St Petersburg, the Tsars’ seat and still the most civilised city, the culture capital of Russia, enjoys its wonderful Yuletide. Fluffy snow has covered the streets, decorated the hills and seashore, softened the air, and turned this fascinating city into a winter fairy tale. Christmas trees adorn the city squares and private dwellings. The magnificent imperial cathedrals are open for prayer, confession, liturgy and communion. In its Opera House, the best performers sing Wagner’s Ring and Verdi’s Aida; the ballet stages the Nutcracker; Beethoven’s Ninth extolls Joy in the Concert Hall; the Hermitage Museum presents Raphael followers with paintings brought from all over Europe, as if the plague had never ventured out of Wuhan. It’s not only art Leningrad is known for: the colossal nuclear icebreaker Arctica was launched recently from its shipyard to make the ice-bound seas navigable year round. Shops and restaurants serve their plentiful customers. Schools function as usual. Masks are supposedly obligatory on public transport and in shops, but people take it easy. The main thing the Russians have learnt from the last years of Soviet decay is how to sabotage the stupid decisions of the authorities, and now they fully employ this art. They do not fight; they do not quarrel; they say “yes” and ignore the corona prohibitions as they ignored Brezhnev’s rules. It is probably one of the best places to be in the world ruled by Bill Gates and his Ethiopian WHO supremo. Still, Russia is under threat, not from a new virus mutation, but from something much worse.
The projected victory of Joe Biden immediately revealed the choice of the Free World’s Enemy No. 1. Until December 13th, it was China or Iran. On December 14th, the votes were certified, opening the way for Biden’s inauguration; and on the very same day the alleged hack of US government networks was declared the Russian Hack. President Trump pooh-poohed this claim: “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality”, he tweeted, but Joe Biden immediately slapped his wrist. Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia!
Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the leader of Israel Lobby, tweeted that Trump’s comment was a “scandalous betrayal of our national security” that “sounds like it could have been written in the Kremlin.” You get the message: if you do not call for action against Russia, you’ve got to be a Russian agent.
As if on cue, US politicians of both main parties proceeded to call for vengeance to be meted out on Russia. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the first who attributed the hack to Russia. The Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said the alleged Russian hack was ‘virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the United States’. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican senator and leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted that “America must retaliate, and not just with sanctions.” It is an act of war, he told newspapers. A Democratic Colorado congressman Jason Crow compared the hack to Pearl Harbor, implying the US may and should nuke a couple of Russian cities as they did with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
There is good reason for Russians to worry as the Americans are likely to “retaliate”. In 2019, the US launched an unprecedented cyber-attack targeting Russia’s electric power grid online, as the New York Times reported. That was ‘retaliation’ for alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 elections, debunked since then by Mueller’s investigation. That was under Trump, whom Biden described as Putin’s puppy. Now Biden says he will put Moscow on a tighter leash. Scott Ritter sensibly reflected that if ‘Biden seeks to put a shorter leash on Russia, he may find Putin’s bite is far worse than his bark’. Perhaps. Putin is a soft-spoken guy with a big stick, and such people are dangerous enemies.
This week, the US applied new sanctions against 45 advanced Russian industries including Rosatom, the leading builder of nuclear power stations, and Soyuz rocket maker Progress. The Western-dominated Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Russia wouldn’t be able to use its name, flag or anthem at the next two Olympics or at any world championships for the next two years. The US closed down two of its consulates in Russia, leaving only the Moscow Embassy open. The embassy may also be closed or slimmed down for its persistent interference in Russian internal affairs.
Russia might well feel herself threatened and besieged just as the Soviet Union was, even though in transition to her present state Russia withdrew its troops from dozens of countries including East Germany and the Baltic states and has fulfilled every wish of anti-Soviet politicians since 1991. It is so unfair, for the USSR offered an alternative to Western ways of development, as opposed to Putin’s Russia that subscribes to every notion of Western discourse. 9/11, Moon landings, whatever – official Russia accepts the official version.
Russia agrees to the climate agenda, and Putin sounds like a true believer holding that the world will become uninhabitable unless CO2 emissions are lowered. Global warming does not threaten Russia at all, for it is a northern country where temperatures today go down to minus 50 degrees Centigrade (-58 F). It can stand a lot more warming, but Putin abides by Greta’s rules.
Russia agrees with the European (and Biden’s) approach to the Corona crisis. It is not a safe haven for Covid sceptics. Putin thinks that a vaccine is useful and necessary, and Russia started a mass vaccination campaign at the beginning of December. The only difference is that he supports Russian vaccines, and they are cheaper, less ambitious, easier to handle and are generally better and safer than the RNA-introducing Pfizer and Moderna. Oliver Stone took a Russian vaccine!
Putin approved a deal between Sputnik-V producers and the Anglo-Swedish AstraZeneca. Sputnik is better, but “the move is seen as a long-awaited vote of confidence by a Western manufacturer in Sputnik V, which is the target of a foreign-backed smear campaign.” Sputnik-V has been smeared all right. One example. It is the most popular vaccine in Africa, and the ferociously anti-Russian Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) tells us that “Russian Disinformation Popularizes Sputnik V Vaccine in Africa”. Anything Russians say is Disinformation, you know. Still Putin continues to manage within these harsh limits. He is not a Covid sceptic, no way
If you are looking for a stiff upper lip response to Covid, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is a better choice. He refused vaccination for himself, but allowed it for his citizens, both with the Russian vaccine and the Western ones. (Actually, Putin also refused vaccination, for Sputnik V is recommended to people between 18 and 60.) His country, Belarus, had no lockdowns, its churches and theatres remained open; schools and offices functioned as usual. He was punished by foreign-financed and foreign-organised after-election protests that almost unseated him, though his victory was more plausible than that of Biden. In order to squash the protests, he was forced to accept some Corona restrictions; masks were introduced but weren’t enforced. The world would be different if Lukashenko were to rule Russia, as many Russians had hoped for, but it didn’t come to pass. Putin is much softer towards the West, but he is still blamed for everything the West doesn’t like.
Whatever Putin does meets with US disapproval. In the conclusion of the recent Karabagh war, Russia saved the Armenians from total crushing defeat and allowed the Armenian separatists to preserve and secure their towns and villages in this area of Azerbaijan. Still, France and the US, the countries with big Armenian diasporas, are unhappy and try to undermine the armistice by encouraging Armenian nationalists.
At the same time, Germany opened a Second Front against Russia. While it took three years for the US to open a Second Front against Germany in 1944, this time the Germans did not wait a single day. Well, Germans have a long obsession with fighting Russia, and perhaps they think this time it will be successful, with the US and England on their side and Russia quite isolated.
They picked up the old British claim that Russians employ internationally forbidden chemical weapons. In 2018, the Brits claimed the Russian GRU (Military Intelligence) poisoned a swapped traitor, Mr Skripal, with a forbidden nerve agent, the deadly Novichok, a weapon of mass destruction allegedly invented by the Soviets. (I wrote about this event). It was quite a fanciful claim; now we would call it ‘fake news’, for it is not realistic to employ a weapon of mass destruction against a person with such meagre results (Skripal survived the alleged attack). The Brits did it in order to involve the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and accuse the Russians not just of killing, but also of a serious war crime, turning the founding member of the UN and a permanent member of the Security Council into a rogue nation.
Now, the Germans have picked up the British script using the alleged poisoning of the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. They claim President Putin personally ordered the FSB (the Russian equivalent of the FBI, a competitor to the GRU) to poison Navalny with the fearful Novichok, and that they tried to poison him for three years, but repeatedly failed. At the last attempt, it was said, they poisoned him, but he was flown to Germany where good doctors of the Charité hospital saved his life. Presence of Novichok had been established, according to the Germans, by their army experts, and confirmed separately by Swedish and French labs. Again, the OPCW was involved. None of these reports by military labs have been made public; none was released to Russian authorities. Russia is a member of the OPCW, but Germany stipulated that the military reports should not be shown to Russia, and so they weren’t. You should trust the word of a gentleman.
The long saga of the Navalny poisoning began in August (I wrote about its first season) and now it has been revived. The latest developments took place last week. The British medical journal The Lancet has published the medical report of the Charité clinic. It debunks some of Navalny’s claims. Navalny said that he was poisoned twice, once before his flight, once in Omsk hospital. The Times wrote: “Russian spies tried to kill Putin’s fiercest critic with the deadly nerve agent Novichok before he could be flown to Berlin, Western intelligence sources reveal”. Nothing of the sort, say the German medicos. In Omsk hospital, Navalny received the same treatment he got in Berlin, and anyway he was overseen by German doctors. The report says Navalny suffered from a poisoning, but there is no reference to Novichok except for the latter quote from the military source. Here is more about it.
Meanwhile Navalny and his people staged a telephone conversation with an FSB agent who was allegedly involved in the affair. It sounds extremely phoney, for we do not really know who talks with whom, time readings are contradictory, and what the “FSB agent” says makes little sense, but gives reason for much mirth. FSB poisoned and laundered Navalny’s underwear? Bollocks! As with all investigations of the MI6 tool, BellingCat, it offers a wealth of detail but makes little sense.
However, the Navalny story on top of the Skripal one will probably be used to undermine further Russia’s international position. If you throw in the sanctions, cyber-war and general poisoning of relations, we can’t look with great hope to the future, as we usually do at this time of year. It is dark, but perhaps it will become darker.
The harbinger of darkness is the new mutant virus in England. What they say about it makes little sense and has even less evidential basis. Its ‘appearance’ means there will be no way out of eternal Covid hell. There will always be new mutations, new restrictions, new documents and limitations. Bill Gates became rich by his updates; now he intends to update the virus and its vaccine annually. What’s more, they say children can carry the new virus. Probably it is an attempt to enforce distance-learning and to close schools, to finish off mass education. Our betters think our children should not study that much; it is enough if they can read what their smartphones tell them. At the same time it will separate the old and the young; let the old die in loneliness, let the young ones be indoctrinated in the New Normal.
The Great Reset, Green Deal, New Normal – if this is the future, why should we care if a good total nuclear war wipes mankind out? A terrible end may be better than endless terror. On the other hand, God created us and provided for us; he won’t suffer us to perish in lockdowns or other man-made disasters. Merry Christmas to you, and a Happy New Year, despite all the ill omens!