Tag Archives: Russia

Russian Coast Guard Officer Says Ukrainian Sailor ‘Was Reaching for His Waistband’

TAGANROG- The commander of the Russian coast guard vessel that was involved in the 25 November attack on three Ukrainian naval ships in international waters told reporters that he had to ram one of the Ukrainian vessels because he observed “threatening behavior” from one of its crew.

“As we approached the Ukrainian vessel, which to my mind looked suspiciously out of place at that hour, I suddenly saw one of the Ukrainian sailors on deck appeared to be reaching for his waistband,” the Russian officer said.

At that point, he said he “feared for his life” and gave the order to ram the ship, which led to the subsequent attack on all three Ukrainian vessels and their capture along with their crews.

Russian military expert Gregory Sellers explained what he believes is the reasoning behind this new narrative.

“You have to understand that the Kremlin, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the state media channels- they all watch us and design their tactics accordingly based on what looks like it works over here.”

According to Sellers, Russian authorities may have started appropriating the language and defensive strategies of American police departments after shootings involving unarmed civilians.

“They look at American society and they see how police seem to routinely get away with murder by publicly claiming to be cowards who demand total obedience and deference at all times or else they will respond with deadly force,” Sellers said.

“If police officers in the US can get away with fatally shooting an unarmed black man talking on his phone while on his own property, they assume they could get away with using lethal force against Ukrainian ships in international waters.”

There has been some evidence that the approach may be convincing to some. Hours after the Russian coast guard officer gave his explanation of the event, some NATO officials and diplomats seemed to rethink their earlier condemnations and give the Russians the benefit of the doubt.

“If the Ukrainian sailors on the tugboat had just done what the Russians told them, none of this would have happened,” said Colonel Kurt Reinhard, a German representative to NATO.

“Let’s face it, these coast guard sailors have to make split-second life-or-death decisions on a daily basis,” said Maria Corelli, an Italian Member of the European Parliament.

“Let’s not forget the Russian boats were also damaged in the attack,” said one State Department spokesperson. “Boats damage each other all the time. Don’t all watercraft matter?”

“The media never talks about all the Ukrainian-on-Ukrainian violence,” said a Dutch diplomat.

After the Russian officer’s report was published, Russia’s Investigative Committee examined the account as well as videos of the incident, and concluded that the captain had acted appropriately and had not committed any infractions.

“All available evidence conclusively proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Captain (NAME REDACTED) acted in full compliance with all relevant regulations and only resorted to force after observing a credible threat which made him reasonably fear for his own life and that of his crew,” the final report reads.

“The Ukrainian crew failed to promptly comply with instructions and one of them made a hostile movement by lowering his hand to his waist, leading Captain (NAME REDACTED) to believe that the Ukrainian was potentially reaching for a weapon.”

The captain and his crew have already been recommended to receive state rewards for their actions that day.

 

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Anarchism and the Military: A Wake-Up Call

So I saw something that never ceases to drive me up the wall when I hear anarchists talking about it, despite how much more sympathetic I have grown to anarchism over the past few years. This rant, which I’ve managed to suppress for many years, was provoked by a Youtube video by an anarchist whose identity I will conceal because I like a lot of their other work. In fact, I like their work more than most of the other Youtube anarchists because unlike them, this individual doesn’t seem to think citing Homage to Catalonia is such a great source to “prove” that anarcho-syndicalism can work. But they touched on a topic that anarchists have often expounded on with zero practical knowledge or expertise, and it’s one of those core issues that any revolution is going to have to solve if its advocates want to get beyond bike co-ops and squatting.

First, a little context. The individual in question was explaining one of the basic concepts of anarchism, the idea of abolishing unjustified hierarchy. For those who aren’t aware, this concept means that if some form of authority can’t be justified by providing some social benefit, it should be abolished or at least severely curtailed. Now the author brings up a common objection, namely how such a community would defend itself without a disciplined, standing army. And here, dear readers, is where we find ourselves face to face with one of anarchism’s biggest flaws.

In the past, when I would ask anarchists about this topic, their answer was simply “guerrilla warfare!” This they would back up by pointing out examples such as the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, the Afghan-Soviet War, and the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this case, the author brings up Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, pointing out that while they are obviously horrible from an ideological point of view, their ongoing existence proves the efficacy of decentralized irregular forces holding off highly advanced military forces. Okay, now that I’ve articulated that I need to take a pause…

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This is a very, very bad idea that anarchism must do away with if it is ever to have any practical success in the modern world. Where do I even begin? Well if we start with pretty much every example anarchists give of successful guerrilla warfare, and contrary to common belief there are more failed insurgencies than successful ones even in the heyday of the guerrilla in the post-WWII 20th century, none of them were won by forces emulating anything remotely resembling anarchist principles. Vietnam is a really obvious example, and I should also point out that the idea of Vietnam as an insurgency is somewhat mistaken. As one author more accurately described it, it was more like a “low-intensity conventional conflict.” The popular notion of the war was that it was fought mainly by peasants in “black pyjamas” who tended the rice paddies during the day and took up arms at night. This, to anyone with a cursory knowledge of the conflict, is totally wrong. The core of the Vietcong were the so-called “main force” units, which had uniforms. Then you had regional forces, and finally those villagers taking potshots after work or setting punji traps were local militias with limited combat value. And of course as the war went on, the Communist side increasingly resorted to using North Vietnamese Army regulars. Lastly, this whole war was controlled by a state with a rigid hierarchical system.

The Afghan Mujaheddin were far more decentralized, by contrast, but they were largely supported and given shelter by authoritarian states like Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, not to mention the liberal democratic US. Besides that, decentralization didn’t necessarily work out better; even before the toppling of the Najibullah government in 1992, the various factions, most notably those of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmad Shah Massoud, were already fighting amongst each other. After that, civil war broke out between various warlords until a certain enterprising young religious student named Omar decided to put a stop to that shit and kicked off a holy war by hanging some corrupt officials in Kandahar from the barrel of a tank gun. You probably know this movement as the Taliban, but what many Westerners don’t know is that one reason why the Taliban were so successful in the civil war apart from Pakistani support was that they were often embraced by the local population (especially Pashtuns), because they brought order and stability to a populace that was weary of years of chaotic civil war.

And what about Al Qaeda and the Islamic State? Well this comparison is terrible because while yes, Al Qaeda has shown remarkable resilience, they have rarely if ever controlled any  geographical territory apart from tenuous control in some locales in Syria at times. The Islamic State, on the other hand, improved on this by trying to establish some kind of territorial state, but at the same time this doomed it to destruction because it brought its fighters, infrastructure, and existence into the open to be bombed mercilessly by the coalition. Also when it comes to ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, it’s also important to keep in mind that suicide tactics are a regular part of their doctrine. This has made ISIS particularly difficult to fight on the ground, as we saw with the battles for Mosul and Raqqa. Apart from sowing countless improvised mines and boobytraps, imagine having to deal with this on a daily basis:

The point I want to make here is that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban all recruit people who are willing to die intentionally, which incidentally is one factor that enables them to carry out an ongoing insurgency against a far more advanced adversary. It’s a lot easier to carry out a successful attack on a much better-equipped adversary if you remove the part about surviving from your mission planning. Somehow I don’t see the folks at punk shows or co-ops signing up to drive VBIEDs, so differences in ideology alone aren’t the reason why this isn’t a viable option for anarchist defense. And before moving on I should point out that even in those other cases of successful unconventional warfare, the guerrillas typically took far more casualties than their enemies, to the point of sometimes losing every engagement above the tactical level. As a result these conflicts spanned many years, if not decades in the case of Vietnam’s struggle for unification and independence. Obviously it takes iron will and discipline to carry out such a conflict, and while I would not say that you must have a rigid hierarchical political/military to achieve that level of discipline, any successful revolutionary movement banking on a decentralized guerrilla warfare strategy has to achieve it somehow.

When we look at anarchist military history, it’s not too promising. Nestor Makhno was said to wage a guerrilla struggle, which is true to an extent, but one problem is that sources on Makhno are hard to come by, often either written by his partisans or detractors. Southeast Ukraine doesn’t lend itself well to guerrilla warfare, which is why Makhno’s hit and run tactics were more likely a matter of mobility as opposed to using restrictive terrain the way the Vietcong used the jungle or the Afghan Mujaheddin used mountains. Cavalry allowed Makhno’s forces to show up were they were not expected, and mounting machine guns on horse-drawn carts, the famous “tachanka,” made it possible to rapidly strike an enemy and retreat before they could adequately react, particularly if they were foot infantry. Still, Makhno lost. Now here most anarchists would say that this is because the Bolsheviks stabbed him in the back, and because they refused to send adequate arms and supplies to his Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine. This argument, however, is irrelevant. In order to abolish the state and then defend the society with which you replace it, you will inevitably have to resort to force. If you cannot supply your revolution with the necessary arms, that’s on you. The Bolsheviks found a way to do it. The Poles did it. “The Bolsheviks wouldn’t give them arms” is really saying “they failed to properly organize their revolution.” As Omar Bradley put it: “Amateurs- strategy. Professionals talk logistics.” I could go on to Catalonia as well, but that’s just another Dolchstoßlegende (stab-in-the-back-legend) related to the “May Days of 1937.”

I’m not saying you can’t build an effective military force without resorting to traditional authoritarian hierarchies like we see in existing military forces. Yes, the system we see in the world’s best military (AMERICUH!!!) is hierarchical and disciplined, especially in the Marine Corps, arguably one of the finest fighting forces in history (crayon eating notwithstanding). However, the conventional military culture, even among the best of organizations, can often be extremely arbitrary and stifling, leading to things like stagnation, failure to adapt to new forms of warfare, and even nepotism and corruption. Nobody spends any amount of time in the military without acquiring dozens of examples of ineffective leadership and idiocy that is often impossible to convey to civilians who have never experienced it. Moreover, it’s not hard to make the case that military forces that encourage individual initiative and creative, mission-oriented tactics historically do better than rigid, authoritarian armies. So what I’m basically saying here is that your revolutionary forces need strong discipline and will, but this does not at all mean that this must be achieved via rigid hierarchy and authoritarian culture. That being said, it’s important to note that hierarchies of some sort tend to be inevitable in military organizations, but at least they need not be “unjustified.”

There is a wider lesson anarchists must learn as well from history. Remember that anecdote about the Taliban’s early successes in Afghanistan? There was a similar situation with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, whereby ordinary Sunnis who might have had zero interest in building a Salafi-jihadist Caliphate accepted and even embraced the IS fighters due to instability and persecution. See whether it’s the Taliban or the Islamic State, while the rules they bring are Draconian with out a doubt, they often applied these rules in a very regular, predictable way, while often putting an end to all kinds of criminal activity and corruption wherever they took over. Consider this horrible dilemma countless people have had to make at certain points in history:

-Live your life without any assurance that your person or property will be respected. You are fair game for authorities who may be of another faith and/or tribe, or just random bandits who know there will be no repercussion for any malicious actions they take against you.

-Accept the authority of a strict authoritarian movement which, while imposing new rules on you, also will impose order and predictability protecting your property and person.

Humans do not naturally crave authoritarian systems or rigid hierarchy, nor do they inherently require them. But one thing we do naturally prefer is stability in favor of chaos. Therefore, any anti-authoritarian revolutionary movement, if it is to be successful, must one way or another establish relative stability and predictability. If your movement insists on deciding every issue with consensus-based councils, for example, it had better make sure people’s basic rights are well-protected and basic needs are met, otherwise people will inevitably seek out whomever can provide these things or convincingly promise them, even if those alternatives are also more authoritarian.

These facts are well-established by history, but they are not death-blows to anarchism or anti-authoritarian socialism, which incidentally is the only socialism really worth fighting for. It’s much better to look at them as challenges that need to be overcome by any movement that truly seeks to liberate people, regardless of what it calls itself. The Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria has given us a wealth of information to study in this regards. Unfortunately, many idealists overstate the extent to which politics in “Rojava” as it was once internationally known, were bottom-up and “stateless.” In reality, the PYD is quite hierarchical and the territory under their control isn’t exactly run by direct democracy. That being said, no objective observer can deny that they have made some stunning progress in some fields, most notably women’s rights.

Furthermore, many of the examples where the PYD has failed in terms of realizing the stateless, direct democracy it preaches can be reasonably explained by the exigencies of a bitter war and the precarious situation they face between Turkey, the Assad regime, Russia, Iran, and the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq. The PYD have been described as being extreme pragmatists. Perhaps some, and perhaps even myself, might say they’ve been a bit too pragmatic. But whatever the case, any revolution will have to face the conditions PYD faces, if not worse. I suggest planning accordingly, because in the last thing socialism needs is yet another romanticized lost cause that was drowned in blood because those who fought for it  put theoretical principle over practical reality. The freest society on Earth is no use to humanity if it remains nothing but a besieged enclave or worse, if it is wiped out in a matter of weeks.

 

Ukrainian Armed Forces Receive Deep Concerns From US, EU Members

YAVORIV- The Ukrainian Armed Forces have just received the first shipment of “deep concerns” as part of a multinational military aid package in response to last Sunday’s incident in the Kerch Strait, where Russian coast guard ships attacked and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels along with their crews. Almost immediately after the incident was reported, representatives from the US and several of its NATO allies immediately announced their intentions to send aid to Ukraine in the form of both “concerns” and later “deep concerns” in order to counter Russia’s actions.

One State Department official told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration had also considered sending “grave concerns,” but this was later canceled so as “to avoid provoking escalation from the Russian side.” Meanwhile, experts disagree on whether the White House’s response was adequate or too provocative given the danger of opening another front in the conflict between the government in Kiev and rebel separatists in the east who are extremely well supplied, wear uniforms and equipment almost identical to that of the Russian armed forces, have more tanks and armored vehicles than some NATO countries, and whose leadership has historically contained a conspicuously high number of Russian citizens since their movement suddenly appeared in the spring of 2014.

“Deep concerns are not nearly enough if you want to send the right message to Putin,” said Anders Auslander, a fellow at a DC-based think tank.

“The only way you are going to raise the costs and deter him from further aggression is to equip Ukraine’s military with extremely grave concerns. There’s simply no other way.”

Other experts, however, suggest that even mild concern could provoke all-out war, possibly drawing the US and its allies into the conflict.

“We have to see things from Moscow’s point of view,” says Steve Kuhn, a professor of Soviet-Russian history.

“For years they’ve been watching as the US and NATO constantly express concern about Russia. If you want to start World War III, I can’t think of a better way than to arm the Ukrainian nationalists with more concerns, especially deep concerns.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military personnel are struggling to distribute the concerns and train personnel on how to use them while they are on full alert for a possible Russian ground invasion.

“I don’t understand how we’re supposed to use these,” says Roman Bondarenko, 27, a lieutenant in one of Ukraine’s mechanized infantry brigades.

“All these shipping containers with NATO markings arrived at the rail depot, but when we opened them they were empty. Nothing but air.”

Serhii Hopko, 19, is a soldier in Bondarenko’s platoon who also expressed his disappointment with the latest shipment of NATO military aid.

“We hear reports that the Russians are moving tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks to the border, and we’re supposed to fight with this,” he said, gesturing to the empty shipping container behind him.

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KIEV- US Air Force crews unload the first shipment of deep concerns to aid Ukraine’s military in the face of renewed threats from Russia over access to the sea of Azov

Meanwhile, Russian officials slammed the decision to aid Ukraine’s military with deep concerns as “irresponsible” and a “clear provocation.”

“This simply shows that our Western partners are not interested in creating lasting peace in the Donbass, but rather irresponsibly encouraging the Poroshenko regime to escalate the war further,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her official Facebook page.

Zakarhova also warned that Russia would be forced to take “appropriate, and proportional measures” in response to the new aid package. While it is not entirely clear what those measures might entail, military analysts and open source investigators have been monitoring Russian military activity in the region and believe they have already seen signs of a response.

“Based on intelligence provided via satellite imaging, social media, and other open source information, it would appear that Russia is already responding to NATO’s concerns and deep concerns with additional main battle tanks and attack helicopters,” said one Pentagon analyst.

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.

 

Escalation

As planned I deliberately held off writing anything about the recent crisis involving the Kerch strait and the Azov sea in order to size up the situation. While Russia’s response to a non-threatening, unarmed tugboat was ridiculously over-the-top, eventually involving several air assets including Kamov attack helicopters, at the moment it does not seem as though the big open Russian invasion is coming. I suspect this is just the latest chapter in a long-running story of Russia trying to assert full control over the Azov sea while simultaneously putting more economic pressure on Ukraine. Since that entails blocking Ukrainian vessels’ access to the Kerch strait, it makes sense that they’d start with some provocative gesture like the one on Sunday. Of course being idiots, they released a video of the event that clearly shows their coast guard ship acting in a needlessly aggressive manner.

The day’s events were soon followed by a panic over the declaration of “martial law” by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. I put that in quotes because while the term is in fact “martial law” in the 2015 legislation, even his initial proposal was pretty weak by the usual measure of martial law. He wasn’t even going to declare war or mobilization. After some wrangling from the Rada, more limitations were secured, most importantly the limiting of the “martial law” to 10 regions and the reduction from 60 days to 30 days. In any case, I’ll be in Ukraine during part of this “martial law” so if I get picked up for breaking a curfew, you’ll know about it. In any case, a lot of this hysteria could have been avoided had the government used some more appropriate term like “state of emergency,” but “martial law” was the term they went with so there it is.

Still, I can’t help but say “I told you so” to those slavish bootlickers who believe that sticking up for Ukraine means fanatically defending its leaders, as though the state is the highest expression of Ukrainian self-determination. Apart from holding a view not very far removed from the predominant ideology of Putin’s Russia, i.e. that citizens exist to serve the state and must not question their leaders, the government’s panicked and ultimately ineffective response to this crisis shows how ill-prepared they are to deal with a Russian escalation. After all, if Russia decides to claim the Azov sea as its own internal waters as it may be planning to do, what will Poroshenko or anyone else in Ukraine’s government do? And we’re not even speaking about an outright Russian invasion here. I’ll tell you what the various factions will do. The liberal centrists will cry for the West to solve the problem for them, the pro-Russian and secretly pro-Russian factions will call for “peace,” and the nationalists will beat their chests, burn a few more tires outside the Russian embassy, and commit some acts of petty vandalism before going back to their usual routine of attacking innocent LGBT activists, feminists, and Roma. The Kremlin knows this, and it has their number.

So what are the alternatives? Well some things are best left unsaid in public, but suffice to say here that things like hearts and minds, living standards, fighting corruption, and tackling far-right activity matter. You win hearts and minds and increase living standards to show Ukrainians under Russian occupation as well as those bordering those areas that they will have a better future with Ukraine. You fight corruption because corruption undermines the war effort in a myriad of ways and you must show that the post-Maidan Ukraine will not be more of the same with a new coat of paint. You tackle the far-right because they provide grist for Kremlin propaganda mills, they are a stain on Ukraine’s international reputation, they routinely liaise with and invite in members of pro-Kremlin or Kremlin-linked organizations and parties, and first and foremost because their ideology is contrary to a prosperous, free Ukraine whose people live in harmony.

You do these things even though they me be difficult or sometimes unpleasant because more than anything they are necessary. And those who dismiss these things are traitors, shirkers, or con artists, rest assured of that. And if the current Ukrainian state is incapable of doing these things in the face of an existential threat after a certain amount of time, then it has forfeited its right to govern, and the people of Ukraine would do well to seek a better form of governance.  I’m not going to pretend that these tasks are simple, but at least the concept is.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Eyes to See

What is the worst combination you could possibly imagine? Skittles on Chicago-style pizza? Mayonnaise Pop-Tarts? Automatic weapons for toddlers? I’ve got a pretty good contender. How about the worst film genre in existence, i.e. romantic comedy, and Russian propaganda about the Crimea? Not sold just yet? What if I told you this very real rom-com was scripted by none other than RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan? Yes. You read that correctly. Yes, I am going to subject you to this. I know about it, so now you must know about it. This is happening.

I realize some readers can’t fully understand that trailer, but rest assured it is a delightfully romantic romp that involves flagrant violations of international law as well as human rights! What’s next? A German rom-com where two star-crossed lovers are reunited in East Prussia when the Third Reich invades Poland? After all, Germany was merely trying to protect the German civilian population from a right-wing nationalist Polish government whose troops attacked several German border posts and a radio station!

But if this weren’t bad enough, the film apparently contains a subplot about the Crimean Tatars, and, as you might expect, it’s pretty ugly. Here are a few excerpts from the above-linked article.

“The film offers an unlikely take on the issue of Crimean Tatars. It opens with a young Crimean Tatar boy named Damir recalling how the original Kerch Strait bridge, a temporary wartime construction, was destroyed by winter ice in early 1945.

The scene is improbable at best, since the entire Crimean Tatar population was ruthlessly deported from the peninsula in 1944 by Stalin. In fact, Simonyan’s masterpiece was filmed just a few dozen kilometers from the Arabat Spit, where the last pockets of Crimean Tatars who had escaped deportation were loaded onto a boat that was then scuttled in the Sea of Azov, drowning all aboard.

Damir, however, grieves because the destroyed bridge separates him from his wartime love, a Russian girl named Raya, who has gone missing.

Damir is a forgiving type. At one point, discussing his own family’s fate under Stalin, he says simply, “They were sent away — that means it had to be.” At other points in the film, he has approving words for Stalin.”

Needless to say, not only was the situation for Crimean Tatars in the past very different from what is portrayed in the film, but the present is as well. Since the annexation Crimean Tatars have been subject to all manner of human rights violations, including torture and in at least one case, death. The whitewashing of both eras is a perfect example of how the Muscovite chauvinist regime views non-Muscovite nationalities within its grasp. “You will have your history dictated to you, and you may keep your culture and language so long as it doesn’t offend us.” 

The word ‘disgusting’ simply doesn’t suffice to describe this subplot.

As for the rest of the film, let’s just say this isn’t Russia’s first rodeo when it comes to feature length propaganda films about the Crimean annexation. There was also this piece of shit:

As bad as this may be, at least it’s not a rom-com; it’s clearly just a comedy. On the other hand, that 2017 film wasn’t written by Margarita Simonyan.

Now I know a lot of people, Americans included, will chime in with something about propaganda in Hollywood films. Sure, they certainly do (although in my opinion it’s more a matter of steering clear of certain taboo subjects more than anything), but rest assured modern Russian cinema blows them out of the water in terms of on-the-nose messaging. And whereas Hollywood will often liberally reinterpret real events to tell a better story, films like this basically invent a story out of thin air. If the examples above don’t convince you of this, check out the trailer for this upcoming Russian film, seemingly trying to capitalize off Ukraine’s Cyborgs, called Balkan Line.

In case you’re too young or not familiar with the 1999 Kosovo conflict I’ll help you out- none of that shit happened. It’s as if the Russian producers looked at Cyborgs, saw how well it did, and decided they just needed their own war film about an airport under siege. And since they couldn’t find a real one, they just made one up. In real life, the Russian airborne contingent who rolled into Pristina airport was totally isolated, and the whole situation was defused with the help of James Blunt. Yes, James “You’re Beautiful” Blunt. And it’s a good thing the Russians didn’t try anything because if you’ve ever seen Blunt on Twitter you know he’s no pushover.

But yeah, American Sniper sucks, but just imagine that almost every Hollywood film is American Sniper x 100, and your tax dollars are used to churn them out. Sounds great, right?

Honestly though, I’m wondering how far Margarita will go in the world of screenwriting. At the same time, I wonder how far the Russian film industry will go in the world of making up shit that never happened. Perhaps next we’ll see a film about how the Soviets actually landed on the moon first. The sky’s truly the limit when your film industry is a state-sponsored money laundering vehicle!

If I Did It…

So as some of you may have heard, Bellingcat, or for you RT fans out there, “Soros/State Department-funded regime-change SmellingCIAt,” blew the lid on the second Skripal suspect. SPOILERS: He’s not “Alexander Petrov,” the totally unassuming fitness supplement salesman and church spire enthusiast who might be secretly gay. Turns out he’s actually Alexander Mishkin, a military doctor with the GRU, and like his colleague Anatoly Chepiga, a winner of the easily-traceable Hero of the Russian Federation award. What more can you say except:

Where did they go so wrong? Journalist Andrew Roth put it succinctly on Twitter today:

This sentiment, which I too expressed in my earlier post about Chepiga, is confirmed by Bellingcat in their expose of Mishkin.

“The starting point for our research was a passport photograph of “Alexander Petrov,”as well as security camera photos and video footage from this person’s interview on RT.”  

Some might suggest that the interview was just another example of Kremlin trolling, like when Putin spoke about “local” self-defense militias in Crimea shortly before openly acknowledging they were Russian soldiers (the military vehicles and latest Russian uniforms and kit were a dead giveaway), or when he denied any involvement in the U.S. election but then made a quip about “patriotic hackers.” I can agree that perhaps this was the initial intent behind the RT interview, but it seems they were phoning it in from the beginning and everyone could see it. It’s almost as if they just ran out of energy to lie, even in the typical unconvincing way that they do. It’s almost as if they’re going to stop trying to conduct counter-narratives where MI6/CIA/Russian liberals/Pravy Sektor/White Helmets are possible culprits and instead just continually repeat “PROOFS! SHOW US PROOFS!” incessantly until you go away.

 

Seriously though, this is too big a screw up to attribute to trolling. If they were smart, they never would have let these men give an interview, and certainly not with Margarita Simonyan, who is the editor-in-chief of RT. As I suggested in a previous post, the smartest thing to do, if you can call their usual approach smart, is to continue putting out the endless alternative narratives while publicly announcing that the FSB and Investigative Committee are interviewing the two men to get to the bottom of these “totally boundless accusations from our British colleagues!”

There’s precedent for this as well. In December 2014 the Investigative Committee announced that it had an anonymous witness who was former Ukrainian military and stationed at an air base at the time of the downing of MH17 (i.e. 17 July 2014). Somehow this witness saw a Ukrainian Su-25 pilot (Captain Vladislav Voloshin, who committed suicide earlier this year) take off from the base and return with one air-to-air missile gone. Much later on, the Investigative Committee later revealed the name of this witness, but of course this was around the time Russia switched to swearing that their “investigation” (carried out mainly by Buk SAM manufacturer Almaz-Antey) conclusively determined that a Buk missile shot down the airliner. Of course if you missed those latest Russian claims which are totally true and accurate, RT and Sputnik got you and any other fans of the idiotic Su-25 theory covered, because in the end all that matters is that you believe anyone but Russia was responsible for this tragedy.

Something similar could have been done with Chepiga and Mishkin, AKA Boshirov and Petrov. The Clown Committee could release a typical boilerplate statement about how it is opening a criminal investigation into the matter of Boshirov and Petrov, and Putin could have said he was ordering them to take the matter under “special control.” Basic elements of the story we saw in the RT interview could have been published in a “report” a week or two later, without all that bullshit about the spire and the roads choked with snow.  Maybe, a very short, much better-rehearsed interview could have been shot with an ordinary employee of Rossiya 1 or First Channel.

And with that- you’re done. It’s still largely bullshit, it’s still not exonerating anything, but just enough plausible deniability that you won’t force the Kremlin apologists who still give a shit about appearing to have a shred of credibility to wear themselves out doing mental gymnastics.

Damn. It really tells you how badly Russia’s intelligence and propaganda agencies have screwed up when I’m the one practically giving them free advice on how to do their jobs.