First, my apologies

Okay, so I will admit that this isn’t the most original title I could have come up with, but it serves its purpose – which is to register the idea that there is an alternative narrative to the West’s picture of a paranoid and delusional despot launching an unprovoked attack on a perfectly innocent, unthreatening neighbour that had just wanted to peacefully go about its own business. I will also readily admit that this article has precious little to do with climate change and I respect that many of you out there are less than happy when Cliscep goes off topic. However, the reason why I chose to write this article was to draw attention to the extent to which the BBC, with all of its disinformation reporters and its Reality Check Team is, nevertheless, quite capable of totally overlooking a well-documented reality that does not fit with the approved account. I invite the reader to transfer this insight to the climate change debate, in which the same organisation flaunts its reputation as arbiters of the factual whilst often displaying the same lack of journalistic rigour/integrity that I seek to expose below.

Setting the scene

In his Victory Day Parade speech of May 9th, Putin took the opportunity to reiterate his justification for invading Ukraine. It was a speech that invoked images of neo-Nazis and Banderites seeking to gain ascendency in Eastern Europe, of NATO encouraging Ukraine to heighten the nuclear threat, and of preparations for an imminent attack on what Putin holds to be part of the Motherland, i.e. Crimea and the Donbas. Predictably, the BBC was onto this speech immediately with a number of articles, including one of its notorious Reality Checks. I do not intend going through every claim and counter-claim here, but I do think it is important that one particular issue should be drawn to your attention. Of particular interest to me is the following remark made by Paul Kirby of the BBC:

“He also made unfounded allegations against Nato and Ukraine and described the invasion as a pre-emptive rebuff: ‘They were preparing a punishing operation in Donbas to intrude on our historic lands’.”

The BBC are very fond of pointing out the lack of evidence offered by others – they purport to do it all the time when exposing climate change ‘deniers’. Ostensibly, this is just another example of the BBC using their rapier sharp journalism to expose the fake news that they are fighting on a daily basis. But in saying that this is an unfounded allegation, just who is pushing the fake news here?

Founding the allegation

In accusing Putin of making unfounded allegations regarding Western preparations for conflict, the BBC appears to have somehow completely overlooked the fact that NATO has been holding such exercises in the Black Sea, and upon Ukrainian soil, on an annual basis since 1997. The exercises are co-hosted by the United States and Ukraine as part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PFP) initiative and they go under the name Sea Breeze. As the name suggests, they are principally designed to demonstrate how NATO countries, and those other ex-Soviet nations who might now feel threatened by Russia, would co-operate militarily in any future naval conflict. However, the actual scope goes somewhat beyond that, since past exercises have typically involved joint operations between land, sea and air units. In describing them in more detail below, I am entirely indebted to aviation journalist Vladimir Trendafilovski, who has written up detailed accounts covering both the 2020 and 2021 exercises. Firstly, let us go back to what NATO and Ukraine were getting up to back in 2020.

Writing in the November 2020 issue of Air Forces Monthly (‘Officially the world’s number one authority on military aviation’) he describes a relatively muted exercise severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Even so, eight nations took part – Bulgaria, Georgia, Norway, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the Ukraine and the United States – providing in total 2,000 troops, 20 ships and more than 20 aircraft. The land component of the exercise was completely cut out but that still left plenty of scope for the participating nations to demonstrate ‘high levels of interoperability’. Standard tasks such as air defence, anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue featured prominently. Of particular note was an exercise in which US Air Force jets practiced their stand-off offensive capabilities:

“One of the numerous scenarios trained for during this mission included the employment of the AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM). This is the second time that USAF aircraft have been training in the use of this weapon over the Black Sea this year – the earlier occasion being the May 29 mission performed by a pair of B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.”

Muted or not, this sort of exercise hardly exemplifies the true spirit of social distancing and one can easily see how Putin would interpret the practiced delivery of stand-off weaponry as preparation for a ‘punishing operation’. Perhaps the BBC were looking the other way in 2020. How about 2021?

Writing in the October 2021 issue of Combat Aircraft Journal (‘America’s best-selling military and aviation magazine’) Trendafilovski describes a much more extensive exercise that fully explored all three theatres of war: land, air and sea. On this occasion no fewer than 28 nations took part, including the UK and Germany with Eurofighter Typhoons. Altogether, 5,000 servicemen, 30 ships, 40 aircraft, fifty tanks and other weapon systems, and 18 Special Operations and diving teams took part. According to Trendafilovski, ‘All task planning and execution was carried out in accordance with NATO standards’. A wide variety of scenarios were practiced including:

“…a separatist force taking over government institutions and organising a puppet state supported by a rogue nation [mentioning no names]. The multinational task force had to stabilize the region by defeating the separatist forces, re-instating the elected government and organizing the distribution of humanitarian aid.”

A more explicit demonstration of the intention to undertake a ‘punishing operation’ against separatists in the Donbas is difficult to conceive of. To further emphasise the intent, there was the choice of training area:

“The initial phase for the [ground] component was conducted on a new training range called the Oleshky Sands (Oleshkivski Pisky), a semi-dessert area near the Dnieper river, 30km east of Kherson and 50km north-west of the Crimean administrative border.”

Landing operations were also practiced:

“Supported by Mi-8MT ‘132 Red’ and a pair of Su-25s, the tactical group made an amphibious landing in Izmail on the Danube River. Its vehicles and men arrived aboard two Navy Landing ships, Yuri Olifirenko (L401, Polnocny-C class) and Svatove (L434, Ondatra class), augmented by additional troops deployed by the Mi-8 using a FRIES. After successful deployment, the group seized the town’s port and other important facilities.”

Appropriately enough, Special Operations Forces (SOF) were employed:

“The SOF teams using CV-22Bs [the USAF’s Osprey troop carrier] took part in various episodes at the Zmiyinvy and Pervomayskiy Islands but details of these were classified.”

The use of electronic warfare (EW) systems during the ground component phase were brought into play, bringing the events ‘as close as possible to reality’.

An unintended introduction of further realism resulted from the fact that Russia sought to disrupt the exercise as much as possible by simultaneously holding its own exercise in the Black Sea. As a result, a number of simulated aerial attacks from friendly forces were augmented by the real thing. The buzzing of HMS Defender was well-reported at the time but less well-known was the treatment received by the Dutch HNLMS Evertsen, which was continually harassed by armed Su-24M bombers and Su-30SM fighters from the 43 oshap of ChF RF at Saki air base. Even more concerning, during these ‘attacks’ the Evertsen had its electronic countermeasures jammed. As a result of such skirmishes, exercise Sea Breeze 2021 came as close as any other to breaking out into the real thing.

Why this matters

Just how the practice of amphibious landings and the insertion of special forces cannot be seen by the BBC as evidence of NATO’s offensive potential beggars belief. Either the BBC were simply unaware of these exercises, and had been so since 1997, or they have chosen to deliberately overlook them. In past dealings with BBC disinformation reporters there have been times when I have found it difficult to discern between rank incompetence and a lack of journalistic integrity, and this case is no different. The BBC are not alone in this regard, of course – I cannot recall seeing any mention of Sea Breeze in any of the mainstream media and the only reason I know about it is because my hobby leads me to read publications such as Airforces Monthly and Combat Aircraft Journal. The difference, however, is that the BBC sets itself up as a trusted source that specialises in unbiased reporting. They are the ones who have fact-checkers whose opinions appear to stand as the final statement on a subject. It is that cloak of apparent respectability that makes their disinformation and selective take on reality particularly damaging. As I said above, if they can be so cavalier when fact-checking Putin’s allegations of war preparation, one has to wonder just what they have been getting up to on other matters, such as global warming.

125 Comments

  1. John, as a long-time critic of the BBC’s selective reporting and lack of objectivity, I am not surprised by what you have discovered here, and am grateful to you for your efforts.

    It is understandable that Putin and many in Russia feel threatened by NATO, and it is disappointing that this aspect of the current tragedy has been buried by the western MSM. It’s all about perspective – for instance, the Cuban missile crisis of almost 60 years ago is very understandable from the US perspective at the time. Putin probably sees things in Ukraine in much the same way.

    On the other hand, apart from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the USA did not invade Cuba. What Putin has done and continues to do in Ukraine is unjustified and unjustifiable and beyond the pale, however real or understandable his concerns. And of course, from the point of view of Russia’s concerns re NATO on or near its borders, he’s just made things a lot worse for Russia, with Sweden and Finland possibly about to apply to join, and I wouldn’t even be surprised to see an application made by Georgia looked on a bit more favourably by NATO.

    Given that western nations regularly interfere (by use of military force) in the affairs of nations whose regimes they don’t like, much of the posturing from the west is highly hypocritical. It doesn’t make Putin’s behaviour right or justifiable, however, and I know that you aren’t arguing that it is. I do think it’s important to make it clear that understanding Putin’s paranoia is not the same as condoning it or doing anything other than condemning his behaviour.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Speaking of Putin, and apologies that it’s actually off topic:

    “Putin has not wrecked Glasgow Climate Pact – John Kerry”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-61383293

    “US climate envoy John Kerry says the war in Ukraine has not wrecked the Glasgow Climate Pact agreed last year.

    Russia’s invasion has “presented a challenge” in the battle against global warming but could be overcome, he said.”

    Well, that’s a worry off my mind, and those Ukrainians must be so relieved.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article, thanks.
    One challenge is that Ukraine had received strong guarantees about protection from Russia. The obvious agenda, corruption on all sides, seems to be the first casualty.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. that BBC “Ukraine War: Putin’s Victory Day speech fact-checked – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/61379405
    Is a poor/cr*p article/propaganda piece by the “Reality Check team”

    the 1st fact checked is –
    “President Putin has repeatedly said Ukraine plans to acquire nuclear weapons as a justification for Russia’s invasion, although there’s no evidence this is the case.”

    below this, they then quote –
    “Last year, the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, suggested if Ukraine couldn’t join Nato, it might have to reconsider its nuclear-free status.

    “Either we are part of an alliance such as Nato… or we have the only option – to arm by ourselves, and maybe think about nuclear status again.”

    the rest was just as bad!!!

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  5. Mark Hodgson says:

    “On the other hand, apart from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the USA did not invade Cuba.”

    No, but what the US did do, was install nuclear-armed missiles in Turkey and Italy which were aimed at threatening the USSR. The Cuban missiles were a tit-for-tat, but the crisis did get the European missiles withdrawn a start made on proliferation discussions.

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  6. Trying to put myself in Putin’s shoes for a moment, I don’t believe that he felt at all threatened by these NATO exercises. NATO often has exercises where the unnamed enemy country may well be Russia, but this has been going on since the year dot. Every time such an exercise occurs, the Russians complain bitterly about what a provocation it is, but it’s obvious that they don’t believe that. Then they fly Bears towards our airspace for the lols.

    Finland and Sweden take part in NATO exercises and have done since whenever, but Putin did not feel the need to invade Finland. The difference between the non-NATO Baltic nations and Ukraine is obvious – their recent history. Not too long ago Ukraine was aligned with Russia – then we had a little revolution, and things seemed to be picking up in Ukraine. Then we had an almost-revolution in Belarus, and Putin saw which way the wind was blowing. If Ukraine leaned west and succeeded, and if Belarus leaned west and succeeded, then his position would be all the weaker – those protests might finally get out of control after all. So much better to prop up Lukashenko and later to install a Russian-leaning puppet in Kyiv.

    That the predicted sweeping victory did not materialise is a different matter.

    [I’m not 100% certain of this theory, but am floating it up to see if anyone can shoot it down.]

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Jit,

    I think there is a useful distinction to be made here between the interpretation of evidence and denial of evidence. The point of my article was to show that the BBC were in denial by failing to even acknowledge the existence of the West’s annual war games in the Black Sea and on Ukrainian soil. Whether Putin would have been disingenuous by including them in his calculation of the risk of an imminent ‘punishing operation’ is a matter for conjecture, but I think that the assumption that he cannot be taken at face value on this point is a dangerous one. It is the same assumption that nearly precipitated WWIII back in 1983 when Andropov’s reactions to Operation ABLE ARCHER were wrongly dismissed as rhetoric. The Soviets sincerely believed the West to be capable of instigating WWIII believing it could be won. It was my suspicion that Putin would think like Andropov that led me to warn that he might launch a pre-emptive strike (ref ‘The Games that People Play’). Now he is claiming that this is exactly what he did (and it is telling that he himself used war games as a cover for the military preparations). Putin is a liar and so who can say really what is going on in his head? However, I believe the safest strategy from here onwards would be to take him exactly at his word.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for this excellent post John – excellent not least for its focus, its limitations even. The whole situation is exceedingly complex. I won’t try to put down my far-from-focused reactions.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John as you might expect I disagree both with respect to the partial justifications you seem to be offering to Putin’s actions in Ukraine and for the BBC’s reporting of the underlying causes of the conflict.

    So the BBC has not reported upon Sea Breeze and it’s like. So the BBC is woefully ignorant of its importance, or is deliberately hiding its importance from us, leading to us not fully understanding Putin’s predicament. But you would have to lay the same blame on virtually every other news organisation for, to my knowledge, none has raised this issue. You have admitted that you only know about Sea Breeze because of your specialist interest.

    You seem to be arguing that Ukraine’s conducting military exercises with NATO countries on its own territory constitutes some form of deliberate provocation. If so, what did the joint exercises between Russia and Belarus represent? (Actually we don’t need to ask this, we already know).

    What exactly should Ukraine have done post 2014 after major parts of its territory were seized and conflict in its eastern parts was encouraged by Russia or conducted by Russians posing as separatists? And this was done by a nation that guaranteed Ukraine’s independence when it surrendered its nuclear weapons.

    Every major military nation tests the preparedness of its rivals. Russia periodically sends long-range bombers into NATO air space, or submarines into European waters. Look at the actions of China. Even India’s navy has flexed its muscles. This does not constitute an excuse for invasion. And the reasons offered by Russia for invading Ukraine are so patently false.

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  10. Alan,

    I thank you for your response since I hope it may give me the opportunity to clear up one or two possible misconceptions.

    >”I disagree both with respect to the partial justifications you seem to be offering to Putin’s actions in Ukraine and for the BBC’s reporting of the underlying causes of the conflict.”

    But actually I have not sought to justify Putin’s actions. How can they be justified? All I have sought to do is challenge the BBC when they say there is no foundation to the specific allegation he made that the West was preparing for a ‘punishing operation’. Whether or not Putin’s observations are a justification for his reaction is one question; the suggestion that he could not even have made such an observation because there was nothing of that nature to observe, is quite another. Claiming that he speaks without foundation simply plays into the hands of the ‘irrational tyrant’ narrative. I happen to think that he is a perfectly rational tyrant, it’s just a rationale that some of the Western media seem determined to misunderstand.

    >”So the BBC has not reported upon Sea Breeze and it’s like….”

    There is nothing in your second paragraph that I had not already made clear in my piece and my subsequent comments. The BBC is certainly not alone in failing to report upon Sea Breeze, but it is they who have chosen to fact check Putin, apparently without the necessary background understanding that would enable them to perform such a task. If they were just offering an opinion piece, I wouldn’t be making such a big deal of it.

    >”You seem to be arguing that Ukraine’s conducting military exercises with NATO countries on its own territory constitutes some form of deliberate provocation.”

    I certainly am not. But I am pointing out that you can’t perform such exercises without raising the concerns of your neighbours. As Jit has argued, one might reasonably expect that such concerns would be moderated by a sense of proportion. But before jumping to such a conclusion one needs to take into account the other leader’s background, espoused thinking and any historical perspectives. These are the factors that cause me to be unsurprised by Putin’s invasion. Appalled, but unsurprised.

    >”What exactly should Ukraine have done post 2014 after major parts of its territory were seized and conflict in its eastern parts was encouraged by Russia or conducted by Russians posing as separatists?”

    Remember that Sea Breeze started in 1997, some seventeen years before the events you describe. Nevertheless, to answer your question: After 2014 they should have done whatever they could to regain their territory without precipitating an even worse onslaught.

    >”Every major military nation tests the preparedness of its rivals.”

    Indeed, and every nation should understand the risks involved.

    >”And the reasons offered by Russia for invading Ukraine are so patently false.”

    But I also think that the reasons given are patently the reasons they have. Some have a foundation but none has a sufficient foundation to justify invasion.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. John delighted to be of assistance. The only point I would fully dispute would be the ease with which the BBC might be able to learn about those joint military exercises. I think that by now they must be aware of Sea Breeze, they could be criticised for not bringing them to our attention.

    The more I think about your thesis, the more I am coming to the view that there must be a more rational explanation that explains Putin’s actions. Perhaps your explanation that he has inherited his fears from his original mentor has merit.

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  12. A thank you from me to all who have commented – great to see a thoughtful and civil discussion around an interesting thesis.

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  13. just to echo what John has said above.
    I’m not making any excuses for the War Putin started, no way he is in the right.

    but… we have to look at the bigger picture to try to understand why this has happened & stop it escalating.

    the civil war in the Donbas has been ongoing since 2014, why have I heard nothing about it?

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  14. Dougie,

    I presume you heard plenty about the Donbas when the conflict first kicked off because it was, of course, all over the news. But you are quite right, it didn’t take that long before the novelty wore off. It’s difficult to say to what extent the level of conflict in more recent years has determined the level of coverage. If you believe Putin, genocide has been unfolding whilst we have been otherwise preoccupied. Fat chance of that, however.

    As for looking at the bigger picture, that wasn’t actually something I was trying to do with this article. As Richard says, it is all very complex. I was simply trying to make the point that fact checkers would do better if they were to respect the facts. This is particularly important when it influences how we think about someone whose next move is likely to be so important to the world’s future.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. But presumably Putin would have analysed and considered the wider picture when he finally decided to invade Ukraine. He would perhaps have been misled by intelligence reports that the Ukrainian government was weak, the population pro-Russian and the country ripe for plucking. A lightning strike at the capital and an easy overthrow of the government and an irritant would be gone. More than that, Sweden and Finland would take note and retreat even further into their neutrality. No more talk of them joining NATO. Ukraine safely stowed away, Georgia (or what is left of it) put back into its bottle. Transnistria beckons.
    For the lack of a good intelligence report the war was prolonged, for the lack of a quick victory, the threat was lost, …

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Alan,

    That is a very important point. An all-powerful but paranoid leader can only receive intelligence reports that confirm his suspicions. I suggest that a similar mechanism perverts the reporting of the climate threat. Few journalists are in a position to go off message with impunity.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Alan: “He would perhaps have been misled by intelligence reports…”

    I’m sure he was. But not in the way you suggest. The numerical imbalance of military forces is a fact that needs explaining here. I don’t think Putin is a blithering idiot, in other words, though I agree with John that “an all-powerful … leader can only receive intelligence reports that confirm his suspicions.” Note I missed out the paranoid there too. I’m not sure Putin is that either. It’s possible to be ruthless without being paranoid, though Stalin didn’t manage it.

    Here’s another fact that I came across yesterday for the first time that it would be lovely to have an explanation for: Russian Oligarchs Who Died Mysteriously This Year Have Two Things in Common. At least seven of them. Is it an important fact? Would a Russian actuary be impressed? Newsweek is actually quite good in giving supporting facts that suggest it hasn’t been Putin bumping them off. I give this as one of loads of examples. Facts and their interpretation. Difficult.

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  18. Richard,

    I stand corrected. I am just falling in line with the sloppy habit of using ‘paranoid’ when I really mean ‘profoundly suspicious’. His actual state of mental health is anyone’s guess, although I still have my unfounded suspicions.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Another ten seconds of arduous investigative journalism (i.e. googling) has enabled me to discover that Ukraine had invited over 60 nations to attend this year’s Sea Breeze exercise. It says so on the “Ukrainian multimedia platform for broadcasting”:

    https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-defense/3384397-over-60-nations-intl-organizations-invited-to-this-years-sea-breeze-drill.html

    Of course, Putin has put an end to all of that. Also, having access to Google, he would have been aware of the following multi-national military operations planned for the Ukraine this year:

    • Joint Efforts 2022 – 12,500 troops will take part
    • Rapid Trident 2022 – 8,500 troops
    • Cossack Mace 2022 – 5,500 troops
    • Light Avalanche 2022 – up to 1,300 troops
    • Silver Saber 2022 – three stages, up to 5,500 participants
    • Riverine 2022 Ukrainian-Romanian exercises – up to 400 troops
    • Maple Arch 2022 – up to 3,700 participants
    • Viking 2022 – up to 200 troops

    I wonder, does the BBC have access to Google?

    Just asking.

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  20. I do wonder about the aphorism indicating that powerful leaders can only accept information that confirms their already formed views. The few that I have known (in business) were exactly the opposite. They challenged and debated issues. They scorned those trying to pander to them. I would have thought that anyone bringing deliberately false, but intended to be acceptable, information would get short shrift from the likes of Putin, especially as he came from the same school. How could you survive if you gave deliberately inaccurate information? When this came to light, your chances of remaining in post, or even of survival would be vanishingly small. Would you risk it?

    I believe military leaders playing war games are sometimes set impossible tasks and false information in order that their resilience be judged. Just think how some of our political masters are judged [no names, no pack drill]. Do you believe they might be fed only information they might wish to hear?

    Liked by 1 person

  21. John: It’s clearly a matter of degree. “Riverine 2022 Ukrainian-Romanian exercises – up to 400 troops.” The BBC not mentioning that ‘known fact’ seems fine to me. But not mentioning Sea Breeze? On that I agree with the original post.

    Alan: Strongly agree in the case of good business leaders, because if you do suppress all bad news you soon go out of business. What about Churchill? He learned from the Dardanelles disaster that he must never again ignore the counsel of military leaders reporting to him – much though it sometimes irked him to be constrained in this way. One thing that made him such an effective leader in WW2, according to Andrew Roberts.

    Putin? Not sure. I know far less than the MSM and BBC do. Or purport to know.

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  22. Richard,

    >”The BBC not mentioning that ‘known fact’ seems fine to me.”

    Quite so. I mention Riverine only for completeness’ sake.

    Alan,

    Our views regarding the ‘aphorism’ are bound to be affected by our experiences. I am pleased to see that yours have been favourable; mine have been very much the opposite. For example, I remember vividly being picked up at Heathrow Airport by a senior manager to be taken to a progress meeting with his own boss at the London head office. Throughout the car journey I was very keen to warn my ‘chauffer’ just how bad my report to head office was going to be. The project was in dire straits and I provided all of the gory details to a manager who remained completely silent throughout. It wasn’t until we reached the doors to the head office that he turned to me and said, “Now, when you get in there, I don’t expect you will be wanting to repeat anything you’ve just said to me, will you?” That was my introduction to how things worked. I could bore you with countless other anecdotes along the same lines. The bottom line is that I now find the aphorism all too easy to accept.

    I could also add that the last time a former head of the KGB asked for evidence to support his suspicions, he got them confirmed in spades. I refer to Andropov and Project RYAN. I think it highly plausible that history will have repeated itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. John am interested to learn how you survived your muzzling.

    I worked for two North American oil companies, both of which became absorbed into BP. One, Amoco had an enlightened policy whereby if you did the work, you got to present and sell it all the way up to head office in Chicago in front of the biggest mucki-mucks if necessary. Enlightened because anyone showing promise became almost immediately visible. If you had done good work you were recognised for it. The other company was Sohio and it couldn’t have been more different. Work done was presented at higher level meetings by your line manager and, if it went higher still by his manager. This no matter if your manager understood your work or not. I still greatly resent one instance where my manager just didn’t understand my results and he presented them under my name but with a completely different interpretation. Later I heard about this from an equivalent geologist from another company who couldn’t understand “my” interpretation”. Needless to say I was very pleased to leave Sohio for academia, especially when we were forced to move from the Bay Area of California for the “delights” of Dallas.

    I suppose all companies vary, as do Line-Managers. University departments also are very different. UEA was a rather good place to work for, Toronto not so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Alan,

    In a sense, I didn’t survive. Everyone else on the project resigned or transfered themselves out. I had been the most junior member of the team and had only recently joined the company. I was left alone holding the baby and all subsequent requests for assistance were refused. The result was a catastrophic project outturn for which I was subsequently blamed. This all happened a long time ago. I can laugh about it now.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Good stuff on past experience of the open-minded and the blockers. I’ve run into both but I think mostly I’ve been very lucky.

    Going back to John’s original, because of that strange piece in Newsweek I ended up at Tablet Magazine to read about the new difficulties since February for, and the compromises made before that by, Russian Jewish oligarchs. (And as a Spurs fan my feelings about the challenges now faced by Roman Abramovich are deeply ambivalent.) The Fate of Putin’s Jewish Oligarchs from 23rd March is a really interesting and, I think, balanced piece. But that wasn’t even the point!

    Tablet Magazine has been focusing on the concepts of ‘disinformation’ and ‘fact-checking’:

    Invasion of the Fact-Checkers
    The Blue Stack Strikes Back
    Disinfo v. Democracy

    And just this week:

    The Certainty Trap

    Haven’t read them all but the last looks most interesting.

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  26. Richard,

    I would be more than happy if this thread were to turn into a critique of the very concept of fact-checking. With that in mind I started reading ‘Invasion of the Fact-checkers’ with some interest. In the introduction:

    “Fueled by a panic over misinformation, the fact-checking industry is shifting the media’s primary obligation away from pursuing the truth and toward upholding vague notions of public safety, which it gets to define. In the course of this transformation, journalists are being turned into rent-a-cops whose job is to enforce an official consensus that is treated as a civic good by those who benefit from—and pay for—its protection.”

    I’m loving it already.

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  27. Richard – thanks for an interesting read, re ‘Invasion of the Fact-checkers’
    to add to John above,

    1st interesting quote –
    “As journalism collapses, it opens up a space for successor practices grouped under the banner of countering disinformation. In 2014, there were 44 fact-checking organizations in the United States, according to the Duke University Reporters’ Lab census. As of the June 2021 census, there were 341 “active fact-checking projects,” 51 more than in the previous year.”

    and the last bit –
    “If Facebook creates entirely new, immensely powerful, and utterly private fact-checking partnerships with ostensibly public-spirited news organizations, it becomes virtually impossible to know in whose interests and according to which dynamics our public communication systems are operating.”

    ok, that’s the US, but rings true to me for the UK lately.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I’m with Jit. NATO is just a cover for what Putin wants to do anyway.

    He didn’t have any justification involving NATO for invading Georgia. He didn’t in Moldova either.

    If NATO had not co-operated with Ukraine in the last decade, then the result would have also been an invasion. But a successful one.

    Putin is a thug and bully. His behaviour to his own countrymen is appalling. Suggesting that NATO is the real reason he is appalling to other countries is taking the p*ss.

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  29. Chester: Your four paragraphs are for me both simplistic and wrong-headed. Let’s just go for this sentence:

    He didn’t have any justification involving NATO for invading Georgia.

    The notorious Putin-supporting newspaper, the Guardian, reported this in April 2008:

    George Bush this morning said he “strongly supported” Ukraine’s attempt to join Nato, and warned he would not allow Russia to veto its membership bid.

    Speaking in Kiev after a meeting with Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yushchenko, the US president said both post-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia should be allowed to join the alliance – despite vehement objections from Russia.

    In remarks likely to infuriate the Kremlin, Bush said Ukraine should be invited during this week’s Nato summit in Bucharest to join Nato’s membership action programme, a prelude to full membership.

    The war between Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia happened in August 2008. Nato expansion was very much in the picture, as it had been from the 1990s, but especially because of Bush’s 2008 stance. To say that this is only a convenient excuse is for me laughable.

    However, it’s also important to say that John’s point in this post was much narrower. Should the BBC have mentioned Sea Breeze as it ‘fact-checked’ Putin’s recent speech? I say yes. Even if I believed every word you’ve written I’d say the same.

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  30. Chester,

    I too am with Jit, inasmuch as Putin is a thug who has openly expressed a desire to reverse the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, this desire also has to be seen in the context of NATO’s designs for Europe, as encapsulated in its Partnership for Peace initiative. In this respect, saying I did it because of NATO, or I did it because I am an expansionist, are tantamount to the same thing. However, this is the broader debate that I am seeking to avoid. This is really an article about the concept of the fact-checker and how getting one’s facts right doesn’t seem to be a vital part of that function. As Richard suggests, even if Putin seeks to express the situation only from his point of view, that is no reason for the BBC Reality Check Team to be so selective when it comes to acknowledging the realities. I urge you to read the link Richard provided regarding ‘Invasion of the Fact-Checkers’. It was an eye-opener for me since I had not quite appreciated the scale and breadth of the problem.

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Richard:

    “However, it’s also important to say that John’s point in this post was much narrower. Should the BBC have mentioned Sea Breeze as it ‘fact-checked’ Putin’s recent speech? I say yes. Even if I believed every word you’ve written I’d say the same.”

    Denizens of Cliscep have been assiduously cataloguing the misinformation the BBC uses in its reporting of the climate issue for as long as I have been a member. However, some members appear to take the BBC at face value when reporting other contentious issues. I don’t understand this at all. If a media company takes the establishment line on one issue, isn’t it just as likely to be just as complisant on others?

    Leopards don’t change their spots.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Bill,

    I agree to a certain extent. Once an organisation has demonstrated a disregard for journalistic rigour on an important issue, that is bound to impact its credibility in general. However, paradoxically, it’s particularly when they claim to be fact or reality checking that one should be most on one’s guard. The term ‘fact check’ is supposed to indicate reliable judgement founded upon expertise but, in reality, it is a euphemism that is used to inveigel the authorised view. It’s actually quite Orwellian. The organisation remains capable of telling the truth but mostly when the issue is of less importance to those who are sponsoring the fact checking.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Sorry, I meant to say ‘the issue is of less importance’. This is corrected now.

    Like

  34. …and issues of lesser importance are, of course, the ones that tend not to ‘need’ fact checking.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Bill without mentioning my name I feel your criticism regarding my support for the BBC. Usually this arises because the BBC commonly supports those that are concerned about climate change. Naturally as a confirmed, died in the wool sceptic I cannot support this wholesale bias, but I can try to understand it. It is tough to take, but almost all scientists and scientific organisations support the idea that human activities are causing global warming, many are of the view that an increased frequency of extreme weather events are also caused by us. So what is an organisation like the BBC to do? We voluble sceptics are the tiniest of minorities. No matter how much we may believe our views to be correct, we cannot expect a national broadcaster to cater for our minority opinions.

    Furthermore, even, if very occasionally, the BBC did present a more sceptical viewpoint it would get punished for doing so. Remember the problems and criticisms Channel 4 got when it broadcast a one-hour sceptical programme. Today even the slightest hint of non-adherence to climate change dogma is treated as rank heresy.

    Then there is the matter that the BBC is held to a considerably higher standard than other broadcasters. In the past when I have pointed out that ITV, Channels 4 and 5, Sky and other news organisations are not chastised for not covering news items (commonly favourable to a sceptic view) that the BBC has omitted. [The latest has been mention of the Sea Breeze exercises in Ukraine].

    Commonly then whomever I am “discussing” this matter with, retreats by reminding me that we pay for the BBC so we should expect better. Firstly I fail to see the logic of this argument, and secondly it is wrong. You pay, not for a BBC licence (although commonly it is called that) it is a licence to watch or record television (any television, not just the BBC). Neither does the BBC receive it directly, it goes into government coffers and then the government pays the BBC for services ( and not just for television).

    It is true that the BBC collects the tax and so in the public’s mind the two are irretrievably linked. But this is a sneaky device of the government to avoid being directly linked with yet another tax.

    Why do I support the BBC? The main reason is that I spent 10 years of my life in North America where the main product was abysmal. Anything reasonable was interrupted by incessant advertisements that broke up the continuity of programmes. The best parts were commonly BBC imports or produced by public broadcasting (almost BBC clones). I cannot fully express to you just how much I welcomed turning on my new British television upon my return to GB.

    I read with great sadness this week that Mark no longer watches television. I will admit commonly days go by with little but dross, but I usually find an hour each evening that rewards viewing, and which Mark must miss. Last night there was the last episode of a series “The Art that Made Us” which selected items from different centuries that reflect or sometimes instigated changes. Not just pictures, but architecture, poetry, and literature. For me, an absolute philistine, it was fabulous. I believe the BBC absolutely excels in these types of programmes that it sells worldwide. And Mark, I feel sure you would have greatly enjoyed it. Sorry you missed it and countless other excellent programmes.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. It’s not unexpected that this thread hasn’t remained as narrow in focus – razor sharp indeed – as John’s original.

    As things get wider (and I’m partly to blame) they get much more difficult. I think it’s very useful that Alan’s brought us back to the BBC and climate, following (but not following) Bill. The thing is, this isn’t just about the BBC, it’s about the truly pernicious new rigmarole or mythology of fact-checking. (I could use other noun phrases, like totalitarian nightmare.)

    I have now finished Tablet Magazine’s Invasion of the Fact-Checkers myself. Very good, very comprehensive and very hard to get one’s head around. At least if you’re me.

    Back to Putin, he claims that the conflict has two aims: the de-nazification and de-militarisation of Ukraine. The second has to do with Nato and its training bases, plus exercises like Sea Breeze. The western media has mocked the de-nazification goal as ridiculous. I think they’re wrong there too, whether dressed up as ‘fact-checking’ or not. But I’ll say something about that on Geoff’s earlier Ukraine thread. Then add a link in here.

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  37. Alan, thank you for your concern regarding my life without TV, but so far (almost 6 months later) I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all. Some things are just a habit, I guess, and when you break the habit, you find that you don’t miss them. I used to eat quite a lot of cheese, but I gave it up as part of a health drive, to try to reduce my visceral fat levels. It worked, and to my pleasant surprise I found that I wasn’t missing cheese. It’s a bit like that with TV – I used to watch quite a lot of it, and I thought I would miss it when I stopped, but I find that I don’t – and I suspect my mental health has improved quite a lot, too!

    I have a backlog of close to 200 books waiting to be read, and I doubt if I’ll crack that, but I’ve made a determined start. And now that the long, light evenings are here, I don’t want to be in front of a TV screen (I know that I’m currently sat in front of a laptop screen, but the much-plugged heatwave still hasn’t reached us – today has been cold, grey and windy, and I’m content being at home this evening).

    I will readily accept that the BBC does make a number of fine programmes, but not so many as used to be the case, and there is a lot less wheat among increasing amounts of chaff. And I always watched the good stuff, such as it was, with bated breath, wondering where and when they would insert a reference to the climate crisis.

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  38. Mark my sadness over your giving up watching live television is only that you miss out by not watching the best programmes that occur occasionally. Those programmes are a part of our culture and, unless a neighbour records them for you to watch later you miss out. But tonight, for example there are the slimmest of pickings – I don’t watch football and have little interest in hearing Europe’s (and Australia’s) best efforts to wreak my ear-drums at an annual “song” contest.

    I note that although you spurn TV you still avail yourself of the free bits of BBC – the radio stations, and the on-line BBC News. They, and the BBC listening network, all come from the same funding package.

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  39. Alan, yes I still avail myself of the free bits of the BBC. Why not? I don’t make the rules but I do comply with them.

    Not having a TV licence means that I can’t watch any live TV at all; it doesn’t deny me access to BBC TV alone. I don’t mind, since I find the other channels to be no better than those offered up by the BBC.

    Since the rules prevent me watching any live TV at all without a licence, I don’t have any problems with, or feel any guilt about, listening to BBC radio and accessing its website. Mind you, I listen to less and less radio these days, as the quality of this also steadily deteriorates.

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  40. Mark. You’re getting older, with memories. Everything is worse than it used to be. Look at science.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. For those who have a regard for original source material, here is Putin’s speech in full, as translated into English by the Kremlin:

    https://www.barrons.com/news/russian-president-vladimir-putin-s-full-speech-01645738807

    Of particular note, as far as my article is concerned, is that the words quoted by the BBC’s Paul Kirby, i.e. “They were preparing a punishing operation in Donbas to intrude on our historic lands”, do not actually appear in the speech. Maybe he got the quote from a mate he met in the pub. What Putin actually says about forces threatening the Donbas and Crimea is:

    “If we look at the sequence of events and the incoming reports, the showdown between Russia and these forces cannot be avoided. It is only a matter of time. They are getting ready and waiting for the right moment.”

    This has to be read in the context of his earlier recounting of Hitler’s invasion of Russia in WWII and how unprepared they were. That, he says, will not be allowed to happen again.

    Liked by 3 people

  42. John, I’m shocked. Paul Kirby has told you the facts and you are believing the Kremlin.

    In other news, Vladimir Putin is a wonderfully forgiving boss who doesn’t mind being misrepresented by his official translators.

    Or something.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. Richard,

    I suppose Kirby’s Russian could be better than the Kremlin’s Engish.

    No, I think I’ll stick to the pub mate theory.

    Liked by 1 person

  44. I wasn’t aware until last week that Maajid Nawaz has strong feelings about what has gone on in Ukraine over the last 20 years (at least) including the line the West has taken:

    We Backed Nazis. Putin Got That Bit Right

    That headline written (with a whole lot else) in February about the Western-backed coup of 2014.

    How did I spot that? Because Nawaz disagreed on Twitter with Elon Musk:

    What a good example of open debate on that medium. Then there’s the terrible ongoing scandal of organ harvesting and foetuses stolen for stem cell production:

    I don’t agree with every word Nawaz writes. One reason I bring it up here is that the BBC has tried to bring in ‘fact-checking’ since February into the reality or otherwise of Nazi or neo-Nazi influence in Ukraine. But this is far too complex an area for what is normally highly simplistic support for the establishment view.

    Dominic Cummings wrote something very similar to Nawaz on Wednesday night about Putin getting the Nazi influence within Ukraine right. Another person trusting Putin about a matter of great importance.

    Well, judging him to be more truthful, or realistic, about this particular area. As well he might, given the history of WW2, as John rightly highlights from his speech.

    Don’t be spoon-fed by BBC or any other fact-checkers. We know that with climate. With Ukraine we need to achieve balance. And that is very, very hard. (Much harder in May 2022, for us, than the broad outlines of climate alarmism. I’ll have more to say on this on Geoff’s old thread on atrocities and false flags.)

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Richard,

    I’ve more to say on this but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

    Like

  46. Richard,

    Yesterday I started reading “Putin’s People”, by Catherine Belton. In the prologue she describes a private conversation between two of the individuals who were responsible for putting Putin in power. Well, I say ‘private’ but we all got to know about it because they were being bugged by the Kremlin. The general theme was rueful regret for what they had done. At one point, the first man, Sergei Pugachev (dubbed ‘Putin’s Banker’), says to the other:

    “Many of the decisions he makes are based upon his convictions of how the world is run. The subject of patriotism – he believes this sincerely. When he says the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy, he believes this sincerely…He just has such values. What he does, he does sincerely. He sincerely makes mistakes’.

    That is where I am coming from. Because Putin is inherently deceitful, we all assume that he is being disingenuous about his motives. However, that is where his duplicity ends, and we shouldn’t overthink it. Everything he said about his beliefs and motives in his Victory Day speech can be taken at face value, and if we don’t do so, then we are destined to misjudge the man. When he invaded Ukraine he made a sincere mistake based upon ‘his convictions of how the world is run’.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. As a good example of overthinking things, there is this:

    “An oncologist has claimed that there are multiple signs the Russian President Vladimir Putin is dealing with cancer-related cognitive impairment which may explain why he is waging war in Ukraine.”

    https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/vladimir-putin-invaded-ukraine-due-26973908

    That Putin is ill is very plausible. That he invaded Ukraine in a moment of confusion is less so.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. There was more to the Partnership for Peace than:
    “As the name suggests, they are principally designed to demonstrate how NATO countries, and those other ex-Soviet nations who might now feel threatened by Russia, would co-operate militarily in any future naval conflict.”
    It was set up in 1994 under the North Atlantic Co-operation Council (which included Russia) to build co-operation between NATO countries and former Soviet-block nations. From Wiki:
    “It was claimed by former US President Bill Clinton that the partnership would give a way for countries in Eastern Europe, including those that were part of the Soviet Union and even Russia itself to work together “for the best possible future for Europe”.[9]
    The Partnership for Peace Framework Document presented six areas of cooperation, including:[14]
    To ensure transparency in national defense proceedings and budgeting procedures;
    To allow defense forces to be controlled through democratic methods;
    Under the jurisdiction of the United Nations or the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), states need to retain their ability and preparedness to contribute in constitutional behavior and operations;
    To enhance the ability for states to provide humanitarian missions such as peacekeeping and search and rescue as the main goal through building a cooperative militaristic relationship with NATO and other states involved;
    To build forces that can work with members of the NATO in the long run;
    To consult with and report to NATO if threats made to the security, territory or sovereignty of a participating state are detected.”
    Russia was a founding member and Belarus joined in 1995.
    So the PfP started with good intentions but, somewhere along the road, it seems to have morphed into an agency for NATO expansion.

    In the same timeframe Ukraine gave up the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the break-up of the Soviet Union against guarantees of security from Russia, the US and the UK. This was covered by the Budapest memorandum which
    prohibited the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, “except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.”
    Aiui, Russia has threatened and used economic coercion against Ukraine (and other states) for many years and, later, added military force with the annexation of the Donbas and Crimea. So I would speculate that the deterioration of the PfP and NATO’s exercises in Ukraine are a response to Russia’s abnegation of its Budapest commitments.

    Overall, imho, Ukraine was far more sinned against than sinning, even before the recent invasion.

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  49. Mike,

    I think that is a fair analysis, other than to say that the quote you make of my article was not about PFP but the name ‘Sea Breeze’ as it applied to specific military exercises. I do not attempt to justify the invasion, nor am I claiming that Ukraine or NATO is the primary sinner. I do, however, think that a public debate on such issues cannot fail to be compromised if organisations like the BBC misrepresent the facts, particularly under the auspices of ‘fact-checking’.

    The relationship between Ukraine and Russia has been difficult ever since the split. In fact, I would go further and say that it has been difficult since Chernobyl, an incident that many pundits claim sowed the seeds for the downfall of the Soviet Union. As Richard has said, it is all very complicated. But you are right to emphasise the importance of the PFP. Even if it should be taken at face value, that still doesn’t mean, of course, that Putin would. His speech made that clear.

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  50. John,

    If we’re not quite on the same page, we are at least in the same chapter 😉

    To me it’s a bit chicken-and-egg. Did NATO/US seek to push back Russia’s sphere of influence? Or was it more that Russia’s history of unilateral aggression made ex-soviet satellites keen to get all the protection they could?
    I very much favour the latter. Russia’s record says it all: Poland and the Baltics after WWI; Poland and Finland before WWII; Hungary; Czechoslovakia; Afghanistan (plus Georgia; Syria; Crimea and the Donbas more recently).
    Of the 22 non-NATO countries that joined the PfP, 14 subsequently joined NATO.

    I fully agree that such situations should be looked at objectively and in their historical context. For example, while not excusing Putin’s aggression in the least, it is fair to point out that Crimea was part of Russia for several centuries until it was incorporated into Ukraine in the mid-50s by Kruschev.

    Another contributing factor to Putin’s invasion, in my view, was the response of the West to his seizure of Crimea and the Donbas. It was very muted and some of the players on the US side are on the field again: Biden, Kerry and others.

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  51. John and others might find this interesting:

    “Western Audiences Have a Right to Be Accurately Informed About this War”

    https://dailysceptic.org/2022/05/18/western-audiences-have-a-right-to-be-accurately-informed-about-this-war/

    “Yesterday, Ukrainian fighters besieged in the Azovstal steelworks surrendered to Russian forces, after a battle lasting almost three months. There’s no doubt this was a surrender: the Ukrainian fighters – who belong to the Azov regiment – were taken in buses to Russian-held territory in Eastern Ukraine (as shown above).

    However, that’s not the impression you’d get scanning Western media outlets like the BBC, CNN and the New York Times. These outlets described what happened as an “evacuation” marking an “end to the combat mission”. …

    …Despite reporting where the Ukrainian fighters were taken (Russian-held territory), some of the articles above don’t even use the word ‘surrender’. One is reminded of Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf – nicknamed “Comical Ali” – who became known for his preposterous claims about U.S. losses during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    Note: this has nothing to do with being ‘pro-Russia’. This is about journalists using language that actually corresponds with reality. Which prompts the question of why? Why are they going around describing things in transparently misleading terms?…”.

    I think the last point is the most important, and mirrors the way John presented his article. Patently Putin and Russia are in the wrong, and it’s good that Ukraine is receiving support and sympathy from the west in the face of unprovoked aggression. However, it is important to recognise that western MSM may well be delivering propaganda to western audiences as well as “straight” news reporting. I’m all for cheering us up and offering hope that Ukraine can win and that Putin can be defeated, but I think we should remember that in war, truth is the first casualty. The Katyn massacre was a good example to highlight. For once the Nazi regime was telling the truth, but they were so despicable and dishonest that the allied governments and media were able to get away with persuading the western public that the massacre was down to Nazis, not Soviets. All for the sake of not upsetting the apple cart, and maintaining harmonious relations with a vitally important, but dishonest, cruel and difficult Soviet ally and leadership.

    Liked by 2 people

  52. Mike,

    If you do ascertain what chapter I am in, please be sure to let me know because, in all honesty, I don’t think I have a clue 🙂

    I think my position could best be described as militant atheist. It’s not really a case of taking sides but I am damned if I’ll stay silent when I see journalists playing foot loose and fancy free with the facts. As Mark has pointed out, there is propagandizing on all sides. The BBC would claim to be above it all but I think the evidence suggests otherwise.

    As I say, it isn’t so much that I disagree with you as I find the whole thing rather complicated and I distrust the simplifications on offer. I seek to understand Putin rather than condone him, and in that pursuit I find the BBC fact checking less than useful.

    Incidentally, if you would like to read a compelling account of the Chernobyl incident, its political fallout and its contribution to the collapse of the Soviet Union, I can highly recommend Serhii Plokhy’s book, ‘Chernobyl – History of a Tragedy’. It goes some way towards explaining the Russo Ukrainian relationships that preceded this war.

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  53. Mike,

    Regarding my comment of 13 hours ago, I have only just noticed that I wrote ‘militant athiest’ when I had, of course, meant to write ‘militant agnostic’.

    It’s my age.

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  54. John,

    As you say, it’s a complicated story and we are very poorly-served by those reporting on it. I have yet to come across a clear account in any of the media of the historical background which, in my view, has much bearing on recent events.
    Thanks for the recommendation of the book about Chernobyl.
    I worked in the nuclear industry for a spell many years ago and it’s remained an interest so I will look up that book.

    Liked by 2 people

  55. John:

    The buzzing of HMS Defender was well-reported at the time but less well-known was the treatment received by the Dutch HNLMS Evertsen, which was continually harassed by armed Su-24M bombers and Su-30SM fighters from the 43 oshap of ChF RF at Saki airbase. Even more concerning, during these ‘attacks’ the Evertsen had its electronic countermeasures jammed. As a result of such skirmishes, exercise Sea Breeze 2021 came as close as any other to breaking out into the real thing.

    Are we really expected to believe that the NATO ships were not trying to test the RF electronic defences?
    What happened to the Evertsen may have been just a warning of what the Russians could do.

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  56. Bill,

    >”Are we really expected to believe that the NATO ships were not trying to test the RF electronic defences?”

    Whether they were trying to or not, they would have known that any activity that draws a response from the enemy would lead to the gathering of important military information, whether it be ELINT, SIGINT or COMINT. As I said, the information gleaned as a result of the Evertson affair was disturbing for NATO.

    Of course, such intelligence-gathering probing is committed by both sides. You may recall the infamous ‘incursion’ made by two Bear bombers back in 2015. They were tracked flying down the west coast of the UK but it wasn’t until they were off the Cornish coast that they were intercepted by Typhoons launched from RAF Conningsby in Lincolnshire. And by all accounts, the Typhoons were not there to meet the Bears. I seem to remember reading somewhere that the Russian bombers had to hang around a while before the RAF turned up (there are even reports that, contrary to the MOD statement, the bombers did actually enter UK airspace). Whatever the case, the purpose of a Quick Reaction Alert is to confront the intruder long before they get within range of launching their stand-off weaponry. That’s what used to happen during the Cold War; not any more, apparently. The Russian probing learnt that our UK air defence is now no longer fit for purpose. Nevertheless, Cameron was quicker with his bullshit than the RAF were with their jets:

    “I think what this episode demonstrates is that we do have the fast jets, the pilots, the systems in place to protect the UK.”

    That’s not what the experts are saying. That’s not what the Russians found out.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2960793/Britain-mercy-Putin-s-planes-Russian-war-aircraft-taunt-ex-RAF-chiefs-warns-powerless.html

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  57. In our once-great southern land,the Liberal Federal government has just lost the Election to the Labor Party with preferences from the Greens. Most local Councils are Green and our State governments Labor. Now with a new Labor/Green government, nothing to stop the socialists sweeping through the land. Climate Change is the new religion. Our departing PM, in his thanks to the people speech, gave a warning re maintaining defence of the realm. We are so vulnerable!

    Liked by 1 person

  58. How about a bit of history from someone who lives in Ukraine:

    You can take it with as much salt as your prejudices allow.

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  59. Beth

    it was big news on BBC news channel all day.

    I wondered why at first, until the BBC on the spot reporter stated something like “Australia will now be a renewable energy superpower” – may have misheard !!!

    but pushing the climate change narrative was all the BBC were really interested in IMHO.

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  60. Richard and dfh.

    In Oz, Zero net policy is the aim by 2050 ( or sooner.) A new independent party they call The Teals won a number of seats and are pushing renwables like there’s no tomorrow. Lots of new Women MPs. Women feature prominently in the Green Religion here.

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  61. Mark Hodgson says:

    “On the other hand, apart from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the USA did not invade Cuba.”

    On the other hand, Russia withdrew its nukes after making a secret agreement with JFK for the US to withdraw it’s nukes in Turkey, so the USA did not have to invade. Mark Hodgson’s moralizing appears to be based on a false comparison.

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  62. Dr Electronius,

    I have re-read my comment on 10th May at 7.14pm. and I stand by it. It consists of rather more than a single cherry-picked sentence, and is, I hope, more nuanced than your brief comment suggests. Which part of my “moralizing” do you disagree with, and why? Is it OK that Putin invaded Ukraine, in your view?

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  63. My recollection of the time was that Russian ships carrying missiles to Cuba had crossed most of the North Atlantic with the USA vowing never to let them land their cargo. Most of their passage was accompanied by the US Navy. At almost the last moment the Russian ships reversed course and the critical point never took place. Later we learned that ongoing diplomacy (following the rules of Brag) found a face-saving for Russia: missiles would not be installed in Cube “in exchange for “ missiles in Turkey being withdrawn” . The fact that those missiles were already outdated (having already been superseded by those in Germany) was not highlighted.

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  64. On the Cuban crisis Cummings recommends One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs, published in 2008, based on lots of new material from archives and interviews. He’s commenting on this from an ex-Russian foreign minister:

    Cummings ain’t on the same page as Kozyrev:

    This is a very bad interpretation but very widespread. The truth is that JFK had no idea about the near catastrophe in a Russian submarine that nearly triggered war. Cf. Arkhipov above. It is not true to portray Cuba as an example of deterrence ‘working’ because of ‘resolve’. WE WERE LUCKY AND DIDN’T REALISE AT THE TIME! Then, without knowing the full story, JFK and RFK span myths to the media which were repeated and are widely believed — ‘eyeball to eyeball’ etc.

    All over Twitter you have versions of this argument and much worse in the context of NFZ [no fly zone] propaganda. I mention this guy because he is a former foreign minister. If he has such misunderstandings it’s no surprise so many others do. (He’s doubly confused because he then says he does not support a NFZ then says he is ‘on the same page’ as Eliot Cohen, who does!)

    We should have been tougher with Putin for 20 years, as I’ve said for 20 years. But the answer now is not to panic into nuclear escalation based on false historical parallels.

    That was on 17th March. I’ve not looked into it but I admit I’m already a massive fan of Arkhipov, the Soviet submarine commander who refused to set off a nuclear exchange and single-handedly saved the world. Not the bullshitting politicians.

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  65. To Bill Bedford (13 May 22 at 12:43 pm) ‘If a media company takes the establishment line on one issue, isn’t it just as likely to be just as compliant on others?
    Are you familiar with late author Michael Crichton’s ‘Gell-Mann Amnesia effect’? Simply put, one reads a newspaper article about a topic one is familiar with and realises the article is garbage—the journalist hasn’t the first clue what he’s writing about; then one turns the pages and reads an article about a topic one has no knowledge of and deems it accurate and factual, instead of being likely to be as much garbage as the first article.
    Similarly, once one judges one article to be propaganda rather than faithful news-reporting, one can reasonably assume nearly every other article is also propaganda (thus the doctrine of ‘Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus’); with the exception of less important articles as noted by John Ridgway (13 May 22 at 2:19 pm). wrt latter point, average liars sprinkle their lies with truths to make their lies more believable—the very best liars state almost nothing but truth, saving the lies for key moments.

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  66. To Bill Bedford (21 May 22 at 6:20 pm). I can’t take Gonzalo Lira seriously after he retweeted a neo-Nazi attempting to exculpate the original Nazis; then justified the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, ignoring the reasons for the US oil embargo (Japanese occupation of French Indochina in support of their attempt to conquer China—and in a manner so brutal as to appal even Nazis).

    As Nietzsche famously wrote, ‘He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into the abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.’ (Beyond Good and Evil (1886)).
    Sadly, some champions of many causes go too far and end up mirror images of their opponents. So it is with Lira: to criticise, oppose, to desire the fall of, modern Western governments is justifiable—arguably our duty; but to go beyond that, to condemn everything the West has done in history, to always side uncritically with our enemies, is neither reasonable nor justifiable. At this point, Lira is the mirror image of those neocon Russophobes in the West, painting Russia’s actions past and present in the blackest possible light, promoting hatred of the Russian nation and people; so Lira does the same to the West. Both parties only cultivate a war of extermination.

    No country is entirely free of sin or error; but the European nations and peoples—including Russia—have done more good than harm. We have much to be proud of in our past, and I do not accept the current misconduct of treasonous political Establishments across the West require me to reject my own country in its entirety, along with my European heritage; indeed, it is my love and pride in our past that informs my shame at our present.

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  67. To Richard Drake (22 May 22 at 10:41 am). Decent enough account here of Vasili Arkhipov: The man who saved the world: The Soviet submariner who single-handedly averted WWIII at height of the Cuban Missile Crisis (Daily Mail).

    There was another one, Stanislav Petrov, who thankfully ignored a false radar alert of a nuclear launch in 1983: Man who ‘saved the world’: Russia’s Stanislav Petrov is FINALLY given award 35 years after he recognized US ‘nuke attack’ was a false alarm and refused to retaliate (Daily Mail).

    Liked by 1 person

  68. [Arkhipov] saved the world by single-handedly averting World War Three with one decision 50 years ago, yet he died humiliated, outcast and an unknown.

    Yep, thanks SE. That kind of thing always helps me recalibrate the importance of reputation!

    Liked by 1 person

  69. “….yet he [Arkhipov] died humiliated, outcast and an unknown”. Yet the Wikipedia entry for Arkhipov says he was repeatedly promoted, being made a vice-admiral and headed up a submariners school. Hardly humiliated or outcast. Sounds like a somewhat illustrious career to me.

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  70. To Alan Kendall (22 May 22 at 7:30 pm): El Wik is not exactly renowned for accuracy—but neither is the average rag (thus ‘Yellow Press’ or ‘Lügenpresse’), see Michael Crichton’s description of his ‘Gell-Mann Amnesia effect’ (comment 4.22pm above).
    If not completely inaccurate, perhaps it’s definitions or perspectives: there is ‘failing upwards’ or being ‘kicked upstairs’—superficially a promotion but not one based on merit. Leastways, Arkhipov’s widow said ‘he felt they hadn’t appreciated what they had gone through’ (c.50m on the 2012 PBS documentary The Man Who Saved the World, available here on youtube).
    I don’t know, nor do I claim to.

    Still, the essential point is how close we came to the unthinkable, unleashing Armageddon—and note how that incident occurred due to bomb-happy Yanks dropping explosive devices onto the sub. Not the brightest action in the midst of an international crisis and armed confrontation between nuclear-armed powers.
    (On topic of nuclear war, many will recommend the now again relevant Threads but on specifically this point, also see 1981’s Southern Comfort.)

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  71. ScotchedEarth in a similar vein do not necessarily accept the word of someone you don’t know. Why do you believe his promotions were not for merit?

    Other consulted sources do not give any reason to suppose that Arkhipov became an outcast and was humiliated. In fact the evidence suggests the contrary – he was trusted sufficiently that he continued to be a submariner and captained them and submarine squadrons.

    You don’t entrust submarines to individuals you have any doubts about. I had a cousin who joined the British Navy as a submariner and he was seemingly constantly under review concerning his mental attitudes. I cannot imagine the Soviet Navy being any different, especially with respect to its submarine officers in charge of nuclear weapons.

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  72. “…note how that incident occurred due to bomb happy Yanks dropping explosive devices onto the sub.”

    Again I have to demure. The US was determined to prevent nuclear missiles being installed in Cuba and so placed a quarantine around the island. This involved inspecting all ships intending to land at Cuba. A missile could be carried by a submarine, so the USA announced its intention to force all detected submarines to the surface using non-lethal depth charges. In fact the Americans having accomplished this did everything to defuse the situation. They offered assistance (refused), did not insist upon an inspection, and tried to reduce tensions further by having a jazz band play on one of the destroyers. Strange but true.

    The “situation” arose because the Soviets 1) did not inform their submarine captains of the American intentions, and 2) proceeded in the belief that their submarines could operate around Cuba completely undetected. What exactly were the Soviets doing deploying a squadron of ATTACK submarines equipped with nuclear torpedoes in such a sensitive location?

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  73. To Alan Kendall (23 May 22 at 6:42 am). Do you see that sentence I emphasised with italics? I’m not believing anything, m8, and I explicitly stated that.

    To Alan Kendall (23 May 22 at 8:28 am). Given how close that situation came to initiating Nuclear Armageddon, it is manifestly astoundingly reckless to drop explosive devices on a submerged submarine in the middle of an international crisis (started by the Americans with their siting nuclear-tipped missiles in Turkey).

    AK: ‘What exactly were the Soviets doing deploying a squadron of ATTACK submarines equipped with nuclear torpedoes in such a sensitive location? The Americans were not leaving any of their nuclear kit at home, let alone shipping it out of range of Cuba. Both sides were preparing for the worst in a crisis caused by the US; and although only US security was threatened, they were prepared to take the rest of Europe with them, placing us in Arnold Toynbee’s words in a position of facing ‘annihilation without representation’.

    But the Americans are notoriously trigger-happy—they have killed more British since the Second World War than the Soviets (which includes the standup fight in Korea). Certainly, friendly fire is a perennial problem for militaries, occurring even in peacetime training, but da-yum, sometimes the Yanks don’t even seem to be trying:

    Approaching US convoys was a particularly risky endeavour for the British. On 27 February 2004 three British vehicles overtook a Czech convoy north of Safwan, close to the Kuwait border. That brought them directly behind an American convoy, lumbering along at 30mph, prompting a US soldier to threaten them with his .50 calibre machine gun.
    An intelligence report written by the British but passed to the Americans emphasised: “There was sufficient daylight for the US convoy to clearly see the British military number plates on the vehicles.” It went on: “The British convoy attempted to get close to and pass the US convoy a total of three times and was threatened in the same way each time.”
    Five months later, on 20 July, a US convoy opened fire on British vehicles trying to overtake in the same area. British vehicles were also shot at by American convoy escorts again in November and December and by a Bulgarian convoy the same month.
    By February 2005 the British seemed to have become resigned to being shot at by their allies as an occupational hazard. A report from that month of a three-vehicle British convoy being strafed by an American gunner concludes “both convoys continued on their journey without stopping”.
    In May 2005 a gunner on a US convoy opened fire on two Kings Royal Hussars vehicles when one of the Hussars drivers swerved to avoid a piece of debris on the road.
    One night in October 2006 a British patrol, festooned with the blue light sticks, agreed on as a sign to identify themselves as friendly, reported they had been shot at by US troops who had no night vision goggles and had been listening to their iPods.

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  74. ScotchedEarth,

    Thanks for your recent contributions to the debate, although may I suggest that the questions you raise might be more at home under the following article:

    On the Safest Way to Kill

    As for your observation regarding the US military being a bit trigger happy, I have to agree that they do seem to have an unfortunate reputation. I remember reading somewhere that over a quarter of the 148 US soldiers killed in Iraq were killed in friendly fire. But, as I say, maybe this topic should be pursued in the context of the above article on nuclear weapon safety and the challenges of command and control.

    Like

  75. Thanks to an alert on the BBC website I’ve reached the exciting

    [THIS PAGE IS LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK]

    stage of the Sue Gray report. But I came onto this thread not to be as off-topic as that but to praise another BBC journalist, Jeremy Bowen, for his report late yesterday from the Donbas. With apologies to John what follows is not really about Putin – well, only indirectly – but it is about the BBC being far more balanced, insightful and indeed compassionate about the Ukraine conflict. All IMHO, obviously.

    Ukraine war: 'This is just the beginning, everything is still to come'

    That’s the headine. Early on an eye-witness and resident quoted by Bowen says “President Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko would have reached a ceasefire agreement by now.” That got me searching for what Poroshenko was currently up to. I soon reached this in the FT:

    Putin ally gives evidence against former Ukrainian president

    If you doubted the complexity of Ukrainian politics and how it relates to and has related to Russia – and indeed the corruption and accusations of corruption throughout – I’d suggest that article as an antidote. Another fine piece of journalism – well, as far as one can tell.

    For me Bowen significantly puts right what Mark (and an helpful article he pointed to from the Daily Sceptic) was concerned about a week ago: it is important to recognise that western MSM may well be delivering propaganda to western audiences as well as “straight” news reporting. In not reporting honestly when Ukraine is being badly defeated. And ignoring those suffering on the spot who depart from western wishful thinking:

    Bakhmut has been heavily shelled. Standing in front of his damaged house, a man in his 40s called Mitri showed defiance, apprehension and frustration. He had no idea what to expect in his town.

    “I’m not Nostradamus. Why did Putin attack? It’s all political games.”

    Mitri said President Zelensky’s predecessor Petro Poroshenko would have reached a ceasefire agreement by now.

    “At least there was peace before, they were negotiating. It’s a pity about the people who died, the soldiers. It is a real shame.”

    It was, he said, President Zelensky’s fault. He had missed an opportunity.

    Bowen concludes:

    If President Putin’s forces can encircle Severodonetsk, their next targets would most likely be the key cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk in the Donetsk Oblast, the other side of Donbas.

    Then he might declare victory in the battle for Donbas.

    I saw lines of freshly dug trenches near the two cities, as the Ukrainians prepared fall back positions. If they fell, and it is no certainty as they are both heavily defended, President Putin would be able to declare his first significant victory of the war.

    Russia would control a belt of territory stretching along its border south from Donbas and along most of Ukraine’s coastline.

    President Zelensky says that only diplomacy can end the war, but he has said that Russia must return to the positions it held before the invasion.

    His allies, led by the US and UK, want to weaken Putin’s Russia permanently. They have said Russia must not win.

    Their critics say they’ll fight to the last Ukrainian.

    The currency of war is blood. As families bury their dead, more Ukrainians, like Mitri in Bakhmut, will question the blood price they are paying, and ask whether it is better to pay for a ceasefire with land – or lives.

    “Their critics say they’ll fight to the last Ukrainian.” I first heard that telling phrase from a certain Dominic Cummings.

    Well done Jeremy Bowen.

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  76. Yes, Jeremy Bowen has for me long been a tremendous journalist. I used to listen almost spellbound to his knowledgeable and balanced reporting on events in the Middle East.

    If all BBC journalists were like him, I would be a fan of the BBC, rather than a critic.

    Liked by 1 person

  77. >”With apologies to John what follows is not really about Putin…”

    On the contrary, I do not consider your comment to be off topic, any more than my own regarding the Heard v Depp trial. The real subject here is not Putin but the concept of fact-checking and how institutions use their reputation for impartiality to push forward political agendas, whilst at the same time masquerading as arbiters of the truthful and factual.

    As for Jeremy Bowen, it is ironic that he has such a strong reputation professionally and yet has been found guilty of lack of impartiality by the BBC Trust:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20090418210846/http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/tv-radio/bowen-breached-rules-on-impartiality-1669278.html

    Jeremy was not impressed:

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/jun/10/jeremy-bowen-attacks-bbc-trust

    He needs to be careful. Feelings are running high regarding Putin and the Ukraine and it would not take much for there to be a complaint to the BBC accusing them of offering ‘false balance’. We denialists know all about that.

    Liked by 2 people

  78. it would not take much for there to be a complaint to the BBC accusing them of offering ‘false balance’. We denialists know all about that.

    I see the same magical thinking in most MSM commentary on Ukraine as one gets with climate/energy and with transgenderism (at least until recently). We know the Ukrainians’ cause is just (forgetting the corruption and neo-Nazi bits) so they just must triumph. The lives lost in futility are not of course our concern. Just like wind-power just has to be cheap and reliable, and good for the poor, because science and wonderful motives. And if a male says he’s a woman, of course they are.

    Bowen is made of older and sterner stuff.

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  79. Apropos magical thinking, what *is* the reality? (Often a more helpful word than ‘facts’, methinks.) I was influenced by Scott Ritter on the likely outcome of the hostilities, way back, and by Douglas Macgregor six days ago:

    Over time, retired Col Douglas Macgregor has been shown to be quite accurate in his overall perspective of the war in Ukraine. Appearing on OANN with Dan Ball, Macgregor gives another update on the current status that aligns with what little non-propaganda information is visible.

    As Macgregor notes, Russia was always going to strategically win a war in eastern Ukraine for the same reason the United States would win a war in Mexico. The scale of a determined military capability eventually wins, even with a strong resistance, specifically because: (a) Ukraine is connected to a common border with Russia, and (b) the citizens in the eastern part of the country are aligned with Russia.

    https://theconservativetreehouse.com/blog/2022/05/19/col-douglas-macgregor-delivers-an-update-on-ukraine-from-a-perspective-western-media-cannot-dare-advance/

    He can also be wrong. But shouldn’t this perspective be one of those pointed to by the BBC? How responsible will we be for the thousands killed in a futile if heroic struggle? Or in a nuclear exchange if we take our flight from reality to its illogical conclusion?

    Liked by 1 person

  80. Richard,

    When I read the Bowen article it left me with a sense of sober reality that contrasted with the triumphalism and moralising that characterises most of the reports in the Western media. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear so much as what I needed to hear. I think the ‘reality’ is that we want to fight a war of attrition by proxy; enough success to degrade Russia’s ability to launch broader campaigns but not so much that Russia begins to sense an existential threat. Russia is expected to achieve its minimum military goals but we want it to be a Pyrrhic victory. This is not good news for the Ukrainians but they shouldn’t complain – we let them win the Eurovision Song Contest.

    Liked by 1 person

  81. >”Bowen is made of older and sterner stuff.”

    Indeed he is. Which is why I think the following two quotes taken from the Guardian article are particularly interesting:

    “Bowen, who has worked for the BBC for 26 years and was advised by Wheeler to stick with reporting rather than moving to presenting, said the state of journalism at the BBC was ‘not great’.”

    Followed by:

    “To laughter, he added: ‘We have to do strange things, compulsory training courses,’ a reference to the editorial standards course overseen by the BBC’s College of Journalism, which all programme-makers had to undertake after a series of lapses.”

    I shudder to think what ‘strange things’ and training a journalist of 26 years standing (with a list of accolades as long as your arm) is forced to undertake in order to meet the BBC’s current editorial standards.

    Liked by 1 person

  82. It’s all a matter of gentle fact-checking John: are you correctly regurgitating the facts, so-called and currently required by Auntie’s disinformation HQ, for best of British propaganda purposes, or are you being a dangerous subversive and actually listening to people on the ground like Mitri in Bakhmut? That’s the way I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  83. What do people on the ground like Mitri know about impartiality? Have they been on the BBC College of Journalism’s course on editorial standards? I bet they haven’t. John Cook has written quite a good article on false experts, i.e. the ones who haven’t even published peer reviewed papers. You obviously need to read it 🙂

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  84. Hehe. But many a true word … Not that I needed it with Jeremy Bowen’s name on the byline but Mitri being a fan of Poroshenko and a critic of Zelensky, when the former is generally regarded in the West as the epitome of corruption, was for me a marker of authenticity of the story. Not impartial and not Nostradamus either. But in a mad world I take Mitri to be a sage on the need for a peace deal way back and, if not then, now.

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  85. Richard

    The Ukraine has the reputation of being the most corrupt country in Europe. Unlike Russia, there was no one willing to take control of the country’s oligarchs and their Western backers The idea that any of the Ukraine’s elite was not corrupt seems as likely as finding a snowball in a sauna.

    Discussions of Ukrainian politics remind me of the old joke about the Jew who moved to Belfast.

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  86. Bill,

    >”The Ukraine has the reputation of being the most corrupt country in Europe. Unlike Russia, there was no one willing to take control of the country’s oligarchs and their Western backers.”

    This is true, but Putin’s attack on the oligarchs has to be assessed in the context of what the KGB had in mind for the future of the Soviet Union as it approached its collapse. Mindful of what such a collapse would do for the economy, the KGB had put in place an elaborate system by which state funds could be transferred off-shore into a labyrinth of dodgy banks, shell companies and tax havens, all of which was very much for the KGB’s own purposes. In this they forged strong ties with organised crime and, as a KGB agent, Putin was heavily involved in all of this. The scheme was working very well and a lot of state money had been unaccountably syphoned off into KGB and criminal pockets before Yeltsin came along. His liberalizations paved the way for the oligarchs to move in on this ‘business’ and exploit the existing networks to their own advantage. Effectively, they ended moving in on the KGB’s territory and they out-manoeuvred them, getting enormously rich in the process. When Putin came to power, it was not at first appreciated just how much he was part of the KGB’s plan to reverse the situation. In the end, he subverted the justice system so that the power and wealth could be wrested back from the oligarchs and returned to the KGB (or, strictly speaking, to the ‘siloviki’, as Putin’s ex-KGB entourage is known). All of this was an important element of the siloviki’s plans for a return to a Soviet style of control, sometimes referred to as state controlled capitalism. In summary, the best way of looking at it is as a turf war between various corrupt gangs, with Putin’s siloviki gang ultimately gaining the upper hand because of its ability to exploit the judicial system to its own ends.

    The situation in Ukraine was somewhat different since there has always been a split between a Westward and Eastward facing side. No doubt the same ex-KGB influenced power-play was going on between the oligarchs and corrupt elements of the state but this would have been somewhat transcended by the overarching east-west power-play. Basically, Putin had in mind the reconstruction of a Eurasion Common Economic Zone based upon Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Then NATO came along with its PFP. It was bound to end in tears.

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  87. bit O/T – few years ago now I read Bill Browder’s “Red Notice” – Hermitage Capital Management was one of Russia’s largest foreign portfolio investors. Now Vladimir Putin wants him in jail.

    Have to say, in the chaos following the USSR collapse, many savvy people made a killing (money wise).
    as I remember from his book, his company were buying up company stocks/bonds for peanuts.

    not sure how I feel about the many, not only him, that did the same ?
    by that I mean, if I had the same option, would I turn it down!!!

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  88. Dougie,

    >”not sure how I feel about the many, not only him, that did the same ?
    by that I mean, if I had the same option, would I turn it down!!!”

    You are right to point out that, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were many oligarchs who could not resist the temptation to asset strip the state and thereby become billionaires overnight. Putin put an end to their excesses but that wasn’t just for the state’s benefit:

    https://fortune.com/2022/03/02/vladimir-putin-net-worth-2022/

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  89. What is Andrei Nekrasov’s estimate of Putin’s net worth? Nekrasov is a long-standing critic of the Russian leader, of course – calling himself @antiputinismus on Twitter – which led him to want to make a documentary about Bill Browder’s impassioned campaign against the Russian leader. (Browder being cited as authorative in the Fortune article of March, among many other things.) And then things went wrong. I strongly recommend the film he eventually made – The Magnitsky Act – Behind the Scenes. You’ll have to pay but, compared to Browder, he needs the money.

    It’a a genuine question about what Nekrasov would now think Putin is worth. I think it’s fair to say he won’t be taking Browder’s word for it any more. There’s more on my Changing Minds thread in February.

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  90. “Browder’s version of the events has, however, been universally accepted as true and indicative of total corruption and lawlessness Vladimir Putin presides over.”

    “The media’s wholesale adoption of a narrative sourced solely by Browder, a businessman with a vested interest in the case, is exceptional.”

    Let’s be careful here. The West’s views regarding Putin’s corrupt businesses and his personal wealth are not the product of one man’s narrative. I am still ploughing through Catherine Belton’s 500 page treatise on that very subject. It appears meticulously researched and constructs a case based upon countless sources of information. Yes, Browder and the Magnitsky Act gets a mention, but relatively late on in the book when she discusses Trump’s involvement with the siloviki network. Prior to that, Browder is mentioned as one of the capital investors who was up to his elbows aiding and abetting Putin’s expropriation of Khodorkovsky’s Yukos oil empire. These people knew that Putin was gaming the system for his own benefit but still couldn’t resist taking a slice of the pie. That’s not Browder talking, its Belton.

    Liked by 1 person

  91. John, are those quotes from Nekrasov’s website (for his Magnitsky Act film) that I pointed to?

    All I’d say is that for The Magnitsky Act – meaning now the punitive legislation, ‘inspired’ by Browder – to have been passed without question in so many countries puts me in mind of the fact-checking quality of someone like Marco Silva. Nekrasov simply asked some very basic questions that any decent investigative journalist should have done, like “Are these English translations by Browder of key documents in Russian accurate?” The results were very troubling. A bit like trying to get Michael Mann to admit to obvious misdeeds in the making of the original Hockey Stick.

    Belton is highly praised by many. I have no problem with Browder being “mentioned as one of the capital investors who was up to his elbows aiding and abetting Putin’s expropriation of Khodorkovsky’s Yukos oil empire.” And all that. But he’s still considered an authority on the misdeeds of Putin, as the Fortune citation shows. Nekrasov’s work should have put paid to that.

    Peter Hitchens didn’t get this right in the big article I cited in February here. Belton may also not have done. But many more junior journalists should have followed in the footsteps of Nekrasov before her book was written. That they didn’t may just have something to do with fear. And that again is troubling.

    None of which means that Putin is a saint. But this is, for me, a considerable puzzle that hasn’t gone away.

    Liked by 1 person

  92. Richard,

    Yes, they were quotes taken from the Nekrasov website. I should have made that clearer.

    I don’t wish to be seen as cutting across your point regarding lack of due diligence when uncritically accepting a single person’s testimony. I accept your point that it happens too often in journalism. However, without wishing to go into the details of Browder and the Magnitsky Act (something I have yet to look into properly) I still think it is important to understand that caution is required both ways, i.e. the discrediting of a witness in one context should not automatically let the accused off the hook when considering the wider case. Browder was amongst a number of Western investors who found themselves in a perfect position to see Putin’s siloviki in action, and they all seemed to come away with a similar impression. Browder is an important, but by no means essential chronicler of events. If I may quote Belton at length when she talks about Putin’s proposed merger of Gazprom and Rosneft, and how he offered the resulting company for Western investment to stop them complaining about the state break up and asset stripping of Yukos following Khodorkosvky’s state-contrived prosecution:

    “Western investors salivated at the money they could make trading the new state behemoth. ‘This will be the largest oil-and-gas company in the world that foreigners can invest in, at a time when oil and gas prices are going through the roof’, said William Browder, the head of Hermitage Capital Management, which held a significant chunk of Gazprom shares, adding that it was ‘some sort of sugar to help the Yukos medicine go down’. Ian Hague, head of the New York-based Firebird Fund, described the Kremlin’s proposal more directly: ‘They are buying off the loyalty of the foreign investor community as they create what looks like a political dictatorship. And it’s working’.”

    The point I am making is that the case for Putin’s corruption and how it led to his personal wealth doesn’t stand or fall on Browder’s testimony in the Magnitsky Act, and it never did. But that doesn’t exonerate those who accepted the testimony uncritically.

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  93. Bill,

    Thanks for that. It is what I have come to understand as being the Russian state’s official history of events. It was all a Western plot and the patriot Putin put an end to it.

    Mmm.

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  94. No.

    I can’t say anything more to persuade you. I’m afraid you will have to read the Belton book for yourself. It’s a question of meticulous research, copious detail and a myriad of reliable sources all corroborating. There is no comparison to be made with that young bloggers regurgitation of a state-sponsored account.

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  95. John:

    the discrediting of a witness in one context should not automatically let the accused off the hook when considering the wider case

    I haven’t done this. But certain kinds of discrediting should mean we never listen seriously to a witness again.

    I was on the Daily Express website earlier (Spurs reportedly have some money to buy players from 1st July) and found this as the ‘headline’ for its first video on a page on the Russian leader: Putin ‘started war to secure his power’ says Browder.

    I didn’t watch the video. But my claim is that this person shouldn’t be listened to as a pundit by anyone. At all. Exactly the same way as I feel about Michael Mann on climate/energy.

    But when the world one finds is so opposite to this it rings bells and they’re not good ones.

    Sorry this is late and too short. But it’ll have to do. Tha Express article has an extraordinary quote from Richard Dearlove if one is interested in the very likely fate of Vladimir Putin. By next year. Read all about it. It will calm any fears you have had about nuclear war risks. It didn’t do that for me but I’m terrible sceptic.

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  96. Richard,

    I have to reserve judgment on Browder. I haven’t seen the Nekrasov film and my information on Browder is limited to his Wiki entry and what I am learning about him in the Belton book. Say what you like about him, he was the first Westerner to call out Putin regarding his behind the scenes involvement in the corrupt oil trading perpetuated by the likes of his close ally and fellow ex-KGB agent, Timchenko. All of this was later corroborated in great detail by one of Putin’s former partners in crime, Kolesnikov, who defected with a stack of incriminating documents and secret recordings that he’d gathered over the years. Putin was up to his neck in it and profited hugely.

    On a more worrying note, the picture I am seeing is not one of an all-powerful Tsar surrounded by those who are cowed into complicity. Rather, he is surrounded by like-minded people who helped put him where he is and are more than ready to step in to take over whenever necessary. Many are even more extreme in their hatred and suspicion of the West. If there is to be a coup, it will be because his close supporters are seeing him as making too weak a stance.

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  97. John: Peter Hitchens has said “Be careful what you wish for” in seeking to foment a coup, because there are much darker forces lurking in Moscow. I take him absolutely seriously on that, based on first-hand Moscow experience in 90s, but not on the idea that nuclear war will not – can not? – ever happen (which I’ve not seen him explain). Andrew Roberts publicly wishing for an assassination (in the Spectator diary page some weeks back) was remarkably naive by my lights therefore – in contrast to his excellent judgment IMO in his biography of WSC. On Browder it’s very odd that someone with apparent moral courage (in Belton’s telling) should do so much work to fake an atrocity (Putin’s circle arranging the death of Magnitsky because he was exposing government corruption). So, I reserve the right to doubt pretty deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

  98. Richard,

    We are too convinced by our own propaganda. We assume that Putin is isolated and clinging on to power by terrorizing his inner circle. Have you seen his inner circle? We are talking about people like Sergei Ivanov and Nikolai Patrushev. They are all ex-KGB, all dedicated to the re-establishment of a Eurasion powerhouse centred on Russia. They are all ruthless, enormously rich (sanctions notwithstanding) and probably getting increasingly impatient with an ailing Putin. I see no prospects of a happy coup. The only people who could have brought about a change for the better have already fled to the West.

    Meanwhile, when you are trying to expose a money-grabbing web of corruption that results from the best efforts of the State’s secret services, you will be hard pressed to find a witness who is not compromised. Nobody’s testimony should be taken at face value without seeking corroboration, least of all Browder’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  99. The BBC’s Reality Check Team are at it again:

    “Ukraine War: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov fact-checked”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/61829953

    Rebutting Lavrov’s claims that Nato activities were, in effect, ‘dragging Ukraine into NATO’, the BBC responds with the assertion that Nato only ever did stuff in response to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea:

    “Nato hasn’t deployed any combat troops to Ukraine, but co-operation has deepened since 2014. Nato members have supported Ukraine with equipment and training following the annexation of Crimea by Russia and foreign military trainers have had a presence in the country.”

    Still no mention of the joint US-Ukraine wargames that have been held annually on Ukrainian soil since 1997. It’s a shame that the BBC’s Reality Check Team never allow readers to comment on their ‘fact checking’.

    Liked by 2 people

  100. I think lack of the simple phrase “Maidan coup” is another giveaway. Simple phrase but highly complex set of interpretations. Is it a fact? Even asking the question shows how meaningless fact-checking becomes in such areas.

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  101. Richard,

    This is another aspect of the ‘F’ in my version of FLICC. Let’s not follow the data, let’s go with the simplified narrative — or, as in this case, the simplistic narrative.

    Liked by 1 person

  102. Richard,

    “It becomes opinion-checking”.

    Yes, yes, yes. And that is why the BBC Reaility Check Team can never allow comments on their posts. Their ‘facts’ are actually just unchallengable opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

  103. ‘unchallengable opinions’ is right. But the loss is theirs and everybody’s who reads. Because such drivel surely teaches us exactly the wrong attitude to strike when we discover that someone has an opinion that is different from our own – maybe different from the vast multitude of the 97% of humanity who think like sheep on 97% of topics.

    It depends of course how much we respect the person to start with. But, if we do have some respect for them, in other areas, we should I think ‘park’ the strangeness of their opinion in this new area and let it mull. Can opinions mull? My opinion (which is final) is that they can.

    Here’s a trial opinion from today: UK asylum plan defended by Rwandan Anglican archbishop. In the universe of Anglican archbishops I’m reliably informed that this opinion is crushed by well over 97% who think very differently. But it made me think anyway.

    What’s more, this BBC report didn’t even have an Official Fact-Check at the end. His mercies are new every morning 😉

    Like

  104. Richard,

    Religious beliefs certainly do sometimes seem to be pushed as unchallengable opinions masquerading as facts. I’m as bad as anyone else, I suppose . I’d say it is a fact that there is no God, but the reality is that it is just my opinion. As you say, respect for the other guy’s opinion is essential here, particularly when dealing with the minority.

    Take the following piece:

    https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article/the–kettle-logic–of-climate-denial-cultists

    My favourite bit is where the writer rejoices in the idea that climate sceptics are typically too old to survive the winter and so nature is doing its bit at driving them into the minority position they so thoroughly deserve. It made me smile because in his moment of vitriol he forgot that he should have said that the hot summers were doing the trick. If I pointed this out to him, would he call me a cult?

    Liked by 2 people

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