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Kevin Rothrock, A Gem in the State Department's Eyes
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Meduza is a Latvia-based news website that was started up by journalists who had departed Lenta.ru after a change in management. While it has produced some genuine investigative work, its geopolitical orientations are decidedly anti-Russian and pro-Western, e.g. focusing on the travails of a few cherry-picked Russian businessmen in the Crimea, while neglecting to mention the bigger picture of a region with Russia’s highest growth rates since 2014. They also love to do the Russian equivalent of voxsplaining, promoting the latest American socio-cultural fads to barbaric conservative Russians. They wrote an SJW-style guide on how not to be a sexist in Russia in 2015 and on how to react to a boss’ romantic advances in 2017. Some of their more woke journalists have also tried to kick up a US-style #MeToo campaign against Russian parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky due to allegations of harassment. Unfortunately, they proved unable to live up to their own sanctimonious rhetoric, when in November 2018 their Editor in Chief Ivan Kolpakov was accused of groping a married female colleague at a party while bragging that “nothing will happen to me.” He was pretty much right. The victimized employee left the company, while Kolpakov got off with a mere 2 week suspension from his job.

Despite its ostensible commitment to transparency in Russia, Meduza has been rather less forthcoming about the sources of its own financing. As early as its founding in 2014, its head Galina Timchenko said she won’t be naming the names of any of its investors, though we do know that from the outset it got $250,000 from convicted fraudster and offshore billionaire Khodorkovsky. In 2018, RT Russian mounted an investigation into Meduza on the basis of financial reports from its Latvian parent company. For whatever reason, it was never translated into English. However, the basics are simple enough. Meduza was, at least up until that time, a loss-making enterprise, and received grants from at least two major foreign organizations.

The first of these organizations was the OAK Foundation, which has also funded Soros’ Open Society Foundation (banned in Russia since 2015 as a national security threat), the Sakharov Foundation ($1.6 million from 2010-14), and Memorial (almost $2 million). It has also provided support for a Pussy Riot media project, $0.9 million in funding for Russian LGBT activists, and help with “legal support for victims of Russian anti-immigration policy.” The second major foreign source of grants was SIDA, a Swedish state organization financed by Swedish taxpayers that’s tasked with “promoting political and economic development in poor countries, as well as democracy promotion.” Unsurprisingly, they are also intimately linked with Soros. Meduza also got at least €340,000 from “other creditors” whose identities are left unspecified.

There were discussions about requiring Meduza to register as a foreign agent in the wake of these revelations, as RT was forced to do in the US, but for they ended up going nowhere.

This brings us to one strange fruit in particular – Kevin Rothrock, Managing Editor of Meduza’s English-language division since January 2015. He tracks Russia obsessively, posting about it virtually 24 hours a day, but lives in Connecticut and hasn’t visited Russia in seven years until recently (where he is now busy visiting famous tourist attractions such as fringe pro-Western protests and the Boris Nemtsov shrine).

This lack of Russia experience outside the pro-Western Internet tusovka results in frequent factual errors. In one such episode, he uncritically RT’ed a thread from someone claiming to be an Aeroflot flight attendant claiming that the Superjet is only allowed to fly within Russia (this is incorrect; I flew to Romania on a Superjet in 2018). In another episode, he snidely commented that a photo (see right) showing a series of Audi cars outside the Sochi Economy Forum “suggests that Russia’s important substitution campaign and anti-poverty efforts still have a way to go” (in reality, as RT’s Bryan MacDonald points out, that is not Sochi; those are Moscow number plates; Genesis, not Audi, was the car supplier for that event).

Specializing in supporting and amplifying the pro-Western opposition, Rothrock doesn’t even bother to conceal his partisan sympathies like the more conscientious Moscow hacks. Unfortunately, his habit of deleting all his old Tweets makes it difficult to locate many of his best “powerful takes.” Nonetheless, here is a representative enough sample:

  • Pathological hatred of RT, so much so that he celebrated and called Ed Schultz, one of its high profile employees, a traitor on the day he died. The Tweet doesn’t survive, but the reactions are telling.
  • What specifically did Rothrock chose to highlight about the Butina show trial? Not the absurdity of the accusations, not the legal irregularities, not the sexist insinuations that she was a prostitute made by the prosecution… but her problems with her lawyers’ fees.
  • Recently suggested that a female Russian journalist should “eat shit and die.”
  • Describing RIA Novosti’s and political prisoner Kirill Vyshinsky as a “state journalist” on his release from a Ukrainian jail (presumably, wouldn’t use the same language for an RFERL reporter) and commenting, “The boss sends his regards” on a photo of Vyshinsky being welcomed home by head of Rossiya Segodnya Dmitry Kiselyov.

This last is especially ironic in light of Rothrock’s own possible ties to US intelligence, evidence of which he has assiduously tried to scrub from the Internet.

In July 2017, a US State Department intelligence official called Robert P. Otto had his emails hacked and uploaded online (you can download the 3-part password protected cache ~1.5GB cache here or here). Commenting on the hack, Foreign Policy described Otto as “probably the top intelligence guy in the entire U.S. government on Russia [who] knows more than anybody about what’s going on there.” Otto’s interest in Russia appears to have revolved around “social media accounts of Russian officials, staff re-shuffling in governmental bodies, and the influence of some state officials.” And guess which friend of ours “starred” in one of those emails?

As we saw above, Kevin Rothrock is happy to slag off people like Kirill Vyshinsky as a “state journalist”, but how exactly does that square with offering “tireless assistance” to US intelligence honchos?

Now just imagine the sort of ruckus that would have been kicked up by the free and independent Western media if it was discovered that a journalist at RT or Sputnik, or even someone like Stephen Cohen or Max Blumenthal, were praised as a “gem” and offered checks by SVR or FSB chiefs. Would this not be a direct example of the “collusion” narrative that Russia Truthers in the US have spun up against journalists and politicians who advocated for a normal relationship with Russia?

Rothrock has successfully used the Twitter complaints system to suppress this conversation, with independent analyst Mark Sleboda having been forced to delete most of his Tweets about it.

So is Rothrock on the payroll of one of the ABC agencies? According to his LinkedIn, he has a professional background in the American Enterprise Institute, where he mentored under the head of its Russia program, Leon Aron. Aron is an immigrant from the Soviet Union and a hardliner on Putin’s Russia, who has demanded the return of Crimea to the Ukraine as well as “the end of the Assad regime and a true Russian withdrawal from Syria, specifically ceding control of the Hmeymim airbase and dismantling recent expansions to the Tartus naval facility.” The AEI is strongly associated with neoconservatism, and one of its founding fathers, Irving Kristol, who is known to have worked for a CIA-funded anti-communism group, was once a senior fellow. Rothrock is now a one-note mouthpiece for American neocon interests and has also gone to some effort to ingratiate himself with the Moscow hack pack. And then there’s of course the “you are a gem” from Robert P. Otto in 2017. Was it a one-off? Or has the relationship “deepened” since then? Who knows.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that less than a decade ago, Rothrock’s views were almost the opposite of what they are today. In a 2010 interview at this blog, he described the Russian liberal opposition as a “bunch of spoiled brats” and “band of egotistical creeps” who are “hopelessly out of touch with the needs of ordinary Russians.” One can again only speculate as to what triggered the conversion.

Either way, there’s probably no particular need for Russians to be unduly concerned, since it seems that many of America’s spooks are drinking their own Kool Aid. Here is perhaps the most amusing observation on the Otto leaks: “A Russian scholar “Valery Solovei” is sending Robert Otto a monthly report on Russia. Also, Otto and his buddies HATE John Kerry and continually refer to him as an idiot!” In the real world, Valery Solovei is best known for having predicted all ten of Putinism’s past zero collapses (latest date of the Rapture: 2021), but apparently his monthly reports may be held in esteem by someone who is supposedly USG’s top Russia expert. Compared to that, even an asset like Rothrock would be an improvement.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Propaganda 
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  1. Please keep off topic posts to the current Open Thread.

    If you are new to my work, start here.

    • Replies: @Mikhail
  2. Mikhail says: • Website
    @Anatoly Karlin

    I sensed Kevin Rothrock was suspect when some others (no names) were more positive towards him. For whatever it’s worth, I understand that his wife is a former Soviet with some DC based think tank ties. If I correctly recall, (could be wrong) Rothrock had brought up the origin of Mark Sleboda’s wife.

    You didn’t mention his infantile comments about Vladimir Solovyov.

  3. Mikhail says:

    A Wilson Center CSPAN televised puff segment with Meduza, moderated by the DC based Izabella Tabarovsky:

    https://www.c-span.org/video/?407239-1/discussion-independent-russian-media

    If I correctly recall (could be wrong) Rothrock’s wife had or has ties with the Wilson Center as does Nina Jankowicz.

  4. A safe rule of thumb is that anti-Russian voices on Twitter are either spooks, kooks, or bought-and-paid-for whores. Rothrock seems part of the latter group.

    The upside, as you point out, is that this livelihood tends to go hand in hand with incuriosity and sloth. Perhaps Russia should consider herself lucky.

    • Replies: @Mikhail
  5. Mikhail says: • Website
    @Swedish Family

    Mark Galeotti (shame on RT for proppiong him) , who seems to be okay with Rothrock and Sean Guillory. Related:

    http://johnhelmer.org/mark-galeotti-is-a-fact-faker-his-book-on-russian-crime-is-a-hate-crime-a-war-crime/

    • Replies: @Swedish Family
  6. Mitleser says:

    However, the basics are simple enough. Meduza was, at least up until that time, a loss-making enterprise, and received grants from at least two major foreign organizations.

    Reminds me of Jimmy Lai’s anti-PRC HK media.

  7. Ludwig says:

    “ Meduza also got at least 340 million Euros…” 340 *million*?? I assume that should be “thousand”?

    And yeah Rothrock is obviously bought – but this kind of nails it.

    AK: Yes, thanks.

  8. “probably the top intelligence guy in the entire U.S. government on Russia [who] knows more than anybody about what’s going on there.”

    The email exchange between Rothrock and Otto shows Rothrock translated an article from Slon for Otto. So a “top intelligence guy” in the US is having an amateur translate online magazine articles, and is profusely grateful for it. Either Foreign Policy is so clueless it doesn’t understand that Otto himself must be an amateur who is either incapable of reading the damned article himself or at least having his staff translate it for him, or the state of US intelligence on Russia really is so abysmal.

    • Replies: @JL
    , @WHAT
    , @Swedish Family
  9. JL says:
    @The Big Red Scary

    I was thinking the same reading through this, that the public face US intelligence presents is so incompetent, it must be a front to hide the activities of the true experts and specialists. Unfortunately, policy outcomes suggest that all is much as it seems. These same people claim Putin is surrounded by yes men, but the entire US and European FP establishment is just a giant circle jerk.

    I remember back when Rothrock wrote sensibly, so one can only conclude that he sold out. Whether this was a case of just wanting to fit in, or realizing where his bread was buttered, who knows? Journalism now is a choice between integrity and career, you can’t have both.

    • Replies: @Not Raul
  10. neutral says:

    #MeToo campaign against Russian parliamentarian Leonid Slutsky due to allegations of harassment

    This is not from the theOnion is it?

  11. neutral says:

    This shows how soft the Russians have become, under Stalin this guy would have been sent to the gulags and tortured, but these days this open enemy can walk free in Russia.

    • LOL: Denis
    • Replies: @Mr. Hack
    , @Svevlad
    , @Denis
    , @Denis
  12. SIA Medusa Project
    Total tax paid in 2018: 814.46 kEUR
    (source: https://www.firmas.lv/profile/medusa-project-sia/010379786 )
    of which payroll tax: 434.37 kEUR
    Average employees in 2018: 35
    Hence the average yearly salary: about 50…55 kEUR (payroll tax is 20% on the first 20k, 23% on 20…62.8k and 31.4% thereafter)

    Knowing the address, I doubt their office exceeds 100 sq.m., so it’s a safe bet most of them don’t ever set their feet there.

    Their servers are in Russia and France.

    On a side note, they’re registered as NACE 7311 (advertising agencies).

    *SIA is Latvian for LLC

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @Mikhail
  13. Mikhail says: • Website
    @Haruto Rat

    Could it be a virtual address?

    • Replies: @Haruto Rat
  14. Matra says:

    Last time I heard about Rothrock he was in some bitter dispute with Michael Weiss, the “CNN terrorism expert” (so you know he must be good!). Weiss was trying to get Rothrock fired over something or other, and not for the first time. Given how anti-Russian Weiss is, the dispute gave me the impression that Rothrock was too soft on Russia, or at least Putin. Most tweets on this subject seem to have been deleted.

    • Disagree: Mikhail
    • Replies: @Mikhail
  15. @Mikhail

    No, certainly not virtual. I believe the proper term would be “limited physical presence”.

    • Replies: @LatW
  16. Mr. Hack says:
    @neutral

    There must ave been a delay in Boris Nemtsov’s obtaining of his walking papers?

  17. Svevlad says:
    @neutral

    There’s a bit of truth in that infamous “if you kill your enemies, they win”

    Why kill an idiot and risk legitimizing him by doing so? Let him make a fool of himself

  18. WHAT says:
    @The Big Red Scary

    Look at their “ambassadors”, lol.

    It`s far beyond abysmal.

  19. What is truly beautiful is the amount of money that the West pours into zero-impact ventures against Russia. Imagine the effects if that money and influence was given to the dissident right instead of snivelling Russian liberal expats of dubious ethnic origin.

    Very low energy.

    • Replies: @216
  20. @Mikhail

    Mark Galeotti (shame on RT for proppiong him) , who seems to be okay with Rothrock and Sean Guillory. Related:

    http://johnhelmer.org/mark-galeotti-is-a-fact-faker-his-book-on-russian-crime-is-a-hate-crime-a-war-crime/

    I wouldn’t count Galeotti among this crowd. Nor, for that matter, people like Anders Åslund and Timothy Snyder. Theirs is a more egghead antipathy.

    • Replies: @Mikhail
  21. @The Big Red Scary

    The email exchange between Rothrock and Otto shows Rothrock translated an article from Slon for Otto. So a “top intelligence guy” in the US is having an amateur translate online magazine articles, and is profusely grateful for it. Either Foreign Policy is so clueless it doesn’t understand that Otto himself must be an amateur who is either incapable of reading the damned article himself or at least having his staff translate it for him, or the state of US intelligence on Russia really is so abysmal.

    Very good point, and one can’t help thinking of Michael McFaul here. The man has been learning Russian for some 40 years, and still speaks it like a high schooler.

    Still, Russian liberals are buying it. I remember Konstantin Sonin, in an interview with RT’s Oksana Boyko, daring her to name a single Westerner who knew more about Russia than McFaul. And he was serious too.

    • LOL: Mikhail
    • Replies: @The Big Red Scary
  22. @Swedish Family

    I was impressed with Sonin the first time I met him, but the effect wore off very quickly. He’s an incredibly arrogant man.

    • Replies: @Swedish Family
  23. Mikhail says: • Website
    @Matra

    Weiss is a rank amateur in terms of substantive knowledge regarding Russia. Yet, he’s more likely to get a higher profile propping than Rothrock. At play perhaps is a somewhat justified jealousy.

    There’s also the possible matter of personalities clashing for whatever reason. Why hasn’t Sleboda been on RT of late? Look what led to the Bausman-Lavelle break.

  24. Mikhail says: • Website
    @Swedish Family

    Agree or disagree with them, Aslund has a paper credential background in economics, with Snyder’s being in history. Both of them have said some quite dubious things over the course of time

    Comparatively speaking, the likes of Jankowicz, Rothrock and Galeotti seem to be more in a less traditional grouping, having to do with (among some other things) “disinformation” in cyber and elsewhere. These aforementioned three don’t especially impress on core matters related to economics, foreign policy and history.

    Upon substantive review, Galeotti’s attempt at media analysis is a flop. He also flopped in not providing an intelligent follow-up to some comments made about him in a Counterpunch article and a related version of it which ran in Eurasia Review. Instead, he carried on in quite an inaccurate and un-academic manner via Twitter.

    • Replies: @Swedish Family
  25. 216 says: • Website
    @AltSerrice

    Svoboda had no chance of getting nukes, and was mostly a regional phenomenon at its height.

    A Svoboda clone in Russia that got power would get nukes. This has been a staple of Hollywood for decades.

    I do wonder why the PRC hasn’t tried its hand at political subversion in the West, for now they’ve preferred just bribing elites, rather than building pro-China movements as they do in their sphere of influence.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  26. @216

    A Svoboda clone would be independent as a result of those nukes, and would soon try to change the borders and even kick NATO out of its backyard. In other words, it’d be as bad as or likely even worse than Putin, from an Atlanticist perspective.

    It makes a lot of sense that they don’t support actual Russian nationalists against Putin, only the most ineffectual opposition. They don’t want to support anyone who would be worse than Putin from their perspective.

  27. Mikhail says: • Website

    Seeing how the subject of Twitter censorship has been brought up:

    https://www.antiwar.com/blog/2019/09/09/daniel-mcadams-explains-how-twitter-banned-him-for-life/

    Daniel McAdams getting banned is sheer crock. Notwithstanding, Sean Hannity’s wearing of a CIA pin is defended on the premise that many in that org aren’t fans of John Brennan. Such folks have appeared on Fox News. Last night, one of them busted on CNN hired hack and former CIA analyst Phil Mudd, for saying that the CIA fraternity is united in opposing Trump.

    I sense that Hannity is opposed to McAdams getting banned.

  28. LatW says:
    @Haruto Rat

    The Russian journalists at least (and no not all of them are the chosen ones) do have residency and commute from Moscow to Riga. Btw, this is a common pattern for some UMC Russians, too – two months in LV, two in Spain, the rest in Moscow.

  29. LatW says:

    To put Solovey in the same category as these Medusa ditzes is not entirely fair, he is in the “Krym nash” camp even while he proposes building some kind of a modern Russian nation state.

    As to predictions, he’s not the only one stating that the Putin consensus has broken down. Russian youtubers on both ends of political spectrum have been buzzing about that for over a year now. These groups are all marginal however (except maybe the new commies). Unlike them who predict another 1991 or smuty (chaos), Solovey actually predicts a bright future for Russia.

  30. @The Big Red Scary

    I was impressed with Sonin the first time I met him, but the effect wore off very quickly. He’s an incredibly arrogant man.

    I’m sure he is impressive still when it comes to his field of knowledge. Politics has a way of bringing out the worst in people. To say nothing of geopolitics …

    • Replies: @The Big Red Scary
  31. @Mikhail

    Comparatively speaking, the likes of Jankowicz, Rothrock and Galeotti seem to be more in a less traditional grouping, having to do with (among some other things) “disinformation” in cyber and elsewhere.

    I know Galeotti only from his columns in Business New Europe and the odd TV appearance, but he doesn’t strike me as a hack. Deeply critical of Putinism, yes, but that he has in common with most Russian nationalists. His book on the Russian underworld I haven’t gotten around to yet, so I can’t comment on that. (That’s a book review I would love to see Karlin take on, by the way.)

    • Replies: @Mikhail
  32. Mikhail says: • Website
    @Swedish Family

    He has carried on like a hack in several instances. His criticisms of Putin aren’t in line with those of Russian nationalists.

  33. Not Raul says:
    @JL

    Maybe the elite have compromat on Rothrock.

  34. @Swedish Family

    I’m not so sure. Economists are hit and miss. But certainly some of my own colleagues are truly excellent at what they do and have completely outrageous opinions about politics.

  35. Denis says:
    @neutral

    I don’t think that would be appropriate in this case. What would be the point in disappearing someone so ineffectual? I’d never heard of him until now, and if he is being paid by the authorities in America to slander Russians, that just means that they are wasting their money.

  36. Denis says:
    @neutral

    I don’t think that would be appropriate in this case. What would be the point in disappearing someone so ineffectual? I’d never heard of him until now, and if he is being paid by the authorities in America to slander Russians, that just means that they are wasting their money.

    • Agree: Mikhail
  37. Leonid Slutsky? Sorry, I’m too immature to let that one pass.

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