I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” - Winston Churchill

This week, a series of incidents in Syria has caught our attention. Russian ‘military police’ forces (from Caucasus. See a 24 minutes report from Russian TV here. These MPs are most likely Special Forces) were attacked by Syrian rebels near the Iraqi border, in a zone of de-escalation. Russia scrambled Special Forces and close air support to help their forces and eventually pushed back the attackers. However, the Russian government then issued a statement calling on the US to stop its aggression and warned that any attack would be answered with lethal force.

It is very unclear to us exactly what happened, who attacked and how much involved were US forces. There is little coverage in Western papers and the only sources were Russian sponsored media outlets. US forces might have been merely standing by or actively engaging to support the assault as intelligence relays, artillery/air support etc. We would be surprised to see US forces actively engaging in attacking, one way or another, Russian forces. Given the current state of the relationship between the 2 countries, this would amount to war, something that neither country is actively seeking.

Yet for the better part of the year, the US politicians and media have kept on repeating that Russia hacked the election and that the country poses a threat to the USA. Despite the absence of evidence, the Russian government has been blamed of trying to influence the election. At this point, we would like to highlight the fact that we do not believe that Russia is good and the US is bad. Neither are we blind to the obvious and infamous human rights abuses in Russia, its corrupted political system, and its ruthless approach to foreign policy.

But we do not like the fact that Russia is blamed for an election outcome without evidence, especially when large parts of America were legitimately angry at the ‘Washington insiders’ such as Mrs Clinton, and were brainwashed by locally produced and heavily promoted anti-government propaganda for over 4 decades. Neither do we like the allegation of Russian ‘aggression’ in Ukraine or Syria, especially when the USA actively supported opposition to local governments and sought regime change.

Geopolitics is a ruthless game, to which both Russia and the USA are well versed players. Yet the USA is promoting its agenda behind the cover of the ideas of the Enlightenment, which both degrades and discredits the country and the values. By financing, training and supplying hard core Islamist extremists in Syria, the USA is creating unstable conditions just a few hundred of kilometers away from Europe. While Syrian rebels were legitimately against Mr Assad rule, the various rebel movements were soon taken over by radicals who probably had a far more ambitious plan than just ousting Mr Assad. A liberal democratic Syria was definitely NOT their end goal, which makes us wonder what was the end goal of the US involvement on the side of the Islamic extremists.

In any case, the experience of Libya shows that the interest of the West may be in supporting dictators rather than flooding a country with weapons without being able to control the political outcome, especially when the forces include religious extremists. In fact, while the politicians may support Syrian ‘rebels’, the Western intelligence services seem to have been more realistic regarding the actual motivations of the various ‘moderate’ jihadists groups. The fact that the USA is trying to stick to the losing side of the Syrian civil war is worrying since it puts them directly at odds with Russia.

Russia is on the winning side of the Syrian war. Last year, during their reconquest of Aleppo, we wrote that we were quite happy that the Russians were doing the ‘dirty job’ of killing the extremists. The Western democracies lost the battle, but in the end Russia may have helped them to win the war. Whatever the serious flaws of Mr Assad’s regime, it is still much better than an ‘Iraqi’ or ‘Libyan’ outcome in which a weak central government is unable to contain well trained, well armed, battle seasoned and ambitious Islamic extremists.

Of course we are not happy to see Russia’s ability to shape this part of the Middle East increase dramatically. Yet risking a major conflagration over the Syrian mess seems quite an unsound strategy. Instead, we would recommend to engage Russia in a more constructive manner and de-escalate the various crisis by better understanding their motivations.

[Update: then we have this: Syria – U.S. CentCom Declares War On Russia – 3 high ranking Russian generals killed in a mortar attack, something that ISIS has never been able to pull off, meaning they were highly likely to have been co-opted by US forces.]

Science, General Knowledge & Environment

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life: the new sleep science – Sleeping enough is a medical, physical and emotional requirement that has powerful predictive power on your health, your energy, your mind and your body.

How flying seriously messes with your mind – A very comprehensive article about how our bodies and spirits are affected by high altitude, from increased emotional response to taste to dry skin to immune system.

WHO warns the world is running out of antibiotics – Of the 51 new antibiotics being developed against antibiotic resistant bacteria, only 8 are actually innovative.

Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For – Not restricted to Nestlé only. Bottled water is an ecological catastrophe, pumping spring water, bottling it in plastics and then shipping it by truck (with huge damages to roads) to be sold at several multiples of its costs. Our opinion is that bottled water should be banned in Western countries were public water is sufficiently available in good quality or heavily taxed to make governments cope with the pollution and the costs of public water treatments.

History & Geopolitics

The Slow Death of Europe’s Social Democrats – Social democrats in Europe have been steadily losing ground to the extreme right and left, after their own parties embraced unpopular policies (Schröder, Blair, various French socialists…). How they will be able to regain trust in their countries is not clear.

Brexit Denialism: The Customs/Border Problem and the Curious Case of the Pallets – The UK government is under-estimating the huge challenge of establishing an entirely new custom system, from IT to tariffs to standards.

Wanted: Russia Experts, No Expertise Required – Bloomberg. While the media reports continuously on Russian ‘aggression’ and takes for granted the flimsy evidence offered by Western Intelligence agencies, actual Russian experts are not heard or keep quiet, fearing the consequences of challenging the conventional ‘wisdom’. However, we need to understand Russia in order to deal with the country. The same applies to North Korea.

More Holes in Russia-gate Narrative – Downloading tests show that the transfer speed of the ‘hacked’ DNC files could only have been the work of someone using an USB key inside the premises, not the work of a hacker located far away.

Russian special forces repel a US-planned attack in Syria, denounce the USA and issue a stark warningSyria – Russia Accusing U.S. Of Attacks, Abduction Attempts, Team-play With Al-Qaeda – Russian ‘military police’ in a de-escalation zone were attacked by Al-Quaida related groups supported by US forces. The Russian destroyed the attackers and then issued a public statement to decry the actions of the US in Syria.

The West might hardly believe it, but it now seems the Syrian war is ending – and Assad is the victor – Assad is the winner of the Syrian civil war, though it will still take a lot of time to rebuild the country. However, the fact that he will be the victor will change the calculation of the various Middle East players, especially those that bet against him (among others: Israel).

Airport Police Demanded an Activist’s Passwords. He Refused. Now He Faces Prison in the U.K. – A British anti-terrorism related law allows authorities to arrest anyone at the borders and subject them to interrogations and searches, with copies of electronic documents made and sent to GCHQ where they are pooled in a massive internal database.

China invades universities, local governments – Australian politicians linked to the Chinese government and the Chinese government spying on its own citizens studying in Australia through its students, as well as complaining about Australian teaching material deemed ‘offensive’. The offensive material includes listing Taiwan and Hong Kong as ‘countries’ and showing a map with claimed Chinese territory under Indian control.

Finance & Economics

Insanely Concentrated Wealth Is Strangling Our Prosperity – Super skewed wealth distribution in the USA is corrupting the political system, creating an unfair society and destroying economic growth by decreasing total spending in the economy since rich people save a lot more (proportionally) than poor people.

Too Big To Fail Banks: “The Robotics Are Coming!” Really? – TBTF bank CEOs are saying that automation and robots will replace human workers and warned of impending job cuts. The reality is that most jobs that can replaced by robots already have been.

Obama Goes From White House to Wall Street in Less Than One Year – Taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, some of which are apparently redistributed to charities. All politicians are now effectively relying on talk money to raise funds and the banks are very generous providers. We’re assuming they’re very happy to benefit from politicians’ expertise, contacts, influences…

Picture of the week: Russian military intervention in Syria

About Carlito Riego

"Great perfection may appear imperfect, but its usefulness is inexhaustible. Great abundance may appear empty, but its usefulness cannot be exhausted. Great correctness may appear twisted, great skills appear crude, great eloquence appear awkward. Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat. Clear serenity governs the world." - Lao Zi