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 Russian Reaction Blog / PoliticsTeasers

Probably unintentionally, but still.

The video, subtly titled “Hitler 1945/Navalny 2018,” basically argues that if you oppose Medvedev’s corruption and the importation of infinity Moslems into Russia then you are Hitler.

Its current Dislikes to Likes ratio is at around 10.

According to Navalny himself, the man behind the video is Sergey Kiriyenko, the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration.

The kremlin connection is probably true.

First, it obviously has a high production value, and has many of the stylistic features of the My Duck’s Vision studio, known for its goofy hyperbolic rhetoric and CGI overkill, which nobody really uses nowadays apart from the kremlins.

Second, the video has been shown to [edit 4/20: as has just been brought to my attention by Alexey Kovalev, they were actually shown another video, about Navalny's involvement in the Kirovles affair (an alleged corruption scandal for which Navalny had been convicted), not the one about how he is Hitler; in his post on the matter, Navalny had implied otherwise, which serves as a good reminder that what Navalny says should be fact checked as well] students of Vladimir State University, some of whom had allegedly been forced to go there as punishment for participating in the protests against corruption on March 26.

After the video, the head of the regional law school’s department for counter extremism outreach amongst youth, one vibrantly named Alla Byba lectures the disgruntled students for their temerity in asking her that she also show some of Navalny’s videos – for example, on how Dmitry Peskov wears watches worth three times his annual salary – in the interests of academic neutrality.

“You all know there that is an information war against the Russian Federation,” she informs the students, “No wonder that terrorist organizations are intensively recruiting across the Internet.”

So the basic takeaway is that as we well know actual terrorists have no religion or nationality, discussing Medvedev’s corruption and opposing infinity Moslems in Moscow makes you an extremist, a supporter of Adolf Hitler, and a member of the sixth-column ala Dugin.

You can hardly find a better way to inflate Navalny’s otherwise very modest approval ratings and smother away his real failings, such as a lack of knowledge about policy.

Indeed, as Egor Prosvirnin argues, calling Navalny a Russian fascist is perhaps the one thing that can save him – because it is evidently false to just about everyone who is not in the over 50, no Internet connection, sub-90 IQ demographic. But by attacking him on the basis of his supposed nationalism, the kremlins may well actually end up forcing Navalny to (re)adopt Russian nationalism. In the current climate, that could well increase Navalny’s popularity by a factor of of two or three, making him a real political threat to the kremlins.

All of which begs Milyukov’s classic question: Is this treason, or stupidity?

Well, judge for yourselves.

Some biographic data on Kiriyenko from the English Wikipedia (no mention of this in the Russian version, incidentally):

Sergei Kiriyenko’s grandfather, Yakov Israitel, made his name as a devoted communist and member of the Cheka, and Vladimir Lenin awarded him with an inscribed pistol for his good service to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Sergei Kiriyenko, son of a Jewish father, was born in Sukhumi, the capital of the Abkhazian ASSR, and grew up in Sochi, in southern Russia. He adopted Ukrainian surname of his mother.

He was also one of the Gaidar’s “young reformers” responsible for the theft-ridden privatizations of the 1990s, and was Prime Minister during the 1998 default. After that, he spent the next seven years in inconsequential posts, until Putin plucked him out of obscurity to head Rosatom, the state nuclear power behemoth.

There have also been rumors in the press (which he denied) that he attended Scientology seminars in his hometown of Nizhny Novgorod.

Speaking of weird quasi-Masonic associations… Kirienko’s direct boss now is Anton Vaino, a descendant of Estonian communists. On becoming head of the Presidential Administration, the Internet quickly discovered his dissertation about the “nooscope,” a theoretical device that tracks “the collective conscience of mankind” thought a system of “spatial scanners” that monitor “changes in the biosphere.”

Many Russians expressed the hope that Vaino had paid someone to write it, because having an academic fraud in a position of power is par for the course in Russia, and far preferable to him being the deranged madman who wrote many dozens of pages about this pseudoscientific nonsense.

Apart from “treason” and “stupidity,” I suppose there is also a 666D chess explanation, a “mnogokhodovka” so to speak. If the kremlins could get nationalists to hop back aboard the Navalny bandwagon – meme Navalny into becoming a Russian Richard Spencer, as one Twitter user just suggested to me – then perhaps the kremlins could use the opportunity to shut down Russian nationalists along with Navalny himself in a future crackdown (for instance, if it coincides with the surrender of Donbass).

However, I don’t think that’s true, because I don’t think the kremlins are any smarter than Trump.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Alexei Navalny, Politics, Russia 

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 

goodbye-cuckryan This is one beautiful defenestration:

In the Oct. 10, 2016 call, from right after the Access Hollywood tape of Trump was leaked in the weeks leading up to the election, Ryan does not specify that he will never defend Trump on just the Access Hollywood tape—he says clearly he is done with Trump altogether.

“I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan says in the audio, obtained by Breitbart News and published here for the first time ever.

Now, Ryan—still the Speaker—has pushed now President Donald Trump to believe his healthcare legislation the American Health Care Act would repeal and replace Obamacare when it does not repeal Obamacare. Ryan has also, according to Trump ally Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), misled President Trump into believing that Ryan’s bill can pass Congress. Paul and others believe the bill is dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate since a number of GOP senators have come out against it, and there are serious questions about whether it can pass the House. This is the first major initiative that Trump has worked on with Ryan—and the fact it is going so poorly calls into question whether Speaker Ryan, the GOP’s failed 2012 vice presidential nominee who barely supported Trump at all in 2016, really understands how Trump won and how to win in general. …

“The President gave Ryan a chance,” one source close to the President said. “If he doesn’t get his act together soon, the President will have no choice but to step in and fix this on his own. He’s the best negotiator on the planet, and if this were his bill not Ryan’s it would not be this much of a mess.”

It’s not exactly a conspiracy theory that the main dividing line in the White House is between the MAGA revolutionaries Trump and Bannon, and the representatives of the GOP’s old neocon orthodoxies, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus, and Mike Pence.

But they are not united. For instance, Mike Pence has long been a political opportunist, and can be expected gravitate towards the stronger force.

Paul Ryan, however, will always be a wrecker, riding The Donald to impose the GOP’s anti-working class agenda and ditching him soon afterwards.

Wouldn’t it be great if Bannon could twist in the shiv just as Ryancare faces its inevitable collapse?

Let the old GOP choke on its own retarded ideological obsessions. Replace Obamacare with a single-payer system once the dust settles. Move on to more important things, such as immigration, protectionism, and dismantling the neocon infrastructure.

Now, on top of all of this, this new audio file raises questions as to how loyal Ryan is to Trump politically—and is asking the new president to use precious political capital to push through legislation that seems arithmetically destined for congressional failure. That could doom or at least dampen other key elements of the Trump agenda, like tax reform, immigration reform, national security efforts, budgetary reforms, building up of the U.S. military, trade renegotiation and more.

As such, as Breitbart News has previously reported, there are now rumblings among House Republicans that they may want a replacement not just of Obamacare but a replacement of Paul Ryan as Speaker. A new Speaker, some argue, would make life much easier for President Trump as he moves forward with his agenda. So the argument goes, as some House GOP members have told Breitbart News, is that if healthcare is this rocky then tax reform, immigration, trade policy and other key Trump agenda items will be worse.

david-frum-trump-is-stupid This is 7D chess – and most convenient, the bad guys are convinced Trump is playing checkers.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, United States 

cant-cuck-the-king

This isn’t even half of it.

For instance, last July, there was this:

“I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

He is completely correct, of course.

murray-human-accomplishment

He is also reasonably sane on Russia, at one point pointing out that if Putin really was a dictator, he’d have had Kasparov whacked a long time ago.

In reality, as I pointed out, life for opposition minded Russians is considerably safer under Putin than it was under Yeltsin.

So naturally he rejects the conspiracy theory that Russian hackers stole the US election as a CNN narrative, while Democratic Senators and Louise Mensch want the US to go to war with Russia over it.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, United States 

I know Preet Bharara for two things:

bout-time(1) Prosecuting Viktor Bout, who didn’t do nothing wrong. He was an equal opportunity arms’ trader who sold to everyone, even to the US in support of its Middle East misadventures. Then he made one “sale” to the wrong people, was arrested in the US puppet state Thailand, and extradited, where a US kangaroo court convicted him of a “crime” that happened outside US jurisdiction. Bharara was the main guy behind this political repression against Russian entrepeneurship.

(2) Cracked down on online poker in 2011, an illegitimate assault on Internet freedoms, which incidentally happened to be making me some money back then. This put my carefully cultivated NEET lyfe in temporary peril, which I consider to be a gross violation of my human rights.

So all things considered I am very happy that Trump has had that freedom hater fired.

He was no doubt plotting against him anyway.

Don’t want to overburden Trump at this point, but it would be nice if he could engineer a pardon for Bout. (There have been claims that Bout was a Russian intelligence services, but coming as they did from the usual Russophobe/neocon quarters, plus the lack of significant Russian efforts to negotiate his release as would happen with real spies, that is implausible. He was just an entrepreneur maligned by racist SJWs who think that Africans and Arabs shouldn’t to buy weaponry. From non-Western sources, anyway).

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, USA 

Up until very recently, Russia was viewed more favorably by the Liberals/Left than conservatives in the US.

Many of the conservatives were people who had grown up at the height of the Cold War, saw the letters KGB in Putin’s eyes like McCain, and tended to suffer from a bad case of your brain on Judeo-Christian values.

All things considered, the Liberals/Left were a bit… less unhinged.

russia-friend-or-foe

But in the past year, the situation has cardinally reversed itself.

Now, a more recent NBC News poll confirms this trend:

approval-russia-democrats-vs-republicans

There are several possible reasons for this:

(1) There is the direct influence of Trump himself, who is exceptionally pro-Russian – in the American political context, one is almost tempted to say irrationally (as he himself recognizes: “I know politically it’s probably not good for me“).

(2) I suspect that the blatant Trump Derangement Syndrome of the mainstream media has perhaps made some more introspective conservatives ask just how fair their media has been to Russia all these years. It helps, of course, that Putin Derangement Syndrome is closely associated with TDS, if not approaching outright convergence with it, as Patrick Armstrong suggests:

Since Trump was inaugurated on 20 January, I have noticed that Putin Derangement Syndrome is being pushed aside in the punditry by a crescendo of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Just as Putin has been diagnosed at a distance, so has he: “Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct ‘A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation’” and his signature gives cause for concern. “As Trump prepares his kissy face for Putin, a glimpse into the dictator’s soul“. PDS is replete with such remote sensing of Putin’s inner self. The student of PDS will recognise the magazine covers about Trump of which the standout is Der Spiegel’s (no small purveyor of PDS itself) showing Trump decapitating Lady Liberty à la Daesh. Since under-estimating Trump was so successful, why not continue to? Some writer thinks he’s just a puppet of Steve Bannon. But maybe they’re converging: “Manchurian Presidency: Why Angry White America Fell for Putin“. But the most beautiful example of convergence, one that brings everything together is: “The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin“!

(3) Russia itself has become markedly more conservative since 2012, if more in official rhetoric than reality. Then again, it’s not like young Trumpists are particularly hardcore social conservatives either. Which brings us to the last point:

(4) Most interestingly, and this is a new finding, the NBC poll reveals that there is a YUGE gap in attitudes towards Russia between young and old Republicans – that is, between the New Right/”Alt Right” (e.g. at /r/The_Donald) and the crusty Cold Warriors.

An amazing 73% of 18-29 year old Republicans view Russia as friendly or an ally, whereas almost the exact same number – 69% – view it as unfriendly or an enemy amongst 65+ year old Republicans.

approval-russia-republican-generations

But the crusty Cold Warriors are steadily dying off, and as this happens, we are returning to the more stable and traditional pattern of Western attitudes towards Russia after the abberation of the Soviet period.

For if you take the long historical view it is the Liberals/Left who have historically been far less enamored ofRussia.

Who talked of the “gendarme of Europe” and “prison of peoples” in 19th century political discourse? Socialists, not conservatives. Marx had very little good to say about Russia and Eastern Europe in general, the idea being that the advanced Western nations were the only ones of interest from a Communist revolutionary perspective. (Though he did modify this view somewhat towards the end of his life).

Early Russian Eurasianist philosopher Nikolay Trubetzkoy makes the same point.

In stark contrast to the situation even just a few years ago, the Russophobia/Russophilia spectrum now runs from the “militant cosmopolitanism” of European socialism (which today is homosexualist neocon SJWism of the Kirchick sort), to the outright Russophilia of a large part of the Alt Right and neoreaction.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, Republicans, Russia, Russophobes, USA 

Russian human rights lawyer Matthew Tszen speculates:

I suspect that the global Womens March was originally conceived of as a sort of victory parade to mark the inauguration of the first US female president (Hillary Clinton). And only the unexpected victory of Trump forced them to change not even so much its character, as its tone – from that of a festive victory, to a protest. This is evidenced by its own international character – for instance, the concept that “French women are celebrating the election of a woman to the US Presidency” makes sense, but the concept of “French women protesting against the election of President Trump” is practically meaningless. Not to mention the fact the the “protesters” aren’t really able to formulate what, exactly, they are protesting, and what their demands are. Some of their slogans, e.g. “pussy grabs back,” would have looked much more natural against the background of a Clinton victory.

I still think it was organized largely after the fact by a panicking Soros, but this is an interesting theory.

It would tie in well with my speculations that a great deal of fireworks – both literal and figurative – were painstakingly choreographed to go off on Hillary Clinton’s election, possibly including a serious purge of “fake news” instead of the decidedly slapstick affair we actually got.

I am getting the distinct impression that this is a very well planned information operation that was that was meant to kick into high gear upon Hillary Clinton’s election, perhaps in conjunction with the “Russia bombed The Last Hospital in Aleppo” meme to set up the groundwork for a showdown in Syria (there are hints that this is indeed what Hillary Clinton was planning upon assuming the Presidency).

I suppose we now don’t really have any choice but to continue speculating, at least until some new whistleblower comes along to leak the deep state’s secrets to Wikileaks. Still, that’s far preferable to having had them play out in reality.

 

Robert Stark has just released his latest podcast in which we discussed all sorts of topics including My American Decade along with co-host “PillEater.”

Robert Stark is a journalist who specializes in interviewing various interesting figures from the Alt fringes. So you could I suppose view him as The Unz Review on podcasts.

Here are some of my previous episodes with him:

Some notes/highlights:

  • My thesis from American Decade that American society has been “Europeanizing” this past decade.
  • The fragmentation of the US political spectrum: “Clinton democrats, Sanders socialists, Rubio/Bush etablishment conservatives, Cruz Bible-bashers, and Trump nationalists.”
  • A big chunk of US income inequality (relative to Europe) disappears once you adjust for race.
  • My political views: “Fairly socially liberal (except for rejecting political correctness, and radical feminism), economically centrist, and closest to Rabbit’s AltLeft.” (The main reason I don’t overtly identify as Alt Left is that I am probably considerably to the right of most of them on economics).
  • The SJW problem – today’s campus Pink Guards will be future elites in 20-30 years.
  • The Bay Area and its remarkably high density of interesting people.
  • The first global warming models were constructed by the Swede Svante Arrhenius, who was also – in what will surely blow the minds of Kochservatives – a eugenicist.
  • Amtrak as a little-known national treasure of America.

This didn’t make it into the podcast due to time constraints, but we also had a little discussion about the ideas of Michael Hudson, an economist (and UR columnist) who criticizes the financialization of the US economy. I am not actually convinced the problem is especially acute in the US – according to the statistics I’ve looked at, the financial sector’s assets relative to GDP are higher in the EU than in the US, and twice as large in the UK. That said, it is surely a pretty big misallocation of cognitive resources at the global level. The people now eking out a few more percentage points in greater economic efficiency (=a couple of years of normal growth) could instead be designing nuclear powered spaceships.

 

esoteric-pepe

Trump has fulfilled the prophesies of Kek.

That was clear pretty early on, as soon as it became clear he was winning Florida and the markets started tumbling as they realized the false song of globalism was about to end.

That is because Trump and his protectionist platform was almost certainly going to perform much better, relatively speaking, in the rustbelt than it would in the less industrial South and West – and that is indeed exactly what happened.

I did think there was a shy Trumpist effect that would make the election very close, much closer than the polls were letting on – I very much doubted there would be a 300+ HRC landslide, unlike mainstream opinion – but I did underestimate its magnitude, just like I did with Brexit; I thought Florida and most of the rustbelt would both be extremely close, but overall for HRC by the smallest of margins.

Of the closest swing states only North Carolina did I consider safe for Trump.

Instead, he has confidently smashed his way through almost the entire Midwest and seems to be on track to end up with 300+ electoral college votes.

lse-no-like-trump

I spent the election roundup drinking at a London School of Economics student common room. I am pretty sure that I and the Russian student who invited me were the only Trump supporters there out of 30 or 40 people. This is not that surprising when one considers that Trump Derangement Syndrome is universal throughout Yurop and Britbongistan, and furthermore, that this was: (a) London; (b) millennials; (c) students; (d) at a pretty elite institution, which made for a quadruple whammy. It was all good though since I got to feel like the physical embodiment of trollface.jpg.

Though I do regret not sticking to my guns and continuing to insist on a Trump victory as I had been doing a couple of months previously, I am nonetheless very happy to have been wrong. The bankers might not be so happy, but who cares.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Politics, United States, US Elections 2016 

us-elections-2016-predicted

Final EC Prediction – Will be very happy to be wrong. I do think there is a Shy Trumpist factor, which will really make itself felt in rustbelt Michigan, but I fear that it might be canceled out by higher Hispanic turnout, especially in Florida and Nevada.

The person who likes to bomb a couple of brown people countries every decade paints Trump as a racist for his gall at wanting to cut down on immigration to levels that are still orders of magnitude higher than in Japan and for wanting to build a wall like the Israelis have.

She has portrayed him as a national security risk even though any other person who handled top secret information like she did would be serving a long prison sentence.

Her sycophants portray her as an economic progressive even as she runs a giant money-funneling operation powered by donations from Arab oil sheikhs, Goldman Sachs, and the esteemed guests at Lynn de Rothschild’s wineyard.

And assuming the McCarthyism mantle, they have run a truly unprecedented campaign of vilifying Russia – all but comparing its actions in Syria to the Holocaust (see second debate) – and Donald Trump’s outrageous proposal to restore normal relations with the Dark Lord of the Kremlin. Instead, he has been implied, without any evidence whatsoever, to be an agent of the Kremlin – a far more serious attack on the legitimacy of the US political process than Trump’s refusal, quite understandable in these circumstances, to commit to accept the results of the elections.

The media has been so completely and utterly in HRC’s pockets – there are too many cases to count by now of media companies directly coordinating with the DNC, as revealed by Wikileaks – that it makes the Russian state media look free and partial in comparison in relation to Putin and Untied Russia.

And yet what do Americans overwhelmingly care about? Many of the same middle-aged women who made Fifty Shades of Gray into a bestseller reproach Trump for chasing skirt a decade ago. Instead of asking questions about what it says about the system of power in their country that the Bushes were in possession of this kompromat for more than a decade and released it to help their “enemy” dynasty.

Let’s be forthright: Donald Trump is a very socially savvy who might not be the most intelligent of people but who has sane, everyman views on both social policy and international relations. He does not appear to have any substantial investments in Russia (unlike Romney!), but even if he did, would you rather have Russia or the Islamic State-with-better-PR? Yes, it is likely that he used all sorts of loopholes to grow his business (welcome to real estate!) and to avoid taxes (again, like Romney!), but most people who’ve known him tend to speak very well of him – something that cannot be said for his rival.

Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, cheating, lying warmonger whose mental issues and overinflated sense of moral superiority might result in World War 3. I suppose there would be a certain comedy to living in Fallout/Metro 2033 on account of HRC’s determination to protect the bearded apemen who carried out 9/11 against her own putative country, but we will only be able to appreciate it on the most cosmic of scales.

Let’s MAGA, not war.

kek-wills-it

 

“The churches are our barracks, the bells are our helmets, the Kremlin spires are our bayonets, and Putin trolls are our soldiers…”

… Well, it doesn’t have quite the ring of the better known poem that, having once landed Erdogan in jail, has now ensured his survival.

So people are now asking: Without Erdogan’s closer ties to a religion far more passionary than Orthodox Christianity, without his allegedly superior democratic credentials, would anyone actually bother out to defend the Dark Lord of the Kremlin cometh the Great Day of his Reckoning that every second Russia think-tank analyst in London and Washington D.C. has been prophesying for more than a decade?

Of course not. I even feel a bit stupid for putting fingers to keyboard to write this post. But nonsense has to be cleared up.

I

The first problem with thinking about a prospective Russian coup is finding even a semi-plausible candidate to play the plotters’ part.

The actors that immediately come to mind are the generals – but they are also the unlikeliest group to move against Putin. The last time the Russian armed forces had regularly played kingmaker was during the 17th century, when the streltsy acted as a kind of Praetorian guard to the Tsars. The last successful coup that relied on military support took place more than two century ago, when Catherine the Great deposed the wildly unpopular Peter III, an 18th century Wehraboo who had withdrawn Russia from a hard-fought but successful war against Prussia on account of his boyhood fascination with Frederick the Great and the Prussian Army. The Russian military would never again be politically influential. The Kornilov putsch in 1917 failed. In both 1991 and 1993, the Armed Forces remained loyal to their respective heads of state, Gorbachev and Yeltsin, even though neither man enjoyed their respect. Despite the frailty of post-Soviet polities, the entire region would only see three military coups after 1991: One successful coup in Georgia, and two coups in Azerbaijan, of which one was successful. Azerbaijan is, of course, the closest “relative” to Turkey – with its seven coups this past century alone – in the former USSR, so it is unlikely that its experience would be much extensible to Russia.

In contrast to both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, Putin has enjoyed consistently high approval ratings, and the respect of the military and siloviks in particular. He can speak their language and has furnished lavish spending on both the military and the security services. The current Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, is highly popular without harboring much in the way of personal political ambitions of his own. This is in contrast to his predecessor Anatoly Serdyukov, who was highly unpopular for his questionable reforms and blatant corruption. He was eventually dismissed from his post, but the corruption investigation went nowhere and was eventually quietly shut down. Although the legal impunity of the Russian political elites is one of the few real sources of popular discontent with Putinism, it may also play a role as a political safety valve. Bureaucrats who steal too much – Serdyukov, Yakunin, Luzhkov, etc. – might get dismissed, but don’t tend to go overtly hostile because, apart from their low chances of success and high risk of ruin, they also know that the next regime might not be so forgiving towards them.

It is ultimately the oligarchs who are the most credible threat to Putin’s power. After all, it was the oligarchs who were instrumental in keeping an ailing Yeltsin in power in 1996, who ruled it for a time as the Semibankirschina, and who eased the transition towards a Putin Presidency (upon which he promptly told them to get out of politics). They also played a huge role in the political life of the other post-Soviet states. In Georgia, it was essentially an oligarchic coup by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili that doomed Saakashvili’s attempts to set himself up for permanent rule in late 2012. In Ukraine, it was above all the defection of several key oligarchs critical to the coalition supporting Viktor Yanukovych – together with their media assets and bought up Rada MPs – that ensured the success of Euromaidan (though a false flag helped). Moldova is essentially a playground for various oligarchic and nationalist factions. So oligarchs have a record of successfully influencing politics throughout the former USSR, and moreover, as a class they have no particular reasons to love Putin. So how much of a threat are they?

They are a bigger threat than any other force, but still not all that dangerous. First, there has already been stringent selection for loyalty; recalcitrants (Gusinsky, Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, etc.) have long been purged or exiled abroad. The 1990s class of oligarchs, who have the most reason to hate Putin, now have very little institutional influence. Khodorkovsky tried to infiltrate the system by buying up Duma MPs in the early 2000s, which no doubt contributed to the decision to bring down the hammer of the law against him. Since his release he has said he wants to lead Russia (thus once again breaking his promise not to go into politics), but his main political asset is but a slick PR campaign centered almost exclusively on the West. How that could translate into meaningful political power in Russia is unclear to say the least.

Meanwhile, the large class of billionaires created in the 2000s has no particular reason to dislike Putin, especially since he was the man who enabled many of them to acquire or expand their fortunes; nor do they have much in the way of political influence, since staying out of politics was a condition of them being allowed to do large-scale business in the first place (Mikhail Prokhorov’s 2008 Presidential run was a mutually agreed upon exception). The supportive political role of the AKP-linked construction barons in Erdogan’s Turkey, who have gotten rich on providing homes and malls for Anatolians moving to the western cities, is in Russia played by a small group of Putin’s friends, who get privileged contracts in return for their loyalty and helping out with projects of national importance. Is this corrupt? Sure. But on the flip side, nobody apart from the Roternbergs was rushing to build a bridge to Crimea, because they have too many assets tied up in the West. Incidentally, speaking of the West, far from destabilizing Putin’s domestic position as initially hoped for, the sanctions on Russian figures close to Putin have only strengthened Putin’s position, since they are more reliant on his favor than ever before now that the option of fleeing to Londongrad has been foreclosed.

II

But okay, let’s put all that aside and wave a magic wand.

While Putin is away at a UN summit, his approval at a record low due to a recent crab-related sex scandal, a group of oligarchs manage to buy off the directors of most of the main TV channels, a large chunk of United Russia MPs, and the head of the Moscow police and OMON. Putin’s Cabinet are taken into custody. Khodorkovsky and the rest of his merry revolutionaries jet in, while Putin’s plane is discovered to have mechanical problems (a group of men are seen furtively sneaking out of the hangar), delaying his return to Russia for a number of critical hours.

In this scenario, will the coup go ahead successfully, the now liberal-controlled state TV brainwashing vatnik brains overnight into avid becoming avid supporters of Khodorkovsky and holding a gay parade in his honor, or will they take to the streets to preserve their democratically elected President/evil totalitarian regime (cross out as appropriate)?

Well, the first and most obvious “problem” is that Putin’s approval rating has hovered at a steady 60%-90% through the 16 years of his rule.

putin-approval-rating-1999-2016

Color revolutions, even coups, are pretty much impossible with these kinds of ratings. Yanukovych was in his 20%’s on the eve of Euromaidan (similar to Poroshenko today), and even lower in Kiev. Even the failed recent coup against Erdogan occured when he was in his 40%’s. All three of the post-Soviet coups came at a time of double-digit annual GDP collapse and civil war/failed war against Armenia. Despite political crises in 1961 and 1968, there was never a successful coup against France’s Charles de Gaulle, the postwar West European leader with whom Putin perhaps has the most commonalities; between 1958 and 1969, De Gaulle’s approval ratings averaged 60% (Putin: 75%), and never dipped below 42% (Putin: Low 60%’s).

One popular theory advanced by Daniel Treisman used to explain Putin’s Teflon-like popularity (and popularized in his book The Return) tied Putin’s (and Yeltsin’s) approval ratings to economic performance.

treisman-putin-approval-predicted-from-economics

However, as it later emerged, this tight correlation must have been an artifact. It broke down to the downside during the 2011-12 protests over electoral falsifications, even though the economy then was chugging along more or less normally; and it veered sharply upwards after the incorporation of Crimea in 2014, even as the economy went into a long recession.

So you can’t rely on sanctions and/or The Next Recession to torpedo Putin’s ratings.

Another popular theory is that Russian pollsters are unreliable. It is also incredibly illogical, since the Levada Center is for all intents and purposes an oppositional organization, and because even Western pollsters consistently confirm Putin’s high approval ratings.

The most nuanced critique is the “mile wide but inch deep” theory of post-Soviet politics, which as repeatedly applied to Putin’s Russia means that the population is too afraid to answer pollsters truthfully, and/or supports Putin but without much enthusiasm, such that they will all defect from him once his sorceror’s spell is broken, and the mind-control Towers of Saraksh crumble. (There is also of course an ideological component here as well, namely the unwillingness of Western elites to come to terms with democratic choices that they disapprove of, as has been blatantly demonstrated in the past year by their reactions to Brexit and Trump).

putin-approval-frye-estimates

This theory, however, has been conclusively debunked by Timothy Frye et al. in 2015, who used a double list experiment – a clever way of gauging attitudes towards a potentially controversial topic without respondents having to answer it directly – to confirm that Putin’s approval ratings as measured by mainstream pollsters were accurate to at least within 10 percentage points, and concluded that the “main obstacle at present to the emergence of a widespread opposition movement to Putin is not that Russians are afraid to voice their disapproval of Putin, but that Putin is in fact quite popular.”

III

Leonid Bershidsky identifies three reasons why a coup might have better prospects against Putin than against Erdogan.

First, Bershidsky claims that as an “essentially one-party democracy,” Russian voters will not be under any great incentive to defend their votes: “Putin’s supporters are passive and often dependent on government largesse – which might still be available from whoever tries to depose the president.” This is a dangerous assumption for the coup plotters, and as shown above, almost certainly a false one.

Second, Turkey has allowed foreign media to operate widely: “As a result, it wasn’t state television but the secularist, private Dogan media group, which owns the CNN Turk TV channel, that put Erdogan on the air first so he could tell the nation he was fighting the coup attempt.” Because of course the Western media is well known for its impartiality towards Putin and its absolute respect for democracy. It’s not like they’ve spent the past sixteen years relentlessly smearing Putin and denying the democratic choices of the Russian people.

Third, Bershidsky points out that “vibrant connection to organized religion is another strength of the Erdogan regime.” Although Putin has a good relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church, it is true that that nobody is going to come out even if they were to ring their bells. However, Russia does have a means of instantly politically mobilizing its population: “Patriotic” websites and social media.

Within an hour, if not minutes, of a hostile coup, patriotic bloggers such as Nikolay Starikov are going to call their readers out into the streets. So will Sergey Kurginyan’s patriotic-Communist “Essence of Time” movement. They will have a huge immediate audience because Internet penetration in Moscow is at 80%, and close to 70% in the rest of Russia.

This is barely mentioned or remembered nowadays, but it is worth mentioning that during the 2011-12 wave of protests, when Putin’s approval ratings were at their nadir, the Kurginyanites still managed to pull off the single biggest (counter)protest of that entire electoral cycle, and they did it in the country’s most oppositional city at the time.

Even if, at the time of the coup, Putin’s approval rating were to drop to a historic low of 50%, that would still leave 16% of Russians whose “Putinism Quotient” is +1 S.D. above the average – perhaps, many of the 16% of Russians who today either have or want to acquire a portrait or sculpture of Putin – who are strong Putin supporters and who would spill over into the streets, like the 800,000 Parisians who marched against a Communist revolution and in support of Charles de Gaulle on May 30, 1968.

The 2% of Russians whose PQ is +2 S.D. above the mean – i.e., easily 100,000 Muscovites alone – would be the ones lynching coup sympathizers on the streets and engaging in battles with the Traitor Legions.

And there does exist a group of people, the +3 S.D. types, too embarassingly fanatical to be overtly associated even for your average Putin supporter, small in percentage terms but nonetheless substantial in absolute numbers, who can more or less fairly be described as Putin cultists:

The path laid by the father is not one of argument with him, but rather argument with the open world laying before us, an argument in which we are together with the father, at one with him,” it says. “We don’t fight with the power of the father, we share it, we learn the power, we master the power, together with the father we direct its energy toward our present and future.

Presumably, they will most certainly not take the coup lying down (unless it’s in front of a tank).

This is ultimately all just bell curve dynamics.

It is almost impossible that the Army or any significant portion of the security agencies would support the coupists. The Russian Armed Forces are a mix of conscripts and professionals. Conscripts tend to come from poorer, working-class families – i.e., more patriotic than hipsters who avoid service – and the professional soldiers are self-selected for greater patriotism, as with militaries almost anywhere. As for the generals, as mentioned above, it is hard to see them ditching the reliable Putin they know for an unelected emigre and convicted financial fraudster from Switzerland.

With neither the people nor the Army behind them, the coup will fail. And that is also why it will almost certainly never start.

There are several conceivable ways in which the Putin regime could end prematurely – an accident or assassination, a huge geopolitical defeat, or perhaps a liberalization of the political system that veers out of control – but a coup is not one of them under both the current and most conceivable future circumstances.

 

Here are my US Presidential elections of 2016 results from what is possibly the most comprehensive quiz/polling site on the issue:

i-side-with-trump

I have to say that this tool is quite accurate. For instance, in my 2012 results, it identified Barack Obama as the (realistically) best candidate I could support.

If I was 100% American I might have had a small preference for Romney but that was precluded by my Russian ethnic genetic interests. Hence my verdict then: “I for one still favor Obama if with no particular enthusiasm.”

As self-identified Alt Left or #LRx I’m fine with Bernie being fourth, but what is the warmongering hag doing immediately below him?

Ted Cruz is far from the worst option, but he is tainted by his absurd degree of loyalty to a certain lobby. Why opt for him when you can have the real deal with Trump?

ideological-preferences

This looks about right. Although I might not fully sign up to minor planks of his platform on topics such as science and environment, it is really the Invade/Invite thing that trumps (pardon the pun) everything else.

everybody-else-thats-crazy

This is a rational set of political preferences so I have no qualms with being labeled centrist. It is everyone else who’s crazy.

ideological-preferences-2

 

It is very easy to be pessimistic about the results of the just concluded regional French elections, in which the Front National failed to win a single region.

Thanks to the Socialists throwing multiple regions in Houellebecqian manner, the obvious big victor were The Republicans of Nicolas “Le Métissage Obligatoire” Sarkozy. Surely in the wake of the Paris Attacks they should have done at least a bit better.

But things are not so one-sided as they might first appear. Compared to its past performance, the Front National continues to break new ground on a surge that has continued non-stop since Marine Le Pen ascended to power in 2011.

front-national-performance-in-french-elections-historical

As you can see from the graph above, compiled on the basis of data from France’s Interior Ministry, the approximately 6.5 million votes the Front National got in the second round of voting in the regional elections represents a doubling of the sorts of figures they had been getting in the prior three decades.

As such, the boast of the rising star of the FN (and exceedingly photogenic) Marion Le Pen that “tomorrow we will be a majority” was not necessarily as unhinged at it might first appear.

The ideas of the FN are enjoying record support in French society, and will have only risen since the Paris Attacks.

france-support-for-fn-ideas

Perhaps even more importantly, the FN is increasingly the party of the ethnic French youth. Support for the FN rises from 20% amongst the over 60 year olds to 35% amongst the 18-24 olds. (Unfortunately, though, it is also the party of the least well educated: 36% support from high school drops, declining to just 14% amongst those with a full university education. This is bad for French identitarians since in “democracies” policy is almost invariably determined by the elites).

france-support-fn-by-age-group

But is there enough momentum to take Marine Le Pen to the Élysée Palace in the 2017 elections or a bit later before all hope is lost? The moderate right, the cuckservatives, regardless of their cyclical success this round, would appear to be doomed to longterm decline due to pure demographics. As mass Third World immigration proceeds apace and politics go ethnic as they inevitably do in such situations, it would not be unreasonable to expect the Socialists and FN to become the two major “poles” in this brave new Levantine landscape.

One suspects that the ultimate trajectory of France this century – that is, whether it remains France or becomes Firanja – will mainly be decided by a race between the Socialists to import new voters and by the Front National to “awaken” the Charlemagnes and Jeanne d’Arcs who no doubt still slumber deep within.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: France, Politics, Polls 
"British Society Needs A Single Culture, Not The Failed Policy Of Multiculturalism"

matthew-atkins-ukip The UK will be holding its general elections on May 7th, potentially – probably, if the opinion polls are anything to go by – bringing to an end the past five years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Neither the Conservatives, nor Labour – the UK’s two main parties – are projected to get anywhere near a majority of the seats. Its “first past the post” electoral system means that the Scottish Nationalist Party is poised for a sweep of Scotland’s 59 constituencies, crippling Labour’s chances of a national majority.

Fortunately for Labour, the Conservatives are getting undermined by the rising star on the bloc, the populist, anti-EU UK Independence Party headed by the colorful Nigel Farage. As a result, many constituencies that were previously Tory fiefdoms will now go to Labour (like third party candidates in the US, sizable parties like UKIP and the Greens can act as spoilers on the dominant parties, but they cannot win many seats themselves). The “hollowing out” of Tory support by the UKIP is driven by rising popular disillusionment with the Conservatives for their perceived elitism and failure to stem mass immigration, which is inflicting pain on the British working class. As for the other parties, the Liberal Democrats have seen their approval ratings collapse due to their volte face on university tuition hikes in 2010, and as a consequence have returned to their old status of political mediocrity; it is now the SNP, not the LibDems, who are likely to be the kingmakers in any coalition arrangement. The end result of this electoral shift, ironically, is that some kind of Labour-SNP-Green coalition is now a very real possibility.

I have lived in the UK for some time. One of my friends there, Matthew Atkins, has become UKIP’s candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, a region in north-west England that is known for being one of the focal points of the industrial revolution. In an attempt to understand the new forces that are sweeping aside the old structures of British politics, I conducted an email interview with him in which I solicited his thoughts and opinions on where Britain is going and what role UKIP is going to play in this. The French journalist and intellectual Craig Willy, whom I also interviewed a few years back, joined me in the interrogations.

Personally, I think Atkins has provided some excellent and thought provoking answers to what are some difficult and even politically awkward questions. I thank Atkins for his time and energy; it is especially appreciated given that the interview took place very close to the elections date, when campaining is, presumably, at its most intense. I also thank Craig Willy for contributing his own carefully considered questions on EU and foreign policy issues.

***

Anatoly Karlin vs. Matthew Atkins

AK: Please tell us a bit about yourself, why you joined UKIP, why you chose to stand as its candidate in Lancaster and Fleetwood, and which of its policies are dearest to you and which ones you have some issues with (surely there are at least one or two?).

MA: I was born in Dundee in Scotland and moved to the Lancaster area when I was 14. After school I went away to university in Oxford and worked for a couple of years in London. After that I came back to Lancaster and studied at the university for a Masters and I am currently doing a Phd (all in Law). I am standing in Lancaster because I feel like it is my home town, even though I actually live just over the constituency boundary (we have strange constituency borders which don’t reflect community ties in our area).

My support for UKIP began because I drifted away from the Conservative party in a lot of ways and eventually realised I actually believed in what UKIP were saying not the Tories. To list a few factors:

  • As a grammar school boy (single-sex, selective, state funded education), I support grammar schools, only UKIP still back them.
  • The coalition government’s changes to student tuition fees are sheer madness, and will result in unpaid debts of £300Bn or so by the middle of the century.
  • I did not agree with the Conservative planning policy that led to the spread of wind turbines which I think are expensive and don’t really work. I do not believe Britain belongs in the European Union, because we do not believe in political union and we have a different social and economic outlook to continental Europe. I also think it holds us back from engaging properly with the rest of the work and creates unnecessary bureaucracy.
  • Additionally, a spell volunteering with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, local community advice centres, probably moved my politics a bit to the left on the economy. I think I saw more first hand how right wing economics can adversely impact on poorer communities unless policy transition is managed very carefully, even though I still fundamentally am an economic conservative.

However, the catalyst which actually got me actively involved in politics and caused me to join UKIP was the Redefinition of Marriage Act. As a person of strong faith, this was an unacceptable betrayal by the Conservative party of a large section of their vote, as it was done without a mandate, without a proper debate and without consideration of the consequences for people of faith. UKIP were the only major party to recognise the importance of Christian values to the history and social fabric of Britain, as well as the implications of the Act for Christians and other people of faith, and so I became a member and active supporter of the party. Once in the party I engaged properly with the debate on immigration for the first time because it had never affected me personally before. I immediately began to see the massive groundswell of public opinion on the subject was not just ignorance and bigotry but actually reflected huge social and economic changes that were going on in parts of the UK as a result of uncontrolled economic migration to the UK, particularly in traditionally working class communities.

Therefore the policies which are closest to me personally are not necessarily those which are the most important to the party, though I am obviously still strongly behind the UKIP line on those areas. The party has 5 main pledges: Leave the EU, Control our borders and cut immigration, Cut foreign aid (which is now a very bloated budget in the UK), Put £3Bn more into doctors and nurses in the NHS and Take minimum wage earners out of taxation (for efficiency reasons as well as to help low earners make ends meet). Personally, the UKIP stance on freedom of conscience, protection of religious freedom and the importance of Christian values is one of the most important policy areas. I believe freedom of conscience legislation is now urgently needed to protect Christians in the teaching profession, churches and religious organisation and in the workplace more widely from the encroachment of equalities legislation on traditional moral values. Also close to my heart is the policy to essentially scrap tuition fees for STEMM subjects, I think we need to go back down the road of fewer students but free places urgently or our university system will rapidly be in a mess.

Policy areas of UKIP I am less keen on are things like limiting child benefit to 2 children for new claimants, but that is because I am from a big family (one of four). There tends to be a pretty stark split between those from families with lots of kids and those with fewer kids on this issue. I also recognise that it may be arguably a fairer approach than at present. Ironically, given the fact the first past the post system is a huge disadvantage to UKIP, I am not that much of a fan of voting reform. We had a recent referendum rejecting AV, and I dislike AV because I think your first vote should be your only vote, it means much more. PR I think is a step in the wrong direction because I think candidates need to be more accountable to local constituents not less so, but I know there are many systems, some of which retain an element of local representation. However, these are minor quibbles, in general I think we have an excellent manifesto in almost every policy area (I am about 97% UKIP on whoshouldIvotefor type websites :P ).

AK: UKIP is the closest the UK has to what might be a traditionalist party, and I appreciate that this is why you as a man of Christian faith were drawn to them. However, it appears to me that Farage has been yoyoing on these issues of late, especially when it comes to gay marriage. First he was against it, then dithered, then changed his tack completely and said that it would be “grossly unfair and unethical to ‘un-marry’ loving couples or restrict further marriages.” It seems that he has conceded the culture war has been lost and is merely trying to salvage whatever he can, such as allowing churches to opt out. Perhaps it is simply inevitable, with even 54% of UKIP voters supporting gay marriage. Surely it is electorally prudent. But considering Robert Conquest’s Second Law of Politics – that “any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing” – is it consistent with a longterm commitment to social conservatism and traditional British values?

MA: I don’t really dispute that you are bang on right about most of this. UKIP is a libertarian party not a Christian one, it is not proposing to repeal same-same marriage, and even I accept that for that to happen there would have to be a significant cultural shift back to faith in the UK, which may not be likely to happen so I will not be actively fighting for the repeal of same-sex marriage, but I do want to push for the cultural shift back to the Christian faith, for a lot of reasons, not just this particular issue. However, UKIPs policy is not merely an opt out for churches, it is proper protection of conscience legislation, to modify equality legislation. This would not to allow you to refuse someone a job or anything, but would make it clear that Christians can be sure they will not be sacked or prosecuted for openly expressing their faith and even acting on it in regards this issue. Aside from that UKIP and Nigel Farage have said that the UK should be more “muscular” in expressing its Christian values. UKIP were also the only party to oppose the change in the law on marriage in the first place, for which I still give them significant credit. I know Nigel Farage is not overly concerned about this, nor are many voters, however I would equally suspect we lose very, very few votes from our stance as a party on this point and we gain quite a lot.

The key point for me is that UKIP is a party where I can still genuinely be an open Christian and a politician. In the Conservative party for example, Nicki Morgan has famously U-turned completely on this issue in order to be given a ministerial job. Labour actively whipped candidates to vote against protection of conscience amendments to the Bill and as we all know “don’t do God”. Both parties are aggressively secularist, the Greens and the Lib Dems are openly aggressively secularist. Some people may like that, but many do not. It will never be party policy in UKIP to be actively Christian, though notice it is party policy to promote Christian values, but at the moment it is not incompatible with party policy for me to stand for that on a personal level. That is as good as I am going to get at present, and I intend to make use of the opportunity that provides me.

AK: I am aware that this will not be a popular argument here, but I do think it’s a legitimate one. There are some schools of thought that, properly targetted, foreign aid can actually help stem immigration from Third World countries by reducing their fertility rates and improving domestic conditions, thus providing less incentives to hazard the perilous and expensive sea routes to Europe. It could even provide more “bang for the buck” in reducing immigration relative to more obvious and expensive solutions such as higher spending on border control. As an added bonus, it’s also a great deal more humane. Furthermore, spending on foreign aid is actually very small as a percentage of GDP – less than 1% in all countries but Norway or Sweden – even though this does go against popular perceptions and popular rhetoric. Do you think aid spending is something that the UK could productively work on with the EU and/or other European countries?

MA: I accept that in limited cases that argument may be true, and again it was not until I joined UKIP and examined the facts that I became committed to a cut in the UK foreign aid budget. I am also not saying it is right for every country to cut foreign aid. For me the foreign aid debate in the UK boils down to one thing though – the number £12Bn (and rising). I don’t know how many people you think it would take to effectively spend £12Bn every year on an issue as complicated as international poverty and development, I think it would take an awful lot. Many thousands. I do not support creating a massive organisation to ensure our foreign aid is well spent, at present all the evidence is that large chunks of it are badly spent. I think that issue is essentially intractable. The budget has increased £4Bn in 5 years on the basis of pure ideology, with no evidence of its effectiveness. In fact last year the responsible department spent £1Bn in 8 weeks just to meet its spending targets. Badly spent aid has enormous potential to entrench corrupt regimes and build vanity projects that will fall apart without on going maintenance, with significant environmental and economic costs. The figure of 0.7% of GDP was agreed internationally in the 1970s and few countries have ever met it. Inflation has rendered the figure outdated. The sums involved are too large to be effectively utilised unless we can trust the government in target countries to spend well, which we can’t. I looked at the spending figures and if we met every international spending obligation we have at present and maintained every bi-lateral budget allocation we have in the foreign aid budget on health, education, disaster relief and water aid, we would still have spent well under half the budget. Maybe the cut we are proposing, down to 0.2% of GDP which is what America spends, the most generous country in the world, is too great, but at least half the budget simply cannot be justified on current figures. As Nigel Farage has said, it is a moral crutch to assuage our consciences for the trade barriers we put in place that prevent the African agricultural economy from developing and the FDI practices our companies use to exploit the resources in LEDCs. If we really want to change world poverty there are things we can do to help, at least half our foreign aid budget is not currently one of them.

Therefore in UKIP we would not just cut the spending, we would increase and make fairer the trade we have with developing countries. Then we would spend the money to remedy some of the appalling shortfalls in care in the UK. For example in mental health and elderly social care. It is also worth noting that many of our top military personnel think it is madness to be cutting defense spending as we are, especially on personnel, while raising foreign aid. The contribution that our armed forced make to humanitarian efforts and peace-keeping is a far better way to spend the money in promoting development than the foreign aid budget itself.

AK: Since the last elections, the once marginal UKIP raised its profile so much that it has now displaced the Liberal Democrats as the third party of British politics according to the opinion polls. This is a very impressive achievement. But it is only projected to get a few seats – as much as ten times fewer than the SNP, which only contests seats in Scotland, a region that has less than 10% of the UK’s population. That doesn’t sound very fair! Is it time to get rid of the first past the post system? If so, how do you/UKIP intend to go about it?

MA: I think I actually answered this a little bit in the question before. UKIP now propose “electoral reform” but we haven’t plumped for a particular system yet. The trick is to find one that doesn’t result in too many Green MPs… I jest but it feels to me like the whole electoral reform debate is like that, how can any political party ever be impartial on this point? Personally, I find lobbying and party funding to be a bigger issue, and the UK system of postal voting. To me the biggest barriers to UKIP winning seats is actually the relative amount of money we have compared to Labour and the Conservatives, and the vast number of essentially unionised “foot-soldiers” Labour have when campaigning. For example, in every constituency (every marginal one anyway), Labour will man every polling station in shifts and will have a fleet of cars taking their voters to vote. In the constituency where I am standing, I have been able to afford (mostly through personal financing or donations from family, friends and local supporters) to send out 1 leaflet to every house-hold, and I have hand delivered a second leaflet to about 5000 houses with the help of about 5 people. Both the main parties have had between themselves and the central office (which gets round spending rules) 8-10 leaflets or communications to every house-hold. Having seen the scale of the industrial machine these parties run (I have not even mentioned the half of it, phone-banks, lists of known voters to contact, targeted visits and leaflets to postal voters…), I would support government-funded, mandatory equal funding of about £5-10k. More than that is really just spam. Even at £10k with 10 candidates per constituency, and I think that could be significantly limited by controls on whether independent candidates qualify, it would only cost about £50 million every 5 years. It would also have the effect of freeing parties from the perceived corrupt clutches of big money donors and unions. I think this would make a significant difference to the ability of new political movements to impact politics. Probably more so than PR. Plus I think it would make our system more democratic, open and transparent. We have had a number of dodgy donor scandals now, in my opinion, it is time for a change. The postal vote problem for smaller party is that no there are no restrictions on who can get a postal vote, when it really should be for the disabled and elderly; as it is, about a quarter to a third of the vote is postal. This means the money problem is exacerbated by the extra expense in targeting the postal vote, and if you don’t do it, big chunks of the vote will have already voted before they hear anything about your campaign. Again it feels like a deliberate tactic by the established parties, particularly the Conservatives with its rural vote, to entrench its support and make it hard for a new party to gain any traction. I would go back to a system where only those who need it can have a postal vote. The problem is of course with declining voter numbers in general, the postal vote increases turnout, so is often seen as a good thing, without proper consideration being given to the unintended democratic consequences.

AK: Personal arbitrary pet peeve of mine – why does UKIP have the pound sign as its logo? Strikes me as a tad too commercialist for what is, after all, a nativist party. Then again, the UK is a pretty commercial civilization – nation of shopkeepers and all that ;) – so I don’t suppose it’s necessarily contradictory. But still. I feel that at least to some extent the immigration/integration crisis has been brought on by (short-term) economic preoccupations. So is it worth retaining the pound sign as UKIP’s symbol, as opposed to, oh I don’t know… a lion, or a bulldog, or a chick with a shield and trident, or something.

MA: The pound symbol is on one level, old branding. It dates back to the big fight over whether Britain would join the Euro currency. See the failed 2001 Conservative campaign of WIlliam Hague and “keep the pound”. However, it remains quite a potent symbol of anti-EU sentiment, and the way in which the UK does not fit into that organisation. I think that is why we keep it. Plus if we were to change it we would have a difficult media fight on our hands not to be accused of “abandoning the pound” or moving away from our core Brexit message. With our core vote being in the older age group as well, it is not always wise to change something which isn’t obviously broken. I think the pound symbol has something reassuringly British to it as well, a symbol of our bygone economic power, influence and stability. Though I agree plenty of other symbols, like those you suggest, could do that job. I think if we get out of the EU, we will have to change the branding, but that will be a time of significant soul searching for the party if it happens in any case.

AK: The UK leaves the EU. You are given a pack of crayons and tasked with designing UKIP’s new logo. What do you draw?

MA: I think I would go with a lion, yellow on purple.

AK: Commenting on the immigration question two weeks ago, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said that Commonwealth immigrants should be privileged over EU immigrants:

I have to confess I do have a slight preference. I do think, naturally, that people from India and Australia are in some ways more likely to speak English, understand common law and have a connection with this country than some people that come perhaps from countries that haven’t fully recovered from being behind the Iron Curtain.

Do you agree with him that an Indian is better suited for life in Britain than a Czech?

MA: I certainly understand what he means. I think British people have a lot of subtle and unspoken cultural norms. The class system might be a sort of example, most British people have a natural feel for class, but it is difficult to express, and tends to be quite mysterious to foreigners. As a result, even though I actually think Britain is one of the least racist places in Europe, one reason alongside economics for the large scale migration, it can feel a very unwelcoming place to outsiders. Even some students I knew from North America could find British people emotionally reserved and distant and so feel a bit lonely here. I think one reason for the successful integration of Indians into our society is that I think the legacy of the Raj (and perhaps some native cultural similarity) has meant more immigrants from the Indian subcontinent fit more naturally into our culture and society. I think it also feels true that from a white, British perspective, less of the Eastern European immigrants speak English than Commonwealth immigrants, but I don’t know if the statistics would bear that out. It may also be that the educational class of immigrant we would get from India is likely to be higher, I think, off the top of my head EU migration is generally higher educated than Non-EU but that will include French, German, Spanish etc. migration. Certainly much of the migration we view as problematic, the migration which is taking low-skill jobs (even if the worker may actually be much more highly qualified) is coming from Eastern Europe and in my experience will often have little to no English language skills, at least at first, and may be highly migratory, coming and going from place to place within the UK and their home country, without settling and integrating. Obviously the comment is a generalisation and there will be some Czechs who will integrate extremely well and it is likely if you took a rural Indian peasant or someone from a New Delhi slum with little education they would not. To me this reinforces the argument for immigration controls, selecting suitable migrants with necessary skills insofar as economic migration is concerned. If someone is an asylum seeker or refugee that is a different matter entirely, and none of these things are as important as providing a safe haven for those fleeing persecution. I think what Nigel Farage meant though holds fairly true in terms of the multi-cultural problem. Cultural barriers can be hard to overcome, if we want to build a happy, well-integrated society, I think we have to recognise that.

AK: As you say, the right selection criteria is key. Certainly there are many Indians who are more qualified than many Eastern Europeans. That is a legitimate enough argument. But many people will surely have issues with this: “If someone is an asylum seeker or refugee that is a different matter entirely, and none of these things are as important as providing a safe haven for those fleeing persecution.” Unfortunately, that is around 10 million people in ISIS-controlled Syria and Iraq alone. You see where I’m going with this? That’s a potentially very big contingent of people. Depending on how you define “persecution” – it could run into the tens or even hundreds of millions.

MA: I think at an international level we need to agree how many refugees per year each developed country should take relative to the scale of the problem, and then refugees should be rescued as near to source as possible. Further attempts to illegally enter, like in the Mediterranean should be returned to port of origin, as in Australia. Refugee camps will be with us for a long time sadly. However, if that does not happen, we will just have to do what we can domestically, I agree there is a limit on what we can do, there always is, but without international agreement we are protected by the fact we are an island which is hard to reach, as the problems in Calais prove. The problem with a recent EU proposal to distribute refugees equally was that they were also proposing to do the selection and vetting (or rather not do it) at the international level. It is for national governments to decide on selection criteria and to vet those individuals who are suitable for entry. I do not believe the threat of persecution at home should force us to give shelter to dangerous terrorists or criminals. That is not UKIP policy on the subject it is my personal view. At present we are likely as a party to continue with the existing, rather silly system that if they can get to Britain they can apply for asylum and we will see if they ECHR will let us remove them or not as our main selection criteria for who gets to stay and who doesn’t.

AK: Farage believes handguns should be legalized. I agree! But only 5% of the British people feel likewise, which is the only fact that matters. (A more recent poll by The Telegraph showed majority support for handgun legalization, but it was an online poll and hence useless). What are your opinions, if any, on the matter? Is it worth UKIP even contesting this issue?

MA: Farage is a committed Libertarian, I go with him some of the way but not all of it. I would be prepared to explore options, but in my head I essentially have in mind licensed gun ranges that hold guns for people, behind locked doors, from which the owner is not allowed to remove the weapon. Given the accident rate with home firearm ownership, I don’t see any good reason to allow people to have handguns at home at present. However, I am not a fluffy liberal on the subject, it did not escape my notice how spectacularly unsuccessful the Texas attack on cartoonists was this week compared with those in Paris and Copenhagen, but then, that wasn’t really stopped by private gun ownership. There might still be a point there about gun culture though. If I thought the security situation was getting to the point where people need firearms for self-defense I would consider it, but we are nowhere near that point in the UK. To me the only argument at present is about sport shooting, and as I say I think we could find ways of allowing that in the context of licensed gun ranges which hold the firearms at all times. As you say though, politically it is a very thorny issue. No one in the UK is prepared to tolerate even the possibility of a repeat of what happened in the Dunblane Massacre (facts similar to Sandy Hook, but with handguns).

AK: This question I’m asking on behalf of a close friend, but it’s very germane nonetheless. Tim Aker, the head of UKIP’s policy unit, on being asked about whether he has looked into public sector pensions, said, “I have, and then got very scared and ran away.” Setting the world time record for political flip flops, he followed it up moments later with, “We haven’t looked into it.” I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t exactly inspire faith in UKIP’s economic competence. Could you give us a better answer? Why should pensioners vote for you over Labour or the Lib Dems?

MA: I expect part of the problem in that particular instance is that while Tim Aker might be head of the policy unit he is not the economic spokesman, which is Patrick O’Flynn. Tim may eventually may have arrived at the truth though, we aren’t currently planning any changes to public sector pensions, it remains a fairly intractable problem. They should not be cut any more, that would be unfair, but while they continue to be paid to a lot of worker out of general taxation rather than being saved up into pension funds, they get increasingly unaffordable. I think what will have to happen is gradually more and more new starters will have to go onto less favourable defined contribution schemes rather than the current defined benefit ones. I can’t foresee any negative impacts on current pensioners or those on existing schemes under UKIP though. We have a big grey vote. What we do offer that no other party does is fully flexible state pension. At present you can keep working longer to get more, but you can’t retire early and take less. We think it should work both ways, this will benefit particularly those with a decent workplace pension, who think of the state pension as an extra. They might actually get a retirement with us, rather than the way the other parties are going which is an ever increasing state pension age.

AK: Needless to say I wish you the best of luck. I know you would make a great MP, and UKIP is the British party that is closest to my own positions and I daresay to the positions of the average Unz Review reader. But let’s be honest… you’re facing some long odds. What are your post-elections plans in the event that you come second or third? Do you intend to continue campaigning for UKIP and participating fulltime in British politics? Do you see UKIP displacing the Conservatives as the dominant party of the right in the foreseeable future (and/or the SNP in Scotland)?

MA: Yes the odds are quite long but I do still believe anything can happen. Should I come second or third, or even if I win, a lot of work needs to be done to build up UKIP as a local party. We need more members so we can have more of those “foot-soldiers” I referred. We also don’t field a full slate of Council candidates (elections often run alongside the general election), which is something we need to change. However, unless I win I will not be doing politics full time, I will go back to my Phd study and teaching undergraduates.

The longer term outlook for UKIP as a whole is very uncertain, and potentially quite dependent on this election. If we get enough seats to push through our agenda, we may leave the EU, I think a lot of our manifesto would then be adopted by the governing party (unofficially of course) and it is hard to know how much credit UKIP will get for it. If we do get the credit the Conservatives could be finished but equally we could slip away quietly and be forgotten. However, it is reasonably likely the same problems we have now will continue for the next parliament at least, in which case UKIP will keep growing I think. We could wipe out the Tories in the North of England particularly, because our brand is not toxic with the Northern working class in the way theirs is. Many people in the North have not forgiven the Conservatives for Thatcherism and will not do for another generation or two. This is an existential problem for the Tories. They have tried to move to the liberal centre of politics in this past parliamentary session and it has cost them, and yet they are still seen as the nasty party because of benefit changes and low wages driving people to use foodbanks on a very large scale, something not seen in the UK for a long time. The Conservative brand is the oldest brand in British politics though, I am not writing it off yet. It may be that party will swing back towards ours and eventually we will merge, but I can only see this being a good thing if the success the UKIP brand has had with working class people rubs off on the Conservatives and the Conservatives return to a more traditional social outlook, otherwise they will always be a party for the City of London and not for small-c conservatives more widely.

AK: What’s your personal favorite video of Farage trolling the Eurocrats?

This is a favourite of mine, particularly the section staring just after the 2min mark and the section just after 5 min, some of the responses of the Eurocrats are astonishing. It is a particular low point in the chequered recent history of the EU.

AK: That was hilarious. Thanks. Personally, I think this was the crowning moment of Farage’s political career:

What about you, Craig? What’s your favorite Farage video?

MA: Hahaha that is a classic. I think it is even in one of the Songify the News videos. Thanks a lot Anatoly.

CW: My favorite Farage video:

Ringing the alarm on the Eurozone’s dangerous undemocratic turn in late 2011, with the parachuting of Eurocrats-cum-Goldman Sachs alumni in Athens and Rome!

***

Craig Willy vs. Matthew Atkins

CW: In polls, the British almost always rank immigration one of their top issues and they overwhelmingly favor reduction. Yet UKIP seems a bit vague on this point. By leaving the European Union, you would only limit EU migration, yet the British appear slightly more hostile to non-EU than to EU immigration (p. 60-1). What assurances can you make that you will tackle immigration and not disappoint the public on this issue, as the Tories did?

MA: I think by leaving the EU we not only gain the opportunity to limit EU migration, we gain the opportunity to create a holistic system. It is hard to assess how much Non-EU migration is appropriate while we are part of a system we cannot control. It makes it harder to calculate where we have a skills gap and how large that gap is. However, I do take the point we don’t talk about non-EU migration much because in some ways it is a thornier issue. One of the main things we think needs to happen is that international students should come out of the migration figure. 7/10 International students are Non-EU for a total in the last set of immigration figures of a low-end estimate of 120,000 people. Given net non-EU migration was 190,000 in those statistics (2013-14) then in UKIP I think we would say non-EU migration is currently around 70,000 or less as that student figure could be as high as 180,000 – I think that makes clear the point that it is time students were properly recorded in their own right. The next point I would make is that the study you cite is about positive and negative perceptions of EU and non-EU immigration. Perceptions of immigration are affected by many things, a significant number of them cultural, UKIP addresses some of these when it insists foreign Doctors should be able to speak English, for example. People in the UK, as I talked about in Anatoly’s questions, want to feel that the cultural history of the UK is respected and that new arrivals integrate properly. I also think British society needs a single culture, not the failed policy of multi-culturalism, and this is a position taken by UKIP. Obviously British culture adapts to new arrivals, Chicken Tikka Masala and UK hip-hop culture are great example, but to me they remain uniquely British, integrated into the fabric of our society, not a sign of a fragmentation of the British way of life. I think a big concern of many British people when it comes to immigration is that we are seeing increased Ghettoisation and the presence of cultures in the UK that have no interest in becoming part of wider society.

Even with our policies to address this aspect of migration, I would still say migration even from outside the EU alone is higher than UKIP is aiming for, but we have to recognise the fact that much of this migration is subject already to a form of points system and so is directed at UK skills shortages. One of the biggest areas is the need for more Doctors and Nurses in the NHS. We are not training enough home grown medical practitioners. UKIP would reintroduce the system of Nurses who are trained “on-the-job” without the need for an expensive academic qualification. We would also fund Medical degrees through a system by which a medical student will not have to repay their fees if they work in the UK for 5 years after qualifying. I think both of these measures would substantially increase the number of UK trained medics. At the moment I strongly believe that £9000 a year for 5 years is going to put far too many people off studying medicine for that to be sustainable. This is especially needed because it is becoming harder to recruit doctors from overseas as developing countries like India become more attractive to stay and work. I also think UKIP would be looking to ensure most international competition for jobs remains at a highly qualified level. Our whole policy of funding STEMM subjects should reduce the need for migration to meet UK skill shortages, but some professions, like academia and City financial jobs benefit enormously from an International labour market and I would envisage that continuing. However, the current immigration system, which allows EU migrants to freely travel to the UK to work at any level of the economy is madness. Migration needs to be on an equal footing and meet UK skill shortages or provide the best and brightest to enhance our industries, wherever in the world the migrants come from.

CW: UKIP appears to above all be a party concerned with British sovereignty. The party focuses mostly on the EU but is not the United States also a problem in this respect? The Snowden Leaks show that GCHQ collaborated with the NSA to engage in massive spying on British subjects. Politico recently reported that Washington has an effective “veto” on British nuclear weapons. The party also appears to be agnostic on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an EU-U.S. free trade agreement, which could also reduce British regulatory sovereignty. Does UKIP have a plan to restore British sovereignty relative to the U.S.?

MA: I think the UK and the USA will always share a very close relationship, we like to think it is ‘special’ but we are never going to be the major player in the relationship. When it comes to security though, the whole Western world is really completely dependent on the US. Our nuclear deterrent is independent day to day, our submarines are not manned by Americans, but I know we could not run it without the Americans in general terms. They could pull the plug and take their missiles and maintenance equipment (which they lease to us) back, but they are not going to. In any case, the idea of the UK going to war without some sort of American support is almost unthinkable. We even quietly sought their approval before the Falklands War, if Thatcher had not had as much clout as she did with Reagan the islands might be Argentinian right now. I think the point about America is that while militarily we might be very dependent on them, they have little interest in running our country. We are a strategic asset to the Americans, they don’t really care about our business regulation, or our environmental policy or how we trade with other partners, except they like our support at the UN on some of those things, and I will concede that they prefer we should be in the EU to give them an inside view, but they aren’t going to force us to stay in. America isn’t looking to run Britain like the EU is, it views us as an economic and defense partner, even if it is a decidedly junior partner.

The Snowden revelations were extremely worrying, but if you look at the fine print, GCHQ was merrily doing far more intrusive things than the NSA. We weren’t just forced into that, we were fully complicit in it. One area where I am extremely libertarian is privacy, I believe it is worth the potential loss of life to terrorists not to spy on citizens to that level, but I am not sure the country is with me on that, and I would respect public opinion on it. I do think we need to have the debate. Either way I do not feel like it is a case of the USA interfering with our sovereignty, I think our own government was just as into spying as theirs and there was clearly a very close intelligence relationship. Obviously I am not privy to how the Americans would have reacted had we refused to be involved, I suspect they would have been disappointed in us but said OK and found a way round it. However, I don’t view spying as a threat to sovereignty in the same way as the EU, it is a threat to personal freedom yes, but I think I take the pragmatic view that it is inevitable in international relations. I would not be terribly offended to find the USA spied on our prime minister, or spied on our citizens. Spying is a technical breach of territorial integrity and Sovereignty in that sense, but it is not an attempt to control day to day life in another country, it is a means to ensure the interests of your own country are protected and promoted, a hostile action. It is part of our defensive responsibility to ensure foreign powers cannot do so, but realistically, with the resources and power the USA has, nobody except China and Russia are really going to be able to keep them out if they want to come in. That is just the reality of the world we live in. It is a very different type of threat to sovereignty to the EU, which wants to dictate laws to us, and integrate us into a kind of super-state. The EU has a far greater impact on the day to day lives of British people than American spying. Of course I know that is only true up until the point spying leads to the discovery of some information that results in an authoritarian policy response, which is why I am against mass surveillance and believe in protecting privacy, but as I say it is a different kind of threat. It is a “what of this gets into the wrong hands” problem, not one which is changing the laws of our country every day in the way that the EU is doing.

Our agnosticism on TTIP is due to a particular quibble over whether or not the NHS is exempt in law, which has the public very frightened, and the fact it is EU negotiated. From UKIP’s point of view the whole thing could be avoided if the UK was negotiating a specialist trade deal with the USA on its own, rather than being part of some massive general EU measure.

The last point I would make is that UKIP is the only party which will reverse defense spending cuts and honour our 2% NATO commitment. With any other party the UK will become increasingly dependent on the USA for defense and will be a less and less valuable military ally.

CW: UKIP seems to be an antiwar party. Why is this? In opposing intervention in Syria and Ukraine, the party agrees with a lot of left-wing and nationalist parties, but UKIP seems to be a different political animal.

MA: It is simply because neither of those wars have worked. In fact both situations are a complete disaster, and so is the situation in Libya. So is the situation in Iraq, and so was, and to some extent still is, the situation in Afghanistan. At some point we have to learn the lesson that we cannot fix a lot of these problems. Too many conflicts and uprising are related to incredibly complex local social, economic, religious and racial problems that in our Western ivory tower we cannot understand until we tramp through them with our size 12 feet (militarily speaking) and have made everything much worse. It is not because we don’t care we are non-interventionist, it is because history suggests we will not make things better except in the rarest of cases. Obviously we could start talking about the enormous cost to the UK, both financial and in terms of international political capital, but I think all those considerations are secondary to the fact that we cannot get involved unless we are very sure what the outcome of our actions will be, and it is going to be incredibly rare that we can. I think an exception would be a defensive war, if an ally is invaded, we can help protect them, but if you go on the offensive, you have to be very sure in what you are trying to accomplish.

Since I know the blog might have a mostly American audience, I do want to say that I recognise the enormous contribution America makes to world peace and security and the American desire to spread freedom and democracy is to be greatly admired. There was a debate that John McCain had with Vladimir Putin in their respective national press that I thought was fascinating, because in a weird way I agreed with both sides. The American sense of duty to the world, to make it a better place, is one of the things that makes that country the greatest in the world, but equally sometimes you have to be a bit hard nosed and say, we might be offering something good to that country, but there are too many people in that place who don’t want it, or the local situation means the county is not ready for it yet. It is the debate between internationalist idealism and Realpolitik, and I think UKIP tends to fall a little to the latter, a lot of us are slightly cynical people I suppose.

CW: Nigel Farage is clearly a populist. Sometimes he sounds a bit like a socially left nationalist like Marine Le Pen. But Farage are libertarian. What do you tell people, especially traditional Labour supporters, who are concerned about inequality, fat cats, social services and wages?

MA: I am not sure I agreed with that assessment of Nigel Farage, I think he is far more genuine than most politicians. He has stood clearly and firmly for one idea since the early 90s, that Britain should leave the EU. Everything else flows naturally from that. He has also predicted pretty much every significant disaster the EU has experienced to date. However, I would tend to agree inequality is not his main concern, but when has he said it was? What I say to them is Farage himself clearly cares about Britain and wants its people to succeed, at every level of scoiety, and UKIP as a party now has a significant left-leaning section to it, especially in the North. I do believe there was a time in history when the working people and the political right pursued the same ideas. We want to see reinvigorated British industries, fishing, farming, and even manufacturing and industrial. It may need to have a more high tech focus nowadays but that doesn’t mean it can’t exist. We want to see more apprenticeships and technical skills training. We want a simpler tax system that takes less from everybody and leaves everybody with more money in their pockets. We want a simpler benefits system that is there as a safety net, without all the hassle and complication but which gives people an incentive to work. We want corporations to pay their fair share of tax – but we recognise it is hard, which is why we would set up an expert financial commission to try and create a diverted profits tax, not have politicians do it. The truth is, if you want things to improve, you have to work with economics, not against it. I think UKIP is now in a unique position to walk that difficult line, because so many of our members are people who were not highly educated, but became very successful in long careers in industry and private enterprise. We are a party that believes in aspiration and exceptionalism. I think a lot of traditionally working class people recognise they are being sold a lie when they are told there is a magic fix that will suddenly rebalance all the wealth away from the ‘fat-cat’ rich, but they can’t vote Conservative because they don’t believe that party cares or will even try to change things. I believe UKIP will try, but will do so within the confines of sensible economics.

CW: Marine Le Pen’s falling out with her father Jean-Marie looks to be permanent, he has even been suspended from the Front National. Could this make it possible for UKIP and the FN to join forces?

MA: Not at present no. It is not yet clear the split is genuine, I spoke to a French journalist last week who believed it was for show, and even if it was most of the rest of the party is made up of the same Holocaust deniers and far-right nationalists. UKIP grew out of a centerist economic movement that wished to leave the EU, we do not see ourselves as nationalists, we are moderate patriots. The FN has a clear and undeniable far-right nationalist past, and it will have to go a long way yet before we can be assured that it has changed.

CW: While it is clear the FN and UKIP have different origins, isn’t a bit facile to characterize the Front in this way? Even former French Socialist PM Lionel Jospin has said the FN is not a “fascist” party, for example. And after all UKIP regularly faces little scandals for statements by members and candidates perceived to be Islamophobic, racist or anti-Semitic. Shouldn’t eurosceptic parties display more solidarity in the face of censorship and political correctness?

MA: I would probably accept I am being a bit facile and doing a disservice to many FN candidate and supporters who will be perfectly decent people. However, I have little choice. UKIP will not work with the FN until we can be sure we are not going to have unpleasant old quotations from senior figures in the FN read out to us on national media. We cannot afford to be tarred with the same brush. So I will admit I haven’t given the FN a fair hearing yet, but it really only affects the politics of the European Parliament, where even together we would not have a significant enough voice to actually change anything. The FN seem to be doing perfectly well in domestic French politics on their own. I also stand by my comment that FN has to work harder and go further to prove it is a new party because of its origins, I haven’t seen much sign of them doing that yet, but I will admit I haven’t been looking very hard, mainly for reasons of political expediency.

CW: Most studies, e.g. Open Europe, the Bertelsmann Foundation, suggest the UK’s economy would at best only marginally benefit from leaving the EU (and, equally, most studies suggest the Common Market has only slightly boosted GDP). Does UKIP not risk exaggerating the benefits of withdrawal and in appearing to be a single-issue party?

MA: Our manifesto is based around only costing in the £8Bn net we give the EU directly as a saving. Anything else we save would be a bonus. Plus I think there will be a significant boost to the UK in the medium term as we turn our attention back to courting trade with countries we have neglected, I think it could even start a much more productive period for the UK economy, when our productivity has been stagnating. I do believe necessity is the mother of invention in that sense, we will start to work at international trade again because we will have to, whereas now, we have to let the EU make our trade deals for us. However, as I said with Anatoly’s questions, we face an existential crisis if we succeed in precipitating a Brexit, but I still think there is a space left on the small c conservative right for us. We have a less toxic brand than the Conservatives with working people and a unique social outlook.

CW: What would be the ideal relationship between the EU and the UK for you? Isn’t the current setup – out of the Schengen Area and the Eurozone – pretty grand?

MA: The idea relationship is free trade without free movement and being required to EU technical specifications for goods as regards only those things we sell in the EU. One of the most important factors as I said is the ability to govern our own trade relationship with countries outside of the EU. The problem with the current setup is that all EU law has to be fully implements UK wide, whereas I think we would be better of if it only govern products we want to sell in the EU. Frankly I would prefer much of it did not exist at all, but that is too much to hope for. In any case a big part of the argument for me is not the merits or demerits of our current position, but the fact the EU is continuing on a road where we cannot follow, and it must do so in order for the Euro to survive. As the EU follows its pressing need and its stated desire for closer integration, the UK will be increasingly isolated in the EU anyway and the UK membership of the EU will become inconvenient for all involved. Apart from the large lump of money we pay the EU of course.

CW: Are you concerned that leaving the EU could hurt the City of London? The Continentals, led by Paris and Berlin, would then be free to regulate this substantial market without any British input.

MA: Not really, HSBC has begun a report into leaving the City but its destination would be Hong Kong not somewhere else in the EU. What concerns the City is regulation, I actually think eventually this will be worse in than out. Eventually Britain is not going to be able to stop the Franco-German desire to regulate financial services, I think our negotiating position, and the flexibility of the financial services industry to find clever ways of avoiding the regulation, is better served outside of the main institution of the EU. Especially since as I say my ideal scenario is that we follow EU rules only in so far as it concerns our business with the EU, not with the rest of the world. I think the City could grow in importance as the financial gateway to Europe, much like Hong Kong is to mainland China. ;)

CW: How chuffed are you that you stayed out of the Euro?

MA: Very, very chuffed.

***

Hope you enjoyed this interview.

Please feel free to discuss all aspects of British politics and the forthcoming general elections in the comments. Also feel free to ask further questions of Mr. Atkins (or of myself or Craig), though considering the many demands on his time and attention right now, replies cannot be guaranteed.

 

I have no idea what possessed Putin.

Did he think that it would spare him Western criticism in the run-up to Sochi? Of course not. Khodorkovsky was on the back-burner. LGBT rights are West’s stick du jour to beat up on Russia.

Did he think it would improve the legal and investment climate? I sure hope not, because it would mean he is an idiot who laps up the propaganda of those who loathe him.

Did he think it would reflect well on him? Journalists are rushing in to confirm that Putin’s pardon is just as arbitrary as the original indictment. (They have a point – about the former). Even pundits who once excoriated Khodorkovsky as the criminal he was, such as Mark Adomanis, now talk of the “trumped-up charges of fraud and tax-evasion” that put him in prison.

Did he think Khodorkovsky would shut up in gratitude? There was no admission of guilt involve, and the Menatep bandit has begun agitating from his 5-star Berlin hotel already.

Russia desperately needs more Westernization. In any truly civilized country, YUKOS’ campaign of tax evasion and contract killings would have ensured Khodorkovsky would have been locked up and the keys thrown away forever.

Instead, he will busy himself with plotting intrigues, as oligarchs are wont to do in banana republics. The only difference is that Russia doesn’t have bananas.

12/22/2013 EDIT: Alexander Mercouris has penned what I consider to be the defining article on this: Khodorkovsky – The End of the Affair? Go, read.

(Reprinted from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 

Here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjM-dFxxEE8

(Reprinted from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 

In response to Putin’s (in)famous NYT op-ed, McCain told CNN he’d love to reciprocate on Pravda. He was probably surprised when they agreed to it – but he may not have gotten quite what he expected, according to Pravda.ru’s chief Vadim Gorshenin.

“McCain Looked for a Kremlin Mouthpiece, and was not Mistaken”

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pravda.ru Internet-media holding Vadim Gorshenin on why the American Senator published his article on his site, and not in the “Soviet newspaper.”

On Thursday, the site Pravda.ru published an article by Senator John McCain, in which he replied to Russian President Putin’s publication in The New York Times. Initially, McCain promised to publish an article in Pravda, but he later changed his mind. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pravda.ru Vadim Gorshenin sat down with an Izvestia correspondent to tell us how it all happened.

Mikhail Rubin: Who suggested you publish McCain’s article, and when?

Vadim Gorshenin: It was a Foreign Policy journalist, he reads us and even writes lots of nasty things about us. When he heard McCain on CNN saying that he wanted to speak out at the Pravda newspaper, he wrote the following to the editor of our English-language version Dmitry Sudakov: “Could you refute the idea that you have no freedom of speech, and publish McCain’s text?” He replied that yes, of course he could. After this, the American journalist contacted McCain’s press secretary, who said that they’d follow through with all this. And it all ended up just as Mikhail Dvorkovich wrote on Twitter – the very fact of publication proves that everything that McCain wrote is a lie. If all the Russian media is controlled by the Kremlin, then how could such an article have appeared on what everyone calls a pro-Kremlin site?

MK: Did they understand, that Pravda.ru and the newspaper Pravda are two different publications?

VG: Yes, of course they understood. There have even been articles in the American MSM that analyzed the nature of the newspaper Pravda today. When this entire scandal flared up and Zyuganov got the impression that McCain was going to write something for his newspaper, McCain’s aides asked us whether we were somehow associated with the newspaper Pravda.

MK: Well, are you?

VG: There is a ten year old court judgment to the effect that we have the same rights to the symbols and the name “Pravda” as the Communist Party newspaper. But the most important thing is that we have an English-language version, which has the second highest visitors’ numbers after Russia Today out of all Russian English-language MSM. Furthermore, our daily traffic is at 200,000, whereas the newspaper Pravda’s circulation is at 100,000 – and it only comes out a few times per week.

MK: And why did the article first appear on the feeds of the world’s news agencies, and only later at your site? They weren’t satisfied by your traffic numbers?

VG: They sent us their article today at 6am. And they gave it to the agencies under an embargo until 8am, in fact McCain’s people didn’t even warn us of this. They believe that Russians get up at 6am and immediately go to work under a barrage of whiplashes. We only managed to finalize everything by 10am.

MK: The Americans weren’t discomfited by the ideological component? You were, after all, Dmitry Medvedev’s confidante in the 2008 elections. And you are a Putin supporter.

VG: Yes, I’m a Putin supporter. But I wasn’t a confidante, I just worked in Medvedev’s HQ in 2008, for which he awarded me something, and in Putin’s HQ in 2012 – he too sent me a thank you letter. But this didn’t give the Americans any unease, to the contrary in fact.

MK: Why? McCain wanted to publish an article on a site that supporters Putin?

VG: McCain still lives in that era. What do they remember about Soviet times? “Pravda” and “Izvestia,” that’s what. In fact Izvestia was less well-known, because it was released for internal consumption, while Pravda was the Kremlin’s mouthpiece. And McCain wanted an article in a newspaper that was a Kremlin mouthpiece. Because Putin had published an article in The New York Times, the newspaper of the Democratic Party – they President now rules the US. McCain wanted the same, and in this sense, he was not mistaken.

Reader comments

Alexander Bocha: Everybody, calm down. McCain is a very old person – he is 77 years old, and he DOESN’T speak for all America!!! Many people in the US appreciate, love, and respect Russia – let’s stop the hysteria and extremism, ladies and gentlemen!

Андрей Карпиловский: While Putin quite accurately threw a philosophical rock at Obama, McCain just emptied a pail of dirt willy-nilly either on Putin, or on Russia, or on himself. And these people want to ban us from fingering our noses? I don’t think they’ll succeed at anything. They work stupidly.

сергей евсеев: What else can you expect from someone who was imprisoned for a year in a hole up to his neck in excrement. Even the article reeks.

Альберт Сыроежкин: McCain is a Cold War dinosaur who has lost his bearings and repeats the ramblings of cheap agitators of CIA-inspired nonsense of the 1960s and 70s.

(Reprinted from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 

1. The CEC results

Here they are. The turnout was 32%.

  • Sergey Sobyanin – 51.37%
  • Alexei Navalny – 27.24%
  • Ivan Melnikov – 10.69%
  • Sergey Mitrokhin – 3.51%
  • Mikhail Degtyaryov – 2.86%
  • Nikolai Levichev – 2.79%
  • Invalid ballots – 1.53%

2. Pre-elections opinion polls:

Navalny’s support – among those who indicated a clear preference for one candidate or another – rose from the single digits in June to around 20% on the eve of the elections (Levada, VCIOM, FOM, Synovate Comcon). All the polls – even including the SuperJob poll that only queried active workers, aka excluded pro-Sobyanin pensioners – gave Sobyanin more than 50% in the first round.

His actual result massively exceeded expectations. By common consensus, this was because the “party of the couch” won; although close to 50% of Muscovites were saying they were going to vote, only 32% ended up doing so. These were mainly Sobyanin supporters who were, nonetheless, loth to shift their butts to vote for an uninspiring if competent technocrat who had ran a most lacklustre campaign.

3. Election observers

In the SMS-ЦИК program, accredited election observers would send text messages from their polling stations with numbers from the protocols at their precinct. They could then be compared with the official CEC numbers.

And Sobyanin’s result here was 49.52%.

Mikhail Degtyaryov 2,77%
Nikolay Levichev 2,78%
Ivan Melnikov 10,82%
Sergey Mitrokhin 3,71%
Alexei Navalny 28,54%
Sergey Sobyanin 49,52%
spoiled ballots 1,86%
from home 4,61%

Does this mean he really did cheat Navalny out of a second round? Well, not necessarily.

Here’s a key caveat. Far from all polling stations were covered by the SMS-ЦИК. Their figures thus have a significant margin of error. I would speculate that the bias is, in fact, more likely to be in favor of Navalny than of Sobyanin, because the observers who would get involved in this project in the first place would likely be more liberal-leaning in the first place, would on average appear more frequently in the more oppositionist areas of town, and would and come to observe their local station.

Still, it’s not a shut and closed case. Someone should really make an analysis of which areas where covered by this program – and whether the sample really does favor Navalny as I reasonably hypothesized above.

4. Exit polls

These are, admittedly, all over the place. The Center of Political Technologies gave Sobyanin 56% and Navalny 29%; FOM – Sobyanin 52.5%, Navalny – 29%; VCIOM – Sobyanin 53%, Navalny 29%. An exit poll carried out by Navalny’s supporters gave him 35.6% to Sobyanin’s 46%, while the Communist Party claimed their candidate Melnikov performed much better, with 19%, than he did according to the official 11 – though their poll still gave Sobyanin a first round victory with 51%.

In conclusion, four out of five exit polls gave a first round victory to Sobyanin. The only one that didn’t was carried out by explicit supporters of the opposition candidate.

5. Statistical evidence

The art of electoral fraud detection via statistical means has come a long way (and has – probably not coincidentally – been mostly spearheaded by Russian mathematicians). You can read the details here.

Suffice to say that for a relatively homogenous city like Moscow, it is expected that each candidates turnout to vote share graph should resemble a Gaussian curve. And here it is for 2013: The mean for Sobyanin is 51.65%, and for Navalny – 28.1%.

moscow-2013-elections-gauss

Or, expressed in the form of a “heat graph” for any one candidate in which the turnout at each station is graphed to the result there, it should form a single concentrated dot. A long tail leading up and to the right, as well as additional distinct dots – especially if they are concentrated at around the 100%/100% – constitutes strong evidence for systemic election fraud.

In regards Moscow, its elections were clean up to and including 2003 or so. But then it started growing ever thicker tails, and additional concentrations popped up, to reach absolutely bizarre and astounding levels in the 2009 City Council elections and the 2011 parliamentary elections. But then it seems obvious that some kind of order and directive was passed down to clean them up, and the graphs snapped back to what they were before 2004 during the 2012 Presidential elections.

moscow-elections-2011-2012

Now here is the heat graph for 2013. Which of the above does it most closely resemble?

moscow-2013-elections-heat

The verdict: As in 2012, but not in 2004-2009, the Moscow mayoral election of 2013 didn’t see any significant fraud and Sobyanin won legitimately in the first round.

(Reprinted from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 

According to a roundup of all the major exit polls by Kommersant, it appears that although Navalny’s performance was massively better than expected, Acting Mayor Sobyanin still managed to avoid a second tour.

Exit Polls are Pubished for the Moscow Elections

In Moscow, voting has finished for the new Mayor. According to exit polls carried out at the doors of the election stations by Alexei Navalny’s supporters, the oppositionist candidate got 35.6% of those queried. “According to the exit polls, there will be a SECOND TOUR of mayoral elections. Alexei Navalny – 35.6%, Sergey Sobyanin – 46%,” according to their Twitter. According to the Foundation of Public Opinion, the majority of Muscovites extended their sympathies towards Sergey Sobyanin – he got 52.5% of the votes, Alexei Navalny – 29.1%. The Center of Political Technologies provides the following data: 56% to the Acting Mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin 56%, Alexei Navalny – 29%.

Sergey Sobyanin is leading in the Moscow elections with 53% of the votes, according to data from VCIOM’s exit polls. Alexei Navalny, according to the exit polls carried out by the organization’s workers, got 32%. “According to the results of the exit poll, the Mayor of Moscow, chosen in the first round, is Sergey Sobyanin (53% of the vote). His closest adversary, Alexei Navalny, got 32% of the vote. The other candidates’ results were far more most modest: Ivan Melnikov – 8%, Sergey Mitrokhin – 3%, Nikolai Levichev – 1%, Mikhail Degtyaryov – 1%. Some 1% of the ballots were spoiled. 27% of the respondents refused to answer,” according to VCIOM’s communique.

(Reprinted from Russian Spectrum by permission of author or representative)
 

What striking about Syria is how so many people insist on speaking about it in profoundly moralistic, Manichaean terms. This is complete nonsense, given that its civil war isn’t a showdown between democracy and dictatorship, but an ethnic and religious conflict. Here’s a more realistic guide:

The Assad regime

The rhetoric: He kills his own people! He is the Evil Overlord (TM)!

The reality: That’s kind of what happens in a civil war. Abraham Lincoln also “killed his own people,” you know. It is obvious why the “regime” fights on: That is what regimes do – as a general rule of thumb, they’re fond of surviving. The rather more interesting and telling question is: Why do key elements of the population continue to back them?

As far as the Alawites and Christians are concerned, it’s pretty clear: The Sunnis have never been particularly well disposed to them, and the past few years haven’t made them any fonder. The last time the Sunnis revolted in Hama in 1982, one of the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood was “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the graveyard.”

In the game of Homs, you win or you die – and the “you” is in its plural form. No wonder Assad has a solid support base.

The rebels

The rhetoric: Democratic freedom fighters! or, Lung-eating demons!

The reality: They encompass the entire spectrum of “morality” (to the extent such a concept is even applicable). It is reasonable to posit that at the beginning, a substantial part of the opposition fighters were basically normal Sunnis who were disenchanted with the regime – or rather, with dearth (all the Arab revolts coincided with a peak in global grain prices) married with lingering resentment over the pro-Shi’ite favoritism that is said to predominate within Syrian state structures. This is not to say there were no genuine “idealists” and “democracy supporters” – democracy as in democracy, not particularistic ethnocracy – but we have to be realistic about their true influences. Considering that opinion polls in Arab countries indicate the vast majority of their denizens want the death penalty for adultery and apostasy, claiming that they ever constituted the majority is nothing short of willful blindness.

Furthermore, it seems that on balance, the pendulum is swinging away from the Big Mac eaters to the lung-eaters within the Free Syrian Army. For a start, many rebels have started defecting back, repulsed by the more hardcore Islamists’ brutality, demoralized by the revival of the Syrian Arab Army, and enticed by the regime’s offer of amnesty. The rebellion has also become more dominated by foreign elements as the original instigators were killed off and Saudi intelligence – with its links to global armed Islamist movements – began to take a more direct hand. “War makes monsters of us all,” as some might say.

Israel

The commonsense refrain: Why would the Israelis have any interest in Assad being replaced by jihadists?

The reality: They’re not.

What they are interested in, however, is crippling Syria’s military capabilities, and – best of all – its chemical warfare capacity. That means whichever side eventually takes over – potentially after many years of internecine warfare – won’t be able to pose even a minimal threat to Israel that a CW-eqipped Syrian Arab Army once posed. A weakened Syria will also mean that Israel will be able to strike at Hezbollah depots and supply routes with that much more ease and impunity.

Egging on the US to carry out airstrikes against Assad fully fits into that position. And, as Craig Murray recently pointed out, it is most curious that it was the Israelis who detected the “incriminating” phone calls that ostensibly pointed at Syrian state complicity in the recent gas attacks, while the Brits – possessing the most advanced EW facility in the Middle East – failed to pick up on it.

The Saudis/Qatar

The rhetoric: Admittedly, even well-tuned propaganda organs have difficulty coming up with a plausible reason for why highly repressive Arab monarchies would be interested in Syrian democracy.

The reality: This is all part of the Sunni vs. Shi’ite struggle – and their broader geopolitical standoff with Iran. Bahrain in particular brutally put down a Shi’ite uprising back in 2011, with Saudi military help and the cynical non-chalance of the US – which happens to base its 5th Fleet there. Syria is a close friend of Iran.

Russia

The rhetoric: Just the Mutual Support Group of Dictators in action. Plus broken-down Russia needs all the $$$ from weapons sales to Damascus.

The reality: Which is why Assad visited Paris more often than Moscow, and used to take dinners with John Kerry before he began calling him a “two-bit dictator” and comparing him with “Hitler.” And Russia’s yearly trade with Syria amounts to just about $2 billion. This is peanuts compared to its total trade of almost one trillion dollars.

The only reasonable explanation left is that given by Putin himself:

We aren’t defending the government. We are defending something completely different. We are defending the contemporary order of the world. We are defending the modern international order. We are defending the discussion of the possible use of force exclusively within the confines of international order and international rules and international law. That’s what we are defending. These values are absolute. When issues related to the use of force are solved outside the UN and the UN Security Council, the danger arises that such illegitimate decisions could be made against anyone under any pretext…..

Needless to say Putin doesn’t say this because he is a nice and fluffy rule of law type, but because the US is strong and Russia is weak. And since the default state of the world is for strong do what they can and the weak to suffer what they must, appeals to the proprieties of international law – a sphere in which Russia has a veto via the UN Security Council – are eminently logical.

The West (aka US, UK, France)

The rhetoric: Do I have to echo Dave’s and Barry’s talking points?

The reality: As a certain friend on Facebook put it, here is the crux of Obama’s dilemma: “He doesn’t want to repeat Iraq, but it ideologically committed to liberal internvetionism – the Democratic Party’s version of neoconservatism.”

That, or he really believes his own shit. On second thought, the two positions aren’t really mutually exclusive.

(Reprinted from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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.