Ilia Nebolskiy is a new name emerging in the space of info-wars ((Note: Nebolskiy protested against my use of "info-warriors" which is, in his view, "coyly slanderous;" thus the correction: he is a professional journalist; I am with the motley pack of the others) with a Greece-based "independent" platform. He debuted today with a well written article, "Is Russia West's Best Pupil?" which, skipping my late breakfast, I decided to review, in part because I was tagged to it on Facebook.
My general impression: one of the first attempts of Moscow to reset and rearm its messaging, in part to use Nebolskiy's own expression from the end of his article "damage control mode." A good deal of bragging and boasting of the triumphs of Putin is preserved with some new interesting notes: NATO was or is a mentor, but Putin and his government "is the West's brightest pupil" who "studied and expanded on the most successful aspects of NATO foreign strategy."
Cognitive dissonance" is confused with asking questions or perhaps vice versa, especially if the questions are "many." Tying two different things together is or has been a staple in propaganda since the get-go. But this is just a side note.
What is supposed to be new--both in terms Putin's new lessons learned from NATO and his new "damage control"? Nebolskiy: "The first lesson is that the days of the cautious Soviet Union... are long gone." Caution is gone? The problem rather is that Russia did not have her own true, coherent, clear, independent strategy to begin with--with the emphasis on independent and true. Oligarchy has been too busy chasing its capitals moving from Russia abroad.
The "most important lesson" in this Putin's new "damage control" and "lesson" learned from the US and NATO, his teachers, is "to learn from mistakes" together with "keeping exit strategy open." The fact is that Russia has been on the "exit para-strategy" path since the late 1980s--exiting effectively out of her existence, spirit, dignity, and former greatness. But as one much greater former Russian leader said, you cannot change the policy without changing the people who make and execute these policies. The cadres decide. Leaders dancing to the drumbeat of the West can't become Mozarts of strategy in the next half an hour or next month or next year. The degree of probability of something like that happening might significantly increase with the number of afterlife purgatories and lifetimes spent on learning how to truly appreciate real music and the idea of the good. Knowing how to take cuts from the country's wealth and how to imitate a cockcrow's swagger is not enough.
On the side of the "triumphs" achieved, Nebolskiy too is overplaying his hand and offering as trump cards statements, which present a shadow on the wall instead of reality. For example: " it also achieved its primary diplomatic goal in making the precondition previously set out by the various opposition groups that before any meaningful negotiations could start, “Assad must go”, null and void."
At the same time, Nebolskiy does confirm/unveil much of what is very problematic, even wrong, about Putin's "strategy" and its PR the tones of which show only too jarringly how much the Russian leadership and elite lost a sense of genuine camaraderie with allies and friends, while trying to be "the brightest pupil" (Nebolskiy's term) of the US, NATO, and the West. Thus, according to Nebolskiy, "the primary diplomatic goal" which Putin achieved by pulling out is that "Russia's withdrawal puts pressure on Assad, as well as Iran, to seriously commit to a political transition and leave aside any thoughts of 'recapturing the whole of Syria.'" So that the most important diplomatic achievement of Putin is making President Assad "leave aside any thoughts" of defending the whole of Syria? And this is an ally's great achievement? Or is this an achievement of the US or, at least, one of the things on the US wish list? The more one tries to create and bask in the shine of such greatness, the more self-reflection gets lost.
Still Nebolskiy correctly, but woefully to Russia's allies and all would-be allies, does also express the other new tone in Putin's "new strategy." This, let's call frankly, neo-colonial tone, much as the point just stated above, exposes Putin's and Moscow's view on the territorial integrity of Syria and the irresistible thirst to relive and re-experience, even if only briefly and delusionally, the pleasure of dividing with the US lands and territories of someone else as one's new sphere of influence: "All the while, the Kurds are coyly advancing in NE Syria, bickering between themselves, and they seem to be the only party to openly and honestly acknowledge the fact that Syria is de-facto partitioned." If this is true, and other similar pronouncements and off-record revelations like that by Pepe Escobar do indicate so, then Lavrov's official statements and reassurances would be lies and PR pacifiers to be plugged into the mouths of both the Putinists and Putin's critics.
Nebolskiy reserves the most important "lessons" and information for the conclusion. Here it is: "Putin is keeping his options open, in view of the fact that the major part of the internal opposition, a formidable enemy, blames him that he has not done enough in the “self-defeating” Minsk accords concerning Ukraine. In Russia, the discussion between Putin, FM Lavrov and Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, during which V. Putin ordered the withdrawal, was conceived as a public relations disaster. The Russian president is now on damage control mode."
So, yes, the article does teach us some other very important things:
1. Russian patriots, as represented by Strelkov, Эль Мюрид, Rokhlina, and many others, which are, however, not known to the West, have already become acknowledged and seen as Russian oligarchy's and Putin's own "internal opposition" and even as "a FORMIDABLE enemy." This also appears to imply an admission that the Kremlin does not know what to do about it. Removal and elimination of people like Mozgovoy, Bednov, Dremov, Ischenko and others in Donbass did not make this formidable problem go away.
2. The way Putin made and presented the withdrawal decision was, indeed,
"a public relations disaster."
3. Putin is "now on damage control mode," and that's also why, I do believe, John Kerry hurried to Moscow today for what ought to be a four-day visit.