Putin, Trump, and the EU

Like I said yesterday in comments, I’m bored with the impeachment follies, it’s bullshit and it’s going nowhere, although it may well give President Trump a landslide victory, and that very fact may allow reasonable Democrats to get control of their party. But don’t hold your breath on that either. We’ll come back to it, sadly, when there is something to talk about.

Meantime, it does us no harm to look out over the parapet and see what’s going on in the world. So today, there is an excellent (I think) assessment of Putin by Areg Galstyan at American Thinker. Let’s have a look…

Vladimir Putin has ruled the country since 2000, and over these 19 years, influence groups around him have been fighting each other for a special position and status. Unlike most of his associates, Putin is indeed an ideologically motivated leader who perceives himself not just as a politician and an official, but as a sovereign, such as Peter the Great and Alexander III — the beloved emperors of the current Russian leader.

One of my blogfriends, a Briton living in Siberia, categorically states he is also a Christian, that may be so or it may not be, but he undeniably supports the Russian Orthodox Church, whether out of conviction or statecraft doesn’t really matter. Interesting that Putin and Trump, the two largest nationalist leaders, also profess as Christians, not many others do, as they attend St. Mattress almost every Sunday.

The new ideology that is called Putinism is uniting principles and foundations that have remained unchanged throughout all the historical stages of the development of Russia. Its foundation is the concept of National Democracy. It implies that the process of democratization and the formation of an active civil society is inevitable but it should not be carried out according to any foreign model. The Russian nation, like any other, has its civilizational, social, and cultural features. Today, 190 peoples live in Russia, and most of them retain their language, traditions, and mentality. From this point of view, Moscow is always under the permanent threat of external forces using any interethnic disagreements for their purposes. If, for example, a political decision was made to allow same-sex “marriage” in the deeply conservative regions of the North Caucasus, Tatarstan, and Siberia, riots would begin. And they would lead to the most unpredictable consequences. For a large part of the progressive West, this may sound wild. Yet for Russia, it is a matter of national security.

It is important to understand that Russia is not limited to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. These cities, like any major megalopolises, are centers of the dominance of progressive and liberal ideas. No one will argue with the fact that the United States does not begin and end in New York and California; there are also Texas, Tennessee, Utah, and other states. The victory of Donald Trump vividly demonstrated that it was conditional Texas and Kentucky that were the heart of America, not Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The situation is similar in Russia: Putin is guided by the mood of the regional majority, not the liberal minority of the capital. There are a lot of sensitive problems, and any Russian ruler has to maintain internal balance in order to keep the country’s physical integrity. This is an extremely difficult task. At certain periods of time, Emperor Nicholas II, and then the last general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev, did not cope with this task. This resulted in the collapse of the Russian Empire and the USSR, respectively. Thus, the essence of Sovereign or National Democracy is in a banal formula: everything has its time. In other words, Putinism advocates an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary model of development.

There is quite a bit more, all of it good.

My takeaway is this, I don’t think Russia is much of a threat to the US. It is a big European/Asian power, yes, and it could do serious harm to the US, but why. The converse is equally true, and I don’t hear any American thinking we should destroy Russia.

We compete yes, especially for oil sales. As an aside, last month for the first time in 70 years we became a net exporter. But providing Germany’s fossil fuel doesn’t translate to a justification for war.

A key point is this, our interests are in fact, while not identical, similar, and until the 1917 revolution, Russia was (more or less) our friend, as much as any great power (saving only Britain) was or is. We pretty much know now (and probably should have before) that a lot of the Washington swamp hasn’t gotten the memo that the cold war is over. I’d guess that there is a similar cabal in the Kremlin. If for no other reason than its good for the arms manufacturers, and their subsidiaries in Washington and Moscow.

But we’re both interested in suppressing terrorism, especially after our ‘experts’ made the mid-east so much worse. And frankly, it is not really in either of our interests to encourage the Chinese, let alone the North Koreans.

NATO was formed 70 years ago to “Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down”. It has done well on the first two, and after the failure of the Soviet Union pretty much failed on the last. That will I suspect have consequences as Europe returns to be the cockpit of internecine conflict. The EU will implode, probably in this decade, and then the great game will restart as the Germans once more try to form a European Empire. In truth, the EU itself is an attempt by Germany to form an empire by economic means rather than military, that is why Macron’s nose is so out of joint.

If as the linked author says, Putin believes in Westphalia, Vienna, and Potsdam and Yalta, then he is pretty much the Russian form of Trump. And as we know, now if we didn’t before we elected him, he’s not out looking around for wars to wage. I doubt Putin is either. Both have better things to do for their countries.

And I think it entirely possible that Putin is more trustworthy than either Macron or Merkel, let alone this new German running the EU.

Maskirovka, Deep State Style

A commenter over at Ace’s noted yesterday that Robert Ludlum wouldn’t concoct such a plot as we are seeing in the deep state, it’s too complex by far to be real. He has a point. It’s worse than a daytime soap opera. And yet it seems that it is. Either these folks are geniuses, or it is multiple people acting more or less on their own, in their own interest. Occam’s Law would suggest the latter.

But in any case, I would suggest that all of these moving parts, on multiple continents, may be why the wheels are apparently coming off, thus the desperation we are increasingly seeing, as Leavenworth stares some very powerful people in the face. Or not. We will see.

A point that Sean Hannity makes repeatedly is both valid and very important if Hillary Clinton had won we would likely never known how corrupt and self-seeking our so-called civil service had become. This is likely to be Donald Trump’s greatest service to his country.

In any case, Lee Smith in The Federalist has done some digging on why the leak campaign has switched from offensive operations to defensive. It’s interesting.

There is a huge amount of information here, and I strongly recommend reading it all. I have chosen to emphasize the section that talks about the declassifying of documents (that Trump has now ordered) and that has unhinged (or further unhinged) former DNI James Clapper. Maybe this is part of why.

Now congressional Republicans are urging the president to declassify three sets of documents — 20 pages of the final renewal of the warrant to spy on Carter Page in June 2017; records of the FBI’s 12 interviews with Bruce Ohr; and exculpatory material related to the warrant on Page. Anti-Trump officials continue to dig in, pre-emptively leaking information about CIA and FBI Russia-related operations that appears to combine classified intelligence with some degree of fiction intended to obscure wrongdoings.

Halper’s name popped up again last month in the New York Times. A veteran GOP operative, Halper collected intelligence on Trump associates. But according to unnamed officials quoted in the story, uncovering his identity has “had a chilling effect on intelligence collection” against Russian targets.

The apparent purpose of the article, say sources, is to deter Trump from declassifying documents damaging to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“Informants close to President Vladimir V. Putin and in the Kremlin who provided crucial details” to U.S. intelligence about the 2016 race have gone silent, the Times reported.

Washington Post article last year, co-written by Entous, made similar claims about U.S. intelligence sources close to Putin. According to the story, the Obama White House knew of “Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race” based on “a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government.”

If the 2017 Post story is true, that would explain why U.S. intelligence is blind on Russia going into the 2018 midterm elections. After American spies leaked classified intelligence regarding informants in Putin’s inner circles, Moscow would have moved quickly to shut down those channels.

But present and former intelligence officials doubt the veracity of both the Times and the Post stories. “Our sources and methods are sacred, and what we do regarding Russia is extraordinarily secret,” former CIA Moscow station chief Daniel Hoffman told RCI.

Gentlemen: place your bets. In some ways, that’s where we are right now. I’m inclined to quote the old advice, “Expect the worst and hope for the best'”.

Another recent Times story that has raised eyebrows is its Sept. 1 account of the FBI’s efforts to recruit Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch close to Putin, as an informant. Published just days after the release of documents showing that the DOJ’s Ohr was in close contact with Christopher Steele, who was employed by Deripaska’s London lawyer, the Times story reports that the FBI operation included Ohr and Steele.

According to the Times, Deripaska was one among half a dozen Putin associates that the FBI attempted to recruit for the purpose of reporting on Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. A congressional Republican source who spoke to RCI on the condition of anonymity is skeptical of the Times’ account.

“The takeaway is that in trying to flip a Putin-allied oligarch, the FBI told Putin that they’re investigating his interference in the 2016 elections. That is not a good look. It looks like the story they’re trying to bury is that in the period leading up to the FBI’s using the dossier to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign, a senior DOJ official whose wife [Nellie Ohr] worked on the dossier is meeting with the author of the dossier, who works for a Putin ally.”

Sources say the Ohr story is evidence that the leak campaign is continuing, even as it is being exposed. And a precedent has been established with this joining together of political operatives, law enforcement and intelligence officials to prosecute a campaign based on illegal leaks of classified intelligence. It’s not hard to imagine it happening again, regardless of who the next president is, and regardless of party.

And that, of course, is why it is so pernicious. If we don’t get it rooted out, rather like crabgrass, it will haunt us far into the future. And yet, it is going to be very hard to do when it threatens the lifestyle and even the liberty of people, who while they may be important, are even more self-important. In fact, their self-importance is greater to them than the country itself. It is something we need to get done.

Russia, Russia, Russia, and Will Rogers

Bored yet with “Russia, Russia, Russia, and yes, some more Russia”? Yeah, me too. I’m not convinced it even matters much for Europe, let alone America. And that is pretty much what America thinks, too. From Bre Payton at The Federalist.

An overwhelming majority of Americans don’t think the ongoing probe into whether Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials to steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton is that important, according to a new Gallup poll. 

A record-breaking number of Americans (22 percent) think immigration is the most important problem facing the United States, while 19 percent say dissatisfaction with the U.S. government is the biggest problem and 7 percent think racism is the most important issue.

A combined total of 16 percent of Americans list unifying the country, lack of respect for one another, and the economy in general as the most important issues. The other issues that make it to the top of the list are health care (according to 3 percent of Americans), and ethics and morality (according to another 3 percent of those surveyed).

That’s about what I’d expect, sitting out here in flyover country. Nothing we’re hearing on the news (other than immigration, and that is slanted one way or another) really matters a damn to America and Americans. Here are the charts that Bre brought us.

And broken down by party:

 

In other words, not even 1% of us think its important, and yet, that is all the media and politicians (BIRM) have been bleating about for a week.

Well, Will Rogers wrote that

This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.

In any case, a good deal of what we are seeing is that the political, military, industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about, needs an enemy. But it doesn’t want one too big, that it might end up in a real war, you know like China, and Montenegro is obviously too small, but Russia is the Goldilocks of enemies, everybody knows who it is, and it is just the right size, and besides it used to be a fearsome enemy, until we defeated it, and left so many experts without anything to expert about.

Will Rogers was an excellent observer, so why don’t we take a look at a few more of his observations, such as:

[A] comedian can only last till he either takes himself serious or his audience takes him serious

Seems very appropriate these days, doesn’t it?

Or:

No party is as bad as its state and national leaders.

Or even:

Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.

Words to live by, all of those observations.

The NATO Scam

Joe Sylvester over at The Federalist has an article yesterday about the welfare state called NATO. It’s rather interesting.

It has been 27 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but American foreign policy has not evolved to fit the new world. We have more military bases in Europe than we did post-World War II. There seems to be no coherent answer as to the necessity of such bases and, worse, no justification of the burgeoning costs.

Who are these bases designed to protect? Which European countries have an actual or even a perceived threat of foreign invasion, and by whom? Why can’t economic powerhouses such as Germany provide for their own defense?

In short, Germany can, but won’t. Agreements among North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations stipulate that if one member is attacked, the others must come to their aid. This agreement acts as a one-way insurance policy for Europe. The United States pays the premiums—the costs of maintaining bases across Europe. If a member nation is attacked, however, the United States, in practice, will end up shouldering a majority of the burden of defense.

That is not an alliance, it is at best a protectorate, at worst a colony. But it’s a misshapen colony, colonies are supposed to exist for the benefit of the mother country, not the mother country exist for the benefit of the colony. What is really amounts to is welfare. The Europeans subsidize their citizens, and all those Muslim ‘asylum seekers’ on the backs of the taxpayers – the American taxpayers. And like all welfare systems, it has bred dependence on the state, in this case, Europe’s dependence on the United States.

[…] This agreement not only forfeits the rights of the United States to decline participation if it is not in American interests, it is not and cannot physically be reciprocal. Germany and a majority of the rest of the member nations cannot aid the United States in times of conflict. Even if they wanted to, they are not capable of aiding in any meaningful way. This is a contractual obligation that these countries are in default of, which should render it unenforceable and void.

In January, the German Parliamentary armed forces commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, issued a shocking report that stunned the German parliament, the Bundestag. In it, he wrote that Germany’s military personnel are at an all-time low of a 170,000-man army. To put this in perspective, if this were hand-to-hand conflict, Germany would be evenly matched against the militaries of Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

It takes new German recruits approximately 45 weeks to get uniforms, and many are trained with broom handles instead of guns and passenger vans in place of armored vehicles. Only one-third of their jet-fighters and a staggering five of their 60 transport helicopters were operational. To make matters worse, after a slight increase in spending in 2018, defense spending will again regress to an all-time low in the following year.

In June of last year, news of a German withdrawal from NATO exercises after less than two weeks into a four-week exercise caused international embarrassment. Rules limiting overtime by German military officials highlight their attitudes about meeting their commitments to the European Union to bolster their defense forces to appropriate levels and see to their own well-being. German attitudes on defense can be summed up by saying, “American pays for our defense, so why should we?”

A couple of things about that last link, the Bundeswehr is only allowed to work 41 hours a week, and there is no provision for overtime. Does that sound as imbecilic to you as it does me? Overtime for the army! And a forty-one hour work week maximum. Any of you civilian Americans ever had it that good? Yeah, usually I got overtime unless I owned the joint, in which case my normal week was 60-80 hours, but 48-60 hours was a normal week most of my career. I’d guess our army is higher than that.

Then there is this part…

Germany is the largest economy in Europe by a long-shot, the fifth-largest economy in the world, and the number one exporter of goods around the world. Forty-six percent of the German economy lives on exports, compared to China at 20 percent. Nine percent of German exports are bought directly by U.S. markets. In 2016, the United States had a trade deficit of $65 billion with Germany, which was only America’s third-largest deficit after China and Japan.

We acquiesced to this type of deal, long ago, when we had ~80% of gross world product, shortly after World War II to help Europe recover from the war. The time for that has passed, as has the Soviet Union.

When you think of Russia, think of Italy with a lot of (mostly) old nukes. That’s about the size of its economy. And it is dependent on one product: Oil. And the corrupt German government is its best customer, while we spend our money defending them. Quite the scam isn’t it.

Russia fails at our will, all we have to do is glut the oil market, which is exactly how we destroyed the Soviet Union, we drove them to their grave economically, while outproducing them militarily. Remember when they put their entire missile fleet on the negotiating table to stop SDI? They did, at Keflavik. Think they might be a bit worried about the US Space Force? I don’t know how well planned it is either, but I like being stronger than the rest of the world put together. It’s a feeling Putin will never know.

But the real problem for the US (actually what passes these days for the free world) isn’t Rusia, it is China. And as long as we’re spending all this money in Europe, we are ignoring the real problem to focus on a  minor annoyance.

Time to get our eye on the ball, before we strike out.

A Summit, Hysteria, and Bovine Excrement

Well, Putin and Trump had a meeting yesterday in Helsinki. Afterwards, Trump said some things that bothered the left. In other words, it was a day ending in Y. I wasn’t all that fond of them, either, really. But then, I never thought Trump was God and never made mistakes. Hannity is as good as anybody on it.

Frankly, I can’t decide whether the left’s goal is to destroy Trump at any cost whatsoever. Or maybe it is to destroy Russia for throwing the communists out, and the United States for winning the cold war. Or both. Apparently, they think a nuclear war is just the way to do that.

I can’t see any particular reason to trust the US Intelligence Community, all my life they’ve always been wrong, from Vietnam to the cold war (whose end they failed to see coming) to Iraq and Afghanistan. And that doesn’t even mention the crap they got up to in the last few years. Now they seem to be in bed with a faction that is at best committing sedition, coming very close to treason itself. On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason to trust the Russians.

So put your earplugs in, it ain’t gonna get much better. Personally, I think we need more streetlights on Constitution Ave, and a whole lot of ¾ in manila rope, yes, some assembly required. Not that anybody asked me. So take an even strain, the adults are in charge but keep your powder dry in any case.

In the meantime, Scott Adams and Dave Rubin.

And VDH on the FBI, Trump, and Russia.

Uranium One

Been watching this one? I have but it has seemed about as clear as mud. Well, that starts to change. Thanks to John Hinderaker at PowerLine here and here, and The Hill. John Hinderaker did a superb job of excerpting The Hill’s story, so I’ll mostly use his with my comments.

This looks like some really big time corruption, on at least the level of Teapot Dome with the addition of Russians and uranium. Quite the deal, huh?

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

Think about that some. This was all known before we (the Obama Administration) transferred a bunch of American Uranium assets to Russia. Yet Holder’s Justice Department did absolutely nothing.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefitting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.
***
In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. …

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it, as the Democrats try to prove what appears to be illusionary collusion between Russia and Trump.

Also, to no thinking person’s surprise, the Obama Administration officials attempted to defend themselves by lying. Well, standard operating procedure, of course.

The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.

But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered.

Worked out really well for them too.

The case also exposed a serious national security breach: Mikerin had given a contract to an American trucking firm called Transport Logistics International that held the sensitive job of transporting Russia’s uranium around the United States in return for more than $2 million in kickbacks from some of its executives, court records show.

Which was known early in the administration, but Holder’s Justice Department covered it up.

Bringing down a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme that had both compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering would seem a major feather in any law enforcement agency’s cap.

But the Justice Department and FBI took little credit in 2014 when Mikerin, the Russian financier and the trucking firm executives were arrested and charged.

The only public statement occurred an entire year later when the Justice Department put out a little-noticed press release in August 2015, just days before Labor Day. The release noted that the various defendants had reached plea deals.

By that time, the criminal cases against Mikerin had been narrowed to a single charge of money laundering for a scheme that officials admitted stretched from 2004 to 2014. And though agents had evidence of criminal wrongdoing they collected since at least 2009, federal prosecutors only cited in the plea agreement a handful of transactions that occurred in 2011 and 2012, well after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s approval.

The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.

Of course, they told almost no one.

The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with serious national security implications had been uncovered.
***
Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told The Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin’s case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.

“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview.

Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.

This is one of those stories that should be on the front page of every newspaper, above the fold, should have been last week, actually. But it won’t be. You know why. As fully dues paid members of the Democratic Party the Fake News Media won’t print anything against their masters who have bought and paid for them. But like always, it will get out because, against all appearances, there are some very good people in Washington yet. There are a few who don’t subscribe to the swamp that Iowahawk describes so well when he says, “Journalism is all about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.” But this one was and is too big to suffocate, I think.

John adds a fascinating footnote to the whole story especially as it interacts with President Trump.

Ironies abound: who supervised the Russia investigation? Rod Rosenstein. Who was the FBI director when the Russia probe began in 2009? Robert Mueller. Who was running the FBI when the case ended with a whimper and an apparent cover-up? James Comey. How any of these people can participate with a straight face in an investigation into President Trump’s purportedly nefarious (but, as far as we know, nonexistent) relationship with the Russian regime is beyond me.

Bigger than Watergate? As a crime, undoubtedly. As for the damage from the coverup? Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

A bit of a footnote, Wikipedia reminded me of something about Teapot Dome, “Another significant outcome was the Supreme Court’s ruling in McGrain v. Daugherty (1927) which, for the first time, explicitly established that Congress had the power to compel testimony.” Not much is new under the sun.

 

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