From Russia with Love

Inside Putin’s Russia …

Posted on July 11, 2017. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

From Google News …

In developed capitalist democracies, financial, media and energy companies are private enterprises that don’t report to presidents.

In Russia, things are different. Most of those businesses are majority-state-owned corporations, virtual branches of the government. And that means when you talk to the head of a Russian bank or oil company, you are effectively talking to the Kremlin.

In 2000, when Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency, he consolidated competing power centers — media, business, local government, opposition parties and the Parliament — under his authority.

He called it “a vertical of power.” This system now includes organized crime and cybercriminals. Today the top management of these enterprises are Putin allies, and many, like Mr. Putin himself, have worked in the security services, specifically in the K.G.B. and its successor organization, the F.S.B.

The Russian government owns the major television outlets and, according to Russian journalists, sets the daily news agenda.
The head of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, is Igor Sechin, a former K.G.B. and F.S.B. security officer who served as a top lieutenant to Mr. Putin.

Gazprom, the state gas company, is run by Alexei Miller, another former St. Petersburg associate of Mr. Putin. With exclusive rights to export gas, Gazprom controls prices, pipelines and energy diplomacy in Russia. It also owns the country’s largest media holding company, Gazprom Media.

The deal Mr. Putin made with these companies, oligarchs and banks was that they would be free to make money with state help (often to the detriment of the Russian people) as long as Mr. Putin and his cronies got their cut of the profits — and the Kremlin and security forces were free to govern without interference.

Failure to comply could lead to loss of one’s company or worse: The oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky challenged Mr. Putin on corruption in 2003 and was stripped of his company and put in jail. Oligarchs once close to Mr. Putin have died under suspicious circumstances.

There was one more part of this arrangement: Since the government facilitated the moneymaking, the Kremlin could also demand in return payments or loans to favored individuals and institutions — no questions asked.

All this is important to understand when considering the case of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

According to news reports, Mr. Kushner held a secret meeting with the chief executive of a Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, or VEB, in December, before the Trump administration took office. The purpose of the meeting remains unclear. Was it related to some diplomatic issue, as the White House has suggested? Or was it about Trump or Kushner family enterprises?

It is possible the meeting was entirely legal (although actually doing business with the bank would not have been). Because of the nature of Russian banks, either scenario raises troubling questions.

In the case of the major Russian state banks, their lending decisions are often politically directed, and when capital is tight — such as after the 2008 recession or the 2014 imposition of sanctions by the United States and the European Union on banks for supporting Moscow’s military adventurism in Crimea and eastern Ukraine — the Russian government has provided cash infusions from the state treasury.

The bank executive Mr. Kushner met with last December, Sergey Gorkov, is a graduate of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service academy. His bank, VEB, is regularly used by the Kremlin to finance politically important projects, including some of the infrastructure for the Sochi Olympics in 2014, which cost the Russian government a total of about $50 billion.

VEB also bailed out Ukrainian banks after the 2008 global financial crisis and purchased two failing steel plants in Ukraine — aid reportedly designed to keep President Yanukovych, a Putin ally, under the Kremlin’s control.

In Chechnya, the bank provided funds for an industrial park to Ramzan Kadyrov, the republic’s ruthless leader and a staunch Putin loyalist. The bank also purchased shares in a Ukrainian steel maker from a Russian-Canadian partner of Mr. Trump in 2010, who built a Trump hotel in Toronto.

VEB employed and financed the defense of a Russian intelligence operative, Evgeny Buryakov, who was deported in April after pleading guilty and being sentenced in 2016 to 30 months in prison for his role in a spy ring.

That ring also attempted in 2013 to recruit Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign who has sought to do business with Gazprom. Another Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, did work for Gazprom Media in the early 2000s.

The United States government is aware of the special role Russian banks play in advancing Moscow’s espionage efforts and foreign policy. That is almost certainly one reason the F.B.I. has been looking into computer communications between Alfa Bank, a private bank with close Kremlin ties, and the Trump Organization, as part of its broader investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Russian banks conduct legitimate business with law-abiding companies around the world, including American banks. But their close ties to the Russian government make Mr. Kushner’s meeting with Mr. Gorkov worthy of deeper scrutiny.

Mr. Gorkov is part of the Putin power vertical. When Mr. Kushner spoke to him, he was also talking to the Kremlin, and we should know what they discussed.

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Marshal Zhukov visits the NDA …

Posted on June 8, 2017. Filed under: From Russia with Love, Personalities |

It was way back in 1956 that we got to see the likes of Georgy Zhukov, Zhou en lai, Edwina Mountbatten, Nehru, Queen Soraya, her replacement and a host of others.

But for the nonce lets just talk of dear old Georgy Zhukov – a bit of whom you can see in that fabulous movie, ‘Enemy at the Gates’

The great General’s visit was notable for a couple of interesting reasons. First we got to see the wonderful RSM Ayling – whose thunderous. “I am your father and I am your mother” to all new Cadets made them think that he was the real Commandant –  do for Zhukov’s benefit  – an Open and Close Order on the Drill Square. Believe me when I say I can still feel the Earth Quake.

The second reason was not altogether a too happy one because it showed what scoundrels cadets really are!

The great man was then taken to a WT class and being the soldier he was, he wanted to see the contents of dear P2s haversack – which should have had 13 items like mess tin, socks, needle and thread and the like. But Cadets are Cadets and out tumbled a whole lot of dirty linen.

Dear P2 sure was on the Shit list for the nonce but he rose in due time to become a General. He was so slick, so gracious, so utterly, so butterly, smooth that he had at least two Army Chiefs eating out of the palm of his hand!

Back to Zhukov. Some say, he was the greatest General to come out of the Second WW – for the sheer number of battles he participated in and influenced positively either as Commander or as one looking over the local Generals shoulder – he was Stalin’s Right Hand Man ie CDS or Dy CinC or what ever.

Before the War in 1938/39 he had hammered a strong Japanese Force on the Manchurian Front by attacking it frontally while encircling it with two armor brigades from both flanks. Then after Hitler’s Barborassa began, there was no battle he did not influence and win.

Indeed why the Germans failed in Russia was that Hitler refused to heed the likes of Guderian and Manstein and became his own CDS. Whereas Stalin heeded Zhukov even though Stalin was a suspicious and jealous man.

On his part Zhukov was clever and noted that when Stalin took long pulls on his pipe, he could be influenced but never when he took short puffs or when his pipe ran out of tobacco. Stalin on his part noted that Zhukov was not a Politician but he was a wee jealous of his competence as a General.

After Stalin’s death, it was Zhukov who arrested Beria after having neutralized his Secret Police. Thus began the collective leadership for the nonce till the arrival of Krushchev, Gorbachev and Putin.

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War of BUGs …

Posted on February 16, 2017. Filed under: From Russia with Love |

Jim Mowreader on Quora

In 1945, the Soviets presented this beautifully hand-carved Great Seal of the United States to Ambassador Averill Harriman as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity upon the opening of a new embassy in Moscow. Ambassador Harriman proceeded to hang it in his study…

In 1952, the new US Ambassador to Moscow decided to move the carving. You guessed it – it was bugged, and in a really ingenious way. If you wanted to make the bug transmit, you had to tune a radio transmitter to the specific frequency the bug was tuned to, illuminate the building with radio waves, and recover the conversations made in front of it from the returned radio signal.

It gets worse: in 1975, the US decided to build an All New Embassy in Moscow. And just for the sake of Better Relations With The Soviets, they bought some of the materials from the USSR.

This was NOT a good idea; the Soviets managed to plant so many bugs in the building materials they sold us, we had to tear half the embassy down and start over using American construction crews and American-made materials hauled to Moscow on US Army-owned tractor-trailers, each of which contained a US Army transportation sergeant, a Russian-speaking US Army military intelligence soldier, a loaded M16 rifle and a full can of ammo!.

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Public Speaking … ‘Dummies’ Guide

Posted on August 24, 2011. Filed under: From Russia with Love, Guide Posts, Personalities |

Public Speaking gives you the gift of the undivided attention of guys stupid enough to want to listen to you. So you had better give them all you got.

First thing is that only a dumb speaker would need distractions. So how has this here wizard ruled, in a recent post, that  a pretty girl on the stage is a big help! The guy probably does not know that –

 “There’s language in her eye, her cheek, her lip. Nay, her foot speaks.”

The aim of any speaker worth the name has to be, to always but always, hold undivided and rivetted attention of his/her audience. There is your voice, your language, your thought and manner to help you do it.

Know this then that Julius Gaius Caesar  –

“ –  was an exceptionally zealous student with a marvelous elegance of language. His force, his penetration, his energy make it abundantly clear that he was as forceful in his speech as in his conduct of war.”

This Post seeks to cover this grand subject under Seven heads.

Smarty Pants speaking in public

First. Preparation.  

Blessed with modest mental acumen, persons like me need to thoroughly prepare what ever they have to speak. Rehearse and Rehearse.  The ‘Masters’ even visit the site and see the stage to help get a feel of things.

Even the Churchills and Mark Twains minutely prepared and practiced their so called ‘extempore’ utterances!

One can never have enough of preparation or under rate its importance. Yet the Lincolns of the world just scrawlled a few points on a piece of paper as they drove to the venue. Then go on to deliver an address relevant for the ages!

But we are just not in that league!

Second. Style

Styles range from the conversational to the vehement. History records instances of near gibberish pronounced with passion and power and eternal truths uttered with disarming humility.

If you are any good you have to have your own personal style. Should you be a virtuoso, you may even have different styles for different occasions and different audiences. You yourself have to decide what suits you best. Here are three extreme examples –

A. This guy faces the audience with a tranquil mien and a beaming aspect.. In the measured cadence of his voice, there is intense feeling but no declamation, no passionate, no superficial or feigned emotion. It is simply colloquy – a gentleman conversing.

B. This chap ranges from one side of the hall to the other barking out short staccato sentences as the thought breaks upon his mind. He looks much like a caged animal, glaring and growling, as he moves to and fro with his hands behind his back.

C. This speaker is the intense sort. He speaks little but when he does, the silence that creeps over the hall is painful in its intensity.  He is not eloquent much less an orator but as he hisses out his sentences of concentrated passion and scorn, he gives a sense of demonic self control and illimitable strength.

Third.  The Start or Exordium

The aim is to establish a ‘connect’ with the audience. Crass humor and jokes are in poor taste. Here are some actual day to day examples –

A. Am a bit diffident. Because it is a bright cheery morning and for you to be sitting cooped up in a hall, having to listen to some foreigner, can hardly be anyone’s idea of a happy morning. Secondly the subject is one with which you are pretty familiar and I am going to have one hell of a time trying to make it interesting.

B. Being the last speaker is tough! By now most  everyone has had enough of   listening and is about ready to go home. Secondly there is the fact that most of the stuff has already been covered and one has to come up with something totally new.

C. No man thinks more highly than I of the motives and abilities of the worthies who have just spoken. But different men see the same subject in different light. So it should not be thought disrespectful if I speak my feelings freely and openly.

Fourth. Voice

Somebody observed that there is no surer index of character than the human voice. And the Hollywood Classic, ‘Singing in the Rain’ depicts the finis of the silent era heroine whose repellent voice bars her when talking movies arrive.

Know that your voice is the reflection of the real you. It is the single most important tool of your emotions. What really counts is not what is said but the way in which it is uttered – in the vital energy that propels its utterance, in the fires burning in the tones of the voice and in the vigor of the mind.

Know that the voice is the most but worst used of all your faculties. So why not obtain power through this most but rather badly used capability? Here  are three tips –

A. To reach the mind of your audience you must put feeling in your voice. Once you are able to do that, then half the battle is won. A thought feelingly spoken with heart and mind behind it, is soon absorbed. It is earnestness in saying a thing.

B. Once you learn to put feeling in your voice, you must master the art of intermittent stress. Meaning that you have to stress what ever you say. Do it with intermittent stress on selected words. This will make your speech flexible and attractive. You will be able to reach the hearts and minds of your hearers.

C. Now this here thing is for giving power to your voice. Adopt this practice and you will obtain something much more than the metallic voice. For this you must practice and learn to say the consonants with the firmest possible contact between the two parts of the mouth. Needs practice but there is nothing grander for giving punch and power to your words.

Fifth. You have to take your audience along as you speak

Eye contact is one thing. Studying the audience moment by moment and ensuring that they are coming along with you is quite another.

There is a law that states that what so ever a speaker sees clearly in his or her mind, the same is photographed on the tones of the speaker’s voice. It is then emphatically conveyed to the minds of those listening to you.

Do this by ensuring that what you are saying is pictured in your own mind. Then the tones of your voice will automatically convey the same mental picture to the minds of those listening to you. They will thus the more easily follow you. And you will hold their attention.

Should you seem to be losing your audience, you need to pause,  remain calm and then bring on intensity.  You have to bring nervous and vocal undulations as you speak. Then the intermittent stress will bring back your audience to you.

One needs to practice speaking with undulations as well as using intermittent stress. Then there is the hammering of the consonants, ie speaking them with the firmest possible contact beween the two parts of the mouth.

Finally, always but always conserve the energies of your body. For this you must make no unintended movement, great or small, unless the idea warrants it. This prevents leakage of power.

Remember that greater the feeling, less should the body express it. The resultant accumulation of power will help you to remain master of your audience.

Sixth. Closing

The closing is as important as the starting.  Light humor, self deprecation, relevance to current stuff always helps empathy. Some speakers recap what they have said. Others request Qs from the audience.

SeventhThe Acid Test

The acid test of how you have spoken is how you yourself feel after your effort. The more powerfully or effectively you speak, the more empowered, invigorated you feel – physically, mentally and emotionally.

Top to toe you will feel energized. Conversely – aimless, drifting, listless, boring performances will leave you drained and feeling exhausted. So, do whatever needed to get that charged up afterwards feeling.

To close, this is how a salty old Sergeant practised this entire art –

 “I first tells them what I is gonna tell them. Then I tells them what I is telling them. Then I tells them what I told them. If the dumb blokes don’t get it, I repeats the whole process. By Jove, if they still don’t get it, then God alone save them from me!”

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