RUSSIA-HATING AND RUSSOPHOBIA ARE A THOUSAND YEARS OLD – LONG ENOUGH TO PROVE THERE’S NO CURE, ONLY REMISSION BY FORCE OF ARMS

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Hatred of the Russian race and Russophobia are more than a thousand years old in Europe – long enough for everyone nowadays to realise there’s no cure for them.  At least not by rational persuasion, not by words.  Remission by force of arms is another matter altogether.

A Swiss history of the phenomenon in Europe, starting in France in Charlemagne’s time and ending on the Donbass contact line since 2014, explains why the stakes along that line are so great now. The book is also an aid to comprehending why in this week’s telephone conversation between the chief Russian and American negotiators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (lead image, 1st right) demonstrated the futility of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s (3rd right) talking with him again.*  

The Swiss history, published by Guy Mettan in 2017 as President Donald Trump was taking office in Washington, reveals a hopefulness that is impossible now. “Will Trump know how”, Mettan asks in his last paragraph, “will he still want to, or will he simply give up on trying to turn the tide and bring back civility in the relations between the West and Russia? Is a respite in what is turning out to be a new Cold War at all possible?” Mettan answered himself: “We certainly wish so. After all, if the task is almost superhuman, as no one will doubt after reading this book, it just may not be altogether impossible.”

Squeezing between that double negative there is in fact no space, no hope.

Mettan has written a primer on this brand of racism, noting that “Russophobia, contrary to French Anglophobia and Germanophobia, is a phenomenon that, though different of course, resembles anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. Like anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, it is not a transitory phenomenon linked to specific historical events; it exists first in the head of the one who looks, not in the victim’s alleged behaviour or characteristics.”

In Mettan’s history, American Russophobia “begins where the French, the English, and the Germans left off. It is a dynamic synthesis of French liberal-democratic Russophobia and English and German imperialist Russoaphobias.”  To Mettan the American phenomenon of today is a millennial climax of sorts. It‘s the apogee and the perigee, the final form of confidence in pursuing genocidal war against the Russians who resist and subjugation of those who remain,  which the German leadership held in June 1941.

According to Mettan, though, the adoption of Russophobia as US state policy since 1945  has reversed the outcome of the last war for the Germans. “This is how, in less than a quarter century, without striking a single blow Germany has just won the First and Second World Wars!”

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HOW RUSSIAN FICTION STUMPED GEORGE SAUNDERS

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

On the subject of Russia and the Russians, American exceptionalism pops up in the most unexpected places.

Take the case of a new book from the Russia-warfighting publisher Random House of New York fetchingly sub-titled “In which four Russians give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life”. The Guardian, lead Russia-warfighter in London, managed to review the book as “a delight”, but it avoided mentioning the word “Russia” even once.  The New York Times, perpetrator of every propaganda line the Russiagate plotters and Kremlin regime changers want to see in print, managed  the word “Russian” three times in its review of the new book,  but consigned it to the 19th century, safely locked up by reference to Vladimir Nabokov’s “classic lectures on Russian literature, first delivered at Cornell.”

Now forest rangers may refer to the particular tree in the wood on which their dogs choose to urinate.  But in the history of modern Russian literature the place in upstate New York where Nabokov was paid to deliver himself of his opinions before he fled to Switzerland for life is quite unexceptional — except to the New York Times. In the upstate New York forest, Nabokov’s Cornell tree is just one hour’s driving south of the tree at Syracuse where the author George Saunders (lead image) has produced his book on the four Russian guides to life. No dog, no tree in Saunders’ title, but plenty of relieving liquid – “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain”.

What makes Saunders the master in the “master class” is spelled out in the reviews. His lectures to undergraduates on creative fiction are “top-ranked”; another book of his won a Pulitzer prize for fiction; also a Booker prize; he’s been on a best-seller list; there is a “rack of National Magazine Awards”; and he has been given a “genius grant” by the MacArthur Foundation. In short, this is a master situated squarely in the American marketplace, and advantageously at that. Russia is his latest selling-point, a barker’s come-on.  

About that place and its people far away, Saunders claims on page 6 to know nothing – “I’m not a critic or a literary historian or an expert on Russian literature or any of that.” At the same time – actually two pages earlier, on page 4 – Saunders had already declared he knows quite enough. The lessons from Russia he selected for his story-telling are “resistance literature, written by progressive reformers in a repressive culture under constant threat of censorship, in a time when a writer’s politics could lead to exile, imprisonment, and execution”.

Phew! That relieves Saunders of the Russian pain in his pants as he approached his exceptional upstate New York tree.  But he’s gotten too close — too many dogs, too much liquid in the roots, a gust of wind, and the tree is keeling over. Look out! Timberrr! Exceptionalist American fiction writer has been topped by log of Russian truth.  

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FIONA HILL IS THE NAME OF A COMIC STRIP ZOMBIE – READ HOW US WARFIGHTERS LIKE HER GET THEMSELVES WET AND WOOZLED

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

When it came to ingratiating American presidents, no Russian leader tried harder than Mikhail Gorbachev followed by Boris Yeltsin. Vladimir Putin did his best to match their examples with Bill Clinton.   Putin was slow to learn, slower to anger. That began in 2008 when Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, broke a promise after taking a bribe to allow the Kremlin to buy the Opel car division in Germany from General Motors.  

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THE FIRST SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK ABOUT RUSSIA – CAN YOU SPOT WHAT’S WRONG IN THIS PICTURE?

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

There’s a lot to be afraid of in life. Mine has been dominated by the fear of suffocating to death.

Compared to that, verbal insults, the headmaster’s cane, my father’s screaming, army camp, police on horses, Harvard University, the doorman at Fortnum’s, bad reviews, Russian gunmen, Georgian gunmen, and threats by lawyers amount to less. When they strike, they generate an equal or greater mass of energy to fight back. But when suffocation comes on, all I am able to do is to gasp for air, and prepare for the worst.

The problem with the fear of suffocating is that it leads to three other fears – the fear of dentists working in my mouth; the fear of being gagged by robbers; and the fear of laughing.

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TRUTH TONIC FOR RUSSIA WAR FIGHTERS & HOW TO VOTE GUIDE — THE DANCES WITH BEARS COMIC IS OUT TODAY

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Faster than a speeding bullet — more powerful than a locomotive — able to leap tall lies at a single bound.

More farsighted than Clark Kent (alias Superman), greener than Hal Jordan (Green Lantern), more tenacious than Peter Parker (Spiderman), as sworn to vengeance against lawlessness as Bruce Wayne (Batman).

That’s the first true to life comic book coated in LAUGHTER, the only antidote that’s certain to neutralize Novichok if it gets into your underpants or a BUK rocket if it’s fired at your airplane.

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THE TWO SATANS OF AFGHANISTAN – AND JIMMY CARTER’S LIPS ARE SEALED

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

If ever there was a man who displayed on his face the evil in his mind, it was Zbigniew Brzezinski (lead image, left),  the national security advisor for President Jimmy Carter (right) when the US plot to start the war against the Soviet Union on the Afghan front was hatched in  1979. “Now we can lure the Russians into the Afghan trap,” he wrote Carter in a secret note of February 1979. In July of that year he followed with the directive Carter signed in secret to supply arms to the mujahideen “to induce a Soviet military intervention”. In December 1979 Brzezinski told Carter: “we should not be too sanguine about Afghanistan becoming a Soviet Vietnam”.  Later he used to boast that had been precisely his intention and also his crowning achievement.

Brzezinski’s lips are sealed now because he’s been dead for four years.  

Carter is still alive. In 1979 he kept the evil on his mind secret behind the smile on his face. His lips are sealed now, since the retreat from Afghanistan began by the US Army, and after the rout last month in Kabul. The mainstream American press are not reporting they have asked Carter for comment, or that he has refused. Not even the alt-media investigators have pursued him.

But it’s already clear what Carter thinks. He believes he scored one of the wold’s great strategic victories; he is disgruntled that he has never received the public credit he thinks he deserves. In the words of one of the CIA men in charge of Afghanistan operations in 1979, Carter’s strategy was to wage the “fight [against] the Soviets that went on to win the final and decisive battle of the Cold War.”

A new book by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, just published, opens the story of what Brzezinski and Carter really did to start the US war in Afghanistan, starting with the assassination of Adolph Dubs, the US Ambassador in Kabul on February 14, 1979; his killing with four pistol shots to head in a Kabul hotel room, the book concludes, was part of the White House plot.

“Some unnamed Americans claimed the Soviets wanted Dubs out of the way so they could set up for their invasion,” Fitzgerald and Gould report. They go on to name the Americans, one an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Kabul, another a CIA agent.  “But the Soviets got along famously with Dubs because he wasn’t an anti-Soviet Russophobe like Brzezinski. There was also plenty of evidence to show the Soviets didn’t want to invade. They went on record with the U.S. embassy throughout the summer of 1979 trying everything to avoid it. And besides, the rules of the game made ambassadors virtually untouchable. There was no upside to killing one, and a big downside.”

The assassination of Dubs, Fitzgerald and Gould argue, “led to the Soviet invasion nine months later….Who would kill an ambassador? Not a rival superpower trying to get the American Congress to sign a nuclear arms deal they’d desperately needed. And certainly not a third-world backwater desperate for U.S. aid and recognition. Only someone trying to provoke retribution. And who would want that retribution? Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski blamed the Russians, but then Brzezinski always blamed the Russians… If it hadn’t been for the Dubs murder there would never have been a Soviet invasion.”

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CATHERINE BELTON LOSES FIRST TRUTH TEST, RUPERT MURDOCH PUBLISHER TO RETRACT, APOLOGISE — REUTERS PRETENDS IT ISN’T SO

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Catherine Belton (lead image, left), a reporter on Russia for the Financial Times and Reuters, was abandoned this week by her publisher, Rupert Murdoch’s (right) HarperCollins, and obliged to sign an out-of-court settlement in London with Mikhail Fridman and Pyotr Aven of Alfa Bank and the LetterOne group.

The publisher has agreed to admit there was “no significant evidence” for Belton’s allegations of KGB connections in the early careers of Fridman and Aven; and that she had failed to check her claims with Fridman and Aven before publishing them. “HarperCollins and [Belton] recognise and regret that comment was not sought earlier from Mr Aven and Mr Fridman… and to apologise that the subject was not discussed with them prior to initial publication.”

HarperCollins will publish this statement within a week of the High Court issuing its order. Three months ago, the publisher had announced it “will robustly defend the claim and the right to report on matters of considerable public interest”.  The publisher has now  agreed to remove Belton’s allegations against Fridman and Aven from new printings of the book, Putin’s People:  How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West.

The hardcover edition was published in April 2020 in the UK; the following June in the US. The American publisher is a subsidiary of the German Holtzbrinck publishing group, which produces the anti-Russia newspaper Die Zeit.  The paperback edition of Belton’s book has not yet been published, delayed indefinitely by the London court action and by the publishers’ loss of confidence in Belton’s veracity. 

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THE DUTCH INVASION PLAN OF DONBASS BEFORE THE DOWNING OF MH17 ON JULY 17, 2014

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Two Dutch nationals, David Petraeus and Sandra Roelofs (lead image, centre), were involved in the US planning of an invasion of the Donbass region, eastern Ukraine, in the days running up to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, 2014, when 193 Dutch and 38 Australians were among the 298 passengers and crew killed.  

Petraeus, a US Army general and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2011-November 9, 2012), is a Dutch citizen by law because his father, Sixtus Petraeus from Friesland, was a junior officer in the Dutch merchant marine at the outbreak of World War II. David Petraeus was awarded a Dutch knighthood in 2010 and is celebrated by the Dutch as “the most visible Dutch American personality on the national and international scene”.

Roelofs, Dutch by birth in Zeeland, became the wife of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (left) in 1993, and she has remained his collaborator in open political as well as clandestine operations in Georgia, Ukraine, and the US since then.

In the early days of July 2014, when the Ukrainian forces of then-President Petro Poroshenko were launching their US-directed offensive in the Donbass, Petraeus met Saakashvili at the latter’s home with Roelofs in New York to discuss a military operation which Saakashvili then discussed with Poroshenko. Last week, speaking on Ukrainian television as a member of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government, Saakashvili broke his silence to reveal partial details of the military plan.  

Did either or both of them engage Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s (right) government before July 17, 2014, in readiness for Rutte’s promotion of the NATO force invasion plan immediately afterwards? Rutte’s involvement in that plan was first revealed by the Dutch press on July 25, 2014.

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NOW AND THEN – WHY WILLIAM BRUMFIELD’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF RUSSIA ARE US WAR PROPAGANDA

By John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

William Brumfield is an American university professor who has specialised in photographing Russian architecture before the Revolution, especially churches. His pictures are optimistic, not so much for the revival of the Orthodox God as for the recovery of Church property from before (lead image, right).  If one of Brumfield’s pictures could do for a thousand words, the record of Russian atheism (lead image, left), secularism, communism, collectivisation and socialism would be erased as if it had never existed.

Brumfield has visited Russia more than fifty times in the past fifty years. In 2019 he was awarded the Order of Friendship by President Vladimir Putin, though not personally. The medal was sent to the Russian Embassy in Washington, and that’s where Brumfield collected it. The award is a multi-purpose one for foreigners; it has also gone to Gennady Timchenko’s wife and daughter for their good works as ex-Russian Finnish nationals. Since 2014 they have all been targeted by US Treasury sanctions.

Brumfield’s newest book is a candidate for selection in London as Pushkin House’s best book on Russia for 2021.  That’s if the selection committee agree to count it on their short list to be announced shortly.  The committee is run this year by two well-known Russia haters, Fiona Hill of the US National Security Council  and the ex-NATO secretary-general George Robertson.

Brumfield’s book is called “Journeys through the Russian Empire”. It reproduces the photographs of Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, taken between 1903 and 1916, displayed side by side with attempts at reproducing the same shots taken by Brumfield between 1972 and 2018.

Except for a brief record of the mosques and medrassas of Bukhara and Samarkand, the majority of both sets of photographs is of churches and monasteries located outside Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Brumfield is vague on what Prokudin-Gorsky was doing; he provides no direct diary excerpts,  letters, notes, or contemporary versions of what the photographer was thinking at the time. Brumfield appears not to have read Prokudin-Gorsky’s memoirs, published in France in 1932 and quoted in the Russian website dedicated to the Russian photographer since 2011.  

Brumfield is also fuzzy on what he’s been doing himself. He concedes “the nostalgic appeal of a lost world vividly rediscovered in brilliant colour. These photographs transport us back in time and create an illusion of memory”. But since Brumfield thinks he knows what happened next better than Prokudin-Gorsky could, the “nostalgic interpretations…may be superficially appealing, but they ignore a larger, at times devastating, context.”

Brumfield doesn’t mean the German wars on Russia;  nor the civil war invasions by armies from Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, France, Britain and the US;  nor the current US-NATO war.  He is only thinking of the revolution of 1917 and of “the next decade…years of war, social collapse, hunger and savage violence”. On the one hand, Brumfiield acknowledges “the perspective that Prokudin-Gorsky implicitly endorses in his photographs is that of Russians as bringers of progress and amelioration”. On the other hand, he thinks the subsequent history didn’t bring that about either.  He doesn’t quite dare to say that he blames the godless Russians.  “Historical buildings are a form of real estate and as such are subject to competing interests. The survival or destruction of architectural landmarks – and specifically those photographed by Prokudin-Gorsky – may reflect many, seemingly contradictory impulses. We have noted the important role played by the Russian Orthodox Church in the process of restoration, yet the Church has often been criticized by preservationists for renovations taken after the restitution of church property”.

This is a book to help western readers imagine there would be a better Russia if only the present leadership would sign terms of capitulation; they are the terms which Fiona Hill and George Robertson have made their careers thinking up, promoting in public, failing to achieve on the war front.   

The book is a large volume of the sort publishers market to readers intending to display, flat on their coffee tables, how cultivated their owners are.  In this context – cocktails this evening, war tomorrow – it might have been better if Brumfield had presented his collection of matching pre-1917 and pre-1991 photographs without writing a word. That way the photographs would speak for themselves to “the competing interests”. Brumfield might have left the words to Hill and Robertson whom those fond of Russian culture can safely ignore.

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BLINDNESS FOLLOWED BY DELIRIUM, DIARRHEA – SYMPTOMS REPORTED AS COVID-19 KILLS LAST SURVIVING AUSTRALIAN JOURNALISTS – LIST OF HOTSPOTS

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The last survivors of Australian journalism have succumbed to complications of Covid-19 infection.

Following the publication in the US at the beginning of this week of the first book to investigate  the pandemic lawlessness which has taken hold in Melbourne, the second city of Australia,  reporters for the mainstream Australian media and the alternative media have suffocated after opening the first pages of the book,  but before they were able to report its contents.

The fatalities are not considered suspicious, although in December a state-appointed commission of inquiry reported that officials of the Victorian state government had been negligent in their administration of pandemic emergency powers. Three resignations were forced; no corruption charges have been prosecuted. State MPs are trying to open a parliamentary debate on more than $200 million in unaccounted-for state spending on police, hospitals, hotels, lawyers, medical research units, and university think-tanks. 

An investigation was opened this week by the Judicial Commission of Victoria into the disappearance, loss, or possibly destruction of hearing records for the only case in the Australian courts to challenge the legality of the ban on Australians returning home from abroad, and the closure of Melbourne’s international airport.

Here is the list of the reporters who were diagnosed before they could report on the book; also the infection hotspots which readers are recommended to avoid. Genomic testing is still under way to determine which mutation has proved fatal to Australian reporters, half of whom are employed by Rupert Murdoch; they were immunocompromised before the pandemic started.   

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NOW THAT JOHN LE CARRÉ IS DEAD, IT’S TIME TO REMEMBER ERIC AMBLER

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

Elephants are the truly self-knowing creatures of our world.

We know this because when they are about to die, they go somewhere no one else can find. It’s the elephantine way of saying they aren’t convinced they are leaving anything behind that’s worth remembering, so in their last act of will, they escape the speculators.   

Not so writers, especially the big-money ones. Thus, when John Le Carré (aka David Cornwell) died over the weekend, we know that it happened in Truro, Cornwall; in a hospital; and that the cause of death was pneumonia, but not the Covid-19 type.  He was 89 years old.  

His commission agent issued a statement claiming he should be remembered for having “define[d] the Cold War era with the help of his character, George Smiley, and through his complex plots and beautiful prose, beamed a harsh light at the injustices of our world.” In marketing circles this is known as talking your book. The agent attached two hyperboles – one approximately true, one absolutely false. “He has sold more than sixty million copies of his work worldwide. His like will never be seen again.”

The Murdoch Times also tried hyperbole: “[Le Carré] created a new school of fiction, not so much spy stories as anti-spy stories, convoluted tales of disillusionment and betrayal.” The Financial Times cut the pedestal down by several notches. “[He] elevat[ed] the spy novel to a higher literary form that reached well beyond the flimsy, hard-boiled, action-packed capers often common to the genre.” If you think about that for an instant, it’s no reach at all. It’s a description of the FT’s reporting on Russia.     

The Guardian momentarily suspended its Russia-hating obsession to record the career and personal betrayals Cornwell performed against fellow Englishmen when he was employed as an agent, first of MI5 and then of MI6. Evidently, there was much worse he did to them, but the newspaper’s obituarist added: “the precise details of his work have never been spoken of.” This comes close to the truth about the Le Carré books – from them we learn next to nothing about the other side, only how discreditable our side is.

“Always George’s problem,” le Carré wrote in his last tale of his best-known MI6 officer, George Smiley, “seeing both sides of everything.” About the Russians, not so — not Smiley,  certainly not Le Carré.  

It was clear last year that he had ceased to have his wits about him when he wrote the following to be pasted on the front cover of a book MI6 had dictated about the Skripal affair  to a BBC correspondent called Mark Urban. “A scrupulous piece of reporting,” Le Carré wrote —  “necessary, timely and very sobering”. Later, when the evidence was pointed out to Le Carré that he had been quite wrong, and was asked to set his own record straight, he arranged the following pretence with his agent. She wrote: “Mr Cornwell is away writing currently and has asked that we decline all requests for him at this time.”

Now that Le Carré is away permanently, it is time to remember his predecessor, Eric Ambler (lead image, left and right). He died also aged 89; that was in London in 1998. At the time it was said he had “raised the thriller to the level of literature. He brought intellectual substance to the genre at a time when it often suffered from shortages of surprise, maturity, verisimilitude and literary skill.”

On his way out, Ambler said: “Thrillers are respectable now. Back in the beginning, people weren’t quite that sure about them. But ‘they really say more about the way people think and governments behave than many of the conventional novels. A hundred years from now, if they last, these books may offer some clues to what was going on in our world.”

With elephantine flair he titled his autobiography “Here Lies Eric Ambler”. There Ambler tells of creating “Soviet agents who were on the side of angels”, and the “only Communist Party speaker who ever carried conviction with me”. Ambler amused himself, and also the reader, when eating eggs on toast in a café on the Edgware Road with the Communist and a professional burglar. According to Ambler, the latter told the former: “I suppose you could say that I redistribute wealth”.

In the real world Cornwell would have reported to his superiors on them both; in his fiction Le Carré would have affected guilt.   Ambler judged both to be laughable, the latter more so.

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THE MH17 SHOOT-DOWN WAS A BIG MONEY-MAKER FOR THE DUTCH POLICE, PROSECUTORS, JUDGES TOO

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

The Dutch police have hired a professor called Maurice Punch to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. He tried; the Dutch police think he succeeded in a report called “Passionate Professionals: The Dutch Police Response to the Shooting Down of Malaysian Airlines’ MH17 in the Ukraine.”   Punch concluded that to the Dutch police the MH17 disaster has been worth its weight in guilders, I mean gold.

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ANGELA STENT INFLATES BALLOON IN US WARFIGHTING AGAINST RUSSIA

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

A stent is a contraption which cardiologists have invented for opening a blockage in an artery so that blood can flow normally. Without it, the blockage will eventually lead to failure of circulation – an explosion of blood, the destruction of the artery, death.

Angela Stent considers herself a contraption to save US policymaking towards Russia from defeat and destruction. Instead, however, the book she’s written illustrates the opposite. She’s not the saving surgeon, but the collapsing patient, whose failure to understand the basics of circulation makes effective repair impossible, and is bound to lead, if not to an explosion of blood, then to the accelerated demise of the command system Stent represents.  

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THE GOSPEL VERSION OF RUSSIA – CATHERINE BELTON AND SERGEI PUGACHEV PREACH A SERMON FOR RUPERT MURDOCH TO SELL, AND FOR LUKE HARDING TO PROSELYTISE

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

If Pontius Pilate, Judas Iscariot and Joshua Barabbas had combined to produce the eye-witness book on the life and death of Jesus Christ, whose anniversary falls this month, it wasn’t heard of when it was newsworthy, in the first years of the first century AD; readers have been deterred from looking for it ever since. Religious faith does that sort of thing to eye-witness testimony, documents, financial accounts, court rulings and other forms of evidence.

Likewise, Catherine Belton (lead image, centre) has produced a book with Sergei Pugachev (left), the man who stole more than two billion dollars from the Central Bank of Russia and other banks; was convicted in a British court of trying to hide it; fled to France to escape two years in prison if the English can catch him. Paying to print and market their collaboration is Harper Collins, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s (first right) media holding, News Ltd.

Together, Belton and Pugachev have composed a gospel about the evil that is Russia under President Vladimir Putin, and the virtue they say they believed in when Boris Yeltsin was ruler. “We were sitting in the kitchen of Pugachev’s latest residence, a three-storey townhouse in the well-heeled London area of Chelsea,” Belton begins, introducing the faith the two of them share with Mikhail Khodorkovsky (lead image, extreme right); the ghost of the hanged Boris Berezovsky; Valentin Yumashev, Yeltsin’s son-in-law; and others identified anonymously as the collaborators upon whom Belton relies and whom she requires her co-religionists to accept as gospel too.

Three disciples have sworn their faith publicly so far – Luke Harding of The Guardian; Edward Lucas of The Times, and Oliver Bullough, once a reporter at the BBC. “The most remarkable account so far,” says Harding,  “of Putin’s rise from a KGB operative to deadly agent provocateur in the hated west”.   “Its only flaw,” Harding  mentions, “is a heavy reliance on well-placed anonymous sources. Talking publicly about Kremlin corruption is dangerous, as the polonium fate of Alexander Litvinenko shows. Still, the lack of names can be frustrating.” Frustrating is the word that came to St. Paul’s mind when he was having directional trouble on the road between Jerusalem and Damascus. Inadmissible in a court of law, Pilate would have said.  A pack of lies, according to Judas and Barabbas.

“Fact, not fiction,” declared Edward Lucas, an employee on the fiction floor of the same London office building as Harper Collins. “Catherine Belton, for years a Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, relates it with clarity, detail, insight and bravery.” “The Putin book that we’ve been waiting for,” Bullough said messianically.     You won’t be risking perdition yourself if you don’t wait.

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THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY PARADOX SOLVED – WHY DOES SUCH A SMART INTELLIGENCE AGENCY KEEP GETTING OUTSMARTED BY THE RUSSIANS?

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Now for a psycho-shocker of a spy story in which the National Security Agency’s (NSA) chief of the Research Directorate goes head to head with Russians whom his research proves tried “to change the outcome of our presidential election”, and then tried to kill Sergei Skripal to “serve[d] as a warning to Russia’s adversaries”.

The psycho-shock has already happened to the NSA chief and storyteller, Eric Haseltine (lead images),  so he is paralysed by a Russian weapon that’s about to psycho-shock the reader. That’s you.

After you read this, you will never again be able to type on a keyboard without anticipating that the “diabolically clever” Russians are reading every word. But maybe you are suspicious the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) might be doing the same thing? “Naw”, says Michael Arneson, Haseltine’s hero and NSA engineer from a dirt poor Minnesota family with no more than a high school diploma, and whose favourite drink is Mr Pibb. “The CIA is way too incompetent to create something this good.”  In this tale,  American heroes fit to fight the Russians and save you from your keyboards,  talk like that.

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SKRIPAL IN PRISON – THE FIRST BOOK TO REPORT THE TRUTH

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It is exactly two years since the case of two Russians, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, began with their collapse on a park bench in the middle of England on the afternoon of March 4, 2018.

On their anniversary it is necessary to tell this story. But it isn’t the story of what happened. This is because the only people who can tell that one, the Skripals, are locked away in isolation, guarded by determined men under secret government orders.

Instead, this is the story of what didn’t happen – provably didn’t happen because it was quite impossible circumstantially; and because the legal papers warranting that it did have not been signed by a judge, tested in a court of law, or released in public.

The facts which you have seen, heard or read about the incident of March 4, 2018, have been falsified. Everything that has flowed from them is false too.  Understanding this is a start to the other story, and so something solid to work from – not missed until now; more like seen but disbelieved. As if the truth were fiction, and the fiction truth.

This is the story of how the largest and longest criminal investigation in modern British history ended in a prosecution without evidence of the crime, the weapon, the crime scene, and even of the crime victims. Allegations there are; evidence admissible in a British court of law there is not. That’s to say, a prosecution which will not be presented in court, before no judge and jury; with no witnesses on oath; and no verdict. That is no prosecution at all.

To say otherwise, as do the British Government, its allies abroad, and every one of its mass circulation media without exception, is a lie. The victims, it turns out, are held in a British prison, at a secret location, incommunicado, without access to lawyers to defend them, without contact with their families, or the consular representatives of the state whose passports they hold. No court has judged them or sentenced them to this punishment.

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ROBERT SERVICE’S PATHETIC FALLACY — BRITISH WARFIGHTER’S GUIDE TO TARGETTING VLADIMIR PUTIN

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Robert Service (lead images) commits the pathetic fallacy over and over.

It isn’t that his fallacies are pathetic, and so deserve to be pitied. It is that Service takes money for writing histories, purporting to be about Russia, its revolutionary leaders, and now its current leader, by projecting his own emotions on to his targets. It’s the kind of personification intended to convince readers of the hostility of his Russian targets, and Service’s wisdom in judging them for what they are; that’s to say, what deserves to be done to them (if they aren’t dead yet) by people like Service.

Service is a propagandist for Russia-hating, Kremlin-changing warfare. His output is a stream of books aimed by Pan Macmillan — now a German-owned publisher with most of its sales in the US — at American readers inveigled into wanting war with Russia.  

“I came to this project after serving as a witness in the Berezovski v. Abramovich trial in 2011-2012”, Service says by way of his oath to tell the truth at the start of his new testimony against Vladimir Putin. Service’s book, released this week, is called “Kremlin Winter: Russia and the Second Coming of Vladimir Putin.”   From the start line at the title, the assumption is Service’s war-fighting one: Putin is omnipotent in Russia – topple him so the world, as Service is paid to represent it, will be safe from global winter and other Kremlin hostilities.  

What Service doesn’t acknowledge is that he was hired by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich to testify as an expert in the High Court case against Boris Berezovsky. Service’s fee is also undisclosed; it would have been more than a vet’s (£90 per hour) but less than a neurosurgeon’s (£171). 

Berezovsky also hired a historian as his witness. Testifying in court at the time, Service warned against the other expert:  “I’m asked to give evidence here as a historian, I don’t accept anybody’s word, just because they say that something happened, without the kind of evidence to back it that does not come from the person who is saying it. So there has to be a sort of — in a perfect world, there has to be a multiplicity of sources to corroborate anything as having happened or not having happened… I would just add the reservation that the statements by big businessmen in Russia in the 1990s about what they did or did not do are riddled with cases of falsification, obfuscation and the rest of it. One has to be very, very careful about accepting anything from any of them.” The evidence for the history of Russia in the 1990s, he concluded, “is just not in yet.”  

Service’s book violates his own warning.

He also starts his book with an acknowledgement of the sources he’s “indebted to”. They include Luke Harding, a London newspaper reporter; Radosław Sikorski, ex-Polish foreign minister; Michael McFaul, ex-US Ambassador to Moscow, Catherine Ashton, ex-European Union foreign affairs commissioner; Toomas Hendrik Ilves, an ex-Estonian president; and Roderic Lyne, vice-chairman of the Chatham House think-tank.   A book on Russian politics with Russia-hating, warfighting sources like these cannot be believed. They are all in the same trench, on the other side of No-Man’s-Land.  (more…)

STEPHEN KOTKIN’S HISTORY OF STALIN IS THE CLINICAL CASE BOOK OF AN AMERICAN OBSESSION

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

What can Foreign Affairs, bimonthly tribune of the Council of Foreign Affairs in New York, be referring to when it reported on the government for which “in worldview and practice, it was a conspiracy that perceived conspiracy everywhere and in everything, constantly gaslighting itself. In administration, it constituted a crusade for planning and control that ended up generating a proliferation of improvised illegalities, a perverse drive for order, and a system in which propaganda and myths about ‘the system’ were the most systematized part.”

Need a clue? On the head of government’s left foot two of his toes were webbed. Still stumped? (more…)

WE ARE BUILDING CAPITULATIONISM! – PICTURE-BOOK TO REMEMBER MOSCOW BY

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Harry Lime, the Third Man, was the character invented by British novelist and one-time intelligence officer Graham Greene, who understood how investment bankers operate when the breakdown of government makes the black market the only source of supply, trade, and profit. Lime’s racket in post-war 1948 Vienna, then occupied by the allied armies, was to steal penicillin from military hospitals; adulterate it by half; then sell it back at double the official price.

In the famous Ferris wheel conversation, high above the Vienna fairground, Lime is asked by his American journalist friend about the morality of making a profit this way. Pointing to people on the ground, Lime responds: “Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stops moving — forever? If I offered you twenty thousand for every dot that stops, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax. The only way you can save money nowadays.”

Down on the ground in Moscow,  in the ruins of the country led by Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, who cared if the dots stopped moving? And in the moral order created then by the US and British governments and their media, acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar and privatization chief Anatoly Chubais, what loss was there to the future of Russia when, like dots,  about ten million people and about twenty million animals stopped moving?

That’s the count of the Russians who would have survived to the average life expectancy of the Soviet welfare state, if Yeltsin and his associates hadn’t destroyed the health care system, their bank savings, employment wages, pensions, and food supplies. It’s also the count of farm livestock slaughtered when the costs of operating collective agriculture outstripped the state budget to pay them, and cattle were killed for immediate cash in the market place.

Robert Stephenson’s newly published book of photographs are of Moscow during the revolution between 1991, when Yeltsin took power from Mikhail Gorbachev, and 1996, when Yeltsin rigged his re-election as president. It’s a combination of bird’s eye view, Graham Greene and Harry Lime-style, with close-ups of the dots. That’s to say, the destruction and the casualties. (more…)

FAKING FICTION IS LUCRATIVE, ALSO DANGEROUS – MIKHAIL SHOLOKHOV’S STORY

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Somerset Maugham, the leading story-teller in the Anglo-American market a century ago, said there are three rules for writing a best-seller, but he added: “no one knows what they are.” As unlikely as it is for the profitability of a major line of business to be as unpredictable and irrational as Maugham claimed publishing was, writers and readers go on believing it. It’s the big fiction — talent versus the law of the market.

Mikhail Sholokhov was both talented and also the best-selling writer of the Soviet period.  The centenary of his birth on May 25, 2005, was celebrated by President Vladimir Putin with a visit to Sholokhov’s home and family in the Rostov region.  “Isn’t there anything to remember from the Soviet period except Stalin’s prison camps and repressions?” Putin had asked in a presentation to the State Duma of new legislation on the Russian state symbols.  “What about Dunayevsky, Sholokhov, Shostakovich, Korolyov and our space achievements?” Sholokhov is the only writer on that list.

He was — he still is a symbol of the state. For that reason, although he died in 1984, his four-volume work, Quiet Don (Тихий Дон; also And Quiet Flows the Don), published between 1928 and 1940, continues to draw fierce argument in the Russian press. The first of the allegations against him is that he plagiarized the Quiet Don. That began almost immediately after the first volume was first published in 1928; the debate continues this year on Russian television and the internet.  The second allegation is that Sholokhov and his book would not have succeeded if not for the protection and patronage of Josef Stalin; the charge against Sholokhov’s work is that it’s the discreditable product of Stalinism.

A newly published book by an American academic, Brian Boeck, gives the lie to both these  charges against Sholokhov. But Boeck does much more. He reveals the history of money-grubbing, death-dealing faction-fighting among Russian writers which hasn’t stopped. And that’s the law of the market, which the writers (and other Russian artists and intellectuals) cannot  escape, not under Stalin before, nor under Putin now. The law of the market is that competition for money generates fraud, faking, and when everything else fails in time of war, violence. (more…)

THE FICKLE FINGER IS STILL VASILY GROSSMAN’S FATE

By John Helmer, Moscow

Journalism is war by other means. If you don’t understand this you are either an enlisted soldier or a  casualty with a serious head-wound.  On the ground covered by journalism it’s impossible to hide;  innocent civilians are inevitably caught in the cross-fire.

Most Russians have known this since the start of the nineteenth century.

After Anton Chekhov’s reports from Sakhalin were published between 1891 and 1893, Russian  journalism didn’t recover to his standard for fifty years. It began again at the German invasion on June 22, 1941. But it lasted for just four years – until the Red Army victory in Berlin and the capitulation of the Germans in May 1945.

Vasily Grossman (lead image) was one of the very best of the Russian reporters on the front in that brief period. He far excelled his English-writing peers on other fronts, particularly American fakers like Ernest Hemingway. 

A new biography of Grossman, published in the US, reveals in Grossman’s own words why he is still a model of the genre in Russian. It also explains how and why he was silenced on orders of Josef Stalin, and his major book, combining his battlefield notes and interviews, banned from 1961 until 1988.  

“Evil is overthrown”, Grossman reportedly said to another Russian correspondent on the roof of the Reichstag on May 2, 1945. Just for the time being, he acknowledged later on.

There can be no irony, just dismay that Grossman’s biography demonstrates that the biographer, Alexandra Popoff, a Russian turned Canadian, and her publisher, the Yale University Press, have no comprehension of what Grossman meant, nor of his lesson for journalism the world over – that evil isn’t overthrown.  That today, as you read this, it’s alive and well in Canada and at Yale University, not to mention Berlin (again), Paris, London, Washington, and not to forget, Moscow (again). Grossman the Russian soldier is on the opposite side from Popoff the American soldier. (more…)

IF EVERYTHING JOHN LE CARRÉ WROTE SINCE 1961 ON BRITISH SPYING AGAINST MOSCOW WAS TRUE – IT WAS — WHY READ THE NEW LE CARRÉ BOOK NOW?

By John Helmer, Moscow

“Always George’s problem,” John le Carré (lead image, left) has written in his latest resurrection of his best-known MI6 officer, George Smiley (right), “seeing both sides of everything. Wore him out.”

“Breathtaking”, claimed an Irish novelist with no government experience, in a London newspaper review. “Gripping”, chimed a BBC journalist whose only official secret was an affair with another journalist he tried to stop other journalists reporting. “An unexpected treat”, blurbed one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper employees. “A nostalgic comparison between espionage then and now”, blurbed another. The Los Angeles Times was religious about le Carré’s theme —  “the toll exacted on the individual’s [spy] soul  by serving institutions that fail to live up to their professed values  will resonate as [readers] consider past and present  covert actions of British and US governments.”  This is a bite-back for the virulent hatred for the US and its intelligence services le Carré has written into his story, including disclosure of the MI6 document handling code, GUARD, which is so secret the British Government doesn’t mention it in its classification guidelines.   It means keep secret from Americans.

David Ignatius, a career-long mouthpiece for the US services at the Washington Post, warns his readers.  Le Carré “is at his worst describing characters he doesn’t like (in his recent books, many of the heavy-handed, unconvincing figures are American intelligence officers).”

Since the majority of le Carré’s readers are Americans,  le Carré is asking them to pay money and wear themselves out seeing both sides of everything. Only le Carré’s intelligence officers never see the Russian side of anything. What they do see – le Carré makes the point repeatedly in A Legacy of Spies, now in its fifth printing   – is the pointlessness of the intelligence they target, and the worthlessness of their methods for going about it. (more…)

FANATICAL HISTORY OF RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS FROM PRINCETON

By John Helmer, Moscow

Jonathan Haslam, an Englishman employed by Anglo-American universities to report Soviet and Russian political, military and espionage history for the past century until now, suffers from a tic.  That’s tic as in fanatic, the adjective Haslam applies to everyone who is a target of his history. But look again: Haslam’s tic turns out to be a symptom of the one-eyed man who believes he’s king (professor) in the kingdom (university) of the blind.   (more…)

KEITH GESSEN’S TERRIBLE RUSSIAN PREDICAMENT

By John Helmer, Moscow

A bad smell is emitted by those who go about their business claiming to be more virtuous than others when they are not. Take Keith (Konstantin) Gessen’s (lead image) newly published autobiography cum novel about his time in Moscow. The word for the book is a cross between the noun fart and the adjective virtuous; that’s to say, fatuous.

Six blurb endorsements covering the dust-jacket can’t improve on this because the endorsers have no expertise or experience of Russia, and are obligated to Gessen personally, institutionally or commercially, by way of Harvard University, Columbia University, the New Yorker, and Gessen’s personal magazine N+1.  In short, they are back-scratchers, log-rollers.

In New York Yiddish, the term for them is mishpocha. That means the family of people who understand what the word means; for them it’s a mitzvah (good deed required by religious duty) to help each other make money.  If you know the meaning of both words, you are ready for the Woody Allen world in which Gessen makes his money. Make that the Woody-Allen-world-before-the-sex-and #MeToo-scandals.

If there’s a difference between that world and the Russia which Gessen’s book claims to be about, this  doesn’t matter to him, and especially not to the mishpocha, whose mitzvah it is to tell you to buy this book.  If you are resisting, there’s a reason for those of you who don’t belong to the mishpocha and who don’t come from New York, to continue reading this review. That’s because Gessen, Russian born and Russian taught though he is, is a perfect example of the American inability to understand two vital lessons for American-Russian relations for the foreseeable future.  

Lesson No. 1:  Americans, the alt-right, alt-left, Clintonites, Trumpies, CIA, FBI and Pentagon  — all of them have failed to understand Vladimir Putin, particularly his weaknesses. Lesson No. 2 follows: the war the US has launched against Russia, a war no American is capable of stopping now, or even slowing down, will produce the very opposite of its regime-changing goal. This opposite, this outcome, is the Stavka – a military regime which has the capital, the force multiple,  the intelligence,  and the relative lack of corruption to defeat whatever Russia’s enemies  throw at it, and enjoy popular approval for doing so.  By the way, the Stavka will have an articulate civilian for spokesman – that’s Vladimir Putin.   (more…)

MACHIAVELLI’S THIRTEEN RULES FOR THE SUCCESSFUL RULER – TWO VLADIMIR PUTIN DID LEARN; ELEVEN HE DIDN’T, NOT YET

By John Helmer, Moscow

December approaches, opening the last stretch of the presidential election campaign that  concludes in sixteen weeks’ time, on March 18.

What to watch for as President Vladimir Putin holds his December meetings with the oligarchs who rule Russia’s future, and the voters who will be the victims of it?  As the Russian Orthodox Church has warned, beware the ruler who is pragmatic, and the 16th century Italian, Niccolo Machiavelli – Satan’s finger, according to holy sermons —  who teaches rulers not simply to lower moral standards, but to abolish them entirely.

Not for the Church can the presidential election be a Machiavellian choice between greater and lesser evils, between means justifying ends, between material prosperity and spiritual poverty.  “The devil is not a fairy tale,” a recent Church homily argued, “he is a brilliant strategist and psychologist, and he is supremely real. The arguments of Machiavelli [are] his most successful deception to date… Machiavelli was the inventor of hypocrisy, since he was the inventor of propaganda. He was the first philosopher who wanted to change the world by propaganda.”

Propaganda cannot be the method, the Russian Church preaches; nor hypocrisy the presidential election outcome. However, between propaganda and hypocrisy, that’s what half the Russian electorate thinks is the choice. According to the Levada Centre poll  released this week, 42% of voters say the election outcome will make no difference to their lives; 45% believe it might; 13% are uncertain and so distrustful of the pollster they won’t say anything.

So how close, or how far from Machiavelli’s model ruler, is Putin the frontrunner, and what does the president himself think of Machiavelli? (more…)

WHY THERE CAN’T BE AN UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS TELEVISION HIT IN RUSSIA – TEFFI ILLUSTRATES

By John Helmer, Moscow

The grand house domestic serial which has been one of the staples of British television is quite impossible in Russia. That’s not because pre-revolutionary Russia lacked the aristo palaces and gilded families, or that nostalgia isn’t popular on television. It’s because the gap between the upstairs family and the downstairs servants was always too wide in Russia – and always too cruel.

It’s not different today. The recent promotion in London and republication of the stories and memoirs of Teffi (lead image), the short-story fabulist, memoirist, poet and playwright who left Russia for Paris in 1919, illustrates the point – and not much else. (more…)

BARRY PARSNIP FOR THE NOBEL PRIZE – HOW INFO-WARFARE AGAINST RUSSIA WORKED BEFORE, NOT SO WELL THESE DAYS

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By John Helmer, Moscow

 If you were the only person in the world who thought yourself a genius, it would be an embarrassment to be named Barry Parsnip.

Robert Zimmerman solved the nomenclature problem. He became Bob Dylan – and Hey Presto! He won the Nobel Prize for Literature for 2016.

Barry Parsnip (aka Boris Pasternak) didn’t solve the problem. But it was solved for him by a combination of the British, US and Soviet secret services, with an assist from the Dutch and Italians.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1958 before his novel, Doctor Zhivago, had been read in the original Russian by more than a thousand people, counting government officials. Following the prize-giving until now, about 10 million people have read it, mostly in translation. But time and numbers haven’t improved either on Parsnip or on Zhivago. It is still, as Vladimir Nabokov said at the start, “a sorry thing, clumsy, trite, and melodramatic, with stock situations, voluptuous lawyers, unbelievable girls, romantic robbers, and trite coincidences.”  Kornei  Chukovsky, Pasternak’s neighbour and comrade, thought the novel was “boring, banal.”  Yevgeny Yevtushenko said it was “disappointing”. Anna Akhmatova told Pasternak to his face that Zhivago was a bad novel “except for the landscapes.” She was being ironic – there are no landscapes in the book.

Not to Pasternak’s face, Nabokov went for Pasternak’s jugular – his vanity. Nabokov called Pasternak’s composition “goistrous and goggle-eyed.”  That turned out to be the perfect picture of a victim, and MI6 and the CIA were able to provoke the Soviet authorities into persecution  of Pasternak the victim. That operation, codenamed AEDINOSAUR,  confirmed  what the West wanted the world to believe – that Russians are bad by a standard noone else in the world is held to.

Pasternak’s story, when it happened and still today,  is also confirmation of the readiness of some Russians to believe that however crapulous and despised they are at home, there will always be love for them across the frontier, in the West.   (more…)

Afterword: More Secrets, More Fabrications

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Max Hastings’s hatred of Russians not only produces error after error to discredit the Russian side of his history of secret intelligence operations in World War II. The evidence Greek historians have uncovered and published of what the British secret services, directed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, did to prepare the ground for the Greek civil war, beginning in December 1944, discredits Hastings on the Greek front.
(more…)

THE WEASEL HISTORY OF SECRET INTELLIGENCE IN WARTIME

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Sir Max Hastings, author of a new book claiming to be the first to compare the secret intelligence performances of the British, Americans, Germans, Japanese and Russians in World War II, has posted a picture of himself on the dust-jacket as a weasel.

“The best single volume written on the subject” is the blurb on the dust-jacket as the opinion of the Sunday Times, whose proprietor Rupert Murdoch, is also Hastings’s paymaster as owner of the book’s publisher, William Collins. Everything about the history of Russian spying offends Hastings almost as much as everything Russian offends Murdoch. This isn’t so much a history as it’s a textbook in info-warfare – and the antithesis of the conclusion Hastings suggests we should all come to. This is that in war force wins, not words – and that secret intelligence and propaganda are largely a waste of money and lives. “Allied intelligence contributed almost nothing to winning the war, ”Hastings quotes an American friend and expert, demurring that “this seems too extreme a verdict”, while adding his own: “official secrecy does more to protect intelligence agencies from domestic accountability for their own follies.” The exception proving both rules, according to Hastings, is the record of British intelligence compared to German, and to Russian.

Deception, that’s another story – unless The Secret War is an example of how Hastings has fooled himself. On this score, Hastings’s 612 pages are an unprecedented achievement in decoding his own text, and warning his readers off it. Murdoch and his media have been duped by Hastings out of the truth, though not out of the profit.
(more…)

THE HEARTFELT HISTORY OF PARTISAN PHOTOJOURNALISTS AND FAKE PHOTO JOURNALISM — FOR VERACITY, LET’S HEAR IT FOR DRONES AND SATELLITES

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In a few days’ time, on August 1, Gerda Taro would have turned 104. The encomiums would have been bound to describe her as the oldest, possibly the first, woman photojournalist. But Taro hasn’t made it. Instead, on July 26, 1937, she died after being crushed by a Spanish Republican tank while the car she was riding on was strafed by an aircraft of the Condor Legion . She was just 27. At her funeral in Paris, the encomiums described her as a brave comrade in arms on the Republican side of Spain’s civil war. She was the first woman photojournalist to die in combat. The kaddish her father said at her coffin during the funeral was omitted from the coverage arranged by the French Photographers’ Union. Robert Capa, her lover who stole much of the credit for her work in the years to follow, wept buckets and stopped eating for a while.
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DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, SANCTIONS ARE SOONER — HOW ALROSA AND THE BELGIANS ARE LEARNING TO FIGHT AND TO FEINT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Belgians like to speak of themselves as the victims when the great powers of Europe go to war. They were when the Germans invaded in 1914 and 1940.

But since 2014 when the Belgian government has been repeating it is gung-ho for the war with Russia, there has been no Russian attack, no occupation.  Instead, there has been the amicable Russia-Belgium diamond trade worth more than $30 billion in annual exports and imports, supplied by the Russian state diamond company Alrosa.

If Belgian officials cut that trade off by agreeing to the European Union (EU) sanctions banning Russian diamond imports, as proposed by other EU states, that would  liquidate ten thousand diamond polishing and related jobs concentrated in Antwerp, and destroy the country’s fifth largest export business forever. Alrosa would move its diamonds to Dubai, killing Antwerp as a diamond trading and cutting centre, just as Amsterdam as a diamond centre was killed by the German occupation of 1940.  Antwerp took advantage of Amsterdam’s misfortune in 1946.   Dubai will now do the same.

This is what Belgian government and diamond industry officials mean when they say they favour the toughest possible sanctions on Russian gas exports to Europe  – but no sanctions on Russian diamonds. This is what Prime Minister Alexander De Croo meant when he told an Antwerp conference of diamantaires on September 14: “Sanctions should focus more on the aggressor than ourselves.”   

Earlier, reacting to an attack on the diamond trade with Russia by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in a speech to the Belgian parliament, the spokesman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) said: “Not only are thousands of jobs in Antwerp at stake in the short term, but this decision will inevitably lead to a worldwide shift in the diamond trade in the long term. As long as international policy-makers worldwide do not adopt a unanimous position to sanction Russian diamonds in their entirety, Antwerp will be the only place that will bear the consequences of an EU sanction.”  

By “worldwide shift” he meant Dubai.

De Croo has camouflaged Belgium’s resistance by repeating he will not veto a Russian diamond ban if there is “overwhelming support” for it in the EU. So a majority of the EU states have continued pressing; they are led by Poland. In March of this year, De Croo announced: “I would like to officially state that our country has never hindered any measures regarding diamonds. Our country did not interfere in this issue.”  In private, however, De Croo has been casting Belgium’s veto.  

The Poles have been attacking De Croo,  pressing the case for an EU  ban on Russian diamond imports as payback for De Croo’s insistence on imposing EU budget sanctions against the Warsaw government last year.  De Croo is also refusing to accept Ukraine’s demand for accelerated membership of the EU and of NATO, and for fresh EU funding to pay Kiev’s war-fighting bills.   

Instead, he has just announced €8 million in non-lethal aid to Kiev. “Ukraine can keep on counting on Belgium,” De Croo declared. “More than words, there are actions. Once again, Belgium is responding to concrete needs and will be providing essential equipment to Ukraine in the coming weeks.”  The equipment is first-aid kits and pharmaceuticals produced by Belgian companies.

This week the secret Belgian veto campaign appears to have succeeded. The new draft of the eighth round of EU sanctions includes dental floss and deodorants; it leaves out diamonds.    This omission is expected to be confirmed publicly on Friday of this week at the EU summit meeting in Prague.    

 “At the moment, diamonds are not included on the agenda for the next round of sanctions,” announced Tom Neys, the AWDC spokesman. “But things change quickly. [On] Friday [October 7] they will finalize discussions, and the EU [leaders decide] on October 6 and 7. The fact that sanctions also create other ethical problems, and that these sanctions will have no effect in Russia, are probably important elements in these debates. Now is the time to focus on international solutions.”  

By “international solutions” the Belgians mean keeping Dubai from taking over Antwerp’s diamond business.

(more…)

WAITING FOR NUCLEAR WAR IN WASHINGTON, COCKAHOOP IN WARSAW, THE GERMANS RUN FOR THE BUNKER, AGAIN — GORILLA RADIO REVEALS WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Timing is everything when you are telling jokes on stage; summing up for the jury in a murder trial; or when you are a general preparing to send your army over the top. Knock the comedian, lawyer, or general off his timing, and the laugh, the verdict, and the casualties will go against him.

John Mortimer, a London barrister and author of the Rumpole of the Bailey television show,  once told the story of a friend who was coming to the end of his final jury address when he saw the judge writing a note and handing it to the usher. When it was passed to the lawyer as he was speaking, he glanced down to read: “Dear Jim, I thought you’d like to know that your flies are open and I can see your cock.”

Cocks which show or crow – like boys crying wolf – don’t comprehend the risks they create for themselves, and others. This is how it is in Berlin for Olaf Scholz and in Washington for Joseph Biden right now. They can afford to be impervious to the derision they are drawing in Warsaw; not so to the reaction to their antics in Moscow.

In this broadcast by Chris Cook, Gorilla Radio blows the final whistle before we all go over the top (Germans first, then the Poles). Even former Secretary of State John Kerry, career liar that he’s been, is revealed to be blowing on the same whistle this time round.

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THE OCTOBER SURPRISE — ASK NOT WHAT THE KREMLIN WILL DO, BUT WHAT THE US WILL DO NEXT

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The official Russian reaction to the Nord Stream attack is to identify it as a US military operation, and to wait for an investigation to produce the evidence. That means wait, delay. No retaliation.

“How will we respond?”  Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday in the most detailed briefing so far from Moscow.    “We will respond with an investigation. This is a must, and our law-enforcement bodies have already launched it. This [the gas pipelines] is our property, resources, and infrastructure.”

“I would like to believe that the international investigation of what happened on the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea will be objective… We will seek to conduct an honest and objective investigation… I hope that someone in the United States, or maybe someone in Europe — although, unfortunately, Europe in this case can no longer be counted on — someone from the independent investigators will have the desire to clarify the involvement of the United States, the special services and all other bodies in what happened on 25-27 September of this year in the Baltic Sea.”

This means that the Russian Government is waiting, delaying. There will be no retaliation for the time being.  

The reason is that Russian officials suspect the Biden Administration of preparing an October Surprise just ahead of Election Day, November 8: an attack on domestic US infrastructure – the electricity grids, for example – which will be reported as the Russian retaliation that won’t be.

The Nord Stream attacks were a military operation of the US, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden, with additional NATO air surveillance support from bases in Italy.  Politically, they were an attack on Germany, but the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has yet to say publicly what he knew in advance, what he knows now.

Who then knows what will come next except that there is now war in Europe, outside the Ukraine. Will the October Surprise begin war inside the United States?

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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo. But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  

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RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  

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THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.

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INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  

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