Tag: Putin

The Fable of Edward Snowden

Tuesday, 3 January, 2017 0 Comments

Book of the Year? It’s a bit premature at this point to be talking about annual awards but How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft by Edward Jay Epstein will be a contender for the title come the end of 2017.

How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft Epstein gave the world a preview in the Wall Street Journal on Friday and the subhead encapsulated the story: “As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.” Snippet:

“The transfer of state secrets from Mr. Snowden to Russia did not occur in a vacuum. The intelligence war did not end with the termination of the Cold War; it shifted to cyberspace. Even if Russia could not match the NSA’s state-of-the-art sensors, computers and productive partnerships with the cipher services of Britain, Israel, Germany and other allies, it could nullify the U.S. agency’s edge by obtaining its sources and methods from even a single contractor with access to Level 3 documents.

Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets — the provider of secret data is considered an ‘espionage source.’ By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden.”

He’s a thief and a traitor, is Mr Snowden.


Putin, perfidy and pastry

Saturday, 23 April, 2016 2 Comments

There are many compelling reasons to read Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews. Perfidy is one. The villainy of Russia under Putin is well documented by non-Russian media, but it acquires a new pungency in a fiction that mirrors fact. Snippet:

“What fuelled the Kremlin kleptocracy, what motivated it, was not to bring back the Soviet Union, nor to reinstall the worldwide dread generated by the Red Army, nor to formulate a foreign policy based on national security requirements. In Russia today, everything happened to maintain the nadzirateli, the overseers, to protect their power, to continue looting the country’s patrimony.”

The characters in Palace of Treason ping-pong around the world — from Paris to Moscow to Athens to Vienna to Washington — as they attempt to steal secrets and outdo each other in a deadly game of influence zones, encompassing Europe and the Middle East. All of this activity demands feeding and Jason Matthews has come up with a novel touch: each chapter ends with a short recipe for one of the delicacies consumed by the protagonists. When an Iranian nuclear scientist is caught in a honey trip, he’s served shirini keshmeshi: Persian pastries dotted with raisins. “Jamshedi goggled at the cakes. Here he was, sitting with a blackmailing Russian intelligence officer, spilling his country’s secrets, and this prostitute was serving him the confection of this childhood.”

Palace of Treason recipe for shirini keshmeshi: “Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, melted butter, vegetable oil and eggs. Add saffron diluted in warm water, small raisins, and vanilla extract. Blend well. Put dollops of dough on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan and bake in a medium oven until golden brown.”

Palace of Treason


Occupied: Cold horror

Sunday, 22 November, 2015 0 Comments

Present: Norway supplies 30 percent of the European Union’s natural gas imports and 10 percent of its crude oil imports. Future: The US is no longer a member of NATO, fossil fuel reserves are running low and a new Norwegian Prime Minister has decided that his country will switch from oil and gas to alternative energy options. Faced with this crisis, Brussels turns to Moscow for muscle and thus Okkupert (Occupied) begins.

Conceived by Jo Nesbø, the best-selling Oslo-based writer, Occupied is the most expensive TV series ever produced in Norwegian and it is excellent. The scenery is cold, the colours are cold, the occupiers are cold and the horror is cold. With winter at hand, Occupied forces us to ask ourselves what we would tolerate to stay warm. The dismemberment of Ukraine? By the way, Nesbø had the idea long before Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, but the story reveals the unease that many of Russia’s neighbors feel. It’s cold up north. Occupied is now showing on Arte, the Franco-German TV network.


Corbyn and the #JezWeCan crazies

Wednesday, 19 August, 2015 0 Comments

Corbyn “Jez we can! Corbyn draws thunderous support on rainy day”. So reports the Guardian about what actually was a very rainy day in rainy Middlesbrough. Here, at the HQ of the real Rainy Day, there’s no such support.

“Forget, if you like, Corbyn’s regular appearances on the TV channel RT, a state tool of Putinist propaganda; gloss over talk of his ‘friends’ in Hamas and Hezbollah, whom he defended on the grounds that he merely wanted all parties to be involved in negotiations with Israel. Put aside, even, his membership of the famously pro-Assad ‘Stop the War Coalition.'” That’s David Patrikarakos in POLITICO and “God’s gift to the Tories” is how he describes the Labour-leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, the Corbynites and their Obama-inspired #JezWeCan hashtag campaign.

“It is absurd, and it is disastrous: both for the party and for the country,” adds Patrikarakos, noting: “It’s all deeply disturbing of course. But it’s hardly surprising. The left has been indulging dictators and theocrats for almost as long as there has been a left. I don’t like it, but I understand it.”

Hope and change? The loony lefty is winning.

Private Eye


Georgi Derluguian’s recast of Russia in 2001

Tuesday, 4 August, 2015 0 Comments

“If Putin emerges as even a moderately successful ruler, the likely outcome over the next ten years will be a protectionist, semi-authoritarian, inescapably corrupt but somewhat better-off Russia, helping to police the remnants of an unstable former empire. The West has every reason to look to it for assistance in keeping this part of the world under the lid. Naturally, whatever else endures on either side of the Oxus, it is unlikely to be freedom.”

Prophetic words, indeed, and all the more impressive when one considers that they were written in the late autumn of 2001 by Georgi Derluguian. His “Recasting Russia” appeared in the New Left Review. Here’s another valuable snippet:

“The Russian state faces perhaps uniquely acute dilemmas today, not simply because of its abrupt shrinkage in size, but because its major assets and traditional orientations have been devalued. Capitalism in its globalized mode is antithetical to the mercantilist bureaucratic empires that specialized in maximizing military might and geopolitical throw-weight—the very pursuits in which Russian and Soviet rulers have been enmeshed for centuries.”

Those who where such enthusiastic proponents of the failed “reset” should consider a realistic “recast”.


Russia vetoes UN resolution on MH17 crash tribunal

Wednesday, 29 July, 2015 0 Comments

This just in: Russia has vetoed a United Nations draft resolution seeking to set up an international criminal tribunal into the MH17 air tragedy in Ukraine. With this veto, Russia has now declared itself to be an international thug.

In the bad old days of the Soviet Union there was only one “truth”. Today, in the frightening Putin era, there are several “truths”.

The young Ukrainian journalist Tetiana Matychak is the editor-in-chief of Stopfake.org, which exposes Russian propaganda und lies. But it isn’t an easy task as Moscow doesn’t broadcast one message anymore but several different ones. Now, there are numerous versions of each Kremlin story, and that’s how it was with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Initially, the plane crashed mysteriously. Then, it was shot down by Ukrainian forces, or the Americans, or there was a bomb on board. Readers and viewers end up confused because the latest version of the story calls the previous one into question.

The ultimate Russian goal is clear: There is no truth.


FIFA officials were “Russia’s people”

Friday, 5 June, 2015 0 Comments

The FIFA scandal is breaking news, as they say, so anything published on 29 May looks decidedly old by now. Still, Putin and the FIFA scandal by Kadri Liik for the European Council on Foreign Relations offers useful background and insight on how corruption has become “a constituent pillar of the system” in FIFA/Russia: “If a free press in the West is a means by which societies can control their elites and rulers, then in Russia corruption is the means by which the Kremlin can control the elites as well as societies. It is used in an almost institutionalized manner.”

And this brings us to Blatter and Putin, two sides of a very bent coin. Snippet:

“This system explains why Putin reacted to the FIFA scandal as he did. It is hard to say whether Russia bribed FIFA; however it is evident that an implicit but very clear mutual understanding was established between Russia’s and FIFA’s leadership. So for the purposes of the situation, FIFA officials were ‘Russia’s people,’ and Western authorities had launched an attack on them. For Putin, that means effectively an attack on Russia — an attempt to impose alien rules if not exactly within Russia’s jurisdictional boundaries, then at least in the sphere where rules established by Russia carry the day.”

The FIFA scandal is much bigger than football. It is now about international relations. Putin was unable to save Sepp Blatter and that sends a chilling message to those who want to believe that America no longer carries a big stick. You know all that Kremlin guff that gushes out of the Russia Today sewer? It sounds far less convincing now.


Boris Nemtsov and the tyrant

Sunday, 1 March, 2015 0 Comments

In his final interview, hours before he was shot dead on Friday night, Boris Nemtsov said that he was a patriot, but one who regarded the Russian flag as a “symbol of freedom” from Soviet tyranny. Vladimir Putin has revived that tyranny by creating an atmosphere of hatred, driven by an hysterical propaganda offensive that portrays opponents as traitors. Boris Nemtsov, who “died in the streets”, just outside the Kremlin, is the latest victim of the evil that W. H. Auden so brilliantly depicted during a former age of tyranny. It is a tragedy that Russia is again ruled by such wickedness.

Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

W. H. Auden (1907 – 1973)

The Tyrant


And the Oscar for best foreign-language film…

Sunday, 22 February, 2015 0 Comments

… goes to Leviathan. Well, that’s what we hope. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s film exudes contempt for modern Russia. Its story of corruption and cruelty is an indictment of the entire system. A win for Leviathan tonight in Los Angeles will be a black eye for the Putin regime and a victory for creativity. How the characters in the film feel about their country’s perverted history in captured is one of the film’s best scenes: a picnic with some local policemen, lots of bottles of vodka, semi-automatic weapons and an array of Soviet-era portraits — Brezhnev, Lenin, Andropov… the entire gallery of thugs.

Vladimir Medinsky, the Russian Minister of Culture, has called for new guidelines to ban films like Leviathan, which “defile” Russia and her culture.” Leviathan is a glorious defiling; a film that reviles what it loves with grief-stricken rage.


The demise of the Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 18 February, 2015 0 Comments

“On 22 September Telegraph online ran a story about a woman with three breasts. One despairing executive told me that it was known this was false even before the story was published. I have no doubt it was published in order to generate online traffic, at which it may have succeeded. I am not saying that online traffic is unimportant, but over the long term, however, such episodes inflict incalculable damage on the reputation of the paper.”

So writes Peter Oborne, the former chief political commentator of the Telegraph. His account of the demise of a once-great newspaper is painful to read, but Why I have resigned from the Telegraph must be read by all who value press freedom. Before addressing the scandals that forced his hand, Oborne documents the small but significant erosions of standards in the newsroom:

“Solecisms, unthinkable until very recently, are now commonplace. Recently readers were introduced to someone called the Duke of Wessex. Prince Edward is the Earl of Wessex. There was a front page story about deer-hunting. It was actually about deer-stalking, a completely different activity. Obviously the management don’t care about nice distinctions like this. But the readers do, and the Telegraph took great care to get these things right until very recently.”

The abandonment of quality was quickly followed by a surrender of principle. Peter Oborne makes his case by citing examples of the paper’s cowardly response to the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong and its own suppression of the HSBC scandal. Both are profoundly shocking. “A free press is essential to a healthy democracy,” Oborne says and he reminds us that, “There is a purpose to journalism, and it is not just to entertain. It is not to pander to political power, big corporations and rich men. Newspapers have what amounts in the end to a constitutional duty to tell their readers the truth.”

The greater tragedy here is that the perversion of the Telegraph is happening at a time when Vladimir Putin is demonstrating that the news is just one more tool to be perverted for propaganda and disinformation. The West needs truth tellers to defeat this assault on its values and the Telegraph should be in the front line defending us at this dangerous time. Thanks to the brave intervention of Peter Oborne, we now know what needs to be done to save the Telegraph from the enemies within.


Russian word of the day: maskirovka

Monday, 9 February, 2015 0 Comments

The contours of the European response to Putin’s aggression are emerging and at this stage one can say that the strategy for the Minsk talks seems to be based on a zero-leverage approach. Athens is threatening to block new sanctions against Russia and Berlin to striving to prevent new defence aid reaching Ukraine. Grim.

Moscow, on the other hand, is deploying maskirovka: deception and propaganda. And it is winning on both fronts. Maskirovka is the trademark of Russian warfare and the word, which translates as “something masked,” was made flesh last year in the form of masked unmarked soldiers in green army uniforms carrying Russian military equipment. Those who dreamed of perpetual peace and prosperity in Europe got a rude awakening when the little green men popped up in Crimea and Ukraine. Maskirovka had arrived, and it won’t go away if all that greets it is appeasement. Before sitting down with Putin on Wednesday, Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande should brush up on the central components of maskirovka:

Dezinformatsia: disinformation
Kamufliazh: camouflage
Demonstrativnye manevry: manoeuvres intended to deceive
Skrytie: concealment
Imitatsia: the use of decoys

maskirovka in action