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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  • Tezza

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

    I wonder what “to your favour” entails. If the political direction can be influenced, then I suspect that there is every likelihood that the economic and cultural direction could also be influenced and that this could possibly be the primary objective.

    I’m not particularly happy with that scenario.

    • Stevie Boy

      Isn’t it ironic ?
      China had no interest in trading with the west, so the gun boats were sent in and Opium introduced to destabilize the country.
      Now China has proved it’s more than a match for the capitalist west, so they try to prevent any country from trading with China.

      • Bramble

        As an extra edge to the irony, that opium was a cash crop in the Raj and the British (the East India Company) arranged for it to be smuggled it into China and made a huge profit from dealing in the drug. Always to be remembered when our moral Western politicians fulminate about the war on drugs. (And, an extra injustice, the Chinese were deemed morally inferior because of their smoking of opium, and they were held to be a threat to the morality of the English thereby. The key role played by the British in undermining Chinese government attempts to prohibit it, and their supplying of the drug, were conveniently forgotten.) Yes. It makes me angry, especially when we are now again bombarded with hysterical anti Chinese propaganda.

        • Giyane

          Bramble

          I agree 100%. Moral amnesia by the British Empire might have succeeded first time round but Empire 2 , the Gavin Williamson wet dream, will not succeed for a second round of psychopathic destruction.

          The world is wise up to Albion’s lack of compassion for the underlings and its ability to forget its own. crimes. There is no future in Empire2 when the mass torture rendition brainwashing of Muslims is whistleblown from the inside and by our hero Assange.

          The fact that this self-elected algorithm-Frankenstein Tory government was forced to back down last night over its persecution of teenagers is a very good sign.

          I would even go so far as to say that I might vote for Starmer if the Empire2 rah rah Tories could be finally and permanently expunged.
          Britain has no role at all in shaping the future of other sovereign nations, not China , not Belarus, not Ireland. Not Yemen, not Libya, not Syria. Not Gibralta, Chagos, or Skye.

          First reparations should be made to the West Indies former colonies, Hong Kong and the Falklands and the FCO should dedicate it’s time to eating piles of humble pie.

  • Andrew Mcguiness

    I can’t say I care a great deal about Belarus, I barely remembered it existed until about a week ago. But it is like a drink of cool water to read Craig’s analysis: non-partisan, informed, intelligent, and uncensored.

      • Ken Kenn

        Quite.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to link Jeremy Corbyn to this.

        As always, I wonder what all this interest in ‘Democracy’ and the discovery of this particular non democratic country or leader is all about?

        More to the point this guy has been around for 26 years and the BBC never noticed much – so why the interest now?

        Saudi Arabia say, is not exactly a beacon of democracy and there are many democratic fires that were never lit – nevermind doused in the past century and this one.

        The thing is that this guy is a dictator (so the west says) but he’s not the US’s dictator.

        The media can live with a Bolivian overthrow and an attempted coup in Venezuela but go all shaky when the Chinese rock the west’s boat in Hong Kong or Taiwan.

        Ironically, in the ‘Land of the Free’ if Trump has his way, there might not be a Presidential election in the Democratic US in November.

        Now there’s someone that needs to be overthrown – but wait – he was voted in – in a Democracy.

        Will the Guardian and the BBC be asking for Trump to be deposed or resign if he refuses to recognise or obstruct the postal vote?

        Some American high up said once about some or other dictator (and apologies to the females here) ‘He’s a son of a bitch alright – but he’s our son of a bitch!’

        You can’t beat that for honesty.

        The BBC and Guardian don’t do honesty so you won’t hear that from anyone’s lips there.

        ‘Why this country and why now?’ should usually be the skeptical question.

    • Lp

      Sadly, not many people do. The country that suffered most from Chernobyl and may be more like the old USSR than any other European state. It would be nice if the World wished the best for Belarus citizens, it deserves to be more than a buffer zone. And thank you to Svetlana Alexievich for her sad and beautiful my books, and my Polish friend, born in a city that used to be in Germany, for telling me about her Grandmother from Belarus.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Thank you for sharing this link, Jen.

      It certainly puts a different light on things to what is regurgitated in the Western Media.

      ‘Indeed, we are profoundly bewildered as to the unprofessionalism of the economic analysts and polical pundits who pronounce on the Russian economy. How is it possible that they constantly miss the essentials?
      Not only do they fail in the analysis of the fundamental trends of the economy, but frequently they even get the facts totally wrong. In our great perplexity in this regard, we have been trying to let ourselves be guided by the old adage: Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence. – But don’t rule out malice, for to that extent is the analysis intellectually feeble.’

      is a telling quote from the report.

      Not wishing to reveal anything but my total ignorance of the producers of this report: has this report been validated by independent international sources?

      • romar

        Rhys,
        This is an accounting firm. You and I (as non-accountants) have no means of ascertaining that any “independent” verification by another accounting firm would be more “independent”…
        So why not do as I did: just look at the charts? They have not been tampered with, and they speak for themselves… Russia could have diversified more already, and grown its GDP more, but there has been consistent growth. And if you want a second opinion, here is a table: https://www.les-crises.fr/russeurope-en-exil-dalexei-pouchkov-a-bastien-lachaud-deux-points-de-vue-sur-la-question-de-la-russie-par-jacques-sapir/ (by French economist Jacques Sapir, and if you don’t read French, just look at the blue line)
        The point is that the data they use is available to all – it’s from National Statistics, World Bank, IMF, etc., as is the case for all countries. But interpreted differently by those with an agenda.
        Take the World Bank pie chart on p. 5 of the report. It shows that
        “The share of natural resources rents in GDP … more than halved between 2000 to 2012 from 44.5% to 18.7%. The actual share of oil and gas was 16%.”
        That’s a fact. So there must be other items that make up the remainder of the GDP – obviously – and therefore Russia’s economy has been diversifying. Perhaps not optimally, but certainly more than Craig credits it with.
        Here is another interpretation: based on dry data and bare facts, an article on the “World Economic Forum” has made interesting projections: a table indicates where ten of the larger economies stood in relation to each other in 1992, 2008, and how there are projected to stand in 2024:
        1. China; 2. USA; 3. India; 4. Japan; 5. Indonesia; 6. Russia; 7. Germany; 8. Brazil; 9. UK; 10. France.
        https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/largest-global-economies-1992-2008-2024/
        These are projections based on current data and trends in those countries, and it may all turn out differently in the end. However, while most economists agree that Russia’s economy, even despite the sanctions and all such pressures, could do better than it does today, one is relieved Craig did not repeat the “Russia’s economy is the size of Spain” trope: Spain does not figure among the economies cited in the Weforum article.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    I do not agree with you that what the FCO does is in ‘British Interests’. It is in the interests of the self-styled ‘British Elite’, but basic examination of the standards of living for the bottom 40% of the UK since 1980 tells you that there has been zero benefit whatever from all the FCO shenanigans to a large part of the UK populace.

    There is precisely zero benefit to the UK populace from going around killing people. Zero. The UK populace funds UK arms companies to make weapons at inflated prices which MOD buys then they have to use the damn things killing innocents abroad.

    I would like you to enlighten us all on the economic returns accrued by spending >£100bn on replacing Trident. We never use it, so it is only if we can engage in global blackmail on an epic scale that the Government will ever get back the money it is going to hand over to US gangsters. Hardly any UK jobs in the scheme of things are associated with the nuclear arsenal, are they? Certainly less than 100,000.

    FCO policies are all about subjugation, gangsterism and corruption. Since when did Tanzania need to spend £40m on an air-traffic-control system from BAE Systems?? What threats did the FCO make to Tanzanian officials if they refused to buy the over-priced foreign tat??

    We need to stop going on about how the FCO acts in ‘our interests’.

    It does not, never did and never will. It works for the Old Etonian-style elite and those who bought into their values and mantras.

    • GFL

      Rhys
      I totally agree with what you say, 100bn for trident is indeed a great deal of our money, for something I don’t believe we have any control of.

      • Stevie Boy

        Trident:
        US controls the firing technology, US provides the ‘rockets’. Lockheed Martin currently manages/runs Aldermaston and Burghfield, where the warheads are manufactured and constructed. No, the UK cannot launch without US approval, full stop.
        Trident is a wholly US nuclear launch facility operated out of the UK with British forces providing transportation.

        I have had the following discussion many times, If the UK has an independent nuclear capability then name one country that we could independently attack with nuclear weapons. There is only one, and that does not include the usual suspects who could only be attacked with approval by the big boys. That one is the USA. Go figure … Over £100 Bn for something we could never, and would never, use ! Oh, and it has to be constantly upgraded …

        • Goose

          The fact the French have got a nuclear deterrent probably weighs heavy in London too, insomuch as the UK political class don’t want France to be the only nuclear equipped power in Europe.

          Whether truly independent or not (clearly not, as you illustrate) it’s a £100bn status symbol that many on the political right and tabloids enjoy having. I was amazed when I first heard Michael Portillo, the former, once very hawkish, Defence Secretary, making the case against on the basis that the money could be better used elsewhere equipping conventional forces.

    • Kempe

      ” What threats did the FCO make to Tanzanian officials if they refused to buy the over-priced foreign tat?? “

      None. If you remember BAE were fined £500,000 for bribery which they tried to pass off as an accounting error. Whether BAE offered the bribes or Tanzanian officials demanded them first was never established. Twenty years on the BAE system has been replaced by a similarly expensive but more capable system made by Thales.

  • Zeb+Buzz

    Hi Craig

    not sure if you are aware of this:

    “Acclaimed journalist Dani Garavelli”
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000lv4w

    Scotland’s Uncivil War

    On 23rd March 2020 Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond stood outside Edinburgh’s High Court. He’d just been acquitted of thirteen counts of sexual assault against nine women.

    “There is certain evidence I would like to have seen led,” he told the media huddle. Everyone knows what he means. He’s saying it’s not over.

    Salmond believes there is a conspiracy against him; that the civil service in Holyrood, along with certain political figures within the SNP, encouraged a group of women to come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against him in order to stop return to front line politics. Commentators say he wants revenge.

    Nicola Sturgeon insists there was no plot, but has been implicated and asked to provide evidence for what she knew when. The Parliamentary Inquiry is set to begin in mid-August.

    Once close political allies, Salmond and Sturgeon are no longer in contact, with Sturgeon comparing the breakdown of her relationship with Salmond to a “grieving process”.

    An uncivil war has broken out within the SNP, but it’s been a long time coming.

    Acclaimed journalist Dani Garavelli covered every day of the trial, and discovered how deep the schism runs, as she herself was targeted by those who believe dark forces are afoot.

    Here, she explores the flash points running through Scotland’s governing party. How might these divisions affect Scotland’s future and even its place within the UK?

    • Conall+Boyle

      Is it just personal, or is the feud between Salmond and Stugeon about some significant policy issues? Nobody seems to want to explain this.

  • Goose

    9 PM BBC 2: The retrial(by media) of Alex Salmond.

    Quote :

    Kirsty Wark follows the trial of former first minister Alex Salmond from day one until his acquittal in March, when he emerges from Edinburgh’s High Court cleared of 14 charges of sexual misconduct.
    ——–

    No doubt it’ll feature sorrowful music and moody lighting for emphasis, suggesting something truly terrible has occurred. As with the Panorama special: Is Labour Anti-Semitic? A hatchet job if ever there was one.

    It’s clear Kirsty Wark won’t do what a really good journalist would’ve done, by seeking to investigate/get to the bottom of any Machiavellian manoeuvres that Craig tried to assess; now that would be a programme worth watching. No, clearly what this programme intends to do is retread old ground for no good reason, post -acquittal – an agenda driven Beeb.

    Can’t believe they can do this and Craig is being put through what he’s going through. Sincerely all the best Craig in holding up.

    • Squeeth

      Kirsty Wark is a plank, QED. She once opened her ignorant gob on Late Review when the camera was dwelling on Uncle Tom Paulin by mistake; the look on his face was priceless. Naturally he was purged for telling the truth about zionist antisemites.

  • schrodingers cat

    i posted

    “ok, what proof do you have that this is orchestrated by the bbc AND nicola?

    i have seen nothing to support this “nicola” conspiracy theory. if im being stupid, feel free to post your evidence”

    campbell says

    (1) I made no suggestion that Sturgeon had orchestrated this documentary.

    (2) If I posted my evidence I’d go to jail, just as Craig Murray is currently risking. I’m getting really tired of people demanding I post stuff that they know perfectly well I can’t post. But I still know it, and if you choose not to believe me then that’s entirely your affair, but fuck off with the impossible demands.

    If I haven’t earned even a modicum of people’s trust in the last nine years, maybe piss off and read a website you do trust.

    SC
    Craig Murray is currently in court (unfairly i might add) for supposidly identifying witnesses

    nothing to do with revealing info about nicola sturgeon

    you have info but cant/wont reveal, but yet, on your say so, nicola and everyone in the snp is condemned?

    I dont have such info and as such i await the results of the enquiry. believing folk are innocent until proven guilt does not make me or anyone else “bloody stupid”

    if you have evidence, and a huge fund of money

    take your evidence to court

  • Goose

    Re: the update. It’s sad that you found it necessary to state that and I think it’s an ill-founded assumption to believe home grown critics of the US – UK are somehow supporters of Putin, Assad. It’s far more nuanced than that.

    Don’t you risk falling into the trap laid by those on the hawkish right; namely, that of painting anyone who doesn’t support US foreign policy as somehow being more broadly anti-American? That is obviously complete BS, as the US is a hugely complex country with many shades of opinion. Indeed, a majority of Americans probably don’t support aggressive US foreign policy; unquestioning backing of Israel; Nuland-esque interference; supporting foreign coups and summary executions in the form of overseas drone strikes. Recent wars of choice. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and attempts at toppling haven’t been exactly popular in the States either. It’s possible to love the USA and hate it’s foreign policies.

    • joel

      Lukashenko, Assad and Putin are being demonized and targeted for regime change not because they curtail civil liberties or are neoliberals. No. It is because they are not obedient satellites of the Hegemon. Would you rather your readers couldn’t see hrough the bogus pro-democracy and humanitarian rhetoric of western elites?

      • Goose

        Craig gets labelled ‘anti-US’ and pro-Russia all the time by intellectually lazy critics and the useful idiots of the neocons online all the time.

        We’re in a dark place when debate and discussion about what we’re doing (UK and US) is classed as almost subversive. The dumbos really have taken over. Or, as George Orwell put it :

        A family with the wrong members in control; that, perhaps, is as near as one can come to describing England in a phrase.

    • Tatyana

      I understood the update as:
      all governments perform the same function – serving the elites and controlling the population by creating the illusion of democracy. These governments take different approach to creating the fake democracy, aka “civil liberties”. One government may let the people speak up and then ignore that opinion, or otherwise postpone the implementation. The other government doesn’t even try to pretend that the opinion of the people matters, and simply beats people to silence.

      The latter is considered by Mr. Murray to be a worse option.
      For me, on the contrary, the more repressive the state is, the more chances for revolution and change.

      Also, I think that the core problem is that some time after the revolution, new elites are being established, and new elites form their own pocket governments. Eternal process. This has nothing to do with capitalism or the states’ confrontation.
      That’s why Mr. Murray is right saying that anti-Westernism doesn’t make a government better. Elitism in governments is almost universal. Maybe only in the early USSR elites were deliberately excluded from administration, and that didn’t last long, too.

      • Goose

        I think the US’s hyper aggressive posture is why Putin won’t step down. He surely believes if he relinquishes power the US will try to carve-up Russia. I would were I in his place.

        The US is by far the most voracious hegemonic power the world has ever seen. And with the expanding FVEYs, more powerful than than any Empire or Reich the world has ever seen. The professed aim is world domination, terms like “Full-spectrum dominance”, “Mastering the Internet” give it away. The US may only have 4% of the world’s population but they see the whole globe as rightfully theirs.

        • Goose

          It’s not just unique to Trump & Pompeo either.

          The media is talking about Biden and Harris pursuing a foreign policy that involves quote ” muscular liberalism”

          https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/1294407825150611457

          Suggesting they feel the US foreign policy hasn’t been aggressive enough under Trump! This neocon path will inevitably lead to direct confrontation with China and Russia at some point. It’s truly a deranged approach.

          • Tatyana

            I am grateful to US for the early warning about the policy. Now we have a clear understanding of what we should be prepared for.
            Compared to that drunkard Yeltsin, who believed that the West was a friend and enjoyed their approval of his activity on creating oligarchy and plundering the country.

          • Mishko

            Talk about inspiring confidence. I kind of like it for its lack of irony and reflection.
            Overcoming opposition through strongarming, physical force. Flexing that muscular liberalism.

  • David G

    Craig expresses an understandable preference for government that is other than “plunder by the capitalist elite exploiting the working class and a fake democracy controlled by a media serving the elite”.

    He sees no difference between Belarus and the West or Russia in that regard. However, for the first part (i.e., not plundering), I think Belarus – with many of the commanding heights of its economy still in the people’s hands – is demonstrably closer to his ideal, and for the second part (fake democracy), it may be no worse than a wash.

    But Craig seems put off by the fact that Lukashenko defends this state of affairs with means sterner than dispensing gumdrops to his friends while withholding them from his enemies. Well, unlike me, Craig has experience in the world of high-level international relations; perhaps it is a nicer and cuddlier realm than I have imagined it to be.

  • Squeeth

    “And with a still worse approach to civil liberties.”

    With all due respect Craig, purge yourself of this petit bourgeois bollocks. You’ve come too long a way to hesitate on the precipice.

  • Piotr Berman

    ” Most of Belarus is pretty backward and heavily influenced by the state machinery.”

    By the way of contrast, Britons are advanced and heavily influenced by state+private machinery controlled by people who invented Inegrity Initiative, orchestrate media messages (private and state owned) etc.

    • Goose

      Indeed.

      And when Chris Williamson then an MP, approached the Integrity Initiative office seeking answers, politely. The door was slammed in his face.

      Illustrating how indefensible these people know their operations are in a supposedly democratic country.

  • David G

    Craig writes: “Putin’s long term policy goal has always been the reintegration into Russia of majority Russophone areas of the old USSR.”

    This is, I believe, the second time in recent postings that Craig has stated this opinion. Yet the biggest and clearest instance of such an area is eastern Ukraine. So with the Donbass having declared independence from Kyiv, and having in fact secured it de facto thus far, I think Russia would have long since manifested an intention, if not have already accomplished, “reintegration” of these territories into the Russian Federation – if, in fact, its policy were as Craig portrays it.

    But Russia has taken no such step, and has
    (I think) officially and unequivocally dissociated itself from any territorial claims in Ukraine beyond Crimea.

    I understand that the degree to which Moscow may be assisting the Lugansk and Donetsk breakaway governments militarily is contested territory, but even if such assistance has been substantial, that would not in itself demonstrate an intention to “reintegrate” that region.

    Craig’s characterization of Putin’s policy cannot be true if it does not hold for eastern Ukraine. Therefore, Craig must see Russia as being in fact on the road to “reintegrating” Donbass.

    As a skilled diplomat, Craig chose a word, “reintegration”, without a precise definition in this context, but he appears to be imputing to Putin’s Russia a policy of revanchism. Since that would be an exceedingly serious situation if true, and since Craig has now touched on the topic more than once, I’d appreciate reading how his understanding applies to the case of the Donbass.

    • Goose

      To be fair Craig also mentioned Putin’s grasp of realpolitik, a grasp that puts many western leaders to shame.

      Putin may harbour desires to reintegrate satellites back into their orbit, but above all he’s a realist, understanding the practical considerations and implications. This is why fears of Baltic invasions etc are ludicrous. Putin is quite sensible really compared to the often erratic, unpredictable current American leadership.

      • David G

        Fair enough, and I’m not interested in trying to score points against Craig with this.

        My only firm ground is that his “reintegration” statement has to apply to eastern Ukraine for it to have any value: it would be too big an exception for the rule to survive meaningfully.

        In my opinion, events post-Maidan show an affirmative decision *not* to treat Lugansk and Donetsk as current or even future parts of the Russian Federation: a delicious meal served up but left uneaten, if Putin is as Craig says he is. But the other side could be argued as well; the situation is complex, and that’s why I’d like to see Craig explicate his thoughts.

        To bring this back to the main topic of Belarus and its relationship with Russia, I’ve recently come to think Putin *does* seem to be tending toward what I would call a kind of revanchism there. This has not been a happy realization, but it’s not by itself enough for me to grant the validity of Craig’s broader assertion.

      • Squeeth

        For the Russians it’s a matter of playing a weak hand, either way might fail but since Putin re-established a measure of sovereignty the looting of Russia by the US (the ambition of one A. Hitler in 1941) has ended. It’s a start and the limited merging of sovereignty with China is an obvious riposte to the Seppo scum. All China and Russia have to do to win is not lose, hence it seems that the Seppoes retain the initiative, as the Germans did during the Nazi-Soviet Pact; really thought, the US Empire is a wasting asset. We must hope that they don’t take us down with them.

    • Tatyana

      David G, I support your question.

      I also asked for clarification on the first page of the discussion – how it is possible to talk about Putin’s reintegration policy of the “Russophone areas” and at the same time omit the fact that the territories are inhabited by people, and the population clearly expresses its opinion on the “reintegration”. I believe that this is an important detail, without which “Putin’s policy” looks ugly.

      • David G

        My apologies, Tatyana, for not noting your comment. I took a quick look through prior comments before posting, but didn’t catch that.

        However, from Craig’s treatment of the Crimea situation, we can see he does not consider the preferences and self-identification of Russians in the post-1991 abroad as particularly relevant. Evidently his views on the right to self-determination of peoples under the UN charter and other sources of law do not apply to them, in sharp contradistinction to his stance on his half of his home island.

        • Tatyana

          David, Mr. Murray’s position on the Crimea is different:
          – He admits that they had the right to self-identification, but he does not like the way it happened.
          – He believes that the Crimea should belong to the Crimean Tatars.
          – He also expressed the opinion that the Tatars are the indigenous population of the Crimea.

          I spent a lot of time gathering and translating the sources, but he doesn’t respond to the comments that argue his statements. The latter unanswered postings were here (my advice to open eyes wider doesn’t apply to Mr. Murray, but to another, the now deleted, commentard)
          https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/07/cold-wars-and-profit/comment-page-1/#comment-950340

          • David G

            The Greeks were in Crimea before the Tatars. Maybe we should ask them whom it belongs to.

          • Tatyana

            The Greeks have Greece, and there’s Tatarstan for Tatars, of course if they don’t mind it’s also a part of Russia since about 16th century, when the Golden Horde was defeated and Ivan the Terrible conquered Kazan 🙂

            Seriously, the point about Crimean Tatars is that their opinions differ. There are those who returned to the Crimea in 90s . Ah, remind me please to bring you the link to Lenur Islamov’s interview, quite revealing on the alleged severe oppression of the Crimean Tatars!

            Also there’s another part of the Crimean Tatars, scattered all over the ex-USSR and with largest diaspora in Turkey. Those don’t return back to the Crimea on some reasons, but often stick to the ideas of pan-Turkism, pan-Islamism and restoring the rule of old islamic empires. I guess that picturing collaboration with Nazis as a liberation movement has roots in this group of Tatars.

          • nevermind

            It is one thing to get discussions and debates of a high calibre into third gear here on Craigs blog.
            Posing a question and juxtaposing one’s own opinion, supported or not, is enriching and refreshing.

            Although I do not agree with Craigs programmed abjections and ‘growing concerns’ , its not his job anymore to kow tow, but hard to kick the habit I presume. Still I would not demand answers to my questions. Life is precious.

            After watching tonights puff piece and emotional squeezing from Kirstie, it is inevitable that AS name will continue to be mentioned, until there is a counter pressure forming.

          • Tatyana

            If I didn’t want answers to my questions, then I would choose to read a book.
            Discussions are valuable because of live communication.

  • Jack

    EU never learn, they did it on Ukraine, now they try to do it on Belarus, the meddling in Belarus just prove Russian claim of encrouching EU/Nato on russian borders.
    If a regime change would occur, steps towards EU would occur and later down the road – Nato and Russia would be kept out as usual by the EU only escalating the conflict with Russia further.

  • arby

    “My analysis is that Lukashenko probably won handily, with over 60% of the vote.”

    So is this opinion with or without your diplomat’s hat on?

  • Lenny

    > My analysis is that Lukashenko probably won handily, with over 60% of the vote.

    What data did you use? The figure above seems rather random to me.

  • N_

    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.

    I couldn’t agree more.
    Was pleased to read this.
    Are you a socialist now, @Craig? I thought you were kinda leftwing liberal.

    • Goose

      Not wise to try to bracket people or categorise them like that. I mean, Labour are notionally a (left-wing) socialist party, yet they’re currently attacking the Tories from the right under Starmer ?!?

      Craig said he sees the SNP ‘as the only vehicle to achieve independence’ ,and I think of lot of people are like that; seeing it purely in practical terms, along the lines of what you’re trying to achieve.

      The UK political system isn’t really broad enough either in terms of choice (thank FPTP) to properly form party allegiances. In the Netherlands 14 parties won seats in their last general election – if we were to have an electoral system like theirs, it’d maybe be easier to say exactly which party you support.

      • Squeeth

        Take no notice of the labels, they are deceptive; behaviour isn’t. Liarbour has never been socialist and the brief and ignoble interregnum of that cowardly poltroon Corbyn, has been followed by the return to power of the fascist and zionist antisemite factions. Plus ca change. FPTP is designed to deter you form voting according to conscience.

        • Brian c

          Blame the largest membership of any party in Europe (TM). They believed Blair, Osborne and Aaronovitch when they said Sir 2nd Referendum was the perfect guy to attract back lost Leave voters.

  • Gary Littlejohn

    While I hope that you are right that Belarus will not fall to what now looks like an attempted colour revolution and I too I think that it would be better if Lukashenko went peaceably in a few years, I think that it is a mistake to say that Putin has failed to diversify the Russian economy. You should search for the works of rhe late Swedish economist Jon Hellewvg (who lived in Moscow and died recently from covid-19). Russia certainly relies of commodity exports (especially energy ones) to fund its investment in other sectors, but for example oil revenues are only about 10 per cent of the Russian state budget and it is now a major food exporter, espcially of wheat, while diversifying agriculture rapidly. Industry is 30 per cent of the economy and there is serious innovation in car manufacture, trucks, driverless vehicles, civil aviation, and pharmaceuticals, while Huawei has just placed its most advanced research facility in the Skolkovo science campus near Moscow. . They know that Russia has the mathematicians and electronics experts to do the fundamental research that they now need.

    • David G

      The EU trade sanctions themselves have done Russia the long-term favor of forcing it to diversify its economy somewhat, I believe.

  • Jen

    “… 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 …”

    Putin shouldn’t have sought to come back as President in 2012 even though the Russian electorate thought highly of him and wanted him back badly enough that he won that year’s Presidential election?

    Was there anything in the Russian Constitution at the time that said that former or incumbent Presidents should not serve more than two terms as President or more than two consecutive terms as President?

    Could anyone enlighten me as to whether most Russian voters were acting undemocratically back in 2012 in supporting someone who had served two terms as President?

    • Tatyana

      Jen, this is another point that raised my eyebrow in surprise. Reminds me of a story from my life:

      I once worked for a company whose boss was running another business in another region. In his absence, Boss’s Mom used to visit. Although she had no business experience at all, nontheless she was very fond of giving orders.

      The company was selling building materials and spring was always a hot season for us, especially the spring holidays attracted many retail buyers and we literally knocked ourselves off our feet organizing shopping deliveries.

      Long story short, Boss’s Mom gave me the order to send all the salespeople from the salesrooms to clean up the company grounds, paint tree trunks white, sweep, wash, plant flowers, etc. (There is such a tradition in my country to do a lot of cleaning on the eve of Easter.)

      I answered politely it would be nice to ask the staff themselves, if they prefer cleaning instead of selling, because the salespeople’s salaries depend on the sales volume, and it’s hot season, and the earnining promis to be very good. The idea of asking people astonished her. It did not even occur to her to ask the opinion of the people themselves what they considered more beneficial. She even believed that they could simply do the cleaning for the sake of the established tradition, without payment, in their day-off.

      As a result, she got angry with me, she believed that I was arguing with her because of my stupid stubbornness, and not because I was the sales deputy and it was me who would report to the boss about the hot season profits.

      I call this “Boss’s Mom approach” or “Rituals Uber Alles”.

      I also learned that if you can listen to your boss’s mom and keep from saying “fuck off,” that makes you a diplomat, and it’s a good experience. But following such orders makes you an idiot, which is not that good as she might think.

    • Forthestate

      Agree entirely. All that matters is what people want. A term limit on the presidency is as irrelevant to democracy as it is in the case of our PMs. All that matters is free and fair election. Appropriately, Putin would appear to be the world’s most capable and balanced leader; I certainly believe we have a greater chance of averting major conflict as long as he’s around, so I’m rather glad about the constitutional changes, democratically approved as they were. It will also give him time to prove how wrong Craig Murray is about Putin’s “failure to diversify the Russian economic base and move it from raw commodity exporter to high value added economy.” This is already wrong, and will prove more so as time goes by.

  • Charles Peterson

    Term Limits are greatly desired by local and imperial elites so that THEY can reassert THEIR control every few years to prevent populism, popular democracy, socialism, and local sovereignty. It’s recall by and for unelected elites, who select, groom, and place most candidates into office through control of the media, etc. People know nothing about candidates except through the media and are wise to be cautious. People have independent means of knowing about current office holders through their actions and effects.

    Imperial countries who complain about lack of term limits in other countries should look to themselves first. As long as there is a serious threat to local sovereignty from the imperium, it may be wise to retain proven, experienced, and well established leaders, else the next one be hand picked or subverted by the imperium to end local sovereignty, as with Yeltsin, etc.

  • saigon

    You said as far as non-western states : “[…]And with a still worse approach to civil liberties”
    With all due respect Craig, but what is your metric here? How each state and each elite treats its “own” population? Does the elite in non-western states (like Assad for example) to export the tremendous amount of violence that the UK or the US do? But you will say “civil liberties”, defacto, apply for the citizens within one country. I live for the day that the UK and the US will be forced in a situation similar to Germany, Italy, Spain 90 years ago, or similar to Assad today and then we can talk about how much better they respect civil liberties.

    Can’t say I am surprised by your updated comment.

    • Brian c

      The civil liberties of people in places like Iraq and Libya were used by some of the worst people on the planet to justify the biggest crimes of this century. Now the same people are banging on about civil liberties in Hong Kong and Syria and we’re supposed to have forgotten.

      • saigon

        France, US and the UK did far worse, far far far worse to the libyan people than Gaddafi ever did. Like I said, I live for the day I say I did. The US and the UK in particular are the two countries that historically could export violence abroad (imperialism, colonialism, neocolonialism).

    • Kempe

      ” what is your metric here? How each state and each elite treats its “own” population? ”

      That is what ‘civil liberties’ means, so yes.

    • Tatyana

      I think the meaning of the comment is that the context should be taken into account. One piece of advice isn’t always good for all situations. There is no point in restricting civil liberties in a safe country in times of peace, but it’s not the same in another country where an armed confrontation is going on.
      https://imgflip.com/i/dltyq

  • SA

    Craig said in answer to 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.”

    This is problematic. As Chomsky said, and I can’t remember his exact words “I am asked why I do not spend a lot of time criticising Iran, and the answer is that there are enough people criticising Iran and by just joining them I will fulfil their agenda, which is to bomb Iran”

    But even more broadly, to think that the corruption in the rest of the world is worse than the corruption in the West misses the point. The world is effectively run by the West through a combination of an ideology enforced by money, unequal trade blackmail and actual brute force. Anything anywhere is a result of this violence. The system is kept going by a veneer of pseudo humanitarianism, supposed rule of law, and observation of human rights. All this is only relatively true and the more advanced you are economically, the thicker and more externally plausible the veneer. Also the social, technological and military advance of the west was based and is still continues to prosper on gains through colonialism and its successor, the world bank, the IMF and when necessary military violence.
    When Gorbachev introduced perestroika and glasnost he did not anticipate that this will lead to the plundering of Russia. The west’s idea of progress for the rest of the world is that they should agree to be plundered.
    This situation creates a retrenchment in these countries and it is therefore no surprise that there is a reluctance to democratise in the western sense. The supposed democratizers have little credibility. Are we really expected to believe that Poroshenko was better than Yanukovych? Just different camps. Do we really believe that Navalny is the great democratic hope for Russia?
    So really boasting that being critical of both sides is showing objectively and neutrality is not the whole story, it is starting the narrative midway through a long saga.

      • Goose

        I linked Glenn Greenwald’s tweet highlighting Josh Rogin’s piece in the Washington Post, explaining the Biden : Harris platform’s foreign policy as “Muscular Liberalism”. For those interested This is the actual article : https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/kamala-harriss-foreign-policy-unites-the-ticket-if-not-the-party/2020/08/13/54565526-dda6-11ea-b205-ff838e15a9a6_story.html

        A comment directly under it encapsulates how many will no doubt be feeling.

        Made by someone calling themselves USAmnesia:

        Another useless war criminal wearing the cloak of democracy and humanitarian[ism].

        Because America is where the empire has centralized most of its military firepower and billionaires, Americans are the most propagandized people on earth. There are thousands of people whose whole entire job is to convince Americans that it is good and desirable to keep trillions of dollars in military hardware moving around the planet and killing complete strangers who pose no threat to any American.

        “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false” – William J. Casey – CIA Director (1981)

        • Goose

          There’s a misperception among some in Europe that the US’s military adventurism and people who promote it like Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton et al are hugely popular figures, it simply isn’t true. As even as the guardian today argues :

          https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/18/biden-foreign-policy-us-public-wants-less-war

          As everyone here will know, the only reason this continues is because the two-party system doesn’t allow for people to vote for any alternative, it’s the default of both major parties. And the elites at the top of both US parties collude to keep it that way.

          It’s the same in the UK, and it’s why Corbyn was so strangely, viscerally hated by the centrist hawks; because he wasn’t part of that clan, didn’t share that worldview. Those elites call it hard headed, ‘grown up’ politics. In reality it’s just keeping secrets from the people who entrusted them.

          • Goose

            Some are saying to Trump’s credit he hasn’t embroiled the US in a major war, and while that’s true, it’s probably more an attestation to the US military top brass’ lack of confidence him to conduct a campaign as commander-in-chief. Too unpredictable, too erratic, too fascinated with ‘Nukes’ i.e it’s not through noble design but through serendipitous perceived incompetence.

          • James Charles

            Maybe Iran is not ‘weak enough’?
            “By the time you got to the first Bush administration, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they came out with a national defense policy and strategic policy. What they basically said is that we’re going to have wars against what they called much weaker enemies and these have to be carried out quickly and decisively or else there will be embarrassment—a way of saying that popular reaction is going to set in. And that’s the way it’s been. It’s not pretty, but it’s some kind of constraint.”
            https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/03/noam-chomsky-populist-groundswell-u-s-elections-future-humanity.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NakedCapitalism+%28naked+capitalism%29

          • Goose

            @James

            If Biden wins and if e leads the US into another war(likely Iran), it’s not just a question of whether the US can prevail and defeat a capable foe like Iran, they obviously can, or should be able to, spending as they do a $trillion a year on defence. The problem would be in managing public opinion for a war nobody wants back home under an unpopular president. The scenes of destruction on TV of ancient Iran cities, combined with say if Iran were to ‘get lucky’ with a barrage of its very capable cruise missiles – as has happened in Pentagon simulations, the sight of a US aircraft carrier sinking would create uproar back home.

    • James Charles

      Your mention of colonialism reminded me of this: https://www.feasta.org/2020/07/29/conspiracies-theories-of-conspiracy-theories-and-the-limits-to-growth/?fbclid=IwAR2Djv0Ssa-1WvqTxIjigiryFBfSh3V8PhnWQzl5fwbyhS8F981LMIYrX8Q

      “Above all Boris makes a great deal of what the colonialists chose to cultivate in Uganda – cotton, coffee and tobacco. As an argument for stealing a country from under its inhabitants this is like saying that you have the right to evict your neighbours because you have a better idea for what they should grow in their garden.
      Note though that Boris is open about his support for colonialism. There is nothing being hidden. Yet there was also a British government conspiracy, as we will see, jointly with the CIA and Mossad.”

  • Jay

    Non-negotiable values.

    Mark Curtis
    @markcurtis30
    The state approves the overthrow of Belarus regime therefore the UK mainstream media will report endlessly. When Egypt’s Sisi won 97% of the ‘vote’, UK govt congratulated him and there’s been silence in the media ever since. The UK MSM is nothing if not extremely disciplined.
    8:27 am · 18 Aug 2020

    • Jack

      Very true. Its bizarre how not more people question media today, it is a media that belong in a dictatorship.
      Have the journalists, perhaps since WW1 years, ever taken a opposite stance on a war/conflict/issue than the ruling political party in the western world?

  • Antonym

    On the English Mi5Guardian I glanced a report that the Scottish government refused to handover significant legal papers to a Holyrood investigation into the handling of of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond.

    Do we foreigners have to wait for a Hollywood movie on this murky Loch Mess plot?

    I guess Craig Murray here is being legally neutered as one of the salmonds, by the sturgeon clan: a fish fight with Southern Shark interference.

  • kirstenskye

    Whatever he is like I find the BBC reporting of him disgusting putting false translations into vox pops and instead of an meaningful journalism or broader analysiss it is just punting regime change ..

  • Goose

    Don’t know if Craig reviews older blog comments, but Paul Mason has got into a spat, he’s accused of making false equivalencies between nations. Mason highlights the article (link below) ,claiming he’s happy to be criticised. But, imho, having read it, I think they completely wipe the floor with Mason. “Mason’s point is that a good leftist can condemn both the US and China; that one should adopt a position of Neither Washington nor Beijing.”

    https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/socialists-should-oppose-new-cold-war-against-china-%E2%80%93-reply-paul-mason

  • John McNulty

    Craig Murray is one of the most honest and accurate writers out there and he certainly has my trust because what he writes makes logical sense, certainly when you compare his writing to any other writer in ‘mainstream’ news media.

    The real problem I have with western backed, funded and ultimately armed revolutions is that our motives have absolutely NOTHING to do with any notion of ‘freedom and democracy’; that is the lie told for domestic consumption. These revolutions have everything to do with exploitation of resources, conspicuous consumption of goods, profit and power.

    The people who live in these countries understand perfectly well the price they will pay for change, particularly those who still have memories of the war and post-war austerity, and they have decided that the death and destruction wrought upon their country by outsiders who know nothing about the people and their history is a price not worth paying, and they would rather the devil they know than the devil they don’t, which perfectly explains Lukashenko’s win.

    I for one am sick of the western media agitating for conflict and maybe civil war in another country where their soldiers and their innocent civilians do all the dying, all to benefit western desires that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

    • Goose

      They are running out ‘easy’ regimes to topple and losing diplomatic support for any military adventurism at home and abroad. I was reading this : https://www.vox.com/world/2019/7/8/18693297/us-iran-war-trump-nuclear-iraq. What a war with Iran would look like, and it’s truly horrific, Any war is obviously terrible and a failure of diplomacy , but my, if they attempt this as John Bolton has urged it’ll be disastrous. Quote:

      The US could try to enter Iran the way Saddam Hussein did during the Iran-Iraq war, near a water pass bordering Iran’s southwest. But it’s swampy — the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet there — and relatively easy to protect. Plus, an invading force would run up against the Zagros Mountains after passing through, just like Saddam’s forces did.

      It’s for these reasons that the private intelligence firm Stratfor called Iran a “fortress” back in 2011. If Trump chose to launch an incursion, he’d likely need around 1.6 million troops to take control of the capital and country, a force so big it would overwhelm America’s ability to host them in regional bases. By contrast, America never had more than 180,000 service members in Iraq.

  • Igor P.P.

    Craig, you are largely incorrect on the “union” of Belarus & Russia “signed 20 years ago”. This agreement, called “Union state of Russia & Belarus”, was signed in 1998. It is pretty much dead, 96% of it, in Putin’s words, remains unimplemented. The primary vehicle of current Russia – Belarus integration is the Eurasian Union (former “Customs union”) – a common Russia-led framework for ex-CIS countries.

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