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 Russian Reaction Blog / TerrorismTeasers

* Reports just coming in that there has been a terrorist attack in Manchester.

Manchester a pretty well-off city, by the standards of the English North-West, though the city’s penchant for hedonism has given the city the lowest female life expectancy in England.

16% of the population are Muslims. Not as vibrant as Luton or Birmingham yet, but it’s getting there.

* New podcast with Robert Stark about automation and basic income.

Also, if you understand Russian, a reminder that I participate in a weekly Russian language podcast ROGPR. We are on our 14th episode as of this week.

* Vincent Law: Who Are Russia’s Black Hundreds?

This is a good article.

* Neo-Nazi converts to Islam, murders Neo-Nazi roommates for disrespecting Islam. TFW you take the WHITE SHARIA meme a bit too seriously.

Of course it happened in Florida. And of course the perpetrator is a ginger. The perfect memetic trifecta.

orb-of-power* #RiyadhSummit: “Three values to embrace to propel ourselves forward. They are tolerance, diversity and hope, and that’s what makes us human.”

They’ve learned the Davosi dialect well, I’ll give them that.

Anyhow, about Saudi Arabia: On the grand list of things to fault in Trump, continuing the bipartisan American tradition of cosying up to the House of Saud is one of the smallest and most irrelevant ones.

They basically subsidize the American military-industrial complex to the tune of several billions of dollars a year (I am pretty convinced the massive price gouging they tolerate is done on purpose and is a sort of bribe).

Frankly for that sort of money I think just about everyone would agree to say some bad things about Iran, turn a blind eye to Yemen, and worship a glowing orb for a day.

zuckerberg-new-vision

* I am not usually one for conspiracy theories, but the Seth Rich affair is very suspicious.

* Zuckerberg’s (new) vision via P.T. Carlo (also discovered this other article of his about the most loathsome neocon bugmen).

* Daniel Chieh’s comment on servitude in traditional China.

* About Ukraine’s banning of VK.com, Yandex, and basically half its Internet – will have separate post on that.

* Sinotriumph #1: China’s hyper-competitive schools are forcing parents to take IQ tests before accepting pupils (h/t whyvert)

Meanwhile, the US is still rehashing the same old Bell Curve debates, each one more farcical than the last.

Even as society lags, science continues to move forwards: James Thompson – IQ Brain Map. In the long run, Gnon always wins.

* Sinotriumph #2: The evolution of metros in China 1990-2020 (Peter Dovak).

china-metros

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: China, Open Thread, Terrorism 

Latest from Aftonbladet:

sweden-terrorist-uzbek

There were a grand total of 1,890 men of Uzbek nationality in Sweden in 2016.

This past week hasn’t been a good one for the Central Asians don’t do terrorism stereotype, what with the Saint-Petersburg bomber being Uzbek, and the Kazakh Islamist cell in Astrakhan.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Central Asia, Immigration, Sweden, Terrorism 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Terrorism 

spb-terror-attacks-2017

There are some people in the pro-Russian altsphere, especially those who don’t live here, who love to wax lyrical about the “Orthodox-Islamic civilizational alliance” or some such thing.

There’s only one problem with it: It’s complete codswallop.

Oh well, it’s not anything that a few more arrests of Russian nationalists under Article 282 won’t solve. Because as Putin himself pointed out after the 2013 Volgograd bombings, “Islam is a striking element of the Russian cultural code.”

I have a friend here who made the observation that for all the current differences in perception – Merkel as a globalist stooge, Putin as an icon of the Alt Right – historians in fifty years might regard both of them in similar terms: As politicians who helped enable the Islamization of their respective countries. I am not sure that he is entirely wrong.

PS. Standard response to terrorist attacks in Russia: Westerners try to blame Putin while Putin tries to avoid blaming Islam, just like Westerners.

spb-bombings-purported-organizerUPDATE: The purported organizer of the SPB bombings captured from CCTV footage. Sure looks like a CIA-financed liberal Navalny supporter/Kremlin FSB operative [cross out as per your specific mental illness) to me!

Has turned up at a police station and declared himself innocent. With an appearance like that, it’s not surprising that the media jumped on him as the likeliest suspect.

UPDATE 2: The terrorist has been identified as Akbardzhon Djalilov (Акбарджон Джалилов), a 23 year old man with known ties to radical Islamists.

He was acting on his own and blew himself up.

He was born in Kyrgyzstan, has an Uzbek or Tajik name, and a Russian passport. In other words, a perfect representative of Russian multiculturalism.

djalyalov-terrorist

djalilov-passport-photo

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Saint-Petersburg, Terrorism 

sadiq-khan-london-its-safer-here

Anyhow.

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

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

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

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

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

economist-usa-mass-shootings

SourceThe Economist

Not only has there been an increasing incidence of rampages in the US in the past thirty years but it seems that average kill scores have been ramping up.

I think this trend will only intensify in the years ahead.

A couple of years ago there was a lot of agitation around TrackingPoint, a weapons company that coupled a gun with a tracking system. All you had to do was tag your target, press the trigger, and align the reticle with the tag, which would automatically fire the shot while making adjustments for range, wind conditions, your own motion, etc. Accuracy far exceeds what even the best marksmen are capable of with a traditional rifle and scope outfit. You can also shoot around corners and barricades with special eyeglasses (this was once an exclusively military technology which has now made its way into the civilian market).

Now TrackingPoint’s products aren’t really the sort of weapons you can do a productive rampage with – crucially, it is single shot, and extremely expensive ($20,000) to boot. But it should soon be possible to create far more effective solutions. For instance, a standalone mod that contains a database of common gun models (and maybe the option to input custom data) that you can strap onto any old AK. An accomplice can tag targets remotely through a connected smartphone, or even automate the process entirely on the basis of face recognition. Think of the kind of head shot percentages you can achieve.

Even more creative solutions can be thought up. Just the sort of stuff you can do by coupling this with drones can provide material for countless cyberpunk stories.

Once you have a certain penetration rate of such technologies and a high enough percentage of mentally ill, highly aggrieved, and/or high risk ethnoreligious groups in your society, I suspect draconian gun control will become all but inevitable – even in a society as traditionally liberal on this question as the US.

 
• Category: Miscellaneous • Tags: Futurism, Guns, Terrorism 

the-encounter-lgbt-vs-wahhabi

Eurasian News Agency ENA (8am Moscow/1am EST)

The Republicat regime has been shaken to its core in the wake of a brazen massacre of fifty members of the Orlando LGBT tribe at a gay club by an apparently lone gunman of the Wahhabi sect. Regime stalwart Marco Rubio, present at the scene, emerged shaken but unhurt, having dived head first into the foam when the shooting started.

The terrorist attack threatens a flareup of sectarian tensions even as President Obama, the public face of the regime, starts to tighten the screws to avoid a crisis of political legitimacy as dissident youth leaders and reform advocates start to question the reigning ideology of political correctness.

Leading members of the ruling Beltway clan, including both Obama and his presumed dynastic successor Hillary Clinton, have rushed to disavow any connections between the massacre and the Islami clan.

Meanwhile, the regime’s leading propagandists in the mainstream media have attempted to shift blame onto the dissident National Rifle Association (NRA) faction, many of whom are known as supporters of flamboyant oligarch turned democratic opposition leader Donald Trump. SJW commissars have been scouring the Internet clean of references to the Islamic connection on regime-friendly media platforms such as Reddit.

Political maverick Bernie Sanders too been quick to fall in with the party line. According to analysts at the Minsk Institute of Democratiology, this is further evidence for Professor Trollov’s theory that Sanders serves the role of controlled opposition in the Beltway’s corrupt system of “virtual politics.”

Popular anger has been mounting rapidly. In a remarkable escalation, Donald Trump has called for Obama to “immediately resign in disgrace” on account of his refusal to mention “radical Islamic terrorism.” Although Republicat spokesperson Greg Cuckierman condemned the “Dangerous Donald’s” remarks for inflaming sectarianism and ethnic hatred in America’s “vibrant multicultural society,” activists tell us Americans have become increasingly hesitant to swallow the party narrative.

This goes especially for the meme-empowered younger generations on social media platforms such as Twatter and Fuckface, who use a sophisticated system of signalling including Pepe the Frog, triple parentheses, and even more obscure memes invented by the hacker 4chan to organize at the grassroots level and poke holes in the official narrative.

“Globalism is a scam, man!” communicated @SchlomoGoldbergShekelstein1488 to ENA reporters via Telegram, “I mean, a haji kills a faggot, and who’s to blame? An evil white oppressor with a gun!”

Other, more milquetoast, activists pointed out that gun control had not prevented the Bataclan massacre in Paris and that in any case the shooter’s status as a security guard with the G4S security company would have provided him with easy access to guns. They also asked questions about why an Orlando mosque had been able to call for the pogroms of gay people two months before the shooting with apparent impunity.

afghanistan-not-hajnalMeanwhile, the user @JayMan471 and the HBD thinktank has been spamming us with the following map (see right). We have no idea what it means and our reporters are avidly scouring the globe for anyone who can give us a clue, or for that matter even gives a shit.

Of critical importance in the weeks head will be the reaction of the LGBT clan itself, which had hitherto been almost entirely on the side of the Republicrat establishment thanks to its position of privilege within the regime.

However, according to Beltwayology expert Maksim Putlerov, Director of the Chelyabinsk Institute for Scientific Racism, any assumptions that this state of affairs is here to stay indefinitely are invalidated by the experience of the European vassal states, where the violent intrusions of the Islami clan into traditional LGBT inner city tribal territory has resulted in 25% of Parisian homosexuals supporting the democratic opposition party Front National.

“Under Obama the US is one of the very worst countries for homosexuals in the world,” observed Putlerov. “Fifty of them have just been killed for political reasons. That’s far more than under any previous President, and for that matter far more than under Vladimir Putin. However, we expect the regime to continue focusing on gay rights in Russia as part of the West’s rhetorical strategy of whataboutism.”

“There are now only two ways out for the regime – voluntary reform and democratization, or repression, revolution, and the Thousand Year Trumpenreich.”

“Unfortunately, it appears that the regime has embarked on the path of repression,” concluded Putlerov.

This assessment is increasingly hard to deny. The Director of the Minsk-based Western Observatory for Human Rights (WOHR) has noted many disturbing signs of the Beltway regime tightening the screws in recent months.

Independent candidates such as Donald Trump and even the controlled opposition such as Bernie Sanders have been the targets of slander campaigns that were so well-coordinated that they could only have come from the very top. Whistleblowers that humiliated the ruling cliques have been driven into exile abroad. Loyalist thugs under the banner of Social Justice, better known outside the US as titushki, have prevented opposition activists such as (the gay) Milo Yiannopoulos from giving speeches at university campuses and assaulted his supporters without consequence. Father away from the cameras, SJW death squads funded by regime’s gray chancellor George Soros have been on the hunt for gay Hispanic Trump supporters.

Yet despite the best efforts of the hardliners to maintain and accentuate the climate of fear under which the regime operates, the system is increasingly shaky. Increasing numbers of the Republican wing of the Republicrats have “boarded the Trump Train,” despite the best efforts of the deep state to sabotage him. The Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. is reporting an unprecedented surge in visa applications. Rumors abound that Jeb Bush’s wife and children have been flown to safety in Cancun.

Moreover, the unrest has quietly been spreading to foreign shores, with recent polls in Britain showing that the majority now wants to leave the European Union. With the ruling regime now focusing on securing its loyalist heartlands, all the geopolitical experts ENA queried insist that the biggest international reverberations have yet to begin. “Must clear away the rubble before you can build,” as @BasedFelNRx told us via an encrypted communications line which we traced back to a location in Silicon Valley.

This is a bit too cryptic for us, but it does tie in with a question that more and more people are now asking: Will the Beltway regime survive the Current Year?

 
• Category: Humor • Tags: Terrorism, Trolling, United States 

whats-wrong

The problem is that Europe isn’t really the US in terms of free speech and if you don’t follow the party line like the fellow above things might not work out so well for you.

dutch-pc-police That is what one Dutch yoga teacher discovered when he tweeted about Moderate Muslim reactions to the Brussels attacks.

“How are you supposed to continue teaching in your class if muslim children are applauding [the attacks]? #attacks #Zaventem”

This was rewarded with a visit from a literally PC PC Plod.

“3 [Dutch] police officers on my front door because of my tweet this morning. Asking to not do it again. #Brussels #attacks #Zaventem”

Apparently, this is not a singular case but standing government policy, according to a Breitbart report from two months ago.

Mark Jongeneel, a small business owner in the Dutch city of Sliedrecht, tweeted: “The college of Sliedrecht has a proposal to receive 250 refugees in the coming 2 years. What a bad plan! #letusresist”

Mr. Jongeneel then got a visit to his mother’s house, and subsequently his place of work, from police who wanted to warn him over his comments.

Speaking to DW.com, he described the events: “I asked them what the problem was and they said ‘your tweets.’

“They asked me to be careful about my Twitter behaviour, because if there are riots, then I’m responsible.”

“You tweet a lot,” said the police, explaining: “We have orders to ask you to watch your tone. Your tweets may seem seditious”.

netherlands-much-freedoms-wow Then again, the Netherlands gets a score of 99/100 on freedom from Freedom House.

As you might have noticed Freedom House has “freedom” in its name and it’s American, so it must know all about freedom unlike some cretinous propagandist like myself.

I mean only Sweden “White Pixelation” Yes is higher with a full 100/100 and we all know that the Nordic Model is the very apex of human social and political development.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Free Speech, Netherlands, Terrorism 

(1) At this rate Mohammedans are going to carry Donald Trump to the White House atop a continuous blast wave.

(2) I have some friends in Brussels. I hope they are safe. But not going to replace my Facebook avatar with a waffle even if it comes with a side of bacon.

(3) Svidomites predictably continue to svidomite.

“I would not be surprised if it is part of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against Russia, although there will be talks that it’s ISIL that stands beyond it,” said Hrycak addressing the students and faculty of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kyiv, according to an UNIAN correspondent.

terrorism-deaths-in-western-europe

UPDATE: Those freaks are digging in deeper. Now Ukrainian security honcho Turchinov says he also sees a Russian connection to Brussels.

(4) One important point worth bearing in mind is that the rate of terrorist attacks in Western Europe is still very much lower than during the late Cold War (an observation popularized by Steven Pinker although apparently first written about by Paul Robinson).

That said, will this happy state of affairs continue to hold as at least another 1.8 million immigrants – most of them from Muslim countries where majorities or near majorities espouse functionally radical Islamist views – are due to enter Germany alone this year?

And to what extent has the fall in terrorism been a change in underlying trends, versus the huge increases in mass surveillance, the power of the security state, and higher quality emergency medical care? (This is basically the NRx argument against Pinker’s thesis on the decline of violence but applied to terrorism).

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Belgium, Terrorism 

According to a fable often told by Russians themselves, there once lived two peasants. One of them had one cow, the other had two cows. The poorer peasant found a lamp, rubbed it, and out popped a genie, who proceeded to ask him if he wanted 5 cows. He refused and instead wished for one of his neighbor’s cows to drop dead.

This story is what comes to mind on the news that various Crimean Tatar and far right batallion “activists” blew up the transmission towers carrying electricity to Crimea, plunging the peninsula into a blackout that looks set to last weeks.

In fact, it’s something of a metaphor for today’s Ukraine in general.

(1) “Activists” blockade Crimea, putting an embargo on food products. Belatedly realizing that the whole affair will lose whatever minimal sense it might have possessed in the first place when Russia bans all Ukrainian food imports on January 1, 2016, on Ukraine’s accession to the EU Free Trade Agreement, they decide to up their game, presumably on the belief that if their water blockade failed to win Crimean hearts and minds in favor of Ukraine last summer, then deprivation of electricity as winter approaches surely will. No matter that said electricity blockade will affect not just those evil moskali and Ukrainian zradniki (traitors) who overwhelmingly voted to leave Country 404, but also 90% of the world’s Crimean Tatars whom they are ostensibly fighting for.

heroic-poses(2) Fifty armed National Guardsmen are sent to restore order. The “activists” naturally start to fight them and the efforts of the totalitarian Poroshenko regime to take away their Constitutional rights to blow up infrastructure on Ukrainian soil. In the video above, one of the masked activists, clearly suffering from a terminal case of Maidanism, says the Guardsmen are akin to separatists. Two of the Guardsmen are seriously injured: One gets a brain concussion after getting hit by a stick, while another gets a knife in his stomach.

In any normal functional country, including in any European nation that the Maidanists vaunt so much, they would at this point be getting mowed down by special forces as the terrorists they are. However, in Ukraine, they are “civic activists,” so they are left unharmed to continue to strike heroic Diogenes-in-a-pylon poses. And after a crowd of sympathizing “activists” gathers at the Presidential palace, Poroshenko quickly flip flops and promises that there would be no more attempts to storm them in a hastily arranged meeting with the (self-proclaimed) “Mejlis” leaders of the Crimean Tatars.

You must construct additional pylons!? Not so fast…

(3) Ilya Kiva, the commander of those National Guards supposedly tasked with restoring order so that repairs could be done, immediately afterwards posted the following message on Facebook (the favored communications medium of Maidanist politicians): “The troops are now at their place of permanent dislocation, and the blockade continues! No electricity to Crimea! Slava Ukraine! And now I go to bed…”

slava-ukraine-no-electricity-to-crimea(4) In the meantime, while svidomy Ukrainians digest their great peremoga (victory), the sabotage has forced two nuclear power plants in neighboring Kherson oblast to effect a dangerous emergency shutdown. There is a chance that the blackouts could spread to the neighboring Ukrainian oblasts of Kherson and Nikolaev according to the head of the Ukraine’s energy company Yury Katich.

Russia has ceased supplying coal to Ukraine in retaliation. Considering that Ukraine’s electricity network runs in significant part thanks to Russian and LDNR coal, this is not an unreasonable retaliation for the blockade of Crimea.

At this point, there can only be two explanations for this turn of events, on which in turn will depend any further developments.

a) The first variant is that Ukraine is a Country 404, a failed state powerless to prevent its “activists” from sauntering about and blowing up infrastructure at will in the hope that it kills more Russian cows even if some Ukrainian cows also get caught in the backblast.

b) The more cynical and darker possibility is that this was all planned. As Egor Kholmogorov points out in an article for Izvestia, now is a perfect window for this kind of sabotage, because the center and east of the territories controlled by Kiev have recently been connected to new power lines from the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant to the west, allowing it to minimize any fallout on Ukraine itself, while Russia is less than two months away from launching its energy bridge to Crimea. This implies that the timing of this operation was chosen by people a “great deal more informed than those of the Right Sector and the supporters of the Mejlis.”

If the latter explanation is in fact the correct one – and considering the possible casualties stemming from a sudden and prolonged loss of power, especially now that winter is coming – then this would make this sabotage something more than a tragicomic skit. As Kholmogorov argued, it would make it an an outright act of state terrorism – and if Russia has any sense of honor and consistency left, it would reply with the usual punishment meted out to sponsors of terror, including wide-ranging economic sanctions at the very least.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Crimea, Crimean Tatars, Svidomy, Terrorism, Ukraine 

I am too tired right now to compile all this into something more elegant than a point-by-point rant, so here goes: Some preliminary thoughts on the latest terrorist attacks that have claimed 128+ lives in Paris.

(1) The usual cucks have wasted no time in making political hay of this tragedy

So don’t be shamed by traditional social conventions about avoiding making political points out of respect for the dead. Like it or not but the information age and the 24 hour news cycle have made this genteel habit obsolete and indeed, maladaptive.

Spread the anti-”Invite the World” propaganda far and wide (Liveleak version in case YouTube shuts it down).

Note as Whyvert points out that Marine Le Pen, leading the opinion polls and the one politician who might have materially reduced the chances of this happening, is currently on trial for Islamophobia. The globalist elites don’t play fair and neither should you.

(2) It’s probably not even gonna cost you much, if anything.

For instance, here is what Wikileaks – an impressively redpilled organization – Tweeted soon after the attacks.

Contrary to their numerous detractors in the comments, this is an entirely brave and entirely appropriate Tweet. It’s the exact time and place because nobody would pay any attention otherwise.

Moreover, I took note of their follower count when they made this Tweet. It was at 2.81 million. A few hours later, it was still at 2.81 million.

Note that this in spite of the SJWs having attacked Wikileaks for politicizing these terrorist attacks but not the the likes of establishment journalists like Ezra Klein. But apart from confirming SJWs as the mercenary attack dogs of the neocons that they are, this didn’t even have any substantial effect on Wikileaks’ follower numbers, which goes once more to show that the SJWs are more bark than bite.

(3) The globalist elites are pure unadultered evil so do not take anything they say at face value.

assad-on-western-hypocrisy

And now we come to the “Invade Whe world” part.

The Syrian Civil War was a primarily US sponsored project to weaponize their Islamist lackeys to break up Syria for make benefit of Israel. And ever since Sarkozy it should be borne in mind that France has become even more “American” than the Americans, as seen in Libya, and in the ferocity of their demands to oust Assad.

Therefore do not rush to celebrate, like the otherwise astute hbdchick:

Treat everything these reptiles say with the utmost suspicion.

When Hollande declares that this is a “war,” bear in mind that he might just as easily be talking about, say, French nationalists. Indeed, given the trends towards defining Islamic terrorism as “anti-Islamic activity,” terrorist attacks like these could for the elites be a convenient way of getting rid of two birds with one stone i.e. the Islamist problem that they themselves created, plus the Front National and other pro-French and pro-European forces.

Bear in mind also that in Western rhetoric Assad is responsible for the immigrant crisis and for terrorism and everything else that their own perverse policies have created, so do not be overly surprised if in a few days or weeks there arises a renewed clamor for removing Assad – the rock that holds the last bastion of civilization in place in the region.

Note that the “intellectual” foundations for any such developments are already being laid by the neocons:

See also:

At the extreme end of the spectrum of the possible fallout from all this we could see a resuscitation of the Western plans for a no fly zone over Syria which were in place before Russia intervened (Translation: Bombing the legitimate Syrian government, helping exterminate civilized Alawites, Islamic State apemen spreading their reach to the Mediterranean Sea).

This is an idea with plenty of neocon support and Lindsey Graham has been the latest Western politician to endorse it.

As I said before I do not think the Western elites are that crazy – at least the guys in the Pentagon should be realistic and well-informed enough to put the damper on any such adventurist nonsense should it gain further traction in what passes for “debate” in American foreign policy – but then again when it comes to these people nothing can be definitively ruled out…

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Conspiracy Theories, France, Syria, Terrorism 

arab-spring-skies

Sima Diab on Twitter makes the observation that the countries most affected by the “Arab Spring” are easy to find on a live air traffic map (because nobody is going there).

Don’t you just hear that crickets chirping sound of freedom ringing?

Incidentally, Russia’s and Britain’s hardline response to what is now universally understood to have been a terrorist bomb attack – evacuating its 70,000 stranded tourists there and barring further flights – is understandable but arguably short-sighted. 12% of Egyptian GDP accrues to tourism, and the rest of the economy is too sluggish to make good the difference. Less tourism equals economic decline equals a decline in good guy Sisi’s ratings and more support for bad guy Islamists.

With about half the country being essentially Islamists – that’s both the percentage of Egyptians who support death for apostasy and who voted for the Muslim brotherhood – a cutoff in tourist dollars (rubles, pounds sterling, etc.) is the last thing Egypt needs.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Arab Spring, Egypt, Revolutions, Terrorism 

It was probably a bomb.

Of course Islamic State has no significant AA capabilities over Sinai, but it is exceeding rare for airplanes – even ill serviced ones – to catastrophically break up in midair.

According to Razib Khan’s recent purview of PEW polls, 64% of Egyptian Muslims favor the death penalty for apostasy. Conservatively assuming 80% of the population is Sunni Muslim, that’s 51% of the population that are essentially Islamist extremists and potential Islamic State sympathizes. That also happens to be the exact percentage that voted for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi in 2012.

As such, the presence of an Islamist sleeper cell amongst airport security that helped smuggle a bomb aboard or even just turned a blind eye to is trivially easy to imagine.

If that is what the investigation finds, will Russia react by sending a serious land contingent to Syria? Highly unlikely. Russian discussions of the Syria intervention positively revolve around Afghanistan, as well as the US experience in Vietnam. This is a mistake that I think has consciously been ruled out. Even much of the Russian media has generally been sidestepping the obvious explanation and playing up the idea that it was an accident (and to hell with what it does to the already poor reputation of Russian airlines). I think it’s pretty clear that this is the result of an order from the Kremlin to that effect. Public passions shouldn’t be ignited.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Egypt, Terrorism 

A couple of Islamist terrorists, the brothers Kouachi, murdered a bunch of cartoonists. Another terrorist, Coulibaly, went on a rampage. All three ended up taking hostages. Counter-terrorists win! Within minutes, everyone had become an expert on Charlie Hebdo’s work, and the typical and inevitably dreary debate began.

Some said Charlie’s cartoons were clearly, stridently Islamophobic, and that although they “of course” condemned the murders, it was understandable why they happened: Cue your standard spiel about failed integration policies, racism, discrimination, the legacy of colonialism. The apologetics sometimes reached nauseating proportions. After all, people “know the consequences” (from Anjem Chodary, so over the top Islamist that he is probably an MI5 mole), and besides, the “sin of provocation” is no less dangerous than “the sin of those who are capable of succumbing to that provocation” (Russian Council of Muftis).

Others, especially journalists, focused on the sanctity of the right to free speech. Though many papers still made sure to cover their asses by pixelating out the offending Mohammed cartoons. It was also widely noted that Charlie Hebdo were, to their credit, at least equal opportunity provocateurs, involving everyone they disliked in their scrotular and scatological fantasies:

charlie-hebdo-cartoons

Do you still believe in the theory of historical progress?

Equal… but some groups were nonetheless plus égaux que d’autres, at least so far as Charlie Hebdo were concerned. In 2009, the cartoonist Siné, a longtime contributor to Charlie Hebdo, joked that Sarkozy’s son, Jean, would “go a long way, that little lad” on rumors that he was planning to convert to Judaism. For any basically normal, non-SJW inclined person, this would be nothing more than a harmless observation on the Jewish talent for economic success (something that is discussed at length by our own Steve Sailer, not to mention by Jews themselves). But for Charlie and the French Establishment, including the “philosopher” Bernard-Henry Lévy, the appropriate response was to fire him and then prosecute him for anti-Semitism (he was acquitted). On another occasion, Charlie started a signature collection campaign to get the Front National banned. Clearly, their own regard for free speech was very far from absolute.

That didn’t stop the masses from pinning #JeSuisCharlie to their Twitface avatars in their millions, and joining European leaders on their so-called unity march, from which Marine Le Pen – representing about a third of the French electorate – was excluded. On the plus side, it was probably the continent’s biggest collective circlejerk since the Nuremburg rallies. A few days later, a total of 54 cases and counting were opened in France related to pro-terrorism “hate speech,” including against the comedian Dieudonné. Politicians who insisted on going against the multiculturalist dogma, such as the elder Le Pen and Orbán, found themselves castigated for political haymaking (if so what was the unity march?) and using a free speech rally to exercise free speech:

Orban told Hungarian state TV in the margins of the rally, held in support of free speech and tolerance in Europe, that the Charlie Hebdo murders should make the EU restrict access to migrants with “different cultural characteristics”.

Referring to the flow of African and Arab migrants to the EU, he said: “Economic immigration is a bad thing in Europe, it should not be seen as having any benefits, because it only brings trouble and danger to the peoples of Europe”.

“Immigration and cultural questions related to that must be discussed in a much more open, honest and straightforward manner than until now. I hope that a composed, calm analysis of the recent events will guide European leaders and Brussels towards a tough policy restricting immigration”, he added.

“While I am PM, Hungary will definitely not become an immigration destination. We don’t want to see significantly sized minorities with different cultural characteristics and backgrounds among us. We want to keep Hungary as Hungary”.

Reasonable, no? No! It’s nothing but dangerous demagoguery, and statements like Orbán’s are outright harmful. You’re placing yourself onto the same platform as Marine Le Pen, and Golden Dawn. There are other triggers. It’s failed integration policies, especially France’s citizenship concept, that are to blame. Scandinavian countries do better. “We against them” will not solve the problem.

All paraphrased from a real Twitter conversation I had with a bona fide EU think-tank person (who is otherwise a genial and intelligent fellow, not an ideologue).

(The additional irony is that Orbán isn’t really a friend to European nationalists. When they and a bunch of their American friends decided to have an identitarian conference in Budapest, the event was banned and people who turned up anyway got arrested and deported. Naturally, neither the EU nor the US State Department had much, or anything really, to say on that particular expression of Orbán’s authoritarianism).

“We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends,” said Bernard Holtrop, who survived the massacre by dint of absenteeism. Beginning to nod your head in agreement? Don’t. You missed the previous part where he identified the True Enemy: “We have a lot of new friends, like the pope, Queen Elizabeth and Putin. Marine Le Pen is delighted when the Islamists start shooting all over the place.”

Monsieur Holtrop is presumably too self-absorbed to consider the possibility that her primary concern might not be so much his friendship, or even his freedom of speech, but securing the future of the French people and European civilization.

Given this litany of two-faced hypocrisy and concern trolling from virtually everyone, I do not feel ashamed to proclaim:

Je m’en fous de Charlie Hebdo!

Even debates about the relative weights to be assigned to artistic merit, freedom of speech, and upkeeping civility are of secondary importance.

My own partisan bias is that Charlie Hebdo’s crude scribblings would demean a bathroom stall, but many people would disagree with my opinion and that’s fair enough. I may happen to think it would be an example of social and cultural decadence, but that by itself survivable, at least so long as the nation walls itself off demographically from more virile peoples who are generally unable or unwilling to appreciate artistic masterpieces like Piss Christ, the Paris Buttplug, or, well, Charlie Hebdo. Japan is a byword for decadence, but it’s not like it’s in any danger of foreign cultural inundation.

Moreover, since Charlie Hebdo did not forcibly impose their views on the general public – you can always, like, not buy their stuff – they should be completely immune from any “hate speech” prosecution. But I acknowledge that opinions on this matter can legitimately differ: My friend Alexander Mercouris at Sputnik News makes a solid, legally-grounded argument for why it would be legally and morally defensible for any West European nation to prosecute Charlie Hebdo, and my own objections are normative in nature, and not a little self-interested, in the sense that if interpreted sufficiently widely, I too could be potentially prosecuted in Europe, not to mention half the contributors to The Unz Review.

So… let’s start building the case?

The terrorists were Islamists, and they did have a religion: Islam. Trying to insist otherwise strikes me as being rather pathetic, like the tweed-jacketed old Marxists insisting that the Soviet Union wasn’t really Communist. How credible would it be to deny that Breivik was a European nationalist, or that the Crusaders weren’t real Christians?

As Marine Le Pen just wrote in The New York Times, the threat must be named: “France Was Attacked by Islamic Fundamentalism.” They were Islamists, and – even she shies away from making it explicit – they were also Muslims, no more and no less than the brilliant philosopher Ibn Khaldun or ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi.

Progressive outlets like The Daily Beast and Think Progress claim that we are getting it all wrong, that Muslims only account for “less than 2%” of terrorist acts in Europe and 6% in the US. Just a quick scan through the FBI link they give reveals “terrorist incidents” such as the following:

Terrorist Incidents

March 2002 – November 2002

Vandalism and Arson
Erie, Harborcreek, and Warren, Pennsylvania

(Six acts of Domestic Terrorism)

Between March 2002 and November 2002, a series of animal rights and ecoterrorism incidents occurred in Erie, Harborcreek, and Warren, Pennsylvania. On March 18, 2002, Pennsylvania State Police discovered heavy equipment used to clear trees at a construction site in Erie, Pennsylvania, spray painted with the statements “ELF, in the protection of mother earth,” and “Stop Deforestation.” On March 24, 2002, police responded to the same construction site, where a large hydraulic crane had been set on fire, causing approximately $500,000 in damage.

History of terrorist attacks in Europe. Source: The Economist.

History of terrorist attacks in western Europe. Source: The Economist.

Yes, totally comparable to 9/11.

So this is either a case of astoundingly lackadaisical research and critical thinking, or deliberate disingenuousness. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because there are other, more relevant measures – the body count (see the infographic to the right). Islamists are responsible for the overwhelming majority of terrorism-related deaths in Europe, despite Breivik’s single-handed archievements, and despite only constituting 5% of the West European population.

In her article, Marine Le Pen continues:

Yet this distinction can only be made if one is willing to identify the threat. It does our Muslim compatriots no favors to fuel suspicions and leave things unspoken. Islamist terrorism is a cancer on Islam, and Muslims themselves must fight it at our side.

This is an entirely legitimate point, as are her ensuing arguments that sorting out immigration policy is essential for victory in this struggle:

First, the dogma of the free movement of peoples and goods is so firmly entrenched among the leaders of the European Union that the very idea of border checks is deemed to be heretical. And yet, every year tons of weapons from the Balkans enter French territory unhindered and hundreds of jihadists move freely around Europe. …

Second, the massive waves of immigration, both legal and clandestine, our country has experienced for decades have prevented the implementation of a proper assimilation policy… Without a policy restricting immigration, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to fight against communalism and the rise of ways of life at odds with laïcité, France’s distinctive form of secularism, and other laws and values of the French Republic. An additional burden is mass unemployment, which is itself exacerbated by immigration.

What she wisely doesn’t mention are some of the politically incorrect but no less real factors that make Muslim integration so difficult, and as such the case for immigration control so compelling.

First and foremost must be the simple, inescapable fact that European Muslims are, on average, duller (in the IQ sense) than the native populations. Moreover, while the second generation almost always performs significantly better than the first – a natural consequence of the environmental improvements from moving from a developing country to a developed one, i.e. Flynn-on-steroids – it never converges with native scores.

Below is a table of 2009 PISA-derived IQs for 1st generation immigrants, 2nd generation immigrants, natives, and the national average. (Not all the immigrants will be Muslim, of course, but since many of the other of the other immigrants are from similarly high-IQ European nations, such as the Poles, that would if anything knock the Muslim figures down even lower). Immigration is also a hotly debated issue in the US, including in its cognitive impacts – remember the Richwine Affair? – so I give figures for the US too.

1st Gen IQ 2nd Gen IQ Native IQ National IQ
France 89.4 91.8 101.2 99.6
Germany 93.7 94.5 105.0 101.5
Italy 87.1 92.4 98.7 97.9
Netherlands 95.4 95.7 105.0 102.9
Spain 89.1 94.2 99.0 97.6
Sweden 87.6 92.1 100.8 99.3
UK 95.1 99.3 101.2 100.0
USA 97.2 96.1 100.3 99.4

Lower IQs are almost inevitably associated with higher delinquency, higher crime rates, higher unemployment, and poorer general life outcomes. It has next to nothing to do with discrimination or white privilege, and a lot to do with employers valuing competent workers over incompetent ones; next to nothing to do with cops looking for some brown person to bully, and a lot to do with brighter people being generally better at cost-benefit analyses, e.g. as to the advisability of dropping out of school, selling drugs, or stealing that shiny new iPhone.

Modern welfare states spend a lot of resources just helping the more socially (and, inevitably, biologically) disadvantaged members of their societies stand on their own two feet.

As the blogger at Those Who Can See has found out, all three of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists benefited a lot from those programs:

An old friend from their orphanage has revealed some choice bits, a near-caricature of petty Arab thugs:

‘Cherif was a loudmouth, a fighter, loved to bling out in Lacoste tracksuits and screw girls, hated the ‘Gauls’ (native French) [...] Saïd was different, non-violent, civil and well-liked, though he wasn’t crazy about ‘Gauls’ either…’

An ex-colleague of Saïd’s has also spilled to the press. He claims the elder brother worked under him for the City of Paris trash detail, but was ‘unmanageable’ (e.g. refusing to shake hands with female colleagues), was transfered five times, then let go.

It is in reading between the lines that one figures out that his job, ‘recycling ambassador,’ was an invented make-work post of the type created to occupy (and pay) otherwise unemployable immigrants. The City of Paris, according to the article, had many such ‘ambassadors’ who went door-to-door to explain the joys of recycling to the city’s residents. The snitch in the article says a large number were unmanageable Islamists, about which they alerted their bosses often but were rebiffed because ‘the subject was taboo.’

This anecdote may seem neither here nor there, but in the larger narrative, progressives rail endlessly that France isn’t doing enough to integrate its Arabs. Here we have the City creating cushy do-nothing jobs for them in order to buy social peace, and the unhappy Saïd still manages to get himself fired for incompetence. Integration failed–but who is at fault?

Peter Frost, who also writes here at The Review, assigns higher Muslim crime rates and terrorism to their more macho and “alpha” cultural upbringings, deriving as they do from regions that had not managed to suppress violence as did Europe.

Murder was increasingly punished not only by the ultimate penalty but also by exemplary forms of execution, e.g., burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, and breaking on the wheel (Carbasse, 2011, pp. 52-53). This “war on murder” reached a peak from the 16th to 18th centuries when, out of every two hundred men, one or two would end up being executed (Taccoen, 1982, p. 52). A comparable number of murderers would die either at the scene of the crime or in prison while awaiting trial (Ireland, 1987).

I am somewhat skeptical of this explanation. Civilization in the Maghreb, to say nothing of Egypt or Mesopotamia, is far older than anything in Europe north of the Mediterranean… Even if they were less effective at stamping out violence, they had a heck of a lot longer to do it. “Our empire was old before dragons stirred in Old Valyria…”

My thesis is that the roots of the deep ailments that affect most Muslim societies lie elsewhere: In their extensive rates of inbreeding, which goes all the way up to the double cousins. The latest research indicates that first cousin matings could lower offspring IQ by as much as 30 points. (It need hardly be said that this is astoundingly bad; basically, it’s a drop from normal to retardation). Now consider that 37% of Pakistani marriages in the UK are between first cousins. The rates are not dissimilar amongst most other European immigrant Muslim communities.

The institution of cousin marriage is not integral to Islam per se. To the contrary, it was likely an outshoot of Mohammed’s instructions that daughters should also get a share of the family inheritance, thus creating a perverse economic incentive to keep wealth within the family by cousin marriage. Andrey Korotayev wrote a brilliant paper on this, which I highly recommend checking out if you’re interested in the historic origins of the Muslim family type.

Extensive first cousin, including FBD, marriage can explain a lot.

It explains the emphasis on keeping women veiled and accompanied by male guardians. Since future partners are, in many cases, “prearranged,” there is absolutely no need for extracurricular dalliances. Men, too, can experience specific problems under this system… with a significant percentage of the female population “wardened off” so, where do they seek release? Not everyone has a guaranteed wife, or a high enough SMV to game non-Muslim girls. Porn satisfies many but not all. After this, only more and more unorthodox solutions are left.

It explains the “clannishness” that Peter Frost notices.

It explains the massively depressed IQs seen throughout the Muslim world, especially relative to their estimated genotypic potential. Average IQs in oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where first cousin marriage is particularly endemic, are not substantially higher than in dirt-poor sub-Saharan countries.

And because of the critical import of IQ to virtually all aspects of human behavior, it explains a whole host of other domains – crime, unemployment, etc. – in which Muslim immigrants continue to underperform.

The solution is obvious enough, right?

It might not work straight away, but if strictly enforced, it will work eventually. Cousin marriage rates will fall, as they did in southern Italy or Japan in the 20th century, though those two countries had the advantage of starting from far lower bases. IQs will rise. We will finally get some measure of integration. Multiculturalism might even stop being the byword for social dysfunction that it has become today.

Right?

Wrong. You’re forgetting IQ is a social construct. And HBD is just what the old school racists now call their racism. Cousin marriage is a venerable tradition, and you have no right to tell Muslims whom they can or cannot marry. It would insult their religious beliefs (even though they have nothing in common). Besides, gays marry, so why not first cousins? Einstein did it. And what about the Darwin-Wedgwood clan? That one example completely disproves everything!

So the second logical alternative to the HBD explanation is the cultural one: That Islam really is an innately sick culture, and all societies that follow its precepts are doomed to economic irrelevance and social retrogression. They hate us for our freedumbs!

And this is how you get neocons, Breiviks, and multi-trillion dollar foreign adventures in far off deserts.

Or maybe Muslims really are kept down by the Man. He refuses to hire them, wages war on their coreligionists, and props up oppressive dictators. Because he wants Muslim oil and answers to Jewish shitlords. Islam isn’t the problem; it’s the solution. Allahu akbar! Behead those who insult Islam!

And this is how you get Islamists, ISIS, and terrorist attack after terrorist attack.

"An act of exceptional barbarism..." "That's not what you said when you sent them to me."

Not a Charlie Hebdo cartoon, naturally. “An act of exceptional barbarism…” “That’s not what you said when you sent them to me.”

Marine Le Pen, again:

Third, French foreign policy has wandered between Scylla and Charybdis in the last few years. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intervention in Libya, President François Hollande’s support for some Syrian fundamentalists, alliances formed with rentier states that finance jihadist fighters, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia — all are mistakes that have plunged France into serious geopolitical incoherence from which it is struggling to extricate itself.

And these guys, jihadists, are sent off with Western blessings (and money, and guns) to destabilize yet more Arab states…against those same dictators whom Islamists believe the West supports. Dictators who are usually the only power keeping those disparate, clannish states together and offering any hope of effecting lasting reform. But we better! We know from Fukuyama-via Marx-via Hegel that liberal democracy is universal, equally suited for an advanced high-IQ European or East Asian society, and a low-IQ ethnic medley where 75% of the populations wants the death penalty for apostasy.

And the resulting wars and anarchy displace more and more people, many of whom end up as immigrants on European shores.

And the cycle of invade/invite the world continues.

The way it sustains itself, one has to admit, is really quite elegant, if ultimately disastrous for everyone concerned.

Iraqis, Lybians, Syrians, and other victims of Western universalism get their countries wrecked by jihadists picked up from European banlieues and Arab street gutters, sometimes in conjunction with American bombs. The European peoples get to be enriched by more and more diversity in an offer they can’t refuse. The American taxpayer gets to pick up the tab.

But at least the American gets to walk away from the whole mess. La Raza Cósmica sure beats Eurabia.

 

After a long break, a new contribution to the Experts Panel:

Shredding Sochi… in a Good Way

Western journalists have been in the business of dismissing Russian achievements and magnifying Russian failures ever since Putin drove them into a collective derangement syndrome – he even haunts their dreams, as recently revealed by the Guardian’s Shaun Walker – so the preemptive besmirching of the Sochi Olympics can’t have surprised anyone.

What is startling, though, is the unusually low competence of the effort, even by the standards of these people that are sarcastically referred to as “democratic journalists” in Russia.

The first and foremost attack revolved around the supposed corruption surrounding the Sochi Olympics. In 2010, the Russian magazine Esquire estimated that 48km of roads around Sochi consumed a cool $8 billion of taxpayer money, a sum that implied the asphalt might as well have been made of elite beluga caviar. Julia Ioffe cheerily transmitted these sophomoric calculations to the Anglosphere. The only problem with these actuarial wisecracks? Said road also included a railway, 50 bridges, and 27km worth of tunnels over mountainous terrain… which presumably made it something more than just a road. What was intended as a metaphor for Sochi corruption turned out to be, ironically, a metaphor for unfounded attacks against it.

There are incessant comparisons to the $8 billion spent during the 2010 Olympics in Canada. But this sidesteps the fact that Whistler was already a world-class ski resort, whereas Sochi’s infrastructure had to be built from scratch and at relatively short notice. The actual event-related costs of the Sochi Olympics are $7 billion, of which only half was directly drawn from the state budget. This is not to say that there was no stealing – of course there was, as corruption is a real problem in Russia, and is especially endemic in the construction industry. Navalny has created an entire website about it, and coordinated a campaign against Sochi with Buzzfeed and The New York Times. But what’s striking is that far from the pharaonic levels of misappropriation we might expected from the tone of the coverage, in most cases the markup was in the order of 50%-100% relative to “comparable” Western projects (and that’s after selecting the most egregious cases). This isn’t “good,” needless to say, but it’s hardly unprecedented in Western experience. In any case, a number of criminal cases have been opened up, so impunity is not guaranteed. (The most prominent “victim,” Akhmed Bilalov, has fled the country and claimed he was poisoned – all true to the form of emigre oligarch thieves from the ex-Sovie Union).

The lion’s share of the $50 billion investment in Sochi – some 80% of it or so – consists of infrastructure projects to make Sochi into a world-class ski resort that will provide employment in the restive North Caucasus, kickstart the development of a Russian snowsports culture, and draw at least some of the more patriotic elites away from Courcheval.

The second major angle of attack is Russia’s “persecution” of gays. This, presumably, refers to Russia’s new laws against the propaganda of homosexuality to children – no matter that very similar laws, in the form of Section 28, existed in the UK until 2003, and that sodomy remained illegal in some American states up until the same year. I bring these up not so much to engage in “whataboutism” as to point out that the moral standards that the West proselytizes so zealously have only been adopted (or dropped?) within the past decade. Furthermore, much of the rest of the world rejects those standards to a significantly greater extent than does Russia itself. As such, this campaign strikes such an absurd and nauseatingly self-righteous note that one cannot but suspect a cynical motive behind it. Snowden and Syria, in particular, come to mind.

The third, and by far the most repulsive, category of Western concern trolling about Sochi revolves around terrorism. After every successful terrorist attack in Russia, “experts” rush in to proclaim that it is an example of “Putin’s autocracy not working for ordinary Russians” (Kathryn Stoner-Weiss), that they “cannot rely on the protection of their government” (David Satter), etc. By extension, the IOC is wildly irresponsible for “jeopardizing the safety of fans and athletes” by awarding the games to Russia (Sally Jenkins). In reality, according to the world’s most comprehensive database on terrorism, the number of casualties in terrorist attacks in Russia has plummeted in the past decade, even as the jihadist movement has been reduced to a shadow of its former self; suffice to say that suicide bombing a bus in a second-tier city like Volgograd is now considered a great success among their ranks. I do not wish to tempt fate by ruling it out entirely, but with the “ring of steel,” pervasive telecommunications monitoring, and cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies that characterize Sochi security, the likelihood of a successful terrorist attack is surely low.

Consequent criticisms become increasingly deranged and unhinged from reality, much like the murderous HAL supercomputer fading away into childish gibberishness after it gets turned off. Thousands of people got evicted, their land stolen from them… except that the average compensation per person was $100,000. Sochi is apparently built on the bones of Circassians… well, if it’s a graveyard, I wonder what that makes the North American continent – a death world? The assertion that Sochi is an “unsuitable subtropical resort” with no snow… an assessment that would surely surprise the denizens of California’s Bay Area, who go skiing in Tahoe up until late April, and where average February temperatures are significantly higher than around Sochi. If anything, conditions are looking downright steezy. The metaphorical rock-bottom was attained by the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg, who made a photograph of a pair of side-by-side toilets that were then splashed around the media – up to and including The New York Times – as evidence of the graft and imbecility that characterized the Sochi preparations. The only problem being that the photograph was taken in the middle of a renovation. But, hey, we wouldn’t want to deny the Brits their toilet humor, now would we…

All this is not to say that the Sochi Olympics are some kind of pure monument to virtuous sportsmanship and international friendship. Of course not. From their origins in ancient Greece, they were always about money, competition, and prestige. Putin himself openly states that one of its goals is to showcase a new Russia. There are no rules preventing Western states from waging a media campaign against Sochi, and refusing to send their top leaders to the opening ceremonies – petty and unseemly, such actions only reflect badly on their authors. So be it… gapers won’t be missed.

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

Is discussed at the other blog.

To add a couple of things that are Russia specific:

(1) We now learn that the FBI had interviewed the older brother at the bequest of an unspecific foreign government – almost certainly Russia. Tamerlan had visited it for 6 months in 2011. I wonder if he established links with some of the Caucasus Emirate Wahhabi types while there – and if so, whether US suspicions about Russia’s “assaults” on human rights in Chechnya made them drop their guard on a man who, it is now clear, was by then fast becoming an Islamist radical. The one silver lining to this horrible event is that it will become even more obvious that the Chechen rebellion has now been completely subsumed into the global Islamist struggle – and by extension, it will encourage the West to take a closer look at its “friends” in Syria.

(2) The reactions of Russian liberals has as always been as hilarious as it is nauseating. They seriously believe that the FSB is behind this.

Vasily Gatov, state news agency RIA employee: “I am watching three TV channels and listening to the radio, and reading the Boston Globe, and I gather that the main task of the FBI is to take the suspect alive. There is a drama brewing between Watertown, Washington, Moscow, and Grozny… And who knows which other cities. But I’m sure that the greatest fear is felt in Grozny. Which is why he will be taken alive.

Self-hating random Echo of Moscow commentator: “I will not be surprised if it turns out that the Tsarnaev brothers where recruited by Russian special forces for the execution of this terrorist act, because Russia will benefit from it. Why? Because this terrorist act will change American and Western public opinion – and hence, that of their politicians – towards Chechnya. If before the Western public supported the Chechens’ independence struggle, it is now more likely that they will support the Russian government’s policy on the Caucasus. And this means that the Kremlin KGBists will be able to use still crueler and more barbaric methods to fight separatism on the part of the Caucasus peoples. In other words, this terrorist act will untie the hands of the Kremlin in its war against the peoples of the Caucasus.

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

Next in our line of Watching the Russia Watchers interviews is Mark Chapman, the fiery Canadian sailor who’s been blazing a path of destruction through the fetid Russophobe ranks since July 2010. That was when he first set up The Kremlin Stooge, after being blocked from La Russophobe, who couldn’t withstand his powerful arguments without resorting to Stalinist tactics. The blog’s name, as he explains below, was bestowed by one of LR’s commentators (“Soviet Goon Boy” was considered, but rejected). Since then, he has expanded his coverage well beyond exposing La Russophobe and now goes from strength to strength: humiliating the self-appointed experts, drawing guest posts, being regularly translated by InoSMI, praised by La Russophobe, and making first place in S/O’s own list of the Top 10 Russia blogs in 2011. Without any further ado, I present you Mark Chapman the Kremlin Stooge, the Rambo of the Russophile blogosphere!

The Kremlin Stooge: In His Own Words…

Why did you start blogging about Russia?

As I’ve mentioned before in various exchanges with commenters, I was invited – hell, the whole world has been invited – to start my own blog by La Russophobe. Most have noticed “she” doesn’t care for dissent or for having her own blog rules used to regulate her conduct, and a common response is “why don’t you go and start your own blog, and see who reads it”. So I did. Of course, the invitation is based on the presupposition that it will be a grim failure which will teach you what a useless worm you really are.

I stumbled upon the La Russophobe blog during a search for early souvenirs of the Olympic Games in Sochi – I was looking for a backpack as a present for my wife. La Russophobe ran a post mocking the Russian souvenirs at the Olympics then in progress in Vancouver, because they were allegedly tacky and cheap. An exchange took place between us, and eventually I was banned from commenting. I invented a new ID – snooty Englishman Francis Smyth-Beresford (so as to have the initials FSB, and it was amazing how quickly otherwise-clodlike Ukrainian/Australian La Russophobe devotee Bohdan caught on). I tried hard to keep the criticism subtle, but eventually I was banned under that name as well. After that, I started The Kremlin Stooge, adopting the name from one of Bohdan’s favourite insults.

Prior to the initial accidental visit to La Russophobe, I was quite honestly unaware of that brand of barking mad Russophobia. I understood, of course, that bias against Russia existed, but there’s some degree of bias against almost everybody, and I rationalized that some had good reasons to dislike Russia while others just thought they did. But there’s a gulf of difference between reasoned disapproval and slobbering hate. I enjoyed challenging that hate, and exchanges with commenters who took a more reasoned approach while backing up their opinions with solid references taught me a great deal. Starting a blog seemed enormously daunting because I’m not that computer-savvy. However, for anyone who’s thinking it over, it’s dead easy and I encourage you not to wait if that’s what’s holding you back.

What were your best and worst blogging experiences so far?

The best was probably the first time a post was picked up by inoSMI; it was one I had done on Georgia and Saakashvili, about 6 weeks after I started the blog. I thought something had gone wrong with my stats counter, because I got more hits in one day than I’d accumulated to that time in total, I think – 1,146 where my total for all of July, the month I started, was only a pitiful 854. Also great is any time I get a comment from one of the blogging greats I admire, like Eugene Ivanov, Leos Tomicek, yourself, Sean Guillory or Kevin Rothrock.

The worst is whenever I get my ass handed to me because I failed to research something properly. A good example was the post, “Are Slavs Stupid?” At the time I’d had a running argument going for some time with a commenter who appeared to be a borderline white supremacist, and we’d gone the rounds of blacks being criminals because they were black to Mexicans being lazy because they were Mexicans, to Slavic peoples being genetically less intelligent because of their nationality. I kept pecking away at the post until quite late, and hit upon some killer references that totally vaporized his arguments by demonstrating that Estonians had an extremely high incidence of apparently uniform academic excellence. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the crucial step of ensuring Estonians were Slavs – which, by and large, they’re not. I just assumed they were. I was too tired to take the extra 5 minutes it would have required to check my main argument, and as a direct result the whole thing fell apart. The larger point that Slavs are no stupider than any other group and that research supporting “genetic intelligence” has been broadly discredited was lost in the triumphant mockery, which of course I richly deserved for my laziness. I’d like to say it taught me a lesson, but still every now and then a dodgy bit of research or some shortcutting has resulted in me getting my legs kicked out from under me. Live and learn, they say.

What are the best blogs about Russia? What are the worst?

That’s hard to answer, because there are so many good ones and not really any bad ones. All serve a purpose. I really like “Russia: Other Points of View”, especially those entries contributed by Patrick Armstrong – the blog strikes just the right tone of reproachful correction of errors or misconceptions without a lot of screeching histrionics. But it’s dull because there are hardly ever any comments or argument, and I’d love to learn from a really good bare-knuckle fight at that elevated level of discourse. “Truth and Beauty” is another really good one. I did a review of the Russia blogs right after we rolled through 100,000, but it left out all the brilliant ones I haven’t discovered yet. Mark Galeotti’s, “In Moscow’s Shadows” has had some fascinating discussion of Russian legal and constitutional reform and Caucasian politics, but it’s not updated very often and the comment format is awkward.

Even blogs like La Russophobe serve a purpose – they’re really funny, not only because of the over-the-top exaggeration, fabrication and deliberate attempts to mischaracterize actual reports, but because of the breathless arrogance, swollen ego and holier-than-thou self-stylings of its author or authors. It used to motivate me to argue, but now it more often makes me laugh on the rare occasions I read it, and I’ve kind of gotten away from using it for inspiration. I remember in his interview AGT singled out Catherine Fitzpatrick as well, for generally long-winded blather, and there has been a good deal of speculation that she actually is La Russophobe. While her writing often runs to lengthy rants and she does seem to fall into that Soviet expat Russia-is-the-root-of-all-the-world’s-problems pigeonhole, she comes across as intelligent and well-educated, and you can sometimes reason with her a little (both of which argue against her being La Russophobe, if anyone cares). I don’t think those kind of blogs are responsible for too many attitude changes, so they’re mostly harmless.

What is your favorite place in Russia? Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet, but would love to visit?

I’m not well-traveled in Russia at all, and have never been outside the Primorsky Krai. I love Vladivostok, and was greatly encouraged the last time I was there to see ongoing efforts to restore and properly maintain some of its old buildings, with their beautiful architectural detail. There are so very many places I’ve never been, but I tend to favour places with a lot of history and large areas where the “old city” is preserved. For that reason, I’m especially interested in St Petersburg. Although Moscow seems to me like a grey, anonymous city that could be anywhere, there are probably fabulous attractions there as well that I’d love to see. I enjoyed visiting a lot of small villages around the Primorsky region – usually just passing through – and would like to spend more time there as well. Generally, I’m less interested in going someplace I already know everything about, and more interested in discovering a place I know nothing about.

If you could recommend one book about Russia, what would it be?

The First Directorate: My 32 Years in Intelligence and Espionage Against the West”, by Oleg Kalugin [AK: Click to buy]. I imagine you were thinking more of a book that reveals the true Russian soul, or reflects a defining phase of the nation’s history. Doubtless such works exist, but I’m not an academic and I haven’t read them; besides, I’m not convinced my assessment of what constitutes the key to the Russian soul or a significant historical moment would have much value. Kalugin’s book was compelling because it revealed so much about the inner workings of the KGB, including how influential it was on all aspects of state policy. It was instructive in its substantiation that the best intelligence assets simply walk in off the street rather than being wooed by “honey traps” like you see in the movies, and that they are nearly always motivated by money. Kalugin was one of American spy John Walker’s handlers, and the most senior KGB operative to write about the organization he had been an influential part of. He also revealed that for many years they had a very highly-placed source in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service (which eventually became our version of the American CIA, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)); something I never knew.

For what it’s worth, I asked my family – all Russians (my Father-in-Law, Mother-in-Law and wife) – the same question. Each got a pick, although it inspired much anguish and a comment from Sveta that it was like asking a mother of ten to choose her favourite child. They came up with Nikolai Gogol’s “Taras Bulba” , Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”, and Tolstoy again with “War and Peace”. I’m not trying to cheat and recommend four books for a question that asked for just one, but to point out that the essential character of Russia means different things to different people.

If you could invite three Russians, past or present, to a dinner party, who would they be?

Vladimir Putin, Aleksandr Revva and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Mr. Putin because his leadership of Russia fascinates me, Aleksandr Revva in case the mood got too somber because everything he does and says is hilarious, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn in case I had to do the cooking myself. I learned from “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” that he’s not a fussy eater, and would likely make anything look tasty. Aleksandr Revva might not count, because he was born a Ukrainian, but he’s been a staple feature of Russian comedy for a long time.

Do you think the average Russian lives better today than in 2000? What about 1988? Are they richer, freer or happier than before?

All of those, I think, but I don’t have any firsthand knowledge and am basing that assessment simply on statistics. There will always be people who are dirt-poor no matter how good the economy becomes, because they don’t know how to manage their money and won’t ask for help. But the opportunities to be richer and freer are certainly present to a greater degree, as are those to be well-informed and connected. The entire category of what constitutes the “average Russian” has changed since 1988.

Who knows what makes people happy? Russians are no different than anyone else in that respect, and some people everywhere are happy regardless of the conditions that define their lives. But I believe Russians feel much more self-determinant and in control of their own lives now. If that’s happiness, then yes.

To what extent is there a difference between Putin and Medvedev, and who do you think offers the better vision for Russia’s future?

Medvedev is a dreamer and Putin is a pragmatist. Medvedev seems out of his depth trying to actually run a country – it’s quite a bit different from running a company – and there seem to be too many variables for him to grasp, while Putin knows as much about running a country as anyone in Russia. Medvedev would be gobbled up in nothing flat without Putin behind him, while Putin demonstrably could survive quite well without Medvedev. For all of that, Medvedev has a better vision for Russia’s future, because he’s a dreamer and he wants things that will only come true – in the short term – in dreams. I don’t doubt he wants what’s best for Russia, but the opportunities for him to fall into a pit on the way are legion. Putin is considerably more a realist and his ideas for reform are generally more achievable as a consequence of his worldview. Together they make a pretty good team, and would be even better as Medvedev gains a little political experience and learns when saying nothing is better than saying something stupid.

If you could advise the Russian government to do one thing it isn’t already doing, what would it be?

National image management. Even though resistance is strong to any attempts by Russia to put itself in a positive light on…well, just about anything you care to name, it’s just a skill like any other, and you get out of it what you put into it. Look at Israel – legendary lobbying skills. The USA is very, very good at it as well. Russia, frankly, stinks out loud at it. Past time for a makeover.

This came up awhile ago, in a couple of places. One was at Eugene Ivanov’s blog, where he proposed – half-jokingly – in the comments section of an excellent post on the odious Jackson-Vanik Amendment that Alina Kabaeva be deputized as the “new face” of United Russia. Of course she doesn’t have any real qualifications for the job except that she couldn’t possibly be as stupid as Sarah Palin is, she’s beautiful and has eye-magnetizing cleavage. But the implication that Russia needs to get away from arm-waving “Commie” stereotypes who are too easy to mock and move in the direction of suave, personable diplomats who have been groomed all their working lives for their assignments is spot-on.

Another was at Denise Martin’s blog, where we were discussing the late-50’s-era novel, “The Ugly American”. Although it was a work of fiction, it bore down fairly strongly on American foreign policy vis-à-vis Asia and the fictional nation featured was often said to mirror real-life South Vietnam; it was tremendously influential on JFK’s revamped and revitalized foreign policy, and instrumental to the creation of the Peace Corps. In the novel, American diplomats are clumsy, ignorant and uncaring, speak the native language poorly or not at all and are plainly uninterested in learning. Their Soviet (at the time) counterparts are sophisticated and urbane, firmly in touch with the culture and traditions of their hosts and speak the language like natives. Consequently, their influence is viewed in a much more positive light than that of the United States.

Take a memo, Russia. Stop staffing your diplomatic corps with bad copies of Boris and Natasha from “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” and start recruiting people foreigners will want to listen to.

HARD Talk with The Kremlin Stooge

Now you often come off as a big Canadian patriot (in a good way), but you also respect Russia’s assertive foreign policy of recent years. But what happens should the two collide? They have conflicting claims in the Arctic, due to overlapping continental shelf extensions. In recent years, Ottawa has criticized Russia for planting flags at the North Pole and flying bombers near its airspace. Both countries are expanding their military forces in the High North. Whose claims are the most valid? Who is most to blame for the intemperate rhetoric? Is this just political grandstanding, or is there a risk of an escalating cold war?

I don’t see any risk at all of it escalating beyond the decision of a UN Commission, if it even goes that far. After all, in accordance with the Illulissat Declaration, all nations with skin in the game are resolved to settle the issue by bilateral agreement. Russia’s current claims do not extend into the existing coastal boundaries (EEZ’s) of any Arctic coastal claimant, although opinions differ on overlapping claims beyond those, as you say. From what I can see, although I certainly am not a geologist, the Lomonosov Ridge is just as likely to originate on the Canadian side as the Russian side, and that’s the subject of intense research, but it’s like trying to determine which end of the Golden Gate Bridge is its origin after everyone who built it is dead and there are no plans.

In truth, I would have to say Canadian rhetoric I have read on this specific issue has had more of the ring of challenge about it, while Russia’s position appears more conciliatory. However, our government – especially when it is a conservative government as it is now, often echoes the concerns of its more powerful neighbour without thinking too much about whether the issue actually threatens us. About 85% of our trade goes south to the USA, and any “misunderstanding” that might imperil that relationship is to be avoided. To be honest, any government would do the same in the same circumstances, because any hiccup would have immediate impact on our economy. And the USA is the only nation that has yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, although the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted overwhelmingly to send it to the Senate for a vote 5 years ago. The USA seems to be waiting for new developments before committing itself, and the potential for an open Northwest Passage is likely a big part of that reluctance. I see Canadian rhetoric on this issue as mostly strutting for the benefit of our partners to show them we are keeping their concerns in mind. The offshore patrol vessels currently in the imaginative design phase for the Canadian Arctic are unlikely to have any serious offensive capability, and surely are not intended to fight a war for the high north.

As far as flying bombers “near” another nation’s airspace goes, when did that become illegal? As the agreement cited above specifies, all Arctic coastal states share responsibility for and stewardship of the Arctic. And almost all Russian aircraft designed and crewed for long onstation patrol functions are military.

My first loyalty is always to my own country; but I see no need for bellicose posturing and swaggering and believe it serves no purpose other than to make you look an ass when you are probably not. I’m in agreement with U.S. Senator John Quincy Adams – “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

You’ve praised A Good Treaty, and he rewards you by telling La Russophobe that “you guys really deserve each other.” Ouch! Have anything to say to that?

I’m glad you brought that up, because I was really hurt. I threw up my supper, stumbled to my room, buried my face in my pillow, drummed my feet on the bed and screamed, “Fuck you!!! Fuck you!!! What do you know, anyway??” Now that I’ve had time to cool down a little, I demand satisfaction – let’s settle this like men. We’ll fight. Since it was my idea, I get to choose the weapons, and I pick can openers in six feet of water (I hope he’s a short little bastard). Meet me in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 16th (my birthday), MoFo, and only one of us will walk away.

Seriously, I doubt Kevin thinks very much about my blog, although he’s kind enough to leave it on his blogroll and I get a lot of referrals from AGT. But I believe Kevin sees himself as a Serious Blogger, while seeing me as a Fundamentally Unserious Halfwit. He announced at his first blogging anniversary that he was going to hang up the tilting-at-windmills stuff and try for serious analysis. Maybe there’s just not as much room in his life for silliness any more, or he’s lost his patience for it. Also, he has a new baby in the house – must be just about time for some teeth – and maybe he was just tired.

Anyway, I really didn’t take any offense, because he’s right – we do deserve each other. There wouldn’t be any Kremlin Stooge without La Russophobe, and although I don’t use her articles for inspiration as often as I once intended, it’s great blogs like his that coaxed my interest in Russia beyond the panting fury on show at her nutblog. I guess he’s entitled to a little criticism. And I’m pretty sure there’s still plenty of room in the Russia-watching blogosphere for Serious Bloggers and Fundamentally Unserious Halfwits.

In the previous section, you said that Medvedev was a “dreamer.” Could you please elaborate? Because some would say that he has been very active at implementing reform. He has fired far more senior bureaucrats and regional bigwigs than Putin ever did, e.g. in the course of the police reforms a third of the most senior officers were recently dismissed. To give a range of other examples, in the past year Medvedev ordered state officials to leave the boards of state companies, signed a law that eliminates prison terms as mandatory punishment for white-collar crimes, promoted the privatization of state assets, and asked the government to draft a program for the support of education of Russian students in leading international universities. So is your attitude not, in fact, a “presumption of failure” in Eugene Ivanov’s words?

Actually, I kind of wish I had read that post before I responded. The comments as well; especially Patrick Armstrong’s, in which he pointed out that the attitude toward reform in Russia – from a typical western perspective – is that it’s immediately a complete success or else it’s another dismal failure. But it probably wouldn’t have changed my response much. Still, you’re right – as is Eugene – that Medvedev has achieved a good deal that he’s received little or no credit for, and perhaps that’s deliberate although it’s difficult to reconcile a west that wants to see Medvedev in the big chair rather than Putin with a west that never says anything good about Medvedev.

No, what I meant to infer when I said Medvedev was “a dreamer” was not so much Medvedev’s/Putin’s actual accomplishments (and admittedly, the list of Medvedev’s accomplishments is more impressive than I would have thought) as Medvedev’s hopes that these accomplishments are going to win over the west and inspire a renewed rapprochement with it. Putin, whom I described in the same question as “a realist”, knows there will be no such rapprochement unless the west has no other alternative, and that the international game of musical chairs in which the west tries to inch closer and closer with encircling military bases will continue long after the music stops. In this comparison, Medvedev looks like Charlie Brown; unable to stop himself from taking another run at the football, even though on some level he understands the probability it will be yanked away just as he commits.

However, if you suggested that’s uncharitable, and that someone who really wished Russia success insofar as her interests do not trample on those of someone else’s rights, you’d be correct. The thing to do would be to get behind Medvedev’s plans, and amplify his successes as they deserve to be. I humbly so resolve. And although I remain unconvinced he’s the strong leader Russia needs to consolidate and progress its gains achieved over the past decade, I apologize for my lack of faith in his ability to achieve anything constructive. If for no other reason, because anything that appears to put Lilia Shevtsova and I on the same side cannot go on unresolved.

When Putin came to power he promised to “eliminate the oligarchs as a class”, but as of last year there were 114 billionaires – an order of magnitude greater than under Yeltsin. Putin’s judo buddies and Ozero friends have done particularly well; e.g., to quote Daniel Treisman, “During his second term, control over valuable Gazprom assets began to pass into the hands of one of [Putin’s] old friends, Yury Kovalchuk… After Gazprom bought the oil company Sibneft from the oligarch Roman Abramovich, much of its oil was sold by another old Putin acquaintance, Gennady Timchenko.” (I’d also note the latter was sold the Port of Murmansk for $250 million this year with no public bidding). All this isn’t exactly out of character for Putin either; back in 1999, when the Prosecutor-General Skuratov insisted on investigating corruption in Yeltsin’s Family, Putin helped discredit him with a sex video and pressed him to resign. Even if we accept your arguments that Putin isn’t personally corrupt, isn’t it undeniable that he broke his promise and far from eliminating the oligarchs he has ensconced their power? And given the favors he’s dispensed to his friends, will he not be able to cash in on them with interest once he leaves the Presidency and thus enter the oligarchy himself?

First, what’s the direct relationship between numbers of billionaires and oligarchs? I’m afraid I don’t see a natural correlation between oligarchs and billionaires – if you are one, are you, ipso facto, the other as well? Is T. Boone Pickens an oligarch? If everyone in Russia is a little bit better off financially than they were under Yeltsin – and they are unless they are making a conscious effort to not be – are they incrementally more corrupt?

Although FT often goes out of its way to spin every news item that concerns Russia in an unfavourable light, this reference is at pains to point out that one of these oligarchs is Mikhail Prokhorov. Back in 2007, Prokhorov was allegedly forced by Putin to sell his 26% stake in Norilsk Nickel. This, according to the New York Times, suggests the Kremlin flexing its muscles and punishing Prokhorov. Bouncing back to your reference, we learn that the Kremlin actually did him a huge favour, since when markets collapsed, Prokhorov was “the only oligarch with any cash to spare.” If the Kremlin was able to foresee the market collapse a year before it happened, why didn’t every sugar-daddy make out like a bandit? There’s a disconnect here, in which (according to the NYT) “…under Mr. Putin, the Russian government is establishing vast, state-owned holding companies in automobile and aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding, nuclear power, diamonds, titanium and other industries. His economic model is sometimes compared with the state-owned, “national champion” industries in France under Charles de Gaulle in the 1950s. The policy of forcing owners of strategic assets to sell their holdings has also been compared to recent nationalizations in Venezuela and other Latin American nations. “Yet while Putin reinvents the Soviet Union – and, according to Irina Yasina, “In Russia today, no serious deal can be made without approval from the Kremlin” – despite the fact that there were no oligarchs until Yeltsin sold off state assets at fire-sale prices, somehow Putin is consolidating everything under the state’s iron grip, while a burgeoning bumper crop of oligarchs is getting rich. How? How can these two conditions coexist? A new Soviet Union and a simultaneous flabbergasting spike in private wealth? Come on, guys – get your narrative nailed down.

FT also points out that the surge in personal wealth by the wealthy it persists in referring to as “oligarchs” originates with a 20% increase in value in the Russian stock market in 2010, and increasing demand for raw materials from China. It’s a bit of a stretch to maintain that Putin personally controls the Russian stock market and is shunting sweet deals to his friends – when would he find the time to do that, and how could he have been such a dink as to let it crash in 2009, wiping out billions in his pals’ money? – but anyone who means to suggest Putin is behind Chinese economic growth is asking to be laughed out of the room. Maybe some of those wealthy businessmen gained their original oligarch spurs during the privatization giveaway (under Yeltsin); but if you make more money in straight business deals using that money, are you still an oligarch? When does that stop – ever? Is the west as unforgiving of the source of personal fortunes in the west?

It simply stands to reason that if the economy of the whole country is picking up, the rich will get richer and new rich will join their ranks. It’s astonishing how many places that happens, and the risks are demonstrably greater in Russia along with the rewards.

How has Putin “ensconced the oligarchs’ power” when Prokhorov is the first to dip a toe into politics since Khodorkovsky, and allegedly on the Kremlin’s side at that? As to the other part of the question, is it unusual for national leaders to be connected to the rich? Does this presuppose Putin will become a rich oligarch when he leaves politics? Maybe, but as someone who has not flaunted conspicuous wealth all his life as many similarly-connected western leaders have, it would not simply be a return to type. There’s no denying the opportunity is there. But a Putin no longer in a position to “dispense favours” might not be an advantage worth the price.

As a follow-up to the last question, don’t you think that the only reason Khodorkovsky was singled out by the regime for prosecution was because he funded the opposition and called for transparency? After all, plenty of other oligarchs who misappropriated Russia’s wealth in the 1990’s were allowed to enjoy their riches – or get even richer with the Kremlin’s help.

No, I don’t. Only a fool would argue everyone who deserves to be in jail in Russia is in jail, any more than that state of affairs prevails anywhere else. It was indeed unconscionable to make a deal with the oligarchs in the terms it’s been described – stay out of politics, and yer can keep the swag, ahrrrr. However, once again, was it effective? The country has prospered, the remaining oligarchs have indeed stayed out of politics or moved abroad to protect their wealth (have a look at the numbers of wealthy Americans moving abroad to avoid what they say are crippling taxes), and the chances of success for a policy that would have seen Putin pitting himself against the accumulated wealth of Russia’s richest and all the influence they could muster would have been, I submit, dim. Perhaps Mr. Putin viewed it as a necessary deal to move the country forward without opposition. Again, there’s no evidence to suggest he did it to enrich himself.

There certainly is a sizable segment of society that would like to believe Khodorkovsky is guilty only of funding the opposition and advocating transparency. However, despite YUKOS’s reputation for transparency in business dealings, company records are no such thing and Khodorkovsky is defiantly unrepentant for defrauding Russia of legal tax revenue in order to increase his profit. I believe he funded the opposition mostly to put stumbling-blocks in the government’s way and keep them occupied while he increased his personal control over Russian affairs, and that he had no interest in running the country himself as a political leader because it would have limited his opportunities to enrich himself further, provided he still wanted to court western support. I further believe he was sandbagged disproportionately hard for tax evasion because the government could not get anyone to testify against him for more serious crimes, although there is considerable circumstantial evidence those crimes occurred. Unfortunately, the government’s star witness – the former mayor of Nefteyugansk – is dead, and Mr. Khodorkovsky’s former chief of security is in jail for it.

In September 2000, central Russia was wracked by a series of apartment bomb blasts. As you probably know, many questions about it remain unanswered. There was the bizarre Ryazan incident, the materials on which the Duma voted to seal for 75 years. There was Duma Speaker Seleznyov telling the deputies about a bombing in Vologda, accurate in all respects but one – it occurred three days after his announcement. And those who tried to carry out independent investigations tended to see a drop in their life expectancies; one by one, they were assassinated (e.g. Yushenkov, Schekochikhin, Litvinenko). Is it possible that, directly or indirectly, Putin’s sky-rocketing popularity in late 2000 – and consequently, his Presidency – was built on the blood of innocents blown up by the FSB?

Well, of course it’s possible. However, every story has two sides, and in a disagreement regarding an event for which no direct evidence has been produced, much goes to the credibility of the defenders of each respective viewpoint. So, let’s take a look at who said what. On the “Putin did it” side, David Satter – former Moscow correspondent for FT Russia, then columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Yury Felshtinsky, co-author (with dead Alexander Litvinenko) of “Blowing Up Russia”, sponsored by Boris Berezovsky, in which Felshtinsky accuses Putin of masterminding the bombings to achieve political power. Supposedly the target of a 3-man FSB assassination team, which had arrived in Boston in 2007 to kill him, Felshtinsky is unaccountably (and embarrassingly) still alive 4 years later – perhaps they’re tied up in customs at Logan International (What? Poison gas-tipped umbrellas are illegal???). Boris Berezovsky himself, former oligarch who high-sided it to the UK with his money and forecast in 2001 that Putin would be gone by the end of the year, while blathering on as an authority on what constitutes corruption although the source of his fortune is generally acknowledged to have devolved from his connections with the Yeltsin “family”. The reference also helpfully notes that Berezovsky broke with Putin when he “moved to rein in the oligarchs”. Boris Kagarlitsky, editor-in-chief of Levaya Politika and democracy activist. Vladimir Pribylovski, another co-author with still-not-dead Felshtinsky, and another admittedly biased opposition supporter through his political website Anticompromat.ru. On the “That’s just bullshit” side, Gordon Bennett of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, a former component of the Defence Academy of the UK and present component of the Advanced Research and Assessment Group. Robert Ware, noted expert on the North Caucasus. Henry Plater-Zyberk, former analyst for the British Foreign Office, specialist in Russia and Central Asia and senior analyst at the Conflict Studies Research Centre. Simon Saradzhyan, security and foreign policy expert, former editor of the Moscow Times and research fellow at Harvard. Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European Politics at the University of Kent, and recognized expert in Russian and Eastern European politics. Who has more invested in the “Putin blew up his own people” story being true?

None of the people mentioned were present when the bombings took place. Although there’s been a lot of talk about “evidence”, there apparently has been none brought forward, and those who supplied testimony are more or less disposed to lie depending on who’s telling the story. Novaya Gazeta reported the testimony of one Private Pinyaev, for example, who supposedly was party to a group who made tea with some “sugar” which was actually Hexogen and which “tasted terrible”, although RDX derivatives like Hexogen are a poison that is toxic even if inhaled or absorbed through the skin and can lead to seizures. That’d be hard to forget.

There are indeed inconsistencies in the case that are difficult to explain. However, the actions supposedly undertaken by the FSB seem so clownishly verifiable that it’s hard to imagine they would so obviously incriminate themselves. The side that argues for it being a false-flag operation consists mostly of political dissidents and democracy activists, while the side that argues against that explanation consists largely of respected academics with a good deal of experience. And if the FSB are all liars, well, it’d be worth remembering where Litvinenko came from.

I noticed that in the original discussion that drew you to La Russophobe (and blogging), you made the following bet with commentator Felix: “The Sochi Winter Games will go ahead as scheduled, and the positive reviews will far outnumber the negatives.” Are you still confident about that given the rate of embezzlement corroding that project? (For instance, one road was found to cost $8 billion; it would have been cheaper to pave it with black caviar). And if you’re wrong do you still intend to send Felix his beer?

I’m still confident Sochi will be rated a success, even though many English-language sources will be disposed to look for negatives. I believe that case of Stella is as good as mine, but of course a bet is a bet and I will pay up if I’m wrong. Note, though, that Felix defined the terms very narrowly, and it does not even need to be a roaring success for me to win – Russia merely has to hold to full completion more than 20 medal-winning events (20 is proposed to be a tie; less, and I lose), and as Felix points out, that’s less than half the events held in Vancouver. Money for jam, as the British used to say.

In that post I also got away with arguing that Boris Nemtsov was not from Sochi, which was Ding! Ding! Ding! incorrect. I didn’t know any better then. Of course, I do now.

As far as the road to Sochi goes – come on, Anatoly. You blew that one to pieces yourself, here. I quote: “Intended to be completed within 3 years in an area with a poorly developed infrastructure, this so-called “road” also includes a high-speed railway, more than 50 bridges, and 27km of tunnels over mountainous, ecologically-fragile terrain!” Once you consider that, you told us, “things begin to make a lot more sense.” That kind of construction ain’t cheap. Although doubtless corruption has inflated the overall expense, this is commonplace with government projects in many countries, few of whom are sufficiently pure to cast aspersions; let’s not inflate it to “Congo-like proportions”. Say, did you notice it’s only Russophobes who counsel using caviar as an alternative – and economically competitive – road surface? I beg to differ: it has serious durability issues compared with asphalt, and in summer! Well, I don’t have to tell you what a caviar road would begin to smell like.

Back to the Future

Many Russia watchers don’t like to put their money where their mouth is. Though I’m sure you’re not the type, feel free to confirm it by making a few falsifiable predictions about Russia’s future. After a few years, we’ll see if you were worth listening to.

Russia will be a full member of the WTO by the end of 2012. Joint Asian financial institutions will form which will channel tremendous direct investment into Russia, and ties between Russia and China particularly will strengthen. New spheres of influence will form, and China and Russia will hold annual large-scale joint military exercises. Russia will permit a much greater degree of foreign ownership in state assets. The new Japanese government will formally forswear all claims to the Kuriles, and Russo-Japanese relations will dramatically improve.

That last one is really going out on a limb, as if any such initiative does look likely there will be intense lobbying from the USA to discourage it, and the USA is likely to remain strongly influential in the formation of Japanese foreign policy. But I feel good about it nonetheless.

And specifically, could you make any predictions on who will be the President from 2012?

Whoa – too close to call. I still think it’ll be Putin, and that’s what I’d like to see, but the list of Medvedev’s accomplishments you reeled off earlier makes me think he’s a better bet than I had at first supposed. Either of them could win easily, so I could just say, “The United Russia candidate”. But that’d be facetious.

I think it would be better for Russia if Putin won, for reasons I stated earlier. He’s less easy to seduce with saccharine promises of western cooperation, which is not going to be forthcoming unless whoever wins swears to run the country according to western diktat. However, Medvedev is the more likely of the two to push for liberal reforms that will benefit Russia long-term.

What are your plans for The Kremlin Stooge?

As long as I’m having fun, I plan to keep on keepin’ on. If I can encourage some more of my lazy commenters to put their opinions where my posts are, I plan to have more guest work. Confusion to our enemies, and death to Russophobia!!!

Thanks to The Kremlin Stooge for an excellent interview!

If you wish me to interview you or another Russia watcher, feel free to contact me.

(Reprinted from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 

Truly, if Willian Burns were to issue an anthology of his Moscow cables during his 2005-2008 ambassadorship, I’d seriously consider buying it. Just consider this cable from May 2006, on Chechnya’s “Once and Future War”, a nuanced US view of that conflict and the cynicism and corruption it engendered amongst all its parties.

What struck me first was its reminder of the awesome magnitude of corruption and state dissolution during the 1990′s. Though Transparency International might claim that nothing much has changed in the past two decades (or even regressed), it is belied by Burns’ vision of a “military-entrepreneurial” officer corps that proclaimed President Yeltsin’s “business” was to “sit in Moscow, drink vodka, and chase women” while they did “[their] work” in the Caucasus region. And profitable work it was too. Due to post-Soviet Russia’s low domestic energy prices, it was highly lucrative to launder oil it through Chechnya, sell it on foreign markets, and make big dollar on the difference. Army officers profited from the racket; their Chechen partners spent their cut of the gravy to arm themselves for war. One of the primary causes of the First Chechen War, apart from the state’s usual hatred of separatism, was a specific desire to reassert control over Chechnya’s oil and arms bazaar.

The other interesting theme of this account – if one well-known to Chechnya watchers – is that even today, neither the regional Russian Army (“bunkered and corrupt”, and considering relocating to Daghestan) nor the federal authorities (“["Plenipotentiary Representative Dmitriy Kozak] was not even invited when Putin addressed the new Parliament in Groznyy [in December 2005]” have much influence. It is former separatists turned Putin vassals that run Chechnya, in exchange for their loyalty and suppression of what is now a fully Islamised insurgency. The Kremlin ensures this loyalty by continuing to support different clans, so that none feels itself strong enough to challenge it outright; the main example of this that Burns cites is the struggle between the (FSB-backed) Kadyrov clan and the (GRU-backed) Yamadaev brothers. Observing the current situation from Burns’ perspective, it could hardly be a good sign that the Yamadaevs have been exterminated, Kadyrov’s own regime is promoting fundamentalist strains of Sufi Islam, and that Muslims in nearby regions are growing restless and radicalized because of the heavy-handedness of Russia’s “war on terror”.

Burns says a lot about what the US could do to help to promote human rights and combat Islamism, but implicitly recognizes that it isn’t much. He also suggested a reform of the Army and the MVD to root out their corruption and clunkiness. Reform of these power structures was made a priority under the Medvedev administration.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW5645 2006-05-30 09:09 2010-12-01 23:11 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
VZCZCXRO0843
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #5645/01 1500927
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 300927Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6600
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 10 MOSCOW 005645
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
EO 12958 DECL: 05/25/2016
TAGS PREL, PGOV, MARR, MOPS, RS“>RS
SUBJECT: CHECHNYA: THE ONCE AND FUTURE WAR
REF: MOSCOW 5461 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reason 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Introduction: Chechnya has been less in the glare of constant international attention in recent years. However, the Chechnya conflict remains unresolved, and the suffering of the Chechen people and the threat of instability throughout the region remain. This message reinterprets the history of the Chechen wars as a means of better understanding the current dynamics, the challenges facing Russia, the way in which the Kremlin perceives those challenges, and the factors limiting the Kremlin’s ability to respond. It draws on close observation on the ground and conversations with many participants in and observers of the conflict from the moment of Chechnya’s declaration of independence in 1991. We intend this message to spur thinking on new approaches to a tragedy that persists as an issue within Russia and between Russia and the U.S., Europe and the Islamic world.

Summary

2. (C) President Putin has pursued a two-pronged strategy to extricate Russia from the war in Chechnya and establish a viable long-term modus vivendi preserving Moscow’s role as the ultimate arbiter of Chechen affairs.The first prong was to gain control of the Russian military deployed there, which had long operated without real central control and was intent on staying as long as its officers could profit from the war. The second prong was “Chechenization,” which in effect means turning Chechnya over to former nationalist separatists willing to profess loyalty to Russia. There are two difficulties with Putin’s strategy. First, while Chechenization has been successful in suppressing nationalist separatists within Chechnya, it has not been as effective against the Jihadist militants, who have broadened their focus and are gaining strength throughout the North Caucasus. Second, as long as former separatist warlords run Chechnya, Russian forces will have to stay in numbers sufficient to ensure that the ex-separatists remain “ex.” More broadly, the suffering of an abused and victimized population will continue, and with it the alienation that feeds the insurgency.

3. (C) To deal effectively with Chechnya in the long term, Putin needs to increase his control over the Russian Power Ministries and reduce opportunities for them to profit from war corruption. He needs to strengthen Russian civilian engagement, reinforcing the role of his Plenipotentiary Representative. He needs to take a broad approach to combat the spread of Jihadism, and not rely primarily on suppression by force. In this context there is only a limited role for the U.S., but we and our allies can help by expressing our concerns to Putin, directing assistance to areas where our programs can slow the spread of Jihadism, and working with Russia’s southern neighbors to minimize the effects of instability. End Summary.

The Starting Point: Problems of the “Russianized” Conflict

4. (C) Chechnya was only one of the conflicts that broke out in the former Soviet Union at the time of the country’s collapse. Territorial conflicts, most of them separatist, erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, South Ossetia, North Ossetia/Ingushetia, Abkhazia and Tajikistan. Russian troops were involved in combat in all of those conflicts, sometimes clandestinely. In all except Nagorno-Karabakh, Russian troops remain today as peacekeepers. Russia doggedly insists on this presence and resists pulling its forces out. Its diplomatic efforts have served to keep the conflicts frozen, with Russian troops remaining in place.

5. (C) Why is this? The charge is often made that Russia’s motive for keeping the conflicts frozen is geostrategic, or “neo-imperialism,” or fear of NATO, or revenge against Georgia and Moldova, or a quest to preserve leverage. Indeed, the continued deployments may satisfy those Russians who think in such terms, and expand the domestic consensus for sending troops throughout the CIS. However, while one or another of those factors may have been the original impulse, each of the conflicts has gone through phases in which the conflict’s perceived uses for the Russian state have changed. No one of these factors has been continuous over the life of any of the conflicts.

6. (C) We would propose an additional factor: the determination of Russia’s senior officer corps to remain deployed in those countries to engage in lucrative activity outside their official military tasks. Sometimes that activity has been as mercenaries — for instance, Russian active-duty soldiers fought on both sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict from 1991-92. Sometimes it has involved narcotics smuggling, as in Tajikistan. Selling arms to all sides has been a long-standing tradition. And sometimes it has meant collaborating with the mafias of both sides in conflict to facilitate contraband trade across the lines, as in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The officers and their generals formed a powerful bloc in favor of all the deployments, especially under Yeltsin.

7. (C) This “military-entrepreneurial” bloc soon formed an autonomous institution, in some respects outside the government’s control. There are many illustrations of its autonomy. For instance, in 1993 Yeltsin reached an agreement with Georgia on peacekeeping in Abkhazia. When the Georgian delegation arrived in Sochi in September of that year to hammer out the details with Russia’s generals, they found the deal had changed. When they protested that Yeltsin had agreed to other terms, a Russian general replied, “Let the President sit in Moscow, drink vodka, and chase women. That’s his business. We are here, and we have our work to do.”

The Secret History of the Chechen War

8. (C) The lack of central control over the military, as well as officers’ cupidity, may have been a prime cause of the first Chechnya War. Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, energy prices in the “ruble zone” were 3 percent of world market prices. Government officials and their partners bought oil at ruble prices, diverted it abroad, and sold it on the world market. The military joined in this arbitrage. Pavel Grachev, then Defense Minister, reportedly diverted oil to Western Group of Forces commander Burlakov, who sold it in Germany.

9. (C) Chechnya was a major entrepot for laundering oil for this arbitrage. It appears to have been used both by the military (including Grachev) and the Khasbulatov-Rutskoy axis in the Duma. Dudayev had declared independence, but remained part of the Russian elite. Chechnya’s independence, oilfields, refineries and pipelines made Chechnya perfect for laundering oil. Planes, trains, buses and roads and pipelines to Chechnya were functioning, allowing anyone and anything to transit — except auditors. In the early 1990′s millions of tons of “Russian” oil entered Chechnya and were magically transformed into “Chechen” oil to be sold on the world market at world prices. Some of the proceeds went to buy the Chechens weaponry, most of it from the Russian military, and another lucrative trade developed. Dudayev took much of his cut of the proceeds in weapons. The Groznyy Bazaar was notorious in the early 1990s for the quantity and variety of arms for sale, including heavy weaponry.

10. (C) Chechnya was the home of Ruslan Khasbulatov and served various purposes for his faction of the Russian elite. He took advantage of the army’s independence from Yeltsin’s control. An informed source believes that it was Khasbulatov, not the “official” Russian government, who facilitated the transfer of Shamil Basayev and his heavily-armed fighters from Chechnya into Abkhazia in 1992, and who ordered the Russian air force to bomb Sukhumi when Shevardnadze went there to take personal command of the Georgians’ last stand in July 1993. The Yeltsin government always denied that it bombed Sukhumi, despite Western eyewitness accounts confirming the bombing and the insignia on the planes. Given the confusion of those years, it could well be that the order originated in the Duma, not the Kremlin.

11. (C) After Khasbulatov and Rutskoy were written out of the Russian equation in October 1993, so was Dudayev. Clandestine Russian support for the Chechen political and military opposition to Dudayev began in the spring of 1994, according to participants. When that proved ineffective, Russian bombing was deployed. (One Dudayev opponent recounted that in 1994 a Russian pilot was given a mission to fire a missile into one of the top-floor corners of Groznyy’s Presidency building at a time when Dudayev was scheduled to hold a cabinet meeting there. Not knowing Groznyy, the pilot asked which building to bomb, and was told “the tallest one.” He bombed a residential apartment building.) When air power, too, proved ineffective, Russian troops were secretly sent in to reinforce the armed opposition. Dudayev’s forces captured about a dozen and put them on television — and the Russian invasion began shortly thereafter.

12. (C) Given the gangsterish background of the war, it is no surprise that the military conducted the war itself as a profit-making enterprise, especially after the capture of Groznyy. By May 1995 an anti-Dudayev Chechen could lament, “When we invited the Russian army in we expected an army — not this band of marauders.” Contraband trade in oil, weapons (including direct sales from Russian military stores to the insurgents), drugs, and liquor, plus “protection” for legitimate trade made military service in Chechnya lucrative for those not on the front lines. This profitability ended only with the August 1996 defeat of Russian forces in Groznyy at the hands of the insurgents and the subsequent Russian withdrawal — a defeat made possible because the Russian forces were hollowed out by their officers’ corruption and pursuit of economic profit.

13. (C) Before they lost this “cash-cow” to their enemies, Russian officers went to great lengths to keep their friends from interfering with their profits. On July 30, 1995, the Russians and the Chechen insurgents signed a cease-fire agreement mediated by the OSCE. It would have meant the gradual withdrawal of Russian forces. Enforcing the cease-fire was a Joint Observation Commission (“SNK”). The head of the SNK was General Anatoliy Romanov, a competent and upright officer — very much a rarity in Chechnya. After two months at this assignment he was severely injured by a mine inside Groznyy, and has been hospitalized ever since. Informed observers believe Romanov’s own colleagues in the Russian forces carried out this murder attempt. The cease-fire, never enforced, broke down.

14. (C) When the second war began in September 1999, Russian forces again started profiteering from a trade in contraband oil. Western eyewitnesses reported convoys of Russian army trucks carrying oil leaving Groznyy under cover of night. Eventually the Russian forces reached an understanding with the insurgent fighters. Seeing one such convoy, a Western reporter asked his guerrilla hosts whether the fighters ever attacked such convoys. “No,” the leader replied. “They leave us alone and we leave them alone.”

No Exit for Putin

15. (C) Sometime between one and two years after Russian forces were unleashed for a second time on Chechnya, Putin appears to have realized that they were not going to deliver a neat victory. That failure would make Putin look weak at home, the human rights violations would estrange the West, and the drain on the Russian treasury would be punishing (this was before the dramatic rise in energy prices). Putin could not negotiate a peace with Maskhadov: he had already rejected that course and could not back down without appearing weak. The Khasavyurt accords that ended the first war were the result of defeat; a new set of accords would be seen as a new defeat. In any case, the history of the war (and the fate of General Romanov) made clear that negotiations without the subordination of the military were a physical impossibility.

16. (C) Putin thus found himself without a winning strategy and had to develop one. He has taken a two-pronged approach. One prong was subordinating the military. The appointment of Sergey Ivanov as Defense Minister appears to have been aimed at subjecting the military to the control of the security services. A series of reassignments and firings is the surface evidence of the struggle to subordinate the military in Chechnya. Southern Military District commander Troshev, who led the 1999 invasion, refused outright the first orders transferring him to Siberia in November 2002, and went on television to publicize his mutiny. He was finally removed in February 2003. Chief of the Defense Staff Kvashnin, who had held the Southern District command during the first Chechen war, hung on in a combative relationship with Ivanov for three years until he, too, was replaced in 2004 (and also sent to Siberia as the Presidential Representative in Novosibirsk). The spring 2005 dismissal of General Viktor Kazantsev, Putin’s Plenipotentiary Representative in the Southern Federal District, was reportedly the final link in the chain. Military corruption, and feeding at the trough of Chechnya, has not ended, but the corruption has reportedly been “institutionalized” and more closely regulated in Kremlin-controlled channels.

Chechenization, Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, and the Salafists

17. (C) The second prong of Putin’s strategy was to hand the fighting over to Chechens. “Chechenization” differs from Vietnamization or Iraqification. In those strategies, a loyalist force is strengthened to the point at which it can carry on the fight itself.Chechenization, in contrast, has meant handing Chechnya over to the guerrillas in exchange for their professions of loyalty, the formal retention of Chechnya within the Russian Federation, and an uneasy cooperation with Federal authorities that in practice is constantly re-negotiated.

18. (C) Chechenization is associated with Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, the insurgent commander and chief Mufti of separatist Chechnya. After he defected to the Russians, Putin put him in charge of the new Russian-installed Chechen administration. Chechenization was reportedly agreed between Kadyrov and Putin personally. But the seeds of the policy were sown by a split in the insurgent ranks dating to the first war. That split that took the form of a religious dispute, though it masked a power struggle among warlords. The split is the direct result of the introduction of a new element: Arab forces espousing a pan-Islamic Jihadist religious ideology.

19. (C) The traditional Islam of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia is based on Sufism, or Islamic mysticism. Though nominally the Sufi orders were the same as those predominant in Central Asia and Kurdistan — Naqshbandi and Qadiri — Sufism in the Northeast Caucasus took on a unique form in the 18th-19th century struggle against Russian encroachment. It is usually called “muridism.” Murids were armed acolytes of a hieratic commander, the murshid. Shaykh Shamil, the Naqshbandi murshid who led the mountaineers’ resistance to the Russians until his capture in 1859, was both a spiritual guide and a military commander. He also exercised government powers. The largest Sufi branch (“vird”) in Chechnya is the Kunta-Haji “vird” of the Qadiris, founded and led by the charismatic Chechen missionary Kunta-Haji Kishiyev until his exile by the Russians in 1864. Although the historical Kunta-Haji died two years later, his followers believe that Kunta-Haji lives on in occultation, like the Shi’a Twelfth Imam.

20. (C) When Arab fighters joined the Chechen conflict in 1995, they brought with them a “Salafist” doctrine that attempts to emulate the fundamental, “pure” Islam of the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors, especially ‘Umar, the second Caliph. It holds that mysticism is one of the “impurities” that crept into Islam after the first four Caliphs, and considers Sufis to be heretics and idolaters. The idea that Kunta-Haji adepts could believe their founder is still alive — and that they worship the grave of his mother — is an abomination to Salafis, who believe that marked graves are a form of pagan ancestor worship (Muhammad’s grave in Arabia is not marked).

21. (C) Wahhabism-based forms of Islam started appearing in Chechnya by 1991, as Chechens were able to travel and some went to Saudi Arabia for religious study. But the true influx of Salafis (usually lumped together with Wahhabis in Russia) came during the first Chechen war. In February 1995 Fathi ‘Ali al-Shishani, a Jordanian of Chechen descent, arrived in Chechnya. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he was now too old to be a combatant, but was a missionary for Salafism. He recruited another Afghan veteran, the Saudi al-Khattab, to come to Chechnya and lead a group of Arab fighters.

22. (C) Al-Khattab’s fighters were never a major military factor during the war, but they were the key to Gulf money, which financed power struggles in the inter-war years. Al-Khattab forged close links with Shamil Basayev, the most famous Chechen field commander. Basayev himself was from a Qadiri family, but he was too Sovietized to view Islam as anything more than part of the Chechen and Caucasus identity. In his early interviews, Basayev showed himself to be motivated by Chechen nationalism, not religion, though he paid lip-service — e.g., proclaiming Sharia law in Vedeno in early 1995 — to attract Gulf donors. Basayev’s initial interest in al-Khattab, as indeed with other jihadists starting even before the first war, was purely financial.

23. (C) After the first war, al-Khattab set up a camp in Serzhen-Yurt (“Baza Kavkaz”) for military and religious indoctrination. It provided one of the few employment opportunities for demobilized Chechen fighters between the wars. Young Chechens had traditionally engaged in seasonal migrant construction work throughout the Soviet Union, but after the first war that was no longer open to them. The closed international borders also precluded smuggling — another pre-war source of employment and income. The fighters had no money, no jobs, no education, no skills save with their guns, and no prospects. Al-Khattab’s offer of food, shelter and work was inviting. As a result, between the wars Salafism spread quickly in Chechnya. (Al-Khattab also invited missionaries and facilitators who set up shop in Chechnya, Dagestan and Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge, whose Kist residents are close relatives of the Chechens.)

Battle Lines in Peacetime

24. (C) Chechen society is distinguished by its propensity to unite in war and fragment in peace. It is based on opposing dichotomies: the Vaynakh peoples are divided into Chechens and Ingush; the Chechens are divided into highlanders (“Lameroi”) and lowlanders (“Nokhchi”); and these are further divided into tribal confederations and exogamous tribes (“teyp”) and their subdivisions. Each unit will unite with its opposite to combat a threat from outside. Two lowland teyps, for example, will drop quarrels and unite against an intruding highland teyp. But left to themselves, they will quarrel and split. After the Khasavyurt accords, when Russia left the Chechens alone, the wartime alliance between Maskhadov and Basayev split and the two became enemies. Other warlords lined up on one side or the other — the Yamadayev brothers of Gudermes, for example, fighting a pitched battle against Basayev in 1999. But the rise of Basayev and al-Khattab undermined Maskhadov’s authority and prevented him from exercising any real power.

25. (C) This power struggle took on a religious expression. Since Basayev was associated with al-Khattab and Salafism, Maskhadov positioned himself as champion of traditional Sufism. He surrounded himself with Sufi shaykhs and appointed Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, a strong adherent of Kunta-Haji Sufism, as Chechnya’s Mufti. Kadyrov had spent six years in Uzbekistan, allegedly at religious seminaries in Tashkent and Bukhara, and seems to have developed links to other enemies of Basayev, including the Yamadayevs.

26. (C) The religious division dictated certain policies to each side. The Sufi tradition of Maskhadov and Kadyrov had been associated for over two centuries with nationalist resistance. Basayev, with his new-found commitment to al-Khattab’s Salafism, adopted the Salafi stress on a pan-Islamic community (“umma”) fighting a worldwide jihad, notionally without regard for ethnic or national boundaries. Al-Khattab and Basayev invaded Dagestan in August 1999, avowedly in pursuit of a Caucasus-wide revolt against the Russians. They brought on a Russian invasion that threw Maskhadov out of Groznyy.

Chechenization Begins

27. (C) The second Russian invasion did not unite the Chechens, as previous pressure had. Perhaps the influence of al-Khattab and his Salafists, as well as the devastation of the first war, had rent the fabric of Chechen society too much to restore traditional unity in the face of the outside threat. (We should also remember that unity is relative. Only a small percentage of the Chechens actually fought in the first war, and many supported the Russians out of disgust with Dudayev.) Kadyrov and the Yamadayevs separately broke with Maskhadov and defected to the Russians. Kadyrov began to recruit from the insurgency non-Salafist nationalist fighters who were highly demoralized and disoriented by the disastrous retreat from Groznyy in late 1999. Kadyrov began to preach what Kunta-Haji had preached after the Russian victory over Imam Shamil in 1859: to survive, the Chechens needed tactically to accept Russian rule. His message struck a chord, and fighters began to defect to his side.

28. (C) Putin appears to have stumbled upon Kadyrov, and their alliance seems to have grown out of chance as much as design. But they were able to forge a deal along the following lines: Kadyrov would declare loyalty to Russia and deliver loyalty to Putin; he would take over Maskhadov’s place at the head of the Russian-blessed government of Chechnya; he would try to win over Maskhadov’s fighters, to whom he could promise immunity; he would govern Chechnya with full autonomy, without interference from Russian officials below Putin’s level; and he would try to exterminate Basayev and Al-Khattab.

29. (C) If the objective of Chechenization was to win over fighters who would carry on the fight against Basayev and the Arab successors to Khattab (who was poisoned in April 2002), it has to be judged a success. The real fighting has for several years been carried out by Chechen forces who fight the war they want to fight — not the one the Russian military wants them to — and who appear happy to kill Russians when they get in the way. The Russian military is “just trying to survive,” as one officer put it. Not all the pro-Moscow Chechen units are composed of former guerrillas. Said-Magomed Kakiyev, commander of the GRU-controlled “West” battalion, has been fighting Dudayev and his successors since 1993. But at the heart of the pro-Moscow effort are fighters who defected from the anti-Moscow insurgency.

The Military Overstays Its Welcome

30. (C) The development of Kadyrov’s fighting force, along with that of the Yamadayev brothers, left the stage clear for a drawdown of Russian troops, certainly by early 2004 (leaving aside a permanent garrison presence). But those troops, still not fully responsive to FSB control, did not want to leave. Especially now that Chechens had taken over increasing parts of the security portfolio, the Russian officers were free to concentrate on their economic activities, and in particular oil smuggling.

31. (C) Kadyrov could not be fully autonomous until he — not the Russians — controlled Chechnya’s oil. He therefore demanded the creation of a Chechen oil company under his jurisdiction. That would have severely limited the ability of federal forces to divert and smuggle oil. On May 9, 2004, Kadyrov was assassinated by an enormous bomb planted under his seat at the annual VE Day celebration. The killing was officially ascribed to Chechen rebels, but many believe it was the Russian Army’s way of rejecting Kadyrov’s demand. Under the circumstances, one cannot exclude that both versions are true.

In the Reign of Ramzan

32. (C) Kadyrov’s passing left power in the hands of his son Ramzan, who was officially made Deputy Prime Minister. The President, Alu Alkhanov, was a figurehead put in place because Ramzan was underage. The Prime Minister, Sergey Abramov, was tasked with interfacing between Kadyrov and Moscow below the level of Putin.

33. (C) Ramzan Kadyrov has none of the religious or personal prestige that his father had. He is a warlord pure and simple — one of several, like the Yamadayev family of warlords. He is lucky, however, in that his father left him a sufficient fighting force of ex-rebels. Though they may have been lured away from the insurgency for a variety of reasons, it is money that keeps them. Kadyrov feels little need for ideological or religious prestige, though he makes an occasional statement designed to appeal to Muslims, and makes a point of supporting the pilgrimage to the tomb of Kunta-Haji’s mother in Gunoy, near Vedeno (though that is in part to show he is stronger than Basayev, whose home and power base are in the Vedeno region). Kadyrov must only satisfy his troops, who on occasion have shown that, if offended or not given enough, they are willing to desert along with their kinsmen and return to the mountains to fight against him. He must also guard against the possibility, as some charge, that some of the fighters who went over to Federal forces did so under orders from guerrilla commanders for whom they are still working.

34. (C) Kadyrov is also fortunate in that the FSB, with whom he has close ties, has by this time emasculated the military as “prong one” of Putin’s strategy. Kadyrov has slowly but surely also taken over most of the spigots of money that once fed the army, and like his father he has started agitating for overt control over Chechnya’s oil (while prudently ensuring that others take the lead on that in public). Kadyrov is at least as corrupt as the military, but the money he expropriates for himself from Moscow’s subsidies is accepted as his pay-off for keeping things quiet. And indeed Kadyrov and the other warlords are capable of maintaining a certain degree of security in Chechnya. The showy “reconstruction” developments they have built in Groznyy and their home towns demonstrate that the guerrillas cannot or at least do not halt construction and economic activity. Moreover, there is enough security to end Putin’s worries about a secessionist victory. That has allowed Putin to demonstrate a new willingness to be increasingly overt in support of separatism in other conflicts (e.g., Abkhazia, Transnistria) when that advances Russian interests.

35. (C) Despite its successes to date, however, Putin’s strategy is far from completed. He still needs to keep forces in the region as a constant reminder to Kadyrov not to backtrack on his professed loyalty to the Kremlin. Ideally, that force would be small but capable of intervening effectively in Chechen internal affairs. That is unrealistic at present. The current forces, reportedly over 25,000, are bunkered and corrupt. When they venture on patrol they are routinely attacked. One attempt to redress this is to position Russian forces close but “over the horizon” in Dagestan, where a major military base is under construction at Botlikh. However, that may only add to the instability of Dagestan. A Duma Deputy from the region told us that locals are vehemently opposed to the new military base, despite the economic opportunities it represents, on grounds that the soldiers will “corrupt the morals of their children.”

36. (C) Another approach is the Chechenization of the Federal forces themselves. Recently “North” and “South” battalions of ethnically Chechen special forces — drawn from Kadyrov’s militia — were created to supplement the “East” and “West” battalions of Sulim Yamadayev and Said-Magomed Kakiyev. Those formations are officially part of the Russian army. The Kremlin strategy appears to be to check Kadyrov by promoting warlords he cannot control, and to check the FSB from becoming too clientized by allowing the MOD to retain a sphere of influence. In Chechnya, that is a recipe for open fighting. We saw one small instance of that on April 25, when bodyguards of Kadyrov and Chechen President Alkhanov got into a firefight. According to one insider, the clash originated in Kadyrov’s desire to get rid of Alkhanov, who now has close ties with Yamadayev.

What Can We Expect in the Future?

37. (C) The Chechen population is the great loser in this game. It bears an ever heavier burden in shake-downs, opportunity costs from misappropriation of reconstruction funds, and the constant trauma of victimization and abuse — including abduction, torture, and murder — by the armed thugs who run Chechnya (reftels). Security under those circumstances is a fragile veneer, and stability an illusion. The insurgency can continue indefinitely, at a low level and without prospects of success, but significant enough to serve as a pretext for the continued rule of thuggery.

38. (C) The insurgency will remain split between those who want to carry on Maskhadov’s non-Salafist struggle for national independence and those who follow the Salafi-influenced Basayev in his pursuit of a Caucasus-wide Caliphate. But the nationalists have been undercut by Kadyrov. Despite Sadullayev’s efforts, the insurgency inside Chechnya is not likely to meet with success and will continue to become more Salafist in tone.

39. (C) Prospects would be poor for the nationalists even if Kadyrov and/or Yamadayev were assassinated (and there is much speculation that one will succeed in killing the other, goaded on by the FSB which supports Kadyrov and the GRU which supports Yamadayev). The thousands of guerrillas who have joined those two militias have by now lost all ideological incentive. Since they already run the country, they feel themselves, not the Russians, to be the masters, and are not responsive to Sadullayev’s nationalist calls; Basayev’s Salafist message has even less appeal to them. Even if their current leaders are eliminated, all they will need is a new warlord, easily generated from within their organizations, and they can continue on their current paths.

40. (C) We expect that Salafism will continue to grow. The insurgents even inside Chechnya are reportedly becoming predominantly Salafist, as opposition on a narrowly nationalist basis offers less hope of success. Salafis will come both from inside Chechnya, where militia excesses outrage the population, and from elsewhere in the Caucasus, where radicalization is proceeding rapidly as a result of the repressive policies of Russia’s regional satraps. There are numerous eyewitness accounts from both Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria that elite young adults and university students are joining Salafist groups. In one case, a terrorist killed in Dagestan was found recently to have defended his doctoral dissertation at Moscow State University — on Wahhabism in the North Caucasus. These young adults, denied economic opportunities, turn to religion as an outlet. They find, however, that representatives of the traditional religious establishments in these republics, long isolated under the thumb of Soviet restrictions, are ill-educated and ill-prepared to deal with the sophisticated theological arguments developed by generations of Salafists in the Middle East. Most of those who join fundamentalist jamaats do not, of course, become terrorists. But a percentage do, and with that steady source of recruits the major battlefield could shift to outside Chechnya, with armed clashes in other parts of the North Caucasus and a continuation of sporadic but spectacular terrorist acts in Moscow and other parts of Russia.

41. (C) Outside Chechnya, the most likely venue for clashes with authorities is Dagestan. Putin’s imposition of a “power vertical” there has upset the delicate clan and ethnic balance that offered a shaky stability since the collapse of Soviet power. He installed a president (the weak Mukhu Aliyev) in place of a 14-member multi-ethnic presidential council. Aliyev will be unable to prevent a ruthless struggle among the elite — the local way of elaborating a new balance of power. This is already happening, with assassinations of provincial chiefs since Aliyev took over.

In one province in the south of the republic, an uprising against the chief appointed by Aliyev’s predecessor was suppressed by gunfire. Four demonstrators were shot dead, initiating a cycle of blood revenge. In May, in two Dagestani cities security force operations against “terrorists” resulted in major shootouts, with victims among the bystanders and whole apartment houses rendered uninhabitable after hits from the security forces’ heavy weaponry. It is not clear whether the “terrorists” were really religious activists (“Whenever they want to eliminate someone, they call him a Wahhabi,” the MP from Makhachkala told us). But the populace, seeing the deadly over-reaction of the security forces, is feeling sympathy for their victims — so much so that Aliyev has had to make public condemnations of the actions of the security forces. If this chaos deepens, as appears likely, the Jihadist groups (“jamaats”) may grow, drift further in Basayev’s direction, and feel the need to respond to attacks from the local government.

42. (C) Local forces are unreliable in such cases, for clan and blood-feud reasons. Wahhabist jamaats flourished in the strategic ethnically Dargin districts of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi in the mid-1990s, but Dagestan’s rulers left them alone because moving against them meant altering the delicate ethnic balance between Dargins and Avars. Only when the jamaats themselves became expansive during the Basayev/Khattab invasion from Chechnya in the summer of 1999 did the Makhachkala authorities take action, and then only with the assistance of Federal forces. Ultimately, if clashes break out on a wide scale in Dagestan, Moscow would have to send in the Federal army. Deploying the army to combat destabilization in Dagestan, however, could jeopardize Putin’s hard-won control over it. Unleashing the army against a “terrorist” threat is just that: allowing the army off its new leash. Large-scale army deployments to Dagestan would be especially attractive to the officers, since the border with Azerbaijan offers lucrative opportunities for contraband trade. The army’s presence, in turn, would further destabilize Dagestan and all but guarantee chaos.

43. (C) Indeed, destabilization is the most likely prospect we see when we look further down the road to the next decade. Chechenization allows bellicose Chechen leaders to throw their weight around in the North Caucasus even more than an independent Chechnya would. A case in point is the call on April 24 by Chechen Parliament Speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov for unification of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, implicitly under Chechen domination (the one million Chechens would constitute a plurality in the new republic of 4.5 million). The call soured slowly normalizing relations between Chechnya and Ingushetia, according to a Chechen official in Moscow, though the Dagestanis treated the proposal as a joke.

What Should Putin Be Doing?

44. (C) Right now Putin’s policy towards Chechnya is channeled through Kadyrov and Yamadayev. Putin’s Plenipotentiary Representative (PolPred) for the Southern Federal District, Dmitriy Kozak, appears to have little influence. He was not even invited when Putin addressed the new Parliament in Groznyy last December. Putin needs to stop taking Kadyrov’s phone calls and start working more through his PolPred and the government’s special services. He also needs to increase Moscow’s civilian engagement with Chechnya.

45. (C) Putin should continue to reform the military and the other Power Ministries. Having asserted control through Sergey Ivanov, Putin has denied the military certain limited areas in which it had pursued criminal activity — but left most of its criminal enterprises untouched. He has done little if anything to form the discipline of a modern army deployable to impose order in unstable regions such as the North Caucasus. Recent hazing incidents show that discipline is still equated with sadism and brutality. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has undergone even less reform. The Chechenization of the security services, despite its obvious drawbacks, has shown that locals can carry out security tasks more effectively than Russian troops.

46. (C) Lastly, Putin should realize that his current policy course is not preventing the growth of militant, armed Jihadism. Rather, every time his subordinates try to douse the flames, the fire grows hotter and spreads farther. Putin needs to check the firehose; he may find they are spraying the fire with gasoline. He needs to work out a credible strategy, employing economic and cultural levers, to deal with the issue of armed Jihadism. Some Russians do “get it.” An advisor to Kozak gave a lecture recently that showed he understands in great detail the issues surrounding the growth of militant jihadism. Kozak himself made clear in a recent conversation with the Ambassador that he appreciates clearly the deep social and economic roots of Russia’s problems in the North Caucasus — and the need to employ more than just security measures to solve them. We have not, however, seen evidence that consciousness of the true problem has yet made its way to Moscow from Kozak’s office in Rostov-on-Don.

47. (C) We need also to be aware that Putin’s strategy is generating a backlash in Moscow. Ramzan Kadyrov’s excesses, his Putin-given immunity from federal influence, and the special laws that apply to Chechnya alone (such as the exemption of Chechens from military service elsewhere in Russia) are leading to charges by some Moscow observers that Putin has allowed Chechnya de facto to secede. Putin is strong enough to weather such criticism, but the ability of a successor to do so is less clear.

Is There a Role for the U.S.?

48. (C) Russia does not consider the U.S. a friend in the Caucasus, and our capacity to influence Russia, whether by pressure, persuasion or assistance, is small. What we can do is continue to try to push the senior tier of Russian officials towards the realization that current policies are conducive to Jihadism, which threatens broader stability as well; and that shifting the responsibility for victimizing and looting the people from a corrupt, brutal military to corrupt, brutal locals is not a long-term solution.

49. (C) Making headway with Putin or his successor will require close cooperation with our European allies. They, like the Russians, tend to view the issue through a strictly counter-terrorism lens. The British, for example, link their “dialogue with Islam” closely with their counter-terrorist effort (on which they liaise with the Russians), reinforcing the conception of a monolithic Muslim identity predisposed to terrorism. That reinforces the Russian view that the problem of the North Caucasus can be consigned to the terrorism basket, and that finding a solution means in the first instance finding a better way to kill terrorists.

50. (C) We and the Europeans need to put our proposals of assistance to the North Caucasus in a different context: one that recognizes the role of religion in North Caucasus cultures, but also emphasizes our interest in and support for the non-religious aspects of North Caucasus society, including civil society. This last will need exceptional delicacy, as the Russians and the local authorities are convinced that the U.S. uses civil society to foment “color revolutions” and anti-Russian regimes. There is a danger that our civil society partners could become what Churchill called “the inopportune missionary” who, despite impeccable intentions, sets back the larger effort. That need not be the case.

51. (C) Our interests call for an understanding of the context and a positive emphasis. We cannot expect the Russians to react well if we limit our statements to condemnations of Kadyrov, butcher though he may be. We need to find targeted areas in which we can work with the Russians to get effective aid into Chechnya. At the same time, we need to be on our guard that our efforts do not appear to constitute U.S. support for Kremlin or local policies that abuse human rights. We must also avoid a shift that endorses the Kremlin assertion that there is no longer a humanitarian crisis in Chechnya, which goes hand-in-hand with the Russian request that the UN and its donors end humanitarian assistance to the region and increase technical and “recovery” assistance. We and other donors need to maintain a balance between humanitarian and recovery assistance.

52. (C) Aside from the political optic, a rush to cut humanitarian assistance before recovery programs are fully up and running would leave a vacuum into which jihadist influences would leap. The European Commission Humanitarian Organization, the largest provider of aid, shows signs of rushing to stress recovery over humanitarian assistance; we should not follow suit. Humanitarian assistance has been effective in relieving the plight of Chechen IDPs in Ingushetia. It has been less effective inside Chechnya, where the GOR and Kadyrov regime built temporary accommodation centers for returning IDPs, but have not passed on enough resources to secure a reasonable standard of living. International organizations are hampered by limited access to Chechnya out of security concerns, but where they are able to operate freely they have made a great difference, e.g., WHO’s immunization program.

53. (C) Resources aimed at Chechnya often wind up in private pockets. Though international assistance has a better record than Russian assistance and is more closely monitored, we must also be wary of assistance that lends itself to massive corruption and state-sponsored banditry in Chechnya: too much of the money loaned in a microfinance program there, for example, would be expropriated by militias. Presidential Advisor Aslakhanov told us last December that Kadyrov expropriates for himself one third off the top of all assistance. Therefore, while we continue well-monitored humanitarian assistance inside Chechnya, we should broaden our efforts for “recovery” to other parts of the region that are threatened by jihadism: Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and possibly Karachayevo-Cherkessia. Among these, we need to try to steer our assistance ($11.5 million for FY 2006) to regional officials, such as President Kanokov of Kabardino-Balkaria, who have shown that they are willing to introduce local reforms and get rid of the brutal security officials whose repressive acts feed the Jihadist movement.

54. (C) We also need to coordinate closely with Kozak (or his successor), both to strengthen his position vis–vis the warlords and to ensure that everything we do is perceived by the Russians as transparent and not aimed at challenging the GOR’s hold on a troubled region. The present opposite perception by the GOR may be behind its reluctance to cooperate with donors, the UN and IFIs on long-term strategic engagement in the region. For example, the GOR has delayed for months a 20-million-Euro TACIS program designed with GOR input.

55. (C) The interagency paper “U.S. Policy in the North Caucasus — The Way Forward” provides a number of important principles for positive engagement. We need to emphasize programs in accordance with those principles which are most practical under current and likely future conditions, and which can be most effective in targeting the most vulnerable, where federal and local governments lack the will and capacity to assist, and in combating the spread of jihadism both inside Chechnya and throughout the North Caucasus region. There are areas — for example, health care and child welfare — in which assistance fits neatly with Russian priorities, containing both humanitarian and recovery components.

56. (C) We can also emphasize programs that help create jobs and job opportunities: microfinance (where feasible), credit cooperatives and small business development, and educational exchanges. U.S. sponsored training programs for credit cooperatives and government budgeting functions have been very popular. Exchanges, through the IVP program and Community Connections, are an especially effective way of exposing future leaders to the world beyond the narrow propaganda they have received, and to generate a multiplier effect in enterprise. In addition to the effects the programs themselves can have in providing alternatives to religious extremism, such assistance can also have a demonstration effect: showing the Russians that improved governance and delivery of services can be more effective in stabilizing the region than attempts to impose order by force.

57. (C) Lastly, we need to look ahead in our relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia to ensure that they become more active and effective players in helping to contain instability in the North Caucasus. That will serve their own security interests as well. Salafis need connections to their worldwide network. Strengthening border forces is more important than ever. Azerbaijan, especially, is well placed to trade with Dagestan and Chechnya. The ethnic Azeris, Lezghis and Avars living on both sides of the Azerbaijan-Dagestan border and friendly relations between Russia and Azerbaijan are tools for promoting stability.

Conclusion

58. (C) The situation in the North Caucasus is trending towards destabilization, despite the increase in security inside Chechnya. The steps we believe Putin must take are those needed to reverse that trend, and the efforts we have outlined for ourselves are premised on a desire to promote a lasting stabilization built on improved governance, a more active civil society, and steps towards democratization. But we must be realistic about Russia’s willingness and ability to take the necessary steps, with or without our assistance. Real stabilization remains a low probability. Sound policy on Chechnya is likely to continue to founder in the swamp of corruption, Kremlin infighting and succession politics. Much more probable is a new phase of instability that will be felt throughout the North Caucasus and have effects beyond.

BURNS

(Reprinted from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 

A foreign “subversive” journalist, driven by fevered idealism, publishes reams of leaked internal documents from an Authority that, beneath its carefully positioned mask of civility, honor and justice, views the whole world – of both friend or foe – as its own playground, and engages in the most corrupt and underhanded wheelings and dealing to maintain its lofty pretensions to hegemony. Though the Authority is entirely comfortable with selectively using the material contained therein to legitimize its ideological-imperialist projects to the public, its minions in the Mainstream Media and even its most prominent Archons experience no cognitive dissonance in calling for that accursed fiend, the revealer, to be branded with the number of the Beast that is “terrorist”, and to be henceforth sentenced to eternal imprisonment, or the death penalty, or the most apocalyptic of all, a Perunian thunderstrike from the skies. Now if this were real life as allegory, what would it it refer to?

Perhaps its the Mooslims? Nah, the Islamists aren’t that well organized or articulate. More to the point, they don’t leave extensive paper trails. The Rooskies? But when Russian officials make shady threats, their targets at least tend to be Russian Federation citizens and real traitors. No – as usual, it’s the West and its hypocrisy at its finest.

Now let’s make some things clear, first. As Defense Sec. Robert Gates correctly points out, the real impact of Wikileaks is modest. For instance, one of the ostensible “shocker” cables, revealing the support of the Arab elites for a US strike on Iranian nuclear installations, was well known in geopolitical circles well beforehand (heck, I mentioned this back in August and earlier). Even the impact of these official revelations on the “Arab street” are likely to be minimal, given that (1) polls show a (slight) majority of Arabs in Egypt and Lebanon willing to resort to military force to prevent an Iranian nuke and (2) alleged censorship of Wikileaks in the region.

Nor is Wikileaks – at least as of now – causing major tensions, or repressive attempts at censorship, in countries like Russia. (PLEASE READ: Throwing Down the Gauntlet on Wikileaks & Russia). This is in stark contrast to the claims of the Western MSM in the prelude to Cablegate, e.g. Christian Science Monitor:

Wikileaks ready to drop a bombshell on Russia. But will Russians get to read about it? Wikileaks is about to release documents on Russia, but the tightly-controlled Russian media is unlikely to report them the way Western media attacked the documents about Afghanistan and Iraq.

Which is of course why state news agency RIA and Gazprom-owned Kommersant both reported it on the same day. And as of now, there are literally thousands of results in the Russian news on Cablegate. Way to fail LOL!

Then Simon Shuster writing for TIME took an anonymous FSB comment (to Russian website LifeNews) and ran with it to make all kinds of fantastical insinuations about how the Kremlin would poison Assange or crash the Wikileaks site. Of course the Pentagon’s / CIA’s war against Assange is hardly mentioned (remember the 100-strong anti-Wikileaks unit set up by the Pentagon? The honey trap & rape accusations against Assange in Sweden?), but the funniest quote is this one:

So the most likely Russian reaction, at least at first, would be to undermine the authenticity of the alleged secrets. “That is the main tool, to filter it through the state-controlled mass media, which would discredit WikiLeaks and put into question the reliability of its sources,” says Nikolai Zlobin, director of the Russia and Eurasia Project at the World Security Institute in Washington, D.C. “This would limit any public debate of the leak to the Russian internet forums and news websites, which reach a tiny fraction of the population.”

Guess what, I agree! The only problem is that Russia would just be ripping a page straight out off the Western playbook!

As of now, Russia is surviving the Wikileaks storm in pretty good shape. What have we got so far? The absolutely shocking kompromat on the Kremlin-ideologist-without-an-ideology Surkov, who apparently has an Obama portrait in his office and likes Tupac; Ramzan Kadyrov clumsily dancing with a gold-plated Kalashnikov stuck in his jeans at a Daghestani wedding that might as well be out of a modern day Prisoner of the Caucasus novel; the Russian account of the South Ossetia War is if anything further confirmed, the picture being one of US diplomats willing to believe anything their Georgian intermediaries told them about the evil imperialist Rooskies; oh, and the matter of Russia being a “mafia kleptcracy”, at least as per US diplomats channeling marginal Russian oppositionists.

González said the FSB had two ways to eliminate “OC leaders who do not do what the security services want them to do”. The first was to kill them. The second was to put them in jail to “eliminate them as a competitor for influence”.

Erm, isn’t this what security forces anywhere are SUPPOSED to do?? (And I’d note there’s no shortage of historical examples of the CIA working hand in hand with organized crime to reach desired political outcomes in foreign countries, e.g. see Operation GLADIO). And, I mean, sure, it’s no secret to anybody who doesn’t live underneath a rock that there’s lots of shady and rather nasty people in the Russian bureaucracy; but without any names, there’s nothing new and all this diplo gossiping is all rather useless. Former Moscow Mayor Luzhkov is a centroid of corruption? You don’t say… (and perhaps soon to be forgotten with his recent ousting and move into the opposition).

As with Russia, there is – as of now – nothing truly compromising in the US files. Just some uncomfortable moments, and assessments of foreign leaders: e.g. see above, and the characterization of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev as being “Michael (Corleone) on the outside, Sonny on the inside”, and his alleged use of criminal slang. Remember the walkout on Ahmadinejad’s UN speech? Wikileaks reveals that it was an American initiative. The Swedish ambassador was supposed to leave the hall when Ahmadinejad came to the keyword “Holocaust” (and presumably its denial as he is wont to do). But this time Ahmadinejad refrained. So the poor Swede was left in a fluster when Ahmadinejad actually failed to mention the H-word, and could only frantically consult the Americans on what to do next. And so the circus goes on…

But none of this is the real point. Up till now, Wikileaks is just not that big of a game changer. The real point is the reaction to them in the West. And what that reaction says about the erosion of civil liberties in the past decade in the name of the holy “war on terror.” Regrettably, it is at this point that #cablegate is no longer a laughing matter. It becomes a mirror on the degenerating Western political soul.

Now I don’t know about you, but when an adviser to Canadian PM Harper openly calls for the assassination of Julian Assange (with no apparent consequences); when in actions reminiscent of China’s iron grip on its Internet, US politicians presume to demand – and get – American servers to pull Wikileaks; when there is serious consideration at the highest political levels of charging foreigners with treason against the US (a contradiction in terms); when former and potential future US Presidential candidates like Sarah Palin* – not to mention prominent commentators and numberless freepers – call for Assange to be “pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders”, and assassinated without charges, trial or due process; when all this happens, I become concerned about the future sustainability of the liberal political system in the face of the creeping advance of the national security-cum-surveillance state.

I don’t want to be melodramatic, but the right’s reaction to this affair is eerily totalitarian. Dehumanization? Check – see the rape charges, the classic intelligence agency smear against inconvenients everything.

On the issue of the Interpol arrest warrant issued yesterday for Assange’s arrest: I think it’s deeply irresponsible either to assume his guilt or to assume his innocence until the case plays out. I genuinely have no opinion of the validity of those allegations, but what I do know — as John Cole notes — is this: as soon as Scott Ritter began telling the truth about Iraqi WMDs, he was publicly smeared with allegations of sexual improprieties. As soon as Eliot Spitzer began posing a real threat to Wall Street criminals, a massive and strange federal investigation was launched over nothing more than routine acts of consensual adult prostitution, ending his career (and the threat he posed to oligarchs). And now, the day after Julian Assange is responsible for one of the largest leaks in history, an arrest warrant issues that sharply curtails his movement and makes his detention highly likely.

If I had to make a guess, I’d say Assange’s impropriety was limited to a one-night stand, in a culture where awkwardly lengthy dating and mating rituals are the apparent norm. Presumably, he failed to “satisfy” the ladies – not due to any lack of his own efforts, if it was a CIA sting – and thus got himself screwed several months later.

After the smear, as chronicled by Glenn Greenwald, comes “the increasingly bloodthirsty two-minute hate session aimed at Julian Assange, also known as the new Osama bin Laden“:

The ringleaders of this hate ritual are advocates of — and in some cases directly responsible for — the world’s deadliest and most lawless actions of the last decade. And they’re demanding Assange’s imprisonment, or his blood, in service of a Government that has perpetrated all of these abuses and, more so, to preserve a Wall of Secrecy which has enabled them. To accomplish that, they’re actually advocating — somehow with a straight face — the theory that if a single innocent person is harmed by these disclosures, then it proves that Assange and WikiLeaks are evil monsters who deserve the worst fates one can conjure, all while they devote themselves to protecting and defending a secrecy regime that spawns at least as much human suffering and disaster as any single other force in the world. That is what the secrecy regime of the permanent National Security State has spawned. …

In this latest WikiLeaks release — probably the least informative of them all, at least so far — we learned a great deal as well. Juan Cole today details the 10 most important revelations about the Middle East. Scott Horton examines the revelation that the State Department pressured and bullied Germany out of criminally investigating the CIA’s kidnapping of one of their citizens who turned out to be completely innocent. … British officials, while pretending to conduct a sweeping investigation into the Iraq War, were privately pledging to protect Bush officials from embarrassing disclosures. Hillary Clinton’s State Department ordered U.N. diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data in order to spy on top U.N. officials and others, likely in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961 (see Articles 27 and 30; and, believe me, I know: it’s just “law,” nothing any Serious person believes should constrain our great leaders).

And there’s no shortage of that freeper and neocon carrion awaiting the feeding frenzy with baited breath.

First we have the group demanding that Julian Assange be murdered without any charges, trial or due process. There was Sarah Palin on on Twitter illiterately accusing WikiLeaks — a stateless group run by an Australian citizen — of “treason”; she thereafter took to her Facebook page to object that Julian Assange was “not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders” (she also lied by stating that he has “blood on his hands”: a claim which even the Pentagon admits is untrue). Townhall’s John Hawkins has a column this morning entitled “5 Reasons The CIA Should Have Already Killed Julian Assange.” That Assange should be treated as a “traitor” and murdered with no due process has been strongly suggested if not outright urged by the likes of Marc Thiessen, Seth Lipsky (with Jeffrey Goldberg posting Lipsky’s column and also illiterately accusing Assange of “treason”), Jonah Goldberg, Rep. Pete King, and, today, The Wall Street Journal.

The way in which so many political commentators so routinely and casually call for the eradication of human beings without a shred of due process is nothing short of demented. Recall Palin/McCain adviser Michael Goldfarb’s recent complaint that the CIA failed to kill Ahmed Ghailani when he was in custody, or Glenn Reynolds’ morning demand — in between sips of coffee — that North Korea be destroyed with nuclear weapons (“I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs”). Without exception, all of these people cheered on the attack on Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent human beings, yet their thirst for slaughter is literally insatiable. After a decade’s worth of American invasions, bombings, occupations, checkpoint shootings, drone attacks, assassinations and civilian slaughter, the notion that the U.S. Government can and should murder whomever it wants is more frequent and unrestrained than ever.

Those who demand that the U.S. Government take people’s lives with no oversight or due process as though they’re advocating changes in tax policy or mid-level personnel moves — eradicate him!, they bellow from their seats in the Colosseum — are just morally deranged barbarians. There’s just no other accurate way to put it. These are usually the same people, of course, who brand themselves “pro-life” and Crusaders for the Sanctity of Human Life and/or who deride Islamic extremists for their disregard for human life. ….

It didn’t have to be this way. The ultimate significance of Wikileaks is limited: it gives the peons a glimpse into high diplomacy (and underlines the US need for greater information control in this sphere); as Craig Willy points out, it enables a convergence of history and political science, and hence a “contemporary history” (the same point is made by Timothy Garton Ash); and it underlines the rather colonialist, entitlement-ridden, and frequently culturally challenged (just consult the Moscow cables in which diplomats repeat the MSM journalists on Russia virtually verbatim) mindset of the US diplomatic corps. But little of it is can be considered truly malevolent**.

No, what’s really damning about this affair is the elite’s uniform propaganda against an organ committed to finding and leaking their darkest and most sordid secrets. The compliance of the “exceptional” and “constitutional-loving” Western sheeple in further promoting their already abysmal ignorance. And funniest of all, the Fourth Estate’s own screeds against government openness and unaccountability: “uncritically passing on one government claim after the next — without any contradiction, challenge, or scrutiny”, and their sole complaint being that the glorious State isn’t restrictive enough. As I wrote about the Western MSM years back:

Control is all about imposing your view of reality on the minds of others. Since overt political persecution is no longer widely accepted, the elites have resorted to fighting wars over hearts and minds. Western media manipulation is not readily noticeable, since if that were the case the simulation’s plausibility would fall apart immediately (as was the case in the Soviet Union)…This makes them far more insidious and dangerous to freedom than any repressive dictatorship; for in the latter one knows one is a slave, while too many Westerners continue to be believe they are free, whereas in fact they are also slaves, like the rest of us.

It’s truer than ever, as Westerners shun or smash the last mirrors available to them, and Orwell continues spinning in his grave.

* I left the message “I support Sarah’s righteous demand to hunt down Assange in close cooperation with our North Korean allies” at Sarah Palin’s Facebook Page. It was a reference to a recent gaffe of hers (or more likely a demonstration of political cluelessness). A few hours later, I discovered that my comment had been removed and censored, and that I was also blocked from making further comments on Sarah Palin’s Facebook page

** I must also stress that these cables are far from the most highly classified secrets. The real juicy bits can only be accessed by the President and a dozen others, but the chances of them ever being Wikileaked are really, really low.

EDIT: This article has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.Ru (Wikileaks как зеркальное отображение Запада); almost as if to prove my point here! ;)

(Reprinted from Sublime Oblivion 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.