Belarus 213


There is a misperception in western media that Lukashenko is Putin’s man. That is not true; Putin views him as an exasperating and rather dim legacy. There is also a misperception in the west that Lukashenko really lost the recent election. That is not true. He almost certainly won, though the margin is much exaggerated by the official result. Minsk is not Belarus, just as London is not the UK. Most of Belarus is pretty backward and heavily influenced by the state machinery. Dictators have all kinds of means at their disposal to make themselves popular. That is why the odd election or plebiscite does not mean that somebody is not a dictator. Lukashenko is a dictator, as I have been saying for nigh on twenty years.

My analysis is that Lukashenko probably won handily, with over 60% of the vote. But it was by no means a free and fair election. The media is heavily biased (remember you can also say that of the UK), and the weak opposition candidate was only there because, one way or the other, all the important opposition figures are prevented from standing.

The West is trying to engineer popular opinion in Belarus towards a “colour revolution”, fairly obviously. But they are on a sticky wicket. Western Ukraine was genuinely enthusiastic to move towards the west and the EU, in the hope of attaining a consumer lifestyle. Outside of central Minsk, there is very little such sentiment in Belarus. Most important of all, Belarus means “White Russia”, and the White Russians very strongly identify themselves as culturally Russian. We will not see a colour revolution in Belarus. The West is trying, however.

Unlike many of my readers, I see nothing outrageous in this. Attempting to influence the political direction of another country to your favour is a key aim of diplomacy, and always has been. I was a rather good exponent of it on behalf of the UK government for a couple of decades. The BBC World Service has always been FCO funded and its entire existence has been based on this attempt to influence, by pumping out propaganda in scores of languages, from its very inception. The British Council is not spending millions promoting British culture abroad from a pure love of Shakespeare. Government funding is given to NGO’s that aim to influence media and society. Future leaders are identified and brought on training and degree courses to wed them to pro-British sympathies.

I do not have any trouble with any of that. It is part of what diplomacy is. It is of course amusing when the British state works itself into a frenzy over Russia carrying out exactly the same type of activity that the British do on a much larger scale. But it is all part of an age old game. If I were Ambassador to Belarus now, I would have no moral qualms about turning up to support an anti-Lukashenko demo. It is all part of the job.

There is of course a murkier aspect of all this, where activities are hidden rather than open. The British state funded Integrity Initiative’s work in secretly paying foreign media journalists, or creating thousands of false social media identities to push a narrative (the latter also undertaken by MOD and GCHQ among others), is more dubious. So is MI6’s more traditional work of simply suborning politicians, civil servants and generals with large bundles of cash. But again, I can’t get too worked up about it. It is the dirtier end of the game, but time-honoured, with understood boundaries. Again, my major objection is when the UK gets ludicrously sanctimonious about Russia doing precisely what the UK does on a far larger scale.

But then we get into a far darker area, of assassinations, false flag shootings and bombings and false incrimination. Here a line is crossed, lives are destroyed and violent conflict precipitated. Here I am not prepared to say that time honoured international practice makes these acts acceptable. This line was crossed in the Ukraine; for reasons given above I do not think that the tinder exists to trigger the striking of such a spark in Belarus.

I should be very happy to see Lukashenko go. Term limits on the executive should be a factor in any decent democracy. Once you have the levers of power, it is not difficult to maintain personal popularity for many decades, barring external shock; popularity is not the same as democratic legitimacy. I should state very plainly, as I have before, that I think it was absolutely wrong of Putin to outstay his two terms, irrespective of constitutional sophistry and irrespective of popular support.

The ideal would be for Lukashenko to go and for there to be fresh elections, as opposed to the Venezuelan tactic of the West just announcing a President who has never won an election. The best result for the people of Belarus and for international stability would be the election of a reform minded but broadly pro-Russian candidate. Putin has used the crisis to re-assert the “union” of Russia and Belarus – signed 20 years ago this is a single market and free trade area. Few would doubt, crucially including few Belarussians, that the future of Belarus lies with integration with Russia rather than the EU.

History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy. His aims for Belarus will be to ensure it fits neatly with the template of massive commodity exports controlled by a tight knit and highly wealthy oligarchy. Putin will have no interest in the economic reforms Belarus needs.

My expectation is that Lukashenko will hang on, reorienting the economy back towards Russia. Putin’s long term policy goal has always been the reintegration into Russia of majority Russophone areas of the old USSR. That has been his policy in Ukraine and Georgia. Belarus is a major prize. He will seek to bind Belarus in tighter, probably through increased energy subsidy (Putin’s economic arsenal is very limited). Getting rid of Lukashenko is going to move up Putin’s to do list; I give it three years. The current demonstrations in Minsk have no major economic or social effect, and will pass.

UPDATE 17 AUGUST

I just wrote the following in response to a comment below, and I think it usefully explains an important bit of my thinking: and not just on Belarus.

I think the difference between myself and many of my readers is that while we both recognise “western” government as plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite, you and others seem to think that governments are a lot better just because they are anti-Western.
Whereas I believe that many anti-Western governments – Lukashenko, Assad and yes Putin – are also plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite. Just organised a bit differently. And with a still worse approach to civil liberties.

——————————————

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213 thoughts on “Belarus

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  • Bramble

    I just had an interesting few minutes listening to a BBC report from Minsk crossing off every item in your list of Western propaganda points. I really am sick of seeing the money I pay on my licence fee being used to produce such travesties of journalism. Has it occurred to the government that the more they turn the BBC into the official state broadcaster, the less authority it will have on matters closer to home?

  • Jay

    Yasha Levine, cutting through the nonsense of western MSM …

    Yasha Levine
    @yashalevine
    Let’s be honest: No one in America or the EU actually cares about Belarusians. They just want to destabilize Russia. Unleashing a wave of desperate and exploitable migrant workers on the EU—and privatizing the country’s vast industrial and ag wealth is a big bonus, too.
    12:54 am · 16 Aug 2020

    • TomJoad

      “Let’s be honest: No one in America actually cares about the EU or Belarus . They just want to destabilize Russia / UK / Syria / Libya / Afganistan / Iran etc.. Unleashing a wave of desperate and exploitable migrant workers on the EU and destabilising the EU as an economic factor”

      • Jay

        The EU itself is also an imperialist entity with scant regard for democracy. Or for the sovereignty of those middle eastern countries you mentioned, or Venezuela for that matter.

  • Johny Conspiranoid

    “The best result for the people of Belarus and for international stability would be the election of a reform minded but broadly pro-Russian candidate”.

    The likely result would be a Western puppet government that followed extreme neo-liberal policies allowing for the looting of the country and the impoverishment of the population, like in The Ukraine and indeed in America.

    • craig Post author

      No. It is extremely unlikely in Belarus a fair election would result in the election of an anti-Russian candidate. Belarus is not Ukraine.

      • Goose

        Won’t stop the neocolonial ignoramuses clumsily trying to interpose at some point though. Pompeo due in town by any chance?

        Little reported, but even the timid EU is getting sick of the US interference and assertions of extraterritorial jurisdiction; issuing an unusually stern rebuke over outrageous secondary sanctions threats against EU companies due to their participation in the Nord Stream 2 project. The US ambassador to Germany has been getting particularly exercised over it.

        European Union communicated a sharp note of protest against U.S. interference in the construction of the pipeline to Washington. The note was supported by 24 of the EU’s 27 members. https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/US-Sanctions-On-Nord-Stream-2-Upset-European-Lawmakers.html

        Growing a pair at last now the UK has left perhaps?

      • Deepgreenpuddock

        I think a few years ago, no-one would have said that the Ukraine is not Russia, Actually at one time virtually indivisable- to such an extent that Russia had no qualms about ceding Crimea to Ukraine.
        In many ways, historically and linguistically and culturally, Ukraine is the heart of Russia.

        • Peter Moritz

          “hat Russia had no qualms about ceding Crimea to Ukraine.”

          At that time Ukraine was one of the Russian Republics, which changed when Ukraine decided to leave the Russian federation to become independent. Crimea was without discussion transferred to the governance of the Ukraine by Khrushchev in the 1950’s.
          Comparing that to the situation in Canada – Quebec was advised that it of course would loose the areas ceded to it for governance by the federal government should it decide for independence – the Ukraine had actually no right to hang on to areas that were given as part of the USSR when it decided for separation.
          Following Crimea made several attempts to establish independence from Ukraine in several successful referenda, but was only able to achieve some autonomy, which after the Maidan putsch in 2014 was threatened with the warning of an imminent occupation by Ukrainian forces and dismantling of the local parliament..

      • Johny Conspiranoid

        You were right and I was wrong. Its unlikely the West wants a free and fair election.
        I think your a bit behind the times on what Russia is doing economically.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    Hmm? The tools of diplomacy you approve of are the same means by which the British state seeks to suborn democracy in Scotland. Insult to injury, they’re using our own coin to do it.

  • pnyx

    You are clearly too generous when it comes to the application of soft power. Why should it be okay for a state with great financial resources to manipulate other states in every conceivable way? The assertion of moral superiority implicit in agreeing to such practices is, as you yourself know best, nothing but ludicrous.
    And no, it cannot be the task of diplomacy to seek the advantage of one’s own state with all the means at one’s disposal. Especially since one can be mistaken in the assessment of what it consists of. And, more importantly, the definition of this advantage is determined by class interests.

  • N_

    The spread of the idea within western countries that the Belarusian election was “rigged” serves partly (not necessarily mainly) to degrade the concept of “election rigging” in the popular mind in the west so that it can be applied as needed in the coming months by Project Re-Elect Trump in the US.

    Western media such as Reuters and Sky are stating that Alexander Lukashenko is claiming that NATO forces are massing on Belarus’s borders. NATO denies it. Thus Reuters quotes a NATO spokesperson as saying “There is no NATO buildup in the region”. She follows that denial by saying that “NATO’s multinational presence in the eastern part of the Alliance is not a threat to any country. It is strictly defensive, proportionate, and designed to prevent conflict and preserve peace”. She then goes on to say that NATO is closely monitoring events in Belarus. Why is a military cooperation organisation closely monitoring events within the territory of a non-member state which, one presumes, has not been identified as a possible threat to any members?

    NATO is in fact “conducting exercises” right now

    * in Poland and Lithuania on the land (source: BBC), and
    * in the Baltic Sea (source: NATO

    They also conducted exercises in the Black Sea recently, but those exercises may already have concluded. (Source: Navy Times.) But only a few days ago NATO claimed they had secured the skies over the Black Sea after observing “unidentified tracks flying from Crimea” which they then identified as the tracks of Russian aircraft. (Source: NATO.)

    OK… never mind what western media has been ordered by its handlers to say that Lukashenko is saying. What is Lukashenko actually saying? The Belarusian state news agency is called BELTA. I could not find any reference by BELTA to a statement by Lukashenko that NATO forces are massing on Belarus’s borders. Reuters and Sky seem to be telling lies about that, orchestrated it would seem with NATO itself. NATO are, as I said, conducting exercises in Poland and Lithuania but that’s not quite the same as massing forces at the f***ing border, and nor does it appear that Lukashenko has accused them of doing the latter.

    What Lukashenko has actually said is that

    * “suspicious persons” are operating in Belarus

    * “To be honest, we do not know what they are capable of. We do not even know who they are: Americans with the NATO, or someone from Ukraine or our eastern brothers show ‘their affection’ towards us this way. A hybrid war is going on against Belarus and we should expect dirty tricks from any side, which we actually do.

    * they include mercenaries (or as they tend to be called nowadays, members of private military companies):

    According to the president, quite a number of people detained in Belarus sought to destabilize the situation in the country, there is evidence of that. These are not only members of the private military company. ‘We know addresses, houses, names. Certain things are just beyond belief. Mass media are keeping us on our toes speculating that Americans, the NATO want to invade us. Some people with American passports were detained; they were married to American women working in the Department of State. However, Russian top officials are going to extraordinary lengths to defend them,’ the head of state said.

    The translation doesn’t seem to be of high quality. In that last sentence, I wanted to check the pronoun “them” in the original – or at least in the Russian version (the language that most people in Belarus use most of the time is Russian) – in order to verify whether the word actually references the detained people who carried US passports. I.e. is Lukashenko saying that those people are being strongly defended by Russia? It is quite possible that US and Russian state agencies are co-operating in destabilising Belarus. I doubt Russian state operatives are using US passports, but it is possible, and if it is true I should imagine Nancy Pelosi might be interested in what the hell is going on. If mercenaries are active they may be serving a state which is neither the US nor Russia. Also one can expect the Belarusian state’s own secret police to be able to influence events by discharging firearms either from within a crowd or at a crowd including when not wearing their badges. In any case it seems remarkable that the president is saying in public that he doesn’t know what’s going on.

    One of the leading business figures in Belarus is Vladimir Peftiev, author of a “book of maxims” with a foreword by A C Grayling, published by Akkadia Press in Edinburgh. That house’s other titles include “Breaking News: How the Smartphone Changed Journalism”, and “From Visionaries to Vloggers: Media Revolutions in the Middle East”. Grayling writes in the right-wing “Prospect” magazine. I bet Peftiev knows a thing or two about what’s going on…

    • N_

      I meant to say I looked for the Russian version of that report by BELTA but couldn’t find it. It remains unclear whether Lukashenko has or has not said that top Russian officials are going to extraordinary lengths to defend “suspicious” operators carrying US passports who have been detained in Belarus.

      • Tatyana

        N_
        those detained have already returned to Russia, 32 men, the 33th stayed in Belarus, because he has Belorussian citizenship.

        These people were recruited through Avito, it’s like Amazon Jobs. It is said they were people with either private security job licence, or employees of Wagner private military company, the latter is illegal under russian legislation.
        So, someone hired 30 men to serve as security on an oil processing facility in Lybia and Syria, the preference was offered to those who had war experience in Donbass and Syria.
        Some Larisa Samarina was curating the group’s transfert to Moscow. Then she announced the group will be forwarded to Venesuela to secure Rosneft facilities. Russia is closed on virus quaranteen, all international flights are made with change in Belarus.
        On arriving to Minsk airport those people were told there’s problem with flights and tickets, so the group was accomodated in a hotel. There they were detained on accusation of something destabilisation, I don’t know how they say it correctly in English. Belorussian KGB detained them all.
        Ukraine asked Belarus to extradite those detainees who fought in the Donbass, to Ukraine, which makes the whole story quite plausible that Larisa Samarina were in fact a Ukrainian state service.
        https://ria.ru/20200816/1575849644.html

      • Tatyana

        N_
        the article in russian is here

        it was the elections security meeting, August 6. His words in russian are:
        “…Некоторых людей задержали с американскими паспортами, женатых на американках, работающих в Госдепе. Но со штыками наперевес их защищают российские руководители.”
        I’d never translate it as ‘russian top officials’. I feel ‘russian bosses’ would be better.

          • Tatyana

            I don’t know, N_
            Ukrainian president said it was bad decision to send them back to Russia, obviously he is unhappy with that
            https://www.facebook.com/zelenskiy95/posts/2605660853017608
            He also says there were 9 ukrainian citizens among them.

            I don’t know yet what it all might mean.
            If they were recruited in Russia, and they hold US passsports, and their russian bosses are defending them, and there are 9 ukrainians among them – that all really looks like a group of ‘soldates of fortune’ ready to do any job for money, in Donbass, in Syria, in the US, in Belarus – anywhere.

          • Tatyana

            ha ha, Belorussians are Russians, that is what are do heartily agree with. Today we had discussion on protest detentions, here is the post of a detained boy. They ARE russians, very russian sense of humor
            https://pikabu.ru/story/kogda_chuvstvo_yumora_otbit_ne_smogli_7655059#comments

            The author comments on this photo:

            “it was the toughest BDSM party at which I forgot to say the stop word… low-budget apartments … minimalist walls, concrete loft-style floor…no food, no water, no toilet and very poor soundproofing – you could hear other guests behind the wall hitting their bodies against the batons of the guards… maximum two stars on booking.com
            I didn’t like this party, I don’t recommend it.
            The pros: now I can show my buttocks to everyone and they won’t call me a pervert. Also, a young girl asked me to show her my ass and even asked to touch it.”

          • Michael

            “Here is what really happened
            It now appears that the Ukrainian secret service SBU (which does nothing without Uncle Sam’s approval) mounted a complex covert operation to try to get Belarus and Russia into a confrontation. The entire operation, including recruitment, purchase of airline tickets, etc was, in fact, run from the Ukraine. This was also the biggest mistake the Ukies did: they did not hide their actions well enough and it took the Russians special services less than 24 hours to figure out the entire plan and leak it to the media (in Russian). The fine details are still being ascertained, but the bottom line is this: the Ukrainians pretended to be a security firm looking for men with proven combat experience, especially those who fought in the Donbass against the Ukronazi forces. Once recruited for some pretty typical guard duties, these men were to be flown to Minsk where they would miss their plane and be left waiting for the next opportunity to leave Belarus. At this point, the SBU seems to have contacted the Belarusian KGB and “warned” them about Russian “mercenaries” sent by Russia to kill Lukashenko or, at least, overthrow him.”

            https://thesaker.is/putin-and-russia-are-facing-a-very-serious-crisis-in-belarus/

      • Charles Peterson

        The comments are far better than the blog, IMO. The blog often makes a few good off mainstream observations, building up one’s hopes, but then dashes it all with mainstream western imperial banalities. Fortunately these are corrected in the comments, and with added bonuses.

  • 6033624

    I remember when the USSR effectively ended that I thought we, in the west, would regret it as this means the former USSR would be able to take over as a manufacturing base for all of our finished goods and would undercut us. How wrong I was, China continued to expand in this respect and Russia seemed only to look inwards.

    However, the proposed pipeline between Russia & China and the implications for the petrodollar are, I assume, at the back of the big push for the renewal of the Cold War against both Russia & China. I also think that they will go the sanctions/embargo route with not just leaders, but the countries themselves. China has bought massive amounts of US bonds so this would suit the US very well indeed. It would also suit them in that although they would lose some of their markets they would gain more than would be lost. Meanwhile China would lose a massive amount of their world market.

    On the one hand I agree that we can’t be so utterly dependent on China and that the ‘invisible hand’ should, in fact, be visible BUT to so severely change world trade as I think they wish to will cause a backlash and any Cold War could turn ‘Hot’

    • N_

      Who would lend to the US government if it carried out the largest debtor default the world has ever seen?

      I don’t understand why the US dollar is still even now the world oil currency. A friend who works for the Brazilian state oil company tells me oil politics and energy politics more generally are China versus the rest.

      There’s a reading of Dominic Cummings on geopolitics that says he wants to position Britain as a second-rank power nestling between China and the US, but when the day comes that China whacks the sh*t out of the US…

      • Stewart

        “I don’t understand why the US dollar is still even now the world oil currency”

        take a look at the latest oil production/consumption figures here:
        https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2020/06/26/the-worlds-top-10-oil-producers-and-oil-consumers/

        The US remains both the top producer AND top consumer of oil – it also has the largest military by far (the biggest stick and all that)

        Also, China consumes 14.1 million barrels per day but only produces 3.8 million – this fact alone rules out China initiating a “hot” war with the US any time soon
        It doesn’t stop them waging “unconventional” war though, which I think is exactly what is going on in the US now (it’s probably been going on for decades)

        Incidentally, I’m not at all convinced by the “oil is made out of dinosaurs and is in very limited supply” theory propounded by american science. Russian science looked very deeply into the “abiotic” theory of oil production in the 70s and russia is currently producing almost as much oil as the US (more than saudi arabia) – but that’s a whole other story…

        • Peter Moritz

          “Incidentally, I’m not at all convinced by the “oil is made out of dinosaurs and is in very limited supply” theory propounded by american science.”

          Having worked in the Canadian oilpatch for years, I am familiar with the work of geologists and how they determine based on biological evidence in drill samples how close they are toa successful exploration – there is no oil without accompanying biological remains.
          There is some evidence that there might be oil produced abitiotically but the evidence is rather spotty and so far no large deposits have been actually proven with this origin.

          The fact is shale oil will quite soon be no longer a source for fuel in the USA. The oil is volatile, has to be mixed with Venezuelan heavy to be useful and its production is not based on any profits but the willingness of investors to throw good money after bad – which will end soon.
          The well deplete rapidly after 3 -4 years max, and the most productive areas are also being depleted fairly soon. The Bakken field is already nearing its end, and the Permian is likely not far behind. The dreams of shale or unconventional oil: requiescat in pace….

          • Stewart

            Hi Peter,
            Interesting to hear that the shale oil is about to dry up – who are the investors throwing away their money?
            I haven’t researched this subject in any depth, but it is admitted that oil CAN be formed this way – it seems that the controversy derives from “conspiracy theorists” trying to claim that ALL oil is formed this way. Why not both ways?
            Simple economics tells us that a scarcity of supply will increase the price of any essential commodity – given that the nearly all of the US elite are, one way or another, involved in the oil business and the oil business itself is inextricably linked to the middle east and the “war on terror” (the other big cash cow for the elites for the last twenty years) – there are very compelling reasons for them to lie about / ignore / hide the existence of large abiotic oil deposits.
            Let’s not forget about natural gas either – we know that methane can be created in the complete absence of organic life as it exists on several planetary bodies in our own solar system.
            I know – just another crazy conspiracy – surely they wouldn’t lie to us about something so important, just to increase their profits?

      • Charles Peterson

        When you owe the bank $50, you are a debtor, and if you’re payment is late, they’ll foreclose. When you owe the bank $5T, you own the bank. Furthermore, no sovereign which owes money in its own currency need ever default.

  • Tatyana

    Mr. Murray, you say “Putin’s long term policy goal has always been the reintegration into Russia of majority Russophone areas of the old USSR.”
    Do you admit the that Putin’s policy may coincide with the desire of the population of these areas?

      • Tatyana

        sorry, N_ can’t recognize humor. I’m bad in using indefinite articles too, sorry :-)0
        I know there were official requests from the Crimea and Donbas to the Russian government, so I asked about the desire of the population of these territories.
        Georgia mentioned alongside with Ukraine, confused me, I don’t remember that Russia tried to annex the territories of Georgia. My only guess on what Mr. Murray might mean involves Ossetia and Abkhazia, but I cannot imagine that Mr. Murray suddenly forgot that people in these territories also have the right to their own opinion, regardless of Georgia’s claims to this land.
        That’s why I asked.

        • bevin

          Yes Tatyana, Craig was referring to Ossetia and Abkhazia and to the resistance they and Russia put up to the US inspired attack on Russia by Georgia. He also appears to share HMG’s views of Crimea and the Donbas.

          You can take the boy out of the Foreign Office but you can’t take the years in the Foreign Office out of the boy.

          • Blissex

            «the resistance they and Russia put up to the US inspired attack on Russia by Georgia.»

            Actually for once it was not american inspired, because the Georgian nutters (Saakashvili!) went ahead on their own:

            https://www.reuters.com/article/us-georgia-russia-opposition/saakashvili-planned-s-ossetia-invasion-ex-minister-idUSLD12378020080914

            «PARIS (Reuters) – Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had long planned a military strike to seize back the breakaway region of South Ossetia but executed it poorly, making it easy for Russia to retaliate, Saakashvili’s former defence minister said. […] the United States was partly to blame for the war, having failed to check the ambitions of what he called a man with democratic failings.»

            https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/hans-mouritzen/wikileaks-south-ossetia-and-russian-reset

            «The Wikileaks revelations of confidential communication from the US embassy in Tbilisi, however, gives a different picture. At 10:10 in the morning of 8 August, Ambassador John Tefft reported to Washington that “if the Georgians are right, and the fighting is mainly over [i.e. Georgian victory], the real unknown is what the Russian role will be and whether there is potential for the conflict to expand”. In other words, no Russian action had yet taken place.»

            My usual quotes, from “atlantic” sources, on who attacked the russian peacekeepers, who were in south Ossetia because of an official agreement with the georgian government:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2524550/Russia-invades-Georgia-as-South-Ossetia-descends-towards-war.html

            «5:13PM BST 08 Aug 2008
            World leaders have appealed for a ceasefire in the conflict, which erupted after Georgia launched a huge offensive aimed at imposing its control over the rebel province with its large Russian population.»

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18269210

            «Tensions came to head in early August 2008, when, after nearly a week of clashes between Georgian troops and separatist forces, Georgia launched a concerted air and ground assault attack on South Ossetia’s main city, Tskhinvali.»

            http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_in_the_shadow_of_ukraine_seven_years_on_from_russian_3086

            «Fatefully, the Georgian leadership attempted to pre-empt further Russian aggression and advanced into Ossetian territory. In doing so, they allowed Russia to claim that Georgian aggression started the war.»

          • Tatyana

            My opinions maybe naive, I’m not an expert in politics, but I guarantee my views are sincere views of my own.

            After the collapse of the USSR, 15 independent states were formed, which means 15 royal vacancies. I belive there was a fierce struggle for the throne in every republic, because it’s much more attractive to become a king, even if a small state, than to be a small employee in a large empire.

            I think that every national ‘king’ wanted to grab a fatter piece for himself. Indeed, when carving up the booty, it would be extremely strange to ask it’s opinion on this, right?

            Any freshly baked ‘king’ is now empowered to conduct policy on behalf of the people. Unfortunately, sometimes this means trading in this newly acquired political weight, and this does not always coincide with the wishes of the population. Some part of the population may not agree with the new policy. But who cares, right? You can neglect this. These are not people, but a sort of abstract Russophonic population.
            After all, if the change of power takes place with nationalistic decorations, then declare those dissenting ‘non-indigenous’ population, or ‘separatists’ and just get rid of them, right?

            I am not very familiar with Georgian politics, but the example of Ukraine is very illustrative – Ukraine is building its own nationalist state with a centralized power and linguistically and religiously unified population, and there is a policy of discrimination and suppression of the Russian population, as well as armed suppression of those who disagree with this new policy.

            What’s wrong here?
            Mr. Murray does not comment on why the desire of the population could coincide with the goals of Putin.

          • Shatnersrug

            Hmmm Bevin,

            This entire article of Craig’s comes across more as something from the bottom of a glass or two of Lagavulin than it does the FCO

        • Ron Soak

          “What’s wrong here?
          Mr. Murray does not comment on why the desire of the population could coincide with the goals of Putin.”

          There’s a very sharp knife operating here. So sharp you can barely see it in action.

          As in the West any such coincidence is explained away as mere “populism.” Which is how you get to the stage (to paraphrase one Neil Kinnock) of a Labour General Secretary, A Labour General Secretary, denouncing the notion of representative democracy and issuing dictats to Constituency Party Units about what they can and cannot discuss and debate.

          Such sliegths of verbal sophistry seek to de-legitimise what might be deemed inconvenient.

          • Tatyana

            Excuse me, Mr. Murray. Let me be completely honest, I really hope that I will not be banned forever from this site 🙂

            I’ve been participating in discussions here for long time already and I have a certain impression of Mr. Murray. It is generally positive, approving and respectful, but there is also something that gives me mixed feelings:

            – on the one hand, I see supportive tone in those blogs in which the author writes about his friends e.g. Assange, Salmond; he gave part of the crowdfunding money to help another friend; on the issue of Crimean Tatars he also referred to a friend of him.
            – on the other hand, Mr. Murray’s accusatory and condemning remarks refer to the policy of “great empires” towards “colonies”.

            I wonder if this “incompleteness” in Mr. Murray’s position on Crimea, Ossetia and Abkhazia is connected with the fact that this site (partially) is the stage in support of his friends? And if this is so, then maybe some of his friends may hope to become the head of a new independent state, which is now probably on its way of separating from some empire?
            This could explain, in my eyes, Mr. Murray’s motives in choosing what to mention and what to neglect, when writing of ‘ex-colonies’.

            I really really hope that I’m just wrong in this assumption, and I hope I’m inventing far-fetched wild theories, and I hope that in fact this is a sincere, thoughtful, well-researched and honest position of Mr. Murray, and I’m just not trying hard enough to understand it.
            I will accept any of your explanations, Mr. Murray, only one thing can completely disappoint me – you might just not care. But I can survive that too.
            Thank you.

        • nevermind

          Yes and they might also have had their own opinion in the Crimea. what has changed there is, that they now also have water.

          When you say this, Craig ‘But again, I can’t get too worked up about it. It is the dirtier end of the game, but time-honoured, with understood boundaries. Again, my major objection is when the UK gets ludicrously sanctimonious about Russia doing precisely what the UK does on a far larger scale.’
          This is a small circle of so called diplomats, east and west, who use their verbal abilities and advanced education to keep its own public dis-informed, ideally in a constant state of one or other state of fear, to further the goals and agendas of a small establishment elite clinging on to power, diverting their personal assets past the exchequer, a thoroughly dishonest bunch who have no morals, but not devoid to open their mouth in pretense of serving the public.

          Going to hell in a handcart. Eastern European populations have the right to and change their Government, its non of our business.

  • Ken Garoo

    Lukashenko received about 80% of the votes (but only ~65% in Minsk city). The turnout was about 84%, so he gained about 67% of the total votes, which is more realistic.

    The opposition groups have been holding ‘spontaneous, unorganised’ protests, including one in the city of Grodno, where the Belarus flag was removed from the state theatre building. Photos of the action:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EfbuAz0WkAI_wJI?format=jpg&

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EfdvtuUX0AAQHWY?format=jpg&

    Totally ‘spontaneous and unorganised’

    The regime change artists have also unleashed the ‘Women in White’, normally seen in central and southern America (Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela).

    Minsk
    https://cdn.bfm.ru/news/maindocumentphoto/2020/08/12/minsk_4.jpg

    Cuba
    https://cdn.bfm.ru/news/maindocumentphoto/2020/08/12/minsk_4.jpg

    Venezuela
    https://e00-elmundo.uecdn.es/assets/multimedia/imagenes/2014/02/26/13934491153605.jpg

    Nicaragua
    https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/s3.laprensa.com.ni-bq/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/25130259/planton2.jpg

    • N_

      Lukashenko received about 80% of the votes (but only ~65% in Minsk city). The turnout was about 84%, so he gained about 67% of the total votes, which is more realistic.” (emphasis added)

      ?? Are you saying the turnout was really 100% and 16% of the votes got “lost”?

      • Jen

        According to Belarusian state authorities, 84% of eligible voters turned up to vote and of that 84%, 80% voted for Lukashenko. This means that 67.2% of those people who turned up to vote actually voted for Lukashenko.

        As Ken Garoo says, that final statistic seems quite realistic. Even in the West, getting two-thirds of those voters who bother to vote on your side is considered good.

  • gyges

    Hi @Craig

    “The BBC World Service has always been FCO funded and its entire existence has been based on this attempt to influence, by pumping out propaganda in scores of languages, from its very inception.”

    Your note quoted above prompts me to ask the following, when Dr David Owen shut down the IRD did he really shut it down, or was it just a change of stationery followed by business as usual?

  • Tom74

    Interesting piece. As you say, elections do not necessarily mean someone is not a dictator, and in that vein I’m really not sure in what way Lukashenko’s position is very different from Boris Johnson’s. Johnson, after all, seems to be able to close businesses, localities and borders at will without recourse to Parliament, without any consultation with the public, on the back of an undemocratic electoral system, a sycophantic and toothless media, and with only token political opposition.
    I guess the difference between Boris Johnson and ‘a dictator’ is that Johnson does what he is told by the United States, whereas Lukashenko doesn’t.

    • Goose

      Haha, promoting ‘the British dream’…or is it just propaganda?

      If it were reflective it’d be promoting: outrageous economic inequality and inequality of opportunity – billionaires and food banks Britain; a deeply ingrained class system granting special advantages to a lucky few who attended the right schools. An unelected second chamber of govt, a chamber that can actually initiate legislation despite having no democratic mandate from the British people whatsoever. An unelected head of state. And as for our main legislative chamber,the House of Commons:

      The quality of political debate and politicians in the HoC is utterly atrocious too. So much so our system is a democratic template of ‘WHAT NOT TO DO’ when building a new nation’s democratic -constitutional infrastructure.

      And before some say this is just an angry rant against the UK’s democratic institutions. Let’s be constructive:

      Were I in charge(ho-hum), I’d scrap parliamentary constituencies; too many host irremovable, lazy, time serving party hack careerists. I’d introduce a system of proportionate voting system for the HoC, one that offers the fine grained choice to voters of ‘open party lists’ (party candidate lists produced from democratic conferences or primaries – dependent on party, held at a regional level). True end-to-end proportionate democracy and no closed list Party HQ stitch-ups.
      Abolish the Lords, and with the money saved strengthen local democracy, by giving local authoriries more powers; councils would be elected using PR to new bespoke semi-circular chambers, preventing the corrupt low quality one-party FPTP produced feifdoms we’ve seen up and down the land ossified in place over decades.

      Quiz Tory and Labour MPs, and they’ll state defensively [sic] “Of course, if you were developing a new system today, you’d do things differently” , i.e., we acknowledge the shortcomings, but we are too lazy or too comfortable with the status quo to change anything.

      The solutions for a better democratic system in the UK are in front of us, available to us. They just need to be grasped and that takes a bit of courage. So please Belarusians, if you happen across this post, don’t seek emulate the UK’s current democratic system, it’s demonstrably inferior to those of our Scandinavian cousins. I blame the Normans tbh… 1066 and all that..

      • Goose

        Really believe democratic systems are more important than people(individual politicians) and parties. And that countries can immunised themselves against US, Russian or any other deleterious outside pressure or undue influence, simply by being truly transparent and having a truly democratic constitutional frameworks in place. Something Scotland will hopefully one day realise.
        The US, a country where polls frequently show the majority of American voters believe financial inequality is now too large and that their politics is failing to properly represent them. And furthermore, that politics at a national level(Washington) has been demonstrably and unarguably, completely corrupted by special interest lobbying and associated big money(mainly campaign finance). Nor do I know anyone in Europe who puts any thought into these matters, who thinks the US two-party political system and its extreme take on capitalism is a great example to follow. Maybe IDS and Liam Fox perhaps?

      • SA

        Goose
        Surely when you want to start a democratic system you have to start with governance, starting with who governs, how is the head of state selected and have a detailed written constitution. All the rest will come up naturally. How can we criticise Lukashenko and Putin for being Presidents for life when our own head of state is born into the job?

        • Goose

          I think the US exerts far more influence over the UK and UK politics than anyone will publicly acknowledge.

          The once top secret UKUSA agreement has grown in scope over many decades. Way back in 1946 the original signees of this long secret agreement couldn’t possibly have known how communications, specifically electronic digital communications would become so central to everyone’s daily lives in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Nor could they have known that the agreement would live on, evolve, and be interpreted in the ways it has been. Hasn’t that agreement become something that amounts to an infringement of our sovereignty and independence given the fact the British public never voted for it in the first place?

          Is it so wrong to want to disentangle the UK completely and manage our own affairs, in our own interests? After all, weren’t we told Brexit was oh-so much about doing exactly that: taking back control? In this case it’d mean no longer being bound to the US; its interests (financial & military) and its world hegemonic ambitions which don’t align with ours. As we’ve seen recently over the JCPOA, the unilateral recognition of all Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the US’s astonishingly brazen move in declaring Golan the rightful territory of Israel, possibly soon to be followed by most of an annexed West Bank.

          We are like Sauron’s apprentice. Or, to use another popular culture analogy, a UK Darth Vader to the US Emperor… everyone knows what Vader did with the Emperor in his moment of epiphany.

          • Goose

            In checking the date (1946) on Wiki, noticed this :

            In the aftermath of the 1973 Murphy raids on the headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the existence of the UKUSA Agreement was revealed to Australia’s Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. After learning about the agreement, Whitlam discovered that Pine Gap, a secret surveillance station close to Alice Springs, Australia, had been operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

            At the height of the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, the use and control of Pine Gap by the CIA was strongly opposed by Whitlam, who fired the chief of the ASIO before being dismissed as prime minister.

            ————–
            And they talk about Russian twitter trolls lol.

      • Natasha

        I agree with your suggested electoral reforms, but they will are require primary legislation, i.e. years away if ever. In the mean time, I suggest we simply demand that all candidates for public office elections publish their own professionally prepared Hare / Checkley psychopathy test – we can start by using the same as many prisoners take, as there’s plenty of professional expertise and experience available. Primary legislation isn’t needed. Just write to our MPs demanding they take the psychopathy test and publish theirs immediately. Nothing to hide if they score low, no? The rest of us, the 99% or so, who are not manipulative empathy free psychopathic shits, need to start a conversation, grounded in psychological science, on whether we want such extremely dangerous candidates standing, if they do have such destructive personality traits? But first, we have to identify and have a public conversation about psychopaths in public office, to enable us to start designing better ways of not allowing psychopathic people to purse elusive shots of pleasure at public expense, which they can never achieve, because they have no empathy.
        https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/07/the-startling-accuracy-of-referring-to-politicians-as-psychopaths/260517/
        https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/02/psychopathic_behavior_and_leaders.html
        https://veilofreality.com/2014/02/07/marianne-williamson-and-the-elephant-in-the-living-room/
        https://sites.google.com/site/flagenglish/why-we-should-psych-test-political-candidates—psychopath-test-all-policymakers

        • Goose

          What passes for a lack of empathy may just be them following a script laid down by others.

          Once they leave office they’re often fizzing with ideas and promoting major constitutional reform, ideas that when in power they never raised or mentioned. A prime example of this being Gordon Brown and his frequent calls for federalism.

    • Blissex

      «In what way Lukashenko’s position is very different from Boris Johnson’s. Johnson, after all, seems to be able to close businesses, localities and borders at will»

      The UK system of government is often described as having the PM as an elected dictator, who can hire and fire whichever cabinet he wants, and with a Parliament that rubber stamps (as the PM has the confidence of the majority) whatever legislations that the PM wants. The critical detail is that the PM has to get at election time the confidence of voters, not just that of the City, of the USA president, and of the leader of the Likud party, so “the people” get a veto too.

      «on the back of an undemocratic electoral system, a sycophantic and toothless media, and with only token political opposition.»

      In a “liberal democracy” individual PMs can indeed be replaced at the polls, even if the only potential replacements are those that are different variants of neoliberal as to economic policy and neocon as to foreign policy. Politologists use the term “limited democracy”, but it is still better than the alternative.

  • Ian

    Way to patronise your ‘readers’, Craig, with a rather smug complacency, and no evidence for your assumptions about the vote. Glad you are amused by it all.

    • Goose

      You can wager he’s basing his assertion on sound knowledge of the country.

      The int. TV news coverage does suggest otherwise, but appearances can be deceptive. Look at the huge anti-Brexit demos in the UK. To an outsider, it’d have looked like everyone in the country had changed their mind, however, polling indicated otherwise.

  • Geoffrey

    If Lukashenko was elected legitimately why would it be a good idea for the British ambassador to turn up at the opposition leaders protests ?

    • bevin

      I wonder about that too.
      And should he be offering protestors cookies as well?
      And should he be hiring Marine instructors to train Polish snipers to shoot into the crowd in Minsk, in order to ratchet up the tensions?
      And should British broadcasters be assisting in the organisation of protest marches?
      And, in view of the fact that many of the “Opposition” speakers are members of emigre fascist groups, who cherish the heritage of collaboration with the Nazi invaders and look back with pride on the efficiency with which they rounded up the Jews and Communists, should the Ambassador applaud?

  • giyane

    ” Attempting to influence the political direction of another country to your favour is a key aim of diplomacy, and always has been. “

    Backwardness is the trait of the Tories. Rural Britain is solidly Tory. From Craig’s description it sounds as though rural Belarus is pretty conservative, even if in Belarus that might manifest itself as pro Russia.
    So far as I can see rural conservatism in countries all round the world support fascist tendencies like the Taliban, Islamic State or White supremacy in the US and UK.

    So my question is, why would a Tory UK government support political change when things already are fixed into conservative mode with a substantial majority?Obviously Foreign exploitation as in Poland , Bulgaria and other formerly Soviet countries would be profitable for Western investors even though deeply unpopular amongst the exploited electorate. Goods from Poland already make a 4000 mile round trip to get to the UK.
    But the cheapness of oil means that investors in Poland can bankrupt British farmers which in turn makes land available here for Tories to build posh houses on as well.

    I think all political change creates opportunities for the new rule makers to profit themselves by the new rules.But the poor planet and the poor people on the planet have nothing to gain from political change.
    I haven’t heard a squeak from any Labour politicans about our last , rigged election with its infernal algorithms. Is that because our Labour politicians are as greedy and corrupt as the Tories and they are salivating for the opportunities Tory laws on Planning and privatisation of the NHS are going to bring in?

    For what it’s worth the cost of a private MRI scan in Minsk at a guess would be one tenth of the cost in the UK. When the NHS is privatised that cost will increase exponentially. So personally I see no benefit whatsoever in colour revolutions. The communist system is entitled to protect itself from foreign interventions that would only benefit Western speculators, In China , Venezuela or Russia. Western intervention is always malign.

  • Anne+O'Nimmus

    I don’t think the bbc World Service is still funded by the FCO. That changed a few years ago, and it is now funded from bbc licence fees – one of the reasons (shortage of money as a result) for the abolition of free licences for over 75s!

    • Giyane

      Anne O’Nimmus

      I suspect the vast section of public spending that is Tory thinktank, I.e. foaming imperialist , nuke- supporting, arsewipes who manage the imperial estate, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Poland, Syria etc, provides the anti-intellect, while the BBC does the nuts and bolts. The actual cost of imperial greed is thus kept screened from the general public and the Stories can show marginal savings on the BBC accounts for the World Service.

      In purely Keynsian terms the sum total of all the salaries toilet rolls and briberies of Empire 2 Torydom is a large chunk of the British economy and therefore free.
      The compliant slaves of Tory ideology like their communist counterparts , pay taxes , take mortgages and comply with the needs of a non-manufacturing society.

      The Tory Autotariat is vast, compliant and cheap to run.
      All of their dumb opinions are then bolted onto the broadcasting hardware of the BBC.

      • Giyane

        A O’N

        For example, the mosque behind my house describes itself on facebook as Public and government services. It has internal and external CCTV connected to the internet. It has connections to Prevent and it is therefore licensed to preach Jihadism freely. Prevent basically means ‘ prevent intellectual freedom ‘.

        In effect it has the same social status as a Christian Sect registered with the government and operated under government scrutiny.
        It therefore believes it has both secular and spiritual authority.

        You will never find a British mosque that is affiliated with Tory government criticise the destruction of Libya and Syria. They say they are non-political but the reality is that they support British Empire 2 colonialism for the post Peak oil world, the plan for the next 100 years of British colonial prosperity.

        This is how the British government establishes public consensus for it’s illegal colonial wars. It divides and rules. It awards privileges to mosques for supporting its colonisation of other Muslim countries.

        This is Empire , raw in tooth and claw. In front of our eyes we see how the British Empire controlled India for over three hundred years, just by divide and rule. Making overdogs and underdogs.

        All of that microcosm of Tory politics is funded centrally under “”” Prevent “””, the one stop shop for game changing false flag events. The BBC is just the gob of British Neo- imperialism. It connects to the gob-box in your kitchen and the gob-picture-box in your lounge. It has become so warped since the last election it’s almost impossible to listen to, let alone watch.

        End of rant. Auto Start of new rant… off! Off! Places to go and things to do

        • Stevie Boy

          Let’s not forget that a lot of mosques are funded by Saudi.
          The funding of ALL religious organisations and private schools and also the way a lot of these bodies can be classified as charities needs to be overhauled. Just another example of state sanctioned corruption !

    • Bramble

      The free licences were originally funded by the government. Brown, I think. It was the coalition government’s decision to offload that expense onto the BBC (an effective means of threatening it and thus ensuring no deviation from the approved propaganda line) which led to the current situation. As usual, the government is really responsible but the agency gets the blame (see PHE: together with its bliarite predecessors, it was created for that game).

    • Stevie Boy

      Like the NHS, the BBC has plenty of money, it’s how it allocates it that is the problem. Is this state funded organisation really so strapped for cash that it needs to take money from old people, many of whom are not in the best of health and rely on the TV as a lifeline with society ?
      Maybe some of the propaganda units needs to be shut down or/and moved away from the BBC umbrella entirely, and let’s not discuss fat cat salaries …

    • Stewart

      Whether the money comes from the FCO or the “licence fee”, it ultimately comes from the taxpayer
      the utter humiliation of actually having to pay to be propagandised and outright lied to, under threat of imprisonment, is one of the many joys of living in this sceptred isle
      Who controls the output is the interesting question…

  • SA

    “History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy.”

    I do not claim to know much about Russia but surely Putin’s popularity and clinging to power are direct results of a reaction to the Yeltsin years and the continued Western Antagonism against Russia and Putin even after he reversed some of the effects of the pillage of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. His chumminess with non-political oligarchs again stems from a desire to survive as challenging them all head on would have ended in failure. He depoliticised the oligarchy and those who wanted to challenge him went into exile. I am not defending Putin but just pointing out that the antagonistic policy from the West had a large part to play, not only on the progress of democracy in Russia, but also in the lack of diversification and in the economic relative stagnation. The crippling economic sanctions and the expansion of NATO also meant that Russia’s priority if it is to survive is to protect itself primarily by focusing on arms development. I would have hoped that some of this would have been mentioned in the above analysis.

  • Kasper

    I’m very sorry but this is first class BS. I have many friends and family in Belarus and there no way the Lukashenko had in any way a mayority of the votes. He had to arrange a protest for people that “like” him. It was a joke! meanwhile the oposition comes together in many cities with 1000s people and Minsk > 100K.

    The national TV goes partly black police in several cities are not following orders from above anymore, Lukashenkos day are counted.

    So next time you publish something, do research, try to understand the topic and if you do not understand continue reading.

  • Blissex

    «There is a misperception in western media that Lukashenko is Putin’s man. That is not true; Putin views him as an exasperating and rather dim legacy.»

    And one who plays with fire: https://www.ft.com/content/154f26f8-450f-11ea-aeb3-955839e06441

    «Mike Pompeo says US ready to meet all Belarus’s oil needs First visit by a secretary of state in 26 years comes as former Soviet country seeks closer ties […] Mr Pompeo’s visit comes amid heightened tension between Belarus and its traditional ally, Russia, which has been pushing its reluctant neighbour to accept deeper integration, and temporarily cut oil supplies last month.»

    «That is why the odd election or plebiscite does not mean that somebody is not a dictator. Lukashenko is a dictator»

    Not quite: there are elections even if rigged, and people can do protests without being mowed down by the army, and opponents don’t quite “disappear”; still they get imprisoned. He is not quite a Pinochet. The right term is “strongman”, of the Duterte/egyptian sort, a step below the algerian “pouvoir”, and a step above Orban.
    I have a read a comparison with the “gilets jaunes” protests, also quite violently repressed.

    «the weak opposition candidate was only there because, one way or the other, all the important opposition figures are prevented from standing.»

    Turns out that all of them are pro-russian and with ties to Putin, one was even the head of the Gazprom banking arm. The protests in Minsk could also be seen as white russians wanting to get rid of someone who seemed ready to detach Belarus from Russia; regardless probably most Belarus people also think Lukashenko is an exasperating dimwit, even if many appreciate that he kept many of the good aspects of the soviet system (stable, low stress jobs, even if lower paid, good social insurance and support, affordable living costs, even if low quality).

    «Western Ukraine was genuinely enthusiastic to move towards the west and the EU, in the hope of attaining a consumer lifestyle.»

    I think more because they are nostalgic of Ruthenia, of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and even of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, and have ethnic prejudices against the “kastaps” (russians).

    «it was absolutely wrong of Putin to outstay his two terms, irrespective of constitutional sophistry and irrespective of popular support.»

    That was within his political and constitutional rights, so fair. Less fair changing the constitution later, but I can understand expediency. For good or bad Putin means stability and fairly competent management of a difficult situation. Very few in Russia want the federation broken up and state assets sold cheap to american corporations.

    «the future of Belarus lies with integration with Russia rather than the EU.»

    Despite claims that russian culture is not quite european, the future of Russia and the EU would be together, except that the USA etc. would never allow that; Putin even asked several years ago whether Russia could apply to join NATO, and of course that was refused.

    «History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy.»

    Russia can’t do that from scratch, without western imports (which are sanctioned), except very slowly, as the USSR did. The next best hope Russia has is to work with China, now that their western imports are sanctioned too. But the chinese are quite jealous of their tech too. Russia anyhow has a small high tech sector, in software and military things. One of several examples is Yandex, which is the only non-USA search engine of any popularity used in “Europe” which is not american.

    • James Charles

      “Russia can’t do that from scratch, without western imports (which are sanctioned), except very slowly, as the USSR did”

      The USSR was ‘helped’ by the west?

      “Taken together, these four volumes constitute an extraordinary commentary on a basic weakness in the Soviet system.
      The Soviets are heavily dependent on Western technology and innovation not only in their civilian industries, but also in their military programs.
      An inevitable conclusion from the evidence in this book is that we have totally ignored a policy that would enable us to neutralize Soviet global ambitions while simultaneously reducing the defense budget and the tax load on American citizens.”
      “ His book tells at least part of the story of the Soviet Union’s reliance on Western technology, including the infamous Kama River truck plant, which was built by the Pullman-Swindell company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of M. W. Kellogg Co. Prof. Pipes remarks that the bulk of the Soviet merchant marine, the largest in the world, was built in foreign shipyards. He even tells the story (related in greater detail in this book) of the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company of Springfield, Vermont, which sold the Soviet Union the ball-bearing machines that alone made possible the targeting mechanism of Soviet MIRV’ed ballistic missiles. “

      http://www.crowhealingnetwork.net/pdf/Antony%20Sutton%20-%20The%20Best%20Enemy%20Money%20Can%20Buy.pdf
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sah_Xni-gtg

  • Ilya G Poimandres

    “Unlike many of my readers, I see nothing outrageous in this. Attempting to influence the political direction of another country to your favour is a key aim of diplomacy, and always has been.”

    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/11/section/1

    You are right about the diplomatic parts being perfectly legal and historical, but assassinations etc are not just murky, but simple state terrorism, as defined within UK law itself. And colour revolutions as run by NATO have enough of these to accurately place all the nations that participate under the moniker of terrorist states.

    Lukashenko should be honest, offer the Belarusian population a straight up referendum – join Russia, or join the EU/NATO. It will of course be rejected by the west when they get the result they don’t want, just as the Crimean one was.

    You place too much faith in representative democracy though – our crooks are no better, just that they are less open in their graft. Boris is willing to sell off the NHS to the US for example – you don’t think that has a huge element of corruption and cut backs for him? How rich is Tony Blair? You won’t get any true democracy until you move away from the middle ages Roman one, to a balanced version of the Greek one, as in Switzerland!

    I think Putin has done OK on the economy – he had to start with a weak base after all. Working under semi autarky, with oligarchich monopoly, it is hard to change the system.

    Russia is food self sufficient, has strong export tech in nuclear energy (Rosatom accounts for 60% of the world’s nuclear energy projects, last time I checked), and Russia is trying to compete in the commercial aviation sector again. There was/is a lot of infrastructure to rebuild in Russia too – the Moscow underground for example has at least doubled in size. I think he failed to build oil refineries though, as that is easy value added for a substantial Russian resource. But the Northern Sea Route idea is pretty epic, and will certainly be useful global warming or no – just need more epic ice breakers!

    But saying ‘he failed to diversify’ – Putin and Russia don’t live in a bubble, Russia does well, it gets sanctioned. Russia has worked on the principle of gain military security first, and aim for economic security second.

    • OnlyHalfALooney

      Lukashenko should be honest, offer the Belarusian population a straight up referendum – join Russia, or join the EU/NATO.

      Batka has already lost. Most likely he will have fled the country within the week. Haven’t you noticed the very cool and distanced reaction by the Russian reaction to Lukashenko’s pathetic begging?

      Tichanovskaya and the opposition are not necessarily pro-EU. They are certainly not pro-NATO and certainly not anti-Russia.It is wrong to portray the events in Minsk as a battle between “the West” and Russia.

      • Ilya G Poimandres

        It doesn’t have to be a battle between the EU and Russia in Minsk, it could just be the usual battle by the EU to install a regime that will work with its asset stripping/colonial model.

        Sure most Belarussians are pro Russia (even the few ones I know who live in London are), but the opinions of the masses are only important before the EU gets a ‘democratic’ tyrant in place.

    • Kempe

      Russia imports $30 billions worth of food every year including $5 billion in fruit and veg. In terms of value Belarus is the second largest exporter of food to Russia after Germany.

      Not so long ago Lukashenko was accusing Putin of trying to destabilise Belarus but it seems that he’s now the only person Lukashenko can turn to for help. I doubt that Putin’s interest in Belarus goes beyond keeping it out of the EU and more particularly keeping it out of NATO. He may well decide that the devil you know in the form of Lukashenko is preferable to taking a gamble with an as yet unknown.

  • Tim Glover

    Reality isn’t simple, and all human statements about it are fragmentary wisps. Craig, would it be fair to say that your position on foreign interference is complex, and that your fragmentary wisps sometimes seem to sit uneasily together (eg in this article, grudging support for I.I., as well as calling them your enemies) , because reality is big?

  • Don

    You may justify such meddling as diplomacy as usual, but the reality is it is war by any other name and is as morally defensible as any other war of aggression against any given target country. If successful, Belarus will be privatized, the country will have debt foisted on it and its resources will be plundered and its women will be turned into surrogacy machines for wealthy western couples while its men will be dispatched to Western Europe to work like slaves as gastarbeiters.

    You can argue British “diplomacy” is on par with Russian efforts and you would be wrong, wrong, wrong. Russia has and will continue to make Belarus a partner. The Europeans will exploit it and it will become just another poodle, AKA cannon fodder for NATO, used as a proxy attack dog until it is so used up it can’t even function as that.

    • craig Post author

      Don,
      I think the difference between myself and many of my readers is that while we both recognise “western” government as plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite, you and others seem to think that governments are a lot better just because they are anti-Western.
      Whereas I believe that many anti-Western governments – Lukashenko, Assad and yes Putin – are also plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite. Just organised a bit differently. And with a still worse approach to civil liberties.

      • J Galt

        That may well be the case, however from what I can see (a nobody living in a depressed Ayrshire town but who nevertheless has an interest in what I’m in!) they seem to have a damn sight less interest in causing harm to their neighbours and the world in general.

      • Don

        Well, the tu quoque fallacy here is just a red herring which ignores my point that Russia has and will continue to treat Belarus as a partner. The people in her country will not end up like the Ukrainians or the 90s Russians as long as they don’t give in to this color revolution.

        Regarding Putin and Russia, I have lived in Russia for 16 years and am a naturalized citizen. Whatever opinions you’ve drawn living in the west, no matter how intellectually honest you’ve tried to keep yourself, it appears you are still under some serious misconceptions about the levels of freedom and quality of life enjoyed by the Russian people in comparison with, say, the US where I was born and raised.

        • Ron Soak

          Quite. I recall visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg two or three years back seeing things I had not seen in the UK for a great many years. Street sweepers, park keepers, bikers with hair (What bikers remain in the UK who can afford to purchase and run a bike have long since lost their flowing biker locks). The regular nightly summer scene on Sparrow Hill? overlooking the City of Moscow near the University has a spontaneity long since passed into memory compared to the artificial Corporate experiences offered by Glastonbury, Reading, Leeds etc.

          An absence of litter (apart from two dog ends on the main drag through St. Petersburg). Plenty of dogs but no dog shit. No cats, but (coincidentally?) plenty of fur hats.

          Walking along the wide esplanade of the Mosca River adjacent to Gorky Park we took a photograph of the Defence Ministry building on the opposite bank. The irony was not lost that whilst this would have not been permitted and would have drawn swift official action during the Soviet era doing the same in London these days would have some busy from the Met or their private policing mercenary equivalent confiscating your camera.

          In many ways it reminded us of the mixed economy we had in the immediate decades after the war, which we grew up in and which now no longer exists in a West which has set itself up as the pinnacle of human systems evolution and which is set on preserving that set of unequal relations in perpetuity.

        • Kempe

          ” The people in her country will not end up like the Ukrainians or the 90s Russians as long as they don’t give in to this color revolution. “

          That sounds like a threat.

      • Ron Soak

        “Just organised a bit differently” in this context is perhaps an extremely modest assessment of the difference in the respective methodologies.

        Any objective assessment would implicitly recognise the different success levels in which one particular route is able to consistently convince its target population that it alone exclusively and monopolistically owns and operates to a set of principles, values and standards the exact opposite to the reality of how it does and organises itself and acts to assimilate, Borg like, every other culture and all other people’s into its ‘Total Spectrum Dominance.’ The other methodologies can only look on in envy at the success rate on that metric compared to their own crude and unsophisticated approaches.

        One example, amongst many which could be chosen, is the flexible way in which principles are applied to suit this power dynamic. A dynamic which can, with a straight face, make the valid point that popularity is not the same as legitimacy whilst failing to observe that “playing an age old game” is also not the same as legitimacy.

        A cynic might also observe that a methodology and system which elevates to the status of a ‘civil liberty’ the freedom to starve, or not have a roof over one’s head represents unique abuse of the concept of reason.

        But I couldn’t possibly comment.

      • Peter Moritz

        What you are basically saying that we as ordinary citizens with less than at least a few hundred million in the bank are fucked-and of course you are right.
        It is not that the USSR was particularly “socialist” by any means, socialist as in the means of production are in the hands and under the control of those who produce, i.e. the workers, but at least it was a reminder to the capitalist class in the rest of the world to behave at least with some concern towards those who actually make things and take care of things and persons.
        After the dissolution of the USSR and the turn of the CCP towards a “mixed” economy that was not even able to maybe until this year to supply affordable basic healthcare (what good is any “socialism” good for if it is not even able to provide that?) there is very little to scare the worlds oligarchs to consider the well being wage slaves working for them?

        Short of another revolution, we will slide into a fascist corporate states where the interests of the oligarchy solely is the concern of the body politics – as the USA is a perfect example to follow.

  • Ingwe

    Raab just stated that he doesn’t recognise Lukashenko as leader of Belarus. Next step will be recognising of the exiled leader as the legitimate leader. Sound familiar?

  • Philip Maughan

    Craig writes, ‘History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy’ I’ve often thought this as I ponder the mass migration of people away from war torn Middle Eastern countries towards the West. Given the right political and economic circumstances, Russia must be able to absorb countless millions of migrants, to the great benefit of Russia the migrants and the rest of the world. Immigrants plus vast natural resources were the bedrock of the success of the USA as a prosperous economy. Today the USA, with a landmass of 9.8 million square kilometers is home to 328 million people. Russia by contrast, at 17million kilometers (the biggest country in the world) has only 146 million inhabitants.

    • Tatyana

      Immigrants and natural resources are not the only key to success. You need to organize everything so that it works effectively, and this is a big problem in Russia, so Mr. Murray is absolutely right in his point, I think.
      Do you want a Russian joke about this?

      After death, a Russian and an American went to hell. The chief devil asked them:
      – What Hell Department do you wish to go to, Russian or American?
      – What’s the difference?
      – In American Hell you have to eat a bucket of shit every day, and in Russian it is 2 buckets.
      The American chose the American Hell, and the Russian, as a true patriot of his mothereland, went into the Russian Hell. In a month they met again. The Russian asks:
      – Hi, how are the things going there in your place?
      – Not bad, I eat a bucket of shit in the morning and I’m free for the rest of the day. And you?
      – Oh, in my place it proceeds as is customary in Russia. Every day there’s a problem: either the shit wasn’t delivered, or not enough buckets for everyone.

      • Laguerre

        I have no idea which is the original, but there’s a French version of that joke. An Alsatian (Alsacien, not a dog) dies. He has to go to hell. The devil says to him: you come from a borderland, you can choose either the German hell, or the French hell. He replies, in that case the French hell. Why? says the devil. Because one day the devils will be on strike, the second there’ll be no wood for the fire, etc, etc. (I’ve forgotten some of it, which I heard – guess where – in Strasbourg!)

        • Laguerre

          Sorry, missed a bit.

          Man asks Devil, what’s the punishments of the German hell, and the Devil gives a list. And what the punishments of the French hell? Another list. They’re exactly the same. So which do you choose?… and the rest as I said above

        • Piotr Berman

          Now punishments are all mixed up. Consider a putative Hell of Ice and Snow. This year there were heat waves in the Arctic, with locals suffering from rushes etc. Needless to say, air conditioning is scarce, and even proper attire for hot weather is lacking. Yea, you can go out in underwear, and you get sunburned in minutes (I guess this is the cause of rushes etc.). And you cannot even choose to go out at night: no nights in Summer! (Of course, logistic chains are such that once the villages beyond Arctic circle get sunscreen, it will be winter (October till early June).

    • Tom Welsh

      ” Immigrants plus vast natural resources were the bedrock of the success of the USA as a prosperous economy”.

      Yes – and look at it now. Those immigrants inherited a vast virgin continent, whose mineral and other resources were completely untapped – having been conscientiously stewarded for 10,000 years by some of the most environmentally-conscious people who have ever lived – and took about 200 years (once they really got going) to devastate, impoverish and pollute it.

      Only a rich person, a rich person’s lackey, or a brainless “economist” could see that as a success.

      “Today the USA, with a landmass of 9.8 million square kilometers is home to 328 million people. Russia by contrast, at 17 million kilometers (the biggest country in the world) has only 146 million inhabitants”.

      Putting Russia in an infinitely better position. Most of the world is already dangerously overpopulated; Russia is one of the few advanced, industrially developed nations whose population is not too large and even allows for some cautious growth. It has a sensible 20% reserve of biocapacity. Whereas the UK has four times as many people as it can sustain indefinitely, and the USA twice as many.

      Only someone who wants to rip out all the natural resources and become rich by Wednesday would believe that there is any hurry.

    • Piotr Berman

      There are millions of immigrant/temporary Muslim workers in Russia. They may have a weird preference for those who understand Russian, but if you look around, such preference is not rare.

      Concerning “under-population”, how is it that the largest state of USA has the smallest population? And why is Alaska lacks so much in self-sufficiency in fruits and vegetables?

  • N_

    The Guardian reports that “IT professionals” have gone on strike in Belarus.

    As if anybody would notice! 🙂

    Dig the acronym followed by the nominalisation signifying “I get paid”. Now that’s what I call impressive. But how a person who is self-employed can go on strike I have no idea.

    Other than for its amusement value, I doubt this factoid is worth much at all. But if those who job it is to maintain servers that control say traffic lights or financial transactions (rather than selling “security software” to small businesses for £2000 per year that does practically nothing, when many 15-year-olds can download superior programs for free from the internet and install them in two minutes flat) were really all sitting on their hands right now then this would be a “good” time to launch a cyber attack on the country. Not that this likely to happen. Indeed probably nothing has happened that relates to this report other than that a British foreign correspondent may have heard a fellow boozer at a hotel bar say something about “IT”.

  • James Charles

    “History’s greatest criticism of Putin will be his failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy.”

    Getting there?

    “While still too dependent on commodities, the Russian economy has actually diversified significantly in recent years. The country’s service sector now commands around 60% of GDP, more than three times the share of oil and gas. This reality, combined with low lifting costs and the ruble free-float, help explain why the Russian economy is less oil dependent than is commonly understood. “

    https://unherd.com/2017/11/sound-barrel-russia-surprisingly-insulated-effects-bottom-dollar-oil/

  • Tom Welsh

    “The British Council is not spending millions promoting British culture abroad from a pure love of Shakespeare”.

    Actually, when my father worked for the British Council from 1946-1972, that was exactly what motivated him and the other staff. He began in Rosario de Santa Fe (Argentina) and moved on to Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Tunis, Ankara, and Lisbon again. In several of those posts he was British Council Representative, and in a couple Cultural Attache; he had occasion to meet and talk to several British Ambassadors and presumably had some idea of their goals and purposes. Although all four nations where my father worked could be considered “dictatorships”, there was never the slightest hint of opposition or subversion. We came to those countries as guests and conducted ourselves as such. Their political arrangements were none of our concern.

    The point of the British Council in those days was to spread knowledge of the English language and British culture as widely and deeply as possible in foreign countries. There was great enthusiasm among Argentines, Portuguese, Turks and Tunisians for Shakespeare and other English literature, as well as for British art, music, and even institutions. Hundreds of thousands of people of various ages and backgrounds vied to study, to sit exams, to gain qualifications, and to participate in English-language culture – with remarkable results.

    Although I was only a child or a teenager, it was abundantly clear to me that my father’s work had absolutely nothing to do with undermining the host countries’ government or institutions. Indeed, we were all extremely careful to observe local laws and customs and to respect local authorities of all kinds. We were in those countries as guests – well-treated and sometimes honoured – and we behaved accordingly.

    Whatever conniving or plotting may have gone on in London, the actual work of the British Council was disinterested education and fraternisation. I am certain that my parents and their colleagues did vastly more good than harm – if they ever did any harm, which I doubt.

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