This article has been written for the Unz Review]
This has been an interesting week for Russia. First, and contrary to my own expectations, Iulia Skripal has been allowed to make a recorded statement on video where she is seen writing a statement in English and Russian. This falls far short of even the basic British obligations to allow consular access to both Skripals, but it is a sign that the Brits are finally starting to feel the pressure. This is just a small first step, but thank God for small things. Now let’s just hope that the pressure to free both Skripals will not abate.
Second, the St Petersburg Economic Forum has started to what promises to be a big success: 14’000 participants, including many top western business and even representatives of the British oligarchy (to the great despair of The Times). Now that the “economic block” of the Russian government is firmly in the hands of the Atlantic Integrationists and even Alexei Kudrin declares that the impact of the economic sanctions to only 0.5% of the Russian GDP, and against the background of US arrogance gone berserk (see Pompeo’s 12 point ultimatum to Iran or Trump’s sudden cancellation of this planned meeting with Kim) thereby deeply frightening many European investors, Russia appears to be an island of comparative stability and predictability. Turns out, there are billions of dollars to be made in Russia, who would have thought?
Third, for all the saber-rattling heard over the past years from NATO, a former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Breedlove, has gone on record that NATO is in no shape to fight Russia. The Baltic statlets and the Swedes can continue to prepare for a Russian invasion if they want, but this nonsense is slowly losing its traction with EU politicians.
Finally, the President of Bulgaria has had to fly to Moscow to ask the Russian to re-start the “Bulgarian Stream”. Yes, the very same “stream” which Bulgaria reneged on under EU pressure. The logic of the Bulgarians is simple and irrefutable: if the Germans get to open their own “stream” then so do we. Makes sense.
True, there was this latest idiocy by the Dutch who now are saying that it was a “Russian” unit which shot down MH-17. I don’t know why they would bother coming up with this latest nonsense right now, this might be a desperate hope by some hardcore NATO Cold Warriors, but in the current political climate this is going largely unnoticed.
The key to it all? Can you connect the dots?
As Roger Waters put it in his song Perfect Sense “Can’t you see? It all makes perfect sense, expressed in dollars and cents, pounds shillings and pence. Can’t you see? It all makes perfect sense“. It is all about money.
No doubt there will be those who will greatly rejoice at these developments, after all, this could be the beginning of a much needed (for both sides) rapprochement between Russia and the EU and improving economic ties, along with the rapidly increasing energy costs, could provide the funds needed to implement Putin’s ambitious internal reforms and development program. So what’s there not to celebrate?
Well, it all depends on your values.
If you want the Russian economy integrated into the western markets and financial sphere, if you believe that the correct economic path of development for Russia is western-style liberal capitalism,if you believe that the Zionist lobby in Russia does not exist or is not an issue, then you truly have cause to rejoice and, indeed, many have (including my friend Alexander Mercouris at The Duran).
But if you believe that morals, ethics should always prime so-called “pragmatic” considerations, if you believe that the correct path for Russia is to follow her own civilizational model, if you believe that there is a very influential and highly toxic Zionist lobby in Russia, then you have cause to worry.
In an ideal world or, at least, a less crazy one, this choice should not be as stark, but with the Neocons in absolute control of the USA and the US foreign policy decided in the Likud offices in Jerusalem, and with Israel and the USA taking turns bombing Syria (even today), that choice will have to be made.
True, to some degree, there are already obvious unofficial understandings between the US and Russia and between Israel and Russia over military operations in Syria. And as I have argued many times (even if some pretend I did not), Russia has no obligation whatsoever to fight on behalf of anybody in the Middle-East. However, what Russian ought to do, at least in my opinion, is to carefully evaluate the potential consequences of inaction, not because of Syrian or Iranian interests, but because of her own, Russian, interests.
The unofficial agreement between Russia and the Anglo-Zionist does make sense, but only in the short term. In the long term it contains many possible dangers:
- First, the Israelis are clearly baiting Iran for a meaningful counter-strike. And they are doing all they can to push the USA to attack Iran. How long can the Iranian patience last? How long can the (hopefully existing) rational minds in the Pentagon contain the “crazies”? You tell me, I don’t know.
- The Israelis, clearly buoyed by the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem (along with a few vassal states) has now basically given up on their public image, which has been roadkill since many years already, and have decided to use even more grotesque violence than usual to make the Palestinians pay for having the audacity to exist. This increase in violence creates a great deal of tensions in the Muslim world and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already called on all Muslim countries to condemn Israel. He used very precise language (emphasis added): “It is the Muslim states that should take a stance against it (the massacre of Palestinians). Muslim states are the ones that should rise up but they do not because they have distanced themselves from the Quran and do not believe in holy book. By God’s grace Palestine will be freed from the vicious enemies. Al-Quds (Beit-ul-Moqaddas) is the capital of Palestine and the US and its minions cannot do a damn thing against the truth and the divine tradition regarding Palestine”. The implication here is clear: it is an Islamic obligation mandated by the Quran itself not to collaborate with the Zionist entity, those who are now ignoring this imperative are acting like disbelievers. That includes the Saudis and all their allies. With that kind of language (which has tremendous support in the Muslim world at large, not amongst the Shia) how long will the current standoff be limited to Syria? You tell me, I don’t know.
- As I have also argued time and again, the AngloZionists interpret every non-escalatory move by Russia as a sign of weakness, even when it is motivated by a sincere desire to avoid conflict, when it is pragmatic and even mutually beneficial. The Ukronazis in the Donbass have a tactic they call “leapfrogging” in which they regularly seize a couple of houses here and there in the neutral zone while keeping the Novorussians under a more or less constant stream of artillery strikes and terrorist attacks. They do that while trying to keep the shooting just under the threshold which would result in full-scale attack on Novorussia which, so they themselves say, will happen in the not too distant future. That kind of “leapfrogging” under “petty fire” is exactly what the Empire is doing against Russia in Syria and elsewhere. The difference is only that AngloZionist leaders do not promise a final attack on Russia. Do you trust their word? I sure don’t.
These are not what I would call minor issues which can be comfortably ignored and the purpose of analysis is not comfort but understanding. Intelligence work is built on three components, the tripe “A”: Acquisition, Analysis and Acceptance. First, you get the raw info, then you process it (primarily by rating the source and the info itself), and then you present it to those who will use it. Most often, the problem is in the third “A”, that is when decision-makers are unhappy with what they hear and then put pressure on the second “A” (analysis). In extreme cases, this can result in the 2nd “A” downgrading a perfectly reliable source.
That is the kind of stuff which starts dumb wars and results in surprise attacks.
[Sidebar: There is a natural desire in each one of us to see “our” team win, and nuanced arguments are easy to misrepresent. For the dishonest, it is a no-brainer to present any criticism or concern as “betrayal” (we all know what happened to Cassandra). And then there are, of course, those for whom any nuanced argument is too complex to process and who simply are not intellectually equipped to understand a balanced thesis. Cheering is fun. Honestly analyzing often takes courage.
I recommend that we avoid both extremes, the one of mindlessly cheer-leading and the one of defeatism, both are equally toxic and both are used by AngloZionist strategic psychological operations to weaken Russia in general and Putin and his Eurasian Sovereignist supporters in particular. The words of Christ “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32) have a profound spiritual meaning, but they can also be taken quite literally and He never said that that truth would be comfy, I would add. In our case, you, the reader, are the third “A” and my role is only limited to try to honestly do the first and second “A”.
For independent analysts like myself, there is no point in doing what the CIA did about Iraq: have these words of Christ as a motto and then provide a hopelessly politically-correct “analysis”. True, unlike the folks at the CIA, I am not paid (by you, in the form of your donations) to follow a narrow political agenda, neither do I depend on any oligarch’s financial support. As for calling things the way I see them, I know each time in advance when this will get me a barrage of criticism and hate mail from those who follow a very specific political agenda (I have explained that here in some detail, check it out!). The Empire uses the term “fringe extremist” while in the blogosphere what you mostly see is “out of touch”, but the goal is the same: a total dismissal. Next time you see that language, ask yourself not only what actual arguments it contains (if any!), but also cui bono – who benefits from making it, and why. Then think of the words of Christ quoted above one more time :-)].
I think that Paul Craig Roberts is fundamentally correct when he says that the Empire is escalating on all fronts against Russia, even if I do not share his pessimism (but neither do I dismiss it!). First, with Trump turned into a rabid Likudnik, Putin’s plan of a “rapprochement” with the EU might work, NATO’s histrionics notwithstanding. We will see soon as Europe is now facing a stark choice, either join the USA in even more sanctions on Iran, or not. And “not” means de-facto join Russia in her support for Iran.
So which will prevail? The cowardice and subservience of the European leaders or their greed?
As long as all this remains in the realm of economics, Russia will probably continue her current balancing act between her own short-term economic interests in the West and her long-term economic interests in the rest of the world. But if Iran is actually meaningfully attacked by any combination of AngloZionist states, then Russia will have to chose. Ideally, the Atlantic Integrationists will have to do what they did in the cases of Georgia and Crimea, look away and play along, while the Eurasian Sovereignists do what they did in both of these instances: immediately take action. That does not mean fighting a war on behalf of the Iranians or “protecting” Iran, but that will mean a willingness to help Iran at all level short of war. Which is what Russia has been doing in Syria.
There is a big difference between Iran and Syria though: the Russian public did support Putin’s argument that it is better to fight the Takfiris over “there” rather than right “here”. But Russians are most unlikely to support any risks of war (nevermind a war itself) unless it directly affects Russian national interests. On that Russians are split.
Some, like myself, think that Iran is, if not a vital, then at least a crucial partner (and, hopefully, ally) of Russia in the entire greater Middle-East. It is also a country which, unlike Russia, has achieved true, real, sovereignty and thus, at least to some degree, a test-case for the rest of the planet (that is the real reason for the AngloZionist’s hatred and fear of Iran, not some non-existing military weapons program). Others think that Iran is just a useful partner which should be engaged, but that the Iranians have too different an agenda to really become Russia’s reliable partner (the feeling in Tehran is often symmetrical). Still, regardless of the doubts on both sides, I believe that Iran is vital for Russia because Iran has achieved what Russia is still after: full sovereignty. No country which wants to become truly sovereign can refuse to help Iran in every possible way.
There is also the “minor” issue of international law by which neither the USA nor Israel consider themselves restrained and which they both constantly, and very openly and gleefully, violate. This set a terrible and very dangerous precedent for the entire planet and is yes another factor Russia cannot ignore.
And then there is Palestine.
Like it or not (I don’t), for the time being, Russia and the EU have chosen to be in the famous words of Yehuda Bauer, a “bystander”. Some of us will deny that (good luck with that!), some will minimize it, some will explain that away on pragmatic grounds. Who is right?
Well, again, it all depends on your values.
If you believe that the Palestinians are to blame, or if you believe that what is done to them is their problem, not yours, or if you think “let the Arabs or the Muslims solve this” – then all is well.
But if you believe in basic notions of Right and Wrong, if you believe that racism and genocide (even slo-mo genocide), should be abhorrent to every human being, then no, you cannot feel good about Russia’s stance on Palestine.
Iran has chosen to take a moral stance on this issue. Russia, at least so far, has chosen a “pragmatic” one, for many reasons, including good ones (as I explained in some details here). But that does not change the fact that the triangle Israel-Palestine-Iran presents a crucial spiritual, ethical, moral and civilizational challenge to Russia, one which she cannot ignore and one which most likely will determine her future. Sooner or later, Russia will have to make a choice even if that choice is to remain a bystander.
The same can be said about Novorussia. Russia cannot let the Donbass bleed forever and while in the past Russia has helped Novorussia a great deal, the fact that the Donbass is still bleeding cannot be allowed to last forever.
In the case of the Donbass, the problem is obvious: if Russia openly stops the daily Ukronazi attacks, the Empire will scream to high heavens about a “Russian aggression” (they will pretend that they did not come up with their so-called “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) doctrine). Which will compromise the Russia-EU relations. Hence the current Russian balancing act.
These are hard and painful decisions for Putin. In the past he has shown tremendous courage and will-power when Russian vital interests were at stake and I hope and believe that he will do that again. Time will show if Putin and the rest of Russia will decide whether moral, ethical and spiritual values are an integral part of “Russian vital interests” and whether they have to prime over “pragmatic” considerations or the other way around. And maybe they will come to conclude, as I do, that moral, ethical and spiritual vales are pragmatic considerations and that the apparent choice between them is an illusion.
This choice also will determine the future of Russia and her civilizational realm.