Category Archives: News & Views

Trump and Ukraine (summary)

Once again, summarizing my support of Trump:

– Trumps ties to Russia, while troubling were extremely overblown by a media establishment willing to say anything to undermine him. Clinton’s ties (bill’s Moscow Speech, the Uranium deal, etc) seemed comparable to Trumps.

– I suspect the Kremlin expected a Clinton victory and wanted to ally with the opposition to a weakened president Clinton. I think they’ve painted themselves into a corner rhetorically and will have an extremely difficult time countenancing a strength that the Trump administration projects. Russia is weak in peace and weak in war. So they’re always striving for something in between — where they will break the rules and other countries will follow them.

– There are also people in the Trump administration who get Russia. The most insightful, concise, accurate assessment of Russia I’ve heard from DC came from our new Sec Def, General Mattis:

The best non-concise analysis is Heritage Foundation: U.S. Comprehensive Strategy Toward Russia, and (ehem, ehem) these two essays aren’t bad either.

– Has Obama/Clinton helped Ukraine? They’ve been weak and aimless and enabled Russian aggression.

More of my ongoing commentary about Trump and Ukraine:

Bragging about #MH17 Mascara

This is the type of thing I’m talking about when I say that Westerners have no idea about the dark depths of Russian nihilism. (Just as Russians have no idea about Western idealism. They assume westerns are either lying, or hopelessly naive and therefore weak.)

See also, When a mass grave was revealed in Kolpashevo, Siberia in 1979 — A story about Soviet man. A story about Russia.

Russian journalist critical of Vladimir Putin found dead on his birthday with gunshot wound to his head

Mr Shchetinin gave up his Russian citizenship before becoming a Ukrainian national and settling in the capital.

He set up the Novy Region news agency, which has since been split into different companies, and reportedly called the Russian president a “personal enemy”.

Did the Kremlin Help Trump

Did the Kremlin help Trump?
(question from an aquaintence)

I have no idea if they helped or not. But they did a lot of “branding” of themselves as allies. This branding would have been a great tool if Trump had lost — especially if he lost with some controversy. Russia has been allying with political opposition groups for centuries — since before Soviet Time’s (read Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent). It’s what they do and they’re shockingly good at it.

But Trump didn’t lose. He won. Now this branding may hit the brickwall of geo-political reality.

The Kremlin’s priorities are:
1. Convince the Russian public that they are part of a strong country with a strong leader.
2. (related) Participate on the world stage as a superpower with a sphere of influence.

Trump’s NATO Spending Demand Would Break Denmark’s Welfare State

I’m certain that a lot of what has been perceived as anti-NATO rhetoric is actually Trump trying to get NATO countries to live up to their obligations.

Meeting Donald Trump’s demands on defense spending could allow NATO-member Denmark to buy a dozen F-35 fighter jets and four frigates. It could also damage the cherished welfare state.

During his presidential campaign, the victorious Republican candidate raised alarm among allies by suggesting that the U.S. would think twice about defending a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member that failed to live up to the group’s commitment to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.

This is a long-standing source of frustration for the U.S., since only a handful of NATO’s 28 members regularly meet the target. But Trump is the first to have raised existential questions about the alliance since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Denmark last met the NATO spending target in the final years of the Cold War, when Soviet forces were stationed across the Baltic Sea. Since then, the ratio of Danish spending has dropped consistently and totaled 23.2 billion kroner ($3.31 billion), or 1.2 percent of GDP, in 2015.
Welfare Trumps Defense

Helge Pedersen, a Copenhagen-based chief economist at Nordea Bank AB, estimates that meeting the 2 percent mark again would require about 15 billion kroner in extra defense spending.

That’s how much Denmark spends each year on supporting its universities, or five years of child support for its families.

Trump and Russia

Two different friends asked me today about Trump’s Russia connection. Thought I’d add a summary of my response here:

> Just curious. For the last few years you’ve been warning about Russia, but a lot of your recent posts seem to support Trump, who himself has a lot of Russian support. What makes Trump your guy?

I don’t think Trump’s relationship with Russia is any more troubling than Hillary Clinton’s. There is cause for concern. It isn’t all clean. But they are monstrously exaggerated by a media that seems determined to undermine Trump.

Also, Clinton’s connections to Russia — from donations to the CF to the Uranium deal — seemed go to without scrutiny.

My hunch is that the Kremlin wanted to ally itself with the conservative opposition to a weakened Clinton presidency. If you look closely, there are indications that they are taken aback by Trumps victory. Rhetorically, they’ve painted themselves into a corner by branding themselves as Trump allies. Their internal propaganda is all about blaming every problem on the Americans and on NATO. Likewise they’re always framing Putin as the strong, masculine guy among weaklings.

How will the Russian Press portray Putin as superior to Trump? Can you imagine them standing next to each other? Putin is 5′ 6.5″. He’s been caught wearing heeled shoes to make himself appear taller, and seems to make it a point to never be photographed with people much taller than him. Trump is 6′ 3″.

They’ll have a hard time countenancing the strength that Trump/Mattis/others project. They’re used to testing limits and lying. There are few treaties which Russia has not broken. Heritage published a list once. I recall being surprised by the number. I think there were ten or fifteen treaties which they’ve broken.

If Trump’s team is as direct and no-nonsense as they appear, how will this play out?

Don’t lose sight of the fact that most of what Russia says/does is because of internal pressures, not external ones. And for various reasons, managing the internal narrative is much more important for them than for other countries.

I’ll be watching their rhetoric closely. It’s hard for me to imagine where it will go. I can imagine them being very comfortable allying with the opposition to Clinton Presidency. I have a hard time imagining them being able to maintain their pro-Trump branding once reality sets in.

Look, Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s.

In economy, population, corruption, standard of living, they’re like Mexico. Mexico with nukes and world-class propaganda.

They don’t have a strong position, but they play their hand very, very, very well. Mostly through their capacity for intimidation. They threaten nuclear over almost anything — they threatened nuclear war when Washington objected to their disregard for civilians in the Chechen War. It’s all the have — making people scared. That’s it.

Returning to your question — The concerns among Trump’s associates are Manafort, Flynn, and Tillerson.

Mattis and Bolton, who are also there as Sec Def and Deputy Secretary of State are both very hawkish toward Russia.

I’m concerned, of course, but I’m not as worried as the many people who’ve bought the anti-Trump rhetoric of the MSM.

Largely unnoticed, Kremlin Puts Missiles in Kaliningrad, Able to Deny NATO Air/Sea superiority over Baltic

(The military analysis in this article is important. But beyond that, though I really appreciate Schindler’s analysis, I think he gets this one wrong. The analysis of causality and ideology vastly underestimates Russian nihilism and capacity for self-deception.)

He’s done it again. The honey badger in the Kremlin just moved more advanced missiles into position on Russia’s most westerly fringe to own the Baltic Sea. This week Moscow admitted it has deployed cutting-edge Bastion anti-ship missiles to the Kaliningrad exclave, north of Poland, plus equally advanced S-400 air defense systems to shoot down aircraft and missiles as far as 250 miles out.

With this move, the Kremlin has established control over the Baltic Sea, most of Poland and the Baltic republics—NATO members all. Russia now can exert anti-access and area denial—what the Pentagon calls A2AD for short—at will, meaning that any NATO aircraft or ships entering the region can be hit long before they get close to Kaliningrad. For Western military planners, this is nothing short of a nightmare, since Moscow can now block NATO reinforcements headed east to counter, say, Russian military moves on the vulnerable Baltic republics. . . .

The outgoing commander-in-chief decided that he needed to appease the Kremlin one more time before leaving the White House, to the horror of our allies who live close to Russia. “We’re on our own until January 20, and maybe much longer,” was how a senior Alliance defense official in that neighborhood explained the reality of what Obama has done through his inaction.

For good measure, this week the Russian defense ministry indicated that the deployment of Iskander-M systems to Kaliningrad, which Moscow has said was merely part of a military exercise, will be staying there permanently. Since those missiles can launch nuclear or conventional warheads as far as 300 miles with stunning accuracy, Russia now holds a powerful military advantage over NATO in the Baltic region. . . .

Predictably, the Kremlin maintains that moving state-of-the art missiles into Kaliningrad is a response to American ballistic missile defenses which have been deployed in Eastern Europe. As usual, Moscow depicts all its military moves, even ones which are destabilizing to regional security, as cosmically defensive, so great is the Western threat to Russia.