The Saker — The Saker May 17, 2018
[This article was written for the Unz Review]
Introduction: the world is not Hollywood
The past couple of weeks saw a number of truly tectonic events taking place simultaneously in the USA, in Russia, in Israel, in Syria, in Iran and in the EU. I think that it would also be reasonable to say that most of those who opposed the AngloZionist Empire have felt feelings ranging from mild disappointment to total dismay. I sure did not hear many people rejoicing, but if somebody was, they were in the minority (uncharacteristically, Mikhail Khazin, for example). These reactions are normal, we all form expectations which can be, and often are, disappointed. Still, even when the news is clearly bad it is helpful to keep a number of things in mind.
First, people, countries and events are not frozen in time. They are processes. Processes, by definition, are subject to change, evolution and (even radical) changes in direction.
Second, each process carries within itself the seeds of its own contradiction. This is what makes processes dynamic.
Third, people are imperfect. Even good people make mistakes, sometimes with tragic consequences. Yet it would be wrong to separate them all into either “infallible hero” or “abject villain and loser”. In fact, I would argue that any kind of mistake, especially a serious one, carries within itself its own contradiction which, in turn, can end up “energizing” the original process by creating a different set of circumstances.
All this is to say that the real world is not like Hollywood when the outcome of the story is only 90 minutes or so away. The real world is at war with the Empire and in this war, like in any other wars, there are mistakes and losses on both sides Both sides make mistakes and the results of these mistakes affect the future course of the war.
I would argue that in the past couple of weeks Russia suffered not one, but several PR disasters. I would also argue that the Zionists have had some tremendous PR successes. I will list them further below, but I want to suggest to you that PR disasters and successes are not quite the same as real-world, tangible victories. Furthermore, PR disasters and successes can sometimes be useful, as they reveal to the world previously overlooked, or underestimated, weaknesses. Finally, PR disasters and successes, while existing mostly in the realm of perceptions, can have a real-world effect, sometimes a dramatic one.
The usual chorus of Putin-haters who immediately declared final victory is completely mistaken and their reaction is the reflection of an infantile understanding of the complex world we live in. In the real world, a person like Putin can, and usually does, commit mistakes (PR and real-world mistakes) and the enemy can mount very effective counter-attacks. But the outcome of the war is not decided on a single battle. Furthermore, in politics, like in regular warfare, tactical mistakes and successes do not at all imply operational or, even less so, strategic successes. During WWII the German military usually performed better than the Soviet one on the tactical level, but the Soviets were superior on the operational and strategic levels. We all know how that war ended. If you want to read a good analysis and debunking of the “Putin caved in” nonsense, I recommend the article ”Russia Betrayed Syria”: Geopolitics through the eyes of a fearful “pro-Russia” Westerner” by Ollie Richardson.
The other extreme is to deny, against all evidence, that there is a problem or that mistakes have been made. That kind of stubborn flag-waving is actually unhelpful as mistakes are inevitable, and the first step towards mitigating them is to recognize them. The extreme version of that kind of flag-waving (pseudo-)patriotism is to denounce a person brining up problems as a traitor or a defeatist.
It is with all this in mind that I would like to revisit what has taken place and try to gauge what the real-world consequences of these PR events might be.
Part one: Putin disappoints
Quick summary: Putin re-appointed Medvedev, appointed Alexei Kudrin as Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of Russia and Vitalii Mutko as Deputy Prime Minister in charge of construction, he then hosted Bibi Netanyahu in the Kremlin while the latter bombed Syria right before, during and after Netanyahu’s visit. Finally, there is the disgraceful zig-zag about the S-300 for Syria: first, yes we will do it, then, no we won’t. All these events can, and should, be carefully analyzed and explained, but I don’t think that it makes sense to deny that most people feel a sense of disappointment over it all (except, of course, the bright geniuses who will claim that they knew all along that Putin was “fake”, but this is precisely the “Hollywood-thinking” types on whom any real analysis would be lost in the first place).
I would argue that even those who think that this is no big deal and that nothing terrible happened will not, if they are honest, deny that Putin must have known, without any doubt, that his decisions would be unpopular with the Russian public and that, very uncharacteristically for him, he deliberately chose to ignore his only public opinion and favor other considerations. That is something very new and, I think, something important.
There are roughly two camps vying for power inside the Kremlin: I call them the Atlantic Integrationists and the Eurasian Sovereignists. The former group is a pure product of the 1990s. We can think of them as “liberals”, IMF/Washington Consensus/WTO/WB types; folks who came to power thanks to the regime of oligarchs which ran Russia from about 1990 to 2000 and which was both deeply pro-American and which had extremely close ties to Israel and the various political Jewish and Zionist organizations in the West. The latter group is primarily a product of the armed forces and the security services. The “bridge” between the two is, by the way, the Russian military industrial complex in which both groups are represented. Unsurprisingly, most Russian “elites” (defined simply as people who made their fortune or, at least, a good living in the 1990s and after) support the Atlantic Integrationists, while most “regular” Russian people overwhelmingly support the Eurasian Sovereignists. This is why Putin is so popular and Medvedev never was. What is interesting is to look into how these groups relate to Israel and Zionism.
In a past article, I have already looked at the complex and multi-layered relationship between Israel and Russia. At this point we need to look a little deeper and see how each of these groups relates to Israel and Zionism.
Atlantic Integrationists: unsurprisingly, they are pro-Israeli to the hilt. For them, Israel is a totally normal country, even to be admired, as they all have personal/family and business ties to Israelis in Israel and in the USA. While there is no official version of AIPAC in Russia, let’s just say that the ADL would give the Atlantic Integrationists a perfect score for loyalty and service.
Eurasian Sovereignists: here, things are much more complicated. Some Eurasian Sovereignists are profoundly anti-Zionist ideologically, while others don’t really care. But even for those who have no love for Israel, or who are deeply opposed to the Zionist influence in Russia in the 1990s or even today (especially in the Russian media), do not necessarily find it useful to say much about it. Why? Primarily because they think, and I would say correctly so, that being pro-Russian (in the sense of patriotic and wanting a truly sovereign Russia) does not have to entail being anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish. Furthermore, there are, and have always been, patriotic Russian Jews who have been an integral part of the Russian culture and history. Just like I often write that for Russians, Muslims are not “aliens” in the way many westerners perceive them, and Jews are not “aliens” for Russians either. This is why you can often meet the following Russian type: they will bitch and complain about all the Jewish “crooks and politicians”, but have “good” Jews as their closest and best friends. This is not blindness at all, this is the expression of the fact that to loathe an ideology is one thing, but to collectively feel hostility towards a group of people you know very well is a completely different proposition. I will never cease to repeat it: Russia is, has always been, and still remains a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society in which the presence of “others” simply is a fact of life.
Then there is the WWII factor, which the Israelis and Russians Zionists have been extremely skilled at exploiting to the max: Russians and Jew are united in a common memory of the horrors the Nazis inflicted upon them and they also often sense that West Europeans and US Americans are, well, maybe not quite as sincerely sympathetic to their plight even if political correctness forces them to pretend to be. As a result, you will find that most anti-Zionist Russians, while surely not “ADL compatible” in their views, hate the Nazis and everything western racism stands for no less than Jews would. If fact, when faced with the modern wave of rabid russophobia, many Russians say “we are the new Jews”, meaning that everything evil on the planet is blamed on them regardless of fact or logic. Like it or not, but that common memory does bind Russians and Jews in a profound way.
I can already imagine the rage and disgust my words above will trigger in western Jew-haters for whom the world is split into two groups: Jew-haters (good) and all those who “sold out” to “the Jews” (as if there was such monad as “the Jews”). All I can tell them is this: don’t project your reductionist world view on others, especially not on Russia. If you do, you will never “get” Russia and you will be stuck with the kind of proverbial nonsense like “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.
Part two: The Empire Strikes back
The past couple of years have been terrible for the Zionists, both in the USA and in the rest of the world. First, there was the crushing defeat of their candidate in the USA and the election of a candidate they rabidly hated. Then there was the Russian military intervention in Syria which prevented them from overthrowing the last secular “resistance” regime in the Arab world. In Russia, “their” Atlantic Integrationists were slowly but surely losing power and all in all, the western sanctions turned out to be a blessing for Russia. Putin’s popularity was soaring to new heights and the the global “Zionist house” was on fire. In the USA, the Zionists counter-attacked with lightening speed and with a devastating effectiveness, breaking Trump in about 30 days (as shown by Trump’s betrayal of Flynn and later Bannon). After that, Trump made appeasing AIPAC his full-time job.
But that left another problem: while the US was re-taken under control, Russia, in the meantime, had succeeded in developing the capabilities to completely negate the entire US ABM system, to make much of the surface fleet obsolete and severely to impair the ability of US airpower to operate in airspace contested by modern Russian air defenses. In other words, in purely military terms, this was “game, set, match for Russia”.
[Sidebar: to those shocked by this statement and who would dismiss this as “Russian propaganda” I will submit the following: US military power is predicated on the following:
1. The ability to deploy a carrier strike group anywhere on the planet.
2. The ability to protect that carrier strike group from any major counter-attack.
3. The ability to strike any country in the world with enough missile and airstrikes to break its will to continue to fight.
4. The complete and total control of the skies (air supremacy). US forces simply never train for a combat scenario where they don’t control the skies or, even less so, when their enemy does.
5. The very strong belief that no enemy would dare attack major overseas US bases.
6. The very strong, quasi religious, belief that US military technology is superior.
7. The absolute certitude that the US mainland would never be hit in a counter-attack.
None of the previous beliefs are based in reality anymore and, in fact, their opposite is true. This is why when dealing with a near-peer or peer enemy the US armed forces are more or less useless. The only very notable exception is the US nuclear triad and the US submarine fleet. The current situation in Syria (and by implication, Iran and Russia) is finally gradually bringing this new reality to the awareness of US decision-makers and military commanders.]
This is why Russia, albeit with only a tiny contingent, succeeded in turning the tide of the war in Syria and even now presents the AngloZionists with a frustrating challenge: a (comparatively) tiny contingent of Russian forces completely derailed the Empire’s plans for the entire Middle-East: not only is there a real change of peace breaking out in Syria, but the situation is far from having the Takfiris and Shia killing each other in Syria and Lebanon (a key part of the Israeli plan for the region). Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrians are now in a victorious coalition on the ground with the “Axis of Kindness” forces roundly defeated.
So the Israelis decided on a simple, very effective and very dangerous counter offensive plan: 1) start a war between the USA and Iran by creating an acute crisis as a result of the US reneging on its legal obligations and 2) bait Iran into a counter-attack in response to Israel air operations against Iranian and pro-Iranian forces in Syria. But for that plan to succeed, Russia needed to stay out.
So far, at least, it looks like the Israelis have convinced the Russians to stay out. But is that perception really well founded?
Part three: factors inhibiting Russia
First and foremost, as I have already explained in great detail in the past, Russia has absolutely no legal or moral obligation to support, protect, arm, train or otherwise assist anybody in the Middle-East. None. Russia has already done more for Syria than the entire Arab/Muslim world combined with the notable exception of Iran and Hezbollah. As for the Arab/Muslim world, it has never done anything for Russia and still is doing nothing. So those who like to whine about Russia not doing enough simply have no case whatsoever.
Second, the Russian air defense and air forces in Syria have only one mission: to protect the Russian task force in Syria. Whoever got the idea that Russia is supposed to shoot down Israeli aircraft or missiles over Syria has not been paying attention to public Russian statements about this. The notion that the Russian task force in Syria is there to engage US/NATO/CENTCOM forces is just as ridiculous.
Third, and contrary to a frequently held misconception, the Syrian government, Iran, Hezbollah and Iran have different agendas in the Middle-East. Yes, they are de-facto allies. They also have the same enemies, they often work together, but they all think of their own interests first. In fact, at least in the case of Iran and Russia, there are clear signs that there are several ‘camps’ inside the Russian and Iranian government and the ruling elites which have different agendas (I highly recommend Thierry Meyssan’s recent articles on this topic here and here). To think that any or all of them will instantly come to the defense of any one of them is supremely naïve, especially when the aggressor (Israel) is backed by the full power of an already warmongering Empire run amok.
Fourth, the sad reality is that Russia, unlike Iran, never took a principled position concerning the nature and behavior of the state of Israel. I very much deplore that, and I consider it a shame, but I hasten to add that this shame is shared by every single country on the planet except Iran, Bolivia and, maybe, to some extent Turkey. Not to excuse anything, but only to explain, there is very little awareness amongst Russians about the true nature and behavior of the Israelis, and most of what makes it to the media is hopelessly pro-Israeli (hence the almost constant presence of the likes of Iakov Kedmi, Avigdor Eskin, Evgenii Satanovskii and other Israeli agents – they don’t even really bother to deny it – on Russian TV). The Russian media, especially the TV stations, could easily get a “ADL seal of approval”. Simply put: the vast majority of Russians don’t feel that the plight of the Palestinians or the constant Israeli attacks on neighboring countries is their problem.
[Sidebar: such a view can appear very self-centered until you recall the kind of “gratitude” Russia got in the past from her former interventions. There are countries out there who exist only because Russia decided that they should exist and which today are members of NATO. I won’t even go into the “Slavic brotherhood” or, for that matter, “Orthodox brotherhood” nonsense. The only people with whom Russia truly has a strong bond are the Serbs. The rest of them were more than happy to backstab Russia as soon as convenient. Thus history has taught Russia a painful lesson: give up on any naïve notions of gratitude or brotherhood. Very sad, but true. Today, even countries like Kazakhstan, Armenia or Georgia are showing a very ambivalent (and even ambiguous) attitude towards Russia. As a result the idea that Russia owes some form of protection to anybody out there has almost no support in Russia.]
Fifth, even the Eurasian Sovereignist’s analysts and media in Russia have this absolutely amazing “blind spot” about Israel and the Zionist ideology: I think of analysts whom I sincerely admire and respect (like Sergei Mikheev or Ruslan Ostashko) and whose analysis is superb on pretty much everything and who simply never mention the power and influence of what is clearly a powerful pro-Israeli lobby inside Russia, especially in the Russian media (even when they mention the power of the Israel lobby in the USA). Considering how different the tone of much of the Russian Internet is, the only explanation I have for this situation is that any public anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist statements are career-terminators in Russia (we also clearly see the same phenomenon at work with RT and Sputnik). You can completely forget about any Russian religious figures speaking up, and that goes both for the Orthodox and Muslims: they all take their orders from the Kremlin and have no personal opinion on anything (I am only talking about the “official” senior religious leaders – the rank and file faithful do not display this type of behavior).
Sixth, there are plenty of people in Russia who fully realize two simple things: first, a war between Iran and the Empire would be disastrous for the Empire (and therefore great for Russia) and, second, the Iranians are also “problematic” allies at best who have their own version of “Atlanticists” (remember the “Gucci Revolution”?) and “Sovereignists”, which means that tensions, or warfare, between Iran and the USA would be greatly advantageous for the anti-US camp inside Iran (just like the rabid russophobia of western politicians did more to re-elect Putin than any of his own campaign rhetoric). To put it crudely, if the Israelis are dumb enough to attack the Iranians, and if the US Americans are subservient enough to Israel to join into the fight – why should Russia take great risks and openly stand in the way? Finally, any conflict with Iran (which will most likely also involve the KSA) will have oil prices skyrocket. What do you think this will do to the Russian economy?
Seventh, the war which Israel is currently waging against Iran and pro-Iranian forces in Syria is entirely a symbolic war. Even the Pantsir which was recently destroyed by the Israelis (with the usual pro-Israeli PR campaign) was not even on combat alert: the unit was not even camouflaged and its crew was standing around and smoking. The Israelis are masters at making this look all very impressive and heroic, but in military terms, this is nonsense: they clearly hit a unit which was not even part of the action (whatever that “action” was).
The basic rule of warfare still remains valid today: unless you can put boots on the ground, your efforts will never have a decisive military effect. And thank God for the fact that nobody in the “Axis of Kindness” has any credible ground forces; not the Israelis (remember 2006?); not the Saudis (look at Yemen); and most definitely not the USA (when is the last time they beat somebody capable of resisting?). That is why the AngloZionist Empire always tries to use proxies like the Kurds or the “good terrorists” to fight on its behalf. Thus the Russian military specialists fully understand that even if the Israelis bombed Syria for the next several months, they would not be able to change the fundamental correlation of forces on the ground. Hence, the Israeli strikes are mostly about PR.
Still, for all these reasons, and more, we all have to come to terms with the fact that Russia is what I would call a “limited actor” in the Middle-East. I have been saying from day 1 – when some were having visions of Russian airborne divisions (supported by MiG-31s!) landing near Damascus – that “the Russians are not coming” (see here, here, here, here and here). Furthermore, I tried to explain that the Russians are under no obligation whatsoever to protect or save anyone anywhere, including in the Middle-East (see here). Finally, I tried to explain that the Russian-Israeli relationship is a multi-layered and complex one (see here) and that Putin is facing some tremendous internal opposition which he has failed to successfully tackle (see here). But trying to describe a complex reality is often a futile task in a world in which simple, black and white, binary-kind of representations are the rule and where every complex argument is immediately turned into a long list of straw-man misrepresentations. This is still very much the case with the latest developments.
Those who say that “Putin sold out” are wrong, but so are those who think that “the Russians are coming” to save anybody. It is just not going to happen. Russia will not fight a war against Israel (unless she is attacked first) and Russia will only support Iranian operations and policies insofar as the Iranians negotiate a deal with the Russian and coordinate their efforts. As soon as Iran, or Hezbollah, make a move without prior consultations with Moscow, they will be on their own to deal with the consequences.
Part four: is Russia caving in to Western and Israeli pressure?
Setting aside the issue of the Russian role in the Middle-East, there remains the issue of why Putin failed to deliver on what was clearly a mandate of the Russian people to get rid of at least of the most hated personalities in the Russian government. Most folks in the West know how toxic Kudrin is, but the promotion of Mutko is nothing short of amazing too. This is the man who is most to blame for the gross mismanagement of the entire “Russia doping scandal” operation and who is absolutely despised for his incompetence. Now he is in charge of construction. There is even a good joke about this: Putin put Mutko in charge of the construction industry because the Russian construction market badly needs some doping. Funny, sure, but only so far. When I see Rogozin removed for his “poor management” (now put in charge of the Russian rocket and space industry) and Mutko promoted, I wonder if they have all gone crazy in the Kremlin.
We can all argue ad nauseam why exactly this has happened, but let’s first agree on one simple fact: Putin has failed to purge the Atlantic Integrationists. The big expectation of him getting a strong personal mandate from the people and then finally kicking them out of the Kremlin has, alas, been proven completely unfounded. There are a couple of interesting explanations out there such as:
Objectively, the Medvedev government has done a very decent, if not good job, with the economy. True, some/many believe that mistakes were made, that there were better economic policies available, but it would be hard to argue that the government completely failed. In fact, there are some pretty strong arguments which indicate that the Medvedev government (see this article discussing this in detail and it’s machine translation here and this article and its machine translation here)
Putin’s very ambitious internal economic growth program needs the support of the interests represented by the Atlantic Integrationists. In fact, internal development and economic growth are the core of his very ambitious political program. Possibly not the best time to purge the Kremlin from those who represent the interests of Russian big business.
The Medvedev “clan” has been weakened (see here for details) and now that it has been put on a much shorter “technocratic” leash, it is far less dangerous. In fact, it has been been subdued by Putin and his allies. Lavrov and Shoigu are both staying, by the way.
Trump’s reckless behavior is deeply alienating the Europeans to whom Putin is now presenting negotiation partners which they would trust (imagine Merkel and Rogozin in the same room – that would not go well!). Check out this excellent article by Frank Sellers in The Duran looking at the immense potential for Russia-EU cooperation.