Will the War Clouds Pass Us By, Or Will the Storm Break? by Alastair Crooke


The compulsive hatred of President Putin in élite western circles has surpassed anything witnessed during the Cold War.  Western states have been hyping political hostility in almost every sphere: In Syria, in Ukraine, across the Middle East, in Eurasia, and now, this hatred has leached into the Security Council, leaving it irretrievably polarised — and paralysed.  This hostility has percolated too, across to all Russia’s allies, contaminating them. It potends – almost inevitably – further sanctions on Russia (and its friends) under the catch-all Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.  But the real question is: Does this collective hysteria portend war?

Ed Curtis reminds us of the almost parabolic escalation of antagonism in recent weeks: 

This has happened as the Russia-gate claims have fallen to pieces … All across the media spectrum, from the big name corporate stenographers like The New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, The Washington Post to The Atlantic and Nation magazines and other “leftist” publications such as Mother Jones and Who What Why, the Russia and Putin bashing has become hysterical in tone, joined as it is with an anti-Trump obsession … “Russia Sees Midterm Elections as a Chance to Sow Fresh Discord (NY Times, 2/13), “Russia Strongman [Putin] haspulled off one of the greatest acts of political sabotage in modern history” (The Atlantic, Jan. /Feb. 2018), “Mueller’s Latest Indictment Shows Trump Has Helped Putin Cover Up a Crime” (Mother Jones, 2/16/18), “A Russian Sightseeing Tour For Realists” (whowhatwhy.com, 2/7/18), etc.”

By casting Russia’s interference in the US presidential election as “an attack on American democracy” and thus “an act of war”, the ‘Covert American State’ is saying – implicitly – that just as the act of war at Pearl Harbour brought a retaliatory war upon Japan, so, pari passu, Russia’s effort to subvert America require similar retribution.

Across the Middle East – but especially in Syria – there is ample dry tinder for a conflagration, with incipient or existing conflicts between Turkey and the Kurds; between the Turkish Army and the Syrian Army; between Turkish forces and American forces in Manbij; between Syrian forces and American forces; between American forces and the USAF, and Russian servicemen and Russia’s aerospace forces; between American forces and Iranian forces, and last but not least, between Israel and Syria.

This is one heck of a pile of combustible material.  Plainly any incident amidst such compressed volatility may escalate dangerously.  But this is not the point.  The point is: Does all this Russia hysteria imply that the US is contemplating a war of choice against Russia, or in support of a re-set of the Middle East landscape to Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s benefit?  Will the US deliberately provoke Russia – by killing Russian servicemen, for example – in order to find pretext for a ‘bloody nose’ military action launched against Russia itself – for responding to the American provocation?

Inadvertent war is a distinct possibility, of course: Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are experiencing domestic leadership crises. Israel may overreach, and America may overreach, too, in its desire to support Israel. Indeed the constant portrayal of the US President as Putin’s puppet is pursued, of course, to taunt Trump into proving the opposite – by authorizing some or other action against Russia – albeit against his better instincts.

 At the Munich Security Conference, PM Netanyahu said:

“For some time I've been warning about this development [Iran’s alleged plan to complete a Shi’i crescent] I’ve made clear in word and deed that Israel has red lines it will enforce. Israel will continue to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria … We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act, if necessary, not just against Iran's proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.” 

And, at the same conference, US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster warned Saturday against increased Iranian efforts to support its proxies in the Middle East, saying the “time is now” to act against Tehran.

But what did McMaster mean by “time is now to act”?  Is he encouraging Israel to attack Hizbullah or Iranian-linked forces in Syria?  This, almost certainly, would lead to a three or four front war for Israel; yet there are good grounds for believing that the Israeli security establishment does not want to risk a three front war.  Possibly, McMaster was thinking more of full-spectrum hybrid, or COIN war, but not conventional war, especially since Israel cannot, any longer (after the shoot down of its F16), be sure of its air dominance, without which, it cannot expect, or hope, to prevail.

As senior Israeli officials complain about the gap between US rhetoric and action, General Josef Votel, the commander of Centcom, stated explicitly, by way of confirmation of the differing view, at a hearing in Congress on 28 February that, “countering Iran is not one of the coalition missions in Syria”. 

So – back to the Russia hysteria.  I do not believe that Syria is a practical locus for a war of choice either for the United States or Russia.  Both are circumscribed by the realities of Syria.  American forces there are not numerous: they are isolated, and dependent on allies – the Kurds – who are a minority in that part of Syria, who are divided, and who are disliked by the Arab population.  And Russian forces mostly consist of no more than 37 aircraft, and small numbers of Russian advisers and Russian supply lines are extended and vulnerable (in the Bosphorous).

No, the US aim in Syria is limited to denying any political success to either Presidents Putin or Assad. It is pure schadenfreude. The American occupation of north-east Syria is primarily about spitting in the face of Iran – i.e. the pursuit of a COIN war against an American, generational enemy.

And at the same time, at the macro, geo-strategic level, America has precisely been trying to ‘disarm’ Russia’s nuclear defences, and seize the advantage, by withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, and by deliberately surrounding Russia on its borders with anti-ballistic missiles (the ABM treaty provided for only one site on its territory – for each party – that would be protected from missile attack).  The US strategy effectively left Russia naked, in the nuclear sense. And that clearly was the intent. “With the build-up of the global US ABM missile system, the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is devaluated, and the strategic balance [was] broken”, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his State of the Nation Address yesterday. 

But then, as ‘the quartet of generals’ (effectively, General Petraeus is a part of the WH trinity of generals), having usurped America’s foreign policy out from the prerogative of the President and into their control, so US defence policy has metamorphosed beyond ‘Cold War’, to something far more aggressive – and dangerous: a precursor to ‘hot war’.

From the original Strategic Statement, casting Russia and China as ‘rivals and competitors’, the subsequent Defense Posture Statement elevated the latter from mere rivals, to ‘revisionist powers’, which is to say, dubbed them as seditionists committed to overturning the global order by military force (the definition of revisionist power).  The Statement placed great power competition above terrorism, as  the primordial threat facing America, and implied that this ‘revisionist’ threat to the American-led global order needed to be met.  American generals complained that their erstwhile, unchallenged global dominance of the skies, and of terrain, was being eroded by Russia acting as ‘arsonist’ [of stability] whilst presenting itself as the “fire-fighter” [in Syria].  America’s air dominance must be reasserted, General Votel implied.

But in a startling upending of the strategic balance and missile encirclement, that America has been seeking to impose on Russia, President Putin announced yesterday that:

“Those who for the past 15 years have been fueling the arms race, seeking advantages over Russia, imposing restrictions and sanctions, which are illegal from the standpoint of international law, in order to hinder our country’s development, particularly in the defence field, must hear this: all that you have been trying to prevent by this policy has happened. Attempts to restrain Russia have failed.” 

The Russian President announced a series of new weapons (including new nuclear-powered missiles invulnerable to any missile defence, hypersonic weapons, and underwater drones, inter alia), that remarkably return the situation to the status quo ante – one of mutually assured destruction (MAD), were NATO to contemplate attacking Russia.

President Putin said that he had repeatedly warned Washington not to deploy ABM missiles around Russia – “Nobody listened to us: [But] Listen now!”, he said:

"Our nuclear doctrine says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against her or her allies, or a conventional attack against us that threatens the very existence of the state."

"It is my duty to state this: Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, be it small-scale, medium-scale or any other scale, will be treated as a nuclear attack on our country. The response will be instant – and with all the relevant consequences” (emphasis added). 

President Putin underlined that he was not threatening America, nor did Russia have revanchist ambitions.  It was rather Russia simply using the only language that Washington understands.

Putin’s speech, accompanied by visuals of the new Russian weaponry, explains at least something of what has been going on in DC: America’s recent seizure by a madness for spending. The Pentagon must have got (some) wind of Russia’s advances – hence the huge increase in the budget for Defence planned for this year, and another 9% next year, and an unbudgeted commitment to fund a new nuclear submarine fleet, a replacement for the Minuteman missile system, and the development of new nuclear (tactical) weapons (costs unspecified). 

The expense will be prodigious for the US government. But Russia already has stolen the lead, and did this with government debt, as a percentage of nominal GDP, standing at only 12.6%, whereas America debt’s already is at 105% of GDP (before the weapons upgrade has begun).   President Reagan is credited with busting the USSR economically by forcing it into an arms race, but now it is the US that is vulnerable to its mountain of debt – should the US try to reverse Putin’s Spring ‘surprise’, and (if it can), restore its global conventional and nuclear primacy.

So, America has a choice: either to re-set the relationship with Russia (i.e. pursue détente), or, risk running a US borrowing requirement that busts the credibility of the dollar.  The US, culturally, is accustomed to acting militarily ‘where, when and how’ it decides so to do.  It will probably be culturally unable to abstain from this well-practiced habit.  Therefore, a weak dollar and rising debt servicing costs seems inevitable: thus, the rôles seem set for a reversal from the Reagan era. Then it was Russia that overreached, trying to catch up with the US. Now, it may be the vice versa.

The hysteric anti-Russian rhetoric will continue – so deeply embedded is it as an ‘article of faith’ – but it seems likely that America will need to reconsider before further provoking Russia in Syria. If America is now unwilling to ‘bloody Russia’s nose’ over some escalation in Syria, then its isolated and vulnerable military outposts in eastern Syria will loose much of their point, or begin to take casualties, or both.

The question now must be how Russia’s exercise in speaking ‘truth to power’ will play on America’s policy towards North Korea. The US ‘generals’ will not like President Putin’s message, but there is probably little that they can do about it. But North Korea is different. Just as Britain, at its moment of weakness, in the wake of WW2, wanted the world to know that it remained strong (though the signs of its weakened state were evident to all), it sought to demonstrate its continued power through the disastrous Suez Campaign.  Let us hope North Korea does not become America’s ‘Suez moment’.



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54 Responses to Will the War Clouds Pass Us By, Or Will the Storm Break? by Alastair Crooke

  1. Peter AU says:

    It seems Russia was able to develop all these weapons, right up to the testing phase, in total secrecy. Testing, impossible to conceal, would have been undertaken over the last two years or so, which fits the time frame for US looking at upgrading their weapons. US ABM defense, a big part of US military future, what twenty years in the making for US? is now null and void.

  2. Christian Chuba says:

    If I know my country our reaction will be, ‘we beat them in space race, we beat them in the 80’s arms race, and dog gone it, we will beat them again’.
    We have no interest in examining how we got here or who triggered it. All we see is that a gauntlet has been thrown down. We will go into even more massive deficit spending to whip them again and won’t think about it again until we are eating out of garbage cans.
    I’m angry at the professional Cold Warriors but even more angry at the MSM. Just today, I heard a Russian expert (aka hater) on FOX intone that Russia never had anything to worry about with our ABM systems because it can’t a massive first strike. I naively expected the lady host to ask, ‘but maybe they are worried that it would be able to stop a retaliatory strike after we send them to hades’. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Instead, Eboni Williams (mentioning her name to show that I’m not hallucinating, any of them would have reacted the same way), her eyes opened wide, ‘we must improve our defenses to stop them’.
    There you go, the FOX host, not only didn’t see through the guests straw man argument but took it as a given that the U.S. should be able to nuke Russia out of existence with no consequences for us. The entire premise of the START treaty was to preserve MAD with a smaller nuke force to reduce accidents. Mr. Naive again, why should I expect the host to know that or the expert to inform her that MAD is the expected norm.

  3. catherine says:

    ”The point is, ladies and gentleman, that war, for lack of a better word, is good. War is right, war works. War clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. War, in all of its forms; war for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
    So say the fellows who qualify to sit it out in well stocked gov bunkers and watch it on TV.

  4. Lars says:

    When you qualify any anti-Russian sentiment as “hysteric”, you lose a lot of credibility. No doubt there is a lot of noise, but the reality is that economically Russia is a basket case and the US is rapidly joining them.
    For the next decade, we are faced with an unstable world and that will cause a lot of damage. However, it is unlikely that it will result in the massive land wars of the past. The biggest potential adversary to both the US and Russia is China. The battle field will be the communications platforms. The good new is that they will remain fragmented and technology will more than likely make it even more so, which will thankfully and eventually localize information, as global solutions are increasingly rejected.
    As with these pages, there are a lot of conspiracies published right now, but as they are increasingly dispatched, a standard will be developed. Some will agree with it and others will not and will thus migrate elsewhere. This will be repeated all over the Internet.
    I was an early user of the Internet and it quickly became a rather awful place where people were exchanging views. It soon became evident that was not sustainable and things changed. Like in a pond, the scum will rise, until encountering sunlight, when it is transformed and sinks to the bottom, never to be seen again, unless you dig very deep. But the cream will assemble at the top.

  5. Barbara Ann says:

    I was an early user of the Internet and it quickly became a rather awful place..

    Any causality implied in that statement Lars?

  6. Oh, by the way, according to NBC, Mueller is going to indict the Russians that carried out the DNC hack…
    Let me get my laugh in early.

  7. Anna says:

    “…the reality is that economically Russia is a basket case and the US is rapidly joining them.”
    –Are you aware of the environment in which the last several generations of Russians grew up, as compared to the US prosperity and the absence of major wars on the territory of North America? The sanctions (illegal, btw) have improved the “local” economy in Russia. How well the US population at large will be able to adjust to the approaching decline in living standards?
    “The biggest potential adversary to both the US and Russia is China.”
    — Doubtful. China is and will be less dangerous for Russia than the zionized US. The Chinese have been building and constructing, while the US has been spreading ruin and death for the satisfaction of mega war profiteers (banksters & weapon producers/dealers) and for the pleasure of the Lobby.

  8. FB Ali says:

    Crooke is correct in saying that US foreign and defence policies are now out of the hands of the President of the USA, and have been taken over by the ‘quartet of generals’. This is ominous for the world. The fact that one of the quartet appears to be Gen Petraeus makes it even more dangerous.
    These US generals have shown themselves to be shallow-minded believers in a doctrine of US invincibility and universal dominance that is no longer applicable to the world we live in. It is our misfortune that nothing Putin says or does will change their minds.
    US military and financial power is used mainly to maintain the US global empire. This worked best in countries ruled by dictators or an oligarchy, since their rulers and elite reaped the advantages accruing from this. The alternative that a resurgent China is presenting through its Belt and Road plans benefits the people of a country, and not just its ruling class. As people everywhere acquire more political rights and power, they will turn increasingly towards what China offers. The US global empire will gradually crumble.
    Will the US generals controlling its policy seek to stop and reverse this trend by asserting US military power in the only way left – using nuclear weapons? This is where the danger in the case of North Korea arises, as highlighted by Crooke. An angle he has not dealt with is that Russia may well prefer to see the US act thus.
    An exchange of nuclear weapons between the US and North Korea may appear to Vladimir Putin as preferable to the increasing risk of such an exchange between the US and Russia, as evidenced by evolving US military policy and the attitude of its generals. It is likely that a war between North Korea and the US will bring the latter back to reality, just as the Suez war did to the British.

  9. J says:

    A government agency that is part of the rabbit hole is DARPA. I often wonder just how much graft and corruption they have cloaked in their classified world, that neither you nor I have access to their accounting books.
    I would like to see a full audit of DARPA complete with a balance sheet down to the penny.
    Now DARPA is whining for more money, more m-o-n-e-y.
    A Hypersonic ‘Arms-Race’ Erupts As DARPA Director Demands More Funding To Counter Russia

  10. outthere says:

    Alastair Crooke knows as much about mideast (esp. HezB, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iran) as any person on earth who speaks english language.
    Wise man, wise words.
    I doubt USA will give peace a chance.
    Far more important to our leaders to preach war and remain in power.

  11. Anna says:

    Alternative media is trying to bring the MSM owners to senses (which is highly improbable): https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-03/zuesse-americas-news-media-foment-hate
    “… there is actually nothing at all in Russia which even begins to approach the outright nazi displays and rallies that are routine in today’s Ukraine, and some of which Ukrainian marches are publicly displaying symbols from Hitler’s regime — in fact, it’s all outright illegal in Russia, which had lost (by far) more of its citizens to Germany’s Nazis (13,950,000, or 12.7% of its population) than did any other country (except Belarus — another state within the Soviet Union — which lost 25.3% of its population). …
    — On the civil war in Ukraine: “The US regime foisted nazi rule on Ukraine, and backs the ethnic-cleansing program there to kill or else cause to flee from Ukraine into Russia the residents in Ukraine’s far-eastern Donbass region, in which over 90% of the people had voted for the democratically elected Ukrainian President that the US regime overthrew and replaced by fascists and nazis, in February 2014. Obama needed to get rid of those intensely anti-nazi voters, because otherwise the regime that he installed wouldn’t have lasted beyond the first post-coup election. That’s the purpose of ethnic cleansing – to get rid of unwanted voters.”
    — Rather a convincing explanation. One wonders, where are the veterans’ organizations and the senior-level brass and how come that the US has exposed itself as a protector of the self-proclaimed (not hypothetical) nazis? Where are the activists from the Holocaust biz?

  12. likbez says:

    The compulsive hatred of President Putin in élite western circles has surpassed anything witnessed during the Cold War.  Western states have been hyping political hostility in almost every sphere: In Syria, in Ukraine, across the Middle East, in Eurasia, and now, this hatred has leached into the Security Council, leaving it irretrievably polarised — and paralysed.  This hostility has percolated too, across to all Russia’s allies, contaminating them. It potends – almost inevitably – further sanctions on Russia (and its friends) under the catch-all Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.  But the real question is: Does this collective hysteria portend war?

    Not necessary. With MAD temporary restored on a new level the benefits of the first strike against Russia (if such plans existed) are null and void.
    Moreover spending of the current generation of missile defense systems should be partially written off, as their efficiently is not highly questionable (but they can be repurposed into offensive weapons carrying cruise missiles and such)
    But the new neo-McCarthyism campaign, which is now in full force in the USA, serves a different purpose than the preparation to the WWIII, and reached such scale and intensity for a quite different reason.
    Neoliberalism, which was the social system the the USA adoipted in 1970th and spread around the globe entered a deep crisis. And Russia is a very convenient scapegoat, which allow to avoid difficult question: what to do next as neoliberalism entered the phase of decline (also Russia as a scapegoat allows just to reuse Cold War stereotypes firmly engraved in minds of the considerable part of the US population.)
    The collapse of neoliberal ideology in 2008 and the collapse of support by the US population of neoliberal elite in 2016 threatens the USA role in the world and this the existence of global neoliberal empire. And, in more distant perspective (a decade of two), the status of dollar as a global reserve currency.
    And nobody knowns what to do with this situation, how to approach it.
    First it looked to me that the election of Trump was a sign that more forward looking part of the US elite was trying to organize a soft landing: declare victory for neoliberalism and slowly retreat from the large part of the expenses for maintaining the global neoliberal empire. Partially off-loading those costs on EU, Japan, Australia, etc.
    In this case enormous resources spent on MIC and empire per se can beredicted internally to placate restive population, and the deepening of the internal crisis on governance and the loss of confidence of population in the ruling elite, which demonstrated itself is such a dramatic manner in Hillary loss in 2016, can be probably be averted.
    I was wrong. Multinationals fully and tightly control the US neoliberal elite (and are an important part of it) and they will never allow this. Also large part of neoliberal elite is hell bent of world domination, and, like French aristocracy, “forgot nothing, and learned nothing” after 2016 elections.
    With the alarming level of degeneration of the elite clearly visible in both Trump Administration and Congress. But the process itself started long ago (people say that Nixon was the last “real” president ;-). To say nothing about top intelligence agencies honchos.
    In any case, it is clear that the US neoliberal elite still is hell-bent of world domination and is resistant to any change of the status quo. And I also noticed that, like in Rome, there is now an influential caste of “imperial servants” also hell-bent on maintaining the status quo.
    Which includes not only Pentagon, State Department which have a lot of staff living abroad. But also major intelligence agencies, closely connected with their counterparts (note role of UK-USA connections in Steele dossier) and as such fully “globalized/neoliberalized”, at least ideologically. As well the majority of the US Senate and House
    That blocks any possibility of change in the US foreign policy and budget priorities. It looks like MIC needs to be fed at all costs. And the power of the “deep state” is such that it took them just three months to emasculate Trump, and put him in line with previous policies.
    I would like to remind that Trumpism (or “economic nationalism” as it sometimes it is called) initially was pretty attractive proposition which included the following elements (most of which are anathema to classic neoliberalism):

    1. Rejection of neoliberal globalization;
    2. Rejection of unrestricted immigration;
    3. Fight against suppression of wages by multinationals via cheap imported labor;
    4. Fight against the elimination of meaningful, well-paying jobs via outsourcing and
      offshoring of manufacturing;
    5. Rejection of wars for enlargement and sustaining of neoliberal empire, especially
      NATO role as global policemen and wars for Washington client Israel in the Middle East;
    6. Détente with Russia;
    7. More pragmatic relations with Israel and suppression of Israeli agents of
    8. Revision of offshoring of manufacturing and relations with China and India, as well as addressing the problem of trade
    9. Rejection of total surveillance on all citizens;
    10. The cut of military expenses to one third or less of the current level and
      concentrating on revival on national infrastructure, education, and science.
    11. Abandonment of maintenance of the “sole superpower” status and global neoliberal
      empire for more practical and less costly “semi-isolationist” foreign policy;
    12. Closing of
      unnecessary foreign military bases and cutting aid to the current clients.

    The truth is that the moment, when the USA could change direction to the regime of “splendid isolation”, or whatever such move can be called, was lost.
    Moreover, despite Trump capitulation, the color revolution against him continued because he is not accepted as a legitimate POTUS by neoliberal elite, and, especially, neocons. Which further weakens the state. That’s another reason why neo-McCarthyism hysteria is still in full swing: it helps to compensate for the damage caused by slash-and-burn political infighting (which is a kind of soft civil war, if you wish)
    The problem with witch hunt against Russia is that can speed up the alliance of China and Russia, on most beneficial for China terms. If and when China-Russia alliance materialize, the containment of China would be even more difficult and costly, the threat to dollar more pronounced and all bets are off for the US led global neoliberal empire as “Silk road” project will eat it in Europe and Asia chunk by chunk.
    Neo-McCarthyism in this respect might be not such an absurd policy (and it does provide internal benefits in the form of consolidation of society against the fake external enemy — a classic trick described by Hermann Göring in his famous quote https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/33505-why-of-course-the-people-don-t-want-war-why-should ) as Putin is not eternal and this will be his last term in office. With clear signs of possible political crisis in Russia due to the weakness of the mechanisms for smooth transition of the power to a new leader, or even the selection of the new one.
    The danger is that instead of desirable new pro-European president (or at least a person who is inclined to cooperate with the West, but only on equal terms, like Putin) the next Russian president can be a fierce nationalist.

  13. J says:

    Sadly the peckerwood never been in combat JAG is back:
    Sen. Lindsey Graham is back wanting to throw other people’s kids under the war bus.

  14. aleksandar says:

    Russia is economically a ” basket case ” ?
    In your dreams.
    I will not give you all details about Russian economy, you should suffer a nervous breakdown.
    Next time, try to get real figures instead of posting here MSN propagande.

  15. Lars – I don’t understand the last three paragraphs of your comment so I may be missing your central point. However, I believe this sentence taken in isolation could do with qualifying:-
    “No doubt there is a lot of noise, but the reality is that economically Russia is a basket case and the US is rapidly joining them.”
    The picture one gets of Russia is of a country slowly digging itself out of the disintegrative corruption of the 90’s. Putin’s recent remarks indicate how slowly.
    President Carter’s characterisation of the US as now being an oligarchy shows the US slowly going the other way. Even including Germany that is the general picture in the West.
    Some recent remarks and examples from DH show the Russian people, or rather a substantial number of them, soberly and consciously preparing to address the threat from the West. Unless it’s all Russian PR there is a sense of national unity there, at least for many, and that is reflected by the Russian leadership.
    I’m afraid our host is correct when he characterises the current anti-Russian sentiment in the West as hysterical. That, however, is I believe largely top down. It is a product of PR from the media and from the Western politicians. Behind it is no deep sense of unity or national resolve. In fact we see the reverse – most Western countries are deeply divided within themselves.
    The Russians seem also to have escaped the demoralising effects of the more far out social trends in the US and other Western countries.
    Therefore, if we must see this in terms of conflict, we see a dramatically less powerful and dramatically poorer but essentially unified Russia facing up to a threat from a West that is far superior militarily and economically but that is divided in itself and slipping further into decline.
    This does of course lead to the unstable world you say we are faced with. Dangerously unstable. But I do not believe you are admitting to yourself that it is an instability we in the West are causing.

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think the term “basket case” in connection to economic conditions of a country, was used in regards to Bangladesh. Russia was never an economic power in comparison to the Western Diocleteans but she was involved and influential in European politics for centuries.

  17. Karel Whitman says:

    I have been reflecting about Reagan too in recent contributions here. Not least since Trump seemed to try to emulate the GOP’s greatest hero.
    From the original Strategic Statement, casting Russia and China as ‘rivals and competitors’, the subsequent Defense Posture Statement elevated the latter from mere rivals, to ‘revisionist powers’
    I stopped listening to McMaster at one point. Quite early really. I wish there was a transcript around. But on first sight there isn’t. But yes, ‘revisionist’ surfaced. As curiously enough this did: “rogue regimes (ME north East Asia) are developing the most destructive weapons on earth.”
    Maybe I listen to him now. Relevant parts start at 1:45.
    That said, what I still have huge troubles seemingly is to wrap my head around is the huge applause Trump got on SST, while it left me more then a little irritated, when delivering his foreign policy speech in April 2016. That was before Russia-Gate made news.

  18. kooshy says:

    “These US generals have shown themselves to be shallow-minded believers in a doctrine of US invincibility and universal dominance that is no longer applicable to the world we live in.”
    General Ali, if I remember correctly you reside in Canada, those who are brought up in and under US system, majority think of their country in this way, it’s part of the mentality that the system educates and trains it’s constituency, to think they are exceptional, invincible and above all others. From what I have learned, this is not unique to just these four generals, this is how even the regular police thinks regardless of state or community they serve. This is how every child has been thought early on.

  19. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think you are right, once I told an American that the United States will not survive a nuclear war with Russia; he seemed to have been offended.

  20. VietnamVet says:

    This week NBC News described the White House as “unglued”. The owner of Comcast that owns NBC, Brian L. Roberts (Barrack Obama’s friend), and the five other media moguls want Donald Trump gone. All that has stopped them so far are four Generals. This is highly unstable. The USA has already killed Russians in Syria. Turkey is heading towards attacking American troops in Manbij. U.S. trainers are in the trenches with Ukraine troops in the Donbass. Anyone who is against this madness is labeled as a Russian collaborator.
    Senator Lindsey Graham wants to attack North Korea. China promises to defend North Korea if attacked by the USA. If nuclear weapons are used by anyone; destroying Seoul, Pyongyang, Kyoto, Tokyo or Guam, the war will explode. China has 65 hardened ICBMs that can survive a first attack and destroy every major American city. Russia cannot sit out a world war blowing up directly South of Siberia.
    Simply put, Washington DC has become unhinged. The military is free to do whatever it wants. The western economic system is in slow-motion collapse. There is too much debt. Either the people will force the oligarchs to write down the debt and end the wars; or, fighting over the remains, the corrupt elite will kill off mankind.
    If somehow, the use of nuclear weapons is avoided; at best, South Korea, the heart of the Asian Economy, will be destroyed. The drumbeats for war with North Korea, Iran and/or Russia is crazy.

  21. turcopolier says:

    Alastair Crooke
    I agree that the “Four of Hearts” among the generals now running US foreign policy are a great danger. These men seem incapable of rising above the Russophobia that grew in the atmosphere of the Cold War. They yearn for world hegemony for the US and to see Russia and to a lesser extent China and Iran as obstacles to that dominion for the “city on a hill.” Trump is as yet indifferent to such matters and is in pursuit of his mercantilist view of economics. He has given the quartet too much leeway and they for some naïve reason are far too willing to listen to the Israelis always whispering in their ears. GC Marshall was right when he warned Truman against a future dominated by the existence of Israel. pl

  22. kooshy says:

    The first time i really understood and encounter this mentality, was in American government class back in 74 or 75, I even believed in it for a while.

  23. stefan says:

    Russia a basket case economy?
    I am a European expat living in Moscow. My cousin, who works for Mercedes at their HQ in Germany, came last month to visit me. After a few days in Moscow he told me: “Shit, there are more Mercs here, than in Stuttgart at HQ, where every mid level employee gets one as company benefit”.
    The “state” is rich, controls almost all mineral resources, biggest banks, airlines and many companies which do profits (e.g. Sberbank did 17 billion USD last year). Plus, here international corporates pay full tax, instead of 0% elsewhere, otherwise they are thrown out. Salaried taxes are 13%.
    Medium,small business and many salaried people is all black economy, so unaccounted in GDP. At the end Russia adds 10 billion each month to the state’s coffers, debts are about 17% of GDP, despite lots of infrastructure works (metro, roads, Crimea Bridge, …)
    As for the armaments, science, hi tech stuff, here a PhD’s employee costs you 15/20 k, where in US/Europe at least 100 k. And imagine here there special Maths based schools from age of 6. And Russian parents get crazy to get their kids in these schools. At my kids “super smart” expat school most of the local Russians do extra maths lessons at home, because british/american maths curriculum is crap they say.
    So consider rich state, cheap wages for abundant and extremely strong science PhDs.

  24. Not In Istanbul says:

    Stefan lists interesting anecdotes, but seems to forget Moscow is not Russia. Many of those signs of prosperity are merely the symbols of increasing inequality under a neoliberal system. Russia doesn’t provide any alternative to the American system, it only offers a possible moderation of unhinged American exceptionalism, a slower decent to the hell of an overtaxed world.
    You shouldn’t judge a system by the winners, but by the losers. Neoliberalism requires that nearly everyone loses for the rich to win.
    As someone who has lived in many places and worked with the poor and the rich alike, I can tell you that the rich have a boundless appetite for things that will never fulfill them. And the people who pay for that are the poor and the rest of the society (and the world).
    If you are intent on playing the neoliberal game, and one probably must play if they are welcomed into the walled gardens of expatistan, then you are feeding into the same system thats keep American exceptionalism alive and vibrant. The US thanks you for keeping the reserve status of the US dollar alive and well.

  25. Pacifca Advocate says:

    You, apparently, are looking at a very different place than the Russia our host is talking about.

  26. Sid Finster says:

    When I lived in Ukraine, it blew the minds of people who had been educated in the Soviet days that I was able to get into university without having first mastered basic subjects like multivariable calculus.
    The experience of Ukrainians who grew up under the post-Soviet system is rather different.

  27. Sid Finster says:

    I have been all up and down Russia. The whole country is crawling with smart people.

  28. Charles says:

    Indicting Seth Rich seems a bit cruel seeing as he is dead.

  29. TimmyB says:

    To boil it all down, we seem to have two choices, a reset of our relations with Russia, or an arms race with continued confrontations. In our country, to discover which policy our government will pursue, all one needs to ask is “Which policy will most enrich the already wealthy?” Here, I’m willing to bet the “further enriches arms dealers at public expense” side wins.

  30. Indeed.
    But indicting some random Russians who will never be extradited is also an exercise in futility. But of course the goal is propaganda, not prosecution.
    I know TTG is waiting with baited breath for the indictments, as he will claim this proves the DNC was hacked.
    As I said earlier, I laugh now rather than wait for my enjoyment.

  31. turcopolier says:

    “some random Russians” What’s the basis for calling those indicted “random Russians?” do you know something I don’t know? pl

  32. johnf says:

    Looks as though the next Litvenenko pack of lies is being lined up.
    “Critically ill man is former Russian spy
    A man who is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Wiltshire is a Russian national convicted of spying for Britain, the BBC understands.
    Sergei Skripal, 66, was granted refuge in the UK following a “spy swap” between the US and Russia in 2010.
    He and a woman, 33, were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.”

  33. Mike from the Galapagos says:

    although interesting, the article you cited validates some claims which are common talking points in the MSM but have been widely discredited in this blog and other authoritative corners of the independent media, like the so called use of chemical weapons by Damascus, or the so called invasion of Eastern Ukraine by Russian troops. Both are lies.

  34. Valissa says:

    A chance to chase some of the war clouds away… in Yemen…
    Stand Up For Peace, Call Your Senator https://www.antiwar.com/blog/2018/03/05/stand-up-for-peace-call-your-senator/
    During the month of March, the Senate will vote on ending U.S. military involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has plunged Yemen into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
    S.J.Res. 54 would withdraw U.S. armed forces from this war that is now entering its third year. Because Congress has never authorized this war, this legislation is required to come up for a vote on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.
    Call Your Senator and Urge Them to Support SJ Res. 54
    +1 (202) 899-8938
    Is there any chance that citizens could prevail on this issue?
    How invested is the Borg in the Yemen issue? Has the humanitarian crisis gotten bad enough for the US to address it?

  35. Yes. Since I don’t believe the Russian government hacked the DNC, then by definition it will likely be some random Russians indicted – either random Russians in the Russian government or random Russians not demonstrably connected to the Russian government.
    Either way it will establish nothing about the alleged DNC “hack”. It will be interesting to see if the indictment provides any actual evidence or is just another bill of assertions.

  36. Anna says:

    Tha basic educational system in Russia is uniform; please check this on your own. The following data is for 2014, when Russia was still considered for evaluation. Since then, the “reviewers” pretend that Russian Federation does not exists. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/09/13/24-7-wall-st-most-educated-countries/15460733/
    “These are the most educated countries in the world.
    1) Russian Federation
    > Pct. population with tertiary education: 53.5%
    > Tertiary education spending per student: $7,424 (the lowest)
    More than 53% of Russian adults between the ages of 25 and 64 had some form of higher education in 2012, more than in any other country reviewed by the OECD. The country has reached this exceptional level of attainment despite spending among the least on tertiary education. Russia’s tertiary education expenditure was just $7,424 per student in 2010, roughly half the OECD average of $13,957. Russia was also one of just a few countries where education spending declined between 2008 and 2012.”

  37. FourthAndLong says:

    Goof grief. Graham reminds me of a devious, conniving old time imperial eunuch.

  38. JW says:

    ‘The compulsive hatred of President Putin in élite western circles has surpassed anything witnessed during the Cold War.’
    Did that old video interview of Madeleine Albright lusting after Siberian natural resources actually exist, or was it just my imagination ?

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Hey, I said that first on an earlier thread; “round up the usual suspects.”

  40. Anna says:

    The system is rotten at the core: https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/the-politicization-of-the-fbi/
    “The Politicization of the FBI,” by Joseph E. diGenova, Former U.S. Attorney:
    “I spent my early legal career as a federal prosecutor. … I have never witnessed investigations so fraught with failure to fulfill the basic elements of a criminal probe as those conducted under James Comey. … A great disservice has been done to the dedicated men and women of the FBI by Comey and his seventh floor henchmen. A grand jury probe is long overdue.”

  41. Robert Bernard says:

    This site tracks influence operations by Russia:

  42. johnf says:

    The Litvenenko II story is the lead headline on every single British newspaper (bat one) this morning.
    The BBC website makes the points every other paper makes:
    “The parallels are striking with the 2006 case of Alexander Litvinenko.
    He, too, was a former Russian intelligence officer who had come to the UK and was taken ill for reasons that were initially unclear.
    In that case, it took weeks to establish that the cause was deliberate poisoning, and it took close to a decade before a public inquiry pointed the finger of blame at the Russian state.
    Officials are stressing that it is too early this time to speculate on what happened here or why.
    The police are not even yet saying a crime has been committed, but if the similarities do firm up and Moscow is once again found to be in the frame there will be questions about what kind of response might be required – and whether enough was done in the past to deter such activity being repeated.”
    In the early stories it was said they had been poisoned by some extremely toxic optoid derivative, but this meme now seems to have disappeared from the story. ( know nothing about optoids except that they are a big thing in The States).

  43. johnf says:

    Sorry, don’t know my optoids from my opioids. Tracked this down from The Guardian:
    “Earlier on Monday there were suggestions that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid many times stronger than heroin, which can be fatal in small doses, may have been involved in the incident.”

  44. Anna says:

    Kurt Volker, a regular profiteering opportunist of incompetent kind, is propagandizing more “democracy on the march” on the Russian borders. Note that a mass slaughter of civilian population has become a thing du jour for the US State Department: https://www.fort-russ.com/2018/03/trumps-kurt-volker-promotes-ethnic-cleansing-donbass/
    During a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute, Special Representative of the US State Department on Ukraine Kurt Volker issued a battle cry for ethnic cleansing in eastern Ukraine: “The so-called Lugansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic are the entities created by Russia with the aim of generating in place of political reality in order to help disguise the role of the Russian Federation and to strengthen the ongoing conflict, and they must be eliminated…”
    — Had this this weasel really believe that his audience was made of late-Alzheimer patients who did not remember the 2014 coup d’etat arranged by the unholy inion of the State Dept, the ziocon Kagans’ clan, and Ukrainian neo-Nazis? The coup has produced the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
    It has become a new normal among the State Dept. senior-level personal to show their lack of dignity and honesty. What kind of family has produced the bloody subhuman filth of Volker?

  45. SmoothieX12 says:

    Out of all this Litvinenko 2.0 BS may come some good. As much as I am a fan of EPL in general and FC Chelsea in particular, I hope England keeps her word and boycotts WC 2018. English National Team is just plain colorless. This boycott may open the berth for my (and huge swaths of Russian fans) beloved Italian National Team and GiGi Buffon will see his final WC sent-off. This is not a tongue in cheek statement–I really hope so. The moment this possibility was conveyed through English tabloids, the most upvoted post in comments section on one of the major Russia’s sports sides was: “Give us Italy!”
    Russians love them some of this Italian football.

  46. Sarah B says:

    Officials are stressing that it is too early this time to speculate on what happened here or why.

    Except maybe for Johnson, who has already opened his big mouth and menaced with withdrawing from the 2018 WC in case it is proven that the Russians did it.
    Such a sudden reaction, after the Federal Assembly Address, smells of false flag more than any other thing….
    Why the Russians would need to do such a clumsy performance right now? For not to mention the foggy Litvinenko, where their implication was not proved, along with other misterious deaths like that of Mr. Berezovsky, when it is said he was going to collaborate with the Russians after being pardoned by Mr. Putin
    Totally at odds with the flamant and lively project Mr. Putin presented before the assembly.
    I wonder what David Habakkuk has to say about this….

  47. johnf says:

    The tabloids and Boris the Buffoon have been pushing this Remove English Team from World Cup shit, but I can’t see any English politician surviving for ten minutes if they actually force this through.
    I’ve refused to watch this Litinvenko II shit on the television but I am assured by friends that the BBC have actually been approaching the story with some scepticism. Perhaps they could be regaining some independence.

  48. SmoothieX12 says:

    Looks like false alarm, UK’s Foreign Ministry rushed to “clarify” Boris’ statement that the only boycott will be “diplomatic”, whatever that means. No worry, English lads will be received with enthusiasm and, surely, will have their share of Russian fans. I remember Man U fans getting to Rostov last year on UEFA CL preliminaries with FC Rostov, they were absolutely stunned with the level of hospitality and friendliness.

  49. johnf says:

    I suspect and hope you’re right.
    I’m reading Alex Nunn’s book on Corbyn and one of the points he makes most convincingly is that the more the MSM overkill a point – Corbyn is a terrorist, Ban English team from Russia – the more people support whatever it is they are attacking.

  50. Thomas says:

    “Why the Russians would need to do such a clumsy performance right now?”
    They don’t and wouldn’t because they are professionals in the dark arts of statecraft.
    The actual perpetrators of this and other crimes would, and most probably did, because the fear is growing in their heartless souls that the whole facade is falling apart and their just rewards should be the union of rope with a lamppost. Their panic explains the sloppiness of recent acts and the corroborating published propaganda.
    As johnf states below, the more they do this BS dance the more they turn supporters and neutrals against them. While it is irritating and tiresome to deal with this day after day (twenty years ago it would take me from 30-45 minutes to read the morning paper,now 10 would be the longest if there is any quality articles), I say to them keeping on talking because your own words will eventually condemn you.

  51. johnf says:

    And they really expect us to believe that the Russians had him in prison for four years as a despised traitor and could have killed him quite easily at any time but instead let him be part of a prisoner exchange and then left him for years in Salisbury – conveniently close to Porton Down before suddenly deciding he’s the most evil man in the universe and must be wiped out in the middle of a Home Counties shopping mall.
    The Telegraph has even managed to get a direct quote “apparently”: “‘Traitors will kick the bucket’: Vladimir Putin swore revenge on poisoned Russian spy Sergei Skripal.”
    This is Ming the Merciless type stuff.
    Anyhow, as I said upthread the BBC does apparently manage to include a certain amount of scepticism in its coverage of this, as it did on last week’s great horror story – “Corbyn is a Czech spy.” Perhaps its because the Murdoch-ite James Harding has been kicked out of being Head of News at the BBC and his replacement is an old-fashioned BBC news editor who might be trying to get a bit more balance back into their coverage.

  52. outthere says:

    It seems certain that Skripal had many enemies, among whom were some with motivation, knowledge and experience in killing.
    Craig Murray points out that the Guardian speculates “about where the nerve agent could possibly have come from – while totally failing to mention the fact that incident took place only eight miles from the largest stock of nerve agent in western Europe.”
    Murray also says:
    I certainly hope that Skripal, his companion, and anybody else affected, recover fully from whatever has attacked them. But I moved long ago past a world view where my country are the “goodies” and Russians are the “baddies”, and instead I reached an understanding that those in power oppress the people, universally. The idea that the elaborate spy games between world intelligence agencies are a battle between right and wrong, is for the story books. They are all wrong, all part of a system where power over people is controlled for the benefit of the wealthy, and battles are over hard resources, whichever “side” you are on.

  53. Roland says:

    It’s ironic that Putin might be the most pro-Capitalist, pro-Cosmopolitan and pro-Western leader in all of Russian history. I don’t think there’s ever been so little ideological difference, at least in modern times, between Russian and Western leaders.
    The post-Cold War USA provides us with a rare historical example of a hegemonic power which is also a revisionist power. For it is the post-Cold War USA that has been busy toppling governments, redrawing boundaries, and rejecting old norms of international behaviour.
    It is rare that the most powerful state in a system seeks to make major changes; usually the hegemons want to maintain staus quo.

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