Tag Archives: Russia

What About Iraq Indeed

Recently I saw another reminder of an issue that I haven’t devoted a lot of time to in the past, but which deserves attention. Russia’s involvement in Iraqi Kurdistan (aka the Kurdish Regional Government) is a story often overshadowed by the campaign in Syria and the occupation of Ukraine, but it’s a good idea to keep it in mind.

What involvement are we talking about? As usual it’s a matter of oil and gas, Russia’s bread and butter. Russia has become one of the biggest investors in Iraqi Kurdistan’s energy industry, apparently. I knew that Gazprom was there several years ago, but apparently so is Rosneft. In fact, according to the article Russia is moving in to fill a gap that was left by the US as it got out of Iraq.

That is quite interesting because we all know that the Putinophile’s favorite answer to any criticism of Russia’s aggressive foreign policy is “WHAT ABOUT IRAQ?!” Realistically, they already pissed away their right to use that when they decided to invade and occupy another country under false pretexts, just as Bush had done in Iraq. But the story about Kurdistan is just a reminder that Putin’s criticism of US actions in Iraq were always bullshit. Putin’s economic boom in the 2000’s was largely due to high oil prices. Putin had a win-win situation; criticize the war for political capital, reap the benefits of the war. But even if you say Putin had no control over oil markets (fair enough), he has certainly benefited from the toppling of the Baathist regime, which opened Iraqi Kurdistan up for investment.

Of course this doesn’t make Russia share responsibility for what the US did in Iraq, but the truth is that Putin never really cared. In his eyes, the invasion must have confirmed what he already believed- that a rules-based world guided by concepts like human rights and democracy was nothing but a sham, a velvet glove over an iron fist. In Putin’s 19th century worldview, invading Iraq was just realpolitik. Thus he saw him self justified in invading and occupying Ukraine.

The lesson here is one I learned long ago, even before I was totally wise to the Kremlin’s propaganda tactics. I’d see RT hosting some guest who would talk about the evils of US foreign policy, but you’d never see any criticism of Russia’s own foreign adventures (though they were far more modest at the time). That felt disturbing, and made me shy away from voicing my own criticisms of the West when in the company of Russians, because I didn’t feel any reciprocity. As one friend described conversations with a Russian mutual acquaintance- “When I talk about all the problems in America, her eyes light up, but when it’s her turn, she doesn’t have much to say.”

It’s different in many other countries. In Ukraine, I hate my government, they hate their government, I hate their government too, and we both hate the Russian government as well. There’s a kind of solidarity there. With pro-Kremlin Russians though, you’re a hero when you’re condemning the aggression of the United States, but you’re a neocon Banderite Nazi the second you start applying the same logic and criticism to the Kremlin. Some folks like to bask in the attention they get from pro-Kremlin Russians for voicing the former criticism, but the fact is that those giving the attention see them as traitors, as defectives who for some reason don’t know they’re supposed to cheer for their team. There is zero respect for such people in Russia. In fact, even Russians who aren’t pro-regime tend to see such enthusiastic Putinophiles as somewhat insane.

So just keep all this in mind when they say play the “what about Iraq” card. We who have been consistent on this issue have the right to criticize the American and British governments for that aggression. Putin’s fanboys don’t. They’re defending his aggression in Ukraine, either explicitly or implicitly. The truth is that as one Twitter follower pointed out- Russia actually won the Iraq War. America did the fighting, and they reaped the benefits.

Advertisements

Summing It Up

So the big news is that very soon I’ll be leaving not only Russia, but the Eastern Hemisphere altogether. For the first time in nearly 12 years, I’m finally, truly, “going home.” It’s a weird feeling- when I left the US in 2006 for the Czech Republic, I was leaving behind everything I knew and forging a path into what was more or less the unknown, yet it was exhilarating. Now I’m going back to what should be familiar, and I’m dreading it. Nonetheless I think this is a very necessary step- a chance to learn new skills, acquire new qualifications, and most of all, make money.

Ideally I’ll return to Ukraine with far more resources, enabling me to do more for the cause, but I have no plans to return to Russia in anything but the most extreme case. Because I have no plans to return, when I leave it will be the close of a very long chapter of my life- the majority of my adult life in fact. As such, I have been mentally taking stock of everything that’s happened, everything I’ve done and the lessons I have learned. I plan to distill all that into a very longread for my patrons, but for the rest of you I’d like to share a few of my observations over the years, with special focus on the positive aspects. After all, I started this blog in September of 2013, when Russia was already clearly entering a dark place. Thus a lot of the positive things from the earlier time, the time when there was hope and progress, were overshadowed by the increasingly authoritarian and reactionary nature of the post 2012-Putin regime. And though I’m focusing on the positive, it may turn out more tragic, because it gives you a glimpse of what the regime is destroying. Whatever the case, when you look at everything we associate with Russia today, keep in mind things could have been different.

Before moving on I just want to stress that I’m not saying these features are uniform in Russia and they are certainly not exclusive to Russia. I have made similar observations about Ukrainian culture, for example. But this is Russia Without BS and this is about leaving Russia after all, so Russia it is.

Culture

What did I like about Russian culture, especially in contrast to American culture, is first and foremost the lack of anti-intellectualism. Of course Russia, especially today, has more than its share of right-wing populists making all kinds of idiotic claims, but they more often than not present these claims as though they are intellectual and academic. They’ll cite sources or books, or they’ll reference other facts to back up their rhetoric, however flawed or questionable some of those “facts” may be. By contrast, many Americans, including big-name commentators who rake in money by the millions, basically sell their bullshit based on “common sense.” “Common sense” said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It told people that the real reason for the economic collapse was the government forcing banks to loan to minorities who couldn’t afford to make their payments. Liberals would try to counter with facts, but who needs “book-learnin'” when there’s common sense? “How are you going to catch the game with your nose buried in some book that was probably written by some liberal Marxist professor because he’s saying things I personally don’t believe despite having no background knowledge of this issue?”

I’m going to be blunt with my fellow Americans here and say that the US, at least as I experienced it, is a country that often straight up hates intelligence. You’ll often hear people use phrases like “useless knowledge” to describe things such as history, which happens to be one of the most important topics a person can study. Meticulous knowledge of professional sports is fine, even respected in American masculine culture, but you’re a complete dork if you happen to know something like the history of Al Qaeda and US foreign policy in the Middle East. I’m also not convinced by the superficial rise of “nerd culture” and the obsession with STEM. I think this is simply driven by corporate interests. In general, I’d say a good portion of America, even its liberals, hate intellectualism.

By contrast in Russia even people who disagree with you show a certain modicum of respect when you couch your arguments in academic knowledge. There’s always a minimum of respect for knowledge and people who pursue it. Russians can be just as fanatical about sports as any American, but at the same time they tend to understand that the mind is just as important as the body. The Soviet Union, which brought Russians (and many other people) universal, compulsory education as well as access to higher education, put a high value on learning, even if politics often hampered the process. By contrast in America higher education has become more or less a giant scam, and you deliberately subject yourself to it because “you’ll get a good job.”

While we’re on this topic, I should devote a few words to Russian sport culture. Obviously it has been tainted by last year’s doping scandal, but I can only speak for what I personally experienced while training in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu here. Whereas I’ve always seen a lot of posturing in American sport culture, I find Russian training partners to be very supportive. They are extremely competitive, but not in an egotistical, “I’m the greatest” sort of way. Sports offer the chance of social mobility to some who might not otherwise be able to attain it, so you can understand why some Russian citizens push themselves so hard. Yet somehow they manage not to be such a dick about it.

There is hope for America, however. Lately we’ve seen a lot of talk about “toxic masculinity,” i.e. that sort masculinity that is harmful, negative, and at times dangerous for society. Many American men will dismiss the concept as “feminist SJW crap,” but if they’d only take the time to actually read up on what it is, they’d see that toxic masculinity tends to hurt males first and foremost. One could argue that it is a societal tool whereby men oppress and abuse each other in order to force conformity into roles that have long ceased to make sense in modern society. Of course talk like this is almost unheard of in Russian discourse these days, yet it’s interesting to note how in some ways the Russians are ahead of Americans in deed, if not in word.

Another thing that must be said is that Russians seem to be far more tolerant of human fallibility. Okay, maybe sometimes too tolerant, but let me illustrate what I mean. A good friend of mine who was a major motivator for me in writing a blog once explained at length about how Russians tend to be more forgiving of social slip-ups than Americans and other Westerners. If someone gets drunk at a party and gets a little bit too loud or maybe gets sick, no big deal- it happens. People were drinking. By contrast in the US that individual is more likely to be uninvited to future events and the whole circle of co-workers or friends will undoubtedly talk behind their back.

Now when I talk about this, I can instinctively hear an American voice asking something like: “Oh okay, so you think someone should just let it slide if someone comes to their house party, gets hammered, and then sexually assaults women while shouting racial slurs and endorsing eugenics?!” And you know what my answer is to that question? Thanks for proving my point about Americans being totally uptight tightwads, because of course you immediately came up with the absolute worst scenario you could imagine. We need to imagine the worst about people so we can justify not forgiving little social faux pas, as if forgiving them will lead to people forgiving horrible, criminal behavior. By contrast I’ve seen Russian friends get angry and shout at each other at many a drunken party, and afterward everyone makes up and understands because hey- we were consuming alcohol. Drunk people do drunk things.

I think this extends to a lot of other aspects of American life as well. For example, much of what I wear in Russia or Ukraine I’d never wear in the States. I can imagine the weird looks, the weird questions I would get if I were to say, wear my black beret. Yes, a beret, the one that was issued to me in the army with the flash and insignia removed. In Russia and Ukraine I’ve often seen people wearing berets. But in America, like I said, I can just imagine the questions. “Oh my god are you like, French or something? Are you in the army? Were you in the army? Why do you have a beret?!” It’s just a hat, America! Look at me, I’m talking to my own country now. This is what years of upbringing in such a nitpicking society has done to me.

The crazy thing about it is that compared to Russians and Europeans, Americans are by no means more fashionable. And yet in these more fashionable countries, you don’t have to follow fashion trends and you don’t get so much judgment for doing so, at least from ordinary people. If you wear something a bit exotic, it’s not taken as a statement, nor are you deemed a hipster. Since 2015 I have often worn a Ukrainian vyshivanka in public, including to work on one occasion. I got nothing but compliments from the few people who said anything. It’s just not such a big deal.

I think this is as good a place as any to wrap up the main cultural points.

Transport

I come from an American city where you have to have a car. Even if you happen to be located within walking distance of good supermarkets, you still need a vehicle because chances are the only job you may find is across town and our public transit sucks. And when you find out why public transit sucks in America, you’re going to be pissed.

During my driving life in my hometown I was fortunate to use a company truck which came with a gas card, especially given the prices at the time. A relatively simple drive across town was a slow, stressful affair. When I had my own car, it was like a ticking time bomb, exploding over and over again to take away a big chunk of my money. Transmission, brakes, water pump, tags- these things could easily wipe out a paycheck.

In Moscow (and Prague, and Kyiv for that matter), I have never felt the need for a car. To be sure, there are a couple good reasons for car ownership in these cities, but you can easily live your life without ever getting behind the wheel.

Moscow has what is arguably the best public transport system in the world. Even with the price hikes over the years, you can still spend less than a dollar to ride literally all over Moscow for as long as you want. If you just want to circle the ring line all day- fifty rubles. That’s nothing.

Sure it can be extremely crowded at rush hour, but I have never had much of a problem getting to any job that was within 15-20 minutes walk of a metro station, and those metro stations keep multiplying across the web that is the Moscow Metro. It is so effective in spite of all the massive problems in the country that you almost wish it would one day become self-aware and overthrow the government. Of course there’s always the danger that it wouldn’t stop there, and instead tunnel its way throughout the globe hell-bent on destroying humanity.

Ecology

When I first came to Moscow in 1999, one of the most striking things I noticed was the large swathes of green territory. At night, from the window of my hotel room near Izmailovsky Market, I noticed the clusters of city lights were interrupted by huge expanses of black. This contrasts greatly with my home town, which is basically paved from one edge of the city to another. At night it’s a flat, electrified waffle with virtually no blacked-out holes in the grid.

Moscow, by comparison, is extremely green. There are large forested parks well within the bounds of the city, easily accessible by metro (there it is again).  Even just around the neighborhood it is extremely green during the summer. It’s also nice to get outside the city and feel the difference in the air.

Sadly I was unable to see the Caucasus mountains (those in Russia, at least), or Lake Baikal.

Culture of Resistance 

Recently resistance to the regime has been rising in spite of increasingly authoritarian behavior since 2012. Right now the opposition movement, if you can even call it one movement, is far from attaining any kind of serious impact on politics, despite its recent victories in Moscow’s municipal elections. But when you look at the shortcomings of the opposition, you have to consider what they’re up against, and then you see how courageous many Russians can be, from soldiers that face prison for desertion because they refuse to take part in the invasion and occupation of Ukraine, to young people who come out to unsanctioned rallies in droves in spite of several years of this so-called “patriotic education.”

All the scheming of the president’s “political technologists,” the vigilante groups, assassination, jailtime for retweets and “likes” on social media, billions spent on domestic propaganda, including paid internet comment trolls- all this has failed to extinguish the spark of resistance and the desire for freedom among the Russian people.

I know that many of my Ukrainian friends look down on the Russian opposition, which has often had a very poor understanding of the “Ukrainian question.” As they say, it is with this question that the Russian liberal ceases to be. And this viewpoint is not wholly unjustified. Ukrainians are understandably upset due to invasion, annexation, occupation, and a war that has killed 10,000 and displaced almost two million people. More to the point, many Russian liberals, including Alexey Navalny, tend to be against the war in Donbas but for the Crimean annexation, making them irreconcilable with Ukrainian national aspirations.

That said, the behavior of Russian liberals is somewhat understandable when you consider the context of the system they live in. If Navalny publicly states that Crimea is Ukraine, he can be immediately hit with a charge for questioning the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation (which, incidentally, is allowed to question other countries’ territorial integrity). The penalty can be as much as five years. Ukrainians like to make a big deal of overthrowing a dictatorship via Maidan, but they never had to go up against a system like Putin’s- a unified dictatorship with a single purpose. Ukraine has been ruled by competing clans, which makes struggle a lot easier because your interests can align with those of other powerful groups. One should also note that Viktor Yanukovych had a place to run to. Putin does not, and I’m quite confident that if he were facing a Maidan-style revolution he’d unleash far more than snipers on his own people. Hell, Putin’s predecessor Yeltsin did exactly that.

Though it has numerous flaws, some of them quite serious, Russia’s opposition is an ember of hope. It’s not just the marches and the organizations either. It’s the little acts of personal resistance we see from time to time. Each one is a reminder to the system that its oppression and propaganda have failed to fully subdue the Russian people, that it will always fail to do so.

Conclusion

When all’s said and done, I have to admit I didn’t use my time here nearly as well as I could have. I often got so caught up in trivial things and missed many opportunities. But still, in these ten years I feel like I have learned more than I did in my whole previous life- about the country, about the world, about myself. I have had the opportunity to meet amazing people of many nationalities and learn from their experience. From Moscow I traveled not only throughout Russia, but throughout the whole hemisphere, from Shanghai to Tangier. I did jobs I’d never have a shot at in the US before I left. I learned to budget my money, and to cook from scratch those things Americans are able to buy in a box or a cheap Chinese buffet. I lost my hair, but I also lost a lot of weight. I experienced the thrill and ultimately the emptiness of casual flings, but also the fulfillment, exhilaration, and even pain of true love. I came face to face with an untimely death, something I’d never had to deal with before.  I experienced war first-hand, something I’d totally missed in the army. I pushed myself harder than I ever have and I offered my life for a cause which I still believe is just.

It’s been a wild ride, one which fails description. When I look back on what I’ve done here, or even how I got here, I feel like I can’t explain it to anyone. It barely even makes sense to me. Hopefully I’ll be able to put everything down in writing one day. At least now I can write the first volume.

 

Guest Column: #TrumpRussia – Doing the Math

Today’s post is by Rick Chaplet, Twitter personality, motivational speaker, life coach, and management consultant. Enjoy

True patriots, the time has come to end this charade that currently calls itself #TheResistance. I have been monitoring the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia ties ever since 2015, and it has become abundantly clear that the very same people who bill themselves as truthseekers and patriots against Russia’s legion of Cyrillic kompromat specialists are themselves nothing but useful idiots of the Chekists. Louise Mensch, Eric “Game Theory” Garland, John Schindler- all dupes of Team Deza.

How do I know? Well it’s quite simple, folks. I’m ahead of the game. While they’re playing checkers, I’m playing Super Mario Land 2: The Six Golden Coins on a Game Boy I bought off eBay. That’s why I’m able to spot the inconsistencies and subtle flaws in their so-called “investigations,” and more importantly I’m able to add it all up in order to see the big picture, which is in fact a mosaic whose tiles are tiny puzzle pieces. Any single piece, i.e. flaw, is meaningless when taken by itself. But woven together they make a Persian rug with an unmistakable design. I’m here to tie those threads together for you now.

I have expertise in such matters, more importantly, I have the key that unlocks the puzzle. You see Garland promised his “game theory” would explain the cat’s cradle-like connections between Trump and Putin, but he left out the map that leads to the treasure at the end of the rainbow- mathematics! And I can assure you, dear truthseeker- that was no accident. He left it out on purpose because his KGB masters in the Lubyanka. They wanted him to lead you astray. Well I’m here to bring you back on the path towards the pot of gold that lies at the end of the rainbow and is full of truth, not gold. Strap yourself in because you’re about to crash through the looking glass like an 80’s action hero as you tumble down a rabid rabbit hole of an investigation fueled solely by Country Time Lemonade and crystal meth.

The code is the in the numbers, people. You focus on the letters, the words, and you miss everything. That’s what Mensch, Garland, Schindler, and the whole Maskirovka Menagerie want you to miss. They spell it out- I add it up. Let’s start with the basics.

First we start with the two main players in the game, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. T-R-U-M-P is five letters, P-U-T-I-N is also five letters. This proves Trump’s collusion with Putin so decisively I could just as well end this investigation right here, but I’m going to do you one better and run everything down for you in lurid detail, because America demands that I do nothing less.

DONALD = Six letters.

VLADIMIR = Eight letters.

No match, right? WRONG! If we render the name Donald in its original Irish Gaelic, we get DONAILDH- the missing letters add up to eight!

So what we have here are two inextricably linked players in the game whose names add up to the same amount of letters. But what happens when we add them together?

PUTIN = 5

TRUMP = 5

5 + 5 = 10

What is the significance of the number ten, in Russian culture? Ten is the traditional number of dolls in the Russian matryoshka or nesting doll. You might be surprised to learn that matryoshkya is in fact an earlier, Old Russian word for maskirovka, which roughly translates as “pee tape blackmail operation.” You might be surprised, but not me, because I study this stuff for a living. I poured my heart and soul into this investigation because I love my country more than I love living with my wife and 8-year-old daughter or even just being within 200 yards of them. I’m sorry honey, but I told you and Ashley not to come between me and the republic. You were warned.

Moving on.

Now we must add Vladimir to Irish Donald.

VLADIMIR = 8

DHONALDH = 8

8 + 8 = 16 < Keep this in mind.

Vladimir translates roughly to “ruler of the world” or “ruler of the peace.” It’s pretty clear Putin wants to become the former, and ever since his KGB days in Dresden he has had a plan to compromise a US president because it’s the only way he could ever realize his goal. But it turns out there are some other famous Russians with the first name Vladimir. Ever hear of this obscure guy named VLADIMIR LENIN? It’s fine if you haven’t. I wouldn’t expect you to know him. I do, however. Lenin’s revolution led to the creation of the Soviet Union. Now most people think the Soviet Union consisted of 15 Soviet Socialist Republics. Well guess what- at one time they had something called the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, giving the Union a total of…remember that figure from earlier? SIXTEEN. But we’ve only scratched the surface. We must go deeper. The only way to get to where we’re going is by going through the planet core.

We already mentioned Lenin, first name VLADIMIR. Who was, up until recently when he became a liability, Trump’s right hand man in the White House? Steve Bannon. Bannon, once called himself a Leninist. I don’t know how he could have made it any clearer. Now let’s take Bannon’s name and crunch the numbers.

BANNON = 6 letters

KGB = 3 letters

GRU = 3 letters

KGB + GRU = 6 letters Q.E.D.

Is it starting to add up now, dear readers? Am I still a “nutjob,” Anne? AM I? WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER MY EMAILS? THE COURT ORDER SAYS NOTHING ABOUT EMAILS?! 

Speaking of emails, let’s go to the money shot of Russia’s 2016 election black op- the hacking of the DNC and the leak of their internal emails.

In order to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s impending victory, the Russians had to not only hack her emails, but also create a massive dezinformatsiya operation to increase the severity. For example, they spread the rumor that the Democrats were running a child sex slavery ring out of a DC restaurant known as Comet Ping Pong Pizza. In reality, there is a child sex slave ring that runs out of the basement of a restaurant, but it’s actually run by the Russian FSB (today’s successor to the KGB, which Putin used to work for) and it’s a Denny’s, not a pizza joint. But I digress. Obviously a restaurant that traffics in child sex slaves would only appeal to one target demographic- pedophiles. There once was a really famous book about a pedophile called Lolita. The author’s first name? VLADIMIR!  Are the scales falling from your eyes yet? Are you starting to see the big picture or are you still floundering about in haze generated by a Chekist smoke machine?

Back to the numbers. EMAIL is five letters. TRUMP = Five letters. PUTIN = Five letters. Add them all up:

5 + 5 + 5 = 15

Fifteen- the number of union republics in the Soviet Union throughout most of its existence. That’s not just a solid thread, it’s a strand of high-tensile piano wire linking Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin so tightly that any denier who might try to ride a motorcycle of doubt underneath would be decapitated by THE TRUTH.

Getting back to the campaign, Russia had another secret ace up its sleeve- racism. You see, America has always been about different ethnic and religious groups getting along in harmony and celebrating freedom together. So much so that just writing that sentence nearly brings a tear to my eye. Oh sure, there’s been some grumbling in the past, but on the whole it has been a long roller coaster ride of liberty and justice for all. The problem is that the Russians, first as the Soviet Union and then as Putin’s Russia AKA USSR 2.0, have always sought to amplify discontent into calls for revolution. The last time such activity peaked was back in the 1960’s, when Team Deza started running psyops on American soil. Luckily a great liberal and a true believer in the national security state named Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to realize his dream of equality for all. On that day, he defeated racism in America once and for all. That is until 2015, when Putin’s resurgent Russia resurrected racial hatred from the dead like a necromancer or Zeus in the classic Sega side-scroller Altered Beast.

Obviously Russia’s new intel assets in the United States had to be careful about being identified, so they used coded symbols and terminology. The Pepe frog and words like “cuck” (slang for ‘comrade,’ a term of address in the SOVIET UNION) are examples of these tactics. Again- do the math.

PEPE = four letters

CUCK = four letters

4 + 4 = eight letters

Whose name has eight letters? Oh right? VLADIMIR Putin’s name!

It only gets more frightening from here on out, folks.

We already established that VLADIMIR is eight letters. What is the eighth letter of the alphabet? It’s H. Neo-Nazis often use the number 88, because it is HH, for “Heil Hitler.” Putin. Hitler. Alt-right Nazis.

But there’s more. Look at the word ‘racism.’ The C is pronounced like an S, just like in Cyrillic, an alphabet associated with authoritarianism and designed so as to suppress individual thought. Suppose we pronounce the A like the A in ‘father.’ RAS-ism. Now what is Russia called in the Russian language? ROSSIYA. Doesn’t that sound like our word ‘racism,’ only with a different ending? Also, RACISM and ROSSIYA are the same amount of letters if you had the silent Latin H to the former, making it HRACISM.

It’s screaming right in your face, the same way I screamed at Anne, but she wouldn’t believe me because the Chekists must have gotten kompromat on her just like they get it on everybody.

Everybody but me, that is. That’s because I’m off the grid. Everything’s encrypted. I won’t even look at an image of Putin because I know the FSB inserts micro-print hypnotic messages into every official photo of the Ke-Ge-Beshnik-in-chief.

800px-Vladimir_Putin_-_2006

Viewed safely through a special lens I crafted myself, I can tell you that the pattern in the tie contains the repeated message “Kill your wife and daugher, Rick. Do it and you’ll be free.” Nice try, Team Deza. 

Everything in existence is reducible to numbers. Everything can be explained by math one way or another. All the nonsense of the Kremlin-operated media like CNN or MSNBC that talks of business ties and hotels in Moscow is nothing but pablum- pig slop fed to the sheeple who jostle for a spot at the trough of dezinformatsiya. The numbers are what tie the whole thing together like a rug in the middle of a room.

Anyone who tells you they understand Trump’s Russia ties without mention the code is a false prophet- plain and simple. And since we live in a world where coincidences area thing of the past, you can bet they’re trying to distract you on purpose. Why? because their part of the system- Russia’s 100-year-old system of global covert operations. Their agents are numerous and can be anybody you can imagine. Doctors, lawyers, policemen, your neighbor, a fast-food cashier, the guy who spends too much time at the bus stop near my house, divorce lawyers, court-appointed anger management therapists- anyone. Trust no one, not even me. The computer you’re reading this on could have been compromised by the Chekists using their ingenious malware tools such as Kaspersky Labs, Vkontakte, and Bonzi Buddy. I recommend you destroy the device you read this on and be sure to boil its storage hardware for 30 minutes before smashing it. Anything less and you could become a target too.

I must go now. I know that Team Deza will stop at nothing to silence me. I’ve already got a bug-out bag and several disguises. In 48 hours I’ll be a ghost, like I never existed. I can only apologize to the two women in my life for the sacrifices I had to make for the sake of our great nation. I love you, Anne, and my precious daughter Ashley, but there’s another woman in my life who is under threat, and her name is Lady Liberty.

And VLADIMIR PUTIN, if you’re reading this, I only have one thing to say to you- My name is Rick Chaplet, don’t forget it. All your nefarious plans are about to go down in flames, and I’m the guy with the match!

 

Rick Chaplet was a motivational speaker, life coach, and management consultant who made a living advising executives from Fortune 500 companies, including some of the most innovative Silicon Valley tech firms. After sending this article to be published on Russia Without BS, Chaplet was tragically shot and killed by police after he barricaded himself in a Denny’s restaurant which he claimed was actually an FSB front for a child sex trafficking ring. Investigators refuted Chaplet’s claim, stating that while the management of the restaurant was in fact found to be using the facility as cover for a sex trafficking business, there was no evidence connecting them to Russian intelligence services. 

This post is dedicated to the memory of Richard Chaplet, 1976-2017. RIP

Moscow Unveils Ukrainian Nationalist Monument in Response to Poland’s Removal of Soviet Memorials

MOSCOW- A 10-meter tall statue of the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA in Ukrainian) leader Roman Shukhevych was unveiled in Moscow’s Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin on Monday. According to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the new monument is just one of the many “asymmetrical measures” his government promised in response to the Polish government, which recently announced its intention to remove Soviet WWII memorials on Polish territory.

“The Polish Second Republic, which occupied Ukrainian territory prior to the war, oppressed its ethnic minorities,” Lavrov said at a press briefing in the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

“This monument shows our respect for a resistance leader who stood up to Polish chauvinism, the same way we are now standing up to Polish chauvinism today.”

However, critics say the move is controversial, pointing out that Roman Shukhevych served Nazi Germany’s military from 1941 till 1943, first in an army battalion known as “Nachtigal” and later in an Auxiliary Police battalion engaged in anti-partisan warfare in Belarus. Both units have been accused of committing atrocities against Jews and other civilians in occupied territory. In 1943 the UPA engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Poles from the region of Volyn. Shukhevych was nominally in command of the insurgent movement at the time, and the event has been a source of controversy between Poland and Ukraine in recent years.

roman

Roman Shukhevych, commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)

Lavrov responded to critics of the new monument by dismissing all accusations against Shukhevych and his men as “Soviet propaganda,” and alleging the existence of a decades-long international conspiracy to slander Roman Shukhevych and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, of which he was a member.

“I believe every people has a right to its own heroes,” Lavrov told reporters.

“Brutal times called for brutal measures. I won’t get into specifics of what those brutal measures were, but if anyone does they’re probably lying and repeating Soviet propaganda. Also what about Jozef Pilsudski, Michael Collins, or Menachem Begin? Were they angels? I don’t think so.”

Lavrov also dismissed the issue of Shukhevych’s collaboration with Nazi Germany by pointing out that the Soviet Union had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, which he called an alliance between the two states. When one reporter pointed out that unlike Shukhevych’s movement, the USSR had a history of opposing Nazi Germany with force prior to the pact and after the German invasion it went on to destroy the Third Reich, Lavrov said such details were “Ukrainophobic” and called the reporter a “sovok.”

Reactions in Ukraine have been noticeably sparse, although the move was greeted with great enthusiasm from the head of Ukraine’s Institute of National Memory, Volodymyr Viatrovych.

“This shows that Russia has finally broken with its Soviet past,” Viatrovych said.

“Russia has long insisted, like I do, that all Ukrainians idolize Shukhevych and the UPA. On that we were always in agreement, but until now the Russians had never given my- er…our heroes the respect they deserve.”

Viatrovych said that he was most pleased with the size of the monument, noting that Ukraine has nothing comparable. He also added that every attempt to memorialize Shukhevych and other Ukrainian nationalist leaders in Ukraine has typically been met with controversy and opposition. By contrast, the decision to erect a monument was made within a few days, by President Vladimir Putin’s personal decree. According to Viatrovych, this shows the Russian president’s system is far more efficient.

“I now see the wisdom and true leadership ability of Vladimir Putin, I recognize the superiority of the Russian World, and I will assist in any way that I can,” Viatrovych said.

When asked why he would embrace the nation that annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and started a war that has so far killed over 10,000 Ukrainian citizens, Viatrovych said such questions were “Ukrainophobic.”

So far the Polish Foreign Ministry has declined to comment on the new memorial. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov promised that his country’s retaliatory measures would continue until Poland halts its destruction of Soviet WWII memorials.

“This is only the beginning,” Lavrov said. “We’re already talking about renaming Tverskoy Boulevard after Stepan Bandera, and we might even name one of our upcoming metro stations after Roman Shukhevych as well. We’ve even got a monument to the Ukrainian Insurgent Navy planned for St. Petersburg. GLORY TO UKRAINE! GLORY TO THE HEROES!”

However, when Lavrov was asked if he felt any solidarity with authorities in Kyiv who recently proposed renaming a major street after Roman Shukhevych, he strongly condemned the move and said that Ukraine was under the control of “Nazis.”

Another day, another “realist”

What is it with all these Russia “realists” popping up everywhere? I’m sorry but I prefer my Kremlin apologetics open and honest as opposed to these supposedly moderate, level-headed types who assure us they only want both sides to get along, only to insist that the only way to achieve this is to give Russia whatever it wants with nothing in return.

The inspiration for today’s piece comes from this article published in Foreign Policy by Clinton Ehrlich, an individual claiming to be the only Westerner at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, known as MGIMO in Russian. For those who don’t know, MGIMO is a very elite institution in Russia. If you’re a Russian oligarch and you failed to get your kid into Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, etc., you’ve still got MGIMO. That being said, there is one major caveat. Even top officials in the Kremlin insist that Russia is surrounded by enemies, and that the United States is picking away all its potential allies. Accepting this common claim at face value, we might reasonably conclude that Russia’s training in international relations and diplomacy seriously sucks.

In the article, Ehrlich claims to give us an insider view of how the Russian elite view the US presidential election. There is nothing wrong with this; people should be aware of how Russians at different levels of society view the world and politics outside their country. The problem is that very early on in the article, Clinton forgets to report on Kremlin views and quickly starts peddling them from his own pocket. In the process, he demonstrates stunning ignorance of Russian politics and culture and advances nonsensical conspiracy theories sourced to an American expat pseudo-expert. Before proceeding I should point out that this morning an article about Mr. Ehrlich was published by Buzzfeed, which I will link to near the end of this post. Suffice it to say that once you read it, Ehrlich’s bait and switch routine in Foreign Policy suddenly makes a lot more sense. Having got that out of the way, onward to the article.

For me things started to get weird early on, in this passage:

“To Russian ears, Clinton seemed determined in her speech to provide this missing ingredient for bipolar enmity, painting Moscow as the vanguard for racism, intolerance, and misogyny around the globe.

The nation Clinton described was unrecognizable to its citizens. Anti-woman? Putin’s government provides working mothers with three years of subsidized family leave. Intolerant? The president personally attended the opening of Moscow’s great mosque. Racist? Putin often touts Russia’s ethnic diversity. To Russians, it appeared that Clinton was straining to fabricate a rationale for hostilities.”

Here the author made it very apparent that he is still quite unfamiliar with the particulars of Russian politics and culture. Starting with the family leave, it’s not subsidized for the full three years, assuming you want to take that much time. I could quibble about it more, but this is really a minor issue. Russia actually does beat the US hands-down in some women’s issues, such as reproductive rights for example, but on the other hand the government is infamous for ignoring domestic violence, a major killer of Russian women. Not only do some top officials actually deny the existence of domestic violence, but recently “family values” Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina proposed decriminalizing it, because beating your wife and kids is apparently a good family value or something. By contrast, a Russian Youtuber who photographed himself catching a Pokemon in a church (without disrupting any services) was recently facing a criminal charge that carried the threat of jail time (so far he’s under house arrest). Just for good measure we could also throw in former children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov standing up for polygamous marriage between a 17-year-old girl and a man old enough to be her father, and female genital mutilation in Dagestan (to their credit, the Duma appears to be drafting a bill to make this a criminal offense).

In truth, however, Russia is not really much more misogynistic than many industrialized nations, in fact I find some Western countries to be even more misogynistic in some ways, but it’s certainly not terribly progressive either. What gets me is his comments about intolerance and racism in Russia. Ehrlich “debunks” Hillary’s comments with isolated facts about Putin, yet he betrays a very curious ignorance about the culture and society that Putin has built in the past 16 years.

First there’s the matter of attending a mosque opening. Indeed, he did this. And for years now, state run media, which is closely in contact with the presidential administration, has put out a constant stream of anti-Muslim propaganda of the sorts you see from Western European far right parties. The narrative is as follows: “Look at the degenerate West? They’re so tolerant that they’re being overtaken by the Muslim horde from North Africa and the Middle East.” That Mr. Ehrlich has never encountered such views expressed either in the media or from ordinary citizens speaks volumes about his connection to Russian society.

On the matter of tolerance and intolerance, I’d urge Mr. Ehrlich to ask Russians what they think of tolerance as a value and see what they say. Tolerance in Russia is a dirty word. To them it means you want to let homosexuals teach your boy how to dress like a girl while an Arab refugee rapes your daughter. Where did people get this idea about tolerance? Who controls the education system, the state-run media that constantly puts out this message?

In case this still seems like some kind of unhappy coincidence, I remind the reader that the Putin regime has long had ties to far-right and neo-Nazi parties across Europe, such as Jobbik, Golden Dawn, Vlaams Belang, Front Nationale, etc. In the past the connections were more indirect, with state-sanctioned conferences being held in Russia. In recent years, however, there’s been more open cooperation between the Russian state and these parties. It’s worth noting that no Kremlin apologist I’ve seen has ever tried to deny these links. Indeed it seems many of them agree at least in part with the worldview of these neo-fascist organizations.

Indeed, Putin has from time to time stressed ethnic unity in Russia, but his administration has taken another route. It is no secret that the Kremlin has long used far-right nationalists as muscle to do its bidding. Occasionally, these groups have got out of hand, as in the case of BORN (Combat Organization of Russian Nationalists, more detailed link here). By the time of the protests in 2011-2012, many far-right nationalists had become soured on the Kremlin, and in particular its submissive posture toward Chechnya and its leader Ramzan Kadyrov. When the war in Ukraine started, however, many nationalists and neo-Nazis were happy to embrace the Kremlin’s cause and take out their frustrations on an approved target- Ukrainians. Putin can stress national unity in public all he wants, but in reality he presides over a society that normalizes far-right nationalism. Again, I can’t understand how a supposed researcher at such an institute could be so out of touch with Russian society.

Moving on from this, we get to a lot of claims regarding Hillary Clinton. Once again it seems he goes from reporting what Russians think, which is totally fine, to basically advancing their claims without challenge. Take a look at this, for example:

“Given the ongoing Russian operations, a “no-fly zone” is a polite euphemism for shooting down Russia’s planes unless it agrees to ground them. Clinton is aware of this fact. When asked in a debate whether she would shoot down Russian planes, she responded, “I do not think it would come to that.” In other words, if she backs Putin into a corner, she is confident he will flinch before the United States starts a shooting war with Russia.

That is a dubious assumption; the stakes are much higher for Moscow than they are for the White House. Syria has long been Russia’s strongest ally in the Middle East, hosting its only military installation outside the former Soviet Union. As relations with Turkey fray, the naval garrison at Tartus is of more strategic value than ever, because it enables Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to operate in the Mediterranean without transiting the Turkish Straits.”

For starters, he seems to forget that Donald Trump said he would shoot down Russian planes just for mostly harmless things like passive-aggressively buzzing US ships in the Black Sea. I think what a lot of people forget about Trump’s attitude toward Russia is that he does tacitly accept Russia as an enemy of the United States, but blames its actions on Obama’s weakness. He says “our enemies don’t respect us.” The implication here is that tough guy Trump will make Putin respect US authority by blasting his planes out of the sky and who know’s what else.

Then there’s the matter of “the stakes” for Moscow. True, they have a naval base in Tartus. I’m sure they must have made some improvements since 2015, but according to a real expert, Mark Galeotti, the “base” was historically more like a few docks and warehouses. As for transiting the Turkish straits, the base will have to be supplied one way or another. Syria, in peacetime, could obviously provide food, water, and maybe fuel, but not the necessary spare parts or munitions for modern Russian vessels. Without delving into the nuts and bolts, this is a really stupid reason to piss away Russia’s reserve fund and pensions. Assad cannot possibly survive this war without massive Russian and Iranian help. They’re basically betting on a losing horse and Russia’s squandering its wealth doing so. But this is going to come up again later, so stay tuned. For now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the article. This is the part where Ehrlich becomes the “realist.”

“Moscow prefers Trump not because it sees him as easily manipulated, but because his “America First” agenda coincides with its view of international relations. Russia seeks a return to classical international law, in which states negotiate with one another based on mutually understood self-interests untainted by ideology. To Moscow, only the predictability of realpolitik can provide the coherence and stability necessary for a durable peace.”

Oh that sounds so rational, so realist! But let’s break down what that really means with a little bullshit-to-English translation:

“Moscow wants to return to an outdated, imperialist mode of international relations where great powers divide up the world into spheres of influence and decide the fate of smaller nations without those nations’ consent. And oh yeah…Russia is a great power by the way.”

But if you think that’s a straw man, by all means let’s examine the boilerplate as is, starting with this “America First” agenda and “self-interests.”

When people say “America First,” it’s typically associated with American isolationism in the interwar period. It’s obvious why the Kremlin likes the idea of American isolationism, and it’s not because they like the idea of America focusing on its own problems instead of global ones, which happens to be the best argument in favor of such a policy. It has to do with this question of self-interests that he brings up.

What the “realists” won’t tell you, is that while America’s self-interests are supposedly domestic, thus necessitating an isolationist foreign policy, it’s perfectly okay by them if Russia’s “self-interests” happen to exist outside Russia’s borders. In this very article the author makes the case for Russia’s involvement in Syria, all to save a small military base so it can operate in the Mediterranean (to what end?). Is that truly in Russia’s self-interest? Looking at Russia’s ongoing economic decline, I think it’s fair to say that if anyone needs to look inward and focus its efforts at home, it’s Russia.

Another point about interests is who gets to decide what is in the best interests of the country? Who is the Kremlin to claim that intervention in Kosovo or the invasion of Iraq weren’t in the best interests of the US? Certainly American administrations apparently thought they were. Suppose for a moment the US agrees on a sphere of influence division of the world with Russia. Does that then make it right for the US to annex part or all of Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, or Canada? Would RT and Sputnik report on the annexation with dispassionate objectivity and remind the audience that these countries are, after all, in the American orbit? If the pro-Kremlin types object to such actions in America’s supposed national interests, they are simply hypocrites. If they would grant the United States such leeway, they are simply horrible, immoral people.

Now let’s tackle the matter of realpolitik and its alleged stability and predictability. Contrary to common belief, the Kremlin is far more inclined toward the Russian Empire rather than the Soviet Union, insofar as ideology even matters to a gang of thieves. Now looking at 19th and early 20th century geopolitics, what do we see in terms of predictability and stability? OH NO! GOD NO! WHAT IS THAT?! 

 

Yep, old-school realpolitik led to a bloody world war which would leave four empires, i.e. great powers, in ruins. Can you feel that stability? And as for predictability well, the catalyst was a Bosnian Serb shooting a couple of people.

100_2496

Sure, your .45 ACP’s got the stopping power to drop one target, but a few shots from one of these little babies killed 17 million people.

Now some may say that what Russia is really seeking is something akin to the post-Yalta, Cold War world, which is often portrayed as being more stable than what we have seen post-1989. At face value it might appear that the world has become a more unstable, dangerous place. The breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia certainly did lead to ethnic conflict and the proliferation of weapons that would find their way into the hands of insurgents around the globe. The problem is, however, that Cold War predictability and stability is largely a myth.

For one thing, people tend to have a really superficial understanding of the Cold War; they see it as a conflict between two superpowers, the United States on one side and the Soviet Union on the other. In reality it started that way but then rapidly became much more complicated. You had the US and its allies, you had the Soviet Union and its camp, then you had Red China, the non-aligned movement, you had Albania eventually declaring that every side could go eat a bag of dicks as far as it was concerned, and near the end you had the rise of Islamic fundamentalism which believed that after defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan it could go on to defeat the United States and its allies.

Just to give you an idea of how insane this period was, look at the conflict between the People’s Republic of Vietnam (Soviet-aligned) and Democratic Kampuchea (China-aligned, “democratic” results may vary considerably). Vietnam responded to Khmer Rouge incursions with an invasion that drove that organization from power. China wasn’t too happy with this and thus backed the Khmer Rouge, which by this point had reverted back to a guerrilla insurgent movement. China invaded Vietnam in 1979 and promptly got its ass kicked, mostly by home guard forces. Meanwhile, the US got interested in supporting the insurgency against the Vietnam-backed puppet government in Phnom Penh, leading to what I’ve once seen termed as “Vietnam’s Vietnam.” To this day, there are still credible allegations that US support via Thailand reached the Khmer Rouge guerrillas who were fighting against the Vietnamese and their allies in Cambodia. Simpler times, right?

If you’d like to see a more thorough debunking of Cold War stability I recommend watching this lecture, but for now we must move on. Ehrlich really shows his realist colors in this next passage:

“For example, the situation on the ground demonstrates that Crimea has, in fact, become part of Russia. Offering to officially recognize that fact is the most powerful bargaining chip the next president can play in future negotiations with Russia. Yet Clinton has castigated Trump for so much as putting the option on the table. For ideological reasons, she prefers to pretend that Crimea will someday be returned to Ukraine — even as Moscow builds a $4 billion bridge connecting the peninsula to the Russian mainland.”

So recognition of the Crimean annexation is a “bargaining chip,” according to Ehrlich. Very well then, if we’re going to hand out parts of other countries without their consent, please tell us what we’re supposed to bargain for. This is the most irritating thing about these “realists.” They act like they’re all about finding common ground and negotiating and yet in the end it always ends up with one side giving Russia whatever it wants with no promise of anything in return. President Trump recognizes the Crimea as part of Russia and the Russians then…fill in the blank. Please.

They can’t even articulate what Russia’s supposed to concede to the West. I don’t blame them- what can Russia possibly offer? In their invasion of Ukraine they broke two international agreements, the Budapest Memorandum and the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty. Hell we could throw in the Helsinki Accords just for good measure. So assuming we do the immoral thing and hand a piece of a country to another without so much as consulting that country, what do we get in return? Will they leave the Donbas and promise not to violate Ukrainian territorial integrity again? They already made that promise twice and look what happened. As an aside, do you see why I’m a bit skeptical of MGIMO’s international relations education?

I might also ask why he doesn’t apply the same logic the other way. Hillary’s supposedly being ideologically motivated into thinking that Crimea will one day be returned to Ukraine? Is the Kremlin not being ideologically motivated when they harbor the belief that Kosovo will some day be returned to Serbia? Quite hilariously, the Russian government used Kosovo’s independence to justify the Crimean annexation, which implicitly argues that both are not in accordance with international law. I wonder if whoever formulated that argument went to the prestigious MGIMO. In fact I wonder if MGIMO actually has a course in whataboutism.

But why should we stop at recognizing the Crimean annexation? Obviously Turkey is an important ally on both sides in the Syrian conflict. Perhaps it is time to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. After all, this state came into being because an actual coup put an actual right-wing junta in charge, which then overthrew the legitimate Cypriot government and threatened Turkish Cypriots. Sound familiar? Oh no wait, I forgot we’re only supposed to hand Russia everything the Kremlin wants on a silver platter. We’re not supposed to be consistent or anything. Besides, Russian businessmen love to hide money in government-controlled Cyprus and recognizing the TRNC might jeopardize that.

Moving on, we find a little confusion as to America’s best interests.

“Moscow believes that Crimea and other major points of bipolar tension will evaporate if America simply elects a leader who will pursue the nation’s best interest, from supporting Assad against the Islamic State to shrinking NATO by ejecting free riders. Russia respects Trump for taking these realist positions on his own initiative, even though they were not politically expedient.”

Here the author substitutes the Kremlin’s best interests for those of the United States. While the US government’s improvised, Mickey Mouse approach to Syria is by no means in America’s best interest, neither is supporting Assad, which is also not in Russia’s best interests. One thing that’s important to understand about pro-Kremlin Russians is that they don’t give a shit about what is in your country’s best interests. They’re not hoping that a future American government will bring paid maternity leave, raise the minimum wage, institute universal healthcare, or make higher education free or mostly-subsidized. If a US administration ever accomplished even half of that, the Kremlin propaganda machine would struggle to find more alienated Americans to put on the airwaves and tell their own people how terrible it is to live in America.

And on the topic of those NATO “free riders,” let’s get down to the truth about why Trump says pro-Russian talking points about NATO and the Crimea. Are you ready to hear the secret? He’s a fucking idiot, that’s why. Look at how he answers those questions about fulfilling our obligations to Baltic NATO members or recognizing the Crimea and you can clearly see this is a man who has never considered these issues struggling to come up with an answer. Beyond that, he says the “pro-Russian” answer because if he knows anything at all, he knows such answers sound “anti-establishment,” and that’s how he’s trying to portray himself.

When it comes to NATO “free-riders,” it’s helpful to keep a few things in mind. First, NATO’s Article 5 was actually triggered due to 9/11. In fact that’s the only time it’s ever been triggered. NATO allies could have played semantics and claimed that Al Qaeda wasn’t a state, but they didn’t. What is more, even smaller member states like Estonia and the Czech Republic have sent contingents to Afghanistan– Albania even sent a special forces unit that participated in combat alongside US forces. Many of these states know that they’re far from being top priority targets for Afghan-trained terrorists, yet they put themselves in harms way to fulfill their NATO obligations.

While it is true that prior to 2014 many NATO states were spending far less than the 2% of GDP encouraged by NATO leaders, this doesn’t mean the US was picking up the tab. In fact, the pre-2014, really pre-2015 situation was exactly what the Kremlin wanted. The US was rapidly decreasing its presence in Europe, countries weren’t spending 2% of their GDP on NATO-related defense, and Ukraine, Sweden, and Finland were officially neutral countries. Then something happened, and by 2015 the US is timidly moving combat-ready forces into Europe, Ukraine cancelled its non-bloc status after roughly eight months of war, and Sweden and Finland seriously contemplate joining NATO. Just more proof that the ultimate advocate for NATO expansion is in fact the ultimate neocon- Vladimir Putin.

Near the end of the article it seems that Ehrlich totally forgot he was pretending to just report the Russian POV and pretty much starts giving the talking points directly:

“Clinton also has financial ties to George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations are considered the foremost threat to Russia’s internal stability, based on their alleged involvement in Eastern Europe’s prior “Color Revolutions.”

Here’s a tip: If your foremost threat is George Soros and his NGO’s, you’re not a superpower, great power, or whatever. You’re a goddamned basketcase. What is more, this kind of negates all the Kremlin’s claims about a conventional threat from NATO. You can’t claim that NATO is going to invade your territory, and then when people point out ridiculous this is given NATO deployments, switch over to claiming they’re going to use protest movements to overthrow your government. Moreover, you can’t claim to be a superpower when you’re absolutely terrified of NGO’s, including those who have no ties to Soros and may not be involved with political causes.

Are you ready to see Ehrlich really slip up? Check this out:

“Russia’s security apparatus is certain that Soros aspires to overthrow Putin’s government using the same methods that felled President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine: covertly orchestrated mass protests concealing armed provocateurs. The Kremlin’s only question is whether Clinton is reckless enough to back those plans.”

On one part he is telling the truth- there are people in Russia’s security apparatus who believe that. But his explanation of Euromaidan displays a hilarious level of ignorance. Where could he have got such an idea that Euromaidan began with “covertly orchestrated mass protests concealing armed provocateurs?” Luckily he provides a link…to an ad for a book by wunderkind insta-expert Andrew Korybko. After a short time in Moscow, Korybko’s ability to regurgitate Kremlin and Eurasianist talking points as a Westerner has led to a meteoric rise in Kremlin-linked think tanks, where he’s now touted as an expert in “color revolutions.”

Obviously I don’t have time to read Korybko’s doorstop, which is offered for the low low price of $0.00,  but thankfully the description does provide a little detail on Korybko’s version of the events surrounding Euromaidan in Ukraine. Guess what sources he relies on. Interviews with Maidan participants and organizers? Leaked internal documents from the US government or NGOs? Nope. According to the description it was:

“In the case of EuroMaidan, Andrew cites Western news sources such as Newsweek magazine, the Guardian, and Reuters in reminding everyone that in the days immediately prior to the coup’s successful completion, Western Ukraine was in full-scale rebellion against the central government and the stage was set for an Unconventional Syrian-esque War in the heart of Eastern Europe. Had it not been for the sudden overthrow of President Yanukovich, the US was prepared to take the country down the path of the Syrian scenario, which would have been its second full-fledged application of Hybrid War.”

Whoa, hold on there, Andrew! Western mainstream news sources? I thought we couldn’t trust those! I guess we can when they appear to say what you want. In fairness to Korybko’s, several Western media outlets did erroneously report that Western Ukrainian cities were threatening to break away from the center near the end of Maidan. Here’s a story about it from The Guardian. The problem is that these were not in fact declarations of independence (comparable to the uprising in Donetsk and Luhansk), but rather local governments saying they would not carry out orders of a government they no longer saw as legitimate after things got out of hand and dozen of people had been killed. They were certainly not in “full-scale rebellion.” I myself have seen Ukrainians expressing utter puzzlement on seeing such reporting. And if you don’t believe that the Western media could get a story so wrong, just look at the map they provide in the article and tell me if you notice anything unusual:

ukrainemap

If it just had something about Bandera being a “controversial figure,” I’d have gotten “Western media failures in Ukraine coverage” bingo.

 

And do I really have to point out that Yanukovych wasn’t “overthrown” on 22 February, but rather he left on his own accord. Even if he had seriously feared for his life, it makes little sense that he ultimately fled to Russia instead of holding out in one of his strongholds like Donetsk or the Crimea.

While the “political analysts” and “geopolitical experts”haven’t managed to provide any concrete evidence of a planned coup in Ukraine since 2014, we do have hard evidence that the Yanukovych government financed the far right-wing Svoboda party to the tune of $200,000, with a smaller amount being earmarked for one of Ukraine’s oldest nationalist organizations the UNA-UNSO. That might sound shocking outside of Ukraine, but Ukrainians themselves have long suspected ties between Yanukovych and far-right nationalist organizations, which helped scare votes toward his Party of Regions. And when we consider that Maidan started over Yanukovych suspending the signing of an EU trade agreement that was his own project, the real culprit of the Maidan “coup” becomes clear. It was Yanukovych!

I’ve dealt with Korybko’s work in the past, but if you need any reason to question his expertise in “color revolutions,” take a look at his articles in response to last year’s Electro-Yerevan in Armenia. Basically people were upset about a large hike in electricity rates, and then later an initially brutal reaction to the protests by police. Naturally, pro-Kremlin pundits, expert Korybko included, rushed to declare the protest movement a US-backed Maidan-like color revolution, because the idea that people might willingly protest their government’s actions on their own is simply ridiculous…except Occupy Wall Street of course.

Actual protesters were offended by the Maidan comparisons, as they saw there movement as nothing of the sort, but that didn’t bother Korybko, who went right along calling it an attempted color revolution. Luckily for Armenia, the government responded rather competently and a settlement was arranged that saw the end of the protests. I guess the State Department agents and Soros must have forgot to keep paying those protesters or something. Later on Korybko has happily admitted this attempted color revolution failed, but he doesn’t seem to provide any good explanation as to why. It certainly isn’t because the Armenian government cracked down harder. As it turns out, Korybko also saw an attempted color revolution in Armenia once again, in this year. This ought to tell you how useful these “color revolution experts” really are. They use the flimsy, Texas Sharpshooter technique to “connect the dots” without ever actually providing any hard evidence of a true coup d’etat. If the “revolution” is successful, it turns out Soros and the State Department perfectly executed everything, just like Euromaidan. If it fizzles like in Armenia or Belarus, the authorities somehow managed to defeat the evil Western grandmasters. That Ehrlich would refer to this source and advance that claim is very telling.

The article ends on an awkward note in this paragraph:

“That fear was heightened when Clinton surrogate Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader, recently accused Putin of attempting to rig the U.S. election through cyberattacks. That is a grave allegation — the very kind of thing a President Clinton might repeat to justify war with Russia.”

There have been numerous cyber-attack allegations against not only Russia, but China in the past decade or so. If the “neocons” didn’t go to war then, they won’t do it now. Once again, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people Ehrlich was talking to seriously believe this, but he makes no attempt to challenge or question it. This technique reminds me of that used by anti-Putin blogger Paul Goble, the favorite low-hanging fruit for the Western Putin fanboy. Goble says he’s just letting his source “speak for themselves,” but there’s no fact-checking, challenging, or questioning. It’s usually some obscure academic predicting immanent civil war or economic collapse for Russia.

As I said in the beginning, a recent Buzzfeed article gives us a little more information about the author, and it was indeed enlightening. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like a familiar story:

“Ehrlich described an unusual path, laced with descriptions of grandeur, that brought him to Moscow. The son of one of California’s top lawyers, he dropped out of high school and did not go to college. Instead, he says, he landed an internship at the age of 16 at the Claremont Institute working on a project on missile defense.”

That sounds a bit suspicious at face value, but with a father who’s apparently a top California lawyer, it’s not entirely unbelievable.

But I think the real answer lies here:

“Through the years he’s been to Moscow several times, he says, but it’s all been self-funded and more in the pursuit of the women he’d come in contact with while attempting to practice his Russian. “I have multiple exes who are Russian and I came to Moscow in March [2015] to visit a girl. A lot of what you see on my Facebook is related to my search for a soulmate, not anything policy related,” he said by Facebook Messenger.”

Look, Clinton, if you just want to date Russian girls, that’s fine. I don’t see why you have to become a rabid supporter of the regime in the process. If you think that impresses Russian women I can see why you haven’t found that soulmate yet.

When I read something like this, I wonder what would happen if instead of Russia he’d gone to Ukraine instead. Maybe Mr. Erlich would be one of those Western Warriors for Ukraine, accusing everyone who disagrees with him of being a paid Russian troll, insisting that Bandera did nothing wrong, and explaining how we other Westerners who “don’t get” Ukraine should stop wagging our hypocritical fingers at Kyiv and appreciate how Ukraine died multiple times for our sins. In other words, he could have been this guy.

In any case this also helps explain why he seems to lack a lot of knowledge on Russian politics and culture. When you’re only talking to potential dates, these things don’t often come up. Most Russians actually hate talking about politics.

And of course like all realists, he insists that he’s not a Putin supporter:

“Ehrlich denies that he was prompted to write the piece by foreign ministry officials, listing several ways where he disagrees with the Russian government. “One argument in defense of Crimea is idea of self-determination, and I think both Moscow and Washington are hypocritical,” he said, pointing to Russia’s brutal quelling of Chechen independence and the US refusing to let the South secede during the Civil War.”

This is one of the weirdest comparisons I’ve ever seen. The United States government made the case that states did not have the right of secession, and while people have disputed this the case is not only pretty solid, but the United States was undeniably better off for preserving the Union. By contrast, Chechnya didn’t just declare independence- Yeltsin had told local leaders to “take as much sovereignty as you like.” Chechnya was not the only former-ASSR to take him up on that offer. The other, Tatarstan, eventually gave up on independence.

In any case, Clinton, if you’re reading this, be careful about bringing up Chechen independence in the future, because whereas America is home to a large number of openly neo-Confederate secessionists who are allowed to publish and disseminate their materials, in Russia public calls for independence or even more autonomy for regions is actually  a criminal offense.

When it comes to the accusation that Ehrlich is some kind of paid propagandist or “active measures” as the diligent “information warriors” love to call it, I’m sorry but my opinion is no. This is a much more mundane, familiar story. Young man feels alienated, down on his luck, goes to Russia and is suddenly the center of attention. These days if you’re willing to publicly regurgitate Kremlin talking points and spend time denigrating the US you will be handsomely rewarded. It can get you on TV or a position in some state-sponsored think tank. This generally doesn’t happen on the “other side.” Contrary to what some readers might think, I don’t have think tanks like Legatum or the Atlantic Council filling up my inbox and requesting articles or lectures. Ditto for those shadowy Soros NGOs. Western think tanks and NGOs value connections and more importantly, academic credentials, and besides that, I’m not exactly “on message.”

The Kremlin’s practice of handing out titles and positions like candy to any foreigner who will spread its message has had a lot of success. A lot of true believers who have come to Moscow in recent years don’t realize that all this talk about opposing intervention, global stability, or alternatives to globalization is nothing but bullshit to cover up the ugly truth- Russia is run by thieving parasites who want to hoard their wealth in the West and surround themselves with Western luxury without ever being held accountable to their people. Putin isn’t a James Bond villain with some personal ideology and a vision of an ideal world. He’s Hans Gruber from Die Hard, a thief who carries out his heist by posing as an ideologically-driven terrorist. You can’t negotiate with him because he’s got nothing to offer.

Ehrlich, at least thus far, isn’t really a malicious propagandist in my opinion. He just came in late in the film and doesn’t know the backstory as I alluded to above. If my experiences had been slightly different, if I hadn’t met certain people, you might see me hosting my own show on RT right now. I hope they’d pay me at least as much as they do Peter Lavelle.

Of course Ehrlich has his own statement about accusations that he is a propagandist:

“I think part of the problem is this idea of propaganda,” he said. “If I were Russian and I was taking positions that lined up with official positions of the US that would be propaganda in Russia. If I express my sincere convictions and that lines up with things Moscow believes, I’m a propagandist.”

I find that line about “sincere convictions” rather hypocritical after what he said about Maidan. See in the minds of people like his source Korybko, people involved in protests the Kremlin doesn’t like don’t have sincere convictions. They’re just being paid or drugged, yes drugged, by the US State Department. Rational people are supposed to tolerate their government being totally corrupt or hiking up fees. I have no doubt that Mr. Ehrlich sincerely believes what he’s saying, but I wish he’d extend the same courtesy to protesters in Ukraine or Russian opposition supporters.

And on that note, I’m very sorry but it doesn’t follow that someone taking positions that happen to line up with those of a government are engaging in propaganda. One very good argument against Russian involvement in Syria, for example, is that it is a colossal waste of money that will ultimately fail to benefit Russia. This isn’t a US government position; I’m not even sure the US government even knows what it wants in Syria. Yet expressing open opposition to the Kremlin’s activities in Russia, even on those grounds, is good enough to get you labeled a traitor or a supporter of terrorists.

The statement is also rather dishonest because as I pointed out before, in the Foreign Policy article it is implied that he’s only reporting what the Kremlin believes. Now he admits that his own “sincere convictions” line up with Moscow’s talking points? That does kind of make you a propagandist, if only an unwitting one.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Ehrlich will be a bit more skeptical towards his new friends, who are always happy to praise Western “dissidents” while declaring their own to be traitors and foreign agents. They’ll pay you, they’ll give you titles and instant credentials, and they’ll put you on the air. Hell, I myself have had two major networks trying to interview me just because I wrote about Western stereotypes about Russians. But what you need to understand is that you’ll never be one of them. These people don’t believe that dissent is healthy for a country. Your country is your team and you support it unquestioningly, at least in public. Otherwise you’re a traitor. You may be a useful traitor, but a traitor nonetheless, and such people have no respect for traitors.

UPDATE: A reader took a screen cap of Clinton Erlich’s Linkedin profile and there are some very unusual discrepancies. For example, he’s 26 now, so this means he would have been a “missile defense researcher” when he was about 16. Then he’s a “debate coach” for two years and a “national champion.” That sounds like a high school or college activity yet he claims he dropped out of high school and never went to college. Then he becomes the “senior fellow/director of post-Soviet studies at something called the Hegemonic Affairs Institute at the young age of about 18, again with no high school or college diploma. And what about the Hegemonic Affairs Institute? A Google research reveals nothing whatsoever. This is precisely why I’m convinced this guy isn’t some kind of Russian agent. An agent would have a much better cover story.

Clinton, if you’re reading this, give it up. Nobody’s buying. You can still chase your soulmate in Russia without being a Putin tool.

UPDATE: Russian security expert Mark Galeotti, who has actually taught at MGIMO, has apparently weighed in on this topic, delivering what by now can best be described as a coup de grace:

tweets

 

UPDATE: Clinton has contacted me and wanted to explain some of the discrepancies in his background. He was able to name past employers at the Claremont Institute and other places he claimed to work for (such as the internship regarding missile defense). He said that he was coaching the debate team at his former high school. As for the Hegemonic Affairs Institute, he says he founded it when 17 or 18 as a sort of “poor man’s version of the Council on Foreign Relations.” I did some checking and Hegemonic Affairs was registered as an LLC back in 2007, but unfortunately it has no website and I haven’t managed to find any published works from the institute. He also said that a rebuttal to Sam Harris’ moral theory, along with Harris’ response, can be found in the appendix of the print version of Harris’ book Lying.

Ehrlich explains that his position is in the faculty of international law at MGIMO and his research is in regards to the Status-6 torpedo. He insists that he is the only Westerner with the title of researcher at the institute, but also says he did not claim to be the only Westerner “embedded” there, and blames Buzzfeed for this misunderstanding. He also says that the story of how he ended up at MGIMO will be the subject of an upcoming NBC prime time news special, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Obviously questions may remain, but Clinton has made a sincere effort to try to clear things up. I’ve certainly encountered Westerners with stranger work histories in Moscow.

Anyway, I provided this update because I hope this will remove the focus from the person and put it back on the arguments themselves.

 

 

How Kremlin propaganda (doesn’t) work

Many readers no doubt remember the massive volcano of buttrage that erupted in Russia after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian Su24 that had allegedly violated Turkey’s airspace (this turned out to be highly specious). Almost immediately thereafter, Russia’s consumer watchdogs suddenly “discovered” contamination in Turkish chicken imports. Russia’s media made even more shocking “discoveries.” For example, they suddenly found out that the Turkish government had been collaborating with ISIS, something that had been well-known in many circles for at least a year, including December of 2014 when Putin visited Turkey and announced the construction of a new gas pipeline (which promptly fell flat). Barely a month after the shoot-down Sputnik News “discovered” that there were at least 100 Turkish mercenaries fighting on the Ukrainian side in the Donbas. Their source? The ever trustworthy “Donetsk People’s Republic” press secretary Basurin, whose word is apparently good enough for Sputnik.

Among the many passive-aggressive means used to get revenge on Turkey was a ban on package tours to the country. For those who don’t know, along with Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, Turkey has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations for Russians, so much so that one resort in Antalya actually as a mock-up of St. Basil’s Cathedral next to its swimming pool. In better times, such package tours were widely accessible. After a recent reconciliation of sorts between Russian fun-size dictator Putin and Turkish litigious dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the ban on package tours to Turkey was lifted.

Of course the Russian public wasn’t going to buy into this. They would not soon forget Turkey’s “stab in the back,” the latest in a series of slights and crimes dating back centuries. No, Russia’s public doesn’t trade national pride and patriotism for a cheap package tour. That’s why the bulk of Russia’s tourists chose to visit the Crimea instead…

Just kidding! Three days after the ban on Turkish package tours was been lifted, Russians made Turkey the number one Russian tourist destination.  Sales are reported to have started immediately after Putin approved the lifting of the ban. I’m sure the Turkish tourism industry is happy to take Russian money, but on the flip side it means they’ll once again have to deal with more of this:

If you don’t speak Russian, well, let’s just say the general tone of the conversation was not good.

Back to the topic at hand, I noticed some fellow writers on Twitter seemed a bit perplexed by the 180 on Turkey. One of them considered it a tribute to the Russian state media that it can apparently make people who previously loved Turkey hate it, then forgive it and fork over their money to the Turks by the wheelbarrow. While acknowledging that there is indeed a lesson about Russian media efficacy here, I must respectfully disagree. It’s not that the media manipulated Russians into thinking one way and then another, but rather Russians never fully bought into the anti-Turkish hate to begin with, or at least not enough to actually modify their behavior accordingly. That is to say that had there been no ban on Turkish package tours this whole time, Russian tourists would probably have continued to visit the country without any noticeable changes. This, in spite of what many of them might say about Turkey when asked about politics.

Supposedly a holdover from the Soviet era, many Russians have mastered the art of saying one thing and doing another. For example, you say you are a patriot and then use your state position to skim off wealth for yourself, which you then turn around and hand over to Western corporations or real estate agents. Or if you’re an ordinary person, it might mean cursing Turkey in public while taking your entire family there on a package tour. Personally I don’t buy into this being an exclusively Russian trait, but it’s just that some folks here seem to have refined it into an art form.

Another thing to consider is that when you see public outpourings of rage against a certain country or group, the participants are often paid and the event is organized by someone with ties to the state. If you’re reading Russian-language commentary on social media, there’s a chance you could be reading the words of a troll farm worker. You can certainly hear many of the media’s talking points regurgitated by people on the street, but it’s typically not as widespread as you might think it is if you were looking at the internet. The fact is that most Russians actually don’t care about politics at all. I doubt any were totally unfazed by the destruction of a Russian jet and the killing of one of its pilots, but few get upset enough to deny themselves one of the few pleasures left to many Russians today.

So when considering the role of the media in Russian society, while it certainly is true that propaganda shapes politics and public opinion, if the regime wants action from anybody it needs to pay. More importantly, one shouldn’t assume that Russians actually believe the kind of nonsense their TV puts out. If anything it’s the opposite- they don’t believe any media at all. Sometimes you’ll hear Russian media figures tacitly admit to making propaganda, but then they’ll say the “Western media” does it too. Only those Russians who can access that foreign media are able to dispute that. Overall, “you can’t really know what’s true” isn’t a great slogan to mobilize people to action, but it certainly works when you want to keep people confused, cynical, and generally non-trusting towards each other.

 

 

BREAKING: Batman fights drug dealers in Moscow suburb!

I don’t normally do breaking news here but what I have just learned is unprecedented. Prepare to witness the greatest thing in 21st century Russian history. This may very well be the salvation of Russia. Today he fights minor criminals on the streets. Tomorrow he may go after the criminals in the Kremlin. He is vengeance. He is the night. He is…BATMAN! 

No I’m serious. There’s a guy beating up drug dealers in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and he’s dressed as Batman. Here’s an excerpt from Meduza:

“Law enforcement officers told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that, earlier this month, a taxi driver in the Khimki area witnessed a man dressed as Batman exit a building that later proved to be a drug den. The taxi driver says the Batman threw some kind of fire bomb at the ground and then disappeared into the shadows (see the video below). Police officers soon arrived, entered the building, and soon walked out escorting two men in handcuffs.”

He even uses smoke bombs, as you can see in the video:

 

This is simply awesome. In fact, on this occasion it might be good to talk about Batman’s relations with Russia. First of all, Batman in Russia is approximated as Бэтмен, which would sound something like “betmen” in  English. This is interesting because the actual word for “bat” in Russian is летучая мышь (lyetuchaya mysh’), meaning literally “flying mouse.” Obviously they went with “Betmen” because it sounds better than saying “Flying Mouse Man” in Russian, whereas Spider-Man is known as Человек-паук (Chelovek pauk) or “Man spider.”

The prospects of a real Russian Batman are quite interesting indeed. After all, in the past few years the kind of crime once associated with Russia’s “Wild 90’s” has started to rear its ugly head once again. Not only that, Russia has a perfect rogue’s gallery of supervillains for Batman to battle on a regular basis. Here’s a few I just thought of off the top of my head:

Mr. Big: His nickname being a subtle joke about his tiny stature, Mr. Big is the head of the Kremlin Kriminal Krew (KKK). His skills in judo more than make up for his lack of social skills and generally bizarre demeanor. Over the years Mr. Big has become more and more disconnected from material reality, blaming all his problems on gremlins he calls “foreign agents.” Often unable to appear in public for unknown reasons, Mr. Big often prefers to speak through his press secretary Dmitry “The Mustache” Peskov.

The Joker: Originally a TV host named Dmitry  Kiselyov, working for Putin’s regime caused him to undergo a psychotic breakdown. Now he is obsessed with fighting what he calls an “information war,” and to that end every week he assaults Russia’s television audiences with lies so ridiculously hilarious they can actually cause rational people to laugh themselves to death.

The Rotenberg Gang: Two brothers, two partners in crime. Thanks to their relationship with the biggest crime boss in Russia, these two oligarchs are able to rob the whole country blind without jimmying open a single door or pulling a gun.

Mesmerizer: The secret alter-ego of ex-railroad magnate Vladimir Yakunin, the Mesmerizer can stun and totally disable people by lecturing them about convoluted Western conspiracies against Russia.

Ms. Two-Face: The Joker’s female sidekick with a passion for culinary arts and whataboutery. She runs Russia’s foreign language media empire with the help of her gang of ludicrously overpaid expats. Flips a coin to decide whether to claim her TV channel is “no different from Western networks” or “more objective than the mainstream media.” Her only weaknesses are accurate TV ratings reports and financial accountability.

The Worst Person in the World: Born Pavel Astakhov, The Worst Person in the World AKA Captain Cocksplat defends domestic abusers, condemns disabled orphans to woefully underfunded facilities rife with abuse and exploitation, and defends polygamous marriage of teenage girls to middle-aged men.

The Mountain Wolf: The only man in Russia that strikes fear into the heart of Mr. Big. So much fear, in fact, that Mr. Big routinely pays the Wolf millions of dollars from the state budget. The Mountain Wolf is a flamboyant villain, sporting gold-plated pistols, flashy cars, and an incredibly expensive cat.

Gummy Bear: By day he’s mild mannered Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. By night he…sleeps. Sometimes he plays badminton. He likes his iPhone.

As you can clearly see just from this preliminary brainstorming session, Russian Batman will have his hands full with these and dozens of other villains who belong in Arkham Asylum, or failing that, the bottom of an abandoned mine somewhere near Vorkuta.

I’m sorry but I just can’t go on writing anymore- this is simply too awesome.

Russian Batman. He’s the hero Russia needs.