Does Putin Back Hillary?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Democrat standard-bearer Hillary Clinton in happier times. [Credit: thepoliticalcarnival.net]

Perhaps because I’m in Italy, I’ve not been infected by the contagion that has spread more rapidly than the Zika virus: the febrile notion that Russian president Vladimir Putin is subverting our electoral process in an effort to elect Donald J. Trump as president.

Never has such conspiratorial speculation mutated so quickly into received wisdom. Continue reading

There Is No Plan To Destroy The Islamic State

Hillary Clinton presented her plan for defeating the Islamic State recently. It won't work. Nor will those advanced by her Republican opponents. [Credit: NY Daily News]

Hillary Clinton presented her plan for defeating the Islamic State recently. It won’t work. Nor will those advanced by her Republican opponents. [Credit: NY Daily News]

When pressed by a normally docile gaggle of White House reporters recently over whether he would consider changing his failed Syria strategy, President Obama reverted to form: he accused Republicans of religious bigotry and cruelty to children.

His political opponents, he said, believe that “only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted” as refugees and that we “shouldn’t admit 3-year old-orphans.”

The President’s efforts to divert attention from his foreign policy debacles (which helped make orphans and refugees of three-year-olds) have so far fallen flat.  The vast majority of Americans has lost confidence in his campaign against the Islamic State.  A Washington Post poll found that 57 percent disapprove of the way he’s dealing with the terrorist group – including 46 percent who strongly disapprove – against only 35 percent who support him.

That public sentiment, of little interest to the President, is a leading concern for those vying to succeed him.  Even Bernie Sanders claims to have a plan to destroy the Islamic State. Though they differ in certain respects, most of these plans call for dropping more bombs against more targets from planes flying the flags of more countries (with the possible exception of Russia), providing more arms to factions we don’t really know and can’t really trust, and deploying more military “advisers” (not to be confused with “boots on the ground”) to the region.

All of them suggest that Islamic State can be vanquished with relative ease and at little cost.  All of them are blowing smoke. Continue reading

GOP Debate: Bring Back The CNBC Moderators

GOP Presidential contenders struggled with substantive questions during last week's debate. [Credit: ibtimes.com

GOP Presidential contenders fumbled substantive questions during last week’s debate. [Credit: ibtimes.com]

Donald Trump wants a piece of the Keystone Pipeline.

The issue didn’t come up during last week’s GOP debate, so Trump didn’t have the chance to elaborate on his declaration that he would have approved the project only if the Canadian company forked over 25 percent of its profits.

“I want a piece of the deal,” Trump told Bret Baier of Fox News.  “When I say I want a piece, I’m now representing our country the way I would represent myself.” Continue reading

Is President Obama Right About Putin?

Vladimir Putin delights in outwitting President Obama at every turn. But is the President right when he says the Putin's Syria adventure is "not a smart strategic move?" [Credit: Daily Mail and Getty Images]

Vladimir Putin delights in outwitting President Obama at every turn. But is the President right when he says that Putin’s Syria adventure is “not a smart, strategic move?” [Credit: Daily Mail and Getty Images]

The U.S. and Russia blundered to the brink of nuclear war in 1983 according to recently declassified documents, a reminder that as frayed as relations between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have become, things could be far worse.

The NATO exercise that threatened mutually assured destruction began with a fictional scenario that today doesn’t seem all that fictional — Russia delivers arms to Syria and Iran.

Leaders of several Gulf States, threatened by Russian intervention, seek U.S. military involvement, according to the scenario.  The President responds by dispatching military advisers to the region and increasing our naval presence there.

As the NATO war game played out, rising tensions eventually provoke Russian military aggression against its neighbors.  The U.S. President, in response to a request from his military commanders, authorizes the “limited use of nuclear weapons against pre-selected fixed targets.”

Russian military leaders who observed the NATO exercise concluded that the U.S. was plotting a real nuclear strike against the Soviet Union.  American intelligence officials had no idea at the time how badly the Soviets were misreading our intentions or how close the world was drawing toward nuclear conflagration.  War was averted.  But just barely, if the newly declassified intelligence assessments are to be believed.

Today, Russia is doing far more than merely supplying arms to Syria and Iran, leaving President Obama frustrated and flummoxed, but not fumbling for the nuclear launch codes.  Instead, the President watches helplessly as Vladimir Putin asserts himself in a region where the U.S. once held sway, vaguely warning that Russian intervention is “not a smart, strategic move.”

He may be right. Continue reading

In Russia, Nothing Is True, Everything Is Possible

Russian media coverage of the downing of a passenger flight over eastern Ukraine included a number of fanciful theories. A new book tells of how the Kremlin reshapes the truth.

Russian media coverage of the downing of a passenger flight over eastern Ukraine included a number of fanciful theories. A new book tells of how the Kremlin reshapes the truth.

But what is a Russian point of view? What does Russia Today stand for?” I asked. 

“Oh, there is always a Russian point of view,” he answered. “Take a banana. For someone it’s food. For someone else it’s a weapon. For a racist it’s something to tease a black person with.”

Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev


When a Malaysian Airlines passenger flight was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine last July, Russian media adamantly denied that rebel forces were responsible.

Instead they floated a series of alternative theories, among them that Russia’s enemies had secretly recovered the wreckage of a Malaysian Airlines flight that had gone missing the previous March and dumped it in eastern Ukraine.  Another had it that the plane was carrying corpses and not live passengers when it left Amsterdam.  Another that it was a failed assassination attempt by the Ukrainian military, which shot down the plane in the mistaken belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin was on board.

By generating a fog of fantasies, the Kremlin obscured the explanation that almost certainly is true: Russian-backed rebels blew the plane out of the sky. Continue reading