Putin’s propaganda

September 17th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

At the NATO summit in Wales last week, General Philip Breedlove, the military alliance’s top commander, made a bold declaration. Russia, he said, is waging “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.”

It was something of an underestimation. The new Russia doesn’t just deal in the petty disinformation, forgeries, lies, leaks, and cyber-sabotage usually associated with information warfare. It reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action. Take Novorossiya, the name Vladimir Putin has given to the huge wedge of southeastern Ukraine he might, or might not, consider annexing. The term is plucked from tsarist history, when it represented a different geographical space. Nobody who lives in that part of the world today ever thought of themselves as living in Novorossiya and bearing allegiance to it—at least until several months ago. Now, Novorossiya is being imagined into being: Russian media are showing maps of its ‘geography,’ while Kremlin-backed politicians are writing its ‘history’ into school textbooks. There’s a flagand even a news agency (in English and Russian). There are several Twitterfeeds. It’s like something out of a Borges story—except for the very real casualties of the war conducted in its name.

It’s like a George Orwell novel.

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Putin’s problems

August 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A good piece from the Herald on Putin’s problems:

The world faces a moment of maximum danger in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has perhaps just a few days to decide whether to launch a full invasion of the Donbass, or accept defeat and let the Ukrainian military crush his proxy forces.

Nato officials say Russia has massed 20,000 troops in battle-readiness near the border, backed by Spetsnaz commandos, tanks and aircraft. Vehicles have been marked with peace-keeper labels already. Nato sees every sign that the Kremlin intends to disguise an attack as a “humanitarian mission”.

So it will be an overt invasion.

He has been clear from the outset that he will deploy any means necessary to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit. Only war can now achieve this, since all else has failed, and since he has turned a friendly Ukraine into an enemy by his actions. The awful implications of this are at last starting to hit the markets.

“People thought that Russia was just playing a game of brinkmanship, and that pragmatism would prevail in the end. There is real fear now that this will spin out of control,” said Chris Weafer, from Macro Advisory in Moscow.

Yields on 10-year rouble bonds have jumped to 9.7 per cent, up 130 basis points since June. A liquidity crunch is rapidly taking hold across the financial system.

“The market is shut. Not a single Russian entity has been able to borrow anything in dollars, euro or yen since early July,” Weafer said.

The invasion will make this worse. Putin’s popularity will drop at home, as the economy slumps. He will face possible defeat in elections, which may force him to reveal whether he will allow this to happen, or will he remove the democratic facade.

Putin now faces draconian sanctions from the US, EU, Japan, Canada and Australia together. He can strike back by asymmetric means – perhaps a cyberattack – but tit-for-tat retaliation can achieve nothing. There is no equivalence. Russia’s economy is no bigger than California’s. This is an economic showdown between a US$40 trillion power structure, and a US$2 trillion producer of raw materials that has hollowed out its industrial core. The new arsenal of sanctions refined by a cell at the US Treasury – already used with crisp effect against nine countries – is nothing like the blunt toolkit of the 1980s or 1990s. Nor can Russia retreat into Soviet self-sufficiency. It is locked into global finance. The International Energy Agency says Russia needs to invest US$100 billion ($118 billion) a year for two decades just to stop its oil and gas output declining.

This is one of the benefits of having countries in the global economy – it means that when they do bad things, the economic pressure can be the best elver against them.

European officials calculate that Putin will not dare to cut off energy supplies, since to do so would bring the Russian state to its knees within months. But even if he tried – as a shock tactic – it would not achieve much. Oil can be obtained anywhere.

Cutting off the gas would hurt Europe, but hurt Russia more.

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Putin arranging anti-fracking protests

June 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The head of one of the world’s leading groups of democratic nations has accused Russia of undermining projects using hydraulic fracturing technology in Europe.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.

Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

So Putin is allied with the Greens! I love it.

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Another journalist flees Putin’s Russia

May 24th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

An exclusive by Alexander Bisley with Masha Gessen:

AB: On stage at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival earlier this afternoon (Sunday, May 19) you said in response to the risk you face for courageously criticising Putin: “That’s my least favourite question. When I was working on the biography, I kept it secret. My partner she knew, my editor, no one else knew I was working on it. When the book came out to a great deal of publicity throughout the West, I think it gave me some kind of protection. It sounds horrible, but the death of Anna Politkovskaya taught the Kremlin that the cost of killing high-profile critics in the West is extremely high… There are journalists and other people in much greater danger than I am precisely because the eyes of the world aren’t on them. Because nobody knows their names.” You told Kim Hill yesterday your son’s going to boarding school in America this year because of the significant risk to his safety?

MG: And I’ll probably join him soon. We’ll probably go to New York. I haven’t said that in 20 years. Last year I was in Sydney and my answer to this question was, “This is my home, Putin can leave. I’m staying.” I can do the work in Russia, and I would do the work in Russia, but I have three kids and it’s one thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s risky and difficult; I think in many ways it’s enriching them, and I’m glad my kids have that experience. It’s another thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s hopeless. Now that I’ve lost hope, I need to take them out.

This story has been picked up by Slate, The Guardian etc.

AB: You describe Putin as a “bloody executioner,” saying he’s created the climate where it’s open season on journalists and opposition politicians and dissidents. On March 4, 2012, his “re-election” night, Putin cried: “We showed that no one could impose anything on us.” How do you think he’s going to respond to growing opposition? Will he crackdown harder?

MG: I think at this point they’ve set in motion just this unstoppable countdown machine. He’s going to turn the screws tighter and tighter. That brings more and more pressure on the people—it’ll ultimately explode, the longer it goes on the more violent it will be and also less the likelihood of a good outcome of something good coming afterwards. The worse life is and the less hope there is, the more people leave [Russia].

Putin has been genuinely popular in the past, but there is a growing dissent to his rule, and as reported the more he tries to repress criticism, the more intense it may become.

The interview is a very interesting insight into Russia and Putin, especially the story of when she was summoned to meet him.

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The growing hostility of Putin

December 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill which bars Americans from adopting Russian children, provoking anguish among US families that have been waiting months, and in some cases years, to complete the process.

The legislation caps a year of increasing Russian hostility toward the United States, stoked by Putin, but taken up with unexpected gusto by members of parliament.

A series of measures has taken aim at what is perceived to be — or characterised as — American interference in Russian concerns, from political organizing to the defense of human rights.

The adoption bill is seen as retaliation against a US law that targets corrupt Russian officials.

Passage of the legislation is a benchmark in the deterioration of Russian-American relations, and unlike some of the earlier, symbolic moves, it has real consequences.

Over the past 20 years, 60,000 Russians have been adopted by Americans, and officials said the measure would block the pending adoptions of 46 children.

It’s pretty despicable to use orphans as a political weapon.  It’s also very stupid. It will not harm the US Government. It will harm the orphans, devastate the potential adoptive parents, and just reinforce the growing view that Putin is an intolerant authoritarian ruler who should not be trusted.

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A new USSR?

October 6th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

In what is sure to be seen as a bid to rebuild the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin has floated the idea of a “Eurasion Union”.

Putin, who recently announced he will be running for president, said the union – made up of former Soviet states – would be similar to the European Union.

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan were already going ahead with economic integration and will introduce unified market rules and regulations at the start of 2012, according to the Russian Prime Minister.

But Putin quickly deflected suggestions the union would be an attempt to rebuild the USSR.

“There is no talk about rebuilding the USSR in one way or another,” he told a Russian newspaper.

“It would be naive to try to restore or copy something that belongs to the past, but a close integration based on new values and economic and political foundation is a demand of the present time.”

I’m all for economic co-operation  but I do wonder how Putin’s Eurasian Union would cope with, for example, a Greece whose failure to pay their own way means all the other countries have to bail them out?

I’m guessing he’d send in the tanks and take over the country. Maybe this is what Germany should do with Greece – demand that Merkel be placed in charge until the Greek Government is running a surplus. If they say no, then kick them out of the Euro.

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Thought of the Day

September 25th, 2009 at 7:22 am by David Farrar

I might be wrong, but I suspect Helen Clark hated that her first meeting with Barack Obama was having John Key introduce her as his predecessor, after Obama goes out of his way to say hi to Key.

We sometimes forget what a great reputation our country has overseas as a place to live:

Mr Obama had a friend living in New Zealand who had raved about the country praising its golf courses, skiing and lifestyle for families.

If Obama does visit at some stage, he’ll be a lot more popular than he is back home. UMR released a poll yesterday on NZers views of world leaders. The net positive ratings were:

  1. Barack Obama +82% (88% favourable, 6% unfavourable)
  2. Kevin Rudd +45%
  3. Angela Merkel +15%
  4. Nicolas Sarkozy +2%
  5. Gordon Brown -1%
  6. Silvio Berlusconi -16%
  7. Vladimir Putin -19%
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