Just Wait a Friedman – Then You’ll See

Uncle Volodya says, "You can learn a lot from a fool. How much patience you have, for instance. "

Uncle Volodya says, “You can learn a lot from a fool. How much patience you have, for instance. “

Stuffy, pompous New York Times columnist forever Thomas Friedman begins his most recent offering – reprinted in the Kyiv Post, where I saw it – thus: “One thing I learned covering the Middle East for many years is that there is “the morning after” and there is “the morning after the morning after.” Never confuse the two.”

Generally speaking, if you are going to tell porkie pies (“lies”, in the rhyming cockney slang which lends its name to The Porkie Pies News Network, Kremlin Stooge slang for the mainstream media) in your opinion piece, doing so in the first four words of it is starting a little early. Typically, you want to soften up your audience a bit before you trot out the whoppers. So, make yourself comfortable – coffee? Tea, anyone? – while I demonstrate that in reality, Thomas Friedman has learned nothing at all.

Really, I would have been happy with just leaving a comment on “Putin and the Laws of Gravity“, but the New York Times cuts off commentary ridiculously early, so if you didn’t see the piece come out (it’s dated yesterday, or what was yesterday when I began this post) chances are good that comments will be closed before you get the chance to make your own opinion known. So, that’s why we’re going this route, which is all to the good because now I will get to hear your opinions as well.

Anyway, Thomas Friedman has the dubious honour of having a unit of time named after him – a “Friedman”, which represents six months. This unit got its name from his repeated assurances in his NYT columns that “the next six months” would surely see the United States turning the corner in Iraq; the occupation which ground on and on like an Yngwie Malmsteen guitar solo would at last bear fruit, the resistance and sectarian strife would subside and Iraq would settle down to becoming a prosperous, western-oriented market democracy.

He continued to announce this deadline for about two and a half years. The embarrassment finally culminated in the anguished “Dancing Alone“, in which Friedman admitted that perhaps he was a little slow, but that it was finally time to put the toys away and start growing up, because his vision for Iraq was much too far over the horizon to be glimpsed and perhaps always would be. He put up a brief defense by saying that when he forecast something which meant a lot to him personally, he assumed it also meant a lot to the Bush administration, but that they were too interested in getting re-elected to pay due attention to their nation-building responsibilities…but his heart wasn’t really in it. The Bush administration had “no clue how to export hope”, but he – Thomas Friedman – was dancing alone in the world, just like his lost-sight-of-the-goal country.

But now here he is again, advising us that if we will only wait a Friedman, the cracks in Vladimir Putin’s apparent strategy will start to show, and while he might look like he is kicking ass and taking names right now, he is riding for a big fall. Those whom the Gods would humble, they first make proud. “Well, let’s see what Putin looks like the morning after the morning after, say, in six months.” A Friedman, for those in the know.

He then goes off the reservation in high-flying style which suggests his recent diet has relied almost exclusively on peyote buttons.

No wonder, he tells his agog audience, that Ukraine wanted to break free of the toxic orbit of Russia: it had only to look at its successful neighbours who took the plunge and joined the EU. And lo! happiness burst forth and spontaneous Lancashire clog dances of exultation broke out across the beaming faces of those giddy lands. “A recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek noted that, in 2012, G.D.P. per person in Ukraine was $6,394 — some 25 percent below its level of nearly a quarter-century earlier. But if you compare Ukraine with four of its former Communist neighbors to the west who joined the European Union — Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania — “the average G.D.P. per person in those nations is around $17,000.” Can you blame Ukrainians for wanting to join a different club? “

I’m going to go ahead and say either Thomas Friedman or Bloomberg did not research that article too carefully. As we’ve discussed before, per-capita GDP is just the total GDP of the country divided by the population; its upper limits can be – and are- skewed by such things as the number of Billionaires and Millionaires in the country. Take America, for instance – mouth-breathers like La Russophobe are always capering and throwing poo about how great the USA’s per-capita GDP is, way higher than just about any country you care to name. It’s actually $45,336.00 as of 2012; economics figures almost always lag by at least a Friedman, because they have to be tabulated and analyzed and it’s hard to do that in real time. Does that mean everyone in the United States has an annual income of more than $45,000.00? Of course not; the poverty line for the 48 contiguous states for a family of 8 people is less than that, and more than 31% of people in the United States experienced poverty for at least 2 months of the year between 2009 and 2011; by all indications, poverty in the United States is increasing. However, the USA is also home to more Billionaires than anywhere else in the world. It’s amazing how much a couple of hundred billion added to your GDP can alter the per-capita figure.

But never mind that. It is perfectly true that the GDP per-capita figures, adjusted for PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), for the countries he cited are “around $17,000.00” (sometimes more). Like per-capita GDP, PPP is just the total income of the country, divided by the population, adjusted for inflation. If a higher per-capita GDP adjusted for PPP meant you should pull up stakes and move your tents closer to someone who has a higher figure, the USA would be sucking up to Qatar like ought to be X-rated – because according to the CIA World Factbook, Qatar’s per-capita GDP adjusted for PPP is more than twice that of the USA at $102,800.00. Lichtenstein and Luxembourg blow the doors off the USA. Bermuda beats America’s GDP PPP by $20,000.00: the Falkland Islands kick sand in the USA’s face. Obviously, just this parameter alone is not a reliable indicator of prosperity on a national scale – 11% of the population in Luxembourg lives below the poverty line, and their per-capita GDP PPP is $80,700.00.

Friedman is arguing – short-sightedly, in my opinion – that Ukraine shows good sense by wanting to be part of the EU rather than Putin’s stupid dysfunctional Eurasian Union because being part of the EU would very quickly resolve Ukraine’s economic troubles, and cites four countries which are EU members and have per-capita GDP PPP figures much higher than those of Ukraine to back his case. So let’s have a closer look at that.

Hungary has a per-capita GDP adjusted for PPP of $17,032.56. Prosperous country, then, right? Ummm….not so much, actually. Although its economic figures are really pretty steady, Hungary is (according to The Telegraph) “the EU’s Enfant Terrible”, and was directed by the EU in 2012 to repay €5.9 Billion in debt as well as raise external funds equal to 18% of GDP; the highest in Eastern Europe. Public debt was near 80% of GDP. The EU sent the Hungarian government three “Formal Notices” over its “assault on the independence of the judiciary, the central bank, and the data protection ombudsman”, pointing out that failure to comply with direction “could ultimately lead to loss of Hungary’s voting rights under Article 7 of EU treaty law. ” Doesn’t sound much to me like an example Ukraine wants to emulate, despite its smokin’ hot per-capita GDP.

It’s hard to beat Poland as a success story, it’s true; its economy has really taken off. Still, “the banks’ large foreign-currency liabilities and the reliance on potentially volatile portfolio inflows represent potential sources of instability in the event of a deeper liquidity crisis”, says the OECD. They’re in good shape so long as the zloty remains strong. What kind of shape is the hryvnia in? What kind of shape is it likely to be in for the foreseeable future? I also can’t help marveling at the sanguinary nature of the OECD, as they speak of “removing pension privileges for selected occupations and continued tightening of eligibility criteria for disability support.” I can’t imagine Ukrainians looking forward to the tender mercies of the EU, as its organizations and the Western Bigs such as the World Bank and the IMF look for what might be cut next to get the economy back on the rails.

Slovakia also is a high-income country; however, it relies heavily on foreign investment – which can be turned off in displeasure if the national government does not perform as investors expect it to do – and nearly everything is privatized. I imagine this is the goal for an EU-oriented Ukraine as well – the western democracies worship privatization – and factors which make Slovakia an attractive choice for foreign investors are its flat tax rate of 19%, no dividend taxes, a weak labour code and an abundance of cheap, skilled labour. The latter two should bring a prickle of unease to Ukrainians, who are already a cheap labour force. Considering that the goal for them is, you know, improvement.

I’m not sure why Romania was included in the Happy Quartet, because its per-capita GDP adjusted for PPP is far below the vaunted $17,000.00 at $11,443.49, and its per-capita GDP is worse, around $5,500.00. Perhaps he was just boosting the numbers, or copying the article he referenced without looking into it any closer.  Romania is pushing its homebuyers away from foreign-currency mortgages after the kick in the slats Hungary took – nice to see someone actually learning from others’ mistakes rather than insisting on making them themselves – but bad loans made up 22% of all lending at end-November 2012, the sixth-worst rate in the world according to the World Bank. As Europe’s second-poorest country, again, not an example to emulate.

Anyway, Ukraine. How is Ukraine unlike these countries, and why was it absurd for Friedman to throw them out there as a model?

There is a variety of reasons, and none of them are particularly compelling in favour of Ukraine’s taking off as a happy and successful EU project in anything like even the medium term – not unless all the western countries simply threw money at it every time it started to stagger, and that kind of money just isn’t there any more.

Let’s take a look at what made Poland a success. Poland distinguished itself by not collapsing during the global financial crash, and by instead actually showing respectable growth. To what did it owe this miracle? Different analysts have different perspectives. The Atlantic says currency liquidity: Poland allowed the value of the Zloty to fall sharply against the Euro. How far could Ukraine’s fiscal wizards and their western masters allow the Hryvnia to fall? It’s practically worthless already. That chart also provides a useful counter to the Kiev revolutionaries’ shouting that Yanukovych wrecked the economy – just look when the hryvnia started to tank. The Wall Street Journal offered several suggestions, all of which will make you laugh when you relate them to Ukraine in its present incarnation – strong institutions, a resilient economic structure, well-designed economic policy, trust in the government and a low level of financial leverage. Mr. Rostowski, the article’s author, was Poland’s finance minister at the time. Businessweek says Poland’s success is owed to a business-friendly political class, the lifting of price controls, capping of government wages, liberalization of trade. What is left unsaid is that Poland took a deep breath, and opened its entire economy to foreign ownership, and now at least 2,531 companies in Poland are 51% or more foreign-owned. Poland’s banking sector – the biggest banking market in the central and eastern European region – is 70% foreign-owned.

Curiously, the World Bank chided Poland for lagging in privatizing its state firms. Mind you, that was in 2001, and there has been a wave of privatizations since. But what interested me about this report was the comparison done using the World Bank’s transitional model. Interesting because it included Ukraine. And in all its modeling, Ukraine came out worst of all the available choices for economies in transition. Did worst of 14 transitional economies, not to put too fine a point on it, and results showed Ukraine’s GDP falling by 11% per year while income inequality doubled over the 8-year transition period. Do you think Ukrainians who were hopeful about joining the EU because it would boost their ailing economy would be all smiles at the thought of the nation’s GDP dropping by more than 10% a year while the income equality gap continued to widen? I’m afraid I don’t. I hope nobody is going to raise their hand and say, “But that was before the Orange Revolution”, because Ukraine’s external debt grew five-fold during the Orange Revolution and as a direct result of the political administration which grew out of it, from around $20 Billion to more than $100 Billion. Yushchenko was encouraged to borrow heavily, and Tymoshenko liked to spend.  The EU made IMF loans conditional on reforms, just like it will do this time, and when Yushchenko refused to implement the rescission of the gas subsidy (because it would have meant political death), the IMF froze a second loan. Yanukovych inherited a massive debt, which – to be fair – he did nothing to bring down. Now it’s about $142 Billion. The global financial crash was in there, and Ukraine is a big steel exporter; the bottom fell out of steel. Both Yushchenko and Yanukovych spent heavily to stave off devaluation of the currency, which drained the reserves. Ukraine failed to learn anything from countries that had high debt in foreign currencies, and as the hryvnia slipped, the foreign debt became more expensive. A lot of things went wrong, but none changes the fact that Ukraine’s economy is about as horrible a prospective transitional economy as you could imagine. To put it in perspective, Poland’s external debt when it joined the EU was about $100 Billion. Ukraine’s is half again that, with a currency that is basically worthless, an unelected “transitional government”, a billionaire oligarch as the front-runner for president and a simmering revolution with the southeast of the country on the edge of revolt. It just lost most of its seacoast – and with it, its best port and much of its EEZ as well as lucrative gas and oil deposits, and relies heavily for its income on the exporting of gas while it actually has no appreciable gas reserves of its own. There probably is a country that’s less like Poland, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head.

But they could still get it together. And Putin could be forced to give Crimea back, and be humbled, and beg for forgiveness. Let’s wait a Friedman, and see if any of those things happens.

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1,017 Responses to Just Wait a Friedman – Then You’ll See

  1. A giant new oil discovery was found in Astrakan region: http://lenta.ru/news/2014/04/16/oil/
    According to lenta.ru the oil field contains 300 million tons of oil and 90 billion cubic meters of gas
    This is the biggest discovery since 1988.
    If true, excellent news for Russia.

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    The fellow who made this clip is a freelance British journalist. Check in to You Tube to see his other interviews.

    • Drutten says:

      Mr. Phillips is a great guy and probably the most honest frontline correspondent you’ve got there. I have conversed with him a few times.

      • Warren says:

        Phillips is now being called a RT propagandist and Putin stooge by the Banderite sock puppets.

        • kirill says:

          Figures the worms would be squirming. Phillips is actually doing proper journalism and not spreading some official lie through innuendo and omission of facts. I don’t see him inserting a personal agenda in any of these video clips. But then my background is science and I prefer to get raw data and not regurgitated opinion.

  3. Moscow Exile says:

    It greatly saddens me to have to inform you all that there has now come to light irrefutable proof of Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs.

    (Warning: might shock the sensitive)

  4. patient observer says:

    Per RT:
    “11:32 GMT:
    The Russian flags on Ukrainian Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) were a stratagem, Kiev says. According to the acting head of the Batkivshchina Party, Sergey Sobolev, the Ukrainian military raised Russian flags on their vehicles on purpose, to fool the Donetsk region’s self-defense squads and thus be able to get into areas under the control of protesters.

    “Those were our military units using guerilla methods of intervention,” Sobolev said, citing the acting Defense Minister. “Very soon, in two to three hours this maneuver is going to be disclosed and you’ll understand that it was actually a breakthrough, which our units thus carried out.”

    Advance to the rear! We have them just where we want them! Wow! just Wow!

    • Fedia Kriukov says:

      This would actually be a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention.

      The only thing that excuses this action is the fact that it’s an infantile lie.

      • marknesop says:

        That is absolutely correct; it is the offense of Perfidy, and is specifically prohibited under Article 39.

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

        The Kiev varsity just gets more embarrassing and foolish by the day. Maybe they will want to re-word that startling admission. It’s sad in a way that they will not become a western-allied government, because they would fit right in. Western governments typically are a little more well-versed in international law (although that never stops them from ignoring it when it suits them), but something they already have in common is that their first instinct is to lie. In fact, they have become a parody of government, and resemble nothing so much as the old Soviet governments of western lampoons, where they always had a five-year-plan for everything and the order of the day is promises which any fool could see are impossible to fulfill.

    • kirill says:

      They are backpedaling already. An infantile lie is what this was indeed. But I am not surprised. I saw on a local Ukrainian TV program in Toronto the recently dug trench along the Ukraine-Russia border being presented as a serious means to stop Russian tanks. I was stupefied by the inanity. A tank would roll over this trench without even slowing down. For an anti-tank trench to be effective it needs to be about three times wider and to have metal beams planted in the bottom to literally hang up the tank and leave its treads spinning. And even if they did actually make the proper anti-tank defenses it would be pointless. The de facto disintegrated Ukrainian army can’t do the job of defending the country. Any Right Sector militants are not worthy of mention as a replacement. They are only good for guerrilla action.

  5. Warren says:

    Published on Apr 16, 2014
    What does Russophobia mean? Where does it come from? What are the West’s russophobic stereotypes? And why is Russophobia dangerous. CrossTalking with George Szamuely, Alexander Nekrassov and Dmitry Babich.

  6. Fern says:

    I’m throwing this question out there for anyone to answer – what IS Edward Lucas smoking? He has an article in today’s Daily Mail which is so utterly bonkers it’s hard to understand how it ever got published. He’s on his usual schtick that Putin is Genghis Khan, Attilia the Hun, Ivan the Terrible AND Hitler all rolled into one just foaming at the mouth to conquer the world and, in particular, the Baltic states.

    So far, so normal for Mr Lucas. Where it starts to get unhinged, however, is when he suggests the reasons why, in Lucas-world, Putin can’t let Ukraine fall to the west. He’s jealous, you see. As Mr L puts it, “our laws, our elections and the prosperity of our populations” are an eternal rebuke to the Dark Lord. Uh? Lucas has clearly missed reports on the situation in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, the anti-austerity marches – even in Berlin – the growing homelessness, unemployment, the numbers resorting to food banks in Europe, the numbers on food stamps in the US, the growing divide between the 1% at the top and everyone else, the near insolvency of much of the G7, the extraordinarily high ratios of debt to GDP and so on. And that’s Europe in general. The Baltics, of which Mr Lucas seems extraordinarily fond, have their own particular problems and are not prosperous countries – they’ve very large numbers of people living below the poverty line, have lost swathes of the population to emigration and, demographically, are in serious trouble.

    I really struggle to understand how such an out-and-out fiction writer – whose every utterance could be disproved in five minutes by a work experience guy or gal doing a bit of fact checking – has managed to survive in his chosen field. It’s utterly extraordinary.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2605578/Edward-Lucas-I-hope-Im-wrong-historians-look-say-start-World-War-III.html

    • Warren says:

      Lucas is angry, frustrated and quite pleased. Angry and frustrated because Putin has called the West’s bluff and Lucas’s firmly held beliefs in the Trans-Atlantic security architecture have been shaken. Pleased because he feels “vindicated”, because his dire predictions of a New Cold War, have come “to fruition” at least in his mind, this time Russia cunningly is using “banks rather than tanks”. He felt unfairly dismissed as a “scaremonger” now he gets the chance to flog his 3rd edition of his book. Infact Lucas tweeted “vindicated” when the US imposed sanctions on Gunvor’s former owner Timchenko,after The Economist settled out of court in a libel case against Gunvor and Timchenko.

    • marknesop says:

      Yeah, that one is tough to beat, for sure. Clever Edward, he takes ownership right away of both extremes; being right, and being wrong (I hope I’m wrong, but…).

      It starts out immediately other-worldly; “Deep in the flat and featureless landscape of eastern Ukraine…” I guess that answers the question, “Ever been to eastern Ukraine, Ed?” Here’s the topographical signature of Donetsk.

      http://www.floodmap.net/Elevation/ElevationMap/?gi=565348

      Now here’s where Ed lives, in the mountains of London.

      http://www.weather-forecast.com/locations/London

      It’s just full-on crazy after that. Ukraine is “the heart of the west.” Yeah, the one that only one in six Americans could find on the map just a couple of weeks ago. Actually, that makes more sense than anything else Lucas said except for “The hypocrisy is breathtaking” (although he presumably was not talking about his own work), because quite a few Americans thought Ukraine WAS in the west. In Alaska, in a few cases. Australia, in others.

      There is absolutely no evidence, not a shred, no slight reason for supposition that The Baltics are Putin’s “next target”, far less “almost certainly”, and the only reason they are so portrayed is that Edward Lucas has a soft spot in his heart for The Baltics that matches the one in his head. Considering his beat once included The Aforementioned Baltics, his predictions for their place in The New World Order was….ahhhh….somewhat optimistic.

      He says the Ukrainian Army is ill-led – it is not, and its officers and Senior NCO’s are as professional as you will find anywhere. I’d like to see the state of the British Army if you didn’t pay them for months at a time and then allowed a big piece of real estate they were guarding to be taken over by someone else’s military and did not even bother to send them any instructions until they could have been handed them by the opposition because they were already at the door. If Lucas meant the national leadership blows chunks, then yes, I’d sign that, but there is nothing much wrong with their military leadership so long as you are talking real military and not Kiev actors dressed in military-surplus-store uniforms.

      I did a piece on Ed Lucas way back in the beginning of 2013, and by God, what I said then sounds sort of prophetic now. For those of you seeing it for the first time;

      “The window for constructive dialogue with Russia is closing. Nuts like Edward Lucas are trying to slam it shut. Are you sure that’s what you want? You have only to read the news to see that the current Russian government has backed up as far as it is going to, and pushback is the order of the day. Constant aggravation and harassment from the west forces Russia to conduct a daily re-evaluation of how much it actually needs the west, and how much it is in its interest to form new partnerships and alliances. Edward Lucas would have you believe that the U.S. military is so powerful that it can impose American and western will anywhere on the planet, but he is an academic (generously speaking) and not a military tactician, and there is a great deal he does not know at the same time that what he thinks he knows is informed by dazzling victories over military nonentities like Libya. Russia is a whole different ball game, and an attacker would have a logistic chain that stretched halfway around the world – I seem to recall that ending badly for Napoleon.”

      https://marknesop.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/edward-lucas-stories-from-myanus/

      Thanks for that – I’m sorry I let this comment thread get big enough that it is probably getting clunky to load, but I was waiting for Ken M’s next installment of “Follow The Money”. He is probably bogged down in research – it’s amazing where it leads you, it’s like a drug – but i don’t want to rush him, and Ed Lucas’s craziness is always a good place to go if I need to throw a post together.

      • Kulobi says:

        At least Lucas exhibits a panoply of healthy emotions, as highlighted by Warren. By contrast, Applebaum is paralysed by fear http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/anne-applebaum-a-fearful-new-world-imperiled-by-russias-subterfuge/2014/04/16/69a28170-c584-11e3-9f37-7ce307c56815_story.html
        She is scared by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the upcoming invasion of the Baltic States (yes, with capital S, because she loves them so very much, almost on par with Big Ed himself). She is petrified by the thugs and criminal gangs in the East – just because they are deluded to think they are fighting for autonomy does not make them any less murderous. She fears for her fascist friends in Kiev who are glibly accused by Evil Putin of fomenting violence. She won’t be able to put her timorous soul to rest unless more special forces, more “human” intelligence operatives, and more propaganda are deployed against the new Russian empire.

        Applebaum may actually be making an effort to replace the dark force of fear with force of ‘truth and courage’, which, according to this illuminating site, is a legit method of self-help among paranoid people http://www.wikihow.com/Help-Paranoid-People.
        Will she be helped by friends like Lucas, Harding and Friedman in this tortuous journey?

        • marknesop says:

          Ha, ha, ha!!!! Jesus, what a nut!!! I would love to just go off on her right here, but I think that would be a prime subject for my next post, thanks very much!

  7. cartman says:

    The White House used lgbt activists against Russia, ignoring its own pet animal’s murder of hundreds of activists in Honduras. They switched to Greenpeace shortly before the Olympics, though their dog has been keeping itself very busy.

  8. Warren says:

    Guns and Butter

    “Ukrainian Crisis In Historical Context” with Webster Tarpley. Citizens of Ukraine unwilling to fight on behalf of the fascist coup; Ukraine as a creation of the German General Staff in WWI; Ukraine becomes a country in 1991 as a result of the breakup of the Soviet Union; war monger clique in Washington; solutions to the crisis that would be beneficial and avert war.

    http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/101984

    ____________________________________________________________________________

    Guns and Butter always discusses interesting topics and interviews people MSM disapproves of.

  9. yalensis says:

    Okay, so I saw this joke on the internet, it’s pretty good:

    Somewhere in Western Ukraine, in the Near Future:

    Husband brings home a hare, he asks his wife: “Honey, please cook this hare with lard.”
    “Sorry, dear, we’re out of lard.”
    “In that case, please cook it with oil.”
    “Sorry, dear, we’re out of oil.”
    “In that case, just cook it however.”
    “Sorry, dear, I can’t cook anything, we’re all out of natural gas.”

    Frustrated husband lets the hare go.
    Hare dashes down the street chanting:
    “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!”

  10. Good Jeff says:

    ‘What, exactly, have we gained from treating Russia so shabbily for all these years? The addition of a few dinky countries to the Western camp? The certainty that our ideology is superior to all others, no matter the costs associated with pushing free markets and democracy into places that have no history of either?’

    How The West Lost Post-Soviet Russia http://www.mintpressnews.com/tragedy-farce-west-lost-post-soviet-russia/188999/

    Thought it was good little article.

    • marknesop says:

      Especially sweet – and galling to the western media, like the Moscow Times – in light of the fact that as soon as the buildup started to Ukraine signing the Association agreement the first time (when it was still Yanukovych), there was a flood of gloating “How Russia Lost Ukraine” “analysis” pieces, one particularly enjoyable one by Georgy Bovt in which he said Ukraine had signed it, because he was that confident they would.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Putin “is surely a gangster” says the article.

      This is one of the regularly regurgitated givens in the West.

      So where’s the evidence?

      I can, for example, present irrefutable evidence of Berezovsky’s gangsterism, albeit that that unlamented criminal is still described in the West as having been a businessman and canny Kremlin advisor, a “grey cardinal” of the Kremlin; after his flight from the approaching clutches of the Evil One, he was even described in the “Free World” as a Russian dissident.

      Paul Khlebnikov described what Berezovsky was – “the godfather of the Kremlin” – when the erstwhile mathematician was still in his pomp in Russia.

      Khlebnikov was murdered, probably for his pains at revealing the truth about criminal scum in Moscow who were lauded in the West. Nobody has stood trial for Khlebnikov’s murder and Berezovsky even later sued the murdered man’s employer, Forbes, for some inaccuracies in the article that Khlebnikov had written about him, which evidence that Berezovsky had used in successfully defending his libel case against Forbes was much later proven to be fabricated during Berezovsky’s abject failure to win compensation from another Russian criminal in the London high court.

      But Putin is a “gangster”.

      Everyone knows that.

      Don’t they.

      • marknesop says:

        Overall, the article contained enough mea culpa to satisfy me and feed my schadenfreude. However, you’re right that there were some qualifications, and that was one. Another was that old chestnut – paraded as factual – about “polonium poisoning”, and yet another was the offering of Russia’s struggle toward democracy as “ultimately doomed”. I honestly do not know what would satisfy the west that Russian elections are as democratic as their own or those of their allies – short of being invited to choose the winner, of course – and it is remarkable to hear a western author (especially one who purports to be sympathetic!) speak of “crushing political opponents” and throwing one’s weight around just as if those were not the hallmarks of a western election: Swift-Boating of John Kerry, anyone? Remember John McCain’s illegitimate black love-child, who turned out (once the damage was done and it was too late to reverse it) to be his adopted Bangladeshi daughter?

        Some Russian stereotypes are just too big and thoroughly internalized for the western mind to let them go.

    • kirill says:

      At the same time it highlights yet again the utterly distorted perception of reality in the west. The author has to label Putin a gangster more than likely to have a chance of getting his piece posted. The relentless smear and demonization of Russia and Putin has warped all analysis on the subject. Putin killed hundreds of journalists, murdered Litvinenko with Polonium, blah, blah. Anyone in the west who asserts that these are all tinfoil hat accusations without a shred of evidence or motive (the Politkovskaya case proves this quite nicely since it is the only journalism murder case that was being waved around as proof of Putin’s evildoer credentials) is treated as a crank. Somehow the western media can serve as a substitute for Russia’s judiciary and police investigators. Who needs proper investigations when some fantasy concoctions in the press are all one needs.

      During the Ukraine crisis, the western media has fully left the reservation and is in North Korean style cheeseball propaganda mode. The mere fact that Ukraine is not a homogeneous entity culturally and politically is totally suppressed. Protestors can only be Russian agents and Banderite scum are the true voice of the people without any election.

      • Good Jeff says:

        Smears and demonization are all part of the toxic western media psychology, as a smeared person, what you are most likely “guilty” of is saying no to someone who is, or refusing to follow the same rules as everyone else. Toxic people or cultures (such as America’s) simply don’t believe you have any right to refuse their mistreatment, and they will set out to “punish” you for having any opinions that differ from theirs.

        However the smear campaign will work if Putin shows he’s ‘upset’ or ‘angry’ as the neutral observer will attribute it to Putin’s irrationality, ill intent or instability, and not to a normal upset at having been badly mistreated. This also applies to us that are against US/NATO’s intent.

        The smears also plays into Putin’s hand as he cultivates what the West thinks of Russia. Essentially he is now clear about what others think of Russia (and him) thus he will never be ruled or destroyed by them. The court of public opinion shouldn’t matter. Cleverly he is using non-military tactics and the West’s arguments, against them. He is an excellent strategist. Let people think he is foolish etc… who cares, the West tend to believe what they fear and with that, they betray themselves.

        And anyway, Putin revealed who the real ‘enemies’ are with Kerry’s magnificent hypocrisy “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text,” – John Kerry. Job done, Game Set & Match, Putin.

        It’s a revealing psychology & you’re correct, one needs to demonize Putin in order to get something published, it looks balanced, though the deeper meaning is different.

        • marknesop says:

          You know, you’re right; few things make me indulge in homicidal fantasy like the practice of some halfwit grinning jugsucker of a journalist heaping his victim with all manner of vulgar and shocking accusations, and then when his target reacts with fury, confiding smirkingly to his adoring audience, “Looks like I touched a nerve, there”, or “You know, they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. It drives me crazy when Russia does not respond to loopy western accusations and goading like the stupid polonium fabrications, but maybe pretending not to hear is the most dignified reaction.

        • yalensis says:

          I don’t know if anybody studies rhetoric any more. I sometimes wish there were some standard terminology to describe various tropes used in propaganda and journalism. For example, we all know terms such as “metaphor”, etc. But we don’t have the right words (or at least I don’t) to describe many of the tropes we routinely encounter in propaganda (used in the neutral sense) and opinion pieces.

          Like the example used above: “Sure, Putin’s a thug, but…” with the purpose of conceding to your audience’s prejudice initially, in order to capture their attention and make them go on reading, so as to eventually change some of their perceptions.

          I suppose in English this trope could be referred to as “The Big But”.
          Wouldn’t be as funny in other languages…

          • Jen says:

            Depending on the context the example you quote (“Sure, Putin’s a thug but …”) is used in false flagging, black propaganda, push polling (if it takes place in the context of conducting a survey or questionnaire) and astroturfing (in the context of an organisation establishing a fake charity front or grassroots activist group that goes around soliciting your support, agrees with you initially and then persuades you gently and gradually to change your views and opinions). I don’t know though what the actual trope is called.

            The practice by which the West accuses Russia of doing things that the West itself is doing is something that Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman tried to address in their propaganda model in their book “Manufacturing Consent”. If some heinous action is attributed to Russia, you may be sure that elsewhere in the world the West has done the same.

          • astabada says:

            Hi yalensis, you might find something interesting in here.

            Admittedly it is not exactly what you were looking for, but I hope it gets close.

            One should write a fake article making use of all of them.

            • yalensis says:

              Thanks, astabada, this is really useful!
              I will save this link and maybe in the future, try to write a fake propaganda piece using all these fallacious methods. That would be quite an interesting project!

              (I find myself becoming very interested in language, rhetoric, and propaganda. If only there were a new Aristotle to organize all the recent stuff into a coherent book, with contemporary examples. Also mental note to re-read Chomsky’s book.)

      • marknesop says:

        Why, Kirill; you are acquiring a flair for comedy! I laughed out loud at “…the western media has fully left the reservation and is in North Korean style cheeseball propaganda mode“. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of racial stereotypes, but it was quite funny.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Hey, now just hold on there!

        Politkovskaya’s murder was without any shadow of a doubt whatsoever carried out on Putin’s orders: she was murdered on his birthday!!!

        I rest my case.

    • yalensis says:

      Very good summary and analysis, thanks for posting.

  11. UCG says:

    http://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-armys-humiliations-pile-eastern-push-fizzles-211406122.html

    “Kiev (AFP) – The humiliation Wednesday of the Ukrainian army in its much-vaunted “anti-terrorist” push into separatist eastern territory makes an embarrassing string of failures even worse… In this situation, whoever is in power in Kiev would have a tough time exerting influence over the police, especially in Donetsk”

    Is it just me, or is that an admission that Donetsk/Lugansk/Kharkov are also lost?

    • Jen says:

      What happened to the Greystone mercenaries and John Brennan’s words of wisdom to the Kyiv cabal when he visited?

      • yalensis says:

        Maybe the Greystone mercenaries were just a myth, after all?
        And maybe Brennan really WAS (like he claimed) obsessing over the 40K Russian troops across the border?

        Which is proof of my point that Brennan was barking up the wrong tree.
        Because while he along with Yats and Dr. Evil were poring over grainy satellite images, the local villagers in Slav’ansk were capturing armoured troops carriers and then doing wheelies with them, just to show off.

        That’s what I would call a major face-plant for the USA.

    • marknesop says:

      Utter bullshit. The Army did not “allow pro-Russian rebels to capture their APC’s and surrender their weapons”, they know full well that shooting unarmed civilians is a war crime and they will not do it. That’s simply military professionalism. And what’s this stuff about they can’t cut it because they are “poorly equipped”? In many of the photos the infantry have the recent Kalashnikov 100 series which were designed for export and are rated to be a very good weapon. The author throws out that they don’t have the equipment to fight the Russian Army – why would they need to? Until a few weeks ago they were allies, and as of this moment Russia’s official position – and there is no reason to disbelieve it – is that it will not invade as long as the soi-disant Ukrainian government behaves itself and resolves its disagreements with the regions other than by violence and/or force. That assumed, how good do your weapons need to be to fight civilians? Some of them are ex-military or even current military and well-armed, but many are just farmers and miners and regular townspeople with no training.

      • astabada says:

        Mark, it seems clear to me that what Kiev needs to fend of the separatists in the East are nuclear weapons. This was clearly stated by one of the presidential candidates.

        Speaking of which, I have a theory. Why did Yulia was giggles and sh*t with (Pan?) Putin, and then came out of prison (I believe) sincerely enraged? Can it be something personal between the two?

        Here is my (fantasy) take:

        Rashian President Puting offered Youliar (then the President of Borderstan) a consistent bribe to sign a contract on the supply of some hydrocarbons. She giggled and (most likely) sh*t*ed herself, because to her money is the second dearest thing on earth (after her own as*). Youliar signed. Soon afterwards, Puting hands solid proof of the bribery to his “fifth column” in Borderstan, Yanewcow. Youliar, confronted with this evidence, understood that she had been sold. The stained knickers which she kept since the days of the signing were thrown away, and she swore that Puting would have paid for his villany.

        • yalensis says:

          I think you’re onto something, astabada!

          I personally despise gossips, however I must point out the following:

          Is historically established that Yulia and Putin had a kind of flirtatious relationship back in the day There are all those youtube videos (which I will not bother to repost) showing Yulia giggling and flirting as she and Vladimir mock the hapless common enemy, Viktor Dioxinovich Yushchenko.
          There is one video where the contented pair give a joint press conference, they are both sappy and giggly, acting like they just had sex. Even that big palooka Putin has a sappy look on his normally stern face. When they finish speaking, they turn around and walk away, their backs to the camera. Giving a very clear look at Yulia’s luscious ass, and it looks for all the world like the zipper on her sexy black dress is still halfway down. (“Voldya, could you pull up my zipper, please? We need to get out there and do the press conference.” “Sure, honey..” [fumbles and only pulls it halfway up])

          Therefore, your theory totally makes sense that the two of them were an ITEM, but then something happened, Vladimir betrayed her, scorned her, and had her tossed into jail.
          Where she apparently sustained herself on violent revenge fantasies!

          “Hell hath no fury…”

        • marknesop says:

          Possible, but I doubt it. I distinctly remember Putin expressing dismay at the perceived severity of Tymoshenko’s 7-year sentence; the western media made a big deal of it – even savage barbaric Putin thought the sentence was ridiculous. In fact, Putin is customarily very careful about what he says and how it might be interpreted – probably because there is always an eager audience waiting to misinterpret it if that is possible – and he never actually says she is not guilty.

          Anyway, I think it is nothing more than Yulia Tymoshenko not actually having any friends; only interests, and a colossal ego that tells her she is destined to rule and cannot let anyone stand in the way of that. She would betray her mother to get into a position of power, and she is completely ruthless. She is also pathologicaly unable to accept responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and when she does acknowledge a fault it is couched in terms that suggest she was betrayed by her own generosity of spirit; such as “It was my fault – I trusted the wrong people”.

          I think she just pretends to be chummy and at home with various people when she thinks it will play well for the cameras and cast her as a person of power and influence, but that she will reverse herself on anyone if she thinks it is to her advantage to do so.

          Also, Putin is reputed to personally dislike Yanukovych and to consider him somewhat of a boor, although this is likely an impression based on his demeanor around Yanukovych than on anything he has actually said on the subject.

          • UCG says:

            Puting was more dismayed that Yanewcow went after Youliar, instead of focusing on someone whom Puting considered as the real enemy: Youshitco. During the Ossetian War, Youshitco was radically pro-Sukoshvillain, whereas Youliar wanted to adopt a more moderate approach. Instead of punishing Youshitco, Yanewcow went after Youliar, with Yushitco’s testimony, and thus failed to reestablish ties with Western Borderland. Puting wanted to see Yanewcow and Youliar together, governing Ukraine, with Youshitco behind bars.

            He probably made that clear to both, Youliar and Yanewcow, but Youliar went for it, and Yanewcow used that against her. After Puting took Vacationland, Youliar, for some reason, thought that Yanewcow was simply marching to Puting’s tune, and went insane, leading to this meme: http://s7.pikabu.ru/post_img/2014/03/17/8/1395057247_330792545.jpg

      • UCG says:

        You’re right. I just saw victory for Slavyansk, and went “yay!” without really thinking about the rest of the article. My mistake, and thank you for correcting it.

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, it wasn’t so much a correction for you as a comment on the phenomenon Yalensis mentioned – that western sources cannot even simply report victory or defeat without moralizing and filtering the event through their own tropes and fabrications. Yahoo tends reliably to be pretty Russophobic, almost the Fox News of browserland, and in this example the author has chosen to present the failure on the part of the Ukrainian Army to subdue the protesters as a fundamental failure of their training, equipment, unit-level leadership or just their moral unsuitability for military service. No modern military is trained to mow down unarmed civilians, because it is a war crime to do it and only dilettante idiot pretenders to public service like Turchynov and Yatsenyuk would order their military to do it. It is astounding that western newspapers do not comment unfavourably on this “government’s” startling ineptitude with international law, which is so acute that it should provoke an immediate non-confidence vote resulting in its dismissal – it is only a day or two since the leader of the Batkivschina party was claiming military strategic brilliance by carrying out penetration operations under a false flag – which is perfidy and a violation of the Geneva Conventions – and the USA itself has had a law on the books since 1878 which forbids federal use of military forces to enforce state law.

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

          There’s nothing wrong or untoward with being pleased for Slavyansk’s victory, because it is a genuine victory for ordinary people and a punch in the eye for fascism. I merely object to the writer’s characterizations and am impatient with a culture of journalism that insists on editorializing and providing from-the-hip analysis rather than just reporting facts.

          • UCG says:

            I know, and I’m certain that all of us loved, or at the very least admired the courage demonstrated at Slavyansk, by both sides, but:

            “in this example the author has chosen to present the failure on the part of the Ukrainian Army to subdue the protesters as a fundamental failure of their training, equipment, unit-level leadership or just their moral unsuitability for military service. No modern military is trained to mow down unarmed civilians, because it is a war crime to do it”

            I should’ve seen that. Failing to see that was my mistake.

    • yalensis says:

      Western journalist: “Are you a Ukrainian, or a Russian?”
      Masked man in green: “I am a people.”
      Western journalist: “Why are you wearing a mask?”
      Masked man in green: “That is a stupid question.”

      I challenge any writer in Hollywood to script something better than that spontaneous exchange!

  12. Kulobi says:

    An update on the ‘Russian half-colonel’ discussed above by Mr Exile, Drutten and Mark:
    His name is Igor Bezler, and he is a local Gorlovka boy who used to work at a cemetery where he’d steal grave stones and fences and extort money from the elderly to secure a nice spot for eternal rest. A charming man by all accounts
    http://www.ostro.org/general/politics/news/442678/
    It has now transpired that Bezler is indeed a retired Lt. Col. from the UKRAINIAN army. His appearance on the scene and subsequent video footage were orchestrated by the maidanut activists including a known provocateur from Klich’s UDAR party
    http://vz.ru/news/2014/4/16/682439.html
    How many friedmans will it take the intrepid journo Andrew Kramer to revisit his take on Bezler’s performance as an ‘unmistakable’ sign of the protestors’ ties with Russia?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/15/world/europe/russians-blending-in-among-ukraine-separatists.html
    There’s quiet desperation setting in the WMSM searching for a smoking gun of Russian aggression.
    Hopefully ‘Dnepropetrovsk governor’ Kolomoisky’s latest initiative will help – he promised $10K for any ‘mercenary’ who “had stepped on our shared land and is trying to pit us against each other in a fratricidal war’.
    http://censor.net.ua/news/281450/kolomoyiskiyi_ustanovil_nagradu_za_poimku_rossiyiskih_diversantov_10_000_ue_za_kajdogo_i_1_000_ue_za . Banderites are wetting themselves in the comments, multiplying $10K by 10 mn katsaps in the east of Ukraine – that’s alotta money!

    • marknesop says:

      “Turchynov…signed a decree guaranteeing that those complying with the ultimatum would not be prosecuted as long as they did not injure anyone.”

      I think that one is going to join “Sure I’ll call you; what’s your number?”, “It’s not you – it’s me” and “Here, have some more cake – I don’t like to see you looking so thin” as Things We Recognize Instinctively As Lies.

      Probably thanks to his classification of everyone who does not passively accept Usurper Rule from Kiev as a “terrorist”, and his giddy declaration that they would “all be in the dock soon, where they belong” when he actually thought his Army smackdown was going to succeed brilliantly. If I were him, I would be looking at space available on flights to Washington, and packing. Yanukovych must be laughing his ass off.

    • yalensis says:

      There were reports at the time that Maidan neo-nazis were being trained in Estonian camps.
      So, maybe it was Poland instead of Estonia.
      Or maybe both countries.

      Either way, I am glad the author points out the irony of Poland training Banderites, since it was Banderites who committed the worst genocide against innocent Polish villagers.

    • marknesop says:

      Son of a bitch. There are just layers and layers to this. It just goes to show that you cannot trust anyone, and if your friends or family ever lied to your face the way diplomats and governments do, you would never speak to them again. But when their term is running out, they ask for your vote to keep them in office with the forthright manner which suggests their integrity is above reproach, or perhaps if they ever lied to your it was for your own good because they see the big picture that you do not.

  13. Moscow Exile says:

    Don’t know if you’ve seen Tin-Tin’s latest. Folk were wondering were the fuck the plagiarist was hiding, when suddenly he popped up with this treat:

    Kiev’s grip on eastern Ukraine weakens as pro-Russians seize army vehicles

    I just have to paste this riposte off a commenter before it goes down the black hole:

    THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO SAVE, MR. HARDING
    I guess the Ukrainian soldiers can not have been more demoralised than the writer of this piece. Perhaps it has rather been his own mood, which guided his perception.
    Soldiers are no killers, Mr. Harding, and it is highly satisfactory, that they acted responsible and did not kill civilians. No reason for regret on the side of these soldiers. No defeat, rather a victory of reason and humanity, which they have been cheered for by the crowds. Might they enjoy their day in the feeling of having done the right thing.
    Indeed it is a defeat for the warmongering, bloodthirsty western MSM, which had loved to report the one or the other massacre, if only they would have been able to endorse the victory of the fascist coup government. What a disappointed gesture: “Was victory close?“
    No, never, and it will not become closer, if more self contradictory texts of this kind will appear. What message could be delivered by such helpless attempts to discredit the restive and federalist mood in Eastern Ukraine, – like assuring the public they were “Russian”, “Russian militia”, “possibly drunk”, “suspicious”, “murky”, “separatist”, “linked with organised crime” and – of course – “took orders from Moscow” – when in the end it has to be admitted, that …..
    “This febrile anti-Kiev mood has acquired a momentum that increasingly seems unstoppable. A vocal section of the population appears to support the protesters’ key demand for a referendum on Ukraine’s federalisation.”
    So whoever might be “Russian”, “drunk”, “murky” or “take orders from Moscow”, the protesters, occupants and their armed protection are obviously with the people, which alone is relevant for “dedicated western democrats”, is not it, Mr. Harding.
    • So why defaming them, when truth “seems unstoppable”.
    • Why dealing with the procedure of the appointment of a “peoples’ governor”, when his message is supported by hundreds of people in every settlement, where Ukrainian military shows up, lining in front of the tanks. I do not know any ‘democratically elected’ politician commanding a similar kind of legitimacy. Anyone just ask your MP to rally a few hundred supporters of his constituency to block a tank column!
    • Why not speak about their demands, which have been presented today, instead of all this futile attempts to discredit the movement in Eastern Ukraine. Here are the questions for the planed referendum in Donetsk Oblast.
    “1) Do you support the creation of an independent Donetsk Republic?
    2) Of which state should a Donetsk Republic be part of: Ukraine or the Russian Federation?”
    Is anything “undemocratic” or racist about them?
    Not only have “Russian channels … consistently called Kiev’s new rulers fascists”, THEY ARE FASCISTS. The longer they rule, the clearer it becomes, that this Junta does not only include fascists, but acts as a whole, including all its components, in a fascist way.

    Only yesterday…..
    • ….. “Saint Yulia” announced here party is going to create an armed militia too.
    • ….. security officials confirmed that vigilantes have been established in 19 provinces and been equipped with automatic weapons to defend the country from “separatists”.
    • ….. Klitschko had asked for the prosecution of the presidential candidate Tsarev, who only recently has been heavily beaten by a Right Sector mob, when trying to enter a TV building, and was hospitalized, …..
    ….and already today under the lead of a fascist prosecutor general Tsarev has been charged with “actions promoting changes within the national borders”. What vicious division of labour between the politician, the storm troops and legal prosecution?

    The day is not far, when even Mr. Harding will have to admit, that the truth about the fascist character of the Western protégés in Kiev “seems unstoppable”.

    • yalensis says:

      Words from Tin-Tin himself:


      As well as APCs, Ukraine has lost control of another crucial weapon in its losing battle with the Russian Federation: television. On Tuesday the Donetsk prosecutor turned Russian state TV back on again, weeks after Kiev pulled the broadcasts on the grounds they sowed lies and Kremlin propaganda. Since President Viktor Yanukovych fled in February Russian channels have consistently called Kiev’s new rulers “fascists”.

      In summary, Donetsk people get to watch their Russian soap operas again.

      • UCG says:

        Wait a sec, did he just admit that mass media can be used as a weapon? Anyone else wonder why the Russians are experiencing a sharp deficit of popcorn?

    • Fern says:

      Moscow Exile, do you know whether Luke Harding speaks Russian? I ask because he seems to do very little interviewing and those he interviews don’t seem to be a representative sample of the people in whatever area he’s reporting from. The comments to the article, at least the ones I’ve read, reject the picture painted in western MSM which is very heartening. My favourite was by StevieFinn: “I am waiting for MSM to accuse Putin of sending his mum to stop the first APV”.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        He does.
        Like you, I too once suspected that he didn’t speak Russian – or only had a very rudimentary knowledge of it. Others felt the same way as well. It wasn’t only because, as you have rightly observed, he does very little interviewing, but because there were little linguistic giveaways in what he wrote as well.

        He didn’t seem to get place names right, for one thing (declension or non-declension thereof), and the Russian way of naming people; he sometimes used patronymics as if they were surnames and diminutives when one wouldn’t normally.

        As regards diminutives, he seemed rather fond of Sasha (for Alexander and Alexandra). I remember how he once reported on how awful life in the country was for pensioners. He went out of Moscow into what he thought were the sticks and found a suitable run-down place and an old village drunkard called “Sasha”, of course, who ranted on about how awful his life was and how meager his pension.

        There is no way you would address an old villager as “Sasha” and no way an old villager would allow himself to be addressed so, either, to say nothing of the fact that his interlocutor was a foreign journalist. And even though calling such a person as “Dyed” (granddad) would be allowed, there’s no way a foreigner could or should be allowed to do this.

        Anyway, there were a few that commented in Comment is Free about his apparently not knowing Russian, until Harding at last bounced back and gave a link to an interview he’d done at Ekho Moskvy concerning his persecution in the Evil Empire and his “expulsion” from Russia, which really was a short lived refusal of entry because of his own cocky negligence concerning his documentation.

        He spoke it right enough: in the same mumbling, bumbling way as he speaks his mother tongue, his posh English accent coming through loudly and clearly. But he spoke it all right – or he had rehearsed his answers to the Ekho Moskvy questions that he had already been informed would be asked of him.

        I sometimes suspect that the whole “expulsion” thing was just PR for his book “Inside The Mafia State”, in which, according to the Amazon site, “Harding gives a unique, personal and compelling portrait of today’s Russia, two decades after the end of communism, that reads like a spy thriller”.

        However according to some of the readers’ reviews on the same site, we have:

        “... Although Luke Harding draws attention to real and important issues in Russia, he’s also very focused on himself and telling us which billionaires he met and what they ate at which restaurant … He frequently reminds us that he speaks Russian, emphasizing this by including comments such as “he used the Russian word for deputy, zam”. Why do we need to know that someone speaking Russian used a random Russian word? … The impression left is that his main aim is to boast about being considered a threat by the FSB …

        and:

        Luke Harding represents the epitome of hack journalism. And despite being an ad hominum attack, it is one based in fact. An interesting thing happened on August 20 2007, when the daily he works for (the Guardian) was forced to apologize for Harding’s blatant plagiarism of a popular and well respected alternative weekly the Exile. The article in question was entitled ‘The richer they come’, which serves as doubly ironic in Harding’s case. Firstly, the Exile was actually targeted by the Russian Federal Service for Mass Media, Telecommunications and the Protection of Cultural Heritage and shut down the following year. Secondly, Harding’s plagiarism of the Exile is less indicative of his dishonesty than it was an example of laziness on Harding’s part.

        You see, Harding is of the trickle down school of foreign correspondents. That is to say, being an individual with a poor grasp of Russian, he fed off of the regurgitated bits of news that had first passed through the Russian press, only to be translated by the English language press operating in Russia. Harding was three steps removed from every story he wrote, so he became a cut and paste warrior. That is to say, Harding needed Google to do his job, living in Russia was superfluous in real terms. Except of course, for the re-fried turd of a book with its tabloidesque title and its megalomaniacal blurb about becoming an enemy of the Russian state. In that sense, this book is a complete work of fiction. To save myself the effort of doing what Richard de Lacy already brilliantly did in his article for Spiked-online entitled ‘Face it, the FSB is just not that into you,” I’ll quote de Lacy at length to discuss the paranoid fantasy Harding engaged in:

        ‘For example, one very common ‘welcome to Russia’ phenomenon which often does drive us expats mad (albeit usually only figuratively) is returning to your rented flat to find that the landlady has charged in uninvited to nose about, rearrange something, theatrically move the ashtray outside to the balcony, etc. Fortunately, mine always telephoned the day before to give advanced warning, but I can sympathize with Harding when in 2007, after just three months in Russia, he came home to find someone had been in his tenth-floor flat. His reaction, however, invites comment. `Everything appeared normal… And then I saw it. The window of my son’s bedroom was wide open… almost provocatively, defiantly so… The dark symbolism of the open window in the children’s bedroom was not hard to decipher: take care, or your kids might just fall out.’

        So his first thought is not of some overly fastidious landlady wanting some air in her flat, but of a threat from the Federal Security Service (FSB) to throw his children to their deaths. And why does he think the FSB, the KGB’s successor organisation, would be after him? Because his paper, the Guardian, had carried an interview earlier that year with Russian fugitive oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

        Thankfully, it was only Harding’s grip on reality which went hurtling out of the window.

        Soon after, he says, `a middle-aged woman, casually dressed and with – I noted – a rather bad 1970s-ish haircut, appeared outside my front door at 7am. When I opened it, she just examined me and left.’ Now most of us would assume it was a typically brusque Russian lady looking for someone, and deciding against having a tricky early-morning conversation with an obvious foreigner. But no, Harding is convinced it’s the evil FSB.

        Then, after – sorry, because of – the Guardian’s Berezovsky scoop, Harding even believes he is being targeted at the airport on his way to London. That is, a man slaps his shoulder and tells him there is something wrong with his jacket. This behaviour is familiar to everyone living in Russia. Whether it is a shoelace undone, stitching falling apart, ladders in ladies’ tights, dust or dirt, the Russians cannot help pointing it out.

        Harding, however, claims that the man’s leather jacket is `the unmistakable uniform of the KGB spook’. In that dull, boring real world that the rest of us inhabit, leather jackets are as common in Russia as Manchester United shirts are in Surrey. But this is when Harding really loses the plot: `After takeoff, I made my way to the loo. I took off my jacket and shirt. There was nothing on them. But then, I wouldn’t actually know what a bugging device looked like, I reflected.’ Well, as a former radio engineer, I can help him here: it needs an aerial, a power source, and you cannot place it invisibly on a target by slapping it on to their shoulder.

        There is a lot more of this manic conspiracy theorizing in Harding’s piece. When his screensaver at work is changed, it is the FSB. When his press accreditation is withdrawn, it is part of the FSB plot – despite his admission that he had broken the terms. When the Russians show leniency and extend his visa to enable his children to finish school, he reflects that this `was always part of the (FSB) plan’. Like the BBC attributing all possible weather conditions to climate change, one wonders what combination of events would not constitute an FSB plot.

        One side-effect of Harding’s paranoia seems to be an aversion to facts. He launches into a lengthy rant about the nature and recent history of the FSB, but does not even know the name of the organisation behind his torment, calling them the Federal Security Bureau instead of Service (FSB is a transliteration from Russian, with the B standing for Bezopasnosti, or security).

        There are other inaccuracies in Harding’s piece. He says Russia’s media covered the 2008 war in South Ossetia as a `peacekeeping operation’ when in reality they covered it, incessantly, as a genocide of innocent Ossetians by Georgians. I am told Harding does not know Russian, which could explain a lot of his confusions. Less forgivable is his claim that many subjects – `corruption in the Kremlin, activities of Russia’s intelligence agencies… human rights abuses by federal security forces… speculation about Putin’s personal wealth’ – are taboo in the Russian media. He may not be aware that such issues are frequently covered in Russian, but he should at least know that the state-owned English language newspaper, the Moscow News, regularly touches on these themes, since his wife was a regular contributor to the paper.”

        All in all, this is what I will say about Harding, he is a second-rate writer who pretends to be a fifth-tier journalist. He has no interest in reporting the facts, rather he wants to tell a story, especially if he can put himself at the center of that story. He came to Russia, did zero real investigative journalism that could have shed a fractured beam of light on this dark corner of the human experiment we call Russia, and then went home after a few years to sell snake oil and wolf tickets in the form of a spy thriller that he never lived. In fact, in a February 22 2012 article called ‘Confessions of a KGB Spy’, Harding finishes as such:

        “We part in Hyde Park. No one appears to have been tailing us. There are no figures skulking behind the trees. But I find myself glancing over my shoulder, just in case.”

        Harding is turning the mundane into the strange through the power of his imagination. If this is your idea of journalism, God be with you. But to those who have something new to say without egotistically putting themselves at the center of a paranoid fairytale, Mafia state is little more than a pathetic joke on the reader. Harding doesn’t deserve to make a cent off of this thing, unless he rightly moves it to where it belongs: the fiction section.’

        Next:

        Similar to works by other ‘experts’ that lack language skills and base their polemics not on balanced and weighted analyses that one, hopefully, is taught at graduate schools, but on personal biases, petty vendettas, and identity politics, all of which are oozing through the pages the book. Journalism has rarely addressed the historical complexities, the socioeconomic and political challenges faced by leaders. This book does not even attempt to break the stereotype, but is permeated by it.

        A sordid attempt to make money off of gullible western audience brought up on foreign bogeymen, WMD, al-Qaeda freedom fighters, and the like.

  14. Good Jeff says:

    Ok, let’s put everything into perspective:

    US military budget: $640 billion
    EU military budget: $266 billion

    Russia military budget: $88 billion

    ——–

    US GDP: $17 Trillion
    EU GDP: $17 Trillion

    Russia GDP: $2.5 Trillion

    ———-

    Russia’s borders have shrunk while NATO’s keep expanding

    So who’s more likely to execute the war? It’s not Russia. Putin’s non-military response is the correct strategy and it’s a major annoyance to the West, hence the smears. I can’t remember who said it but ‘whoever shoots first will lose the war’.

    • patient observer says:

      A non-military response is always preferable regardless of relative strengths. The West is sinking under unsustainable debt, a crumbling economy, dropping living standards and perhaps most importantly a population that is losing confidence in the brave new world offered by the neo-liberals.

      As for NATO, that is truly a military bubble filled mostly with hot air.

      At the end of the day, its the strengths of the population’s morality, compassion and optimism that matters. Using these metrics, Russia is heading up and the West is on an express elevator to hell.

  15. Good Jeff says:

    By the way, here is a 30 page document on the new American ‘Democracy’ which sounds awfully like the apparent Russian Oligarchy they demonize, from Princeton University.

    ‘Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens’

    http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20materials/Gilens%20and%20Page/Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

    My favourite take-out is ‘our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually
    have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features
    central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association,
    and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated
    by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s
    claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened’

    As if the elite American Oligarchs care about Democracy. What they want is that yummy sweet Russian oil and the removal of the last bastion of resistance. China will have to feed their 1.5 Billion population with a US/NATO Navy blockade surrounding them and without access to that cheap Russian oil. And of course once that is accomplished, the Western ‘Free’ Press, owned by their mates, will no longer have to pretend that we’re ‘free.’

    This is a big picture play, Putin understands it, Lavrov understands it. Putin needs to split the EU & of course get China and India fully on board.

    Everything else is just noise.

    • marknesop says:

      If Putin needs to split the EU, he is doing a good job by not really doing anything but keeping some amorphous 40,000 troops (although when some sources are reporting, notably Parubiy, their numbers swell to 80,000 and sometimes more are hinted at) somewhere near Ukraine on his own side of the border. Germany – which seems to be the only EU economy which is not groaning under austerity and still has money – looks to be nearing critical mass on the number of bonehead plays it will tolerate from the brightest new democracy in the bunch. Its business community has already blown off the idea of withdrawing its interests from Russia, and although it’s early days yet I predict Germany’s market share in Russia could increase substantially at the expense of some others whose political leaders were particularly mouthy. The silliness probably will drag on yet awhile, but let’s say that if Putin comes back from Beijing with a fat gas deal in his pocket, and if the situation in Ukraine continues with unrest in the east and a central self-appointed government that is a daily theatre of the absurd, it will be all over. I still do not believe Putin will take advantage of the situation in the east and try to annex more territory for Russia, but federalization will only be further encouragement to the east and if strong business ties developed between the east and Russia – continued, really – while the west was frozen out, I think the two would soon be separate in all but name. The west (meaning NATO, not western Ukraine) would probably be satisfied with just infiltrating the east with agitators and troublemakers, because it has to keep its job skills sharp.

  16. Warren says:

    Published on 16 Apr 2014
    Michael Hudson: A German TV investigation disproves the West’s claim that Yanukovych was responsible for killing of dozens of Ukrainian protestors, making this President Obama’s WMD moment

    • marknesop says:

      That’s very interesting. Hudson is a little wobbly on the notion of a single USN warship carrying “atomic weapons” menacing the whole of Russia and frightening Europe out of its wits, but otherwise it sounds quite compelling and the economic component is just as we have been saying here for a long time; that the EU Association agreement was a terrible deal for Ukraine and would do absolutely nothing to arrest its poverty – would instead accustom it to living off of IMF loans while its resources were looted, and would close it off from its Russian markets or else flood Russia’s markets with cheap EU goods and the goods the EU would not buy from Ukraine.

      This is an “alternative” news site; I hope the story develops some legs in the popular press and they do not just try to bury it, and truly it would benefit from some independent analysis because this story – it was all the opposition – also sounds too pat and it seemed clear from earlier video that the shots were coming from more than one direction although the Hotel Ukraine (under the control of Maidanites) was definitely one of them. I was surprised to see Singapore’s leadership come out with the position that instability is helpful to the west’s achievement of its goals.

  17. ThatJ says:

    Mark, I think it’s time for a new post, lol, even my i7 is having trouble loading this page.

  18. Moscow Exile says:

    Bloody hell’s bells! That shithead Harding is really scraping the barrell now.

    Here’s one of the sources he’s quoting over at the grauniad:

    KYIV MAIDAN REVOLUTION, aka the “Informational Resistance Group”.

    As far as I am aware, here’s the Big Cheese of that organization:

    Dmitry Tymchuk

    He also has a “blog” in that oh-so-neutral Kyiv Post rag:

    Dmitry Tymchuk’s military blog

    Here’s the пиздец again:

    Дмитрий Тымчук

    Man of mystery?

    Source of income?

    Political affiliation?

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    Putin blows the gaff on Rasmussen’s untrustworthiness.

    • UCG says:

      That article doesn’t give enough credit to BRICS leaders. They’re not idiots, nor are the people who are watching and following the e-news, which is kind of what this blogpost turned into😛

      Not that any of us mind, we’re simply enjoying it!

  20. It seems that Russia lost the meeting about Ukraine today:

    1. No promise of federalization about Ukraine.
    2. Russia promised NOT to support any armed group inside Ukraine
    3. OSCE monitors on the ground in Ukraine (OSCE is anti-Russian)

    I really don’t understand why Russia agreed a shitty deal like this. Did Russia fear about the sanctions too much?

    • And now that Russia abandoned pro-Russians in Donbass and other parts of Eastern Ukraine what happens to the separatists? They are required to give up their arms to Kiev regime. Will they fight back or surrender? And if they surrender will they become targets of Right sector?

      • marknesop says:

        Russia did not agree to help enforce the disarmament of any groups in Ukraine, and nobody else is allowed to do so either. It is Ukraine’s problem, and the coup government was already doing a terrifically terrible job of suppressing the protests. Unless the government wants to go in hard with the military and kill hundreds of civilians – which would be a war crime – it seems to be stuck with the situation and have no clue how to resolve it. Just because Russia said it would not support any armed group in Ukraine – and how far, realistically, would they have gotten by insisting on that right? – does not mean they forswear the right to intervene militarily themselves.

    • The deal also included a clause that “illegal armed groups” must be disarmed. It is up for the Kiev regime to decide what is an illegal armed group and what is not. So the separatists will be disarmed while the Right sector will not.

      • UCG says:

        Nope, it’s up to the monitors, including Russian monitors. Additionally, the phrase: “All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism” is geared towards certain groups. And they’re not the ones protesting in Eastern Ukraine.

      • marknesop says:

        The “government” has as much to fear from Right Sector as does the East.

    • UCG says:

      The agreement:

      “Following is a joint statement on Thursday by the four parties — the United States, the European Union, Russia and Ukraine — meeting in Geneva to discuss the continuing conflict in Ukraine:

      The Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine agreed on initial concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and restore security for all citizens.

      All sides must refrain from any violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants strongly condemned and rejected all expressions of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism.

      All illegal armed groups must be disarmed; all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners; all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukrainian cities and towns must be vacated.

      Amnesty will be granted to protesters and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes.

      It was agreed that the O.S.C.E. Special Monitoring Mission should play a leading role in assisting Ukrainian authorities and local communities in the immediate implementation of these de-escalation measures wherever they are needed most, beginning in the coming days. The U.S., E.U. and Russia commit to support this mission, including by providing monitors.

      The announced constitutional process will be inclusive, transparent and accountable. It will include the immediate establishment of a broad national dialogue, with outreach to all of Ukraine’s regions and political constituencies, and allow for the consideration of public comments and proposed amendments.

      The participants underlined the importance of economic and financial stability in Ukraine and would be ready to discuss additional support as the above steps are implemented.”

      In order for Eastern Ukraine to give up government buildings, Svoboda, Right Sector, etc, must be disarmed. Furthermore, the OSCE is responsible for their disarming. So either Svoboda and Right Sector are disarmed, or OSCE gets the blame for failing to hold Fascists responsible for their actions, which would end soft power for OSCE. Win-win for Russia. Additionally, if there’s no violence, then the only way out for Ukraine is a split, or Federalization. Another win-win for Russia. And to top it all off, Russian monitors get to oversee the action.

      Furthermore, the treaty doesn’t say that the assemblies have to be disbanded, so people can still legally gather in other places, and if Svoboda/Right Sector are not disarmed, they can simply retake the buildings.

    • marknesop says:

      Russia was not supporting armed groups in Ukraine, so that is no loss on their part. OSCE monitors are not always anti-Russian, and so therefore when one who is not speaks he or she has more credibility. The OSCE was in Crimea for the vote and a representative said he did not see any signs of coercion or intimidation and that as far as his area of observation was concerned the vote was fair and conducted properly.

  21. Hunter says:

    Any new post coming up or will this one be split? Once it reaches over 500-600 replies I tend not to even open the comments section because of the loading issues and just wait til it is either split or a new post is done…

    • marknesop says:

      There’s a stub up now for new comments. I should have a new post out in a day or two, or maybe Ken’s will be ready, I haven’t heard from him this week. He thought it was going to be ready for last weekend, which is why I think his research took him somewhere surprising. Either that or Putin’s goons kidnapped him.

  22. At worst Russia and West gave the Right Sector a free hand to butcher Russian population of Eastern Ukraine. Right now I am reading about atrocities currently happening in Kramatorsk (not confirmed but Twitter rumors).

    EuroMajdan twitter account has a tweet about Right Sector giving “medicine” to Moscali people in Kramatorsk and how people over there are panicking and crying for help.

    Hopefully this is all false, but I fear I’m wrong. The Kiev regime might have interpreted the Geneva results so that now they have a free hand to do whatever they like to “moscali”.

  23. I’ve only just found this blog, a fact which is slightly embarrassing for a westerner who’s clocked up four years in Russia, but I’d like to thank the author for an informative piece. It is a refreshing change from the conspiracy-loon stuff being relentlessly churned out by much of the UK media.

    Regarding the financial well-being of the EU, as it tries to impose a political solution to an economic crisis (for the feasibility of such a tactic, see Karl Marx), there is an interesting article from the Daily Telegraph which, if true, goes a long way to explaining the apparently illogical policies of the logical and educated Angela Merkel, namely, a trillion-euro hit if they “do the right thing” and abandon the single currency:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/jeremy-warner/9580151/Why-Germany-must-face-up-to-its-1-trillion-headache.html

    Ukraine certainly deserves better than the EU.

    Thank you, again, and keep up the good work!

    Richard de Lacy

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, Richard, and welcome! Thanks also for the interesting and informative article.

      I can’t think why a customarily fiscally-responsible and conservative nation like Germany would ever have signed on to the idea of a common currency which bound them to the shameless foolishness of some of the other nations as well as illogical liberal projects. But it is indeed interesting that they are now trapped by those same policies, although the article does point out the worst losses would be incurred in the event of a default. Still, I would think if a couple of pullouts inspired a panic to not be last, a default would be near-inevitable.

      I thought your name was familiar – I liked your work for Spiked, and Moscow Exile and I greatly enjoyed your mockery of Tin-Tin and his obsession with the FSB. Great job at giving voice to what so many readers must have been thinking.

      http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/11139

      • Tin-Tin? sublime!
        I think you’ve summed him up far more accurately using seven characters than I managed in several hundred words.
        Thank you, again.

        • marknesop says:

          I know, what a wuzzock, eh? I’m afraid I did not come up with the name “Tin-tin” – Harding has been called that for a long time, and I don’t know who first awarded him the sobriquet. However, a quick search of the terms yielded this instant classic, in which Tin-tin suspects the NSA of deleting text from his “Snowden Files” book while he was writing it. Incredible. He must be on meth, or something.

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