A MONTH IN THE LIFE OF THE WORLD’S RICHEST MAN

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

Between one hundred billion and one hundred and sixty billion dollars. That’s a lot of moolah. Taking the lower number, that’s a line of thousand dollar bills half way to the Moon. Personal yacht? buy the latest Princess cruise ship, staff it, have it all to yourself forever and still have 99 billion or so to fool around with. A brand new Italian super car every day for ten years wouldn’t make much of a dent. You like to cruise? Reserve the Owner’s suite on every Princess cruise ship and have a private plane standing by 24/7 just in case. Hotels? Buy a couple in your favourite part of the world; permanently rent the Emperor’s Suite in a couple of dozen others. Put yourself into orbit on your private orbiter. Private planes? how about a double-decker Airbus? Only a billion for two. Private Caribbean island? Lots to choose from. Hire a bunch of healthy organ donors and a mobile hospital to follow you around. Anything. Build a new Great Pyramid, it’s chump change out of $100 billion. Endow a university chair to study your life and works. Fill Easter Island with giant statues of yourself. It would be impossible to spend that much in a human lifetime.

This, we are told, is the extent of Putin’s wealth.

In the book, “Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy,” Aslund estimates that through the practice of “crony capitalism,” Putin has amassed a net worth between $100 billion and $160 billion, which would make him richer than the officially wealthiest man in the world, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos.

(Love that “net” – sounds so precise.) Pfeh! says Browder: a measly one hundred – try two hundred billion! Nah! A trivial seventy billion says somebody else. Why not eleventy-seven squintillion? Net.

The origin of the “Putin is fabulously rich” story seems to have been this interview with Stanislav Belkovskiy (certainly he’s used as the source often enough.) Russia is about to collapse, nothing is working properly: agriculture, banking; all failing. But Putin & Co have trousered millions for the day when they will have to get out:

Putin knows that extremely destructive processes are going on that he simply can not control. Therefore, it is important for him to leave the game, as long as the explosion has not yet occurred. There will be no third term for him.

The acuity of this analysis is spoiled a bit by the fact that, twelve years later, Putin and Russia are still there. Belkovskiy turns out to be the cousin of Boris Berezovskiy which gives away his motivation. Boris Berezovskiy, by the way, was the chief anti-Putinist until he begged Putin to be allowed back in. Whereupon he committed suicide. They say.

And where, by the way, does Putin keep all the gelt?

Not a good idea to do it offshore, especially when you consider suggestions like “Why Exposing Putin’s Wealth Would Be Obama’s Best Revenge” or “Why not seize Putin’s assets?” or “US ready to target Russian president’s hidden $40bn stash“. But where inside? A gigantic bag of paper rubles will be worth nothing when Russia crashes. Gold? but gold is heavy and hard to move at the Last Moment. Title deeds? Gazprom shares? Same problem: if he’s squirrelling it away against the day the building collapses, it doesn’t make much sense to keep it in the building, does it?

But these are questions nobody asks.

Remember the Panama Papers? First they were about Putin; then when somebody noticed that the word “Putin” didn’t appear anywhere, they were by Putin. But bubbles keep bubbling. Leaked US diplomatic cables citing opposition sources (opposition sources are the gold standard of reliability, aren’t they?) NYT speculates away: “it [the Obama Administration] is sending a not-very-subtle message that it thinks it knows where the Russian leader has his money“. The Sun hit it out of the park in 2016: “many believe” “claimed” “claimed” “rumoured” “believe he could be” “alleged” “alleged” “said to be” “alleged”. How many tonnes of rumours equal one gram of fact?

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Let’s have a look at how the world’s wealthiest man spent his time in April 2019. English and Russian.

  • Monday 1 April: telephone conversations with three foreign leaders, meeting with a businessman
  • Tuesday 2 April: more phone calls, another businessman, congratulations
  • Wednesday 3 April: visit to a factory, birthday greetings, meeting with a foreign leader and discussions, press statement on same
  • Thursday 4 April: meetings with two foreign leaders, an opening ceremony, condolences
  • Friday 5 April: government committee meeting, more greetings
  • Saturday 6 April: no activity noted
  • Sunday 7 April: greetings and a phone call to a foreign official
  • Monday 8 April: more greetings, talks with foreign officials, press conference on same
  • Tuesday 9 April: greetings, meetings with several foreign leaders, attend international forum
  • Wednesday 10 April: more greetings, meeting with foreign leader, meeting with Russian official, meeting with government committee, church visit
  • Thursday 11 April: greetings, ceremony, government meeting
  • Friday 12 April: congratulations, factory visit, meeting with foreign businessman, gala event
  • Saturday 13 April: quiet day: just greetings to a judo tournament
  • Sunday 14 April: no activity noted.

In the rest of the month, nine government meetings, two phone calls to foreign leaders, eight meetings with foreign leaders or officials, five meetings with Russians, five international talks or forums, two trips inside Russia, three news conferences or interviews, one foreign trip and two ceremonies. Two days off, one of which was Easter when he went to church. And so on; the month before the same and the month after. Month after month.

Fun eh? Where’s the time to play with his yachts, visit his palaces, wind up his watch collection? The man works all the time. What’s the point of being the world’s richest man if you slave away in meeting after meeting, interviews, endless paperwork, strategy sessions, planning meetings, briefing notes, meeting preparations, debriefings? Doesn’t sound like some guy who’s trousered huge sums of money, does it? More like the hard-working president of his country.

But maybe the wealth is more of a concept, really. Navalniy, “Russia’s Last Opposition Hero“, helpfully suggests “The czar of corruption owns everything and nothing“. I guess that means Putin’s wealth is some figure between zero and infinity.

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So, we’re supposed to believe that Putin has used his position to steal vast sums which he can safely hide neither at home nor abroad, sums of which he doesn’t spend a kopek because he’s too busy sending greetings to The Age of Archaeology: Discoveries, Goals, Perspectives International Forum, answering media questions about the latest meeting with the President of Turkey and holding meetings with the Russian Security Council. On his off days, he spends two hours standing in church.

But it’s all a GIGO circle: people with a grudge against Putin (Berezovskiy’s cousin, the inventor of the Magnitskiy fraud, Integrity Initiative trolls) tell the punters what they want to hear. There are lots of folk-tales about smart little guys tricking stupid giants (ATU 328 in fact); the giant, hearing what he wants to hear, believes it. Russia, they imagine, is a sort of mafia project of which Putin is the capo di tutti capi and dips his beak into every deal. After being told what they want to hear by people who want to tell them what they want to hear, they decide that sanctioning the underbosses will make them turn against Putin. And, with Washington’s customary expectation that changing the Boss will change the whole country, they do this. Over and over again.

And they never learn. Years of unbroken failure never seem to teach them anything. The sanctions aren’t working because the assumption is wrong. These are the very same people who promised a quick victory in Afghanistan, a quick victory in Iraq and are now promising a quick victory in Iran; their learning curve is absolutely flat.

As someone observed: the US bench (read NATO and the UK too) on Russia is very shallow. Their intelligence is lousy and their unbroken record of failure should teach them that.

But it doesn’t, they continue and people make money and serve their own ends by encouraging them to do so. Jack tricks the giant and gets a bag of gold. Two million quid in the case of Integrity Jack.

A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR PROTECTING DEMOCRACY AGAINST PUTIN

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation titled “What If Mainstream Media’s Message About Putin Was Delivered in Orwell’s Language?”, picked up by ZeroHedge, SOTT, and others.)

The West is under attack by Putin; he is at war with us and wars demand extreme measures. Putin’s influence is spreading: everywhere he is nibbling away at the foundations of democratic society. He is the dictator of Russia; still evil, still an empire; Russians are genetically driven to co-opt and penetrate and gain favour: it’s who they are and what they do. Russian scum! Putin interferes in referendums and elections all over the democratic world. A world that, for no good reason except his own needs, he calls his enemy. When his bots swung the US election and made his puppet POTUS, the world community began to wake up to the threat. Putin is bent on restoring the USSR and, until he can, he assembles an empire of losers, basket-cases and rogue states. When the weather is cold, we should fear him more. Putin’s whole existence depends on having an enemy and we are that enemy. We must defend against Putin’s threat to democracy; he threatens our democracy because he hates democracy and he fears democracy. We must defend against these multi-faceted, aggressive, unacceptable, bullying, continual and sinister attacks on the Rules-Based International Order which our democracies uphold. (Added to which, he’s short and can’t hide the fact and that makes him a megalomaniac.)

I humbly offer a few proposals so that we can better defend our precious heritage of democracy against his attacks.

  • Putin hates democratic elections and seeks to twist them to his ends. He will interfere in Your Democracy’s elections. If your Ruling Party loses, it’s because Putin wanted it to lose and interfered with the voting: if your Ruling Party loses, Putin wins. Therefore, the “election” must be annulled and the Ruling Party must stay in power. That way Putin loses and we all win.
  • Putin seeks to sow division in Your Democracy. Disagreement with the Ruling Party’s policy helps Putin divide us. Russian bots are ceaselessly trying to sow division; therefore you, as a True Democrat, must resist all attempts to disagree with your Ruling Party. Remember, disagreeing with the Ruling Party is what Putin wants you to do and that means he wins; agreeing with the Ruling Party means we all win and Putin loses.
  • As a corollary, objectively speaking, if you disagree with the Ruling Party, you are agreeing with Putin and he wins. Putin hates what the Ruling Party stands for and you, as a True Democrat, shouldn’t hate what Putin hates. So love the Ruling Party: we all win and Putin loses.
  • Putin and his legions of trolls engage in hybrid warfare an important part of which is the spreading of fake news. Putin and his trolls know that, while full mind control may not be possible or practical, sowing doubt is much easier. The True Democrat will never risk the chance of having his opinions infiltrated and therefore will be careful to read only news that has been first authenticated by responsible news outlets. Reading unauthenticated stories can let Putin into your brain. Keep him out and we all win.
  • Putin uses social media to spread fake news and sow division in Your Democracy. It was one of the most important of his tools in winning the election for his stooge Trump. Putin is subtle – he even uses children’s cartoons and he has weaponised humour – and we must be protected if we don’t want him to win. The True Democrat will encourage efforts to regulate social media by trusted and reliable authorities such as the aptly-named Minister of Democratic Institutions in Canada. If Putin wins, we all lose!
  • Putin needs useful idiots in Your Democracy to further his aims. Therefore the True Democrat will continually examine his thoughts to see whether any doubt or divisions are taking root: Putin wants us all to live in his “paranoid and polarized world“. If you find any division in your mind, Putin has put it there and you should make full confession to the authorities so that the rot may be stopped early and the damage repaired. The True Democrat will monitor his neighbours for signs of infection. Always remember that doubting the Ruling Party is what Putin wants you to do: stop doubting and we all win and Putin loses.
  • Your Democracy’s security services work hard to protect our freedoms against Putin’s attacks. Putin wants us to criticise and impede the work of these brave men and women who put their lives on the line for us. Only Putin is served when these institutions are attacked. Support our brave men and women in all that they do to protect us. In that way we all win and Putin loses.
  • From time to time, although they never start wars, democracies must use military force to end evil in the world. Putin is on the side of evil – he opposes the Rules-Based International Order – and he supports, when he is not actually causing, most of the evil and suffering in the world. As a dictator himself, he invariably sides with dictators who are torturing their populations. Dictators are repugnant to True Democracies and, therefore, they must occasionally take up arms in order to secure peace and order and punish the dictator’s “cruel indifference to the suffering of his people“. True Democrats understand this and support the Ruling Party in its occasional but justified uses of limited force. Objectively speaking, opposing these wars is the same as supporting Putin. True Democrats understand that wars must be fought for the sake of peace so we can all win and Putin can lose.

War against Putin is Peace

Freedom to Question is Slavery to Putin

Ignorance of Putin is Strength

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NOTE: Satire has become impossible these days. No sooner had my piece been published when this appeared: “How to avoid accidentally becoming a Russian agent” by Jennifer Grygiel,  an assistant professor of communications (social media) & magazine at Syracuse University.

American citizens are unwittingly becoming Russian agents. That’s an unavoidable conclusion of Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, and an important problem that requires a change in thinking about how people interact on social media. Old adages like “Don’t talk to strangers” don’t really apply in a hyperconnected world. A more accurate replacement is perhaps even more worrying, though: “If you talk to strangers online, assume they are spies until proven otherwise.”

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME AFTER MUELLER

First published at Strategic Culture Foundation, picked up by ZeroHedge, Russophile, Southfront

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.

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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.

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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