Kraft’s ring now appears on display in the Kremlin’s library, quite a trophy brought home to Moscow by Russia’s Boss of Bosses.
The 4.94-carat ring is in the Kremlin’s library, where all official state gifts are kept, he said. It is worth more than $25,000, according to multiple reports from 2005.
A Kraft spokesman said Sunday the story is a humorous anecdote that Kraft “retells for laughs.”
“He loves that the ring is at the Kremlin and, as he stated back in 2005, he continues to have great respect for Russia and the leadership of President Putin,” said Stacey James, a spokesman for The Kraft Group.
Putin the Pirate has done a few things under the table upside-down and sideways over decades to weaken western political coherence, cohesion, and resolve. Start with the KGB’s handling of Zawahiri over the winter of 1996/7. In connect-the-dots fashion, I believe that stay led to the attack by jet hijacking Islamists on 9/11 that in turn goosed the pride of western states in their Christian and independent political cultures and led to what has been referred to as the “New Nationalism”.
When bees sting and flesh swells, the response has not been called “proud flesh” for nothing.
The popular western response in enmity and fear regarding Islam has not been misplaced in relation to Islamic Extremism and related Islamist Terror, but the same has given rise to blood-and-soil nationalism, authoritarianism, and actual autocracy in some EU/NATO states. Hungary, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and the United States (one nation under Trump for a while) have each seen their open democracies challenged by demagoguery or political perversion.
We may also take note of the “01s” in dates: 1991-dissolve of the Soviet Union in bankruptcy following American intercession opposite the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (from which Russia was forced to retreat in 1989); 2001-the September 11 attacks took place on Felix Dzerzhinsky’s birthday, quite a gift for a Moscow bent on revenge for its losses in Afghanistan-and, no, Putin didn’t do it–it was obviously radical Muslims assembled and deployed by Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama Bin Laden; 2011-The Horror taking off in Syria that would send millions of refugees into NATO (Turkey, which today hosts about 3.68 million Syrian refugees), the European Union (0.7 million-Germany), and Scandinavia (0.3 million), another goad for the defense of the rightly ethnolinguistic state cultures settled and enjoying the benefits of, well, being themselves, the only problem being a concomitant drift toward the same feudal-medieval worldviews and fascination with authority held by Bashar al-Assad, Ali Khamenei, and Vladimir Putin; 2021-Russia’s repeated threats by military feint against Ukraine, a young democratic state seeking NATO accession, and, by extension, NATO itself, but not quite as Ukraine remains without accession.
So hey, Bob (Kraft), George and George, Jr. (Bush), where are you today with Putin (the thief)?
Where and when are dictatorships to be stopped?
Is it when one or another has engaged in political repression and breathtaking plunder at home?
Should it be when the security service agents and agent provocateur show up within the borders of one’s democratic state?
Should it be when the tanks roll into a neighboring state struggling for its own sovereignty against barbaric force and the possibility of a return to corrupt, kleptocratic, and tyrannical governance?
Miami Herald journalist Julie Brown noted the presence of countless unanswered questions in association with her research into Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita industry. The full accounting of who, what, where, and why would today seem largely absent and sealed by Epstein’s own hanging, but perhaps there’s one aspect that bears further attention in this most distracted age: Epstein’s Russian interests. The powerful personal brands associated with the Epstein vortex range from Alan Dershowitz to Prince Andrew — so how deep and how wide the damage done?
Whether by way of fear of being found out or found guilty of one crime or another, when have the business and political leaders of a nation been compromised enough to accept bridling by the state’s foremost enemy?
Should you pick up American Kleptocracy by Casey Michel, you will learn (here cribbing direct from the book’s title) “How the U.S. CREATED the WORLD’S GREATEST MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME in HISTORY”. Forget expensive cars and real estate, at least until one has established sufficient anonymous businesses- as-persons courtesy of Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, for a start.
Before Maria Butina, the “illegal”, got caught, American Administrations, including Trump’s, had given the boot to Moscow’s spies-under-diplomatic-cover. The question to which only the state, actually the CIA and FBI, might respond would be “How many more Maria’s might there be?” Doing what? How? And where?
With respect to East-West Rivalry and Moscow-Washington Relations, just how bad might compromise, corruption, and infiltration serving Russia’s defense and promotion of political absolutism and kleptocracy be here in the United States?
Whatever Washington’s true state of affairs might be with Russia — and a kleptocratic Russia unrelenting in its will to confuse and degrade EU/NATO cohesion and coherence — one may hope the open democracies of the west and their allies will renew their vows (for Americans, see “Basic Training” on this blog) and rediscover and reaffirm their commitments to American and modern civility, ethics, principles, rights, and values without compromise and, always, with compassion, humanism, and reason.
While China had been slow to accede to the multilateral Biological Weapons Convention and expressed interest in biological warfare competition, the world has not committed to the Wuhan Level 4 Biological Laboratory narrative regarding Chinese state culpability. There above (viewable on Amazon Prime Video) is the trailer from a counterintelligence thriller directed by the British auteur Michael Apted and released to the viewing public in 2017, about three years before the natural/unnatural dissemination of the COVID-19 strand and its effects.
So we may not know how Covid-19 got started, but we well know what it has done to our species’ natural biological and social existence, and we know who and what the disease has decimated financially or enriched beyond estimation.
Biological Warfare II Narcotics
While narcotics are money makers for burgeoning Transnational Crime Organizations as well as stimulus for police and paramilitary counter-narcotics budgets worldwide, the same represent also a form of biological warfare (snorted, swallowed, poked, and smoked into human frames with myriad rationales) that effectively deflects and degrades the energies and lives of untold millions worldwide while facilitating as well cultural and social chaos, decay, and despair. However made, narcotics money percolates upward — or across if sufficiently funded for the experience (Robin Williams: “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you are making too much money”) — and the $1 billion slurried up from Kensington Avenue becomes one Big Billion Dollar Infusion for spending in and around Philadelphia or anywhere else it may care to go.
One cannot underestimate the propensity for ruthless threat and violence on the part of the world’s smugglers nor ignore the impact of the kind of money involved in smuggling — arms, drugs, humans for labor and for sex — all are money (really, just business) to the cartels, freelancers, and gangs involved in inveigling the world in vice and looting it by force. It has gotten so bad that cocaine and funding for terrorism has become a negotiated commodity between statesmen as well as a major headache for intelligence and law enforcement authorities.
Add, perhaps, what goes on behind the curtains.
So what happens to all that dirty money?
As suggested about Philadelphia’s infamous Kensington Avenue narcotics market, what the dealers scrape off the streets moves around and upward into cars and real estate or onward to other criminal or terrorist enterprises (and backwards: no new products, no sales). With bulk purchases (e.g., cars rounded up for export and sales overseas) or luxurious ones, the very next sale cleans the money and into town it goes.
Corruption II Business Private and Slick
Business and politics in feudal systems structured around Absolute Power, whether of corporation or state, may have features resembling corruption–bribes become incentives, kickbacks rewards, the receiving of less noble hooch and nookie pleasant encouragement for sealing a less private, more notable and admirable business deal. The details may disappear in the vapors of hangovers and lost memories, and that’s the end of the story. Take it a little further, however, and an act of indiscretion, pleasantly offered, may become leverage for blackmail and coercion. Jeffrey Epstein socialized among and with the powerful of the world, and he had his relationship with Putin too: was what he was doing really about an old perv with his own treasury?
Are America’s wealthy in some ways destroying their own national culture for a little bit of business or, perhaps, doing so out of naivete?
You tell me.
What happens in El Norte moves into and may add to the chaos and misery known to Latin America in the sway of local and regional “narconomies”.
I have a Twitter trope that I’ll restate here without counting the letters:
North American arms–>south to Latin American gangs and cartels; LA migrants–>North; NA cash–>south; LA illicit everything–>north.
America’s black market arms (see Gaynor and Grillo in reference) are not the only ones reaching Latin America, but that the system has been large and persistent and with much related activity eating away at the country’s ethical, financial, moral, and social integrity, one wonders if it isn’t time for the “authorities” to get smarter and the “bad guys” — or the desperate — to have better options with perhaps a little less ambition before “what goes around” really does return in karmic fashion.
Kleptocracy, or “rule by thieves,” has for too long been disregarded from mainstream foreign policy discussions. It is often overlooked as a peripheral economic development issue: A problem for tax justice advocates and foreign aid workers. Yet it has been shaping international politics and the global security environment for decades. The Biden-Harris administration will have an unprecedented opportunity—and a unique responsibility—to confront this pervasive threat with decisive action.
This chance comes not come a moment too soon. Since the end of the Cold War, corruption has metastasized beyond national borders into a problem of almost unimaginable scale. The United Nations has estimated that $1 trillion are paid in bribes and a further $2.3 trillion otherwise stolen annually.1 Global Financial Integrity, a Washington-based think tank, cites corruption as a key factor in $8.7 trillion that vanished from official records of trade between 135 developing countries and 36 advanced economies from 2008-2017.2
Around the world, Putin’s Russia engages in a spectrum of unpleasant activities designed to destabilize its targets, foremost EU/NATO (for its businesses, democracy, humanism, and rule of law), and control and produce power in its own interests. Also, Russia has been long a state about appearances — military and political theater — and the longest looks backward will fine the Viking, Varangians, Slavs, and Rus, and all perhaps have come together in Putin’s mind and the related diplomacy, leadership, strategies, and tactics devised to perpetuate what he may be believe to be Russia’s essential soul.
Regarding our own rightfully proud nationalism, that too may be traced to 9/11 and the strongly intimated sojourn of mastermind Ayman al-Zwahari in Russia during the winter of 1996 to 1997 (https://www.businessinsider.com/exploring-al-qaedas-murky-connection-to-russian-intelligence-2014-6). He would leave for the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal region to produce the compact with Osama Bin Laden that would then culminate with the attack by hijacked jets on the symbols of American and western power.
It’s All Good — Or Is It? About Information and Popular Public Perception
The American Public, imho, gets the news toward which it gravitates, Fringe Left, Far Left, Left, Center, Right, Far Right, Fringe Right. As we are now familiar with terms like “social media algorithms” and “echo chambers”, we — and others in other nations — may have also an obligation to ask more questions and test and corroborate what we find, so that we ourselves are not digging our own cultural, political, or social holes but rather finding the essential histories and narratives that prove inerrently reliable however criticized or scrutinized.
My own quest as regards perspective: Next Century Post-Modern.
Of course, I hope there is a “Next Century” (not that I’ll be around to care) and that the generations arrive at it with tidily packed away medieval baggage and altogether more appropriate intellectual and language tools as well as integrity (most of all) for addressing the challenges of that day to come as found.
1) three-way “superpower” hypersonic missile race between China (Totalitarian), Russia (Autocratic Mafia State), and the United States (Democracy in Disarray);
2) serious East-West Rivalry for global influence and control of other states, whether criminal, elitist, and thuggish or rooted in democratically distributed power and reliably humanist, lawful, open, and secular;
3) Ukraine invaded and now threatened again by blunt Russian force and related brutish and corrupt business and political practices;
4) A test of the strength of the the West’s civilizational commitment to democratic, egalitarian, secular ethics, principles, and values against corruption and dictatorship, whether communist, fascist, nationalist, or socialist.
The post-WWII order has been weakened by decades of nefarious effort on Moscow’s part to destabilize EU/NATO with every disingenuous and, frankly, evil method at its disposal, Active Measures (agitprop; cyberwarfare; disinformation; infiltrations of spies online and off; etc.) and broadest spectrum Hybrid Warfare (starting with False Flag Operations and Little Green Men) but moving also to dominance in Energy and political leverage through it, control of a North Pole air base and related potential threat projection. Moscow’s presence in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America and its innumerable “Frozen Conflicts” plus its relations with Iran and Syria and terrorist enterprises (see “Mikhail Bogdanov, Hamas” or “Russian arms, Taliban”) tell of the kind of world Moscow runs already and would love to sustain with Western complicity.
Well, score one for the British breakthrough and deployment in the Hypersonic Missile arena — and for Great Britain’s possession of a still strong spine.
“The U.K. is very clear: any military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake,” she said. “The Russian government should expect significant strategic consequences. The cost of an invasion would be catastrophically high.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night held a video call with U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi as Western fears grow.
The videoconference sought to present a “united front” among NATO leaders before Biden holds a call with Putin later Tuesday in which he will warn him against starting another war in Eastern Europe.
Anne Applebaum on Democracy and those who mean to destroy it –>
All of us have in our minds a cartoon image of what an autocratic state looks like: There is a bad man at the top. He controls the police. The police threaten the people with violence. There are evil collaborators, and maybe some brave dissidents.
But in the 21st century, that cartoon bears little resemblance to reality. Nowadays, autocracies are run not by one bad guy but by networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services, and professional propagandists. The members of these networks are connected not only within a given country but among many countries. The corrupt, state-controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with their counterparts in another. The police forces in one country can arm, equip, and train the police forces in another. The propagandists share resources—the troll farms that promote one dictator’s propaganda can also be used to promote the propaganda of another—and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America.
Sudanese dictatorship takes a big bite out of Ethiopia –>
Since the Sudanese military was willing to lose millions in aid and support from the United States by knocking out prospects for a transitional civilian government, they are unlikely to be phased by the White House’s call for peace and stability. If anything, Sudan’s military may be more emboldened to deepen its foothold over al-Fashaga as they no longer have U.S. monetary support on the line. If the conflict worsens, Egypt, Eritrea, and other African nations are likely to pick sides, squandering the chances for stability in the Horn of Africa.
Having won Afghanistan by force of arms, the Taliban now find themselves embattled and lost –>
If the widespread impression was that the Taliban was a radical Islamic group, (which it is) it is being challenged by an even more extreme group, the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISK). Sporadic attacks, claimed by the ISK, has claimed lives and kept the ruling dispensation on the tenterhooks.
Within the Taliban itself, there appears to be a tussle between hardliners (aligned to Pakistan) like Sirajuddin Haqqani and moderates like Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who don’t have a problem having a relationship with India and Russia. The differences within the ruling government have prevented the Taliban from coming out with a clear vision on its way ahead other than reiterating that its interpretation of the Islamic Sharia will be the basis for the rule of law, social behaviour, and governance in the country.
Coalition appeals for aid in the interest of saving Afghan lives from Taliban targeting –>
WASHINGTON (AP) — A coalition of organizations working to evacuate people who could be targeted by the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan appealed Monday for more assistance from the U.S. government and other nations as conditions deteriorate in the country. / Members of the AfghanEvac Coalition met in a video call with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to press the case for additional resources to help tens of thousands of people get out of Afghanistan, now faced with a deepening economic and humanitarian crisis in addition to a precarious security situation following the U.S. withdrawal.
Well, there above is a bit of morning curiosity over coffee. Anne Applebaum fighting for democracy against autocratic and feudal power worldwide; Nigeria riven with bandits and “land pirates” as it fails to rise tot he defense of its people as horrors take place; a Taliban leadership struggling to “win the peace” having bulled its way into power with violence . . . — good morning!
I awoke one day not too long ago in a medieval version of the United States of America with a Medieval Internet Commons, passionate mobs Far Out Left and Far White or Strident Right, and loaded with the zealots of Olde Institutions, generally religious or, well, Far Out, man.
And I awoke one day to . . . Kidults, preening and self-indulgent, bent on profit or glorious decadence and dissolution, and then I got to read about Medieval Absolute Power (the Russian Way) and Modern Democracy (see “Rumor Control,” CISA,Gov) and realized the would-be “MODERN” — culturally inclusive, modern, middle-of-the-aisle but also the avant garde “politicos” of a 21st Century — or a 22nd Century “Newest World” — compassionate, loving, and prudent and responsible had a fight for the future on their hands. Well, there’s no need to erase the past or start over if I / you / we choose to stand on the shoulders of giants for a good look ahead.