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Category Archives: Politics & Random Musings
I have just returned from my annual sojourn to America recently; Texas and California to be exact.
This might have been the first time I had ever been to Texas and not see someone wearing a cowboy hat. Amazing, since I spent 10 days there (14 days in Cali). Equally amazing was not seeing any police, or very, very few in both places.
Nobody shot at me either. Always welcomed.
Nothing really has changed much, but it being an election year, one could sense a palatable shift in the mood of the country; interesting to witness I must say. Living outside one’s country for years will change your perspective and give you a certain vantage point that is quite different obviously, than from someone who hasn’t experienced this. That is assuming that one can stay objective.
One major paradigm shift for me over the years living in Moscow has been to not look at things as good or bad but different.
People are people. Living in Moscow is not that different, all things considered, than living in LA. Cultural attitudes aside, I get up, go to work, meet with friends, enjoy life, deal with problems etc. much like I did in LA.
America is a great country, let’s not kid ourselves. I always have a good time there and the people are generally nice and polite. Stereotypes are blown way out of proportion, so it’s quite easy for non- Americans to take pot shots at the country and its people as if the same assholes don’t exist in their country in some form or another.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.
The government takes a lot of heat, and rightfully so. Now it’s time for the American government to change its paradigm and start to work along side countries they have had dubious or mediocre relations in the past. Doesn’t mean putting up with another country’s crap, but not starting any crap of your own as well. Nevertheless, it’s time to stop the do as I say or else nonsense.
It will be interesting to see who is elected President in the U.S.. The U.S. military industrial complex needs to dial it back, that’s for sure.
One thing that was blatantly obvious while I was in America is how the cost of living has gone up in relation to Russia, and Moscow in particular. I didn’t buy half the stuff I normally do to bring back, because quite frankly it cost more in America than Russia taking the exchange rate into consideration. Yikes, what a surprise.
Moscow, normally a perennial among the top 10 most expensive cities in the world now sits at 192. New York City, San Fransisco and Washington D.C. have all cracked the top 10. I don’t think there has been a time in the last 20 years that 3 American cities have been in the top 10. Honolulu, San Jose, Boston, Oakland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago all are in the top 30. This really has to be a first since I’ve been tracking this (since I moved to Moscow) that I have seen so many American cities rank that high.
I believe the worst is over here in Russia; I’m 99% sure of it. It’s also a good time for any Westerner to visit given the exchange rate. Oil is at least moving in a positive direction for the country and the country has improved other sectors.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Western businessmen, dignitaries, and diplomats attend this year’s annual ST. Petersburg International Economic Forum after a 2-year absence. It’s quite apparent EU businesses see the Russian economy coming out of a slump and are as Putin says “chomping at the bit” to do business in Russia again. Of course they are.
These sanctions are bullshit and everyone knows this. Sanctions rarely if ever achieve their desired goals and these sanctions have taken a toll on Europe as well. Part of what the sanctions accomplished was to push the Russian’s back against the wall and force them to finally do something productive within the country. Agriculture continues to produce positive results and I see and feel it at check out counter.
America again it seems, have underestimated things with short-sighted policies.
The demise of Russia economically has been greatly exaggerated by the West. There is still a long way to go to get to the boom years of 2000-2007 and recovery is slow to be sure. As with any recession, some people suffer more than others.
Concurrently, it’s good to see Russia reach out to the West as they have done recently. Russia understands its need for the West to ensure a better future for its people. But, it must be done cooperatively, not aggressively or underhanded. I think business between Europe and Russia will start to increase sanctions or not; it’s only a matter of time.
Life is good in Moscow. Certainly not any worse than in most cities/countries. Summertime is an awesome time to be here and things are looking up. You never know about the future, but it seems there are some rays of sunshine peeking through the clouds of 2014.
My prediction is to look for Russia to show true sighs of recovery into 2017 as oil hits $60-70 with relations and business ties improving between the West and Russia.
Danchik Continue reading
On 22 May 2016, two humanitarian convoys Confederation carrying chemicals for treating water and medical supplies left for Ukraine in the conflict zone.
Part of the convoy with medical equipment and medicine was awarded to the Kurakhove hospital this morning.
The products have been transported by road but also, for the first time by rail .
Sunday morning, a train ferrying chemicals for water treatment left Switzerland to Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.
The cargo is for waterworks of Donbass, which supply the population with drinking water on both sides of the line of contact.
Other goods, including medical supplies, including spare parts for X-ray machine, are transported by road to Donetsk on trucks.
A second convoy of fourteen trucks, is designed to transport some 245 tons of chemicals to the waterworks of Donbass, in the city of Krasnoarmiynsk placed under government control.
A load of medical equipment and medicines by truck was delivered this morning at the hospital Kurakhove.
Convoys benefit from the guidance and support of seven members of the Humanitarian Aid of the Confederation, which is part of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and as collaborators of the embassy and the Kiev cooperation Office.
This convoy is the fourth Swiss humanitarian convoy for this area of conflict since the spring of 2015.
The SDC is so far the only state actor to organize humanitarian convoys crossing the contact line in eastern Ukraine. Continue reading
I’m not sure why anyone falls for the dishonest media spin from either side.
The current “cold war” situation owes more to an engineered conflict that is agreeable to both sides (EU/US and Russia) to distract the peasants from the domestic economic turmoil.
Creating political theatre and ‘threats’ allows governments to run loose economic policy and pour money into defence without taking a beating on the markets.
The ISIS/AQ threat is better persecuted by special forces. To be able to dump billions into new defence projects and soak up blue collared workers into a standing military you need a credible threat.
China doesn’t work so re-igniting the cold-war provides a convenient dog and pony show to distract everyone from our politicians inability to extract us from the economic quagmire they put us in.
There isn’t a single military expert who believes any conflict between NATO/Russia can ever be won by either side, regardless of the military technology employed, since as soon as either side crosses a certain line, then it would escalate to tactical nuclear options, followed by wholesale destruction from the ICBM arsenal.
Putin knows exactly how much rope he has to play with, NATO isn’t going to risk anything over places like Georgia or Ukraine, it is fairly doubtful they would do much over the Baltics. Putin would have to launch an invasion of Finland or Poland before you’d see any kind of response.
Really this is the stuff of Tom Clancy. Any war between major superpowers would plunge the entire global financial system into a collapse, global trade is too interwoven for anything over than skirmishes over non-relevant world economic players.
It’s well known that the UK could no longer even repeat the task force needed to defend the Falklands, but Argentina doesn’t gain anything from trying to take them by force again.
Putin is never going to invade Ukraine, he has the capability and stated he could be in Kiev in 2 days if he wanted (which he could). But occupying a sovereign country would bankrupt Russia and likely lead to his own regime falling.
He is a smart guy and knows real wars are now fought with the media. Market manipulation and information warfare not armour and foot mobiles.
The military talk up a threat to get bigger budgets and new kit, the media toe the line because fear sells more print than Kim Kardashian’s arse, and Putin gets to hold his political control by playing the archetype Russian bear.
Behind the scenes they all discuss what their plans are and laugh at us little people.
Whatever is said publicly the west want to keep Putin in power. He is predictable and capable of holding the country together in a manageable state. They would rather have Putin than some irrational unknown hardliners trying to be a Putin without the smarts of knowing where the line is drawn.
The west don’t care about Russian domestic policy. What they care about is stability of regimes not spooking the markets and causing economic collapse.
No doubt Putin told the US exactly what he was doing in Crimea – he’s not so stupid as to antagonise a nuclear superpower. And no doubt the American administration agreed that the strategic importance of Sevastopol was sufficient grounds for them to protect their interests without interference knowing the potential instability Ukraine was facing.
Anyone who thinks what politicians say and do, or what the media report is in any way representative of what goes on behind closed doors at this level of geopolitics has clearly fallen for the body of lies entirely woven for their benefit.
Remember. War is good business. Most of our enemies like Bin Laden and Saddam were created to serve economic purposes. Suddenly Putin is the bogeyman and Iran is our new best mate. When they want to give China an economic haircut, they’ll be next.
Don’t fall for the rhetoric from either side. Continue reading
BBC pressure leads Paxman to bin article criticising EU
It is not easy to muzzle a journalistic pitbull, but Jeremy Paxman has withdrawn an article critical of the European Union from a forthcoming issue of Radio Times after coming under pressure from the BBC.
The article was commissioned by the magazine to coincide with Paxman in Brussels, a BBC1 documentary about the EU presented by Paxman and due for transmission on May 19.
Typically pugnacious, Paxman expressed doubts about the EU, its bureaucracy and, in particular, the loss of Britain’s sovereignty. While he stopped short of advocating Brexit, Paxman’s strongly expressed views raised concern that the impartiality of his documentary could be compromised.
In publicity material for Paxman in Brussels, the BBC states that “Jeremy Paxman takes an impartial look at the fundamentals of what actually goes on between the UK and the EU”.
It is understood that Paxman had to deal with a senior BBC executive over the article and was unhappy with proposed changes so decided to pull the piece. Radio Times, which was sold by the BBC in 2011, has a weekly circulation of around 800,000 as well as a substantial online audience.
This weekend, the magazine said it was “disappointed” not to be able to publish the article. Paxman’s documentary, during which he meets EU officials and politicians, is one of four about Europe from senior broadcasters. The other presenters are Nick Robinson, whose programme has already aired, Laura Kuenssberg and Mishal Husain.
Paxman’s has been made by Brook Lapping, a TV production company whose documentaries include Inside Obama’s White House on BBC2, and Putin, Russia and the West.
There have also been minor disagreements over what can be said in the programme. The script is yet to be finalised before the voiceover is recorded.
Paxman presented BBC2’s Newsnight for 25 years until his departure in 2014. He still hosts University Challenge. The 65-year-old has described himself as a “One Nation Tory”.
He was recently quoted as saying that he expects Britons to vote to remain in Europe. “Yet Britain’s standing in the world is now much reduced from what it was,” he added. “The problem with the EU is that it makes that abundantly clear.”
In a speech in March, Paxman said: “For the past 40 years, power has been taken from politicians and parliaments, and given to international organisations … Norman Tebbit [the Conservative politician] said people do not like being ruled by those who don’t speak their language. It sounds small-minded, but I think there is something in it.”
Paxman declined to comment. Continue reading
So, What’s The Story Behind Trump’s ‘Surprise’?
I have been thinking about this Trump thing and how it has been that some folks have simply not been able to understand what was going on in front of their faces.
I don’t just mean the ordinary voters, but pundits, analysts and other politicians.
Here, I will make an aside and not that it is quite likely that many, perhaps most of these groups were fully aware of what was happening but their assigned task was to convince the main in the street that Trump was not as significant as he has been and will be.
I was looking at the process by which a person gets to be president of The Free World.
Setting aside the truth that it probably does not make much difference to the man in the street who becomes the president, it is certainly true that various power blocs DO have a keen interest in who gets to be THEIR representative.
To that end it is necessary to convince a significant minority (not necessarily a majority) of the population that the representative of a chosen bloc should gain the needed votes.
What Are The Primaries All About?
It seems to me that the strategic purpose of the charade that is the primary elections is to give the various candidates an opportunity to build a brand among the electorate. After all, almost all the runners and riders for president are unknown to most Americans at the start of the contest.
The primaries give each prospective candidate an opportunity to build a connection with the public, to get their faces known and to transmit a chosen and groomed persona that is hoped will resonate with the relatively uneducated and unsophisticated proles who are expected to make a choice.
We have had many people telling us that Trump was going to fail, that he’d get nowhere and, in terms of the actions taken to dislodge Trump’s progress he had a reasonably expected point. If I were to look at the machinations against him by the Republican party and by the representatives of the various power blocs, to which Trump does not (at this time) seem to belong then I’d say, ‘Yes, Trump has no chance’.
However, what many, probably most people forgot, or disregarded was what the primaries are all about – building the brand.
Trump came into the contest with a HUGE advantage: like him or loathe him there’s 300,000,000 Americans who knew his name, knew what he looked like and were familiar with his chosen and carefully developed public persona.
No other candidate came close apart from Hillary Clinton! Truth be told, her public profile is almost certainly why she is the preferred candidate in the Democratic party.
Which Other Candidate Could Equal Trump’s Visibility?
More than that his personal brand is one of the strongest in the United States, and even globally.
If he wants to move some steaks – all he need do is put his name and a photo on the box and a few commercials.
If he wants to get cars for free – all he need do is talk to a nice man at General Motors.
It does not matter that not every project does as well as its promoters hope because every new project build the brand incrementally.
The nearest we have had to Trump is Reagan, a man who similarly was blessed with a public persona and the skill to mobilize his name and visage toward his chosen goals, but Trump is way, way more powerful and accomplished.
Some folks have wondered why it is that he can say stuff that appears crass or ill-informed without suffering any loss in momentum. Well, that’s his brand working for him. All he’s done is behaved as people expected him to do. But, here’s the thing, Trump is a very, very sharp operator and he works with very, very sharp people. His public persona is a mask, it is not the man – although I am sure that the man wears the mask more comfortably than many others do their own.
He is excused for what critics see as shortcomings because to 300,000,000 Americans he is a human and, oddly enough, one they trust and respect – even many who do not like his persona. That’s because he has been consistent for 30 odd years. He has grown up with the electorate, they have seen his wives and envied him for his ‘catches’ I am sure that many women would give their eye teeth for the chance to have him divorce them!
The Battle Of The Brands
So, what we have right now is a battle of the brands. Clinton understand this and it is why she is now turning toward Trump rather than concentrating upon Sanders (although that may come back to haunt her as an error of judgement) Sanders has done an extremely good job of branding himself and his message resonate with probably 70% of the electorate, even if most will not vote for him.
As we move forward, and assuming that Clinton gets the nod as Democratic candidate we are going to see brands battle it out. It will not be about politics but about how we perceive the candidates. Trump is already doing well here. He has already removed the ‘Hilary as woman’ card from the game. Henceforth it will not be a winning move for Clinton to mention gender in respect of her candidacy. Trump was EXACTLY right when he said that without her gender she had nothing and so removing her ability to use it was a masterstroke.
Now that Trump has forced the Republican party to fall in behind him he needs to pay attention to a stab in the back, but he is no fool and, I am sure has that under control.
My guess is that Trump will go to town with Hillary, he will remind us of her dishonesty, her lack of skill, her poor health and he will, I expect, win the general election. Continue reading
It’s going to come home to roost. Some people are even learning Russian now, so they can move on in the event of Sharia ruled UK. Dramatic in one sense but also a possibility over the next 50 years at this rate.
News feeds being littered with Muslim crime, mass illegal economic immigration, British soldiers being investigated for killing armed militants in the act of war, denying the rape/crime epidemic caused by ‘refugees’, Islamic hate figures preaching their bile on our very own streets whilst on benefits etc.
I could go on but for a so called minority they cause one hell of a lot of problems.
Where’s the daily world news of heinous crimes committed by Chinese, Argentinian, New Zealand, Buddhist, Sikhs around the globe?
Apologies for the rant but Islam has some real problems that need addressing one way or another. I can’t think of another group of people who cause so much suffering, distress and problems for the rest of the world community.
Has anyone read ‘Sapiens, a brief history of humankind’? It’s a fantastic book and part of it addresses Islam and how its shaped the ideology and its sheep.
At this very moment in time, is for us to help those worst affected by the atrocities in Syria/Libya/Iraq.
Anyone seeing the drone footage of cities bombarded to rubble can’t expect people to live there.
That help however, doesn’t include the illegal immigration of hoards of young fit men into the EU, nor does it mean accepting people from all over the Arab world who have decided to benefit directly and take advantage of our politicians unacceptable policies made on our behalf.
Helping the real people includes educating our society about how Syria has become such a mess, millions killed and displaced just because the West didn’t want Assad anymore.
It involves protesting against our governments role in being part of the problem, it involves doing what we can to make their country a safer place. It includes sending aid through the right channels to help refugees caught up in the mess and by aid I mean food, shelter, medicine, clothes and teams dedicated to helping out in disaster zones.
It involves providing security somewhere in that part of the world so they don’t feel the need to flee to Benbecula and of course it involves providing refuge to a sensible number of families needing our assistance, who have been vetted and cleared for re-settlement in the UK.
None of this is unreasonable or unrealistic but the way its being handled is completely unacceptable and those calling the shots should be held responsible.
Right now, the Syrians/Libyans & Iraqi’s are suffering, partly because of the decisions made by our politicians and the end result is that people in Britain will now also directly be affected.
And they call this democracy!! At what point were we consulted or ask for all of this to happen….any of us?? Continue reading
When a propaganda channel like Fox News begins to make positive noises about Russia, we must wonder why the narrative has changed so fast and who is pulling the strings. We all know about Fox News, often referred to as … Continue reading
This article first appeared on RT.
Turkey has shown its hand by destroying the Russian warplane over Syria and followed through on its previous threats to Russia. We must now regard Turkey as a hostile state that supports terrorism.
As has been widely reported, on the 24th November, Turkey – an EU aspirant NATO member – shot down a Russian warplane on legitimate Syrian duties. As a result, one pilot is dead and the other was rescued by Russian Special Forces. Another soldier was killed during the rescue operation and Russia lost a rescue helicopter in the process.
Turkey has been sabre-rattling at Russia for some time. It made a tremendous hue and cry about a previous brief accidental incursion into its airspace, backed up with threats and warmongering. Only two days before this incident, Turkey was threatening Russia with ‘serious consequences’ if it didn’t end its operations near the Turkish border.
Turkey’s actions were clearly premeditated rather than a response to an incursion as first claimed. But they didn’t manage to get their story straight and have been backfilling ever since. The ever-changing Turkish version of events has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese. Turkey claims it gave the Russian plane ten warnings but Wikileaks showed us proof that Turkey claimed the planes were allegedly in Turkish airspace for only 17 seconds.
There would have been no time for ten warnings or for the pilot to seek authorisation to fire, so he was acting on a standing order. He had permission in advance from high up the Turkish food chain to shoot a Russian plane down.
Russia says the plane was attacked over Syria and has published credible evidence to prove it. The plane crashed in Syria and the pilots ejected and landed in Syria. Russia has no reason to knowingly enter Turkish airspace while on Syrian duties.
Turkey knows that Russian planes are legitimately operating close to its borders in Syria. So the Turks were not acting against any actual or perceived threat. They are likely hoping to evade any serious Russian retaliation by hiding behind NATO’s skirts with a supportive narrative guaranteed to come from Uncle Sam. NATO has already announced that the organisation agrees with Turkey’s claims and has pledged to stand in solidarity with them.
The attack was premeditated to the extent that even TV crews and others with cameras were standing by waiting to film the events. They were clearly tipped off in advance.
Turkey is now claiming that it didn’t know the plane was Russian and have rushed out a dubious unverified recording of what is claimed to be the warnings given to the ‘unidentified’ plane.
There seems no doubt that the terrorists in the area whose loyalties are with Turkey had a heads-up and instructions to kill the aircrew. That one of them got away with his life is going to be inconvenient for the Turkish narrative. The pilot reports that there were no warnings of any kind, they know the area like the back of their hand and were not in Turkey.
Let’s be realistic here, this was a planned attack, probably cleared in advance with the Americans, with a story concocted in advance to give plausible deniability.
Follow the Money
What Turkey was really reacting to is Russia disrupting the lucrative and murky oil deals some of its officials and family members of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are tangled up in.
Large amounts of stolen oil are transported illicitly by ISIS to Turkey for onward transportation and sale. The profits from which are helping fund the expansion of ISIS and turning a nice profit for some people in Turkey. Russia has been disrupting this supply chain by bombing the tankers and the production plants. This means certain people in Turkey are losing a lot of money due to the effectiveness of Russia’s air campaign. Some sources claim that one of these people is Bilal Erdoğan, son of Turkish president Erdoğan.
Clearly, there is enough money to be made from stolen oil that decision makers in Turkey were prepared to commit a war crime in defence of it and damage Turkish tourism at the same time.
Tourism in Turkey Will Suffer
Turkey may have just imploded its tourism industry overnight. It has long been a very popular destination for tourists from Russia. Over four million tourists from Russia visited Turkey last year.
Russian tour operators Pegas Touristik, Natalie Tours, Biblio Globus and Tez Tour have already announced they are ending package holidays to Turkey.
The backlash against Turkey is already being seen in Russia. There have been protests outside the Turkish embassy in Moscow and Russians are being very vocal on social media.
With Egypt also off the table for many Russians, Greece will no doubt welcome the 2016 influx of tourism from Russia with open arms.
We Need to Rethink Our Attitude to Turkey
President Putin has described Turkey’s actions as a “stab in the back by terrorist accomplices” – and it’s hard to disagree with him.
The West needs to take off its rose-coloured glasses in respect of Turkey. Turkey has spent years allowing terrorism to flourish in the region. Far from trying to usher Turkey gleefully into the EU, as Brussels is trying to do, they should be kept at arms length. Turkey has proved itself to be dishonest, hostile and disingenuous.
Turkey cannot be considered a partner or an ally to countries that are legitimately fighting terrorism. Turkey is complicit in the support of terrorism. They must be treated as such.
Russia is now beefing up its air defences in the region, and future bombing missions will be flanked by fighter planes. It is unlikely that Moscow will be as restrained as they have been on this occasion if something similar happens again. Russian Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy was quoted as saying, “We warn that every target posing a potential threat will be destroyed”. If Turkey commits further acts of war against Russia, they know to expect robust military retaliation.
We must now regard Turkey as a hostile state that supports terrorism rather than a European ally and an agreeable holiday destination.
Stuart Smith for RT. Follow Stuart on Twitter @RussianHQ Continue reading
Whilst all eyes are on Syria there has been a steady deterioration of the situation in Ukraine.
In violation of the ceasefire shelling of the territories of the two people’s republics has resumed, and the OSCE has confirmed that the Ukrainian military has moved heavy weapons back to the contact line.
The Ukrainians meanwhile have extended their ban of commercial flights to and from Russia by banning also transit flights.
Ukraine has placed Crimea under food blockade. To the intense embarrassment of its Western backers (see this editorial in the Financial Times, headlined “Kiev should act to end the blockade of Crimea”) it has enlarged this to an energy blockade.
Ukraine claims the power lines to Crimea were destroyed by Crimean Tatar “activists” backed by Right Sector.
Even if this were true, the Ukrainian authorities have done little or nothing to take control of the situation, arrest and punish those responsible for what was after all an act of criminal damage, or carry out the necessary repairs.
Characteristically most Western governments have said nothing, save that there has been some muted criticism from Germany.
Contrast this silence with the furious – and wrong – accusations regularly made in the West against Russia for its supposed use of energy as a political weapon.
All of this is happening to a drumbeat of demands in the Ukrainian media for the country to renounce the Minsk II agreement.
The Russians for their part have responded by stopping coal supplies to Ukraine. Since Ukraine is again failing to pay for its gas, it seems the Russians intend to stop supplying Ukraine with gas on Tuesday.
The two people’s republics have also announced they are stopping their own coal deliveries to Ukraine.
These steps increase the prospects of severe power shortages in Ukraine during what is predicted to be a harsh winter.
The Russians are also due in January to impose sanctions on Ukrainian food imports to Russia. This is in retaliation to Ukraine joining EU sanctions against Russia, and imposing sanctions of its own.
Bizarrely, this systematic severing of trade links with Russia is being hailed in parts of the Western media as proof Ukraine is “successfully reorienting” its trade to the EU and away from Russia, and is becoming “less dependent” on Russia. This of course takes no account of the damage these actions are doing to Ukraine’s economy.
There has also been an orchestrated attempt in recent weeks on the part of some sections of the Western media to talk up Ukraine’s economic situation, with claims that it is “stabilising”. The US credit agency Moody’s has joined in the game by upgrading Ukraine’s credit rating.
To the very limited extent this is true, it is wholly the consequence of the August ceasefire, which stopped the drain of fighting the war on the civilian economy.
The actions the Ukrainian government and “activists” have been taking over the last few weeks puts this in jeopardy.
What is causing this sudden deterioration in the situation?
At its simplest, it is growing alarm in Ukraine that Western – especially European – support for Ukraine is flagging.
It is now widely accepted that Merkel and Obama are becoming increasingly isolated in their insistence that the sanctions against Russia be extended.
In France Nicholas Sarkozy, Hollande’s likely conservative opponent at the Presidential election, has clearly signalled his opposition to sanctions, aligning himself on this issue with Marine Le Pen.
More to the point in Germany Merkel’s coalition partners – the SPD and the CSU – are both becoming openly critical of a sanctions policy with which one senses they both privately always disagreed.
Russia Insider has already discussed the increasingly rebellious line being taken by Sigmar Gabriel, the SPD’s leader and Germany’s Vice Chancellor.
Possibly even more important is the call from Horst Seehofer, leader of the CSU – the CDU’s right wing coalition partner in Merkel’s coalition – for a rapprochement with Russia.
Whilst Seehofer’s comments seem to have been specifically triggered by the migrant crisis and the conflict in Syria, their tone suggests a wider rapprochement.
Interestingly, Seehofer has been forging increasingly close links in recent weeks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban – a bete noir in Washington – who is known to be a strong advocate of good relations between Europe Russia.
Back in September – as the migrant crisis was starting to spiral out of control – Orban made another call for a new relationship between Europe and Russia. Significantly he did this straight after a meeting with Seehofer.
The mounting opposition in Europe to the sanctions is being picked up by the “realists” in the US.
Russia Insider recently republished an article in The National Interest – the main publication in which the US foreign policy “realists” express their views – which should be read as a call to the Obama administration to take the lead in diplomatic discussions with Moscow before the sanctions regime collapses, leaving the US looking isolated and humiliated.
A number our readers misunderstood this article, taking literally its ritual claims about the sanctions’ effectiveness and Putin’s supposedly “desperate situation”.
The sad truth about policy debate in the US today is that it cannot admit defeat, so that even when it retreats it has to claim “victory”.
The key point about the article in The National Interest is not what it says about Putin and Russia.
It is its call for the US to initiate diplomatic negotiations with Moscow to find a face-saving way to end the sanctions before Europe splits away and they fall apart.
The gradual shift towards an improvement in relations with Russia began before Russia’s intervention in Syria.
In fact it has been underway ever since the Minsk II agreement was reached in February. We have discussed the process at length in various articles here on Russia Insider.
However the Russian intervention in Syria and the Paris attacks have markedly accelerated the process, with Western public opinion showing increasing signs of backing Russia.
All of this is causing in Ukraine growing alarm. The Ukrainians must be seething as international attention is refocusing away from them, and as Russia shows signs of winning over Western public opinion to its side.
The consistent response of the Maidan movement whenever it senses it is losing is to double down and escalate and that is what we are now seeing.
A way to rationalise it would be to say that the Ukrainians are trying to provoke Russia into an overreaction, so as to reignite the conflict in order to shore up Western support and get the sanctions – due for renewal in December – extended.
Though this is at a certain level true, it seriously underestimates the purely visceral aspect in Ukrainian behaviour.
For the Maidan movement any sign Russia is gaining credit with the Western public is like a red rag to a bull. There is no need to look for calculation in Ukrainian behaviour in order to understand it.
The underlying problem – as we have said many times – is that the Maidan movement is inherently incapable of the sort of compromise that Minsk II envisages.
To see how that is so, consider what has happened since the October summit in Paris where the Europeans in effect ordered Poroshenko to implement Minsk II within a revised timetable.
The Ukrainians have done nothing of the sort, and the new timetable for carrying out the terms of Minsk II is already slipping.
Any discussion of the internal aspect of the Ukrainian conflict – as opposed to its external aspect – has to proceed from the fact that the present Ukrainian government is simply incapable of compromise unless overwhelming external pressure is brought upon it.
The Russians long ago grasped this. Over the last few weeks there are clear signs the Europeans belatedly are starting to grasp it as well.
The question that remains is for how much longer the Europeans will be prepared to go on making their relations with Russia hostage to the ideological obsessions of the Maidan movement and its neocon supporters.
The mounting evidence – judging from comments by people like Sigmar Gabriel and Horst Seehofer in Germany, Sarkozy in France, and from what happened during the summit in Paris – is that European patience is wearing thin. Continue reading
This article first appeared at RT.
As the hysterical outpourings of the Western media and their relentless anti-Putin narrative becomes ever more ridiculous. We look at why.
Vladimir Putin wants to cut off your internet. At least, if you are a reader of the New York Times, you may well believe this. The NYT recently reported that “Russian submarines and spy ships are aggressively operating near the vital undersea cables that carry almost all global Internet communications”.
The NYT didn’t bother to expand on how a submarine might go about acting ‘aggressively’ in the presence of inert under sea cables in international waters. Indeed, later in the article they admit that there is “no evidence of any cable cutting”. So the real story here is in fact: Russian submarine in the sea.
That doesn’t sound like a terribly catchy headline though does it?
If you are a Mail on Sunday reader of the print edition, you were recently treated to a two page headline declaring “Putin’s bombing of the innocents”.
Curiously, the online version of that story omitted that headline.
The Mail is good at this. They can find a reason to blame Russia (quoted from someone else of course) in almost any story. The UK telephone company Talk Talk recently suffered a database hacking. The Mail ran a story about it. Sure enough, in that story we find a quote by someone called Ewan Lawson: “this could be part of a wider pattern of activity encouraged or even supported by the Russian state as part of an effort to destabilise the West”.
Colour me sceptical, but I can’t really see the West being destabilised because someone hacked the database of a minor mobile telephone company.
It must have been a quiet day at the Daily Express this week; they are again suggesting Russia is set to start WW3. Apparently, the Express “laid bare” Putin’s “imperialist ambitions”. The reason? Russia plans to build a military base – in Russia.
We see such nonsense in the Western media more than usual right now. When the editors want to keep a narrative alive, or bury some inconvenient actual news, they will publish something, anything, which allows them to use the headlines that apply to that narrative.
Often these stories are essentially made up, but they allow the use of the words and phrases the narrative dictates, and the narrative remains in the ‘news’.
Continual hyperventilating about so-called (and usually non-existent) ‘Russian aggression’ keeps things like the US bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan off the front pages. Certainly it will keep out of the news the US tank that crashed though the gates of the same hospital destroying evidence less than two weeks later.
That is what is happening here. The Western media have had nothing credible to bash Russia with for some time. There’s not a lot being published about American bumbling in the Middle East, Ukraine is yesterdays news while Poroshenko decides how to further eviscerate the country that he is, nominally, the leader of. Few in the Western media really want to run stories about how Russia is obliterating ISIS positions in a matter of weeks where the US failed over a year and a half.
So instead, we get silly pieces that enable writers and thought leaders to keep the anti-Russian meme going with their audiences. Make something up, quote an unnamed source, add a stock photo of Putin with no shirt, and the anti-Putin propaganda train keeps on rumbling down the tracks.
Why the Western media misunderstand Russia.
Much of the Western media fundamentally misunderstand Russians and Russia. Many blame Putin’s 89% popularity rating in Russia on a ludicrous notion that people answer poll questions while gripped with fear. US News recently reported that “Russians that truly do support Putin form their opinions in a virtual information vacuum. The Russian public’s news and information is overwhelmingly created, or at least vetted, by the Kremlin.”
The very idea that – in the internet age – the government of a country such as Russia could control the media to such an extent that 127m people (89%) could be hoodwinked en masse is frankly, preposterous.
A better approach for Western hacks might be to take a look at why Putin has such high support in Russia rather than trying to pretend he hasn’t. From that, politicians elsewhere might learn something.
If one judges a politician’s credibility by what they do, compared to what they say they will do, Putin is credible, honest and honourable. He has a long track record of doing what he said he would do. On the whole, when he says a thing, it will be so. If he does not say a thing, then you can be sure that what you are hearing is speculation. Voters like that. In the West, we have almost no experience of this.
On foreign policy, the Western media glibly overlooks the fact that the US has invaded over a dozen countries and tried to overthrow the elected governments of many others since just 1990. Yet Russia is criticised for allowing Crimea to reunify with hardly a shot fired, which undoubtedly saved many lives while following the will of the people.
Russia is somehow ‘aggressive’ when it expresses concern that the US and the EU are surrounding it with missiles placed in FSU countries, but continual US aggression across the world – this week with China – is meant to be seen as somehow ‘spreading democracy’ and a harbinger of some kind of ‘freedom’.
The Western media is confused. To find a president that actually leads, one who puts the national interest first and does what he says he will do is somewhat disturbing for them. Such behaviour is beyond their domestic sphere of experience. So they extrapolate from this that it cannot actually be so. The polls must be faked, people must be rigid with terror and afraid to speak out or they must have no access to news.
How to report what you do not understand?
If so few Western hacks understand Russia, and cannot be bothered to learn, how do they fill their column inches? Rather than critical analysis, investigating a variety of viewpoints or perhaps even talking to some Russians, many just follow the herd and make it up.
Cue another story on ‘Russian aggression’, Russia being poised to invade [choose any country here], Russia encroaching in someone’s airspace or the latest media misrepresentation: Russia killing moderate terrorists (helpfully called ‘rebels’ for that purpose), presented as if eradicating terrorists is a bad thing.
Reading the Western media can easily conjure up an image of Putin that has him cackling in his volcano, stroking a white cat with a control panel of missile launch buttons at his elbow. It is also amusing to note that every decision made at any level of government in Russia is always personally attributed to Putin. The media imagines that he somehow personally approves every piece of media output, every article and every minor decision. He must have some time management skills!
With such an anti-Putin narrative now the norm in the Western media for so long, it becomes quite easy to see how lazy hacks will use him as the default baddie for almost anything that happens. Mobile phone company hacked? Blame Russia. Found a Russian submarine in the sea someplace? See what is nearby and accuse Russia of being aggressive towards it. Facts are irrelevant if you are able to twist words or modify their intent by quoting them out of context. Find someone who is ‘worried’ and sprinkle in the word ‘Kremlin’ here and there for a sinister overtone.
It seems unlikely that the mainstream Western media will ever go back to honest and fair journalism as they have now travelled so far in the other direction. But a good start would be having the hacks who diligently churn out negative content about Russia each and every day to actually go to Russia and learn something.
Better still; send them to Syria to watch the 800,000 refugees returning home thanks to Russia’s efforts to crush ISIS. It’s hard to put a negative spin on that. Continue reading