The level of the political and media classes in the UK

The level (intellectual, let’s not talk about moral) of these people is frighteningly low. Here are some examples.

The Defence Secretary, (author of a recent extremely confused article on Putin’s views on Ukrainian history), has today explained that if Russia invades Ukraine Putin’s government would not ‘endure’. From the Daily Telegraph:

He added that Russia would experience “such long term isolation and economic impact” that it would be difficult to “see how the government that committed it would be able to endure in the long term with its people.” 

Oh dear. They still seem to be embedded in the phantasy that Russia is just about to invade Ukraine. In fact one of the many reasons why Russia is not just about to invade Ukraine (other than if they have to intervene if Kiev attacks Donbass) is precisely this. Invading Ukraine would not be popular in Russia. People would not understand why it had happened. Lots of people have family connections with Ukraine. Contrary to what UK politicians love to tell people – that Russia is ruled by a dictatorial regime – the government is in fact susceptible and answerable to the public mood. It would indeed be extremely hard for the government to handle the popular feeling against such an irrational and uncalled for invasion (though there would be support for a limited operation to defend Donbass against aggression from Kiev). If Ben Wallace could think even a little bit it might occur to him that this could be a reason why Russia is not about to up and invade Ukraine. (After all they keep telling us that Putin and his “cronies” run a dictatorship and that Putin personally is clinging to power; which claim is completely inconsistent with the view that they are about to invade Ukraine and as a result lose power; unless he believes that Putin is not capable of thinking all this through himself). Ben Wallace perhaps thinks he is clever to come up with this new threat. But all he must be doing is adding to the inevitable impression in Moscow that when it comes to the UK they are dealing with complete morons. Other reasons why Russia is not just about to invade Ukraine include that there would be no economic benefit to doing so; that in military terms they would extend their border with NATO thus increasing the problem they are concerned about rather than solving it; that Putin sees Ukraine as a ‘brother nation’ – and is hardly likely to up and kill thousands of fellow Slavs for no reason.

Liz Truss the UK’s Foreign Secretary keeps confirming that she is totally out of her depth. Recently she mixed up the Baltics and the Black Sea. “we are supplying and offering extra support to our Baltic allies across the Black Sea”. In her meeting with Lavrov she apparently responded to his pointed question about whether the UK recognizes Russian sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh – where their troops are located – by saying that Britain would never recognize Russia’s claim to these regions. It isn’t that she didn’t know that Rostov and Voronezh are Russian regions that is the problem. It is that, not knowing, she obviously tried to bluff it and guessed that he was talking about some areas in Donbass. Anyone with any professionalism would simply have said “Sorry; what provinces do you mean?”. Also – she appears based on the reports of this blunder [1] to believe that Russia is laying claim to Donbass! (It could eventually come to that if Kiev continues to block Minsk but we are a long way from that point now).

Parts of the media seem to be also suffering from an intellectual deficit. This is the Independent reporting on this story: “The meeting between Ms Truss and her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday was testy and ultimately unproductive, as the Russian minister taunted her, dismissed her demands, and even accused her of lacking knowledge about basic geography”. Lavrov didn’t “taunt” her. He commented, with sadness and some humour, that the meeting had been like a deaf person talking with a mute. They were listening but not hearing each other. He didn’t “accuse” her of lacking a basic knowledge of geography. If he did indeed comment on this problem in the press conference (I am not sure he actually did *) it was not an “accusation”. It would have been a simple observation of fact. The Independent continues: “Following Ms Truss’ failure to make a breakthrough, British defence secretary Ben Wallace arrived in Moscow on Friday to meet with his Russian counterpart as fears grew that conflict could break out imminently.”. Ms Truss’s “failure to make a breakthrough”!! One can only wonder. She pitched up, ignored, according to Lavrov all the materials they had presented, posed in a Russian style hat in Red Square and issued a bunch of threats. Does the Independent journalist really believe that approach was going to lead to a diplomatic breakthrough? This is just rubbish.

It looks like the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is about to follow up this performance with an equally abysmal display of what passes for British diplomacy these days. One can understand the comments of the Russian Defence Minister Shoigu that “Unfortunately, the level of our cooperation [with the UK] is close to zero and about to cross the zero meridian and go into negative, which is undesirable” [2] (Update: it looks in fact that once on the spot Ben Wallace was at least able to muster a little bit of basic courtesy. Unlike Truss then we can at least say that his visit would not have done any damage).

Finally – even though it is freely available in English on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry the actual Russian point of view on the meeting between Truss and Lavrov and on UK-Russia relations is largely not reported on by the British press. [3] In particular the entirely rational and important comments by Lavrov about the UK pumping Ukraine with weapons and how this is hardly likely to encourage Kiev to implement the Minsk peace accords – hardly makes its way into the narrative in the British press. (Actually the Telegraph quotes Shoigu as commenting that the UK is ‘gorging’ Ukraine with weapons – but this view is it seems edited out of the Guardian and Independent narratives). It is as if they cannot bring themselves to report the Russian point of view. This is entirely tribal. Pre-rational. (Mythic – more on this later but it is clear to me now that UK political and liberal media circles in fact operate at the pre-rational level of social development known as ‘mythic’. At this level tribal belonging is all important and is reinforced with myths about the world which have some kind of explanatory power. e.g. “Russia is bad and irrational. We are always in the right on every single point”. This fully explains why she appeared to Lavrov, who is a rational operator, as not hearing anything).

* This could well be another mistake. It appears that it was the Foreign Ministry spokesperson who mocked Truss’s knowledge of geography in a ‘blog post’. [4] It is possible that Lavrov also did in the press conference following his meeting with her – but I haven’t seen that reported anywhere else (and in fact I doubt the experienced diplomat Lavrov would do that).



The free press in the West (10)

This is an article by AFP about the Russian travel ban list. AFP is owned by the French government. Though they are trying to sell part of it or all of it to private capital.

AFP explains:

Lavrov said those on the list “actively supported a state coup” in Ukraine, referring to a popular uprising in Kiev in 2014 which ousted Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych.

A popular uprising? That’s good. So – if say a violent protest takes place and forty thousand Englishman kick out David Cameron, torching a lot of policemen in the process, and seize power in Westminster, and try to ban the use of Welsh as a language of government business in Wales that would be a “popular uprising”?

As a corrective then. A number of

Igniting war while talking peace. What is new for the US?

Russia … tragically is sort of reigniting a new kind of East-West, zero-sum game that we think is dangerous and unnecessary

John Kerry. US Secretary of State

This is an excellent example of political projection. The US accuses the other side of its own mistakes. Psychoanalysts call it “projection”. In the run up to the Iraq war then President George Bush made endless statements about Iraqi aggression and the threat to the US while preparing to launch an illegal war which cost the lives of tens of thousands of civilians. This is nothing new.

Who is “igniting” things in Ukraine and on the world stage? At the time that the European powers of Germany and France, incidentally the ones who did not support the Iraq invasion, are desperately trying to midwife a peaceful end to the crisis in Ukraine the US (and therefore it seems the UK) are discussing more sanctions and sending more arms.

The UAE has announced it will provide Kiev with arms. This is almost certainly done with US collaboration.

The modus operandi of supplying arms

The modus operandi of the US/UK is brazen. They supply “non lethal” weapons such as jeeps, night vision googles and body armour. These are strategic pieces of kit which rebel forces do not typically have. Then they get some third-party country to supply actual weapons. In Libya, for example, the US brokered arms supplies to the rebels from Qatar. [1] Meanwhile the Pentagon sent “non-lethal” aid such as communications equipment and vehicles directly. [2] A similar game is being played in Syria. Here, for example, the UK is sending “non-lethal” military equipment. [3] At the same time various Gulf states send lethal weapons. [4] (The exception to the rule here is that there is also a CIA programme to send arms directly to Syrian rebels). [5]

It’s the same game in Ukraine. The US [6] and UK [7] send “non-lethal” weapons. Now, the UAE is to sell “lethal weapons” to Kiev. [8] Where does the UAE get its weapons from? Guess. [9] (At least some of them).

The end result and obviously the strategic aim is to fully arm whichever faction in a divided country they happen to be supporting at the time. While steering clear of legal problems of being associated with war crimes. And avoiding domestic democratic objections.

The US administration has told itself its own lie. Kiev is fighting for the “sovereignty and territorial independence of Ukraine” against “Russian aggression”. They just have a mental blank on their role in the crisis. Stirring up a coup and supporting one side in a divided country. Everything is predicated on this mental blank. It happens because they believe that their order, values, and way of doing things is “God-given”, the natural order of things, right and objectively real. (This is known as “freedom”). Any other point of view is an error. This is, of course, religious fundamentalism. One problem is that once a group embraces a fundamentalist outlook and starts acting from it the tendency is for it to become self-reinforcing. It is very hard from them to back out and admit that they were wrong. It is much harder for fundamentalists to change course than it is for actors who are guided by realism and pragmatism, as perhaps Hollande and to some extent Merkel are.

The US has seized Ukraine for Western liberal capitalism and NATO and is not going to give an inch. The fact that millions of people in the East of Ukraine are not represented by the “new government” in Kiev is simply blanked. As are Russian security concerns. They just deny all these evident facts and proceed to castigate Russia as 100% the “aggressor” while publishing videos about how they will absolutely destroy Russia with sanctions. This State Department video for example, starts with the words “Russia’s intervention in Ukraine…”. The 5 billion USD aid to Westernise Ukraine [10], the visits by US officials to revolutionists in Kiev [11], the automatic and immediate support for the “new government” which came to power in a violent coup etc. could also be called “America’s intervention in Ukraine”. Whose “zero-sum game” are we witnessing?

The fundamentalism of the US is in collision with the desires of a few million people in the East of Ukraine not to be ruled by nationalists who despise their culture. If that was all the US would just crush them. However, in its project to grab Ukraine for its system, the US has also brought itself into conflict with Russia. Russia has a range of interests which have been clearly articulated by the Russian side. These include security interests and interests which arise from the history of Russia. For example; the presence of ethnic Russians in the territories which have been handed over to the US. Russia has balls and will defend its interests. It remains to be seen what kind of accommodation with reality US fundamentalism is prepared to make and whether it will be sufficient to ensure peace in Ukraine and beyond. At any event it seems clear that the destruction of Russia in its present form is now a policy goal for the West. (See for example this comment in a recent House of Lords report:

In the review of the neighbourhood policy, the EU and Member States face a strategic question of whether Europe can be secure and prosperous if Russia continues to be governed as it is today.

) [12]

That is, the most likely response of the US will be to back off outright war with Russia while at the same time starting a long-term project to destroy Russia with economic, political and covert operations of various kinds. The kind of “dark tactics” that they accuse Russia of. [13]