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 Russian Reaction Blog / Foreign PolicyTeasers

hi-reddit-russia

It’s live here: https://www.reddit.com/r/russia/comments/66q52x/hi_rrussia_anatoly_karlin_writer_for_the_unz/

/r/russia is one of the best forums on the Internet for people interested in Russia.

You can reply in either English or Russian.

Most of the people there are basically Russian patriots, though considerably more socially liberal and better acquainted with the West than the Russian average. However, there are plenty of Communists, nationalists, and liberals there as well.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Interviews, The AK 

The results are in and YES has won a narrow 51.4% victory in the Turkish referendum on making the country into a Presidential republic.

This map I found (via Turkish Wikipedia) is the only one to show regional gradations. It shows the percentage of people voting NO.

map-turkey-referendum-2017

It is electorally very typical for Turkey, which consists of three main regional patterns: The rich, cosmopolitan, higher-IQ liberal elites on the western coast and around Ankara, who vote for the Kemalist CHP; the poorer, more religious Turkish conservatives in the Anatolian heartlands, who vote for Erdogan’s AKP and the nationalist MHP; and the impoverished, low-IQ Kurdish minorities in the south-east, who vote for their ethnic minority interest group party, the HDP.

The story of this referendum is that the liberal cosmopolitans and the Kurds joined forces, but failed to stymie Erdogan’s conservative Turkish majority.

Here is a map of the vote from overseas polling stations (via /u/nine6s):

map-turkey-referendum-2017-nine6s

Looks like German “magic dirt” did nothing to make Anatolian Gastarbeiters more liberal. They voted just like their cousins back home.

However, the Turks from the Anglosphere and Asia – most of whom are students, businessmen, etc. – mostly voted NO.

turkey-referendum-2017-observers Was there fraud? Plenty of videos that suggest it (e.g. 1, 2, 3). More suspeciously, the Supreme Elections Board decided to consider unstamped ballots valid, which is against the law. There may about 2.5 million of them, which would easily be enough to tip the election if they are significantly biased towards YES. EU observers were not happy (see their statement on the right). The CHP and HDP say they will be mounting a legal challenge, but with Erdogan having declared victory, it is unlikely anuthing will come out of it.

Brief geopolitical comment: I would note that Trump has rushed to congratulate Erdogan, whereas Putin has been conspicuous in his silence.

This supports the intuition I expressed a couple of days ago that this, in conjunction with Trump’s about-turn on Syria, presages nothing good for Russia.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Elections, Turkey 

I once wrote a long article about a Korean War II.

But this one chart tells essentually the same tale.

korean-military-balance

I suspect it will be a harder nut to crack than Iraq in 2003, or even 1991. It is an ultranationalist (not a Communist) regime with a formidable secret police, so you’re not going to be buying any generals off. North Koreans have higher IQs than Iraqis (so more competent), do not practice inbreeding (so more cohesive), and a have a lot more hills, mountains, and tunnels (which partially negate South Korean/American technological predominance).

Still, the gap is too vast for the ultimate result to be in doubt. (Unless China gets involved. Then things get complicated.)

And this is why it’s isn’t going to happen.

I do think that Kim Jong Un enjoys the good life, as do the elites he’s fostered in Pyongyang the past decade – according to Andrey Lankov, one of the foremost experts on North Korea, living standards are now far higher than during the grim 1980s or the dismal 1990s – and would prefer to keep things that way. If there is a limited strike on Nork nuclear facilities in the coming days, I doubt we will see anything more substantial than outraged rhetoric.

China will probably be just fine with that. There is very little love lost between Kim Jong Un and the current Chinese leadership. Xi Jinping recently noted that whereas his father had visited China four times, the son had yet to do so, which is a rather open criticism by demure Chinese standards. This was understandable, since Kim Jong Un has spent the last few years suppressing pro-Chinese factions in his country, including members of his own family (executed uncle, assassinated half brother). I suspect the Chinese are fine with Kim Jong Un receiving a demonstrative slapdown, and wouldn’t mind seeing his nuclear program set back a few years. After all, Beijing is considerably closer to Pyongyang than is Tokyo, to say nothing of Honolulu, and there is no telling what North Korea would do in a truly serious future crisis.

Why not get Donald “I Make the Best Deals” Trump to give Kim Jong Un a good beating, especially when he’s also offering to throw in some excellent trade deals for free. It’s a bargain!

 

I realize everyone is obsessed with North Kora right now, but the Turkish referendum that is set for April 16 may turn out to be even more significant.

Erdogan’s AKP and the MHP nationalists have proposed a set of amendments to the Turkish constitution that would remove the office of the Prime Minister, annul a ban on the President retaining membership of his political party, and vastly increase the Presidency’s power over the legislature and the judiciary. If these proposals are confirmed by the electorate, Turkey becomes an executive Presidency.

In the past week, “Yes” has assumed a lead, though that shouldn’t be weighed too heavily since these polls have been fluctuating widely. However, PredictIt currently gives a 68% chance of “Yes.” This tallies exactly with the odds given by major betting sites.

One curious aspect of Turkish politics is that the AKP is far friendlier towards Turkey’s 3 million Syrian immigrants than the Kemalist CHP, and Erdogan has even gone so far as to moot giving them citizenship – a suggestion that was not well received by most Turks. Another interesting thing I noted is that whereas the constitutional amendment is supported by the MHP leadership, some 65% of its rank and file are prepared to vote “No.”

This might hint at some very curious parallels with Russia. There, for instance, Zhirinovsky’s LDPR slavishly supports the Kremlin, and by extension its Eurasianist (read: Greater Turkestanization) project, even though its base are nationalist xenophobes who refuse to rent out their apartments to people from Central Asia and the Caucasus. I wonder if there is a similar dynamic at play in Turkey, with nationalist MHP voters being mostly opposed to Erdogan’s Ottomanist (read: Islamist-Arabization) project, but nonetheless feeling dutybound to support the Leader out of their authoritarian and neo-imperialist instincts, and hatred of the liberal elites in the cosmopolitan areas.

Anyhow, I suspect that “Yes” will be bad for Syria, and by extension, Russia’s goals in Syria (assuming there’s no convoluted 3D chess involved). Erdogan tilts towards the invade/invite end of the spectrum, and with his power becoming absolute in Turkey, he will have space to resume the “invade” part in Syria with greater vigor. Considering the sharp reversal in US-Russian relations over Syria in the past ten days, and Erdogan’s own unlimited propensity for treachery, I have dark forebodings that Putin might soon come to regret helping him survive the 2016 coup attempt.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Elections, Syrian Civil War, Turkey 

So it’s been a few days since the Syria Strikes, everyone and his dog have thrown in their two cents, and there has been a set of confusing and contradictory reactions from US officials and pretty much everyone else involved in this saga.

The more the contradictions pile on, the less clear the picture becomes.

Is it a “zrada”/betrayal? Is it 666D chess/clever plan? Or is everyone involved just a bunch of opportunists and/or bumbling morons?

And what is this all going to lead to?

podcast-3d-chess Let’s try to consider all these issues one by one. But first, for those of you who like podcasts, I have already participated in two where I go indepth into these issues

***

What Happened?

On April 4, a toxic gas engulfed the town of Khan Shaykhun, which is occupied by Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Nusra offshoot (which in turn stems from Al Qaeda). There are many reasons to doubt that Assad was responsible, as I argued from the outset. Since then, the reasons for skepticism have only increased in number. For instance, see this Duran summary of a 14 page report by MIT Professor Theodore Postol on the Syria chemical attacks (full document also attached).

In response, without any sort of investigation, UN mandate, or even Congressional approval, Trump ordered a 59 Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Airbase, though not before warning Russia. This happened while having a chocolate cake dessert with Xi Jinping.

Opinions vary on the success of the missile strikes. At first, there were claims that 23 of the 59 missiles hadn’t even hit anything, which led to theories that either the failure had been intentional on Trump’s part, or that they have been partially intercepted by Syrian air defences. (Technical failure was very unlikely, since even in the early 1990′s Tomahawks had a failure rate of 5%, whereas here it was allegedly closer to 40%). I do not buy the first theory that it was an intentional failure. I can hardly even see how you could communicate an order like that to the military, expect it to be carried out, and not have it be leaked.

Incoming Tomahawks fly close to the ground, making them mostly invisible to ground based radar, and to my knowledge Russia does not have a continuous AWACS presence over the Syrian skies which conventional air defense systems need to take the Tomahawks out. As such, if the claims are true, I believe the likeliest explanation is the presence of a Russian EW weapon within the vicinity of Shayrat Airbase. This would be consistent with the fact that even the missiles that did get through failed to do damage; i.e., their flight path had still been affected to some extent, making them deviate from their planned course and as a result less effective.

On the other hand, more recent analyses from the past few days by ISI and War is Boring (h/t Reiner Tor) indicate a 58/59 success rate, with flights from Shayrat being sharply curtailed in the aftermath.

Reactions

syria-strike-response

politicians-behind-syria-strikes US Domestic: Defense Secretary James Mattis has raised the possibility of establishing a NFZ in Syria, and WH spokesman Sean Spicer bracketed Russia in with the Axis of Evil (2017 edition) – Syria, Iran, and the DPRK – which opposed its actions in Syria. Steve Bannon and the “nationalist” wing of Trump’s administration opposed the strike on Syria, but he has been gradually losing influence to Jared Kushner and the “neocon” wing. For instance, Katie McFarland, a Michael Flynn protege, was fired from the NSC just a few days ago and demoted to being the Ambassador to Singapore. There has even been talk of a 150,000 troop US ground intervention in Syria pushed by new NSC head Herbert McMaster and David Petraeus, though this extreme variant was apparently opposed by both Bannon and Kushner, and has already been shot down by Trump.

US International: The US and UK led the vanguard in condemning Assad’s gassing of his own people and in affirming Russian culpability in it. Nikki Haley has been busy waving photos of gassed children in the UN. Rex Tillerson and British FM were pushing for new sanctions against Syria and Russia at a meeting of the G7 before the latter’s flight to Moscow. At the G7 meeting, there was talk that Tillerson would present a carrot and stick ultimatum to Moscow: Drop support for Assad, and get reinvited back into the G8; or face newer sanctions (as it was, they failed to get European and Japanese support for the latter). The summit between Rex Tillerson and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov has just ended on an ambiguous note. Tillerson is ambivalent on Ukranie, even going so far as to describe the Russia’s incorporation of Crimea as “certain moves by Russia”, which segues with his skepticism at the G7 meeting where he asked his European counterparts why American taxpayers should care about Ukraine. On the other hand, he continued to insist that Assad should step down, and that Russia should pressure him to do that.

Russia: Russia has opposed the strikes, with Putin saying that the US-Russian relationship has deteriorated – no mean achievement, considering where it was at under Obama. More to the point, Russia shut down the military communication channel in Syria with the US, which has already resulted in a reduction in US military overflights above Syria. Just recently, Russia blocked a Western-sponsored resolution on Syria in the UN Security Council; Bolivia voted with Russia, while China and two other countries abstained because of its reference to Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which had previously been used by the West to carry through regime change in Libya in 2011 despite having reassured Russia it would do no such thing.

China: Chinese state media started attacking the strikes as soon as Xi Jinping returned from the US. However, in tandem with the US rerouting the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group towards North Korea, it has expressed a willingness to also strike against the DPRK if it crossed China’s “bottom line”, and has moved 150,000 troops to its border with the hermit kingdom [fake news]. In his turn, Trump has also adopted a more positive line on China, retreating from his prior threats to label it a currency manipulator and praising Xi Jinping for what at least what Trump saw as his cooperative spirit.

666D Chess

clever-planm

So you have a bewildering range of factors to consider when trying to fit all these events into any sort of internationally consistent framework:

(1) A domestic power struggle in the US between Bannonite nativists and Kushnerite globalists, which the latter faction is winning. Indeed, there is good evidence to believe that it is not long before Bannon is dismissed entirely, with Trump now claiming that he wasn’t that critical to his victory in the 2016 elections anyway.

msm-on-syria-strikes(2) The strikes enjoy bipartisan support, the support of the Mainstream Media, and the support of a majority of Americans (~50-55% support, 35-40% oppose).

(3) What at a minimum appears to be a serious disagreement between the US and Russia on Syria, with the former insisting that Assad has to go, and mooting the possibility of no fly zones – a prospect that many thought had fallen by the wayside with Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

(4) A surprisingly more accomodating US position on Ukraine – more so than that of the Europeans – though Tillerson has taken care to explicitly rule out any quid pro quo deals with Russia that tie Ukraine to Syria.

trump-norks(5) Though Chinese state media have reacted negatively to the US strike on Syria, they have been – at least rhetorically – a lot more cooperative on another brewing flashpoint, that of North Korea (see above). The Chinese have no great love for Kim Jong Un, who is rumored to be a Sinophobe and who had his uncle executed for trying to create a pro-Chinese political/economic faction within the DPRK.

On the other hand, the DPRK is a vital security concern for China – not so much perhaps the oft stated issue of the refugee flood should the regime fall (population of North Korea: 25 million; population of just the two regions adjoining it: 70 million), but because it could do without American military bases peppering the Korean peninsula all the way up to its border. More to the point, China has a mutual defense treaty with the DPRK from 1961 that it has continued to renew, despite festering disagreements between the two countries. Could China be… too accomodating of Trump? Is the US walking into some kind of trap?

So, so many things to consider.

***

Donald’s Game

It seems to me that the Trump administrations actions in recent days fall into three major narrative bins:

  • Zrada: Trump has subscribed to the neocon agenda, on account of deep state blackmail, political convenience, or perhaps because he never had a strong commitment to “America First” anyway;
  • 4 Chess: Trump is playing 666D interuniversal Teichmuller chess (or “clever plan”/chess combination, as we say in Russian) to win over his skeptics with a “short victorious war” and return to MAGA;
  • Drumpf: Trump is an inexperienced politician, or just a moron, and is making impulsive decisions on the fly.

Let’s consider the evidence for and against each of these in turn:

Zrada (Betrayal)

Trump has subscribed to the neocon agenda, on account of deep state blackmail, political convenience, or perhaps because he never had a strong commitment to “America First” anyway.

kushner-trump-meme This is the main reaction to Donald Trump on both the anti-imperialist Left and the Alt Right.

Points For

One Breitbart-endorsed version of this was that Trump was driven to fling his Tomahawks on account of Ivanka’s tears on account of the poor Syrian babies and children. While this might have been a factor – after all, Trump is known to be very close to his daughter – the idea that important decisions are made in such soap opera fashion still beggar belief, even adjusting for the continuing Latinization of American politics.

Perhaps closer to the truth is the observation in a recent WaPo article that Bannonism isn’t any good for the Trump brand, quoting one Republican operative as saying, “The fundamental assessment is that if they want to win the White House in 2020, they’re not going to do it the way they did in 2016, because the family brand would not sustain the collateral damage… It would be so protectionist, nationalist and backward-looking that they’d only be able to build in Oklahoma City or the Ozarks.” If you elect a merchant, I suppose you will get a merchant.

Another major consideration is the changes in cadres, which indicate a gradual purge of Bannonists from the government (Lewandowski, Manafort, Flynn, McFarland – with Gorka and Bannon himself now coming under the crosshairs), in favor of various neocons, Goldman Sachs globalists, and members of the Kushner clan.

cohen-israel-syria

Alongside the rehabilitation of the neocons, it has also been acquiring a much more explicitly Zionist administration. It is worth bearing in mind that Kushner himself is a Zionist, and that Trump has always been very forthright about his support for Israel – much more so than Obama. The Israelis have been returning the favor – Trump was always very popular in Israel, and Israeli politicians have expressed strong support for the Syria strikes. This is not surprising, since Israelis see a united Syria as a greater threat to them to a Balkanized Syria swarming with Islamists and ethnic militias.

Perhaps there were always plans to move ahead with removing Assad as soon as a convenient opportunity popped up, or maybe the percentage of neocons and Zionists reached a critical mass that tilted things in this direction. I don’t suppose it matters all that much.

Another version of this narrative is that the deep state has finally acquired some nuclear level “kompromat” on Trump, which it is using to blackmail him – for instance, one commenter here has suggested pedophilia, or an expensive drug habit. Or maybe there really is damning evidence of collusion with the Russian Occupation Government. Alternatively, maybe his family is being credibly threatened in some way. I suppose this is all possible, but I don’t think it’s all too likely, considering the diversity of other, more natural explanations.

Points Against

As early as a week ago, the Trump administration was open to Assad staying on as President of Syria. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat on good terms with Trump, paid a visit to Syria several weeks ago where she called on the US to stop arming terrorists, and just a week ago Rex Tillerson was saying that the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” Nikki Haley went even further, noting that “our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.” The sheer suddenness of this 180 turn might hint at its artificiality (666D Chess Theory).

It’s worth noting that even as of today the administration still hasn’t gone full neocon. James Mattis has recently affirmed that the defeat of Islamic State remains the first priority, and Trump clarified that the US will not be entering the Syrian Civil War. Note that Thomas L. Friedman, the globalist par excellence, is currently arguing for the US to let the Islamic State be to fight against the Syrian government on the pages of the New York Times. Anti-imperialists might bewail the neocon hijacking of the White House, but frankly, there’s still some ways to go before it plummets to the level of NYT-reading “educated mainstream.” It’s pretty depressing to think about, but in the postmodernist exhibition that is current American politics, where Antifa assaults Alt Right anti-war protests, a move to the “moderate center” implicitly involves adopting the language of interventionism.

All of which suggests a second possibility…

666D Interuniversal Teichmuller Chess

Trump is playing 666D interuniversal Teichmuller chess (or “clever plan”/chess combination, as we say in Russian) to win over his skeptics with a “short victorious war” and return to MAGA;

Points For

Let’s make one thing clear. Even if it turns out we were all ultimately cucked, there were many very good reasons why we were fans of the God-Emperor for so long. One of them was his consistency. Trump was advocating protectionism back in 1988. He condemned the bombing of Serbia back in 1999. Infamously now, he was a vociferous critic of intervention in Syria in 2013.

So it is wrong to say his opposition to invade/invite the world owes itself to “President Bannon.” He was America First for decades.

Moreover, Trump’s overtly Russophile sympathies during the campaign were completely unbecoming of a US politician, and while the gesture was appreciated by some, this stance almost certainly hindered him more than helped him. He was factually correct on Putin being popular and there being no evidence of him killing journalists, and he was right that the people of Crimea supported reunification with Russia (though since becoming President, he has demanded Russia return Crimea to Ukraine). He had no apparent reasons to do this from an electoral perspective, and yet he did it anyway.

Furthermore, the US military did warn the Russians they were about to strike Shayrat, though this shouldn’t be weighed too heavily as any Russian military casualties would have risked an outright escalation, which pretty much everyone but the very craziest neocons wants to avoid.

According to the 666D Chess theory, Trump struck Syria to win some support from the MSM and the Establishment at a time of sinking approval ratings, failures in healthcare and immigration policy, and the slow-burning scandal over his purported ties to Russia.

A good example is Mike Cernovich’s take:

cernovich-syria-4d-chess

Moreover, this would not be the first time Trump has… trumped his critics.

He mentioned he’d ban the burning of the American flag – the media rushed to show Leftists burning the American flag. He promoted the observation that many hate crimes were hoaxes – soon after, it emerged that the author of the threats against Jewish centers was a Black social justice writer for The Intercept who had been fired for making up sources. He claimed you wouldn’t believe what had happened in Sweden yesterday – we couldn’t believe what happened to Sweden tomorrow.

Perhaps what we are seeing this past week is just his most formidable “chess combination” yet, which will end in the most epic pwning of the media, the neocons, the bugmen in the moden history of the United States and the final draining of the Swamp in Washington D.C.

I suppose hope dies last.

Points Against

The first is the sheer scale of the changes in cadres (see Theory #1), and the broad range of campaign promises that Trump is going back on. For instance, just these past couple of days, he has reversed his positions on labeling China as a currency manipular (perhaps in exchange for its consent to a “short victorious war” missile salvo against the norks?), on Yellen’s future, on the Export-Import Bank, and on NATO, which he has suddenly decided is not “obsolete” after all.

Moreover, its worth noting that for the most part only two major groups of people still take this theory seriously:

(1) ROG conspiracy theoricists, such as Louise Mensch, in the style of “Putin’s puppet bombed Putin’s ally to deny that he is Putin’s puppet on Putin’s orders”:

mensch-rog-is-everywhere

(2) Trump cultists, such as Bill Mitchell:

mitchell-trump-clever-plan

mensch-war-with-russia The problem with the Louise Mensches is: At which point does this sort of argumentation invalidate itself? What can Trump do to conclusively demonstrate he is not Putin’s puppet? Firebombing Khmeimim Airbase? Dropping a nuke on Moscow? Not that she will be against any of that, mind… but presumably many of the Americans who would subsequently have to live in the Fallout universe might beg to differ.

The second group are basically unironic Trump cultists, like what /r/The_Donald has now become.

When the only people to believe in a hypothesis are Trump Nashists and Trump Derangement Syndrome sufferers, I will probably bet against the theory.

Moreover, as a Russian, I have good reason to be especially skeptical about “666D Chess” because we have had our version of it for the past three years, namely, Putin’s clever plan/mnogokhodovka (lit. “chess combination), a term used by state propagandists to explain and rationalize Kremlin decisions of dubious wisdom, such as the Minsk agreements with Ukraine and the intervention in Syria. At one point they were seriously arguing that Syria could be used as a lever to end Western sanctions, whereas if anything it resulted in pressure for more sanctions.

In real life, clever plans/mnogokhodovkas/666D chess in geopolitics simply never exists, at least in the ever more incredible and complex forms that would be needed to explain this past week.

That is because, in practice, a lot of politicians are not the wily grandmasters of their supporters’ imagination. They are just retards.

Which brings us to Theory #3:

Donald Drumpf

Trump is an inexperienced politician, or just a moron, and is making impulsive decisions on the fly.

The major piece of evidence in favor of this particular interpretation is that the Syria strikes were worse than a crime – they were a blunder.

Let’s compile a balance sheet.

Advantages:

  • Demonstrate US resolve, credibility; enforce the red line, unlike Obama.
  • Kill the Putin collusion theory – and in fairness, people outside the dickpix/Menschosphere have started talking less about it.
  • Increased support, at least for the time being, from neocons
  • … from the MSM (17/20 of the top outlets support the strikes).
  • … and from a modest majority of Americans, including Republicans.

Disadvantages:

  • Neocon support is temporary – you just know they’re slavering to backstab Trump if he ever again fails to be sufficiently hard on Russia.
  • The media has a momentum of its own and now that the first cracks have appeared in the administration’s stance against intervention, they will just keep piling on, no matter that Trump and Mattis have since clarified that they are not committed to pursuing regime change in Syria.
  • Adding fuel to the fire, as Putin himself has pointed out, the Syrian rebels now have a perverse incentive to stage further false flag attacks, in the sure knowledge that Trump will definitely no longer have any option but to respond with massive force.
  • Moreover, this will also now be used by the globalist wing of the war party as a sledgehammer to batter down what remains of Trump’s anti-immigration agenda. As Hillary Clinton now asks, if you’re going to bomb Syrians – and you certainly should – how could you justify not taking in their refugees? Bizarrely, the American Federation of Teachers has also seen it fit to make a political stand, supporting the missile strikes on Syria but also calling for Trump to open up the borders.
  • He has already soured his relationships with Europe (too reactionary), the Muslim world in general (too Islamophobic), Latin America (position on immigration, “bad hombres”), Iran (too neocon), and China (trade policy, up to the point of claiming they invented global warming to acquire a competitive advantage). Now he apparently also wants to add Russia, one of his few remaining fans other than Israel, to this list.
  • Moreover, adding Russia to his shit-list won’t exactly improve European or Chinese attitudes towards him; the Europeans will now just think he’s G.W. Bush II, while the Chinese will be looking to get him bogged down in some quagmire to free their own hands in the South China Sea. Pretty much the only country of any note that this will make happy is the Poroshenko regime in Ukraine, which had ironically done its best to help Trump lose the elections.
  • It will directly increase the likelihood of a serious military clash with Russia in the skies over Syria, which can go in all sorts of unexpected directions. The military hotline between the two countries in Syria has been turned off, and the Russians are beefing up Syria’s air defenses even further.
  • It has moved Iran and Russia closer together, with Russian FM Sergey Lavrov inviting his Syrian and Iranian counterparts to Moscow. There are also several summits planned between Putin and Xi Jinping; though they long predate the Syria strikes, it is likely that relations between the two countries will now move forwards at a faster rate.
  • While Trump did demonstrate “resolve,” of a sort, as Alexander Mercouris points out, it also exacted a cost in credibility – the ease and suddenness with which Trump has reversed course from accepting that Assad would remain Syria’s President one week and then attacking him the next is going to be making not just the Russians, but also the Europeans and Chinese, asking to what extent he can be trusted.
  • Trump’s enemies will continue to hate him, and to work towards his undermining through the #Russiagate scandal. Don’t respond – evidence he is in league with Putin. Respond – evidence that it’s to draw attention away from his ties with Putin.
  • Conversely, he has thrown many of his most principled and fervent supporters overboard. Greg Johnson puts it best in his essay for The Unz Review: “Never betray your friends to court the favor of your enemies. If you betray your friends, the most principled and perceptive among them will drop you, leaving only the delusional and venal. That is not a good trade, given that the approval you gain is bound to be fleeting and contingent, whereas the contempt and distrust you create will be permanent. The people you betrayed may come back to you out of sentimentality or self-interest, but their trust and respect will never return. They will always regard you as a traitor.
  • To be sure, this probably isn’t going to massively impact on Trump’s poll ratings anytime soon. However, while the people most disillusioned with him – committed anti-imperialists and Alt Righters – might not be numerically large, but they did a disproportionate amount of the gruntwork for his campaign, making memes real while Hillary Clinton banked on and failed with traditional tools like big sponsors and TV. There will be a lot less “high energy” come the 2020 elections, assuming that he even makes it that long.

As we can see, there are several times more negatives than positives to this decision. It was disastrous by any objecture measure

But for this very reason there is reason to believe that it was something born out of stupidy instead of mendacity (Theory #1) or questionable genius (Theory #2).

I have long been skeptical about liberal arguments as to Trump’s lack of intelligence. They seemed to be all to reminscent of liberals’ Dubya obsessions in the 2000s; though I was never a fan of G.W. Bush – my first “political” experience in life was marching against the Iraq War – the psychometric evidence seemed pretty clear that it wasn’t that he wasn’t so much stupid as a bad public speaker. So I pattern matched this experience to Trump.

It also didn’t tally with Trump’s achievement in increasing his wealth by two orders of magnitude, which – contrary to media tropes – he could not have done by simply “investing in the stockmarket” or some nonsense like that. Though Trump did have a head start thanks to daddy’s money, multiplying the fortune one hundred times over does usually require brains.

However, I will now admit that I might have… “misoverestimated” Trump.

Maybe he has started to suffer from dementia, or something, but just read his latest interview, where he was describing how he informed Xi Jinping of his attack on Syria while eating “the most beautiful” piece of chocolate cake. So cringeworthy:

TRUMP: But I will tell you, only because you’ve treated me so good for so long, I have to (INAUDIBLE) right?
I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?

And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way. And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you. This was during dessert.

We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit, by the way, unbelievable, from, you know, hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, amazing.

BARTIROMO: Unmanned?

Brilliant.

TRUMP: It’s so incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius. Our technology, our equipment, is better than anybody by a factor of five. I mean look, we have, in terms of technology, nobody can even come close to competing.

Now we’re going to start getting it, because, you know, the military has been cut back and depleted so badly by the past administration and by the war in Iraq, which was another disaster.

So what happens is I said we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.

BARTIROMO: (INAUDIBLE) to Syria?

TRUMP: Yes. Heading toward Syria. In other words, we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading toward Syria. And I want you to know that, because I didn’t want him to go home. We were almost finished. It was a full day in Palm Beach. We’re almost finished and I — what does he do, finish his dessert and go home and then they say, you know, the guy you just had dinner with just attacked a country?

BARTIROMO: How did he react?

TRUMP: So he paused for 10 seconds and then he asked the interpreter to please say it again. I didn’t think that was a good sign.

And he said to me, anybody that uses gases — you could almost say or anything else — but anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that young children and babies, it’s OK.

I don’t know, I just don’t know.

Maybe the guy’s a retard after all, and the more intelligent Trump supporters were just too proficient at coming up with “clever plans” to explain and rationalize his statements to notice the awning cognitive black hole in front of them.

I do realize this reflects very badly on them, and for that matter on me, but this interpretation is less pessimistic than Theory #1 and more credible than Theory #2.

There have been persistent comments throughout the past year to the effect that Trump is just the average of the last six people he has spoken to, and that as his crowd of nativist nationalists has been replaced with neocon bugmen these past few months, so he has started adopting many of the latter’s beliefs and talking points.

Maybe, as Audacious Epigone suggests, Trump should just spend more time retweeting Twitter shitlords again – just like he did in the golden days of the Trump Train in 2016.

What is to be Done?

If Theory #1 or Theory #3 are correct, then I am afraid we are going to see the formalization of neoconservatism as the guiding light of the Trump administration, alongside its globalist accoutrements.

Invade/invite to the max.

The dismissal of Steve Bannon, which is now widely discussed in the media, will be the final confirmation that there is no 666D Chess combination after all.

In foreign policy, this will predictably be a failure. Instead of halting the process, as a wise US foreign policy would aim for, it will instead put the current trend towards a Russo-Chinese alliance into overdrive. There is also a very small but non-negligible chance of a serious escalation in Syria that could flare into a wider conflict between the US and Russia/Iran. I will explore this possibility in a later post.

Here’s the problem. Neoconservatism wasn’t cool by 2007. The Current Year is 2017. While the last ‘Murica! boomers might cheer and clap for it, those folks are not getting any younger, nor are they gaining converts; to the contrary, even many conservative warmongers of yesteryear are now opposed to further misadventures in the Middle East, such as the courageous Ann Coulter.

Meanwhile, the young MAGA nationalists, who have never cared for the more regressive elements of the traditional Republican agenda – promoting corporate interests and the 1%, hardcore social conservatism, and above all interventionism and wars for oil/Israel (cross out as per your ideological preferences) – and who are, incidentally, also the most Russophile demographic of the American population – will be utterly demoralized and repelled.

He will be left only with the bootlickers, the bankers, and the most retrograde boomers. Maybe a few token #NeverTrumpers will crawl back to him, confident now that he firmly under the thumb of the deep state, though they will still continue to despite him. That’s all!

The result of that will be a landslide victory for the Democratic candidate in 2020, which in all likelihood lead to a new sort of hell.

I’m afraid these comments by Scott Alexander from September 2016 may well prove to be prophetic:

One more warning for conservatives who still aren’t convinced. If the next generation is radicalized by Trump being a bad president, they’re not just going to lean left. They’re going to lean regressive, totalitarian, super-social-justice left.

Everyone has already constructed the narrative: Trump is the anti-PC, anti-social-justice candidate. If he wins, he’s going to be the anti-PC, anti-social-justice President. And he will fail. First of all, because he doesn’t really show much sign of knowing what he’s doing. Second of all, because all presidents fail in a sense – 80% of Americans consistently believe the country is headed the wrong direction and the president is the natural fall guy for this trend. And third of all, because even if by some miracle Trump avoids the first two failure modes, the media will say he failed and people will believe them. And when the anti-PC, anti-social-justice President fails, the reaction will be a giant “we told you so” from the social justice movement, and a giant shift of all the disillusioned young people right into their fold.

Trump is all set to be the biggest gift to the social justice movement in history. They thrive on claims of persecution, claims that they’re the ones fighting a stupid hateful regressive culture that controls everything. And people think that bringing their straw man to life and putting him in the Oval Office is going to help?

I still don’t think voting for Trump over Clinton was a mistake.

At the least, Trump’s brand of neoconservatism is going to be implemented in a cack-handed, incompetent way, as opposed to a competent and calculating one. This is good for the non-Americans who will have to deal with it.

Still, its very sad that it has come to this. I believe that Trump still has the time and opportunity to reverse his ill-starred course, but the clock is ticking down.

 

In light of recent news, now is perhaps a good time to remind ourselves of perhaps the most succinct and information dense explanation of why Assad is less bad than the “moderate rebels.”

Via Nicholas Nassim Taleb:

nntaleb-assad-vs-moderate-rebels

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Syrian Civil War, Western Hypocrisy 

Funny thing is, just the other day I was on a podcast where I joked/predicted that Antifa would try to beat up Richard Spencer’s merry band of Alt Right anti-war protesters.

Buzzfeed:

Spencer has long been an outspoken supporter of Trump and his policies, including building a wall on the southern border and banning refugees form entering the country. But his decision to lead a handful of protesters to speak out against the strike has been emblematic of the split between Trump and some of his most ardent and far-right supporters.

“We want walls, not war!” chanted some of the protesters accompanying Spencer in front of the White House. …

At one point, Spencer called the counter-protesters, “storm troopers of the establishment.”

“Commies go home,” Spencer and his supporters chanted while opponents yelled, “Nazis go home.”

As AltLeft noted today, “I never anticipated that we would be organizing and participating in actual anti-war demonstrations, but here we are.”

What a timeline!

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Antifa, Syrian Civil War, United States 

putin-derangement-syndrome I didn’t really invent this meme, as Patrick Armstrong once credited me; there were a few disjointed mentions of it there and there from before 2011. That said, I do think I did more than than anyone else to popularize it. Anyhow, the term Putin Derangement Syndrome has finally gone mainstream, with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibi writing about its “arrival” a few days ago (though arguably, it arrived a decade ago).

One way we recognize a mass hysteria movement is that everyone who doesn’t believe is accused of being in on the plot. This has been going on virtually unrestrained in both political and media circles in recent weeks.

The aforementioned Mensch, a noted loon who thinks Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart but has somehow been put front and center by The Times and HBO’s Real Time, has denounced an extraordinary list of Kremlin plants.

She’s tabbed everyone from Jeff Sessions (“a Russian partisan“) to Rudy Giuliani and former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom (“agents of influence“) to Glenn Greenwald (“Russian shill“) to ProPublica and Democracy Now! (also “Russian shills“), tothe 15-year-old girl with whom Anthony Weiner sexted (really, she says, a Russian hacker group called “Crackas With Attitudes”) to an unnamed number of FBI agents in the New York field office (“moles“). And that’s just for starters.

Others are doing the same. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, upon seeing the strange behavior of Republican Intel Committee chair Devin Nunes, asked “what kind of dossier” the Kremlin has on Nunes.

Dem-friendly pollster Matt McDermott wondered why reporters Michael Tracey and Zaid Jilani aren’t on board with the conspiracy stories (they might be “unwitting” agents!) and noted, without irony, that Russian bots mysteriously appear every time he tweets negatively about them.

Think about that last one. Does McDermott think Tracey and Jilani call their handlers at the sight of a scary Matt McDermott tweet and have the FSB send waves of Russian bots at him on command? Or does he think it’s an automated process? What goes through the heads of such people?

I’ve written a few articles on the Russia subject that have been very tame, basically arguing that it might be a good idea to wait for evidence of collusion before those of us in the media jump in the story with both feet. But even I’ve gotten the treatment.

I’ve been “outed” as a possible paid Putin plant by the infamous “PropOrNot” group, which is supposedly dedicated to rooting out Russian “agents of influence.” You might remember PropOrNot as the illustrious research team the Washington Post once relied on for a report that accused 200 alternative websites of being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”

Politicians are getting into the act, too. It was one thing when Rand Paul balked at OKing the expansion of NATO to Montenegro, and John McCain didn’t hesitate to say that “the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”

Even Bernie Sanders has himself been accused of being a Putin plant by Mensch. But even he’s gotten on board of late, asking, “What do the Russians have on Mr. Trump?”

So even people who themselves have been accused of being Russian plants are now accusing people of being Russian plants. As the Russians would say, it’s enough to make your bashka hurt.

The paranoia is matched only by its ignorance and stupidity:

Even the bizarre admission by FBI director (and sudden darling of the same Democrats who hated him months ago) James Comey that he didn’t know anything about Russia’s biggest company didn’t seem to trouble Americans very much. Here’s the key exchange, from a House hearing in which Jackie Speier quizzed Comey:

SPEIER: Now, do we know who Gazprom-Media is? Do you know anything about Gazprom, director?
COMEY: I don’t.
SPEIER: Well, it’s a – it’s an oil company.

(Incidentally, Gazprom – primarily a natural-gas giant – is not really an oil company. So both Comey and Speier got it wrong.)

As Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg noted, this exchange was terrifying to Russians. The leader of an investigation into Russian espionage not knowing what Gazprom is would be like an FSB chief not having heard of Exxon-Mobil. It’s bizarre, to say the least.

And it may lead to some very bad things, from entrenching the status quo…

Moreover, even those who detest Trump with every fiber of their being must see the dangerous endgame implicit in this entire line of thinking. If the Democrats succeed in spreading the idea that straying from the DNC-approved candidate – in either the past or the future – is/was an act of “unwitting” cooperation with the evil Putin regime, then the entire idea of legitimate dissent is going to be in trouble.

Imagine it’s four years from now (if indeed that’s when we have our next election). A Democratic candidate stands before the stump, and announces that a consortium of intelligence experts has concluded that Putin is backing the hippie/anti-war/anti-corporate opposition candidate.

… to war.

But if you’re not worried about accusing non-believers of being spies, or pegging legitimate dissent as treason, there’s a third problem that should scare everyone.

Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia’s apparent hack of DNC emails an “act of war.” This coupling seemed at first like political end times: as Bill Murray would say, “dogs and cats, living together.”

But there’s been remarkable unanimity among would-be enemies in the Republican and Democrat camps on this question. Suddenly everyone from Speier to McCain to Kamala Harris to Ben Cardin have decried Russia’s alleged behavior during the election as real or metaphorical acts of war: a “political Pearl Harbor,” as Cardin put it. …

But when it comes to Trump-Putin collusion, we’re still waiting for the confirmation. As Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters put it, the proof is increasingly understood to be the thing we find later, as in, “If we do the investigations, we will find the connections.”

This seems especially relevant right now for some reason.

I suppose I will now need to redouble my efforts on pushing the ROG (Russian Occupation Government) meme, which is apparently so all encompassing that an American Tomahawk strike ordered by Putler’s puppet Trump on a military base with Russian advisors is, in fact, a “manufactured Cold War 2.0 which will lead to a peace deal that includes lifting sanctions on Russia” according to the top voted comment on the relevant thread at the /r/politics subreddit.

Truly, there are no limits to the reach of ROG’s tentacles.

 

haley-un-versus-assad

There are so many problems with the propaganda campaign against Assad getting unrolled now.

partisangirl-fake-sarin(1) You can’t treat exposure to sarin with your bare hands without falling ill/dead yourself, as the White Helmets were apparently doing in the aftermath of the Idlib attack.

(2) As Syrian war reporter @Partisangirl noticed, some journalists were apparently discussing a chlorine sarin attack before it actually happened.

(3) It is eerily reminescent of the aftermath of the 2013 Gouta attacks, in which the Western media and neocon and neocon-in-all-but-name politicians and punditry parroted the official line that Assad’s troops were responsible even though consequent journalistic work by Sermour Hersh and MIT raised serious doubts over the veracity of that allegation.

(4) The “moderate rebels” have themselves resorted to poison gas on various occasions.

(5) Unlike in 2013, Assad is now winning. Why on Earth now, of all times, would he resort to poison gas – one of the few things he can do to that is capable of provoking a strong Western reaction – just to kill all of 75 civilians?

this-makes-sense

It just makes no sense.

So one can’t help but treat Nikky Haley’s melodramatic performance at the UN with skepticism. The idea that the poisoning was due to a bomb hitting a chemical weapons manufactory seems more plausible.

Trump’s initial non-interventionist rhetoric on assuming the Presidency was encouraging, as was his promotion of other anti-war figures such as Tulsi Gabbard. However, the latest response of the US administration, including Trump himself, is not giving any cause for optimism:

I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it, and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that… And I will tell you it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.

To be sure, one might view this as a merely ritualistic expression of outrage, but also coming on as it does on the eve of Steve Bannon’s dismissal from the National Security Council… one can’t help but start having dark thoughts on whether the deep state might be triumphing after all.

 

It’s like the CIA/Mossad/Illuminati-financed Takfiri mercenaries, otherwise known as radical Islamists amongst sane people, have embarked on a marketing campaign in favor of a visa regime with Central Asia.

A group of Islamists ambushed a pair of Russian policemen doing a routine vehicle check on a minibus in Astrakhan oblast. Eight men of apparent Kazakh ethnicity, including the driver who participated in the conspiracy, are wanted.

I would note that Kazakhs are some of the most secular Muslims around, not just by global standards, but even by Central Asian ones. They don’t have a reputation for terrorism. Yet here, in a Russian oblast where they make up just 7% of the population according to official statistics – that translates to about 70,000 Kazakhs – it has emerged that there’s not just one “lone wolf” terrorist amongst them, but a cell of at least eight.

Note that this comes the day after the Saint-Petersburg terrorist attack, where the starring role was played by a Kyrgyz national of Uzbek ethnicity with a Russian Federation passport. It also comes several weeks after an attack by North Caucasus militants on a National Guard base, which left six soldiers dead.

A couple of days ago, I was planning to write a data-heavy article about how Navalny doesn’t have any chance. Too unpopular, too much of a Ukrainian nationalist, etc. I’ll still write it, but I will now have to preface it with a cautionary note. Since Navalny is a longtime proponent of visa regime with Central Asia, which contrasts with Putin’s support of Central Asian enrichment, this is something that he can really play up now (if his liberal sponsors allow him to, anyway).

Just consider the recent train of events. In the past month, thanks in large part to Navalny’s efforts, Medvedev’s relative reputation for probity has been destroyed. Now, Putin’s reputation for ending Islamic terrorism is also increasingly under question.

This is all very, very good for Navalny. I still think Navalny’s prospects in this electoral cycle are very slim, but I don’t now exclude the possibility of the Kremlin “clever planning” themselves into a serious crisis. Nothing is beyond those “geniuses.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Terrorism 

A week ago, I speculated that Voronenkov was most likely killed by a Ukrainian nationalist who overdosed on svidomism, and not by the Dark Lord of the Kremlin:

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.

This was strongly suggested by the fact that the gunman, Pavel Parshov, was a former member of a Donbass batallion that had participated in the ATO. He had also been convicted in 2011 for economic crimes.

More recent news have all but confirmed it. A couple of days ago, the Ukrainian journalist Alyona Lunkova revealed that Parshov wasn’t acting on his own, but came with his friend Yaroslav Levenets, who was supposed to be the getaway driver.

levenets-political-prisoner

As it turns out, Levenets also has a most colorful history.

A native of Dnepropetrovsk oblast who worked as an instructor in the Ukrainian martial art of “khopak,” Levenets was arrested in 2012 under charges of theft, fictitious entrepreneurshup, and tax avoidance. His comrades insisted this was a politically motivated prosecution on account of his actions against drug trafficking and membership in Trizub, a nationalist organization then run by Dmitry Yarosh.

After the “Revolution of Dignity,” he was recognized as a political prisoner and freed, albeit remaining under house arrest, and promptly went off to fight the Donbass rebellion as part of the “Carpatian Sich” unit of the Donbass batallion, the same unit where Vorononenkov’s killer Pavel Parshov was serving. His nom de guerre there, as listed on Right Sector’s website, was “Hunter.”

In 2015 he was once again put on the Wanted List due to his violating the conditions of his parole, and in 2016 was once again the subject of court proceedings, for which he was again put under house arrest. In both 2012 and 2015, he was vouched for by the ex-head of Donbass batallion (and Internet lolcow) Semen Semenchenko.

According to his wife, as reported by Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky, when she last talked with him half an hour prior to Voronenkov’s assassination, he said that he had gone to Kiev on business, to visit the Procuracy.

He is currently wanted to arrest, location unknown.

So there are now essentially two main versions of Voronenkov’s assassination:

(1) As suggested by the above: A pair of svidomy nationalists who both had major beef with the Ukrainian authorities decided to take out their rage on an unprincipled adventurist who voted to recognize Crimean independence, and who had nonetheless been embraced by the Maidanist elites even as true patriots like themselves were the subjects of endless prosecutions despite their “service” in the Donbass;

(2) As suggested by Poroshenko, Anton Gerashchenko, and John McCain, respectively: That this was an “act of state terror” by Russia, which carried the imprint of Russian security services, “just as has repeatedly happened in European capitals”; that Parshov was an agent recruited by Russia, who had entered the country via Belarus in 2015 to train at a school for saboteurs that “had been created in the era of Stalin’s NKVD”; that this was a “vile crime” in the “style of the KGB” to terrorize anyone against “the tyrant Vladimir Putin.”

One ever so wonders which of these is the likelier story.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Assassinations, Russophobes, Svidomy, Ukraine 

brexit-triggering

Article 50 has been triggered in the UK, after many merry months of triggerings of… another sort.

There has been a lot of wishful thinking in British liberal circles that some way would be found to circumvent Brexit. But calls for “the elites” to “rise up against the ignorant masses” were never realistic*, for all the childish tantrums on social media and the MSM. The Conservative Party has no good reason to torpedo itself by going against the democratically expressed wishes of its core electorate, the Middle Englanders who overwhelmingly voted Leave, and so the button was pushed as soon as all the judicial delaying procedures were exhausted.

I have been consistent that the adverse economic effects of Brexit have been greatly exaggerated by a Brexit-averse Establishment. As Bryan MacDonald pointed out last year, the apocalyptic rhetoric has consistently failed to translate into reality, and there is no reason to expect that to change.

To be sure, some global banks and companies will redirect more of their staff to Frankfurt, but London remains the world center of the financial industry – more so even than New York – and the concentration of human capital that props it up isn’t going to evaporate over a single year, or ten.

In the meantime, growth rates remain solid (the figures sync with my own impressions when I was in London), the devaluation is making British exports more competitive, and there will be a fiscal upside once the UK no longer needs to subsidize East European welfare leeches (currently, the average Briton paid a net 500 Euros to the EU in 2010-14).

brexit-2017

I also believe that the renewed worries about Scottish independence are exaggerated, the hystrionics of J.K. Rowling and Dawkins regardless. The Scots don’t want to hold a second independence referendum, and “No” consistently leads by at least 5 percentage points, just like in 2014, when they rejected it by a 10 percentage point margin.

Obviously the Scots are not very happy about Brexit, having voted against it 3-to-2, but it is still not something they want to break the Union over. The most likely avenue by which support of independence could grow is if the UK were to experience severe economic hardship as Brexit gets underway, but as I noted above, that is unlikely to happen.

* I gave a 90% chance of Article 50 getting invoked this year in my predictions for 2017, so I am not making this up as I go along.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, European Union, United Kingdom 

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 
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.