The Russia Ties That Bind

Now that I’m so busy becoming a podcasting celebrity, there’s naturally less time for blogging. Thankfully when time is short I can rely on others who put out useful information for my readers. Today’s example is a much-needed reality check from Leonid Bershidsky about the real collusion between the West and Russia, the kind they don’t like to talk about so much on TV.

Bershidsky reminds readers of how much dirty Russian money is floating around in Western banks and luxury real estate, something which occasionally gets a flurry of attention before everyone moves on and goes back to talking about how Russian Facebook memes caused American politics, so recently known for their civil discourse and nuanced debate, to devolve into polarized tribalism.

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Diabolical bastards!

There are several reasons why it’s important to keep harping on this kind of collusion. Of those, probably the most important is because this corrupt activity points to an inherent flaw in the capitalist system and its liberal democratic ideology. The so-called “liberal order” is predicated on the idea that it can provide justice, liberty, and human rights for everybody, but again and again we’re reminded that even the freest democracies have a well-established record of either their own human rights abuses, ignoring those abuses of their allies and partners, or a combination of both. Because the system puts profits above human life, the system as it is will never uproot all this dirty money from Russia and other dictatorships, regardless of how cold their diplomatic relations may be. Make no mistake, if North Korea had more to offer economically to the Western world’s capitalists, they’d be making all kinds of deals with Kim Jong Un and helping him stash his cut in their banks.

Of course this isn’t just a matter of liberal democracies being hypocritical about human rights. On the other side of the coin, the Kremlin’s rhetoric about defending “Russian civilization” from the “degenerate West” is also exposed as a total lie. In fact, they seemed rather open about this in the years before about 2012, when Putin got spooked by protests and assumed the West must be plotting to overthrow him.

In reality Russia (more accurately the regime) doesn’t want to destroy the West, and the West isn’t conspiring to destroy Russia. What has happened was something I predicted in my early years in Russia during the economic boom. At that time you could easily see how Putin and the West, particularly Europe, were colluding. Putin was pimping his country as a reliable supplier of energy to Europe. Russia, not Ukraine, was talking about getting a visa-free regime with the European Union. It became clear to me that Western and Russian capitalists had found the value of collusion, but there were certain contradictions between them which could not be resolved. Thus I imagined that one day those contradictions would come to a head, and they would be the reason for a West/Russia conflict, not some clash of civilizations or ideologies as neither side truly believed in such things.

And so it has come to pass, with both sides locked in what they’re calling a “New Cold War.” Yet the Cold War was about which system, which ideology, would dominate the Earth, and the capitalist, liberal, technocratic ideology emerged victorious. Therefore this new “Cold War” is something entirely different, where the two sides try to find an accommodation that suits both of them so they can resume full cooperation and open the floodgates of stolen money in exchange for Western luxury.

Make no mistake- even with Canada’s new Magnitsky Act, Western governments will never fully clamp down on offshore money from Russia or any other dictatorships. It’s too profitable for powerful people. If we want to make the humanistic values that supposedly serve as the motivation for the Magnitsky Act a reality, we need to change the system to one which puts people above property and profits. Full stop.

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The Saga Begins

So it finally happened. We’ve got the first episode of Meanwhile in Russia: The Greatest Russia Podcast in the World. In our debut episode we compare the fetishization of veterans in Russia and the US, and then offend the governments of several countries we haven’t even visited. Also in this episode there’s a discussion about cannibalism and we provide handy advice for buying military grade armaments from Bulgaria or Iran (links provided in the description). Enjoy!

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We will have a new episode ready very soon, in which we take on one of the most insane films ever designed to indoctrinate for children. Of course I’m talking about Children Versus Sorcerers. Check out the trailer below:

The Heights of Hypocrisy

The Russian government loves to throw the word “hypocrisy” around when it is faced with criticism from the West. And if we’re honest, there’s certainly a grain of truth when you say the West, especially the United States, often holds hypocritical positions about issues such as human rights, for example. That being said, the Russian government has zero grounds to accuse anyone of hypocrisy. And today we have a reminder as to why.

Today a Russian court in the annexed Crimean peninsula sentenced Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov, a man who suffers from diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, to two years in a labor colony for the crime of…get ready for it…separatism! Yes, if special forces from another country take over your local parliament, force a vote on a referendum, and then rush people to vote on a ballot that has no status quo option- this is “self-determination” and “historical justice.” But if you have a problem with any of that and express your dissatisfaction, you’re engaging in extremist separatism, which is not allowed. But if you think the hypocrisy ends there, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Back in May 2014, Russia quickly passed a new law providing criminal punishment for “calls to public action for the violation of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.” Hmmm….May 2014. That date seems significant for some reason. Oh wait, I remember now- this was around the same time that Russia was calling for public action for the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

You see folks, when a small minority of your citizens, at the instigation of a foreign country and its paid agents, rises up and demands independence (or bullshit “federalization” where their region gets to decide foreign policy, or annexation by a neighboring country), you should respect their right to self-determination and give them whatever they ask, no matter how unreasonable, otherwise you’re a warmonger who doesn’t value human life. But when it comes to Russia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, well that is something so precious and inviolable that even a Russian citizen can be locked up for questioning it via retweeting or sharing a post on social media. And of course a Crimean Tatar like Umerov, who displays justifiable skepticism towards the goodwill of a nation that once deported his people en masse and then lies about it to this day, is fair game.

Indeed, it’s not only okay for Russia to crack down on those within its claimed territory, but they can also violate neighbors airspace with near-constant military drills and threaten other countries with nukes because the Kremlin is afraid of a “color revolution.” That’s not warmongering. They feel “threatened.”

The Kremlin alone gets to determine who has sovereignty and self-determination. Just another reminder that those labeling everyone else as hypocrites are the biggest hypocrites of them all.

 

Keeping Things in Perspective

Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about the paranoid worldview peddled by a handful of lobbyists and Twitterati that appear to make up a cottage industry of insta-experts in Russian information war tactics. But despite the attention that some of them have received from major media outlets or government officials, it’s important to remember that they are just that- a handful of people. They have little to no direct influence on society. If you want to see real paranoia, you’d do better to look at Russia, where government officials with real authority are notorious for banning or investigating some of the most innocuous things as though they were existential threats to the country.

Take for example this story from Meduza, where state officials are trying to ban a campaign rally by opposition candidate Alexei Navalny, based on claims that the rubber ducky is in fact a symbol of global revolution. The rubber ducky became associated with protests against Dmitry Medvedev, who was found to maintain a rather luxurious shelter for ducks at one of his palatial summer homes.

This story comes long after Russian state TV warned that fidget spinners could be used to “hypnotize” children and make them susceptible to the messages of the political opposition. And of course in that case, fidget spinners were just joining an ever-growing list of seemingly innocuous things that apparently pose a grave threat to the political stability of the Russian Federation, such as Western films and actual WWII history.

Of course as amusing as this is, the point isn’t to say “HA HA! LOOK AT RUSSIA!” Rather it is to show how incompetent and idiotic the power structure is, which belies the idea that Russia is jam-packed with politically savvy information warriors who are experts at polarizing Western political discourse so as to destroy our precious democracy. In reality, the Russian power structure, including the wily ol’ General Gerasimov, are paranoid and scared to death of their own people. They know they have nothing to offer Russia, and thus they need to suppress any and every possible threat. But what’s a threat? What could be an instrument of hybrid warfare, which according to Gerasimov is being waged against Russia by the West? Shoes with different color laces? South Park? Hipster beards?

If we adopted the paranoid worldview of some of the self-proclaimed information warriors that have recently popped up in the West like mushrooms after a rainstorm, we would only become more like Russia, thus fulfilling one of the main planks of Russian state media’s message to the domestic audience- “Sure, maybe it’s bad here, but it’s bad everywhere!”

Oh the Places You’ll Go…to Die!

Recently Russia lost a high-ranking general in Syria. Lt. General Valery Asapov (nope, not Valery Gerasimov in disguise) was killed along with two colonels in a mortar attack near the town of Deir-ez-Zor. Apart from the high rank of the deceased, this wouldn’t be particularly remarkable were it not for the fact that Asapov commanded the “1st Army Corps” of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in a conflict that Russia calls a “civil war” and swears it has no part in.

Isn’t it amazing how despite being a “civil war” and an “internal matter” of Ukraine, so many Russian military personnel have taken part with zero reprimand from the Russian government? Here we have a general who decided to go on vacation to fight in a conflict for a “country” his government does not recognize, and then he returned to the Russian army with zero consequences (possibly with a promotion) and got deployed to Syria.

Given Russia’s constant denials (against overwhelming evidence to the contrary) of any significant involvement in this “civil war,” you think they’d want to come down hard on all these “volunteers,” especially the military personnel who supposedly “went on leave” to fight for Ukraine. I guarantee you that if US military personnel took leave and then joined the YPG in Syria, or any other military force for that matter, there would be hell to pay. For starters that’s desertion, plain and simple. Yet the only deserters the Kremlin sees happen to be those who left the army because they say they were being pressured to sign contracts and fight in Ukraine. Curioser and curiouser.