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18 October 2015


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Yeah, Right

Ya' nailed it.

The only "solution" that the Israelis will ever contemplate is that of a series of Bantustans, and the Palestinians are being demonized because - gosh darn it! - they don't think that's acceptable.

Yeah, Right

The Israeli have attacked convoys carrying "advanced weapons" to Hezbollah, but have never previously needed to attack such convoys inside Lebanon - they've always bombed them while they were still inside Syria.

That's obviously no longer an option.

So the question is this: will the Israelis give up, or will they now simply adjust their aim i.e. wait until those convoys enter Lebanon, and then attack the shipments.

If the Russians think it's the former then they simply won't care about Israeli jets buzzing around inside Lebanon, and they'd likely decline any request from the Lebanese govt.

If they think it's the latter then, yes, they'll put a stop to all Israeli overflights of Lebanon.


Ken Roberts,
it's from the European Council of Foreign Relations, Atlanticist central, so what do you expect? The description of what Russia did versus what they accuse Russia of planning are useful.


A related article on how the West misjudged Russian military capabilities.




An interesting article by Ambrose-Evans Pritchard in The Telegraph reviewing the financial challenges for Putin and Russia.


Thanks so much for the short version!

I couldn't bring myself do more than skim the full 15 page ECFR report, which struck me as an intellectualized CYA piece (chock full of bureaucratese) to excuse how completely f**king clueless the empire and its vassals are due to their collective belief in their inherent superiority. After all, one doesn't pay all that much attention to those considered inferior. Or even if one does pay attention, the worst is assumed.

The salient points appear to be that the West/US "misunderstood" and "underestimated" Russia. This fits in well with the whole US was so "confused" by Russian actions meme prominent in so many news reports since Russia changed the game in Syria. Do US/Western FP policy elites realize yet that their over-inflated balloon of "exceptionalism" has now been well and truly deflated? That the rest of the world can now see that the emperor is not wearing any clothes? And is snickering about it?

"Technologically sophisticated cultures are conditioned to accept belief systems, behaviors, and values that would have been rejected out of hand by their stone-age predecessors. Primitives would instantly sense the obvious threats to survival and adjustment, or simple nonsense, inherent in many of the treasured beliefs of modern society." - Wilson Bryan Key


The BBC has taken to simply removing the floods of posts critical of their reporting:

BBC censoring its own licence-payers

According to an item on Liveleak the BBC has just wiped from its website hundreds of comments that criticised...


David Habakkuk

Valissa, oofda, CP, Babak Makkinejad,

Like Valissa, I have only – so far – read the article in 'The Diplomat'. However, I have to say that reading it I was left not knowing whether to laugh or cry. According to the article:

'Almost unnoticed by observers, the Russian military addressed one of the biggest organizational weaknesses dating back to the Soviet and Czarist eras and introduced a new professionally trained non-commissioned officers (NCOs) corps dissolving the existing warrant officers system.'

It was not until 1960, thanks to the painstaking work of Raymond Garthoff, then an analyst with the CIA, that American intelligence understood how the Russian/Soviet model of the mass mobilisation army worked. Rather than having 175 divisions in being, the Soviets had one third of divisions at 80-85% strength, one third at about 60-65% strength, and a third essentially cadres for reserve units.

(This system was not a Soviet innovation – it was first introduced by the then War Minister, Dmitri Miliutin, in 1874, following the lessons learnt from the successes of Prussian conscript armies.)

(See http://tinyurl.com/pc67vl3 .)

This Stalinist model – of a society and economy organised so it could be rapidly mobilised for war – had served the Soviets well in the Second World War, but was then retained unthinkingly throughout the post-war decades. It helped the Soviets bankrupt themselves – they did not need Reagan's assistance to do this. Among those who could see this clearly was a GRU spook, the late Colonel Vitaly Shlykov, who became a principal architect of the recent military reforms.

Had it been left to figures like Shlykov, incidentally, there might have been a rationally-managed programme of economic reform and demilitarisation – rather than the 'cargo cult' approach adopted by the 'young reformers': just smash the old order to bits, and somehow a functioning Western-style liberal order will emerge like magic.

(For his views on U.S. policy immediately following the Second World War as an appropriate model for Russian demilitarisation, see http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/number/n_6571 .)

It was only following the 2008 Georgian War that the kind of decisive break with the old model Shlykov wanted was implemented – he outlined his ideas in an interview, actually republished in a 'Telegraph' supplement, in September 2009.

As Shlykov explained very clearly, rather than making contingency plans for all-out war with NATO, Russia would rely on Western-style conceptions of nuclear 'deterrence', while building a much smaller, largely professional army, at the centre of which would be a corps of professional sergeants, to deal with localised conflicts.

(See http://tinyurl.com/najo7k2 .)

In a February 2012 article he wrote entitled 'Being strong: National security guarantees for Russia' – one of a series of articles outlining his positions prior to his re-election as President', Putin very clearly stressed this aspect, writing:

'An annual increase of 50,000 service personnel is expected within the next five years. They will serve as sergeants, sergeant majors and military equipment specialists.

'Selection will be strict and will consist of several stages. Marshal Georgy Zhukov used to say, ''It's me and the sergeants who command this army.'' These ''junior commanders'' are the backbone of enforcement in the army. They follow through on order, discipline and proper military training. We need respectable people with the appropriate background, moral values and physical qualities for these positions. Not just the junior officers but all contract soldiers will be trained at special training centres and sergeant schools.'

(See http://archive.premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/18185/ .)

If someone like myself, with no claims to be a Russianist and only a casual interest in these matters, can pick up that a professionalisation of the culture of the military, centered around imitating Western 'best practice' on the key role of NCOs, why the hell was this beyond the capacity of NATO experts? What do we pay these people for?

The West's preferred approach seems to involve never listening to what the Russians say, and then scratching their head in bemusement, even when what they are doing is precisely what they have said for a long time they were going to do.

David Habakkuk


Apologies for double-posting the comment. Please post only second version!

David H.



I see the Telegraph released its annual "Russia's economy is DOOOOOOMED!" a little early this year.


"The salient points appear to be that the West/US "misunderstood" and "underestimated" Russia. This fits in well with the whole US was so "confused" by Russian actions meme "

When the US is so perpetually confused about all this, then ...

(a) those 1500 analysts at CENTCOM are no good, or ...
(b) there are so many alalysts that their output floods the system and it can no longer be processed or ...
(c) that the analysts are good but, sadly, what they have to say is unwanted and thus ignored ...
(d) because their superiors actively supress honest analysis or ...
(e) because they are being ignored by the policymakers.

Personally, I have a hunch that in fact the US were not surprised per se, so I tend towards (e) with a sprinkling of (d).

And then, I bellyfeel you're right about CYA.

In the case of Russia, if the reporting is accurate that there is tacit consent with the Russian assessment of the nature of the resistance towards Assad (jihadid dominance, making a mockery of US contentions about a 'moderate opposition'). To what extent that would be true I cannot say. If correct, then they are surprised because they cannot say loud in America goodthinkful political climate that they do in fact approve.

To do so would be crimethink and turn them into unpersons because the bipatrisan party doesn't tolerate deviance from their carefully crafted IO narratives, including the one that Putin is at fault, always, and that Russia is the enemy, forever. After all, America has always been at war with Eurasia.


I would say a combination of (c), ((d) and (e)- and heavily on the latter. And the present SefDef is one of the main malefactors.

David Habakkuk


The 'two-state solution' is a 'necessary fiction' – something in which people need to believe, because the consequences of accepting that it is a mirage are too problematic.

Unfortunately, while burying one's head in the sand can work very well for a protracted time, in the end the consequences may be far worse than if one had faced up to the truth earlier.

A couple of days ago, Uri Avnery produced a remarkable piece entitled 'The Settlers' Prussia' – he was born in 1923, as Helmut Ostermann, in Beckum in Westphalia. Comparing the influence of the settlers in Israel with that of Prussia on Germany, Avnery/Ostermann harks back to that culture of 'poets and thinkers' which so many Jews loved, and to which they contributed greatly. This he portrays as having fallen victim to the 'settler' culture of Prussia.

(See http://uriavnery.com/en/hatur.html .)

The day before this piece was published, Jeffrey Goldberg produced an article in the 'Atlantic' entitled 'The Paranoid, Supremacist Roots of the Stabbing Intifada.' In this he wrote that:

'One of the tragedies of the settlement movement is that it obscures what might be the actual root cause of the Middle East conflict: the unwillingness of many Muslim Palestinians to accept the notion that Jews are a people who are indigenous to the land Palestinians believe to be exclusively their own, and that the third-holiest site in Islam is also the holiest site of another religion, one whose adherents reject the notion of Muslim supersessionism.'

(See http://tinyurl.com/o95kz5o .)

What is interesting about this is not so much the extremely one-sided nature of the narrative of blame – it is Goldberg's apparent inability to see how limited its relevance is.

As anyone who does not have – to use a phrase of Putin's which may be due to go down in history – 'mush for brains' can see, Palestinians are never going to accept that Jews are 'a people who are indigenous to the land'. So the only prospect that Goldberg's analysis holds out this analysis holds out is that which Avnery lucidly sets out.

It may be excessive to say that 'everybody knows' that Israel 'sliding slowly, comfortably, but unmistakably' towards 'an ultra-nationalist, racist, religious society.' But that is what seems to very many people to be a patently undeniable truth.

However, even intelligent and generally rational people like Josh Marshall seem incapable of seeing where this is likely to end. Floundering around in a commentary on Goldberg's piece which is a desperate attempt to rescue the idea of a 'two-state solution', Marshall writes that 'the Israelis are there', and 'they're not going anywhere.'

(See http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/slaves-of-history .)

I wonder. As Marshall's actually brings out very well, involved in Zionism are distinct, if inextricably interrelated, narratives: one a religious and ethno-nationalist narrative, having to do with origins, and the other one about a place of refuge for people under threat.

The second narrative, however, has quite patently become ludicrously divorced from reality. It is simply not the case that Josh Marshall is under threat of being knifed by a Palestinian, or indeed living under the shadow of the growing missile capabilities of Hizbullah. Of the people in Tel Aviv, enjoying their 'cafes and theaters', Avnery writes, 'many of these old-timers already hold a second passport, just in case.'

There may be a natural degenerative dynamic, whereby people who define Jewish identity in ethno-nationalist terms, and in terms of a concept of Judaism in which it is really little more than an ethno-nationalist cult, congregate in Israel, while those unhappy with these things leave.

So American – and British – Zionists who have been happy to make Israel a cornerstone of Jewish identity may end up in a cleft stick. To some, identifying with what Israel has become may be unproblematic – as I think is the case with Goldberg. To others, the country will seem – indeed, is increasingly seeming – like a 'monster from the id'.

Paul Escobar


It is a habit of western journalists to predict doom & gloom - when any international economy (and especially a geo-political rival) defies our economic guidance.

The key point of this article ("Deficits on this scale are manageable for rich economies with deep capital markets. It is another story for Russia") is refuted by the successful examples of Argentina (home of the Pope) & Bolivia. South-East Asia also faced similar warnings when they went rogue.

Also note the flippant use of "THOUGH" in this article:
- "The early evidence is dismal...THOUGH Ford has announced that it will flippstart building engines for the Fiesta later this year at its Russian joint venture in Elabuga."
- "Such a reflex usually means a country is going badly off the rails...THOUGH Germany pulled it off with success in the 1930s."

Curiously, you will not find any reference to "unemployment" in the article. After reading, you are left to believe Russia is a hopeless "basket case" like Greece.

Greece's current unemployment rate is 25%.
Russia's current unemployment rate is 5.30%.

For some context...
Israel's current unemployment rate is also 5.30%.
The UK's current unemployment rate is 5.40%.
Canada's currently unemployment rate is 7.1%.

Paul Escobar


Them Russkies are some busy beavers. News today:

'Dozens of ISIL fighters killed' in air strike in Syria
At least 40 rebels killed after their convoy comes under attack by unidentified jets in Hama, monitoring group says.



Ten years or less from now Western Europe is going to be facing an inexorable and inextricable clusterf*ck of a situation. Particularly Germany, the U.K., Sweden, and France. The world is transforming faster than the 24-hour news cycle.

A couple of interesting pieces from the last few days on Sweden:



Babak Makkinejad


Ambassador Frederic C. Hof on Syria:


ex-PFC Chuck

From Fort Russ this morning:

"Terrorists "Islamic State" are leaving en masse positions near Damascus after Russian air strikes in Syria. This was reported by the official representative of the Russian Defence Ministry, Major-General Igor Konashenkov."


ex-PFC Chuck

And also on Fort Russ this long piece by Polish opposition politician Mateusz Piskorski:

"The presence of Poland is NATO is justified dogmatically, necessarily using the belief in a constant external threat for the continued functioning of this alliance. Meanwhile, the the history of the last 24 years of this organization proves that not once did a threat to national security come to any of its member countries, nor was there a justifiable need to use Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty . . "



Good to see some remorse on this man's part, although I got to admit that the good man lost me when he turned to the "Assad-dunnit" narrative as to how the conflict supposedly started: "security forces shooting at peaceful protests", that is.

I was recently made aware of a blog-piece trying to piece exactly those early days together, painting a far more differentiated picture of the situation:


It's translated from German, somewhat rough around the edges, but from what I saw still very much readable.

So, excepting one incident in Daraa where a widely despised police commander's orders led to the deaths of four, for which he was sacked and replaced, the claim of "peaceful protests" does look rather untenable.

That aside, reading how far diplomatic efforts apparently were as per Mr. Hof's word..."shame" on him and his administration for not sticking with that would be too lenient a statement.



I'm a bit troubled by this report also:
"Yesterday, a bitter row broke out between the British and Russian governments after it was reported RAF Tornados operating over Iraq had been fitted with heat-seeking missiles for aerial combat ..."

Since ISIS has zero aircraft there is no reason for this other than to allow what amounts to a first strike against Russian aircraft flying anti-ISIS combat missions. The obvious question is just which side is the British (and NATO allied) government on? In that light I think it would it be correct to say that Putin's foreign policy is more in line with the desires of a majority of the British people rather than that they are falling into line behind him.



Good old foreign raised Ivy Leauge elitist telling the rest of the hoi polloi to get in line. He knows who's signing his paychecks, it sure ain't average Americans like the ones who got to fight in the last (and still ongoing) war he supports.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

'It would mean real support for courageous Syrian civil society activists who represent the essence of a revolution against brutality, corruption, sectarianism and unaccountability.'

These people quite clearly believe the bullshit they talk.

It's what Alden Pyle in Greene's 'Quiet American' might have written, had he not been murdered. But times change. Listening to Cameron, I feel I should write a sequel, entitled 'The Noisy Englishman'.


TTG and Babak:

I really thank you for this piece deserves its own thread (and the time to read it), IMO it underlies the difference between what we are observing in Syria, versus the traditional Russian approach - throw more peasants at the enemy - dating back to the 1700 and 1800s (ala Chechnya).

One thing missing is the way the west has begun to shoot itself in the foot with systems that are designed by committee (F-35 most egregious), or aimed at non-real threats (Takfiri) that are very profitable, but which have zero hope of succeeding (as the problem is political not military). End result, is a lot of hardware that is better than nothing against IEDs, but unlikely to address clear significant strategic needs (which mainly seems to be threatening Russia and threatening China). Clearly it is not coincidental that for the first time in along time, there is no US Aircraft carrier in the middle east.

That says to me that not all our leaders have mush for brains. However, the question the RQMR article raised for me, is how did Russia manage to make such a dramatic change? They were not facing any specific emergency (more like death by drizzle), and the forces in society that prefer status quo are non-democratic and very powerful.

I find it hard to imaging such a revolution occurring in the US (unicorns are easier), does anyone else share that view?



"introduced a new professionally trained non-commissioned officers (NCOs) corps..."

This will provide for a vast improvement in Russian military performance. As to your question about why this was beyond NATO's experts to foresee I think you answered that in your comment above about Soviet reforms immediately prior to the collapse of the USSR. It is the West that is still enthralled by the "'cargo cult" approach of 'young reformers' (Obama, Slaughter, Power and the rest of the Rainbow Flag coalition).

"just smash the old order to bits, and somehow a functioning Western-style liberal order will emerge like magic."

That is an apt description of Western foreign - and domestic - policy there is.

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