A recent, and by all accounts excellent piece by Russell Bentley here on Fort Russ entitled ‘The Saker’ isn’t just Wrong, he’s Irrelevant – Putin’s an Excellent Warrior generated some spirited debate in the comments section and raised some important questions. It also raised questions about the relationship between Texas and Flores with each other, and why the randomly timed piece about Andrei Raevsky, The Saker.
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about that story too, so I’m also going to take a stab or two at explaining this as I see it to Fort Russ readers, and this whole large section of the internet as well. It seems that this all came at a critical juncture, when the alt-media sphere relating to Russia coverage and analysis spun sideways when the tell-tale signs of pro-Israeli disinfo and misinfo campaigning splattered everywhere around the the time of Netanyahu’s trip to Russia.
Seeing as how we have a commitment to having a very open and inviting relationship with our readers and that we encourage people to question everything, up to and including our own motivations, we felt it best to two do things: Explain the history of the relationship between Fort Russ News and the Saker, which we think readers will find interesting from a ‘behind the scenes’ perspective, and also to take a closer look at the comments and questions that Bentley’s piece generated and see if we can shed some light on them.
“AM Hants” commented thusly:
“Sometimes I like the Saker articles, but, sometimes, find him so doom and gloom. Remembering his articles, when the cauldrons were being laid in Donbass and how hysterical and emotional he would get, believing there was no way Donbass would win the fight.
With regards Prime Minister Medvedev, do not forget him and President Putin go back to times at St Petersburg University, way back in the early 90s. There is a lot of trust between them, otherwise, how else would you explain swapping roles, Prime Minister to President to Prime Minister. How many other leaders would trust any member of their cabinet to stick to their word? That show of loyalty, is the reason I take all they say about Prime Minister Medvedev, with a pinch of salt. Besides, wasn’t he the President of the Russian Federation, that persuaded Clinton (with ease) to hand over 20% of Uranium One?”
Two important points to address here. One is the gloom and doom aspect of some of The Saker’s pieces. My personal belief is that the Saker, the online alias for Andrei Raevsky, has no nefarious intentions, unlike some other characters, such as Vladimir Suchan, Chunky, Kalinga, and Dumbledore (those who know what I mean, know what I mean). What he is giving voice to, in several of his pieces, are the very real reservations, trepidations and fears that a great many people, both within and without of Russia, feel when it comes to the country’s leadership and precisely what it’s doing, what it’s thinking, and what its goals are in any given situation.
The second point is equally important. Medvedev and Putin are colleagues, not enemies and, unlike many other world leaders, no one is standing behind Putin holding a gun to his head or pulling his strings, and he’s very clearly an intelligent man, not a fool. In this case, at the very least, it might be okay to give him the benefit of the doubt instead of running around like headless chickens and crying about how the sky is falling.
Saker did come off as extremely defeatist on Medvedev recently and I feel what he put out was indeed misleading based on the information presented here, for example regarding the status of the PM in Russia. I did not know that and it makes Saker’s analysis seem rather odd.
Muhammad Abbass, in answering Texas Bentley, had this to say in the comments:
“The [Globalists] are losing and so too the Washington and London gangs and their ineffectual attacks in Syria bespeak their desperation and do indeed seem to be costing them more than they’re worth, and not just in monetary terms. They’re being bled dry of their economies and their credibility on the world stage even as their nemeses Iran and Syria are advancing incrementally against them and the “International Community” now includes them as well as 147 other nations and counting and the US led bloc which they falsely call the “International Community” has about 40, and falling.
Putin is managing to let the air out of the wheels of Empire without once letting them get fired up to advance against him directly. As you say, winning without fighting. It helps to remember which martial art in which he excels.”
Excellent points. Many people had or have God Savior expectations from Putin. They wanted or want him to ride into the heart of the “International Community” on a white steed and decapitate all the ne’er-do-wells with a swing of his sword. It doesn’t work that way and it really hasn’t worked that way for centuries. To quote Denzel Washington in Training Day, “the shit’s chess, not checkers.” Putin gets that and he’s a masterful chess player. Most of his detractors and doubters don’t get that and probably aren’t masterful rock, paper, scissors players, much less chess.
Shahna had the following comment:
“Yes, Russia has again put the S-300 delivery to Syria on hold,”
They never took the S-300 for Syria off hold.
From the start they said MIGHT and CONSIDERING and Russia doesn’t muse and ponder publicly about what it sends to Syria : they need the stuff – they send it – that’s it. No prior warnings issued or prior permissions required. It’s put on a boat or plane and it gets there before we even know about it.
The Russians are also not careless or lax with their words when they issue statements to the international media so those words were clearly a warning to Israel not to cross those lines the author mentions. And then, just after Netanyahu left Moscow: “We’re not sending S-300s to Syria Syria doesn’t need them” said it all. …. Despite braggy claims of liquorice allsorts Russian support for Israel made after, Netanyahu has assured Russia (Putin) those lines would be respected – and at the moment they still are.
More great points. The Russian leadership does choose its words with care. Part of that whole checker/chess thing. In this case the language was indeed very deliberate and this did not constitute a betrayal of any kind.
Fatima Manoubia weighed in, supporting Russel:
Indeed, I have had the same stance than Russell for the last years in my naivety ( and lack of knowledge ), but no more buy into the binary, “Putin is good and never does any mistake and we are all a bunch of ignorant stupids who do not get it”.
So far, to my view on what kind of world I would wish to live in, he has taken some steps I had not liked at all and which have sown reasonable doubts about him in me.
I agree in that The Saker just contribute to spread distrust amongst Russian allies in his last “analysis” in his usual style of hiding the main goal of his “analysis” amongst a lot of information collected from commenters and articles in the “alt-media” and Russian media, but that does not mean that some of the doubts and suspicions expressed by him ( and taken from genuine commenters ) are not legitimately expressed by those who along these long four years have expressed an unconditional support for Putin and Russia […].
I encourage our readers to comment on our articles whenever the spirit so moves them. We do our best to respond, time and other factors permitting.
Many of these same people are readers of his and ours and they’re looking for capable, trustworthy analysis of events that might actually shed some light on these concerns. What Raevsky does via his analysis, in many but not all cases, is amplify and boost these concerns, reservations and trepidations without alleviating or contextualizing them the way that thinking people do.
There’s nothing wrong with anyone looking at individual decisions of the Russian leadership and feeling such things, but it’s the height of irresponsibility to just put such things out there, basically with either a “fingers crossed, hope I’m wrong” or “woe is us, death and destruction are headed our way” type of thing. This is particularly the case if one has the kind of voice and following, though apparently shrinking, that The Saker very obviously does.
But what a few people over on the Saker’s comments wall seem to think is that what Russel ‘Texas’ Bentley wrote was a hit piece on Andrei, because Bentley and FRN’s Editor in Chief, Flores, are big time Marxist-Leninists who can’t stand the brazen smack-downs delivered by Orthodox White Monarchist-Nationalist Conservatism ™ of the Saker. This is hardly the situation, and let me break down why.
While Bentley is a non-sectarian communist, Flores isn’t a Marxist-Leninist and has made his reasons why pretty clear over the years, though he used to be a red in his youth. Flores is a convert to Orthodoxy, which also cuts against claims he’s M-L.
There’s no doubt that Raevsky has an extreme distaste for Flores, but this is something that neither Flores nor Raevsky have been public much about at all. Behind the scenes, however, I can tell you that Raevsky is big on blasting Flores whenever his name comes up. Why is that?
The real story is this:
Back in 2014 when Slavyansk was under siege, some weird stuff was going down. Strelkov decided to break the soldier’s code, and take media and messaging into his own hands. He went on to blast the Kremlin and Putin for not breaking international law, and said that by not sending all the ammo and supplies, illegally into Ukraine, that he needed to carry on holding onto Slavyansk, Putin was supposedly under the control of the 5th column, or 6th column, or whatever enumerated column we might spin the roulette wheel and land on. Such drivel was toxic when spread within Russia. So when the Saker went on repeating this waste, it didn’t go unnoticed.
Flores penned something of a short field guide in July 2014 to doing propaganda in a time of war on the website of the Center for Syncretic Studies, called “Analysis of July 5 Slaviansk Developments”
That July 5, 2014 piece was read a hundred-thousand times, was linked over by the Moon of Alabama, and mentioned Raevksy’s poor propaganda efforts in passing. The passage in question that Flores inked then was this:
Attention must be given to the 4th generation warfare where real-time information, shared by our own friends and supporters can be used to demoralize our camp [….] The 6th column, within alternate English language journalism and analysis, whether consciously aware or not are at times even friends like Vladimir Suchan — who rails against Putin’s inactivity thus providing a good propaganda cover for actual Russian involvement, but can border on demoralizing defeatism — and Andrei “the Saker” — who generally has decent (though at times misinformed) and supportive analysis but yet responds emotionally, journalistically, and cataclysmically to real-time news that may be construed unfavorably.
This ‘chicken little/sky is falling’ type of ‘analysis’ is neither incisive nor descriptive and falls for the common error of having one’s sense of the developments being led around by the nose by the controlled news cycle, which reports reality in a strange ‘immediate cause and effect’ sort of way. The news cycle also places the importance of ‘immediate’ news over the bigger picture, because this garners clicks, ad revenue, and general interest. The negative result is a view of the situation that loses all sense of proportion and the real operating dynamics. It is important (for the west) for Russia to be criticized for not doing enough, especially if this becomes the dominant criticism in western Europe […].
Ever since then, Raevsky has straight up hated Flores. For those words. Email chains that have gone around between circles of writers and editors, show this, but I’m not going to violate any privacy and get into specifics. That’s it.
There’s nothing wrong with sympathizing with the forces under Strelkov, indeed there was everything right with it, and we all hoped he would have prevailed. In my opinion and I’m speaking for myself here, what Strelkov would go on to do a year later will probably never be properly understood or admired for what it was, because it involved some infiltration of Russia’s uber-nationalist anti-Putin opposition. Sometimes the best way to derail something is to lead it. But as a figure, he took a hit. This is the Russian way, to take one for the team. That’s my opinion anyway, for what it’s worth.
The ensuing fall-out saw a video uploaded to youtube which appears to no longer exist, in which Dr. Alexandr Dugin’s then man on the ground, and commander of a Novorossian militia, Paul Gubarev, went toe-to-toe in a heated debate with the Essence of Time’s (EoT) Dr. Sergey Kurginyan.
They argued over the strategic situation which ensued in the wake of the ‘retreat’ from Slavyansk. Kurginyan is principled, and a genius, and Dugin is principled, and a genius. Both are important post-Soviet philosophers which have competing but not necessarily mutually incompatible ideas about Russia and Europe’s Eurasian future. But the point is that these are people with direct access to pillars of power in Russian society.
Let’s put it this way. It’s no secret that Dugin and Flores have worked on parallel projects. Flores and Jafe Arnold have worked together on at least one project that’s publicly known about, directly under Putin’s official adviser on regional economic integration, Sergey Glaziev. Bentley’s direct and official relationship with Kurginyan is known about.
Now the connection between Dugin, Kurginyan, Bentley, and Flores is all clear. These gentleman disagree about quite a few things. This isn’t an ideologically charged debate – it’s a practical one. The Saker is doing some bad things with his writing if people who are better plugged in than the Saker, but yet disagree with each other on a range of other things, agree that the Saker is messing up.
So maybe Andrei the Saker is able to openly criticize Kremlin decisions, because he’s not actually connected to Russian efforts in media? Are Bentley and Flores compromised ‘trolls’ too close to Moscow pillars, who lacking independence, must tow the Kremlin line? Seems unlikely. When Flores launched CSS in 2013, joined shortly later by James Porrazzo – founder of New Resistance, and then by Jafe Arnold – who would go on to create the Eurasianist Internet Archive, the whole idea was to exist outside of the domain of Russian controlled efforts. Their commitments were to moving beyond the left/right political paradigm, and pushing a version of multipolarity that emphasized a ‘peoples’ driven conception of it.
Russian campaigns below those run by Russian legacy media giants are ad-hoc and hastily launched, whereas Western soft-power strategy is long-term. Flores criticizes Russian media programs that involve organizing activist campaigns, which most do, because he has experience in media and organizing campaigns. Where he takes a back seat is when he looks at geostrategy, military matters, and diplomacy. I guess it’s more sensible to try to understand and explain Russian machinations, than to attempt subjectivist, emotional, and ill-informed ‘criticisms’ of them. While working with a universe and facts that pale in comparison to what Russian strategists and planners do, it’s probably best to be aware of what one is working with. The Saker seems to really fall short here.
The difference is that Americans rely on Russian dissidents to run and manage America’s ‘alt-media’ campaigns in Russia, but Russians rely on Russians to run and manage Russian ‘alt-media’ campaigns for America. This is the source of real frustration for independent journalists, analysts, and activists looking for a safe platform out of western control, but don’t want to find themselves deprived of agency under some Russian thumb either.
So there’s no single political agenda here, in fact they tend to conflict. How they all interact is beyond my knowledge, but it is what it is. Flores and Bentley haven’t worked on projects together before, and on the Russian side the projects actually conflicted. How I have this scored, if two people with different worldviews who have both worked close to different, mutually competitive organizations in Russia, both see a big problem with what the Saker has written, then perhaps it’s at least fair to give those criticisms a fair hearing. This was the whole point of Bentley’s piece to begin with.
The motivation behind it had nothing whatsoever to do with “let’s pick one of our competitors and and have one of our writers go for his jugular.” We don’t have competitors. The internet doesn’t work that way. You click here, and then you click there. Within ten minutes of browsing alone, readers bounce between both sites. If anything, the piece breathed life into the Saker by raising this debate.
Nothing personal, nothing petty. If anything, we recognize the value of The Saker and his platform and what he has done over the past several years in providing dissident Russo-centric analysis to clear-thinking, intelligent Westerners who are desperately in need of that. But we have to be clear that it is dissident, and therefore not like Flores’ or Bentley’s, and comes with all the trappings and assumptions that liberal dissident arm-chair generaling and Monday morning quarter-backing comes with.
We want him to hold himself and his contributors to a higher standard and to give his readers the intellectual ammunition and nourishment that they need and deserve, instead of handing them strychnine-laced kool-aid and saying “this is all I can do for you, see you on the other side.”