PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME AFTER MUELLER

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation

The West – its governments and its governments’ scribes – are obsessed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Obsessed” is probably too weak a word to describe the years of impassioned coverage, airy speculation and downright nonsense. He is the world’s leading cover boy: military hats, Lenin poses, imperial crowns, scary red eyes, strait-jackets, clown hats; anything and everything. He’s the avatar of Stalin, he’s the avatar of the Tsars, he’s the Joker, he’s Cthulhu, he’s Voldemort, he’s Satan. He’s the palimpsest for the New World Order’s nightmares. Putin is always messing with our minds. He weaponises information, misinformation and sexual assault accusations. Childrens’ cartoons, fishsticks, Pokemon and Yellow Vests, “Putin’s warships” are lurking when they aren’t stalking; “Putin’s warplanes” penetrate European airspace; “Putin’s tanks”, massing in 2016, massing in 2018, still massing. His empire of rogue states grows. All Putin, all the time.

In an especially imbecile display in 2015, Western reporters (unable to find his website) thinking he hadn’t been seen for several days started a contest of speculation about coups, death, wars, plastic surgery, secret births and other nonsense; when he “re-appeared”, the story went down the Memory Hole.

For some reason, Americans personalise everything. In meetings with US intelligence agencies I was always fascinated how they would reduce every complicated reality to a single individual. But it isn’t Saddam, or Assad, or Qaddafi, or Osama, or Aidid, or Milosevic, or Maduro, or Castro or any of the other villains-of-the-day, it’s a whole country: these people got to the top for good reasons. Removing the boss makes some difference but never all the difference. They go but they never leave a Washington-friendly country behind and Washington does it all over again somewhere else. This peculiar blindness drives Putin Derangement Syndrome and has infected everybody else.

But Putin is much worse than the others. The other enemies had relatively weak countries but Russia could obliterate the USA. But worse, Putin’s team has steadily become more powerful and more influential. And worst of all, he’s still there: huffing and puffing has not blown him down, sanctions strengthen the economy and there is nothing to suggest he won’t be succeeded by someone who carries on the same policies. It’s a whole country, not just one man.

Vladimir Putin is the biggest man on earth.

Except that he’s short and can’t hide it. He’s a megalomaniac because he’s short; he’s trying to prove his bigness; napoleon complex says some shrink. Just another in a long list of crackpot “expert” opinions. From a list I complied in 2015: Asperger’s Syndrome, cancer of the spinal cord, personality disorders, gayness, Parkinson’s Disease, psychopath, people don’t like him so animals have to, sinister, lonely life, fears his own people, envious of Obama. Remember the gunslinger walk“? Oh, in case you hadn’t heard, he was in the KGB and that explains everything: “Once a KGB man, always a KGB man”. Nothing is too absurd.

But laughing has passed – Putin Derangement Syndrome has become dangerous.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton lost a sure-fire election to Donald Trump and, looking for an excuse, jumped on the Russia claim. Putin Derangement Syndrome was ramped up to a much more dangerous level. War-level dangerous.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said President Donald Trump’s administration is doing nothing to stop Russians from interfering in the 2018 election cycle, comparing the lack of action on the part of the president to the 9/11 and Pearl Harbor attacks that killed thousands of Americans.

A popular actor made a video to tell us were were at war. “Warfare” says Haley, “act of war” said John McCain, could be says Cheney, 911 says Clinton, disappointed CIA guy agrees, Pearl Harbor says Nadler. Diplomatic expulsions and sanctions and more sanctions. These are much more serious than gassy op-eds about Putin’s gait or fish weights, these are actions: actions have consequences. Moscow doesn’t find war talk very funny.

Clinton’s victory was 99% certain until it wasn’t and excuses were needed. Clinton went through a lot of them but “Russian interference” was always the big one.

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

In What Happened, Clinton also says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for Trump was driven by his own anti-women sentiment, stacking the deck against her: “What Putin wanted to do was…influence our election, and he’s not exactly fond of strong women, so you add that together and that’s pretty much what it means.” At press events for her memoir, Clinton continues to warn Americans against Russia’s power over Trump and the country. “The Russians aren’t done. This is an ongoing threat, and that is one of the reasons why I wrote the book and one of the reasons I’m talking about it,” she said on Sunday at Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival. (Newsweek)

Her claim is, to put it mildly, unproven; the so-called “all 17 agencies” report notwithstanding. (The first premise that it was hacked is here disproved: downloaded by someone in the building). Her accusation moved Putin Derangement Syndrome away from the realm of mere craziness into war talk. Taking the hint, Western politicians, under attack for their lacklustre performances, were happy to push the blame onto Putin. He’s attacking democracy! Western media weighed in until it became completely accepted by some people that anything that spoiled the happy complacency of the Western world must be a result of Putin’s interference: gilets jaunes, “assistance provided to far-right and anti-establishment parties“, he’s the poster boy of the dreaded populism, his populist tentacles reach Hungary and Italy. And the next thing we knew, Putin was mucking around in everybody’s votes: Brexit; Catalonia; Netherlands; Germany; Sweden; Italy; EU in particular and Europe in general; Mexico; Canada. Newsweek gives a helpful list. Sometimes he loses elections: Germany, Ukraine but he goes on, unstopping. But his greatest triumph was said to have been in the US election: he “won” because Donald Trump was his willing puppet.

(None of these “experts” ever seem to wonder why Putin’s influence, so decisive far away, is so ineffective in Ukraine or Georgia. But then, it’s not actually a rational, fact-based belief, is it?)

The entire ramshackle construction is collapsing: if Mueller says there was no collusion then even the last ditch believers will have to accept it: Robert Mueller Prayer Candles are out of stock, time to toss the other tchotchkes, it wasn’t a Mueller Christmas after all. Clinton’s fabrication had two parts to it: 1) Putin interfered/determined the election 2) in collusion with Trump. When the second part is blown up, so must the first be. And then what will happen to all the loyal little allies crying “ours were interfered with too!”? The two halves of the story had the same authors and the same purpose: if one dies, so must the other. Now that Trump is secured from the obstruction charges that hung there as long as Mueller was in session, he is free to declassify the background documents that will show the origin, mechanics, authors and extent of the conspiracy. And he has said he will. In the process, both halves of the story will be destroyed: they’re both lies.

(For those who now realise there is something they have to catch up on: Conrad Black has a good exposition of the overall conspiracy and here is a quick round-up of the mechanics of the conspiracy. This may show its very beginning, three years ago).

Will the exposure of the plot and the plotters end the war-talk stage of Putin Derangement Syndrome? In a rational world, it would (but can its believers be embarrassed by the exposure of their credulity? Can they be made to think it all over again from the beginning?). It is true that Russia stands in the way of the neocons and liberal interventionists who have been guiding Washington this century, but that hardly means that Putin is the enemy of the American people. Because, properly considered, it’s the neocons/liberal interventionists and their endless wars burning up lives, money and good will that are the enemies of Americans; in that respect Putin (unintentionally) stands with the true best interests of the American people. But the propaganda is so strong and the hysteria so unrestrained, that anyone who suggests that blocking the war party is in the best interests of Americans would be run out of town on a rail. (As the attacks on Tulsi Gabbard show.) The USA is far down the rabbit hole. (Although I should say US elites: a Rasmussen poll shows that slightly more Americans think Clinton colluded with a foreign power than think Trump did. Considering the news coverage of the last two and a half years, that’s a very interesting finding.)

So, the sad conclusion is that Putin Derangement Syndrome will probably endure and the best we can hope for is that it is dialled down a bit and the “act of war” nonsense is quietly forgotten. Derangement was strong before the interference/collusion lie and it will exist as long as Putin does: the war party is too invested in personalities ever to realise that it’s Russia, not its president, that’s the obstacle. Let alone ever understand that much of what Moscow does is a pushback against Washington’s aggression.

Let The Onion have the last laugh at this dismal matter:

“What the hell? I worked so hard on this—if I wasn’t colluding with the Trump campaign, who the hell was I colluding with?” said the dumbfounded Russian president, growing increasingly angry as he scrolled through his email inbox and recounted his numerous efforts at covert communication with individuals who he had thought were high-ranking Trump officials, but now he suspected were bots or anonymous internet trolls.

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

And the spreading of the story feels very Russian-inspired to me (seeding division). And the worst thing is that it de-legitimizes women who’ve suffered real and harmful incidences of sexual abuse.

A tweet 1 April 2019. It refers to the Biden touching problem.

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

Scientific researchers say Russian social-media trolls who spread discord before the 2016 U.S. presidential election may also have played an unintended role in a developing global health crisis.

From the US state broadcaster RFE/RL

The biggest measles outbreak is in Ukraine which hardly has a state-of-the-art medical system.

And yet………….. it’s the RUSSSSSSHUNZ wot dunnit.

The anti-vaxx notion was given real impetus when the Russian trolls that run the British (but actually Putin-controlled) medical (but actually GRU propaganda outlet) journal Lancet (real name Ланцет) published a paper in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield (real name Эндрю Уэйкфилд) suggesting a link between certain vaccines and autism. The paper has since been retracted.

 

MCCARTHYISM THEN AND NOW: BUT THERE WAS REALITY THEN

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation

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

Humor is reason gone mad. (Groucho Marx)

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++

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

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

PREDATOR FISH AND PREY FISH

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation

I have found this analogy useful: grosso modo, over the past millennium, some countries have been predator fish and some countries have been prey fish. Predators and prey have completely different self images, behaviour and understandings of how the world works and how countries interact. Like all analogies, it’s a rough guide: few countries have been wholly one or the other and for a time, military superiority enabled all European countries to become predator fish on the rest of the world. But I believe that it is a useful analogy today and especially when applied to the calamitous misunderstanding of the Anglo-Americans about Russia; they get it completely wrong and that can have disastrous consequences.

England is the paradigm predator fish. Confined to their small island with their warlike Welsh and Scottish neighbours, the English subdued the first but never quite the second. When James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne he cleverly invented “Britain” and the British people and bound English, Scots and Welsh to a common cause. This new amalgam then created the largest empire of human history: so extensive, the boast went, that the sun never set on it. In its shorter life, the United States of America has likewise been a successful predator fish. Starting as a ribbon along the lower sea coast of a continent – every bit of which was claimed by some European power to say nothing of the autochthonous inhabitants – it spread over half the continent. Today American military dominance in its hundreds of bases (it’s always dawn in a US base somewhere), world-wide naval presence and its sovereign currency make the empires of the Nineteenth Century look half-hearted. Even though its relative power is failing, it remains the predominant power in most categories. And, as the latest Wikileaks revelations show, Washington is happy to use the so-called international instruments like the World Bank, OECD and IMF as weapons in its arsenal. The United Kingdom and the United States are, sequentially, the most successful predators ever; defeating every challenge, they have ascended to greater world power than any two other states in history. They are history’s apex predators.

In contrast African states and kingdoms were prey fish to European and Arab predators: slaves, raw materials and space for colonists. The civilisations of Central and South America were swiftly felled by European diseases and more deadly weapons. For several centuries non-European countries and civilisations were prey fish to Europe. Even Belgium, prey at home, could be a predator in Africa. Mighty China was a prey fish too and one can only hope, in its coming pre-dominance, that it will not seek revenge for its “century of humiliation“.

One should be wary of carrying the analogy too far: Zulus, Incas, Aztecs and Iroquois were successful predator fish in their ecologies until greater predators destroyed them. Sweden was a rapacious predator until defeat at Poltava marked the end and since then it has been quiet and peaceful. Former super-predators like Spain or Portugal, weakened by overextension and collapsed economies, have given up. Austria is a small land-locked country.

National myths have been profoundly shaped by the predator/prey dichotomy. Poland’s independence has been ended more than once: most recently the USSR dominated it and so, today, there is more antipathy towards Russia than to Germany or Austria. The Galicians currently setting the tone in Ukraine show more animosity to Russia than Poland or Austria for similar reasons.

The relevance of this analogy to today’s war on Russia is that Russia is in the unusual position of being half prey fish and half predator fish. For half of its thousand years it was a prey fish: maintaining its existence was a continual struggle with horse peoples in the south and Teutonic Knights in the north. A struggle lost to the Mongols, beginning a centuries-long endeavour to throw off the “Tatar yoke” and re-unite the Russian lands. The ejection of Polish-Lithuanian forces (two prey fish at their moment of predation) marked the end of the prey period and in the next five centuries Russia expanded in all directions, sometimes peacefully and sometimes by war, but always larger.

But the prey fish memory persists. In Russia monasteries are fortified and there are no castles; in Europe, monasteries are not fortified and there are many castles. Russia, in its prey fish time, had to fight for its very existence: given the centrality of Orthodoxy to the essence of Russianness, that meant its religion. Fortunately for the Russian Church, the Mongol conquerors were indifferent to their subjects’ religion but the Teutonic Knights and the Polish-Lithuanians were Roman militants, Napoleon treated churches as stables and Hitler cared nothing for Russianness. Therefore monasteries, as the essence of Russianness, had to be fortified for the wars of national survival. The absence of castles is explained because, as private strongholds, they embodied the ability of local powers to resist the central power; in Russia the central power was the guarantor and protector of Russian existence. Europe, for all its wars, never, since the victory of Tours (a fright at Vienna in 1683) was threatened in its very essence. (Spain, Portugal and the Balkans, however, have Russian-like histories: resistance to the alien and a long re-gathering of their lands).

As a result of these historical realities, Russians have a completely different view of war: for Russia it’s life or death. For medieval Europe it was a sport for kings, ruinous in its neighbourhood but of limited effect elsewhere: from the peasant’s perspective King A or King B meant little. The destructive wars of religion and revolution never threatened Europe qua Europe because they were civil wars between different types of Europeanness.

Russians remember the prey fish period better than they do the predator fish period. The prey fish memory makes it very difficult for the Russians to think of the Great Caucasus War or the wars in Central Asia as the predations that they actually were. They see the wars against the Persians or Ottomans as wars of liberation rather than the eating of weaker predators. The prey fish memory remains strong not only just because the early experience set the pattern but because of the powerful reinforcement of 1941-1945.

The Anglo-American experience of war has no memory like that. They have never been in a war in which every soldier that get to the enemy capital has passed through endless wastes of destruction of his homeland. (Americans: think of Sherman’s march to the sea through the entire Confederacy and then extend it to take in the rest of the country on the Atlantic coast. Britain has nothing to match this other than, on a much smaller scale, the desolation of the Scottish borders under Edward I or the Highlands after Culloden.) This book makes the point that the USA and the UK have no conception of a war of annihilation but Russia has known many. The scars of the latest are still visible: there are nearly half a million dead Leningraders in Piskaryovskoye Cemetery alone: more than all the dead of Washington’s overseas wars. A completely different conception of “war”. This makes Russians defensive, suspicious and ready to fight for the Motherland but not very willing to acknowledge their predator period. The Anglo-Americans expect another profitable predation and sugar coat their predation with moralistic posturing as we perfectly see today in Venezuela: we must seize its oil for humanitarian reasons. A clash is inevitable.

While Russia cannot forget the prey period, its neighbours only remember its predator fish period. The contrast of memories is well expressed in this video from the Russian side of the benefits brought to the prey by “Russian occupants”. But from the Lithuanian prey fish point of view, we have this completely different take of death and destruction. Each is true, each is false: but the difference in perception must be understood.

In other words, prey fish remember being eaten; predator fish have no such memory, or even appreciation of such fears. Predators cannot imagine being pushed to the edge because it’s never happened to them, prey fish remember when they were; predators eat well, prey fish fear extinction. And so today the Anglo-Americans, unable to eat Russia (so confident they were that it was prey so short a time ago! gas station masquerading as a country, makes nothing), project their predatory disposition onto Russia.

The Anglo-Americans, after decades of successful predation, think they can push Russia back forever. But Russia cannot forget its prey period and its bred-in-the-bone understanding of what happens to prey. The danger is that, at some point, it will decide its very survival is at risk and then it will, as it has before, do whatever it needs to do, at whatever the cost, to survive.

Certainly, it would be a global disaster for humanity; a disaster for the entire world. As a citizen of Russia and the head of the Russian state I must ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?

It’s a dangerous and possibly fatal misunderstanding given Russia’s immense arsenal; unstoppable says a American general (retired and so able to see reality).

THE CHARGE SHEET

From time to time somebody sets out a list of all the accusations against Russia/Putin. Here is the latest. I won’t waste my time commenting except to say that “from RFE’s point of view” and “alleged” should have been used more often.

Putin omits all the reasons why relations with Europe are strained, so it might be useful to recap some of them: Russian interference in numerous elections and referendums in EU countries over the last decade; Russia’s active disinformation campaigns across the EU; Russian-based cyberattacks targeting numerous EU countries; provocative Russian military flights in and around EU and NATO airspace; Russia’s alleged interference with GPS navigation systems in Scandinavia; Russia’s continued deployment of “peacekeepers” in Moldova despite that country’s repeated requests that Russian troops be replaced with UN peacekeepers; Russia’s 2008 war against Georgia and its continued occupation of some 20 percent of Georgian territory; Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region; Russia’s intense involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine, which the ICC in November 2016 ruled “an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation”; Russia’s obstructionism in implementation of the Minsk agreements to end the Ukraine conflict; Russia’s role in the 2014 downing of a passenger airliner over Ukraine that killed 298 people; Russia’s alleged poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko in London in 2006; and Russia’s alleged attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

Robert Coalson, Senior Correspondent RFE/RL

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

The spy chief said he did not know why Russia was so aggressive, adding: “Perhaps it feels threatened by the quality of Western institutions and Western alliances.”

Alex Younger, head of MI6, 16 February 2019

I’m sure that’s the reason: Putin and his inner circle sit around bemoaning the fact that, as Russians, they just never will have that mysterious quality.

RUSSIA THE ETERNAL ENEMY QUOTATIONS

All the clichés in one neat package.

  • Poor little NATO: just quietly minding its own business when those pesky Russians start doing exercises on its borders.
  • And again with the “rules-based order” claptrap: our rules, your disorder Ukraine, Libya, Syria and Venezuela.
  • What “Western interests” in the Middle East?
  • Amazing the “interference” a few grand on Facebook can produce, isn’t it?
  • Military activity in the rather large chunk of the Arctic it owns.

Ah well, the Bubble is strong and I’m sure the authors are paid to believe what they believe to be paid.

Geography still matters. Russia—NATO’s largest, most militarily capable neighbor—remains NATO’s principal external challenge. Russia under President Putin ignores international commitments; violates Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan sovereignty; conducts provocative exercises and maneuvers along NATO’s borders; expands military activity in the Arctic and North Atlantic; intervenes in parts of the Middle East against Western interests; and interferes in democratic processes within members of the Alliance, aspiring members and partners. President Putin’s objectives seem clear: secure his leadership position within Russia and prevent regime change; undermine the international rules-based order in favor of a Europe re-divided into spheres of influence; assert increasing influence on the Russian periphery, especially in Ukraine and Georgia, to prevent the success of democratic, pro-European governments whose example could undermine his own kleptocratic system; seize every opportunity to erode the cohesion of NATO and the EU; and widen divisions within individual member states.

NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis, Nicholas Burns, Douglas Lute, February 2019

INTEGRITY INITIATIVE: BIG BROTHER’S MINIONS – OR FLIM-FLAM ARTISTS?

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation. Picked up by JRL2019/16/24,  ZeroHedge, South Front, Straight Line Logic, The New Dark Age, Trade for Profit, The Russophile, Viral News, Olduvai.ca, Truth in Our Time,

I’m not sure what to make of Integrity Initiative (what a great gaslighting name: integrity? Hah hah: no, just furtive paid propaganda and opinion steering). But I watch the unfolding revelations with fascination. Certainly, the whole thing is bigger than it seemed at first and all the documents being revealed appear to be true.

On the one hand, it looks like a group of superannuated old gits gassing on about how warfare today involves everything, especially “information warfare”, while last century it was only bullets. (Ever read any, say, Sun Tzu or Clausewitz? Or, speaking of the last century, Goebbels? How about Bernays?) And how we concerned individuals have voluntarily come together (assisted by £2+ million of the taxpayer’s money) to save democracy. Unpaid, unasked and unplotted. Completely conspiracy-free in fact. To individually and unconspiratorially assure you that only Russian dupes would try to tell us, contrary to all reason, that Russia, a nuclear superpower, has interests that we’d be wise to consider. Or that Western NGOs are often US State Department fronts. Or that the West promised Gorbachev it wouldn’t expand NATO (Too late, the documents are out). In short, that the essence of democracy is never to doubt what the Ministry of Truth tells you. There’s a naïve and bubble-like quality to this: they never think any thoughts but their own. So maybe these guys, instead of kveching at the mirror and shouting at the TV set, have figured out how to flim-flam the government into supplementing their pensions in return for pages of conspiracy-babble.

Or are we looking at something rather bigger? As John Helmer points out, there is a long history of British intelligence operating behind such “independent” and “disinterested” cover. Did they help start the Russia hysteria in the USA? Did they not only play up the Skripal affair but actually create it? Did they have an effect on Spain and Catalonia? Infiltrate Sanders’ campaign? What’s this “impose changes over the heads of vested interests. NB we did this in the 1930s” stuff? Is that a reference to the Zinoviev Letter forgery? (1924 actually, but they don’t look like people who bother to check details). Corbyn, of course, they see as another Kremlin stooge: is it time to “discover” a Dear Jeremy, How can I help you win? Your friend Vladimir letter? There is a danger these “clusters” of like-minded (and paid) flacks pose: in a time when the “news” media solemnly informs us that Putin has weaponised humour and Pokemon, to say nothing of killer squids, a group of “expert” “concerned citizens” who “voluntarily” appear can ratchet the hysteria up to further heights. (Although only a Russian troll would “emphasise the dangers of war in Europe (!!)”) They are trying to establish a base in the USA (“challenging the ignorance of, tolerance of or sympathy for the Russian activity” – tolerance!!?? the US media Russia-bashes 24/7!) So, no matter the temptation, we can’t write them off as silly old fools.

Here’s their website. And here’s some of their output, most of it written straight off the top of the head. Bellyfeel, as they say in Newspeak.

Deadly “Novichok” is not strong enough to kill you today, but is strong enough to kill someone four months later. Whatever – deadly, shmeadly – you read it, my head hurts.

Its [Russia’s, of course] ongoing lawfare activities have shaken the pillars of the post-WWII security architecture in Europe. Who knew? The very pillars!

Russian state media have succeeded in persuading some parts of the Arab world that Russia intervention is required to resolve the region’s disputes, which appears be the ultimate goal of Russia’s strategy in the region. I don’t think it’s Russian media, I think it’s these guys. Here they are again in Manbij.

The Thesis of Conspiracy: The Kremlin’s current world-view is stark, striking and scary. According to senior leaders, including Putin, America is attacking Russia. Silly Russians! NATO expansion, colour revolutions, sanctions, gas wars, rhetoric, tossing arms control treaties – all done to help you!

Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, lying that it was Georgia which had attacked Russia, absurd though this sounds when one compares the respective sizes of each country. A powerful argument, not heard before. (And not considered by the EU either; even its feeble report understood that Tbilisi attacked.)

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is often presented as the most striking symbol of Russia’s resurgent military power. Really, by whom? I follow this stuff and I know Russians like to talk about Piotr Velikiy or their submarines but the elderly Kuznetsov is just functional. (Although, escort tug, belching smoke and all, it works and the British media gets the fantods every time it appears.) This piece tries to show that Russia’s infrastructure is falling apart. Maybe they should spend more time on YouTube.

The Kremlin lies. Repeatedly and seriously. This is the only conclusion which can be drawn if you accept the view of the British Government that the Russian state is behind the attack using a nerve agent on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yuliya. The Russian authorities have already put out at least 17 different versions of what happened. (47 here). Ah, but the prosecution doesn’t win if the accused can’t prove who did it. Presumption of innocence – isn’t that one of those fundamental principles you’re supposed to be defending? The problem with accepting the “view of the British Government” is that it requires superhuman doublethink and crimestop as this summary of the absurdities shows. The latest being that a bit of “Novichok” on a door handle requires removing the roof of the house while Zizzi’s, old roof and all, is open for business!

However, at no time has the Integrity Initiative engaged in party political activity and would never take up a party-political stance. Spain and Catalonia? Sanders? Corbyn? Stay tuned.

These guys really should get out more. If they were being paid by some private individual for this tripe that would be one thing; but the British government (and others?) is paying – in fact, it’s actually paying these people to influence its own policy. Think about that: that’s rather different. Even leaving aside all the stuff about “we did this in the 1930s”. It’s a bit Deep Stateish – it’s a lot Deep Stateish.

Or maybe it’s just a bunch of retirees swindling the government by writing fluff about how Russia is sapping and impurifying all our precious bodily fluids.

Sarcasm is fun but the big question is: who’s winning: these guys with millions and the support of most media outlets, or us with hundreds and sites like this one? But then we have reality on our side and, eventually, but it can be a long eventually, it bites.

You decide. Here and here are the hacks. Or are they leaks? Interesting question, eh? We owe much thanks to Anonymous for exposing these people. Add Kim Klarenberg to your Twitter feed – an actual reporter doing actual reporting! I think there’s lots more to be revealed.

I’m amused by Donnelly saying that the fact that their stuff has been hacked shows that they must be having an effect; no, there are people out there who are tired of the lies, secret manipulations and managed media campaigns whooping up war fever. They found you and they broke into your files. That’s all.

REAL CRICKETS, FAKE NEWS

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation

You’re an American diplomat. Posted to Cuba. You compose yourself for peaceful slumber, as an innocent American dip should… What’s that noise? Whine, buzz. Get up. Lights on. Look. Nothing. Head on pillow. Whine, buzz. We’ve all been kept up nights by some unidentifiable sound. You promise yourself you won’t listen to it. Aha, it’s stopped… no, there it is again. Another night of tossing and turning. Very understandable. The next morning you tell a colleague, heard it too, another hadn’t but can’t help listening. Soon everybody is awake listening to this irritating noise. Doctors come, check people out and find this and that (as ageing apes we all have something. Is there any before and after take on these injuries?) This is happening in Cuba, a country richly furnished with noisy insects. At some point, this irritating sound, that could be insects, morphs into something more sinister: “‘microwave hearing,’ also known as the Frey effect” for example.

The US Embassy in Havana re-opened in July 2015. About a year later, it was reported that some American diplomats complained about strange noises. The Guardian reported the story using numerous variations on the word “attack”. Crickets are mentioned, but only to be dismissed; “But this is Cuba”, wink, wink, nudge, nudge; Russia peeps above the horizon:

In fact, almost nothing about what went down in Havana is clear. Investigators have tested several theories about an intentional attack: by Cuba’s government, a rogue faction of its security forces, a third country like Russia or some combination thereof. Yet they’ve left open the possibility an advanced espionage operation went horribly awry, or that some other, less nefarious explanation is to blame.

Attacks – the story builds. A recording is produced (verrry irritating; keep anybody awake). “High pitched cricket sound”. That’s because they are insects say the Cubans. The phrasing of the AP report that covered the Cuban findings has to be read to be believed: it’s written in the sneering tone that tells you to ignore them:

Cuba on Thursday presented its most detailed defense to date against U.S. Accusations… Cuban officials attempted to undermine the Trump administration’s assertion… alleged was a lack of evidence for the U.S. Accusations… an exhaustive investigation ordered by “the highest government authorities,” a clear reference to President Raul Castro… Thursday night’s special did not present an alternate explanation for the facts presented by U.S. officials, with one significant exception…

What a dishonest way to cover a report by Cuban specialists saying we compared the recordings with cicada sounds and there was a good fit. Fortunately, as we shall see, honest people did follow that lead.

American tourists are solemnly warned “Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to attacks targeting U.S. Embassy”. Washington expels Cuban diplomats and the Guardian helpfully tells us:

Cuba employs a massive state security apparatus that keeps hundreds and possibly thousands of people under constant surveillance. US diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. It’s virtually impossible for anyone to take action against an American diplomat without an element of the Cuban state being aware.

So the state of play as of the end of 2017 is this. Facts: noises, medical findings, investigations, expulsions. Speculation: they’re “attacks”, the Cuban authorities control everything and the insect explanation should be laughed at. Next year it’s China’s turn.

But at last, in September 2018, the Russian sun rises over the horizon.

The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies. The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence… If Russia did use a futuristic weapon to damage the brains of U.S. personnel, it would mark a stunning escalation in Russian aggression toward Western nations, compounded recently by the use of a military-grade nerve agent to poison an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain.

Love the juxtaposition of “suspicion”, “likely” and “alleged”: how many degrees of uncertainty is that? You have to wonder whether an Integrity-challenged Initiative clusteroid gave that little gem to NBC – the “signals intelligence” will probably turn out to be a five-year-old RT report about insomnia. Also note that the US military “has been working to reverse-engineer the weapon or weapons used to harm the diplomats”.

Ensorcelled by this “un-elaborated” “intelligence”, the Gadarene media swine rush straight for the cliff:

Did Russia Attack U.S. Officials in Cuba? U.S.S.R. Used Microwaves Against American Diplomats During Cold War (Newsweek) Russia Is No. 1 Suspect in Mystery Brain Attacks in Cuba and China: Report (Daily Beast) Russia Might Be Behind Those Sonic Attacks on U.S. Government Workers in Cuba and China (Fortune) The U.S. Now Believes RUSSIA May Be Behind Sonic Attacks On Americans In Cuba And China (Daily Wire) So the Russians were ‘sonic-ing’ down in Cuba? (American Thinker) Russia main suspect behind illnesses of US staff in Cuba and China – report (Guardian) Russia suspected in Cuba mystery ‘attacks’ against US diplomats (NBC) Report: Experts Suspect Cuba May Have Had Russian Help in ‘Sonic’ Diplomat Attacks (Breitbart)

Altogether a perfect illustration of how fake news is built.

Step One. Something that could be lots of things but we’ll call it an attack.

Step Two. Attacks have attackers, so who is it? (I find it interesting that they weren’t quite ready to blame Havana, although they expelled a few Cuban diplomats: “‘I still believe that the Cuban government, someone within the Cuban government can bring this to an end,’ Tillerson added.”)

Step Three: Drum roll… Putindunnit!

It’s surprising, actually, that it took so long; after all, Putin has weaponised Soviet history, Syrian refugees, Photoshop, humour, Pokemon, and Russophobia, why would you think he’d have forgotten crickets? Nothing is beyond or beneath him: “14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin?“.

This happy complacency was interrupted…

by…

a loud…

POP!

The Sounds That Haunted U.S. Diplomats in Cuba? Lovelorn Crickets, Scientists Say.

And, because they’re Western scientists, not Castro’s Cuban Collaborators, we have to believe them. Two honest scientists – remember their names: Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Zapato of the University of Lincoln in England – on their own it seems, applied human reason to the problem and solved it. Here’s a summary of their paper.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So that’s it; the story’s dead (although the NYT does its best to keep it alive: “That’s not to say that the diplomats weren’t attacked, the scientists added”). Would be nice, though, if State took its warning down. In time the details will fade away leaving a vague sense that Cuba’s a bad and dangerous place and nasty Russians do nasty things for the fun of it. But that’s the purpose of propaganda: to leave an impression when the details are forgotten.

So what really happened? Irritating cricket sounds produced a kind of dancing mania among US diplomats and the presstitutes sank to the occasion – even though the Cuban evidence was out there – and blamed Russia.

PS. My neighbours often ask me from where I get my news when I tell them something they’ve never heard of. Well not from the Guardian or the NYT or NBC or the others that boomed this fake story: I learned from Moon of Alabama that it was crickets waaaay back in October 2017 when he (a one-man operation who does more reporting than the entire NYT building) beat the NYT by 14 months. You should read him too so you too can get next year’s NYT headlines today.