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The view that Russia is an important global actor with which Europeans need to find agreement is shared by mainstream political forces in several European countries Austria and Italy, to name just two. In some states — including Slovenia, and parts of Bulgaria and France — Russia is seen as a counterweight to other powers, usually the US.

But this more likely stems from condemnation of the US than praise of Russia. RT and Sputnik have only a minor impact. They enjoy some niche appeal among people who, for one reason or another, feel neglected by the mainstream media — such as Latin American audiences in Spain and some Scottish audiences in the lead-up to the Scottish referendum on independence, during which parts of the British mainstream media ridiculed and neglected the independence cause. Countries that have deep cultural and historical links to Russia, such as Italy and Bulgaria, are far from seeing contemporary Russia as a model for state governance.

The prolific business links with Russia enjoyed by Austria, Italy, and Germany may have led to dissatisfaction with EU policies, but all these countries have refrained from serious efforts to break ranks on sanctions — so far, at least. Some European experts now believe that the necessary awareness has crossed over into unhelpful paranoia.

In much of the media discussion, Russia plays a prominent role in almost every bit of ill-fortune that has befallen the West — from the refugee crisis to the rise of populism to the independence referendum in Catalonia. In December , for instance, elections in Bulgaria and Moldova coincided with a change in government in Estonia — prompting the media to briefly interpret all three as victories for Russia. In fact, Russia was not a defining factor — or even a factor at all — in any of these events.

This tendency of interpreting every election or event through the Russian lens is counterproductive. Russian efforts can only play on pre-existing social cleavages. Arguably, their efforts can amplify existing tensions, but most European societies are proving quite adept at polarising themselves.

Reducing everything to Russian meddling leads to dangerous neglect of the real issues behind home-grown polarisation and encourages demagogic politicians to use the threat from Russia opportunistically. For decades, European elites have felt basically safe on the home front, but they can no longer take such domestic immunity for granted.

Russia has induced fear and occasionally derailed the European agenda, by making Europeans fear the Russian hand when they should focus on their own shortcomings. European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans famously said that the EU has two kinds of member state: small member states and member states that have yet to understand they are small.

No European country alone can compete effectively in the normative struggle with Russia. A decade ago, a lack of unity was the chief reason that Europe had no effective policy on Russia. Today, the EU may face various crises and lack self-confidence, but it has overcome many of the issues that once paralysed its Russia policy. Europe still seems to think of itself as deeply split on Russia. And Moscow has noticed.

Europe is now united in its assessment of Russia. This sharply contrasts with the situation ten years ago, when Baltic states and Poland viewed Russia as a consolidating authoritarian state with dangerous ambitions abroad, while Germany still saw it as a country that was democratising — even if slowly, with multiple detours and setbacks. Now, European policymakers overwhelmingly perceive Russia as posing a normative challenge.

They view Moscow as seeking to dismantle the post-cold war European order. At the same time, the narratives Moscow promotes — which paint Russia as the victim of Western policies and its actions as forced responses to Western assertiveness — have only very limited traction in a few EU member states such as Austria, Cyprus, and Greece. European views are also significantly aligned in assessments of the military threat from Russia.

Six EU countries think that Russia poses a direct military threat to them, and to Europe as a whole; ten believe that Russia might threaten the fringe states of the EU; and five others see Russia as a military threat not to the EU, but to non-member states in eastern Europe.

These negative expectations even affect the Arctic, where the relationship between Russia and EU countries has in fact been mostly constructive. Overall, bad experiences with Russia on issues such as Ukraine, Syria, and interference in European domestic politics have now spilled over into low expectations from nearly everyone in nearly all areas. This solidarity translates into strong support for sanctions, even though member states are broadly ambivalent about how well the measures work.

Most countries think that sanctions against Russia are necessary. Southern Europeans lend their support to the EU on Russia as a down payment on support for other, priority issues from states in the east and the north that view the country as an existential threat.

Most governments are under some domestic pressure to lift sanctions — stemming from political parties or business lobbies — but this pressure is strong and meaningful only in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and likely also — after its latest elections — Italy. There is also considerable unanimity on when to end sanctions on Russia.

The overwhelming majority of member states believe that the EU can only lift sanctions once Ukraine has regained control of its eastern border, while seven countries are ready to consider gradually easing sanctions if Russia starts making steps towards withdrawing from eastern Ukraine. Only Hungary says that sanctions definitely do not work and should be dropped as soon as possible — but even Budapest has not come close to breaking ranks on their renewal.

Member states want normative questions to be handled by the EU as a whole; only Hungary, Greece, Austria, and Bulgaria have any faith in the bilateral track. More importantly, there has been no serious effort to challenge consensus European policies. Brussels insiders say that the rollover of sanctions twice per year has, if anything, become easier — despite some sotto voce grumbling.

Countries that do not like sanctions, however, tend to emphasise the need for universal compliance — and rightly so. Paradoxically, the recent pile-up of economic and security crises seems to have helped Europeans become more united. Member states need to pick their fights with Brussels. Russia is a priority for those who feel threatened by it, but it is less important to those who do not. It is not all togetherness. Hungary and perhaps Greece are examples of countries in which disagreements with the EU mainstream on asylum policy and the protection of civil society, and the euro respectively correlate with a divergent stance on Russia.

Indeed, Hungary stands out as the one EU country that, in the context of normative war, often takes a stance closer to the Russian side of the argument. Overall, Russia may still try to sow discord within the EU, but it is far less able to play member states off against each other than it was ten years ago. But it is clearly not enough to manage the normative challenge that Russia poses. For that, one also needs policy.

EU member states generally agree that Russia is to blame. Sanctions on Russia and troop reinforcements in eastern EU states have provided some answers to the question of what is to be done. Nonetheless, the EU cannot prevail in a normative war if it does not know how to tackle the challenger. To be effective, the EU also needs a common Russia strategy that reflects not just Europe, but also Russia. What can it achieve?

How can Russia fit into the liberal world order that the EU seeks to promote? How can the EU influence Moscow? Answering these questions is difficult and risks dividing Europe on Russia once again. But an effective Russia strategy for a normative war needs to accommodate an agreement on concrete policies. The EU will need to strategise, not just sermonise. The — clearly non-exhaustive — list of issues below highlights some areas in which a lack of both clarity and a joint approach hampers EU policymaking.

For instance, the EU does not have a common strategy on sanctions, its eastern neighbourhood, or energy security. In addition, there is also confusion about methods — such as dialogue with Russia — and the division of work between member states and EU institutions. For EU countries, such an approach is simply unacceptable — made taboo by their twentieth-century experiences with spheres of influence. Ukraine is a prime example here: Russia had extensive leverage over its economy and leadership, only to see it swept away in a popular revolution.

Or one could look at Belarus and Armenia: on paper, both are dedicated members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union but, in practice, both are working to limit Russian influence, as elites in the countries see Russia as a threat. Europe cannot possibly endow Moscow with the sphere of influence it craves: this would go against all its normative principles and lessons learned from history.

But, similarly, the EU lacks a viable policy for addressing this conceptual clash. Russia is determined to resist any such development, while the countries themselves are going through a long and bumpy political transformation, characterised by ongoing tension between corrupt elites and maturing societies that demand a greater say. There is not a desire for EU membership everywhere and, even where there is, the reforms required by the accession process would infringe on the vested interests of powerful domestic constituencies.

It would not mean that West had brought Russia around to the ideas of cooperative, mutually beneficial arrangements that Europe sees as the goal for the continent. And, conversely, if these countries fail to reform, they still retain their rights to sovereignty and territorial integrity. For the time being, the EU and Russia are stuck in a normative struggle in the eastern neighbourhood that neither has the capacity to win any time soon.

To prevail, the EU needs to focus not just on promoting democracy, but also on upholding the principles of the OSCE-based post-cold war European order. It needs to find ways to boost the sovereignty of these countries without an immediate membership perspective. The EU has maintained unity on sanctions for four years. The absence of immediate results has led some policymakers — most notably in Italy, but also in Austria and Hungary — to declare that sanctions do not work.

There is no doubt, though, that sanctions have had economic effects. The political effects are less clear, but still detectable. In , the sanctions did not succeed at convincing political and business elites to put pressure on the Kremlin. By , however, a prominent group of technocrats started speaking up in favour of improving relations with the West. The evidence on the ground in Donbas is similarly mixed. The lesson here is that sanctions are inherently a long-term instrument. They do not work in isolation, but in combination with other policies and developments.

Furthermore, in a normative war, the stated aim may not even be the most important one. The Russians have often tried to use their energy relationship with various European states to corrupt and divide the EU. In the last ten years or so, however, Moscow has had little success in this effort. Today, Russia remains the largest supplier of gas to the EU, but it cannot use gas as a weapon in the normative struggle in the way that it did ten years ago. However, disputes around the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline — which would run from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea — show that there continue to be important disagreements.

Unlike the debate over Nord Stream 1, that over Nord Stream 2 is not about how to deal with Russia but rather about competing business interests and differing views of energy security and diversification. Nor does Nord Stream 2 divide member states the way Nord Stream 1 did: it is easy to find people in northern or eastern Europe who are unconcerned about the potential impact of Nord Stream 2, as well as Germans who oppose the pipeline.

Even so, the views of EU states do not provide a basis for sound policy. Some countries in northern Europe — such as Denmark and, to a lesser extent, Sweden — consider the pipeline to be a security concern, fearing that Russia will use maintenance as a cover for covert operations. Others, such as Finland, see it as a purely commercial endeavour.

Some countries view Nord Stream 2 as contrary to the letter or the spirit of the Energy Union, while others believe that the pipeline should be allowed because it predates the concept of the Energy Union. Finally, Germany considers the supply of Russian gas via multiple pipelines to be sufficient energy diversification if the product can later be freely sold in an interconnected European market, while Poland believes that true diversification and energy security are unachievable without greater involvement of suppliers other than Russia.

Ultimately, who is right matters less than resolving the disagreement. European unity on Russia is far more important than the energy market effects of Nord Stream 2. The latter can always be mitigated, but the Russians are already seeking to use disagreements over Nord Stream 2 to undermine broader European unity on Russia policy.

To avoid this outcome, all sides need to seek a compromise on the approach, agree on a European-level process, and commit to accepting the result. To prevail in the normative struggle, member states also need to think harder about how to integrate the EU — its member states and EU institutions — into diplomacy with Russia.

This non-EU arrangement has worked relatively well until now but, even so, it is probably unsustainable. France and Germany have done a good job of building support for their efforts; Germany has taken particular care of the concerns of the countries that are most vulnerable and sensitive to all things related to Russia — such as Baltic states — by keeping them informed. But some dissatisfaction is building up among medium-sized EU countries such as Sweden and Holland, which — while they do not dispute the essence of the policy — would like to play a larger role.

We created European institutions to represent us all. An increasing number of European leaders are making bilateral visits to Moscow — both Swedish and Austrian representatives have shown up there, while Finland regularly stays in touch. They go for various reasons. Finland wants to maintain contact with a complicated neighbour, while Austria wants to enhance its business contacts with Russia. But many ministers, such as the Swedes or the British, just want to be part of the game, to feel relevant. These visits are not bad in and of themselves.

For now, they are mostly harmless, if largely useless. Yet, in theory, Moscow might seek to make use of such contact to split Europe and erode the consensus behind sanctions or other policies. This conception should also guide and empower EU institutions. For Moscow, it is exactly these institutions that embody the strict normative face of the EU. And indeed, for now, Moscow has decided that the institutional EU hardly matters. Around that time, Russia contacted Juncker with some policy proposals, but it never heard back from him — while bilateral tracks hummed along as before.

This legacy makes the idea of dialogue contentious and gives birth to fruitless arguments that treat it as an end in itself.

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The situation in the EU is not much better. Member states are unsure what they want to talk to Russia about, or what talking can achieve in principle. It needs to do better; and the way is obvious: when the EU devises a joint policy on Russia that goes beyond declarations of values, dialogue will stop being a surrogate for policy and find its natural place as a tool of policy. However, they are not enough to counter the Russian normative challenge.

Resilience is important for practical as well as normative reasons. Europe needs to show Moscow that its norms are viable and shared by its societies, and that the collapse of the European order is not on the cards. Similarly, European policies can only work if they have reasonable support at home. While many of these measures make sense, it is counterproductive to view them primarily as efforts to fight Russia.

Firstly, this is because Europeans cannot effectively counter this part of the Russian normative offensive head on. It is simply too diffuse. When Europeans mobilise against them with the resources of the state, it can often seem like an overreaction: shooting a cannon at a sparrow. Instead of fighting raindrops, one should fix the roof.

We would now like to give it back to you! Preparedness to fight cyber threats is a separate sub-field. To boost their preparedness, EU member states should ensure that they have implemented, at minimum, all the measures below: [36]. Countering fake news is another important area of resilience — and the debate on how best to do this is only starting.

One approach is to address the supply side of fake news, by making Facebook and Twitter limit what they circulate and promote, and preventing people from profiting from the production and dissemination of fake news. Another approach focuses on the demand side, by placing the onus on society and investing in media literacy — so that citizens become more discerning consumers of news.

This conceptual debate extends far beyond the question of Russia, but it is already clear that the EU and its member states need to adopt a few preliminary recommendations. They should:. Yet, from a broader perspective, they are all merely technical issues. This presupposes political elites that enjoy relatively high levels of trust, political institutions that are independent and credible, state finances that are transparent, media outlets that are not entirely sensationalist, minorities that are reasonably well-integrated, and historical traumas if any that have been thoughtfully addressed.

Securing all this is a tall order, but it is these sources of resilience that will matter most in the normative war with Russia. This core normative struggle has entrenched the positions of both powers. Both are trying to build up their resilience. Both have learned lessons from their interactions with each other between and , but they still lack an effective strategy for their future relationship. The EU and its member states need an approach to Russia that translates normative principles into real policy. They need a Russia strategy that extends their current unity into more difficult and long-term issues — not least those involving the eastern neighbourhood, where the normative clash is most acute and dangerous.

This understanding should then form the basis of a joint Russia policy that involves member states large and small, north and south, and that is represented in EU institutions. This would present Russia with a solid normative front that both sticks to the moral high ground and is politically viable. As noted above, EU member states should also invest in their resilience.

Part of this will involve relatively simple administrative measures. But the more fundamental components of resilience — such as the credibility of state institutions, political parties, politicians, and the mainstream media — will require a broader effort. If these components are missing, they cannot usually be created in a top-down manner. Still, there are some aspects of resilience that the authorities can strengthen, including by: tackling social inequality and deprivation; engaging with marginalised minorities or fearful majorities; addressing relevant historical myths or conspiracies; countering corruption; and investing in transparency.

In general, the authorities need to engage in a frank conversation with society. Some current European leaders, particularly those in France and Germany, are doing remarkably well at this. Others — such as those in the UK in their profoundly mismanaged approach to Brexit , Poland, and Hungary — remarkably badly. Offensive measures are important in the normative war with Russia. But, ultimately, the best normative offence is a good defence, which requires the renewal and reinvigoration of the European model.

If the West can address its fundamental shortcomings, the threat from Russia will be swept away — just as the success of the Marshall Plan swept away western European communism as a serious force. This does not mean an effort to return to the s and early s — the supposed heyday for the expansion of European norms. Instead, the Western model needs to adapt to remain viable in a world where power relationships are changing, geopolitical competition is increasing, and global connectedness is growing, but large parts of the population — in the West and elsewhere — feel left out and defensive.

Europe has woken up from its complacency. It is time to get to work. Interviews with civil servants and intelligence insiders in several EU member states, March Austria generally regards Russia as a partner. Austria sees dialogue and engagement with Moscow as the best means to resolve EU-Russia disputes. Belgium has a complex attitude towards Russia, viewing the country as both a threat and a partner.

Some even see Russia as a potential partner in resolving these latter two issues. This has led Belgium to question whether Russia can be a reliable partner. Members of the Belgian elite are aware that Russia has huge economic potential beyond the energy market, and would be willing to deepen relations with Moscow in these areas. There has been smooth cooperation between the sides on visas and cultural issues, albeit less so since Today, many Bulgarians who oppose Russia see the threat it poses as greater than, or equal to, that from terrorism or the refugee crisis.

Official relations between Bulgaria and Russia cover political, economic, educational, and cultural issues. The countries cooperate on energy, trade, tourism, and, to an extent, maritime affairs in the Black Sea. Most Bulgarians view Russia as a friendly country and recognise their historical, cultural, linguistic, and religious links with the Russian people. Before it joined the European Union in , Croatia generally had a stable, productive bilateral relationship with Russia. Official relations remain volatile, following several tense verbal exchanges between Croatian and Russian leaders in recent years.

In Croatia, there is widespread concern that Russia is trying to pull the Western Balkans back into its sphere of influence. The Russian media and the Russian Orthodox Church have only minimal influence in the country. The Cypriot government sees Russia as a partner. Greek-Cypriots have relied heavily on Russian support in talks on reunifying Cyprus, providing Russia with considerable political leverage over the country. Cyprus and Russia have long had strong political, economic, and security ties.

Almost all Cypriot political parties, including the ruling Democratic Rally party, have a positive approach towards Russia. However, Cypriot foreign policy usually aligns with that of the European Union, including in maintaining sanctions on Russia. Russia is the main source of foreign direct investment in Cyprus, but most of this investment is for tax and legal protection purposes.

A popular destination for Russian tourists, Cyprus is widely regarded as a money-laundering hub for members of Russian organised crime groups. Members of the Czech elite generally see Russia as threatening to destabilise Eastern Europe, a perception that has grown since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine in Having traditionally viewed it as only as an indirect threat, they now increasingly acknowledge that interference from Moscow has had a direct impact on the Czech Republic.

Nonetheless, the Czech Republic views terrorism and the refugee crisis as more pressing threats to the country and the wider European Union than Russia. Bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and Russia centre on economic diplomacy — especially that related to the protection of Czech investments in Russia, which are largely concentrated in the automotive industry through Skoda , real estate, and banking. Copenhagen is among the leading advocates of sanctions on Russia, and of working within NATO and the European Union to create a coherent Russia policy. Denmark has experienced threats from Russia in recent years, including a form of a simulated attack of the Danish island of Bornholm in Concerned about the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which would skirt the coast of Bornholm , Copenhagen is looking to change the legislation around the approval of such energy projects, advocating that foreign policy and security considerations be taken into account when assessing them.

Despite its security concerns, Denmark cooperates with Russia within the framework of the Arctic Council the countries have overlapping territorial claims in the Arctic. As a result, Denmark tends to view its relationship with Russia as being compartmentalised, comprising elements of both cooperation and containment.

Russia has limited influence in Denmark. Estonia is highly critical of Russia, perceiving the threat from Moscow as its main security priority. Therefore, securing the presence of NATO troops within its borders became an issue of utmost importance after Russia annexed Crimea in Estonia harbours some anxiety about the loyalties of the 27 percent of the population who speak Russian, most of them Soviet-era immigrants. However, the ties between Russia and these Estonian citizens are mainly limited to culture and language — most have never wanted to join the Russian state. Russian information operations have repeatedly targeted Estonia, but this interference peaked a decade ago and has been less intrusive though still present since In , the Russian authorities abducted an Estonian security officer on the Russia-Estonia border they released him a year later.

Despite the broad political consensus on Russia, parts of the Estonian Centre Party see Russia as a possible partner, especially in trade and tourism. Once Helms was gone, it was just a matter of time until Gottlieb would be gone, and most important was that Helms was really the only person at the CIA who had an idea of what Gottlieb had been doing. However, it turns out that there were some [records] found in other places; there was a depot for expense account reports that had not been destroyed, and various other pieces of paper remain. So there is enough out there to reconstruct some of what he did, but his effort to wipe away his traces by destroying all those documents in the early '70s was quite successful.

Sam Briger and Thea Chaloner produced and edited the audio of this interview. The account that appeared in the mainstream media went something like this: A midlevel Russian official named Oleg Smolenkov was recruited decades ago by the CIA. He eventually wound up in an important office in the Kremlin that gave him access to President Vladimir Putin. Smolenkov was the principal source of information confirming that Russia, acting on Putin's instructions, was trying to interfere in the presidential election to defeat Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump.

It was claimed that Smolenkov was actually able to photograph documents in Putin's desk. CIA concerns that a mole hunt in the Kremlin resulting from the media revelations concerning Russian interference in the election might lead to Smolenkov resulted in a offer to extract him and his family from Russia.

This was successfully executed during a Smolenkov family vacation trip to Montenegro in The family now resides in Virginia. The CNN story and other mainstream media that picked up on the tale embroidered it somewhat, suggesting that although Smolenkov was the CIA's crown jewel, the US has a number of "high level" spies in Moscow. It was also claimed that the timetable for the exfiltration was pushed forward by CIA in after it was noted that Donald Trump was particularly careless with classified information and might inadvertently reveal the existence of the source.

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Informant Extracted From Russia Had Sent Secrets to US for Decades , which confirmed that the extraction took place in though it also asserts that the decision to make the move came in when Barack Obama was still president. Taibbi observes, correctly, that CNN and the other mainstream elements reporting the story elaborated on it through commentary coming from anonymous "former senior intelligence officials.

Next morning's Washington Post story US got key asset out of Russia following election hacking touched all bases and also tried hard to implicate Trump. It confirmed as the time frame for the decision to carry out the exfiltration and also mentioned the president's talk with Lavrov in May , though the meeting itself was not cited as the reason for the move. As Taibbi observes, "So why mention it? The Russians have denied that Smolenkov was an important official and have insisted that the whole story might be something of a fabrication.

And the alleged CIA handling of the claimed top-level defector somewhat bears out that conclusion. Normally, a former top spy is resettled in the US or somewhere overseas in a fake name to protect him or her from any possible attempt at revenge by their former countrymen. If the Russians were truly conducting a mole hunt that endangered Smolenkov it may have been because the US media and their anonymous intelligence sources have been bragging about how they have "penetrated the Kremlin.

In that article , the author describes how CIA Director John Brennan secured a "feat of espionage" by running spies "deep within the Russian government" that revealed Russia's electoral interference. So, the Smolenkov story has inconsistencies and one has to question why it was deliberately leaked at this time. The only constant in the media coverage is the repeated but completely evidence-free suggestion that the mole was endangered and had to be removed because of Donald Trump's inability to keep a secret.

One has to consider the possibility that the story has been leaked at least in part due to the continuing effort by the national security state to "get Trump. Highly recommended is former weapons inspector Scott Ritter's fascinating detailed dissection of Smolenkov's career as well as a history of the evolution of CIA spying against Russia.

Scott speculates on why the leak of the story took place at all, examining a number of scenarios along the way. Smolenkov, who, according to former CIA officer Larry Johnson, has oddly never been polygraphed to establish his bona fides , might have been a double agent from the start, possibly a low level functionary allowed to work for the Americans so the Russian FSB intelligence service could feed low level information and control the narrative. It is a "dirty secret" within the Agency that many agents are recruited by case officers for no other reason than to enhance one's career.

Such agents normally have no real access and provide little reporting. Or alternatively, Smolenkov might have been someone who was turned after recruitment or a genuine agent who was trying to respond to urgent demands from his controller in Washington, who was de facto John Brennan, by producing a dramatic report that was basically fabricated. Or the story itself might be completely false, an attempt by some former and current officials at CIA to demonstrate a great success at a time when the intelligence community is under considerable pressure.

Scott also believes, as do I, that the story was leaked because John Brennan and his associates knew that they were deliberately marketing phony intelligence on Russia to undermine Trump and are trying to preempt any investigation by Attorney General William Barr on the provenance of the Russiagate story. If it can be demonstrated somehow that the claims of Kremlin interference came from a highly regarded credible Russian source then Brennan and company can claim that they acted in good faith.

Of course, that tale might break down if anyone bothers to interview Smolenkov. Another theory that I tend to like is that the CIA might be making public the Smolenkov case in an attempt to lower the heat on another actual high-level source still operating in Moscow. If Russia can be convinced that Smolenkov was the only significant spy working in the Kremlin it might ratchet down efforts to find another mole. It is an interesting theory worthy of spy vs.

The reality is that spying is a highly creative profession, with operational twists and turns limited only by one's imagination. In this case, unless someone actually succeeds in interviewing Oleg Smolenkov and he decides to tell the complete truth as he sees it, the American public might never know the reality behind the latest spy story. And so it follows that we must be at the top of everybody else's agenda, and that whatever anybody else in the world does, it must somehow be about us. Take the paranoid stories I've been covering on this blog about how the Russians are bound to 'meddle' in Canada's upcoming general election.

Why on earth do people here think that this is so likely, given that the choice is between a governing party whose foreign minister is banned from entering Russia and an opposition party whose leader is banned from entering Russia? The answer lies in our strange belief that we're actually really important. Canada is a G7 country after all. Of course the Russians will target us. We matter! Except that in reality we don't.

As was mentioned in the report by Sergey Sukhankin which I critiqued a week or so ago, Russians who study international affairs don't look at Canada as a truly independent country. To most of them, we're just an appendage of the United States. Canadians aren't the only one guilty of this. Americans have a similar problem. It's why they had such a huge problem understanding what Saddam Hussein was up to after his defeat in the Gulf War.

Faced with apparent Iraqi obstruction of US demands, they assumed that this meant that Saddam was plotting some sort of evil revenge against the United States. In fact, it turned out that he wasn't thinking of the Americans at all; his real concerns were to do with Iran. You can find lots of examples like that. Americans are told that they must fight the Taliban because of the danger that terrorists might again use Afghanistan to strike the United States.

But is the average Talibani really thinking about America? Or is he thinking about his home, his family, his village — all things local? If the Iranians are helping the Syrian government, is it because they view the war in Syria as part of a global struggle against the United States, or is it because Syria is next door to Iran and what happens there is of direct importance to Iran's own security?

The answers, I think, are pretty clear. To put it another way, states and non-state actors have their own interests unconnected to us. The fact that their pursuit of their interests sometimes makes them clash with Western states who are pursuing different interests doesn't mean that they're doing what they doing because of us. Moreover, as the balance of power in the world shifts, it's likely that more and more often the West will become less and less of a factor in non-Western states' calculations.

We are in danger of missing the fact that European norms are becoming less important as a reference point against which Russia's political elite measures its policy. In short, it's not all about us, and becoming less and less about us with every passing day. But arrogance and narcissism prevent us from seeing this. As a result we stumble from foreign policy blunder to foreign policy blunder. Unless and until we are able to come off our high horses and recognize that we're not the centre of the universe, we're going to keep getting things horribly wrong.

Pelosi's comments came during a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting of Democrats last week, where she complained that Judiciary Committee aides have advanced the impeachment push "far beyond where the House Democratic Caucus stands," according to Politico. It was the latest sign of the widening schism between Pelosi and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, two longtime allies who are increasingly in conflict over where to guide the party at one of its most critical moments.

Both Pelosi and Nadler, who have served in the House together for more than 25 years, insist their relationship remains strong. But their rift over impeachment is getting harder and harder to paper over amid Democrats' flailing messaging on the topic and a growing divide in the caucus. And while Pelosi aides told Politico that Nadler has coordinated with her office on investigations, legal strategy and messaging - and Pelosi has signed off on all the Judiciary Committee's court filings against Trump, the House Speaker has been expressing skepticism for months that a successful impeachment in the House would only lead to "exonerating" Trump on the campaign trail after the effort dies in the GOP-led Senate.

Pelosi has privately clashed with Nadler over his aggressive impeachment agenda, arguing the public does not support it and it does not have the votes to pass on the House floor. So far, about Democrats say they would vote to open an official impeachment inquiry. The relationship between the two veteran lawmakers has become strained. While Pelosi has blocked the House from formally voting to open an impeachment inquiry, Nadler declared he is authorized to begin one even without a House vote.

The answer is yes! Donna Shalala told the Washington Examiner. I'm being asked about healthcare, I'm being asked about the environment, and about infrastructure. It's not like around the country they are thinking about impeachment. It's a Washington phenomenon as far as I can tell. What there has been, however, is harassment of the president from the day he won the election. Norm Corin , 8 minutes ago link. Nadler and Schiff and those in their camp have a single-minded purpose: Never, ever , again allow the unwashed to get away with a successful rebellion. He set the tone in his opening statement, mocking Democrats and ridiculing what he called the "fake Russia collusion narrative.

He also took a swipe at Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton, and her handling of emails, and criticized the "Obama-Biden administration" for its inability to stop Russia election interference -- dropping the name of the former vice president and presidential candidate. At times the hearing was almost comical. When Rep. Hakeem Jeffries D-N. Lewandowski also scolded Rep. Jamie B. Raskin D-Md. Republicans, meanwhile, used their time to praise the president and sympathize with Lewandowski because Democrats asked him to testify.

Matt Gaetz R-Fla. Lewandowski replied: "I think they hate this president more than they love their country. I think we need to get away from parties, they naturally lead to antagonism, and an "us vs them" mentality, and fighting. I have some ideas humble and basic on doing away with parties at ourconstitution. We must do something; take back Washington's lead -- he couldn't stand parties. Much scarier stuff as well -- rise of the Medical-Military Industrial, " a lot of killers" Trump to O'Reilly, video on my LInks page , in and out of hospitals.

Some are concerned also that the military and CIA are running the Country -- I see a big problem with these career positions vs desires of an oncoming president. Apparently, these orgs, if they don't like a president or policy, just wait them out or kill them , "contributing" to this current disgrace of a Constitutional Republic. What to do about that? Something needs to be done Maybe those personnel should be changed out, they can be as much or more dangerous than a president for life Protest with me in Miami, or wherever you are, before it is too late.

American war-making will persist so long as the United States continues to seek military dominance across the globe. Dominance, assumed to ensure peace, in fact guarantees war. To get serious about stopping endless war, American leaders must do what they most resist: end America's commitment to armed supremacy and embrace a world of pluralism and peace. Any government that presumes to be the world's hegemon will be fighting somewhere almost all of the time, because its political leaders will see everything around the world as their business and it will see every manageable threat as a challenge to their "leadership.

Wertheim provides an answer for why this is:. Why have interventions proliferated as challengers have shrunk? The basic cause is America's infatuation with military force. Its political class imagines that force will advance any aim, limiting debate to what that aim should be. Using force appeals to many American leaders and policymakers because they imagine that frequent military action cows and intimidates adversaries, but in practice it creates more enemies and wastes American lives and resources on fruitless conflicts.

Our government's frenetic interventionism and meddling for the last thirty years hasn't made our country the slightest bit more secure, but it has sown chaos and instability across at least two continents. Wertheim continues:. Continued gains by the Taliban, 18 years after the United States initially toppled it, suggest a different principle: The profligate deployment of force creates new and unnecessary objectives more than it realizes existing and worthy ones. The constant warfare of the last two decades in particular has corroded our political system and inured the public to the idea that it is normal that American soldiers and Marines are always fighting and dying in some foreign country in pursuit of nebulous goals, but nothing could be more abnormal and wrong than this.

Constant warfare achieves nothing except to provide an excuse for more of the same. The longer that a war drags on, one would think that it should become easier to bring it to an end, but we have seen that it becomes harder for both political and military leaders to give up on an unwinnable conflict when it has become an almost permanent part of our foreign policy.

For many policymakers and pundits, what matters is that the U. Despite Mr. Trump's rhetoric about ending endless wars, the president insists that "our military dominance must be unquestioned" -- even though no one believes he has a strategy to use power or a theory to bring peace. Armed domination has become an end in itself. Seeking to maintain this dominance is ultimately unsustainable, and as it becomes more expensive and less popular it will also become increasingly dangerous as we find ourselves confronted with even more capable adversaries.

For the last thirty years, the U. It is far better if the U. Truth be told, as your article states, any country that attempts to gain enough power to assert its own sovereignty is considered a threat that must be crushed and we roll out all of the tools at our disposal to do it. It makes us less safe. In the 90's when we were being attacked by Al Qaeda we were too distracted dancing on Russia's bones to pay any attention to them. Isolationism may not be the most effective solution to things, but I'll admit a LOT of pain, on ourselves and others, would've never happened if we took that policy.

How does this work? No more funding for Israel! No bolstering the pencil-thin government of Afghanistan. All naval bases abroad will be shut down. Longstanding alliances and interests be damned! I sympathize very strongly with the notion that we must use military force wisely and with restraint, and perhaps even that the post-WW2 expansion abroad was a mistake, but I do not see a politically feasible way to end our global empire without destabilizing that same globe that has come to rely on our military power.

This is the world we live in, whether we like it or not, and barring some military or economic disaster that forces a strategic realignment or retreat like WW2 did for the old European powers I don't know how you practically pull back. Empires have a sort of inertia, and few in history voluntarily give up dominion. We have been coasting on the infrastructure investments of the 50's and 60's but if we don't start cutting military spending and redirecting that money elsewhere we are going to be bankrupt. The deck is so totally stacked in favor of this ideology, the totally controlled MSM, the MIC, the corrupt and controlled congress, and the presidential admin structure itself, would never allow this mantra to be challenged.

It is all about greed and power-the psychopaths pursuing and defending this 'ideology' would never ever go quietly. The money and power is too corrupting. Domestically we've been using politics and media and controlled culture to do the same thing. Create "terrorists" and "extremists" on "two" "sides", set them loose, enjoy the resulting chaos.

Chaos is the declared goal, and it's been working beautifully for 70 years. China is expanding empire in Africa and Asia the old-fashioned way, improving farms and factories in order to have exclusive purchase of their output. I'm not sure that most of the citizens in those European countries we occupy actually support our permanent military presence in their countries.

None of them are asking for a greater presence in their country except Poland while being perfectly happy with our alliance, joint defense, trade, intelligence and technology sharing. It is only Israel and Saudi Arabia which are constantly pushing the US into middle eastern wars and quagmires that we have no national interest. Trump sees the plain truth that the US is in jeopardy of losing its manufacturing and its technological lead to China. Seminole Nation , 5 hours ago. Nadler:Corey what time is it? Corey :It's 2pm.

Nadler: The clock shows Charge Corey for lying to Congress! All a gotcha game by a group of angry haters. Nadler provides so much comic relief!!!! He is definitely one of my all time favorite oafs. If that were good for the left they wouldn't shut up about it. This is another witch hunt with attempt to deceive. Can't even follow the House rules. The saga of daring escape by a supposed Russian CIA agent from the Kremlin's clutches and then the added twist of a security-risk American president putting the agent's life in danger does indeed sound like a pulp fiction novel, as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov put it.

Any chance to damage this president and they grab it. Also, perhaps more importantly, these media are desperate to salvage their shot-through journalistic credibility since the "Russiagate" narrative they had earnestly propagated died a death, after the two-year Mueller circus finally left town empty-handed. This damage to supposed bastions of US journalism cannot be overstated.

That means those media responsible for the "Russiagate" nonsense have forfeited that precious quality — credibility. They no longer deserve to be categorized as news services, and are more appropriately now listed as fiction peddlers. So when they got the chance to seemingly resurrect their buried "Russiagate" yarn with this latest fable about agent Oleg Smolenkov being exfiltrated from Russia to the US, they leapt at it because their equally buried reputations are also at stake.

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As far as we can tell, an anonymous intelligence source started the ball rolling. Both are hangouts for the anti-Trump media since they lost their intel jobs at the beginning of , and both are believed to have seeded the "Russiagate" narrative in from before Trump was elected. Notably, the current CIA assessment of the latest US media reporting on the exfiltrated spy is that the reporting is "false" and "misguided".

In particular, the CNN spin that the agent Smolenkov had to be extricated from Russia in because Langley feared that Trump may have endangered the supposed Kremlin mole when he hosted Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House in May He was head of the CIA during Admittedly, Pompeo is a self-confessed liar. It is claimed that Smolenkov confirmed allegations about a Putin-directed plot to interfere in US presidential elections. The agent is said to have also confirmed that Putin allegedly ordered the hacking of the Democratic party's central database to obtain scandalous material on Hillary Clinton which was then fed to the Wikileaks whistleblower site for the purpose of scuttling her bid for the presidency in November , thus favoring Trump.

Smolenkov was allegedly providing this information on a purported Kremlin interference campaign in Smolenkov and his family disappeared while on a holiday in Montenegro in June Curiously, public records showed the house purchase was in their names, which seems odds for a supposed top-level spy, who had apparently committed extreme betrayal against the Kremlin, to be living openly. The family apparently fled the house to unknown whereabouts on September 9 after the story about his alleged spy role broke this week. Who is Oleg Smolenkov? The Kremlin said this week that he previously worked in the presidential administration, but he was sacked "several years ago".

He did not have direct access to President Putin's office, according to the Kremlin. For his part, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says he never heard of the man before, never mind ever having met him. It is understood that Smolenkov previously worked in the Russian embassy in Washington under ambassador Yuri Ushakov Smolenkov reportedly continued working for Ushakov when the diplomat returned to Moscow after his ambassadorial tenure in the US. But we assume that the Kremlin's assessment is correct; he did not have a senior position or access to Putin's office.

By contrast, the US media are claiming Smolenkov was "one of the CIA's most valuable assets" in the Kremlin and that he was providing confirmatory information that Putin was allegedly running an interference campaign to subvert the US presidential elections. The discerning detail as to the truth of the imbroglio is revealed by the US media claims that Smolenkov corroborated the alleged hacking into the Democratic party database in However, that specific allegation has been disproven by several top hacker experts, notably William Binney who was formerly technical head at the US National Security Agency.

There was no hacking. The damaging information on Hillary Clinton was leaked by a Democratic party insider, possibly Seth Rich, who soon after was shot dead by an unknown attacker. In short, the entire narrative about the Kremlin hacking into the Democratic party is a fiction. The premise to "Russiagate" is baseless. Thus, if Smolenkov is peddling fiction to his former handlers in the CIA, that means he has no credibility as a "top mole". Again, opportunism is the key. Somebody came up with a lurid story about "Russian interference" in US democracy and "collusion" with Trump.

Maybe it was Smolenkov who saw an opportunity to win a big pay day from his CIA patrons by flogging them a blockbuster. Or maybe, Brennan and Clapper known liars in the public record dreamt up a scheme of Kremlin malignancy to benefit Trump, and if that could be tied to Trump then his election would be discredited and nullified. But what they needed was a "Kremlin source" to "corroborate" their readymade story of "Russian interference". Step forward Oleg Smolenkov — fired and out of work — to do the needful "corroboration" and in return he gets a new life for himself and family with a mansion in a leafy Virginian suburb.

CNN, NY Times, Washington Post, Brennan and Clapper are so much damaged goods from past failure of "Russiagate" fabrications, they find an opportunity to salvage their disgraced names by outing the hapless Smolenkov at this juncture. There is a sinister similarity here to the Sergei Skripal case in England. Is Smolenkov being set up for hit which can then be conveniently blamed on Russia as "revenge" by the Russophobic, anti-Trump, deep state US media?

A retired Australian diplomat who served in Moscow dissects the emergence of the new Cold War and its dire consequences. I n , we saw violent U. In February, after months of increasing tension from the anti-Russian protest movement's sitdown strike in Kiev's Maidan Square, there was a murderous clash between protesters and Ukrainian police, sparked off by hidden shooters we now know that were expert Georgian snipers , aiming at police.

The elected government collapsed and President Yanukevich fled to Russia, pursued by murder squads.

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The new Poroshenko government pledged harsh anti-Russian language laws. Rebels in two Russophone regions in Eastern Ukraine took local control, and appealed for Russian military help. In March, a referendum took place in Russian-speaking Crimea on leaving Ukraine, under Russian military protection. Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, a request promptly granted by the Russian Parliament and President. Crimea's border with Ukraine was secured against saboteurs. Crimea is prospering under its pro-Russian government, with the economy kick-started by Russian transport infrastructure investment.

In April, Poroshenko ordered full military attack on the separatist provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine. A brutal civil war ensued, with aerial and artillery bombardment bringing massive civilian death and destruction to the separatist region. There was major refugee outflow into Russia and other parts of Ukraine. The shootdown of MH17 took place in July By August , according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates, 13, people had been killed and 30, wounded.

There is now a military stalemate, under the stalled Minsk peace process. But random fatal clashes continue, with the Ukrainian Army mostly blamed by UN observers. The UN reported last month that the ongoing war has affected 5. Most Russians blame the West for fomenting Ukrainian enmity towards Russia. This war brings back for older Russians horrible memories of the Nazi invasion in The Russia-Ukraine border is only kilometres from Moscow. Russian forces joined the civil war in Syria in September , at the request of the Syrian Government, faltering under the attacks of Islamist extremist rebel forces reinforced by foreign fighters and advanced weapons.

With Russian air and ground support, the tide of war turned. Palmyra and Aleppo were recaptured in The 48th Fighter Wing sent an additional six aircraft and more than 50 personnel to support NATO's air policing mission in Lithuania, at the request of U. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Both sides' naval and air forces play dangerous brinksmanship games in the Baltic. They are easily convertible to nuclear-armed missiles aimed at nearby Russia. Nuclear arms control talks have stalled.

The INF intermediate nuclear forces treaty expired in , after both sides accused the other of cheating. In March , Putin announced that Russia has developed new types of intercontinental nuclear missiles using technologies that render U. The West has pretended to ignore this announcement, but we can be sure Western defence ministries have noted it. Nuclear second-strike deterrence has returned, though most people in the West have forgotten what this means.

Russians know exactly what it means. Western economic sanctions against Russia continue to tighten after the events in Ukraine. The U. In , my children gave me an Ipad. I began to spend several hours a day reading well beyond traditional mainstream Western sources: British and American dissident sites, writers like Craig Murray in UK and in the U. Stephen Cohen, and some Russian sites — rt.

In late I decided to visit Russia independently to write Return to Moscow , a literary travel memoir. I planned to compare my impressions of the Soviet Union, where I had lived and worked as an Australian diplomat in , with Russia today. I knew there had been huge changes. I wanted to experience 'Putin's Russia' for myself, to see how it felt to be there as an anonymous visitor in the quiet winter season.

I wanted to break out of the familiar one-dimensional hostile political view of Russia that Western mainstream media offer: to take my readers with me on a cultural pilgrimage through the tragedy and grandeur and inspiration of Russian history. As with my earlier book on Spain 'Walking the Camino' , this was not intended to be a political book, and yet somehow it became one. I was still uncommitted on contemporary Russian politics before going to Russia in January Using the metaphor of a seesaw, I was still sitting somewhere around the middle.

My book was written in late — early , expertly edited by UWA Publishing. It was launched in March By this time my political opinions had moved decisively to the Russian end of the seesaw, on the basis of what I had seen in Russia, and what I had read and thought during the year. I have been back again twice, in winter and I thoroughly enjoyed all three independent visits: in my opinion, they give my judgements on Russia some depth and authenticity.

Russia was a big talking point in the U. As the initially unlikely Republican candidate Donald Trump's chances improved, anti-Putin and anti-Russian positions hardened in the outgoing Obama administration and in the Democratic Party establishment which backed candidate Hillary Clinton.

Russia and Putin became caught up in the Democratic Party's increasingly obsessive rage and hatred against the victorious Trump. Russophobia became entrenched in Washington and London U. All sense of international protocol and diplomatic propriety towards Russia and its President was abandoned, as this appalling Economist cover from October shows. My experience of undeclared political censorship in Australia since four months after publication of 'Return to Moscow' supports the thesis that:. We are now in the thick of a ruthless but mostly covert Anglo-American alliance information war against Russia.

In this war, individuals who speak up publicly in the cause of detente with Russia will be discouraged from public discourse. When I spoke to you two years ago, I had no idea how far-reaching and ruthless this information war is becoming. I knew that a false negative image of Russia was taking hold in the West, even as Russia was becoming a more admirable and self-confident civil society, moving forward towards greater democracy and higher living standards, while maintaining essential national security.

I did not then know why, or how. I had just had time to add a few final paragraphs in my book about the possible consequences for Russia-West relations of Trump's surprise election victory in November I was right to be cautious, because since Trump's inauguration we have seen the step-by-step elimination of any serious pro-detente voices in Washington, and the reassertion of control over this haphazard president by the bipartisan imperial U.

Bolton has now been thrown from the sleigh as decoy for the wolves: under the smooth-talking Pompeo, the imperial policies remain. Let me now turn to some theory about political reality and perception, and how national communities are persuaded to accept false narratives. Let me acknowledge my debt to the fearless and brilliant Australian independent online journalist, Caitlin Johnstone. Behavioural scientists have worked in the field of what used to be called propaganda since WW1. England has always excelled in this field. Modern wars are won or lost not just on the battlefield, but in people's minds.

Propaganda, or as we now call it information warfare, is as much about influencing people's beliefs within your own national community as it is about trying to demoralise and subvert the enemy population. The IT revolution of the past few years has exponentially magnified the effectiveness of information warfare. Already in the s, George Orwell understood how easily governments are able to control and shape public perceptions of reality and to suppress dissent. His brilliant books and Animal Farm are still instruction manuals in principles of information warfare. Their plots tell of the creation by the state of false narratives, with which to control their gullible populations.

The disillusioned Orwell wrote from his experience of real politics. As a volunteer fighter in the Spanish Civil War, he saw how both Spanish sides used false news and propaganda narratives to demonise the enemy. He also saw how the Nazi and Stalinist systems in Germany and Russia used propaganda to support show trials and purges, the concentration camps and the Gulag, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, German master race and Stalinist class enemy ideologies; and hows dissident thought was suppressed in these controlled societies.

Orwell tried to warn his readers: all this could happen here too, in our familiar old England. But because the good guys won the war against fascism, his warnings were ignored. We are now in Britain, U. The essence of information control is the effective state management of two elements, trust and fear , to generate and uphold a particular view of truth. Truth, trust and fear : these are the three key elements, now as years ago in WWI Britain. People who work or have worked close to government — in departments, politics, the armed forces, or top universities — mostly accept whatever they understand at the time to be 'the government view' of truth.

Whether for reasons of organisational loyalty, career prudence or intellectual inertia, it is usually this way around governments. It is why moral issues like the Vietnam War and the U. They were expected to engage in 'doublethink' as Orwell had described it:.

Even in Winston's nightmare world, there were still choices — to retreat into the non-political world of the proles, or to think forbidden thoughts and read forbidden books. These choices involved large risks and punishments. It was easier and safer for most people to acquiesce in the fake news they were fed by state-controlled media. Here is my main point: Effective information warfare requires the creation of enough public trust to make the public believe that state-supported lies are true.

The key tools are repetition of messages, and diversification of trusted voices. Once a critical mass is created of people believing a false narrative, the lie locks in: its dissemination becomes self-sustaining. Caitlin Johnstone a few days ago put it this way:. Absolute power is being able to control what people think about what happens.

If you can control what happens, you can have power until the public gets sick of your BS and tosses you out on your ass. If you can control what people think about what happens, you can have power forever. As long as you can control how people are interpreting circumstances and events, there's no limit to the evils you can get away with. The Internet has made propaganda campaigns that used to take weeks or months a matter of hours or even minutes to accomplish.

It is about getting in quickly, using large enough clusters of trusted and diverse sources, in order to cement lies in place, to make the lies seem true, to magnify them through social messaging: in other words, to create credible false narratives that will quickly get into the public's bloodstream. Over the past two years, I have seen this work many times: on issues like framing Russia for the MH17 tragedy; with false allegations of Assad mounting poison gas attacks in Syria; with false allegations of Russian agents using lethal Novichok to try to kill the Skripals in Salisbury; and with the multiple lies of Russiagate.

It is the mind-numbing effect of constant repetition of disinformation by many eminent people and agencies, in hitherto trusted channels like the BBC or ABC or liberal Anglophone print media that gives the system its power to persuade the credulous. For if so many diverse and reputable people repeatedly report such negative news and express such negative judgements about Russia or China or Iran or Syria, surely they must be right? There is no real public debate on important facts in contention any more. There are no venues for dissent outside contrarian social media sites. Sometimes, false narratives inter-connect.

Often a disinformation narrative in one area is used to influence perceptions in other areas. For example, the false Skripals poisoning story was launched by British intelligence in March , just in time to frame Syrian President Assad as the guilty party in a faked chemical weapons attack in Douma the following month. In the event, hundreds of thousands of Western sports fans returned home with the warmest memories of Russian good sportsmanship and hospitality.

How do I know the British Skripals narrative is false? For a start, it is illogical, incoherent, and constantly changes. Allegedly, two visiting Russian FSB agents in March sprayed or smeared Novichok, a deadly toxin instantly lethal in the most microscopic quantities, on the Skripals' house front doorknob.

There is no video footage of the Skripals at their front door on the day. We are told they were found slumped on a park bench, and that is maybe where they had been sprayed with nerve gas? Shortly afterwards, Britain's Head of Army Nursing who happened to be passing by found them, and supervised their hospitalisation and emergency treatment. Allegedly, much of Salisbury was contaminated by Novichok, and one unfortunate woman mysteriously died weeks later, yet the Skripals somehow did not die, as we are told.

But where are they now? We saw a healthy Yulia in a carefully scripted video interview released in May , after an alleged 'one in a million' recovery. We were assured her father had recovered too, but nobody has seen him at all. The Skripals have simply disappeared from sight since 16 months ago. Are they now alive or dead? Are they in voluntary or involuntary British custody? A month after the poisoning, the UK Government sent biological samples from the Skripals to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons , for testing.

He also revealed the Spiez lab had found that the Skripal samples had been twice tampered with while still in UK custody: first soon after the poisoning, and again shortly before passing them to the OPCW. He said the Spiez lab had found a high concentration of Novichok, which he called A- , in its original form.

This was extremely suspicious as A has high volatility and could not have retained its purity over a two weeks period. The dosage the Spiez lab found in the samples would have surely killed the Skripals. These two FSB operatives who visited Salisbury under the false identities of 'Boshirov' and 'Petrov' did not look or behave like credible assassins.

It is more likely that they were sent to negotiate with Sergey Skripal about his rumoured interest in returning to Russia.

The day Boris Yeltsin said goodbye to Russia - BBC News

They needed to apply for UK visas a month in advance of travel: ample time for the British agencies to identify them as FSB operatives, and to construct a false attempted assassination narrative around their visit. This false narrative repeatedly trips over its own lies and contradictions. British social media are full of alternative theories and rebuttals. Russians find the whole British Government Skripal narrative laughable. They have invented comedy skits and video games based on it. Yet it had major impact on Russia-West relations. I turn now to the claimed Assad chemical weapons attack in Douma in April Thanks to the restraint of the then Secretary of Defence James Mattis and his Russian counterparts, the risk was contained.

Unravelling the Putin Myth: Strong or Weak Caesar?

The allegation that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used outlawed chemical weapons against his own people was based solely on the evidence of faked video images of child victims, made by the discredited White Helmets, a UK-sponsored rebel-linked 'humanitarian' propaganda organisation with much blood on its hands.

Founded in by a British private security specialist of intelligence background, James Le Mesurier, the White Helmets specialised in making fake videos of alleged Assad regime war crimes against Syrian civilians. It is by now a thoroughly discredited organisation that was prepared to kill its prisoners and then film their bodies as alleged victims of government chemical attacks. As the town of Douma was about to fall to advancing Syrian Government forces, the White Helmets filled a room with stacked corpses of murdered prisoners, and photographed them as alleged victims of aerial gas attack.

They also made a video alleging child victims of this attack being hosed down by White Helmets. A video of a child named Hassan Diab went viral all over the Western world.

Putin's revenge

Hassan Diab later testified publicly in The Hague that he had been dragged terrified from his family by force, smeared with some sort of grease, and hosed down with water as part of a fake video. He went from hero to zero overnight, as Western governments and media rejected his testimony as Russian and Syrian propaganda. In a late development, there is proof that the OPCW suppressed its own engineers' report from Douma that the alleged poison gas cylinders could not have possibly been dropped from the air through the roof of the house where one was found, resting on a bed under a convenient hole in the roof.

I could go on discussing the detail of such false narratives all day. No matter how often they are exposed by critics, our politicians and mainstream media go on referencing them as if they are true. Once people have come to believe false narratives, it is hard to refute them.

So it is with the false narrative that Russian internet interference enabled Trump to win the U. So, even, with MH This mounting climate of Western Russophobia is not accidental: it is strategically directed, and it is nourished with regular maintenance doses of fresh lies.

Each round of lies provides a credible platform for the next round somewhere else. The common thread is a claimed malign Russian origin for whatever goes wrong. So where is all this disinformation originating? Information technology firms in Washington and London that are closely networked into government elites, often through attending the same establishment schools or colleges like Eton and Yale, have closely studied and tested the science of influencing crowd opinions through mainstream media and online. They know, in a way that Orwell or Goebbels could hardly have dreamt, how to put out and repeat desired media messages.

They know what sizes of 'internet attraction nodes' need to be established online, in order to create diverse critical masses of credible Russophobic messaging, which then attracts enough credulous and loyal followers to become self-propagating. There are many similar firms in Washington, all in the business of monitoring, generating and managing mass opinion.

It is big business, and it works closely with the national security state. Starting in November , an enterprising group of unknown hackers in the UK , who go by the name 'Anonymous', opened a remarkable window into this secret world. Over a few weeks, they hacked and dumped online a huge volume of original documents issued by and detailing the activities of the Institute for Statecraft IfS and the Integrity initiative II. Here is the first page of one of their dumps, exposing propaganda against Jeremy Corbyn.

We know from this material that the IfS and II are two secret British disinformation networks operating at arms' length from but funded by the UK security services and broader UK government establishment. They bring together high-ranking military and intelligence personnel, often nominally retired, journalists and academics, to produce and disseminate propaganda that serves the agendas of the UK and its allies.

Stung by these massive leaks, Chris Donnelly, a key figure in IfS and II and a former British Army intelligence officer, made a now famous seven-minute YouTube video in December , artfully filmed in a London kitchen, defending their work. He argued — quite unconvincingly in my opinion — that IfS and II are simply defending Western societies against disinformation and malign influence, primarily from Russia.

He boasted how they have set up in numerous targeted European countries, claimed to be under attack from Russian disinformation, what he called 'clusters of influence' , to 'educate' public opinion and decision-makers in pro-NATO and anti-Russian directions. Donnelly spoke frankly on how the West is already at war with Russia, a 'new kind of warfare', in which he said 'everything becomes a weapon'. He said that 'disinformation is the issue which unites all the other weapons in this conflict and gives them a third dimension'.

We can confirm from the Anonymous leaked files the names of many people in Europe being recruited into these clusters of influence. They tend to be significant people in journalism, publishing, universities and foreign policy think-tanks: opinion-shapers. The leaked documents suggest how ideologically suitable candidates are identified: approached for initial screening interviews; and, if invited to join a cluster of influence, sworn to secrecy.

Remarkably, neither the Anonymous disclosures nor the Donnelly response have ever been reported in Australian media. Even in Britain — where evidence that the Integrity Initiative was mounting a campaign against [Labour leader] Jeremy Corbyn provoked brief media interest. The story quickly disappeared from mainstream media and the BBC.

A British under-foreign secretary admitted in Parliamentary Estimates that the UK Foreign Office subsidises the Institute of Statecraft to the tune of nearly 3 million pounds per year. It also gives various other kinds of non-monetary assistance, e. This is not about traditional spying or seeking agents of influence close to governments. It is about generating mass disinformation, in order to create mass climates of belief. In my opinion, such British and American disinformation efforts, using undeclared clusters of influence, through Five Eyes intelligence-sharing, and possibly with the help of British and American diplomatic missions, may have been in operation in Australia for many years.

Such networks may have been used against me since around mid, to limit the commercial outreach of my book and the impact of its dangerous ideas on the need for East-West detente; and efficiently to suppress my voice in Australian public discourse about Russia and the West. Do I have evidence for this? It is not coincidence that the Melbourne Writers Festival in August somehow lost all my sign-and-sell books from my sold-out scheduled speaking event; that a major debate with [Australian writer and foreign policy analyst] Bobo Lo at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne was cancelled by his Australian sponsor, the Lowy institute, two weeks before the advertised date; that my last invitation to any writers festival was 15 months ago, in May ; that Return to Moscow was not shortlisted for any Australian book prize, though I entered it in all of them ; that since my book's early promotion ended around August , I have not been invited to join any ABC discussion panels, or to give any talks on Russia in any universities or institutes, apart from the admirable Australian Institute of International Affairs and the ISAA.

My articles and shorter opinion commentaries on Russia and the West have not been published in mainstream media or in reputable online journals like Eureka Street, The Conversation, Inside Story or Australian Book Review. In early , I was invited to give a private briefing to a group of senior students travelling on an immersion course to Russia. I was not invited back in , after high-level private advice within ANU that I was regarded as too pro-Putin. In all these ways — none overt or acknowledged — my voice as an open-minded writer and speaker on Russia-West relations seems to have been quietly but effectively suppressed in Australia.

I would like to be proved wrong on this, but the evidence is there. This may be about "velvet-glove deterrence" of my Russia-sympathetic voice and pen, in order to discourage others, especially those working in or close to government. Nobody is going to put me in jail, unless I am stupid enough to violate Australia's now strict foreign influence laws. This deterrence is about generating fear of consequences for people still in their careers, paying their mortgages, putting kids through school. Nobody wants to miss their next promotion.

There are other indications that Australian national security elite opinion has been indoctrinated prudently to fear and avoid any kind of public discussion of positive engagement with Russia or indeed, with China. There are only two kinds of news about Russia now permitted in our mainstream media, including the ABC and SBS: negative news and comment, or silence.

Unless a story can be given an anti-Russian sting, it will not be carried at all. Important stories are simply spiked, like last week's Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivistok, chaired by President Putin and attended by Prime Ministers Abe, Mahathir and Modi, among participants from 65 countries. There were no other views. A powerful anti-Russian news narrative is now firmly in place in Australia, on every topic in contention: Ukraine, MH17, Crimea, Syria, the Skripals, Navalny and public protest in Russia. There is ill-informed criticism of Russia, or silence, on the crucial issues of arms control and Russia-China strategic and economic relations as they affect Australia's national security or economy.

There is no analysis of the negative impact on Australia of economic sanctions against Russia. There is almost no discussion of how improved relations with China and Russia might contribute to Australia's national security and economic welfare, as American influence in the world and our region declines, and as American reliability as an ally comes more into question. Silence on inconvenient truths is an important part of the disinformation tool kit. I see two overall conflicting narratives — the prevailing Anglo-American false narrative; and valiant efforts by small groups of dissenters, drawing on sources outside the Anglo-American official narrative, to present another narrative much closer to truth.

And this is how most Russians now see it too. Trump left that summit friendless, frightened and humiliated. He soon surrendered to the power of the U. Pompeo now smoothly dominates Trump's foreign policy. Finally, let me review the American political casualties over the past two years — self-inflicted wounds — arising from this secret information war against Russia. Let me list them without prejudging guilt or innocence. Slide 20 — Self-inflicted wounds: casualties of anti-Russian information warfare. Trump's first National Security Adviser, the highly decorated Michael Flynn lost his job after only three weeks, and soon went to jail.

Russia Under Yeltsin and Putin: Neo-Liberal Autocracy (Transnational Institute Series)

Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon lasted only seven months. Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is now in jail. Defence Secretary James Mattis lasted nearly two years as Secretary of Defence, and was an invaluable source of strategic stability.