A Trial of Spiritual Resolve: Sergey Lavrov’s Speech to the Military Academy of the General Staff

Uncle Volodya says, “Hence that general is skilful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skilful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack..”

“Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root… Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that’s now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.”

Ronald Reagan, The Quest for Peace, the Cause of Freedom

Ronald Reagan was at the same time one of American history’s most polarizing and most iconic presidents.  Even his enemies would have to concede he was a hell of a public speaker, and although it was questionable in retrospect how much of what he said he actually understood, he had that “This just makes sense” delivery that caused listeners to cheerfully abandon doubt.

And that would be unwise, because Ronald Reagan loved to use American military power, never mind his blarney about we-hope-we’ll-never-have-to-use-it. He bombed Libya because Gaddafi had the temerity to declare Libyan sovereign territory off-limits and because he was publicly anti-Israel, and Reagan drove American policy vis-a-vis Russia to rollback rather than detente. All that notwithstanding, his quote above might have been written for Russia today, and the crossroads at which it stands. Continue reading

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As the Quicksand Closes Over WADA’s Head…a Lifeline is Thrown From the Unlikeliest Quarter

Uncle Volodya says,

Uncle Volodya says, “Sports is like a war without the killing.”

On so many evenings in Moscow, when the working day is done and it’s Miller Time, and Vladimir Putin goes home to his disgustingly decadent Italianate palace, he must run up to his bedroom, throw himself upon his giant four-poster (caparisoned in black silk embroidered with the double-headed imperial eagle, £376.00 from Bespoke Bedlinens of London), and laugh until tears come to his eyes at the modern comedy which is human nature.

Oh, I was just kidding about the palace and the fancy bed; I made up the latter, and the former is a perennial fable from circus-clown fatboy and ‘Kremlin insider’ Stas Belkovsky. I personally doubt Mr. Putin needs the trappings of opulence to any significant degree – he rides a high every day of running the world’s biggest country, and diddling the west until it weeps angry tears of frustration.

Consider the classic example of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) recent fall from grace. It went from thumping its chest and promising the McLaren Report would go through Russia like shit through buckwheat, harvesting government ministers as it went, to making excuses for the debacle whereby it had to admit there was not enough evidence contained in the report for individual prosecutions.

What a bitter pill that must have been to swallow. Note, please, the new appearance of terms like ‘alleged’ and ‘implicated’. Because it wasn’t always that way, was it? No, indeed; it wasn’t. Let’s recall WADA Director Sir Craig Reedie’s gloating tone in the agency’s statement which accompanied the release of the McLaren Report:

The Moscow laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system, described in the Report as the Disappearing Positive Methodology…The Sochi laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Games…The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes’ analytical results and sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the Federal Security Service (FSB); the Center of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia (CSP); and, both Moscow and Sochi laboratories…Shamefully, the McLaren Report corroborates the allegations

In fact, the McLaren Report does no such thing. It does make a lot of allegations, but it – embarrassingly – relied almost exclusively on ‘disclosures’ from nutball-for-hire Grigory Rodchenkov. Rodchenkov previously spent time in a mental institution, although that was quite possibly a dodge employed to avoid prosecution for involvement in a doping ring, and an investigation which netted his sister Marina.

McLaren claimed to have seen a demonstration of how the tamper-proof sample bottles could be opened, cleaned, refilled and resealed without breaking the cap or leaving any obvious sign of tampering. If he did, it was not to the very best of my knowledge ever repeated for experts in the field. FSB involvement was never substantiated by evidence, and Berlinger (manufacturer of the sample bottles) stood by their product in a statement issued following the release of the McLaren Report. It provided, in part;

In neither its own tests nor any tests conducted by the independent institute in Switzerland has any sealed Berlinger Special AG urine sample bottle proved possible to open.

The people who made the bottles and know them best say their experts and an independent testing entity could not get the sealed bottles open without either breaking the cap – which is designed to happen, verifying the bottle has been opened either by the testing agency, legitimately, or for potentially nefarious tampering with the contents – or showing obvious signs of damage. McLaren has not demonstrated his mystery method which he says convinced him it could be – and was – done, and I’m betting he never will. As so often occurs in sanctimonious western sermonizing on the subject of Russia and its myriad evils, it’s “I just know. Never mind how; just trust me”. Continue reading

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When I Fight Reality, Reality Always Wins.

Uncle Volodya says, "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

Uncle Volodya says, “A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”

When I hear the phrase, “American rocker”, I frequently think of John Mellencamp. He started out in the 1970’s, professionally, as ‘John Cougar’ because his manager said nobody would ever buy a record by someone named John Mellencamp. Eventually, when he was well established in the music business, he went back to his birth name, after a brief transition period as ‘John Cougar Mellencamp’.

He seemed to me the quintessential American performer in the few interviews in which I saw him; although he does not come across as particularly well-educated, he is always honest, modest and direct, and…real, I guess. He still lives in the same Midwestern state where he was born, and dedicated much of his musical career to mild activism in support of American farmers, small-town life and the environment. If you were looking for an American star who is not a pretentious prick full of himself, but who reflects quiet dignity, self-awareness and what Americana beyond the delusional world of the Beltway is all about, I don’t think you could do much better than John Mellencamp.

I’ve never seen him play, although we were actually in the same city at the same time once; Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 80’s. I was only there for a couple of days, and by the time I heard about the show it was sold out.

But this post isn’t about John Mellencamp; we just want to borrow the lead-in from his “Authority Song”. When I fight authority, authority always wins, baby. In discussion of the situation in Ukraine, long-time commenter Yalensis proposed a slight rewrite to encompass the yawning chasm between Kiev’s happy talk of visa-free travel and Eurosnuggling, and the miserable penury that is the daily lot of Ukrainians who do not own a candy company, a TV station and assorted other business ventures. The new version would be, when I fight reality, reality always wins. And so it will, because you can only keep it at bay for so long.

The story that inspired his witticism was this one: “Natural Gas Shortage Will Cause Ukraine to Look to Russia”, in The Observer. That’s how it’s listed by search item, but for some unaccountable reason the headline on the actual story reads, “Russia is Hoping to Freeze Ukraine Into Submission”.

That so? Well, their hopes of doing that must have been temporarily dashed back in November, when Poroshenko assured the country that Ukraine had enough gas and coal to last through the winter. Bragged about it as just another of Ukraine-under-Poroshenko’s miraculous achievements, in fact. But who knew winter would still be going on in January, am I right? Must be climate change, or something. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , | 1,750 Comments

Get in There and Win One For Mom and Apple Pie: Non-Combatant Molly McKew Pounds the War Drum

Uncle Volodya says,

Uncle Volodya says, “Given a choice, it seems like pity would be easier to bear than mockery, but that’s not true. Mockery hardens defenses; pity slips through, finds the softest places you have, and slices to the bone. Pity will break you, every time.”

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind.

He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm, and with whom he has no quarrel.

And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands, and works for the universal brotherhood of man with his mouth.

-Mark Twain

It is a phenomenon that is none the less remarkable for the frequency of its observation that none is so enthusiastic an endorser of armed combat and violence as he – or she – who has little or no personal acquaintance with  military service, and is among the least likely to participate if her earnest advocacy for war bears fruit.

The poster-child for this philosophy is Molly McKew, of The Washington Free Beacon and Politico, and former adviser to deposed Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. Right up until his people kicked him out of the saddle, in fact, in favour of eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. And now, as another eccentric billionaire is preparing to take over the reins of power in the United States, Ms. McKew joins luminaries of the Make War, Not Love Club Samantha Power and Susan Rice in advocating military action to stop Russia’s Vladimir Putin, because the United States has not depended on diplomacy for so long that it now stinks out loud at it and has no international credibility. When the only tool in the toolbox of the tough is a hammer, the tough get going, and all that.

Ms. McKew gives us a guided tour of her philosophy in “Putin’s Real Long Game”, for Politico, and it is already piling up rave reviews in her Twitter feed from the usual Amerika-Uber-Alles types, such as Catherine Fitzpatrick.

It turns out – not to be a spoiler, or anything – that Putin’s long game looks remarkably like what is customarily the long game for the United States; ensuring by various non-violent means a receptiveness to national interests. Although when the United States does it, it should not be imagined to be sinister in any way, because the United States is a dedicated international philanthropist which consistently works for mutual benefit, and would never abuse a trade-based economic arrangement for its own benefit or use the threat of its mighty military to intimidate an ally into compliance. Whereas Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy boils down to sucking the life-force from hapless countries too weak to resist his bony-fingered embrace, like the pitiful Podlings in The Dark Crystal.

What makes this interesting is not so much the dog-whistle appeals to exceptionalism and good ol’ American can-do, because those are the perennial Hallmark card to the low-information reader that we have become accustomed to. No, what makes this a noteworthy piece is its tentative bellwether sucking up to Trump, who will succeed to the Presidency of the United States despite a cacophony of caterwauling from the neoconservatives who lusted after the war-hammer of Hillary Clinton. Having painted Trump with excrement and ridicule daily in the full expectation that he would lose, America’s War Party must now explore how they might best make use of him to return to the pleasant pastime of perpetual war. Thus Trump becomes an unconventional thinker rather than a self-absorbed simpleton; a rough-hewn individualist rather than a maudlin bumpkin, as out of place as a rap star at an IPO after-party. The apparent aim is a no-hard-feelings attempt to co-opt Trump to the cause of returning Russia to its also-ran box. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Georgia, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Politics, Religion, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2,348 Comments

What Does Freedom Mean to You? Putin at Valdai, 2016

Uncle Volodya says, "The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”

Uncle Volodya says, “The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”

American protest songs, lyrically at least, showcase that as an expression of national consciousness, Americans lost their understanding of what freedom means somewhere in the early 1970’s. Sentiment against dictatorships and enslavement of populations gave way to more America-centric problems, dominated by the war in Vietnam and, to a lesser extent, national race relations and the problems associated with getting a job. In latter decades the media honed its skills at what has become known as the politics of division, and became adept at turning whole segments of the population against one another, always dangling the illusory concept of freedom just out of reach.

What is freedom, really? Is it the liberty to make mistakes while pursuing greater goals, knowing that you still must bear responsibility for the consequences – unintentional and potential – of those mistakes? Or is it simply the removal of all restraints on one’s personal behavior, as Jen suggests here?

This and other issues is discussed here in a provocative guest post by the inimitable Aussie contributor, Jenifer Hor, in her analysis of Putin’s speech to the attendants of the final plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club at Sochi, last month. For me, it reaffirms that Vladimir Putin remains committed to a united global problem-solving approach which emphasizes frank and open discussion of world problems, while the west remains mired in creation of wedge issues for its own benefit and discrediting all sources which do not correspond to its worldview. Permit me to offer my accolades in advance for a solid and perceptive first-line analysis. Take it away, Jen!

Vladimir Putin’s Valdai Speech at the XIII Meeting (Final Plenary Session) of the Valdai International Discussion Club (Sochi, 27 October 2016)

As is his usual custom, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the final session of the annual Valdai International Discussion Club’s 13th meeting, held this year in Sochi, before an audience that included the President of Finland Tarja Halonen and former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki. The theme for the 2016 meeting and its discussion forums was “The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow” which as Putin noted was very topical and relevant to current developments and trends in global politics, economic and social affairs.

Putin noted that the previous year’s Valdai Club discussions centred on global problems and crises, in particular the ongoing wars in the Middle East; this fact gave him the opportunity to summarise global political developments over the past half-century, beginning with the United States’ presumption of having won the Cold War and subsequently reshaping the international political, economic and social order to conform to its expectations based on neoliberal capitalist assumptions. To that end, the US and its allies across western Europe, North America and the western Pacific have co-operated in pressing economic and political restructuring including regime change in many parts of the world: in eastern Europe and the Balkans, in western Asia (particularly Afghanistan and Iraq) and in northern Africa (Libya). In achieving these goals, the West has either ignored at best or at worst exploited international political, military and economic structures, agencies and alliances to the detriment of these institutions’ reputations and credibility around the world. The West also has not hesitated to dredge and drum up imaginary threats to the security of the world, most notably the threat of Russian aggression and desire to recreate the Soviet Union on former Soviet territories and beyond, the supposed Russian meddling in the US Presidential elections, and apparent Russian hacking and leaking of emails related to failed US Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s conduct as US Secretary of State from 2008 to 2012. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2,429 Comments

What if Trump Were Running Against Putin? The Struggle to Sell Clinton as a Democratic Inevitability.

Uncle Volodya says, "And thus I clothe my naked villainy With odd old ends stol'n out of holy writ; And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”

Uncle Volodya says, “And thus I clothe my naked villainy, with odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ; and seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”

The fortuitous discovery of perhaps thousands of emails exchanged with Hillary Clinton’s private email server, recovered from the computer belonging to sexual cluster bomb Anthony Weiner and his estranged missus – Clinton Chief of Staff and vice-chair of her election campaign Huma Abedin – has once again interrupted the manufactured momentum of Clinton inevitability. First and foremost, it reemphasizes the transient nature of Clinton’s understanding of ‘truth’; she clearly did not turn over to the FBI all emails on the server which were not of a personal nature. Or perhaps it is the concept of ‘personal’ with which she has an imperfect understanding, so that it includes ‘things which might get me in trouble’.

Several sites have attempted to make sense of this election campaign, which is noteworthy as it pits perhaps the two most despised people in America against one another for the increasingly tawdry prize of President of the United States. Let me say that again – the only thing unusual in these times of negative campaigning and character assassination is that a popular candidate has not emerged – it remains to be determined only who is less hated. Anyway, of those sites, the best I have seen can be found at the Archdruid Report (thanks, Cortes); poignantly entitled, “The Last Gasp of the American Dream”, it is at pains to explain – among other things – that the claim this is the most important election in American history is simply a flailing attempt to lend some dignity and appearance of deliberation to a process that has become nine parts entertainment mixed with one part immature graduation kegger. There’s an old military parable which is a cruder analogy of “You can’t put lipstick on a pig”, and it’s, “You can’t buff a turd”.  It is, frankly, impossible to invest the ongoing election process in America with anything like dignity, and it is instead increasingly apparent to uncomfortable Americans and gobsmacked internationals that it is a desperate contest by a serial liar to prevent an interloper from outside the insular American political class from occupying the highest office. The Clinton campaign’s subtext that repudiating Clinton is spitting in the face of women everywhere is a cheap trick – no further demonstrations are necessary to prove women can do anything men can do which does not require superior upper-body strength, and there are a few women who can do even that. Speaking in the broadest and most general terms, there are some fields in which women are a little better than men, and some in which they generally do not perform as well. But there are virtually none women just can’t do, and it should be clear that gender has nothing to do with a natural ability to assume the office of president. Continue reading

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The Quality of Mercy

Uncle Volodya says, "The darkest secret of this country, I am afraid, is that too many of its citizens imagine that they belong to a much higher civilization somewhere else.”

Uncle Volodya says, “The darkest secret of this country, I am afraid, is that too many of its citizens imagine that they belong to a much higher civilization somewhere else.”

“Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time everywhere”

-George W. Bush

The western press, and the political systems it serves, are rousing themselves to a frenzy of effort to stop the Syrian government forces from re-taking the Syrian city of Aleppo, which the west would very much like to see the ‘rebels’ retain as the capital of a federalized opposition state within Syria.

The Washington Post is a good example of the outage flooding the net, chucking out articles like it was a snowball fight, each vying with the last to explore new heights of this-must-not-stand noble fury at the Russian/Syrian military operation to drive Islamic State from  the last major city in Syria in which it has a significant presence. If Assad’s forces are successful, as they will be without a direct western military intervention on behalf of the al Qaeda affiliates, the IS insurgency will be reduced to terrorizing small villages and spray-painting its tags on mailboxes.

Consider Richard Cohen, figuratively dancing with rage, beside himself with fury at the Russians’ temerity in supporting Assad – who is the democratically-elected leader of Syria, who retains the loyalty of a convincing majority and who would win easily in free elections.

According to Cohen, what is going on now in Aleppo is murder, plain and simple, and that it is being allowed to continue is a symbol of American weakness. Cohen implores the United States to gird itself for battle, and issue forth and save the al-Nusra Front, Islamic State and whatever other al-Qaeda splinter groups might be in Aleppo, from defeat. Well, them, too – but he’s mostly concerned about the civilians, especially the children. Because, in the end, it’s for the kids, right?

This is not Kerry’s failure. It is Obama’s. He takes overweening pride in being the anti-George W. Bush. Obama is the president who did not get us into any nonessential wars of the Iraq variety. The consequences for Syria have been dire — perhaps 500,000 dead, 7 million internal refugees, with millions more surging toward Europe like a tsunami of the desperate.

Syria had a pre-crisis population of just over 21 million, so according to Cohen, a third of the Syrian population has either been killed or internally displaced. But the west is just now getting extra-concerned. Cohen’s anguish certainly speaks well of him; I will do what I can to put him in touch with an agency that will send a Syrian refugee family to share his accommodations. I sure hope he doesn’t live in one of the states that has refused to take Syrian refugees, especially considering the death toll appears to have doubled in less than a year; in November 2015 it was guessed to be around 250,000. But Richard has shown us how to arrive at a more sensational number – you just put ‘perhaps’ in front of it. In reality nobody has much of a clue, since the UN takes its numbers directly from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As I have pointed out many times before, this is one guy working out of his living room in England, funneling figures from his network of activists in Syria. Nobody checks anything, and the one time the UN tried to verify the numbers it was successful in doing so for less than a dozen casualties. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Middle East, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2,542 Comments