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By Jason Michael

GOING BY THE COMMENTS on a recent Random Public Journal blog post, ‘Bleakest Forecast,’ there are a number of people in the Scottish independence movement who are unwilling to accept the growing case against Vladimir Putin’s Russia – that it has meddled in Western elections and that it is behind the dark money which has flooded into US and UK political campaigns. “I’ve always enjoyed your careful and thoughtful analysis of events and attitudes. Until now,” commented Gordon G., “For a minute there I thought I was reading The Guardian.” It is always encouraging, as a blogger, to have the support of regular readers, and their criticisms are important.

Those of us writing in the alternative media do what we do because of our growing suspicion of the mainstream media. Having someone comment that our work reminds them of the media outlets they have grown tired of is worrying, but – at the same time – we can only work with the information we have. Alternative media becomes as much a part of the modern crisis in media the moment we begin inventing news or playing the game of telling our readers what they want to hear. Sometimes, then, this means publishing articles which echo “the narrative” of the mainstream because – and to put it simply – a broken clock is right twice a day.

It has become impossible, given the facts, to deny the extremely high probability that the Russian Federation has been behind a long-running and well-orchestrated online and off-line effort to destabilise democracy in the United States and the European Union. The evidence of intelligence agencies in the US, Israel, Estonia, Germany, France, Ukraine, and elsewhere all point in the same direction; that Russia has been creating backchannels in the West through which to fund disruptive political campaigns and has been supporting these with a highly sophisticated strategy involving the use of fake social media accounts, bots, and trolls.

Even from inside Russia we are getting the same. Ludmila Savchuk, a St Petersburg-based investigative journalist, confirmed the existence of government-sponsored “troll farms” when she went undercover to work for one – the Internet Research Agency. According to Issie Lapowsky, a writer for Wired, this shadowy online-influence operation – which was closed down after the election of Donald Trump – came under international scrutiny after Facebook disclosed that it and similar Russian operations had placed in excess of 5,000 “phony political ads on its platform during the 2016 election.” Along with Putin’s admission in Helsinki that he had directed his people to assist in getting Trump elected, the evidence is overwhelming. Russia has attempted to influence the outcome of a number of Western democracies by nefarious means.

Some in the independence movement in Scotland find this evidence difficult to accept, and understandably so. Thanks to The Guardian – which is by no means the worst – and other mainstream media outlets Russia has been turned into a bogeyman. Throughout the independence campaign the unionist media in the UK worked tirelessly to smear the Yes campaign, the SNP, and the independence movement with unsubstantiated links to the Putin regime. Russia Today (RT) was one of the few international media outlets to give the independence debate the balanced coverage the BBC refused to give it, and Alex Salmond’s decision to host his show on RT has been used as proof of such links. Not to mention the dubious Skripal-Novichok debacle, Scottish independentistas have become sick fed up of this anti-Russian narrative.

Notwithstanding this, however, the Russophobic smokescreen cast by the BBC and the rest of the British media takes nothing from the probability that Russia – as an autonomous global political actor – has indeed been working to undermine democracy in the West. In saying this I am not saying that the Western construction of a Russian bogyman isn’t true. Both can be true. What is being said here is that we must be prepared to assess the evidence in each case.

Putin’s Russia is by no means a righteous victim of US and British propaganda. Just as the European Union, the US, and the UK have their own geopolitical interests, so too does Russia. When it comes to the game of propaganda, counter-propaganda, fake news, and misinformation they are all as bad as one another. Yes, RT may have thrown the Scottish independence movement a few bones, and Russia’s meddling in the Brexit referendum may prove to be to our benefit, but we cannot afford to be uncritical the methods. The crippling of democracy in the UK – the fullest consequences are not yet known – won’t be a good thing for the UK or for an independent Scotland.

Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in early 2014 Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) succinctly summed up the heightening standoff between Russia and the West:

On the one hand, the West clearly intends to continue to promote its policy of preventing Russia from regaining its superpower status, mainly by removing areas formerly in the Soviet Union from the Russian sphere of influence and absorbing them in the Western system, preferably by non-violent means. On the other hand, Russia’s conduct in response to these trends creates new challenges that make it necessary to restrain it, preferably without being drawn into an all-out conflict. Therefore, the Western response, comprising various economic and political sanctions, at this point appears to be the best possible option.

Few readers of this blog will view Israel as a neutral observer, and rightly so. But we cannot dispute the State of Israel’s consistency when it comes to looking after what best suits Israel. This is a state that will invariable turn its international affections on a dime to ensure its own status quo is preserved. It acknowledges what the West – the US and the EU – has been doing to frustrate Russia’s ambitions, while recognising that the Russian Federation is responding.

Russia is of course responding and it is doing this because its return to “superpower status” depends on it recovering the Ukraine and this – as the INSS puts it – “extends to other states formerly part of the Soviet Union.” Achieving this means that Putin must weaken the resolve of the West to resist Russian expansion into former Soviet possessions, and the best way to do this is to disrupt their politics and weaken their alliances. Regardless of what the US, the UK, and the EU are doing to Russia, this is what Russia is doing in the West – and it’s not good for us.

This is not about me being Russophobic. It is not about my failure to see the nastiness of British and US foreign policy. Regular readers will know I am no fan of the United States’ own form of global expansionism. I am committed to the breakup of the United Kingdom. With regard to these positions, surely I must consider Russia an ally – my enemy’s enemy is my friend and all that? No, not at all. This is not good Realpolitik. In fact, it invites disaster.

Gaining independence is what we are all about, but that independence is about bringing a democratic Scotland into the community of free states. We may have real issues about our history under London rule, but Putin’s Russia – as the Ukrainians, the Chechens, and the Georgians will tell you – is a completely different beast. What his project seeks to do is undermine our democracy and disrupt the healthy running of our civic and state apparatuses to the point of chaos. This may result in our independence, but what sort of state would that be? What condition would the rest of the UK be left in, and would that ensure our long-term peace and the peace of Europe? I seriously doubt it. What Russia is doing – and it is doing it – is for its own benefit.

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7 thoughts on “This is not Russophobia

  1. Hi Jason,
    Can I say, I’m not trying to be a pain – it’s just that, like yourself, I do not want Scotland to be ‘Westminster Lite’ or to be following the Foreign Policy path taken by Westminster.
    This is not Russophilia – this is just a quest for truth. Have I found it? How can I possibly know? I get my information from people like yourself – independent journalists/bloggers/international lawyers/ex-intelligence officers; people I’ve come to trust.
    The narrative I’ve formed over the years (the ‘big picture’, if you will) is that of endless propaganda directed against Russia, to make Russia the bogeyman in order to justify huge arms deals to ‘protect’ from Russian expansionism … to justify a growing surveillance state – making a few very rich people wealthier and more powerful than ever before.
    So, now that you think I’m a conspiracy theorist, I’ll leave you with four articles:
    From John Pilger – http://johnpilger.com/articles/a-world-war-has-begun-break-the-silence-
    From those Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity – https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/06/merkel-urged-to-temper-natos-belligerence/
    From retired CIA Operations Officer, Philip Giraldi – http://www.unz.com/article/cold-war-redux/
    & From former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan administration, Dr Paul Craig Roberts – https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2015/10/17/the-fall-of-the-unipower/
    I shall cease being a pain as I’ve a feeling we could be batting to and fro for a good while, so I’ll just say, Thanks for reading this and all the best.
    Jim

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your problem is that you see this as a problem between nation states. I do not.

    I see no case that the Western Democracies are being meddled with exclusively or even primarily by the Russian State. In fact Putin specifically stated in Helsinki that the Russian State (note the word state here is critical to understanding this) had not meddled with the elections and I am sure that if you asked Western Governments the same question he was asked they would admit to asking their people to assist the candidate of their choice. Cameron even got Barosso and Obama to “meddle” in the Independence Referendum.

    Fake social media accounts, bots, and troll farms are not the exclusive property of the Russian Federation, there are many, many more of them in other countries including the Western democracies you speak of as their targets. How did they know which voters to target? Or put it another way – where did they get their target information from? Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the other companies involved in collecting big data on voters were not set up by Russians and are not Russian controlled.

    Oh and did you know that the CIA engaged contractors to code systems that mimicked Russian Bots? You may place confidence in the reports from intelligence agencies but I do not, and I am not by any means alone in that view.

    I see much evidence that the main threat comes primarily from within our own democracies and placing most or all the blame on the Russian Federation is a tactic to distract us from identifying the real actors in this drama.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The enemy of my enemy may indeed not be my friend but when my friend (that’s you, Jason) writes in support of my ‘enemy’ (the British state) and the narrative that it wants to promote I wonder what you are missing. Have you read Craig Murray’s views on this stuff?

    Of course Russia is stirring the pot of international politics. So what? So is China, so is the USA, so is Israel & so is the UK. And several of these players are extremely active against Russia so why wouldn’t that state act against them in turn? Which came came first, the Russian chicken or the western egg? Who knows & really, at our level, who cares?

    Whatever the rights & wrongs of Russia (& I am no fan of Russia or Putin) this current atmosphere of Russophobia is the extension of the anti-communist rhetoric that infected the west from 1945 until Glasnost & Peristroika. That hatred of communism drove multiple wars over several decades (Vietnam being the most obvious example) & untold western sponsored atrocities by right wing regimes in South & Central America. It lead to many of the problems we still have in the Middle East & Afghanistan today.

    If Russia is providing Dark Money that is not good but the real problem in the west is that there are people that are willing to accept such funds & the organisations that are supposed to be the safeguards for western democracy (Electoral Commission, I’m looking at you) are singularly failing to do their jobs.

    It is your blog Jason so you get to choose what you write about & I am highly likely to keep coming back to read what you have to say, even if I occasionally don’t agree with you. But I’d far rather read something that turns your attention on the parts of the British state & society that is trying to destroy our UK democracy (& utterly opposes Scottish democracy) regardless of where they get their money from. The British rich are a far bigger threat to us plebs than Putin’s Russia.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Haha. First of all, your enemy here (Britain) is my enemy. We’ll have none of them rhetorical weapons here. No, I am not writing in support of the UK. I am writing something critical of Putin’s behaviour. I have read a fair bit of what Murray has said. Some of it is very good, but there’s a pile of evidence from multiple international sources that must be considered.

    Yes, Russia is stirring the pot – but this was not about creating a moral equivalence. This was a criticism of Russia. You know I am more than happy to criticise the US and the UK. But this was about Russia.

    You will see from today’s blog post – Truman Show Scotland – that I have indeed turned to the issue of those in the UK willing to accept this money; wherever it is coming from. Both parts of this story are of great importance. We cannot selectively focus on the dark money’s use without asking where it comes from and what the source intends for that money to do.

    Like

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