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.