Category Archives: World events

Turkey and Russia are on the same side.

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Turkey and Russia have joined forces to fight against ISIS. Russian military spokesmen have said that the Turkish Air Force has carried out joint air strikes with the Russian Air Force against ISIS targets. This is a welcome development. ISIS is ghastly. It is roundly condemned by all right thinking Muslims.

A few weeks ago the Russian propaganda machine was accusing Ankara of backing Daesh. The Kremlin said that Turkey was purchasing oil from ISIS and assisting ISIS. This was a blatant lie. Why would the Turkish Government fund an organisation that kept setting off bombs aimed at Turkish civilians? It failed the reality test. All of a sudden these ludicrous claims are no longer made. The Turkish Government was demonised as being full of religious maniacs. Suddenly Moscow says that Ankara is reasonable. Why would the Turkish State back ISIS one week and bomb it the next? It does not make sense. Moscow puts out the daftest falsehoods. Many intelligent Russian people fall for these flagrant lies. Many useful idiots in Western countries think they are clever and audacious for believing in claims made by a government that is notorious for telling provable lies and has killed – literally killed –  its own free media.

Note that Turkey is a NATO country. Moscow often says that NATO is aggressive. If this is so then why does Russia co-operate with Turkey on this mission?

Moscow says there are no moderate rebels. They are all terrorists. One can only overthrow a violently oppressive government by the use of force. Some use of force is ethical such as killing soldiers in combat. SOme use of force is unethical such as willfully killing civilians or the use of torture. It is extremely well documented that the Syrian military and ISIS have both used torture on a gross scale and deliberately killed civilians by the tens of thousand. Moscow rightly highlights the countless crimes committed by ISIS. Moscow then denies the many, many atrocities committed by the tyrant Assad. By denying these crimes, providing intelligence, providing diplomatic cover, funding the Ba’athists and arming the Ba’athists the Russian Government is partly responsible for all these crimes.

Let us not forget what started this conflict. Decades of oppression by the Assad dynasty caused fury among the downtrodden Syrian populace. There was an insane level of adulation for the leader. The cult of personality extended to people swearing fealty to Bashir Al Assad before every football match. Not to Syria but to him personally. The Syrian Constitution stated that only a person over 35 could become president. The constitution was violated to allow the 34 year old to become president.

The Syrian regime severely mistreated its people for decades. The United Nations says that there is a right to rebel when one is oppressed. Putin supports Lenin. Was Lenin a terrorists for overthrowing the democratic government in Russia? He certainly was. How about those democrats who overthrow the absolutism of the Tsar? Were the terrorists? Putin would probably say yes. He likes unenlightened dictatorship and detests free societies.

There was no free media in Syria and is none now. There was no right to protest. Because the government was so arrantly oppressive people rose up. ISIS is monstrous. Some people support it because they subscribed to its ideology. Others back it because they reason that the Ba’athists are even worse. Moreover, because of the numerous massacres of Sunni civilians carried out by Ba’athists some reason that Da’esh is the only thing standing between them and Assad’s pogromists.

People lived in poverty and had no civil rights. They hoped for something better. Their pleas for peaceful reform were organised. The Ba’athists used unfair trials, unlimited espionage, detention with trial, torture and unlawful killing to control the people. Unarmed, peaceful protesters were shot dead in their hundreds. This happened time and again. That is what caused the insurrection. The Ba’athist blatantly oppressive policies were fulsomely supported by Moscow. Putin backed the Ba’athists to the hilt. Because Assad had arms and money from Russia he was less inclined to reform. This put his enemies back up. They were less likely to parley. Assad has always negotiated in bad faith. He constantly promised reform. The Turkish Government had a very cordial relationship with him in 2011. When the demonstrations broke out the Turkish people were increasingly dismayed to see their Syrian neighbours murdered by the Ba’athists merely for asking for human rights. Assad vowed reform. Ankara pressed him to make genuine reform and not pretend to make reform. As he repeatedly broke promises to do this Ankara became infuriated. He did the same about ceasefires.

As Daesh is being bombed by Turkey and Russia Daesh will be largely defeated. Terrorist organisations can seldom be comprehensively defeated. It will not be smashed in a decisive battle. It will be very slowly strangled. It may continue in some form for decades. It might be mainly crushed now but there could be a recrudescence of Daesh activity in several years time.

 

Whither Syria?

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Aleppo has fallen. This is a step forward for the Ba’athists. This is more of a psychological gain than a strategic one. ISIS, the FSA and others will fight on in the countryside.

The Ba’athists have slaughtered many civilians since they took over as attested to by the UN. Russia is blocking a French proposal to send UN observers to Aleppo. WHy? It can only be because Moscow does not want even more incontrovertible evidence that their client Assad is presiding over the mass murder of civilians.

I have said this for over 5 years. The Ba’athists will prevail. They now control the largest city in Syria. It may be years before they run the whole country. ISIS will be master of some of the eastern desert. Turcoman militias may run certain enclaves. The Kurdish separatists may rule their bailiwick.

The Russian ambassador to Turkey has been shot dead. The murder of a diplomat is never acceptable. International law has forbade it for centuries. Diplomats are there to negotiate and we cannot do this if diplomats are not safe to parley. Putin will go ape and send more men to Syria. No doubt he will accuse some on the Turkish Government of being in cahoots with the terrorists. This makes no sense since Turkey is being bombed by ISIS and Ankara;s policy towards Russia is one of rapprochement. But logic is never part of Putin’s explanation for things.

Russia, China, Iraq and Iran are all deeply committed to the Ba’athists. They do not give a damn about international law or human rights. They will back Dr Al Assad to the hilt. Western countries care about international law and human rights somewhat. They sometimes downplay wrongdoing by their allies. They are discomfited because they people they would like to win find themselves co operating with ISIS. This conflict will continue as long as outside forces fund and arm the belligerents. The protagonists on the rebel side receive succour from Saudi Arabia and other SUnni governments such as Qatar.

The Lebanese Civil War lasted 15 years. This conflict could rage on for that long too. The country could empty out more. Israel may back one side or other. I reckon this war will drag on for a further two years but not have a definite end. It will fizzle out rather than end with a formal agreement or surrender.

This blog would like to see a free Syria. That means on where every man and woman has the right to free expression, to vote in fair elections and to live free from fear. THE problem is all this is very unlikely to come about. It would be better if neither the Ba’athists nor ISIS existed. That being so the Ba’athists are the lesser of two evils. The word evil here is not used in a metaphorical sense or unthinkingly as part of a figure of speech. The Ba’ath Party really is hugely evil. I detest Assad bigly. His regime is so foul that it drove people of moderate opinion into the arms of ISIS. There are decent people on both sides. If they could negotiate a settlement that would be ideal. That shall not occur. Even if an agreement were reached ISIS would never accept it. Assad is forked tongued. He has broken every promise he ever made. There were countless vows to provide real reform. There were many broken ceasefires. His government lies endlessly about holding political prisoners, about holding free elections, about using torture on an industrial scale about the murder of civilians. Therefore he cannot be trusted. It is lugubrious to reflect that this thoroughly wicked and disingenuous man represents the better of the options open to Syria.

What is happening in global affairs?

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ISIS is on the run. The are under its control is shrinking. It is being pummelled by the US Air Force, the Russian Air Force, the Syrian Military, the Iraqi Military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Peshmegras and Hizbollah. It would be rash to write ISIS off so soon. As with many insurgencies this one will probably not be definitely defeated at a certain date. This is not a conventional army that will surrender. This insurgency will peter out. It may lay dragon’s teeth. The revolt could come back any time.

The Ba’athists are gradually gaining the upper hand in Syria.

Russia is enjoying success insofar as it has helped to beat ISIS. Russia has saved its darling in Syria. Russia’s grasp of Crimea is very firm. NATO countries are doing precious little to expel Russia from this illegal occupation.

The take over of Crimea was a maskirovka. That means a deception. Russian troops went in in disguise. The Kremlin told the most barefaced lies pretending that these men were not Russian soldiers. The evidence became so irrefutable that the Kremlin went through a volte face. The presence of Russian soldiers was then trumpeted. This proves that Russian Government statements are entirely untrustworthy. Yet the Kremlin maintains that there are no Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine. The proof that there are Russian soldiers in the Ukraine is incontrovertible. The Russian Soldiers’ Mothers Union talks about it. there are social media posts, funerals etc…. Soldiers go on leave to fight in the Ukraine. That there are Russian troops in the Ukraine is beyond argument. Despite all this the most flagrant lies are unblushingly told.

However, other things are not so rosy for Russia. The economy is still in parlous condition. This is as a result of sanctions which show little sign of being lifted and low prices for oil and gas. The hydrocarbon prices are not rock bottom as they were a year ago. They have risen but only moderately. It is very unlikely that these prices will rise to the heady days of 2008.

Routing ISIS has redounded to Russia’s favour in some respects. On the other hand this means that NATO countries have less need of Russia’s co-operation. This means thaat Moscow has less leverage with NATO. Russia had rescued its man President Al Assad which has been very costly for Russia. It has also alienated many Arab countries which detest Dr Al Assad. Russia has troops stationed in Syria but its ground forces are no longer battling ISIS. These troops do little for Russian security. It helps to maintain the illusion of being a superpower.

In Armenia some people have protested against the alliance with Russia. Some Armenians rightly recognise that Moscow wants to keep the conflict going. How can Russia say she is a stalwart ally of Armenia while selling US$ 3 Bn of weapons to Azerbaijan? If the Nagorno Karabakh Conflict ended then Russia would be enfeebled. These two countries would no longer be bidding for Russian backing. They would no longer be buying arms from Russia in such great quantities. Peace in the Causcasus would be a calamity for Putin’s neo-Soviet vision. So much for him being a peacemaker!

The Ukraine Conflict is bubbling on with little sign of ending. It is a question of determination. Putin considers this to be vital. He is willing to suffer in order to achieve his goals there. There is discontent in Russia about this but not enough to impel him to change course. Russian media is entirely positive about the government. The lead item on the news is always what the president said or did that day. The government is never criticised. Ukrainians who do not want to be annexed by Russia are called fascists as are Russians who do not want a war against the Ukraine. The Russian public are told that the Ukrainian forces are deliberately killing civilians every day. The Russian forces never kill civilians even by accident – according to Russian media. NATO is funding and backing the Ukrainian military say the Russian media – which is true. There are no Russian forces in the Ukraine – it is an internal conflict. This is the myth put about by the Kremlin. Television stations and radio stations are mouthpieces for Putin. The newspapers are just the Kremlin’s typewriters. The Kremlin claims there are no Russian soldiers in the Ukraine. The Kremlin denies ever sending weapons to the Ukraine. They contend that all the arms of the pro Russian rebels are Soviet era weapons left over there before 1991.  Countless images of weapons of post 1991 Russian manufacture in the hands of pro Russian militia hands somehow do not count. How have the pro Moscow militias not run out of ammunition? This is not explained.

The Kremlin goes by the Big Lie theory of public relations. If a lie is endlessly repeated  boldly enough then many people will believe it. Their policy is to deny, deny, deny no matter how blatant the evidence. Much of the Russian public is credulous and relies entirely on the extremely biased media. There is no independent media in Russia. Independent journalists have been threatened with death over the phone. They are harassed and robbed. SOme of them have been murdered and the killers are never caught. Russians who recognise how dishonest, aggressive and idiotic their government is find it wiser not to speak out.

The Russian media is risibly partisan. It is like Fox News. Government spokesmen are accorded the most fawning treatment. They are asked pea roller questions. Doubt is never cast on any government statement or action. Contrary opinions are not engaged with.

When the dishonesty and immorality of the Kremlin is proved beyond any doubt at all the Kremlin’s response is tu quoque. They will point to mendacity and skullduggery by the United States, the United Kingdom and other Western countries. This argument does not make the Kremlin’s actions legal or moral. The comparisons are often specious. The USA has been arming the Ukraine. That is no secret: the US announces it in Congress. The US Government has told falsehoods but not about the Ukraine.

Any exposure of illegality by Moscow is put down as ‘a provocation’. The wrongdoing is never admitted to be on the part of the Russian State. It is always blamed on other countries.

Kim Philby gave a speech to members of the German Secret Police in the 1980s. This British agent for the Soviets revealed their methodology. He told the Staasi to never, ever admit wrongdoing. If you are caught as a spy deny it with your last breath. Even if they show you a document in your own handwriting – say that it is a forgery. This sums up Moscow’s approach even now. Evidence no matter how utterly convincing is always claimed to be a hoax. Film footage is faked: so it is claimed. Massacres by the Ba’athists are always blamed on the Syrian rebels. The downing of Malaysia Airlines was pinned on the Ukrainian military despite the fact that the Ukrainian military had never shot at a plane whereas the pro Moscow rebels shot down two aircraft the day before.

ANother tactic is to blame others for one’s own vices. A Russian warplane flies very low over a US Navy ship several times. The ship was in international waters. The Kremlin then accused the ship of behaving aggressively. It was the plane and not the ship that behaved in an aggressive manner.

The US is accused of backing terrorists for wanting the mass murdering tyrant Assad to stand down. The Ukraine is entirely democratic and Putin supporting illegal fighters there is not terrorism.

Luckily for Moscow there are plenty of useful idiots in Western countries. These people are determined to believe the worst of their own governments. They happily swallow any slander against their own government. They are willing victims for Moscow’s public relations team.

The Duma is as compliant as the media. The parties in the Duma are all pro-Putin. Government ministers will never be asked awkward questions by public representatives. There is very little chance that the parties that work for the deep state will ever lose an election. Alexei Navalny has emphasised how the government rigs elections. Real opposition candidates such as Navalny are not permitted to stand for election.

The Kremlin says that the Ukrainian Government is illegitimate and its an American puppet. If that were so then Russia should break of diplomatic relations with Kiev. The claim that the Ukrainian Government is illegal is hypocritical. The Russian Ambassador there presented his credential to the said president. Putin accepted the credentials of the Ukrainian Ambassador in Moscow.

There is little hope of shifting Putin and his coterie. The FSB backs him. He is their creature. The FSB is the Russian deep state. Apart from Gorbachev and Yeltsin all Russian/Soviet leaders since Lenin have risen to office by working for the secret service. Brezhnev and Khrushchev rose to prominence by leading purges. Gorbachev and Yeltsin were aberrations. The deep state does not want such dangerously liberal leaders again.

The Russian Government is right in thinking that NATO countries will tire of the Ukraine conflict. They will also want to lift sanctions for economic reasons. They may be able to prise apart from EU countries that are inclined to relax sanctions. A deal will be worked out. Russia will gain some sort of sovereignty over Crimea. A new government in Kiev will be more amenable to Russia. There will be more autonomy for eastern Ukraine and the Russian language will have co -equal status. Other post Soviet countries will have been intimidated. It will be a territorial gain for Russia. It will boost the standing of President Putin. It will buoy up those who wish to challenge American paramountcy.

What would defeat such expansionism? It would have to be iron will. The will to maintain and even tighten sanctions would do it. It would require the resolve to fund the Ukrainian military to make this very costly for Russia and to cause problems for Russia in other areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey: how not to launch a coup.

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The military coup in Turkey was an ignominious failure. It was a case study in how not to execute a coup. The plotters made several fundamental errors. Here are their very basic mistakes in summary:

  1. They did not get most of the top brass on board.

2. They did not neutralise Erdogan and the Prime Minister.

3. They did not move decisively enough against demonstrators.

4. They did not get the green light from other mighty countries such as the United States.

5. They did not achieve a fait accompli.

 

Even I could have organised a coup d’etat better than that.

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Turkey had undergone three military coups before. Besides that there have been two occasions in which the officer corps told the civilian government to change course or be overthrown. On both occasions it worked. Moreover, Ataturk’s  16 year rule was effectively military government enough though the Father of the Turks wore civilian clothing whilst he was president.

All Turkish boys are conscripted into the armed forces. Wealthy boys can pay to do a cushy one month pretend service.  Those who excel in national service are invited to apply for officer training. The officer corps will screen out practising Muslims. Someone can call himself a Muslim and have a party at Eid but if he goes to the mosque his application will not be taken further. If he refuses a beer this will be a tacit reason to reject his application. Army officers must be Kemalists. They have to believe in the separation of mosque and state.

The conspirators were disenchanted with President Erodgan for a number of reasons. His AK Party is religious leaning. There is much furphy talked about how he is an Islamic fundamentalist. He has introduced laws which go against liberalism. His Justice and Development Party has banned alcohol in some localities. Secularists say this is the thin end of the wedge. In the end alcohol will be outlawed throughout the country. He sought to criminalise adultery though that failed. He encouraged women to wear headscarves like his wife. He has been an outspoken supporter of freedom for Palestine.  He has called for the ouster of the Syrian tyrant. The Turkish Government has been accused of being in chaoots with ISIS. This makes little sense. WHy would Erdogan support a movement that was bombing Turkey? Turkey fell out with Israel when Israeli soldiers killed several Turkish aid workers. The PKK has resumed its rebellion. Erdogan has not defeated this. With Iraqi Kurdistan effectively independent and Syrian Kurdistan largely independent it seemed that Turkish Kurdistan could go the same way.

Lately the Turkish Government sought to mend fences with Russia and Israel.

Was the military annoyed with Erdogan for falling out with these countries? Or was it for seeking reconciliation? Whatever Erdogan’s Syrian policy is it has not worked. He wanted real reform in 2011. Then he wanted Assad to go when Assad kept breaking solemn promises of reform. Turkey has been bombed by Syrian jets but not responded. There was tension with Russia. A Russian jet was shot down over Turkey and Russia’s sabre rattling worried the Turks. The Turkish economy has slowed. Tourism has all but ground to a halt.

R T Erdogan says he stands for democracy. Such blandishments are not very credible. He has degraded the independence of the judiciary. He has also muzzled the media.

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  1. The high command was not united. The Turkish Government has uncovered conspiracies before. It has removed officers suspected of disloyalty. They have been replaced by men who are more reliable.

Every time plotters approach someone else about joining the plot they risk the plot being revealed to the president. The plotters obviously did not bring too many people on board. Perhaps they approached some to see what their attitude would be to overthrowing the government and found themselves rebuffed.  In previous coups the high command moved as one. Democracy has been there for 33 years so is quite deeply entrenched. The AK Party is fairly popular especially among the rural working class. Until recently there was very healthy economic growth. The last coup in 1980 occurred during a time of hyper inflation.

The plotters did not have civilian accomplices. If they had brought another party in it might have worked. The plotters did not have a military man either whom they intended to install as interim president. Their national peace council did not reveal itself. If the junta had presented itself then this would have made it more real in the popular mind.

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THEY DID NOT NEUTRALISE ERDOGAN.

The plotters had to be prepared to kill people. If you are waving guns around and threatening to shoot you need to be willing to make good on your threats. The conspirators clearly were sincere. Indeed over 265 people were killed in a few hours.

The plotters needed to arrest the president and prime minister or kill them. Erdogan was on holiday at Marmaris. His personal security detail is very loyal to him. They could not be brought into the plot. As the head of state remained free he was able to broadcast defiant messages and rally support.

The putschists were unwilling to go the whole hog and kill the president. They may have reasoned that other heads of state do not take kindly to a president being assassinated. It would have martyred Erdogan. Many successful coups have involved the slaying of the head of state. The plotters were chary of raising the stakes. Because they did not go the whole hog they demonstrated a lack of commitment. This led to their downfall.

Erdogan played a blinder. He returned to Istanbul asap and made a speech in the airport. He called people onto the streets. He calculated that the plotters did not have the bottle to open fire on mass demonstrations. Previous coups have been faced down like this as in Russia in 1991. He was astute enough not to call upon supporters of the AK Party as such which is controversial. He presented it as a bid to save democracy and thus it was a cause that mattered to people who support the People’s Republican Party, the National Movement Party, the Left Party and others.

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THEY DID NOT MOVE DECISIVELY AGAINST DEMONSTRATORS

The conspirators correctly surmised that protesters would seek to gather in Taksim Square and other places. They therefore had troops stationed there.

The army was hesitant about opening fire on the crowd. The military is no longer so ruthless. They no longer expect immunity. The 1980 plotters were put on trial a few years ago.

 

Had the plotters been willing to shoot a few protesters right at the start it might have prevented large crowds from forming. Too many people congregated to deal with. If they had nipped it in the bud things might have turned out right for the coup plotters. A whiff of grapeshot could have dispersed early demonstrators.

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THEY DID NOT GET THE GREEN LIGHT

Unlike 1980 they do not appear to have secured the imprimatur of Washington or any other government. The CIA was involved in the 1980 coup d’etat.

The US is wedded to democracy in Turkey. It has a decent relationship with Erdogan.

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NO FAIT ACCOMPLI

If they had effectively seized power they could have said to the world that a new government now exists and the old one does not. It would therefore require determination on behalf of the international community to oust the provisional government. This determination would probably not exist.

The plotters vacillated. They were not committed enough. Had they killed 2 of the right people then 265 people might not have died and the coup could still have succeeded.

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This is value neutral commentary. I do not think that Erdogan is as bad as he is painted. Now he shall probably tighten his grasp on power. It may become vicelike. Any military officer who is suspected of possibly being anti-AK Party may well be sacked.

 

 

 

What shall transpire in Syria.

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Conflict weariness is setting in.

Russia and the USA are closer to each other’s position than before. Ironically Russia is lest insistent that Assad stay as the USA is now less insistent that he go. Russia can no longer financially afford to prop up its chum. The Saudis can no longer afford to bankroll their proxies. As the sanctions have been lifted on Iran an importan ally of the Ba’athists has suddenly got more lolly.

The Kurds have been virtually independent in northern Iraq for 25 years. The also control north-est Syria. The US has built an airbase to assist them. The Kurdish militias will not be easily crushed. The US has assisted the Kurdish independence movement to the chargin of Ankara. The smartest things the Kurds could do is to strike a deal with the Ba’athists in Damascus. They will fight against ISIS in return for semi-independence in the north-eastern zone of Syria. At the moment the Kurds have an uneasy truce with ISIS. The Turkish Government dislikes there being an autonomous Kurdish state and may crush it. If the Kurds help smash Daesh the Ba’athists may well renege on their deal and them move to repress the Kurdish statelet.

However, for the Turkish Government Daesh is the gravest threat. They can live with the Ba’athists as they did till 5 years ago. It is hard to remember they once had a cordial relationship. They can also tolerate an autonomous Kurdish region as they have doen in Iraq since 1991.

This is the war of all against all.

No one will get an ideal outcome. As I have always said the Ba’athists will likely survive. Daesh will be largely defeated but perhaps set off bombs from time to time. The Free Syrian Army shall flee abroad. The Kurds will extend their homeland.

The Syrian Government will have its relationship with Moscow and Teheran cemented. It make give Russia more bases and give Iran bases. The relationship with Iraq will also be copper fastened.

The EU will be keen to end this conflict because of the spate of refugees it is producing.

Russian foreign policy shall become more cautious.

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Russian foreign policy has been expansionist for the past two decades. Prior to that there was no such thing as Russian foreign policy since it was Soviet policy before 1991.

Russia had sponsored breakaways such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia. She declared war on Georgia and despite winning has very little to show for it. There has been the same situation in Transdnistria. Russia has annexed Crimea and occupied the east of the Ukraine. She has constantly violated the air space of other countries such as the Baltic republics. This aggressive policy was feasible because high oil prices enabled Russia to splurge on military hardware she did not need. Russia is already Brobdingnagians and is not in urgent need of yet more land. Only a megalomaniac would be desperate to acquire more versts.

There is a glut of energy on the market. The United States now sells crude oil abroad for the first time in 40 years. This shall cause the world price to plummet further. Russia’s demographic death spiral means that her pension system is unsustainable. There will be more immigration from former Soviet countries and even China to keep her economy functioning.

The Kremlin has squandered billions on causing a civil war in the Ukraine. This has persisted for almost three years without a clear victory. Russia still only controls a small section of the east of the country. She has also wasted billions of dollars propping up a tyrant in Syria who has committed several atrocities against his own people. This is not to imply that all of Russia’s foes are saintly.

Syria is run by a clique of spooks which perpetuates a demented and infantile personality cult around a man who is hyper sensitive to witticisms. It is small wonder that Putin has fellow feeling for Dr Assad.

Putin is singularly malapert. His attitude and demeanour speak of someone who suffers from a profound sense of worthlessness. He is obliged to always seek validation by being the most muscular, by having the most weapons, by conquering more land, by being the most threatening, by being the most indifferent to civilian suffering by being the touchiest about criticism. He does public homage to Stalin.

The way to make Putin and his coeterie change course is by making these conflicts more costly. If Putin can see that his country is suffering considerably and not making any progress then he shall seek a face saving compromise. As wikileaks revealed Putin is not the almighty figure that his image makers pretend. He acts in consensus with others in his camarilla. The Russian deep state is composed of other honchoes from the FSB. The espionage-hydrocarbon complex is what rules Russia. This venal cabal may indulge in extreme nationalist discourse but it prefers to bank in Switzerland. These flights of rhetoric are for the masses. They can be fobbed off with such oratory. The oilygarchs want to distract the lumpenproletariat from what is really happening. You may say this seems like the United States. There is some verity in that. This reminds me or Orwell’s barb – you could not tell man from pig and pig from man. The country that once claimed to be the sworn enemy of American capitalism and militarism has come to ape it. The country that prided itself on egalitarianism has become outright inegalitarian.

The Russian budget deficit is already huge. It is about to become frightening. Western countries will not bail Russia out. The IMF and the World Bank will be unsympathetic. Russia has not developed transparent institutions. Russians rightly mistrust their own institutions such as the police, the courts and the banks. Those who can put their capital abroad. Who will assist Russian in her hour of fiscal need? There is a possibility that the Chinese shall ride to the rescue. But they will not do so out of compassion. They will drive a hard bargain. They may wish to save Russia so that they have another partner against the United States. The other BRICS are unlikely to that friendly or indeed affluent enough to offer much.

Putin shall then be compelled to decide – does he prefer to fight in Syria or the Ukraine? He will not be able to fund both conflicts. Ukraine is adjacent to Russia. Syria is unimportant to Russia beyond being a place for naval bases which could be located elsewhere. Assad is going to survive in some form so in that sense mission is accomplished. However, Russia will have stirred the hornet’s nest in terms of ISIS. ISIS will doubtless launch attacks in Russia as they have in France.

It is possible that Russia is compelled to withdraw from both conflicts. If air strikes by other countries such as the US, France and the UK are heavy enough they may make Russian air support superfluous. Russian can pull out of Syria saying – I told you so all along, we needed to save the Ba’athists.

Russia deserves better than the war mongering dunderhead who is chief of state. However, dissent is clamped down on. The Russian media is pliant. There is little sign of a credible opposition. The parties in the Duma are all shades of the same hardline nationalist chauvinist trope. A post vinicular Khodorkovsky is now abroad to fund the opposition. The  problem is that the genuine opposition parties are tiny and they are infiltrated with government informers. The government will use every trick in the book to prevent real opposition parties from participating in elections. The opposition are widely seen as mimsies in Russia. There is much animosity against these liberal voices rather than the kleptoctats who caused the current fiasco. The real opposition will be eviscerated in the popular press as American agents. This fusillades are much the same as would have been said in the Soviet era.

The aggressive foreign policy will be seen to have been expensive and to yield little. Lugubriously the Russian public will probably not learn. They will be goaded into war again. Russia will be simply unable to afford to attack another country for a few years. The ineptitude of these wars will be overlooked. People will be tricked into believing the next conflict is an existential one.  Oil prices will climb again but not to the high levels of the mid noughties. It is unedifying to reflect that Russia will likely still be ruled by the uncouth land grabber who is currently at the apex of the FSB state whilst he still has his marbles. That will be another 20 years then.  Through all this the working class shall suffer. To be sure some are bigots as one would find in every country. But many are decent sorts who are hoodwinked by carefully crafted propaganda. The hawkish propensities of the ruling class has impoverished ordinary folk.

The stultifying ultra nationalist rhetoric that sustain the Putin cult will not play so well in future. More and more Russian citizens will be of Caucasian and Central Asian origin. A less powerful Russia shall be compelled to end its relative estrangement form the West.

The Syrian situation.

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It is folly for the United Kingdom to become involved in Syria. She should not have been bombing ISIS in Iraq. There is no doubt that these air strikes are legal. Even the most prejudiced peacenik does not claim so.

ISIS and the Ba’ath regime are both loathsome. ISIS is worse. People rebelled against the corrupt Ba’athist dictatorship with its demented personality cult. There was no means of achieving peaceful change. Mild dissent was an imprisonable offence. Protestors were shot dead. The government then called these people terrorists. The Ba’athists permitted people liberty in the personal sphere and that is commendable. This is what makes them less hideous than ISIS’s reactionary, theocratic ultra puritan iconoclastic oppression.

The Free Syria Army seem to be decent rebels. The same goes for the Kurdish separarists and maybe the Turcomans. However, they are all bit players. Either the Ba’athists or ISIS will win. The minor groups seemed to have a truce with ISIS. The Ba’athists were foolish not to cut a deal with the moderate insurgents. They were reconcilable. Dr Al Assad retiring would be item 1 on the list.

The reason the UK should stay out is it will make ISIS more likely to attacked the United Kingdom. It may seem cowardly. Perhaps it is. Cowardice is often wisdom. Valour is usually foolhardiness. People say that ISIS shot dead lots of British tourists in Tunisia. I doubt they targeted them for being British probably for being Western and thus probably infidels. Kenneth Clarke in 2003 voted against freeing Iraq. He did so because he said next time a bomb goes off in the UK one must ask how far this contributed to that terrorist attack. It may seme pusillanimous. Moreover, one ought not allow ISIS to determine one’s policies. Furthermore, even if it does make the bomb going off more probable then that does not make it wrong to fight ISIS. The trouble is the pro-war case is built on the claim that hammering ISIS will enhance British security. I suspect this claim is bogus and ISIS will attack the United Kingdom to prove that this assertion is false.

There ethical case is mixed. It is murky because countries that the United Kingdom claims as allies have been assisting ISIS. Saudi Arabia has released death row prisoners in return for them going to fight on the side of Daesh. Individuals in Saudi Arabia have donated generously to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.  The same goes for Qatar. It is not necessarily the state doing it – it could be private individuals. However, the state has been at least slack about preventing this.

Inevitably civilians will be killed in aerial attacks. How many civilians will be saved by air strikes? That is imponderable. One can never calculate hypotheticals. It then becomes difficult to decide if one has killed more than one has saved.

It is not difficult to become embroiled in this imbroglio. It may become very tricky to extricate oneself. What would victory resemble? Most likely Assad will be confirmed in power. Peace talks are already underway between the Ba’athists and the rebels. Perhaps some of the middle of the road rebels will make an agreement. There may be cosmetic changes.

ISIS has certainly carried out several large scale atrocities. The trouble is so has the Syrian Army. Which is worse? It is hard to say. There is never a war in which one side completely abides by the Geneva Convention and the other breaches it all the time. In this conflict standards of conduct have been especially low.. How is it ethical to punish ISIS for its massacres and let the Ba’athists off the hook? International Human RIghts law says that it is wrong to collude in human rights abuses in order to stop other human rights abuses. There is a total lack of moral clarity.

The objectives have not been elucidated. Defeat ISIS. Then what? Terrorists organisations are only defeated after decades. It can be significantly enfeebled. In several years it will probably still launch the occasional attack.

By smashing ISIS one hands victory to Dr Al Assad and his mob. The Free Syria Army will be annihilated. ANy hope of a democratic Syria will die. Building a model democracy in Syria was always going to be a tall order.

I ponder the repercussions of inaction. The ISIS oil spot may continue to expand. As it grabs more territory it will have more oil,  more people to extort and more slaves. If ISIS was not pummeled from the air what then? They might take over Syria. They could seize more of Iraq. They would never be able to conquer the whole of Iraq seeing as only 20% of Iraqis are Arabic speaking SUnnis. Of course not all Arabic speaking SUnnis back this group. My point is that ISIS only draws succour from this demographic.