Tag Archives: The Guardian

Latest RussiaGate Allegation

In an article today on the RT website (which you can read here), I discuss the latest Russiagate allegation coming out of the stable of Luke Harding and The Guardian. This takes the form of a claim that the Guardian has seen top secret Kremlin documents which detail a decision by the Russian National Security Council in 2016 to exert all efforts to ensure Donald Trump’s election as US president.

I assume Harding isn’t lying about seeing some documents. But are they real? Or are they forgeries? Without seeing them, without knowing a lot more about how the Guardian got them, and without a whole lot more additional information, we just can’t tell. How can one assess something one only knows about from somebody else? One can’t. But as I explain in my article, there are some reasons to doubt their veracity – not to 100% rule out the possibility that they’re real, that’s kind of hard when we know next to nothing about them – but certainly to treat the story with a large dose of salt.

What makes me take this stance is not just the source of the information – Harding is not no. 1 on my list of reliable journalists (see my review of his book Collusion for an explanation of why). Deeper than that, my issue is that the documents seems to me to be exactly what some Russiagate conspiracy theorist would come up with if s/he was to sitting in his/her basement trying to imagine what a Russian plot to steal the US election would look like. In that sense, they seem to be a reflection of anti-Trump American views of the world, rather than Russian ones. That doesn’t mean they’re fake, but it’s a reason not to take the Guardian’s claims at face value.

Let me explain.

First, as I say in my article, there’s no mention of Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton and her perceived hostility to Russia. Nor is there any discussion of Trump’s election promises to improve relations with the Russian Federation. This is odd. One would have thought that this would have been a prime motivation for any Russian conspiracy to elect Trump.

Instead, the supposed motivation for the Russian campaign of election ‘meddling’ is to ‘destabilize’ the US. As I see it, Russian leaders have never shown any particular interest in this. I’m not aware of anyone in authority ever even have expressed a preference for an unstable America. On the contrary, they tend to emphasize stability. So, the internal condition of the USA is not an obvious Russian concern.

But it is an American concern. Paranoia about internal instability became a big thing during Trump’s rule. But – and here’s another thing – it took a bit of time for that to happen. In other words, it was a big American concern, but not until a bit after the 2016 election. In that sense, the idea that the Kremlin was plotting in early 2016 to ‘destabilize’ the USA seems like a retroactive reflection of the later worries of American anti-Trumpers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Kremlin hierarchy wasn’t amazingly prescient, nor that it wasn’t saying one thing while secretly believing another. But it’s certainly a reason for a being a little bit suspicious.

Then, there’s a bit in the documents in which the Russians supposedly call Trump ‘mentally unstable’ and revel in the chaos that having such a lunatic in the White House will cause in America. Again, this strikes me as a particularly anti-Trump American take on things. Trump’s crazy – all anti-Trumpers know that. But would that have been how Russian officials in early 2016 looked at things? Well, maybe. One can’t rule it out. But I have to wonder.

And finally, there’s the implication in the documents that the entire Russiagate plot to ‘interfere’ in the US elections was a highly centralized, carefully coordinated campaign directed by Putin himself.

Yes, indeed, it is possible that such a thing was decided centrally and supervised from the very top. But the concept of Russia as an autocratic system in which Putin and his inner circle decide everything strikes me once again as fitting very neatly into Western conceptions of how Russia operates rather than what is necessarily the case.

I’m not going to say that the Guardian’s documents are fake. As I said, you can’t do that without much more information. But do I think that anybody can use them as proof of a Russian plot against American democracy? No, not without a whole lot more corroboration. Claim after claim about the alleged Trump-Russia relationship has been used to ‘prove’ that Russia got Trump elected and that Trump colluded with the Russians in the process, and claim after claim has been shown to be total bunk. In the circumstances, scepticism seems to me to be the only justified response.

The Guardian’s Anti-Russian Vax Propaganda plunges to New Depths

What a f****ing disgrace! I did develop a bit of a potty mouth while in the army, but I generally refrain from bad language on this blog. But there are times when it just spontaneously spews out in disgust at the sheer utter revolting vileness of the British press.

I know. It’s always been bad. But one could distinguish between the likes of The Sun and The Mirror on the one hand, and the more serious ‘broadsheet’ press on the other, treating the former not so as newspapers but as a type of entertainment while expecting some degree of seriousness from the latter. Alas, those days are long gone, especially when it comes to all things Russian. Instead of honest reporting, what we get from too much of the British press is a torrent of extreme Russophobic propaganda masquerading as news. It is truly a f***ing disgrace.

What brought on this rant? The answer is an article in today’s copy of The Guardian about Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Even by the rotten standards of The Guardian it plummets the depths of propagandistic nastiness, serving no purpose other than to incite hatred of Russia, while doing its darndest to undermine worldwide efforts to get us out of the covid pandemic. We’ve seen many (invalid) complaints about Russia spreading anti-vax propaganda. Well, here here we British anti-vax propaganda of the basest kind. It kind of makes you want to vomit.

The gist of the article is summed up in the headline and subtitle: ‘Is Russia’s Covid vaccine anything more than a political weapon? Observers say the Sputnik V jab is aimed more at sowing political division than fighting coronavirus.’

WTF? I mean, really. WTF? Russian researchers really went to all the effort of developing a coronavirus vaccine so that they could ‘sow political division’ in the West? Listen to yourself speaking, man. Are you serious?

Unfortunately, author Jon Henley is, and embarks on a long explanation of just how vile the Russians are for having developed a solution to a worldwide plague.

To do this, Henley resorts to one of the techniques for writing bad articles I mentioned in a recent post – namely, citing a bunch of people who agree with the narrative he’s trying to spread, while ignoring any other voices or alternative explanations. It’s a hatchet job, pure and simple, designed to discredit both Sputnik V and the Russian Federation.

The article, in other words, is just one Russophobic comment piled up on another – Bam, bam, bam. Take that, Sputnik V! What it isn’t is fair and balanced reporting.

So it is that Henley starts us off with a statement that

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has yet to win EU regulatory approval and is likely to play little part in the bloc’s rollout, but it has already achieved what some observers say is one of its objectives – sowing division among, and within, member states. “Sputnik V has become a tool of soft power for Russia,” said Michal Baranowski, a fellow with a US thinktank, the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “It’s planted its flag on the vaccine and the political goal of its strategy is to divide the west.”

Baranowski’s evidence for this claim? He doesn’t provide any. Of course, he doesn’t. It doesn’t exist. Has anybody associated with the Russian government or the Sputnik vaccine ever stated such an objective? No. Baranowski’s accusation is entirely speculation on his behalf.

But Henley thinks that there is some evidence, and so brings out his second quote, this time from an EU official:

“Russia’s low vaccination rate just doesn’t tally with it having a supposedly cheap, easy-to-make and effective vaccine,” one EU diplomat said. “Either Moscow’s being altruistic, which seems unlikely. Or it’s prioritising geopolitics over Russians’ needs.”

This is just BS. Total utter BS. Putting aside the idea that Russians are incapable of altruism, if Henley spent even a micro-second checking, he’d discover that a) Russia does have a ‘cheap, easy-to-make and effective vaccine’, and b) the reason for the low vaccination rate in Russia is not that Russia is ‘prioritising geopolitics over Russians’ needs’, by for instance sending vaccines abroad while not distributing them at home, but a reluctance by Russians to take the vaccine. In Moscow, for instance, the vaccine is freely available for all, and has been for some time, but only about 10% of the city has bothered getting a shot. You can walk into the GUM shopping mall any time you like and get the vaccine. I’ve read that the line-ups are minimal. People just aren’t doing it.

That means that there are some genuine criticisms that can make of the Russian government’s handling of the covid crisis. It has done a very poor PR job persuading its population of the merits of getting vaccinated. But the accusation that it is favouring geopolitics over its own people’s needs is just plain false.

Henley, however, ploughs on regardless, wheeling out his third rent-a-quote, the Prime Minister of Lithuania, telling us that:

The prime minister of Lithuania, Ingrida Šimonytė, tweeted in February that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, saw the shot not so much as a “cure for the Russian people” as “another hybrid weapon to divide and rule.”

Well, if the Prime Minister of Lithuania says it, it must be true. Right?

To make sure we’re on ball, Henley next casts some doubt on the efficacy of Sputnik-V, though deigning to cite Russian health officials rebutting such doubts. But whether Sputnik works well or not isn’t really Henley’s topic. It could be 100% effective but still a bad thing, he implies, because it’s ‘dividing’ Europe (which is obviously more important than health issues – I find the callousness of the approach at this point rather startling). Thus the article tells us:

Whether or not the EMA –[European Medical Agency] approves Sputnik V and whether or not it ever arrives in sufficient numbers, observers argue it has already done significant damage, with EU national and regional leaders leveraging it for their own political ends. In some countries, it has caused mayhem: the Slovakian prime minister, Igor Matovič, was forced to resign this month amid a bitter dispute over a secret deal to buy 2m doses despite the disagreement of many in his four-party coalition. … Sputnik has also cost the health and foreign ministers of the Czech Republic – both opposed to the shot’s deployment without EMA approval – their jobs, fired by the prime minister, Andrej Babiš …  In Germany … three states including Bavaria have either struck or are negotiating Sputnik deals.

Obviously, Moscow somehow planned this all along! As if. And in any case, so what? Everyone and his dog is saying that EU’s vaccine program has been a mess. If states seek to go around it and vaccinate their people by getting Sputnik-V, isn’t that a good thing? But no, not for Mr Henley, who returns to his original source, writing that:

For Baranowski, Sputnik’s rushed approval, online propaganda and carefully selected destinations add up to a Russian strategy that is “neither innocent nor humanitarian. It is part of exactly the same game, of dividing the west, that we see in Moscow’s use of military power, cybersecurity, energy security.”

And it’s working, he said: “It’s dividing various European actors pretty well. Until Sputnik V has EMA approval – at which stage, of course, there’s no problem: the world needs vaccines – it’s become a political litmus test for whether you are for or against the EU’s programme. That’s eroding confidence. And that’s what Putin wants.”

 Ah, yes. ‘That’s what Putin wants’. Which is odd, because he’s never said so, nor given any indication that that’s what he’s thinking. But it seems as if Mr Baranowski has a means of getting inside Putin’s head. One of those Russian ‘directed energy weapons’ redesigned for a new purpose, maybe?

This isn’t serious reporting. It’s just an unsubstantiated thesis, with the author making up for the lack of concrete evidence by throwing in a bunch of quotes from hostile witnesses. It’s hateful. Insofar as it increase vaccine scepticism and may hinder the use of what appears to be a very successful medical product, it is also harmful. By publishing this, The Guardian has plunged so deep, it’s gone even beyond the lower depths. Shame on you, Guardian. Shame.