Those who are regular readers here know what I think of Shaun Walker, the British Austin Powers lookalike and blabbermouth-at-large who scribes Russophobic nonsense for The Guardian, The Independent and whoever else will pay him. Naturally, since he sometimes actually lives in Moscow and writes about Russia a lot – all of it reliably sarcastic and mocking of the backward and bewildered Russian peasantry – and knows how to say “Sheremetyevo”, he is regularly touted as a ‘Russia expert’ by the western media who feature his caustic denunciations of the Evil Empire and its wicked Emperor, Vladimir Putin.
Some will remember Walker’s famous dispatch from the sharp end of the battlefield in Ukraine, in which he and his sidekick, Roland Oliphant, personally witnessed a Russian military convoy crossing into Ukraine, presumably bound for mischief in the Donbas…and never got a picture. You just have to take their word for it. As I also mentioned before, Walker has his cellphone handy to snap a piccie if Aeroflot puts too much dill on his inflight meal. It’s pretty hard to imagine he and his pal were on a daring mission to prove Russian military complicity in the resistance of Eastern Ukraine, and didn’t bring along a single piece of equipment capable of taking a photograph.
All that notwithstanding, this is not really about Shaun Walker. He merely provided the catalyst for this post. I was reading an article awhile ago which quoted him, although of course I cannot find it now. This was around the time Russia kicked out some 600 or so employees of the United States Embassy to the Russian Federation in Moscow. Although it was too big a deal to ignore it altogether, the USA downplayed it by insisting almost none of them would be Americans, that the people let go would be almost entirely Russian ‘local hires’, and that the Embassy was rather looking forward to the folksy experience of teamwork and camaraderie which would see the Ambassador driving the mail truck and various diplomats sweeping the floors and taking out the trash. As if.
Anyway, for some time now Shaun Walker has been possessed of the belief that he has noticed something overlooked by the rest of the snoopy world; that back when Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the USA – ostensibly for Russian meddling in the American election and making Hillary lose – that would have been the time for Putin to drop the political-expulsion hammer of retaliation. But he didn’t. Basically, there was no overt reaction whatever. Despite the fact that at the same time, the US government seized two Russian ‘compounds’; property owned by Russia in the United States and used for diplomatic purposes.
Although Russia protested at the time – the properties were bought by the Soviet government, during the Cold War, at market prices and with US government approval and are therefore the legal property of the Soviet Union’s inheritors – that the behavior was a de facto and de jure violation of international law, Russia did not react in kind.
A-HA!! says Walker. The reason for this apparent passivity is that Moscow was ‘desperate’ to see the return of these compounds – particularly the Maryland one, which is on Chesapeake Bay and which the Kremlin uses to covertly communicate with its submarines at sea. Please, don’t laugh; I’m serious. Oh, Walker himself has never publicly aired the submarine theory, to the best of my knowledge, although he has helped via uncritical repetition to push the theory that Russia uses its diplomatic properties in the USA for ‘spying’.
The cavalier confiscation of property without offering any proof at all that it is/was being used for nefarious purposes is typical of modern Washington administrations, for whom the law is useful only when it serves their purposes. But that’s not really what got my attention. No, I was more interested in the over-use of the ‘desperate’ meme to characterize Russia; everywhere you look, Russia or Putin – or both – is ‘desperate’ about this or that. To hear the west tell it, through its stable of journalists, Russia has its back to the wall, as the forces of righteousness and retribution remorselessly advance. Is that the way it is, do you think?
I’ll tell you up front – I don’t. What I think is that the ‘desperate’ label belongs to Washington, as Russia tears its playhouse down, room by room, around the world.
In Syria. Remember Aleppo, which was lovingly shaped by western journalists as the Alamo of Syria, the last-ditch stand of all that was decent against the malevolent double-whammy of the merciless butcher Assad and hordes of Russian bombers indiscriminately blasting the shit out of everything? You don’t hear much about Aleppo now, although you certainly would if it remained a shooting-gallery for the Syrian Arab Army. But in fact, since hostilities ceased with the SAA’s taking of the city, more than 600,000 Syrians have moved back to their homes in Aleppo, according to the International Organization for Migration and as reported by fearless independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone.
Washington did everything it could, short of a preemptive strike, to stop the combined forces of Russia and the democratically-elected Syrian government from re-taking Aleppo, from frantic babbling for a cease-fire at every SAA advance to the absurd childish exhortations of wholly-owned State Department propaganda outlet Bana Albed to start World War Three rather than let Assad and Russia triumph. I’m not making that up; she (or her typist) actually tweeted, “Dear world, it’s better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia and assad commit (hashtag) HolocaustAleppo”. Clearly, a girl after Phil Breedlove’s own heart, and if you don’t mind my saying so, quite an adult encapsulation from somebody who later could only parrot “Save the children of Syria” no matter what her interviewers asked her, and who can plainly not speak English.
In Ukraine. When Washington directly intervened in Ukraine’s Maidan protests – which up to that time had been a somewhat desultory performance by a small crowd mostly comprised of students, but which quickly morphed under State Department direction into a muscular PR vehicle with paid-for crowds – it was all going to go like clockwork. The regime-change operation had been refined and bored and stroked through several successful operations, and it was child’s play to knock over Yanukovych even though he had capitulated to all the protesters’ demands except that he step down immediately, granting opposition figures significant government representation. But Washington’s naive idealizations of how it would make a prosperous western-style market democracy of Ukraine ignored a few important things – such as that cutting it off from Russia also cut it off from more than half of its export market, and that its oligarchy remained entirely in place except for Yanukovych. The aforementioned non-Yanukovych oligarchy merrily continued stealing most of the GDP, since it is not a major concern of oligarchs who is in charge. Even if it were, the leader soon was one of their own.
These days, all you hear is how corruption is threatening the rebirth of Ukraine as a western acquisition, and quite a few of the western cheerleaders have grown exasperated with Ukraine’s lack of progress toward ‘western standards’. Even Nolan Peterson, former US Special Forces pilot and full-time Russophobe, who formerly spoke of Ukraine in the rhapsodic tones normally reserved for Mom’s cooking and American Values, is annoyed. Floundering ever closer to failed-statehood, Ukraine has become the tar-baby the west doesn’t want any more, but cannot let go of. Snatching Ukraine away from the Eurasian Union really hurt Russia, didn’t it? In fact, there is every possibility it will one day – under a different government – be associated once more with Russia, although it will be a sadder and wiser country by that time. Who has it cost more to try the Ukrainian-remodeling project – Russia, or the west?
At home, in America. The silly effort to sell the story that Russian state hackers stole the election for Trump is falling apart, as former intelligence professionals point out that the data transfer rate of the stolen data which was taken from the DNC server was far too high to have occurred over the internet. Instead, they argue, it was much more likely to have been tapped off directly with a thumb drive (USB stick) or some such similar device. Washington’s counter to this has so far been that the FSB could have access to much faster networks. I suppose they might, but why would they go to so much trouble to steal data on the Democrats, and then leave their own fingerprints all over it?
That doesn’t mean the Democrats – and those for whom Russian hacking is a convenient story to be used for fomenting fear of Russia and an inability to think straight – are going to just give up, of course. No, indeed. They doubled down a long time ago and are now quadrupling down, or something. The latest frantic – yes, ‘desperate’ – dodge is the very convenient emergence of a Ukrainian ‘malware expert’ whose hacking tools were stolen by the Russian state to carry out their underhanded undertakings. He has been arrested, and is going to turn ‘state’s evidence’ to clear his name. Absurd. ‘Guccifer’ the recently-famous hacker who was supposedly responsible for penetrating Clinton’s server, identified as a Romanian; Romania is an EU country. That wasn’t the ‘Russia’ flag Hillary and the Democrats were looking for, and hokey behavioral studies which suggested Guccifer was telling the truth were tossed out – he was obviously a liar. But now ‘Profexer’ (no word if that is his Christian name or his patronymic) has appeared and looks ready to blow the whistle on Russian hacking. Giving up is for weaklings.
We were discussing, in the later comments to the previous post, who it was who said that no Empire has lasted longer than 300 years, considering the USA celebrated its bicentennial in 1976. Although I was unable to find any reference which spelled that out – the introduction to “Legacy of Ashes”, a book on the CIA, contains a quote which says no Republic has lasted more than 300 years – my search did turn up this quote, attributed to Alexander Tytler, in 1787.
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.
If it were possible to substitute “confusion and ignorance due to being bullshitted six ways from Sunday on the true state of affairs by journalists who owe their loyalty to the political machine” for “complacency”, I’d say that’s just about the stage we’re seeing right now.
Not much of a step from there to bondage, is it? Better get to the head of the line early; otherwise the Nerf shackles will be all gone.