Democratist

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Archive for July, 2010

Obama’s Devilish Masterplan revealed

Posted by democratist on July 28, 2010

28th July 2010

This morning Democratist has been laughing at yet another (somewhat delayed) Russian attempt to gloss over the “reset” spy scandal.

The latest explanation from Robert Bridge at Russia Today is that,

In an effort to distract attention from the release of thousands of secret documents on the Afghanistan War, the US rounded up 11 Russian “spies” according to internal sources.” 

Come again?

Bridge’s un-named “internal sources”, supposedly a US “defense expert” claims;

“The White House understood it needed something really big to distract attention away from what was coming down the pipe…There was really no need for the FBI to round-up those Russians when they did unless there was some higher purpose. And that purpose…was the threat that Assange would release documents that would be extremely damaging to the war effort in Afghanistan.”

Yes of course, it’s all been a cunning smoke screen, run from the White House right from the start! There was no need for the FBI to round-up those Russians – except perhaps for the fact that they were spying on the US, and well… it’s kind of the FBI’s job to catch spies.

This is just the latest in a parade of increasingly pathetic disinformation jobs on the “reset” spy saga from RT and represents a complete U-turn from their original line after the story broke in late June, which was that the arrests were part of a plot by hawkish elements in the FBI to discredit Obama and disrupt the “reset”.

Instead, now we are to believe the opposite, i.e. that it’s all part of a White House plot to distract attention from US failings in Afghanistan; Obama was the evil mastermind behind this devilish scheme all along, because he wanted to distract attention from the wikileaks story (even though almost no one other than RT has shown any sign of interest in the spy story for some weeks).

For Democratist, the fact that RT (who one suspects get much of their information, and indeed some direction from the SVR in  Yasenevo, rather than from un-named US defense specialists) is still talking such obvious nonsense about this story, long after much of the Western media and public have packed their bags for the summer hols,  once again confirms our conjecture that the timing of the US spy arrests were part of a calculated, clever, and already very successful FBI plan to discredit the SVR both at home and abroad, and by extension Vladimir Putin and the Siloviki.

And  it would appear that Putin is doing his level best to ensure that the plan succeeds beyond the Americans wildest expectations;

Why else would he admit to having so much as met with this collection of inept failures (who according to court documents managed not to notice that they were being watched by the FBI for more than a decade), let alone make the bizarre admission that he had a drunken singalong with them to 1960’s soviet spy-tunes, while the person(s) responsible for this fiasco apparently remain happily uncaught, despite Putin’s claims that “we know who it was”?

It seems that it was this latest PR disaster, and the opportunity presented by the wikileaks story, that have sparked off this most recent round of unfocused dissembling.

Posted in Russian Espionage, US - Russia | Leave a Comment »

A reply to a reply

Posted by democratist on July 28, 2010

Dear AGT,

It seems to me one of the key areas where our arguments differ is that, as you admit, you don’t understand the Russian leadership’s current obsession with innovation.

But it seems to me that the  nomenklatura is not simply concerned about FDI and growth (which do indeed appear to be returning) but rather also with innovation, because if Russia really wants to be a serious player on the world stage in the twenty-first century (or even a regional one) then it needs to be innovating in the military, genetic, IT, telecommunications, space, and other spheres that Medvedev outlined in his recent speech.

Stealing these ideas through industrial espionage, or copying them 10 or 20 years after your rivals have come up with them (as appears to be the case with UAVs), just isn’t going to cut the mustard –  and I think that this is something the Chinese understand very well.

Additionally, I think you underestimate just how serious Russian corruption has become, you note that it’s a “problem” –  Transparency International puts Russia on a par with Zimbabwe.

State enterprises are especially susceptible to corruption (Aslund, 2008) and I would guess that this also goes some way to explaining their inability to come up with innovative products – such as UAVs. The state-led re-equipping of universities and research centers will not help much in this regard.

So there is a need to innovate. And innovation implies an accountable institutional framework, and that implies democracy.

Are the Russians ready for that? Probably not yet.

 But there is little to lose in offering the opportunity; any “backlash” would probably only result in the situation reverting to what it was until only a few months ago; it’s not like the Russians are going to start a war because the OSCE offered to observe their elections (as it has done those of almost every other member country for the past five years, including the US, UK and many others in the “West”).

They can always just effectively say “no” (again).

All the best,

Democratist

Posted in Russian Liberalization | Leave a Comment »

Encouraging Liberalization in Russia.

Posted by democratist on July 27, 2010

27th July 2010

Democratist has been reading  Samuel Charap’s article in the Washington Post (“U.S. needs to carefully plot engagement with Russia” – 23rd July 2010) with interest.

Charap suggests a number of potential benefits that might stem from enhancing US foreign policy engagement, as part of a gradualist strategy aimed at fostering the development of a more open political system in Russia, while also counteracting more regressive political forces. He sees three main benefits of improved ties;
.
  • They increase the chances that the US can express concerns about what is happening in Russia without the discussion devolving into a “shouting match.”
  • Such engagement deprives the Kremlin of the specter used to justify its turn away from open politics (the “West as the enemy at the gates”) and the removal of this should improve the position of western-backed NGO’s and increase Russian citizens’ exposure to the US and its political system.
  • Successful governmental engagement will, over time, raise the cost to the Kremlin of actions that would undermine ties.

Democratist is broadly in agreement with the notion of enhanced engagement with Russia, but remains sceptical of the likelihood of success in terms of fostering a more open Russian political system (sections of the nomenklatura have little interest in reform, and remain all to happy to return to a “shouting match” at the earliest opportunity).  We therefore offer the following suggested analysis and approach;

Democratist sees contemporary Russia as suffering from two relevant, and related problems driving the country towards some degree of liberalization; one minor and probably of only medium term relevance, and the second more significant and deeper, but both of which have the same common fundamental cause;

The first problem is the  sharp reduction in world market price for hydrocarbons since 2008 (e.g from around $100 per barrel, to about $75 now). The Russian economy suffers from a lack of diversification and is therefore remains reliant on oil, gas and minerals for 70% of exports. The recent fall in prices for these as a result of the financial crisis has resulted in some additional fiscal pressure, which will have some impact on spending over the next few years. However, this problem should be at least superficially alleviated as hydrocarbon prices recover.

The more significant longer-term problem is a pronounced and increasing national inability in the sphere of technological innovation: Russia is falling behind in terms of its industrial, technological and scientific capabilities. This has serious implications for her continued status as even a regional political, economic and military player, and has manifested itself (for example) in an inability to produce and deploy an effective  reconnaissance UAV (as demonstrated during the August 2008 war with Georgia). Genetics, space, IT, energy, and telecommunications are all other areas of concern.

It is apparently this second problem (especially in relation to the loss of military prowess) which is of greater concern for the nomenklatura, and which therefore provides greater impetus for the current reform drive.

Democratist believes that both of these problems; lack of economic diversification and technological innovation have the same fundamental cause; Russia’s truly extraordinary levels of corruption (worse than many sub-saharan African countries according to Transparency International) which extends throughout all sections of society, but which stem from the top –  because the distribution of rents on the basis of loyalty has been a central component of how the Russian government has done business, especially since 2000, as part of a corporatist economic model.

So, as we have argued, while until recently the government may have been initially hoping to resolve Russia’s lack of diversification and innovation simply by encouraging investment from the West through tax breaks and technology parks, this tactic is unlikely to have any significant effect on its own in as far as it refuses to countenance the kind of deep political reforms required to seriously address Russia’s “hypercorruption”, and thereby make the country a place where innovative Western firms would actually want to invest, and where Russia might develop its own innovative companies.

However, evidence is starting to emerge that for Medvedev at least, this stance may be changing; as George Bovt from the EU-Russia center notes; in a speech given to the Russian diplomatic corps last week, the President stated that the foreign ministry should engage in three tasks as part of his modernization agenda; the fight against organised crime, modernising the economy and most significantly, strengthening the institutions of Russian democracy and civil society.

But even if Medvedev is personally committed, the obstacles to meaningful reform remain enormous and include most prominently an authoritarian concept of the State that flourished precisely as a reaction to the supposed shortcomings of the liberalization of the 1990’s.

So, what can Western countries do to encourage potential liberalization?

We have two initial suggestions:

Firstly, Democratist urges a little restraint. We should begin by highlighting what we can’t do. Preaching at the Russians is likely to be counterproductive given the mindset of many in the nomenklatura. However, in relation to foreign investment, the main position to take is to reinforce the point that, whereas Russia may currently have a corporatist system with a high degree of political control and support for ostensibly private firms, this is generally far less the case in the West, and therefore while the tax breaks, techo-hubs and other initiatives we have seen so far are to be welcomed, it is essentially up to the Russians themselves to make their country a place where innovative Western firms will want to invest.

Secondly, if the Russians do show signs that they are starting to take such an approach seriously, the US and EU might also quietly suggest that, as an initial step they could do far worse than ensuring that the OSCE ODIHR is allowed to observe the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2011/ early 2012. These polls could potentially provide Russia with the opportunity to  demonstrate how things are beginning to change (especially in contrast to the polls in 2007/8 where the Russians deliberately sabotaged the OSCE missions). It would be easy enough to allow some limited media liberalization and reform of the electoral law, and thereby potentially allow some genuine opposition voices into the Duma, while either Medvedev or Putin would almost certainly win the presidency without need for too much recourse to the abuse of “administrative resources” or other forms of fraud. Indeed, this line of thinking may already beginning to emerge; the issue of “winning without the use of administrative clout” was mooted at a special meeting of the United Russia general council (Kommersant, 16th June 2010). However, it will take clear guidance from the top to ensure that such aspirations are observed in practice – and at the moment Democratist still fully anticipates widespread fraud in the local elections due this October (as was the case last year).

If Russia really wants to move from its current position as a raw materials supplier at the periphery of the world economy towards becoming the sort of diverse economy where innovation flourishes, it will have to develop the institutional structures required to make this a reality, and these imply democratic reform because, as Russia is now discovering, accountable institutions provide the sine qua non that supports technological innovation.

Posted in International Political Economy, OSCE, Russian Economy, Russian Liberalization, UK Foreign Policy, US - Russia | 1 Comment »

“Modern Russia.”

Posted by democratist on July 23, 2010

23rd July 2010

Democratist has been fascinated to hear that the Russian government yesterday launched a new website – run by US PR firm Ketchum – (www.modernrussia.com), aimed at informing foreigners about Russian domestic politics, the investment climate, and economic opportunities.

This is especially curious since, as regular readers will be aware, Russia already has a very well-funded (if not especially popular)  international TV channel in Russia Today (broadcasting in English, Spanish and Arabic) as well as a fairly extensive supporting website.

Could it be that the creation of Modern Russia marks the beginning of a tactical shift away from RT’s coarse anti-American propaganda, on-demand faux-pacificism, and penchant for obscurantist conspiracy theory, towards something more sensible, focused around a modernizing agenda?

And if so, who is behind it? Democratist’s initial suspicion is that the new website is a product of President Medvedev’s reform-minded Kremlin, and as such represents a potential rival for RT, which was set up under Vladimir Putin in 2005, and has so far shown little sign of any willingness to change its typically-rabid tone. 

If this is indeed the case then it seems symptomatic of Medvedev’s ongoing circumscribed  power in relation to his Prime Minister that, while the siloviki apparently retain influence over the multi-channel Russia Today, the President has been reduced to hiring a foreign PR firm to creating his own, far more modest web-based affair. 

Nevertheless, Rossiya 24 reports that the site’s creators hope that it will become a “club for discussing problems of modernization” and hope that “visitors’ active participation in internet discussions will help the government to find new ways to resolve various problems and tasks”.

And, according to Matt Stearns, Ketchum vice president, the site is meant to invite participation for people to offer commentary and solutions, which will all be posted if they aren’t angry or profane.

Democratist certainly looks forward to making a contribution. Perhaps if Mr Stearns means what he says, he will post, or link to this, and the following article?

Posted in International Political Economy, Russia Propaganda, Russian Economy | Leave a Comment »

Too Friendly in Farnborough?

Posted by democratist on July 19, 2010

19th July 2010

Democratist has been enjoying yet another fine example of Russia Today’s extraordinary cynicism, and more broadly of the inability of the Russian arms industry to come up with the sort of goods the country desperately needs if it is serious about fully re-establishing itself as even a regional military player over the next decade.

Taking a break from its usual tactic of promoting conspiracy theory as a propaganda tool (a technique employed since at least as far back as the Okhrana’s involvement in the forgery, and subsequent promotion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in 1903 – later used to scapegoat Jews for Russia’s defeat in the 1904-05 war with Japan – and much else), RT has been indulging in another tried-and-tested approach; the promotion of apparently “pacifist” causes in Western countries in a (weak and usually unsuccessful) attempt to enhance Russia’s own position.

Thus today we read on RT’s website a summary of a report criticizing the United State’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) and stating that the “drone” industry (expected to be worth $55 bn within a few years) “…is booming internationally… raising fears it will lead to increased warfare. Activists claim the cheap and easy access to the weapons could also potentially harm innocent civilians.”

The article continues in a similarly outraged vein, “Demonstrators outside CIA headquarters at the start of the year protested against indiscriminate killings by unmanned weaponry. They say that rather than winning wars, drones merely make more enemies by killing mostly innocent people, thus fuelling, rather than quelling, insurgencies.”

All of which strikes Democratist as rather odd: After all, only three weeks’ ago the channel proudly featured a report from a military expo that took place near Moscow (overseen by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin), promoting the achievements of Russia’s arms industry, and which noted that;

“Over 60 prototypes of tanks and military vehicles, UAVs are on display…The forum is being held for the first time and the main idea behind it is to promote Russia’s ever-growing weapons industry to the global market…The arms trade is an especially large business in Russia. The country is currently the second-biggest exporter of arms in the world after the US, with about 23 per cent of the market… In 2009, over US$8.5 billion worth of weapons were sold. This year it is hoped there will be more.”

Hmmm.

So, on June 30th Russian-made weapons, including UAV-prototypes are great, but by 19th July they threaten “increased warfare” and “fuel insurgencies”.  

What could possibly have changed?

Could it be that the Russian arms industry (which is apparently lagging considerably in its ability to produce and deploy an effective  UAV) didn’t quite get the orders/investment they hoping for their prototypes and are now promoting this story via RT in the (very unlikely) hope that domestic pressure in countries such as the US or UK will somehow stifle the acquisition and ongoing development of competing models until they get their act together?

Surely it is entirely coincidental that today also marks the first day of the UK’s bi-annual Farnborough Air show, where many such UAV sales might be agreed?

One thing is for sure, if Democratist was working on the development of a new Unmanned Combat Air vehicle (UCAV), such as BAE’s new Taranis project (due to start flight trials in 2011) we would be currently pushing for a greatly increased focus on personnel vetting and enhanced internal security procedures – with some urgency (no matter how good they already happen to be).

The confluence of a humiliated SVR looking to salvage their reputation within the nomenklatura (after the “reset” spy scandal), and the pronounced need for rapid technical advance in this area for the Russian military, indicates that the current likelihood of an attempt to penetrate such companies may be very high indeed.

Posted in Russia Propaganda, Russian Espionage | 2 Comments »

Democratist’s handy guide for election fraudsters.

Posted by democratist on July 14, 2010

14th July 2010

Are you the authoritarian leader of a CIS state?

You are? Well how nice! 

But tell me friend, you must surely be getting a bit sick of all those pesky OSCE ODIHR Election Observer types coming to your country ever time you have an “election,” and then announcing to all and sundry that your efforts “failed to meet international standards in the following key respects…” or some other such interfering imperialist claptrap? 

What with a wave of democratization slowly sweeping the region, and the continuing need to maintain the paper-thin facade that your vicious little police-state is “democratic” for the purpose of domestic and international legitimation (but only within the context of your own “national traditions” of course – i.e that you should be able to remain in power for as long as you like), you’ll need to make sure you’re up to date with all the latest electoral fraud techniques, so you can get the “results” you require, whilst avoiding too much international condemnation, as well as (hopefully) those tedious “colour revolutions” that rather spoiled the party for your former colleagues in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine!  

Well friend, you’ve come to the right place! Democratist’s handy, bang-up-to-the-minute guide to the techniques of contemporary electoral fraud is fully ipad compatible, and designed to give you all the tips you need to ensure a smooth transition of power…back to you! 

Here’s a selection of methods you might want to try…. 

The forgery of results protocols by District Electoral Commission staff.  

This is the simplest (and most efficient – if undiscovered) approach. You just get your political representatives (or whoever you bribed sufficiently) to make up the results at the DEC (i.e. regional or oblast) level on election night, regardless of the actual results that you received from the local polling stations!

In one recent example the Secretary of a DEC in one of the western oblasts of [name of country withheld for legal reasons] was caught taking key election materials (including a highly sensitive DEC Stamp used to validate result protocols) home with him for several days, instead of keeping them in the office in a safe, as legally required – almost certainly in order to prepare forged DEC results for use on election night. 

It is additionally important to note that this same person mentioned above had been responsible for the appointment of the DEC technical support staff in charge of sending the completed tabulation of the aggregated votes to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), and was also suspected of colluding with these technicians as part of a wider scam. Therefore the possibility of fraud committed using these technological means should not be discounted. 

But watch out! In order for this to work you have to make sure that local observers or (even worse) the OSCE don’t have access to the computer room at the DEC from which you will be sending your falsified results on election night – the best course of action is to try to ban them from entry if you can, citing unconvincing “national security” concerns. 

“Technical” candidates.  

This one is useful is you face the problem that there are still genuine opposition parties in your country that you have not yet been able to co-opt or ban. The idea is to get as much representation for your party within the District Electoral Commissions and Polling Stations (PECs) as possible without appearing to do so too obviously (therefore giving you maximum opportunity to interfere with decision-making processes at the expense of any other candidates, and hopefully facilitate the manipulation of the results). 

In order to achieve this the first thing you need to do is to create a number of “technical candidates” (candidates who have no possibility of actually winning, but because they are candidates, have the right to representation at Central Electoral Commission (CEC), DEC and PEC level). This isn’t hard to do, as there are usually plenty of people who’ll be more than happy to stand for office and look half-convincing, in return for a nice big wad of cash! 

Officially, the representatives of these people will be working for the “technical candidate,” but in fact they are working for (and being paid for – often fairly openly) by you! These technical candidate representatives can be especially useful where they have been allocated key roles within their respective electoral bodies (such as chairperson or secretary). 

But again, you’ll want to make sure that the OSCE LTO’s don’t find out what you’re up to, if they attend DEC and PEC meetings (which they are legally entitled to do as part of their remit) and meet with all the local politicos – it won’t look good when they put it in their reports. 

The mobilization of groups of voters by local clientelistic networks.  

This one is hard to detect and therefore highly recommended (under the right circumstances).

In almost all countries political and economic power are fairly closely intertwined, and this is likely to be all the more so in states where corruption is a problem and the rule of law is weak.

As you well know, if you have political power in the context of an authoritarian state, you usually also possess economic power (money that comes from politically derived control over businesses). Likewise, if you wish to maintain and develop economic power beyond a certain level, you also need political power (either directly or through the bribery of officials). 

Therefore almost all senior elected officials in your country will also eventually come to control large private business networks (or be replaced by those who do): The control of administrative structures – which also comes with political power – can therefore be used in conjunction with the control of economic power to mobilize large groups of voters in advance of an election.  

An example of this phenomenon can be seen in the activities of [details of this person (who we will call "Mr. X") withheld in order to prevent Democratist being involved in any "unexplained accidents" next time he visits "Mr. X's" country]. 

“Mr. X” was head of the Presidential administration in [his country] for a number of years. He used this position to appoint personal contacts (including family members) to positions of power within his native oblast (since many of these are appointed from the capital) thereby creating his own local “administrative vertical” and additionally developing a sizable business empire into the bargain. This means that, although he no longer held any official position, within the oblast many (if not all) members of the oblast state administration, the head of the oblast council, almost all the heads of the rayon administrations, and half of the heads of the rayon councils owed their positions to directly to “Mr. X.”. 

Each of these individuals was aware that they needed to “get out the vote” for the “right” candidate at election time (whoever “Mr. X” agreed to support, usually the incumbent) in order to keep their jobs. “Getting out the vote” was achieved by threatening to sack any state employee (teachers, doctors, university lecturers etc.) under an official’s control if they didn’t vote for the prefered candidate, and additionally by forcing state employees to make similar threats to anyone under their influence (e.g. the dean of the local university would be told to threaten his students with expulsion if they didn’t vote for the right candidate).  

Additionally,  “Mr. X” spent a certain amount of his own money on providing assistance to pensioners, school-children, low-income families, veterans etc; generosity which received plenty of airtime on local TV (which  “Mr. X” usefully owned).  

Subsequently, in the oblast as a whole,  “Mr. X” was probably able to control 15-20% of the vote, until fairly recently.

This form of manipulation is far more difficult to prove than older, cruder forms of fraud, such as ballot box stuffing and “bussing” (which are easy to spot and which we therefore no longer recommend for your more up-to-date “great leader”) because nothing illegal actually happens at the polling station – everything is prepared in advance. This technique thus marks an advance in “political technologies” over older methods, and can be used in conjunction with techniques such as “carousel voting” – which are fairly hard to detect.  

However, it is important to note that the electorate will only submit to this sort of coercion if they are fearful that the secrecy of the vote has been compromised, and that subsequently there is a good chance that someone within “the power vertical” will find out who they actually voted for, and that they really have the ability to punish the voter for their (clearly unwarranted) independence of mind. The less people fear the administrative structures, the less impact they will have (and this has unfortunately been  “Mr. X’s” experience, as his influence has notably declined in his home region over the last few years).

Long-term democratization and education projects, as well as the role of NGO’s will tend to have an insidious influence in this regard – so try to restrict their activities as far as possible.

Direct bribery.  

This is a related method of manipulation that is almost impossible to detect directly, and which has been practiced by (for example) the Roma communities in various countries for many years. In this case, the Roma clan leaders typically offer their services to each of the candidate’s local representatives in turn in the run-up to election day. The highest bidder gets the result he wants because the Roma are highly disciplined as voters (and there can be 2000 or more in a “clan”).

Fortunately there is very little anyone can do to stop this sort of manipulation –  but it does tend only to be practiced by very specific (and fairly small) ethnic groups, and therefore can only have a fairly marginal impact on the overall result. Additionally, as the process of democratization progresses, even some Roma will begin to ignore their clan leaders and vote according to their own choice.

It’s up to you…up to a point

So there you go! And remember, in almost all the above examples your best chance to successfully rig an election is at least partly dependent on western apathy. The fewer NGOs they fund, the fewer local observers and fewer DEC/PEC staff they train, the fewer OSCE observers they send – the better your chances are of success! Let’s hope countries like the UK and US will short-sightedly spend less money on these relatively cheap and unacceptably effective activities over the coming years.  

Good luck!

Posted in Elections, Electoral Fraud, European Union | 1 Comment »

The Humiliation and the Fury

Posted by democratist on July 11, 2010

11th July 2010

At the risk of appearing geeky, gloating and obsessive (and far worse, dull) Democratist – who has actually spent much of the last few days enjoying the excellent summer weather, rather than being stuck in front of our computer – would like to add a few more words of analysis in relation to the recent “reset” spy scandal.

Firstly, it now transpires that the main points we made in our first two articles have been confirmed as pretty much “bang-on”: As the BBC noted in a report yesterday, the 10 arrests that took place on the 27th June came not as the result of the FBI’s hand being forced after Anna Chapman became suspicious she was under surveillance, but were rather the result of some extremely well thought-out plotting.

We now know that President Obama was briefed on the forthcoming arrests on 11th June –  a full 13 days before he hosted Medvedev at the White House, and 16 days before the arrests actually took place. It is therefore clear that the FBI (with the President’s knowledge and approval) were firmly in the driving seat right from the start: The false flag request for Chapman to deliver a passport to a third-party (which we can assume occurred only a day or so before the arrests) was almost certainly a provocation intended to arouse suspicion, and thus allow the FBI to make the arrests on the pretext that she had become aware that the game was up, and was about to flee (whilst also allowing the potential to develop further leads). 

These revelations also serve to further discredit the disinformation campaign that the Russians had orignally been running in both their national media, and on their international mouthpiece Russia Today for much of the last two weeks; that the arrests were either a plot by right-wing elements in the FBI (“US special services” in the parlance) to embarrass Obama, or a ploy to derail the “reset,” and this further unmasks the mendacity of so much of Russia’s domestic and international media coverage.

The recent revelations do, however, rather confirm Democratist’s conjecture that the arrests were part of a calculated, and very very clever US plan to discredit the SVR both at home and abroad, and by extension the Siloviki.

And indeed, apparently a hugely successful one: The humiliation and the fury (both public, and more significant private, within the Russian corridors of power) that has followed the arrests, court appearances and “swap” of the SVR “illegals” has been palpable, despite the ostensibly highly secretive nature of Russia’s “espiocracy”.

Thus, we read in an interview with Lieutenant-General Nikolay Leonov, Retired former KGB intelligence chief with responsibility for intelligence on the American continent (and noted “Americanologist”), in Tverskaya 13 Online (7th July – via Johnson’s Russia List) the following outburst;

“You wonder what on earth is happening in today’s world and in the esteemed profession to which I devoted my life. The impression arises that in this spy scandal one is dealing with some kind of strange mutant from the Cold War era. This is not intelligence in the form that we conducted it…with the same professionalism, the same ideological conviction, and the same level of technological equipment.”

He continues, (in relation to the corruption and money laundering allegations also highlighted by Democratist), “For us, the Soviet intelligence service, the norm was never to mix the business used as cover with intelligence matters… No one could even entertain the idea that it was possible to engage in illegal activity while being an intelligence worker. This was absolutely ruled out.”

And it is becoming clear that the scandal has already started to have exactly the effect that we originally suggested the Americans were aiming for: On 11th July Russia Today featured a 12 minute  interview with a rather grumpy and elderly looking Mikhail Lyubimov, as part of their “XL Reports” slot, in which the former KGB man, speaking in Russian (despite his excellent, if excessively plummy command of English, which suggests his remarks were primarily intended for a domestic rather than international audience) lamented the apparent ineptitude of the “illegals”, and the broader “degrading” of his profession, tellingly comparing this with declines in other areas of state competence in Russia over the past few years. 

But more significantly than any of this, Lyubimov openly suggested the need for greater oversight of the Russian intelligence agencies by the Duma and more public accountability.

Such things do not happen by chance in Russia, and certainly not on Russia Today; well-known former KGB men do not make such statements on TV in a country that has essentially been run by KGB alumni for the last decade, and where the Duma has been little more than a rubber stamp, unless they have some serious backing.

The SVR will be already ripping itself apart as they hunt for whoever was responsible for this 20-year long fiasco; the final political implications are likely to be even more spectacular.

Posted in Russian Espionage | Leave a Comment »

The tanks are massing on the border as we speak!

Posted by democratist on July 6, 2010

6th July 2010

Want to make someone look bad, but can’t be bothered to tangle with any of that difficult “reality” nonsense?

Just make it up! Doesn’t matter how ridiculous it is, or how little evidence you have for what you’re saying! Hopefully somebody somewhere might be stupid enough to believe it.

This approach can surely be the only possible basis for this latest piece of delusional gibbering from Russia Today, which summerizes a 10 minute interview currently showing primetime, as part of RT’s “news” slot, and which I reproduce in its rambling glory as follows;

  -

“US is building secret bases in Afghanistan for war against Russia” – journalist

Investigative journalist Daniel Estulin, who has made it his mission to uncover the secrets of the Bilderberg Group, has shared some of his revelations with RT.

The Bilderberg Group is one of the most secretive and exclusive clubs that attracts some of the world’s most powerful people.

Its meetings are invitation only and take place under tight security, away from the prying eyes of the public and the press.

Critics of the organization, including Estulin, claim they are deciding international policy in a way that is far removed from democracy.

“In Russia you have democracy so it is much easier to infiltrate certain organizations as in the 1990s in an operation called Barbarossa-2. They used the NGOs, the American Aid, the International Monetary Fund, the George Soros Organization to try and actually infiltrate and destroy Russian society from within. Today, the US government is building 13 secret bases in Afghanistan for the forward push to an eventual war against Russia,” Estulin told RT.

-

So there we go – operation “Barbarossa-2,” no less! The tanks are massing on the border as we speak! Foreign Spies everywhere!

And Estulin’s main source for his facts? As he says in his interview, “Well, the Russian government, actually…” Fancy that!

In Democratist’s opinion, this slice of lunacy just serves to reconfirm our point that Russia Today is following a strategy of promoting an extraordinarily irresponsible conspiracy/disinformation hybrid , despite the apparent “reset” with the US. 

But why should anyone take the Russians seriously when they continue to promote this stuff?

Posted in Russia Propaganda | 4 Comments »

“Yes, my dad’s the ambassador to Syria, and my grandad was a lieutenant-general in the NKVD, but I’m just a secretary…”

Posted by democratist on July 4, 2010

5th July 2010

Following the media frenzy that has erupted over the past week, especially in the UK, where the case is perfectly suited to tabloid sensationalism – it even has topless photosDemocratist’s (doubtless more sober and less easily titillated) readership must surely be wondering if there could possibly be anything more to say about the recent Russian Spy scandal?

Well…..yes. Quite a bit in fact. So here we go;

Firstly, while there has been plenty of speculation concerning the timing and rational of the FBI’s decision to move in and arrest the 10 suspects, ranging from cluelessness masquerading as hauteur in the UK’s Independent to the  kind of disinformation/conspiracy hybrid that one now automatically expects of the Kremlin’s English-language mouthpiece Russia TodayDemocratist has yet to see a more convincing explanation of what is going on than our own.

In the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (surely quoting Carl Douglas?), this was all done “with expert timing”: Those that have suggested that the United States’ hand was forced because Anna Kushenko/Chapman became suspicious after having been contacted by a FBI false flag should keep in mind that it seems fairly obvious that the Americans would never have made such a risky move if they had been intending to continue this (already 20-year long) investigation for much longer.

Or, are we to believe that the FBI is so incompetent as to think that the next time Chapman met or contacted her real handler(s), she would have failed to mention that she had been asked to pass on a passport to a fellow spook, or to report on the results? Or that the recipient would not have done likewise? Instead, it seems that the FBI already knew they were approaching the end-game, and were therefore willing to take an (almost certainly terminal) risk in order to flush-out a (so far) anonymous third-party.

Instead, it is more probable to suggest that the timing of the arrest, coming as it did just a few days after the Medvedev-Obama summit, was quite deliberate, and had been in the planning for some months – not because right-wing elements within the FBI were seeking to embarrass Obama (he knew exactly what was going on), or derail the “reset,” or because the G-Men wanted to remind Washington of its usefulness after a series of security “slip-ups” over the past year – as some in the Russian media have rather lamely suggested, but in fact because the US wanted to it make clear that;

i)  They have been onto these people for years (stated numerous times in the court documents); maybe right from the start; maybe since even before the start, maybe since the 1980’s in some cases.

ii) Whatever these “great illegals” got up to (and it was probably a lot more than currently admitted, because the FBI doesn’t want to make them look too good, and it’s not like any of the “illegals” are likely to brag about what they were up to at the trial) the FBI never thought that the damage the “illegals” were inflicting on the US during a 20 year period made it worth its while to call a stop to the party – and were never worried that they did not know what was going on to the point that they felt they needed to step in.

iii) That they did not feel threatened by the “illegals” for so long suggests that the FBI developed a fairly low opinion of their opponents, and an inversely high opinion of their ability to trust their own people (again for 20-years, which suggests that more than a few people were in the know), and of how well the CIA (or an allied agency) had infiltrated the SVR.

iv) That all of the above demonstrates (and will demonstrate in US courts over the coming months) just how inept and corrupt the SVR has become since the end of the USSR: Far from being the shining example of Soviet self-sacrifice that so captivated the young Vladimir Putin (capable of cultivating an Ames or a Hanssen) under his watch the Service has declined to the point that is apparently easily and repeatedly infiltrated, while the senior ranks (such as Vasily Kushenko) have apparently been enrolling their own children as a way of giving them access to cash and connections, rather than for anything to do with serving the motherland (and Anna Chapman is very unlikely to be an isolated case).

v) All of this underlines Democratist’s oft-made point that almost the entire Russian political-economic system is rotten from (especially) top to bottom: These arrests, and any subsequent ones (perhaps also in other countries) over the next few months, are going to do a superb job of repeatedly and brutally highlighting that this is true even for the holiest of holies; the “illegals,” and that they and their superiors are just as incompetent and crooked as everyone else in the nomenklatura. This is bound to strengthen calls for meaningful reform, regardless of whether Medvedev or Putin takes on the Presidency in 2012 (but as we mentioned before, tends to benefit Medvedev at Putin’s expense).

Despite their nationalist bluster, Russia has always been obsessed by the West, especially the US, as a kind of mirror-image and rival to which they can compare themselves (as half an hour watching Russia Today will quickly confirm). Over the next few months, maybe even years, the Russian political class and intelligentsia is going to be continually reminded just how bad things have become, at a time when the government is in no position to rattle enough sabres to mask the howls of anger.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

“Yes, my dad’s the ambassador to Syria, and my grandad was a lieutenant-general in the NKVD, but I’m just a secretary…”

Posted by democratist on July 4, 2010

4th July 2010

Following the media frenzy that has erupted over the past week, especially in the UK, where the case is perfectly suited to tabloid sensationalism – it even has topless photos – Democratist’s (doubtless more sober and less easily titillated) readership must surely be wondering if there could possibly be anything more to say about the recent Russian Spy scandal?

Well…..yes. Quite a bit in fact. So here we go;

Firstly, while there has been plenty of speculation concerning the timing and rational of the FBI’s decision to move in and arrest the 10 suspects, ranging from cluelessness masquerading as hauteur in the UK’s Independent to the  kind of disinformation/conspiracy hybrid that one now automatically expects of the Kremlin’s English-language mouthpiece Russia TodayDemocratist has yet to see a more convincing explanation of what is going on than our own.

In the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (surely quoting Carl Douglas?), this was all done “with expert timing”: Those that have suggested that the United States’ hand was forced because Anna Kushenko/Chapman became suspicious after having been contacted by a FBI false flag should keep in mind that it seems fairly obvious that the Americans would never have made such a risky move if they had been intending to continue this (already 20-year long) investigation for much longer.

Or, are we to believe that the FBI is so incompetent as to think that the next time Chapman met or contacted her real handler(s), she would have failed to mention that she had been asked to pass on a passport to a fellow spook, or to report on the results? Or that the recipient would not have done likewise? Instead, it seems that the FBI already knew they were approaching the end-game, and were therefore willing to take an (almost certainly terminal) risk in order to flush-out a (so far) anonymous third-party.  

Instead, it is more probable to suggest that the timing of the arrest, coming as it did just a few days after the Medvedev-Obama summit, was quite deliberate, and had been in the planning for some months – not because right-wing elements within the FBI were seeking to embarrass Obama (he knew exactly what was going on), or derail the “reset,” or because the G-Men wanted to remind Washington of its usefulness after a series of security “slip-ups” over the past year – as some in the Russian media have rather lamely suggested, but in fact because the US wanted to it make clear that;

i)  They have been onto these people for years (stated numerous times in the court documents); maybe right from the start; maybe since even before the start, maybe since the 1980’s in some cases.

ii) Whatever these “great illegals” got up to (and it was probably a lot more than currently admitted, because the FBI doesn’t want to make them look too good, and it’s not like any of the “illegals” are likely to brag about what they were up to at the trial) the FBI never thought that the damage the “illegals” were inflicting on the US during a 20 year period made it worth its while to call a stop to the party – and were never worried that they did not know what was going on to the point that they felt they needed to step in.

iii) That they did not feel threatened by the “illegals” for so long suggests that the FBI developed a fairly low opinion of their opponents, and an inversely high opinion of their ability to trust their own people (again for 20-years, which suggests that more than a few people were in the know), and of how well the CIA (or an allied agency) had infiltrated the SVR.

iv) That all of the above demonstrates (and will demonstrate in US courts over the coming months) just how inept and corrupt the SVR has become since the end of the USSR: Far from being the shining example of Soviet self-sacrifice that so captivated the young Vladimir Putin (capable of cultivating an Ames or a Hanssen) under his watch the Service has declined to the point that is apparently easily and repeatedly infiltrated, while the senior ranks (such as Vasily Kushenko) have apparently been enrolling their own children as a way of giving them access to cash and connections, rather than for anything to do with serving the motherland (and Anna Chapman is very unlikely to be an isolated case).

v) All of this underlines Democratist’s oft-made point that almost the entire Russian political-economic system is rotten from (especially) top to bottom: These arrests, and any subsequent ones (perhaps also in other countries) over the next few months, are going to do a superb job of repeatedly and brutally highlighting that this is true even for the holiest of holies; the “illegals,” and that they and their superiors are just as incompetent and crooked as everyone else in the nomenklatura. This is bound to strengthen calls for meaningful reform, regardless of whether Medvedev or Putin takes on the Presidency in 2012 (but as we mentioned before, tends to benefit Medvedev at Putin’s expense).

Despite their nationalist bluster, Russia has always been obsessed by the West, especially the US, as a kind of mirror-image and rival to which they can compare themselves (as half an hour watching Russia Today will quickly confirm). Over the next few months, maybe even years, the Russian political class and intelligentsia is going to be continually reminded just how bad things have become, at a time when the government is in no position to rattle enough sabres to mask the howls of anger.

Posted in Russian Espionage, US - Russia | 2 Comments »

 
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