-British alliance to stop Hitler. It came to nothing for a number of reasons but, had it happened, history would have been very different. (And – dare I say it? – probably better. And not the least of the benefits would be that we would be freed from the endless appeals to “Munich” to encourage us to stand firm and bomb the “Next Hitler”.) But I am not going to explore that counterfactual history in which the UK, USSR and France got together, Poland was convinced to let a million Soviet soldiers in and the German military, seeing the hopelessness of it all, overthrew Hitler and the future followed a different set of possibilities (Poland probably being occupied each time).

I am going to consider a counter-factual post Cold War history. Not because I believe – cynical as I have now become – that there was much of a chance of triumphalist Washington, in thrall to PNAC fantasies, allowing it to happen; I do it to illuminate some of the mess that we are in today.

After the Second World War, Stalin, either because he was a dedicated expansionist enemy of the West or because he was determined that, the next time, invaders would have to start their attack farther away from Moscow, absorbed most of the countries the Soviet Army captured/liberated. Communists – and each country had plenty – were put into power. (I invite the reader to speculate: they were absorbed but which was his true motive?) After the Washington Treaty, Moscow formed the Warsaw Treaty. But while the former was, more or less, voluntary, the latter was not and, the moment the USSR weakened, everybody wanted out. Mikhail Gorbachev, GenSek in 1985, began glasnost and perestroyka, believing that the USSR as it was had exhausted its possibilities; one thing led to another, the Berlin Wall came down, the Warsaw Treaty organisation collapsed: when the USSR’s “allies” realised the tanks weren’t coming, they jumped. The USSR itself then fell apart and a whole new world was there for the making.

This is what happened, now begins my counterfactual speculation.

The Western (=NATO) capitals – none of which had foreseen these events – get together and think about how to profit from the collapse of their enemy and how to build a more secure world. A world that is not just better for themselves but more secure for everybody because the wise people in NATO understand that they cannot be secure if their neighbours are not: they know that security is indivisible.

The wise men and women of NATO ponder – it is their world-historical moment; they will create tomorrow. Alternate futures pass before their eyes, they have the power to choose one and eliminate the others; they will pick, out of all the possibilities, the one road the world will travel. Their challenge, now that a great war has ended, is how to fashion a wise ending to the struggle. Not a triumphant ending but a wise one; not just for us but for our descendants. Not momentary but enduring; not a quick sugar hit but lasting nutrition. Many roads to failure; only a few to success.

They take their place with modesty: while, naturally believing that their “free world” system was and is preferable to Marxism-Leninism, they are wise enough and modest enough to know that reality comes in shades of grey. No triumphalism here: just the pragmatic desire to build stability and peace. No boasting: just an acknowledgement that both sides have won.

They remember other decision points when a few created the future. The French Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars killed and maimed millions and devastated and squandered wealth throughout Europe. The easy end would have been to blame France and try to squash it for all time. But the victors – Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria – were wiser: they included France in the settlement; and their settlement avoided a great European war for a century. They knew that France would always be an important player and therefore had to be invested in the settlement. If it weren’t invested in the settlement it would be invested in breaking the settlement. It’s the essence of The Deal: everybody gets something and everybody has an interest in keeping things the way they are. When no one wants to tip it over, you have stability. The victors of 1919 forgot this principle and their settlement collapsed into an even worse war in twenty years. The victors of that war remembered the 1814 principle (partially) and integrated Germany, Italy and Japan into the winners’ circle.

The wise ones of NATO know this history; they know that the losers have to be made into winners so that the peace can have a chance of lasting; they remember the terrible example of the 1919 failure. There’s no place for boasting or triumphantasising. They bend their powerful minds in the Great Peace Conference of 1991 (counterfactual fantasy event) to calculate how to accommodate everybody’s security concerns. They know that security is indivisible: if one doesn’t feel secure then, sooner or later, no one will.

They start with two realities: 1) Moscow’s former allies – or at least their current leaders – hate and fear Moscow and 2) Moscow doesn’t trust NATO. The Wise Ones waste no time moralising, they know these are the materials with which they have to work and have to make to fit together.

Expand NATO? No, say the Wise Ones: while it will please people in Warsaw or Prague (at least until they get the bill), it will make Moscow nervous and that violates the principle of indivisible security. If making Warsaw happy makes Moscow unhappy, then, at the end of the day, they will both be unhappy and, if they’re both are unhappy, then we will all be unhappy too. Indivisibility of security is the kernel of wisdom that the Wise Ones hold to. If nobody is unhappy then everybody is happy: it’s the geopolitical version of “happy wife, happy life”.

So, the question is this: how do we make a settlement to the Cold War in which NATO, the former Warsaw Treaty, former-USSR and Moscow all feel secure at the same time? Fortunately, at this unrepeatable moment in world history, the NATO leadership is replete with wise, knowledgeable and thoughtful people, well-informed about past errors, determined to do better, with the vision, modesty and ingenuity to square the circle. (I warned you it was counterfactual). They figure it out:

  1. They tell Warsaw, Prague, Kiev and the rest of them to form an alliance (Central European Treaty Organisation or some such name) grounded on NATO’s Article 5 (an attack on one is an attack on all).
  2. They get a formal, signed, ceremonial declaration from NATO that, should Russia attack any member of the Central European Treaty Organisation, NATO will come to its defence.
  3. They get a formal, signed, ceremonial declaration from Moscow that should NATO attack any member of the CETO, Moscow will come to its defence.

So, between NATO and Russia, there would have been a belt of neither-one-nor-the-other-but-guaranteed-by-both countries. CETO would have lots of weapons and a high degree of interoperability and command structure left over from the Soviet days; therefore they would be able to mount quite effective defences with what they already had. Their weapons, being Soviet and very rugged, would work for years to come so they wouldn’t have to spend much on their defence.

(Note that, we have, as a sort of scale model of something like this, the relationship between Malta and Italy. From 1981 Malta is officially neutral and its neutrality is guaranteed by Italy, a NATO member. The USSR recognised this neutrality soon after.)

If a CETO had been formed, guaranteed by NATO and Russia, wouldn’t everybody be 1) happier and 2) more secure?

But that didn’t happen. We all know what did: the men and women of NATO were not so wise, they missed their world-historical moment and they went for the triumphantasising quick sugar hit.

So I wish you all a happy

New Year

in which you may reflect upon what might have been

but wasn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

TWENTY YEARS LATER – WHAT PUTIN FORGOT

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation

This site has just published my assessment of what Putin (and his team) got right in the program laid out, twenty years ago, in his essay “Russia at the turn of the millennium”. I concluded that he outlined four main projects: 1) Improve the economy. 2) Re-establish central control. 3) Establish a rule of law. 4) Improve Russia’s position in the world. I assessed that he accomplished three of them triumphantly and one reasonably well.

But, re-reading the essay, I noticed something that he did not mention. A something that in the twenty years has become rather important. Here is his only mention in the essay of that thing.

Russia was and will remain a great power.. It is preconditioned by the inseparable characteristics of its geopolitical, economic and cultural existence. They determined the mentality of Russians and the policy of the government throughout the history of Russia and they cannot but do so at present. But Russian mentality should be expanded by new ideas. In the present world the might of a country as a great power is manifested more in its ability to be the leader in creating and using advanced technologies, ensuring a high level of people’s wellbeing, reliably protecting its security and upholding its national interests in the international arena, than in its military strength.

Once. That’s it. That’s the only time “military strength” is mentioned and it is mentioned disparagingly: other things – technologies, wellbeing, diplomacy – are more important in this new world of the Twenty-first Century as Putin then saw it.

There is, in fact, almost nothing in the essay about the outside world and therefore little from which to deduce Putin’s expectations of how his program would be received. At one point he writes that Russia, after the dead end of the Soviet years, “has entered the highway by which the whole of humanity is travelling”, in another that an important aim is to “integrate the Russian economy into world economic structures”. This sounds as if he either expected Russia to be welcomed into these structures or that its arrival on the highway would, at least, not be impeded.

But, in one of his first interviews to a foreign source, a German newspaper in June 2000, the outside world made it presence known in three issues – the US flouting of the ABM Treaty, US missiles in Europe and NATO expansion. A year later an interview with American reporters (JRL 20 Jun 2001) is almost completely given over to American plans to place ballistic missile defences in Europe. In short, he wasn’t at his new job very long before his daily schedule started to have a large foreign component. And, from his perspective, all problems. We see in these first interviews points that Putin will return to over and over again in the coming years. He doubts that the Bush-era ABM systems have much to do with “rogue states”; he regards the ABM Treaty as vital to nuclear stability; he objects to the expansion of NATO. But most of all, he talks of a multipolar world, or as some call it a “Westphalian” system, of sovereign countries. This, he argues, again and again, is the only route to peace and stability. These themes feature in almost every speech on foreign issues he has made since. Given weight by the knowledge that Moscow wasted 70 years on the exceptionalist, moralistic path – a dead end as he said in his millennium essay.

So if, as the essay suggests, Putin was expecting the mostly domestic task of reconstructing Russia – “the price which we have to pay for the economy we inherited from the Soviet Union” – to proceed with a benign reaction from the outside world, he was soon disabused of the notion. The West, for all its honeyed words, was taking advantage of Russia’s weakness.

In short, he forgot the saying attributed to the Emperor Alexander III thatRussia has only two allies – its Army and its Navy”.

Eventually missiles were emplaced in Europe, the ABM Treaty and two of the other keystone arms control treaties were abandoned and NATO kept expanding. And much else. By February 2007 Putin had had enough and said so in the famous Munich Conference speech. The essence of his speech – and who today can deny its prescience? – is that that “security for one is security for all”. He proclaimed the unipolar world dead – as it has become. He decried the ignoring of international law; today there isn’t even the pretence: keep their oil, Bolivia coup. He pointed out the broken promise about NATO expansion – no longer can it be denied. He never quite gives up hope: who can forget his question, referring to the mess in the Middle East caused by Washington and its minions (September 2015): “I’m urged to ask those who created this situation: do you at least realize now what you’ve done?” or (October 2016) “I address the players once again: The extremists in this case are more cunning, clever and stronger than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always lose.

So, at some point between 1999 with the millennium essay and the Munich speech of 2007, Putin realised that the reconstruction of Russia would have to proceed in a hostile atmosphere; Washington and its allies did not want a strong Russia as a partner or or even as peaceful competitor: they wanted the Russia of 1999 – poor, divided, lawless and insignificant. Or perhaps his turning point was NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2015. Or when Washington did kill the ABM Treaty in 2002. Most likely, though, it was a gradual process by which Putin and his team realised they had to look to Alexander’s allies.

And they did. They warned – Putin told the American reporters in 2001 “We are offering cooperation. If that is acceptable, we will do this with pleasure. If not, then we will act independently” – and, quietly, they did.

In March 2018 he showed the Federal Assembly and the world what the Team had been working on. A final reminder:

We proposed working together in this area [prolonging the ABM Treaty – ‘the cornerstone of the international security system’] to ease concerns and maintain the atmosphere of trust. At one point, I thought that a compromise was possible, but this was not to be. All our proposals, absolutely all of them, were rejected. And then we said that we would have to improve our modern strike systems to protect our security.

Six new super weapons: the Sarmat ICBM, Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile, Poseidon nuclear powered underwater cruise missile, Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched missile, Avangard hypersonic manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle and the Peresvet combat laser. He warned:

Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, weapons of short, medium or any range at all, will be considered as a nuclear attack on this country. Retaliation will be immediate, with all the attendant consequences.

He couldn’t resist adding “nobody wanted to listen to us. So listen now.” They scoffed: just virtual reality. But they’re not; US inspectors have been shown the Avangard which, with its ability to hit anywhere in less than half an hour, ends the US dream of antiballistic missile defence. The two cruise missiles present a unprecedented threat – lurking over Antarctica or in the ocean deeps for months ready to strike? A volley of Kinzhals coming in at Mach ten will obliterate any carrier group or staging harbour or base in Europe. Checkmate.

But there’s more: great advances have been made on conventional defence as well. As I argue here, the Putin Team understood that the two essentials of NATO’s war-fighting doctrine are air superiority and assured communications. They won’t have them against Russia. The First Guards Tank Army has been revived and far exceeds anything that NATO has in offensive power. NATO has been writing NSF cheques for years and Moscow has called its bluff.

So, eventually, the Putin Team did take Alexander’s advice. Russia’s army and navy and air force have probably made Russia more secure against attack than at any time since his Great Uncle entered his capital in triumph two years after Napoleon’s attack or when Marshal Zhukov accepted the enemy’s surrender in his capital four years after Hitler’s attack.

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And, as an afterword, at Munich Putin said this:

It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

Do we not see this today? The USA is tearing itself apart over imagined Russian collusion, imagined Russian electoral interference and real Ukrainian corruption. And, meanwhile, the forever wars go on and on.

TWENTY YEARS LATER – HOW DID PUTIN DO?

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation picked up by JRL, Greanville Post, The Liberty Beacon, Technical Politics, Covert Geopolitics, Astute News, Europe Reloaded, The Falling Darkness,

(NOTE: Thanks to Veleslav Grivov who pointed out that in my World Bank figures below, the billions should be trillions and the millions billions. Too many zeroes for me!)

Twenty years ago a not very well-known Vladimir Putin published an essay “Russia at the turn of the millennium”. It was printed in Nezavisimaya Gazeta and at the Russian government website. The only copy that I can find on the Net in English now is here but I will be referring to the official English translation and Russian text that I downloaded at the time.

Putin had been Prime Minister for about five months and, when Yeltsin resigned the day after the publication of this essay, he became Acting President. Since that day his team has been running Russia. It is reasonable to regard this essay as his program and, on its twenty-year anniversary, appropriate to see how well he (and his team – it’s not a one-man operation) have done.

I concluded that he outlined four main projects:

  • Improve the economy.

  • Re-establish central control.

  • Establish a rule of law.

  • Improve Russia’s position in the world.

Putin took power at a time when people were seriously saying Russia is Finished. And, however silly this may look now when we are hysterically told every day that “Putin’s Russia” is infiltrating, controlling, interfering, attacking, hacking, conquering, violating, cheating it is worth running over what the author said. Assassinations, mafiya, corruption, kryshas, oligarchs, unpaid salaries, military collapse: “the Russians are likely to face a long, slow, relatively peaceful decline into obscurity – a process that is well under way”. The author acknowledged the changing of the guard – the piece was published in May 2000 – but believed Putin was picked only because he had the “security connections to protect” Yeltsin’s entourage; he was just another centraliser building a personality cult in “Zaire With Permafrost.”

The author – like almost everyone else – got Putin wrong but generally he was describing the reality of Russia in 2000. It was a mess. In Putin’s own words last June:

But I must note that during that time our social sphere, industry and the defence sector collapsed. We lost the defence industry, we practically destroyed the Armed Forces, led the country into a civil war, to bloodshed in the Caucasus, and brought the country to the verge of losing sovereignty and collapse.

As far as I know, most Western intelligence agencies (but not the one I was involved with) would have agreed with his prediction that Russia was, inevitably, going down to “obscurity”. The fear then was of chaos – rogue generals, nuclear weapons gone missing (remember suitcase nukes, “red mercury“?): Russia’s weakness was the threat, not its strength. We appreciated how badly off Russia was but also knew that Russia in its thousand years has often been down but never out. We also knew that there was more to Putin than the absurdities that were said about him of which I especially remember this:

Psychiatry recognizes a condition known as ‘moral idiocy’. Every time he opens his mouth in public, Putin confirms this diagnosis for himself.

In my group we took note that he had been the trusted disciple of Anatoliy Sobchak who was, in the terminology of the time, a “reformer” and therefore a “good Russian”. We had also read the millennium paper and saw the program. I am not pretending that, in 1999, I or my colleagues expected him to do all this but at least we saw the possibilities. We, as it were, saw a half full glass where others saw a glass quickly emptying.

************************************

He and his team were trying to make Russia prosperous, united, law-governed and internationally significant. A formidable program from the perspective of 1999 to be sure. How well have they done?

Taking the economy first. One of the famous quotations from the millennium paper was this:

It will take us approximately fifteen years and an annual growth of our Gross Domestic Product by 8 percent a year to reach the per capita GDP level of present-day Portugal or Spain,

That mission has been accomplished and much more than merely accomplished. According to the World Bank Russia’s GDP in purchasing power parity in 2018 (4.0 billion trillion) was nearly 12 times as high as Portugal’s (339 million billion) and twice Spain’s (1.8 billion trillion). It was in fact larger than France’s (3.0 billion trillion) or the UK’s (3.0 billion trillion), two other countries he mentioned. (By comparison, China 25 billion trillion and USA 20 billion trillion). Valuations of Russia’s GDP in US dollars contradict reality: as I have argued elsewhere, Russia’s economy is in fact full-service and it is one of four potential autarkies on the planet. And, the way things are going, it won’t become any less so: as Awara points out it is one of the most independent economies in the world, well positioned to survive a world recession. While individual Russians could certainly be richer, the improvement from the desperate situation in 2000 is extraordinary. Ironically, Western sanctions (and Moscow’s adroit response) have strengthened the Russian economy; as Putin said in his last direct line program:

Look, if ten years ago I or anyone else in this hall had been told that we would be exporting agricultural products worth $25.7 billion, like we did last year, I would have laughed in the face of the person who said this.

An outstanding success.

The second point was re-centralising power. In 2000 there were concerns that the federation might break up: the CIA in 2004 (has there ever been an organisation with a worse track record of Russia predictions?) thought it could break into as many as eight different parts by 2015. Many of the “subjects of the federation” had negotiated sovereignty pacts with Moscow and, as of 2000, Chechnya was effectively independent. So, in fact, the CIA’s prediction was not, of itself, idiotic but it assumed a temporary weakness to be a permanent condition: a longer view of Russia’s track record shows weak periods but it always comes back. As Putin said in the millennium paper:

For Russians a strong state is not an anomaly which should be got rid of. Quite the contrary, they see it as a source and guarantor of order and the initiator and main driving force of any change.

Russia is a civilisation statePresident Macron’s expression – Europe by contrast has always been a series of (quarrelling) independent states. For much of the time, the state – the King’s power – was something to be resisted or limited. Russia, on the other hand, during its “prey-fish” period, learned to value the state as the guarantor of its existence. And so, to Russians, state power is much more important than it is to most Europeans. Western commentators have to understand this or else they look like fools to Russians: Russians think centralisation is good, they respect state power, not slavishly as Western prejudice would have it, but because Russia has fought for its existence too many times for them to want to risk anarchy. Putin and his team have re-established state power; that someone like David Satter thinks Putin is a dictator or the Western media calls his elections fake, matters nothing to Russians. Russia exists again and it’s full of Russians. A rather interesting illustration can be seen in this video when the Chechen MP in Syria says we are all Russians. The Russian language has two words that would be translated as “Russian”: one for ethnic Russians, the other for citizens of the country. A Chechen can’t be the first (and wouldn’t want to be) but he can be proud of being the second. Again, we have to agree that the Putin Team achieved its second aim.

The third aim was rule of law. And here assessment is on more uncertain grounds. The first question to ask is whether any country actually does have a “rule of law”. Britain is holding Assange in jail on rape charges jumping bail… what charges? What exactly did Maria Butina do? Why did Canada seize a Chinese executive? Whataboutism they call this but it establishes the base of reality – all countries have corruption, all countries have one law for the powerful and another for the weak; it’s not absolute, it’s a matter of degree. Certainly, by any standards, twenty years ago Russia was very lawless; how lawless is it today and how successful has the Team been? I don’t know know of any good study on the matter – I don’t take Transparency International seriously: Ukraine less corrupt than Russia? – but it does appear that things are much better than they were. Certainly we hear very little about businesses needing criminals’ protection today and Russia’s ranking on ease of doing business is continually improving and is respectable today. This guide indicates some remaining problems but generally assumes that it’s possible for foreigners to do business there as does this guide. Recently we learned that “Nearly one in six Russian mayors have faced criminal prosecution over the past decade” which is either evidence of a lot of corruption or a lot of success combatting it. The construction of a new cosmodrome has involved much theft but other mega projects – like the Crimea Bridge or the new Moscow-St Petersburg highway – seem to have been carried out with little. A balanced (and sourced) piece argues that there has been considerable improvement in the rights of the accused in the twenty years. But a frequent complaint in Putin’s Q&A sessions are over-zealous officials destroying businesses – perhaps for venal purposes. So a cautious conclusion would suggest that the two decades have seen a reduction in criminality and an improvement in rule of law. How much of each is debatable and the argument is not helped by tendentious pieces asserting that the imitation of the American foreign agents law was “a landmark on the journey towards the end of the rule of law in modern-day Russia.” So some success in this aim but some distance to go still.

The fourth aim was to improve Russia’s standing in the world. Here another enormous turnaround is seen – even if not much to the liking of those who ruled the world in 2000. There’s no need to spell it out – despite the West’s efforts to isolate and weaken Russia, Putin is a welcome visitor in many places. The delirium over Russia’s imagined influence and control proves that it is hardly “decline[d] into obscurity”. Moscow’s status is, of course, especially recognised in Beijing where the Russia-China alliance grows stronger day by day. When we see the NYT, after years of “Trump and Putin: A Love Story“, solemnly opining “President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China” or President Macron suggesting that Russia shouldn’t want to be “a minority ally of China” we see the belated realisation that twenty years’ of pushing around an “insignificant” Russia has not turned out so happily for the pushers. The NYT and Macron are too late: why would Moscow or Beijing ever trust the West again? Meanwhile Moscow manages to have, for example, good relations with Iran, Iraq and Syria as well as with Saudi Arabia and Israel; quite a contrast with Washington and much of the West.

************************************

So, in conclusion, twenty years later the program has been very successful.

Improve economy? Yes, dramatically, extra marks.

Re-centralise control? Yes, full marks.

Rule of law? Considerable progress, part marks.

Improve Russia’s role in the world? Yes, dramatically, extra marks.

The West resents this achievement and has been in an economic (sanctions) and diplomatic (ditto) war with Russia. But, many would argue, that the only Russia the West has ever liked is a weak one (except, of course, in times of war against Napoleon, the Kaiser or Hitler); enmity is a given and the only way the West would like Russia would be if the Putin Team had failed and it had remained, poor, divided, lawless and insignificant.

A remarkably successful achievement; not accomplished by accident or luck: a good plan, intelligently and flexibly carried out.

************************************

As an afterword, given the repetitive scare stories about the return of Stalin, here’s what Putin said about the Soviet period (Note: this is the official English translation; it takes some liberties with the original but is true to the spirit).

For almost three-fourths of the outgoing century Russia lived under the sign of the implementation of the communist doctrine. It would be a mistake not to see and, even more so, to deny the unquestionable achievements of those times. But it would be an even bigger mistake not to realise the outrageous price our country and its people had to pay for that Bolshevist experiment. What is more, it would be a mistake not to understand its historic futility. Communism and the power of Soviets did not make Russia a prosperous country with a dynamically developing society and free people. Communism vividly demonstrated its inaptitude for sound self-development, dooming our country to a steady lag behind economically advanced countries. It was a road to a blind alley, which is far away from the mainstream of civilisation.

Почти три четверти уходящего столетия Россия жила под знаком реализации коммунистической доктрины. Было бы ошибкой не видеть, а тем более отрицать несомненные достижения того времени. Но было бы еще большей ошибкой не сознавать той огромной цены, которую заплатили общество, народ в ходе этого социального эксперимента. Главное же, пожалуй, в том, что власть Советов не сделала страну процветающей, общество -динамично развивающимся, человека – свободным. Более того, идеологизированный подход к экономике обрек нашу страну на неуклонное отставание от развитых государств. Как ни горько признаваться в этом, но почти семь десятилетий мы двигались по тупиковому маршруту движения, который проходил в стороне от столбовой дороги цивилизации.

Hardly an endorsement is it?

MCCARTHYISM AND ME

Watching bits of the absurd circus in Washington with all these (thank you for your service you outstanding diplomat, you) brave bureaucrats worrying that the USA is not fighting Russia hard enough, I am reminded of this little story.

When I was a kid in public school in a small Canadian town (let’s say 1957ish) on Friday afternoons (all? some?) we had a time for skits and stories and so forth.

One of the skits I remember involved a number of kids stepping forward and saying “I’m so-and-so (some famous person – Pat Boone was one, I remember) and I’m a Russian”. This went on for several iterations and then some kid, carrying a roll of toilet paper, rushed from the back of the room shouting “I’m Bob and I’m a-rushin’ too!”

All fall about with laughter.

Well, Joe McCarthy blew up in 1954 so, in a small town far from anywhere, I guess the skit was reasonably au courant a couple of years later.

What sticks in my mind was the “Russian” bit – not “communist” which was what McCarthy was talking about, not “Soviet”, which is what they were.

Now you can say the joke, such as it was, wouldn’t have worked without “Russian” but my guess is that the “Russian” bit was the origin of the joke and not the other way round.

So commies were Soviets and Soviets were Russians and Russians were our enemies busy infiltrating us back then and I guess they still are.

PUTIN AND 911

Andy Card: One of the president’s first thoughts, from Sarasota to Barksdale, was Vladimir Putin.

Gordon Johndroe: [Putin] was important—all these military systems were all put in place for nuclear alerts. If we went on alert, we needed Putin to know that we weren’t readying an attack on Russia. He was great—he said immediately that Russia wouldn’t respond, Russia would stand down, that he understood we were under attack and needed to be on alert.

Ari Fleischer: Putin was fantastic that day. He was a different Vladimir Putin in 2001. America could have had no better ally on September 11th than Russia and Putin.

‘We’re the Only Plane in the Sky’ Politico 9 Sep 2016

Of course it doesn’t occur to these Americans that maybe it wasn’t Putin who’s become “different” since then. How could that possibility ever appear in their exceptionalist minds?

BIDEN AND START II

(Answer to Sputnik about my thoughts about Biden endorsing a renewal of START II.)

(Pretty hypothetical questions. I don’t think Biden will be chosen and I am confident Trump will be re-elected.)

Biden is running as Obama’s heir, therefore it’s not surprising that he would support START 2; he will probably claim he had a lot to do with it.

The Cold War left four important arms treaties. The ABM Treaty (1972) forbade anti ballistic missiles, the INF Treaty (1987) forbade intermediate range nuclear weapons, the CFE Treaty (1990 and modified) limited conventional weapons and the START Treaty (1991 and renewed) limited nuclear weapons. Washington (Bush II) abrogated the ABM Treaty in 2002; NATO never ratified the modified CFE Treaty and invented so many new conditions that Russia, which had ratified it, pulled out in 2015 (Obama); Washington has just pulled out of the INF Treaty (Trump). All that remains is the New START Treaty of 2011 (Obama) which Trump has said he doesn’t like and. So if he’s POTUS in 2021, that’s probably gone too.

So it looks as if the entire arms control regime inherited from the Cold War will be gone in a few years: in all cases the initiative has come from Washington although Moscow has (of course) been blamed.

It’s a good question whether anyone in the Democratic base is even aware of this reality or much interested. Maybe Biden can awaken people to the danger. Or is the Democratic Party too far down the rabbit hole of Trump conspiracies, PC obsessions and social justice warriors to notice important things?

D-DAY MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU THINK

First published Strategic Culture Foundation.  (SCF’s first illustration was of one of the US beaches; at my request they changed it to a still from this film of the actual moment when A Company, North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment landed on Juno Beach.)

Before I begin. No, D-Day was not the largest military operation of all times. No, D-Day was not the decisive battle of the war. No, the Western Allies did not defeat Hitlerism with minor help from the USSR. The largest military operation of all time was surely Operation Bagration which was planned in coordination with D-Day. The decisive battle – much argument there, so my personal opinion – was the Battle of Moscow in 1941 although David Glantz has persuasively argued that the German victory at Smolensk sealed their defeat. Either way, the only path to German victory was a quick one and that hope was gone by the end of 1941. (Hitler’s rant to Mannerheim is instructive.) 80% of nazi military casualties were on the Eastern front, the rest of us did for the other 20%. But D-Day was important. And much more difficult than my Russian interlocutors think it was. And it had to succeed the first time.

I sympathise with Russians (and the other former USSR nations) when they hear the puffing of D-Day and hyperbole calling it the decisive moment and so forth. It is true that the Soviet part of the war has been downplayed in Western popular thought. (But not always: vide this excellent and balanced piece, The month of two D-Days.) One reason is, of course, that each country plays up its own part (Canada being a conspicuous exception). Soviet accounts of the war were not much available in Western languages in the 1950s and 1960s. So we grew up reading about our guys and what they did and a host of German accounts which tended to promulgate what Dr Jonathon House has called the Three Alibis: Hitler didn’t listen to his generals, who knew Russia was so cold? the Soviets outnumbered us. My personal journey to understanding the 80-20 split began with Panzer Battles in which the author describes victory after victory, but always one river closer to Germany: clearly he’s leaving out something important. An account of a panzer-grenadier division which mentioned that only about one-tenth the trains that moved it in were needed to move it out a year later made me realise that German infantry casualties were ferocious. Chuikov’s book taught me that Stalingrad was just not a slog but that there was serious operational thinking behind it. Bit by bit I came to understand the size and complexity of Soviet operations: surely the largest and most complicated ever carried out. David Glantz taught me much. But most Westerners – who aren’t that interested – remain where I was at the age of 16 or so, Battle of Britain, Sink the Bismarck, Dambusters, D-Day, Battle of the Atlantic and the American equivalents. (Canadians have an almost boastful ignorance of what Canada did.)

Understandable, really. But irritating for Russians who feel their part is ignored. But their reaction can go too far in the other direction: D-Day was not some minor river crossing deferred until it was clear that the Germans were beaten. It was a very difficult and complicated operation, requiring an enormous amount of preparation and could not have been done sooner. The point of this essay is to explain all this.

I start by pointing out that the Western Allies did open several “Second Fronts” before June 1944.

  • North Africa. Fighting began here in 1940 and continued until the surrender of 270,000 Axis troops in 1943.
  • Italy. American, British and Canadian soldiers invaded Sicily in 1943, crossed onto the mainland and, joined by other nations, fought their way up Italy until the eventual German surrender in 1945.
  • Bombing. The Western Allies carried out an extensive bombing campaign over Germany. Very controversial in its effects but it certainly reduced German war production and tied up large resources in air defence.
  • Resistance in Occupied Europe, greatly assisted, armed and to a large extent directed by the Western Allies.

So, it is not true that the Western Allies did nothing before June 1944. (Again, I emphasise that all this is part of the 20%).

But, obviously, the invasion of France would be the main event. This essay discusses the planning process which began in earnest in March 1943. Here are some of the problems the planners had to take into account.

  • The English Channel. It is not a big river, it’s the Ocean. That means that it is accessible to submarines, aircraft carriers, battleships and other major combat ships. It has tides and serious storms. Rivers, even big ones, do not.

  • Atlantic Wall. The Germans knew that sooner or later the Western Allies would have to invade and, beginning in 1942, enormous efforts were made to create bunkers, obstacles, gun positions, beach obstacles and everything else human ingenuity could come up with. Defences were built even in Norway and I have seen bunkers in the very tip of Denmark. Previous Western Allied seaborne invasions – North Africa, Sicily and Italy – had been against almost undefended beaches. Attacking the Atlantic Wall was a different proposition.
  • The Funnies. When the infantry got ashore they would have to assault powerful defences with only the weapons they could carry. To give them more punch a family of specialised armoured vehicles was created. In particular, if tanks could landed first, the infantry would be greatly helped. This idea produced the DD tank: floating Sherman tanks. While in no beach they were the first things ashore, on four beaches they were a help: at Omaha Beach they were launched too far out and most foundered. Other specialised armoured vehicles were generally effective on the day; the AVREs and Sherman Crabs especially.
  • Harbour. The chosen site had no harbours. But the Allies had to put as many soldiers ashore on the first day as they could and follow them up with thousands more every day together with vehicles, ammunition, fuel and food in a continuous stream. Impossible over open beaches with small landing craft shuttling back and forth from the bigger ships offshore. A secure harbour was the sine qua non for an invasion. The disastrous Dieppe Raid of 1942 had shown that capturing an intact port was impossible. So here’s the dilemma: you can’t do it without a harbour but you can’t get a harbour. The solution was to bring the harbour with you: the “Mulberry”. This article describes them; note that it was only the autumn of 1943 that a prototype was successfully tested. The Mulberry harbour that survived the great storm of 19 June, “Port Winston”, landed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies over the ten months it was used. This fact, alone, refutes the charge that the Western Allies could have invaded earlier if they had wanted to. Not without Mulberry; Mulberry wasn’t available until the winter of 1943; therefore no invasion before spring 1944. QED.
  • Resistance. French resistance activities had to be coordinated to the operation. This required much careful planning, supply and dangerous movement of people back and forth. Their activities played a significant part in isolating the landing areas.

  • Landing craft. D-Day involved nearly 4000 different kinds of landing craft. They were being built at the last moment: it was their shortage, once a five-division/five-beach assault had been agreed on, that forced the delay from the initial planning date of 1 May. The landing craft problem is another proof that the invasion could not have happened earlier.
  • Timing. The landing had to be early enough to allow activity in the fighting season. Therefore April, May or early June were the likely days. The attack could not be made as the tide was going out. The weather had to be acceptable. A full moon was desirable in order to help the air-dropped troops get to their blocking positions and take key bridges. The Germans could have figured this out which is why the deception plan was so important.

  • Deception. While the Atlantic Wall extended into Norway, no one seriously expected an invasion of Germany to start there. France, Belgium and the Netherlands was always the most likely. Again, the Germans knew that and that is where they put their strongest defences. Several locations were considered and the planners settled on Normandy because of its unconstrained space for the breakout. The Germans had to be convinced that the attack would come somewhere else and the planners hit on Calais, the closest place. A fake army under General Patton, whom the Germans respected as a hard-charger, was created. Lots of radio traffic, dummy guns and tanks to support the idea that Calais was the target and that any other attack was a diversion. For every bombing attack on a Normandy target, there were two on a Calais target. This deception tied down a number of German troops waiting for the “real” invasion. And, just to keep them guessing, other deceptions suggested Norway as a target and on the day, dummy paratroop assaults in other areas.
  • No failure possible. Failure could not happen: the blow to Allied morale and the lift to German morale of a Dieppe-style repulse would have been incalculable. If D-Day had failed, it would be at least another year before another attempt could be made and, in the meantime, the preferred invasion site would have been revealed to say nothing of much technology and deception. Stalin, feeling let down by the West again, might as he had done in 1939, make a separate deal with Hitler. There could be no second chance. And it was near-run enough: none of the first day objectives was taken and the advance was much slower than planned: German resistance in Normandy only collapsed in August when the Falaise Gap was closed by the First Canadian Army from the north and the US Third Army from the south.

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I hope I have convinced the reader, especially the Russian reader, that the D-Day operation was extraordinarily complicated. Not something to be thrown together on a whim. Many many problems had to be solved in order to deal with the multitude of difficulties of landing over 150,000 soldiers, 11,000 vehicles and 3000 guns on strongly defended beaches and then following up the first day with day after day of more landings of men and materiel. It had to succeed the first time.

It is not true that the Second Front was delayed until the Soviets were obviously winning or anything like that: it happened as soon as it could – any earlier attempt would have failed. Maybe it’s been over-hyped but it was a remarkable event and one to be proud of.

As I wrote elsewhere:

In a word, The USSR, with significant help from the rest of us, defeated Hitler and changed the world away from that dark and horrible future. At enormous cost.

The Normandy Invasion and the campaign that followed were essential parts of that significant help.

I wish both sides would calm down and stop claiming either that D-Day won the war or that it was a very minor offstage event.

But that’s probably too much to hope for today.

VICTORY DAY

First published Strategic Culture Foundation under the title “Why Russia’s Victory Day Was Crucial for the Survival of ‘European Values'”

This is the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Belgium on 18 April 2018. It has been performed every night since 1928 except during the German occupation. What you see above is, as I calculate, the 31,237th performance; at the moment of writing, it has happened another 401 times and will again tomorrow night. Through this gate – much rebuilt – passed the majority of British Empire soldiers in the First World War. Including my Great-Uncle Roland Lines (killed in 1916) and my wife’s Grandfather John Thompson who made it all the way through.

Battle of Britain Day is commemorated with flypasts and solemn ceremonies. In the USA Memorial Day honors veterans and military graves are tidied and decorated. For decades there has been a standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. Remembrance Day, celebrated throughout the Commonwealth (and even in Moscow once) attracts ever-larger crowds in Ottawa. In 2000 an unidentified body was recovered from one of the Canadian grave sites around Vimy Ridge and interred in a sarcophagus at the National War Memorial in Ottawa with a huge crowd watching. Since 1945, the Netherlands has sent Ottawa tens of thousands of tulip bulbs in thanks for liberation by the Canadian Army. Since 1947 Oslo has sent a giant Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square. D-Day commemorations are larger every year. The Juno Beach Centre was opened in 2003 – 59 years after the event. The Normandy American Cemetery Visitor Center was opened four years later.

We shall remember them“. People do remember: in different ways, at different times. Tim Cook describes how the memory of the Canadian Corps victory at Vimy Ridge has waxed and waned over the years until today it eclipses everything else.

It’s true that governments have different motives for emphasising this or that, but, if the people do not follow, the memorials fall flat. And traditions grow: in Canada placing one’s poppy – the World War One symbol throughout the Commonwealthon the Grave appears to have developed spontaneously. All these varied ceremonies, retrospective memorials, changing attitudes go on in many countries without the accompaniment of snarky op-ed writers babbling about ostentation, legitimise, ominous nostalgia, personality cults, military muscle, rattling swords or perpetuating a war mystique to shore up failing popularity.

Except about Russia.

Of course, not, never, not about Russia.

Victory Day – 9 May in Russia because of time zones rather than the 8 May VE-Day celebrated by the Western Allies. Here is a video of the real thing and here is a re-enactment.

Some numbers. There is a rough agreement that 80% of the German and German allied military casualties occurred on the Soviet front; the rest of us – UK, USA, Canada, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand and all the European resistance movements – accounting for the other 20%. In the process, according to the latest numbers, 27 million Soviet citizens died.

A political officer polled his rifle battalion in January 1945 and found that 208 of the 300 soldiers had had a family member killed by the Germans; I doubt that any of the American, British or Canadian battalions attacking on D-Day would have found the same. Soviet soldiers who made it from Moscow to Berlin – and I actually met one once – spent months fighting through the total destruction of their homeland. Anglosphere wars are usually fought offstage: we have no idea. For the Soviets some numbers of the destruction — estimates, of course. Sacred War has become the anthem, and Russian audiences stand and uncover when they hear it. Other countries have other songs, but for Russia the Second World War was the slaughterhouse.

For us the slaughterhouse was 1914-1918 when about 60,000 Canadians were killed (population then about eight million). Gregory Clark’s father told him and his brother to walk down the back alley because, of all the sons on that street, they were the only ones still alive. (And it irritates me that most Canadians have never heard of Canada’s Hundred Days or know what 8 August means.) 1939-1945 killed about 40,000 Canadians (population about eleven million) so, naturally, the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month is more sacred to us than 7/8 May.

These are sacred dates. Were the wars “worth it”? Who can say? Alternative history is not convincing. What happened, happened. But the suffering and sacrifice is worthy of honour and remembrance.

But, even so, who would dare say that the defeat of Hitlerism was not a “sacred war”? Only “self-hating Russians” as Paul Robinson puts it: “the self-hating Russian has to deny anything positive about Russian history as well.”

In a word, The USSR, with significant help from the rest of us, defeated Hitler and changed the world away from that dark and horrible future. At enormous cost.

So, Masha Gessen, lose your snark: it is your Grandmother’s day: I know that you’re paid to believe what you believe to be paid but there’s a reality out there and without Zhukov and the rest of them (Stalin too) you wouldn’t have been alive to leave the USSR in 1981. Self-hating.

Wars are terrible. People are killed by mistakes, corruption, incompetence, accident, random events. Bravery and self-sacrifice too. Higher ups decide that this regiment has to make a diversionary attack; hundreds killed. Somebody isn’t paying attention, reads the map wrong, looks in the wrong direction; hundreds killed. It’s never a contest between the Archangel Michael and Satan: it’s only humans. But all this has to be commemorated and respected: people – your people – suffered and died to make the future you live in.

Yes, the history of Victory Day in the USSR/Russia has varied, is malleable and has been re-purposed to fit The Story Of The Moment. There was a big celebration in June 1945Zhukov on a horse, Nazi banners. But Stalin didn’t like to share the limelight and Zhukov got a bit too big and the celebration faded away. Victory Day began to re-appear in 1965 and grew until 1985. It suffered in the general decline until its reappearance in 1995 – the fiftieth anniversary – brought it back. It has now subsumed the May Day military parade and is the Big Day of modern Russia.

But Russia/USSR is not alone in redesigning the past: why would Canada wait 80 years to decide it needed a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier killed in a battle in 1917; why would Americans decide six decades later that D-Day needed a commemorative museum? It’s complicated, it’s involved: there is no easy answer. People don’t forget but they do need to be reminded and governments think they will gain some advantage from reminding them. So in the West, so in Russia.

So, yes. Putin, or somebody in his apparat, may very well have said we need a big military parade on Victory Day (which we’re going to turn into a Really Big Event) because NATO is expanding, Washington and the EU are sanctioning, and the united voice of the Western MSM is accusing and we need support. Time to

  • push the Great Patriotic War
  • which we won
  • and show that today we have lots of pretty effective weaponry
  • in case somebody tries to do it again.

But if the population doesn’t go along with it it falls flat. I mentioned the poppies on the Grave in Canada as a sign that, whatever cynical motives you may ascribe to governments, the population either responds and makes it real, or does not and exposes it as fake.

Back to Russia: the Immortal regiment. A spontaneous development that shows the Western commentariat’s smirking scorn to be “a tinkling cymbal“. Begun in Tomsk in 2011, the idea was that ordinary people, bearing portraits of ancestors who endured the war, should march after the official parade. The notion has spread throughout Russia and around the world. There is nothing to suggest it won’t get bigger. And why not? What would the world look like without their their 80% and our 20%? Read RFE/RL’s snarky and ignorant take; after that, to cleanse your palate, read Gilbert Doctorow’s respectful and understanding take.

They died so that we might live.

Oh, and speaking of “European values”; without the Soviets (80%) and the Anglosphere (20%), today’s “European values” would have a lot more leather and straight-armed salutes than they do today, wouldn’t they?

MCCARTHYISM THEN AND NOW: BUT THERE WAS REALITY THEN

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. (Karl Marx)

Humor is reason gone mad. (Groucho Marx)

Every now and again, we hear about a “new McCarthyism“. Usually it’s the alternative media like Truthdig or Consortium News or left-wing outlets because mainstream outlets are so sunk in Trumpophobia that they have forgotten what the expression means. It’s not Trump who’s the new McCarthy (Trumpism Is the New McCarthyism or Is Donald Trump The New Joe McCarthy?) it is they: Is Trump Putin’s Puppet?, Trump Is Making the Case That He’s Putin’s Puppet; calling other people Moscow puppets is precisely what McCarthy did. And today’s Russhysteria has spread outside the USA: France to Probe Possible Russian Influence on Yellow Vest Riots; Why Putin Is Meddling in Britain’s Brexit Vote; Spain: ‘Misinformation’ on Catalonia referendum came from Russia. Endless torrents of delirium, nothing too absurd: Russia could freeze us to death!, Russian cricket agents, 14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin? The Russophobes find Moscow’s influence everywhere: childrens’ cartoons, fishsticks, Pokemon. People who like to imagine that they’re taken seriously suggest the Russians are threatened by our “quality”.

But not so threatened, it appears, by our mental qualities.

Joseph McCarthy, making much of (and perhaps improving upon) his war record, was elected a US Senator in 1946. After three years in which he attracted little attention, he rose to national prominence with a speech in February 1950 in which he claimed to have a list of Communist Party members active in the the US State Department. There is still debate today about the precise numbers he claimed and to what degree he was used by other actors. But he realised he was on to a good thing (he secured re-election in 1952) and kept “revealing” communists in the government and elsewhere. Televised hearings showed his vituperative and erratic nature; the Senate censured him in 1954 and he faded away. “McCarthyism” has become a doubleplusungood swearword so stripped of meaning that it can be shaped into mud to be thrown at Trump.

But – and a very big but – whatever McCarthy’s motivation or cynicism, however unpleasant, shifty and unshaven he looked on TV, there was a reality behind what he was saying.

  • ITEM. August 1945. Elizabeth Bentley approaches the FBI and eventually reveals the spying activities of the CPUSA.
  • ITEM. September 1945. Igor Guzenko defects in Ottawa, revealing the extent of spying on its allies by the USSR. Thanks to his information Alan Nunn May, part of the British contribution to the atomic bomb project, is arrested March 1946. A number of Canadians are arrested – including the MP Fred Rose.
  • ITEM. August 1948. Whittaker Chambers, a CPUSA member disgusted by the Hitler-Stalin pact, in testimony to HUAC, names Alger Hiss, a senior State Department official, as a CPUSA agent.
  • ITEM. January 1950. Klaus Fuchs, an important player in the atomic bomb project, admits to spying for the USSR. His confession leads to Harry Gold (arrested May, 1950) which leads to David Greenglass (arrested June 1950), which leads to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (arrested in June and August 1950). The Manhattan Project was well infiltrated by Soviet agents.
  • ITEM. February 1950. McCarthy’s speech.
  • ITEM. Beginning in summer 1951 with the defection of Burgess and Maclean and only ending with the discovery of the last member in 1979, the revelation of extensive penetration by the Soviets of British intelligence – the Cambridge Five – caused continuing investigations and suspicions which tied up the CIA and SIS for years.

In conclusion, whatever you think of the man himself, “McCarthyism” was based on reality: there was extensive Soviet penetration in the USA and elsewhere.

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And today? The equivalent of McCarthy’s speech are the Clinton campaign’s excuses for losing.

We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election. (Hillary Clinton, 19 October 2016.)

That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [9 November 2016] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument. (From Shattered, quoted here.)

After the story had been happily re-typed by the complaisant media, the “intelligence community” weighed in with two fatuous “intelligence assessments”:

ITEM. The DHS/FBI report of 29 December 2016 carried this stunning disclaimer:

This report is provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.

ITEM. The DNI report of 6 January 2017 crazily devoted nearly half its space to a four-year old rant about RT. But the real clue that the report was nonsense was its equally stunning disclaimer:

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.

In other words, DHS told us to ignore its report and the one agency in the US intelligence structure that would actually know who hacked what refused to sign its name to it.

And not “all 17”, only three. Then – the final nail – not really the three but only “hand-picked” people from them. Eventually, the NYT issued a correction. (“Correction” being presstitute-speak for “you caught us”.)

The assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community. (New York Times correction, 29 June 2017)

And that was the beginning of the story that has consumed so much effort, done so much damage, metastasised so far and continues today. No Elizabeth Bentley, no atomic spies, no Venona. Only 1) an excuse for losing, 2) “hand-picked” writers, 3) forced plea deals and 4) the pompous indictment of a Russian click bait farm.

The fons et origo of today’s Russhysteria, I am convinced, was a conspiracy in the security organs to derail Trump’s candidacy and when that failed, to overthrow him. Little by little that story is dribbling out:

Congressional testimony backs up former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s account that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was talking to high-level officials about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office.

One can only hope that the conspiracy will finally be so revealed and so proven and so obvious that even the consumers of CNN, MSNBC, The Guardian, the NYT and the rest will understand what was really going on. Then, maybe, we can hope to edge away from the highly dangerous anti-Russia hysteria.

McCarthyism was based on reality, today’s recurrence is not. A significant difference indeed.

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Lavrenti Beria is reputed to have said “give me the man, and I will give you the crime”. And sleep depravation and teeth and blood on the floor delivered the confession. How little he understood his craft. Maria Butina, an innocent if naïve Russian girl who liked the Second Amendment, arrested, stuck in solitary, on suicide watch (sleep deprivation – Beria knew about that), innumerable charges, after months, makes a plea deal. Michael Flynn, innumerable charges, savings burnt up, makes a plea deal. Paul Manafort, early morning SWAT attack (Beria recognises that), innumerable charges, makes a plea deal. Cohen, Papadopoulos and so on. That’s the American justice system – not Stalin’s “beat, beat and beat again” – just innumerable charges, bankruptcy by lawyers’ fees, endless interrogations, SWAT raids. Then the plea deal. Beria was an amateur.

So the Marx brothers are both wrong: the second time it’s a much more dangerous tragedy and, when you actually see it in reality, reason gone mad isn’t actually very funny.

THE END OF THE INF TREATY

(Question from Sputnik. Picked up by UrduPoint — I’m always fascinated to see how far these things go.)

The Cold War left us with four important arms treaties. The ABM Treaty (1972) forbade anti ballistic missiles, the INF Treaty (1987) forbade intermediate range nuclear weapons, the CFE Treaty (1990 and modified) limited conventional weapons and the START Treaty (1991 and renewed) limited nuclear weapons. Washington abrogated the ABM Treaty in 2002; NATO never ratified the modified CFE Treaty and invented so many new conditions that Russia, which had ratified it, pulled out in 2015; Washington has just pulled out of the INF Treaty. All that remains is the New START Treaty of 2011, and given that Trump has called it a “bad deal”, we cannot expect that one to last either.

So it looks as if the entire arms control regime inherited from the Cold War will be gone in a few years: in all cases the initiative has come from Washington although Moscow has (of course) been blamed.

One can interpret Trump’s decision as the latest step in a exceptionalist/unipolar tendency in which Washington, confident that it can secure “full spectrum dominance”, throws out all agreements which limit it: Trump has boasted that the US will outspend everyone else. (And that it certainly will but are US weapons today designed to fight wars or generate cost overruns?) On the other hand, it may be another example of Trump’s negotiation style which we’ve seen with Korea and NAFTA: awful threats, extreme statements, bluster and then a negotiated settlement; Trump has several times suggested that he would like a new treaty, this time including China.

How realistic this strategy is remains to be seen. I don’t see any particular incentive for Beijing to bother and Moscow, which had foreseen the future when the ABM Treaty was dropped, already has weapons that can counter any intermediate threat Washington can come up with whether it’s Kalibre cruise missiles on land or Tsirkon hypersonic missiles in submarines off the US coastline.

And, now that their ally has painted targets on their backs, what will the Europeans do? They certainly weren’t happy the last time Washington wanted to base intermediate missiles there.