Tag Archives: Putin

Welcome to Camp Reality!

Post dedicated to John, who came up with the name Camp Reality.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re from an authoritarian country whose dictatorial leaders rob the population of the nation’s natural wealth, squirreling it away in Western banks and real estate. It’s so bad that you had to leave your homeland. But, as it turns out, the regime you fled publicly attacks the United States and blames economic problems on being “surrounded by enemies?” Now, every time you try to explain the plight of your people to American leftists who are in many cases fighting for the same social justice you’d like to see in your country, you’re accused of being a secret millionaire, billionaire, or a dupe of the CIA. You try to explain why the sources they are using are worthless and you suggest other info, but they act as though their access to internet makes their opinion equal to yours, even if they’ve never had so much as a passport. Is there anything you can do? NOW THERE IS! 

You can recommend your friends take a very special summer vacation to Camp Reality (TM)! At Camp Reality, they won’t be able to hide from the truth using the internet and confirmation bias to pick sources of information which confirm their worldview. No, here at Camp Reality, they’ll get the most realistic hands-on experience of living under a 21st century authoritarian kleptocratic regime! Inspired by the groundbreaking work on racism by Jane Elliot, Camp Reality teaches people who live in the privileged West who like to live vicariously through countries, regimes, and people they may never have encountered in person what it’s actually like to live under those regimes they have deemed to be “anti-imperialist” simply due to public rhetoric and propaganda.

After signing an extremely detailed 45-page legal waiver which temporarily suspends any rights they might have under their own government, entrants to the camp will have their choice of three different “difficulty levels” based on three different types of real-world authoritarian regimes.

 

Level 1: Easy Mode

This mode is designed to replicate conditions in a 21st century soft dictatorship, specifically the Russian Federation. In the early days you’ll experience chaos as corrupt officials and police either fail to protect your property or actively help criminal groups. After week one, attendees may breathe a sigh of relief when a new leader promises to bring stability. All seems well and you’re prospering until you start to realize that the old gangsters have just been replaced by new ones, and now the state becomes more and more overbearing. Eventually the “economy” starts to decline, the leader changes the constitution so he doesn’t have to leave office, and suddenly you can be facing criminal charges for sharing a joke on social media. If you speak out, you’ll be deemed a traitor who hates your country, often by simulated leaders whose own simulated family members live in luxury in Europe. Hopefully your business doesn’t get raided by someone connected or wiped out when the leader starts a needless war and invents “counter-sanctions” in response to the sanctions he provoked with his own short-sighted actions.

Level 2: Hard Mode

This mode is modeled after countries like Venezuela. Your leader endlessly rants about “Yankee imperialism” while his cronies skim money out of the state oil company and stash it away in Yankee banks and real estate. After a while, the store shelves are empty and you’ll spend at least one whole week trying to scrounge for food. You’ll get a chance to tell simulated Western social media users about the conditions in your country, only to be told that you’re just some “millionaire who lost his land” or a dupe of the CIA calling for military intervention for “regime change.” These people will then bombard you with articles from “your” country’s state media and the state media outlets of government friendly regimes to tell you what’s really happening.

Level 3: NIGHTMARE! 

This mode is based on Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. We ask that attendees choosing this mode please read the legal waiver very thoroughly and wear comfortable, NON-FLAMMABLE clothing.

After surviving attending Camp Reality, your friends and family members will have learned a valuable lesson in empathy and how social justice without internationalist solidarity can often be a slippery slope to fascism. But don’t take our word for it, read these testimonials from actual attendees of Camp Reality!

“Since I came of age around 2003, I used to compare every international crisis to the Iraq invasion of that year. After attending Camp Reality, I learned that not every regime the US government criticizes is really just trying to fight for its people against the influence of transnational corporations. As it turns out, some regimes really do just suck, and criticism from the US government isn’t the same as openly advocating for a massive invasion as the Bush administration clearly did in late 2002 to early 2003!”    -Carla, 32,  Hard Mode

 

“I used to think the only reason Western media was so critical of Putin is because he made Russia strong again and he opposed NATO. After spending a month in a simulated regime modeled after Putin’s I realized that NATO encirclement was really just an excuse for authoritarian measures and for why my country lagged behind Europe despite massive wealth in natural resources. I also learned that when I posted about this online, I was accused of being a traitor and a Western agent even though I really just wanted to see my country succeed. I think the best touch was how when I brought up problems, people would tell me about something terrible in America as though that had any relevance to the issue I was trying to discuss. It’s the same thing I used to do online!”   –Ryan, 26, Easy Mode

 

“Oh God! Oh God! I…I…I can’t….I don’t even…Who, who are you? Am I safe? Is this safe?!”    –Meghan, 28, NIGHTMARE!

So why delay? Tell your insufferably edgy little shit of a cousin to put their money where their mouth is today and send them to CAMP REALITY!

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A Very Special Message

So I was happy to see the blog is once again getting a lot of engagement, seemingly due mostly to one of my recent posts, The Foreigner’s Guide to Appropriate Protests. I was a bit less amused to find that some of this attention is due to it being shared on several conservative and liberal subreddits. So while I made a decision to make this a humorous/satirical site a while back, forgive me for getting a bit serious for a moment.

If you’re one of those centrist liberals or conservatives who enjoyed the piece, here’s a special message for you: Fuck you, you hypocrite.

Yes, Western, particularly American leftists are ignorant about the situation in the rest of the world and arrogantly lecture people on how to behave in their own countries, but people like you not only do the same thing with protest movements abroad, but you even do it to your own people. You ignore the cause of a mass protest to focus on a window getting smashed or an upended trashcan. You whine about the lack of “civility.” Conservatives in particular are extremely fond of deliberately misinterpreting the message of a protest movement so that they can knock down a strawman, e.g. “All lives matter.”

And for the leftists whose nerves were struck by that satirical work- tough shit. You make fun of conservatives for not knowing the difference between Shiites and Sunni (though you probably couldn’t say what that is if asked right now), or for not knowing that Iranians aren’t Arab, but the truth is that so many years after 9/11 and Iraq, you’re not really that much more informed. What you’ve got is a serious case of Dunning-Kruger syndrome about the outside world, which is what happens when your frame of reference for how informed you are is comparing yourself to the dumbest people in the country. Think I’m being unfair? I just spent about half of my Twitter day slowly explaining to a bunch of self-proclaimed leftists that no, the Taliban wasn’t created or set up by the CIA, that it in fact didn’t exist as a fighting force until 1994, well after the US had all but abandoned Afghanistan, and no, they didn’t fund Bin Laden and he and his Arab volunteers actually weren’t a significant force in the mujahideen. Yes, I’ve been reading a lot of books on Afghanistan in recent years, but a lot of this stuff isn’t too hard to find. For example, you can learn about the role of Afghan Maoists in the Afghan-Soviet War from Wikipedia, of all places.

These days much of my timeline is filled with Syrians, Venezuelans, and Afghans all making a futile effort to get Western, mostly American leftists to actually listen to them and acknowledge that they might actually know a little more about their own countries’ history than people who may not even have a passport. Indeed, they may even know more than Oliver Stone or…gasp! St. Chomsky! The really infuriating thing about this is how all that intersectionality and respecting “lived experience” flies right out the window when it comes to a foreigner voicing an “incorrect” opinion. Look, being from a country doesn’t automatically make someone right, but at the very least, it demands you act a little less arrogant, and maybe listen more than you talk. Ask some follow up questions for a change. Again, it’s amazing that people who will call out someone for “mansplaining” will happily lecture a Syrian or Afghan on the politics of their own country, to which they’ve never been, whose language they cannot speak, based on shit they heard on RT or Democracy Now! 

You want to know the secret as to why I’ve never been a Chavez/Maduro backer despite being a socialist and at one time a self-identified Marxist-Leninist? It’s not just because Chavista Venezuela was never even remotely socialist. Part of it has to do with Venezuelans I’ve met over the years (oh I’m sure they were secretly millionaires in disguise though, right?) of course. But one of the biggest reasons was simply living in another authoritarian state where the leadership blames all its failures on shadowy Western conspiracies. That, and I’ve had friends who either lived under similar regimes. What you learn from this experience is that virtually all these regimes operate the same way. They all have a ruling class that siphons off money, usually form the export of natural resources, into the offshore accounts of the leader and his cronies. When times are good and commodity prices are high, some of that does manage to trickle down in the form of social safety nets. But when times get rough and it comes down to social programs for the masses or more luxury villas for the ruling class, the latter wins every time. And if the US and its allies criticize this or better yet, levy targeted sanctions- so much the better.

All of these regimes use similar tactics. Harassment of dissidents with plausible deniability. Consolidation and control over the media. Pro-regime rallies consisting of paid pensioners, public school and university students, and state workers. Constant promotion of bullshit conspiracy theories. Most of all, there’s always some kind of narrative about how the regime is coming under pressure because it has some great worldview that is opposed to the greedy Yankee hegemony. In Venezuela it was “21st century socialism.” In Syria it’s Baathism. In Russia it was “sovereign democracy.” In virtually every case, we’re told that this is an expression of the country’s sovereignty and self-determination, and the only reason why the US or the West criticizes it is because this country is going its own way and now kowtowing to the imperialist hegemony. The problem is, that in most cases the vast majority of people in those nations were never asked if they wanted to live under a corrupt and authoritarian regime that steals their country’s national wealth in exchange for supposedly “standing up to the West.” Believe it or not, but most of these people want things like food, shelter, and the opportunity to better their lives without having to have personal connections to the right family, bureaucrat, military officer, etc.

Do these experiences of mine make me an expert on Venezuela? Hell no. But living so long under Putin, plus the experiences related to me by people who lived under other dictatorial regimes has given me an ability to understand and filter information a little bit better because I’ve personally witnessed things that are near-identical to what these people are describing. Could I be wrong? Perhaps. Maybe these near identical things are just a coincidence, i.e. Maduro’s a genuine leftist who really is under siege by the US and this is responsible for his situation as opposed to his own mismanagement, while Putin is totally lying when he says similar things. But you know what? Occam’s Razor says we live in a capitalist world where states are run by ruling classes, not their working people, and it also says that if some country has some great popular ideology, it would probably be a lot more successful and the masses would support it. It’s a rule of thumb, but a pretty useful one.

The basis of a moral society, a socialist society, must in large part be empathy. It must be the concept that other people, in your community or thousands of miles away, have many of the same desires you have. If you have the desire for a better life and the will to resist oppression, you must recognize that other people also have a right to these things, regardless of their government’s relationship with the US. If not, you’re essentially dismissing those people as inferior, something less than human.

A while back, I encountered a rather burnt-out individual who turned on the left due to encountering so many leftists who refused to listen to anything Syrians had to say about their country, instead dismissing them as dupes of the CIA and Islamophobic caricatures of “jihadist headchoppers.” According to this individual, Western leftists are racists who “want these problematic people to die,” people referring not just to Syrians but also Afghans, Ukrainians, Nicaraguans, and other nationalities whose right to resist is denied by the privileged Western left.

I decided that person is far too burnt out and angry to have any use in politics, but after seeing how some icons of the American left write about Afghans and now Venezuelans, it almost makes me wonder if on some subconscious level maybe these people do want all those masses whose reality contradicts their personal narrative to die. Not so much to be killed, but to simply disappear, to be erased. If all these people would simply be silenced one way or another, the Western leftist would never have to struggle with the failings of their simplistic worldview. It’s so easy to dismiss someone’s lived experience, contemporary or historical, if you can just write them off as a kulak, a bourgeoisie, a jihadist, a dupe of the CIA. Then you don’t have to feel bad about your fetish for Soviet aesthetics or your admiration for a regime in a country you’ve never visited.

I realize this is a hard pill for a lot of the Western left to swallow, but look at it this way. You’ve been doing things more or less the same way for a long time now. Where are your results? What genuine US imperialism have you genuinely prevented? Who is in power in your country and what policies are they promoting? For nearly all my life, you’ve had a parade of neoliberals and fascists. You’re at a point now where voting for neoliberals has often becoming your only way to keep literal fascists out of power. Hell, the fascists in America are some of the dumbest people on the planet and yet they’re still running circles around you. So with that track record of solid failure after failure, maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start reevaluating your movement and your ideology to see if there aren’t any flaws in there that might actually be benefiting the far-right and hampering your own success.

Or you can dismiss me as an “ultra-leftist” or “Ukrainian fascist” (because associating ethnic groups with political ideologies is fine for some countries!), and we can watch this all play out. Me, I’ve already seen this show. All those things you think can’t happen here; I see them happening. So if you don’t know what life is like under people like Yanukovych, Putin, Maduro, or perhaps worst of all, Assad, keep on doing what you’re doing, and one day you’ll get a taste of it right here.

 

WORLD WAR THREE!!!

So something has been bugging me today. Since 2014 we’ve seen a familiar pattern of responses to Russian aggression. It goes like this:

  1. Russia commits flagrant act of military aggression.
  2. Western leaders insist there’s no military solution, call for restraint, express concern, etc.
  3. Pundits come up with responses.
  4. Other pundits warn that these responses could lead to World War III.
  5. REPEAT

Russia seized the Crimea, but Western leaders urged the new Ukrainian government to maintain restraint. Russia put about 700 tanks and armored vehicles in Ukraine, but selling Ukraine Javelins would “escalate the conflict” that Putin already escalated on several occasions in the past. Russia attacks and seizes Ukrainian naval vessels, but any show of force, such as sending a few more NATO ships to the Black Sea, would provoke World War III. It’s really strange how responding to Russia’s aggression is the thing that’s going to provoke World War III, but nobody’s warning Russia about doing this when they make their aggressive moves on their own initiative. It’s almost like some kind of bias.

Let’s take a moment to remember some of the things which were sure to provoke WWIII with Russia, yet didn’t:

-The downing of a Russian Su-24 by a NATO state (Turkey) for briefly crossing its airspace

-Supply non-lethal, then lethal aid to Ukraine

-Accidentally bombing Russia’s Syrian allies

-Intentionally bombing the crap out of Russian mercenaries near Deir-ez-Zor

-Several large-scale NATO military exercises near Russia’s border

-Ukraine sending armed patrol boats to protect a tugboat from Russian coast guard vessels

Now if Russia is going to launch World War III over some NATO ships coming to support Ukraine’s right of passage through the Kerch strait (guaranteed by a bilateral treaty with Russia from 2003), then perhaps Russia, and not NATO, is the aggressive party we should be worried about, right?

See the thing about appeasement of aggressive military powers is that the logic of avoiding war only goes so far. By tacitly encouraging or ignoring further military aggression, the aggressor advances further and further until there is no more buffer zone and war becomes inevitable. We have the perfect example of this in 1938. At that time, the Third Reich could have been totally wrecked had Britain and France stood with Czechoslovakia, whose army was one of the largest and well-equipped in Europe. Czechoslovakia also had potential backing from Poland and the Soviet Union, which was offering up to 1 million troops to defend the last democracy in Central/Eastern Europe (though getting transit rights was an issue at the time). Most people are unaware of how weak the Third Reich actually was in those days, and how many of their famous war-time accomplishments had more to do with taking bold risks and capitalizing off the mistakes of their enemies than a highly advanced war machine. In fact, one of the things that war machine depended on in the early years of the war were weapons, particularly tanks, captured from Czechoslovakia when they invaded and broke up that country in the spring of 1939. The Third Reich survived to commit its unprecedented atrocities because no one was willing to call its bluff.

Upon seeing how Hitler had hoodwinked him by taking Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain and his French allies were forced to try to draw the line somewhere else, this time in Poland. Of course they knew they would not fight for Danzig, as did Hitler. Once again, appeasement encouraged aggression, and at this point Britain and France had no choice but to declare war or be totally discredited. Imagine, if they had stood firm for Czechoslovakia. Imagine if they’d stood up for Austria, or even better- stood up for Austria in 1934 when Hitler didn’t even have Mussolini on his side. But because the British and French couldn’t fathom a local European war, they ended up with a world war, the most destructive in history.

Those who have read my work know that I don’t believe anyone can win Ukraine’s war for it. I do not want NATO or other foreign troops fighting in Ukraine. Support and aid is fine, but this is Ukraine’s fight. That being said, I do still believe that had one U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team or a USMC Regimental Combat Team arrived in Ukraine with air support as soon as the Little Green Men showed up in Crimea, things would have gone a lot differently. Ditto with the Donbas. Remember, Putin denied they were Russian troops. Nothing wrong with the US helping its ally deal with some armed “separatists,” right? Putin would be forced with an ultimatum- fight and risk war with NATO and everything that entails, or run and avoid the humiliation of Russia’s best troops getting trounced by a small force of American professionals. Remember, this is an empire built on narratives and propaganda. Putin had a big flank in the wind and yet he got away with everything because the West immediately decided there was no military solution when he had already decided there was.

Of course we don’t want war. Nobody really wants it. But what do you do when war is at your doorstep? What do you do when an aggressor shows you time and time again that they will continue to act in an aggressive manner toward your country or its allies? And if responding to that aggression may escalate the conflict, isn’t that primarily the fault of the side who started it in the first place? If a man is walking around a bar punching people, shouldn’t someone stop him, or do we engage in pearl-clutching and whine about “escalation” and the possibility of drawing more people into a brawl?

If we’re going to keep worrying about WWIII every time Russia embarks on another military adventure, we might as well just surrender every country they would claim as Russia’s sphere of influence and allow Putin and his cronies to further corrupt our system with money-laundering and organized crime. Sure, we’ll end up living in a neo-feudal dystopia and the Earth will become unable to support our species a few decades after that, but hey, at least we’ll have only had two world wars.*

So please, if you’re concerned about provocative military gestures that could spark a third world war, please direct your complaints to the side initiating them first and foremost.

 

 

*Assuming you don’t count the dozens of multinational conflicts that will inevitably break out due to the lack of resources and the promotion of xenophobia and nationalism.

 

Anatoly Chepizdyets

Anatoly Chepiga, AKA Ruslan Boshirov, just can’t get a break it seems. Ever since Bellingcat identified the self-proclaimed small businessman/tourist as a probable decorated GRU agent, things have just spiraled from there. While Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov and Russian Foreign Ministry officials sound completely dumbstruck, multiple international news outlets (BBC, WaPo, Kommersant,)    have found several individuals from Chepiga’s past, openly identifying him and in some cases confirming that he worked in some kind of covert ops. Recently, some info has surfaced suggesting he might have had a hand in helping Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yushchenko escape to Russia. While there’s no corroboration for the latest story yet, what evidence exists does suggest that Chepiga was at least involved in some kind of covert activity in Ukraine in 2014.

Honestly I’m kind of surprised by how badly the Kremlin screwed up in this case. From the beginning of the Salisbury scandal, they seemed to outdo their past attempts at damage control by kicking it into high gear and putting out a rapid-fire stream of alternative explanations. Estimates range from around 37-38 different alternative narratives, all pointing in every direction except Russia, within the first few weeks of the initial poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. This, incidentally, was some of the best evidence pointing to Russian involvement prior to the revelation of “Ruslan Boshirov” and his accomplice “Alexander Petrov” (Petrov hasn’t been identified yet, though his documents show some key similarities to Chepiga’s). Had the Kremlin and its media just shut the fuck up and kept demanding some hard evidence, they might have got the benefit of the doubt from more people outside the online conspiracy theorist/St. Petersburg troll demographics.

But if they didn’t screw things up by flooding the information space with too many alternative narratives too quickly, the reveal of Boshirov and Petrov in their disastrous RT interview was just icing on the stupid cake.

Had the Kremlin’s information warriors not been complete morons who owe their positions to loyalty and not talent, they might have come up with a far better cover story for these two. For example, they might have claimed that they were being interviewed by the FSB or Investigative Committee, and some of the answers they gave in the actual interview could have been included in a partial report published by Russian authorities. But instead we were told that these guys just rang up RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan on her personal cell phone and then in their interview they told the world of their dream to see the 123-meter spire of Salisbury cathedral.

Even Russia’s own propagandists couldn’t avoid showing their own disdain for this idiotic narrative. Several of them, including Margarita herself, subtly implied that Boshirov and Petrov were a gay couple trying to hide a very unusually-booked European getaway (apparently the way it works with assassinations is if you succeed, you become a Duma deputy, and if you fail, you may be protected from extradition but you will be labeled a homosexual). Even Graham Fucking Phillips couldn’t accept the story as told in the RT interview.

Needless to say, the extra visibility provided by the interview no doubt helped Bellingcat and The Insider track down details on the two alleged assassins, and by extension helped them discover the identity of Mr. Chepiga. What I have found most amusing about all this is that Russian officials, and more hilariously foreign Kremlin supporters, have been contorting themselves in ever-more extravagant mental gymnastics in an attempt to explain away all the inconsistencies in their narrative. And yet now it has never been easier for the Kremlin to totally discredit Bellingcat for good.

After all, this Anatoly Chepiga is a Hero of the Russian Federation winner. Although Putin’s regime hands out medals like candy, the title of Hero of the Russian Federation is still rarely bestowed. Plus Chepiga’s name appears on a monument to Heroes of the Soviet Union/Russian Federation. Therefore all Russia has to do to totally destroy this narrative and take Bellingcat’s reputation down at the same time is produce the real Anatoly Chepiga and provide a few details about his award and military career. It could also provide proof of “Petrov” and “Boshirov’s” fitness/supplements business (many Russians run online stores if they don’t own brick and mortar shops). At least some of this could have been accomplished literally within hours of Bellingcat’s Chepiga story breaking, and yet now it has been several days and we have seen nothing of the sort. In fact, Russian official PR flacks like Peskov and Zakharova have been unusually evasive on this issue, leaving foreign Putin fanboys with the burden of having to come up with some kind of plausible explanation.

And to think, all of this happened because they just didn’t know when to shut up.

 

 

Trump As Allegory

So I’m packing to go on a trip to NYC tomorrow and a thought just crossed my mind that I had to write about. This past week has been, in general, one giant shitshow as the sponge-brained old racist uncle-in-chief prostrated and cowered next to Putin. From an almost flat-out refusal to acknowledge interference in the 2016 election to a pathetically weak response to Putin’s suggestion of turning over officials such as former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Trump has pretty much convinced every rational-minded person in America that he is, at best, subservient to or afraid of Vladimir Putin.

But what if there’s a lesson in all this? What if Trump’s behavior, as despicable and craven as it is, is just exposing the truth about Russia and the West, in the same way Trump totally debunked the idea that America is a “post-racial” society?

If we look at interactions between Putin and other Western leaders who are considered sufficiently “tough” on Putin, we see that while they often talk a big game about standing up to him either outside of his presence or at press conferences, they rarely back their words with action. Macron living it up with Putin at the World Cup is a perfect example of this. Ditto Merkel and Nord Stream II, although to her credit she seems to have put a damper on Putin’s dream of cutting Ukraine out of the gas network. And while Obama did bring several successful rounds of sanctions against Russia since 2014, it wasn’t enough to deter Putin from getting directly involved in Syria, or more importantly- interfering with the US political system itself.

So the along walks Trump, a man who seems to have a special affinity for the dictator in Moscow. Trump hasn’t actually managed to lift sanctions; he’s delayed on implementing some of them but new individuals and companies still get added to the sanctions list nonetheless. He doesn’t recognize Crimea as Russian, but he doesn’t really do anything for Ukraine. He doesn’t really suggest new ways to deter or punish Russian aggression, but he doesn’t uproot those in place.

In a sense, Trump is just openly doing what the US and Western governments did with Russia for years, if not decades. Whether it was under Yeltsin or Putin, the Western leaders expressed “concern” over conditions in Russia or Russian moves abroad, but they never took any action until Putin forced their hand by unleashing another war in Europe. This kind of deference to Moscow seems to be rooted in two factors. The first is the capitalist system that wants Russian investment and investment opportunities in Russia, a large potential market. The second is the very old inability to recognize Moscow-dominated Russia for what it is- the last European colonial empire. We saw plenty of the former during the boom of the mid-2000s, when the West was more than happy to ignore or at most, pay some lip service to the issue of human rights in Russia while billions of petrodollars were skimmed off and pumped into Western luxury items and elite property in London, New York, Miami, or the South of France. In the case of the latter, note how the West has expressed support for former Soviet republics, yet says nothing about non-Russian territories within the inappropriately named Russian Federation (it’s not really a federation).

I’m not excusing Trump’s behavior or saying it’s no cause for real concern, but I can’t help but notice that in a way, all Trump has done is put an end to the empty lip service and openly embraced Putin as opposed to talking a big game in public while making deals with him behind closed doors.

This is something Westerners need to seriously think about after Trump is gone. So many of the people who today tell us that we’ve experienced another Pearl Harbor or, as Morgan Freeman put it, “we are at war,” either support or worked for politicians who in the past had the same knowledge we have about Russia today, yet still accepted key parts of the Kremlin’s narrative and enabled many of its nefarious actions. Maybe the silver lining of Trump’s recent actions is that people will start waking up to that fact.

Academic Proposes Creating Artificial Crimean Peninsula for Russia to Annex Safely

STAUNTON- Alexander Borodin of the Russian Academy of Sciences has a modest proposal to solve the conflict between the West and Russia over the latter’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. The plan is simple- build Russia a mock Crimean peninsula that it can safely annex and occupy without infringing on the territorial integrity of any of its neighbors.

“We’ve already seen China push its claims in the South China Sea with the building of artificial islands,” Borodin said.

Subi_Reef_May_2015

Artificial island built by the People’s Republic of China. Borodin suggests Russia could built an artificial island as a stand-in for the Crimean peninsula.

“It’s not too much of a stretch for Russia to build its own artificial Crimean peninsula somewhere else in the Black Sea, or perhaps even in the Pacific Ocean.”

According to Borodin, this would solve several problems, the most obvious being the conflict with Ukraine and the West over Russia’s continued occupation of the disputed territory. He pointed out that by building its own Crimean peninsula however it wants, Russia could return the real Crimean peninsula back to Ukraine. This, along with a full pull out in Ukraine’s Donbas region would fulfill the conditions for the full removal of sanctions against Russia.

“As the situation stands now, Putin can’t let Crimea go,” Borodin explained.

“The annexation is what put his popularity through the roof. It’s a major pillar of his continuing support. But the initial euphoria has been wearing off in recent years due to economic hardship. What can Putin do? Re-annex Crimea? He certainly can if Russia builds its own artificial Crimea.”

Borodin said that a Russian-built Crimea could be settled with Russian citizens which the government would have to “save” periodically, perhaps even once a year. This way, the Russian military could repeatedly occupy the “peninsula” and carry out a “referendum,” each time giving the Russian President a massive boost in popularity.

“Obviously being able to annex the territory of another country repeatedly, in a safe environment, without any consequences, would be a great boon to the Russian people,” Borodin said.

“There are those in power who say that Russia is a natural empire and that empire is the only thing that can unite the Russian people. This would allow Russia to preserve this tradition without offending its neighbors.”

But while his plan allows Russia to safely annex territory without any of the usual side-effects of imperialism and colonialism, Borodin warned of potential drawbacks, especially what he calls “diminished returns.”

Borodin compares the effect to what heroin addicts call “chasing the dragon,” a slang term used to describe how addicts often keep using the drug in a vain attempt to recapture the feeling of their first high. To avoid this problem, Borodin said the frequency of annexations should be kept very low at first. He also suggested a program similar to methadone treatment, whereby between annexations the Russian military stages a fake buildup of military forces along a mock border constructed somewhere well within the territory of the Russian Federation.

While he admits potential drawbacks to the plan, Borodin states he’s confident that the benefits would easily outweigh them. For example, planning the construction of the new Crimean peninsula means it could be located in an area more suitable for building a bridge connecting it to the mainland. Or planners could simply make it an actual peninsula already connected to Russia, unlike the original Crimea, which is connected to Ukraine.

“This plan would represent a major step forward in improving relations between Russia, Ukraine, and the West,” Borodin said.

“But most of all, Russians will truly be able to say the Crimea is theirs. In fact, they could say it every few years if they wish!”

This Is Completely Normal!

Anyone else out there following Russia’s upcoming nail-biter of a presidential election? If not, don’t worry- it seems a lot of Russians are apathetic too, and that’s a problem as Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidky points out in a recent article. Of course that’s not necessarily the part of the article I wanted to focus on, but rather this paragraph here:

Putin doesn’t appear to feel any need to campaign. His election website, as perfunctory as if he were running for a municipal council seat, has just gone live, and it doesn’t even contain a program or any promises — just some questionable statements on how life in Russia has improved under Putin (“The illegal cutting of trees has practically stopped”; “Russian universities have entered the BRICS Top-50”). The site also reports that it only took a week for the Putin campaign to collect 30 percent more than the 300,000 citizens’ signatures necessary to put him on the ballot — an impossible achievement for any other candidate but not for the president: Reports come in from different parts of the country of students being pressed into collecting the signatures and workers told to sign for him at work (the campaign has even rejected the signatures harvested at two factories in Kurgan in the Urals).

The Western Putin fan club just loves claiming that Western Russia journalists don’t really understand Russian politics simply because they often focus on the activities of non-systemic opposition figures like Alexei Navalny (who is not in the running this time anyway). They continually point to the polls of Russia’s loyal opposition such as the KPRF and LDPR, along with the poor polling of the non-systemic opposition, and gleefully lecture us about the latter’s minimal popularity as though we, and those Western journalists, aren’t fully aware of these facts. They’d have us believe that Western focus on people like Navalny would be like America’s media focusing on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson in 2016’s presidential election. In reality, however, journalists follow Russia’s opposition not because it is big or has any realistic shot at winning, but rather because it is the only faction actually opposed to the Kremlin and Putin.

Reading that paragraph above, it is clear that Russia is not a normal electoral democracy. Apart from the fact that the President changed the constitution so he could come back for another pair of six-year terms, he’s running in an election with virtually no campaigning, no promises, no platform. To the extent that he’s campaigning, he’s harping on “accomplishments” from the mid-2000s, during the oil price boom. Does that sound at all normal for a system that is supposedly no less democratic than what exists in the West and other developed countries? If 2016 did anything positive, it was shutting up the cynics who called American elections predictable (ditto Brexit, Corbyn, etc).

Of course I know many Putin fanboys who, if pressed, will more or less admit that Russia’s elections are not fair and the system is biased towards Putin. Usually they deflect by asking “Who else is there?” But you see- that’s the problem. If Putin were ever a good leader, even during the years when things were on the up and up, he would have at least had the prescience to understand that he’s not immortal and he should probably construct Russia’s state institutions so as to ensure stable, democratic succession long after his death, incapacitation, or retirement. In general, he would use his authority to build a system based on rule of law and some kind of values as opposed to a cult of personality surrounding himself. He barely toyed with the concept back in 2008 when he let Medvedev take the reins, but he was so paranoid and concerned with image that he decided to come back to the presidency early.

The ultimate result of this is that wherever you fall on the spectrum of Putin/anti-Putin, there’s really no getting around the fact that sooner or later Russia is fucked, and there’s really nobody to blame for that but Putin. Therefore I can’t really understand why he still has Western admirers today. I do get the ones who just hate their own governments, have no experience with Russia, and just absorb a steady diet of bullshit from RT, Sputnik, and pro-Kremlin sites. But I don’t get the people who work for outlets like that and continue to defend the man and his system. Even if we foolishly attributed all the positive things in the mid-2000s to Putin, all of that has either been negated or on the chopping block to be negated within the coming years. All I can think of is that the Western apologists do it for the money. Those who don’t are complete idiots. There just is no other explanation.