#MH17 final evidence?

Komsomolskaya Pravda, largest circulation daily in Russia, published interview with Ukrainian man, who claimed to have worked as ground staff in military airfield of Dnipropetrovks. Link to the interview

He said to newspaper on day when Malaysian Boeing #MH17 crashed near Donetsk he was working on the field, serving Ukrainian jet fighters and one SU-25 returned on base without munition – air-to-air missiles. SU-25 pilot Vladislav Voloshin was looking very scared, kept mumbling about “not that plane”.

Recently Dnipropetrovsk governor & oligarch, funder of several Ukrainian volunteer battalions like Azov & Dnipr, was tricked by one pranker to talk over skype & in one of their conversations when subject came to #MH17 oligarch said mysteriously: “They got different plane, hahaha” but didn’t reveal who were “they” and why it was “different”.

Ukraine immediately after #MH17 crash claimed Donbas rebels were responsible, backed up this claim by intercepted talks between Cossaks on remote & humble checkpoints. How Cossaks could down airliner flying above 10K m wasn’t clear.

Ukraine claimed rebels used captured BUK in downing #MH17 but didn’t release radar data. Russia said on day of #MH17 crash at least 9 Ukrainian BUKs radars were working as well as American spy satellite passed Eastern Ukraine at the time of catastrophe.

Rebel BUK theory was usually backed by Western officials & media by blurry pictures of BUKs found on social networks like Twitter. One of most commonly used had number 312 & recently one of its staff members gave interview where he rebutted rumors of BUK’s capture by rebels – BUK 312 was and is under Ukrainian control.

Few days ago Victoria Nuland informed us that US gave “secret files” on #MH17 to Netherlands which investigating air crash.

So these are the facts concerning #MH17 investigation. 2 immediate questions arise from these data –

1 if SU-25 was used, is it technically possible or not? Acc to wikipedia entry SU-25 can fly upto 7K m but its weaponry R-60, air-to-air missiles, can hit targets in 7-10 km distance.

2 if BUK missile was used specialists say missile should be detected by any radars working in area as well as leave white trace visible from Earth but neither radar data was released nor any eyewitnesses saw white trace from missile.

Though interviewed by KP ground staffer’s testimony is not bullet proof evidence backing 1st theory of Ukrainian SU-25 jet fighter, it’s very close to that stage if his evidence will be backed by independent commission.

In other words – if his claims are true, it’s indeed becomes clear that Ukraine air force jet fighter Su-25 downed Malaysian Boeing 777 #MH17 on July 17, 2014.

Golden ruble

Full blown Russian currency crisis was entirely predictable. Russian companies & banks must pay back $30 bln to Western banks in this month but crisis still caught Kremlin off the guard. Ruble is in free fall, desperate midnight hikes of key interest rate by Central Bank chief Nabiullina didn’t help.

So what to do & who’s responsible – two eternal questions hotly debated in Russia.

In my view Putin must understand RUSSIA IN the state of undeclared WAR with Ukraine and the West so his government (stuffed by Liberals of old Washington Consensus school) piece-meal approach will escalate financial crisis which will spill over into real sector and jeopardize his regime.

Whenever I listen to economists debating necessary measures they skirt over stand-off with the West by citing “geopolitical risks”. But nobody tell what will happen if the West or crazy Kiev junta will declare real war on Russia? What will Putin do?

I think Kremlin must sack Nabiullina and Ulyukaev (and Medvedev if necessary) & appoint Glazyev’s team into economic ministries & Central Bank. Some Glazyev’s ideas were quite radical, but he sensed coming geopolitical risks long before the current crisis which Nabiullina, Ulyukaev prove to be incapable of dealing with.

But changing personalities won’t calm markets – ONLY PEGGING RUBLE TO GOLD WILL HELP to bring about much needed macroeconomic stability, tame inflation & restore economic growth.

I know gold price is manipulated by US, but unlike oil gold cannot cost cheaper than certain level otherwise Indians will consume all gold of the world. Besides size of US Fed golden reserves many questioned. I don’t believe in a moment US Fed will dump its gold reserves to make damage to Russian currency. If that will be the case Russia, India and China should buy all American gold on the market.

Pegging currency to gold has its disadvantages, first of all regarding emission of money, but advantages of gold pegging in present circumstances seem to be prevailing.

Anyway Russian ruble since 1990s unofficially pegged exchange rate of ruble to another commodity – oil so I see no big moral problems switching to golden ruble, if Nabiullina think pegging to oil is “free floating” while to gold is not, let her to prove first how is that oil different from gold as commodity?

Parallels between 1971 India-Pakistan war & present Russia-Ukraine conflict

Stephen Cohen (of Brookings Institution, not to be confused with Russia specialist Stephen Cohen) in “Idea of Pakistan” writes of moral & martial superiority lying behind Jinna’s idea of providing home & protection for Muslims of Indian subcontinent after departure of British colonizers. Martial contest between predominantly Hindu India & largely Muslim Pakistan immediately ensued over disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir even when last British troops not yet departed from the country. 1st Indo-Pak war was followed by more bloody Partition which considered as largest ever historical migration of people.

In 21st century it became clear who won historic contest between Gandhi-Nehru vision of secular & tolerant India & martial, morally superior Pakistan – while the former is member of prestigious BRICS group, hoping for permanent seat in UNSC, universally regarded as emerging world power, the latter is balancing on brink of failed state, plagued by daily terror acts perpetrated by Islamist groups Islamabad long nurtered as soft power tool against Soviets in Afghanistan and India in Kashmir. Pakistan’s martial superiority was heavily compromised by loss of 1971 war against India & while moral bankruptcy evident in denying undeniable, i.e. its support to various terror outfits.

In many ways sad India & Pakistan rivalry mirrors now in Russia & Ukraine conflict. Many Indians & most Pakistanis speak one language called Hindi in India & Urdu in Pakistan. They have common history since Ancient Indus civilization, many people adopted & were converted to Islam, numerous families live on both sides of the border. Difference with Ukraine/Russia divide of course is religion – most Ukrainians and Russians are Orthodox Christians however after 80 years of atheistic Soviet rule influence of religion on politics & society became minimal.

“Idea of Ukraine” was expressed by its former president Kuchma in negative terms: “Ukraine Is Not Russia” & stems not only from Western Ukrainian rabid nationalism & sense of linguistic victimhood (in Soviet times their variety of Slavic language was frowned upon & discouraged) but also from jealousy to its rich in territory and natural resources “elder brother”, desire to live like in Europe, shame from chronic and rampant corruption at all levels, incompetence & greed of politicians & oligarchs etc.

Ukrainians yet to deploy its “soft power” terror groups against Russia to complete historical parallels but they distinguished themselves in committing mass murders of pro-Russian activists & civilians in Donbas & spreading copious amount of lies covering up their war crimes. Same can be said of Pakistanis who perpetrated genocide in East Bengal & still in denial over their use of terrorists. India under Indira Gandhi in 1971 intervened in Pakistan’s civil war & ensured Bangladesh independence from Islamabad. Russia officially yet to intervene directly in Ukraine civil war however her support for rebels obvious both in volunteers and humanitarian aid to Donbas.

Common for 1971 & 2014 cases is unwavering support United States had given to Pakistan & Ukraine genocidal policies by arms & diplomatic campaign. For Nixon administration Indira Gandhi became persona non-grata, “that bitch”, for Obama Putin is devil incarnate. Lies & aggressive posturing of Republican & Democrat US administrations also similar though differ in size cause India then & Russia now still in different leagues. US in 1971 cancelled vital humanitarian aid to India, in 2014 they try to strangle Russia economically.

But result will be the same, utter failure, I am sure.

Moral Cold War 2.0

Just read a book “Russian turn. Where is Russia going?” of Nikolai Zlobin and Vladimir Solovyov. The book describes the third term of Putin’s presidency, annexation of Crimea and revived confrontation with the West. In part it’s a chronicle of events, analyzed and sorted to support authors theses, first attempts at understanding of still not finished processes.

Zlobin and Solovyov begin with a ruthless criticism of Putin-Medvedev tandem and Russian state-oligarchic capitalism. Their assessments of political leaders and phenomena don’t look entirely correct , I would say overly simplified. Just one example: reporting from Yaroslavl forum in 2011: “it was clear that Medvedev as President plunges into oblivion, … the ghost of political death already hovered over him”. Now it’s December 2014 and Medvedev still not in oblivion, still at the top of political pyramid in Russia.
“How businessman in Russia is doing” – title of 2nd chapter, which gives an idea about prevailing practices in Putin’s Russia. Authors brush picture with wide strokes, not mixing palette colors, so we learn that in country occupying 1/6 of Earth, where hundreds of ethnic groups live with wildly different customs & traditions, “institution of private property has not been established fully”. Who prospers under such regime? Only relations & cronies of 90 governors. Any other option is almost impossible” claim Soloviev and Zlobin. Seriously, in Russia only few hundreds of businessmen working? How about Constitution, laws protecting private property & homes after all? Russian regions include Chechnya, where vendetta custom overrides protection of private property and inviolability of private homes. But generally 99% Russians enjoy private property quite safely. It seems, in pursuit of strong metaphors, Zlobin & Solovyov applied black color too much, just like in propagandist Western media criticized by authors.

[Here Russian and English version of this review start to diverge.]

Such categorical statements not rule but exception in Zlobin/Solovyov book. Imho for curious Westerner who want to learn about Putin’s Russia the book will be eye-opener in many aspects and will shatter many misconceptions about Russia prevalent in Western countries. I hope there is translation of the book into English otherwise its purpose & value will be greatly diminished.

For Russian observers “Russian turn” not that much interesting, it’s just re-statement of personal positions by two prominent journalists & clarification of their activities. For example Zlobin was active in Putin’s meetings with media asking strange questions about leadership & system. After reading this book you’ll understand why he pressed such questions. Solovyov usually holds debates between warring politicians not expressing his own views, so in “Russian turn” he expresses himself (and chapters written by him are obvious) & creates impression of astute & knowledgeable observer.

Authors singled out publicity stunts & show business as main features of Russian political life in last 2 decades: “stunts replaced real politics”. Alleged by pro-Western radical opposition booeing of Putin by spectators at Moscow stadium after boxing match shows oppositioners adopted Surkov doctrine of symbolic acts instead of real ones. Thankfully Surkov no more in Kremlin & new stunts with ancient amphoras & giant pike went out of fashion.

Analysis of internal Russian politics & leading politicians is interesting & worthwhile. Zlobin & Solovyov absolutely right on political linguistics: Kremlin speaks to overwhelming majority of Russians in clear-cut understandable language of family, traditional, patriotic values while pro-Western opposition talking about Maidan, Pussy Riot outrightly rejected by Russians as something “un-Russian”, and opposition lectures on corruption after being in power in lawless corrupt Yeltsin regime discredit them further.
Marginalized, associated with LGBT pro-Western groups even with lavish foreign funding & Lenin-style discipline have no chances. Forecasts of Zlobin & Solovyov can be trusted if nothing extraordinary and unexpected happens.

Yet unexpected happened. “Crimea ours.” Cold war 2.0 in full swing changing all. Zlobin and Solovyov’s view from both sides of new iron curtain is curious. They argue that Obama and Putin do not differ much – both are patriots of their countries, value private property etc. There is no ideological chasm between rivals as in Cold War 1.0. Still there is thin dividing line, at least authors seems they found it.
Both US and Russia in essence are imperial states and as everybody know empires like any other state born, live, prosper and die. Americans systematically and methodically bend policy of destruction of potential rival centers of power, no matter what human rights activists or critics say. Collapse of USSR, Yugoslavia, chaos in Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria – all fits perfectly in U.S. long-term strategy. Even the creation of Ukrainian black hole between EU & Russia suits US long term interests.

These subjects deserved more attention in the book imho but Zlobin and Soloviev focus on contradiction of moral values between conservative and traditionalist Putin’s Russia and libertarian, anti-Christian West. They describe Putin’s model of global leadership based on anti-fascism, rejection of rabid nationalism and fight with attempts of revision of results of World War Two. On this basis, Russia is trying to build alliance with China.
Authors don’t believe in possibility of such alliance and skeptical on Russia’s prospects in unfolding new Cold war.

Authors argue that Russia is isolated from the world especially in mass media (they equal it to dominant Western media) hence Zlobin and Solovyov concentrate on issues & problems of fair reporting of Russian position to the world community. For example Russia Today’s efficiency is very low in authors view, everybody around watch & parrot BBC & CNN they claim.

As Russia not match for powerful West & rising East Russia at risk of being torn apart like Ukraine only this time between China & Europe. What is authors receipt? To make Russia more homogenous & liquidate national autonomies. Zlobin and Soloviev practically repeat view of Russian nationalists that ethnic minorities in Russia are prospering, while ethnic Russian – not so much lacking “Russian republics”. I think authors wrongly mix real problems of uncontrolled migration & matryoshka-style construction of Russian Federation.

The facts say otherwise, traditionally Russian regions as Moscow and St. Petersburg are much better funded by Federal authorities than autonomous republics. In terms of living standards, levels of infrastructure almost all republics except oil-rich Tatarstan occupy last positions in Russian Federation. Poverty & underdevelopment force people to migrate to big towns and traditionally Russian regions. On top of that since break up of Soviet Union Russia flooded by millions of labor migrants. As consequence interethnic tensions rising in traditionally Russian regions and cities.

Most important omission of the book – authors don’t give assessments of American and Russian models of political leadership in the new Cold war. If problem is just how to convey to ordinary Americans Russian position on Crimea and Ukraine maybe starting Cold War rivalry wasn’t worthy at all. Maybe better, sooner or later, reach compromise with White House and tolerate US policy of sowing chaos & destruction of potential alternative centers of power.

Solovyov & Zlobin singled out disagreement on moral issues between the West and Russia as basic contradiction, however analysis not complete. For example, was torture at Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons, deaths of millions of Iraqis, Syrians and others morally justified or not. On Russian side were sacrifices in two Chechen wars, which claimed 200,000 lives in vain or not?

The war in Syria still raging, Chechnya rarely but still suffers from terror attacks, yet it’s already clear that Putin managed to justify sacrifices in North Caucasus by rebuilding destroyed cities & infrastructure, Chechnya under Kadyrov regime healing wounds and reintegrating into Russian Federation, while U.S. imperial policy has brought Middle East and Ukraine on the brink of destruction. After US covert and overt interventions failed states disintegrating, and even after many decades these regions won’t see peace and prosperity.

That’s why Russia’s prospects in the new Cold war don’t look too bad.