ON THE AGENDA TODAY
MOURNING IN MOSCOW
Today is Vitaly Churkin’s funeral in Moscow. Recall Churkin died suddenly after he was rushed to the hospital on Monday while at work in the Russian Mission to the United Nations at 9:30am EST. The next day Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left flowers for a memorial for the fallen diplomat (there have been many such deaths in recent months, starting with the very public assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in a gallery in Ankara, kicking off the “campaign” of death of senior Russian diplomats and intelligence officials). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the essential photograph of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with Churkin’s casket.
“INTELLIGENCE SHOULD NOT INTERFERE WITH POLITICS”
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, once told American television audiences, “We don’t want politics interfering with intelligence and we certainly don’t want intelligence interfering with politics.” Now CNN reports that the White House tried to order the FBI to come out swinging against stories published by CNN and The New York Times and the FBI refused. The White House effort came after members of Congress “were voicing concern about Russia’s efforts to influence individuals with ties to Trump.” Democrats naturally pounced, and Republicans should join them.
LOOSE NUKES CAN KILL US ALL
Reuters has an exclusive Oval Office interview with Trump. The lede will induce cardiac arrest if you believe, as I do, that Trump is a dangerous lunatic. Reuters discussed with Trump the thing that makes thoughts of a future needless: nuclear weapons. While we wait for the nuclear exchange, you can read all about how Trump wants the US to remain at the “top of the pack” (where we were before he took office) and his musings on North Korea, China, and our great new friends in Moscow who can do very little for us other than destroy us. Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary from 1994-1997 William J. Perry concurs, “Nuclear parity does not equal nuclear strength.” Exhale thinking of McMaster and Mattis, if that helps.
RESHUFFLE THE DECK UNTIL THE JOKER IS GONE
The New York Times reports Trump’s new National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster hopes to undo some parts of the changes White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon made to the National Security Council in the absence of adults in the room who weren’t compromised by Russia during the blitzkrieg of enfant terriblism of Trump’s first 10 days. The reorganization would place McMaster in charge of Homeland Security and “guarantee access to the military and intelligence agencies.” As long as those positions are occupied by adults that are better than the current horror, as it has been reported (implying the true horror may be far worse).
From The New York Times.
THERE’S A REASON FOR THIS TREASON
The Ukrainian Member of Parliament Andrii Artemenko implicated in a recent New York Times report is talking to CNN as the Ukrainian Parliament, the Rada, opened an investigation into what investigators have termed treason. Artemenko tells CNN that he discussed “his left-field proposal for Ukraine” which also happens to be “pro-Russian” with Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, over lunch at a Manhattan restaurant in January. He hints there might have been “a lease” of Crimea to Moscow for 50 or 100 years may have been involved in the plan. He also says Felix Sater facilitated the introduction to Cohen and that the three had dinner in Manhattan in January. Cohen denies the part of the report that says Ukraine was discussed over the meals in Manhattan as the White House continues to deny the report entirely.
MEMORIES OF MAIDAN
Rep. Mike Quigley writes for POLITICO Magazine from Kyiv. He recounts the early days of post-Maidan after Yanukovych had fled and informs us that he’s landed in Kyiv now, just as the mud of the two nations’ politics becomes one – and yes, he’s on the House Intelligence Committee. Quigley correctly assesses, “The Russian government provided support – material and otherwise – to spread disinformation, sow confusion and quell the protests.” He adds, “Russia has only become more emboldened since November 8.”
From POLITICO Magazine.
THE LITHUANIAN LISA CASE
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Czech General Petr Pavel, Head of NATO’s military committee, spoke last weekend in Munich at the Security Conference there about a case of Russian disinformation in Lithuania that was unsuccessful. Deutsche Welle unpacks the story a bit more, labeling it the “Lithuanian Lisa” case. In the original Lisa case, Russian disinformation alleged a rape that never occurred in the German capital; in this latest case, disinformation arrived to a parliamentarian claiming German soldiers had raped a Lithuanian teenager. The story was quickly debunked.
From Deutsche Welle.
RADIO MOSCOW: STORIES FROM THEIR PRESS AND OURS
STILL THE SAME
Reuters has video of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford at the Brookings Institute. Last week he met with his Russian counterpart, Valeriy Gerasimov in Baku, Azerbaijan. “Transforming NATO to meet the security challenges that we confront today,” offers more reassurance to those who feel we might be walking back from the brink. Just remember: we have yet to enter the most dangerous phase of this crisis/national emergency yet.
PRECIOUS BODILY FLUIDS
Don’t be like Edward Snowden and tell anyone you have never seen “Dr. Strangelove” these days. If you are like me, it was the first film you watched after the so-called “will of the American people” aligned perfectly with the certain will of the Kremlin, after the hives, tears, alcohol and serious girl bonding last November. War Is Boring is here to unpack a little bit of the horror of certain nuclear annihilation if this continues much longer in the context of Stanley Kubrick’s film and why a lunatic like Donald Trump in control of America’s nuclear arsenal makes us all so edgy. The most difficult truth here is “anything that separates Trump from the nation’s most powerful weapons may offer some measure of comfort to his harshest critics,” – oh it does, some measure – “…But it shouldn’t. A frail command-and-control apparatus over the nuclear arsenal virtually invites” adversaries to test the U.S. Guess what? We’re failing that test!
From War Is Boring.
“KILLER, KLEPTOCRAT, GENIUS, SPY”
Keith Gessen unpacks all the wonderful myths and theories we in the West have come up with about Putin to compensate for our overall inattention to grand strategy and deep obsession with personalities, never satiated even with hours of mind numbing reality television. It’s a nice touch that Gessen calls Trump “our new American Putin”. Horror. A second nice touch? Comparing Putin to Yeltsin when Yeltsin renounced the presidency and handed the reigns to Putin who “though younger and healthier, he nonetheless managed to more closely resemble death.”
From The Guardian.
BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF THE WEST
James Kirchik writes in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the ideological battle for the West as one of two personalities: Steve Bannon and Angela Merkel. It seems like gross reductionism or maybe that is the allergy to retrograde Leninism in the form of Bannon, who lacks the proficiency in the instruments of bureaucracy or the right country, not broken nearly enough, for his project of racist social deconstruction. In any case, too often Americans view Merkel as the German mother of European cohesion, so the reminder that Merkel “grew up in communism in East Germany, innately understands Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a threat to Western values and security.”
If Vlad was looking for respect, helping install a “leader” who 58 percent of Americans are embarrassed by is probably not the way to go. But a starker fact remains: more than one in four are proud of this lunatic reality show narcissist. It’s all cause for embarrassment.
From The Washington Post.
TALES FROM SOVIET AMERICA
In the post-Soviet world, it’s not uncommon that you might supply some items for a relative in the hospital, or perhaps give the doctor a little something extra to facilitate good treatment. In Arizona, the state’s manual for execution procedures has been revised so that those sentenced to death can bring their own cocktail of pentobarbital or sodium Pentothal “and give them to the state to ensure a smooth execution”. To be clear, this is nothing the Russians have done to us, this complete surreal detail in the Arizona state justice system is all American. It’s a completely bonkers story of inhumanity under the guise of humanity – a trend I said to expect just yesterday!
From The Washington Post.
THE POWER OF MUSIC AND DANCE
The Calvert Journal previews “Era of Dance,” a documentary about Riga’s rave scene which traces the huge techno-beat dance parties “back to its origin in 1986”. The Russian language version opens in March, hopefully soon in English/Western languages?
From The Calvert Journal.
CHICAGO EU FILM FESTIVAL
While most of America goes crazy for college basketball during March Madness, TRUMPISTAN WATCH is compiled by someone who created the Eastern European Film Club in college, so March in Chicago at World Resistance HQ means the European Union Film Festival is here! Festival passes are $55 for 6 tickets and a small popcorn to go with each film, tickets per film are $11.
Some films that look interesting from the EU’s Eastern edge: “The Fabulous Baron Munchasen,” (Czech Republic, 1962); “Losers,” (Bulgaria, 2015); “The Fixer,” (Romania, 2016); “2 Nights Till Morning,” (Finland/Lithuania); “Family Film,” (Czech Republic, 2015); “Walpurgis Night,” (Poland, 2015); “Dawn,” (Latvia, 2015); “Godless,” (Bulgaria, 2016); “Master and Tatyana,” (Lithuania, 2015); “On the Other Side,” (Croatia, 2016) and “Austerlitz,” (Germany, 2016). Full festival schedule.
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