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 Russian Reaction Blog / Foreign PolicyTeasers

With a bit less than a year left to Russia’s Presidential elections in 2018, the general contours of this cycle’s protest movement against Putin are already coalescing.

Alexey Navalny has called a march for tomorrow along Tverskaya Street, a central boulevard that leads to the Kremlin. The Moscow mayoralty refused to allow it, and Navalny in turn refused its offer of alternative venues, so the march is going to be unsanctioned. These events tend to come with a high journalist to protester ratio, because Navalny’s office plankton constituency doesn’t like events where there is a non-negligible chance they’ll be roughed up by the police. So I don’t expect much to come out of it. But we’ll see. I’ll probably go myself to observe it first hand.

As in 2011-2012, when he coined the term “The Party of Thieves and Scoundrels” to describe United Russia, the brunt of Navalny’s attacks are going to be on corruption in the Kremlin. It appears that the centerpiece this time around is going to be a massive investigation carried out by Anti-Corruption Fund on Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, and released early this March:

In Russia, even amongst liberals, Medvedev has a reputation as a cuddly, affable, and absent-minded sort of fellow, often nodding off at meetings, but endowed with a hip, modernist outlook that will take “Russia forwards” into the clean, prosperous, sponsored content clicking future. This expresses itself in things such as appreciation for Deep Purple, support for the Skolkovo technology hub, and an obsession with hip electronic gadgets – the latter of which earned him his nickname, iPhonchik. Another of his nicknames is his diminutive, “Dimon,” which became very popular after his press secretary told Russia’s bloggers, commenters, and online trolls not to use that name: “He is not Dimon to you.” That worked on the Internet! (Not).

medvedev-scheme-simple

But according to Navalny’s investigation, which builds on earlier work by Russian journalists, the nice, professorial teddy bear is a mere mask for a deeply corrupt swindler; not so much a fan of hi-tech Apple gadgets as of big money and elite properties. Piecing together documents, his team constructed a convoluted web of charitable funds directed by Medvedev’s friends, classmates, and even relatives that don’t seem to do much in the way of genuine charity work, but do maintain a sprawling network of elite real estate for make benefit of the Prime Minister.

This includes an elite estate in Moscow’s Rublevka district and a luxury ski resort in Krasnodar, each of which is valued at about $100 million; a big estate and agro holding compnay in his ancestral homeland of Kursk oblast; two yachts, both named after the Orthodox version of his wife’s name; an elite apartment in Saint-Petersburg; and even a wineyard and villa in Tuscany, Italy, bought in 2012-13 for $120 million. There is strong evidence, including from Medvedev’s Instagram account, that he has stayed at many of these properties, and partaken of his yachts.

These “charitable funds” are sponsored by a bevy of Kremlin-friendly oligarchs and state banks. For instance, one of them was funded by Novatek’s Simanovsky and Mikhelson, who contributed $500 million. The Uzbek oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who spent six years in a Soviet prison in the 1980s for financial fraud, appears to have funded the acquisition of the Rublevka property. Gazprombank is on record giving a loan of $200 million in 2007. Its Deputy Chairman at the time? Ilya Eliseev, a classmate of Medvedev’s from his time at Saint-Petersburg State University, who also happens to be listed as the current chairman of most of these charitable funds. In total, documented “contributions” run to about 70 billion rubles, or more than $1 billion.

Even a small fraction of this would sound the death knell for any politician in a country within the Hajnal Line.

In Russia, however, this is not atypical for the elites. Everybody knows that they are stealing, and if Russians didn’t move to overthrow them in 2011-12, in the aftermath of massively fraudulent elections in Moscow and at a time when Putin was at a trough in his popularity, they are certainly not going to do so now; not when Putin’s approval rating remains north of 80% in the long afterglow of the Crimea euphoria. Moreover, Navalny’s own reputation has since become tarnished, due to his own corruption scandal (which might disqualify from running for the Presidency entirely), and due to his ardent pro-Ukrainian rhetoric, which has driven off most of his former nationalist supporters.

This, at least, is my impression.

Anyhow, March 26 will be an opportunity to more directly gauge his support at the level of the streets.

 

The basics on Denis Voronenkov: Communist MP. Bombastically patriotic. He led the way on highly needed and necessary legislation, such as a ban on Pokemon Go, and often waxed lyrical about the “patriotic” and “non-materialistic” values instilled on him by his Komsomol education.

This patriotism and lack of materialism expressed itself in the form of a $5 million apartment in the center of Moscow, a small fleet of luxury cars, a celebrity opera singer wife, and the respect of his fellow Kremlin elites. Current head of the SVR Sergey Naryshkin sang at his wedding to Untied Russia deputy Maksakova, which the Duma hailed as its “first interfactional wedding.”

He acquired his riches by selling favors to businessmen in return for promises of official access, and there’s not entirely incredible allegations that he ordered a contract killing (on a businessman who claimed that he had reneged on one of those promises).

However, at some point he crossed the wrong people, and there were rumors that an investigation would be started up when his parliamentary immunity was to run out in December 2016.

What’s a Russian communist patriot who finds himself the subject of criminal proceedings to do?

To flee to the UkSSR, of course, where he is warmly welcomed into the Maidan elites, including accelerated citizenship (in contrast, the Russian useful idiots who went to fight for the Revolution of Dignity and a future for white children have long since been thrown to the winds; many have struggled to even get a residency permit).

There, he goes from fighting Pokemon Go in Russia to calling Russia a latter-day Nazi Germany.

voronenkov-prophecy

In December 2016, soon after settling down in Kiev, he gloated: “First the downed fighter pilot. Now the Russian ambassador. Who’s next?”

Why, you:

voronenko-pays-his-mite

Who did it?

To be sure, Russian special forces are one; it’s not exactly a secret that intelligence services have a special hatred for traitors. Voronenkov was not only a politician, but had once worked in the Federal Drug Control Service, which was once a full-fledged “silovik” institution until it was dissolved and merged into the Interior Ministry in 2016. Not only was he a traitor, but he was also an outspoken one – in his last interview, published just today, he claimed that someone who understood the FSB, like himself, could simply “walk away” from them. That was essentially taunting them to get him.

That said, this was a very sloppy hit by Russian intelligence service standards.

I don’t think Poroshenko & Co. had anything to do with it. He was pretty useless – in the end, he was a lowly Duma deputy, and as such not privy to any of the real decision-making processes – but his chequered history hardly makes a great face as a democratic martyr done in by ROG.

It could also have been a banal falling out with his new “business partners” in Ukraine. Crime has risen since 2014, and the likelihood of such disputes being resolved through guns, not paperwork, is now higher.

That said, there is a good chance he was killed by genuine Ukrainian nationalists. They hate Poroshenko, and they cannot be very happy about the red carpet treatment rolled out for someone who not only supported but helped enable Crimea’s incorporation into Russia.

According to the latest reports, his killer – who has just died in hospital – was an ATO veteran and a member of the National Guard. Now yes, its possible that Russian intelligence services outsourced the assassination. But Occam’s Razor suggests that it was just a case of excessive svidomism.

In which case, just today: Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the hero.

PS. Since this story is such a succinct metaphor for everything wrong with everything – with the Russian elites, the Ukrainian elites, the Western media, and the Ukrainian nationalist yahoos who so conveniently insist on shooting their own country in the foot so regularly – that there will definitely soon be a longer post on this. First, though, a couple of minor technical issues with the blog software need to be fixed.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Assassinations, Elites, Russia, Svidomy, Ukraine 

sadiq-khan-london-its-safer-here

Anyhow.

The K/D ratio was pretty lame. Four dead, including the attacker, who was put down by one of the three armed policemen in all London. He could have at least used a heavy truck like his brother in arms in Nice.

Success in terrorism, as in all other walks of life, is g loaded.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the cognitive profile of the Muslim immigrants to Europe is so… unprepossessing.

More competent terrorists could do more damage. See the Far Left terrorists of the 1970s-80s, or more recently, Breivik.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Terrorism, United Kingdom 

ukronationalists

On March 16, the three main political forces of Ukrainian nationalism – the political party Svoboda, Right Sector, and the National Corpus (i.e. the Azov batallion’s political wing) – signed a National Manifesto that declared the ideological unity of the three structures, and conveniently summarized the 20 key theses of Ukrainian nationalism.

Given the increasingly evident political bankruptcy of the Poroshenko government, its increasing readiness to capitulate before nationalist demands, and the even greater influence Ukrainian nationalism looks set to wield over the regime that comes next, it would be germane to give a brief translation and analysis of the main points of this National Manifesto.

***

We, Ukrainian nationalists, understanding the catastrophic state of our country and with the goal of acquiring and developing a great national state, capable of securing the prosperous existence of Ukrainians and a future for Ukrainian children, are uniting our efforts on the basis of fundamental, unambiguous, and unchanging principles and goals, and thereby offer a concrete plan of action that we can embark upon straight away for the achievement of these goals.

Not bad, though the pilfering from David Lane is a bit too obvious.

1. Define as a priority of state policy the realization of Ukraine’s national interests.

As the Russian nationalist website Sputnik i Pogrom notes, there is no division between Ukraine the state and Ukrainians the people.

This is typical for semi-fictional national projects, in which there is no people without a state.

2. New vector of Ukrainian geopolitics – orientation not to the West or the East, but the creation of a new European unity – that of the Balto-Black Sea Union.

So basically a resurrection of the Intermarium, a geopolitical vision promoted by interwar Polish leader Józef Piłsudski to unite the countries from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.

Today, it has mainly become a Ukrainian nationalist obsession.

It also happens to be even more demented and schizophrenic than Eurasianism (which is at least theoretically realizable, even if its end result will be to turn Russia into Greater Turkestan due to demographic factors).

Ukraine, with a nominal GDP per capita below that of Nigeria, will be economically dominated by Poland in any such arrangement. Furthermore, the Poles have no love for Ukrainian nationalists; there are numerous human interest stories of Ukrainian Gastarbeiters in Poland getting beaten up by Polish skinheads for expressing their love for Bandera. Speaking of Polish nationalists, they outright want Lwow back.

As such, it is unclear how such a neo-Rzeczpospolita union would even be set up in the first place, unless the Ukrainians decide to keep it real authentic and also return to their old socio-economic status under the old union, i.e. as serfs under the Polish szlachta.

3. Recognize the Russian Federation as an aggressor state… break diplomatic relations, blockade the occupied territories, end Russian business activities in Ukraine, sanction Russian capital, goods, and services.

This is an excellent idea (to sideline the Western politicians and Kremlin “geniuses” who threw Ukraine a lifeline in the form of Minsk II, and allowed Russian businesses to continue investing in Ukraine to the tune of billions of dollars since 2014).

Some of these actions – namely, the blockade of the Donbass, and the shuttering down of Russian banks – have already been embarked on and post-facto legitimized by the state in recent weeks, which has resulted in the Kremlin’s apparent loss of interest in shoving Donbass back into Ukraine.

May they continue wracking up more and more peremogas along these lines!

4. Recognize [the LDNR] as occupied territories and develop a real plan to liberate Crimea and Donbass. Immediately embark upon economic, informational, and reconaissance-sabotage actions in furtherance of these goals.

Even better idea.

Though they should beware that the frontline can move backwards as well as forwards.

5. Return the right to recreate a nuclear weapons capability as a foundation of national security in light of the violation of the Budapest Memorandum.

Ukraine does have the technical capacity and human capital to do this.

Of course, the types of people who rule the West, such as Merkel or Juncker, will absolutely love the idea of nuclearization in a state full of groups of armed extremists roving around. By “absolutely love” I mean so shell-shocked they’d be begging Putin to put that rabid animal down.

6. Create a high-tech professional contract army, and a reserve army, based on the territorial principle.

This is very doable on a $90 billion GDP, by which I mean it’s completely bonkers (even if Ukraine does now spend 6% of that measly figure on its military).

7. Legalize the right to armed defense and gun ownership.

Good idea.

Incidentally, this right has existed in the “sovok” DNR since 2015, which has caused no end of butthurt amongst Right Sector.

8. Eliminate hostile propaganda from the Ukrainian information space. Cultivate traditional values, strengthen national consciousness. The Ukrainian language should be the only state language.

Russian culture is already aggressively marginalized – the list of banned Russian TV shows, films, and books is so long it’s hard to keep track. There are hundreds of political prisoners, almost none of them, of course, recognized by Western human rights organizations.

But if Ukrainian culture is indeed so powerful, attractive, and natural to the denizens of the western Pontic steppes, why does it need to be imposed through such repressive and illiberal methods?

9. Carry out a real lustration… strengthen criminal punishments for corruption.

So they do at least recognize that the Euromaidan has done nothing to improve corruption in the past three years, regardless of all the (invariably inconsequential) public workers that its activists shoved into rubbish bins.

Solution: Something along the lines of “Only mass shootings with save Ukraine!,” aka the convergence of UkSSR patriots with retrograde Russian Stalinists (as is oddly appropriate).

10. Introduce a workable procedure for impeaching the President and make a law about the recall of deputies of all levels and judges.

Presumably to be forgotten about as soon as Poroshenko gets removed and their own people are in power.

Because the alternative in Ukraine would be anarchy.

11. Introduce elections for judges and certain categories of local bureaucrats.

Not a bad idea, since along with (17), it will result in the effective breakup of the Ukrainian project.

12. Liquidate the oligarchic system: Return subsoil ownership to the state, as well as strategic objects and enterprises, illegally privatized after 1991; liquidate private monopolities, end capital flight to offshore havens.

This is not bad.

As in Russia, privatization in the 1990s was code word for mass looting, and the oligarchs borne of that period have since proven to be exceptionally bad stewards of their ill-gotten gains.

However, liberal economists will not approve (neither will the countries in thrall to them, i.e. the West).

So goodbye IMF funds. Enjoy the default.

13. Guarantee the labor rights of Ukrainians and create conditions for an effective labor union movement.

As is much of the rest of this program, it boils down to two options:

Either they will institute what it says on the tin, allowing real labor unions that stymie productivity and cancel out even the competitive advantages of Ukraine’s absurdly low wages; or the labor unions they have in mind would be utterly subservient to the state, as in Nazi Germany.

14. Create a new socially just tax code, which will encourage the development of small and medium businesses.

Nice sentiment – no details.

15. Encourage the development of national atomic and alternative energy as a foundation of energy independence.

Many alternative energy schemes are bondoogles even in developed Western countries.

In Poroshenko’s Ukraine, front companies were paid to import coal from South Africa as part of widely propagandized schemes to achieve energy independence from Russia, while in reality those funds were used to buy cheaper coal from Donbass. The difference went to predictable places.

This is a country which can’t even build a proper wall on the border with Russia. Nobody knows where the funds went.

Now try to imagine how Ukraine’s experiments with alternative energy will go.

16. Ban the trade of Ukrainian strategic resources, such as agricultural lands.

Okay.

17. Introduce real self-government by creating self-sufficient territorial units with a large degree of authority.

Agreed – federalization has been consistently touted even as a solid solution to Ukraine’s many… existential problems.

18. Rationalize immigration law, including effective provisions against illegal immigration and the creation of conditions for the return of Ukrainians to the motherland.

Ukraine isn’t facing an immigration problem; it is facing an emigration and brain drain problem, which will become even more catastrophic should it ever achieve the Maidan’s holy grail of bezviz (visa free travel with Europe).

Moreover, in light of the fact that migrants to the EU don’t even bother stopping over in Romania on their way to Germany and Sweden, this has a decidedly comical ring to it.

19. Restore positive dynamics in the national demographics; strengthen the traditional family, strengthen national-patriotic education, and place our bets on the young generation.

Births in all regions of Ukraine were lower in 2016 than in 2014.

Only in Crimea did they improve. What did they do right?

In conjunction with the rest of these proposals, the demographic situation will only plummet further as Ukraine falls into a new depression and perhaps finally falls apart.

20. Encourage the creation of a single local church based in Kiev.

This implies the final removal of the Russian Orthodox Church from Ukraine, including the confiscation of its remaining properties.

Considering ROC’s neutral, at best, and sometimes hostile, attitude to the Russian Spring -it has gone so far as to excommunicate priests who blessed warriors setting off for Donbass – this will perhaps be no more than what it deserves.

In the process, though, it will play a martyr’s role that will be far more useful than its groveling before Our Ukrainian Partners these past three years.

***

slava-ukraine Overall, solid program, I agree with almost all of it.

Consequently this blog will also be a leading torch-bearer of Ukrainian nationalism on the Internet, just as it is already Erdogan’s No.1 on the Internet.

Slava Ukraine!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Nationalism, Ukraine 

On March 15, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, headed by Alexander Turchinov, a hardliner who launched the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” as the interim President after Euromaidan, signed off on the legalization of the Donbass blockade, and transmitted a request to Ukraine’s Central Bank to finalize a plan to put sanctions on Russian banks operating in the country.

In what has long been typical of Ukraine, both actions were preempted by Ukrainian nationalist radicals, and both hurt Ukraine itself far more than anyone else.

Formally, the legalization of the Donbass blockade is a response to the LDNR’s nationalization of Ukrainian (aka Akhmetov’s) enterprises on its territories. In practice, this was a forced response to the blockade itself, which was being carried out by far right militant groups – probably financed by Kolomoysky, Akhmetov’s oligarchic rival – in contravention of official Kiev’s wishes.

We know that this is the case because Kiev did half-heartedly send armed policemen to do… something, to get the blockade lifted. But the “activists” proved a tougher bunch, spraying pepper spray into the cops’ faces and forcing them to retreat with their tails between their legs. It is also worth noting that Ukraine’s European backers are shocked and distraught by the legalization of the blockade, which effectively puts an end to Minsk II. Finally, Poroshenko himself described a law currently being touted in the Rada to formally cut off the LDNR economically as something that would “cut away these territories, build a wall, and gift them to Putin.”

But whereas the resulting “Transnistriazation” of the LDNR is not in Kiev’s interests – LNR head Igor Plotnitsky has already announced the possibility of a new referendum on joining Russia – being seen as weak and not in control of its own armed batallions is even more potentially fatal, so this is probably best seen as a face-saving measure more than anything else; a facade of vindictive incompetence meant to hide the even more damning fact that it is the armed militants, not Kiev, who wield the real power in the country.

We should look at Turchinov’s second edict, the request to put sanctions on Russian banks operating in the Ukraine, in the same vein.

Remarkably for a supposed “aggressor” country – the long-suffering denizens of Donbass can only wish! – Russia has been by far the biggest investor in the Ukraine. Since 2014, its banks and corporations have invested an astounding 175 billion rubles, including $1.7 billion in 2016 alone – that’s 38% of total investment. This has happened even as many of the Euromaidan’s most ardent fans, such as Thomas C. Theiner, have long since given up on the new Ukraine as a corrupt sinkhole).

According to Central Bank vice head Jacob Smoly, the sanctions will illegalize “all operations that benefit the mother banks – such as the allocation of interbank credits, the purchase of securities, and the payment of dividends and other operations” (incidentally, why isn’t CB head Valeria Gontareva making this statement? Is she packing her bags already?).

This came on the heels of “activist” attacks on Russian state bank Sberbank buildings in Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk.

For its part, Sberbank has instituted limits on withdrawals from its Ukraine branches. Should the government take over the banks, it will still have to guarantee Ukrainians’ deposits in those banks. In the worst case, this might usher in a more general bank run. Even though that is unlikely, it still can’t be any good from the perspective of Ukraine’s creaking banking system, which has yet to fully cope with the nationalization of Kolomoyksy’s PrivatBank three months ago.

In any case, Russian pro-Donbass and nationalist websites are cheering this news, since they view it as a well-deserved strike against a “financial fifth-column” that has, in effect, subsidized Ukraine’s ATO while being too cowardly to provide services to Donbass or even Crimea.

Alexander Mercouris connects this to a power play by Yulia Tymoshenko against Poroshenko. As he noticed, these recent events come in the context of her secret visit to Washington D.C. in early February, where she allegedly had a short meeting with Trump; her longstanding alliance with Turchinov; and, more speculatively, a more recent alliance of convenience with Kolomoysky and his mercenary batallions.

ukraine-elections-2019-polling As Mercouris argues, this is but the next step in the factional struggle between Poroshenko-Groysman and Tymoshenko-Kolomoysky, with the latter becoming increasingly ascendant.

As of the past year, opinion polls have shown Tymoshenko consistently ahead of Poroshenko in a direct runoff. Since Poroshenko has presided over a depression, failed to achieve any of the Maidan’s promises, and now has an approval rating lower than Yanukovych’s lowest, this can hardly be surprising.

Outright rebellions by restive oligarchs in 2016 were checked by US intermediation, when in the course of a ten hour conversation Obama’s VP Joe Biden made it clear to Kolomoysky and Poroshenko’s reticent PM Yatsenyuk that mutiny would not be tolerated.

This time, however, the US is less likely to intervene to save Poroshenko’s bacon. Trump is a man known to bear grudges, so in all likelihood he has it out for Poroshenko and his allies, who (unsuccessfully) tried to sabotage his own election in favor of Hillary Clinton.

If this interpretation of events is more or less accurate – that Poroshenko has lost substative control of the functions of state to allies of Tymoshenko, and that Tymoshenko herself has acquired Washington D.C.’s “jarlig” authorizing her to rule the Ukraine – then the Chocolate King’s days in power are surely numbered.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Politics, Ukraine, War in Donbass 

I was under the impression this particular meme was played out, and replaced by the “Russian Hackers” one, but it appears not.

By request of the Latvian Ministry of Defense, courtesy of NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre for Excellence, and in all likelihood paid for by your tax dollars, we have the following report: Stratcom Laughs: In Search of a Strategic Framework.

Paul Robinson explains:

The report states its purpose as being to study humour as a ‘strategic communication tool’. The first part of the report undertakes a long academic analysis of what humour is and what purposes it serves. In later parts it then looks at how the Russian state allegedly uses humour as a propaganda tool and how Ukrainians have countered it with humour of their own.

The basic conclusion of the report is that in Russia, ‘the entire “official humour industry” … is directly Kremlin-controlled’. Working for the Kremlin, Russian comedians use humour to reduce their compatriots’ stress and make them feel more comfortable and thus more accepting of the political system. They provide audiences with a positive sense of social identity, which is contrasted with a negative view of others. The ‘in-group’ – Russia – is portrayed as victimized by the ‘out-group’ – the West. And in the context of Ukraine, through comedy, ‘Russian propaganda has been trying to use and exacerbate a number of differences between social groups so as to create an atmosphere of total distrust and panic.’

Here are a few especially striking examples of Russia’s propaganda war from the report:

The way Western leaders, especially those the United States, are portrayed in the comedy content of the entertainment broadcasts points to a disinformation campaign.

putin-dobby Putin has been at the center of jokes in Western entertainment broadcasts since, like, when Harry Potter was still cool.

Another factor influencing the intensity of joking about a particular state and its leaders, as well as the content of the jokes, is the position of the country in the hierarchical frame of international relations created by the shows’ discourse. Russia and the US are portrayed as the leading actors. Germany, France, and Italy are recognized as less influential, but still important actors, while the images of other Western countries and their political leaders are not featured as regularly as those mentioned. Being ignored here works as another, no less important instrument for underlining the hierarchy built by the discourse.

Butthurt Belt detekted.

Why won’t Putler pay attention to me?

Donald Trump’s image has been portrayed through his bizarre behaviour. Interestingly, an integral part of the visual presentations of Donald Trump has been his strange hairstyle (as been pointed out several times in Urgant shows). For example, in the 10 December 2015 episode of Vecherniy Urgant, Ivan Urgant described Trump’s hairstyle as the best place for birds to nest.

trump-hairWho hasn’t made fun of Trump’s hair outside the Breitbart ecosystem?

So pretty much the entirety of the Western MSM serve ROG (Russian Occupation Government). Glad to see that set straight.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: NATO, Putin Derangement Syndrome 

libya-2017-03

In the past 24 hours, scattered reports have come in that Russia has deployed a small group of special forces backed by drones to an airbase in Egypt near the Libyan border.

If so, this has been a long time in the brewing.

Since the end of the Libyan Civil War, a series of constitutional crises has seen the country splinter anew. They are too long and complex to recount here, but essentially, there is are now three main factions vying for control:

  • The UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by PM Mustafa al-Serraj, who governs Tripoli from a naval base, and includes a medley of liberals, Islamists, and ethnic militias who alternate between cooperation and hostily to each other. It is supported by the Libyan navy and the honestly named Petroleum Facilities Guard, which controls many of the oil transit ports around Ras Lanuf. It is the UN-recognized government, and enjoys US, EU, Turkish, and Qatari support.
  • The Council of Deputies (CoD), or House of Representatives, government based in Tobruk, which is dominated by General Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, and enjoys support from Egypt, Algeria, Russia, and the US.
  • The Islamic State, which used to control Sirte, but has since been defeated and gone underground.

Since 2014, the GNA has been in a state of war with the CoD, despite recurrent attempts at intermediation. Islamic State, of course, hates everyone.

Due to Libya’s status as a funnel for African immigrants into Europe, as a significant oil producer, and as a hotbed for international jihadi terrorists, there are incentives on all sides to get it sorted out.

While the US joins the EU in officially backing the GNA, Haftar is a longtime CIA asset since he parted ways with Qaddafi in 1986, so it is warm towards him as well; especially now that the White House is occupied by Trump, who has long been skeptical of Obama/HRC’s misadventures in Libya. Russia also supports Haftar; he visited Moscow in November 2016, and video conferenced with Defense Minister Shoigu on the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov this January.

Haftar also enjoys the support of neighboring Egypt and Algeria.

In line with this, there have been rumors that Russia has already started supplying Haftar with huge quantities of arms via Algeria to circumvent the UN arms embargo on non-GNA factions in Libya.

Back in early February, the Russian-Israeli nationalist journalist Avigdor Eskin, writing for Russian news agency RIA, speculated that under Trump, the US could come to an agreement with Russia and cooperate on the rebuilding of Libya. Interesting enough, the groundwork for this was laid under Michael Flynn under the auspices of the group of experts known as Jellyfish Inc., many of whom were promoted to positions of influence in the Trump administration and, despite Flynn’s quick defenestration, presumably still remain there.

The proposed plan allegedly calls for the creation of settlements of 20,000-50,000 on the Libyan coast centered on the creation of oil refineries and accompanying infrastructure. The idea is that the immigrants would remain bottled up there, working in the oil refineries for decent wages and provisioned with nice, “European-style” amenities, instead of moving onto Europe. Some of Europe’s surplus refugees could even be dumped back there. Jellyfish Inc. would attract investors. Left unsaid, General Haftar would, presumably, be the guy who “enforces” this arrangement.

This is, for now, just rumor, it is highly suspect that the idea would even work – oil refineries are not exactly labor intensive, and as observers of Europe’s immigrant experiment, we know that the sorts of migrants coming up there will be all but useless in a modern factory environment.

That said, there are less fanciful ways the involved parties can benefit. In exchange for its support in restoring central authority under Hafat in Libya, Russia may reacquire the weapons supply deals it enjoyed under Qaddafi; once the new regime is secure and flush with oil cash, perhaps even the $3 billion contract from 2008 for Russian Railways to build a railroad along Libya’s Mediterranean coast could be revived.

The ruling regimes in both Egypt and Algeria would appreciate the squashing of Islamist elements in their neighboring country. The US could benefit by putting the whole Libya imbroglio behind it, and continue to exert whatever influence it may still possess accruing from Haftar’s long vacation near Langley.

qaddafi-millions-of-blacks The EU, meanwhile – assuming it is not yet too consumed by internal crises – will have to negotiate its own deal on immigration. Ironically, most likely it will be very similar to the understanding Italy had with Qaddafi: Cash for keeping out the Africans.

In other words, the same old, same old – after almost a decade of pointless wars and pilfering. If not for the neocons, Qaddafi would have crushed the rebellion within a year.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Libya 

based-erdogan

I might just turn my blog into the Internet’s number 1 Erdogan fansite.

Seriously, I don’t got what all the fuss is about.

Western politicians love pushing their snouts where they don’t belong – observe the flurry of European and American dignitaries sulking the streets in the runup to Euromaidan (immortalized in the Nuland Cookies meme), or during the 2012 protests against Putin in Moscow.

On those occasions when Russia bars their entry, they go and complain to the media about it.

So the Turks didn’t do nothing wrong.

Good on high energy Erdogan for making a stand. And good on his local fans for chimping out… I mean, campaigning so energetically for Geert Wilders on the streets of Rotterdam. This is so considerate and patriotic of them. /ourguys/!

Obviously I don’t actually care about the Netherlands banning Turkish politicians. If I had to insert a reaction.gif here, it would be the one of Michael Jackson eating popcorn.

Besides, its the sovereign right of the Dutch to decide who come in to politick in their country, and besides, this serves to accelerate the fissure between Turkey and the EU.

Turkey itself has been most cooperative. They have suspended high-level diplomatic relations with the EU. They have called half of North Europe “Nazis” (in the bad sense of the word: Erdogan does like the Nazi political system). They have also said they are reneging on the migrants deal with Europe. The Wall, when?

All of this helps objectively helps Eurosceptic forces, both in the Netherlands itself (which is having a most propitiously timed general election tomorrow) and in Europe generally. Anything bad for the EU is good for Europeans, their cultural and demographic prospects, and frankly for most everyone else on this planet.

It also helps Erdogan paint himself as a victim and increases support for the upcoming Turkish referendum on massively expanding his powers as President. If it passes, Turkey will essentially become a soft dictatorship (as Erdogan himself once said, democracy is like a train; you get off at your destination).

This will further accentuate the rift between the EU, at least so long as its functionaries continue to pay at least lip service to democracy. And eventually, it cannot help but reverberate to some extent on NATO, with which Turkey also has mounting problems in the form of tensions with the US in Syria, and with Greece.

So, my advice to Erdogan: Carry on, my dude! ЖГИ ИСЧО! Russia has your back!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: European Union, Turkey 

It has emerged that on February 27, the PM of the DNR Alexander Zakharchenko issued an edict fixing the borders of the DNR at the current frontline.

The document, posted at the website of the DNR’s Ministry of State Security, illegalizes border crossings between the DNR and “territories under the temporary authority of Ukrainian state authority” that occur outside official DNR transit points.

For context, this order was signed at around the same time that Akhmetov’s industrial empire in the LDNR was nationalized.

Since the leaders of the LDNR have little autonomy of their own, this is another datapoint that the Kremlin has decidedly given up on Minsk II, and the plan of shoving back the Donbass into Ukraine in exchange for at least a de facto recognition of Crimea as Russian.

This is a good thing. I have long argued that this “clever plan” was too clever for its own good and was as likely as not to blow up in the Kremlin’s face. In any case, the Maidanists – held hostage by armed nationalists – have themselves have made the issue moot by refusing any degree of compromise.

Ideally, Russia should just recognize the LDNR, for instance, by recognizing the results of the 2014 referendum on self-rule, which won with 89% support (mirroring a 1994 referendum, in which 84% of Donetsk and Lugansk oblast citizens voted in favor of federalizing the country). Since the DNR’s border is now formally just the frontline, it could then be moved arbitrarily; for instance, to the Dnieper.

There have been some minor hints of a decisive solution to the Ukrainian experiment. On March 2, Zakhachenko had made a strange proclamation that the Ukrainian state only has 60 days left to live. According to rumors reported by Igor Strelkov from his unnamed sources in the “elites,” Azarov is already busy “arranging the Ministerial portfolios” of a “liberated Ukraine.”

I don’t put much credence in this. There have been many such scares – both “war scares” and “total surrender” scares – in the past two years, and none of them have ended panning out. This isn’t how Putin works. He reacts to things instead of acting; and he loves leaving things ambiguous and half-done.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that some kind of shift really is occuring. According to more recent rumors, also reported by Strelkov, the increasingly evident failure of Minsk II is moving the Kremlin to solidify the LDNR’s status as a Big Tranistria. However, the LDNR has about ten times as many people as Tranistria, so subsidizing it would be a much greater strain on the checkbook. It therefore has to be made economically self-sustaining.

Thus, according to Strelkov’s sources, a number of processes have come into play.

First, there would have to be a reorganization of cadres in the Republics; to this end, commissions have been sent to the LDNR to assess their administrative, fiscal/economic, and military status. The results aren’t good – understandably so, since their existence was originally planned to be temporary (see above).

LNR PM Igor Plotnitsky is named as a prime candidate for “retirement” – unsurprisingly so, given the dark reputation he has acquired for wacking NAF commanders who came into conflict with him. To the contrary, Zakharchenko may see a rise in his status, becoming head of a united LDNR.

Strelkov has a very low opinion of the advisors to the NAF, and many of them, he claims, will sooon be retired and replaced with more capable people.

The economy is to be made more self-sustaining, so that supporting the LDNR is no longer such a burden on Russia even as the region continued sending taxes to Kiev in the past two years of the conflict. There is already a huge mass of evidence that this is happening. Namely, the nationalization of Akhmetov’s empire, following the Donbass’ blockade by far right Ukrainian militias, and the acceleration of economic integration with Russia, eased along by the recent decision to start recognizing LDNR documents.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Novorossiya, War in Donbass 

Vault 7, the the CIA’s suite of hacking tools just released by Wikileaks, includes a malware library “stolen” from other states, including Russia, that can be used to misattribute attacks to them:

UMBRAGE

The CIA’s hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.

This is analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible. As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

As if there wasn’t a big enough pall of suspicion over the entire “Russian Hackers” meme already.

/pol/ is ON IT:

The CIA DELIBERATELY MIMICS THE HACKING PROTOCOLS OF RUSSIA TO OBFUSCATE THEIR OWN HACKS.

This entire “Russia hacking” narrative is based on this shit; namely similarities between “Fancy Bear” and the DCLeaks malware, as well as “Russian” metadata found in Guccifer 2.0 files. NONE of this “evidence” can therefore be taken seriously.

The whole “Russian hacking” narrative is blatantly a CIA false flag designed to justify harsher anti-Russian foreign policy and ruin any of Trump’s potential efforts to make friends with Russia.

The entire “Russia hacked the election” narrative can be thrown out because we now know that the CIA DELIBERATELY PRETENDS TO BE RUSSIA BY LEAVING FALSE CLUES, ATTRIBUTION IS IMPOSSIBLE.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Hacking, Wikileaks 

turkey-vs-manbij

Source: SyrianCivilWarMap.com

Several hours ago, the Turkey-supported Euphrates Shield rebel group, fresh from the capture of Al-Bab, has pivoted towards a full out assault on the SDF-held Manbij enclave.

Ahrar Al-Sham units and Turkish spec ops backed up by armor are rumored to be on the outskirts of Arima, which is the stepping stone to Manbij.

Rojava is sponsored by the US, and there are even reports of US troops in Manbij itself. But Turkey is of course also a NATO ally.

The day before, a Turkish newspaper claimed that Turkey threatened the US will lose of access to its Incirlik airbase if it doesn’t stop its support for the YPG.

This seems good for the Syrian govenrment. With the SDF occupied, they will not have to compete with them in a race to the Euphrates, and with the SDF refocusing efforts away from Raqqa, the SAA now even stands a chance of getting there first as well.

The Kurds are, obviously, are the biggest losers. The US aren’t going to be doing air support for them, not least because it would put them in direct confrontration with the Turkish Air Force, so Manbij is most likely doomed. Likewise, the line of communication and potential supply route with Afrin canton that Rojava had acquired a week ago when the SAA linked up with it after cutting across Islamic State seems fated to be very short-lived.

That said, this will be a substantial chunk of land that the Turks are carving out for their surrogates. Should the incipient rebel mini-civil war around Idlib result in the victory of Turkish-sponsored Ahrar Al-Sham and its allies over the JFS, then Syrian-held Aleppo could find itself almost entirely surrounded by a rebel force united by being under Turkish support or influence. And Erdogan doesn’t exactly have a reputation for loyalty.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Syrian Civil War 

This is in response to the blockade of coal shipments from the LDNR into Ukraine by right wing militants, who oppose absolutely anything that helps finance the republics. The resulting energy blockade threatens the stability of what appears to be a surprisingly vigorous Ukrainian economic recovery, and puts Poroshenko – with his record low ratings – in further political jeopardy.

It is also far more significant than the recognition of LDNR docs a couple of weeks ago. That was, essentially, just a humanitarian gesture by Russia. In contrast, nationalization of Ukrainian enterprises does two major things:

(1) It moves the commanding heights of the economy under the DNR legal framework, which has been – for lack of alternatives – integrating with Russia for the past couple of years. That means no more taxes to Ukraine. That means the cutting of one of the last major bonds that tie them to the Ukrainian polity and, consequently, the feasibility of any future reintegration scenario that stops short of a complete Putinsliv (total Russian abandonment).

(2) It severely undercuts the already precaurious position of Rinat Akhmetov, the Poroshenko-allied oligarch who controls most of the heavy industry in the Donbass (there are residual rumors that the reason the DNR offensive to take Mariupol was called off was to allow his enterprises to continue exporting from an internationally recognized port). More speculatively, this might also weaken the position of Alexander Khodakovsky, Akhmetov’s main protege in the DNR, who has been its main voice of compromise and supporter of reintegration with the Ukraine.

Incidentally, it is widely believed that the militias behind the blockade are financed by Kolomoysky. Since having had his challenge to Poroshenko undercut by US diplomatic intervention, and punished through the privatization of his bank Privatbank, Kolomoysky’s fortunes have been on the wane. This might be his play to restore them. First, Akhmetov is Kolomoysky’s direct rival, and Kolomoysky standards to directly benefit from his losses. Second, he has very ample reasons to want revenge against Poroshenko. Third, he has allied himself with Yulia Tymoshenko, who has re-emerged in the past year to become the highest polling politician in Ukraine, including vis-a-vis Poroshenko (not that this is a high bar to clear). The blockade gives Kolomoysky leverage, and the brewing energy/economic crisis may create the conditions to trigger new parliamentary elections that will allow him to replace Poroshenko’s PM Vladimir Groysman with his own allies.

For all the Kremlins’ convoluted efforts to reinsert the LDNR into a federalized Ukraine, all those “clever plans”/mnogokhodovki keep on getting shattered against the Scylla of uncompromising, uncontrolled Ukrainian nationalism and the Charybdis of Ukrainian clan politics. But then again, maybe that was the idea in the first place. Maybe the true mnogokhodovka succeeds through failure; maybe the intent was always to achieve peremoga through zrada.

Well, okay, probably not. Still, this is great news regardless.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Ukraine, War in Donbass 

The recently departed Vitaly Churkin was /ourguy/ in every sense of the word.

Not only did he fight the good fight in the UN, it has recently emerged he also blogged the good blog (and commented the good comments) online as imperia-mir.

We can’t be 100% certain that it is him. We have only the last post on that blog, claiming Churkin as its main author, to assert that. However, that blog has been in existence for a long time, and the person behind it has consistently commented like someone who is pretty high up, and in the know about, the inner workings of Russian international politics, so the claim is not incredible.

If this is the case, then the picture that emerges is of a Russian patriot, committed to state service, whose ideas and values are surprisingly unorthodox, original, and interesting, especially by the standards of the gray Russian bureaucractic caste.


aivazovsky-stormy-sea-1868

On Crimea (Mar 11, 2014)

Crimea is not just…

It is not just Cimmeria, of which the man in the street primarily knows only on account of the name of a barbarian played by a future governor of California…

It is not only the land of the ancient Scythians, whose name resounded far beyond the borders of the Empire that adopted them…

It is not only the kingdoms, cities, towns, and polises, with the proud names of Panticapaeum, Kalos Limen, Theodosius, Heracleon. It is not just only just the realm of the ancient – the shipbuilding, the viticulture, the growing of olives, the construction of temples, theaters, stadiums. It is not just Euripedes, and not just the drama Iphigenia in Tauris.

Yes, Odysseys rested in Evpatoria. Yes, the caligae of the Roman vexillationes gathered dust on the Via Militaris. But not only them. “From Scythia to Camelot,” yes, but not only.

It is not only the Sarmats and the Goths, and the Horde, and the Rus. It is not only wars, it is not just the shores bleached gray by eternity, it is not just the vineyards of the Golitsyns, it is not just the Tatars, not just the sieges, not just the splendor of Potemkin, his works, his pains, and the horrific myths dreamt up about his feats. Not just the Russian fleet, not just the union of steel, will, and talent of all Europe, not just the ascent of John Paul Jones, the creator of the US Navy and an admiral of the Russian Navy, and hundreds of others, who are no less ours by law and blood.

It is not only Ivan Aivazovsky and Alexander Grin, it is not just the crimson sails of the Soviet squadrons, it is not just the endless defenses of endless Sevastopol in the name of endless Russia, baptized into the Empire by the will of God at Chersonesus. And it is not even the Kazantip festival.

It is not only the underground submarine base at Balaklava, where the British Light Brigade perished; it is not the sailor hero Koshka; it is not the endless landing troops, polygons, airports, scientific centers, not the space observation stations, not the looted long-range radar stations and the destroyed fields that were once used to test the Lunokhod moon rovers; it is not Levadia, not Yalta, not the 147 bays and 295 wharfs; it is not the sunsets, the auroras, and not even the secluded lakes and islands, where people learned to talk with dolphins.

Taurida is our Avalon.

It is our sword. And is it returning to us.

***

On Putin (Jul 19, 2014)

Today I learned something that has forced me to reevaluate my opinion about Vladimir Putin.

“Forced” – not quite the right word, and “something” – is a euphemism.

I have always voted for him freely (including, dear God, during “Operation Successor”). I have always been critical towards him – from his personnel policy to a certain (in my view) naive and complacent strategy towards our “Western Partners” (TM), a criminally lackadaisical attitude towards homegrown Russophobe extremists, the strange loyalty to an entire array of strange neoliberal economic mantras, the lack of a clear general development strategy in the widest sense of the word, indecisiveness, the art of “thin ambiguity,” the secret service mentality of not explaining things fully – in other words, my criticism is the entire repertoire of a person who criticizes Putin for not being sufficiently Putin (that is, one’s own singular Putin). And I will continue criticizing him, in part because I do not conflate patriotism and the absence of criticism for making mistakes.

My criticism is based on a social heart, a liberal (in the correct, original, and good sense of this word) mind, an anarchic liver, and monarchic (not constitutional) nerves. My soul belongs to God in the Orthodox interpretation (I hope), but I’d like to live in a pantheistic (not in a pagan one! nor in a so-called “secular”) state! I don’t like Stalin, but hate his demonization, and lies about him. I don’t consider the Russian Empire to be better than the USSR, or vice versa – I have no desire to try to compare the incomparable, or to divide up a continuum. I am a conservative, but can’t stand the opponents of progress. I love ancient traditions, but I am all for genetic engineering and other experiments with embryonic cells. I believe that humanity will conquer the stars, but will be unable to master itself. I equally despise all political systems, but consider direct and absolute democracy, which doesn’t exist and never has, to be closest to my own worldview. Today I live in the country, the US, that is closest to this ideal (with the exception, perhaps, of San Marino), and consider that Russia would find this model to be even more natural and useful and effective, than here. When I live in Russia, I forget all this and it’s all irrelevant to me (joke). Abroad, they categorize me as a “Russian nationalist,” even though, if I am a “nationalist” of anything, it is of the (early) Roman Empire.

In short, I am a typical Russian person.

And my attitudes towards Putin are thus homespun, rustic, true with an inevitable correction for an unusually high level of informedness, but nonetheless, still in the style of, “Caesar, don’t forget that you’re bald!”

But now, everything has changed.

If what I have learned is true (and I have no doubts about this, except in the scenario, “The entire world is an illusion, Neo”), then I have been very much mistaken on Putin.

I believed that he was an ordinary man – well, someone with a high intellect, highly developed instincts, etc., a modest requisition on historical greatness, and so on.

But now I doubt all that. When this happened to him, I am not sure – at birth, before birth, at his meeting with Father John Krestyankin, or even when he swam with the dolphins – but it happened.

And verily I speak: When “Zeus lifts up his soul into the starry sky,” all of Olympus will spar for the right to his nerves, for they are the metal to create invulnerable armor for new Achilles – and Hephaestus himself will prostrate himself before his iron will.

Because nothing human is alien to man.

And because after all that I have learned, I no longer fear even Armageddon with this leader.

Everything will be great.

Our trials will be fearsome. Very fearsome.

But we got very lucky with him. Very lucky.

Dixi.

PS. Anticipating the inevitable dull reactions (in the style of “LOL this vatnik found his idol”), I will just quote the aforementioned Father John Krestyankin:

“You know, once upon a time in Russia before the Revolution there was this one attraction: A circus frequently visited the market, and they hadvarious shows. And one show was called, “Live Peter the Great for 20 kopeks.” There was a tent, within which was a giant telescope, and there entered a person who began to look into its tube, to see Peter the Great. The staff said, “Focus it.” He focused it. “Focus it more.” He focused it even more. And when all attempts failed, they asked him, “And? Do you not yet see him.” “No, I don’t.” And then they told him, “Well, who’d have thought! What did you want, anyway – to see the live Peter the Great for just 20 kopeks!” And on this note, the show ended.

Of course, this might be an invented example, but the Father explained it further. He said, “And so we too in this life want to see a living Christ, for 20 rubles or 20 kopeks. No, it doesn’t work like that. We have to strive together, we have to work, we have to live an intense spiritual life, because man reaps what he sows – He who sows parsimoniously, reaps little; he who sows generously, reaps richly.

Commenter: So what is it that you found out?

imperia_mir: I still want to live. I’m not writing this from Russia. There can be many sorts of provocations, and different situations, and more serious than the one with the Boeing. And when they are averted, it is as if they do not exist. And that’s good. Because the mere voicing of some situations – can be a catastrophe.

 

Some of the good guys hope and some of the bad guys fear that it is a prelude to recognition of the LDNR.

Some of the good guys fear and some of the bad guys hope that it is a prelude to the final stage of Putinsliv.

Reality – zero geopolitical significance whatsoever. If there was a serious plan to annex those regions, there would be a mass Russian passport giveaway. In reality, getting a Russian passport is hellishly difficult, even for ethnic Russian refugees in Russia. Astoundingly, there are frequent scandals in which paper-pushing bureaucrats attempt to deport former Donbass militiamen back to Ukraine… and the loving embrace of the SBU. Even the wording of Putin’s ukaz is completely cucked: “Documents handed out to Ukrainian citizens and people without citizenship by organs/organizations that exist in specific regions of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts.

In reality, this is just a modest step humanitarian step in the Donbass, where more and more people are falling into an “undocumented” state due to the difficulty of getting documents from Ukraine. It is the very least that Russia could do for the people who rose in its support and it is shamefully overdue.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Novorossiya, Russia 

The Trump administration is endlessly accused of having had contacts with Russian officials during the election campaign, as if that was a Very Bad Thing.

In reality is it not only standard diplomatic practice, but it is something that the US has always done itself – and usually from the other wise of the fence.

Perhaps the most richly illustrative case is from January 2012 at the height of the anti-Putin protests, when the US Embassy invited leading members of Russia’s pro-Western opposition to its Moscow Embassy – though given the marginal electoral ratings of Nemtsov, Chirikova, Ponomarev, Mitrokhin, etc., this is not even so much like the Kremlin talking to Republican candidate Trump as to various assorted marginals like Evan McMullin, Michael Moore, Bill Kristol, the guy who played knockout on Richard Spencer, and whoever the current chairman of the CPUSA is).

NTV journalists had gotten the scoop on this visit, and showed up to ask what their goals of their visit to the US Embassy was. Since those people are politicians who claim to be the consciousness of the Russian nation, warriors of light against the Dark Lord Puter, these were entirely reasonable questions. But none of them had an intelligible response – on going in, at any rate. But evidently the folks at the US Embassy have a bit more creativity, and on going out, they all started chanting “You are Surkov propaganda” to the journalists, dismissing them as pawns of the guy who was then widely rumored to be the gray cardinal of the Kremlin.

In what way is Trump worse than the Russian pro-Western opposition?

Take a cue from them. Refuse to answer their questions. Proclaim “You are Soros propaganda” to their faces. Maybe even physically assault them just like WSJ op-ed writer Kasparov and Bozhena Rynska did at their Vilnius Conference, where they were discussing what territories Russia has to give away to make up with the West.

But seriously, contacts between opposition forces and foreign governments is neither illegal nor even unusual. This is standard practice in democracies. But Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers evidently disagree on whether the US should remain a democracy now that the wrong people have been voted in.

Some of them, like Bill Kristol, are even quite open about it (“Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state“).

 

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN since 2006, Vitaly Churkin’s finest hour was undoubtedly August 10, when he lambasted Western hypocrisy in supporting Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and the UN-mandated Russian peacekeepers stationed there:

Its military action had begun with tank and heavy artillery attacks on Russian peacekeepers, which had resulted in 12 deaths. The Russian Federation wondered whether the term “ethnic cleansing” could be used to describe Georgia’s actions. What other terms could be used when 30,000 of South Ossetia’s population of 100,000 had become refugees? Could it be described as genocide when 2,000 out of 100,000 people died?

How many civilians had to die before it was described as genocide? he asked. When others were lamenting the death of civilians in Georgia, why weren’t they worried about the attacks on villages in South Ossetia? How could the international community react when, despite all the international agreements — Russian peacekeepers were acting in South Ossetia in accordance with the agreement of 1992, signed by Georgia and South Ossetia -– Georgia directly targeted peacekeepers and civilians? Had Georgia expected peacekeepers to run away as they had in Srebrenica?

Back in 2008, Russia’s soft power instruments were much less developed than today. RT was just getting started up. Churkin’s clear and uncompromising statement of the Russian case amidst the Western propaganda of Russian aggression was a light in the darkness. This event, perhaps even more so than Putin’s Munich speech, marked the final onset of post-Soviet Russia’s disillusionment with the US and its ceaseless lies and betrayals. Putin himself put it very succinctly: “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing — the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.

Churkin stoically soldiered on, laying out the Russian case on Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. This was not an unstressful job, considering the boorishness ideologues he had to do battle with (to take just one egregious example out of many, on convening an emergency session of the UN Security Council after the US bombed and killed 80 Syrian soldiers defending Deir ez-Zor, he was flat out informed by Obama’s flunky Samantha Power that she was “not interested” in what he had to say).

It’s possible that it was the stress that did his heart in at the age of 64. He had himself complained about it a few weeks before his death: “The profession of a diplomat has become much more hectic than it used to be in the past. It is stressful. Unfortunately, the world has not become more stable than it used to be.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, UN 

ukraine-approval-of-nato

Gallup:

The proportion of residents of Ukraine — a potential NATO member state until a few years ago — who view NATO as a threat has increased in recent years after years of steady decline between 2008 and 2014. In 2014, after NATO sanctioned Russia after it annexed Crimea, Ukrainians for the first time were more likely to see NATO as protection (36%) than a threat (20%). However, the percentage viewing it as a threat shot back up to 35% in 2016 as the Ukrainian population has grown tired of the ongoing conflict between its military and Russian-backed separatists, as well as a poor economy and rising crime rates. Without a clear end in sight to the conflict, Ukrainians may be losing confidence in NATO’s ability to help them in this crisis.

It might be news to you that NATO was ever expected to help Ukraine with its… crisis, but for many svidomy Ukrainians it is a long-running delusion.

One way that vatniks like to make fun of svidomy is by referencing the TyaschaVDen’ meme (One Thousand Grivnas per Day), based on Poroshenko’s promise in 2014 to pay that amount to every contract soldier. Incidentally, it wasn’t fulfilled, and of course couldn’t be fulfilled; even at current exchange rates, that is $1,000 per month, whereas the Ukraine is now competing with Moldova for having Europe’s lowest average wage at around $200 per month.

That meme is noteable in that it perhaps best of all represents the cargo cultish attitudes of many svidomy Ukrainians towards the West in general. All they would have to do is sign up to the Religion of Reform, topple the Lenin statues, and proclaim their allegiance to the EU and NATO, and very soon they would all have their own TyaschaVDen’ (not to mention visa-free travel with the EU, with the ironic shorthand for that holy grail of Euromaidan, eternally just out of reach, having long become its own meme: Bezviz).

Unfortunately for the svidomy, reality isn’t biased in favor of cargo cults, so disillusionment is inevitable.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: NATO, Ukraine 

In my 2017 predictions, I wrote:

Russians have a more positive view of the US than of the EU as of the last Levada poll in that year: 60%.

Latest polls:

russia-approval-usa-eu

The gap is only 2 points now.

Republicans, at least are returning the favor.

us-approval-of-russia

The New Cold War might well be petering out in a premature end.

The Germans are far less happy with Trump, though.

german-approval-of-usa

Feel free to spy on their Chancellor to your heart’s content, but don’t you dare refuse to accept Infinity Moslems into your country.

 

Yet another tired meme of the Lamestream Media is biting the dust.

Tulsi Gabbard is a Democrat who is on good terms with Trump – indeed, she was once viewed as a feasible if highly unlikely candidate for Secretary of State. She has gone to Syria, talked with the people, and confirmed that the “moderate rebels” are anything but, and has since proceeded to castigate CNN on their fake news (her interviewer wasn’t happy about that).

Incidentally, as Alexander Mercouris points out, it is most curious that the most fervent proponents of that meme never seemed to want to spend much time with the objects of their veneration:

A key point to make about Tulsi Gabbard is that she has made these comments after actually visiting Syria, and going to places like Damascus and Aleppo.

As I have previously pointed out, since the end of the fighting in Aleppo, the city is now safe to visit by Western journalists, which is why Tulsi Gabbard has been able to go there, and has been able to speak to people there. By contrast the Western media, which throughout the autumn was full of lurid reports of atrocities supposedly committed in Aleppo during the fighting there by the Syrian army and the Russians, is staying away.

Here is Gabbard’s official statement:

“I return to Washington, DC with even greater resolve to end our illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government. I call upon Congress and the new Administration to answer the pleas of the Syrian people immediately and support the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. We must stop directly and indirectly supporting terrorists—directly by providing weapons, training and logistical support to rebel groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS; and indirectly through Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Turkey, who, in turn, support these terrorist groups. We must end our war to overthrow the Syrian government and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda and ISIS.

“From Iraq to Libya and now in Syria, the U.S. has waged wars of regime change, each resulting in unimaginable suffering, devastating loss of life, and the strengthening of groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

This jives with Trump’s inauguration promise: “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.

Anyhow, stinging from their defeat in Aleppo, the rebels in the Idlib pocket have descended into something resembling a civil war in record time. The eastern front remains stable – Deir ez-Zor has continued to hold out, despite Islamic State throwing so many men from their Iraqi wilayats and matériel captured from Palmyra at it in the past couple of weeks.

As this new reality dawns, Western states are beginning to publicly accept Assad’s right to a political role in the future Syria.

 

Well I would certainly like him to stay, but for some reason he’s decided to start making things really hard for himself.

Having remained silent on Obama, the guy most responsible for sending him into exile, Snowden has chosen this moment of all moments to make good with the very Lügenpresse that once smeared him as a Russian chekist and support the Soros-funded #WomensMarch against Trump.

Russia provided asylum on the condition that he refrain from excessive political activism against the US, and this was under Obama. Why would this policy change under Trump of all people? There are several hypotheses:

(1) Attacking Trump is the cool thing to do now, and doing so might give Snowden a chance of claiming asylum in a European state. It is clear that Snowden has always felt unease about his Russia asylum and has ceaselessly – and all things considered, rather rudely – been trying to exchange it for asylum in some European or Latin American state.

(2) Snowden has good reason to believe that he will be part of an eventual pro quid pro deal with Trump, so anything he does now is irrelevant anyway. So he might as well give vent to his true feelings. I certainly don’t blame him for this. He has no reason to like Trump personally, who has implied he would like to see Snowden executed. More importantly, neither Putin nor Trump – authoritarian personalities with no time for “social justice” and who view the surveillance apparatus as a useful tool of the state – sync in the least with his liberal cypherpunk ideals.

And Snowden is an idealist above all else. And that is to his credit.

But unfortunately, the people who run Russia and the US (from both aisles) are not idealists, but hard-nosed realists. Getting Snowden back would be a diplomatic coup for Trump. And I’m sorry, Eddie, but much as Russians might like you – not, of course, for your principled idealism, but for dragging Obama through the dirt – but a deal that would guarantee the safety and security of their compatriots in the Donbass are worth more than one person.

That said, there’s one major disadvantage to Russia of extraditing Snowden: Whereas it previously had a good record of looking out for defectors – even the Yeltsin regime never extradited Western spies for the Soviet Union – future defectors would think twice about going to Russia if they believe they would be used as a bargaining chip whenever the political winds change.

As such, perhaps it would be best for everyone involved, including Snowden himself, to attempt to strike a deal in which he goes back to the US of his “own volition,” but Trump gets to show off his magnanimity by pardoning him soon after and stumping the more principled of his liberal critics, the ones who are genuinely committed to civil rights instead of thinking whatever Soros and the CIA tell them to.

The alternative would be Snowden becoming a cause celebre to the globalists, with their previous smearing of him as a Russian spy and (bipartisan) calls for his imprisonment and even execution being quietly swept under the carpet. Regardless of your own position on whether Snowden is a traitor or not, that is certainly not a scenario we would want.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Edward Snowden 
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.