THE MAYBE BASKET (AWAITING FURTHER DATA)

Maybe the Russians did fool around with NATO GPS reception in the recent exercise.

Maybe Russians do fool around with AEGIS ships and cause them to be run into by big slow commercial ships or jam their systems so they can’t see Russian planes.

(Stuck in the back of my head is a Russian guy who knew about these things telling me that, back in The Day, the Sovs had looked at their weak points and NATO’s strong points and directed their efforts accordingly. And that Russia has inherited the tendency and the results).

The Russians know that without GPS most of USA/NATO’s ground or air wouldn’t work and without AEGIS their surface navies would just be targets.

On the other hand, maybe USA/NATO forces aren’t as good as they think they are. (I well remember how bad the US Army was on NATO exercises in Germany in the 1980s).

Two thoughts to think about.

Me? I don’t know. I put all this stuff in the Maybe (awaiting further data) Basket.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 22 NOVEMBER 2018

VICTORY! I’ve been waiting a decade for Washington to explain that the Ossetia war was actually a triumph for it. And here it is at last. American efforts resulted in “the Russians withdrawing to their start positions.” Well, they never intended to occupy Georgia. The same official then creatively blames Assad for “producing” ISIS. A complete echo chamber of delusion.

SANCTIONS. Bloomberg calculates that the Russian economy is about 10% smaller than it forecasted it would be in 2013. It reckons that about six percentage points of the decrease are due to Western sanctions and the rest to other factors. In short, sanctions have hurt but not as much as all that. I have long believed that this is transitory pain which will pay off later. For example, the increase in Russian food production has been remarkable. It would be interesting to see Bloomberg do an estimate for the cost to the EU: plenty of estimates out there, some as high as €100 billion. The point is that Russia wasn’t such a big market for the EU, but it was one of the few that was growing.

CORRUPTION. We are told that 300 police officers have been fired this year after complaints from citizens. There were 45,000 complaints. VTsIOM reports that trust in the police has dropped ten points since last year’s all-time high of 67%. Better than the old days when trust was under 50%; so, more work to be done, but work is being done. Corruption is a tricky subject, often treated too simply, I believe.

DIPLOMACY. Russia is trying to fix Libya and Afghanistan. I think it’s time to start contemplating the thought that Moscow might have some soft power.

WAR. A recent report comes as close as we will ever see to an admission that the USA would lose a war with either Russian or China on their home turf. This comes on the heels of a report showing that a large number of key defence components manufacturers are not secure and an earlier one that said many US weapons systems are vulnerable to hacking. These are consequences of endless wars in MENA, twenty years of poking Russia and China and unilateralism. Surely the rational conclusion would be that Washington should start rethinking things from the bottom up. Nope, more of the same is the answer: “The report also called for an expansion of the current $716 billion defense budget.”

THE LATEST. “GPS glitches during NATO’s largest war games in decades blamed on (DRUM ROLL) Russia“. Maybe. Russia is preparing for a war and, without GPS, NATO ground and air forces would be pretty helpless. So maybe a teeny tiny test to see if jammers worked. On the other hand, excuses are cheap and the exercise was not a very happy experience for Norway.

WESTERN VALUES™. Over the years I have grown drearily accustomed to human rights organisations being co-opted – weaponised is the fashionable word – by the Western war party (MSF, Pussy Riot and the rest) and have pretty well given up on them. But, a ray of light appears. Amnesty International is active in reporting the destruction of Raqqa by the US coalition. It is starting a project to record the destruction: what they have collected so far on “the most destroyed city in modern times” is at strike-tracker. So the next time the White Helmets or Bellingcat tells you of some Russian atrocity, remember that it would be impossible to be more indiscriminately destructive than US/NATO “targeted actions“.

US ELECTIONS. Did Putin fix them? If so how? Why did he want Trump’s party to lose the House? If he didn’t, why didn’t he? I look forward to the NYT explaining how this fits into Operation Infektion.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Masha and the Bear. “Putin’s tanks are hidden in Masha’s backpack“. DM readers treat this with the scorn it deserves. A friend suggested setting up a mock conference to make deadpan over-the-top claims to ridicule Russophobia. I don’t think you can ridicule people who believe in Masha’s armoured backpack and Medvedev’s pillow carrier.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Some more straws in the wind. Madrid has allowed 3 Russian warships to resupply at Cueta, the first time in 3 years. A minister says Paris will lead EU efforts to create a payment mechanism to keep trade with Iran. And TurkStream marks another milestone.

UKRAINE. Remember when Ukrainian nazis were just Putin propaganda? US News, Daily Beast, AIM, Fox, and plenty more assured us (BBC here) that reports of nazis in Ukraine were only troll factory output. Now, for some reason, the Western media is noticing: New Republic, CBS, AP, Max Blumenthal. Even the US propaganda outlet RFE/RL tells us: “Azov, Ukraine’s Most Prominent Ultranationalist Group, Sets Its Sights On U.S., Europe.” And chickens are arriving home as this Criminal Complaint shows. Why they notice today what was perfectly obvious then, I cannot tell you.

NOTE. Alexander Mercouris has referred me to his discussion of the Bloomberg report. He argues, very convincingly, that the report doesn’t actually make sense when you look at it carefully, that Russia has very effectively responded to Western sanctions and that it is a very strong position to withstand further sanctions. He sees the report as part of a propaganda effort to gather support for more sanctions on the grounds that sanctions are working and that another push will gain the desired result. It’s reinforcing failure along the lines of Einstein’s alleged definition of insanity.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

REALLY STUPID THINGS SAID ABOUT RUSSIA

For example, in Georgia in 2008, without using American military forces on the ground, we used a whole set of – a whole smorgasbord of tools, international tools with Sarkozy, the president of France at the time, leading the international diplomatic effort, sanctions and other actions that eventually saw the Russians withdrawing to their start positions at the beginning of that conflict in Georgia. So that’s an example of how you can do it.

Briefing by James F. Jeffrey, (US) Special Representative for Syria Engagement, 14 November 2018

I’ve been waiting for Washington to claim it pushed Russia out of Georgia and now here it is. The Russians never had any intention of staying and that’s a big difference between the Russia way of war and the American: the Russians know that there are only certain things you can do with violence; the Americans still haven’t figured that out.

PSYCHOANALYSING NATO: CONFIRMATION BIAS

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation)

(Earlier parts of this intermittent series discussed NATO’s projection and gaslighting.)

Psychology Today defines confirmation bias as:

Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it. Confirmation bias suggests that we don’t perceive circumstances objectively. We pick out those bits of data that make us feel good because they confirm our prejudices. Thus, we may become prisoners of our assumptions.

Or, closer to the topic of this essay:

Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are — but this is just wrong.

This quotation is from an interview of George Kennan by Thomas Friedman published in the New York Times twenty years ago. He was speaking about what was then called “NATO expansion” (later changed to the more anodyne – and deceptive – phrase “NATO enlargement”. (I as a civil servant in the Canadian Department of National Defence used to amuse myself by seeing if I could sneak the forbidden “expansion” – an altogether more honest word – into briefing notes for the Higher Ups. As I recall, I got away with it about half the time. A trivial pleasure in the evolving disaster.)

But back to Kennan, Mr X, the author of the Long Telegram, the founder of “containment“, the man who actually lived long enough to see his recommendations, not only followed, but successful. He was right: in the long term, the Soviet system was not sustainable; it was, as Russian President Putin said: “a road to a blind alley“.

I think [NATO expansion] is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else…. We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way. It was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs… Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime. And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.

The man who got it right in 1947 also got it right in 1998.

a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you

Could there be a better illustration of the truth of Kennan’s percipience than this headline from the New York Times in July 2017: “Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression“? The chutzpah of the headline is hard to swallow: Russia hasn’t moved anywhere. “The troops are conducting military maneuvers known as Zapad, Russian for ‘west,’ in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.” Belarus is an ally of Russia, Russia has a Baltic coastline of more than 400 kilometres, Kaliningrad is part of Russia. So what exactly is the reason what Russia can’t do whatever military things it wants to at home? Imagine the reaction if Moscow dared question an American military exercise in the USA. But this reversal of truth is now the propagandistic norm: New photos show Russia’s building up its military on NATO’s doorstep, but the alliance says it won’t be intimidated” and “Russia Building Up Military on NATO’s Borders” in October 2018 (just before a large NATO exercise that actually is on Russia’s border). NATO idiotically assures us that Russian notions that NATO is encircling Russia “ignores geography” because of Russia’s 20 thousand kilometre border NATO touches only a teeny weeny bit. Well, if it can add Finland, Ukraine and Georgia, it will be a bit more. But I doubt any Russian has said “encircling”. Russians know there’s no NATO in Asia but they do see NATO moving its doorstep towards it. These are perfect examples of the confirmation bias that Kennan predicted: the NATO expanders are telling us that Russia’s actions inside its unchanged borders are exactly why we had to expand NATO’s borders. Russia’s reaction to NATO’s expansion enlargement justifies NATO’s enlargement expansion.

Here’s NATO patting itself on the back: NATO enlargement has contributed to spreading democracy, security and stability further across Europe.” NATO’s official enumeration of its sad relations with Russia and Moscow’s many unfounded accusations and inexplicable failure to accept the simple declaration that this military alliance advancing every closer to Russiadoes not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia” may be found here. Parenthetically it is interesting that the specific accusations made against Russia in this apologia, which we are to believe sadly made NATO take other steps, are Crimea and Ukraine which greatly postdate NATO expansion. How clever of the expanders in the 1990s to foresee Russia’s actions in Ukraine nearly two decades later! Another clear case of confirmation bias.

This sort of thing goes on all the time. From the Washington Post in November 2016, a reliable mouthpiece of the US war party, “Russian warplanes keep buzzing the Baltics. Here’s how NATO scrambles.

A Russian fighter jet flew dangerously close to a U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft on Thursday in the latest military provocation by Moscow over the Baltic Sea, the U.S. European Command said Saturday.

Russian War Planes Threaten a US Navy Ship in International Waters” (Note the video reconstruction and see if you think it’s an accurate representation of what the actual video shows.) “Russia defends sending warships through English Channel”. Russia’s Existential Threat to NATO in the Baltics is a perfect fulfilment of Kennan’s observation “We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way”. And because we can’t defend them, the very existence of NATO is threatened.

I will agree that there are a few cooler heads around:

Gen. Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told reporters he and his NATO counterparts have not seen obvious offensive acts from Russian aircraft or troops.

but they seem to be without much effect in the prevailing weather of Russia Threatens Massive Military Buildup to Counter US, NATO, Vladimir Putin’s nuclear warships pictured steaming towards the English Channel as Royal Navy prepares to scramble fleet, Latvia faces hybrid threat as EU, NATO boost defenses and many more.

The same confirmation bias can be found on the other side of the world in which we are ceaselessly told that China provokes US Navy ships peacefully exercising their free passage in international waters. This can stand for the numerous examples:

At approximately 0830 local time on September 30, a PRC LUYANG destroyer approached USS DECATUR in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea.

Imagine the reaction in Washington if Chinese warships patrolled the Gulf of Mexico “to ensure freedom of navigation“! The USN patrols to ensure the safe passage of goods to and from China in the South China Sea; Beijing reacts; proof that more patrols are necessary and justified.

So, after two decades of NATO’s expanding its doorstep to the edge of Russia, after years of the USN doorstep moving closer to China, where are we in terms of the stability that NATO expansion is supposed to have brought us? At least two wars – in Ossetia in 2008 and eastern Ukraine starting in 2014 – are consequences of NATO expansion. But, more to the point, we have two announcements, not, I suspect, by coincidence made a few hours apart.

25 October 2018, China

The Southern Theatre Command has had to bear a “heavy military responsibility” in recent years, state broadcaster CCTV quoted him as saying during an inspection tour made on Thursday as part of his visit to Guangdong province. “It’s necessary to strengthen the mission … and concentrate preparations for fighting a war,” Xi said. “We need to take all complex situations into consideration and make emergency plans accordingly. “We have to step up combat readiness exercises, joint exercises and confrontational exercises to enhance servicemen’s capabilities and preparation for war.”

26 October 2018, Russia

Speaking at the UN on Friday, Andrey Belousov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control, echoed Putin’s comments from last week that Russia is indeed readying itself for war, but only so it can defend its people against American aggression. “At a recent meeting, the US stated that Russia is preparing for war. Yes, Russia is preparing for war, I can confirm it”, Belousov said adding that “We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people.”

No stability, no security. And still the expanders blame Russia and China for responding to what they gratuitously began.

The last words go to George Kennan

There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else… This has been my life, and it pains me to see it so screwed up in the end.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 8 NOVEMBER 2018

US ELECTION. The chance of war has gone up a bit: the House investigation into the conspiracy will stop (unless Nunes can do anything in the next two months) and go into reverse. Any move Trump makes towards improving relations with Russia will be met by the House shrieking he’s a Putin puppet: the new people in charge there are too heavily invested in the Russia story to stop now. The US political system will be seized up – lots and lots of investigations. Threats and counter threats. Not such a bad thing for the rest of us if the US system turns into a cannibal banquet but further ratcheting up the anti-Russia hysteria is not so good (top priority says Schiff). (A Chinese view of increased danger).

COINCIDENCE? 25 October 2018, China: “concentrate preparations for fighting a war”. 26 October 2018, Russia: “Yes, Russia is preparing for war”. They hear what’s said; they see what’s happening in their neighbourhoods. They draw conclusions and take steps.

TODAY’S THOUGHT. “In light of this very low level of military competence, maybe wars are not our best choice of hobby.

THE MOTHERLAND CALLS. A Russian diplomat says Russian exiles are returning. I can believe it: they moved West for security or better money; as Russophobia intensifies (see below) it’s not safer and maybe the money’s not so good after all. I expect to see a steady trickle of returnees.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. “Half of the Russians in London are spies, claims new report“. (But why not all of them? They’re Russians, after all, and should shut up and go away.) That’s 75 thousand Russian spies. Wow! And the report says there are only 200 case officers to handle them. But that’s nothing for Putin’s superhuman minions: they threw the US election with 80K FB posts buried among 33 trillion posts (that’s about half a billion others to every “Russian” post). They control time: they arrived in Gatwick at 1500 on a flight scheduled to arrive at 1545 that actually arrived at 1558. (Gotta be pretty stupid or inattentive to swallow this nonsense.)

SWIFT. Is a network linking banks around the world enabling transactions to move around easily and securely. US-dominated, it was used because it worked. But once Washington turned it into a weapon against Iran in 2012 (and again just now), it stopped being so convenient. It’s not fantastically complicated to replicate, SWIFT was used because it was expedient. But, if you’re on Washington’s hitlist, or fear you may be, it’s not so attractive. So Moscow, which is on the hitlist, has developed its own system and is linking other countries to it. It’s the same thing with the “petrodollar“: useful until Washington weaponised it; then time to find an alternative. And, when you must, you will: Delhi will pay for its S400s in rubles; Iran has turned off transponders on its tankers; Hungary upped its gold reserves (and so did Russia – now 17% of FOREX). The SWIFT story is an interesting demonstration of the fact that, sometimes, using it can mean losing it.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Macron calls for real European armed forces and Europe continues to be rebellious about Washington’s stance on Iran (new sanctions imposed – but with waivers to its oil customers. But not for the EU). Ah well, talk is cheap – especially in the EU – and there are formidable problems creating a European army – a new report shows the stunning incapacity of the German forces. They would have to completely rethink the Russia relationship then find the mountains of money to build up their forces, support elements and supply chains. Today Europe relies on the US to provide all these things. The US military, in its turn, as a new report shows, depends on foreign suppliers or a single struggling domestic manufacturer for several hundred key inputs… (NATO should meditate on being a little less demanding, don’t you think?) But the Istanbul meeting did show a refreshing independence from Paris and Berlin. It’s rather like the SWIFT story: they went along with the USA because it was easy and it worked well enough. But it’s no longer easy and it doesn’t work so well.

SYRIA. While the Russia-Turkey-France-Germany meeting on Syria in Istanbul did not settle all issues, or maybe even any issue, it was momentous because of no USA and the end of the “Assad must go” magical spell. Moscow continues to give us lessons on how to blend military power with diplomatic skill. Meanwhile, in Syria, demonstrating the opposite, we see US-backed forces fighting Turkey. As I wrote three years ago, it’s not hard to see why Moscow runs rings around Washington here and elsewhere. The midterms will probably put Washington back to недоговороспособность: no agreement possible either because it can’t make one or won’t keep it.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

AMERICAN WAR DECLARATION

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation; picked up by JRL/2018/193/25)

 

Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the US State Department, gave a remarkable presentation to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 21 August 2018. Titled “U.S. Strategy Towards the Russian Federation” it ostensibly lays out the US reaction to Russia’s continuing aggression, hostility, interference and so forth. It is written in the tone of a sadder but wiser householder who, formerly expecting better from his neighbour, now realises that there will be no better: the neighbour, alas, is not capable of decent behaviour. While remaining ever hopeful that reason will prevail, the peaceful neighbour must gird himself for an unpleasant struggle – Washington must respond to Moscow’s disruption. How sad.

But in all of these areas, it is up to Russia, not America, to take the next step. Our policy remains unchanged: steady cost-imposition until Russia changes course.

But, in an interesting slip of the tongue, he gave away the real policy. I say “slip of the tongue” because the State Department version of his speech leaves out the two sentences that tell you that most of Mitchell’s testimony is sleight of hand to distract the audience.

Senate testimony version

The starting point of the National Security Strategy is the recognition that America has entered a period of big-power competition, and that past U.S. policies have neither sufficiently grasped the scope of this emerging trend nor adequately equipped our nation to succeed in it. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest U.S. primacy and leadership in the 21st Century. It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.

The State Department version leaves out the two emphasised sentences.

So, Mitchell – who ought to know – is telling us that a “foremost [but there can be only one foremost] national security interest” of the USA is to

prevent the

domination of

the Eurasian landmass by

Russia and China

In 1904 Halford Mackinder wrote a paper in which he divided the world into “the World-Island” (Europe, Asia and Africa); the “Offshore islands” (British Isles, Japan and others), and “the Outlying Islands” (the Americas and Australia) and discussed the geopolitical implications. In 1919 he summed his theory up as:

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;

who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;

who rules the World-Island commands the world.

In Mitchell’s presentation, the principal “Outlying Island” and its allies in the “Offshore Islands” must prevent Russia and China from controlling the “Heartland”. Echoed by George Friedman’s remarks that the essence of US policy for a century or more was to prevent Germany and Russia from uniting.

Now Americans have always been a bit uncomfortable about their imperium. Going so far sometimes as to deny that there is any such thing. Perhaps a hegemony but only an empire if President Bush makes the wrong decisions (which I suppose the author would say he did). Niall Ferguson says it’s an “empire in denial“. Friedman seems prepared to use the word. A “tempered American imperialism” maybe. Not an empire; yes it is but it’s a good empire. And so on: there’s as much or as little debate as you want but the central reality is that Americans are not comfortable with the idea of being an imperial power. Not so the Romans: they gloried in it; Rome had the power and it used it. Cato the Elder was delighted with the death and enslavement of the Carthaginians. Caesar claimed to have killed a million Gauls and enslaved a million more and there’s nothing to suggest he lost a moment’s sleep over it. Vae victis.

What Mitchell would be saying, if he were a Roman, is that we intend to remain the world’s predominant power and if Russia is an obstacle, we will crush it. That’s the way of the world and that’s what we’ll do. And China and Iran and anyone else. But he’s an American so he must pretend that the USA is the peaceful householder and Russia is the troublesome neighbour; he must tell the Senate committee, and it so expects, that Moscow has broken the peace and deserves punishment.

The specific charges he makes against Russia are nonsense.

In Ukraine, we have maintained an effort under Ambassador Kurt Volker to provide the means by which Russia can live up to its commitments under the Minsk Agreements.

The word “Russia” doesn’t even appear in the Minsk Agreements; there are no “commitments”.

unprecedentedly brazen influence operations orchestrated by the Kremlin on the soil of our allies and even here at home in the United States

A few Facebook ads, most of which appeared after the election and only “Russian” by assertion. Even at the most generous interpretation of “Russian-influenced”, it’s a negligible number of possibles. And, as I have argued elsewhere, had Moscow wanted to influence the election it would have used the Uranium One case to either blackmail or smear Clinton.

Putin wants to break apart the American Republic, not by influencing an election or two, but by systematically inflaming the perceived fault-lines that exist within our society. His is a strategy of chaos for strategic effect.

I suppose that the “factual basis” for that is that some American who wants to break California into two parts lives part time in Moscow and a Russian professor thought that the USA would break up into a number of pieces. So what? there are lots of opinions around, who cares what some academic says or thinks? Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was a lot closer to power than these Russians, thought that a “loosely confederated Russia” of three parts would be a good idea. And Stratfor’s Friedman thinks Russia will break up soon. But when a senior US official says that “Putin wants to break apart the American Republic”, that’s existential; that’s a pretty serious charge. Is it a nuclear war kind of charge?

the Putinist system’s permanent and self-justifying struggle for international dominance.

(But didn’t Mitchell say something about preventing the “domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers”? Wouldn’t his Russian equivalent be able to point to his speech and talk about how Russia must resist Washington’s “permanent and self-justifying struggle for international dominance”?). It’s not Moscow that has 800 or so military bases around the world; Moscow isn’t expanding its military alliance to the US border. Projection.

There’s lots of projection in Washington’s and its minions’ assertions about Russia. As far as official Washington is concerned, Moscow’s resistance to the Imperium can only mean that it wants to crush the US, break it up, incite civil war and impose its imperium on the world. (Romans would agree: either Rome eats, or Rome is eaten.) If you look in a mirror you see yourself. Projection again.

Doing so involves an evolved toolkit of subversive statecraft first employed by the Bolshevik and later the Soviet state, which has been upgraded for the digital age. While these tools and technologies differ depending on the context, the key to their success is that the Kremlin employs them within a common strategic and operational framework aimed at leveraging all available means to achieve a decisive strategic effect.

Bolsheviks, Putinists whatever: Russia, the Once and Future Enemy. I think my favourite part – what adjective? – deluded? crazy? insane? McCartheyesque? is this bit:

we formed a new position – the Senior Advisor for Russian Malign Activities and Trends (or, SARMAT) – to develop cross-regional strategies across offices.

SARMAT – a Russian ICBM named after the Sarmatians, who may have been the origin of the Arthurian legends. Is this a joke? But who can tell these days? But one can be certain that the office will grow and grow as it busily finds evidence of Russian involvement everywhere: Star Wars, organic food, guns, Mueller, vaxx; whatever brings in the salaries and promotions. (But a rather unimaginative name though: why not SPecial Executive for Countering Terrorist Russian Excesses? Or Special Ministry for Engaging Russian Sabotage and Horrors?)

Pretty crazy stuff indeed – frighteningly so – but, thanks to Mitchell giving away the secret, we don’t have to waste our time debating Russia and Ukraine or how cute puppies “sow discord and chaos“. They’re only shoved in because Americans have to be the white hats – “Moscow is attacking us!” – when a Cato would bluntly say: “Moscow must be destroyed!” But it’s the same thing: it’s a Mackinder war. So far with sanctions (the economic fundament) and propaganda accusations (the political fundament). The military fundament fortunately remains offstage.

***********************

But Mitchell is late to the party. Moscow and Beijing know they’re on the hitlist and their alliance grows and strengthens. Iran, a significant player on the “World-Island” knows it’s on the hitlist too. India is playing both sides. The endless American wars in the MENA do not strengthen Washington’s control of the “Eurasian landmass”. CAATSA will alienate everyone else. Even Zbigniew Brzezinski came to understand “[the US was] no longer the globally imperial power“.

I would argue that the American dominance of the Twentieth Century was principally due to four factors. A tremendous manufacturing capacity; great inventive ingenuity allied to the ability to exploit new inventions; a stable political system; the emotive reality of “the American Dream”. How much remains? A recent government report summarises the outsourcing of manufacturing. Is the inventive capacity more than just social media, pop music or a different iPhone button? Political stability wobbles. And as to the American Dream: will your children be better off than you are? One should not forget that Trump was elected on the slogan “Make America Great Again“.

Perhaps the Mackinder War has already been won by the “Heartland” powers.

********************************

Statement of A. Wess Mitchell

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Senate Foreign Relations Committee

U.S. Strategy Towards the Russian Federation

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Menendez, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I will use my prepared comments to outline in brief form the overarching strategy of the United States towards the Russian Federation. The foundation for this strategy is provided by three documents, as directed and approved by the President: the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy and the Russia Integrated Strategy.

The starting point of the National Security Strategy is the recognition that America has entered a period of big-power competition, and that past U.S. policies have neither sufficiently grasped the scope of this emerging trend nor adequately equipped our nation to succeed in it. Contrary to the hopeful assumptions of previous administrations, Russia and China are serious competitors that are building up the material and ideological wherewithal to contest U.S. primacy and leadership in the 21st Century. It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.

Our Russia policy proceeds from the recognition that, to be effective, U.S. diplomacy toward Russia must be backed by “military power that is second to none and fully integrated with our allies and all of our instruments of power.” To this end, the administration has reversed years of cuts to the U.S. defense budget, begun the process of

recapitalizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, requested close to $11 billion to support the European Deterrence Initiative, and, in the past year and a half, worked with NATO Allies to bring about the largest European defense spending increase since the Cold War – a total of more than $40 billion to date. In addition to commitments from over half of the Alliance to meet NATO’s two-percent defense spending requirement by 2024, the United States achieved virtually all of our policy objectives at the NATO Summit, including the establishment of two new NATO Commands (including one here in the United States), the establishment of new counter-hybrid threat response teams, and major, multi-year initiatives to bolster the mobility, readiness, and capability of the Alliance.

In tandem, we have worked to degrade Russia’s ability to conduct aggression by imposing costs on the Russian state and the oligarchy that sustains it. Building on Secretary Pompeo’s recent testimony, I am submitting for the record a detailed list of actions this administration has taken. These include, to date: 217 individuals and entities sanctioned, 6 diplomatic and consular facilities closed or kept closed, and 60 spies removed from U.S. soil. The State Department has played the lead role in ensuring that these efforts are closely and effectively coordinated with European allies through synchronized expulsions and the continued roll-over of sanctions related to Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

Our actions are having an impact. Research by the State Department’s Office of the Chief Economist shows that on average sanctioned Russian firms see their operating revenue fall by a quarter; their total asset valuation fall by half; and are forced to fire a third of their employees. We believe our sanctions, cumulatively, have cost the Russian government tens of billions of dollars on top of the broader impact on state-owned sectors and the chilling effect of U.S. sanctions on the Russian economy. Following the announcement of sanctions in April, the Russian company Rusal lost about fifty percent of its market value. In the five days following our August 8 announcement of Chemical and

Biological Weapons Act sanctions, the ruble depreciated to its lowest level against the dollar in two years.

Even as we have imposed unprecedented penalties for Russian aggression, we have been clear that the door to dialogue is open, should Putin choose to take credible steps toward a constructive path. In Syria, we created de-escalation channels to avoid collisions between our forces. In Ukraine, we have maintained an effort under Ambassador Kurt Volker to provide the means by which Russia can live up to its commitments under the Minsk Agreements. But in all of these areas, it is up to Russia, not America, to take the next step. Our policy remains unchanged: steady cost-imposition until Russia changes course.

As with the overall strategy, the premise of these efforts has been that our diplomacy is most effective when backed by positions of strength. We have placed particular emphasis on bolstering the states of frontline Europe that are most susceptible to Russian geopolitical pressure. In Ukraine and Georgia, we lifted the previous administration’s restrictions on the acquisition of defensive weapons for resisting Russian territorial aggression. In the Balkans, American diplomacy has played a lead role in resolving the Greece-Macedonia name dispute and is engaging with Serbia and Kosovo to propel the EU-led dialogue. In the Caucasus, Black Sea region, and Central Europe we are working to close the vacuums that invite Russian penetration by promoting energy diversification, fighting corruption, and competing for hearts and minds in the lead-up to the 30th anniversary of the end of Communism.

Our strategy is animated by the realization that the threat from Russia has evolved beyond being simply an external or military one; it includes unprecedentedly brazen influence operations orchestrated by the Kremlin on the soil of our allies and even here at home in the United States. These activities are, as FBI Director Wray recently stated, “wide and deep,” being both extensively resourced and directed from the highest levels of the Russian state. We work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and, and

the National Security Council to ensure that all relevant resources are being brought to bear to thwart and punish any Russian influence campaigns in the run-up to the elections.

It’s important to state clearly what these campaigns are and are not about.

What they’re not about is any particular attachment to specific U.S. domestic political causes. They are not about right or left or American political philosophy. The threat from Russian influence operations existed long before our 2016 presidential election and will continue long after this election cycle, or the next, or the next. As the recent Facebook purges reveal, the Russian state has promoted fringe voices on the political left, not just the right, including groups who advocate violence, the storming of federal buildings and the overthrow of the U.S. government. Russia foments and funds controversial causes – and then foments and funds the causes opposed to those causes. Putin’s thesis is that the American Constitution is an experiment that will fail if challenged in the right way from within. Putin wants to break apart the American Republic, not by influencing an election or two, but by systematically inflaming the perceived fault-lines that exist within our society. His is a strategy of chaos for strategic effect. Accepting this fact is absolutely essential for developing a long-term comprehensive response to the problem. The most dangerous thing we could do is to politicize the challenge, which in itself would be a gift to Putin.

What Russian efforts are about is geopolitics: the Putinist system’s permanent and self-justifying struggle for international dominance. As stated by a handbook of the Russian Armed Forces, the goal is “to carry out mass psychological campaigns against the population of a state in order to destabilize society and the government; as well as forcing a state to make decisions in the interests of their opponents.” Doing so involves an evolved toolkit of subversive statecraft first employed by the Bolshevik and later the Soviet state, which has been upgraded for the digital age. While these tools and technologies differ depending on the

context, the key to their success is that the Kremlin employs them within a common strategic and operational framework aimed at leveraging all available means to achieve a decisive strategic effect.

The State Department takes this threat very seriously. From my first day on the job, I have established for our team that countering this threat, in both its overt and covert forms, will be among the highest priorities for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. As a co-chair of the Russia Influence Group, I work with General Scapparotti to bring the combined resources of EUR and EUCOM to bear against this problem. Under EUR’s leadership, all 50 U.S. missions located in Europe and Eurasia are required to develop, coordinate and execute tailored action plans for rebuffing Russian influence operations in their host countries.

Within the Bureau, we recruited one of the architects of the Global Engagement Center legislation from the staff of a member of this committee; in addition, we formed a new position – the Senior Advisor for Russian Malign Activities and Trends (or, SARMAT) – to develop cross-regional strategies across offices. Early this year, EUR created a dedicated team within the Bureau to take the offensive and publicly expose Russian malign activities, which since January of this year has called out the Kremlin on 112 occasions. Together with the GEC, EUR is now working with our close ally the UK to form an international coalition for coordinating efforts in this field. The State Department requested over $380 million in security and economic assistance accounts in the President’s 2019 Budget for Europe and Eurasia that can be allocated toward combatting Russian malign influence.

In these efforts, we recognize that Congress has an important role to play in providing the tools and resources that will be needed to deal effectively with the combined Russian problem set. As Secretary Pompeo made clear in his recent testimony, we are committed to working with all of you to make headway against this problem and align our efforts in support of the President’s Russia strategy.

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for inviting me to speak today. I welcome your questions.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 25 OCTOBER 2018

CHURCH DISPUTE. I dreaded having to write something because I really don’t know enough. But US Secretary of State Pompeo has saved me much study by proving that those who see the hand of Washington are correct to do so: “We urge Church and government officials to actively promote these values in connection with the move towards the establishment of an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.” Who knew an avowedly secular state like the USA felt competent to make rulings on such esoterica as ethnophyletism or autocephaly? You’ve heard Official Washington’s opinion (swiftly retransmitted by your local news outlet), here are others: one, two, three, four, five. Their argument is that Constantinople has arrogated too much to himself and Orthodoxy will split; Washington & Co talk of “freedom” (but don’t show much understanding of who’s who). This further excuse for violence will increase the misery of Ukraine. (And, ironically, the dominant church in western Ukraine, the home of the Ukrainian nationalism that’s driving things, has nothing to do with this: it’s under Rome.)

NUCLEAR DOCTRINE. At Valdai, Putin made a statement on Russia’s nuclear doctrine. No change, but with a twist that caught people’s attention: “Our concept is based on a reciprocal counter strike… any aggressor should know that retaliation is inevitable and they will be annihilated.” The attention-catching part was “And we as the victims of an aggression, we as martyrs would go to paradise while they will simply perish because they won’t even have time to repent their sins”. Don’t forget that American spokesmen have made some stupidly aggressive statements lately.

DRONE ATTACK. The Russian MoD says a US aircraft coordinated the January drone attack on their Syrian bases.

EXPLOSION. There was an explosion and shooting at the Kerch Polytechnic College in Crimea and a number of people were killed. It is said to have been done by one student who then killed himself.

RUSSIA INC. Russia has climbed two places the World Economic Forum ranking to 43 of 140. Current account surplus predicted.

AGRICULTURE. One of the most surprising developments to me, who remembers farms in the 1990s, has been Russia’s agricultural turnaround. This five-minute report gives an introduction.

STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION. Let me put in a plug for this site. It has now acquired quite a stable of writers (myself included) and is a good place to get alternative views to those repeated by the drearily monotonic Western outlets. There may be Russian government money behind it but my bet is that the government’s effort is still in RT (see below). My guess (and another author’s) is that it’s bankrolled by a rich Russian who’s tired of the endless anti-Russia coverage. I have never had anything I have written changed or censored. I recommend you bookmark it.

WESTERN VALUES™. Enjoying the irony, RT introduces New Samizdat to bring you the news that the ZapGlavLit (if I may coin a neologism) hides.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Watch it. Adam Schiff, senior Democrat on House Intelligence Committee.

NATO EXERCISE. NATO bravely shows it won’t be intimidated by Russia’s building up its military on its doorstep by holding an exercise on said doorstep. “NATO is a defensive Alliance… committed to defense and deterrence.” A defensive alliance with a moving doorstep.

INF TREATY. Trump talks of pulling the US out. Is this the loud prelude to re-negotiation that we saw him do with Korea and NAFTA? Or is he clearing the battlespace for the expected damp squib from Mueller or a blue dribble? Tune in in mid-November.

NEW NWO. “The Perfect Storm Bringing China And Russia Together“.

OOPS. Apparently many US weapons are very vulnerable to cyberattacks. Stories of cruise missile attacks, USS Donald Cook, destroyers rammed by container ships make you wonder, don’t they?

UKRAINE. Entrepreneurs of political violence: the varied interests and strategies of the far-right in Ukraine” In Open Democracy no less. Bit by bit the word is seeping out. IMF rates Ukraine the poorest country in Europe. This piece gives a summary of its problems with Hungary, Poland and Belarus.

GEORGIA. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office says it has a recording that proves Saakashvili sanctioned the murder of Patarkatsishvili. (English) (Georgian) (At the time some UK outlets blamed Putin but when they discovered he was Saakashvili’s enemy they quickly shut up.)

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

TWO WAYS TO APPROACH MOSCOW

(I wrote this under a pseudonym four years ago today. Another reminder of the present mess.)

Apparently the Soviets were really concerned about Ronald Reagan; I guess they believed the propaganda that the liberal US media put out about low intelligence, fanatic anti-Soviet stance, ignorance and all round crazy unreliability. In fact Reagan was quite different and maintained at least one alternate source of information as Suzanne Massie retails in this fascinating memoir. She acted as a confidante, teacher and emissary and had many meetings with him. He wanted a different view of the USSR than he got from his advisors and she gave it to him.

Of course, I knew nothing of this at the time; I sensed relations were tense but, at my low level, I wasn’t aware of how dangerous it actually was in the early 1980s. Fortunately we were in touch with a Soviet undercover agent – Oleg Gordiyevskiy – who told us how worried and nervous the Soviets were. The story that I heard later was that the Soviets feared that a planned NATO exercise around this time might be a cover for the real thing – a surprise nuclear attack (remember the Western liberal press was saying Reagan was crazy enough to nuke ‘em). I already knew that, for the Soviet war doctrine, surprise was so important an advantage, that it could not be permitted. In short, if they really thought that we were about to strike them, they would face enormous pressure to make a pre-emptive strike. When all this was understood, the exercise was greatly scaled down so as to assuage the Soviet fears. In those days Reagan and other Western leaders understood that Moscow’s point of view was important.

Going back to Massie’s memoir, “So what was different about President Reagan’s approach and what is its relevance to today? From the beginning Reagan, who was always an extremely courteous man, treated Gorbachev with respect – as an equal. He did not scold him as if he were a bad child who didn’t do his homework – but as partner with whom one could talk and work out problems.”

Let’s compare this with President Obama’s approach as revealed in his interview with The Economist last month. “We had a very productive relationship with President Medvedev. We got a lot of things done that we needed to get done.” It’s clear who the first “we” is, who’s the second? Probably the same as the first: ie Washington. Doesn’t it sound as if Obama is saying that, at long as Washington got its way, relations were good? Then there’s “But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything…” Doesn’t that sound like he’s saying that Russia isn’t important enough to bother taking its point of view into account?

Quite a different approach, isn’t it? From Reagan’s respect and mutual effort to casual dismissal.

No wonder Washington’s policies are failing across the board and a Gallup poll finds the USA heads the world’s choice as the “greatest threat to peace”.

 

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 OCTOBER 2018

WAR. I didn’t notice this at the time, but it’s effectively a declaration of war against Russia. I will be writing more but, in essence, the US State Department official responsible for Russia has given the game away. “It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power.” It’s a Mackinder war; so far fought by sanctions (the economic fundament) and propaganda (political fundament). Ignore details of the latest accusations against Russia (Star Wars, organic food); they’re only there because, unlike the Romans, the Americans are uncomfortable about their imperium unless they drizzle moralistic cant over it. But think about it: when American businessmen outsourced manufacturing to China, Beijing took advantage of the gift. NATO expansion destroyed better relations with Russia. Washington alienates the Iran that its failed wars make more influential. Its wooing of India isn’t going well (see below). Destruction is its policy in MENA. And CAATSA will alienate everyone else. I call it a series of unforced errors.

SKRIPALMANIA. Has now been completely outsourced to Bellingcat. Which tells the discerning observer two things: 1) there is no evidence 2) the truth is probably the opposite. (And for those of you who take Bellingcat seriously: become discerning.)

LATEST. Do the Russians spy? They’d be fools not to. Do I believe this? Not from these sources.

THE CONSPIRACY. Bit by bit, slowly (far too slowly) the story comes out. A DNC/FBI/CIA conspiracy to discredit Trump. I just read Shattered where it is stated that the Russia story was invented as the excuse for failure: but the book establishes that defeat was the consequence of never being able to articulate a reason to vote for her, a disorganised campaign and not observing the dissatisfaction that Sanders and Trump (and Bill Clinton) perceived. The Russia stuff is 1) a distraction from failure, 2) a hook on which to hang Trump and 3) propaganda for the “Mackinder war”.

RETURN. Moscow has been quietly trying to get some of its rich emigrés to return. Here’s one interesting story. I am amused by the conceptual difficulties the authors have with his story: fear for his life or that his money will be lifted? Berezovskiy – and just after begging Putin to let him back, Perepilichniy, Glushkov, Golubev and Skripal and Litvenenko. Russian exiles don’t last as long in the UK as elsewhere; maybe GRU hitmen only have maps of England. And remember the “Cyprus haircut“.

LAUNCH FAILURE. The emergency system worked and both passengers landed safely. Videos.

BATTLEFIELD TESTING. Russia’s Military Operation in Syria: Three Years On” is a round-up of all the weapons they have tested. A lot.

S300s. Have been delivered to Syria – video. 24 S300PM launchers and 300-plus missiles. They were formerly in Russian service until replaced by S400s and were handed over for free. Tough talk from Israel. An alternative opinion: an Israeli writer thanks Russia for “saying to Israel: Stop right there”.

VICTIM OF RUSSIA. Says Volker. No, of Kiev. Americans do swallow whatever Kiev feeds them – remember Senator Imhofe and his photos of Russians invading through the Ukrainian mountains?

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The Daily Beast has forgotten the first rule of decision-based evidence-making when it says there’s no evidence of Russian interference in US midterms: after the decision, you create the evidence. If the Dems win, then the Russians didn’t; if the Repubs win, they must have.

INDIA. Putin visited and business was conducted. Washington will not be happy: Delhi will buy Russian warships and S400s and oil from Iran. Some think Delhi has capitulated to Washington but I don’t agree. I think it’s doing what every wise middle power does: don’t be drawn into anyone’s orbit and avoid offending the mighty. Beijing’s very successful strategy: “hide your ambitions and disguise your claws”.

CHEAP AND STUPID. More nuggets from the Stupidity Mine. The US Navy will blockade Russia (are there no atlases in Washington?). Syria “that flopping cadaver of a regime“. Britain will defend the Arctic from Russian land grabs (atlas please). Destroy Russian missiles. They’re so frustrated: other people they’ve demonised have gone (Aidid, Saddam, Milosevic….) but Putin goes on and on.

US BIOWEAPON LAB? Suggested by a former Georgian minister; reiterated by the Russian MoD; denied by everybody else. Some reporting and a discussion; you decide; I don’t know, information wars go both ways. This story, however, does seem to be real.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

OCKHAM’S RAZOR AS A GUIDE TO SLICING NONSENSE AWAY

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation)

Why “razor”? Because it cuts away the unnecessary and redundant. Several Latin versions but this is the one I remember: noli multiplicare entia praeter necessitatem. Literally: “do not multiply essences without necessity” which is Medieval for “don’t make your theory any more complicated than it has to be” or “the simplest explanation is the best”. Or Newton (another Englishman, four centuries later): “Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes“. The modern American equivalent would be KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

On the anniversary of 911 we were again inundated with theories about “controlled explosions“. A great deal, if not almost all, of the “evidence” that 911 was an inside job is the presumed “free fall” of the buildings, jet fuel can’t melt steel, thermite and many many other supposed “proofs” that the buildings were actually collapsed by a planned implosion. I have never found this convincing and am perplexed why so much energy is spent arguing back and forth.

A more productive approach is to turn the question upside down which is the practical application of “Ockham’s Razor”. “Turning the question upside down” is a technique I recommend. And there is much relevance to an intelligent and independent-minded assessment of the Western propaganda war: Litvinenko, Skripal, US election interference, Assad and chemical weapons. If the West really had evidence for its accusations, it wouldn’t be relying on Bellingcat. Ockham’s Razor slices off the nonsense.

The essence of the “conspiracy theory” conspiracy theory is that everyone is so busy arguing over minutiae that they never ask whether the fundamental assumption makes sense. Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would try to kill Skripal years after he was traded? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about perfume bottles? Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would kill Litvinenko by such a convoluted and detectable way? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about tea rooms? Does it fundamentally make sense that Putin would try to swing the US election without using his best information? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about a ten minute meeting with a Russian lawyer? Does it fundamentally make sense that Assad would kill children with Sarin in the hour of victory? No it doesn’t; so why are we arguing about holes in roads? The more we argue about perfume bottles, holes or tea cups, the more the lies stick. And maybe that’s the intention: “The point of propaganda is to leave an impression after the details have been forgotten“.

Ockham’s Razor starts to cut when you ask yourself:

if it was a conspiracy, what is the simplest conspiracy?

911 is an illustration. Let’s pretend that our Secret Hidden Masters decide that a “War on Terror” would be good for them and that an attack on some American landmark by Crazy Muslim Fanatics will start it off. Angry Muslims are set up; easy enough: entrapments are done all the time. The Masters figure out a way to control the planes because they can’t be sure the dummies can or will do what what they’re supposed to do. They block communications because passengers phoning to say the hijackers are panicking too would wreck the story. And, on The Day, the planes hit the Twin Towers, they burn out leaving a memorable and exploitable image: lower two-thirds white, black above: “Candles of freedom” “Re-Light Freedom!” “Remember the Candles!”. The slogans write themselves. Chalked on bombs: 9 and two white stripes with black tops! Not too complicated: most of the people who could reveal the conspiracy die and the few others (who aren’t already in “The Club”) can have quiet car accidents off stage. A powerful effect at minimum exposure.

But suppose that one conspirator wants the buildings to come down. But this would be absurdly over-complicated: it takes a long time to openly prepare an empty building for a planned detonation; how much longer when you have to do it in secret? Every night you have to bet that several hundred people will notice nothing; every day you have to bet that several thousand notice nothing. They all know that the buildings were a target before and they will phone security. And if one person does, the plot is blown. Odds of millions to one, risking everything, for no discernible advantage.

Competent conspirators want their conspiracies to be simple, manageable and easy to execute. They want the risk of discovery to be as low as possible. Keep the buildings standing; it will serve the purpose just as well, or even better, and at a fraction of the risk. So, William of Ockham tells you to stop poring over videos: the controlled demolition stuff didn’t happen because it would have added immense and unproductive complication.

And he tells us that Putin didn’t kill Litvinenko by dribbling radioactive poison in every restaurant in London; he didn’t try to kill Skripal by scattering a nerve agent randomly around Wiltshire; he didn’t manipulate Americans “to get me out of the way”, ignoring his most powerful weapon; Assad doesn’t gas children to make his enemies attack him; Kerry doesn’t actually have data on MH17.

It’s not all that complicated once you think about the fundamental probability.

Noli multiplicare entia praeter neccesitam

What actually did happen? Who killed Litvinenko, brought down MH17, executed 911, what’s the story on the Skripals? It’s not our job to refute the Gish Gallop of accusations; the accusers are obliged to prove their cases. They have to prove them not by megaphone, petitio principii, Bellingcat’s inventions or by starting other false hares; they have to use the same old boring methods that we used to see English detectives do in dozens of BBC TV series: evidence, argument, proof. So, less “Litvinenko: A deadly trail of polonium“, more Miss Marple and Poirot from the BBC, please. To quote another fictional English detective who would be unable these days to get a job either in the BBC or in Her Majesty’s Government:

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

But I forget Ockham’s Razor: these accusations are not the result of detection, they do not involve reasoning, they’re Goebbels, they’re not Holmes. Propaganda.

(PS. I have referred to 911 to show that not all examples of petitio principii are done by the Establishment. It is depressingly common to assume the answer and remain in the bubble: confirmation bias, it’s called.)