For someone who knows Russia, no news about, or especially from, that country is really news.
Yet one understands our media milliners’ need to flog old hats as scoops – same old, same old isn’t an approach likely to sell many newspapers.
However, sexing news up shouldn’t mean misleading the public, which line is alas overstepped much too often. Witness the title and opening paragraph of today’s Times article Russia Rewrites Nuclear Rule Book to Fire First.
And then: “President Putin would have the power to launch nuclear first strikes under plans approved by the Russian parliament.”
Amazing how many flagrant falsehoods a mere two sentences can contain.
A virginal reader coming to this item cold would be within his right to form at least two conclusions. First, that first strikes hadn’t been part of Russia’s strategic doctrine until this momentous decision. Second, that without the parliament’s approval Putin wouldn’t be able to launch one.
In the reverse order, Russia has no parliament in the sense in which a virginal Times reader understands the term, a sovereign legislative body passing all laws and holding the executive to account.
The Duma is neither sovereign nor legislative; it neither passes any laws nor holds anyone to account. Just like the Supreme Soviet was in the USSR, it’s a rubberstamping body created to dupe the uninitiated into believing that Russia is ruled by law.
Unlike the Supreme Soviet, it has the additional function of providing parliamentary immunity for international criminals, such as Alexei Lugovoi who murdered Alexander Litvinenko in what may be described as a nuclear first strike on Britain.
To eliminate that falsehood, the headline should have simply said “Putin may launch nuclear first strikes if he feels like it.”
That would have been a move in the right direction, but the other falsehood would still have remained. For the Soviet, and then Russian, military doctrine has always been based on an offensive first strike, with nuclear weapons if necessary.
And renouncing that possibility within the framework of various treaties has always been nothing but an exercise in deception, what the Russians call disinformation.
Every disarmament treaty either the USSR or its successor has ever signed has been a ruse designed to gain strategic advantage. The entire resources of that evil regime have always been dedicated to cheating on every such agreement, from SALT I and II to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed in the halcyon days of perestroika.
To its credit, the Trump administration didn’t get intoxicated on the heady brew of disinformation. Where the previous administrations were too cowardly to point at the ace sticking out of the cardsharp’s sleeve, the Trump lot did just that by announcing their decision to pull out of the INF.
They correctly stated that the Russians were deploying the very weapons banned by the agreement, which logically rendered it null and void.
Like the thief who screams “Stop thief!” louder than anyone else, the Russians upped the volume of their nuclear threats which already was deafening. An American withdrawal “wouldn’t be left without an answer from our side”, threatened the Botox Boy.
He then narrowed his fish eyes and gave the Russians the good news. In case of a nuclear holocaust they’d go straight to heaven, presumably bypassing purgatory.
The Botox Boy didn’t specify the number of virgins gagging for the righteous up there, but he did say that Russia’s enemies would go to hell without even enough time to repent their sins.
Having thus taken a page out of Islam’s book, Putin then explained under what conditions he’d push the button for a nuclear first strike. Russia, he said, would retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked with “hypersonic and non-nuclear strategic weapons”.
Allow me to translate from disinformation into English. If NATO resists Russia’s aggression against Eastern Europe, specifically the Baltics, the Botox Boy will unleash hell.
For an F-22 fighter-bomber firing an air-to-ground missile at a Russian tank column advancing on Estonia may be construed to fall under the Botox Boy’s description of strategic weapons.
In case the meaning got lost in translation, the Russian government confirmed that the announcement should be taken as a warning to Eastern European countries hosting NATO bases.
“These countries should understand that we won’t simply look at that through our fingers – we will react,” said the Russian defence spokesman.
But the existence of those bases is in itself a reaction – to a growing Russian threat. All NATO installations in that region are strictly defensive, including that particular burr under Russia’s blanket, the nuclear shield in Romania.
Russia’s announcement is tantamount to a demand for the unilateral disarmament of Eastern Europe, starting with the three Baltic members of NATO.
Should NATO accede, it would have only two possible responses to a Russian aggression: an all-out strategic nuclear strike or surrender. Both would be catastrophic; neither is acceptable.
The Russians are screaming that NATO bases in Eastern Europe present a threat to them. I’d say they’re no more threatening than the shotgun I might keep under my bed. It’ll only ever get fired if my family is under attack. My good neighbours have nothing to fear from either barrel.
By his own admission, in his youth the Botox Boy was a “common street thug”. That he remains, in every word he utters and every action he takes.
Take it from someone who had to grow up surrounded by Russian street thugs: overwhelming force is the only language they understand. One either outbullies the bully or falls victim to him.
I do hope NATO follows the first course, preparing, should the need arise, to thwart the thug with a punch on the nose. As part of such preparations, let’s abandon the silly pretence that we’re dealing with a legitimate country complete with parliaments, courts and generally good intentions.
Putin’s Russia is a criminal organisation functioning according to the laws of the mean streets. It should be dealt with as such.