The New Russian Government

A much needed evolution but not a revolution

THE SAKER • JANUARY 22, 2020 

The suspense is over and we now know the names of all the members of the new Russian government. You can, for example, take this good summary published by RT.

What is important right now is not only what did happen, but also what did NOT happen. I will begin with two extremely important things which did NOT happen:

First, the Russian government has NOT remained unchanged. The naysayers had predicted that nothing at all would change, that the same folks who be sitting in maybe different seats, but that the changes would be primarily cosmetic. That did not happen. In reality 12 people kept their seats and another 9 were replaced.

Second, this was NOT a total gutting of the Atlantic Integrationist block. Most visibly, Anton Siluanov remained as head of the Finance Ministry. However, Siluanov was demoted from his position as First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia which has now been taken by Andrei Belousov, a huge change indeed. As for Medvedev, he was given a “golden promotion” to the largely technical position as Vice Chairman of the Security Council of Russia.

So what has taken place?

Most Russian observers notice two key things:

First, this is a highly competent, technically skilled, government. Truly, and arguably for the first time, each position in the new cabinet is now occupied by a professional whose expertise is recognized by all.

Second, this is very much a non-ideological government. This is not to say that the social and economic policies of Russia will not change, they will and the new government clearly indicates that, especially with the nominations of Prime Minister Mishustin and his First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov: these are both on record as very much proponents of what is called “state capitalism” in Russia: meaning an economic philosophy in which the states does not stifle private entrepreneurship, but one in which the state is directly and heavily involved in creating the correct economic conditions for the government and private sector to grow. Most crucially, “state capitalism” also subordinates the sole goal of the corporate world (making profits) to the interests of the state and, therefore, to the interests of the people.

In other words, goodbye turbocapitalism à la Atlantic Integrationists!

Russia has now made the fight against poverty a national strategic priority, something which the Russian people had wanted for years and which the previous “economic block” never considered a priority.

Furthermore, the entire Eurasian Sovereignists block of the government has remained unchanged. This indicates two things:

First, the Russian national security and foreign policy will remain unchanged.

Second, the Eurasian Sovereignists have finally weakened the Atlantic Integrationists to such a degree that a Medvedev nicely “boxed in” in the Russian Security Council or a Siluanov “boxed in” in the new Russian government have ceased to represent a serious threat to the future of Russia.

In other words – we can expect the new government to put even much more efforts into the ultimate goal of the full sovereignization of Russia (this goal is also reflected in the new Constitutional changes which will now place Russian national laws above any international treaty or agreements, another longtime goal of the Eurasian Sovereignists).

All I can say here is “finally!!”.

Another important thing which we can note is that Putin decided to work through evolution, not revolution. In fact, he has described this new government as a “balanced” one. There are many, including myself, who would have preferred not to see the names Medvedev and Siluanov again, but there are also many (possibly many more) who seeing these names still present might be reassured that Russia is not about to embark on a radically different political course. Frankly, I think that over the past century Russia has had enough revolutions, wars, big upheavals and terrible tragedies. There IS something to be said for stability and a gradual correction of course.

Furthermore, a new government which appears to have been formed purely on the merit of its individual members can probably generate much more support than a radically ideological one.

Where does all this leave Russia?

I would say that the Eurasian Sovereignists have finally secured their full control over the Russian state and that the demise of the Atlantic Integrationists is now a new fact of life. Since in this new government the only clearly identifiable group besides the Eurasian Sovereignists are the technocrats, this give Russia a much better chance to stand strong and united in the face of an AngloZionist Empire which has now clearly become unpredictable and therefore very dangerous (the murder of Soleimani is the best example of the actions of an Empire which has totally lost any sense of reality).

It is also interesting to note the reaction of the propaganda outlets for the Empire. Here are two of my favorite ones:

* * *

While the western “Russia experts” are usually folks who know close to nothing about Russia and the little they do not, they don’t understand, it is reassuring (and, let’s be honest here, heart warming) to see the impotent rage felt by the defenders of the AngloZionist Empire who clearly have lost control of Russia (in spite of being in TOTAL control of the Russia of the 1990s!).

Finally, the appointment of this new government leaves the Russian opposition – both the “official” parliamentary opposition and the so-called “non-system” opposition – in total disarray: the former only pretends to oppose the policies of the Kremlin while the latter is so terminally discredited that it can’t even make it into the Duma. This lack of any credible opposition might appear desirable, especially for those who, like myself, support the Kremlin, but in reality it is just another facet of a much deeper problem: Russia remains a country defined by one person, Putin, and not by a healthy and stable political system. The latest reforms did take a few very good steps in the right direction (the Duma’s powers and responsibilities have been increased), but Russia will remain “Putin’s country” for the foreseeable future.

The Iranian missile strike: an initial evaluation

The Saker

January 08, 2020

First, as always, a recap.

Turns out that the Iranian strikes were apparently very accurate, check out these photos:

This is interesting, because while I had some US ex-Colonel on idiot-box saying that most Iranian missiles either missed or landed in the desert.  Rah! Rah! Rah!  The US has THE BEST military in the GALAXY!!  We kick these ragheads back to their medieval reality, bla-bla-bla.

The reality is that this has been a very effective “proof of concept demonstration”.  Think like this:  the Iranians have super-accurate coordinates for every single building in the Green Zone.  What impact would you think a determined – non symbolic – missile strike on key US buildings in the Green Zone would have?  How about US forces in Kuwait and/or Saudi Arabia.

Keep in mind that the kind of missiles Iran used is very much an older, less capable, generation.  For example, as far as I know, these missiles have no final guidance capability (you may want to double/triple check this one).  Other ones do (that I am sure of).

Furthermore, it is becoming apparent that Iran had no intention of hitting US personnel, at least not deliberately.  So when the Idiot-in-Chief tweets “so far, so good” he is quite correct, but for all the wrong reasons.

I think of this first strike as a very serious WARNING SHOT which serves two purposes.

First, to show that the “54 targets in Iran” threat is an empty one: Iranians don’t care (for certain) and Pentagon planners probably don’t want it either (most likely).  So besides hot air, the Idiot-in-Chief produced nothing.

Second, to show to those in the US who actually believe their own silly propaganda about the US having THE BEST military in the history of the Galaxy that in terms of missiles, Iran is doing just fine, thank you.

Now, in all fairness, I will ALWAYS welcome ANY gesture which can avoid a massive total war.  There is no doubt in my mind that these events are marking the beginning of the end for the Empire.  The only real question is at what costs to the rest of mankind?  So while he is a narcissistic idiot for sure, and while he wrapped the key part of his statement in all sorts of delusional and dumb chest-thumping and flag waving, I have to admit that Trump did the right thing once again.  Destroying 54 (or even a SINGLE one) Iranian target would have resulted in an Iranian strike on Israel (now we know for sure that it would be an accurate one too!) which would have triggered a massive regional war.  We STILL are not there and while many will call me naive or stupid, I am grateful for ANYTHING which can delay or cancel any major (or even minor) war.  And while I do think that Trump is a narcissistic idiot, I will ALWAYS recognize when he does something either right or even “less bad than what he could have done”.

I will also add this: I consider the US servicemen in Iraq (and the result of the world, for that matter) as guilty of voluntarily signing up to a military which has never and will never fight any just war.  But that is not a sin deserving to be killed in a massive ball of fire, sorry.  In combat, yes, US soldiers are a legitimate target, and legally speaking (from the point of view of the Geneva Conventions and the International Law of War), the targets Iran hit were 100% legitimate since international law does NOT ban collateral damage, it only bans INTENTIONAL collateral damage.  US military personnel are, by definition, legal, legitimate, targets, but on a human level I feel sorry for them and I don’t wish them to pay for the crimes of their commanders (for whom I have ZERO sympathy or compassion).

I am actually quite happy that nobody died in these strikes.

If there were numerous casualties (as some sources report), then I have no problem admitting that this strike was both legal and ethical, but I would feel sad for every killed person (US or Iraqi).

Do the Shia Muslims care about the lives of their enemies?  Yes! They actually do.  Proof?  Just see how Hezbollah treated those Lebanese people who were collaborators with the infamous Israel proxy called the “SLA” (South Lebanon Army) and you will see for yourself.  Have their been Shia executed atrocities in the past? Sure!  Starting in Iraq were various Shia militias committed plenty of horrible atrocities.  But that happens to ANY party to a vicious conflict, and ESPECIALLY a civil war (just look at the butchery the Russian or US civil wars were!).  But the fact is that Shia leaders often emphasize both mercy, compassion and justice (Hassan Nasrallah specifically said that Hezbollah would not target US civilians; contrast that with the Idiot-in-Chief).

So how do we “score” this one?  Who won and who lost”

This all depends on your criteria.

Here are mine: anything which makes it easier for the US to remain in the Middle-East is a victory for the Empire and anything which makes it harder for the US to remain in the Middle-East is a victory for the rest of the planet.

I think that this criteria makes it rather easy to score this latest strike, don’t you?

One more thing: two more rocket strikes seemed to have landed near the Green Zone.  From the (rather minimal) info I have, these were rockets from some kind of MRLS and they were fired by LOCAL Iraqi forces, NOT from Iran.  This is both interesting and telling.  Why?

Because you can expect a dramatic increase in these kind of “hit and run” mini attacks which can’t achieve a real tactical advantage, but which are devastating for morale and which hugely decrease the mobility and ability to operate of the targeted forces.  Again, I invite you to re-apply my criteria above to evaluate the usefulness (or lack thereof) of these strikes.

Singing off for a few hours.  Kind regards

The Saker

PS: one more thing: the Idiot-in-Chief said that “Iran is standing down”.  Just remember that an other no less Idiot-in-Chief announced in 2006 that “Israel had defeated Hezbollah”.  This is an old US trick called “declare victory and leave”.  They have declared victory.  Good.  Now let’s see how long it will take them to get out of Iraq and the Syria and, much further down the road, from the entire Middle-East.

Short “intermission” of sorts with a few (apparently needed) explanations

January 05, 2020

The Saker

Dear friends,

I feel that there is a need to clarify a few things here which apparently baffle and perplex many.  Since the beginning of this crisis the Saker Community worldwide (literally!) has been crazy busy trying to keep up with the events and make sense of what seems totally insane.  I have been working nonstop for the past 2 days now and I ask you to forgive me for being even more curt than usual (nevermind my typos and grammar!).  Here we go:

1) Iranian nukes:  Iran never had a military nuclear program and Iran will never have one.  For two reasons: first, nukes were officially declared “haram” by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  But there is also another reason, unless you have a full spectrum of nuclear weapons (like Russia and the USA) your nukes are just targets and not only that, they become ideal targets from a PR point of you: the US and/or Israel can claim that they HAD to use nukes to destroy the Iranian ones.  The truth is that Iran does NOT need any nukes and that acquiring them would be a major mistake and would paint a huge bullseye on Iran.  I know that Iran has announce that it is now moving out of the international agreement about the Iranian nuclear program, but I don’t believe for one second that they are trying to manufacture nukes.  Beside, they have also added that they are still working with the IAEA and that they will resume compliance if US sanctions are lifted.

2) US/Israeli nukes: yes, unlike Iran, they have nukes. But what they lack are good targets.  Oh sure, then can (and will) strike at some symbolic, high-visibility, targets and they can nuke cities.  But “can” does not mean that this is a smart thing to do.  The truth is that Iran does not offer any good targets to hit with nukes so using nukes against Iran will only make the determination of Iranians (and they allies) go from “formidable” to “infinite”.  Not smart.

3) Iranian air defenses: they are pretty good, but no match for a determined USAF/USN attack.  Yes, if the US attacks there will be much more resistance from air defenses than over Syria, and the US will loose a number of missiles and aircraft.  But not enough to stop a determined attack.  As I said it a gazillion times, air defenses are a game of numbers.  Even if your missiles have a perfect hit ratio (1:1), this will not help you if the enemy has more incoming missiles than your stores. Speaking about stores, yes, air defense units can reload, but only if they are alive to do so in the first place!  Thus all the opponent needs to do is fire enough missiles at your battery to make darn sure that your battery is destroyed before it can reload.  Okay, this is a gross over-simplification, because in reality batteries can be mobile and batteries protect each other.  But you get the idea.  Only a totally modern and fully integrated air defense network on all levels (from MANPADs to long range missiles a la S-400/S-500) can deal with all the threats.  Iran is not there yet, in spite of having had some major successes on the air defense front.

4) How can Iran win if it gets nuked?:  US Americans are cursed with a special mental block: many (most?!) of them sincerely believe that war is an end in itself.  It is not.  Wars ALWAYS have a POLITICAL objective.  This is why the USA has both won each war it fought since WWII AND lost each one too.  If you just look at, say, casualty figures or which side suffered most destruction, then you can believe that the USA is a formidable military force.  But just look at the 2006 war of Israel against Hezbollah.  Both the US and Israel declared that they had “won” – yet it was one of the most abject military failures in history.  And for Hezbollah this was a “Divine Victory”.  Folks – you need to free yourself from the categories and slogans used by the AngloZionist propaganda machine.  Wars are ONLY won when a POLITICAL objective has been reached.  Just going on a rampage and killing civilians does NOT qualify, even if western political leaders think it does.

If the US uses nukes it will be a political suicide for the US.  Well, okay, murdering Solemani is already a form of political suicide.  But using nukes will only precipitate even a much faster collapse of the Empire.  Here is the unmentionable truth: nukes are USELESS as war weapons in 99% of all circumstances.  Yes, they ARE crucial to the balance of terror (kuz that is what this is) between Russia and the USA and, to a much smaller degree, China.  But as a WARFIGHTING instrument, they are quasi useless.  Yes, I know, we are all conditioned to believe that nukes are like a magic wand, or a silver bullet, or a Wunderwaffe (pick your metaphor) – but this is a lie.

So will the US and/or Israel use nukes?  Probably.  They will do that because they are dumb racists who believe only in violence and in their own, messianic and racial superiority, and because when they will realize that all is lost, they will do what ALL western leaders (including Hitler) would do: make the other guy pay.

The Iranians know that.  They have lived under that threat for decades.  I assure you that they are ready.

5) Will Russia intervene?  First things first.  There are NO legal/formal obligations between Russia and Iran and last time I checked, no Iranians have volunteered to die for Russia.  Next, yes, Iran is an important ally for Russia.  But what most folks are missing is that Iran does not need (or want) a direct Russian intervention.  There are lots of reasons (including historical ones) to this. But what most folks are completely misunderstanding is that the Iranians are confident that they can win without any Russian (or other) help.  I am in touch with a lot of folks from the Middle-East (including Iran) and I can tell you that their mood is one of not only total determination, but one of quiet confidence.  Nobody in the region doubts that it’s now over for Uncle Shmuel.  I know, this sounds incredible for folks living in the West, but that is the reality in the Middle-East.

Besides, you can be sure that Russia will help Iran, but behind the scenes.  First and foremost with intelligence: while the Iranian have an extremely sophisticated intelligence community, it is dwarfed by the much larger Russian one which, on top of being much bigger, also has technical means which Iran can only dream about.  Russia can also help with early warning and targeting.  We can’t know what is really going behind the scenes, but I am getting reports that the Russians are on full alert (as they were during the first Gulf war, alas – Saddam Hussein did not listen to the Russian warnings).

6) Should Russia declare that Iran is now under Russian protection? Absolutely not!  Why?  Think of what is taking place as if you were sitting in the Kremlin: the Empire is about to embark on its last war (yes, I mean that, see further below) and the Russian specialists all KNOW that the US will lose, and badly.  Why in the world would you intervene when your “main foe” (KGB/SVR/FSB expression for “USA”) is about to do something terminally stupid?

Besides, this is a cultural issue too.  In the West, threats are constantly used. Not only to scare the enemy, but also to feel less terrified yourself.  In Asia (and Russia is far more culturally Asian than European) threats are seen as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.  In this entire career, Putin used a threat only ONCE: to convince the Urkonazis that attacking during the World Cup would have “severe consequences for the Ukrainian statehood”.  But you have to understand that from a Russian point of view, the Ukraine is militarily so weak as to be laughable as an enemy and nobody in his right mind will ever doubt the outcome of a Ukie war with Russia.  This is an extreme and exceptional case.  But look at the case of the Russian intervention in Syria: unlike their western counterparts, the Russians did not first spend weeks threatening ISIS or anybody else in Syria.  When Putin took the decision, they simply moved in, so quietly that THE BEST military in the galaxy never detected the Russian move.

So, IF, and I don’t think that this will happen, Russia ever decided to move in to protect Iran, the US will find out about it when US servicemen will die in large numbers.  Until then, Russia will not be issuing threats.  Again, in the West threats are a daily occurrence.  In the East, they are a sign of weakness.

Now you know why US threats are totally ineffective 🙂

7) US force levels in the Middle-East.  The US maintains a large network of bases all around Iran and throughout the entire planet, really.  The real numbers are secret, of course, but let us assume, for argument sake, that the US has about 100’000 soldiers more or less near Iran.  The actual figure does not matter (and the Iranians know it anyway).  What is crucial is this: this does NOT mean that the US has 100’000 soldiers ready to attack Iran.  A lot of that personnel is not really combat capable (the ratio of combat ready vs support ranges from country to country and from war to war, but let’s just say that most of these 100’000 are NOT combat soldiers).  Not only that, but there is a big difference between, say, many companies and battalions in a region and a real armored division.  For example, the 82nd AB is an INFANTRY force, not really mechanized, not capable of engaging say, an armored brigade.  Here is a historical sidebar: during the first Gulf war, the US also sent in the 82nd AB as the central force of the operation “Desert Shield”.  And here is where Saddam Hussein committed his WORST blunder of all.  If he had sent in his armored divisions across the Saudi border he would have made minced meat of the 82nd.  The US knew that.  In fact, Cheney was once asked what the US would have done if the Iraqis has destroyed the 82nd. He replied that the first line of defense was airpower on USN aircraft carriers and cruise missiles.  And if that failed, the US would have had to use tactical nukes to stop the Iraqi divisions.  That would be one of those instances were using nukes WOULD make sense from a purely military point of view (nukes are great to deal with armor!), but from a political point of view it would have been a PR disaster (vide supra).  The same is true today.  For the US to engage in any serious ground operation it would need many months to get the force levels high enough and you can be darn sure that Iran would NEVER allow that.  Should Uncle Shmuel try to send in a real, big, force into the KSA you can be sure that the Iranians will strike with everything they have!

The bottom line is this: the US has more than enough assets in the region to strike/bomb Iran.  The US has nowhere near the kind of force levels to envision a major ground operation even in Iraq, nevermind Iran!

8) What about the Strait of Hormuz?  There is no doubt in my mind that Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz.  In fact, all the Iranians need to do to close it is say that they reserve the right to destroy (by whatever means) any ship attempting passage.  That will be enough to stop all traffic.  Of course, if that happens the US will have no other option than to attack the southern cost of Iran and try to deal with that threat.  And yes, I am sorry of I disappoint my Iranian friends, I do believe that the US could probably re-open the Strait of Hormuz, but that will require “boots on the ground” in southern Iran and that is something which might yield an initial success, but that will turn into a massive military disaster in the medium to long run because the Iranians will have not only have time on their side, but they will have a dream come true: finally the US GIs will be within reach, literally.  So, typically, the US will prevail coming in, only to find itself in a trap.

9) Do the Iranians seek death?  This is an important one (thanks to Larchmonter 445 for suggesting this!).  The short answer is no.  Not at all.  Iranians want to live and they do not seek death.  HOWEVER, they also know that death in defense of Islam or in defense of the oppressed is an act of “witness to God”, which is what the Arabic word “shahid” is (and why the Greek work μάρτυς “martis” means).  What does that mean?  That means that while Muslim soldiers should not seek their death, and while they ought to do everything in their power to remain alive, they are NOT afraid of death in the least.  To fully understand this mindset, you need only become aware of the most famous and crucial Shia slogan “Every Day Is Ashura and Every Land Is Karbala” (see explanation here).  If I had to translate this into a Christian frame of reference I would suggest this “every day is Good/Passion Friday and every land is the Golgotha”.  That is to say, “no matter were you are and no matter what time it is, you have to be willing to sacrifice your life for God and for the defense of the oppressed“.  So no, Iranians are a joyful people (as are Arabs), and they don’t seek death. But neither do they fear it and they accept, with gratitude, the possibility of having to sacrifice their lives in defense of justice and truth.  This is one more reason why threats by terminal imbeciles like Pompeo or Trump have no effect whatsoever on Muslims.

10) So what is really happening now?  Folks, this is the beginning of the end for the Empire.  Yes, I know, this sounds incredible, yet this is exactly what we are seeing happening before our eyes.  The very best which the US can hope for now is a quick and complete withdrawal from the Middle-East.  For a long list of political reason, that does not seem a realistic scenario right now.  So what next?  A major war against Iran and against the entire “Shia crescent” ?  Not a good option either.  Not only will the US lose, but it would lose both politically and militarily.  Limited strikes?  Not good either, since we know that Iran will retaliate massively.  A behind the scenes major concession to appease Iran?  Nope, ain’t gonna happen either since if the Iranians let the murder of Soleimani go unpunished, then Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar al-Assad and even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be the next ones to be murdered.  A massive air campaign?  Most likely, and initially this will feel good (lots of flagwaving in the USA), but soon this will turn into a massive disaster.  Use nukes?  Sure, and destroy your political image forever and not only in the Middle-East but worldwide.

As a perfect illustration, just check the latest stupid threat made by Trump: “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame”. Folk, this is exactly the kind of stupid language which will deeply offend any Iraqi patriot.  This is the kind of language which comes out of an empire in the late stages of agony.

Trump will go down in history as the man who thought he could scare the Iranian and Iraqi people with “tweets”.

Pathetic indeed.

CONCLUSION

I hope that these pointers will be useful, especially when you are going to be hit with a massive Tsunami of US flagwaving propaganda (Trump “we are THE BEST”).  Simply put: this is bullshit.  Modern wars are first and foremost propaganda wars, and what you see as the output of US ruling elites are just that – “information operations”.  Let them wave their (Chinese made) flags, let them declare “United we stand” (for what exactly they stand is never specified) and let them repeat that the US military is the MOST FORMIDABLE FORCE IN THE GALAXY.  These are nothing but desperate attempts to control the narrative, nothing else.

Oh, and one more irony: while the GOP controlled Senate is most unlikely to ever impeach Trump, is it not pathetically hilarious that Trump has now, indeed, committed acts ought to have him removed from office?  Of course, in the real world, the US Neocon deep-state controls BOTH parties and BOTH parties fully support a war against Iran.  Still, this is one of those ironies of history which should be mentioned.

I will resume my work tomorrow morning.

Until then, I wish you call a good nite/morning/day.

The Saker

PS: if you have any follow-up question, please post them in the comment section and I will try to reply to the most relevant ones.

EXTREMELY dangerous development in the Middle East (UPDATES COMING IN)

January 02, 2020

Dear friends,

I just got home and saw the news that General Qasem Soleimani has been murdered along with another 5-8 people by what was initially reported as a MRL strike (Russian sources say it was a drone attack).  This was bad enough.  Then this:

The Telegram channel of RIA News reports that the US has claimed that it was responsible for that attack.

So far, PressTV has NOT confirmed the death of Soleimani but other media outlets have.

IF he is really dead, then the likely scenario is the following one:

BEGIN 100% SPECULATION
Trump threatened Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that there is nothing the US could do, and just to prove him wrong, the US murdered Soleimani.  Of course, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meant that there is nothing *effective* which the US could do.  He clearly did not have a cowardly assassination in mind.  As for Uncle Shmuel, he now can see that he “showed the Ayatollahs” how invincible the Empire is.  And to hell with the consequences (already started).
END 100% SPECULATION.

Now back to the attack itself.

Frankly, I was hoping that Trump and/or Netanyahu had enough brains NOT to claim the attack, whether they did it or not.  And, sure enough, it now appears that the US did make that claim.

Now there is only one question left: can the Iranians let this murder go unpunished?

Maybe.  But I can’t imagine that they will.

Next, no matter HOW the Iranians retaliate, the US will use that as a pretext to attack Iran.

Right now, it is 01:46 GMT and it is much too early to call this as many of the key facts are missing.

Still, considering the little we know I see no other option that the warn you all that we might have a war in the Middle-East literally any minute now.

I will try to scout the news for any info.

If you see anything interesting please post the info in the comments section (including the source).  I ESPECIALLY need to see if the US OFFICIALLY confirms that it is behind the attack.

General Qasem Soleimani was a true hero, and he was my “Saker Man of the Year” in 2015.  This is truly a major loss for all freedom loving people.  May God rest his soul!

I will be back later tonight.

The Saker

UPDATE1: this is all PressTV is reporting now: https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/03/615224/Hashd-Sha%E2%80%99abi-public-relations-director-killed-in-rocket-attack-on-Baghdad-airport

UPDATE2: Iraqi TV confirms the death https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/01/03/iraq-rockets-fired-at-baghdad-airport-7-people-killed/

UPDATE3: PressTV live confirms the death of the general https://www.presstv.com/Live

UPDATE4: The Donald just posted this on Twitter: it’s as good as any confirmation

UPDATE5: so now it is confirmed, see for yourself: https://www.rt.com/news/477354-pentagon-confirms-soleimani-killing/ (if these cretins really believe that they can “deter” Iran, they are even dumber than I thought)

UPDATE6: according to this source, this is an email from the Pentagon “At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the Department of Defense said in an emailed statement.

UPDATE7: seems like the US is now trying to scare the personnel of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, see here: https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/01/02/615194/Iraq-United-States-helicopter-Iran-Embassy-Baghdad

TEMPORARY CONCLUSION:

Okay, we now know that Soleimani has indeed been murdered and that the US did it.  So the key facts are all in.  Now all we can do is to way for the political fallout from this assassination (both inside and outside the USA and both inside and outside Iran).

Let me state here that I do NOT believe that Russia will be involved in any way.  Neither will China.  Why?  Because now everything hinges on the Iranian reaction.  I will try to produce an analysis in the course of the day tomorrow.

If you have any relevant/interesting info, please post it in the comments section below.  I will read it before I write my analysis.  Right now, I would say that war is about 80% certain, with 20% left for two reasons: first, the Iranians are extremely sophisticated actors who will do nothing without first making an in-depth analysis of the situation and, second, because we still don’t have all the facts (we only have the core, key, facts).

At this point it makes not sense for me to remain on standby.  I better get some sleep before tomorrow’s analysis.

Until then, I wish you all a good night/morning/day or evening.

Crucially – don’t lose hope!!  I will explain tomorrow why we should not over-react to this tragic and evil event.

Can I still say “hugs and cheers”?

I will stick to “hugs” only.

Singing off

The Saker

Russia and the USA Both Finish the Year with a “Grand Finale” of Sorts

THE SAKER • JANUARY 1, 2020

The end of the year is often a time of relative calm when the various parties to a conflict take a moment off, even when they declare nothing of the sort publicly (there are, of course, exceptions to this rule of thumb, such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979). This year, both the Russians and the US ended the year in a climax of sorts which we shall look into.

Another rule of thumb says that, “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior”, and this turned out to be very true in both cases: the Russians did more of what they have done all year long, as did the Americans. Specifically:

• Uncle Shmuel decided to bomb five bases of the group Kata’ib Hizbullah in Iraq in retaliation for an attack on the K1 U.S. base in Iraq

• Defense Minister Shoigu announced that the first regiment of Avangard equipped ICBMs was fully operational and on combat alert.

Let’s take a look at the implications and consequences of these two events.

The U.S. airstrikes on Kata’ib Hizbullah units in Iraq

First, just to clarify, Kata’ib Hizbullah has nothing to do with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The word “Hezbollah/Hizbullah” simply means “party of God” and Kata’ib Hizbullah simply means “Brigades of the Party of God”. Yes, both groups have similar names and they are both Shia. Kata’ib Hizbullah probably aims at becoming an Iraqi version of Hezbollah, and while they even have a similar flag, Kata’ib Hizbullah is neither an offshoot nor creation of Hezbollah. Kata’ib Hizbullah was created as a direct response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq (whereas Hezbollah in Lebanon was blow-back from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon).

This being said, there is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. actions in the Middle-East, and especially the total and abject subservience of the US to Israel (and when I say “subservience” I am being polite, really) have greatly contributed to facilitating the alliance and cooperation of all Shia factions in the Middle-East. The best example of such cooperation is the support the Yemeni Houthis get from Iran (but “support” is not the same as “proxy”, and Iran had nothing to do with the devastating Houthi counter-strikes against the KSA).

I won’t go into the details of the recent strike, especially since “b” on Moon of Alabama already has done a very good job analyzing it. What I will do is simply suggest an answer to the rhetorical question “b” asks at the end of his analysis: “Yesterday’s attacks guarantee that all U.S. troops will have to leave Iraq and will thereby also lose their supply lines to Syria. One wonders if that was the real intent of those strikes”.

My personal opinion is that Occam’s razor and past events ought to suggest that the most straightforward explanation is much more plausible than any kind of “5d chess” strategy.

Furthermore, far from suggesting that this latest expression of the hatred of the Iraqi people for Uncle Shmuel will result in a withdrawal, we already see the exact opposite happening: not only has the US announced that it will send another 750 soldiers to Iraq, but it has also announced that another 4,000 troops might also be send to the region, to the immense joy of its Israeli overlords who can’t wait for a US attack on Iran (how nice that the “only democracy in the Middle-East” is always cheering for as much violence and wars as possible).

Does that look like a preparation for withdrawal to you?

Finally, there is also Donald The Great with his usual garden variety of empty threats like this wonderful tweet:

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump · Jan 1, 2020

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq is, & has been for hours, SAFE! Many of our great Warfighters, together with the most lethal military equipment in the world, was immediately rushed to the site. Thank you to the President & Prime Minister of Iraq for their rapid response upon request….

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!99.2K1:19 AM – Jan 1, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy38K people are talking about this

And, sure enough, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quickly replied:

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge & fight, it will do so unequivocally. We’re not after wars, but we strongly defend the Iranian nation’s interests, dignity, & glory.

If anyone threatens that, we will unhesitatingly confront & strike them.1,8951:41 PM – Jan 1, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy676 people are talking about this

and

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

That guy has tweeted that we see Iran responsible for the events in Baghdad & we will respond to Iran.
1st: You can’t do anything.
2nd: If you were logical —which you’re not— you’d see that your crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan… have made nations hate you. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1212121026072592384 …Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrumpReplying to @realDonaldTrump….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!8,2871:14 PM – Jan 1, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy4,388 people are talking about this

It sure doesn’t look like anybody in Tehran is taking Trump, or the US, seriously.

And, frankly, why would they?

As Ayatollah Ali Khamenei correctly pointed out – there is nothing much the US cando about what is taking place all over the Middle-East; except, of course, starting a war which the US will most definitely lose (Hollywood inspired delusions of invincibility notwithstanding).

I believe that the U.S. Deep State has no intentions at all of leaving Iraq (or Syria, for that matter). Furthermore, far from being a strike to justify a withdrawal, this strike was aimed at bullying the Iraqi people into submission and acceptance of the lawless and thug-like behavior of the US in their country. Simply put, Pompeo & Co. did what Uncle Shmuel always does when they do not know what to do: they crudely decided to use brute force with the goal of terrorizing their adversaries into submission.

You might object that this strategy has not worked in decades, and you would be right. But here is the catch: the weaker the AngloZionist Empire looks, the more the Empire feels that it ought to restore its putative ability to terrorize by doubling-down, again and again. This mental block is called, “la fuite en avant” in French, which can be translated as a flight forward: that is what you do when all you can do is what got you into serious trouble in the first place, because:

  1. It did work in the past.
  2. You don’t have the intellectual capability to imagine any other approach.
  3. Because you sincerely believe that violence always solves all problems (as in the German saying “Wenn es mit Gewalt nicht geht, dann geht es mit mehr Gewalt”)

Those familiar with Hegelian dialectics will immediately see what is happening; the Empire is being destroyed from within, as a result of its own internal contradictions and its inability to evolve to a higher level of functioning. This inherent corrosiveness within the Empire does not require an external enemy, it destroys itself due to its very nature.

There are rumors that Trump wants to get rid of Pompeo, but I don’t believe them. Assuming that these rumors are true in the first place, are they linked to the recent air strikes or is this an expression of Trump’s comparative benevolence? Again, I doubt it. Trump is already blaming Iran for the fact that the US embassy in Iraq was attacked by large crowds of US-hating Iraqis.

Finally, and just as pathologically dysfunctional, is the fact that the only “solution” the leaders of the Empire could devise to the current crisis is to send in even more forces to reinforce the huge embassy compound in Baghdad. Obviously, Uncle Shmuel can’t even begin to imagine a strategy not solely predicated on violence.

This clearly shows that the expression, “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again expecting different results” still fully applies to the rulers of the US.

Now let’s take a look at how Russia ended the year

Russia deploys the Avangard (and more)

Remember how after Putin’s famous speech, the so-called “Russia specialists” declared that all these weapons did not exist, that they were all just computer animations?

Well, now probably the most exotic and “incredible” weapon mentioned by Putin (the Avangard) is fully operational and on combat duty. The Russians went so far as to show that weapon to US inspectors. Still, there remains a tiny minority which do not believe the “Russian hype”, despite an unambiguous report by the GAOwhich clearly states that “There are no existing counter-measures” against hypersonic weapons, and who will only admit the existence of these weapon systems if they get vaporized by them. But what do these Russian weapons (especially the Mach 10+ Kinzhal and the Mach 27+ Avangard) mean for the rest of us?

One one hand, this is very good news because it it yet another sign that Russia is now fully prepared for war, including total nuclear war. To put it differently, all the hopes that the U.S. had regarding the development of an ABM system which could stop a Russian counter-strike (following a U.S. attack) are now gone. Not only have the new Russian weapons made the US carrier fleet obsolete, it also made the US ABM plans obsolete too. Thus, in theory, this new reality ought to deter even the craziest folks at the Pentagon, CIA, NSA and White House.

On the other hand, however, this is not good news, because now the U.S. has a factual basis to declared that it feels threatened. Why? Because of the tricky issue of first-strike stability.

I can state categorically that Russia will never deliberately start a war, least of all against the US (the Russians understand that Russia could never escape a US counter-strike, even if delivered by the comparatively old US nuclear triad), but that is not an assumption the Pentagon’s force planners can make. Simply put, the Avangard + Burevestnik (nuclear powered infinite range cruise missile) combo could seem rather destabilizing from the point of view of what is called first strike stability (for a detailed discussion see here). For the time being, only one ICBM regiment has been outfitted with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles while the Burevestnik is still in the late stages of testing. But we also know that three more regiments are scheduled to receive the Avangard in the near future while the testing and evaluation of the Burevestnik is near completion (in spite of a possible recent accident). Once ready, this missile will probably be deployed in large numbers. Right now U.S. defense planners will have to assume that both systems will be deployed in numbers sufficient to affect the first strike stability between Russia and the US.

The solution? To hammer out a new strategic arms treaty between the two countries. Alas, at this point in time, the U.S. leaders show no interest in any such treaty. Worse, the New Start Treaty will soon lapse.

I suppose that in the demented political culture of the US any kind of treaty with Russia is a “sign of weakness” and is therefore “unpatriotic”. Still, first strike stability is one of those things which, along with cooperation in space, self-evidently benefits both nations (not to mention the rest of the planet) and, therefore, almost any strategic arms limitation/reduction would be highly desirable (the one exception to this rule would be a dramatic reduction in the number of deliverable warheads, even by both sides, which would threaten also first strike stability; see here and here for a discussion).

Finally, Russia ended the year by launching the newest Yasen-M-class SSN/SSGN, the Novosibirsk. This class of subs, arguably the most advanced on the planet, can function as both a nuclear attack and a missile attack submarine: it has eight torpedo tubes as well as ten vertical missile launch silos which can launch all sorts of missiles, including hypersonic ones. Most amazingly, it has only 64 crewmen, which suggest an unprecedented level of automation (the latest Virginia-class sub has a crew of 134). The Yasen-M is truly an amazing submarine, the big question now is how many of those Russia will be able to build? Probably not enough to really please the Russian force planners, but probably enough to create yet another major headache for the USN.

What is crucial to understand here is that the Avangard, the Yasen-M and all the other weapons systems Russia has deployed (the Avangards, Zirkons, Bastions, Sarmats, Pereswets, Burevestniks, Poseidons etc. are only the ones discussed in the western media, in reality there are many more) are but the tip of a much bigger iceberg: for the past 5 years or so Russia has been preparing for total war precisely to try to deter the US from doing something literally “terminally” stupid. Will that be enough to shock the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire out of their delusions or grandeur and invincibility?

I honestly don’t know. I hope that it will. But, frankly, I am not sure. Listening to the likes of Trump, Pompeo, Bolton and the rest of these ignorant and self-deluded clowns, not to mention the English language corporate media, I don’t feel very reassured, to put it mildly. Let us pray that the actual deep-state decision makers can still discriminate between feel-good propaganda for the masses and the actual reality out there.

Conclusion: two diametrically opposed approaches to security

Trump is stuck in a position where he has no other choice but to continue to threaten anybody and everybody. This kind of manic aggression towards the entire planet is what passes for “looking presidential” in the current US political doxa. This, at least, is not Trump’s fault and it all began a very long time ago (remember Dukakis cruising around in a M-1 tank or Dubya landing on a carrier with “Mission Accomplished” in the background?). Not that I am excusing Trump in any way: no adult leader of a nuclear superpower should even think issuing such silly but nonetheless most dangerous threats towards any other sovereign country, never mind another nuclear superpower. But let’s be honest here: every single US President starting with Clinton and all his successors was a clown of one kind or another and Trump is probably not the worst of them. As I have said many times, at this point the problem is not the man (or woman) in the White House, it is the entire system which is both terminally dysfunctional and unreformable.

The year 2020 will be dominated by the (frankly treacherous) attempts of the Dems to subvert the US Constitution and overthrow Trump. Like many others, I predict that this will boomerang into the Dems collective face and will yield a landslide victory for Trump (the Democratic Party is at least as unreformable as the US political system). Externally, Trump will probably continue to simultaneously threaten the EU, Russia, China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Yemen, Lebanon, Venezuela, Mexico, Turkey, etc. and the entire worldwide Muslim community (keep in mind the following stats: there are about 2 billion Muslims out there, and make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world). Basically, the US believes that it can simultaneously threaten, sanction and otherwise bully (or even attack), most of the countries on the planet and prevail. To call this delusional is an understatement.

For Russia 2020 will be an important transition year. This is best illustrated by the compromise deal reached with the EU and the Ukraine on gas: Russia yielded to some of the Ukrainian demands solely in order to show support for the EU which is now slowly showing signs of truly getting fed-up with the endless stream of threats and demands coming from across the Atlantic. You could say that Russia agreed to a tactical concession in order to secure a strategic objective.

The Germans and the French, in particular, seemed to have finally(!) realized that they gained nothing and lost a lot in their subservience to the US . The Russian plan is quite simple, really: show the EU that Russia has more than enough force to smash any US/NATO/EU attacking force while, at the same time, indicating that Russia is more than willing to cooperate, and even compromise, to establish normal, civilized, relations with Europe. This being said, Russia will only agree to relatively minor compromises, simply because her real priorities, political and economic, are not in the West anymore, but in the South, North and East and, especially, China (quick reminder: the top exports of Russia are crude petroleum ($96.6B), refined petroleum ($58.4B), petroleum gas ($19.8B), coal briquettes ($16.1B) and wheat ($7.93B); the top export destinations of Russia are China ($39.1B), the Netherlands ($27.7B), Germany ($19.9B), Belarus ($18.5B) and the United States ($15.4B).] Yes, the EU is still important to Russia, but not a top priority anymore.

How can all this be summed up?

Well, and paraphrasing a famous quote by Foreign Minister Lavrov, we could say that

  • the US plan is to turn allies into friends, turn friends into partners, turn partners into neutrals and turn neutrals into enemies and
  • the Russian plan is to turn enemies into neutrals, turn neutrals into partners, turn partners into friends and turn friends into allies.

I will let you decide which of these two plans is viable and which one is not.

I wish you all the best in 2020, especially peace.

Tulsi Gabbard and her husband sing a quite beautiful Christmas song

December 25, 2019

I hope that this will bring some joy to those of you who celebrate Christmas today!
Kind regards
The Saker
PS: please don’t make this one about politics, okay? I am just happy to see a normal healthy couple simply singing together (pretty well, actually), that’s all. And while I don’t think that Gabbard has a chance in 2020 (“they” will never let her), at least there is one US politicians that doesn’t make me feeling like tossing a brick at the screen 🙂
Thank you!

Can Russia (or Iran) survive without China?

 • NOVEMBER 21, 2019

In a recent article entitled “China, Bolivia and Venezuela are proof that social democracy cannot thrive in the global capitalist order” my China-based friend and correspondent Jeff J. Brown asked me an exceedingly interesting and important question.  He wrote:

Russia is a social democracy, with a large, successful people owned industrial sector and many social services for the 99% from the Soviet era. But, unlike Bolivia and Ukraine, it is avoiding the West’s color revolution poison pill, because since 1999, Russia has gone from strength to strength, under the inspired leadership of patriotic President Vladimir Putin. But like all social democracies, the problem is what happens if another Western whore Boris Yeltsin succeeds Putin, and returns Russia to its dystopian Wall Street rape of the 1990s? Then what? It only took Macri four short years to bring Argentina back onto its groveling knees. Without a 100% nationalized media, Russians had better be demanding that Putin & Russian Patriots Inc. work overtime to censor all the Western overthrow garbage that is put in Cyrillic ink and on the airwaves.  I would love to hear what my good friend Andrei Raevsky thinks about this at The Saker (http://thesaker.is/), because let’s be honest: without China’s, Russia’s and Iran’s continued anti-imperial independence and socialist success into the 21st century, humanity can kiss its ass goodbye!

Let’s begin by deconstructing the assumptions and implications of Jeff’s question.
China and Russia *could* be separated
The first assumptions Jeff makes are the following ones:

  1. Russia is a social democracy
  2. The Russian media is not 100% state controlled
  3. A new Eltsin might succeed Putin
  4. The West is saturating the Russian information space with garbage
  5. That western propaganda can still strongly impact Russia
  6. China and Russia *could* be separated (hence the need to prevent that as the central thesis of Jeff)

And, finally, considering the above, Jeff offers the following compelling implication for the China-Russia-Iran triangle:

  1. Considering the above, China’s independence and support for Russia and Iran are vital for the sovereignty and freedom, if not survival, of Russia and Iran

Now let’s begin by looking into Jeff’s assumptions:

Russia is a social democracy:

Yes and no.  If we define a social democracy as being a specific polity and system of laws, then Russia is a social democracy.  However, if we define social democracy as a specific polity, system of laws and social culture, then I would argue that to the extent that Russia is, indeed, a social democracy, she is a rather weird one.  What do I mean by that?

By that I mean that thanks to the nightmare of “democracy” under Eltsin and his US curators, and thanks to the recent explosion of “democracy” in the Ukraine, the Russian people have by and large come to consider the words “liberal” and “democracy” as four letter words.  For example, the word “либерал” (liberal) has now given birth to a derived word либераст which takes the first letters of the word “liberal” and adds the last letters of the word педераст (pederast – a rude word for homosexual [yes, in Russian homosexuality and pederasty are not separated!]) which results in the new word “liberast” the closest to which in English would be something like “libfag”, hardly a compliment. In some interpretations, a “liberast” is also somebody who has been “f**ked by democracy“.  Not much better…  As for the word “демократия” (democracy) for years it has already been called “дерьмократия” (using the first letters of дерьмо (der’mo or shit) and the last letter of democracy to create der’mokratia or “shitocracy”.  Finally, there is also the saying that “демократия, это власть демократов” (democracy is the rule of the democrats), which for a country which has undergone the 1990s and seen the Ukraine being comprehensively FUBARed is ominous; not funny at all.  All this is simply to show that culturally the Russian society is not at all your typical social democracy.  It is a sort of democracy in which the majority of the people do not believe in democracy.  This is very important, crucial even, and I will address this issue later.

The Russian media is not 100% state controlled:

That is absolutely true!  However, it misses an important point: the real profile of the Russian media which is much more complex than “state controlled” vs “free media”.  To make a long story short, the main TV channels, while not really “controlled” by the state at all, are mostly pro-Kremlin.  But here we need to get the cause and effect right: these channels are not pro-Kremlin only because they get state funds or because of the political power of the Kremlin, the main reason why they are pro-Kremlin is the terrible rating of those media outlets who took a strong anti-Kremlin position.

To make my point, I want to mention the rabidly anti-Kremlin TV station which is very well known in Russia (Dozhd’ – see here for the (predictably complimentary) entry in Wikipedia for this TV channel).  In fact, Dozhd’ is just the best known of a fairly extensive anti-Kremlin media but, in reality, there are many more outlets which hold an anti-Kremlin pro-Empire line.  However, as I explained in a 2016 article entitled “Counter-Propaganda, Russian Style”  and then, again, in 2017, in the article “Revisiting Russian Counter-Propaganda Methods” the Kremlin has developed a very effective counter-propaganda strategy: instead of suppressing the Empire’s propaganda (like the Soviets did, most unsuccessfully), the Kremlin now directly funds that same propaganda!  Not only does the (state-owned) Gazprom finance Dozd’ – the western and Russian liberal guests which ridicule themselves on Russian TV are also generously paid for each of their appearances.  Even hardcore Ukronazi nutcases get invited regularly (when they truly overdo it they also get into fights, or get kicked out of the studios, which is all very much fin to watch and is therefore watched by millions).  The truth is that at this point the AngloZionist propaganda in Russia has much more of a very healthy “vaccination” effect then the ability to convince anybody beyond the “traditional” 2-4% of folks in Russia who still think that the West is some kind of heaven on earth and Russia an ugly, vicious and freedom crushing “Mordor”.

This being said, there is one channel through which the worst of the western consumer-society propaganda still permeates Russia: commercials.   Russian commercials are mostly absolutely disgusting; they basically vehiculate one crude and simple message “Russians must become US Americans”.  That propaganda via commercials is, I think the single most toxic and insidious form of de-russification I can think of and it is far more dangerous than any other means of “defacing” Russia.

Finally, and to my great regret, media outlets like RT and Sputnik have decided to “go native” I suppose and they now cater to western tastes much more than to Russian ones.  The quasi constant “reporting” about MMA fights, minimally clad ladies, sex in all its shapes and forms and Hollywood gossip – all of this just goes to show that the folks in charge of these media outlets have decided that catering the the lowest possible social common denominator is the way to promote Russia abroad.  I am not so sure.  What began with “Question More” and “Telling the Untold” now seems more preoccupied with trying to copy the yellow press in the UK than to challenge the Empire.  I very much regret that state of affairs.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of 5th columnists and russophobes in these media outlets (especially in their online, Internet-based, websites; the actual radio/TV shows are mostly better).

So all is not rosy in the Russian media scene, but its not all bad either.

A new Eltsin might succeed Putin

Here I can only completely agree, and that is very scary.  Due to the lack of space, I will present my arguments in a short, bullet-point, list:

  • “Russia” is still very much a “one man show” meaning that Putin himself, as a person,  is still absolutely vital to the current functioning of Russia.  Not only are most Russians still strongly supportive of him personally, but there are no credible candidates to replace him.  Yes, there are a few potential candidates out there (in no special order: Ivanov, Shoigu and Rogozin would be the best known, but there are others, of course), but what makes it all worse is that historically, Russia, unlike China, has a very bad record of successions.
  • The 5th column is still there and while it keeps a very low profile (current events favor the Eurasian Sovereignists), it is still there, literally in all branches of power and very much inside the Moscow elites who hate Putin for putting an end to what they saw as the “Bonanza of the 1990s”.
  • There *is* a patriotic Russian opposition to Putin, and it is slowly growing, but it is poorly organized, has a lot of clueless nostalgics of the Soviet era and a lot of its criticisms are, frankly, naive or plain silly (along with very valid points too!).  I don’t see this opposition capable of producing a strong and credible leader.  But that might change in the future.
  • Thus the cornerstone of “Putinism” is Putin himself.  With him gone, for whatever reason, Putinism could very rapidly fade too.  This might be a good or a bad thing depending on the specific circumstances, but the chances that this might be a very bad thing are higher than the opposite being true.

“Putin The Man”, urgently needs to be replaced by “Putin The System”, but that is truly a herculean task because that means reforming/purging most of the immense and powerful Russian bureaucracy and find somewhere a new generation of men and women who could be both effective and trusted.  The problem is that in most cases when one man goes against a system, the system wins.  Putin is the proverbial case of a very good man in a very bad system.  True, he has successfully reformed the two branches of government which were most needed to make it possible for both him and Russia to survive the war the Empire was waging on Russia: the armed forces and the intelligence/security forces.  Other parts of the Russian state are still in a terrible shape (the entire legal system for starters!).

I think that the risk of an Eltsin-like prostitute coming to power is real, even if the bulk of the population would not necessarily approve of it (or be divided about it).  Long-term historical stability of a huge country like Russia cannot come from a man.  It can only come from institutions.  And just as Peter I destroyed the traditional Russian monarchy, so can one man destroy the current “new Russia” (for lack of a better descriptor), especially if this “new Russia” has only one man as its cornerstone.

Finally, history teaches us that every time that Russia is weak or disunited, the western powers immediately pounce and intervene, including with military means.  The Poles are still dreaming about yet another chance to prove Churchill’s diagnosis about Poland true and pounce on both the Ukraine and Russia if given the chance.

The West is saturating the Russian information space with garbage and western propaganda can still strongly impact Russia

As we have seen above, these are both at least partially true, but they are also not that much of a big deal.  This is clearly a source of potential concern, a danger, but not a threat (a danger being vague, a threat specific).  To the extend that this is a bad thing, this is mostly due to the hyper-materialistic consumer culture which currently competes against a much more traditional, Russian culture.  It is hard to say which one will win.  The former has much, much bigger financial means, the latter one has a strong ‘home turf advantage”.  Only time will show which will prevail.  So long as many Russians will  think “western propaganda lies” (which most understand) AND are attracted to western-style commercials (which are, in so many ways, an even much more effective and insidious form of propaganda), the jury will remain out on who will prevail should instability return to Russia.

China and Russia *could* be separated

This is probably the most important assumption made by Jeff.  First, since this is completely hypothetical, and since we are not future-seeing prophets let’s first agree to never say never and not dismiss this possibility out of hand.  This being said, I would like to remind everybody that Russia and China have gradually changed the labels which they applied to the other side.  The latest (as far as I know, Chinese speakers please correct me if needed!) expression used by Xi and other Chinese officials is “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for the New Era“.  There is a lot to unpack here, but let’s just say that this does not sound like the Chinese came up with that concept lightly or that they have many misgivings about the future of the relationship with Russia.  As for the Russians, they have now openly used the term “ally” on many occasions, including Putin.  In Russian that word “ally” (союзник) is a very strong one and contrasts sharply with the cynical and disgusted way the Russians always speak about their western “partners” (which often shocks those who don’t speak Russian).

And it is not all sweet talk either.  The Russians and the Chinese have had many and major joint military maneuvers, they have practiced the Russian equivalent of the US/NATO “Combined Joint Task Force” concept (see here for details).  Thus, while not formal allies, Russia and China do all the things which close allies do.  I would even argue that the “informal symbiosis” between Russia and China is far stronger than the NATO alliance.

It is my opinion that what Putin and Xi have done is something which has no previous equivalent in history, at least as far as I know.  Even though both Russia and China have been empires in the past, I strongly believe that both of these countries have entered a “post-imperial phase” in which the trappings of empire have been replaced by an acute sense that empires are extremely bad not only for the nations which it oppresses, but also for the nation which hosts it.  Both Russia and China have paid a horrendous price for their imperial years and both Russia and China completely understand that the people of the USA are also amongst the prime victims of the (transnational) Anglo-Zionist Empire, even if that is all too often forgotten.  Not only do they not want to repeat their own mistakes, they see the USA dying in the quicksands of imperialism and the last thing they want is to jump in and join the US.

I believe that the relationship between Russia and China is a symbiosis, which is much stronger than any alliances because while the latter can be broken, the former typically cannot (at least not without extremely severe consequences).  I also believe that Putin and Xi both understand that the fact that Russia and China are so completely different is not a problem, but a tremendous asset: they fit perfectly, like Lego or puzzle pieces.  What Russia has China does not and vice-versa.  And, just to clarify for the logically challenged: both sides also understand that they will never get from the other side by war what they could get by peaceful exchange.  Yes, the silly Polish dream of having Russia invaded by China several times (an old Polish joke of sorts) is only a reflection of the ancient Polish inferiority complex, not of geostrategic realities 🙂

Of course, in theory, anything could happen.  But I personally see no chain of events which could be sufficient to threaten the Sino-Russian symbiotic relationship, not even a collapse of “New Russia Putinism” (not elegant, but functional for our purposes) or the kind of chaos which a Eltsin type of comprador regime could try to reimpose on Russia.  At the end of the day, if Russia collapses then China will hold truly immense financial and economic power over Russia and will therefore be able to impose at least a China-friendly regime.  In that extremely unlikely case, Russia would, of course, lose her sovereignty, but not to the West, but to China.  That is not quite what Jeff had in mind.

Conclusion:

Yes, Russia and China need each other.  I would argue that they need each other.  Vitally.  And yes, the “loss” of one would threaten the other.  But that is not just true for Russia, it is also very true of China (which desperately needs Russian energy, high-tech, natural resources, weapons systems but most of all, Russian experience: for most of her existence Russia was threatened, invaded, attacked, sanctioned, boycotted and disparaged by a long succession of western states, and she defeated them all.  Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but each time Russia prevailed.  The determination and ability to resist the West is something which is deeply embedded in the Russian cultural DNA (this in sharp contrast with the rest of the so-called “East European” countries).  Finally, and for all their very real recent advances, the Chinese armed forces are still far behind the Russian (or the USA for that matter) and in a one-on-one war against the USA China would definitely lose, especially if the USA goes “all out”.  Russia, on the other hand, has the means to turn the US and Europe into a post-industrial nuclear wasteland (using nuclear and, most importantly, non-nuclear munitions!).

I would also add something Jeff did not address: Iran.  I believe that both Russia and China also very much need Iran.  Okay, that is not a vital need, both Russia and China could survive without an allied Iran, but Iran offers immense advantages to both countries, if only because thanks to the truly phenomenal stupidity of the Neocons the USA’s breathtakingly stupid policies in the Middle-East (here is just the latest example) have turned Iran into a regional super-power eclipsing both Israel and the KSA.  Furthermore, if Russia has shown much more political and moral courage than China (which, lets be honest, has been pretty happy to have Russia taking the brunt of the Empire’s attacks), Iran has shown much more political and moral courage than Russia, especially concerning the slow-motion genocide perpetrated by the Zionist Entity in Palestine.

And this brings us full circle to the discussion of what kind of country Russia currently really is.  Russia is not the Soviet Union.  Neither is she pre-1917 Russia.  But what is she really?

Nobody really knows, I think.

It is a moving target, a process.  This process might lead to a new and stable “new Russia”, but that is by no means certain.  Paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Article 13 of the Russian Constitution say:

  1. In the Russian Federation ideological diversity shall be recognized
  2. No ideology may be established as state or obligatory one.
  3. In the Russian Federation political diversity and multi-party system shall be recognized.

In other words, not only is there no “no official ideology” in Russia, there is an explicit recognition for a multi-party political system (itself an ideological statement, by the way).  These are all potentially very dangerous and toxic items in the Russian Constitution which already are hindering a true national, cultural, psychological and spiritual rebirth of Russia.  Iran, in contrast, has succeeded in creating an Islamic Republic which is both truly and unapologetically Islamic and truly democratic, at least in the sense that, unlike western democracies which are mostly run by minorities and for minorities (or a coalition of minorities), in Iran the majority supports the system in place.

And since the vast majority of the Russian people do not want a single-party-system or a return to Soviet times yet don’t believe in (western style) democracy, Russian intellectuals would be well advised to take a very close and careful look at what I would call the “Iranian model”, not to simply copy it, but to see what aspects of this model could be adapted to Russian realities.  Historical Russia was an Orthodox monarchy.  That time is gone and will never return.  Soviet Russia was a Marxist atheistic state.  That time is also forever gone.  Modern Russia can only find references, lessons and implications in her past, but she cannot simply resurrect Czarist or Communist Russia.  Of course, neither can she reject her entire history and declare it all “bad” (which is what Russian “liberals” always do, which explains why they are so hated).

I don’t know what the future Russia will look like.  I am not even totally sure that this new Russia will ever really happen (though my gut feeling is that it will).  I hope that it will, but whether that happens or not will not be decided in China or by China (or any other country).  To conclude on a famous quote by Karl Marx “the emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves” (in Russian: “Освобождение рабочих должно быть делом самих рабочих”) which a famous Russian 1928 book turned into “the salvation of those who are drowning has to be the action of those drowning” (in Russian: “Спасение утопающих — дело рук самих утопающих”).  Whatever version you prefer (I prefer the 2nd one), the meaning is clear: you need to solve your problems by yourself or with those who share that problem with you.  In other words, Russians are the only ones who can save or destroy the Russian nation (I mean “Russian” in the traditional, Russian, multi-ethnic and multi-religious meaning of the words руссий and российский which in traditional Russian are both interchangeable or different depending on the context).

The Saker

PS: I leave you with a photo which, imho, speaks a thousand words

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