WAR. I didn't notice this at the time, but it's effectively a declaration of war against Russia. I will be writing more but, in essence, the US State Department official responsible for Russia has given the game away. "It continues to be among the foremost national security interests of the United States to prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by hostile powers. The central aim of the administration’s foreign policy is to prepare our nation to confront this challenge by systematically strengthening the military, economic and political fundaments of American power." It's a Mackinder war; so far fought by sanctions (the economic fundament) and propaganda (political fundament). Ignore details of the latest accusations against Russia (Star Wars, organic food); they're only there because, unlike the Romans, the Americans are uncomfortable about their imperium unless they drizzle moralistic cant over it. But think about it: when American businessmen outsourced manufacturing to China, Beijing took advantage of the gift. NATO expansion destroyed better relations with Russia. Washington alienates the Iran that its failed wars make more influential. Its wooing of India isn't going well (see below). Destruction is its policy in MENA. And CAATSA will alienate everyone else. I call it a series of unforced errors.
SKRIPALMANIA. Has now been completely outsourced to Bellingcat. Which tells the discerning observer two things: 1) there is no evidence 2) the truth is probably the opposite. (And for those of you who take Bellingcat seriously: become discerning.)
LATEST. Do the Russians spy? They'd be fools not to. Do I believe this? Not from these sources.
THE CONSPIRACY. Bit by bit, slowly (far too slowly) the story comes out. A DNC/FBI/CIA conspiracy to discredit Trump. I just read Shattered where it is stated that the Russia story was invented as the excuse for failure: but the book establishes that defeat was the consequence of never being able to articulate a reason to vote for her, a disorganised campaign and not observing the dissatisfaction that Sanders and Trump (and Bill Clinton) perceived. The Russia stuff is 1) a distraction from failure, 2) a hook on which to hang Trump and 3) propaganda for the "Mackinder war".
RETURN. Moscow has been quietly trying to get some of its rich emigrés to return. Here's one interesting story. I am amused by the conceptual difficulties the authors have with his story: fear for his life or that his money will be lifted? Berezovskiy – and just after begging Putin to let him back, Perepilichniy, Glushkov, Golubev and Skripal and Litvenenko. Russian exiles don't last as long in the UK as elsewhere; maybe GRU hitmen only have maps of England. And remember the "Cyprus haircut".
LAUNCH FAILURE. The emergency system worked and both passengers landed safely. Videos.
BATTLEFIELD TESTING. "Russia’s Military Operation in Syria: Three Years On" is a round-up of all the weapons they have tested. A lot.
S300s. Have been delivered to Syria – video. 24 S300PM launchers and 300-plus missiles. They were formerly in Russian service until replaced by S400s and were handed over for free. Tough talk from Israel. An alternative opinion: an Israeli writer thanks Russia for "saying to Israel: Stop right there".
AMERICA-HYSTERICA. The Daily Beast has forgotten the first rule of decision-based evidence-making when it says there's no evidence of Russian interference in US midterms: after the decision, you create the evidence. If the Dems win, then the Russians didn't; if the Repubs win, they must have.
INDIA. Putin visited and business was conducted. Washington will not be happy: Delhi will buy Russian warships and S400s and oil from Iran. Some think Delhi has capitulated to Washington but I don't agree. I think it's doing what every wise middle power does: don't be drawn into anyone's orbit and avoid offending the mighty. Beijing's very successful strategy: “hide your ambitions and disguise your claws”.
CHEAP AND STUPID. More nuggets from the Stupidity Mine. The US Navy will blockade Russia (are there no atlases in Washington?). Syria "that flopping cadaver of a regime". Britain will defend the Arctic from Russian land grabs (atlas please). Destroy Russian missiles. They're so frustrated: other people they've demonised have gone (Aidid, Saddam, Milosevic….) but Putin goes on and on.
US BIOWEAPON LAB? Suggested by a former Georgian minister; reiterated by the Russian MoD; denied by everybody else. Some reporting and a discussion; you decide; I don't know, information wars go both ways. This story, however, does seem to be real.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer