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By John Helmer, Moscow

‘All politics is local’ was something Tip O’Neill, the late Massachusetts congressman and Speaker of the US House of Representatives, used to say. ‘A week is a long time in politics’ was something Harold Wilson, the late British Prime Minister, said at about the same time. 

This week,  you have several illustrations of putting the two together on battlefields in Syria, Russia’s southern front,  and in the international financial  markets. There, officials of the Trump Administration in Washington have pulled off attacks on Russian targets  – some visible and direct, some indirect and camouflaged. These have caused serious casualties and costs on the Russian side, and produced military and financial gains on the American  side. Plus hand-rubbing among Russia’s adversaries;  denial talk in Washington and New York.

Listen to the discussion on Canada’s Gorilla radio of what the objectives of these US attacks are, and  Russia’s options for retaliation and counterforce as they are being debated right now in Moscow. For identification of the sides in the Kremlin debate, the capitulation faction (CUS) and the resistance faction (RUS),  read this

The Russian military intelligence (GRU) version of the US role behind the February 3 shooting-down of Major  Roman Philippov’s  (right) SU-25 and his killing on the ground can be read in Russian here.  GRU’s spokesman points out that the source of the man portable air defense system (MANPADS), which hit Philippov’s aircraft, may have been the US, Russia, Syria, Libya, Bulgaria, Turkey,  China, or the Kurds.  But as of Tuesday, GRU wasn’t as sure of that as it was certain the men who fired on the aircraft and then the pilot were trained, equipped, paid, and supported in their current position on the ground by the US.   US intelligence was also supplied to these attackers so that they knew in advance the route and altitude of Philippov’s aircraft, and were in position to fire and to film what happened as a “show”.

The implication of this GRU analysis is that the US military command cannot be trusted by Russian commanders to stick to operational agreements for flight coordination and de-escalation zones. But there’s a further, bigger implication from the  GRU report  – either the Russian side should escalate and counter-attack, to remove US proxy and special  forces from these zones altogether;  this is much more than the Russian air strikes in Idlib province, reported to have followed Philippov’s death. Alternatively, according to the published GRU report, treating Philippov as having flown into a US-baited trap, the Russian Air Force should stop providing the US with flight coordinates in advance of operations, or withdraw their aircraft out of US-guided shooting range. 

On the economic warfare front, there has been no comparable release from the RUS faction of its assessment of the US Treasury’s campaign of  attacks and escalation threats on Russian financial targets and operations. Instead, the CUS faction, including three names omitted from the latest US list of potential sanctions targets – Anatoly Chubais, Alexei Kudrin (lead image, right), and Central Bank governor Elvira Nabiullina —  have been minimizing the damage the Americans can cause, and the likelihood that the Trump Administration will make the attempt.  According to Nabiullina on February 1, “we saw this risk previously, we see it now. We evaluated it, evaluated the effect of two possible scenarios: a scenario when there is a ban on purchase of new [obligations] and a ban on ownership [of existing obligations]. Of course, both of these decisions might trigger some volatility on the sovereign debt market, but in our view, even if there is initial short-term volatility, the markets will arrive at equilibrium. We do not see any great effects either for the economy, financial stability or the financial sector.”

From right to left: Alexei Kudrin;  Elvira Nabiullina;  Anatoly Chubais;  Chubais’s wife, Avdotya Smirnova; and Henry Kissinger at the Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin),  June 23, 2012.

Unlike the GRU assessment of the Syria front options advocated by the RUS faction, Nabiullina is stating the CUS case for believing in verbal undertakings from Washington; it is also her support for the CUS case against Russian counterattack. For a detailed assessment of these undertakings and the risks that US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (lead image, left) is lying and that the CUS faction is deceiving President Vladimir Putin, read this analysis by Alexander Mercouris.   No comparable assessment has appeared in the Russian media, except for this commentary, sourced from Moscow bank analysts on the CUS side.    

The RUS case for counterforce against the US Treasury is currently focusing on three measures — Russian sell-down of US treasuries; redenomination of fresh Russian sovereign debt issues in Euros and yuan; and (the big bang) targeted default by the Russian state on repayment of interest coupons and principal of Russian sovereigns owned by US institutions.  For the details, and for market sources who report them, read this

In leftwing New York media there is reluctance to believe the US Treasury is as capable of duplicity as the Pentagon or the State Department – of attacking under cover of official disclaimers. Defenders in the New York market of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin respond by claiming there is no “substantiation”, no “smoking gun” evidence of US intentions to warrant Russian retaliation.

For the full discussion, listen to today’s interview on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia, here. At Minute 05:36, there is a slip of the tongue. The shoot-down of the SU-25 occurred in the northwest of Syria, near Saraqeb in Idlib province.  


Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria, British Columbia. The radio station can be heard here.  The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press. For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.      


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