Putin

What happens when you poke a Russian bear?

EDE6C915-0C4C-4067-9899-E88968C0D996.jpeg

As written earlier in the week, regardless of one’s views on the righteousness of any attack on Syria, Putin is being faced for the first time in a long time, a leader of a foreign nation (nations as it turns out) prepared to stand up to him. Obama fled the Syria battlefield after being given a two hour window when Russia first went to the aid of Assad. If that wasn’t the ultimate sign of a bully in the Kremlin it is hard to think of what is. While sanctions may have bitten to a degree post Ukraine and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight, Syria is essentially a testing ground for Putin to weigh up Western (specifically Trump’s) resolve. If we look at Russia’s response post the Syrian strike,

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard…A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences…All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris…Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

Kind of says it all really – Russia hasn’t been insulted. Putin has. He must have a glass jaw  like Trump! Two bullies flexing muscle. In a show down Should Putin wish to pick a direct conventional fight against 3 nuclear powers (explicitly mentioned), he knows that ‘mutually assured destruction’ is the very last option in the drawer and next to no chance of being selected despite all of the media beat up. On a conventional basis, Putin wins more battles by stirring up the hornet’s nests in other regions. Lending more support to Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Destabilize Saudi Arabia and antagonize Israel.

CM wrote,

It is worth nothing that Syria is Rosoboronexport’s (Russia’s military export wing) 2nd largest customer after Iran. Putin is sick of having the West try to remove his clients. Assad is key to Russia’s foothold in the Middle East. With an essentially pro-Iran Iraqi government and Syria as well as Hezbollah Putin has a geopolitical doormat from the troubled separatist states to Russia’s south to Lebanon.

Some arguments have been made about the risks of the American, French or UK strikes killing Russian troops or civilians on the ground in Syria handing Russia free will to attack its enemies. Scroll back to November 2015 when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter it claimed entered its airspace. Two Russian pilots were killed in the shooting and subsequent rescue. The Russians were incensed but President Erdogan is still in power and Ankara isn’t flailing after seeing its capitol turned into smoldering rubble.

This argument that the Russians weren’t given advance warnings of the attack is ridiculous. Had the Russian defence forces been on proper alert (they most definitely weren’t passed out behind their radar screens after a vodka binge) they would have detected the missile launches. Wind back to the 59 missile launch earlier last year against Syrian chemical facilities. We didn’t hear a peep from Putin. Why now? Of course he is incensed over the booting of diplomats on the nerve agent scandal but this is a showdown of ego.

Think of the long geopolitical chess board here. Should Trump have backed down on Putin’s threats, wouldn’t China’s Xi feel equally empowered to annex Taiwan by telling POTUS that he risks ‘grave reprisals if he meddles with Chinese sovereign territory’?

For all the initial snubbing of Trump by Macron on his historic election win in France, there is no way he would have gone in alone to attack a chemical facility without the guarantee of the military might of America. It is unlikely Theresa May would have done it either. So for all of the ‘unhinged’ lunatic rhetoric bandied about by the media, foreign nations don’t gamble their own sovereignty lightly, especially over something like Syria.

General Mattis has said they plan no further strikes at this stage. Does Putin order his forces to sink a US destroyer in the Mediterranean which launched those missiles? Highly unlikely. He does have the best weapon available to do that (the ‘Sunburn’) but sending US naval vessels to the bottom of the sea on a strategic strike would seem a big response to a targeted hit.

Let there be no mistake. There is a new sheriff in town. Russia has a bloody nose it didn’t think it would find itself. Putin miscalculated that Trump isn’t all Twitter-fueled bluster. Uncertainty in foreign leaders is always a risk for enemies. Trump has shown Putin he won’t be bullied like his predecessor.

Putin doesn’t want a hot war with America. The best way to strike at the US is like the last 6 decades. Undermine her at every opportunity. Supply her enemies. As mentioned before, if the Russians didn’t think it worth hitting back at Turkey for deliberately targeting its fighters, it is unlikely that Putin, no matter how ‘insulted’ he might feel will take a strike not aimed at Russians as a pretext to pick a fight with Trump. Putin has worked out the US president’s measure. He miscalculated. He won’t make that mistake twice.

For the media, running all the scare campaign stories is not only highly irresponsible (as it did over Yemen’s attacks on Saudi Arabia) but proving the lack of depth of analysis. They can beat Trump over the head all they wish but should note the actions of Macron and May following him into the region as a tacit approval of the US leader. Was he the madman they portrayed him as in the first place they would have stayed well out of it.

Watch for Putin’s response (unlikely but will threaten it will come when the evil Americans least expect) and think deeply about why it is important that the real despots (Putin, Xi, KJ-U, Erdogan) around the world no longer have the ability to exercise free will in knowledge that the worst they face is a slap on the wrist from the UN.

Sounds more like grounds for congratulation than censure. 

World on the brink of WW3? Press on the blink more like it

9C37D7FB-6B41-492C-9481-F19515C18AB7.jpeg

When you read a title like “world on the brink” it is easy to be misled to thinking this is a Trump/Putin related incident. The fact is the Iranian backed Houthi in Yemen have been lobbing ballistic missiles at Riyadh and staging border skirmishes for years. The Americans have been advising Saudi Arabia where to strike the Houthi in Yemen. This is a decades old fight and since the death (assassination) of former President Saleh last year the Houthi have become even more emboldened than they were during the Arab Spring 8 years ago.

Yet it is so easy to draw conclusions. Did the mainstream media report the sinking of a Saudi naval frigate in the Bab-al-Mandeb strait in Jan 2017 which took the lives of 176 sailors? Has the Israeli shekel collapsed since Trump and Putin exchanged verbal salvos? No. The Tel Aviv indices? No. Surely a relatively liquid financial barometer in a country that has been warned not to intervene by Putin too. Would quickly price in any fears.

The situation over Syria may be tense but if you look at what Putin is really trying to do he is weighing the size of Trump’s guts to call his bluff. We shouldn’t forget when Russia first intervened in Syria several years ago, Putin told Obama that US forces had two hours to get out of harm’s way. That is the warning one would give the Luxembourg armed forces, not the most powerful military in the world. Obama heeded Putin. Putin had carte blanche. That’s why nothing happened with the Ukraine. Sanctions were put in place but no one made any attempt to ‘change behviours.’

It is worth nothing that Syria is Rosoboronexport’s (Russia’s military export wing) 2nd largest customer after Iran. Putin is sick of having the West try to remove his clients. Assad is key to Russia’s foothold in the Middle East. With an essentially pro-Iran Iraqi government and Syria as well as Hezbollah Putin has a geopolitical doormat from the troubled separatist states to Russia’s south to Lebanon.

The problem Putin faces is if Trump yanks his chain, does he shoot US missiles down as threatened? He said they’ll attack launch sites which effectively equals sinking US naval vessels as that is how they are launched. This is perhaps the easiest way to escalate a skirmish out of Putin’s control. If Putin doesn’t do anything, Trump holds one over him. So Putin is hoping by the use of very strong language that Trump backs down. It is not exactly the best way to handle on either side but this is the first time in almost a decade where the US has a leader that won’t be pushed around. Unpredictablity is a strength not a weakness

Looking at history. The NVA was supplied by the Russians during the Vietnam War and the Afghans were supplied by the Americans in the war with Russia. Nothing new. The Russians returned the favour when the “Coalition” deposed Saddam and entered Afghanistan. Proxy wars have been fought for over 50 years.

The US is dispatching a carrier battle group to the Mediterranean. Theresa May is sending a UK submarine. The Russians are conducting military exercises with 11 warships in the same area. Of course scare stories are amock and clickbait media will report how we’re two seconds from a thermonuclear exchange.

It begs the question had Obama suggested to Putin he was bombing Syria, he would be praised for level headed genius. If Trump managed to bomb Syria with no Russian response then would we see the media have a mea culpa moment? Not a chance. It would be palmed off as a lucky break. If we go back in history, we can see good nations that did nothing let tyrants get away with murder. Have a look at Russia and China in the last decade. Man made military bases in territorial waters of other nations, early warning systems on the contested  Spratly’s and agreements in Vanuatu and Sri Lanka which provides naval ports for China. Putin is getting the old ‘union’ back together and there are plenty of willing despots happy to ride his coattails.

Putin is livid at the outcome of the nerve agent scandal seeing the expulsion of so many diplomats. He is not one that likes criticism as many an oligarch has found out the hard way. The question for those that fear what Trump might do should worry more about what will happen if he doesn’t. The downside is that the media likes Putin more than Trump. For a president with a glass jaw, his moves will be far more heavily scrutinized than Putin’s. He’s damned whichever way he turns. Putin on the other hand  willl be excused for being a dictator, whatever he chooses to do. The media will hope it dies down as they turn a blind eye and pillory their own governments for not taking in enough refugees.

Appeasement is an ever widening feature of governments in the West today. There are Neville Chamberlains everywhere. Who will stand up to Putin if Trump doesn’t? Whether Syria is the right battleground is beside the point. Because if it isn’t Syria it will end up being somewhere else.  The problem is only Trump “can” credibly shirt-front the former KGB officer.

 

Do you ever wonder why…

IMG_0741.PNG

…the majority would believe words like “demolished” from the press when the subject in question is a video driven by The Guardian pushing the even more Trump-hating journalism of Australia’s taxpayer funded ABC? Despite the ABC being controlled by a charter that says it mustn’t show political bias, it knows only one drum beat – join every Trump derangement cause without exception. It isn’t just this but whenever you see the words “demolished, destroyed, smashed” in a headline, discount its value by half then deduct another 75%. That will be about the extent of how “powerful” the report is. Viral? More like a bad bout of gastroenteritis. The walls of Washington were most likely reverberating with uncontrolled laughter.

Uhlmann can argue that Trump is the biggest threat to the West and he’s accelerating the decline of the US but it was 8 years under the Obama administration where Russia and China could run amuck with little fear of anything more than a hashtag in retaliation. It is more obvious that on foreign policy, the US is in a revival phase and her foes are sitting up and taking notice. Surely that hasn’t come about by chance.

Who cares if Merkel, Trudeau or Macron voice disapproval of the current US president? It isn’t new. Australian PM Turnbull is utterly mesmerized by Trump. While the mutual affection society of the ABC and its former minister Turnbull continue to mock POTUS he was the first to jump at the chance catch a ride in the Beast . That when he alighted spoke of how much he respects Trump and how much in common the two have (ppffft). The Aussie PM is petrified of DT in person. Turnbull loved Obama but never feared him.

The job of POTUS is not to join a chorus. True leadership is often doing things that aren’t popular. Dumping the Paris Climate Accord isn’t popular but it’s the right thing to do according to Americans and surveys in the US say as much. When one objectively studies the realities of the non-binding document it is clear the agreement is an empty one when countries like France & Germany step up to make up for the 75% of emitters that refuse to get on board.

Trump’s actions surrounding North Korea have the Chinese scurrying around looking for a solution that keeps the US from potentially influencing “the” border to its north. Isn’t that ‘leading the world’ by trying to get those that have the most to lose by suggesting the US will take control of the Korean Peninsula if they dither anymore? Notice B1-B Lancer bombers have been strafing the border on the 38th parallel with precision dummy bomb drills?  They aren’t for North Korea’s delectation but a message to China – stop messing about! Obama would have been dropping leaflets of peace, harmony and Hershey bars.

Under Obama’s watch China willfully built man made military bases in the South China Sea in contested waters taking advantage of his weakness. Xi knows there is a new sheriff in town and realizes he has to resort to another chapter in Sun Tzu.

The BBC – of all news channels – had a body language expert revealing that the alpha male show off in Hamburg between POTUS and Putin, had the former dominant over the latter. Putin is a master of bullying. Remember he had his intelligence arm find out Merkel was petrified of big dogs and made sure he had a monster canine wander around during their chat when she visited Russia? Doesn’t strike me that Trump is weak, unfit and out of his depth if Putin was nervous.

As more media coverage shows Trump as isolated and going it alone it isn’t the 1/20 being left out in the cold but the 19/20 who can’t get any edge on him.

As Uhlmann makes clear, he is just as clueless as so many other journalists because he makes no attempt to give context and perspective on the starting point. To think Obama led a period of American exceptionalism in foreign policy is preposterous. If Trump actually gets a positive outcome on North Korea or ISIS will Uhlmann issue an apology for his oversight? Let me give you a hint – not on your life.

I’ll happily admit when Trump does questionable things but I’ll make no apologies trying to address the ridiculous bias in the media against him. That bias remains so prevalent that it drowns out any noise that may actually be relevant to the Trump lovers who see no wrong.

What did people expect? Understanding Middle Eastern politics

IMG_9638.JPG

One would have to be as isolated as a Japanese Imperial Army soldier discovered 40 years after the war ended to be surprised at Trump’s strike on Syria after a gassing. Do people honestly think drawing criticism from Iran or Russia is some mysterious happening? This is sadly the result of 8 years of impotent foreign policy which made America a laughing stock to despots. From Michelle Obama hashtagging Boko Haram on Twitter to release kidnapped school girls to allowing China to build man made islands in disputed territories.

Blowing up infrastructure in another sovereign nation is always going to create its own set of problems and questions. However the response from bully nations who have been used to running the school yard in recent times are naturally going to feel precious when given a taste of their own medicine.

As mentioned in the previous dispatch, geopolitical jigsaws aren’t first derivative. They’re usually 2nd,3rd and 4th interconnections.

Iran has long used Syria as a ‘highway’ into Lebanon to maintain influence in the region. Russia has only been too glad to be its arms supplier of choice. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been present in Syria for decades and ever since the Arab Spring has been making sure Assad keeps the highway open to Lebanon. Does it surprise you that Iran has been active in Yemen with the Houthi tribe to overthrow the Saudi loyal government in Sana’a and create instability in Riyadh?

When the US pulled out of Iraq in 2011 they left a huge power vacuum which was filled with pro-Iranian elements. Then Shi’ite Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki had worked with the US to clean out pro-Sunni Saddam- loyalists and when Obama withdrew al-Maliki sold them out. He then accused the US of backing ISIS to reestablish a military presence in Iraq in 2014.

For Russia, Syria gives it a naval port and access to geopolitical weapons to exploit against the West. If the US puts missile defenses in Poland or the Czech Republic, Putin can flare up a crisis in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia values Israel. Not on any religious grounds but as a buffer against Iran.  Far better to have a strong power act on their behalf than risk direct confrontation. It makes sense. Iran use Syria and Hizbollah to supply Palestine with rockets to nip at the heels of Israel and make them look like oppressors. That brings worldwide condemnation and led the likes of Obama to abstain from a vote to undermine a loyal ally.

So people need to separate fact from fiction. Trump is keen on reestablishing American dominance on the world stage. Foreign policy is never a pleasant or easy business when dealing with nations who have long histories and longer memories. The missile strikes in Syria were multi faceted. On one hand to counter chemical attacks. On the other to put Russia back in its box showing a new kid is on the block and Putin will gain far more being inside the tent pissing out than on the outside pissing in.

Of course the foreign ministries are sending strong messages of anger, condemnation and a halt to cooperation. That is page 1 section 1 of the manual. Cooler heads prevail and countries move to working out how to turn an ugly situation that allows Russia to keep skin in the game, the US to look tough again and the overthrow of Assad (he can live in Zimbabwe) without leaving a huge vacuum. In case you were wondering most of the pro-Iranian Syrian  Army top brass are Sunni. To them the luxuries they are afforded as elites outweighs their religious preference.

Markets will react. The mainstream media will dig up conspiracy theories and predict we’re on the brink of war but this is Trumps’s first message to the world – That guy you had for the last 8 years is no longer around. Things are different under new management.

Trump is unpredictable and whether we like it or not that actually makes the best leader to tackle such crises. One always has to second guess the real intentions of someone who can change on a whim.

Don’t believe the hype.

The petulant President land mines the White House

img_9154

True colours are coming out everywhere. Perhaps we could cynically say that this is the most work Obama has done on foreign relations in 8 years. His petulance couldn’t be more obvious. Such is the mark of his total lack of disrespect for his successor he is literally planting land mines around the White House to obstruct him in anyway he can. It certainly isn’t the mark of a great leader that so many fawn over him for. It is clear Obama never read Aesop’s fables. If he had perhaps he might reflect on the NSA’s hacking of Angela Merkel’s mobile phone calls in 2013. Somehow to me eavesdropping on an ally is more egregious than seeking intel from a historical foe.

The Russian response (above) to Obama shows once again their lack of respect for him much the same as China. The allegations of election hacking are absurd. I’ve made the point many times before but the intelligence agencies of all major powers hack each other on an industrial scale. The CIA, NSA and so on are cyber-droning for competitive intelligence. The Russians, Chinese, Brits, Germans, Italians, Israelis, Australians (busted for spying on ally Indonesia), Iranians, Saudis and so on.Where does he think intelligence comes from? Do the CIA call up and ask the enemy? No it steals it. That is why in wartime, armies use encryption to make sure it isn’t hacked.

Despite recounts, riots, protests, hopelessly biased mainstream media and many other forms of excuses to undermine the legitimacy of the incoming President the outgoing President is doing his utmost to ensure a smooth transition is impossible. At the very least with less than a month to go he might have consulted Trump on his intentions on Russia and Israel.

Abstaining from voting on the UN resolution was gutless. Not voting at all was a weak act. If Obama truly wanted to give his disapproval he could have voted against Israel with a direct act of disapproval. Instead he did what he has one for 8 years on foreign policy – nothing.

The irony of all of this is simple. If Trump manages to fill the potholes and clear the garden of land mines laid by Obama in short order once again it will highlight just how empty those 8 years have been. Nothing but hollow posturing and moral preening. Outside of that his legacy will be neutered and that is the true hallmark of a lame duck.

Jill Stein for President? Thank you famous Hollywood actors – we forgot to listen last time

IMG_9096.PNG

Once again Hollywood celebrities have made a last ditched effort on video to appeal to the college electors to vote for someone ’eminently qualified’ i.e. not Trump. They said  “we’re not asking you to vote for Hillary Clinton”. So I guess we’re left with Jill Stein, Gary ‘Aleppo’ Johnson and Evan McMullin who gained less than 5% of the national vote combined. The most annoying aspect these champagne socialists reveal is the same condescending way they suggest they and the  electors know better than the people. Celebrities have next to NO idea about how the real world works save for the likes of Mark Wahlberg who has been active telling celebrities to shut up. He grew up in the poorer neighborhoods so at the very least has some level of understanding of the minds that rejected the establishment.

However this idea that somehow celebrities can empathize with Bob, an out of work metal basher in Ohio who has 3 kids, a mortgage, has foregone seeking medical help for his chronic back pain because he can’t afford it and a wife who works 3 jobs to scrape by amazes me every time. These are the people that voted for Trump because he promised hope (knowing it wasn’t guaranteed). They weren’t stupid. They’d been fed 8 years of empty promises and their lives have not shared in the wealth of asset bubbles the well heeled have. Should electors (who are likely not to be on Struggle St.) ignore the wishes of voters who voted with their conscience expect civil unrest. They’ve nothing to lose. Their dreams will be crushed if the result isn’t carried

Look at equity markets, look at inventory data – consumer and business confidence is bouncing because that is the American way. They’re entrepreneurs at heart and they sniff opportunity again. They want a slice of the dream. An overload of liberal policies and regulations took that away. Are electors going to overlook the market moods? Can you imagine if HRC was made President? Markets would tank. The dollar would puke and the idea that 4 more years of failed Obama would ensue?

Let’s think for a minute about the outcomes outside the presidential race on Nov 8. The Dems lost the following in the 2016 election:

60 seats in the house

10 in the senate

14 governorships

This was a huge repudiation of Obama and his  ineffectiveness to a growing number of voters. This was a vote of no confidence in more ‘Democrat’ rule where the party lost the very people its charter proclaims they represent and protect. Voters thought otherwise.

For electors to overturn and reject voters wishes they are supposed to represent requires the greatest levels of arrogance and condescension of democracy.

The chance of Trump not taking the Oval Office are slim but beware the consequences of electors stealing the election outcome from the winner. Sure liberals would argue that it was constitutional (and they’d be right) but Trump is no Hitler and the idea that a bunch within 500 odd people can seek to overrule the wishes of 64mn based on pure unproven fiction is about as undemocratic as you can get. Blame Russia? Even Putin would blush at these theatrics of such empty propaganda were they to happen in Russia. Nyet!!!

If in doubt just blame Russia – everyone else seems to

img_9094

Next time you’re pulled over for speeding, reprimanded by the boss or late for a meeting just blame Russia. Never had there been a more convenient excuse than this. If you wake up with a hangover it’s probably Russia’a fault for slipping something in your drink too and I’m pretty sure that the taxi that didn’t stop was probably due to a Russian hack.

Rasmussen’s latest poll on what people think of the Russian claim conducted on Dec 12-13 revealed:

“56% of Likely U.S. Voters believe it’s more likely that many in the media are working to get Clinton elected president. Just 26% disagree and say it’s more likely that the Russian government is working to get Trump elected.”

While the Democrats have been arguing that Russia was involved in tricking 64 million odd Americans into voting Trump now some in the UK are claiming Brexit was due to Russian interference. Of course it’s an easy hook for a media beat up. Putin is a bully with no respect for others is the accusation so meddling in elections . He doesn’t pretend to be a choir boy in world affairs and he certainly doesn’t mince words. Journalists tread on egg shells when interviewing him unlike any other politician out there.

In reality America’s cyber agencies  hack Russia as much as Russia’s hacks China which in turn hacks America which hacks China which…you get the point.

Like I said many may not like the result but looking for every excuse u fee the book to try and protest a result smacks of exactly the problem in the first place – the Democrats should have selected a better candidate but the failed to do so in the proviso it was “Hillary’s turn.” Perhaps Sanders should blame the Russians…perhaps Debbie Wasserman-Schulz was acting on their behalf. Hang on a minute that was an internal skewering…,