Of course it’s all about oil… Putin, Trump, and the campaign to keep the world addicted to fossil fuels

allaboutoil

I’ve been struggling since the election to catch even a glimpse of the big picture. Like many of you, despite my best intentions, I tend to get swept up in the horror of the day. I want to look dispassionately at all the moving pieces and see if I can maybe find some logic in it, some semblance of an overarching narrative that makes sense, but then Trump comes out, like he did not too long ago, saying that we need a new nuclear arms race, and I find myself running off on a tangent, writing letters to my elected officials, and trying, as best that I can, to understand all the ways in which this might lead to the untimely death of my family. And, as a result, I rarely find myself making bigger connections. The closest I came was a few weeks ago, when, for whatever reason, a bunch of pieces started falling into place for me about why Putin might have invested so heavily in the prospect of a Trump win. As you may recall, this high level narrative of mine had to do with a desire on the part of Putin to see renewables fail in favor of oil. Well, as I’ve got a little time on my hands tonight, I’ve decided to pick up where and left off and see where it might lead, in hopes that more pieces might start falling into place.

Before we speculate as to the role of oil in all of this, though, let’s go over the things that we know to be true. We know that the nation is divided, and that this was an incredibly tight race. We know that Clinton probably won the popular vote by close to 3 million ballots. [The current tally has her popular vote lead at 2,864,974.] And we know that Trump won the Electoral College thanks to just three states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – where he won by just 10,704 votes, 22,748 votes, and 44,292 votes respectively. To put that in perspective, this means that, had just 77,744 people in those three states not voted for Trump, Clinton would be our President. [To give you a sense of just how infinitesimal this amount is, in Washtenaw County, Michigan alone, Clinton won by over 77,000 votes.] And we know, given how tight the race was, that even the smallest of factors may have contributed to the Trump victory.

As for what factors may have played a role, there are several. The fact that Obamacare premiums rose right before the election certainly didn’t help. And, as we discussed on the Saturday Six Pack just after the election with former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer, Clinton, it would appear, ignored warning signs in the Midwest, choosing not to visit a single college campus, union hall, or Arab American community center in Michigan, and not so much as stepping foot in Wisconsin once. With all of that said, though, Clinton, as we know now, also faced formidable enemies both foreign and domestic.

Just days before the election, FBI Directory Jame Comey made it public that he’d be reopening an investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified emails, essentially stopping any momentum that was building on the Clinton side. And, as if this weren’t enough, we also know that, in the unanimous opinion of our 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, Russian operatives both disseminated false news stories and illegally hacked into the email accounts of several DNC employees and Clinton campaign staffers, sharing what they found by way of Wikileaks, in hopes of influencing the outcome of the election.

For those of you who are interested, the U.S. intelligence report, which was just declassified yesterday, says the following concerning Putin’s involvement in the election: “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

And it’s this question of why Russia would back Trump that’s most perplexed me over the past few months, since it became known that they’d been working on Trump’s behalf… I mean, I have a fairly good sense as to why there’s bad blood for the Clintons inside the FBI, but I’ve struggled to understand why it is that the Russians would prefer someone like Trump, who, at least on the surface, seems to be completely unpredictable, to be the President of the United States. [See the link above about how he’d like to bring back the nuclear arms race, which, as you might recall, pretty much bankrupted the Soviet Union.] And that’s what I hope to get at today… Why Russia developed what our intelligence officers refer to as a “clear preference” for Trump.

I should start out by saying that I have little doubt that, when all of this first started, Putin din’t think Trump stood much of a chance against the Clinton machine, which had been gearing up for this race since 2008. I’m sure that Putin, who is no fan of the Clintons, took a great deal of pleasure in sharing false news stories about the Democratic candidate online, and driving wedges between various factions of the Democratic party. [As you’ll recall, most of emails they chose to leak were selected because they validated the perception on the left that Senator Bernie Sanders never had chance against Clinton, given the Party’s alegiance to the former Secretary of State, and the fact that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the head of the Party, had been Clinton’s campaign director in 2008.] I suspect, as others have suggested, that Putin’s primary intent, at least at first, was just to sow discord in the United States and set the groundwork for an ineffective Clinton administration, besieged by false stories and hamstrung by Republican investigations. But, as the campaign wore on, I imagine the Russians started ramping up their activities in response to candidate Trump’s favorable showings. [Let’s remember that it was apparently Paul Manafort, who has extensive ties to Russia, who told Trump to focus on Michigan in the days prior to the election. More on Manafort, Trump’s initial campaign director, in just a second.]

Trump was a known entity to the Russians.

While, as I said before, Trump can come off as unpredictable to us, the Russians, I’m sure, felt as though they had a pretty decent handle on him. After all, Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had worked for many years for Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine. And, of course, there are the many business connections that investigative reporters have already uncovered, no thanks to Trump, who still hasn’t released his tax returns.

Following are three points from Talking Points Memo about the financial connections between Trump and Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin.

1. All the other discussions of Trump’s finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.

2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin.

3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld.

Relevant to the second point, here’s an interesting quote from Trump’s son, Donald Jr., as reported by the Washington Post earlier this year. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” [This, according to the article, was said at a 2008 real estate conference.] And Trump himself said in a 2007 deposition, “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

So, having been turned away by every bank in the United States, where he’s known to be a crook and swindler, Trump apparently cozied up to Russians like Aras Agalarov, who was among those in 2013 to pony up a reported $14 million to bring Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. [It’s been reported that Agalarov and Trump have also talked about building a Trump Tower in Moscow.]

And it’s not just that Russia’s oligarchs and the Trump organization are deeply intertwined financially. Trump’s worldview, either by coincidence, or thanks to something more nefarious, aligns with Putin’s.

In an article posted not too long ago by The Atlantic’s titled It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin, Jeffrey Goldberg put’s it this way. “I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is employed by Putin… I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of ‘strength’ often associated with dictators. Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.”

And, as we witnessed during the campaign, Trump’s platform increasingly mirrored Putin’s over time. As you may recall, Trump suggested to the New York Times, for instance, that we may have to reduce our military presence in the world. He even went so far as to say that, if he were elected President, he may not automatically honor the security guarantees we have with other NATO nations. “He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back,” wrote the article’s authors. “For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations ‘have fulfilled their obligations to us’.” [Putin hates NATO, and the fact that it’s expanding. He has said, the U.S. and Nato want to “sit on the throne in Europe alone”. He has also threatened to move Russian troops closer to Finland if they join NATO.]

Then, just before the Republican National Convention, the Republican party, as you may also recall, released their new platform for 2016. The New York Times called it “the most extreme Republican platform in memory.” Among other things, according to the Times, this new platform outlined positions “making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a ‘clean’ energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing ‘family values’ judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week.” This apparently came to pass largely because Donald Trump, who would go on stage just a few days later to accept the party’s nomination for President, didn’t push back. With one notable exception, Trump and his team accepted everything that was suggested without debate. And that one exception, as you can probably guess, involved Russia.

According to Talking Points Memo, “The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine.” [More on the Ukraine in a moment.] Interesting, to say the least.

And that happened, as I said, just prior to the Republican National Convention, at a time when Paul Manafort was still Trumps campaign director, a position he would hold until August, when it came out in the press that Manafort may have illegally received $12.7 million in off-the-books funds from Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine.

And having a friend in the White House would obviously be important for Russia, a once great world power that, by all objective standards, had fallen into decline over the past several decades.

Since the Soviet Union lost its war in Afghanistan in ’89, things just haven’t been the same for the former superpower. And, with the fall of the USSR in ’91, the once powerful country’s influence on the world stage has been relatively nonexistent. Not only has Russia lost its power, but the west had been creeping closer, with Baltic states joining NATO. And, in 2014, after just four years in power, Putin’s man in the Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was forced to flee the country for southern Russia in order to avoid charges of high treason, a new pro-western regime came to power. [There is a warrant for Yanukovych’s arrest in Ukraine for the “mass killing of civilians.”]

And, while we’re talking about the Ukraine, here’s one more thing… If you have any question as to how dirty Russia is willing to play in order to maintain control over the region, it’s worth remembering that evidence would seem to indicate that they had a hand in poisoning Yanukovych’s pro-Western rival, Viktor Yushchenko, back in 2004.]

To put it simply, Russia, despite the bluster, has been failing under Putin. Here, from The Diplomat, is a clip a 2014 article titled “Russia is Doomed.” This section relates specifically to energy reserves – one of four “pillars of Russian power” the authors describe as “steadily declining.”

…Another source of modern Russian power has been its massive energy reserves. Indeed, high oil prices during the 1970s allowed the Soviet Union to flex its muscles abroad. However, as energy prices stabilized during the 1980s the artifice upon which the Soviet system began to crumble. Far from continuing to expand, the end of the decade saw the Soviet empire disintegrate, with Moscow powerless to stop it.

The so-called resurgence Russia has enjoyed since Putin first assumed power has also been built on high energy prices. And like the Soviet leaders before him, Putin has squandered the temporary respite provided by high energy prices instead of using it to reinvest in the country and its people. As the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development noted gloomily in December 2012, “Not only are Russian exports highly concentrated in natural resources, this concentration has increased over time: the shares of oil, gas and other minerals in Russia’s exports are higher today than they were 15 years ago.”

It went on to reflect: “In 2012 Russia remains highly dependent on its natural resources. Oil and gas now account for nearly 70 percent of total goods exports…. Oil and gas revenues also contribute around half of the federal budget. The non-oil fiscal deficit has averaged more than 11 per cent of GDP since 2009, while the oil price consistent with a balanced budget is now in the region of US$115 per barrel and rising.”

The problem with the Russian Federation’s economic model, much like that of the Soviet Union’s before it, is that it is only sustainable so long as energy prices remain artificially high. But, of course, energy prices are almost certainly going to decline over the coming years as a result of greater energy efficiency in the West, slowing growth in the East, and greater supply as a result of the energy revolutions being enjoyed in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere around the world. And as goes the price of oil so goes the Russian state…

Be sure to go back and read that last paragraph, in case you missed it… The Russian economic model is only sustainable “so long as energy prices remain artificially high.” And, more importantly, “energy prices are almost certainly going to decline over the coming years as a result of greater energy efficiency in the West.” So, as the world migrates to renewables, the Russian state, having not diversified, is going to suffer.

In March 2014, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham summed it up rather well. Russia, he said, is merely “an oil and gas company masquerading as a country.” Some took offense at the comment. From what I’ve seen, though, most saw some truth in it. The Carnegie organization, for instance, after saying that Graham’s assertion came across as absurd at first blush, essentially acquiesced, detailing in a 2014 report just how “ heavily dependent on oil” Russia’s economy was.

So, as solar and wind are beginning to outperform fossil fuels, we have Russia that has essentially put all of its eggs in the “oil and gas” basket, refusing to either invest in renewables, or, for that matter, diversify their economy in any way. Instead, they continue, as Sarah Palin would say, to “drill, baby, drill,” ignoring the reality of global climate change and the fact that wind and solar are growing more competitive by the day.

OK, so here’s where things get interesting… The Russians helped Trump get elected, and Trump then promptly named Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, a close collaborator with the Russians, to be his Secretary of State… Here, from CNN, is a clip about Tillerson’s deep economic ties to Russia.

…In 2013, Vladimir Putin awarded ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens…

The 64-year-old Tillerson, a lifetime Exxon employee, came up through the ranks by managing the company’s Russia account…

In fact, his close relationship with Russia is one of the major reasons Tillerson was selected to succeed Lee Raymond as CEO of Exxon (XOM) in 2006, according to Steve Coll’s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”

Once he became CEO, Exxon bet billions on Russia’s vast but notoriously-elusive oil resources through a bold partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal with Rosneft, which is majority owned by Moscow.

Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat.

“Trump continues to amaze,” Alexey Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, said on Twitter. He said that selecting Tillerson would be a “sensation” and noted he has “a lot of experience working with Russia”…

Here are Tillerson and Putin together, sharing a laugh. Judging by how happy they look, I’d say it was taken either since Trump won, or prior to 2014, when sanctions levied by the Obama administration killed a $500 billion dollar oil joint exploration venture in the Arctic between Russia and Exxon.

tillersonputin

And that’s what I think all of this is really about, when you strip everything else away. This is about not just killing NATO, and allowing Russia to re-exert its dominance in Europe, but ensuring that oil remain our global currency.

Obama, to put it simply, was bad for big oil.

Obama killed a $500 billion dollar oil project in the Artic, so Putin invested in a candidate who would not only give him what he wanted in the Arctic, but also effectively stop research into alternative energy, global climate change, etc. [Relevant recent headlines: “Trump just proposed ending all federal clean energy development,” “Trump transition team for Energy Department seeks names of employees involved in climate meetings“] It’s difficult to imagine that Putin could have dreamed of a better scenario. Not only will Exxon be running the State Department, but the United States – the world’s largest market – will remain on the oil teat for the foreseeable future.

For what it’s worth, though, Obama seems to be fighting back, at least to the extent that he’s able to. Last week, the White House announced a joint resolution with Canada to freeze offshore oil and gas leasing in the Arctic. What’s more, the apparently added language that would make the agreement reviewable every five years on the basis of an assessment to be done by marine and climate scientists. On the face of it, it was done to protect the marine species and ecological resources of the region, which cover some 125 million acres spread between the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea, but, one would imagine, it could also complicate any plans that Trump and Putin might have in the region.

We’ll have to see how it all plays out, but, if I were you, I’d pay special attention to Exxon and the Arctic over the next four years.

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34 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    It’s always about money and power.

  2. wobblie
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Just keep drinking that CIA Kool-Aid.

  3. wobblie
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Since you all believe Clapper (the head of the CIA) who lied under oath to Congress about the extent of CIA domestic surveillance data collection efforts) , you must believe the story of the evil Putin hacking the Vermont utility. Obviously part of the nefarious plan to undue our energy delivery systems. We are being manipulated, and liberals are falling all over themselves believing utter rubbish. It was this kind of manipulation that got us all cheering the Afgan war, (does anyone even remember that the Taliban agreed to turn over Ben Laden but the need for war was just too great) the precursor to our illegal wars of aggression in the middle east. Their will be a judgment day for our country and it won’t be pretty.

  4. EOS
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Wobblie,

    Excellent analysis.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Wobblie, are you saying that the Russians had nothing to do with hacking our election and that this is all just a false story perpetuated by the left? You are aware, I assume, that it’s not just the CIA that believes they were involved, correct? The FBI and over a dozen other intelligence agencies are in agreement that Russia interceded on behalf of Trump, hacking both the RNC and DNC, but only releasing information helpful to the Trump campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia was involved, but why.

  6. Demetrius
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    @ wobblie

    I don’t think Mark is saying we should believe Clapper or the CIA without question – but instead, that what is in the intelligence report dovetails rather remarkably with other information that has been reported by a number of other sources, along with developments we’ve all been able to observe directly.

    It will probably be decades before we understand all the machinations between global political leaders and corporate titans that conspired to lead us to our current predicament, but this much is clear: The near future is likely to be very good for energy companies, makers of military weapons and guns, and oligarchs (in the U.S., Russia, and beyond) … and very bad for working people, the poor, the environment, public health, etc.

    Does anybody really think this is merely a coincidence?

  7. Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    From Three Days of the Condor:

    condor

  8. Jean Henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Mark is fighting a valiant fight against fake news. It’s exhausting. His analysis in this case is spot on. Russia is in a serious economic pickle. Donald is their way out. And they have him over a barrel. He is not in position to say no to them. http://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/12/19/the-curious-world-of-donald-trumps-private-russian-connections/

    It’s been interesting watching the alt left (esp Greenwald and co) and alt right fall all over themselves to defend Russia and Putin (and Assange and Snowden, their heroes). They think the whole fake news issue was created by the media to suppress the REAL TRUTH. Please note bros on alt left and right now using the hashtage #fakenews with sarcasm. There is no hope of reaching them. The fortress of their logic model is impenetrable.

    The general argument is that the rest of us want the cold war back soooooo much we’ll say or fall for anything that gets is there. It makes no sense. We gained no over all economic benefit from the wars in the Middle East (though clearly that was the original intent). War no longer provides economic return in the way it did. Except for Military Contractors. But they seem to make money whether we are at war or peace. The best path to avoiding future wars is ending our dependency on oil. That is not something Trump or Russia have any interest in pursuing.

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Anonymous– many on the far left believe as well that this is false news story fabricated by the establishment the elites or whatever other term you prefer.

    The left right axis is not as clearly parsed as most believe.

  10. Jean Henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Mark, if I were you, I would remove Glen Greenwald and the Intercept from your list of favored blogs: https://theintercept.com/2017/01/04/washpost-is-richly-rewarded-for-false-news-about-russia-threat-while-public-is-deceived/

  11. Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Additional reading from PBS on the influence of Big Oil during the Bush/Cheney years.

    During his first month in office, President George W. Bush appointed Vice President Dick Cheney to head a task force charged with developing the country’s energy policy. The group, which conducted its meetings in secret, relied on the recommendations of Big Oil behemoths Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Shell Oil, BP America and Chevron. It would be the first of many moves to come during the Bush administration that would position oil and gas companies well ahead of other energy interests with billions of dollars in subsidies and tax cuts—payback for an industry with strong ties to the administration and plenty of money to contribute to congressional and presidential campaigns.

    During the time that Bush and Cheney, both of whom are former oil executives, have been in the White House, the oil and gas industry has spent $393.2 million on lobbying the federal government. This places the industry among the top nine in lobbying expenditures. The industry has also contributed a substantial $82.1 million to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 80 percent of the industry’s contributions have gone to Republicans…

    And, again, this was all done in secret.

    Well, now Big Oil has the White House again.

  12. Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Yeah, it’s probably time for me to reconsider a lot of my links. Thanks for the reminder, Jean.

  13. Jean Henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    strange times: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/12/glenn-greenwald-tucker-carlson-unite-to-dismiss-russian-hacking-allegations.html

  14. Jcp2
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    That’s the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in his book Unweaving the Rainbow. Although he was writing about how science gets taught, Dawkins’ desire for restoring balance happens in most matters where people have passionate beliefs. A movement bursts on the scene, spearheaded by the most ardent and committed members. People are impressed by the purity of the message and the clear direction it provides on how to act. The newest recruits become some of the strongest proponents. Seemingly overnight, what had been obscure becomes common knowledge, and what the new movement is reacting against is seen as the folly of a less enlightened time.

    Over time, however, most people find that the new movement pushed the pendulum too far. Through experimentation and going about their lives, people find what’s most useful from the movement’s message. What’s helpful, they keep; what’s not, they begin to ignore. The pendulum starts to move back to the center.

  15. Bob
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Jean, who are the many on the left who believe this?

  16. jean henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    They are the bros you don’t think exist. Hyborian– who was a Vernie supporter represents an extreme fringe in that he actually voted for Trump, but I know plenty who fall on the spectrum from there who believe the whole Russian thing is a Ci A con. Read Glen Greemwald’s Intercept. Or watch his recent fox interview with Tucker Carlson.

  17. jean henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Pardon typos– cold fingers on phone again. Here is a link: http://www.salon.com/2016/12/30/watch-glenn-greenwald-tucker-carlson-share-skepticism-over-russian-hacking-story/
    Progressive social media sites have been dominated by bros for a while now (80% white male). They tend towards the libertarian but not always. They love Assamge and Greenwald and Snowden without question. These are their heroes. They find common cause in concerns about personal privacy and tend towards the conspiratorial. They cued up the alt rights HRC conspiracy theories for the left’s consumption. Bernie supporters bought those politically convenient lies without much question.
    Not all bros are men. Mostly men but not all. (This seems so obvious I can’t believe I have to say it but make gendered words are sometimes used to represent groups containing women, Guys.) Laura Poitras is a film maker/artist in their group, but she has more objectivity and should now her doc on Assange came out in May seems to be either out of favor or steering clear of their media moments. Not so surprisingly, I have no problem with Poitras. Can’t say that about all women on the alt left. As a political group, like most political groups, they are right about some important issues. The moral certainty is what concerns me. Morally certain people are easy mark’s for con artists.

  18. Bob
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    “Alt-Left” had to be the stupidest, most meaningless buzz word of the year. Your continued use of the word “bros” to describe anyone who criticizes Hillary, or disagrees with you is even worse. Bros seems about as stupid and offensive as men who refer to women as bitches. You just strike me as an incredibly narrow minded, unhappy and humorless person. I think I pity you more than Pete at this point. I’m done even thinking about you.

  19. jean henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    ‘I’m done even thinking about you.’ — I’m cool with that, Bob.

  20. stupid hick
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I dunno, I’ll have to study what GG said about Wapo and Russia, but going all the way back to his “Unclaimed Territory” blog, IMO, his record as a media critic has been impeccable.

  21. jean henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Assange’s love of transparency is selective.
    http://www.salon.com/2017/01/06/wikileaks-alleges-someone-in-the-white-house-is-leaking-things-and-thats-making-them-mad/

    Plus they recently threatened via twitter ( and then deleted tweet) to reveal the personal information, including phone and address, of all verified twitter accounts, putting journalists and whistle blowers at greater risk. Because they are very committed to airing the truth.

    Greenwald has yet to distance himself from Assange.

  22. jean henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Oops. I was wrong. Greenwald has gone toe to toe with Wikileaks on twitter (rumored to be Assange himself) , but he’s backing up Assange on the Russia hacks.
    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/43410_Slap_Fight_of_the_Day-_Wikileaks_vs_Pernicious_G

  23. Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I just see that this post has “one” like on Facebook. I’m just glad that one of you appreciated it.

  24. Jean Henry
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    two.

  25. Politico
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    “Information warfare is not about creating an alternate truth, but eroding our basic ability to distinguish truth at all.”

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/putins-real-long-game-214589

  26. wobblie
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I don’t doubt that it is all about oil and energy and power and profit. Clearly the ruling oligarchs are divided. The divisions are also clearly not always drawn on party lines. Many Democrats will climb into bed with war mongers like McCain and Graham. Almost the entire ruling elite is in opposition to Trump. I expect he will cave (much like Obama clearly did–the appointment of Gates as Secretary of Defense should have been a signal that he would tow the neocon agenda). In fact much of the media seems to have decided that Trumps meeting with Clapper on Friday signaled the beginning of his capitulation. We’ll have to wait and see if Trump will role over for the neocons, or start firing them on January 20th.
    Who really wants Pence to be President?

  27. Meta
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    A great article, Politico.

    To understand the shift underway in the world, and to stop being outmaneuvered, we first need to see the Russian state for what it really is. Twenty-five years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed. This freed the Russian security state from its last constraints. In 1991, there were around 800,000 official KGB agents in Russia. They spent a decade reorganizing themselves into the newly-minted FSB, expanding and absorbing other instruments of power, including criminal networks, other security services, economic interests, and parts of the political elite. They rejected the liberal, democratic Russia that President Boris Yeltsin was trying to build.

    Following the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings that the FSB almost certainly planned, former FSB director Vladimir Putin was installed as President. We should not ignore the significance of these events. An internal operation planned by the security services killed hundreds of Russian citizens. It was used as the pretext to re-launch a bloody, devastating internal war led by emergent strongman Putin. Tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and fighters and Russian conscripts died. The narrative was controlled to make the enemy clear and Putin victorious. This information environment forced a specific political objective: Yeltsin resigned and handed power to Putin on New Year’s Eve 1999.

    From beginning to end, the operation took three months. This is how the Russian security state shook off the controls of political councils or representative democracy. This is how it thinks and how it acts — then, and now. Blood or war might be required, but controlling information and the national response to that information is what matters. Many Russians, scarred by the unrelenting economic, social, and security hardship of the 1990s, welcomed the rise of the security state, and still widely support it, even as it has hollowed out the Russian economy and civic institutions. Today, as a result, Russia is little more than a ghastly hybrid of an overblown police state and a criminal network with an economy the size of Italy — and the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

    Even Russian policy hands, raised on the Western understanding of traditional power dynamics, find the implications of this hard to understand. This Russia does not aspire to be like us, or to make itself stronger than we are. Rather, its leaders want the West—and specifically NATO and America — to become weaker and more fractured until we are as broken as they perceive themselves to be. No reset can be successful, regardless the personality driving it, because Putin’s Russia requires the United States of America as its enemy.

    We can only confront this by fully understanding how the Kremlin sees the world. Its worldview and objectives are made abundantly clear in speeches, op-eds, official policy and national strategy documents, journal articles, interviews, and, in some cases, fiction writing of Russian officials and ideologues. We should understand several things from this material.

    First, it is a war. A thing to be won, decisively — not a thing to be negotiated or bargained. It’s all one war: Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, the Baltics, Georgia. It’s what Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s ‘grey cardinal’ and lead propagandist, dubbed ”non-linear war” in his science fiction story “Without Sky,” in 2014.

    Second, it’s all one war machine. Military, technological, information, diplomatic, economic, cultural, criminal, and other tools are all controlled by the state and deployed toward one set of strategic objectives. This is the Gerasimov doctrine, penned by Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Chief of the General Staff, in 2013. Political warfare is meant to achieve specific political outcomes favorable to the Kremlin: it is preferred to physical conflict because it is cheap and easy. The Kremlin has many notches in its belt in this category, some of which have been attributed, many likely not. It’s a mistake to see this campaign in the traditional terms of political alliances: rarely has the goal been to install overtly pro-Russian governments. Far more often, the goal is simply to replace Western-style democratic regimes with illiberal, populist, or nationalist ones.

    Third, information warfare is not about creating an alternate truth, but eroding our basic ability to distinguish truth at all. It is not “propaganda” as we’ve come to think of it, but the less obvious techniques known in Russia as “active measures” and “reflexive control”. Both are designed to make us, the targets, act against our own best interests.

    Fourth, the diplomatic side of this non-linear war isn’t a foreign policy aimed at building a new pro-Russian bloc, Instead, it’s what the Kremlin calls a “multi-vector” foreign policy, undermining the strength of Western institutions by coalescing alternate — ideally temporary and limited — centers of power. Rather than a stable world order undergirded by the U.S. and its allies, the goal is an unstable new world order of “all against all.” The Kremlin has tried to accelerate this process by both inflaming crises that overwhelm the Western response (for example, the migration crisis in Europe, and the war in eastern Ukraine) and by showing superiority in ‘solving’ crises the West could not (for example, bombing Syria into submission, regardless of the cost, to show Russia can impose stability in the Middle East when the West cannot).

    This leads to the final point: hard power matters. Russia maintains the second most powerful military in the world, and spends more than 5 percent of its weakened GDP on defense. Russia used military force to invade and occupy Georgian territory in 2008 to disrupt the expansion of NATO, and in 2013 in Ukraine to disrupt the expansion of the EU. They have invested heavily in military reform, new generations of hardware and weapons, and expansive special operations training, much of which debuted in the wars in Ukraine and Syria. There is no denying that Russia is willing to back up its rhetoric and policy with deployed force, and that the rest of the world notices.

    The West must accept that Putin has transformed what we see as tremendous weakness into considerable strength. If Russia were a strong economy closely linked to the global system, it would have vulnerabilities to more traditional diplomacy. But in the emerging world order, it is a significant actor – and in the current Russian political landscape, no new sanctions can overcome the defensive, insular war-economy mentality that the Kremlin has built.

  28. Daniel Wright
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I am always telling my friends and family to follow the money….they are most likely sick of hearing me say that….Anyway, I have enjoyed the discussion feed here tonight and am looking forward to the next few days, because, I believe more people will be talking about the “oil” connection, Trump’s debts, Putin’s wants and needs, Exxon, and the possible new Secretary of State….and, of course, follow the money….Saw a Rachael Maddow segment early today on this very same topic….compelling, as usual. But, the news will be filled with tons of other stuff, as this apparently will be a very big week for other stories, according to what I read. Thanks, Mark!

  29. Susan Gilchrist
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Oil is the Kevin Bacon of the political world. Everything connects to it somehow.

  30. wobblie
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Meta, I don’t understand why anyone wants to be enemies with the Russians. The only logic I can see is –American Capitalist Imperialism must control the world. We’ve been at war for 15 years. In my entire life we have only had a dozen years of peace (I.m over 60). There is no future for most americans except that of the warrior.
    Because Trump wants to do business with the Russians instead of engaging in conflict the entire ruling elite with all of the media outlets they control have demonized the Russians.
    I suspect that most of the people on this web site are childless and do not care that our future looks so very bleak.

  31. Lynne
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    My concern about doing business with Russia is the sort of business they want to do. Their economy is heavily dependent on oil. They want to drill more oil and they want to do it faster and in places that may not exactly belong to them. My hope here is that we do cozy up to them but that the renewable technology gets so much cheaper and better that all of their investments go bust. I hope it happens gradually enough that they don’t collapse. And while we are dreaming, I hope the Russians wise up and vote differently and perhaps elect someone with a more peaceful vision than Putin’s.

    Russia does some amazing things. They have a great scientific community and by working together with them, we really can do amazing things. I just don’t want us working together with them to hasten along global warming.

  32. wobblie
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    President Obama acknowledges that the DNC emails were “leaked” not “hacked” ie. The Russians didn’t do it

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46268.htm

  33. Lynne
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Really wobblie? That isn’t at all what the obviously biased source says. Besides, the FBI already knows that the emails were hacked, they just can’t prove that it was the Russians.

  34. Meta
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    And so it begins.

    “At 11:59 am eastern, the official White House website had a lengthy information page about the threat of climate change and the steps the federal government had taken to fight it. At noon, at the instant Donald Trump took office, the page was gone, as well as any mention of climate change or global warming.”

    Read more:
    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/all-references-to-climate-change-have-been-deleted-from-the-white-house-website

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Here, by way of context, is a clip from something I’d written recently on the role of oil in all of this… […]

  2. […] betting man, I’d say, in the next few days, we’ll be hearing more people talking about the role of oil in all this, and that mysterious 19% ownership stake in the Russian oil company Rosneft that we were discussing […]

  3. […] case you weren’t paying attention back during the campaign, is something that I posted about these Russian sanctions a few months […]

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