BYE BYE INF, HELLO MAD

(Response to a question from Sputnik on what’s next now that the INF Treaty is dead.)

Washington has killed the third of the four arms control treaties left to us by the Cold War. All that remains is the strategic agreement of Obama and Trump says he doesn’t like that either. It’s possible that Trump expects some re-negotiation of these treaties this time involving China as well but, if so, Beijing is probably not going to bother. So all that’s left is mutually assured destruction: no matter what one side does, the other can obliterate it.

We know what Moscow’s response will be but because it’s already here: a new ICBM, a hypersonic re-entry vehicle, a nuclear-powered cruise missile with enormous flight time and a similar underwater cruise missile. No defence will stop them and so MAD returns. Checkmate.

If the US re-creates the Pershing missile, where will it station it? Many European and Asian countries would be unwilling to paint a target on their heads. So that remains to be seen.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 25 JULY 2019

STALIN. The Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights condemns efforts to erect statues to Stalin: “civil servants of all levels should be clearly aware of the inadmissibility of the use of state or municipal land and buildings for this purpose. Such actions contradict not only morality, respect for our departed, innocently injured ancestors, but also official state policy”. Ah well, mere facts should never get in the way of shrieking from the usual sources: (Guardian in July; WaPo in June).

DEMOS IN MOSCOW. There have been substantial protests in Moscow over the disqualification of opposition candidates for council elections. (Video). Candidates are required to get signatures from voters – these are easily faked and equally easily declared fake. If the establishment is trying to nobble Navalniy & Co, it’s wasting its time and doing itself a disservice: they have little support and it’s better to let them run. Moscow Times gets excited: no, it’s not a “pre-revolutionary situation”.

RUSSIA/CHINA. Joint Russia-China air patrol. The first of many, no doubt. The NYT (yesterday’s news today) clutches its pearls. “That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China. But his approach has been ham-handed and at times even counter to American interests and values.” Now that’s chutzpah!

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. We’re not saying that they started the Great Hawaiian Pizza War, but them pesky Rooskies sure would like to. Satire is impossible.

NEW NWO. JP Morgan asks: “Is the dollar’s ‘exorbitant privilege’ coming to an end?

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Ankara defied Washington, the S-400s arrived, Washington cancelled its participation in the F-35 program. Why did Ankara insist? I believe the principal reason is insurance against becoming Washington’s former friend: much more dangerous than being its enemy.

MH17. I have always thought the JIT “investigation” was rotten – see this (port engine intake – BIG clue as to direction of missile). We now have a documentary that reiterates Malaysia was excluded, a secret mission to get the black box first, the intercepts are fakes, more people report seeing fighter planes, the radars were not down for repair. But including Ukraine in the JIT and excluding Malaysia were enough clues that the investigation would be a fix. I’m sceptical that it was a BUK (too few fragments); I think the fighter plane sighting reports should be looked at. I think the Ukrainian side shot it down but I don’t know whether by accident (wouldn’t be the first time) or whether there was government involvement (but those faked up intercepts were out pretty quickly, weren’t they?) Helmer discusses; the documentary.

UKRAINE 1. Not only was Poroshenko beaten by Anybody at All but the latter’s instant support party won a majority on Sunday. In second place an eastern party; the Galicians, nazis and former Big Wheels were left in the dust. The only conclusion is that the voters of Ukraine are sick and tired of the last five years; the West’s project in Ukraine has failed. And for the second time: Yushchenko was also scornfully rejected. Now what? The so-called NGOs (Washington puppets all) have given President Zelensky “red lines” – an obvious threat that there will be another “spontaneous” revolt if he tries to make peace and have a normal relationship with Russia. He is in office, without a tail and with only the support of the population and how many guns do they have? Three reasons for cautious optimism 1) Washington allowed the elections to happen without interfering 2) Trump shows little interest in Ukraine 3) the EU has its own problems. So maybe… if Zelensky does want to change course, if he moves quickly and decisively, if he can get backing from some power agency, if the West keeps out, if the rebels in the east want to be in some new Ukraine, if the nazis hold off… Probably too many ifs; Ukraine’s nightmare is not over. I still think the end state will be a rump Ukraine with the other bits eaten by its neighbours. Post 1991 Ukraine has been pretty miserable for its unfortunate inhabitants; who really wants a re-do?

UKRAINE 2. A couple of weeks ago Zelensky proposed a bill to remove high-ranking officials who held their posts during the Poroshenko period – Poroshenko having lustrated the Yanukovych period. In short, he’s proposing that nobody who’s held high office in Ukraine before can hold it again. Which is a very interesting proposal indeed; even a reasonable one given their dismal performance. He now has the parliamentary majority to make it law. But again, there are questions: nobody knows who the newly elected members of his party really are and there are the suspicions that he’s just Kolomoisky’s creature and all that has happened is that a new batch of robbers has arrived in Kiev to steal what’s left. I hate to fall back on the feeble analyst’s conclusion but time will tell.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

BIDEN AND START II

(Answer to Sputnik about my thoughts about Biden endorsing a renewal of START II.)

(Pretty hypothetical questions. I don’t think Biden will be chosen and I am confident Trump will be re-elected.)

Biden is running as Obama’s heir, therefore it’s not surprising that he would support START 2; he will probably claim he had a lot to do with it.

The Cold War left four important arms treaties. The ABM Treaty (1972) forbade anti ballistic missiles, the INF Treaty (1987) forbade intermediate range nuclear weapons, the CFE Treaty (1990 and modified) limited conventional weapons and the START Treaty (1991 and renewed) limited nuclear weapons. Washington (Bush II) abrogated the ABM Treaty in 2002; NATO never ratified the modified CFE Treaty and invented so many new conditions that Russia, which had ratified it, pulled out in 2015 (Obama); Washington has just pulled out of the INF Treaty (Trump). All that remains is the New START Treaty of 2011 (Obama) which Trump has said he doesn’t like and. So if he’s POTUS in 2021, that’s probably gone too.

So it looks as if the entire arms control regime inherited from the Cold War will be gone in a few years: in all cases the initiative has come from Washington although Moscow has (of course) been blamed.

It’s a good question whether anyone in the Democratic base is even aware of this reality or much interested. Maybe Biden can awaken people to the danger. Or is the Democratic Party too far down the rabbit hole of Trump conspiracies, PC obsessions and social justice warriors to notice important things?

THOUGHTS FROM URBAN’S SKRIPAL BOOK

Just finished (very) quickly skim reading Mark Urban’s book on Skripal.

I learn four things (the first two of which Rob Slane had already told me).

  1. Skripal was still doing work with the SIS and his house had been bought for him by it. Slane covers the deductions from that here.
  2. Skripal spent a lot of time watching Russian TV and did not believe Russia had invaded Ukraine (Urban has a minor case of the fantods about that, obviously can’t believe that anyone would doubt the Beeb). This supports the possibility that he was ready to go back to Russia (plus his aged mother was quite sick and he wanted to be with her) and that he was still a “Russian”.

The other two are

  1. The Russians had been watching Skripal for several years and it’s possible that they were feeding him fake information. Which leads to the interesting speculation, when he’s being interrogated by the Russians, that he’s told that although he didn’t know it, he was actually working for them all along. And, upon release, he still could be.
  2. The “NGO” Igor Sutyagin was giving information to did have a connection to SIS. (Urban idiotically says this was a case where Russian “paranoia” was justified.) So another big brouhaha in the Western media turns out to be wrong. Is it really going to turn out that Russia has told the truth every single time and the West has lied every single time?

Apart from that, everything in the book is what you would expect to see (although I do love his mention that an Army nurse was one of the first responders – try Colonel Alison McCourt, Chief Nursing Officer of the British Army! Quite a coincidence, eh?)

But these nuggets are worth the hour of skimming.

I don’t see anything to harm Michael Anthony’s theory (Urban does raise the possibility of Skripal having something to do with the Dossier but airily dismisses it.)

 

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 JULY 2019

THE HEARTLAND. The problem with Mackinder’s “heartland” is that moving around in it is so difficult: there are too many mountains, too many deserts and too much distance. Consequently, for 500 years sea travel has been both easier and, most of the time, faster; this reality has been a decisive power advantage for Mackinder’s “islands”. But China’s working hard at overcoming that. Another link in the OBOR is starting – Russia has begun work on a highway on its section of the Shanghai-Hamburg route. High-speed rail in China is about a decade old: 29 thousand kms now. (California has several dozen kms. Remember when the West, especially the USA, did everything first?) The sea will probably maintain its advantage for high-volume items but OBOR will change everything else.

LIBERALISM. Putin’s interview has stimulated some (more) silliness among people who probably haven’t read it. “What is happening in the West? What is the reason for the Trump phenomenon, as you said, in the United States? What is happening in Europe as well? The ruling elites have broken away from the people. The obvious problem is the gap between the interests of the elites and the overwhelming majority of the people… Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable… [the liberal idea] has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” Well, what’s incorrect? Putin has a better understanding than all the op-eds about populism. Western elites respond with a barrage of clichés.

CORRUPTION. “Nearly one in six Russian mayors have faced criminal prosecution over the past decade“. Is that a lot of corruption or a lot of corruption detection and punishment?

SUBMARINE FIRE. A fire in, we are told, the battery compartment killed a number of rather high-ranking sailors. Speculation that it was a very deep diving submarine. Back to the cutting cables scare.

RUSSIA INC. Only last month the NYT told us that Russia’s “economy suffers from flat growth and shrinking incomes“, now Russia has “The World’s Top Stock Market“. Hard to keep up, it is.

NEW NWO. The head of Rosobornexport says that Moscow has stopped using SWIFT or USD in arms transactions. So that’s the number three export taken out of Washington’s control, I don’t know about the other two but I would be surprised in Russia weren’t moving away from those as much as possible. India and Russia are talking about moving their trade to their own currencies.

DOUMA. How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. The Myth of Russian Media Influence by Larry C Johnson. More below.

AMERICA-HYSTERIA II. To Mueller’s surprise, the IRA actually showed up in court. A judge has just ruled that Mueller’s indictment “does not link the defendants to the Russian government“. Once again, Moon of Alabama was far ahead of the mighty MSM: eighteen months ago, he said it was a click-bait operation; nothing to do with the Russian government or election interference.

S500. Being manufactured – adds an outer space defence capability to the family.

WESTERN VALUES. British media freedom conference bans RT and Sputnik but is held conveniently near Assange’s prison. So he could attend. If he could.

PESKY RUSSIANS. Another whiny official document about how those nasty Russians are dissing the USA’s impeccable position of respect in the world. (Usual pseudo-psychiatry: “Russia exhibits a deep-seated sense of geopolitical insecurity” and a whole new meme to accompany the “hybrid war” projectionism: “gray zone”.) Here’s the paper itself. I guess it must be that malign Russian influence that makes a fifth of the world regard the USA as a force for bad in the world.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. The EU mechanism for trade with Iran (INSTEX) is now declared operational. Too little, too late? We’ll see. Berlin and Amsterdam reject Washington’s request to send ground troops to Syria but London and Paris do not.

UKRAINE. Definitely some rumblings in Year Six of the Revolution of Dignity. First we have money movement revelations: Kolomoisky and IMF money; the Bidens, father and son. A documentary including Katchanovski’s findings that the “heavenly hundred” were murdered by their own side wins a prize, but will it be quietly disappeared and never be seen? More Israelis notice: Israelis protesting arms sales to the nazi groups. Helmer discusses two interesting polls that show that Zelensky’s party is way in front, and the Galicians way behind, in the parliamentary elections ten days away and that the population is sick of the civil war and wants settlement. US poll in May, Dutch poll in June.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

D-DAY MORE DIFFICULT THAN YOU THINK

First published Strategic Culture Foundation.  (SCF’s first illustration was of one of the US beaches; at my request they changed it to a still from this film of the actual moment when A Company, North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment landed on Juno Beach.)

Before I begin. No, D-Day was not the largest military operation of all times. No, D-Day was not the decisive battle of the war. No, the Western Allies did not defeat Hitlerism with minor help from the USSR. The largest military operation of all time was surely Operation Bagration which was planned in coordination with D-Day. The decisive battle – much argument there, so my personal opinion – was the Battle of Moscow in 1941 although David Glantz has persuasively argued that the German victory at Smolensk sealed their defeat. Either way, the only path to German victory was a quick one and that hope was gone by the end of 1941. (Hitler’s rant to Mannerheim is instructive.) 80% of nazi military casualties were on the Eastern front, the rest of us did for the other 20%. But D-Day was important. And much more difficult than my Russian interlocutors think it was. And it had to succeed the first time.

I sympathise with Russians (and the other former USSR nations) when they hear the puffing of D-Day and hyperbole calling it the decisive moment and so forth. It is true that the Soviet part of the war has been downplayed in Western popular thought. (But not always: vide this excellent and balanced piece, The month of two D-Days.) One reason is, of course, that each country plays up its own part (Canada being a conspicuous exception). Soviet accounts of the war were not much available in Western languages in the 1950s and 1960s. So we grew up reading about our guys and what they did and a host of German accounts which tended to promulgate what Dr Jonathon House has called the Three Alibis: Hitler didn’t listen to his generals, who knew Russia was so cold? the Soviets outnumbered us. My personal journey to understanding the 80-20 split began with Panzer Battles in which the author describes victory after victory, but always one river closer to Germany: clearly he’s leaving out something important. An account of a panzer-grenadier division which mentioned that only about one-tenth the trains that moved it in were needed to move it out a year later made me realise that German infantry casualties were ferocious. Chuikov’s book taught me that Stalingrad was just not a slog but that there was serious operational thinking behind it. Bit by bit I came to understand the size and complexity of Soviet operations: surely the largest and most complicated ever carried out. David Glantz taught me much. But most Westerners – who aren’t that interested – remain where I was at the age of 16 or so, Battle of Britain, Sink the Bismarck, Dambusters, D-Day, Battle of the Atlantic and the American equivalents. (Canadians have an almost boastful ignorance of what Canada did.)

Understandable, really. But irritating for Russians who feel their part is ignored. But their reaction can go too far in the other direction: D-Day was not some minor river crossing deferred until it was clear that the Germans were beaten. It was a very difficult and complicated operation, requiring an enormous amount of preparation and could not have been done sooner. The point of this essay is to explain all this.

I start by pointing out that the Western Allies did open several “Second Fronts” before June 1944.

  • North Africa. Fighting began here in 1940 and continued until the surrender of 270,000 Axis troops in 1943.
  • Italy. American, British and Canadian soldiers invaded Sicily in 1943, crossed onto the mainland and, joined by other nations, fought their way up Italy until the eventual German surrender in 1945.
  • Bombing. The Western Allies carried out an extensive bombing campaign over Germany. Very controversial in its effects but it certainly reduced German war production and tied up large resources in air defence.
  • Resistance in Occupied Europe, greatly assisted, armed and to a large extent directed by the Western Allies.

So, it is not true that the Western Allies did nothing before June 1944. (Again, I emphasise that all this is part of the 20%).

But, obviously, the invasion of France would be the main event. This essay discusses the planning process which began in earnest in March 1943. Here are some of the problems the planners had to take into account.

  • The English Channel. It is not a big river, it’s the Ocean. That means that it is accessible to submarines, aircraft carriers, battleships and other major combat ships. It has tides and serious storms. Rivers, even big ones, do not.

  • Atlantic Wall. The Germans knew that sooner or later the Western Allies would have to invade and, beginning in 1942, enormous efforts were made to create bunkers, obstacles, gun positions, beach obstacles and everything else human ingenuity could come up with. Defences were built even in Norway and I have seen bunkers in the very tip of Denmark. Previous Western Allied seaborne invasions – North Africa, Sicily and Italy – had been against almost undefended beaches. Attacking the Atlantic Wall was a different proposition.
  • The Funnies. When the infantry got ashore they would have to assault powerful defences with only the weapons they could carry. To give them more punch a family of specialised armoured vehicles was created. In particular, if tanks could landed first, the infantry would be greatly helped. This idea produced the DD tank: floating Sherman tanks. While in no beach they were the first things ashore, on four beaches they were a help: at Omaha Beach they were launched too far out and most foundered. Other specialised armoured vehicles were generally effective on the day; the AVREs and Sherman Crabs especially.
  • Harbour. The chosen site had no harbours. But the Allies had to put as many soldiers ashore on the first day as they could and follow them up with thousands more every day together with vehicles, ammunition, fuel and food in a continuous stream. Impossible over open beaches with small landing craft shuttling back and forth from the bigger ships offshore. A secure harbour was the sine qua non for an invasion. The disastrous Dieppe Raid of 1942 had shown that capturing an intact port was impossible. So here’s the dilemma: you can’t do it without a harbour but you can’t get a harbour. The solution was to bring the harbour with you: the “Mulberry”. This article describes them; note that it was only the autumn of 1943 that a prototype was successfully tested. The Mulberry harbour that survived the great storm of 19 June, “Port Winston”, landed 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tons of supplies over the ten months it was used. This fact, alone, refutes the charge that the Western Allies could have invaded earlier if they had wanted to. Not without Mulberry; Mulberry wasn’t available until the winter of 1943; therefore no invasion before spring 1944. QED.
  • Resistance. French resistance activities had to be coordinated to the operation. This required much careful planning, supply and dangerous movement of people back and forth. Their activities played a significant part in isolating the landing areas.

  • Landing craft. D-Day involved nearly 4000 different kinds of landing craft. They were being built at the last moment: it was their shortage, once a five-division/five-beach assault had been agreed on, that forced the delay from the initial planning date of 1 May. The landing craft problem is another proof that the invasion could not have happened earlier.
  • Timing. The landing had to be early enough to allow activity in the fighting season. Therefore April, May or early June were the likely days. The attack could not be made as the tide was going out. The weather had to be acceptable. A full moon was desirable in order to help the air-dropped troops get to their blocking positions and take key bridges. The Germans could have figured this out which is why the deception plan was so important.

  • Deception. While the Atlantic Wall extended into Norway, no one seriously expected an invasion of Germany to start there. France, Belgium and the Netherlands was always the most likely. Again, the Germans knew that and that is where they put their strongest defences. Several locations were considered and the planners settled on Normandy because of its unconstrained space for the breakout. The Germans had to be convinced that the attack would come somewhere else and the planners hit on Calais, the closest place. A fake army under General Patton, whom the Germans respected as a hard-charger, was created. Lots of radio traffic, dummy guns and tanks to support the idea that Calais was the target and that any other attack was a diversion. For every bombing attack on a Normandy target, there were two on a Calais target. This deception tied down a number of German troops waiting for the “real” invasion. And, just to keep them guessing, other deceptions suggested Norway as a target and on the day, dummy paratroop assaults in other areas.
  • No failure possible. Failure could not happen: the blow to Allied morale and the lift to German morale of a Dieppe-style repulse would have been incalculable. If D-Day had failed, it would be at least another year before another attempt could be made and, in the meantime, the preferred invasion site would have been revealed to say nothing of much technology and deception. Stalin, feeling let down by the West again, might as he had done in 1939, make a separate deal with Hitler. There could be no second chance. And it was near-run enough: none of the first day objectives was taken and the advance was much slower than planned: German resistance in Normandy only collapsed in August when the Falaise Gap was closed by the First Canadian Army from the north and the US Third Army from the south.

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

I hope I have convinced the reader, especially the Russian reader, that the D-Day operation was extraordinarily complicated. Not something to be thrown together on a whim. Many many problems had to be solved in order to deal with the multitude of difficulties of landing over 150,000 soldiers, 11,000 vehicles and 3000 guns on strongly defended beaches and then following up the first day with day after day of more landings of men and materiel. It had to succeed the first time.

It is not true that the Second Front was delayed until the Soviets were obviously winning or anything like that: it happened as soon as it could – any earlier attempt would have failed. Maybe it’s been over-hyped but it was a remarkable event and one to be proud of.

As I wrote elsewhere:

In a word, The USSR, with significant help from the rest of us, defeated Hitler and changed the world away from that dark and horrible future. At enormous cost.

The Normandy Invasion and the campaign that followed were essential parts of that significant help.

I wish both sides would calm down and stop claiming either that D-Day won the war or that it was a very minor offstage event.

But that’s probably too much to hope for today.

TRUMP-PUTIN AFTER OSAKA

(Response to a question from Sputnik)

I’m not very optimistic. As everyone knows, Trump years ago said it would be better to get along with Russia than not. A perfectly reasonable point of view and not a thought that Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon or Reagan would have had much trouble with. But Clinton lost the “more than a 99% chance” election and “Russian interference” became her favourite excuse; the typists of the complaisant US media snapped to attention and repeated and repeated the charge, pumping the intensity of “Russian interference” to ever higher levels.

Mueller’s report has killed the collusion charge but the other half of the lie, Russian interference, remains.

Until a real investigation is completed and people are charged, convicted and sent to jail – we who been following events can name many of them – producing effects so indisputable that even the readers of the NYT and WaPo, the watchers of MSNBC and CNN, the last partisans in Congress, are speechless, the loudly shouted charge that Trump is Putin’s stooge will block genuinely improved relations.

So, until – if – that happens, I can’t expect much except minor improvements. Which are better than nothing but a good deal short of what is necessary between two powers either of which can obliterate us.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 27 JUNE 2019

PUTIN DIRECT LINE. (Eng) (Rus) Deep in the weeds, this one: trash (apparently piling up since Soviet times), healthcare, maternity and child care issues, farming, corruption (declining said Putin, it’s the inevitability of punishment that matters), over-zealous inspectors, protecting Russia’s electronic/internet/cyberspace against attacks (several mentions of Washington’s attacks on Huawei), air routes, water supply. “Russia’s greatest problem” was to secure “higher labour efficiency”. Little on foreign issues other than that Putin & Co stand ready to talk (but I get the impression that they don’t expect they’ll get much chance to). Sanctions had led to substitution: “Look, if ten years ago I… had been told that we would be exporting agricultural products worth $25.7 billion, like we did last year, I would have laughed… ” Suppose Russia gives in? he doubted sanctions would ever stop – Huawei again. Why is he polite to those “slinging mud at us”? he was brought up that way and rudeness isn’t useful in negotiations. And we learned a reason why he does these things; “a direct line that is intended to bring the bottlenecks into focus and to find solutions to these problems”. A theme this year was how orders from the centre often aren’t fulfilled on the ground. He and the producers observed that “Problems end as soon as Direct Line starts”. I re-read one of his earlier ones (from 2002) and I would say that today’s concerns are smaller, they’re more about the uneven implementation of strategic plans or fine tuning some strategy than the need for big solutions for big problems. Which is a sign, of course, of how far things have improved since then. (In those days, Russia was finished.) See below.

STATISTICS. I saw these numbers the other day. Life expectancy steadily climbing. Meat consumption up. Murders down. All reasons why Russians generally believe that Putin & Co are getting the job done. (And, it should always be remembered, half of those who don’t like him, don’t because he hasn’t occupied Ukraine or bombed Tbilisi into obedience. Russian exceptionalists, so to speak.)

PEOPLE POWER. The Boss’ advice was taken: referendum, strong opposition discovered, church cancelled. But the Boss’ opinion should not have been sought. And, as we see every year in Direct Line, there are still too many people asking Batyushka to fix their roof.

FLOATING NPP. Approved for operation. It is to be towed to isolated places in the Russian north to provide power. Causing, no doubt, more blather like this or this about Russia taking over the Arctic.

FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION. Russia does its bit to ensure ships carrying goods through the Panama Canal can do so; it’s the principle of the thing. (Russian ship transits Panama Canal. Now in Cuba.).

MH17. More unsupported allegations from JIT (note that Bellingcat seems to be the source.) Malaysia PM Mahathir (correctly) remains sceptical: “Even before they examined the case, they have already claimed it was done by Russia“. As do I (the port air engine intake is an important clue). BTW, what happened to the last “conclusive proof” out of JIT… attentive people remember.

TRUE? FALSE? Who knows? it’s the NYT after all. “U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid“. Does that sound like a good idea to you? Anyway, it shows that pieces like this from 2017 were projection. All this provocation, baiting and risk because of… see below.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Not only did the FBI never examine the DNC’s servers but it never saw an un-redacted final copy of the Crowdstrike report accusing Russia of hacking them. It’s all assertion by interested parties. The interference meme is nonsense too – read this.

IRAN. I believe them when they say they will shut it down: they fought Iraq for eight years until they prevailed. Very dangerous indeed.

GEORGIA. The Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy meets in Tbilisi; the President, a Russian, gives a speech in Russian. This leads to riots. At the same time Washington and its minions are pushing for a Gay Pride march in a country where there isn’t much support for such things. Washington is apparently deeply concerned about this in Georgia but not elsewhere. I agree with Jatras that it sounds like an attempt at a coloured revolution: protesters with signs in foreign languages are hardly grassroots (Russian in Latin script!!??). Moscow has banned flights to Georgia and blocked Georgian airlines: this will hurt their tourism revenue. Remittances are a significant part of Georgia‘s economy and Russia is the largest source so blocking those may be next on the list. (Worked with Turkey, didn’t it?)

UKRAINE. Poroshenko’s new church is de-laminating in fights over money.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

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

Trump has criticized President Obama in foreign policy matters but refuses to say anything negative about Putin who he is clearly taking orders from in this Iran imbroglio. He is a comprised fool and a danger to our Nation.

I bet you Putin rang you and told you not too

 

Response to Trump tweets on why he didn’t attack Iran, 21 June 2019

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

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But these are questions nobody asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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