And The Band Played On

Uncle Volodya says, “An assumption of flawlessness is the swiftest shortcut to disaster there is.”

Casey would waltz with the strawberry blonde
And the band played on.
He’d glide ‘cross the floor with the girl he adored
And the band played on.
His brain was so loaded it nearly exploded;
The poor girl would shake with alarm.
He’d ne’er leave the girl with the strawberry curl
And the band played on.

– “The Band Played On”, Palmer/Ward.

The title track debuted in 1895, and has been recorded several times since; Guy Lombardo’s Orchestra had a big hit with it in 1941, and it’s that version I first heard. For those who understand and appreciate the complexities of time signatures, the song is unusual, as the verses are in 2/4 time while the refrain is in 3/4 time.

But the event with which the song became linked in counterculture significance would not take place for another 17 years – the sinking of RMS TITANIC, following a collision with an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Eight musicians from the ship’s orchestra continued to play – played on, if you will – on the upper deck, to preserve an appearance of normality and order until the freezing waves closed over their heads. The phrase, “And the band played on” became a metaphor for “the deliberate masking or downplaying of an impending calamity by authorities”. It endures in that context to the present.

And curiously, the song precedes the event once again, in an eerie parallel to the past disaster. The western media plays on, singing its old song of immutable power, freedom and democracy, as the probable Ukrainian presidency of Yulia Tymoshenko bears down on us. If things go as the tea-leaves of the polling now say they will, by this time next year she will be president of Ukraine.

Tymoshenko formally announced her candidacy a few days ago, although it was well-known that she desires the presidency and she has actually never stopped campaigning since the Glorious Maidan freed her from prison. But she is acting more like an old campaigner now – the article describes her as a ‘political veteran’ – and is much less given to inflammatory rhetoric these days, preferring to make her statements which are critical of the current administration mostly terse and to the point, without all the look-at-me grandstanding we have come to expect and appreciate. Curiously, her announcement for the office, together with the strong probability that she will bury Poroshenko, have aroused little interest in the western press.

You might put it down to ‘Ukraine fatigue’, and the western exhaustion and impatience associated with the abysmal gap between the west’s soaring superlatives regarding its plans for the Newest Feather In The European Cap and the grinding, grim reality of political stalemate and inertia. I put it down to western caution, based on the consciousness that Tymoshenko is the Ukrainian leader the western ideologues always wanted, and their anxiety that too-obvious western championship of Tymoshenko will queer the deal.

Contrast western rhetoric on the upcoming Ukrainian election with its daily feting of Poroshenko during his campaign for the presidency. Why, he was just what Ukraine needed to set it on a progressive path – a hardnosed local businessman, a ‘tycoon’ who had dragged himself up through the ranks by sheer perseverance and hard work. Unfortunately, he remained a businessman throughout his presidency, greatly enriching himself thereby even as his countrymen saw their savings evaporate, and became poorer. Western media talked up the old what-price-freedom refrain, put little to no pressure on Poroshenko to honour his campaign promises, and remained more or less content so long as he kept up the anti-Russia rhetoric and continued to – in principle, at least – bring his country closer to Europe.

But western anticipation of the Ukrainian elections next year seems to be sort of on a par, enthusiasm-wise, with the way it might view the unveiling of an art exhibition by Danny DeVito, or a tasting of selected organic Hudderite nettle puddings. So far there’s none of the usual freedom-and-democracy trumpeting that frequently presages another Washington red-carpet ride for a preferred Pinocchio.

Why not? Because all previous experience of the melding of Yulia Tymoshenko and political power suggests she will sell out anyone quicker than you can say “Pavlo Lazarenko”. She said all the right things after her miraculous release from Yanukovych’s jail, and announced her readiness to take up a machine gun and go kill some katsaps when Putin ‘annexed’ the Ukrainians’ beloved Crimea. “I am hoping that I will use all my connections and will get the whole world to rise up so that not even scorched earth would be left of Russia.” That sandpapery sound you hear is the rubbing-together of palms in Washington, signifying satisfaction. The only thing that puzzles me is the suggestion by the western media that Russia would be satisfied with a Tymoshenko presidency. But that’s what it once thought – according to the late and mostly unlamented Boris Nemtsov, perennial Kremlin-insider Stas Belkovsky and the usual “unidentified source in President Dmitry Medvedev’s [at the time] administration”.

A far more plausible explanation came from United Russia Deputy Sergei Markov: Russia was not backing Tymoshenko – it was merely trying to salvage the gas deal she signed.

While we’re on that subject, let’s talk a little more about that gas deal, because it offers an excellent preview of what sort of President Tymoshenko might make. It was tremendously disadvantageous to Ukraine, a fact few dispute. And Yulia Tymoshenko took the contracts to Russia, entirely on her own recognizance and after she had first been ordered, in a special cabinet meeting chaired by First Vice-Premier (and first post-Maidan kangaroo president of the gloriously liberated Ukraine) Oleksandr Turchynov, and in which no other minister supported Tymoshenko, to proceed no further with the matter. She then took the contracts to Naftogaz head Oleh Dubyna, together with a directive she had herself prepared, and forced him to sign the deal.

“[Former] first vice premier [Oleksandr] Turchynov then gathered a cabinet meeting to make the decisions, and no minister supported the decision. Moreover, the cabinet opposed the decision and the issue was taken off the table. The case includes the minutes [of that meeting, former] cabinet members were questioned and they conformed everything I’ve just said,” Kuzmin said.

He said that then a directive signed by Tymoshenko and obliging Dubyna to sign the contract appeared. Dubyna got an instruction from Tymoshenko that was confirmed by the directive.

Tymoshenko, presumably maintaining the impression that she had the support of her national government, concluded the deal she had been ordered to drop. Once she had the signed agreement, she amended it after Russia had signed it, to include a provision that Russia agreed to drop its charges that Ukraine had been stealing gas, which was the basis of Russia’s suspension of transit through Ukraine. Mrs. Tymoshenko also claimed Russia had agreed to furnish the fuel to run the pumping stations inside Ukraine, a codicil to which Moscow said it had never agreed.

Just before we continue, I’d like to remind everyone that this is the person who will probably be in charge of transit of Europe’s gas supplies through Ukraine, this time next year. Just in case, you know, people start saying that Nord Stream II is entirely a political initiative, is designed to rob Ukraine of hard-earned transit fees to which it is righteously entitled, and that Europe must stand together to stop the project, which is not needed in any case as Europe already has a reliable supply of gas through Ukraine. Or something like that. It seems improbable now, I know, but you never can tell.

If – or when – that happens, I hope everyone will remember what Tymoshenko’s position was on relations with Russia back before the memory hole wiped out everything about how Yulia Tymoshenko was ever anything but a fierce tigress for freedom and democracy. Because I will pretty much guarantee you that she has forgotten.

Speaking in an interview at EU headquarters ahead of planned talks in Moscow on Feb. 21, she stressed that improving relations with the Kremlin was “a matter of energy security for the European Union as a whole.”

If you’ll forgive a little bit of gratuitous interpretation here, I’d like also to point out that when Ukraine was accused by Russia of stealing gas which was intended for Europe, it was not so that poor Ukrainian babushkas could cook for their starving and freezing grandkids, or put by a little money to buy them shoes for school. It was because Ukraine was siphoning off very large quantities of gas and reselling it at very large profits. And the company at the heart of that daylight robbery was United Energy Systems of Ukraine, a private company whose president was…Yulia Tymoshenko. Funny how her name keeps coming up, like a bad penny.

Canadian neoconservative Diane Francis thinks Yulia Tymoshenko is a political tiger Mom, a democratic meteorite who will leave a scorched path of upended corrupt bureaucrats behind her as she drags Ukraine at warp speed to the pinnacle of European leadership. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko’s background suggests she is a power-mad opportunist who will dance to the tune of the highest bidder, and recognizes no law but the authority she vests in herself. In my personal opinion, a Tymoshenko presidency will do nothing at all to pull Ukraine out of its tipover, and will probably accelerate it. The west appears content to sleepwalk into a widening disaster, as Ukrainians back the election of yet another well-known wealthy oligarch to lead a country whose promises have so grotesquely failed and hoodwinked its people.

And the band played on.

83 thoughts on “And The Band Played On

  1. Ahhhh! And mmmm! I love the smell of “selected organic Hudderite nettle puddings” in the morning. It smells like Victory!

    A wonderful piece, Mark. Thanks so much.

    Nord Stream II seemed to be going well but the last couple of days have seen a few articles on the chances of Denmark in the traditional Scooby Doo role of thwarting the maskirovkaed baddies of the consortium just as they thought they’d gotten away with the swag. Any real prospect of a last-minute block? Or just swithering on the battlements of Elsinore?


    1. Ha, ha! Thanks, Cortes! Even Denmark could not stop it now; they could only cut off their own nose to spite their face. A route that takes the line around Denmark has been established, although the consortium would rather not do that, of course. I imagine Denmark has visualized itself in the shoes of Bulgaria more than once, but even if they withhold permission – as they are probably under intense pressure to do – the project will go ahead.

      There’s always a possibility the entirety of the EU will experience an epiphany that a reliable source of energy which is not subject to American whim is bad for them, and unite solidly to reject it. But that’s been tried, and frankly if that is the way Trump wants to go, he probably should not have initiated a trade war as backdrop. Realization must have dawned in quite a few otherwise rather thickish heads that the United States will not hesitate to use whatever tools are at its disposal to force an outcome to its strategic, economic or political satisfaction, and that taking its direction on national energy supplies might open oneself to coercion.

      “Hudderite nettle puddings” did not spring from nowhere; I probably don’t have that much imagination. I have been slowly reading my way through James Howard Kunstler’s “A World Made By Hand” series, in which Armageddon has sent America back to the age of wood stoves, horse-drawn wagons and beeswax candles; no more CD players or funnel cakes (well,I suppose you could still make those, but you’d have quite a time heating that much oil to that high a temperature) or electricity (except in a few scattered instances in which powerful people still maintain a generator, and in one case a community has access to an oil well that pumps 30 barrels a day. But it’s 100 miles away, the roads are gone to hell, so it has to be delivered by horse-drawn vehicles and takes a week to get there). So the idea of living off the land and making do with what you can gather must have been in the forefront of my mind, although Hudderites nor nettles as food have yet ever been mentioned.


      1. Thanks, Mark.
        I read the original World Made By Hand novel by JHK and thought it (like McCarthy’s “The Road” ) had too many providential occasions – although the notion that landfill waste sites would be the Home Depots/B & Qs is phenomenally acute.

        My favourite dystopian novel is Miller “A Canticle for Leibowitz” – pure genius.


        1. Yes, I should have begun at the beginning, but I started with “A History of the Future”. It’s not particularly prescient and, as you say, there are many providential occasions so that it is more satisfying entertainment than dystopian prophesy. But I’m enjoying it and will probably read the rest in time. I’ll look for the selection you have flagged; thanks.


  2. Who’s betting that Putin is not quaking in his boots or lying sleepless in bed every night at the thought of Yooolia campaigning to be President of Yoookraine and itching to get her fingers on a Kalashnikov so she can personally lead what remains of her country’s armed forces into Moscow and try to shoot Putin with her own bare hands?

    Thanks Mark for another post and for reminding us of what we can expect of a Tymoshenko presidency: more bending of laws, more looting of what remains of Ukraine’s wealth (not much) and more histrionics.


    1. “a tasting of selected organic Hudderite nettle puddings” gave me a big smile.

      It crosses my mind the rabid tigress might be the one to do what candy oligarch Petro Poroshenko (however totally corrupt) has been too sanely-cowardly to do; that is initiate the all-out military assault on the Donbass (hopefully from certain deranged geopolitical engineers masterplan) triggering Putin taking eastern Ukraine to Kiev. The West then shouts the evil aggressor Putin must be further isolated demanding the EU cease all noise resembling rapprochement and causing NATO’s three Chihuahuas to bark so furiously from inside their seeming safe NATO limousine they involuntarily urinate on the door handles…


        1. I wonder what effect that will have. I think western Big Ag was once interested in setting up shop there – perhaps the dreaded Monsanto, perhaps others. I think they once envisioned Ukraine as an entry point for their GMO produce into the European market; sort of a weariness dividend, when Europe would grow tired of fighting off the USA’s giant tomatoes and beach-ball cabbages, and yield. But so long as the country remains as violent as it is, it is unlikely to be profitable for large-scale farming. I now think it more likely that new owners would simply strip the black-earth belt and cart it away. Hard to say, really, as very little in Ukraine has turned out according to plan.


          1. If Bayer and Monsanto get the all-clear from the US and Europe to merge, then the combined corporation may try establishing a beach-head in Ukraine, either to buy up land for GM farming or to cart the famous chernozem soil away.


            1. Whatever the case, I daresay Washington will find a much more mercurial leader in Ms. Tymoshenko than in Mr. Poroshenko, one who will at least try to satisfy its every demand.


      1. Hey, Ron; good to hear from you again. Yes, I think that’s part of Tymoshenko’s appeal for Washington – but it remains to be seen if she is all tough talk, and whether the more radical elements of the Ukrainian forces will follow her. The latter say they are eager for battle with the Russians, but they are largely nutty ideologues with no previous military background, accustomed to shoving civilians around, and I don’t think they have much idea what it would be like to face professional armed forces with solid logistical backing, battlefield surveillance and air cover. They would not last very long.


    1. Fascinating article…the comments are as instructive and thought provoking as the article itself.
      I Disagree with the comment by Matthiew .

      China has her hands full in the South China Sea, Vietnam , Myanmar ,Cambodia Thailand and Oh Yes..India…the main subcontinent butt kisser of USA .

      She is neither geographically nor militarily situated to confront Russia over the ‘Stan’ nations.
      Russia won’t allow China to manipulate the ‘Stan’ nations any more than China would tolerate Russia
      manipulating the nations on the eastern shores of the Bay of Bengal and the gulf of Thailand.
      (Excerpt from Matthiew comment):

      “Rockefeller wants to kill the OBOR for sure in order to salvage the petro-dollar, thus they will try to get their hands on to those central Asian countries, similar to Rothschild + China coalition. But both camps will make sure that Russia will never get them. The reason? Because it plays against the interest of all major global players, which are China in the East and the House of Royals vs. Yankee Doodle in the west. Unfortunately, Russia is only a useful tool in the hand of these global powers, but not a sovereign player.”

      Russia is NOT a sovereign player??…Where the F is that coming from?????
      Also setting aside the USA…exactly where (what) are the global power bases-economic or miltiary- of the UK or Australia?? How is Russia a ‘tool’ in the hands of these broke , vulnerable ,militarily impotent self designated ‘power players’???? I don’t see it.


    2. It’s like a small company that can’t survive on its own, so it has a chance to be integrated into a larger corporation. There was also talk at some point that Luka might be interested in running for Prez of the entire Russian Federation. Which he can’t do, unless they merge.


    3. I’ve been asking that question for a while. The temptation by the West to go after Belarus however catastrophic the consequences may be is still there, even if just to stick it to Russia by destabilizing its border with further western induced chaos. The only way Belarus will be safe would be within the RF, but then that brings up a whole different kettle of fish with the new RF sharing a long border with NATO country Po-land. NATO will really have to put up or shut up. More likely more of the same – screeching but not digging deep.

      The low-land of Po-land may get hysterical, but EU funds (€104b 2014-2020) will soon be gone, a -20% reduction that will blow away their convenient financial cushion to protest too much. They will squeal, but they’ll have to square it at home with an increasing pissed off Polish voters. It will be sweet!


    1. Moon of Alabama:

      Pity The Russophobe Journos Whom No One Believes

      The bloke who started off MoA is a German, by the way, clearly left-wing, hence the title of the blog, a song written by Bertolt Brecht that is featured in one of his plays.

      Sorry about that interlude but, you see, I’ve always had this thing about Lotte Lenya!

      Right! Enough of that …

      Now get this, from MEDIA BIAS / FACT CHECK, which subtitles itself as The most comprehensive media bias resource

      Moon of Alabama utilizes factually mixed sources such as RT News, Fox News, as well as credible sources such as Bloomberg, NY Times, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, Politico, and blogs such as Generally, all information is sourced properly with hyperlinks to mostly known media sources.

      NY Times a credible news source???


      1. World Cup exposes England not Russia as the country with a racism problem

        In the lead up to the tournament the contents of a House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report was made public by the BBC. Consider the following paragraph: “Fans from BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) backgrounds and those who identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) face additional risks of attack and persecution [in Russia].”

        The author of the above-linked article is confusing England with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, albeit that the football fans in Russia are supporters of the English national football team.

        Way down in his article, however, the author at last writes about “racism in the UK“, but then almost immediately he goes on to write: “if any country has a cultural problem with racism and bigotry it is England – a problem that has only been exacerbated by Brexit, rooted as it is in anti-migrant hostility, xenophobia, nativism and British colonial tropes”.

        So who or what is racist — the English in England or the British in the UK with their “colonial tropes”?

        By the way, Alan [Lord] Sugar, whose “racist Tweet” the author of the RT article refers to, is a British citizen and a British “Lord” to boot, but:

        Sugar was born in Hackney, East London, into a Jewish family. His father, Nathan, was a tailor in the garment industry of the East End. His maternal grandparents were born in Russia, and his paternal grandfather was born in Poland. Sugar’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Sugar, was born in London to Polish parents. — Wiki.

        But Sugar is an “English Lord”, so he must be racist.

        I should add that I consider Mr. Sugar to be a compatriot, though not a “Lord”, which is a silly concept in my opinion, in that both he and I are both British citizens.


    1. Herzliche Grüße aus Moskau!

      Heute habe ich auf altem Kraut und faulen Fischköpfen gut gefrühstückt. Später fahre ich heute mit meiner jüngeren Tochter aufs Land, wo ich mich ein paar Tage in unserem Landhaus ausruhen werde, weil ich wenig oder keine Arbeit in Moskau habe.

      Morgen Abend kehre ich für ein paar Stunden nach Moskau zurück, um einigen russischen Untermenschen Englisch beizubringen. Nachdem ich diese Lektion beendet habe, werde ich sofort ins Land zurückkehren, wo ich bis Sonntagabend bleiben werde.


  3. Good article, as usual.

    On the general topic of hypocrisy:

    Trump clearly has no conflicts of interest with his list.


  4. KP this morning:

    The blond beauty in a kokoshnik and a short T-shirt on which Russia was written has been for the past week the talk of the World Cup competition. Hardly having fallen into foreign journalists’ objective lenses, Natalia Nemchinova (also known under the pseudonym Andreeva) received the undisputed title of the most beautiful cheerleader of our team. However, Natasha did not long remain straight up and above board in the eyes of bloggers and the media. In the social net there surfaced photos and videos in which the whole of the girl’s passion is not totally given to football. The scandal spread internationally. “The most beautiful Russian cheerleader has turned out to be a porn actress” – the British, and then all the other tabloids, scurried around to comment. In addition to her sex exploits, Nemchinova was credited with winning the Miss Moscow contest in 2007 (it turned out to be another girl), and to be married to the owner of the Zebra fitness clubs network, Sergei Roshchupkin … .

    So, in short, the facts about this young woman turn out to be that she is not a porn actress, she works at a fitness club, does modelling as a hobby, has dome some “glamour modelling, has appeared in “Playboy”, but has not appeared in “porn” films.

    Fake news again, eagerly spread by the netizens and gleefully picked up as fact and published in the West a such.


    1. From The blond beauty in a kokoshnik … to…Zebra fitness clubs network, Sergei Roshchupkin … should have been italicized, as that part of the text in the above posting is a translation of part of the above-linked KP article.


    2. And so what if everything they said were true? Are porn actresses automatically persons of low character? If they appear in support of a sporting event, does that automatically suppose they are selling themselves rather than simply being a fan of the sport? Remember Traci Lords? Probably quite a few more men do than will admit to it, but she was EXITING the porn industry, all finished with it, at 18.

      She went on to a fairly successful career in legitimate acting and singing, and is generally considered to have been a success story. I saw her in several films when she was younger, although she was an adult, and she was lovely, a truly sultry beauty, like this.

      She looked fabulous, as well, in “Cry Baby”, with Johnny Depp, although she was deliberately over-made-up for the part. So far as I am aware, the media does not make a big deal about her previous career as a porn actress, at least not to her detriment.


    1. That’s an interesting piece, and I mostly agree with it, especially with its assessment of Tymoshenko. I don’t, however, see the purging of all the oligarchs and nationalists as an achievable goal; west Ukraine would be all but empty in such a circumstance. I see Ukraine as being destined for partition, with the west probably going to Poland. But the article is not afraid to say the west has already failed, and wants to walk away without cleaning up any of its mess, and it will be years – if ever – before the western media acknowledges that.

      If there is a victim, and there is, it’s the poor dumb Ukrainian public that mostly just kept its head down and kept slogging on through increasing privation and hardship and disintegration, believing various authorities who told them it was going to get ever so much better real soon.


  5. Sputnik:

    WADA Informant Rodchenkov Attempted to Commit Suicide in Washington – Source
    13:28 27.06.2018 (updated 14:21 27.06.2018)

    “We received information about Grigory Rodchenkov’s suicide attempt on June 19 in a Washington flat rented out for him by the FBI in district Columbia,” the source said.

    How sad!

    And how soon will it be before it is suggested that it was not a suicide attempt but a “wet job” incompetently undertaken by Russian operatives in the USA on Putin’s direct order?

    A kreakl seriously told me yesterday that Russia was defeated by Uruguay the other day because Putin had not paid the Uruguay side the amount that they had demanded in order to throw the game.

    So I said “And the Saudis and Egyptians, on the other hand, took the money?”

    “Of course they did!” came the reply.

    I don’t why these shits live in Russia.


    1. Several people on here suggested a long time ago that if Rodchenkov’s ridiculous charges could not be substantiated or were seriously challenged, he would become expendable and ‘something might, you know, happen to him’.

      I have heard from several workmates just what a great film ‘Icarus’ was, and what a thoroughly likeable rogue Rodchenkov appears in it. I generally don’t say anything because I don’t want to make enemies, but it continually amazes me how easily people can be taken in and made to believe anything simply by the power of repetition and a predisposition to believe Russia is sketchy by nature. It’s very, very hard to fight against such a monolith.


      1. Not only by the power of repetition but also by the fact that “Icarus” won Best Documentary Oscar in April this year, pipping the latest White Helmets production fake for the honour. If the “documentary” is also appearing in film festivals or at multiplexes, the more people will be credulous. Folks will say that you can’t argue against film critics and film festivals if they like a film.


  6. There is to be a summit Putin /Trump will meet.
    I can’t help feeling that any meeting is pointless.
    Trump has no support for this meeting from his own side never mind the opposition.

    What can he agree to and deliver?

    I don’t know what Russia hopes to gain from it.


    1. Maybe the question should be What does the US hope to gain from it?

      Why do I say this? Russia has weathered the economic assault on it by the West, even going as far as sanctioning individuals by companies that are afraid of getting on the wrong side of hte US (sic, ME efforts to transfer cash from the UK to Ru via who did not see fit to explain why they had refused).

      Over at Sic Semper Tyrannis, they are questioning Russia/I-ran mega hawk John Bolton’s about turn on Russia which he also refused to explain to journalists.

      One may speculate, but its a fair guess that Washington wants Moscow to break up with China by offering a few sweet promises. US policy so far has driven Russia together with China thus making it a formidable alliance so it has to be something pretty big for Bolt-on to keep his wanger in his pants.

      I suspect that Moscow is just being diplomatic and hearing Washington out and at the summit pushing it to see how far it will go in what it offers and cast-iron guarantees that it knows it won’t keep. The summit will be fascinating to watch because Russia has already been burned by giving its agreement to assist the US/NATO travel overland to Afghanistan and Putin faced serious opposition over it.

      I don’t seriously see how Moscow can row back on its strategic alliance with Beijing. Note that Mattis has also visited Beijing, so something is in the works. The US simply cannot be trusted because they are Gods who decide which way the Sword of Damocles swings. There is absolutely no guarantee that the next administration after Trump will honor any deal, let alone be able to. There will always be some cabal seeking to upend it while the others continue to beg for patience regardless of what fresh outrage Washington and friends cook up to tar Russia with.

      No doubt the low-hanging fruit will be offered and Trump will declare it a success, but anything of substance will not happen quickly and I would expect to be kicked in to the long grass by Russia.

      Answer this question. What exactly does the US have to offer Russia? G7? Irrelevant. Increased economic co-operation? The growth is in Asia? Is Washington going to publicly apologize and pay compensation? Nope. etc. etc. The assumption is that Russia will be desperate for whatever crumbs are offered. The only thing that makes sense for Russia to play along is if it a big fat rusty nail gets hammered in to NATO. The rest is bullshit.


      1. I suspect Trump will try to roll Russia the way he is trying to roll Germany. In the latter case, Trump imposed completely unnecessary and frivolous tariffs on steel, aluminum and German cars, invoking his stupid national-security clause and pulling the numbers out of his ass the way he bragged of doing with Trudeau. Now the gambit is to offer to drop the tariffs in exchange for Germany dropping its participation in Nord Stream II. Pretty clever, really – make up a completely false threat which, if implemented, would be as damaging to the United States as to anywhere else…but don’t do it. Instead, trade it away to the target imbecile so he gives up something significant in exchange for being spared a blow you had no intention of striking. This simple trick is the heart and soul of Trump’s ‘Art of the Deal’. I’m pretty sure Germany is far too smart to fall for it. But the effort to deep-six Nord Stream II is all the way at the top of the US government agenda now.

        Anyway, Trump might offer to walk back the sanctions that his government imposed on Russia (not the Obama ones, which he has no authority to revoke). Those are purely symbolic for the American hawks anyway, and I am sure nobody in Russia cares about them at all. What else has the Trump government got? He can’t offer to recognize Crimea as Russian – he could, but he’d never be allowed to do it. Ditto removing the original sanctions. Trump would not dare offer pulling NATO back from Russia’s borders – the Baltics and Poland would scream like they were being boiled alive, while the English would burn him in effigy. He’s got nothing. But you’re right – it’s worth making him come all that way to tell him in person.


        1. it’s worth making him come all that way to tell him in person.

          To slightly paraphrase Francis Bacon’s translation: “if the Putin cannot come to Washington, then let Trump go to Moscow.”


          1. Exactly – except both will be going to a ‘neutral third country’. Although it will in all probability be somewhere in Europe. You know, Europe, like the neutral Netherlands, which rendered a verdict that Russia sneaked in a missile launcher to Ukraine, shot down a civilian airliner in order to blame it on Ukraine, and then got caught sneaking it back in again when the sensible thing to have done in such circumstances would be to just abandon it, thereby bringing the wrath of a righteous world down upon its head.

            That’s not too important, though, except that Putin has to give a thought to where he goes outside Russia, since his death would be overwhelmingly convenient for the west. As we’ve already discussed, Trump – or Bolton, or whomever – has nothing to offer Russia, and a clumsy offer to withdraw a pressure which was artificially created in the first place in exchange for something substantial from Russia will be casually ignored.


              1. For once I miss Karl1haushofer if only to find out what he thinks of Putin going to a hostile third party country for this summit. Maybe Trump will browbeat Putin into agreeing to meddle in the mid-term Congressional elections.


                1. My thoughts were also turning to Karl. Only I was wondering if he and his nationalist Aryan militias would volunteer to provide security for Vladimir Vladimirovich! After all, in their view, Putin is the protector of the White Race. Against … er… both branches of Semites and the other non-desirables…


              2. That must have been what Cortes was referring to; I just didn’t get it, I was tired, and seduced by the clever joke about Trump abdicating to Russia like Ed Snowball.


  7. There is to be a summit
    Bolton meeting Putin in Moscow. To discuss agenda

    Can’t help feeling the eventual meeting will be pointless

    And Putin will end up wasting political capital – Trump can not deliver anything.


    1. The meeting is mostly just political theatre, and nothing major is likely to emerge from it in my opinion. Depending on who is going for the American side – Trump or Bolton – Trump may imagine he will use his steely-eye art of the deal business acumen to make Putin jump about like a bunny, but you’re right that anything Trump promised would be shot to rags in the USA as soon as he returned.

      However, the meeting itself and where it is taking place are tremendously significant. Remember that when Obama broke with Russia, the USA assumed a lofty distance and had nothing to say to Russia; it was going to stitch it up from a far remove, and there was no need for diplomacy because The Exceptional Nation was going to put its heel on The Country That Doesn’t Make Anything’s head and push it into the mud. Look out for yourself, Russia – you’re fucked. But it hasn’t turned out that way, and now it is America who must go as a supplicant to Russia to try and sort things out, and that very fact is a clear announcement that things have not sorted themselves out to America’s satisfaction. Obviously if it could achieve that state without Russia’s cooperation, it would have done so already, and it has manifestly tried to do just that. So America begins with a handicap – it’s demonstrable inability to order world events to its pleasure without assistance.

      Putin knows better than to accept America as an equal partner in any global deal, since America just strained itself to wreck Russia through every means short of open military conflict and failed, which suggests it has not abandoned hope of coming out on top through trickery and with the cooperation of its opponent. Putin also knows Trump’s political opposition will not allow him to deal away anything of any importance, so you’re right that he has basically nothing to trade with. But the clear implication is that Washington is going to Moscow because Washington was unable to force Moscow to come to Washington. I trust Putin not to give away the store when he is plainly in a superior position.

      Oops! According to the BBC, the ‘summit’ will take place ‘in a mutually convenient third country’, and not in either Washington or Moscow.

      But it is still Washington who asked for it, and not Moscow. So now a huge amount of planning and negotiation will ensue, and the whole thing could still be scrapped at any point.


    2. No harm for Moscow to check out John Bolton and how he thinks and behaves even if very little comes out of the Bolton-Putin meeting and no Putin-Trump meeting eventuates. As the cliche goes, forewarned is forearmed.


  8. Groysman is really getting desperate; he argues that Europe must show unity by backing Ukraine in the Nord Stream II dispute…and offers Ukraine as a source of natural gas instead.

    “We have second or third largest deposits in Europe. We are a gas country. However, the closed nature of this system and corruption manifestations have kept us away from believing in this potential. We have simplified the fiscal policy in this area greatly and have taken deregulation measures,” the Head of Government noted.

    A country whose GDP is nearly 80% owned by its oligarchy would make just a swell partner as the continent’s energy provider – good times, baby. None of that Russian extortion shit here.

    In fact, Ukrainian production peaked 20 years ago, and since then has declined to where it cannot supply its own needs. Groysman is blue-skying on potential deposits which (may) lie in a war zone.

    But Denmark prefers to stall, probably hoping someone bigger will make the decision for it; Rasmussen has said – alongside a solemn-looking Groysman, who is by a remarkable coincidence in Denmark for a ‘working visit’ (no pressure) – that the project needs to be discussed at an ‘all-Europe’ level. More talk, is what that means, and letting nations like Poland and the Baltics get another chance to spit vitriol. The project has of course already been discussed over and over at an all-Europe level. Perhaps Nord Stream II had better just go ahead with the route which excludes Danish waters, and to hell with them.

    As I have said many times, the current administration in Kuh-yiv hopes to use Europe to force Russia to continue transiting gas through Ukraine. But there is no leverage to force Russia to do anything of the kind; it could simply cease gas transit through Ukraine anyway, and rely instead on its other routes to Europe. The supply would likely fall far short of demand, gas prices would go out of sight as a consequence, and European consumers would be mad as hell while Russia would probably not be out very much money due to the higher price. Ukraine would still be screwed. Although it could of course simply bring on its own bountiful gas supplies that Groysman brags about.


    1. I’d like to think the western media is a little ashamed of itself, but probably not. In fact, Tin-Tin would probably call it fair dues at last, considering Moscow kicked him out because it couldn’t stand his perfectly unbiased reporting.


  9. “Just before we continue, I’d like to remind everyone that this is the person who will probably be in charge of transit of Europe’s gas supplies through Ukraine, this time next year. Just in case, you know, people start saying that Nord Stream II is entirely a political initiative, is designed to rob Ukraine of hard-earned transit fees to which it is righteously entitled, and that Europe must stand together to stop the project, which is not needed in any case as Europe already has a reliable supply of gas through Ukraine. Or something like that. It seems improbable now, I know, but you never can tell.”

    I love your dry humor Mark, that was excellent! And your last three paragraphs, the last one being just a line, are quite powerful. Good article!


  10. A lot of people in America are worried about the consequences of Trump’s dabbling in trade war. But none of them are in the government, apparently.

    First, the administration has no idea what it’s doing. Its ideas on trade don’t seem to have evolved at all from those expressed in a white paper circulated by Wilbur Ross, now the commerce secretary, and Peter Navarro, now the trade czar, in 2016. That white paper was a display of sheer ignorance that had actual trade experts banging their heads on their desks. So these people are completely unprepared for the coming blowback.


  11. The OPCW – is now openly a politicised body

    On June 27, an OPCW special session held in the Hague, the Netherlands, voted to expand the powers of the international chemical weapons watchdog. It now assumes the power to assign guilt.

    I thought they did that anyway – with their wishy washy reports.!!

    Where’s the report on Douma?

    The only thing countries can do now is not let them into their country

    As this is a dangerous political weapon


    1. When an organization votes itself expanded powers, I’m not sure other nations feel themselves under any obligation to endorse or validate their decisions. If they have no proof, there’s not much they can do; the MH17 verdict is a good example (although it has nothing to do with the OPCW). The Dutch ruled that the aircraft was shot down by a missile which transited into Ukraine from Russia and then hightailed it for home as soon as the evil deed was done, but that was always the most ridiculous scenario and it is plain they are only doing it to protect Ukraine. For Russia to have done such a thing would imply much more than guilt, it would involve premeditation, which makes it deliberate murder rather than an accident. There is a lot of talk about legal action against Russia, but they don’t have anything to support their conclusion except a lot of circumstantial crap from Bellingcat. So they won’t do anything, because if there were ever a real trial, their hokey ‘evidence’ would fall apart in five minutes.

      In the example of Douma, Russia supplied eyewitnesses who said the ‘chemical attack’ was completely staged and never happened. For this, Russia was accused of staging an ‘obscene masquerade’, so it is plain that only witnesses who recite the western version of events will be judged credible by western organizations and media.

      Russia is under no obligation to accept verdicts from western alphabet-soup organizations which have been politicized until they are simply extensions of western governments, and it should certainly withdraw any funding it supplies to such organizations – that’s a thing now, pioneered by the Beacon Of Freedom Country, which openly said if you don’t go along with my narratives, I’m defunding you. It’s a shame that so much work over the ages went into building international bodies who were supposed to be staffed with disciplinary experts, only to have them eventually staffed with politicians and toadies whose purpose is to lend professional gravitas to western political meddling, but that’s where we are now. Internationalism is a thing of the past, like hoop skirts and covered wagons. The emerging doctrine is every nation for itself, with allies dragged in as ‘coalition members’ where they are useful and willing to be used.


  12. Hi folks. Am enjoying the articles and the comments. I’d like, if possible, to turn everyone’s mind to the Alexander Perepilichnyy inquest ongoing in London, which I have been following closely. Transcripts are downloadable from and they tell a story far removed from the press reports inspired by Bill Browder’s overactive imagination.


      1. Yes. But first, I feel the need to hone my thoughts against the sharp minds of you and your fellow stooges. “Samenleving” is Dutch for “society” – literally “living together”. I lived in Amsterdam for a few years. I’m a Brit, now living in Morocco with Moroccan wife and two year old daughter.


        1. Paragraphs like, “His attitude towards journalists and courts of law has not changed. The same cynicism and contempt which helped him monetise ludicrous losing lawsuits and launder self-serving lies through internationally-read journalists, runs through the entire Perepilichnyy story” suggest you have what it takes already to write excellent journalist-quality material; I certainly couldn’t come up with anything better. I suspect the lead-in would have to be a bio on the case, though, as I’ll bet most people have not even heard of it, as I had not myself. I think it would make a fine informative piece, and would serve to widen what the public (or what there is of it which reads small blogs) knows about William Browder. I learned everything I know about him from people on this blog; a Russian who called himself Kovane wrote the original piece, on the old blog, on Hermitage Capital and its ruthless machinations about 8 years ago now. I will be in touch so you have my email address, and after that, whenever you’re ready.


          1. Please do get in touch by email. It was your posts (with Kovane) about Browder which first brought your blog to my attention.


            1. Done. Since looking into the case you describe, I realized I have heard of it; I just blanked on the name. He was the Russian who mysteriously collapsed and died after going out for a jog or some sort of exercise, although I was unaware of his background as a ‘whistleblower’. Funny how the Russian state always decides these people must die – in England – after having made no attempt to stop them from leaving or having killed them in Russia where they were much easier to get at.

              Here’s an interesting tidbit from a Guardian article on the subject;

              Moxon Browne suggested that Special Branch had been “keeping tabs” on the victim’s movements as he frequently travelled by train in the months before his death. He said: “The question we will be wanting to ask: how does it come about that they knew exactly what he was doing but Surrey police were unable to identify him for three to four weeks after his death?”



  13. Riffing off of Kirill’s earlier allegation that the Russian economy is being low-balled by its statisticians, and is actually doing quite a bit better than the original numbers suggested, that appears to have been the case.

    Selected excerpts:

    There’s also evidence that the investment had been well made. Four years later, Sochi is still full of tourists, and locals even have a nickname for the old Olympic Park, now a resort town: “Sochifornia.”

    Quite a bit different take from Julia Ioffe’s snarky they-could-have-paved-the-road-with-beluga-caviar grizzling.

    Having emerged last year from a two-year recession that was triggered by the collapse in oil prices and imposition of sanctions following its annexation of Crimea, the country is now in full-on recovery mode. In a note to investors last week, Capital Economics senior emerging markets economist William Jackson says that GDP growth in May picked up to more than 2 percent year-over-year, up from 1.3 percent in the first quarter. Most of the changes, according to Jackson, came in manufacturing, which he estimates to be growing by more than 5 percent year-over-year, compared with only 1 percent previously.

    Heck of a job, Obama – the economy is in tatters.

    Today, the budget is back in surplus, and government debt stands at a remarkable 33 percent of GDP, the lowest among G20 nations. Key inflation is currently running at a record low of 2.4 percent year-over-year, well below the Central Bank of Russia’s (CBR) target of 4 percent. Food inflation, in particular, is near zero percent.

    You could tell at the beginning of Bloomberg’s piece that they wanted to say Russia turned around its manufacturing numbers by simply rewriting the books so that they looked positive. But by the end even they were forced to admit the new metrics are a more accurate reflection of actual conditions, and that pessimistic Russians were minimizing the economic picture.


  14. There’s a very small world of journalists and bloggers who have seen through the Browder hoax. Of these, fewer still have paid any attention to Browder’s involvement in the Perepilichnyy inquest – which means that most continue to focus on what he and his company were doing in Russia more than a decade ago.

    The thing is, an inquest has to come to a verdict, based on evidence, heard in public. So, when Judge Coroner Nicholas Hilliard gives his verdict, Browder’s (and his lawyers’) behaviour may come in for some sharp criticism.

    His attitude towards journalists and courts of law has not changed. The same cynicism and contempt which helped him monetise ludicrous losing lawsuits and launder self-serving lies through internationally-read journalists, runs through the entire Perepilichnyy story.

    Browder’s game here was to use media pressure to force the original Surrey Senior Coroner to allow Hermitage “interested person” status, an application which had originally been rejected. However, he never wanted the inquest to reach a verdict. The goal, from the beginning, was to force the suspension of the inquest in favour of a Public Inquiry with the broadest possible anti-Putin, Russophobic, terms of reference.

    This ploy failed. He and his lawyers thought it would be easy. The “Litvinenko Playbook” had been masterminded by “well-known spy” Christopher Steele, using Public Interest Immunity to make it look as though the government was hiding something.

    However, it also needed Marina Litvinenko to get a judicial review to overturn the Home Office’s initial refusal of a Public Inquiry, as well as coroner who wanted the bigger stage and publicity.

    In the Perepilichnyy case, the Surrey Coroner, Richard Travers, had to be replaced because he was independent-minded and conscientious, and Mrs Perepilichnaya had zero interest in an anti-Putin Public Inquiry, and was distressed at Browder’s takeover of the proceedings.


  15. Mark, yet another great article! Can I say that I am surprised? Nope. One of the very sad facts in life is that to be seen as better than everyone else, all you have to do is be competent. Others around you will sink and appreciation for you will grow. It’s hardly a surprise that Tymoshenko has thrown her braids in to the ring and it is clear that she has been deliberately keeping a low profile except in case where she can stick it to the pig Porkoshenko (when she and her supporters went to Pol-land to accompany Saakashiti across the border in to the Urkaine). I suppose the real question is, is Ukraine ready for Tymotherapy?

    We know she is pragmatic and this is mightily useful for the West because they cannot be seen to back down. Just as Russia says that it fully supports the choice of the Serbs and its government’s will to join the EU, I can imaging the US and EU fully supporting a Tymo led government that stops its civil war and tries to stabilize relations with Russia. No loss of face there as it is their (Triumph of?) will. A win-win then. The West never has to apologize or pay up. The Pork Pie News Networks neither. They’ll almost certainly have other state approved Enemas of the State to attack, though I wonder what happens to all the Russophobic rantings in their archives? Maybe they’ll slowly disappear or become inaccessible? Or more likely and more simply, ignored.

    Remember kids, no main stream journalist’s careers have been damaged by this production. Arbeit Macht Frei!


    1. A restrained firing; always a risk. Most missiles of that type have bolts at the bottom which hold the missile in place so as to prevent chafing damage to its wiring harness due to movement inside the launcher, and they are designed to explosively shear on launch or are mechanically withdrawn. Some missiles fail to blow off the cap that protects the inside of the launcher from weather, but this is not a factor with the SM-2; the doors open when the launch is initiated, before the firing sequence starts. There is a misfire drill which is initiated in the case of a restrained firing in which the missile fails to leave the launcher, but it is mostly applicable where the motor fails to fire, and there is a risk it could do so after an unknown delay. This one obviously ignited, and presented the ship with a fairly damaging fire – they are not kidding that it could have been a lot worse. It could have blown the whole bow off.

      Peacetime missile firings have as their purpose (1) proving the missile’s capabilities against a realistic target, and (2) building confidence in the reliability and lethality of the system. Number two will have suffered quite a blow in this instance.


  16. One man’s meat is another man’s poison; how often have we heard that energy security depends upon diversification of supply and the facility to rely on a trusted partner to deliver reliable volumes – that energy sovereignty, in effect, is defined in the context of mutual cooperation?

    Lots of times, you will say; we hear it almost daily in European elitist arguments against Nord Stream II. But how often have we heard that argument being made in support of Russian gas, Gazprom and Russian pipelines?

    At least once – it’s made here,

    in the context of Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria signing on to Turkish Stream and branches which will contribute to their energy security and mutual cooperation. It looks as if Bulgaria in particular has learned a hard – not to mention costly – lesson. Let’s hope it was a once-bitten-twice-shy sort of lesson. To me, it suggests the very essence of Russian patience, to absorb insults and demagoguery, to not react as the enemy does a victory boogie (as it did when Bulgaria put the kibosh on South Stream, at the urging of Brussels and Washington), and to eventually achieve the objective without having compromised itself by pretending to be something it is not.


  17. The UK is ajitter with nerves – or at least its government is – at the possibility Trump may make some grand ‘impulsive’ gesture and make Putin General Secretary of NATO, or something.

    While I enjoyed the comment attributed to some unnamed UK government official (“People say Donald Trump’s strength is that he thinks outside the box. But that is not right. He does not even know what the box is”), what are the chances of that happening, really? Meeting Putin is third on the Trump agenda, after a NATO summit and a personal meeting with Theresa May. You don’t think maybe he will have it hammered into his thick head over and over again not to concede anything at all to Russia? You don’t think any number of wily Europeans will be worming their way into his skull, trying to get hints on what he will ask and what he will say? In fact, I think it’s probably safe to suggest the whole of the NATO summit as well as the meeting with May will be blown on Ensuring The Donald Does Not Drop The Ball. Except allowing that he does not even know what the ball is, of course.

    Putin had best prepare to simply enjoy the local cuisine and a chance to catch up on his notes for national projects, because he could pretty much put on his headphones and listen to Linkin Park during the ‘summit’, and not have to worry about missing anything important. Trump has nothing to offer, and the Europeans will school him to not even offer that.


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