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21 October 2019


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"Putin says he wishes the Soviet Union had not collapsed and many Russians agree."

I will cherrypick this line.

I believe the quote was something on the order of... if don't miss the the Soviet Union, you don't have heart. And if you want it back, you don't have a brain.

The ultimate problem with conflating Russia with the Soviet Union, is that the two are certainly not the same, they have, and had, very different world views, and different foreign policies as a consequence.

The Soviet Union was a revolutionary power, that continually looked to export the revolution. It was also a Russophobic state that understandably viewed Russian nationalism as a threat to its continued existence.

Modern Russia, by contrast, is an incredibly conservative power which has little interest in revolutionary politics. And appears, to me at least, to be hobbled by the same problems that troubled the Tsars. Take for example the corrupt village headman from a classic novel, using his power to steal from his village. Then open the paper, and read about a local mayor who has stolen a company from some local entrepreneurs.

The other complexity we overlook, is that Putin is trying to heal the wounds of the revolution. I would point to the way he's redeemed White Russian icons, and supported the return of the Orthodox Church as the moral center of the country. He does this, just as he acknowledges the strengths and (limited) virtues of the Soviet era.

All of this is missed, and we ended up talking about something that doesn't exist. A neo Soviet state.

Russia will continue to suprise us, as long as we think this way.

- Eliot


A post by Paul Craig Roberts that contains a link to a talk by Ulfkotte. Translated transcript included:

Peter AU 1

Thinking on it a bit more, many people have a strong safety in numbers or herd instinct. Reason people are likened to sheep at times. No amount of reason will separate them from a large mob.


Meanwhile we jail idiots who "bribe" there kids way into that "elite" institution - UCLA.

What is worse, Fred, those winners that can afford to bribe their kids into "elite institutions"*? or UCLA?

* Stanford, MIT, Havard, Eton, Princeton what is the present rank of UCLA?


Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, would be proud. the founder of virtual facts.


There is a coup going on and the NYT is complicit.

I’m a lefty and despise Trump, but this is insane.


David Habakkuk


In the light of this interesting discussion, some comments on an argument made by TTG may be to the point. He suggested that: ‘Russia is a formidable competitor, fully capable and willing to take prudent actions in pursuit of her interests.’

Unfortunately, this suggestion illustrates a problem with much ‘realist’ thought. Arguments about ‘national interests’ are of very limited explanatory value, unless one attempts seriously to explore the ways that such ‘interests’ are interpreted by different players inside the society one is trying to understand.

Here, it is I think material to pay heed to the arguments made by the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Dmitri Trenin, published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ on Christmas Day, 2016, under the title ‘Russia's Post-Soviet Journey: From Europe to Eurasia.’

(See https://carnegie.ru/2016/12/25/russia-s-post-soviet-journey-pub-66569 .)

Having noted that Russian élites are still hoping for an improvement in relations with (continental) Europe, Trenin suggests a radical and irreversible change has taken place in their view of their country’s interests:

‘But such a thawing will not turn back the clock to the 1990s, when, for a brief moment, Russia fancied itself a part of Europe. The greater Europe for which Putin was advocating as late as 2010 will not emerge anytime soon. It has been replaced in the Kremlin's thinking by a greater Eurasia comprising China, India, Japan, Turkey, and – the EU.)’

Actually – as with other rather significant recent contributions easily available in English, by figures like Sergei Karaganov and Vladislav Surkov – Trenin is writing about something yet more fundamental. What all are suggesting is that the ‘Petrine’ period of Russian history may be over.

This bears upon current discussions in a number of ways. So Larry referred, in his most recent exposé of the conspiracy, to the smearing of Dimitri Simes.

In fact, one of the most fascinating moments in the frankly demented ravings which Glenn Simpson produced in front of the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017 was when the – even more demented – Adam Schiff asked what else, in the way of ‘active measures’, they should be investigating, The response:

‘So I guess the first one that I think that we haven’t covered at all, would be the Center for the National Interest and the people involved in the Center for the National Interest. And among other things – well, importantly Dimitri Simes is known in the Russian expat community as a suspected Russian agent. And I believe he is known to the FBI as a suspected Russian agent.’

As to what the real offence of Simes has been, one has only, I think, to look the article he published in the in the November/December issue of ‘Foreign Affairs’ entitled ‘Losing Russia: The Costs of Renewed Confrontation.’

(See https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2007/10/losing_russia.html .)

What Simes had grasped was that underlying the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’ was, as it were, the emergence from the shadows of a very significant portion of the Soviet élite who had, over the years, been coming to the conclusion that communism was not in either the Soviet, or Russian, ‘national interest.’

Our colleague Dr. Patrick Armstrong has described the impact on his thinking of a key indicator of this change, the article which Yevgeny Primakov published in ‘Pravda’ in July 1987, under the title ‘A New Philosophy of Foreign Policy.’

As a result of having paid attention to others of the very small number of Western analysts who did not dismiss the ‘new thinking’ as ‘active measures’, I and a colleague ended up interviewing some of the leading figures involved in Moscow for BBC Radio in February 1989.

Talking to people first-hand, it was clear that those who thought the ‘new thinking’ was largely ‘active measures’ were clueless. What only became clear to me later was that, in the background, there was a fundamental argument, as to what the Cold War was about.

This was, I now think, reflected in what we were told by General-Mayor Larionov, who was the mentor and collaborator of Andrei Kokoshin, then Georgy Arbatov’s deputy at the Institute of the U.S.A. and Canada.

There was a very visible generational difference – Larionov, like Arbatov, was an ‘Old Mohican’, a member of the generation that had gone to war as teenagers, while Kokoshin was my generation, who were children in the immediate post-war period.

One of the first things Larionov told us was that, to understand the ‘new thinking’, one had to go back to the realisation of Soviet planners, in the ‘Seventies, that it was not possible to win a nuclear war. He then talked at some length about a strategist of the ‘Twenties, Aleksandr Svechin, who he said had been ‘repressed’ under Stalin.

And he also discussed the study ‘Game Plan’ which Mika B’s father had published in 1986, referring to him as ‘Brzezinski – “nash drug” (our friend) – a Pole.’

Unfortunately, at that time I had not come across what was then the Soviet Army Studies Office, now the Foreign Military Studies Office, and the work of Dr Jacob W. Kipp, who had already written extensively about Svechin. Only when I did, some years later, did I get a better grasp of what Larionov was trying to tell us.

It turned out that he was in a rather good position to say that much of what Brzezinski was saying was wrong, because he had compiled and co-authored the book which was at the centre of debates about the role of nuclear weapons in Soviet military thinking, the original 1962 edition of the study ‘Military Strategy’ published under the name of Marshal Sokolovsky.

And it also turned out that the book was actually a bluff. As Kipp explains in a 1999 discussion of Kokoshin, Larionov explained that Khrushchev wanted to reduce the heavy burden of spending on conventional weapons, so he was trying to persuade the West that he had a ‘credible’ strategic deterrent, when in fact he did not.

So, according to Kokoshin, the instructions given to Sokolovsky and his team were ‘to scare them to death.’ Unfortunately, the bluff backfired.

(See https://fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/agency/990100-kokoshin.htm .)

This history, I later realised, was also part of the complex background to the advocacy by Kokoshin and Larionov of a Svechin-style defensive military posture, which among other things involved abandoning contingency planning in which Eastern Europe was seen as an indispensable ‘glacis’, and ‘springboard.’

The $60,000 question in the background of what Larionov was saying, I also later realised, was how far the Cold War had been simply a Soviet ‘own goal’.

An alternative interpretation, one that he certainly rejected at that time, was that Western policy was underpinned by ‘geopolitical’ interests and historical antagonisms, that would mean that the liquidation of the Stalinist security posture, and even the abandonment of communism, would do little to mitigate Western hostility.

In the 2007 article by Simes, there is a section entitled ‘Eat Your Spinach’ – an allusion to a famous statement by Victoria Nuland, which rather well summed up the Clinton Administration’s approach to Russia: ‘That’s what happens when you try to get the Russians to eat their spinach. The more … he more you tell them it’s good for them, the more they gag.’

What Simes was arguing was that it might turn out that, in the end, this approach was really not in the ‘national interest’ of the United States. In fact, it was in 1996 that the same Primakov who had been a figure of moment in the ‘new thinking’, and became Foreign Minister that year, concluded that, if ‘spinach’ was all that was likely to be on offer, it was time for his countrymen to develop a taste for ‘Peking Duck’.

It has long seemed to me that it was not in the American, or indeed British, ‘national interest’ to encourage this taste.

The conventional wisdom however was the reverse. A most interesting discussion of the ‘spinach strategy’, as applied to Ukraine, comes in a recent article, also in the ‘National Interest’, by Nicholas K. Gvosdev, entitled ‘Where Will Ukraine Go from Here?’ A key paragraph:

‘For the last thirty years, U.S. policy towards Ukraine has been guided by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s aphorism: a Russia with Ukraine is an empire (and by extension, a threat to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area), but a Russia without Ukraine has the chance to become a “normal” nation-state (and, by implication, is better “balanced” vis-à-vis the principal European powers of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy).

(See https://nationalinterest.org/feature/where-will-ukraine-go-here-87936 .)

For a perhaps more relevant epitaph on all this, one can usefully read the interview published on 22 September in ‘Moskovskij Komsomolets’, entitled ‘Sergei Shoigu Revealed How The Russian Army Was Salvaged’. Also relevant is an interview on 3 October by in ‘VZGLYAD Newspaper’, headlined ‘Sergei Karaganov: Protecting the Whole World Could Become Russia’s New Mission.’

(For English translations, see https://www.memri.org/reports/russian-minister-defense-shoigu-russia-returned-her-senses-1999-thwart-western-designs ; http://karaganov.ru/en/news/533 .)

These appear to represent a resolution of the argument of which I was dimly aware, back in 1989.

A slightly tongue-in-cheek rendering of the conversation which appears to be implicit in these interviews might roughly as follows:

Put vulgarly, Shoigu appears to be saying something along the lines of. ‘Phew. We had a lucky escape there. Had Clinton followed the kind of strategy Simes commends the George H.W. Bush Administration for following, then in the end the West would have succeeded in “destroying and enslaving our country.”

‘However, the “spinach strategy” had succeeded in making even the Larionovs, Kokoshins and Karaganovs realise that, both after the Cold War and during it, Western policy was really run by a coalition of ‘Anglo’ Russophobes and the “insulted and injured” from the “borderlands”.’

Meanwhile, Karaganov is making a ‘mea culpa’, along the following lines: ‘Yes, I admit it, our failure to grasp that the Western threat was real, and infatuation with “democracy”, did a lot to ensure that the Soviet Union was destroyed, rather than reformed. However, I have seen the light, am rediscovering my “inner Mongol”, and embracing “Eurasianism” with the enthusiasm of the convert.’

Bad jokes apart, there is a very fundamental point about perceptions of ‘national interest.’

As both Shoigu’s and Karaganov’s writings make clear, people in London and Washington have failed to grasp that their counteparts in Moscow see the potential threat in the ‘borderlands’ with China as one that can be managed, by a combination of ‘appeasement’ and ‘deterrence.’

A corollary is that they have had difficulty in grasping that, once Russia abandoned the project of integration into ‘Greater Europe’, both the imperatives of ‘appeasement’ and that of diluting a possibly overwhelming Chinese preponderance suggested that it was imperative that they should attempt to bring as much as possible of ‘Eurasia’ away from ‘Anglo’ influence.

Precisely as Trenin intimated in his piece, key long-term targets with be India, and continental Europe, in particular Germany.

However, one does not do this by crude and transparent interference in Western political systems. The people who have an interest in doing this are the ‘Galician’ nationalists, on whom suspicions are quite rightly falling. How far some of the Balts may also be involved is an interesting question.


Rick Merlotti

So, SST is just more BS to triangulate from?


I read such sources to find out what the conventional wisdom is for that day.

Opposition research.


Or any one of about 56,945,273 russiagate conspiracy theory memes witha hammer and sickle motif.

Larry Kart

All those "virtual facts" line up except for the last one. Isn't it Trump who insists that Saudi Arabia is our friend?


I understand that the Mainland Chinese press has already given V.V. Putin this label, and extolled him as a model for cadres to learn from.


Lord knows that I detest Trump, but if he has (probably inadvertently) rendered the country one service, he has demolished the myth that the MSM is not flagrantly biased.

Or, more accurately, he has caused the MSM to nail its colors to the mast.


Today, Russia-Africa summit in Sochi begins, 44 heads of state, 3000 other guests much on offer from Russia to Africa.
And Russia has just forgiven another $20 bn in debt owed by African nations, on top of $32 bn forgiven to Cuba.
The US sanctions are certainly hampering the Russian economy and foreign policy initiatives.


appreciated, eakens. Thanks. Only trying to understand within my limited means.


He will completely defend the Chinese Communists' totalitarianism and excuse the organ harvesting of Uigyurs in concentration camps as an example of his utter hypocrisy and bias.
That allegation is 100% false. I have never written about the Uigyurs and alleged organ harvesting.

Take it back you lying piece of s***.


larry kart

Yes, he made it worse following the Israeli lead provided through Jared and as I said his balance sheet soul.

ex PFC Chuck

Yes. As the 22nd century opens, he will be regarded as the outstanding statesman of at least its predecessor's first half.

English Outsider

I'm worried about this bit -

" One result of the catastrophic transformation of Syria since the start of its current civil war has been the reduction of the control of the tribes and clans by their traditional chiefs. These changes have induced the tribes to ally themselves in the war, changeably and unpredictably,  with the Syrian Government, or with the Syrian rebels – the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) and ISIS (Daesh).  

"As the contemporary conflict in Syria spread, the different tribes [10] became identified with one or more of the civil war combatants."

ISIS now spoken of as "Syrian rebels" or "civil war combatants"?  No mention of where the arms came from, what was the make up of their forces?

Is this man doing a Charles Lister? Or am I misreading him and he's on the level.

English Outsider

Not at all, Colonel. Here's where that work is done.

Your pilgrims straggle a lot, at least this one does, but they're all after the same grail - how does one get to what lies behind the Roveian illusion?

As "Dividab" says above, many thanks to you and your committee for soldiering on with that work.

Barbara Ann

David Habakkuk

A fascinating comment, as always. The Karaganov interview was a good read. The headline quote; "Formalizing the fact that Russia is a supplier of international security for the world and for itself should be one of the underlying ideas of Russia’s foreign policy" looks like becoming a reality in the age of Trump - and at a pace that few of us can currently comprehend. If the contrast between US neocon-fomented chaos and Russian-imposed order in Syria is anything to go by, it cannot happen soon enough.

I remain to be convinced by the extent to which Russians will "develop a taste for Peking Duck". More likely, if the above forecast is accurate, the rest of us, Chinese and all, will need to develop a taste for Beef Stroganoff or Borscht.

English Outsider

"key long-term targets (will) be India, and continental Europe, in particular Germany."

1. Blow continental Europe, Mr Habakkuk, though if the Germans had any sense they'd realise that a trading arrangement with Russia would be a marriage made in heaven. What about UK/Russian trade? It would be difficult to see a better trading partner for us.

We're already dipping a toe into the Eurasian project. Do you see this involvement developing? Pre-revolution, for all the "Great Game", Russia was an important export market. We invested there heavily (my family lost their all in Russian railways after the revolution, or so legend has it) and should do so again. Reliable trading partners and lots to trade. Any sign of our masters coming to their senses and seeing that?

And do you see a shift in US policy that would mean similar involvement with Russia there? More profitable to trade than to destabilise.

2. Your last paragraph. Would it be possible to go into further detail on that?

blue peacock


If 70 million Americans were out on the street protesting our government, there would be changes for sure. There's no way SWAT teams would be beating them up.

I lived in HK for many years and know people who've lived there for generations. There are many reports that CCP provocateurs are taking actions to discredit the many people of HK who don't want to be serfs to the Chinese Communist Party.

blue peacock

Can't stand being called out for being a bootlicker of the totalitarian Chinese communists, eh? Why aren't you living in that communist utopia and reciting Xi Thought every morning?



I’m curious how the relationship between Russia and China will evolve. My experience being involved with a few companies who did business in China is that the Chinese commitments even on paper where in their mind not something they had to adhere to once they got what they needed.

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