IT’S AUGUST, AND FOR SUMMER VACATION BEAR ISN’T DANCING – HE’S OFF TO WRITE A NEW BOOK

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When I was optimistic, I used to mark the passing summers by the hit songs that were playing on the radio as I sweated away at jobs that paid me the money I badly needed.  

“She loves you” was the summer of 1964 for me; “Summer in the City” was 1966.   “Nutbush City Limits” was 1973.  Ten years later, in the summer of 1983, “Nutbush” was the backing theme for radio programmes I produced for Claudia Wright in Melbourne – the last time she was allowed to broadcast on an Australian radio station.  In 1995, though it seems to have been earlier, there was “If God was one of us”.   

In this wartime the lyrics can’t mean what they used to. Now it’s not a good idea to be sentimental when the job is to scribble until Labor Day.

SRI LANKA’S ARREST OF AEROFLOT PLANE WAS THE STRAW THAT BROKE PRESIDENT RAJAPAKSA’S BACK



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa (lead image), was toppled from power in Colombo and forced to flee the country on July 13, leaving behind a prime minister he had appointed to succeed him, assuring his immunity from prosecution and delaying national elections for two years. A week earlier, on July 6, Rajapaksa telephoned President Vladimir Putin and requested emergency shipments of Russian fuel to the country on credit because Sri Lanka had run out of fuel and also the money to pay for it.

The last Russian shipment, 90,000 tonnes of Russian crude oil to restart Sri Lanka’s sole but bankrupt refinery, had been ordered from intermediary traders and then delivered to port in May. However, the oil could not be unloaded until the government produced the cash to pay for it.  Rajapaksa followed in the last days of June by sending two officials to Moscow to ask for direct government-to-government oil deliveries without cash. There was no Russian agreement.

Rajapaksa’s prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had announced to the press that if the US or its allies in the Middle East wouldn’t agree to deliver fresh crude oil or gasoline, he and Rajapaksa would go to Moscow. “If we can get [it] from any other sources, we will get [it] from there. Otherwise [we] may have to go to Russia again,” the prime minister said.

Behind the scenes Rajapaksa had been trying to get Putin on the telephone for weeks, announcing publicly in Colombo he was ready to fly to Moscow. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded publicly that no face-to-face meeting was possible.  On July 6, the Kremlin agreed to take the Sri Lankan call.

Rajapaksa was desperate; Putin non-committal. “Had a very productive telecon with the #Russia President, Vladimir Putin,” Rajapaksa tweeted. “While thanking him for all the support extended by his gvt to overcome the challenges of the past, I requested an offer of credit support to import fuel to #lka [Sri Lanka] in defeating the current econ challenges. Further, I humbly made A request to restart @AeroflotWorld operations in #lka. We unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in sectors such as tourism, trade & culture was paramount in reinforcing the friendship our two nations share.”  

“The presidents,” reads the Kremlin communiqué, “discussed current matters of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, in particular, in energy, agriculture and transport… It was agreed to continue contacts at various levels.”  

In Moscow the Russians interpreted Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa to be making a public show of asking for Russian help in order to persuade Washington to rescue them instead.

The Kremlin was convinced the Sri Lankans were scheming and bluffing. The reason was that on June 2, at Colombo’s airport, an Aeroflot Airbus Flight SU-288, with more than two hundred Russians returning to Moscow from holiday in the country, had been prevented from departing;  the aircraft had been stopped by an order from a judge of the Commercial High Court. Ostensibly, the court was acting on a lawsuit filed against Aeroflot by an Irish aircraft leasing company called Celestial Aviation Trading 10 Limited.  

In fact, that entity was a front for AerCap, the dominant global aviation leasing corporation in the world, controlled by General Electric of the US;   Celestial Aviation is an AerCap special purpose vehicle;  its claim against the Aeroflot aircraft in Sri Lanka was part of Washington’s sanctions war — and Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe were immediately told so by Russian officials. They claimed the court order was a “commercial dispute” with “no involvement of the state”;  the Russians didn’t believe them.

The aircraft was released on June 6 and a court official charged with corruption.  But a month later, by the time Rajapaksa was appealing to Putin, Aeroflot had not restarted its flights. There would also be no Russian oil nor credit to save Rajapaksa.

In Moscow, Rajakpaksa’s downfall and his replacement by Wickremesinghe are not viewed as  regime change – not yet. Russian officials are not saying whether they believe there is a continuing US plot in the country. Neither are the government officials who know best what has occurred already, and what is likely to happen next – they are the Indian government. The silence from Moscow and Delhi is telling.

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GORILLA RADIO ASKS: WILL THE WAR IN EUROPE END IN GERMANY AGAIN, LIKE 1945?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Never mind the bang and whimper with which the pietistical Anglo-American Harvard alumnus and Tory snob Tom Eliot ended his 1925 poem, “The Hollow Men”.  Whatever he could have known and didn’t then, can’t answer the question now: How will this war in Europe end?

Last week the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov answered by drawing a geographic line  three hundred kilometres westward and southwestward from the Russian border, including Donetsk, Lugansk, Sevastopol, Kaliningrad, Brest and Hrodna (Belarus). That is, the direct line of fire by the artillery, rocket, or missile batteries which the US and the NATO allies are installing.  

“Now the geography is different,” Lavrov said.  “It is more than the DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic], the LPR [Lugansk People’s Republic], but also the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions and a number of other areas. This process continues, consistently and persistently. It will continue as long as the West, in its impotent rage, desperate to aggravate the situation as much as possible, continues to flood Ukraine with more and more long-range weapons. Take the HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System]. Defence Minister Alexey Reznikov [Kiev] boasts that they have already received 300-kilometre ammunition. This means our geographic objectives will move even further from the current line. We cannot allow the part of Ukraine that Vladimir Zelensky, or whoever replaces him, will control to have weapons that pose a direct threat to our territory or to the republics that have declared their independence and want to determine their own future.”

Will this line extend to Lvov in western Ukraine, or somewhere between Dniepropetrovsk, Kiev,  and the Polish border, Lavrov was asked. The answer will not be given by diplomatic negotiations, he replied. “There is a solution to this problem. The military know this.”

What the deuce? Gorilla Radio’s Chris Cook asks the question and Gorilla Radio broadcasts the answers.

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BBC AND THE TIMES OBJECT TO SECRECY OF NOVICHOK PUBLIC INQUIRY

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The British government’s scheme of secrecy surrounding the public inquiry into the alleged Novichok attacks against Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Dawn Sturgess in 2018 has been opposed by the BBC and the London Times. 

“A requirement for confidentiality undertakings”, a BBC lawyer wrote to the inquiry chairman, Lord Anthony Hughes, in a document released by Hughes’ spokesman last Friday, “is itself an impediment to transparency… as well as general, healthy discourse among legal and editorial colleagues.” David Attfield is the head of the BBC’s programme legal advice department which signed the document.   But the name on the signature line has been blacked out. “The media should be trusted to act responsibly,” the BBC told Hughes.  

In a letter dated July 1, Brid Jordan, deputy head of the legal department of Times Newspapers Ltd. (TNL), told the Hughes Inquiry her media group “opposes the blanket anonymization of categories of individuals. TNL is particularly concerned that the restrictions are requested to be indefinite with no periodic review of necessity or appropriateness. The restrictions sought have the potential to stifle reporting of a significant inquiry and, as proposed, represent a disproportionate restriction on the fundamental principle of open justice.”

At the close of the letter, Jordan’s name has been kept secret by the Inquiry; the evidence of this is not quite erased.   

The state media corporation and the London press group owned by Rupert Murdoch have led the British government’s efforts to accuse the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, and President Vladimir Putin personally, of launching the Novichok chemical warfare weapon against British targets.

The BBC’s dramatized retelling of the Russian cause of Sturgess’s death, titled “The Salisbury Poisonings” was broadcast in June 2020.  This followed fabrication of evidence in interviews and a book released by a BBC correspondent and MI6 informant, Mark Urban.  

The BBC and the Murdoch media have refused to interview the Skripals for their account of what allegedly happened to them in Salisbury on March 4, 2018. They have also failed to report or investigate the announcement, which Dawn Sturgess’s family made public through their lawyer on July 15, that they suspect British officials, prosecutors,  and police of fabricating the Novichok story.

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SEVEN SKRIPAL SECRETS THE SECRET INTELLIGENCE SERVICE DIDN’T WANT TO LET OUT



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It’s unlikely that when they were alive, Sergei Skripal (lead image, left) and his daughter Yulia Skripal (right) read Enid Blyton.

The paratroop and military intelligence training which Sergei Skripal received prepared him for Afghanistan, Malta, and Spain.  By the time he reached England in 2010, he wasn’t undercover, and didn’t need to pretend to having read the Blyton books as a boy. By then too Blyton had been dead for more than forty years, and her books condemned in fashionable English circles as sexist, racist, paedophilic, and sadistic; although Blyton’s prejudice against foreigners has returned to fashion recently. Her taste for playing tennis in the nude did not suit the Skripals or the retired policemen neighbours in their Salisbury block.     

Blyton’s books weren’t translated and published in Russian until after Boris Yeltsin became president. The first of her Secret Seven series didn’t appear in Russian until 2015.  By then Sergei was 64 years of age; Yulia was 31.  

In March of this year, the first of the seven Skripal secrets began to slip into the public prints when Adam Chapman (lead image, centre), a lawyer who was on sabbatical from his London office at the time, was appointed by the British government to represent the two Skripals as their legal representative. The official announcement of his appointment appeared on April 4.   For the first time since March 4, 2018, when the front door-handle of their cottage was attacked, and Skripal and his daughter collapsed in the middle of Salisbury town four hours later, it appeared they had recovered their voice and their freewill.

Except that Chapman refuses to speak for the Skripals; to acknowledge that he has been instructed by them to be their lawyer and that he has seen for himself that they are alive.

On July 15, in Chapman’s first public appearance in a London courtroom on behalf of the Skripals, he was asked a question by Lord Anthony Hughes, the judge chairing the public inquiry into the alleged Novichok attacks by Skripal’s former military service. Did he have anything to say to the court for Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Chapman was asked. “Nothing”, Chapman replied, shrugging his head. That was the second of the seven Skripal secrets to slip out.

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THE NOVICHOK PUBLIC HEARING – SECRET SEQUEL



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On Friday, July 15, in London, a session took place of the British government’s public inquiry into the story of the Novichok attacks of 2018. This followed the first public session on March 25 and a closed-door session on April 4.

However, the sound and video recording system failed. The presiding chairman, former judge Lord Anthony Hughes, had no microphone and was both inaudible and invisible to the camera for more than two hours of the proceedings. Microphones at the tables of the lawyers in the courtroom, including those of the inquiry itself, the government, and the police, did not work.  A single microphone had to be moved by a court clerk between speakers, but this failed to catch everything that was said. The stenographer contracted to transcribe the session was not in the courtroom; dependent on the audio and video feed, she was unable to transcribe what was said.

A spokesman for Hughes told the press “the stenographer was listening remotely and this has resulted in a delay with the transcript. I hope it will be published early next week.” Following the failure of the transcript to appear this week, the spokesman conceded “we are hoping to publish the transcript as soon as possible.” She was requested to say when the transcript and the texts of the  presentations the lawyers had prepared in advance would appear. She replied: “we are aiming to publish the transcript and submissions together as soon as possible.” 

The result is that the two most important revelations in what was said in court have not been recorded officially. They have also not been reported by the handful of media reporters who listed themselves at the hearing; the  BBC  and Salisbury Journal  reports omitted them. The two dramatic disclosures were however recorded by hand, by me.

In the first, Michael Mansfield QC, said that   a “jigsaw of intelligence” had been the evidence  when British government officials announced the Novichok story and then charged Russian agents with the Novichok attacks. If the evidence had been good enough for public statements by Prime Minister Theresa May,  her Cabinet Secretary and security advisor Sir Mark Sedwill,  and then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, then what explained the delay in releasing the evidence to his clients, the family and partner of Dawn Sturgess, the lawyer asked.  “Unless it’s an empty barrel”, Mansfield added.

In the second disclosure, Georgina Wolfe, junior counsel for the Home Office, was speaking in court for the government, including the prime ministry and the two security services, MI6 and MI5. She explained there was an ongoing threat to British lives of Russian attack. Her evidence for this, she added, included “the Danish investigation of the MH17 attack”. Wolfe was referring to the Dutch investigation and the ongoing court trial in The Netherlands of the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the Ukraine in July 2014.  

The truth of what caused the death of Dawn Sturgess and of the Novichok story is not what Mansfield’s and Wolfe’s statements in court last Friday meant. Mansfield wants a multi-million pound payment for his clients and himself, and is prepared to accuse the government of lying. Wolfe wants the government to get away with the lying under cover of secrecy, backed by something misbegotten in the kingdom of Denmark.

Without an official record of what was said, the lawyers and the judge can pretend Mansfield’s and Wolfe’s revelations didn’t happen.  

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NOVICHOK INVESTIGATION COLLAPSES IN LONDON COURT — ADAM CHAPMAN, LAWYER APPOINTED TO REPRESENT SERGEI & YULIA SKRIPAL, DOESN’T



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The public inquiry by Lord Anthony Hughes into the British government’s narrative of Russian chemical warfare in the UK and the alleged Novichok death of Dawn Sturgess on July 8, 2018, collapsed into secrecy, mishap, and farce in a London courtroom on Friday.

The sound system failed, leaving only one microphone to be moved from one speaker to another. The judge was invisible off camera and inaudible for the entire proceeding. A court official told the press “I personally apologies [sic] for the ongoing technical issues…The Cloud video platform equipment was tested beforehand and all was thought to be well. However there have been ongoing issues with equipment today.”

A government lawyer acknowledged that the “preliminary” security check of documents in the case is requiring reviews and approvals by five unnamed government agencies, and taking five months before the documents can be released to Hughes and to the lawyers in the case. Police and intelligence service applications to the judge to keep evidence and witness identities secret will be heard in secret. A closed-door hearing for this was expected to follow the public one on Friday, but the timing of this is a state secret the judge has not revealed.  

Michael Mansfield QC, a lawyer representing the Sturgess family, said in court that four years ago, a “jigsaw of intelligence” was already available when British government officials announced the Novichok story and then charged Russian agents with the Novichok attacks. Mansfield said the delays for secrecy reviews had left the Sturgess family’s “patience [wearing] extremely thin.” He hinted that if the evidence for the Russian Novichok attack had been solid enough for public statements by Prime Minister Theresa May,  her Cabinet Secretary and security advisor Sir Mark Sedwill,  and then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson,  followed by announcement of criminal charges,  the Sturgess family was exasperated by four years of postponement in releasing the evidence to the public inquiry.

“Unless it’s an empty barrel”, Mansfield added. This is the first suggestion the Sturgess family has made publicly that they suspect government officials may have been lying.

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THE EUROPEAN WAR OF 1939-45 IS CONTINUING — GORILLA RADIO EXPLAINS THE VIOLATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL RULES-BASED ORDER, AS NOVAK DJOKOVIC PLAYS IT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When I was ten years old, I was tall for my age and had an unusually powerful first serve for a boy.   

After observing me hit a few practice balls, a famous international tennis star turned coach told my mother that if she handed me over to him every day after school for three hours a day, every day for the next ten years, along with a cheque almost as tall as I was, he was sure he could turn me into the world champion he had been. She refused.

It wasn’t that my mother was sceptical of the promise, or of my juvenile talent at the game, or even of the price she had to pay. Her reason, she told me later, was she thought there was more to life than tennis, and that in my after-school hours I would be better occupied doing my school homework. At the time that wasn’t my choice to make. Later, when I went in for politics instead of tennis, she thought there was more to life than that too. Still, she went to Wimbledon when she could. She also kept up her own tennis game. I haven’t done either.

That is until last Sunday, when for the first time in the history of tennis, the politics met the tennis game on the centre court, and Novak Djokovic, the Serbian champion, won both. The Australian government’s abuse of emergency powers to keep Djokovic out of the country last January – quashed by one federal court judge, allowed by a panel of three – had been defeated in four sets.  Nick Kyrgios served 30 aces to Djokovic’s 15, but Djokovic won 132 points to 112. Had Kyrgios won, the Australian press, which had supported its government’s attack on Djokovic in January and Kyrgios in his Wimbledon challenge, would have claimed the double victory. Djokovic kept his eloquent silence.

This coming Sunday, July 17, will be the eighth anniversary of the downing over eastern Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in which 298 crew and passengers on board were killed; most of them were Dutch; some Australian, Malaysian and other nationalities. The Dutch, Australian and Ukrainian governments combined at the time to plan a NATO military intervention; to tamper with the bodies and the crash evidence; and for the past two years to run a show trial, in order to make their political case that Russia was guilty in the crime. The verdict is proven; the crime is not. That’s a double-fault.

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NATIONAL CHAMPION OR NATIONAL CHUMP – OLEG DERIPASKA AND VLADIMIR POTANIN TRY THE RUSAL-NORILSK NICKEL MERGER



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In wars like the present one, politics on the home front cannot be permitted to give aid and comfort to the enemy. In the US and NATO campaign, the Russian oligarchs and their businesses are targets and also weapons of the plan for regime change in the Kremlin. What role they will play personally in the future of the Russian war economy, and how their assets, cashflows, profits and investments will be managed, are bound to be closely held secrets.  

So when the aluminium oligarch Oleg Deripaska (lead images, left left, right left) and the nickel oligarch Vladimir Potanin (left right, right left) appeared to agree to announce publicly on July 4 that they are negotiating a merger of their companies Rusal and Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) into a single national mining and metals champion, they may be telling the truth; or they may be running a disinformation operation against each other; or they may be flying a trial balloon over the Kremlin to see what President Vladimir Putin will decide.  

Potanin spoke first; he has detested Deripaska in the past. For the time being Deripaska has said nothing. The spokesmen for their companies are saying nothing on the record.

Potanin may have intended to sandbag Deripaska before the latter expected it.  Last Monday they both knew that what Potanin said would immediately boost Rusal’s share price and damage Norilsk Nickel’s, and that is what happened, making the merger proposal appear to be Deripaska’s initiative, not Potanin’s.

The last three times Deripaska tried a hostile takeover against Potanin – in 2008, 2010, and 2015 — Putin refused to allow it. That the president is the one to decide again is too obvious to be a state secret now. That the Rusal-Nornickel merger is a much greater test of the war economy plan than the Central Bank’s rouble and interest rate policies, or the government’s capital export controls is also no secret.   Whether Putin has made up his mind this time, and what he will decide remain secret. So is the fight to persuade him to say yes or no.

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THE COMING VERDICT IN THE MH17 TRIAL IS CERTAIN, AND DOUBLE DUTCH



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Next year it will be four hundred years since the Amboyna Massacre of March 9, 1623. The British won’t be memorializing their countrymen’s killings by the Dutch, nor the Dutch celebrating one of the last gasps of their Asian empire. They are now allies in the fabrication of reasons for killing Russians.

Remember the Amboyna Massacre! That was fighting talk in London during a decade of litigation in The Netherlands, and leading to the first Anglo-Dutch War of 1652-54. The British won that one – and also the second war of 1655-57, and the third war of 1672-74.

In the Amboyna massacre the Dutch water-boarded and then executed a group of ten British merchants on the trumped-up charge of plotting to seize the Dutch fortress on the island of Ambon, now part of Indonesia,  where today  it is called Maluku. They were beheaded, along with nine Japanese mercenaries and a Portuguese they had employed. The head of the senior English officer, Gabriel Towerson, was put on a pike for display by the Dutch . On the fiftieth anniversary, John Dryden gave Towerson the leading role in a play he put on the London stage entitled, “Amboyna, or the Cruelties of the Dutch to the English Merchants, A Tragedy”. That was the time when British political propaganda was written by men of talent.

The real reason for the massacre was that the Dutch were trying to keep their monopoly of the nutmeg harvest on the island, making sure the British didn’t undercut their prices or their influence with the local sultans  who controlled the indigenous nutmeg plantations. In those days, nutmeg was more than the sweet spice it’s thought of today. It was a strategic commodity – and a matter of national security in Europe. That was because it was believed to be able to ward off the Black Plague.

Also, the British and Dutch were fighting for sea routes and colonial assets capable of producing much more than nutmeg. Along the way, the Dutch lost New Amsterdam (aka New York) and much more besides. The Amboyna massacre had another unintended outcome – having lost the heads of several of its best men, the British merchant holding, the East India Company, decided to exit Indonesia, and  entrench themselves in India instead. India was good for cotton textiles, chintzes, and the blue dye known as indigo. Nutmeg stayed with the Dutch, but the British stole the Ambon nutmeg  tree and replanted it in other parts of their empire.  

At the litigation stage, before the warring started, the British position was that the Dutch had no jurisdiction to put the Amboyna victims on trial for treason, let alone torture them and cut their heads off. That was judicial murder according to the British reading of the applicable Dutch and English laws and case precedents. The Dutch insisted that on their territory they had the jurisdiction to do what they did. By the time the litigation was over with acquittals of the Dutch judges who had issued the guilty verdicts and the death sentences, it didn’t matter. War did.

Fast forward to March 9, 2020. Dutch jurisdiction was decided by the US and the NATO allies for prosecuting the allegation against retired Russian army officer Oleg Pulatov  of murdering the 298 passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by shooting the aircraft down in the Ukraine on July 17, 2014.  The trial which began two years and four months ago has hidden the identities and proceedings of the judges investigating the evidence behind the court room. The Dutch state prosecutors have accepted the trumped-up evidence of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). The promised smoking-gun evidence of US satellite photographs never materialized.  In anticipation, the guilty verdict has been as obvious as Towerson’s head on the Dutch pike.

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SHORTING BRITISH, AMERICAN AND BALTIC INTELLIGENCE – GOING LONG ON VLADIMIR PUTIN



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Philip Short, a journalist from the BBC, has published a new book which claims to be a biography of Vladimir Putin. It isn’t.

What it is instead is a biography of one hundred and twenty-three westerners — what they claim to know about Russia’s leader  and what for commercial motive, reason of state, or vanity they have told Short in interviews he conducted for his book. They include spies he names without their cover – John Scarlett, Richard Dearlove, Richard Bridge,  Kate Horner, Martin Nicholson, and Pablo Miller from the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6); Hans-Georg Wieck and August Hanning of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND); Jean-Francois Clair, Raymond Nart,  and Yves Bonnet  of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST); Seppo Tiitinen of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (SUPO); Mark Kelton, Michael Morell, Peter Clement, Michael Sulick, Michael Morgan, Paul Kolbe, and William Green of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); Juri Pihl, head of the Estonian Internal Security Service, and Eerik-Niiles Kross, chief of Estonian intelligence; and several dozen other ambassadors, consuls, advisers, headquarters staff, journalists, and think-tankers.

Not one of the spies was operational in Moscow for the past twenty-one years of Putin’s terms in office.

There is a flash of originality in this book. Not a single source on which Catherine Belton’s book  on Putin relies has been interviewed by Short; in his references to Belton’s claims Short reports they “appear to be untrue”. He reaches the same conclusion about two other books about Putin, Karen Dawisha’s   and Masha Gessen’s.    “Neither book pretends to be a balanced account”, Short says.  Dawisha’s book “is marred by numerous errors of fact”. “All three”, Short warns, “set out the case for the prosecution, and like all prosecutors, the authors select their evidence accordingly.” 

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HOW THE WAR IS BEING WON ON THE BEER FRONT



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There is a right way and a wrong way to understand how the war against the West is being fought on the Russian home front.

The wrong way is to read the Anglo-American media, their stay-behind correspondents in Moscow, and their aggregators in Washington, DC.  

The right way is to take a Russian beer. I mean, take the Russian beer business as an illustration of how the fightback is being fought – and how effectively.

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FIGHTING WORDS – WHAT THE POLES SAY WHEN THEY DARE DO NOTHING

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Poles have always had a serious problem with their neighbours.  

They have the Germans on their western flank, the Russians on their eastern flank, and inside their borders there used to be the Jews, but now there are the Ukrainians. In September 1939 there were about 3.3 million Polish Jews.    Since February 24 of this year, the Ukrainians in Poland have come to the same number.   

The war which the Polish government and military have been fighting against Russia is proving to be almost worthless politically to Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling party in Warsaw; and also to the Civic Platform (PO) and its allies, the principal opposition coalition (KO).  The PiS was 15 percentage points ahead of the KO in the voter polls a year ago, 35% to 20%; the margin between them now is 11 points, 38% to 27%.  The gains for each are close to the margin for statistical error.

Economically, the war is costing much more in public outlays for the refugees than the value of US and NATO arms flows and related war income. By the time Warsaw pays for its new US weapons, it will owe more than when the war started; and there is still no relief from the European Union funding freeze and penalties.   

What’s to be done, the Poles ask themselves – and who’s to blame when they realise the answer is something between not much and nothing.

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MUTINY IN THE CANADIAN GENERAL STAFF – HOW POLITICAL AMBITION & UKRAINE-RUSSIA WAR AIMS ARE BEING COVERED UP IN OTTAWA



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When it comes to bulldogs fighting under a rug Winston Churchill thought they were Russians. Little did he know about Canadians in Ottawa.

The chief dogs in this fight are Trevor Cadieu and Chrystia Freeland (lead image, right).  Cadieu is a lieutenant general who specialises in planning armoured operations against the Russian army in Europe; Freeland is the deputy prime minister, scion of Galicia in western Ukraine,  and candidate prime minister to replace Justin Trudeau, if she can.

As the Canadian politician most directly connected to the Ukraine by family and property, and the most active advocate of war against Russia, Freeland has promoted Canadian military strategy and plans to wage that war on Ukrainian territory and across the Ukrainian borders for many years.   

In Ottawa also, Cadieu has been director of war plans since mid-2019.  No public record is known of his visits to the Ukraine in the following two years. His appointment as chief of Canada’s defence staff was announced in August 2021, then withdrawn in September following the start of an official investigation of sexual assault charges dating from his military cadet days. When the  investigation ended in an official indictment, Cadieu resigned. By April he was in the Ukraine again, working directly on coordinating the new supplies of tanks, armoured vehicles, howitzers,  and other artillery from NATO member states to the Ukraine.

Speaking through an Ottawa defence reporter named David Pugliese, Cadieu declared his innocence of the criminal charges and promised to return from the Ukraine to answer them. He then disappeared as the Russian forces intensified their targeting of Ukrainian and NATO general staff as they prepared operations to save Odessa in the southeast, and Lvov in the west.   

On Friday Pugliese reported Cadieu had surrendered to Canadian police and been released to appear in a local court in August. In the meantime Pugliese has reported an active online debate between supporters and critics of the sexual misconduct charges; these include a comment in support of Cadieu from retired Brigadier-General James Cox claiming the charges against him amount to “sedition to undermine national leadership;”  by that he meant mutiny by the politicians against the generals.

As deputy prime minister with supervision over most government ministers and war plans for the Ukraine, Freeland has claimed to have known nothing of the sexual misconduct which was identified a year ago against General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff between 2015 and 2021. At the time Freeland declared: “No woman serving Canada should be sexually harassed while doing that, and I’m happy right now today to apologize to any woman who was sexually harassed while serving her country;”   by that she meant to condemn no one by name of anything.

Freeland is missing from the list of high officials contacted by former judge Louise Arbour  for her investigation of sexual violence in the Canadian military which began in May 2021 and concluded with the release of her 420-page report last month.    Arbour is known in Europe as the NATO prosecutor of Yugoslav and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Arbour concluded her report on the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF): “Members of Indigenous and black communities, and other visible minorities and equity-seeking groups, have been largely absent, clearly not welcome. For years, women were simply shut out. When finally allowed to serve, women were made to feel they did not belong. They were denied opportunities to compete fairly and to thrive. They were harassed, humiliated, abused and assaulted, and, appallingly, many continue to be targeted today… One of the dangers of the model under which the CAF continues to operate is the high likelihood that some of its members are more at risk of harm, on a day to day basis, from their comrades than from the enemy.” By enemy, Arbour  meant what Cadieu and Freeland mean.  

There has been no disclosure, no indictment, no apology for the Canadian military role in the Ukraine, training and arming Ukrainians committed to reviving Nazi doctrine from World War II.  Nor for the war crimes now alleged by eastern Ukrainians  to have been committed by western Ukrainians during the civil war which began in 2014. According to Arbour, “the very success of CAF operations, which I am not in a position to assess, reinforces its view that it is unique, and that CAF can do everything without the assistance of outsiders, as it always has.” By not to assess, Arbour meant not to doubt nor criticize.  

A Canadian with NATO warfighting experience comments: “The contradiction here is that the officer corps, heavily committed to the anti-Russia track that cuts across Canadian party lines, is heavily politicized and infected by the neo-Confederate faction in the US. They don’t appreciate what they see as [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s ‘communism’. They believe the charges against Cadieu are an expression of it.”

“The truth, that no one, including Pugliese and other reporters will admit, is that the Canadian military, not to mention large swathes of law enforcement, is not reliable in terms of defending the Canadian state if the ruling faction pursues policies contrary to the officers’ wishes.”

There is no mutiny, at least not against the war against Russia, responds a veteran Canadian politician. “I have seen no indication that senior officers in the Canadian military oppose Canada’s hyper-aggressive approach to the Ukraine war. My impression from day one has been that Canada’s military is as belligerent toward Russia as any in NATO.”

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LITHUANIA’S STEP TOO FAR — BLOCKADE OF KALININGRAD DRAWS NO SUPPORT FROM US, UK, EU, NATO, AS RUSSIA PREPARES “PRACTICAL STEPS”, “NO DIPLOMACY”



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The action the Lithuanian government implemented over the weekend to stop Russian trains carrying sanctioned cargos into Kaliningrad is regarded in Moscow as a long anticipated move, prompted among Lithuanian officials by the British government. The initial Lithuanian embargo action has been followed by a second one this week extending the blockade to trucks and road transport.   Neither action has been publicly announced by the Lithuanian government.

The first news came from Anton Alikhanov, the governor of the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad, following a  notice sent to him by Lithuanian officials. That notice has not been published.

Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda (lead image) has said nothing.  

Lithuanian Prime Minister  Ingrida Simonyte announced through the British Broadcasting Corporation that the blockade was not a blockade because only some cargoes were halted, and because “Lithuania is complying with the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russia for its aggression and war against Ukraine ” . She also told the British state radio “it was important not to overreact”.  

She tweeted: “Any talk of a blockade of Kaliningrad is a lie. Lithuania is complying with the sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia for its aggression and war against Ukraine.  The sanctions were agreed by all the EU member states on March 15…. Passenger transit is also taking place, under a special agreement by the EU, RU, & LT. Steel and ferrous metal products account for only around 1% of the total rail freight to Kaliningrad via LT.”  

In the three days which have followed the Lithuanian action, the US and British Governments, the European Union (EU),  and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have not supported the Lithuanian blockade.

The Russian Security Council met on Wednesday morning, but issued no statement on Lithuania.  The Secretary of the Council, Nikolai Patrushev, who was in Kaliningrad on Tuesday, had announced there that the “consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”

Yesterday, at the same time as President Vladimir Putin was chairing the Security Council meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced it is delaying “concrete measures” in reaction:  “The measures will not be diplomatic, but practical, they are now being worked out in an interdepartmental format, We are not talking about this not because we are hiding something, but because the process of their coordination and elaboration is underway. I would like to emphasize once again (the third time for today’s briefing): we have told the European Union and Lithuania about the need to change the steps they have taken. Perhaps something from that side will be changed, and, accordingly, our reaction will be different.”

Here is a compilation of the official documents.

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GERMAN NEUTRALITY WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN NATO EXPANSION – A NEW HISTORY BOOK EXPLAINS WHY GORBACHEV GAVE IT AWAY FOR NOTHING

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In the rest of the world it is known as the cultural cringe. In Russia the wish to be loved by Americans is known as liberal reform.

In the very first paragraph of a new book called “Collapse: the Fall of the Soviet Union”, the author, Vladislav Zubok – the name in Russian means a small tooth — reveals that on the morning of August 19, 1991, when the first coup was attempted against Mikhail Gorbachev, then President of the Soviet Union, Zubok was flying to the US by arrangement with Strobe Talbott,   Moscow correspondent for Time and soon to be the Clinton Administration’s principal Russia expert. At the time Zubok describes himself as a “Moscow-based academic intellectual”. By this, he means he was no simple worker with a Moscow university degree. In Soviet class terms, he insists the reader recognise him to be an “intellectual”. That then was upper class, and Zubok wants the reader to know the difference between the Russian upper and lower classes —  immediately, on the nineteenth line of his very first page.

Zubok also wants the reader to know he had been hired with money from “the prestigious Amherst College in Massachusetts”. What exactly was prestigious about Amherst, or Massachusetts for that matter — and to whom? And why does Zubok think that in a history of Russian politics between 1983 and 1991, such a remote place, with such an adjectival tag, was worth the mention?

The answer, like the other revelations of the first paragraph, reveals what this book turns out to be. It’s an exercise in American-style reconstruction of what a small group of Russians for hire were keen to give their masters, about the circumstances of the years leading up to Boris Yeltsin’s replacement of Mikhail Gorbachev, and Russia of the Soviet Union. But this isn’t Russian history. It’s the history of Russians with cultural cringe – the desire to be loved by Americans, and to tell them what they wanted, paid for, insisted on hearing then, and demand  now.  

The payoff, reported on the dust jacket of the book, comes from Talbott, Zubok’s original employer. He is quoted as saying: “This is a deeply researched indictment of Mikhail Gorbachev’s timidity and mercurial policies which backfired.” “Instead,” Talbott adds, “Russia at the turn of the 21st century was ripe for the rise of Putin.” Zubok was ripe for what Talbott meant. “In 2008,” according to Zubok’s history, Putin “used military force against Georgia, and in 2014 he annexed Crimea and waged an undeclared war on Ukraine in Donbass.”  The blame for that, Zubok means, was Gorbachev’s mistakes. Without them, “had the Kremlin ruler made different choices… the Soviet Union could have gradually made its way into the world economy by a process of trial and error, with a nomenklatura-style state capitalism, and certainly with its institutions of power preserved.”

As for the Russian cultural cringe, Zubok is sure it was one of Gorbachev’s biggest mistakes.  During his well-known trips abroad in the 1980s, Gorbachev took with him, Zubok records, “a “huge entourage…of journalists, social scientists, writers, theatre directors, filmmakers and other cultural figures. Most of them shared [Gorbachev’s] fascination, admiration, and envy for things Western.”

Zubok has written a book to prove he doesn’t suffer this cringe. The work proves the opposite. This is the problem with cringers. They are too bent out of shape to recognize the shape they are in.

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HER BRITANNIC MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT BANS RUSSIANS FROM BUYING JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING*

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On March 15 the British Government announced it is imposing a ban on exports to Russia of “high-end luxury goods”.

According to the official press release, “the measures will cause maximum harm to Putin’s war machine while minimising the impact on UK businesses as G7 leaders unite to unleash a fresh wave of economic sanctions on Moscow. The export ban will come into force shortly and will make sure oligarchs and other members of the elite, who have grown rich under President Putin’s reign and support his illegal invasion, are deprived of access to luxury goods.”

Exactly what counts as “luxury goods” was loosely defined in the government’s statement as “luxury vehicles, high-end fashion and works of art” and “antiques”.

But the regulation issued to enforce the policy is much more comprehensive.  Section 11 of this regulation identifies “pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, articles of pearls, jewellery, gold or silversmith articles”. Section 21 covers “Works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques”; that’s  the kybosh for oligarch luxury —  the Russia warfighters in London say they believe — to “cause maximum harm to Putin’s war machine”.

The official regulation defines this to cover goods higher in price than £250 (before VAT). They have been listed to include horses, caviar, wrist watches, xylophones, vacuum cleaners, ski boots, saddles, perfumes, and pottery. Russian women buying lingerie, Russian men buying pyjamas, Russian children buying rollerskates, and Russian housekeepers buying toasters have all been hit with “maximum harm”. Russian spies have been banned from buying British-made false beards and wigs.

Compression stockings for varicose veins will be stripped off Russian legs at the airport, and confiscated under the new rule.  Bathing suits, however, if worn instead of underwear, are exempted from the ban.

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ANSCHLUSS, AGAIN — ANTICIPATING POLAND’S STRATEGY IN RUSSIA’S INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On June 13, for the first time since the Russian military operation began in the Ukraine, a detailed Russian intelligence assessment has been published in Moscow of Polish strategy for the future of Ukraine. This follows several weeks of brief statements by Russian security and intelligence officials claiming the government in Warsaw is aiming at an anschluss or  union  with the “eastern borderlands” known in Poland as Kresy Wschodnie, and in the Ukraine as Halychyna; that’s to say, Galicia.  

These Russian claims have been dismissed as propaganda by the Poles.  Polish strategy, according to Warsaw sources, is to preserve the Zelensky regime in Kiev and the unified Ukrainian military command — and not to acknowledge the possibility of their defeat by the Russian army east of the Dnieper River.

In this week’s discussion between Vlad Shlepchenko, a military analyst for Tsargrad in Moscow, and Vladimir Kozin, a leading academic attached to the Russian intelligence think tank, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, they consider the scope of the strategic problem which they think the Poles, and behind them the US and NATO, will continue to pose, after the objectives of Phase-1 and Phase-2 of the Russian military operation in the Ukraine have been completed.  

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THE POLISH ADDITIVE IN THE UKRAINE WAR — TAKE OUT WASHINGTON PORK & BRUSSELS SPICE, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRACOW AND LVOV SAUSAGE?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Cossacks are known for many things, but not for being Roman Catholics like the Galicians of western Ukraine around Lvov, or like the Poles around Cracow.

Originally, the Cossacks swore off eating horsemeat, veal, hare, and pork. Pork is the principal meat of Lvivska (lead image, right) and Krakowska (left), the traditional sausages of Lvov and Cracow. They differ from one another in the spicing – Lvov with onion, marjoram, coriander and bay leaves; Cracow with nutmeg and sugar. In ingredients, the original Cossack sausages were closer to the Jewish ones.

In the war which is now extending from Europe to the world, taste in sausage shouldn’t be confused with race hatred. On May 22, when Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland, declaimed in front of President Vladimir Zelensky at the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev, that “you are – as your national anthem has it – of Cossack stock! You are magnificent!” Duda was making a racial observation with a profound mistake – and not only about sausages.  

The Cossacks of the Ukraine came from the lands between the Dnieper and the Don Rivers – that’s between 700 and 1,400 kilometres from Galicia and a journey of nine to twenty hours by motor, days by horse.  The Cossacks were Slavs and they were Orthodox Christians. By their ethnic origin, language, culture, and religion, they had little in common with the people who lived to the west of the Dnieper; that’s between Kiev, Lvov and the Polish border today. The Cossacks didn’t start eating pork sausage until after they gave up the nomadic life, got off their horses, and settled to farming.

When Duda told the Kiev deputies “I trust the goodness, the friendships made between millions of Poles and Ukrainians will mean we will be good neighbours forever now. This is a great historic opportunity and the great historic break–through”, he was getting closer to the truth of the history. But that is the history of  several hundred years of wars and race hatred between the Galicians and the Poles, and between the Galicians and Poles together against the Russian Slavs. It’s also a story Duda, his political party, and the Polish opposition backed by Mark Brzezinski, the US Ambassador in Warsaw,  recognize as a cause of war inside Poland, as well as outside.

The “historic break-through” which Duda declared in Kiev is only 81 years old, from the time of Duda’s grandfather.*  That was in 1941, when the German Wehrmacht incorporated Galicia into the General Government of southern Poland (Generalne Gubernatorstwo in Polish). Four years later, as the Germans retreated westwards to Berlin, it became the covert strategy of the US Army and then the policy of successive US governments for the extension eastwards of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO) alliance; since 1945 that policy has also included regime change in Moscow, and the breakup, first of the Soviet Union, and then of the Russian Federation. That was also the announced strategy of Ambassador Brzezinski’s father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor of the Carter Administration between 1977 and 1981.   

Duda’s speech of May 22 was a Polish call to the Galicians to put aside the race hatred between themselves, and revive the race hatred which the two Catholic peoples, plus the Germans, have shown towards the Russians – also the Jews from whom the Zelensky family comes.

“How can I speak now,” Duda began his address, “when I am almost overcome with emotion”. Duda’s emotion was also calculated for the Polish audience who will vote in the next national election in just twelve months’ time.

Duda’s call to race war against the Russians was also an attempt to secure Poland against its more recent enemy Germany, and neutralize the US government’s attempt to topple the government in Warsaw. For Duda to manage this combination and hold on to power requires the appearance of a much closer Polish alliance with the Kiev regime than the Ukrainian military commanders and the Galician nationalists are contemplating at the moment, as they are forced into retreat westwards, like the Wehrmacht.  Their taste in sausage isn’t Duda’s, or Brzezinski’s, President Zelensky’s or the Cossacks for that matter.

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THE US WAR IN EUROPE ISN’T HOT ENOUGH – DROPPING THE CLIMATE BOMB ON RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There ought to be a law, or at least a sanction –  tenure cancelled, travel visa blocked – for American experts on Russia who claim to know from their reading of other American experts on Russia why Russia does things, and what will happen next.

Thane Gustafson, a Georgetown University professor publishing at the Harvard University Press, claimed very recently “it’s not too hard to reconstruct at this point what was likely going through Putin’s mind as he gave the order to attack…Putin was not nuts, not deranged, not isolated, etcetera. It was all a reasonable bet—by his strange lights—except that every one of the premises turned out to be wrong.”  Gustafson is certain he knows this; how he doesn’t say.  

But then Gustafson concedes: “All the cards are up in the air, and who knows how they will come down…I don’t know how this ends.”

There’s modest uncertainty for you — except that Gustafson is kidding. He wants you to know, he also says, that Russia is now a fascist state, and there’s really only one thing left he doesn’t know: because it’s such an effective fascist state, “the fact is that because of the regime’s control of information, we have very little idea of how Russians actually feel about the war, and how they will react to Putin’s apparent defeat.”

Gustafson didn’t notice he was squatting on the horns of a dilemma. If Russian regime control of information is so total(itarian), Gustafson’s information must come from the other side – American, Canadian, British, NATO headquarters in Brussels. The technical terms which professors usually apply to information emanating from one side of a two-sided war are misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, active measures, fake news, lies.  Between these things and the information Gustafson says he’s sure of, he has trolled himself.

So, to repeat the question, what if Russians actually support the war and blame the US for starting it?  What if they are as certain of this as Gustafson is certain Putin started it?

And what if the war ends in the US and NATO alliance retreat to Lvov; after which the Polish government will notify NATO HQ it is reviving its treaty claim to the Galician territory of the Ukraine; the chancellery in Berlin will then inform Brussels it requires the return of the ancient Danzig Corridor and Breslau, Polish territories  currently called Gdansk, Wroclaw,  and the  Ziemie Odzyskane;  and the Hungarian government will follow suit with the announcement of the recovery of historical Kárpátalja (Transcarpathia), the Zarkarpatska oblast of the Ukraine?

These were the spoils of the World War II settlement between the US and the Soviet Union in 1945-46. The territorial reversion claims aren’t new. What is new is that the US and the NATO alliance, plus the Galician regime still ruling between Kiev and Lvov, also in Ottawa, have aimed to change the terms of the post-war settlement by continuing the war eastward on to the territory of Russia itself, all the way to regime change in Moscow.

That is what Russia says it is fighting now to defend itself against. As Russian officials have been hinting in recent days, the foreign and defence ministries and the intelligence services are currently discussing in the Kremlin Security Council whether Russia’s long-term security on its western front may be best served by terms of a Ukrainian settlement in which the German, Polish, and Hungarian territorial claims are recognised.   

So, if these are indeed the cards that are up in the air, as the professor in Washington, DC, acknowledges, he isn’t the only one who doesn’t know how they will come down.

In the meantime he  and the Harvard printers want their new book to be a weapon in this war, targeted directly at President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. But what if the weapon misfires and they lose this war? Will Gustafson admit his ignorance or his mistake or his deception? Should he resign his professorship? Should Harvard pulp the new book? Or is the state in which Gustafson lives and lectures such an effective fascist state, losing the war against Russia to Germany, Poland and Hungary, minus the Ukraine, plus Russia, won’t matter to US officials any more than losing Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria?

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MATT TAIBBI’S UKRAINE WAR BUBBLE JUST SNAPPED, CRACKLED AND POPPED

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It was almost a century ago that a Chicago adman gave the Kellogg Company the idea of selling breakfast cereal  made of puffed rice by telling children that the rice grains cried out as the spoon scooped them  from the milk towards their mouths – SNAP! CRACKLE! POP! That’s what the rice sang in the radio jingle for what, in the American version, was called Rice Krispies. In the British version it was called Rice Bubbles.

Like popcorn, puffed rice is made by heating the grain under steam pressure. The technology is at least a thousand years old in China. To make it palatable in America, the box is filled with 90% rice, 9% sugar, and a pinch of salt. Without the jingle, though, no child would want it.   

Matt Taibbi (lead images), once a Moscow-based US reporter, has built up an  internet following by snapping, crackling and popping at well-known targets and names, mostly of US government officials and the media reporters who parrot them. His Substack audience is large, lucrative   and also demanding,  but not for Russian or Ukrainian war news, analysis, opinions. Not unless the US president, or his subordinates, or their mouthpieces on the big and small screens are making war-mongering fools of themselves. When they do, their krispies and bubbles turn into Taibbi’s sugar.

When the Russian special military operation began on February 24, Taibbi apologized with a pinch of salt. “My mistake was more like reverse chauvinism, being so fixated on Western misbehaviour that I didn’t bother to take this possibility seriously enough [SNAP!]. To readers who trust me not to make those misjudgements, I’m sorry [CRACKLE!!]. Obviously, Putin’s invasion will have horrific consequences for years to come and massively destabilize the world [POP!!!].”

“I fear there will be more to say soon, but I’ll leave it at that for today. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and I was wrong about this.”    

Now eight weeks have gone by, and Taibbi has just announced:  “I believe it’s eventually going to come out that [George W.] Bushian ‘regime change’ is the plan for Russia, by force if necessary”. “Eventually” is the jingle word. The way Taibbi says it, he makes it sound as if he’s making a prediction he’s sure his readers will discover again months, maybe years into the future, when they are getting their subscription renewal invoices and Taibbi is hoping to bank the  earnings.  Predicting for the future what has already happened and been discovered in the past – that’s the new POP!

But Taibbi is still calling what is going on in the Ukraine “Putin’s far more serious invasion”. He hasn’t apologized yet for not explaining to his readers how Putin can “invade” if what the Russian army is doing, Taibbi insists he has now discovered, is defending against the “Bushian regime change plan for Russia by force”.  

If that isn’t puffing rice for breakfast, you can call me W.K. Kellogg.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANNA AKHMATOVA! LONG LIFE TO THE RUSSIAN POETESS OF KIEV, ODESSA, ST. PETERSBURG, MOSCOW!

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Anna Akhmatova, the most famous poetess in the Russian language, will be 133 on June 23.

Akhmatova was the nom de plume she chose because her father said his family name would be disgraced by her publishing her poems.  The family name was Gorenko, and she was born in Bolshoi Fontan,  Odessa. A bust memorializes the place to this day; the rule of the city by anti-Russian forces since 2014 has not damaged it. The street leading to the memorial used to be called Ukrainskaya; it was renamed Anna Akhmatova, and still is.  

After her father — a naval engineer from a decorated navy family —   left the family, she lived with her mother, her brother and sister in Evpatoria, in the Crimea. They spent their summer holidays south along the peninsula, around Khersones; and northeast further inland, at the village of Slobidka Shelekhivska in Khmelnytsky oblast, near today’s Moldova border. The house has been turned into the Anna Akhamatova Literary Memorial Museum. No one answers the telephone there these days, but it is otherwise undisturbed.

Between 1905 and 1910 she lived in Kiev and attended Fundukleyevskaya Gymnasium, then the Kiev College for Women. There is a plaque in Old Russian on the wall at Number 7, Zankovetskaya Street, Kiev, to memorialize the time and place. The war has not touched it.

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GRESHAM’S NEW LAW – IN WAR THERE IS NO LAW

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

In the history of war-fighting in Europe,  what state has waged war when its state treasurer, state banker, and state auditor were opposed to the war; aimed to cut the army off from the money required for troops and weapons; and schemed between themselves to sign terms of capitulation with the state’s enemies?

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THE OLIGARCHS PLAY THEIR CARDS – THAT’S THE LOYALTY CARD, THE GET OUT OF JAIL FREE CARD, THE REWARDS REDEMPTION CARD

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Russian regime-change theory motivating US sanctions against the Russian oligarchs is that they will trigger a palace coup in which the oligarchs will arrange a bullet for President Vladimir Putin’s head, and in return the US will give them back the keys to their yachts, mansions, and offshore bank accounts.  

The terms of pain relief and life insurance which the oligarchs are discussing with Putin are different. The oligarchs want to be compensated for what they have lost offshore with an even larger stock of assets onshore, including takeover of exiting foreign companies and privatization of state assets; low-interest Central Bank finance;  import substitution and labour subsidies; tax holidays; postponement of ecological compliance; deregulation; amnesty for past crimes, immunity from prosecution for future ones.  

Secret though the details of their agreement are – must be in time of war – the new shape of the oligarchs’ wealth can begin to be gauged from an initial inventory. As for the new policy pact directing it, it is easier to say what it is not —  it bears no resemblance to the recommendations for nationalization, state planning, ban on foreign investment in hostile states, a high ruble rate to protect against imports, and de-dollarization for exports, which have been proposed by the former Kremlin economic adviser, Sergei Glazyev.   

When President Vladimir Putin announced at his meeting with state officials on May 24,   that he proposes “red tape needs to be scrapped” and “additional adjustments to the regulatory framework”, the phrases were not new. In the war economy, however, they signal deregulation and privatization — more freedom for the oligarchs, not less. When Putin added: “the Russian economy will certainly remain open in the new conditions”, the meaning, at least as the oligarchs are interpreting it, is that the president is promising more freedom from the state, not less.

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RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP IN WARTIME — UNVILIFYING LEONID BREZHNEV

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Before presidential dementia became fashionable in the US, there was, Russians used to joke, Leonid Brezhnev.

Once on a visit to a hunting lodge not far from Moscow, I was told by the forest ranger that he used to assist in setting up for a Brezhnev shoot. It was very late in Brezhnev’s life, the ranger  said; his job had been to kill the animal and fix it with supports so that Brezhnev might shoot it dead again. I’m not sure my informant was telling the truth. The story was a popular anecdote in Moscow for years, before and after Brezhnev died himself on November 10, 1982.  

In a new biography of Brezhnev by Suzanne Schattenberg, a German university professor , Brezhnev is diagnosed with addiction to sedatives and terminal heart failure in his late years; the sedatives caused the well-known slurring of his speech. Brezhnev did not decline into dementia.

Schattenberg’s book also tries to recover the history of the man from newly available evidence, and salvage him from the jokes. This has caused competitive American academics to make fun of them both – Brezhnev and Schattenberg. According to Yuri Slezkine,* an émigré to California,  “Soviet party leaders tend to get the biographies they deserve…Susanne Schattenberg’s new biography of Brezhnev is almost as bland as its subject.”  Slezkine then retells some of the jokes he remembers from his days as a student in Moscow before concluding it was “bewilderment [which was] represented by Brezhnev’s ‘collective leadership.’”

That’s wrong in the light of Schattenberg’s evidence; discreditably so because Slezkine cannot have come to his conclusion if he had read the book.  

Schattenberg concludes: “today, everyone agrees on Brezhnev’s immense importance for the Soviet Union, After all, he ruled and shaped the country for eighteen years – the second longest time at the helm after Stalin’s thirty years (1924-1953); while Khrushchev only clung to power for eleven (1953-1964). Neither of Brezhnev’s successors [Yury] Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko lasted two years in office before their deaths; within six, Mikhail Gorbachev led the Soviet Union to its demise.”

To those among Russians who judge that Brezhnev should have resigned by 1976 and he would be taken more seriously, and remembered more positively, Schattenberg reveals that in December 1976 and again in April 1979, Brezhnev did propose his resignation and retirement. However, the Politburo refused – for their political reasons (personal ambition, collective succession, state security), not Brezhnev’s.

To understand how Russians older than the age of 50 now remember the peacefulness and optimism of Brezhnev’s time, and the dread of war he helped them to overcome, this book helps. But now that Russians realise they are compelled by their foreign enemies to be at war again, Brezhnev’s history helps to  explain why the hopes those enemies have pinned on Russians less than the age of men like Alexei Navalny (born June 4, 1976) have been doomed to fail from the start.

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RED HAS TURNED YELLOW – THE GREEK AND CYPRIOT COMMUNISTS ARE FLYING A DIFFERENT FLAG IN THE UKRAINE WAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Ukraine war is splitting the communist parties of Europe between those taking the US side, and those on the Russian side.

In an unusual public criticism of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and of smaller communist parties in Europe which have endorsed the Greek criticism of Russia for waging an “imperialist” war against the Ukraine, the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) has responded this week with a 3,300-word declaration:  “The military conflict in Ukraine,” the party said, “cannot be described as an imperialist war, as our comrades would argue. It is essentially a national liberation war of the people of Donbass. From Russia’s point of view it is a struggle against an external threat to national security and against Fascism.”

By contrast, the Russian communists have not bothered to send advice, or air public criticism of the Cypriot communists and their party, the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL). On March 2, AKEL issued a communiqué “condemn[ing] Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Russian troops from Ukrainian territories….[and] stresses that the Russian Federation’s action in recognising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions constitutes a violation of the principle of the territorial integrity of states.”

 To the KPRF in Moscow the Cypriots are below contempt; the Greeks are a fraction above it.

A Greek-Cypriot veteran of Cypriot politics and unaffiliated academic explains: “The Cypriot communists do not allow themselves to suffer for what they profess to believe. Actually, they are a misnomer. They are the American party of the left in Cyprus, just as [President Nikos] Anastasiades is the American party of the right.” As for the Greek left, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza – with 85 seats of the Greek parliament’s 300, the leading party of the opposition – the KKE (with 15 seats), and Yanis Varoufakis of MeRA25 (9 seats), the source adds: “The communists are irrelevant in Europe and in the US, except in the very narrow context of Greek party politics.”

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IF IT SMELLS ALLURING, IT’S RUSSIAN – IN WARTIME L’ORÉAL (FRANCE) AND ESTÉE LAUDER (US) MAKE A BAD SMELL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.

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