Tuesday, March 17, 2015

M.N.: This is, it seems to me, the new type of war, undeclared ("Without Sky" is a sort of belletristic declaration), "soft", low-cost, that is waged on America these days: strange, unexplained, mysterious accidents, plain and train crashes (with general message: "you are on the collision course with us and will face disaster" and specific messages in "hidden, twilight" language, referring to names, places and numbers), murders-suicides, incited violence and "the war on the police", penetration and manipulation of mass media - information war, cyber-attacks, psychological zombification and enslavement, etc., etc., etc.. Apparently this strategy was well conceptualized and thought-out. Its goal is the same as in regular wars: mass control (it was and is practiced quite successfully by the KGB domestically for decades), demoralization and domination, it just is achieved differently, with "more efficient modern methods". Are we prepared for this new type of war? What do we have to do to be more prepared? What do we have to do to win it (and I have no doubts that we will)? | Vladislav Surkov: "It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries. Two groups of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. No. All against all. And what coalitions! Not like the ones you had before…We will come tomorrow. We will conquer or perish. There is no third way."


M.N.: This is, it seems to me, the new type of war, undeclared ("Without Sky" - after "Skyfall" - is a sort of belletristic declaration), "soft", low-cost, that is waged on America these days: strange, unexplained, mysterious (most likely staged) accidents, plain and train crashes (with general message: "you are on the collision course with us and will face disaster" and specific messages in "hidden, twilight" language, referring to names, places and numbers), murders-suicides, incited violence and "the war on the police", penetration and manipulation of mass media - information war, cyber-attacks, attempts at psychological manipulation, zombification and enslavement, etc., etc., etc.. Apparently this strategy was well conceptualized and thought-out. Its goal is the same as in regular wars: mass control (it was and is practiced quite successfully by the KGB domestically for decades), demoralization and domination, it just is achieved differently, with "more efficient modern methods". It is the mind product of many "surkovs" (which in fact are "dadayevs": the traditional one-directional and one-dimensional robot-"abrek" culture and mentality do show through), or more correctly, "suroks", the dark self-zombified, self-adoring narcissistic, treacherous, polymorphous creatures: "kukli", mechanical schizoid dolls with pseudo-aesthetic pretensions, self-made puppets-slaves. 
Are we prepared for this new type of war? What do we have to do to be more prepared? What do we have to do to win it (and I have no doubts that we will)?
______________________________
Vladislav Surkov: "It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries. Two groups of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. No. All against all.
And what coalitions! Not like the ones you had before… 
We will come tomorrow. We will conquer or perish. There is no third way.

Without Sky  |  Non-Linear War « LRB blog


"Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisers, and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.
He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career, say that what Surkov has done, is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.
His aim is to undermine peoples’ perceptions of the world, so they never know what is really happening.
Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin.
But the key thing was, that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake...
In typical fashion, as the war began, Surkov published a short story about something he called non-linear war. A war where you never know what the enemy are really up to, or even who they are. The underlying aim, Surkov says, is not to win the war, but to use the conflict to create a constant state of destabilized perception, in order to manage and control...
The story of World War V in Surkov’s Without Sky, an allegory and model for war written by a Kremlin insider, mirrors the events in Ukraine...
The confusion and uncertainty is the purpose of Surkov’s non-linear war. When a war is fought between two clearly opposed sides, it’s simple. Put simply: one side attacks the other, which leads to retaliation, which leads to conflict, which leads of eventual resolution.
However, when a war is fought between multiple parties on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s more complicated. The preface to Surkov’s story acknowledges this, saying: “Interpretations can be many – especially today, when public sentiment certainly can not be called simple and two-dimensional.” Thus, the purpose of Surkov and Russia’s strategy is to diffuse and confuse public sentiment, making lines blurred."

Vladislav Surkov | Cut Your Teeth



Without Sky

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Vladislav Surkov was born Aslambek Andarbekovich Dudayev in the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic, and later changed his name to Surkov. He is a Russian businessman, former Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, and current close advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Under the pen name Dubovitsky, Surkov has published a number of works of science fiction, including the “gangsta fiction” novel Okolonolya (“Near Zero”). Surkov initially denied that he was the author of Okolonolya and wrote a preface to the novel stating, “The author of this novel is an unoriginal, Hamlet-obsessed hack.” Surkov was subsequently discovered to be, in fact, the author.
He is one of the Russian government officials recently sanctioned by President Obama.The Guardian quoted his reaction: “The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”
“Without Sky” is a science fiction short story, first published as an annex to the magazineRussian Pioneer, No 46 (May 2014).
There was no sky over our village. That’s why we went to the city to watch the moon and birds, on the other side of the river. The people in the city were not thrilled to have us, but they did not try to stop us. On one of the hills, where the brick church stood, they even built an observation platform. Since for some reason they considered us drinkers, in addition to benches and a pay telescope, they built a small tavern by the observation deck, and a police post.
I could understand the city people. They had suffered greatly from the rage and envy of newcomers. And though it was insulting that they considered us - their closest neighbors, almost city people ourselves - intruders, still, we could understand them. And after all, they understood us. They didn’t drive us away. No matter what they wrote on their websites, they didn’t drive us away.
Everyone understood, if they were honest, that it was not our fault we were left with no sky. On the contrary, it was a great honor for us, in a way. The marshals of the four coalitions chose our sky for their decisive battle because the sky over our village was the best in the world: calm and cloudless. The sun flowed through our sky like a wide, peaceful river. I remember them well, the sun and the sky. The marshals found this place ideal for the final battle. It’s not surprising. This was when all armies were airborne, and here there were no clouds, no turbulence. It was perfect.
This was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the nineteenth, twentieth, and other middle centuries, the fight was usually between two sides: two nations or two temporary alliances. But now, four coalitions collided, and it wasn’t two against two, or three against one. It was all against all.
And what coalitions they were! Not like the earlier ones. It was a rare state that entered the coalition intact. What happened was some provinces took one side, some took the other, and some individual city, or generation, or sex, or professional society of the same state - took a third side. And then they could switch places, cross into any camp you like, sometimes during battle.
The goals of those in conflict were quite varied. Each had his own, so to speak: the seizing of disputed pieces of territory; the forced establishment of a new religion; higher ratings or rates; the testing of new military rays and airships; the final ban on separating people into male and female, since sexual differentiation undermines the unity of the nation; and so forth.
The simple-hearted commanders of the past strove for victory. Now they did not act so stupidly. That is, some, of course, still clung to the old habits and tried to exhume from the archives old slogans of the type: victory will be ours. It worked in some places, but basically, war was now understood as a process, more exactly, part of a process, its acute phase, but maybe not the most important.
Some peoples joined the war specifically to be defeated. They were inspired by the flowering of Germany and France after being routed in the second World War. It turned out that to achieve such a defeat was no simpler than achieving victory. Determination, sacrifice, and the extraordinary exertion of all forces were required, and, in addition, flexibility, cold-bloodedness, and the ability to profitably administer one’s own cowardice and dullness.
But all of this was realized and analyzed later by historians and economists. Then, it was just war, World War V, and rather horrifying. I was six. We were all six or younger, all who today enter the Society, who are thirty years old now. We remember how, from the four corners of our sky, the four great armadas swooped down. These were not roaring, screeching and howling airborne apparatus of the old kind, as we had become used to seeing in the video-archives. For the first time, the newest, absolutely silent technology was employed, with some kind of invisible systems of complete noise reduction.
Hundreds of thousands of airplanes, helicopters, and rockets destroyed each other throughout a day in the silence of the tomb. Even falling, they were silent. Sometimes dying pilots screamed out, but rarely, because almost all of the machines were pilotless.
At that time, automatic machinery was being hurriedly brought into general use, and not only in the field of transportation. They introduced hotels without staff, stores without sales people, homes without masters, financial and industrial firms without directors. Even a couple of “pilotless” governments were organized as a result of democratic revolutions, so airplanes were nothing to speak of.
As a result, there was no one to scream while crashing onto roofs, bridges and monuments. The only sound was the cracking and crackling of our homes as they were destroyed beneath the rain of falling debris. And it wasn’t loud. The systems of sound reduction were effective across almost the complete depth of the battlefield.
Our parents tried to shelter us in the city. Above the city, the sky was clear, but the city people closed the city. Our parents cried for help from our side of the river. They begged them to at least take the children, at least those younger than ten, or seven, or three. Or younger than one year old. Or only the girls. And so forth. The city people did not open the city, and we children could understand them. We understood our parents, too, of course, including my own.
My father said: they won’t let us in. We have to dig down. We burrowed into the riverbank sand, in a minute’s time, it seemed. Everyone did, even the fattest and oldest of us. People don’t know themselves well. It might seem strange, but we are, in fact, much more nimble and intelligent than worms. One detail: it was winter. Freezing. The sand was hard.
Mama and Papa burrowed in together with me. They were warm and soft. Papa, a brave and clever man, brought some of my favorite candy from the house with him, a full pocket. And Mama bought my handheld game player. With it, I was happy and not bored in our burrow, so my time passed splendidly. The tail of an airplane fell on us, towards evening.
The fighter aircraft of the Northern Coalition were super-light, made of almost weightless materials. Even if an entire one of these fighters fell on us, the whole airplane, it would not have caused us serious harm. And Papa had dug us in pretty deep.
The place where we were hidden attracted the tail of another airplane. Unfortunately, it was an attack aircraft of the Southeastern League, an older plane, relatively silent, but heavy. Our burrow was deep, but not as deep as the tail of the attack fighter was heavy. The sand above us was frozen solid, but all the same, it was sand, not concrete, not steel, not the shawl of Our Lady: sand. And sand is not steel. I learned this well then, once and for all. And to this day, wake me up in the middle of the night and ask me: Is sand steel or not? I will answer: No! On the run, not pausing for a minute to think, not doubting. No.
I lay between Mama and Papa and didn’t hear the blow. It’s possible that Papa made some funny quacking sound when the excessive weight crushed him, or he swore coarsely. One time he had yelled out something of the sort in front of me and frightened me.
It’s possible that my mother also let out some kind of sound, but not necessarily. I’m not sure she even had time for a guilty smile, like the one she always had when something unpleasant happened to Papa or me. I hope it wasn’t painful.
They were killed. I wasn’t. Death wound round their bodies but didn’t reach mine. My brain was just touched by its black and stifling presence. Something boiled out of my brain and evaporated: the third dimension, height.
When they dug me out in the morning, chilled to the bone because my parents had quickly grown cold and become like the sand, I saw a two-dimensional world, endless in length and width, but without height. Without sky. Where is it, I asked? It’s right there, they answered. I don’t see it, don’t see it! I became frightened.
They gave me treatment, but didn’t cure me. This kind of contusion, severe, can’t be cured. The tail of the attack fighter crushed my consciousness into a pancake. It became flat and simple. What do I see in place of the sky above our village? Nothing. What does it look like? What does it resemble? It looks like nothing, resembles nothing. It’s not that this is incommunicable, inexpressible. There’s nothing of that. There’s just nothing.
After the war there were about fifty other cripples like me. All of us, the two-dimensionals, turned out to be the same age. Why? No one knew. The city scientists dug around in our consciousness for a while. They wrote a few treatises. They dragged us around to symposiums and talk-shows. Several foundations were organized on our behalf. Laughing at us was forbidden by a special law. They built an observation platform for us and a charitable institution. Then we went out of fashion and they forgot all about us.
If it was only that we didn’t see the sky above our village, that would be nothing, but our very thoughts lost the concept of height. We became two-dimensional. We understood only “yes” and “no,” only “black” and “white.” There was no ambiguity, no half-tones, no saving graces. We did not know how to lie.
We understood everything literally, and that meant we were absolutely unsuited for life, helpless. We required constant care, but they abandoned us. They wouldn’t let us work. They wouldn’t pay us a disability pension. Many of us deteriorated, fell and perished. The rest of us organized ourselves to stay afloat, to save ourselves together or perish together.
We founded the Society and prepared a revolt of the simple, two-dimensionals against the complex and sly, against those who do not answer “yes” or “no,” who do not say “white” or “black,” who know some third word, many, many third words, empty, deceptive, confusing the way, obscuring the truth. In these shadows and spider webs, in these false complexities, hide and multiply all the villainies of the world. They are the House of Satan. That’s where they make bombs and money, saying: “Here’s money for the good of the honest; here are bombs for the defense of love.”
We will come tomorrow. We will conquer or perish. There is no third way.
Translation copyright © 2014 by Bill Bowler
Read the whole story

· · · · · · ·

Vladislav Surkov | Cut Your Teeth

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In the middle of March, 2014, as Russia moved to annex Crimea and conflict erupted in the east of Ukraine, a short story was published.
Titled ‘Without Sky’, the piece of dystopian science fiction was written by Russia’s former Deputy Prime Minister and advisor to Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov, and published under his pseudonym Nathan Dubovitsky.
The story, published early on in the Ukrainian conflict, would prove to be both a statement of political strategy and an ideological blueprint for the future Russia.

Without Sky, Nathan Dubovitsky
There was no sky over our village. That’s why we went to the city to watch the moon and birds, on the other side of the river. The people in the city were not thrilled to have us, but they did not try to stop us. On one of the hills, where the brick church stood, they even built an observation platform. Since for some reason they considered us drinkers, in addition to benches and a pay telescope, they built a small tavern by the observation deck, and a police post.
I could understand the city people. They had suffered greatly from the rage and envy of newcomers. And though it was insulting that they considered us – their closest neighbors, almost city people ourselves – intruders, still, we could understand them. And after all, they understood us. They didn’t drive us away. No matter what they wrote on their websites, they didn’t drive us away.
Everyone understood, if they were honest, that it was not our fault we were left with no sky. On the contrary, it was a great honor for us, in a way. The marshals of the four coalitions chose our sky for their decisive battle because the sky over our village was the best in the world: calm and cloudless. The sun flowed through our sky like a wide, peaceful river. I remember them well, the sun and the sky. The marshals found this place ideal for the final battle. It’s not surprising. This was when all armies were airborne, and here there were no clouds, no turbulence. It was perfect.
This was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the nineteenth, twentieth, and other middle centuries, the fight was usually between two sides: two nations or two temporary alliances. But now, four coalitions collided, and it wasn’t two against two, or three against one. It was all against all.
And what coalitions they were! Not like the earlier ones. It was a rare state that entered the coalition intact. What happened was some provinces took one side, some took the other, and some individual city, or generation, or sex, or professional society of the same state – took a third side. And then they could switch places, cross into any camp you like, sometimes during battle.
The goals of those in conflict were quite varied. Each had his own, so to speak: the seizing of disputed pieces of territory; the forced establishment of a new religion; higher ratings or rates; the testing of new military rays and airships; the final ban on separating people into male and female, since sexual differentiation undermines the unity of the nation; and so forth.
The simple-hearted commanders of the past strove for victory. Now they did not act so stupidly. That is, some, of course, still clung to the old habits and tried to exhume from the archives old slogans of the type: victory will be ours. It worked in some places, but basically, war was now understood as a process, more exactly, part of a process, its acute phase, but maybe not the most important.
Some peoples joined the war specifically to be defeated. They were inspired by the flowering of Germany and France after being routed in the second World War. It turned out that to achieve such a defeat was no simpler than achieving victory. Determination, sacrifice, and the extraordinary exertion of all forces were required, and, in addition, flexibility, cold-bloodedness, and the ability to profitably administer one’s own cowardice and dullness.
But all of this was realized and analyzed later by historians and economists. Then, it was just war, World War V, and rather horrifying. I was six.
[Read the rest here, translation courtesy of Bill Bowler]

power of nightmares
Adam Curtis produced The Power Of Nightmares, a BBC documentary film series, in 2004.
Filmmaker Adam Curtis, known for his documentaries that focus on postmodern and post-structuralist ideas (in the philosophical vein of Baudrillard), presented a short piece for the BBC’s 2014 Wipe in which he said:
Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisers, and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years, but he has done it in a very new way.
He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career, say that what Surkov has done, is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.
His aim is to undermine peoples’ perceptions of the world, so they never know what is really happening.
Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theater. He sponsored all kinds of groups, from neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin.
But the key thing was, that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing, which meant that no one was sure what was real or fake.
In typical fashion, as the war began, Surkov published a short story about something he called non-linear war. A war where you never know what the enemy are really up to, or even who they are. The underlying aim, Surkov says, is not to win the war, but to use the conflict to create a constant state of destabilized perception, in order to manage and control.
Surkov is definitely an interesting figure. He has had numerous roles within the Russian government.In an interview with The Atlantic, Surkov outlined his portfolio, noting: “My portfolio at the Kremlin and in government has included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernization, innovation, foreign relations, and modern art.”
It is a comment which hints at the kind of game Surkov plays – one which involves the melding together of politics, propaganda and art. It is thus unsurprising that he would write a short story that reads as both propaganda and a blueprint for war, published as unrest in Ukraine developed into armed conflict between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian rebels.
The short story, titled Without Sky, describes the experience of a six-year-old boy during World War V. It is a war fought between the “four coalitions” for control of an area of land.
As put by Pacific Standard, the story tells of a dyspotian future after the war:
On the eve of the Crimean referendum (on March 12, to be precise), the story appeared, like Dubovitsky’s other works, in the online magazine Russky Pioner (Russian Pioneer). We hear an interrupted reminiscence of a 36-year-old “two-dimensional” citizen of a rural dystopia—the Society—that is about to revolt against the shapely urbanites around it. Thirty years earlier, the Society’s current residents—about 100—ended up as casualties of the “non-linear” World War V, a conflict of “everyone against everyone” fought in the air predominantly by drones. After the destruction of their bucolic village, chosen as the four warring coalitions’ battlefield for its once-immaculate sky, these people grew up to be a disaffected minority, gaping nothingness above them.
The story of World War V in Surkov’s Without Sky, an allegory and model for war written by a Kremlin insider, mirrors the events in Ukraine. According to the Daily Beast, the role Surkov played in the Crimean annexation was key, with the outlet reporting:
“The White House has come to believe that Surkov is Putin’s key advisor on the Russian propaganda campaign against Kiev and the referendum in Crimea that lead to annexation…”
Surkov’s short story was published in on March 12, 2014, just before Putin annexed Crimea, with that important piece of land so longed-for by the Kremlin seemingly being described by Sukov in the opening passages:
There was no sky over our village. That’s why we went to the city to watch the moon and birds, on the other side of the river. The people in the city were not thrilled to have us, but they did not try to stop us. On one of the hills, where the brick church stood, they even built an observation platform. Since for some reason they considered us drinkers, in addition to benches and a pay telescope, they built a small tavern by the observation deck, and a police post.
I could understand the city people. They had suffered greatly from the rage and envy of newcomers. And though it was insulting that they considered us – their closest neighbors, almost city people ourselves – intruders, still, we could understand them. And after all, they understood us. They didn’t drive us away. No matter what they wrote on their websites, they didn’t drive us awn away.
These “neighbours” are understood by the city people. They live in a kind of brokered peace with one another and the villagers, though considered intruders by some, were never asked to leave. It’s a description not too far removed from the reality of Crimea. Indeed, the 59 percent ethnic Russian population in Crimea voted to leave Ukraine in March 2014 and join their kin, a move which Putin has now praised. He noted in his New Year speech that he was very much pleased with the events in Crimea, saying: “Love for one’s motherland is one of the most powerful and uplifting feelings. It manifested itself in full in the brotherly support to the people of Crimea and Sevastopol, when they resolutely decided to return home.”
Crimea, after all, never felt Russia’s absence – a fact hinted at in the Without Sky passage. The land was gifted to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. As the Telegraph notes, the move was largely meaningless at the time given the fact that Ukraine remained part of the Soviet Union. After the 1991 breakup of the Union, Russia’s grip on Crimea  was somewhat loosened but never completely severed due to the continued presence of Russia’s Black Sea Navy Fleet, based in Sevastopol – They didn’t drive us away.
So Crimea returned to Russia in early 2014. Following on from that, the battle for the east of Ukraine intensified. Rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk fought throughout the year for independence. Rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk have declared the existence of the People’s Republic’s – self-proclaimed independent states that have not been recognised by the international community.
In Without Sky, Surkov describes the desires and intentions of the opposing armies seeking to take possession of the unnamed land standing in for Ukraine:
The marshals of the four coalitions chose our sky for their decisive battle because the sky over our village was the best in the world: calm and cloudless. The sun flowed through our sky like a wide, peaceful river.
I remember them well, the sun and the sky. The marshals found this place ideal for the final battle. It’s not surprising. This was when all armies were airborne, and here there were no clouds, no turbulence. It was perfect.
The ‘final battle’ noted in this passage from Without Sky hints at fears that many people had, and still have, about conflict in Ukraine leading to World War III. (In typical sci-fi fashion, however, Surkov places the conflict in a seemingly distant future by labelling it World War V).
The model provided for the war in Without Sky seems to be a kind of prophetic vision for the conflict in Ukraine. The war, as noted in the short story, is an example of a new kind of conflict – a non-linear war fought between various sides:
This was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the nineteenth, twentieth, and other middle centuries, the fight was usually between two sides: two nations or two temporary alliances. But now, four coalitions collided, and it wasn’t two against two, or three against one. It was all against all.
And what coalitions they were! Not like the earlier ones. It was a rare state that entered the coalition intact. What happened was some provinces took one side, some took the other, and some individual city, or generation, or sex, or professional society of the same state – took a third side. And then they could switch places, cross into any camp you like, sometimes during battle.
Indeed, the Ukrainian conflict has borne witness to a myriad of interplaying actors. It is a war fought against the Ukrainian army by pro-Russian rebels for Putin’s cause but distanced from Putin himself. When troops wearing Russian uniforms were seen in Ukrainian territory, Putin denied they were his.
The numerous examples of Putin’s doublespeak showcase a kind of postmodern attitude towards war – one that looks to be influenced by the artistic mind of Vladislav Surkov.
The confusion and uncertainty is the purpose of Surkov’s non-linear war. When a war is fought between two clearly opposed sides, it’s simple. Put simply: one side attacks the other, which leads to retaliation, which leads to conflict, which leads of eventual resolution.
However, when a war is fought between multiple parties on multiple fronts at the same time, it’s more complicated. The preface to Surkov’s story acknowledges this, saying: “Interpretations can be many – especially today, when public sentiment certainly can not be called simple and two-dimensional.” Thus, the purpose of Surkov and Russia’s strategy is to diffuse and confuse public sentiment, making lines blurred
This type of complicated, non-linear war is presently being waged in Ukraine. Fighting occurs in fits and starts between rebels and Ukrainian forces while nation states (and cross-national organisations such as NATO) intermittently negotiate and slander one another. The United States condemns Russia but won’t get directly involved. Meanwhile, NATO has taken action in the Baltic region to ward off Russia but remains tied to the 1997 Founding Act agreement with Russia which states that:
NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries. They share the goal of overcoming the vestiges of earlier confrontation and competition and of strengthening mutual trust and cooperation.
Such agreements and interrelationships complicate the conflict in Ukraine and make it hard for any one party to act without compromising themselves. Surkov’s non-linear war, as described in Without Sky, is both a model and explanation of this type of complex conflict. It is conflict designed to be messy, with nobody quite knowing what’s going on. Given the interrelationships between the various sides, it’s also a type of conflict that’s difficult to stop.
Some actors come into play unexpectedly, such as Exxon Mobil who was able to stall US sanctions against Russia because of its oil exploration enterprises.
Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, labelled One of Vladimir Putin’s favorite businessmen by Slate, has been accused of financing pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. According to Bloomberg, Malofeev has had talks with Putin and “The self-proclaimed head of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic and its rebel army leader have both worked for Malofeev, though the financier denies any role in the unrest.” He was one of those targeted by US sanctions against Russia because of his alleged funding of separatist rebels.
As noted in Foreign Policy, Surkov’s short story highlights the fact that the players in war go beyond nation states. Thus, when Surkov writes “A few provinces would join one side a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle” (their translation), what he means is that actors such as corporations now play a role in conflict. Peter Pomerantsev writes of Surkov’s short story:
This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally “Western” companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed. So far, the Kremlin’s gamble seems to be paying off, with financial considerations helping to curb sanctions. Part of the rationale for fast-tracking Russia’s inclusion into the global economy was that interconnection would be a check on aggression. But the Kremlin has figured out that this can be flipped: Interconnection also means that Russia can get away with aggression.
[T]he Kremlin’s “non-linear” sensibility is evident as it manipulates Western media and policy discourse. If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary’s Jobbik or France’s Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin’s stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. Influencers often appear in Western media and policy circles without reference to their Kremlin connections: whether it’s PR company Ketchum placing pro-Kremlin op-eds in the Huffington Post; anti-Maidan articles by British historian John Laughland in the Spectator that make no mention of how the think tank he was director of was set up in association with Kremlin-allied figures; or media appearances by influential German political consultant Alexander Rahr that fail to note his paid position as an advisor for the German energy company Wintershall, a partner of Gazprom, Moscow’s massive natural gas company (Rahr denies a conflict of interest).
Thus, some actors in the war have goals that go beyond the geopolitical. While many look to Putin’s annexation of Crimea as being a key part of the conflict in Ukraine, a wider battle is being fought on the cultural front. Surkov writes in Without Sky:
The goals of those in conflict were quite varied. Each had his own, so to speak: the seizing of disputed pieces of territory; the forced establishment of a new religion; higher ratings or rates; the testing of new military rays and airships; the final ban on separating people into male and female, since sexual differentiation undermines the unity of the nation; and so forth.
Indeed, these goals match those of the Kremlin. Beyond the geopolitical goal of annexing Crimea, the Kremlin has sought to establish Christian orthodoxy.
The “intensely conservative, patriotic to a fault” Konstantin Malofeev, who is a friend and supporter of Putin, has lobbied for Othordox Christian media reforms in Russia and is developing the conservative Tsargrad TV channel.
The type of anti-human rights position seen in Without Sky is not uncommon for Surkov, a man who has been a key architect of Kremlin ideology. According to the Daily Beast:
It was under Surkov’s reign that Russians defending human rights became a new generation of “dissidents,” isolated and persecuted like those of the 1970s and1980s during the Soviet era. Many of those trying to build a modern civil society blamed Surkov, as Putin’s ideological mentor, for rendering the human rights situation in Russia just about hopeless.  His current supporters credit him with creating the entire system, economic and ideological, that dominates the Kremlin today.
Surkov is probably best known by political analysts as the author of the ideology dubbed “sovereign democracy” or, sometimes, “managed democracy,” which offers some openings for public expressions of opinion, but remains subordinated to the strong guiding hand of the Russian president (especially if he’s Putin). Surkov inspired the creation of the ruling United Russia Party in its current form.
Further, Surkov was the mastermind behind the creation of Nashi – a political youth movement that has been dubbed Russia’s version of the Hitler Youth. The youth movement is fiercely pro-Putin andapparently tasked with stamping out all opposition to Russia’s leader.
In true Surkovian fashion, the ending to Without Sky reads as a kind of manifesto for the establishment of a strict ideological orthodoxy. The young boy in the story is injured when the tail of an attack fighter ‘crushes his consciousness into a pancake’. The result of this injury is to turn the boy into a “two-dimensional” – someone who understands only black and white and who sees no in-between:
After the war there were about fifty other cripples like me. All of us, the two-dimensionals, turned out to be the same age. Why? No one knew. The city scientists dug around in our consciousness for a while. They wrote a few treatises. They dragged us around to symposiums and talk-shows. Several foundations were organized on our behalf. Laughing at us was forbidden by a special law. They built an observation platform for us and a charitable institution. Then we went out of fashion and they forgot all about us.
If it was only that we didn’t see the sky above our village, that would be nothing, but our very thoughts lost the concept of height. We became two-dimensional. We understood only “yes” and “no,” only “black” and “white.” There was no ambiguity, no half-tones, no saving graces. We did not know how to lie.
We understood everything literally, and that meant we were absolutely unsuited for life, helpless. We required constant care, but they abandoned us. They wouldn’t let us work. They wouldn’t pay us a disability pension. Many of us deteriorated, fell and perished. The rest of us organized ourselves to stay afloat, to save ourselves together or perish together.
We founded the Society and prepared a revolt of the simple, two-dimensionals against the complex and sly, against those who do not answer “yes” or “no,” who do not say “white” or “black,” who know some third word, many, many third words, empty, deceptive, confusing the way, obscuring the truth. In these shadows and spider webs, in these false complexities, hide and multiply all the villainies of the world. They are the House of Satan. That’s where they make bombs and money, saying: “Here’s money for the good of the honest; here are bombs for the defense of love.”
We will come tomorrow. We will conquer or perish. There is no third way.
The ending reads as a kind of propagandist jab against the United States – that ‘House of Satan’ who hypocritically makes bombs and money “for the defense of love”. It’s a rejection of Western-style democracy (love) and a statement of support for Surkov’s “sovereign democracy” – one that bolstersRussia’s one party system.
Adam Curtis describes Surkov’s beliefs in the following terms:
Surkov believes that the truth is that the idea of democracy will always be an illusion, that all democracies will always be “managed democracies” whether east or west. So the solution is for a strong state to manipulate people – so that they feel they are free, while they are really being managed.
These goals described in Without Sky – cultural and party dominance in Russia – though seemingly tangential to the conflict in Ukraine, form part of the war because, as Surkov writes: “war [is] now understood as a process [or], more exactly, part of a process.”
War thus goes beyond men shooting at each other with guns and becomes a process that involves the internal politics of Russia as well as culture, the arts, media and even sport.
It is not far-fetched to ascribe such profound meaning to Without Sky. Vladislav Surkov, according to The Atlantic, was the man behind much of the Russian government’s public relations:
As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the president is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in. Russia’s Ostankino TV presenters, instructed by Surkov, pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for 20 minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating, though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly until they are imprinted on the mind.”
He is a PR man, a consumer of culture, an author and, according to Peter Pomerantsev, “an aesthete who pens essays on modern art, an aficionado of gangsta rap who keeps a photo of Tupac on his desk next to that of the president.”
Surkov created a modern and innovative way of managing the new democratic system – but in a way that his critics say has sidelined the mass of the people and completely diminished real democracy.
To do this Surkov created a constantly shifting political tableau. As well as being one of the architects of Putin’s own party, United Russia, Surkov also allegedly helped to set up opposition parties the Kremlin could then use for their own purposes. And he copied Eduard Limonov – he set up a quasi-military nationalist youth group called Nashi.
Nashi claims to be an “anti-oligarchic, anti-fascist movement” but members have reportedly compared themselves to the Hitler Youth. And the Kremlin allegedly uses them to beat up opposition journalists.
At the same time Surkov writes lyrics for a rock group called Agata Kristi and essays on conceptual art.
Surkov has arguably turned Russian politics into art – into theatre. Pomerantsev writes:
Surkov is at the centre of the show, sponsoring nationalist skinheads one moment, backing human rights groups the next. It’s a strategy of power based on keeping any opposition there may be constantly confused, a ceaseless shape-shifting that is unstoppable because it’s indefinable.
All in all, Surkov’s Without Sky, beyond being simply a science fiction story, is a manifesto, allegory and blueprint. It’s the work of an intelligent and talented politician, PR man and artist who has played a key role in the formation of Russia as we know it. It could also be a prophecy. But we’ll have to wait and see about that one.

If you want to read some more about Russian media and culture, look up Peter Pomerantsev’s book“Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia”. It’s all about how“reality” is scripted by the dark forces inside the Kremlin.
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Non-Linear War « LRB blog

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Vladislav Surkov is back. Back inside the ever-shrinking sanctum around Putin; on the elite list of Russian officials hit with visa bans and asset freezes in the west. The enemies who were so recently converging around Surkov, threatening charges of corruption and much more, have fallen silent. On 12 March, Surkov published a new short story, in Russky Pioneer (under his pseudonym Natan Dubovitsky). ‘Without Sky’ is set in the future, after the ‘fifth world war’. The story is told from the point of view of a child whose parents were killed in the war. He was brain damaged, and can only see and understand things in two dimensions:
There was no sky above our village. So we had to go to the city to see the moon and the birds. To the other side of the river. The city-dwellers didn’t like us. But they didn’t stop us. They even gave us one hilltop as a viewing platform, near the brick church. Because for some reason they thought us drunks, they put a beer stall there, next to the pay-per-view telescope and the police station.
I understand the city dwellers. They suffered much from the anger and jealousy of newcomers. And though we were offended that they thought us, their closest neighbours, strangers, I could understand them. And they understood us too. They didn’t force us out. Whatever their websites might say, they never forced us out…
Because everyone could understand it wasn’t our fault we lost the sky…
The Marshalls of the four coalitions chose our sky for their great battle. The sky above our village was the best in the world. Flat. Cloudless. The sun poured over it in a smooth river. I remember the sun well. And the sky.
It’s no coincidence Surkov went for a war story: perpetual mobilisation is the new political model he and the other political technologists in the Kremlin are busy creating. Russian television is full of hysteria about enemies of the state, fascists taking over Ukraine in a rerun of the Second World War, the great conflict with the godless gay West. Any potential opposition has been branded as a fifth column (there’s even a website where good citizens can identify traitors), and the Liberal Democrat leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky wants to ban the letter ы for being foreign. For the moment the strategy is working: Putin’s ratings are up. The rhetoric began as a reaction against the protests of 2011-12, long before the current crisis in Ukraine, but events there fit conveniently into the Kremlin’s narrative of perpetual war.
Though it might be a disservice to Surkov the writer (he has his moments) to see his story as merely another piece of sly propaganda, he is always quietly massaging in the underlying mindset that makes the Kremlin’s war effort possible. The whole of the opening passage above pulls at the post-Soviet sense of common grievance mixed with irony, tragedy and nostalgia that unites the former empire far more than any of the new surface pronouncements about Russia’s ‘conservative mission’. The draw is not so much about nostalgia for Soviet success, but the feeling that ‘we survived it together.’ (Russian TV broadcasts ironic, gently anti-Soviet films from the 1970s to Ukraine and Moldova, keeping the ‘near abroad’ near, and makes a cult out of the anti-Soviet singer Vyssotsky.)
But ‘Without Sky’ does more than tug at the past, and its war is no ordinary conflict:
It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries. Two groups of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. No. All against all.
And what coalitions! Not like the ones you had before… It was rare for whole countries to enter. A few provinces would join one side, a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle.
Their aims were quite different. To take over a disputed coastal shelf. To forcefully introduce a new religion. Raise ratings. Try out new lasers. To stop humans being divided into men and women as gender differences undermine the unity of a nation.
Most understood the war to be part of a process. Not necessarily its most important part.
It’s naive to assume the Kremlin is simply stuck in a Cold War (or 19th-century) mindset. Annexing Crimea was rather a sign that Russia is so confident of its position in a globalised world that no one will dare to act against it: the US and EU cannot afford to impose meaningful sanctions (or so the Kremlin hopes). The Kremlin takes – or projects – a paranoid view of globalisation. A sense of global conspiracies, of higher, hidden powers manipulating the world, is one of the main ways it’s selling the war inside Russia: even many among the urban middle classes who are sceptical about Putin can nevertheless be convinced that shadowy forces were behind the revolution in Ukraine. The cynicism that Russians justifiably feel about Soviet and post-Soviet politics can easily be spun into a conspiracy-driven vision of everything that happens in the world. (From another angle the above passage is a good description of internal Ukrainian and internal Kremlin politics.)
As a smiling Surkov left the hall in the Kremlin after Putin’s ‘reuniting Russian soil’ speech on 18 March, he was stopped by a reporter from TV Rain, which like much independent media is beingsqueezed to death by the Kremlin. The reporter asked Surkov about the sanctions list he has been placed on by the West. ‘Won’t this ban affect you?’ the reporter asked. ‘Your tastes point to you being a very Western person.’
Surkov smiled and pointed to his head: ‘I can fit Europe in here.’
He later said: ‘I see the decision by the administration in Washington as an acknowledgment of my service to Russia. It’s a big honour for me. I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.’
And yet, right at the end of the interview with TV Rain, his firmness seemed to be undermined by an odd laugh – was it rueful?
At the end of ‘Without Sky’, the boy sets out on a do-or-die mission:
Our very thoughts lost their height. Became two dimensional. We understand only ‘yes’ and ‘no’, ‘black and white’… So we couldn’t survive, needed permanent looking after. But we were dumped. Were left unemployed, without benefits… So we had to unite to survive. We created a society. Organised a rebellion of two-dimensional people against the complex and cunning. We are against those who never say ‘yes’ or ‘no’… who know the third word. There are many third words… confusing the ways, darkening truth… in these darknesses and cobwebs hides and multiplies all the dirt of the world. They are the house of Satan. There they make money and bombs… We begin tomorrow. We will win. Or lose. A third is not available.
It’s a deliberate tease of an ending: where does Surkov, a master of the ‘third word’ himself, fit in with all of this?
The day before Surkov’s travel ban to the EU was set to kick in on 21 March, his wife’s Instagram account showed them enjoying themselves in Stockholm, along with members of the Russian jet set.
‘I would take a close look at Surkov, his Stockholm photos,’ the hugely influential journalist Oleg Kashin wrote, speculating on who would be the first of Putin’s inner circle to break ranks. ‘He will hardly like the prospect of imaginary membership in the Ozero Co-operative [of Putin’s cronies] with its real consequences… Putin has turned into the hero of a thriller, who doesn’t yet know from which dark corner he should expect threats. There is expectation of the first betrayal – the Americans have made that the chief factor in Russian politics.’
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A glimpse inside the Kremlin puppetmaster’s mind

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Moscow’s ‘political technologists’ specialise in creating pure spectacle, says Peter Pomerantsev
Russia&squot;s President Vladimir Putin attend...Russia&squot;s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarksian in Yerevan, on December 2, 2013. Putin slammed today street protests in Ukraine against the government&squot;s decision not to sign a key agreement with the European Union and seek closer ties with the Kremlin. "The events in Ukraine seem more like a pogrom than a revolution," he said during a visit to Armenia. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL /MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEVMIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images©AFP
Putin's strategic options have narrowed as the crisis in Ukraine has intensified
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horeographed, made-for-television uprisings in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Lugansk; a carefully constructed media message that spins Ukraine’s choice into one between federalism or civil war; behind-the-scenes deals with local oligarchs – recent developments in Ukraine bear the signature of Moscow’s “political technologists”.
Over the past 20 years this uniquely post-Soviet profession has controlled the vast theatre of “managed democracy” inside Russia, directing puppet opposition parties, promoting scarecrow radicals, scripting elections, instructing the media and conjuring up ideologies in Kremlin corridors. It inherits the Soviet tradition of top-down governance and the Tsarist habit of co-opting anti-state actors (anarchists in the 19th century, neo-Nazis now), all fused with the latest thinking in television and advertising. The result is a society of pure spectacle, where nothing is ever quite real.

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In 2011, when protesters took to Moscow’s streets to call for a genuine democratic process, the political technologists quickly silenced talk of government corruption and replaced it with a legend in which Holy Russia confronts the foreign devils of Euro-Sodom. This was a unifying theme, but a transient one. The crisis in Ukraine is more durable. Anti-corruption campaigners can now be cast as traitors. Nationalists have rallied to the Kremlin’s cause.
Russian TV – widely watched in Ukraine despite moves to ban it – drills in the mantra that only Russia can save the eastern provinces from the spectre of Ukrainian fascism. No matter that Ukrainian nationalist leaders are polling below 5 per cent. This echoes a technique first used in the 1996 elections: only Boris Yeltsin, the political technologists insisted, could save Russia from the (largely invented) menace of revanchist Communism and fascism. Later this morphed into the idea that only Mr Putin could save Russia from collapse, or from the far right.
The US and Kiev might allege Russian undercover involvement in destabilising the eastern regions of Ukraine. But Russia needs only the theatre of local unrest to threaten invasion. Local oligarchs, who have little love for Russia, nonetheless welcome the instability, which weakens potentially bothersome authorities in Kiev and makes Ukraine ungovernable.
“This was the fifth world war . . .  the first non-linear war,” wrote Russia’s most infamous political technologist, Vladislav Surkov, in a short story published last month. In it, the former “grey cardinal” of the Kremlin dismisses the “primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries [in which] it was common for just two sides to fight”. He imagines a collision between four coalitions, “all against all”, in which the belligerents “switch sides, sometimes mid-battle”.
This satire is far from subversive. A nihilist narrative is actually Putinism’s strongest ideologicalbuttress
This is fiction, but it may not be fantasy. Ukraine’s intelligence agencies claim that Mr Surkov was in Kiev around the time of the shootings in February, and he is among the senior officials subject to EU and US sanctions. A bohemian aesthete among KGB hawks, he gives a unique insight into the mentality of the political technologists.
His semi-autobiographical Almost Zero, published in 2008, tells the story of a rotten public relations man, Egor. Having grown up with the sham ideology of the late Soviet Union, then witnessed a succession of regimes from liberalism to mafia state, Egor feels himself to be a sort of post-Soviet superman. He is a triumphant cynic, convinced that all motivations are corrupt. If this satire of contemporary Russia seems subversive, it is not: a nihilist narrative – reform is impossible since democracy everywhere is a sham – is actually Putinism’s strongest ideological buttress. It also leads to conspiracy-laden explanation of world affairs. Jaded Russians (and Ukrainians) might be sceptical about “Holy Russia”, but they will readily believe that America secretly organised the revolution in Kiev and that the world is out to get them.
Reading Mr Surkov, one is reminded just how naive it is to think the Kremlin is stuck in what Barack Obama has called “old ways” of thinking. The political technologists believe themselves to be the geopolitical avant garde.
The writer is a television producer and author
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BBC News - The untold story of the Maidan massacre

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A day of bloodshed on Kiev's main square, nearly a year ago, marked the end of a winter of protest against the government of president Viktor Yanukovych, who soon afterwards fled the country. More than 50 protesters and three policemen died. But how did the shooting begin? Protest organisers have always denied any involvement - but one man told the BBC a different story.