Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More News: Part Two

Chinese spy ring:
China on Tuesday denied a research report's contention that a China-based computer spy ring stole sensitive information from thousands of hard drives worldwide, calling the accusation a lie meant to feed anxiety over Beijing's growing influence.
Need a weak defense? Follow China's lead. Unleash teams of hackers to steal sensitive information from governments around the world, and when called out on it, protest that they are just trying to spread "anxiety" over your "growing influence." Well yea, that is what we're doing.
Officials in the U.S., Britain and Germany have accused Chinese hackers backed by China's military of intruding into their government and defense computer networks.
How is this not a huge story? Oh, that's just China for you. Military hacking programs to steal government and defense information. No big deal, I guess.
Speaking at a media briefing, [Foreign Ministry spokesman] Qin [Jang] did not directly respond to questions about whether the network exists and if its actions are supported by the government. Instead, he said Beijing opposes criminal activities that compromise computer networks and criticized the report for claiming otherwise.
How do they get away with this? Because we tell ourselves that we are their friends, and they, ours.

The article goes on to demonstrate that these hackers are not typical Chinese nationalist hackers, or cyberpunks, or what-have-you, but a sophisticated and organized network that bares the marks and tactics of espionage. China's defense? "Their attempt to tarnish China with such lies is doomed to failure." Well, I agree. It is doomed to failure.

In a further report, Qin Jang elaborated:
"Nowadays the problem is that there are some people abroad avidly concocting rumors about China's so-called Internet espionage," spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing.

"There's a ghost abroad called the Cold War and a virus called the China threat," Qin continued, breaking into English-language phrases to make his meaning clear.

"People possessed by the ghost of the Cold War constantly issue this China threat virus."
Oh, that's really clever. Ha-ha! I forgot all about your military hackers already! You brought up the Cold War, and that is so over! God forbid you should accuse us of having a Cold War mentality. Let me guess, President Obama is the right man to forge a new path and a new way of thinking, past the kind of paranoid, Cold War thinking that makes us see your theft of sensitive defense information as a threat?
"The attempts of these people to use rumors to vilify China will never succeed," said the Chinese spokesman Qin.
Again, he's probably right.

Now, we turn to a world currency. Once the domain of conspiracy theorists, it's now becoming a reality. China is on board! So is Russia! And our own Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, is open to the idea! Well, what are we waiting for?
Ahead of the Group of 20 summit in London later this week, the Kremlin has published a raft of proposals to overhaul the global economic order, including plans for a supra-national currency that could replace the US dollar.
Make no mistake, there will be some sort of decision about this at the G20 summit. Soon we will be embarking on a path toward an international currency system that is anchored not by the U.S. dollar, but by European interests ultimately controlled by Shanghai and Moscow. Of course:
US President Barack Obama has said he does not see why the dollar should be replaced and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the summit would have more immediate issues to discuss.
He says this now. But he will be singing a different tune come next month. How can our naive and simple President fail to turn down something that sounds transnational and progressive? As for China:
“This is a clear sign that China, as the largest holder of US dollar financial assets, is concerned about the potential inflationary risk of the US Federal Reserve printing money,” said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist for HSBC.
Perhaps now we see the folly in allowing the Communist Chinese ("as the largest holder of US dollar financial assets") to have a say about our economy and our dollar?

What will happen is that our administration will agree in principle that U.S. regulatory agencies should be supervised by the International Monetary Fund, an organization (unlike the World Bank) in which the U.S. has little say. This is likely to happen, and there is very little we can do about it.

Russia and their gold:
Chinese and Russian leaders both plan to open debate on an SDR-based reserve currency as an alternative to the US dollar at the G20 summit in London this week, although the world may not yet be ready for such a radical proposal.

[Arkady Dvorkevich, the Kremlin's chief economic adviser,] said it was "logical" that the new currency should include the rouble and the yuan, adding that "we could also think about more effective use of gold in this system".
Why gold? First, Russia has massive untapped gold resources. Second, Russia has been furiously buying gold assets. And lastly, the U.S. and the West have been ignoring gold for a couple decades now.

A couple new stories from today: First, apparently the Chinese have developed a special "kill weapon" to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. The significance of this is unclear. But this much is obvious:
In recent years, China has been expanding its navy to presumably better exert itself in disputed maritime regions. A recent show of strength in early March led to a confrontation with an unarmed U.S. ship in international waters.
China and Russia both have been spending huge percentages of their budget on military research, development, and armament projects. This is important to keep in mind along with their current economic coup. Meanwhile, in the United States:
A Senate defense committee chairman says Pentagon budget will include large, painful cuts. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said Tuesday that major program cuts will not be pushed off until the 2011 budget, but will be included when Defense Secretary Robert Gates sends his spending plan to the president later this month.
Different directions.

More News Than You Can Shake a Conspiracy Stick At: Part One

Once Upon a Time in the West has it right: the White House had an "incredible explanation" for President Obama's meeting with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "The president tends to roam around the larger (White) House and sometimes walks into meetings that weren't previously on his schedule." It's incredible because it's ridiculous. The president doesn't just wander anywhere, especially not into meetings with former heads-of-state. Of course, our pliant press left that weak explanation alone. After all, Gorbachev is a good guy, right?

I wrote about Gorbachev not long ago, when he conspicuously criticized Vladimir Putin. I took that as disinformation, a shoring up of Gorbachev's ludicrous but entirely accepted image as an independent reformer, a sort of Russian maverick who is genuinely interested in world peace and things like global warming.

It's unclear why the ruse of Obama "roaming" into a meeting with Gorbachev is necessary. After all, "a delegation led by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Russia last week and met Medvedev."

Once Upon a Time in the West points us to an interview Gorbachev had with the Italian paper La Stampa after the U.S. elections. It was picked up by Novosti:
He said the Republicans have failed to realize that the Soviet Union no longer exists, that Europe has changed, and that new powers like China, Brazil and Mexico have emerged as important players on the world stage.
This theme, that "Republicans have failed to realize that the Soviet Union no longer exists," albeit silly, is important. It has been repeated often lately, and we will hear it more and more as war preparations, if that's what they are, heat up. Novosti also quoted "former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky":
He said that, "being a liberal himself, he thinks that the world will take a left turn," and that "a global perestroika would be a logical response to the global crisis."

"The paradigm of global development is about to change. The era inaugurated by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago is over."

He said decisions in neoliberal economies had been made mainly by supranational institutions and transnational corporations.
This is scary stuff. As is plain for all to see, even Gorbachev's reformer persona stresses a new, internationalist, anti-sovereign world system. Perestroika, for him, is a convergence of political systems toward a unity that looks a lot more like international socialism than it does a collection of national interests unified only by capitalist trade.

This much is clear in Gorbachev's own formulation of perestroika. As Once Upon a Time quotes from Gorbachev's book, he writes, "Perestroika is closely connected with socialism as a system... We are looking within socialism, rather than outside it, for the answers to all the questions that arise... We will proceed toward better socialism rather than away from it." Gorbachev's appeal to the West is precisely his claim that socialism and democracy are compatible, which we know is nothing more than a Leninist lie.

Perestroika itself is a lie, a lie that is inherent in Leninism, a tactic outlined by Lenin himself in Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, What is to be Done?, and many other places. It is not a spontaneous development within ideological communism that breaks down the walls of authority, but a deliberate concoction meant to appeal to the wishful thinking of the West. And it works.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A brief introduction of the devil's advocate

Thank you to Useless Dissident for the invitation to post on his blog. I will be playing the part of the Golitsyn-sympathetic voice - not only for sport and to enliven the debate, but also because it is my natural inclination. However much one wants to hew to a strict empiricism and an even temper, the facts comprising the phenomenon Russia - and especially Bolshevik Communism and its actual institutions - defy such a desire in significant respects.

I think the most reasonable way of proceeding will be to reconstruct my own intellectual journey towards an acceptance of what might be described as the form of Golitsyn's analysis rather than its particular details. It is of course the details that confound the natural American sensibilities; the reality of Bolshevism (and police-party states in general) sounds too exotic, too much like a conspiracy theory, to mesh with expectations. And therefore, since its beginnings, Americans and the heirs of other liberal-revolutionary traditions - the French, the inchoate German, etc. - have always found it easier to accept the notion that Communism is a brash experiment in enlarging human freedom than that it is a vicious conspiracy bent on world domination.

Unfortunately, it is a conspiracy bent on world domination with absolutely nothing in common with any liberal impulse. Yet no matter how many times you repeat this, or provide actual examples or analogies or any of the usual didactic devices, somehow this fact breeds no insight in the vast majority of non-Communist minds. Communicating what this actually means, though, is partly the point of this blog, and the Golitsyn thesis is a perfect prism through which to do so.

And so, I will open with a simple question, and leave it to later posts to elaborate: is it so unlikely that a government which is itself a conspiracy, came to power through conspiracy, maintained and expanded its power through conspiracy, and whose primary institution - the KGB - is a gigantic conspiracy wielding absolute power...should engage in a conspiracy of the kind Golitsyn claims to have defected in order to report?

Review: The KGB & Soviet Disinformation

Parts of this book by Ladislav Bittman are repeats of sections of the author's first book, The Deception Game. (My review is here.) However, these are mostly anecdotes that aptly demonstrate the author's thesis.

This book is written better than The Deception Game, but it also lacks that desperate energy and need to tell it all that characterizes the earlier work and many books by Communist defectors and dissidents. This is more scholarly.

Whereas The Deception Game leaves off in 1968, the year of the author's defection, and concerns itself almost entirely with Czechoslovakia, The KGB and Soviet Disinformation, as the title suggests, is an extension of the earlier thesis to the larger and more interesting subject. This means that Bittman speculates about events and episodes he does not know about from direct personal involvement, but rather from the experience of being a senior officer in a Soviet-bloc disinformation department.

With his experience and natural even-handedness, the author does a good job speculating about the Soviet Union's methods, the origin of items he finds in the newspaper and magazines, and the current objectives of Soviet intelligence. (The book was written in 1985.)

The KGB and Soviet Disinformation is also organized better than The Deception Game, and includes topics (especially in the later chapters) not broached by the earlier book. Both are excellent, but this one is certainly more comprehensive.

There is nothing in this work of Anatoliy Golitsyn’s thesis of “long-term strategic deception.” The author does not question the authenticity of the Prague Spring, the rapid termination of which was the cause for his defection.

Rather, Bittman concerns himself with the nuts-and-bolts tactics and methods of Soviet-bloc disinformation, such as planting stories in newspapers and obtaining the cooperation of foreign dignitaries, diplomats, and correspondents.

However, the author does examine the ideological basis of Soviet disinformation, in Lenin’s What is to be Done?, for example. And he does often discuss disinformation efforts in terms of long-term objectives, though his list of those objectives would be incomplete to a follower of Golitsyn:
+ Turning world public opinion against U.S. foreign policy
+ Creating favorable conditions for Soviet foreign policy by confusing the world public about the real nature of certain Soviet policies
+ Isolating the United States from its allies and friends in Western Europe by creating new rifts or exploiting current differences
+ Paralyzing NATO from within by convincing NATO countries that U.S. military strategy is against their national interests
+ Expanding traditional mistrust of Third World countries toward Western Europe and the United States, preventing closer economic, political, and military cooperation between the two groups, and demonstrating that U.S. goals and policies are incompatible with Third World ambitions.
Bittman expresses reservations about Soviet détente, but not to any significant extent. As such, he makes no attempt to interpret overt Soviet diplomatic and military efforts within the context of disinformation. Never does he suggest that apparent Soviet failures, rifts between Communist countries, and significant changes in policy are part of disinformation efforts.

In this light, one may read Bittman as being more even-handed than Golitsyn in New Lies for Old. I think it would be more plausible, however, to say that Bittman only gives us part of the picture. One should read The KGB and Soviet Disinformation as a treatise on active measures, and little else. It is a very good book on that topic.

Other reviews:
R. Cort Kirkwood, National Review:
Bittman gradually makes clear that disinformation is a "game" only in the same sense that "war games" are: It is a highly specialized field of study requiring the "operator" to understand the politics, history, psychology, foreign relations, culture, and weaknesses of both the "unwitting agent" and the "adversary." Additionally, Soviet active measures are part of a long-term strategy. "Moscow's disinformation specialists know that a single covert action . . . cannot tip the balance of power between the Western Alliance and the Communist bloc. But they believe that mass production of active measures will have a significant cumulative effect over a period of decades."

Bittman confirms two beliefs long held by knowledgeable critics of the media: a) Soviet disinformation is successful; and b) it is successful in large part because journalists think they are too sophisticated to be duped by Soviet agents.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Undercover Putin

From Skynews:
A picture has emerged apparently showing Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in his former days as a KGB officer.
What's interesting about this is that it corroborates accounts that dissent from the official KGB biography of Putin:
[A] Russian political analyst and author of books on Vladimir Putin dismissed Mr Souza's claims as "nonsense".

"Vladimir Putin was a major serving in Dresden and he wasn't important enough at that time to be brought to Moscow", said Andrey Piontkovsky.

Mr Putin served as a KGB officer in the East German city of Dresden.
But according to other sources, there are a number of years for which Putin's whereabouts are unclear. For instance, ex-FSB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky, in his arduously titled KGB/FSB's New Trojan Horse: Americans of Russian Descent, has a chapter called "Putin's History Reveals the Man" where he discusses "Putin's Missing Years."

According to Preobrazhensky and others, Putin worked for the KGB's Fifth Division (or Branch, or Directorate), responsible for dissidents and the Orthodox Church. This division was also called "Protection of the Constitution," and, less formally, "Political Repressions."

This much is known. However, Putin doesn't talk about it because he is ashamed of the work he did there. This probably included looking for anti-Soviet tendencies in the student population and getting students to report on each other. It probably also involved contacts with Church leaders who were KGB collaborators. Such a task as posing as a tourist for a meeting with the U.S. President would have been a respite from such work.

The point of departure between the official biographies and the underground ones is Putin's supposed job with the First Chief Directorate in Dresden, East Germany from 1985 to 1990. This picture was taken during that time, and in Moscow.

Putin plays up the East German part of his resume because to Russians it is glamorous and patriotic to work for intelligence abroad. But to spy on your fellow Russians, subverting students and the Church, is shameful. So he doesn't talk about that part.

It has been speculated that Putin didn't really do anything for the FCD in East Germany; rather, he was involved in some other undisclosed intelligence tasks. Could he have been in Moscow at some kind of political training?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nobody Knows

Reading the comments on Andrew Osborn's latest article for the Wall Street Journal, it is clear to me that nobody really knows anything about what's going on with Russia. That includes yours truly; but at least I recognize that the huge disparity of opinion and the general atmosphere of ignorance is a problem. Most others seem content to dismiss Russia as weak and comical. Why?

Part of it is the intense level of indoctrination our own citizens have been subjected to from their early education onward. Quick, what comes to mind when you hear the word "communist"? Is it "McCarthyism"? Or "Red Scare"? I thought so.

Most Americans have been taught to believe that the Cold War wasn't necessary; just a paranoid dream in the fevered minds of right-wingers who can't understand or tolerate people who are different from them. Chic, effete liberal commentators will use the word "commie" ironically, conjuring up not the image of a communist out for world domination (because such a creature could never exist!) but an imaginary caricature created by conservatives to frighten the populace into supporting unnecessary wars.

It's almost like communism isn't responsible for the deaths of over 100 million people in the last century. Like the gulags of China and Russia don't exist and never existed.

There are five movies a year about the Nazis and their persecution of Jews, but none about Communism. Zilch on Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Che Guevara*, and Kim Il Sung. That Hollywood liberalism can maintain the fantasy that the Nazis were right-wingers only explains so much. Communist regimes persecute Jews too, so it's not that either. It's that they agree with the ideology of communism, and think its crimes are excusable. And Hollywood producers are creatures too of our self-defeating education that doesn't teach the morality of the American cause, the victory of what was a largely justified power over one that was unjustified. In their Manichean worldview only the Nazis were evil, and for all time shall be the symbol of political wrong. Communism is based in warm sentiments, and thus cannot be wholly evil, and thus is not evil but good, in their Manichean outlook. So... no movies, not a one.

Not understanding what we faced in the early period of the Cold War, how can Americans possibly grasp this new phase, with the name "Communism" dropped and cold gangsterism in its place? They will say anything to make the threat look small. After all, haven't we been taught from childhood, like milk from our mothers' breast, that when we fear the other, we really just fear ourselves? That strength is bigotry, power is propaganda, and opposition is self-serving paranoia?

Nobody knows about Russia, not just because the country has mastered the art of controlling perception and information, but because our own country has voluntarily subdued itself, reeducated itself into ignorance. Maybe Russia is not a serious threat to us. Maybe there is zero continuity between the Soviet Union of the past and the Russian Federation of today. But if there were, we would be the last to know.

* Excluding positive portrayals.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

News of the World

These are good days for Golitysn conspiracy theorists, but ominous times for America.

First, there is news that Russia is planning on installing bases for strategic bombers in both Cuba and Venezuela. I guess we are to think that the peaceful democracy of Russia is just using the socialist countries to work around the American hegemon, not that it does this because it is still dominated by Leninist ideology and Communist goals of world domination.

Remember that in 1962 in Cuba the Russians claimed they were only installing surface-to-air missiles for defense, and not the surface-to-surface missiles armed with nuclear warheads we knew they were bringing thanks to a U.S. mole within the GRU. It's unlikely we have any such intelligence now; nevertheless, "strategic bombers" can carry nuclear loads.

Second, today Russian puppet president Dmitri Medvedev announced a "large-scale rearming" of the country's military and defense resources. On the very same day, the Pentagon announced that it expects to make big cuts to our defense budget. Russian "re-arming," American "cuts." Gee, if there were a Cold War going on, that might be disconcerting.

Finally, the Kremlin today called "for the creation of a supranational reserve currency to be issued by international institutions as part of a reform of the global financial system." The silliness of this as a response to a temporary economic downturn is demonstrated within this very article:
[Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev] also suggested that the Eurasian Economic Community, a loose group of five former Soviet republics including Kazakhstan and Russia, adopt a single noncash currency -- the yevraz -- to insulate itself from the global economic crisis.
To insulate itself... Nevertheless, a universal currency system entails the weakening of national sovereignty, and readies the world power for exploitation by whomever is positioned to exploit it. It is clear that the world's greatest power today is happy to surrender its sovereignty to international bodies, while its next closest rivals, Russia and China, are aggressively expanding both militarily and diplomatically.

What happens when advanced nations surrender their sovereignty? You get the European Union, a hapless disaster with no will to defend itself and no means to do so.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Perezagruzka or Peregruzka?


You've probably heard that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented a "reset button" to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as a symbol of the new administration's desire to renew positive relations with the country. Whatever that means.

Of course, the destructiveness of this new administration's policies is matched only by its blundering incompetence. The button included a label with "PEREGRUZKA" written in Roman letters. Not only did they get the word wrong, but it was pointlessly transliterated.

By some cosmic twist of fate, the United States foreign policy and diplomatic relations apparatus, the U.S. State Department, which employs thousands and thousands of language specialists, put the word for "overcharged" on the button, not the word for "reset." How appropriate.

Why are we giving gag gifts to the Russians anyway? Our president returns a bust of Churchill to London, then in return for a number of fine gifts including Sir Martin Gilbert's seven-volume Churchill biography, Obama got the Brits some DVDs. Aren't we glad "the adults" are in charge now? This is how we treat our friends?

And our enemies... they don't even accept that there could be such a thing. I think it was Mark Steyn who said that liberals don't have enemies, just people whose grievances they haven't accommodated yet. Even the Russians, whose "main enemy" we have been since the end of World War II, at least.

It seems now that President George W. Bush, who 'looked in Putin's eyes' and saw the soul of a Christian or some such nonsense, was too much of a bully to those peaceful Russians. Apparently helping NATO allies such as Poland and the Czech Republic; and helping other countries like Ukraine and Georgia join NATO, is not what President Obama and his team meant by 'restoring our broken alliances' and 'fixing American's reputation in the world.' That's not the bilateral approach they have been looking for.

Apparently unilaterally accommodating the aggressiveness of Iran, Russia, Hamas and the Taliban is more important than standing by our allies in Eastern Europe, who have been debating for more than a decade now about whether to be a part of the American/European sphere of influence or the Russian/Chinese sphere of influence, and at great danger to themselves and with much effort have moved toward strategic partnership with the Western countries. Great arguments have taken place. Politicians have risen and fallen over supporting or not supporting the United States and whether to allow missile shield facilities to be built in their countries.

But Obama, Biden and Clinton want to "push the reset button" on Russian-American relations. The language error is appropriate. American leaders naively believe that the slate with Russian can be wiped clean; Russia can be appeased into partnership with the U.S. Russian leaders believe that the situation in the U.S. is overcharged and ripe for exploitation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sorting Out the Russian (Dis)Information: Part IV

Part IV: Igor Panarin
Russian Scholar Says U.S. Will Collapse Next Year
"There is a high probability that the collapse of the United States will occur by 2010," Panarin told dozens of students, professors and diplomats Tuesday at the Diplomatic Academy — a lecture the ministry pointedly invited The Associated Press and other foreign media to attend.
Worthy of seriousness? We'll see.

First, it should be obvious that "a dean at the Foreign Ministry's school for future diplomats and a regular on Russia's state-guided TV channels" is not going to be saying something like this unless he is asked to do so. That is my basic assumption and one that I think is irreproachable. The idea that such a prediction or sentiment would be expressed by such a figure without prior approval and planning-- as well as a specific purpose-- is simply indefensible when one considers the current nature of the Russian government in conjunction with its long and successful history of controlling what ideas are heard when and by whom. This is clear enough: foreign press were "pointedly invited" to attend this lecture.

As reported by Novosti, Panarin made similar remarks back in November 2008:
He predicted that the U.S. will break up into six parts - the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong.
So what's the purpose? First, one should note that many of these predictions are patently ridiculous. It is highly unlikely, for example, that "large Native American populations" would have anything to do with any future division of the United States. So presumably the Western population is to take away from this that the Russians are incredibly deluded in their strategic notions, and thus not to be taken seriously. Another example from the later piece:
Panarin argued that Americans are in moral decline, saying their great psychological stress is evident from school shootings, the size of the prison population and the number of gay men.
This brings to our attention a second possible prospect of such remarks: to tie the (presumably homophobic) American right-wing and some of its more colorful conspiracy theories in with the aforementioned Russian delusion:
On the fate of the U.S. dollar, he said: "In 2006 a secret agreement was reached between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. on a common Amero currency as a new monetary unit. This could signal preparations to replace the dollar. The one-hundred dollar bills that have flooded the world could be simply frozen. Under the pretext, let's say, that terrorists are forging them and they need to be checked."
He iterates something similar in his later remarks:
Panarin insisted he didn't wish for a U.S. collapse, but he predicted Russia and China would emerge from the economic turmoil stronger and said the two nations should work together, even to create a new currency to replace the U.S. dollar.
Thus we are to connect the notion of Russian desire for global hegemony, which is real, with wilder theories about new regional currencies or even NWO-type flights of fancy.

A third possibility is a very old one: the confusion of Western audiences about differing voices of Russia, creating the impression that official Russian opinion on these topics is far from monolithic:
But Alexei Malashenko, a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center who did not attend the lecture, sided with the skeptical instructor, saying Russia is the country that is on the verge of disintegration.

"I can't imagine at all how the United States could ever fall apart," Malashenko told the AP.
Of course, such a purpose would be rote and secondary to such a strange piece of disinformation.

The most important purposes, I think, would be to feel out Western opinions about such a possibility, preparing the Russian people psychologically, and finally to cover any future Russian or joint Russian/Chinese action against the sovereignty and security of the United States by cloaking their actions in the demise of the American and Western financial system. Russia had to act because of the weakness and insecurity of the United States, they would say. In other words, their action would be toward normalization.

Another commentary on Panarin's recent predictions: "As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S." (by Andrew Osborn, Wall Street Journal, 12/29/08). Osborn notes that "for a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010" and that Panarin is "a former KGB analyst" and that he "publishes books." It might interest the reader to know that Panarin's books are about "information warfare." Osborn calls this study "the use of data to get an edge over a rival," which hardly begins to describe it. He says that "his bleak forecast for the U.S... is music to the ears of the Kremlin," failing to note that the cause-and-effect of that relationship, between an "ex-KGB analyst" and the Kremlin would almost certainly be the other way around; the Kremlin almost certainly ordered Panarin to produce this "music." There is no such thing as an "ex-KGB" who also works openly for the state. If one is truly "ex-KGB," then he does not work for the Russian Foreign Ministry and appear on state-controlled TV. Osborn:
Mr. Panarin's apocalyptic vision "reflects a very pronounced degree of anti-Americanism in Russia today," says Vladimir Pozner, a prominent TV journalist in Russia. "It's much stronger than it was in the Soviet Union."
Vladimir Pozner is still alive and giving "his" opinions, it seems. You might remember him from Bezmenov's LA series (@ 6:10):
But then, my former colleague, Vladimir Pozner, appears on Nightline, and Ted Koppel asks him, “Well, Vladimir, what do think about this?” What can he think? He is an instrument of propaganda! He thinks what Comrade Andropov tell[s] him to think. He is just a nice, articulate mouthpiece of the Soviet subversion system. And Ted Koppel makes you believe that my friend Vladimir Pozner thinks?
Here he "poses" as the moderate counterpoint to Panarin's "apocalyptic vision," serving to give the appearance of healthy and varied debate among Soviet academics and journalists. To the extent that such a debate genuinely exists in Russia, it is reported in state-controlled media only when it helps the propaganda line. However, considering the backgrounds of both Panarin and Pozner, it is likely that both are willing instruments of deception, playing the roles they have been given.

Finally, here's an interview with Panarin from Russia Today. It's worth reading and I will use some of Panarin's language there in what follows.

My final (but tentative) analysis is that some of what Panarin says is sensible, but it is mixed with some complete rubbish. For instance, the collapse of the U.S. financial system does make the country vulnerable, but Panarin's fault lines are absurd. There are critical divisions in American society but they are not "globalists" and "statists" as Panarin claims. In fact, what Panarin projects into U.S. politics is actually the false conception of Russian politics that they want Americans to have, if that makes any sense, namely that there is a constant struggle in Russia between self-interested rationalists ("want prosperity for their country") and internationalist ideologues ("it’s not Russia that we need, but a world revolution.") This has been the false picture presented by Russia of Russia for many decades now. At the high levels of government, it's doubtful that such a conflict really exists.

Just to highlight the absurdity of Panarin's remarks: He calls "statists" "the armed forces, special services and military and industrial complex." They "want prosperity for their country" and not "world revolution," and they "were the key players who had enabled Obama to win." Meanwhile the "globalists" are "mainly the financial elite" and are led by Condoleeza Rice and Dick Cheney. Uh-huh. Make sense of that.

Though this interview was translated into English, it's likely that it was meant for a Russian audience. This would explain the completely ridiculous characterization of disagreements in the American government and the types of leaders he singled out for leadership of the movements: Defense & State Secretaries, intelligence chiefs, and the Vice President, positions that are far more ancillary in the U.S. than in Russia.

To conclude, this is certainly a manufactured narrative of some kind, but what purpose it serves isn't clear. Perhaps it is just to amuse us?

Update: Here is Jeff Nyquist's take on the story. Jeff is correct to focus on the truth in what Panarin says, that the United States could collapse and we could find ourselves in a situation where all or part of the country has lost its sovereignty and is ruled, directly or indirectly, by a foreign power. Influential Americans and political commentators always dismiss this possibility, if it is brought up at all.

Nyquist responds to my remarks by raising a simple point: the purpose is to show that America is weak and put it in people's minds that perhaps it is time to start thinking about joining the winning team. The idea that capitalism immiserates the poor and readies the developed world for socialist revolution is an inherent part of Marxist-Leninism, and thus the Panarin prediction is merely a petty example of Communist propaganda to the West: when your institutions build on greed and bourgeois desires crumble to the ground as they inevitably will, the non-capitalist (or less capitalist) world is ready to take their place.

It's a good point. Still, in some sense I think Nyquist plays into their hands by discussing such a report so uncritically. It is my opinion that this particular piece of disinformation combines very sensible and real things with very ridiculous and silly things. Thus if we do not separate the wheat from the chaff, we will be discarded with the chaff.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sorting Out the Russian (Dis)Information: Part III

Part III: Is Garry Kasparov for real?
That's a good question. It provides an excellent chance to demonstrate the methodology of Useless Dissident. That this methodology differs greatly from what would be considered 'fair' doesn't concern me. Rather I am interested in getting close to what is true.

Arnold Beichman, in his 1984 National Review review of Anatoly Golitsyn's New Lies for Old, told a joke:
It seems that two Jewish merchants and business competitors, Muttel and Yussel, living in a small town in czarist Russia, meet one morning at the local railroad platform, luggage in hand. Muttel asks Yussel, "So where are you traveling?" Yussel responds, "To Minsk." Angered by the reply, Muttel shouts: "You, Yussel, are telling me that you're going to Minsk so that I will think you're really going to Pinsk. But I know for a fact that you're going to Minsk, so why do you lie to me that you're going to Minsk?"
Once we understand first the special place of disinformation in the Russian character; second the particular emphasis on false representation in Leninism; and third the advanced development of disinformation under the cynical, immoral, and post-Stalinist nomenklatura, my methodology begins to seem not so ridiculous.

Thus when Garry Kasparov writes an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he claims that the United States should not make deals with Russia because it is on the brink of disintegration, my immediate inclination is to file it under what Golitsyn calls the "weakness and evolution pattern" of Soviet disinformation.

Of course, this is far too simplistic. Even if there was and still is a "grand strategic deception," as Golitsyn claims, there are still individuals and spontaneous developments; nothing is wholly determined. Yuri Bezmenov would say, "There is no grass-roots, period." But there are individual circumstances.

What are Kasparov's "individual circumstances"? Some call him the greatest chess player of all time-- that certainly makes him unique. Because he is widely known in the West, it would be hard for Putin to murder or "suicide" him if he were a genuine dissident. He would be in a unique position to be who he pretends to be: an opposition party leader in a country that has one party and pervasive police control over all public institutions.

On the other hand, a quick glance at Kasparov's enyclopedia entry reveals a profile that is also uniquely qualified to be an agent of disinformation. '84 Joined Communist Party, '87 CC Komsomol, '90 Helped found Democratic Party of Russia, Involvement in opposition parties, dissident marches, etc. Most Westerners hear that Kasparov has been involved in say, "The March of the Dissenters" and arrested and think about how great it is that he is willing to suffer for his political beliefs. I hear that and imagine a KGB dossier on a disinformation campaign called "The March of the Dissenters." But that's just the paranoid methodology for you.

Another facet of the methodology is the "useful dissident." A perfect example is Andrei Sakharov. He spoke out for intellectual freedom, not political freedom. He was openly a Marxist, a Leninist, a supporter of the one-party state! So the USSR says, "Look at how open we are, look at Sakharov speaking out for intellectual freedom." Did he know that he was helping the regime? Possibly, when it was too late. But anyone who writes a book called Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom is not a danger to a USSR trying to pretend that it is becoming open and Westernized, a place where the intellectuals ask the same questions they do in the West.

But see, just because Sakharov was a useful dissident doesn't mean he was dishonest. It means that he is not to be taken seriously. There were lots of genuine intellectuals in a very genuine civil rights movement in Moscow who were nevertheless committed Marxists, committed Leninists, considering themselves real Communists and the current rulers merely Stalinist pretenders. Yes, they were delusional, themselves poor victims of propaganda. But they were nevertheless genuine dissidents, not "KGB plants" or agents.

Nevertheless, even the greatest hardliners of the deception thesis seem to think that Kasparov is genuine. And I think a close analysis of his op-ed bares this out.

For why would the Russians want an influential Russian to speak out against new and renewed American-Russian relations just when their policies have been bearing fruit, and the new American administration is falling over itself in infantile sycophancy? (We'll talk more about that in a later post).

It is true that normally such statements as "it is no longer taboo in Russia to speak openly of the post-Putin era" and "in all likelihood Mr. Putin will not be around that much longer" could be interpreted as "weakness and evolution" disinformation from within a strong and cohesive unity, aimed at deceiving the West into complacency. Even as it contradicts what looks to be the current direction of American foreign policy toward Russia, a direction that favors Moscow, it would in fact work to further that direction because it gives an indication that Russia and its current government are weak and thus not to be feared.

In fact, one paragraph in particular Golitsyn would point to, I think:
Some may doubt the fragility of the Putin government. But there are plenty of examples in history of supposedly entrenched regimes falling quickly. In late 1989, many in the West were surprised to see the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Others didn't foresee the sweeping away of totalitarian regimes in Poland and Hungary.
I'm not sure, but I would assume that Golitsyn would characterize those revolutions and sweepings away as largely deception and disinformation meant to deceive the West. Thus another possibility arises: that Russia, sensing Putin's unpopularity and perception as a criminal gangster in the West, is about to orchestrate his "fall from power" and the rise of a new party (that will actually be run by the same people).

It is important to remember that just because Kasparov is known as a dissident and opposition leader, and has been arrested and had his political offices raided, doesn't mean he is genuine. But it doesn't mean he isn't. In this case, judging from the extent of Kasparov's criticism of Putin (who doesn't tolerate mockery even in the form of disinformation) and the Kremlin's persecution of him, combined with his international prestige, it is safe to say that Kasparov is a genuine opposition leader and foe of the Russian regime.

Even if, in the end, his optimism about Putin's fall serves his enemies' interests.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sorting Out the Russian (Dis)Information: Parts I & II

Part I:
You think I know? I have some ideas, but it's a mystery to me. I'm just a citizen here. But let's try, shall we? We shall.

In continuation of my rambling exploration of the events surround President Obama's "secret letter" to the Kremlin about giving up the missile sites in Eastern Europe for Russia's assurance that Iran won't get long-range nuclear missiles...

Was Obama's letter leaked by U.S. officials in order to show off Obama's "smart diplomacy"? After all, this is the kind of thing liberal peacenik morons think is smart. Or was it leaked by Russian officials in order to show off what a dummy Obama is? By the way, from that Times article:
The officials who described the contents of the message requested anonymity because it has not been made public. While they said it did not offer a direct quid pro quo, the letter was intended to give Moscow an incentive to join the United States in a common front against Iran. Russia’s military, diplomatic and commercial ties to Tehran give it some influence there, but it has often resisted Washington’s hard line against Iran.
Shouldn't it be, "...give it some influence there, so it has often resisted..."?

And so the Russians both accepted and publicized the American weakness, and flatly rejected the offer. Now they announce (AP):
Russia is working to develop anti-satellite weapons to match efforts by other nations, a deputy defense minister was quoted as saying Thursday.
"Other nations," being, of course, the United States.
The Kremlin has criticized U.S. plans for space-based weapons, saying they could trigger a new arms race. Russia and China have pushed for an international agreement banning space weapons, but their proposals have been rejected by the United States.
You mean the Kremlin just wants peace? The Russians and Chinese just want peaceful co-existence, and it is only our belligerent American intransigence that causes them to build space weapons? Well, by all means, President Obama, de-weaponize! (Our liberals will actually say this. And they will say it like it's the most obvious thing in the world.)
Gen. Valentin Popovkin said Russia continues to oppose a space arms race but will respond to moves made by other countries, according to Russian news reports.
It's the Cold War all over again. We want peace, but the Americans... And our useful idiots, right on cue, will say... well, you know what they will say.

Part II:
Moving on to more complicated stuff. Mikhail Gorbachev (AP):
Mikhail Gorbachev says Vladimir Putin's United Russia party is similar to "the worst of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union" and that Russia is today a country where the parliament and judiciary are not fully free.

Gorbachev also says the global economic crisis showed capitalism should be tempered with elements of the socialist system he played a critical role in sweeping away.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, some 20 years after Communism began unraveling on his watch, Gorbachev also said the moment was right for better relations between Russia and the U.S. And he called on the world community to head off an Iranian nuclear weapon not with confrontation but "a maximal dialogue."
If I were a Golitsyn conspiracy-theorist, and I'm trying not to be, this would really set me off.

First, you have a criticism of the current government. If I were looking at this through the eyes of someone who believes in the continuity of the regime from the USSR of 1991 to the Russian Federation of today, I might think that Gorbachev's criticism of Putin is calculated disinformation meant to reinforce the Western readers' notion that Gorbachev and Putin represent different periods in Russian history, wholly different regimes. Because what Gorbachev says here is a widely held belief anyway, having him say this does more good than harm. After all, how bad can it be if Gorbachev can tell an AP reporter in Moscow such a thing?

And doesn't Gorbachev represent a softening-- a moderate voice in Russia? One of the good guys? "Gorbachev also says the global economic crisis showed capitalism should be tempered with elements of the socialist system he played a critical role in sweeping away." Yea, moderate!

He played "a critical role" in "sweeping away" Soviet socialism! If I am a Golitsyn conspiracy theorist who believes that the "fall of the Soviet Union" was a carefully-orchestrated "perestroika deception" meant to deceive the West, Gorbachev's claim that "capitalism should be tempered" by socialism only reinforces my already rampant suspicion that the long-term strategic goal of the Soviet system is the "convergence" of all systems of the world into one system, of course controlled by the Russians and policed by the KGB.

And finally, we have an endorsement of the Obama plan for "the world community to head off an Iranian nuclear weapon not with confrontation but 'a maximal dialogue.'" You see? See? He's an enemy of Putin! A moderate! Oversaw the "downfall" of Communism. And even he's saying that "the moment [is] right for better relations between Russia and the U.S." So what's the problem?

I wonder if the average reader can detect my sarcasm. It's obvious to me, of course. I imagine my sarcastic voice being some agreeable British chap, smart but shallow, a sort of straight-man interlocutor parrying the wilder claims of his more unstable partner but unable to deviate from popular clichés. He's intrigued, but exasperated; intellectual, but chummy; and ambitious, but unimportant.

And his friend the Golitsyn conspiracy theorist tells him, "Listen here: what has Gorbachev been doing for the past 20 years? He stepped down, voluntarily, as head of the party. Set up something called 'the Gorbachev Insitute' where he promotes 'global solutions to global problems,' blah, blah, blah. Basically he uses his carefully crafted image as a 'reformer within the Soviet Union' as a platform to promote the UN-style agenda of weakening nationalist interests and strengths toward the goal of a universal governorship that would of course be controlled by Russia and China. And what issue does he use to promote that agenda? Why, global warming, of course! The favorite rallying cry of the internationalists and the trans-nationalists. The favorite weapon of the Communist East against the Capitalist West-- weaken your economy, agree to 'global emissions standards,'-- nothing less than the future of the planet is at stake!" Reuters:
"I'm sorry the United States has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol," Gorbachev said, referring to the international accord to reduce emissions of gases that contribute to global warming.
"I bet you are," says Golitsyn conspiracy theory guy. "I bet you are."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Review: The Deception Game

The Deception Game is the first book Ladislav Bittman wrote after his defection. He was the deputy chief of Czechoslovakia's Department D, or Disinformation department, but defected shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1968.

Before that time, the Czechoslovakian intelligence service was built largely on the same model as Soviet intelligence, as were the other Soviet-bloc intelligence services. The Soviet-bloc intelligence services were subordinated to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the KGB. The disinformation departments, too, were built on the Soviet model (becoming more and more important in the late 50s and getting stronger in the 60s). The Czech department’s objectives were subordinated to Moscow to such an extent that it often carried on operations in countries where Czechoslovakia had no strategic interest. They would do this either because the developing country that was the theater of disinformation operations was not friendly toward the Soviet Union (but naively friendly toward Soviet-bloc countries), or to keep the Soviet Union's hands off of particularly weighty efforts of disinformation, forgery, or black propaganda.

Thus Bittman's account of his country's disinformation operations applies to the Soviet Union and its satellites as well. However, Czechoslovakia did have a particularly large and effective department, if Bittman's estimates are to be taken seriously.

The book consists of a brief account of the author's origins, education, career and defection; the course of Czech politics and Soviet control over his career; the nature and extent of the objectives of Czechoslovakian disinformation; the relationship of the disinformation department to the rest of the Czech intelligence service and to the Soviet Union's intelligence agencies; and very many specific example of disinformation operations consisting of a wide range of methods and approaches.

Books like this one are a necessary complement to accounts such as The Mitrokhin Archive (The Sword and the Shield and The World Was Going Our Way) and general impressions of espionage: information-stealing and illegal agents of influence embedded in foreign circles. That's because much of what Soviet-bloc disinformation departments did (and probably still do to some extent) is mundane and simple, relying upon pre-existing sentiment in the target countries as well as a cumulative effect, while maintaining plausible deniability and effective distance. Scientists stealing nuclear secrets, Kim Philby passing on top secret documents, and James Bond-style operations get all the glory, but in the long run it's the weight of clever imitations and subtle manipulations that wins Communism and socialism its power and influence.

On the other hand, The Deception Game is even-handed. Unlike Yuri Bezmenov (aka Tomas Schuman), who was involved in very much the same type of work as this author, albeit at a lower level, Bittman does not overstate the influence of Soviet-bloc disinformation operations in the world and the United States. For instance, he demonstrates that there is considerable distance between the New Left in the U.S. and Soviet control and indoctrination. Often he speaks of the Soviet Union trying to harness and control movements in the U.S. but being unable to do so. And ultimately he concludes that there is nearly as much danger in blaming all of America's problems and unrest on the Soviet Union as there is in blaming all of the world's problems on the U.S. It is folly to counter the latter with the former.

As with all books on this subject, even though the Soviet Union as such has fallen, it is still relevant. First, more practically because the power structure of the KGB is still intact and in power in Russia and still exerts itself in this way. Second, because the disinformation and active measures described by Bittman are not particular to a time and place, but are rather phenomena essential to the manifestation of socialist and Communist ideology, which is far from dead.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Translation: Obama is a Pushover

November (DPA):
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned on November 5 [the day after Obama was elected President] that Russia would deploy semi-ballistic missiles to its Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad, bordering NATO members Poland and Lithuania, if US plans [to build missile shields in the sovereign nations and NATO ally countries of Poland and the Czech Republic] went ahead.
OK, clear enough, right? We saw this all during the Cold War. This is simple. We make a move that threatens their hegemony and power, and they make a counter-move to threaten us. Your move, O.
Putin added [later in November] that Russia was hoping for "more constructive" negotiations on a key nuclear arms treaty set to expire next year.

The comments came as Medvedev eased his tone, saying at an Asia- Pacific forum in Peru that he was open to compromise with the new US administration.
Translation: we know that Obama is a pushover.
"Dialogue is possible, a change of position is possible," Medvedev was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying in Lima, where current US President George W Bush was also in attendance. Obama has shown signs he may even rescind the shield plans, Medvedev said.

Obama and his advisors have not staked out a position on the missile defence issue ever since a Polish statement was released stating that the matter had been decided.
Translation: The Russians know Obama is a pushover. So far, Obama has voted "present" on this, even while our NATO allies who are threatened by Russia's aggressive tendencies call out for our unwavering support.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in November (AFP):
"Our concerns can only be removed by one thing -- the renunciation of plans for unilateral establishment of a missile defense system and an agreement to work together from scratch," he said.
Translation: We will not back down. The Sovet Un... err, Russian Federation does not back down. We know that Obama is a pushover and will gladly back down.

From Interfax, "U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns visited Moscow...":
Q. U.S. President Barack Obama and later U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden said that it was time to push a “reset button” in relations with Russia. Could you be more specific as to what the new U.S. administration might be actually implying by saying that relations with Russia should be “reset” and what do you think will change in Washington’s policy towards Russia?

A. First, I am very happy to be back in Moscow.
Translation: The Russians treat me very, very well.

But seriously, you should read that interview. Burns seems to be a pliant public servant, which isn't always a great thing, especially when he is controlled by an administration of useful idiots. But Bush 'looked into Putin's eyes and saw the face of an angel' or something, so it seems the Russians managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the previous administration too, despite all this talk of "new directions" and "working together to push the reset button" or whatever the current vapidity is.

Now we see the fruition of this talk: "Obama 'ready to drop shield plans for Russian help on Iran'" (Novosti):
Washington has told Moscow that Russian help in resolving Iran's nuclear program would make its missile shield plans for Europe unnecessary, a Russian daily said on Monday, citing White House sources.
Well that's weird. Sure we said before that the missile shields were about Iran and North Korea in addition to NATO defense against Russia, but everyone in the intelligence community knew what it really was: Hey, Russia, we're watching you. It turns out it had nothing to do with Russia after all! It was about Iran! In fact, if you can believe it, Russia and the United States are working together against Iran! For real! What did you think this was about?

Next day, March 3rd (AFP):
The US could rethink its plans to site a missile defense shield in eastern Europe, which have been strongly opposed by Russia, by contending such a defense system was no longer necessary in exchange for Moscow's help with Iran, the Times said.
At least that's what we were saying yesterday.
The overture was rebuffed Tuesday by Medvedev, who said it was "not productive" to link talks over the US missile defense system with Iran's suspected nuclear program.
Translation: Your missile shield has nothing to do with our Iranian nuclear program... I mean the Iranian nuclear program.

October 2007 (BBC):
Iran wants Russian help in its dispute with the West over its nuclear aims.

Up to now Moscow has blocked any new UN sanctions, saying it wants to enable the UN's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, to work with Iran on clearing up outstanding issues.

But Moscow is seeking Iranian compromise over the issue, says the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran.
Not good enough? What about this?
The Russian president said Moscow had an interest in a "strong Iran" and that he wanted deeper ties with the country, state television reported.
Now we're supposed to believe that for dumping some missile shields, which we will do eagerly under Obama, Russia is going to cut its "strong ties" with Iran?

More here and here. Russia and Iran are strategic allies. Hence Medvedev's response:
"If we are to speak about some sort of exchange, the question has not been presented in such a way, because it is not productive," Medvedev said during a trip to Spain Tuesday.

But he acknowledged: "Our American partners are ready to discuss this problem. This is already good."
Translation: Obama is a pushover. We have him making concessions, offering ridiculous trades giving up missile shields for "help" in maybe-sorta-putting pressure on the Iranians, etc. We can get him to give up the missile sites and maintain our strategic relationship with Iran. We can weaken the United States on both fronts. We can do it and we will. So why would we make concessions?
Asked about it in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the missile defense system "has always been intended to deter any missile that might come from Iran."
Oh really? Here's an April 2008 article from the super liberal Der Spiegel:
Rice had traveled to Warsaw to sign a treaty for the stationing of interceptor missiles in Poland, a deal that had been in the works for years. In the future, they could be used to intercept warheads launched against the US by rogue states in the Middle East. Of course, Moscow has argued that the missile shield could also be used against Russia. "Poland is now a target of our missiles," one Russian general hissed not long ago after the Polish and Americans reached an agreement. But the country, a young member of the European Union, is determined to remain undeterred. "No one can dictate to Poland what it should do," Kaczynski told his people on Tuesday evening. "That's in the past."

For Poland, nestled as it is between the Oder and Bug rivers, the missile shield has far more than just military significance. Even 19 years after the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, 11 years after it became a member of NATO and four years after its EU accession, Warsaw still feels the need to demonstrate its independence against the old hegemony of Moscow. Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days, following Georgia's strike on its breakaway province of South Ossetia, has only served to strengthen Polish fears. Prior to the war, a steady majority of up to 80 percent of Poles opposed the missile shield according to public opinion polls. In the past week, however, the polls have swung the other way, with 50 to 65 percent now expressing their support for the shield. Polls show that 65 percent of Poles are afraid of Russia, whereas barely 20 percent are worried about Iran and North Korea.
Or we could go back to May 2007 (Reuters):
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood came to Warsaw to discuss placing 10 interceptor rockets in Poland aimed at protecting against missile attacks from what Washington calls rogue states such as Iran or North Korea.

"There is still a lot to discuss but after today's talks I am very optimistic that we will come to a conclusion," Rood told a news conference.

The plan has drawn strong criticism from Russia, which sees it as a threat to its national security.

"Our opposition is known," President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday at a news conference in Luxembourg.

"We don't believe that it could be about missiles of North Korea or Iran -- they won't have them in any case for 10 to 15 years."
So the Russians see it as Russian vs. American hegemony, the Polish see it as being about the Russians, and only officially do we Americans talk about it being for Iran and North Korea. It was, is, and always will be about Russian aggression and ambition. Are those countries threats to us (and to Russia)? Yes. But the idea that Russia is our ally in building defenses against the aggression of rogue states is farcical. Russia is a rogue state.

So this new "dialogue," or whatever they are calling it, is not encouraging. Here's former and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February:
NATO has agreed to a ballistic missile defense that would protect against a launch from Iran. The Czech Republic will host a radar for the system, with the missiles based in Poland.

Russia adamantly has opposed the system.

"I told the Russians a year ago that if there were no Iranian missile program, there would be no need for the missile sites," Gates said.
This is a new narrative. If Gates did say that, it was more about pointing to Russia's cooperation with Iran as another reason why the missile sites were needed. Obviously he didn't mean, Yea, we'll just get rid of the Iranian nuclear program and then we'll be set here. Such a scenario is ludicrous. But that's exactly what we're being sold now.

On April 2, Obama and Medvedev will meet in London, where in November 2006 an ex-Russian FSB officer and current British citizen who spoke out against Russian abuses, Alexander Litvinenko, was murdered by Russian agents using polonium-210. This assassination was carried out in full accord with Russian law. The Western world, afraid of offending an "ally," has done nothing to reproach Putin's criminal government.

[Some links from Jake Tapper's blog.]

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rubin on Cohen

Michael Rubin: Roger Cohen, Useful Idiot
I was traveling for lectures last week, and so am only catching up on my reading now. I came across this column by the New York Times's Roger Cohen entitled "What Iran's Jews Say" and his defense of it, here. What to say? I'm familiar with the synagogue and attended it when I lived in Isfahan. I chatted with some of the university-aged students who had taken shelter in an attached guesthouse because, as Jews, they were beat up in the university dormitories. Men and women both referred to the Jews' representative in the Parliament as a flunky for the regime, and would not discuss problems or issues when he was around. Several would say one thing in the synagogue, but when we went to parks on took walks through the city, they would bend over backwards to make clear that they cannot talk freely in the synagogue since the walls have ears. The same sentiment was expressed at synagogues in Tehran and Shiraz. Cohen, however, talks to him as the authority and takes his word that he is not a quisling. True, Jews are better of in Iran than in many neighboring countries, but there is a reason why their number has dropped by 80% over the last three decades. Cohen simply appears on a propaganda tour; parachuting in, an eager recepticle for his regime minders. It should not surprise that his column now graces the pages of the regime's mouth piece, The Tehran Times.

You'd think after the Grey Lady would have learned her lesson after, a few years ago, the New York Times correspondent visited Tehran and quoted a University of Tehran professor talking about domestic protests. The correspondent was simply unaware that the man he quoted was known to every academic who went into Iran as the person in charge of 'minding' foreign visitors to Iran.
They never learn.

I-Rainy Days

For all the talk of 'we're willing to negotiate, we aren't cowboy bullies like the ignorant hick Bush, an opened hand is better than a clenched fist,' etc. that took up the entirety of the very small amount of time that was spent discussing foreign policy during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, the lack of attention paid to this item is shameful:
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "Doubtful" That Iran will respond to offers of engagement, a senior State Department official said on Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Clinton had told her counterpart from the United Arab Emirates that the United States was under "No illusion" Over Iran. "She (Clinton) said she is doubtful that Iran will respond to any kind of engagement and opening the hand out and reaching out to them," Said the official, who was speaking on the sidelines of an international donors conference for Gaza where Clinton held a series of bilateral meetings. (Reuters)
Of course it was published by Israel News. Why is it that so many news stories concerning international events that affect the United States are covered not by U.S. papers and news outlets, but by the Times UK and other foreign English-language papers?

By the way, Bush officials met with their Iranian counterparts 28 times. But hey, why let facts spoil a convenient narrative?

Meanwhile, Iran likely has enough material to make a nuclear weapon, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen told CNN's John King Sunday. There's nothing else of note in that blurb, though CNN mentioning it at all is noteworthy. The comments are interesting too:
These hawkish pigs should leave Iran alone, and get out of Iraq and Iran.

If any country should have to destroy its nuclear arsenal, it shourld be the Neo-Nazis in Israel.

They're the source of war crimes, bloodshed and the nurder of millions of women and children.
Yes, those Jewish neo-Nazis, aggressively withdrawing from Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, leaving themselves with a massive plot of land about the size of your neighborhood Costco.
The same day Robert gates says iran DOE NOT have nuclear tech. CNN and the fascist douche bags say iran does. Who is trying to spin out a war cnn?
CNN trying to spin a war? Someone doesn't watch the same CNN I do.
More one sided stories from CNN, run by zionists.
Enough said.
I have "stuff" to make an apple pie, but it doesn't mean I'm going to do it. In fact, I probably don't even like apple pie.
Ha! Fun analogy. Let's continue it, shall we? All your life, you have screamed and shouted about how you want to have pie in your stomach! It is even written on your birth certificate. You tell all your kids about how some day, you will all have pie in your stomachs! Finally you assemble all the ingredients for pie-making. Will you not make a pie?

IDIOT! Iran's stated goal is the destruction of Israel. A nuclear weapon not only gives Iran massive leverage, it would allow them to destroy Israel if it chose to do so. So they're assembling the ingredients for nuke-making, and they're not going to make a nuke? Who are these people, and how can they possibly justify thinking this way?
Ok, here are the facts:

1. Iran will eventually, if not already, have nuclear capability.

2. There is nothing that the U.S. or the rest of the world can do about this.

3. There is no justifications for keeping Iran from accuriring nucldear technology and use of nuclear energy.
OK, here are the facts:

1. Iran has a shitload of oil.

2. Nevertheless, Iran imports a shitload of gasoline.

3. If Iran was worried about energy production, they could build some damn refineries.

4. Thus, their acquisition of nuclear material has absolutely nothing to do with nuclear energy and everything to do with their desire to control the Middle East and ultimately destroy Israel.