DIPLOMATIC RECIPROCITIES

(Question from Sputnik about my thoughts on Moscow’s reaction to the US visa slowdown.)

The cynic would say that, after the reduction, the US has too few staff to spare from plotting Putin’s overthrow to do normal diplomatic duties. Or maybe it’s some half-witted notion that, deprived of a chance to go to Disney World, the Russian population will rise up and overthrow Putin and let the US Navy into Sevastopol at last. It is however somewhat ironic, given the American confidence in the superiority of their own system, that they would want to make it harder for Russians to experience such a superior exemplar of freedom and democracy.

As to Russia’s retaliation, the diplomatic business is based on reciprocity or so, in my experience, is the Russian practice. So there will be some retaliation and one that will likely astonish Foggy Bottom

My belief is that Russia has realised that, as Putin told Stone, individuals may change but the US system does not. Given Washington’s support for opposition figures, its predilection for interference, its funding of GONGOs hostile to the Russian government, military actions in the neighbourhood, oft-stated declarations of enmity culminating in the latest sanctions, I would expect that Moscow is ready to follow Washington all the way down to zero representation if that’s where it goes. Moscow has less to lose than Washington.

One can always hope that a more sensible approach will win out but that hope is ebbing away as Trump makes more and more concessions to the War Party and his “why not make friends with Russia” thoughts are washing away.

If — one never wants to completely give up hope — the Russiangate nonsense is blown up thereby destroying the pretext for the original US actions, then maybe we can get back to something normal.

(But I would still advise Russia — as I would other countries — to insist on exact reciprocity of numbers and to expel all American GONGOs so as to reduce the capacity for mischief.)

Is Trump Finished?

Written for Edward Lozansky’s expert group 25 July 2017 (http://us-russia.org/5064-any-advice-to-trump.html)

Conventional opinion has been wrong about Donald Trump every chance it has had. He wasn’t seriously running; he’d never get the nomination; couldn’t possibly win the election; would be impeached, declared insane, would quit, was failing, was a Putin stooge and on and so on. Therefore absolutely nothing in the MSM or conventional thinking about him is worth a millisecond’s consideration: whatever conventional thought thinks is wrong. I know of only one person who has successfully read the Trumpian tea leaves and he is today saying that Trump is on the point of complete victory. Read Scott Adams; don’t waste your time with those who have been wrong every time before.

That having been said, I have been reading Adams on Trump for more than a year now and have seen him get it right time after time. If he says Trump is on the verge of victory, I believe him. I waste no time on the opinion of pundits who will be wrong again.

I was encouraged by Trump’s oft-stated intention of having better relations with Russia and his statement in his Inauguration Address that “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…“. For too long Washington’s real message has been the threat, however fragrantly wrapped, “Do what we want or we’ll destroy you”. Twenty years of this has destroyed many countries: it has also (not that the destroyed are sorry about it) weakened the United States itself: Iran’s power and influence has spread, Russia and China are allied, other long-time allies are looking away, the US itself is debt-ridden, quarrelsome and stripped of the manufacturing power that made it so mighty. I believe that Trump understands this on some level.

But I am dismayed by his adulation of the winners of the “U.S. military’s marathon, 30-year, single-elimination, suck-up tournament“. I am disturbed by his evident belief that jihadist terrorism – that product of takfiris like ibn Taymiyya and al Wahhab – finds its headquarters among Twelver Shiites. Many of his personnel choices are very disturbing: people who in no way can be seen as making the change that he promised. The resistance of the Deep State to his attempts is frightening (although it may be significant that one of his latest tweets is that it is not merely a “swamp” to be drained but a “sewer”. Many people pull against him. But I haven’t given up hope yet (and, indeed, developments in Syria give hope.)

Putin had similar problems when he, an outsider, was dropped into the Moscow swamp and here the Saker advises Trump to emulate Putin.

Putin was underestimated too. Here are two opinions that look pretty silly today:

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

                                                                                                       (Andrey Piontkovsky, 2000.)

And

Putin, of course, is no Peter. The KGB lieutenant colonel who was abruptly bumped into the presidential throne of a nation in total disarray comes nowhere near ‘the Great’ in ambition, potential, drive or physical height.

                                                                                                          (Serge Schmemann, 2000.)

Getting to the end of the book

In the as yet un-written “History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire”, the recent sanctions (if enacted) will come as the conclusion of the third-last chapter. The chapter after that will be entitled “The Fall” and the final “The Aftermath”.

One hopes the book will be written by humans and not by aliens studying our radioactive remains.

“Anti-Russian Sanctions Bill ‘Will Result in a Tectonic Break Between US, Europe'” (Sputnik)

“Europe is a scapegoat in the US sanctions war against Russia” (Oriental Review

“Trump’s ‘America First’ vs. McCain’s ‘America Last’” (David Goldman)

“Imperial Folly Brings Russia and Germany Together” (Escobar)

“The U.S. Sanctions Bill Is a Win for Russia” (National Interest)

Les sanctions américaines poussent la Russie à abandonner le dollar – Le vice-ministre des Affaires Etrangères Sergei Ryabkov(REF)

“Let’s Cut Them Off From Space’: How Russia Could Strike Back at US Sanctions” (REF)

“Collateral Damage: U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Russia Strike Western European Allies” (REF)

“The New Russian Sanctions Bill Is Washington’s Monument To Its Criminality” (PCR)

“The U.S. Empire Continues to Stumble Towards Ruin” (REF)

“US new anti-Russian sanctions point a dagger at the heart of Europe” (REF)

“Time for Europe to Stand up to US Hawks on Russia” (Neil Clark)

“Why US Sanctions Bill is the Last Straw for Russia, Iran, North Korea” (Gilbert Mercier)

“Sanctions, Smoke and Mirrors from a Kindergarten on LSD” (Saker)

“Is Trump Set to Sanction Our Dreams of Peace?” (Phil Butler)

“New Russian Sanctions Show Putin Exactly Where To Retaliate” (Jeffrey Carr)

“Milk-Bar Clausewitzes, Bean Curd Napoleons: In the Reign of Kaiser Don” (Fred)

“House Passes New Russia Sanctions, Pumps Adrenaline Into Cold War 2.0” (Ron Paul Inst)

“On Russia sanctions, Trump has a point” (Ignatius WaPo)

“How the World May End” (John Pilger)

“Isolated Trump Flails Helplessly as He Bows to Irrational Policies on Russia and Europe Imposed by Congress” (Jatras)

“US Sanctions — a Looney Tunes Bad Remake”(Wm Engdahl)

“How Russia Could Strike Back Against US Sanctions In 4 Simple Maps” (REF)

“Between Cersei and Daenerys” (Israel Shamir)

New Sanctions Against Russia – A Failure Of U.S. Strategy” (MoA)

“KUNSTLER: ‘Russia Sanctions Will Blow up in America’s Face'” (REF)

Syria: a crack in the Western facade?

[Response to a question from Sputnik on what I think of the reports out of the Élysée. Published https://sputniknews.com/politics/201707181055633335-macron-russia-china-syria/]

If these reports are accurate, I think that we are possibly (possibly) in the early days of important changes regarding the West and Syria. But inertia is a powerful force.

Hitherto Paris was one of the main centres of the “Assad must go” cry. But Macron seems to have dropped the condition. The Western consensus used to be that the Syria question must be settled from outside. Settled by the Western powers, that is: not with Russian involvement, let alone Chinese and certainly never with the involvement of the Syrian government. Macron’s remarks about involving the P5 as well as Damascus changes this position too. Moscow and Beijing will have their say (even if the latter is a silent partner).

Moscow has insisted, over and over again, that important issues can be only settled with the involvement of all parties and, in particular, the UN. And, however short the UN may have fallen from its lofty intentions, it cannot be denied that there isn’t anything any better. Two decades of the hyperpower and its minions making up the rules have, to put it mildly, had little success. The stupidity and incompetence of the West’s elites, their indifference to their own true interests, has been astonishing.

Therefore, there is a shred of hope that at last some movement away from further disaster may be possible. Clearly, the only possible settlement for Syria has to involve all the players, not just Washington and its flunkies’ notions of who they should be.

But there is a huge amount of opposition to this suggestion – see, for example, the apoplectic reaction of “Making Peace With Assad’s State of Barbarism” or from these War Party spokesmen to suggestion of cooperation with Moscow or Damascus.

But Trump was elected partly on a promise to stop the wars and Macron appears to have a similar thought. The West’s wars of the Twenty-First century have been failures. Maybe something else will be tried.

(Who, in 2000, that year of triumphalism, would have expected that Syria, a country, one would have thought, quite peripheral to the interests of Europe and North America, would become a world-historical pivot? But so it is becoming: the Thermopylae of the new world?)

Something for them to talk about

US President Trump and Russian President Putin are due to have their first face-to-face meeting in Hamburg in a few days. This meeting should have taken place in April or May and, had that happened, by now the two would be well into substantive issues. But thanks to the devotion of the lügenpresse to the anti-Russia tarradiddle, Trump was unable to move. And, exploded as a “nothingburger” it may be, and devoid of evidence as we are continually told it is, people are still banging away at it: “You must state bluntly to Putin that Russia can never again violate our sovereignty by stealing and publishing our data, and must stop cyber probes of our electoral machinery.”

So Trump may be wary that anything he does or says to Putin, short of outright rudeness or a punch in the face, will be spun as further “proof” that he is Putin’s puppy. Although – one can hope – Trump, empowered by his contempt for the fake news media and emboldened by CNN’s troubles, may ignore the yapping.

From Russia’s perspective the meeting is easy enough. Putin is self-controlled, intelligent and disciplined: he’s ready and capable of talking about anything; he knows what Russia’s interests are; he has an open mind; I believe he is hopeful but not deluded. He knows that the WaPo and NYT think Trump is an idiot but I doubt he looks to these propaganda rags for guidance. He is smart enough to know that a man who became POTUS against all opposition could not possibly be an idiot but, at the same time he is experienced enough not to hope for too much (as he told Oliver Stone: presidents come and go but US policy doesn’t change).

The commonly suggested subjects for discussion present some difficulties. In Syria Washington is simply too involved with fantasies of “moderate rebels”, confusion from moment to moment and speaker to speaker about what Assad’s future should be. Added to which, there is more than a little evidence that, whatever official Washington may say, the generals on the ground will attack Syrian units or aircraft ad libitum. Therefore it is too complicated a subject for a first discussion. Countering terrorism is another suggestion but, for a serious discussion to be possible, Washington must first decide what side it is really on: it has too long a history of supporting jihadists here but fighting them there to be believed (and especially not by Putin who told Stone that he had proof that Washington had supported jihadists in Chechnya). So, neither of these subjects makes for a good first discussion.

But there is one serious subject that would work and that is North Korea and its nuclear and missile programs. It drew attention to itself in the most dramatic way by launching a rocket that could reach Alaska on the most sacred holiday of the American mythos. There is no reason to think that either Beijing or Moscow are much pleased with this development either. Chinese President Xi was just in Moscow with Putin and the two discussed North Korea and a joint statement was issued. They call for the cessation of missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang and cessation of US-South Korean military exercises near the border; Beijing calls this the “double suspension”. If a solution is found, it will have to be that; threats from Washington do nothing to solve anything. Pyongyang isn’t scared and it has every reason to hate and distrust Washington: US aircraft dropped 25% more bombs on North Korea than it did on Japan, killing, one US general estimated, 20% of the population. Americans may have forgotten that, but North Koreans have not.

This, therefore, is a subject that is topical; it is a problem that all three capitals recognise; there is a solution. While the solution will necessitate some climbdown by Washington, it can be accomplished in the spirit of Catch-22’s Colonel Scheisskopf by the announcement, every year, that this year’s exercise has been cancelled.

North Korea’s missile launch will certainly be on the G20 agenda. Trump has met with Xi, Xi has met with Putin; Xi and Putin have the solution, they’re all going to be in the same place at the same time. So I would suggest that a meeting of the three of them to discuss the “Korean peninsula” issue would make for some fruitful results. Xi could, as it were, make the introduction.

I don’t suppose that any of the three has people devoted to reading my website so I don’t expect one of them to pick up the suggestion.

But I think that it is something to watch for and there isn’t any reason not to think that bilateral discussions in North Korea couldn’t segue into a three-sided conversation.

Democracy or Regime Change?

Asked by Sputnik about DIA report mentioned here. Probably won’t bother to read it — got some paint I want to watch dry and there’s always grass growing out there — because I’m sure all it will say is It’s All Russia’s Fault.

Perhaps I was a little hasty: Paul Robinson has read it and is interested “that at least somebody in the American security establishment is willing to admit that people elsewhere in the world don’t all appreciate what the United States is doing.”

https://sputniknews.com/politics/201706301055103084-russia-reasons-usa-wants-topple-government/

In the simplest possible terms: Washington has been trying to bring “democracy USA-style” to Russia. Russians, observing the consequences of “democracy USA-style” in Iraq, Libya and especially in Ukraine, regard this as regime change. So they’re both right.

Thus far, the most effective “weakeners of US influence on the world stage” have been the neocons and humanitarian bombers that have driven Washington’s policy this century. Failed interventions and losing wars are doing a far more effective job of destroying the USA than anything Moscow or Beijing could do. Osama bin Laden ought to be quite happy about what 911 began because the formerly “strong horse” looks more and more like a “weak horse”: immensely brutal and destructive, but nothing else.

Whether Trump can overcome the “deep state’s” sabotage remains to be seen. He promised a policy of non interference but his first five months have been burned up by the Russian interference “nothing burger”.

RUSSIA-US RELATIONS? QUESTION MARK. QUESTION MARK. ?

Answer to a question from my guy at Sputnik.

Haven’t a clue really: half of me thinks we’re in the Last Days and I and all of mine will become radioactive dust in a few years and the Ultimate Cockroach will write the history of God’s Failed Monkey Experiment.

The other half of me hasn’t a clue. My Weirdshitometer broke long ago when it was pushed to 11. And then waaaaay past 11. None of it makes any sense. Think about it: McCain spent years as a POW in a useless and lost war; why would he want more wars?  But, it’s actually a true fact that Hitler went through the whole thing in the trenches, very dangerous, decorated for bravery and decided that he wanted more. So what do I know?

What you see below is my best guess (given that I haven’t a clue and things  just get weirder and stupider as time goes on).

(BTW How did the West manage to throw it ALL away? And so quickly? A couple of decades. How is that possible?)

[Note 17 June. Not all of these things hit the street but this one did] https://sputniknews.com/politics/201706171054712317-trump-faces-conspiracy-block-russia-ties/

In today’s Direct Line with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President repeated what he has said many times: Russia, he, the Russian government, and, for all I know, every Ivan and Natasha on the street, is open to cooperation with Washington on many matters. But Washington has closed the door and only it can open it.

One of the reasons Trump was elected was his observation, which he stuck to against much opposition, that it was better to have good relations with Russia than not. When the DNC’s cheating was revealed, its response was to distract attention from its malfeasance by blaming Russia for the “hack”. The presstitute media (to steal Paul Craig Roberts’ useful term) obediently bayed the same theme. And the anti-Russia crowd happily repeated every rumour and added their own.

Now that the former FBI Director has admitted that he leaked, only the most unobservant and simple-minded can deny a deepstate/borg/blob (different names for the same thing) conspiracy to block any attempt to better relations with Russia.

The ultimate objective is, at maximum, to reverse the election by impeachment of Trump as Putin’s puppy; at minimum, to make him into a lame duck.

Two agents, two aims, one method.

This is all pretty evident and it’s been going on, full blast, for the better part of a year. My conjecture is that Trump knew there would be opposition to his intentions but he’s pretty stunned by its extent and not sure how to counter it.

So, the question is whether Trump, who is, after all, POTUS with all the considerable powers of that office, can confound the knavish tricks of his enemies. I don’t know whether he can but it’s an observable fact that Donald Trump has surprised and outwitted better people than I. So we shall see.

Meanwhile, in the real world outside the Washington beltway, China advances. In 10-20 years the world will be run by China (and Russia, India and Persia). So, in the Great Scheme of Things, maybe none of this matters very much. That Endpoint isn’t all that far away – we’re not talking about geological epochs here. Nor Brzezinski’s era of US dominance from 1997 to 2016.

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

These pieces are papers that I believe to be still relevant; they were published earlier elsewhere under a pseudonym. They have been very slightly edited and hyperlinks have been checked. This particular one dates from February 2015. Some of my illustrations may be dated but there are always new ones being created: for Tsarnaevs read San Bernardino attack, for Merkel’s cell phone read Trump’s; Kyrzbekistan has been forgotten but the NYT isn’t sure what Aleppo is; Duterte and Le Pen are the new targets to attack. Putin Derangement Syndrome has reached absurd heights. The wars grind on. So, two years later, the “victory” is even farther away.

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

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

– Luigi da Porto, Sixteenth Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Russia Ran Rings Around the USA in the Obama Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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