PUTIN PUTS THE PRIME MINISTER TO BED

In “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”, the 18th century French expose of the way vicious people plot to undermine virtue, it is allowed to a manservant to point out to the villain, the Vicomte de Valmont, that “going to bed with a girl only means getting her to do something she wants to do; but from that to getting her to what we want is often quite another story.”

For many years now, first as a deputy finance minister, then as finance minister, and finally as ex-President Boris Yeltsin’s choice of prime minister to succeed Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Kasyanov has played everyone’s choice of the willing girl. It has been a lucrative and pleasurable run for him. There was even a time last October, just before President Putin had Yukos oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky arrested and jailed, that Kasyanov imagined that he could invite ExxonMobil into the bed he was sleeping in. And that has ultimately proved to be a problem for Putin: getting Kasyanov to do what Putin wanted was quite another story.

Until Tuesday in Moscow, Russian politicians, including some close to President Vladimir Putin’s St. Petersburg circle, believed that Premier Kasyanov had a 50 percent chance of being reappointed to the post, after Putin wins reelection. The poll, scheduled for March 14, looks likely to be a walkover for Putin. Until now, he had not been expected to do anything to his ministers except oblige them to curry favour, and hold their breath.

Putin’s unexpected announcement that he is relieving Kasyanov of his duties, and dismissing the entire cabinet, not only ends Kasyanov’s chances. It also clears the slate of all the remaining Yeltsin appointees, and those ministers who have been closest to the oligarchs, the half dozen or so wealthy individuals who control most of Russia’s oil, mining and metals companies.

Putin has explained the surprise move as “not connected the evaluation of the Cabinet’s activity, which in my opinion have been satisfactory.” Rather, he said in a brief television announcement, the change reflects “my desire to show once more my position in the course of events which will develop after the presidential election slated for March 14, 2004.”

Removing Kasyanov, and putting an apolitical caretaker, deputy prime minister Victor Khristenko, in his place allows Putin to campaign as the sole candidate in the presidential race committed to a radical reorganization of Russia’s wealth. He said as much in his television statement. “Russian citizens have the right to know the proposals in stock, including the composition of the highest executive arm of government, in case I am reelected president of the Russian Federation.” That’s a nice way of saying that a vote for Putin will bury the unpopular past; interring Kasyanov & Co. is a politically adept way of demonstrating who is to blame. If Russian voters were entertaining the thought of staying home on election day, voting against all, or casting a protest vote for one of the minor runners, then Putin’s announcement demonstrates again, as he did last autumn, that he should be the popular choice by acclamation.

Putin’s decision to fire both Kasyanov and the cabinet together — while leaving the latter to act as caretakers until the new lineup is named — appears to have had no particular political trigger, although Putin is known to feel personally frustrated by what he views as the loyalty to the oligarchs of cabinet ministers who profess to be loyal to him.

His moves last autumn to charge the Yukos oil company shareholders with tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, and forgery are well-known, and were one reason for the sweep in the December parliamentary elections of the pro-Putin movement, United Russia.

Less well-known is the move at the start of this month by Sergei Stepashin, a Putin ally from St.Petersburg, and possible candidate to be the new prime minister. Stepashin has ordered the state Accounting Chamber, which he heads, to investigate another oil oligarch, Roman Abramovich, for possible corruption in his administration of the Chukotka region, which he has headed since 2000.

Last Thursday, in another surprise move, Putin’s legal staff intervened to block oligarch, Vladimir Potanin, the controlling shareholder of Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company, from releasing hitherto secret data on his company’s production, sale, reserves, and stockpiles of platinum group metals. Declassification of these secrets had been lobbied by Potanin last October, and backed by Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister, and another contender to be the new prime minister. Kudrin pushed the legislation through parliament at record speed, and Putin signed it into law last November.

The President appears to have woken up to the implications of the legislation only now. Potanin’s hopes for cashing out part of his multi-billion dollar stake in Norilsk Nickel have depended on the declassification measure, and on backing from ministers like Kasyanov and Kudrin. Now that they are gone, Potanin is stymied. A source close to the Kremlin has told me that Potanin has “reason to be a nervous man. Redivision of Norilsk Nickel is inevitable.”

The same source also told me that he believes Putin will continue playing one oligarch off against another, and that he expects aluminium boss, Oleg Deripaska, to run into Kremlin trouble later in the year. Deripaska, who controls Russian Aluminium (Rusal), one of the largest producers of aluminium in the world, is also the most active of the Russian oligarchs in Africa. He controls bauxite mines and an alumina refinery in Guinea, and is publicly said to be bidding for a Nigerian aluminium plant, due to be awarded in April. An English High Court judge recently issued a tough ruling criticizing Rusal’s political and commercial tactics in Guinea.

At home Deripaska’s attempt to cash out some of Rusal’s downstream aluminium plants is now likely to attract much keener attention from the Kremlin than it would have, under the outgoing government. According to local government sources, Deripaska is trying to persuade US aluminium giant Alcoa to buy him out of the Samara Metallurgical Plant in the Samara region, and the Belaya Kalitva Metallurgical Plant in Rostov.

An outsider who has been advising Putin on policy reform in the oil and mineral resource sector, Vladimir Litvinenko, was not given much chance of winning a seat in the new cabinet — until now. Litvinenko, Rector of the St.Petersburg Mining Institute, has been a strong advocate of blocking foreign corporation takeovers of strategic Russian mineral assets. He has also told me he favours the use or lose rules that were recently invoked by the government to cancel ExxonMobil’s licence for the Sakhalin-3 offshore project in the Fareast. The big American had held on to the licence for years, without doing anything to upset Prime Minister Kasyanov. But by doing nothing at all he and ExxonMobil have invited a veritable revolution in Russian resource policy – and Putin now appears to be committed to that direction.

By putting his prime minister to bed, Putin has sent a wake-up call to Russian policymakers, and the oligarchs, that is unmistakable.

RUSSIAN OIL BEATS BUSH TO MARKET

For a decade Washington has been backing the Turkish and Azerbaihan governments to steer the export of Caspian region crude oil away from Russia, Russia’s newest riposte has been to ally the Russian and Iranian oil industries, and open up the shortest, cheapest, and most lucrative oil route of all, southwards out of the Caspian to Iran,

The economics of the southward route are the latest blow for the Bush Administration, as it tries to redraw the geography of the Caucasus on an anti-Russian map. But for oil exporters and shippers in the Caspian, President George Bush’s jawboning looks to be as futile as King Canute telling the sea to roll backwards.

Early oil from Azerbaijan’s newest offshore oilfields has been piped northwestwards through the Russian pipeline system to Novorossiysk port, on the Black Sea, along with crude from the Caspian shoreline of Kazakhstan, But there have been frequent arguments with the Azeris over volumes and transit fees, and these have led to frequent oil stoppages. Azeri oil for transit across Georgia to Supsa port is a costly trickle, by comparison.

In parallel, Turkey has been steadily tightening restrictions on tanker movement out of the Black Sea, through the Bosphorus Straits. The latest rules ban lengthy and large-capacity tankers — those which are most cost-effective for charterers and cargo-owners — from moving through the straits at night. The delay adds to the transport charges, creating an expensive chokepoint that has multiplied the costs of routing oil through the Black Sea for US allies, and Russia, alike.

As new Caspian oilfields come onstream, and the volumes of crude lifted grow beyond the capacities of the Russian pipeline system to absorb, the American strategy has been to press hard to redirect these exports across land towards Turkey. The pipeline route chosen is known by its origin and destination as Baku-Ceyhan.

The Russian government has always understood that the this pipeline was part of the broader US strategy to cut all links with Moscow of the former Soviet states in the Caucasus, building new economic infrastructure that would dissuade the Caucasus group from ever renewing these ties. These efforts have proved to be a colossal boomerang.

A Ukrainian pipeline, designed to attract Caspian oil into Odessa port, on the Black Sea, and then pump it northwards to Brody, and thence into Poland and other central European destinations, has lain empty for almost a year. Despite US government prodding, even the major US oil companies in the Caspian cannot quite absorb the commercial disadvantages of the route. Nor can US a allies in the Polish government overrule their colleagues with demands to buy this anti-Russian, but higher-priced oil.

The Russian government, together the Russian oil exporters, have countered with a proposal for the Ukrainian government to reverse the oil flow in the pipeline, and pipe Russian crude southwards to Odessa, for tankering out of the Black Sea.

The conflict in Kiev over the strategic pros and cons of these alternative oil routes has damaged another US ally in the region. Late last year, the Ukrainian parliament voted to block the Adria pipeline reversal project. This is aimed at delivering Russian crude to the deep-water port of Omishalj in Croatia, on the Adriatic Sea. The Ukrainian veto was retaliation by the anti-Russian oil lobby in Kiev for the failure of its Odessa-Brody project.

The irony of this outcome is that the Omishalj project was first proposed in 2002, and agreed by Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, and Croatia as a way of despatching Russian crude in large tankers to Bush constituents who own the refineries on the Texas coast of the United States. Initial capacity, according to the Omishalj plan, was 5 million tonnes per year, rising eventually to 15 million tonnes. The Ukrainian deputies justified their no-vote because, they said, it would be the final blow to the proposed Odessa-Brody pipeline, should the Druzhba line be filled up west of Ukraine. “This is true,” says Adam Landes, an oil analyst in Moscow, “but Odessa-Brody is doomed regardless. It offers no competitive advantage to potential Caspian shippers, or buyers of crude, and this is why it has been idle for two years now, since it was essentially completed. The longer Ukraine takes to face up to these rather obvious facts, the longer that this ill-fated pipeline will lie dormant.”

Another US ally to be caught in the cross-fire has been Latvia. As the anti-Russian pressure has mounted against Russian oil shipments in the south, Moscow accelerated the completion of a new oil outlet on the Gulf of Finland and Baltic Sea. This is Primorsk, which opened two years ago.

Controlled by Transneft, the state pipeline agency, Primorsk receives its crude from the Baltic Pipeline System — a network of pipelines linking Russia’s new Arctic oilwells and expanding northwest Siberian fields to the sea lanes to Western Europe’s markets. Once the Primorsk outlet was established, the Russian government ordered Transneft to turn off the supply of oil to Ventspils in Latvia.

At one time the Soviet Union’s northern gateway for oil exports, in 1990 Ventspils almost matched Novorossiysk in capacity and throughput. But no longer. The Latvians have appealed to Washington for help, but Moscow will not listen. The opening of Primorsk was the deathknell for Ventspils.

The Americans responded in 2003 by pressing the Russian government to end Transneft’s monopoly over pipelines, and allow the Russian oil majors to build a pipeline of their own to Murmansk. That, Washington energy officials claimed, would open a new, commercially effective route for crude deliveries to US East Coast refineries. Transneft has responded by accelerating the expansion of the Baltic Pipeline System, while the Kremlin has started prosecutions of Yukos, the oil company which was closest to Washington. The speed of this pipeline expansion effort will overtake the growth of Russian export volumes by 2005, Transneft officials have told me. The Murmansk project will wither, they believe, for lack of oil to ship.

Until Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, Russian oil policy was dictated by a corrupt alliance of the Russian oil producers and the US government, Putin’s campaign against Yukos has put a stop to that. Even during the Yeltsin period, however, Russian public policy was not to attack the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline on strategic grounds. Rather, Russian tactics were to play for time, and wait for the economics of oil transportation to tell against the US plan. So long as crude oil prices remained low, time encouraged delay in starting Baku-Ceyhan. The US war against Iraq threatened the pipeline plan too, by raising the prospect of a gusher of Iraqi crude on the market, cutting prices.

But now that Bush is proving that he cannot lift Iraqi oil, and prices remain firm for the foreseeable future, a new counter to Baku-Ceyhan has been needed by Moscow to retain the upper hand.

Russian exporters have responded with a new export route — southwards through the Caspian to Iran. Russian oil producers and shippers say they are expecting the volume of crude oil and petroleum products shipped from the Russian Caspian port of Astrakhan to Iran to more than double this year. A spokesman for Volgotanker, the leading tanker operator in the Caspian, said it is expecting growth of its oi! volume to jump 150 percent over the 2003 level of 800,000 tonnes.

Russian industry sources claim the expansion of the Iranian port of Neka, and the construction of a 120,000-barrels/day pipeline from Neka to Rey, is one of the new options for oil movement southwards. The Russian shipments of Caspian oil are paid for by swap arrangements with Iranian oil shipped out of Persian Gulf ports. Enzeli, the only Iranian Caspian port able to receive deep-draught vessels, is also being considered for receiving oil aboard railcars shipped by ferry from Astrakhan. LUKoil’s new oil terminal at Ilyinka, on the Astrakhan shore, will reach transshipment capacity of 3 million tonnes annual capacity (60,000 barrels per day) next year; this year capacity is 1 million tonnes (20,000 bd).

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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THE WAR AGAINST FOOD – WHO IS TO BLAME



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

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.  

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EXILE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.”

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IN THE FOG OF WAR THERE’S THE GUTERRES CERTAINTY AND THE CADIEU CERTAINTY – GORILLA RADIO SEES THROUGH THE COVER-UP



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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DID UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES COMMIT A WAR CRIME AT AZOVSTAL?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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THE LAST DITCH IS POLAND – RUSSIA’S PHASE-3 PLAN FOR WESTERN UKRAINE



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

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.

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THE MATLIN PLOT, THE BROWDER PLOT AND THE NEW YORK TIMES PLOT



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*
  @bears_with

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.

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YELLOW COAL, THE FUEL MADE OUT OF RACE HATRED — MAY DAY MESSAGE FROM SIGIZMUND KRZHIZHANOVSKY, 1939



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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IS CAESARISM THE PROBLEM, THE SOLUTION, A FANCY DRESS COSTUME, OR A PROPAGANDA CARTOON?



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

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.

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