Europe/Americas update: September 2-3 2017



Russia has vacated the three US diplomatic posts it was ordered to vacate last week, but the Kremlin is making sure everybody knows how Mad it is about having to do so:

“We treat these developments as a blatantly hostile act, a grave violation by Washington of international law,” the Russian foreign ministry said of the U.S. order, which was made in late August in retaliation for Moscow cutting the United States’ diplomatic presence in Russia.

“We urge the U.S. authorities to come to their senses and immediately return the Russian diplomatic facilities,” the ministry added on its website. “Otherwise the USA will bear total blame for the ongoing degradation of the relations between our countries.”

Whatever. The Russians were caught burning sensitive documents as they cleared out their facilities, which would be a HUGE INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL except for the fact that literally any other country would have done exactly the same thing in that situation. Were they burning evidence of Russian spying, or election tampering, or something else scandalous? Probably. I hate to break it to the Twitter Russian Studies Brigade (more on them later), but the Russians aren’t the only ones who do that sort of thing.


It was a weekend of terrifying nostalgia in Germany. On Saturday an unexploded World War II bomb was disarmed in the city of Koblenz, and on Sunday another, larger unexploded World War II bomb was disarmed in Frankfurt. Apparently, and I did not know this, but around 2000 metric tons of unexploded WWII ordinance is found in Germany every year, courtesy in part of the frequently malfunctioning timed fuses that the Allies used in their explosives. This sounds horrifying, but the problem is actually getting worse, as the longer these bombs age the greater the chance of them exploding.



Colombia’s ELN rebels admitted to Reuters on Saturday that back in April they killed a Russian-American man they’d abducted last November. He apparently grabbed a grenade to try to effect his escape and was gunned down. ELN had previously been telling people that the man, Arsen Voskanyan, had actually escaped. ELN is the largest remaining rebel group in Colombia, and it has been negotiating with the government on a peace deal similar to the one the government reached with FARC late last year. But this admission could potentially set those talks back.


For a little change of pace, I’m not going to use this space to talk about Donald Trump. Instead, I’m going to direct you to an article about people who can’t stop talking about Donald Trump, and particularly about Donald Trump and Russia. At The Baffler, Hannah Gais goes in on the Extremely Online people–and some people who ought to know better–who work overtime to portray Russia and Russians as The Other:

Who is the real Putin, and what does he want? Attempts to examine the Russian leader’s inner life range far and wide. Was he seeking to quell the anger of his people? Were Russian frustrations the result of being reduced to “Drunk Uncle status in the global balance of power,” as the unhinged Twitter personality Eric Garland asserted last December in an agonizingly long tweetstorm? Was there a cross-generational conspiracy by people named “Vladimir” to disrupt, or even destroy, the global world order led by the conniving “Cyrillic autocracy” to Europe’s east? And what of his tools and methods? Inspiring racism? Commanding an army of bots?

Or, were the conspiracies even grander? Did Putin have Andrew Breitbart killed in order to install Steve Bannon as head of Breitbart News, so that Bannon would be able to aid Russian intelligence officers in electing Trump—who once hired prostitutes to pee on hotel beds in Moscow—all the while coordinating a nationwide dezinformatsiya (disinformation) [*] campaign that obviously caused Hillary Clinton to lose Michigan?

The 2016 election broke a lot of brains, and for many it’s led to the inescapable conclusions that a) Vladimir Putin is a supervillain and b) Russians are strange, otherworldly creatures whose behavior is a product of their weird genes and fucked-up national soul. It’s all bullshit, but it’s more comforting than confronting the actual results of the election.

It’s much more comforting to believe that the Russian Voldemort ruined everything with his army of genetically America-hating automatons than to consider that a badly flawed Democrat with a lousy message lost to the worst presidential candidate in American history. Or that said worst candidate was aided by phony media from Russia and elsewhere because the social media paradise we’ve built for ourselves is a big, fat, extremely stupid target for precisely that kind of manipulation. Or that votes were suppressed because we’ve allowed them to be suppressed by Republican state governments all across the country. Some people will do anything to convince themselves that the cries for help are coming from anywhere other than inside the house. It’s even easier for these people to believe that Vladimir Putin is making Americans racist, despite over 241 years‘ worth of evidence to show that we don’t need anybody’s help to be racist.

Nah, that can’t be it. It must be Putin.

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