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By John Helmer, Moscow

Botanists can’t say for certain how many hoary old chestnuts, if planted in the right conditions, will turn into a stand of castanea sativa; that’s the botanical name for chestnut trees.

It’s more certain that when Oxford University recently published a book of interviews with eighty wealthy Russians, conducted by a sociologist from Aston University in Birmingham, the outcome, entitled Rich Russians – From Oligarchs to Bourgeoisie,   is a “unique inside-look at the history and soul of the fabulously rich Russians…a must-read”. That is according to Derk Sauer on the book wrapper. Half of this certainty comes from the fact that for the past twenty-five years Sauer has been the paid mouthpiece for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then Vladimir Potanin, and finally Mikhail Prokhorov whose wealth is oligarch sized.  A small fraction of their money made big sums in Sauer’s pocket and in his judgement,  of course.   

The other half of the certainty comes from the fact that the new book’s author, Elisabeth Schimpfossl, is the first in modern sociology to replace standard sampling procedure according to which researcher selects subjects by a random or representational method.   In this case it was the reverse — the sample of 80 rich Russians picked Schimpfossl and told her what they wanted to read about themselves. Their reason was equally certain. Schimpfossl was their public relations opportunity. PR agents for some of the sample subjects were instrumental in setting up the interviews and the ground rules; some of the PR agents were interviewees themselves.

The ground rule Schimpfossl accepted as the precondition for her research was that she would never question her rich Russians about their business or their assets — where their money came from; how much of it was stolen by Russian or international legal standards; how much of it is owed to Russian or international banks, or to partners of the silent type who don’t give interviews, not even if promised, as Schimpfossl proposed, to disguise them with false names.  Just how false the disguise turns out to be starts with this conclusion of Schimpfossl’s on Russian politics in her introduction: “the oligarchs’ capture of the state in the 1990s was short-lived.” After that, the 75 rich Russians whom she quotes from her sample of 80 feed her their hoary old chestnuts — what they want everyone to think.

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By John Helmer, Moscow

When the Australian Government was overthrown a few days ago, nothing and nobody Russian was blamed in the local media for interfering.

According to the ousted Liberal (conservative) Party Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the “insurgency” was a plot by media owned by Rupert Murdoch and a group of conservative MPs led by Peter Dutton, an ex-vice squad policeman who shaves his skull and has run Australia’s secret services with an order to roll down their shirtsleeves to conceal their tattoos. Murdoch and Dutton failed. For the time being, power has been taken by a religious zealot called Scott Morrison. His belief in God speaking in tongues has, so far, not led his own tongue to wag blamefully in Russia’s direction.

The absence of fake news about Russia might have been news in Australia had not the national consensus on Russia-hating been comprehensive, covering all the political parties, factions and ethnic lobbies; all the media, mainstream, alt and social; and all the universities and think-tanks, so there’s no advantage for anyone to repeat the obvious. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

There’s not been an American war which John Lewis Gaddis doesn’t think was a good idea, speaking as if he was Thucydides, the ancient Athenian general and historian of whopping mistakes of calculation in warfare.

Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face was not an idea Thucydides thought a good one. Nor was he as blind to the significance of losing wars for Athenian strategy as Gaddis is  blind to the string of lost (outright or unwon and continuing) wars fought by the US — the Korean War, Cuban War, Vietnam War, Afghan War, Iraq War, Libyan War, Syrian War, and war against Russia. Gaddis even disapproves Robert F. Kennedy’s 1962 public acknowledgement that the US war against Mexico which resulted in the annexation of Texas was “unjustified”.

By the Gaddis standard of strategic success – that’s outcome matching aim, cost proportionate to gain — the last wars which Washington won were those against Mexico, Spain, the Philippines, the Caribbean Banana Wars, and the American civil war (Gaddis assumes the Indian wars were strategic successes too, but doesn’t dare say so in print.). He concedes World War I and World War II were strategic successes for the US in the sense that compared to the American allies, for a relatively small expenditure of men, blood and materiel, the US took an enormous cash profit and investment dividend, not to mention imperial sway. For the textbook on why the US is now losing that, Gaddis is the perfect specimen; this is because his primer reveals the teacher can’t recognize the writing on the wall, er blackboard. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Announcement just released by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Information and Press Department: “Prominent investigator and martial writer John Helmer has been appointed Special Representative for Russia-Oligarch Cultural Links, Cultural and Historical Heritage in a voluntary capacity. The special representative will perform his duties without any financial remuneration and for the purpose of strengthening direct contacts, mutual understanding and trust between the Russian people and the oligarchs.” (more…)

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akhromeyev

On August 24, 1991, Marshal Sergei Fyodorovich Akhromeyev committed suicide. He had returned from his holiday at Sochi responding to the attempted removal of Mikhail Gorbachev from power. According to the reports of the time, he hanged himself in his Kremlin office, leaving behind a note. One version of what it said was: “I cannot live when my fatherland is dying and everything that has been the meaning of my life is crumbling. Age and the life that I have lived give me the right to step out of this life. I struggled until the end.”

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Reporters rove, so did Lord Byron, the 19th  century English poet.

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If it’s true, as folk say, that you can’t keep a good man down, are crooked men equally irrepressible? The case of Ziyavudin Magomedov (lead image, right) —  plaintiff in New York State Supreme Court;  in prison on remand and a defendant in Moscow city court — is an example of either one or the other. At the very least, Magomedov is proving that muslims can have chutzpah. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the Polish capital of Warsaw a fortnight ago, Igor Kolomoisky met secretly with Yulia Tymoshenko. The reason for the secrecy is the terms of exchange which they discussed. These include Tymoshenko’s agreement that if she is elected president in Kiev in eight months’ time with Kolomoisky’s support, he will get relief from Ukrainian state pursuit of billions of his dollars currently frozen on British court orders. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

When it comes to support for President Vladimir Putin’s international positions, the South African (SA) Government has been among the most consistent and enthusiastic of any in the world. However, Russian policy in South Africa has been damaged by the behaviour of Russian oligarchs and state businesses implicated in the corrupt schemes of former SA president Jacob Zuma; he is now facing multiple indictments for seeking and taking bribes for himself and his family.  Putin’s landing in Johannesburg on Thursday ought to have been the signal for a fresh start. (more…)

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By John Helmer, Moscow

President Vladimir Putin (lead image, left) has announced a new policy of withdrawal from eastern Ukraine under cover of a referendum to confirm the sovereignty of Kiev.

No, hold it. Putin has announced an old policy in a new way in the English-language press.  

No, no – an old policy, already rejected in private by the US Government and the Kiev regime, was announced by Putin to President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16. That was in case Trump  hadn’t been told or hadn’t thought of it. It was also for Putin and the Russian military command, the Stavka, to demonstrate to each other that the US will agree to no Russian withdrawal agreement until Crimea is recovered. 

In the Russian language media, there is only one Russian explaining this means war without end. That’s Igor Strelkov (right), the former leader of the Donbass uprising in 2014. He says Putin’s  formula for the Ukraine settlement  is “chewing gum” he wants to spit out when noone is looking. “But there are some political signals that up to the present moment the capitulation of DNR  [Donetsk People’s Republic] and LNR [Lugansk People’s Republic] is not planned.  If it was so, Russia wouldn’t have eased the migration rules for Donbass citizens. So this idea is temporarily closed. Another idea — will the Ukrainian armed forces be defeated? A ceasefire isn’t possible without it.”  That’s what Russians military sources call the Syrian solution. (more…)