The Game is Afoot: Follow Your Spirit, and Upon This Charge, Cry “God for Browder, King and Saint George!!”

Uncle Volodya says,"There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community."

Uncle Volodya says,”There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

Probably everyone is now aware of an unusual blip on the British legal radar : the visiting of charges of libel upon William Browder – naturalised British citizen who still swings enough weight with American lawmakers that he sweet-talked them into fielding the Magnitsky Act, even though he has renounced his American citizenship – by Major Pavel Karpov, a police officer whom Browder has frequently accused of corruption, graft and various gross misuses of his office.

And Nick Cohen, of The Guardian, (actually, The Observer, but same outfit) wants you to know that just isn’t right. He splutters in red-faced apoplexy from the vantage point of the popular tabloid, “Are Our Lawyers Being Used by the Kremlin Kleptocracy??” Kremlin kleptocracy, that’s good, I love alliteration. Mr. Cohen apparently fired off that punchy headline without putting too much thought into it beyond dreaming up something katchy to go with “Kremlin”, because to me it sounds as if he believes British lawyers could – and would – help a criminal pin a bad rap on an innocent man. Is that how Britain’s law courts work, Nicky? That’s certainly not the way they advertise themselves, with such pomp and majesty that you almost sneeze from the wig powder. The way they tell it, British justice is a bulldog that will run the truth to earth no matter how many obstacles are placed in its path, and that justice will be served, by God, wherever it may lead, God save The Kween (like that one, Nick? Maybe you can use it, if a woman is ever elected President of Russia. Kween of the Kremlin, what do you think?) Mr. Cohen’s faith in British justice seems, if you’ll forgive me, a little anemic.

I vastly enjoyed his article, because it is wall-to-wall low-hanging fruit; packed with every Russophobic trope you could reasonably expect. He didn’t manage to get anything in there about diminished life expectancy (although he did insinuate near the end that such might apply to certain among Britain’s lawyers, the man appears to imagine he is invincible) or a catastrophically shrinking population, but perhaps his editor took those out. They are, after all, a little off-topic, although some do seem to find them comforting.

Before we start examining the story to see if it is up to the usual standard of journalists The Guardian hires – apparently motivated by pity – let’s get a feel for what libel is and what we might expect from the exercise of due process. According to the good folks at Oxford Dictionaries, libel is, in law, “a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation“. There, see; I learned something already. I though libel included something defamatory you said. According to this, it appears you have to publish it, although perhaps it might qualify if you said it on television. I’m sure someone who knows more about law than I do will enlighten us. Well, look here; never mind, “A Quick Guide to Libel Laws in England and Wales” informs us that libel can indeed be “…on a TV or radio programme, a website, a blog, a drawing, or even a letter sent from one individual to another.” Both libel and slander are descended from the English laws on defamation, and the same reference informs us 90% of libel cases in Britain, according to solicitors, are won by the claimant, who does not have to prove the defamatory statement harmed him or her (although that might figure in damages); instead, the burden of proof rests with the defendant – Browder – to prove the defamatory statements he made are true. According to Justice Jackson’s 2010 review of costs in civil litigation, number of libel cases won by the defendant? Zero. In fact, bringing of defamation charges in England by foreigners, because of England’s idiosyncratic legal reasoning on the matter, is quite popular: Lance Armstrong, who is to the best of my knowledge not a British citizen, brought a libel case against The Sunday Times through English law firm Schillings, for referencing the doping scandal book “LA Confidentiel”. Curious that they would do that, since the book was only ever published in French. But the truly juicy part of that little legal guide, for me, was this: “Damages awarded in libel cases are capped at £200,000. However costs incurred in a libel trial can be extremely high and the losing party is required to pay the winner’s costs as well as their own. This means that individuals and organizations can face bankruptcy if they take on and lose a libel action“.

This, beyond a doubt, is what has set the cat amongst the pigeons in London, and provoked the bawling defenses of Browder the Fifth Musketeer, fearless crusader for justice. Because speculation is that Karpov’s legal action is being backed by the Russian government. If true, it is a master-stroke that could never have come about if Bill Browder did not have a mouth like a mine shaft. The Russian government can outspend Browder’s puny fortune without even breaking a sweat, and Browder is faced with choice of settling out of court – which would be a tacit admission of guilt for such a wealthy man, or conceivably facing bankruptcy if the trial drags on. But, the really beautiful part? All he has to do is prove that what he said is true. And therein lies the best chance to get the entire stinking Magnitsky mess read into the public record, and poked and prodded and turned over.

All right. Let’s take a look at what Angry Nick wants to tell the world.

Okay; first line. One of the main aims of Russian foreign policy is to stop Bill Browder. What, pray, is the substantiation for that loopy assertion? Is The Guardian on the distribution list for Russian foreign policy memorandums? In fact, Browder was denied entry to Russia on arrival at a Moscow airport in 2005, and spent a considerable period trying to quietly sort it all out with the Russian government, so as not to alarm his investors, rather than trumpeting his righteous outrage to the world. In fact, he spent that time lobbying international heavyweights like former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Tony Blair and George W. Bush to intervene in his behalf, and persuade Russia to let him back into the country. None of these extremely important individuals was able to do so. Yet on this issue, Browder is very vague; he has no idea why, he claims. “The answer is, we just don’t know. You can take five highly placed, well-connected individuals in Russia, who know everything and everyone, and you’ll get five different emphatic answers about who was responsible for my visa being taken away. It could be that they all got together in a room and said that “Let’s just take Browder’s visa away so he can’t come to Russia any more”, I don’t know”, he says.

I’m puzzled. Why would they do that, Bill? Because at one time, Browder was not only making tons of money in Russia and singing its praises, he was one of the loudest defenders of its President, Vlladimir Putin.

A good example of Browder-then-and-now is his positions on the issue of Russia’s jailed oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  Browder then (January 2004, almost 2 years before he was declared persona non grata in Russia) – “…he may have become the poster child for corporate cleanups in the last two years, but his activities in the mid-1990s became synonymous with corporate governance abuse…Perhaps his most infamous deal, and the one that made him fantastically rich, was his acquisition of the oil company Yukos from the state. In a series of transactions with the government, Khodorkovsky successfully took control of a 78 percent stake in Yukos for a $310 million immediate cash payment, plus the promise of investing $200 million in the future. Eight months after he secured control, the same stake was worth $12.6 billion. Currently, it is worth $23.3 billion…If that were his only questionable deal, perhaps one could make the argument that we should look beyond what he had done because he turned Yukos around. Unfortunately, there were too many other questionable deals to ignore his behavior.” Browder now – “They take out Khodorkovsky and how many oligarchs want to politically challenge the President? They kick Bill Browder out of the country and how many people want to start complaining about corruption and shareholder rights in Russian companies?” In his own mind, at least, Browder with his alleged $120 Million fortune was on an influential par with Khodorkovsky, multibillionaire, and once Browder was gone from Russia, the fight against corruption withered on the vine. “Khodorkovsky – he got involved in politics, that’s why it happened to him.” Oops; I kind of thought from what you said earlier that it was because he was a compulsive criminal. “What I misread was the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. I thought that this was part of Putin’s “dictatorship of the law” and this was all part of the national interest. Before that I had had business conflicts with Khodorkovsky in the late 1990s, so I had an emotional reaction to the arrest of someone I had been struggling with. It’s only after his arrest that it has become obvious that the Khodorkovsky trial wasn’t about justice at all. It was pure expropriation and complete persecution of someone who was a threat to the administration and its surroundings.”

Isn’t it possible you’re just “having an emotional reaction to someone you’ve been struggling with” now, too, Bill? Because this is kind of the exact opposite of your matter-of-fact dissection of Khodorkovsky’s crimes earlier. Want a refresher? “Khodorkovsky collected an enormous pile of cheap assets from the government and minority shareholders, and then embarked on an impressive charm and lobbying offensive to legitimize himself and his wealth. He has been very successful in getting people to forget his not-so-distant past.” Including yourself, apparently.

Although Mr. Browder claims this is a go-to technique for the Russian authorities – to “[pick] up a pattern of governance of taking the biggest man or woman in any particular field and doing something, which has a profound demonstration effect for everybody else.” You might know where that’s going when he cites Anna Politkovskaya as an example of muzzling the press, by singling out and murdering the most important reporter in Russia. Anna Politkovskaya, who worked for Novaya Gazeta, which has a circulation of about 185,000 copies in a country of 142 million, and was about half that when she was killed. Yes, that had a profound effect. Anyway, he wants you to know that whenever you start to get too successful, Russia kicks you out of the country, to make an example of you. Uhhh…who else has that happened to? Of the big hedge funds and capital management firms in Russia that are foreign-owned, who else got kicked out? Prosperity Capital is still there, and their flagship funds have appreciated 48% and 49% over the last 3 years – the exile of Browder doesn’t seem to have had much of a chilling effect there. Renaissance Capital is still there, and has been longer than Browder, it was founded in 1995, and was his biggest rival. Unsurprisingly, he accused them of colluding with the Russian government to defraud him; he doesn’t seem to have had many friends in Russia. All these firms are still there, and I don’t know of any of them having their CEO booted out of the country. Just Browder.

In fact, Browder complains in several of the references cited that GAZPROM was inefficient and undervalued, and that the potential for huge moneymaking was going unexploited. In his I-know-you’re-corrupt-Daddy-but-I-love-you rhapsody to Putin in 2004, he specifically mentioned “lifting the discriminatory ring-fence on ownership of GAZPROM” as one of the things Putin needed to get on with. Foreigners were prohibited from trading in GAZPROM stock on the RTS, although they could buy it as an ADR (American Depositary Receipt) on the London Exchange. But the difference in quotes was more than 300%. You certainly don’t have to be a stockbroker to see the potential for easy money there. Hermitage formed two shell companies, Saturn Investments and Dalnya Steppe, in the special offshore zone of Kalmykia, with the apparent aim of getting around the ban on trading in GAZPROM stock. If Browder is truly confused as to why he got kicked out of Russia, he probably needn’t look too much further than that.

Something else that nagged at me, from Bowder’s REP appearance at Chatham House, cited earlier, was his contention that the testimony of Olga Yegorova – Chair of the Moscow City Court – that Magnitsky had been detained because he was about to skip the country and had applied for a Visa, is all a lie. The UK Embassy, in a unified statement that no doubt restored Mr. Cohen’s faith in the best of British pluck, denied this, and Browder says contemptuously that before his arrest, Magnitsky’s internal and international passports were taken from him, so that he could not have gone anywhere. However, Browder frequently – including in this same document – says that he advised all Hermitage’s lawyers, including Sergei (who was not actually a Hermitage employee or a lawyer, he was an accountant employed by British firm Firestone Duncan), to leave the country as of June 2008, when Magnitsky testified. Magnitsky allegedly resisted and announced steadfastly that he would stay, because he had done nothing wrong. Well done, old chap. Except he had no passports, according to Browder, and could not have gone anywhere. Oddly, only Magnitsky had his passport confiscated: all the other Hermitage personnel left.  Perhaps they were not Russians. If they were, why did they not also have their passports confiscated? Firestone Duncan also fled, but only Magnitsky did not – ostensibly because he “believed Russia had changed” and foolishly placed his trust in the rule of law, but you could pretty much say anything you wanted about why, because he hadn’t any passport. And then the police left him alone for 4 months, and then fell upon him and arrested him, only to put him in pre-trial detention because they hadn’t even assembled the case against him yet and had not, in point of fact, when he died (because he would have had to be released in 8 days after the date he died) – when they could have arrested him at any time because he had no passport and couldn’t have gone anywhere. That sound right, to you?

Anyway, back to the article we started with, before we get distracted with the whole Magnitsky thing again. According to Nick, the Kremlin gang fears revolution – maybe there will be a democratic uprising! Yes, probably; everyone knows the opposition and its demonstrators have made tremendous gains this year, the Kremlin must be trembling in its bottinki. That the prospects for revolution seem to have gone from what was never really much of a bang to what is decidedly a whimper appear to have escaped him.

So, Karpov is going to do what all dirty crooks do – seek the protection of “outwardly respectable people”, namely members of the British bar. I’m not sure how they should react to that, as it seems those who are defending Browder are fine, upstanding members of the legal community. Presumably there is an underclass of British barristers, which defends only crooks. Yes, we learn, the honesty and cleanness of English law will be as much on trial when this case comes to court as the reputation of Bill Browder. Bill Browder wins, huzzah!!! British justice triumphant, argued brilliantly by as fine lawyers as ever trod the sod of Merrie England!! Browder fails to make his case because he cannot prove that the allegations he made are factual, fie and despair!! British justice revealed for a shoddy sham, the refuge of third-world scoundrels. Overlooked is that a judge will have to make a decision based on what the lawyers present, and that everything must be done in accordance with British law. Which seemed quite adequate, I might point out, until Berezovsky’s recent humiliation, at which point the British judicial system became a bunch of Commies interested only in exonerating criminals, according to several in The Guardian‘s stable.

Cohen offhandedly throws in that Magnitsky was “probably tortured”, because that’s just what Russians do – especially the star witness in the case, over the theft of $230 million, for which Magnitsky might get a maximum of 6 years if convicted. You can’t really blame him, because Browder has often said darkly that the same fate awaits him if he ever sets foot in Russia again, although there was no evidence Magnitsky was tortured and his lawyers never complained he was being tortured although he met regularly with them.

Why should a Russian policeman enjoy the privileges of British law, wonders Cohen. Why, indeed? Probably because the mouthpiece making the libelous allegations is a British citizen, who will not set foot in Russia despite extradition requests. But that raises an interesting point of international law – why should American lawmakers be allowed to add Russians to a blacklist for censure and sanction without a trial that finds them guilty? They were simply given the list of names…by Browder.

Karpov’s lawyer says there is not a shred of evidence against him – although that’s what you’d expect a lawyer to say, I’d regard that with foreboding, if I were somebody who had spent that better part of the last few years throwing around unsubstantiated accusations against him. Not to mention Cohen, who covers that possibility by suggesting ” If it is true that Karpov is an unfairly maligned man, no one will object”, although he has just spent most of an article pre-objecting. Then he’s off again, threatening to observe a permanent pout of non-forgiveness “if it transpires that Karpov has been exploiting the English legal system to protect the Putin kleptocracy”. He plainly likes that non-word. As if a Russian police Major is so clever that he can bedazzle and bewilder some of the Realm’s most experienced libel lawyers (clang, clang, warning, Nick Cohen, warning) into fabricating a winning case. Either Browder and his lawyers can prove the allegations Browder made are true, or he cannot. If he cannot, he might well be liable not only for damages, but for the legal costs of both parties.

It promises to be interesting.

This entry was posted in Corruption, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

741 Responses to The Game is Afoot: Follow Your Spirit, and Upon This Charge, Cry “God for Browder, King and Saint George!!”

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s the Moscow News link that I forgot to insert above.

    Nothing so far in the Moscow Times about this story. That so-called newspaper only appeared 2 days ago after the New Year/Christmas holiday. Before that, its last isssue was on 29th December.

    Newspaper!

    Ha!

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    What’s the betting that MT will label the charging of Navalny as yet another clampdown by Putin on the political opposition?

  3. The latest opinion poll (from VCIOM) shows overwhelming support for the adoption ban (76%).

    http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c154/624791.html

    I gather that VCIOM is a semi official pollster so I suppose it is possiblle that the question was loaded to produce this result, but there’s been so much public discussion of the adoption ban that I would have thought that by now most people are familiar with all the arguments and will have decided their stance on the issue. The previous poll I saw put support for the adoption ban at 56%. Unless there has been a complete change in methodology or some gross error with one of the samples then the latest poll suggests that support for the adoption ban is increasing. In that case all that the fierce opposition to the adoption ban has done is consolidate support for it. Could it be that the opponents of the adoption ban are so unpopular that the mere fact they oppose the adoption ban is enough to make most Russians support it?

    • kirill says:

      I think that is the case. The liberasts are not convincing anyone with their bile filled diatribes. These people have not tact and actually try to offend the Russian majority so what do they expect? Submission?

      Aside from the association with liberasts, the western propaganda against the law is rather inane. I think this poll is a good indicator of the pro-west and pro-Russian partition of the population. The 24% pro-west is about right. Not all of them are liberasts and outright 5th columnists. I would put that figure to be under 1% from the recent demonstration size. If for every individual who bothers to do something (demonstrate, write mail to newspapers) there are 100 who share similar views and do nothing (a figure I have seen used in the west) then 10,000 translates into 1 million. But perhaps this is just for Moscow alone so a figure of around 5% for the whole country could be more accurate.

      • Dear Kirill,

        ….and here is Novosti’s “explanation” for the VCIOM poll: it’s all State TV’s fault!

        http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130118/178868872/State-TV-Tips-Russian-Opinion-Against-US-Adoptions–Experts.html

        The most interesting comments in the article are those of Levada’s Lev Gudkov. Firstly, he does not actually deny the validity of the VCIOM poll. I take that as conclusive that it accurately measures Russian opinion on this issue. Secondly, it’s absolutely clear now that he is a dedicated oppositionist. Notice his obvious support for the Magnitsky law. I say this because I have been wondering about some of Levada’s findings for some time. I still think on balance it is a reliable pollster but we should in future bear Lev Gudkov’s very obvious partisan political leanings in mind when looking at its findings.

        Incidentally, on the subject of whether the great masses of the Russian people have really been effortlessly brainwashed by State TV on this issue, I frankly think that is nonsense. Firstly, State TV is no longer the monopoly supplier of news in Russia if it ever was. Secondly, this grossly underestimates people’s intelligence and ability to obtain news and assess arguments. The adoption ban has been so fiercely and publicly debated (with so far as I can judge its opponents making most of the running) that it beggars belief that most Russians are ignorant of these issues. Thirdly, there are prefectly understandable reasons why people might support the adoption ban. I have touched on some in the past and so have you. In fact the article also touches on some of these reasons when it admits that because so many of the noisiest opponents pf the adoption ban are members of the white ribbon opposition and because of the way the argument has been conducted opposition to the adoption ban has come to be seen by many people as pro American and unpatriotic. Given the stupid way they opposed it if that is the reason then the opponents of the adoption ban have no one to blame but themselves.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          In today’s MT, Bohm has an opinion piece entitled: “Expect More Anti-Americanism in 2013”, in which he states:

          “The Kremlin’s hard work on the anti-American front seems to have paid off. A December poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation indicated that 56 percent of Russians support the law banning U.S. adoptions”.

          Then, in reaction to the VCIOM on the “anti-Magnitsky law”, Bohm comments on his own opinion article thus:

          “Just saw the new poll from VTsIOM that came out today: 70 percent of Russians support Putin’s law banning all U.S. adoptions of Russian children. This is even higher than the poll I quoted in my op-ed — 56 percent from a FOM poll.

          It is amazing how well the Kremlin’s propaganda worked on such a large percentage of Russians when Russian television. Pavel Astakhov and pro-Kremlin political commentators persistenty demonized U.S. parents who adopted Russian children. Yes, there were 19 tragic deaths of Russian children in the U.S. over 20 years, but this death rate is very low –.03 percent since there have been more than 60,000 such adoptions over the past year. (In Russia, this death rate is roughly 60 times higher.)

          Of course, every child death is a deep tragedy, but Russians need to know that the overwhelming majority of U.S. adoptive parents are law-abiding, loving and caring. But judging by the Kremlin propaganda, most Russians think U.S. adoptive parents are psychopaths and sadists and that Russian children are safer in Russia’s orphanages than in U.S. homes.

          This latest Russian poll, unfortunately, confirms that if you repeat a lie hundreds of times, many Russians — 70 percent, in this case — will accept it as truth”.

          You see, it’s that dullard bydlo class that is again the root cause of Russian obduracy as regards “democratic reforms” and obeissance to Uncle Sam.

  4. cartman says:

    German Gref seems to have doubts about the WTO, even though he is the one who brought Russia in:

    http://www.gazeta.ru/business/2013/01/17/4930341.shtml

    Is anyone else amazed that a body dedicated to free trade has 47,000 pages of rules?

  5. Serdyukov’s inamorata, Yevgenia Vasilyeva, was in Court earlier and has had her period of house arrest extended to 23rd March 2013. According to Itar Tass she came to the hearing in true gangster moll style flamboyantly dressed in a fur coat. I gather the investigator referred to her as someone who was suspected of being engaged in “organised crime” activity.

    http://rapsinews.com/judicial_news/20130118/266118018.html

    The most interesting comment in this post by RAPSI is the the investigator’s comment that Vasilyeva is still in contact with her partners in crime who are still trying to conceal or destroy evidence. I wonder who the investigator had in mind?

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Like most Russian women, she dressed for effect and presented herself well whilst tastefully excuding her feminity.

      Apart from that, it’s now been snowing non-stop in Moscow for 3 days and the maximum daytime temperature has been -13C (8.6F) and it’s forecast to get considerably colder.

      She won’t be wearing her furs in nick though.
      🙂

      • Misha says:

        Something more close to that weather appears evident in NY. Just came back from the city with some outterwear purchases of classic Americana – the peacoat and M-65 field jacket with liner – the latter which makes a great smoking jacket.

        • Misha says:

          I realize the US can’t take credit for being the originator of the peacoat. However, the American variant seems to be the best global sale. As for the M-65, yes some foreign armies can go back a ways and claim first for something akin to it. However, the M-65 is the best worldwide sale.

  6. Razvozzhayev is obviously someone with an interesting past. According to Itar Tass a medical examination carried out on him after he was taken into custody found a bullet lodged in his back. Apparently this is the result of a shooting incident he was involved in back in 1992. Well perhaps we should not rush to any conclusions. He would not be the first man to have had a turbulent youth.

    http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c154/625164.html

  7. News is coming out of a tragedy in the Netherlands involving an individual called Alexander Dolmatov. He was apparently caught up in the fighting during the opposition protest on 6th May 2012 and was charged with what appears to have been a well grounded case involving violence he admitted to having carried out during the protest. Rather than face the charges and go to prison he fled abroad and ended up in the Netherlands where he claimed asylum. To his dismay the Dutch authorities cynically used his request for asylum as a means to blackmail him into disclosing information about his work in a missile design office. Dolmatov was clearly an honourable man and he refused to give the Dutch the information they wanted so they refused his request for asylum. Caught between a rock and hard place Dolmatov committed suicide.

    I think this is an instructive story and one that oppositionists in Russia should heed. It shows how behind the human rights rhetoric the west is completely cynical about pursuing its interests. I hope this story is given as much publicity in Russia as it merits. Properly speaking it should also be a cause celebre in the Netherlands but of course it won’t be. In my opinion the Dutch treated this unhappy man far more cruelly than the Russian authorities have treated any one of the famous people they are supposed to have repressed. Khodorkovsky and arguably Pussy Riot after all got no more than justice whilst in my opinion the evidence points to Magnitsky having died through simple negligence. How does that compare with putting pressure on a vulnerable man and driving him to suicide? I can however absolutely guarantee that this case will receive none of the publicity that the Magnitsky case got and that no “Dolmatov law” will be enacted to punish anyone in the Netherlands for Dolmatov’s death.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Moscow Times states that in an interview given to “Moscow’s only English-language daily newspaper” Dolmatov feared disproportionate punishment if he stood trial in Russia because he worked in the defence industry.

      So Putin is to blame because it is he who decides who is charged and what punishment be meted out.

      That’s what Verzilov says on You Tube happened to his wife.

      So it must be true.

      • Here is a lengthy report about Dolmatov’s death from Itar Tass, which appears to be based on information provided by a Russian opposition activisit in the Netherlands who was in contact with Dolmatov right up to shortly before his death.

        http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/624660.html

        What this account appears to show is the following:

        1. That Dolmatov’s involvement in the rioting on 6th May 2012 is scarcely open to doubt. Of course that tells us nothing about how deeply involved in preparing the violence he was. However on the face of it there was a strong prima facie case against him and the fact that he fled abroad rather confirms it.

        2. That the Dutch authorities did attempt to get him to disclose information about his work in the missile design office and that he refused to do so.

        3. That he had already made several suicide attempts whilst in the custody of the Dutch authorities.

        4. That when the Dutch authorities decided to refuse Dolmatov’s request for asylum instead of putting him in a secure unit and in spite of knowing about his previous suicide attempts he was sent to an ordinary prison where he was left largely unsupervised.

        On the assumption that this account is true then to my mind this is a worse story than Magnitsky’s. The Dutch authorities bear a heavier responsibility for Dolmatov’s death than the Russian authorities do for Magnitsky’s. The Russian authorities are not to blame for investigating a crime that Dolmatov appears to have committed. Dolmatov however fled to the Netherlands (a country that is one of Russia’s sternest critics) and asked the Dutch authorities for protection. Instead of providing Dolmatov with protection the Dutch authorities used his asylum request to get information out of him about his work. When this failed they refused his request for asylum and shuffled him off to an ordinary prison despite knowing of his previous attempts at suicide.

        On the face of it this is worse treatment and negligence than which caused Magnitsky’s death. Tere seems to be no doubt that Dolmatov was put under intense and wrongful pressure to disclose confidential information affecting the security of his country whilst the failure to provide Dolmatov with proper supervision and care in view of his known suicide attempts is at least as bad as the negligence involved in the failure to provide Magnitsky with proper treatment for his pre existing condition.

        If Dolmatov had been detained in Russia and had committed suicide in a Russian prison one can imagine the storm this would have caused. No doubt we would be hearing more demands for further sanctions. The actual circumstances of Dolmatov’s death mean that there will be no such storm and no such demands. This is because Dolmatov had the bad luck and the bad judgement to be mistreated and to kill himself in a Dutch prison rather than a Russian one.

        • Since reading the above I have read a further report about this case from Russia Today which gives different facts. Specifically it suggests

          1. That Dolmatov’s death may have had other personal causes unconnected to his asylum request.

          2. That he might not have been sent to a prison in Amsterdam as the Itar Tass report suggests but to a refugee holding centre in Rotterdam.

          To my mind neither of these facts changes the position much. It still seems as if Dolmatov was put under what can only be considered wrongful pressure by the Dutch authorities to reveal confidential information about his work. It is also clear that he was not given proper supervision regardless of what sort of centre or prison he was sent to as he surely should have been given his history of previous suicide attempts.

    • Alina Israeli says:

      But he was a foreigner to the Dutch only begging for the right to stay there, while Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot are Russian citizens in Russia.

  8. Misha says:

    A case of suggestively putting words in someone’s mouth?

    http://news.yahoo.com/top-u-commander-denied-visa-rights-row-russia-193154961.html

    Starts off –

    “MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia denied entry to a former commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in retaliation against U.S. moves to punish Russian human rights violators, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said on Friday.”

    • kirill says:

      Funny. The Guantanamo gulag where they torture their prisoners and which violates every international law is not “human rights” related. But having everyone in the general vicinity of Magnitsky (alleged lawyer but actually a corrupt accountant) on a black list is all about “human rights”. Just which humans and which rights is not particularly clear.

      Russia should blacklist every US citizen involved in wars of aggression such as Iraq. This includes the US president and the US Congress and Senate.

      • The important thing to understand about the so called “Guantanamo blacklist” is that it is not the result of any Russian “Guantanamo law” that says that anybody is guilty of anything. As I have repeatedly said, every country has the unconditional right to deny entry to a national of a foreign country if it wishes except where there is a specific treaty that says otherwise. Russia is fully entitled to deny entry to any US citizen it wants to just as the US is fully entitled to deny entry to any Russian citizen it wants to. What is totally wrong is to pass a law that says that people are being denied entry because they are guilty of a crime they have never been convicted of.

        • Alina Israeli says:

          But they never will be convicted because no one wants to investigate the case.
          Look at it from a different angle: the financial manipulation Magnitsky was investigating should be investigated and someone should be convicted, but no one cares. Magnitsky death should be investigated and someone should be convicted. Yet, nothing happens. In order to facilitate such an investigation some people are barred from escaping. Please, investigate them and clear them of all suspicions.

          • Dear Alina,

            Apologies for my delay in answering you, but I have only just seen your comment.

            You will forgive me if I say that I find it a very loaded one. Firstly it presumes that there was financial manipulation, which Magnitsky disclosed and that it has not been investigated and secondly it presumes that someone should be convicted for Magnitsky’s death. However both presumptions obviously beg the question. How do we know that Magnitsky did in fact disclose financial manipulation and how do we know his allegations were not investigated? How do we know that there was anything about Magnitsky’s death that merits anyone being convicted for it?

            In fact we have from the Russian side answers to these questions. The Russian authorities say that they have investigated Magnitsky’s allegations of financial manipulation and have found them groundless. Indeed no less a person than Medvedev has just again said as much at Davos. If the allegations are indeed groundless as the Russians say then obviously there can be no question of anybody being convicted for them since no crime was committed. As for Magnitsky’s death, the Russian authorities again say that they have thoroughly investigated it and their conclusion is that his death was caused by a negligent failure to provide him with medical treatment for a pre existing medical condition and not because of any crime actually committed by anyone. Given that this is so the people responsible have arguably been appropriately punished not by being convicted (for there is no crime to convict them of) but by dismissing from their jobs.

            I appreciate that these Russian answers are controversial and disputed by many people. However the only place where they can be decided is not on the floor of the US Congress (which has no lawful right or power to decide such questions) but in a properly constituted Court of law. There are two Court cases currently pending which between them will hopefully resolve these questions and will tell us where the truth lies. One is the criminal case the Russian authorities are intending to bring posthumously against Magnitsky in Moscow. The second is the libel action that Karpov, one of the police investigators who was accused by Magnitsky and his ultimate employer Browder of involvement in the alleged financial manipulation, is bringing against Browder in the High Court in London.

  9. I gather that murder charges have now been brought against Tymoshenko. I wonder where that will leave the negotiations between the EU and the Ukraine.

    • Misha says:

      Re: http://www.kyivpost.com/content/politics/ukraine-prosecutor-accuses-tymoshenko-of-murder-319067.html

      Don’t be surprised to see commentary suggesting that the accusation in question is motivated by drawing Ukraine farther away from the EU and closer to the Customs Union.

      ————————-

      Arguably, the most chauvinistic ethno-religious lobbying group in North America:

      http://www.bosniak.org/protest-letter-to-ban-ki-moon-un-general-secretary/

      The reply:

      http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103455422290-321/Content+of+the+GA+Pres+Official+Statement.pdf

    • kirill says:

      Yul’tza is Ukraine’s version of Khodorkovsky. She is an oligarch thief that became a Prime Minister. A string of dead bodies is routine for such people since it’s the nature of the game. I hope they do a good job prosecuting the murder case. The victims deserve justice. Too bad the same will not happen in the case of Khodorkovsky who has dozens of bodies to his name.

      • marknesop says:

        I notice in the article Mike linked that her defense council claims she is on her last legs and near death; it also mentions she has spent a lot of time in hospital owing to back problems.

        I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure sleeping in a chair is not very good for your back. If she shows a persistent inclination to harm herself in this manner in silly “disobedience actions”, she should be put in bed and secured there with restraints. Wards of the state who persist in exercising free will although they are incarcerated to remind them they are being punished are treated so in prisons all over the world. It is only Tymoshenko’s ceaseless complaints and threats that makes them handle her with kid gloves – there is no other reason for it, she is a convicted felon. Note that her western supporters do not suggest she is innocent. They suggest she is a victim of “selective prosecution”, implying that if every wrongdoing is not punished, Tymoshenko should be let go.

        • kirill says:

          A principle which is not applied in the west in this dimension. So I don’t know where these defenders come up with the notion that selective prosecution is equivalent to a blanket amnesty. It is quite obvious that there are not enough resources to prosecute every criminal in any country. Maybe in a totalitarian dystopia this can be arranged.

          Also, the “I am sick” shtick is an obvious ploy to get out of jail. They are hoping for a pardon like the one that Edward Pope got. Sucker Putin let him off but this poor dear hasn’t died of his “cancer” yet.

      • Misha says:

        Folks,

        In terms of democratic competency, Tymoshenko and (for that matter) Svoboda appear more proficient than Khodor.

        This can be spun as Ukraine being more “free” than Russia. An opposite view of that would more correctly IMO say that if anything, the comparison in question serves to highlight how Ukraine is screwier than Russia (at least in certain instances).

        Suddenly reminded of an article that Kirill Pankratov’s wife wrote a few years ago, which (if I correctly recall) highlighted how Ukraine (to a good degree) is a more extreme version of Russia. Among the comparative specifics being the level of corruption and influence of nationalist elements.

  10. marknesop says:

    “No, not really. There are at least three figures currently in circulation on the interwebs (8700kg, 10300kg and 11100kg), but none can be traced to a proper source.”

    Ah. I see. Forgive me for being so dense; I was completely unaware of Dr. Kopp’s unsavory reputation in some quarters, and knew only that I had come upon a source which seemed very educated in the appropriate field and which supported my viewpoint perfectly. So, apparently, it is your position that Dr. Kopp is an idiot who is not competent to assess the fuel capacity of the PAK FA. And that further, nobody knows how much fuel it carries, although you appeared content with Sukhoi’s range figures which are about a third better than the F-35.

    The trials report this month, featured in “Russia and India Report” would seem to bear this out, commenting specifically on the T-50’s “unusually high fuel capacity” and claimed ferry range of 4,300 km. However, the report specifically refers to the excellent ratings the aircraft received from Kopp, and does point out most of the aircraft’s technical features are classified.

    http://indrus.in/articles/2013/01/11/russian_fifth-generation_jet_fighter_takes_off_21557.html

    Here’s an interesting brief on the PAK FA, prepared by David Markov and Andrew Hull, who are regular originators of Institute for Defense Analysis reports. Again, however, while it reports the fuel capacity as 10,200 kg (22,4871 lb.), it acknowledges that this is speculation based on the configuration of the internal fuel tank.

    http://www.afa.org/edop/2010/PAK-FA'sFirstFlighton29JAN10REV5.pdf

    But, all that notwithstanding, why is Kopp an idiot who is unfit to analyse new aircraft designs? He’s a professional engineer, a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and holder of a Master of Sciences degree. You seem to be willing to take Heath’s word as gospel on the performance figures for the F-35, but his military background is in the Army and he is an electrical engineer who has not worked on an actual aircraft design project since the F-16, spending at least the latter half of his career with Lockheed-Martin concentrating on marketing and management. Meanwhile, the vaunted F-35 is plagued with problems, not least of which is not-to-exceed weight, which casts doubt on its ability to rely on large drop tanks to extend its range since it must already be extremely close to its maximum takeoff weight with a full weapons load.

    http://www.defencetalk.com/f-35-jsf-flight-tests-highlight-new-problems-risks-of-excessive-concurrency-39639/

    All this is a roundabout way of saying we will have to agree to disagree until there is further testing of the PAK FA, since you are correct that the fuel capacity is not known with any degree of certainly, and suggestions that it is larger than that of the F-35 are only unsubstantiated hints. Meanwhile, I maintain that ferry range is not a very good metric for argument so long as drop tanks and inflight refueling are possibilities, and the disagreement continues to center on internal fuel capacity. Any authoritative updates which contribute to resolving that question will be appreciated.

    • kirill says:

      It’s only natural for internet trolls to claim engineers have no qualifications when they don’t have a professional degree themselves and typically have the mentality of teenager if not being a teen in the first place.

      Anyway, here is a nice comparison of the size of the T-50 vs the Su-27 and the F-22:

      So the range of the T-50 is not due to large size since it is closer to the F-22 than the Su-27. This is a nice photo of the T-50 on the tarmac next to some other member of the Su-27 family and it looks rather small:

      The ferry range of the F-22 is 2963 km (1600 nautical miles) according to:

      http://www.af.mil/information/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=199

    • marknesop says:

      I would just add that your comment at Streetwise Professor made me go back and read the root article, which was pretty amusing. I’m sorry I missed it; I had just started blogging in 2010, and I hardly ever read anything by The Professor now. Anyway, I noticed this paragraph:

      “Does the T-50 PAK FA fighter— which journalists have incorrectly called the Russian Stealth — possess fifth-generation aircraft capabilities such as a constant flying speed of more than 2,000 kilometers per hour, a flight range of more than 5,000 kilometers, a low radar profile, radiolocation of distant enemy objects and long-range guided missiles? None of that is clear. Some sources claim that the onboard radio-detection system is still going through bench tests, and nothing whatsoever is known about its weapons systems.”

      Most will acknowledge that when a new fighter design is under development, not a lot is known about it and specifications can change, so the hysteria about not knowing every detail of its weapons systems seems a little misplaced, but Mr. Pirrong is occasionally prone to hysteria when the subject of Russia comes up. For instance, when he squawked that too little was known about the PAK FA, the F-35 had already passed the first-flight milestone 10 years prior.

      https://f35.com/the-f-35/f-35-history.aspx

      And still, even a year after The Professor’s post, the F-35 had failed to meet many of those criteria. It cannot fly at a constant speed of more than 2000 km per hour, topping out at Mach 1.6 (1960 kph) when it is wide open. It does not have a flight range of more than 5000 km, or even half that; it can only fly 2,200 km without refuelling or using drop tanks, which wreck its stealth profile.

      http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2011/11/25/Canada-F-35-Purchase/

      Speaking of stealth, the F-35 is stealthy only from a closing profile. Several sources have pointed out that it was sent in in conflicts, in an attack role, only after the air defenses had been destroyed by cruise missiles and the F-22 or stealth bombers.

      • marknesop says:

        As a researcher, yes.

        http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~carlo/

        If the PEng and MSc qualifications are fake, he should be exposed as a fraud. If they’re not, then he must be presumed to have actually earned them.

        • kirill says:

          There is no way in Hell he would have a website on a Monash University server with PhD, MSc and PEng specified if they were fake. University websites aren’t free for all websites and to get hired his credentials would have been verified. Applying for professorial positions or even sub-professorial positions such as lecturers in the UK is not a simple process where you talk to some HR hack and he decides if they hire you based on a short interview. This may be the case for McJobs but at Universities they create a hiring committee of professors (not secretaries) who go through your publication list and research plan like hawks. You also typically have many job applicants for one position so there is strong competition to make into the short list. In other words they can easily suss out clowns with fake credentials since they would have no substance (you can’t fake publications and citation index rankings). In the case of PEng there are criminal sanctions for trying to impersonate an engineer.

          • marknesop says:

            As far as I can make out, the major reason for opposition to him and ridicule of his writing and analysis is that he is a crusader against the F-35 – specifically, against Australia’s purchase of it – and a crusader for the F-22. Both planes are made by the same company, and while the F-22 is considerably more expensive it is acknowledged by many informed sources to be a much more capable aircraft. Besides, the only thing that keeps the F-35’s costs lower – for now – is its massive production run of nearly 2,500 aircraft. Every cancellation pushes the cost for the remainder up. The oddball concurrency program – building aircraft while the airplane is still in development – ensures they have to keep going back to fix glitches in airframes already completed, which wipes out any savings; the F-35 program is already 70% over the cost budgeted when the initial contract was signed in 2001.

            Kopp argues that the F-35 is outmatched by the PAK-FA, and it is. It’s a single-engine fighter that has a short range and puny speed that, for Canada – is less than the plane it would replace. Pilots don’t like flying a single-engine fighter in the Arctic, which is the area to which Canadian fighters are frequently scrambled to establish sovereignty against Russian patrols, because there are hundreds of miles of nothing if you have an engine failure; additionally, the F-35 is so slow that the encroaching bomber may have gotten bored and gone home before the escort shows up. Similar conditions prevail for Norway. I couldn’t speak to Australia because I don’t know enough about their fighter employment. But the Canadian government fell in love early with the F-35, and engineered its no-tender procurement plan so that no other fighter would meet the specifications. Now the whole contract is under review, much like the helicopter program which resulted in Canada spending millions on shared R&D for an airframe it didn’t buy.

            I could see reviling Kopp if he argued Canada, Norway and Australia should buy the PAK-FA, because it’s a better plane. He doesn’t – he’s a passionate advocate for the F-22. Even that is silly, because the production run is finished and it’s so expensive all those nations could only afford a handful of planes each; there were less than 200 F-22’s in the entire run. But his argument that the PAK FA represents a challenge the F-35 is not capable of meeting – while the F-22 is – does not seem crazy to me.

            • kirill says:

              I agree completely. The range of the F-35 makes it look to me like a carrier-based force projection tool (its VTOL capability just adds to my impression). OK, maybe it is enough for small countries such as Holland.

              Copp is hoping for a rational NATO policy where an F-22 derivative would be adopted by members of the alliance. Instead the USA has taken the stance that the F-22 is not going to be sold to its allies (minions?) and that’s that. Instead they get an overpriced lemon. It smells of massive legalized corruption to me. Doing a makeover on the F-22 would be cheaper than starting from scratch since the biggest excuse for the prices is “research and development”. If there was real economics at play the F-22 derivative price would go down and you would get a much more capable aircraft for less money than the F-35.

              I am assuming there are no show-stopping issues with the F-22. I heard you have to keep them in air-conditioned hangars so maybe there are some surprises. Somehow I doubt the F-35 is going to be devoid of such issues.

              • peter says:

                … its VTOL capability…

                Idiot.

                • marknesop says:

                  Idiot is a strong word, and you want to be careful it does not come back to bite you.

                • peter says:

                  … you want to be careful…

                  A short take off and vertical landing aircraft (STOVL aircraft) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is able to takeoff from a short runway (or take off vertically if it does not have a heavy payload) and land vertically (i.e. with no runway)…

                • marknesop says:

                  I see. So if it can take off vertically if it does not have a heavy payload, that’s still not VTOL. So the Harrier is not VTOL either, although it has featured prominently in carrier operations; only Convertiplanes are truly VTOL craft, because true VTOLS must use rotors to take off. So is Kirill an idiot for proposing that the F35 is best suited to the carrier role, or for calling the F35 a VTOL craft when it is actually a S/VTOL? I’m bound to say you have very exacting standards, and it must be a frustrating world for you, surrounded by idiots.

                  Actually there is an F35 variant that was designed specifically for carrier operations, but it is not doing very well. In fact, F35 detractors are beginning to outnumber boosters, and Kopp is beginning to look like a prophet.

              • marknesop says:

                I honestly don’t think you could make the F-22 any cheaper, and although it’s a lot of airplane for the money, most smaller nations couldn’t afford it. The maintenance package nearly doubles the price of the plane, and only a fool would buy an American military product without the maintenance package; it contains critical information that will prevent you from making a simple mistake through ignorance that will cause it to burn up. South Korea bought the LM-2500 gas turbine marine engine for their frigates, way back (I believe it’s the most widely-exported gas turbine engine in the world, and it’s very reliable as long as it’s correctly maintained); so did Canada, but Canada bought the maintenance package as well while Korea bought just the engine. For awhile, whenever Canadian ships visited Korean ports, a couple of navy engineers would show up and ask if they could copy the maintenance manuals, which of course would be completely illegal and a violation of our sales agreement with the USA, and they were never allowed to do it. They wouldn’t have even asked if they weren’t having problems maintaining them. Additionally, although the F-22 performed impressively in trials, it has never been in combat and is perceived as a bit of a pampered prima donna.

                A lot rides on ramming through the JSF as the free world’s next-generation fighter, because Lockheed-Martin has now thrown so much money into it that it would be a disaster for the company if it were cancelled. I believe they know there’s a lot wrong with it – that’s why they insist on the concurrency system and keep delivering planes while it’s still under development. I’m very suspicious about why the Canadian government keeps insisting it’s “the only fighter that meets Canada’s needs”, because that’s not even close to true.

                What does the Netherlands need with a air-superiority fighter? The Super Hornet or the Typhoon would be fine for them, although the latter represents another of the same kind of project as the F-35 – it ended up costing double what the bid said it would, and Germany tried to back out at one point, but there had already been so much money spent and as a co-developer there were a lot of jobs riding on it, too. Hence the concurrency approach with the F-35, whipping it on to reach critical mass whereby there’s simply too much invested in it to back away, and you just have to go on and try to make it work.

                Defense procurement is way, way too hung up on stealth. It is much cheaper to defeat it than it is to make airplanes even more stealthy; a solid aircraft that moves fast and generates heat puts out way too many markers to be invisible to modern air defense networks, and stealthy fighters make their reputations strafing the shit out of teetering nations that have a hodgepodge thrown-together air defense network that could not see you if you flew in on an Antonov 225 Mriya, rolling bombs off the cargo ramp. And that’s another thing; dogfighting agility. Also overrated; there are few such battles anymore, and even fewer pilots who are willing to get in close and switch to guns after they’ve blown off their anti-air missile load, because you are a big fat pigeon for an enemy fighter which still has some left. The guns on an air superiority fighter – with rare exceptions – are for strafing ground targets.

              • kirill says:

                peter-tard, if VTOL on the F-35 is so useless then why have it at all. Given the enormous prices involved there is no room for gimmicks.

                But you know this full well, troll.

                • peter says:

                  … if VTOL on the F-35 is so useless then why have it at all.

                  You’re still totally confused, let’s try again. Slowly.

                  “The F-35” is actually three different aircraft:

                  1. The variant Canada et al. will be getting is F-35A, which is a conventional takeoff and landing aircraft with no short/vertical takeoff/landing capability whatsoever.

                  2. The variant fitted with the Rolls-Royce LiftSystem® is called F-35B. In official terminology, it is a STOVL (short takeoff and vertical landing) aircraft.

                  3. There’s also an aircraft carrier variant for the US Navy, F-35C.

                  Are you still with me?

                • marknesop says:

                  And the Royal Navy also was interested in the F35C, but could not make it work because they don’t use steam catapults, so it was scrapped. I’m sure Kirill did not mean to imply the variant Canada was buying – maybe – is meant for carriers because even our defense procurement chain would not be so dozy as to buy a carrier fighter when we have no carriers.

                • Dear Peter,

                  As someone who is admittedly shockingly ignorant in this field I should perhaps not intrude into this discussion but I am not sure of the underlying point you are seeking to make. Are you saying that the F35 is a better aircraft (or series of aircraft) than the T50 or that its performance is better than the T50’s? I say this because I have been following this discussion with interest but I fear I am losing the thread of it.

                • marknesop says:

                  Perhaps we should just let Peter do his victory dance and move on, although I feel compelled to point out that if he had simply said, “Are you aware the F-35 is made in three variants, and that only one is VTOL (or S/VTOL, or whatever), and that it is the non-VTOL variant that Canada is buying?” (all of which is accurate), we could have skipped a couple of days of one-word cryptic Jude-the Obscure clues. Doubtless that would not have been so amusing. Anyway, I daresay we all learned more than we ever wanted to know about the VTOL concept, which might not have happened otherwise. Although our simple little heads are now as full of arcane knowledge as a nut is full of meat, it should not obviate the reality that the F-35 is a shit plane and the PAK-FA can fly circles around it. It grieves me to say so, because as far as I can make out my government remains stubbornly committed to the F-35 (I believe the current review is just a sop to throw the people to get them to calm down, whereupon it will be announced that we are still buying the F-35, although the money we are willing to spend is not unlimited and even before the announced review the government had said it would cap funding on this runaway project, so that if the cost goes up any more, we buy fewer planes), while political realities prevent us from paying less and getting more by buying the PAK-FA.

                  The cheapest option which would not piss off the Americans too much would be the F-18 Super Hornet. It has some significant advantages such as continuing interoperability between our forces and theirs – something implicit in the USA’s increasing push for us to buy the F-35 – but this short presentation has captured them all quite well. If it were my choice, it would be the F-18 Super Hornet, for reasons I already explained, but the Gripen would be out (single engine), so would the Rafale (poor interoperability with the USA). The Typhoon has many of the same issues as the F-35, expensive to operate and overpriced due to many cost overruns. The Hornet is the best compromise, although it would mean we’d have to replace it sooner.

                  But it should be lost on nobody that all these options are faster than the F-35 and outrange it. It’s an overpriced flying coke machine stuffed with pricey electronics, and all our pilots would have to go back to school to learn how to fly it.

                  I wouldn’t take seriously the suggestion at the end that we are looking at the J-20; the USA would never speak to us again and would probably close the border. Besides, if we didn’t care about the relationship, we could buy the PAK-FA. I fully expect we will buy the F-35 even knowing what we do about it, although I predict the USA is going to have to offer us a sweetheart deal to get us to stay on board.

                • Dear Mark,

                  Since I have, perhaps unwisely, ventured into this area perhaps I should say how it all looks to me as an interested layman. This is that the starting point was a decision made some years ago by the US DoD to terminate procurement of its fifth generation heavy fighter, the F22. This decision was made on the basis of cost and an assessment, that was seems to me to have been entirely rational at the time it was made, that following the end of the Cold War the US simply did not need fighers of the size and sophistication and cost of the F22. Instead the decision was made to concentrate on development of the simpler and cheaper fifth generation light fighter, the F35, which it was assumed would be better suited to the sort of threats the US would have to confront in the future.

                  In the event the F35 programme has faced more difficulties than was anticipated because of a decision that someone made presumably on cost grounds, which was to depart from the US fighter design philosophy of the 1970s (which was to develop specialist aircraft adapted for specific missions) and to try to adapt the F35 platform instead for every possible fighter mission. Thus where in the 1970s the US developed a heavy and light fighter for ground based operations (the F15 and the F16), a heavy and light fighter for carrier operations (the F14 and the F18), the Harrier Jump Jet for the Marines and the evergreen subsonic A10 Thunderbolt for ground attack roles, the basic F35 platform was expected to be adapted into different versions that would fulfill all these roles. Though I am about as far from being a designer or an engineer as it is possible to get I can still see why such a design approach might run into problems and in the event it seems that it has. The result has been repeated delays and cost overruns and growing criticism of what seems to be a troubled programme.

                  In the event the appearance of Russian and Chinese fifth generation heavy fighters (the T50 and the J20) has in the opinion of some people like Kopp called into question the original decision to drop the heavy fighter (the F22) and focus exclusively on the light one (the F35). Despite the vitriolic criticism Kopp comes in for (much of which looks to me frankly like abuse) this seems to me a perfectly valid argument to make whether one agrees with it or not.

                  Over and above this argument there is the further argument made (perhaps wrongly) by Kopp and by the surviving members “light fighter mafia” of the 1970s such as Pierre Spey that for a light fighter the F35 relies too much on technology and represents an unacceptable retreat from the levels of performance achieved by fourth generation US fighters in the 1970s and which Kopp for one believes will actually be exceeded by the coming Russian and Chinese fifth generation fighters such as the T50 and the J20. The latter is obviously a contentious claim given the advantages that technology is said to offer and given that the performance figures of the T50 and the J20 are still largely (though not entirely) unknown but in the case of the T50 at least it again looks to me a plausible argument in the light of what is known about the T50 and based on experience of what Russian fighters of the past such as the SU27 were capable of.

                  I would finish by making one last point. No doubt there are many valid criticisms to be made of Kopp and of others like him. I do not have the technical knowledge to be able to say. Also it may be that the T50 and the J20 are being overrated and it may also be that the Russians and the Chinese may not be able to build them in significant numbers even if they turn out to be as good as Kopp says they are. It is also possible and even likely that many of the criticisms of the F35 are being overstated and that once the many teething problems with this programme have been sorted out an effective fighter or series of fighters will emerge from the programme. However I have to say after reading many of the criticisms I have read of Kopp than a disproportionate number of these criticisms look to me to be made by doubtless well intentioned and patriotically minded people who cannot bring themselves to believe or accept that the Russians and the Chinese might be able to design and build fighter aircraft that are as good or better than the ones the Americans make. Based on past experience that seems to me a dangerously complacent view.

  11. Misha says:

    Re: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/24/saudi-arabia-v-qatar-on-syria/

    Excerpt –

    “With all the reams of reporting on Syria, I am surprised that relatively little is written, in English anyway, about the divergence of aims between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
    Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood and, it appears, would not object to a brokered deal to end the insurrection that allows the MB to get its nose in the political tent, then make its play for winning control of the new government through some combination of foreign pressure, domestic mobilization, and elections.

    Saudi Arabia, it appears, has no love for the Muslim Brotherhood and is perfectly happy to crater the Assad regime through a bloody insurrection abetted by foreign jihadis, in order to deny Iran a regional ally, score another victory for fundamentalist Sunni rollback, and increase the pressure on the Shi’a-led government of Iraq by adding the factor of a hostile, pro-Saudi and overtly Sunni Syrian regime to the increasingly disgruntled and emboldened Sunnis of western Iraq (some of whom are reportedly participating in the Syrian war).”

    ****

    Reminded of a piece on why Saudi based Al Arabiya was created:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Arabiya

    Excerpt –

    “General manager of Al Arabiya is Abdulrahman al Rashed.[5] A free-to-air channel, Al Arabiya carries news, current affairs, business and financial markets, sports, talk shows, and documentaries. It is rated by the BBC among the top pan-Arab stations by Middle East audiences.[6] The channel has been criticized for having a ‘pro-Saudi agenda’,[7] and it was once banned in Iraq by the US-installed Governing Council for “incitement to murder” for broadcasting audio tapes of Saddam Hussein.[6]
    On 26 January 2009, American president Barack Obama gave his first formal interview as president to the television channel.[8]

    Al Arabiya was created to be a direct competitor of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera.[6] As a response to Al-Jazeera’s criticism of the Saudi royal family throughout the 1990s, members of the Saudi royal family established Al Arabiya in Dubai in 2002.[9] According to a 2008 New York Times profile of Al Arabiya director Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, the channel works ‘to cure Arab television of its penchant for radical politics and violence,’ with Al Jazeera as its main target.”

  12. marknesop says:

    Good Morning, Alex; I’ll have to pick up my reply down here, as I ran out of room in that thread. As usual, you display a real talent for breaking an issue into its component parts even if it is not something you know well – perhaps that’s something the legal practice teaches – and you have hit all the high notes.

    Central to the argument, though, is the mischaracterization of the F-35 as a fighter. It is not; it is a light attack bomber whose role is precision attack once the target’s air defenses have been destroyed or neutralized by an air superiority fighter like the F-22. Nations who are persuaded to buy the F-35 but who lack the attendant air superiority fighter – or worse, who buy the F-35 thinking it will fit into a multirole assignment – will find themselves supporting coalition missions in which it is necessary for American air superiority fighters and ECM aircraft to go in first and suppress/destroy enemy air defenses, so that missions against any nations except those with only rudimentary or no air defense networks will require a coalition mission led by the USA, or perhaps the Eurofighter, which has plenty of teething problems of its own, including massive cost overruns.

    Meanwhile, all the necessary extra equipment to make the F-35 multirole pushes it dangerously close to its maximum takeoff weight. It’s greatest strengths are its excellent radar, and stealth. If it has to bolt a bunch of stuff like extra armament and drop tanks on to the hard points, it is not only heavy as a dead preacher, it is less agile and not stealthy at all. And, as we have discussed, it is next to impossible to make a fighter you can’t see as long as it is cheaper to improve sensors to the point they can see even a stealth aircraft. The F-35 is expected to enjoy an advantage in that it could get within 20 miles of a target without being seen by any except the most advanced radars, but that suggests it will conduct most of its engagements from outside of 20 miles, and that’s not a fighter. All that bafflegab about dogfighting ignores that it was not built to dogfight and probably would not be very good at it. Such engagements now are rare, as fighters are so expensive that it is safer to attack with cruise missiles first when that is possible. In any event, the F-35 is designed as a second-wave attacker after the air defenses have been neutralized. If your entire air force consists of F-35A’s, you can see the limitations that would impose.

    Australia has apparently put the brakes on their F-35 acquisition and is buying some Super Hornets for the interim while it gives the program further study, as Canada is doing. This is bad for Lockheed-Martin, as it drives the costs of the rest of the F-35’s up. The Super Hornet is made by their competitor, Boeing.

    • Dear Mark,

      Your comment has explained the true nature of the F35 better than every other comment or article on the subject I have ever read. I now finally have understood this issue. Incidentally that there is speculation on its Wikipedia article that the J20 is also essentially a bomber, which would explain what had otherwise baffled me, which is why (if one believes Sukhoi) some of its performance figures are so much lower than those of the F22 and the T50. Incidentally that makes me wonder whether the Chinese might have plans to buy the T50 at some future time.

      Viz your comment about breaking information down into its component parts,.what you say is unduly complimentary but yes it is something lawyers do and it is legal practice (not legal education) that teaches it.

      • marknesop says:

        Ha, ha!! Speaking of unduly complimentary, I devoutly wish I could claim credit for all that incisive astuteness – but alas! I cannot. I read most of it here, not only the article but the extremely learned comments which followed. But even more than the highly educational dismantling of the official position on the F-35 – which this blogger has executed with an almost bored indifference that belies a comprehensive knowledge of the subject – I wish I could claim credit for the eureka insight on why we choose to get our news from blogs instead of (or supplementary to) real news sites. Because blogs are peer-reviewed. So simple, and yet such a fundamental truth. We have Peter to keep us on the straight and narrow, and that some cannot stand the heat is demonstrated by the Guardian’s shamefaced deletion of comments by people who know the subject much better than the reporter does, or La Russophobe’s ban on those who disagree with her. Those are examples of resources which cannot stand up to peer review. And why? Because they are ashamed to admit a most liberating truth – the great majority of us use little of our overall mental capacity, and are appallingly ignorant on some subjects. And what? Are we born knowing everything? Of course not. We learn a few things, mostly what interests us, and have not a shadow of a clue on many others. An excellent way to learn is to become engaged in an argument with someone who knows the subject better – provided you like to win – because by the time you give up, you will know a hell of a lot more.

        Anyway, this blogger and his merry commenters demolish the Canadian government’s position on the purchase of the F-35, and in fact I came to this story by way of the referenced article, by Matthew Fisher, which was a sneering and condescending dismissal of criticism of the F-35 as stemming from attention-deficit sock monkeys who are too ignorant to understand the great gift their government wishes to bestow upon them.

        Astoundingly, the author mentions offhandedly in the opening lines that the current crop of Russian fighters is superior. Dependent on role, of course, and we must remember when contrasting the PAK FA with the F-35 that the one is an air superiority fighter while the other is a light attack bomber designed to follow the air superiority fighters in, which its makers are trying to market as an air superiority fighter as well as a light attack bomber, and several other things.

        • Jen says:

          @ Mark: The “good Russian fighter” the Sixth Estate blogger was referring to must be the Sukhoi Su-35 jet or the Super Flanker. There was mention of the RAAF’s decision to substitute Super Hornets for the F-35 in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday (“Defence set to buy Super Hornets over cutting-edge fighter”, SMH 28 January 2013). For those unable or not bothered to look up the SMH article, I refer to this telling paragraph:

          ” … But Peter Goon, a former RAAF engineer now with the independent think tank Air Power Australia, said Australia was “already outmatched in the region” on air combat. “If you send out Super Hornets against the Sukhoi Su-35s, few if any of them will come back,” he said …”

          Air Power Australia has two posts on the Sukhoi fighter jet, one of them comparing its capabilities against those of Super Hornets:
          http://www.ausairpower.net/flanker.html
          http://www.ausairpower.net/DT-SuperBug-vs-Flanker.html

          There is also an article on the New Australia – Defence – Air Force website which recommends that Australia build Sukhoi Su-35 or Su-32 fighters under licence or buy some of the parts and install their own avionics:
          http://www.newaustralia.net/defence_airforce.html

          • marknesop says:

            Yes, it was Air Power Australia and its founder, Carlo Kopp, that Peter fell upon with such snark and mockery. As I mentioned, I had never heard of it – or Kopp – before and only found it while researching the PAK FA (T-50). But I can’t find too many holes in his logic, and it seems to me he is derided mostly by those with big personal investments – emotional or otherwise – in America being the designer and builder of the most advanced aircraft in the air. Anything else is just heresy, and an invitation to mockery, because it couldn’t possibly be true – could it?

            While we were talking about the PAK FA, it is itself a Flanker derivative in many ways, and I am sure you are right that it was the Flanker they were speaking of. The Flanker is much bigger and a generation older – not to mention half again the size of the PAK FA, here’s a nice picture of the two together – but both are designed to be air superiority fighters although they can perform other roles. And even those least willing to give Russia credit for anything grudgingly admitted the Flanker was a remarkable plane, designed to compete with the premiere American air superiority fighter, the F-15 Eagle. A plane like the Eagle, topping out at over Mach 2.5, would snort laughter at a Mach 1.6 pretender calling itself a fighter, never mind a plane that is incapable of super-cruise calling itself a fifth-generation fighter; the F-35 can achieve its maximum speed only on afterburner, which is like pouring gas out the window.

            It would be the beginning of the end for western allies to buy Russian fighters; both a repudiation of western values and an insult tantamount to burning the flag. Simply politically unacceptable, and I don’t believe this is what Air Power Australia was arguing at all. It was the position of Kopp and others that Australia buy an aircraft capable of competing with the PAK FA, and he seems to have a real bee in his bonnet about the F22. It’s a great plane, but nobody but the USA could afford it and there are hints that it is difficult to maintain. Most Soviet and Russian fighter designs were built to operate from broken-surface fields and are quite rugged. Nonetheless, there is absolutely no reason the USA aircraft-design field cannot keep up and evolve a fighter which would compete with the PAK FA/Flanker family. The industry decided to go in a different direction entirely out of self-interest.

            • Jen says:

              Yes I think the part about the Sukhoi jet fighters being difficult to maintain might be one reason one of the websites I quoted recommended that the planes be built here under licence so that Australian aviation engineers can acquire the expertise and knowledge involved in building and maintaining the jets or have the option of adding their own electronics to them. Though I think it’s pretty much out of the question that Australia should acquire Sukhoi jet aircraft even though they may be more suitable for a country with vast distances to cover and huge but thinly populated areas; I suspect that a relative minnow like Australia wouldn’t be allowed to have better aircraft than the US just in case a few of our pilots went rogue!

    • kirill says:

      So, it’s just an imperial adventures tool brazenly designed to fit into role where only the USA is the key action center in coalitions of the billing. It’s not a national defense tool. And nobody is going to be using jet fighters to attack Russia in a full blown war since it will be tactical and strategic nukes at play.

      There’s over 20 billion dollars for this imperial toy in Canada but clearly not 100 million for science that Harper does not agree with. In particular, CFCAS which died without funding and NSERC is *not* picking up the slack.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s