COMEYSTRAVAGANZA

(Response to a question from Sputnik about what I thought about Comey’s performance today.)

While it’s always difficult to predict what seriously deluded people will do next, I don’t see anything in Comey’s performance today to give comfort to them. He confirmed what Trump had said; namely that Trump himself was not under investigation. He admitted to being one of the leakers (not something, I imagine, in the FBI Director’s job description) and he implied (stated actually) that there was real interference from the Obama Administration in the Clinton investigation. None of these will give much comfort to the deluded. Especially if the POTUS orders his Attorney General to look into these admissions.

The Russia-Trumputin mania has two purposes. Originally a distraction from the fact that the DNC threw the nomination to Clinton, it has morphed into a full court press (pun intended) attempt to stop Trump from trying for better relations with Russia. And, for the most deluded, the Russia/Trump/Putin delusion was supposed to establish the foundation for reversing the election results. Comey’s performance today has not moved the delusion along. It has, in fact, given opportunities, if (if) they are taken, to destroy the whole confection.

PS I thank my UEL (that’s “Tory” for you Americans) ancestors for moving here (not that they had much choice) so that I could be a citizen of the less deluded half of the continent. (I grew up with the certainty that “they’re all crazy down there”. And so it seems to be).

When Intelligence Isn’t

First published at http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/05/when-intelligence-isnt.html

In my career in the Canadian government I was never formally in “intelligence” but I did participate in writing many “intelligence assessments”. Facebook, Twitter and other kinds of social media didn’t much exist at that time but, even if they had, I can’t imagine that we would have ever used them as sources of evidence: social media is, to put it mildly, too easy to fake. In writing intelligence assessments, while we did use information gathered from intelligence sources (ie secret), probably more came from what was rather pompously called OSInt (Open Source Intelligence; in other words, stuff you don’t need a security clearance to learn). What was, however, the most important part of creating an assessment was the long process of discussion in the group. Much talk and many rewrites produced a consensus opinion.

A typical intelligence assessment would start with a question – what’s going on with the economy, or political leadership or whatever of Country X – and would argue a conclusion based on facts. So: question, argument, conclusion. And usually a prediction – after all the real point of intelligence is to attempt to reduce surprises. The intelligence assessment then made its way up the chain to the higher ups; they may have ignored or disagreed with the conclusions but, as far as I know, the assessment, signed off by the group that had produced it, was not tampered with: I never heard of words being put into our mouths. The intelligence community regards tampering with an intelligence assessment to make it look as if the authors had said something different as a very serious sin. All of this is preparation to say that I know what an intelligence assessment is supposed to look like and that I have seen a lot of so-called intelligence assessments coming out of Washington that don’t look like the real thing.

Intelligence is quite difficult. I like the analogy of trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle when you don’t know what the picture is supposed to be, you don’t know how many pieces the puzzle has and you’re not sure that the pieces that you have are actually from the same puzzle. Let us say, for example, that you intercept a phonecall in which the Leader of Country X is telling one of his flunkeys to do something. Surely that’s a gold standard? Well, not if the Leader knew you were listening (and how would you know if he did?); nor if he’s someone who changes his mind often. There are very few certainties in the business and many many opportunities for getting it wrong.

So real raw intelligence data is difficult enough to evaluate; social media, on the other hand, has so many credibility problems that it is worthless; worthless, that is, except as evidence of itself (ie a bot campaign is evidence that somebody has taken the effort to do one). It is extremely easy to fake: a Photoshopped picture can be posted and spread everywhere in hours; bots can create the illusion of a conversation; phonecall recordings are easily stitched together: here are films of Buks, here are phonecalls. (But, oddly enough, all the radars were down for maintenance that day). It’s so easy, in fact, that it’s probably easier to create the fake than to prove that it is a fake. There is no place in an intelligence assessment for “evidence” from something as unreliable as social media.

An “intelligence assessment” that uses social media is suspect.

So why are there so many “intelligence assessments” on important issues depending on social media “evidence”?

I first noticed social media used as evidence during the MH17 catastrophe when Marie Harf, the then US State Department spokesman, appealed to social media and “common sense”. She did so right after the Russians had posted radar evidence (she hadn’t “seen any of that” said she). At the time I assumed that she was just incompetent. It was only later, when I read the “intelligence assessments” backing up the so-called Russian influence on the US election, that I began to notice the pattern.

There are indications during the Obama Administration that the intelligence professionals were becoming restive. Here are some examples that suggest that “intelligence assessments” were either not being produced by the intelligence professionals or – see the last example – those that were were then modified to please the Boss.

If one adds the reliance on social media to these indications, it seems a reasonable suspicion that these so-called intelligence assessments are not real intelligence assessments produced by intelligence professionals but are post facto justifications written up by people who know what the Boss wants to hear.

We have already seen what appears to have been the first example of this with the “social media and common sense” of MH17. And, from that day to this, not a shred of Kerry’s “evidence” have we seen. The long-awaited Dutch report was, as I said at the time, only a modified hangout and very far from convincing.

Russia “invaded” Ukraine so many times it became a joke. The “evidence” was the usual social media accompanied by blurry satellite photos. So bad are the photos, in fact, that someone suggested that “Russian artillery” were actually combine harvesters. In one of the rare departures from the prescribed consensus, a former (of course) German Chief of Staff was utterly unconvinced by thse pictures and explained why. By contrast, here is a satellite photo of Russian aircraft in Syria; others here. Sharply focussed and in colour. The “Russian invasion” photos were lower quality than the Cuban Missile Crisis photos taken six decades earlier! A hidden message? See below.

The so-called Syrian government CW attack on Ghouta in August 2013 was similarly based on social media; heavily dependent, in fact, on “Bellingcat”. Quite apart from the improbability of Assad ordering a CW attack on a suburb a short drive away from arriving international inspectors, the whole story was adequately destroyed by Seymour Hersh. (Bellingcat’s “proofs”, by the way, can be safely ignored – see his faked-up “evidence” that Russians attacked an aid convoy in Syria.)

A dominant story for months has been that Russia somehow influenced the US presidential election. As ever, the Washington Post led the charge and the day after the election told us “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House“. But when we finally saw the “secret assessments” they proved to be laughably damp squibs. The DHS/FBI report of 29 December 2016 carried this stunning disclaimer:

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

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the DNI report of 6 January 2017 was the space – nearly half – devoted to a rant that had been published four years earlier about the Russian TV channel RT. What that had to do with the Russian state influencing the 2016 election was obscure. But, revealingly, the report included:

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

In other words, DHS told us to ignore its report and the one agency in the US intelligence structure that would actually know about hacking and would have copies of everything – the NSA – wasn’t very confident. Both reports were soon torn apart: John McAfee: “I can promise you if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians”. (See 10:30). Jeffrey Carr: “Fatally flawed“. Julian Assange: not a state actor. Even those who loath Putin trashed them. In any case, as we now know, the NSA can mimic Russians or anyone else.

In April there was another suspiciously timed “CW attack” in Syria and, blithely ignoring that the responders didn’t wear any protective gear in what was supposed to be a Sarin attack, the Western media machine wound up its sirens. The intelligence assessment that was released again referred to “credible open source reporting” and even “pro-opposition social media reports” (! – are the authors so disgusted with what they have to write that they leave gigantic hints like that in plain sight?). Then a page of so of how Moscow trying to “confuse” the world community. And so on. This “intelligence assessment” was taken apart by Theodore Postol.

So, we have strong suggestions that the intelligence professionals are being sidelined or having their conclusions altered; we have far too much reliance of social media; is there anything else that we can see? Yes, there is: many of the “intelligence assessments” contain what look like hints by the authors that their reports are rubbish.

  • Absurdly poor quality photos (maybe they were combine harvesters!).

  • Including a photo of damage to the port engine intake which contradicts the conclusion of the MH-17 report.

  • DHS “does not provide any warranties”.

  • The one agency that would know has only “moderate confidence”.

  • Irrelevant rants about RT or assumed nefarious Russian intentions.

  • “Pro-opposition social media reports”.

There are too many of these, in fact, not to notice – not that the Western media has noticed, of course – they rather jump out at you once you look don’t they? I don’t recall inserting any little such hints into any of the intelligence assessments that I was involved in.

In conclusion, it seems that a well-founded case can be presented that:

Where done? By whom? That remains to be discovered. More Swamp to be drained.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 1 JUNE 2017

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI is dead but he lives on in three ways. He didn’t invent jihadism or takfirism but he gave it a key lift by supporting the mujahidin in Afghanistan in order to entice the USSR to intervene: the disastrous policy of encouraging jihadism in one place arrogantly thinking you could stop it spreading to another. This is something he apparently never regretted (at least not in 1998: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?). His obsessive anti-Russian stance remains embedded in the USA as this absurd Time magazine cover shows. He had some influence on Obama and one can legitimately ask whether his silly view about the importance of Ukraine to Russia was a prime mover in the Ukrainian catastrophe. There are some indications that he was beginning to realise how dangerous (and unsuccessful) this policy was becoming. But, probably, the longest-lasting legacy, though neither to his liking nor wishing, is the resistance to US hegemony taking concrete form in many places but most powerfully in Beijing and Moscow. As he said in his key book in which he thought to lay out the game plan to keep the USA on top forever: “the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia… Averting this contingency, however remote it may be, will require a display of U.S. geostrategic skill…” Neither remote nor skilful enough I guess. He should have paid more attention to Newton’s Third Law of Diplomacy: if you push countries around, they will push back. An exceptional failure all round.

NATO. When the chief member tells the others that they’re not “paying their fair share” and their real job is the Daesh threat, you have to wonder what is the longevity of an organisation whose members have never “paid their fair share” and spend their time obsessing about “Russian threats”. Pay for what, by the way? Defence against the “Russian threat”? Overthrowing governments in the Middle East?

NATO CRUMBLE. We have here a very interesting poll conducted by an American GONGO. Spun as discovering “Vulnerabilities to Russian Influence”, it actually shows how tarnished the Atlanticist idol has become. Majorities in Slovakia (75%), the Czech Republic (62%) and Hungary (54%) want security cooperation with Russia and over a third of Poles (!) agree. They’re worrying about the erosion of traditional values, they’re watching more Russian media and they’re feeling less “European”. None of this has anything to do with Russian “disinformation” of course: it’s an entirely homemade failure. More Brzezinski legacy.

EUROPE-US. When the chief member of the EU says that automatic agreement with Washington is no longer a given and that Europe must “stand on our own two feet” you have to wonder what will next happen in an organisation that has been pretty obedient to Washington’s diktat in recent years. Think of how much the Ukraine mess and Russian sanctions have hurt, and will continue to hurt, Europe. Do they still have feet, by the way? More Brzezinski legacy.

RUSSIAN MILITARY POWER. Some time ago there was a story about a single Russian aircraft shutting down the electronics of a US warship. I put it in the “Who Knows?” file. But now and again something else appears. The expensive US new battlefield communications system is, apparently, worthless. Wonder how they found out? Not while fighting people with no EW abilities, air defence, artillery or anything much but determination and high explosives.

LOGICAL CONUNDRUM. Russia is wrong to say that NATO is a threat to it, but NATO is right to say that Russia is a threat to it. Russia is wrong not to take NATO’s word for it, but NATO is right not to take Russia’s word for it. Meditate on this: a koan for our time.

MH17. Russian sources have published documents claimed to be from Ukrainian intelligence sources. They describe a coverup after a Ukrainian fighter plane shot it down. (Original Совершенно секретно) (English) I merely put this out – I don’t know: there are plenty of fakes around. But I do not believe a Buk shot it down: a Buk warhead has about 6000 lethal fragments and detonation a metre or two from the aircraft would have left a lot more fragments in the wreckage than were found. The Dutch report is self-contradictory by the way.

MISSING. Amnesty International, citing a 2016 US government audit, says Washington failed to monitor over $1B worth of arms and other military equipment transfers to Kuwait and Iraq. Would these US weapons found in Aleppo be some of the “unmonitored” items do you suppose? More Brzezinski legacy.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. 1000 Russian bots on Facebook.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 18 MAY 2017

RUSSIA INC. More Western sources agree that Russia’s economy is growing again – EBRD, UN and IMF. Even Stratfor, which predicted Russia’s collapse, now admits it’s doing well. Which is no big news for those of us who ignored the NYT, WaPo and their friends. All I can say is: stop drinking each other’s bath water and do the work.

VICTORY DAY. What struck my attention was the Arctic camouflage air defence systems. Here’s the full parade. Here is the first parade on 24 June 1945: limos have replaced horses, loudspeaker trucks are less important, Nazi banners are stored away, but otherwise recognisable.

HISTORY. Much has been written about Putin’s views on Russia’s tangled history; much of it rubbish. Let’s listen to the man himself as he unveiled a monument to a grand duke assassinated in the Kremlin. “Russia’s history is regaining its unity. We treasure each page in this history, no matter how difficult. These are our national spiritual roots.” It has to be all of it, doesn’t it? They’ve already been through years of changing history around to suit present needs.

OIL PRICES. Moscow and Riyadh have agreed agree to extend the oil production cut. The January cut was initially successful at boosting prices, but they have fallen of late.

SYRIA. We do appear to have a measure of agreement among the principals, including Washington. Here’s the text of the “de-escalation zones” agreement. Still much that is murky though: are Washington and Ankara about to shoot at each other? Has Washington stopped the Assad must go stuff or not? Faked up atrocity stories continue. Is Washington still недоговороспособны – incapable of making agreements – as this would suggest? It’s all rather ambiguous; but I do understand that it takes a long time to turn a big ship around, especially when it’s surrounded – to keep the analogy going – by little boats pushing the other way and people in the engine room resisting the timoneer. I believe that my theory on last month’s airstrikes has not been falsified. So, things appear to be happening.

RECONSIDERATION. Let me introduce you, Dear Readers, to Graham Fuller. One of the authors of Washington’s (disastrous as it turned out) policy of supporting jihadists in one place expecting to put them back into the toy box afterwards, he has reconsidered: read this. He believes that overthrowing Assad would make things much worse: “Syria Will Likely Be Run By Terrorists”. He, by the way, appears to agree with my theory on the airstrikes, see last two paragraphs.

NO COMMENT. From the WaPo “NSA officials worried about the day its potent hacking tool would get loose. Then it did.” At least no one is blaming Putin for this. Yet.

COMEY FIRING. Assange predicts leaks will begin. One: Russian hacker claims FBI tried to bribe him to say he hacked DNC. Two: “federal investigator” says Seth Rich sent e-mails to Wikileaks. Stay tuned.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Ever louder. But not working: Democrats dropped 5 points. Two years ago Russia was “a regional power”, last year it was “important”; today its influence is everywhere; next year it will rule the world. Then I guess it’s all over. I’ve given up my PDS series now it’s merged with TDS: “Here’s how the Russians might have snuck a recording device into the Oval Office” (WaPo of course), I can’t keep up. Dimwitted and dangerous. Roman comparisons are trendy: try Cato and the Optimates.

WESTERN VALUES. Ukraine has blocked a number of Russia-based social media networks. A NATO spokesman is quoted as saying that’s OK because it’s “security”. (NATO’s “enduring mission”, by the way, is “defending values”.) Western values, which had real content a couple of decades ago, are now bedraggled camp followers of the juggernaut of war. (To be fair, an EU official, whom you didn’t know existed, did “voice concern”.)

UKRAINE. US House of Representatives passed a DoD funding bill that expressly forbade funding the Azov Battalion (Sec. 8131.) Meanwhile, in a decision it will live to regret, the EU has allowed visa free visits from Ukrainians.

NEW NWO. China hosted the Belt and Road International Forum. (The Chinese have a genius for coming up with descriptive slogans and this is one: a belt ties things together and a road communicates.) Putin was the first foreign speaker (not a coincidence, I’m sure) (his speech). Many countries attended. As always, the fact of the event itself and the side meetings were the most important. North Korea sent a delegation so probably some developments there with all its neighbours present. Eurasia: it’s real, it’s happening and it’s the future.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, CanadaRussia Observer

Underestimate Russia and be surprised

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 4 MAY 2017

RUSSIAN ISOLATION. Remember when Russia was “isolated“? Today it seems to be the essential hub: just in the last seven days Japan, Germany and Turkey have visited and USA has phoned. Patience, persistence, performance, principle; they take a while but they kick in eventually.

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have been ruled an “extremist” organisation; there is still an appeal period. This seems a very wrong decision, and one based on a rather poorly-written law, as the conservative Fr Vsevolod Chaplin points out, with bad potential. On the other hand, I can well understand Russian concern about the true intentions of any US-based entity these days.

TRUST. The Levada survey of most trusted politicians has, as usual, Putin in the lead in the 80s, followed by Defence Minister Shoygu (who has been number two for many years) and Foreign Minister Lavrov. And why not? Westerners can only dream of such competency. PM Medvedev is in the 40s; I’m not sure that that means much: someone has to be blamed for things that go wrong.

CORRUPTION. Prosecutor General Chayka produced some data on corruption in 2016: 13,774 cases involving 15,207 people (both numbers down a trifle from 2015). He said that 97% of corruption crimes were detected (how did he detect the undetected examples?) The Moscow City Court sentenced the former head of the anti-corruption (!) department of the Interior Ministry to 22 years; subordinates received from 4 to 20 years. Western commentators often assume things should go faster than they do: the FSB started this back in 2010 and the case was formally opened in February 2014; the trial itself lasted about a year.

NAVALNIY. Big Western media coverage of a small subject. Yes, you are “fake news”.

SANCTIONS. A UN official, who has been examining the matter, praises the Russian government for taking “appropriate measures to insulate the population from the most adverse impact of the sanctions“. He estimates that Western countries lost more over the three years of sanctions and counter-sanctions: US$100 billion to Russia’s US$55 billion. This corresponds to what I (December 2015 for example) and many others not in Western governments, thinktanks and media outlets expected.

CHECHNYA. The NYT, quoting Novaya Gazeta, had this story: “Chechen Authorities Arresting and Killing Gay Men, Russian Paper Says“. Mark Ames, who holds to a quaint belief in the value of research, tells us this about the source. Hmmm…. НГ, NYT and Alekseyev. Not very reliable sources say I.

CHINA-RUSSIA. A Chinese official delivered a message to Putin from Xi. It should be read in full: it is a strong statement of the closeness and permanence of the Moscow-Beijing relationship. Any fantasies in Washington that the two can be separated should be abandoned.

NORTH KOREA. There is a solution to the dilemma and it has been around for some time. Beijing calls it the double suspension” (Pyongyang stops missile and nuclear tests and Washington and Seoul stop big military exercises near the border) and, with Moscow’s support, has put it on the table at the UNSC. The problem is that Washington, ever the virtuous one, has always refused to do so. But things are happening in the background and we shall see. By the way, I am fascinated to see this in the WaPo: “The U.S. war crime North Korea won’t forget“; it actually dares to suggest that Pyongyang’s point of view should be considered. Likewise “Let’s stop calling North Korea ‘crazy’ and understand their motives” and “Kim Jong Un Is a Survivor, Not a Madman“. All I can conclude is that the Party Line either hasn’t been formulated or hasn’t yet been sent to editorial offices. Normally, there is only one valid POV.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. “They went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.” And it still is part of the excuse package: “I was on the way to winning until the combination of Jim Comey’s letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks“. The ever complaisant MSM followed its instructions (“we are not fake news!“) and we have the story. But it’s crumbling into incoherence; there’s no there there. Perhaps in a year or two the Democratic Party will stop blaming its catastrophe (more than 1000 elected positions lost in 8 years) on others. It will probably take more defeats, though, before it does: it’s pretty heavily invested in the anybody but us meme.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. Well worth the read – shows the Russian hacker story began with vague accusations during the Ossetia War and its fundamental shakiness; now it’s “a multibillion-dollar boondoggle, employing shoddy forensic techniques and politicized investigations”.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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

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

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

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

– Luigi da Porto, Sixteenth Century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Putin Quotation

I am deeply convinced that we won’t have any development and the country will have no future if we suppress civil freedoms and the media. This is my deep conviction. It is a key institution that prevents the state from slipping down into the quagmire of totalitarianism. We have already lived in a totalitarian system and no matter how hard it tried to adapt itself to the external world, it didn’t work economically. A free press is the key instrument that guarantees the health of society.

Phone-in interview, ORT, 8 Feb 2000.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 APRIL 2017

TWO UNBELIEVABLE THINGS. I’ve been at this since the days of Chernenko and I just read something that, while not all that important, furnishes a concrete example of the unbelievable changes since those days; something that, had you suggested it was possible at almost any time in the intervening years, people would have thought you crazy. Here it is: TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice best airline in Europe was Aeroflot and it was rated the best business class in the world. It was also the world’s “most powerful” airline brand. And one of the safest. Scaroflot! Impossible to imagine, as I said, in 1985, 1995 or 2005. And here’s another unimaginable event: I well remember the grain shortages in the USSR and the annual negotiations with Canada to supply wheat and two decades ago I saw it when I visited a huge grain elevator complex in Murmansk that had been built to handle Canadian imports. Those days are long gone: today Russia is the leading wheat exporter and, as an extra, FT informs us that “agriculture has overtaken arms sales to become Russia’s second-biggest export sector“. In the 1970s and 80s USSR meant food shortages, by the 1990s half the food in Russia was imported. I think that we are standing at the threshold of a huge growth in Russia’s food industry; its potential has never been tapped – serfdom, the village mir and collectivisation were powerful production brakes. Despite the expected tripe from the FSM – “Soviet-style shortages” “worst days of the USSR” “hurt Russia more” “backfires” (And who can forget Masha Gessen and her cheese?) it was, as I said at the time, a “clever move“. A summary of the benefits. And, something else: here is Russia’s spiffy new military base at 80º North. “Eurasian economic basketcase” indeed! Russia is on a roll and consumers of the Western FSM haven’t a clue.

RUSSIA INC. Not doing badly: Medvedev reports. Notable increases are pharmaceuticals (up about 24%) and agriculture (up 5%). Unemployment is 5.5% and inflation is down to 5%. IMF head Lagarde agrees: she has praised Russia’s economic management and agrees that the economy is now growing. (Without, it should be noted, recourse to the standard IMF-style austerity package either.)

MESSAGES. Lots of messages being sent this month – Syria strike, MOAB, carriers on the move. By Russia too. Hypersonic anti-ship missile. Lots of EW equipment. And, a bigger bomb, by the way.

TILLERSON IN MOSCOW. Too early to know the results. See below.

SYRIA STRIKE. My theory here: it was aimed at Trump’s domestic enemies and appears to have hit the target. But another month will show the theory falsified or not. (Rather encouraged to see that Scott Adams has the same idea. But so does Maxine Waters). Moscow suspended the Russia-US MOU on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents. The CW attack was, of course, a fake.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. With the election call in the UK there will be more insanity/absurdity.

WESTERN VALUES™. “West Rattled Over Russian Missiles on NATO Border“. Or, as you could put it: “Russia Rattled Over NATO on Russian Missiles’ Border”. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. But it’s not Russia that’s moved, is it? “Light-hearted actions” have consequences down the line.

G7 FM MEETING. No sanctions on Russia. We know that London wanted them, Ottawa was ready to go along and Paris, Berlin and Rome grumble but sign in the end. Deduction: Washington didn’t want them.

UKRAINE. Finally someone in the West notices what may prove to be the longest-lasting consequence of the Maidan coup. Ukraine’s nuclear power plants: “corruption, which is breeding a lack of accountability and mismanagement”; “many positions at the regulatory body remain empty”; “started using dubious firms that do not possess the necessary experience”. The writer even knows about the Westinghouse fuel danger “The West has been pushing the Japanese-owned Westinghouse as an alternative source to Russian nuclear fuel… The Westinghouse product is simply not as good as the Russian fuel made for the Russian-designed reactors, creating a highly dangerous situation where the reactor could fail”. Sooner or later…

MORE UKRAINE. And the NYT notices the new history of the new Ukraine. “The O.U.N. and its military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or U.P.A., are now being glorified as freedom fighters. What is not mentioned is the O.U.N.’s xenophobic, anti-Semitic ideology…”. What took it so long?

STILL MORE UKRAINE. “Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?” asked Tillerson. What you might call a reverberative question.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

Daesh and CW

Quick response to a query from Sputnik about reports of a mustard attack on US troops attached to an Iraqi unit and what Washington should do.

Mustard and chlorine aren’t the same as Sarin. But as Aum Shinrikyo taught us, Sarin, of a deadly enough purity, can be made under rather primitive conditions. That’s one. Second, it is thought that Daesh got hold of some of the government’s stockpiles before they were destroyed. A third possible source is Libyan stocks. And a fourth is via Turkey. So the assertion that Daesh can’t have it is naive. That it won’t use it is naiver still.

The US should address the problem by giving up its wrong-headed and disastrous belief – held since the heyday of Fuller and Brzezinski in Afghanistan in the late 1970s – that it can turn jihadists on here but turn them off there. The jihadists have their own agenda and, as Putin asked: “So, it’s a big question: who’s playing whom here?”

In short, Washington must cooperate with those countries actually fighting Daesh. But, given that they include Syria, Iran and Russia, Washington is going to have to change a lot before it can.