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 Russian Reaction Blog / Western HypocrisyTeasers

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

Via Nicholas Nassim Taleb:

nntaleb-assad-vs-moderate-rebels

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

One of the main thrusts of the Maidanist Ukrainian and Western information campaign against Russia during the Ukrainian conflict has beeen the allegation that the NAF (Novorossiyan Armed Forces) were mostly manned by Russian citizens or even the Russian military.

This is not to say that there haven’t been voices of dissent. For instance, Prof. Paul Robinson (and Russia blogger) has argued that 80-90% of NAF fighters were locals, while even The Times’ Russia/Ukraine correspondent Mark Franchetti confirmed in summer 2014 on the Shuster Show in Kiev that based on his observations Russians amongst the rebels were a decided minority – for which he was roundly booed by the Ukrainian audience.

However, thoughout the past two years, anyone making such claims in the West ran the risk of being branded as a Russian shill. Anyone making such claims in Ukraine itself ran the risk of actually being arrested and imprisoned for the crimes of “separatism” or “denying Russian aggression.”

It just so happens however that the basic truth of the arguments that Russian citizens constituted a decided minority of NAF fighters and consequently that the war in Donbass was primarily a Ukrainian civil war has recently been confirmed – and by an organization whose Ukrainian nationalist pedigree is unquestionable – the “Peacekeeper” website.

This Ukrainian government linked website’s most significant informational peremogas (victories) include publishing the personal details of anti-Maidan journalists, some of whom like Oles Buzina would soon after be murdered, and doxxing Russian airmen serving in Syria while calling for Islamic State to take care of them and their family “by the canons of sharia.” More recently, they published a list of Ukrainian and foreign journalists who had received accreditation from the DNR, naming them “scoundrels” and “collaborators” and listing their personal details (the list included such famous Kremlin propagandists as Simon Ostrovsky).

Three weeks ago, the Maidan’s telephone directory for assassins came out with its latest coup – a list of “fighters and mercenaries” recruited by the DNR during the summer of 2014.

But, hidden within this peremoga, there was an awful zrada (betrayal): As first calculated by Ivan Katchanovski, the data revealed that of the 1,572 recruits, some 78% of them were Ukrainian citizens – a good majority of whom were from Donbass. 19% were Russian citizens, 2% were citizens of other countries, and the rest had unknown citizenship. Bearing in mind the high intensity of personal and familial ties between the Donbass and the Russian Kuban inherited from Soviet days, the percentage of DNR fighters who are true “foreign adventurists” is probably closer to just 10%. This is less or even much less than in many armed conflicts that are incontrovertibly regarded as civil wars.

Of course Ukrainian coverage of this leak paid zero attention to the inconvenient question of national compositions, and Western coverage too singularly failed to latch on to it apart from a few geopolitically orientated and generally “Russophile” alt media sites and a couple of academics such as Ivan Katchanovski. These facts are however crucial to understanding the depth of local anger towards the Maidan regime in the Donbass and why the Kremlin will find it hard to “shove” it back into Ukraine even if it really wanted to.

 

Long live the European court, the most humane court in the world! /s

hague-double-standards

That is why seven times as many Croat and more than ten times as many Albanian war crimes suspects, in percentage terms relative to Serbs, were acquitted by the Hague Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, with Radovan Karadzic being just its latest victim. (Source via this recent infographic from Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda).

No matter that well before Srebrenica you had Sisak, where 595 Serb civilians of which 120 were women were disappeared by Croatian paramilitaries in 1991-1992. Everyone has heard of Srebrenica; almost nobody has heard heard of Sisak. The largest ethnic cleansing action of the entire war occurred in the wake of Operation Storm, when 200,000 Serbs were removed from the territories of Serbian Krajina to create the homogenous Croatia we have today. Croatia’s wartime leader Tudjman died peacefully and was buried with full honors and with no protests from the West.

It’s hard to think of an ethnic group, barring the Jews and possibly the Armenians, that has had a more traumatic 20th century. 25% of Serbians died in World War I. Another 25% died again in WW2 at the hands of the Nazis’ rabid hounds, the Ustaše. They were then incorporated into a federal state headed by an ethnic Croat whose internal divisions stranded many Serbs outside of Serbia’s borders. When in the wake of Yugoslavia’s collapse those stranded Serbs took up arms to defend themselves against revived nationalisms in Croatia and Bosnia – and ultimately, in their own country, against the metastasized Molenbeek that was Kosovo – they were steadily pushed back to their bombed out heartlands, unable to mount a sustained resistance against the Clinton clique’s sponsorship of the Croats and the Kosovars, cowardly betrayals from the Yeltsin regime in Russia, and the vaccilating Milosevic himself, always seeking to make deals with the “Western partners” (he only wised up to the fact that you can never trust the West by the time he was on the dock).

To round it all off, it was Serbia that had to send all its wartime leaders and generals off to the absolutely fair and impartial judgments of the Hague Tribunal – so fair and impartial that three times as many Serbs received prison sentences than all the other combatant parties combined – to be sacrificed on the altar of promised Euro-Atlantic integration.

A promise that now rings as almost completely hollow, the only result since then being the accession of Croatia to the EU, while Serbia has continued falling apart with the loss of Montenegro. And as of today, it is increasingly clear that the only additional peoples the EU is interested in integrating – or trying to, anyway – are young male Muslim refugees.

But not all hope is yet lost.

Perhaps Karadzic will eventually be seen not as the last knight of a dying order, but as one of the first heralds of a new dawn. It was NATO’s attack on Serbia more than anything else that lifted Russia from its blind-drunk 1990s pro-Western stupor, and it has become more and more active at countering further Western designs on its territories – in Crimea and Novorossiya, and in the sovereign state of Syria. The pushback against the globalist cabal will continue and this time Serbia will no longer be alone should it rejoin the struggle.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that Karadzic, despite his advanced age, will live long enough to see the wrongs done unto his people this past century avenged and to set foot one last time on a liberated Serbia.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: European Union, Serbia, Western Hypocrisy 

To be sure, Trump is no affable geezer like Bernie.

bernie-oval-office-blm

That said, he has nothing on Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has excoriated Donald Trump for failing to stop a supporter from roughing up a protester during a speech, saying “This kind of behavior is repugnant. We set the tone for our campaigns — we should encourage respect, not violence.” Yet, in 2011, she did nothing to stop security personnel from brutalizing a 71-year-old veteran who stood silently with his back to her during a speech.

The protester, Ray McGovern, a retired Army officer and CIA analyst, was wearing a black “Veterans for Peace” T-shirt, when he was set upon within sight of Secretary of State Clinton, who ironically was delivering a speech about the importance of foreign leaders respecting dissent. The assault on McGovern left him bruised and bloodied but it didn’t cause Clinton to pause as she coolly continued on, not missing a beat.

Note that this was a completely non-violent and even non-verbal protest in contrast to the BLM titushki hired by Soros to disrupt Trump’s rallies.

On Feb. 15, 2011, McGovern attended Clinton’s GWU speech, deciding on the spur of the moment after feeling revulsion at the “enthusiastic applause” that welcomed the Secretary of State “to dissociate myself from the obsequious adulation of a person responsible for so much death, suffering and destruction.

“The fulsome praise for Clinton from GW’s president and the loud, sustained applause also brought to mind a phrase that as a former Soviet analyst at CIA I often read in Pravda. When reprinting the text of speeches by high Soviet officials, the Communist Party newspaper would regularly insert, in italicized parentheses: ‘Burniye applaudismenti; vce stoyat’ , Stormy applause; all rise.

“With the others at Clinton’s talk, I stood. I even clapped politely. But as the applause dragged on, I began to feel like a real phony. So, when the others finally sat down, I remained standing silently, motionless, wearing my ‘Veterans for Peace’ T-shirt, with my eyes fixed narrowly on the rear of the auditorium and my back to the Secretary.

“I did not expect what followed: a violent assault in full view of Madam Secretary by what we Soviet analysts used to call the ‘organs of state security.’ The rest is history, as they say. A short account of the incident can be found here.

“As the video of the event shows, Secretary Clinton did not miss a beat in her speech as she called for authoritarian governments to show respect for dissent and to refrain from violence. She spoke with what seemed to be an especially chilly sang froid, as she ignored my silent protest and the violent assault which took place right in front of her.

But no, it is Donald Trump who is the thuggish authoritarian Hitler reborn.

Incidentally, this is an excellent metaphor for Hillary Clinton’s politics if there ever was one.

Subsequently, McGovern was placed on the State Department’s “Be On the Look-out” or BOLO alert list, instructing police to “USE CAUTION, stop” and question him and also contact the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Command Center.

After learning of the BOLO alert, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), which is representing McGovern in connection with the 2011 incident, interceded to have the warning lifted. But McGovern wondered if the warning played a role in 2014 when he was aggressively arrested by New York City police at the entrance to the 92nd Street Y where he had hoped to pose a question to a speaker there, one of Clinton’s friendly colleagues, former CIA Director and retired General David Petraeus.

In contrast, the man who rushed up to Donald Trump on stage in what could potentially have been seen as an assassination attempt got rewarded with an interview with CNN for his trouble.

 

In the past few days there has been a sort of alt-singularity as Putin and Trump exchanged compliments, as one might think befits mature heads of powerful states (one actual, one potential). Naturally, one of these men has been taking a lot of heat for it from all the empty suit punditry and the Cuck-in-Chief himself:

Far from apologizing and backing down, Trump has instead doubled down. This is really encouraging, because it suggest that his opposition to invade/invite the world is borne of genuine convictions, and that increasing numbers of Americans are beginning to wake up to the scams the elites run on them. And of course it doesn’t hurt that the facts are solidly, incontrovertibly on Trump’s side, regardless of how much the presstitutes might hate it.

(1)

Putin’s approval rating, from National Review:

Donald Trump: Well, he is a strong leader! What am I gonna say, he’s a weak leader? He’s making mincemeat out of our president. He’s a strong leader. You would like me to call him a weak leader. He’s a strong leader, and I’m not gonna be politically correct. He’s got an 80 percent approval rating done by pollsters, from I understand this country, okay? So it’s not even done by his pollsters, he’s very popular within Russia!

That is correct. A Gallup survey conducted in 2014 showed Putin with an approval rating of 83%. The latest poll from the (liberal-leaning) Levada Center gives him 85%. A recent study by four American political scientists confirm his genuinely high level of support at around 80% or more.

(2)

No evidence Putin kills journalists, from Breitbart:

Stephanopoulos said, “Here’s what Mitt Romney tweeted, ‘there’s an important distinction, thug Putin kills journalists and opponents our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.”

Trump said, “Does he know for a fact? It’s possible that he does. I don’t think it’s been proven. I’m not trying to be –”

Stephanopoulos interjected, “Allegations he was behind,” then Trump continued, “Sure, there are allegations. I have read those allegations over the years. But nobody’s proven that he’s killed anybody … If he has killed reporters, that’s terrible. He’s always denied it. He’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody. You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty at least in our country. He’s not proven that he’s killed reporters.” …

Trump answered, “I’m not saying anything. I’m saying when you say a man killed reporters I’d like you to prove it.I have never seen any information or any proof that he killed reporters, George, you’re just saying, he killed reporters. You and other people killed reporters. I don’t know that. I haven’t seen it. If he did it’s despicable. It’s horrible. You’re making these accusations, I don’t see any proof. By the way, he totally denied that he killed reports are. He totally denied it.”

This particularly enraged Establishment commentators, but once again Trump is completely right and cannot be stumped. There is absolutely no evidence that Putin ordered the assassination of a single journalist.

Moreover, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists – hardly a bastion of Putin apologists – journalist murders have plummeted in Russia under the reign of the Dark Lord of the Kremlin relative to the “free” and “democratic” 1990s when the US was best buddies with Russia, or at least the oligarchs pillaging it, and for that matter whacking any journalists who dared report on their activities.

Literally MORE Russian journalists were murdered for their reporting under 8 years of Yeltsin than 15 years under Putin.

cpj-journalists-killed-in-russia-1992-to-2015

Note also the following:

(1) Russia has a lot of journalists – according to UN data, it has twice the number of newspaper journalists as the US (despite having half the population). Adjusted for per capita rates, Russian journalists have always been far safer than any number of “democratic” countries that get on with the US such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Colombia. Even in the 1990s. And this is despite the fact that under Putin, the CPJ has been actively trying to tie any murder of a Russian journalist it feasibly could to his or her professional activity, even where such connections are questionable or altogether non-existent. According to a 2008 analysis by blogger Fedia Kriukov, considerably more than 50% of the Russian journalists the CPJ claims were killed for their professional activities – that is, angering business interests, local authorities, etc. – actually turned out to be wholly or partially falsified. Note that Putin doesn’t even begin to enter into this.

(2) As of this year, Russia imprisons only one journalist. It usually veers in the 0-1 range. Although even one is too much, but within the 1-3 range that even developed Western countries occasionally stray into. That consistently includes Israel; Italy in 2013; and for that matter, the US itself in 2013, though for some reason, the CPJ doesn’t count Barret Brown. (Another curious exception is Ukraine and the case of Ruslan Kotsaba, who is in prison and almost a year on still awaiting trial for calling the war in the Donbass a civil war and expressing his opposition to conscription). In contrast, Erdogan’s Turkey imprisons 14 journalists (an improvement from 40 in 2013). Of course that minor matter didn’t stop Jeb Bush from enthusiastically affirming his support for them when the Turks knocked a Russian warplane out of the sky for an accidental infringement of their territory for a few seconds.

On Russia as on most other things Trump steers a blazing path through Establishment lies. If he or his aides read Steve Sailer, as seems to be within the realm of possibility, it is perhaps not an entirely empty fancy of mine that they might have skimmed over a bit of my stuff as well.

 
france-attacks-fever

Summary of the Russian nationalist response to #ParisAttacks.

A Cruel French Lesson, by Egor Kholmogorov appeared in the November 14 issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of the leading Russian dailies. It outlines what is pretty much the standard right-wing conservative Russian position on the #ParisAttacks.

Some context: After the terrorist strikes, many outspoken Russian liberals rushed to wrap their digital selves in the French flag; a status signalling action made easy by Facebook’s provision of a French flag avatar coloration app (one could cynically add: To mark the most significant event in the world since the US legalization of gay marrage). This is in stark contrast to the relative silence over the Russian victims of the terrorist downing of the aircraft over the Sinai – and for that matter, the silence in regards to Lebanon, and for that matter, for Syria pretty much nonstop since 2011. (The Egyptians at least were commendably consistent, bathring the Pyramids in the flags of all four of the aforementioned nations).

To be sure, many Russians who adopted the French flag did so on the fly, with no intentions of making any overtly political point. However, some of the more ideologically pro-Western Russians were more to the point in justifying increased attention for French versus Russian victims of jihadi terrorism. For instance, the Russian liberal “hipster” publication GQ was very explicit in defending its decision to feature the Paris Attacks over KGL9268 on the grounds that they idenfied with the City of Lights as a “permanent festival,” whereas for them their own homeland was a permanent “territory of woe” and thus unworthy of any particular attention (this binary characterization might seem rather optimistic to anyone actually familiar with the Parisian banlieues). An English language illustration of this phenomenon is this Foreign Policy piece by Julia Ioffe, which bizarrely justifies the discrepancy in terms of the better performance of French special forces at Bataclan relative to Nord-Ost (no mention being made of the fact that the Chechen terrorists in 2002 were ten times as numerous and far better equipped).

Bearing this in mind, the patriotic and conservative types – seeing such widespread attitudes in the Russian media as an implicit endorsement of the theme that Westerners are first-rate peoples and the center of civilization, as opposed to disposable Russians in peripheral Eurasia – have not been overly concerned with sensitivity right now, which is clearly expressed in Kholmogorov’s article. He is not writing for Westerners, but for Russians on his side of the domestic culture war.

To be sure, translation ≠ endorsement, and there are several points one can take issue with him on. There is too much butthurt over Charlie Hebdo, which – contrary to its high media profile – is in reality a very low circulation publication in France itself. Furthermore, the French state obviously has no obligation to apologize for it. Tying the emergence of ISIS to France’s Levantine policies between the wars is far too radical a causal stretch and besides the point in relations to current French policies anyway. Perhaps most critically of all, the Russian obsession with the West – most prominent amongst the Westernists, of course, but still making itself felt, if in an inverted form, amongst nationalists like Kholmogorov – is perhaps unseemly and even maladaptive, since ironically one could say that this merely reflects and confirms Russia’s status as a peripheral country.

Nonetheless, I believe the vast majority of the points Kholmogorov makes are fair and to the point, and moreover the fact that something so “politically incorrect” can be published in a major Russian daily – can one imagine anything similar in The New York Times? Or even The Daily Mail? – testifies to the fact that Putin’s Russia, ethnically blank slatist as it might formally be, is nonetheless as good ally as any to those Europeans who still support European civilization and self-determination.

***

A Cruel French Lesson

by Egor Kholmogorov

http://www.kp.ru/daily/26458.7/3328330/

The hideous acts of terrorism in France strongly resemble a fast-forward video of the decades long terrorist war that has been waged against Russia. The massacre at the Bataclan theater is basically a French version of Nord-Ost…

So we in Russia understand what is now happening with the French like few others.

But this tragedy occured at a rather inconvenient time in relations between the two countries. It came on the heels of a French magazine’s vulgar lampooning of the victims of the terrorist attack on our aircraft over the Sinai. I have not seen a single public apology from the French. Our officials are the only people who have tried reassuring us that real French people are ashamed about this… Thus, all expressions of sympathy, alas, have to begin with a caveat: “Regardless of your mockery of the terrorist attack against us, we do really feel for you.”

We feel for you because we ourselves have felt such tragedies on our shoulders. We sympathize, and we sympathize sincerely.

But approaching this with a cool head, one can’t deny that this case is also a matter of France paying the bills, and for multiple accounts at once.

The terrorists shouted, “This is for Syria!” And this is, at some level, “For Syria” – not in the sense that French aviation is bombing ISIS, but in that when France after the First World War received a mandate to govern Syria, it first divided that territory into five states along confessional lines: Christian, Alawite, Sunni, Druze, and Armenian. Then it took them and used them to glue together two states – Syria and Lebanon, thus laying the foundations for civil war in both countries. Had they either kept Syria unified, or properly divided, there would have been no ISIS.

Two years ago, President Hollande rattled his sabre harder than anyone else in pushing for an American intervention in Syria [against Assad], and was only narrowly stopped at the last moment by Vladimir Putin.

It was Hollande and his predecessor Sarkozy who supported the overthrow of Gaddafi, who welcomed the Islamic Revolution in Egypt, who seeded the flames of war in Syria and in so doing became directly responsible for the creation of ISIS, Al-Nusra, and similar demons, for the spread of their activities to France and all Europe, and for the overwhelming waves of refugees.

When in January murderers took care of the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo, instead of a sane adjustment to security and migration policy, Hollande was only interested in preventing Marine Le Pen from getting any political kudos and kickstarted the hysterical tolerance campaign “Je suis Charlie.”

Moreover, the objects of sympathy should not have been a bunch of talentless hacks, but those French citizens who were in danger of becoming victims of terrorism in the future!

Migration policy should have been tightened, and border controls strengthened. A campaign should have begun to fight against terrorist organizations globally and against the Islamist underground in France itself.

Instead of this, the orgy of “tolerance” continued, as Hollande occupied himself with weightier matters, such as saving the Kievan junta and clamping down on Mistral sales. France became a best friend of Qatar – one of the main sponsors of radical terrorism, including ISIS.

And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you…

The most horrifying fact of this strategy is that the killers in the Bataclan spoke good French with no accent. This means that they are not recent immigrants, recently arrived from the Middle East. These are French high school graduates, perhaps – French citizens, to whom they tried to teach the lessons of tolerance.

There is a hard-hitting film from 2008 starring Isabelle Adjani called La Journée de la Jupe. A female teacher in an immigrant quadrant of Paris, despairing of the thuggery and unwillingness to learn of her students, and tired of their barbaric morals, finds a gun in the possession of one of them. She grabs the gun and proceeds to take the class hostage, and force the impudent rascals to study the biography of Molière and respect women at gunpoint. The police and bureaucrats dance about in the background, convinced that the “intolerant” teacher is the main threat. Special forces prepare to storm the classroom. But in the end, the gun ends up in the hands of one of the pupils, and there begins a bloody massacre. This is a very enlightenening film that everyone should watch today.

So it is impossible to say that the French themselves are unaware of what is happening with them. And it is no accident that the Front National of Marine Le Pen is France’s leading party. But the political system there has been specially arranged in such a way that even with a plurality of the votes, the National Front still get the smallest amount of seats in Parliament. This means that the situation will only change when the Front National starts getting more than 50% of the total votes.

Dictatorships can always be excused away by the fact that the incompetence of the man in power is paid for by the sufferings of people who never elected him. But France is a democratic country. It has political leaders who were ready to rearrange politics in a way that could avert tragedy. They could have voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 and 2007, and for Marine Le Pen in 2012. They not only could have, but should have, voted for Marine in 2012. But instead, the French elected Hollande and his party of tolerant hypocrites.

Today has revealed the frightful cost of that decision. The streets of Paris have been stained with blood, as mobs of fightened and bewildered people rampaged through the city.

But will even this shock change anything? If, regardless of the newly introduced State of Emergency, the regional elections of December 6th go ahead – will the French finally be ready to put a stop to all this, or will they continue to vote for freedom for terrorists, and equality and brotherhood with bandits?

I am afraid that the answer to this horror will be a continuation of the same old, same old. Western propaganda has already adapted an essentially totalitarian tenor: “We will rally all the more closely around the values of multiculturalism, we will not allow any expressions of extremism, this is all Assad’s fault, if only he had stepped down – none of this would have happened…”

Unfortunately, it has become clear that what we are seeing is a live translation of the fall of the Roman Empire under the onslaught of the barbarians. The same stubborn refusal to understand what is going on, the same unpreparedness to take serious decisions, the same vacillation and buffoonery in the moment of mortal danger. It would be great if wonderful France were to finally find its Jeanne D’Arc.

But that is hard to believe.

Therefore, Russia’s main task is to learn its lesson – and to defend itself. To defend its territory. Its people. Its aircraft.

To support its allies. To remove the contagion of terrorism from the Middle East and everywhere else. To be prepared to settle accounts not just with its perpetrators, but also its sponsors.

And to avoid hoping that either the French state or Europe will learn any lessons from this. That they will change their politics, join us in fighting our common enemy, or stop behaving like an elephant in a china shop in the East. To plan our moves on such hopes would be nothing more than self-deceit.

But with the French, we sympathize. Stay strong!

 

Charlie Hebdo had a hearty response to the terrorist downing of KGL9268: “The dangers of low-cost Russian airlines,” “I should have taken Air Cocaine,” “Daesh: Russian aviation intensifies the bombing.” So drôle!

When challenged on Russian condemnations of their humor:

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Biard, criticised the Kremlin for “using Charlie Hebdo to create a controversy where none exists, which is the usual manipulation you get from totalitarian regimes”. “This magazine is supposed to be irreverent, and we respect the values of democracy and freedom of expression which the Russian powers that be … do not,” he added.

charlie-hebdo-on-islam-and-its-parody

The French state arrested and charged the creator of the teenaged creator of the parody comic to the right with supporting terrorism. Not a peep about that from Charlie Hebdo.

Of course, as traditional with Western propaganda organs posing as dissident heroes and “pushing the boundaries” types, the concern for free speech is rather strangely limited to just Russia and other bugbears of Western hegemony:

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.

Of course this merely reflects the priorities of the French Republic itself, which proceeded to open dozens of cases on pro-terrorism “hate speech,” including against the comedian Dieudonné for sardonically remarking “Je me sens Charlie Coulibaly” on his Facebook (Coulibaly was one of the CH attackers). All of which Charlie Hebdo evidently did not regard as the “usual manipulation you get from totalitarian regimes.”

Fortunately, Russians don’t take their cues from Charlie Coulibaly, and responded with hilarious cartoons of their own: “Laughter extends life!” “Not in your case Gerard.”

russian-reaction-to-charlie-hebdo

And soon after – and so prophetically – this happened.

Here’s another really amusing cartoon!

hollande-after-paris-attacks

This time, Charlie Hebdo’s reaction was decidedly… disappointingly… lackluster.

charlie-hebdo-on-paris

Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a mode of operation. Repeating ‘we are at war’ without finding the courage to name our enemies leads nowhere. Our enemies are those that love death. In various guises, they have always existed. History forgets quickly. And Paris tells them to fuck themselves.

That is like so deep man. So courageous. They Who Must Not Be Named are “are those that love death.” It even puts that great Bushism, “they hate us for our freedom” to shame!

 

 

charlie-hebdo-on-paris-2

And thus I finally started to really understand Dieudonné.

 

Apologies for the tabloidy title. This is an otherwise serious post.

It is well known that higher rates of cousin marriages – especially the father’s brother’s daughter (FBD) type that is common in the Arab Muslim world – tends to increase clannishness and depress IQs. It is often discussed in HBD circles. The main focus of the most prominent current discussions led by Steve Sailer are the ways in which cousin marriage relates to the European immigration crisis. His argument basically goes that Europe is about to get tons of mentally stunted inbreds who will use proceed to use cousin marriage as a mechanism by which to bring over millions more of their (literal) cousins from the Middle East and Pakistan.

That Sailer, an American nativist, chooses to focus on the “invite” side of his “invade/invite the world” dichotomy is understandable. But what it leaves unsaid is that consideration of cousin marriage patterns also appears to explain quite a lot of the dynamics of the Syrian Civil War – and crucially, in so doing, invalidates all of the “intellectual” underpinnings of the neocon clamoring for Ramboing into Syria to remove Assad.

Using data from Consang.net (a survey of cousin marriage Syria in 2008, i.e. before the war) and the ORB International Syrian 2015 opinion poll (which measured Syrian political attitudes in June 2015), I compiled the following table comparing the rate of consanguineous marriage and support for Assad across regions. The average %consang column is just the unweighted average of the rural and urban figures (I couldn’t be bothered hunting down the urban/rural breakdown for Syria’s governorates). Since with the sole exception of Tartus the rural %consang rates are systemically higher than the urban rates in a pretty predictable, linear way I do not think this is a particularly big statistical sin.

Governorate Type %Consang Ave.%Consang %Assad
Damascus Urban 35.4% 40.8% 81%
Rural 46.1% 50%
Hama Urban 33.7% 40.4% 63%
Rural 47.1%
Latakia Urban 14.6% 18.7% 69%
Rural 22.8%
Tartus Urban 28.2% 26.4% 89%
Rural 24.6%
Al Raqqa Urban 48.9% 56.0% 27%
Rural 63.0%
Homs Urban 33.5% 39.9% 52%
Rural 46.3%
Idlib Urban 17.2% 20.6% 9%
Rural 23.9%
Aleppo Urban 24.7% 28.8% 39%
Rural 32.8%
Syria Urban 27.5% 31.7% 47%
Rural 35.9%

Several patterns immediately strike the eyes.

(1) As can be expected from Lebanese consanguinity data, the Christians and Alawite areas have lower rates of cousin marriage, while Sunni areas have higher rates of cousin marriage.

syria-map-rate-of-consanguineous-marriage

(2) It also maps very well onto maps of political control by Assad, Al Nusra/FSA, and ISIS, down to the detail that even in contested areas the regime tends to control the cities – Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Damascus – while insurgents have a major presence in the surrounding countryside.

syrian-civil-war-09.19.2015

Is there an ethno-religious confound in play (i.e. Shi’ites support Assad, and Sunnis support Islamist rebels, regardless of consanguinity levels)? To a large extent, that is surely the case. But note that Al Raqqa city and its countryside, the two regions with the highest %consang rates out of all surveyed Syrian cities and rural areas, just happen to be the heartland of Islamic State power. Across the Muslim world, there is definitely a good correlation between rates of consanguineous marriage, depressed IQs, and support for radical Islamic positions on issues like apostasy. Surely it is not entirely a coincidence that the two single areas in Syria with the highest rates of consanguineous marriage also happen to host the most “virile”/virulent strains of Islamic extremism.

(3) There is an R2=0.38 correlation (excluding the one strong outlier that Idlib) between rates of consanguinity and support for Assad in the Syrian governorates. Considering the small samples, the clumsy averaging, and the uncertainties of surveying both cousin marriage rates and political attitudes in a civil war environment, this is not an unimpressive result.

syria-consanguineous-marriage-and-assad-support

But while all this might be interesting, why does it actually matter?

Because according to the neocon and liberal interventionist narrative, one of the root causes of the Syrian uprising was the hoarding of the nation’s wealth and power in the hands of a small Alawite elite. For instance, here is an entirely typical description of the Syrian political system from the BBC in 2012:

“You have got to think of Syria as a kleptocracy,” says a British financial investigator who asked not to be named, “where the state hands out licences to its friends and close relatives.”

According to this narrative, the Syrian Civil War began as a result of Syrian Sunnis getting fed up with the Shi’ites monopolizing all the most lucrative positions. (I don’t recall the question of why Christians didn’t likewise revolt against Alawite oppression ever being addressed).

The alternate and altogether more banal explanation is that differences in ethnic representation in Syria’s state apparatus and in the ranks of its moneyed elites is that the Shi’ites are simply brighter than the Sunnis because they don’t bang their cousins as much.

In other words, for the same reason that Jews constitute a third of America’s billionaires – namely, not due to some ZOG conspiracy, but the fact of a 1 S.D. advantage over the American average in intelligence that translates to much bigger “smart fractions” capable of becoming billionaires in the first place.

Very conveniently, it just so happens that according to the official Western dogma, as expounded by Saint S.J. Gould and his acolytes, IQ is a “social construct,” its relationship to economic performance is a statistical artifact that can be fully explained by variation in parental socio-economic status, and even discussing the role of cousin marriage on Muslim society and intellect is “racist” and “Islamophobic.” The Western media will freely and even enthusiastically publish calls from the neocons and imperialists to aid mythical “moderate” rebels against Assad, to bomb Syria, and even to knock Russian warplanes out of the sky for daring to attack America’s pet jihadists. But they will never in a million years print anything like this article, not least thanks to the self-styled “progressives” and even “anti-imperialists” who make it their mission to police and censor crimethink.

The end result of all this is that, if the explanations ventured here are substantially true, the American and Western establishments are in effect supporting what can functionally be described as a Bolshevik takeover of the Syrian state – just with more beheadings and slave markets.

 

syrian-civil-war-09.19.2015

Source: Wikipedia. Click to enlarge.

I admit to not having been following the Syrian Civil War anywhere near as closely the war in the Donbass.

But with recent rumors of stepped up Russian involvement now being confirmed by videos – and even talk of China possibly sending troops (crazy, but a year ago you’d have said the same of Russians) – it is well past time to remedy this.

The first thing I like to do when it comes to getting up to speed on some conflict or other is studying maps. Just looking at them for an hour or two. Wikipedia has a very impressive data gathering operation that gets updated in real time. In combination with this article listing the military histories for all the major cities and towns you can get a very good idea of the ebb and flow of the conflict through time. Arguably, this is far more useful than reading any number of editorials on the subject.

Some patterns immediately jump out.

syria-ethnic-map

Source: Washington Post.

(1) The pattern of regime, FSA/Al-Nusra and ISIS control correlate exceedingly well with the ethnic and religious composition of the geographic areas in question. The coastal Alawite heartlands of Tartus and Latakia, corresponding to the old borders of the eponymous state, are near totally secure. Shi’ite and Christian minorities, such as the Druze, Assyrians, and Armenians, correlate with pockets of regime support – even the Armenian pocket around Deir es-Zor in the desert each of the country, still holding out despite being completely surrounded by the Islamic State. In contrast, Palmyra fell to ISIS this year despite being more than 150km from the nearest area of ISIS control at Kabajeb. Suweida, populated by Dzuze and other minorities, is under Assad’s control in the far south, while neighboring Daraa – entirely Arab Sunni – is held by the FSA.

All this just goes to show the extent to which this is an ethnic, tribalistic war, where the “normal” rules of military theory – where force concentrations are king, and surrounded pockets get liquidated fast – don’t apply as they do even in the Donbass War. I suspect and nothing I’ve read about Syria contradicts this that this is ultimately due to the very low combat effectiveness of Arab armies. Unlike Europeans or East Asians, who have a long tradition of nation-statehood and conscript armies, the Arabs as a people only fight well for clan and God. A dictator like Saddam Hussein or Assad can force them to fight, but not very well or enthusiastically, while a democracy can barely do anything at all – see how ISIS once steamrolled their way to the outskirts of Baghdad, even though the Iraqi forces are armed with modern US equipment that the Syrian Arab Army can only dream about). This has the effect of depressing the value of conventional military power, with the result that warfare becomes a lot like urban gang warfare, just with much fancier military toys and more rape and ethnic cleansing. In this kind of “4GW” confrontrations, the fact that rebel groups and ISIS are much more enthusiastic, more combat effective (due to fighting for clan and/or God instead of a country whose lines were drawn by the French and British), and have the option of blending in with the civilian population in areas where they enjoy support allows them to level out the military capital (tanks, artillery, etc.) superiority of the SAA. Even the SAA has over the past few years bowed to these realities and become much more of a homogenous (primarily Alawite) force and come to rely less on unmotivated conscripts and more on the locally-rooted National Defense Forces.

syria-poll-2015-assad-support

ORB International poll, Syria, July 2015.

(2) The pattern of control also tallies very well with support for Assad in opinion polls (to a large extent this will of course be an ethnic/religious confound). No area in which Assad has more than 60% support is there a very serious rebel threat. In areas where he has less than 40% support, there is either very intensive fighting or the area is entirely ruled by an opposing faction. Aleppo, the “Stalingrad” of the conflict, registers 39% support for Assad; Idleb, in between Aleppo and Alawite Latakia – and the scene of major rebel successes this year, with just a small regime garrison continuing to hold out in the Shi’ite villages around Fu’ah – registers just 9% support for Assad. Nowin fairness, opinion polls have to be treated with some caution in Syria, because none of the warring factions is exactly very nice to visible dissenters. Still, the fact that Assad registers 27% support in ISIS ruled territories, while the FSA registers 15% in areas held by the government – as opposed to near 0% in both cases – does imply that the fear of speaking one’s mind at least privately is far from total throughout Syria.

(3) More generally, many Western media propaganda/neocon talking points immediately become hollow through this simply map-viewing exercise.

For instance, the idea that Assad isn’t interested in fighting ISIS, or even that he is in some sort of alliance with them. Where the areas under Assad’s control and ISIS border each other, there is intense fighting, e.g. an entire frontline on the approach to Al Salamiyah behind which lie Homs and Hama, and the struggle to relieve the surrounded Kweiris airbase. But by far the biggest challenges the legitimate Syrian government faces right now lies in the areas of Idlib and Aleppo, which apart from being large territories under JaN and FSA control also splinter SAA forces and constitute a conduit for Turkish arms supplies to other rebel formations throughout the country. Focusing attention on this area is just military common sense – and its not like there is any cardinal moral difference between Al Nusra and ISIS anyway (Al Nusra just doesn’t act axe-crazy for the cameras).

Another common talking point that has been raised especially since Russia stepped up its involvement is the claim that Assad’s forces have killed far more Syrians than ISIS. The aim is quite transparent: Since ISIS has so ably demonized itself, associating Assad with them by way of quantitative comparison should be pretty easy to do. And I think it mostly works. I see a lot of people in comments sections raising this point in in that really smarmy, pretentious way that the more intelligent American imperialists adopt to come off as “smart” and “balanced.” Entirely absent of course is context:

  • That the SAA is fighting long, grinding campaigns primarily in the heavily built up, urbanized areas of the North-West, while ISIS specialized more in blitzes, typically moving in when its adversaries become mutually exhausted. The latter type of warfare will inevitably produce fewer civilian casualties, regardless of the mass executions and slave markets that ISIS sets up afterwards. But its certainly not account of any greater moral superiority or legitimacy; quite the contrary, in fact.
  • That there is no chance of the SAA getting “smart weapons.” Meanwhile, its relative preponderance in military capital – artillery, tanks, helicopter gunships, etc. – is the one thing it has going for it. Since the average SAA soldier is far less motivated and combat effective than his Al Nusra or ISIS counterpart (see above) and since they cannot blend into the civilian population as the various rebels can, of course the SAA has no choice but to make use of its superior firepower so as to least keep up with if not overwhelm the enemy. Not doing so would not only be criminal towards its own soldiers, many more of whom would otherwise die. The question would also quickly become entirely moot since if the SAA was to go soft it would also be quickly defeated, with tragic consequences for the Shi’ite and Christian minorities it is still heroically protecting.
  • The not completely irrelevant point that ISIS openly and proudly commits all sort of atrocities harkening in spirit all the way back to the methods of the Assyrian Empire. In contrast, the great bulk of SAA “casualties” are collateral damage from military actions, and even when it comes to the dirty but necessary task of rooting out Islamist sympathizers – who would otherwise tell SAA coordinates to ISIS or Al Nusra, or suicide bomb themselves to ease their advance – it is something that the Syrian regime does in shadowy basements, where any such actions properly belong. For those who still want to play the numbers game, in what way in particular is this different from, say, US methods in Vietnam? (With the exception that it was a voluntary intervention, whereas Assad is merely defending his own country0.

Now in fairness I do know that the neocons have a narrative to keep up and so do their shills in the media, like Michael Weiss who is constantly agitating for aggressive actions to overthrow both Putin and Assad and enjoys huge influence in the media despite having zero knowledge of either Russian or Arabic. Same goes for their dupes and bots on the comments sections. But anyone else seriously arguing that Assad is on a level with ISIS has all of this to address first.

syrian-desert-palmyra

Source: Google Maps.

(4) A single, 153km road separates Palmyra from Kabajeb, the nearest ISIS-controlled area to Palmyra prior to the month-long offensive in July 2015 that led to its capture and other tragic consequences. This area looks like it could be used to film a Mad Max sequel. It should also be exceedingly easy for anyone with a competent airforce with air superiority to make mincemeat of any attack along this route. To the contrary, the kind of out-in-the-open, logistically challenging, and lengthy ISIS operation that should have been one of the easiest to forestall went on right ahead, successfully.

So why didn’t the US with its vaunted air campaign against ISIS do anything?

Because ultimately it is entirely fine with ISIS making advances when it is at the expense of the regime. This is not too surprising, since ISIS is after America’s baby and destabilizing Assad is its entire raison d’etre – as declassified Pentagon documents, Wikileaks, and the intuitions of Syrians themselves have proved over the past few months.

Plus, ISIS is better than Assad anyway. Look at all the hundreds of articles making this point they can’t all be wrong.

The US has an air campaign that is supposedly fast “degrading” ISIS, but there is no evidence of it making any kind of dent in its military capabilities. From its unconditional demands to have Assad step down to its attempts to pressure its NATO allies to block airspace to Russian planes carrying military aid to Syria (Bulgaria obliged, Greece didn’t) the US cannot be considered a sincere partner in wishing peace upon Syria. And that will remain the case so long as the US continues to be ruled by the neocon agenda, even if the actual neocons are now mostly out of power.

 

In Western popular culture, and to be honest most of the rest of the world, Kazakhstan is most commonly associated with Borat and his putative homeland of slapstick provincial troglodytes. And following Nursultan Nazarbayev’s 98% win in the recent elections, and his reaction to it

I apologize if these numbers are unacceptable for the super democratic countries but there was nothing I could do.

… the casual observer might feel that it has some elements of truth to it. He would be wrong, and in reality, Nazarbayev has nothing to apologize for.

To be sure, the recent Kazakh elections were neither free and fair, and his 98% win was completely made up – no concrete voter numbers were given, just the percentages of turnout per hour by region, which fluctuated in statistically impossible ways. But there’s no question that Nazarbayev would have won regardless. Western opinion pollsters have consistently established his approval ratings at around 80%-90% of the population, which is not that surprising considering the immense progress the country has seen under his stewardship.

It is not at all obvious that it should have been this way in 1992. On the plus side, it had ample oil reserves, though as yet little production. But it was also landlocked, afflicted with the structural economic distortions common to the whole ex-Soviet space, and most worryingly, riven by pent up ethnic divisions and historical resentments. There was no particular good reason why Kazakhstan should not have pursued a politics of vendetta against Russian speakers and its Russian legacy; all the prerequisites for it were there.

Though Cossack penetration dates back centuries, much of what is now northern Kazakhstan had only been settled by Russians (and Ukrainians) from the 1880-90s, when the area was first opened to mass cultivation; this demographic shift was given a further impetus under the Soviet industrialization campaign, which saw the appearance of major new cities like Karaganda on the steppes. A traditionally nomadic people, the forced settling of the Kazakhs into the new cities and farms in the early 1930s might have destroyed as much as a quarter of their population. As with Ukraine, however, it was only during the Soviet period that the Kazakhs truly came into their own as a modern nation, to the extent that there was mass rioting on the part of Kazakh nationalists when Gorbachev appointed an ethnic Russian to head Kazakhstan for the first and last time from 1986 to 1989. What if one of those “activists” had come to power in 1992?

Well, assume that the Russian military would not have set up military surplus stores near the Kazakh borders, and ended up annexing northern Kazakhstan and reducing it to a rump state around Almaty. At a minimum, even more Russians would have emigrated from Kazakhstan in the 1990s, whose population dropped from a peak of 6.3 million in 1989 to 3.8 million by the time of the 2009 Census. At first glance, this might appear to be a good thing, at least from the Kazakh nationalist perspective. The problem is that they would have also lost most of the people staffing critical technical positions in industry; according to a joint study by Richard Lynn and Andrey Grigoriev, the mean ethnic Kazakh IQ is around 82, which would make the Eastern Slavs there a kind of cognitive elite.

The Russians have a mean British IQ of 103.2 and comprise 23.6% of the population; the Kazakhs have a mean British IQ of 82.2 and comprise 63.1% of the population; the Uzbeks have a mean British IQ of 86.0 and comprise 2.8% of the population. Weighting the IQs of these three groups by their percentages of the population gives an IQ of 87.9 for Kazakhstan. These three groups comprise 89.5% of the population. The remaining 10.5% consists of Chuvash, Tartars, Uyghurs and other south Asian peoples. Early studies of intelligence in the former Soviet Union found that these peoples had lower IQs than ethnic Russians (Grigoriev & Lynn, 2009). Their IQ is likely about the same as that of Kazakhs (82.2). On this assumption, adding this fourth group and weighting the IQs of the four groups by their percentages of the population gives an IQ of 87.3 for Kazakhstan.

Without them, their GDP per capita (PPP adjusted in 2011 US dollars) would have likely been closer to that of Uzbekistan ($5,000 and 5% Russian population share) or Tajikistan ($2,500 and 1% Russian population share) than to their current $22,000, which is similar to that of Russia, Poland, and the Baltic states.

kazakhstan-gdp-growth-1990-2014

Above is a graph of GDP per capita (PPP adjusted in 2011 US dollars) in some of the biggest and most representative former Soviet states. Since independence, Kazakhstan has virtually converged with Russia – a not unimpressive achievement, taking into account the population cognitive gap which if anything widened with the large-scale emigration of Russians, Ukrainians, and Germans – and has even overtaken Latvia, one of those Baltic “star reformers” which joined the EU and NATO and gets good scores all the usual democracy and economic freedom NGOs. It has also left Ukraine in the dust, it being evident that hard work and good management are for some reason better for economic growth than quacking about European values and having color revolutions every decade.

kazakhstan-gdp-growth-relative-1990-2014

And here is another graph, showing Kazakhstan’s performance relative to its position in 1990. Barring Belarus, yet another unlikely success story, it has performed better than both Latvia and Russia, and incomparably better than Ukraine. No wonder that Nazarbayev has 90% approval ratings!

What is the secret of his, and Kazakhstan’s, undeniable success?

In short, it is pragmatism over ideology. The narrow-minded nationalist would have demanded Russians learn Kazakh or go home. Nazabayev made Kazakh the official language, but at the same time denoted Russian as “the language of interethnic communication,” a status not unlike that of English in Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore. Incidentally, and unsurprisingly, Nazarbayev is a big fan of LKY, naming him as one two “eminent founding statesmen” (the other is Charles de Gaulle), and his policies reflect these beliefs: Low level economic liberalism, high level state industrial policy and financial management (the oil windfall has not been squandered, but stored up in an investment fund), and a commitment to intelligent authoritarian leadership that does not however overspill into the tyrannical brutality that you see in neighboring Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan.

The middle class will not emerge without a sustainable economy which cannot exist without a sufficiently strong and wise leadership capable of getting the country out of free-fall.

Unlike LKY’s Singapore, corruption is pretty high; then again, pretty much no strongman apart from LKY ever managed to solve this. Even so, corruption in Kazakhstan is managed and contained – i.e., it is a “known quantity” – so it does not really scare away businessmen and foreign investors. Revolutions bring with them redivisions of the spoils, so elites are very hesitant to commit to long-term development projects in unstable countries like Ukraine or Kyrgyzstan; instead, their incentives are to maximize extraction in the here and now, before new people take their places at the trough. In stable authoritarian polities like Kazakhstan or Belarus, the people in power have more of an incentive to promote development because they have a reasonable degree of confidence that they will still have access to a what would be a much bigger pie a decade hence. It’s basically Mancur Olson’s theory about “roving bandits” vs. “stationary bandits” – the latter tend to be much better, because they are invested in the longterm success of their demesnes.

This pragmatism extends to foreign relations. Kazakhstan is on good terms with pretty much everyone who matters. It is in good standing with Russia; Nazarbayev was, in fact, the first post-Soviet leader to propose something along the lines of the Eurasian Union. But he is no Russian stooge either. Separatism and even talk of separatism are harshly suppressed, and all the more remarkably, this was done with Russia’s willing acquiesence: Eduard Limonov, a National Bolshevik and once Putin opponent, served two years in prison for allegedly trying to raise an army to “liberate” north Kazakhstan in the early 2000s. The capital was moved from Almaty to ethnic majority Russian Astana in the north, which gave Russians more of a reason to feel invested in Kazakh statehood while at the same time filling up a strategic city with ethnic Kazakhs to the extent that it now has a big Kazakh majority. This is a microcosm of changes taking place across the country as a whole, as highly fertile Kazakhs push up their share of the population back to where it was before Stolypin’s time. Over the longterm – i.e., another generation or so – this will likely solve Kazakhstan’s demographic/ethnic Russian northern majority problem in its entirety.

As the incarnadine cherry on the cream and custard pie, this careful equidistancing between Russia and the West, and his economic liberalism, has made Western elites very much appreciative of Nazarbayev. No American NGOs bother pushing for patently ridiculous concepts like free elections, or human rights, while holding them near sacrosanct in less wholesome countries, like Russia or Ukraine.

Here is Dick Cheney in 2006:

A day after scolding Russia for retreating on democracy, Vice President Cheney flew to oil-rich Kazakhstan yesterday and lavished praise on the autocratic leader of a former Soviet republic where opposition parties have been banned, newspapers shut down and advocacy groups intimidated.

Cheney stood next to Kazakhstan’s longtime president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in a marble hall of the presidential palace in Astana and congratulated him on his country’s vibrant economy. His tone was markedly different from the tenor of his remarks about Russia a day earlier during a stop in Lithuania, when he accused Moscow of violating its citizens’ rights and using “intimidation or blackmail” against neighbors.

In the course of a 395-word opening statement, according to a White House transcript, Cheney pronounced himself “delighted” to be a guest of Nazarbayev, saying “I consider him my friend” and adding that “the United States is proud to count Kazakhstan as a friend.” Cheney professed “great respect” for Nazarbayev and said that “we are proud to be your strategic partner” and look forward “to continued friendship between us.”

Asked about Kazakhstan’s human rights record, he expressed “admiration for all that’s been accomplished here in Kazakhstan” and confidence that it will continue.

Up to 70 striking oil workers killed in 2011.

Who cares? Who even knows about the Zhanaozen massacre? Of course the Russian protesters who threw rocks at the police in the Russian Bolotnaya protests in May 2012 were a much more grievous violation of human rights. After all, Brussels, Washington, and Freedom House all tell us so, and surely they wouldn’t be doing it anything but the most altruistic and humanistic reasons?

Just a couple of days ago in Salon: Our stunted democracy could learn from Kazakhstan: Another Bush/Clinton race doesn’t look free to the rest of the world. There are of course many things Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan has gotten right, but democracy isn’t one of them… unless you wish to abolish it entirely.

 

It has the world’s highest number of guns per unit of GDP, a population fast outgrowing the land’s carrying capacity, is riven by ethnic and religious divisions, and its cities look something like the Counter-Strike map de_dust.

Otherwise, I don’t know much about Yemen.

So I will not wax knowledgeable about it except insofar as the incipient intervention there allows me to make a couple wider points on the hypocrisy of international relations.

The first point was eloquently argued by my friend Alexander Mercouris at Sputnik earlier this morning. I will liberally paraphrase henceforth (I would otherwise quote outright, but I wish to add in some additional details as I go).

President Hadi was elected Yemen’s President in 2012 as the sole candidate with 99.8% of the vote, in what Hillary Clinton said was “another important step forward in their democratic transition process.” But early this year he was unseated and fled to the souther port city of Aden, declaring his overthrow illegal, and since then he has fled on to Saudi Arabia. He has called on the UN to “quickly support the legitimate authorities with any means at their disposal,” and his new hosts were quick on the uptake, assembling an Arab coalition of Sunni states and carrying out airstrikes against the Houthi rebels. They are doing this with logistical and intelligence support from the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which have also unequivocally made clear their views on the situation: The Obama administration refers to President Hadi’s regime as “the legitimate government,” and the UK’s Foreign Office calls him the “legitimate President.”

Now compare and contrast with what happened in Ukraine last year. In 2010, Yanukovych was elected President that was declared free and fair by the West. (How could they not? “Their” side had been ruling the country for the past five years). In March 2014, he was overthrown in a coup that was unconstitutional, went against public opinion, and was enabled by what even the Western MSM is admitting looks more and more like a false flag. He fled to Crimea, and then on to Rostov, from where he called himself the “legitimate” President – drawing smirks not only in Ukraine, but in Russia – and asked Russia to restore him to power. Russia didn’t overtly intervene, its influence being mostly circumscribed to the “military surplus store” that it maintains for the Novorossiya Armed Forces. Certainly nowhere near to the extent of using its air power, which could have depleted most Ukrainian military power in a matter of days. But instead of joining Russia in support of Ukraine’s “legitimate” President, there were sanctions and condemnations.

Why? Well, this goes back to my point about Westernism being a revealed truth, and deviation or opposition it being essentially a religious crime. As Alexander Mercouris puts it:

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov calls this a double standard. He is wrong. As Noam Chomsky (the US political activist who is also a prominent linguist) pointed out long ago what Lavrov calls a double standard is actually a single standard: the United States does not consider itself (or its allies) subject to rules of behaviour that apply to everyone else. The United States is always gravely offended when others say otherwise. The “exceptional country” is not subject to rules. It is lese-majeste when “lesser countries” say it is.

Or consider another precedent. In 2011, there was an exceedingly vicious crackdown on Shi’ite protesters against the Sunni Bahraini monarchy, up to and including the Bahraini security forces arresting and imprisoning medics for exercising the Hippocratic Oath and treating the wounded demonstrators. The Saudis ended up sending in their tanks. Did Obama fulfill his promise, made good in Libya that same year, that “we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy.” Of course! The US and Britain sold them weapons throughout the turmoil, so in that sense, they indeed did not merely “stand by.”

One more point. The supposedly Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthis, needless to say, are not exactly friendly with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, whom the US is purportedly at war with. Back when President Saleh was ruling the country before 2012 – the same guy to whom the Houthi rebels now pledge allegiance – a journalist who carried out interviews with Al Qaeda and was suspected of being a bit too friendly with them (human rights organizations disagreed), Abdulelah Haider Shaye, was imprisoned – at the explicit request of the Obama administration, funnily enough.

yemen-civil-war

According to the Wikipedia map, the Houthi insurgency now controls pretty much all of the western part of the country. But in the rest of the country, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups are disturbingly close to parity with the Hadi regime. While neither Hadi nor Saleh and the forces they represent are shining beacons of liberalism, gay rights, and non-nepotistic governance, pretty much every reasonable person will agree that they are “better” than the anti-civilizational fanatics of Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and sundry Islamist militants.

Which is why Saudi Arabia sees fit to concentrate its energies against the force there that has the most potential (by virtue of being strongest) of checking the spread of those Islamist militants. So okay, the Saudis like to play around with these groups, hoping that their boomerangs never end up rebounding on them; and at a basic geopolitical level, they must also be legitimately concerned about getting encircled both from the north (South Iraq) and south (West Yemen) by newfangled Shi’ite states that might ally with Iran.

But at a time when domestic oil production is booming and Saudi Arabia’s influence over OPEC has been diminishing, what dog does the US have in this fight?

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Islamism, Western Hypocrisy, Yemen 
Russian Opposition Journalist Andrey Babitsky Discovers Western Freedom of Speech

babitsky

Andrey Babitsky was the quintessential Russian democratic journalist.

A correspondent for the US government funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe (RFERL) since 1989, his star began to shine at the start of the Second Chechen War in 1999, when he was embedded amongst the rebel fighters in Grozny. He took a harshly anti-Russian line, writing the following about a summarily executed Russian POW:

It must be said that the Chechens don’t cut the throats of [Russian] soldiers because they are sadists inclined to treat them with brutality, but because in this manner they can make the war more visceral and visible to the public opinion, to explain that there really is a war and that war is cruel and terrifying.

He was detained by the Russian military when attempting to leave Grozny in January 2000. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright personally appealed for his release in a visit to Moscow. In an ironic twist, he was freed, but to the Chechens, in exchange for several Russian POWs. His Chechen friends kept him locked up in a cellar until finally releasing him with a forged passport the following month.

Babitsky would continue being a thorn in the feet of Russian security forces thereafter, his biggest coup being an interview for ABC News with Shamil Basayev in 2005, the man who organized the 2002 Nord-Ost Theater Siege, the Beslan school massacre, and numerous other terrorist atrocities before his assassination in 2006. Needless to say, Russia’s siloviki weren’t fond of him either. Apart from the murky events of 2000, he was again temporarily detained in 2004, delaying him from going to North Ossetia to report on the Beslan crisis.

The rest of his reporting appears to have been much in the same general vein. He condemned “Russian aggression” against Georgia in 2008. He railed against Russian state media propaganda. The blog La Russophobe, a now defunct but once one of the most widely read Russia blogs in the Anglosphere, whose content was exactly what it said on the tin, habitually reprinted Babitsky’s scribblings and called him a “hero journalist.” Since 2009, he has been heading RFERL’s “Echo of the Caucasus” section.

Which makes recent revelations that he was fired from RFERL in 2014 rather… interesting.

Why? His troubles with the editors began with an article on his Russian language blog from March 2014. Just its first sentence, really. It has since been deleted, but the Internet remembers:

This is not about Crimea – on this question, I’m fully agreed with Vladimir Putin’s main thesis, that Russia has the absolute right to take the peninsula’s population under its protection. I am aware that a significant number of my colleagues don’t share this viewpoint. After the President’s speech, I am now a supposedly correct, officially approved citizen, while those who are disagree with Russia’s actions in Ukraine have become national traitors.

That’s it. The rest of the essay is his standard spiel about Russia’s never ending descent into authoritarianism and the persecution and denigration of dissidents. He affirms the absolute right to free speech, and expresses great concern for the fate of the 10% of people who disagree with Crimea’s incorporation into Russia when the other 90% so passionately supports it in an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and demonizing rhetoric.

As it soon turned out, he might as well have been talking about himself.

A week later, Babitsky was removed from his position as chief editor of Echo of the Caucasus, and suspended from work for one month without reimbursement. The decision was condemned by Mario Corti, a former director of RFERL who had also ran into terminal disagreements with the senior American management and resigned in disgust. Although he stressed that he disagreed with Babitsky’s position on Crimea, he notes that the overall article was “harshly critical of Vladimir Putin,” and affirmed that opinion in a commentary is “legitimate journalism” and that his demotion goes counter to RFERL’s standing as a “paragon of free speech.”

Babitsky was reinstated as a journalist following his one month suspension, but was quietly dismissed in September 2014 after a stint as a war correspondent in the Donbass. He left without much fanfare, unlike, say, Liz Wahl, whose theatric resignation from and denunciation of RT live on air was carefully choreographed in advance with neocon waterboy and professional troll James Kirchick. Possibly Babitsky didn’t want to risk his Czech residency permit – RFERL is headquartered in Prague – until his daughter finished school. In any case, it was only a few days ago that we finally got access to the juicy details of his departure when he gave an interview to the Czech daily Lidové noviny (here is a Russian translation).

First off, here is a full annunciation of his views on Crimea, which basically reduces to an absolute but in his case principled stand on questions of self-determination and national sovereignty:

LN: Crimea became important to you in another sense: You were forced to leave RFERL after 25 years of working for them on account of your attitudes towards the annexation?

AB: One of my blog posts contained some words supporting Putin’s decision to incorporate Crimea into Russia. The rest of the content was critical towards Putin and Russia. For instance, I condemned the fact that it has became acceptable in Russia to call those who disagree with the peninsula’s incorporation into Russia – traitors to the Motherland. About Crimea itself and its incorporation into Russia there was just one sentence.

LN: Considering that you worked for an American, government-sponsored radio station, wasn’t it at the very least shortsighted to support Crimea’s annexation?

AB: We worked in Chechnya for many years, and even then I was completely certain – if there is some minority, some part of the population, that considers that its rights are in conflict with their host country’s territorial integrity, then there must be a divorce. This oppressed group, if its interests are harmed, has the full right to an independent existence, according to its own rules. As a journalist I supported this right, both when this concerned Chechens, and today in the case of Crimea, and also the Donbass.

LN: [You were fired] because your opinion on Crimea’s annexation differed from your employer’s?

AB: I have a special relationship with Crimea. We have a house there. My wife is a native of Crimea, and her parents – former military – still live there. We go there every summer. So I know that many Crimeans have always regarded Ukraine as a foreign state. Crimeans never felt at home there. They were annoyed by Ukrainization policies. They had the Ukrainian language forced upon them in place of Russian. Ever since its independence, Kiev has carried out an incorrect national policy towards minorities, first and foremost, in regards to the Russian one. During this time period a lot of insults accrued, and people felt it was injust and feared that in the future things would become even worse.

LN: Worse after the arrival of the new Ukrainian leadership?

AB: Crimeans’ feelings are informed by experience: Once again nobody knows what the hell’s happening in Kiev, and what awaits us. The reaction that followed was, in my view, completely normal and even legal. You see the hand of Putin everywhere, but in Crimea people simply revolted in defense of their rights. Just as, in your opinion, did the residents of Kiev. You, like the rest of my Western colleagues, like to argue that in Kiev people were genuinely fighting for their rights and freedoms, while in Crimea and Donbass it is all a conspiracy behind which stand Putin and the Russian secret services. But this isn’t true. The entire peninsula was overtaken in horror by what awaited it, so the separation was an unequivocal reaction to the threat that Euromaidan represented to Crimeans. Doesn’t Crimea have the same right to rebel against injustice and suppression as the Maidan?

LN: [Every minority might have a right to sovereignty], but surely not with support from big neighbors who use not only propaganda but also real weapons to grab territories. A free referendum is one thing, anything else is an incitement of separatism.

AB: Wait a second. Several weeks back the organization GfK Ukraine, a German sociological company – not Russian – published a telling study, according to which 93% of Crimeans are happy with their incorporation into Russia. 93! I do not view Crimea’s incorporation, unlike several of my Western colleagues, as the resurrection of the USSR. To the contrary, it is but a continuation of that entity’s collapse. It is the Soviet regime that created weird, unnatural, and historically unfounded borders, and divided them up into different oblasts and republics that were wholly artificial. …

This didn’t go over well with his Czech interviewer. Babitsky might be a pro-Western liberal who had spent his entire life struggle for “your freedom and ours”… but how dare he put loyalty towards liberalism in front of loyalty to pro-Westernism?

As the interview goes on, the questions gradually become more loaded and hostile. At first, he attempts to respond reasonably, but eventually gives up.

LN: It’s improbable how you, a person who was nearly killed by Vladimir Putin’s regime, and forced into exile, have today become a supporter of Putin…

But Putin isn’t Russia! Russia – it is history and rich tradition. Pushkin is Russia. Apart from that, it must be said that Russia today resembles a European country to a much greater extent than does Ukraine. Yes, Russia has its nationalists, but that is a problems of deviants. But in Ukraine, nationalism has become a state doctrine. Nationalism, be it Ukrainian or Georgian, leads to Hitlerian Nazism. Russia is a multinational country, where nationalism doesn’t have a future.

LN: Is there anything at all in Russia that deserves your criticism?

AB: It still has many Soviet aspects. First and foremost, a very difficult situation in respect to free media, with free access to information. Anti-Western sentiments are growing, there is a lot of belief in extreme conspiracy theories, restrictions on civil rights, and so on. But in Ukraine the situation is worse in all respects.

LN: So Crimea, according to you, ran away from those Ukrainian nationalists into the warm embrace of big, good, traditional Russia. Just as if it came from Russian state TV…

AB: Crimea escaped the bloody drama that Donbass didn’t. There were 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers on the peninsula, if some fool in Kiev had given the order, the conversation would have been overtaken by heavy artillery, and Crimea would have been completely destroyed.

LN: Czechs are always drawn to the Sudetenland comparison. Do you also believe that back then the German minority should have battled for its rights?

AB: This was, first of all, an act of external aggression. You didn’t persecute Germans. Or did you also wish to make them Czechs, like Ukrainians were doing in to Russians in Crimea? In Crimea, it was completely different. A big conflict was decades in the making. People were becoming cardinally disillusioned. And as soon as the revolution engulfed Kiev, they started fearing further restrictions on the usage of the Russian language and the promotion of Ukrainian… and not only this. You see, there is also historical experience to consider. My mother was born in Kiev. Seventeen members of our family were killed during the war by Ukrainian nationalists.

LN: I am not the only one with serious doubts that Russians’ rights in Crimea were likewise restricted under the regime of the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

AB: Do you trust me as a journalist? If so, think about it – in the past ten years I have been to Crimea thirteen times, I spent every summer there, and it is from this position that I tell you: Go to hell with your doubts.

But interesting as this all is, the Crimea sentence wasn’t what he was fired from RFERL for.

He was fired by a US government funded media outlet for exposing possible Neo-Nazi atrocities.

LN: Fear about the consequences of the Maidan were mostly spread by Russian media. Surely you, as a journalist, know the power of information…

AB: When I was still working at RFERL, I asked the managers to send me to Donbass. I went there and worked as I usually do in a warzone. On September 2, 2014, I filmed the exhumation of four corpses: Two civilians, and two insurgents. According to the locals – not the militias, but ordinary residents of Novosvetlovka – these people had been executed by Ukrainian volunteers from the Aidar batallion. I didn’t provide any commentary on this, just filmed it and sent it to the Moldovan division of RFERL. The video was published online. After this, the nationalists in the Ukrainian division of RFERL became hysterical. There was a big scandal. All this, just because I had published a video, which only recorded what I saw with my own eyes, without any additional commentary.

LN: But sometimes the specific selection of facts, presented without context, can create a cardinally false version of events…

AB: The video was deleted. On September 26, I returned to Prague. I was invited to the office and was told that my position has been removed. RFERL has clearly and definitively become nothing more than an instrument of American propaganda.

Who could have imagined it?

Now don’t get me wrong. RFERL is funded by the US government, so in principle, the US government can dictate how it uses its resources (although ideally, if not in practice, subject to electoral accountability and journalistic ethics). If that involves kicking out journalists whose opinions and reporting overstay their welcome, then so be it. After all, virtually all state-sponsored international media, in some capacity or other, serve the interests of their sponsors: Al Jazeera – Al Jazeera, the BBC, CCTV, France 24, Deutschewelle, and… RT.

But it is primarily the Western media organization that tend to have the chutzpah to deny this and instead claim an altruistic and universal dedication to truth, objectivity, free speech, and fluffy pink rabbits. Maybe it’s just a case of people talking on about that what they don’t have. RT at least is honest enough to admit its blatant pro-Russia biases. As its director Margarita Simonyan put it, “There is no objectivity – only approximations of the truth by as many different voices as possible.” This brutal honesty annoys the Western establishment real bad, because they view their social arrangements and global hegemony as a revealed truth, and anything that even so much as suggests that it may be just one of many truths is equivalent to heresy, and calls upon the rage of the chiliastic monotheist in battle with other faiths. Hence the vilification of RT, and even calls for it to be banned, with several investigations against it already launched by the UK’s Ofcom media watchdog.

RFERL is, in this respect, the quintessential Western MSM outlet. Not only does it supposedly strive for objectivity, but it even has a quotation from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as its motto (Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”). That’s even better than The Guardian’s “comment is free”!

But RFERL’s response to concrete questions about its treatment of Andrey Babitsky and their commitment to his freedom of opinion and expression is… a bit more laconic.

Namely, zero, zip, zilch, nada.

I made an inquiry to Brian Whitmore, a blogger at The Power Vertical, RFERL’s Russia blog. No reply, though I had interacted with him on several occasions in the past. Okay, so I’m a Putin lackey, and RFERL is possibly keen to avoid “exploitation by the pro-Kremlin media in Russia.” Why not, then, answer Ben Aris, a journalist who supported the Maidan?

The answer is as simple as it is cynical.

The Moor has done his duty, the Moor can go. In the big scheme of things, it is just a minor iteration of what happened to Solzhenitsyn after he rejected neoliberal capitalism, or Gorbachev after he came out in support of Russia’s incorporation of Crimea. It’s either their way, all the way, or the highway.

But don’t mention this, or we’ll hound you out of our mutual agreement societies too, because you’re biased and hate freedom.

 

I do swear this is my last post on Auschwitz this year. But the followup to Putin’s disinvitation is too juicy to resist writing about.

Following in the Polish footsteps, Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatsenyuk has literally claimed that it was the Ukrainians, in particular soldiers from Zhytomyr and Lvov, who liberated Auschwitz. Here is a translation, with my own highlights:

“Today is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 70 years ago, fighters from Zhytomyr and Lvov, as part of the First Ukrainian Front, liberated from the Nazis one of the most horrific camps, Auschwitz, where millions of our brothers-Jews were tortured,” Yatsenyuk said, emphasizing that it was an important history lesson.

He also expressed his sorrow for victims of the Holocaust – millions of Jews and Ukrainians, who “became victims of Nazism and Stalinism.”

“Once again, we note the valor of the Ukrainian soldiers who freed Auschwitz and fought against Nazism,” Yatsenyuk added.

Note that this comes only a few weeks after Yatsenyuk claimed that he “would not allow the Russians to go through Ukraine and Germany, as they did in World War II,” a historical perversion that is insulting not only towards Russians and the vast majority of Ukrainians outside the most nationalist/historically collaborationist far western provinces, but also to the German audience to whom he was so evidently (and unsuccessfully) trying to suck up to.

Truly cringeworthy stuff.

In response to these repeated Polish and Kiev regime antics, the Russian Defense Ministry unearthed archives with the precise ethnic composition of the 60th Army soldiers who liberated Auschwitz. Of its nearly 90,000 soldiers, there were 42,000 Russians, 38,000 Ukrainians, and numerous other nationalities. Overrepresented as they were on the Ukrainian Front, it must in these circumstances be emphasized that Ukrainians constituted neither a majority nor even a plurality amongst the liberators of Auschwitz.

Ethnic composition of the 60th Army, liberators of Auschwitz
Russians 42398
Ukrainians 38041
Belorussians 1210
Tatars 1088
Jews 1073
Kazakhs 708
Uzbeks 838
Georgians 555
Armenians 546
Poles 439
Mordvins 393
Chuvash 379
Azeris 304
Tajiks 178
Bashkirs 172
Turkmen 139
Kyrgyz 126
Moldovans 106
Udmurts 100
Mari 97
Ossetians 80
Dagestani peoples 55
Buryats 49
Komi 46
Kabardins and Balkars 31
Czechs and Slovaks 29
Greeks 25
Latvians 12
Estonians 11
Kalmyks 11
Finns 8
Bulgarians 7
Chinese 7
Komi-Permyaks 7
Chechens and Ingush 5
Lithuanians 4
Yugoslavians 1
Other peoples 203
TOTAL 89469

Why does Yatsenyuk insist on pulling stunt after rhetorical stunt like this? Okay, sure, for a Ukrainian of the Maidanist persuasion, sticking it to Russia and Russians is explainable in today’s circumstances. But insodoing, he not only insults largely Russia-friendly third parties (e.g. Belorussians, Kazakhs, Jews outside the Beltway) but also millions of his citizens, not only in Crimea and the Donbass, but in Odessa, Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and even Kiev. In a 2010 poll, the percentage of Ukrainians (87%) who consider Victory Day on May 9th as a celebration that belongs to everyone was only marginally lower than amongst Russians (91%). At a time when the Donbass is in open revolt, and widespread dissatisfaction wracks the big south-eastern industrial cities of putative Novorossiya – regions where the memory of the Great Patriotic War is hallowed – this cannot be considered in the least wise.

For a long time I have thought of Yatsenyuk as probably the most nationalistic and ideological of the big Maidan players. (Poroshenko is an oligarch and cofounder of the Party of Regions, and Tymoshenko’s primary concern has always been with her wallet; she became a billionaire as a Ukrainian bureaucrat). His mansion is very modest by high-ranking ex-Soviet politician standards. Then I stumbled across this treasure trove of his speeches from just two years ago, whose titles speak for themselves: “You can’t criticize Putin”; “The US dollar is just paper and a financial pyramid”; “Ukrainization was coercive”; “I have no ideology”; “I allow [the idea of] a confederation with Russia”; “Why isn’t NATO buying our airplanes?” So it’s evidently not “svidomy” ideological zealotry at play here either…

So I really don’t know. What do you think?

PS. Somewhat on-topic, here is Julia Ioffe’s (part of the Masha Gessen circle, with whom Sailer readers should be loosely familiar) take on the affair:

Putin visited a Jewish museum [AK: A museum that Putin had personally contributed to building] on the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation and said: “Of course, the main burden was borne in the fight against fascism by the Russian people, 70% of the Red Army’s soldiers and officers – were Russians. And Russians constituted most of the victims on the altar of Victory.”

And they say that Putin isn’t an anti-Semite.

In his actual address, as opposed to Ioffe’s cherrypickings, Putin followed this up with an ode to the role of the Jewish people in World War II, noting that more than 500,000 of them fought in the Red Army and more than 40,000 as part of partisan units, that nearly every third of them went to the front as a volunteer, and that 200,000 died in battle.

However, so far as Julia Ioffe is concerned, talking about non-Jewish, and in particular Russian, contributions to the Allied victory is anti-Semitic.

Why should you pay attention to the deranged ramblings of this Sovok Jew, you might ask? Why, because soon, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her. Come this February, she is happy to announce that she will be joining the New York Times as a contributing writer.

A most formidable addition to its talent pool – feel free to send her your felicitations!

 

RIA Novosti, Russia’s main state-run news agency, is going to be dissolved. So is Voice of Russia, a publication that I’ve written for, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta and its Russia Beyond the Headlines project*. They are to be merged into a new organization confusingly called Rossiya Segodnya (“Russia Today”), which is NOT the same as the (in)famous TV station. The Russia Today that we know and love (or hate) has long formally rebranded itself as RT, though it continues to be colloquially referred to as “Russia Today” by friends and foes alike.

This is an important point to make, as some Western media outlets – most notably, the Guardian – have claimed otherwise. Amusingly enough, a few of their commentators now say they are boycotting RT (the TV station) because the new director of Russia Today (aka Rossiya Segodnya), Dmitry Kiselyov, is apparently somewhat of a homophobe. At least, that is the only information about him (other than being pro-Putin) that the Guardian deemed worthy to include.

Why is RIA being folded up? I think there are two main reasons. Reading their article on their own demise will give you a clue as to the first:

The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape, which appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector.

In a separate decree published Monday, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter and media manager recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks, to head Rossiya Segodnya.

This is representative of RIA’s typical editorial slant, which is usually critical of the government position. (So much so that The Independent’s Shaun Walker described it as “surprisingly decent”).

This is okay and indeed appropriate if RIA was primarily a Russian language service catering to a Russian audience. But its not. Its primary audience are Westerners, who don’t exactly suffer from a lack of access to negative Russia coverage. To take but the latest example, their coverage of the recent unrest in Ukraine was explicitly pro-Euromaidan. Konstantin Eggert has a column there called “Due West,” which is exactly what it says on the tin: A pulpit from which to incessantly proclaim how Russia sucks, why RT should be defunded and Assange imprisoned, and why the West and Saakashvili are the best things since sliced white bread. Vasily Gatov, one of RIA’s most senior people, claimed that “Grozny” was afraid that the FBI would take the second Boston bomber alive (presumably, because the FSB trained him up, or something). Make no mistake, I do think that freedom of speech is good and it’s great that Eggert enjoys it in Russia – though it’s worth mentioning that the sentiment is not reciprocal – but the notion becomes rather absurd and even distorted when a state news agency consistently attacks and undermines the government in the eyes of foreigners.

This does not happen in the West. Whatever their domestic disagreements, there is an implicit understanding among American politicians that criticism of the US and the US government is off limits so far as foreigners are concerned. The same goes for America’s “soft power” media. You will simply not find much anti-US material on RFERL or Voice of America. The same goes for the BBC, Al Jazeera, CCTV, France 24, and Deutche Welle as regards the foreign policies of their respective countries (aka sponsors). Russia making an exception on this issue is maladaptive and not even widely appreciated to boot.

In this respect, RIA has long been somewhat of aberration, and frankly the only thing surprising is that it took the Kremlin this long to comprehend and rationalize the situation. Western journalists complain about clampdowns and neo-Sovietism all they want. The Russian taxpayer owes them nothing. In the meantime:

“Russia has its own independent politics and strongly defends its national interests: it’s difficult to explain this to the world but we can do this, and we must do this,” Ivanov told reporters.

In that respect, RIA didn’t help; it hindered.

The second reason is that it was not a very efficient organization. The official reasons for RIA’s dissolution have to do with “saving money and making state media more effective.” I know a few people in RIA, and they generally agree that it is an over-bureaucratized and unresponsive behemoth. One acquantaince (who sometimes comments here) had a more concrete complaint:

I needed to license two images from the RIA-Novosti photo archive for my book, and it took FOREVER. Just getting a reply to my original inquiry took weeks. It was as though they didn’t understand that I was trying to *give* them money to provide the service they actually advertise.

And here is Peter Lavelle on his experience with working with RIA:

Some thoughts on the demise/restructuring of RIA Novosti: For a short time I worked for RIA as a website commentator and unofficial English language editor. This was around 2004-05. Before that I was writing for United Press International as a (slave) stringer. I wrote about 20 articles a month for the sum total of $1990! Yep, I was rolling in it! And to top it off, UPI would not pony up to pay part of my yearly visa expense. With my income, that visa was expensive.

I had heard that the now defunct Russia Profile was looking for a journalist-correspondent. I interviewed for the position. I wasn’t what they were looking for. However, a deal was cut with RIA – I would have a half-time job with Russia Profile, and the second half with RIA. The money was better, but nothing to cheer about and the visa was taken care of. Working for Russia Profile was more or less fine. Working with RIA was bureaucratic and cumbersome. I ended up sitting with the very nice people in the English language wire service. I wrote my daily comments among them, while often proof reading wire stories before they went out online. But after a few months, I was told to slow down “Peter, you write too much, you work too hard.” Strange, yeah?

Within a week or so, I was writing one or two pieces a week – for the same salary. Later I was told privately the other (Russian) columnists had complained that “this foreigner” works too hard and makes us all look bad. Then RT (then Russia Today) came along. This is an entirely different story (and will wait for later). Two remaining things stay with me about RIA.

First, they wouldn’t let me quit! No, I would have to stay, even if I didn’t write for them I stayed and would be paid. That lasted for about six months. I don’t recall collecting my wages from them in remaining months; it was so idiotic.

Second, as RT expanded (literally in the RIA building), RT staff was treated like second-class citizens. Our ability to move about the building was at times bordering on the ridiculous. In the end we were segregated to certain entrances, and ordered to a separate smoking area. RIA had no interest in even sharing resources for professional purposes – like sharing video and other journalistic assets. I will not miss RIA Novosti as an organization. However, I hope to stay in contact with some very good friends who have worked there, particularly at the Moscow News. They never have had any influence over policy making.

Those who remember those days at RIA know I recollecting only 1% of the saga…

Say what you will about it, but RT is generally acknowledged to be far more responsive and dynamic.

Funding for Russian media activities abroad is going to be reduced in the coming years, so it’s not illogical to rationalize it. This is a long known fact that is linked to the general budget austerity that will predominate in 2014-16. But the various Russian foreign media projects and scattered, and all too often compete with each other as opposed to cooperating. In addition to the big ones, RIA and RT, there is also the Voice of Russia (which in turn has competing bureaus in Moscow, London, and Washington DC) and Russia Beyond the Headlines (which is a project of the state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and which in turn has a panoply of sub-projects such as Russia & India Report and a sponsored section – which basically noone accesses or reads – in The Daily Telegraph). All their websites are subpar, even relative to RT, which is ironic since RT is primarily TV whereas RIA is now most deeply rooted in the Internet.

A rationalization of this unwieldy mess of Soviet-era legacy organizations is well past due, and that is seemingly what is going to happen. RIA, Voice of Russia, and RBTH will all be consolidated into Russia Segodnya. RT will remain separate.

There are difficulties and unresolved issues. For instance, RIA itself has a vast and rather disorganized number of projects, such as RAPSI (provides legal information, esp. on trials and sucklike), Valdai (meetings of foreign and Russian experts to discuss Russia’s trajectory, culminating in yearly meetings with Putin), and InoSMI (a resource that translates foreign media into Russian). Many of these projects are genuinely useful, and while RIA itself may be superfluous, I very much hope that they will continue either under Rossiya Sedognya’s umbrella or independently. But so far there’s no news on that front. Senior RIA people are just as much in the dark as everyone else.

tl;dr. There are two main reasons for merging RIA and a few other Russian media projects into a new organization: (1) To rein in the pro-Western liberals who have seized control of RIA’s editorial policy, and (2) to rationalize their wasteful and inefficient bureaucracies in a period of moderate budget austerity. On balance, these are “good” and much-needed reforms.

* Not exactly, see RBTH comments on recent changes in the Russian media landscape.

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

As far as I understand, Michael D. Weiss is one of those neocons who loves Guantanamo but has a special soft spot in his heart for those Muslims who happen to be fighting Russia or some other state that the US doesn’t like much. When he isn’t chumming it up with his jihadist pals in Syria (see below), he performs his role as the chief editor of The Interpreter – in theory, an “online journal dedicated primarily to translating media from the Russian press and blogosphere into English”; in practice, a publication that would be more aptly named The Interpreter of Novaya Gazeta, considered the open slant in its choice of which articles to translate and its consistently anti-Putin, pro-Western interventionist editorials.

michael-weiss-with-jihadists

Nonetheless, all translations are good. They are inherently neutral. This is why I wrote a letter to Weiss with a cooperation proposal, whose essence was to save both The Russian Spectrum and The Interpreter duplicating work while increasing the size of the content that we both offer. I did not think Weiss would accept and he failed to surprise to the upside. Which of course he was perfectly within his rights to decline. You’ll see no complaints whatsoever from me on that point.

But he wouldn’t let it go – and in fact later, started insisting that I was running around begging favors and threatening to publish my letter as he believed it would discredit me amongst my “Putinist chums” (which he eventually did). The conversations that resulted were not only illustrative of the neocon-Bolshevik like mentality of these people, but are also rather hilarious. It is for this reason that I’ve gathered them all together for the delectation of DR readers.

Note – There is nothing here that is not accessible to the public.

(1) It started when @CollenWinthrop posted the following episode:

1) On July 10th, while Edward Snowden was roving about the transit area of a Moscow Airport, Time Magazine’s Simon Shuster wrote an article that argued that Snowden “was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.” On top of that, Shuster writes that Snowden was likely drugged by Russian officials so he can tell them what they want to know. Here is the article: http://world.time.com/2013/07/10/snowden-in-moscow-what-are-russian-authorities-doing-with-the-nsa-whistleblower/

2) Michael Weiss (the Russophobic psychopath of The Interpreter and Now Lebanon) promoted the article on his Twitter account:

{BTW, @shustry‘s report on what has likely happened to young Edward in Moscow is a must-read}

3) The article got bashed as propaganda and lies by many of the people on Time’s website and Shuster lambasted on his Twitter account, as a reply to Weiss’ acclaim:

{@michaeldweiss Thanks! the breadth of responses to this story has been amazing. From livid condemnation to your kind words. Both appreciated}

4) To which Weiss replied:

{@shustry Fuck ‘em. You know how the Cheka operates and you live there. Your stuff is consistently excellent.}

5) “Fuck ‘em”???????? Weiss is such an asshole. He cannot stand the truth, he prefers to fuck the truth instead.

(2) Conversation Number 1:

‏Anatoly Karlin @akarlin88
Account of how zhurnalizd @shustry neocon Bolshevik @michaeldweiss operate: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rlnqop via @ColleenWinthrop
5:01 PM – 3 Aug 13

{Okay, not polite on my part. But honestly – that is not how Russia discussions work there, including (especially) those involving Weiss.}

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @michaeldweiss @ColleenWinthrop Russian hate is a paycheck to Weiss. His baby is Israel.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop Anatoly, you should relay the story of how you asked me for a publishing agreement.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop It was a cooperation proposal, not a request for a publishing agreement. Please don’t lie. First.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop Second, I don’t divulge personal correspondence in public.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop You asked to share our material. I can produce the email publicly if you like.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop Though I wouldn’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends who might find this very odd indeed.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry No, you insult people and then hypocritically ask them for professional favors. At least you’ve a comic instinct.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop Go ahead LOL. There is nothing damning or even controversial there whatsoever.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss I was not asking you for a favor. And you are just about the last person who should be whining about online insults (wah wah)

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 Who’s whining? I enjoyed it thoroughly.

(3) Conversation Number 2:

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88
Just to clarify: My proposal to @Interpreter_Mag was a *sharing* agreement (so as to avoid duplicating effort). Nothing more, nothing less.
6:15 PM – 3 Aug 13

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 “A mutual listing of each other as partners on a partners or links page”. Partners = slightly more, actually.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss I view it as a glorified blogroll, personally – e.g. http://russianmind.com/content/partners …. Partners pages = more visitors, SEO for all.

4) Conversation Number 3:

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
.@michaeldweiss refused. More power to him. Will create more work for both @Interpreter_Mag & @RussianSpectrum, but ultimately irrelvant.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Strange that you’d seek to collaborate with neocon Bolsheviks, no? Thought Putinists were made of tougher stuff.
6:20 PM – 3 Aug 13

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss That is because you are a with-us-or-against-us Bolshevik. That is why it seems so strange to you.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 :) I like your last few defensive tweets. Don’t worry, your chums won’t hold it against you. They can’t afford to.

(5) Conversation Number #4 (a month later, in response to a satirical tweet by Mark Adomanis)

Mark Adomanis ‏@MarkAdomanis
“WE NEED TO INTERVENE IN SYRIA BECAUSE THE JIHADISTS ARE SAD” – actual foreign policy analysts
7:36 PM – 31 Aug 13

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@MarkAdomanis Who is saying that?

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 31 Aug
@MarkAdomanis @hannahgarrard Add @michaeldweiss to that list. Jihadists, AIPAC, Likudites, Bilderbergers. Sad days pic.twitter.com/JWrIANajN0

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
lolwut @RussianTruth1 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @hannahgarrard

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg Imbeciles of the world, unite!

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
Is russia ever going to stop being just a soul sucking abomination? @michaeldweiss

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg What’s interesting to me is that Booz Allen keeps hiring accidents waiting to happen. Surely that is a conspiracy worth scrutiny.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
@michaeldweiss The same Booz Allen employee who demanded Russia send Snowden packing? http://darussophile.com/2013/06/25/mark-adomanis-do-as-us-officials-say-or-else/ … @SolJewEgg

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@akarlin88 Anatoly, privyet. Unfortunately, we are still not seeking a content-sharing agreement. Feel free to apply again next year. Xoxo.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
@michaeldweiss Stop trolling or publish the email as you said you would. Go ahead – everyone is waiting with baited breath.

Nick Nipclose ‏@NickNipclose 31 Aug
@Karlsson111 @michaeldweiss @SolJewEgg There’s no excuse for Chechen jihadism, they chose to support Islamist filth no one forced them.

… {discussion by other participants on Chechnya}

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
@NickNipclose @Karlsson111 @michaeldweiss Russia’s brutal repression didn’t help anyone

… {more Chechnya discussion… check the link to Twitter convo if you’re really interested}

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
Oh noes @michaeldweiss BLOCKED me. wah wah wah. Whatever shall I do now?!? cc @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @SolJewEgg @hannahgarrard

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg
Lol russian propagandist. @akarlin88 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @hannahgarrard

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg Karlin is my aspiring professional partner. Hell hath no fury like a Putinist scorned.

Hannah Garrard ‏@hannahgarrard 31 Aug
@akarlin88 Join the club. I got blocked by him for criticising Al-Qaida. @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @SolJewEgg

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 31 Aug
@hannahgarrard @akarlin88 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @SolJewEgg For criticizing Al Qaeda? Did he take it personally?!

(6) The publication of my email (1, 2, 3, 4)

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
I see @michaeldweiss continues to twist the contents of my email to him in public. This leaves me with no option but to publish it myself.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Don’t worry, Anatoly. I shall publish it now.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
‏@michaeldweiss Anatoly Karlin’s request to partner with The Interpreter — evidently this meant more to him than it did to (cont) http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rm7dhg

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Here you go, sweetpea. Happy blogging: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rm7dhg

(7) The damning email that will meant so much more to me than to him – in which case, why was Michael Weiss the one ranting on about it the entire time?

Anatoly Karlin’s request to partner with The Interpreter — evidently this meant more to him than it did to us:

Dear Michael Weiss/Interpreter Staff,

It is great to see you making translations of the Russian press available for a wider audience. Regardless of one’s political views, that is an unquestionably positive and effective means of fostering more informed views and dialog on Russian politics and society.

As it happens, I have a similar project at The Russian Spectrum (though it is more narrowly focused just on the translation activity). Also, to allay any concerns, it was not created to compete with The Interpreter (I had first publicly written of my intention to do such a project last September, that is, way before The Interpreter’s launch date).

Since we share a common interest in presenting “English Inosmi” services, I would like to propose a partnership or cooperation agreement to avoid needlessly duplicating work and expanding the range of translated pieces we both offer.

Here are two proposals for your consideration:

(1) A sharing agreement in which we agree to republish a number (e.g. 5?) of translations per week from each other’s site. The original translators will, of course, be credited on both sites.

(2) A mutual listing of each other as partners on a partners or links page.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forwards to hearing from you on what you think of this.

Best,
Anatoly Karlin.

Hope you’ve had fun reading through this and made it through without an aneurysm! ;)

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

james-kirchikHe got invited to RT to talk about Bradley Manning and his impending sentence. The gay journalist James Kirchick got invited to argue his viewpoint that Manning wa a traitor who deserved to be put to death. (I wonder what his newfound liberal groupies would make of that?).

Instead, he used his airtime to go off on a tirade about how Russia has criminalized homosexuality (no, it hasn’t – but who cares about facts?) and to recycle all the canards about how RT is a Kremlin mouthpiece.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoSIpeTsXbQ

His rant lasted a whole two minutes, before RT’s host – having failed to steer Kirchick back on topic – finally kicked him off the channel. After rudely hijacking the show, the troll even had the gall to complain that RT wouldn’t pay for his taxi ride back.

There are many things one can say of this episode. One can highlight Kirchik’s sheer rudeness, chutzpah, and presumption. One can point out that Kirchick is only preaching to his own crowd here, while doing his utmost to validate the stereotype of the hystrionic homo as far as people who don’t much like homosexuals and need to be persuaded otherwise – that is, the majority of Russians – are concerned. Alternatively, one can note that Nikolai Alexeyev, the leader of Russia’s LGBT movement, basically calls him out as a hypocrite and then pens an article for RT with his own, far more nuanced views on the challenges facing the LGBT community in Russia.

I for one will note that if cutting off someone for incessant trolling makes RT a Kremlin mouthpiece, then…

… what does this make the “free” Western media?

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

My latest for VoR/US-Russia Experts panel. Hope you like the title. :)

The political fragmentation of the Soviet Union was one of the major contributing factors to the “hyper-depression” that afflicted not only Russia but all the other constituent republics in the 1990′s. The Soviet economy had been an integrated whole; an aircraft might have its engines sourced from Ukraine, its aluminium body from Russia, and its navigational ball-bearings from Latvia. Suddenly, border restrictions and tariffs appeared overnight – adding even more complexity and headaches to a chaotic economic situation. Although the region was in for a world of hurt either way, as economies made their screeching transitions to capitalism, disintegration only served to further accentuate the economic and social pain. In this respect, Putin was correct to call the dissolution of the Soviet Union one of the 20th century’s greatest geopolitical tragedies.

It is no longer possible – and in some cases, even desirable – to restore much of the productive capacity lost in that period. Nonetheless, renewed economic integration across the Eurasian space – with its attendant promise of less red tape (and hence lower opportunities for corruption), significantly bigger markets offering economies of scale, and the streamlining of legal and regulatory standards – is clearly a good deal for all the countries concerned from an economic perspective. There is overwhelming public support for the Common Economic Space in all member and potential member states: Kazakhstan (76%), Tajikistan (72%), Russia (70%), Kyrgyzstan (63%), Belarus (62%), and Ukraine (56%). The percentage of citizens opposed doesn’t exceed 10% in any of those countries. A solid 60%-70% of Ukrainians consistently approve of open borders with Russia, without tariffs or visas, while a further 20% want their countries to unite outright; incidentally, both figures are lower in Russia itself, making a mockery of widespread claims that Russians harbor imperialistic, “neo-Soviet,” and revanchist feelings towards “their” erstwhile domains.

This I suppose brings us to Ariel Cohen, neocon think-tanks, Hillary “Putin has no soul” Clinton, and John “I see the letters KGB in Putin’s eyes” McCain. They studiously ignore the fact that the Eurasian Union is primarily an economic association, and not even one that insists on being exclusionary to the EU. They prefer not to mention that the integration project has strong support in all the countries involved, with Russia not even being the most enthusiastic about it – which is quite understandable, considering that as its richest member it would also be expected to provide the lion’s bulk of any transfer payments. In this respect, it is the direct opposite of the way the Soviet Union was built – through military occupation, and against the will of the vast majority of the Russian Empire’s inhabitants. Though expecting someone like McCain, who one suspects views the “Tsars” and Stalin and Putin as matryoshka dolls nestled within each other, to appreciate any of that is unrealistic and a waste of time.

Enough with entertaining the senile ramblings from those quarters. Integration makes patent economic sense; it enjoys broad popular support throughout the CIS; and there are no global opponents to it – official China, for instance, is supportive – barring a small clique of prevaricating, anti-democratic, and perennially Russophobic ideologues centered in the US and Britain. Neither the West nor any other bloc has any business dictating how the sovereign nations of Eurasia choose to coordinate their economic and political activities.

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

My latest for Experts Panel/Voice of Russia:

The Panel states, “On future occasions, Russia might well require Washington to cooperate in similar circumstances; and if such is the case, its handling of the Snowden affair could prove decisive as to how Washington chooses to respond.”

Well, let’s imagine this scenario. One fine day, an FSB contractor named Eduard Snegirev takes a flight out to Dulles International Airport and proceeds to spill the beans – though as with PRISM and Boundless Informant, it’s pretty much an open secret anyway – on SORM-2 and how the Russian state spies on its hapless citizens. Would Immigration and Customs Enforcement turn him away? Would the FBI rush to honor a Russian extradition request on the basis of his violating Article 275 of the Criminal Code “On State Treason”? It is impossible to even ask this question without a smirk on one’s face.

Don’t get me wrong. It is entirely reasonable to agree to and honor extradition treaties covering “universal” crimes such as murder, rape, or – shock horror! – financial fraud (even if official London would beg to differ). But this approach breaks down when we get to “crimes” such as those of the real Snowden or the hypothetical Snegirev because it is not universal, but asymmetric and relational: Asymmetric because a traitor in one country is a hero (or at least a useful asset) in another, and relational because a traitor to some people is a whistle-blower to others.

Sergey Tretyakov, otherwise known as “Comrade J,” betrayed his sources and fellow agents in the SVR when he defected to the US in 2000. Yet on his death, many of the people discussing his life at the blog of Pete Early, his official biographer, called him a “patriot.” Not just an American patriot, mind you, but a Russian one as well – as if he had done his motherland a favor. They are free to think that but it will not change the fact that in his homeland about 98% of the population really would think of him as a traitor through and through. Or take Vasily Mitrokhin. In the West, he is overwhelmingly considered as a heroic whistle-blower, risking his life to chronicle the crimes committed by the KGB abroad. But he neither concealed the identities of Soviet sources and existing agents – unlike Snowden or Assange, nor did he reveal his documents to the entire world – opting instead to give them wholemeal to MI6. Nonetheless, demanding the repatriation of either one would be inherently ridiculous and only make Russia into a laughing stock – which is why it never even thought of doing so. No use crying over spilt (or should that be leaked?) milk.

The US, too, was usually reasonable about such matters, quietly accepting that their espionage laws have no weight outside their own territory and the territory of their closest allies – as has always been the case in all times and for all states since times immemorial. This is why the hysterics this time round are so… strange. While John “I see the letters K-G-B in Putin’s eyes” McCain is a clinical case, it’s considerably more puzzling to see similar fiery rhetoric from the likes of Chuck Schumer or John Kerry (although the latter soon moderated his tone). Such attitudes probably proceed from official America’s tendency to view itself as a global empire, not beholden to the normal laws and conventions of international politics. Now while its closest allies (or clients) might humor it in such delusions, even its “third-class” allies like Germany do not* – not to mention sovereign Great Powers such as China and, yes, Russia.

In any case, as far as the Kremlin concerned, it is now almost politically impossible to extradite Snowden even if it so wishes. Though they have been no official opinion polls on the matter, online surveys indicate that Russians are overwhelmingly against expelling Snowden. 98% of the readers of Vzglyad (a pro-Putin resource), and even 50% of Echo of Moscow’s readers and listeners (one of the shrillest anti-Putin outlets), support giving him political asylum. Apart from that, it would also destroy Russia’s incipient reputation as a sanctuary for Western dissidents – a great propaganda boon against the legions of Western commentators who vilify it every day as a ruthless autocracy.

To his credit, Obama seems to more or less realize this: He knows that he can’t issue orders to Russia or even Ecuador, and that it is not worth threatening sanctions or “scrambling jets” just to “get a 29-year-old hacker.” While the neocons and “American exceptionalists” will get their 15 minutes of blowing hard on TV and the op-ed pages, the episode is – and has been from the get go – likely to end in just one way: A quiet and untrumpeted retirement for Snowden in Quito, Caracas, or Barvikha.

* So what on Earth’s up with that anyway? Here is the most worrying theory I’ve been able to come up with:They actually take George Friedman seriously.

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

Mark Adomanis thinks Russia should extradite – or at least expel – Edward Snowde n because… get this, it’s current stance (i.e. leaving him in at Sheremetyevo Airport, an international territory) constitutes “trolling” of the US.

This is, to be quite frank, a rather strange argument. Would the US extradite a Russian Snowden? To even ask the question is to mockingly answer it. Said Russian whistleblower would not only be sheltered by any Western country, but awarded with all kinds of freedom medals and lecture tours. It is commonly expected for defectors from not entirely friendly powers to get sanctuary and both Russia and Western countries regularly practice this. If anybody is trolling anybody, it is the UK which gives refuge to Russians who are patent economic criminals so long as they bring some money and claims of political repression with them.

Furthermore, he believes (a faint and vague) promise of improved Russia-US relations is worth sabotaging Russia’s incipient reputation as a sanctuary for Western “dissidents” – a status that is extremely valuable in international PR terms. It is a lot harder to argue with a straight face that West – Russia disagreements are a standoff between democracy and autocracy when for every Russian political exile there is an Assange or a Snowden. But Adomanis would like Russia to forego this advantage and betray the trust of any future exiles or defectors just to please a gaggle of perennially anti-Russian blowhards in D.C.

This is not to mention the fact that many other countries are peeved off by Snowden’s revelations, so if anything it is the US that is internationally isolated in demanding his extradition. Even ordinary Americans are somewhat split on what to do about him, with 49% believing his leaks to be in the public interest and 38% against prosecuting him. The Chuck Schumers not to mention the McCains (does Adomanis seriously think that John “I Saw the Letters K-G-B in Putin’s Eyes” McCain would suddenly become well-disposed to Russia if it were to extradite Snowden?) do not even have the overwhelming support of their own constituents.

Adomanis’ argument ultimately boils down to “might is right”:

But a country like Russia, a country that is less than half as populous as the United States and which is much, much poorer, can’t afford to deal with the US as an equal because it isn’t. You can fulminate against that fact all you want, but in the world as it exists in mid 2013 Russia simply can’t afford to go all-in on confrontation with the United States because that is a confrontation it is guaranteed to lose. The Russians usually do a reasonable enough job of picking their battles, but they’ve suddenly decided to go 100% troll for no obvious reason. As should be clear, Russia doesn’t actually gain anything from helping Snowden,* all it does is expose itself to the full wrath and fury of every part of Washington officialdom. Unless you’re defending a national interest of the first order, exposing yourself to the full wrath and fury of Washington officialdom is a really stupid thing to do.

Here is what La Russophobe wrote in her interview with me, on another matter in which Russian and American interests (in her opinion) diverged:

Now please tell us: Russia has risked infuriating the world’s only superpower and biting the hand (Obama’s) that feeds it. … Are you suggesting that you believe Russian power is such that it can afford to act however it likes regardless of the way in which its actions may provoke the USA and NATO?

When you are starting to sound like La Russophobe, it’s probably a good time to stop and reconsider.

The answer to this objection – apart from the entirely reasonable one that kowtowing to the demands of a foreign power is a contemptible thing to do period – is that the Russia doesn’t need the US any more than the US needs Russia. And clumsily attempts to equate “need” with economic/military beans-counting (Adomanis: “Someone just commented on my blog saying “the West needs Russia as much as Russia needs the West.” Yeah, that’s definitely not true… The West, taken together, is so much more wealthy and powerful than Russia it’s actually kind of a joke… You can dislike the West as much as you want, but if you think Russia and the West are equally powerful then you are simply wrong… And if Russia creates policy based on the assumption that it’s equal to the West in power and influence it will fail catostrophically”) isn’t going to fool many people. Because, you know, the level of a country’s “need” for another isn’t a direct function of how much GDP and tanks it has relative to the other. And yes, while I am a realist, it’s a position tempered by the observation that today’s world is a wee bit more complex than it was in the days when the guy with the biggest club set the rules for everybody.

The US is of course a lot more wealthy and powerful than Russia. Nobody is arguing the reverse; it’s a strawman set up by Adomanis himself. What is however of some relevance is that the US has real need of Russia on some issues (e.g. Iran and nukes; transportation to Afghanistan) while Russian economic dependence on the US is actually very small (trade with the US accounts for something like 5% of its total). Both countries benefit from anti-terrorism cooperation. I think it is ridiculous to believe that US politicians will torpedo all that in a hissy fit over Snowden. I give them more credit than that.

UPDATE: Just recalled that Mark Adomanis works for Booz Allen Hamilton, the same consultancy that employed Snowden – and which happens to get 99% of its business from official DC. So it may well be that Adomanis’ opportunities for saying what he really thinks on the Snowden affair may be… rather limited. While I am not saying this necessarily influenced his articles – as regards this, we can only speculate – it would have probably been appropriate for him to mention this considering the obvious conflict of interest.

UPDATE 2: This article was translated by Inosmi.

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

Hard as it is to believe, but in the wake of the Boston Bombings, many Western commentators actively trying to find the roots of the Tsarnaev brothers’ rage in Russia’s “aggression” or even “genocide” of Chechnya.

This is not to deny that Chechens did not have an exceptionally hard time of it in the 1990s. That said, what strikes one is the pathological one-sidedness of some of the commentary, such as this vomit-inducing screed by Thor Halvorssen, a self-imagined human rights promoter from Norway. In their world, it is a simple morality tale of small, plucky Chechnya being repeatedly ravaged by the big, bad Russian imperialist – and it is one that many people, conditioned in appropriate ways for two decades by the Western media, swallow hook, line, and sinker.

It’s not that simple. But rather than (re)dredging up many words and sources, let’s just suffice with one of the most telling graphs on the matter: The population graph of Chechnya since 1989.

chechnya-population-by-ethnicity-to-2010

Some people are certainly getting ethnically cleansed there alright, but it’s not who you might think it is. So this, essentially, is what the Russian “genocide” of Chechens boils down to: 715,306 Chechens & 269,130 Russians in 1989; 1,206,551 Chechens & 24,382 Russians in 2010. Russians almost entirely gone from there, even though the lands north of the Terek River – that is, about a third of Chechnya – were first settled by Cossacks during the 16th century and had never been Chechen until the 20th century. Those Russians (and other minority ethnicities) were terrorized out of Chechnya during the rule of “moderate nationalists” Maskhadov and Zakayev, whom the likes of Halvorssen describe as the “legitimate government of Chechnya,” with several thousand of them murdered outright. This ethnic cleansing continued unimpeded into the 2000s with the complicit silence of the “nationalist” Putin regime.

I really wish all the (non-Chechen) “Free Chechnya!” people could be reborn as minorities in 1990′s Chechnya in their next lives so that the likes of Halvorssen can experience firsthand the extent to which Chechens “share the democratic values of a Western civilization.”

(Reprinted from Da Russophile 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.