Underestimate Russia and be surprised

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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]

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.

Russia the Eternal Enemy Quotations

The world now faces a choice between the cooperative exploitation by the East and West of natural resources or a wasteful struggle that could cost a fortune in blood and treasure. Regional conflicts in the Caucasus and Central Asia threaten to deny Western access to the vital oil and gas reserves the world will need in the 21st century. The wars in Chechnya, between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and in Georgia were started or exacerbated by the Russian military, and the outcome of these wars may determine who controls future pipeline routes. Moscow hopes that Russia will. Powerful interests in Moscow are attempting to ensure that the only route for exporting the energy resources of Eurasia will pass through Russia.

Ariel Cohen, Senior Policy Analyst, The Heritage Foundation “The New ‘Great Game’: Oil Politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia”; 25 January 1996.

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).

Really Stupid Things Said About Russia

It is not prudent to deny or forget a thousand years of Russian history. It is replete with wars of imperial aggrandizement, the Russification of ethnic minorities, and absolutist, authoritarian, and totalitarian rule.

My comment: Substitute any other country here and what difference would there be? Note in the thousand years he ignores periods in which Russia was prey and not predator – the Mongols, the Time of Troubles, Teutonic Knights and so forth. A fine example of selective facts and how much easier it is to say something than it is to refute it.

Ariel Cohen (Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation) “A New Paradigm for U.S.-Russia Relations: Facing the Post-Cold War Reality.” 6 March 1997.

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?

 

 

Rotating on Your Tanks

(A question from Sputnik: what do I make of the US Army forces moved to Europe and what do I think US President-elect Trump will do about it.)

The first thing to do is calm down: I’ve seen headlines with “thousands”, “hundreds” or “scores” of tanks. What we are actually talking about, according to the US Army in Europe, is the “3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division” of “3,500 personnel, 87 tanks, 18 Paladins; 419 multi-purpose Humvees and 144 Bradley tanks”. (And why are they in desert tan and not European green, by the way?) In other words 87 actual tanks (120mm gun), 18 self propelled guns (155mm gun), 419 of the most expensive Jeeps ever made and 144 infantry fighting vehicles (not “tanks”) (25mm gun, two anti-tank missiles). These troops are the first of “back-to-back rotations of armored brigades in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve” – “rotations” gets NATO out of its 1997 pledge against “additional permanent stationing“. NATO is also planning to place a (rotating) battalion group in each of the three Baltic countries and Poland. In short, rounding everything way up: a maximum total of 10K soldiers, 100 tanks, 40 serious artillery pieces and 250 IFVs. That’s the high end. The actual reality will be smaller, under-equipped, very multi-national, always re-learning the ropes and therefore not very effective. In return Russia has reactivated the First Guards Tank Army. This Russian formation will have much more modern and more powerful kit than NATO’s and would brush aside the US brigade without pausing and ignore the battalion groups.

The purpose one assumes (if we ignore standard NATO-issue boiler plate about “security” “stability” “aggressor” and so on) is to emplace a “trip wire” – if you attack Estonia, you will be attacking us all. But that’s the point of the NATO alliance already: “an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.” In theory that is. But there are plenty of polls showing that “NATO’s European Allies Won’t Fight for Article 5“. So I guess it’s supposed to be a reassurance to the little ones that NATO really really means it. So in that sense, it’s thought to be a deterrence.

But the assumption is quite idiotic. Moscow knows full well what the NATO Treaty means. The only circumstances under which it would attack any NATO country would be if it feared an attack on itself by all NATO countries. And then there would be no holding back: Moscow would know who it was fighting and why it was fighting and would go full out from the beginning.

This move – in the waning days of the Obama Administration – violates two Trumpian principles. First it is calculated to irritate Moscow and hobble US President-elect Trump in his stated intention to repair relations. Second it contradicts his ideas that NATO members should pay more for their own defence. (And a third: better relations with Russia obtained through diplomacy would eliminate the “threat” this deployment is supposed to be countering). Thus it is very probable that the whole thing will be reversed on the 21st. It should be remembered that Trump not only has a number of senior generals on his team but that there is plenty of evidence – “After 15 years of war, America’s military has about had it with ‘nation building’– that the US military are tired of endless wars. He’s not flying blind. And he’s not flying alone.

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.