Trump said on April 12, 2017, in a press conference with the NATO Secretary General General Stoltenberg that we will see the end result of Tillerson’s meeting with Putin, “in a long period of time, perhaps.”
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Predictably, Tillerson’s meetings with Putin yielded little more than an admission that they “appeared unable to agree on the facts involving the deadly chemical weapons assault.” After Tillerson accused Russia of culpability in the chemical weapons incident, and labeled “Russian interference in the presidential election” as “settled fact,” Putin, according to the very trustworthy New York Times,
shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused the administration of President Trump, who American intelligence agencies believe benefited from Russian cyberattacks intended to embarrass his Democratic rival during the election campaign, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.
To meet the public relations needs of the State Department’s Public Diplomacy offices, The New York Times published a document under the auspice it is “a declassified four-page report that details United States intelligence on the chemical weapons attack, asserting that the Syrian and Russian governments have sought to confuse the world community about the assault through disinformation and ‘false narratives.’” The document published by the New York Times accuses the Russians of “deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents.” It looks just as like the “dossier” Buzzfeed and CNN reported on. There is no identifying mark on any of the pages, save for evidence of past staples in the upper-left corner. It must be recalled that, as Scot Macdonald says,
It is far more difficult, if not impossible, to argue against an altered image that arouses emotions than against an erroneous position stated in words in the form of a proposition. … the media does not, usually, help society determine which information is true and which is false. In many ways, in fact, the media facilitates the spread of disinformation, which can only help an adversary seeking to use altered images for propaganda and to support deception operations targeted against the United States.
As I pointed out in my previous articles, because the Russians are mocking Western rhetoric for its insincere claims to the moral high ground, the West is responding by defining Russian claims as disinformation.
[T]he Russians are (1) making fun of Western bureaucrats because [Western bureaucrats] claim moral high ground on a flimsy pretense, (2) using different words to describe events in the diplomatic arena, and, as a result, (3) observers do not know whether or not to believe Western bureaucrats, making it difficult to figure out what rhetoric, if any, the Russians take seriously (or, what rhetoric the West can use that will persuade or convince the Russians that the West takes its own rhetoric seriously)…
As a result of Western intellectuals’ aggregate inability to mock the Russians in return for them mocking the West, they gamble by dismissing Russian claims as propaganda (in particular, disinformation), especially where people’s opinions about Western leaders and institutions to some degree converge with the Russians, no matter how based in fact the claims are…The West, it appears from the Chatham and CSIS reports, and their citations of recent NATO conferences (and that most other academics appear to cite or write for those institutions), decided years ago not to bother refuting Russian claims, and instead to define them as lies to simplify their eventual reaction. “Post-truth” as an academic characterization is a tool for both confusion and doubt, as is the media version, “fake news.” These phrases of confusion were not introduced by the Russians; they were not defined by the Russians.
This is the case because the recent acknowledged dynamics of both the Russian and US militaries. Russian Generals have referred explicitly to the US ‘soft coup’ model in Ukraine as a new form of warfare. At the Valdai Conference in 2014, Russian General Valery Gerasimov is said to have said,
the U.S. and NATO are responsible for initiating the majority of conflicts in the world … the United States has developed a new method of warfare, beginning with using non-military tactics to change opposing governments through colored revolutions that utilize the protest potential of the population to engineer peaceful regime change … Western countries have failed to take responsibility for post-conflict security in Libya. The same thing would happen in Syria if the government was overthrown. The Ukraine crisis is now turning into a civil war, with paramilitary groups being used against the peaceful population in eastern Ukraine … NATO is turning more anti-Russian, organizing a military build-up on its eastern borders. This will necessitate a Russian response. What is needed is more cooperation between Russia and NATO, but this is frozen. Again, colored revolutions are causing instability throughout the world.
Charles K. Bartles notes that Gerisamov’s theory is not a theory of US warfare, but simply a theory of the way in which war is now conducted; rather than declare war, a state manipulates foreign domestic groups to instigate political change. This “new form of warfare” entails the mixture of military and nonmilitary tactics deployed gradually to increase the intensity of a conflict slowly and to limit the opposition’s response capabilities in terms of public opinion. The color revolutions take advantage of social media, and are coordinated by Western NGOs. The Russian focus is on preventing and countering this “primary threat of regime change,” “color revolutions”.
At a recent pseudo-diplomatic meeting at the Center For Strategic and International Studies, Sergey Rogov, Scientific Director of the Institute of U.S. & Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the uncertainty around US/Russian relations is reminiscent of the Cold War in that policy makers “believe their own propaganda; propaganda has become a substitute for strategy.” This is correct. It is the strategy of the Western powers to accuse the Russians of disinformation when they present evidence or reasoning contrary to the goals of the Western powers. This makes diplomacy impossible. The crux of the issue, and this is a big deal because it appears so subtly, is the legitimacy of the words the US and Russia are using to describe the events in the media.
The Chatham House and Center for Strategic and International Studies reports pretty much explain the strategy of information manipulation used by the Russians. The reports themselves exemplify the strategy of the West. Russian “information warfare” campaigns are labeled by Chatham as “disinformation,” stemming from Russian tactics being in direct continuity with old Soviet tactics.
Giles says attempting to counter the Russian narrative is “fundamentally” the wrong approach. Implicitly, Chatham is indicating that it is not correct to argue rationally against the Russians. Instead, they support, by engaging in the activity, labeling Russian claims as disinformation meant to undermine the integrity of the Western institutions, to call the Russians liars.
The CSIS report on recent tactics of Russian strategy and diplomacy, The Kremlin Playbook, produced with “assistance” from the Smith Richardson Foundation, treats Russian political and economic influence with the metaphor of medicine – viruses, antibodies, inoculation, etc. In what is called the “unvirtuous circle” of Russian “influence,” “corruption is the lubricant.” “Corruption” is defined, in a footnote, as “the alleged or reported exercise of one’s power, position, or resources in order to exploit or exert undue influence over businesses, individuals, or state bodies and institutions, typically through nontransparent or questionable means. This may include actions that could be deliberate and/or unlawful, but may not necessarily be so.” The “unvirtuous circle” is like a “virus” that “clandestinely” seeks regulatory capture in target states. “If the host country resists,” with this “opaque” and “typically undetected” influence, “the government can be brought down by exposing the extent of the corruption and malfeasance,” which erodes “public confidence, trust, and credibility,” and “enhances the popularity of extreme parties that are anti-European and anti-American.” For CSIS, the Russian influence leverages corruption to front as Western influence which is why the result of exposure of corruption is to enhance anti-Western parties. CSIS appears to be defining ‘perceived Western failure and corruption’ as ‘Russian success and Russian corruption’ and giving all the credit to covert Russian agency, while minimizing overt Western agency. So, the West is responsible for the same activity as the Russians. The difference appears to be only in that Russia is not a liberal democracy. It is even admitted in the methodology section “data obtained through our correlation analysis was inconclusive.” However, they “found evidence” of “clear linkages” between “Kremlin-linked officials and networks of corruption,” especially in the “strategic economic sectors,” where the state controls the main revenue generating assets. So, despite the actual quantitative study being “inconclusive,” “the discovery of these linkages…form the basis” of the report.
To respond to Russian information warfare, Giles says “the first and best weapon … is awareness: not only among national officials and mainstream media, but throughout the society that the operation uses as its medium.” But the “support” should be provided with “delicacy in order to avoid any taint of direction or constraint.” Giles recommends a “clear and unified” strategic communication policy, cleverly adding that any response cannot use the same tactics as the Russians. But, “Just like the Russian offensive,”
Western responses need to be tailored and tiered to specific audiences, by medium and by level of intellectual engagement. Telling the truth is not enough; the message needs to be accessible, which means making it less cerebral where necessary. This would appear obvious; the fact that ‘it is essential to focus on effects, audience and influence in order to determine the most appropriate and effective medium’ should not even need to be stated. But to date this does not appear to have happened.
Giles expresses the perspective that, offensively, Western governments, at the national level, should indicate to news editors that the Russians are attempting to subvert their “objectivity and independence,” giving them a reason to accept “assistance.” Defensive actions entail “tracking and hindering the propagation of Russian disinformation into the policy-making environment.” Just as for the Russians,
For Western military forces, media consciousness is an integral part of operational planning. This is due to the recognition that the proliferation of mass media and instant communications has made it ‘possible for the citizens of a nation to scrutinise the conduct of war by their military forces [leading to] the possibility of a public opinion directly impacting the political decision-making of a nation.’
To affect their ends, the US has weaponized the appeal to emotion, and the Russians have weaponized obfuscation. Ironically, they are ‘warring’ over how to describe actual war, actual shootings, actual bombings.
The chemical incident at the center of these claims is highly dubious. It was not independently investigated before the attacks (Turkish sources ‘confirmed’ the official narrative immediately after the incident); Assad does not appear to have a motive for doing it (there may be infiltrators in Assad’s air force); the Russian’s explanation of ‘inadvertent release as the result of military targeting’ is plausible and not proven wrong (only asserted); and the event has been seized on by the US and the US media to ratchet up hostility to, not just Assad, but Putin, with emotionally exploitative propaganda not used when atrocities happen elsewhere.
Theodore Postol, a professor at MIT, reviewed and fact checked the intelligence report, casting doubt on the origin of the munition falling from a plane, and suggesting it was “placed on the ground by individuals.”
No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report, like the earlier Obama White House Report, was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.
I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times. … a quick perusal shows without a lot of analysis that this report cannot be correct, and it also appears that this report was not properly vetted by the intelligence community. This is a very serious matter. … We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.
Trump is likely not responsible for this intelligence fabrication, as it is employing the same tactics used against Trump in the election. It was apparently prepared by the National Security Council, which has undergone a power struggle in the last months. The argument presented in the dubious intelligence report fits a pattern linking that message and narrative to the international relations experts at the Chatham House, and other transatlantic organizations supporting NATO and the EU.
Candidate Trump, the elected, joked about NATO’s obsolescence. President Trump now thinks NATO is relevant again, because they took his suggestions, even though they still are not paying. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s initial selection for National Security Adviser was in the process of back-channel rapprochement with Russian officials, showing himself to be a smooth operator in the vein of Henry Kissinger. The idiots in the Obama administration, in particular, it appears, Susan Rice, the former National Security Adviser, screwed that up by unmasking and then (somebody) leaking Flynn’s contacts with Russian diplomats. When investigated, one will see that Flynn was doing nothing wrong. In fact, he was doing a lot of things right. Kissinger’s back-channels were spied upon by the military when he was meeting secretly with Russian intelligence for Nixon. Trump and Flynn were doing things by the book, so to speak, for informal things. Flynn’s dismissal, which may have been the turning point in something that ends up disastrous, was a calculated and criminal political use of unmasked intelligence information to destroy Flynn and Trump’s developing independent and informal diplomatic communications channel with Russia. If Trump really knows what he is doing, his comment that we will see the end result of Tillerson’s meeting with Putin, “in a long period of time, perhaps,” might indicate Tillerson and Putin’s “unexpected personal meeting” was in fact expected and that they must keep up appearances to ‘fool’ the media and NATO/EU segments in the US foreign policy and public information bureaucracies (this future would be one where the world thinks the US and Russia are going to go to war, and Trump and Putin close the negotiation doors and long lasting peace emerges). However, that is a long and brittle limb on which to walk out. We can only hope Trump is still beating all those odds he was beating last year, despite, it appears, losing control of his own National Security Council’s strategic planning and public diplomacy to H.R. McMaster, who took advice from Susan Rice, and Dina Powell, the Obama/Clinton/Bush crowd of UK and Gulf-state influence. If Bannon is kicked out of the White House entirely, all bets are off. The White House will be run by Europe and the Gulf.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said at the joint press conference, with Trump standing right next to him, contradicting everything Trump campaigned on, that
The most important thing is to have a strong alliance, to stay united, and be firm and predictable in our approach to Russia. And that means that we have to invest in our collective defense. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Deploy more troops in the Eastern part of the Alliance, increase the readiness of our forces, and increase defense spending.
Trump did not have much to say at all. He stumbled through a sequence of synonyms for the words “dead” and “baby” and said he would “talk” with NATO members about paying their share. The Q&A was focused on Stoltenberg, who appeared more animated, contradicted Trump’s whole platform, and offered more things to say. Stoltenberg is a NATO bureaucrat, a Norwegian politician, stressing the need for NATO to threaten Russia. He would know that NATO cannot and would not be threatening Russia if the US was not standing there, even if aloof. This press conference makes it look like Norway runs America First. Norway will fight to the last American, as they say. Trump got walked on and, at best, he is using the chemical weapons incident as cover.
All of these provocations with the Russians are taking place with a backdrop where both the US and Russia are accusing each other of violating the INF Treaty. A recent Carnegie publication summed up the issues at stake.
The INF treaty, long a cornerstone of European security, is in acute danger of collapse since the United States and Russia are operating on the basis of different, indeed contrasting, logic. While the Obama administration had a genuine interest in maintaining the treaty and bringing Russia into full compliance, the Kremlin finds value in violating INF. Our assessment of the Russian interest in acquiring INF weapons in the NATO-Russia relationship has shown that the Kremlin’s motivations stem more from political than from purely military considerations, even though it is hard to find incontrovertible evidence to support this conclusion. …
So far, the US strategy of combined diplomatic pressure and the announcement of possible military countermeasures has not yielded the desired results. …
A possible new negotiation framework, including China and other actors, could represent a breakthrough. But as it stands now, the INF crisis has the potential to become a major security issue for the whole of Europe and Asia over the next several years if it is not resolved in a cooperative manner. Here, a possibly more cooperative and conciliatory stance toward Russia under President Trump—as controversial as such policy would be seen in Washington and among allies—might actually help with the INF dispute.
Someone, send the Carnegie paper to Stoltenberg at NATO…
Let’s hope Trump has the neoconservatives on a leash and is just using them to intimidate the Russians. And let’s hope the Russians are willing to act like it is convincing.
 David E. Sanger, “Tillerson and Putin Find Little More Than Disagreement in Meeting,” The New York Times, April 12, 2017.
 Julie Hirschfeld Davis, “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack,” The New York Times, April 11, 2017. ; The link to the document takes one here, but the document itself is here. I could have printed those papers off, stapled them, pulled the staple out, scanned them, and uploaded them to the internet claiming they were official intelligence reports. There are no indications whatsoever that the document, or the messages it contains are authentic. Further, as Stewart and Ali report, “Although some U.S. officials have strongly hinted they suspect Russia, which has a presence at Shayrat, may have known something about the planned attack, none have conclusively linked Moscow to the incident itself.” “Trump had only authorized the single attack, meaning the U.S. military would not automatically have the authority to strike again should Washington determine another case of chemical weapons use.” Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali, “U.S.-Russia tensions over Syria will not ‘spiral out of control’: Mattis,” Reuters, April 11, 2017.
 Scot Macdonald, Propaganda and Information Warfare in the Twenty First Century: Altered Images and Deception Operations, Routledge, 2007, pp. 128-135. Michael Turner identifies a moral dilemma facing any who would “use the press as their conduits” to disseminate false propaganda: doing so undermines the free press and it could engender opposition and counter propaganda. Micheal A. Turner, “Covert Action: An Appraisal of the Effects of Secret Propaganda,” in Strategic Intelligence, Loch K. Johnson, ed., Vol. 3, Praeger, 2007, p. 116.
 Jacob R. Crawford, “From Flynn to McMaster,” March 14, 2017, p. 3. ; Erna Burai, “Parody as Norm Contestation: Russian Normative Justifications in Georgia and Ukraine and Their Implications for Global Norms,” Global Society, Vol. 30, No. 1, 2016, pp. 67-77. For a recent example of Russian ‘ridicule’ see, Andrew Higgins, “Russians Ridicule U.S. Charge That Kremlin Meddled to Help Trump,” The New York Times, January 7, 2017. “Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of RT, a state-funded television network that broadcasts in English, who is cited repeatedly in the report, posted her own message on Twitter scoffing at the American intelligence community’s accusations. ‘Aaa, the CIA report is out! Laughter of the year! Intro to my show from 6 years ago is the main evidence of Russia’s influence at US elections. This is not a joke!’ she wrote.”
 Emphases added. Also available here: Dmitry Gorenburg, “Moscow Conference on International Security 2014, part 1: The plenary speeches,” Russian Military Reform, May 29, 2014.
 Charles K. Bartles, “Russia’s Indirect and Asymmetric Methods as a Response to the New Western Way of War,” Special Operations Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2016, p. 4. Bartles refers to “Western government-sponsored nongovernmental organizations,” i.e., the National Endowment for Democracy. Jenna Lee Wachtmann, “Democracy Aid in Post-Communist Russia: Case Studies of the Ford Foundation, the C.S. Mott Foundation, and the National Endowment for Democracy,” M.A. Thesis, Indiana University, May 2015. ; Kalyeena Makortoff, “Russia bans George Soros charity as ‘security threat,’” CNBC, November 30, 2015. ; Alex Christoforou, “Leaked memo shows how George Soros planned to overthrow Vladimir Putin and destabilise Russia,” The Duran, August 25, 2016. ; Thierry Meyssan, “NED, the Legal Window of the CIA,” Voltaire Network, August 16, 2016. ; Zoltan Simon, “Hungary Plans to Crackdown on All Soros-Funded NGOs,” Bloomberg, January 10, 2017.
 Bartles, “Russia’s Indirect and Asymmetric,” Special Operations Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2016, p. 4. See also, Charles K. Bartles, “Getting Gerasimov Right,” Military Review, Jan/Feb 2016, pp. 30-38. ; Anthony H. Cordesman, “Russia and the ‘Color Revolution’: A Russian Military View of a World Destabilized by the US and the West,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, May 28, 2014.
 Jacob R. Crawford, “Legitimacy of Lexicon,” February 14, 2017. The Chatham House and Center for Strategic and International Studies reports pretty much explain the strategy of information manipulation used by the Russians. The reports themselves exemplify the strategy of the West. “Fake-news” and “Post-truth” are phrases initially pushed by Western information nodes, Washington Post and Oxford, respectively. It is not the American Nationalists pushing for war with everyone. It is the British and Euro-Atlantic-invested think tanks. They are the Russophobic warmongers.
 Conley, Mina, Stefanov & Vladmirov, “The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, Rowman & Littlefield, October 2016. ; Keir Giles, “Russia’s ‘New’ Tools for Confronting the West: Continuity and Innovation in Moscow’s Exercise of Power,” Chatham House Russia and Eurasia Programme Research Paper, March 2016.
 Giles, “Russia’s ‘New’ Tools,” p. 5. A far more balanced perspective of Russian soft power and public diplomacy is provided by Yelena Osipova, “Indigenizing Soft Power in Russia,” in The Routledge Handbook of Soft Power, Naren Chitty, Li Ji, Gary Rawnsley, Craig Hayden, eds., Routledge, 2017.
 The Kremlin Playbook, pp. x, 17, 26-27. Several words stand out: “alleged” (any old rumor is fine), “undue” (who is deciding what constitutes “undue” influence? Presumably, this is why CSIS and Chatham include judicial independence as a critical signpost of legitimacy), and the phrase “could be deliberate or unlawful” (meaning incidental activity is fair game to accuse the Russians of corrupt power plays, even if it is not illegal, i.e., even if the Russians have not done anything wrong). They will just imply the Russians are responsible for whatever they can.
 Ibid, p. xiii. The Bulgarian case is the most extreme (pp. 42-46). Also, this is not regulatory capture in the sense of special interests dominating regulators, but, instead, Russian ‘exploitation’ of comparative advantage and economies of scale (perfectly legitimate things) in its neighboring countries.
 Ibid, pp. xiii, 19-21. What they describe is old hat in the West and is touched on by academics investigating the ideologies of western economists and bureaucrats. See, Jacob R. Crawford, “Legitimacy of Lexicon,” February 14, 2017, p. 19, note 90.
 The Kremlin Playbook, p. xviii. This admission makes looking at the five case studies in the report boring.
 Giles, “Russia’s New Tools,” p. 52.
 Ibid, p. 57.
 Ibid, p. 58. Giles laments that voluntary groups have largely been responsible for the ‘supranational’ response to Russian propaganda because they leave “liberal media editors still hostage to the imperative of ‘balance.’”
 Giles, “Russia’s New Tools,”pp. 59-60.
 Theodore A. Postol, “A Quick Turnaround Assessment of the White House Intelligence Report Issued on April 11, 2017: About the Nerve Agent Attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria,” April 11, 2017, p. 3.
 Postol, pp. 3-4.
 Richard A. Moss, “Nixon’s Back Channel to Moscow: Confidential Diplomacy and Détente,” Eight Bells Book Lecture, Naval War College Museum, Feb. 2, 2017.
 The issues resulting in the current impasse are complex, having to do with missile capabilities. See, Richard Weitz, “Why Russia Is Cheating on the INF Treaty,” World Politics Review, March 10, 2017. ; Eliot Marshall, “More precise U.S. nukes could raise tensions with Russia,” Science, March 22, 2017. ; Michael R. Gordon, “Russia Is Moving Ahead With Missile Program That Violates Treaty, U.S. Officials Say,” The New York Times, October 19, 2017.