Russia

Don’t Panic! Lighten Up! Smiley Skripal case forces scientists to revise everything they thought they knew about Novichok

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/05/2018 - 5:18am in

Warning: This article is likely to contain traces of satire. In the aftermath of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4th March, scientists are currently re-evaluating their understanding of A-234 – or Novichok as it is more commonly known. Prior to the poisoning, it had been thought that the substance was around 5-8 times more toxic than VX nerve agent, and therefore that just a tiny drop would be likely to kill a person within minutes or possibly even seconds of them coming into contact with it. In the unlikely event of a person surviving, it was believed that their central nervous system would be completely destroyed, and that they would suffer numerous chronic health issues, including cirrhosis, toxic hepatitis, and epilepsy before dying a premature and miserable death, probably within a year or so. However, according to an anonymous source at the Porton Down laboratory, which is located just a few miles down the road from Salisbury, scientists now believe they may have completely misunderstood the properties and effects of …

MH17: “New evidence”, same issues

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/05/2018 - 12:30am in

Nearly four years since the incident, and over two years since they last reported any progress, the MH17 Joint Investigative Team (JIT) have held a press conference. To underline their previous position – they still think Russia did it. The timing of this statement could be seen as very politically convenient for the NATO allies and the Kiev regime. The West would have you believe that the proximity to the World Cup is purely coincidental. Whilst those suggesting that this is a great cover for Ukraine’s renewed shelling of separatists regions in the Donbass will surely be dismissed as “apologists” or “cynics”. None of that is really the issue though. Whether they truly have “new evidence”, or whether this is just a rehash of discredited Bellingcat nonsense, is immaterial. If the politically convenient timing is a coincidence or a stunt does not matter. The most important point is that the JIT is fatally and irredeemably flawed. The JIT, made up of investigators from Australia, the Netherlands, Malaysia and Ukraine…but not Russia, has obvious credibility problems …

PropOrNot – Setting Up the Atlantic Council for Lawsuits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 2:25pm in

Some sleuthing into who might be backing the low-life hit men at PropOrNot, a group linked to Ukrainian fascists that defamed Naked Capitalism, ConsortiumNews, Counterpunch, the Ron Paul Institute, Paul Craig Roberts, Black Agenda Report, and other sites.

Whose words was Yulia reading?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 7:00am in

Tags 

Featured, Russia, UK

Yulia Skripal’s surprise video statement and walkabout yesterday has, as usual in this case, raised more questions than it has provided answers. The MSM has predictably addressed none of those questions and been content to simply air the video along with portions of her statement, laced with anti-Russian commentary and distorted summaries of the backstory (see here and here and here). Fortunately those in the alt media are free to try to do a little better.

*Meanwhile, in the Russian disinformation factory

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/05/2018 - 5:02am in

*Meanwhile, in the Russian disinformation factory

Boris Blusters as Thornberry Tells Him to Resign

I’ve already put one piece up, commenting on how Boris ran from the chamber when Emily Thornberry rose to ask for the government’s comment about the Gaza massacre. Just as he also ran away from her in February, when she terrified him with a question about Northern Ireland. And in this short video from RT, she lays into Johnson again, over the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Mike reported last week that the Iranians had added yet another trumped up charge to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s list of spurious crimes, and increased her sentence. This time she has been charged with spreading propaganda. It’s sheer nonsense, of course, but it shows the arbitrary, despotic nature of the regime.

However, this woman’s plight has been compounded by the sheer, hamfisted incompetence of the current Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. The Iranian government claimed that she was really spying, and had been teaching journalism during her stay in the country. She hadn’t. She’d actually been taking her daughter, Gabrielle, to meet her Iranian family. Boris, however, decided to leap in with both feet, and claimed in a TV interview that she had indeed been teaching journalism, thus apparently confirming the Iranians’ charges.

There was naturally an outcry against Boris for so ignorantly making the situation worse. So Michael Gove decided to exercise his minuscule intellect, and appeared on television to defend BoJo. And he made matters worse, by stating in an interview that ‘we don’t know what she’s doing’. In fact, the government knew perfectly well what she was doing, and BoJo and Gove only had to look at the briefing papers. Neither of them appear to have bothered. This wouldn’t have surprised Ken Livingstone, who said that Boris often didn’t read them.

Mike in his article about the issue raised the obvious question of why Boris Johnson is still Foreign Secretary, considering all he’s done is make matters worse. He concluded that he is only there, because someone wants him there, not because he has any talent.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/21/innocent-brit-faces-more-years-in-iranian-jail-tory-who-failed-to-rescue-her-is-still-foreign-secretary/

In the video, Thornberry turns her attention to Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, and asks how many times more times must Boris this happen? How many more times must he insult our international partners and damage our international relations, and imperil British nationals abroad, before Tweezer sacks him? And if she doesn’t, because she doesn’t have the strength or authority perhaps Boris himself should show a bit of personal authority that this job, where words have gravity and actions have consequences, is not for him.

BoJo then bounces up and starts blustering, stating that it is unfair to attack the Foreign Office, that have been working day and night so secure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. To which Thornberry simply mouthes ‘Just you’, pointing to the fatuous buffoon. He then goes on to claim that her comments are a distraction from the people, who are really responsible for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation.

This then provokes heated remarks from both sides, with the Deputy Speaker crying for order.

Boris is right that the people really responsible for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment are the Iranians. But they’ve been assisted in this by Boris’ massive incompetence. It’s also very clear to me that they’re holding her as a political bargaining chip. When they first imprisoned her, Boris ended flying out to Tehran, and Britain mysteriously unlocked about £250 million of Iranian funds, that had previously been frozen in banks over here. Both sides claimed that this was unrelated to Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment, but it looks far too much that it was very much connected for the excuse that it was all coincidence to be at all convincing. The problem is that the Iranians have learned that all they have to do is retain Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and add a few more years to her sentence, and the government will automatically try anything to secure her release. Try and fail, because she’s too big an asset for them to throw away now.

And I think that the fresh charges they’ve drummed up against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe are not unrelated to the current crisis in American-Iranian relations. America has imposed sanctions on Iran, and has blocked them from using the dollar as their currency of international trade. Even third party companies, who are not American, are prevented from trading with Iran in dollars, if they wish to do business in America. This is intended to make it difficult for the Iranians to trade oil, as the Americans have made the dollar the international trade currency for it. This has the benefit, for the Americans, of boosting their economy. If the world stopped using the petrodollar, and switched to another currency, the American economy would be devastated. Hence one possible motive for the Americans’ overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi was because the Libyan dictator was planning to ditch the dollar, and set up the dinar as an alternative trade currency. Venezuela was also planning to ditch the dollar. And the Russians and Chinese have also made similar plans.
And the Iranians have gone through with theirs, and replaced the dollar with the euro. This has resulted in Trump and his colleagues going berserk, and threatening all kinds of reprisals against Iran and Europe.

Also, while many Iranians are probably quietly in favour of better relations with the West, official Iranian ideology demonises both America and Britain. America is ‘the great Satan’, while Britain is ‘the little Satan’. And there is much popular suspicion and hatred of Britain as the country’s former colonial master. The country was never formally incorporated into the British Empire, but we owned their oil industry and interfered many times in their politics from the 19th century onwards. The Qajar shahs were overthrown and replaced with the Pahlavis because they took out loans with us for modernisation, which they could not repay. And we overthrew their last, democratically elected president, Mossadeq, because he nationalised the Iranian oil industry. The Iranians therefore have a saying, ‘If there’s a pebble in your path, it was put there by a Brit.’

The Iranian dissident, Shirin Ebadi, has said that so great is this popular hatred of Britain, America and the West, that it is actually harmful for them to support Iranian dissident movements. When that is done, the Iranian authorities try to undermine them by claiming that these are subversive movements working against Iran with the country’s colonial enemies.

It therefore seems clear to me that the Iranians are keeping Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a possible bargaining chip in case of further confrontations with America over their switch from the petrodollar to euro. As well as Trump withdrawing from the nuclear treaty Obama signed with the Iranians. And the Iranian authorities are probably also keen to exploit the propaganda value of continuing Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment, while Britain impotently pleads for her release.

Boris is right that the real villains in this are the Iranians. But they’ve been assisted by his and Gove’s massive incompetence. Thornberry is right. It’s long past time Johnson was sacked. Not just because of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but because of all the other stupid mistakes he’s made, which have threatened our international relations, business interests and the welfare of our citizens abroad.

But Mike’s right. May won’t sack him, because he’s too dangerous to her outside the cabinet. So he will continue in his post as foreign secretary for as long as she’s in power.

Which means that, if we want to do something to improve diplomatic relations and free Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, they’ll both have to go.

Boris Runs Away from Questions on Gaza Massacre

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 22/05/2018 - 6:21pm in

This comes from Gordon Dimmack’s channel on YouTube. It’s his report and comments about Boris Johnson showing once again how massively unsuited he is to be foreign secretary. After the Gaza massacre, Labour’s Emily Thornberry rose to ask for the government’s statement on the mass murder, and how it would affect the peace process. As you can see from the video below, before Thornberry has even asked the question, Boris gets up and rushes out of the chamber almost as soon as Bercow announces that she is to speak.

The reason he does is, as Dimmack shows, parliamentary questions are tabled in a schedule given to MPs, so that they know exactly what questions they will be facing and which are going to be discussed. Boris therefore knew the question was coming, and definitely didn’t want to answer it. And so he did a runner.

And this isn’t the first time BoJo the Clown has run away from Thornberry. Dimmack himself says that he had a bit of Deja Vu when watching Boris. He then found that Boris had indeed done it once before. This was back in February, when Emily Thornberry tormented him by rising to ask a question about Northern Ireland. Johnson couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer that one either, and so he fled.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Boris Johnson is massively incompetent, and it’s a real mystery why he got the post in the first place. This is the man, whose ill-judged and erroneous comments resulted in the Iranians adding more years to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence, who started reciting the ‘Road to Mandalay’ in Thailand’s holiest Buddhist temple, and who managed to increase tensions with Russia during talks to calm them down. I suppose one answer to how he got the job in the first place was because the Tories were impressed with the way he handled the Chinese at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But I think the real reason is simply Tory internal politics. Boris is an inveterate intriguer, who can’t be trust for an instant. May wants to keep in the government, where she can keep an eye on him, rather than exclude him from power and give him the freedom to attack her. It looks to me very much like a case of the old saying ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer’.

But if that’s the real reason BoJo’s got the position, then it shows that Britain’s relations with the rest of the world, and issues of peace and international justice, are of much less importance than letting Tweezer cling on to power.

The U.S. won’t say ‘genocide’ but cares about Armenian democracy?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/05/2018 - 9:00pm in

Tags 

Russia, Turkey

by Max Parry “Did Armenia just dance its way to revolution?” Mass demonstrations that have shut down Armenia leading to the replacement of its prime minister have queued the obligatory western media push for regime change. Already dubbed a ‘Velvet Revolution’ after the 1989 protests that collapsed communist Czechoslovakia, there have been so many ‘color revolutions’ in former Soviet states that the colors are being recycled by the NGOs. The first crowds gathered in April in response to the Republican Party of Armenia’s decision to nominate outgoing leader Serzh Sargsyan as the sole candidate for Prime Minister after having already served as the country’s President since 2008. Despite its constitutional legality, this was perceived by many to be a consolidation of power as he would have retained the same authority since the country just transitioned to a prime ministerial system. Predictably, the western media commentary has framed the protests in the context of the new Cold War by emphasizing the ruling party’s links to ‘Kremlin oligarchs’ and Armenia’s presence within Russia’s sphere of influence. However, …

The /Other/ Russia Story

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/05/2018 - 6:58am in

It may seem like an odd time to bring up the other Russia story, this being the first anniversary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. But as it happens, there has been a break in this neglected case – or, rather, two of them.

It was slightly more than a year ago that President Trump fired FBI director James Comey and, the next day, told Russian officials visiting the Oval Office that Comey was “crazy, a real nut job.” He continued, “I faced great pressure because of Russia.  That’s taken off.”  Two weeks later Mueller was appointed, and his Russia investigation has only escalated since then, sprawling into several unexpected corners.

The New York Times offered readers a helpful graphic last winter: “Most of the stories under the ‘Russia’ umbrella generally fall into one of three categories: Russian cyber attacks; links to Russian officials and intermediaries; alleged obstruction.”

There is, however, another aspect of the Russia story, a category altogether missing in the Times’ classification scheme, an obviously thorny topic that almost no one wants to discuss: the proverbial elephant in the room.

It concerns the extensive background to the 2016 campaign – the relationship between the United States and Russia over the long arc of the twentieth century, and, especially, the years since the end of the Cold War.  This aspect is complicated, involving all five US  administrations since the Soviet Union dissolved itself at the end of 1991. It is a difficult story to tell.

I backed into it slowly, having followed for many years the Harvard-Russia scandal of the 1990s. In 1993, the US Agency for International Development, a semi-independent unit of the State Department, hired Harvard University’s Institute for International Development to provide technical economic assistance to the Russian government on its market reforms. Eight years later, the Justice Department sued Harvard for having let its team leaders go rogue.

Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer and his deputy, Jonathan Hay, were accused of investing in Russian securities, and of having established their wives at the head the line in the nascent Russian mutual fund industry. The suit was settled in 2005. The government recovered most of the money it had spent. The incident played a part in Harvard University president Lawrence Summers’s resignation the following winter. As Shleifer’s friend and mentor, Summers had distanced himself  via recusal.

After Boris Yeltsin had died, in 2007, I wrote a column about the failures of US policies in the 1990s. Thereafter I followed developments with increasing interest and alarm, particularly after the Ukraine crisis of 2014. And in the summer of 2016, when it seemed likely that Hillary Clinton would be elected president, I set out to collect some of the columns I had written and to add some additional narrative material in order to call attention to the entanglements she and her advisers would bring to the job. That project was supposed to take one year. It took two.

Because They Could: The Harvard Russia Scandal (and NATO Expansion) after Twenty-Five Years (CreateSpace) was finally published on Amazon last week – 300 pages and a relative bargain at $15. Alas, almost as quickly as the book went on sale, Amazon took it down, to make sure I actually owned the collected columns: their cloud computers had discovered these were also “freely available on the web” — in the archives of Economic Principals. Artificial intelligence at work: shoot first and ask questions afterwards.  As of May 24, Because They Could is back in print.The book consists of three main parts.

The first is a recap of the scandal as it appeared in the newspapers, from the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in August 1997; to Harvard’s decision, in March 2001, to try the case rather than settle the government suit; to September 2013, when Summers withdrew from the competition with Janet Yellen to head the Fed. These 29 columns, written as the story unfolded, introduce first-time readers to the scandal, and remind experts of what and when we knew and how we knew it.

The second part concerns the Portland, Maine, businessman whom the Harvard team leaders inveigled to start a mutual fund back-office firm in Russia, then forced out of its ownership. It turns out there was a second suit, overlooked for the most part because Harvard settled, paying an undisclosed sum in return for a non-disclosure agreement. This now-familiar tactic insured that John Keffer, whose Forum Financial at that point was one of the largest independently-owned mutual fund administrators in the world, and a significant presence in Poland, would be unable to tell his story. Only his filings and the massive documentation of the government case remained.

The third consists of six short essays on aspects of the US relationship with Russia since 1991. These relate a brief history of NATO expansion, which took place despite the administration of George H.W. Bush pledging in exchange for Russia agreeing to the reunification of Germany that the US would not further enlarge NATO; tell something of the US press corps in Moscow during those twenty-five years; identify a key issue in Russian historiography; express some sympathy for ordinary Russians and even for Vladimir Putin himself; and seek to separate the accidental presidency of Donald Trump from all the rest, the better to understand why he has so little standing in in the matter.

Also included is a short paean to the news values of The Wall Street Journal and two appendices. One is Shleifer’s letter to Harvard provost Albert Carnesale as the USAID investigation built to its climax. The other is the heavily-annotated business plan, drafted by Hay’s then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Hebert, later his wife, to make it appear to have been written by Hay, and backed financially by Shleifer’s wife, hedge-fund proprietor Nancy Zimmerman, offering control of Keffer’s company to Thomas Steyer, of Farallon Capital (who had been Ms. Zimmerman’s principal backer), and Peter Aldrich, of AEW Capital Management, a director of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Preparing to espouse these unpopular views has made me snap to attention on the rare occasions when they are expressed in the mainstream press – not on the op-ed pages, where they mostly represent reflexive ballast-balancing, but in the news pages, where some deeper form of institutional judgment is at work. That was the case last Sunday, when an 8,600-words article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine presented the case that the United States shared the blame for the current disorder. “The Quiet Americans” startled me (though not the designer, who illustrated it with a standard what-makes-Russia-tick? design). The dispatch itself was a significant advance in the other Russia story.

Keith Gessen, 43, is a Russian-born American novelist (A Terrible Country: A Novel) and journalist, a translator of Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich (Voices from Chernobyl). He is coeditor of n+1, a magazine of literature, politics, and culture based in New York City, and an assistant professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.  He is a younger brother of Masha Gessen, 51, author of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (2017) and The Man without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2013); their parents emigrated, with four children, from the USSR to the US in 1981. (As an adult, Masha Gessen returned to Russia in 1991, leaving for a second time in 2013.)

In the article, Gessen writes that “behind the visible façade of changing presidents and changing policy statements and changing styles, [those who influenced US policy toward Russia] were actually a small core of officials who not only executed policy but effectively determined it.”  Getting out of the mess requires retracing the steps by which we got into it, he writes; that means starting with the small group of experts known as “the Russia hands.”

Gessen identifies and interviews many of the analysts who were in the vanguard of NATO expansion: Victoria Nuland, former NATO ambassador under Bush who became Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia under President Obama; Daniel Fried, her predecessor under Bush; Stephen Sestanovich, ambassador to the Newly Independent Sates of the Former Soviet Union under President Clinton;  Richard Kuglar, a strategist who co-wrote an influential1994 RAND Corp. report advocating NATO expansion; and Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State for seven years  under President Clinton, “the first-high level Russia hand of the post-Cold War.”

Interleaved with their stories are those of their critics, analysts “deeply skeptical of the missionary impulse that has characterized Ameican policy  toward Russia for so long”:” Thomas Graham, of Kissinger Associates; Michael Kimmage, of the Catholic University of America; Olga Oliker, of the Institute for Strategic Studies; Michael Kofman, of the Wilson Center; Samuel Charap, of RAND Corp.;  Timothy Colton, of Harvard University; Angela Stent, of Georgetown University; and the former Brookings Institution duo of Clifford Gaddy, of Pennsylvania State University, and Fiona Hill, now serving as an advisor to President Trump.

Conspicuously missing from Gessen’s account are veterans of the first Bush administration, Jack Matlock,  ambassador to the USSR, in particular. Compensating for their absence are the anonymous quotations (in March) of a “senior official” of the Trump administration, “deeply knowledgeable and highly competent, which fits the description and the mindset of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. For something of Gessen’s take on Putin, see his long article last year in The Guardian: Killer, kleptocrat, genius, spy: the many myths of Vladimir Putin,

Many of these names also appear in the second half of  my book.  The story is broadly the same: that bedizened by its “victory” in the Cold War, the United States has consistently overreached. But there is an important difference.  Gessen concludes that the servants did it.  I ascribe the blame mostly to the American presidents who hired the hands, to Bill Clinton in particular, who with his Oxford roommate Talbott and friend Richard Holbrooke began the process of NATO expansion over experts’ objections; George W. Bush, who continued and ramped it up with his “Freedom Agenda”; and Barack Obama, who may have been more concerned with the limits of American power than his first Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, but who continued the policies of his predecessors.

On the central point, however, Gessen and I completely agree. We both think the US debate is seriously out of kilter. He quotes the legendary George Kennan, from his “Long Telegram” of 1946, which framed the long-term strategy of containment: “Much depends on the health and vigor of our own society.”  Gessen then concludes:

[American] society now looks sick. The absence of nuance on the Russia question – the embrace of Russia as America’s new-old supervillain – is probably best understood as a symptom of that sickness. And even as both parties gnash their teeth over Russia, politicians and experts alike seem to be in denial about mistakes made in the past and the lessons to be learned from them.

He might also have mentioned the mainstream press: The Washington Post, the WSJ, the Times itself, at least until last week. That’s why I depend on Johnson’s Russia List for my coverage of the topics.  For instance, I admire Bloomberg News columnist Leonid Bershidsky. I might not otherwise have seen his account of the “Who Lost Russia” debate last week between historian Stephen Cohen and former Obama Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. Bershidsky is right when he states, “These days, Russia is merely a big football for Americans.” More revealing than the yardage between the opposing goalposts that are McFaul and Cohen is the scrimmage taking place somewhere in between, as, for instance, in the difference of opinion between Gessen and me.  This other Russia story is just getting started.

The post The /Other/ Russia Story appeared first on Economic Principals.

Special Service’s Agent: Attack On Russia is Being Prepared

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 9:53am in

While the Pentagon accuses Russia of fomenting false fears of a Daesh/ISIS threat in Central Asia – see Sputnik’s article on this — new reports of an American push to attack Russia militarily via Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and are now emerging.  We’re reposting here Catehon’s May 19 article on this topic by Andrey Afanasyev. Sources in the Russian law enforcement agencies, citing data from closed communication channels with the Defense Ministries of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, say that the operation to prepare a large-scale hybrid offensive against Russia through Tajikistan and Uzbekistan is in the final phase. Reports of this have been received earlier, in particular, this was mentioned at a recent security conference held in Tashkent. Then the head of the Tajik Foreign Ministry Sirodzhiddin Aslov openly announced the activation of terrorists in the region: The activation of terrorist groups, their advancement to the northern regions of Afghanistan, especially in the territories bordering Tajikistan, the increase in the number of ISIS supporters, as well as the participation of a certain number of citizens of …

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