THE POLITICAL CONFLICT BETWEEN MY TWO WORLDS

I stated in my last blog that my hope is to write about politics one more time before moving back to writing about daily life in my next few blogs. Of course, given the relationship between America and Russia who knows what will transpire? I write this blog entry because the situation between my homeland and my chosen country of residence is becoming more intense, and I don’t think my friends in America are getting an accurate picture of things from the press and the politicians there. Events here are seen very differently from the picture presented in my “other world” of America.

In my last blog I indicated there were a couple of developments that I considered to be positive as Joseph Biden began his presidency. Biden signed the extension of the START treaty with Russia. I also referred to an article in The New York Times which stated that some of his advisors had concluded that future sanctions on Russia would not be productive.

Events since then have not left me so positive. I have selected some public statements Biden himself has made about Russia and will comment on the presuppositions of those statements that he and his foreign policy advisors want the American people to accept without proof or justification. The danger of the old adage, “If you keep saying it enough, then they’ll think it’s true” comes to mind when I hear the same old cliches used about Russia. I will summarize the major assertions Biden has set forth about Russia and then respond.

I will add one caveat. I have no idea if Biden understands what he himself says or the significance of said statements. I personally think his mental capacities are diminished, but that is a topic outside the realm of this blog. He is the President of the United States, and his statements must be accepted as such. He has condemned Russia for its interference and aggression and promised to retaliate.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE. As early as January 27 Biden raised the issue of Russian interference in U.S. elections—including the election of 2020. He has also mentioned Russian hacking into SolarWinds. I’m sure all my readers will remember the repeated cries over the last four years from Democrats claiming Russian interference led to the election of Donald Trump in 2016.

RESPONSE. The Mueller investigation took 22 months. Mueller used 19 government lawyers, 40 FBI agents, and issued about 2,800 subpoenas. He spent around $35 million tax dollars investigating charges of Russian collusion and found nothing. Further, the accusations against Concord Management by Mueller that Russian hackers in St. Petersburg were involved in changing the election outcome were dropped with no evidence of such hacking ever presented.

I cannot really respond to the accusations about SolarWinds and the 2020 election, since neither Biden nor any of his staff presented any evidence other than the generic and meaningless statement, “It has all the earmarks of Russian interference.” None of those “earmarks” were ever defined by anyone. The intelligence folks involved actually said they had no evidence. The “Russian hackers” narrative has almost become a part of the Democratic party’s folklore. No evidence was found from 2016 and no new evidence has been presented for the more current accusations.

RUSSIAN AGGRESSION. Biden did not initially say what he meant by Russiaian aggression, but on February 24 he focused specifically on the return of Crimea to Russia in 2014. Biden chose the upcoming observance of the seventh anniversary of that event as the occasion for his remarks. He called it a “somber anniversery” and said, “We affirm a simple truth: Crimea is Ukraine.” He then went on to say the United States will never recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.

Many in the Western press still refer to it as a Russian invasion, and I still see posts about the violence of the invasion, despite the fact there was no loss of life or any concrete evidence of armed Russian soldiers roaming the streets. (Go to YouTube and check out videos by my friend Regis Trembley who lives there.) This month the U.S. Department of State announced it is appropriating 125 million dollars worth of “lethal” military hardware for Ukraine, apparently to supply forces from Kiev if they want to attack fellow Ukrainians in the Donbass region. Since 2014 the U.S. has given over 2 billion dollars worth of military aid to Ukraine. This money is supposedly for the defence of the American people.

RESPONSE. I don’t deny that Russia has helped the residents of the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine. They have been repeatedly attacked by the Nazi led groups supported by the late John McCain and others. The difference between Russia and the U.S. is that Russia shares a LONG border with Ukraine. America is half way round the world. Many of the residents of Eastern Ukraine are ethnically Russian. They speak Russian and think of themselves as Russian.

Before I came to Russia I could not have found Ukraine on a map and knew absolutely nothing about the country or its history. I think most Americans are like I was. Ukraine is not an ancient country. Its history is tied to “old Russ.” Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, was at one time the capital of what was known as Kievan Russ (ancient Russia). Later, for 70 years Ukraine and Russia were part of the same country—the USSR. Thus, the bond between Ukraine and Russia is unlike the bond between America and any other country.

While the U.S. continues to blame Russia for the crisis in Ukraine, I will remind my readers of the clear evidence that it was the U.S. who was behind the coup to oust Victor Yanukovych, the duly and legally elected President of Ukraine in 2014. One can still access the recording of the leaked phone call between the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Jeffrey Pyatt. This phone call became well known because of the crude remark Nuland made when she agreed the EU might not like the planned coup. In her words to Pyatt, “F##k the EU.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2XNN0Yt6D8.

As I said in an earlier blog, I regret that she made this comment. It’s not because this old Marine has never heard bad language. What I regret is the fact the press focused on the profanity and not on the rest of the conversation. She actually details who the next president of Ukraine should be—because the U.S. has decided. Nuland believed she should pick the president of Ukraine, not the majority of Ukrainian voters. And they called it “spreading democracy.”

As an addendum the man she chose, “Yatz” as she refers to him in the conversation, did become president. He turned out to be a disaster. After his shameful departure, Petro Poroshenko, another corrupt U.S. puppet was designated as president. (You may recall this is the man who Joe Biden bragged about pressuring to fire the investigator of the corruption involving Biden’s son, Hunter. The investigator was dismissed without cause.) As a result of the leadership of these men, the Ukrainian economy has tumbled to the worst in Europe. Poroshenko was replaced by Vololdymyr Zelensky, who has no political experience other than playing the part of the President of Ukraine in a TV series. The point is that it was the U.S., not Russia, who initiated the interference in Ukraine to remove the democratically elected President. The American mainstream media referred to those Ukrainians who disagreed with America choosing their president as terrorists sent by Putin. It was all Putin’s fault.

PUTIN THE MURDERER. Biden recently and dramatically raised the stakes in the antagonistic relationship between Russia and America when he said in response to a question by George Stephanopoulos that he thinks Putin is a killer. Then he boasted about how he confronted Putin over his misdeeds. He also said he will make Russia pay for interfering in the last presidential election.

RESPONSE. There are some basic flaws in what Biden said. I won’t go into most of them. Suffice it to say for one national leader to call another national leader a murderer without any trial, investigation or presentation of evidence is horrible. Apparently he is referring to the unproven accusations that Putin had journalists killed. I reviewed those cases quite some time ago in a blog and see no reason to revisit. Again, no actual evidence was ever presented that linked the very popular Putin to the deaths of the journalists other than the fact the journalists did not like Putin. I have read a number of articles written by journalists here who obviously do not like Putin or his policies. They don’t seem to fear for their lives.

The reference to Putin as a killer is even more horrible when the accuser (Biden) just ordered the bombing of a country with whom the United States is not at war. He ordered the deaths of individuals about whom we know nothing.

EXCURSIS: THE BOMBING IN SYRIA. On February 25, even before his first press conference, Biden ordered the U.S. to bomb Syria. This decision is not directly related to Russian-American relationships, but Russia was invited to help fight terrorism in Syria by President Assad. The U.S. has also been present as an uninvited guest who supports and arms rebels opposed to Assad.

The reason for the bombing given by the Biden administration spokesperson John Kirby was that the U.S. was responding to alleged Iranian-linked violence against the U.S. in Iraq and Syria. It was a bit hard to follow his logic, but I’ll try to summarize as best I can. According to Kirby, an “Iranian linked militia group” attacked a location in Iraq, and an American contractor was killed and an American soldier was wounded. So the U.S. responded by bombing a facility in Syria, which ostensibly was used by one of the Iranian militia groups. Approximately 22 people were killed, but no one seems certain of the exact number.

A bit of background: In the spring of 2003 America decided to invade Iraq based on the unambiguous testimony of Colin Powell that Iraq had acquired weapons of mass destruction. After the invasion the U.S. had to admit to the world that there were no such weapons in Iraq. Rather than leaving the country it had invaded, the U.S. still has troops and personnel there 18 years later.

So to summarize, the U.S. declared it bombed Syria because Iranians had attacked Americans in Iraq. That rationale seems strange to me. Now, to be clear: According to international law the U.S. has no right to be in any of the three countries. The question of why the U.S. still has contractors and military personnel in Iraq was never asked. Nevetheless, the U.S. declared it was an issue of national defense.

The U.S. has invaded Syria, openly stolen its oil, and believes it has the right to bomb the country without any attempt at diplomacy with the leadership of Syria or any other country or international forum. Caitlin Johnstone accurately describes the attitude of American political and military decision-makers: “The U.S. can bomb who it likes, whenever it likes, and when it does it is only ever doing so in self defense, because the entire planet is the property of Washington, DC.” https://consortiumnews.com/2021/02/26/us-bombs-syria-ridiculously-claims-self-defense/?fbclid=IwAR3BTfUNNCHwZGkzUk1ycRnx7l5SqW0zHpcFvH07p9GwHITdTNmYiWjmM38. No evidence of any link to attacks on Americans by those people in Syria was ever presented. Biden wanted to kill them to make a point. There is far more actual evidence for calling Biden a murderer than Putin.

Putin’s response to Biden calling him a killer was very reserved and diplomatic—and translated incorrectly in most U.S. news outlets. I have already heard from Russian family members and friends very upset that Putin’s answer was translated as, “It takes one to know one.” We used that phrase as kids in America when we were called names. In Russia, there is also a child’s retort that is similar, but it is accurately translated, “You yourself are what you are calling me” (Кто как обзывается, тот так и называется). Putin went on to make the point that we often project onto others our own characteristics. I think American leaders have been doing that to other leaders for some time!

The Russians I’ve heard from were not overly upset that Biden called Putin a killer. They already think Biden is a bit demented and don’t take seriously what he says. Americans should know that much of the world thinks Biden is demented. What my Russian friends were angry at was how the press mistranslated Putin’s response. “Takes one to know one” sounds to them like Putin was saying he and Biden are both killers. The truth is this is far from the first time Putin has been mistranslated by the American press.

I’ll make Russia pay…” Lastly, I will focus on the emptiness of the threats that Biden made that he would make Russia (and Putin) pay for the concocted charges of interference and aggression.

WHY AMERICA CANNOT CONTROL RUSSIA. The United States is desperately trying to recover the monopoly on power it enjoyed after the dismantling of the Soviet Union. The world has changed, however. First, while America is still the biggest economy in the world, it also has the greatest debt by far. Senator Rand Paul stated recently that America has borrowed 6 trillion dollars in one year. The national debt is now larger than the national economy. The economy of China is rapidly gaining on America, and the U.S. has a $5.5 trillion trade deficit with China. Russia is also increasingly doing business with China, but Russia has a trade surplus with China of almost $12 billion.

SANCTIONS & SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Biden has mentioned more sanctions against Russia several times recently. In addition to the fact that sanctions against Russia have never worked and, in some cases, have been counter-productive, the uncomfortable truth for the Putin-bashers in the U.S. is Russia could sustain itself no matter what America does.

Even in a global worst case scenario Russia would fare better than the U.S. In May of 2020 President Putin announced that Russia is self sufficient in terms of feeding itself. Production of wheat, grains, meats, dairy and fish have gone way up since the sanctions started. Further, Russia could supply itself and its allies with natural gas, crude oil, timber, coal and other natural resources. [*As an aside, despite sanctions on other countries, the U.S. still buys crude oil from Russia. https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News/World-News/Why-Is-The-US-Importing-So-Much-Russian-Fuel-Oil.html.] The areas in which Russia is still dependent are auto-technology, medicines and fruit, but Russia has already formed trade alliances with countries outside the U.S. field of influence.

Putin would still like a good relationship with the U.S. He repeats that often, but he insist that it must be “based on the principles of equality and mutual respect.” Biden, however, said in January that America is back “at the head of the table.” So Russia has found trade partners outside the U.S. field of influence. China is the biggest economic ally. Trump let Pompeo have his way in international relations, and now Russia and China are working even more closely together and trade between them is increasing. China has not gone along with U.S. sanctions, and I do not believe that it will do so in the future. https://www.rt.com/russia/518544-china-invite-lavrov-meeting/?fbclid=IwAR3rUnUMc1oQ3g5dm73DqJoKbzhJhJ_Tq6g1lw4JeviYs9oloY-iysVSnvk.

MILITARY ADVANCEMENT. President Biden also mentioned “other means” than sanctions for making Russia pay for its bad behavior. He and his spokesperson Jen Psaki tried to be very coy. Of course we are to wonder what else it could be. Given the current low level of diplomatic expertise in the White House and Department of State, I don’t think outmaneuvering Sergei Lavrov with super clever diplomacy is in the realm of possibility. The U.S. has had to push rather hard on old allies to keep them in line already. Some easily fall in line, but none of those are any match for Russia and China.

In the background the fear of military conflict looms. Of course, for many in the so-called Military Industrial Complex this is not a fear—it would be a windfall. The U.S. has long proudly proclaimed it has the finest military in the world. But does it?

Toward the end of last year I made myself read a book I had been intending to read for some time. It was Gilbert Doctorow’s A Belgian Perspective on International Affairs. I don’t mean I had to force myself to read it because I don’t enjoy Doctorow’s works. I have high regard for him as a Russian scholar and enjoy his books and blog. But this book is 651 pages, and when I start a book I like to finish it. Fortunately I was able to set aside time to complete it.

It is a collection of essays and blogs he has written since 2016, some of which I had previously read. He has several entries on Russian military preparedness. One from 24 February 2019 caught my eye. I remembered reading it when he first published it. Doctorow gives a detailed analysis of both Russia’s offensive and defensive missile systems. It was the first article I had read by a scholar I really trust that asserted that Russia was not just equal to the U.S., it has military superiority.

I have long admired the S-400 (and now S-500) defense system. In recent years, however, Russia has “upped” its offensive arsenal. America has continued to move its missiles closer and closer to Russia’s borders. Their attempts to intimidate have been obvious, and Russia responded. Doctorow gives the details of how America is completely vulnerable to a Russian attack simply because of the speed of the Zircon missile. Even if America fired the first nuclear missile, Russian missiles would reach the Pentegan first. Another author said, “There is no technological solution for stopping this type of weapon in the US currently—the ramifications are colossal.”https://anti-empire.com/russias-zircon-missile-relegates-carriers-to-bombing-small-poor-countries/?fbclid=IwAR3-3BZk0gJicUn269OPqHfotR-US0pqcvPUWffluE10v0DeUBPBTyu8aA0.

America has long pointed to how much more it spends on defense than any other country by far as proof of its military superiority. Yet much of that money is to support the over 800 military bases outside its borders. Further, the spending of huge amounts of money clearly does not mean superiority in quality. The F-35 stealth fighter cost $100 million per plane, yet the Air Force admitted in February that it is simply not reliable. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2021/02/23/the-us-air-force-just-admitted-the-f-35-stealth-fighter-has-failed/?fbclid=IwAR2Dq_NOcQoxunazYDDeurw0u62ZBYqvKfn2XWF3eg_Guf5y_UyXJ5Hgfjs&sh=129bf3851b16.

The overall cost of the program was $1.7 trillion. https://www.rt.com/usa/516507-f35-failed-airforce-reactions/.

Wars usually do not start because both sides line up and arrange a starting date. They often begin as mistakes or misunderstandings. I am anti-war. We live in a nuclear age.The thought that a nuclear war could begin just as an idiotic attempt to show off superiority or a misevaluation of an opponent is a horrible thought. Back in the Cold War days Gorbachev and Reagan agreed that “a nuclear war can never be won and should never be fought.” Now, it seems American leaders, often elected with contributions from the MIC, are afraid to appear weak. Even authentic diplomacy itself gets labelled as a weakness.

The massive ignorance of the truth about Russia is scary to me. I fear America grossly underestimates Russia’s military capacities. What bothers me about Biden’s recent statements is his misplaced confidence. His attitude is one of pure hubris. I guess it impresses some voters. I suppose he or his team believe it will quiet the suspicions that he has lost something mentally. Maybe he can make up for his frail, uncertain gait and confused expression by boasting of “making Russia pay.” Let me be clear. I don’t think Biden or most of his advisors have decided to start a war. But then I don’t think anyone actually decided to start the first world war.

BIDEN, NAVALNY, PROTESTS AND PROPAGANDA

Much has transpired since Joseph Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States. From his first full day in office he began signing a flurry of executive orders, many of which, he openly stated, were aimed at undoing the actions of his predecessor. They primarily covered domestic issues, however, so I will refrain from commenting on those controversial orders.

My blog is about things that impact relations with Russia either directly or indirectly. Maria Zakharova, Director of Information for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia, stated there would be a 30 day period of analysis and interaction before a full assessment of how things are going with the Biden foreign policy team and their Russian counterparts. Thus, for now, I will only make a few general observations and then move to the controversial actions of Alexei Navalny and the significance of those actions for relations between Russia and America.

One of the very first actions of the Biden foreign policy team, which was good news (in my opinion), was the decision to sign the five year extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction and Limitation Treaty (START). It was originally signed back in 2010, as I recall. It was quite close to expiring, since President Trump had refused to extend it. At various times Trump had put three conditions on signing it. He wanted it to be extended for only one year; China would have to be included as part of the treaty; and third he wanted a freeze on any research and development Russia was doing in the area of non-strategic arms. Russia refused. The Biden administration decided to go ahead with the signing. China has nowhere close to the number of strategic arms of Russia and the U.S., and obviously non-strategic arms are not relevant to the treaty.

The second bit of good news was from an article in the New York Times. As readers of my blog know, I rarely—if ever—have found anything good about Russia coming from the NY Times. In the electronic version on February 3, an article stated that several top aides to President Biden had indicated that sanctions against Russia have become “close to exhausted.” While Biden himself continues to mention using sanctions in his public statements, one unnamed aide said, “We’re sanctioned out.” Ivo H. Daalder, former Ambassador to NATO, said that sanctions can become a trap. You feel like you’re making a statement, and you are—but they don’t alter the behavior of the sanctioned country. Neither Russia, China or Iran have altered any policies because of sanctions.

The third bit of potential good news is not directly related to Russia and America, but there are reports that the U.S. will cease supplying Saudi Arabia with arms. The Saudi record of human rights abuses and especially their horrible treatment of the Yemeni people have long been condemned by many. Nevertheless, I put this one in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category. Saudi Arabia buys a lot of weaponry from the U.S. The Trump administration consistently looked away from their horrible war crimes. Nevertheless, I will wait to see what pressure the military industrial complex puts on Biden’s team and how they respond before I get too happy about this announcement.

There were, however, some very negative (and untrue) statements about Russia made by Biden and members of his team. I will discuss those statements and the subsequent decisions in my next blog. By then I should have fuller reactions from Russia’s foreign ministry team.

Alexei Navalny. One major unavoidable issue, however, was the status of Alexei Navalny. I wrote a blog about Navalny in September of 2020. His claim was that Putin’s hit men had tried to kill him by slipping him the nerve agent “Novichok.” By way of review, Navalny passed out on a flight to Moscow from Siberia on August 20. The plane made an emergency landing, and Navalny was taken to a Russian hospital and treated. His family insisted that he be transported to Germany, so Russian authorities allowed him to be taken. He returned to Russia from Germany on January 18 and was promptly arrested. There have been a plethora of articles written about him since his return. I will try to be as brief as possible.

I will set forth the basic reasons I don’t believe Navalny, but I don’t hide the fact that I don’t like him. He is a racist. I don’t use that term lightly, as folks commonly do in America now. I posted a video of him in my earlier blog referring to Muslims living in Russia whose ancestors were from the Caucasus Mountains as “cockroaches,” who need to be eliminated with a pistol. Before Trump and the whole Russia hoax on the elections, the New York Times used to report facts about Russia. Here is an excerpt from the Times, back before they were blinded by Trump Derangement Syndrome:

“He (Navalny) has appeared as a speaker alongside neo-Nazis and skinheads, and once starred in a video that compares dark-skinned Caucasus militants to cockroaches. While cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, he says that in the case of humans, ‘I recommend a pistol.'” Ellen Barry, NY Times 2011.

The U.S. media “narrative” has certainly changed over time. Now they tout Navalny as an honored leader of “the opposition.” Again, I will state as succinctly as possible why I think Navalny is lying when he says Kremlin messengers tried to kill him back in August, 2020.

The main reason is he changed his story too many times. When I wrote on him in September I mentioned that the first explanation his team gave was that Putin’s men put Novichok in his tea, which he drank at an airport restaurant. No one at that restaurant even remembered him being there. When his handlers were questioned how someone knew what establishment inside the airport he would stop at to drink tea, there was no answer. Was there a waiter there waiting with the Novichok in case he came in?

They not-so-deftly moved to a second explanation: Novichok was put in the water bottle from which he drank in his hotel room before departure. But then reporters discovered that there were at least 5 people in the room with him when the water was delivered. How did they know which bottle Navalny would drink from? Was it hotel staff who delivered it? Again, no real answers from the Navalny team.

So Navalny, now healthy, moved to a third explanation. He made a video that supposedly recorded a phone conversation he had with someone from the FSB (Federal Services of Security). In the call Navalny pretended to be an important person in the FSB, and wanted to know how they had tried to kill him and why it did not work.

The alleged security person Navalny was talking to claimed that they had put the Novichok in his clothes. They concentrated on packing it into the inner seam of the crotch of his underwear. All the Novichok absorbed into his system. He said Navalny survived because of the quick work of the medical team at the hospital when he landed.

So first we were told they knew where he would drink tea at the airport. Then we were told they knew which water bottle he would drink from. When the majority of people refused to believe either of those, Navalny tried to convince us that they knew which underwear he would put on. Then despite everyone at the hospital claiming he showed no signs of Novichok poisoning, they treated him for it so well they saved his life. Because they wanted him dead. Obviously Navalny is not familiar with the phrase non sequitur.

Russia has repeatedly requested a conference with doctors from both countries who treated Navalny to compare tests results. Russia suggested bringing in experts from the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons to study all the reports. Germany has consistently refused. The German military doctors insist it was Novichok, but refuse to allow anyone to view their test results. I realize it is an argument from silence, but if they are telling the truth why do the Germans prevent certified professionals in chemical warfare from reviewing their results?

Let’s be clear. Novichok is an extremely lethal nerve agent. Rarely have there been cases of anyone surviving direct exposure like Navalny claims, and when they did they were left with significant physical and psychiatric damage. Navalny, like the Scripals in England, recovered rather quickly with no lasting impairment. He could not resist posting pictures quite early. I saw a few of them. He looked quite happy and healthy.

Russian authorities told him to return to Russia. Navalny was due to appear in court on December 30. In 2014 he was convicted of embezzling 30 million rubles from two companies, one of which was the French company Yves Rocher. He received a suspended sentence, but as is the law in Russia, he was required to make regular appearances before the court until the time of sentence was complete. Such persons normally are not allowed to leave the country, although the request of Navalny’s family that he be allowed to go to Germany for medical treatment had been granted.

Navalny refused to return to Russia to appear before the court despite the fact he was clearly healthy. Further, it was not just the one appearance he had missed. I saw the list of scheduled appearances at which he never showed up. It was almost every month in 2020. Thus, when he did arrive back in Russia on January 18, 2021, he was promptly arrested. A chorus of protests arose from the American government, as if America normally gives suspended sentences to criminals convicted of embezzling money from foreign companies. He flagrantly and repeatedly violated Russian law.

The Protests. Protests immediately were arranged. The leaders, however, never received permission for staging the main protest. That is the law in Russia. Dmitry Babich, in an interview with RT, stated that Navalny’s leaders were told if they applied for official authorization they would be granted permission to protest in a couple of venues in Moscow. Both areas were very spacious. Navalny’s team did not want permission, however, nor did they want space. They wanted to be in tight quarters to make everything look crowded. And they clearly did not want to abide by Russian law.

The Americans openly supported the protests, and the U.S. Embassy even posted the schedule of planned protests. (They later claimed it was to warn U.S. citizens not to be in those areas, although I did not see any real warning posted with the schedules.) The American support and assistance given to the Navalny protests were happening even as Nancy Pelosi, Nikki Haley and others were trying in vain to find evidence that Russia was behind the Capitol riot. No one in the MSM seemed to see the glaring hypocrisy.

The Propaganda. A number of American sites immediately posted reports that the “peaceful protesters” were treated with police brutality. I trust independent reporters like Eva Karene Bartlett, who I have mentioned before. She was there before the main protest began in Moscow and stayed until after it was over. She has seen many protests in her career as an independent journalist. She is now living in Russia, and I strongly recommend that anyone who wants to be informed of events like this in Russia follow her reports. Here is a link to her thorough observations of what went on. In summary, the American reports were complete anti-Russian propaganda. It is absolutely clear that the protesters were trying to provoke the police by kicking them and diving into their lines. https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/the-navalny-protests-charade-western-interference-disinfo-on-russia-once-again/?fbclid=IwAR1VsOwPeFcPB7GzYd-KDdpS0VtIhs2l_R0TlIjfLLN2nP-CUD5GYv2H1b8

The Navalny story began to die down here in Russia. His second in command, Leonid Volkov, announced there would be no more protests this winter. Nevertheless, after Volkov met with NATO officials, he said the protests were back on. When many Russians saw him change his plans immediately after his meeting with NATO officials, they concluded the Kremlin was right: Navalny’s team is being directed by NATO. That last protest turned out to be an extremely pathetic protest of shining lights into the air above Moscow.

Navalny was subsequently brought before another court for slander against a 94 year old veteran who fought against the Nazis. That war was horrible for Russia, and the few remaining living veterans are highly respected and honored in Russia. During his first court appearance Navalny continued to make fun of the old veteran, “that puppet with his little medals,” and his family as well. I thought the judge was overly patient with him given the fact Navalny even called the judge himself a “Obersturmbannfuhrer,” which I understand means a senior assault leader in a paramilitary Nazi unit. The judge adjourned the court until a later date when the argument could be more reasonably executed. Navalny remained hostile in his next appearance as well and again called the veteran and his family derogatory names. There are cameras in Russian courtrooms, and the nightly news played the videos of Navalny verbally attacking an old veteran who risked his life fighting the Nazis. I suspect his current approval rating of 3% may drop down even more.

What These Events Show. In my early blogs I mentioned my struggle with whether reports about Russia in the American news are based on willful ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. I have concluded both are involved. Clearly, there is rampant ignorance on the part of many of the members of the U.S. media about Russia. Years ago there were “foreign correspondents.” They lived and moved about in the country they reported on, hopefully getting a “feel” for life there. Many would try to learn as much of the history, culture and language as possible. As I wrote in 2016 many outlets―even large ones―announced they would no longer be doing that. Hence, many reporting on Russia have no sense of what life really is like here.

It goes deeper than that, however. They could learn a lot about Russia with some research into its history, its laws, its culture. But they don’t. The same is true with many politicians. As I pointed out in my blog on Navalny in September, Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator from my home state of South Carolina, completely bought into the story of Navalny being given Novichok in his tea. He didn’t investigate; he didn’t withhold judgment until all the facts were in. It was a chance to condemn Vladimir Putin. Then in early February Marco Rubio announced he and other Senators were introducing a bill to sanction Russia because of the “poisoning and imprisonment” of Navalny. https://tass.com/world/1252501?fbclid=IwAR0TeGK6HMt0F9Zst-XG-wLmVflOhKQtsBAg3d7tt5jvUe5xEI6SV3nhdys) I would contend that neither Rubio nor any of his colleagues have spent any time investigating the merits of these charges. So it is a combination of laziness, intellectual dishonesty, and political grandstanding.

Russia’s response to America meddling in its internal affairs has basically been, “You need to take care of your own issues.” America is the world’s most famous country. The news from America travels around the world. The downside is the people of the world, including Russians, have seen the bitter fights over the 2020 election results; TASS carried all the news on the recent impeachment of Trump. Russians know all about people shivering and some dying recently in Texas because they had no heat or water. Earlier they saw the news on Jeffrey Epstein and his “suicide.” They saw the names of the politicians and rich tycoons who flew down with him to “Pedophile Island.” So when America assumes it has the high moral ground with the right to tell evil Russia to stop imprisoning this convicted criminal, Alexei Navalny—after his tortuously convoluted explanation of how Putin poisoned him—it rings hollow at best with any thinking person.

Personal Reflections & Conclusion. We’ve been back in Russia almost 5 years. As one adapts to a foreign culture I think it is inevitable that one’s perspective on many things will change. For the most part my changes have been gentle and positive. I’ve always loved snow, but now I am also used to the extreme cold—extreme when compared to South Carolina anyway. I like the simplicity and overall honesty of life in small town Russia. I have mentioned all along the positive improvements in this town. No one has ever treated me rudely because I am an American. Thus, my perspective on Russia is even more positive than it was when we moved here.

Politics in any country can be confusing and disappointing. I’ve been open in saying I’m glad Putin got re-elected and hope he runs again. At the same time, I understand my Russian friends who disagree. It’s not like I wear Putin shirts or caps or talk about how I think he is wonderful. In the same way, I wrote about how I disagreed with Trump on many issues—particularly his foreign policies and the people he had chosen to direct them. Yet, I didn’t feel the anger and hatred toward him like so many in America.

I think my views on politicians could be related to my Orthodox Christianity. I already have a Messiah. I am not expecting a perfect president to appear. I do look for some semblance of integrity and a good work ethic. I believe it is possible to have a generally honest, wise, albeit flawed, leader. But I’m old enough to have been disappointed many times by those I thought were shining lights of deliverance. I’m not looking for any leader to come along and solve all my problems or the nation’s problems. For example when we came here the Russian bureaucracy was extremely confusing and frustrating. My wife spent hours wading through the details. We had to deal with other inconveniences like going to St. Petersburg to stand in long lines, but I don’t blame V.V. Putin for my frustrations with life in Russia. I try to keep the bigger picture in mind.

The hardest adjustment to living here is the constant and glaring lies from America about this country. It comes from both political parties and from the main stream media. Few, if any, of these politicians and journalists seem concerned that a war could start over empty and ignorant lies about “Russian aggression.” I can tell from the responses I get from people who have never been here instructing people like me that we just don’t know the real truth about Russia. People really do believe that Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and others like them know what they are talking about. That’s dangerous.

I don’t like writing blogs about Alexei Navalny or politics in general. I do it because it is my way of putting another perspective out there in the “marketplace of ideas.” I have no delusions that my little blog is going to change international relations. I do believe, however, it has changed the minds of some I hear from and has encouraged others. So I hope to return to blogs on daily life soon. But for now, I’ll say what I think needs to be said.

A NEW YEAR UPDATE FROM LUGA, RUSSIA

The U.S. elections are over; 2020 is over; the holidays are over. And America has a new president. Things have changed quite a bit in my “other” world across the ocean. I think it is a good time to update any who are interested in how things look peering out from here on the ground in a small town in Russia.

THE RUSSIAN WINTER. The weather has turned quite cold here. Last year I complained that the winter was too mild. I admit my reasoning was completely selfish. It would snow a bit, then warm up above freezing, so the streets and sidewalks stayed muddy and dirty. It was not pleasant for my walks around the town. This year we had a mild November so I feared this winter would be the same. Not so! The snow arrived a few weeks ago. We have blanket of about 9 inches on the ground. The temperatures have remained well below freezing since late December. I thoroughly enjoyed my walk in the snow today, but this South Carolinian has still not learned how to shovel snow efficiently. Our first 3 winters here we lived in an apartment, so the snow was shoveled for us. Our first winter here in our home, as I said, the weather was mild and the snow was light. To put it euphemistically this winter has become a learning experience.

THE HOLIDAYS. We had friends and family in for the holidays. Of course, the holidays here are different. Christmas is January 7, since the Russian Orthodox Church still uses the Julian calendar for all Christian holidays. But we had an American/Russian family arrive on December 24 for a 5 day visit, so we did have a bit of an American Christmas. Oksana cooked traditional American Christmas dishes for our friends: a former student of mine, his Russian wife and their little daughter. We used to get together with them in South Carolina, and now they live in Arkhangelsk, Russia. We had a great time with them, and they are now planning to move to Luga next week. We are looking forward to that–another American living in Luga!

My wife’s sister and her family—husband and two daughters—came in from Germany to visit for New Years. Their daughters are about the age of Marina Grace so they had a wonderful time playing. Their girls speak both Russian and German; our kids speak Russian and English. My father-in-law says everyone at his work teases him and says they know he must be a spy to have such a family!

Gift-giving in Russia takes place on New Years, not Christmas. We invited Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) over to our house to give gifts to the girls. (Actually we paid them, but we won’t go into that.) Watching the kids reciting the poems and singing the songs they prepared for Grandfather Frost (in three languages!) brought us all so much joy. The old man was impressed, too!

It was also nice to be able to order meals while we were all here together. Of course, the kids wanted pizza one night so we ordered a full spectrum of pizzas of all flavors. My favorite is Hawaiian pizza. I’ll admit I love pineapple on pizza. Then another night we ordered burgers. These were all delivered to our home. So we have gone from not even being able to buy pizza and burgers in Luga a few years ago to being able to have them delivered to our home. Oh, the little joys in life!

The main gift I received was three pairs of new jeans from my wife. My old jeans that I brought from America were getting tattered, and it seems the waistline has shrunk a bit in all of them. (That is my story, and I’m sticking to it!) My wife ordered the jeans on-line, and Ozon delivered them to our home. When I first came to Russia you couldn’t even buy jeans here in Luga. They were a treasured commodity in Russia at that time. Now they are sold everywhere and you can also order them online and have them delivered to your home at no cost. The e-commerce is booming in Russia!

The reason I include this information is because the two major on-line delivery companies—Ozon and Wildberries—have said their sales over the holidays increased dramatically. Ozon said this years sales were 2.5 times higher than last year. Wildberries recorded 3 times more sales. Both are Russian companies, despite having names that sound “Western.” The sale of some gift items were “through the roof.” For example, gifts sets of women’s cosmetics were up 242%. I realize the convenience of food and gift deliveries may not sound like much to some folks in the West, but it represents a huge change from the Luga I first visited almost 20 years ago.

COVID 19. There has not been a drastic change in the situation, but for the first half of January the number of cases did decline. On most days the number of new cases were fewer than the number of recoveries. Also, the morbidity rate is down. Of course, these things are always subject to change, but health officials are saying they believe the pandemic will be over for Russia by mid-summer (https://tass.com/society/1243537). Children in most of Russia have gone back to school. Here masks are still hypothetically required in stores, etc., but that regulation continues to be widely ignored. I hear the same from friends in other parts of Russia. So COVID is still here, and there are precautions being taken. Nevertheless, it still does not seem to impact daily life as much as in America.

They began vaccinating people with the new Russian vaccines in certain professions as I mentioned in an earlier blog. Putin appeared very perturbed last week that mass vaccinations had not begun. He said Russia has a huge supply of the Russian vaccines. So they begin administering those January 18 around the country. Anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be, regardless of profession. To receive the vaccine is optional, not mandatory.

In a blog early last year I noted how Western writers were proclaiming the end was in sight for Putin’s leadership since COVID would soon destroy his presidency. I stated that I saw no evidence for these claims. In a recent article Canadian scholar on Russia Paul Robinson reviewed how wrong these claims were (https://www.rt.com/russia/511088-western-predictions-russian-economy/?fbclid=IwAR18yVGDLk3TK9mS7NHS9RZS1ZA565DNF-1vdCH5LQzKi7mV8E2z3Ww_NDE). He mentions an article from early 2020 in the Wall Street Journal predicting COVID would “imperil” Putin’s presidency. This past spring The Spectator said, “The situation in Russia is bad and going to get worse.” The reports of the death of Putin’s presidency turned out to be wishful thinking on the part of those “journalists,” however.

COVID has impacted Russia in negative ways, just as it has almost every other country. But the latest Levada Poll I saw put Putin’s approval rating at 68%. I don’t think any leader of any Western country comes even close to that. The GDP in Russia declined by just under 4% in 2020. That is not good, but it is less than half of the decline seen in other European countries. (I was not able to find the final 2020 data on the annual GDP in the U.S., which lurched about in the second and third quarters.)

On the positive side Russia finished with a budget surplus. (Yes, America—it is possible.) They now have nearly $200 billion in the reserve fund. Their gold reserves continue to increase. The GDP is predicted to grow by 3% in 2021. Robinson called Putin the “regional peacekeeper” in helping to resolve the Armenian/Azerbaijan crisis. He pointed out Putin also had a hand in keeping things from getting worse than they could have in Belarus. Putin, according to Robinson, is getting a reputation as one who works for peace.

In my “other world” things are very different. America’s budget deficit continues to soar. It was over $3 BILLION last year. Millions of Americans do not trust the election results. Some cannot believe Joe Biden got more votes for President than anyone in American history, including over 11% more of the votes from Americans of color than Barack Obama. Others, however, just as insistently claim there is absolutely no evidence of election tampering, and Trump supporters need to accept the results and work together. Compared to the political situation in America, Russia is the epitome of stability.

It seems I end up mentioning Putin in a lot of my blogs. That is because American political leaders and journalists can’t quit talking about him. As I frequently remind my readers, I am not suggesting everyone in Russia loves Putin. They don’t. I don’t agree with all his decisions, but I do think he is a good president. The reason I mention his approval ratings frequently is to show how wrong and deceitful Western writers are when it comes to Putin and Russia. I keep bringing up Putin, because he is still getting blamed for what goes wrong in America. Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are claiming Vladimir Putin called Trump and told him to initiate the assault on the Capitol. Clinton says she wants something along the lines of a 09/11 investigation according to her tweet I saw published. There are apparently many Americans who still like to hear Putin and Russia get blamed for America’s problems even after the lies of the last four years were found to be without evidence.

MISUNDERSTANDING RUSSIA. These claims of Clinton and Pelosi take me to another recent article by Robinson addressing the common claim by so-called leaders in the U.S. that Putin and Russia enjoy all the unrest in America. https://www.rt.com/russia/512071-capitol-violence-consequences-fear/?fbclid=IwAR2rs5XalGngjJGbL2r-NOUi8ACy9BcmQ-d16xQ7QeXJyfSUhAWKbIHw3dQ I read this unsubstantiated claim both from Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican Nikki Haley. Both women blamed “the other side” for opening the door to instability in America that makes Vladimir Putin so happy.

About a month before Robinson wrote that article an American friend here in Russia posted an article on Facebook by someone blaming Russia for America’s problems. My friend posted it in jest, because we joke about all the craziness over Russia in the heads of American politicians and journalists. I read the first paragraph, and the author (whose name I do not recall or care to recall) claimed three times that Putin loves “chaos.” I told my friend I was not going to waste my time going further than that one paragraph.

From the books I have read on Putin, from reading his speeches, and my own observations of him while living here, chaos is the last thing Putin wants. The man loves order. I heard him describe the “tyranny” he wants in Russia: “The Tyranny of Law.” He is a lawyer by training and education. Putin can handle people or national leaders disagreeing with him; he is remarkable in his ability to take their criticisms and name-calling. What seems to drive him is the need to establish order within Russia and work for it throughout international relationships. As Robinson says, “Vladimir Putin regularly portrays himself as defending the international order, and his complaints about the United States often center around accusations that the USA is causing international instability by launching wars, supporting rebellions, and inciting regime change and color revolutions.”

Russian leaders do not enjoy the instability in America and the world. I suspect one reason is they know they usually get blamed for it. The only thing Russia has gotten from the disorder is more and more sanctions have been put on them. They also know there are those “behind the curtain” in America who are exploiting the political and social divisions among Americans and creating international divisions, which Russians do not like. I’m not a lawyer, but I am certainly familiar with the phrase cui bono? The ones who have the most to gain from such disruptions of order in America and the world are not the Russians or Vladimir Putin.

I suggest the question that needs to be asked is, “Who supports the politicians who are trying to shift the blame to the Russians?” What corporations, weapons manufacturers, publishers, or social media tycoons make the most of all this turmoil being created in America? Whose power and financial resources have been increased dramatically in America in the last year? Russia stands to gain if order returns to America. International trade and communication could be restored.

Remarkably, Russia is doing well considering COVID, the increasing number of American sanctions, as well as the decrease in the price of gas and oil over the last year. It would do even better if diplomacy replaced sanctions and turmoil initiated by America. Russia has nothing to gain by promoting an atmosphere in America which enables politicians, media magnates, and corporate heads to have an excuse for punishing Russia. These tycoons use Russia as a diversion. They can increase the sanctions on Russia and go on exploiting the American people.

CONCLUSION. I first came to Russia less than two years after Putin had become president. The Russia I see now is far more stable, with far less crime now than then. The old debt of the USSR has been paid off. Russia keeps within its budget and pays its bills. Employment rates have taken a hit during COVID, but it is still far better than when I came here. Over the last four years America has kept adding to the Russian sanctions in any area Mike Pompeo could think of, but the Russian reserve fund keeps growing. It has dealt with the economic and trade sanctions in a truly remarkable way.

Russia is in many ways quite diverse. Since its borders spread from Finland and the Baltic countries in the west to China and North Korea in the east it encompasses many different cultures and religions. It has a varied history as well, with Tsars, and their faith deeply rooted in Orthodox Christianity, to 70 years of Communism and “official” atheism. Somehow all this diversity has not pulled Russia apart. My friends who are former members of “the Party” and my friends who are devout Orthodox Christians seem to get along pretty well. Most Russians I know like Vladimir Putin and hope he runs again, while others are tired of him and hope this is his last term as president. Yet, there is nothing like the animosity I hear from Biden-backers and Trump supporters.

My “other” country of America has a comparatively short history and the continental United States (“the lower 48”) only borders Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. Oceans lie to the east and west. Ironically, however, there is far more division and animosity among Americans. There is a saying from Holy Scripture, “Pride goes before the fall.” Nevertheless, America has described itself “exceptional” for quite some time, and even now I still frequently hear Americans proclaiming, “We are the greatest country in the world!” American politicians seem to think they have a divine right to “spread democracy” even if that strangely means inciting violence in order to overthrow democratically elected leaders. International laws are for other nations; America reserves for itself the right to enter a country uninvited to do “regime change.”

I will write more about how the change in presidential administrations in America may or may not affect relations with Russia in my next blog. For now, I simply state my hope that my native country will stop blaming other nations—particularly Russia—for problems it has created on its own. No one made this happen to America. There are other places in Scripture which speak positively of the future of a people or a nation that “humbles itself.” It remains to be seen whether corporate humility and introspection are even within the realm of possibility for America.

SAYING GOODBYE TO 2020 FROM RUSSIA

A few months have passed since I wrote my last blog, although I did post a couple of videos from my interviews with my friend Regis Trembley. Since then significant events have happened in my two worlds. I will do an update on things I have covered earlier, and then I’ll move on to offer some observations on more recent events.

First, however, I would mention the passing of Stephen Cohen on September 18. I never met Dr. Cohen and never communicated with him in any way. Nevertheless, I felt like a friend had passed. When I began reading Russian history, Cohen was the first author I read on the USSR. Since he spent a lot of time here during that period and developed a lot of friendships and connections, I found his work extremely helpful. Cohen’s primary sources were those who were involved in and lived through the events. That really impressed me. Further, his descriptions of life in the USSR were consistent with those of some of my Russian friends who lived through that period. Of course, as a scholar he went into the issues more deeply. He covered “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Later I tuned in to his interviews done with John Batchelor. They were usually weekly broadcasts, and I always looked forward to them. Batchelor was consistently well prepared. His questions, unlike most you hear from Western reporters on Russia these days, were clearly from a man who had studied the subject of Russia himself. So over the years I began to feel as if I knew Cohen. I miss those weekly broadcasts very much. More importantly, the field of Russian studies has lost a voice that desperately needed to be heard.

UPDATE. We are now in the final month of 2020. Like many folks, I am glad to see it go. This year began with my son, my daughter and me recovering from pneumonia. My wife also had some health issues which required her to go see doctors in St. Petersburg several times. In spring Gabriel had to be hospitalized with a kidney stone and a bad infection. I wrote a blog back then on Russian health care. I continue to believe that the health care we have received here has been superior to what we got in the U.S., and it is at a small fraction of the cost. It would have taken a long time for us to recover financially from these illnesses in America. Fortunately that is not the case in Russia.

COVID 19 cases have continued to increase in Russia since the summer ended. Of course, that would be true of most flues and other viruses every winter. While the number of cases has gone up significantly it is still not close to the number America has—or claims to have. America has had almost 12 million more cases than Russia. America has about 2.5 times the number of people Russia has, but the U.S. has had about 6 times the number of CV-19 cases.

COVID still has not become politicized in Russia to the degree it has in the U.S. in my opinion. Directives like the one requiring the wearing of masks continue to be selectively followed here in my part of Russia. About three weeks ago we were told we had to wear masks. So on my walk I took my mask with me, although I did not put it on. Since most people were wearing them only when they went in stores, I never bothered putting mine on while I walked in the fresh air. People here still go to restaurants and other public places. Public schools are open.

I’ve read evidence from professional medical authorities who have carefully studied this issue, and yet they come to very different conclusions. If people with doctorates in the study of communicable diseases and epidemiology can’t agree, then a bit of humility is required by all of us. Generally speaking, here in Luga the attitude is if you believe you are safer wearing a mask, then by all means do so. Some here are diligent about wearing masks in public; others are not. What I do not see here is people lecturing one another on whether to wear or not to wear. Russia had 70 years of doing what they were told to do by a government that said, “It’s in your best interest.” I can’t speak for all of Russia, but most of the Russians in my town don’t fall for that line anymore.

Again, I’m describing how it is here in small town Russia. Moscow and other places may be quite different, but I’m not hearing as much complaining from my friends there. My hunch is that the mayors and governors are reluctant to push the citizens too far with too many restrictions. After observing the blatant hypocrisy of leaders like California’s governor Gavin Newsom and a number of other politicians in America, they are probably wise.

Despite the fact some in America still feel the need to inform those of us living in Russia that we live under the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin, my freedom to worship, go out to eat with my wife or to the park with my children is still in place. I am not implying that people here in Luga violate common sense health precautions. They wash their hands; they stand a respectable distance from strangers at the market, etc. My point is COVID is not tearing apart friendships and groups the way it seems to be doing in America.

Russia has developed and is now beginning the use of a CV-19 vaccine. I tried to read up on it as much as I could, but I admit my doctorate is not in medicine. It was difficult for me to understand everything! The major difference I saw in the process here and in the West was that the Russian researchers did not “start from scratch.” They focused on other similar viruses and the vaccines used for those viruses and then modified already existing vaccines to protect against the coronavirus. They developed a vaccine more quickly because they took a different approach.

One article I read in TASS that was interesting described how they began the testing of the vaccine. After the research team presented the vaccine as safe and effective, the head of the research team was the first to receive the injection. Afterwards, the whole team did. I think it was after 3 weeks they then moved to test others.

There is still talk of a lockdown and a travel ban in the parts of Russia that are experiencing higher incidences of CV-19. This past week, however, spokesman Dmitry Peskov, commenting on reports from the Russian Health Minister, released the following statement: “There is a prevailing opinion that the current level of organization of counteracting [the pandemic] and ensuring that people get access to medical services is enough to avoid introducing lockdowns, shutting down travel between regions or switching off the economy. We still think that there is no need for this.” https://tass.com/politics/1232109 The administration seems to be trying to keep life as close to normal as possible.

Since Russia was the first to develop a CV-19 vaccine many countries contacted Russia about how they could get it, and several announced they were going to use the vaccine. Unfortunately, that attracted the attention of the “vaccine pushers” in America, and the U.S. promptly sanctioned Russian medical research labs and personnel involved in the production of the vaccine. https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/08/29/us-sanctions-russian-research-institute-that-developed-covid-19-vaccine/.

While American companies pretend there is no profit motive in producing their vaccine, clearly their actions indicate otherwise. What other possible motive than greed leads a country to sanction medical facilities in another country which is working against the virus? All that talk in America about capitalism and “free market enterprise” is nothing more than talk. The U.S. is still trying to bully other countries in their attempt to shut down Nord Stream 2, and now they bring the same approach to universal health and safety. America wants to be the one and only supplier of natural gas to Europe and the one and only supplier of a vaccine to the world. They will make more money that way.

Russia has made it clear that taking the vaccine will be optional for its citizens. Yet I have been questioned by several blog followers as to whether it will be required for international travel. Several of us are not sure we want to take any vaccine. My guess is that this will involve dialogue between the leaders of various countries. I have heard nothing on a plan for this in Russia. Right now, those people I know who have come to Russia during the pandemic are only required to take a COVID test before they enter or upon entering.

THE ELECTION IN AMERICA. I will now discuss the central political event that occurred this year in America: The Presidential Election. Before I do, I want to say a personal word. I have dear friends who voted for Biden and deeply believe he needed to be elected. I have friends who are just as dear who are fully supportive of Trump and believe his defeat was fraudulent and should be overturned. For them, Trump is making America great. I respect my friends’ views. And I know both “sides” will not agree with much of what I am about to write. But if a friendship cannot survive expressing different political perspectives, it wasn’t really a friendship.

The election in America certainly delivered on everyone’s expectations for controversy. I got up early (Moscow Standard Time) to find Trump was comfortably in the lead in states I was not expecting. Then about mid-morning the newscasters stated the vote count had stopped. It was in the “wee hours” of the morning in America. I don’t recall that ever happening before. They just stopped counting? When they started counting again, Biden’s numbers went up dramatically. Immediately the cries rang from the Trump supporters that the election was rigged. So for the second consecutive time the U.S. presidential election is in great turmoil.

I am not going to get into the details of weighing the possibilities of fraud. In general, two things made me suspicious. First, some of the same people who have spent four years blaming “Russian hackers” or Vladimir Putin or Russia in general for “fixing” the 2016 election were now saying there was no way an American election could render fraudulent results. Second, they followed up by strongly criticizing Trump’s followers for sowing doubt about the integrity of American elections. The same ones who insisted for 4 years that “Trump is not my president,” now cried Trump should just accept the results. So I am certainly open to the claim that there was dishonesty.

Nevertheless, I won’t go over the possible evidence of fraud or if there was fraud was it enough to alter the results. I’ll let the Americans who are still in America live through that debate. I followed the “Russian interference” narrative very closely from 2016. I often wrote about it in my blog. I saw the mistranslations, distortions and outright fabrications in the attempts to show “Russia did it.” In the end the Mueller investigation found no “collusion,” and later the charges against the “Russian hackers” of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg were dropped. That didn’t stop the mainstream media and the old guard folks like James Clapper, John Brennan and others from continuing to report it was Russia who got Donald Trump elected.

The facts seem not to matter in the American electoral system right now, and a large segment of the American population no longer trusts it. I personally believe that means the end of any genuine democracy, but, again, I’ll let the Americans across the pond debate that. Maybe the courts will rectify the wrongs and people can trust the results. I don’t think that will happen, but I hope it does. My own opinion is that the debate will rage between the two camps as it has for the last four years. I fear that it could lead to more violence than we saw in the summer of 2020.

I’ll respond to questions I have been asked about how this election news is playing out in Russia. The first question I usually got during the campaign was about who did the Russian people want to win the presidency. A Levada poll I posted on FB as the election neared showed 16% of Russians wanted Trump to win; 9% wanted Biden to win; the other 75% either did not think it mattered or did not keep up with it enough to have an opinion.

Apparently, most Russians agree with Mr. Putin: It really does not matter who wins the U.S. presidency in terms of international relations, because he or she will not be calling the shots anyway. Trump’s inability to work with Russia to fight terrorism or pull all troops out of Afghanistan and Syria, as he promised in his first campaign, served to confirm the belief of many here in the irrelevance of the U.S. presidency as it pertains to foreign policy. Those policy decisions are made “behind the curtain” by people who were not elected to office.

The second question I get is related to the first: Who do you think Putin and the other leaders wanted to win? Comments that I heard or read by Putin and others, e.g., Sergei Lavrov, were very reserved. Putin did not congratulate Biden, but he said this was because the results were challenged in court. Unlike in 2016 when Hillary Clinton sent out someone to concede defeat, Trump did not concede. Obviously I have no contacts in the Kremlin, so I cannot say for sure. My opinion is that it really didn’t matter all that much to them who won either. Trump said some very positive things about working with Russia when he was running in 2016, but he ended up levying more sanctions on Russia than Obama did. Every time Trump tried to reach out to Russia he was so severely criticized that he apparently felt he had to show his detractors how tough he could be on Russia. I think it was a bad move. His opponents hated him and criticized him no matter what he did. They completely ignored the sanctions he added and continued to call him Putin’s puppet. Again, the facts did not matter.

The other problem (again—in my opinion) for Trump and Russia was Trump’s “team” of advisers. I have discussed this before in my blogs, so nothing new here. Trump seemed at times to have good instincts, and I think if he had brought in women and men with true diplomatic insights and skills, the world would be a safer place and fewer American military personnel would be dying in countries we Americans know nothing about. But Trump surrounded himself with losers. John Bolton was his National Security Adviser for two years. Bolton, despite being too cowardly to fight in Vietnam himself, was constantly looking for a war to get the U.S. in. And even Trump said as much. After two years, Trump finally fired him, but he brought in Robert O’Brien who basically shared Bolton’s pro-war positions.

As I have said several times, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was equally as incompetent. Pompeo was more careful and did not cross Trump in public as Bolton had, but he is no more intelligent or savvy about diplomacy. His Standard Operating Procedure was to sanction anyone who did not do what the U.S. said to do. He really seems incapable of doing actual diplomacy. I still cannot say with any certainty why Trump brought in so many advisers who were either incompetent, not on board with his mission, or both. I don’t dislike Trump. I just think as far as foreign policy goes he was in over his head and reached out to the wrong people for advice.

What I regret most of all is the popularity of sanctions now. One of the presuppositions behind sanctions is the belief that if you deprive another country of the basic necessities of life then the common people will rise up and insist their leaders change their ways or be replaced. It seldom, if ever, works. The common folk often feel a deeper sense of loyalty to their leader because of the sanctions. It only increases their animosity toward the U.S. I have heard it said frequently in Russia that Vladimir Putin would not be nearly as popular as he is among Russians if the Americans had never sanctioned Russia. Many Russians saw their country under threat by the U.S., and Vladimir Putin was willing to stand up for them. I have heard that myself from Russians who really didn’t like Putin all that much. They support him because he refused to submit to the bullying tactics of the U.S. They still remember how Yeltsin cowed to the U.S., and it practically destroyed Russia.

There are two other more likely results of sanctions: First, if the sanctions are successful in depriving the nation of necessities for life, many of the poor in a country die. Apparently U.S. leaders think it sounds tough to sanction Syria or Venezuela or any of these other countries the U.S. leaders tell us are awful. U.S. citizens are made to believe the sanctions really hurt those terrible dictators or socialists. Actually, it is the poor and the children who die. And, as in Syria, the leaders are not at all the way the U.S. politicians and media describe them. The U.S. fabricated stories about Assad because he would not kowtow to their every demand. Syrians are not clamoring for him to be replaced.

I frequently see memes on Facebook showing the starving poor in Venezuela with a caption that says something like, “This is what socialism does to a country.” Poor Venezuelans are not suffering and dying because of the socialism of their leader. They are suffering and dying because America is doing everything possible to cut off their supplies. That’s American foreign policy. It is horrible in and of itself, and, secondly, it rightly makes America look like a criminal country to the rest of the world. Causing the deaths of innocent children in Yemen or Venezuela when neither of those countries presents any kind of threat to America is horrible. I describe America by paraphrasing Pogo (with a twist of Ronald Reagan): “We have met the Evil Empire and it is us.”

Another possible result of the sanctions is they just don’t work as planned. This is what happened in Russia. Before Barack Obama sanctioned Russia in 2014 over the “invasion” of Crimea, he convinced many Americans that Russia was a second rate power who had only some gas and oil reserves. He would bring Russia to its knees with the sanctions. It didn’t work. I don’t mean there were no bad results of the sanctions in Russia, but Russia responded proactively. In some areas they diversified. I’ve pointed out before Russia’s grain exports have led the world the last three years. In other areas Russia found other suppliers and customers. Russia and China have had a lot of obstacles to forming a good relationship. Now, however, U.S. policy is pushing them much closer. The old adage, “If your enemy is my enemy, then we can be friends,” may be coming true in a way the U.S. will regret.

I have to admit I am very worried about my native country. The division there that developed after Trump became president became so deep and bitter. Now, I think it is worse. As I have indicated, the “acceptability” of violence with BLM, ANTIFA, and other movements that came about during the spring and summer make resorting to violence more likely in my opinion. My friends who are Trump supporters are not going to “roll over” and accept Joe Biden’s victory. They are furious. On the other hand, if the courts were to conclude that the election was fraudulent and declare Trump the winner, then I think violence is going to break out. BLM, ANTIFA, et. al., will hit the streets.

We’ve been gone from America for just over 4.5 years. It was changing in ways that left me feeling as an outsider even back then. After this year, I no longer can imagine what life would have been like had we stayed. Nevertheless, I’ve missed it. I miss being able to go to a hamburger joint and order stuff in English. This year I again miss so much getting together at Thanksgiving and Christmas with my two sons and their families in America. I love our church here, but I understand very little of the Liturgy in Church Slavonic. I’d love to worship in English.

In 2019 we had so many American friends come see us, and that helped me a lot. One family had planned to move here and spent a couple of weeks with us early in the year. Then a large Orthodox family from America came to Russia to travel and spent a few days with us. Subsequently, a former student of mine (from my days as a university professor) who had married a Russian lady came with her and their daughter for a few days. We also had American friends who have a connection with the Baptist church here in Luga come visit. All those visits refreshed my soul.

With COVID, we had no visitors in 2020. We have also had fewer opportunities to get together with Russian family and friends. It’s been a mean year. But with all that has happened in the States I decided to apply for Russian citizenship. The laws are changing. I no longer have to disavow my U.S. citizenship. The fact that I am married to a Russian, have children by that marriage and we all reside in Russia meant I could skip applying for Permanent Residency and go straight to citizenship. Last week we got all the paperwork done—well, uh, my wife got it all done—and we turned it in to the immigration office here in Luga. After a few alterations, it was done and sent in. One never knows about Russian bureaucracy, but the lady who worked with us was very helpful and believes that in 4 months I will become a Russian citizen.

I never intended to become a Russian citizen when we moved here. Nevertheless, I can’t see taking my family back to America to live. My kids speak Russian more than English now. They love being both Russian and American. How would they be treated if we went back to live in America with all the Russian paranoia being promoted there? I have stated many times before I do not believe I have the right to dictate the standards and morals that American culture chooses for itself—whether international or personal. But I do have the right and the opportunity to live in a country that is more open, accepting, and respectful of the values I believe are important for a nation and for an individual. For my family and me, that country is Russia.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE & NAVALNY

“We will know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” William Casey, former Director of the CIA.

I read that quote long ago. I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek remark that need not be taken seriously. I have since changed my mind. I think he was dead serious. I don’t enjoy writing blogs about politics. It’s similar to a compulsion to work out. Back when I used to run several miles a day someone asked me if I enjoyed running. I answered, “I enjoy having run.” I didn’t really look forward to it, but I was glad to get it over with. Same with writing about politics.

I was asked to start writing this blog over four years ago by friends in America who wanted to get a perspective on life from here in Russia. Coming back to Russia after being gone for 8 years has changed my perspective on what it is like to live in Russia, but the process has also changed my outlook on life in America.

I decided to write about two political topics I have been asked about. In some ways it is a continuation of my last blog. First, I’ll discuss the reports that are already being circulated about Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. elections. Then I’ll move to the report about Alexei Navalny. I apologize that this blog turned out to be longer than usual. I did omit some sections, but it is still too long.

RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE. I have used as a starting point for the discussion of Russian interference an article by someone I regard as a real expert in these matters, Ray McGovern. I essentially follow his points and then add observations based on what I see from living in Russia now. https://consortiumnews.com/2020/08/21/ray-mcgovern-catapulting-russian-meddling-propaganda/?fbclid=IwAR3bwDDVBdAxIl88HRDINF2McQWpSxIca1psJ2b3UIZBtKhYpvqzwCsYaTA

The coming November election in America looks scary to me. The violence and division in the country are bad already. And now The New York Times, as well as other MSM outlets, are already declaring Russia will interfere. They believe since Russians successfully swayed the 2016 election for Trump, they will surely try it again. I want to review why I believe that the claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 has been proven false. Then I’ll include my own questions about what I call the Russian Interference Narrative (hereafter RIN).

The first component of the RIN is that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee’s e-mails which were then published in Wikileaks. The information in these e-mails exposed some unethical activities by people in the Democratic Party hierarchy—including candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The media did not focus on this damning information, however. They focused on the claim that Russian hackers were responsible for the leaks.

The cybersecurity company, Crowdstrike, which turned out to be paid by the DNC, claimed that they found Russians had hacked into the DNC server. The claim looked to be based on some flimsy evidence from the beginning, e.g. Cyrillic letters were used by the alleged culprit. Nevertheless, America was flooded by confident news reports on Russian hackers.

What was not reported was that on December 5, 2017 Shawn Henry, president of Crowdstrike, was placed under oath by the House Intelligence Committee. The results of this investigation were not to be made public—or so the committee thought at the time. After a long legal battle, two and a half years later the courts ruled the minutes of the Committee had to be released. Only then did we learn the real story. The following exchange was made public:

Ranking Member Mr. [Adam] Schiff:  Do you know the date on which the Russians exfiltrated the data from the DNC?…when would that have been?

Mr. Henry:  Counsel just reminded me that, as it relates to the DNC, we have indicators that data was exfiltrated from the DNC, but we have no evidence that it was exfiltrated (sic). … There are times when we can see data exfiltrated, and we can say conclusively. But in this case, it appears it was set up to be exfiltrated, but we just don’t have the evidence that says it actually left.

Mr. [Chris] Stewart of Utah:  Okay. What about the emails that everyone is so, you know, knowledgeable of? Were there also indicators that they were prepared but not evidence that they actually were exfiltrated?

Mr. Henry: There’s no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated. There’s circumstantial evidence, but no evidence that they were actually exfiltrated.

This information was released on May 7, 2020. Thus, based on this testimony Chairman Schiff knew that there was no proof that Russia or anyone hacked the DNC computers in 2017. Schiff never willingly released that information, however. It was just the opposite. As Marc Theissen of The Washington Post wrote, Schiff went on the news shows and “repeatedly claimed he had plenty of evidence of collusion.” It only became public knowledge two and a half years later because the courts forced it. Even then, the majority of major news outlets kept it quiet. We know Schiff repeatedly lied to the public, but neither the MSM nor anyone else has held him responsible. It is illegal for U.S. citizens to lie to Congress; apparently it is not illegal for them to lie to us.

No one is more qualified to speak on the technical matters than McGovern’s colleague William Binney, former Technical Director for the CIA. Binney has stated many times the speed of the transfer done on the DNC computers indicates clearly it was downloaded to a flash drive. No remote server could have downloaded the material at the speed with which it was done.

The second component of the RIN was the widely reported claim of January 6, 2017 that there were 17 intelligence agencies that all found evidence of Russian interference. The implication is that all of these agencies did formal investigations and reached the same conclusion. Ultimately that scenario was revealed to be false. James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, later admitted he chose representatives only from the CIA, FBI and his own National Intelligence Agency to investigate. The other 14 agencies did no research. Nevertheless, it continued to be widely reported that all 17 agencies had found the interference even after Clapper’s testimony was made public.

Clapper testified before Schiff’s committee on July 17, 2017. Under oath and in private he stated: “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign was plotting (or) conspiring with the Russians to meddle in the election.” Yet he later appeared on CNN and said, “What a great case officer Vladimir Putin is. He knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he is doing with our President.” So under oath he said he knew of no evidence of Russian collusion. On TV he said Trump was Putin’s asset. The hypocrisy and dishonesty could not be more glaring. He has never been held responsible for his deception.

The third component of the RIN was supposed to be the death knell for Donald Trump’s presidency: The Mueller Report. It did not go as expected. Mueller had to admit under oath that his investigation, which used about 40 FBI agents and 30 million tax-paid dollars, came up with nothing. Further, Mueller looked extremely confused as he testified. At times he had to be reminded of what was in the report.

Mueller (and others) still insisted there was evidence Russians interfered even if there was no collusion. Mueller had indicted 13 Russians for their supposed election interference as part of the Russian Internet Research Agency. As I said in an earlier blog, he knew he could not extradite them from Russia so he could claim they were guilty and no one would know any different. There would never be an actual trial. Trouble is, the Russian company, Concord Management, hired American lawyers to go to court representing those13 Russians. Mueller’s lawyers were shocked and unprepared. In March of 2020 the federal prosecutors finally dropped the charges. They waited to do so on a day when the stock market plunged, and the U.S. was well into the COVID pandemic. Thus, this plank of the RIN collapsed without the American public noticing.

The last component of the RIN to fall was “The Steele Dossier.” Christopher Steele was touted as a British expert with MI6. He served in Moscow from 1990-1993. He remained in London with MI6 until 2009. Despite the fact he had not lived in Russia since 1993 and had not visited Russia since 2009, he supposedly still had Russian contacts who gave him juicy information on what Trump had done while in Russia. He included some risque accounts which led to the dossier being called the “pee” dossier. This would make it look like Putin had compromising information on Trump with which he could leverage him.

It turns out that Steele, like Crowdstrike, was paid by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Steele testified in his home country about the dossier and admitted he could not substantiate the claims in it. The British judge concluded the dossier was no more than “an attempt to get Hillary Clinton elected.”

One question that is never addressed concerns the details of how Putin was able to control American elections in the first place. We were told it was a national security issue—some politicians said the collusion was an act of war! The Defense Department’s budget is $738 billion. They don’t have enough money to hire people who are smart enough to defend the electoral process? We are supposed to believe Vladimir Putin, who has a shoestring budget compared to the U.S. Defense Department, has surrounded himself with personnel who can dictate who becomes President of the United States. Barack Obama was president for 8 years leading up to the 2016 election and Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State for almost 5 of those years. They left us with an extremely vulnerable electoral system and Information Technology personnel substantially inferior to Russians? Nothing about the RIN is convincing.

THE NAVALNY POISONING. In my last blog I mentioned Senator Lindsey Graham’s August 21 tweet:

“How does this (Navalny incident) eventually end? The Russian people will reach a tipping point where they tire of Putin and his cronies plundering the nation and sowing discord throughout the world—all at the expense of the average Russian.”

Graham posted this in the context of a larger declaration of his support for Alexei Navalny standing up to evil Vladimir Putin. Graham apparently would have us believe he knows all about the “average Russian,” although listening to his comments about Russia over the years has given me no indication that he knows much at all about Russia or average Russians. Let’s be clear: He likes Alexei Navalny because Alexei says nasty things about Putin.

Navalny has been involved in Russian politics for about 10 years. His primary means of communication are his blog and his videos. At first he became fairly popular, especially among young people, although I have never seen a poll showing his favorability ratings in Russia higher than single digits. He spoke out against Putin on Ukraine in 2014, and that was not well received by many Russians. Over time his popularity has dwindled to about 3%. He is far more popular in the West. I rarely hear people here even mention him. He is not a major player on the Russian political stage.

On August 20 Navalny felt sick on a flight, and the plane made an emergency landing in the city of Omsk (Siberia). Navalny lapsed into a coma and was put on a ventilator. An early report I read said after initial broad based testing to rule foreign substances, they thought the problem was diabetes and a drop in his sugar level that may have put him in a diabetic coma. Then I read a clarification that said it was not diabetes, but they suspected a metabolic problem could perhaps be the cause. Before they could do any further analyses his family wanted him transferred to Germany. The Russian doctors advised against it, because he was in a coma. The family persisted, however, so on August 22 he was transferred to a hospital in Germany. Later he was moved to a military hospital there.

After he was transferred to the military hospital, the German foreign minister (not the doctors) reported that Navalny had been given the nerve agent Novichok. Novichok is supposedly a highly fatal Russian nerve agent, although Russian officials say they eliminated it from their reserves in keeping with OPCW regulations long ago. I am no chemist, but sources say the name refers to a “family” of nerve agents easily produced in many countries, including the U.S.

Russian health officials say Navalny tested negative for any poison or nerve agent while in their care. Several times Russia has made official requests that the German doctors confer with the Russian doctors who examined him to discuss the tests results, but the Germans have thus far refused to speak with the Russian doctors. As of now, Navalny is recovering. He gets up and moves about. He is breathing on his own and plans to return to Russia when his health allows.

First, Navalny’s entourage said he was poisoned by some tea he drank at the airport. Lindsey Graham, like many in the West, went with that narrative even before anyone had announced any test results. Now the story is that they found it in a bottle of water he drank in his hotel room before he left. For a more thorough discussion of the logical problems with both scenarios, as well as reasons both the governments of Russia and Germany need to be more objective and aggressive in the investigation see Paul Robinson, https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2020/09/17/cups-of-tea-and-bottles-of-water/?fbclid=IwAR0iKecwDTrlplV76JR8DdbHH6i0SORXbSleUBuzKxryojmiq_9rtEfZlqM

I began writing this blog entry not long after the incident. I thought maybe there would eventually be some kind of closure or conclusion, but that does not appear to be happening. A very good article I have read on it is by Craig Murray. I already had plans to make some of the same points Murray made, but he made them before I got to publish my blog—and he also made them more effectively than I would have. https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/09/novichok-navalny-nordstream-nonsense/?fbclid=IwAR1GzVr9agpx7XY14i7_-6N7S0h4wJltCaHFXa5__1XWK3DNFaKL3lcpV4Y

I will simply summarize my own reasons for believing neither Putin nor anyone within his circle ordered Navalny to be poisoned.

First, I agree with Navalny’s own words. The day before his flight Navalny was asked by a group of supporters why he had not been killed (since Vladimir Putin ostensibly feels so threatened by him). The interview was covered by The Sidney Morning News from Australia, but was largely ignored in the English language outlets. https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/my-death-wouldn-t-help-putin-rival-said-before-suspected-tea-poisoning-20200821-p55nul.html?fbclid=IwAR2CPLZuVkb6T9cNw9RHyZWIyyF5PhaOAbJHcCM3GqDPBYR1KM7uVjzJyq4.

Navalny responded that it would not help Putin if he (Navalny) died. Navalny said his death would make him a hero, and that could create more problems for Putin than if he remained alive. I agree that he would be more of a problem to Putin dead than alive. He has been been an irritant to Putin, but he has never been a serious political threat. That is a figment of the Western imagination.

Western neocons have a wish-fulfillment complex about Putin. They want so badly for people to hate him that they let it contort their view of reality. I mentioned in my last blog how I found it surprising to read months ago of how Putin’s support was “collapsing” as a result of coronavirus. One such article by Barnini Chakraborty appeared on the Fox News site back on April 22. https://www.foxnews.com/world/russians-frustrated-putin-coronavirus-deaths-grow

Like many who write for Western outlets her claims were devoid of evidence. Again perusing Paul Robinson’s site I learned the belief that COVID would doom Putin’s presidency was widely accepted in the West. How is it that Western “intelligence” knows so little about Russia? Putin’s poll ratings in August went back up to 66% according to Levada. In the elections this past Sunday in Russia the United Russia party (Putin’s party) did well. https://www.rt.com/russia/500748-navalny-poisoning-saga-russia-elections/

Second, I agree with Murray that if Putin wanted Navalny dead then he would be dead. Remember the Skripal “murders”? They were the father and daughter in England who Putin allegedly ordered to be killed with Novichok. But they survived. Apparently, British authorities never allowed them to give interviews after their full recoveries.

One can argue about Putin’s motives and methods, but he is clearly not stupid. The earlier attempted murder with Novichok failed, so he tried the same method again? We are supposed to believe Vladimir Putin could control the outcome of the election of the President of the United States, but he botched the murders of both the Skripals and Navalny in a way the whole world would see how incompetent he is.

Third, if the Russians had tried to poison Navalny, why did they allow him to be transferred to Germany? Several writers have asked how it is that no one had time to turn off the respirator a few minutes during the two days he was in Russia? Certainly someone in the hospital security detail had opportunity. That the Russian doctors gave him good medical treatment and then allowed his transport to Germany so soon leads me to believe they had nothing to hide.

Additionally, I think the Nord Stream II dispute may be an important factor in the discussion. Since Murray discusses that in depth and my space is limited, I will move on to my own prejudices against Navalny. He irritates a lot of people. He irritates many rich people. But I’m not rich so that does not bother me. He vilifies Putin, but that gets him support from the West. I get it. What I find strangely missing from reports on him from the West is his attitude toward immigrants to Russia.

If he did not hate Putin, the West would probably call him a racist. He shows videos with pictures of people who are what Russians call “Caucasians.” This term in Russian does not refer to white people, as it does in English. It refers to people with ancestors from the Caucasus mountains who frequently migrate to Russia.

Navalny is a strong Russian nationalist who advocates a “pure” Russia. He has done videos of his skits where pictures of Caucasians are coupled with references to cockroaches, flies, and in one video skit he plays a dentist who gets rid of these “rotten teeth.” In another he is a pest exterminator who ends by saying you get rid of cockroaches with a slipper and flies with a swatter, but for these other invading pests you need a pistol. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyqAWCx-I38&t=35s

(He is a strong advocate for gun-rights.)

Since I am not an ethnic Russian—I have absolutely no Russian ancestry—I’m not sure how Navalny would think of me and my half-breed children residing here. But that side of Navalny is never seen by the West. We ought not, however, think that some of those “cockroaches” and “rotten teeth” types he refers to have not seen his videos. He is a leader who advocates violence. Chickens do come home to roost.

CONCLUSION. As far as I know there have been no marches in Russia protesting what happened to Navalny―at least none around here. As I indicated, Sunday was the regional (Gubernatorial) elections, and things went peaceably as far as I could tell. There were no riots; no police were attacked; no stores were looted. My 12 year old son went for a long Sunday afternoon bike ride with his buddies.

It is not like that in America. Last month a 5 year old boy was intentionally shot and killed in his own backyard while riding his bike in Wilson, N.C. His killer said he was opposing white privilege. I saw the recent video of a police officer in Los Angeles shot in the face and arms while sitting in her squad car. As she stumbled from the vehicle with blood pouring from her face the crowd across the street cheered the shooting. By the time other officers were able to get her and her partner to the hospital, a crowd of protesters had assembled and blocked the entrance to the hospital. Then I saw a video of the man attacking a police officer in Lancaster, PA. A still photo showed he had a large knife raised as he rushed the officer. The officer shot and killed the man in obvious self-defense. Destructive riots protesting police brutality followed in Lancaster. I have been through Wilson, N.C. several times. I used to occasionally visit relatives in Lancaster, PA. years ago. I went into L.A. a few weekends when I was stationed at 29 Palms. These three cities differ from each other in a lot of ways, but all three have now suffered from the violent turmoil in America.

Lindsey Graham, however, informs the world that Russia is at the “tipping point.” The people are ready to rise up against the evil President Putin for “plundering the nation and sowing discord throughout the world.” So American politicians are not plundering the hope of America? America is not the one sowing discord around the world? It seems to have become the modus operandi of American politicians to divert attention to other nations. We had Qaddafi killed, and today Libya is a slave market. We backed the coup in Ukraine to remove Yanukovich and install Poroshenko, and now their economy is the worst in all of Europe and thousands are dead. Then the U.S. went on to intervene in Syria, Venezuela, and Iran. But we are assured it was Putin’s fault. He is the one spreading discord in the world.

Somehow our leaders have convinced themselves and others that they do such a great job of leading America they have the right to choose the best leaders for other countries. It may not look like they’re spreading democracy when they oust elected leaders, but trust your politicians, America.

Adam Schiff obviously decided he is the one who dictates what Americans are allowed to know. But there were other members on that committee, both Democrats and Republicans, who silently went along with him. Lindsey Graham tells the American people where the tipping points in the world are. He’s not alone. I hear the same line from many of his neocon Beltway kin. Why don’t our leaders focus on telling Americans the truth and then working on America’s problems? Right now it looks like America is the nation close to the tipping point. Fabricating stories about evil Russia won’t make the situation any better in America.

I talked with a friend yesterday on Skype. We talked about the old days when politics could be discussed without the shouting and shooting. While there were exceptions, in general you could rely on the media to give you at least two sides of every story. I miss Walter Cronkite. There really was freedom of speech.

Rest in peace Mr. William Casey. The success of the disinformation campaign you longed for is on the verge of being realized.

UPDATE FROM RUSSIA: COVID AND THE CONSTITUTION

Painting by Luga artist Sergei Yudin

The summer is coming to a close here in Luga, Russia. When I went on my walk this morning it was 56 degrees (F). These kinds of temps still seem odd to me since in my native state of South Carolina the last couple of weeks of August are often the hottest of the summer. I’ve had some questions on how things are going with COVID, and also I wanted to update readers on the revised Russian Constitution.

I am also bothered by the continued extremely negative treatment of Russia that I’m reading in the Western press and wanted to address the misinformation about interference (as usual), Navalny and a couple of other issues. There simply was not enough space to address everything, however, so the latter issues will be in my next blog—which I’ve already started writing.

COVID 19. Before I discuss any specific numbers I want again to state that in my opinion there is no way to determine how accurate the figures are from any country. I personally think that in the case of the U.S. it is impossible, given what the health officials themselves have said. Russia has been accused, as I mentioned a couple of blogs ago, of altering the figures here. I’ve heard that from America, and I’ve heard it from some Russians. Unlike in the U.S., however, no evidence for that accusation has actually been presented. I will give the recent “official” figures with the understanding there are probably some inaccuracies. I think the numbers do help us understand the general situation in the countries.

In my last status report I indicated I am a bit obsessed with checking all possible numbers daily from at least two or three sources. There has been a steady, albeit gradual, decline in the number of new cases in Russia since early May. (See https://www.coronatracker.com/country/russia/ ) The figures don’t look like they are being altered to me—at least not on a grand scale.

Russia ranks fourth in the world in terms of highest numbers of CV cases, but that is a misleading for two reasons. First, there is a large gap between the top four. The United States has had over 6 million total cases and now has 2.5 million active cases; Brazil (#2) and India (#3) both have had well over 3 million cases, and both currently have around 700,000 active cases. Russia has had a total of just over 975, 000 cases and currently has 165,025 active cases, so Russia is far below the top three. The second reason the raw numbers are misleading is while Russia is ranked fourth in total numbers, per capita it ranks 33rd. 81.4% of Russians who have had CV have already recovered. The fatality rate is 1.7%.

Russia, like almost every developed country, has suffered negative economic and employment consequences from COVID. Nevertheless, given the positive trend in the numbers, restrictions have been greatly eased in most cities. Restaurants have been open for several weeks for inside dining here in Luga. I rarely see people wearing masks on my walks, although there never was anything close to a majority of the people wearing them. I had a dental appointment this week, and most people wore masks when entering but then removed them after a while inside. Children will go back to regular school on September 1, although there are rumors they will switch to “e-learning” at the first sign of problems.

I have a number of Orthodox Christian readers who have asked me about the impact of COVID on our Liturgy and church attendance. So I’ll add a caveat to address that issue. My understanding just from what my readers said is that the Orthodox Church in America, of which we were members, has been rather strict in terms of numbers of people who can attend Liturgy, the wearing of masks, and even changing the way the Eucharist is observed.

During normal times the Orthodox Churches (at least the ones I’ve attended) observe Communion in way that shocks my Protestant friends. The bread is placed with the wine in the chalice. At the proper time toward the end of the Liturgy we go forward in a line and the priest gives us the bread and wine in a spoon from a common cup. We also kiss the cup, kiss the priest’ hand, and kiss the icons as acts of veneration. Even before the pandemic some of my non-Orthodox friends cringed when I told them that the same spoon is used for all of us. I won’t go into the Orthodox understanding of the body and blood of Christ that explains the practice, but the phrase, “Communion is the medicine of immortality” sums it up.

Some of my Orthodox readers from America say it is now done differently there, but I really did not understand their explanation, so I won’t comment on how it is in America. Practices in our church here have changed very little. There are no limits to the number who may attend (last Sunday, for instance, we had a larger than normal crowd). People stand maybe a little further apart during the Liturgy, but clearly not 2 meters. We say the Symbol of Faith and the prayers the same as always without wearing masks. The priest in our church here in Russia continues to administer the body and blood of Christ the same way. He uses the same spoon from the same chalice. So COVID has not really impacted the Orthodox here in small town Russia very much.

I stick by my earlier explanation for why Russia’s COVID numbers are so low even though its guidelines were not as strict nor as clear as in other countries. First, early on Russia poured a lot of effort and money into giving large numbers of tests. Thus, I think they were able to stay on top of things and knew where the danger areas were. Second, despite differences of opinions between various mayors and governors, there was not the over-the-top political infighting I saw in America. It seemed to me whichever position Trump took, the Democrats took the opposite. Trump’s tweets were nasty and personal, and his opponents responded in kind. I just did not see that here. I watched the video conferences on the Kremlin web-site. Moscow handled things in a much more strict manner than St. Petersburg, but the officials didn’t argue about it. I don’t agree with everything Russia did, but hindsight is always 20/20. I didn’t have the weight of the decisions on my shoulders so it is easy for me to second guess.

Nevertheless, the borders of Russia are still closed to most countries. They are open to the U.K., Turkey, Tanzania and Switzerland. I saw articles in July that there were those in the Kremlin who wanted to open the borders to everyone in mid-August. That did not happen. There is still no official word on when the borders will open. A couple of days ago Putin did sound a bit optimistic about opening them, but he said it is going to be gradual.

This is very frustrating to us because I have been contacted by two families who are wanting to plan a visit here in view of possibly moving to Russia. They are trying to get their passports and visas ready, but it is difficult. There is another American family I have mentioned before who is currently in Serbia wanting to join us permanently here in the Luga district as soon as they get permission from the Russian Consulate. We are anxiously awaiting some kind of official word. So overall, there are still frustrations, but life in general is pretty much back to normal in Luga. Our kids have had a great summer playing with friends and enjoying the mild temperatures.

THE CONSTITUTION. I wrote a blog back in February about a speech President Putin gave in which he mentioned revising the Russian Constitution. I didn’t really deal much with the possible changes, because his speech contained only vague comments about them at the end. He focused on his frustration that not more had been done for families with children, health care, etc. The Western press jumped on the speech and ignored the issues he focused on and said the speech was an attempt by Putin to become president for life. My point was whatever his plans are for remaining as president, they were not revealed in that speech.

The new Constitution was revised with the referendum taken from 25 June to 1 July. It was approved by a vote of 78%, with voter turnout of 65%. Obviously I have space for only a few points that are commonly mentioned. (For a full version of the Constitution in English see http://www.constitution.ru/en/10003000-01.htm.)

1 The Russian Federal government has authority over all territories and structures, as well as national policies. No international laws or treaties may supersede Russian federal law. The point here is that Russia clearly stands against “globalism.” There is a strong belief here that every country has the right to dictate its own policies and write its own laws without interference from foreign actors.

2 The Russian Federation has a unified 1,000 year history. It has a culture with a belief in God which has been passed down from its ancestors. The mention of God was quite different from the negative language on religion in the 1918 Constitution which was interpreted to allow the government to confiscate all Church property.

3 Marriage is only between a man and a woman. Same sex marriage in Russia will remain illegal and is now officially unconstitutional. This point, coupled with the statement on belief in God, pleased the Russian Orthodox Church and all believers. https://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2020/07/russia-affirms-and-defends-traditional-marriage-rejects-lgbtq-delusion/ I have stated before that in Russia same sex relationships are not illegal. Same sex marriage is. It is also illegal for same sex couples to flaunt their affections in public places where children may be present.

5 Another significant change was powers of the presidency were reduced. While many American politicians and media outlets have criticized Putin for having had so much power, they neglect to mention (or are simply ignorant of) the fact the extreme powers of the presidency in Russia were granted by the 1993 Constitution which was certainly shaped with help from American “advisers.” Boris Yeltsin was president. He did pretty much what America said, so America wanted the Russian president to have a lot of power. Now that Putin refuses to submit to their authority, they call him an autocrat with too much presidential power. The reductions in Presidential powers were primarily in the area of appointments the president can make, e.g., Prime Minister.

6 The president is limited to only two terms. Before the president was limited to two consecutive terms. Hence, Putin served two four year terms. The length of a term was expanded to six years after the next President, Dimitri Medvedev, had served one four-year term. Putin was then elected to two more six year terms. He could not do that under the revised Constitution.

Nevertheless, events which followed the adoption got the most attention. Former Russian cosmonaut and current member of the State Duma, Valentina Tereshkova, proposed that Putin’s terms would be “restarted” under the new Constitution. She was the first woman in space and is quite popular in Russia. Her motion carried with little or no opposition. Thus, when Putin completes this term in 2024, he will be eligible to run for two more six year terms if he so chooses.

Of course, many believe Tereshkova was prompted by Putin to make the recommendation. Others believe she and other members (with whom she almost certainly conferred) simply wanted to give Putin the option if he wants it. There are those who believe Putin was behind this all along; others believe the lower Duma was doing what the majority of Russian citizens want. I don’t know who talked to whom, and I don’t see any minds changing.

Despite what I’ve seen both in uninformed articles on Fox News and reports on CNN, reliable polls such as Levada and Gallup, show the majority of Russians want Putin to stay on as president. Approval ratings did drop during the earlier stages of COVID, but it was not nearly the “collapse” I read about in the Western reports. The lowest I saw Putin’s approval numbers drop to was 59%.

There are various reasons for these high numbers in my opinion: many remember what life was like when he became president in 2000. Whatever flaws he has, they like the way he has guided Russia to where it is now. Many of my older friends remember what is was like going without pay for months and months in the 90s. Others like his traditional values and support for the Russian Orthodox Church. Since I am Russian Orthodox, I have heard this stated several times. Others simply do not see a better option. They are not strong supporters of Putin, but the experience with Medvedev leaves them reluctant to take a risk with someone else right now.

I also have friends here who hope Putin is defeated. They are struggling financially and believe new policies and a “fresh” perspective on the economy are needed. A number of individuals are not so much against Putin as they are tired of him. They want new blood. They appreciate what he has done; they believe he has served well; but it is time to step aside.

The good news, as I have said many times before, is people here express their views in a way that—at least from my experience—does not lead to screaming and ranting. It is NOT like the nastiness of American political discussions which often end friendships. As much as the American political and media establishment don’t like it, the move to allow Putin to run for two more terms was in accordance with the will of the majority of Russians. Sounds almost like a democracy.

I don’t know if he’ll run again or not. This term does not end until 2024. A lot can happen. He’s 67 years old, but he is in very good health so my hunch is he will run again. I may be reading into it, but he seems to have this sense of mission. It does not appear to me like the “addiction to attention” I’ve seen in so many politicians.

Since bloggers are supposed to be brave I’ll state my own view: I hope he runs again. I really do understand my Russian friends who disagree. And I am not Russian, so I certainly do not overestimate the importance of my views on Russian politics. My perspective is as an American living here. I am not a citizen and cannot vote. For what it is worth, here are my reasons.

First, I remember what it was like here in 2002 when I first came to Russia. That was after things started to get better, but I was shocked at how “backward” this country was. It isn’t like that anymore. I mentioned my dental appointment. I have never been in a dental office in America with so much modernized equipment. From the fancy CT machine, to the ultrasonic dental drill that works using high frequency ultrasonic vibrations, to the little device that tells you if you reached the end of the root canal… My dental problem was complicated and I won’t go into it, but after 3 hours of working on me she regretfully said she could not completely repair the problem and referred me to a dental clinic in St. Petersburg that uses a microscope when drilling. So she charged me nothing. She refused payment: “If I cannot fix your problem, I do not take your money.” At my last physical examination, my doctor did ultrasounds of my internal organs and did numerous other evaluations far beyond what I had ever received in a physical examination in America—and charged me far less.

Second, I have heard and read some of the nastiest things possible said about Putin from American politicians and the mainstream media. He has been openly called a thug, another Hitler, a murderer, and many other nasty things. He has been blamed for almost every problem America has. As Nancy Pelosi said, “All roads lead to Putin.” America has essentially surrounded Russia with missiles, and then Lindsey Graham recently said it is really Putin who is sowing discord throughout the world.

Putin has NEVER descended to their level. He has remained calm and diplomatic. When he speaks about America to his Russian audience he does so with class. I fear another president would not exercise this same discipline. We live in a nuclear age and the “new cold war” is far more dangerous than the old one according to most experts. I have never seen a politician who has set aside his own ego in the way Putin has. As an American living in Russia, I fear what could happen between my two countries if someone else sat behind that desk in the Kremlin without the same demeanor and self-control.

My third reason is more general—and a bit negative. When I look at America and see the news, I know I can’t go back to that anger and violence I see in the streets. The violence is not just in the big cities anymore. As I’ve said before, I don’t wear a MAGA hat, but if Trump makes decisions that lead to bringing troops home and ending American interventions then I applaud him. I’m glad he has not started any new wars, but not starting a new war is a low bar of foreign policy accomplishment. I repeat my oft stated animosity for his Secretary of State’s intrusions into the affairs of other countries and violations of international law. So I just can’t jump on the Trump bandwagon, but neither do I trust the likes of Pelosi, Schumer, Biden and Schiff. In an atmosphere filled with polemic, people expect you to choose a side.

Here in Russia I believe the values that we as a family hold—both cultural and religious—are respected and encouraged. Yet, Russia was an atheistic country for 70 years. Thus, I have good friends here who do not hold to my religious or moral views. But we still share deep common values on freedom and the need for peaceful international relationships. I’m not looking to live in a country where all my beliefs and personal morals are imposed on others. I have found Russia to be a place where different views can be respectfully and freely expressed and those differences appreciated.

Russia is a great place to raise a family. And being an American has never been a problem here for me or my kids. My children still speak English, but they have gotten more used to speaking Russian. The fact they speak English is regarded as a positive thing in Luga. Being Americans makes them interesting to people here. Nobody expresses animosity to us or toward America. My kids also feel patriotism toward Russia. Given the atmosphere in America after four years of Russia-bashing, I’m not at all sure how we would be treated if we went back.

Is Putin responsible for all the positive developments here? He is certainly not solely responsible. I think it is also—perhaps primarily—the Russian people and Russian culture who should get the credit. But as the sign on President Harry Truman’s desk said: “The buck stops here.” On the one hand, he meant the president ultimately gets blamed for whatever happens. He cannot “pass the buck,” i.e., blame others. On the other hand, presidents sometimes get praised for things they accomplished with the help of a lot of other people. I don’t know how much Putin is responsible for. But I have seen my native country change from what it was into something very different. During my lifetime America never was perfect for sure. Now, however, it has reached a deeper level, gone into a deeper descent. It is far more menacing—beyond what I ever dreamed. I’d like Russia to stay the way it is. That’s a bit self-centered I know. But politics is always local first.

RIOTS, RACE AND RUSSIA

I have never seen events in my native country like the ones that have transpired since my last blog. I recall things getting bad back in the late 60s. We had protests that sometimes turned violent. Most people in my age group can remember the Democratic Party convention of 1968 or when the National Guard opened fire on students at Kent State University, killing 4 of them in 1970. Yet these never reached the sustained level of violence of the recent riots in America, and never did we see law enforcement prevented from responding. Further, the protest back then were rarely, if ever, intended to destroy small businesses or private property. They were mainly to oppose the war in Vietnam and promote peace among nations. And no one recommended defunding the police or National Guard when some of their members responded in inexcusable ways.

The recent violence in America was triggered by the death of George Floyd and the protests were ostensibly against systemic racism. Yet quite a number of the police members who were killed or injured by the protesters were black. Small businesses were looted and destroyed, and many of the owners were black. Protesters were seen gleefully running out of stores with new sneakers, and grief or anguish over the death of George Floyd seemed to have nothing to do with anything. Thus, it appeared to many of us that racism—or George Floyd’s death—may not have been the real motive.

In many cities the police adopted a submissive attitude, symbolized by them taking a knee in front of the rioters, kissing black people’s boots or washing their feet. Many of us saw videos of police cars driving past scenes where violence was in progress or heard tapes of emergency calls wherein the 911 operators told the people in danger the police could not respond.

My own belief is that these were not spontaneous riots that got out of hand because of grief or anger over George Floyd. But this blog is not about life in America. I focus on life here in Russia and how my “two worlds” of Russia and the U.S. are connected—or disconnected. So I’ll deal with the way the subject of Russia has been brought into the events and then offer some reflections on life here.

THE RUSSIA CARD. It wasn’t long before Russia was connected to the events in America. The first person I heard make the connection was Susan Rice, former National Security Adviser to President Obama. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN she did not blame Russia for provoking the riots. She said Russia “hijacked” the protests and turned them into something very different. It was Russian interference that caused the worst of the violence. She said this was, “right out of the Russian playbook.”

Blitzer did not raise the issue that I did in my last blog. He did not question the disparity between what Rice had said in TV interviews about Russian interference in the 2016 election and what she said under oath to the House Intelligence Committee. For example in an interview on “ABC News this Week” Rice contradicted Vladimir Putin’s denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. She said, “Frankly, he (Putin) is lying…The reality is all our intelligence sources have come together to affirm with high confidence, the Russian government at the highest levels, was behind the very unprecedented effort to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.” (For the full article summary in Newsweek see https://www.newsweek.com/putin-lying-russia-election-national-security-adviser-susan-rice-620699) That was in 2017, and she continued to maintain that claim publicly until the release of the Mueller report. Nevertheless, when she was put under oath privately and asked whether or not she had had seen actual evidence that confirmed Russian interference she responded, “I don’t recall intelligence that I would consider evidence.” And she claimed Putin was lying?

In the recent interview on Russia “hijacking” the protests she offered no evidence at all. Her appeal to “the Russian playbook,” which unfortunately neither she nor any of us have actually seen, was a safe distraction from having to say she knew of no evidence. Of course, Blitzer did not confront her with either her past contradictory statements on Russian meddling or with her lack of evidence now. The spineless journalist responded, “You’re absolutely right,” and then he brought up the actions of the USSR as “evidence” that this is the way Russia does things.

It was not just Democrats, however, who blamed the Russians for intensifying the riots. Nikki Haley, former Ambassador to the UN and governor of my home state of South Carolina, tweeted on June 20, 2020, “(Russian Intelligence Agencies) have encouraged and spread hateful rhetoric by extremist groups, and played up allegations of police abuse in America.” She provided a link to the New York Times article (March 10) that claimed Russia was linked with almost every extremist group in America. Again, there was no actual evidence of the accusations against Russia in either her tweet or the Times article.

I also offer one caveat on another tweet two days later by Haley on an event unrelated to Russia but which demonstrates her attitude to evidence. Bubba Wallace, a black NASCAR race driver, claimed someone left a hangman’s noose in his garage as an attempt to terrorize him apparently over the fact that NASCAR had supported Black Lives Matter. The FBI sent 15 agents to investigate this act of “terror.” In an obvious attempt to endear herself to BLM, Haley tweeted, “We all should stand w/ @Bubba Wallace today against the cowards who secretly put a noose in his garage stall.” Then she threatened, “Watch your backs you cowards. Bubba has a bigger army than you do.”

The FBI investigation concluded that it was not a noose at all. It was a rope with a loop used to pull down the garage door. It had been there since the previous October. Again, the point is Haley, Rice and others simply do not wait for or care about evidence. It’s the rhetorical and political impact, not the facts, that matter.

Fortunately, it appeared neither the accusations by Rice nor Haley seemed to gain much traction with the American people. Russia did not seem terribly bothered by them. Russia U.N. Deputy Ambassador tweeted in response to Haley, “thank you for showing the U.S. is innocent of any of its troubles or wrongdoings.”

Before I could breath a sigh of relief that accusations against Russia were ineffective, however, the New York Times published an article on June 26 stating that American intelligence officials had concluded Russian military intelligence units had paid bounty money to members of the Taliban to kill Americans. The article stated Trump had been briefed on this report last March but had done nothing except “deliberate” as to what should be done. Immediately the story was picked up by CNN and MSNBC and then other networks and news outlets. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/politics/russia-afghanistan-bounties.html

Russia immediately denied this ever happened and ridiculed it as evidence of lack of intelligence by reporters. The Taliban also denied the report and seemed offended that anyone would assert they had to be paid to kill Americans: “We have done target killings for years with our own resources.” Both the present and former Directors of National Security emphatically asserted Trump was never briefed contrary to what the Times had indicated. Upon further study intelligence officials said there was no evidence of the testimonies which were in the Times report, but as I write this blog the debate is still going on.

The report did not pass the “smell test” as far as I’m concerned. First, the Taliban makes a lot of money from the sell of heroin. It is not financially strapped. Further, the Taliban, as they themselves claim, having been killing Americans for nearly 20 years. All of the sudden they want money to do it? Russia has never had a good relationship with Taliban. Further, the information was said to come from, at least in part, captured Afghan militants and criminals—hardly sources anyone would consider reliable without further verification. As we all know, prisoners of war sometimes say things to get themselves “off the hook.” (We actually had a class on how to lie like this in captivity when I was in infantry training in the USMC.)

More problematic was the fact the Times had relied on “unnamed sources.” I followed the Russia meddling story (hoax) very carefully from the beginning. As I documented in my last blog we now know that the accusations had no basis in fact. That phrase, “unnamed sources” is a flag. It means no one can be questioned further or be held accountable. We must trust the Times‘ reporters. Back on May 5 of this year the Russian embassy ridiculed the Pulitzer awards for 3 articles in the New York Times that were found to be “Russophobic fabrications” for which the paper received Pulitzer prizes. https://tass.com/world/1153055 The New York Times has a history of fabricating stories about Russia.

It now appears certain Trump was never informed of the “bounty” information. In fact, there is no evidence the information was ever taken seriously by anyone in American intelligence. I will not go into the details any further, but more information can be found in articles by men who have an abundance of actual experience in Eastern European intelligence. See Scott Ritter https://www.rt.com/op-ed/493174-nyt-report-russia-afghanistan/ and Ray McGovern https://consortiumnews.com/2020/06/29/ray-mcgovern-russiagates-last-gasp/

The New York Times made up the story and many naive “sheeple” will read it or hear reports on it on CNN and do no further research. Thus, for the Times, it’s “mission accomplished.” Their purpose is not to convey factual information. It is to mold the way people think. It’s called propaganda. Russians know a lot about that. The difference is people in the USSR never really believed all the propaganda in Pravda.

The Embassy Flag Controversy. On June 25 the U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced it was displaying the LGBTI Pride flag. (See photo below.) I get the embassy Facebook posts. In addition to displaying the flag I saw two posts by U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan on that same day. In the first post he essentially “lectured” the Russian public about how important it is to recognize “Pride month.” In the second post he “celebrated” the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating the recognition of same sex marriages.

It seemed to some of us more than a coincidence that this happened toward the end of “Pride month.” Why was it not at the beginning of June? My hunch is that it was because Russia was getting ready to vote on its revised constitution. The constitution affirms marriage “as a union of one man and one woman.” Further, Russian law already prohibits recognition of same sex marriages. Open displays of “gay propaganda” are not allowed where children may be present. Since children may be present at most public sites, this law severely restricts any public displays. As I have said before in earlier blogs, homosexual and lesbian relations are not prohibited in Russia, but same-sex marriages are not recognized and generally speaking public displays of same-sex affection are not permitted.

In response to the display of the rainbow flag on the US embassy building, some Russian artists beamed a light show using the embassy building as the “screen.” The message said “1993 – your constitution; 2020 – our constitution.” The point was that in 1993 when the constitution was written, America was heavily involved in shaping the new Russian Constitution. Boris Yeltsin pretty much let the Americans take control at points. The day after the Embassy unveiled the flag someone placed a small LBGTI flag on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Embassy. Videos were made of Russians passing by making a point of stepping on the flag and wiping their feet.

The Fallout. Clearly my two “worlds” or countries remain in a tenuous and stressed relationship. America seems congenitally incapable of not blaming Russia for its problems. Many powerful people did not want Donald Trump elected, and they blamed Russia—and made up evidence as they went along. This went on for three years. Now, after all their supposed evidence proved non-existent, they blame Russia for America’s domestic riots and social unrest. They seriously claim the deep divisions between Americans are because of Russian manipulation of social media. America invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, and now almost 19 years later the most well known paper in the U.S. suddenly claims Russia paid money to members of the Taliban to kill Americans. And many news outlets follow their lead despite the fact no evidence was presented and no names of the accusers were given.

I realize a part of the attacks on Russia are because from even before he was sworn in as President, Donald Trump was linked by his opponents with Russia. I think that is unfair. Trump has actually leveled more sanctions on Russia than Obama did. His Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, clearly understands little about Russia and has neither the desire nor the intellect to do normal diplomacy. His recent comments on Nord Stream 2 illustrate this unfortunate truth all too well. So this idea that Russians love Trump and Pompeo because Putin controls them is ridiculous. Somehow, however, Trump’s opponents have succeeded in portraying him as Putin’s puppet. So now if Trump talks to Putin on the phone it is an international scandal.

Life in Russia. On a brighter note, we are more convinced than ever that Russia is where we should be. Several people have asked me how the situation here is. One friend asked me if the riots are as bad here as they are in America. I responded that we aren’t having riots in Russia. I guess people see they have spread to Canada, Great Britain, and other western countries and assume we have them as well. We have noticed that when something happens in America, we see FB posts talking as if the whole world is going through the same thing. It isn’t. Things are quite peaceful here, especially compared to America. Russia has political and social differences, but rarely do people get violent over their differences.

The rate of COVID 19 is decreasing. Russia still has closed borders, but there is talk of opening up before the end of summer. As a part of my morning ritual, every day I read the stats, e.g., new cases, recoveries, etc., from the previous day. The rate on new cases has been going down steadily for well over a month. And today on my walk things looked normal. It is the first time I noticed that the restaurants are open. I’ve even heard from a couple of friends in Moscow that things are getting much closer to normal there.

I have received a lot of e-mails and messages from friends and acquaintances in America who read my blog or keep up with our lives here in Russia. They are so upset and, frankly, scared. Some are in areas away from danger, but others are not. They are afraid to go out. Here our 12 year old son goes bike riding with his friends all over town unattended, as do many kids here. As I’ve mentioned we live not far from several lakes so they sometimes ride to the lake and go swimming. They all have phones and we keep up with them, but we don’t live in fear of them getting out of our sight like in America. Five year old Marina Grace plays out in the yard with neighbor friends who come over or she goes to one of their homes. We know the parents, and it is great that our daughters can enjoy little girl games together. As I’ve said many times, the cost of living here is quite low compared to America so even on my Social Security income we were able to have a small basketball court and playground set built in our yard recently.

Two weeks ago on Sunday morning we watched a three hour Liturgy on TV here. The Liturgy was on the military channel because it was the dedication of the new Military Cathedral. It was built to commemorate the victory over the Nazis 75 years ago. The Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, said historically all the major cathedrals that had been built in Russia had been built in memorial to great victories in battle to give praise to God. For example, most people who have visited Russia or have just seen pictures of Red Square have seen St. Basil’s Cathedral. It was built in honor of the defeat of the Mongols and the end of their long control over Russia. Since the Nazis were defeated during the Communist era in Russia obviously no Cathedral was built to honor or thank God for it. Shoigu and others believed one should be built now that Russia has returned to Orthodox Christianity.

The dedication service and the Cathedral itself were absolutely beautiful. I suspect that some of my American friends will be upset about the fusing together of “Church and State.” I understand. Government money (along with donations from the faithful) was used in the building of the great Cathedral. The Cathedral is clearly and specifically for Christian worship. The service had extensive references that we would call a “God and country” theme. During the televised service someone was quietly explaining the Liturgy and what the priest was doing.

As I watched, my mind wandered back to my childhood in the southern United States a couple of generations ago. Religion, particularly Protestant (usually Baptist) religion, was a part of the fabric of that world. It wasn’t that everyone was a Christian, but even most of the “happy pagans” thought religion had a good impact on culture and respected it. Russia (or USSR—they were interchangeable to us at that time) was godless. We were told how worship was despised and the religious values we cherished were denigrated here.

As I watched the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation bow his head and slowly and reverently make the sign of the Cross over his chest at the end of the service, I remembered the images of rioting and hate I had watched on the American news the night before. The language was filthy; the attacks on the innocent were revolting. The old statues were crushed. Political leaders, however, made sure they did not offend the protesters. The contrast with what I was seeing on the Russian military channel was stark.

Life is a “crazy ol’ dog” as the old folks used to say. I’m scared for my native land. Whenever all the smoke clears from COVID and riots and so-called race wars, I don’t think things will go back to “normal.” The police have bowed the knee; political leaders have encouraged riots while stating worship is non-essential and prohibited. I fear life in America will be permanently reordered and the shared cultural values will be different altogether. I admit I could be wrong. Maybe I have misread the situation. I passionately hope I am wrong.

I want my Russian readers to know the majority of Americans are not like the ones they see on the news. I think race relations are terribly misrepresented in all this rioting. Of course, there is racism. Systemic racism? I lived through that time in the Jim Crow south. Despite the emphasis on Evangelical Christianity, blacks and whites went to different schools, different churches, and even different grocery stores. We drank from different water fountains and had to go to different public bathrooms. I remember as a child in my Southern town seeing “White Only” in windows of restaurants. People of my generation—black and white—don’t need young white liberals to explain racism to us.

I lived through the change. And things really did change. Black people and white people work together, go to school together; they regularly worship together, play sports together, and share each others burdens. I see these riots and I want to scream, “This is NOT what it is like for the majority of Americans!” What the so-called leaders want to do now is create and exploit divisions for their own interests and twist anything that is said into something racist. And the American media helps them avoid accountability by putting all the blame on Russia. Instead of starting with trying to solve remaining racism, they first want to shift the blame or divert the focus.

I don’t have the right to tell Americans how to live. The Americans who live there must choose their own way. They are the ones to decide what is honored and what is forbidden. Those Americans are the ones to determine how to define family, how to govern relationships and property and such.

But Russians have the right to do so here as well. I say to American political and media leaders, leave Russia alone. It’s not your decision how Russians define family, promote religious and cultural values, or who they elect for president. And quit blaming America’s problems on Russia and accept responsibility for what you have made life like for the people of America. No, Russia is not perfect or ideal or crime free. But life here is not crazy and immoral and devoid of reason. The main point being missed, and one which I believe from my many experiences in Russia, is that Russians—including Vladimir Putin—do not want war or any conflict with the U.S. The idea that Russia is stirring up chaos, meddling in the affairs of America, and wants war comes from people there with another agenda. These people do not understand Russia, nor do they care to. They are projecting their own agenda and methods onto Russia.

So on this Independence Day I feel more alienated from my country than ever. But many of my American friends living there have said to me that they feel the same way I do. Some have told me that they have trouble celebrating freedom when they have been locked down, locked out and basically told by local politicians what constitutional freedoms they may or may not exercise. My hope is that there will be a new uprising in America. Instead of allowing the powers-that-be to divert attention by blaming Russia for all the problems, a new level of accountability would be enforced.

I saw an interview done in Russia a few years ago wherein Putin was asked who he wanted the new U.S. president to be. He has since been asked that many times, and he has essentially expanded on what he said back then. This was an old interview back when Obama was in his last term, and as I recall a leading candidate had not yet emerged. Putin said it didn’t matter to him. He explained that he did not believe that it is the president who has the real power in America. The interview was in Russian and I can’t remember his exact words, but essentially he said, “America is run by the people in black suits behind the curtain.” I hope Americans will rise up and pull back the curtain.

FOUR YEARS BACK IN RUSSIA

Four years ago we were in what felt like an emotional whirlwind. I had officially worked my last day at the small company where I worked for my brother and taken early retirement. We had our passports, visas, and airline tickets in hand, awaiting our departure from America on June 7. We were still in the process of selling or giving away almost all our possessions before we left for Russia. While she was packing, my wife was nursing our 17 month old daughter, helping our other two kids finish the school year, and supervising what was to stay or go. Our house was almost empty by this time. We were also trying to spend time with as many family members and friends as possible before we left.

Oksana had had two babies in America. When we arrived in America in 2008, she already spoke English fluently, and she had met many Americans in Russia. So there was no real “culture clash” for her when we moved to America. I have outlined our reasons for moving to Russia in several blogs. I was an older father and wanted to spend more time with my young children. We both were concerned about the attacks on traditional values that were taking place even in our small southern town and the impact growing up in such a culture would have on our children. While we were happy in our community and church, the larger changes on the cultural and political horizon in America concerned us.

Still, the decision to move to America had been a long process. What would it be like moving a teenager, a 7 year old and a young toddler half way around the world? Over time, we became convinced this move was right for us. Although Oksana was born and raised in Russia and I had lived here 3 years, we still felt like we were headed into uncharted waters. We were a family of 5 now. We were excited and scared.

Our arrival here went pretty smooth. I read my early blog on our arrival the other day and remembered how shocked I was at the nice roads and homes we saw on the way from the airport to Luga. Since we moved in early summer we had a chance to “settle in” before school started in the fall. We eventually found a nice, although small, apartment. Our boys adjusted to Russia much more easily than we had thought they would. What we did not see coming was the political storm swirling around Russia and the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

POLITICS AND “RUSSIAGATE.” Many people probably got tired of hearing of “Russian interference” on the news in America almost every day for three years. Things now have come to light, even in the last month or so, that allow us to see the Russia hoax more clearly, however.

The Mueller Report (May 17, 2017-March 22, 2019). Robert Mueller used 40 FBI agents, issued over 2,800 subpoenas, and spent somewhere around 35 million tax dollars investigating the alleged collusion between candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It wasn’t just that Mueller had 40 FBI agents. We now know, largely from Peter Strzok’s messages to his extramarital lover and FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, that these agents despised Trump. They were looking for dirt, and Strzok spoke of an “insurance policy” to make sure Trump did not get elected. Nevertheless, even after assurances from people in high places to the contrary, Mueller was forced to testify before Congress in July of 2019 that his team found no evidence of collusion.

The House Intelligence Committee. After Mueller’s testimony Adam Schiff assured us that as Chairman of the House Intelligence committee that did their own investigation, he knew of concrete evidence that there was collusion with the Russians. Others that testified to this committee took to the mainstream media circuit and assured everyone that Schiff was correct. The list of people who told the American public they knew from evidence presented that Trump had, in fact, colluded with Putin was impressive. It included James Clapper, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Loretta Lynch, and Evelyn Farkas. Regretfully, they said that due to national security concerns they could not release the information. We had to trust them. But then those over national security recently told Schiff sufficient redactions had been made, and he could release this information. At first he refused to do so, until he got the response, “If you don’t, we will.” We now have learned all those folks I mentioned above who went around telling the networks they had hard evidence on Trump’s collusion told a different story when they were in private and under oath. All 57 people interrogated replied unequivocally that they neither had nor knew of such evidence. In short, they lied to the press because they thought no one would ever release their testimonies. https://video.foxnews.com/v/6155408182001#sp=show-clips

Concord Management. Mueller had continued to assert Russia really did interfere. Apparently he was talking about the 13 Russians who worked at Concord Management in St. Petersburg. He had indicted them for crimes, although events would show he clearly did not anticipate them fighting back. He could say they did it, but he could not extradite them to America so nothing would come of it. Trouble is, they hired a lawyer. The original judge castigated Mueller’s lawyers for indicting people and yet the prosecuting attorneys were not prepared to go to court. The prosecutors later quietly dropped the charges. The American media let it die unreported.

https://sputniknews.com/us/202003171078588936-us-prosecutors-drop-charges-against-russias-concord-management/?fbclid=IwAR3nR_f-p1QA_my_2jK1TbTcmi5voP4a7qyCoth7bTpdfQJ4eDaPHCGl3Yw

Still, the Russia narrative continues. The U.S. media do not retract stories about Russia that are later found to be inaccurate. The Russian Embassy pointed out recently that the NY Times won three Pulitzer prizes for reports on Russian meddling and trolling that later proved to be wrong. https://www.rt.com/usa/487842-new-york-times-russia-pulitzer/ There was never a retraction. American media can accuse Russia of anything from election collusion to cheating on COVID-19 figures. They don’t need evidence to charge Russians with anything. And they know they won’t be held accountable when it turns out the info is not factual.

THE PERSONAL. I admit all this Russia hoax has impacted me. There are so many misrepresentations in the American news of life here and what Russia is like. I still see these articles and interviews by those who know nothing about life here. Oksana and I have lost a few of our American friends (“acquaintances” might be a better word). The suggestion that in some ways life is better in Russia offends some Americans. Politics becomes more important than friendships.

It is not just the misrepresentations of life in Russia. I have gotten to meet ex-pats or folks who have spent a lot of time in other countries. I’ve learned the American government has lied about those countries as well. They share the same sense of frustration that we feel here. Right now, China is a possibility for taking from Russia the top-spot in the list of countries America hates. Someone asked me what I thought of how China handled the COVID crisis. I have no idea. I don’t know anyone in China. I read things in the American press that paints them as deceptive, but these are the same media sources that I am absolutely sure lied about Russia. I did hear one Russian medical person who went there to study the situation in China when it first broke. He said the portrayal in the Western press was completely wrong. After what I’ve seen here, I don’t doubt it.

Life this last year. Despite the stress of the American press lying about Russia, we really like life here. But this past year has been far from ideal. We moved into our new home a year ago. Moving is horrible whatever country you do it in. People think I’m joking when I say it was easier in many ways to move to Russia than to move across town in Luga. When we moved here we sold stuff, we gave it away, we threw it away, or we packed it. Very simple. There is only so much you can take. It is not that way when you are moving two miles away.

Then school started. Gabriel started middle school, and it was so much more difficult. He has different teachers, and the subjects were much were harder. The home room teacher plays a bigger role here in the adjustments of the students than in America, and his homeroom teacher was not helpful. I don’t mean just to Gabriel. All the parents were unhappy. So it was both that the subject matter was more difficult, and that he got less help from his teachers during the adjustment.

When Oksana and I started our teaching at the English school this past September, they had added quite a number of students who were really not at the level of the others already signed up for the class. This created a lot of havoc. Eventually they had to change things, but it made teaching much less enjoyable for us. We honestly don’t do it for the money. We like working with the students, because they are very serious about learning English. Having students of various levels in one class takes away the enjoyment of teaching a language, however. Eventually with the COVID-19 crisis shutting down classes, we left and did not do the on-line teaching. We have decided this was our last year teaching. We love the students, and the Director and his wife are nice people, but we have a very different philosophy of teaching, and we decided it would be best not to return.

Finally, on the bad news, we were much sicker this winter. That’s a bit strange because the winter was one of the mildest Luga has ever had. But, as I mentioned in a previous blog, Gabriel, Marina Grace and I all got pneumonia. Actually, like a lot of people, we wonder if it was really the coronavirus. My stepson Roman works in an international hotel in St. Petersburg. He is full time in the summer and part time during the school year. He came home coughing badly one weekend after having worked there over his break. Then a couple of weeks later Gabriel got sick. Our pediatrician diagnosed him with pneumonia, but she didn’t do the tests determining the pathogen as it would’ve taken too much time. The three of us were sick with it for well over a month. Oksana also had some sicknesses unrelated to our pneumonia. Her doctor says her immune system is still not completely recovered.

COVID-19. The coronavirus continues to impact our lives here. Russia took a break between May 1 and May 9. May 1 is a national holiday, similar to Labor Day in America. May 9 is the big holiday—the Day of Victory celebrating the victory over the Nazis who occupied this country for so long. On May 11 Putin announced the end of the “no work days.” Schools resumed their on-line studies and folks all over the country went back to work. More stores were open, although I think the restaurants are still closed. I thought we might have a bit more freedom of movement here in Luga, but it was actually the opposite for me. I went for my regular walk, and there were very few people out. The public address system on the square was announcing we were to stay home. Since I was about the only person down there I assumed they were talking to me.

The rate of new cases has been dropping slightly now for about a week. It looks like Russia has plateaued. Russia has only had 2,837 deaths from COVID-19, compared to 91,981 in the U.S. Despite assurances from WHO representatives here, the NY Times and others continue to assert Russia is lying. Again, they offer no evidence, but they have never needed actual evidence to bash Russia. CNN made some ridiculous claims about how it is here. No surprise there.

Other articles portray Putin as out of touch, passive, or on the brink of complete failure, so I’d like to address that. For my information I check TASS and then the Kremlin web-site most every day. I have continued to watch videos of meetings Putin has, and the Kremlin posts the actual texts of his meetings and addresses on-line. He is far from passive or out of touch. I don’t agree with all his policies, but he goes over every significant detail in their meetings. For example, not all the money allocated as bonuses for health care workers was spent last month, and he wanted to know why. He was obviously very familiar with what the leaders were doing. I think there is a developing tension between him and the Mayor of Moscow, who seems to be using COVID to expand his powers in the way many leaders in America are doing. (See the lengthy article https://southfront.org/russias-covid-game-of-elites/?fbclid=IwAR1QQIeNznVthPpaos7QASt19hKxop2-2zSi_SU5-jv9JSVc3nva8LVnrZ4)

Russia, like many countries, closed its borders. This has been frustrating for friends of ours. One family was completely ready to move from the U.S. to Russia when this happened. The husband had already quit his job. Now they are stuck. Another family who visited with us for a couple of weeks last year was in the last stages of making preparations to move to a home about 10-15 minutes from us. Fortunately, they had not quit working, but they had sold their home, a lot of their furniture and other items. We have been greatly looking forward to having another American family nearby. So we’re very anxious for the travel ban to be lifted so these families can resettle here in Russia.

Although we have been here four years now, I still miss having friends I can sit and chat with in my own language from my own culture.

The good news. I have mentioned several times the positive aspects of living here, so I’ll briefly review. The cost of living is much lower. We took some money out of my retirement to buy this home in cash. I could not have done that in America. When we sold our home and car in America, we paid off our credit card and other debts. We are a family of 5 with one in college in St. Petersburg where we rent an apartment. We’re still out of debt. There is no way that would have happened in America. Health care is so much cheaper in Russia, and the quality of the care is better here than what we were getting in America. One of the bills we paid off when we sold our house in the U.S. was our hospital bill from the birth of Marina Grace. It would have been free in Russia.

We are a traditional Orthodox Christian family, and traditional morals are still honored here. Now, I do not mean everyone here thinks like we do or agrees with us on religion. I mean that the kinds of values and standards we want our children to grow up with are respected here. That was not true in America. We saw the American government becoming more invasive as far as telling families how to live. A conspiracy theory is believing something to be true, even though there is no evidence. Something is a theory when it is not based on real evidence. We saw the evidence.

Russia is more peaceful than America. I mean that in two ways. First, people here disagree over politics or a number of other issues without becoming emotional or offensive. There are some radicals (usually very pro-Western) who have their marches and get angry, but they are a small minority usually in larger cities. Politics is not something friends cease being friends over in Russia. We learned the hard way that is not true in America.

Second, this is not a nation that relishes war or conflict. Oh, I heard one American politician, whose name I do not recall, say that Putin gets up every morning thinking of how he can disrupt the situation in America. I think many people in America think that. I think it is an empty-headed, narcissistic view. It really is a conspiracy theory. Putin is focused on Russia. Russia does have an unbelievable array of weapon systems. I admit, as an ol’ U.S. Marine I love watching the videos and reading about them. Russia does not park them on some other country’s doorsteps, however. They really are for defending Russian borders.

I’m quite aware many Americans are absolutely convinced what I said about Russia being defensive only is completely wrong. American politicians love telling people how Russia is out to wreak havoc around the world, and especially in America. Putin, they say, is a sly, devious and dangerous politician. I majored in psychology in my university studies. You don’t have to be a psych major to know who Carl Jung is. Jung did a picture-book illustrating his views on the way the human mind works. One was a picture of Adolf Hitler. I don’t have the exact quote, but the line below it essentially said, “This man is going to set all of Europe ablaze with his incendiary dreams of world domination.” At first glance, one thinks it is a quote about Hitler. Upon closer examination you learn it was actually what Hitler said about Winston Churchill. This is Jung’s illustration of the psychological concept of projection. Politicians often project onto another leader their own deep seated machinations. I think American politicians project onto Putin what they are trying to do with their 800 bases on foreign soil and missile launching systems within range of the borders of Russia. Before you write and make sure I know how devious Putin is, please watch that link to the Tucker Carlson video I posted above. It clearly shows the line of D.C. leaders lying to the American people about evidence of collusion they knew of, while quietly admitting under oath they had seen no such evidence.

It is America that is looking for war. You don’t build 800-900 military bases outside your borders and put weapon systems as close to the borders of other countries as possible because you’re peaceful. You do that to provoke. “National security” is when you protect your own borders. I’m not saying most Americans want war. I’m saying the American government is funded by people who want war. It is not like that here.

So after four years our perspective has not changed. We still miss our family and friends in America. We still talk about fun places we use to go to as a family when we lived in America. But we do not miss America. We do not regret coming to Russia. We are very glad we did. And the more we see events unfolding now as a result of the COVID controversy we are even more relieved. There are restrictions here that I really don’t like, but they are not unreasonable violations of the Russian Constitution. I cannot say that of what is going on in America. I deeply, deeply grieve over what I am seeing both domestically and in terms of foreign policies and practices in my native land.

Given my criticisms of America, I have been asked if I have lost my love for my country. There is an old article by Randolph Bourne, wherein he distinguishes between “country,” “state,” and “government.” The country is “the non-political aspects of people.” It includes “the loose population spreading over a certain geographic portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogenous civilization.” A country is the people, the place, the land and language. Yes, I still love my country. The State is the country acting as a political unit; it is the group “acting as a repository of force.” A significant part of its focus is international and is involved in “power politics.” The Government is the “machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions.” At present I have no love for this group which is acting as a repository of force. I think they are the ones who have lost their love for the country as Bourne defines it.