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07 August 2014


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The Twisted Genius

If you can't find the issue in your doctor's office or you don't have a subscription to the "New Yorker," here's a link to the single article:



Whenever I heard or saw McFaul on talk shows-- he was the go-to guy on Russia's action in Chechnya-- his anti-Russia attitudes were McCain-esque. Obama's recent juvenile attacks on Russia sounded like McFaul had written them. Yeah, this guy shouldn't be a diplomatic document courier let alone a diplomat. On the Subject of a Russia, here is an excellent interview (15 minutes) by Michael Savage of foremost Russia scholar Prof. Stephen Cohen (NYU and Princeton). Cohen believes that Obama's current actions against Russia (and US/NATO meddling/pushing in Ukraine) are disastrous and nonsensical and has the potential to be catastrophic.


The beaver


You will pull your hair reading this one then :-)


and the piece in the NewYorker which someone mentioned on his Twitter a/c:https://twitter.com/McFaul




I wouldn't say Michael McFaul or Victoria Nuland are incompetent. In team, they have important achievements.

See, together, they pushed Russia and China to finally conclude the mega gas deal they spoke about for such a long time. And now, it looks like that with their well-designed foreign policy they finally managed to get India - besides Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia - to join the SCO. The Indian Independent reports, that foreign secretary Kerry already expressed his respect to India for that decision:

Kerry and the US received the answer to where India would stand on sanctions against Russia during the strategic dialogue when Sushma bluntly said that India’s foreign policy was “not flexible”.

Kerry accepted that he was disappointed but appeared resigned to India’s decision.

“We would obviously welcome India joining in with us with respect to that (the sanctions),” Kerry said. “But it is up to them. It is India’s choice.”


If that is not an achievement, what then? At the United Nation, Susan Rice could likely tell more about that, are many commissions to promote south-south-cooperation, but none of them achieved what McFaul and Nuland got accomplished.



This is an astonishing story of a World War started on Twitter.

The New Yorker article finally explains the animus between Vladimir Putin and Barrack Obama. It is not just their personalities but in their souls, religion, ideology, and their lives that are in conflict. This is tale of the twilight of the two WWII Empires. One destroyed and trying to regain its footing and security and the other falling apart clinging to the failed belief in its exceptionalism ruled by clueless looters.

If the world isn’t destroyed by this; China will be the only winner.


By the way, was it not William J. Burns who was instrumental in bringing the Russians on board for saving Obama's ass on Iran and Syria, allowing him a way out of the box that administration nuts put him in?

Why are clowns like Nuland and McFaul running the show right now? Has he been marginalised?

Somehow looks like it, since he is now retiring:

"On April 11, after twice delaying his retirement first at the request of Secretary Kerry and then at the request of President Obama, the State Department announced Burns would step down as Deputy Secretary of State in October 2014."


Margaret Steinfels

All: McFaul has more advice for the president in today's (8/7/14) NYTimes.



As you all know I have been boringly persistent in insisting that the Obama Administration has run its foreign policy as though it is a seminar based graduate school game conducted by social science professors and graduate students. This article supports that view. The Bush Administration's policy was dominated by a clique of imperialists, but this administration is simply determined to be naïve. pl

David Habakkuk


'It was hardly a secret that Putin had also created his own oligarchy, with old Leningrad pals and colleagues from the security forces now running, and robbing, the state’s vast energy enterprises. This almost unimaginably corrupt set of arrangements, which came to be known as Kremlin, Inc., outraged nearly everyone, but the relative atmosphere of stability, in which tens of millions of Russians enjoyed a sense of economic well-being and private liberty, provided Putin with a kind of authoritarian legitimacy.'

I find it very difficult to assess how much truth there is in this. As is generally agreed, when Putin came to power he gave the oligarchs an ultimatum: they could keep what they had looted in the Nineties, so long as they stayed out of politics. Most accepted the terms, but Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky did not.

In wresting control of the assets they had looted back from these, Putin relied up on his 'old Leningrad pals': on whom else was he going to rely? It may well be that the figures who ran the companies seized back from the oligarchs – like Igor Sechin, who runs the energy giant Rosneft, and Viktor Ivanov, who ran Aeroflot – have looted billions from these and salted them away in foreign bank accounts. I simply do not know.

What makes it particularly difficult to form a judgement is that one of the uses to which the assets which figures like Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky looted and laundered abroad have been put has been 'information operations' designed to topple their nemeses: figures like Sechin and Ivanov, as well as Putin. In assessing claims made about such figures, accordingly, it really is difficult to work out what is accurate information, what is disinformation generated by the oligarchs or indeed the many others who have an in interest in muddying the waters.

The world of post-Soviet politics has been one of Machiavellian intrigue where a great deal of time one is extremely unwise to take anything at face value. And, to be frank, Remnick rules himself out as a serious commentator on post-Soviet affairs, by his willingness simply to accept questionable assertions from the Western side. So Remnick quotes McFaul explaining that 'Obama people don't sponsor color revolutions.'

If he was a serious journalist, he would obviously have asked McFaul how this was to be reconciled with the conversation between Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey, Pyatt, her claim about the $5bn. spent on promoting democracy in Ukraine, and a lot of other information.

Again, about the shooting down of Flight MH17, Remnick writes: 'Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies agree that the evidence implicates pro-Russian separatist forces in the region, which are funded, directed, and supported by Vladimir Putin, in Moscow.'

Reading this, I recalled that that the seminal piece by Seymour Hersh arguing that the Ghouta atrocity was a 'false flag' operation published in January had not appeared in the 'New Yorker, which used to be Hersh's normal outlet, but rather in the 'London Review of Books'. It turned out that both the 'New Yorker' and the 'Washington Post' refused to publish it.

(See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/08/seymour-hersh-syria-report_n_4409674.html .)

So, having refused to publish a cogent argument to the effect that the Obama Administration came close to a catastrophic intervention in Syria as a result of a 'false flag' operation, Remnick simply takes for granted that assurances from 'Western and Ukrainian intelligence agencies' that the insurgents are responsible for shooting down MH17 are reliable. To be blunt, the man is dangerous.

Margaret Steinfels

DH: What then do you make of his assessment of McFaul?

Bill H

As to Putin "allowing him a way out of the box that administration nuts put him in," I would say that nobody put him in that box other than he himself. The "red line" originated as a remark he made extemporanously in response to a question at a press conference on Aug 12, 2012. He used it many times after that, and it was written into speeches, but the original idea of chemical weapons use as a "red line" seems to have been his alone.


Yes, Remnick's interview with Charlie Rose smelled highly of the standard narrative designed to "get" Putin, precisely because of his eagerness to assume whatever was being said about Putin's role in MH317.

Also, If one is to criticize Putin for his relationships with Russian oligarchs, why exempt the American ruling elite for its corrupt relationship with oligarchs? In fact, couldn't it be the case that Western oil oligarchs are incensed that Russia have the audacity to put Russian oil riches off limits to them and who are covertly pushing the "get Putin" policy?


the more I look at this crew, in government and in the press, I keep thinking of Casey Stengel: "Can't anybody here play this game?"

ex-PFC Chuck

Global Research offers a considerably different theory of the downing of MH 017 that the one Remmnick accepts without question: http://bit.ly/1kL6T69


Thank you. An elegant usage of the scalpel to excise diseased flesh. Once such a propagandist gets you following him, it is easy to tumble into the pitfall he has devised for the unwary. All he need do is tempt you with a quantum of truth, or even better, with something that appeals to one's prejudices while flattering one's vanity, & you are delivered into his hands, which is the purpose of the exercise. Hasbara with a deft touch. Dangerous? Yes, indeed.


I believe it was Sergei Lavrov who save Obama.



“I wouldn't say Michael McFaul or Victoria Nuland are incompetent”

Not incompetent at all. A tenured gig at Stanford or the state department where you’ll never be fired? What’s not to like about that, the weather is great in California. When’s the last time a jihadi or a 'rebel' (pick any ongoing revolt) shot a Stanford or Princeton Professor who was advising the President? Incompetence is more like the Ambassador who got himself killed in Benghazi.


When FDR appointed Joe Kennedy as our Ambassador to the Court of St. James, FDR wanted someone who wouldn't "go native."

Good idea.

In contrast, appointing an enemy of the country as an ambassador...

Sheer stupidity.

Patrick D

I've heard interviews with McFaul and did not come away impressed. He doesn't look very good in this article either.

The line that captured my attention was a sliver of reality that popped through the IR pop psychology and theoretical nonsense. Regarding Putin's increasing "anti-Westernism":

"He sided now with the deeply conservative impulses, prejudices, and habits of mind of the Russian majority."

In other words, Putin embraced the popular will of the majority of his country. This is a reality that American "democracy promoters" don't seem to grasp.

The Twisted Genius


I agree with David's comments wholeheartedly. As for Remnick's assessment of McFaul, I thought they both came off looking like clueless victims of arrested development. Colonel Lang is right. These people are hopelessly naïve.


"In other words, Putin embraced the popular will of the majority of his country. This is a reality that American "democracy promoters" don't seem to grasp."

Agreed - we keep on treating Putin like an aberration, but I don't think he is. Take this scene from the article.

"In 2009, after Putin had ceded the Presidency to Medvedev, he hosted Obama at his country residence and lectured the U.S. President on the history of American deceptions."

"He felt that the United States had, in the glow of post-Cold War triumphalism, pushed Russia around, exploiting its weakness to ignore Yeltsin’s protests and bomb Belgrade and Kosovo."

This is not just how Putin remembers the 90s, it's how Russians remember the 90s.

Remnick quotes a rather baffled McFaul who says

"It was grossly inaccurate, but that is his theory of the world."

McFaul not only doesn't understand Putin, he doesn't understand Russians. If he knows anything about Russia it is either academic, or limited to the pro-western fringe that he mingled with as a graduate student.

Margaret Steinfels

All: I've already confessed at the top that I'm not all that interested in Russia so I can't dispute the disdain here for Remnick's account of Putin, Inc.

On the other hand, I am a sadly obsessive reader of the MSM, blogs, and small magazines. I enter for your consideration the possibility that Remnick has probably done more to inform the U.S. readers of the New Yorker about Putin and Russia than you are likely to find in any other large circulation publication. Remnick, at least by my reading, also made it clear that Putin is acting in the Russian national interest as he sees it along with many Russians--whatever the administration thinks. In other words, Remnick establishes that Putin, is not a mere autocrat when it comes to that Russian national interest. I think he also gave a fair account of Putin's view of the U.S., NATO, EU and promises made to Gorbachev. In other words, I think Remnick underlines the views often expressed here that the "West," in its persistent movement into Eastern Europe broke its promises.

And then, on McFaul: read carefully. Remnick thinks his scholarly work is third rate and that McFaul is a naif. Why was McFaul surprised to find that the Russians had him down for the CIA--and who knows?

I did think of Col. Lang's criticism of graduate school diplomats when I read the piece. How do people like McFaul, not a member of the foreign service, merit posts like Moscow?



We've created a system where people like McFaul can be very successful. You can write drivel, you can be absolutely wrong about just about everything, and you can still coast your way through academia. Indeed, you're bound to pick up at least a few accolades in the process - not to mention additional degrees. Those in turn provide you with credibility and even respect. People will actually listen to you.

McFaul is also writing what his customers want to hear, so that makes him all the more popular. He speaks to the ideologue and the badly educated.

What have we done? What kind of system have we created? Let's look at political science for example.

Political Science is devoid of any real utility yet we spend millions on it every year. Why? Perhaps it's ideology, we'd like to live in the world that political scientists imagine. Perhaps we crave the simplicity and the thought that a trend line can explain human experience. In that respect it's more like an opiate, it gives the users a sense of comfort while the chaos continues around them. What makes that so alluring?

I don't know.

- Eliot



I remember Admiral Crowe, CJCS once upon a time, carefully explaining to people that his doctorate was in Politics, not Political Science. When asked why he would always say that his degree was in an actual academic discipline rather than in "study" of a magical world. pl


This is an interesting paradox.

As I'm given to rant every now and then, the Colonel's disdain for academics is a bit unfair since we tend to be more careful with the facts than people like Rice(s) or McFaul. BUT, it is true that the good academics rarely make the kind of over the top assertions like these folks and are hardly ever involved in the "real world." (for the better, I think.) The only "academics" who seem to be involved in the "real" world are second- or third rate people, who have very strong convictions on how the world should be, are clever enough to sophisttically justify their convictions by twisting what they learned in school, and make important-sounding pronouncements but are often reckless with the facts...but are not competent enough to do something constructive or even clean up their own messes. Yet, these are the academics who are counted as "relevant" and are brought into the corridors of influence.

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