“If you would have a boy to despise his mother, let her keep him at home, and spend her life in petting him up, and slaving to indulge his follies and caprices.”
“In any epoch the difference between a rabble and an army is training, which was not bestowed on foot soldiers called up by the arrière-ban. Despised as ineffective, they were ineffective because they were despised.”
Poor Britain. Since the ignominious crumbling of its empire it has craved to be globally relevant. as it once was when it brought English civilization to the unruly and wild places of the earth with mace and halberd. In its more recent incarnation, it drifts about the periphery of great happenings like a resentful ghost; yearning to dominate, but able to broadcast only the memory of its great power. Increasingly, in its jiggling impatience to be noticed and respected, it attaches itself to the United States like a remora to the lower jaw of a cruising shark. The ‘special relationship’ might just be the sole truly symbiotic partnership in existence, or perhaps is the best modern example of it – an English accent makes Americans swoon with admiration for its implication; generations of refinement in ancient halls of academia such as formed Byron and Shelley, while Britain gets the vicarious thrill of holding America’s coat as it corners some poor fool and beats the shit out of him.
Consider the example of former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. More specifically, his recent opinion piece for The Independent, “Russia’s grip on Europe is gradually tightening – we can’t wait for the next attack to do something about it” (thanks to Moscow Exile for the link).
The Independent, of course, is owned by former Russian billionaire oligarch, KGB agent and later FSB agent Alexander Lebedev and his son, Evgeny. The British are nothing if not fair – Russian oligarchs who are said to be close to the current government of the Russian Federation are vile as raw sewage, and make the British gnash their teeth and shake their fists with disgust and rage: but Russian oligarchs who have brought their money to Britain to invest and spend are absolutely top-hole. Nothing subversive and shifty about them.
With that, let’s see what Mr. Straw had to say.
I have to confess, I’m having a hard time getting past the headline. There’s so much about it that screams of a policy flak who knows how to present things as facts when they are anything but, and lead you into the piece already believing that (a) Britain has been the victim of more than one attack by Russia, (b) that a country supposedly friendless, without allies and with its economy reeling and staggering from punishing sanctions still somehow has sufficient power to not only grip Europe, but to squeeze it until it squeaks, and (c) Britain can do something about it.
Well, let’s look; if Mr. Straw is totally unconcerned about potential embarrassment. there’s nothing holding us back, is there? As we have often done before, let’s look at each of the ‘attacks’ Russia is supposed to have visited upon Britain. Ready? Litvinenko.
Litvinenko is supposed to have ingested Polonium 210 – a uniquely Russian isotope, although the United States buys enough Polonium from Russia nearly every month to have killed Litvinenko about 8,000 times – which was slipped to him by two Russian agents in the Pine Bar in London. Polonium traces were subsequently found all over London, including on documents Litvinenko had touched, a Fax machine at fellow collaborator Boris Berzovsky’s house, and in a cab in which Litvinenko had ridden, which was so toxic thereafter that it had to be withdrawn from service. The problem with that is that neither of Litvinenko’s accused murderers was with him in the cab, or touched the documents he handled…but Litvinenko never touched Polonium with his hands. He swallowed it, in tea, and once inside him it could not contaminate anything else unless Litvinenko licked it, because Polonium – despite its toxicity – is a low-alpha isotope which cannot penetrate skin. Litvinenko was, remarkably, covered from head to toe in skin.
Litvinenko produced a passionately and eloquently-written deathbed accusation which tabbed Vladimir Putin as his murderer, because he – Litvinenko – ‘knew too much’, including Putin’s secret pedophilia, evidence of which was the subject of KGB videotapes made while Putin was a student, although the first personal video recorder (the Sony Betamax) was not introduced until the year Putin graduated. Litvinenko himself could barely order a cup of coffee in English, but that puzzle was solved when Alexander Goldfarb – a former nuclear scientist in Russia and a close confidante of Boris Berezovsky – stepped up to say that Litvinenko had ‘dictated it to him’. Just as an interesting aside, Litvinenko had bragged to his brother how he had lied to British authorities before in the case of a supposed murder attempt against Boris Berezovsky by the Russian state, using a poisoned pen. This fake murder plot was successfully used by Berzovsky to argue against deportation from Great Britain.
Anyway, we don’t want to go on and on about Litvinenko – how believable is the British tale of his assassination by the Russian state? Polonium traces all over London in places the alleged assassins had never visited could not have been left by Litvinenko, because he never touched Polonium with his hands, and it cannot penetrate skin. Polonium was not discovered in his urine until after he was dead. We will never know if radiation poisoning made his hair fall out, because his head was shaved by one of Berezovsky’s dissident Chechen sidekicks. Berezovsky himself also turned up dead in England, after losing a major legal case, having supposedly hung himself with his tie inside a locked bathroom at his home. Coincidentally, Polonium as a murder weapon led straight back to Russia (if we assume we did not know about the American purchases of Polonium, which had the added cachet of bearing the telltale signature of having been made in a Russian nuclear reactor), and would have been a breathtakingly stupid choice for a Russian assassin. Still, they almost got away with it – British doctors were totally on the wrong track, and the alleged assassins had already left the country, when an ‘anonymous tipster’ (*cough* Goldfarb *cough*) suggested they check for Polonium 210.
The Skripals – yes, ‘pon my word, old chap; what a nefarious example of Russian ruthlessness. Probably ordered straight from the top, by Vladimir Putin himself – “Will no one rid me of this troublesome has-been KGB agent who has been out of Russia since 2010: would that I had snuffed him then, instead of trading him to the UK in a spy swap!” Yes, I know, already stupid, but it gets so much more unbelievable. Once again, a distinctively Russian murder weapon; Novichok, a nerve agent manufactured from commercially-available fertilizers and organophosphates. The helpful BBC miniseries Mr. Straw speaks of was an exercise in retconning – retroactive connectivity, an after-the-fact fix which explains what was unexplainable in previous versions. For instance, the co-poisoning of Detective Nick Bailey, so ill he was nigh unto death. Originally the story was that he was contaminated because he was one of the first responders, when the Skripals were jerking and drooling on a public bench near the restaurant where they had just eaten, in Salisbury. But the first passer-by, who helpfully attended them, just happened to be none other than the senior medical officer in the British Army, and she was in no way affected although she wore no protection than perhaps rubber gloves. Nick Bailey also wore gloves, because it was cold. The next version had him entering the Skripal home – where he was contaminated – via the back door. But the assassins had unhelpfully smeared the poison on the front doorknob. Shit! So, unable to bring the assassins and the Skripals and Nick Bailey all together at the same doorknob within the same period of lethality, the story was changed again. Bailey had actually nipped next door, borrowed the spare key – the existence of which was completely unknown to anyone prior to the television broadcast – from a neighbour, and entered by the front door, where he became contaminated. It was touch and go there for awhile, but he went home 18 days later, none the worse for his brush with one of the deadliest nerve agents known to man. A nerve agent which, incidentally, was not known to the elimination of other possibilities to have killed anyone. Dawn Sturgess died later, in Amesbury, after spraying pure Novichok on her wrists from a fake perfume bottle, we are told. But Dawn Sturgess was a known drug addict, Novichok as an aerosol spray would have taken effect within seconds but she was not stricken for hours, and the medium of infection was not discovered until three days after her death, sitting conspicuously on Charles Rowley’s kitchen counter, although the house had already been searched. Perfectly intact and waiting to be discovered, although Charles Rowley’s brother reported that the bottle had broken in his brother’s hands as Sturgess handed it back to him, which was how he became contaminated. Another insultingly full-of-bullshit story that would not survive press scrutiny for an hour if it had been Russia reporting a poisoning by British agents in Russia.
Well, I spent a lot longer on that than I meant to; let’s move on. Suffice it to say that while there indeed is ‘overwhelming evidence’ in both cases as Mr. Straw avers, it argues strongly that Britain made up both scenarios, and not very competently, while there is actually zero evidence that Russia had anything to do with either except for the screaming ‘made in Russia’ agents used, which Russian assassins would be beyond foolish to have chosen for that very reason. Would it make sense for a British assassin in Moscow to bump off a former double agent by caving in his skull with a King Dick claw hammer, and then leave it at the scene? Do international test scores suggest an otherworldly degree of reasoning ability on the part of Britons, while Russians are abysmally stupid by comparison? Not that I have ever seen.
Straw claims an ‘ever-present threat of Russia’s efforts to destabilise the UK and European Union.’ Is there anything more destabilizing between the two than Brexit? Whose idea was that – Putin’s?
Mr. Straw claims Russia’s alleged belligerence results from insecurity, a feeling of weakness and is a function of how many more times Russia’s defense budget other countries and alliances spend. How do you figure? The best fighter aircraft the USA can come up with, for more than $80 Million a copy, is the F-35. The F-35 was unable to defeat previous-generation aircraft from its own armed forces. The Sukhoi S-35 costs less than half as much, and while western sites which match the two grant all sorts of ‘excitement points’ to the F-35 for its technology and Beyond-Visual-Range (BVR) performance, the SU-35 is more maneuverable, has a higher rate of climb, more thrust, has double the speed, and while the F-35’s BVR performance is rated much better, its engagement range with its embarked missile is only a bit better than half the SU-35’s.
“However, despite high spending on its military, it is no match for the US, which spends 12 times as much, nor China, which spends four times its budget. Russia’s population is declining, and its GDP per head is just 50th in the world. It feels isolated, surrounded by potentially hostile forces, and weak.”
On the British front, the Royal Navy’s flashy new aircraft carrier actually has no aircraft. Oh, wait, wait – that accusation upsets the British, and they insist the record be corrected to reflect that it can operate helicopters. The designated type is – you guessed it – the F-35, and that flying coke machine has a troublesome delivery rate, to put it in the kindest terms. HMS DAUNTLESS, which cost the British taxpayers a Billion pounds, has spent the last four years in port owing to a shortage of crew members, engine trouble and a class-wide difficulty operating in warm waters. What is Britain going to do – dare Putin to step across the Gulf Stream? Challenge him to an Arctic battle? Small wonder the United States spends 12 times as much, considering the appalling waste of money, and I’m not sure why China’s bigger defense budget is a plus for the west, considering China is a military ally of Russia and regarded by Washington as an enemy.
Again with the “Russia’s population is declining”. Is it? Is it really? Maybe if you are lying on your side while reading the chart – is that your problem, Mr. Straw? Because here are accurate population statistics for Russia, with a trend line included which most definitely trends upward. The Russian population is not declining, is not forecast to decline in the foreseeable future, and you are verifiably full of shit.
“A series of the nation’s actions, from its 2008 invasion of Georgia, to the annexation of Crimea, and the murder of 298 civilians with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, along with those Salisbury poisonings, means that Russia has embarked on actions which collide with western economic and national security interests.”
I don’t know where you got your information on the ‘invasion of Georgia’, but it was actually more of a ‘counterinvasion of Tskhinvali’ based on Mikheil Saakashvili’s lunge at seizing South Ossetia. Had Russia not responded, Saakashvili might well have restored the breakaway republic to Tbilisi’s control by violence – which the west earnestly pretends is not the way to do things, although its views on independence are directly proportional to whether such independence would be a gain for western interests or not.
Like in Crimea, for example. History reflects that Crimea held referendums in 1991 and 1994 which must be viewed as attempts to escape Ukrainian control, and reunification with Russia. In 1991, the region voted by a decisive majority for “‘restoration of the Crimean ASSR as a subject of the USSR and as a party to the Union Treaty’. This coincided with the year of Ukraine’s declaration of independence, and could be regarded as a resolution to remain part of the USSR rather than a rejection of Ukrainian leadership. Ukraine held a referendum in December 1991, and a 60% turnout in Crimea voted by 54% for Ukrainian independence, with Crimea remaining autonomous. There were no such doubts about the 1994 referendum.
“Another Crimean referendum in March 1994 asked three questions: ‘1.3 million voted, 78.4% of whom supported greater autonomy from Ukraine, 82.8% supported allowing dual Russian-Ukrainian citizenship, and 77.9% favored giving Crimean presidential decrees the force of law’. Yet after more political turbulence – with the Crimean parliament voting to oust Meshkov in September – in March 1995 the Ukrainian parliament unilaterally abolished the post of President of Crimea, and scrapped the Crimean constitution. The Crimean parliament was forced to define a new constitution, which the Ukrainian parliament finally ratified in 1998.
So when the interim Ukrainian government today talks about the Crimean parliament’s lack of legislative power – when it comes to appointing a Prime Minister, and when it comes to calling a referendum – there is an argument that this power was taken from Crimeans by Kiev in an underhand, undemocratic, if not entirely illegitimate manner back in 1995.”
135 international observers from 23 nations were accredited to observe the 2014 Crimean referendum, as well as 623 journalists from 169 media outlets. Little is ever mentioned in western commentary of this presence, and the west’s one-trick-pony dodge in votes that it feels confident in advance are not going to go its way is to refuse to even watch the vote take place, then argue it is illegitimate because no western observers showed up. Kind of like the childish belief that closing your eyes makes you invisible.
In the matter of MH-17, also mentioned by Mr. Straw as one of Russia’s many, many crimes, the Dutch prosecutors compel the belief that Britain’s laughable incompetence at building scenarios of Russian evil deeds might be more broadly European in nature. The most recent reports I have seen in the ongoing ‘trial’ reflect such a manifest inability on the part of the prosecution to prove any of its allegations that the strategy now appears to be a charge of ‘conditional intent’ against the four accused. In short, that means they wanted an aircraft to be brought down, and one was, so they are guilty. Proof not required.
Oh, here we go: Sberbank is ‘widely known’ as ‘Putin’s Bank’. Is it?
“Sberbank, which is widely known as “Putin’s bank”, is heavily involved in financing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. Its Vienna-based subsidiary, Sberbank Europe (SBAG), finances deals across Europe that deepen Russia’s geopolitical sphere of influence.”
First I have heard of it, and I’ll bet it is a first for Russians, too. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest this is a clear example of ‘branding’, a technique used to find a popular label which will resonate with consumers, and stick, regardless whether there is any truth to it. The way Starbucks uses round tables because customers who come in alone feel less lonely. True story; there are no ’empty’ seats at a round table. The way the west tried – through Alexey Navalny – to make the label ‘the Party of Crooks and Thieves’ stick to United Russia. They claimed determinedly that the label was widely popular in Russia, but it never was, and eventually the west gave up.
But that should not be an excuse for discouragement. I therefore propose that Lloyds Bank be widely known as ‘BoJo’s Bank’. It even has alliteration! I feel it move me!
Putin’s bank, Mr. Straw tells us, is accused of defrauding its investors. A complicated argument follows, where Sberbank – Oops, I mean ‘Putin’s bank’ – misrepresented collateral and failed to transfer assets. I’ll see your accusation, Jack, and raise you a conviction – in a spectacular example of shitting the bed, the former head of Security and Anti-Fraud at BoJo’s Bank was jailed for defrauding the bank’s investors, in a four-year scam in which she paid herself an extra £2.5 Million for her hard work. Fuck the middleman where bonuses are concerned, am I right? Repentant? Not exactly.
“I saw the opportunity and thought, given the hours I work, I deserve it. If I went to work for another company I would probably be earning four times as much.”
If only that was the worst of it. In 2011, a High Court case against BoJo’s Bank for poor compliance and unfair treatment of customers went against the bank. BoJo’s Bank announced it was setting aside £3.6 billion to cover the cost of compensating customers who were mis-sold PPI (Payment Protection Insurance). It then surreptitiously proceeded to reduce the compensation they offered by using a regulatory provision called “alternative redress” to assume that customers wrongly sold single-premium PPI policies would have bought a cheaper, regular premium PPI policy instead. In 2008 the British charity ‘War on Want’ revealed that BoJo’s Bank was the arms trade’s second-largest investor among High Street banks. In 2009, the BBC’s program ‘Panorama’ covertly filmed an employee of BoJo’s Bank telling a customer how several mechanisms could be used to make their transactions invisible to the UK tax authorities. In 2013, BoJo’s Bank was fined £28m for “serious failings” in relation to bonus schemes for sales staff, which pressured staff to hit sales targets or risk being demoted and have their pay cut. Only a year later, BoJo’s Bank was fined £218 million for its part in the Libor global rate-fixing scandal. All the above is from Wikipedia, which still insists in referring to the institution as ‘Lloyds Bank’ although it is widely known as ‘BoJo’s Bank’. I yield the floor to Mr. Straw; your move, Jack.
We could go on with this, but I consider the comparison drawn and the point made. Attempts by HM Government to smear Russia are unfounded in reality, and rely solely on Goebbels-like repetition of propaganda to convince readers that they must be true. Scenarios constructed to illustrate Russian assassinations in the UK are laughably amateurish and as cheesy as Red Leicester. Government-insider tales of rampant corruption by Russian banks ignore staggering and demonstrably unrepentant corruption in Britain’s most hallowed financial institutions.
This is just official Britain striving to reassure the United States that it can still play a relevant and important role in influencing the European Union against Russia after Brexit.