Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Skripal Affair

A few comments on this Skripal assassination attempt in Britain.

My initial reaction to this was that perhaps Skirpal had violated the terms of his release and gone back to "active" status. But there is no indication that this was actually the case. Quite frankly he is too old to get back in the business.

It appears that a siloviki faction (what we call "securocrats" i.e. the caste of intelligence and security professionals who staff the IC) was keen to see him punished for revealing the names of active duty RIS agents during his time as a paid agent of the MI6. When we contrast this with the Siloviki behavior towards Skripal when he was held in their custody and then traded for an RIS asset in MI6 custody - it doesn't add up. If they hated him that much why wait so many years to do this?

Even if we assume that the RIS asset to be recovered was of greater intrinsic value to RIS than Skripal. The siloviki would only have kept him alive and well until they had their trade and then killed him right after the trade was over. The UK has been piss poor with protecting defectors against RIS hit squads, so again why wait so many years?

This "waiting period" issue pushes us towards three extremely worrisome possibilities

1) The siloviki were not aware of the extent of Skripal's treachery and became aware of it relatively recently. This would point to a breach of the UKIC. These are not unheard of, but to know the true nature of Skripal's contributions to MI6 would require a very highly placed agent inside the UKIC. We may be looking at another Philby level penetration.

2) There is a shift in siloviki thinking - perhaps someone has been recently promoted to a position of influence. It is not uncommon for intelligence communities to inbreed, i.e. recruit people who are relatives of serving or fallen officers. While such people are loyal to a fault, they are also capable of holding personal vendettas and grudges. If such a person is promoted, they may pursue a private agenda. These are not uncommon either, but to see it pursued in a place like Putin's Russia is odd. It suggests that Putin is not in control of his own siloviki caste. That opens the doors to all manner of unpleasant things.

3) Putin ordered the hit to send a message to other RU dissidents and anti-Putin forces that are sheltering in various parts of the world.  And the message reads "You cannot be safe if you oppose me, I will hunt you down and kill you." This is also plausible given how the Naytsa Rybka situation and the rate at which Trump advisers are shopping out RU contacts to OSC Mueller. The flip side of this would be that Putin feels threatened by external pressure points. Again this is to be expected, the RU election is a formality - he will be elected, the only question is whether there will be enough turnout for him ("70-70"). If his turnout is lower than projected, it will severely impair confidence in his ability to lead in the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Bearing in mind that the Russian election is merely a facade for a complex set of power rearrangements inside the Grand Duchy, Putin should feel pressured especially now that his flagship "Operation Elect Trump" is completely falling apart and the GRU is left holding the toilet seat!

I do not know which of these three possibilities is more likely to be the dominant dynamic. I am leaning towards the last possibility as I feel Putin's election is a farce but his continuation in power is a more nuanced affair - a balance between the cost of keeping him and the cost of replacing him. If I were a member of the Russian elite, I would be hard pressed to make a choice - both costs seem quite high and Russian economy is in a depression.

In any other country the easiest thing to do would be to wash the bad political debt in a hotly contested election where the loser was chosen in such a way as to carry the burden of the previous failure (what one calls "anti-incumbency") and the victor was decided long before the election took shape. But in Russia, that option is off the table. Centuries of autocracy have predisposed the elite to agreeing loudly with someone they privately would like to shoot out the mouth of a cannon.


At 9:13 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

there is way too much russian hanky panky going on in britain. they need to start tossing key russian diplos out of the country and closing down their facilities the way we do in the us. of course britain hates it when the us points the obvious out to them and they get down right shrill in their reaction to our unwanted observations.


because they are the repository of a lot of russian money.

ok, enjoy your ill gotten gains at your leisure then.........have fun with it.....

At 9:23 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

speaking of tariffs and trade I note the rather steep tariff india has placed on harley mortor cycles. i think this might attract doctor T's chaos attention sooner or later. fun filled frivolity may ensue......or not. his attention span is admittedly short.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger maverick said...

It seems they used some kind of Novichok. This is wild - this says to me that Putin's getting really desperate and if the rumors of Skripal being a source for Steele are true, then we are seeing the next round of witness elimination.

Regarding the Harley in India.

(before I get into this - let me state unequivocally - I don't give a crap about this)

The vertical is too small and unsustainable - the tariff tiff is more about funneling enough money into Trump's brand in India. Trump's racking up legal bills from his bad behavior and he is in shakedown mode.

For over a year or more, there has been a talk of creating a pot of money (a "fund" as Trump called it) in India where his guys could dip their hands in whenever they felt like it and people could put money into it, but it wasn't clear there was enough money being moved around to justify the eyebrows that fund would raise.

AFAIK there is some thing going on with diamond merchants. The usual scam for those guys is to sell you a "diamond" at price when what they have actually sold you is Zirconia or worse a conflict diamond. The "profits" from this are laundered into real estate and into uncut diamonds which can be moved back and forth between places without attracting too much scrutiny.

I think the diamond guys have footfall in the diamond district in NYC and also in the equivalents in B'bay and Ahmedabad. I am not certain if Modi/Shah have direct exposure to this or if this is somehow going only through Mangal Lodha's side of things. I suspect it is the latter as only Lodha holds the Trump brand and a bunch of people in his apartments are diamond merchants.

I think the way Modi/Shah see it, the money loop is with Putin. That's why the Essar refinery went to Rosneft. The Trump end of it is a sideshow and they have little to no obligation to Trump. Trump to them is simply a Putin project - peripheral to their relationship with Putin. Lodha OTOH I suspect thinks differently and Modi/Shah might feel he is trying to "grow bigger than his boots"? so that explains (to me) Trump's whiny "Harley tariff" tone which disappeared as soon as Don Jr went to B'bay and got something a 1M.

Again to be clear - this is not high on my list of give-a-crap. I am not even sure I want to know who exactly moved the cash and how. There is a bigger problem that I feel merits more attention and that is Putin's declining political situation. If he is reduced to using a fucking WMD on foreign soil - he is in a bad way even if he can't bring himself to admit it.

Also frankly - I don't care what happens to either of them (Putin/Trump/Modi-Shah).

At 8:55 AM, Blogger Ralphy said...

it is interesting to see the power of money at work in mass round up of russian shut down of searching of russian personnel's residences, etc.

just everything is on the QT......keep it quiet.....don't make a public fuss.

one thing is for sure: the russians understand power, they live by it and if you don't have it you're a nobody to them and they will import toxic nerve agents into your country with impunity.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...


Britain will most likely do nothing.

It needs Russian gas more than it needs its friends in the USIC.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Ralphy said...

....and here's what happens when the russians think you are a pussy.......

even if only half of this is true it still completely outrageous.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger maverick said...

I suspect the conspiracy goes a lot farther than we are led to understand.

It appears that a bunch of GOP leaders panicked after Obama's election and reelection. Driven by deep seated racism they saw their doom written on the wall. So they turned to Russia for support.

When Obama saw the expanding cooperation between Russia and the GOP, he realized he was not prepared to face such a formidable enemy. If he acted against Russia, the GOP would act out in the Senate and Congress and derail his overall agenda.

I feel he made compromises based on his idea of what would work out well in the long run.

I suspect that like all politicians on a clock, he set up the compromise to provide him maximum short/intermediate term political gain while remitting the maximum cost to McConnell it all.

It is only fair I suppose. McConnell et al. were motivated by long term racial dominance agenda. Supposedly GOP fear was that POC would take over the country in 2035 and kill all the White people. With that kind of agenda, you have to be prepared to the take a hit atleast in the short term.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Historically speaking political dominance of a particular social group derives less from the ability to wield a monopoly on murder and rape, and more from direct economic productivity. The notion of economics and productivity can be subverted with murder and rape, but only up to a point (otherwise India would be all set in Kashmir and Pakistan would still be ruling Bangladesh). The definitions of these two words are often set over millennia and cannot be easily changed. The most common definition is "making every feel better" and I don't think it can be changed in any meaningful time frame.

The collapse of the "White American Male" identifier has more to do with a decline in economic productivity per those accepted norms. There does not appear to be anything that can restore that productivity level. Given the backdrop of the drug problem, I feel the challenge is quite severe - at least a 100x more severe than it was in the US inner cities in the 80s.

A number of new identifiers have sprung up to take the power vacuum created by the collapse of the "White American Male" identifier. I am not sure which identifier would win out in the long run.

Despite all pretenses to the contrary, I suspect White American Men are more comfortable with handing over the baton of leadership to *Men* of color (gay/straight) than they are to people with gender fluidity or "White American Women". I have no solid data to back this up, this is just something I sense when I talk to my acquaintances.

Not sure it's going to work out like they think it should.

At 2:51 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Another point to note is that the GOP has become the primary vehicle for this kind of weird racial and gender chauvinism, but it may be not be sustainable given all its internal fractures.

It is not clear for example whether the White American Male who rises to Russia's defense every time around Putin's bad behavior is exposed will necessary be okay with living under Putin's boot. I am certain he will welcome Russia's approach to women's rights - you know the part where you can drink and beat up a Russian woman without consequences, but I have difficulty believing that your average White American Male will really enjoy greasing up and bending over for Putin's hand picked commissars.

It is going to be an interesting few years ahead.

Also talk of civil war is empty as no White American Male wants to die in a real shootout. It only works when the other side can't shoot back and the Mexican cartels have more guns and unresolved teenage angst than the most successful mass shooter in the US.

Don't take my word for it, check out Borderland Beat for real pics and vids. They get real intense down there. They dont have body houses, they have body mansions.


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