NATO: A DANGEROUS PAPER TIGER

(First published at https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/11/16/nato-dangerous-paper-tiger.html)

The Chinese have a genius for pithy expressions and few are more packed with meaning, while immediately understandable, than “paper tiger”. NATO is one, but paper tigers that overestimate their powers can be dangerous.

Some Russians are concerned that there are today more hostile troops at the Russian border than at any time since 1941. While this is true, it is not, at the moment, very significant. The Germans invaded the USSR with nearly 150 divisions in 1941. Which, as it turned out, were not enough.

Today NATO has – or claims to have – a battle group in each of the three Baltic countries and one in Poland: pompously titled Enhanced Forward Presence. The USA has a brigade and talks of another. A certain amount of heavy weaponry has been moved to Europe. These constitute the bulk of the land forces at the border. They amount to, at the most optimistic assessment, assuming everything is there and ready to go, one division. Or, actually, one division equivalent (a very different thing) from 16 (!) countries with different languages, military practices and equipment sets and their soldiers ever rotating through. And, in a war, the three in the Baltics would be bypassed and become either a new Dunkirk or a new Cannae. All for the purpose, we are solemnly told, of sending “a clear message that an attack on one Ally would be met by troops from across the Alliance“. But who’s the “message” for? Moscow already has a copy of the NATO treaty and knows what Article V says.

In addition to the EFP are the national forces. But they are in a low state: “depleted armies” they’ve been called: under equipped and under manned; seldom exercised. The German parliamentary ombudsman charged with overseeing the Bundeswehr says “There are too many things missing“. In 2008 the French Army was described as “falling apart“. The British Army “can’t find enough soldiers“. The Italian army is ageing. Poland, one of the cheerleaders for the “Russian threat” meme, finds its army riven over accusations of politicisation. On paper, these five armies claim to have thirteen divisions and thirteen independent brigades. Call it, optimistically, a dozen divisions in all. The US Army (which has its own recruiting difficulties) adds another eleven or so to the list (although much of it is overseas entangled in the metastasising “war on terror”). Let’s pretend all the other NATO countries can bring another five divisions to the fight.

So, altogether, bringing everything home from the wars NATO is fighting around the world, under the most optimistic assumptions, assuming that everything is there and working (fewer than half of France’s tanks were operational, German painted broomsticks, British recruiting shortfalls), crossing your fingers and hoping, NATO could possibly cobble together two and a half dozen divisions: or one-fifth of the number Germany thought it would need. But, in truth, that number is fantasy: undermanned, under equipped, seldom exercised, no logistics tail, no munitions production backup, no time for a long logistics build up. NATO’s armies aren’t capable of a major war against a first class enemy. And no better is the principal member: “only five of the U.S. Army’s 15 armored brigade combat teams are maintained at full readiness levels“. A paper tiger.

This reality was on display – for those who could see – in the “Dragoon Ride” of 2015. Intended “to assure those allies that live closest to the Bear that we are here“, it was a parade of light armoured vehicles armed with heavy machine guns. Although breathlessly covered in the US media (“Show the world some of the firepower the United States and its NATO partners have in Eastern Europe“), it is unlikely that any watcher who had served in a Warsaw Pact army was impressed by what was in effect a couple of dozen BTR-50s. And neither was the US Army when it thought about it: a rush program was put into effect to give the vehicles a bigger weapon. The first one was delivered a year later. So now the US Army has a few lightly armoured vehicles with cannons. Something like the Soviet BTR-80 of the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Russians have the Bumerang-BM turret. Years of kicking in doors and patrolling roads hoping there are no IEDs are poor preparation for a real war.

No wonder NATO prefers to bomb defenceless targets from 15,000 feet. But there too, the record is unimpressive. Consider NATO’s last “successful” performance against Libya in 2011. No air defence, no opposition, complete freedom of movement and choice of action; and it took 226 days! Kosovo, a similar air action against a weak opponent, took 79 days. Meanwhile the years roll by in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not, in short, a very efficient military alliance even when it is turned on against more-or-less helpless victims.

But there is one obvious question: does NATO take all its Russian threat rhetoric seriously, or is it just an advertising campaign? A campaign to bring in £240 million from the Baltics, an extra eighty billion for the US military-industrial complex, US$28 billion for Poland, Patriot missiles for Sweden, billions for F-35s for Norway (but no hangars for them), spending increases in the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Czech Republic and so on. A Russian threat is good for business: there’s poor money in a threat made of IEDs, bomb vests and small arms. Big profits require big threats. As I have written elsewhere, Russia was thought to be the right size of threat – big enough, but not too big. And they thought it was a safe target too – remember Obama in 2015 and his confidence that Russia didn’t amount to much?

Or so they thought then. What is amusing is that NATO is starting to worry about what it has awoken: “aerial denial zones“, British army wiped out in an afternoon, NATO loses quickly in the Baltics, unstoppable carrier-killer missile, “eye-watering” EW capabilities, “black hole” submarines, generational lead in tanks, “devastating” air defence system, “totally outmatched“. Russian actions, both diplomatic and military, in Syria gave NATO a taste: the Russian military is far more capable than they imagined. And far better wielded. The phantom conjured up to justify arms sales and NATO expansion now frightens its creators. A particularly striking example comes from General Breedlove, former NATO Supreme Commander who did much to poke Russia: he now fears that a war “would leave Europe helpless, cut off from reinforcements, and at the mercy of the Russian Federation.” Not as negligible as they thought.

To what should we compare this weak, incompetent but endlessly boastful and belligerent alliance? In the past I have suggested that NATO is a drunk that drinks to cure the effects of its last bender. Is it a child in an endless tantrum, frightening itself with the stories it tells itself? Like the Warsaw Pact it is frightened of contradicting information or opinion and insists they be blocked. Certainly it is an exemplar of complacent self delusion: “Projecting Stability Beyond Our Borders” boasts about the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. The unicorns roam free in NATOland.

There is no reason to bother to read anything that comes out of NATO Headquarters: it’s only wind. There is one response. And that is Libya. When they say stability, respond Libya. When they say terrorism, respond Libya. When they say peace, respond Libya. When they say dialogue, respond Libya. When they say values, respond Libya. NATO is dangerous in the way that the stupid and deluded can be. But, when its principal member starts demanding its members “pay their share”, and the people of five members see Washington a greater threat than Moscow, maybe its final days are upon us.

But incessant repetition becomes reality and that’s where the danger lies. Hysteria has reached absurd proportions: 2014’s “gas station masquerading as a country” decides who sits in the White House; directs referendums in Europe; rules men’s minds through RT and Sputnik; dominates social media; every Russian exercise brings panic. This would all be amusing enough except for the fact that Moscow doesn’t get the joke. While the NATO forces on their border may be insignificant at the moment, they can grow and all armies must prepare for the worst. The First Guards Tank Army is being re-created. I discuss the significance of that here. When it is ready – and Moscow moves much faster than NATO – it will be more than a match, offensively or defensively, for NATO’s paper armies. And, if Moscow thinks it needs more, more will come. And there will be no cost-free bombing operations at 15,000 feet against Russia. NATO’s naval strength, which is still real, is pretty irrelevant to operations against Russia. And still the paper tiger bares its paper teeth.

In other words – and I never tire of quoting him on this – “We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way”. NATO has been kiting cheques for years. And rather than soberly examine its bank account, it writes another, listening to the applause in the echo chamber of its mind.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We can only hope that NATO’s coming destruction does not destroy us too.

HOW I GOT HERE

Reprints

      http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/10/how-i-got-here.html

      http://russia-insider.com/en/how-i-became-kremlin-troll-patrick-armstrong/ri21379

(Now that the book is out I publish my entry. Most of the people who wrote their “how I got here” sections were awakened by the relentlessly one-sided coverage of Russia by the MSM: they suspected that it couldn’t possibly be that one-sided and started looking.

Putin’s Praetorians: Confessions of the Top Kremlin Trolls Kindle Edition; Phil Butler (Author), Patricia Revita (Illustrator), Pepe Escobar (Foreword)

I started work for the Canadian Department of National Defence in 1977 in the Directorate of Land Operational Research of the Operational Research and Analysis Establishment. I participated in many training games in real time and research games in very slow time. The scenarios were always the same: we (Canada had a brigade group in West Germany) were defending against an attack by the Soviet/Warsaw Pact side. In those days NATO was a defensive organisation and, as we later found out, so was the other side: each was awaiting the other to attack. Which, come to think of it, is probably why we’re all here today.

I enjoyed my six years, often as the only civilian in a sea of uniforms, but I realised that a history PhD stood no change of running the directorate so, when the slot opened, I contrived to switch to the Directorate of Strategic Analysis as the USSR guy. I should say straight off that I have never taken a university course on Russia or the USSR. And, in retrospect, I think that was fortunate because in much of the English-speaking world the field seems to be dominated by Balts, Poles or Ukrainians who hate Russia. So I avoided that “Russians are the enemy, whatever flag they fly” indoctrination: I always thought the Russians were just as much the victims of the ideology as any one else and am amused how the others have airbrushed their Bolsheviks out of their pictures just as determinedly as Stalin removed “unpersons” from his.

That was November 1984 and Chernenko was GenSek and, when he died in March 1985, Gorbachev succeeded. While I didn’t think the USSR was all that healthy or successful an enterprise, I did expect it to last a lot longer and when Gorbachev started talking about glasnost and perestroyka I thought back to the 20th Party Congress, the Lieberman reforms, Andropov’s reforms and didn’t expect much.

In 1987 two things made me think again. I attended a Wilton Park conference (the first of many) attended by Dr Leonid Abalkin. He took the conference over and, with the patient interpretation of someone from the Embassy, talked for hours. The Soviet economy was a failure and couldn’t be reformed. That was something different. Then, on the front page of Pravda, appeared a short essay with the title “A New Philosophy of Foreign Policy” by Yevgeniy Primakov. I pricked up my ears: a new philosophy? But surely good old Marxism-Leninism is valid for all times and places. As I read on, I realised that this was also something new: the author was bluntly saying that Soviet foreign policy had been a failure, it was ruining the country and creating enemies. These two were telling us that the USSR just didn’t work. As Putin told Stone, “it was not efficient in its roots”.

These things convinced me that real change was being attempted. Not just fiddling around at the edges but something that would end the whole Marxist-Leninist construct. As far as I was concerned, it had been the communist system that was our enemy and, if it was thrown off, we should be happy. Sometime around then I was interviewed for a job at NATO and the question was what, with all these changes, was NATO’s future. I said it should become an alliance of the civilised countries against whatever dangers were out there: the present members of course, but also the USSR, Japan and so on.

Well, that didn’t happen did it? I remember a very knowledgeable boss assuring me that NATO expansion was such a stupid idea that it would never happen. He was wrong too.

In 1814 the victors – Britain, Russia, Prussia and Austria – sat down in Vienna, with France, to re-design the world. They were wise enough to understood that a settlement that excluded France wouldn’t last. In 1919 this was forgotten and the settlement – and short-lived it was – excluded the loser. In 1945 Japan and Germany were included in the winners’ circle. At the end of the Cold War, repeating the Versailles mistake, we excluded Russia. It was soon obvious, whatever meretricious platitudes stumbled from the lips of wooden-faced stooges, that NATO was an anti-Russia organisation of the “winners”.

But I retained hope. I think my most reprinted piece has been “The Third Turn” of November 2010 and in it I argued that Russia had passed through two periods in the Western imagination: first as the Little Brother then as the Assertive Enemy but that we were now approaching a time in which it would be seen as a normal country.

Well, that didn’t happen did it?

And so the great opportunity to integrate Russia into the winners’ circle was thrown away.

For a long time I thought it was stupidity and ignorance. I knew the implacably hostile were out there: Brzezinski and the legions of “think” tanks (my website has a collection of anti-Russia quotations I’ve collected over the years) but I greatly underestimated their persistence. Stupidity and ignorance; you can argue with those (or hope to). But you can’t argue with the anti-Russians. Russia wants to re-conquer the empire so it invaded Georgia. But it didn’t hold on to it, did it? No but that’s because we stopped it. Putin kills reporters. Name one. You know, whatshername. Provocative exercises on NATO’s borders. But NATO keeps moving closer to Russia. Irrelevant, NATO’s peaceful. Putin is the richest thief in the world. Says who? Everybody. Putin hacked the US election. How? Somehow.

I quoted Hanlan’s razor a lot – “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. And, stupidity and ignorance there were (a favourite being John McCain’s notion that the appropriate venue for a response to a Putin piece in the NYT was Pravda. And then he picked the wrong Pravda! (But he won’t hate Russia or Putin any the less if he were told that, would he?) At some point I came to understand that malice was the real driver.

I suppose it grew on me bit by bit – all the stupidity converged on the same point and it never stopped; but real stupidity and ignorance don’t work that way: people learn, however slowly. I think the change for me was Libya. I started out thinking stupidity but, as it piled up, it became clear that it was malice. I’d seen lies in the Kosovo war but it was Libya that convinced me that it wasn’t just a few lies, it was all lies. (My guess is that Libya was an important development in Putin’s view of NATO/US too.)

Naive perhaps but, for most of history stupidity has adequately explained things and malice is, after all, a species of stupidity.

So what’s the point of writing? I’ll never convince the Russia haters, and there’s little chance of getting through to the stupid and ignorant. And most people aren’t very interested anyway.

Well, this is where malice meets stupidity. If we consider the Project for a New American Century, the neocon game plan “to promote American global leadership”, what do we see twenty years later? Brzezinski laid out the strategy in The Grand Chessboard at the same time. What today? Well, last year he had to admit that the “era” of US dominance, he was so confident of twenty years earlier, was over. There’s no need to belabour the point: while the US by most measures is still the world’s dominant power, its mighty military is defeated everywhere and doesn’t realise it, its manufacturing capacity has been mostly outsourced to China, domestic politics and stability degenerate while we watch and there’s opioids, spectacular debt levels, incarceration, infant mortality, недоговороспособны and on and on. Donald Trump was elected on the promise to Make America Great…. Again. Hardly the hyperpower to lead the globe is it?

The Twentieth Century was the “American Century” thanks to limitless manufacturing capacity allied to great inventiveness anchored on a stable political base. What is left of these three in 2017? Can America be made “great” again? And wars: wars everywhere and everywhere the same. And what other than malice has brought it to this state? Malice has become stupidity: the neocons, Brzezinskis, the Russia haters, the Exceptionalists, scheming “to promote American global leadership”, have weakened the USA. Perhaps irreparably.

So, who’s the audience today? The converted and people at the point when a little push can break their conditioning have always been there. But now there is a potentially huge audience for our efforts: the audience of the awakening.

Which brings me back to where I started. Except that it’s the USA this time:

IT’S NOT WORKING

We’re here and we’re waiting for you: you’ve been lied to but that doesn’t mean that everything is a lie.

EXCHANGE RATING RUSSIA DOWN AND OUT

https://orientalreview.org/2017/09/18/exchange-rating-russia/

Why Russia — a country with less money than Canada and fewer people than Nigeria — runs the world now” wondered the Canadian newspaper National Post in January. The piece doesn’t give useful answers: nuclear weapons, good diplomacy, yes, but also the usual claptrap about “ruthlessness” and “Abandon[ing] economic worries to double down on efforts to grab geopolitical status”; in short only a brute lashing out in delirium tremens. The editors should better have wondered whether the headline even made sense: the first point is wrong and the second irrelevant. But, like so much of what passes for analysis in the Western media, it’s written backwards: it’s decision-based evidence making.

Talking about the relative insignificance of Russia’s GDP is an old game: Wikipedia says Canada’s GDP is greater than Russia’s and Germany’s is about two and a half times greater. These comparisons all assume that the price of the ruble in US dollars is a measurement of Russia’s production; a mere tweak in the relative exchange therefore knocks Russia from Number 8 down to below Spain according to Business Insider in 2014. Easy to calculate, easy to write, these head nodders are just feel-good junk: Russians don’t actually eat dollars, they don’t buy their necessities with them and they won’t have to eat grass and Putin speeches when a ruble buys fewer USDs.

There’s something deeply misleading and, in fact, quite worthless about these GDP comparisons. Whatever rubles are selling for at the moment, Russia has a full-service space industry which has the only other operating global satellite navigation system, the only taxi service to the ISS, much of which it built, and, apparently, the only rocket motors good enough for US military satellites. Neither Canada nor Germany, let alone Spain, does. It has an across the board sophisticated military industry which may be the world leader in electronic warfare, air defence systems, silent submarines and armoured vehicles. Canada, Germany, Spain do not. It builds and maintains a fleet of SSBNs – some of the most complicated machinery that exists. Ditto. It has a developed nuclear power industry with a wide range of products. Ditto. Its aviation industry makes everything from competitive fighter planes through innovative helicopters to passenger aircraft. Ditto. It has a full automotive industry ranging from some of the world’s most powerful heavy trucks to ordinary passenger cars. It has all the engineering and technical capacity necessary to build complex bridges, dams, roads, railways, subway stations, power stations, hospitals and everything else. It is a major and growing food producer and is probably self-sufficient in food today. Its food export capacity is growing and it has for several years been the leading grain exporter. It has enormous energy reserves and is a leading exporter of oil and gas. Its natural resources are immense. Its pharmaceutical industry is growing rapidly. It is intellectually highly competitive in STEM disciplines – a world leader in some cases. Its computer programmers are widely respected and regularly win the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. (Yes, there is a Russian cell phone too.) Its social networking apps attract users outside Russia (especially with fears that US-based ones may be censored or otherwise controlled). It’s true that many projects involve Western partners – the Sukhoy Superjet for example – but it’s nonetheless the case that the manufacturing and know-how are now in Russia.

Germany or Canada has some of these capabilities but few – very few – countries have all of them. In fact, counting the EU as one, Russia is one of only four. Therefore in Russia’s case, GDP rankings are not only meaningless, but laughably so. While Russians individually are not as wealthy as Canadians, Germans or Spaniards today, the foundations of wealth are being laid and deepened every day in Russia.

And, speaking of oil prices, what these head-scratchers all miss is this simple fact: Russia sells oil in dollars but produces it in rubles. So, whatever the exchange rate, things pretty well balance out. In fact, thanks to the exchange rate, Russia had some of the lowest production costs, measured in USD, in the world in 2015. It also funds its space effort, automobile production and wheat fields in rubles. And sells whatever exports they produce in dollars.

What of the future? Well there’s a simple answer to that question – compare Russia in 2000 with Russia in 2017: all curves are up. Meanwhile sanctions are driving the Russians to create new industries, oilfield services for one, or to boost others: agricultural products are now the second-largest export sector. Understandably, many Russians prefer the long time gain to the immediate (and declining) pain and hope the sanctions continue. For what it’s worth, PwC predicts Russia will be first in Europe in 2050, but, even so, I think it misses the real point: Indonesia and Brazil ahead of Russia? No way: it’s not GDP/PPP that matters, let alone how many USDs your currency buys, it’s full service. (Anyway, by 2050 the renminbi or gold will likely be the measure and how will the USA itself look by that measurement?).

Russia has a full-service economy and it won’t become any less so in the next 30 years. And there’s very few of them. And… in that little group of four autarkies on the planet, which are on the rise and which not?

Simple-minded GDP comparisons by exchange rate cause people to get it wrong over and over again. A more intelligent question would be to wonder whether Russia, hampered in the past by autocracy and Marxism-Leninism, might be about to show its real possibilities.

COMEYSTRAVAGANZA

(Response to a question from Sputnik about what I thought about Comey’s performance today.)

While it’s always difficult to predict what seriously deluded people will do next, I don’t see anything in Comey’s performance today to give comfort to them. He confirmed what Trump had said; namely that Trump himself was not under investigation. He admitted to being one of the leakers (not something, I imagine, in the FBI Director’s job description) and he implied (stated actually) that there was real interference from the Obama Administration in the Clinton investigation. None of these will give much comfort to the deluded. Especially if the POTUS orders his Attorney General to look into these admissions.

The Russia-Trumputin mania has two purposes. Originally a distraction from the fact that the DNC threw the nomination to Clinton, it has morphed into a full court press (pun intended) attempt to stop Trump from trying for better relations with Russia. And, for the most deluded, the Russia/Trump/Putin delusion was supposed to establish the foundation for reversing the election results. Comey’s performance today has not moved the delusion along. It has, in fact, given opportunities, if (if) they are taken, to destroy the whole confection.

PS I thank my UEL (that’s “Tory” for you Americans) ancestors for moving here (not that they had much choice) so that I could be a citizen of the less deluded half of the continent. (I grew up with the certainty that “they’re all crazy down there”. And so it seems to be).

When Intelligence Isn’t

First published at http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/05/when-intelligence-isnt.html

In my career in the Canadian government I was never formally in “intelligence” but I did participate in writing many “intelligence assessments”. Facebook, Twitter and other kinds of social media didn’t much exist at that time but, even if they had, I can’t imagine that we would have ever used them as sources of evidence: social media is, to put it mildly, too easy to fake. In writing intelligence assessments, while we did use information gathered from intelligence sources (ie secret), probably more came from what was rather pompously called OSInt (Open Source Intelligence; in other words, stuff you don’t need a security clearance to learn). What was, however, the most important part of creating an assessment was the long process of discussion in the group. Much talk and many rewrites produced a consensus opinion.

A typical intelligence assessment would start with a question – what’s going on with the economy, or political leadership or whatever of Country X – and would argue a conclusion based on facts. So: question, argument, conclusion. And usually a prediction – after all the real point of intelligence is to attempt to reduce surprises. The intelligence assessment then made its way up the chain to the higher ups; they may have ignored or disagreed with the conclusions but, as far as I know, the assessment, signed off by the group that had produced it, was not tampered with: I never heard of words being put into our mouths. The intelligence community regards tampering with an intelligence assessment to make it look as if the authors had said something different as a very serious sin. All of this is preparation to say that I know what an intelligence assessment is supposed to look like and that I have seen a lot of so-called intelligence assessments coming out of Washington that don’t look like the real thing.

Intelligence is quite difficult. I like the analogy of trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle when you don’t know what the picture is supposed to be, you don’t know how many pieces the puzzle has and you’re not sure that the pieces that you have are actually from the same puzzle. Let us say, for example, that you intercept a phonecall in which the Leader of Country X is telling one of his flunkeys to do something. Surely that’s a gold standard? Well, not if the Leader knew you were listening (and how would you know if he did?); nor if he’s someone who changes his mind often. There are very few certainties in the business and many many opportunities for getting it wrong.

So real raw intelligence data is difficult enough to evaluate; social media, on the other hand, has so many credibility problems that it is worthless; worthless, that is, except as evidence of itself (ie a bot campaign is evidence that somebody has taken the effort to do one). It is extremely easy to fake: a Photoshopped picture can be posted and spread everywhere in hours; bots can create the illusion of a conversation; phonecall recordings are easily stitched together: here are films of Buks, here are phonecalls. (But, oddly enough, all the radars were down for maintenance that day). It’s so easy, in fact, that it’s probably easier to create the fake than to prove that it is a fake. There is no place in an intelligence assessment for “evidence” from something as unreliable as social media.

An “intelligence assessment” that uses social media is suspect.

So why are there so many “intelligence assessments” on important issues depending on social media “evidence”?

I first noticed social media used as evidence during the MH17 catastrophe when Marie Harf, the then US State Department spokesman, appealed to social media and “common sense”. She did so right after the Russians had posted radar evidence (she hadn’t “seen any of that” said she). At the time I assumed that she was just incompetent. It was only later, when I read the “intelligence assessments” backing up the so-called Russian influence on the US election, that I began to notice the pattern.

There are indications during the Obama Administration that the intelligence professionals were becoming restive. Here are some examples that suggest that “intelligence assessments” were either not being produced by the intelligence professionals or – see the last example – those that were were then modified to please the Boss.

If one adds the reliance on social media to these indications, it seems a reasonable suspicion that these so-called intelligence assessments are not real intelligence assessments produced by intelligence professionals but are post facto justifications written up by people who know what the Boss wants to hear.

We have already seen what appears to have been the first example of this with the “social media and common sense” of MH17. And, from that day to this, not a shred of Kerry’s “evidence” have we seen. The long-awaited Dutch report was, as I said at the time, only a modified hangout and very far from convincing.

Russia “invaded” Ukraine so many times it became a joke. The “evidence” was the usual social media accompanied by blurry satellite photos. So bad are the photos, in fact, that someone suggested that “Russian artillery” were actually combine harvesters. In one of the rare departures from the prescribed consensus, a former (of course) German Chief of Staff was utterly unconvinced by thse pictures and explained why. By contrast, here is a satellite photo of Russian aircraft in Syria; others here. Sharply focussed and in colour. The “Russian invasion” photos were lower quality than the Cuban Missile Crisis photos taken six decades earlier! A hidden message? See below.

The so-called Syrian government CW attack on Ghouta in August 2013 was similarly based on social media; heavily dependent, in fact, on “Bellingcat”. Quite apart from the improbability of Assad ordering a CW attack on a suburb a short drive away from arriving international inspectors, the whole story was adequately destroyed by Seymour Hersh. (Bellingcat’s “proofs”, by the way, can be safely ignored – see his faked-up “evidence” that Russians attacked an aid convoy in Syria.)

A dominant story for months has been that Russia somehow influenced the US presidential election. As ever, the Washington Post led the charge and the day after the election told us “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House“. But when we finally saw the “secret assessments” they proved to be laughably damp squibs. The DHS/FBI report of 29 December 2016 carried this stunning disclaimer:

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

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the DNI report of 6 January 2017 was the space – nearly half – devoted to a rant that had been published four years earlier about the Russian TV channel RT. What that had to do with the Russian state influencing the 2016 election was obscure. But, revealingly, the report included:

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

In other words, DHS told us to ignore its report and the one agency in the US intelligence structure that would actually know about hacking and would have copies of everything – the NSA – wasn’t very confident. Both reports were soon torn apart: John McAfee: “I can promise you if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians”. (See 10:30). Jeffrey Carr: “Fatally flawed“. Julian Assange: not a state actor. Even those who loath Putin trashed them. In any case, as we now know, the NSA can mimic Russians or anyone else.

In April there was another suspiciously timed “CW attack” in Syria and, blithely ignoring that the responders didn’t wear any protective gear in what was supposed to be a Sarin attack, the Western media machine wound up its sirens. The intelligence assessment that was released again referred to “credible open source reporting” and even “pro-opposition social media reports” (! – are the authors so disgusted with what they have to write that they leave gigantic hints like that in plain sight?). Then a page of so of how Moscow trying to “confuse” the world community. And so on. This “intelligence assessment” was taken apart by Theodore Postol.

So, we have strong suggestions that the intelligence professionals are being sidelined or having their conclusions altered; we have far too much reliance of social media; is there anything else that we can see? Yes, there is: many of the “intelligence assessments” contain what look like hints by the authors that their reports are rubbish.

  • Absurdly poor quality photos (maybe they were combine harvesters!).

  • Including a photo of damage to the port engine intake which contradicts the conclusion of the MH-17 report.

  • DHS “does not provide any warranties”.

  • The one agency that would know has only “moderate confidence”.

  • Irrelevant rants about RT or assumed nefarious Russian intentions.

  • “Pro-opposition social media reports”.

There are too many of these, in fact, not to notice – not that the Western media has noticed, of course – they rather jump out at you once you look don’t they? I don’t recall inserting any little such hints into any of the intelligence assessments that I was involved in.

In conclusion, it seems that a well-founded case can be presented that:

Where done? By whom? That remains to be discovered. More Swamp to be drained.

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.

Really Stupid Things Said About Russia

Moscow is being forced to play these aggressive and risky games out of desperation. The country is in bad shape and it is getting worse. [Not according to Bloomberg which says it’s out of the recession.] The once great superpower now has an economy smaller than Canada’s and it continues to shrink. [This is just stupid and a byproduct of exchange rates. Russia is one of the very few “full service” economies in the world. Canada is not one of those]. Even though they spend 5 per cent of their GDP on defence, Russia’s military forces have grown so rusted out they can barely get their last aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean and back without breaking down. [Even so, it got where it was going, did what it had to do, and got home again]. Even the ragtag Ukrainians have fought them to a standstill. [They wish – they’ve been beaten by a civilian militia]. Diplomatically, Moscow has never been so isolated and powerless. You can count its friends on one hand, and it’s not an impressive list: Syria, Iran, Belarus. [Oh, and China too.]

Russia’s coming attack on Canada by Scott Gilmore, MacLean’s, 8 March 2017.

[My comments]

Putin Derangement Syndrome December 2016-January 2017

In which I collect all the examples of this strange mental defect that have caught my attention in the last month of the seventeenth and first month of the eighteenth years of The New American Century.

THE SYNDROMES CONVERGE

trumputin

PUTIN STEALS/HACKS/CONTROLS US ELECTION. OR SOMETHING.

The dominant story through December and early January was that Putin had “hacked”, or controlled the outcome of or influenced the outcome of – exactly what was never precisely expressed – the US presidential election. Even so, the result had not been affected or so we were assured by the White House itself in “What Obama Said to Putin on the Red Phone About the Election Hack“: President Obama picked up the “red phone” and warned Putin to stop. “Did the message work? ‘Look at the results,’ said an Obama administration official. ‘There was nothing done on Election Day, so it must have worked.'” As ever, the WaPo led the charge and the day after the election told us “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House“.

But when we finally saw the “secret assessments” they proved to be laughably damp squibs. The DHS/FBI report of 29 December 2016 carried this stunning disclaimer:

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

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the DNI report of 6 January 2017 was the space – nearly half – devoted to a rant about the Russian TV channel RT. A report that had been published four years earlier. What that had to do with the Russian state influencing the 2016 election was obscure. But, revealingly, it also said this:

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

In other words, DHS told us to ignore its report and the one agency in the US intelligence structure that would actually know about hacking and would have copies of everything – the NSA – wasn’t very confident. Both reports were soon torn apart: John McAfee: “I can promise you if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians”. (See 10:30). Jeffrey Carr: “Fatally flawed“. Julian Assange: not a state actor. Even those who loath Putin trashed them.

The last gasp was the “golden showers dossier”. Commissioned from a former UK SIS officer by one of Trump’s Republican opponents and then taken over by a Democrat supporter, this collection of bottom-feeding stories had been floating around for months looking for a taker. Allegedly a record of compromising material on Trump collected from an improbably wide circle of informants it was finally published by Buzzfeed. In my opinion, it is good that Buzzfeed did so, otherwise it would have remained a poisonous rumour in the background. Once in the open, it was swiftly savaged. John Helmer probably did the best job of taking it apart, “Scott” examined the Ukrainian connection as did George Eliason. (In my opinion, many of the stories in the dossier had the sloppy quality of SBU inventions.) Finally, not even Newsweek, the source of many a PDS panic itself (“How Vladimir Putin Is Using Donald Trump to Advance Russia’s Goals“) bought it: “Thirteen Things That Don’t Add Up in the Russia-Trump Intelligence Dossier“.

So, altogether, the two intelligence reports sagged on internal evidence and the “golden shower” dossier was pretty much laughed out of court. It is not, therefore, surprising that we have heard little more since the first half of January. But more on this curious pause later.

But the memory of this (hopefully) short-lived pundit cottage industry lingers: “Russia’s American coup: The U.S. is finally waking up to the fact that it has been turned into a subordinate ally to Russia, thanks to Putin and Trump“; “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.“; “Trump refuses to face reality about Russia“; “Today, as the U.S. grapples with a Russia with resurgent global ambitions, with a Kremlin that hacks our emails, manipulates our news—and, according to the CIA, actively worked to elect Donald Trump“; “Donald Trump: The Russian Poodle” and “Is Trump a Russian Stooge?“.

OTHER ELECTIONS TOO

The allegations (and I think we may confidently say unfounded allegations – the intelligence reports are deeply unconvincing) have sparked off similar excitement in other countries. Not content with the hacking – or whatever it was – of the US election, we are told that Putin wants more. In Germany: “Putins hybrider Großangriff zur Bundestagswahl 2017; Propaganda-Feldzug sogar mit Sexmobs” (Putin’s hybrid major attack on the Bundestag election 2017; Propaganda campaign even with sexmobs). Anne Applebaum eagerly picked up the theme: “In 2017, the Russian government will mount an open campaign to sway the German elections.” But why stop at Germany? “Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning? With three consequential European elections occurring in 2017, the former K.G.B. officer has more potential to undermine free societies than he could have ever fathomed during his Cold War days.” And so on: lots of this out there. Complete nonsense: anyone who thinks about it knows the globalists’ election reverses are not because Putin seduced their subjects from proper deference, but because they have had enough.

It’s absolutely absurd how ready people are to say that Russia controls everything – in the most recent of a very long series, a couple of days ago the the UK Defence Minister went on a rant about how Russia is “weaponising information“. RT’s and Sputnik’s budgets are a fraction of the BBC’s let alone all those of the other Western state-run outlets. Western news outlets have a world-wide presence that utterly dwarfs RT; their audience is many times greater no matter how RT boasts about its YouTube hits. And yet Western politicians expect their listeners to believe that, somehow, Putin has wormed his way into everybody’s head, directs voting at a distance and is on the very edge of ruining everything. Derangement indeed.

MISCELLANEOUS SCARY THINGS

Immortal Vladimir Putin? Russian leader visits anti-ageing pill factory“.

Vladimir Putin’s Face Appears to Contain More Botulism Than Drug-Store Sushi

From Russia With Hate: Vladimir Putin’s Newest Export: Terrorists“.

Russian treachery is extreme and it is everywhere.”

‘Vlad Will Smash Britain In One Day!’ Russians plot to turn UK into Siberian-style labour camp.

Why 2017 is the most dangerous year for Britain since the Cold War: With the US and France both set to be run by Putin acolytes, it will fall to us to defend the Baltic states if Russia strikes. Yet we’ve cut our military to the bone…” “The Kremlin had succeeded where foreign invaders had failed since the Norman Conquest of 1066. Britain had been not just defeated, but crushed…”. Encouragingly, the best-rated comments are contemptuous of what he’s saying.

And who can forget the WaPo, formerly leading the struggle against “fake news”, now trying to “retire” the term, telling us that a “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say“? This sample of fake news hilariously survives with an Editor’s note appended: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” That particular piece of PDS didn’t even survive a day.

THE FUTURE

In September I wondered, given that Western demonisations of enemies typically stopped upon their overthrow, how intense they would become when they couldn’t get at their latest target. Would the accusations get crazier and crazier? Well, they did get crazier and crazier. But we are entering a rather interesting phase in which we will learn whether two forms of Derangement Syndrome can co-exist.

Since Trump was inaugurated on 20 January, I have noticed that Putin Derangement Syndrome is being pushed aside in the punditry by a crescendo of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Just as Putin has been diagnosed at a distance, so has he: “Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct ‘A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation'” and his signature gives cause for concern. “As Trump prepares his kissy face for Putin, a glimpse into the dictator’s soul“. PDS is replete with such remote sensing of Putin’s inner self. The student of PDS will recognise the magazine covers about Trump of which the standout is Der Spiegel’s (no small purveyor of PDS itself) showing Trump decapitating Lady Liberty à la Daesh. Since under-estimating Trump was so successful, why not continue to? Some writer thinks he’s just a puppet of Steve Bannon. But maybe they’re converging: “Manchurian Presidency: Why Angry White America Fell for Putin“. But the most beautiful example of convergence, one that brings everything together is: “The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin“!

So, will Putin Derangement Syndrome be replaced by Trump Derangement Syndrome? Or are we entering a new state of delusion in which separate derangement syndromes converge and Putin, Trump, bin Laden as well as lesser figures like Milosevic and Gaddafi are revealed to be all part of a single Hidden Masters Derangement Syndrome?

 

 

Putin Derangement Syndrome October-November 2016

In which I collect all the examples of this strange mental defect that have caught my attention in the months of October and September in the seventeenth (and final?) year of The New American Century.

PUTIN, PUTIN EVERYWHERE!

PUTIN OF THE EVIL SCARY DEATH EYES

The Economist, one of the reliable goto sources for anti-Russian extrusions, sums up evil-eyed Putin:

Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters. ‘Impudent behaviour’ might have ‘nuclear consequences’, warns Dmitry Kiselev, Mr Putin’s propagandist-in-chief—who goes on to cite Mr Putin’s words that ‘If a fight is inevitable, you have to strike first.’

(Editors note: shouldn’t you mention that he used to be in the KGB?). Even its readers don’t buy it – look at the most recommended comments. Soon The Economist will excrete a piece arguing that, for the sake of free speech and other Western values, those who disagree with Big Brother (aka purveyors or dupes of Putin’s “hacking and disinformation campaign“) should be silenced.

PUTIN AND THE AMERICAN ELECTION

The big story before the election, as Clinton was floundering, even in the polls that overstated her numbers, was that Putin was interfering in the US election. The Administration “officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations” and counter attacks were promised. Newsweek, a few days before the election, explained “Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia Is Backing Donald Trump” (no doubt a teaser for its Madame President edition). The Washington Post again hammered away at the meme: “Putin’s hope to ignite a Eurasia-style protest in the United States“. (Top comment “we need to deliver trump such a blow on november 8 the whole world will see the sane and reasonable are really still in charge here.”) Although more sober voices argued that there was no serious evidence of Russian involvement and the FBI found “no link between Trump and Russia”, the story had wide coverage: 6 million Google hits. Wikileaks was part of Putin’s conspiracy: by publishing revelations of malfeasance (and the author doesn’t doubt their truth) the media was forced to, well, how else to put it, reveal the malfeasance. That mental incoherence somehow proves “why Putin’s plan is so devilish: He’s undermining the credibility of two key American institutions in one go.

There was, of course, a giant logical problem with these Putin-is-trying-to-get-Trump-elected conspiracy theories using fake news (if I may emphasise): it put into peoples’ minds the idea that the election could be rigged – into 41% of American voters’ minds, to be exact. And Trump himself started saying that the election might be rigged and that he would reserve judgement on the results. This was not the purpose of the fake news, and the purveyors of these conspiracy theories had to try and walk the story back: the WaPo ran a piece to reassure the punters, “Reminder: There’s almost no chance our election can get hacked by the Russians“. The NYT incoherently squared the circle by saying it won’t be “rigged” but it could be “hacked”.

So as the election began early on 8 November the story was that Putin had but couldn’t and you should either be scared that he had or reassured that he couldn’t; in any case he wanted you to vote for Trump.

The election happened but the expected result did not. Leaving the readers of the WaPo, NYT at al concluding that Putin had indeed finagled the result. Now what? Nuke Russia? Declare the election null and void? Or fess up that the whole story was an invention to divert attention from the Clinton machine’s corruption of the process? The cover story had dangerous implications.

Fortunately, the White House has been responsible and acted to reverse the Russia-did-it meme. Not only did President Obama personally begin the transition by meeting with Trump but the White House stated that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people” (of course, having got out on the limb in the first place, it couldn’t avoid mentioning “Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election”). But the next day a spokesman walked the story back even farther: he repeated that the results reflected the will of the people and added “The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day… We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.” I suppose that’s as close as we will get to an official admission that the Russia hacking story was fake news. To nail the coffin lid tighter, Five Thirty Eight had an analytic piece showing that “Demographics, Not Hacking, Explain The Election Results“.

As a final gasp we have this (WaPo of course): “If you’re even asking if Russia hacked the election, Russia got what it wanted: It’s all about sowing confusion and doubt”. So, even if the whole conspiracy theory was assembled out of fake news it’s really true.

So we’re just going to forget WikiLeaks and Russia helped Trump?” Well, if the story is bunkum – and most of the readers seem to think so – then maybe we should just forget about it.

FAKE NEWS

Because the WaPo was one of the principal purveyors of the fake news based conspiracy theory about Putin hacking the US election it is fitting that it should be the principal purveyor of the next chapter in the Putin Derangement Syndrome saga. (I have italicised these expressions to make the point that the real fake news is produced in locations rather closer to Washington than the Kremlin.)

Here’s the ur-source, the Washington Post 24 November 2016:

The flood of ‘fake news’ this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

The authority for much of this is an outfit called PropOrNot (website) whose criterion is absurdly widespread: “it does not matter whether the sites listed here are being knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers, or whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point“. In short, anyone who disagrees with the site. People like Ron Paul, Drudge or ZeroHedge. I won’t bother to criticise this latest fake news based conspiracy theory because Matt Taibbi has done it better than I could. “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting“. The story is collapsing: when even The New Yorker trashes it (“a close look at the report showed that it was a mess“) it’s gone. Or, at least, this version is; I don’t think we’ve heard the last.

I can’t resist referring to a piece I wrote a couple of years ago on the motivation for this stuff: “The Western Spinners are Losing and They Know It“. The whole idea of Putintrolls writing content for our news outlets is preposterous:

Has your Local News Outlet mentioned the evidence that the Malaysian airliner was shot down by a Ukrainian aircraft? How about evidence that the “Heavenly Hundred” were actually killed by “elements of the Maidan opposition, including its extremist far right wing”? Any questioning of NATO’s commercially-obtained satellite photos? Mention of atrocities by “volunteer battalions” in the east? No, of course it hasn’t. You can only read about MH17 on sites like globalresearch.ca, the Maidan killers in academic journals, NATO’s evidence is only criticised on websites, only Russian news sites report atrocities. These are easily dismissed as, in order: crazy conspiracy sites, probably not peer-reviewed, pro-Russian websites and Kremlin funded so-called news organisations. None of it is “real journalism” and therefore none of it is worthy of inclusion in your LNO.

They’re losing and they’re trying to stop criticism and alternate points of view. It tells you where the truth lies: in the Old Days the Soviets jammed our broadcasts; we didn’t worry about theirs.

PUTIN’S WORLDWIDE MIND CONTROL

And its not just the spinning that’s coming apart: Brexit, politicians open to Russia winning in Bulgaria and Moldova, the Trumpquake, the Italian referendum and many many other signs of dissent. In a few years, the assertion that all these disparate but linked events were a Kremlin conspiracy will be seen as entirely laughable. But not (quite) yet. Russia is “brainwashing” Europeans says Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius: “In conventional warfare there was artillery attack before the real battle… Now there is no need to use artillery. You can brainwash.” As a former high official in the Communist Youth League of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (Google it), he should have insider knowledge about brainwashing. A German newspaper worries that Russian “cyber attacks” may affect Germany. Putin is about to win the French presidential election: “France’s next president is likely to be part of a new, hardline Moscow-Paris-Washington axis: supporting Russia’s Vladimir Putin, appeasing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and turning geopolitics away from liberalism and human rights”. Amazing how influential RT and Sputnik are isn’t it? And on such a modest budget too.

Disclaimer. I confess to relying on a lot of sites on PropOrNot’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Why? Because after years – not years, just the last 12 months will do – of Putin’s gunslinger walk, secret love children, billions stashed in Panama, Russian submarines in Sweden, “last hospital in Aleppo” destroyed over and over again, Putin “probably” dunnit, verdicts based on social media, “moderate rebels”, “Crimea’s ‘new normal’ of repression”, Russian sports cheating and “barrel bombs” I have come to a simple conclusion:

“Fake news” from these sites is more reliable than “real news” from the WaPo and its tribe.

MISCELLANEOUS SCARY THINGS

Putin tells budding geography students that ‘Russia’s borders don’t end anywhere’ amid growing tensions with the West and NATO“. Actually he said граница (singular) and he’s pedantically correct – the border – the edge – of Russia (or any other country) is continuous. The kid answered the question “where does the Russia-US border end?” correctly but it was not the question Putin asked.

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING Vladimir Putin’s nuclear warships pictured steaming towards the English Channel as Royal Navy prepares to scramble fleet“. Well, they didn’t invade the UK after all.

From The Guardian, another evergreen source of all things scary: “Aleppo, Ukraine, cyber attacks, Baltic threats: what should we do about Putin?“. “Putin, like a marauding Red Army tank, has no reverse gear”. “Assuming Trump loses, a Clinton administration has three possible courses of action….”. But he didn’t lose and other possibilities appear.

As an entry in the Putin Derangement Syndrome Scary Headlines that Have Nothing to do with the Content Category we have “Vladimir Putin’s secret CLONE ARMY of designer attack dogs taught to sniff out explosives.” Not so scary and not so secret either: the three dogs were cloned by a South Korean professor who presented them to the police in Yakutia where he is doing research.

And finally, the clear winner in the Putin Derangement Syndrome Return of Cthulhu Category from the UK’s Daily Express: “Is 14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin? A KILLER giant squid that can hypnotise its prey and paralyse humans at a distance of 150 feet using poisonous venom is being developed as a secret weapon by Vladimir.” The short answer is “no”. Note to editors: research Lake Vostok and the plot of The Thing in Wikipedia. Mercifully, not even the WaPo or The Economist have seen fit to repeat this piece of fake news.

THE FUTURE

Will this be the last of my Putin Derangement Syndrome series? I don’t think so, the illness is too strongly held but I do hope that it will diminish. In the meantime, I leave you with this quote so easily applicable to the Putin Derangement Syndrome condition.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.