Napoleon’s Foreign Minister – Charles-Maurice Talleyrand-Perigord – once said that a man has been given eyes in the front of his head so that he can look forward, instead of backward. When Napoleon discovered that Talleyrand was betraying him to his enemies, Napoleon told him to his face he was “so much shit in a silk stocking.”

The question that still puzzles historians of Napoleon’s rule is why, given what he knew about him, did he permit Talleyrand to retain a position of power that enabled him to continue taking money for spying on Napoleon, weakening his political alliances and ultimately conspiring in his military defeat, abdication and imprisonment? (more…)


Earlier this year respectable western newspapers told their readers that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then Russia’s richest man, was a close neighbour of President Vladimir Putin’s. This bit of geography was a plant from Khodorkovsky’s public relations machine, intended to convince those Americans to whom Khodorkovsky was trying to sell his Yukos shares, that Khodorkovsky and Putin were on afternoon-tea terms. Who knows if that’s why the Federal Security Service was obliged to send its agents to arrest Khodorkovsky in the central Siberian town of Novosibirsk, far away from the silverware and the petit-fours.

The editors of the Financial Times like to think they too are on afternoon-tea terms with Russia’s oligarchs. It’s one reason the FT has been unable to identify the sources of much its recent reporting. If afraction of it had been true, Khodorkovsky would be a free man today; ExxonMobil would be the new oligarch of the Russian oil sector; and President Putin’s United Russia party would have been trounced by Anatoly Chubais’s little right-wing claque at the parliamentary elections. Too much jam on English scones is known to have a sweetening effect that damages the appetite, and dulls perception.

For those who enjoy a taste for the Financial Times, here’s a cucumber sandwich from the PR men. They claim that the President has a soft spot for Roman Abramovich, the oligarch who has been calling a good many shots, since he met with Putin at the Kremlin a couple of weeks ago.

Among the shots Abramovich has been calling is the fact of the meeting itself. Although reports of the tete-a-tete have appeared in the Anglo-American press, as well as in Moscow newspapers, the position of the Kremlin spokesman, Alexei Gromov, is that nothing happened at all, Nothing official, that is. Asked to confirm the reported meeting, one of Gromov’s assistants responded: “we do not disclose that type of information. All official statements are published on the web site kremlin.ru, and you can find the answer there.” According to the website, during the period when Abramovich claims to have dropped in, the President’s schedule of meetings included one with Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, and another with the Patriarch Alexei II. But there is no sign that Abramovich dented a cushion on the presidential sofa. If his fingerprints were on the presidential teacup, they have been wiped clean.

Whatever the Kremlin did, Abramovich has exploited it, fostering the semblance that he has Putin’s authority to launch his attempt to unwind the merger with Yukos, or to restructure the management of the combined YukosSibneft company, or to sell an expanded Sibneft stake to a foreign oil company for much more than the $3 billion he received from the imprisoned Yukos shareholder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. All the cards Abramovich wants his business rivals and his bank lenders to believe he is holding have been neatly laid on Putin’s desk, and made to appear there to be a royal flush, which – again according to the innuendo Abramovich has been promoting — Putin has agreed to cash for him. Abramovich has also convinced the media that his closeness to Putin places him under the president’s personal protection, and that the government’s anti-corruption investigations of Russia’s corporate malefactors shall touch neither Abramovich’s Sibneft interests, nor his personal profit-making while Governor of Chukotka.

The Kremlin’s silence has also been exploited by Yukos and its allies, not to mention the lemonade refugee Boris Berezovsky, as indicating that Putin’s election-winning campaign against the oligarchs is nothing more than that – an election stunt, aimed arbitrarily at just one oligarch and his interests. According to their claim, Putin’s only policy for the nation’s economic wealth is one of redividing the spoils, not redistributing the national welfare.

Unless the Kremlin breaks its silence, those who accuse Putin will have three months of the presidential election campaign to drum up the evidence for their charges. The protest vote against the oligarchs which Putin’s supporters handily won in the parliamentary election on December 7 is potentially unstable. The voters need to be reminded that in the etiquette classes where Putin was trained, rivals and enemies are always kept closer than friends.

If Putin cannot convince the electorate he is not a soft touch for the remaining oligarchs, the voter backlash on March 14, while unlikely to threaten the president’s reelection victory, could be embarrassing. Thus, to seal that victory, five moves should not be difficult for the President to make:

1. Appoint a new prime minister with a record for incorruptibility, and no career links to the oligarchs. No one in the current cabinet of ministers qualifies. Putin should pick an outsider.

2. Investigations by the state tax authorities and by local investment banks demonstrate that Sibneft has been paying an effective tax rate this year of 10%. That’s less than Sibneft paid last year; less than Yukos is paying; less than most other Russian oil producers will pay for 2003. Calculated as total taxes paid per barrel of production, Sibneft paid $5.41 in 2002. Yukos, which is now facing a $5 billion tax avoidance bill, paid $7.05. Putin should announce that Sibneft will have to pay up.

3. Abramovich enjoys legislative immunity for prosecution relating to actions he may have taken as the controlling Sibneft shareholder before his election on December 24, 2000. But he isn’t immune to investigation for actions he has taken as Governor of Chukotka since then. The dispatch of a federal prosecutor to Chukotka would dispel the impression that Abramovich is the beneficiary of favoritism.

4. Kremlin sources have said privately that, early in the year, Abramovich was warned that he should not attempt to sell Sibneft to foreign oil companies. That was when he and Khodorkovsky came up with their Kremlin-approved plan to merge. Putin should make a public statement confirming that if this merger is unwound, government policy will not allow a sale to foreign companies by either Khodorkovsky or Abramovich. Let’s see if Abramovich is quite so keen to pay $3 billion back to Khodorkovsky, if he can’t triple his money by selling to ChevronTexaco.

5. Anatoly Chubais should be relieved of his post as CEO of the state utility UES. In October Chubais tried to rally the oligarchs against Putin, threatening rebellion. He has used UES for his personal advancement, just as the oligarchs use their corporate treasuries. His UES reform is nothing more than another payoff to the oligarchs. Cutting Chubais from UES is the first step to cutting subsidized electricity from the balance-sheets of the oligarchs.

There is always the danger that, in a world as corrupt as the one we live in, a man who tries to be honest will look in the end to be either sentimental or stupid. But that’s not a danger the President of Russia should avoid. Boris Yeltsin convinced Russia’s voters he was sentimental, stupid, and corrupt. Those voters have just repudiated the last political relics of Yeltsin. In five handy moves, Putin can relieve himself of the danger of being honest.


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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