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Kushner-Kislyak meeting: did US decrypt a Russian signal or was Trump Tower bugged?

The claim US intelligence learnt of the meeting between Jared Kushner and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak by intercepting Russian communications looks implausible, leading to the possibility US intelligence obtained details of the meeting because – despite denials – Trump Tower was bugged.

Alexander Mercouris

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Since the Washington Post first disclosed that Donald Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner discussed in December with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak the idea of setting up a back channel, several US officials have sprung to Kushner’s defence.

President Trump’s National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, says that he is unconcerned

We have back-channel communications with any number of individual (countries). So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner.  So it doesn’t pre-expose you to any sort of content or any kind of conversation or anything. So we’re not concerned about it.

About that McMaster is absolutely right.

A similar lack of concern has also been expressed by John F. Kelly, the President’s Homeland Security secretary

He’s a great guy, decent guy. His No. 1 interest, really, is the nation.  So, you know, there’s a lot of different ways to communicate, back channel, publicly with other countries. I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared.

Perhaps the single most pertinent point about this whole story has however been made by Senator Lindsey Graham, who is not normally considered one of the President’s friends.  He is reported to have said the following

You’ve got the ambassador to Russia (sic) reporting to Moscow on an open channel.  I don’t trust this story as far as I can throw it….The whole storyline is suspicious.

Lindsey Graham is referring to the claim that US intelligence learnt about the Kushner-Kislyak meeting by intercepting a report about it which Kislyak sent to Moscow.  If true that would mean either that Kislyak reported to Moscow via an open (telephone?) channel or that US intelligence decrypted the report he sent about the meeting to Moscow.

In either case alerting the Russians that the US intercepted Kislyak’s report amounts to a major leak of classified information potentially damaging to the national security interests of the US, and compromising its future intelligence gathering capability.

Is the story however even true?  Lindsey Graham is right to be skeptical.

The Russians have long been known to take the security of their communications extremely seriously.  A sign of this is that they began using one-time pads to encrypt their most secret communications as long ago as 1930, long before most other powers.  One-time pads produce encryption which is unbreakable, and it is known that the Russians still use this technique for their most secret communications.

The security provided by using one-time pads, and the extent to which it has defeated US attempts to read Russian signals traffic, can be illustrated by the story of the Venona Project.

The Soviet company that manufactured one-time pads for the USSR’s intelligence agencies during the Second World War made the mistake of producing around 35,000 pages of duplicate key numbers because of the disorganisation caused by the German advance on Moscow in 1941.  The US detected the mistake, and in 1943 set up the Venona Project to try to exploit it.  The idea was to use the mistake to decrypt Soviet signals traffic, thereby reproducing – if only to a certain degree – the US and British wartime success in breaking the German and Japanese codes.

In the event it seems that only signals traffic transmitted between 1942 and 1948 was compromised, with the vast bulk of this traffic being sent between 1942 and 1945, and that only a small fraction of this traffic was ever successfully decrypted.  This despite the fact that US intelligence persisted with the Venona Project from 1943 until 1980 ie. over a span of 37 years.  Whilst the Venona Project did provide the US with some insight into Soviet intelligence gathering activities in the 1940s, by the time it was finally wound up in 1980 this would have been of no more than historical interest.

The fact the US persisted with the Venona Project for so long shows that up to 1980  – ie. throughout the whole period of the Cold War – it must have failed to decrypt other Soviet signals traffic.  That must have been why it devoted so much time and effort to decrypting the small number of Soviet signals from the 1940s that it thought it could decrypt.

The Venona Project is sometimes spoken of as US intelligence success.  In reality it is testimony to the US’s greater intelligence failure.

Of course it could be that since 1980 US intelligence has been more successful in decrypting Soviet and Russian signals traffic.  Russia experienced an existential crisis during the 1990s.  A large number of defections happened during this period, and it would not be surprising if the general collapse of morale caused signals discipline to collapse.  However that would have been reversed when Vladimir Putin – a former intelligence officer – came to power.  By now it is highly likely that the security of Russian signals traffic has been restored to at least the level it had before the USSR collapsed.

Today, though the Russians continue to use one-time pads for their most secret communications, for their less secret communications they use – like other powers – other forms of computer generated encryption, which is less time consuming and labour intensive than one-time pads.

Conceivably Kislyak might have used one of these less secure channels when reporting to Moscow. However even if Kislyak reported to Moscow through one of these less secure channels, it is still unlikely US intelligence would have been able to decrypt his report.

The Vault 7 documents show that the CIA cannot decrypt commercially encrypted communications such as those passing through the mobile phone WhatsApp platform.  Presumably the Russians use more secure forms of encryption for their signals traffic than this.  If the US has not managed to break WhatsApp’s encryption, then it is unlikely it can have succeeded in breaking the encryption of even that part of Russia’s signals traffic which does not depend on one-time pads.

There is a further reason for doubting that the US is decrypting Russian signals traffic.

One other person is known to have been present at the meeting between Kushner and Kislyak.  That person is General Michael Flynn, who was to become for a short period President Trump’s National Security Adviser.

Up to 30th April 2014 General Flynn was one of the most senior intelligence officials in the US, having been appointed Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (the “DIA”) in 2012.

As a former Director of the DIA Flynn would presumably know if US intelligence was decrypting the Russian embassy’s signals traffic.  However he clearly didn’t think it was, since the whole idea of the back channel that he and Kushner proposed to Kislyak involved him communicating directly with Russia’s military leadership through the supposedly secure channels of the Russian embassy so as to keep his discussions secret.

Perhaps despite having been one of the US’s most senior intelligence officials Flynn was ill-informed about the US’s success in decrypting the Russian embassy’s signals traffic.  Or perhaps the breakthrough came in the short period after he left the DIA.  However I have to say that neither of these possibilities look to me at all likely.

Flynn’s participation in the Kushner-Kislyak meeting, and his support for the idea of the back channel discussed during the meeting, is a strong reason to doubt that the Russian embassy’s signals are being decrypted by US intelligence.  Everything else that is known about this question also points to that conclusion.

As to the possibility that Kislyak reported to Moscow about his supposedly secret conversation with Kushner about setting up a supposedly secret back channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow over an open channel, I have to say that I find that every bit as unbelievable as does Lindsey Graham.

There are of course other possibilities.

Possibly the US has a spy in the embassy and is able to read Kislyak’s reports to Moscow that way.  Or perhaps it has a spy in the Foreign Ministry in Moscow, who is reporting to Washington about Kislyak’s reports from the other end.  Or perhaps someone in Moscow gossiped about Kislyak’s report on an open line, and the US found out about it that way.

Whilst any of these alternative possibilities is theoretically possible, I have to say that none of them looks to me very likely.  The fact the obviously bogus Trump Dossier has been given the credence by the US intelligence community that it has, points to the US lacking high placed informants in Russia’s Washington embassy or in the Foreign Ministry in Moscow or at the highest levels of the Russian government.

Frankly the story of US intelligence learning the details of the Kushner-Kislyak conversation from an intercept looks to me like a cover story intended to conceal the actual way US intelligence obtained this information.

If US intelligence did not learn the details of the Kushner-Kislyak conversation from a Russian source, then they must have learnt it either from an informer within the Trump transition team or through electronic eavesdropping.  If it was the latter then that means that one way or another Trump Tower was bugged.

The New York Times when reporting the story – apparently after speaking to the same officials who leaked the story to the Washington Post – has actually hinted that US intelligence did not learn of the Kushner-Kislyak meeting from a Russian source.  This is how the New York Times reports it

American intelligence agencies first learned about the discussion several months ago, according to a senior American official who had been briefed on intelligence reports. It is unclear whether they learned about it from intercepted Russian communications or by other means.

(bold italics added)

Obviously someone has realised that the claim that US intelligence obtained the details of the Kushner-Kislyak meeting from a Russian source is simply too implausible, and exposes those who have leaked the story to accusations that they have revealed too much about the US intelligence gathering capabilities, for it to be wise to persist with it.  The result is that there is now an attempt to row back on this claim, as we see in the New York Times report.

Why however invent a cover story?  There is one possible reason.

US intelligence learnt about the Kushner-Kislyak meeting either very shortly after it happened or as soon as it took place.  We can be sure of this because of the publication by the Washington Post shortly after the meeting of an article about earlier back channels which was obviously inspired by the proposal to set up a back channel made during the Kushner-Kislyak meeting (see my discussion of this in my previous article).

Whilst it is possible that information about the meeting came from an informant, the speed with which US intelligence learnt about the meeting must increase the possibility that the information about the meeting came from electronic eavesdropping.

After Donald Trump’s famous tweets that former President Obama had had his phone in Trump Tower tapped there followed strenuous denials that Trump Tower was ever bugged.  Here is how the BBC reported these denials on 20th March 2017, the day after former FBI Director James Comey gave public testimony to the House Intelligence Committee

FBI Director James Comey for the first time on Monday confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that the agency is investigating possible links between Russia and Mr Trump’s associates as part of a broader inquiry into Moscow’s interference in last year’s election.

He also disputed Mr Trump’s wiretapping claims.

“With respect to the president’s tweets about alleged wiretapping directed at him by the prior administration, I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” he told the panel.

After Mr Trump’s tweets earlier this month, the New York Times quoted unnamed senior officials reporting that Mr Comey had said the claim was false and had asked the justice department to publicly reject it.

Mr Clapper said the intelligence agencies he had supervised did not wiretap Mr Trump last year, and nor did the FBI obtain a court order to monitor Mr Trump’s phones.

As intelligence director, he told NBC, he would have known about a “court order on something like this”.

This is a reference to the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which can grant wiretaps on the grounds of national security.

Several senior Republicans have rejected the allegations after congressional committees looked into them.

Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr said on 16 March there were “no indications” that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the US government either before or after Election Day 2016.

Earlier that day, House Speaker Paul Ryan also said “no such wiretap existed”.

And the previous day, House of Representatives Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes said: “We don’t have any evidence.”

“I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower,” he told a news conference.

“Are you going to take the tweets literally?” asked Rep Nunes. “If so, clearly the president was wrong.”

What about the Justice Department?

It hasn’t said yet. It has asked for more time to respond to the House Intelligence Committee’s request that it provide evidence.

But Mr Comey on Monday also said the justice department found no evidence to support the president’s allegations.

(bold italics added)

If US intelligence learnt of the Kushner-Kislyak conversation through electronic eavesdropping, then these denials were untrue, since the meeting between Kushner and Kislyak took place in Trump Tower, which must in that case have been bugged.

Perhaps the bugging was only temporary, and specifically targeted Kislyak, and perhaps Kushner’s and Flynn’s comments were picked up “incidentally”.  However if such bugging did take place, then even if it was only temporary, and even if it specifically targeted only Kislyak, some at least of the people who were denying that bugging of Trump Tower ever took place were lying, or at the very least they were being economical with the truth.

If so, then that would explain the need for a cover story.

Obviously this is speculation.  However – as I hope I have shown – it is speculation based on fact.

I would add that earlier denials that US citizens involved in the Trump campaign were placed under surveillance, and claims that their communications were only intercepted “incidentally”, have turned out to be untrue, with the revelation that a previously undisclosed FISA warrant was obtained during the election period authorising surveillance of Carter Page.

Perhaps those who say that Trump Tower was never bugged are telling the truth, and perhaps US intelligence obtained the details of the Kushner-Kislyak meeting some other way, possibly from an informant.

As things stand however, disclosure of US intelligence’s knowledge of the Kushner-Kislyak meeting, and the painstaking but unconvincing attempt to create a cover story to explain that fact, has re opened the question of whether Trump Tower was bugged, making that a question which now deserves to be revisited.

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Honest liberal says he is NOT INTERESTED in policy explanation [Video]

When news anchors try to act like prosecuting attorneys instead of actually interviewing people, we all lose.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One characteristic of modern-day television “news reporting” is that the political news is not truly reported. Rather, if the interviewer disagrees with the one being interviewed, the session turns into interviewer grandstanding. Regrettably, this tactic is used by liberal and conservative journalists alike. However, it is usually not admitted, as the interviewer usually chooses to say things like “I want the truth” when he or she really wants to force the other person to admit the correctness of the interviewer.

Over the weekend, Fox News’ Chris Wallace grandstanded against White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller. However, Chris Wallace at least was honest about his wish:

STEPHEN MILLER: … At a fundamental level, we could go down into the details, and you know, Chris, I can go down into details as much as you want to, but the bottom line is this…

CHRIS WALLACE: Please don’t! (laughs)

This is a big problem. The responsibility of any good journalist is to get full and accurate information about a given topic. Isn’t it?

Not in the press of our day. Chris Wallace is a valued personality for the Fox News Channel. As a former CBS anchor for 60 Minutes, Wallace brings a well-known face and voice of the mainstream media to Fox, even though he is quite liberal politically, as are many in the entertainment and information professions.

The problem is that the topic here, the facts justifying President Trump’s National Emergency declaration on Friday over the still permeable US-Mexico border, are present in abundance. But Mr. Wallace did not want to know these facts, or perhaps worse, he did not want to let his viewing audience know this information, so he tried to prevent Mr. Miller from talking about those details.

Stephen Miller, thankfully, was not having it. He insisted on giving a full and informed response to Mr. Wallace’s questions, even though Wallace did not want to hear any information.

The rest of the interview is comprised of Mr. Miller trying to dissemimate information and Mr. Wallace trying to block it and refuse it in order to sustain his own preferred narrative.

Chris Wallace’ point of view is that the President called a National Emergency for no good reason, and that President Trump is breaking the law by appropriating money for the Border Wall, something which only the House of Representatives can do, legislatively.

However, the point of view expressed by Mr. Wallace and President Trump is that as Chief Executive of the United States of America, the President is responsible to preserve the country from invasion. For the President, the never-ending waves of illegals coming into the country and not being deported, but rather, released into the US pending trials that they often never attend years later, amounts to a slow invasion.

Strictly speaking, President Trump is correct. The illegals are not (usually) armed representatives of a foreign power, but neither do they become American citizens. Many of them take advantage of generous provisions and loopholes in the law (Mexico teaches them how to do this!) and they therefore earn money but usurp the country of resources.

It has been exceedingly difficult to move the level of interest in stopping illegal immigration in the US. Rush Limbaugh rightly stated in his program on Friday, February 15, what the problem is, and we include some of the details (as we should) for why Mr. Limbaugh says what he says here:

There is a limit on a number of detainees. There is limit on how much of border and fence can be built. There’s a limit on what kind can be built. There’s a limit on modernization. This bill is filled with congressional edicts telling the president of the United States what he cannot do. Now, it authorizes $23 billion for Homeland Security, but it specifies $1.375 billion for fencing and bordering.

But there are so many limits on this as to make this practically irrelevant — by design and on purpose, because I firmly believe that what members of Congress (both parties) actually want with this bill is to send a message that nothing is ever gonna happen as long as Donald Trump is President. The attempt in this budget deal is to send a message to you Trump voters that it’s worthless voting for him, that it is a waste of time supporting him, because they are demonstrating that he can’t get anything done.

This is Pelosi in the House and Schumer in the Senate getting together, because they know when it comes to illegal immigration, these parties are unified, folks. For the most part, the Republicans and Democrats are for open borders. There are exceptions on the Republican side. But there are a lot of Republicans that don’t want Trump to succeed even now. There are a lot of Republicans just after he was inaugurated who don’t want him to succeed. So they come up with a piece of legislation here that is outrageous.

It is outrageous in its denial of the existence of a genuine emergency at the border. They don’t care. They will deal with whatever mess they create. They don’t care how bad it gets because in their world, the only mess is Donald Trump — and since the Russian effort and the Mueller effort and everything else related to that has failed to get his approval numbers down (and that has been the objective from the get-go), this is the latest effort, and it won’t be long… You mark my words on this.

There is an emergency at the US-Mexico border. Last year almost half a million people were apprehended by the Border Patrol and ICE. Many, if not most, though, are still in the United States. They were not all sent back. Some were, and some of them probably have come back in yet again. The fact that our nation’s borders are unrestricted in this manner is absolute folly.

The more American people know the details about what is actually happening at the border, the more they support the wall’s construction and President Trump’s policies. We have seen evidence for this in polling even by liberal network outlets. President Trump managed to call attention to this topic and bring it into the center of the discussion of US domestic policy. Rasmussen reported that the level of approval of Trump’s work to close the border is high – at 59 percent, with only 33 percent disapproving.

The President made this an issue. Chris Wallace tried in his own program to deflect and dissuade information from being brought to the attention of the American viewers who watch his program.

This is not journalism. It is reinforcement of propaganda on Mr. Wallace’s part, defense against facts, and an unwillingness to let the American people have information and therefore to think for themselves.

Unfortunately, such practices are not limited to Mr. Wallace. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and others all utilize this form of questioning, and it is a shame, because the news reporter no longer reports the news. When a talking head on TV or radio places himself or herself as the Gatekeeper to allow or prevent information from reaching the American people, this is highly presumptuous, ego driven and almost always, dishonest.

Worse, such an approach reinforces this message to American people: “You cannot think for yourself. It is too hard, so we will do your thinking for you. Trust us!”

This style of journalism became more and more popular over, under the “appearance” of “tough questioning.” However the usual course of “tough questioning” is ideologically aligned with whatever the journalist thinks, and not at all about what is actually important. Chris Wallace is notorious for doing this with conservatives, and he does aggravate them, but he reduces interviews to an argument between the journalist and the person interviewed.

And usually, this is not the story. This was made absolutely clear in the interview with Stephen Miller, even to the point that Mr. Wallace actually voiced the request, “please don’t (give us all the specifics of this issue.)” 

Good journalism respects the fact that different people have different points of view. Agreement or disagreement with these points is what Op-Ed writing is for. But when Op-Ed is treated as hard fact journalism, we all lose.

We included the whole interview video from the beginning here so that the viewer can take in the whole course of this discussion. It is well worth watching. And as it is well-worth watching, it is also well-worth each person’s own personal consideration. People are smarter than the media would like us to be.

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Macron pisses off Merkel as he tries to sabotage Nord Stream 2 pipeline (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 177.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss an EU compromise for Nord Stream 2 where EU member states, the EU Parliament, and its Commission will give the bloc more oversight on gas pipelines, with one caveat…the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia will not be threatened by the new regulations in the agreement.

Macron pushed hard to have the new regulations include (and derail) Nord Stream 2, an action which annoyed Angela Merkel, who eventually got her way and delivered another blow to Macron’s failing French presidency.

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Via The Express UK

Angela Merkel hit back at Emmanuel Macron over Russia and Germany’s pipeline project, declaring it would “not be a one-sided dependency”. The German Chancellor explained that Germany will expand its gas terminals with “liquified gas”. Speaking at a press conference, Ms Merkel declared: “Do we become dependent on Russia because of this second gas pipeline? I say no, if we diversify. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas.

“This means that we do not want to depend only on Russia, but Russia was a source of gas in the Cold War and will remain one.

“But it would not be one-sided dependency.”

Via DW

The EU parliament and its Council are set to adopt new regulations on gas pipelines connecting the bloc members with non-EU countries, the EU Commission announced early on Wednesday.

The upcoming directive is based on a compromise between EU member states and EU officials in Brussels. The bloc leaders agreed to tighten Brussels’ oversight of gas delivery and expand its rules to all pipelines plugging into the EU’s gas distribution network.

“The new rules ensure that… everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law,” EU Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in a statement.

For example, owners of pipelines linking EU and non-EU countries would also be required to allow access for their competitors. Brussels would also have more power regarding transparency and tariff regulations.

Russian ambassador slams US

Brussels has repeatedly expressed concern over the controversial Nord Stream 2 project which would deliver Russian gas directly to Germany through a pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Many EU states oppose the mammoth project, and the US claims it would allow Moscow to tighten its grip on the EU’s energy policy.

Berlin has insisted that the pipeline is a “purely economic” issue.

Speaking to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung daily, Russian ambassador to Berlin, Sergey Nechayev, slammed the US’ opposition as an attempt to “push its competition aside” and clear the way for American suppliers of liquefied gas.

“It’s hard to believe that a country that is destroying the rules of free and fair trade, that is imposing import tariffs on its competition, that is flying slogans like ‘America First’ on its flags and often threatens biggest European concerns with illegal sanctions, is now really concerned about European interests,” the Russian envoy said in remarks published in German on Wednesday.

Last week, France unexpectedly rebelled against the project, but Berlin and Paris soon reached a compromise. Thanks to their agreement, the latest deal is not expected to impede the ongoing construction of Nord Stream 2.

Citing sources from negotiators’ circles, German public broadcaster ARD reported that the deal left room for Germany to approve exceptions from the EU-wide rules.

According to the EU Commission, however, exceptions are “only possible under strict procedures in which the Commission plays a decisive role.”

The Gazprom-backed pipeline is set to be completed by the end of the year.

 

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UK Defence Secretary looking for a fight with both China and Russia (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 87.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson’s idea to deploy hard power against China and Russia, starting with plans to send Britain’s new aircraft carrier to the tense sea routes in the South China Sea.

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“Britain’s Gavin Williamson places Russia & China on notice, I’m not joking,” authored by John Wight, via RT

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is itching for conflict with Russia and China. He’s not mad. Not even slightly. But he is stupid. Very.

Unlike former fireplace salesman Gavin Williamson, I am no military expert. But then you do not need to be one to understand that while Britain going to war with Russia and China might work as a video game, the real thing would be an exceedingly bad idea.

So why then in a speech delivered to the Royal United Services Institute in London, did Mr Williamson’s argument on the feasibility of the real thing elicit applause rather than the shrieks of horror and demands he be sacked forthwith it should have? This is a serious question, by the way. It is one that cuts through British establishment verbiage to reveal a country ruled not by the sober and doughty political heavyweights of years gone by, but by foaming fanatics in expensive suits

Placing to one side for a moment the insanity of the very concept of Britain deploying hard power against Russia and/or China, the prospect of fighting a war against two designated enemies at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Not satisfied with that, though, Mr Williamson is actually contemplating a conflict with three different enemies at the same time – i.e. against Russia, China, and the millions of people in Britain his government is currently waging war against under the rubric of austerity.

“Today, Russia is resurgent,” Mr Williamson said, “rebuilding its military arsenal and seeking to bring the independent countries of the former Soviet Union, like Georgia and Ukraine, back into its orbit.”

For Mr Williamson and his ilk a resurgent Russia is a bad thing. Much better in their eyes if Russia, after the Soviet era in the 1990s, had remained on its knees as a free market desert; its state institutions in a state of near collapse and tens of millions of its citizens in the grip of immiseration. Yes, because in that scenario Western ideologues like him would have had free rein to rampage around the world as they saw fit, setting fire to country after country on the perverse grounds of ‘saving them’ for democracy.

As it is, he and his still managed to squeeze in a considerable amount of carnage and chaos in the years it did take Russia to recover. The indictment reads as follows: Yugoslavia destroyed; Afghanistan turned upside down; Iraq pushed into the abyss; Libya sent to hell.

By the time they turned their attention to Syria, intent on exploiting an Arab Spring that NATO in Libya transformed into an Arab Winter, Russia had recovered and was able to intervene. It did so in concert with the Syrian Arab Army, Iran and Hezbollah to save the day – much to the evident chagrin of those who, like Gavin Williamson, prefer to see countries in ashes rather than independent of Western hegemony.

As to the facile nonsense about Russia trying to bring Georgia and Ukraine back into its orbit, both countries happen to share a border with Russia and both countries, in recent years, have been used by the UK and its allies as cat’s paws with the eastward expansion of NATO in mind.

It gets worse though: “The Alliance must develop its ability to handle the kind of provocations that Russia is throwing at us. Such action from Russia must come at a cost.”

“Provocations,” the man said. Since British troops have been taking part in exercises on Russia’s doorstep, not the other way round, one wonders if Gavin Williamson wrote this speech while inebriated.

It is Russia that has been on the receiving end of repeated provocations from NATO member states such as the UK in recent times, and it is Russia that has been forced to respond to protect its own security and that of its people where necessary. Furthermore, not only in Russia but everywhere, including the UK, people understand that when you have political leaders intoxicated by their own national myths and propaganda to such an extent as Britain’s Defence Secretary, danger ensues.

The most enduring of those national myths where London is concerned is that the British Empire was a force for good rather than a vast criminal enterprise, that Britain and America won the Second World War together alone, that Iraq had WMDs, and that international law and international brigandage really are one and the same thing.

Perhaps the most preposterous section of the speech came when Mr Williamson tried to fashion a connection between Brexit and Britain’s military strength: “Brexit has brought us to a moment. A great moment in our history. A moment when we must strengthen our global presence, enhance our lethality, and increase our mass.”

Reading this, you can almost hear Churchill turning in his grave. Britain’s wartime prime minister had such as Gavin Williamson in mind when he famously said, “He has all the virtues I dislike, and none of the vices I admire.”

Mr Williamson obviously misread the memo talking up not the opportunity for increased conflict with China after Brexit but trade.

This was not a speech it was a linguistic car crash, one that will forever command an honoured place in compendiums of the worst political speeches ever made. As for Gavin Williamson, just as no responsible parent would ever dream of putting an 10-year old behind the wheel of car to drive unsupervised, no responsible British government would ever appoint a man like him as its Defence Secretary.

In years past, he would have struggled to find employment polishing the brass plate outside the building.

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