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Pat, Your recollections of Collyer had, unfortunately, slipped my mind when I posted my comment above. So, unfortunately, had Larry’s post on Judge Caroline M. Craven’s denial in her report dated 17 April 2019 of the Motion to Dismiss filed by David Folkenflik and his NPR colleagues in the defamation case brought against them by Ed Butowsky. At the time of his post, the full text of the judgement was only available on PACER, which requires a subscription. However, looking at the ‘Court Listener’ site, I now see that both it and some other key documents in the case are freely available. (See https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/7244731/butowsky-v-folkenflik/ .) Reading the full text of Ms. Craven’s report, I can see quite how well justified was Larry’s suggestion in his post that Folkenflik and NPR were on a very sticky wicket indeed (as we say in England.) And I can also see more clearly why, following the judgement, Butowsky and Ty Clevenger felt they were in a position to launch an action both against some of the major legal players in the cover-up of the fact that the materials published by the DNC were leaked by Seth Rich, not hacked by the Russians, and also key disseminators of the cover-up, CNN, the NYT, and Vox. The most important documents in that case are also now free available on ‘Court Listener’, at https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/14681570/butowsky-v-gottlieb/ . What looks to have happened subsequently is a natural enough process of escalation. Among those who rather actively promoted the hogwash attributed to Christopher Steele was Michael Isikoff, who is, apparently, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News. In April, he was reported in ‘Vanity Fair’ conceding that ‘I think it’s fair to say that all of us should have approached this, in retrospect, with more skepticism’. (See https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/04/the-steele-dossiers-moment-of-truth-arrives-journalists-argue-its-impact .) Any ‘investigative reporter’ worth his or her salt would have done elementary checks on the dossier immediately, and not touched it with a bargepole – again, as we used to say in England. Also, even among the incompetent and corrupt, common prudence might have suggested caution. However, ‘fools rush in’, as the saying goes, so Isikoff decided to conspire with Deborah Sines, apparently the former U.S. assistant attorney in charge of investigating Seth Rich’s murder, to suggest that suggestions that the victim had been the source of the material from the DNC published by ‘WikiLeaks’ originated as just another Russian plot. (See https://news.yahoo.com/exclusive-the-true-origins-of-the-seth-rich-conspiracy-a-yahoo-news-investigation-100000831.html .) It appears that prior to the publication of his ‘report’, Isikoff talked to Butowsky, who in his efforts to dissuade him explained that his involvement in the whole affair began when Ellen Ratner, a news analyst with Fox, and sister of the late Michael Ratner, who had been an attorney for Assange, contacted him in Fall 2016 about a meeting she had with her that figure. Although Butowsky intended the conversation to be ‘off the record’, and the idea was emphatically not that Isikoff would contact Ellen Ratner, he did. It seems that – not particularly surprisingly, in the current climate – she lied to him, and he was stupid enough to think that this meant he could get away with publishing his story. (See https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2019/07/breaking-lawsuit-outs-reporter-ellen-ratner-as-source-for-seth-rich-information/ .) And then, not particularly surprisingly, Butowsky and Clevenger abandoned their inhibitions about identifying Ellen Ratner as a source, and filled in a lot of ‘blanks’ in their ‘narrative’ about how Seth Rich lived and died. I am still in the process of digesting the new information. However, a couple of preliminary observations about the implications may be worth making. Among the many problems for Brennan and his co-conspirators – among whom, on the British side, Hannigan and Darroch, and also Sedwill, are very important – one relates to the way that the capabilities of ‘scientific forensics’, in all kinds of areas, have increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. This has meant that they have had little option but to corrupt the processes of investigation. The ludicrous claims by Dmitri Alperovitch of ‘Crowdstrike’ and the former GCHQ person Matt Tait, which nobody but a fool – congenital ‘useful idiot’ one might say – or a knave would dare to defend in public, are only one of many cases in point. What is really dangerous for the conspirators, however, is when the problems they have in contesting rational arguments about the ‘scientific forensics’ come together with problems relating to more ‘old-fashioned’ kinds of evidence: crucially, ‘witness testimony’. This, I think, may now be happening. It also seems to me quite likely that some of those ‘in the know’ – including perhaps Rosemary Collyer – had seen what was liable to happen a good while ago, and decided that a prudent ‘rat’ keeps its options open.
Larry, One does not like to admit to having been one of John Brennan’s ‘useful idiots’ – I had thought I could see through any of the ‘active measures’ which he and his co-conspirators, on both sides of the Atlantic, could dream up. But I had swallowed whole the notion that Michael Flynn had been stupid enough knowingly to get involved in Erdoğan’s feud with Gülen. In fairness, however, I do think that when dealing with spiders like the former head of the CIA, a prudent fly needs to be sure he, or she, gets competent legal advice at the outset. It may perhaps be interesting to put your account together with a post by ‘Sundance’ on the ‘Conservative Treehouse’ site on 14 July, headlined ‘Devin Nunes Discusses Upcoming Mueller Testimony…’ This takes up the issue, on which its author has commented extensively, of illegitimate access by contractors to the databases of NSA intercepts – an issue which is clearly bound up with that of the use of such material to create the ‘web’ in which Flynn found himself hopelessly entangled. The post by ‘Sundance’ suggests, just as you do, that the driving force behind what has happened was actually John Brennan. The April 2017 ruling by FISA Court Presiding Judge Rosemary Collyer does not definitely establish that the illegitimate access of contractors started in 2012, but it definitely strongly suggests that it did. Reading the 6 September ‘Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity’ memorandum to Obama, entitled ‘Is Syria a Trap?’, whose signatories included both you and Colonel Lang, it seemed overwhelmingly likely to some of us who were familiar with both your writings that Brennan had to have been involved in a conspiracy with the Turks, Saudis, and Qataris. (To my surprise, this can no longer be accessed at the ‘Consortium News’ site. However, it is still available at http://www.shoah.org.uk/2013/09/10/page/2/ .) One relevant question related to whether the role of the Americans involved in this conspiracy was simply ‘ex post facto’ exploitation of the patent ‘false flag’ sarin atrocity at Ghouta the previous 21 August to attempt to inveigle the United States into toppling Assad, or whether there was ‘ex ante’ complicity. Moreover, if, as the memorandum asserted, ‘British officials’ were also aware that the ‘most reliable intelligence’ exonerated the Syrian government, rather fundamental questions arose as to how the JIC had felt able to claim precisely the reverse in support of David Cameron’s unsuccessful attempt on 29 August to win Commons’ support for British participation in air strikes. At the time, the Director General, Defence and Intelligence at the FCO was one Robert Hannigan, who in April 2014 would be appointed as Director of GCHQ. The National Security Adviser was a certain Sir Kim Darroch, whose appointment as Ambassador to the U.S. would be announced in August 2015. Both have been in the news, in relation to ‘Russiagate.’ Obviously, the same question arises about both of them as about Brennan: are they ‘Gleiwitz types’, who were actively complicit in preparing a murderous ‘false flag’, or were they simply part of a rather stupid Anglo-American ‘dog’, whom the ‘tail’, in the shape of the jihadists and their Turkish, Saudi and Qatari backers, could ‘wag’, as they chose? From the articles which Seymour Hersh published in the ‘London Review of Books’, and other materials, it became evident that the Defense Intelligence Agency, then headed by General Flynn, had been aware of the likelihood of fresh ‘false flags’ – after the small scale incidents in spring 2013. And it was clear enough, if one bothered to study the ‘open source’ material at all carefully, that the DIA had been a key locus of opposition to the strategies being pursued by Brennan, together with his British co-conspirators. Accordingly, the fact that an ‘interagency memorandum of understanding’, which according to Collyer’s judgement looks as though it may well date from 2012 – the year Brennan was appointed to head the CIA – appears to have led, in that year, to the granting of access to the material, through the FBI, to outside contractors, looks somewhat interesting. (This is well covered by ‘Sundance’.) So, I find myself asking whether in fact this gross abuse of the role of the NSA was not linked at the outset to the divisions within the American intelligence apparatus and military about policy towards the Middle East, and also whether this may not be relevant to assessing the role of Robert Mueller, who was FBI Director through until September 2013. An argument that ‘Sundance’ has repeatedly made is that a lot of what was happening in mid-2016, including the dossier attributed to Steele, had to do with the need to find justifications for these questionable surveillance operations. While I think there is something in this, I have long thought that the discovery that a mass of material exfiltrated from the DNC, and was going to be published by ‘WikiLeaks’, and the subsequent murder of Seth Rich, are likely to have been critically important triggers. Among other things, I do not think that the version given by ‘Sundance’ can explain the air of panic-stricken improvisation found alike in the dossier, and the claims about the ‘digital forensics’ made by Dmitri Alperovitch of ‘CrowdStrike’, and the former GCHQ person Matt Tait. I see that there has now been a dramatic escalation in the legal battles which began when Ed Butowsky bought his initial action against David Folkenflik and his ‘NPR’ colleagues in June 2018. The discovery process in that action was followed by an ‘Amended Complaint’ on 5 March this year. A week later, Butowsky filed a new action, in which the suggestion of a very-wide ranging conspiracy to suppress the truth about both the DNC leaks and Rich’s murder was turned into a catalogue of defamation claims against a long list of people, including, as well as a variety of lawyers involved, CNN, the’Nw York Times’, Vox, and the DNC. On 9 July, Michael Isikoff published a story alleging that the claims about Rich and his murder were the result of a Russian ‘active measures’ operation – to use a favourite phrase of TTG’s. A useful account, with links, is provided by our colleague ‘b’, at ‘Moon of Alabama’, at https://www.moonofalabama.org/2019/07/isikoff-who-first-peddled-the-fake-steele-dossier-invents-new-russian-influence-story.html . Concluding his piece, ‘b’ wrote: ‘That Seth Rich was wacked because he stole the DNC emails and transferred them to Wikileaks is a conspiracy theory. It is possible and even plausible, but there is no evidence to confirm it. Many people seem to believe it because it makes more sense than the competing conspiracy theory, that Russia hacked the DNC and handed the emails to Wikileaks. Isikoff's claim, that Russia planted the Rich conspiracy theory, has no sound base. That theory existed before anything “Russian” mentioned it.’ As it happens, Butowsky and his lawyer, Ty Clevenger, obviously decided it was time to, as it were, ‘unmask their batteries’, and provide some of the evidence they have been accumulating. There is another useful post by ‘Sundance’, which in turn links to a very interesting post on the Gateway Pundit’ site. From there, you can access both Clevenger’s blog post, and the text of the ‘Amended Complaint.’ (See https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2019/07/15/lawsuit-claims-julian-assange-confirmed-dnc-emails-received-from-seth-rich-not-a-russian-hack/ .) It seems likely that Butowsky and Clevenger were pushed into acting a bit sooner than they had intended. The fact that the name of Ellen Ratner, clearly a pivotal participant, was misspellled ‘Rattner’ in the ‘Amended Complaint’, is likely to be an indication of this. However, I also think that Clevenger, who seems to me a first-class ‘ferret’, could do with the services of an old-style secretary, who checked his productions before they went out.
Eugene Owens, I am very fond of www.bookfinder.com. It searches through all available sites, and often comes up with surprising bargains. A year ago, I wanted to look again at the Herwarth book, and found a decent ex-library copy for £2.49, including postage. Apparently, a good copy can be obtained on your side of the Atlantic for $3.99. A bit of background to my own interest. Reading the memoirs of George Kennan, a long time ago now, I was struck by a passing reference to the German Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties as ‘at all times excellent.’ When I followed this up, I discovered that it was either ignored by Western historians, or incorporated in a ‘narrative’ about the sinister Germans corrupting innocent Americans. In fact, two memoirs by former officials of the Embassy have been available in English for years. The first, ‘Incompatible Allies’, written by the long-serving Embassy ‘Legionsrat’ Gustav Hilger in collaboration with a young Jewish refugee, Alfred Gustav Meyer, who had learned Russian courtesy of the U.S. Army, was published as long ago as 1953. It is now available at https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.136909/2015.136909.The-Incompatible-Allies-A-Memoir-History-Of-German-Soviet-Relations-1918-1941_djvu.txt The memoir by Herwarth was not published until 1981. The ‘backstory’ is interesting. A Junker with a Jewish grandmother, as well as serving as diplomat in Moscow from 1931-9, and then in the Wehrmact on the Eastern Front, he was involved from early on with the circles in the Foreign Ministry and General Staff where opposition to Hitler was concentrated. As a result, he realised, as Schulenberg and Hilger did not, that in the wake of the kind of agreement with the Soviet Union which all three of them had been energetically promoting, Germany would get involved in a war with the Western powers. This produced a dramatic ‘volte face.’ In the memoirs of Kennan’s fellow Soviet expert Charles ‘Chip’ Bohlen – a superior analyst in my view – published in 1973, there is a description of how Herwarth warned him of the negotiations leading up to the pact, as he did also with other Western diplomats in Moscow, in a desperate attempt to make them realise that they had to make terms with Stalin before Hitler did. Then, in 1976, in ‘A Man Called Intrepid’, his wildly inaccurate account of the British Security Co-ordination operation in the United States in the Second World War, William Stevenson gave a distorted account of Herwarth’s role in supplying intelligence to the then commercial attaché in the American Berlin Embassy, Sam Edison Woods, in 1940 on the plans for ‘Operation Barbarossa.’ This included the false – and obviously embarassing – suggestion that Herwarth had been an American spy since 1936. Actually, this part of the history in one area of the memoirs where I think that Herwarth was a great deal less than candid: I am profoundly sceptical about his claim not to have known that Woods was working for American intelligence, which in this case meant, it appears, being used as a private intelligence gatherer by Roosevelt. A lot about those connections has not I suspect been revealed. Both Herwarth and Alfred Gustav Meyer thought that Hilger’s long history of close contact with the Soviets – he had been born in Moscow – made his experience invaluable, and that is indeed a good reason for reading his book. Equally however, they both thought him too naive to be a reliable observer. On the other hand, I think Herwarth was just a terribly good analyst, and also a very brave man. The history of the connections between the veterans of the American Moscow Embassy of the ‘Thirties and their erstwhile German colleagues is of considerable importance in making sense of the early Cold War. Unfortunately, a lot of writing on this suffers from a failure to understand the complexities involved. So, on the one hand, we have John Lewis Gaddis’s 2011 authorised biography of Kennan, which contains three brief references to Herwarth, and apparently none to Hilger. That it is simply inexcusable to avoid looking seriously at Hilger’s role is evident from materials available on something called the ‘Gustav Hilger Research Library’, which has been started by a research associate at the Hoover Institution, Matt Ellison. (See https://www.mattellison.org/hilger/ .) However, the title of a piece he wrote last April – ‘The German Strategic Mastermind Behind America’s Post-War Order’ is I think over way over the top. To make any sense of these matters, it is necessary to make some attempt to understand how appalling can be the choices that people have to face. The record of George N. Shuster’s 13 August 1945 conversation with Hilger provides, in essence, a summary of the account given in the book. The German Moscow Embassy view had long been that Stalin was – and would remain – far too fearful of Germany deliberately to initiate, or indeed risk, general war. However, they also thought that if Germany initiated such a war, it would lose. Once however Hitler had gambled on war, the same logic led to the conclusion that the only way to avoid a cataclysmic defeat had to be to repeat the strategy which Germany had practised to great effect in the First World War – to make maximum use of the internal tensions of the adversary. The 8 November 1946 memorandum about Vlasov does indeed summarise the only strategy by which the Germans could have avoided defeat. Given that Ribbentrop had been opposed to the attack on the Soviet Union – he wanted to collaborate with it against Britain – it was hardly surprising that Hilger went on desperately trying to use him to influence Hitler. To make sense of the Hilger-Kennan relationship, I think, one needs to go back to a central point which Herwarth makes, which is also fundamental to the analyses Kennan produced at the end of the war, which are reproduced at the end of the first volume of the memoirs. It is actually brought up by your very apt comparison of Dzerzhinsky and Pilsudski. As it happens, a play about these two characters, which, according to a report in the ‘Baltic Times’, was ‘written in the genre of tragic farce’, was put on in Vilnius in 2011. The following year saw the publication of the study ‘The Bolsheviks and the Russian Empire’, by an American scholar teaching at Edinburgh, Liliana Riga – its conclusions are summarised in a 2008 paper. (See https://m.baltictimes.com/article/jcms/id/129506/ ; https://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/12594418/The_Ethnic_Roots_of_Class_Universalism.pdf .) The key point is that Bolshevism was only very partly a movement of Russian proletarians – it was also one route which could be taken by non-Russian intellectuals in the ‘borderlands’ who were unhappy with ‘nationalist’ alternatives. A conclusion which Kennan drew was that Stalin’s attempt to bring under his control not just parts of the ‘borderlands’ which had been part of the Romanov’s empire, but also parts which had been under the Hapsburgs and Ottomans, was liable to create an ultimately unsustainable strategic position. On the one hand, they would run into the same kinds of problems as their Tsarist predecessors, in spades; on the other, if one gave in to ‘nationalists’ outside the Soviet Union, this might precipitate a process of disintegration carrying forward uncontrollably into the Soviet Union. In a 2010 discussion, a contemporary Russian scholar, Vladimir Pechatnov, noted that this analysis was prescient. (See http://jhss-khazar.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/01.pdf .) However, Kennan’s conviction that the Soviet system could be pushed into collapse also meant that he took over a latent tension which had been present both with the strategy the Germans had successfully pursued in the First World War and that which Hilger and his colleagues wanted to pursue in its successor. Of necessity, this involved finessing the conflicts between non-Russians who were both anti-communist and anti-Russian, and Russians who were anti-communist. As regards the latter group, I think there is some reason to suspect that in documents like the discussion of Vlasov, Hilger was in part telling Kennan what he wanted to hear. This bears rather directly upon contemporary dilemmas. It was one thing to support anti-Russian nationalists when there was still a Soviet Communist ‘superpower.’ To continue to do so, when what is at issue is a project to exploit the heirs of some of those groups with whom the Germans collaborated in the war and people in London and Washington collaborated after it to wrest the whole of Ukraine, including Crimea and in particular Sevastopol, into an anti-Russian Western 'bloc', is to take large risks. An important one is that of convincing once pro-Western Russians that they were fooled. A related point comes into sharper focus if one brings into the picture the fact that Pechatnov comes out of the Institute of the USA and Canada, which was one of the ‘nodes’ from which the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking’ spread. What Kennan actually anticipated from the subversion of the Soviet system he believed would result from the successful reconstruction of the West was not a happy ‘transition’ to democracy: it was chaos ‘beyond description.’ As Pechatnov notes, an attentive reader of Kennan would have chosen the path taken by Deng rather than that taken by Gorbachev. That however brings me to a final irony involved in the history of the German Moscow Embassy. The political project of Schulenberg became, in essence, to create an invulnerable ‘continental bloc’ by incorporating in the Anti-Comintern Pact the power against which it had been directed. A Russia which has lost faith alike in Western intentions and Western political models can be an invaluable asset to the Chinese, in creating a new version of such a world. And an obvious goal would be, over time, to persuade Germans to look again at Schulenberg’s vision.
Toggle Commented 5 days ago on Turkey, NATO and Russia at Sic Semper Tyrannis
Larry, A fine piece. I think a large question is raised as to how far the kind of sloppiness in the handling of evidence which Judge Friedrich identified in the Mueller report may have characterised a great deal of the treatment of matters to do with the post-Soviet space by the FBI and others – including almost all MSM journalists – for a very long time. Unfortunately, one also finds this among some of the most useful critics of ‘Russiagate’. So, for example, in a very valuable recent piece in the ‘Epoch Times’ about the questions that need to be put to Mueller, Jeff Carlson discusses some of the problems relating both to Christopher Steele’s involvement with Oleg Deripaska, and the involvement of Fusion GPS with Natalia Veseltnitskaya which led to the Trump Tower meeting. (See https://www.theepochtimes.com/33-key-questions-for-robert-mueller_2988876.html .) He then however goes on to write: ‘In other words, not only was the firm that hired Steele, Fusion GPS, hired by the Russians, but Steele himself was hired directly by the Russians.’ And Andrew McCarthy, in the ‘National Review’, picks up one of the most interesting, and puzzling, moments in the fascinating notes by Kathy Kavalec of the conversation she had with Steele when Jonathan Winer brought him to see on her in October 2016. (See https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/07/oleg-deripaska-fbi-russia-collusion-theory/ ) Commenting on the fact that, in her scribbled notes, beside the names of Vladislav Surkov and Vyacheslav Trubnikov, who are indeed a top Putin adviser and a former SVR chief respectively, Kavalec writes ‘source’, McCarthy simply concludes that she meant that he had said that these were his – indirect – sources, and that this was accurate. And he goes on to write: ‘Deripaska, Surkov, and Trubnikov were not informing on the Kremlin. These are Putin’s guys. They were peddling what the Kremlin wanted the world to believe, and what the Kremlin shrewdly calculated would sow division in the American body politic. So, the question is: Did they find the perfect patsy in Christopher Steele?’ If you look at Kavalec’s typing up of the notes, among a good deal of what looks to me like pure ‘horse manure’ – including the claim that ‘Manafort has been the go-between with the campaign’ – the single reference to Surkov and Trubnikov is that they are said to be ‘also involved.’ As it happens, Surkov is a very complex figure indeed. His talents as a ‘political technologist’ were first identified by Khodorkovsky, before he subsequently played that role for Putin. It would obviously be possible that he and Steele still had common contacts. The suggestion in Kavalec’s notes that Sergei Millian ‘may be involved in some way,’ and also that, ‘Per Steele, Millian is connected Simon Kukes (who took over management of Yukos when Khodorkovsky was arrested)’ is interesting, but would seem to suggest that he would not have been cited to Kavalec as an intermediary. All this is obviously worth putting together with claims made in the ‘New York Times’ follow-up on 9 July to the Reuters report on the same day breaking the story of the interviews carried out with Steele by the Inspector General’s team in early June. (See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/09/us/politics/ig-russia-investigation-steele.html?module=inline .) According to this: ‘Moreover, by January 2017, F.B.I. agents had tracked down and interviewed one of Mr. Steele’s main sources, a Russian speaker from a former Soviet republic who had spent time in the West, according to a Justice Department document obtained by The New York Times and three people familiar with the events. After questioning him, F.B.I. officials came to suspect that the man might have added his own interpretations to reports from his own sources that he passed on to Mr. Steele, calling into question the reliability of the information.’ Some observations prompted by all this. Without wanting to prejudge things, it seems to me quite likely that what Horowitz has been contemplating is a kind of ‘limited hangout’. So, the idea could be to suggest that Steele did have sources, that however these were not as reliable as he thought they were, but everything was done in good faith etc etc. In the light of information coming out, including that in the Friedrich ruling, he may however have decided to ‘hold his horses.’ In trying to put together the accumulating evidence, it is necessary to realise, as so many people seem to find it difficult to do, that in matters like these people commonly play double games – often for very good reasons. To say as Carlson does that Fusion and Steele were hired by ‘the Russians’ implies that these are some kind of collective entity – and then, one is one step away from the assumption that Veselnitskaya and Deripaska, as well as ‘Putin’s Cook’, are simply puppets controlled by the master manipulator in the Kremlin. (The fact that Friedrich applies serious standards for assessing evidence to Mueller’s version of this is one of the reasons why her judgement is so important.) As regards what McCarthy says, to lump Surkov and Deripaska together as ‘Putin’s guys’ is unhelpful. Actually, it seems to me very unlikely, although perhaps not absolutely impossible, that, had he been implicated in any conspiracy to intervene in an American election, Surkov would have been talking candidly about his role to anyone liable to relay the information to Steele. Likewise, however, the notion of a Machiachiavellian Surkov, feeding disinformation about a non-existent plot through an intermediary to Steele, who swallows it hook, line and sinker, does not seem particularly plausible. A rather more obvious possibility is that the intermediaries who were supposed to have conveyed a whole lot of ‘smoking gun’ evidence to Steele were either 1. fabrications, 2. people whom without their knowledge he cast in this role, or 3. co-conspirators. It would, obviously, be possible that Millian, although one can say no more than that at this stage, was involved in either or both of roles 2. and 3. It is important that the general pattern of assuming that Putin is some kind of omnipotent Sauron-figure, which has clearly left Mueller open to a counter-attack by Concord, was given a classic expression in the testimony which Glenn Simpson gave to the House Intelligence Committee in November 2017. (See https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/House_Intelligence_Committee_Interview_of_Glenn_Simpson ) Providing his version of what was going on following his move from the Washington office of the ‘Wall Street Journal’ to its European headquarters in January 2005, Simpson told the Committee: ‘And the oligarchs, during this period of consolidation of power by Vladimir Putin, when I was living in Brussels and doing all this work, was about him essentially taking control over both the oligarchs and the mafia groups. And so basically everyone in Russia works for Putin now. And that’s true of the diaspora as well. So the Russian mafia in the United States is believed bylaw enforcement criminologists to have – to be under the influence of the Russian security services. And this is convenient for the security services because it gives them a level of deniability.’ A bit less than two years after Simpson’s move to Brussels, a similar account featured in what appears to have been the first attempt by Christopher Steele and his confederates to provide a ‘narrative’ in terms of which could situate the supposed assassination by polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. This came in a BBC Radio 4 programme, entitled ‘The Litvinenko Mystery’, in which a veteran presenter with the Corporation, Tom Mangold, produced an account by the former KGB Major Yuri Shvets, supported by the former FBI Agent Robert Levinson, and an ‘Unidentified Informer’, who is told by Mangold that he cannot be identified ‘reasons of your own personal security’. (A full transcript is on the ‘Evidence’ archived website of the Litvinenko Inquiry – one needs to search for the reference HMG000513 – at https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160613090333/https://www.litvinenkoinquiry.org/evidence .) This figure, whose credentials we have no means of assessing, explains: ‘Well it’s not well known to Western leaders or Western people but it is pretty well known in Russia. Because essentially it is common knowledge in Russia that by the end of Nineties the so called Russian organised crime had been destroyed by the Government and then the Russian security agencies, primarily the law enforcement and primarily the FSB, essentially assumes the functions and methods of Russian organised crime. And they became one of the most dangerous organised crime group because they are protected by law. They’re protected by all power of the State. They have essentially the free hand in the country and this shadow establishment essentially includes the entire structure of the FSB from the very top people in Moscow going down to the low offices.’ The story Mangold told was a pathetic tale of how Litvinenko and Shvets, trying to turn an honest penny from ‘due diligence’ work, identified damning evidence about the links of a figure close to Putin to organised crime, who in return sent Andrei Lugovoi to poison the former with polonium. A few problems with this version have, however, subsequently, emerged. Among them is the fact that, at the time, Litvinenko himself, as well as having been a key member of the late Boris Berezovsky’s ‘information operations team’, was an agent, as distinct from an informant, of MI6: accounts differ as to whether Steele was his personal ‘handler’ (John Sipher), or had never met him (Luke Harding). Also relevant is the fact that Shvets, a fanatical Ukrainian nationalist, and an important figure in the original ‘Orange Revolution’, was also a key member of Berezovsky’s ‘information operations’ team. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the disappearance of Levinson, on the Iranian island of Kish, the following March, was not as was claimed for years related to his private sector work. His entrapment and imprisonment – from which we now know Deripaska was later involved in attempting to rescue him – related to an undercover mission on behalf of elements in the CIA. The account of his career by the ‘New York Times’ journalist Barry Meier in his 2016 study ‘Missing Man’ is a tissue of sleazy evasions, not least in relation to the role of Levinson in ‘investigating’ the notorious mobster Semion Mogilevich, a key figure in ‘information operations’ against both Putin and Trump, and also the opponents of Yulia Tymoshenko. A large question involved is how co-operation between not simply elements in MI6 and the CIA, but also in the FBI, with the oligarchs who refused to accept Putin’s terms goes back a very long way. And, among other things, that raises a whole range of questions about Mueller.
Eugene Owens, Tidewater, CK. On Cornford. The biography attached to the poems is misleading. He went to Spain to fight, and had already been a deeply committed communist at his ‘public school’ Stowe, a good while before he arrived at Cambridge in 1933. What one might call ‘aristocratic communism’ – for want of a better word, is an interesting phenomenon. A great-grandson of Charles Darwin, Cornford was the son of a Cambridge professor of ancient philosophy, and his actual first name, Rupert, came from the poet Rupert Brooke, a family friend, who had died on active service in the Aegean shortly before he was born, in 1915, actually of an infected mosquito bite. Among many other ‘aristocratic communists’, a particularly interesting example is the Polonised Lithuanian noble Felix Dzerzhinsky. If anyone believes that ‘metadata’ using that figure’s name establishes that ‘Guccifer 2.0’ was part of a Russian ‘information operation’ practised by the GRU, they are either completely stupid, or utterly ignorant of the complexities of Soviet/Russian history. (‘Round up the usual suspects: Steele, Hannigan, Dearlove, Strzok, Brennan, Jonathan Winer.’) As my late father was an exact student contemporary at Cambridge of Cornford, although from a completely different social and intellectual background, I have some sense of the way in which the climate at the time was overshadowed, not only be impact of the war, but by the onset of the Depression and the rise of Hitler. The – very fine – grammar school in the port town of Barry in South Wales of which my father was a product was the creation of Major Edgar Jones, a great Welsh educationalist. As a young woman, his wife, Annie Gwen Jones, had gone out to Ukraine to tutor the grandchildren of John Hughes, the Welsh engineer who created the Donbass. A delayed result was that their son Gareth, who had graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, some time before Cornford, did the only serious on-the-ground reporting of what is now called the Holodomor. Ironically, he would be killed by bandits in Manchukuo in 1935 – whether at the instigation of the NKVD or not I am unclear. His reporting from the time has now all been posted by his relatives on the net, see https://www.garethjones.org . Reading it has been interesting for me, because it is a central part of my own family history. Shortly before my late father followed Gareth Jones to Cambridge, the latter addressed the chapel my grandparents attended and described what he had seen in Ukraine – gives his own people a condensed version of the materials now available on the website. Particularly as my grandfather was also a former pupil of Edgar Jones, and as the education officer at the local council a close colleague and friend, my father had rather more confidence in what he was told at that meeting than in the dismissals of the reporting by Jones by his very powerful and influential critics, prominent among whom was Walter Duranty of the ‘New York Times.’ It may partly have been as a result of this that, addressing the student historical society in Cambridge in 1935, my father delivered a pisstake of Marxism-Leninism, suggesting that rather than the eternal conflict between classes, history could be seen as an eternal struggle between the old and the young. He was told by Cornford that no prediction of the creed either had been, or could be, proven wrong. As it happens, the Spanish Civil War is one of the many instances where I think the actual conflicts involved were incredibly complicated – far too much so for someone who has not studied the subject to have a clear view – and the only thing of which I am reasonably confident is that then as now, all too many people preferred projecting simplistic ideologies onto messy situations. Interestingly, a couple of years ago a distinguished British historian of modern Spain, Paul Preston, accused George Orwell of doing just this in his immensely influential ‘Homage to Catalonia’. A first point he makes is that the Republicans were forced into seeking arms and support from the Soviet Union – for which they paid – because they could not get these from the British and French. (A short version of Preston’s argument is at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/06/george-orwell-homage-to-catalonia-account-spanish-civil-war-wrong ; a longer version, which might disabuse anyone who thinks that the British in the ‘International Brigades’ who went to fight for the Republic were simply there for the money, or because they liked risking their lives to kill people, is at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/85333/ .) To have any hope of surviving against the Franco’s professional forces, Preston points out, the defenders of the Republic had to attempt to create a professional army, and build as much of a ‘Popular Front’ as they could. What they needed like a hole in the head was the kind of revolutionary upheavals championed by the POUM, with which Orwell identified, and Trotskyists more generally – and indeed it was his friends, and the anarchists, who were responsible for a very large share of the atrocities which did the Republican cause immense damage. According to Preston, the notion that Stalin’s obsession with destroying Trotskyists was responsible for the defeat of the Republic is simply false: indeed close to the reverse of the truth. A central priority of his policy at the time was to maintain France as a central element in a strategy of ‘containment’ of National Socialist Germany, and a central fear that if Spain went France would follow, laying the Soviet Union open to German attack. There is, here, yet another irony. The study ‘The Revolution Betrayed’ which Trotsky published in 1937 was read carefully in the German Embassy in Moscow. It was quoted at length in a speech drafted by his young subordinate Hans (‘Johnnie’) von Herwarth for his ambassador, Werner von der Schulenberg, to deliver to the General Staff Academy in Berlin in November of that year. Reading the 1981 memoir ‘Against Two Evils’ which Herwarth wrote in collaboration with the American scholar S. Frederick Starr some years back, I was struck by the ironic parallels between the – actual – view of the German Moscow Embassy diplomats, and the close of ‘Animal Farm.’ At the risk of caricature, the argument made by Herwarth and Schulenberg to Hitler – and he saw no reason to revise it in the intervening decades – might be summarised as follows: What is the point of risking Germany’s future in a great ‘crusade’ against ‘international Bolshevism’, when the ‘national Bolshevik’ Stalin is busily liquidating all those ‘internationalist’, Bolsheviks from the ‘borderlands’ he can lay his hands on? Again, if – rightly or wrongly, and Herwarth has interesting things to say about this – Stalin is so afraid of ‘Bonapartism’ that he liquidates the most intellectually sophisticated command group of any country anywhere in the ‘Thirties, and replaces them with unthreatening incompetents like Voroshilov and Budyonny, then that greatly reduces the dangers from Soviet military power. At the same time, Herwarth and his colleagues tried to warn Hitler that it was unwise to think that the Soviets were so weak that, as the figure they tried unavailingly to persuade put it before he made his crucial disastrous gamble, ‘We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.’ What Hitler was attempting to do would vindicate ‘national Bolshevism’: German armies would then find themselves fighting not on metalled roads in Poland, where there relative strengths were greatest, but on the banks of the Volga in midwinter – where everything favoured the other side. In relation to the politics of the ‘Thirties, there were rather complicated, and still partly unresolved, questions about who was fooling whom, and who was fooling themselves, by believing what they wanted to believe, and getting lost in their own rhetorics. (It becomes interesting to think what Herwarth’s candid view, alike of Cornford and Orwell, might have been), ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.’
Toggle Commented Jul 11, 2019 on Turkey, NATO and Russia at Sic Semper Tyrannis
CK, Coming, belatedly, into this argument. You appear to think that nationalism is the only thing for which people can fight, except self-interest. In relation to Spain, I can perhaps refer you to two poems by Rupert John Cornford, a British volunteer for the International Brigades, who died in August 1936. As it happens, both my late father, and an old lady who I got to know in my days as a Cambridge (UK) student, knew him quite well. (See https://thestringer.com.au/poetry-from-the-front-john-cornford-and-the-spanish-civil-war-5044 ) She once said I reminded her of him. But both of them, from very different perspectives, were fundamentally opposed to his – communist – politics. And yet, the first of the two poems reproduced on the site to which I have linked is I think one of the most beautiful love lyrics written in English in the last century. As to the second, the phrases ‘the dialectic’s point of change’, and ‘We are the future. The last fight let us face’ sum up everything which, tutored by my father and the old lady who knew Cornford, I have thought nonsense throughout my adult life. Nonsense, moreover, which was in no sense harmless, but which it was absolutely necessary to fight. With time, I have come to think that the ‘Fukuyamist’ version of this nonsense is actually materially worse than the Trotskyite or Stalinist. But one needs to understand the complexity of reasons for which people will fight for causes, even those one thinks are very bad ones.
Toggle Commented Jul 10, 2019 on Turkey, NATO and Russia at Sic Semper Tyrannis
Fred, If, after interviewing Steele for sixteen hours, anyone professes to find him credible, then in my view they are either fools or knaves – if not both. Having once been involved – successfully I hasten to add – in a protracted libel case in relation to a programme I made, I can easily see many lines of questioning to which he could quite clearly not have provided a satisfactory answer. The cover-up of the circumstances of the life and death of the late Alexander Litvinenko, which Steele was instrumental in orchestrating, is a matter I have discussed on and off here on SST. I now have a ‘smoking gun’ – it is clear there were honest detectives in Counter Terrorism Command, who got fed up with the lies he was mass producing (as is his wont). The maps they produced purporting to show Litvinenko’s movements on the day Steele claimed he was poisoned were craftily constructed, so as to pretend to support the cover-up, while actually blowing it apart. It was done very ingeniously, with a sense of humour. More on this, I hope, shortly. A very interesting question however arises as to how the Reuters report by Mark Hosenball which is the source of TTG’s claim, originated, and what its implications are. (See https://www.businessinsider.com/christophersteele-trump-dossier-author-questioned-by-justice-dept-2019-7?r=US&IR=T .) According to the report: ‘One of the two sources said Horowitz’s investigators appear to have found Steele’s information sufficiently credible to have to extend the investigation. Its completion date is now unclear.’ In fact, however one interpreted Steele’s claims, it would be extremely likely that what he said would have provided good grounds to ‘extend the investigation.’ All kinds of interpretations are, rather obviously, possible. It could turn out that Horowitz is part of what is by now quite clearly a conspiracy to subvert the constitutional order in the United States. How people can continue to defend this, without calling in to question their ability to understand what a ‘constitutional republic’ means, has come rather to defeat me. But then, Horowitz could be playing different sides. It might be convenient to disseminate a story which was partly disinformation, in order to gain time to pursue investigations undisturbed. Or, people concerned to put a ‘gloss’ or ‘spin’ favourable to Steele might have been those who leaked to the media. Obviously, my hypotheses reflect my conviction that Steele is a form of pond life – the ‘scum’, rather than the ‘dregs’ of society – born in part out of experience with superannuated Cambridge and Oxford student politicians of his kind. There may be other interpretations, for which a serious case can be made, more favourable to him. But to take the Hosenball report at face value is really not sensible.
Tidewater, In matters like this, it is helpful I think to proceed from opposite ends. Obviously, one needs to work out what ‘Occam’s Razor’ suggests is the most obviously plausible hypothesis. But, in ‘information operations’, a vast amount of effort and ingenuity commonly goes into what one might call ‘cheating Occam’s Razor’: making it seem that true explanations are so wildly improbable that they are not worth further thought. So, one needs to be cautious about moving from concluding that something is improbable to dismissing it as impossible. With Carter Page, I am reasonably confident that he really is just an ‘ingenu’, who was framed by Steele and his co-conspirators, in their panicky attempts to create bogus links between Trump and the Russians. By contrast, although I have no doubt that Papadopoulos was framed, I cannot make him out. My grasp of Mediterranean ‘oil geopolitics’ is not strong enough to hazard firm judgements about what he says about the issues involved and his own role. I would be happy to be persuaded that he can be taken at face value, but alternative hypotheses do seem worth further thought. It may or may not be material that, as well as being Greek, Papadopoulos also appears to be Orthodox. (It is sometimes important to bear in mind the extent of disillusion among people from the Orthodox world who used to see the West as allies in a common struggle against atheistic communism, and have come to suspect that they were naive.) By the same token, I am keeping an open mind about Mifsud. A great deal of rather crude disinformation has been disseminated, in an attempt to conceal his clearly abundant links to Western intelligence agencies, notably MI6. But then, there are interesting issues to do with his friend and lawyer, Stefan Roh, who has a White Russian wife. I do not build a great deal on the fact that a month after the Salisbury incident that figure changed the name of one of his companies to ‘No Vichok’ – it appears that on this point at least, ‘BuzzFeed’ managed to report correctly. (See https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/albertonardelli/stephan-roh-joseph-mifsud-novichok-companies-house .) However, as well as raising questions about Roh’s allegiances, the change brings up another thorny issue. The sheer ludicrousness of the Western ‘narrative’ on so many matters, among them what happened to the Skripals, is I suspect opening up opportunities for Russian intelligence. And in the case of Mifsud, there does appear to be evidence that he is fond of money. As to how the involvement of Benjamin Rhodes in the exchanges Larry discusses is to be explained, however, I am somewhat sceptical about the notion that any of these people display much in the way of refined concern for proper procedure. My scepticism has been strengthened by the palpable fact that, the more information comes out, the more it becomes clear that a lot of crucial actors on the Western side were doing in June-July-August 2016 shows signs of total panic. The initial memoranda in the dossier attributed to Steele, the claims by ‘CrowdStrike’ and the former GCHQ person Matt Tait about ‘smoking gun’ evidence implicating the GRU in what it now seems clear was a leak of material from the DNC to ‘WikiLeaks’, alike have an air of desperate improvisation. (This sense of panic, incidentally, comes over in waves in the description by Kathleen Kavalec of her conversation with Steele the following October. She checked a simple point: his claim about a supposed Russian consulate in Miami, and found it was wrong. I suspect that the story behind the – progressively less, but still heavily redacted – materials that have been made public about this meeting is that of more and more people realising there was a conspiracy and that they needed to distance themselves from it.) I think there is a lot more to be learnt about the 30 July 2016 breakfast meeting at the Mayflower Hotel between Bruce and Nellie Ohr and Christopher Steele. It seems to me extraordinarily unlikely that her testimony that until that point she had been unaware that her old British acquaintance was also working for Fusion on Trump-Russia research is accurate. Also, Larry’s explications have reinforced my curiosity about the involvement of the NSA in this, particularly as it appears to be the case that Admiral Rogers had closed down improper access to contractors – who it seems likely included Nellie Ohr – on 18 April 2016. If, as is now suggested, this improper access went back to 2012, I think a great deal of effort may have been put, over the intervening four years, by people in the NSA and GCHQ in conjunction with outsiders, into analysing intercepts of people who were, in any way, under suspicion (of a range of different possible misdemeanours, as seen by the conspirators.) Given my generally low opinion of the intellectual capacities of many of those involved, including Nellie Ohr as well as Christopher Steele, it seems to me perfectly possible that this produced some howlers – an obvious possibility being the claim about Michael Cohen’s visit to Prague. It could quite conceivably however have produced some accurate information which cannot be made public, both for ‘sources and methods’ reasons and because doing so would reveal the scale of the conspiracy to subvert the Constitution involved in ‘Russiagate’.
Pat -- I posted a comment on Ty Clevenger's subpoenas to the FBI and CIA for materials relating to Seth Rich. It has gone into spam. Belated Happy 4th of July.
Eugene Owens, As an old television hack – my SWMBO and I between us have quite a large experience of ‘TV’ – I think your reading of the implications of Trump’s experience in the medium is quite wrong, A good deal of ‘Reality TV’ – and the different versions of the ‘Apprentice’ format on both sides of the Atlantic were a classic example – has a strong ‘panem et circenses’ element. This is, commonly, inherently ‘transgressive.’ A successful presenter not uncommonly ‘works’ because he taps emotions, often very unlovely ones, which is audience feels, but would not want to acknowledge publicly. To do this, one has to start off with empathy with those emotions. And a successful performer, over time, will hone that. And it is critical to be able to gauge, from the responses of the audience, where ‘transgression’ will pay off, and where it may go too far, and blow up in his – or her – face. A central problem with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, as with that of the ‘Remainers’ in Britain, was that they listened to the kind of people who approach ‘TV’ in the spirit of those who decide what programmes to make by ‘market research.’ They came up against someone who actually understood, from direct personal experience (although probably assisted by the advice of competent producers and researchers) the complex relations which successful presenters have with audiences. These are not dissimilar to the complex relations successful politicians often have with audiences. So, Clinton and the ‘Remainers’ alike got thrashed – and appear to have learned absolutely nothing from the experience.
All, I wonder whether the people who cooked up this kind of bright idea have looked at who tends to win the annual International Collegiate Programming Contest, which is headquartered at Baylor University. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Collegiate_Programming_Contest#2019_World_Finals ) This year, highly untypically, an American University – MIT – actually managed to make it among the Gold medallists, winning second place. (British universities as ever failed to make it among the top twelve.) Also as ever, the Russians were way ahead of the field, with Moscow State University coming out winners, and two others in the top twelve. In the twelve years since 2008, the Russians have won ten times, the Chinese twice. And there is strength in depth – the pattern where, in a leading global competition, around a quarter of the top universities are Russian is also familiar. Another long-term change may also be relevant. In the 2005 study ‘The Soviet Century’ in which he summarised his life’s work, the late Moshe Lewin discussed a report submitted to Andropov in November 1960 on the state of opinion among students in Odessa. (See the chapter ‘Kosygin and Andropov’, pps. 248-268.) What the then KGB chief was told by his subordinates, unambiguously, was that contempt for the system and its ideology was endemic among the students, that the bright ones chose the natural sciences and technology because the ‘social science’ they were offered was so awful, and that this garbage was of interest only to those set on a career in the party. And Lewin’s summary of the report to Andropov concludes: ‘Students’ preference for anything Western was scarcely surprising, given their lack of respect for those whom they heard criticizing the West.’ Actually, however, in the years that followed researchers at institutes associated with the Academy of Sciences, such as the Institute of the USA and Canada under Georgiy Arbatov, and the Institute for World Economy and International Relations under Alexander Yakovlev and Yevgeney Primakov, did a lot of rather good ‘social science.’ The conclusion key figures drew was the same as that of the students: that the ideology and the system were bankrupt. And that was a key part of the background to the Gorbachev-era ‘new thinking.’ Three decades later, perceptions of the West have, quite patently, radically changed. One interesting case study is that of Primakov, another that of Sergei Karaganov, who went with Vitaly Zhurkin from Arbatov’s Institute to found the new Institute of Europe in 1987-8. As Patrick Armstrong recalled some time back, it was what Primakov was writing in mid-1987 that was instrumental in alerting some of those in the West who had been interested in trying to figure out how the Soviet system worked to the recognition of the failure of the system which underpinned Gorbachev’s attempts at reform. Both American and British intelligence agencies were utterly clueless. (For a good treatment of the key July 1987 article in ‘Pravda’ to which Patrick referred from the time, see a piece in the ‘Christian Science Monitor’ headlined ‘Soviet shift in world policy. Revision of long-held view – of West as constant military threat – seems sign of new Soviet flexibility’, at https://www.csmonitor.com/1987/0716/oforn.html .) By the time when, as Foreign Minister in March 1999, Primakov turned his plane back from Washington in response to NATO’s bombing of Serbia, he had already executed ‘Primakov’s Loop’ in a far deeper sense. In 1996, he had put forward an ‘Eurasianist’ vision for the future of Russia, based on a rapprochement with China, and the attempt to bring that country and India together. (For a discussion by an Indian commentator sympathetic to his vision, see an obituary tribute by Rakesh Krishnan Simha published in June 2015, headlined ‘Primakov: The man who created multipolarity’, at https://www.rbth.com/blogs/2015/06/27/primakov_the_man_who_created_multipolarity_43919 .) It took Karaganov much longer to abandon the dream of being reintegrated into ‘Western civilisation’: a key event, I think, being the 2008 Georgian war – as with Valery Gergiev. Today, however, Karaganov is an impassioned champion of the ‘Eastern orientation.’ As such, he explains in article after article – generally available in good English translations – that the ‘Petrine’ period in Russian history is over. Ironically, even such an admirable – and invaluable – commentator as Stephen F. Cohen appears to have difficulty grasping the radicalism of what is involved here. Commenting last October on the disdain for ordinary American voters revealed by ‘Russiagate,’ he wrote that: ‘It is worth noting that this disdain for rank-and-file citizens echoes a longstanding attitude of the Russian political intelligentsia, as recently expressed in the argument by a prominent Moscow policy intellectual that Russian authoritarianism springs not from the nation’s elites but from the “genetic code” of its people.’ (See https://www.thenation.com/article/whos-really-undermining-american-democracy/ ) Actually, the ‘Ogonyok’ interview with Karaganov to which Cohen alludes says almost the reverse of Cohen suggests. It is, among other things, a plea to his fellow-intellectuals to stop regarding the weakness of a ‘democratic’ culture in Russia as a mark of inferiority. Instead, Karaganov is suggesting, they need to grasp that it has been, and continues to be, a perfectly ‘rational’ adaptive response to the harsh imperatives of survival in the ‘heartlands’ of Eurasia, which is ‘genetic’, in the sense that traits which work for organisms over long periods of time become entrenched. (While the ‘deplorables’ may get a lot wrong, this one they called right, and the Moscow/St. Petersburg ‘intelligenty’ got it, as we sometimes say in England, ‘arse about face.’) (See https://eng.globalaffairs.ru/pubcol/We-Have-Used-Up-the-European-Treasure-Trove-19769 .) All this, I am afraid, puts me in mind of a crucial moment in British history. By 1937 the then head of the Government Code and Cyper School, Alastair Denniston – viciously caricatured in the film ‘The Imitation Game’ – had realised that in the wars of movement which was now likely on land as well as on sea, encrypted communications were going to be even more important than they had been in 1914-18. And he also realised that the problems of breaking the codes were becoming vastly more difficult, and required top-class mathematical talent. (See https://spartacus-educational.com/Alastair_Denniston.htm .) As a result, Denniston went to dinner at ‘high tables’, in Oxford and Cambridge. From the connections he established, came the work done by Turing and other less well-known but crucial mathematicians, like Gordon Welchmann and Jack Good (born Isadore Jacob Gudak.) A central part of the background to this, however, was that in the late ‘Thirties very many British intellectuals who had thought that Hitler was just a loud-mouth – a very easy ssumption to make in the early ‘Thirties – shifted towards the view that there was a potential ‘existential threat’ from Germany. Of its nature, this would demand the utmost not just from those who had to fight the wars, but also from those who used the most sophisticated intellectual tools to make sure that, in so doing, they had the crucial advantage of intelligence superiority. I am not sure the thought has crossed many people’s minds, in Washington and in London, that not only does Russia now have what looks to be a rather competent ‘general staff’, who are looking for ‘asymetric’ ways to counter the power of NATO, but that Western policy over the past thirty years may have created a not entirely dissimilar sense of ‘existential threat.’ If one thinks this is so, obviously one will conclude that an unintended consequence of rather stupid Western policies may have been to make it much easier for Soviet strategic planners to recruit and exploit some at least of the best scientific minds. Moreover, if my suggestion is remotely near the mark, then a ‘cyberwars’ contest may be precisely that in the ‘relative advantage’ does not lie with the West, because throwing money at the problem does not help that much, if on the other side there are people who want other things – honour among them, and glory. Can anyone imagine how either honour, or glory, could inspire anyone to do what Robert Hannigan told them to do, as both motives once inspired people who worked for his predecessors? But then, people in London and Washington seem to find it difficult, these days, to understand that people could work for anything other than money. That, or ‘insiderdom.’
Tom Wonacott, For a perhaps slightly more nuanced view of the ‘Holodomor’, you might read a review of Anne Applebaum’s 2017 ‘Red Famine’ study by the British historian Christopher Gilley. (See https://reviews.history.ac.uk/review/2203 .) Another interesting aspect of this has to do with the recently released film ‘Mr Jones’, with a script written by one of the members of the Chalupa clan, Andrea. As I have not seen it, I cannot be sure that it restates the narrative ‘Holodomor’ as an attempted genocide by Russians against Ukrainians, but it seems to me likely. What I can say for certain is that Gareth Jones, the Welsh journalist who what I think is the only, or virtually the only, on-the-ground reporting of the famine, on whose life the film is based, emphatically did not endorse this narrative. On the website set up by niece, which reproduces all his reporting from this time, one will find among other things a report of his work by the great American foreign correspondent Edgar Ansel Mowrer, then based in Berlin, dated 29 March 1933. (See https://www.garethjones.org/soviet_articles/edgar_mowrer.htm .) An extract: ‘Jones saw famine on a huge scale and the revival of murderous terror. The Russians are thoroughly alarmed over this situation and, he explains, the arrest of the British engineers recently as a maniac measure following the shooting by the government of thirty-five prominent Russian agricultural workers, including a vice-commissar in the ministry of agriculture. ‘“I walked through the country visiting villages and investigating twelve collective farms,” Jones today told the correspondent of The Chicago Daily News. ‘“Everywhere I heard the cry, ‘there is no bread, we are dying.’ “This cry is rising from all parts of Russia; from the Volga district, from Siberia, from White Russia and from the Ukraine black dirt country. I saw a peasant fish out a crust of bread and an orange peel which I had thrown into a cuspidor in the train. (See https://www.garethjones.org/soviet_articles/edgar_mowrer.htm .) Note that: ‘from all parts of Russia.’ I doubt you will see that quoted in Ms. Chalupa’s script, but perhaps I am wrong. Meanwhile, on the wider political implications. A rather important one relates to your country’s domestic politics. Having encouraged ‘Banderistas’ to think they could take the kind of reckless gambles of which the Maidan ‘false flag’ was the culmination, a not very surprising result is that they will stop at nothing to ensure that there is no chance of a President who might display some concern for American interests being elected. While ‘Russiagate’ is patent nonsense, ‘Ukrainegate’, as reporting by John Solomon in ‘The Hill’ has brought out, is very much a live issue – and Andrea’s sister Alexandra is at the heart of it. (See https://thehill.com/opinion/white-house/441892-ukrainian-embassy-confirms-dnc-contractor-solicited-trump-dirt-in-2016 .) Meanwhile, that incompetent Polish ‘gepolitician’ Zbigniew Brzezinski held the – deluded – view that wresting the whole of Ukraine entirely away from Russian influence was the key to preventing a revival of Russian power. In fact, as should have been evident to him had he not been in the grip of hysterical Russophobia, it was the last stage in a process which has seen the Russian élite move away from the dream of reintegration into a ‘global Europe’, which would include North America, Europe proper, and Russia, which had been central to the Gorbachev ‘new thinking.’ As the Carnegie Moscow Center director Dmitri Trenin chronicled in his 2016 discussion of ‘Russia’s Post-Soviet Journey’, this vision survived, if increasingly battered, through until 2012. Since then, it has been decisively abandoned. In common with a number of other commentators who are in no sense instinctive ‘Eurasianists’, such as Sergei Karaganov, Trenin is now suggesting, in essence, that we have seen the end of the ‘Petrine’ epoch in Russian history. (See https://carnegie.ru/2016/12/25/russia-s-post-soviet-journey-pub-66569 .) On the implications, Trenin’s article – originally published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ – was blunt: ‘This shift in thinking came with a change in strategy. Russia, which is one of the few states in the world with a truly global reach, sought to rebalance its Western-oriented policies with a broader strategic vision. Moscow turned south to the Middle East and North Africa, intervening in Syria and deepening its ties with Egypt. It looked east, upgrading its energy and military partnerships with China. And to the north, in the Arctic, it began to expand the Northern Sea Route, claim vast areas of the region's continental shelf, and rebuild some Soviet-era military installations. Europe, having ceased to be a mentor and a model, is now just another neighbor, part of a Greater Eurasia stretching from Ireland to Japan.’ Note who are, by implication, definitively excluded from this ‘Greater Eurasia.’ It should, one would have thought, have been reasonably clear for a rather long time to anyone with any pretensions to ‘geopolitical’ insight that, if there was to be a major great power competitor to the United States, it was going to be China. The degree of ineptitude in strategic thinking involved in allowing the ‘revanchist’ aspirations of the ‘insulted and injured’ of the erstwhile Soviet and Russian Empires to push today’s Russia into the hands of China frankly beggars belief. An interesting coda comes in a recent piece by a very fine analyst of both Chinese and Russian military strategy, Lyle J. Goldstein, a professor at the Naval War College. He appears to be proficient in the languages of both countries, and regularly discusses interesting commentaries from the technical military press, alike from China and Russia, in, among other places, the ‘National Interest.’ His most recent piece in that journal is entitled ‘Chinese Nuclear Armed Submarines in Russian Arctic Ports? It Could Happen: What once seemed completely farfetched has now evidently become a topic of semi-serious discussion.’ (See https://nationalinterest.org/feature/chinese-nuclear-armed-submarines-russian-arctic-ports-it-could-happen-60302 .) It was already amply clear that Russian planners have been working on low cost ways of turning the ocean, which has a guarantor of invulnerability for most of the history of the United States, into a point of maximum vulnerability, with submarines positioned just outside the the Exclusive Economic Zone which can implement a range of escalation options against both seaboards of the country. What the Russian strategist whose article Goldstein discusses is suggesting is that his country could help the Chinese overcome their problems in developing a capacity for ‘strategic’ nuclear attacks on the United States – as positioning SSBNs in the Arctic would both drastically reduce their vulnerability and also greatly reduce flight times. His discussion of this Russian strategist’s views ends with a nuanced conclusion, involving a warning which people might do well to heed: ‘In closing, it must be emphasized that this article’s importance should not be exaggerated. The musings of a single Russian strategist do not equal a new approach to Russia-China strategic cooperation, let alone a concrete bilateral military cooperation agreement on the deployment of the most prized, nuclear assets. Neither Moscow nor Beijing have given anything close to an official imprimatur to such eccentric ideas. And yet there is a small possibility that this one vision of the future could reach fruition in coming decades if current trends toward cold war are not reversed. Moscow would have its fully built out Arctic infrastructure (both military and commercial) with ample Chinese capital and engineering assistance. In return, Beijing would gain a reliable way to strike America and thus enhance its nuclear deterrent.’ It really is time that the policy of the United States was once again run – as it once was – by people whose prime loyalty is to their own country, and whose thinking is not distorted by traumatic experiences in the countries from which they sought refuge.
All, In April 2017, a piece by Anatol Lieven appeared in the ‘National Interest’, under the title ‘Is America Becoming a Third World Country?’ The subheading read: ‘Conspiracy theories about Russia suggest that the awful prospect for the USA is of a global superpower with the domestic politics of the Philippines or Argentina.’ (See https://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-becoming-third-world-country-19050 .) I would strongly recommend the piece to members of this ‘Committee of Correspondence.’ Do not, incidentally, make the mistake of thinking that because its author is born and bred in Britain this is a case of ‘Brit’ arrogance. There seems to me little reason to believe that Lieven thought his native country was in a less parlous state than he suggesed you were. (I certainly don’t!) Part of this is to do with what I am tempted to call a ‘Cassandra complex.’ The Lieven brothers – Anatol and his elder brother Dominic – are among the very best British commentators on international affairs. This may be partly because their origins are not actually British. On the father’s side, they were Baltic German servants of the Tsars, on the mother’s, Catholic Irish servants of the British Raj (hence the balance of names – Dominic for the first son, Anatol for the second.) The background provides a useful introduction to some of the complexities of modern history – and also, ironically perhaps, may have helped both brothers absorb some of the better elements of British culture (unlike most American ‘Rhodes Scholars’, who seem often to absorb the worst.) But the result appears to be that, as with Cassandra, people do not listen to them. So, Anatol teaches in Qatar. His brother, after spending many years in the thankless task of trying to educate ‘political scientists’ at the London School of Economics, is now back in Cambridge. However, Dominic’s – brilliant – summation of large elements of his life’s work on the centenary of the October Revolution was not delivered, as in a rational world it might have been, at Chatham House, or Brookings – but at that year's Valdai Group meeting. (See http://valdaiclub.com/a/highlights/revolution-war-and-empire/ .)
Tidewater, If you think you can trust any British law enforcement agency to produce an objective investigation into matters of this kind you are living in lalaland. What finally did for the late Boris Berezovsky was hubris encouraged by his success in manipulating the British legal system caused him to bring a civil suit against Roman Abramovich, and as a result he was effectively destroyed by Jonathan Sumption and Mrs Justice Gloster. I see that Steven S. Biss, who filed the suit, has also acted, together with Ty Clevenger, on behalf of Ed Butowsky, as well as acting for Devin Nunes. What we may be seeing is a – sensible – attempt to short circuit the problems of getting law enforcement agencies to do their job, by making maximum use of the civil law.
All, The ‘Zero Hedge’ link to the complaint still allows one to read it, if one scrolls through the document. However, attempting to download it, I found a notice explaining ‘This document has been removed from Scribd.’ It seems that Lokhova has not posted it on her blog, which is however very well worth a visit – see https://www.russiagate.co.uk. If anyone can find a link to a downloadable copy, that would help, as this whole history is clearly central to the conspiracy to subvert the Constitution and the document clearly will repay close study. The fellows of Pembroke College Cambridge, who elected Sir Richard Dearlove Master in August 2004, thus providing a base from which he could use Cambridge to continue corrupting the British – and it now seems American – intelligence and law enforcement apparatuses, have a great deal to answer for.
bp, The guts of the matter was well expressed by Judge T.S. Ellis when he made the distinction between different results which can be expected from exerting pressures on witnesses: they may 'sing' - which is, commonly, in the interests of justice - but, there again, they may 'compose', which is not. Also involved - and I think Judge Ellis was very well aware of this - is a fundamental distinction relating to what law enforcement authorities are trying to achieve. If Mueller was honestly - even of perhaps misguidedly - trying to get witnesses to 'sing', that is hardly a mortal sin. If he was trying to get them to 'compose', then the question becomes whether he should be under indictment for subversion of the Constitution. Alcatraz, perhaps?
EO, Very good questions. I have had the nose to the grindstone trying to absorb the vast masses of information emerging about the conspiracy, but will try to say something about the broader implications for British foreign policy when I can, as it were, come up for air.
bp, The question is only very partly what Trump wants, in some abstract sense. Situations like this commonly have a strong escalatory logic. So one needs to ask whether or not he has rational reason to believe that unless he can destroy those who have shown themselves prepared to stop at nothing to destroy him, they will eventually succeed. If the answer is yes - and while I think it may very well be, I am not prejudging the issue - then a key question becomes whether Trump will conclude that his most promising loption is to go after the conspirators by every means possible. Involved here are questions about who he is listening to, and how competent they are. But the escalatory processes are not simply to do with what Trump decides. In particular, a whole range of legal proceedings are involved. The referral in relation to Nellie Ohr is likely to be the fist of a good few. In addition, Ed Butowsky's lawsuits, and those against Steele, have unpredictable potentialities.
Larry, That is fascinating, and heartening. I was aware of the case that Butowsky had brought against CNN, the NYT and the lawyers for the Rich family, not of that he bought against David Folkenflik and his NPR colleagues. If indeed as many of us suspected the FBI knew that Rich had contacted Assange, this leads one back naturally to some matters concerned with the timeline of the identification of the DNC leaks, and Rich’s role in them, which have been puzzling me. In affairs like this, it is very easy to connect dots and form a pattern which looks plausible but turns out completely wrong. With the proviso that I may be doing precisely that, let me set out some dots and ways they might be fitted together. 1. It has long seemed to me that it would have been very much easier to identify materials coming in to Assange and WikiLeaks rather than materials coming out of the DNC. If in fact this was how the exfiltration was originally identified, then it would be quite likely that GCHQ and/or MI6 would have been centrally involved. (This of course does not mean that the NSA and employees of the CIA or indeed FBI were not also involved: a lot of people would have had strong reasons to collude, and indeed increasingly indeed have come to seem to have been living more or less in each other’s pockets); 2. Particularly as it seems likely that Rich wanted money, it would seem quite possible that negotiations with Assange started some time prior to the exfiltration of the material, which looks as though it happened in late May 2016; 3. If one assumes that Rich was aware of the intense surveillance on WikiLeaks, one would think it likely that he would have contacted Assange in a manner designed to ensure that his identity was protected, in so far as this was feasible. This could possibly have involved not making it known, at the outset, to Assange, although presumably it would have had to be revealed at some relatively early point. One would further tend to assume that it would have been a priority to set up channels of communication which, as far as could be managed, were secure. Doing so could have involved the use of intermediaries, and measures to disguise the identity of Rich. 4. Quite clearly, if indeed there was a serious effort to maintain secrecy, it was penetrated. But it would be possible that the penetration was gradual and piecemeal. At the outset, it might not even have been clear whether what was at issue was a leak or a hack. It would not be surprising if intense effort had gone into identifying past hacking attempts, unsuccessful and successful. And indeed, it would seem eminently possible that attempts were identified that could have been instigated by Russian intelligence agencies. These, however, would also have involved elaborate measures to conceal responsibility – not crude fabrications that would only take in ‘retards’, like the ‘Guccifer 2.0’ materials. 5. It would also be possible that Rich was not identified until very late in the day – indeed, his identification could even have followed the calling in of the laptops on June 10. Such a reconstruction could account for the fact that both the claims by Alperovitch and the former GCHQ person Matt Tait, and the ‘Guccifer 2.0’ farrago, show every sign of having been concocted in panic haste, as also do the early memoranda in the dossier attributed to Steele. If those involved had not known what was actually going on until late in the day, that might have added to the difficulties of planning stories to cover it up. It might also help explain the bizarre inconsistencies and improbabilities in the claims about the investigation carried out by Alperovitch and CrowdStrike. 6. Of course, an alternative possibility is that Rich was either too naive to anticipate that he would be identified, or did not think it would matter. It would hardly have been so very surprising if he had not contemplated the possibility that the result of his involvement would be his murder, and part of the point of the negotiations about money could have been to ensure that he could afford to disregard any employment consequences. Be all that may, it does seem to me that it would be helpful, in relation to fitting other events into a coherent timeline, to have some idea as to the earliest and latest dates at which the exfiltration could have been identified, and the earliest and latest dates at which Rich could have been identified as the figure responsible.
All, Prior to the ‘Briefing Book’ to which ‘Harper’ linked, the National Security Archive published, last December, one entitled ‘NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard.’ (See https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2017-12-12/nato-expansion-what-gorbachev-heard-western-leaders-early .) A crucial point not mentioned in the – generally excellent – introduction to this series of documents is that Gorbachev did not even ask for the verbal assurances he was given to be put in writing. This, incidentally, is a matter which Putin raised in his interviews with Oliver Stone. In these, his comments on almost all the people discussed – up to and including John McCain – are restrained and emollient. His contempt and distaste for Gorbachev, however, shine through. Part of the background to Gorbachev’s approach at the time was the advice he was getting – very bad advice, it now seems clear, with hindsight wisdom – in particular from Georgy Arbatov, the long-serving head of the Institute of the USA and Canada. In a letter to the ‘New York Times’ in December 1987, in response to a column by William Safire, which was headlined ‘It Takes Two to Make a Cold War’, Arbatov made clear that Gorbachev was intended to, as it were, ‘walk away’, from the Cold War. And he wrote: ‘And here we have a “secret weapon'” that will work almost regardless of the American response – we would deprive America of The Enemy. And how would you justify without it the military expenditures that bleed the American economy white, a policy that draws America into dangerous adventures overseas and drives wedges between the United States and its allies, not to mention the loss of American influence on neutral countries? Wouldn't such a policy in the absence of The Enemy put America in the position of an outcast in the international community?’ (See https://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/08/opinion/l-it-takes-two-to-make-a-cold-war-963287.html .) As it happened, Arbatov was completely and utterly wrong. The liquidation of the security posture inherited from the Stalinist period, followed by the break-up of the Soviet Union and the abandonment of communism, in no ways decreased Western hostility to Russia. The seething and near unanimous hatred of Putin is greater by far than that towards any of the leaders of the old Soviet Union. The truth, it turned out, was that people like Gorbachev and Arbatov were naive fools. What however then becomes material is that if Western behaviour makes clear that those who sought good relations with us were indeed such, it really is very foolish to expect that Russians will vote for such people. Something that saddens me somewhat is that, as became clear if one probed, a strong undercurrent in the thinking of people like Arbatov was the belief that, although this had not been Stalin’s intention, his post-war policies had gratuitously wrecked the relationship with the United States built up during the wartime ‘Grand Alliance.’ I have difficulty thinking of any more promising way causing people to abandon such beliefs than allying with those who venerate Stepan Banderistas in an attempt to bring the Crimea into NATO. One thought people might be aware that Sevastopol is the scene of two great sieges, by the French, Ottomans and British in 1854-5, and by the Germans, Romanians and Italians from December 1941 to July 1942. In both cases, the city fell. In the latter, however, the defenders tied up Erich von Manstein – one of the greatest exponents of mobile warfare – and the German Eleventh Army for seven crucial months, which among other things made a major contribution to the fact that Stalingrad did not fall, and the Germans were decisively defeated there.
b, Re comment 22 On Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, there is a good deal of useful material on the page entitled ‘Talk: British involvement in Syria’, now renamed ‘Porton Down investigatives Syria, on the ‘A Closer Look On Syria’ site. (See http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Porton_Down_investigates_Syria .)
r whitman re comment 155. With respect, the piece to which you link is an article in a publication of the American Chemical Society, not a statement by that society. As to its credibility, the following quotation from Jean Pascal Zanders illustrates the quality of argument deployed: ‘Novichok agents are not specifically listed in the schedules of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), says Zanders, because “they only became public after the treaty negotiations had been concluded.” But that does not amount to a loophole that would allow their use, because the CWC places a blanket prohibition on the manufacture of any toxic chemical intended to be a weapon. “It covers any toxic chemical, be it past, present, or future,” says Zanders. Russia has been a party to the convention since it entered into force in 1997, and the Novichok agents “should have been declared to the OPCW, even if they don’t appear in the schedules,” says Zanders.’ As was made absolutely clear in the March 2013 document from the Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW which I quoted in comment 121, ‘Novichoks’ could have been included, and were not, because the evidence was not deemed adequate: ‘[The SAB] emphasised that the definition of toxic chemicals in the Convention would cover all potential candidate chemicals that might be utilised as chemical weapons. Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”.’ (See https://www.opcw.org/fileadmin/OPCW/CSP/RC-3/en/rc3wp01_e_.pdf ) The ‘Chemical & Engineering News’ article is clearly based upon the premise that Vil Mirzayanov is a reliable source. It seems clear that the OPCW scientists were not persuaded of this. These are facts which Zanders must know, so his contribution would appear to be patently dishonest, and the inclusion of it by the author of the article a reflection either of similar dishonesty or incompetence. What this emphatically does not mean is that we are in a position to assume that there was no ‘fire’ beneath the ‘smoke’ put out by Mirzayanov. The fact that Russian statements have not denied the existence of ‘Novichoks’ may simply be due to ignorance on the part of those involved. The most authoritative statement I have seen is in a ‘tweet’ from the Russian Ambassador to the UN. This however denies research, development and manufacturing in Russia – while the reports generally refer to Uzbekistan. (See https://twitter.com/EmbassyofRussia/status/974177410676555777 .) This may simply be a slip, it may be a subterfuge. We are not yet in a position to make definite judgements.
Barbara Ann, In reply to 139. Ironically, while I think the notion that the Russian authorities would have organised this kind of attack now is peculiarly preposterous, I think there are a very large number of suspects – including both state actors and some non-state. So, for example, Ukrainian oligarchs would very likely be in a position to organise such an operation. Moreover, if they did, the British authorities would have very little option but to cover up for them. One thing which is striking me forcibly is the way that the claims about a long history of assassinations of ‘dissidents’ in the UK in the ‘investigation’ by ‘BuzzFeed’ last June, of which the centrepiece was a long piece entitled ‘From Russia With Blood’ are now being recycled all over the place. (See, for example, this from the ‘Chicago Tribune – http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-russian-dissidents-poisoned-20180306-story.html .) A possible element in the story is that both ‘BuzzFeed’ and Christopher Steele face very serious potential problems in lawsuits relating to the ‘dossier.’ Both have been sued by Aleksej Gubarev and XBT, while the former also has to face actions from the Alfa oligarchs, Michael Cohen, and Carter Page. The best way of avoiding a disaster for both ‘BuzzFeed’ and Steele – which could have large knock-on implications – may be to reinforce the already prevalent climate of hysteria, so that even the most preposterous claims in the dossier can be made to seem reasonable.
LondonBob, In response to comment 87. Unfortunately, although the pieces by both Séamus Martin and Craig Murray to which you link are much better than most MSM coverage, among many problems with them is the rather basic one that both accept without question an unproven assumption that is fundamental to the whole British case against Russia over Skripal – that a class of lethal CW called ‘Novichoks’ actually exists. A relevant post has just appeared on the site of a ‘Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media’ recently set up by a group of British academics. It is co-authored by Paul McKeigue, Professor of Statistical Genetics and Genetic Epidemiology at Edinburgh University, and Piers Robinson, Professor of Politics, Society and Political Journalism’ at Sheffield University, and is entitled ‘Doubts about “Novichoks”.’ (See http://syriapropagandamedia.org/working-papers .) In the Commons on 12 March, Theresa May claimed that ‘world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down have established that Skripal was poisoned with one of a ‘group of nerve agents known as Novichok,’ developed by Russia. Until recently the head of the detection laboratory at Porton Down was Dr Robin Black. As McKeigue and Robinson note, back in 2016 this ‘world-leading expert’ on chemical weapons – he really is that – published a chapter in a book on ‘Chemical Warfare Toxicology’ entitled ‘Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents.’ The link to this at the site of the Royal Society of Chemistry is at the end of the piece by McKeigue and Robinson – a free download if one registers. I would very strongly recommend the whole chapter to anyone seriously interested in getting to grips with issues to do with chemical weapons, as it provides an authoritative account accessible to those without a scientific background. Of particular interest in relation to May’s accusations against Russia is the fact that Black specifically states that the existence of the Russian programme to which she refers was unconfirmed as of his writing: ‘In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the “Foliant” programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published.’ What he is suggesting is that in the course of the – OPCW-monitored – destruction of the Russian chemical weapons programme, no evidence emerged confirming the claims by Mirzayanov. For this to be consistent with the Prime Minister’s claims, some pretty radical assumptions have to be introduced. As McKeigue and Robinson also note, a similar scepticism was expressed in a March 2013 report by the Scientific Advisory Board on the OPCW – again, the link is in the ‘Working Group’ document: ‘[The SAB] emphasised that the definition of toxic chemicals in the Convention would cover all potential candidate chemicals that might be utilised as chemical weapons. Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”.’ Of course, it is possible that, since Dr Black wrote, both Porton Down and the OPCW have received conclusive evidence vindicating the claims by Mirzayanov. It is even just remotely conceivable – very remotely conceivable – that all these people are part of a conspiracy to cover the devastating information revealed by Mirzayanov. But those who want to argue this owe us at least an attempt to provide a coherent account of how this might be so. And then, it has to be born in mind that there is a long history of people in the West accepting, without critical examination, claims from ‘dissidents’ and ‘defectors’ from the former Soviet Union and now Russia. In this connection, I would refer people to two reports from Judith Miller. One, from 1999 in the ‘New York Times’, is entitled ‘U.S. and Uzbeks Agree on Chemical Arms Plant Cleanup’. It both accepts Mirzayanov’s claim’s at face value, and suggests American officials also did this. (See http://www.nytimes.com/1999/05/25/world/us-and-uzbeks-agree-on-chemical-arms-plant-cleanup.html .) Another, published yesterday in the ‘City Journal’ is entitled ‘Chemical Weapons are Back, Thanks to Russia; The banned agents are increasingly being used for assassination and terror.’ (See https://www.city-journal.org/html/chemical-weapons-are-back-thanks-russia-15766.html .) The ‘City Journal’ is an outlet with which I was unfamiliar. At first glance, and particular in the light of their publishing Judith Miller, it seems to me it might usefully be retitled ‘Still useful idiots, after all these years, and proud of it’, or ‘Inside the bubble, and terrified of having it pricked.’ If this seems extreme, have a look at her article. Compounding the confusion is the fact that various Russians quoted repudiating Theresa May’s accusations have not denied that the ‘Novichoks’ programme existed. In general, these seem to me to be people who could not be expected to have a grasp of the detailed history of the Soviet chemical weapons programme, and this would not be the first time that such figures have opened their big mouths in response to questionable accusations and in so doing given these unmerited credibility. (See https://www.rt.com/news/421200-uk-novichok-agent-allegations/ ; https://sputniknews.com/russia/201803131062469325-russia-nerve-agent/ .) However, these are not matters which need to be prejudged. What we clearly need is clarification about the actual state of the evidence about ‘Novichoks’ from people who are well-informed, both on the Western and Russian sides. Maybe if some people in the Western MSM actually did some journalism, as it used to be understood, we might get it. It would not be sufficient to establish Russian responsibility to establish that the programme to create ‘Novichoks’ actually existed, but it would seem rather close to a necessary condition. Until the problems raised by McKeigue and Robinson are cleared up, it really is premature to conduct any discussion of the Skripal poisoning on the basis of the assumption that it did. Meanwhile, it is difficult to see what possible grounds there can be for the apparent reluctance of the British to supply the Russians with samples for testing. An intriguing question is raised by the arguments made by McKeigue and Robinson. Clearly something was tested at Porton Down, and some kind of results produced. If in fact ‘Novochoks’ do not exist, what was it that was tested, and what were the results? As with the test results from Porton Down and other laboratories on samples from incidents where CW have been used in Syria, one comes back to the urgent need to have the actual test results in the public domain, and the obvious implausibility of claims that ‘sources and methods’ considerations mean that this cannot be done. Incidentally, Professor McKeigue is also the author of what I take to be a highly cogent demolition of the report of the UN/OPCW ‘Joint Investigative Commission’, issued last October, which blamed the Syrian government for the Khan Sheikhoun sarin atrocity, to which I have referred in earlier comments. (See https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/khan-sheikhoun-chemical-attack-guest-blog-featuring-paul-mckeigues-reassessment/ .) Among other things, his argument provides very strong reasons to suspect that intense pressure was put on people at the OPCW to collaborate in the cover-up of a ‘false flag.’ It thus becomes perfectly natural to ask whether similar pressure may have been put on people at Porton Down. The fact that Theresa May simply assumed away the possibility of a ‘false flag’ would seem reason at least to a range of possibilities regarding her role – ranging from very great naivety to actual collusion in a cover-up of a ‘false flag.’ If she wants to prove such suspicions are groundless, she should order the disclosure of the kind of information I have suggested needs to be made public – just as General Mattis should order the disclosure of the test results relevant to Syrian CW incidents which publicly available evidence indicates must be available to him. In all these cases, what we most of all simply need are the charts showing the ‘spectra’ of the various compounds identified by the testing processes. It is difficult to see any cogent ‘sources and methods’ grounds for not disclosing these. Once they were disclosed, an informed discussion by people with relevant scientific competence would become possible. Until they are disclosed, suspicion will be unavoidable that those who do not want to see them disclosed are afraid of what such informed discussion would reveal.
PT and all, More material on the British end of the conspiracy. Commenting on an earlier piece by PT, I suggested that a key piece of evidence pointing to ‘Guccifer 2.0’ being a fake personality created by the conspirators in their attempt to disguise the fact that the materials from the DNC published by ‘WikiLeaks’ were obtained by a leak rather than a hack had to do with the involvement of the former GCHQ person Matt Tait. (See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2018/02/pieces-of-the-coup-puzzle-fall-into-place-by-publius-tacitus.html .) To recapitulate: Back in June 2016, hard on the heels of the claim by Dmitri Alperovitch of ‘CrowdStrike’ to have identified clinching evidence making the GRU prime suspects, Tait announced that, although initially unconvinced, he had found a ‘smoking gun’ in the ‘metadata’ of the documents released by ‘Guccifer 2.0.’ A key part of this was the use by someone modifying a document of ‘Felix Edmundovich’ – the name and patronymic of Dzerzhinsky, the Lithuanian-Polish noble who created the Soviet secret police. As I noted, Tait was generally identified as a former GCHQ employee who now ran a consultancy called ‘Capital Alpha Security.’ However, checking Companies House records revealed that he had filed ‘dormant accounts’ for the company. So it looks as though the company was simply a ‘front’, designed to fool ‘useful idiots’ into believing he was an objective analyst. As I also noted in those comments, Tait writes the ‘Lawfare’ blog, one of whose founders, Benjamin Wittes, looks as though he may himself have been involved in the conspiracy up to the hilt. Furthermore, a secure income now appears to have been provided to replace that from the non-existent consultancy, in the shape of a position at the ‘Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law’, run by Robert Chesney, a co-founder with Wittes of ‘Lawfare.’ A crucial part of the story, however, is that the notion of GRU responsibility for the supposed ‘hacks’ appears to be part of a wider ‘narrative’ about the supposed ‘Gerasimov Doctrine.’ From the ‘View from Langley’ provided to Bret Stephens by CIA Director Mike Pompeo at the ‘Aspen Security Forum’ last July: ‘I hearken back to something called the Gerasimov doctrine from the early 70s, he’s now the head of the – I’m a Cold War guy, forgive me if I mention Soviet Union. He’s now the head of the Russian army and his idea was that you can win wars without firing a single shot or with firing very few shots in ways that are decidedly not militaristic, and that’s what’s happened. What changes is the costs; to effectuate change through cyber and through RT and Sputnik, their news outlets, and through other soft means; has just really been lowered, right. It used to be it was expensive to run an ad on a television station now you simply go online and propagate your message. And so they have they have found an effective tool, an easy way to go reach into our systems, and into our culture to achieve the outcomes they are looking for.’ (See https://aspensecurityforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/The-View-from-Langley.pdf .) What has however become clear in recent days is that the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ was not invented by its supposed author, but by a British academic, Mark Galeotti, who has now confessed – although in a way clearly designed to maintain as much of the ‘narrative’ as possible. Three days ago, an article by Galleoti appeared in ‘Foreign Policy’ entitled ‘I’m Sorry for Creating the “Gerasimov Doctrine”: I was the first to write about Russia’s infamous high-tech military strategy. One small problem: it doesn’t exist.’ (See http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/05/im-sorry-for-creating-the-gerasimov-doctrine/ .) A key paragraph: ‘Gerasimov was actually talking about how the Kremlin understands what happened in the “Arab Spring” uprisings, the “color revolutions” against pro-Moscow regimes in Russia’s neighborhood, and in due course Ukraine’s “Maidan” revolt. The Russians honestly – however wrongly – believe that these were not genuine protests against brutal and corrupt governments, but regime changes orchestrated in Washington, or rather, Langley. This wasn’t a “doctrine” as the Russians understand it, for future adventures abroad: Gerasimov was trying to work out how to fight, not promote, such uprisings at home.’ The translation of the original article by Gerasimov with annotations by Galeotti which provoked the whole hysteria turns out to be a classic example of what I am inclined to term ‘bad Straussianism.’ (See https://inmoscowsshadows.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/the-gerasimov-doctrine-and-russian-non-linear-war/ .) What Strauss would have called the ‘exoteric’ meaning of the article quite clearly has to do with defensive strategies aimed at combatting the kind of Western ‘régime change’ projects about which people like those who write for ‘Lawfare’ are so enthusiastic. But Galeotti tells us that this is, at least partially, a cover for an ‘esoteric’ meaning, which has to do with offensive actions in Ukraine and similar places. Having now read the text of the article, I can see a peculiar irony in it. In a section entitled ‘You Can’t Generate Ideas On Command’, Gerasimov suggests that ‘The state of Russian military science today cannot be compared with the flowering of military-theoretical thought in our country on the eve of World War II.’ According to the ‘exoteric’ meaning of the article, it is not possible to blame anyone in particular for this situation. But Gerasimov goes on on to remark that, while at the time of that flowering there were ‘no people with higher degrees’ or ‘academic schools or departments’, there were ‘extraordinary personalities with brilliant ideas’, who he terms ‘fanatics in the best sense of the word.’ Again, Galeotti discounts the suggestion that nobody is to blame, assuming an ‘esoteric meaning’, and remarking: ‘Ouch. Who is he slapping here?’ Actually, Gerasimov refers by name to two, utterly different figures, who certainly were ‘extraordinarily personalities with brilliant ideas.’ If Pompeo had even the highly amateurish grasp of the history of debates among Soviet military theorists that I have managed to acquire he would be aware that one of the things which was actually happening in the ‘Seventies was the rediscovery of the ideas of Alexander Svechin. Confirming my sense that this has continued on, Gerasimov ends by using Svechin to point up an intractable problem: it can be extraordinarily difficult to anticipate the conditions of a war, and crucial not to impose a standardised template likely to be inappropriate, but one has to make some kinds of prediction in order to plan. Immediately after the passage which Galeotti interprets as a dig at some colleague, Gerasimov elaborates his reference to ‘extraordinary people with brilliant ideas’ by referring to an anticipation of a future war, which proved prescient, from a very different figure to Svechin: ‘People like, for instance, Georgy Isserson, who, despite the views he formed in the prewar years, published the book “New Forms Of Combat.” In it, this Soviet military theoretician predicted: “War in general is not declared. It simply begins with already developed military forces. Mobilization and concentration is not part of the period after the onset of the state of war as was the case in 1914 but rather, unnoticed, proceeds long before that.” The fate of this “prophet of the Fatherland” unfolded tragically. Our country paid in great quantities of blood for not listening to the conclusions of this professor of the General Staff Academy.’ Unlike Svechin, whom I have read, I was unfamiliar with Isserson. A quick Google search, however, unearthed a mass of material in American sources – including, by good fortune, an online text of a 2010 study by Dr Richard Harrison entitled ‘Architect of Soviet Victory in World War II: The Life and Theories of G.S. Isserson’, and a presentation summarising the volume. Ironically, Svechin and Isserson were on opposite sides of fundamental divides. So the former, an ethnic Russian from Odessa, was one of the ‘genstabisty’, the former Tsarist General Staff officers who sided with the Bolsheviks and played a critical role in teaching the Red Army how to fight. Meanwhile Isserson was a very different product of the ‘borderlands’ – the son of a Jewish doctor, brought up in Kaunas, with a German Jewish mother from what was then Königsberg, giving him an easy facility with German-language sources. The originator of the crucial concept of ‘operational’ art – the notion that in modern industrial war, the ability to handle a level intermediate between strategy and tactics was critical to success – was actually Svechin. Developing the ambivalence of Clausewitz, however, he stressed that both the offensive and the defensive had their places, and that the key to success was to know which was appropriate when and also to be able rapidly to change from one to the other. His genuflections to Marxist-Leninist dogma, moreover, were not such as to take in any of Dzerzhinsky’s people. By contrast, Isserson was unambiguously committed to the offensive strand in the Clausewitzian tradition, and a Bolshevik ‘true believer’ (although he married the daughter of a dispossessed ethnically Russian merchant, who had their daughter baptised without his knowledge.) As Harrison brings out, Isserson’s working through of the problems of offensive ‘operational art’ would be critical to the eventual success of the Red Army against Hitler. However, the specific text to which he refers was, ironically, a warning of precisely one of the problems implicit in the single-minded reliance on the offensive: the possibility that one could be left with no good options confronting an antagonist similarly oriented – as turned out to be the case. As Gerasimov intimates, while unlike Svechin, executed in 1938, Isserson survived the Stalin years, he was another of the victims of Dzerzhinsky’s heirs. Arrested shortly before his warnings were vindicated by the German attack on 22 June 1941, he would spend the war in the Gulag and only return to normal life after Stalin’s death. So I think that the actual text of Gerasimov’s article reinforces a point I have made previously. The ‘evidence’ identified by Tait is indeed a ‘smoking gun.’ But it emphatically does not point towards the GRU. Meanwhile, another moral of the tale is that Americans really should stop being taken in by charlatan Brits like Galeotti, Tait, and Steele.