US Senators Notice Soros

The letter from six Republican senators to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a rather interesting development. To many in the general public, Soros retains a reputation as a benign do-gooder but the Senators charge that the US Mission in Macedonia has “intervened in party politics of Macedonia, as well as in the shaping of its media environment and civil society” through USAID funds given to Soros’ foundation as one of the “implementing agencies”; they make mention of other interferences in other countries. They ask Tillerson to investigate and review these activities.

Whether this will lead anywhere remains to be seen – Soros’ organisations and American GONGOs are inextricably linked in regime change operations around the world – indeed the co-founder of the National Endowment for Democracy (“Funded largely by the U.S. Congress“) boasted in 1991 “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” Soros’ organisations are only one of the so-called independent vehicles that deliver these “spyless coups”.

But, despite their rather quaint objection to the supposed “left-leaning” bias of Soros’ activities – “left” and “right” is hardly the real issue here – their letter is a start at openly questioning Washington’s obsession with undermining and overthrowing governments it doesn’t like via the agency of so-called independent foundations.

The new Administration’s foreign policy mantra is supposed to be:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

The Administration’s reaction to this letter will be a test. And, if another motive is needed, Soros has many connections to the anti-Trump movement and was a significant donor to the Clinton campaign.

So, the reaction will be interesting to watch.

Is American Warfighting Doctrine Hardwired for Failure?

These pieces are papers that I believe to be still relevant; they were published earlier elsewhere under a pseudonym. They have been very slightly edited and hyperlinks have been checked.

NOTE 2017: I originally wrote this in February 2015; I haven’t seen anything in the last two years to make me change my mind. The, as Obama called it, “greatest military in the history of the world” is still no closer to “victory” – however you want to define that – in Afghanistan, Iraq or the innumerable other theatres of the GWOT. As to Russia’s warfighting doctrine, we can now add Syria to the Ossetian example mentioned below.

In my career, I never had much to do with the US Armed Forces in the field. Except once, in the early 1980s, when I saw the US Army on a big exercise in Germany and was pretty appalled. Lack of basic training, disorganisation, criminal behaviour (theft and the like), rogue units and an overall lack of military professionalism and competence. That was relatively soon after the Vietnam debacle and the US forces were at a nadir of their existence. Serious efforts were made (I saw a US unit commander summarily fired right then and there for incompetence) and the US forces are much, much better today.

My 35 year old observations serve only to illustrate that even armed forces with a good record can have bad periods after defeats. But armies improve – defeat is a good teacher – and the Americans have improved greatly since their defeat in Vietnam. Their operations in Iraq in 2003 were a masterpiece of logistical and operational perfection. No better illustration can be given than the fact that the Americans captured every single bridge. At every step of the operation, they were inside the Iraqi decision loop. Iraqi tanks were just targets.

But the Iraqi army was hardly a first class opponent and we cannot say that American forces have been up against first class opponents lately. And, if it takes 11 weeks to force little Serbia to give up, or over seven (seven!) months to overthrow Qaddafi, there must be some problem. To say nothing of Iraq or Afghanistan.

I can’t get two questions out of my mind:

When was the last time the USA won a war?

When was the last time US trained troops fought effectively?

Spectacularly successful at raining death and destruction in the first few weeks, something goes wrong later. Obviously there is something wrong in the way the USA fights wars. The expansion of political ends bears much responsibility for eventual failure. Consider, for a contrasting example, the 2008 Ossetia War. Russia had one clear aim and that was to roll back the Georgian attack. Postwar, its aim was to make another attack highly unlikely. It did the first quickly and assured the second by recognising South Ossetia and Abkhazia and, under agreement, stationing troops there. Then Moscow stopped. There was no attempt to institute regime change in Tbilisi, to introduce Moscow’s notions of “democracy” or good government, to conquer Georgia, to turn it into a willing or unwilling ally or to attempt to satisfy any other grandiose desires. Moscow confined itself to the things that can be accomplished by violence and stopped when it had done them.

But what was the US/NATO war aim in Afghanistan? Knocking Taliban out of power – that was brilliantly accomplished, but then year after year of killing, dying and blowing things up to what purpose? Building schools? Giving women the vote? Afghanistan will never be a “Western democracy”. Whatever that is. (Neither would it have become a Soviet style “socialist state”, whatever that was). Knock over Saddam Hussein and destroy his forces? Brilliantly accomplished in short order. But then what? Again, Iraq will never be a “Western democracy”. And so the military achievement is squandered in pursuit of an ever receding chimera.

The fuzzy, but enormous, political aims tacked on after the first week or two destroy the soldiers’ victory. As Bismarck said, you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. But Washington is always trying to sit, indeed trying to sleep comfortably, on them.

But it’s not just the ever expanding war aims that lead to defeat; I believe there is a problem at the heart of American warfighting doctrine. The early successes are based on assumptions that do not, over the long term, endure. It is precisely the initial success that encourages politicians to add the fuzzy political ambitions that lead, in their turn, to failure. The eventual failure is determined in the initial success.

I believe that this problem also answers the second question about the failure of US trained troops. We have just seen the Iraqi army that the US expended so much time and treasure training fold in front of ISIS warriors. The latest in a long string of failures. I believe that the answer to both questions is the same.

Air power and weapons.

Air power first. The US Armed Forces are used to operating in conditions in which almost every aircraft in the sky is friendly. Indeed, since the very first days of WWII, when have they ever had to fear air attack? And for decades now they have assumed, correctly, that every aircraft they see is friendly. They can go where they like confident that no one is tracking them from above, no one is sighting in on them from above and that, in trouble, they can call in tremendous destruction from the air. They kill their enemies – You Tube is full of videos – from the air without the enemy even knowing he’s taken his last breath. They operate confident that the enemy’s command and control system was destroyed in the first few days by air attack. And that, I believe, is the basic assumption of their warfighting doctrine – you never have to worry about what’s above you. And that’s what they – consciously or unconsciously – pass on to the armies they train. “If you get into trouble wait for the air to save you”. But you can only be certain of total air superiority against second or third class opponents. And only for a while: really determined opponents will figure out way to operate anyway.

Secondly, weapons. Americans believe that weapons win wars. And more sophisticated weapons win them faster and easier. But that’s not true. Obviously you need weapons to fight wars. Equally obviously Mongol cavalry with compound bows are at a severe disadvantage against Abrams tanks. But what really wins wars is fighting spirit, leadership, determination, organisation, adaptability. The moral factors. Mongol cavalry would soon learn to avoid the tanks and shoot the crews when they got out of them. And, indeed, we have seen this and the Pentagon ought to know it by now. Vietnam. Somalia. Iraq. Afghanistan. That’s enough, isn’t it, to prove my point? The determined little guy often beats the sophisticated big guy. Weapons are necessary, but they’re not sufficient. Senator John McCain believes that weapons are decisive and that’s why he wants the USA to send weapons to Ukraine. But first estimates say the rebels have captured 80 tanks, 100 other AFVs, 65 artillery systems and 500 tons of ammunition in Debaltsevo [in February 2015]. So, to arm Kiev is really, at the end of the day, to arm the rebels. Why? Simply because weapons are useless in feeble hands.

I leave aside the question of what would happen should the Americans come up against first class opponents and American aircraft start falling in dozens and American troops are subject to mass air attack. All with weapons which, while not perhaps quite as fancy as US ones, are rugged, adaptable and get the job done.

I won’t talk about careerism and ticket punching and what you need to do to be promoted in today’s American forces and the resulting quality of leadership. I don’t know anything about it and leave the reader to consider better informed pieces such as this one.

In short, I don’t think the Americans are nearly as good as they think they are – they’ve been spoiled by success (initial success that is) against second and third rate enemies which are swiftly overwhelmed by their air power and fancy weapons. Overwhelmed in the first few weeks; after that it’s different.

Maybe the US Armed Forces are a lot closer to what I saw in the early 1980s in Germany than is believed by the rah rah people in Washington.

NATO Would Probably Lose a War Against Russia

These pieces are papers that I believe to be still relevant; they were published earlier elsewhere under a pseudonym. They have been very slightly edited and hyperlinks have been checked.

NOTE 2017: I originally wrote this in December 2014; the resolution referred to is H.Res.758 — 113th Congress (2013-2014) against Russia’s “aggression”. If anything, more recent developments make my point even more strongly: Russia is more capable now than it was three years ago.

With the hyper-aggressive resolution just passed by the US House of Representatives we move closer to open war. Thus what follows may be apposite. In short, the US and NATO, accustomed to cheap and easy victories (at least in the short term – over the long term Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo are hardly victories), will have a shattering shock should they ever fight the Russian Armed Forces.

At the beginning of my career, in the 1970s, I spent some years engaged in combat simulations. Most of these exercises were for training staff officers but some were done in-house to test out some weapon or tactic. The scenario was usually the same: we, NATO, the good guys, Blue, would be deployed, usually in Germany; that is, on the eastern edge of West Germany. There we would be attacked by the Warsaw Pact, the bad guys, Red. (The colours, by the way, date from the very first war game, Kriegspiel; nothing to do with the Communist Party’s favourite colour).

Over several years of being on the control staff I noticed two things. Naturally both Red and Blue were played by our people, however interesting it might have been to borrow some Soviet officers to play Red. What always fascinated me was how quickly the people playing Red would start getting aggressive. Their fellow officers, on the Blue side, were very risk-averse, slow and cautious. The Red players just drove down the road and didn’t mind losing a tank, let alone a tank company. What was really interesting (we tested this in the office, so to speak) was that, at the end of the day, the full speed ahead approach produced fewer casualties than the cautious approach. The other thing – rather chilling this – was that Red always won. Always. And rather quickly.

I developed a great respect for the Soviet war-fighting doctrine. I don’t know whether it was based on traditional Russian doctrine but it certainly had been perfected in the Second World War where the Soviets carried out what are probably the largest land operations ever conducted. Nothing could be farther from the truth than the casual Western idea that the Soviets sent waves of men against the Germans until they ran out of ammunition and were trampled under the next wave. Once the Soviets got going, they were very good indeed.

The Soviet war-fighting doctrine that I saw in the exercises had several characteristics. The first thing that was clear is that the Soviets knew that people are killed in wars and that there is no place for wavering; hesitation loses the war and gets more people killed in the end. Secondly, success is reinforced and failure left to itself. “Viktor Suvorov”, a Soviet defector, wrote that he used to pose a problem to NATO officers. You have four battalions, three attacking and one in reserve; the battalion on the left has broken through easily, the one in the middle can break through with a little more effort, the one on the right is stopped. Which one do you reinforce with your reserve battalion? He claimed that no NATO officer ever gave the correct answer. Which was, forget the middle and right battalions, reinforce success; the fourth battalion goes to help the lefthand one and, furthermore, you take away the artillery support from the other two and give it to the battalion on the left. Soviet war-fighting doctrine divided their forces into echelons, or waves. In the case above, not only would the fourth battalion go to support the lefthand battalion but the followup regiments would be sent there too. Breakthroughs are reinforced and exploited with stunning speed and force. General von Mellenthin speaks of this in his book Panzer Battles when he says that any Soviet river crossing must be attacked immediately with whatever the defender has; any delay brings more and more Soviet soldiers swimming, wading or floating across. They reinforce success no matter what. The third point was the tremendous amount of high explosives that Soviet artillery could drop on a position. In this respect, the BM-21 Grad was a particular standout, but they had plenty of guns as well.

An especially important point, given a common US and NATO assumption, is that the Soviets did not assume that they would always have total air superiority. The biggest hole, in my opinion, of US and NATO war-fighting doctrine is this assumption. US tactics often seem to be little more than the instruction to wait for the air to get the ground forces out of trouble (maybe that’s why US-trained forces do so poorly against determined foes). Indeed, when did the Americans ever have to fight without total air superiority other than, perhaps, their very first experience in World War II? The Western Allies in Italy, at D-day and Normandy and the subsequent fighting could operate confident that almost every aircraft in the sky was theirs. This confident arrogance has, if anything, grown stronger since then with short wars in which the aircraft all come home. The Soviets never had this luxury – they always knew they would have to fight for air superiority and would have to operate in conditions where they didn’t have it. And, see General Chuikov’s tactic at Stalingrad of “hugging the enemy”, they devised tactics that minimized the effectiveness of enemy aircraft. The Russians forces have not forgotten that lesson today and that is probably why their air defence is so good.

NATO commanders will be in for a shattering shock when their aircraft start falling in quantity and the casualties swiftly mount into the thousands and thousands. After all, we are told that the Kiev forces lost two thirds of their military equipment against fighters with a fraction of Russia’s assets, but with the same fighting style.

But, getting back to the scenarios of the Cold War. Defending NATO forces would be hit by an unimaginably savage artillery attack, with, through the dust, a huge force of attackers pushing on. The NATO units that repelled their attackers would find a momentary peace on their part of the battlefield while the ones pushed back would immediately be attacked by fresh forces three times the size of the first ones and even heavier bombardments. The situation would become desperate very quickly.

No wonder they always won and no wonder the NATO officer playing Red, following the simple instructions of push ahead resolutely, reinforce success, use all your artillery all the time, would win the day.

I don’t wish to be thought to be saying that the Soviets would have “got to the the English Channel in 48 hours” as the naysayers were fond of warning. In fact, the Soviets had a significant Achilles Heel. In the rear of all this would have been an unimaginably large traffic jam. Follow-up echelons running their engines while commanders tried to figure out where they should be sent, thousands of trucks carrying fuel and ammunition waiting to cross bridges, giant artillery parks, concentrations of engineering equipment never quite in the right place at the right time. And more arriving every moment. A ground-attack pilot’s dream. The NATO Air-Land Battle doctrine being developed would have gone some distance to even things up again. But it would have been a tremendously destructive war, even forgetting the nuclear weapons (which would also be somewhere in the traffic jam).

As for the Soviets on the defence, (something we didn’t game because NATO, in those days, was a defensive alliance) the Battle of Kursk is probably the model still taught today: hold the attack with layer after layer of defences, then, at the right moment, the overwhelming attack at the weak spot. The classic attack model is probably Autumn Storm.

All of this rugged and battle proven doctrine and methodology is somewhere in the Russian Army today. We didn’t see it in the first Chechen War – only overconfidence and incompetence. Some of it in the Second Chechen War. More of it in the Ossetia War. They’re getting it back. And they are exercising it all the time.

Light-hearted people in NATO or elsewhere should never forget that it’s a war-fighting doctrine that does not require absolute air superiority to succeed and knows that there are no cheap victories. It’s also a very, very successful one with many victories to its credit. (Yes, they lost in Afghanistan but the West didn’t do any better.)

I seriously doubt that NATO has anything to compare: quick air campaigns against third-rate enemies yes. This sort of thing, not so much.

Even if, somehow, the nukes are kept in the box.

To quote Field Marshal Montgomery “Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: ‘Do not march on Moscow’. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule.”

(His second rule, by the way, was: “Do not go fighting with your land armies in China.” As Washington’s policy drives Moscow and Beijing closer together…. But that is another subject).

Trump-Putin phone call

Question from Sputnik asking for thoughts on the phone call and what the two can do in Syria.

The White House “readout” of the call says it was a “significant start to improving the relationship” and both are hopeful that “the two sides can move quickly to tackle terrorism and other important issues of mutual concern.” The Kremlin account is more detailed and speaks of hopes to improve “cooperation on a constructive, equitable and mutually beneficial basis”. The discussion touched on the Middle East, strategic stability, Iran, Korean Peninsula and Ukraine. But the big topic was “joining efforts in fighting the main threat” of “international terrorism”.

The call – one of several Trump made that day – took about an hour; therefore, allowing for interpreters, each president had about 15 minutes. Thus there was only enough time to communicate intentions and list problems. Therefore, only a beginning.

As to cooperation in Syria we have two stories going the rounds. One, from the Russian Armed Forces, that the US forces passed target data to them and – after checking: there’s still a distance to go before trust is assumed – Russian aircraft struck the targets. I would expect that the US military will be pleased enough to cooperate – there are already reports that US trainers know perfectly well that they are just training “the next generation of jihadis“. The other story, at the level of plausible rumour, is that Representative Gabbard took a message from Trump to Assad that US policy had changed and that “Assad must go!” was no more. Certainly Trump has in the past shown that he knows what’s really going on in Syria. And one should not forget what Flynn would have told him about the origins of ISIS/Daesh. So there is real hope that the US will stop arming and assisting ISIS/DAESH: a necessary step indeed.

Thus, there is much possibility for US-Russia cooperation in Syria.

But it’s only a start and there more to be done. But it is a good start.

Trump Day One

My interest, as a non-American, is, first and foremost, in Washington’s future foreign policy (which really means, these days, war – there hasn’t been much of anything else this century). As I wrote four months ago “To me, the choice in the US election is utterly simple: the most important thing is stopping the perpetual wars of the New American Century.” I believed then and believe more strongly today that US President Trump carries the hope that this will be so.

His inaugural address reinforces my belief. It was overwhelming directed towards rebuilding and repairing. His diagnosis: “a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost”; his theme: “a nation exists to serve its citizens”; his promise: “the oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans”. Whether he can deliver will be a matter for great speculation (most of it, amusingly, by the same people who so completely failed to understand the campaign) and wonderment. While we have learned that contemporary US Presidents can start wars ad libitum, it is less certain that they can build “roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways” or end the “American carnage”. But that is of more concern to Americans than to the rest of us.

The world knows America today almost entirely though destruction: to thousands and thousands today America is a drone strike, the bringer of random death, Abaddon.

But President Trump can avoid starting more wars and can end present wars. As he has implied he will, many times. The theme of his approach to foreign relations is this:

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

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

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones – and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth.

The understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first“; when did we last hear an American President promise that? Indeed the theme of the Twenty-First Century has been that only “Exceptional America” has important interests. From a former Vice-President: “the most powerful, good and noble country in the history of mankind“; from a former President: “I believe America is exceptional, in part because we have shown a willingness… to stand up, not only for our own interests, but for the interests of all.” What other nation’s puny, erroneous and mundane interest can possibly stand against such glory, righteousness and sanctity?

President Trump echoes President Adams two centuries later:

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force…. She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

In becoming the dictatress of the world, the United States has indeed lost the rule of her own spirit and her liberty has changed to force. Trump’s “benignant sympathy of her example” is

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

Much to hope for after the catastrophes, cataclysms and carnage the Exceptionalists have wreaked on us during the last decade and a half.

Shining instead of bombing.

Strong Russia, Fake News

The combination of two remarks by Russian President Putin and a twitter from US President-elect Trump set off a fake news storm in what should be properly called the Fake Stream Media. This from Canada’s National Post will serve as an example: Vladimir Putin signals renewal of nuclear arms race: ‘We are stronger now than anyone’, “Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin fired the starting gun on a new nuclear arms race on Thursday as they both vowed to launch a major strengthening of their countries’ arsenals.” Why do I call this fake news? Well the headline does not accurately quote Putin and the piece makes no mention of US President Obama’s trillion dollar nuclear plan announced a few months ago. In any case, Trump is not yet President and he and Putin have yet to meet and begin to repair things. So the headline will soon be obsolete.

With that introduction let us turn to what Putin actually said in the 22 December meeting of the Defence Ministry Board (English) (Russian) and amplified the next day in his press conference (English) (Russian).

With regards to nuclear weapons, he said:

Our nuclear triad, which is vital for maintaining strategic parity, has been maintained in the required state. I would like to say that the share of modern weapons in our nuclear forces nearly reached 60 percent of total armaments.

На должном уровне поддерживалось состояние ядерной триады, которая играет ключевую роль в сохранении стратегического паритета. Отмечу, что доля современного вооружения в ядерных силах составила почти 60 процентов.

In next day’s press conference he expanded on the reasoning, repeating, as he has done many times, that the Russian nuclear buildup was a response to Washington’s abrogation of the ABM Treaty 15 years ago.

Once again, allow me to repeat something I consider extremely important. In 2001, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty. This agreement was certainly the cornerstone of the entire international security system… I said, “We will have to react somehow, we will need to improve our strike systems in order to defeat these missile defence systems.

As to the other remark, after listening to the Minister of Defence enumerate what had been done over the preceding year, Putin observed:

At the same time, many factors, such as military factors, our history and geography and the general mood in the Russian society, allow us to say confidently that today we are stronger than any potential aggressor. I repeat, any aggressor.

Вместе с тем уже сегодня, с учётом очень многих факторов, включая не только военные, но и нашу историю, географию, внутреннее состояние российского общества, можно с уверенностью сказать: на сегодня мы сильнее любого потенциального агрессора. Любого.

The next day he expanded on it:

What does it mean to be an aggressor? An aggressor is someone who can attack the Russian Federation. We are stronger than any potential aggressor. I have no problem repeating it.

None of this has anything to do with the National Post’s breathless headline (or those of other FSM outlets). In fact, it is not difficult to understand what Putin is saying and what he is not saying.

  • What he is saying is that if you attack Russia, you will lose the war.
  • He’s not saying that the Russian Navy can beat the US Navy in the South Pacific. He’s not saying that Russia can conquer Europe. He’s not saying that Russia can land an expeditionary force in Mexico and threaten the USA. He’s not even saying Russia could conquer (it could) and hold (see Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan etc etc: it couldn’t) Ukraine. Or even the Baltics (yes, overrun in a couple of days, but then what? See Iraq, Afghanistan).
  • He’s not saying that Russia is “stronger than anyone”.
  • What he’s saying is that Russia is strong enough to defeat anyone who attacks Russia at home either conventionally or with nuclear weapons. (Of course with nuclear weapons everybody loses.)
  • That’s all.

And he’s right. It wasn’t true 20 years ago, it was arguable 10 years ago, but today, for anyone who can see reality rather than exceptionalist fantasies, it is true. If you attack Russia, you will lose the war.

The other thing he’s saying is that Russia has modernised its nuclear weapons. Which, again, is true and he did warn when the ABM Treaty was cancelled that he would do this.

Twenty years of NATO expansion, regime changes, humanitarian bombing and threats (or, as Trump might put it, the mistakes of the past“) have done nothing to make him see things differently. Indeed, I have argued that he “came back” because the Libya war showed NATO’s untrustworthiness and aggressiveness and he knew bad times were coming for Russia. Two years ago he said:

Back then, we realised that the more ground we give and the more excuses we make, the more our opponents become brazen and the more cynical and aggressive their demeanour becomes.

At the Defence Ministry Board meeting, Putin intimated that modernisation and improvement would continue: he does not trust the West any more.

However, if we allow ourselves to relax even for a minute, if we make a single significant mistake in modernising the Army and the Navy and training military personnel, the situation will change very quickly, in light of the speed of global events. It can change in the wink of an eye. Therefore, we depend on you to carry on the work you have been doing for the past few years.

All this can change in a “wink of an eye”; and it did change in a “wink of an eye” with Trump’s election victory. But trust must be earned over time by deeds just as it was lost over time by deeds. When asked at the press conference about meeting with US President-elect Trump, he said he hoped the subject of such a meeting would be:

Issues that concern putting our relations back on track. During his election campaign, Mr Trump said that he considered it appropriate to normalise Russian-American relations. He also said that the situation would not be worse, as it cannot get any worse. I agree with him. So, together we will think about how to make things better.

In short, headlines will likely be different in a year’s time.

Trump, Tillerson, Russia

(Question from Sputnik on What can we expect from Rex Tillerson as secretary of state?)

I’m sure that we can all agree that the first step towards a good foreign policy is the acknowledgement of reality. The second step would be the acknowledgement of failure and Trump seems to be there already: “we will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past“.

Well, one of the “mistakes of the past” is Washington’s Russia policy.

Rex Tillerson seems to be open to the idea of Washington treating Moscow like a fellow inhabitant of the planet whose opinion deserves to be considered. Considered seriously. Which would be a good thing, because 1) Moscow actually is all that (plus nukes) and 2) because that would make a pleasant change in Washington’s behaviour (and not just to Moscow) from previous instaurations.

But seriously, (very seriously), if Trump can get the Russia-USA relationship right – and that requires a serious consideration of, respect for and listening to Moscow’s point of view – then a lot of the United States’ other international entanglements would sort themselves out pretty quickly.

Then, with a quieter world out there, Trump could concentrate on his real purpose of getting the USA working again.

In fact, he and Putin have a common aim which is getting their countries sorted out. The two have common problems (although Putin is a couple of decades ahead on the realisation curve): unemployment, loss of manufacturing capacity, desperation and loss, failing wars, general disaffection, and (very recently for the US) dropping life expectancy.

They’re both in the same business as it happens: making America/Russia great (for their citizens) again.

(PS none of this “greatness” involves blowing up people around the globe for random reasons. Which the USA has been doing quite a lot of this century.)

After the Trumpquake — Что делать?

http://us-russia.org/4507-coming-together-to-generate-ideas-for-a-new-foreign-policy-agenda.html

Question: (Coming together to generate ideas for a new foreign policy agenda). In the end, the 2016 US presidential campaign did what democracies are supposed to do: it gave the electorate a clear choice between two different visions of the country’s future and the policies each party proposed to take us there.  When faced with the prospect of “more of the same,” meaning more impoverishment of the middle and lower classes, more risks of new wars:  it ‘threw the bums out.”

Unfortunately, on the way to this happy outcome the level of political culture on display by the presidential candidates and their campaign staffs sank to unprecedented lows and vicious personal attacks on each other often obscured the policy differences between the candidates.

Nevertheless now that the outgoing President Obama and the incoming President Trump have shaken hands at their first transition meeting in the White House, it is time for the rest of us to make our peace with one another.  This, however, should not mean ending our differences of opinion on policies.  On the contrary, what the country needs now is a good dose of debate and in particular partisan, as opposed to nonpartisan discussion of our foreign policy issues, since we have for the past 4 years at least been stumbling into a very dangerous confrontation with both Russia and China without the benefit of free public discussion of our options.

What concretely can we all do to force the media, the foreign policy establishment to ‘come out and play’ now rather than sulk and spit venom at the victorious Trump team?

The encouraging truth is that reality eventually triumphs; the discouraging truth is that it only does so over a long and painful time. Trump’s victory is, in its way, a victory for reality but a mighty effort remains.

What can we do in forums like this one? Keep talking about reality I suppose: the reality that the neocon domination of Washington has failed in every way possible; the reality that Washington’s endless wars have been failures; the reality that every failed war has planted the seeds of the next; the reality that a extraordinary opportunity was squandered in the 1990s; the reality that making Russia into an enemy is stupid, unnecessary and extremely dangerous; the reality that “exceptionalism” is exceptionally dangerous, destructive and stupid; the reality that the MSM is lying about Syria, about Russia, about Ukraine and about almost everything else; the reality that Putin is not a “thug” determined to re-create the USSR; the reality that Russia is not “isolated”, in “economic freefall” or on the edge of “regime change”; the reality that “The West” has been on the wrong course for two decades. The reality that the neocon/liberal interventionist route leads to destruction.

We may eventually hope that our little drops of water wear away the stone. Perhaps some of us have had an effect on Trump’s thinking, or Flynn’s thinking, or Bannon’s thinking. But we will probably never know and, in truth, it’s almost impossible to work out the influence.

But if Trump can get the Russia relationship right, then a great number of Washington’s international entanglements will be easier to remedy. And he does seem to be interested in getting that right.

But I think, in the last analysis, we have to agree with the great physicist Max Planck:

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.

In short, a new foreign policy for the USA will have to advance, to paraphrase Planck again, “one political funeral at a time”.

But it’s encouraging that Trump’s election has produced so many political funerals.

Obama changes his mind on Russia

It’s been quite a progression, hasn’t it?

Part One: Weak, Regional, Failing

Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength but out of weakness.

Netherlands, 25 March 2014

But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking. And so we have to respond with resolve in what are effectively regional challenges that Russia presents. We have to make sure that they don’t escalate where suddenly nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy. And as long as we do that, then I think history is on our side.

Economist interview, 2 August 2014

Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, as we were reinforcing our presence with frontline states, Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength. That’s what I heard from some folks. Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters. That’s how America leads — not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve. (Applause.)

State of the Union Address, 20 January 2015

Part Two: Maybe not

The bottom line is, is that we think that Russia is a large important country with a military that is second only to ours, and has to be a part of the solution on the world stage, rather than part of the problem.

Washington, 18 October 2016

Part Three: Powerful, Worldwide

With respect to Russia, my principal approach to Russia has been constant since I first came into office. Russia is an important country. It is a military superpower. It has influence in the region and it has influence around the world. And in order for us to solve many big problems around the world, it is in our interest to work with Russia and obtain their cooperation.

Berlin, 17 November 2016

“constant since I first came into office”

Media Bias

(Response to a question from Sputnik inviting my comments on a poll finding that 80% thought the US media had been biased in the election.)

Why as few as 80%? The bias and general worthlessness of the MSM as a source of information has been apparent for years. In this particular case, as Wikileaks shows, the owners of the US media had invested in a Clinton future and the Clintons had invested in the media. One of the reasons Trump won was that the more the MSM reviled him, the more support he gained: if the liars accuse him of something, he must be innocent of it.

The principal difference between the Eatanswill Gazette and the NYT, the WaPo, the Economist and the rest of them is that the first freely admitted its bias.

What to do? Turn off your TV, cancel your newspaper subscription and let them go bust faster. Oh, and shut down all the “journalism degree” mills.

Let the new rise from the compost of the old.