Evacuation of Armed Rebels from Homs Seen as Breakthrough Right Before Heavy Fighting Broke Out in Damascus; 60% of U.S. Government PR Budget Goes to Pentagon; German-Russian Thaw?; Dem Party Officials Now Trying to Prepare Base for Letdown on Evidence of Russia-Trump Collusion/Election Meddling

Syrian (L) and Russian soldiers oversee safety of evacuation plan from city of Homs on March 18, 2017. Nearly all residents are remaining in the city (Omar Sanadaki, Reuters)

The recent evacuation of armed rebels and their families from the Syrian city of Homs marked what many considered to be a turning point toward peace in the country, as Homs was considered a major base for the armed rebellion from the beginning.  According to a Reuters report:

Several buses drove out of the al-Waer district in Homs, which was an early centre of the popular uprising against President Assad. Between 10,000 and 15,000 rebels and civilians would evacuate in batches over the coming weeks under the deal, according to opposition activists in al-Waer and war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based war monitor said the buses would go to the Jarablus area held by Turkey-backed rebels in the northern Aleppo countryside.

Syrian state television said that under the agreement, fighters could stay in al-Waer if they handed over their weapons and settled their affairs with the government. Homs governor Talal Barazi said he expected 1,500 people to depart on Saturday for rebel-held areas north-east of Aleppo, and that most of al-Waer’s residents would stay.

….Along with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), Russian and Syrian forces were overseeing the evacuation, which would take about six weeks, he added.

“The preparations and the reality on the ground indicate that things will go well,” Governor Barazi said. “The first stage is expected to move up to 500 rebels with their families to the countryside of Aleppo [province].”

The Syrian government described such deals as a “workable model” that would bring the country closer to peace after six years of conflict.

But the opposition decries them as a tactic of forcibly displacing people who oppose Mr Assad after years of bombardment and siege.

Governor Barazi said there was communication with other rebel-held areas north of Homs city to reach similar deals. “We are optimistic that the full exit of armed [fighters] from this district will pave the way for other reconciliations and settlements,” he said.

However, days later, a jihadi offensive into eastern Damascus resulted in heavy losses (~70 – 100 for each side) though the Syrian government pushed back the offensive within a day or so.   The Duran reports that at least one of the rebels groups who signed on to the ceasefire had participated in the offensive:

However ominously one of the groups that has joined the Russian-Turkish brokered ceasefire is reported to be joining the fighting in Damascus on the Jihadi side.  If that sets a trend then it could endanger the whole ceasefire, which would make Moscow very concerned.

Latest reports suggest that the Syrian military backed by the full force of the Russian air force is readying for a counter-attack.  In the meantime the phone lines between Moscow and Ankara will be busy.


According to a GAO report on federal spending on public relations in general, it was revealed that 60% – or $626 million – went to the Pentagon to promote its agenda.

This report is from October of 2016 but represents the most recent data on the U.S. government’s spending on P.R..


German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit Moscow on May 2nd.   Much speculation is being made as to the reason for the trip (with Germany’s elections not far off and Merkel’s support sagging) and what might be desired, particularly on the part of Germany.

Alexander Mercouris provides a detailed analysis of these issues:

As to why Merkel might think that, at its simplest, with crises (eg. Brexit, Le Pen, the refugee crisis, relations with Turkey, Poland, Grexit etc) rapidly building up all around her, Merkel – rather like Erdogan in June 2016 – probably has come to realise that with a difficult election coming she needs to start solving problems more quickly than she is causing them.  With her other problems both intractable and largely beyond her control it is understandable why she might be looking to improve relations with Russia where at least some progress is possible.

Having said this, there are three pressing issues that must be causing Merkel concern, and which may explain why she is looking to mend at least some fences with Moscow now.

The first is the rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine.  Some time ago one of Merkel’s aides let slip that Merkel regards the crisis in Ukraine as by far the biggest crisis she faces, and that it is the one that keeps her awake at night.

With the situation in Ukraine going rapidly from bad to worse, it is understandable if Merkel wants to talk about it with Putin to see how the crisis might be contained.  The fact that she was on the receiving end of a furious lecture from Putin a short while ago during the military crisis in Avdeevka will have spelled out to her how important it is as the situation in Ukraine deteriorates that she keeps her lines of communication to Putin open.

Significantly criticism of Putin and Russia over Ukraine from Merkel and other Western leaders has been surprisingly muted over recent weeks, even as Russia recognises the validity of the documents issued by the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, and even as the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have nationalised Ukrainian businesses located on their territories in retaliation for the Ukrainian transport blockade.

Another fact that is probably causing Merkel to reconsider her hardline policy towards Russia is the coming of Donald Trump.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump is not going to be driven from the White House because of the ‘Russiagate’ scandal, and Merkel must calculate that once he has put this essentially fake scandal behind him he will be able to press ahead with his stalled plan for detente with Russia.

Certainly Merkel will have noticed – even if most Western commentators have not – that since Trump arrived in the White House the US and Russian militaries have been quietly talking to each other, and have even been quietly cooperating with each other in Syria.

If the drive for detente between the US and Russia is renewed, perhaps in the summer, then Merkel does not want to be left high and dry, clinging on to an anti-Russian policy the US is no longer intent on.

I must admit that, upon hearing of Merkel’s plans to travel to Moscow in May to “mend fences” with Russia after her recent meeting with Trump, my initial reaction was much simpler:  after personally getting a taste of Trump, Merkel is starting to appreciate Putin’s steady and rational temperament.


The Intercept is reporting that many of the Democratic Party officials and their minions in the media who have irresponsibly hyped the “Russia colluded with Trump to manipulate the U.S. presidential election” meme are gradually starting to temper expectations of any substantive evidence coming to light.  Former CIA chief and Hillary supporter Michael Morell’s admission of the lack of evidence for these charges, which I covered in a previous blog post is mentioned, along with some others:

FROM MSNBC POLITICS shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election — a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.

Read the full article here

Russia Officially Exits Recession, Inflation Rate Close to Targeted Low; Russian Budget Sees Major Cuts to Defense; Medvedev Corruption Scandal, Will Patrushev Be Next P.M.?; Kremlin Says Hillary’s Team Also Met with Ambassador; Ex-CIA Head & Hillary Supporter Says Claims Against Russia Unsubstantiated; Podesta Group Hired by Russian Bank to Lobby Against Sanctions (!)

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow

According to Bloomberg News, Russia has officially come out of its longest recession in many years, having registered growth for several quarters in a row.  Ironically, Bloomberg states that part of the growth is due to increased military spending, but the new budget figures, released by the Russian Federal Treasury, call for the most significant decrease in military spending since the 1990’s.

Additionally, higher oil prices, a stronger ruble, increased consumer demand and lower inflation were cited.

The Duran is reporting that, according to Russia’s state statistical agency (Rosstat), annualized inflation has reached a low of 4.5%.  The target set by the Russian Central Bank is 4%, which is expected to be reached by mid-year.  Once that target is hit, it means that there is no official excuse not to lower interest rates to allow more lending and a  further increase in GDP.

Suffice to say that less than a year ago the Russian Central Bank was predicting that inflation in Russia would not fall to 5% before April and would finally hit the 4% target at the end of the year.  Inflation has instead fallen to 4.5% less than midway through March, with some forecasts now predicting it will hit the 4% target by mid-year.  Indeed there is now a serious possibility that inflation for the whole year could significantly over-shoot the Central Bank’s target and fall significantly below 4%.

This plunge in inflation is crucial for the economy’s future.  As I have repeatedly pointed out, it is the sky high interest rates (currently 10%) the Central Bank has been imposing to achieve the 4% inflation target which caused Russian economic growth to slow from mid 2012.  Far more than low oil prices it is these high interest rates which are continuing to hold the economy back.  There is a direct historic correlation between the rise of Russian interest rates since the Central Bank began serious inflation targeting in 2012, the decline in inflation in Russia, and the fall in Russia’s GDP growth rate, even if most commentators are blind to it and even if the Central Bank itself downplays it.  I have discussed all this in detail previously here.

So perhaps the Kremlin does not believe that it has to rely on increases to the military budget for economic investment.  Moreover, with the presidential election coming up in 2018, it would behoove Putin and his United Russia Party to find other areas of the budget to invest in, particularly social spending.

Speaking of election politics, there is speculation on what significance to attach to reports that current prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, owns multi-million dollar real estate and has a wealth of assets.

Gordon Hahn has written a detailed article on the expose of Medvedev’s “assets”:

On March 2 the FBK published an article and video detailing a large empire of foundations. One is a supposed philanthropic foundation ‘Dar’ or ‘Giving’. It appears to stand at the center of the empire’s acquisitions around which others such as ‘SotsGosProekt’ and ‘Gradislav.’ Through Dar’s and the others’ accounts investments are made by Kremlin-tied oligarchs, and various properties, including wineries, yachts, and luxurious residences are held and de facto ‘owned’ indirectly by Russian Prime Minister and former Russian president Dmitrii Medvedev. Navalnyi’s estimation is that the sum of the properties can be valued at R70 billion – approximately $1.2 billion (http://dimon.navalny.com).

Some believe that this information was published with the tacit approval of the Kremlin – or the faction of the Kremlin that opposes the Neoliberal policies that Medvedev has been associated with. There have been rumors for years that there has been a battle in the Kremlin between the “Eurasianists” who advocate a more nationalist economic policy and an economic and geopolitical turn toward the East (China’s One Belt One Road program, SCO, BRICS, and a strengthening/expansion of EEU) and the “Atlantic Integrationists” supposedly embodied by Medvedev which supports a Neoliberal economic model and playing a subordinate geopolitical role to Washington and the various organizations it controls (NATO, WTO, World Bank, etc.).  It has been thought that Putin has been playing a balancing act with the two factions and both sides have been trying to win him more strongly over to their side.

While there are some who believe that the person behind the report, Kremlin nemesis Alexei Navalny, worked with western intelligence to obtain the information on Medvedev in order to give Russia another scandal, others wonder if Putin is finally throwing Medvedev under the bus in time for the elections next year.   Russia analyst, The Saker, predicted this would happen back in November after the arrest of then Economic Minister Alexei Uliukaev, who was considered to be an ally and philosophical fellow traveler of Medvedev:

The way Uliukaev was detained was carefully choreographed to instill the strongest sense of fear possible in all the other 5th columnists still in power because in so many ways Uliukaev was a symbol for all the the “Atlantic Integrationists” (those in the Kremlin who want to integrate Russia into the US controlled international security system): Uliukaev was a known liberal, just like Nikita Belykh, governor of Kirov Region, who was detained in a high-publicity arrest in June for taking a 400,000 Euros bribe. I would even say that Uliukaev could be considered the ultimate symbol of the Atlantic Integrationists and a faithful member of the Russian “liberal” (meaning the “Washington consensus” type) sect who, in the past had worked with Egor Gaidar and Alexei Kudrin and who now has been brought down by the Russian “siloviki”, the top officials of the so-called “power ministries” (defense, state security, intelligence). This was immediately recognized by everybody and the main headline of the popular website Gazeta.ru could not be clearer, it read: “The Siloviki brought down Uliukaev” and featured a photo of the key actors of this drama, including the tough-looking man thought to have brought Uliukaev down, Sergei Korolev, the Head of the Economic Security service of the FSB (shown on photo here).

….The list of potential ‘candidates’ to be purged next is still long and includes names like the Deputy Prime Minister Arkadii Dvorkovich, the First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, the Governor of the Russian Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina, the Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov and, of course, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. Uliukaev was only one amongst many more. Still, he was definitely a top-level target and the manner in which he was arrested must have sent a chill down the spine of all the other 5th columnists in the Kremlin. Just the fact that his phone was tapped for so long is quite unthinkable and clearly points to the fact that nobody is safe from Putin’s purges. And that, by itself, is truly a most welcome change: every member of the Medvedev government now has been put on notice that his/her life is now spent under the close scrutiny of the FSB.

Among others speculating about a purge after Uliukaev’s downfall was Newsbud‘s Russia expert, Filip Kovacevic, who wrote an article about the potential for Medvedev to be replaced by Nikolai Patrushev.

First, Kovacevic defines what a Liberal is in Russia:

We first need to define what it means to be a liberal in the Russian government today. The designation does not refer to political positions (like in the U.S.) as much as it highlights the approach to the economy. Liberals in Russia are those who believe that the role of the state should be minimized and that private, corporate ownership is the best way to run the economy. They are also advocates of Russia’s full-fledged participation in the international economic system dominated by the so-called Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. Obviously, this means a commitment to the so-called free trade and opposition to any policy of tariffs and import substitution.

The liberals were politically dominant in Russia during Boris Yeltsin’s two-term presidency in the 1990s. Those who brought Putin to power in the late 1990s (the intelligence and military networks) made an uneasy compromise with the liberals, which lasted throughout Putin’s first two presidential terms (2000-2008). The liberals even seemed in ascendance after Medvedev replaced Putin at the helm.

As regular readers of this blog know by now, Yeltsin is the least popular leader of the last 100 years in Russia.  His economic policies are associated with the collapse of Russians’s standard of living in the 1990’s:  massive poverty, loss of life savings, sky-high inflation, food deprivation and the worst mortality crisis since WWII.  Hence, Liberals have no support among the Russian public, with Liberal politicians typically achieving single digit approval ratings and Liberal “activists” and their agenda being spurned more often than not.

Kovacevic next explains the downfall of Medvedev and his policies:

However, soon afterwards, in August 2008, a surprise military attack by the Georgian troops, heavily assisted by NATO and the U.S., on the rebellious enclave of South Ossetia defended by the Russian “peace-keepers” took place. Consequently, the Russian military directly intervened and the Georgians were pushed back. That was the first time since the end of the Cold War that the Russian military crossed the borders of Russia. This created a pattern that will later be repeated in Ukraine, Syria, and no doubt in other places in the future. The genie was out of the bottle.

This was the beginning of the end for the Russian liberals who counted on honest and friendly relations with the West and believed in the existence of a fair playing field for Russia in the global economy. It became clear that the West would allow nothing of the sort. No wonder then that Putin, who initially was ambivalent about running again, returned as the president in 2012.

He goes on to detail how the Ukraine crisis of 2014 only reinforced the distrust of the west and the ideas of Medvedev and his political allies.   He then explains how and why the purge will take place, why Patrushev is in a good position to be Medvedev’s replacement and the likely response of the Russian people:

The ordinary Russian people have no pity for the liberals because they know well the extent to which liberal politicians and their business cronies got rich abusing governmental power for private gain. The recently arrested Ulyukaev is the case in point. Most liberal politicians can easily move to the West – their apartments, yachts, and bank accounts are waiting for them. This is why the majority of the population will support Putin’s purge, even though the purge will be far from democratic and may at times turn violent.

Putin will replace the purged liberals by his trusted allies from the intelligence and military structures. One of them Sergey Naryshkin, the former president of the Russian Parliament, has been appointed to the position of the chief of the Russian external intelligence agency (SVR) immediately after the elections results were in. I have discussed Naryshkin’s appointment in detail in an earlier article,[3] but what is important to keep in mind here is that by appointing a long-time friend and fellow intelligence operative, Putin has cut off any possibility of the liberal insiders at the top leaking national security information to the West. In other words, Putin has built up another layer of protection around the future Russian military and intelligence agenda. In my opinion, he demonstrated that he had no trust left in the West and that he was getting the country ready for a possible military confrontation.

….This is why I think that, parallel with his efforts to develop a detente relations with the U.S. under Trump, Putin will bring in more personal loyalists into the highest offices of the Russian government. Considering the power of the U.S./NATO lobby working against it, the chances of an authentic detente (unfortunately) do not look very good and Putin knows that he must not make a misstep. He may not have another chance.

….Patrushev is one of the top members of the so-called KGB aristocracy of whose mission to lead Russia he himself spoke in an interview more than 15 years ago at the time when Russia was in the midst of the Chechnya crisis that dangerously threatened its very foundations.[6] Such an early mention of this powerful group, which later came to yield tremendous power in the Russian political life, shows that Patrushev was one of its main driving forces.

Over the years, Nikolai Patrushev has been even closer to Putin than Naryshkin. They are almost the same age and their friendship goes back to the 1970s KGB days in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). In the late 1990s, Patrushev’s rise closely followed Putin’s. It is very significant that it was Patrushev who succeeded Putin as the head of the FSB and held this position for nine years (1999-2008), which is longer than anybody since the Communist Yuri Andropov who was the KGB head from 1967 until 1982 and then became the leader of the Soviet Union (that is, the general secretary of the central committee of the Soviet Communist party).

This analogy may not be accidental. After all, in 2006, there was some speculation that Patrushev would succeed Putin.[7] However, the position went to Medvedev, a member of the liberal camp and not a KGB aristocrat. I believe that now the political tide has turned.

In his interviews with various Russian newspapers, Patrushev, who has a doctorate in law, reveals himself as a serious scholar of the post-WWII global politics. He is a strong critic of the U.S. foreign policy claiming that the U.S. involvement in the world is bent on regime change and state fragmentation.[8] He blames the U.S. for the break-up of Yugoslavia, the numerous so-called color revolutions, the putsch in Ukraine, and the carnage in the Middle East. In fact, he asserts that the wars of the Yugoslav succession were nothing else but the testing ground for the ongoing efforts to break up the former Soviet Republics, including Russia itself.[9] In all of this, he discerns a malicious Western anti-Russian prejudice that is grounded in the historical push for the control of the Eastern territories and resources. This puts Patrushev firmly in the tradition of the Russian Eurasianists. As a result, if chosen by Putin to be the next prime minister, he can be expected to formulate and oversee a very hawkish foreign and national security policy.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few months.


Turning to American politics, as recently reported by the UK Telegraph, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, announced that members of Hillary Clinton’s team also had contact with the Russian ambassador during the campaign.  So far, nobody seems up in arms about this allegation.  Hmmm.

And in a still stranger and more cynical turn of events, the Podesta Group (the lobbying business of Clinton manager John Podesta) has been hired by Russia’s largest bank to lobby for the end of sanctions. So much for all the sanctimonious shrieking by the Clinton campaign of Trump being Putin’s stooge and being too soft on Russia.

And before we leave the topic of Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign, it should be noted that one of her biggest and most ardently anti-Russia allies, ex-CIA chief Michael Morell, admitted in a recent presentation to a group of intelligence professionals that there was no evidence to support the allegations of collusion between Trump and the Russians or that the allegations in the Trump “dossier” had any validity:

On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all.  There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark. And there’s a lot of people looking for it….

….[With respect to the dossier] Unless you know the sources, and unless you know how a particular source acquired a particular piece of information, you can’t judge the information — you just can’t.  [The dossier] doesn’t take you anywhere, I don’t think.  I had two questions when I first read it. One was, How did Chris (Christopher Steele, the former MI6 who compiled it – AM) talk to these sources?  I have subsequently learned that he used intermediaries.  And then I asked myself, why did these guys provide this information, what was their motivation? And I subsequently learned that he paid them. That the intermediaries paid the sources and the intermediaries got the money from Chris. And that kind of worries me a little bit because if you’re paying somebody, particularly former FSB officers, they are going to tell you truth and innuendo and rumor, and they’re going to call you up and say, ‘hey, let’s have another meeting, I have more information for you [because they want to get paid some more].  I think you’ve got to take all that into consideration when you consider the dossier.




Just When You Thought Corporate Media Couldn’t Get Any Lower; Putin Cautiously Optimistic on Syria Settlement; Back Channel Communication Line Between Trump & Putin?; Kiev Breaks Transport Ties with Donbass, Poroshenko Sidelined?; North Korea FUBAR

(Photograph of large Soviet hatch ship Poltava on its way to Cuba, September 15, 1962, leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis; photo courtesy of National Security Archive)

Just when you thought the corporate media couldn’t get any lower with its shenanigans, along comes Ruth Marcus, the deputy editor of the Washington Post, who recently tweeted the following:

So excited to be watching The Americans, throwback to a simpler time when everyone considered Russia the enemy. Even the president.

So, according to Ms. Marcus, we should all be waxing nostalgic for those good old days when fall-out shelters were a thing and we all were scared shitless of scenarios like those portrayed in Fail-Safe or The Day After.   Instead of spending her days heavily medicated and weaving baskets at the nearest mental institution, this woman is the deputy editor of the second most widely read newspaper in America – and no one at the paper bats an eye at such moral and intellectual bankruptcy displayed publicly by one of its own.

Political comedian Jimmy Dore (a much edgier version of Jon Stewart) deconstructs the tweet, Ms. Marcus and some of the reaction to it by the likes of Glenn Greenwald and others  here.


Meanwhile, Putin – during a March 10th joint press conference with Turkish president Erdogan – announced that he was cautiously optimistic about a political settlement of the Syrian war.   RT provided the following details:

“As for the prospects [of the settlement in Syria], we must say frankly that the situation remains complicated. There are a lot of uncertainties; a lot of contradictions in the region and in the country itself – in Syria,” Putin said after the talks with Erdogan in the Russian capital on Friday. “Therefore, I want to express cautious optimism that by joining efforts with other solid players, including the US, we will be able to effectively contribute to the strengthening of the ceasefire regime and, on its basis, to move towards a full-fledged political settlement,” he said.

The Russian leader stressed that peace in Syria and the whole region can only be achieved if Syrian territorial integrity is restored. “For peace and calm to remain in the region and the rebuilding of Syria to begin, the principle of the territorial integrity of states must be respected, and in this sense the restoration of the territorial integrity of Syria is – in our view – a paramount condition for a full-fledged settlement in this country,” he said.

Erdogan echoed Putin’s words by saying that “both in Syria and in Iraq, the territorial integrity of the countries is our main goal. We can’t tolerate the division of these territories.”

The Russian leader has praised the level of cooperation between the Russian and Turkish militaries and intelligence agencies in Syria. “Mainly due to the active role of Russia and Turkey, it became possible not only to achieve cessation of hostilities between the government forces and the opposition, but to start direct, concrete negotiations between the warring sides in Astana,” he said. “Because of the coordinated actions by Russia, Turkey and Iran, the ceasefire in Syria is generally being observed. The level of violence has decreased,” Putin added.

Erdogan also called the meetings in Astana, Kazakhstan where the Syrian ceasefire was agreed earlier this year “an additional factor, making the process launched in Geneva more effective.”

The Turkish president said that both Ankara and Moscow “want to cooperate with the (US-led) coalition on liberating the city of Manbij” in northern Syria on the River Euphrates.

However, the Russians, Turks, Iranians and (above all) the Syrians, may end up regretting the suggestion of cooperation with Washington in Syria.  Pentagon sources have acknowledged that Washington is considering sending 1,000 more ground troops to Syria in the coming weeks.  This follows its alleged bombing of a Syrian mosque during evening prayers, killing dozens and wounding many more, just outside of Aleppo.

In an interesting article from Russia expert Gilbert Doctorow, it is speculated that there could be a back channel line of communication being developed between Trump and Putin in response to the fact that Trump is encountering too many political obstacles to any plan for detente between the world’s nuclear superpowers:

From the Sunday CNN interview of Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, we got a sense of how the Kremlin views the anti-Trump feeding frenzy now going on in the U.S. media and especially the attempt to portray Russian “meddling” as the reason that Trump won. Peskov called these assertions the “demonizing of Russia,” a situation to which Russians cannot be indifferent.

But the sentiment was much less negative on some of the leading news programs in Moscow, including channel Rossiya 1’s weekly news wrap-up delivered by Dmitry Kiselyov, who heads the news services on all Russian state radio and television channels, and Vladimir Solovyev’s political talk show, which brought together some of the country’s top legislators and leaders of key policy think tanks.

General to General

Both the Kiselyov news program and the Solovyov talk show drew attention to a development that was covered in the U.S. and Western press but with little or no interpretation so that it was easily missed: the meeting in the southern Turkish resort of Antalya of senior military officers of Turkey, the United States and Russia to discuss coordination of their military actions in northern Syria, where they are operating in close proximity and often at cross purposes. The meeting involved the Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

From the Russian standpoint as revealed by Solovyov’s guests, the meeting went very well and the only glum participant leaving the meeting was the Turkish general. The Americans and Russians seem to have been in agreement over how to keep the U.S.-sponsored Kurdish fighters — so resented by the Turks — in the forefront of the assault on the ISIS “capital” at Raqqa, and, as a corollary, how to sideline Turkish ambitions of capturing a sphere of influence in northern Syria using Turkish troops and local Turkmen proxies.

Elsewhere in the Solovyov program, panelists hinted that there also are ongoing talks between Trump’s people and various Russian institutions. But the Antalya military contact — involving top generals for the first time since the deep slide in U.S.-Russian relations in 2014 over the Ukraine crisis — bears more attention.

Trump appears to have concluded that the way forward in relations between the U.S. and Russia is to make progress out of sight of the media. Whereas bringing Russia into the U.S.-run anti-Islamic State coalition meeting in Washington would have invited the U.S. media’s brickbats, a summit of generals in a provincial coastal town of Turkey could be far more productive and produce much less controversy. It is not for nothing that the press is now complaining that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is inaccessible. That follows the desires of the Oval Office, which prefers a “just get it done” approach.

Trump can also expect the greatest loyalty in the U.S. government’s hierarchy from the military as well as fewer leaks from holdovers hostile to any rapprochement with Russia. Indeed, many senior U.S. officers had constructive relations with their Russian counterparts for years on crucial issues such as supplying U.S. troops in Afghanistan and in sharing intelligence on terrorism. That was disrupted by the coalition of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists dominating the State Department and holding top political jobs at the Pentagon. So Trump has removed many of President Obama’s political appointees and has turned more to the military high command.

A friend and fellow-Russia watcher – one who’s been at this for far longer than I have, keeps insisting in response to my many laments about our current president, that on this issue he’s being crazy like a fox.  Perhaps she will turn out to be correct.   Maybe Trump or Putin is taking a cue from Kennedy and Khrushchev who started a back channel correspondence in 1961.  Both leaders then knew that they had to do so quietly, out of the limelight and doing an end run around certain hawks in both of their respective camps who would have viewed such cooperation as alarming or even traitorous.


In response to the Donbass leaders’ announcement that they had seized and nationalized certain industries in their territory, the Kiev government has announced the suspension of all transport links to Donbass.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported the following:

KYIV – Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council has decided to suspend all transport services with the territories of Donbass not controlled by Kiev, the council’s head, Alexander Turchinov, said at the meeting of the presidential administration.

….Turchinov said the ban will be in force until points 1 and 2 (ceasefire and withdrawal of weapons) of the February 2015 Minsk peace deal are implemented and the seized enterprises return to Ukraine’s jurisdiction,

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, National Police, National Guard and Security Service have been ordered to halt all movement of cargos through the contact line by rail links and vehicles.

It was also recently announced by the Kiev government that the blockade by ultra-right nationalists of coal from the Donbass had now been officially sanctioned.  Analyst Alexander Mercouris observed that the latter announcement, along with another involving further sanctions against Russia, were not made by Poroshenko.

The decision to legalise the blockade of Donbass was announced by Alexander Turchinov (pictured), who is the head of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council, and who is a significant figure in Ukrainian politics in his own right, whilst the request to Ukraine’s Central Bank to propose sanctions on Russian banks operating on Ukrainian territory was also made by Turchinov on behalf of Ukraine’s National Defence and Security Council, which he heads.

It may be that Ukraine’s legal and constitutional system makes Ukraine’s National and Defence Council the appropriate body to make these sort of decisions, though Ukraine’s chaotic legal and administrative structure and the notorious indifference of Ukrainian leaders to legal and administrative rules makes that a less than convincing argument to make.

However even if that were the case a statement from Poroshenko – the country’s leader and the nation’s President – explaining to the Ukrainian people the reasons for these important decisions and justifying the hardship they will cause, whilst making it clear that the decisions originate with him and that they have his full support, is the least one would expect in the circumstances.

Indeed the correct thing would surely be for the actual announcement of these decisions to have been made by Poroshenko himself, at the very least through the publication of a public statement issued in his name, or (much better) by way of a televised address to the Ukrainian nation.

….It could be that Poroshenko did not make the announcement today because he is embarrassed by the weakness on his part that it shows, and because his own website shows that he was giving assurances only yesterday to an EU official that Ukraine was about to do something totally different.

If so then that reminds me of the way Ukraine’s previous President, Viktor Yanukovych, failed to announce his decision to delay implementation of Ukraine’s association agreement with the EU, leaving the announcement to his Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov.  At the time I thought this was a act of extraordinary weakness on Yanukovych’s part, and in fact it set the pattern for his pusillanimous behaviour during the subsequent Maidan protests, which eventually caused his overthrow.  If Poroshenko is now behaving in the same way, then it speaks extraordinarily poorly both of him and of his prospects as Ukraine’s President.

However there has also to be the further possibility that the reason Poroshenko did not announce the decisions today is because ultimately he didn’t make them.  Indeed his comments to the EU official might even suggest he was resisting the idea of a total blockade as recently as yesterday, possibly because of EU pressure.

If so then Turchinov’s announcements today suggest that Poroshenko has been shunted aside, and that key decisions such as the decision to legalise the blockade of the Donbass are now being made without him.

In that case then that would suggest that Poroshenko’s authority as Ukraine’s President is seeping away, and that he is no longer fully in control, just as the Russian military move on Pristina in June 1999  during the Kosovo conflict, made without any order from Boris Yeltsin, was a clear sign that his authority as Russia’s President was seeping away.

This comes a few days after reports appeared in the Russian media claiming that Yulia Tymoshenko, Poroshenko’s long time enemy and bitter political rival, is making another visit – this time in secret – to Washington where early in February she had a brief meeting with Donald Trump, which looked to me like a case of Trump sizing up his options, and considering her as a possible alternative to Poroshenko.  Suffice to say that I do not think it was a coincidence that on returning to Ukraine Tymoshenko immediately sought to oust Ukraine’s government by proposing a vote of no confidence in Ukraine’s parliament, a move which by using procedural devices the government however managed to block.


(North Koran missile launch, March 6, 2017; https://consortiumnews.com/2017/03/08/north-korea-fears-regime-change-strike/)

In other foreign policy news, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced on March 17th that “all options are on the table” in response to North Korea’s recent firing of missiles, which is part of its continuous posturing and to show its progress toward the development of missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.  This follows a Chinese official’s warning recently, comparing the U.S. and North Korea to “accelerating trains coming toward each other.”

One of the U.S.’s foremost experts on North Korea is Bruce Cummings who was interviewed on Democracy Now!, along with Christine Ahn, a peace activist on the Korea issue.  An except follows:

CHRISTINE AHN: Well, I’m concerned that we have a situation in South Korea that is essentially a political vacuum until the next progressive president comes into power. And we have a Trump administration that has said that it’s, you know, undertaking a Korea policy review, which has ranged from he’s willing to sit down with Kim Jong-un and have a hamburger to preemptive strikes. And what really worries me is, while these military exercises may be routine, you know, the South Korean media just reported that the U.S. has deployed a team of Navy SEALs, that basically took out Osama bin Laden. You know, it includes unmanned aircraft that could basically completely destroy Pyongyang. That could be a signal. That’s one way, since there is no communication between the two countries. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Deployed where?

CHRISTINE AHN: To the Korean Peninsula as part of these regular exercises. And that’s all under this Operation Plan, you know, 5015, that includes decapitation of Pyongyang’s leader. And so, I think that there has been this perception—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, includes decapitation of the leader?

CHRISTINE AHN: Yeah, that’s basically taking out the North Korean leader. And I think that there is a perception in this country that—that regime collapse is imminent and that all it will take is a military action to conduct it. And when has regime change ever been successful? And what would be the likelihood for the millions of South Koreans right across the DMZ and the innocent civilians? But it would engulf the entire region into a very dangerous regional conflict—Russia, China, Japan, the United States. By being part of mutual defense treaties, it will engulf the entire region. Five of those—of the top 10 countries in terms of their military capacity and defense spending are in that region. It’s a tinderbox. And so, we really need to understand that the Korean conflict is at the root of that. And so we have to really seriously pressure our government. I mean, it’s obviously—how do we, you know, pressure the Trump administration, that seems to not have a clue about Korea? But we have to. I think it’s a very dangerous situation, and we have to be very vigilant.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Professor Bruce Cumings, what about this? You have the Chinese officials issuing this warning. You have people in the United States deeply concerned that when you have a very unpopular president, and they’re having—embroiled in trouble at home, that he might want to focus attention elsewhere, on an enemy outside, and the idea that North Korea could become that country, a country that the U.S. engages militarily. Do you think there’s any possibility of this?

BRUCE CUMINGS: I actually don’t think the Trump administration can get its act together to appoint high people in the State Department, high officials in the State Department and the Pentagon. I don’t know how they can start a war in Korea or decapitate Kim Jong-un. I think the situation is actually worse, in the sense that over the last year or so there’s been a bipartisan, inside-the-Beltway consensus that most of our methods for dealing with North Korea—sanctions, cap on their tests, talking with them—those things have not worked over the years. They’re still building their arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, and so some sort of force may be necessary, either to take out those missiles preemptively or to force an end to the Kim Jong-un regime. The Council on Foreign Relations, last October, published a paper on North Korea, where it came very close to saying the U.S. might have to use force to change the regime in North Korea. So we’re not talking about Donald Trump and a bunch of yahoos; we’re talking about a consensus in Washington.

Also, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s statement was very important, I think unprecedented. I’ve never heard a high Chinese official say that we’re moving toward a collision on the Korean Peninsula, that it’s like two trains rushing toward each other. Furthermore, over the weekend, William Perry, the former defense secretary and Bill Clinton’s roving ambassador for North Korea in the late ’90s, also said that he thought a train wreck was coming.

The simple way to handle this is the way Jimmy Carter did in 1994, when it looked like Bill Clinton was about to launch a preemptive attack on North Korea. And he just basically cut through all the bull in our relations with North Korea, going back decades, and flew to Pyongyang to talk to Kim Il-sung. And out of that came a complete freeze on North Korea’s plutonium facility for eight years. For eight years, they had no access to any bomb-making materials, 24/7 controls on that facility.

So, if Donald Trump wants to share a hamburger with Kim Jong-un, that’s a very good idea. But the idea of using force against North Korea, when even their artillery, 10,000 guns north of Seoul, conventional artillery, can take out a city that has a third of the South Korean population, you just really have no military option on the Korean Peninsula. But unfortunately, a lot of folks in Washington haven’t gotten that straight.

Jonathan Marshall also provided very important context in a recent article:

Mentioned only in passing — if at all — in most news stories was the context for the latest of Pyongyang’s seemingly random acts of aggressive militarism.

Korea experts had in fact long predicted that the North would — as it does every year — undertake “military provocations” to protest the start of the latest annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises on March 1. The same day those exercises began, the Wall Street Journal reported ominously that “an internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat.”

A North Korean diplomat condemned the latest joint exercises as “massive” and “unprecedented in size,” saying, “It will certainly jeopardize peace and stability in the region and drive the situation in the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.”

His rhetoric had more than a little factual basis. South Korea’s defense minister confirmed that the exercises are similar in scale to those held last year. With more than 300,000 South Korea and 17,000 American troops, 2016’s war games were the largest in the region’s history.

Although officials in Washington and Seoul invariably characterize the maneuvers and simulations as “defensive” and “non-provocative,” last year’s exercises reportedly included“rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea’s main nuclear and missile facilities and ‘decapitation raids’ by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.”

Taking part in the exercises was a naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis, along with the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS North Carolina, stealth F-22 fighter aircraft, nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers, and Marine special forces who practiced amphibious landings.

Those forces represent exactly the capabilities that informed military analysts say would be used if Washington decided to unleash a preemptive, surprise “surgical strike” against North Korea’s nuclear forces and command and control centers.

Dangerous Precedents

Viewing that array of forces in the light of past “U.S. attacks on Libya and Iraq and Serbia,” leaders in Pyongyang last year understandably saw “the potential for a U.S. attack,” remarked Bruce Klinger, a Korea analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, at the time.

“They know the history of the Marine Corps,” he added, “so they would see a large presence of Marines on the peninsula as possibly a prelude to an attack or an invasion — especially when it’s coupled with the presence of B-52s and nuke-capable submarines.”


The New Nuclear Scare

nuclear bombs nuclear explosions j robert oppenheimer bhagavad gita atomic bomb 1920x1200 wallpa Art HD Wallpaper

Verse from the Bhagavad Gita that occurred to Robert Oppenheimer while witnessing the first successful nuclear test blast in 1945


As some readers familiar with my past writings will already know, there were high-ranking individuals in the U.S. military who had advisory positions to the president and advocated a first-strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union during the first Cold War.  These advisers even encouraged President Kennedy to escalate during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.  By then, Kennedy had learned of the madness with which he was dealing and had his meetings with his national security advisers secretly tape recorded during the crisis. The transcripts are available for reading in the form of a book.

I have also discussed, to some extent, the warped cultural and ideological thinking that can produce such individuals in both my review of JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass and this post.

John Marshall’s must-read article at Consortium News “Dreams of Winning Nuclear War on Russia” covers some of this background and discusses the findings of a new disturbing analysis put out by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists about the cutting edge new technologies that could make it even more tempting for such ideologues to consider a first-strike on Russia.   An excerpt is below:

In 1961, senior Pentagon consultants drafted a 33-page blueprint for initiating — and winning — a nuclear war against the Soviet Union. It was based on top-secret intelligence that Soviet nuclear forces were few in number and poorly defended — making them an easy target for a U.S. preemptive strike.

Convinced of U.S. superiority, the Joint Chiefs of Staff began advising President John F. Kennedy to risk nuclear war over Cuba and Vietnam — even though their own analysis conceded that if something went wrong, 75 percent of Americans might die. If JFK hadn’t rejected their advice, we might not be here today.

President Trump may soon face a similar test. With almost no public awareness, the Pentagon’s nuclear program has achieved unprecedented capabilities that once again raise the possibility that a U.S. first strike could cripple Russia’s nuclear arsenal and “decapitate” its leadership. Such capabilities all but ensure that hawks will begin lobbying for more aggressive measures toward Russia, based its growing vulnerability to U.S. nuclear weapons.

A frightening new analysis for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists — by three eminent strategic arms experts at the Federation of American Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and MIT — provides evidence that U.S. nuclear planners have “implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal,” giving it for the first time in decades “the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

U.S. Navy’s ‘Super-Fuse’

The concept of nuclear superiority seemed to lose its relevance in the mid-1960s, when Moscow finally built a large enough nuclear arsenal to withstand attack. Subsequent arms control treaties, starting in the Nixon years, maintained reasonable parity between U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, discouraging either side from contemplating the use of atomic weapons for anything but deterring a nuclear attack.

With absolutely no fanfare, however, U.S. technology advances have once again called mutual deterrence into question. The secret is a “super-fuse” first implemented by the U.S. Navy in 2009 as part of its “life-extension” program for submarine-based nuclear missiles. By permitting more accurate timing of nuclear blasts, this flexible trigger gives America’s sub-launched missiles three times their former killing power — enough to take out even “hardened” Russian missile silos and command centers with a high probability of success.

The authors calculate that a mere 272 warheads could wipe out all of Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missiles housed in hardened silos — leaving in reserve more than 600 lethal warheads deployed on U.S. submarines, as well as hundreds more on U.S. land-based missiles.

Although U.S. war planners would still be challenged to target warheads on Russia’s submarines and mobile land-based missiles, the authors support claims by other scholars that “for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy.” Russia’s vulnerability will likely increase over time, as the Pentagon’s implements its planned trillion-dollar nuclear “modernization” program over the next 30 years.

I highly recommend reading the full article here

A detaling of the level of actual damage that could be done by a nuclear attack in one large city is shown here

Here’s what would happen if the bomb targeted Times Square in New York City:

Courtesy of http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2017/02/nuclear-superpowers-and-impact-of.html

Here’s what would happen if the bomb targeted Red Square in Moscow:

Courtesy of http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2017/02/nuclear-superpowers-and-impact-of.html

For a primer on how easy it would be for an accidental nuclear war to be launched, due to either human or technological error, read Eric Schlosser’s “World War III, By Mistake” from a recent issue of The New Yorker:

The dangers of “launch-on-warning” have been recognized since the idea was first proposed, during the Eisenhower Administration. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, McNamara advised Kennedy that the United States should never use its nuclear weapons until a nuclear detonation had occurred on American soil, and could be attributed to an enemy attack. The first Minuteman missiles had already become a great source of stress for McNamara. The control system of the original model had a design flaw: small fluctuations in the electricity entering the command center could mimic the series of pulses required by the launch switch. An entire squadron of fifty missiles might be launched accidentally without anyone turning a key. “I was scared shitless,” an engineer who worked on the system later confessed. “The technology was not to be trusted.” McNamara insisted that the control system be redesigned, at great expense. The destruction of fifty Soviet cities because of a mechanical glitch, a classified history of the Minuteman program later noted, would be “an accident for which a later apology might be inadequate.”

Read the full article here

It should be noted that Russia has not been resting on its laurels when it comes to maintaining, and even improving, its nuclear defense capabilities.  Over the past year it has begun rolling out its S500 air defense system, which some geopolitical analysts suggest would be able to completely seal off Russian airspace to incoming missile attacks after its implementation all over the country.

What 2 Former U.S. Ambassadors Have to Say About Russian Ambassador’s Contacts with Senate Staff or Those Close to Incoming Administration; Veteran Investigative Journalist Provides His Experience with Political Investigations and When They are Warranted; Is Trump’s Russia Policy So Different from Obama’s?; Trump Reportedly May Be Backing Off Any Detente; Antiwar.com Unpacks Why Russia Has to Remain an Enemy


Jack Matlock served as the specialist on Soviet affairs on Reagan’s national security council and then served as the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union/Russia under Bush I.  Although he served under Republican administrations, Matlock himself is not a Republican.  He started out as a Democrat and is now an independent.

In a recent blog post, Matlock provided some insight into the recent controversy over those close to Trump’s campaign or members of his incoming administration having communications with the Russian ambassador:

Our press seems to be in a feeding frenzy regarding contacts that President Trump’s supporters had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and with other Russian diplomats. The assumption seems to be that there was something sinister about these contacts, just because they were with Russian diplomats. As one who spent a 35-year diplomatic career working to open up the Soviet Union and to make communication between our diplomats and ordinary citizens a normal practice, I find the attitude of much of our political establishment and of some of our once respected media outlets quite incomprehensible. What in the world is wrong with consulting a foreign embassy about ways to improve relations? Anyone who aspires to advise an American president should do just that.

Yesterday I received four rather curious questions from Mariana Rambaldi of Univision Digital. I reproduce below the questions and the answers I have given….

….Ambassador Kislyak is a distinguished and very able diplomat. Anyone interested in improving relations with Russia and avoiding another nuclear arms race—which is a vital interest of the United States—should discuss current issues with him and members of his staff. To consider him “toxic” is ridiculous.

….If you want to understand the policy of another country, you need to consult that country’s representatives. It is quite common for foreign diplomats to cultivate candidates and their staffs. That is part of their job. If Americans plan to advise the president on policy issues, they would be wise to maintain contact with the foreign embassy in question to understand that country’s attitude toward the issues involved. Certainly, both Democrats and Republicans would contact Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin during the Cold War and discuss the issues with him. As the person in charge of our embassy in Moscow during several political campaigns, I would often set up meetings of candidates and their staffs with Soviet officials. Such contacts are certainly ethical so long as they do not involve disclosure of classified information or attempts to negotiate specific issues. In fact, I would say that any person who presumes to advise an incoming president on vital policy issues needs to understand the approach of the country in question and therefore is remiss if he or she does not consult with the embassy in question.

A similar sentiment was expressed by Michael McFaul, a hardliner who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during Obama’s first term.  Listen to his comments on this particular issue during a recent interview with MSNBC.  I would note that he says other things that I would characterize as inaccurate, such as his claim that he simply met with a member of the Russian opposition and ran into trouble with Moscow for this.  Actually, McFaul did more than just meet with members of the opposition – he also actively encouraged their actions against the sitting government, which is frowned upon in any country.   But his specific comments addressing the fact that the Russian ambassador was simply doing his job in seeking out members of the incoming administration to get an idea of its attitude toward certain relevant issues is not untoward.


Veteran investigative journalist, Robert Parry provides his experience with various political investigations over scandals and non-scandals over the course of decades in response to the controversy over Trump administration contacts with Russia and Trump’s recent tapping accusations against Obama:

The intensifying hysteria over Russia has pushed Official Washington over the edge into outright madness. On one side of this asylum, you have the Democrats, neoconservatives and mainstream media, while on the other, you have the embattled Trump administration. Both sides have been making grave allegations with little or no evidence to support them.

The Democratic/neocon/MSM side has pushed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians to put the real-estate mogul in the White House, but there is, as yet, no evidence that such a thing happened.

Even one of the top advocates feeding this Russia frenzy, New York Times correspondent Thomas L. Friedman, acknowledged on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “I agree, there is no evidence,” but then added: “which is why we need a special prosecutor or an independent commission to get to the bottom of it.”

But that is not how investigations are supposed to work. You’re supposed to have evidence of wrongdoing and then examine it in the investigative phase to see if the evidence withstands scrutiny. What Friedman is suggesting is more like a “fishing expedition” or a “witch hunt.”

The drip-drip of this investigative water torture finally got to President Trump last week as he flew down to his winter home at Mar-a-Lago. He joined the crazy melee early Saturday morning by sending out a flurry of tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in New York City in the weeks before the Nov. 8 election. Trump also offered no evidence while demanding an investigation to get to the bottom of this.

By contrast, in all the major investigations that I have handled as an investigative reporter, such as Oliver North’s secret White House paramilitary operation; the related Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking scandalRichard Nixon interference with President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968; and Ronald Reagan’s campaign sabotage of President Jimmy Carter’s Iranian-hostage negotiations in 1980 – there was substantial evidence from eyewitnesses and documents supporting the suspicions before the story was published.

At no point would I have argued that just because Oliver North met a Contra leader that it was time to investigate whether he and his Reagan administration superiors were breaking the law. I first found multiple insiders, including people in the U.S. government and the Contra movement, describing how North was running his back-channel war. In some of these investigative situations, we had two dozen or so sources describing detailed aspects of these operations before we made any allegations in print.

Now the argument is that because some people suspect something, even without evidence, major investigations are warranted. That is usually what a conspiracy theory sounds like. Someone claims not to understand how something could have happened a certain way and thus a full-scale inquiry is needed into some highly unlikely and speculative scenario.

Another one of my favorite analysts, Glenn Greenwald, also weighs in with some great points underscoring the politically motivated and hypocritical actions by the Democrats in the still embryonic Trump era:

This attempt to equate Trump’s opposition to arming Ukraine with some sort of treasonous allegiance to Putin masks a rather critical fact: namely, that the refusal to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons was one of Barack Obama’s most steadfastly held policies. The original Post article that reported the RNC platform change noted this explicitly:

Of course, Trump is not the only politician to oppose sending lethal weapons to Ukraine. President Obama decided not to authorize it, despite recommendations to do so from his top Europe officials in the State Department and the military.

Early media reports about this controversy from outlets such as NPR also noted the irony at the heart of this debate: namely, that arming Ukraine was the long-time desire of hawks in the GOP such as John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, but the Obama White House categorically resisted those pressures:

Republicans in Congress have approved providing arms to the Ukrainian government but the White House has resisted, saying that it would only encourage more bloodshed.

It’s a rare Obama administration policy that the Trump campaign seems to agree with.

Indeed, the GOP ultimately joined with the hawkish wing of the Democratic Party to demand that Obama provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to fight Russia, but Obama steadfastly refused. As the New York Times reported in March, 2015, “President Obama is coming under increasing pressure from both parties and more officials inside his own government to send arms to the country. But he remains unconvinced that they would help.” When Obama kept refusing, leaders of the two parties threatened to enact legislation forcing Obama to arm Ukraine.

The general Russia approach that Democrats now routinely depict as treasonous – avoiding confrontation with and even accommodating Russian interests, not just in Ukraine but also in Syria – was one of the defining traits of Obama’s foreign policy. This fact shouldn’t be overstated: Obama engaged in provocative acts such as moves to further expand NATO, non-lethal aid to Ukraine, and deploying “missile defense” weaponry in Romania. But he rejected most calls to confront Russia. That is one of the primary reasons the “foreign policy elite” – which, recall, Obama came into office denouncing and vowing to repudiate – was so dissatisfied with his presidency.

A new, long article by Politico foreign affairs correspondent Susan Glasser – on the war being waged against Trump by Washington’s “foreign policy elite” – makes this point very potently. Say what you will about Politico, but one thing they are very adept at doing is giving voice to cowardly Washington insiders by accommodating their cowardice and thus routinely granting them anonymity to express themselves. As journalistically dubious as it is to shield the world’s most powerful people with anonymity, this practice sometimes ends up revealing what careerist denizens of Washington power really think but are too scared to say. Glasser’s article, which largely consists of conveying the views of anonymous high-level Obama officials, contains this remarkable passage:

In other words, Democrats are now waging war on, and are depicting as treasonous, one of Barack Obama’s central and most steadfastly held foreign policy positions, one that he clung to despite attacks from leading members of both parties as well as the DC National Security Community. That’s not Noam Chomsky drawing that comparison; it’s an Obama appointee.

As FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley and others have noted, certain Democrats seem so consumed by their hatred for Trump that they are failing to see the forest for the trees in their approach of hitching their wagon to the anti-Russia meme because they think it will be the most expedient to get rid of Trump.  It doesn’t matter that there is an existential degree of folly in continuing to ramp up tensions with the world’s other nuclear superpower or that lack of evidence used to be a concern for those who cared about truth and due process.  This reminds me of the level of insanity and stupidity that those who hated Obama manifested with the accusations of no citizenship and being a Muslim, etc.

They also clearly haven’t thought through the consequences of having Mike Pence as president either.

In any event, perhaps all the pressure is finally getting to Trump. According to an AP article, he is ready to shelve his detente plans for Russia:

President Donald Trump is telling advisers and allies that he may shelve, at least temporarily, his plan to pursue a deal with Moscow on the Islamic State group and other national security matters, according to administration officials and Western diplomats.

In conversations with diplomats and other officials, Trump and his aides have ascribed the new thinking to Moscow’s recent provocations. But the reconsideration of a central tenet of his foreign policy underscores the growing political risks in forging closer relations with Russia, as long as the FBI investigates his campaign associates’ connections to Moscow and congressional committees step up their inquiries into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

….Trump’s new skepticism about brokering a deal with Moscow also suggests the rising influence of a new set of advisers who have taken a tougher stance on Russia, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and new national security adviser H.R. McMaster. During his first meeting with National Security Council staff, McMaster described Russia — as well as China — as a country that wants to upend the current world order, according to an administration official who attended the meeting.

Michael McFaul, who served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Russia, said that while Trump has been open about wanting warmer relations with Russia, “he hasn’t picked people to the best of my knowledge at senior levels that share that view.”

European allies also have been pushing the Trump administration not to make any early concessions to Russia. To bolster their case, European officials have tailored their rhetoric to appeal to Trump’s business background, including emphasizing the risks of negotiating a bad deal, rather than more nuanced arguments, according to one Western diplomat. Given Trump’s “America First” mantra, foreign officials emphasize how U.S. standing in the world could be diminished by making concessions to Russia instead of focusing on the importance of the U.S. and Europe sticking together to counter Moscow.

Finally, Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com, unpacks the reasons for why Russia must remain the enemy for much of the U.S. political and economic elite:

And so while the present quite extraordinary campaign to portray Russia as our Major Adversary has been given considerable impetus by the Democratic party elites, eager to explain away their humiliating defeat – and discredit the current occupant of the White House – there’s much more to it than that. We can break it down into four major reasons:

1) Inter-service rivalry in the military – In May of last year, I wrote about the war breaking out between the various components of the US military, a battle over budgets:

“In early April, a battalion of senior military officials appeared before a Senate panel and testified that the US Army is ‘outranged and outgunned,’ particularly in any future conflict with Russia. Arguing for a much bigger budget for the Army, they claimed that, absent a substantial increase in funding, the Russians would overtake us and, even scarier, ‘the army of the future will be too small to secure the nation.’

“The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! And before you know it, Brooklyn will be renamed Putingrad.

“Of course it was pure coincidence that, shortly after these alarm bells were rung, a piece appeared in Politico magazine purportedly showing that the Russians were breathing down our necks: it revealed a ‘secret study’ – revealed for the first time! – that supposedly detailed Russia’s deadly new capabilities as demonstrated in Ukraine. Included in this potpourri of propaganda was the assertion by none other than Gen. Wesley Clark, former presidential candidate and well-known Russophobe, that Moscow had developed a tank that is for all intents and purposes ‘invulnerable.’”

The national debt is now at $20 trillion – a sum that the human mind can barely conceive. The reality is that we cannot afford the kind of money the military is now demanding. Indeed, the defense budget hike being advanced by the Trump administration is dead on arrival, and even if it were passed by Congress – an unlikely outcome – it would hardly satisfy the projected expansion of military spending envisioned by the generals. And so we are now witnessing a ramped up campaign to portray the Russians as ten feet tall. As a follow up piece in Politico by Mark Perry put it:

’This is the ‘Chicken-Little, sky-is-falling’ set in the Army,’ the senior Pentagon officer said. ‘These guys want us to believe the Russians are 10 feet tall. There’s a simpler explanation: The Army is looking for a purpose, and a bigger chunk of the budget. And the best way to get that is to paint the Russians as being able to land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. What a crock.’”

A war with Russia would require land forces in huge numbers, more tanks, more artillery, and much more money for the Army. If the Russian Threat is what they say it is, then the Army will devour a glutton’s share of the military budget, leaving the Navy and the Air Force to starve. It would also require complementary upgrades for the militaries of all the NATO nations – a gold mine for the US weapons industry.

So one answer to the “Why Russia?” question is simple: follow the money.

And speaking of following the money, another big factor energizing the anti-Russian campaign is:

2) The Russian diaspora – When Putin came to power one of the first things he did was go after the infamous oligarchs who had backed – and manipulated – his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Under the drunken Yeltsin, these “entrepreneurs” had used the State apparatus to “privatize” (i.e. loot) what had previously been the State-owned economy, gobbling up entire sectors at unbelievably cheap prices. Putin moved to disassemble what was a competing power center, and the result was the flight of the oligarchs to the West. Having put their ill-gotten gains in Western banks and holding companies, they shacked up in London, New York, Switzerland, and the French Riviera, where they plotted Putin’s overthrow and their triumphant return.

There’s an awful lot of money sloshing around in these circles, and a good part of it is being used to buy up media properties that act as outlets for anti-Russian propaganda. Newspapers, think tanks, and various other vehicles for the molding of public opinion are financed by this Russian Diaspora, which acts as an intellectual Praetorian Guard for the politicians hoping to ride the wave of anti-Russia sentiment. They act as a lobby on behalf of the arms industry, and the political forces that stand to gain from the anti-Russian campaign – but they are not alone.

Read the complete article here