Hubris Alert: Recent Internet Events

How far one could call it an upside to the locking down of the world (and in fairness, if in the longer term it leads to less needless business travel, that is a good thing), but everyone now seems to be organising online talks, webinars and the like. It does mean that we get to talk to and hear from people all over, without a single passport stamp. Anyway, here are some recent ones in which I was involved:

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON RUSSIA’S POLITICS AND FOREIGN POLICY

A webinar held by the Clingendael Institute’s new Russia & Eastern Europe Centre (CREEC), 26 May 2020

RUSSIAN STRATEGIC THINKING

Webinar with the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress’s Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs, 4 June 2020

RUSSIAN OVERSEAS STRATEGY IN THE COVID ERA

Talk on Russian foreign policy and ‘active measures’ for the Institute of International Relations Prague, 5 June 2020

RUSSIA AND PUTIN IN THE AGE OF COVID

Short webcast interview for the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 9 June 2020

Russian Newspaper Coverage of the US Time of Troubles

Seeing America tear itself apart again is a depressing sight; watching police wade into protesters along streets where I’ve walked my dog or eaten ice cream gives it a particular poignancy. I’ve already received some media requests for comment on Russia’s ‘role’ in the current US conflagration. (What to call; it? ‘Riots’ puts the blame squarely on the protesters, which is hardly accurate. That Russian word bunt, or explosion of violence works perhaps. Even better, smutnoe vremya, ‘time of troubles’) The common themes from US journalists seem to be (1) what is the Russian role in instigating the violence and (2) how are the Russians spinning and enjoying the sight of America in flames. What a sad insight into the knee-jerk assumptions in play.

Of course, you can absolutely count on Moscow using this the next time America wants to lecture Russia on human rights and police abuses, and I am sure there are some examples of toxic propaganda on both sides being magnified by Russian-linked or -sympathetic channels. But I have seen no evidence of anything more than that, and the almost touchingly-lunatic nonsense we have seen on the net of police departments being brainwashed into violent abuses by Russian military intelligence (I’m not going to magnify it with a link – if you really must, do Google it) says much more about contemporary desperation to find an outside force to blame than anything else.

But on the media coverage, looking at Russia’s newspapers, at least, what strikes me is that actually it is relatively low-key and factual. The story tends to be some way down the running order (the SpaceX shuttle mission gets more play), and pretty factual. Let’s see:

The government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta headlines its story ‘Trump hid in a bunker during riots in Washington‘ (hang on, wasn’t he meant to be Putin’s willing acolyte?)

Izvestiya, another government-close paper and one often inclined to waspishness, again provides a pretty factual account under the title ‘More than 4 thousand people arrested during the riots in the United States.’

The tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda takes a different, personal approach, interviewing ‘Nina’, a migrant who had moved from Berdsk to Minneapolis, ground zero of the current troubles: ‘This city never seemed to the girl criminal and troubled, even the coronavirus did not frighten the Siberian woman.’ Now, ‘a Russian girl describes the pogroms in Minneapolis.’ It is obviously more emotive, but frankly not that different from so many eyewitness accounts we are hearing, and nor is there an obvious bias. As she concludes, ‘I don’t know how to react. On the one hand, the police are to blame. On the other hand, I do not support the riots.’

Meanwhile, Moskovskii Komsomolets turns to Valery Garbuzov, director of ISKAN, the Institute of the USA and Canada, for expert commentary, wondering in its subtitle ‘Who can end the riots in the USA?’ Again, this strikes me a pretty fair-minded, with a note that ‘Trump has a reputation as a racist, [and] will take advantage of all these events’ but also a statement that ‘I would not say unequivocally that it is Trump who is to blame for what is happening. What is happening today has happened before and, I am convinced, will happen during this century from time to time, the deepest reasons still lie in the fact that the problems of the black population in America by and large have not been resolved.’ It seems hard to disagree.

When asked about the claims of a Russian hand in all this, he is rightly dismissive: ‘Such logic is, of course, quite primitive. Nevertheless, it is in demand today. The evidence regarding alleged interference… is also obviously superficial. Sometimes it comes to some kind of mania, but there is nothing surprising here…’

The business paper Vedomosti doesn’t really cover the story, but Kommersant suggests that ‘America is starting to get tired of riots.’ Hardly sounds that delighted.

I could go on, and I am sure the tone is going to be rather different on some TV programmes (although these are often really entertainment – of a sort – masquerading as news analysis), but the truth of the matters, America, is that

  1. The Russian media is not delighting at your misery; and for that matter
  2. The Russian media isn’t that interested in you…

New Book: Combat Vehicles of Russia’s Special Forces

NVG CVoRSF-Cover-Whimsy

My author’s copies of this new Osprey book have arrived, so this clearly is still on track to be published on 28 May, as planned, COVID-19 be damned! It’s available for pre-order, and you can find more details (including some shots of inside pages) in my earlier post on this book, here.

The In Moscow’s Shadows podcast is out now!

Screenshot 2020-04-26 at 10.28.52The first episode of the podcast is out! In due course you’ll be able to find it on Apple/Google/Stitcher and other podcast directories, but in the meantime you can listen to it on Soundcloud, here. More to follow – but let me also remind you that if you like this and want to support it, you can on Patreon here – and those of Comrade tier or above will get exclusive extra monthly content, and those of Boyar tier or above will have the chance to ask me questions to address and otherwise help shape the future of the podcast.

The In Moscow’s Shadows podcast – coming soon!

Having decided to surrender to popular request and my own hubris, an IMS podcast is on the way.  Quite what is covered, how often it comes out and how long it lasts depends in part up to you, so watch the video below or listen to the trailer, and you’ll find more at the podcast’s own page.

New Book: ‘A Short History of Russia’

SHoR-UK-bookphoto

I’ve just received the advance author’s copy of the UK version of my new book ‘A Short History of Russia‘ (all Russian history in 190 pages!). Because of the impact on COVID-19 on the world of the physical bookshop, in the UK publication with Ebury Press (Penguin Random House) is being delayed until February 2021 (instead of the end of April, as originally intended), but it is still scheduled to come out in the USA with Hanover Square Press in July 2020.

 

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