TRUMP CUTS THE GORDIAN KNOT OF FOREIGN ENTANGLEMENTS

First published at https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/01/02/trump-cuts-gordian-knot-foreign-entanglements.html

Picked up by

https://www.sott.net/article/372828-Trump-knows-what-hes-doing-Cutting-the-Gordian-Knot-of-foreign-entanglements

https://www.therussophile.org/trump-knows-what-hes-doing-cutting-the-gordian-knot-of-foreign-entanglements.html/

http://mikenormaneconomics.blogspot.ca/2018/01/patrick-armstrong-trump-cuts-gordian.html

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-01-05/trump-cuts-gordian-knot-foreign-entanglements

http://world.news.aboutcivil.org/news/trump-cuts-the-gordian-knot-of-foreign-entanglements

http://financialliteracyy.com/trump-cuts-the-gordian-knot-of-foreign-entanglements/

https://madhousenews.com/2018/01/trump-cuts-the-gordian-knot-of-foreign-entanglements/

http://abundanthope.net/pages/Political_Information_43/Trump-Cuts-the-Gordian-Knot-of-Foreign-Entanglements_printer.shtml

http://dailyreadlist.com/article/trump-cuts-the-gordian-knot-of-foreign-entanglemen-5

http://lesakerfrancophone.fr/trump-tranche-le-noeud-gordien-des-intrications-a-letranger

Referred to at http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/01/trump-offloads-foreign-policy-problems-lets-eu-grow-a-spine.html

President Trump is a new phenomenon on the American political scene. Not a professional politician begging for funds but a rich man who spent his own money and raised money on his own name: he arrived in office unencumbered with obligations. Free from a history in politics, he owes nothing to anyone. Add in his personality, grandiosity and late-night tweets and the punditocracy is in a state of angry incomprehension. Even more offensive to their notions of propriety is that this “dangerously incompetent“, unqualified, mentally ill man beat the “most qualified presidential candidate in history“. No wonder so many of them believe that only cunning Putin could have made it happen – even if they don’t know how. But the punditocracy is as befuddled about him today as it was last year and the year before. (Scott Adams, who got it right, reminds us just how clueless they were.) The very fact that Trump won despite the opposition of practically every established constituency in the United States shows that there is more to him than readers of the NYT and WaPo or watchers of CNN and MSNBC (can) understand.

What follows is an attempt to divine Trump’s foreign policy. It proceeds from the assumption that he does know what he’s doing (as he did when he decided to run in the first place) and that he does have a destination in mind. It proceeds with the understanding that his foreign policy intentions have been greatly retarded by the (completely false) allegations of Russia connections and Russian interference. There was no Russian state interference in the election (the likelihood is that Moscow would have preferred known Clinton) and, as I have written here, the story doesn’t even make sense. I expect when the Department of Justice Inspector General completes his report that the Russiagate farrago will be revealed as a conspiracy inside the US security organs. We do not have a date yet, but mid-January is suggested. Readers who want to follow the story are recommended to these websites: Dystopiausa, CTH and Zerohedge.

We start with four remarks Trump often made while campaigning. Everyone would be better off had President Bush taken a day at the beach rather than invade Iraq. The “six trillion dollars” spent in the Middle East would have been better spent on infrastructure in the USA. NATO is obsolete and the USA pays a disproportionate share. It would better to get along with Russia than not.

To the neocon and humanitarian intervention crowd, who have been driving US foreign policy for most of the century, these four points, when properly understood (as, at some level, they do understand them), are a fatal challenge. Trump is saying that

  • the post 911 military interventions did nothing for the country’s security
  • foreign interventions impoverish the country;
  • the alliance system is neither useful nor a good deal for the country;
  • Russia is not the once and future enemy.

A Chinese leader might call these the Three Noes (no regime change wars, no overseas adventures, no entangling alliances) and the One Yes (cooperation with Russia and other powers).

Which brings us to his slogan of Make America Great Again. We notice his campaign themes of job loss, opiates, lawlessness, infrastructure, illegal immigration, the stranglehold of regulations, the “swamp”, the indifference of the mighty, the death of the “American Dream”. None of these can be made better by overseas interventions, carrier battle groups or foreign bases. But they can be made worse by them. There is every reason to expect that by MAGA he means internal prosperity and not external might. Trump has little interest in the obsessions of the neocon and humanitarian intervention crowd. “We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military – can take care of our vets… The fact is, the American Dream is dead.” No foreign adventures there. So, in summary, Trump’s foreign policy of Three Noes and One Yes is a necessary part of making America “great” again. If I am correct in this and this is indeed his aim, how can he do it?

There is a powerful opposition in the United States to the Three Noes and One Yes. And it’s not just from the neocon/humanitarian interventionists: most Americans have been conditioned to believe that the USA must be the world’s policeman, arbiter, referee, example. Perhaps it’s rooted in the City on a Hill exceptionalism of the early dissenter settlers, perhaps it’s a legacy of the reality of 1945, perhaps it’s just the effect of unremitting propaganda, but most Americans believe that the USA has an obligation to lead. Gallup informs us that, in this century, well over half of the population has agreed that the USA should play the leading or a major role in the world. The percentage in the punditocracy believing the USA must lead would be even higher.

Interventionists are becoming aware that they do not have a soulmate in the White House and they’re wagging their rhetorical fingers. “The fact is, though, that there is no alternative great power willing and able to step in“. “If nations in the South China Sea lose confidence in the United States to serve as the principal regional security guarantor, they could embark on costly and potentially destabilizing arms buildups to compensate or, alternatively, become more accommodating to the demands of a powerful China” warns the intervention-friendly Council on Foreign Relations. The US has an obligation to lead in North Korea. It must lead for “Middle East progress“. A former NATO GenSek proclaims the US must lead. “US should be the great force for peace and justice globally“. “The absence of American leadership has certainly not caused all the instability, but it has encouraged and exacerbated it.” The ur-neocon tells us that America must lead. Chaos is the alternative. Must resume (resume??!!) its imperial role (which apparently means even more military expenditure lest its military lead be lost). Innumerable more examples calling on the US to lead something/somewhere everything/everywhere can easily be found: it would be much more difficult to find one pundit advising the US to keep out of a problem somewhere than find twenty urging it to lead.

If I have understood him aright, what would Trump see if he read this stuff? Lead, lead, lead… everything everywhere. The South China Sea, the Middle East and North Korea specifically but everywhere else too. More infrastructure repairs foregone so as to ensure what?… That ships carrying goods to and from China safely transit the South China Sea? “Friendly” governments installed in “Kyrzbekistan“? Soldiers killed in countries not even lawmakers knew they were in? 40,000 troops out there somewhere? Trying to double the Soviet record for being stuck in Afghanistan? How many bridges, factories or lives is that worth? Trump sees more entanglements but he sees no benefit. He’s a businessman: he can see the expense but where’s the profit?

How to get out of these entanglements? It’s too late to hope to persuade the legions bleating that “America must lead” and, even if they could be persuaded, there isn’t enough time to do so: they salivate when the bell rings. President Trump can avoid new entanglements but he has inherited so many and they are, all of them, growing denser and thicker by the minute. Consider the famous story of the Gordian Knot: rather than trying to untie the fabulously complicated knot, Alexander drew his sword and cut it. How can Trump cut The Gordian Knot of American imperial entanglements?

By getting others to untie it.

He walks out of the Paris Agreement (“a watershed moment when it comes to debating America’s role in the world“). And the TPP (“opened the door toward greater Chinese influence, and won’t benefit the U.S. economy in the slightest“). His blustering on Iran caused the German Foreign Minister to express doubts about American leadership. He brusquely tells NATO allies to pay their own way (“America’s NATO allies may be on their own after November if Russia attacks them“). By announcing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel he unites practically everybody against Washington and then uses that excuse to cut money to the UN. His trash talk on North Korea has actually started the first debate about the utility of military force we’ve seen for fifteen years. He pulls out of Syria (quietly and too slowly but watch what he doesn’t talk about). One last try in Afghanistan and then out. Re-negotiate all the trade deals to US benefit or walk away. Be disrespectful of all sorts of conventions and do your best to alienate allies so they start to cut the ties themselves (his tweet on the UK was especially effective). Attack the media which is part of the machinery of entanglement. Confiscate assets. It’s a species of tough love – rudely and brusquely delivered. He (presumably) glories in opinion polls that show respect for the USA as a world leader slipping. He doesn’t care whether they like him or not – America first and leave the others to it.

The Three Noes and One Yes policy will be achieved by others: others who realise that the USA is no longer going to lead and they will have to lead themselves. Or not. Perhaps, as the neocons love to say, US leadership was necessary in the immediate postwar situation, perhaps NATO served a stabilising purpose then but there has been nothing stabilising about US leadership in this century. Endless wars and destruction and chaos and loss. Thus abroad and – the part that Trump cares about – so at home. It’s not incompetence, as the people who fail Adams’ test tell themselves; it’s a strategy.

(All real theories must be falsifiable; let’s see in a year’s time whether the US is more entangled or less entangled. It should be pretty apparent by then and, by the end of Trump’s first term, obvious to all.)
(Afterword: I have been thinking about this for some time as I ponder the Trump phenomenon. But I was inspired to write by Israel Shamir’s piece about how the Jerusalem decision has united everybody against it. I was also pleased to see that Andrew Korybko has just published a piece that argues along the same lines as I. The principal difference between his take and mine is that he sees the plan as using the chaos to strengthen the US’ world position whereas I see Trump as essentially an isolationist. But we both see the same mechanism at work.)

 

 

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 4 JANUARY 2018

LOST OPPORTUNITY. Karlin reminds us that once the USA was extremely popular in Russia. In the early 90s a high of 80% felt good about the USA. 35% then thought the US was friendly and 3% thought it hostile: today it’s 3% and 59% respectively. I’m sure someone will blame Putin for the reversal.

SECURITY. The FSB Director tells us in his annual roundup that 120 foreign and international NGOs, covertly used as tools of foreign intelligence, were stopped and 137 agents of foreign special services were uncovered. 23 terrorist attacks were prevented.

CORRUPTION. The former Economic Development Minister was found guilty of accepting bribes and sentenced to 8 years in a penal colony and a fine of 130 million rubles.

POVERTY. The Labour Minister tells us that about 13% of population lives below the poverty line. Putin has raised the minimum wage and, beginning in 2019, it will be set to the “employable population’s subsistence level for Russia as a whole for the second quarter of the previous year”.

COMMUNISTS. The Russian Communist Party (the real opposition in terms of votes, policies and seats) has nominated the head of the Lenin State Farm, Pavel Grudinin, as its presidential candidate. Although not an actual CP member, he runs a successful farm in Moscow on socialist principles. (Google Maps). He may bring in more votes than the charisma-free Zyuganov did in numerous previous runs.

ELECTION. I quote Karlin a lot because he is, in my opinion, one of the best of the best observers on Russia and has the advantage of having lived both here and there. I recommend his discussion of the function of elections in a country when everybody knows the super popular President and his pedestal party will be re-elected. He argues that the political leadership wants to own the broad centre of opinion; the performance of parties on the wings allow course corrections. A species of demos-kratia isn’t it?

DEPT OF IRONY. “UK turns to Russian project targeted by sanctions for gas supply“.

TARTUS. I was scornful of earlier Western excitement over the “naval base in Syria” which was not a huge facility but just a corner of a small port used as a rest stop. But it will become bigger: Putin just signed the law. Described as a “inventory and logistics support centre” the lease is for 49 years. This will allow the Russian Navy to have a permanent Mediterranean presence. (A tiny voice asks whether Moscow is becoming tempted by its success – does it really need bases here and there? Is that really in its national interest?)

SYRIA WRAPUP. 34 thousand sorties and 215 new weapons systems tested and lots of experience. They say (but the claimed precision is preposterous) 60,318 terrorists killed, 2840 of them Russian-born.

SYRIA. There is still a US military base in Syria, the Russian CGS says it is fully blocked by the Syrian army. Again we wonder who’s in charge? Washington has lost in Syria and it’s time to leave. But it doesn’t: still stories of “moderate rebels” being trained; still stories of Daesh fighters being protected. A much better informed observer than I has a theory: two delegators in the chain create confusion.

S-400. The loan agreement with Turkey has been signed: about US$2.5 billion. Why would Russian sell them and why would Turkey want them? My theory here.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. CNNoids were no doubt shocked or puzzled by this: “Trump is right about the FBI“; video). The London Review of Books unveiled a bit (but not much: the piece could have been written a year ago). “Was the Steele Dossier the FBI’s ‘Insurance Policy’?” moves closer. Even the WaPo starts to doubt. Stay tuned: a big document dump is coming.

TRUMPOLOGY. I put this theory out there for your consideration: “Trump Cuts the Gordian Knot of Foreign Entanglements“. Andrew Korybko has something similar here. Certainly plenty of people are saying that he is “isolating” the USA; but they assume it’s because he is “incompetent“, Korybko and I think he’s doing it on purpose. (Trump’s alleged incompetence is a prime pillar of the Russia interference panic: for the believers, no one so “dangerously incompetent“, unqualified or mentally ill could have beaten the “most qualified presidential candidate in history” on his own.)

POLAND-UKRAINE. Poland, which had something to do with encouraging and assisting the Maidan coup, is increasingly concerned about what it helped stirred up. A lot of Poles were murdered by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army which is much loved by today’s Kiev. A monument to the Volyn massacre is under construction: it shows a baby impaled on a trident. See also the recent movie. History has not stopped in that part of the world.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RAMBLINGS ON KOREA

(Asked by Sputnik on my thoughts that South Korea wanted to talk to North Korea face to face.)

https://sputniknews.com/analysis/201801041060505833-usa-pyongyang-korea-thaw-talks/

I believe that there is a settlement in the Korean situation. And it is what the Chinese call the “double suspension“: North Korea gives up its missile and nuclear activity; South Korean and the USA stop their military exercises.

What many in the West do not understand (although they are starting to learn it) is the stunning death and destruction visited upon North Korea by the USA in the war. But it is not forgotten by the grandson of North Korea’s ruler at the time. North Korea’s national ethos is built around resistance: resistance to Japan in Hideyoshi’s invasion, resistance to Japan in 1910, resistance to the USA and its allies in 1950, resistance today. And resistance at enormous cost: Hideyoshi issued an instruction that only noses were to be taken as trophies; there were already too many mountains of heads. LeMay thought 20% of the population had been killed. The latest in the Kim series believes that nuclear weapons protect North Korea. And, every year, there is an exercise that convinces him all over again. That’s on the one side.

One the other side, Pyongyang insists that it is the one and only true capital of united Korea and maintains an enormous army (nearly 10 million). And it did invade in 1950. South Korea, whose capital is within range of thousands of guns, is understandably nervous.

So, breaking the cycle is necessary. And such was tried before two decades ago but Washington didn’t keep its side of the bargain.

So, Washington is not trusted by the North side. Therefore, in an ideal world, Washington would step back and leave the negotiations to the two Korean principals and their three neighbours.

Therefore, the fact that South Korea wants to talk to North Korea, hopefully with China chairing the meeting, is a good sign.

Because, as I said, the solution, or the beginning of it, is out there in the “double suspension”. It’s a (big) local problem but one which the locals can solve. If China (and to a lesser degree Russia) can act as guarantors, and the USA can keep out of it, some sort of initial settlement can be constructed which can, one hopes, lead to something longer term.

(I would observe that Trump’s trash talk has at least started the first debate in the USA of the utility of military force since…. when? And it is driving the Two Koreas and the Three Neighbours to start thinking hard and doing something. Which – IMO – is the whole idea. See this https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/01/02/trump-cuts-gordian-knot-foreign-entanglements.html)

IT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE

(First published https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/12/15/deconstructing-almighty-russian-hackers-myth.html)

Picked up by

https://www.onenewspage.com/n/Markets/75eke11f4/Deconstructing-The-Almighty-Russian-Hackers-Myth.htm

https://www.therussophile.org/if-russians-wanted-to-hurt-hillary-in-2016-election-this-is-what-they-would-have-really-done-patrick-armstrong.html/

https://dailyreadlist.com/article/deconstructing-the-almighty-russian-hackers-myth-87

http://russia-insider.com/en/if-russians-wanted-hurt-hillary-2016-election-what-they-would-have-really-done/ri21983

http://russiafeed.com/deconstructing-myth-almighty-russian-hacker/

JRL/2017/236/37

Sometimes things can be made more complicated than they really are. And such is the case with the story that the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee so as to help Trump become president.

In July 2016 Wikileaks released a number of documents showing that the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for president had been rigged. A month earlier the DNC had announced it had been “hacked” and the cybersecurity company it hired announced that the Russians had done it – one of the reasons they gave was that the hackers had helpfully left the name of the Polish founder of the Soviet security forces as a clue.

Since then, this story has been broadly accepted and it has spun on and on for eighteen months. But it doesn’t really make any sense.

Let us pretend that Moscow wanted Trump to win. Let us further pretend that Moscow thought that there was a chance that he could win despite the fact that almost all news outlets, pollsters and pundits were completely confident that he could not. And let us pretend that Moscow thought that, with its thumb on the scale, Trump could make it. And, the fourth if, let us pretend that Moscow decided to put its thumb on the scale.

How to do it? Let us pretend (number five) that the strategy was to try and discredit Clinton. Let us further assume (this assumption is the one that’s probably true) that Moscow has very good electronic intelligence capacities. So, we imagine the scene in headquarters as they look for an approach; they quickly find one that is very good, a second that is pretty good and a third area that is worth digging around in.

The Russians would know all about the Uranium One matter where, as even the Clinton-friendly NYT admitted, “a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation“. It would be very easy for them to package this as a case of Secretary of State Clinton selling US policy for personal profit. Russian intelligence organisations would have a great deal of true information and would find it easy to manufacture material to fill in any gaps in the story. Presented as a case of corruption and near treason, the story could have done a great deal of damage to her. And, given that it had happened six years earlier, all the details would have been known and ready to be used. It would have been a very powerful attack that even the complaint media would have had difficulty ignoring.

We know, and it’s very likely that the Russians did too, that she ran a private e-mail server on which there were thousands and thousands of official communications. The server was very insecure and we can assume that Russia’s signals intelligence (and everyone else’s, for that matter) had penetrated it. Think of all the real material from that source that could be revealed or twisted to make a scandal. That would make quite a campaign. Further, it is a reasonable assumption that Russian intelligence would have some of the thousands of e-mails that were “bleached”. There would be enough material for a months-long campaign of leaks.

Finally, Hillary Clinton has been in public life for many years and there would have been ample opportunities, and, many would say, ample material in her scandal-plagued career, for the construction of many campaigns to weaken her appeal.

So, a preliminary look would suggest that there were several angles of attack of which Uranium One would be the easiest and most effective. But, failing that, or as a supplement to that, there was plenty of embarrassing and incriminating material in her illicit private server. Now we have to pretend (number six), contrary to the universal practice of security organs in all times and places, that the (always assumed in the story to be implacably hostile) Russians would decide to forgo the chance of compromising a future POTUS in favour of a harebrained scheme to get another elected.

But we’re supposed to believe that they did. The Russians, the story goes, with all this potential material, with a solid hit with Uranium One, decide instead to expose the finagling inside the Democratic Party structure. And to expose it too late to make any difference. As I said at the beginning, sometimes things are easier to understand when you, as it were, turn them upside down.

In the middle of June 2016 the DNC admits that its documents have been obtained – a “hack” they insist – and almost immediately, “Guccifer 2.0” pops up to claim responsibility and the DNC’s experts (Crowdstrike) claim Russia was behind it. A month passes before Wikileaks releases the first batch of DNC documents showing the extent of the manipulation of the process by Clinton – who had, according to most counts – already secured the nomination about two weeks before. A couple of days before the release, Trump gets the Republican nomination and a couple of days after that Clinton easily wins the Democratic nomination by a thousand-vote majority.

So, the first thing that should have occurred to the observer (but didn’t) was, if the Russians had had this incriminating evidence that the Democratic Party nomination had been fixed in Clinton’s favour, wouldn’t it have been more useful to put it out at a time when Sanders who was, after all, the swindled one, might have been able to do something about it? Instead those supposedly clever Russian state hackers dropped the news out at a time when it made very little difference. No difference in fact: Clinton got the nomination and there was no comeback from Sanders’ people.

So, the “Russian hackers” made their arrow, shot it, hit the target and… no one cared. The people who devoutly believe in the Russian hacking story now have to explain (but don’t) why the Russian state, apparently so determined to bring Clinton down, didn’t immediately hit her with the Uranium One documents and anything else they had that could feed the flames of scandal.

But, as we all know, they didn’t. While long rumoured, and even briefly reported on, we only learned of Uranium One in a big way in October 2017 and the fact that her server contained Special Access material (the very highest classified secrets) was confirmed authoritatively only in November 2017. If the Russian had really had this sort of information and the hostility to Clinton that we’re incessantly told that they had, two years earlier would have been the time.

So, on the one hand we are supposed to believe that the Russian government is so clever that it can hack anything, has innumerable social media trolls that influence elections and referendums around the world (“control the American mind“), drives a “fake news” campaign at a fraction of the cost but with far greater effectiveness than the massed legions of the Western media, is a threat to practically everything we hold sacred… but is too stupid to get it right. Possessing great and powerful secrets and a stunningly powerful machine to spread them, it chooses to fire a damp squib too late to make any difference and passes up the chance to have a compromised US president for it to control.

In other words, it’s nonsense: we don’t really need the forensics of VIPS; we don’t need to argue with people who say it’s fake news about Seth Rich, or that Assange is a Putinbot, or carefully ignore Murray. Those efforts are useful enough but they’re not necessary. In any case, the Russia story is a Gish gallop and a whole academy of wise men and women couldn’t keep up with the latest. (Robert Parry bravely attempts to list the most prominent ones from the Vermont power facility, through all 17 agencies to 14th not 4th.)

Just common sense will do it: if the Russians had wanted to bring Hillary Clinton down, they had far more powerful charges which they could have detonated much earlier. It is not plausible that all they had was the rigging evidence and that they then deployed it too late to have an effect.

Or, maybe they’re not so all-competent in which case all the other stuff we’ve had shoved down our throats for months about “Russian information warfare” is even bigger nonsense.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 14 DECEMBER 2017

CIVIL SOCIETY. If you believed the Western media you’d think that Putin did everything in Russia from writing editorials to planning the state doping program and that whatever feeble civil society existed was the creation of selfless foreign NGOs now suffering “squeezing“and a “devastating” “crackdown“. One of the authors sent me the report “Indigenously Funded Russian Civil Society“. In this researched and balanced picture of the state of play we learn that 1) foreign NGOs never funded much (a high of 7% in 2009); 2) there’s quite a lot of civil society activity; 3) there are quite a few sources of funding from government, businesses and private individuals. Read it: a summary of an important subject that gets mostly propagandistic treatment. Russians are doing things on their own at an accelerating pace.

PRESIDENCY. Putin said he’ll run again. This will be his last term – he will be 72 at the end – so, apart from anything else, he will be grooming a successor. He will be elected. And for good reason: you’d vote for more of the same too. Quick summary of today’s press conference. English. Russian.

CORRUPTION. According to the Procurator-General, since 2014 corruption has cost Russia about US$2.5 billion; 122,000 corruption-related crimes have been registered, more than 45,000 sentenced, of whom 4500 were law enforcement staff, 400 were politicians and 3000 were officials.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The story so far. Wife of DOJ Deputy Was Fusion GPS Employee, CIA Research Aide, and Applied for HAM Radio License Month After Contracting MI6 Agent Christopher Steele… “. Oh, maybe he and they went a little too far. I think we’re getting close to the exposure of the whole rotten conspiracy. “What in the hell is going on with the Department of Justice and the FBI?

RUSSIA INC. “Expert” predictions of doom fail again; tiny budget deficit and foreign reserves up.

EU-USA. The German Foreign Minister has called for more independence from Washington. In particular he mentioned the damage done by the Congressional sanctions and the fear that abrogating the Iran agreement could be dangerous.

PROBLEMS WITH THE NARRATIVE. The Western Official Narrative is getting harder to spin. Apparently Ukraine is a disappointment in its “fight against corruption” (Washington, IMF). Well, duh: if you replace crooked oligarchs with different crooked oligarchs what would you expect? Meanwhile the BBC says British taxpayers subsidised Daesh. US too. Unintentionally. Of course.

SYRIA. Putin says it’s basically over. The BBC gives an entertainingly grudging report, Fox, USA Today, France 24, Haaretz, New Yorker ditto: lots of only helping blood-soaked dictator, killing civilians, chemical attacks, US coalition did the real work. Washington alternately claims credit or says the declaration is premature. French Foreign Minister ludicrously says Russia “misappropriated the victory“. Washington says it will stay: not a good idea. Bad losers all: complete defeat.

NATO EXPANSION. NATO made a promise. It broke it. Moscow has no reason to ever believe it.

IOC. Doping! What’s that got to do with it? US Senator says we have to stand up to Putin the bully. Thereby giving the whole game away. A very flimsy case – based, in fact, on a single source.

NEW NWO. Putin’s trifecta: Assad, Sisi and Erdoğan all on the same day. Trapped in their misinformation bubble most Westerners can’t see it, but Moscow is establishing a reputation in the rest of the world for competence and reliability. China ditto. The world is readjusting itself. We approach a tipping point, I think, in which the reality can no longer be hidden. I am stunned by the speed of the decline: only a quarter of a century ago the West was triumphant in everything.

MUST READ. Gilbert Doctorow’s presentation of his book Does the United States have a future? He starts: “I will explain why a book about the United States failing on the world stage deals so largely with what is happening in Russia.” The neocons and their liberal allies, in their overreach, had to attack Russia “Because it has been the only major power to publicly reject the US global hegemony both in word and in deed.” Their attempts, ranging from “colour revolutions” to sanctions to regime change in neighbours to Olympic boycotts, have made Russia stronger, more united and more determined and brought Russia and China into close partnership. The ricocheting failure feeds the crescendo of hysteria that is tearing the US polity apart. And the losing wars go on and on. My readers will have noticed that these Sitreps lately have had more to do with Russia-in-the-world and less with Russia internally: Doctorow explains why Russia is now so very central in the geopolitical rebalancing. That was very much not the case when I began the series twenty years ago.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 30 NOVEMBER 2017

FOREIGN MEDIA. I don’t know what Sputnik’s and RT’s audiences actually are in the USA or elsewhere but indications are that they are small or even tiny. But this hasn’t affected the year’s conniption fit and so we must be protected from their influence by Google, Twitter and now the US government. Well, apart from the mockery this makes of common-sense, proportionality and those Western values they’re always boasting about, Moscow has reacted. And, as usual, in a much more powerful way. Putin signed the amendment; now “foreign media outlet distributing printed, audio, video and other messages and materials designed for an unlimited number of people may be recognised (может быть признано) as a foreign agent.” Quid quo pro. Whining has begun: the BBG, HRW, State Department.

CORRUPTION. According to Transparency International’s 2017 report, a third of Russians say they had to pay a bribe for some public service. Like Karlin, I can believe this (plus or minus – there is some tradition of giving gifts there) because, unlike the easily cooked perception scores, this is a yes or no question. But, as I argue here, this is the lowest and least important form of corruption: the worst forms aren’t even detected by the little guy because the service was stolen long before he tried to buy some of it. And I would further observe that, whatever you may say about the Duma, you can’t say it’s run by “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests“: it pretty much does what the popular and elected government tells it to do. In short, not all corruptions are equally bad.

RUSSIAN STATE DOPING. I don’t believe it: it’s a “Gish Gallop“. Counter arguments here and here.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Aspergers, gunslinger, now tired. The website – you decide.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. It’s not working. 52% believe it’s better to have Russia on “our side” than not; 76% of Republicans and 51% of independents agree but only 29% of Democrats. (I presume Dems find it easier to believe that Trump won because Putindunnit than that he beat their candidate fair and square). It’s not working in Europe either: another poll show large majorities in Germany, Poland, France and UK would like better relations with Russia. But the effluent is still pumped out: “weaponised information“. (As a readers’ guide to this sort of thing, you won’t go wrong assuming that whatever US/NATO accuse Russia of doing, they are actually doing. For example, the Pentagon “weaponised information” years ago: “Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media“.)

AMERICA-HYSTERICA II. “FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier.” The collapse of the Fusion GPS operation will unravel the whole construction. And it’s coming. (And don’t forget Awan.) All this because the Dems fixed their nomination and then lost anyway.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE. There has been some kind of coup or prevented coup in Lugansk. The head of State, Igor Plotnitsky, has resigned and is said to be in Moscow. The official story is that a “criminal group” controlled from Kiev has been arrested and a coup averted. A group of Ukrainian saboteurs have been arrested. No doubt, more information will trickle out.

PAPER TIGER. Further to my suggestion that NATO is a paper tiger we learn that half of Germany’s tanks are not ready for action. Less belligerent behaviour might be prudent: Moscow doesn’t get the joke: “We need to plan and undertake measures that will help us to respond to such a scenario quickly…“.

SYRIA. Lots of action. Trump has cut off arms supplies to Kurds in Syria (but, as always, can a mere POTUS make them do it?). Putin has been talking to everyone in and around the neighbourhood and lots of meetings. Patrick Lang, a connected observer, thinks it’s about over.

MAIDAN SNIPERS. One of the founding myths of the “Revolution of Dignity” was the massacre on the Maidan. Ivan Katchanovski has proved, to anyone with the capacity for objective thought, that it was a false flag operation; here is his paper; here is a summary. Two Georgian snipers have come forward to confess; here is a summary of what they said with links to the original. The story continues to develop and Katchanovski is following it.

UKRAINE. A country put together out of bits and pieces of other countries should worry as it fails further: Poland does not hide its ambiguous intentions towards western Ukraine. First, create positions of influence, then formulate territorial claims“. Meanwhile, Maidan II seems to be going nowhere (no support from outside, I guess).

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

NATO: A DANGEROUS PAPER TIGER

(First published at https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/11/16/nato-dangerous-paper-tiger.html)

The Chinese have a genius for pithy expressions and few are more packed with meaning, while immediately understandable, than “paper tiger”. NATO is one, but paper tigers that overestimate their powers can be dangerous.

Some Russians are concerned that there are today more hostile troops at the Russian border than at any time since 1941. While this is true, it is not, at the moment, very significant. The Germans invaded the USSR with nearly 150 divisions in 1941. Which, as it turned out, were not enough.

Today NATO has – or claims to have – a battle group in each of the three Baltic countries and one in Poland: pompously titled Enhanced Forward Presence. The USA has a brigade and talks of another. A certain amount of heavy weaponry has been moved to Europe. These constitute the bulk of the land forces at the border. They amount to, at the most optimistic assessment, assuming everything is there and ready to go, one division. Or, actually, one division equivalent (a very different thing) from 16 (!) countries with different languages, military practices and equipment sets and their soldiers ever rotating through. And, in a war, the three in the Baltics would be bypassed and become either a new Dunkirk or a new Cannae. All for the purpose, we are solemnly told, of sending “a clear message that an attack on one Ally would be met by troops from across the Alliance“. But who’s the “message” for? Moscow already has a copy of the NATO treaty and knows what Article V says.

In addition to the EFP are the national forces. But they are in a low state: “depleted armies” they’ve been called: under equipped and under manned; seldom exercised. The German parliamentary ombudsman charged with overseeing the Bundeswehr says “There are too many things missing“. In 2008 the French Army was described as “falling apart“. The British Army “can’t find enough soldiers“. The Italian army is ageing. Poland, one of the cheerleaders for the “Russian threat” meme, finds its army riven over accusations of politicisation. On paper, these five armies claim to have thirteen divisions and thirteen independent brigades. Call it, optimistically, a dozen divisions in all. The US Army (which has its own recruiting difficulties) adds another eleven or so to the list (although much of it is overseas entangled in the metastasising “war on terror”). Let’s pretend all the other NATO countries can bring another five divisions to the fight.

So, altogether, bringing everything home from the wars NATO is fighting around the world, under the most optimistic assumptions, assuming that everything is there and working (fewer than half of France’s tanks were operational, German painted broomsticks, British recruiting shortfalls), crossing your fingers and hoping, NATO could possibly cobble together two and a half dozen divisions: or one-fifth of the number Germany thought it would need. But, in truth, that number is fantasy: undermanned, under equipped, seldom exercised, no logistics tail, no munitions production backup, no time for a long logistics build up. NATO’s armies aren’t capable of a major war against a first class enemy. And no better is the principal member: “only five of the U.S. Army’s 15 armored brigade combat teams are maintained at full readiness levels“. A paper tiger.

This reality was on display – for those who could see – in the “Dragoon Ride” of 2015. Intended “to assure those allies that live closest to the Bear that we are here“, it was a parade of light armoured vehicles armed with heavy machine guns. Although breathlessly covered in the US media (“Show the world some of the firepower the United States and its NATO partners have in Eastern Europe“), it is unlikely that any watcher who had served in a Warsaw Pact army was impressed by what was in effect a couple of dozen BTR-50s. And neither was the US Army when it thought about it: a rush program was put into effect to give the vehicles a bigger weapon. The first one was delivered a year later. So now the US Army has a few lightly armoured vehicles with cannons. Something like the Soviet BTR-80 of the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Russians have the Bumerang-BM turret. Years of kicking in doors and patrolling roads hoping there are no IEDs are poor preparation for a real war.

No wonder NATO prefers to bomb defenceless targets from 15,000 feet. But there too, the record is unimpressive. Consider NATO’s last “successful” performance against Libya in 2011. No air defence, no opposition, complete freedom of movement and choice of action; and it took 226 days! Kosovo, a similar air action against a weak opponent, took 79 days. Meanwhile the years roll by in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not, in short, a very efficient military alliance even when it is turned on against more-or-less helpless victims.

But there is one obvious question: does NATO take all its Russian threat rhetoric seriously, or is it just an advertising campaign? A campaign to bring in £240 million from the Baltics, an extra eighty billion for the US military-industrial complex, US$28 billion for Poland, Patriot missiles for Sweden, billions for F-35s for Norway (but no hangars for them), spending increases in the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Czech Republic and so on. A Russian threat is good for business: there’s poor money in a threat made of IEDs, bomb vests and small arms. Big profits require big threats. As I have written elsewhere, Russia was thought to be the right size of threat – big enough, but not too big. And they thought it was a safe target too – remember Obama in 2015 and his confidence that Russia didn’t amount to much?

Or so they thought then. What is amusing is that NATO is starting to worry about what it has awoken: “aerial denial zones“, British army wiped out in an afternoon, NATO loses quickly in the Baltics, unstoppable carrier-killer missile, “eye-watering” EW capabilities, “black hole” submarines, generational lead in tanks, “devastating” air defence system, “totally outmatched“. Russian actions, both diplomatic and military, in Syria gave NATO a taste: the Russian military is far more capable than they imagined. And far better wielded. The phantom conjured up to justify arms sales and NATO expansion now frightens its creators. A particularly striking example comes from General Breedlove, former NATO Supreme Commander who did much to poke Russia: he now fears that a war “would leave Europe helpless, cut off from reinforcements, and at the mercy of the Russian Federation.” Not as negligible as they thought.

To what should we compare this weak, incompetent but endlessly boastful and belligerent alliance? In the past I have suggested that NATO is a drunk that drinks to cure the effects of its last bender. Is it a child in an endless tantrum, frightening itself with the stories it tells itself? Like the Warsaw Pact it is frightened of contradicting information or opinion and insists they be blocked. Certainly it is an exemplar of complacent self delusion: “Projecting Stability Beyond Our Borders” boasts about the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. The unicorns roam free in NATOland.

There is no reason to bother to read anything that comes out of NATO Headquarters: it’s only wind. There is one response. And that is Libya. When they say stability, respond Libya. When they say terrorism, respond Libya. When they say peace, respond Libya. When they say dialogue, respond Libya. When they say values, respond Libya. NATO is dangerous in the way that the stupid and deluded can be. But, when its principal member starts demanding its members “pay their share”, and the people of five members see Washington a greater threat than Moscow, maybe its final days are upon us.

But incessant repetition becomes reality and that’s where the danger lies. Hysteria has reached absurd proportions: 2014’s “gas station masquerading as a country” decides who sits in the White House; directs referendums in Europe; rules men’s minds through RT and Sputnik; dominates social media; every Russian exercise brings panic. This would all be amusing enough except for the fact that Moscow doesn’t get the joke. While the NATO forces on their border may be insignificant at the moment, they can grow and all armies must prepare for the worst. The First Guards Tank Army is being re-created. I discuss the significance of that here. When it is ready – and Moscow moves much faster than NATO – it will be more than a match, offensively or defensively, for NATO’s paper armies. And, if Moscow thinks it needs more, more will come. And there will be no cost-free bombing operations at 15,000 feet against Russia. NATO’s naval strength, which is still real, is pretty irrelevant to operations against Russia. And still the paper tiger bares its paper teeth.

In other words – and I never tire of quoting him on this – “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”. NATO has been kiting cheques for years. And rather than soberly examine its bank account, it writes another, listening to the applause in the echo chamber of its mind.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We can only hope that NATO’s coming destruction does not destroy us too.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 16 NOVEMBER 2017

WESTERN VALUES™. So now RT America is a “foreign agent“. (Remember all the faux outrage about Russia’s FARA imitation law? No? But it was only a year ago: “Russia: Four years of Putin’s ‘Foreign Agents’ law to shackle and silence NGOs“. Hard to keep up, isn’t it?) In case you think this reflects poorly on the “champion for free speech and free press”, John McCain, channelling Brezhnev, explains why it doesn’t. In the Cold War they blocked us but we didn’t bother to block them. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out: the side that mostly lies wants to stop its population hearing the side that mostly tells the truth. One reason is that telling (mostly) the truth is just easier. For example, Russian propaganda for the home audience lets the Western side say whatever it wants as long as it wants. Why? “the Russians have no need to lie, their propaganda is fundamentally truthful, fact based and logical…. unlike their American counterparts, the Russians are not engaging in policies which they cannot justify before their own public opinion or before the public opinion of the rest of the planet”. In Syria the Russians are doing what they say they are doing; no need to explain why Russian troops supposedly in Ukraine can’t be seen; there are no Pokemon stories in Russia. In short, Russian propaganda is all made in the West and every idiotic story is re-played. “So yes, the Russians are using the immense arrogance and poorly-concealed hatred for Russia of some of the more pompous and least intelligent representatives of the West to paint an absolutely fair and accurate representation of the western ruling elites”.

SPEAKING OF THINGS HARD TO JUSTIFY before the Western public. “Raqqa’s dirty secret…. a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters…. escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition…“. “Some of the U.S.-made weapons available on these markets likely first entered Syria as part of an ill-fated Pentagon program to train and equip fighters in northern Syria to take on the Islamic State.” Are these bugs or features? Either way, the West isn’t doing what it says it is doing.

RELIGION. I found this video interesting: Putin and most of the Russian religious establishment (named here, but not the RC Ordinary for some reason) honour Minim and Pozharsky. That’s diversity.

RUSSIA INC. Inflation fell to 2.7% in October; this is a post USSR record low. Slowly but surely.

BOMB SCARES. There have been a series of hoax bomb scares across Russia lately. Phoned in from abroad we are told. Wondered that myself: I’m not suggesting it was governments but the panic is constantly pumped higher and there are a lot of excitable people out there.

REMITTANCES. A study shows that all FUSSR states except Russia and Kazakhstan are “intensely dependent” on remittances. Author’s summary: “a new system of transnational, cross-border dependency, unprecedented in its intensity”. The two “magnets” are the EU and Russia. An interesting take on the post-Soviet reality; at the end of the day, you’re either a dependent of one or of the other.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Best summary of the story so far: “The two sources that originated the allegations claiming that Russia meddled in the 2016 election… were both paid for by the Democratic National Committee…“. Even the MSM is starting to notice (WSJ): “The Clinton campaign commissioned a foreign ex-spy to gin up rumors, which made it to U.S. intelligence agencies, and then got reporters to cite it as government-sourced.” Crowdstrike and Fusion GPS are the ur-sources. We get closer: a Fusion GPS exec spent seven hours with the House Committee on Tuesday. Bershidsky, no friend to Putin & Co, points out how ludicrous the theories have become. This was never expected to become public; it was supposed to stay in the background of her march to the White House.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. Spreading fast. “How the Russian meddling machine won the online battle of the illegal referendum” (El Pais). “Putin’s lying machine: Revealed, how Russia’s spewing out ruthless propaganda… “. Enjoy the map which shows how the Kremlin is “stoking discord” around the world. Again we see that lying takes more effort. And a constant effort too: always plugging holes in the narrative which gets ever more preposterous. (But read the comments: the story isn’t selling well).

MAYBE FILE. “American” LNG delivered to Europe is actually purchased in Russia. Same source said “American” coal for Ukraine also came from Russia. It wouldn’t surprise me, but I await confirmation.

SYRIA. The Syrians have liberated Abu Kamal, the last urban hold of Daesh in Syria; 25 months after Russia intervened. Some American talking heads are still in denial (more convolution).

UKRAINE. Maidan II continues but the WMSM doesn’t see it. On Sunday Saakashvili led a march demanding Poroshenko’s impeachment. Couldn’t make this stuff up.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer