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Vault 7, the the CIA’s suite of hacking tools just released by Wikileaks, includes a malware library “stolen” from other states, including Russia, that can be used to misattribute attacks to them:


The CIA’s hand crafted hacking techniques pose a problem for the agency. Each technique it has created forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.

This is analogous to finding the same distinctive knife wound on multiple separate murder victims. The unique wounding style creates suspicion that a single murderer is responsible. As soon one murder in the set is solved then the other murders also find likely attribution.

The CIA’s Remote Devices Branch’s UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

As if there wasn’t a big enough pall of suspicion over the entire “Russian Hackers” meme already.

/pol/ is ON IT:


This entire “Russia hacking” narrative is based on this shit; namely similarities between “Fancy Bear” and the DCLeaks malware, as well as “Russian” metadata found in Guccifer 2.0 files. NONE of this “evidence” can therefore be taken seriously.

The whole “Russian hacking” narrative is blatantly a CIA false flag designed to justify harsher anti-Russian foreign policy and ruin any of Trump’s potential efforts to make friends with Russia.

The entire “Russia hacked the election” narrative can be thrown out because we now know that the CIA DELIBERATELY PRETENDS TO BE RUSSIA BY LEAVING FALSE CLUES, ATTRIBUTION IS IMPOSSIBLE.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Hacking, Wikileaks 
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This post is a continuation of the last, and can otherwise be called “Konstantin von Eggert: A Case Study In Democratic Journalism (part 2).” Alternatively, one might view it as a refutation of claims that the Kremlin controls or censors the Russian media (Eggert’s own protestations, hilarious and Orwellian in the context of what follows, to the contrary). In this fascinating piece for Kommersant (a moderately liberal Russian newspaper, believe it or not) Eggert takes out his frustrations on Assange for the unpardonable offense of humiliating his journalistic profession – Wikileaks produced more big news stories in a year than dozens of journalists do in their entire careers – and even worse, presenting in a bad light the West that he worships.


“Russia Today Hired You To Talk About the Cynicism and Wickedness of the West”

Konstantin von Eggert, writing for Kommersant (January 26, 2012).

Julian Assange will soon be a columnist for Russian state TV channel Russia Today. Kommersant FM’s columnist Konstantin von Eggert decided to write a letter to his new colleague.

Dear Julian! I would like to extent a warm welcome to our club of Russian journalists. Perhaps after you present us with your ten interviews with the politicians and even “revolutionaries” that RT promise, you will finally understand what is journalism. You see, it is not a waste basket, even a flash card-sized miniature one; it is a laborious process of fact checking and protection of sources. I myself, Julian, could have told you this in a private meeting – for my own name figures a few times in Wikileaks publications.

Visual summary of everything Eggert hates.

By all means, thanks for the publicity. But I suspect it would be better if the basics of the profession were to be explained to you by the families of those Afghans, Iranians, and Arabs who had the misfortune to have confidential conversations with American diplomats. Their relatives died when you released details of these conversations on the Web. They died because of your irrepressible vanity and your no less irrepressible hatred for the United States, and the West in general.

By the way, Julian, you’re a grown man and should understand this: Russia Today took you on as one of their staff precisely because of this – to tell the international audience about the cynicism and wickedness of the West, CIA plots, and the lack of democracy in countries like the United Kingdom. Because that is where you, Julian, heroically fought extradition to Sweden (on that small and insignificant matter of rape) in the face of absolutely brutal pressure from the Washington Obkom and the counterintelligence of Her Majesty’s Courts. But now you’ll get even with them all!

I think I can guess at least a few of the guests on your mobile studio: For instance, Bashar Assad (hurry up, you might be late!) and the builder of “Bolivarian socialism” and darling of leftists all around the world, Hugo Chavez (here, I think, you still have time). I am confident, that you will not forget about that other idol of the refined global left, the scholar and writer Noam Chomsky. He hates rotten American pseudo-democracy so much that he’s lived and worked there successfully his entire life.

Don’t forget Thierry Meyssan. This brave Frenchman wrote a book. In it, he revealed that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 weren’t actually organized by Islamists, but by George Bush. But I’m afraid that Raul and Fidel Castro are best left alone. In the light of recent reforms in Cuba, they have now presumably become too spinelessly bourgeois for your broadcasts. Although who knows, maybe the old “Comandante” will loosen up and reminisce with you on the good old days of the anti-imperialist struggle on Soviet – that is to say, my – money.

By the way, speaking of money… Don’t be shy, ask for more! First, everyone has already began to forget about you, so this might be your last chance to hit the jackpot. Second, that is what real fighters for truth do anyway. They go to work for a state propaganda channel – be it Russian, Iranian, or even Georgian or Chinese – and uncompromisingly reveal the whole truth in the eyes of the public. All this will be especially pleasing to your young and sincere fans, Julian, who’d once seen you as a beacon of free speech. I’m afraid many of them will become disillusioned with you. But this is a mere trifle in comparison with the joy of continuing your great struggle – of course, all strictly within the framework of Russia Today’s editorial objectives.


I have no desire to systemically identify all the smears and fisk the lies and aspersions cast about by this democratic journalist. I believe the article speaks for itself and shows up its author in a worse light than I could possibly manage myself.

Still, there are a few points that absolutely have to be made:

(1) Needless to say, the “sheer snobbery and pretentiousness” and “unpleasantly sarcastic, sanctimonious, hypocritical” tone (in Mercouris’ words) is on full display. Note the false and overly polite nature of this “letter”, accompanied by repeated kicks straight in the nuts. He waxes poetic on journalism’s preoccupation with “fact checking”, but his own spiel consists almost entirely of rumors, smears, and innuendo. He slams Chomsky for writing critically about America and living there, in the “love it or leave it!” vein of argumentation, while doing the exact same in Russia (with the important difference that Chomsky criticizes all sorts of countries, while Eggert concentrates his venom on his own homeland and other countries that aren’t very friendly with the US). His assessment of his ideological opponents consists of pure caricature, and he absolutely refuses to engage with the substance of their arguments; while this might be acceptable on a personal blog, what exactly such pieces are doing in a major newspaper I do not know.

(2) No, absolutely no, deaths among Arabs, Afghans, etc. have been connected to Wikileaks (despite very great efforts to identify such). However, we do know that there have been dozens of collateral deaths from US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. for every terrorist killed. Somehow, I don’t imagine Eggert ever writing anything critical about that.

(3) The flippant and dismissive attitude to the numerous signs of political motivations behind the Assange rape accusations. These include, but are most certainly NOT limited to:

  • One of the “victims” tweeting about what a great guy Assange was the day after the supposed “rape” (since deleted from Twitter, of course, but fortunately you can’t really delete things from the Internet).
  • The condom used as evidence against Assange not containing his DNA, or any DNA/semen for that matter.
  • Why did Anna Ardin not warn Sofia Wilen that Assange was a rapist?
  • The remarkable intensity with which Britain is willing to pursue Assange for a crime that is not even a crime on its own soil (up to and including threatening to storm a sovereign embassy)
  • The tons of circumstantial evidence that the US is indeed seeking to charge and prosecute Assange.

(4) His assumptions about RT setting editorial policy on Assange’s interview were quite simply wrong. For instance, Assange openly criticized Hezbollah chief Nasrallah’s support for Assad in the first interview, in direct contravention of official Russian policy. Not that Eggert ever picked up on that; his response to that was predictable as clockwork: “It is shameful that the Russian taxpayer funds anti-Semitic propaganda.”

I for one was very glad and interested to hear Nasrallah’s perspective on the Middle East and Israel. I did not notice anti-Semitic statements (unless one considers statements like “Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people” to be anti-Semitic, which is admittedly quite possible in Eggert’s case). I am also glad that Russian taxpayers helped Assange reach a far broader audience than what was possible in the “free” West.

Finally, I am also glad that Russia does not suppress voices like Eggert’s, who wants to ban free speech to defend free speech (that is, “free speech” within the narrow confines of his little Orwellian world). After all, I am not a democratic journalist. I think the Russian people should know their “democratic” heroes.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
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There is a term on Runet, popularized by the satirical “dissident” Lev Sharansky, called “democratic journalist.” Of course, this term is every bit as satirical as its main propagator. In the Russian context, it denotes a journalist who is obsessed with free speech, human rights, democracy, the whole turkey. But they are “obsessed” with them in a rather peculiar way. Namely, when Russia violates these things in some way, real or imagined, they raise a loud howls of protest that reverberate around the globe: Formal condemnations, calls for the persecutors to be banned from Western countries and their financial accounts frozen, trade sanctions against Russia, etc, etc. But when the West does things that are just as bad or even worse, they are either silent on it, or blame the victims themselves (there are of course many exceptions… but then they are not “democratic journalists” in the first place). Those who call them out on their hypocrisy are assailed with the strawman label of “whataboutism.” To these people, the world is built on Manichean principles: There are enemy states, whose victims are “worthy” and deserve unalloyed attention (e.g. Pussy Riot, Iranian protesters); and then there is the West – that is, the US and its allies – which can do no real wrong, and as such, their victims (e.g. Assange, Bahraini protesters) are “unworthy”.

A case in point: In 2010, an RT crew was arrested and detained for 32 hours for covering protests against Fort Benning, the infamous School of the Americas with a dark reputation around its training of Latin American right-wing paramilitaries. With the honorable exception of Ilya Yashin and Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s liberals took a rather different view. For instance, in the comments section to their blogs, one user wrote, “So that democracy can survive in civilized countries, they have to limit the activities of agents of influence of barbaric fascist regimes on their own territory.” This was not a lone voice; to the contrary, at least half the comments reflected similar sentiments. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who used to sit on President Medvedev’s Council on Human Rights blamed the RT journalists themselves for their own arrests (incidentally that Council, before it was recently – and in my opinion none too soon – restaffed under Putin, also spent much of 2011 compiling a 400 page report on the purported unfairness of Khodorkovsky’s conviction; one would think there were more things worthy of their attention in the evil empire than the fate of a major crook who probably ordered contract murders, and whose conviction was maintained multiple times by the ECHR, but that’s just me).

This phenomenon of “democratic journalists” is however best illustrated by the Russian liberal intelligentsia’s reaction to Wikileaks and Cablegate – which is to say, parroting the US Establishment and their Western colleagues, they started to disparage, loathe, smear, hate on, mock, and condemn Julian Assange. One of these “democratic journalists” is Peter Savodnik. Yet another is Konstantin von Eggert. In his vitriolic, froth-on-the-mouth reactions to Assange’s plight; in his attacks on his critics; in his privileged position in the Russian media (which we are meant to believe is controlled by Putin), he represents all of the hypocrisy of your stereotypical Russian liberal. If there was a holotype specimen for “democratic journalist” he’d be an excellent candidate for it.

As far as I’m aware, Eggert first made his views known in 2010. The title says it all: “The tabloid freedom of Wikileaks.” But first note at the onset that it was published in English at RIA Novosti, the official Russian news agency. Personally, I do not decry that Eggert is employed there. First, it would be hypocritical of me, as I write for Al Jazeera and get money from them for articles that are hardly in line with official Qatari foreign policy (though at this point I should note that Eggert does have a problem with me writing for Al Jazeera, or any MSM outlet for that matter). Second, whenever somebody claims that the Kremlin controls the Russian media, one can simply point to Eggert’s scribblings for its main news agency. So in this regard, Eggert in his own way serves the Kremlin; though not, I think, in quite the way he imagines it.

Assange thinks of himself a some kind of Internet-age messiah, but in fact his worldview is not much different of your average salon leftie from Harvard or Islington, ever ready to believe any smear about the United States and to apologize for any tyrant, as long as the latter claims to be a socialist and dislikes the US. … The “bien pensants” of the Western left think that their governments are wicked – despite leading prosperous and protected lives under those same governments.

Apparently, he is a radical leftist and committed anti-American, stubbornly unwilling to realize how free he really is (to be financially embargoed and effectively imprisoned on trumped up charges for years on end?):

Somehow, I do not expect many cables from the Burmese Foreign Ministry (or Myanmar if you like it) or minutes from North Korea’s Politburo meetings to be revealed any time soon by Wikileaks.

Note that despite being an ardent critic of whataboutism, like many democratic journalists, Konstantin von Eggert feels free to liberally engage in it himself when the occasion calls for it. How dare Assange expose Western dirty laundry without first doing the same for dozens of other nasty regimes? To (very) loosely paraphrase Miriam Elder, another democratic journalist: “It’s unclear what Eggert, or his sponsors, would prefer. That Assange avoid leaking stuff about Western countries until he spills all the beans on Iran, Syria, Burma, North Korea, China, and Russia too?” (Contrary to what Western democratic journalists wrote at the beginning of the saga, of those Russia at least is NOT going to kill Assange for revealing stuff about it).


But the shit really started hitting the fan when news emerged that RT (Russia Today) was teaming up with Assange to product a ten-part series of interviews with the world’s movers and shakers, he went on an all-out offensive, publishing a new round of hit pieces at Kommersant (January 26, 2012) and Russian Forbes (January 27, 2012). Let’s start with the latter:

After the news that RT is going to use the services of Julian Assange, I got a phone call from a Reuters correspondent. She asked me whether I knew whether the Kremlin would pay the Wikileaks founder for his program. I don’t have a clue of course. But with RT, this weird Australian might as well work for free. For his alliance with the main organ of Russian state propaganda on the world stage – is an alliance of kindred spirits.

After this, he goes on to criticize RT for its “conspirological” bias, by “interviewing marginal people” and catering to Westerners who are “marginal” and for whom “The Guardian and The New York Times are too leftist.” Is this guy for real? In what universe is The Guardian and the NYT leftist? But I guess to a neocon of his calibre anything that marginally deviates from the US party line is automatically leftist. Furthermore:

… As a rule, [these conspirological audiences] really don’t like Israel. For natural reasons, for Jews are frequently the heroes of various conspiracy theories. For these audiences, RT frequently invites “fighters against Zionism” from the ranks of rather paranoid Western researchers, such as Norman Finkelstein. He is a hero of multiple scandals and for all intents and purposes denies Israel its right to existence.

A bit of background on Norman Finkelstein. True, he does not like the Israeli state, perhaps irrationally so (much in the way that Eggert himself doesn’t like RT, or Wikileaks, or – for that matter – Russia). Unlike Eggert, however, who is given a privileged position in the Russian media, Norman Finkelstein has been hounded out of academia for his views, detained and expelled from from Israel at the airport (recall the uproar when Luke Harding was expelled from Russia for overstaying his visa?), and – the mark of Cain in America – has been branded an anti-Semite, which permanently blacklists him from the US media. Here is another view of him, from Peter Lavelle:

Norman Finkelstein is a hate figure for many of those who know of him in America and for many in the worldwide Jewish community. He is another person who is blacklisted by Western mainstream media for speaking his mind and revealing the frauds of others.

A child of Holocaust survivors – Finkelstein’s father was on a death march in Auschwitz and his mother was a survivor of the Majdanek death camp – he challenges anyone who tries to use his deceased parents’ memory for geopolitical advantage when invoking the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

I understand where Finkelstein is coming from. I lived in Poland for 12 years and visited every Nazi death camp. To this day I am left speechless by how the human condition can succumb to evil. Thankfully we have Norman Finkelstein to remind us that honoring the memory of the Holocaust does not automatically mean supporting Israel and Washington. As someone aware of how ideologies literally destroy people, Finkelstein is worth listening to when it comes of the suffering of the Palestinian people.

When prominent US politicians like Romney say there can be no peace with congenitally violent Palestinians – and are backed up on this in the op-eds of major American papers such as the WSJ – contrary voices like Finkelstein’s are clearly needed for a balanced debate. Konstantin von Eggert, however, would do his best to suppress it; and condemns RT for giving Finkelstein the freedom of speech he does not enjoy in America.

They say, that Assange will interview for RT famous people. I suspect they will mainly be opponents of America and the West, both internal and external. Ahmadinejad and Huge Chavez, Bashar Assad and Evo Morales, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, Slavoj Zizek and Robert Fisk…

There is little more left to say here. In the Kremlin-controlled Russian media (according to this democratic journalist, let us not forget, the Russian elites “rule like Stalin and live like Abramovich”), Konstantin von Eggert is basically waging a McCarthyite campaign (“enemies internal and external”???) against supposed Kremlin (China, North Korea, etc) friends. What kind of idiot totalitarianism that allows this does Russia run anyway? (This is sarcastic, of course; I genuinely love the fact that Eggert gets the opportunity to write these things in the Russian media, both in itself (a free media is good) and for mercenary reasons (one can always cite him to the various hacks who claim otherwise). Now as for smearing the child of Holocaust survivors as anti-Semitic, or in bracketing people like Robert Fisk and Assad in the same category of miscreants, I will not dwell on that… I leave it on Eggert’s conscience (if he has any).

There is a paradox that a person around whom is constructed the aura of a global fighter for free information, not sits in one dugout with employees of an organ of state propaganda. On the principle of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The hypocrisy is oozing out of his every slimey pore. The stench is so nauseating that even the readers of this fairly pro-Western publication, Russian Forbes, call him out on it. Here is one representative comment by alexz105:

Ah, Kostya, Kostya. If you can’t do the job – don’t take it. A fine advert you make for Forbes. The all-encompassing usage and constantly repeated of this juicy little word “marginals” reminds one of the rhetoric about the Weismann-Morganists [AK: Practitioners of "bourgeois" genetics, persecuted under Stalinism]. You’re a sovok bast shoe, even if you do have a “von” in your name.

To which Eggert replied with anti-Semitic accusations.

All as I thought. No relevant comments. Banal fighters with the “Jewish conspiracy” soloing. And, as expected, they mention the “von” thing. … You have nothing to say. It’s boring – noone to argue with.

And so on in the most dismal vein. The commentators started to identify themselves with the “marginals” to piss Eggert off. To which Eggert responded by correcting their spelling mistakes. Now I don’t often agree with La Russophobe (LOL), but she’s right that when have to resort to pointing out spelling or grammar mistakes to attack your critic, you’ve probably already lost the argument.


This is a fascinating case study, and there is plenty more to come. Stay tuned. The next part will deal with Eggert’s articles for Kommersant smearing Assange with rape, lying about his release of the unredacted Cables, and repeating the “he’s anti-American!” In fact, I’m half of a mind to translate this gem in full and reprint it my book as evidence of Russian media diversity (I mean he can’t complain, right? I will be making more people aware of his work. I’ll be doing him a favor!). There may also be a third part dealing with his personal attacks on me and other critics of his work.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
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UK police descend on Assange’s embassy refuge.

According to the Ecuadorians, their Embassy was threatened with a revocation of its status as Ecuadorian sovereign territory in the case that President Rafael Correa offers Julian Assange political asylum. This would clear the way for PC Plod could go in and fish out Assange. Presumably this is to avoid breaking one of the cornerstones of international law, satisfying its letter while raping its spirit. Truly fascinating the lengths and lows to which Britain is prepared to go to satisfy its puppet masters.

My initial thoughts are:

(1) Assange should have chosen the Russian Embassy. Ecuador is small and doesn’t have clout. Russia (or China, for that matter) wouldn’t have handed over Assange either, for the propaganda coup if little other reason, and even as cringingly obsequious a country as the UK would have hesitated to take them on so directly.

(2) A timely reminder that Assange is wanted for questioning (not charged) on a crime that it is not even a crime in the UK itself. I wonder if there is anybody, anybody at all, who is still willing to argue that his case is not entirely political?

(3) One would hope that Ecuador does not tolerate any British violation of its sovereignty and mounts a like response – and that countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and (preferably, though highly improbable) Russia and China join them in solidarity. But either way one of the good things about this is that it will make clear to any lingering doubters in non-puppet countries like Russia that Western rhetoric on human rights and international law only goes as far as it benefits them.

EDIT 8/16: And asylum was granted.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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So Assange has fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, in scenes reminiscent of what happens to dissidents in truly authoritarian countries. (The parallels keep adding up don’t they).

Let’s recap. His site kept releasing classified documents, from secretive and typically nasty organizations. Too bad that some of them belonged to the Pentagon and the State Department; otherwise, no doubt Assange would still be feted as a heroic whistleblower in the West. Instead, he got an extradition request to Sweden for a rape at about the same time as Cablegate; a “rape” in which the purported victim tweeted about what a great guy he was the morning after (the tweet has since been deleted, of course). One of the supposed victims had posted online tips for girls on filing false rape reports on men who dumped them (this too has since been wiped).

Now Sweden is in Assange’s words “the Saudi Arabia of feminism” and indeed that much is undeniable to any reasonable person who doesn’t derive pleasure from slavishly kowtowing to women. See their recent attempts to ban men from pissing upright because apparently it is an assertion of patriarchy. And which other country could have produced a bestseller like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which would have instantly been condemned as misogynist claptrap had the slurs against men in it been instead been directed towards women? So even in the best possible interpretation it is Swedish feminists running amok in Europe, much like their Viking forefathers did a millennium ago. The alternative explanation is that this is politically motivated.

The balance of probabilities indicates that it probably is, with Swedish rape laws being used as a cover to repress Western dissidents. (Much like NATO uses leashed Islamist radicals to promote crusader hegemony in the Middle East). Although Sweden is considered to be a shining liberal democracy, the reality falls far short of that ideal as explained by Glenn Greenwald:

In general, small countries are more easily coerced and bullied by the U.S., and Sweden in particular has a demonstrated history of aceeding to U.S. demands when it comes to individuals accused of harming American national security. In December, 2001, Sweden handed over two asylum-seekers to the CIA, which then rendered them to be tortured in Egypt. A ruling from the U.N. Human Rights Committee found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for its role in that rendition (the two individuals later received a substantial settlement from the Swedish government). The fact that Sweden has unusually oppressive pre-trial procedures — allowing for extreme levels of secrecy in its judicial proceedings — only heightens Assange’s concern about what will happen to him vis-a-vis the U.S. if he ends up in Swedish custody.

These concerns are entirely rational because there has been an accumulating body of evidence indicating that the US has a sealed indictment against Assange. For instance, according to a Fred Burton (VP of Stratfor) email from this January, exposed in an Anonymous hack of the organization:

“Not for Pub – We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.”

One can only imagine what Hillary Clinton discussed in her recent weekling visit to Sweden, the first such high-ranking American visit since 1976, to meet the Swedish neocon Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and other important Swedish functionaries.

And with only two weeks left at most since his extradition to Sweden, with all legal channels exhausted after the UK’s supreme court ruled 5-2 against his petition, it is of course understandable why Assange would want to claim political asylum in a country that is outside the Western imperial orbit (if still susceptible to its pressure). It’s basic self-preservation, not – as many blowhards argue – some perverted desire to escape “justice” for his sexual crimes.

Whither now? It is hard to tell. The US has a lot of clout and may well force Ecuador to surrender Assange to Scotland Yard. To some extent it seems like a dead end. Is it really possible for him to spent years within the Ecuadorian Embassy? The British police can’t legally enter it, but nor can Assange move anywhere, not even by helicopter or something (since that would require crossing British airspace). An “understanding” will have to be reached between Britain and Ecuador, as happened between Britain’s return of the Lockerbie Bomber to Libya in exchange for greater access to Libyan oilfields on the part of British oil corporations. Needless to say Ecuador has no such clout.

As usual, what I found most interesting was the media reaction to all this.

* The Guardian’s loathsome effort was Ecuador’s free speech record at odds with Julian Assange’s bid for openness. I.e., the Guardianista bastards pretend to give a fuck about Assange after their writers David Leigh and Luke Harding backstabbed Assange in one of the lowest ways possible, accusing Assange of revealing the passcodes to the unedited cables when it was they themselves who did it. At the same time they use the opportunity to crap all over Ecuador, only now deciding to notice some issues with freedom of speech rights even just a half year ago they’d written that Ecuador could be “the most radical and exciting place on earth”. Obviously, the Guardianista hate for Assange takes precedence over a brief fling with Ecuadorian policies on nature rights and tree-hugging.

* Western commentators are divided into two camps: One, and a majority I’d say, has swallowed the Kool Aid and rails for Assange to be arrested (even though that’s against international law), to “face the music”, to be assassinated, for Ecuador and his “buddies” in Bolivia and Venezuela to be bombed, etc. They also rant that if Assange had done this to Russia or China he’d have long since gone for an extended swim with the fishes, which they use to “prove” that Assange is an anti-Western fanatic; however, their frustration that the US doesn’t do something similar to what they imagine Russia or China would do is palpable. The other half sees it as the politically motivated issue that it almost certainly is.

* Russian commentary on this is far more cynical, even on liberal sites. About 80% believe it is politically motivated, and that the West too – like Russia – prosecutes dissent when it overreaches certain boundaries. Some even argue that it demonstrates Russia is more democratic than the West – after all, has anything happened to Navalny? Another 20% or so, that is liberals, buy wholly into the Establishment version that Assange is a sex predator who hates Western civilization and should be extradited to America ASAP. No doubt these folks are also the ones dreaming of “lustrations” once the Putin regime falls.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
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I really can’t figure what this Economist editorial reeks more of: Hypocrisy, mendacity, or pure delusion?

That is as it should be, for since his decision last autumn to return to the Kremlin, Mr Putin has been stridently negative and anti-Western, most recently over Syria (see article)

Being anti-Western is “negative”, even for daring to oppose Western-backed Islamist crazies who will back-stab their handlers as soon as they’re able to.

But the reset was based in part on two misplaced hopes: that Dmitry Medvedev, who had been lent the presidency for one term by Mr Putin in 2008, would genuinely take charge of the country, and that some in his government had sound liberalising, pro-Western instincts.

Note how “liberalizing” and “pro-Western” are conflated, because one can’t possibly liberalize without kowtowing to Western interests too. Furthermore, bear in mind the unspoken assumption that normal relations (“the reset”) are only to be rewarded for said kowtowing to the West. The concept of equality and reciprocity is alien to the minds of Western chauvinists.

Those hopes were dashed by Mr Putin’s swatting aside of Mr Medvedev last September to allow his own return to the Kremlin, the rigging of elections, his crackdown on Moscow’s protesters and his new Nyet posture.

Elections in which Putin still got a certain majority, however hard The Economist tries to misrepresent otherwise, and “crackdowns” that are literally baby play compared to the violence meted out to Occupy protesters throughout the Western world (something like 50 journalists arrested to date and counting; preemptive arrests of republican demonstrators in the UK), and for adopting fines and regulations on protests that are actually fairly mild compared to most advanced democracies. Then again, in Economist world of pandering to Anglo-Saxon elites, the Occupy protesters are subhuman scum (because they are anti-elite, ergo “anti-Western”) whereas the liberal Russian protesters should be immune to all prosecution even when filmed throwing cobblestones at the police.

Really, “his Nyet posture” is the critical thing here. Like the mafia, the West won’t take no for an answer.

And why not dangle in front of the bauble-loving Mr Putin the prospect of Russian membership of the OECD rich-country club?

Well in principle, entrance to the OECD is supposed to happen based on objective criteria, most or all of which Russia now fulfills I believe now that it has joined the WTO. The Economist is essentially urging these organizations to politicize themselves, which in turn reflects their own delusion. It might have worked a generation ago but today pulling such stunts will only discredit these Western-dominated institutions all the faster given the rising influence of the BRIC’s and other non-crazy countries that aren’t self-entitled to absurdity.

Western ambassadors should not hesitate to talk to opposition protesters in Moscow just because the Kremlin objects.

I don’t think “hesitation” has been exactly a problem with McFaul. If Western countries insist on following The Economist’s advice, the correct response would be symmetrical: Have Russian ambassadors meet up with Occupy leaders, pirate groups, Muslim rights activists, etc and channel a few million dollars their way to “improve” democracy and civil rights in the West. What sauce is good for the goose is good for the gander after all.

In foreign policy, too, the West should stand firm. Russia cannot be allowed to veto America’s missile-defence plans in Europe. Nor should Mr Putin’s continued blocking of UN Security Council resolutions authorising intervention in Syria be treated as an insurmountable bar to action, any more than it was in Kosovo in 1999. G20 leaders should do their utmost to embarrass Mr Putin over his backing for Mr Assad.

Again, more than anything, it’s delusion that shines through here. (Ample hypocrisy too, however, encapsulated in just one word: Bahrain). But really delusion wins out. The Economist just like various Republican nutjobs like Romney genuinely think that the world works to the following schematic:

Step 1: Aggressively confront Russia.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Russia comes to support US interests. Profit!

More than anything this really demonstrates far better than I could ever describe myself how The Economist is most definitely NOT a publication you want to read for facts, insights, etc.; instead, it is a barometer of Western elite opinion, or literary soul food for Western chauvinists.

If Western leaders actually insist on going through with The Economist’s recommendations, as opposed to just dreaming about them, their own global influence will dissipate all the faster.

Mr Putin respects toughness, not weakness.

What exactly is wrong with that? It is quite clear that in the past 500 years, being tough (or standing up for oneself) has worked out far better than being weak (which invites bullying and derision in addition to being inherently pitiable). That is because the West itself only ever respects strength, despite its moralistic platitudes to the contrary; something that naive fools like Gorbachev have always ended up finding to their own cost – well, their country’s cost, anyway.

This matters when it comes to his government’s more egregious behaviour, such as the jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once boss of the Yukos oil company, the killing of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer working for William Browder, a foreign investor, or the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, a former security official.

Predictably, the standard party line is repeated verbatim, as per the best traditions of Pravda, conveniently leaving out the facts that the ECHR itself disagree s that Khodorkovsky is a political prisoner or the mounting pile of evidence that Lugovoi or the FSB had nothing to do with the Litvinenko hit. Or that there are about 500 Magnitsky-like deaths in custody in the US and likewise in Russia every year, the major difference here being that he is a high-profile case who has been propagandized by William Browder, an oligarch money highly hostile to Putin.

In cases like these it is right to try to identify the individuals involved so as to deny them visas and freeze their assets, as a congressional legislative amendment related to the Magnitsky case proposes.

Their country and their right, but then it is incumbent on Russia as a self-respecting country to reciprocate in kind: Identify Western human rights abusers (e.g. those who run Guantanamo), and deny them entry to Russia and attempt to extend the sanctions abroad. As indeed has happened.

Mr Putin cultivates the image of a popular and admired strongman, but the wave of protests since he announced his return to the Kremlin has exposed his weakness and loss of support. His power base is beginning to erode.

More delusion.

Economic engagement with the West, combined with firm criticism of his democratic and human-rights abuses at home and abroad, are the best response.

Not to mention an inescapable sense of schizophrenia.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
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As I noted before, the symmetry is amusing to say the least. Anti-regime characters such as Nemtsov and Navalny, who are marginal in Russia (both in popularity and media presence – as is logical, nothing undemocratic about that), are treated as Genuine Voices of the Russian People by the Western media. In its turn, Russia has wised up and returns the favor by providing a platform to Western dissidents such as Julian Assange, who by any halfway objective standards meets the definition of a political prisoner.


As of today, he has begun a 12 part series of interviews hosted by RT (the first one, an interview with Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah, is linked to above; Kevin Gosztola provides an excellent summary). Whatever one’s personal attitudes towards Wikileaks, Hezbollah, Israel, the US, etc. it is beyond dispute that this is of public interest and as such, valid journalism. No wonder then that Independent Western Journalists (who as Greenwald repeatedly shows are nothing of the sort, being consistently deferential to state power in the West) and assorted blowhards like the plagiarist hack Luke Harding, Konstantin von Eggert, and the SWP Hive are all doing double time to condemn Assange, and RT for daring to give him a voice.

That is of course their prerogative, but it does cast a very unflattering light on their self-appointed status as champions of universalist dissidence and free speech. Obviously RT isn’t quite that either, but then again, it doesn’t claim to be. In other words, it has enough decency to avoid Western-style moralistic hypocrisy.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
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I recently had the dubious pleasure of engaging in an extended Twitter exchange with Peter Savodnik. Peter is a consummately credentialed journalist based in New York. He is also a classical representative of the well-paid prostitute class otherwise known as Independent Western Journalists in polite (i.e. doublethink) society, as well as of that emigre clique which delights in smearing their former homeland at every opportunity (as with Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, etc). So nicely does he encapsulate the dinner suit-wearing, respectability-laden double standards, Western chauvinism, ingrained authoritarianism, and deep vein of conspiratorial paranoia that characterizes Western Independent Journalism that I think it useful to lay out our conversation in full.


Because protesting sky-high education costs and corporate corruption is so much more morally repugnant than defiling one of a country’s most sacred places.


I noticed Mr. Savodnik’s ranting against Occupy thanks to the approving reply from Streetwise Professor, a Russia blogger. SWP (Craig Pirrong) is a well-known neocon, Russophobe and anti-civil liberties fanatic (who masquerades as a small government classical liberal), who has a rabid gaggle of groupies following his rock-star avatar around on the interwebs (e.g. @LibertyLynx, @catfitz, etc).

The depth of his derangement is demonstrated by his loathing for Wikipedia, which he views as some kind of Communist conspiracy (no kidding, his fan Catherine Fitzpatrick, who apart from her hobby of trolling non-Russophobe blogs also writes blog posts with titles such as What is Technocommunism and the Internet of Things? condemning open-source. Also the reason why she chooses to pay for TypePad, instead of using the free – and much superior – WordPress platform for her blog).


So I guess by Savodnik logic given crackdowns in Belarus, the Meetings in Russia also look baseless and absurd? Time to expose that fool, methinks.



Actually according to my link only 5 of the journalists, or 7% of them, where arrested while “while participating in protests or civil disobedience related to Occupy events.” The rest where arrested while covering them – a perfectly valid journalistic activity. Yasha Levine in particular has a harrowing account (via blog posts) of his experiences in LA country jail – where he picked up a Third World skin disease – and his consequent legal troubles, which demonstrates that the justice system hates independent journalism every bit as much as the police does.

But note, in particular, Savodnik’s diversion of the conversation to Politkovskaya, a journalist murder in Russia SIX YEARS ago. He for one doesn’t seem to have troubles with whataboutism, of the “But in American they lynch Negroes” kind for which non-Russophobes like myself are frequently accused of – including by Sadovnik himself. But the Politkovskaya case has no relevance to the conversation – the issue is Peter Savodnik’s reference to press freedom violations in foreign countries to support repression of his ideological enemies in the West. I do not like hypocrisy, and I call him out on it.




And now the you-work-for-the-KGB canard comes out, reliable as ever coming from liberasts! My eternal response to that – what a pity the paycheck always seems to get stuck in the mail…



Had this exchange occurred at the Guardian, in its Orwellian-named “Comments are Free” section, at this point I’d have been unpersoned by the plagiarist hack Luke Harding for being a Kremlin troll.



Now I take his argument to its logical conclusion, i.e. absurdity, now using Brazil (which is actually, when looked at from the POV of concrete statistics as opposed to Russophobic democraticist rhetoric, is far more dangerous for journalists than Russia) to “justify” Obama pressuring Yemen to imprison the critical journalist Abdulelah Hider Shaea. Because that is the kind of mental acrobatics that Savodnik utilizes to wield the Politkovskaya case against Occupy.



Predictably enough, shattered by the exposure of his true authoritarian leanings and patent double standards on free speech, Peter Savodnik goes off the deep end, ranting about the KGB, FSB, and “agents of an authoritarian regime that kills people.”




Funny he says that, as it is Savodnik himself who has a reactionary hatred for ordinary Russian people and wants to disenfranchise them (see below). Projecting a bit much, Mr. Democratic Journalist?


I’m sure that Peter Savodnik is not the worst of the lot. Any number of other, far more mendacious characters come to mind who are outstanding on the issue of their hypocrisy as regards Russia, RT, the US, and Wikileaks – Luke Harding (a Russophobe fanatic who blames Assange for releasing the unedited Wikileaks cables when it was actually HE HIMSELF, with David Hearst, who was responsible for publishing the passwords to them); Konstantin von Eggert; the SWP hive; Miriam Elder; fuck it, virtually the entirety of the Western mainstream media.

But what this conservation with Peter Savodnik is useful for is representing that general mendacity in brief, distilled, easily digestible (and disgusting) form.

Exposes of Luke Harding and Von Eggert to follow.

Addendum. Thanks to Minka in the comments for letting us know that Sadovnik also espouses extreme neoliberal Latynina-like views on the Russian majority of Putin voters (“peasants”), who should not be allowed to vote.



In fact it’s pretty clear Savodnik loathes the Russian people as a pack of uncultured peasants for not voting like Savodnik would. The gall!



For our freedom and mine… Right? I think it’s pretty clear that it is Sadovnik who is living in the 19th century, what with his reactionary hatred of ordinary people.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
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Happy new year to all Sublime Oblivion readers! This blog wouldn’t be what it is without you. In fact, I’d have probably abandoned it after a month or two after a couple of posts as I did with my first blog in 2006. So please keep on reading and commenting.

BTW, the image above is of the Xue Long (雪龙) icebreaker in the Arctic. It represents the intersection of several major current trends: The multifaceted rise of China; the growing importance of the Arctic; climate change.

Year in Review: 2010

As usual, I will begin by reviewing the defining trends of this year (Part 1), before making predictions for the next and finishing up by reviewing the accuracy of my 2010 predictions (Part 2). The main global theme of 2010 is the continuing Rise of the Rest – led by but not limited to the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) – set against the background of the accelerating political, economic and above all institutional and soft power decline of the old Western order.

(1) China keeps getting stronger, on every facet of national power, at an exhilarating rate. A comprehensive overview is well beyond the scope of this post, but a few examples give an idea of the general picture. A country that first displayed its UAV’s in 2006, has now exhibited more than 25 different models. One of them, the WJ600 – boasting a jet engine, multiple missiles and stealth features – might even be more advanced than any US or Israeli model. Just as the year rolled to an end, leaked photos showed that the Chinese now have their own fifth-generation fighter, the Chengdu J-20. Bearing in mind that Russia also revealed its PAK FA this year (after around 25 years of development), I think it’s safe to say that the Chinese have now fully caught up with Russia in non-strategic military technology*.

However, unlike the USSR, China is not a largely one-dimensional military power. What’s far more significant is that in sector after sector it is investing massive resources into R&D and espionage to achieve qualitative near-parity with Western products (e.g. Japanese trains, German machine tools, etc) then seizing their market shares abroad through its lower labor costs. China now produces half the world’s wind turbines and solar panels, a hugely strategic sector given current energy prospects; it has the world’s most powerful supercomputer (and is now second overall to the US in supercomputing); and finally, PISA international standardized tests have confirmed that Chinese youth are now as skilled in reading, math and science as their (far richer) Western and Japanese counterparts.

One can stretch these examples almost indefinitely, but the main point is that “the rise of China” isn’t just 1980′s Japan-style hype; its tenfold larger population makes it the real deal. If you wish, dismiss it by referring to its aging problems (might be an issue by 2030) or its property bubble (when 50% of its population is still rural). But don’t be surprised by not-so-distant headlines such as “China becomes world’s biggest economy by GDP” or “RAND analysts claim PLAN has achieved military superiority in the West Pacific”.

(2) While China is its main champion, many other countries traditionally considered to be economically stagnant, politically unstable and socially backward are emerging as major regional Powers in their own right, and beginning to project global cultural influence. In its adroit PR handling of the flotilla incident, Turkey has staked out its claim to regional prominence by challenging Israel and appealing to global Muslim sentiment. Brazil and Turkey enjoyed blistering growth rates. Russia has resolved its differences with Belarus in recent weeks, and together with Kazakhstan has finalized the timetable for a customs union; with the election of Yanukovych to the Ukrainian Presidency and Ukraine’s (partial) reorientation towards Eurasia, it too may join in the next year or two. Non-Western outlets such as Russia Today and Al Jazeera are now major participants in the global media discourse along with the likes of CNN and the BBC.

(3) The ideological rift between pro-stimulus Democrats and pro-scrouging Republicans – and their mutual capture by special interests (the financial sector, the military-industrial complex, etc) – has become increasingly evident this past year. This now puts the probability of the US ever resolving its budget problems by choice, slim to begin with, at next to zero. At this point, the only realistic chance of returning to fiscal sustainability without unleashing massive social disarray is to increase taxes on the rich, cut security spending, reign in the financial and “homeland security” mafias and rule out future stimuluses (whose effects tend to be crude and non-lasting) in favor of targeted social spending. However, ideological factors preclude this (The Tragedy of Obama: “a corporatist centrist giving endless concessions to Republicans who (successfully) portray him as a radical leftist”).

(4) How not to close awning budget deficits: the UK (I regret to say that I blogged in support of the ConDem coalition). While any idiot can see that the UK is on a fiscally unsustainable path, the ways in which cuts are being made, with a sneering classism that hits the poorest and least-privileged; commercialization of state social functions; and dumping of state assets, is incredibly shorttermist, foments social disarray and undermines longterm prospects. From 2011, the UK will implement the highest university tuition fees in the world. The headlines say it all: “McDonald’s and PepsiCo to help write UK health policy”, “Students could boost marks by showing ‘corporate skills’”, etc.

(5) In Europe, the German corporatist model, the Swedish welfare state, and to a lesser extent French dirigisme, have acquired ideological supremacy over the UK and Irish neoliberal models and the bureaucratized Mediterranean states. In a low-key meeting at Deauville in October, Sarkozy appeared to agree with Merkel’s proposals that would penalize countries that require bailouts by denying them votes in EU councils and placing them under Brussels supervision. Will the Mediterranean accept these Diktats or will it fracture the EU? Is even Germany, with its own high debts and demographic problems, capable of guaranteeing them? In any case, one thing we can say for sure is that this development reinforces the trends towards a multi-speed Europe, with the power of the traditional Franco-German core reinforced further by their (relative) economic resilience.

(6) The posturing by North Korea is, as usual, a show meant to extract concessions. Not worthy of the alarmist headlines.

It appears that the main reason Israel has so far restrained itself from striking Iran – as I still think will happen, eventually – is the remarkable success of the Stuxnet worm at sabotaging its uranium enrichment processes. But in all likelihood – I give it 75% – this strike will come sometime in the next few years.

Afghanistan is as unwinnable as always, but ideological inertia and the “psychology of previous investments” conspire to keep the US there.

(7) If you want the single best example of declining US soft power, consider this: even as prominent US politicians called for the assassination of a controversial foreign journalist for “espionage” or “information terrorism” – and even better, while touting its plans for World Press Freedom Day in May 2011 (presumably Assange isn’t on the invite list) – and Britain imprisoned him on what are almost certainly politically-motivated rape charges from Sweden, the President of Ecuador offered him asylum and the Russians mooted giving him a Nobel Peace Prize. Now I certainly don’t mean this portrayal of Assange’s travails to demonstrate that countries like Russia are altruistic crusaders for transparency and journalistic freedom; to the contrary, its safeguards for leakers are not so much abysmal as non-existent. However, Wikileaks illustrates that when the Western power elite is challenged so openly, forced to go through the political version of the airport body scanners it foists on its own citizenry, all pretensions to lofty ideals such as “rule of law” are tossed out of the window**.

But Wikileaks is more than just a collection of political gossip, or revelations such as that the British train Bangladeshi death squads and US contractors traffic in children for Afghan warlords, or inspiration for national and regional leaker websites such as Indoleaks (Indonesia), Rospil (Russia) or Euroleaks (EU), or even confirmation of “radical” viewpoints such as that the political elites of most European countries take their marching orders from the State Department.

The Wikileaks Saga is a historical crossroads that will determine the future balance between privacy, freedom and security in the West. Down one road, the powers that be will clamp down on journalistic freedoms and the unrestricted Internet, and so confirm the dominance of the one-way “surveillance state”; down the other, the transparency virus unleashed by Wikileaks will destroy the effectiveness of state “authoritarian conspiracies”, leading to citizen empowerment and “universal sousveillance” (two-way surveillance). Since technological development makes increasing surveillance inevitable, and consequently serves to concentrate power in the hands of materially and legally privileged actors such as states and corporations, I think the kind of citizen sousveillance represented by Wikileaks is indispensable for preserving personal freedoms and people power in our cyberpunk future.

(8) In the hottest year on record globally, which saw a devastating heatwave in Russia and unprecedented flooding in Pakistan and Australia, AGW denialism claimed victories in the US Congressional elections and the inconsequential summit in Cancún (without verification or penalties, any targets or commitments aren’t worth the paper they’re on). The climate crisis is now so self-evident and imminently devastating that the only psychological option is to draw in the runaway train curtains and prosecute anyone who peeks out and points out the broken bridge ahead. Geoengineering it will be (attempted).

(9) On Russia, Nikitin has summarized the year with a report card. Swell job. (Apart from the bizarre Khodorkovsky apologetics – talk of teachers’ pets!).

In short. The economy is so-so: though 4% growth is respectable, it should be seen in the context of an 8% GDP decline in 2009. (On the other hand, updated Real GDP per capita calculations by the World Bank and OECD/Eurostat have indicated that Russia’s is around $20,000, higher than the previous estimate of c.$15,000. This makes it similar to Poland, Croatia or Estonia; and in overall size comparable to Germany, and far above France or the UK). Its demographic situation has remained mostly unchanged from 2009, a small rise in births being more than canceled out by a rise in death rates caused by the 44,000 excess deaths due to the heatwave. In the political realm, the biggest developments were: (1) the uneasy survival of the Reset with the US, in which Russia cooperates with the West in return for more technological access; (2) the huge $700bn rearmament program announced for the next decade; and (3) the increasing drive towards recentralization and technocratic management encapsulated by the ouster of Mintimer Shaimiev (Tatarstan) and Yuri Luzhkov (Moscow).

(10) The melting of Arctic sea ice and local warming is creating the foundations for a sustained economic boom. This year the MV Nordic Barents steamed into the record books as the first foreign flagged vessel to sail from Europe to China through the entire Northern Sea Route without stopping at any Russian harbor. With traffic through the North Sea Route expected to increase tenfold over the next decade, ports being expanded, and power and transport infrastructure built up at a furious pace, the Arctic represents the next investment El Dorado after the BRICs. Follow S/O’s sister blog Arctic Progress to stay on top of things at the top of the world!

* Of course, this isn’t to say that all Chinese military tech is now up to Russian standards. E.g. Russia is well ahead in air defense. On the other hand, China’s naval technology is now arguably better. On average, I’d say the qualitative level of conventional arms is now roughly equal.

** Just as they are with the Third World victims of Western imperialism, or its own repressed minorities in urban ghettoes, or Muslims, but when it happens to English-speaking white guys it’s far more serious.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in which I make predictions for 2011 and review those from last year. Meanwhile, please feel free to point out any major events or trends I missed out.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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A thundering takedown of the Financial Times transparently one-sided coverage of the Khodorkovsky affair -and Khodorkovsky says Putin is ‘pitiable’ can also serve as a palimpsest for Western media coverage of this topic in general – from Eric Kraus at Truth and Beauty. BTW, do feel free to add his blog Truth and Beauty to your subscriptions. As someone with a dozen years of investor experience in Russia, Kraus has cutting, pertinent commentary, with fine sarcastic wit, on Russian finance and economics and global affairs. His article Is Putin pitiable, or is the FT corrupt? is reprinted below.

Reading the FT on Russia, what is interesting is not what they write – it is why they write it. A friend of T&B was told face-to-face about six months ago by an FT editor that, as a journalist here, one’s role has to be ”to write about how awful Russia is”. (While, admittedly, T&B does not know many FT journalists in Poland, Belgium or Mexico, we strongly suspect that they have an entirely different mandate. Only in Russia has the paper descended to outright advocacy…)

A recent propaganda piece in praise of Khodorkovsky – proudly splashed across the front page of the Financial Times in defiance of the most basic journalistic ethics – is so transparently self-serving, dishonest, and in a few points frankly absurd, that one is at a bit of a loss where to start. We shall borrow a technique from Russia: Other points of view – numbering the paragraphs in the original for discussion.

Khodorkovsky says Putin is ‘pitiable’

By Isabel Gorst in Moscow
Published: December 24 2010 14:27 | Last updated: December 24 2010 14
(and still at the top of their website three days later…)

(Inserted numbers are by T&B, for ease of reference.)

1. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed Russian tycoon, has lashed out at Vladimir Putin, describing his nemesis as a pitiable but dangerous leader steering his country towards degradation and chaos.

2. In a newspaper article published on Friday, three days before a judge begins reading the verdict in a fresh trial that could keep him in jail until 2017, Mr Khodorkovsky said the Russian prime minister was trapped in the cynical political establishment he had created, indifferent to the fate of its people.

3. “I suddenly realised I was sorry for this man – no longer young, but vigorous and horribly lonely in the face of a vast and unsympathetic country,” he said.

4. The latest trial reaches its conclusion before the expiry of an eight-year sentence handed down after a first trial for fraud and tax evasion. After his conviction in 2005, Yukos, the giant oil producer he founded, was confiscated and sold, mainly to state oil companies, to help settle alleged tax debts.

5. Critics say the new charges are aimed at keeping Mr Khodorkovsky, who emerged as a champion of democracy before his arrest, behind bars long after presidential elections in 2012.

6. Together with Platon Lebedev, his business partner, Mr Khodorkovsky is now being tried on fresh charges of embezzlement that even his critics have slammed as absurd. On Monday, a Moscow judge will begin reading out a verdict that is expected to hand the two men additional prison sentences of six years.

7. The publication of the stinging article comes after Mr Putin suggested during a nationwide phone-in with Russians last week that Mr Khodorkovsky could have blood on his hands after Yukos’ former security chief was convicted for murder.

8. Defence lawyers for Mr Khodorkovsky accused Mr Putin of putting pressure on the judge to pronounce a guilty verdict and threatened to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

9. In his article, Mr Khodorkovsky said corruption had increased tenfold since Mr Putin came to power in 2000 and disputed the prime minister’s claims to have boosted stability in Russia.

10. He drew a direct link between rising corruption and the outbreak of racial clashes in Russian cities this month that has exposed a dangerous surge in ultra-nationalism in the country. “Don’t fool yourself. Thousands and thousands of suddenly brutalised youngsters are a clear signal that our children see no future for themselves. This is clearly the threatening result of Putin’s stability,” he wrote.

11. “They are our future, they are our grief, they are the most tragic result of the decade of ‘getting back on our feet’ when there was money in abundance but no compassion.”

12. Mr Khodorkovsky has said in the past he would stay out of politics after his release and dedicate his life to social and charitable projects. But on Friday he hinted of a possible return to politics. “ We will develop the country ourselves… We can do it. We are the people after all. And it is ours. Russia.”

13. Mr Khodorkovsky’s second trial is seen as a litmus test of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president’s pledge to reform the judiciary and uproot corruption.

Speaking to television journalists on Friday, Mr Medvedev, a lawyer by training, refused to comment on the trial.

“Neither the president, nor any other official, has the right to express his or her position on this case or any other case before the verdict is passed, regardless of whether it is a guilty or an innocent verdict,” he said.

1. Anyone living in Russia in the 1990s knows precisely what “degradation and chaos” look like. If Mr. Khodorkovsky is the sole oligarch to be truly concerned for the well-being of the Russian populace, why was it that, when he was becoming fabulously wealthy as his country dissolved into disaster, he never went on the record to complain of it? Why did he pay just $200m for an oil company worth tens of billions when the country was sliding into bankruptcy? Why use offshore schemes instead of paying taxes if he was concerned with the commonweal?

2. Again, Khodorkovsky – and especially his lieutenants the vicious Nezhlin and Lebedev – were notorious for his callous brutality. The privatization of Apatit alone filled up a medium-sized graveyard in the Urals. Russia may be a sometimes-brutal place, but people like him made it far more so.

3. Mr. Putin gives every sign of enjoying his job, and loneliness does not seem to be an issue for him. Perhaps Khodorkovsky is confusing the Prime Minister’s fate with his own.

4. Correct.

5. Khodorkovsky was never known to champion anything other than the power of the oligarchy. Had he been a champion of democracy, his first act would have been to stop freely corrupting the Russian Duma, media, and bureaucracy. Before his arrest, he never showed any signs of wishing to relinquish the corrupt oligarchic grip on the Russian political system. It is most unlikely that, were he to be freed tomorrow, he would do anything fundamentally different.

6. Nowhere else in the article are Khodorkovsky’s critics even identified – indeed, reading the FT text, it is hard to imagine that Khodorkovsky has any critics. T&B has not heard any of Khodorkovsky’s many critics describing the charges as “absurd” – perhaps the FT is confusing the words “critic” and “shill”. Otherwise, we would like to know who, precisely, they are referring to… Or did they simply invent it, in order to finish up the paragraph on a suitably acerbic note?

7. Khodorkovsky unquestionably DOES have blood on his hands. His head of security, Alexei Pichugin, is serving a 20-year sentence (see for a series of contract murders: Menatep’s terror tactics were common knowledge in the 1990s, when their opponents lived in terror (and T&B was forbidden to write anything critical of them by our erstwhile employer). What is outrageous is that their head of security, the ex-KGB operative Pichugin, was convicted, but not the bosses who ordered the hits.

Explaining why he has not been accused, Khodorkovsky apologists claim that the charges would never hold up in court. Then, in almost the same breath, they claim that the courts are transparently manipulated by the government – one cannot have it both ways! Either the courts are fair, and Khodorkovsky is as guilty as Cain, or they are unfair, in which case it seems most unlikely that a murder charge would be rejected.

Perhaps the Russian government is holding the murder charge in reserve as an ultimate, nuclear threat against Yukos-Menatep if it were to do further damage – though we are at a loss to imagine what this further damage might be. In either event, it seems an outrage that justice not been done to the victims.

8. Prima facie absurd. Again, they have spent years telling us that the courts are totally controlled by the government. If so, why should Putin bother to publicly pressure a court which is in his pocket anyway? You cannot have it both ways. As for suing before the European Court of Human Rights – one can, if one wishes, sue the Bishop of Boston for Bastardy… But one is most unlikely to prevail.

9. He is on drugs! From what we read in the press, Russian corruption was reported to account for at least20% of GDP in 2000. So it now accounts for 200%? Why be so modest? Why not 2,000%?? More than 100% of GDP going to anything at all is a logical absurdity – but we are in the realm of fantasy here.

10. More insanity. “Suddenly brutalized” (!) – Russia has been a very hard place for the past several hundred years! Skinhead violence was as brutal and far more prevalent during the mid-1990s. It remains a serious problem. Anyone visiting the poorer suburbs of Moscow, but also of Paris or Brussels, will know how widespread it is.

Again, Khodorkovsky and his ilk showed no concern with such social ills in the past. Not surprising, in that they rode around in armoured limousines with large and well-armed security details.

11. Again, to claim that the “skinhead-nationalist-racist” problem is of recent vintage suggests he takes the journalists for morons (alas, at least in this one assessment, he is apparently correct!).

12. Mr. Khodorkovsky’s likelihood of winning an election of any sort in Russia is similar to T&B’s being appointed to the Holy Synod. Less likely really, since never having heard of him, the majority of the electorate does not hate T&B.

Anyone speaking a few words of Russian should simply ask a random selection of a) taxi drivers, b) shop clerks, c) people on the street car, what they think of the oligarchs in general – and of Khodorkovsky in particular. The responses will be fairly rabid. The only significant group of Russians supporting him is the small, English-speaking coterie of members of the Moscow chattering classes who surround most foreign journalists.

13. Who declared it a litmus test? The FT? Are they chemists? No one except the journalists and those in the pay of Menatep much cares anymore. It has been two years since a foreign investor enquired with us about this matter.

It is a criminal case against a man who was as guilty as the worst of his peers, but who, unlike them, refused to cease and desist after the feeble Yeltsin regime collapsed and a more purposeful government took its place.

Of course, Mr. Putin is being disingenuous when he claims that he does not have evidence against any of the other oligarchs. There is ample evidence against many of them. The difference is they knew when to quit, and were not megalomaniacal enough to threaten the Russian state.

We have said it before – we shall say it again. The “journalist” authoring this paper is either a fool or a knave – either corrupted by Yukos money, or totally ignorant of what was public knowledge in the 1990s: that the oil oligarchs were robbing the state blind!

The argument that trying Khodorkovsky now involves double-jeopardy suggests either laziness or intentional disinformation. A quick look at Wikipedia will show that the first Khodorkovsky trial was for the criminal privatization of Apatit, not for the theft from Yukos.

In fact, the ONLY credible legal defense for Khodorkovsky is the “everyone was doing it too” argument. There is only one problem – that it is not a legal defense. We are not aware of any system of justice where it would be an accepted defense. The fact that there were other Ponzi schemes was not exculpatory for Bernie Madoff; that other guys were trading on insider information did not keep Boesky out of jail. People with dark and ugly pasts are best advised to be very, very careful and to avoid antagonizing those who could hold them to account for their past crimes… and the FT damned well knows it!

Lies, Damned lies, and the FT

A number of our readers have written to us expressing skepticism as regards our version of the Yukos affaire. This is hardly surprising – we scan the mainstream Western press in vain for anyone seriously questioning what has become the official narrative.

Is it not extraordinary that none of the famously free and fair Western media even expresses doubt as to whether he is not, in fact, guilty as charged? Could they, in fact, be regimented and beholden to a very specific agenda?

As we have noted previously – we do not find Russia either more or less corrupt than the West. The difference is that Russia has mostly “honest corruption” i.e. well-stuffed envelopes – fee-for-service, without any particular hypocrisy. In the West, on the other hand, the media are bought, generally not for cash.

Cash, of course, does play a vital role. Despite the best efforts of the Russian state, Yukos/Menatep retains control of its stolen billions parked abroad (it is for this reason that the Russian administration rightly fears Khodorkovsky – clever, vicious, infused with a sense of mission, with unlimited access to Western corridors of power, and controlling a multi-billion dollar war chest – back on the street he could be infinitely more pernicious than the equally criminal Berezovsky). This money is channeled through a dense network of political fixers, right-wing think tanks, Washington political operatives, PR and government relations firms (notably APCO, run, disconcertingly, by one Margery Kraus… no relation!), law firms such as Robert Amsterdam (essentially a very effective political huckster posing as an attorney), with scores of Western public figures on the payroll.

We do not have any evidence that publications such as the FT actually receive cash for their disinformation. That would be too simple. The most senior editors lunch with the good and the great – they attended the same schools – sit at the same clubs. Underpaid, they thrive on honours, access, that sense of belonging. Perhaps we are naïve – perhaps some cold cash changes hands. Simply – we are not aware of it.

Whatever the reason – the fact that it is openly “corrupt” is beyond reasonable dispute. The reader can draw his own conclusions as to whether a similar letter written by Bernard Madoff expressing his pity for Barack Obama would have made it onto the front pages of the FT!

This headline news was, after all, nothing more than a poorly drafted broadside by a convicted criminal lashing out at the legitimate government of his country. The fact that Khodorkovsky stole billions rather than millions clearly justifies his moving up on the page – but it does not make this front-page news!

No – the article was placed. Powerful and well-financed sources saw to it that it was given front page coverage. Money CAN buy you “Truth” in the Western press – and unlike the slightly jaded Russian populace, Westerners actually believe their own propaganda.

Other Khodorkovsky coverage of note since my last update: A Journalist Unmuzzled! – A Private Communication (how MSM editors dictate what Western journalists can effectively say – same Eric Kraus); Enough Grandstanding About Khodorkovsky, Ms. Clinton! (the hypocrisy of “rule of law” lectures from a nation that holds dozens of people indefinitely without trial – Yvonne Ridley); Khodorkovsky 2017 (doing the motions – Khodorkovsky’s lawyers); Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky gets six more years (exercise: how many journalistic fallacies can you spot in this Independent piece?).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Though I originally meant to write my own analysis of what the Wikileaks cables have contributed to our understanding of the 2008 South Ossetia War, I realized that I would essentially be trying to duplicate the excellent efforts of Patrick Armstrong. (See also the New York Times article Embracing Georgia, U.S. Misread Signs of Rifts). Patrick’s article for Russia Other Points Of View is reprinted below:

I have been a diplomat: I have written reports like the ones leaked and I have read many. And my conclusion is that some report writers are better informed than others. So it is with a strange sense of déjà vu that I have read the Wikileaks on US reports.

My sources for the following are the reports presented at this Website (passed to me by Metin Sonmez – thank you): (Direct quotations are bolded; I will not give detailed references – search the site). The reports published there are a small sample of all the communications that would have passed from the posts to Washington in August 2008. They are, in fact, low-grade reporting tels with low security classifications and only a partial set at that. Nonetheless they give the flavour of what Washington was receiving from its missions abroad. (It is inconceivable that the US Embassy in Tbilisi was reporting everything Saakashvili told it without comment in one set of reports while another said that he was lying; that’s not how it works).

One of the jobs of embassies is to inform their headquarters; in many cases, this involves passing on what they are told without comment. But passive transmission does not justify the fabulous expense of an Embassy – official statements are easy to find on the Net – informed judgement is what you are paying for. We don’t see a lot of that in these reports. What struck me immediately upon reading the reports from Tbilisi was how reliant they were on Official Tbilisi. Had they never talked to Okruashvili, or Kitsmarishvili? They could have told them that the conquest of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was always on the agenda. They actually did speak to Kitsmarishvili: he says he met with Ambassador Tefft to ask whether Washington had given Tbilisi “U.S. support to carry out the military operation” as he said the Tbilisi leadership believed it had. He says Tefft “categorically denied that”. How about former close associates of Saakashvili like Burjanadze or Zurabishvili who could have told them how trustworthy he was? (The last’s French connections may have helped insulate Paris from swallowing Saakashvili’s version whole).

The first report from Tbilisi, on 6 August, deals with Georgian reports of fighting in South Ossetia. This doesn’t mean anything in particular – sporadic outbursts have been common on the border since the war ended in 1992 – they are generally a response to the other side’s activities. What’s important about this particular outburst is that it formed the base of Saakashvili’s Justification 1.0 for his attack. We now must remind readers of his initial statement to the Georgian people when he thought it was almost over: “Georgian government troops had gone ‘on the offensive’ after South Ossetian militias responded to his peace initiative on August 7 by shelling Georgian villages.” His justification changed as what he had to explain grew more catastrophic. The US Embassy in Tbilisi comments (ie not reporting what they were told:comments are the Embassy speaking) “From evidence available to us it appears the South Ossetians started today’s fighting. The Georgians are now reacting by calling up more forces and assessing their next move. It is unclear to the Georgians, and to us, what the Russian angle is and whether they are supporting the South Ossetians or actively trying to help control the situation”. The comment sets the stage: the Ossetians started it and Moscow may be involved. There appears to be no realisation that the Ossetians are responding to some Georgian activity (itself a reaction to an Ossetian activity and so on back to 1991, when the Georgians attacked). Shouldn’t Tefft have wondered at this point why Kitsmarishvili had asked him that question a few months earlier? (Parenthetically I might observe that there is never, in any of the reports that I have seen, any consideration, however fleeting, of the Ossetian point of view. But that is the Original Sin of all of this: Stalin’s borders are sacrosanct and Ossetians are nothing but Russian proxies).

On 8 August comes what is probably the most important message that the US Embassy in Tbilisi sent to its masters in Washington: “Saakashvili has said that Georgia had no intention of getting into this fight, but was provoked by the South Ossetians and had to respond to protect Georgian citizens and territory.” The comment is: “All the evidence available to the country team supports Saakashvili’s statement that this fight was not Georgia’s original intention. Key Georgian officials who would have had responsibility for an attack on South Ossetia have been on leave, and the Georgians only began mobilizing August 7 once the attack was well underway. As late as 2230 last night Georgian MOD and MFA officials were still hopeful that the unilateral cease-fire announced by President Saakashvili would hold. Only when the South Ossetians opened up with artillery on Georgian villages, did the offensive to take Tskhinvali begin. Post has eyes on the ground at the Ministry of Interior command post in Tbilisi and will continue to provide updates..,. If the Georgians are right, and the fighting is mainly over, the real unknown is what the Russian role will be and whether there is potential for the conflict to expand.” The Embassy also reported “We understand that at this point the Georgians control 75 percent of Tskhinvali and 11 villages around it. Journalists report that Georgian forces are moving toward the Roki tunnel”. How wrong can you be? The Georgians did not control 75% of Tskhinval and they were not approaching Roki; at this time their attack had already run out of steam, stopped by the Ossetian militia.

Saakashvili and the Georgian leadership now believe that this entire Russian military operation is all part of a grand design by Putin to take Georgia and change the regime.” Already we see that Tbilisi is preparing the ground for Justification 2.0. I refer the reader to Saakashvili’s “victory speech” made on Day 1. As I have written elsewhere, when Saakashvili saw that his war was not turning out as he expected, he changed his story. The Embassy reports the beginnings of Justification 2.0 without comment: “Saakashvili, who told the Ambassador that he was in Gori when a Russian bomb fell in the city center, confirmed that the Georgians had not decided to move ahead until the shelling intensified and the Russians were seen to be amassing forces on the northern side of the Roki Tunnel.” From the US NATO delegation we get the final version of Justification 2.0: “Crucially, part of their calculus had been information that Russian forces were already moving through the Roki tunnel into South Ossetia. Tkeshelashvili underlined that the Russian incursion could not have been a response to the Georgian thrust into South Ossetia because the Russians had begun their movements before the Georgians.” But, really – think about it – would Georgia have invaded in the hope that its forces could beat the Russians on a 60 kilometre road race into Tskhinval that the Russians had already started?

But at last we begin to see some scepticism: “It is increasingly difficult to get an accurate analysis of the military situation because of the fog of war and the fact that the Georgian command and control system has broken down.” By the 12th Georgian reports are accompanied by some caution: “Note: Post is attempting to obtain independent confirmation of these events. End note.” At last it is comparing the different stories: “Merabishvili said that 600 of his MOIA special forces, with their Kobra vehicles (armored Humvees with 40-mm guns), took Tskhinvali in six hours, against 2,000 defenders. He claimed that in the future they will use the attack to teach tactics. He returned again to the subject, noting that ‘we held Tskhinvali for four days despite the Russians’ bombing. Half of our men were wounded, but none died. These guys are heroes.’ (Comment: Post understands MOIA control of Tskhinvali was actually closer to 24 hours. End Comment.)”

Nonetheless the Embassy passively transmits: “bombed hospitals”; “Russian Cossacks are shooting local Georgians and raping women/girls”; “The Georgians suffered terrible losses (estimated in the thousands) overnight”; “Russian helicopters were dropping flares on the Borjomi national forest to start fires”; “Russia targeted civilians in Gori and Tskhinvali”; “the Backfires targeted 95 percent civilian targets”; “raping women and shooting resisters”; “stripped Georgian installations they have occupied of anything valuable, right down to the toilet seats”.

However, enough of this: it’s clear that the US Embassy in Tbilisi believed what it was told, had not in the past questioned what it was told and, for the most part, uncritically passed on what it had been told. The US Embassy reports shaped the narrative in key areas:

1. Ossetians (and maybe Moscow) started it;

2. The Russian forces were doing tremendous and indiscriminate damage;

3. Possibly the Russians wanted to take over Georgia altogether.

Many reports deal with attempts to produce a unified statement of condemnation from NATO and show differences among the members. On the one hand, “Latvia, echoed by Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland highlighted their Presidents’ joint statement on the crisis and invited Allies to support that declaration. Each of these Allies expressed that Russian violence should ‘not serve the aggressor’s purpose’ and that NATO should respond by suspending all NRC activity with the exception of any discussion aimed at bringing an end to the conflict. Bulgaria liked the idea immediately”. But not everyone bought into Washington’s contention that Ossetia or Moscow had started it: “Hungary and Slovakia called for NATO to take into account the role Georgia played at the beginning of this recent conflict, suggesting that Georgia invaded South Ossetia without provocation.” Germany is even described as “parroting Russian points on Georgian culpability for the crisis” and described as “the standard bearer for pro-Russia camp”. Would Berlin’s scepticism have any connection with the fact that Der Spiegel was the only Western media outlet that got it right: “Saakashvili lied 100 percent to all of us, the Europeans and the Americans.”? Eventually, after a lot of back and forth, there is agreement that Moscow’s response was “disproportionate”. (But how much was that judgement affected by Tbilisi’s hysterical reports of indiscriminate bombardment, casualties in the thousands and the exaggerated reports about the destruction of Gori? To say nothing of meretricious reporting by Western media.)

The Western media – with the exception of Der Spiegel – was no better. Perhaps the best example of its slanted and incompetent coverage was passing off pictures of Tskhinval as pictures from Gori: one newspaper even tried to pass off a Georgian soldier – wearing a visible Georgian flag patch – as a Russian in “blazing” Gori. It was months before the New York Times or the BBC, for example, began to climb off their Tbilisi-fed reporting.

During the war I was interviewed by Russia Today and I said that, sitting at my computer in my basement in Ottawa, far from the centre of the world, I had a better take on what was happening than Washington did. I see nothing in these reports to change my opinion. I also said that the war would be a reality check for the West when it was understood that Moscow’s version of events was a much better fit with reality than Tbilisi’s. And so it has proved to be.

Why did I do better? Assumptions. The American diplomats assumed that Tbilisi was telling the truth (despite the strong hint from Kitmarishvili). People in Warsaw, Riga and other places assumed that Russia wanted to conquer Georgia. On the other hand, my assumption was that Tbilisi hardly ever told the truth – I had followed all the back and forth about jihadists in Pankisi or Ruslan Gelayev’s attack on Abkhazia. I knew about Saakashvili’s takeover of Imedi TV. I knew that Ossetians had reasons to fear Tbilisi years ago and more recently. I knew that they were only in Georgia because Stalin-Jughashvili had put them there and that they wanted out. I remembered the Gamsakhurdia years when all this began. I was not pre-disposed to believe Tbilisi on this, or, truth to tell, anything else. Assumptions are everything and that is what we see in these reports. Russia is assumed to be evil, Georgia assumed to be good.

But, what a change in only two years: today NATO courts Russia and Saakashvili courts Iran.

Patrick Armstrong received a PhD from Kings College, University of London, England in 1976 and started working for the Canadian government as a defence scientist in 1977. He began a 22-year specialisation on the USSR and then Russia in 1984, and was Political Counsellor in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow from 1993 to 1996.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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China - not only toys, but tokamaks too.

China – not only toys, but tokamaks too.

Four cables from Cathay, courtesy of this excellent Cable Search tool.

The first cable (Cable 1) is one of the last dispatches of Ambassador to the PRC Clark T. Randt, a long, analytical piece from January 2009. But it’s also perhaps the least interesting of the four. This is because it is only a rehashing of the standard narrative that can be found on most editorials on the subject: the post-Mao economic liberalization; fast industrial expansion; pollution and demographic problems; etc. China’s prospects are underestimated, as I’ve argued in the past. For instance, he cites projections that China will overtake Japan in five years years and “could rival the United States in overall scale” by the late 2030′s. But these are surely very, very pollyannish (from the US perspective) since in actuality China overtook Japan this year (2010) and its real GDP is already 70% of America’s.

The real threat to Chinese – AND global – growth prospects are resource constraints. Surprisingly, perhaps, for a US government official, Randt cites estimates having China reach peak oil in the early 2010′s and peak coal “in the next 15 to 25 years” (I think coal production will plateau as early as 2015). However, these shortages will be partly mitigated by huge alternative programs – he cites China as being the world’s largest producer of renewable power and Cable 3 mentions plans to construct 70 new nuclear power plants in the next decade. He is almost certainly wrong in his optimistic ideas that China will buy into the US global order, rather than seeking to remake it in its own images (as all aspiring hegemons try to do). To take an example, the wish that China will make itself into a “reliable partner” for the US and other donor countries is put into question by Cable 4 from the very same embassy, in which a Kenyan ambassador expresses an African preference for Chinese aid over Western “conferences and seminars”. The cable finishes with some platitudes about the US needing to “push for the expansion of individual freedoms, respect for the rule of law and the establishment of a truly free and independent judiciary and press”, which must surely have the publisher of this cable spinning in his British prison cell.

The second cable (Cable 2), from July 2009, is a very informative, but short (so recommended reading), introduction to three major interpretations of Chinese politics: as “akin to… the executive suite of a large corporation, as determined by the interplay of powerful interests, or as shaped by competition between “princelings” with family ties to party elders and “shopkeepers” who have risen through the ranks of the Party.” In the first interpretation, Party General Secretary Hu Jintao is the CEO, with the 25 other members of the Politburo aiming for consensus in decision making. The Politburo members are also oligarchs in practice, having their own vested interests and administrative-economic clans. (BTW, this political system of corporate clans and fusions of economic and political power bears some resemblance to Russia’s).

Many casual observers continue to see China as a sweatshop manufactory of cheap, unreliable goods (poisonous toys, etc) produced by exploited workers on starvation wages, but this is very rapidly diverging from reality. The third cable (Cable 3), from February 2010, has a few examples. With just a fraction of the science and technology funding of developed country universities, Chinese institutions are managing to produce ground-breaking work in esoteric spheres such as nuclear fusion, quantum communications and nanotechnology. Of course, not all of them are “pleasant” advances, and reflect the Orwellian instincts of the Chinese state, such as a biometric sensor designed to identify people by how they walk. An authoritarian state, but one with hi-tech visions that are fast becoming realities.

The final cable (Cable 4), from February 2010, can be summarized by one quote: “[Kenyan Ambassador to China] Sunkuli claimed that Africa was better off thanks to China’s practical, bilateral approach to development assistance and was concerned that this would be changed by “Western” interference. He said he saw no concrete benefit for Africa in even minimal cooperation. Sunkuli said Africans were frustrated by Western insistence on capacity building, which translated, in his eyes, into conferences and seminars. They instead preferred China’s focus on infrastructure and tangible projects.”

Finally, one more piece of news on China, not Cablegate-related. As regular blog readers know, I think that educational capital and more broadly average IQ levels are one of the key – and frequently under-appreciated due to political correctness – determinants of economic development and whether or not convergence to developed country levels is even possible. Its much higher educational capital is one of the key reasons why I think China will continue doing much better than India in development, regardless of its “democratic deficit.” However, many people argue that China’s human capital must actually be quite low, because it doesn’t spend much on education, resources are bare in the provinces, statistical fudging under unaccountable governors, etc.

The recent results from the international standardized PISA tests in math, reading and science will make this an increasingly untenable position. Shanghai got by far the best results out of all the OECD countries (never mind the developing ones). Now while you might (rightly) argue Shanghai draws much of the elite of the Yangtze river delta, the Financial Times has more: “Citing further, as-yet unpublished OECD research, Mr Schleicher said: “We have actually done Pisa in 12 of the provinces in China. Even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.””

Since countries like the US and France get scores “close to the OECD average”, this means that the workforces soon to be entering China’s economy, even from its poorest regions, will be no less skilled than those of leading Western economies (note too that the numbers of Chinese university graduates are soaring). And with China’s massive population, four times bigger than America’s, its road to superpowerdom must be all but guaranteed.

Cable 1



EO 12958 DECL: 01/05/2034

Classified By: Ambassador Clark T. Randt. Reasons 1.4 (b/d)

¶1. (C) January 1, 2009, marked the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. This anniversary followed the PRC commemoration of roughly 30 years of China’s “reform and opening” policy under Deng Xiaoping, which led to China’s staggering economic growth.

¶2. (C) Thirty years ago, China was just emerging from the nightmare of the Cultural Revolution and 30 years of fratricidal misrule. China’s economy was crippled by years of disastrous policies like the Great Leap Forward. The population was coming to terms with the world’s most draconian population controls enacted in 1976 after decades of Maoist state-subsidies encouraging large families. Chinese foreign relations tended to be more influenced by ideological yardsticks than economic links since China had very few commercial links with the outside world. In 1979, Chinese urbanites on average made the equivalent of five dollars per month.

¶3. (C) Just as no one in 1979 would have predicted that China would become the United States’ most important relationship in thirty years, no one today can predict with certainty where our relations with Beijing will be thirty years hence. However, given the current significance of the bilateral relationship and the risk of missing opportunities to jointly address ongoing and predictable future challenges, below we look at trends currently affecting China with an eye to how those trends might affect relations. Several issues leap out, including China’ insatiable resource needs, our growing economic interdependence, China’s rapid military modernization, a surge in Chinese nationalism, China’s demographic challenges, and the PRC’s increasing influence and confidence on the world stage.

¶4. (C) China has been plagued over the millennia by unforeseen events that devastated formerly prosperous regimes. Mongol invasion, the Black Death, uncountable peasant uprisings, warlords, tax revolts, communist dictatorship, colonialism, famine, earthquakes and other plagues were largely unforeseen by the China watchers of the past. This report focuses generally on more optimistic projections. Given China’s history, however, the United States should also gird itself for the possibility that China will fall short of today’s mostly sanguine forecasts.

Resource Consumption

¶5. (C) Popular and scholarly works in recent years highlight China’s growing demand for natural resources and the possible impact that China’s pursuit of resources will have on its foreign policy. Since economic reforms began in the late 1970s, industrial and exchange rate policies have fueled investment in resource-intensive heavy industries in China’s coastal region, which currently account for approximately 55 percent of the country’s total energy consumption today. A construction boom over the past decade has also stimulated growth in heavy industries. China is now a leading steel producer and currently accounts for 50 percent of the world’s annual cement production. Reflecting China’s emphasis on resource-intensive industries, China’s energy utilization rate grew faster than its GDP between 2002 and 2006. In 1990, China consumed 27 quadrillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) of energy, accounting for 7.8 percent of global consumption. In 2006, it consumed 68.6 quadrillion BTUs or 15.6 percent of the global total. According to U.S. Department of Energy statistics, by 2030 China will account for 145.5 quadrillion BTUs or 20.7 percent of global energy consumption.

¶6. (C) China’s oil demand has grown substantially over the last 30 years. In 1980, China consumed 1.7 million barrels of oil per day, almost all of which was produced domestically. In 2006, China consumed 7.4 million barrels per day, second only to the United States. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), China’s oil consumption will reach 16.5 million barrels per day in 2030. More than two thirds of the increased demand will come from the transport sector as vehicle ownership rates rise. China became a net importer of oil in 1993, and it now relies on imports to meet a growing portion of its fossil fuel needs. The IEA forecasts that China’s oil import dependence will rise from 50 percent this year to 80 percent by 2030, as domestic oil production peaks early in the next decade. To strengthen the country’s future energy security, the Chinese Government has adopted a “go out” policy that encourages national oil companies (NOCs) to acquire equity stakes in foreign oil and gas production. Today, state-owned Chinese oil giants CNPC/PetroChina, CNOOC, and Sinopec can be found in Sudan, Iran, Kazakhstan,

Venezuela, Angola, and the Caspian Basin.

¶7. (C) China has also increased its reliance on imported minerals, and many analysts have attributed the global commodities boom of recent years in part to China’s growing demand. Between 1980 and 2006, China became the world’s largest consumer of iron, copper and aluminum. Chinese conglomerates are ubiquitous in sub-Saharan Africa exploiting mineral wealth there, and Chinese multinationals have significant investments in Australian mineral and uranium production.

¶8. (C) China’s reliance on coal has come at an appalling environmental cost. This year, China surpassed the United States in carbon emissions, and it will soon become the world’s biggest energy consumer. Between now and 2030, the IEA estimates, China will need to add 1,312 gigawatts of power generating capacity, more than the total current installed capacity in the United States. Coal-fired power generation, a major source of air pollution, accounts for approximately 78 percent of China’s total electricity supply, and it will likely remain the predominant fuel in electricity generation for at least the next 20 years. Analysts predict that domestic coal production will peak in the next 15 to 25 years. China already became a net importer of coal in 2007, and coal imports are expected to grow in the coming decades to meet growing demand in China’s coastal provinces.

¶9. (C) The Chinese Government recognizes the need to reduce dependence on coal, and it is pursuing policies to diversify its energy mix. China is already the largest producer of renewable energy in the world, with major investments in large-scale hydro and wind power projects. Nuclear and natural gas power will also account for a greater proportion of energy production, but under current projections, efforts to diversify China’s energy mix will not have a large enough impact to curb greenhouse gas emissions growth.

¶10. (C) China’s energy intensive growth has also had tragic consequences for public health. By most measurements, at least half of the world’s most polluted major cities are in China. Rural residents, in particular farmers, have been affected by water pollution and dwindling water supplies, which are frequently redirected for industrial use. Respiratory disease, water-borne illness and tainted food scares are facts of modern life in the country. According to a recent WHO study, diseases caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution kill 656,000 Chinese citizens every year. Another 95,600 deaths are attributed annually to polluted drinking water.

¶11. (C) China’s increasing reliance on imported natural resources has foreign policy ramifications and provides opportunities for the United States. A China that is increasingly dependent on Middle Eastern oil might be more likely to support policies that do not destabilize the Middle East. Take Iran, for instance. We have long been frustrated that China has resisted (with Russia) tough sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. In the future, a China increasingly dependent on foreign energy supplies may recalculate the risk a nuclear Iran would pose to the greater Persian Gulf region’s capacity to export oil.

¶12. (C) Another opportunity presented by China’s increasing resource consumption is in the joint development of technological responses to reduce carbon emissions and to diminish the public health impact of industrial growth. Scientific publications around the world conclude that the projected rate of global energy and natural resource consumption is unsustainable. Experts warn that we must find alternative forms of energy in order to avert calamities posed by global climate change. International efforts to develop and significantly utilize renewable energy, clean up our shared global environment, and conserve our remaining raw materials will not be effective without meaningful Chinese participation. As the world’s preeminent technological power and as a leader in multilateral energy and scientific organizations, the United States is in a unique position to work with China to overcome these challenges.

Economic Interdependence and Chinese Demographics

¶13. (C) In the next fifteen years, while China’s overall population is predicted to stabilize, its urban population will likely grow to almost 1 billion, an increase (of 300 million people) equal to the entire current population of the United States. China plans to build 20,000 to 50,000 new skyscrapers over the next two decades — as many as ten New York cities. More than 170 Chinese cities will need mass transit systems by 2025, more than twice the number now present in all of Europe. China is now surpassing Germany as the world’s third largest economy and is projected to overtake Japan within the next five years. By the end of the next thirty years, China’s economy could rival the United States in overall scale (although its per capita income will likely only be one quarter of the United States’).

¶14. (C) Behind these outward symbols of success will be an increasingly complicated economic picture. Since 1979, by reversing the misguided economic policies of the Mao era, liberalizing labor markets and prices, opening to foreign investment, and taking advantage of the West’s consumer-driven policies, China has maintained fast growth. However, the set of circumstances that allowed such impressive growth rates will no longer exist in the future.

¶15. (C) Many speculate that China has reached the limit to easy productivity gains by rationalizing the state-planned economy. The Economist Intelligence Unit expects China’s annual growth to slow from around 10 percent in the last 30 years to 4.5 percent by 2020. After 2015 when the labor force peaks as a share of the population, labor costs will rise faster. This will increasingly make other countries like India and Vietnam more attractive for labor-intensive investment. In addition, workers will have to support a growing number of retirees. Early retirement ages combined with the urban one-child limits creates the so-called “4-2-1” social dilemma: each worker will have to support four grandparents, two parents and one child. Savings rates will start falling as the elderly draw down their retirement funds.

¶16. (C) China will have to manage an economy increasingly dependent on domestic consumption and service industries for growth. Already, urbanites are buying 1,000 new cars per day, making China the world’s largest Internet and luxury goods market, and traveling abroad in growing numbers. By 2025, China will have the world’s largest middle class, and China will likely have completed the transition from the majority rural population of today to a majority urban population. These consumers of tomorrow will likely flock to products from around the world as their North American, European and Japanese counterparts do today, providing new opportunities for American business. If incomes continue to grow, it is likely that the Chinese middle class will react like educated urbanites in other countries by exerting pressure on the Government to improve its dismal performance on environmental protection, food and product safety. We are already seeing increased public activism over such issues today.

¶17. (C) China will face a challenge in the next thirty years encouraging this urban consumption while dealing with the social equality issues inherent in a rural population where over 200 million people still live on less than a dollar a day. China will also have to find a way to improve the lot of between 150 and 230 million migrant workers who today must leave their children and aging parents behind in their home villages to travel to the industrial centers of the relatively developed coastal regions to work in factories or on construction projects.

¶18. (C) With China’s phenomenal growth has come increased economic interdependence. This will likely increase, although some of the less-balanced elements of China’s economic interactions should be mitigated. Rising consumption rates should work to lower China’s trade surplus as well as its overabundance of foreign exchange reserves. More assets controlled by corporations and individuals, as opposed to the government, will diversify outward investment, reducing political control by Beijing, but also the utility of political suasion for U.S. policymakers interested in effecting the flow of capital to international hotspots.

Chinese Nationalism and Confidence on the International Stage

¶19. (C) As one of two main pillars of post-Mao Chinese Communist Party rule (the other being sustained economic growth), Chinese nationalism is growing and should be monitored closely. As witnessed during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Chinese are increasingly proud of the tremendous strides their country has made in recent years. More and more young people see China as having “arrived” and might possess the confidence and willingness to assume the responsibilities of a major power. However, as was evident during protests over the 1999 mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, the 2004 protests over Japanese textbooks, and more recently the anti-France diatribes that followed the roughing-up of a disabled Olympic torch bearer in Paris by Free Tibet supporters, this nationalism can also lead to jingoism. Chinese leaders of a system with few outlets to express political sentiments are faced with trying to give vent to the occasional uprising of nationalistic anger without letting it get out of hand or allowing it to focus on the failings of the central leadership.

¶20. (C) With notable exceptions like Zhou Enlai, Chinese foreign policy practitioners thirty years ago had little practical experience dealing with the West. Since then, Chinese diplomats and subject matter experts are increasingly well-educated, well-traveled and well-respected. Chinese diplomats at international fora such as the UN and the WTO have become adept at using procedural rules to attain diplomatic or commercial ends. This trend will likely continue in the coming decades, increasing the likelihood of American decision makers finding more able adversaries when we disagree on issues, but also more able partners where we can agree to jointly tackle a problem of mutual concern such as nonproliferation, alternative energy or pandemic influenza.

¶21. (C) While still reluctant to claim China is a global leader, Chinese officials are gradually gaining confidence as a regional power. By the end of the next 30 years, China should no longer be able to portray itself as the representative of lesser developed countries. This does not mean that it will necessarily identify with the more developed, mainly Western countries; it well might choose to pursue some uniquely Chinese path. In the coming 30 years, a U.S. President might be involved in negotiations with a Chinese leader seeking to reshape global financial institutions like the IMF or the WTO or establish rival institutions for non-Western countries in order to mitigate domestic Chinese concerns. Even so, China’s growing position as a nation increasingly distinct from the less-developed world may expand our common interests and make it easier for the United States to convince China to act like a responsible global stakeholder.

¶22. (C) Foreign assistance coordination is another area of opportunity. China is rapidly ramping up its global economic presence, not only via resource extraction ventures and cheap exports, but increasingly via direct investment and assistance. This investment and assistance are welcome in most less-developed countries, whether in Africa or Southeast Asia, and particularly in countries where China’s longstanding policy of “no strings attached no political interference” appeals to democratically-challenged dictators and kleptocrats. However, China is already facing blowback as a result of its more cavalier approach to issues that more scrupulous donors have wrestled with for decades. Scant attention paid to worker safety, job opportunities for local people, environmental protection, and political legitimacy has had negative consequences for China on multiple occasions, from a tarnished international image and being used as a political whipping boy by opposition groups in democratic countries to unpaid loans, expropriated investments, and even the deaths of Chinese expatriates. As a result, China is beginning to understand the merits of international assistance standards not for altruistic reasons, but for achieving China’s own bottom-line imperatives of a more secure international position and better-protected economic interests in third countries. This realization, coupled with China’s growing economic clout on the world stage, make it quite possible that, in the next 30 years, China will come to be identified by the average citizen in less developed countries not as “one of us” but as “one of them.”

¶23. (C) In all likelihood, a new-found (if still somewhat grudging) PRC interest in internationally accepted donor principles such as transparency, good governance, environmental and labor protections, and corporate social responsibility will have matured in 30 years’ time, making China a reliable partner for the United States, other donor countries, and international organizations in alleviating poverty, developing infrastructure, improving education and fighting infectious disease. And as one of the world’s premier economic powers, China can be expected to have all but discarded its over-worn and outdated “non-interference” rhetoric in the face of massive Chinese investment assets and other economic interests abroad.

¶24. (C) As evidenced by Chinese policies toward pariah states like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and Iran, China is still willing to put its need for markets and raw materials above the need to promote internationally accepted norms of behavior. However, the possible secession of southern Sudan (where much of the country’s oil is found) from the repressive Khartoum-based Bashir regime, the erratic treatment of foreign economic interests in Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe, the dangers to regional safety and stability posed by Burma’s dysfunctional military junta, and the threat to China’s energy security that a nuclear-armed Iran would represent have given Beijing cause to re-calibrate its previously uncritical stance toward these international outlaws. If China’s integration into global economic and security structures continues apace, we would expect its tolerance for these sorts of disruptive players to decrease proportionately.

¶25. (C) China’s work in the Six-Party Talks and the Shanghai Cooperative Organization may provide guidance as to how to accelerate this trend. China plays a leading and often responsible and constructive role in both of these multilateral groups. Future U.S. policy-makers might usefully consider additional international mechanisms that include both U.S. and Chinese membership such as the proposed Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism that may grow out of the Six-Party Talks. The Chinese themselves have suggested a Six-Party Talks-like grouping to address the Iran nuclear issue, perhaps a P5-plus-1-plus-Iran. In the future, we may wish to consider the United States joining the East Asia Summit (EAS).

¶26. (C) Likewise, as the Chinese economy takes up a larger portion of the global economy, it inevitably will become increasingly affected by the decisions of international economic and financial institutions. Similarly, China’s economic decisions will have global implications, and its cooperation will become essential to solving global-scale problems. Drawing China constructively into regional and global economic and environmental dialogues and institutions will be essential. More and more experts see the utility of establishing an Asia-Pacific G-8, to include China, Japan, and the United States plus India, Australia, Indonesia, South Korea and Russia; others say the time is ripe to include China as a member of a G-9. Giving China a greater voice is seen as a way to encourage China to assume a larger burden in supporting the international economic and financial system.

Role of the Military

¶27. (C) The disparate possibilities exist that in the coming decades the PLA will evolve into a major competitor, maintain only a regional presence or become a partner capable of joining us and others to address peacekeeping, peace-enforcing, humanitarian relief and disaster mitigation roles around the world. China may be content to remain only a regional power, but Deng Xiaoping’s maxim urging China to hide its capabilities while biding its time should caution us against predicting that the PLA’s long-term objectives are modest. In the years to come, our defense experts will need to closely monitor China’s contingency plans and we will need to use every diplomatic and strategic tool we have to prevent intimidating moves toward Taiwan. In the coming years, Chinese defense capabilities will continue to improve. The PLA thirty years from today will likely have sophisticated anti-satellite weapons, state-of-the-art aircraft, aircraft carriers and an ability to project force into strategic sea lanes.

¶28. (C) Thirty years ago the PLA was a bloated political organization with antiquated equipment and tactics. Today, the PLA is leaner and is becoming a modern force. Chinese military and paramilitary units have participated in UN-sponsored peacekeeping missions in East Timor, Kosovo, Haiti and Africa. In December 2008, for the first time, the PLA Navy deployed beyond the immediate waters surrounding the country to participate in anything beyond a goodwill tour to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa. It is likely that China will continue to support UN-sponsored PKOs, and if the piracy expedition is successful, China might follow up with expeditions to future piracy hotspots such as the Strait of Malacca or elsewhere.

¶29. (C) Over the past thirty years, Chinese officials have come to begrudgingly acknowledge the benefits to East Asia resulting from the U.S. military presence in the Pacific, especially the extent that a U.S. presence in the Pacific is an alternative to a more robust Japanese military presence. A peaceful resolution of the threat posed by North Korea might cause China to call for an end to the U.S. base presence on the Korean Peninsula. Perceived threats to China’s security posed by Japan’s participation in missile defense or by future high-tech U.S. military technologies might cause tomorrow’s Chinese leaders to change their assessment and to exert economic pressures on U.S. allies like Thailand or the Philippines to choose between Beijing and Washington.

¶30. (C) Whatever the state of our future relations with China, we will need to understand more about the Chinese military. Multilateral training and exercises are constructive ways to promote understanding and develop joint capabilities that could be used in real-life situations. In the coming years, the Chinese may be called upon to participate in regional peacekeeping and humanitarian relief exercises. Some of these could be handled under UN auspices, but others could be bilateral or multilateral. For instance, Cobra Gold, which is held every year in Thailand, is America’s foremost military exercise in Asia. It has a peacekeeping component and since the December 2004 tsunami in Indian Ocean has included a humanitarian relief element. With proper buy-in by the Pentagon and PACOM, we could create a program to engage the PLA more directly both with our military and with friendly militaries in the region. Modest efforts at expanding search and rescue capabilities on the high seas, developing common forensic techniques for use in mass casualty events, conducting exercises with PLA units tasked with responding to civil nuclear emergencies, or table-top exercises for U.S. and Chinese junior officers could be steps that promote trust with little risk. At the same time, more frequent, regularly scheduled high-level reciprocal visits between Chinese and U.S. security officials might eventually lead to a constructive strategic security policy dialogue on nonproliferation, counterterrorism and other issues.

Taiwan and Human Rights

¶31. (C) Taiwan was the most vexing issue holding up the establishment of relations 30 years ago and remains the toughest issue for U.S.-China relations despite significant improvement in cross-Strait relations since the election of Taiwan President Ma. It will remain a delicate topic for the foreseeable future. We should continue to support Taiwan and Mainland efforts to reduce tension by increasing Taiwan’s “international space” and reducing the Mainland’s military build-up across from Taiwan.

¶32. (C) Thirty years ago, the Chinese state interfered in virtually every aspect of its citizens’ lives. An individual’s work unit provided housing, education, medical care and a burial plot. Reeducation sessions and thought reform were common, churches and temples were closed, and average citizens had little access to the outside world. Today, Chinese have far greater ability to travel, read foreign media and worship. Nonetheless, the overall human rights situation falls well short of international norms. Today, China’s growing cadre of well-educated urbanites generally avoids politics and seems more interested in fashion and consumerism than in ideology; after all, outside-the-box political thinking, much less activism, remains dangerous. However, any number of factors in the future ranging from rising unemployment among recent college graduates, or growing discontent over the income divide separating rich urbanites from poor peasants, to discontent among the mass of migrant workers could lead to unrest and increased political activism. The Chinese Government still responds with brutal force to any social, religious, political or ideological movement it perceives as a potential threat. Chinese political leaders’ occasional nods toward the need for political reform and increased democracy suggest a realization that the current one-party authoritarianism has its weak points, but do not promise sufficient relaxation of party control to create a more dynamically stable polity in the long term.

¶33. (C) While the U.S. model of democracy is not the only example of a tolerant open society, we should continue to push for the expansion of individual freedoms, respect for the rule of law and the establishment of a truly free and independent judiciary and press as being necessities for a thriving, modern society and, as such, in China’s own interests. Someday, China will realize political reform. When that day comes, we will want to be remembered by Chinese for having helped China to advance. Randt

Cable 2



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2034

¶B. BEIJING 2040

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson. Reasons 1.
4 (b/d).


¶1. (C) The need for consensus and the desire to protect vested interests are the main drivers of Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) decision-making and Chinese leadership dynamics in general, according to Embassy contacts with access to leadership circles. Contacts have variously described relations at the top of China’s Party-state structure as akin to those in the executive suite of a large corporation, as determined by the interplay of powerful interests, or as shaped by competition between “princelings” with family ties to party elders and “shopkeepers” who have
risen through the ranks of the Party. End Summary.

Hu Jintao as Chairman of the Board?

¶2. (C) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo decision-making is similar to executive decision-making in a large company, two well-connected contacts say. xxxxx that Party General Secretary Hu Jintao could be compared to the Chairman of the Board or CEO of a big corporation.xxxxx, used the same analogy in a May 18 meeting with PolOffs. xxxxx said that PBSC decision making was akin to a corporation in which the greater the stock ownership the greater the voice in decisions. “Hu Jintao holds the most stock, so his views carry the greatest weight,” and so on down the hierarchy, but the PBSC did not formally vote, xxxxx. “It is a consensus system,” he maintained, “in which members can exercise veto power.”

¶3. (C) xxxxx had told PolOff previously that he knew “on very good authority” that “major policies,” such as the country’s core policy on Taiwan or North Korea, had to be decided by the full 25-member Politburo. Other more specific matters, he said, were decided by the nine-member PBSC alone. Some issues were put to a formal vote, while others were merely discussed until a consensus was reached. Either way, xxxxx stated sarcastically, the Politburo was the “most democratic body in the world,” the only place in China where true democracy existed. xxxxx said that although there was “something” to the notion of a rough factional balancing at the top between the Jiang Zemin-Shanghai group and the Hu-Wen group, neither group was dominant, and major issues had to be decided by consensus.

Leadership Dynamics: Driven by Vested Interests

¶4. (C) xxxxx asserted to PolOff March 12 that the Party should be viewed primarily as a collection of interest groups. There was no “reform wing,” xxxxx claimed.xxxxx made the same argument in several discussions with PolOff over the past year, asserting that China’s top leadership had carved up China’s economic “pie,” creating an ossified system in which “vested interests” drove decision-making and impeded reform as leaders maneuvered to ensure that those interests were not threatened. It was “well known,” xxxxx stated, that former Premier Li Peng and his family controlled all electric power interests; PBSC member and security czar Zhou Yongkang and associates controlled the oil interests; the late former top leader Chen Yun’s family controlled most of the PRC’s banking sector; PBSC member and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Chairman Jia Qinglin was the main interest behind major Beijing real estate developments; Hu Jintao’s son-in -law ran; and Wen Jiabao’s wife controlled China’s precious gems sector.

¶5. (SBU) Note: In a development that could fan the “vested interest” rumor mill, China-related websites in the United States this week were reporting that a Chinese security technology company with links to Hu’s eldest son, Hu Haifeng, was being investigated in Namibia on charges of corruption. A July 19 article in a Malaysian paper, cited by a U.S.-based dissident website,, reported that Hu Haifeng was a “potential witness” in the case but was not himself a suspect. The report said that the younger Hu was a former CEO of Nuctech and currently the Party Secretary of its parent company, Tsinghua Holding Co. Ltd. According to the China Digital Times website at the University of California Berkeley’s China Internet Project, the Central Propaganda Department on July 21 issued orders to block any reference to the case in the PRC media. End note.

¶6. (C) xxxxx, had told PolOff earlier that leaders had close ties to powerful economic actors, especially real estate developers and corporate leaders, who in some cases were officials themselves. The same was true at the local level, xxxxx stated. He claimed that these interest networks had policy implications since most local leaders had “bought” their positions and wanted an immediate financial “return” on their investment. They always supported fast-growth policies and opposed reform efforts that might harm their interests, xxxxx. Vested interests were especially inclined to oppose media openness, he said, lest someone question the shady deals behind land transactions. As a result, the proponents of “growth first” would always be in a stronger position than those who favored controlling inflation or taking care of the poor, xxxxx.

¶7. (C) xxxxx that the central feature of leadership politics was the need to protect oneself and one’s family from attack after leaving office. Thus, current leaders carefully cultivated proteges who would defend their interests once they stepped down. It was natural, xxxxx said, that someone like Xi Jinping, who maintained a non-threatening low profile and had never made enemies, would be elevated by Jiang Zemin and Zeng Qinghong. Xi would act to ensure that Jiang was not harassed or that Jiang’s corrupt son would not be arrested, xxxxx.

Princelings vs. Shopkeepers

¶8. (C)xxxxx, separately described leadership alignments at the top of the CCP as shaped largely by one’s “princeling” or “shopkeeper” lineage. In separate conversations in recent months, xxxxx said that some argued that China’s “princelings,” the sons and daughters of prominent Communist Party officials, including many who helped found the PRC, shared a perception that they, as the descendents of those who shed blood in the name of the Communist revolution, had a “right” to continue to lead China and protect the fruits of that revolution. Such a mindset could potentially place the “princelings” at odds with Party members who do not have similar pedigrees, xxxxx, such as President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Party members with a CYL background, who were derisively referred to as “shopkeepers’ sons.” xxxxx had heard some princeling families denounce those without revolutionary pedigrees by saying, “While my father was bleeding and dying for China, your father was selling shoelaces.”


Cable 3





EO 12958 DECL: 01/20/2035

BEIJING 00000263 001.4 OF 002


1.(SBU) Summary: In response to an invitation by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), ESTH officer traveled to Hefei, Anhui Province, in December 2009 to visit several Chinese government-sponsored scientific institutions. During this time, ESTH officer learned of the below information through official presentations, personal observation, and informal/discreet conversations with CAS staff members. Most significantly, the Institute of Plasma Physics continues to conduct research on how to use nuclear fusion as a sustainable means to produce energy. At the same time, China is expanding its use of nuclear fission as an energy source and plans to open at least 70 nuclear fission power Qnts within the next 10 years. In 2009, CAS’s Institute of Plasma Physics budget was USD$20 million. Additionally, other CAS institutes are conducting research in biometrics, computational physics and material science, nanoscience and nanomaterials, soft-matter physics, environmental spectrometry, fiber optic wave-length division multiplexing, quantum communications, superconductors and spintroncis, and cognitive sciences. End Summary.

Institute of Plasma Physics – Nuclear Research

¶2. (C) In mid-December 2009, the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP) in Hefei, Anhui Province was preparing for another cycle of experiments with its Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). EAST was designed to be a controlled nuclear fusion tokamark reactor with superconductive toroidal and poloidal field magnets and a D-shaped cross-section. One of the experimental goals of this device was to prove that a nuclear fusion reaction can be sustained indefinitely, at high enough temperatures, to produce energy in a cost-effective way. In 2009, IIP successfully maintained a 10 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for 400 seconds. IIP also successfully maintained a 100 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for 60 seconds. One of IIP’s immediate goals is now to maintain a 100 million degree Celsius plasma nuclear fusion reaction for over 400 seconds. Currently, IIP is also conducting research into hybrid fusion-fission nuclear reactors that may be able to sustain nuclear reactions indefinitely, and at sufficient temperatures, to cost-effectively produce energy. IIP officials stated that China has the explicit goal of building at least 70 nuclear fission power plants within the next 10 years. IIP scientists claimed current Chinese nuclear energy production efforts use Uranium 235, but research is being done to make Uranium 238 a feasible alternative. IIP’s 2009 budget was USD$20 million – a two-fold increase over the previous year – and IIP leadership expects their budget to increase again in 2010.

[AK: cut.]

Institute of Intelligent Machines – Biometrics Research

¶3. (C) The Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Institute of Intelligent Machines (IIM) in Hefei has developed a biometrics device that uses a person’s pace to identify them. The device measure weight and two-dimensional sheer forces applied by a person’s foot during walking to create a uniquely identifiable biometrics profile. The device can be covertly installed in a floor and is able to collect biometrics data on individuals covertly without their knowledge. When questioned about the device’s potential applications, IIM officials stated the device was being used by “secret” customers and was not available on the commercial market. IIM also said they were involved with China’s “Program 863.” (COMMENT: Program 863 is China’s national high-technology development plan that includes both military and civilian technology development programs; therefore, it is likely the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is one of the customers for whom this biometrics device was developed. END COMMENT)

Institute of Solid State Physics – Nanotechnology Research

¶4. (C) In mid-December 2009, the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Institute of Solid State Physics (ISSP) in Hefei was conducting research in the fields of computational physics and material science, nanomaterials, and soft-matter physics. ISSP’s 2009 budget was roughly $6 million (USD). ISSP’s top priority projects are: one-dimensional nanomaterials, spin and charge research using perovskite manganese oxides, and the design and preparation of high-dampening materials. ISSP also conducts research on nanomaterials and nanostructures for China’s “Program 973.” (NOTE: Program 973 is China’s national plan for improving basic scientific research and development. END NOTE)

Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics – Spectrometry & Fiber Optic Research

¶5. (C) In mid-December 2009, the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics (IOFM) in Hefei was modifying environmental spectrometry technology to detect TATP explosives for use in counter-terrorism efforts. IOFM was also conducting fiber optic research on wave-length division multiplexing (WDM) technologies using pulsed and continuous laser sources at both single-mode and multi-mode wavelengths. A cursory walk through one of their labs revealed that IOFM was specifically conducting experiments in the 980-1150 nanometer range, and that they were conducting experiments using hydrogen-filled fiber optic communication lines. (COMMENT: Hydrogen-filled fiber optic lines are technologically challenging to manufacture, but provide many advantages; one of which is increased security and protection from tampering. END COMMENT)

University of Science and Technology of China – Organization & Research

¶6. (C) In mid-December 2009, the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in Hefei had academic programs focusing on Math, Physics, Chemistry, Life Sciences, Nuclear Science, Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology, Management, Humanities, and a department dedicated to the development of gifted young people. USTC has 37,000 staff and 40,000 graduate students. USTC oversees two national laboratories: the National Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory and the Hefei National Laboratory for Physical Science at the Microscale (HFNL). HFNL has 95 faculty members and roughly 400 graduate students. HFNL research focuses on quantum communication, nanoscience, superconductors, spintronics, and cognitive sciences. In the area of quantum communication, HFNL was conducting research in quantum teleportation and free space quantum cryptography that scientists hope will result in “totally secure” communications. USTC also oversees China’s “Program 178,” although they did not describe the nature of this program. (COMMENT: A cursory walk through their labs seemed to indicate they had already succeeded in single-particle quantum teleportation and are now trying to conduct dual-particle quantum teleportation. END COMMENT)


Cable 4




EO 12958 DECL: 02/11/2020

REF: (A) 09 BEIJING 955 (B) 09 BEIJING 1311 (C) 09 BEIJING 2836

Classified By: Economic Minister Counselor William Weinstein. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)


¶1. (C) African Embassy officials told EmbOffs that many in the African community were uncomfortable with the concept of US-China development cooperation in Africa. China’s fast, efficient, “no strings attached” bilateral approach is popular in the region, as is the PRC preference for infrastructure over governance projects. African officials fear that U.S. or European interference will slow down the assistance process and tie conditions to Chinese aid. In the past, the EU angered many African countries when it proposed trilateral cooperation. The Chinese subsequently backed out of discussions citing lack of African support. In addition, African officials believe that competition between donors has had positive consequences for African development, giving the African countries options after several decades of a largely “Western” development model. Despite apprehensions, one official believed that U.S.-China cooperation could be positive if carried out with active African participation. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was offered as an example of an organization that has managed to collaborate well with China in Africa. End summary.

Threatening the Chinese way

¶2. (C) During a February 8 lunch, Kenyan Ambassador to China Julius Ole Sunkuli said he and other Africans were wary of the U.S.-China dialogue on Africa and felt Africa had nothing to gain from China cooperating with the international donor community. Sunkuli claimed that Africa was better off thanks to China’s practical, bilateral approach to development assistance and was concerned that this would be changed by “Western” interference. He said he saw no concrete benefit for Africa in even minimal cooperation. Sunkuli said Africans were frustrated by Western insistence on capacity building, which translated, in his eyes, into conferences and seminars (REF C). They instead preferred China’s focus on infrastructure and tangible projects. He also worried that Africa would lose the benefit of having some leverage to negotiate with their donors if their development partners joined forces.

Lessons from the EU experience

¶3. (C) South African Minister Plenipotentiary Dave Malcolmson echoed the same reservations in a February 9 meeting. According to him, lessons could be learned from the EU experience in 2008. When the EU put together a policy paper on trilateral development cooperation in Africa, many African countries were annoyed because they were not consulted on the issue. They argued that the third party in these nominally trilateral discussions was conspicuously absent. They perceived this as a Western attempt to reign in China’s Africa assistance. Malcolmson said the African resistance prevented any concrete progress coming out of this initiative as the Chinese then subsequently backed out of the discussion, citing African opposition.

Africans don’t want conditions, they want options

¶4. (C) African countries principally fear that the U.S. and other Western countries will use trilateral cooperation to try to attach governance conditions to Chinese development. Malcolmson, who previously worked at the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) secretariat, recalled that governance projects received a lot more support from Western donor countries than infrastructure projects. He opined that although governance, peace and security are crucial to African growth, they must be accompanied by measures to reduce poverty and build infrastructure.

¶5. (C) Malcolmson echoed Sunkuli’s comment that African countries also fear losing their bargaining power. China’s emergence in Africa as a counterbalance to U.S. and European donors has been very positive for Africa by creating “competition” and giving African countries options. He recalled that after the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit, when China announced its commitments to Africa to much international media fanfare, traditional donors changed their attitude. They recognized that they had to measure up to China and “came calling.” The EU proposed infrastructure projects (after having defacto given up supporting these types of projects) and the World Bank began to support more agriculture projects.

The DFID example and recommendations for the future

¶6. (C) Malcolmson clarified that if U.S.-China cooperation leads to a real escalation of resources then it could be a positive step, but many Africans expect that it would slow down development. He cited the DFID’s relationship with China as an example of healthy cooperation. DFID’s success has come from focusing on small projects and working largely outside formal channels (REF A). Malcolmson recommended working through regional African organizations like the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as a way to alleviate African concerns. If both China and the United States contribute resources to promising African development projects, then Africans will welcome trilateral cooperation. He said this would have the added benefit of encouraging the Chinese to venture beyond bilateral development assistance and support regional projects.


¶7. (C) Sunkuli and Malcolmson’s comments are a potential warning sign as the USG prepares for the upcoming U.S.-China Sub-Dialogue on Africa. As the PRC continues to stress a policy of “non- interference” in the internal affairs of other countries, China could well use any voiced African opposition as an excuse to stop or slow progress on further discussions or collaboration. We should be careful to pick projects that would have broad support within the African community, preferably African-initiated and led, to get the development cooperation dialogue started on the right foot. In addition, we should clearly articulate the benefits of our cooperation to our African counterparts and include African voices in the debate on the U.S.- China-Africa relationship.


(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Or at least that’s what seems to be going around in the mind of Condoleezza Rice, if this cable (Cable 1) from September 2008 is anything to go by. After successfully persuading countries like Brazil to let the American scientist Christopher Field run unopposed for an important position in a Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), US diplomats began behind the scenes lobbying to block the appointment of an Iranian scientist as its co-chair, since that would be “potentially at odds with overall US policy towards Iran.” Though Mostafa Jafari is admittedly a “highly-qualified scientist”, he is also “a senior Iranian government employee”, and so “close collaboration and often travel to or extended residencies in each others’ countries” between Field and him simply wouldn’t do. Disgracefully, if true*, Pachauri “agreed to work on this issue.” In the event, an Argentinian candidate was appointed co-chair, while Jafari was relegated to a far more junior position.

That said, it’s not of course the case that the US is uniquely responsible for climate fiasco after fiasco. Obviously, these cables don’t paint the US in a good light, what with its underhanded tactics to force countries into signing up to the Copenhagen Accords (a grossly inadequate treaty because of its soft targets and lack of enforcement mechanisms). But thanks to China’s sabotage** in the closed-door negotiations in Copenhagen – even cajoling developed countries against setting their own targets, while manipulating them into taking the fall in public – this is what we got. And while I understand the position of poor countries like the Maldives or Bolivia that it’s nowhere near enough to prevent devastating AGW, or Addis Ababa’s complaints about the absence of formal US guarantees of financial aid in exchange for their support (Cable 2), nonetheless there is a logic to the US strong-arming poor countries into the Accords since this at least gets “the international community moving in the right direction.” (A bonus in that cable is seeing Ethiopians arguing, just like Russians, for restricting foreign funding of NGO’s on the grounds that it undermines indigenous civil society).

* It likely is true, as the author explicitly warns the reader to protect Pachauri’s name.

** This is also the root reason why the ongoing Cancun summit will fail, as everyone seems to recognize. China’s position remains unchanged, sacrificing the global climate for a little greater period of fast economic growth. The US won’t do anything given the political ascendancy of the Republican climate dinosaurs. While hammering out an effective climate policy between 180 growth-centered countries and a dozen major emitters is hard enough, without China and the US it is completely impossible.

Cable 1

Tuesday, 02 September 2008, 23:30
C O N F I D E N T I A L STATE 093970
EO 12958 DECL: 09/02/2018
Classified By: Classified by IO“>IO“>IO/DAS Gerald Anderson for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (U) This is an action message. Please see paragraph 3.

2. (C) Summary. Missions should be prepared to assist the U.S. Delegation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its efforts to secure a positive outcome to elections for working group co-chair positions at the IPCC Plenary being held in Geneva, August 31-September 4. USDEL is working actively to prevent the election of an Iranian scientist to the developing-nation co-chairmanship of Working Group Two, a position which would pair him with a U.S. scientist running unopposed for developed-nation co-chair of the same group. The focus of USG efforts is to support an alternate candidacy for the position, although the full slate of active candidates and their potential for election will not be known until the later stages of the plenary sessions. Curricula vitae of some of the leading candidates are at paras 6-10. End Summary.

3. (C) Action Request. Missions should assign a Point-of-Contact for this issue and provide phone and e-mail information to the US Mission to the UN in Geneva. USUN should appoint its own POC and relay contact information for all POCs to USDEL IPCC. In the event that USDEL requires assistance in working with counterpart delegations (e.g., coming to a consensus on a single strong alternate candidate to support), USDEL may contact Mission POCs directly, or via US Mission Geneva, to ask that Missions apprise host governments of the situation, with a view to arranging for instructions from capitals. Missions should do everything possible to assist USDEL if they receive such a request. Until such a call is received, however, Missions should take no action on this issue; USDEL will be interacting directly with host-country expert delegations in Geneva, and premature contacts/demarches with host country government officials in capitals, even to preview the background of the situation, could be highly counter-productive. Point of Contact for USDEL is OES/EGC,s Donna Lee XXXXXXXXXXXX.

4. (C) Background. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ( is a highly influential body established by the World Meteological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to assess scientific issues related to climate change. This year, the U.S. has nominated Stanford Professor Christopher Field to the developed-country chair of IPCC Working Group Two, which assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change and the options for adaptation. His nomination is unopposed. Iran, however, has nominated Dr. Mostafa Jafari to be the developing-country co-chair of the same working group. Jafari is a highly-qualified scientist with research ties to the UK and Japan, but he is also a senior Iranian government employee who has represented Iran in international negotiations. Co-chair appointments are for a minimum of four years, and require close collaboration and often travel to or extended residencies in each others, countries. Having U.S. and Iranian co-chairs would be problematic and potentially at odds with overall U.S. policy towards Iran, and would significantly complicate the U.S. commitment to funding the Working Group Two secretariat. U.S. withdrawal of its nominee, however, would effectively give Iran a veto over future U.S. nominees in UN bodies. Moreover, having a U.S. co-chair at the IPCC significantly bolsters U.S. interests on climate change, a key foreign policy issue.

5. (C) Background continued. Prior to arrival in Geneva, USDEL contacted IPCC Chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (please protect), who agreed to work on this issue to avoid the potential for disruption to one the organization’s three core working groups XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Next, USDEL contacted the Austrian delegate serving as EU representative on the nominating committee that manages the election process, who showed an understanding of U.S. equities. USDEL contacted the Malian and Argentinean delegations, who have nominated highly-qualified co-chair candidates (see below), and the German delegation, who have been interested in advancing the Malian for co-chair of Working Group Three, for which Germany has nominated an unopposed candidate as developed-country co-chair. The Malians subsequently told USDEL that their candidate, Dr. Yauba Sokona, prefers Working Group Two to Working Group Three. Also prior to arrival in Geneva, USDEL contacted the UK and Netherlands delegations, both of which we have worked closely with in the past. Based on experience at prior IPCC plenaries, events related to the Working Group elections will likely unfold unpredictably and rapidly, necessitating a rapid and flexible USG response.

[AK: There follow lengthy biographies of Iranian candidate Mostafa Jafari, Malian candidate Youba Sokona, Argentinean candidate Vicente Ricardo Barros, Moroccan candidate Abdalah Mokssit and Maldivan candidate Amjad Abdulla. Jafari is not any less qualified than the rest in this group.]


Cable 2

Tuesday, 02 February 2010, 05:38
EO 12958 DECL: 02/01/2020
Classified By: Under Secretary Maria Otero for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (SBU) January 31, 2010; 4:15 p.m.; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2. (SBU) Participants:

U.S. Under Secretary Otero Assistant Secretary Carson NSC Senior Director for African Affairs Michelle Gavin PolOff Skye Justice (notetaker)

Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Special Assistant Gebretensae Gebremichael

[AK: Cut.]

4. (C) Meles said the GoE is not enthusiastic about Kenya’s Jubaland initiative, but is sharing intelligence with Kenya and hoping for success. In the event the initiative is not successful, the GoE has plans in place to limit the destabilizing impacts on Ethiopia. On climate change, Meles said the GoE fully supports the Copenhagen accord, but is disappointed with signs the U.S. may not support his proposed panel to monitor international financial contributions under the accord. Meles made no substantive comment on inquiries regarding the liberalization of banking and telecommunications in Ethiopia. End summary.

Foreign Funding of CSOs Antithetical to Democratization

5. (C) Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told U/S Otero the development of a strong democracy and civil society is the only way Ethiopia can ensure peace and unity among an ethnically and religiously divided population. He noted that the Government of Ethiopia’s (GoE) commitment to democracy is directly related to stability, adding that for Ethiopia, “democratization is a matter of survival.” Responding to U/S Otero’s concern that Ethiopia’s recently-enacted CSO law threatened the role of civil society, Meles said while the GoE welcomes foreign funding of charities, those Ethiopians who want to engage in political activity should organize and fund themselves. The leaders of CSOs that receive foreign funding are not accountable to their organizations, he said, but rather to the sources of their funding, turning the concept of democratic accountability on its head. Meles asserted that Ethiopians were not too poor to organize themselves and establish their own democratic traditions, recalling that within his lifetime illiterate peasants and poor students had overthrown an ancient imperial dynasty.

6. (C) Meles said his country’s inability to develop a strong democracy was not due to insufficient understanding of democratic principles, but rather because Ethiopians had not internalized those principles. Ethiopia should follow the example of the U.S. and European countries, he said, where democracy developed organically and citizens had a stake in its establishment. When people are committed to democracy and forced to make sacrifices for it, Meles said, “they won’t let any leader take it away from them.” But “when they are spoon-fed democracy, they will give it up when their source of funding and encouragement is removed.” Referencing his own struggle against the Derg regime, Meles said he and his compatriots received no foreign funding, but were willing to sacrifice and die for their cause, and Ethiopians today must take ownership of their democratic development, be willing to sacrifice for it, and defend their own rights.

7. (C) Meles drew a clear distinction between Ethiopians’ democratic and civil rights on the one hand, and the right of foreign entities to fund those rights on the other. There is no restriction on Ethiopians’ rights, he asserted, merely on foreign funding, adding that the U.S. has similar laws. U/S Otero countered that while the U.S. does not allow foreign funding of political campaigns, there is no restriction on foreign funding of NGOs. Ms. Gavin noted the examples of foreign support for the abolitionist movement in the U.S. and for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa as positive examples of foreign engagement of civil society, and expressed that aside from the issue of foreign funding, the ability of local organizations to legally register, operate, and contribute to democratic discourse was of tantamount importance.

[AK: Cut.]

GoE Prepared to Move Forward from Copenhagen

13. (C) U/S Otero urged Meles to sign the Copenhagen accord on climate change and explained that it is a point of departure for further discussion and movement forward on the topic. She noted that while the agreement has its limitations, it has the international community moving in the right direction. Meles responded that the GoE supported the accord in Copenhagen and would support it at the AU Summit. However, he expressed his disappointment that despite President Obama’s personal assurance to him that finances committed in Copenhagen would be made available, he had received word from contacts at the UN that the U.S. was not supportive of Ethiopia’s proposal for a panel to monitor financial pledges regarding climate change. Ms. Gavin assured the Prime Minister that she would look into his concerns.

[AK: Cut.]


(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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This might well be my favorite cable so far – perhaps even better than the Caucasus wedding – courtesy of US ambassador to Iran Bruce Laingen in August 1979. Now maybe US diplomats are culturally West-centric and insular today, but they’ve got nothing on their predecessors. “Perhaps the single dominant aspect of the Persian psyche is an overriding egoism. Its antecedents lie in the long Iranian history of instability and insecurity which put a premium on self-preservation. The practical effect of it is an almost total Persian preoccupation with self and leaves little room for understanding points of view other than one’s own.” No wonder the US hasn’t had much luck communicating with the Islamic Republic

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
79TEHRAN8980 1979-08-13 04:04 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tehran
R 130458Z AUG 79

E.O. 12065: GDS 8/12/85 (TOMSETH, VICTOR L.) OR-P

















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

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

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

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

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW5645 2006-05-30 09:09 2010-12-01 23:11 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow
DE RUEHMO #5645/01 1500927
P 300927Z MAY 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 10 MOSCOW 005645
EO 12958 DECL: 05/25/2016
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reason 1.4 (b, d)

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


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

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

The Starting Point: Problems of the “Russianized” Conflict

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

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

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

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

The Secret History of the Chechen War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Exit for Putin

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

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

Chechenization, Ahmad-Haji Kadyrov, and the Salafists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle Lines in Peacetime

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

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

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

Chechenization Begins

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

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

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

The Military Overstays Its Welcome

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

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

In the Reign of Ramzan

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

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

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

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

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

What Can We Expect in the Future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Should Putin Be Doing?

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

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

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

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

Is There a Role for the U.S.?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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Another Wikileaks cable – a secret one, not merely confidential – from our Caucasus ethnologist and bestest bud at the State Department, William Burns. Dated October 2007, it describes America’s perception of Russia’s global arms trade and emphasizes its concerns that many of its partners are “rogue” or “anti-American” states like Syria, Iran and Venezuela. However, Burns is intelligent enough to acknowledge that the Russians have their own economic, political and cultural reasons for doing things they way. Though obliged to provide suggestions on how to make Russian politicians see eye to eye with the US on the matter, it is likely a quixotic endevour.

Russia is expanding arms exports, seeking ties beyond its traditional partners India and China. (Burns correctly predicted that the Russia – China arms relationship will wane due to Chinese reengineering, copying and reproduction of Russian military products). The capture of most NATO and former Soviet markets by US and European military companies is the primary economic agent behind Russia’s courting of states that Washington has bad relations with. In reply to Western objections, Russia tends to reference “multilateral arms controls regimes (e.g. Wassenaar Group, MTCR, etc.), UN resolutions, or Russian law” in justification; and US protests against its entertainment of “Chavez’s grandiose regional visions” are believed, by the RF Foreign Ministry and Russian defense experts, to spring from “a “Monroe doctrine” mentality, and not real concerns over regional stability.” Finally, a lack of economic diversification actively PUSHES Russia into the arms trade: as Anatoly Kulikov pithily notes, “Russia makes very bad cars, but very good weapons.”

Burns then notes that the Russian MIC is an “important trough at which senior officials feed”, citing as an example “Russia’s decision to sell weapons that the Venezuelan military objectively did not need.” If true, isn’t this just Venezuelan stupidity or corruption? But according to Burns, this is because it’s in the “interest of both Venezuelan and Russian government officials in skimming money off the top.” Color me skeptical. According to Burns’ own sources, the 2006 arms trade between Russia and Venezuela totaled more than $1.2bn, and included “24 Su-30MK2 fighter-bombers and 34 helicopters”; more recently, the two countries began to negotiate the “sale of three Amur class submarines” in a prospective deal worth $1bn. This implies price tags of c.$50mn per fighter and c.$350mn per sub. However, according to my calculations, despite having unit production costs similar to Russia’s, the prices of US gear sold to Arab states are several times higher – c.$170mn per F-16 fighter to Iraq and a cool $360mn per F-15 fighter to Saudi Arabia. This implies that the US sells fighter jets of 1970′s vintage to at least one country AT A HIGHER UNIT PRICE than at which Russia sells its most modern diesel SUBMARINES to Venezuela! So not much spare room at Russia’s side of the “feeding trough”, at any rate…

Then it’s argued there is also a cultural element to Russia’s arms trade policy, namely, an “inferiority complex” with respect to the US that translates into a kind of overcompensating need to prove itself as an independent Great Power in the eyes of the world and its own citizens. This is meant to explain its desire for the “thrill of causing the US discomfort by selling weapons to anti-American governments in Caracas and Damascus.” These arguments are mostly sociological truthiness that I think don’t merit detailed rejoinders.

The analytical decline towards the end is reflected in toothless recommendations, such as a more concerted policy by European, Sunni Arab and Latin American governments, as well as the US itself, to pressure and cajole Moscow into easing back on its weapons sales to “rogue” and US-unfriendly states. Whether or not the recommendation was followed, it is evident that it’d be destined for failure, and I think Burns himself acknowledged this in the cable (“American concerns are interpreted cynically, as the disgruntled complaints of a competitor, and viewed through the prism of a 1990′s story line in which the West seeks to keep Russia down”).

Ultimately, with today’s Russia, it is geopolitics and quid pro quo deals that influence its conduct. To take one germane and ongoing example: The US made concessions during the Reset, e.g. easing back on US companies getting involves with Russia’s modernization and even mooting selling Russia some of its military techs; in return, Russia formally declined to sell the S-300 air defense system to Iran, thus (ostensibly) losing a major lever against Washington. But with the recent Republican victory and rumors of covert US rearming of Georgia, there appeared countervailing rumors of S-300 radar parts making their way to Iran via Russia’s proxy states. The lesson is one that Burns no doubt understands, but cannot state forthright: one rarely gets a free geopolitical lunch.

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW5154 2007-10-26 02:02 2010-12-01 23:11 SECRET Embassy Moscow
DE RUEHMO #5154/01 2990225
P 260225Z OCT 07

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 005154



EO 12958 DECL: 10/09/2017
REF: A. STATE 137954 B. MOSCOW 3207 C. MOSCOW 3139 D. MOSCOW 3023 E. MOSCOW 557 F. MOSCOW 402

Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: FM Lavrov’s disinterest in establishing an expert level dialogue on arms sales begs the question of how best to address our concerns over Russia’s arms export policy. Russian officials are deeply cynical about our motives in seeking to curtail Russian arms exports to countries of concern and the threatened imposition of U.S. sanctions has not proven successful so far in modifying Russian behavior. Russia attaches importance to the volume of the arms export trade, to the diplomatic doors that weapon sales open, to the ill-gotten gains that these sales reap for corrupt senior officials, and to the lever it provides the Russian government in stymieing American interests. While Russia will reject out of hand arguments based on the extraterritorial application of American sanctions, Russian officials may be more receptive to a message couched in the context of Russian international obligations and domestic legislation, the reality of American casualties, and the backlash to Russian strategic interests among moderate Sunni governments. In making our argument, we should remember that Russian officialdom and the public have little, if any, moral compunction about the arms trade, seeing it instead as a welcome symbol of Russia’s resurgent power and strength in the world. End Summary

Russian Arms Sales Matter

2. (C) Russian arms sales are consequential, totaling approximately USD 6.7 billion in 2006, according to official figures. This amount reflects a 12 percent increase over 2005, and a 56 percent increase since 2003. Russian arms sales are expected to total at least USD 8 billion in 2007. Russia has made a conscious effort to improve after-sales customer service and warranties, which has added to the attractiveness of its weapons. As a result, Russian weapons command higher prices than previously. Russia is ranked second only to the United States in arms sales to the developing world, and a sizeable portion of its arms trade is with countries of concern to us.

3. (C) While no sales were reported in 2006 to Iran, Syria, or Sudan, in 2007 Iran reportedly paid Russia USD 700 million for TOR-M1 air defense missile systems. While Syrian economic conditions are a natural brake on trade with the Russians, as a matter of principle the GOR is prepared to sell “defensive” equipment such as anti-tank missiles and Strelets (SA-18) surface-to-air missiles, as well as upgrade MiG-23 fighters. The GOR barred the sale of Iskander-E tactical missiles to Syria only after intense international pressure. Venezuela remains a growth market, with arms transfers in 2006 totaling more than USD 1.2 billion, including 24 Su-30MK2 fighter-bombers and 34 helicopters. Russia has an “open arms” approach to Venezuela, and whether it’s the transfer of more than 72,000 AK-103 assault rifles or negotiations for the prospective sale of three Amur class submarines (valued at USD 1 billion), Russia is prepared to entertain Chavez’s grandiose regional visions.

4. (C) Defense experts emphasize that the American and European domination of traditional NATO markets and capture of new entrants (and old Soviet customers) from Central and Eastern Europe means that Russia must court buyers that fall outside the U.S. orbit. By definition, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela are good markets for Russia because we don’t compete there.

5. (C) While concrete numbers are hard to come by, our best figures indicate that Russian arms sales to its traditional big-ticket customers — China and India — are growing. Russian experts, however, predict a declining trajectory in the medium term. In 2006, Russia completed approximately USD 1.4 billion in sales to China, including eight diesel submarines and 88 MI-171’s, which means the PRC only narrowly edged out Chavez as Russia’s most important customer. Russian defense experts underscore that as China’s technological sufficiency and political influence grow, the PRC will develop increasing military self-sufficiency and greater ability to challenge Russia as a supplier. At the same time, sales to India totaled only USD 360 million. Russia and India, in fact, have signed arms deals worth USD 2.6 billion, but not all deliveries and payments have been made. While Russian experts still downplay the ability of the U.S. to displace Russia in the Indian arms market, for reasons of cost and the legacy of decades’ old dependence, they recognize increasing American inroads and growing influence. Other notable Russian markets include Algeria, Czech Republic, Vietnam, South Korea and Belarus.

A Legalistic World View

6. (S) As the recent 2 2 consultations confirmed, Russian officials defend arms sales to countries of concern in narrow legal terms. In answering our demarches, MFA officials always identify whether the transfer is regulated by one of the multilateral arms controls regimes (e.g. Wassenaar Group, MTCR, etc.), UN resolutions, or Russian law. Senior officials maintain that Russia does take into account the impact on the stability of the region in determining whether to sell weapons and shares our concern about weapons falling into terrorists’ hands. This Russian decision-making process has led to a defacto embargo on weapons transfers to Iraq, where Russia is concerned over leakages to Iraqi insurgents and Al-Qaida; to a hands-off policy towards Pakistan, the country Russia views as the greatest potential threat to regional stability (with then-Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov ruling out weapons sales to Pakistan as far back as 2003); and to a moratorium on “offensive” systems to Iran and Syria. Concern over leakage has prompted Russia to tighten its export controls, with the recent institution of new provisions in arms sale contracts for Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) that require end-user certificates and provide Russia the right to inspect stockpiles of weapons sold.

7. (S) What Russia has not done is accept our strategic calculus and rule out the possibility of sales to Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Venezuela. The arguments made are broadly similar:

– With Iran, we are told that that Russia will not sell any weapon that violates a multilateral or domestic regime, nor transfer any item that could enhance Iranian WMD capabilities. Sales, such as the TOR-M1 air defense missile system, are justified as being defensive only, and limited by their range of 12 kilometers. While DFM Kislyak told us October 18 that he was unaware of any plans to sell Iran the S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system, MFA officials previously told us that such sales, while under review, would not violate any Russian laws or international regimes.

– With Syria, Russia also argues that its transfers are defensive in nature, and points to its decision to halt the sale of MANPADS. The MFA maintains that Russian weapons used by Hizballah in 2006 were not a deliberate transfer by the Syrian government, but involved weapons left behind when Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon. Russia argues that tightened end-user controls will prevent any future transfers.

– With Sudan, the GOR denies any current arms trade with the regime, and maintains that Russia has not violated UN sanctions or Putin-initiated decrees. However, based on our demarches, it is clear that — in contrast to Syria — Russia has adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to Sudan’s adherence to its end-use requirements for its existing inventory of Russian/Soviet weapons.

– With Venezuela, both MFA officials and Russian experts believe that a “Monroe doctrine” mentality, and not real concerns over regional stability, is behind U.S. demarches.

What Is Behind the Russian Calculus

8. (C) A variety of factors drive Russian arms sales, but a compelling motivation is profit – both licit and illicit. As former Deputy Prime Minister and senior member of the Duma Defense Committee Anatoliy Kulikov told us, “Russia makes very bad cars, but very good weapons,” and he was among the majority of Russian defense experts who argued that the laws of comparative advantage would continue to propel an aggressive arms export policy. While Russian defense budgets have been increasing 25-30 per cent for the last three years, defense experts tell us that export earnings still matter. The recent creation of RosTechnologiya State Corporation, headed by Putin intimate Sergey Chemezov, which consolidates under state control RosOboronExport (arms exports), Oboronprom (defense systems), RusSpetsStal (specialized steel production), VSMPO (titanium producer), and Russian helicopter production, is further proof of the importance the Putin government places on the industry.

9. (C) Likewise, it is an open secret that the Russian defense industry is an important trough at which senior officials feed, and weapons sales continue to enrich many. Defense analysts attribute Russia’s decision to sell weapons that the Venezuelan military objectively did not need due to the interest of both Venezuelan and Russian government officials in skimming money off the top. The sale of Su-30MK2 fighter-bombers was cited as a specific example where corruption on both ends facilitated the off-loading of moth-balled planes that were inadequate for the Venezuelan Air Force’s needs.

10. (C) A second factor driving the Russian arms export policy is the desire to enhance Russia’s standing as a “player” in areas where Russia has a strategic interest, like the Middle East. Russian officials believe that building a defense relationship provides ingress and influence, and their terms are not constrained by conditionality. Exports to Syria and Iran are part of a broader strategy of distinguishing Russian policy from that of the United States, and strengthening Russian influence in international fora such as the Quartet or within the Security Council. With respect to Syria, Russian experts believe that Bashar’s regime is better than the perceived alternative of instability or an Islamist government, and argue against a U.S. policy of isolation. Russia has concluded that its arms sales are too insignificant to threaten Israel, or to disturb growing Israeli-Russian diplomatic engagement, but sufficient to maintain “special” relations with Damascus. Likewise, arms sales to Iran are part of a deep and multilayered bilateral relationship that serves to distinguish Moscow from Washington, and to provide Russian officials with a bargaining chip, both with the Ahmedinejad regime and its P5 1 partners. While, as a matter of practice, Russian arms sales have declined as international frustration has mounted over the Iranian regime, as a matter of policy, Russia does not support what it perceives as U.S. efforts to build an anti-Iranian coalition.

11. (C) A third and related factor lurking under the surface of these weapons sales is Russia’s inferiority complex with respect to the United States, and its quest to be taken seriously as a global partner. It is deeply satisfying to some Russian policy-makers to defy America, in the name of a multipolar world order, and to engage in zero-sum calculations. As U.S. relations with Georgia have strengthened, so too have nostalgic calls for Russian basing in Latin America (which Russian officials, including Putin, have swat down). While profit is still seen by experts as Russia’s primary goal, all note the secondary thrill of causing the U.S. discomfort by selling weapons to anti-American governments in Caracas and Damascus.

Taking Another Run At Russia

12. (C) As FM Lavrov made clear during the 2 2 consultations, Russia will not engage systematically at the expert level on its arms export regime. While the prospect of Russia changing its arms export policy in response to our concerns alone is slim, we can take steps to toughen our message and raise the costs for Russian strategic decisions:

– Although U.S. sanctions are broad brush, the more we can prioritize our concerns over weapons sales that pose the biggest threat to U.S. interests, the more persuasive our message will be. Demarches that iterate all transactions, including ammunitions sales, are less credible. Since Lavrov has rejected an experts-level dialogue on arms transfers, it is important to register our concerns at the highest level, and to ensure that messages delivered in Moscow are reiterated in Washington with visiting senior GOR officials.

– In the context of potential violations of international regimes and UNSCR resolutions, Russia needs to hear the concerns of key European partners, such as France and Germany. (In the wake of the Litvinenko murder and subsequent recriminations, UK influence is limited.) EU reinforcement is important for consistency (although Russia tends to downplay the “bad news” that European nations prefer to deliver in EU channels, rather than bilaterally).

– Regional actors should reinforce our message. Russian weapon sales that destabilize the Middle East should be protested by the Sunni Arab governments that have the most to lose. Given Russia’s competing interest in expanding sales to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, the protests of our moderate Arab partners could also carry a price tag for Russian defiance. The same is true for Latin America, whose leaders to date have not made sales to Chavez an issue on their bilateral agenda with the Russians.

– The appearance of Russian weapons in Iraq, presumably transferred by Syria, and the prospect of American and coalition casualties as a result could change the calculus of Russian sales to Damascus. The more evidence that we can provide, the more Russia may take steps to restrict the Asad regime. At the same time, we need to be prepared for the Russian countercharge that significant numbers of weapons delivered by the U.S. have fallen into insurgent hands.

– Finally, providing the Russians with better releasable intelligence when arguing against weapons transfers to rogue states is essential. Our Russian interlocutors are not always impressed by the evidence we use to prove that their arms are ending up in the wrong hands. While we doubt Russia will terminate all its problematic sales for the reasons described above, more compelling evidence could lead the GOR to reduce the scope of its arms transfers or tighten export controls.

Final Caveat

13. (C) There are few voices in Russia who protest the sale of weapons to countries of concern and no domestic political constraints that tie the hands of Russian policymakers on this score. The pride that Russian officialdom takes in the arms industry as a symbol of Russia’s resurgence is largely shared by average Russians. American concerns are interpreted cynically, as the disgruntled complaints of a competitor, and viewed through the prism of a 1990’s story line in which the West seeks to keep Russia down, including by depriving it of arms markets.


(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
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It’s sad, but not unexpected, to see the usual motley of neocons, freepers and general creeps crawling about the interwebs, baying for Assange’s blood and calling for him to be disappeared into the Nacht und Nebel. But it is absolutely tragic that, misled by the MSM and dulled by their own cynicism, so many people who in other times might have resisted those right-wing thugs, instead just content themselves with making smartass remarks about how Cablegate has revealed nothing new or consequential (or even, implausibly and disingenuously, accuse Wikileaks of being a CIA front tasked with spreading pro-US disinformation).

Now even if this charge were valid, it would be no reason to dismiss a project that is enabling the rise of “contemporary history” and opening up the cynical workings of geopolitical actors to a public that is nowhere near as familiar with them as those smug commentators. And it’s no reason whatsoever not to condemn the enraged lunatic fringe calling for Wikileaks to be branded a terrorist organization (with all the attendant consequences for its members’ life expectancy), or not to confront the “moderates” like Joe Lieberman who intimidate private enterprises into joining the crusade against Wikileaks and through their actions enable the extremists. [BTW, a fun factoid: one of old Joe's biggest hobbies is bashing Russia for its human rights abuses, such as breaking up (unsanctioned) protests: such atrocities never happen in the US, of course.]

But even that isn’t all there is to it, because if you look deeply enough, there ARE many, many very interesting revelations in these cables. It’s just that the Western MSM, beholden to the corporate and political elites that provide it with audiences, sources and funding, is actually COLLUDING with their governments, and above all the US government, to conceal or ACTIVELY DISTORT the content of many of these cables. And with great success, as even the skeptics and free thinkers are drawn into the resulting narrative.

Even the Empire's satirists are its (unwitting) servants...

Even the Empire’s satirists are its (unwitting) servants…

Take a look at that cartoon above. See that “flabby old chap” Kim Jong-il of North Korea handing a nice fat missile to Iranian President Ahmadinjad (the one about to be stabbed by the fat Arab with shades)? That part of the cartoon reflects an NYT story that – based on a cable that it refused to reprint under pressure from the Obama administration – supposedly claimed that “secret American intelligence assessments have concluded that Iran has obtained a cache of advanced missiles, based on a Russian design, that are much more powerful than anything Washington has publicly conceded that Tehran has in its arsenal.” So it’s politically accurate and cynically subversive artwork, right?

Unfortunately, no. Thanks to yeoman investigative journalism by Gareth Porter, the NYT story WAS MISSING A CRITICAL HALF: the tight Russian arguments that in fact no such missiles were known to exist in North Korea (let alone Iran), and that a weapons transfer of such magnitude between the two countries was impossible. His article Wikileaks Exposes Complicity of the Press is a rare example of what real journalist is about and cannot be recommended enough. It also illustrates that, by deliberately overlooking the Russian objections to American assessments of Iran’s missile capabilities, the authors of the NYT article deliberately slanted their coverage, in such a way that “a key Wikileaks document which should have resulted in storiescalling into question the thrust of the Obama administration’s ballistic missile defense policy in Europe based on an alleged Iranian missile threat has instead produced a spate of stories buttressing anti-Iran hysteria.”

But it gets even darker. Thanks to the commendable efforts of our freedom-protecting friends at the Department of Homeland Security to intimidate companies “hosting WikiLeaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them,” – BTW, any chance that the Tea Party will get up in arms over this latest intrusion of the Obama socialist regime into private business? LOL. – by the time I tried to access the original cable, the original site was down.

Though you can still browse Wikileaks through the IP quad, I couldn’t find that cable there. AFAIK, the only remaining online copy of the offending cable – at least now, if and until Wikileaks restores it – is in the Internet graveyard that is" href="">Google Cache. But not any longer. I’m reprinting the whole thing below in solidarity with the Wikileaks idea. (In particular, please read #26 and #29).

(And expect more in the future. Like Sean Guillory and Russian Reporter, I too intend to cover many more leaks in what promise to be some very fun and interesting next few weeks.)

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10STATE17263 2010-02-24 22:10 2010-11-28 18:06 SECRET Secretary of State
R 242212Z FEB 10
S E C R E T STATE 017263 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/24/2035


REF: 09 STATE 082572 

Classified By: ISN Acting A/S Vann H. Van Diepen.  Reason 1.5 (D)


1. (S) A U.S. interagency team — lead by ISN Acting
Assistant Secretary Vann H. Van Diepen — met with a Russian
interagency team lead by Vladimir Nazarov, Deputy Secretary
of the Russian National Security Council (full participants
list is provided in paragraphs 76-77 below), on December 22,
2009 for a second round of discussions on a Joint Threat
Assessment (JTA), as agreed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev
in the 2009 U.S.-Russia Summit Joint Statement on Missile
Defense Issues. The Russian delegation came prepared to
engage seriously, and made presentations on their evaluation
of the missile programs of Iran and the DPRK; a conceptual
framework for evaluating the risk posed by various missile
programs; Russian concerns about instability in Pakistan and
the security of nuclear weapons and missiles there; and the
work of the FSB (Federal Security Service) in countering
efforts by Iranian and North Korean agencies to either obtain
nuclear and missile technologies and materials in Russia or
to transship the
m through Russian territory. While the Russians were
prepared for discussions of cooperation at a strategic level
on countering missile proliferation, their position remained
the same: in their analysis, the missile programs of Iran and
the DPRK are not sufficiently developed, and their intentions
to use missiles against the U.S. or Russia are nonexistent,
thus not constituting a “threat” requiring the deployment of
missile defenses. The discussions included a vigorous
exchange of questions and answers, and concluded with an
invitation by the Russians to hold the next round of the JTA
in Moscow in March or April 2010. The discussions lasted the
full day. End Summary.

Opening remarks

2. (S) Van Diepen recalled that the July 2009 U.S.-Russia
Joint Statement called for U.S. and Russian experts to work
together to analyze ballistic missile threats and that the
U.S. side had provided analyses of Iran’s and North Korea’s
missile programs at the September JTA. He said that the U.S.
side looked forward to receiving Russian perspectives on
these programs and discussing areas of agreement and
disagreement. He added that the U.S. hoped that development
of a more shared perspective on these issues would help
inform how the U.S. and Russia address missile threats
bilaterally and multilaterally. Consistent with the Joint
Statement and the non-paper U/S Tauscher provided to Russia
in November, this effort also could help the U.S. and Russia
assess how to defend against missile threats if that becomes
necessary. Van Diepen ended by underscoring that the U.S.
looked forward to detailed discussions and then deciding on
potential next steps.

3. (C) Nazarov thanked Van Diepen for reminding both sides of
the context for the work of the JTA. He noted that the July
6 Joint Statement said that experts of both countries would
analyze threats of the 21st century and make recommendations
for political and diplomatic means to address them. Russia
takes this seriously, and President Medvedev has given the
highest priority to this work and has instructed that this
work be coordinated under the Security Council of the Russian
Federation. Accordingly, Nazarov said, the Russian
delegation includes representatives from all of the Russian
agencies responsible for tracking missile threats and
countering them. He added that the Russian side planned to
make presentations, focusing primarily on Iran and North
Korea. After that, the Russian delegation would be prepared
to comment on the presentations made by the U.S. at the last
JTA meeting in July. He said the Russian delegation had
studied these materials closely and had several comments and

4. (S) Nazarov concluded by noting that Russia looked forward
to a creative dialogue and robust exchange of opinions
between the experts of both sides. He said Russia would
focus primarily on the threats from Iran and North Korea,
noting that Russia believed the long-term strategic interests
of the U.S. and Russia largely coincide and that the
acquisition of nuclear and/or missile capabilities by Iran,
North Korea, or other threshold states is unacceptable.
Nazarov hoped that the discussions would be productive and
potentially lead to the drafting of a joint assessment, and
perhaps to the creation of a joint document.

Russian Presentations on Iran and North Korea


5. (S) Evgeny Zudin of the Russian Ministry of Defense gave
detailed presentations on the Russian assessment of the
Iranian and North Korean missile programs, and the degree to
which Russia believes these programs constitute threats
requiring missile defense responses. For Russia, the bottom
line is that, in essence, neither program constitutes a
threat at the moment or in the near future.

NOTE: Russia did not provide paper copies of either
presentation to the U.S. delegation. END NOTE.

6. (S) On Iran, Zudin made the following points concerning
Scud missiles:

–Given the challenging and complex situation of the regional
context that surrounds Iran, Iran’s leaders view acquiring a
missile capability as a deterrent to existent threats. To
that end, they also consistently exaggerate Iran’s
achievements in missile production.

–The core of the Iranian missile program has been the
evolutionary development of liquid-fueled missiles based on
Soviet Scud technology from the 1960s.

–Tehran acquired Scud B systems from a number of countries
during the 1980s.

–The Iranian version, called the Shahab-1, has a range of
300 km and a reentry vehicle of 1 ton.

–With scientific and technological assistance from North
Korea, Iran acquired production capabilities for both the
Scud B and the Scud C.

–The Scud C, called the Shahab-2 by the Iranians, has a
range of 550 km with a 700 kg payload.

–Iran has also developed and commissioned a medium range
ballistic missile (MRBM) called the Shahab-3, based on the
North Korean No Dong-1 and using Scud-based technologies.
The Shahab-3 has a range of 1,500 km and a 700 kg payload.

–Iran has done a good deal of work to improve the precision
and range of this system, creating the Shahab-3M, which Iran
claims has a range of 2,000 km, although so far the confirmed
range is only 1,600-1,700 km.

–Russia’s analysis indicates that this was achieved by
reducing the re-entry vehicle weight to 250 kg and improving
the engine.

– Russia also believes that this very nearly exhausts the
potential for Iran to increase the range of the Shahab-3 or
make further improvements to Scud-based missile technology.

7. (S) Moving on from Scud-based technology, Zudin made the
following points on Iran’s development of a 2,000 km-range
solid propellant system:

–Iran has been developing solid propellant MRBMs/IRBMs with
better operational capability since 2000.

–Currently, Russia is seeing the development of a two-stage
intermediate (2,000 km) solid propellant missile.

–The first test of this system in November 2007 failed.
During the second test on November 12, 2008, Iran
successfully accomplished the uplift stage of the missile.

–Following the third test of the missile in May 2009, Iran
announced that the launch was successful and that it would
begin serial production of this missile.

–This system was tested again on December 16, 2009, and Iran
also claimed this test was successful.

–The Russian assessment is that regardless of optimistic
statements from Iran, the test of this missile was actually
just a test of a successful prototype and that what the test
did was allow Iran to practice first stage operation and
stage separation.

–Russia believes Iran will need another 2-3 years of testing
to perfect the missile. Russia believes it will not actually
be deployed for 5-6 years.

8. (S) Zudin said that another potential success indicator
for Iran’s missile program is the Safir space launch vehicle
(SLV) program. He said the Safir launch on February 2, 2009
was successful in putting the Omid (26 kg) satellite into
orbit. However, Iran’s first attempt to launch the satellite
into orbit on August 17, 2008 was unsuccessful. Russia
assesses that in order to achieve the successful launch, Iran
had used
the maximum potential of its liquid-propellant technology
(the first stage of the Safir was a Shahab-3). As for Iran
developing combat/offensive long-range missiles based on SLV
technology, Russia believes, in theory, this is possible.
However, from a military technological perspective, Russia
believes this is unviable due to low throw weight of the
system. In addition, Russia believes that development of a
long-range missile based on its SLV efforts would require
Iran to intensify its research and development, conduct a
series of test launches outside its territory, and increase
throw weight and accuracy. Thus, in Russia’s view, despite
Iran’s successful launch of a satellite, it is premature to
talk about Iran successfully developing the technology for a
militarily useful long-range ballistic missile capacity.

9. (S) Zudin summed up his presentation on Iran by noting
that over the last four years, Iran has successfully launched
a 26 kg satellite into orbit and conducted several successful
launches of a solid propellant MRBM, according to unconfirmed
information. However, Russia believes Iran’s “success” boils
down to creating Shahab-3-class liquid propellant missiles
with an accuracy of several kilometers that can reach targets
in the Middle East and Southeastern Europe, but given
conventional warheads, these missiles cannot do substantial
damage. Under favorable conditions, Russia believes Iran
might be able to begin a program to develop ballistic
missiles with ranges of between 3,000-5,000 km after 2015,
but Russia does not see Iran taking any steps in this
direction. Rather, Russia has concluded that Iran’s
ballistic missile program continues to be directed toward
developing combat ready missiles to address regional concerns.

North Korea:

10. (S) Zudin made the following points with regard to the
DPRK’s missile program:

–Over the last two decades North Korea has paid increased
attention to developing and producing ballistic missiles and

–The DPRK has commissioned the production of liquid
propellant missiles such as Scud Bs and Cs (which North Korea
calls the Hwasong 5 and 6), the No Dong I, the short-range
KN-02, and the “Luna-M” tactical missile, plus solid
propellant battlefield and tactical rockets.

–The core of North Korea’s missile capability is missile
technology from the 1960s.

–The potentially outdated No Dong-1, with a range of
1,000-1,300 km and a reentry vehicle of one ton, is the most
advanced missile commissioned by the North Korean military.

–In Russia’s assessment, only the KN-02, with a range of
less than 100 km, is relatively modern.

–Since early in the 1990s, North Korea has slowly developed
missiles of the Taepo Dong class.

–Russia estimates that the Taepo Dong-1 (TD-1) was a
prototype two-stage liquid propellant missile with a
2,000-2,500 km range.

–The TD-I first stage used a No Dong-1 engine, and the
second stage used a Scud engine.

–The only flight test of the TD-I was conducted on August
31, 1998, during which the DPRK practiced separation of
missile stages. North Korea declared this test to be an SLV

–The Taepo Dong-2 (TD-2) MRBM is a two-stage liquid
propellant missile with a range of 3,500-6,000 km, depending
on the weight of the warhead.

–A July 5, 2006 test launch of the TD-II failed as the
missile exploded 40 seconds into flight.

–Russia estimates that North Korea tested elements of the
Taepo Dong-2 with its April 5, 2009 SLV launch.

–Russia believes North Korea has demonstrated a certain
level of progress in the missile area by creating a first
stage engine with a thrust of 100 tons.

–North Korea conducted tests of nuclear devices on October
9, 2006 and May 26, 2009. However, it remains unproven
whether North Korea can make a nuclear warhead of the size
and weight that would allow it to be carried by a ballistic

11. (S) Zudin said that in Russia’s view, the widespread
claims about North Korea’s achievements in the missile area
are dubious. In particular, Russia notes that it is claimed
that North Korea has a new missile based on the Soviet R-27
(NOTE: SS-N-6. END NOTE) submarine-launched ballistic
missile (SLBM) that is capable of reaching ranges of
2,400-4,000 km. However, the many published reports
regarding this missile, which is known as the BM-25, contain
claims that are made without reference to any reliable
sources. Moreover, Zudin said, the fact is that there have
been no successful tests of this missile in either North
Korea or Iran. Russia also is unaware that this missile has
ever been seen. There are claims that 19 of these missiles
were shipped to Iran in 2005, but there is no evidence for
this and concealment of such a transfer would be impossible.

12. (S) Zudin said Russia believes the real missile potential
of North Korea is an impressive arsenal of outdated missiles
with ranges no greater than 1,300 km and that are only a
threat to countries in the region that North Korea considers
to be enemies. Russia estimates that in the years to come
North Korea will devote considerable effort to improving and
perfecting its SLV. To this end, it will use the launch
facility near the community of Tongchang-Dong (NOTE: Known to
the U.S. as the Yunsong facility. END NOTE). Russia
assesses that North Korean development of long-range
ballistic missiles based on SLVs is possible in principle,
but perfection will take years. The prospects for North
Korea developing a combat operational system from such a
process is not likely due to the inability to conduct
concealed preparations for launch and the long preparation

13. (S) Summing up, Zudin said Iran’s and North Korea’s
missile programs can be characterized as follows: the only
real successes are liquid propellant intermediate range
missiles with ranges of 1,300 km, and both countries would
face real technical difficulties in trying to make additional
advances to increase the range of their systems.

Discussion on Iranian and North Korean Missiles

14. (S) Van Diepen thanked the Russian delegation for its
presentations, noting that there appeared to be some areas
where both sides agree, other areas where the two sides see
the same thing a little differently, and areas where the two
sides disagree. He said it is good to have the opportunity
to examine the differences and the reasons for them, and
urged that this be done in a structured way. Van Diepen
proposed discussion begin with Iran and North Korea
generally, and then move to specific categories of
short-range, medium range, and long-range missiles. On Iran,
he said it appeared that both sides had similar assessments
at the technical level with regard to short range missiles in
Iran. On medium range missiles in Iran, both sides agree
there is the original No Dong, a modified No Dong with longer
range – although the U.S. and Russia have different ideas of
the modifications made to achieve that longer range. And
both sides seem to agree that Iran is developing a two-stage
solid propellant missile.
Beyond that, U.S. and Russian assessments seem to diverge.

15. (S) Based on the Russian presentations, the U.S.
delegation posed a number of questions. The Russian
delegation also raised a number of questions about U.S.
comments and the U.S. presentations on Iran and North Korea
from the September JTA talks. The topics raised and
follow-up discussions were as follows:

16. (S) Shahab-3 Reentry Vehicle Mass

The U.S. noted that based on modeling, it assesses that the
modified Shahab-3 has 600 kg re-entry vehicle mass at a range
of 2,000 km, and asked for Russia to explain the basis for
its assessment of 250 kg re-entry vehicle mass. The U.S. also
asked how useful such a missile would be as a military
weapon. Russia responded that there is some uncertainty in
its estimate, conceding that the 250 kg is at the low end of
Russia’s estimate. However, Russia believes that the low
weight of the Shahab-3 warhead makes it pointless as a
military weapon. Although the range could be further
increased with a lighter warhead, Russia’s view is that such
a missile also is pointless. Additionally, while Russia
views the U.S. 600 kg estimate as being close to the 700 kg
weight of the basic Shahab-3 warhead, it assesses that the
range of the system with that warhead is 1,300 km, not 2,000
km. Russia does not believe that if the weight of the
warhead is decreased by just 50 kg, it is realistic to assess
that the Shahab 3 would
achieve a 2,000 km range.

17. (S) Aluminum Airframe

The U.S. said that its assessment of a 2,000 km range for the
Shahab-3 is achieved through the use of an aluminum airframe
instead of steel and increased engine thrust. Russia asked
whether the assessment that the Shahab 3 airframe is made
with aluminum rather than steel is based on speculation or
fact. The U.S. responded that the assessment derives from
information relating to Iran seeking various aluminum alloys.
Additionally, during the Information Exchange (IE) portion
of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Plenary, a
number of presentations, including by the UK and France, also
assessed that the Shahab-3 has an aluminum airframe and
described a number of Iranian attempts to procure aluminum
for this purpose. For this reason there also have been MTCR
proposals to add the types of aluminum sought by Iran to the
MTCR Annex.

18. (S) Safir Airframes

The U.S. noted that it appears that the first stage of the
Safir SLV is the Shahab-3, and asked whether Russia believes
the Safir could achieve orbit with a steel airframe. Russia
answered that the facts are that the Safir was used to put a
satellite with a very low mass into orbit. It is likely that
the technologies used to achieve this were exploited to their
utmost. Russian analysis showed that the size of the Omid is
the limit of what Iran could put into orbit. The U.S. agreed
that a very low weight satellite was all that the Safir
could put into orbit, but assessed that even orbiting such a
small satellite could only be done using an aluminum
airframe. In U.S. modeling of the launch using a steel
airframe, the Safir was not able to get close to putting
anything into orbit.

19. (S) Russia remarked that even if the U.S. and Russia
disagree over the materials used in the airframe, both sides
can agree that the capability of this missile was used to its
maximum to get a satellite into orbit. If there is agreement
on this point, then both sides should be able to agree that
using this system as a weapon is pointless. The U.S.
responded that this was not necessarily so and would depend
on how the rocket is used. The Safir launch might have
been a technology demonstrator. If one clustered or stacked
the Shahab, it could be used as a longer-range system. The
U.S. added that something using a single Shahab as its first
stage will have limitations, but that is not the only option.

20. (S) Using Clustered Engines

Russia noted that during the JTA talks in Moscow, the U.S.
discussed several options Iran would have with regard to a
cluster scheme. However, in Russia’s view, the problem with
a cluster scheme is that it makes the missile nonviable for
military purposes. The U.S. responded that a cluster scheme
would make the system less mobile, but noted that it would
provide a possibility for putting a missile further
downrange. However, the basic U.S. point is that the Safir
could have been a technology demonstrator for staging,
separation, ignition, and control of an upper stage. Russia
noted that it views the Safir launch as a success and has
stated this. Additionally, Russia agrees there are ways to
increase the throw weight, including the clustering of
engines, but the goal of the Russian review of Iran’s missile
capabilities was to examine whether the Iranian program could
create a combat ready missile that meets certain
specifications. In Russia’s view it cannot, and talking
about the Shahab-3 as a long-range
combat missile is unrealistic.

21. (S) The U.S. agreed it is not realistic for a mobile
missile, but thought it would be realistic for use in a silo
or underground. Russia responded that such a missile would
require a fixed launch pad. Fifty years ago fixed launch
pads deep inside a country were survivable, but now that is
not realistic. The U.S. countered that both Russia and the
U.S. still have hundreds of such launch sites. Russia said
that was a topic for another discussion, not JTA.

22. (S) Iran Not Capable of Producing Longer-Range Missiles

Russia said its bottom line is that Iran lacks appropriate
structural materials for long-range systems, such as high
quality aluminum. Iran can build prototypes, but in order to
be a threat to the U.S. or Russia Iran needs to produce
missiles in mass quantities, and it lacks materials
sufficient for the type of mass production needed to be a
security threat. Russia further noted that the technology
for longer-range missiles is sophisticated and difficult to
master. For example, the elongated airframes Iran is using
might not survive the stresses of a ballistic flight path,
and the guidance system for the missile (Shahab-3) is
outdated and does not allow for precision steering.
According to Russian calculations, if the control system is
used at a range of 2,000 km, it could veer as much as 6-7 km
off its target; at 5,000 km, the accuracy could be off by
50-60 km. In addition, the liquid propellants used by the
Iranians are of low efficiency. Iran is working to improve
the power of the engine and develop
more efficient kinds of fuel. However, it faces significant
challenges. Iran also has problems with launch preparation
times, although it has made some recent improvements.

23. (S) Launching from Silos

Russia said it does not think a Shahab-3 derived system could
be launched from a silo. Ground launch sites that are for
SLVs are not suitable for military launches, and missiles
with side-based vent engines and clustered engines cannot be
silo-based. The U.S. responded that this might be an area
where U.S. and Russian assessments differ. For example, the
U.S. thinks the Taepo Dong-2 is a clustered missile that can
be launched from a silo or underground launcher, adding that
there are scenarios to compensate for shortcomings of this
technology should the Iranians or North Koreans choose to
pursue them.

24. (S) Iranian Solid Propellant MRBM

The U.S. said it does not see the solid-propellant MRBM as a
technology demonstrator. This system has been tested four
times in the past two years, and the U.S. assesses Iran will
be ready to field it in less than the 5-6 year timeframe
Russia envisions. Russia asked how soon the U.S. thought the
system could be ready. The U.S. said that it would not be
surprised if a two-stage system with a range up to 2,000 km
were fielded
within a year, at least in limited numbers. The U.S. also
noted that not all countries follow the same testing
procedures as the U.S. and Russia. North Korea is an extreme
example, but Iran does not have the same test philosophy as
either the U.S. or Russia.

25. (S) The Path to Long Range Missile Development in Iran

The U.S. said the main potential avenue for Iran developing
long range missiles is by using current systems as building
blocks. For example, using the Shahab-3 with clustered or
stacked engines could be one path. Another path might be the
so-called BM-25 missile that the U.S. believes was sold to
Iran by North Korea. A third path might be development of a
solid-propellant MRBM with more powerful motors. Russia said
that its views on the Shahab 3 had already been discussed.
Russia had some questions about the other two paths the U.S.
had identified. In addition, Russia thinks it also will be
very important to consider the intentions of Iran and North
Korea that could lead to creation or improvement of its
missiles. This will affect what each side (U.S. and Russia)
does to monitor what these countries (Iran and North Korea)
do to acquire missile technologies, including procurement
methods. It also will help define the key technologies
required by these countries now and in the future and in
finding a means for protecting these technologies.

26. (S) The BM-25

Russia said that during its presentations in Moscow and its
comments thus far during the current talks, the U.S. has
discussed the BM-25 as an existing system. Russia questioned
the basis for this assumption and asked for any facts the
U.S. had to provide its existence such as launches, photos,
etc. For Russia, the BM-25 is a mysterious missile. North
Korea has not conducted any tests of this missile, but the
U.S. has said that North Korea transferred 19 of these
missiles to Iran. It is hard for Russia to follow the logic
trail on this. Since Russia has not seen any evidence of
this missile being developed or tested, it is hard for Russia
to imagine that Iran would buy an untested system. Russia
does not understand how a deal would be made for an untested
missile. References to the missile’s existence are more in
the domain of political literature than technical fact. In
short, for Russia, there is a question about the existence of
this system.

27. (S) The U.S. repeated its earlier comment that Iran and
North Korea have different standards of missile development
than many other countries, including the U.S. and Russia.
North Korea exported No Dong missiles after only one flight
test, so it is not unimaginable that it would build and seek
to export a system that has not been tested. This is
especially true for North Korea because of its need for hard
currency. In the U.S. view, the more interesting question is
why would Iran buy a missile that has not been tested. One
possible answer is that Iran has recognized that the BM-25′s
propulsion technology exceeds the capabilities of that used
in the Shahab-3, and that acquiring such technology was very
attractive. Iran wanted engines capable of using
more-energetic fuels, and buying a batch of BM-25 missiles
gives Iran a set it can work on for reverse engineering.
This estimate would be consistent with the second stage of
the Safir SLV using steering engines from the BM-25 missile.

28. (S) Safir and BM-25

The U.S. explained that based on a comparison of Internet
photos of the second stage of the Safir, the U.S. assessment
is that the steering (vernier) engines on the Safir are the
same as on the R-27. The weld lines and tank volumes from
the Safir second stage show that the ratio of oxidizer to
propellant is not consistent with Scud propellants and more
consistent with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and
nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4), which were used in the R-27. The
U.S. does not have any information on why Iran has not flight
tested the BM-25. It may be due to difficulties assembling
the missiles, but it appears that they have at least done
work with the steering (vernier) engines. Russia asked if
the U.S. was saying that its case for the existence of the
BM-25 missile is that individual elements of the Safir
resemble the steering engines of the R-27 missile.

29. (S) The U.S. said that is only part of the case. In the
media, and more importantly in the MTCR Information Exchange,
countries have offered direct evidence of the transfer of the
BM-25 from North Korea to Iran. Russia asked if the U.S. had
pictures of the missile in Iran. The U.S. did not, but noted
that North Korea had paraded the missile through the streets
of Pyongyang. Russia disagreed. Russia said it had reviewed
the video of the North Korean military parade and concluded
that North Korea had shown a different missile. Russia does
not think the BM-25 exists. The missile appears to be a
myth, and some say that it is based on a Russian missile.
However, no one has seen it, and Russia cannot find traces of
it. The U.S. said it would endeavor to provide further
information on the existence of the BM-25 at the next round
of talks, noting that reaching agreement on this point will
affect the joint assessment of Iranian and North Korean
missile capabilities.

30. (S) Safir Fuel

Russia asked whether the U.S. had any clear images of the
Safir that allow for the assessment of tank volumes and the
ratio of fuel to oxidizer. The U.S. said that the weld lines
of the second stage are clear in the pictures Iran put on the
Internet, and U.S. analysts were able to make pretty good
calculations based on this information. Russia questioned
this, saying that the photos did not allow for accurate
measurements of distances. The U.S. undertook to provide
more information on this point at the next round of talks.

31. (S) The U.S. then asked Russia for its assessment of the
types of propellant used in the Safir second stage. Russia
said it thinks that hydrazine is used. The U.S. asked
whether Russia thought UDMH might be involved. Russia did
not. It said that there might be different combinations of
fuel and oxidizers, but the base is hydrazine.

32. (S) More on Propellants

The U.S. asked whether Russia assesses that Iran is moving
beyond Scud propellants. Russia responded that it believes
Iran is trying to move in this direction because it wants
something more powerful – something that can lift 40-50 tons.
With bigger engines, Iran can improve missile range. Thus,
Iran has been working to acquire more-energetic fuels and
trying to produce UDMH and N2O4. However, Iran has been
working on this for approximately 10 years, and Russia has
not seen any serious results. Russia further noted that
Malik Ashtar University in Tehran has been working on fuel
combinations, but it apparently has not been successful. The
fact that Iran has not succeeded in this area is evident in
Iran’s effort to seek this technology from abroad.

33. (S) The U.S. noted that it was significant that both the
U.S. and Russia assess that Iran is working on more-energetic
propellants, even if the two sides differ in how far along
they are. Russia responded that this is due to the fact that
Iran has not yet launched any longer range missiles. There
have been no tests, and statements from Iran that it has
missiles that can fly 2,000 km have not been substantiated.
The longest range that Russia has seen is 1,700 km, and that
was achieved only because of a reduced throw weight. If the
U.S. has additional data to share, Russia would be
interested. The U.S. agreed to look into the matter and
elaborate further at the next JTA talks.

34. (S) However, the U.S. also noted that modeling shows that
achieving a greater range is possible. Just because a
capability has not been demonstrated operationally does not
mean that it is not possible. Once a program has achieved
1,500 km, going a few hundred kilometers more is not that
much of an obstacle. Going from 1,700 to 2,000 km is not a
great technological stretch. Russia said it could not agree
because with a longer flight, various parts of the missile
could burn through, the missile could fall apart, or it could
go off course. It needs to be tested at its maximum range.
As discussed earlier, the U.S. believes Iran can achieve the
increased range due to a combination of increased thrust from
more powerful engines, a slightly reduced payload, and the
use of aluminum instead of steel.

35. (S) Russia disagreed with the U.S. assessment that Iran
has been able to buy technology to produce solid propellant
engines. Russia believes Iran continues to work on the
technology to mix and pour the propellant. This is a very
difficult process. Solid fuel has to be very evenly mixed to
work properly. It must be put into the motor case and then
allowed to solidify, and the resulting fuel must be
homogeneous. In addition, fuel loading is more complicated
for larger engines, and Iran has not mastered this. Russia
also believes Iran is experimenting with fuel composition,
how long fuels can be preserved, and how temperatures can
affect the mixture. Russia does not think that Iran has
solved the problem of thermal isolation of the engine from
the airframe, as the junction with the engine tends to burn
through. Russia also does not think that Iran has solved the
problem of thrust vector control and gas steering
technologies. The old technologies are not reliable, and
Iran has had a hard time getting
components from abroad. In addition, Iran cannot produce
high-quality spherical aluminum powder and without this it
cannot reliably produce solid fuel. Russia noted that even
Israel needs to buy ammonium perchlorate from abroad. Iran
has been trying to produce it indigenously, but Russia has no
information indicating it has been successful. In Russia’s
view, Iran appears to be having very serious problems with
engine development.

36. (S) The Ashura

Russia said that in June 2008, it had received information
from the State Department that within the framework of the
Ashura program, Iran is producing a 3-stage missile called
the Ghadr-110. At that time, the U.S. told Russia that this
missile is very similar to the Pakistani Shaheen-II and has a
range of 2,000 km with a throw weight of one ton. Testing of
the Ghadr-110 may have started in 2008, and Russia would like
additional information on this system. The U.S. said that
there appeared to be some confusion: the Ashura is a
two-stage solid propellant missile with a 2,000 km range, and
the Ghadr-110 is the Fateh-110, a single-stage SRBM.

37. (S) Sejjil

Russia asked whether the Sejjil was part of the Ashura
program. The U.S. said it thinks the Sejjil is another name
for the Ashura. In addition, Iran also has a short range
solid propellant system called the Fateh-110. The experience
gained from that program has been used in the development of
the Ashura and helps explain how Iran acquired the capability
to develop larger motors. In the 1990s, Iran received
production technology and infrastructure from China to
develop solid propellants. That infrastructure was used in
the Fateh-110 and now is being used as the technological
basis for the Ashura. While the U.S. would agree that a
larger solid propellant engine is challenging, Iran has over
a decade of experience producing solid propellant motors and
it got an important head start from China. Independent of
what Iran has since acquired, this head start allowed Iran to
develop the Ashura, which has been flight tested
successfully, and also to work toward longer-range systems.
Russia did not fully agree,
saying that the technology for an SRBM is quite different
from medium and longer range systems.

38. (S) Iranian Challenges

Noting that Russia had mentioned several problems with Iran’s
efforts to develop larger motors, the U.S. asked for the
basis of Russia’s assessment and specifically whether it
derived from the results of ground testing. Russia responded
that Iran is having problems generally because it did not
develop the technology in Iran and is trying to work off of
North Korean technology. The U.S. then asked how Russia
would explain
the Ashura having been flight tested twice successfully.
Russia said there is nothing special there as the technology
is all old technology as described in detail in the
literature of the Chinese Long March 4 engine. The U.S.
pointed out that the Long March is a liquid propellant
system, and the Ashura is a solid propellant system. If Iran
has successful tests, it shows Iran has built MRBM rocket
motors. Russia countered that all it shows is that Iran is
testing parts of the missile. Iran may have claimed success
but that is not the reality. If Iran wants it to be
reliable, the missile has to be tested many times before it
can be deployed. This is what Russia believes. Russia
understands the U.S. has a different point of view and this
can be discussed again another time.

39. (S) North Korean Scuds

The U.S. said it seemed that both sides had a common
evaluation of what types of short range systems North Korea
possesses: the Scud B, Scud C, and the new solid propellant
MRBM. Russia said that in 2008, the U.S. indicated that
North Korean Scuds were launched at longer ranges. Russia
asked for any specific data on these missile launches and for
U.S. thinking on why these systems are extended range Scuds
and not Scud C missiles. The U.S. said that it would try to
provide more information on this issue at the next round of
talks. However, it is known that there have been at least
two cases of North Korea helping other countries to develop
Scuds with longer ranges than the Scud C. One example is
Libya. When Libya gave up its MTCR-class missile programs in
2003, it showed the U.S. a missile it called the “Scud-C.”
However, it had a longer range than the missile we refer
generally refer to as the Scud-C. Additionally, many
presentations in the MTCR Information Exchange have reported
that North Korea is helping other countries, particularly
Syria, develop a Scud with a longer range. These
presentations have referred to this longer range system as
the Scud-D.

40. (S) No Dong

The U.S. thought that both sides had similar assessments of
the No Dong. Referring to the U.S. presentation from the
previous JTA talks, Russia noted that the U.S. said there
were seven launches of the No Dong in July 2009 by North
Korea. Russia has no information on such tests, and wondered
if there U.S. had been referring to 2006. The U.S. said that
there had been tests of the No Dong just after July 4, 2009,
and that there had been plenty of South Korean and Japanese
reporting at that time. Russia agreed there were July 4
missile launches, but of missiles with shorter ranges, not
Scuds or No Dongs. Given the confusion on this point, Russia
urged that the issue be revisited during the next round of

41. (S) UDMH

Russia asked whether the U.S. thinks North Korea is trying to
develop a new engine that uses UDMH. The U.S. said it
believes this effort is connected with a new system North
Korea is working on. The U.S. thinks this new system is an

42. (S) IRBM

Russia asked whether the U.S. has any specific data on this
system. The U.S. said it believes the system exists and has
been sold to Iran as the BM-25.

43. (S) Taepo Dong

The U.S. agreed with Russia that the Taepo Dong-1 was a
technology demonstrator that is no longer being used, and
that the Taepo Dong-2 has had two tests that have been
unsuccessful. However, there is not agreement on the purpose
of the Taepo Dong-2 system. In tests, the intent has been
billed as putting a satellite into orbit, but the U.S. also
thinks it is very much intended as part of the development of
an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Russia noted
for clarification that North Korea calls the Taepo Dong-2 the

44. (S) Russia believes the system has an engine with a 100
ton capacity that uses clustered designs based on old
technology, and asked whether the U.S. thought the Taepo
Dong-2 uses any new technology. The U.S. responded that it
has not seen any new technology associated with this system.
Nevertheless, one path to acquiring a longer range system
would be to cluster or stack engines for the new IRBM in the
same way North Korea used Scud and No Dong engines in the
Taepo Dong-2. Russia pointed out that so far this has not
been observed and there is no new technology associated with
an ICBM in North Korea. The U.S. agreed that no new
technology has been observed in the ICBM, but it has been in
the IRBM.

45. (S) Russia noted that in its presentations the U.S. had
given a range of 10,000 km – 15,000 km with a 500 kg warhead
for the Taepo Dong and asked how the U.S. had calculated
this. The U.S. said that for the 10,000 km range, it had
assumed a clustered first stage and a No Dong second stage.
For the 15,000 km range, it assumed a 3-stage configuration
with the same clustered engines and second stage.

46. (S) Taepo Dong-2 and Military Applications

Russia pointed out that the Taepo Dong-2 would be hard to use
for combat due to a lack of sites and its long launch
preparation time. The U.S. noted that North Korea could
mitigate those problems by placing it in a silo or using it
as a first strike weapon. These would not be optimal
approaches but if North Korea is sufficiently desperate, it
would go with the systems available to it. Moreover, North
Korea puts great political value on these systems. In the
wake of the nuclear test and the UNSCR that followed, North
Korea threatened to conduct an ICBM test. This is another
manifestation of the political value of this program for
North Korea.

47. (S) North Korean Path to an ICBM

The U.S. said it saw three potential paths for North Korea to
follow to obtain an ICBM: 1) use the Taepo Dong-2 as an ICBM;
2) further develop the technology for an IRBM based on their
new MRBM, in the same way the No Dong was a path to the Taepo
Dong; and 3) use the very large launch facility that is being
constructed on the west coast of North Korea to launch a very
large missile. Russia said that the first two paths could be
discussed at a later date.

48. (S) With regard to the third path, Russia wonders whether
North Korea is building the new launch site to avoid
launching over Japan and for safety reasons. The U.S.
responded that the size of the facility is of concern. It
does not simply replicate other sites. This facility is much
larger than the Taepo Dong launch facility. This is not to
say there is evidence of a new missile system larger than the
Taepo Dong-2 being developed, but it suggests the
possibility. North Korea does not spend money on things
unless they really matter. Russia noted that North Korea
does not have so much money, so it must economize. However,
Russia can probably agree that the new site is being built to
test new missiles. That said, Russia still thinks North
Korea has problems developing more-powerful engines and
accurate guidance systems. This merits further observation
and analysis.

49. (S) General Comments

Russia said it sees it as significant that Iran and North
Korea are trying to buy more materials abroad and trying to
get around existing export control regimes. However, each
country is different and Russia cannot say they are working
according to the same principles. On clustering, Russia has
a different point of view than the U.S., but will look
further into this. Russia also has a different view on
silos, but that can be discussed in more detail next time.
In short, North Korea is complex and neither the U.S. nor
Russia fully understands its capabilities. Both sides need
to monitor this carefully and work together on this issue.

Russian presentation of a framework for evaluatingmissile risks, dangers and threats; and discussion

50. (S) Nazarov said Russia believes any missile assessments
should be based not only on modeling, but also on
consideration of the real technical barriers faced by Iran.
Serious attention must be given to these technical problems.
Otherwise, we will use erroneous assumptions to evaluate the
problem. For example, we can count the number of
centrifuges, multiply by production capabilities, and say
Iran can produce enough uranium for several warheads.
However, this would not be correct because the models do not
take into account the technical difficulties in cascade
technologies that Iran has not worked out yet.

51. (S) In the same way, Russia thinks that when talking
about the Shahab-3, there is no possibility of Iran using
these missiles in a launch silo configuration. Also, Russia
does not see Iran increasing the throw weight or range to the
declared capabilities. Thus, as regards attempting to draft
a joint report, Russia foresees no problems in an evaluation
of the basic systems, but does foresee a difference in the
evaluations of the technical barriers faced by the Iranians.
With regard to timeframes, Nazarov said that if we talk about
real threats, and not just potential challenges, then we need
to think about all the systems that need to be developed and
tested. To facilitate this, Russia thinks the JTA
discussions should be divided into discussions on missile
risks and missile threats. The two sides should agree on
what these are and then work to prevent missile risks from
growing into missile threats.

52. (S) Nazarov then asked Vladimir Yermakov, Director for
Strategic Capabilities Policy, Russian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, to introduce Russia’s proposed methodology for
evaluating missile risks and missile threats. Yermakov said
Russia views the December JTA talks as the first step in
implementing the goals of the July 2009 Presidential Joint
Statement. These consultations build on many years of work
with the U.S. on missile defense, including missile threat
assessment, and Russia would like to underscore that the
dialogue and close collaboration on missile defense is due to
the positive decisions taken by the new administration on
missile defense. Russia’s official assessment of Obama’s
missile defense policy is that it is a step in a positive
direction. Russia commends the U.S. decision to drop the
fielding of missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech
Republic and replace it with a multi-phased program for
missile defense in Europe. Russia will only be able to give
its assessment of the new
project after it has seen the implementation of the first
phase. Further collaboration in missile defense will depend
on how the project will be developed on the U.S. side. But a
key part of our collaboration will be the joint assessment of
missile threats.

53. (S) Continuing, Yermakov said Russia believes that any
further practical cooperation on missile defense will be
based on a concrete joint assessment of the missile threats.
The U.S. and Russia need to have a clear understanding of
whom we are cooperating against and we need to make clear
distinctions between missile risks, missile challenges, and
missile threats. Russian and U.S. perceptions may coincide
and may differ, that is understandable. We can work together
to address threats we both agree on. But there may be
threats the U.S. sees as real and Russia sees only to be
perceived ones, and vice versa. In such cases, the extent of
our cooperation may be less or lower, but we can still do
something jointly to address these threats as well.

54. (S) Yermakov said that Russia sees as an end-goal of the
JTA consultations a document outlining jointly assessed
missile threats and challenges. Naturally, in working on
such a document, the U.S. and Russia will recognize that
their views differ and those differences will have to be
reflected in this document. We can take as an example our
record of cooperation within the NATO Russia Council (NRC).

55. (S) Yermakov then distributed a paper on a framework of
criteria for assessing the level of risk of a given missile
program. He explained that the material on the first page is
a graph presented in simplified form in which Russia presents
two categories – a threat and a challenge. In order for
there to be a threat, it is necessary to have two components:
intention and capabilities. Only when both components are
present does a threat become real. From the Russian point of
view, lack of either component makes the threat hypothetical.
When both components are lacking, the threat is only
“perceived,” and the threat of a nuclear missile strike is

56. (S) Yermakov noted that on the second page, Russia
suggests four categories: missile challenge, missile danger,
missile threat, and missile strike. Russia views a missile
challenge as an aspiration to obtain capabilities in the
field of rocketry to fulfill one’s legitimate national goals.
These goals can be a space program or missiles as weapons.
A missile danger emerges when nations envision in national
guidelines a doctrine that they could/could use missiles. A
missile threat is a more advanced category in which a country
has the intention to use its missile capability to further
its national military and political goals. A missile strike
is self evident. Yermakov urged the U.S to review the paper
and, at a later stage, provide an assessment of this
approach. At that point, the two sides can compare views,
theoretical approaches and assessments of threats, and use
this framework to develop a joint document of challenges,
risks, and threats.

57. (S) Nazarov thanked Yermakov for his presentation, saying
that he believed the U.S. and Russia needed to continue their
joint work based on a shared methodology. The methodology
proposed in the Yermakov presentation will allow us to
address challenges and threats concretely, and to overcome
differences of opinion. Nazarov said he did not see U.S. and
Russian differences as significant for a joint document and
thought they could be overcome. In this context, Russia has
prepared a memorandum with respect to drafting a joint
assessment. The essence of the paper is that the two sides
would work together to draft a document on a joint
understanding of the problems of missile proliferation. It
would be an assessment of the current trends, conditions, and
factors that make up today’s situation, and appropriate

58. Nazarov suggested the two sides agree on a timeframe for
drafting the document, which would lay the foundation for
cooperation and make it more dynamic. Russia thinks the JTA
work could finish by the end of 2010 and believes that
following this round, the group could come up with a draft
report and then work to improve it and flesh out some of its
provisions. Based on the principle of rotation, Russia also
thinks the next round of JTA talks should be in March or
April, 2010 in Moscow. Finally, given the sensitive nature
of the eventual final document, it should be treated as
confidential and only made available to third parties with
the consent of both our parties. (Passed over non-paper.)

59. (S) Van Diepen appreciated the thought put into the
Russian document and the invitation to Moscow, which he
accepted. He said the U.S. would study the paper and provide
comments at a later date. This will lay the groundwork for
productive meetings in Moscow. However, he also cautioned
that the two sides must be careful not to let process get in
the way of substance. He said the U.S. and Russia need to
share assessments first and then think about what to do with
them. He also said the two sides should identify the
differences in our assessments and the reasons for those
differences, rather than get bogged down in wordsmithing and

60. (C) Nazarov said Russia shares the opinion that the JTA
study has a practical goal. He said Russia is serious about
the problem of future missile threats and that the JTA work
is under the close scrutiny of the President of the Russian
Federation, who demands that the Russia side give an
impartial and objective assessment. Russia believes there is
a danger in over- or underestimating the threat as it could
prod us to move in the wrong direction. When it comes to
missile and nuclear threats, errors in estimation in both
directions are dangerous.

61. (S) Yuriy Korolev, an expert from the Russian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, explained that during a meeting in Budapest
in February 2008, Russian experts presented a collection of
interesting approaches on assessing missile proliferation
threats. Using that document, Russia thought one could give
a more unbiased assessment of missile threats. However,
there has been no reaction from the U.S. This may be due to
the fact that only limited numbers of the document were
distributed and they did not reach all appropriate senior
U.S. officials. Russia continues to believe this document is
interesting and would appreciate U.S. views, analysis,
comments, and proposals on how to make our efforts on
countering missile proliferation more effective. Russia’s
view is that the methodology presented would make assessments
of missile threats more impartial (handed over copies).

Russian presentation on the security threat presented byinstability and Islamists in Pakistan and discussion

62. (S) Korolev noted that while the focus of the discussions
had been on the missile threats from North Korea and Iran,
Russia did not think discussion should be limited to only
those threats from Iran and North Korea. In the Russian
view, there is another serious threat that should be
discussed: Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation with nuclear
weapons, various delivery systems, and a domestic situation
that is highly unstable. Russia assesses that Islamists are
not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get
their hands on nuclear materials. Russia is aware that
Pakistani authorities, with help from the U.S., have created
a well-structured system of security for protecting nuclear
facilities, which includes physical protection. However,
there are 120,000-130,000 people directly involved in
Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs, working in these
facilities and protecting them. However, regardless of the
clearance process for these people, there is no way to
guarantee that all are 100% loyal
and reliable.

63. (S) In addition to the Islamist interest in these
facilities, Russia also is aware that Pakistan has had to
hire people to protect nuclear facilities that have
especially strict religious beliefs, and recently the general
educational and cultural levels in Pakistan has been falling.
Due to these facts, extremist organizations have more
opportunities to recruit people working in the nuclear and
missile programs. Over the last few years extremists have
attacked vehicles that carry staff to and from these
facilities. Some were killed and a number were abducted and
there has been no trace seen of them. Also, even if places
are well protected, transportation of materials is a
vulnerable point. In Pakistan, it is hard to guarantee the
security of these materials during transportation. For these
reasons, Russia thinks Pakistan should also be a particular
focus of JTA discussion.

64. (S) Nazarov clarified that Russia believes the focus of
the JTA discussions should be the missile programs of Iran
and North Korea. Russia assumes the nuclear and missile
programs of Pakistan are regionally oriented and thus outside
the scope of the current JTA discussion. However, Russia
recently hosted a delegation led by Senators Hagel and
Harkin. The Senators told a meeting of the Russian Security
Council that Pakistan poses the greatest threat to the world.
Therefore, Russia would appreciate any additional
information the U.S. can provide on the actual situation with
regard to the protection, storage, and transportation of
nuclear and missile weaponry in Pakistan.

65. (C) Van Diepen appreciated Russia’s concern with Pakistan
and interest in getting further information but noted that
the issue as described is primarily nuclear materials being
acquired by terrorists, it is more of a nuclear issue and
less related to ballistic missiles. He undertook to report
back and facilitate a response from the appropriate office
outside the context of the JTA.

66. (S) Nazarov said Russia is interested in using all
channels to cooperate with the U.S. on this subject. First
and foremost, Russia is talking about the threat of nuclear
terrorism. If the scenarios include future development, the
threat of missile technology getting into the hands of
terrorists should also be considered. Russia would like to
put its concern on the record, and particularly with regard
to the possibility of Islamists coming to power in Pakistan.
Russia would appreciate the U.S. providing additional
information on the subject – perhaps at the follow-up meeting
in Moscow.

67. (C) Van Diepen said he would report Russia’s concerns but
noted that the U.S. response would likely come through
diplomatic channels rather than at our April/March meetings.
He also urged that Nazarov raise his concerns with Special
Advisor Holbrooke or his Deputy.

Russian presentation on FSB work to interdict Iranian andNorth Korean attempts to buy restricted technology, or totransship third party materials through Russia

68. (C) Anatoliy Raikevich, First Deputy Department
Director, Federal Security Service (FSB), said that both Iran
and North Korea appear to depend heavily on illegally
obtaining equipment and technology from abroad for missile
and WMD programs. The FSB has information that Iran and
North Korea both have programs to try to acquire Russian
technology. One of the basic tasks of the FSB is to prevent
them from acquiring WMD-related production technology in
Russia. To do this, the FSB takes action based on Russian
law and export controls. In particular, the FSB monitors and
takes measures to prevent WMD technology exports. This
includes criminal investigations of attempts to export
contraband and items on the prohibited list. Russian
analysis shows that that these efforts have significantly
reduced the achievements of the Iranian security services in
this area. However, the Iranians continue to try to use the
territory of Russia for transits and reexports of such

69. (C) A key effort of the Iranian services is the company
to company approach, whereby they use fake companies run by
the Iranian security service to procure Russian goods. The
FSB has set up sting companies to uncover Iranian activities.
In the past two years, the FSB has cut off a good deal of
the exports of such technology.

70. (C) The FSB has determined that Iran is trying to get
equipment such as measuring devices, high precision
amplifiers, pressure indicators, various composite materials,
and technology to create new missile engines from Russia and
from sources in Western Europe. To produce these items
itself, Iran would need to seriously modernize its
technological base. To combat this, the FSB must cooperate
with the U.S. and European security services. Russia has
many years experience cooperating with U.S. security services
and has moved from information exchanges to operational
activities. The FSB thinks U.S. services are very
professional and well prepared, and hopes cooperation will

71. (C) Van Diepen thanked Raikevich for his presentation,
noting that he had had lots of experience during the 1990s
working with Russian counterparts on the problem and trying
to reduce the success of Iran in acquiring missile
technology. Van Diepen said he was impressed by the people
in Russia working on export controls and appreciated that
Russia recognized that Iran is still trying to acquire
technology from Russia. He said he would pass on to U.S.
security services the FSB’s interest in continued
cooperation. He added that the U.S. would want to work with
Russia in those channels as well as in diplomatic channels as
the need arose to address specific shipments of concern.

72. (S) Raikevich replied that discussing these issues with
the U.S. will help Iran and North Korea to “boil in their own
oil.” He said Iran and North Korean may have small successes
here and there with procurement, but the FSB will see to it
that their successes remain small. The FSB is grateful for
information the U.S. passes along regarding various Russian
organizations that may be working with Iran or North Korea,
and wants continue to work together to prevent the spread of
this technology from Russia and other countries.

Concluding remarks

73. (S) Yermakov said that Russia thought the discussions had
been productive and cooperative. He noted that both sides
have significant homework assignments to complete before the
next round and can test the results at the end of
March/beginning of April. He then offered concluding remarks
on behalf of the Deputy Secretary of Russia’s National
Security Council:
– With regard to Iran, Russia believes the possibility of
improvement of its liquid propellant missiles is nil.

–It is impossible from the Russian point of view for Iran to
put a nuclear device on existing missiles with an improved
range and throw weight.

–Iran has no ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear
weapons at this time, and Russia sees no threat from missiles
in Iran.

–In Russia’s view, Iran presents a missile challenge.

–A missile threat would only develop if Iran seceded from
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and successfully
developed an MRBM with a 3,000 km range and a warhead of one

–Iran does not have the military-industrial capability to
develop such a program. If Iran could gain access to foreign
technology, it might develop such a program but this is
unlikely due to export controls.

–In any case, even with the assistance of foreign
technology, Russia assesses it will take Iran 6-8 years to
gain the ability to launch an MRBM with a nuclear warhead.

–With regard to an ICBM, Russia considers this purely
hypothetical and does not see the possibility of Iran having
this capability for the next 10 years.

–For North Korea, Russia assesses that its only real
capabilities are outdated missiles with ranges of no more
than 3,500 km.

–While it is possible to develop missiles with greater
ranges based on an SLV program, that would take many years,
even with a successful program.

74. (C) Yermakov said these were the basic conclusions Russia
wanted to make. If the conclusions are agreeable to the U.S.
side this could be noted. If not, they can be discussed
again at a later date and will be the basis for future work,
to continue successful bilateral cooperation. He said Russia
is not at all concerned about differences regarding various
aspects of these programs. Russia sees this as natural.
Having differences just means that we need to meet more often
and exchange information through appropriate channels.
Russia looks forward to a U.S. interagency delegation coming
to Moscow. Until then the two sides can communicate through
diplomatic channels or even just by telephone.

75. (S) Van Diepen thanked the Russia side, especially
Nazarov, for its thorough preparation and professionalism.
He said the U.S. was pleased with the interagency character
of the Russian delegation and appreciated that Russia had
given a lot of thought to both conceptual issues and
technical matters. The challenge going forward – as shown in
the contrast between the technical discussions and Russia’s
concluding remarks – will be to come to a greater shared
understanding of the issues. On the technical side, there is
a fair amount of agreement, but as we go up in range, our
views diverge. Based on common data, we have different
perceptions. The conclusions the U.S. would draw would be
different in each case from the conclusions Yermakov
outlined. That is not bad, but both sides need to work to
understand the conceptual and technical basis for these
views. There is a great deal to discuss, and we will need to
be well prepared for fruitful and informative discussions in
Moscow in the spring. The U.S.
will study the Russian papers and follow up through
diplomatic channels. The U.S. also will do its homework
assignments, propose specific dates for the next round of
talks, and be prepared for “our exams” next time in Moscow.


76. (SBU) U.S. Delegation:

Vann H. Van Diepen, Acting Assistant Secretary, ISN
(Head of Delegation)

Frank Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary, VCI

Pamela Durham, Director, ISN/MTR

Kimberly Hargan, ISN/MTR

Michael Kerley, ISN/MTR

David Hoppler, ISN/MDSP

Steve Rosenkrantz, ISN/MDSP

Kathleen Morenski, Deputy Director, EUR/PRA

Caroline Savage, EUR/RUS

Michael Fogo, EUR/RUS

Joshua Handler, INR/SPM

Anita Friedt, Director for Arms Control and
Non-Proliferation, National Security Council (NSC)

Daniel Menzel, Intelligence Analyst

Michael Barnes, OSD Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia
Policy, Defense/OSD

Dimitry Zarechnak, Interpreter

77. (SBU) Russian Delegation:

Vladimir Nazarov, Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security
Council (Head of Delegation)

Vyacheslav Kholodkov, Deputy Department Director, Security

Oleg Khodyrev, Senior Counselor, Security Council

Vladimir Yermakov, Director for Strategic Capabilities
Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Andrey Shabalin, Second Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Yuriy Korolev, Expert, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Anatoliy Raikevich, First Deputy Department Director, Federal
Security Service

Alexander Novikov, Deputy Department Director, Ministry of

Evgeny Zudin, Office Director, Ministry of Defense

Alexander Derevlev, Senior Officer, Ministry of Defense

Alexander Serenko, Deputy Department Director, Roscosmos

Evgeny Bobrovskiy, Counselor, Russian Embassy

Oleg Pozdnyakov, First Secretary, Russian Embassy

Vadim Sergeev, Interpreter, Russian Embassy


End Cable Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.