Monthly Archives: July 2017

Double Feature

Potential Russia Grifter Foiled

How tragic it is when a young, budding Russia grifter attempts to leave the nest an falls like a stone. Jared Yates Sexton, a creative writing assistant professor with some work published in a handful of major publications, recently attempted his takeoff on the premier venue for instant-Russia experts, Twitter. Some of you may remember this tweet:

Oh the poor muckraker- all that work and then The Donald’s dumbass spawn scoops him by just tweeting out his emails. The life of an investigative journalist, am I right, folks?

Oh wait…No.

Turns out he’s just a fraud with a book to sell. Well that still managed to get him a mention on the Stephen Colbert show, which I’m sure is truly praise from Caesar for American liberals these days.

Well I guess Jared deserves at least a B+ for effort. Keep trying and don’t forget to spice up your Trump/Russia commentary with words like maskirovka and kompromat.

Russia Without Bullshido

As long-time readers might have guessed, I’m pretty much tired of Putin articles. Hell, I was tired of Putin articles in 2013 when I started this blog. But today I saw an article about the little man which piqued my interest as it concerns one of my hobbies. Apparently there’s a guy claiming that Putin may be a martial arts fraud. Sadly, the article fails to deliver on several counts.

Questioning Putin’s black belt credentials certainly has merit. Putin’s black belt is in judo, which is not only the origin of the belt-ranking system in modern martial arts but is also governed by highly centralized bodies. It did not take too long for me to find this article from 2012 about Putin receiving 8th dan level from the International Judo Federation. Reading the article, one gets the idea that this move was kind of political, but it’s an 8th dan, in other words- 8th degree black belt. This means he would have earned his actual black belt many years ago. I’ve also read that he has won competitions in the past, so there would be official records. The bottom line is that this is a very verifiable claim.

Rather than researching records and using the time-tested journalism technique of googling “judo,” the article relies on the blogger Benjamin Wittes, a martial arts practitioner himself who has apparently actually challenged Vladimir Putin to a fight. One would think Wittes would know what I already mentioned about judo and its regulating bodies, but rather than investigate that he seems to rely primarily on video evidence, or lack thereof.

According to Wittes, in every video of Putin doing judo, his opponents go down too easily. This is a bit ironic because one of Wittes’ martial arts is aikido, a very deadly art so long as your opponent is kind enough to give you their wrist and allow you to throw them. Perhaps Wittes has watched more Putin judo videos than I have, but in all the ones I’ve seen it appears that Putin is demonstrating some kind of technique. In other words, it is not randori, or free practice, where the opponent is actually resisting 100% and trying to win. When someone is just demonstrating or practice a technique, the opponent (uke is the Japanese term for the person being demonstrated on) should not resist at all. Sometimes, a person practicing or demonstrating may have the opponent give a certain amount of resistance to show the technique in a more realistic way, but they will still be compliant.

Is it possible that Russian media has produced videos of Putin supposedly doing real randori, and winning effortlessly? I can believe it. He certainly does this in his staged hockey matches. This does not mean he’s a complete martial arts fraud, however. Some of the techniques I’ve seen him demonstrate are rather advanced, requiring a good sense of timing and a feel for when the opponent is off balance. Such techniques would be hard to pull off even against a compliant opponent.

So is Wittes totally off the mark when he calls Putin a martial arts fraud? Maybe not entirely. He does point out that Putin has a lot of honorary diplomas in various martial arts. That 8th degree black belt I mentioned earlier was essentially honorary, but reading Wittes it seems that Putin has been given honorary rankings in martial arts he might not have actually practiced; they were given for his promotion of the sport instead. If Wittes didn’t come up with the smoking gun that proves Putin is a judo fraud, he certainly deflated Putin’s exaggerated image as a multiple-martial arts-practicing badass.

Furthermore, his point about the lack of video evidence of Putin’s judo prowess is valid if we’re evaluating his skill and not past accomplishments. Just when did Putin stop doing actual judo practice anyway? It does make a huge difference. Knowledge and practice in martial arts are hugely different things. Theoretically, I know how to do a helicopter arm bar in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Realistically, I’d never even attempt it in free practice even if I’d been training continuously for several years. Skill in martial arts, just like any sport, relies on muscle memory. If Putin hasn’t actually been practicing judo for 18 years or so, it’s possible that Mr. Wittes might be able to easily take him after all. Putin may also have been taught judo in a way that almost exclusively emphasizes throws, and thus he may have almost no ground game and he might have no experience dealing with striking. As such, someone trained in Muay Thai, for example, might easily front kick the little guy into a wall with no trouble. Basically, it’s entirely possible for Putin to be a legitimate judo black belt (which I believe is the case) and yet no longer be able to fight at that same skill level due to disuse.

Still, given the fact that Wittes’ martial arts are aikido and taekwondo, it might not be advisable to challenge Putin without more information on his judo skills. Otherwise, I’d say don’t wear a gi, use strikes, and practice countering harai goshi, which I’ve read is one of Putin’s favorite techniques:

 

Zakharchenko- Every DNR/LNR Resident Is Now an Independent Republic

DONETSK- In a rapid break with his earlier announcement on the creation of a state of “Malorossiya,” Leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Alexander Zakharchenko declared that from now on, every resident of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would be an independent republic on an individual level.

“Novorossiya was declared dead, Malorossiya was a ruse to off-balance our opponents in Kyiv, and now the residents of these territories can truly be free as fully autonomous individual republics,” Zakharchenko said at a press briefing in Donetsk.

The separatist leader finished his statement by declaring himself a fully independent state known as the Zakharchenko Personal republic.

Not all Donetsk residents were enthusiastic about the change.

“I can’t get anything done thanks to my crippling bureaucracy,” said the Olga Personal Republic.

“I’ve spent all morning printing out customs forms so I can continue selling pickles from my garden. Now I’m exporting them.”

Other residents were positive about their new independence.

“Now I can go to bed whenever I want,” said the Vanya Personal Republic, which broke away from the authority of the Sergei and Yelena Personal Republics earlier this morning. The latter two republics, formerly Vanya’s biological parents, are currently negotiating an alliance to discuss the issue of sanctions against the personal republic formerly known as their son.

While Western leaders voiced criticism of the recent declaration, they stressed that Ukrainian authorities should continue to support the Minsk peace process, with the added change of dealing with each autonomous self-proclaimed republic on an individual basis.

When asked what position the Kremlin has on this new development in Ukraine’s embattled Donbas region, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “You know…Sometimes I like to cut myself…just to feel something. You ever feel like that? Do you?” Peskov then broke down in tears and fled the podium.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pledged to propose legislation reclassifying the pension payments of newly self-declared republics as “foreign aid.” The bill is expected to be discussed in the Verkhovna Rada in 2024.

Until that point, the Zakharchenko Personal Republic has vowed to continue making increasingly bombastic declarations over the coming weeks.

“You think this is all I’ve got up my sleeve,” the ZPR said after taking a long pull on a plastic jug of windshield wiper fluid.

“Oh I’ve got lots of ideas. I might just declare that our former republics exist in a parallel universe where the Soviet Union never broke up. Or I might declare that we’re all long dead and you’re just talking to my ghost right now. You have no idea what my next move is!”

 

“LOL U MAD, BRO?” Troll Politics

What is the biggest political crisis of our age? Is it the rise of far-right reactionary politics, or “populism” to use the centrists’ blanket term? Is it polarization, partisanship, or tribalism? Not only could people spend hours debating that question, but they could just as easily debate whether there is a singular problem or a combination of some of the aforementioned tendencies. Whatever one thinks the answer to that question is, there’s one general tendency that seems to be on the rise and it may be more detrimental to political discourse than any rigid dogma or fanatical rhetoric.

Think back, for a moment, about all the times you’ve seen some story or tweet about some group being “triggered” by something. Most recently it was male Dr. Who fans (or people suddenly pretending to be in order to pander to an audience) who threw a fit when it was announced that the next incarnation of that sci-fi protagonist would be female. I don’t normally consume conservative media outside of Twitter, but I’m sure there are several things “libtards” or “SJWs” (Social Justice Warrior- a snarl word) are supposedly “triggered” by at the moment. Let’s break this down, shall we?

When someone is “triggered,” as they say on the internet these days, they are actually upset or otherwise expressing disapproval of something. The word triggered here makes no sense because triggered refers to a PTSD response. A person voicing disapproval, including loud and possibly hysterical disapproval, is not “triggered.” Someone who is actually triggered might not say anything at all. When someone is “triggered” on the internet, they are actually upset or angry.

It’s interesting how on the internet, being angry or upset is somehow a “loss” of sorts, and making people angry is admired and done with pride. Ordinary people don’t take pride in making people angry in real life. In real life there are consequences for that. Yet the internet gives people the ability to deliberately provoke others to anger and some people take a lot of pride in that trolling.

trolling

Of course I myself have to admit that I’m guilty of trolling, and if you’re being honest you probably did your share of trolling as well. In our weaker moments, we get amusement out of knowing we can provoke an angry response from dozens of more-or-less anonymous people, often simply by saying the exact opposite of whatever they passionately believe in. But some people recognize this for the distraction that it is, and some people confuse it for politics itself. I’m beginning to believe that the problem of 21st century politics might not be just the lack of lofty ideals and ideological discipline, but rather the degeneration of virtually all politics into what could best be called troll politics.

It’s easy to pin this mostly on the right, especially in America where it seems that your average conservative would happily castrate himself in public if you told him it would “trigger the libtards.” Indeed, it is on the far right where we see trolling and “memes” forming the basis for a political identity group, if not an ideology, loosely known as “Kekistan.”  While many people have referred to these highly defective individuals as neo-Nazis, the reality is actually far more pathetic. They use Nazi symbolism not because they actually have National Socialist beliefs and the will to express them, but rather because they get a cheap thrill out of the idea that they’re making people angry by breaking what they see as a taboo. In a way that makes them worse than actual neo-Nazis, who at least believe they are advancing some kind of ideology they feel is morally justified. They have to put up with the consequences of expressing beliefs which most of the world rightfully finds morally reprehensible. The “Kekistanis” can just tap out “LOL U TRIGGERED, SJW FAG?!!” and then it’s back to jerking off to Japanese cartoon schoolgirls.

Though troll politics are extremely widespread on the right, a good swathe of the left has been guilty of foregoing real politics for troll politics. To be sure, many leftist are just reacting to the right’s moral panic about “political correctness” when they point out how the same people who scream about young people being over-sensitive “snowflakes” will scream about businesses using the term “Happy Holidays.” At first it was novel, but after a while it gets old. We get it- the people who call everyone a special snowflake are in fact the most sensitive and the most likely to get upset about trivial matters. It’s always been this way with “political correctness.” Those who complain the most about political correctness tend to be those who whine about their beliefs being criticized and who want society to tip-toe around their feelings so as not to offend them by challenging or criticizing them in anyway.

We can see the existence of trolling politics in the international arena as well. Oftentimes on Twitter I see people cheering about how some official Ukrainian account “trolled” the Russians over some controversy such as the recent “Anna of Kyiv” reference Putin made during his meeting with Emmanuel Macron in France. Sure, Ukraine’s official Twitter “trolled” Russia, but Russia has trolled Ukraine quite a bit since 2014. So if you were keeping score, Ukraine got in one sick burn against Russia, and Russia has killed about 10,000 citizens, displaced a couple million more, and annexed a large part of Ukrainian territory. It pains me to admit it, but I think Russia came out on top in this little trolling engagement.

The Ukrainian example demonstrates one major shortcoming of troll politics- they’re completely worthless if your opponent has a concrete advantage over you or is simply beating you. A similar case can be made about American liberal comedians and their so-called “eviscerations” of President Trump and the GOP. No matter how biting their tweet or rant might be, at the end of the day Trump is still president and the GOP wields enormous power in the US, not only at the federal level but in many states as well. You can make them mad- they can screw up your country. It’s no contest.

While people might call troll politics a symptom of polarization or otherwise trivialize it, I think if this trend continues unabated it might end up reaching the level of an existential crisis. Advocating things because you think they will get a rise out of your opponents is not a good methodology for finding good policies. On the contrary, it’s likely to lead to the absolute worst, and quickly too. Already there are people who gush with glee about the idea of eliminating environmental regulations, all because they think it will make some caricature of a hippie angry, we’re talking about a very dangerous line of thought.

 

Talking to a Brick Wall

Since Trump’s election, Russian state TV has had a bizarre relationship with the man. Still full of hatred for Hillary and upset at Trump’s failure to change the status quo on sanctions or Syria, the Kremlin’s news has still maintained a more or less pro-Trump stance, but tempered with a conspiracy theory about how the hidden establishment is constraining the poor leader. Sound familiar? Not only is this almost identical to the excuses some Putin fanatics make as to why their brilliant leader can’t seem to solve some of Russia’s most pressing problems, but it also resembles the excuse used by Trump’s own fanatical base, who pin his failures on a non-existent “Deep State” (no, they don’t know what that word means).

Even now, Kremlin TV is still half-scolding, half-encouraging Donald Trump, as if he listens to them.

This is pretty hilarious when you consider that Donald Trump probably has no idea about any of this. To be sure, the US government no doubt has people watching the Russian media and trying to interpret what it might signify (and I suspect those people are overpaid and under-qualified), but I doubt anyone mentions this directly to the president.

Trump most likely can’t name a single major Russian state channel, nor has he any idea who Dmitry Kiselyov is. And this time I’m not making fun of Trump’s ignorance; I wouldn’t expect him to know any of this stuff.

What I find amusing here is how week after week Kiselyov is lecturing Trump or about Trump, and meanwhile Trump is more concerned about media gossip or TV ratings. It reminds me of something my friend once pointed out years ago- the average Russian thinks about the United States at least once a day (probably more if they watch TV), whereas many Americans, even now, go for days on end without seriously thinking about Russia (though to be fair with all this “Trump Russia” talk dominating the media, it’s understandably different from when he said that).

Trump is going to do what Trump wants to do, without any regard for what the Kremlin says. Kiselyov might as well be lecturing a brick wall.

Words That Should Die

Hybrid

Ever since 2014 we’ve constantly been hearing about “hybrid warfare,” which comes with the implication that this is some kind of new Russian type of war, or that Russia has adopted “hybrid warfare” as its military doctrine. This is incorrect for a number of reasons. Long-story short, the misunderstanding comes from a misreading of an article by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. To be more concise, Gerasimov, expressing a somewhat paranoid belief quite common in Moscow’s circles of power, was basically accusing the West, and in particular the United States, or waging hybrid warfare against Russia. He was not laying out some kind of new doctrine of hybrid warfare to be used by Russia. Moreover, hybrid warfare has been used to describe a number of other conflicts, including the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

What Russia has been waging in Ukraine would better be termed as “special war” or “full spectrum warfare,” but in general there’s enough extremely novel about Russia’s tactic of invading and denying involvement; only the equipment has advanced. As Mark Galeotti points out, Russia has a history of waging war in this way, and in fact it actually started in almost the same region about 100 years ago. At the time, the Bolsheviks created the so-called Donets-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic in the eastern part of the country so that Bolshevik Russia (the USSR wouldn’t be founded until several years later) could maintain a foothold in Ukraine while still ostensibly fulfilling its obligations under the recently signed Brest-Litovsk Treaty. After the fall of the USSR, Yeltsin initially provided military support to Chechen Moscow-loyalists, all the while denying any involvement. The ruse broke down when some of the troops were captured and the Chechen rebels threatened to shoot them as mercenaries.

Even other countries pulled the same old trick. The US tried to keep its involvement in Laos and Cambodia secret. Slobodan Milosevic provided military support for Serbian states such as the Republic of Serbian Krajina and the Bosnian Serb Republic while denying his forces’ involvement. Hell, Nazi Germany kicked off the Second World War by staging a Polish attack on a radio station and some border posts.

Russia hasn’t discovered anything incredibly new or unique. For one thing, as Max Boot pointed out in his book Invisible Armies, irregular warfare is a bit of a misnomer because throughout human history it’s probably more regular than what we consider to be regular, conventional warfare. What we might call “hybrid warfare” is just a form of irregular warfare, one which is waged by a nation state but with the help of non-state actors and a variety of non-military means such as cyber-warfare or information warfare.

So it would be nice if people would stop shoehorning “hybrid” into every discussion about Russia and warfare.

Weaponize 

Russia has weaponized information. Russia has weaponized migration. Russia has weaponized weapons! Since 2014 we’ve constantly heard that Russia has “weaponized” this or that. It would seem that on the surface, to weaponize something means to turn something innocuous into a weapon of some kind. But is that really what Russia has done?

Let’s take one certifiable example and see if Russia has weaponized it. When people speak of Russia weaponizing information or news, they are referring to Russia’s propaganda machine, a form of Russian soft power, which went into high gear around 2014. But in reality, propaganda of this sort has been around for a long time. What’s that you say? The Russians are using Twitter bots and social media to spread their message? So what? The medium changes but the tactic is the same. There was a time when propaganda was disseminated as pamphlets or leaflets. Then came the radio, motion picture, television, internet, social media. When people act like Russia’s found some new secret weapon I have to wonder if they expect them to be using short wave radio or handing out mimeographed leaflets in Times’ Square.

Biased Media

Think about this for a second: When have you ever heard a person say they like a certain source for news, but they’re concerned that it might be biased in favor of their own political beliefs? Chances are, the only time someone detects bias in a news source is when it puts out a viewpoint they disagree with.

As Matt Taibbi points out in his latest book Insane Clown President, the media landscape in America has changed so that viewers are consumers and the news has become a product. As such, news outlets tailor their products to reach key demographics. Ultimately, we’re left with a political environment where voters get to choose their reality by choosing which news sources they think are genuine.

This phenomenon first became widely noticeable with Fox News, and indeed some would say much of the blame for the current landscape can be laid at their feet. Fox News’ pitch wasn’t “The rest of the media has a liberal bias so we’re a news station for conservatives giving conservative viewpoints.” On the contrary, it was “the rest of the media has a liberal bias but we’re fair and balanced.” Under this rubric, a constant stream of right-wing talking points was delivered as though it were just objective truth that the liberal media didn’t want to discuss.

It’s not that media bias doesn’t exist; I’d say it’s widespread and sometimes intentionally so. The problem is that sometimes what seems like bias is just because the facts point to one story and not an “alternative” one. Some bias can be shared by media on both sides of the political spectrum. Most importantly, calling some media biased has turned into an excuse for lazying thinking, whereby one avoids actually examining the facts and seeing if the story can stand on the merits of its evidence.

Here’s the thing- if you find yourself frequently agreeing with a particular news outlet, it’s probably biased. That doesn’t necessarily mean they lie, but they are biased. You’re a customer to them and they’re delivering the product you want.

 

The Awakening

As I’ve said and written numerous times, when I started this blog it wasn’t intended to be political. The “BS” it was intended to counter was mostly things that people wrote about Russia, such as wildly exaggerated expat tales and spy fantasies of the Luke Harding variety. Apart from the invasion of Ukraine, one of the main reasons I started tackling Russian state propaganda was because of its lure to the Western left. I saw this as particularly insidious for several reasons.

Firstly, the Russian government, if it is anything, is far-right reactionary in outlook and it has given the bulk of its concrete support to far-right movements around the world. In no way does it care about any of the left’s causes, or any foreigner’s cause, for that matter. Secondly, Russia is in no way a real opposition force to the kind of imperialism that leftists are against. Russia generally wants to benefit from the Western-dominated global economy, but there are some contradictions between the two which have deteriorated to an almost irreconcilable level at this point. Thirdly, the Russian government is actively trying to build what is termed a “red-brown” alliance, i.e. an alliance between far-right and far-left forces. In other words, they want to make “horseshoe theory” a reality. Any leftist with principles and a firm ideological grounding should absolutely abhor such an alliance.

For a few years it seemed as though I was living in a very lonely corner of the political spectrum. Few Western leftists understood anything about Russia or its aims, and they tended to view everything through the lens of “my government = bad, regime my government doesn’t like = good.” Even the more theoretically sound leftists often refused to condemn Russia’s actions out of fear of “doing the imperialists work for them.” The people who live under the regime in Russia and those suffering from its actions abroad be damned.

Thus for me, Russia’s attempts at courting the left are attempts to “lead my people astray,” which in turn leads to the left discrediting and effectively neutralizing itself as a political force, and this is one of the main reasons I got into the “information war.” In fact I’d probably not write so much about their propaganda if they just gave up on trying to dupe the left and stuck with their far-right international confederacy of chuds.

Luckily, it seems that more Western leftists are starting to become hip to the Kremlin’s strategy. Part of the reason might be the increased exposure of Russia’s ties to the far right, including the more extreme organizations like Greece’s Golden Dawn party. Also, despite the fact that Moscow and St. Petersburg have long held international white nationalist and conservative forums, in more recent times these have been getting exposure in the popular media.

Another factor is that it seems some leftists are starting to familiarize themselves with the actual ideology behind those Russians who are trying to build this global red-brown alliance. Recently I just read this interview, which shows how expertise about Russia’s foreign influence on the left is apparently spreading. There are a couple passages I’d like to highlight here.

First, if there’s any major flaw in the article it’s this:

“First and foremost, we must reject the empire’s narrative that Russia is essentially no different from the status it had during the Cold War: that it is the main geopolitical rival of the U.S. and is an aggressive imperialist nation that seeks to swallow up all of its neighbors out of some inherent bloodlust or desire to destroy Reagan’s “city on the hill.” This type of narrative is promoted by the Democratic Party and the neocons of the Republican Party. Anybody on the left needs to take a long hard look in the mirror if they find themselves parroting the ruling class’s talking points on Russia.”

Contrasted with the experts’ far more consistent view, this seems confusing, like a way for their leftist opponents to justify their own position. What does it mean to “parrot the ruling class’ talking points on Russia?” What if the ruling class, with different motives of course, happens to be stating things that are true about Russia? Which talking points should be avoided? Again, this seems like a vulnerability to backsliding. Many unprincipled “anti-imperialists” could hide behind the excuse of not wanting to sound like the ruling class.

The second flaw has to do with the classification of Russia as imperialist.

“It is also important to examine whether Russia actually fits what we understand to be an imperialist power. If we take the standard definition of imperialism as put forth by Lenin in “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” I would say that Russia does not fulfill the definition of an imperialist power: it does not monopolize finance capital, it does not use financial power as a means of power projection or acquiring raw materials.

If anything, Russia is the inverse of that, Russia is a raw material exporter and little more. So in that regard, Russia is almost more colony than colonial power. Though I do believe it is a false impression if you think Russia is merely just an oppressed global south nation like any other, it is certainly not.”

Using Lenin’s definition here is a trap, because Lenin’s theory on imperialism had a huge blindspot- the Russian Empire. And wouldn’t you know it, the authors make the same mistake here because Russia does indeed export capital as a means of power projection, and it did maintain a neo-colonial relationship with at least one very important country- Ukraine. The Russian and Ukrainian economies were extremely integrated prior to the war and this hasn’t really changed significantly after three years of fighting. It’s either ironic, or perhaps totally logical, that they would miss this because Ukraine is where Lenin’s theory of imperialism crashed upon the rocks about a century ago. The Kremlin would certainly like to have the relationship they had with Ukraine among other former Soviet republics, but they have failed in this endeavor for various reasons. One is the inability to diversify the economy away from exporting natural resources, and the other is effective competition from China in Central Asia and the EU in the West.

But to the interviewee’s credit, that last sentence about Russia not being oppressed is spot on.

Later in the interview, we see a very interesting theory put forth, and I think it is a helpful one, even if it does have a small flaw. Here is the relevant excerpt.

“The reason for this is not only to further Russia’s political interests, but also to create a parallel to what the U.S. has in Russia. In Russia, the bourgeois liberal is anti-Putin/pro-U.S., anti-Russian media/pro-Western media. And so what the Russians seek to do is to create their variant of a “fifth column” (which is the term they use in Russian media to refer to those anti-Russian liberals) to create anti-U.S. liberals, communists, socialists and fascists. They want to be able to cultivate their own online army. And they are succeeding very well.”

First of all I have to take issue with the phrase, “what the U.S. has in Russia.” This is essentially accepting the Kremlin’s narrative, that opposition to the Kremlin is cultivated by outsiders and that it’s not motivated by people’s justifiable grievances with the system. If the left is going to climb out of this outdated view of the world, it needs to start by acknowledging the agency of people in other countries. One reason left politics are so scorned in Ukraine, for example, is because when ordinary Ukrainians called out for solidarity at Maidan, much of the world left just regurgitated the Russian propaganda they’d heard, and condemned them as neo-Nazis. Despite the fact that many Ukrainians hold generally progressive views (at least far more progressive than the pro-Russian Ukrainians), the Western left basically embarrassed itself and side with their enemy without any real investigation.

Second, who are these bourgeois liberals in Russia he’s talking about? Much of the opposition in Russia consists of ordinary working people or small business owners. There are certainly wealthier elements in Russian society who can see an incentive in the replacement of Putin’s neo-feudal model of capitalism, but if we’re using the term bourgeois to mean the ruling class in Russia- they are pro-Putin. You can’t be in Russia’s ruling class without being on Putin’s side.

This being said, it’s important to see things from the perspective of the Russian geopolitical strategists. They do believe that the opposition is a “fifth column” created by the West, and the Russian opposition is also a very big tent movement, with ethno-nationalists sharing the same space as LGBT activists and other liberals. This composition is also similar to that of Euromaidan as well. If we’re speaking about Russian strategy, what the strategists believe is relevant, no matter how delusional or inaccurate such beliefs may be.

As such, the interviewee is probably onto something by suggesting that Russia wants to create this big tent “opposition” movement, a large movement of people who are categorically opposed to their own government no matter what it does. If it appealed only to the left or to the right, it wouldn’t gain the numbers to have an effect, but if it appeals to the whole radical spectrum, then it’s another story.

Does Dugin dream of this fifth column overthrowing the government in some kind of Russian-inspired “color revolution?” It’s certainly possible in his delusional mind. But while such a scenario is entirely imaginary, a large “fifth column” can still aid Russian foreign policy goals by amplifying and repeating its propaganda. This can be effective because typically Russian propaganda is not about getting people to push for pro-Kremlin policies, but rather to get them to oppose the policies they don’t like. Given (often justifiable) attitudes in America these days, it’s very easy to convince people that their government shouldn’t be doing something.

In any case, it’s good to see the left is starting to wake up to Russia’s strategy. I think you’ll see this develop most rapidly in the US and Canada. On the other side of the pond things will be more difficult. Various Communist parties with their heads too far up their 20th century asses seem to struggle with the very idea that Russia has nothing to do with the Soviet Union, which was an abject failure for all intents and purposes, and those who do acknowledge this still suffer from the delusion that it’s somehow “opposing American imperialism.” On the other hand, we have an advantage when it comes to waking them up, because oftentimes these parties and organizations are located in countries where the Russians are quite openly supporting their mortal enemies from the far-right.

As the interviewee says- we are fighting a two-front struggle. But changing the world was never going to be easy.