The Intercept Article – A Bombshell or a Dud?; Megyn Kelly’s Interview with Putin – the Final NBC Version & the Unedited Version; Delegation of Americans Return from Russia; Saudi-Qatar Conflict; Terrorist Attacks in Iran; Tillerson Instructed to Re-Engage with Russia Despite Domestic Politics

Kremlin Wall, Red Square, Moscow; photo by Natylie S. Baldwin

On this past Monday, The Intercept – an outlet I normally admire for Glenn Greenwald and others’ feisty journalism and independence of mind – published what purported to be a bombshell about Russian interference in our recent presidential election via a cyber-attack of county-level election officials in the U.S..  At last, there was supposed to be some actual documentary evidence provided by a whistle-blower at the NSA.

But within 24 hours, there had been much criticism of the article – the NSA document in question is an analysis and does not contain actual data or intelligence – as well as The Intercept’s sloppy methods in dealing with its source, who has already been arrested.

The Intercept article is here and the reader comments are worth perusing as well.

One critical analysis of the article is by military analyst Moon of Alabama who points out the following with respect to the significance of the leaked document:

The NSA “intelligence report” the Intercept publishes along the piece does NOT show that “Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack“. The document speaks of “cyber espionage operations” – i.e someone looked and maybe copied data but did not manipulate anything. Espionage via computer networks is something every nation in this world (and various private entities) do all the time. It is simply the collection of information. It is different from a “cyberattack” like Stuxnet which was intended to create large damage,

The “attack” by someone was standard spearfishing and some visual basic scripts to gain access to accounts of local election officials. Any minor criminal hacker uses similar means. No damage is mentioned in the NSA analysis. The elections were not compromised by this operation. The document notes explicitly (p.5) that the operation used some techniques that distinguish it from other known Russian military intelligence operations. It might have been done by someone else.

The reporters note that the document does not provide any raw intelligence. It is an analysis based on totally unknown material. It does [not] include any evidence for the claims it makes.

Moon of Alabama also discusses the serious lapses of the outlet in dealing with its source:

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept‘s reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching the head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way – the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

Julian Assange has defended the 25-year old NSA contracting employee who is the alleged leaker of the document and has publicly excoriated The Intercept for its negligence in protecting its source. Consequently, Wikileaks is offering a $10,000 reward for the exposure and firing of the “reporter” responsible for the bungling.  Assange told The Daily Beast:

“If the FBI affidavit is accurate the reporter concerned must be named, shamed and fired by whomever they work for to maintain industry standards,” Assange said via Twitter direct message through the WikiLeaks account on Tuesday.

“Source burning reporters are a menace,” he said. “They chill trust in all journalists which impedes public understanding.”

WikiLeaks offered a $10,000 reward for information “leading to the public exposure & termination” of the reporter.

 “It seems likely that the FBI affidavit refers to The Intercept, but not certain, hence we say ‘suspected Intercept reporter,’ said Assange. “But whomever this reporter was they are a menace not only to sources but to all journalists by decreasing the trust between sources and journalist and ultimately the public. Democracy dies in darkness.”
Readers can follow the links provided and draw their own conclusions.
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There has also been lots of buzz about Megyn Kelly’s new debut show on NBC and the exclusive interview she conducted with Vladimir Putin during the recently concluded St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.  The final edited version that was shown on NBC can be viewed here.

However, a longer version of the interview can be watched here in which it is clear that the version that appeared on NBC edited out a few things, which makes one wonder why they chose to do so.  Note that the last question in this version, which did not appear in the NBC version at all, has to do with Kelly’s conversations with Russians who all noted that Putin has brought Russia back to a respectable place and how the presidency for the last 17 years has affected him personally.  Putin’s answer is very insightful and humanizes Putin by providing some contextual background of who he is and his connection to the country he governs.   Even Kelly is not unmoved by it.

Another item left out of the NBC version is part of Putin’s answer to Kelly’s question about his response to those in the West who view Russia as a country lacking in democracy and human rights.   The partial answer that NBC omitted has Putin discussing the U.S. government’s response to the Occupy Wall Street movement and pointing out that Russian police have not resorted to the use of tear gas and other more serious weapons to quell protests.   Hmm.

In a conversation with the Today Show’s Willie Geist, Kelly acknowledged that she spent a good amount of time with Putin and that off-camera, Putin was warm, polite and personable.  Of course, on camera, in the more combative debate style interview, he was sharp and argumentative.  This is consistent with the characterization that many people who have actually interacted with Putin have provided – polite and honest but also intelligent, gets things done and doesn’t take any crap.   It’s a combination that makes him popular with the average Russian.  And if he were an American leader, it would no doubt make him popular with average Americans.

It’s why a majority of Russians are ready to re-elect Putin for another term as president, according to the independent Levada Center.

I must also add that, based on my conversations with Russians during both of my visits there, the majority of them do not view Putin as a dictator – they know what real dictators look and act like. Putin is considered a strong leader who gets things done.   This is not to say that Russians are totally uncritical of Putin either or that they are afraid to express any criticism of Putin – that was not my experience during either visit.   But this whole narrative that Americans are bombarded with from corporate media and mainstream politicians about Russia being an autocracy and Putin being some kind of new Stalin should be viewed very skeptically, to say the least.  From what I’ve been able to glean, most Russians would laugh at anyone who seriously tried to compare Putin to Stalin and would think them profoundly ignorant.

Speaking of my recent trip to Russia, my photos should be posted on the blog by next week.  🙂

In the meantime, readers can view a sneak peek from the recent delegation of Americans who visited Russia, organized by Sharon Tennison of the Center for Citizen Initiatives.   Sharon’s group arrived in Moscow just as I was leaving the capital for St. Petersburg.

 

American delegation meets with Mikhail Gorbachev, May 2017; photo by Volodya Shestakov

 

Some of Sharon’s comments on the delegation are excerpted below:

Over the past fifteen years very few Americans have traveled to Russia. Most who did were on cruise ships who met tour operators and a few local people where they docked. Hence there has been little real information about what is actually occurring throughout Russia as the world’s largest country continued to evolve from the bleak Soviet and Yeltsin years which ended in 2000 when Vladimir Putin came to power.

CCI, the largest citizen diplomacy organization between the two nations, determined this year to carry out a first-ever “information-gathering” delegation of American citizen investigators who simultaneously would travel to ten major Russian cities to learn what is happening across Russia––since any type of allegation can be made in U.S.mainstream media and none will know whether it is truth or misinformation.

An invitation was released in January 2017 for “up-to-100 mainstream Americans” to self select for this purpose. Some 80 persons applied and by the end 30 citizen investigators made it through the process to travel. They understood there would be no scheduled museum or palace tours––only intense meetings with Russian peoples and experts of all persuasions in areas as far out as mid-Siberia. These cities included Moscow, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Krasnodar, Kazan, Volgograd, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Yalta and St.Petersburg.

In Moscow travelers would have only formal meetings with Russian experts such as President Mikhail Gorbachev, ballistic weapons specialist Vladimir Kozin, Russia’s all-time TV Icon Vladimir Pozner, national journalists, and several specialists in business, private health care and international finance. Delegates submitted their questions for each expert a month in advance of these meetings. CCI summarized the queries and sent the final list to each of the experts. For instance President Gorbachev was given 19 questions, Pozner 29 questions, the others varying numbers of inquiries. This was likely a rather unexpected procedure, but we didn’t wish to sit through stock presentations––we wanted specific information from each specialist.

The expert meetings were two hours each. Most of the speakers arrived with their lists of questions in hand to keep themselves on target. Presentations were to the point. After two hours, the speakers and Americans weren’t ready to part; excitement filled the conference rooms as both sides clamored to get the last bits of information asked or answered before parting. Some experts stayed on for lunches or dinners where additional informal give-and-take was possible.

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Unfortunately, more conflict seems to be brewing the Middle East as Saudi Arabia has led a campaign of exclusion and isolation of Qatar in retaliation for a policy of no overt hostility toward Iran, among other things.  The best summation I’ve heard or read yet of the origins and dynamics of this problem are from an interview conducted by the Real News Network‘s Aaron Mate with journalist Max Blumenthal who has a good track record of reporting on Israel-Palestine and Syria.  Here is some of what he had to say:

The rift with Qatar, it’s really a campaign against Qatar led by Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, and it was triggered by Trump’s visit to Riyadh last week as part of his tolerance tour where he called for an Arab NATO, which really shows how he views the region, the Middle East, in a sectarian lens, the same way Saudi Arabia does, and demanded Sunni unity against Iran and its allies in the region. So Qatar wasn’t seen as on board, and the Saudis wanted to go after Doha.

Trump has not just claimed credit for what could potentially be a really catastrophic escalation in hostilities within the Persian Gulf, but he has ratified the extremely aggressive posture of Saudi Arabia with this tweet. I don’t know if Trump is reflecting some of the discussions in his National Security Council. It does seems like the Bannon faction of the Trump administration, the supposedly America First faction, and the Kushner faction, the more internationalist, interventionist faction that’s pro-Israel and very favorable to Saudi Arabia, are actually aligned on this issue of hostility to Qatar.

Because for the Bannon faction, they get to push the Muslim Brotherhood ban again, which they’d been wanting, and which is something that the UAE desperately wants. And Saudi Arabia, of course, wants it because the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is one of Qatar’s main proxies, and in the Gaza Strip, their cousins in Hamas. Then the Kushner faction gets the isolation, if not the total elimination, of the one force in the Persian Gulf, Qatar, which hasn’t been on board with the Israeli-Saudi de facto alliance. So this is good for Israel in many ways. Israel’s come out openly along with Trump and supported what Saudi and UAE are doing to Qatar.

Trump, by doing this, however, has really done serious damage to what I think the Pentagon and the State Department are attempting to do to quell tensions. The Pentagon and the military has not stepped away from Qatar one bit. The CENTCOM has a forward command station inside Qatar, as well as there’s an Air Force base. They do not want to give these up. So Trump is seriously complicating American interests in the region by kind of letting the cat out of the bag.

….I think Qatar understands, especially as a smaller country but one that produces an enormous GDP, has the highest per capita income of any country in the region, that they can punch above their weight if they don’t do exactly what the US wants, and if they embrace, excuse me, a policy of what you could call strategic hedging.

So Qatar kind of is friends with everyone. They maintain relations with Iran. They are funding the Muslim Brotherhood. They’re welcoming dissidents from Egypt, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, but there are secular dissidents from Egypt being hosted inside Qatar. And in Syria, what they’ve done is support groups that are actually more extreme than the proxies that even Saudi Arabia has directly supported. We’re talking about direct overt support. So here we’re talking about Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda faction, which Saudi Arabia has supported Jaysh al-Islam, which doesn’t have this international jihadist tendency.

The reason they do all that is to project their influence wherever they can and to suppress opposition because if they’re paying all these different forces off, and they maintain a relationship with Iran, they’re not going to be opposed. That makes it harder for Saudi Arabia to get them on board with Sunni Arab NATO, and they’re seen as sort of a bad player right now, especially with the new king and crown prince in Saudi Arabia who want to take an aggressive position to Iran that’s sort of unprecedented. No relations with Iran, just total hostility.

So that’s come to a head this week with the aerial and land blockade of Qatar, which I really … It’s kind of shocked me. I think if it weren’t for the US military installations there, and were the US military and the State Department, the diplomats not standing by Qatar, you can imagine them being overrun by the Saudi military much as Kuwait was overrun by Saddam Hussein’s military.

….One of the trigger points for Saudi hostilities against Qatar was discussed in the Financial Times by Erika Solomon. I think she laid it out pretty well, but it’s been sort of well-known for a while. In 2015, a party of about 26 Qatari royals was kidnapped. They were a hunting party in Iraq. The kidnapping was a sort of clever device by Iran and the Qataris to carry out a series of diplomatic moves. First of all, Qatar agreed to a $700 million payment to Kata’ib al-Hezbollah, the Shia militia linked to the Iranian government that carried out the kidnapping. At the same time, they paid $80 million to Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist militia inside Syria dedicated to overthrowing Bashar al-Assad and hostile to Iran. And 120 million more to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

So what’s going on here? Why did they pay both sides? Well, this is consistent with their policy of strategic hedging. But it also was part of Qatar trying to exert its diplomatic muscle because it allowed for the evacuation of two Shia towns under siege by Sunni militias in Syria and two Sunni towns, which were opposition towns under siege by the Syrian government. So the payment took place under the cover of this evacuation deal of these four towns.

When Saudi Arabia found out about it, they were furious because $700 million went through the Iranian government from Qatar. That’s a massive cash infusion that actually empowered the Syrian government. The reason they had to kind of pay off the jihadists and Salafist militias as opposed to Assad is to say, “Look, you guys get some, too.” So it actually wound up escalating the conflict. It demonstrated to Saudi Arabia that Qatar was just not on board with Sunni NATO, with opposing Iran at all costs and ramping up hostility.

So I think this came to a head, I think, a week ago or so when Qatari state media contained a report that showed the Emir stating his refusal to break off relations with Iran. Qatar said this was hacked, but it could have been very well been something that the Emir said. In any case, the media war led to a political war, and now we stand on the brink of a hot war….

Watch the full interview or read the whole transcript here

There are also reports that Saudi Arabia has given Qatar, via the Kuwaiti government, an ultimatum with a 24-hour deadline to agree to a set of demands, including cutting off all ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.   Other details of the ultimatum remain sketchy, but recent reports claim that Qatar has moved its military to high alert in order to defend against any potential invasion.   Turkey is also reportedly preparing a bill to provide both civilian and military aid to the embattled Gulf nation.  Qatar, which is heavily dependent on food imports, is also in negotiations with Iran to possibly provide food aid since being blockaded by Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

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In Iran terrorist attacks have targeted the Majlis (Iran’s parliament) and the shrine honoring the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini, killing 12 people and wounding many others.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The following details were provided by Euronews:

Suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Iranian parliament and the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, killing at least 12 people in a twin assault which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards blamed on regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video purporting to show gunmen inside the parliament building. It also threatened more attacks against Iran’s majority Shi’ite population, seen by the hardline Sunni militants as “heretics”.

….They were the first attacks claimed by Islamic State inside the tightly controlled Shi’ite Muslim country, one of the powers leading the fight against IS forces in nearby Iraq and Syria.

Iranian police said they had arrested five suspects over the attacks and the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, struck a defiant tone.

“These fireworks have no effect on Iran. They will soon be eliminated … They are too small to affect the will of the Iranian nation and its officials,” state TV quoted him saying.

Khamenei added that Iran, which is helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fight rebels including Islamic State fighters, had prevented worse attacks through its foreign policy.

The powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accused Riyadh of being behind the attacks and vowed to seek revenge.

“This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack,” a Guards statement said.

The deputy head of the Guards, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, was quoted later by Tasnim news agency as saying: “We will take revenge on terrorists and their supporters who martyred our people.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, speaking in Berlin, said he did not know who was responsible for the attacks and said there was no evidence Saudi extremists were involved.

The U.S. State Department and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres both condemned the attacks.

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To end on a somewhat positive note, during a recent trip to New Zealand, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated that he has been instructed by president Trump to ignore the political hoopla going on in the domestic policy arena and work toward re-engaging Russia.  The AP reported on June 6th:

The top U.S. diplomat spoke in Wellington, New Zealand, where he met with Prime Minister Bill English during a brief visit.

Tillerson said he couldn’t comment on the details of the Russia investigations or whether they could bring down the administration because “I have no direct knowledge.”

He said Trump has told him he should not allow the uproar to impede him from working on the relationship.

“He’s been quite clear with me to proceed at whatever pace and in the areas I think we might make progress,” Tillerson said. “I really am not involved in any of these other issues.”

 

14 thoughts on “The Intercept Article – A Bombshell or a Dud?; Megyn Kelly’s Interview with Putin – the Final NBC Version & the Unedited Version; Delegation of Americans Return from Russia; Saudi-Qatar Conflict; Terrorist Attacks in Iran; Tillerson Instructed to Re-Engage with Russia Despite Domestic Politics”

  1. It doesn’t add up, she has trade craft training from her time in USAF. She knew what she was doing.
    Reality Leigh Winner

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/who-is-reality-winner-nsa-leaker-trump-russia-hacking-intercept

    As much I like GG and have read him since the days of his blog the intercept is suspect in my book. Marcy Wheeler went there and month later she was back on her on site. I don’t think she said why but most figured it had something to do honesty. There was shortage of it there.

  2. I’d also heard that Matt Taibbi was there and left quickly for similar reasons.

    In any event, no potential whistleblower will now trust The Intercept as this young lady was thrown under the bus due to sloppy handling by the reporter(s).

  3. Dear Nataly! If you don’t mind, please, can you answer a few questions about this ““information-gathering” delegation of American citizen investigators”.

    1) Who paid for the transportation tickets, booked hotels, hired guides and interpreters?

    2) Who, on Russian side, ensured that you’d make contact with all these people you interviewed?

    3) What kind of connection with the “Rota International” do you, CCI and this delegation have?

    4) Do you know, that the Ukrainian “patriotic” website “Миротворец”, run by the deputy Minister of the Interior A. Geraschenko, included 10 members of your delegation into their “hit list” of “accessories of the terrorists and aggressors”, because they visited “occupied” Crimea? AFAIK, only this year’s visitors to Crimea were “punished” – but not the previous visitors (like you). Can you provide a comment about that?

    5) Are you aware of Mrs. Tennisons “scuffle” with Russian law?

    6) Honestly – what’s the real reason to send such big a delegation, full of “former” spooks and State Dept employess? To the “native” like me it all looks… “dodgy”.

    Thank you in advance, Nataly. I’m sure lots of people would be glad to read your answers.

    P.S.

    “From what I’ve been able to glean, most Russians would laugh at anyone who seriously tried to compare Putin to Stalin and would think them profoundly ignorant.”

    Sadly, no, Putin is no Stalin. Do you really doubt for a moment that should comrade Stalin come back to life and announce, that all fifth columnists and corruptioners would be shot in the next 24 hours, and the collective West told to fuck off in the no uncertain terms, the people of Russia would object?

    1. 1) As with all of Sharon’s delegations, the visitors themselves pay their own way for everything.

      2) Sharon Tennison organized the delegation. She has many contacts throughout all of Russia.

      3) I am not a member of Rotary International. Sharon is a member of Rotary and goes around the country speaking at Rotary meetings, among other places, to discuss her experiences with Russia over the past 30 years and to try to debunk dangerous myths about Russia and to build goodwill.

      4) I don’t know about this particular Ukrainian website you mentioned. My best guess as to the answer to your question is that there was more awareness about this trip with many people as compared to my trip with Sharon in 2015.

      5) I recall that Sharon was briefly detained during one of her visits last year. It was a misunderstanding about the type of visa she had. It was subsequently worked out with no long-term problems.

      6) I have gotten to know Sharon over the past 3 years and can vouch for her integrity. She wants to see the vilification of Russia and Putin end and friendly relations established between the 2 nations. The one former “spook” that I’m aware of that went on one of her recent delegations was Ray McGovern who is a former CIA analyst specializing in the Soviet Union/Russia. After leaving the agency, he has been a campaigner for peace and against all of our wars over the past 15 years or so. He has spoken out against the false narrative in the American establishment media and from mainstream politicians about the Ukraine crisis, the Crimean reunification, etc.

      Natylie

      1. Thank you, Nataly, for clarifying the situation a bit. I really appreciate that you allow the “feedback” exchanges to happen on your blog.

        Re: Rotarians.

        That’s what concerns me the most.

        The delegation chose to meet the representatives of the so-called “creative class”, local businessmen and academicians already converted to be “pro-Western” by default, with such scum of the Earth like Gorbachev (admired in the West alone) and Pozner (ditto – but Pozner is more blatant in his Russophobia) – and they hope to learn about “real Russia”? To understand why Putin remains popular, what makes us, Russians, tick? How does talks with so-called “liberal” urbanites acting as your tour guides will accomplish that?

        Sharon Tennison and several other members of the delegation are members of the so-called “Rotary Club”. That’s really dodgy pseudo-masonic outfit with its fingers stuck into so many pies international business-wise that it simply can’t be anything good.

        I’d like to remind you, that both the USA and the Ukraine consider Crimea to be “occupied” by Russia. As we could have noticed recently, both the SBU and “vigilant citizens” of the Ukraine are keeping track of all those who dare to enter the peninsula in avoidance of the proper procedures, i.e. via Ukrainian territory. The “illegal trespassers” are publicly outed and often placed on the notorious Mirotvorets site. Already several delegations of the European politicians (some of them EU Parliament members) drew Kiev’s ire and official denunciation.

        Not the “Rotaries” though.

        Sharon Tennison and her organization did a lot of stuff in Russia, some of it obviously good – like buying computers for the orphanages. The only quibble here is that her organization’s initiatives are funded directly via USAID – an organization classified as “undesirable” on Russian soil since 2012. Since then, the fact of being funded by the USAID are viewed by Russian Persecution Office as enough reason to deem such grant recipient as the “foreign agent” – with the chance of upgrading this status to the “undesirable organization” in the future.

        In February 2016 she and her another fellow “Rotarian” were detained in Volgograd for the violation of visa’s regime. Instead of promised “tourism” she was engaged in organizing mutual projects with the local businesses. Namely to create a coordination council on “cooperation” between the local civil society, businesses and the administration (i.e. what is covered by the “political activity”). They were fined 2000 rubles and the allowed time of their vises had been cut.

        Pardon me for being skeptical, but you can’t create “Russian civil society” by furnishing it with foreign money and advisors. Besides – Russia already has real civil society. It’s not what the West understands by it – i.e. a soft power lobbying group for a small number of liberal-minded white-collar activists and businesses. What is Russian civil society demonstrated St. Petersburg and their people after the terror attacks in early April.

        As for the “Rotary Club” – it has about 60 chapter houses in Russia (11 in Moscow, 4 in St. Petersburg). Their existence became possible only thanks to successful lobbying to Gorby himself (ergo why he was visited this year). Among the (in)famous Russian Rotarians were former mayor of Moscow Yuriy Luzhkov, former mayor of St. Petersburg late Anatoliy Sobchak and former owner of the “liberal” NTV channel, mega oligarch of the “Rough 90s” Vladimir Gusinsky, also a member of “semibankirschina”. Handshakable list, indeed.

        Pardon me again, Nataly, but an international outfit with “lodges” structure gallivanting across Russian setting up shops and “helping” civil society sounds too suspicious for me.

        I have all reasons to be suspicious:

        ***

        “In 1994, as a member of Peace Corps volunteers, Mr. Blanco arrived in the Nizhny Novgorod region to help build a market economy in our land. The first thing the “bachelor of management” did was to open in Nizhny Novgorod a branch of the international organization Rotary Club. This club was established more than a hundred years ago in the United States. Its main task is to unite the business elite of all nations for close cooperation.

        However, experts say that this club is often used by the US special services for the legal collection of classified information. In this regard, the Nizhny Novgorod branch of “Rotary” was no exception. Blanco was able to draw into the membership of the club prominent Nizhny Novgorod businessmen and directors of defense enterprises. And very soon these people began to be courted by the Americans of a very specific profession.

        So, the meetings of the club were repeatedly visit by some Theodore Wilson and Kenneth Nots. Both were intelligence servicemen from the United States. These guys behaved quite brazenly. At one of the club meetings, they directly invited one of the leaders of the Sokol aircraft factory to give them secret data on the military aircraft produced by the enterprise. And in 1996, Blanco made an attempt to organize a meeting of directors of Nizhny Novgorod defense factories with the US Air Force Attaché David Johnson.

        The attaché allegedly offered profitable investments to our “defensemen”. Directors immediately realized that for investments from the US they were clearly required to provide certain services, which did not exactly strengthen Russian defenses. They were also baffled by the personality of the negotiating partner. Military attaché of any state is essentially a spy under diplomatic cover, and, except for purely intelligence information, this type of people usually do not care of anything else. Naturally, a scandal broke out. The meeting with the attaché fell through, and Mr. Adam Blanco was asked to leave the country… And now he is back in Russia.

        As we know, today he works in the structure of the United States Agency for International Development. The Russian branch of the Agency is located in the building of the American Embassy, notably, apart from other embassy units. It is not surprising, because the Agency is a cover for several intelligence services of the United States having very specific tasks: penetration into various spheres of Russian life – from politics to economics. People from the Agency have repeatedly been exposed in the transfer of money to Russian opposition parties and human rights organizations, in collecting information about the Russian defense potential, in industrial espionage, etc. As for Blanco himself, he is reportedly responsible for working with enterprises Our small business. And first of all with those of them who are involved in servicing military orders.

        Small businessmen are given preferential loans, which then need to be worked out. Including detailed information about their activities. Perhaps, in this way, Blanco also credits Nizhny Novgorod businessmen. In any case, knowledgeable people say that he is still very interested in the life of the Nizhny Novgorod region.”

        ***

        Maybe it is true and Mrs. Tennison is indeed a wide-eyed idealist who wants to change the world for the better. But she appears too naïve in doing so and her organization appears (at least – to me) as a perfect front for a spy-op.

        P.S. All you need to know about “Mirotvorets” site. A list of people from CCI who were “interred” into Mirotvorets hit-list after their Crimea’s visit. It says, among other things, that another CCI member, Kimberly Wiehel was the official head of the Crimea bound delegation. That delegation also included Ann Wright (sp?), former US State Dept. employee, and Colonel (Ret). Besides Mr. McGovern, there was also Elisabeth Murray present, from the Intelligence Veterans association.

        1. Sharon’s organization received some USAID funding in the 1990’s. She hasn’t gotten any government funding for 15 years or more and is now totally independent in terms of money. The funding dried up probably because Sharon didn’t give them a return on investment. She never was Russophobic and never joined in the vilification of Putin as she met him in the 1990’s while he was the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg and was impressed with his honesty and sharp mind. She has written articles countering the western establishment’s demonization of Putin and Russia. When I met some of the Russian Rotarians in Crimea and Krasnodar on my first visit with Sharon I found them to have much more complex views than you are assuming.

          Natylie

          1. Dear Nataly!

            Sorry, but your rather short and terse answers did not allay my worries and suspicions. As you’ve probably noticed during your visits to Russia, we don’t have cult of personality of Mr. Putin – the West (and Ukraine) has. So, a phrase “She has written articles countering the western establishment’s demonization of Putin and Russia” or “She never was Russophobic and never joined in the vilification of Putin as she met him” won’t short-circuit my head CPU unit and proclaim such a person a paragon of virtue and A True Friend of Russia just by the fact of saying it. Words are just that – “words, words, words”… Cheap, and next to worthless, when not backed by actions. In early 2000s a lot of people in the West and from the so-called “liberal opposition” proclaimed that Putin is “their man”, that he is “good” and a “liberal”, on the virtue that he will protect them from their enemies. The fact is, as the history demonstrated it, that they endorsed “imaginary” Putin, that existed only in their mind, all the while ignoring Russian people. And, yes, we had a throng of Westerners who were in full support of Yeltsin and Russia in the 90s as well. Just sounding “pro-Russian” is not enough to earn our trust. We are not desperate to trust just about anyone.

            You write that there was a meeting with Crimean Rotarians. How did they became a thing in the first place, these Crimean Rotarians? First, they should be Ukrainian Rotarians, members of one of the lodges established in the Ukraine in the 90s (there are 49 of chapterhouses there). How can ou entrust the development of the civil society not only in the “mainland”, but also in the “contest” (not by force, for now) part of your country to the pseudo-masonic outfit with divided loyalties? And the Ukrainian Rotary Club recognizes the Crimea as part of the Ukraine, while members of your organization, who visited Crimea said otherwise. How do you explain that?

            I also notice that you decided not to address the fact how Rotarians used their influence in the 90s to further their (or, should I say, the US establishment) goals at the expense of Russia and try to can it. I don’t expect that you will forward my questions to Mrs. Tennison as for the past activity of her “lodge”. I’m basically told that an incredible did happen – a tiger decided to change his stripes over time! Here – http://rotary.org.ua/rotari-v-ukraini.html. Why not use your influence in the Ukraine instead to stop the bloodbath in Donbass, to stop Nazi-fication of the Ukraine? Why try to “build a civil society” in Russian instead? And, yes, on the CCI web-page they sport, with pride, the Rotarian cogwheel

            https://ccisf.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Rotary-Group-Volgograd.jpg

            http://www.intmensorg.info/images/rotarymason.jpg

            What this site lacks, though, is the info, on who funds (owns) them. I don’t believe in charity and Fairy Godmothers from across the Ocean. Yeah, I’m so cynical.

            Dear Nataly – you should not go and talk about Putin with your fellow Americans. You should talks about Russian people, who make people like Putin hold the power. Talks with Pozner and Gorbachev won’t accomplish that. Russians are not 5% of urbanite Westernized intelligentsia. Russia is, indeed, a “Red State”, in its original meaning of the term “Red”, whether you like it or not. And this “Red State” ensured if not Trump’s “victory”, but 100% sure ensured Clinton’s defeat. By deciding to “boil” in the same circles as you are, showing “class/strata solidarity” with non-entities you are not getting closer to understanding Russia. You are not helping your fellow Americans to understand us.

            There are 2 schools of thought in the West, when it comes to describe Russia. Some claim that Russians does not differ from the Westerns at all, and 100% share their “values” and want the same thing – a house in suburbia with a white picket fence, a family with 2.5. kids, mortgage and a car. Other school of thought that Russians are completely different from the Westerners, and try to portray us in accordance of their most virulent, hateful, distorted Russophobic stereotypes.

            Both are wrong. We are who we are. No, we are not you. No, we are not YOUR stereotypes about us. Yes, you seem like incapable of accepting who we truly are. I read other reports by other people in the delegation, Nataly. The level of ignorance is stupefying. People, Western people, have no idea why we hate Gorbachev. Or what the “Immortal Regiment” is all about.

            Nataly, long story short – Russians are not liberal. Now imagine all “values” that the term “liberal” carries and, next, imagine, the absence of them. You can’t change that. You can’t make us like you. You can’t even really make Americans accept Russians of who we are, because you don’t even try to present us as such.

            The reality, Nataly, is such, that there is no possible American “bargain” with Russia. That’s not how we conduct our foreign policy. No, we are of the opinion, that, instead, you will accept the objective reality – that Crimea is Russian, that we won’t become like you, that we won’t become your allies, which is a code word for “vassals”, and, no, there won’t be any reduction in the nuclear weapons, especially as the NATO increases its presence in Europe. Can you, Nataly, change the fact, that the people around you live in denial? That they don’t see, won’t see Russia as a sovereign country with independent foreign policy? How can you show Russians who make such country a reality if you don’t really understand them or see them?

            Such travel trips can’t accomplish that in the present form. They can accomplish “seeding” with various lodges and, indeed, “civilian intelligence gathering” operations. Which are hardly desirable things from Russian POW, given that your country’s officials routinely call us “Direct and Present Danger” and other flattering terms.

          2. When did I say that Russians were like Americans? When did I say that Russians were primarily liberal – either in the social sense or the neo-liberal economic sense? If you think that is what I’m saying, then you have not been reading my articles (at OpEd News and Consortium News – all of which have been linked to here) very thoroughly or for very long.

            Also, Sharon has connections all over Russia, not just in the metropolitan areas of Moscow and St. Petersburg. She has spent over 30 years trying to build bridges between average Americans and average Russians because she thinks that’s the best way for an average person to try to avert war. She has made efforts to listen to the Russians she meets with and does not tell them what they should want or do. That is what I meant by saying she is not Russophobic and does not have the usual patronizing attitude that a lot of westerners have toward Russia (not to mention the rest of the world).

            The Rotarians we met with started out when they were under Ukrainian leadership but the ones I spoke with (on their own time, not during official Rotarian meetings – as Rotarian rules say that there is to be no discussion of religion or politics during official meetings) supported the reunification with Russia.

            I agree that we should talk about average Russians but since our culture is obsessed with Putin we need to explain the reasons that Putin is popular among Russians to the American people in order to try to prevent these erroneous memes from getting established as fact which makes it easier to wage war. Demonizing a leader is typically a step leading up to war or regime change policies. This is in addition to talking about other things that have to do with Russia in order to educate Americans.

          3. Dear Nataly, please, forgive me my harsh tone. I know, that a lot of people find it off-putting and can barely stand when I go “full Inquisitorial”. I don’t mean to offend you – this is absolutely true. When I do want to offend people, I don’t mince words and do that in their faces in the most direct way possible.

            Probably, this is due to the fact of using the word “you”, as in “general you” (Westerners), not You, Nataly, personally. Probably, I should be more clear next time.

            “When did I say that Russians were like Americans? When did I say that Russians were primarily liberal – either in the social sense or the neo-liberal economic sense?”

            I claim no such a thing. I only point out the company you hold and the people you talk with. I understand that logistical problems and reality – it’s much easier to contact someone in Two Capitals, preferably someone already knowing English, than, say, visit ordinary people from some school in Nizhny Tagil. Yes, I read your other articles. No, I’m not sure if you really present a face of Real Russia in them.

            “Also, Sharon has connections all over Russia, not just in the metropolitan areas of Moscow and St. Petersburg.”

            I know. Rotary Club was busy establishing lodges all across Russia. Geographical factor is of no interest here – it’s with whom she made such connections (i.e. – local elite and pro-liberal urbanites) that matter.

            “She has spent over 30 years trying to build bridges between average Americans and average Russians”

            “Average” Russians? I disagree. My former classmate Andrey, who works in auto-salon us average Russian. My friend Pavel who works as the manager in the computer store is average. My former comrade in arms Bogdan who works in his father’s shipping company is average Russian, as is another Mikhail from Ivanovo who works as the cop there. Lina the refugee from Kramatorsk, who finally got herself Russian citizenship and now lives and works in Kaluga. They are your average Russians – not intelligentsia, not Pozner, not businessmen, not kvetching masses of the “creative class”.

            “…because she thinks that’s the best way for an average person to try to avert war.”

            Average person is powerless in this regard. Sorry, but I have yet to see a successful example of such “civilian diplomacy” winning some “peace”. Don’t cite Sharon’s efforts in the 1980s – if the price for the “peace” the dissolution of my country and a decade of shame, humiliation and plunder at the hands of West’s new best buddies, I see how it could be called successful.

            Just saying “look – Russians are not two-headed baby-eating monsters out of the depth of Hell” is not enough. Those who want war know that. Even general public knows that. They just want someone to hate. Or do you really think that you efforts and words can prevent, somehow, the such Russophobia-fest as the 5th season of the “House of Cards”?

            “She has made efforts to listen to the Russians she meets with and does not tell them what they should want or do.”

            In fact – she did just that, when she tried to “set up shop” in 2016 via “civil society initiative”.

            “The Rotarians we met with started out when they were under Ukrainian leadership but the ones I spoke with (on their own time, not during official Rotarian meetings – as Rotarian rules say that there is to be no discussion of religion or politics during official meetings) supported the reunification with Russia.”

            Have you been on their Ukrainian site (Eng. language option included) that I linked? How can they serve two masters? How can they oblige with the Ukrainian law (and American, btw), which sees Crimea as Ukrainian, and yet publicly consider Crimea Russia? Their site still lists 3 chapterhouses in Crimea as “Ukrainian” – as well as one in Donetsk, DNR. Whom did they bribe to stay afloat in the current political climate of the Ukraine? Or they don’t need to, since they are pro-Ukrainian all around, and their stance that they told you is a lie?

            How do I know that they comply with the Ukrainian law? It’s on their site – as if the fact that their HQ is situated in Lwow/Lviv, the capitol of the Bandera’s Cult, it’s one of their recent initiatives, when they collected and distributed food for the children in the occupied by pro-Kiev battalion Slavyansk – but not in the people’s Republics, because such contacts across the frontlines violate the laws of the Kiev imposed laws in the “zone of ATO”. How can I trust these people? How can I trust them given their past history? You understand, Nataly, that you are not allaying my fears, neither are you answering my questions, namely:

            A) Who funds CCI?

            B) What did the Rotarian symbolic cog-wheel “forgot” on the CCI homepage photo?

            C) How can something quasi-masonic be good?

            “I agree that we should talk about average Russians but since our culture is obsessed with Putin we need to explain the reasons that Putin is popular among Russians to the American people”

            But you don’t do that. You do not explain, why 85+% of Russians (that’s more than 5% of urbanites and intelligentsia) support him – and what they criticize him for. What they think he is not doing enough – and why they think he is not doing enough. Putin is not Russia and you should not submit to the rules of others play. By becoming obsessed with Putin the West demonstrates its usual contempt to Russia, whose ordinary person is of no interest to them. It’s not Putin’s Russia – it’s Russia’s Putin, so you have to know Russia in the first place. The trick here, which is incredibly hard for any foreigners, is to reconcile this Russia-as-it-Is with Imaginary-Russia, to accept the country to which you owe no fealty or connections – to accept it “warts and all”.

          4. If you really think I’m doing such a poor job of trying to get an idea what average Russians think, then are you willing to disseminate a questionnaire I have in Russian to these friends of yours so that I can get some feedback from “real Russians”? They can respond to the questionnaire in Russian – I have someone who can translate it back for me.

            If so, let me know by email. natyliesb@gmail.com

            As for who is funding CCI, I have known Sharon personally for 3 years now. There are no government funders of CCI anymore. She mostly funds it herself and delegates pay their own way when they travel to Russia. Sharon barely has the money to pay an assistant to help her with arranging the delegations and other work. She has been putting in 18-hour days to get things done. I’m sorry but whatever conspiracy you think Sharon is a part of, you’re mistaken. She takes no government money – nothing from USAID, nothing from NED, nothing from the State Dept. She hasn’t received any government funding for many years.

            Natylie

          5. If you really think I’m doing such a poor job of trying to get an idea what average Russians think, then are you willing to disseminate a questionnaire I have in Russian to these friends of yours so that I can get some feedback from “real Russians”? They can respond to the questionnaire in Russian – I have someone who can translate it back for me.

            Dear Natalie. My friends are busy people, who are generally apolitical and not much interested in the foreign affairs in the far off countries – that’s the definition of being an “ordinary person”. When they come to my house and see, for example, that I have an English language blog, forum, newscolumn on my laptop’s screen they are amazed that I can not only understand what’s written there, but actually respond and comment. And they are even more distrusting than me, holding such a views, that I positively look moderate compared to them.

            Asking them via me several questions won’t accomplish much in your “education”, Natalie. You know what would be great? If your CCI organize a new meeting, this time with the refugees from Ukraine, who settled in Russia. That would be a truly brave thing to do. Thus, you’d have to meet the people, ordinary people, who had their world literally destroyed by the West backed regime in Kiev. Crimea is a success story of such scenario averted – now, talk to the people who were less lucky, talk face to face knowing full well, that both for the official Kiev and your own government they are “pro-Russian separatists”, i.e. – the Enemy. This would be doubly brave if you go public with such interviews, earning you the potential ire of the Poroshenko’s government of the Ukraine and your own Establishment, but proving that you are for real dedicated to the case of finding out the truth and fighting the official narrative.

            As for my friends and acquaintances – as I said, they are in some regards more “radical” than me. But they more or less mirror the views of all Russians, as it is depicted by various polls conducted by either VTSIOM of the Levada Center. Maybe you should start with studying them first? Besides – I value my Net-anonimity, no matter how illusory, too much, for telling you (one of) my real e-mail address – that I reserve for a very tight circle of people 😉

            As for who is funding CCI, I have known Sharon personally for 3 years now. There are no government funders of CCI anymore.

            The thing is, Natalie, the old adage is still true: “In the West money give you power, in Russia power gives you money”. Soros funds are non governmental, oh, no – but just as destructive and “undesirable” on Russian soil. Big capital runs your government – I hope, there will be no arguing with that – and the lines between lobby groups, Wall Street, DOD and the State Dept become illusory. So the fact that CCI is not directly funded by the government is of little comfort, when you don’t know who really funds it.

            Nevertheless, I thank you for this conversation, Natalie. Although you failed to ally my suspicions and fears, stonewalling me with usual answers, that was at least something.

          6. Well, I gave you an opportunity to let me hear feedback from these average Russians you speak of but (unsurprisingly) you’re not taking me up on my offer. I’m willing to reach out if you can provide the connections you’re saying I lack. It sounds like you didn’t even ask your friends if they’d be willing to provide answers to questions after you would explain that it would contribute to understanding them on the western side. Talking and criticizing in the comments section of a blog is easy, but you don’t want to actually do anything to help further the enlightenment of those you criticize for being unenlightened and misguided. We all have jobs and are busy people – what difference does that make? Suddenly, when someone asks you to be part of the solution instead of just criticizing, it’s “thanks for the conversation.” Sounds to me like you’re not really interested in anything constructive, you just want to criticize. I’m wondering what your point really is in these lengthy comments.

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