Full disclosure: I’ve met with Russians. I met with a Russian this morning. She brought me coffee. Such crazy and dangerous things can occur in Moscow. I am afraid the CIA and NSA could take notice of this meeting, and then it can be used – even against you. “You have perused an article by Israel Shamir. Were you aware he had Russian contacts?”
Though I am not too young, this is the first time I have witnessed such a witch-hunt. In Russia, there are many foreigners, Europeans and Americans as well, and Russians mingle with them freely, with no fear. The Russians are not afraid to meet with the US Ambassador; they are rather proud of the occasion. When the US Ambassador throws a party or holds a reception, all who-is-who in Moscow come to Spaso-House, the residence.
Even in Stalin’s days, the Russians went to the reception, and Mikhail Bulgakov depicted such a reception as Satan’s ball in his Master and Margarita. In recent years, all Russian opposition figures have visited the US ambassador and had had hearty chats with him.
Not only in Russia. The Wikileaks-published State Department cables describe hundreds of meetings between US Ambassadors and opposition figures all over the world. Amazingly, nowhere was such a meeting considered as a breach of national security and an incapacitating blemish on an opposition leader.
Well, probably in light of the Russian scare, nations should enact laws forbidding a person who had met with the US ambassador from occupying any public position or running for election. They could call it the Flynn Law, in the spirit of reciprocity.
The US political class has brought this calamity upon itself. If whoever met the Russian ambassador or a Russian government minister, or the Russian president (God forbid) is unsuitable for governing, the whole top layer of American politicians would be disqualified. Last year even Jill Stein, the super-kosher woman of the US politics, the Green Party candidate for president, visited Moscow and had a place at the table with Putin, before flying back and asking to recount the Wisconsin vote.
The Russians watch the new witch-hunt over the ocean with mild surprise. They did not know they were so formidable, so scary. Nor did I. I can list Russia’s faults from today till next Christmas – it is a country of terrible bureaucracy, of impossible laws, of annoying police, of huge social gaps, of harsh weather and bad roads – but I do not know of a single reason for considering Russia a threat to anybody. The Russians are keen to accept international law, they believe in national sovereignty, they do not tell other states how they should manage their civic life or do business. And they do not meddle in other states’ affairs, though it would be better if they did.
When in February 2014, Ms Nuland, then of the US State Department (the ‘F*ck the EU’ lady mercifully lost her job with ascent of Trump) and the US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt stoked the Maidan fire and doled out cookies in Kiev, the Russian Ambassador in Kiev made himself scarce. Perhaps he went to play golf. Not a single Russian political figure had bothered to go to Kiev and talk to people. Russian non-interference in the Ukraine’s affairs had been so scrupulous, as if the Ukraine were a remote Latin American state of little interest to Russians.
That fateful February three years ago, the only thing in which the Russians had interested were the Sochi Olympic Games. Kiev burned, but they discussed the biathlon. Biathlon, forsooth! The governors of Ukraine provinces asked Moscow whether it would come to save the day of the legitimate government, but in Moscow nobody picked up the receiver. On February 22, 2014, when the president Yanukovych escaped Kiev and went to Kharkov for meetings with the leaders of the Eastern Ukraine, the Russians could have established the legitimate government in Kharkov and at least split the Ukraine into two halves, with very little effort. But they did not show up and they did not say they would support such a government, and the people of Ukraine accepted the Kiev putsch.
If Putin were just slightly similar to the fire-breathing image of himself in the Western media, the Ukraine would be a Western province of Russia, as it had been for the last four hundred years, and it could have been done legally, without firing a single shot. But Vladimir Putin is not Vlad the Terrible of your comic strips. He is a great procrastinator, a man who will do nothing if possible. He goes into action only if there is no way to postpone it. He took the Crimea, or rather accepted the Crimeans’ demand to join Russia, as he (correctly) thought his people would not forgive him for surrendering the peninsula with its main fleet base to NATO and the Russian population to the tender mercy of ferociously anti-Russian Western Ukrainian gangs.
My old Israeli friend and Russia watcher, Yakov Kedmi, the former head of an Israeli intelligence service, predicted in April 2014 that the Russian army would take East and South Ukraine before the May 2014 presidential elections in Ukraine. I dismissed that as a pipe dream. Putin will do nothing if he is given half a chance. I was right.
Putin acted in Georgia in 2008 only after his peace-keeping troops had been attacked by the NATO-trained troops of President Saakashvili, who famously said his army would take Moscow in a fortnight. Even then he did not take Tbilisi the capital, but quietly pulled his troops back.
Even such provocations as the removal of Russian war-time graves and memorials, as stripping ethnic Russians of their citizenship rights in the Baltics, did not force his hand.
The last thing he wanted was to quarrel with the United States. He approved of the US invasion of Afghanistan and opened his territory for the transit of the US troops and weapons. He approved the resolutions on Iraq before the US invasion; he spoke against the invasion only in tandem with France and Germany. He agreed (rather, abstained) on the West-sponsored resolution on Libya leading to the murder of Colonel Gadhafi. He gave up the Russian bases in Vietnam and Cuba. He withdrew his troops from Tarsus, his only naval base in Syria, and returned to Syria only in face of an imminent American attack on the sovereign state, at request of its legitimate leader.
The Western media presents Russia as a ferocious Rottweiler, and the Russians do not recognise themselves in the mirror of the Western media. Russia is a Newfoundland dog, not a Rottweiler. It is big, strong, peaceful and not aggressive. I know, I have had Newfoundlands. Even a very nasty cat can’t wake up their fighting spirit.
Ideologically, Putin’s Russia is not all that different from the West. March 8, Women’s Day, is an official holiday in Russia, and Russian women have all the rights their Western sisters have, or even dream of. Russian billionaires are free to build the biggest yachts in the known universe. They pay as little taxes as anybody, a flat income tax rate of 13%. Even Trump is unlikely to beat that.
Communism is dead, and the official propaganda machine daily tells Russians that the Soviet days were dreadful, in spite of the living generation’s tender memories of Soviet equality. Communists have no access to the mass media, despite being the second biggest party in Russia.
The small and unpopular pro-Western (say, Clintonesque) opposition receives a lot of government support. They are allowed to demonstrate, they have a TV and newspapers, while anti-Western opposition, whether Trumpist or Communist, has been kept in the cold, without demos and only marginal media.
White nationalists, a small band, are being jailed at the first anti-Semitic jibe. Jeremy Bedford-Turner of Russia would have been in jail a long time ago. Moscow has 92 synagogues for less than a thousand practicing Jews – they are staffed and manned by the imported American Rabbis of Habad. Best and the choicest pieces of Russian municipal land are given to synagogues and Jewish cultural centres for free.
Article 282 of the Russian Penal Code is as strict as ADL or SPLC activists would dream of. A big part of Unz.com articles, if published in Russia, would send their authors to jail. Russia has millions of immigrants; it is actually the third country in the world by the number of accepted immigrants. The majority of them are Muslim. Moscow has one of the biggest mosques in the world. Russia has a visa-free arrangement with many Muslim countries.
Russia’s connection with the Alt-Right is a figment of the imagination. The Alt-Right has its Russian counterpart, the well-known philosopher and student of Heidegger, Alexander Dugin and his followers. They are faring worse than the Alt-Right in the West. Dugin is often presented as “Putin’s adviser”, but he has never so much as met Putin tête-à-tête. Dugin supports Putin, but Putin does not support Dugin. The philosopher has been pushed out of Moscow State University, landed in a marginal internet TV channel, and it is rumoured he is even being pushed out of that channel. His views are less acceptable in Russia than those of Bannon are in the US.
RT, the Russian TV channel, news agency and site, is always cautious, like the BBC. Recently, an Alt-Right American of Russian origin, Nina Kouprianova, whose witty twitter has many followers, far from being a “Moscow Mouthpiece”, as the beastly Daily Beast claimed, had her articles removed from the RT site. Her full-blooded support for Putin did not help her at all. Dugin is not a frequent guest in the RT, or on any major Russian channel.
On the positive side, there is freedom of speech “like in the West”, and attacks on Putin and his Prime Minister Medvedev are a daily routine in the Russian media and in social networks. Just now a short documentary by Mr Navalny accusing Medvedev of corruption has received its six million views. Millions of Russians use Facebook, where Mr Mark Zuckerberg teaches them what can be said in the polite society and what can’t.
In short, sorry to disappoint you, Russia is wonderful, but it is not an enemy of the West even in its Obama-Clinton version. It just wants to proceed with its own speed. It did not and does not want to interfere with your ideas.
The unlikely stories of Russian hackers influencing American voters can be laid to rest after publication of Vault 7, a vast collection of CIA hacking devices, in particular of its Umbrage. The CIA has created a “fingerprint” that can be used by forensic investigators to attribute multiple different attacks to the same entity.
Wikileaks explained: “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”.
So much about “Russian fingerprints” allegedly found in the DNC email leak and other Trump-related leaks! Indeed there is not and can’t be any proof of who hacked what, but the presumption is that if some proofs are presented, they were made up by the CIA.
And this leads us to the real villain of the story, the US intelligence community. It became so powerful that it decided to lead the country, the US, and the world, while keeping democratic institutions as a sham cover.
It is they, not timid Putin’s Russia, that is leading the world to its final Armageddon. It is they who organised the Russian Scare. Now we know that President Trump is the last defender of the dying democratic order, while his enemies in the mass media are CIA stooges.
As nobody likes to be manipulated, I’ll tell you, American voters. You weren’t manipulated by the Russians. The other way round, you are the freest people in the world, and you had and used the unique opportunity to save your country and the entire world from being taken over by spooks. This job is far from over, and there is nobody who will do it for you, certainly not the Russian president.
Now, armed by this knowledge, you can support your president and disregard the CIA-produced propaganda. Now we have no doubt that the President Obama indeed listened and read every word said or written by Donald Trump and in his vicinity. Now we have no doubt that the mass media is just another hacking tool in the CIA collection created to hack the most precious computers: your minds and your hearts.
Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]
This article was first published at The Unz Review.