As a certified “dupe of Putin” in the eyes of our McCarthyite, mob rule majority that speaks for the American foreign policy establishment, I use this opportunity to restate my claim to independent thinking about the big issues of responsibility for the ongoing and escalating New Cold War, including each and every major incident along the way.
If only there were no consequences for you, dear reader, for myself and for the 7 billion plus other souls on this planet, I would say “a pox on both your houses” in address to the political leaderships of both the US-EU “global community” (formerly known as the “free world”) and the Russian Federation (formerly known as the “empire of evil”). However, any such curse will rebound on us.
To put it in the language of the once fashionable MIT bard of the 1960s Tom Lehrer: “we will all go together when we go.” For this reason, let us take the time to sort out where this spiral of action and reaction, where the mutual contempt and provocations are taking us and what, if anything, we simple mortals outside government can do about it.
It is axiomatic in these days of anti-Russian hysteria in Washington, in London, in Brussels, that whatever reverses there may be to political control by the globalist, liberal democracy elites with their new age culture of pro-women, pro-LGBT, pro multiculturalism, etc. agendas you can be sure the cry will go up: “the Russians did it.” The Russians were responsible for the sports doping of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where they captured the lion’s share of gold medals. They were responsible for the annexation of Crimea and intervened militarily with “hybrid warfare” to protect the insurgencies in the Donbass. They were responsible for the MH-17 airliner crash. They hacked into the Democratic National Committee server, disseminated their anti-Clinton trove of documents via Wikileaks and otherwise interfered egregiously in the 2016 US presidential elections. They have supported the criminal regime of Bashar Assad in Syria who uses chemical weapons against his own civilian population. Most recently the Kremlin organized the chemical poisoning of their ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England using their chemical warfare agent Novichok.
The official Russian response to most of these allegations of misdeeds has been “show us the proof,” or let us investigate this incident jointly, as our shared international conventions require. Their main weapon of self-defense has been to pour scorn on their accusers. Brimming with sarcasm, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has repeatedly mocked British PM Theresa May for relying on unproven but “highly likely” argumentation in support of her clamoring for ever more sanctions to be imposed on Russia.
In fact, it has been my peers in the small Russia-friendly camp of Western experts who have published articles detailing the holes in the narratives of Russian wrong-doing put out by US and European media with government backing. Some of my colleagues have relevant professional knowledge in military sciences, in Information Systems and how they operate to support their point for point refutations of the allegations against Russia. Others do not have any added value to contribute, but nonetheless do not stop at the water’s edge; instead they plunge into highly technical aspects of the charges against Russia and counter-charges.
As a general rule, I have stayed clear of these debates on anti-Russian narratives in their details, seeing no possibility of contributing anything new. When I have spoken on scandals of the day, as for example the Skripal case, I have addressed only the overarching question of whether the allegations made any sense if the investigator applied the acid test of cui bono, meaning whose interests could be served by the given crime. And on this basis I found the entire case against the Kremlin to be without merit.
It would have been nonsensical for the Kremlin to murder a former spy who had served his time, had been pardoned and expelled to his handlers in London, and to do this after the passage of many years just a couple of weeks before the opening of the World Cup of Football in Russia, for which the country had invested more than $10 billion in an exercise of Soft Power. On the other hand, for MI6 to have staged this assassination attempt at a location very close to its Porton Down chemical weapons facility as a provocation to blacken the image of Russia at precisely that moment, ahead of a sporting event that would attract the attention of global audiences, makes perfect sense in the context of an escalating information, economic and geopolitical war and the clear objective of isolating Russia, turning it into a pariah state. Anyone who thinks that the “fair play” Brits could not possibly be so cynical and immoral as to engage in assassination for raisons d’état should go back to their kindergarten benches. Those of us wearing long trousers know better.
Regrettably, recent developments have prompted me to rethink the whole logic of cui bono under present-day conditions when no side’s position can be taken at face value and when, quite possibly, all sides are actively engaged in propaganda and provocation.
I was prompted to reconsider my position by a couple of developments in the past two weeks. The first was the remarkable answer that Vladimir Putin gave to a questioner who asked about the Skripal case during the meeting with the press at the Russia Energy Week international forum in St Petersburg. This was just after the British released what they called the real names and GRU affiliations of the two alleged perpetrators of the poisoning. That identification directly contradicted the Russian president’s assertion at the Eastern Economic forum in Vladivostok 12 September, when he claimed the two were ordinary civilians, “not criminals.”
Now Putin called Sergey Skripal not only treasonous but подонок, a term sometimes translated as riff-raff but more pungently translatable as “scum.” That Putin dropped all pretense of diplomacy suggested strongly to me that there is more to the issue than meets the eye and that his prevarication was exposed.
A still bigger prompt to rethink came a few days later when Sergei Lavrov responded to the breaking news that in April the Dutch had expelled 4 Russians carrying service passports who had been caught near the headquarters of the world chemical weapons inspection organization (OPCW) in a rented car which had electronic snooping equipment in the trunk.
Under circumstances which appear to be fairly straightforward and are proven by published photos, Lavrov could have acknowledged that Russian agents were nailed but gone on to explain the reasons justifying the intended hacking into OPCW computers, namely the way Western powers have actively compromised the impartiality of the institution’s activities as regards the supposed chemical attacks in Syria and in the Skripal case.
Lavrov did not do that. Instead he presented a cock and bull story that the 4 chaps whom the Dutch police nabbed were there to do routine security checks on the Russian embassy. And the Russian Foreign Ministry went on the offensive, charging the Dutch with violating a gentlemen’s agreement about the case, going public only months later at a politically opportune moment.
To be sure, I never believed that the leadership and state entities of the Russian Federation were bunny rabbits. But their image as mostly truthful and sincere about seeking peaceful relations with the West was badly tarnished by these latest developments.
Moreover my concerns from these developments fit into a context of disillusionment with the degree of impartiality of Russian state television, which, as recently as a year ago I still found bracing. Apart from the coverage earlier this year of the presidential electoral campaign and in particular the granting of air time to uncensored debates among the candidates, Russian state television has steadily displaced genuine news, commentary and talk shows with repetitive heavy propaganda. The share of broadcasting given to the overall situation in Ukraine and to the civil war in Donbass, in particular, has become mind-numbing.
Over the past couple of years, Russian state television has daily disseminated the view that Ukraine is one step away from economic and political collapse. This is patently untrue. On the major Russian political talk shows we see the same Ukrainian crazies and the same smug Russian politicians engaged in sterile thrust and repartee. And the tone of presenters, such as Yevgeni Popov and Olga Skabeeva on the widely watched talk show “60 Minutes” has become shrill and offensive.
Taking all of these observations into account, I conclude that a significant part of the Russian ruling elites stands for worsening relations with the West, and that their cui bono would be well served by events like the Skripal poisoning, all the more so if it were carried out in such manner as to be identifiably Kremlin sponsored and lead to the scandalous rupture of relations with the United Kingdom that ensued.
In this overall concept of what is occurring, we have mirror images in Russia and the USA of Deep States that earnestly seek a New Cold War as a confirmation of national identity. The confrontation is more than a tool to hold onto power. It is the means of ensuring allocation of state resources to the military industrial complexes.
In the Russian case, the confrontation, with its sanctions and embargos has made possible a reindustrialization that eluded the Russian state under conditions of friendly relations with the Wes and allocations of investment funds along purely market-dictated terms, which meant high concentration of investment in the exploration, production and export of hydrocarbons at the expense of all other industrial sectors.
As for the United States and Europe, the New Cold War has reinvigorated the moribund NATO alliance, given it a purpose for existence and heavy investment in expansion. It has given a new lease on life to American global hegemony.
So what can we, the peoples do about this?
The first thing is to try harder to get our minds around the challenge. Batting down false narratives put up by Western media is a futile and insufficient response. There are ever more false flag provocations in the pipeline and no one outside a small circle of experts takes an interest in the often highly technical elements of such argumentation.
The way forward has to be political mobilization of an anti-war movement that is not engaged in the blame game, but rises above it in the knowledge that all sides in the New Cold War are lying, posturing and engaging in propaganda at our expense. Until and unless political activists can focus their minds on this single objective of a broad anti-war coalition the world will continue its creep towards Armageddon.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2018