Putin, Trump, and False Moral Equivalence

February 6, 2017

Regardless of what the President says, there is no moral equivalence between the US and Putin’s Russia.

International Liberty

Back in the 1980s, I would get very agitated when folks made excuses for brutal communist regimes by asserting that the United States also did bad things. This “moral equivalence” argument is now being recycled by Donald Trump, who basically excuses Putin’s brutality because America supposedly isn’t in any position to throw stones.

Here’s the interview, set to start at the point where Trump discusses Putin.

This is wrong. Absurdly wrong.

Though let’s start by acknowledging that the United States is far from perfect. Our history includes black eyes such as slavery, mistreatment of native populations, incomplete legal rights for women, internment of Japanese-Americans, Jim Crow laws, persecution of gays, and other sins.

Even today, we have plenty of bad policies that restrict human liberty, often exacerbated by examples of thuggish actions by government.

But, at the risk of sounding jingoistic and patriotic, the United States began with a…

View original post 437 more words


From the farcical to the surreal: Putin endorses a grateful Trump

December 17, 2015
Fine as long as the mouth stays shut

Endorsed by dictators

When did I cross into Bizarro World?

Russia’s strongman took time out from bumping off political adversaries, putting his muscle in Iran’s service, and annexing other countries’ territory to praise GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump as “an outstanding and talented personality.”

A grateful Trump reacted: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

So, the currently leading Republican candidate is honored to be endorsed by a man intimidating and dismembering the countries around him, having opponents and critics assassinated, and generally acting like a global thug.

Analyst Tom Nichols offered this apt analogy:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I won’t go as far as Tom did in another tweet and call Trump a “traitor,” but I do think he is a contemptible buffoon — and a dangerous one, should he win the nomination and the presidency.

Are we sure Rod Serling didn’t introduce this story?


Good News! Israeli and Russian fighter jets confront each other over Syria

October 5, 2015
Leadership

We’re in the best of hands.

You have to love the Obama Administration’s Smart Power(tm) foreign policy: by being as non-confrontational as possible and always leading from behind, we’ve opened the door to the Chekist (1) gangsters in Moscow to move in and start shoving around our closest allies, with the risk of starting World War III.

Well done, President Obama. Well done!

Six Russian fighter jets type Multirole Sukhoi SU – 30 SM have intercepted 4 Israeli McDonnell Douglas F-15’s fighter bombers attempting to infiltrate the Syrian coast. The Israeli F 15 warplanes have been flying over Syrian airspace for months and in particular the coast of Latakia, which is now the bridgehead of the Russian forces in Syria.

The Israeli jets would generally follow a fairly complex flight plan and approach Latakia from the sea

On the night of 1 October 02, 2015, six Sukhoi SU-30 Russian SM fighters took off from the Syrian Hmimim airbase in the direction of Cyprus, before changing course and intercepting the four Israeli F-15 fighters off the coast of Syria, that were flying in attack formation.

Surprised by a situation as unexpected and probably not prepared for a dogfight with one of the best Russian multipurpose fighters, Israeli pilots have quickly turned back South at high speed over the Lebanon.

(…)

This ‘incident’ between the Russian and Israeli combat aircraft struck with amazement the command of the Israeli air force, which has estimated that a possible dogfight between F-15 Israelis and the Russian Su-30 would have led to the destruction of the four aircraft Israelis.

The Obama administration has created a not-unjustified impression of weakness on our part, and Moscow, determined to regain its status as a world power to be reckoned with, has moved in to exploit the situation. Not just to protect its client regime in Damascus and aid its ally in Tehran, but to inform the rest of the world who the new boss is. Intimidating the IAF is one good way to do it, a message no one will miss.

Except the clown-show in D.C., which thinks we can win Moscow over if we keep showing we’re no threat.

One wonders if Putin has stopped pinching himself to see if he’s dreaming, yet.

Meanwhile, in the world away from fundraisers and golf courses, this situation is fraught with danger for everyone: what if the next confrontation between Israel and Russia turns “hot” and IAF and/or Russian jets are shot down? Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East (and one of the few we have left): Will Obama risk a face-off with Moscow to show that we stand by our clients and thereby risk a broader war with Russia? Our angry-at-Israel and possible antisemitic president, whose words at a dinner for a Palestinian activist were so inflammatory the LA Times has hidden the tape? Hardly likely.

Will he stand for our interests in the Middle East?

Don’t bet on it.

via Godfrey of Bouillon


Obama’s “war” against Isis falls apart

September 23, 2015

These guys would be an improvement.

Writing in the liberal New York Observer, national security analyst John Schindler paints a bleak picture of the Obama administration’s efforts against the Islamic State, which all but concede Syria to Russia:

For the Obama administration, the news from the Middle East keeps going from bad to worse. Vladimir Putin’s power play, moving significant military forces into Syria to support his ailing client, Bashar al-Assad, caught the White House flat footed and unsure how to respond.

Although the administration gave the Kremlin de facto control over American policy in Syria some two years ago when it walked away from its own “red line,” granting Russia a veto on Western action there, President Obama and his national security staff nevertheless seem befuddled by this latest Russian move.

The forces Mr. Putin has just deployed to Syria are impressive, veteran special operators backed by a wing of fighters and ground attack jets that are expected to commence air strikes on Assad’s foes soon. They are backed by air defense units, which is puzzling since the Islamic State has no air force, indicating that the Kremlin’s true intent in Syria has little to do with the stated aim of fighting terrorism and is really about propping up Russia’s longtime client in Damascus.

The White House is left planning “deconfliction” with Moscow—which is diplomatic language for entreating Russians, who now dominate Syrian airspace, not to shoot down American drones, which provide the lion’s share of our intelligence on the Islamic State. The recent meeting on Syrian developments between Mr. Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who clearly finds dealing with the Russian strongman preferable to parleying with President Obama, indicates where power is flowing in today’s Middle East.

Did you catch that last part? After seven years of being pimp-slapped by an at-best indifferent (1) American administration, our strongest enemy in the Middle East feels a need to protect its own interests by “reaching out” to the new power in the area, since we can no longer be counted on.

Team Obama’s foreign policy (and that includes former Secretary of State Clinton) has been an accelerating avalanche since the day it took office and, in the last couple of years, we’ve started seeing the bitter fruit of “smart power.” From the Russian reset and the backstabbing of Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense, to the withdrawal from Iraq and the total misreading of the Arab Spring and the monumentally bad deal with Iran, I don’t believe our foreign policy has ever been lead by such a toxic mixture of leftist dogmatism and sheer incompetence. What we’re witnessing in the Middle East is the utter –and perhaps deliberate— destruction of an American position built up over 40 years by administrations of both parties.

Go ahead and read the whole thing. And have a stiff drink handy.

Footnote:
(1) And, arguably, anti-Israel or even antisemitic.


The Painful Truth About Snowden

July 19, 2015

Did Moscow sacrifice Edward Snowden to protect their moles within the NSA and other agencies? Fascinating history and speculation from Mr. Schindler.

The XX Committee

Since the saga of Edward Snowden went public just over two years ago, I’ve had a lot to say in the media about this sensational case. That’s gotten me loads of push-back, not to mention trolling, but my take on the case — particularly that it’s a planned foreign intelligence operation that operates behind the cover of “freedom” and “civil liberties” — has increasingly become accepted by normals.

In the first place, that Snowden shows no sign of leaving Putin’s Russia, not exactly a bastion of liberty, has made all but his most uncritical defenders wonder what’s going on here. The clear damage that Snowden’s vast revelations have done to Western counterterrorism and security likewise has raised doubts about motives. And that’s not been helped by the fact that very few of Snowden’s purloined secrets have to do with NSA domestic operations. The overwhelming majority expose foreign intelligence activities that…

View original post 2,863 more words


Snowden is a Fraud

June 12, 2015

Dear Snowden fans, “We told ya so!.” The guy is no hero: far from it.

The XX Committee

In the two years since the Edward Snowden saga went public, a handful of people who actually understand the Western signals intelligence system have tried to explain the many ways that the Snowden Operation has smeared NSA and its partners with salacious charges of criminality and abuse. I’ve been one of the public faces of what may be called the Snowden Truth movement, and finally there are signs that reality may be intruding on this debate.

No American ally was rocked harder by Snowden’s allegations than Germany, which has endured a bout of hysteria over charges that NSA was listening in on senior German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Although these stories included a good deal of bunkum from the start, they caused a firestorm in Germany, particularly the alleged spying on Merkel, which was termed Handygate by the media.

In response, Germany tasked Federal prosecutors with looking into the…

View original post 964 more words


Awww…. Poor little Vlad’s shiny new tank wouldn’t go.

May 7, 2015

“Comrades! A little help here?”

Tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, when after the fall of Berlin the Germans finally surrendered. Soviet Thug in Chief President Vladimir Putin wanted to celebrate in a big  way, befitting his new neo-Stalinist regime: a giant military parade honoring the Soviet effort (1) and coincidentally showing off Vlad’s neat new toys.

Oops:

A state-of-the-art Russian tank, which was shown to the public for the first time earlier this month, on Thursday ground to a halt during the final Victory Day rehearsal.

The tank, T-14 Armata, is said to surpass all Western versions because of its remotely controlled cannon and the protection it offers to its crew. The T-14, which replaces the T-72 and T-90, is set to undergo trials next year.

Weaponry was rolling across central Moscow Thursday morning in the dress rehearsal of the military parade on Red Square on May 9 as Russia commemorates the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

One of the eight T-14s suddenly stopped while others drove on. The engine was still rumbling but it wouldn’t move. After an attempt to tow it failed, the T-14 rolled away under its own steam about 15 minutes later.

Not a good image to project when you’re trying to intimidate NATO. Someone got yelled at. Loudly.

*snicker*

UPDATE: The original AP article quoted above seems to be a non-working link, now. Here’s a link to a similar story from International Business Times. Thanks to Jack Tinker for the heads-up.

Footnote:
(1) Seriously, while I despise the USSR and everything Bolshevik, their contribution to destroying Nazi Germany should never be slighted. If not for the Soviets being willing to feed endless number of troops into jaws of the German war machine, killing millions of Nazi soldiers while losing millions of their own, we would likely have had to face Germany’s best troops in France, and the result might well have been far different. One cannot deny the Russians the right to remember it with pride. (2)
(2) What they did to the peoples they supposedly “liberated,” on the other hand…


Putin’s Balkan Offensive

April 27, 2015

Bismarck once said that “Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans” would set off the next general war, and now we see Vladimir “Let me vivisect your country” Putin taking an interest in a part of the Balkans the West left in sorry shape 20 years ago. Worth reading.

The XX Committee

On the weekend, the leader of Bosnia’s Serb Republic threatened secession if he did not get reforms, proposing to hold a referendum on leaving the country if his demands are not met by the end of 2017. Milorad Dodik, who has ruled over the Bosnian Serbs, on and off, for most of the twenty years since the United States forced a peace settlement to end Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, has toyed with secession before, but his weekend announcement represents the most direct threat ever to the country’s postwar political system.

In fairness to Dodik and the Bosnian Serbs, almost nobody in Bosnia is happy with the current system, which when it was hashed out in Dayton, Ohio in the autumn of 1995, under Clinton administration pressure, was never intended to be more than a temporary political solution to Bosnia’s political conflicts, yet here we are two decades later, and that short-term…

View original post 1,752 more words


Counterpoint: Russia cannot beat NATO. Breathe easy.

April 19, 2015
"I won"

He’s bluffing?

A few weeks ago, I presented a scenario developed by a writer in Ukraine about how Vladimir Putin could break the NATO alliance in a short war: Opening with a surprise attack and seizure of Sweden’s lightly-defended strategic isle of Gotland, Russia would then invade the Baltic states and exploit political indecision in the Western alliance and weak American leadership to consolidate its gains. The end would come when a tactical nuclear strike on Poland revealed the major powers to be unwilling to risk regional or global nuclear war for NATO’s easternmost members. At that point Russia wins and NATO is no more.

Scary, right? And all too plausible, given Russia’s aggressive behavior since the 2008 invasion of Georgia.

Not so fast, writes strategic analyst Tom Nichols. NATO is still stronger than post-Soviet Russia and has more political will than perhaps we assume. In a war, he insists, Russia would lose, though that may not stop Putin from trying:

But this misses some important realities, including the condition and age of that equipment, the frayed infrastructure of Russia’s military commands, and the poor quality of Russian conscripts. The Russian military is a large regional force, and it can kill a lot of people. That doesn’t mean it can sustain a war with a vastly more populous and wealthier coalition of some three dozen nations (or more, if others join the fight).

Moreover, NATO enjoys a qualitative edge that would spell disaster for Russian forces in short order, especially in the air. The Vermont Air National Guard (which for years has intercepted Soviet and Russian aircraft on the U.S. East Coast) is more ready to go to war than the Russian Air Force. Without control of the skies, Russian ground forces stand no chance after whatever initial blitzkrieg might get them into NATO territory, and their commanders know it. World War III will not be like doing stunts at an air show, and taking out NATO’s aircraft will surely not be like blowing up unsuspecting commercial airliners.

Finally, NATO has something the Russians sorely lack: experience. Wisely or not, the U.S. and its allies have been at war in the Middle East and Central Asia for nearly 15 years, and NATO’s armies are salted throughout with men and women who know how to fight, supply, communicate, and remain cohesive in the face of actual combat. Russia’s military, once sharpened by World War II survivors and later by the veterans of the brutal attempt to subdue Afghanistan, now boasts men whose combat experience mostly consists of blowing up apartment blocks in Chechnya and shooting at outgunned conscripts in Ukraine.

But, for all that, Vlad the invader might still try:

The West’s more pressing concern should be whether Putin, for his own reasons, will force Russia’s military into a clash with NATO regardless of the consequences. The Russian president is a neo-Soviet nostalgist who not only craves revenge for the collapse of the USSR, but who still harbors old-school Kremlin fantasies about the weakness of the decadent West.

(…and…)

Putin suffers from the same kind of thinking, but Russia’s generals, who are neither fools nor madmen, almost certainly understand that a sustained war with NATO is an unwinnable proposition. Both Putin and his generals, however, are counting on a political, not military, victory. Putin’s bluster and the Russian military’s continued probes and feints into NATO territory are all predicated on the Soviet-era belief that NATO is essentially a charade, a phony alliance made of spun glass: pretty to look at, but so delicate it will shatter at even the smallest blow. Should Putin attack, it will not be to defend the “rights of Russian-speakers” or some other fantasy, but rather from the delusion that one sharp military strike will smash NATO as a political entity once and for all.

It’s that scenario in the bold text that worries me. Qualitatively, yes, Western militaries are superior to what Russia can field, though Moscow has excellent special forces and excels at “special war.”

But it’s the will to fight of much of the Alliance’s modern political leadership that worries me, especially our own Administration. Obama has been utterly  diffident about the use of force, even in situations that clearly call for it. (Hello? ISIS?) And what will Merkel do, given her nation’s crack-addiction to Russian natural gas? How many leaders would be willing to go to the edge of nuclear war if Putin decides to “de-escalate?” (1)

Still, Nichols knows far more about these things than I, so I’ll take his message about NATO’s resilience and superiority as a comfort. He covers much more in his article, so do read the whole thing.

Footnote:
(1) Apparently Russia has a doctrine called “nuclear deescalation,” in which Moscow uses a limited nuclear strike to convince the other guy to stop fighting — particularly if Russia is losing on the ground. These people are weird.


To the surprise of no one, Crimea is not happy under Russian rule

April 13, 2015
x

“And then I told them they could have free elections!”

I know, I know. You’re as shocked as I. Imagine the ingratitude for all the efforts Vladimir Putin made to rejoin Crimea with Mother Russia. Writing in National Review, Leona Amosah recounts all the benefits Russian governance has brought: a crashing tourism industry, inflation second only to Venezuela’s,  and food prices through the roof. Whiners.

I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate ethnic oppression and political arrests?

In particular, Crimea’s Tatar Muslim minority is suffering levels of persecution not seen since the Soviet era. This pressure includes “disappearances, sadistic murders . . . attacks on media, and arrests on trumped-up charges,” according to one informed observer. So pervasive has this discrimination been that, back in February, the United Nations took the unprecedented step of publicly condemning Russia’s treatment of the Crimean Tatars.

Political opponents of the Kremlin, too, have found themselves in the official crosshairs. To date, several Crimean lawmakers have been arrested and even exiled because of their opposition to and condemnation of Russia’s takeover of Crimea. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has equated Russia’s conduct in its newest holding to a “reign of terror” designed to both subjugate and pacify the region’s population.

A wrecked economy and political persecution: what’s not to like? Look, if Crimeans have trouble appreciating the benefits of life under Moscow, they could always ask Boris Nemtsov.

Oh, wait.


How Putin could break NATO, or, ready for “Great Northern War II?”

March 26, 2015
Target: Gotland?

Target: Gotland?

The Great Northern War was a conflict in the early 18th century launched by a coalition headed by Russia that broke the power of the Swedish empire in the Baltic Sea region. The war also saw the establishment of Russia as a Continental power and its annexation of the region we know today as the “Baltic states.”

Today, 300 years later, Russia’s ruler might again use an attack on Sweden (1) to reestablish his nation as a world power and cover his re-annexation of the Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania:

Over the past 12 months Russia’s air force flew a series of aggressive combat patrols over the Baltic Sea, including mock nuclear strikes against Sweden’s capital Stockholm, to assess the reaction time and preparedness of Sweden’s air force. Since October 2014 Russia’s Navy has sent submarines into Swedish territorial waters to assess the capabilities and preparedness of Sweden’s Navy. The results: Sweden is defenseless.

Last week Russia’s air force progressed from testing military preparedness to dry runs for a major air assault. A combination of transport planes and fighter jets flew from Russia over the entire Baltic Sea to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. While Sweden didn’t even manage to get a plane in the air, Italian air force jets flying out from Šiauliai air base in Lithuania intercepted and identified the Russian jets. The Italian fighters were outnumbered 4 to 1.

The obvious targets of Russian aggression along the Baltic Sea, namely Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, all share a land border with Russia, so there is no need to mount a large scale air assault to overrun these tiny states. But to keep these three nations occupied and oppressed, Putin must keep the US air force and the US Navy out of the Baltic Sea. This is why Russia is preparing to assault, occupy and fortify Sweden’s Gotland Island.

And why is Gotland (highlighted in red in the map above) needed to keep us from resisting a Russian assault on the Baltics?

If Russia controls Gotland and bases S-300 or S-400 long range air-defense missile systems and K-300P Bastion-P long range anti-ship missile systems on the island, then US air force planes cannot reach the Baltic States and US Navy ships cannot pass the Danish Straits to enter the Baltic Sea. Russia has already S-300 and K-300P stationed in Kaliningrad along with tactical nuclear 9K720 Iskander missiles, but as Poland’s military could overrun Kaliningrad and destroy Russia’s anti-ship and air-defense systems there, Russia will occupy Gotland a few hours before the attack on Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania begins.

The author is a writer living in the Ukraine . You can read the rest of the article, which presents an extended scenario in which Russia presents the NATO with a fait accompli and dares it to do something about it. Some of NATO –the US, Poland, Great Britain, and others NATO states as well as non-NATO Sweden– try to mount a counterattack, but are hobbled by Germany’s refusal join or to even allow their territory to be used or crossed by NATO forces, as well as Russian threats to use nuclear weapons against the smaller nations’ cities, which leads Sweden to concede. In Thomas Theiner’s scenario, a Polish refusal to concede leads to a Russian nuclear strike against a Polish city, which in turn brings about the  the end of the war when NATO’s nuclear powers (the US, Great Britain, and France) decline to retaliate. Poland surrenders, NATO breaks up in defeat, and Russia regains its “lost provinces.”

While Theiner’s scenario goes deeper into speculative territory the further he develops his scenario, the initial situation –a surprise Russian attack on Gotland to block relief of the Baltics– is frighteningly plausible:

  • Russia carved off provinces from Georgia in 2008, claiming it was protecting Russian minorities.
  • We have the ongoing dismemberment of Ukraine, another former Russian possession, which began with Russian complaints about mistreatment of Russian speaking minorities there.
  • Russia has also complained about the supposed mistreatment of Russian minorities in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Setting the stage? Russia is already acting aggressively in the Baltic region.

And Sweden has indeed become a target:

Putin is, in my estimation, a predatory aggressive bully who perceives conciliation in others as a sign of weakness, something to be exploited

What a coincidence: Sweden is weak. Its military spending has declined severely on a per capita (2) basis over the last 25 years, and its military is correspondingly small and lacking key capabilities to defend against Russia. While moving to station troops on Gotland and announcing plans to spend more on defense, it is currently vulnerable to rapid exploitation in the event of a Russian attack.

American leadership (meaning President Obama), which would be crucial to any effort to resist Russia and rally NATO, is feckless, appeasement-oriented, and incompetent. And while Theiner assumes the US will try to defend Sweden and the Baltics, I have to wonder just how strenuous an effort President Lead-From-Behind would make, considering he refuses even to meet with the head of NATO. Putin sees this and may well think that now is his best chance to take a huge gamble.

Is a second Great Northern War at all likely to happen? Who knows, but, as I said, I find it all too plausible given the recent past. It’s a possibility that cannot be responsibly ignored.

We have a little less than two years until (we hope) an American president takes office who is interested in foreign affairs and recognizes what needs to be done to protect our interests and the free world’s from predators such as Vladimir Putin.

Until then, sleep well!

Footnotes:
(1) Link courtesy of Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt newsletter of March 24th. And I want to thank Jim for the nightmares that gave me.
(2) Data from the SIPRI milex database.


How Ukraine Can Win

March 8, 2015

As Mr. Schindler points out, time is not on Putin’s side, and he offers some advice on how Kyiv can run out the clock on the new Tsar.

The XX Committee

As we are now in a lull in Russia’s war against Ukraine that Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin began one year ago, it’s time to assess how Kyiv can do better at war-fighting. Not for want of courage, Ukraine’s efforts to defend its territory and sovereignty from Russian aggression have been failures, as I’ve explained many times. I’ve repeatedly counseled Ukraine to emulate how Croatia in 1991 lost one-third of its territory to Serbian rebels, only to regain almost all that territory through quick, decisive military operations in 1995. As a template for strategic success against a more powerful enemy at a reasonable cost in lives and treasure, Zagreb’s model from the early 1990’s cannot be improved upon.

This has been met with whining from supporters of failing President Petro Poroshenko that 1. War is hard, and 2. Russia isn’t Serbia. The latter is true, but it’s also worth…

View original post 1,173 more words


Never embarrass Vladimir Putin

March 6, 2015
"I won"

“Leave no witnesses”

Because you won’t get a second chance:

Russian secret services may have executed the troops suspected of shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, say sources involved in the investigation of the crash over eastern Ukraine.

The Dutch-led probe is leaning towards a conclusion that a BUK missile fired from rebel-held territory downed the Boeing 777, killing all 298 on board.

And it is highly likely the aircraft was shot out of the sky by Russian military personnel, according to a report by the Netherlands’ state broadcaster NOS, citing anonymous sources in the police and the group of investigators working on the probe into the plane’s loss.

‘My sources believe that these people might have changed their identities or even been executed by Russian secret service in order to hide everything,’ said Dutch journalist Robert Bas.

(…)

And they’re taking “active measures” to make sure they know what the investigators know:

Sources close to the investigation also complain they are under siege from persistent attempts by Russian secret services to hack their computer system and plant spyware software on their smartphones, reported NOS.

Phones and laptops used by investigators in Ukraine had to be ‘destroyed’ subsequently because they were infected with spyware, it was claimed.

Even home communications devices of police officers on the investigation were removed because they were ‘contaminated’, it was alleged.

Well, what else would you expect from a country run by an ex-KGB colonel who thinks the fall of the USSR is the great geopolitical catastrophe of the age?

This report shows again that, to use a baseball analogy, we’re dealing with a foe who plays hardball, while our leaders aren’t even playing softball. They’re playing Tee-ball.

Only this game has no “mercy rule.”

 


When Kremlin Trolls Attack

February 23, 2015

Cold War II meets the social media age.

The XX Committee

The issue of online trolls doing the bidding of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has been getting some mainstream media attention, finally. The reality that Russia buys, or at least rents, trolls by the battalion to harass, intimidate and make life unpleasant for anybody who opposes Moscow policy, while employing aggressive agitprop to further Putinist propaganda, isn’t exactly news, but it’s nevertheless welcome to see mainstream outlets doing some digging into what’s going on.

I’ve dealt with more than my share of Kremlin trolls ever since the Edward Snowden story broke in June 2013. As a major spokesman for the anti-Snowden viewpoint, as well as the only former NSA counterintelligence officer who’s talked publicly about this case at length, I’ve gotten my share of grief and then some from online Pals of Putin, with their usual modus operandi: smears, lies, slurs, and threats.

Some of these Kremlin clowns…

View original post 547 more words


On Arming Ukraine

February 4, 2015

A needed bit of “real talking” on the slow-motion war in Ukraine.

The XX Committee

I have been sharply critical of Ukraine’s political and military leadership in the war against Russia. Kyiv must get serious, now, if it expects to prevent the further destruction and dismemberment of their country by Vladimir Putin. The lack of gravitas in military matters demonstrated by Petro Poroshenko and his goverment — favoring vacillation, candlelight prayers, hashtags and trips to Davos instead of mobilization and strategy-making — does not inspire confidence in Ukraine’s ability to stem the Russian tide.

That said, Western aid to Ukraine to date is stunningly unimpressive and indicates that even core members of NATO and the EU are willing to watch Kyiv be crushed. Angela Merkel’s Germany has signaled that under no circumstances will it assist Ukraine with weaponry, which sends a clear message to all NATO and/or EU countries east of the Oder that they, too, will be sacrificed by Berlin if Putin decides…

View original post 955 more words


Bookshelf update: Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag”

January 22, 2015

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag: A History.”

 

book cover applebaum gulag

I’ve only just started it, so I can’t comment on my impressions of the writing or the quality of the Kindle formatting, but the topic is compelling: a complete history of the Soviet prison camp and slave labor system from its foundation under Lenin to its final dissolution in the 1980s. Like reading a book on the Holocaust, I suspect this is the kind of history that will have me hating humanity by its end. Gulag is available in both Kindle and softcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. Wouldn’t you?


Snowden and Russian Intelligence: An Update

January 12, 2015

The latest on the “Snowden operation” from Mr. Schindler. Of most interest to me is the possibility/probability/certitude that Wikileaks cooperates with Russian intelligence, if it isn’t just a front.

The XX Committee

Now that Ed Snowden has been in Russia for more than eighteen months, having settled into a cosy domestic arrangement with his stripper dancer girlfriend, his long-term presence in Putinistan has become a bit of an embarrassment to Ed’s admirers who possess any sense of honesty and/or decency. His sponsor and protector is a KGB thug who does smash-and-grabs against other countries, and for normals this is a tad incongruous with Snowden’s saintly status as a “human rights activist” without par.

However, rather than moderate their claims, the Snowden Operation has chosen to double-down. In a recent interview, the most famous of all NSA defectors stated, “They talk about Russia like it’s the worst place on earth. Russia’s great,” without clarifying who exactly “they” might be. Ed was at pains to make clear that he has not yet wound up the vodka-swilling basket-case that most Western defectors to Moscow…

View original post 605 more words


School nativity play includes Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…. Stalin?

December 29, 2014

Stalin of Nazareth

 

Whether this was a hilarious mistake or a pre-planned prank, this got me laughing hard:

When Russian schoolboy Ilya Gavrichenko told his parents he was playing Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in his school production, they put together the perfect costume – moustache and all.

It was only when he arrived on the night of the performance that they realised he was meant to be playing a very different role – Joseph of Nazareth.

Ilya, who is 12, was dressed in a white shirt, jacket, military trousers and army boots when he arrived at the school in St Petersburg.

With no time to change before the start of the nativity, he was left with no choice but to accompany the Virgin Mary to Bethlehem while dressed as the murderous tyrant.

Fortunately the other parents took it in good cheer and laughed at the absurdity of one of history’s worst monsters heralding the birth of the Son of God. And I suspect the kid had a grand time.

No word about if he later had the Three Kings purged as class enemies, though. smiley wink


Is Russia behind the European anti-fracking demonstrations?

December 2, 2014
Drill, baby, drill!

Drill, baby, drill!

Plunging oil prices are hurting Russia natural-resources-dependent economy, threatening to throw it into recession along with a collapsing ruble. That’s not a good thing to have happen, but especially not when Moscow’s aggressive behavior has brought them into conflict with the West and earned them economic sanctions.

Part of the problem (from the Kremlin’s point of view) is that the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technological revolution has lead to a renaissance in US oil production — we’re now one of the largest oil producers in the world, with vast reserves. We even export more than we import. And this revolution has just begun. Other nations are very interested in using fracking to bring down drilling costs, promising a larger supply on the market and concomitantly bringing crude prices down, to almost everyone’s benefit.

Well, everyone except Vladimir Putin, that is. A deep fall in Russian revenues thanks to fracking would threaten his glorious plans, the Russian economy, and maybe the stability of his rule. Consequently, we shouldn’t be surprised when people start to wonder if those anti-fracking demonstrations in Europe aren’t being ginned up in Moscow:

PUNGESTI, Romania — Vlasa Mircia, the mayor of this destitute village in eastern Romania, thought he had struck it rich when the American energy giant Chevron showed up here last year and leased a plot of land he owned for exploratory shale gas drilling.

But the encounter between big business and rural Romania quickly turned into a nightmare. The village became a magnet for activists from across the country opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Violent clashes broke out between the police and protesters. The mayor, one of the few locals who sided openly with Chevron, was run out of town, reviled as a corrupt sellout in what activists presented as a David versus Goliath struggle between impoverished farmers and corporate America.

“I was really shocked,” recalled the mayor, who is now back at his office on Pungesti’s main, in fact only, street. “We never had protesters here and suddenly they were everywhere.”

Pointing to a mysteriously well-financed and well-organized campaign of protest, Romanian officials including the prime minister say that the struggle over fracking in Europe does feature a Goliath, but it is the Russian company Gazprom, not the American Chevron.

Gazprom, a state-controlled energy giant, has a clear interest in preventing countries dependent on Russian natural gas from developing their own alternative supplies of energy, they say, preserving a lucrative market for itself — and a potent foreign policy tool for the Kremlin.

“Everything that has gone wrong is from Gazprom,” Mr. Mircia said.

This belief that Russia is fueling the protests, shared by officials in Lithuania, where Chevron also ran into a wave of unusually fervent protests and then decided to pull out, has not yet been backed up by any clear proof. And Gazprom has denied accusations that it has bankrolled anti-fracking protests. But circumstantial evidence, plus large dollops of Cold War-style suspicion, have added to mounting alarm over covert Russian meddling to block threats to its energy stranglehold on Europe.

Via Power Line, where you can read a healthy reminder that this wouldn’t be new behavior for the Russians, as anyone who remembers the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s knows.  (Hint: All those innocent no-war types were being played for suckers by the KGB.)

If we had an administration interested in the intelligent development of America’s resources and also undercutting Putin where’s he’s most vulnerable –and hopefully we will in a couple of years– we could do a lot to jump-start our own economy and “encourage” Vlad to settle down by shutting off his money at the tap.

Still, that the Russians feel a need to break out the old KGB playbook shows how worried they are. And that sound you hear is me weeping in sympathy.

No, wait. It’s not. Not at all.

What you hear is me laughing.


Bookshelf update: Dupes — How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century

November 7, 2014

Renaissance scholar astrologer

I’ve updated the “What I’m reading” widget to the right to reflect the latest item on the Public Secrets lectern, Paul Kengor’s “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

book cover kengor dupes

I’m only a few chapters into it, so far, but it has been an interesting discussion of how Communists in the 20th century targeted non-communist liberals and progressives to be suckered into supporting the USSR and the Communist movement against the United States. Kengor notes that the efforts of the duped were not nearly as often aimed at conservatives as they were at anti-communist liberal Democrats and progressives, Harry Truman being a  particular target.

The author seems fair in his treatment of the Democrats, reminding us that there were many who, while liberal or progressive, were staunchly anti-communist — including those who had once been duped, but saw the light. You’ll be surprised at the names that appear in the book, both  “recovered” dupes and those who played the fool till the day they died. The work is extensively footnoted with references to primary sources (both Soviet and American), and Kengor has an easy writing style. The book is available in both Kindle (1) and hardcover formats.

PS: Why, yes. This is a shameless bit of shilling on my part. I like getting the occasional gift certificate that comes from people buying stuff via my link. But I still think it’s a good book.

Footnote:
(1) I’m happy to say I’ve found very few typos or formatting errors, so far. These are all too common in Kindle e-books.