Oliver Kamm on Trump, Putin, and Syria

Oliver Kamm takes a break from telling us George Orwell’s advice on writing is rubbish to advocate war with Russia. The headline:

Trump’s abdication of duty leaves Putin unchallenged

Let’s see.

Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state in the Clinton administration, famously described America as the indispensable nation.

Ah, Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. Clinton’s foreign policy can at best be described as one of benign neglect: on his watch Al-Qaeda formed, carried out deadly attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and put in all the ground work for 9/11. In terms of interventions, he put American troops into Somalia which ended in humiliating disaster and managed to drop a bomb on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade while helping Kosovars. Now I’m perhaps willing to listen to the argument that there was a humanitarian need to intervene in Kosovo, but the decision to make it a NATO action and subject Belgrade to aerial bombardment was a catastrophic mistake we’re still paying for (I’ll come back to that later). So why Albright is someone worth quoting on the subject of foreign policy I don’t know.

Her supposed vaingloriousness has been criticised but she was right. In the absence of a supranational authority capable of exercising sovereignty, the task of guaranteeing global public goods like regional security and a reserve currency falls to the world’s leading democracy.

Now Oliver Kamm was one of the biggest supporters of Tony Blair’s decision to join George W. Bush in invading Iraq, sincerely believing that bombing a population, wrecking their country, and killing thousands of them is a sensible solution to a humanitarian crisis. To be fair, at the time lots of people – myself included – thought the idea had merits. What the Iraq debacle taught us is that it didn’t, and military intervention only makes things much, much worse. To my knowledge, Kamm is the only person aside from lunatic neo-cons in the US who thinks it’s still a good idea. Presumably that’s why The Times didn’t let him run this piece on their pages.

Tragically, the United States under President Trump is suspicious of that historic role. And into the vacuum that America leaves, President Putin steps.

This is a neat little narrative, but historically inaccurate. America left no vacuum in Syria because they were never there; they left a vacuum in Iraq because Obama pulled out too early, allowing ISIS to form; and it was Obama, not Trump, who blathered on about “red lines” in Syria before doing absolutely nothing when they were crossed. Note also that a large part of Trump’s appeal was that he seemed uninterested in getting America bogged down in pointless foreign wars. But the likes of Kamm thinks it’s the responsibility of US presidents to uphold supposedly liberal principles in bombing countries against the wishes of both sets of people.

It’s an abdication of responsibility that undermines the liberal international order and betrays peoples struggling against oppression.

The immediate victims of this shift in relative power are nearly 400,000 civilians in Eastern Ghouta in Syria, who last week suffered heavy bombardment (with hundreds of fatalities) from the depraved Assad regime.

Presumably this wouldn’t be happening under Obama, who dealt with Syria and Putin in robust fashion. I might as well say it now: the entire basis of this article is snobbery about Trump on the part of Kamm. Most of his criticism ought to be directed at Obama – who is not mentioned once. Anyone familiar with Kamm’s Twitter feed will know he considers Trump to be awfully vulgar and not fit for office, not like the oh so sophisticated and well-mannered Obama.

Syria is a client state of Russia.

So what? So is Belarus. Kamm thinks the US should adopt the same zero-sum geopolitical as Putin, whereby whatever is good for Russia must automatically be bad for America. America has absolutely no strategic interest or reason to be involved in Syria. Does the US have some sort of moral obligation to ensure no state is a client of Russia? Is this a cause American servicemen sign up to die for?

The UN Security Council carried a resolution on Saturday demanding that “all parties cease hostilities without delay for at least 30 consecutive days” to allow the transport of humanitarian aid. The compromises required by Russia ensure that the resolution is an exhibition of handwringing. It doesn’t establish a starting date and it doesn’t constrain Syrian and Russian forces from continuing attacks under the fiction of being engaged in anti-terrorist operations. Essentially, all opponents of the regime are labelled terrorists by Assad, Putin and their apologists.

The UN is useless, yes. How is any of this Trump’s fault?

This is not quite the scenario that Russian state propaganda looked forward to under the Trump administration but it’s bad enough. Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of the fake news channel RT (formerly Russia Today), said triumphantly on the night of Mr Trump’s election that she would retire when “Trump recognises Crimea as part of Russia, strikes a deal with us on Syria, and frees Julian Assange”. These things have not happened, nor are they likely to…

So a news channel that Kamm thinks peddles fake news makes some daft predictions which he later references in an article to support his argument – but immediately concedes were ill-founded. I can only assume the editor of this piece is a personal friend of Kamm’s.

Yet there is a new modus vivendi in international relations, whereby the Putin regime can in effect do whatever it likes, however outrageous, confident there will be no pushback from the US.

Kamm will be well aware that this modus vivendi is not new, and came about during the Obama administration. His attempts to blame it on Trump are disingenuous. Also, Kamm has obviously missed this story:

The other big story involving Russia in Syria relates to the devastating American response to an attack mounted on a base of US-supported fighters where some American advisers were located. The US responded with extreme–and I mean extreme–violence. In response to a battalion-sized attack, they threw just about everything in the arsenal at the assault–artillery, F-15Es, MQ-9 drones, AH-64 Apaches, B-52s(!), and AC-130s.

This extremely forceful response was clearly sending a message.  It reminds me of what Mattis told Iraqi tribal leaders: “I come in peace. I did not bring artillery. But if you fuck with me, I will kill you all.”  The assaulting force was f*cking with the US, and Mattis’ military responded by pretty much killing them all.

They’ll think twice next time. And that’s the point.

This represents a far greater direct action against Russian interests in Syria than anything Obama managed in his 8 years. Apparently the reason the US has had such success against ISIS in Iraq and Syria recently is because Trump handed operational control over to James Mattis and told him to get on with it. By contrast, Obama wanted to micromanage every last detail. Now personally I don’t think the US should be fighting in Syria, but given that they are – and killing Russians – it’s hard to see how this fits in with Kamm’s theory that Trump’s election is good news for Russia and he’s allowing Putin to do whatever he wants.

Indeed, interfering in America’s presidential election is one of those flagrant Russian violations of international comity, and Mr Trump was the beneficiary.

You know the article is in trouble if the author’s bought into the “Putin swung the election for Trump” bullshit. As I said already, little wonder The Times didn’t run this piece. I’m wondering why CapX did: they’re normally more sensible than this.

To point out how far American diplomatic influence has fallen under Mr Trump is a commonplace of commentary but it bears repeating.

The Nato alliance, founded in 1949, ensured that Western Europe remained democratic and Eastern Europe once again became so even in the face of Soviet expansionism and threats.

Kamm spends considerable efforts both on Twitter and in The Times telling everyone how wonderful Germany, France, and the EU are. Rather than blaming Trump for the demise of NATO and the rise in Putin’s confidence, he might want to remark on the refusal of European countries – chiefly Germany – to provide for their own defence, preferring instead to carp from the sidelines under the safety of the American umbrella. He might also want to remark on the fact that Trump has quite plainly said the European countries – chiefly Germany – must start contributing more if the alliance is to survive. He might also reflect on the fact that much of Russia’s distrust of NATO stems from the alliance’s decision to bomb Serbia for reasons which had nothing to do with its charter.

There’s nothing to be done by us pundits that will affect the world of statecraft but we can at least expose the propaganda efforts by which the Putin regime advances its goals.

We’ll oppose Putin’s propaganda by publishing risible nonsense of our own. But what is Kamm suggesting, exactly? Trump has maintained the sanctions on Russia put in place by Obama, and increased arms sales to Ukraine. Once Putin decided to guarantee the survival of Assad by military force, the US wasn’t left with much choice other than outright war with Russia. Is that what Kamm wants? War with Russia? If America’s interests in Syria were purely humanitarian, opposing Assad and Russia by arming their opponents and dragging the war out indefinitely was probably the worst thing to do.

Despite the headline, nowhere does Kamm outline what he believes Trump’s duty is, other than the vague idea he should oppose Putin. I’d be more forgiving of pompous metropolitan journalists if they offered some concrete solutions instead of lofty ideals, and didn’t airily dismiss the results of the democratic process when the masses don’t sign up to their bone-headed agendas.


White-Knights and Prostitutes

*This post has been updated*

A month or so back some people I follow on Twitter who are Russian-focused recommended someone’s writing, so I followed her. Thus far I’ve not seen much to justify the recommendation (her latest piece is a lame satire of Trump, as if there’s a shortage of that sort of thing) but following such people can nevertheless throw up some interesting discussion points. Last night the lady in question, a Ukrainian-American, took to Twitter to complain about how men stereotype her. Here’s how I responded to one of her tweets:

Bear in mind she started the topic with “Let’s talk about stereotypes of Slavic women”, and that she purports to be a professional writer and journalist; in my naivety I thought maybe she actually wanted a discussion. It turned out she didn’t, but I see no reason why I shouldn’t have one here.

Russian women do get stereotyped and it can be unpleasant for a normal woman when its assumed she’s a whore. But, as I point out in my tweet, there’s a reason for this. My Turkish friend, for example, takes a very dim view of Russian women because in her home country they are synonymous with the thousands of prostitutes who turned up to ply their trade, many of whom were at the very low end of the business having unprotected sex with truck drivers which spread disease and broke up families. It might be a view that’s unfair to Russian women, but my friend hasn’t had the pleasure of meeting ordinary Russians and so she’s going on what she knows. And there is no denying that there are a lot of Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish prostitutes working in European cities – more than Turkish, Egyptian, and Portuguese, for instance.

If I walk into a bar in Thailand, or even down the street, the locals assume I’m interested in a prostitute. If I found myself in Pat’s Bar in Lagos after the rugby had finished, most people in there would think I was after a prostitute. If I went into the York International Hotel in Dubai in 2004, most people would assume I was there for the hookers. Similarly, when Brits turn up in certain Mediterranean holiday resorts, the locals expect trouble. If the England soccer team are playing away, the local police flip the safety catch off the water cannon before they’ve even cleared immigration. Any discussion on stereotypes and assumptions made about you based on your nationality must take into account the origins of those stereotypes. So in the case of this lady above, she ought to at least acknowledge that, for many people – especially the Arabs and South Asians she mentions specifically – the only Russian or Ukrainian women they’ve ever encountered have been prostitutes, and that many of her compatriots are prostitutes.

Ah, but this is Twitter and I should have known better. Within minutes of posting the white-knights appeared.


Alas, this is pretty standard on Twitter: a vaguely attractive woman posts something and you get a handful of men falling over themselves to agree with her. If you say something remotely contradictory, they all pile in. This is why I am so fond of this pic (origin unknown):

Naturally, the original poster didn’t respond, but was content to like the responses to me. But that’s by the by. What i found ironic is the assumption that these tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian women who worked as prostitutes had no choice (note the usual lefty debating trick of deliberately conflating “most”, “many”, and “all”).

There’s a habit of western men when they first meet a bunch of developing-world prostitutes to assume they’re all bright young things down on their luck whom life has dealt a miserable hand and they’re in need of saving by someone just like them. Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes with a bunch of third-world prostitutes will know they’re ruthless bitches who have lied so many times they barely remember their real name. When it comes to Russian prostitutes, they became adept at telling gullible men they were well-educated and wanted to work in a normal job but had no choice but to become prostitutes in Dubai and Bangkok because of the economic hardships at home. I used to hear this back in 2003-4, then I worked out these women were not well-educated, they came from broken homes with seriously fucked-up childhoods, and simply made the choice to make some good money quickly. Again this is fair enough, but one should never forget that for every woman who chose to become  a prostitute, there are plenty who faced the same hardships but chose differently.

Now there might have been some women from Russia and Ukraine forced into prostitution, by which I mean they’re in chains and controlled by gangsters, but I I’m not convinced more than a negligible number work abroad in such conditions. Certainly this was the case when I lived in Dubai, because the girls would have talked about it. They were bound to their sponsors once they got there (as are many legitimate workers) but nobody forced them to come, or hoodwinked them. Long-time readers may remember I actually witnessed one girl being recruited for the job when I made that trip to Nizhnekamsk in 2004 in the company of another girl who knew the process rather well and, without batting an eyelid, told me everything about how it works. And as has been discussed in the comments at Tim Worstall’s on several occasions, trafficking Eastern European women for the purposes of prostitution makes absolutely no sense whatsoever: all major cities are awash with young women working voluntarily and prepared to do pretty much anything for a couple of hundred quid. Where’s the economic sense in kidnapping a woman, chaining her to a bed, and risking a lengthy jail term for people-trafficking in such a market?

What the white-knights are doing is assuming these poor Russians and Ukrainians had no choice but to become prostitutes, thereby implying any Russian or Ukrainian will turn to prostitution should the right economic conditions arise. Given these remarks appear in a thread in support of a Ukrainian woman complaining men often presume she’s a hooker, it’s rather ironic. Even more ironic is she approves of these remarks. It’s a funny place, Twitter.


The whole thing turned into a big pile-on yesterday afternoon. One person in particular took objection to being called a white-knight:

A man on the internet leaping to the defence of a woman who is “a personal friend” after incorrectly believing someone insulted her, followed by an attempt to look tough, is pretty much the textbook definition of a white-knight. Does this guy not realise he’s so deep in the friend zone that he could tweet his little fingers off all day long and still not get anywhere? His threats didn’t stop there, however:

I’m trembling so much my knees are knocking.

Some others were simply dim, chief among them this woman:

She’d give Cathy Newman a run for her money. Then white-knight pops up again:

According to Twitter, the reputation Russian and Ukrainian women have in the Middle East and elsewhere stems from women who were trafficked there, forced into prostitution against their will. If you follow the thread, we learn none of them have actually met any of these women – but from their offices in the US and Canada they have read reports and studied papers which show they have been trafficked and few are there voluntarily. How so many are free to take boyfriends and get married remains a mystery. Perhaps their pimps are the romantic sort?

Finally, given this started out with various women complaining men treat them like prostitutes, allow me to pass on some advice to my female readership. If you find men are routinely presuming you to be a prostitute, I recommend you:

1. Look at the places you are hanging out in.

2. Look at the men you are hanging out with.

3. Look at your own behaviour.

I know many women, and many Russian and Ukrainian women; very few have told me they get mistaken for a prostitute. If it’s a problem for women, it doesn’t appear to be universal.


Is there no limit to the damage wrought by Clinton?

Staying on the subject of Trump:

Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed as “blather” the charges levelled by the FBI special counsel against 13 Russians for election meddling.

Sergei Lavrov said at a major security conference in Germany he would not comment further until he saw “facts”.

According to the indictment:

The 37-page indictment says a group of Russians:

Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name; some visited the US

Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising

Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation

Organised and promoted political rallies within the United States

Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens

Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton

Received money from clients to post on US social media sites

Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram

Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)

Financed the building of a cage large enough to hold an actress portraying Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform

The indictment says those involved systematically monitored the success of their internet posts.

All of the 13 people named were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three have also been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five have been accused of aggravated identity theft. Three companies have also been charged.

This is pretty weak sauce, and if the American election can be unduly influenced by this then the nation is in trouble indeed. And as Tim Worstall points out, the Americans intervened to a far greater extent in the Russian general election in the early 1990s, supporting reforms which went a long way to creating the discontent which Putin capitalised on to maintain his grip on power.

What this is, and always has been, is an attempt to save Hillary Clinton’s face. She lost the election fair and square because she was an appalling candidate, and rather than accept it, her supporters are prepared to wreck already fraught relations with a serious geopolitical rival to spin this ludicrous narrative. The damage this woman has done to the USA is incredible, and still it continues, yet everyone blames Trump. There are people out there, some of whom laughably call themselves conservatives, who believe this latest indictment is proof that Russia is at war with the United States. Yes, there are supposedly serious politicians and commentators calling for war with Russia because they don’t want to face up to the fact that Hillary was a lousy candidate.

Whereas I suppose Putin has found much of this genuinely amusing up to now, this indictment changes things. The individuals named are in Russia and so unlikely to be arrested, but the intent is there. Putin has often accused foreigners working for NGOs in Russia of interfering in politics, shutting down various organisations in the process. He was rightly criticised for this, but it’s hard to see why Russians should tolerate Americans doing political work in Russia if Americans believe disparaging Hillary Clinton on Facebook is an offence worthy of FBI indictment. If Putin chooses to do so he could start making life very difficult for Americans in Russia now, and the American government wouldn’t have a damned leg to stand on. Those who may find themselves languishing in an icy cell on dubious charges of political subversion can thank Hillary Clinton, her insatiable ego, and her thoroughly corrupt supporters for their predicament.


Russian Rifle Raid Reveals Ravenous Reptile, Reds Responsible

Via JuliaM, this story from Russia:

Russian police searching for illegal weapons in a St Petersburg house faced a scaly surprise in the basement: a two-metre (6.5ft) Nile crocodile.

Where the hell did they get it from in the first place? I’ve been to Saint Petersburg, and one thing you don’t see among those strange creatures basking in the mud along the Neva river or the fountains at Peterhof are Nile crocodiles.

Police said the reptile did not cause any injuries – but now they must find a new home for it. Russian media say the house is used by a nationalist group.

With a penchant for Lacoste?

A stockpile of illegal arms was found in the raid, in the city’s Peterhof suburb, RIA Novosti news reports.

It included explosive devices and copies of Kalashnikov assault rifles.

A 40-year-old man arrested in November is suspected of illegal possession of weapons.

I admit this is some way outside my line of work, but I reckon if I was assembling illegal weapons in my basement I’d find the presence of a large crocodile somewhat distracting.

The St Petersburg news website Fontanka says the property houses a “patriotic youth militia” called Red Star (“Krasnaya Zvezda” in Russian).

Red Star doesn’t sound very nationalistic, does it? More Communist, I’d say.

The crocodile was living in a pool that had been dug into the concrete floor.

I want to know what it ate. Small children? Putin’s enemies? So many questions. It’s at times like this when I mourn the death of traditional journalism.

Leningrad Zoo says it has no extra space to take it in.

Aw. I expect it’ll remain in Saint Petersburg, albeit in the form of a handbag in the window of a shop on Nevskiy Prospekt.



From the BBC:

Britain’s armed forces risk falling behind Russia without more investment, the head of the Army will say.

General Sir Nick Carter will say the British Army’s ability to respond to threats “will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries”.

When I first read this story about an hour ago, they used words to the effect of the British Army not being able to match the Russian Army in battle. Since then the BBC have updated it to the above, perhaps realising they were making stuff up.

But leaving that aside, when have the British armed forces ever been able to match Russia’s? Sure, a platoon from 2 Para or a troop from 42 Cdo would likely make short work of a Russian infantry platoon, but the military as a whole? There may have been a period around 1992 when Russia’s military officers hadn’t seen any pay in over a year leaving half of them flogging weapons out the back of the camp and the rest passed out under a missile silo having drunk a litre of distilled shoe polish, but otherwise the British Army hasn’t been a match for the Russians probably since the Crimean War – and especially not on their turf.

For a start the Russian forces have an overwhelming numerical advantage in terms of men and kit, and even if we allow for the fact that their organisation and logistics is likely shambolic and spectacular SNAFUs will be the norm, they still know how to deploy highly effective artillery and air defence systems when they have to. In addition, even though the average recruit in the Russian Army might be uneducated, undertrained, underfed, and ill-disciplined he will probably have the stomach for a decent fight. By contrast, the British Army is fast turning into a social welfare programme where recruits fret over battlefield prayer facilities and a unit’s success is measured not on how many battles it’s won, but on how much diversity it has in its ranks.

Any role Britain has in opposing Russia will consist in its entirety of supporting the Americans as best they can, assuming our Yank friends are interested in getting involved. Otherwise, if Russia is a genuine threat, we’re probably better off learning a few words of Russian and learning how to drink vodka neat from tumblers than increasing the Army’s budget.


Renaming Roads

This is actually a neat bit of provocation:

Washington DC has renamed the street the Russian embassy sits on after a murdered Russian opposition politician.

The city council voted to rename the street outside Russia’s embassy complex after Boris Nemtsov, who was shot outside the Kremlin in 2015.

A statement from the council said the decision to honour the “slain democracy activist” passed unanimously.

It might seem a bit petty to some, but the murder of Boris Nemtsov was appalling. True, five Chechen men (who else?) have been jailed for it, but I doubt even Russians believe it was their idea, assuming they even had anything to do with it. There’s not much anyone can do about it, other than:

His daughter, Zhanna, travelled to Washington DC in early December to advocate for the name change.

Well, good for her. Nobody sane thinks the US should start dropping bombs on Moscow over this, but if they can rename a street at the behest of the murdered man’s daughter and annoy their political enemies? Well, why not?

Frankly, I think this practice should become more widespread. We could rename the road on which the Argentine embassy sits Falkland Islands Avenue, the street which houses the Zimbabwean embassy Ian Smith Street, and the location of the French embassy White Flag Drive. What’s not to like? Suggestions for others in the comments, please.


Still Keeping Britain Safe

I see the Royal Navy is talking tough about Russians again:

A British frigate shadowed a Russian warship through the North Sea near UK waters on Christmas Day, the Royal Navy has revealed.

“Near” UK waters. If this chart is accurate, that could be well out into the Atlantic or up towards the Arctic circle.

HMS St Albans monitored the Admiral Gorshkov’s “activity in areas of national interest”, it said.

Uh-huh. Shame stopping boatloads of illegal immigrants reaching Europe isn’t considered in the national interest, isn’t it?

The Admiral Gorshkov, a new guided-missile frigate, is still undergoing trials, Russian media report.

Is there any reason to believe this isn’t true? What else could it be doing? Looking to launch a guided missile at Rockall?

The Royal Navy says there has been a recent “upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters”.

Numbers please. Russia has been active in Syria for quite some time, and the quickest way from one to the other by sea is via the English Channel – an international waterway Russia has every right to use. Short of details, this statement looks like a weak attempt to justify the continued existence of the Royal Navy.

HMS St Albans was sent on Saturday to “keep watch on the new Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov as it passed close to UK territorial waters”, the Royal Navy said.

In case of what?

“I will not hesitate in defending our waters or tolerate any form of aggression,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

“Britain will never be intimidated when it comes to protecting our country, our people, and our national interests.”

Oh please! We heard all this tough-sounding crap from Michael Fallon last year when a handful of Russian ships went through the Channel. Do these idiots think we’ve forgotten the Royal Navy’s capitulation to the Iranians in 2007? Or that we haven’t noticed the absolute last thing our political class is interested in is “protecting our country, our people, and our national interests”?

The Admiral Gorshkov, the first of a new class of multi-role frigates, has still to complete missile tests before entering service with the Russian navy next year, Russian media report.

It has reportedly been sailing regularly between the White Sea off Russia’s northern coast and the Baltic.

Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a former Royal Navy Officer and former Nato commander, describes the deployment of the war ship as “normal”.

He told the BBC: “She’s perfectly entitled to do that under international law. It’s demonstrating the right of innocent passage.”

So why all headlines and mouthing off? Here’s why. The British political classes, having given up completely on protecting Britain’s national interests, believe by jumping on the bandwagon of Russia-bashing they will convince the public otherwise. Nice try.

I half wish the Russians had opened fire, just to see what HMS St Albans would have done in response.


Theresa May, Russia, and Fake News

Yesterday Theresa May addressed one of main issues concerning everyday British citizens. Immigration? Brexit? House prices? Terrorism?

Alas no, she instead spoke about fake news being spread by Russians:

Theresa May has accused Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake stories in the media in an extraordinary attack on its attempts to “weaponise information” in order to sow discord in the west.

The prime minister spoke out against “the scale and nature” of Russia’s actions during an address at the lord mayor’s banquet, saying it was “threatening the international order on which we all depend”.

If the international order can be upset by fake news being planted in the media, it doesn’t say much about the international order, does it? But the reason fake news gains so much traction in the west is twofold: firstly, major news organisations are flatly refusing to cover serious issues affecting millions of ordinary people, thus giving the (correct) impression that the news is carefully managed by the political establishment. This then leaves the floor clear for nefarious parties to come in and talk about these issues unopposed. Secondly, trust in the mainstream media has fallen to rock-bottom because people have finally realised they are also in the business of peddling fake news, and now consider the difference between them and the likes of RT to be one of degree not form. The mainstream media and the politicians they pander to have only themselves to blame, but they are so lacking in self-awareness they can’t see how much they’re projecting. Consider this statement for example:

“It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and photo-shopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the west and undermine our institutions.”

How many fake news stories regarding Donald Trump does the BBC peddle, then? Just last week it was complicit in the fake story about Trump dumping the fish-food into the pond all at once, and relies mainly on unsubstantiated Twitter posts in its initial reporting of a story. And how much airtime did the BBC give to the non-story that was the Paradise Papers? Consider too this post from Rob Fisher at Samizdata:

Leaving aside the question of whether the state has a role in telling broadcasters what news they can broadcast (it does not), let me take a quick look at the front page of the BBC News website right now.

Here is my translation of the pertinent headlines (stories that are political I have marked in italics, and neutral stories I have omitted):

– Big companies like Apple should pay more tax.

– Tax avoidance is wrong.

– Lewis Hamilton should pay more tax.

– Bono should pay more tax.

– Rich people should pay more tax.

– The state should control who has guns.

– Mugabe wants his wife to take over from him.

– Plastic is bad and greedy people are destroying the planet with it because they are greedy.

– Global warming is still really real and only states working with the UN can save us.

– Trump is being mean to Turkish people.

– Trump wants Japan to help defend against North Korea.

– People were kidnapped in Nigeria.

– A writer used politically incorrect language.

– A woman who was rude to Trump got fired.

– People who voted for Trump probably regret it.

The idea that the BBC is an impartial reporter of the news contrasting with RT’s politically-motivated propaganda is laughable. So is this:

Listing Russia’s attempts to undermine western institutions in recent years, she said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.

Whatever damage Russia has done to western institutions is eclipsed by that carried out by the political establishment of which Theresa May is very much part. True, the Russians might not succeed in destroying western society but they won’t have to: the likes of Theresa May will manage that all on their own, cheered on by the mainstream media while ordinary people are ignored, belittled, insulted, threatened, and imprisoned.

If the western democracies were as resilient as May is making out, RT’s output wouldn’t matter. Russia presented far more of a threat during the Cold War, and there were more than enough people in the west working in Moscow’s interests, and yet we survived intact. May knows this, and so does the entire political and media establishment. Politicians want someone to blame for the divisions in society that they have caused, and the media want to silence a rival outlet that doesn’t play by the same rules as they do, i.e. by refusing to cover stories that are politically inconvenient. The sooner May is booted out and the mainstream media goes bankrupt, the better. RT might peddle crap, but they are not the biggest problem Britain faces, not by a long shot.


A Change in Government

I expect there are a few examples like this:

In 2008, eight years into his addiction, doctors told him he had one year left to live and Georgy realized he needed help. He began a drug substitution therapy called OAT to safely wean himself off drugs.

At that point, Crimea, where Georgy lived, was still part of Ukraine and substitution therapy (OAT) was legal. But when Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014, the peninsula’s new leadership announced the therapy would be banned.

By May that year, more than 800 drug users who had been receiving OAT, including Georgy, found themselves cut off from treatment. Now local and international rights groups say the ban is fueling a resurgent HIV epidemic with fatal consequences.

Amid the many legal and ethical problems with Russia annexing Crimea in the manner it did, it’s hard to claim it was actively opposed by the majority population. However, I suspected they thought there would be only upsides – understandable, given the shambolic state of Ukraine – but over time various drawbacks would present themselves. Some were obvious: being cut-off from the rest of Russia and dependent on Ukraine for electricity and water were two, as well as the collapse in foreign tourism. This ban on OAT treatment is another, and I suspect it’s only a matter of time before a Crimean mother is weeping over the death of son drafted into the Russian army. Whatever the situation becomes in Crimea, I suspect decent reporting on the subject will be scarce and we’ll be squeezed between propaganda on both sides supplemented with the occasional rumour.


Why Trump is fond of Putin

This is hardly surprising:

President Vladimir Putin feels insulted by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Donald Trump has said after meeting him briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

“You can only ask so many times… he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” the US president said.

Mr Putin later dismissed the allegations as “political infighting”.

The US intelligence community has already concluded that Russia tried to sway the poll in favour of Mr Trump.

President Trump has refused to acknowledge a reported assessment by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.

You don’t actually need to trust Putin an inch to believe he is telling the truth that he didn’t try to swing the outcome of the US election. None of this passed the smell test from the beginning, and the whole think reeked of an effort to explain Hillary’s catastrophic loss and an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. I always suspected Putin found all of these accusations highly amusing; other than the usual shit-stirring that Russia’s spy agencies have been involved in since the Soviet times, exploiting divisions in US society to sow chaos as part of their zero-sum rivalry with America, I very much doubt Russia had any involvement in the US election. For one thing, it’s never been explained why Putin would have preferred Trump to Clinton.

Of course, those who don’t want very much to change in US politics are aghast at this:

This says less about how much Trump trusts Putin than how little he trusts branches of his own government. And who can blame him? Both the FBI and Department of Justice disgraced themselves during the election with regards to Hillary Clinton, and Obama spent eight years politicising other branches such as the IRS. Moreover, Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” have been met with ferocious opposition from what people call the Deep State, or (a term I prefer) the Permanent Government, i.e. those who have done extremely well from the status quo and for whom Trump represents an existential threat. Is the CIA part of this? Of course it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Trump could probably get a warmer reception walking into a branch of the Russian government in Moscow than an American one in DC. I’d even go so far as to say parts of the American government represent a far greater political and even mortal danger to Trump than Putin does. If you were Trump, who would you believe? Putin – who at least doesn’t pretend to have America’s interests at heart – or known liars in the American government who have sworn to remove Trump from office using fair means or foul? That’s a tough one.

Then there’s this from Andrew Neil:

Let me take a guess. Perhaps Trump has realised that the entire American political establishment wants him gone and is doing everything they can to undermine and remove him; half the American electorate has gone into meltdown and, a year on from his election, are calling him a white supremacist Nazi when they’re not screaming at the sky; and supposedly intelligent and educated foreigners, particularly Europeans, are acting in a spectacularly immature manner over Trump while their own countries descend into chaos. Standing out from all this is Putin who, for all his faults, is remaining reasonably calm, acting like an adult, and not throwing around childish insults. Little wonder Trump is taking him more seriously than anyone else.

The lessons that ought to be drawn from this are that if you demonise your own president and try to bring him down, he will take his friends where he finds them; and if you insist on acting like a child, the adults in the room will ignore you and talk among themselves. Thus far, the reaction seems to indicate the exact opposite.