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27 June 2020

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The Twisted Genius

David Habakkuk,

Steele obviously didn't look very hard. I knew a number of Muscovites during those days. They had some wild stories about events in the city in August 1991. One was hit by cobblestone fragments when a tank's machine gun sprayed the street in front of him. I attended a silent vigil outside the Soviet Embassy on Friedrichstrasse in Berlin while Gorbachev was under house arrest. That silent demonstration was most impressive. My Moscow friends told me how deep the collapse of the state apparatus reached. Bureaucrats and functionaries disappeared over the first few days. The workings of the city and the state were left to volunteers, mostly from the Russian and Soviet Academy of Science institutes. For a short time, the old system gave way to youthful idealists... idealists with the knowledge and expertise to make things work. Those acquaintances of mine were in the thick of that bold experiment.

Unfortunately, those days didn't last long. Once the shock of the collapse wore off, those scientific idealists were pushed aside by the worse kind of opportunists... brutal and rapacious criminals and the worst of the old nomenklatura and minor functionaries, all in a mad grab for power and riches. The scientists of the Academies of Science largely left for foreign institutes so they could continue their research with the hope of returning once Russia composed herself. Russian became the predominant language at many German research institutes.

Yeltsin was left to deal with a government rife with criminals and the worst of the old functionaries. The KGB was one of the first institutions to right itself. All those reorganizations allowed more competent and patriotic professionals to weed out the opportunists. The new generation was a vast improvement and created a competent and more efficient security and intelligence apparatus. But this generation was still KGB in their souls. They needed to be in order to clean out the criminals and opportunists infesting the new government. It was a painful birth, but the new Russia is a vast improvement over the old USSR. Even this "Lithuanian nationalist" can see that. But I also see the continuity that exists in Moscow's security and intelligence services. They're the same hard hearted organizations in service to a humbler and more pragmatic state. Thankfully, the new boss is NOT the same as the old boss, but he still has cold KGB blood running through his veins.

I've not followed the supposed trail of assassinations in England, beyond the blaring headlines and your detailed postings. I'm not convinced either way as to who was responsible. I certainly would not rule out Russian mafiya bosses and oligarchs (often the same persons) as suspects. I am interested in that Catan article you mentioned.If you could forward a copy to Colonel Lang, I'm sure he'll get it to me.

In your comment to Leith, you point out that the concept that Putin wants conflict with the West is absurd. I agree. In my opinion, he is far too pragmatic and calculating a Russian nationalist to desire that. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with General Jaruzelski's foremost civilian advisor. This man was an expert in military psychology among other things. He told me that no one in his circles ever desired or even believed war in Europe between NATO and the WTO was a realistic possibility. It's only sure result would have been the destruction of all of Europe. All the war plans and war games were just theater to keep the generals busy. Even the generals didn't believe the propaganda.

My introduction to this Polish gentleman was amusing. It was at an academic affair in 1987. My graduate advisor introduced me as a Special Forces officer, a Green Beret. The old Polish gentleman turned white, visibly shuddered and stiffened momentarily. Clearly he had heard of all that old Soviet propaganda about us GBs being recruited out of prison death rows and being allowed to roam the countryside at night to keep our murderous skills honed. He relaxed and we shared numerous vodkas. You see, in the old country when you drink with someone to within an inch of your lives, you become friends.

Babak makkinejad

TTG

So, the Academic dissidents of old USSR, fierce critics of the Soviet System, and who, like their Decemberist predecessors, were desirous of a more liberal state, they, decamped to greener pastures and left the Russian, Ukrainian, and others to fend for themselves.

They were no where to be found when Ghaidar was raping the pensioners and calling it shock therapy. And in the West, these champions of human rights did they ever criticize anything in the West?

I think not. It was all a pose. And it was left for hard men such as Putin to restore the state power in Russia.

Academic? An opportunistic wimp.

Keith Harbaugh

Colonel, at least on this issue I think you have a very articulate ally:
https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2020/06/30/the-insufferable-and-political-media-stupidity-around-the-russian-bounty-narrative/

Sample:
From this tenuous evidence footnoted with “according to multiple officials familiar with the intelligence”, democrat operatives in media desperately clutch their pearls and stake out another batch of apoplexy claiming President Trump is not doing anything about it.

Booby Hatch

Supposedly the NVA offered a $50000 reward for a captured US pilot. Our Ops O. was a living legend & Hanoi Hannah would address him by name when she offered a new dead or alive bounty on his head. Intel also said that NVA troops received a bicycle, a ball point pen & 2 weeks leave if they shot down a helo. Unfortunately for the 12.7mm gun crew that shot me down, an air strike killed them immediately after they exposed their position.

Leith

@David Habakkuk: "Of course, no ancestry – be it Lithuanian, or Polish, or Ukrainian, or whatever – ‘automatically’ produces bias."

You should tell that to the ones up-thread that suggested it did.

As far as Putin goes, I have never claimed nor implied that he wants conflict with the West. Any who claim that he does is/are mistaken. As I recall right after 9/11 the Kremlin provided both diplomatic help and tacit intelligence support to the US and Western alliance in Afghanistan. And back in 2006 I went to Bayonne NJ to see the Tears of Grief Memorial built by Russia and dedicated by Putin to the victims of the 9/11 terror attack since both of our countries had been victimized by international terrorism.

But for some reason all that goodwill dissipated. Why? I think there are some paranoid adults in both the West and Russia that still think there are boogeymen hiding under the bed or just across the border. It is probably true for every country in the world.

Leith

BoobyHatch -

It's good you are still vertical. I spent two months in the burn ward at Zama Hospital in Japan after the helo I was in got taken down on Charlie Ridge. But that was south of the DMV. Sounds like you were flying SAR up north?

Barbara Ann

"The House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday to put roadblocks on President Trump’s ability to withdraw from Afghanistan, including requiring an assessment on whether any country has offered incentives for the Taliban to attack U.S. and coalition troops."

How depressingly predictable. And people moan that Trump hasn't made good on his promises - what chance does he stand against this?

https://thehill.com/policy/defense/505568-house-panel-votes-to-constrain-afghan-drawdown-ask-for-assessment-on

turcopolier

Barbara Ann

Knuckle draggers. They are intent on re-fighting the Cold War.

David Habakkuk

TTG:

‘For a short time, the old system gave way to youthful idealists ... idealists with the knowledge and expertise to make things work. Those acquaintances of mine were in the thick of that bold experiment.’

When you demonstrated enthusiasm for the ‘Levellers’, I began to realise that there might be an impassable ideological abyss between us. Now I am certain that you belong in the ranks of my ancestral enemies.

I got out the – rather battered – copy of Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel ‘Darkness at Noon’ I bought in my young ‘teens, a central text in shaping the kind of ‘Cold War liberalism’ in which I was reared.

At a key point in the book, when the Rubashov is being interrogated by his fellow ‘Old Bolshevik’ Ivanov, the former raises the subject of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment.’

In response, his interrogator restates a central argument of the Russian – indeed, Western – tradition which that book had attacked:

‘“I don’t approve of mixing ideologies,” Ivanov continued. “There are only two conceptions of human ethics, and they are at opposite poles. One of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human units. The other starts from the basic principle that a collective aim justifies all means and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community – which may dispose of it as an experimentation rabbit or a sacrificial lamb. The first conception could be called anti-vivisection morality, the second, vivisection morality. Humbugs and dilettantes have always tried to mix the two conceptions; in practice, it is impossible.’

Interestingly, during the same period when you were making friends with a new generation of ‘vivisectionists’ in Moscow, the ‘Chief Political Analyst’ at the U.S. Moscow Embassy was E. Wayne Merry. In an interview for the ‘Return of the Czar’ programme which PBS put out in May 2000, shortly after Putin’s initial election as President, he recalled those times:

(See https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/yeltsin/interviews/ )

‘I remember, in the early ‘90s, I think the most poignant slogan that you saw in Russia during the demonstrations was, “no more experiments.” The people were terribly tired of being treated like laboratory rats. This effort to build the new socialist man, scientific socialism had left people feeling completely alienated from their authorities. And the one thing the Russian people wanted was, not to be treated like experimental material.’

Your phrase “idealists with the knowledge and expertise to make things work”, I must admit, makes me chuckle. In Britain in the previous decade, we had, as it were, been tossed out of the ‘socialist frying pan’, where the self-proclaimed descendants of the Levellers – ‘idealists’, some of them – were trying to cook us, into a ‘market fundamentalist’ fire.

Having seen close up the British broadcasting industry remodelled on the basis of the abstract theorising practised by the kind of economists, from Harvard and similar places, whose advice your ‘acquaintances’ sought, it had seemed to me that if the Clinton Administration unleashed such people on Russia, they would make what was likely to be a chaotic process much worse.

In this, I did have some sympathy for the ‘laboratory rats’ – aka, the Russian ‘deplorables.’

However, I must admit to more cynical, indeed one might say ‘Machiavellian’, calculations: perhaps it is my ‘cold “Perfidious Albionian” blood.’

If a ‘bold experiment; by ‘vivisectionists’, taking advice from people at the same university which hosts Zbigniew Brzezinski and Richard Pipes, turns out badly for the ‘laboratory rats’, they are, rather obviously, liable to ‘connect the dots.’

That the conclusions they are liable to draw may be way ‘off the mark’ is only partly relevant. It is necessary to be aware of what people do think, rather than confusing it with what one believes they ought to think.

But despite a mass of evidence about the depth of the disillusion with the West produced by the policies of Hillary Clinton’s husband, Strobe Talbott et al, people in London and Washington continue to cling to the fantasy that somehow, a basically pro-Western Russian population is being manipulated by Vladimir Putin’s ‘information operations.

Reverting to the ‘Levellers.’

One of the firm convictions I came to, over time, is that the argument Ivanov makes to Rubashov is quite precisely wrong.

What the ultimately unresolved nature of the argument in the novel actually reflects are basic tensions between different requirements of human life.

So one needs to admit that both the ‘moral’ side of the argument, and the ‘Machiavellian’, have cogency, and a prudent statecraft must find the best way of, as it were, ‘finessing’ tensions between imperatives inherently in conflict.

This was, in fact, very much the situation in which Oliver Cromwell found himself, in the spring of 1649. As you are doubtless aware, armies where there are very concrete grievances are commonly ‘easy meat’ for radical agitators, and if once they become uncontrollable, mayhem is liable to result.

In the case of the ‘New Model’, he had very deliberately promoted people of humble origins but strong Puritan convictions – wildly unrepresentative of their fellow countrymen – to create a force with the determination and skill needed to confront ‘cavaliers’ to whom fighting came naturally, and those who naturally followed them.

He needed, without the same material superiority, to defeat people similar to many of those who fought on the Southern side in your civil war: natural soldiers.

In the ‘forcing house’ of the ‘New Model’, an increasing radicalisation of ideas was come together with the rather understandable anger due to arrears of pay.

The response by Cromwell was to get something done about the arrears, while deploying a prompt and decisive, but limited use of force. When on 17 March 1649 the ‘Levellers’ in Burford Church surrendered, he simply shot three ringleaders, and the mutiny petered out.

As to Ireland, the issues are too complex to go into here. A very interesting presentation both of the case for the prosecution, and that for the defence, by the Cambridge historian John Morrill (actually a Catholic) is available on the website of the ‘Cromwell Association.’)

(See http://www.olivercromwell.org/wordpress/?page_id=1837 .)

An excerpt from the ‘defence case’ for Cromwell:

‘Thirdly, when he wrote that the sack of Drogheda would “tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future”, he meant it. It may be that Drogheda and Wexford were his Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the application of an economy of evil to save more lives in the long run. In the 17th century, as in the 20th century, that is a morally contested view. But it has not led to trials for war crimes. The intention was honourable.’

Actually, actually, I think General Milley could usefully study Cromwell. Irrespective of one’s judgements about the specifics of the Irish situation, the point that failure to act decisively early can very easily lead to ‘an effusion of blood in the future’ is one on which he, and others, might usefully reflect.

Another, related issue, is that – initially in part as a result of having read Dostoevsky’s ‘Devils’, not long after ‘Darkness at Noon’ – some of the people who most terrify me are ‘liberals’ who can see ‘no enemies to the Left’, and in fact have a kind of ‘tendresse’ for those who are fomenting anarchy.

As to the question of the temperature of the ‘blood’ of Putin and his associates, I really cannot comment.

At the moment, however, the co-conspirators of Christopher Steele, seemingly with the collusion of Inspector-General Horowitz, appear to be trying to make him the ‘patsy.’ In their attempts to make this ‘stick’, they have attributed to him a degree of imbecility which suggests that he should never have been employed by MI6 as a security guard, let alone a key Russia analyst.

Perhaps, then, it is time to revisit the notion that the original investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, in which the former head of the MI6 Russia Desk clearly played a crucial role, was a masterpiece of forensic acuity.

A ‘friend’ of mine on ‘Facebook’, Eric Kraus, a wise and witty commentator on Russian affairs, recently reposted a comment I made on his page at the time in the middle of Sir Robert Owen’s Inquiry into the death of Litvinenko.

(See https://www.facebook.com/krausmoscow/posts/10158738050628103 .)

Updates on what has emerged in recent months were posted by me in response to the comment.

A key point I stressed in these is that Lugovoi quite clearly feared that Western and Russian intelligence agencies might collude to make him the ‘patsy’, as neither wanted the actual truth about how and why polonium-210 was smuggled into London to come to light. And, in my view, he was probably right.

As he does not scare easily, Litvinenko’s supposed assassin took steps to render this possibility moot. From the transcript of his cross-examination in the High Court on 17-18 April, it seems to me evident that Steele is hinting that he could conceivably take drastic steps to prevent his being made ‘the patsy.’ Probably, however, the danger can be ‘headed off.’

(See https://www.scribd.com/document/458992503/Steele-deposition .)

turcopolier

Habakkuk et al

I find that TTG's political polemics have expanded to such an extent that I can no longer tolerate it.

Kilo 4/11

@ Habakkuk
988 was not the conversion of “Russia” nor the pivotal moment in “Russian” history; “Russia” wouldn’t come into existence for another 6 centuries. 988 was the conversion of the Kyivan Rus’; IOW, a pivotal moment for the Ukrainian people.

Ukrainians of the World War 2 generation I’ve spoken with considered “Rus” to mean “red”, or “fair”, in reference to the red and blond haired descendants, prevalent on the territory of Ukraine but not in Russia, of the Scandinavian Rurikid tribes who, along with other local tribes, formed the basis of the Kyivan Rus' Kingdom, the forerunner of Ukraine and Belarus. Rus’ also is related to the Latin word for countryside; unurban. Other variations, such as ros and rhos, referred to “people who rowed”, and “people who flowed or moved”, as the original Scandinavian river traders and colonizers did. In any case, not to today’s Russia.

As for the supposed “sacredness” of Crimea to Russia: Long before Muscovy became Russia, long before Russia became involved with Crimea, it was a launch site for Ukrainian Cossack raiding parties who took their light chaika boats all the way to Byzantium and raided the city. During this time, they also raided Caiffa and liberated 20,000 slaves from the Turks.

It is a lie that “banderistas” and “neonazis” have any power in Ukraine. Unlike in Russia, where the former communists are riding high, never having paid a price for their 70 years of crimes, in Ukraine the “neo-nazi” is an ongoing figment and tool of Russian propaganda. The Kremlin’s reflex reaction to any resistance to Russian hegemony is to label it “nazi” and “fascist”. In fact, Ukraine was the only country occupied by the Wehrmacht that specifically demanded their own independence and the chance to fight the Bolsheviks on their own. For this they were put under the strictest direct control of Berlin and Bandera was imprisoned.

It is a mystery known only to you initiates why Ukraine, which has never invaded anybody, which sacrificed oceans of blood for the USSR in WW 2 only to be repaid with brutal occupation, more starvation, and the suppression of any national feeling, is heaped with obloquy and sneeringly dismissed as the “ ‘insulted and injured”.

You keep going back to Chamberlain and the condemnation he received for “appeasement”, as if that is relevant to those who condemn Russia for its war on Ukraine today. Your convoluted argument about Chamberlain and the charge of “appeasement” notwithstanding, Chamberlain’s situation was nothing like that which confronts today’s Ukraine. Germany had not fired a shot at Britain in ‘38. Since 2014, Ukraine has lost 3,094 men and over 12,000 wounded - all casualties on Ukrainian soil - and a valuable piece of its territory to this Russian aggression that you want to excuse.

As for your disingenuous argument that Putin is no reincarnation of Stalin: call him Catherine the Great, then. Since 2012, when Putin first began to talk of “historical Russia” his policy is patently the same as hers - expansion and aggrandizement.

Kilo 4/11

@ Diana
Our school's preparations for Armageddon didn't go as far as yours, (and now I'm wondering why not?) but I'll never forget watching the skies for incoming ICBMs on the way home from school in October, '62. Apparently, however, we owe our continued existence to a Russian naval officer, who waited a crucial few seconds more than he was supposed to before firing on an advancing U.S. warship, and as a result, got the word that he was to stand down. Credit where credit is due ...

@Fred
The way I read it, TTG didn't claim the Russian interference won the election for Trump, just that it happened. But I concede that only when the Russians get good enough to manufacture millions of actual votes for a candidate, as the dems did for hilldog, is there ground for complaint.

@makkinejad
What does alleged American involvement in the drug trade have to do with it? Are you saying that it's ok for the Russians to offer that as an excuse for continued support or encouragement of the Taliban?

turcopolier

kilo 4/11

The Dems are implying that Russian support made Trump president. Hillary implies it every time she opens her mouth and so does Pelosi.

Kilo 4/11

Colonel,

They sure are. I believe it's part of their identity now.

Happy Independence Day to you and SWMBO.

fakebot

https://thegrayzone.com/2020/07/07/pentagon-afghan-bountygate-us-intelligence-agencies/

The Times reported first on June 28, then again on June 30, that a large amount of cash found at a “Taliban outpost” or a “Taliban site” had led U.S. intelligence to suspect the Russian plot. But the Times had to walk that claim back, revealing on July 1 that the raid that turned up $500,000 in cash had in fact targeted the Kabul home of Rahmatullah Azizi, an Afghan businessmen said to have been involved in both drug trafficking and contracting for part of the billions of dollars the United States spent on construction projects.

...

The information provided by “captured militants and criminals” under “interrogation” had been the main source of suspicion of a Russian bounty scheme in Afghanistan. But those “militants and criminals” turned out to be thirteen relatives and business associates of the businessman whose house was raided.

...

those raids had actually been carried out exclusively by the Afghan intelligence service known as the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

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