OUR TRIP TO TULA & SUMMER 2022

We are a bit over halfway through the summer, so I thought I would offer an update on life here in Russia. I will focus mainly on personal experiences, but I will address a few issues surrounding the Ukrainian situation which are impacting our lives here. My plan is to cover the special military operation in Ukraine more in depth in my next blog entry.

TRAVEL: The big event of our summer thus far was our trip down to Tula, Russia. Tula is a city of about 500,000 people that is located a little over 100 miles (175 km) south of Moscow. My late wife was born in Tula, and her mother still has relatives there. Oksana’s mom and dad decided to go visit them and invited us to come along. We spent almost a week there. It was not my first trip to Tula. Oksana and I went there for several days when her cousin got married. I think that was in 2006.

Tula is a fascinating city. It is primarily known for the military weaponry that is made there. Coincidentally just after we returned I saw this recent article on-line in RussiaBeyond. https://www.russiabeyond.com/history/335234-tula-arms-capital?fbclid=IwAR2KZs-jhY3TFIlqBKq5UNwzov899M3qZI8kHEtOK0hnpisJzMUK5QCTm7c.

It refers to Tula as the “arms capital” of Russia. There is a huge weapons factory there. We could not visit the factory, but we did visit the nearby weapons museum. For an old Marine like myself it is a fascinating place to visit. We spent hours there when we visited in 2006, and I loved going back this time. I still don’t feel like I saw everything. The big guns (literally) are on display outside the museum. Inside, not only does it have all kinds of Russian weapons, the third floor has American and German armaments as well. Even on the first floor there was picture of Samuel Colt, who started the famous arms manufacturing company in America. There was an extensive collection of Colt firearms below his picture. Next to that display I saw an old M-1 rifle which I had not seen since my early days in the Marine Corps. There are also places where you can actually hold some of the weapons. I took pictures of Gabe with some well known Russian rifles.

There is also the Samovar Museum in Tula. A samovar (literally “self-brewer”) is “a metal container used to heat and boil water, usually for tea.” It is of Russian origin. To refer to them as metal containers, however, is simplistic to the point of being misleading. They are very elaborately made and beautifully decorated and painted. We did not go to the museum this time, but I have been there. Even though I grew up drinking sweetened iced tea in the hot south, I still love the beauty and complexity of the samovars. The craftmanship and art involved in making them is amazing.

On my earlier trip we also visited Lev Tolstoy’s farm, called Yasnaya Polyana (loosely translated “sunlit meadows”), which is located not far from Tula. It is where Tolstoy was born and where he wrote novels such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. His grave is located near the home. Inside the house one can see the bed he slept in and the desk where he wrote his novels. I cannot comprehend how a man could write a novel as long as War and Peace by hand sitting at that simple wooden desk. I get tired writing long blogs on a computer with a word processor. Many famous Russian writers have been there to visit, but for this American the most interesting collection was his letters and correspondences with Thomas Edison. The two men were essentially “pen-pals” and sent gifts to each other. Edison sent Tolstoy a phonograph with which Tolstoy could record his messages on wax cylinders of some sort. This was early 1908. Before I visited there I had no idea Thomas Edison and Lev Tolstoy even knew of each other.

There are also other attractions in the city. Marina Grace had a wonderful time at the Central Park, which is mainly for children. They had various rides and forms of entertainment. One spinning ride was called (in Russian), “The American Slide.” She was a bit afraid at first, but ended up loving it. She was also able to ride a pony. We were exhausted at the end of the day.

It was a very enjoyable trip. It was good to see Oksana’s relatives again, although there was obvious sadness at her not being present this time. It was also frustrating. My Russian is simply not good enough to keep up with “tabletalk.” I think that may be true with people like me in any country who are not really fluent. The conversation around the table often involves more than one person talking at once, and it is usually interrupted with requests to pass this or that food item. I just can’t keep up.

The train ride there and back was very difficult. It was not the express train. It went quite slow and Marina Grace, Gabriel, Roman and I were in one small sleeping compartment called a coupe (rhymes with toupee). I was exhausted when we got back to Luga. But I highly recommend going to Tula if you come to Russia. It is interesting and you can learn a lot about Russian history and culture there.

DAILY LIFE. Otherwise I suppose our summer has been rather typical, whether one is in America or Russia. Gabriel still has his friends he “hangs out” with and frequently has them over here to visit or go swimming in the nearby lake. Marina Grace spends time with her friends, although her close friend (our neighbor) has been away on vacation. Like many Europeans, Russians take long vacations in the summer. Marina also spends the night with her grandparents about once a week. Since the kids are home most of the time I bribe them to go get groceries and run other errands with me. It is much more enjoyable when they go with me, so I willingly buy the chips and candy needed for the bribe. Overall my children are quite happy. That is the most important thing for any parent, but after all they’ve been through this past year without mom it has done me so much good to see their joy.

I am learning to enjoy life again as best I can. I get together with my two buddies as often as possible to hike the trails through the forests near our home. According to Map My Walk, our hikes have ranged from 4.5 miles (7.2 km) to almost 7 miles (11 km). We have had some very warm days (mid-80s F), but we’ve also had many very pleasant—even cool—days which have been really good for walking.

It has been almost a year since Oksana passed away. As I was told from the beginning, grief is a process. The sharp and paralyzing pains are mostly gone now. Of course, every now and then something will trigger the hurt. A couple of days ago I went on Facebook and the memory that flashed up was of my mom and Oksana sitting together in a cafe we sometimes visited not far from our home. Marina Grace was still a toddler and was sitting between them amusing them both. That picture was taken not long before we moved from South Carolina. That both Oksana and mom are gone now hit me again. At least now, however, I can move on emotionally whereas earlier I would be unable to recover for some time after seeing a sweet memory like that.

IMPACT OF SANCTIONS. In general the Russian sanctions still have not had a big impact on life here for most people. I started keeping up with prices on groceries and there was clearly an increase since February, although not nearly as dramatic as what my friends in America have experienced there. Nevertheless, a couple of articles I read last week show inflation in Russia is now starting to decrease. The ruble is stronger than before the sanctions; gas prices are the same, and the central bank just dropped interest rates to below pre-sanction levels.

Mr. Putin and others have said the impact of the sanctions could be more severe if they continue for another six months or so. Neither he nor others whom I have heard were very specific other than to say the supply chain would be impacted in such a way as to cause another price increase. Still, my grocery bill here is a fraction of what it was when we left South Carolina in 2016.

A little background on my grocery shopping: I shop at Lenta, the most expensive chain grocery store in Luga. I go there for several reasons. First, it is within walking distance of our home; second, I like the wide aisles. I do not like shopping, and I hate being crowded when I do shop. Furthermore, since I go there often I know where most products are located. I pay full price because my discount card expired, and I foolishly have not renewed it. I am missing significant discounts. I say that to let you know that I could get my groceries much cheaper if I were a diligent and smart shopper. But I’m not. This past week I stocked up on more groceries than I have ever purchased at one time. Gabriel was with me so I knew I had help carrying the groceries home. We had two huge bags which we packed full, plus my large backpack was stuffed so full we almost could not get it zipped up. The cost was the equivalent of $125. Most weeks the bill is much lower than that. This does not count meat and dairy, however, which I get at the open market.

As I indicated in an earlier blog the people here getting hurt the worst are us ex-pats. Transferring money remains a big problem since Russia was removed from SWIFT. As I indicated before I have been saving up money because President Putin warned this could happen. Nevertheless, if the sanctions continue for several months I will have to take the losses involved in transferring money.

Russia is building its own system similar to SWIFT with other countries, such as China, Brazil, India, and even Saudi Arabia. While this makes things difficult for folks like me, I think it is good for Russia in order to protect the country from the economic tyranny of America. The U.S. wants to determine who is “in” and who is “out” economically based on submission to U.S. directives. Russia is not going to be held captive by the West, and other countries are willingly joining in with Russia. I saw a recent video of 22 representatives from Arab countries standing in line to shake Sergei Lavrov’s hand at the Arab League in Cairo.

From reading and corresponding with my American friends, it is obvious people in the Western countries are getting hurt by these sanctions far more than those of us in Russia. I think it was Ray McGovern who referred to the massive sanctions as a “double-edged failure” for America. They have not had the big impact on the Russian economy that was promised, and, conversely, they have hurt Western countries far worse than the uninformed initiators of the sanctions promised. I have mentioned that I saw the video myself when President Biden said the sanctions would cause the Russian people to rise up and Putin would be gone by the end of the year. Putin’s approval ratings remain around 83-85%. Biden’s approval ratings were less than half that the last time I checked.

I saw that gas prices have come down in the States, but they are still well above what they were a year ago as best I recall. When I see the costs of certain grocery items there I wonder how we would have been able to make it if were still in the U.S. living on my salary. Well, the truth is I would not have my old salary if we were still there. The COVID policies shut down jobs like I had in our small company. Living on Social Security in America would not have been possible. It was difficult living on a single income when we were in the States and I had a full time job. I can’t imagine what it is like now.

Countries in Western Europe are getting hurt even worse than the U.S. They depend heavily on Russia for energy as well as food and fertilizer. And when cold weather hits I do not see how countries like Germany will survive without natural gas from Russia. So the commitment to the sanctions is already weakening in many of the EU countries. And leaders in these countries are either already gone, e.g., Johnson in Great Britain and Draghi in Italy, or are suffering from very low approval ratings. Whether Macron can hold on in France and Scholz in Germany remains to be seen.

Life for a single American father living in Russia is still difficult to be sure. I get frustrated living here, and it is often quite lonely. But if we were still in America and had the medical bills from Oksana’s cancer on top of my job being eliminated, I have no idea what we would have done. Beneath all the economists’ talk about the sizes of different economies and the rates of growth, etc., the one thing that stands out most clearly to me from living in Russia is that the purchasing power of the ruble is so much greater than many Western experts realize. I will say that from my experience some things are cheaper in America, e.g., electronics. Buying a computer and a cell phone was cheaper in America. The items that people usually buy weekly, however, like groceries, gas, and medicines cost only a fraction of what we paid in America. I think the biggest differences may be in health care costs and housing. Both rent and the cost of new homes in Luga is well below what we paid in our small town in South Carolina. My understanding is that the price of housing has skyrocketed even more in America of late.

When I tell my Russian friends how much groceries and gas cost in America or how much we paid for rent when we moved there the looks on some of their faces indicate they are not sure if I am telling the truth. Many Russians have no idea how much money it takes for the average family to live on in America even in “normal” times. Conversely from posts I see on social networks, most Americans believe that the hard times they are going through are worldwide. Their perspective is quite distorted. Neither your politicians nor your press there want you to know what life is like here. They keep telling you we live under a dictatorship that manipulates the common people for whom the dictator and his lieutenants care nothing. I think I have written enough about the psychological phenomenon of projection in earlier blogs.

Therefore, I would appeal to my readers not to believe information presented about Russia by those who have a political agenda or who have not been here in recent years. For example, State Department spokesperson Ned Price recently said Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine because he (Putin) hates to see democracy at work in a neighboring country. He stated this after we all know Victoria Nuland ordered a coup d’etat to remove the democratically elected president of Ukraine and bragged about the money the U.S. spent funding it.

CONFLICT IN UKRAINE. I will briefly address the conflict since it is the major news item from this part of the world. As I said, I will deal with it more fully in my next blog. War is awful, and the deaths of Ukrainians and Russians are painful for so many people. I continue to believe, however, that had the U.S. minded its own business there would be no war in Ukraine. Compare Volodymyr Zelensky’s campaign promises of abiding by the Minsk agreements and resuming good relations with Russia when he was running for President to what he did after he was elected and received U.S. “support.” I continue to insist that there is fighting and dying in Ukraine in large part because that is what the American government and military culture wanted. In unguarded and unscripted moments President Biden has said the U.S. wants this conflict to wear down Russia and force it to use up its military resources. Greater minds than I have reached the same conclusion. In my next blog I will post links to videos by John Mearsheimer and others who have a firm and independent understanding of the development of the Ukrainian crisis.

Putin has stated very clearly that he does not believe Ukraine is a sovereign country. Ukraine is one of several U.S. vassal states. Ukraine didn’t decide to bring in missiles and other “lethal weapons” from the United States to put as close to Russia’s border as possible. The U.S. made the decision and then informed Ukraine what was coming in terms of weapons and money. It is difficult to tell how much money the U.S. has sent to Ukraine this year. Estimates I have seen range from $65 to $70 billion. This money is not just for weapons. The salaries of soldiers (including Nazi battalions) are being funded by America. Other government workers’ salaries are being paid by the U.S. All this while Americans are suffering from the worst inflation in over 40 years. And yet people still pretend Ukraine is acting as an independent sovereign state. President Putin knows that is a lie, and he acted to protect Russia. That is what leaders are elected to do. And that is why the U.S. seems to be making Vladimir Putin more popular than ever.

INTERVIEW ON UKRAINE AND RUSSIA

Last week I received a request from an American Evangelical Protestant journalist/author for an interview on Russia and Ukraine. I admit I was a bit reluctant and was not quite sure what to expect. Turns our she is an extremely nice lady and her questions and comments indicated she is quite informed on the issues. Here is the interview with Erika Grey.

A MOSCOVITE PERSPECTIVE

I wrote in my last blog about life in Russia after being back here six years. I mentioned a couple of things the reader needed to keep in mind. First, while I am a Russian citizen, I do not consider myself Russian. Growing up in a country provides one with a deeper knowledge of and perhaps perspective on current events. Second, I live in a small town. I wrote that I cannot speak for those who live in a huge city like Moscow. If one reads what an American raised in the city of New York thought of things in the U.S., it could possibly be quite different from one living in, say, Pickens, S.C. (where I was born). One of my readers who is both Russian and a native of Moscow responded. I have asked him before to write a “guest” blog. This time I asked his permission to use his response to my last blog as a guest entry. I think it will be a helpful supplement to those who wish to know more about life in Russia. So here are how things look from the perspective of “Red Outsider” from Moscow.

As a comment, I’ll provide that city dwelling Russian perspective which Hal mentioned he can’t quite provide himself – namely that of a lifelong Moscow resident.

In my experience, while it most certainly varies from one general area to the next, most Russian heavily urbanized areas I’ve done everyday life things in for appreciable amounts of time are like a large collection of partially overlapping Russian small towns, integrated into one organism. Readers may be familiar with the Soviet way of residential district planning, one can see it easily from satellite images of Russian cities – geometric patterns of massive apartment buildings with utility and service buildings (schools, kindergartens, clinics, sports centers, shops etc.) placed within their bounds. Those more or less end up like mini-towns in and of themselves (rule of thumb: 4 apartments per floor per section, with buildings of fewer than 3 sections being uncommon and 3-4 being the norm; with the oldest buildings at 5 stories, ubiquitous 9-stories and constructions of the late USSR commonly reaching 17-23 floors, there are a lot of homes per square meter of city – that’s even before we factor in new districts of modern high-rises of 30 floors and beyond), with slight overlap within walking distance – which is likely fully intentional by the Soviet then Russian city planners who were obviously aware of the Russian way of social life. Yet it is also (most of the time) not cramped – Soviet city planning actively sought to prevent it and designed somewhat similarly to the City Beautiful movement, with ample trees and open cultivated spaces, and the capitalist era did not manage to erase that thinking. Outside of busy central areas and pre-industrial “old town” parts, especially in older districts where floor counts are lower and trees had time to fully mature, it often feels like Russian cities are patterns of towers amid endless parkland, and I personally feel it helps alleviate the “psychological” crowding well.

The courtesy ethics Hal mentions observing in Luga remain in force in big cities, and not just for neighbours – I’ve long since lost count of how many times I dropped one of my winter gloves, having taken one off for some reason, but I never lost a single one, because someone always either warns me or picks it up for me, even in transport and on the street. I definitely do see devices, bags and wallets picked up and returned to owners who walked on absentmindedly or left them on seats in public transport, and have done so myself when it happened. To be sure, sometimes nobody notices and you see an item just left lying long-abandoned, but whenever someone does, you hear them call out, not pocket the item.

More specifically for the city neighbourhoods, my own experience as a big city resident is startlingly similar to Hal’s life in Luga. Kids and teens walk around to and from school and play about without needing supervision, biking, skating, playing ball games and tag and hide-and-seek (my apartment overlooks a vast free-access “courtyard” formed of several wall-like residential blocks, with a public green and sports areas and lots of open space, and I can see all that go on every single day whenever I look out of the window). You see children of 4th grade age and up in public transit all the time (free rides for students), entirely unafraid of being accosted or the like even when they’re alone. Though there haven’t been active police patrols visibly present in residential areas in my living memory, safety is essentially guaranteed even in late hours – a few years back, I and my parents often went out to walk late in the evening every summer weekend, returning home as late as 11:30 PM, and never once had to worry about our security.
As pertains to the sense of community, living in a Russian city, you get to know the general sort of people you live nearby and start to vaguely regard one another as “homies” of sorts, even when you have no personal relations and no organized community exists. It’s particularly easy to notice in local supermarkets, when the cashiers start recognizing you and sometimes offer suggestions on when new deliveries of your regular purchases are made so you can pick ’em up freshest, or offer to let you pay back later if you came up a little short with your cash at the counter. The same happens with other services, such as hairdressers and even doctors – not all, but many Russians tend to be repeat customers once they’ve started coming to you for any sort of business and have no/few complaints, while Russian district clinics (“polyclinica”) are outright planned-out and designed with that in mind.
Of course, in central, heavily busy and more cramped areas, people will always be more on edge and watchful, but the people who do live in residential blocks there are either entirely disconnected from all neighbours, or even closer-knit – my early childhood happened in the vicinity of the Moscow CSKA stadium, so I have recollections of that too. But everywhere further out, starting with the “middle ring” away from central business spots, it quickly begins to resemble small town Russia in spirit but with more urban development. My own neighbourhood feels, to me, like a small town in the middle of a bigger city, and I’ve heard enough people from other districts say the same about theirs. And having been to smaller cities and small towns for sufficient lengths of time in my life, I can attest that the above is not unique to a single location but is the general norm across the country. Certainly, some locations differ (I’ve never been to St. Petersburg and can’t compare, for example), but in my experience, whether in Rostov’s satellite towns, small towns a few hundred kilometers from Moscow, or Sevastopol or Volgograd, people act the same general way they do in my home neighbourhood.

Now, of course, I don’t mean to sugarcoat things. Life is still not ideal, crime still happens, some neighborhoods are less calm and secure than others, and some cities face more issues (though it doesn’t always correspond to how rich the locale is overall – the meanest areas are often the “elite apartment complex” ones). Areas around central railway terminals, where transients and fresh immigrants tend to hang out, as well as fashionable public haunts (in the last few years the Chistiye Prudy (Clear Ponds) Moscow metro station area has been a stark example) are always risk zones for crime and disorder. Night-time street racers that used to plague Moscow’s streets for a few years have been mostly pushed out to the city rim, but there they remain a nuisance. Newer neighborhoods on the outskirts in general are often less idyllic than the earlier-expansion, middle-ring city life I have the most experience with. But as per my aunt, who lives in one such far-flung district, it’s still nothing she, an elderly woman living alone, feels troubled or inconvenienced by.

On the different topic of Americans and Russians, I recall Andrei Martyanov and a couple other commentators noting in their recent publications that, in truth, American people – the way Hal would define the notion, not the “woke” modern revisions of the concept – fit in fairly well in Russia, that we don’t really have that much difference in how we tend to act as people in our everyday lives. We certainly don’t have anything really dividing us in this regard, nothing “mental” or “conceptual” to fight over. Hal is correct in noting that there’s plenty of fury over America’s and NATO’s blind direct support for a true resurgent Nazi force that’s taken over the Ukraine territories – but that doesn’t mean Russians “personally” hate Americans now, or did before, we simply feel furious and frustrated and disappointed at just how blind and complacent people can be and just how truly vile people in power can get. It appears that it gets dangerous to be Russian in America now, but the opposite is not true.

If one sits down with a Russian (of most any ethnicity!) of a mind to talk about such things, 8 or 9 times out of 10 you’ll end up with a wish for America to cease trying to be a world empire and simply focus its wealth on itself, its own betterment by its own effort and resources, and not the subjugation of, and waging wars in, countries literally half a world away. Ordinary Russians have a sort of “homesteader writ large” mentality in regards to international relations – we like to see nations minding their own business and doing well by it, we don’t want to turn Americans Russian (not that it’s even required, see above), and don’t really want to become American as the past 30 years have shown; we just want to see Americans living happily and well in America, Chinese in China, Russians in Russia etc., and simply trade and travel and mingle when we wish to. We as a culture have been through enough wars to know they end not with the total extermination of the other side, but with having to live with them going forwards. Peace will come, in time. We just wish for Americans to learn it too and heal themselves, cleanse themselves of the madmen and vile buggers who confound them into backing an Empire of Lies and of Bases that perverts everything their country once claimed to stand for. We want to be able to sit down for friendly beers with a hypothetical Joe from Missouri without acrimony, not have to fight him for some reason.

But whether the Deep State wants it or not, peace will indeed come. As discussed last time, it’s not the Taliban the Pentagon is dealing with now, they have no idea just how ineffective any effort to make it a “long war” will be, unless those brave rear-for-head admiral desk jockeys get actual regular US troops stuck in. (There’s a little concept called “escalation dominance” they seem to have forgotten from their war college days.) Instead, though I lament all the loss they are causing worldwide with their misguided belief they can “finish off those pesky Russkies once and for all this time!”, I also have to… thank them, in a way.
Because without them, our Russia would have stayed in the confusion of the 90s for that much longer. It’s predominantly thanks to Western hostility in 2014 that we really started shaking the post-Soviet delusion off, not even to Putin’s long and numerous efforts prior to that point, despite his faction doing their best since the year 2000 to do that. And it’s not until now, in 2022, that things many patriots have dreamed of are getting done, such as Russia ceasing to import products we can produce at home just as well or withdrawing from unfavourable deals made in the 90s-00s that gave foreign beneficiaries a big advantage and ensured local industries stay suppressed.
Moreover, something I, personally, dreamed of has happened – our society is finally throwing off the dominance of Russophobic self-hating “xenopatriot” subset of the middle and upper classes, those idolizers of an idealized image of “The West” who’d virtually taken over in in 1990 and largely controlled most of Russian policy ever since (yes, dear readers, all that “scary resurgent Russia” you’ve been scaremongered about since 2000 was in fact being largely governed, and sabotaged by, loyal servants of “the West”!). It happens by the simple virtue of those xenopatriots turning viciously hostile towards their own Russian compatriots now that their Western idols have, and effectively “cancelling themselves” without any external input. Separating wheat from chaff, as it were, as well as handily removing Western ability to mess with Russia from within.
It’s particularly long overdue in areas of society like mine, academia and humanities – for the first time since I went to university, I feel like a weight has fallen from my shoulders and I no longer have to watch out for potentially offending some “liberal” bigwig who fetishizes “the West” and wants nothing more than to be its intellectual and even actual colony, and forbids any “self-directed” deviation from Western dogma. In this way, funnily, the conflict actually brings greater freedom of thought to Russia (“liberals” never ceased expressing their point of view, they just can’t ouright slander Russia without legal repercussions anymore). Now people like me, not fanatics of any ideological side but simply patriots and civic thinkers, can finally try and move Russian thought forward without being forced into the Procrustes bed of “but we have to follow what the Western academia think!”. Lord willing, education and “soft” sciences, and indeed our entire culture, will not take long to wake up from the long fitful slumber of the past 30 years and we will finally be able to move forward again, rather than resigning ourselves to the role of “backup singers” (the Russian word “podpevala” fits in well here) assigned to us and trying to preserve what we had before from erasure by the West.

Regardless of all else, though, I extend my best wishes and whatever blessings I can offer to Hal and to any potential readers. I hope yet another year of Hal’s family’s life with us here will be better than the previous, and overall joyful and fruitful.
******

THE SIXTH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR ARRIVAL IN RUSSIA

I’ve been writing blogs frequently lately, and I thought I would take a break since I don’t have any breaking information to report or comment on. But I’m a bit sentimental. Today is the sixth anniversary of the day we arrived back in Russia. I started writing this entry three days ago which was exactly six years after I wrote my first blog. We were still in South Carolina with most everything packed and ready. Reading back over that initial blog brought back some pleasant memories, as well as a bit of the anxiety we felt at the time as to how the move would go. So I thought I’d write one more blog before taking a break.

WHY DID WE MOVE? I’ve been picking up new readers of late, and so I still get questions on what motivated us to move. There was not one reason; there were three main factors. The catalyst was a change in our family situation. When I was 59 years old I learned that I was going to be a father again—this time a little girl! That news was quite a shock, and I immediately wanted to find a way to spend more time with family. Yet, I knew I had to keep supporting my family financially. Cutting back to part time or taking early retirement was not an option. We had enough trouble paying the bills with my full time job. So I began examining options as to how I could stay home more with my family.

Second, it was a time when there were major social changes going on in America. There were a lot of discussions in the news about things like gender identity, etc., but it became more pressing to me due to an incident near our home. A biological male who supposedly identified as a female went into the women’s bathroom at a Target store 10 minutes from our home. The mother of a 9 year old girl heard her daughter screaming from the bathroom. The person who identified as a female was caught trying to break into the little girl’s bathroom stall. The incident made the local nightly news, but quickly disappeared from all papers and newscasts. No one ever found out what happened as a result of what appeared to most of us as an attempted assault on a child.

Third, the political situation in America leading up to the 2016 election was quite intense. Eventually it would be the well-known contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for president. It wasn’t just that I was underwhelmed with the potential candidates. Over the years my suspicions had grown stronger that the majority of American politicians in both parties at the national level did not really care for the plight of the working class people in America. They talked as if they did, but the focus always seemed to be on some conflict or war in a country thousands of miles away. I later read the book, The Deep State, by Mike Lofgren and my suspicions were confirmed.

These three factors—personal, social and political—triggered a lot of thoughts over what our lives would be like in America as we raised our children. Since my wife was born and raised in Russia and I had lived in Russia for two and a half years, we knew that Russian society and culture was very different. If anything, Russia was becoming friendlier to traditional families and traditional morals. At first my wife and I said nothing to each other about it, but eventually we realized we were both thinking about moving to Russia.

We started researching and my wife called friends in Russia who had children, and we learned the cost of living was far lower in Russia than America. We were shocked at how little (in dollars) the Russian friends we talked to said they could live on. At the same time, I learned that if I took early retirement that my Social Security pension would be increased because I had two minor children. It was still not even close to what my salary was, but according to what we were told it would be more than enough to live on in Russia. As time passed, we both came to believe we should make the move. So on June 7 we flew out of the Carolinas bound for Moscow via New York, then to St. Petersburg and on to Luga. We arrived in Russia on June 8, 2016.

HOW HAS IT WORKED OUT? I went back and read the blog I wrote when we first arrived in Luga. It reminded me how shocked I was when we first drove from the airport in St. Petersburg to where we would stay in Luga. During our 8 years in America things had changed dramatically in northwest Russia. The roads were better; there were larger and nicer homes. The stores looked much more modern.

Personal. Many things have continued to improve over these 6 years. New businesses and shops have been added, and more merchandise is available. I love St. Petersburg, and I still love going back to visit, although given what has happened in our family we have not had the chance to visit lately. There was a time, however, when residents of Luga had to go to St. Petersburg to get some things they needed. That has changed. Most things are available in the stores here now. The variety of things available in Luga compared to the situation when we left Russia in 2008 is amazing.

Also, Ozone and Wildberries are two on-line sources that will deliver a wide variety of products. In Russia you can pretty much order anything. For example, Oksana got used to having a clothes dryer in America. But they do not sell dryers here in Luga. So when we moved into our new home she ordered one on-line, and they delivered it to our house. So we have a clothes dryer, dishwasher, huge microwave, a blender, and something else that looks like an electronic crock pot or some kind of slow cooker. I’m not a chef, so I really have no idea what it is.

Social. I am not the only American living here that has said Russian society reminds me more of the America I grew up in than contemporary American society does. I know that sounds weird. We have found that many of the traditional values we grew up being taught before America went “woke” are taught here in Russia. And these values are not something people argue over. People disagree, but that is not a cause for confrontations. There is a degree of mutual respect.

Furthermore, my kids can play outside like I did as a kid. Gabriel can ride his bike around Luga with friends. On my walks around town I frequently see kids walking to and from school without a chaperone. The “family atmosphere” is alive and well in small town Russia.

And it is more than just the family atmosphere. When I was in Russia before, Oksana constantly reminded me to carry my wallet in my inside pocket and always be watchful for criminals. And I did get my pocket picked once in St. Petersburg. The other day I was in the grocery store and I was bagging my groceries as they were being checked out. (They don’t have bag boys.) I needed to get my wallet so I could give my credit card and discount card to the cashier. I was fumbling around and finally gave both cards to her. I quickly resumed bagging the groceries. A moment later a gentleman tapped me on the shoulder from behind. I turned around and he handed me my wallet and said, “Sir, you dropped this on the floor.” He could see there was money in the wallet. From the way he was dressed I suspected he was not a wealthy person. Yet he walked from two aisles over to make sure I did not lose my wallet. That is not an isolated event.

Of course, I am not suggesting that there are no disagreements or crime in small town Russia or that there are no inconveniences. I am saying that in general the situation in Russia has become much more conducive to the kind of family life we were looking for, whereas in America the cultural norms clearly were moving in the other direction. And, of course, I am speaking of small town life. There are 20 million people living in and around Moscow. I can’t speak to what it is like in the big cities.

Political. The political situation here is calm despite grave concerns over the fighting in Ukraine. President Putin’s approval ratings are still over 80%. I think there are a couple of factors. One, since WW2 there continues to be a strong anti-Nazi attitude among the Russian people. Luga was occupied by the Nazis for about 3 years. Residents here were enslaved by them. Some were deported to Germany as slaves. Despite what the U.S. indicated early on, it was clear to the people here that the Azov Battalion, Right Sector, and other smaller groups in Ukraine are neo-Nazis. They don’t hide their Nazi tattoos and emblems or their adulation of Stepan Bandera. Those details were often kept hidden from Americans by the Western press, especially early in the conflict.

I have heard of a number of men from Luga who volunteered to go fight the Nazis in Ukraine. I mentioned in an earlier blog that two teachers in Gabriel’s school were called up from reserves to go to Ukraine and fight. I later found out I was wrong. I had assumed they were called up. They actually volunteered. Since then I’ve heard of more volunteers. Russians didn’t cross an ocean to go fight Nazis in the 1940s. The Nazis came here. It was an invasion. So having Nazi troops again in a bordering country is alarming to many Russians. Americans have never known what that feels like.

Second, the anti-Nazi sentiments here have been further inflamed because America has supplied so much money and weaponry to those troops. Many people who were not strongly supportive of Putin earlier have appreciated the way he has stood up to the U.S. and NATO. I presented the data in my last blog that shows the financial condition of Russia has not been hurt by the sanctions, which were predicted to destroy the Russian economy. This combination of fighting Nazis and outsmarting the American led sanctions has strengthened Mr. Putin’s support. More than that, however, I think it has unified the Russian people in ways that go beyond which political figures they support.

Additionally, the cost of living has remained low here, especially compared to America. At first the ruble dropped in value and the inflation rate rose quickly. The ruble is now stronger than it has been in four years. The inflation rate is now over 2% lower than when I wrote my last blog, and it continues to fall. Gas prices remain the same as they have been for many months.

So while the death of my wife has been a major emotional battle, the reasons for which we moved here proved valid. Unfortunately, my fears about what could happen in American culture proved truer than I dreamed. The old values of the traditional family are often disparaged by the mainstream in America. Inflation has skyrocketed as best I can tell. America still spends more tax dollars on a conflict thousands of miles away than on the needs of the common folk. And it is to that conflict I will now turn.

STATUS OF THE UKRAINIAN CONFLICT. I have addressed this issue in depth several times, so I’ll try to be brief. The people I trust, e.g., Col. Douglas Macgregor and Scott Ritter, still maintain Russia is winning. It has taken much longer than expected. Voices in the West have claimed that Putin and his generals were way off in their calculations. I’ll offer an opinion on the matter. Putin was very vague on details when he announced the “special military operation.” He did make it clear this was going to be a surgical mission. There would be no “shock and awe.” Such precision takes more time.

Nevertheless, I do think it has taken longer than he expected. I believe one significant reason for that is he did not think the U.S. and other Western countries would send so much aid to Ukraine. As is commonly known, America sent over $53 billion in just over two months. The U.S. has spent more on Ukraine in this period than Russia allocates in its own defense budget for an entire year. Given the high rate of inflation in America and shortages of food and other supplies, I think it caught President Putin off guard that America would still send billions to Ukraine. Most leaders would not risk the collapse of their own economy to pour money into an operation going on in a country 6,000 miles away.

In an interview I saw with Putin this week he still insist that the military objectives are being accomplished. He scorned those who said the latest group of missile launchers will defeat Russia. What he said was consistent with what Magregor and Ritter have said recently. The missiles they are sending are not sufficient for defeating Russia. Russia’s arsenal is superior. There are also some main stream sources in America which are now agreeing that it does not look like Ukraine will be successful.

What I fear, however, is that the U.S. will do all it can to make this war last as long as possible. American leaders love long drawn out wars. Both the war in Vietnam and the one in Afghanistan lasted about 19 and a half years. I will remind those who keep posting that the U.S. has the greatest military in the world that we lost both of those conflicts. Some of us are old enough to remember how humiliating the departure from Saigon was for Americans. We couldn’t beat little North Vietnam. Then, according to its own figures, the U.S. left approximately $7 billion in military weapons and equipment in Afghanistan when the U.S. pulled out.

The U.S. Department of Defense gets many times more money than any military in the world. But the U.S. could not defeat the Taliban after almost 20 years of fighting camel herders. Is the U.S. military that bad or is there a whole different agenda that governs the nature and purpose of U.S. military involvement in these conflicts?

As I have admitted before, one motive for my “attacks” on the culture and leadership of America is the fact that I have children and grandchildren there. I’d like to see U.S. tax dollars spent on helping families like them rather than helping another country thousands of miles away lose another war and waste the money and resources of America. I don’t see how current policies will help the future generations in America.

Instead, when I read the news from America I see that 20 huge food production plants (of various sorts) have been destroyed by fires and explosions recently. Coincidences? I saw the news of the mass killing of 19 children and 2 teachers in an elementary school in Texas. Then, as if that was not bad enough, I read that the police stood outside for about an hour while the killing was going on—and refused to let parents enter. The only people who did enter were a few police who saved their own kids and left. And where did this 19 year old murderer get the money to buy those really nice weapons and that vest he had? And there have been other shootings I’ve read about since then. But America is sending billions of dollars to Ukraine to get rid of mean Mr. Putin.

CONCLUSION. After living here for six years I don’t really fit in comfortably in either one of my two worlds. I’ve been out of America and experienced too much to ever be a “typical” American again. I’m an American citizen. And I still feel American. It is still my home country that I grew up in. I know I was naive, but I really did buy into the values and the freedom of speech and freedom of the press that I was taught America stood for. It’s just not what I see there anymore. Now I learn the corruption was there all along. There is something about being outside the country that allowed me to see it more clearly.

I’m also a Russian citizen. But when I spoke with the lady at the little shop where I was buying some pens and paper yesterday I felt really intimidated speaking Russian—even though she assured me that she understood everything I said when I explained what I needed. (I’m very particular about what kinds of pens I use.) And when I write about politics or local issues here I know there are things I don’t fully grasp. I don’t pretend that I do, and I don’t pretend that I’m Russian just because I have citizenship.

On the other hand, I do think I have some insights from my experiences here that can be helpful. I buy groceries here; I go to the farmers market and church here; I chat with Russian friends. Now that Marina Grace and Gabriel are doing better, I’m able to get back to reading. I like to augment my experiences from daily life by reading more academically focused works. I am not a Russian scholar, but I enjoy learning from those who are. I just finished re-reading Paul Finlay Robinson’s book, Russian Conservatism, and I am waiting for the arrival of Glenn Deisen’s book by the same title. I also ordered Deisen’s book on Russophobia that I think will help me understand more of what I see from here in Luga.

I started writing this blog before we moved because some men at church suggested that I do so. They wanted to read about what life was really like here, compared to life in America. My blog gets read by people in a lot of countries, and it is fascinating to hear from some of those people. But my main target audience is still Americans like those guys at church.

So after 6 years in Russia, here is my message to my American readers: Mr. Putin is not your enemy. There is a war going on in Ukraine because American power brokers wanted a war in Ukraine. And for at least 8 years the U.S. has done all it could to provoke that war. They finally sent enough “lethal weapons” and finally dangled enough money in front of the right folks to get it started. Putin sent troops into Ukraine because he realized the U.S. would never stop sending weapons in easy range of Moscow, and the U.S. would never push the neo-Nazis to stop shelling the people of the Donbass.

Vladimir Putin is focused on Russia. I go to the Kremlin website. I see his schedule, I see the transcriptions of a few phone calls and talks he gives. I have seen the impact of his leadership on this country since I first came here twenty years ago. He tried for years to have good relations with the U.S. And it is not just Putin. The Russian people I’ve met along the way would really like a good relationship with Americans. Your enemy is not over here, America. The enemy is within your gates.

LIFE FOR AN AMERICAN IN RUSSIA: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

In my last blog entry I departed from the topic of Ukraine and gave an update on how things are going with my children and me. I deeply appreciate all the kind responses. I made it through the holidays and my birthday pretty well. The kids have one more week of school. Things are still not looking good for a trip home to America. I’m starting to think about looking for a guide or someone to help with a trip to places in Russia we have not seen or where we might enjoy this summer. I think we need a change of scenery—at least I do.

In this blog entry I am going to give a general update and review on the situation in Russia as it relates to the relationship with the U.S. As usual, I think there are a lot of misrepresentations in the U.S. media about how things are here. I’ve done this in many blogs, of course, because many wanted to hear what life in Russia is really like. But now it is more serious. I fear the misinformation (to use the popular euphemism for lies) is being used by some to bring the two countries closer to war. In fact, some U.S. politicians are saying, “We are at war with Russia.” My little blog won’t stop it, but I am still determined to do what I can. “Information is power,” as Scott Ritter says.

THE GOOD. There are a number of good things happening in Russia. First, the ruble continues to gain strength. It is the strongest against the dollar that I can recall for quite some time. That amazes me. Russia is the most sanctioned country in the world by far, yet the ruble is much stronger than it was before the sanctions.

I think one reason the ruble is so strong is because no one in the Kremlin panicked when the sanctions were announced. They were not surprised. Calm decisions were made in the heat of the threats and the implementation (or attempts at implementation) of the sanctions. For example, a major threat was that the Western countries would not buy gas and oil from Russia. Russia responded by saying that was fine, but if “unfriendly countries” do buy oil from Russia they will have to pay in rubles. Unlike what I’ve heard, Putin did not raise the price of oil or gas. But the ruble started to regain strength after that, and then a few other measures were implemented that have continued the trend.

Two things happened after the sanctions were announced that I found interesting. First, there were countries not affiliated with the EU, e.g., China and India, that stated immediately they would like to buy more gas and/or oil from Russia. Second, there was a great deal of confusion and dissension among the EU countries which depend on Russian oil and gas. It seemed to me these countries wanted to please their U.S. masters and boycott Russian gas and oil, but at the same time they realized their own economies would be devastated by winter if they did so. There was hardly unity on what to do. The confusion and division led to an increase in the price of oil.

Gas prices were already rising in America long before the invasion of Ukraine, however. Watch how Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri responds to U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s simplistic blaming of Putin for the gas price increases. (Start at the 50 second mark. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAs0iYDncu0)

I am quite sure the results of the sanctions were far from what the U.S. leaders had hoped. A headline article in Business Insider on May 16 stated, “Soaring oil and gas prices helped Russia more than triple its current account surplus to $96 billion, its largest in 28 years.” Business Insider is hardly a “Putin publication.” The article continues, “Russian oil export revenue is up 50% since the start of 2022, the International Energy Agency said last week.” So oddly, the sanctions resulted in more money being pumped into the Russian economy.

Another area in which things are looking good for Russia is in wheat and grain production. On May 12, President Putin announced it looks like Russia may have its largest wheat and grain production in history. Russia has led the world in wheat and grain exports for the last four years. With fears of food shortages also in the news, I do not think most countries want to risk closing their ports to grain and wheat from Russia. This week Russia’s permanent representative to the U.N., Vasily Nebanzya, said Russia will have 25 million tons of grain ready to export from August 1 till the end of this year.

THE BAD. The bad economic trends have hit my home country. Unlike in Russia, where gas prices are still the same, prices in the U.S. are now higher than ever according to Triple A. I checked their prices last week and every day the price went up a bit, setting a new record for highest gas prices ever in the U.S. Diesel is especially high.

I have not done any in-depth research into the possible impact of sanctioning Russian fertilizers. I saw a Facebook post from one of my friends in South Carolina who is a farmer showing the extremely high prices of fertilizers that farmers there are having to pay already. While anecdotal, it is consistent with what I have seen in other articles. Russia is the largest exporter of fertilizers in the world and is ready to sell. Nebanzya announced Russia will have 22 million tons ready. I personally think it is a shame that American farmers and American consumers will be hurt by these sanctions.

I don’t think one has to be an economist to foresee a potential disaster. Farmers are having to pay much more for fertilizers to grow their crops; gas prices, especially for the big trucks that transport the crops, are higher than at any time in U.S. history; food shortages were already low and shelves were empty in many stores before Russia entered Ukraine. It appears that if America continues down this road an economic crash is ahead.

Do the leaders not see that or are they simply unwilling to admit they were wrong in implementing the unproductive sanctions? The West is hurting itself, not Russia, with these sanctions. Rather than seeking authentic diplomatic options to solving the crisis in Ukraine, leaders in Washington are still wanting to keep the war going. The U.S. is determined to feed the war in Ukraine in an attempt to weaken Russia and get rid of Putin. Several leaders in D.C. have stated that clearly.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, I have children, grandchildren, and other dear family members and friends in America. I take no joy whatsoever in writing what I have just written about how bad I fear it is getting in America. Russia is self-sufficient in terms of food and energy resources. Yet American politicians still talk and act as if they are sanctioning Russia from a position of strength.

THE UGLY. The ugly part of this scenario is the deception that I see coming from the West, particularly the U.S., in attempting to feed the war. When I went to the site to check the dollar to ruble rate, there were articles advertised there which were related to issues in Russia. The first one on the list was an article from CNN posing the question, “Can Russia survive its coming economic collapse?” I chose not to read the article because I do not want to spend however much time I have left on earth reading that junk. But they want Americans to believe that Russia is on the verge of economic collapse. They know most Americans do not read Market Insider and other such publications. So CNN and others know they can lie. And those lies are dangerous and ugly.

Second, I still hear it stated that Americans must endure the hardships to preserve democracy in Ukraine. Given the lack of confidence Americans now have in the integrity of their own electoral process, I’m not so sure much effort is being given to protecting democracy in America. But I am sure that Ukraine is not democratic. I’ve posted the Victoria Nuland phone call, which makes clear that furthering democracy was not what America was carrying out in Ukraine. I won’t go over all that again.

I have also pointed to evidence of how Zelensky eliminates his opposition. I realize that some will continue to believe the Western press. I only offer for your consideration other sources, e.g., The Gray Zone. I personally have found Max Blumenthal to be a trustworthy source. (https://thegrayzone.com/2022/04/17/traitor-zelensky-assassination-kidnapping-arrest-political-opposition/)

The bottom line is that the U.S. is doing all it can to fuel the war in Ukraine despite the economic hardships at home. Most of us Americans complain about how slow and confusing getting legislation passed in Congress can be. But last week Nancy Pelosi quickly pushed a bill through the House of Representatives to allocate $40 billion dollars for Ukraine in addition to the $13 billion the U.S. sent two months prior. Then Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell got the bill through the Senate in one day! The U.S. politicians cannot solve the baby formula problem, they can’t solve the gas price problem, they haven’t solved the immigration problem in years, but in one day they can get $40 billion for Ukraine to keep the war going. Something is really ugly about that.

I will add a caveat about the $40 billion. Alexander Mercouris of The Duran said he read the bill and it appears to him only about $6 billion is going to military equipment and training of soldiers. The bill funds salaries for government workers and many other items related to keeping the Ukrainian government afloat. Keep in mind Transparency International rates countries based on their studies of the integrity and honesty of the governments. Out of a possible 100 (for perfectly honest), Ukraine scored 32.

I watched the videos of the Ukrainian soldiers and neo-Nazis surrendering to the Russian troops outside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. I was not watching Russian videos or what I saw on the Russian news. I was watching videos posted by Patrick Lancaster, Vanessa Beeley and the video commentary by Scott Ritter. I saw the Ukrainians come out with hands up. I watched them checked for weapons; I saw them remove their shirts to reveal the Nazi tattoos and various other weird symbols. I saw the wounded taken away to the hospital. And then later I watched Zelensky’s interpretation of how the Ukrainian troops had accomplished their military mission and then evacuated the area. He said he had them evacuate so they would live to fight another day.

The truth is they surrendered and now they are prisoners of war. The man, President Zelensky, completely fabricated a narrative for Westerners wanting to believe Ukraine is still winning the war. It was totally false! And this is the man Joe Biden, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi–Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate—are sending $40 billion more.

THE PUTIN FACTOR. In my opinion, the main or at least underlying reason for all this opposition, however, is the firmly held dogma that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is the incarnation of evil. The U.S. has decided he has to go. From what I read and hear from the U.S. media, there are two main groups. First, I find in CNN and most MSM the idea that Putin invaded Ukraine to take it over and hopefully return to the days of the USSR. He wants power! He must be stopped. That is the position of the Biden administration.

Others, like Tucker Carlson, agree that Putin was immoral for invading Ukraine, but he says we can’t risk the security of the U.S. by defending the borders of Ukraine. Tucker points to the idiocy of the American sanctions, but still falls back on the belief that Putin had no business invading Ukraine. I have noticed even with some reporters outside the U.S. there is an inherent need to condemn Putin while pointing to the ridiculous nature of some decisions by U.S. leaders. Condemning Putin is apparently essential for keeping your press pass (literally or figuratively).

I have stated before that while I regard the invasion of Ukraine by Russia as unfortunate and horrible, I agree with those who say there was no other way to stop the killing and shelling of those in the Donbass. I have yet to hear another option. I have received several responses condemning me for supporting Mr. Putin’s decision. Not one of them has ever answered my basic questions: Do you support the continued shelling and killing of those in the Donbass? If not, how else was it going to be stopped? Even with the Donbass almost in Russian control, the Ukrainians are still shelling and killing residents there. They will not stop until they are defeated militarily. I would love to hear a great solution, but so far people just condemn the invasion, blame Putin and either ignore or deny the killing of innocents in Donbass.

One official government report I read this week said that over 3,000 citizens of Ukraine had been killed since the invasion. Nothing was mentioned, however, about the 14,000 that were killed in Donbass before the invasion. Donbass lives don’t matter. In my opinion, Putin followed every possible diplomatic route to avoid invading Ukraine. The U.S. refused because the war must continue until Putin is removed. In my opinion, that plan will work about as well as those sanctions have.

Both in the press and in social media it is accepted by so many that Putin is a dictator with billions of dollars stashed away. I have been told that myself—oddly enough, by people who have never been to Russia. First, I’ve never seen any of them specifically say where this money is stashed and how they know he stashed it. I have not read any details that address these two obvious questions. In philosophy, it would be called an epistemological problem: how do you know what you know? The logic seems to be just to keep saying it, and that will make it true.

Second, I would briefly add that neither I nor many of my friends here really understand what it is that makes Putin a dictator. It does not feel that way to me. I may not agree with all the decisions Putin makes or all the laws he supports. That does not make him a dictator. It means the people elected him, not me, to be president.

I have other questions on the issue of invasions. Why it is okay for America to still have troops in Syria, occupy about one third of the country and openly steal oil from Syrian wells, and it is not called an invasion? President Trump pulled U.S. troops out of Somalia, but the Biden administration sent them back in. How are events in Somalia an existential threat to the U.S.? Do the American people really want our troops in Somalia? The U.S. is still in Iraq after their government voted and told us to leave. So many Iraqis are dead because of the United States. Why are these not “invasions”?

On the other hand, Vladimir Putin tried for 8 years to stop the West from sending “lethal weapons” (as the U.S. called them) to his border with Ukraine, and he pleaded for all those years for the U.S. and NATO to make Ukraine stop killing innocent people in the Donbass. When he finally concluded the only way to stop the attacks was to send in troops, then he was condemned for invading another country. Neither Somalia, Syria, or Iraq is anywhere close to the U.S. border. There is no existential threat to the U.S. from any of those countries. There are those of us who believe this is sheer hypocrisy.

As some may have seen, the award for Freudian slip of the century goes to former President George W. Bush. In attempting to condemn Putin, he got his invasions confused. Please watch the 41 second video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUEr7TayrmU

A couple of observations. Before the slip he stated the Russian elections are rigged. I remind you, Russia allows international teams of observers to all its national elections. I wrote earlier about the experience of Dr. Gilbert Doctorow as one member of such a team. He was quite impressed with the integrity of the system. Since he is fluent in Russian (and quite a Russian scholar) he was able to go beyond just looking at how the integrity of the votes are preserved. He went out and spoke with citizens in Crimea. The U.S. allows no such observers. Joe Biden received more votes than anyone in the history of U.S. presidential elections. Just accept that.

Further, I have also mentioned the invasion of Iraq to which Bush accidentally referred. I have stated before that the late Colin Powell and his assistant Col. Lawrence Wilkerson admitted the so-called proof that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction was fraudulent. We killed close to a million Iraqis based on fraud. But George W. Bush, who was so proud when the murderous mission in Iraq was accomplished, tells us that Putin is the one who is evil.

I think I have mentioned before that my university degree was in psychology. Now, I never thought that having a B.A. degree in psychology qualified me to hang my diploma on the wall and start guiding people through life’s problems. But I did learn interesting things that I still think about. In studying the most influential minds that impacted psychology I usually could understand them and found them interesting, e.g., Skinner or Freud. But Carl Jung was tougher. Of course, you don’t have to be a psych major to know the name Carl Jung. He was hard for me to understand.

Jung apparently was aware that some people had trouble grasping his concepts. So he authored a picture book to illustrate aspects of his teaching on psychology. One well-known picture was of a young Adolf Hitler. Below the pic was the caption, “This man is going to set all Europe ablaze with his incendiary dreams of world domination.” Most Westerners saw the picture and thought, “Well, of course, you don’t need to be a psychologist to know that was what Hitler aspired to!” But then below the caption you learn the quote was not about Hitler. It was a quote from Hitler. The quote was what Adolf Hitler had said about Winston Churchill.

Jung used that picture and that quote to explain his understanding of psychological projection. We all, but particularly world leaders, tend to project onto others the evils of which we ourselves are guilty. Many called Bush’s statement a “Freudian” slip. I tend to see it as perhaps a “Jungian” slip. Is Putin really that evil dictator? Or has he become a convenient and acceptable target on the international wall for the projections of many Western politicians and pundits?

SIX YEARS IN LUGA: FAMILY MATTERS

The last few blogs I have written have dealt mostly with the conflict in Ukraine. The number of readers of my blog rose during that time. It is a subject of great interest. Nevertheless, I decided it was time to turn the focus back to life here for this entry. I’ll still make a few remarks about Ukraine, but this blog will be more about daily life and how our family is doing—the personal stuff. The reasons are 1)the situation in Ukraine is moving slowly. I don’t have much to add to what I have already written at this point. 2)I have several readers who continue to ask how my family and I are doing. I appreciate their concerns, and want to use this blog entry to respond.

I had several good friends and family write me to see if there was any way they could send me money since I mentioned that I can’t get my pay transferred here the way I used to. Obviously, it was nice to hear of their concerns, but what surprised me most was there were three people, whom I have never met in person, who also wrote and wanted to know how they could get me some financial help. They only knew me through following my blog. I declined any help because, as I have mentioned, we are doing fine living on the money I had been setting aside in case something like this did happen. Nevertheless, it was very moving to have even people who have never met me in person to offer. There is so much division and arguing going on, and they reminded me there are still generous and caring people who often go unnoticed.

So I’m going to write more about my family and our situation here in this blog. For those more interested in politics and war, you may want to skip this one.

In general the situation remains pretty much the same. We’re safe here. There is no conflict anywhere near us. This is a military town, however. Gabriel came home from school Friday and told me it was announced that two male teachers in his school were teaching their last day. They are in the military reserves and are being sent to Ukraine. I have heard of others from Luga going and some have been killed in action. So people here are following events in Ukraine very carefully.

The economy here is still essentially unchanged. Gas, both regular and diesel, are at those same prices they were before the Ukrainian conflict. I think I figured regular at $2.55/gallon and diesel at $3.05/gallon. Groceries are still plentiful and about the same price. I was chatting on-line with an American friend in St. Petersburg, who also gets paid in dollars, about the problem of getting money transferred. He said his situation is like mine. With the cost of living in Russia being so much lower than in the States, it’s just a lot easier to get by during times like these if you have saved up a bit. I sure could not have done without pay in America even for a brief time! But here I still have savings to tide me over until I get the money transfer worked out.

My children are doing well in school. As I mentioned, Marina Grace had some emotional struggles after Oksana died, which was one week before school started. Marina was not able to handle starting first grade without mom. So I hired a private teacher for the first semester. The second semester in the public school got off to a difficult start as well. She would wake up with fear—deep fear that she couldn’t explain. I never forced her to go. The days when she was not able to go, Oksana’s mom would get the assignments from her teacher and teach her at home. All the people at the school were more than willing to work with us through this time.

For well over a month now Marina Grace has gotten up and gone to school with no problems. She comes home happy and has obviously adjusted. Her teacher said last week that Marina is one of the three top readers in her class and the most animated when it comes to reciting poems or stories. She puts a lot of emotion into her recitations. Yes, daddy is quite proud.

Gabriel is also doing well. At the first of the year he needed his grandmother to help with homework, but now he is able to get it done by himself. His grades are good. Like all students in the school, he has to take English. He told me last week that he explained to his English teacher after class that most Americans do not actually say, “I am going to…” (a phrase they had been studying). We say, “I’m gonna…” and leave off the word “to,” as in, “I’m gonna do my homework now.” He said his teacher wants him to come up with more of those kinds of sayings to explain to the class so maybe it would be easier for them to understand a native speaker. He felt pretty good about that.

Both Marina Grace and Gabriel have formed good friendships with fellow students. Gabe often has a friend or may two over to spend Friday night with us. Of course, they are teenage boys so there are “speedbumps.” After they left a big mess in the kitchen about three weeks ago, I had to step in and explain to Gabe that I was not going to clean up after them anymore. He could not have overnight guests until he showed improvement in helping keep the kitchen clean. He took the discipline well, and his friends are welcome again. I think that is just normal stuff for boys in their early teens. Marina Grace still has a wonderful friendship with the girl who lives next door. They spend quite a bit of time together on weekends and are looking forward to summer. Despite speaking Russian all day, Gabriel and Marina Grace still speak English well. They can speak both Russian and English without any accent in either language.

Now that Marina Grace and Gabriel are both in school, I have more time to return to my walking and reading. I also am getting back to taking Russian lessons. I used an experienced tutor on Skype that I mentioned before. But when Marina Grace was going through her emotional problems it was just too much for me to try and keep up my lessons and be available whenever Marina needed me. Now I have started taking lessons again, only this time I opted to go with a lady here in Luga who could teach me in person. I think I learn better that way than with Skype or Zoom. My teacher is someone I briefly took lessons from before. She says she enjoys learning English from me while teaching me Russian, so it works out well.

I really want to work on my Russian language skills over the summer. As I’ve said before, I can shop in the stores and take care of most things with my “survival Russian.” Gabe said a cab driver brought him home the other night and when he saw our house he said, “Hey, I know your dad. He is that American who chatted with me in Russian the other day when I gave him a ride.” He told Gabe he’d like to talk to me again and even added, “Your dad is a cool guy. I heard he writes a blog.” It was good to hear, but I still know I have a long way to go before I get to the level I want to be at speaking Russian.

This brings up a point I have made before that I think needs repeating. Despite all the political problems and awful things American leaders and the press have said about Russia, no one here has ever treated any of us in a bad way upon learning we’re Americans. It was so sad to read some posts from Russians living in America who have been really hurt by how they were treated in America during this time. One priest’s wife in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia posted that her husband was told by the FBI that their church was under surveillance. I thought that cannot be true, but then another priest’s wife posted that it had happened to them as well. Nothing like that has happened to any of my family or any of my American friends living here in Russia. However bad our governmental leaders or our press talk about Russia, the Russians do not hold it against us Americans.

My biggest problem remains my grief. I have discovered “recovery” from grief (for lack of a better term) does not happen on a straight line. That is, I think I’m doing better and really adjusting, and then something happens and down I go. For example, Sunday was Mother’s Day in America. I could not keep my mind off the Mothers Day dinners we had for my mom and Oksana when we lived in South Carolina. And now they are both gone.

This past Monday was “Victory Day” in Russia, celebrating the defeat of the Nazis. It is a huge holiday in Russia and in Luga especially since Luga was occupied by the Nazis for almost 3 years. I was glad that Oksana’s dad had to work his security job so we didn’t join in the Immortal Regiment march here in town. I loved walking with Oksana in that march, and our kids would carry the pictures of both Oksana’s grandfathers who fought in that war. I had already decided I would not march. I just could not go without her. After Oksana died several people who had lost a spouse or a child wrote to me and told me that, especially for the first year, holidays and special days will be very painful. They were right.

Monday, May 16 is my birthday. I have never dreaded a birthday before, but I do now. Last year I had a wonderful birthday party. Marina Grace drew a beautiful picture for me. Oksana was feeling really good. Her parents came over and everyone said nice things about me. After that great start, it turned out to be the worst year of my life. I am told that one day I will get to the point where I will be genuinely thankful for those good memories, and the pain will be minimal. I try to be thankful, but for now it is still mostly pain.

I regret what is happening in Ukraine for several reasons. My regret is intensified by the fact it could have been avoided if America would have pressured Zelensky to implement the Minsk Peace Accords as he had promised. But fearing the public threats of the Nazis in the Azov Battalion, he backed down and so did America. America’s politicians saw a chance for war, and the people in power just can’t seem to resist that temptation. There’s a lot of money in war, and diplomacy is often difficult and slow.

Of course, this is an international crisis. I do not wish to minimize that fact or trivialize it with my own petty concerns. But for me it is personal in the sense that it appears I cannot go home to America this summer. I have not seen my sons or their families in America since Oksana and my mom died. I have been dreaming of having a long summer visit surrounded by Freemans. People here have been very kind to me, but there is nothing like having all your children and grandchildren around you in such a time as this. It is the worst downside of living between two worlds when those worlds are so deeply divided.

On Friday, May 13, 2016 I worked my last day in America. My birthday, as I mentioned, is May 16, and it was on a Monday that year too. We had three weeks to complete our preparations for leaving America and flying to Russia. Since we had been preparing for the move for quite some time it was not as hectic as one might think. Plus, my brother and his wife volunteered to come in and clean up our house after we left. Oksana and I had talked, read, researched and prayed about this move for 15 months. We had no doubts that this was the right decision. I still believe it was.

Obviously, however, I had no idea that I would end up being a single father in Russia. Neither did I have any way of knowing how intense the division between the two countries would become. My biggest worry was how our children would adjust and how they would be treated. That turned out to be the least of my concerns.

My children are growing up in a traditional culture that still values the kind of principles and traditions that I think are important—and ones with which I grew up in America long ago. Russian society is not “woke.” Teachers in schools here don’t try to encourage talk about gender identity and how to know if you are really a boy or a girl. That kind of talk from teachers is forbidden in Russia. The traditional life here was one of the major factors that brought us to Russia.

We are Orthodox Christians. I don’t brag about that, but I’m not ashamed of it either. While not all Russians are religious to be sure, Christian leaders in general are respected here, as are the teachings of the Church. I realize that is not what a lot of people in the West like about Russia. That is why I would never encourage them to move here. I also know some Russians don’t like these values either. I don’t argue with them. I try to keep my focus on my own responsibilities. Disagreements and discussions can be helpful. But my own hunch is that social media has made it easier and actually more enjoyable for some to engage in the disagreements and arguments with no ultimate goal of coming to a deeper understanding of the truth.

Despite the sad and frustrating way things turned out in reference to Oksana’s cancer, I still think we made the right decision to move here. We have been able to live on my Social Security with no financial problems. Had we stayed in America I would have had to continue to work, but as a result of COVID I would have lost my job at the small company where I worked. Given the cost of living in America, we would have experienced financial disaster. Living in Russia has meant that for these six years I have been able to be at home with my family. I was not driving off to work while my children were growing up. Of course, when we moved I did not know that the next five years would be the last years of Oksana’s life. I got to spend almost every day with her. While painful to think about in some ways, I am so glad we spent these last years together.

Finally, I still get questions from my American friends concerning will I ever move back there. Mom’s house and the inheritance her and dad left would take off some of the financial pressure. As I indicated, I’d love to be near my family there and spend the rest of my life with all of them close by. But I can’t say for certain what our plans are. To state the obvious, I have been made much more aware of the fact that I have no idea what the future holds. We started making big plans for travel after we moved into our home in the summer of 2019. Then came COVID and all the hassle with travel. Even a trip to the grocery store could be complicated. At about the same time Oksana found out she had cancer and was in chemo for extended periods and then surgery. Now we have the U.S. and Russia involved in what appears to have become a proxy war.

Further, it looks like from this side of the pond that America is a political and cultural disaster zone and Putin and Russia seem to be the main reasons for all of it according to the politicians and press. Earlier this week I listened to Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from S.C., in an interview with Brett Baier of FoxNews. I have never heard such a stream of lies from a politician. And I always thought Baier was pretty good at interviews, but he went right along with the lies and never challenged anything Graham said. Graham’s basic point was this war is the way America can bring down President Putin. A U.S. Senator openly advocated that America use this proxy war to get rid of the Russian president. In his words, “There is no off ramp,” that is, there is no room for diplomacy.

Really? That is America’s role? After America get so hot and bothered when they thought Putin interfered in the U.S. 2016 election? There was so much anger in America over just the accusation that Vladimir Putin had somehow miraculously invaded our election system. John Durham is showing that the accusations were false, but there was almost a civil war mentality between MAGA people and the Clintonites. Hypocrisy is holding others to a standard you yourself do not meet. America demands no country or leader interfere in any way in its own elections, but U.S. politicians can send billions of tax dollars to feed a war half way round the world in which a lot of people will be killed, but maybe it will get rid of a duly elected leader they don’t like. That is saturated in hypocrisy.

Only somewhat related, Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky posted on Facebook that America has given more money to Ukraine in the last six months than it has spent on all the roads and bridges in America in the last year. If there is the possibility of taking down Russia, then the U.S. will gladly spend more on that project than its own people. Could I take my children back to that country when all three of us are Russian citizens? Would we be safe?

Life has confronted me with how circumstances can change quickly in ways I never dreamed. My prayer is that there are future changes of a positive nature ahead. For now, however, I’m afraid that all I can do is “do the next thing.” I need to be the best father I can possibly be and hopefully become a better person of faith. One Orthodox elder said, “Humility is the mother of all virtues.” I can assure you that the events of the last couple of years have taught me much about humility.

ADDENDUM: On the Ukrainian crisis, Scott Ritter just published an extremely helpful 48 minute video on how he came to specialize in Russian issues and the background to the war going on in Ukraine now. Excellent video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciUNBIKNxMw

THE WIDENING GAP BETWEEN MY TWO WORLDS

The different perspectives on what is really happening in Ukraine continue to grow further apart. They are not minor disagreements over a few details. One can watch a report from the main stream media in America and compare that with reports from Patrick Lancaster in Mariupol or Eva Karene Bartlett in Donetsk, and you feel like they are not even talking about the same war. One journalist, whose name I do not recall, said he felt like he was between two parallel universes when it came to how people understand the situation. It was an odd way to describe things, but I understood what he meant.

And it’s not just that people see the conflict differently. There is also an increasing lack of tolerance toward other perspectives. Since I started writing my blogs almost 6 years ago I’ve had people disagree with me and with each other in comments, but I’ve never seen it get as nasty as it is now. Nevertheless, I will continue to give my own interpretation of the situation as it is developing based on what I see here and what I hear from sources I trust. First, however, I will provide an update on life here in my small Russian town.

LIFE IN LUGA. In general things have not changed much here since my last update. The price at the gas station I walk by every day is still the same as it has been for months. My grocery bill is up a little but nothing significant. Supplies of food and other necessities are still plentiful. Transferring my money is my remaining problem. I am more hopeful I’ll find a way around the sanctions, but I’m still living on savings for now.

There are other ways the sanctions do not seem to have affected us. The Luga KFC is still open. There are plenty of Cokes and other soft drinks in the grocery store from companies that supposedly pulled out of Russia long ago. There is no McDonalds in Luga, but friends in larger cities tell me they are still open. They are now “Uncle Vanya’s.” Russia essentially told the U.S. that since you froze $300 billion of our assets and we paid to get these restaurants here, we no longer recognize your authority over them.

On the national scene, I saw the inflation rate in Russia rose to 14% about three weeks ago. That is when the central bank announced that it was lowering interest rates by 3%. The inflation rate started dropping right after that. Importantly, the inflation rate here is calculated in the standard way. On the surface it looks like inflation in America is lower, but that is not the case. Many economists say the way inflation is calculated in America has been “adjusted” so that it makes the inflation rate look much lower that it actually is. My American friends confirm inflation is much higher there.

When the sanctions were announced President Biden said the ruble would turn to rubble. It was a catchy phrase, but it turned out to be completely inaccurate. The ruble did get weaker against the dollar briefly, but it is now stronger than it was before the sanctions. The game changer seems to have been when Putin stated that if countries want to buy Russian gas, oil, etc., they have to pay in rubles. The petrodollar is no longer accepted.

While Biden predicted that by the end of this year the sanctions will cause the Russian people to rise up and get rid of their president, Putin’s approval rating in the last Levada poll that I saw was 83%. It was in the mid-60s when this situation started. As I have stated several times, sanctions are based on a faulty understanding of how people react to interventions from other countries—especially the United States who has some leaders who cannot tell fact from fiction. The sanctions don’t work, but America’s leaders are not going to admit they were wrong.

IGNORANCE OF RUSSIA. This point is related to the more general topic of the ignorance of many people in decision making positions in the West when it comes to Russia. When U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss came to Russia recently to warn Sergei Lavrov that Russia had no right to intervene in the Donbass, he sarcastically asked her if she was not going to recognize Russian sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh. She replied that the U.K. would never recognize Russia’s sovereignty over those cities or their regions. The British ambassador had to quietly tell her that the U.K. has long recognized those regions as part of Russia. Truss also referred to “our Baltic allies on the Black Sea.” Actually the Baltic countries are located on the Baltic Sea, which is why they are called the “Baltic countries.” It is about 700 miles from the Black Sea.

Unfortunately these kinds of blunders, for which Truss seemed to feel no regret, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ignorance of many Western diplomats and elected leaders about Russia. Significant decisions are being made based in part on ignorance. When he was elected president Ronald Reagan was not considered a brilliant man, especially in international relations. But he brought in people like Jack Matlock who had an encyclopedic knowledge of the USSR. Joe Biden doesn’t really have a “Russian expert.” So he sent Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Kiev recently. Think of Matlock as a chess master and Blinken as a mediocre checkers player—who cheats.

When Blinken arrived in Kiev he stated the Russian economy is “in shambles.” I can’t tell if Blinken is lying or if he really is that out of touch with reality. Further, Blinken claimed, “Putin, in his own words, said he would ‘fully subsume Ukraine back into Russia’.” That is a blatant lie. Putin statements were nothing like that. Thus, Blinken’s ignorance is compounded by his–to use a James Clapper phrase–almost genetic predisposition to lying. He doesn’t just distort events or quotes; he makes things up ex nihilo. Ignorance and dishonesty in diplomacy can and has led to bad decisions. The dangerous consequences I see are not in what they will do to Russia. With Russian gas, oil, fertilizer, grains, nickel and other resources sanctioned, a lot of countries participating in the sanctions will be hurt. It’s called blowback in the military. You hurt your own citizens more than the enemy.

I often hear reporters or politicians disparage Russia’s small economy. Just looking at the figures, Russia’s economy is small. It is miniscule compared to the U.S. Nevertheless, Russia has a commodities based economy, unlike the U.S., which depends on printing more and more money and the petrodollar. Russia has a lot of natural resources to take care of its own citizens, and still supply other countries. For example, Russia has a trade surplus with China. The U.S., the big economy, has a trade deficit with China of over $355 billion. Russia’s overall trade surplus in 2020 was $91.85 billion. America simply does not have the compacity to bring down the Russian economy with sanctions because too many countries must have resources they can get only from Russia.

America is trying to prohibit Russia from paying its debt so it can declare it to be in default. Russia is not in danger of going under economically. The head of the International Trade Bank in Russia recently said, “Real default is out of the question here. Russia’s financial position always was and still is very stable. Reserves in the Bank of Russia exceed the entire external debt.” That has been confirmed by outside observers. Keep in mind that the U.S. can’t pay anything on the principle of its own debt. It just pays on the interest. The U.S. has no hope of ever getting out of debt. Russia has enough in reserve to pay off its debt completely if it wanted to.

The second area where I think the deceit will come back to haunt America is in the portrayal of the military situation in Ukraine. The lying about the military operation started immediately after Russia entered Ukraine. There was the story of Snake Island, a tiny island in the Black Sea. It was reported that 13 Ukrainian soldiers held out bravely until the nasty Russians killed them. President Zelensky awarded them the Medal of Honor posthumously. Turns out, the media had to admit later (and quietly) that the soldiers didn’t hold out. The Russians asked them to surrender, and they did. Peacefully.

That was only the beginning, however. Patrick Lawrence sums up other stories very succinctly and much better than I could, so I’ll give an extensive quote here of his article in The Scrum, “The ‘Defactualization’ of America.”

“There was the maternity ward the Russians supposedly bombed in Mariupol. And then the theater, and then the art school. All filled with huddling citizens the Russian air force cynically targeted because “this is genocide,” as the ever-intemperate Zelensky does not hesitate to assert. All of this has been reported as fact in the Times and other major dailies and, of course, by the major broadcasters. There have been pictures. There have been videos, all very persuasive to the eye.

And then, as evidence mounts that these incidents were staged as propaganda to frame the Russians and draw NATO forces directly into the war, a silence worthy of a Catholic chapel descends. We read no more of the maternity ward that turned out to be an improvised Azov base, or the theater, where citizens were herded, photographed in raggedy blankets, and sent away. Ditto the art school: Nothing more on this since the initial reports began to collapse. No body counts, no mention of the fact that Russian jets did not fly over Mariupol on the days in question.”

The big lie came at Bucha, a Ukrainian city about the size of Luga. A video was played of the bodies in the streets. They looked awful—men, women, children. I lost a couple of friends over this event. I refused to call Putin evil based on the MSM reports. Both my “friends” were so angry at evil Putin and said it was shameful I would not say that. They lost all respect for me.

Shortly thereafter, Scott Ritter gave a commentary as he played that video. First, Ritter pointed to the green containers near the bodies. Those are the containers Russian troops have been using to dispense food to Ukrainians. I recognized them immediately. Second, the bodies had white arm bands on. White arm bands are worn by Ukrainians who want to let the Russian troops know they are on their side. Would Russia feed people who were claiming to support them and then slaughter them? Finally, Ritter pointed to the condition of the bodies. They were “freshly dead.” The Russians left the city on March 29. The mayor of Bucha took over on April 1 and said the city was free of Russians, but he made no mention of any atrocities committed by the Russians.

The video was made April 2. Ritter stated emphatically those bodies had not been lying there since before March 29. The temperature was above freezing. The bodies would have been swollen to twice the size by the time the video was made. So he stated based on his training as a military investigator the evidence indicates that the Russians could not have done this. But it didn’t matter. The MSM took Zelensky’s word for it, and no one offered a retraction later.

Even more dangerous than these incidental lies is the overall picture that one gets from the Western MSM that the Ukrainians are winning, although some are beginning to temper their predictions. People I trust state emphatically that Russia is accomplishing what it set out to do, although in a way that seems different from typical American approaches to battle.

Col. Douglas Macgregor was the one person who kept insisting early on that Russia would invade Ukraine. I, and a lot of other Russian observers, believed he was wrong. He is the kind of man, however, who has that military mind who can see the “pieces on the board” as we use to say in the Marines. He did not pay attention to Russian troops on their border with Ukraine, which was drawing all the attention at the time. He saw Ukrainian troops gathering around the Donbass, the regions which had declared their independence from Kiev because of the American led coup. He reasoned that Kiev was planning a major assault. He further believed that Putin would also know the troops were there and would do a preemptive invasion into Ukraine to stop the attack on the Donbass. Macgregor was right. I was wrong. Now Macgregor emphatically states there is no way Ukraine is going to win this conflict. When a man of his insight and military knowledge says something with no ambivalence, I believe him.

The main reason I differ from the majority of Americans is because the American media, and apparently the American politicians, accept whatever the Ukrainians tell them. Zelensky has been promoted to Winston Churchill status. What he says is true. No one checks or investigates: “Trust, but don’t verify.”

Robert Bridge is an American author and journalist in Moscow. I believe one of his recent Facebook posts sums up the perspective of many of us who live here:

“Dear Friends in Europe and America,

I know you mean damn well, but please stop trying to tell people in this part of the world what is happening here because you’ve heard it on the nightly news. I need to let you in on a dirty little secret: You see, they LIE and get away with it because they’ve blocked the regional media channels so that you have no other choice but to believe their contrived narrative of events. So much for the Freedom of Speech and all that.

Best to turn your attention to the public school down the street where teachers are trying hard to change your child’s pronouns and sexual preference at the age of four.

You’re Welcome,

The Eurasian Fact-Checkers Guild”

DOUBLE STANDARDS FOR EVIL. As I have indicated there have been people who have disagreed with me over other issues since I’ve been writing this blog for almost 6 years now. A couple of guys who loved to disagree with me early on were just totally clueless as far as I could tell. With others I could see their point, but I thought if they were here in Russia they would see things differently. Then there have been others who have corrected me or given a perspective I had not thought of. I thanked them.

This event, however, has taken things to a whole new level. I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the majority of readers have thanked me for giving a perspective they have not heard. Some said they had never even heard of Donbass. Nevertheless, I have lost friends over this issue. And I am far from being the only American here who can say that. There is one firm statement of faith from our adversaries: Putin is evil, and that is all one needs to know about his motivations for this invasion.

My question is one I’ve asked in earlier blogs: Where has your moral indignation been for the last 8 years? Not one person blasting Putin has offered what alternative they would have taken to stop the shelling of Donbass. Thus, I assume it is morally acceptable to them for Zelensky to continue shelling and killing the civilians there. Again, around 14,000 people have been killed as a result of the shelling ordered even before Poroshenko. As Poroshenko said openly years ago: “Our children will go to school; their children will live in basements.” Can you imagine a child living in fear in a basement for 8 years? And Zelensky’s people are still shelling it. Watch Patrick Lancaster and then tell me how evil Putin is and how wonderful Zelensky is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnBlk8Zbqng

CONCLUSION: I have pondered how it is that so many in the West can look away from the evil Zelensky has done in the Donbass and also look away from the billions in weapons and aid the U.S. has sent to him to help him in this awful venture. Biden said this week the U.S. will devote $33 billion more dollars to Ukraine for weapons.

And be assured, Ukraine will be a horrible disaster by the end of it because the U.S. wants to keep the war going. While the money will keep going for weapons to Ukraine, neither Biden nor any of his cabinet ever mention support for humanitarian aid or finding a diplomatic solution. Watch Patrick Lancaster’s videos of Ukrainians thanking the Russians for the food, water, and medical supplies. America, however, focuses on keeping the war going.

Please remember, the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk did not attack the other regions of Ukraine. They simply would not go along with the coup d’etat the Americans funded and organized. They heard Victoria Nuland’s phone call. And they declared their independence. It was the leaders in Kiev and in the Azov Battalion who joined with their American supporters to initiate the violence. None of those attacking my views will explain their own better, more moral, solution. It’s been 8 years. Ukraine has no intention of letting up in its attacks on Donbass. I think if Putin made any mistake it was in waiting too long before coming to their aid.

There is a simple, peaceful solution: Quit shelling Donbass and get NATO and its weapons out of Ukraine. The U.S. told the USSR to get their weapons out of Cuba in 1962. Why was it good for us but irrational for Russia to take the same position?

The response I usually get to that is, “But then Putin will take over Ukraine!” Putin is not trying to “subsume” Ukraine back into Russia. If Putin were trying to conquer Ukraine he would have sent in a lot more than 200,000 troops. (He probably sent less, but that is the number NATO alleges.) Even a low ranking ol’ Marine like me knows you’re not going to take over a country of over 44 million people which has a standing army and a full supply of weapons by sending in 200,000 troops.

I really have struggled to understand the emotional or psychological aspects to people’s animosity toward Putin. In the article by Patrick Lawrence I mentioned above, he addresses this aspect of the situation. He recalls the attitude of many of the French people at the close of WW2. They simply could not face the fact that they had aided the evil Nazis. Marcel Ophuls’ The Sorrow and the Pity was a four hour documentary that forced the French to come to terms with the extent to which they had collaborated with the Nazis during the three years they occupied France.

“The French simply could not face Ophuls’ unyielding exposure of who they had been. Ophuls had punctured the enduring bubble of pretend within which they had lived for 25 years after the 1945 victory in Europe.”

I was a part of that generation in America that was taught that Russia or the Soviet Union (we didn’t really distinguish between the two) was the epitome of evil. Putin is a direct descendent and is, therefore, evil in the minds of many Americans. No matter how screwed up America gets, we are still the good guys! There is a certain national unity and comfort that comes from that dichotomous view of the world. I mentioned my two friends above: their political and religious views are very different. But there is that place of unity. Putin is evil, and the “bubble” that keeps out any contrary information is still intact.

It really does not matter to me whether you agree with me on Putin or not. This is a lot bigger than how people feel about one man. I simply ask my American readers to think through this issue. Do you really want 33 billion of YOUR tax dollars to go to a losing effort to enable Ukraine to kill more people in the Donbass or be a part of NATO? Do you want billions to be sent to solidify their border when the U.S. border is leaking worse than a rusty bucket? You are not suffering the high cost of fuel to protect Ukrainian democracy. There is no democracy in Ukraine.

Lawrence concludes with his observations on France and his hope for America: “People can live in these bubbles a very long time. The unreality within them can be very persuasive. The French finally emerged from their bubble. It was painful, a passage full of angst, but they were fortunate to have escaped.” He continues, “Will we have our interim of sorrow, of pity, and emerge from our bubble the better for it? May we someday be so blest.”

Addendum: I again urge all readers to subscribe to Patrick Lancaster on Youtube. He has been in the Donbass since 2014. He’s learned the language and the people. Also, I hope you will subscribe to Eva Karene Bartlett on Youtube. I mentioned them both above. They are both independent reporters, and are not paid by any organization! And they are “on the ground” where the action is taking place.

IMPACT OF THE UKRAINIAN CRISIS ON RUSSIA AS SEEN FROM MOSCOW

My last blog covered the impact—or lack thereof—of the U.S. sanctions on life here in Luga. I indicated that I could only speak for how things are here in small town Russia. I had a lot of responses to that entry, mostly positive but a few quite negative. I received one very thoughtful response from a regular reader which really caught my interest. The young man is Russian and lives in Moscow. He wrote saying things there were quite similar to my description. He went to include some observations that I thought would be helpful to my more serious readers. I thought the fact he is Russian and lives in the capital city with a population of about 20 million would be a helpful supplement to what I have written. So I got his permission to use his response as a blog post. Here is his response to my post on conditions in Luga. Some of his observations are in depth, so if you have questions please feel free to enter them in the comment section of my WordPress site.

From Yuri in Moscow: Glad to see the benefits reached you too, and pleased to see that the benefit system applies for adoptive citizens even if they haven’t worked in Russia proper.
As a Russian from over in a metropolitan area, I can attest to a broadly similar experience vis-a-vis what you mention for Luga – which also makes me feel glad for the smaller townships, that it works out alright for them too.

If you’ll excuse me, a bit of an unsolicited testimony from an urban still-young Russian during these times. It is largely not different from what Hal has to report on his life – no real price growth aside from attempts by speculative fraudsters to artificially pump popular commodities for cash which the Federal Antimonopoly Service is now chasing down. Zero shortages of any kind, but speculation does happen, of a purely “fake” kind seeking to both incite and capitalize on panic buying. I was very entertained when I looked up new pots for my house plants needing replanting and saw retailers wildly fluctuating their prices. Dishonest brokers are as they be – they’ll all get their comeuppance one way or another.

The only inconvenience for me has been the blockade of all Russian owners of “global” debit/credit cards. I frequently made small payments online for entertainment and such, and while some online services and outlets already accepted alternate means of payment not blocked by Western malfeasance – such as Qiwi or even Mir cards outright – many still only deal in Visas and Mastercards plus mostly American stuff. Hilariously, I had my card reissued just last month. Now all that happens because of it is me being unable to spend pocket money on old habitual subscriptions, which I will miss, but can ignore altogether. My only real annoyance right now is that some Chinese online services I came into habit of using also failed to properly implement non-Western payment options for some unknown reason, so the Western blockade stopped payments between me and a Chinese entity too slow on the uptake to wire in a Qiwi payment option into its shop or clear Mir cards.

What do I feel about that, who do I blame for and where does my discontent go? Not to Putin or the Russian government for sure, but rather to the idiotic Western services that declared themselves arbiters of good and evil out of nowhere and believe they are entitled to subjecting entire peoples to collective punishment just based on ethnicity and nationality. Just as Hal notes, far from being a cause of anger against my country, it instead causes anger towards those who are doing it.

The words on sanctions and blockades only serving to make their victims rally together and breed hostility towards those who implement them bear out 100% in what I see of our society. Being in IR, I can supplement it with testimony from Iranian foreign students I attended courses together with – the exact same thing happened there, with their own breed of “Westernized”, pop-liberal movements effectively invalidated and made to look like fools who trusted in lies to the population at large by unrelenting American blockades and hostility no matter what they do; in particular, the Trump deal-breaking episode completely crushed the “liberal” political forces in the Iranian polls and gave undisputed dominance to hardliners who now look like they’d been right all along. As the Iranians became broadly convinced that the US is their existential enemy and that there cannot be a peaceful coexistence and cooperation between them, so something similar is finally happening in Russia now – the “liberal” and Westophile boheme and Atlanticist politicians overt and covert were made, by the moves of the states which they idolize and lionize, to look like gullible fools who never had a clue and whose friends have always been our enemies and merely lied to deceive us, while sovereignists and hardliners vis-a-vis the West who kept getting trashtalked by the former for the past two decades look like heroic prophets now. These are the wages of sanctions – instead of being a spirit-crushing starvation siege of an entire nation the US envisions it all as (itself an egregious war crime, not that the concept ever gave any pause to the US gov’t), it’s a surefire way to cause the target nation to rally together in animosity towards the sanctioner; instead of forcing obedience, it fosters revanchism and grudges and destroys whatever friendly bonds there were. Even Iraq, destroyed as it was both by blockades and war, got turned from an ambivalent nation into a nation of principled US-haters, the kind of mentality that fueled the rise of ISIS.

The high support levels Russians afford to the government now are contingent on some very specific war objectives, however. The main thing Russians will not at all is any sort of cop-out deal that would keep the unchanged current Ukie government in power over most of its current territories, even less so leaving the areas from where it had already been kicked out to them. Russians are (rightly, in my opinion) convinced that the only way to bring peace to that Nazi-benighted land is to kick out the assorted Zelenskys, Poroshenkos and Kolomoyskiys all the way to Lvov or further still – only the areas of Ukraine that constitute the Banderite heartland are considered by the common Russian to be fine to leave alone. The past 10 years have proven that treaties with the West, least of all its proxies, are worth less than the paper they’re printed on, so any “peace treaty” with the current Banderite powers holding Kiev would spark colossal outrage among the Russians – we certainly want the war to end, but we want it to END, decisively, not like the First Chechen war and its mockery of a peace which guaranteed the Second soon after. The people will not accept a halfhearted resolution or a climbdown, not after the monstrous ways the Ukie authorities have adopted – they’re now seen as an absolute evil that must be rooted out from Ukraine as a core prerequisite to real peace and not a truce of a couple years. I’m sure enough Putin knows that and so do the government ministers, but things like the Medinsky mistake of a speech in Istanbul that sounded like Russia is accepting Ukraine’s terms as final keep people worried they’d see their aims betrayed by the government. This is where the real popular pressure on Putin and others comes from – not pressure to exit the war ASAP on any terms, but pressure to continue the fight until Banderites are ground into fine dust and ejected back into Galicia and beyond. If there is to be popular discontent in Russia, it would be in the case of a resolution to the war that the population would see as insufficiently decisive and a climbdown rather than a victory. The only way Putin could be toppled by a coup or a popular uprising is if he surrendered in the confrontation with the West.

While the Ukromadness of the past decades – present well before 2014 but in active horror mode since then – has destroyed any sense of “beloved brotherhood” towards Ukrainians without Russian authorities having to do a thing to cause it (which is why all the talk Western pundits offered about Russians hating Putin for fighting their dear brother Ukrainians is yet more bunkum), Russians do retain a sense of worry about the fate of the population. After watching the premeditated unceasing attacks on Donetsk and Lugansk civilians for 8 years straight, there’s readiness to render humanitarian aid and essential support to Ukrainian civilians but not much else, mostly a desire to leave them to their own devices otherwise. However, Russians do fear that the Ukie authorities would return to the parts of Ukraine outside LDNR that are now liberated and conduct Nazi death squad-style reprisals and terror against their residents, who Russians do not respect anymore but do not want to see exterminated either – which is a core pillar of what I described above vis-a-vis the popular desire to fight the war to the end. Russians are fully prepared to deal fairly with a different Ukraine government, one that would be free of Banderist thought, and expect it to arise from local people stepping up to the responsibility once the Banderists are kicked out, as local authorities have in Southern Ukraine denazified by Russian forces. However, the condition of “Banderites must go, period, no exceptions” is non-negotiable.

Thus, the end of the war as desired by everyday Russians would involve full demilitarization and denazification as Putin promised, i.e. complete removal of the current power structure in Ukraine, and almost inevitably a partition of it. Opinions differ on whether parts of it should be incorporated into Russia proper or a new state, likely contiguous with LDNR (Novorossiya, for example); the more sentimental and idealistic wish for the former, while the more jaded and frustrated-with-Ukraine people would rather not include those territories beyond putting them under a protectorate like Abhazia or South Ossetia. A few are in favor of Ukraine mostly remaining in its current borders minus LDNR but with a completely remade power structure and under Russian overwatch. On top of that, many are ready to leave Western Ukraine to the Poles and Hungarians or let Banderites leave the rest of Ukraine to settle there in their own black-and-red hell on earth that would be demilitarized so as not to threaten Russia, while others want to see it cleansed of Banderites as well. These will definitely be causes for disagreement among portions of the population no matter which way it happens. However, what everyone is certain on is that the current Ukie government has voided its lease on life and must be taken out as a result of this war.

I hope that, to the American and other foreign readers of this blog, my testimony might prove helpful in understanding what rank-and-file Russians generally think and feel about the situation. Many of us not in as many words and as much detail as I put it, but the sentiment is most assuredly as such. Only the leftover “Russian liberals”, of the peculiarly Russian kind that side against Russia in every conflict we’re in and wish their own country ever a defeat, think otherwise – but they are so vanishingly few, and fewer still now, as to be ignored altogether. The only discontent I see voiced among Russians is, instead, on the hardliner side of things, demanding harder conduct of the war and the like. And sanctions are generally seen as a soft declaration of total war against us by the West, with all that entails.

Finally, however, a very important qualifier – while the West has caused considerable animosity towards itself to rise among Russians, this does not extend to Western citizens or expatriates – like Hal – that Russians encounter. In particular, those who were already in Russia or had close relations with Russians prior to the war are altogether exempt from negativity. There is a pervading sense that Western populations are utterly gullible and brought up thoroughly and gleefully Russophobic, but as before, if a foreigner comes to Russia or interacts with Russians, all he/she need do is to not antagonize. No apologies on behalf of their nations are desired, no declarations or denunciations of their homeland like the kind Westerners now demand from Russians caught in their countries; all Russians wish for is to be treated with an equal footing and with decency. Nobody is going to key your car or assault you physically or verbally. I have not heard of any cases of crimes or transgressions against Westerners present in Russia now based on their nationality. Though, what is for certain is that the air of enchanted wonder that foreigners often invoked prior to the last few years is now absolutely gone.

The same lack of hate crimes I observe in regards to Ukrainians in Russia. To be sure, if a Ukraininan would shout Banderite slogans or act confrontational while stressing his Ukrainianness while in Russia, it’s going to get ugly fast, both physically and legally. But if it’s just a person trying to get by and live, they’re not treated any different than own Russian citizens. Ukrainians continue to keep their jobs and social benefits they might be eligible for, they are not facing discrimination so long as they do not show themselves to follow the Banderite ideology. They are also not asked to denounce their country – though many of those already present in Russia do denounce the post-Maidan government and also hope to see it replaced with a more stable, nazi-free one.

To finish up, a personal anecdote: soon after the war began, I needed to go get my hair cut, and my local hairdresser’s happens to be owned and staffed by Ukrainian women (while none of them openly stated themselves to be such, it’s easy to notice). In the past, some of them even voiced clearly Banderite-inspired thought such as believing casual violent racism is normal, so I expected a possible argument. However, upon getting there, I saw no attempts at getting confrontational – in fact, the staff voiced complete understanding of why the war began and wished only to see it end as soon as possible; all they had a mind for talking about was… dog and cat food, with the elder and more experienced woman instructing the younger trendier one to start making her own homecooked pet food while the latter kept neurotically trying to search online stores for whatever remaining pet food stocks of her favourite imported brand that had not been bought out by scalpers. Thus these Ukrainian women were concerned mostly with resolving their own sanctions issues, and everyone parted ways in general agreement. From what I saw and heard elsewhere, this is a fairly typical representative experience of Ukrainians in Russia now.

Pardon the horrendous length. I just wished to add an English-fluent Russian perspective to the conversation to correspond to Hal’s expatriate one, and I find it only corroborates his.

LIFE IN LUGA 2022: STATUS UPDATE

In this blog entry I’ll continue to discuss the Ukrainian conflict, but I will focus more on how it how it has impacted life here in small town Russia. I continue to see reports that the sanctions are making it tough on Russians and surely they will turn on Putin for his supposedly unpopular decision to enter Ukraine. Some of them make it sound as if those of us in Russia are barely hanging on to life. Here’s my “worm’s eye view” from Russia. Two caveats: First, I am commenting on my experience here. Russia is a huge country. Obviously, I cannot generalize and say everywhere in Russia is just like where I live. But I think it will be helpful to my readers to get a “feel” for what it is like here. Second, events in Ukraine are changing quickly. So some info may be dated by the time I publish.

First, however, I will start by saying that the news I am getting here both from the sources I regard as trustworthy (see the end of my last blog) and from Russian reports as well, indicate that the conflict is progressing in a way that is favorable for Russia. I realize that things may have been presented differently in many Western news outlets. There are now plans for some serious negotiations in Turkey with Ukraine and Russia.

I was encouraged by one report I read that the Pentagon leaked information that contradicted the Department of State’s version of what has been going on. They called attention to the progress the Russian military is making. They say the Russians are not “stalled.” I was quite surprised that they also mentioned the humanitarian help the Russians are providing the Ukrainian civilians in the cities they take over by getting them safely to the food and shelter which they are providing. Of course, I have seen quite a few videos of that here, but the State Dept. has tried as best it could to present the Russians as destructive invaders incapable of providing humanitarian aid. So it was good to see this kind of “reality report” getting in the U.S. media as coming from, of all places, the Department of Defense. https://consortiumnews.com/2022/03/23/pentagon-drops-truth-bombs-to-stave-off-war-with-russia/?fbclid=IwAR0sEz_3sOko4Pnzcs76nYkkN1mM7PDbNDx8q5m4L8qbV-NchjEATfSRcNw

Scott Ritter and others have said that the Department of Defense is not keen on being called in to help out the Ukrainians by fighting against the Russians. Ritter called attention to the fact that around the time President Biden arrived in Poland, Russian troops took out a distant Ukrainian target with their hypersonic Kinzhal missile. The target was buried under thick granite. Neither the U.S. nor NATO has any defense against such a hypersonic missile. Putin was letting Poland, NATO and the U.S. know that if they get involved he is ready to use this kind of weaponry. Again, I was encouraged that a couple of major media outlets, including Newsweek, picked up the “leak” from the Pentagon. Rarely have I seen more than one perspective presented in the Western news.

LIFE IN LUGA UNDER THE SANCTIONS. Life here still remains pretty much unchanged. There have been some price increases, but those are moderate so far. I’ll give an overview of local prices.

Gas. The price of gas here has not changed in quite some time. I stated something earlier in a Facebook post that was misleading. I said something about the prices going up. I did not make it clear I meant the price in dollars because the exchange rate was changing. The price of gas has not gone up in rubles here in Luga. Russians here are paying what they paid before the Ukrainian conflict. In the exchange rate over the last month the price of gas has ranged (when converted to dollars per gallon) from about $1.50-$1.85. But Russians are paying what they paid before. Russia has plenty of gas for its own people, and there has been no rise in prices at the pump.

Transportation. Since prices on gas have not gone up I still can take the taxi at the same price. I can get anywhere in town for a little over a dollar.

Food. My grocery bill seems to be about the same. It is hard for me to say exactly how much I pay, however. I’m a male shopper. I don’t compare prices or ingredients. I take my list to the grocery store, and the object of my mission is to get everything on that list marked off with products in the cart. I don’t even notice the price. With that said, by looking at my receipts, I estimate that I usually pay around $85/week for our family. My bill is lowered somewhat by the fact Oksana’s mom brings in soup or other dishes a couple of times a week. The only significant increase in price I noticed was in dog food, which went up sharply. I think cat food also went up.

The supplies of groceries and pet food are not limited, however. The shelves remain full where I shop. Thus far, I see no evidence of a food shortage.

Medical. I had to go to an ear, nose and throat specialist last week because I had an ear infection that was causing a ringing in my ears. She did a a thorough examination that took a little over 30 minutes, and the charge was 900 rubles, about $10 at today’s rate. She prescribed 4 different medicines and the price came to 1,289 rubles (about $14.00). Americans may be a little shocked at those prices.

My 13 year old son had to have braces put on earlier this week. The cost was 20,000 rubles—a little under $225. The exchange rates are changing by the hour but not in any extreme way. Obviously medical care and medications here are not nearly as expensive as in America.

I have not purchased any clothing. I did hear from a friend in St. Petersburg that the price of things like boots and clothes have gone up on Ozon. My price checks are just anecdotal based on what I myself have purchased here in Luga.

Money exchange. The big problem here, which I have mentioned before, is the withdrawal of money if you are paid in dollars. It is also very difficult to get money sent here. Obviously, that is not a problem that affects Russians. It only affects ex-pats like me that get paid in dollars and want to withdraw rubles. Many of us are still in the process of trying to solve that problem. So the biggest problem the sanctions create for working people is one that does not affect the Russian people.

I do thank Mr. Putin for his executive order to raise the pension pay. I never worked or paid income taxes in Russia but since I am a citizen and of retirement age I get a small pension, plus I get more because I am a widowed parent with two children. It comes to a little over $200/month. On the day Putin issued his executive order the Russian government deposited 77,287 rubles ($922) into my Sberbank account as a “social supplement.” So my grocery bills are well taken care of, and I can still feed my dogs.

There are two basic flaws that I see in the U.S. sanctions against Russia. First, the idea of sanctioning a country is based on an unproven theory. That theory is that if the people of the country suffer enough from the sanctions, then they will rise up and replace the leadership. Sanctions are supposed to end in regime change. Hypothetically they are a way to overthrow a government without actually doing anything militarily. It’s a theory that has never actually worked anywhere as far as I know. Even when the sanctions were devastating to the Iraqi people, they did not rise up against their government. It increased their animosity towards the U.S.

To some degree, that is the way it has worked in Russia. Putin’s approval rating has gone up this past month in every opinion poll I’ve seen, just as it did in 2014 when Russia was sanctioned over Crimea re-entering Russia. I think the fact Putin is standing up to America is a big factor in him getting a high approval rating from over 70% of the Russian people. I know Russians who disagree with Putin on several domestic issues, but the Americans’ brash actions have pushed them to support him. They are not crazy about Putin, but they do believe he has handled the Western pressure well. Fortunately, the Russian people do not hold us Americans living here responsible for our government’s actions. Ex-pats are safe.

The second flaw in the Russian sanctions approach in my opinion is that Russia can get along fine without trading with America or the E.U. Russia, unlike some countries, is not a “one trick pony” when it comes to resources. Russia is not Iraq. I know the American media does not present Russia as the diversified economy that it is. Nevertheless, Russia has a varied supply of natural resources. It has enough energy and agricultural resources to be self-sufficient in both areas. President Biden denied that his administration said the sanctions would deter Putin from sending troops into Ukraine. (I saw the videos of VP Harris and Jen Psaki saying exactly that.) He said by the end of the year the people in Russia will rise up and demand new leadership. It didn’t happen after President Obama predicted much the same thing in 2014. Polls thus far indicate it won’t happen now.

Overall, the sanctions of 2014 worked for Russia. They diversified their economy; they worked on becoming self-sufficient by focusing on agriculture. John McCain said Russia was a “gas station masquerading as a country.” Gas stations would not be able to lead the world in wheat and grain exports for the last 4 years, although it is nice to have plenty of natural gas and oil to supply your own country’s needs and have plenty left over for trade with the rest of the world. Keep your windmills going America.

As an aside, I saw that the volume of Russian oil that the U.S. imports rose by 43% from March 19 to March 25. This was after Biden banned energy imports from Russia by his executive order on March 9. The U.S. knows it has to have Russian oil so it is stocking up. https://www.rt.com/business/553002-us-russia-oil-imports/?fbclid=IwAR0biObKaPu6sozK42NpPHkTb4CzkXG6DJaWJHAiTqu-WeMT83MFzAFLRyc

The impact of the sanctions on America. A close friend from America called this week. He asked me how we were doing. He was a bit worried given all he had seen on TV about how bad things are in Russia. I basically gave him a condensed version of what I’ve just written. He sighed and said, “So the sanctions against Russia are only destroying the American economy? Inflation, gas prices, coming shortages of food! Why are we the ones who are hurting???” That is the question the people of America will have to face if the sanctions stay in place. Russia really has done very little at this point. It has not shut off the supply of oil or natural gas to anyone. Right now, the U.S. and the E.U. cut off their own supply of Russia’s gas, oil, grains, wheat and fertilizer. That will hurt Americans and Europeans far more than it will hurt Russia.

Biden and others speak as if they can destroy the Russian economy. They seem totally ignorant of how much Russia sells to other non-Western countries. China is a huge trading partner for Russia. In February Putin and Xi of China announced a new agreement that Russia will provide China with $115.5 billion dollars worth of Russian gas and oil. The agreement is for the next 25-30 years. They already have an agreement to sell them 16.5 billion cubit meters of natural gas. Furthermore, Russia and China trade using their own currencies (ruble and yuan), not the petrodollar. This doesn’t count all the countries Russia will still be sending grain, wheat, fertilizer, nickel and other materials.

The point is the U.S. and the E.U. are hurting their own people with these sanctions, and, as I indicated, Biden has already warned there is a food shortage coming to America. Europe desperately needs natural gas from Russia. So far they have fell in line with the promises of their American masters. Trusting America to be able to ship enough liquified natural gas is not a dependable hope in my opinion. Plus, they’ll have to build terminals to receive the LNG. Regular ports are not equipped for such shipments. And what about the heavy crude I mentioned in my last blog that goes into producing diesel fuel? America could not get it from Venezuela. Have the sanction advocates thought this through? Given the U.S. violated its own order and bought more Russian oil I would say the answer is no.

Putin clearly surprised a lot of countries when he came out with his list of countries “unfriendly” to Russia (mostly E.U. & the U.S.). He stated that any of them buying Russian exports would have to pay in rubles. Biden boasted that the ruble would be crushed by these sanctions. But after a short time of devaluation, it is recovering well.

All of these problems being created in America are, of course, blamed on Putin. I remind you of the main issues that provoked this crisis. First, Putin refused to allow hostile weapons on his border. Trillions of dollars worth of weapons were sent to Ukraine over the last 8 years. For what possible reason? The U.S. certainly would not allow such weapons near its own borders, but if Putin says no then he’s being irrational.

Second, he also demanded the murderous shelling of the Russian speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas region be stopped. The Americans did not deny these shellings were going on. They simply refused to report them or mention them to the media. There was apparently a vow of silence that is still in effect. Why has such cruelty never been mentioned in reports on the Ukrainian crisis? They will not respond at all to Putin’s demand the killing be stopped.

The third thing he included was that Luhansk and Donetsk be freed from Ukraine. They are not allowed any vote or participation in the government or electing leaders. They are constantly being fired on by the regular Ukrainian army and the Azov Battalion. Why should these regions not be given independence? If they are not allowed to vote in national elections then it is hardly so the U.S. can preserve democracy in Ukraine.

The U.S. and NATO act as if these demands are completely irrational. Americans are assured the reason they will be paying exorbitant prices for gas and enduring food shortages is in order to save democracy in Ukraine. There is no democracy in Ukraine. There is something else at work here. Maybe Americans should demand all information on Hunter Biden’s laptop be made public. Watch this short video of Rep. Matt Gaetz seeking to enter the contents of the Biden laptop into the committee’s records. Chairman Nadler’s reaction is “priceless,” as they say. The video is only a little over a minute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrORWCWpH5M

The big concern here now is that there will be a release of a chemical weapon in Ukraine and the blame will go on Putin and Russia. The proverbial false flag. Chemical weapons are very unreliable. They are an act of desperation because you literally don’t know which way the wind will blow. Russia’s military is accomplishing its goals. Positive talks are now taking place in Turkey. Russia has no reason to release any chemicals into the air. If there is a chemical release cui bono? As I mentioned above, all outlets I read—both pro and con on Russia—indicate that positive diplomatic steps are beginning now between Ukraine and Russia. Russia continues its military operations in the east, but is ceasing the move forward toward Kiev. The two countries are finally to the point of discussing specific recommendations and options. The only person to criticize the talks was Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State. The U.S. State Department hates peace.

Other than figuring out how to get my American dollars changed into rubles, I do not worry about the sanctions against Russia. I expect there will be more inflation ahead, but I think you can see from the prices I gave above that it would take a huge jump in prices here just to get to what American costs used to be. Several countries have announced they will no longer use the petrodollar. I genuinely fear what this will do to the American economy. It could be devastating. There is no glee in saying that. I have two sons with families who live in America. I don’t want to see them hurt. I have many dear friends who have told me that they are already struggling financially in America. They really don’t know how they can stand higher gas and food prices.

Whatever happens, my ex-pat American friends and I all agree that Russian/American relations have crossed a kind of Rubicon. They’ll never be like before. It is clear from the tone and content of Putin’s remarks lately that he has had it with the West. The E.U. and the U.S. froze $300 billion of Russian assets. On Ukraine, Putin had three reasonable demands, and the U.S. opposed even seriously discussing them. America appears to prefer a larger scale war no matter what it does to its own people. And however this ends, my two worlds will not come together for at least for another generation in my opinion.

For me this is as much personal as it is political. I remember our 8 wonderful years in America. Oksana gave birth to our two children there. She formed such wonderful friendships with so many Americans. Then we moved, and we had over 5 great years back in Russia. We enjoyed life both in America and in Russia. She was fully accepted and befriended in America just as I have been in Russia. Unfortunately, I believe the U.S. Government cannot get over the Yeltsin days. He fully submitted to their wishes, and it crushed the economy of Russia, just as the Ukrainian economy is suffering now. Putin was there and saw what happened to Russia in the 1990’s.

Even before my last blog, people have often asked me, “So you like Putin?” I can’t answer that. I don’t know what kind of person he is. I never met him. Maybe he is a nice guy; maybe he’s a jerk. Like most Russians he does not smile for the camera much, so he fits the Western stereotype of the “mean Russian.” It will be 20 years this June since I first came to Russia. The Luga I see today when I go on my walks has little in common with the Luga I saw on that first trip here. And Russians told me then it had gotten better!

I’ve said before, I don’t expect much from politicians, so I really am not easily disappointed. I’ve never found one in either country that didn’t disappoint me in some ways. I always leave open the possibility that I don’t know all the facts. They have more information than I do. And, even when I have known all the facts, my own track record on making good decisions is far from perfect. What I look at are the results. I don’t believe Vladimir Putin is solely responsible for the vast improvements I see here, but obviously he had a big hand in them. And I do believe he loves this country and believe he is committed to defending its interest. I wish that I could say that about more American politicians. Even the ones that smile pretty for the cameras.

Appendix: I’d like to add two more sources for research that I believe will be helpful.

The Duran. Many of my readers are aware of their long time informative discussions on Russia and its relationship with the West. https://theduran.locals.com/

Another resource I just discovered is reports by Patrick Lancaster. You can find him on YouTube. He is an independent American reporter who has been living in the Donbas region of Ukraine since 2014. He has lived there, picked up the language and often provides reports on events as they happen. He is a brave guy.

RUSSIA IN UKRAINE: IS MR. PUTIN EVIL?

There is a very old joke that I have told many times and may have even included in a blog at some point. It’s corny and I apologize beforehand, but it’s my hometown humor. There were these two brothers, Bobby and Billy, who lived in the rural hill country of South Carolina where I am from. They were known as pretty rough fellows. They made, drank, and sold a lot of moonshine liquor. The many ladies with whom they kept company were known for, well, not being very lady-like. But Billy, the younger one, suddenly caught a bad fever and died. There was talk of how the funeral for such a rough person would go in this small, mostly Baptist town.

His brother Bobby went to the Baptist preacher and told him he wanted to have a church funeral for his brother, and he wanted the preacher to tell the people that Billy was a saint. “A saint!” The pastor was indignant. “Everyone knows the life he lived—all the liquor and women.” Bobby pulled an envelope from his pocket and placed it on the pastor’s desk. He said solemnly, “There’s a hundred dollars in that envelope for you if you’ll say at the funeral that Billy was a saint.” The pastor stared at Bobby for a moment, then reluctantly placed the envelope in his coat pocket.

On the day of the funeral everyone sat in nervous anticipation about what would or could be said. The pastor rose to speak. “We all know the kind of life Billy lived. Everyone here knows about the liquor and the women. Yes, he lived a wild, sinful life. But, compared to his brother Bobby, Billy was a saint.” I’ll come back to the joke at the end of my blog.

THE PUBLIC RELATIONS WAR: In terms of the conflict in Ukraine I think everyone I’ve read or listened to agrees at this point that the U.S. and Ukraine are clearly winning the public relations war against Russia. I’ve heard that said by many who have a much wider circle of influence than I. And I agree with the assessment. In the minds of the majority of the people in the Western Hemisphere Russia is the bad guy. Zelensky is adored, and Putin is reviled.

THE EMERGING UNITY. Since we moved back to Russia in 2016 Americans have been deeply divided. The election of that year was the one in which Donald Trump shocked many of us by defeating Hillary Clinton. I had friends who went with the main stream narrative that Trump was in collusion with the Russians, and that is how he got elected. Other MAGA friends believed that was an excuse without evidence. They declared that the media was helping the Democrats fabricate evidence. The division between the two sides ran deep.

As regular readers of my blog know, I didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump, but I found the evidence for “Russian hackers” lacking. It just wasn’t there. I wrote several blogs on it. When I shared my views with a friend he immediately responded that I was watching too much Fox News. He didn’t need to say anymore. Just being accused of watching Fox News was enough to convict me.

Then there was the 2020 election and the strange things about the change of voting patterns in the wee hours of the morning when Biden came from behind and surged to victory. Now it was the Trump supporters’ turn to cry foul over a stolen election. They produced videos and testimonies but to no avail. They then decried the Main Stream Media again for lying. It was a conspiracy against Donald Trump!

Finally, there was the COVID controversy. Anyone disagreeing with Fauci was a conspiracy theorist to some. Just wear the masks and take the vaccination or we all die. On the other side were those who believed if you submitted you were just a gullible puppet of the government. I thought the COVID controversy would never end. Biden predicted the winter we just had would be one of disease and death for the unvaxxed.

All of that ended quite suddenly, however. The winter that began with great concern over the massive numbers of deaths of the unvaccinated took a whole different turn. Russia was going to invade Ukraine. By this time I and many others had grown very suspicious when they “played the Russian card.” I didn’t think it would happen. There were so many specific predictions on when Russia would go in that did not transpire. But then on February 24 Putin sent in his troops.

Suddenly Fox and CNN were united. President Putin was an evil man who impulsively and irrationally invaded Ukraine. Sean Hannity from Fox News called for Putin’s assassination. My hunch is that if they had taken a show of hands at CNN, Sean Hannity would have had a majority of supporters at CNN on that point.

Now, I and others did point out that Putin had complained for almost 8 years about the bombing of the Donbas region and about the U.S. and NATO continuing to move more and more bombs to Ukraine and closer to the Russian border. But those were minor details for most Americans. Who cares about the people in Donbas? Americans didn’t even know where it was. (In one study I saw most Americans didn’t know where Ukraine was.) And what gives Putin the right to say America can’t send missile launchers or “lethal weapons” anywhere it wants to? Ukraine is a sovereign country.

THE MINORITY REPORT. Then why are there some of us who disagree with the narrative and the conclusions? You can’t blame it Fox News or the Main Stream Media now since we disagree with both of them. I have received responses from people who are shocked that I do not condemn Putin. Clearly he is evil. They have seen videos of hospitals being bombed, children dying, people suffering. And Putin caused it all. It was on the news! They saw it on TV. All of the sudden Americans trust their media again.

I am reluctant to bring in religion, but my Orthodox Christian faith does inform my political views. It is Orthodox Lent so these things are on my mind a lot. While Jesus warned of various kinds of evil, he seems more emphatic—even angry–when he denounced hypocrisy. He was compassionate toward the helpless adulterous woman and was widely known as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” But he has no words of comfort for the judgmental hypocrites. He told them they were like someone trying to get a piece of sawdust out of another’s eye, while having a plank in their own. Obvious hyperbole, but what a mental image. And it is not just Orthodox Christians that condemn hypocrisy. It seems to be a vice that many religious and non-religious alike find repulsive. So before we examine Mr. Putin, let’s look at some possible planks in the eyes of the accusers.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT. In the 1990s perhaps the most evil man in the world, according to American politicians, was Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq. He was the personification of evil, and we were assured he was developing weapons of mass destruction with which he could and would destroy the world as we know it. To stop this man and his evil the U.S. levied heavy economic sanctions on his country. First they demonized him; then they sanctioned his country. Does the pattern sound familiar?

Unlike Russia, however, Iraq did not have the resources to feed its own citizens. It’s an oversimplification, but they essentially traded oil for food. The results were devastating. In 1996 Leslie Stahl of CBS News interviewed Madeleine Albright who, at the time, was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In this interview you will hear her ask Albright if the sanctions were worth it. Roughly half a million children died as a result of U.S. sanctions. You can listen to her response: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM0uvgHKZe8.

Notice that Albright does not debate the numbers. She does not say, “Oh no, it wasn’t that many children who died.” Neither does she claim ignorance by saying something like, “We had no idea this would happen. Oh if we had known those poor children would suffer we would never have done this.” No, she just says it was a tough decision, but we made the right one. The children be damned. Her answer reveals no sense of shame. She accepted the fact that the U.S. government killed about 500,000 children plus adults in order to rid the world of one man. That was a good decision in her mind. And she judged him an evil murderer? Plank alert. The results of the decision that Albright and others made were 1)the sanctions against Iraq didn’t work and 2)Bill Clinton promoted Albright to Secretary of State the next year.

For now, however, I want Americans to recall what many of us would rather forget. Ambassador Albright was criticized by some, but there was no moral outrage from us. I include myself. I didn’t like her; I thought it was bad. But life went on as usual for my family. America did not come together like now and rise up with moral indignation over the fact our country had starved 500,000 children to death. Putin has never come close to doing something like that, but President Biden calls him a war criminal. We are the good guys. We have to stop him.

Since the sanctions didn’t work, we invaded Iraq 7 years later (as I wrote about in my last blog). In March of 2003 we invaded Iraq under Republican George Bush with shock and awe. We killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis—men, women, children, military, civilian. One report that came out in 2019 said one million Iraqis died. We bombed military bases, hospitals, villages and homes. For George Bush, it was “mission accomplished.” I could not get his “Mission Accomplished” speech to play on YouTube, but many Americans remember it. It was a proud moment.

Later, of course, we learned the invasion was based on a lie. Even the late Colin Powell admitted there were no WMDs there. Some, like Powell’s assistant Lawrence Wilkerson, publicly repented and broke with the U.S. military establishment over it. He said he did not know the evidence had been falsified, but he should have. He admitted that he did not investigate and as a result thousands upon thousands died. There were a few other voices crying in the wilderness about how awful all this was, but for most of us Americans the people who died were Iraqi and didn’t matter–they were brown, they were Muslims. And they were a long way off. People who didn’t like George Bush maybe saw a political opportunity in it, but the nation was far from repenting in sackcloth and ashes.

As an aside, Hussein was captured when we invaded in 2003. He was executed under the Iraqi interim government the U.S. installed in 2006. Apparently, that didn’t end the threat. We still have troops in Iraq even though the Iraqi government has repeatedly told us to leave. And we were told getting rid of Hussein was all we needed.

I’ll skip ahead to Ukraine. This controversy did not happen overnight. It has a long and sordid background. What has been a side issue is the fact that the U.S. President’s son Hunter Biden, has his own history in Ukraine. This past week The New York Times reported that the information from Hunter’s famous laptop was not “Russian disinformation” as had been claimed and reported. No, it was Hunter’s information. For a background summary I’ll just paste a quote from a U.S. Senate Majority Report.

“On April 16, 2014, Vice President Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, at the White House. Five days later, Vice President Biden visited Ukraine, and he soon after was described in the press as the ‘public face of the administration’s handling of Ukraine.’ The day after his visit, on April 22, Archer joined the board of Burisma. Six days later, on April 28, British officials seized $23 million from the London bank accounts of Burisma’s owner, Mykola Zlochevsky. Fourteen days later, on May 12, Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma.” As I recall, he was paid over $800,000 per year over several years.

The obvious question was, why did a Ukrainian gas company, the largest in the country at the time, pay Hunter Biden millions of dollars when he knew nothing about oil and gas. There was eventually an investigation and the Ukrainian Prosecutor General was about to bring charges against Hunter. Here is how his father, then VP Joe Biden, described his phone call to the Ukrainian leader. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXA—dj2-CY. (You may have to do your own search. This video is apparently being hidden.)

Usually we think of a bribe as money paid to someone, e.g. political leader, to do something illegal for a political favorite. This bribe was simply to withhold money that had been promised. The current president of the United States threatened Ukraine’s leader with the fact he (Biden) would withhold a billion dollars unless the man prosecuting his son was terminated. The prosecutor, as Biden brags in the video, was terminated. He was replaced by “someone solid.” That means, solidly in favor of Hunter. Yet we’re supposed to believe everything going on in Ukraine now is just about protecting the Ukrainians from Putin.

Clearly from the video Joe Biden was not ashamed of what he had done. You can sense the pride he takes in wielding such power. And, again, America did not rise up in moral outrage over this event. It’s not like Biden kept it a secret, but for Americans this was a minor issue. Joe Biden himself was never put in any legal or political danger over the bribery. He went on to be president! There was bickering over it, and some political discussions. But the immoral or illegal acts of its own political leaders seldom unite Americans anymore. It is only when a Gaddafi (We came, we saw, he died, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x87cx3z) or a Hussein—or Vladimir Putin is thought to have crossed a moral boundary that America becomes united in its moral indignation. Perhaps we need to remove the plank in our own collective eye to evaluate any situation more clearly.

Is Putin Guilty? The question remains as to what has been and is transpiring in Ukraine. Unfortunately both sides can produce videos proving they are correct. I have been told by more than one reader that they can see videos of what Russians are doing. On the other hand, I have seen videos of interviews of Ukrainians being thankful that Russian soldiers delivered them from their Azov Battalion tormentors. So we can go back and forth showing each other our videos. I just want American readers to know there are plenty of videos showing a very different story. I am one of many American citizens who believe America no longer has freedom of the press or freedom of speech. I don’t think any main stream media has shown videos that many of us Americans see here.

As I have said, I’ve been challenged by some (three or four good friends, actually) for not accepting the truth and defending Putin and the Russian government. Some believe it is because of my prejudice toward Russia, and others think Putin has some sort of “control” over me. They said I was under his power. I don’t really know what that meant. I offer the following as reasons I am not willing to accept the American MSM interpretation of events as of yet.

First, I would say we all should be reluctant when judging things we see even with our own eyes. Perhaps many readers saw the video of what appears to be an explosion and an attack by the Russians on Paris. It was fake, but it illustrates how visuals can be manipulated by computer experts (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10605595/Ukraine-invasion-Chilling-mock-video-shows-Paris-hit-bombs.html). Further, when you don’t know the language and can’t read Cyrillic, it makes it easier for you or even a reporter on the ground to be fooled. I’ve seen military vehicles with Ukrainian words on the side called Russian vehicles in U.S. news articles.

Being reluctant does not mean I don’t believe any of those attacks were carried out by Russians. I realize there are videos which show hospitals bombed and people suffering in many ways. I am not saying none of those are accurate. I believe innocent people have suffered and died in these attacks. I can’t say Russia was never responsible. Nevertheless, I do not believe we will know the whole truth of what is really going on for some time now.

My second point is a follow up to what I just wrote. It is the fog of war. I will again appeal to an authority I trust, Col. Douglas Magregor. He told of his own experiences in combat wherein the U.S. and/or its allies destroyed hospitals. It was not intentional. He said there is no way in war you can avoid hitting the wrong target sometimes if your target is in a heavily populated area.

Third, I watched an interview done by Regis Trembley with Russell Bentley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6W8SLNHzE0&t=1341s). I don’t know Bentley personally. I only know of him through Regis. Bentley is American and a lifetime soldier and has been with the troops from the Donbas region since 2014. In other words, he’s not a military expert with a Ph.D. like Macgregor. He is a guy who has been on the ground fighting with the Donbas militia against the regulars of the Ukraine army for years.

There are two things that stand out in this video. First, he addresses the Tochka-U missile that the Ukrainians (Azov Battalion) fired on civilians in Donetsk. That is an old Soviet cluster type bomb which could have killed thousands in the city. Fortunately it was partially blocked by the Russian backed defense, but it still killed innocent civilians. The other significant point is that he has witnessed the Azov troops using civilians as a defense. It is a horrible ploy, but it is done. They herd the civilians where they believe the Russian bombs will be directed or to buildings they need to use. And I have seen videos on this side of the world supporting what Bentley says he has seen happen with his own eyes. And I have seen interviews with Ukrainian families describing how it was done to them.

Fourth, Zelensky and his handlers have deceived the west in some videos. For example, his administration released a video of him ostensibly visiting the injured troops in a hospital, supposedly the day after a recent battle. But viewers over here recognized one of the ladies escorting him through the hospital was Inna Derusova. She was well known because Zelensky had given her the award, “Hero of the State.” The fact is, however, she died back on February 26. In another clip, which I did not save, there is a scene where the Russians supposedly have destroyed a maternity hospital. The girl they videoed was pregnant, but many viewers here recognized her as a well-known blogger and somewhat of a celebrity. She is doing fine, and I saw the shots of the make up she used for the video.

Finally, there is the video of the Ukrainian journalist and newscaster who announces he is forsaking his journalistic objectivity. He advocates the views of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann believed, as does the newscaster, that it is a mistake to let the children of the enemy go free. If you kill their parents, then one day they will grow up with hatred and seek revenge. You must kill the children. I do not believe that is the view of most Ukrainians. That is not my point. My point is that it is the view of a number of the members of the Azov Battalion and the Right Sector, who neither Zelensky nor the Americans can or will bring under control. Using children as a defense in battle would not go against the beliefs of people who follow Eichmann. (https://multipolarista.com/2022/03/16/ukraine-tv-host-genocide-russians-nazi-adolf-eichmann/?fbclid=IwAR1PDtGK2xe4d9i2yRK0-0xmqflYL1wLuEwTijKZ_aHUvF4OqxdSfofcUao)

I anticipate many will say, but Putin still went in. None of this would have happened had he not sent the troops in. That’s true. And he would be the president who allowed the U.S. and NATO to assemble trillions of dollars of weapons on his border now able to make him their puppet or have him removed from office. He would have been the Russian president who allowed the bombing and shelling of the Russian speaking population in Donbas to continue ad infinitum. Putin warned America and NATO for over 7 years it had to stop. They refused. Zelensky promised in his presidential campaign that he would stop it. I was glad when he was elected. But he lied. Ukrainians are now being killed because Zelensky and the U.S. refused to stop the bombing.

CONCLUSION. I do believe when the proverbial dust settles we will at least be able to get closer to the truth. For now my hope is that Putin’s terms for peace will be accepted or at least considered with integrity and discussion. I long for diplomacy to return.

I want to state that I have not offered this response under any delusion that all readers will immediately or ever be convinced that Vladimir V. Putin is not evil. The belief that Putin is a murderer and does all manner of evil things is deeply embedded in the minds of many. I’ve heard from you; I got your messages and saw your comments. You don’t need to write me again. If you want to know more of my views on Putin go back to January and February of 2018 when I wrote 3 blogs on him.

I am offering this perspective to the majority of my readers who have responded positively and thanked me either on social media sites or on my blog site for presenting another perspective from what they are hearing from the main stream media. They are my target audience. In my next blog I will give more of an update on the situation here.

Robert Bridge is an American journalist in Moscow. We are just “Facebook friends.” He posted a quote that I think was very appropriate: “The fog of war is a propagandist’s paradise.” My hope is that a number of readers will at least hold back judgment until the time has come when full disclosure is possible. Judge no one before the time.

I am an American, and I do not believe I am being unpatriotic. Telling what I fully believe to be the truth is not anti-American. I was raised in that America which said, “I don’t agree with what you’re saying but I will defend to the death you’re right to say it.” I think that kind of America is gone—I fear gone for good. It has been replaced with the arrogance expressed by Madeleine Albright: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” (If you are on Facebook please look up retired CIA officer Phillip Giraldi’s post on her from March 22. Please note I am not quoting Russian news. I’m following those who served the U.S. Government.)

All of us ought to remember the dangers of holding other individuals and nations to standards we or our nation do not meet. That is the essence of hypocrisy. America seems quite united now in condemning Russia. Certainly Russia has it sins, but given the atrocities committed by America in the last 50 years I don’t think the U.S. is anywhere close to leading the way to corporate or national sainthood. Compared to America, a lot of countries are saints. Compared to Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin is a saint.

ADDENDUM. Just before publishing I received a message on my blog site from an American wanting to know how she and others could access reports in English of what is going on. I recommend getting on the social medium site Telegram. Search for Vanessa Beeley. She posts a lot of videos of events and interviews with Ukrainians and others on the ground. She updates her site frequently. I also use Telegram to access Intel Slava Z. And please check out Philip Giraldi, Scott Ritter and Ray McGovern on Facebook.