Putin is Weaponizing Popularity: Newsweek is not Amused.

Uncle Volodya says, "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”

“The mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children.”

 – André Breton

How appropriate, to say nothing of au courant,  to kick off this post with a quote from André Breton; a French poet, writer, and author of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, he is best remembered as the founder of Surrealism. And oh, Mama; surreal is what we have for you today. Yes, having weaponized everything from refugees to referendums, Putin has finally rolled out his magnum opus: he has weaponized his own popularity. Except it is somehow a secret. What a good thing that we have Newsweek to brief us on how that works, because at the outset I confess I am puzzled as to how secret popularity could function as a weapon.

I hate to give away right at the beginning how numbingly idiotic the piece is, but I am afraid most of you would guess as soon as you learned that the primary source upon which Newsweek relied for its breathtaking Kremlin insights was that old ‘Kremlin insider’ himself – Gleb Pavlovsky. Epiphany Number One: the overriding reason the west has Russia so wrong is that it keeps tapping the same sources for instruction and inspiration – Fiona Hill, Clifford Gaddy, Gleb Pavlovsky, Yulia Latynina, Stanislav Belkovsky, Edward Lucas, Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, Garry Kasparov, the late and mostly unlamented Boris Nemtsov…a phalanx of sycophancy that always tells it what it wants to hear. Thou, O Queen, art fairest still. Gleb Pavlovsky affects to know everything that goes on in Russia as if it were all unfolding to his own plan, and nobody ever seems to notice when he is catastrophically wrong or that he has been predicting Putin’s collapse for a decade. Here he is, running his mouth in The Guardian, four years ago: “[Putin] thinks man is a sinful being and it is pointless to try to improve him. He believes the Bolsheviks who tried to create fair people were simply idiots, and we wasted a lot money and energy on it … So Putin’s model is that you need to be bigger and better capitalists than the western capitalists. And more consolidated as a state: there must be a full, maximum unity of state and business.”

For Pavlovsky, United Russia’s collapse in the polls in December was obvious. “It was nothing more than a telephone system for conveying the Kremlin’s orders. It transmitted a signal. It has absolutely not independence and can not act on its own. It needs full instructions – 1,2,3,4,5. If 3 and 4 are missing, it stops and waits for instructions.”

The masses, in Putin’s mind, cannot be trusted to rule. Pavlovsky said: “What is the Putin consensus? It is a construction of a pact between the ruling elite and the main groups of society in which society is guaranteed a degree of social distribution and an elite which feels free to move across borders. This state has no ideology. It will be a state without ideas oriented on common sense, the average man, the citizen. Nonetheless the masses must not be given access to power.”

The Putin consensus began when Putin decided he was the sole bearer of that guarantee and he controlled the whole situation. But it ended at precisely point he decided to return to power as president: “That was his mistake. His decision to return was a certain delusion of grandeur, ” Pavlovsky said. Continue reading

Posted in Alexei Navalny, Boris Nemtsov, Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2,248 Comments

The Madness of Anders Aslund; Economic Advice for Ideologues With Too Much Money

Uncle Volodya says, "To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Uncle Volodya says, “To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”

Unwrap yourself for a starving man
Come drown your thoughts if they bite you
Turn off the world if it makes you hurt
I’m just a clown but I like you…

Max Webster, from “Let Go the Line”

What follows is an object lesson in how a bitter hatred of a country or an institution, nurtured over a lifetime, can make an educated man forswear everything he ever learned in an effort to make the desired end-state a reality, against every single glimmer of common sense. In this, you can no longer tell hatred and besotted love apart, because both can cause the afflicted to make a fool of himself and not care, having lost sight of everything else but his objective.

I have speculated here in the past, several times, on the question whether Anders Aslund is (a) a victim of a progressive and creeping malady which is causing him to lose his mind, (b) a natural-born idiot who tricked the world into believing he is an economist, or (c)  a madman who should be locked up. I am afraid I am no closer to an answer, although we can rule out (d), he is right and his advice is sensible. But perhaps if we break the situation down to two stark truths, you can help me reach a decision.

Truth one: Anders Aslund despises Russia, loses no opportunity to disparage it, and especially loathes its president, Vladimir Putin. Truth two, Anders Aslund continues to offer irrational advice on putting money into Ukraine, although it has been identified by even its most fervent cheerleaders as the most corrupt nation in Europe, staying in some sort of twilit half-life only through IMF handouts whose future is uncertain. In fact, Anders Aslund continues to beat the drum for investors to put their money into Ukraine although returns on existing invstments have been terrible, and investor sharpies who bet big on snapping up Ukrainian debt took a bath, as the expected IMF transfer of money from taxpayers to wealthy investors did not materialize.

Although that’s a pretty slender dataset on which to base a conclusion, I nevertheless conclude that Anders Aslund is so dizzy with hatred for ‘Putin’s Russia’ that he is offering economic advice which runs completely counter to common sense, in the desperate hope that a flow of new money will keep Ukraine alive long enough that it can serve its purpose and destroy its neighbour.

Aslund proposes that there has been a number of positive changes in Ukraine since the revolution, and proceeds to enumerate them. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Russia, Trade, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1,887 Comments

Rope-a-Doper, American Style: Don’t Do As I Do, Do As I Say

Uncle Volodya says, "What will the preachers say to teach men not to persecute men? For, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike.”

Uncle Volodya says, “What will the preachers say to teach men not to persecute men? For, while a few sanctimonious humbugs are burning a few fanatics, the earth opens and swallows up all alike.”

Before we get started, a moment of silence, please, for Mitt Romney, who collapsed and died on Tuesday following his fourth consecutive multiple orgasm of vindication, at A.R. Valentin’s restaurant in La Jolla, California. His dinner companions did not notice at first that Mr. Romney had fallen off his chair, all having raised their eyes to the ceiling and chorused “America’s foremost geopolitical enemy!!!” to complete Mr. Romney’s statement, “I told them Russia was…” because they had all heard it at least a hundred times that day.

No, seriously, of course Mitt Romney is not dead. In fact, he must be on top of the world; after all, he is America’s foremost psychic seer – he knew Russia would be America’s acknowledged geopolitical foe before anyone else did except for the very core of the corporate elite who run the country. Back when he said it, though, in 2012, his presidential opponent – Barack Obama – ridiculed him. “A few months ago, when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. Not al Qaeda; you said Russia,” the president said. “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Funny old world, innit? Then, Obama fancied al Qaeda was America’s greatest geopolitical foe, and now they’re allies, united by the common imperative of overthrowing the President of Syria. Politics makes strange bedfellows; my, yes, ne’er a truer word was spoken. Well, Barack Obama might be slow to catch on, but he’s making up for lost time – demonization of Russia now goes on all day long, day in, day out, on every front, and no sector is too unimportant for The Land Of The Free to denigrate Russia’s efforts in that direction, and to paint its people as liars, cheats and savages. Not even during the sullen night watches of the Cold War was the rhetoric so corrosive and inflammatory, or the call to arms so strident. All, all is now subordinated to politics and the catechism of contempt and exclusion. Russia is the enemy, and whom the Gods would cast down, they first make inhuman.

The latest bear-baiting arena is international sport, as Washington goes all-out on cementing the impression that Russian athletes could not win an apple-bobbing contest unless they were high as kites, doped to the eyeballs. It’s not hard to see where this is going – exclusion of Russian athletes from the next Olympic Games, perhaps a permanent ban, and the degradation of Russian athletic performance in the past by implication. Nothing strategic about it, and it wouldn’t gain Americans anything other than an imaginary moral victory – it’s just more of the small-minded meanness that has grown to characterize American global relations. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Europe, Government, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia | Tagged , , , , | 574 Comments

Red Hot Jingoism, With a Side of Apple Pie

Uncle Volodya says, "Empty threats are for dreamers. And I fancy myself a realist.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Empty threats are for dreamers. And I fancy myself a realist.”

Peruse, if you will, this sabre-rattling pile of poop. Coming on the heels of recent articles which warn that the west sees a nuclear war as both winnable and possible, even probable, and the conviction that a new western strategy is the attempt to initiate a Kremlin palace coup  by Russian nationalist hardliners fed up with Putin’s squishiness because he will not respond more aggressively to NATO provocations on Russia’s doorstep, it’s hard not to conclude that the west has lost its mind. If the fear of a planet-devastating nuclear war – in which the two major world nuclear powers pull out all the stops in an unrestricted attempt to annihilate one another – no longer holds our behaviors in check…what’s scarier than that?

We seriously need to persuade our leaders, in the strongest terms, that they cannot talk smack like that.

Do the leaders of the free world need a refresher course in nuclear explosions? Hiroshima 1945, before and after what was, at the time, the greatest destructive force in the world fell upon it. The bomb which flattened Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons, or 15 thousand tons of TNT. Modern Russian ICBM’s typically carry MIRV warheads, Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles, of up to 250 kilotons yield; more than 16 times the destructive power – each – of the Hiroshima bomb. A MIRV carrier releases its warheads individually, post-boost-phase, and they reenter the atmosphere independently and not necessarily proceeding to the same target. Their accuracy is a few hundred feet CEP (Circular Error Probability); in the case of the RS 24 Yars, about 150 feet. Increased accuracy means less necessity for huge warheads, so more can be carried. At about the same time, the missile releases decoys, to make it more difficult to establish which are the real warheads. Finally, the payload accelerates to 15,000 mph for the sprint to the target. Anyone who tells you the missile shield can take care of a target traveling at 15,000 mph in any profile except coming directly at the missile shield’s launcher could probably sell you a bridge, if you believe them. The crossing rate is just too high.

Alternatively, the Topol M can carry a single 800 kiloton warhead – more than 53 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Europe, Government, Military, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , | 491 Comments

Ask Not What Lithuania can do for You…

Uncle Volodya says, "None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.”

Uncle Volodya says, “None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.”

But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them.

Ray Bradbury; Fahrenheit 451

Hey, remember that annoying nineties phrase, “Don’t go there”? It meant, don’t even talk about it, thereby implying that the subject introduced – or some association with it – is so fraught with social unacceptability as to be unmentionable.

Well, Petras Auštrevičius  just went there.

Let’s back up for a second; addressing the European Parliament, Auštrevičius summarized the goals of the energy union: to wit,

“The Energy Union was launched by the European Commission with the intention of developing consolidated action that would provide benefits to everyone involved: secure energy for consumers at affordable prices, competitive market opportunities for suppliers and strengthened solidarity and trust between EU member states.”

Remember that; you’ll see why,  in a minute.

Auštrevičius then goes on to bad-mouth Russia and the Nord Stream pipeline in the fashion we have become accustomed to seeing from stuffed-shirt EuroBullshitters, including the favourite canard that Russia constantly uses energy as a political weapon. To hear him tell it, Nord Stream II will ruin the entire Energy Union concept, if Europe is so foolish as to not take stopping it in its tracks seriously.

And just about here, the wheels fell off Auštrevičius’s truthwagon.

“The EU is heavily dependent on imported natural gas. And while Russia’s share has decreased rather dramatically over recent years it still remains very high: Russia supplies 39 per cent, Norway 30 per cent and Algeria and Qatar far less. Twelve EU member states rely primarily on one source, with Russia supplying between 75-100 per cent of their supplies. “

Has Russia’s share decreased rather dramatically over recent years? As usual, the devil is in the details. You could probably pick a moment last year when imports were down – say, the first quarter. What’d the picture look like at the end of the year?

“In the first 9 months of the year, imports from Russia were at the same level as for the comparable period of 2014 but the distribution of volumes throughout this period was markedly different: year-on-year, imports decreased by 22% in the first quarter, followed by 8% growth in the second quarter and 18% growth in the third quarter. The share of Russia from total extra-EU imports were 41% in the third quarter. This is lower than in the previous quarter (45%) but Russia remained the EU’s top supplier.”

Petras, you Lithuanian liar, you. You’re talking about eliminating your dependency on your main supplier. Do you know what those words mean? While we’re talking about shit you don’t understand, how about the fact that LNG imports decreased 7% year-on-year from 2014. But here’s Petras, shilling for Lithuania’s shiny new LNG terminal. According to Lithuania’s assessment, the fall in the price of Russian gas (in Lithuania) over 2014 was the result of Russian confusion over the introduction to Lithuania of Norwegian LNG – realizing it could no longer exercise political control over Lithuania, the dirty Russians backed down. It had nothing to do with a deliberate economic campaign, originating in Washington, to knock the bottom out of energy prices in an attempt to crash the Russian economy. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Trade | Tagged , , , , , , | 1,250 Comments

Second Annual Fern of England Photo Caption Contest

Five hundred Euros???? I'll do it for FREE!!!

Five hundred Euros???? I’ll do it for FREE!!!

Okay, this is a blatant play for time. So far I have not made a new post in April at all, and I know I need to do one but I can’t find the time. I have a 2.5-hour exam tomorrow in American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures and processes, and family eats up a lot of the weekends, which are the only occasions I really have the opportunity to write.  So it looks like a great time for the second annual Fern of England Photo Caption contest.

Those who were around for the first one probably vaguely recall the rules, but I’m sure we could all benefit from a refresher, as well as any newcomers – it’s open to all. Hopefully we can get Fern to judge it, as was the case in the first one. The prize is a MEGGITT Training Systems Canada baseball cap (MEGGITT is a Canadian company which makes remote-control gunnery and missile targets for the Canadian Forces, among other customers), which was not given away last time because Yalensis won it, and he is secretive about his address (probably because he is CIA or something, or perhaps an eccentric billionaire). Fern cannot win, which is just as well, because she loathes baseball caps. So, the rules. Your first comment must include an entry for the photo caption contest. After that, you can talk about anything you like, and you can enter as often as you like. Staff of The Kremlin Stooge (which is me) are not eligible to win (no skin off my nose, that ball cap has been sculling around my closet for about two years). The ball cap has a colourful history – I once offered one to anyone who could answer a particular question, I can’t even remember what it was now, and Yalensis was a little choked up because he didn’t win. The next time I saw MEGGITT’s Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) Special Projects officer, John Leblanc (which I did frequently, I used to work indirectly for MEGGITT, as Manager of the Target Cell for Maritime Forces Pacific), I asked him for a ball cap for Yalensis, which he duly gave me. So it’s brand new, never been worn, black with the MEGGITT logo on the front, one size fits all. If the winner does not work for the CIA and/or is not an eccentric billionaire, and will provide me – offline – with a mailing address (I’ll get in contact with the winner), then I will send you the ball cap by parcel post at my expense. Sound good? Let’s do it.

Posted in Corruption, Education, Europe, Government, Politics, Russia | Tagged , , , | 1,308 Comments

Having Failed to Achieve Any of Its Goals in Crimea, the West Resorts to Lying

Uncle Volodya says, "Sometimes you can learn things from the way a person denies something. The choice of lies can be almost as helpful as the truth.”

Uncle Volodya says, “Sometimes you can learn things from the way a person denies something. The choice of lies can be almost as helpful as the truth.”

NATO once had such plans for Crimea. It was all going to come together so beautifully. Once Ukraine had been wrenched from Russia’s orbit into that of Europe, Sevastopol would make a dandy NATO naval base on the Black Sea, while Russia was left scrambling for an alternative port. However, after polling public opinion in Crimea and finding a very healthy majority of Crimeans supported a return to Russian control and membership in the Russian Federation, a lightning referendum was held and Russia took back its gift to Ukraine. Disaster; Crimea had been the biggest prize the west was after in Ukraine. Just like that, it was snatched away, out of its reach and gone.

So the west – led, as usual, by Washington, which is a damning indictment of the spoiled dilettantism which currently passes for leadership in Europe – announced that it did not recognize the results of the referendum: it was like it never happened, as so frequently occurs when people make a choice Washington does not care for. The whole business was just completely, entirely illegal under international law, although no specific violation was ever cited. And the west prepared a slate of punishing economic sanctions, which was supposed to inspire massive demonstrations of public anger at Vladimir Putin, resulting in the return of Crimea to Ukrainian control and perhaps even a death-blow to Putin’s rule. It is important to note here that this was completely deliberate – Washington intended to impose economic hardship upon the Russian people so as to force the only solution it knows to resistance: regime change. I mention it here because a malady of forgetfulness appears to have seized Washington. President Obama, especially, seems to have forgotten his initial restrained jubilation – expressed as regretful determination – that the United States was tanking the Russian economy,  triggered by the wild runaway of the ruble. For a couple of days, long enough for Washington to scent panic, it looked like it was working. But then attempts to prop up the currency were abandoned, and it was allowed to float, and Russia recovered its balance.  And Washington forgot it had ever been excited about wrecking the Russian economy, and pretended that had never been a goal at all. Washington is pretty good at pretending – it has had a hell of a lot of practice.

So sanctions failed to force Russia to hand back Crimea. And the west looked the other way and occupied itself with something distracting (reading international law, perhaps; ha, ha; I was just kidding) so that it did not have to see Ukraine cutting Crimea off from water, food and electricity in an attempt to force its surrender. Ukraine gated off the canal which supplied water. Ukraine imposed a blockade which prevented trucks from entering via the land route – which Ukraine exclusively controls – and food spoiled in the tractor-trailers as they idled at the roadside. Members of Ukraine’s ‘patriotic’ militia units, often thin cover for Nazi sympathies, blew up the pylons which carried the power cables to Crimea, and the west smirked behind its hand as Kiev called them ‘persons unknown’ although they had posed for pictures, and had used an anti-tank weapon – surely not all that common in private hands – to destroy the metal pylons.

And that didn’t work, either. Polls in Crimea revealed that the people were willing to accept severe hardship rather than return to Ukrainian rule. Russia moved quickly to provide alternate water and electricity supplies, and accelerated work on a massive bridge – 19 km long – across the Kerch Strait which will join Crimea and the Russian homeland and remove the last lingering dependence on Ukraine. Kiev’s attempts to bully Crimea into capitulation served only to harden hearts against its temporary and entirely unsatisfactory former master. Continue reading

Posted in Corruption, Economy, Europe, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Russia, Strategy, Trade, Vladimir Putin | Tagged , , , , , , | 2,373 Comments