MOSCOW – The colors of the Russian flag change under pressure.

Czar Alexei Mikhailovich, father of Peter the Great, is believed to have been the author of the first white-blue-and-red tricolor in 1668. An English captain, engaged to command the first naval protection vessel in the Russian fleet, asked the czar to choose a flag, because, he told Alexei, all states have flags, and if Russia, which wasn’t flying anything at the time, was a state, it had to have one. Alexei studied the flags of other countries; picked a variation by changing the order of the colors; and hoisted it on what was then a tiny navy for the Volga River and the Caspian Sea.

Peter issued a fresh decree in 1705, ordering this flag to be flown on all Russian merchant ships. One hundred and fifty years later, Alexander II changed the colors to black, yellow and white. These lasted only 25 years, until 1883, when they were eliminated with another change of czars, and the tricolor restored. The communist revolution pulled it down and replaced it with the red flag in 1918. By the end of the 1980s, the old tricolor had become a symbol of the anti-communist opposition. Boris Yeltsin wrapped himself in it during the Kremlin putsch of August 1991. Two years on, after he destroyed parliament in 1993 and rewrote the constitution, Yeltsin issued a decree making the tricolor Russia’s lawful flag. It took the Duma another seven years to adopt this in a constitutional law.

These days, Russians tell an anecdote about a request from Coca-Cola to President Vladimir Putin to change the flag back to red. “We aren’t opposed to the idea that Russia will have the red flag again,” Coke’s chief executive officer telephones Putin from Atlanta to say, “but can you write ‘Coca-Cola’ on it?” “Wait a minute,” Putin says, and puts the American on hold. On another telephone, the Russian president then calls his prime minister, Mikhail Kasyanov. “What is the termination date of our contract with Aquafresh?” he asks.

If the Russian revolution that has been simmering since 1991 is about to start redistributing power and wealth once more, then watch the colors on the flags. The slow transformation, which began under the red during Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, was halted by Yeltsin. He introduced two forces unconnected at the time to the Russian people – a foreign power determined to destroy the Soviet military-industrial complex; and a group of concessionaires, whom Yeltsin licensed to rob the country blind on two conditions – that they should pay him a modest commission, and that they should not turn against his foreign protector. Like the insignia on the front of every Russian officer’s hat, Yeltsin tried placing one state symbol on top of another.

The symbols went awkwardly with one another, as Putin himself acknowledged when he spoke shortly after the tricolor was signed into law. He was against abandoning the old (red) symbols, he said, otherwise “a whole generation of our citizens, our mothers and fathers, lived a useless, senseless life and lived it in vain. I cannot agree with this in my heart or my mind.”

Indubitably, the Yeltsin period accelerated the rate at which the red generation would disappear, to be replaced by the white-and-blue one. According to the Russian heraldic website, the white on the current flag stands for virginity and cleanliness; blue for faith, fidelity and stability. In order to find out what those who control Russia think of these symbols, I asked the oligarchs to say what colors they prefer in their suits, shirts and ties.

They, or their spokesmen, are reluctant to say. LUKoil said the question was a personal one, and Vagit Alekperov, who heads the company, the largest oil producer in Russia, wouldn’t respond. The spokesman for Vladimir Potanin at Interros, through which Potanin controls Russia’s largest mining company, said he couldn’t tell. At the office of Severstal, one of Russia’s most powerful steelmakers, no one would venture a guess about the color preferences of Alexei Mordashov, the controlling shareholder; nor would anyone dare to ask him. At the office of Oleg Deripaska, the aluminum oligarch, there was another case of color-blindness. For Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the controlling shareholder of Yukos oil company, a source hinted secretively that his color preference was blue for suits, red for ties.

In ancient times, red was the favorite, combined with white and black. There is even evidence that the Greeks and Romans didn’t see blue at all, not as we know it; not even in the rainbow. Blue became a revolutionary color, starting in the Middle Ages. And it was the American Revolution of the 18th century that began the fashion for wearing the three colors in combination. The American flag was an anti-flag; maybe if the British flag hadn’t been red, white and blue since 1603, the Americans would have picked another set of colors. And then the French officers, who fought in the American independence war against the British, might have taken a different combination back to Paris, in time for the French revolutionists to adopt the tricolor for themselves.

But Khodorkovsky isn’t a revolutionary. He is doing no more than continuing what Yeltsin started, and trading the Russian wealth he picked up for a US guarantee of protection. You might say that the white in his tricolor stands for surrender. Khodorkovsky, after all, along with the controlling shareholders of the other major private oil companies, Sibneft and Tyumen Oil Co, are alone in the Russian oil sector in seeking to sell out to foreign buyers. LUKoil, Rosneft and Surgutneftegas are arguably as valuable, but their controlling shareholders haven’t rushed for the exit.

That the US oil companies to whom Khodorkovsky has applied cannot contemplate paying the Yukos price without the protection of both Putin and US President George W Bush is already obvious. That Khodorkovsky claimed to have Putin’s permission earlier in the year is something Khodorkovsky told his associates on the board of Yukos. That he no longer has Putin’s permission was clear when Putin briefed US media correspondents at the Kremlin, ahead of his trip to the United States this week.

And so, when Bush asks Putin what he thinks of cooperation in the Russian oil sector, Putin should pull out his coloring book, and hand Bush a crayon – a blue one – and show him where the map has already been colored red. And if Bush isn’t to confuse white, the color of virginity and cleanliness, for a blank waiting for Bush to color in with his pencil, Putin can remind him gently that not everything in Russia is open to US takeover.


La Fontaine told a fable of two donkeys who came to misfortune.

The first, the vain one, was carrying a load of cash; the other, a load of oats, On a lonely road, they and their masters were suddenly surrounded by thieves who weren’t interested in the oats. After making off with bearer for dead, the dying ass said to his companion that his end was unfair. Replied the humbler of the two:

“Wealth cannot always at the poor man scoff.

If you had been content to do as I,

You’d not at present be so badly off,”

In China this week, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov could do worse than hum that little jingle. It might help him face up to a conflict his Chinese hosts appear to understand better than he does and are becoming impatient at Kasyanov’s apparent inability to solve it. This is the conflict between Russia’s oligarchs and their supporters who dominate the export of resources and those who favor heavy taxes on the resource industries to fuel capital investment in diversified Russian industry,

The policy conflict has immediate implications for the Chinese government and for Japan and South Korea as well, because their interest in expanding imports of Russian oil, gas, metals and other resources is running into stumbling blocks that start with Kasyanov’s inability to make decisions between the warring lobbies in Moscow,

A fresh statement of the oligarchs’ point of view has just been issued by Moscow-based investment bank Brunswick UBS, In a report titled “Russia: One Foot in Europe, One in Asia,” analyst Al Breach argues there is “an impending shift” in the direction of Russia’s export growth toward Asia, especially the “Confucian trio” of China, Japan and South Korea. “The important point for Russia,” Breach writes, “is that the economies to its eastern borders are likely to become bigger than its Western neighbors in the next couple of decades, Since they are each big importers — and expected to become more so — of many of the raw and semi-processed materials that form the backbone of Russia’s exports, Russia is looking at a huge and ready market just beyond its borders.”

While the report stops short of recommending government backing for the resource exporters to Asia, it implies that the Russian corporations best-positioned to take advantage of the predicted expansion of Chinese demand are the oligarch-owned oil, metals and mining companies, Tellingly, there is no reference to the prospects for Russian arms and heavy-machinery exports in Asia, nor to the concerns that Russian manufacturers have towards the competitive pressure of low-priced Asian imports. From diamonds to electricity, copper concentrate to gas, the resource exporters °argue that they should be free to export without limitation. Their critics argue that, if the current approach is not modified, the domestic industries will be starved of raw materials, and driven out of business,

At the moment, according to Russian trade data, 68 percent of Russian exports go to Europe and 8 percent to the Americas. China accounts for just 7 percent, Japan 2 percent, South Korea 1 percent and other Asian destinations 9 percent, Asian exports are still a minor part of the Russian trade picture, although the precise dollar values are skewed because Russian exporters undervalue their exports when they clear Russian customs and move their profits offshore to avoid Russian taxation. In the six months to June 30, for example, Russian statistics value exports to mainland China at $3,6 billion. Chinese import data show the figure to be 31 percent higher, at $4,7 billion.

According to Breach, the growth of China’s oil consumption will be massive, at an average of around 600,000 barrels per day (that’s a growth rate of 25 percent per annum), while growth in Russia’s annual production will kick off from 8.5 million Barrels per day (bd) of present output to 10 million bd by the end of the decade. That’s a Russian growth rate of about 215,000 bd per annum, or 3 percent per annum.

Breach believes the fit is obvious. Russia’s eastern Siberian, offshore Sakhalin and eastern Arctic oil reserves need substantial capital to come onstream, which the major Russian oil companies have refused to provide. They have concentrated instead on lifting Soviet-discovered oil from the western Siberian basin, exporting it to Europe and taking their trade profits and huge cash dividends offshore to the private accounts of their shareholders. Breach implies that Russia can afford to meet China’s demand and, also, Japan’s need to diversify its oil sourcing away from the Middle East; but only if the Kremlin gives way to the current demands of the oil company oligarchs. These include the demand to allow construction of pipelines by private investors to the Asian markets — principally China and Japan. A more fundamental and controversial demand is for the Kremlin to allow the oligarchs to cash out of their shareholdings and allow foreign oil companies to take over the task of raising capital and developing new fields.

The fight over the cash-out option is the impetus behind the Kremlin’s crackdown on Yukos shareholders, led by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev — the latter has been imprisoned on fraud and embezzlement charges since July. Sources close to Yukos have told The Russia Journal that Khodorkovsky has told his board of directors that in two meetings with President Vladimir Putin, he got an O.K. to proceed with a cash-out and share-swap deal with ChevronTexaco or another U.S. oil company. That is Khodorkovsky’s interpretation and it referred to meetings before Lebedev’s arrest. The Kremlin then made its view clear when Lebedev was arrested. Lebedev is now telling associates that he expects to be in prison for another year or more, indirectly confirming that Putin has made up his mind, or changed it. His chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, usually an open advocate for the oligarchs, has been caught wrong-footed, promising to deliver Lebedev, but unable to do so or to anticipate what will happen next.

In the heat of this fight, independent Russian economists have been urging the government to remove the distortion in the domestic economy — between the rich asses and the poor ones — by applying capital gains, foreign remittance and super-profit taxes to the oligarchs and then channeling the funds back into the economy as capital investment for a balanced industrial approach.

Although the election campaign has already begun for the national parliamentary poll on Dec. 7 and presidential ballot next March, not a single political party has issued a clear campaign position on this fundamental economic policy choice. Not even the Communist Party, which has assigned two slots on its ballot to former Yukos executives, who still represent their company’s interests.

Meanwhile, ahead of Kasyanov’s talks in Beijing, Yukos has leaked a warning that, unless Kasyanov stops delaying Russian government approval for the pipeline to deliver crude to Daqing, new oil pipeline deliveries to China could not begin before 2006, a year later than scheduled,

An industry source in Moscow noted that the Yukos leak “must be interpreted as encouragement for the bureaucrats to get a move on. Any delay, should It be confirmed, is doubly frustrating, because the government had already decided in May to build a pipeline to China first and leverage this to the Far Eastern port of Nakhodka at a later stage. A delay would also force wholesale revisions to the country’s (and the companies’) crude-output forecasts, which are primarily dependent on constrained market access.”

According to Transneft, the state pipeline agency, the delay reflects indecision on the part of the Russian government on whether to give priority to a rival proposal from the Japanese Government to build a pipeline to the port of Nakhodka and, from there, ship the crude by tanker.

Sergei Grigoriev, vice president of Transneft, told The Russia Journal that “Transneft, like everybody else, simply waits for the government to pronounce its decision on the route. We do not lobby for anything. We have made our proposals concerning the route. After the government decided to merge the two projects — that of a pipeline to Nakhodka and the pipeline to China — we provided a modified proposal. Until the government makes its final decision, nobody can say what route will be chosen.”

In April, the government announced it would authorize construction of the pipeline between Angarsk, in southeastern Siberia, and Daqing, with capacity for 400,000 bd. Then it announced the intention to study a second 970,000 bd-pipeline to Nakhodka. Then, after lobbying from Tokyo, government officials opted to build the Nakhodka leg first and add the China pipeline later.

The Nakhodka option not only pits the Japanese lobby against the Chinese; it forces the government in Moscow to address the fundamental question of how and when it can expect to see the oilfields of eastern Siberia come onstream. And that in turn pushes Kasyanov and his ministerial colleagues towards a fork in the economic-policy road they feel unable to pick right now. Of course, as La Fontaine warns, they may not survive in time to get there.


You can always tell when an American politician is well and truly washed up, a has-been.

He comes to Russia to meet the tsar so that he can go back to Washington and get the Marine salute at the White House before he divulges the very latest on what the big, bad Russian had to say. Since wash-ups and has-beens are mean with folding-money, their expenses have to be paid for by somebody. Sometimes it’s companies that make airplanes, sometimes soda pop. Ex-Senator Gary Hart used to come when he was still in his prime; ex-President Richard Nixon when he was in his dodders. Now it’s the turn of ex-President George Bush Sr. and ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. So long as Boris Yeltsin was in the Kremlin, he could manage to disguise how washed up his guests were, by comparison with himself. President Vladimir Putin is a different kettle offish. (more…)


When Philip Marlowe, the famous fictional American private eye, read the gossip columns of big-city newspapers, he explained that “I don’t read them often, only when I run out of things I dislike.” If Marlowe were able to read the Moscow papers and savor their meretriciousness, he’d never make it off the front page.

Take last week’s big news story, for example: That there is an opposition movement afoot inside Moscow that is proposing to redistribute economic power in Russia and change the elites that pull the levers. At the start of campaigning for national parliamentary elections in three months’ time, to be followed by the presidential election next March, a little cheap socialism shouldn’t surprise anyone. What really would be a scoop is if there is no opposition in Russia seeking votes on such a platform. (more…)


When Russians gather to drink, they often offer each other a traditional rhyming toast that can be roughly translated as: “May we have more pies and doughnuts, fewer black eyes and bruises!” It’s a formula that Russia’s most powerful businessmen have been quietly offering the advertising-starved managements of some of the world’s leading newspapers in order to play down, if not deter altogether, investigative reporting of Russia’s corporate malpractice.

The formula usually begins with a black eye or a bruise in the form of a defamation writ served up in London, Paris, New York or Frankfurt am Main by a well-known local law firm. The pattern began with a suit by the discredited media oligarch, Vladimir Gusinsky, against the Wall Street Journal. Gusinsky is currently under arrest and on bail in Athens awaiting a hearing on an extradition request from Moscow. That media support for his plight has been muted indicates how little attention he has been paying to the media since he was forced into exile.

In the Gusinsky case, it appears that the pressure to raise security standards at the Athens Airport has produced a serious embarrassment. The Gusinsky warrant, which apparently flashed on the screen as he passed through immigration last week, was obsolete, at least in Western Europe and the United States. But, to the literal-minded policeman on duty, it was nonetheless a warrant for arrest.

That this tale won’t be reported in the non-Greek, non-Russian media testifies to what is left of Gusinsky’s sway.

Gusinsky’s ploy against the Wall Street Journal was followed by Boris Berezovsky’s against Forbes. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the principal shareholder in Yukos, Russia’s leading oil company, then sued the Times of London. Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch who is waging hotly contested takeover battles in several sectors at once, including paper and pulp and insurance, is currently suing Le Monde in Paris and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Frankfurt am Main. Mikhail Fridman, a banking and oil oligarch, some of whose companies are currently being sold to British Petroleum, is suing Les Echos, France’s leading financial daily, and Le Parisien.

None of these cases has gone to a final judgement and almost none to trial. That’s because, once the lawsuit is launched, the pies and doughnuts are put on the table.

A European lawyer involved in one of the current cases explains there are a variety of inducements, aimed primarily at the revenue management of the newspaper, especially its advertising executives and, sometimes, also at the law firms that are engaged. In one case, the source said, it was discreetly suggested to his law firm that a lucrative piece of legal due diligence might be placed in the firm’s way if it either pulled out of the newspaper’s defense or recommended an out-of-court settlement to the client. In other cases, the investigative reporters whose stories incurred Russian wrath concede the concern that their editors may be pressured by management to abandon the defense of what they reported, notwithstanding the management’s belief in its truthfulness.

Editors profess that their reputation for independence is as valued by their advertisers as by their readers and is supported by a strict separation of editorial staff from advertising. But they aren’t present when their admen make their deals. And they are in the dark about the private relationships of their reporters in Russia. They can hardly ban unmarried correspondents from sleeping with PR agents of the firms they write about. Nor do they always know what benefits may flow from their reporters’ dispatches to their spouses’ businesses. Such ignorance or naivete in the United States or Europe is viewed as an asset by Moscow’s PR professionals.

In most of the international media cases that have been started to date, relatively mild, even generous, out-of-court settlement terms have been proffered on the basis of an understanding that, in the future, the Russian oligarch and his companies in the loan, bond and stock markets can be counted on to be generous with advertising and promotional contracts so long as the newspaper’s reporting avoids the type of investigation that leads to reputational problems for them. While the media budgets of the major Russian companies are estimated in the double-digit millions of dollars per annum at the moment, the calculation in Moscow is that, if the result is a raising of credit ratings and a lowering of charges to hedge against Russian risk, then the money is a good investment and litigating against media good business. When settlements are protected by confidentiality agreements of the type Khodorkovsky struck with the London Times, nothing but positive coverage is visible. You can’t see the chilling effect on what isn’t published. This has enabled Khodorkovsky to deflect much of the force of the current prosecutorial attack on his imprisoned partner, Platon Lebedev, and his Menatep holding by having the Western media endlessly sing the tune that what is happening is a political conspiracy against the blameless, not a criminal case against the culpable.

The spread of oligarch lawsuits across Europe and the distribution of their largesse have produced a serious problem of divided loyalty for English-language and other international editors. On the one hand, the charges against the Russian oligarchs are serious, and, if they succumb to them, the media should welcome the chance to be free to report the impact on Russia’s economic welfare as they see fit. On the other hand, if the oligarchs survive, there is the risk that they will take their revenge on those who bit the hands that fed them.

One way out was suggested by recent coverage from The Moscow Times, a newspaper controlled by mining and banking oligarch Vladimir Potanin. After promoting Potanin’s latest ventures in its news columns, the Times ran a commentary by Lilia Shevtsova, a Moscow political scientist who claims that the oligarchs really don’t exist, that their power is a figment of a policeman’s imagination that and the downfall of Khodorkovsky is threatened simply because his was “the first Russian company that started to look for legitimacy, not through maintaining cozy relations with the [government] apparatus, but by making the switch to transparency and legality.” If this Washington-funded commentator is to be believed, nothing more or less than “a cornered and exasperated” President Vladimir Putin is to blame for getting in the way of such benign pro-Western standards.

Inside Russia, domestic journalists have fewer illusions about the reality of the oligarchs. That is because they have been on the receiving end of attacks that are less discreet and more ruthless, mainly because the local courts can be easily bought by the plaintiffs and the evidence just as easily corrupted. An experienced Russian trial attorney explains that, when he deals with judges, he makes them an offer he believes they won’t refuse. If bribes are to be paid, he counsels, the judge should decide which side to be on. “Take from us, or not at all,” the attorney claims he says. When undercapitalized and uninsured Russian newspapers find themselves up against the deep pockets of the oligarchs, they reckon they have no defense, Deripaska, for example, has threatened legal action against several Russian publications, including Expert, a business magazine, Novaya Gazeta, an investigative journal, and The Russia Journal.

Recently, Sberbank, the state-owned savings and investment bank, went to a Moscow court claiming that one of its board directors had defamed the bank by statements that were published in several local newspapers. The court found in favor of the bank. The bank declared that it “will not tolerate unjustified criticism, and in the future will firmly and consistently defend its interests by all means, including legal actions.” Not for Russia is the doctrine, enshrined in most legal codes abroad, that public officials cannot resort to the defamation law when their public performance is the subject of public criticism.

At his annual open press conference, Putin defended his record of handling the oligarchs by saying that “probably everyone involved in business always looks for ways to earn more money, and to do this as effectively and cheaply as possible. Society’s task, our common task — because both the state and the media should keep a very close eye on this — is to make sure this situation does not arise in the country.”

For the Russian oligarchs, the cheapest way of neutralizing the local and international media is not to buy them — that costly exercise was abandoned in the financial collapse of 1998 — but to frighten them and, then, to make them an offer they are only too relieved to accept. For Western and Russian reporters and commentators on the short leash, it is fanciful to claim that no one is pulling at the other end.


By John Helmer, Moscow

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.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

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.



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.



By John Helmer, Moscow

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.



By John Helmer, Moscow

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.



By John Helmer, Moscow

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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