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Beazley, Richardson, Dibb are old men pushing sexy, ignorant group thinks.

Beazley, Richardson, Dibb are old men pushing sexy, ignorant group thinks.

On 28 May a Defending Australia Summit was held in Sydney by “The Australian Newspaper” which showcased 3 former Australian defence officials who seemed confused by their old age and indulged in ignorant and historically romantic group think.

 

Kim Beazley is a former Australian Minister of Defence and Ambassador to the US, Denis Richardson is a former head of the Department of Defence and Ambassador to the US, and Paul Dibb is a former Department of Defence official in charge of strategy.

 

All have spent nearly all their working lives in Canberra or Washington talking to people with similar ideas and sources of information. None of them have any significant economic, business or industry experience. Despite this, all extolled the virtues of building AUKUS submarines – which, magically, will now be newly designed 12000 ton behemoths compared with 7000 tons for present-day US nuclear submarines and about 3000 tones for present-day Collins class conventional subs — in the South Australia city of Adelaide.

 

It was strange that Richardson said that Australia should not buy foreign defence equipment and then try to modify the stuff to suit its own needs because of the past disasters in this area, but then enthusiastically endorsed AUKUS modified submarines saying that Australia is a “can do nation” and winning is “simply a question of will and perseverance” — as if it was a pep talk for a national football team!

 

All three agreed that Australia would need to join the US in any war with China over Taiwan. One reason seems to be that Australia needs to defend “freedom of navigation” and its international trade routes by fighting China, even though 40% of Australia’s exports go to China (12% to Japan, 7% to South Korea).

 

Another reason is that the Australia-US alliance would collapse if Australia did not join in fighting China, even though Beazley said that the US “has never been more dependent on Australia” than now.

 

It was strange that Dibb said that Japan would not join in the fight against China, and did not suggest that this would affect the US-Japan alliance .

 

Then there was the issue of skilled workers to construct the AUKUS submarines. Australian Submarine Agency director-general Jonathan Mead said his biggest concern over the AUKUS program was finding and training the people to deliver it. “Workforce has always been identified as the No. 1 issue.”

 

“The Australian” journalist Cameron Stewart – once again with no economic, business or industry experience – is an AUKUS enthusiast. The next day he wrote:

 

“South Australia’s Premier, Peter Malinauskas, has sent a timely message to both sides of politics in Canberra that the AUKUS plan to build nuclear submarines will succeed only if it is front of mind in every area of government policy. Malinauskas wants AUKUS to be a consideration in deliberations over the level of Australia’s skilled migration program. But more than that, he is urging the federal government to think bigger on AUKUS, beyond the defence portfolio, and to understand how an enterprise of this size and ambition will touch almost every major area of public policy. When we think about housing, what does it mean for AUKUS? When we think about infrastructure, what does that mean for AUKUS? When we think about education, health, or innovation policy: AUKUS has implications that reach into every portfolio.” The size and ambition of the plan to build five SSN AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide, and maintain three US Virginia-class submarines, is beyond anything attempted in Australia. Malinauskas warns now is not the time to cut migration levels when SA’s defence sector will need to more than double its workforce of 14,000 in defence and associated industries by the 2040s. Foreign nationals cannot work on the AUKUS project for reasons of national security, which means the submarine enterprise will recruit those extra 15,000.”

 

Given the time frames, why not just encourage Australians “to think about” having “big sex for big AUKUS” and put – a la Sparta – the children in special schools to became future AUKUS sex and construction workers?

Jewish women Yvonne Engelman and Nina Bassat are Russia-type PR pawns?

Jewish women Yvonne Engelman and Nina Bassat are Russia-type PR pawns?

President Putin banned the word “war” and insisted that Russians use the term “special military operation” to describe his February 2022 invasion of Ukraine because he wanted to manipulate the public’s thinking and divert it from reality. I lived in Russia until October 2022 – for eight months after the invasion – and can attest how manipulating speech facilitates manipulation of thinking. It works slowly and insidiously.

 

There is now widespread support for the war against Ukraine. Tatiana Stanovaya has written that “critiquing the war makes you an enemy of the state (and by extension, the public)” and liable to be branded a neo-Nazi or Fascist and be jailed.

 

Josh Frydenberg and several Australian Jewish organizations, such as the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), are grossly exaggerating Australian antisemitism – which is mostly the result of events in Gaza – to divert attention from Israeli brutality. They want Australians to feel un-Australian and akin to a Hitler admirer if they focus their minds on a government in Israel – and it seems a society — that wants to purge Gaza of Palestinians.

 

Frydenberg and Co. are happy to manipulate thinking in Australia because their true loyalties are to Israel. I have written about my personal experience of this with Colin Rubenstein of the AIJAC. See:  https://www.jeffschubert.com/me-and-colin-rubenstein-an-australian-traitor/

 

Frydenberg slickly uses the PR trick of getting a couple of vulnerable people who have genuinely suffered — in this case in the Holocaust – as pawns to try to focus attention on “bad Australia” and away from Gaza.

 

Yvonne Engelman said: “My message is: get involved. Stand up and say, ‘this is wrong. We don’t want this in our country’.” Nina Bassett says: “Open your eyes and open your mind and open your heart … speak out on the right side of history”.

 

If Engelman and Bassett really and honestly think there will be a Holocaust in Australia, they would be sensible to leave!

 

Finally, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles, says he is “deeply uncomfortable” with the phrase “from the river to the sea” because it “is a phrase which calls for only one state” and it undermined bipartisan support for a two-state solution. Oh! So, now Australians will soon only support something other than a “two-state” solution at the risk of criminal prosecution?

 

In addition to living in Russia, I have lived and worked in China where my book on dictatorship is banned, and I would be happy to explain to Marles – if he has the guts — why he would be happy working in a dictatorship! See my book on Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Kemal Ataturk: https://www.jeffschubert.com/

 

My other internet sites are: https://russianeconomicreform.ru/  and https://shanghai-ifc.org/

 

 Jeff Schubert

WhatsApp and Telegram:  +855 6157 6627

  

Bad News for Ukraine

Bad News for Ukraine!

Several interesting pieces of news about Russia have emerged in recent days which add to my view that Ukraine has little chance of a victory.

 

FIRSTLY, Tatiana Stanovaya, in “Russia’s Pro-Putin Elites”, Foreign Affairs, 9 May 2024 (see (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/russia/russias-pro-putin-elites ),

reports on the present elite mood in Moscow when it comes to Ukraine. I left Russia in October 2022, eight months after the invasion of Ukraine, to speak at an Indian Government seminar in New Delhi on Russia-China relations (see

https://russianeconomicreform.ru/2022/10/china-russia-in-era-of-xi-and-putin/ )

but the defiant and aggressive mood in Moscow does not surprise me.

 

Stanovaya writes: “Judging by off-the-record talks I had with contacts in Moscow, it became clear that nobody is looking for an exit strategy from the war or an opportunity to initiate dialogue with the West; nobody is concerned with persuading the West to ease sanctions; nobody is hungry for compromise with Ukraine, at least under its current leadership. There is no conjecture about what would constitute an acceptable deal to end this conflict. Instead, the Russian leadership and elites are proceeding on the basis that Russia cannot afford to lose the war, and to ensure it does not, the country must keep up the pressure on Ukraine, for no matter how long.”

 

“The exact nature of that victory remains vague in the minds of Russian elites, who instead seem to find more safety in Russia’s posture of aggression alone. The war has become a goal in and of itself, serving multiple purposes: it staves off defeat, creates new opportunities for career growth and business ventures, and boosts the economy. Critiquing the war makes you an enemy of the state (and by extension, the public) and hoping for its imminent end is too wishful; a Russian defeat, after all, could make many in the country vulnerable to being held accountable for complicity in war crimes perpetrated in Ukraine.”

 

“More than two years of war have made the Russian elites more anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian than ever, binding them to Putin as their sole assurance of survival. The anti-Western narrative is now pervasive across all segments of the elite, including the siloviki (members of the security services), technocrats within the administration, former liberals now serving Putin, and hawks. The very idea of compromise with the West is repellent to many in the elite. Putin’s re-election in March has reinforced among many the belief that change is impossible, fostering a sense of both powerlessness and dependence. In this situation, all one can do is accept reality: a Russia that is repressive, aggressive, jingoistic, and merciless. It’s not that elites trust Putin — it’s that to survive they have to reconcile themselves to the implacable, tightening grasp of the regime. Those who hoped to simply wait out this period of repression and zealotry now realize that there is no returning to the way things were. The only escape from despair and hopelessness that seems viable requires them to join the ranks of Putin’s devotees: becoming pro-war, radically anti-Western, and often gleeful about anything that hints at the crumbling of the U.S.-led international rules-based order.”

 

“The war and Putin’s escalating confrontation with the West are foreclosing the space for internal divisions and disagreements. In matters of national security and geopolitics, Putin has managed to forge an impressively homogenous political landscape where nothing can challenge the commitment to the war in Ukraine and hostility to the West. The regime has denied the dissenting segment of society—which accounts for approximately 25 percent of the population, a significant proportion, according to the surveys conducted by the Levada Center, Russia’s most reliable independent polling agency—any meaningful political infrastructure and the ability to express antiwar sentiment without risking imprisonment.”

 

“A centripetal force is bearing down on Russia, with the Kremlin exerting greater control over state and society. Both the Russian elite and the broader public desire peace, but strictly on terms favorable to Russia—ideally with the de facto capitulation of Ukraine. They want Russia at a minimum to evade suffering a strategic defeat in Ukraine, but what constitutes an acceptable victory remains a matter of debate. Even to that nebulous end, they appear ready to fight forever.”

 

“Some observers argue that Ukraine should acknowledge that it cannot retake all the territories conquered by Russia and that Kyiv should be willing to cede land to Moscow to pave the way to peace. But that may not be enough for the Kremlin and the elites that serve it. Putin’s dispute over territory is a strategy rather than a final objective; his ultimate goal is not the seizure of a few provinces but the disbanding of Ukraine as a state in its present political form.”

 

“As Russian leaders weigh which nuclear options might best deter the West from taking bolder steps in Ukraine, many within the Russian elite welcome the escalation. ‘How does Europe not understand this?’ one Moscow source in policymaking circles told me. There’s noticeable excitement among the elites and the military: the prospect of engaging NATO soldiers is far more motivating than confronting Ukrainians. For Putin, any form of intervention would be a welcome scenario.” “Many in Russia are in fact eagerly anticipating the further escalation of the conflict, confident in their country’s invincibility.”

 

“Among Russian elites, the prevailing belief is that only a military defeat or a prolonged, severe financial crisis could halt their country’s momentum. Many Russians see defeating Ukraine as a crucial step in the Kremlin’s anti-Western agenda. Forget territorial gains or even preventing NATO expansion—establishing a political regime in Ukraine that is friendly to Russia, thereby denying the West a beachhead on Ukrainian soil, would mark a significant defeat for the West.”

 

“Attempting to appease Putin is futile, and wishfully seeking for fragmentation within Russia is unlikely to be effective as long as the country remains financially robust, maintains the upper hand over Ukraine, and secures total domestic control. The authorities are rapidly becoming more hawkish, the elites are increasingly embracing Putin’s war agenda, and the broader society is unable (or indeed unwilling) to exert the kind of pressure that might push Russia in a different directions. Western leaders face the unenviable task of determining how to engage with a Russia that has grown increasingly self-confident, bold, and radical.”

 

SECONDLY, Prime Minister Mishustin has announced some new ministerial appointments. Acting Deputy PM and Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov has been tapped to become First Deputy Prime Minister. “The upgraded status of the Deputy PM in charge of industry is due to the importance of ensuring technological leadership, as stated in the new May decree signed by President,” government spokesman Boris Belyakov explained. The new government will also see a new Deputy PM position created, with the official specifically tasked with the development of transport and logistics.

 

I have previously written about Russia’s new attempts at “technological leadership” under the heading “Russia’s Crazy New Religion of Economic Sovereignty”. See: https://www.etterretningen.no/2023/05/04/russias-crazy-new-religion-of-economic-sovereignty/

 

I argue that “at the present time Russian nationalism – and fears – are driving the ideas of technological and economic sovereignty. It may take a few years, but eventually the folly will become very clear.” In the short term, however, the focus on this will give some gains and provide the confidence building illusion that Russia is on the right track to greatness and “invincibility” – and so further boosting the unwillingness to compromise on Ukraine. 

 

The appointment of hard-line economist Andrey Belousov to replace Sergei Shoigu as Defence Minister fits in with this view, as the position is mainly concerned with ensuring that the military has the resources that it needs rather than with direct combat operations. An historical example may be the appointment of Albert Speer, who was Adolf Hitler’s architect, to the position of Germany’s Armaments Minister — which brought positive results for Germany.

 

Overall, I retain my view about Russia’s economic future which I wrote six months ago on https://russianeconomicreform.ru/

 

I wrote: “Since February 2022 Russia has increasingly turned inward in political, social and economic terms. At the same time, Russia’s top leaders – and some important supporters – seem to think that Russians have some unique characteristics and talents that will allow an extreme focus on self to thrive in a complex economic and technological world; and also both influence and attract others. While this may appear to be so in the short-term because of Russia’s generally successful efforts at macroeconomic control, rich natural resources, internal propaganda and implicit threats to use nuclear weapons, this thinking is delusional. The ideological corruption of the education system will reinforce the misguided notion of technological sovereignty; and social and economic life will in the medium-long term move toward stagnation. Moreover, Russia is a country with a declining population which is increasingly ignorant of the wider world, a deteriorating culture, and no solid friends. Little will change while Putin and his thinking hold sway in Russia and present an antagonistic face to the world, and most Ukraine related foreign sanctions remain in place. Russia’s economic and political future is not particularly rosy, but neither is it anything like the 1990’s because of a generally competent bureaucracy and little prospect of regional separation.”

Group Think psychology of AUKUS and Option 2

Group Think psychology of AUKUS and Option 2.

The idea that nuclear submarines can be built in Adelaide under AUKUS has the characteristics of the “group think” that led to invasion of Iraq in 2003 — and the prolonged strange debate about business taxation’s Option 2 over twenty years ago. Alexander Downer, the former Australian Foreign Minister – like me from South Australia – in an October 2023 interview with “The Australian” newspaper’s Paul Kelly described the idea of building nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide as a “bit of a fairytale”. Downer says that “some government in the future will make the obvious decision and not go ahead with the Adelaide build”.

 

So, how and why has this aspect of AUKUS survived so long?

 

One possibility is that the upper ranks of the Australian military and defence bureaucracy are so lacking in intelligence and knowledge that they cannot see the obvious problems. South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas has said: “The AUKUS submarines will be the most complex machines that have ever been built in human history.” Adelaide does not possess the skilled labor, industrial and technological base to build anything more than a basic diesel submarine, and its geographical location is hardly conducive to effective supply chain management of a new design. Moreover, the AUKUS submarine design exists only in digital form.

 

The most likely explanation for the survival of the idea of building nuclear submarines in Adelaide is a type of severe “group think” which I witnessed in the taxation Option 2 (also known as TVM or the Tax Value Method) debate over twenty years ago.

 

Option 2 was extensively analysed and debated by the Business Coalition of Tax Reform (BCTR) for over three years beginning in 1998 — almost exclusively because it was initially pushed by John Ralph, an ex-CEO of CRA and business luminary, based on a Commonwealth Treasury report that did not include it as the preferable way to go; it was just a theoretical second option flight of fancy!

 

Option 2 took on a life of its own because the Business Council of Australia (BCA) – which is essentially an association of CEOs from the 100 biggest Australian companies – wanted to support Ralph and wanted to take the lead in business tax reform.

 

The odd thing was that nearly all the tax accountants inside these 100 companies were opposed to Option 2 because it was not considered practical and was not in use in any other significant country. But these tax accountants did not wish to publicly criticize something that their bosses supposedly supported – at least according the ambitious professional bureaucrats managing the BCA — and so basically adopted a stance of “more research is needed”.

 

When combined with the lack of knowledge of taxation amongst other business groups which were members of the BCTR, this led to a sort of passive group think.

 

The BCTR had a membership of about 40 business associations — such as Canberra based ACCI, the National Farmers Federation, and the Sydney based AI Group and many smaller ones – but the BCA convened and chaired the initial meetings. This gave it a sort of first mover advantage. While a series of “independent” businessmen were eventually appointed chairman of the BCTR meetings, they were ex-CEO members of the BCA.

 

One of chairmen them was particularly aggressive, and when a PwC tax expert raised some issue with Option 2 he was accused of “trying to divide business”. The PwC guy never again spoke at a meeting.

 

In about a dozen full-day meetings that I attended over a three-year period less than 10 of business associations actually put forward an opinion. The rest just sat there saying nothing — meeting after meeting! It was a very passive form of group think. The BCA was left to draft a series of press releases over a three-year period that promoted Option 2 — until in mid-2002 when even its proponents eventually conceded it was unworkable!

 

A similar thing seems to have happened with AUKUS. Someone who wished to see closer defence cooperation between Australia and the US had a moment of inspiration about building nuclear submarines in Adelaide. The idea appealed to prime minister Scott Morrison, a former marketing executive with no industrial or large project experience or knowledge. A high profile announcement gave first mover advantage to AUKUS in a PR sense. Because all other attempts by Australia to procure submarines had been botched, many people seem to have basically thrown up their hands, sighed, and where possible fall into line so that some of the billions of dollars would flow to them.

 

Oh! I forgot to mention that one of the reasons the Option 2 debate lasted so long was the consulting dollars, travel and feelings of importance that flowed to various individuals and groups as long as Option 2 needed “more research” and more meetings.

 

While there are people still saying that nuclear submarines will be built in Adelaide, none of these people are disinterested industrial experts. Indeed, just like the tax experts who opposed Option 2, there seems to be a fear of speaking out — and just like the PwC guy, someone will say you are “trying to divide freedom loving countries” if you question AUKUS.

 

Rex Patrick, a former South Australian Senator and submarine crewman, has written that “senior military officers, who were no doubt great war fighters in their junior years but with little project management experience, have been making high-risk purchase recommendations to Cabinet ministers with zero project management experience”. From the navy’s perspective, “the public is better served if debates about defence are devoid of any contributions from people who know about the subject”.

 

Patrick description of the AUKUS leadership team could, with a few title changes, have equally been used to describe the sort of people pushing Option 2: “The AUKUS leadership team is filled with seasoned military officers, public servants and academics – but little actual shipyard experience. Sure, they’re capable people, but they’re not a hardened project dream team. For many of them the project is a stepping stone to another more senior role.”

 

Just as the BCA got on the front foot and was able to guide and manipulate the Option 2 narrative for three years, the AUKUS debate is now supposedly about technological cooperation in a Pillar 2. As for nuclear submarines in Adelaide, now the so-called Pillar 1 of AUKUS, a form of passive groups think now predominates.

 

 

Putin says he follows Israeli Gaza example

Putin says he follows Israeli Gaza example in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has in the past justified brutal Russian military actions – such as in Ukraine and Syria — by saying they are the same as the Israeli actions we now see in Gaza.

 

Putin has said that “attempts to spare terrorists under the pretext of protecting civilians are unacceptable”.

 

At a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Russia on 27 October 2016, Putin was asked about Russia’s fight against terrorists, particularly Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the destruction of much of the city of Aleppo. Putin’s earlier actions again Grozny in Chechnya were also on people’s minds.

 

Putin said: “We keep hearing Aleppo, Aleppo, Aleppo. But what is the issue here? Do we leave the terrorists in place, or do we squeeze them out? Look at Israel’s example. Israel never steps back but fights to the end.”

 

I lived in Russia until October 2022 – that is, ten months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and I spoke to many people in both Moscow and Irkutsk (near Lake Baikal in Siberia) about it.

 

Like me, some people were horrified. But there was also a surprising number of well-educated and well-travelled people who strongly supported the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine. One reason was because around 10,000 people had been killed in the eastern Ukraine provinces of Donbas and Luhansk near the Russian border as the central government in Kiev tried to asset its authority over Russian speaking separatists.

 

In the view of many people in Russia, the Russian speakers in these provinces were being terrorized in much the same way as Hamas has terrorized Israel.

 

Some days before I wrote this article, I put a version of the above information on LinkedIn. One contact on that site is a quite well-known self-described “public intellectual” who often has opinion pieces published in “The Australian” newspaper. He sent me this:

 

“The deaths in the Donbas occurred because Kremlin-inspired and armed thugs attacked the legitimate Ukrainian authorities and sought to establish independent fiefdoms.”

 

But the story is not as simple as that. Analyst Anna Aruntunyan, who is no fan of Putin, wrote that “according to a poll conducted in April 2014 by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, over 70% of respondents in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine – where support for Russia was far less consolidated than it was in Crimea – considered the government in Kiev illegitimate.”

 

The views of the “public intellectual” had an element of simplified truth as there were some such “thugs”, but they would have got nowhere without much public support.

 

Of course, Russia is not innocent now and its past actions mean many of its neighbours fear it. Its present government is also ruthless in supressing internal dissent and its soldiers are indeed often very ruthless.

 

It is not surprising that this provides a background for viewing Russian actions in Ukraine in the worst possible light. What is surprising is that when Israel tries to destroy Gaza using many tactics similar to Russia, it is seen as morally just and every death – even of aid workers killed by the Israeli military – is the fault of Hamas.

 

Should we say that every death in Ukraine is the fault of NATO? Of course not, Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine. NATO expansion was one of the reasons that he did it, but he could have decided otherwise. Similarly, Israel did not need to take such cowardly action in Gaza after the 7 October Hamas terrorist attacks.

 

It is hard to pin down the exact reasons that Israel is given such a free pass – and even encouraged by some – when it acts in the same way as Russia.

 

But “The Australian” newspaper is also interesting here. Many of its journalists and contributors like to write about “values” and “morality” – particularly, the likes of Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan. They point to the supposed superiority of Judeo-Christian values and morality; and because such people see Israel as one half of this – almost one half of themselves — then Israel must have entirely positive values because such people can only see themselves in a very positive light.

 

Then, of course, there is the issue of the “guilt” for the holocaust which many Jews milk to the extreme for sympathy. It is as though if you are critical of Israeli actions in Gaza, then you are antisemitic; and if you are antisemitic, then you think nothing wrong with innocent women and children lined up to enter a gas chamber!

 

When Putin compared Russian actions in Aleppo with Israeli actions, he was in his typically blunt way inviting Russia critics to look honestly in the mirror. Supporters of Israeli actions in Gaza should do the same.

 

 

Henry Ergas praises Nazi “Will”

Henry Ergas praises Nazi “Will”

Henry Ergas, “What has happened to the West’s will to win?” (The Australian, 16 February 2024)  criticized lack of US “will” for “victory” in Gaza and Afghanistan under presidents Biden and Obama, while praising Franklin Delano Roosevelt for saying that the World War II task of the US Army was  “breaking the enemy’s will and forcing him to sue for peace”.

Ergas then enthusiastically praised the “Allies” which “ruthlessly crushed the Axis powers, reducing their cities to rubble, forcing their population into homelessness and starvation, and then building, on totalitarianism’s ashes, a shared future of freedom”.

Ergas does not seem to know that the WWII “allies” included the Soviet Union which continued to build one totalitarian system on the ashes of another!

Ergas then paraphrases Carl von Clausewitz about a need for a “second act” after first winning battle. This is the need to ensure that “victory should really be complete” by “shattering the enemy’s self-confidence and shocking the whole nervous system” of its fighting force.

 Ergas writes: “Those are the reasons for pursuing Hamas wherever it hides, including into Rafah. Inevitably, that pursuit entails civilian casualties: that is the tragedy of war.”

Ergas criticizes Biden for beginning to “distance itself from Israel” action in Gaza, which he says is “because the West has lost the will to win”.

But, what do we know about “will” and war apart from Ergas tells us?

Adolf Hitler’s lieutenants, such as Joachim Ribbentrop and Albert Speer, wrote much about his “will”. Indeed, in 1923 Hitler said: “The man who is born to be a dictator is not compelled; he wills it.” The film of the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally was entitled, at Hitler’s suggestion, “Triumph of Will”. In late 1942 Hitler ordered Field-Marshall Rommel to hold the line in North Africa, telling him that “it would not be the first time in history that the stronger will prevailed over numerically stronger enemy battalions”.

Josef Stalin told an American journalist that he believed “in one thing only, the power of human will’. Nikita Khrushchev defended himself and others from criticism by saying: “We were all victims of Stalin’s will.”

Mao Zedong’s doctor, Li Zhisui, later wrote that “Mao was the centre around which everyone else revolved. His will reigned supreme.” Mao himself wrote: “Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things that are decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but a contest of human will.”

Ergas concludes his article by suggesting that this lack of Western – particularly American — “will” is being noticed by “Russia, Iran and China” and that there will be severe physical consequences.

In Gaza, Israel is exerting its extreme and cowardly “will” over mainly women and children. Does Ergas suggest that the US and the remainder of the West take a similar approach to Russia and China? They might be surprised to discover that there are also notions of “will” in these countries – and that it is not only amongst their dictators – and that an Israeli-type approach will be met with a “will” to use nuclear weapons rather than the cries of children.

What did we learn from the Tucker Carlson interview of Putin?

What did we learn from the Tucker Carlson interview of Putin?

Carlson’s interview with Putin has been roundly condemned by various Western commentators and officials for having taken place, for Carlson not asking tougher questions, and for Putin’s answers which were sometimes a distortion of the facts. But most of the condemnation has missed the point that the interview added two pieces of evidence that Russia is not going to be pushed out of Ukraine.

Firstly, I wrote about Putin’s obsession with certain types of history in 2011. Several years later I was told that by someone who had worked closely with Putin that my article had been widely disseminated among various liberal leaning government power players who even then were concerned by this.

The article is here: https://www.jeffschubert.com/putins-dangerous-reading/

What Carlson’s interview did was to demonstrate the extent of Putin’s reading and commitment to his views. This is not a good omen for the war ending any time soon.

Secondly, the ability and behavior of Putin in the interview allowed us to more clearly see a man with more knowledge than many have assumed – for example, his answers to the question on AI – and his ability to interact with other people when he needs or wants to with intelligence and some humor. This should not be underrated.

In my book, “Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Mao, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Ataturk”, I wrote extensively on “Why Lieutenants Serve” a dictator. The reasons included: “Excitement, ambition, money, prestige, power to boss others”; ‘Love of the country, the company, or the organization”; Lieutenant is nothing without the dictatorial CEO”; Dictatorial CEO shows loyalty to lieutenant”; and Dictatorial CEO makes lieutenant feel personally needed”.

See: https://www.jeffschubert.com/

All of these factors are undoubtedly present in Putin’s team. But I want to focus here on one more factor: “Lieutenant’s respect, admiration and attribution”. Nikita Khrushchev later wrote that Stalin’s ability to “express himself clearly and concisely” was “admired” by “everyone” and “because of it we were proud to work for him”. Marshal Zhukov — who’s contribution to the defeat of Hitler’s armies led to his very prominent statue (on horseback) next to Red Square — noted Stalin’s “ability to formulate an idea concisely, a naturally analytical mind, great erudition and a rare memory”.

Whatever one might think of Putin’s views, the Carlson interview clearly demonstrated Putin’s ability to present them. This will be a factor in the thinking of the main figures about him – both in the Kremlin and other branches of the government – about sticking with Putin as long as possible.

Movie Script: Russia to Cambodia

Movie Script: Russia to Cambodia

© Jeff Schubert 2023

The story follows Tom Schneider, an Australian living in Russia, who eventually realizes that he must solve the mystery of a black man living in a mansion guarded by armed men with dogs in the most expensive part of Moscow, if he is to find his daughter whom he lost 10 years previously.

………

Michael Patton is a black man living in a very expensive mansion in an exclusive area of Moscow in 2010. He presents himself as an American with large amounts of money in a New York bank and doing “Christian” work helping poor Russians.  His new business partner is Victoria Derbina.

At the same time, Avigail (formerly known as Elena) Litvina is a Russian immigrant living in an expensive house in an exclusive part of London. She presents herself as Jewish and the devoted wife of a British based international lawyer, Neville Stern, and the loving mother of fourteen year old Jessica. While a very successful corporate lawyer, Stern is very weak when dealing with Avigail and she has come to despise him for this.

While Michael’s personality projects calmness, Avigail’s is explosive and she is continuing to leave a trail of physical violence in three countries. She almost daily beats Jessica while also trying to manipulate the child’s thinking.

There seems to be no possible connection in their worlds in 2010 except that Tom Schneider, a white Australian atheist trying to find his daughter in Russia, knows both and understands that both Michael and Avigail are liars and extremely manipulative people.

Michael is beaten after Tom sees him sitting alone in a Moscow park with no money. Tom is beaten unconscious outside his Moscow apartment, but at the time there is nothing to suggest a connection between these two events.

Only five years later, in 2015, when Tom meets Olga Bondareva – a young lying and manipulative women living in Irkutsk in the middle of Siberia – does Tom discover with the help of a Russian police detective that in 2010 Victoria Derbina also knew Avigail who was previously a fellow student in her law class at the Far Eastern University in Vladivostok. Avigail was then known to Victoria as Elena. 

Tom is told by the detective that official police records suggest that in 2010 Michael Patton was involved in high-end smuggling of people – often with criminal records — from Africa via Russia into Europe. The house that Michael had been in was owned by Victoria Derbina who was then fighting to keep it after her husband had been murdered by his own business partners.

In 2010 Victoria admitted to have conspired with Avigail to get Michael’s money from a New York bank, and it appears that that they had arranged Tom’s own beating in order to stop him getting the money first at the request of Michael.

Armed with the knowledge, five years later in 2015, that Avigail is married to Neville Stern, Tom contacts him and asks for contact details of Jessica – the daughter of himself and Avigail (then known as Elena) from their marriage in Australia – who he lost contact with in 2005 when she was eight years old. However, Stern refuses to give this information. 

Tom decides that his best chance of getting information from Stern is to get information tying him into the illegal smuggling of African criminals into the UK, and then blackmail him.

Tom has been an enthusiastic collector of LinkedIn contacts and now – in 2015 – posts a request for any information about Michael Patton. There is no response via the LinkedIn site, but he does receive an email which simply says: “Re: Michael Patton. Try Skyline in Phnom Penh.” Tom eventually tracks down Michael living a quite life in an expensive house in generally poor rural Cambodia.

Michael is ill and not expecting to live long. He tells Tom that there was never money in New York. He had only wanted to impress Victoria because he was in-love with her.

Tom uses some of Michael’s documents to blackmail Neville Stern to tell him where Jessica is. She is living in Israel.

Tom goes to Israel but finds that his daughter is suffering from complex PTSD caused by Avigail’s treatment of her over many years. Jessica lives with an understanding Jewish businessman in an apartment in Tel Aviv. Jessica has fond memories of her early childhood in Australia with Tom and is well aware that her mother has treated her vey badly, and tells Tom many details about this.

Neville Stern and Avigail have been regular visitors to Israel where Neville often has work to do, and when in Israel Abigail makes a point of trying to intrude in and dominate Jessica’s life. Jessica wants this to stop but there seems to be some sort of trauma bond and she finds it almost impossible to say “no” to her mother.

Moreover, Avigail and Neville now have there own daughter who is ten years old and Jessica does not want to lose contact with this child partly because of her fondness for this “sibling” and partly because she fears that her mother will eventually treat her in a similar way to her own treatment.

Tom reads extensively about child abuse and PTSD and thinks lack of contact between Avigail and Jessica is necessary. Tom  must now work hard and show uncharacteristic patience to build a good father-daughter relationship with Jessica and break this contact between her and Avigail.

…………………………..

Characters

Tom Schneider was born in 1965, so was 45 years old in 2010 and 50 in 2015. He is of medium height and athletic build. Looks very fit and has a charming smile.

Michael Patton was born around 1965 (about the same age as Tom) so was in his mid-40s in 2010 and around 50 in 2015. He is of medium height and slim build with signs of greying hair in 2010 and increased signs in 2015.

Avigail (formerly elena) Litvina was born in 1975, so she is 35 years old in 2010 and 40 years old in 2015. She is very attractive, tallish and with slim build. A former champion athlete (sprinter) in Russia. Formerly married to Tom Schneider when her name was Elena.

Neville Stern was born around 1960, so he is about 50 years old in 2010 and mid-50s in 2015. Of medium height and build. Presently married to Avigail (the former Elena).

Kostya Osin was born around 1980, so he was around 30 years old in 2010 and mid-30s in 2015. He is an occasional conversational and drinking companion of Tom. Highly intelligent but slightly overweight as he prefers to “live by hits wits” than engage in serious day-to-day work of physical activity.

Victoria Derbina is attractive, and of medium height and slim build aged in her mid-30s in 2010.

Dmitry Timofeev is Tom’s superior in Irkutsk. An academic. He is a few years younger than Tom but, like Kostya, is on very friendly terms with Tom. 

Veronica Bondareva is 22 in 2015. She is very attractive.

Jessica Stern was born in 1996, so she was 14 in 2010 and 19 in 2015.

Ivan Bulavin is a Russian police detective in Irkutsk, aged in his early 30s.

Noah is Jessica’s boyfriend who she lives with in Tel Aviv

ACT ONE:    (“Where the script writer introduces us to their world and characters.” “An inciting incident that takes place will set the main characters on their journey while building internal and external conflicting factors.”)

Scene 1:

Scene is inside a café situated in park in Moscow. It is quite pleasantly but simply furnished with about fifteen tables arranged in three rows. Some of the tables cater for two people and some for four. A tallish woman (Woman 1) is swinging a chair to hit a man as he puts up his arm to try to defend himself. A waiter runs over to assist the man but is attacked by a second woman (Woman 2). A security guard (wearing a business suit) intervenes and with the help of the man who was originally attacked the two women are pushed toward the door of the café. A crying boy (about 10 years old) follows them.

Tom walks into the café and sees some of the action, but was not earlier enough to see what led up to it.

Scene 2:

Tom is now outside of the café with the two women and the boy. It is dark and raining very heavily.

Tom: “What happened?”

The two women ignore him and walk towards a road where they hail a taxi. Tom follows and climbs into the taxi with them and gets out with them in front of an apartment building. All have extremely wet clothes.

Tom: “So, what happened?”

Woman 2: “I will tell you later. Let’s get dry first.”

Scene 3:

All are next seen inside the main entrance room of a typical Russian apartment. There is a couch, a sideboard and a couple of soft chairs. The women and the boy go to another room while Tom takes off his very wet jacket and puts his wet passport and wallet on the sideboard. The boy suddenly comes out of the other room and grabs the passport, and when Tom tries to stop him the boy starts screaming loudly. Woman 1 rushes into the room and attacks Tom while trying to scratch his face with her very long fingernails. Woman 2 then comes into the room, and several times over says to Tom as she appears to be uncertain what to do: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Tom grabs his wallet but cannot find his passport while at the same time trying to protect himself from Woman 1 who seems to be trying to scratch his eyes. Tom runs out of the apartment into the corridor followed by Woman 1.

Scene 4:

Woman 2 continues to attack Tom in the corridor. Tom turns and punches her in the face and she retreats. Tom then bangs of the steel door of a neighbouring apartment and calls out “I need police” (in Russian).

Scene: 5

Tom is next seen in a Russian police station sitting in front of a computer. There are scratch marks on both sides of Tom’s face, although more severe on the left-hand side. A cut about his left eye has clearly been bleeding but has now stopped. Nevertheless, Tom dabs it with a handkerchief a couple of times. A policeman is sitting next to him.

Tom: “This is the dating site. This is her. See the long fingernails. She tried to scratch my eyes out!”

Some loud banging is then heard, apparently coming from a room on the next floor as both Tom and the policeman look toward the ceiling.

Tom turns to the policeman and asks: “Is that her?”

The policeman nods.

Another policeman comes into the room and says to Tom: “She says she does not have your passport.”

The scene fades.

Scene 6:

It is dark and Tom steps out of a white Humvee into a flood-light lit yard and almost comes face-to-face with an armed guard with a German-Shepard on a lease. Both walk away as Tom looks around him. Behind the Humvee is a large solid wall with a gate-house which the Humvee has just been waved through. In from of Tom is a very large house with steps leading up to a door. Tom walks up the steps and presses the door-bell. As Tom stands under the light above the door, the cut above Tom’s left eye is clearly visible. The door opens to reveal a slim black man of medium height (who we soon find out is named Michael).

Michael: “Hello. Come in.”

Scene 7:

Tom follows Michael through a large hallway which has no furniture and the then through a door into a room setup as a study. There is a crowded desk at the far end with an open laptop. There are several very large paintings of Jesus Christ and his disciples on the walls. The paintings are not of high quality and seem out of place is such an expensive house.

Michael walks behind the desk and sits down. (Note that at no stage has Michael introduced himself.) Tom sits on one of the two chairs in the room which are situated nearly two meters from the desk with his back toward the door that he has just come through. In addition to the door which is behind Tom’s back there is another door on the right-hand side of Michael at his desk.

Michael (who speaks in a calm very matter of fact and rather charming way): “As I said on the phone, I need you to help me with some banking issues. I want to start a bank here and want you to train the Russian staff.”

Tom: “It sounds interesting. I could do this.”

Michael: “Geraschenko has been here.”

Tom face shows that the name is known to him and Tom is somewhat impressed.

Michael: “I want to do it in partnership with Raiffeisen.”

Tom: “But Raiffeisen already operates here, so why do ….”

Michael answers the question before Tom can finish asking it.

Michael: “I need my own bank.”

Tom: “Oh! There are many banks in Moscow. Where do you put your money now?”

Michael: “In houses.”

Tom: “So you are mainly an investor in real estate?”

Michael: “I have some buildings in the Moscow city center, but houses in this area are safer for keeping money. It is easier to guard.”

Tom: “I saw the guard-dog.”

The camera closes in on Tom’s face as he suddenly seems to understand something.

Tom: “Are you saying you keep cash in this house and so it needs to be guarded?”

Michael: “More than one house. In the cellars!”

Tom has a surprised look on his face, and after a pause asks: “What do you do in Moscow?”

Michael: “I help poor Russians get better and cheaper prefabricated houses. It is the Christian thing to do.”

On hearing this Tom turns his head to have a closer look at the paintings on the walls.

Meanwhile, Michael has turned his attention to look at something on his computer screen.

Michael: “I trade financial markets twenty-four seven.”

Tom, with a note of scepticism in his voice: “What did you do before you came to Russia?’

The door behind Tom suddenly opens and a white women aged in her mid-30s walks in, but retreats when she sees Tom. Tom only gets a fleeting look at her, but his face suggests some puzzlement. Michael keeps talking as if nothing has happened.

Michael: “I was in the US army. A communications specialist. I then came to here to sell cement. But I still have a big corporation in the US.”

The door to the right of Michael’s desk now opens and a black middle-aged women brings in with a tray with some biscuits and puts it on part of Michael’s rather crowded desk.

Michael: “They are always trying to fatten me.”

Michael is now trying to move the tray on the desk and picks up a closed laptop and repositions it away from the open laptop, saying: “I’ve got a new computer and don’t know what to do with this old one”.

Tom, appreciating Michael’s laid-back casualness: “Me too! I have the same problem.”

Michael then stands up and says: “I will get the driver to take you back to your apartment.”

Michael hands Tom a business card and walks toward the door to the right of his desk. Tom follows.

Scene 8:

The door connects directly with large room with a table and several black-skinned adult females are sitting around it. There is a full glass wall and on the other side of the wall a number of young black-skinned children are frolicking in a large indoor swimming pool. Michael leads Tom through this room into the large hallway and to the front door.

Michael: “I will contact you later.”

They shake hands and Tom goes down the steps and gets into the white Humvee which heads toward the gate.

Scene 9:

The scene is the large kitchen of a very expensive house in London. Avigail, dressed in an expensive and modern looking business outfit, is standing in front of her daughter Jessica who is wearing a school uniform. Elena is a few centimetres taller than 14 year old Jessica.

Avigail forcefully takes a mobile phone from the hand of Jessica, and looks at messages on it. She finds a message that she clearly does not like.

Avigail, her voice becoming increasingly angry: “I told you not to talk to Muslims. They are scum. You are Jewish! Jewish!”

Jessica looks down to the floor and then raises her head as if to say something. At that moment Avigail punches Jessica hard in the face and she falls to the floor crying.

Avigail is now screaming and kicking Jessica on the floor: “You will now not have a phone!”

Hearing the noise Neville (Avigail’s husband and Jessica’s step-father) quickly enters the kitchen and says: “Fucking shut-up. The neighbours will hear.”

Avigail turns toward Neville, who now backs-off and even seems intimidated. Neville clearly wants to say something but thinks better of it.

Avigail to Neville: “I’ve told you many times. She is my daughter, not yours!”

A mobile phone rings and Neville goes to a kitchen bench to pick-it up. He nervously passes it to Avigail saying: “Its yours!”

The crying Jessica gets up and leaves the kitchen.

Avigail puts the phone to her ear and listens for a moment before saying: “There is no problem here. Nothing! What is happening there?”

Avigail listens for a while before saying in a firm voice: “Victoria! Don’t let Michael talk to him or anyone else about this. Tell him we will definitely get the money from the New York. Use your charms. Fuck him again!”

A somewhat downcast Neville leaves the room through the same door that he came in.

Avigail listens for a moment, and then says in a lowered voice while turning away from that door: “Neville doesn’t know anything. He is so pathetic. When I get Michael’s money I won’t need him anymore.”

Scene 10:

Tom and his friend Kostya are drinking beer in a bar in Moscow. The bar is modern and there are no unusual features.

Tom: “I went back to the café the next day and a waitress told me what happened. After I went to the toilet a man at one of the tables grabbed the kid’s arm, and told him to stop grabbing things off people’s tables. He started screaming, and Woman 1 got up and swung at him with her chair. And, Woman 2 joined in.”

Kostya: “So before that it was ok?”

Tom: “Yeah! Woman 1 and I meet at the park as agreed. She said that Woman 2 was with her because she was also going to meet her boyfriend there. We walked for over an hour. The boy was hyper-active, almost running around in circles! I actually liked Woman 2 more than Woman 1, and probably spend more time trying to chat her up because her boyfriend never appeared.”

Kostya: “This fingernail woman must be mad. What is the dating site? I will try to find out more about her. She will probably now try to get money from you. Maybe accuse you of taking your clothes off so you could molest her son.”

Tom’s phone lights up and Tom looks at it. He shows the phone to Kostya, saying: “Fuck! It’s her!”

Kostya reading the message aloud: “You are a sexual deviant. After little boys. I want $1000 in compensation or my friends will come after you. We know where you live.”

Kostya, handing back the phone to Tom: “How would she know where you live? Did you tell her?

Tom: “No. But, I have been back to the police twice to ask them about getting my passport. But no luck! They know my address, but I don’t think they would tell her.”

Kostya smiles before saying: “Maybe! Money does lots of things. You need to stop chasing younger women on dating sites.”

Tom: “Funny! You can talk. I only went back to the apartment because I wanted to fuck Woman 2”.

Kostya: “Yeh, but I get to fuck them without getting attacked.”

Tom ruefully says: “I sure know how to pick them! Jessica’s mother Elena also turned out to be violent. Hit me a few times and even kicked me in the groin once.”

Kostya: “At least she was not hitting your daughter.”

Tom: “Thankfully.”

Tom and Kostya both take a sip of the beers.

Tom: “Just as weird is the meeting with this Michael. Have you been able to find out anything about him?”

Kostya: “No. You don’t remember more about the address.”

Tom: “It was dark and I was sitting in the back seat, but I tried to keep track of where we were going. I think it was in some compound on Lower Usovo Road in Rublyovka.”

Tom pauses and pulls out a card from his wallet and gives it to Kostya.

Tom: “Here is the business card I told you about.”

Kostya takes the card and reads aloud:

“Michael Patton, Group Executive Director, Sovereign Group, Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation, American Modular HITEC, US Global Projects Ltd, American Billex Credits Ltd, 140 Blundell Road, Luton, Beds, LU3 1 SP, UK. Tel: +7499 347 7695, +7926 515 7865

Email: sovereigngroup@live.com and. sovereignagesbancorporation@live.com

Tom: “He rang me a total of three times and the numbers were not those on the card!”

Kostya: “Have you tried sending an email?”

Tom: “Yes. And he did reply but only to say ‘OK’.”

Kostya hands the business card back to Tom and asks: “What about these company names?”

Tom: “Google only show these companies registered at that UK address. Its little more than a post-box. There is nothing about a big US corporation. And Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation had only been incorporated in the UK on 5 March — only a few weeks ago!”

Tom pauses talking while he takes a piece of paper from his pocket.

Tom: “And, get this!”

Tom reads from the paper: “The directors of AGES are listed as Michristly Gmichael-McPatton, an American born on 1964, and Victoria Derbina, a Russian national born in June 1979.”

Kostya: “Michristly? What is that?”

Tom hands the piece of paper to Kostya, saying: “Spell it out. Mi. Christly. Maybe it means that Me is a Christian? And G for godly?”

Tom throughs up his hands in a gesture showing he does not know.

Kostya: “Fits in with the paintings on the wall in the study!”

Tom nods, and then says: “I am sure that this Victoria Derbina must be the women who came into the study and turned around when she saw me. I am sure that I have met her before, but I just can’t figure when or where. Even the name is familiar!”

Kostya shakes his head: “Another beer?”

Scene 11:

Tom is again getting out of the white Humvee in front of the house where Michael lives. As before there are flood-lights and guards with dogs.

Michael answers the door: “Come in.”

Michael leads Tom to his study which looks unchanged from the previous meeting. Tom sits on the same chair.

Michael: “I need you to fly to New York and withdrawer a heavy amount of money from a bank, buy a large house – just like the one we are in now – and live there.”

Tom is clearly surprised, but after a pause asks: “When?”

Michael: “Tomorrow or the next day.”

Tom: “I am an Australian. I will need to get a visa, and this takes more than a few days. Maybe even weeks. I don’t know!”

Michael, speaking in his normal calm emotionless voice: “I forgot about that.”

There is an awkward silence, before Tom begins to speak: “I have been doing some searching on the internet and …”

Michael cuts him off and standing up says: “I’ll get the driver to take you back your apartment.”

Tom follows Michael out of the study.

ACT TWO:    (“Usually the longest part, taking up approximately 60 pages of the core of the script; this is where stakes are raised as characters face many confrontations.”)

Scene 12:

Scene is an office with a desk with a large computer screen and piles of papers and folders. There is a large table in front of the desk. Tom is sitting on one side with Dmitry Timofeev, his superior at the Higher School of Economics, sitting on the other side. They are both relaxed and appear to be on very friendly terms.

Tom: “I’ve been asked if I am interested in going to China to work at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. They are looking for a foreigner to head up a research program with the aim of developing Shanghai as an international financial center.”

Dmitry: “Will you go?”

Tom: “I’ve been in Russia for four years now trying to find my daughter. I have been to almost every significant city in Russia and nothing. She will be fourteen now. She may not even be in Russia. Israel is a possibility, but I have not been able to get any possible leads on that.”

Dmitry: “Israel? Why Israel?’

Tom: “When I met Elena in Vladivostok on my first business trip to Russia in 1994 she was not at all religious. She was a champion athlete – a sprinter – and law school; sport and men were her life! When we got married in Sydney my best man was Jewish and she started to get interested in Judaism. Just before she took Jessica to see her ill grandfather who had moved to St. Petersburg, there were several mentions of wanting to be Jewish. She liked the Jewish name Avigail. I thought nothing of it at the time and just ignored it. I have sometimes wondered if she was serious.”

Dmitry, shaking his head: “And she never contacted you in Australia even once?”

Tom: “No.”

Dmitry: “I don’t want to lose you. You are a very good professor.”

Tom: “Three years as an international investment fund manager in Russia and a year teaching banking here is great experience if I was from Europe or the UK, but I am an Australian. China is much more important for Australia than Russia will ever be. If I want to get back working in the Australian financial sector China is the experience to have.”

There is a pause in the conversation as both think for a moment.

Dmitry: “Anything new with Michael the black man?”

Tom: “No. I am convinced that he is a conman. The idea of going to New York to take cash from a bank and buy a house like his was madness. And if he was American, why couldn’t he do it? But, and this is a big but, how do I explain in the house where he lives, the guards with dogs etc.”

Dmitry: “I’ve asked a few people who actually work in banking in this city and no-one has ever heard of him.”

Tom, shaking head: “It is totally weird! Why would an international bank like Raiffeisen want to work with him. And the bit about Victor Geraschenko being there!”

Dmitry: “Geraschenko has not been a Central Bank official for years. I didn’t know that he is still alive.”

Tom: “If it all were real it would be great.”

Dmitry: “Of course.”

Tom: “So, Shanghai is probably the best option. I need to think about it some more.”

Scene 13:

Tom next hears from Michael at the end of May – again from a different telephone number — and Michael wants to meet him near his apartment. Tom waits near the Kuklachyov’s Cat Theatre on Kutuzovski Avenue. Michael arrives in a tan Mercedes station wagon that was probably around ten years old.

Michael, as the car drives off: “This is my personal car. I don’t like to draw attention to myself with something like I sent to get you.”

In his typical low-key way Michael request that he and Jeff not stand on the sidewalk of busy Kutuzovsky Avenue.

Michael: “I don’t want to stand in a public place like this. Can we go behind that building?”

They walk to a lane behind the building.

As they walk Tom asks: “What is happening?”

Michael: “I have some temporary financial problems. Do you know any banks that can lend me some money?”

Tom: “Michael. No-one is going to lend you money. I don’t know what you are doing in that house with all guards and dogs, but I can find nothing on the internet about your big US corporation.”

Michael: “You think that I am not trustworthy?”

Tom is now clearly exasperated: “Michael! I also tried to find out more about those companies shown on your business card. They are new and seem to be registered at some place that is little more than a post-box in the UK.  And who is Victoria Derbina? She is listed as a director of your main company in the UK. Is she the women who came into your study the time we first met?”

Michael: “Yes.”

Just then a mobile phone in Michael’s bag rings.

Michael: “Hello.”

After listening for a while, Michael half-turns to Tom and says: “I need to go.”

Michael then walks away leaving Tom standing alone in apparent amazement.

Scene 14:

Tom is again in the same bar with Kostya.

Kostya: “Hiding behind a building on Kutuzovsky Avenue! Maybe Michael thought he was going to get shot from a passing car? Easy to do!”

Tom’s facial expression indicates agreement: “Well, it would not be the first time such a thing happened. But in this case, would it be because he actually has money or because he’s just a con-man? I wish I could find out what he is doing in that house.”

They both sip beer.

Kostya: “Any more calls from the finger-nail woman?”

Tom: “Yeah! There were a few, but I now just ignore them.”

Tom takes another sip and then says after a pause: “I’ve received a university job offer in Shanghai. I think I will take it.”

Kostya: “What about your daughter?”

Tom: “I don’t know. I think I will never find her. I can only hope that she is happy.”

Kostya: “When do you go?”

Tom: “It only starts in September. So, I will finish this teaching year at the Higher School of Economics in June. Then have a couple months off.”

Kostya: “Its enough time for another beer!”

Kostya wanders off to get beer.

Scene 15:

The narrative now fast forwards a couple of months to July. In those days McDonalds fast-food chain had a very large store situated across a narrow street from a pleasant Novopushkiinsky Park, which itself is separated from Pushkin Square by the very busy Tverskaya Street.

The weather is warmer and Tom is not wearing a jacket as he walks through the park. Tom sees Michael sitting alone on a park bench with a half open leather bag next to him.

Tom goes up to him and says: “Michael! What are you doing here?”

Michael is obviously surprised: “Can you lend me some rubles?”

Tom attitude to Michael is friendly, but there is now a hint of sarcasm in his voice: “What about all that money in your houses?”

Michael: “Victoria! I hired her to do some interior decorating, but she then became my business partner. She betrayed me. She now has taken my house and money with the help of some Russians. There are now new guards!”

Tom, after a pause reflecting on this: “The money in New York bank? The money that you wanted me to get?”

Michael: “Ah! That money. Its gone!”

Tom, with obvious scepticism in his voice: “How? What happened to it?”

Michael said nothing for a while: “They got an international law firm to take it.”

Tom: “The money in New York?”

Michael: “Yes.”

Tom’s voice is still sceptical: “What is the name of this law firm?”

Michael: “Stream Cave or something.”

Tom reaches into his pocket and gives Michael some money.

Tom: “Ok. This is all very strange! I am going to get a hamburger.”

Tom walks away (and the camera follows him) when a women’s scream is heard. Tom turns and runs back to the area where Michael was sitting and sees Michael lying on the pavement. He is not moving. His leather bag is next to him with several mobile phones scattered around him. Two policemen come running up, and one pushes a growing crowd back while the other speaks on his mobile phone. As Tom watches the sound of an ambulance is soon heard. After Michael is put in the ambulance Tom, with a worried look on his face, walks away.

Scene 16:

Scene is the courtyard of a non-descript apartment block in Moscow. There is some equipment for children to play on and some trees.

Tom walks out the door and a man steps in front of him blocking his progress.

Man: “Are you Tom Schneider?”

Tom: “Yes.”

Another man hits Tom on the head with a rod and Tom collapses on the ground. One of them kicks him in the face.”

The men run away and a women and child come running to look at Tom lying motionless on the ground.

Scene 17:

Tom in again in the same bar telling Kostya about recent events. Tom’s face has some fresh bruises and cuts which have been stitched up.

Tom: “I was lucky. The woman who found me was actually a doctor in a private clinic not far from my apartment. She called an ambulance and got me there quickly.”

Kostya: “Michael gets beaten and maybe killed, and then you get beaten. Is there a connection?”

Tom: “I don’t know why there should be. I had only met Michael three times before he was in the park.”

Kostya: “Then that leaves the fingernails! It is not the first time she has attacked people. Its incredible, but she and some partners run a summer camp for children not far from Moscow. Her photos are on the internet site – with fingernails! I found out that last year she attacked a father of a girl who complained about something she was doing. She attacked him and then claimed he had tried to fuck her son.”

Tom: “Wow! What happened?”

Kostya: “She is obsessive. She went to court to get compensation but got nowhere.”

Tom: “Of course, you are still fucking that woman police inspector in her office?”

Kostya: “She bends over with her head and arms on her desk!”

Tom laughs: “Disgusting. Although I have done it a couple of times with women much younger than this one. How old is she again? Sixty?”

Kostya grimaces: “No. Forty three. But her husband must be that old. That’s why she wants me!”

Tom: “I guess if it works for you, then keep doing it.”

Kostya: “After she is fucked all she wants is a couple of Jack Daniel’s. I get freedom on her computer for two hours lat time.”

Tom: “Don’t you sometimes worry that you will get caught? I don’t mean fucking her. I mean getting stuff from a police computer to blackmail people.”

Kostya: “I only go after real criminals with money.”

Tom: “Like fingernails?”

Kostya: “I am stopping her get money from you!”

Tom and Kostya sip some more beer, while looking at two young attractive women enter the bar and sit down.

Kostya: “You want to talk to them?’

Tom: “No. I am not in the mood.”

Scene 18:

Fast forward five years. Tom has returned to Russia from China and taken a job as a professor of international business in Irkutsk where Dmitry Timofeev has moved to become head of a new School of BRICS. Dmitry stands up to greet Tom in his office and they shake hands.

Dmitry: “Welcome to Irkursk! Five years in China! You don’t look any older. Are you happy to be back in Russia?”

Tom: “I’m surprised to be in the middle of Siberia!”

Dmitry: “You will like it – mostly! Winters are very cold but summers are great.”

Tom: “I like China, but Mandarin is an impossible language for me. I put a lot of time into it but I can read very little of what I see around me on the street. At least I can read Russian even if I am very bad with grammar. So, I’m glad to be back.”

Dimitry: “Still no luck in trying to find your daughter?”

Tom sighs: “No, I have heard nothing for over 10 years.”

Dmitry: “How old is she now?”

Tom: “She would be 19.”

Dmitry: “How did you find the women in Shanghai?”

Tom: “Good. I like Chinese women. But I suppose I will now go to back to a Russian dating site”.

Dmitry laughs.

Scene 19:

Tom walks into a cafe in Irkutsk, takes off his thick coat and hangs it on a coat stand next to a table. Soon a young woman who appears to be in her early-20s walks in. She is not wearing a coat. Tom waves to her and she goes to sit at his table. 

Tom: “Veronica. Nice to meet you.”

Veronica turns out to be rather quite, but speaks reasonable English. A waiter comes and they order coffee.

Tom: “Its cold outside. You don’t have a coat?”

Veronica: “No. I need to buy a new one, but I have no money.”

Tom: “Do you have a job?”

Veronica: “Yes. In a café like this one. I do not get much money and I need to look after my mother.”

Tom: “You live with her?”

Veronica: “Yes, and my father. But they are always drunk. He sometimes hits her a lot.”

The camera moves back and the scene shows them talking for a while before Tom summons the waitress to bring the bill.

Tom is clearly interested in Veronica, and says: “No coat? Let me buy you one. I have little cash right now and there is no ATM nearby. Give me your Sberbank account number and I will send you some money.”

Tom opens a banking app on his one phone and does the transaction.

Tom: “There, its done. I hope we can meet again and you will have a new coat.”

Veronica leans forward to Tom and kisses him on the cheek before they leave the café together,

Scene 20:

Tom is in his apartment in Irkutsk. It is spacious but rather simply furnished with a table in a room that is separate from the kitchen. He is reading something on his laptop while drinking a glass of wine. His telephone rings.

Tom answers the phone: “Veronica!”

Voice is heard at other end.

Tom: “Well, if you can’t meet me because of them, then bring them to my apartment.”

Voice is heard at the other end.

About an hour later Veronica arrives with two other women. Neither is as attractive as Veronica. Tom has a glass of wine in his hand when they arrive and when the three of them sit down also offers them wine which they accept. However, Tom very noticeably switches to a bottle of bear and never leaves it on the table.

Tom: “So you are Veronica’s cousins from Novosibirsk? How long will you stay in Irkutsk?”

Tom decides to make a video when they reply using his phone and proceeds to do so. He then notices that because he has already drunk wine and now has poured wine for his three guests, the bottle is empty. Tom  puts his phone on the table.

Tom: “I will get another bottle.”

Veronica: “Thankyou.”

Tom goes out of the room to the kitchen. Veronica and one of her “cousins” pick up Tom’s phone and go to the bathroom together. When Tom returns he notices that his phone is not on the table and he goes to the bathroom door, but it is locked. The two women come out of the bathroom and Tom grabs his phone from one of them. The three women flee the apartment. Tom checks things on the phone, then runs to the neighbouring apartment and asks them to call the police.

It is not long before two uniformed police arrive, one carrying a Kalashnikov.

Tom is clearly agitated: “They took my unlocked phone to the bathroom and transferred money … from my Sberbank account to Veronica’s.”

One of the policemen talks on the phone while the other takes Tom aside to talk to him.

Soon two plain clothes policemen arrive. Tom is clearly pleased that something is happening and is becoming calmer. Tom again explains what has happened to one of the policemen while the second policeman sits at Tom’s desk and starts looking at things on his Tom’s computer. Tom notices this but does not say anything. Soon two more police, one a woman, arrive and take photos of Tom’s passport and finger and hand prints from him. They also take photos of the financial transactions made on Tom’s phone.

When the police depart, one of them says to Tom: “We will come and get you in the in the morning.”

Tom nods, and says: “Thanks.”

Scene 21:

Scene is Tom sitting a room in a police station. It is furnished with rather old and shabby furniture in the form of a couple of desks, a number of chairs and a couch. On each of the desks is a modern looking computer screen and a keyboard. Once again there are questions from a number of police who come and go from the room, particularly from a detective aged who appears to be aged in his early thirties.

Tom: “I still can’t believe that I was so careless. My wine was once drugged when I lived in Moscow, so I was very careful this time to only drink beer from a bottle and I never left it on the table.”

Detective: “At least you got a photo of her passport. How did you do that?”

Tom: “After our first meeting I suggested to her that we might go on a holiday together and asked her to send me a photo of her passport. I was lying, but I thought that I would have more chance of fucking her if I said that.”

The detective smiles as he remains focussed on his computer screen. After a period of silence he says: “Veronica has been arrested in Moscow. They left Irkutsk on an Aeroflot flight early this morning.”

Tom standing-up: “Incredible!”

Tom and the detective, who said his name was Ivan, were chatting when Tom’s phone rings. He look at it and then turns to Ivan: “Its Veronica.”

Ivan: “Answer it!”

Tom listens for a while, before saying: “No. I want all my money back! Bye!”

The phone rings again several times but Tom does not answer.

Tom then asks Ivan: “What will happen now?’

Ivan: “They will bring her back to Irkutsk, and then we will prosecute her in court.”

Scene 22:

Small Russian court room in Irkutsk. Veronica is standing behind a lectern-type stand before a female judge who is about three metres away. The judge is aged about 50 and wearing a black gown. Veronica is crying and Tom is sitting with several other people in a pew-type setting behind Veronica. A plain clothes prosecutor with a large file in front of him is standing and is presenting the evidence. Ivan is sitting next to the prosecutor. There is also a female court-room attendant, but not in uniform. Veronica is not being questioned because she has admitted to the crime and there is also no need for Tom to give evidence.

Prosecutor: “The defendant admits to stealing the money from Mr. Schneider as described in the court documents.”

Judge to Veronica: “You have admitted your guilt, which is to your credit. You have also promised to repay the money you stole to Mr. Schneider starting on … to the amount of ….. per month. If you do not repay the money Mr. Schneider can apply to the court for enforcement and you could be jailed.”

Veronica’s crying subsides and she is led from the court room by the attendant.

Tom has a pleased look on his face and gets up and leaves with Ivan as the court room empties.

Scene 23:

Several days later Tom is in the same café as with Veronica, but this time with police detective Ivan Bulavin.

Ivan: “Veronica was lucky to avoid jail, but she will do it again and then we will put her away.”

Tom: “Great!”

Ivan: “This Michael the black man story is very interesting. I have been doing some digging. Moscow police initially knew nothing about Michel Patton. He did not have a passport with him and so it was impossible to identify him.”

Tom: “So, you don’t know if he was an American like he claimed or from some place like Nigeria?”

Ivan: “Wait! It gets even stranger! He was involved in smuggling Africans into Russia and then providing them with Russian documents so that they could travel to Europe.”

Tom: “Wow! All those black people I saw in Michael’s house!”

Ivan: “The Africans paid a huge amount of money; most of it probably stolen in their country. They got a fake degree certificate from the People’s Friendship University in Moscow, real Russian passports for them and their families, real bank accounts, and a fake registered business or job in Russia. This all costs a lot of money.”

Tom: “How did the police find out about this?”

Ivan: “Victoria Derbina! She came to the park looking for Michael, but only arrived after he was taken away in an ambulance.”

Tom, thinking for a moment: “So, she must have arrived just after I left?”

Ivan: “Yes.”

Tom: “What happened then?”

Ivan: “She was very upset. Apparently, she was in-love with Michael. She wanted him beaten, but not too severely!”

Tom: “Fuck! Why?”

Ivan reached into the left side of his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to Tom.

Tom tried to read it but handed it back, saying: “I can’t read your writing.”

Ivan: “Victoria’s husband was shot while coming out of a restaurant in Moscow. Apparently she needed to find money fast and pay off debts and keep the house. Michael and his scheme probably just came along at the right time. Victoria had Michael’s passport. It was for the US passport – but there was no stamp or any record in Immigration of him entering Russia.”

Tom: “A fake passport? 

Ivan: “Its not so easy now. After Crimea there has been a crack down on that sort of thing.”

Tom: “You said debts! To whom? You said he was rich; or at least had a very expensive house.”

Ivan shrugged his shoulders: “Not known. There was some connection to Vladivostok. Crime capital of Russia!”

Ivan: “Yes, I know. I visited it a few times. Elena, my former wife studied law at the Far Eastern University in Vladivostok.

Ivan: “Really? What year? What is her name?”

Tom: “Elena Stern. The years would be….”

Ivan: “No. This one was called Avigail.”

Tom is surprised: “What do you mean? This one?”

Ivan: “Victoria’s friend Avigail now lives in London and married to some international lawyer. Victoria confessed that they tried to get Michael’s money from New York bank – but it turned out that there was none. Victoria was very angry and wanted Michael punished for tricking her. A sort of lovers quarrel!”

Tom: “Do you know more? What is the name of the international lawyer?”

Ivan looked down at the sheet of paper: “Stern. Neville Stern of Stern Cave.”

Tom is now clearly eager to leave and motions to the waiter that he wants to pay the bill.

Tom: “Any more on Michael?”

Ivan: “He was badly hurt and taken to a hospital. After that, I don’t know. For some reason he did not end up in jail. He probably just died later.”

The waiter hands Tom the bill and he looks at it and hands over some money.”

Tom: “And Victoria?”

Ivan: “Prison. But not for long. She claimed that this Avigail is very violent and organized the beating.”

Tom: “Ivan. I think this Avigail is my ex-wife! She was Elena, but once told me that she wished her name was Avigail.”

Ivan is surprised: “Really? You think so?”

Tom: “That’s why I recognized Victoria! Elena introduced her to me in Vladivostok. Do you know anything else?”

Ivan: “Only that Avigail hated her husband and wanted Michael’s money in New York so she could get a divorce.”

Scene 24:

Tom in office with Dmitry Timofeev, his superior at the Higher School of Economics.

Tom: “Neville Stern was not hard to find on Google. Quite famous. His law firm site even has his mobile phone number.”

Dmitry: “Did you call him?”

Tom: “Yes, but he hung-up on me when I explained who I was and what I wanted. I then sent several emails but got no response.”

Dimitry: “What will you do now?”

Tom: “Well, something strange has happened. I was once an enthusiastic collector of so-called contacts on LinkedIn and actually got over one thousand in Russia. A week ago I send a message to them all asking if anyone knew anything about Michael Patton. Got no response, except that yesterday I got a message on my private email suggesting that Michael Patton is in Cambodia. I sent a reply, but have got nothing back.”

Dmitry is surprised: “Cambodia? Why would he be there?”

Tom: “No idea!”

Dmitry: “I have been to Ankgor Wat temple in Siem Reip and also Phnom Penh. Interesting place. Lots of corruption. Probably even more than Russia. Did this email give any details?”

Tom: “It only mentioned some building called Skyline. I found such a building on Google.”

Dmitry: “I think that I saw that building. It very tall. It has a gigantic red sign on it. Not far from the hotel I stayed at.”

Tom: “It just might be someone trying to be smart with me. Just having some fun. Even if Michael was there, could he tell me anything that can help me convince this Neville Stern to tell me about Jessica? That is, if he actually knows anything!”

Dmitry shrugs his shoulders and throws up his open hands, indicating that he has no idea what to think.

Tom: “I think that I now just need to wait a while. In a week or so I will have another shot at Neville Stern. And, you never know, the emailer might send me more information – if it is true!”

Dmitry says nothing, while Tom appears to be thinking.

Tom: “Otherwise I might go to Cambodia in July. I’ve got nothing else to do.”

Scene fades.

ACT THREE:    (“where the story finally resolves either with the character accomplishing their goal or failing”)

Scene 25:

We see a large 30-35 story building with “The Skyline” vertically written on it in large red letters. Scene then shows Tom entering an office pulling a small piece of wheeled hand luggage.

Tom to girl at office desk: “Hi. I am Tom Schneider. I am booked into here for a week.”

Girl: “Passport please. You will pay with credit card?”

Tom hands over both while saying: “Yes.”

After the girl hands back both and a digital room key, Tom says: “I am looking for Michael Patton. He is a black man, either American or Nigerian. Does he live here?”

The girl sighs and slightly shrugs her shoulders: “We have over 200 apartments in this building.”

Tom hands the girl a piece of paper: “Can you please look up on your computer and see if his name is there? This is how it is spelt.”

The girl takes the paper and reluctantly begins typing on the computer keyboard.

Girl: “Sorry! This name is not here.”

Tom: “What about in the past? Has he ever been her?”

Girl: “Sorry! There is nothing here on the computer.”

Tom: “Thanks.”

Tom leaves with a disappointed look on his face.  

Scene 26:

Tom is sitting at an outdoor café near the river in Phnom Penh drinking a beer. A man is sitting at the next table drinking a beer. Tom eventually turns to him.

Tom: “Hi. Have you have been in Phnom Penh for a long time?”

The man seems pleased at the opportunity for conversation.

Man: “Yes. Three years. Just like most these other retired old guys around here. The place is cheap and many young women. You want to retire here?”

The camera the focuses on two elderly men walking past hand-in-hand with young Cambodian women.

Tom: “Not yet! I am trying to find a friend of mine. He is a black man. Name is Michael Patton. He is about sixty. Will have greying hair.”

Man: “You don’t get many black men here. Nearly all are white. The best thing is go and ask around in bars.”

Tom: “There are so many of them!”

Man: “But a black man will probably be remembered.”

Scene 27:

Scene of Tom walking down street at night with lit-up bars and women calling out “hello” to him. Tom goes up to a girl who insists that he buy her a drink – and Tom agrees.

Tom: “I am looking for a man. A black man. His name is Michael Patton.”

The bar-girl obviously does not know English, and calls over an older women who speaks English, and Tom repeats his question. The woman shakes her head.

Woman: “You don’t want one of my girls?”

Tom: “Not tonight! Are you the manager?”

Woman: “Yes.”

Tom wanders off and the camera focuses on him entering another bar, talking and leaving, and the another etc.

Suddenly Tom hears a male sounding voice behind him and turns around. To his surprise, the voice belongs to a tall person in a short skirt, with large semi-exposed breast and make-up. Tom recognizes this person as a “lady-boy” but does not comment on this. He has other priorities.

Lady-boy: “You are looking for Michael?”

Tom: “Yes! You know him? Do you know where he lives?”

Tall woman: “I think my friend knows him.”

Tom: “Where is she? He?”

Lady-boy: “Follow me!”

Tom follows the lady-boy, who eventually points to a bar: “Ask for Nari.”

Tom thanks the lady-boy and goes to talk to a young girl sitting with several others near the entrance.

Tom: “I am looking for Nari.”

A girl goes inside and a woman come out: “I am Nari.”

Tom: “I am looking for a friend of mine. A black man named Michael Patton.”

Nari: “Why do you want him?”

Tom: “I am a friend from Russia.”

Nari is suddenly very wary: “You are Russian?”

Tom: “No. I am from Australia, but we were friends in Russia.”

Nari: “Maybe I can help? What is your name?”

Tom, as he hands Nari a card: “Yes. This is my name and number for both WhatsApp and Telegram. I leave Phnom Penh in three days, and I really need to see Michael.”

Nari: “I will let you know!”

Tom walks off down the street with many girls calling out to him.

Scene 28:

A four wheel drive vehicle pulls up on an unpaved road in front of a two story modern looking building in rural Cambodia. It is situated among several small typical Cambodian wooden buildings and homes. Tom and Nari get out of the car while the driver remains inside. They walk up a small track to the door of the house and enter without knocking.

Scene 29:

Michael dressed in casual clothes is sitting on a comfortable lounge chair, and does not rise to stand when Tom and Nari enter. Standing next to Michael is a middle-aged Cambodian women wearing normal western style casual clothes.

Tom approaches Michael and says: “Hello Michael. Do you remember me? Tom Schneider!”

Michael: “Yes. I remember. Why are you here?”

Tom: “I need your help to find my daughter. I have not had any contact with her for ten years.”

Michael: “Daughter? I don’t think you ever told me about a daughter.”

Tom: “No. I never did.”

 Michael: “My memory is not the best. I was beaten in a park in Moscow.”

Tom: “I know. It happened just after I talked to you.”

Michael: “Did you? I have never fully recovered. I get lots of headaches.”

Tom: “How did you end up in Cambodia?”

Michael: “I helped many Christian people get passports to Europe. Some people thought Cambodia needed more Christians, so they brought me here.”

Tom wanted to ask more about this, but decided that he needed to concentrate on the reasons he was now in Cambodia and the information that he wanted.

Tom: “What happened to the money in the New York bank?”

Michael sighed: “Never was!”

Tom: “Then, why did you want me to go to New York to get it?”

Michael: “Did I?”

Tom: “In our second meeting in your big house!”

Michael: “Oh! I remember! I had to say those things. Everything was being recorded and I needed Victoria to believe that I had a heavy amount of money.”

Tom continues to stand and is clearly thinking about this for a short period, before saying: “That is why you were beaten? Victoria believed you and wanted the money?”

Michael, with a slight smile: “I suppose. It was my mistake. I was in-love with her.”

Tom takes a moment to further digest what he has heard, and his voice become quite sympathetic in tone: “Do you have any documents which can connect Victoria to your beating or the New York money idea? I remember when we spoke in the park you talked about an international law firm trying to get the money.”

Michael: “I don’t remember.”

Pointing to an old looking bag in a corner of the room, Michael says: “Over there in that leather bag you might find something.”

Tom goes to the bag and opens it. He takes out several old looking mobile telephones and a large brown envelope filled with documents”.

Tom quickly looks a every document, before pausing on one, and then on another, before putting them aside, and asking: “Michael, can I take these?”

Michael: “They are of no use to me.”

Tom moves forward to shake Michael’s hand, and says: “Thankyou. I hope you feel better soon.”

Tom and Nari go out the door and get into the waiting car.

Nari: “I think he will soon die.”

Scene 30:

Tom is waiting in the Irkutsk café and Ivan Bulavin, the young Russian detective, walks in and the two exchange greetings.

Ivan: “I’m all ears! What happened.”

Tom: “Well Michael is alive. Lives in a nice house in a rural area of Cambodia. I still don’t really understand how he got there, but it seems one of his smuggling clients took him there after his beating which clearly has affected his memory.”

Ivan: “Did you get any useful information?”

Tom: “Yes, although some is not so useful now. Remember that you told me Victoria was in-love with Michael? Well, Michael was also in-love with her!”

Ivan: “Really? He told you this?”

Tom nods: “Yes. It’s a pity. Things could have been so different.”

Ivan: “What about Jessica?”

Tom: “I got some documents of which the most useful will be an email from Neville Stern offering to “assist on the issue of funds in New York”.

Tom hands it to Ivan who begins reading it.

Tom: “It’s dated a week before Michael was beaten. I don’t know why it was sent, and it does not on the face of it seem to suggest anything illegal.”

Ivan: “So, its not really useful?”

Tom: “Well, Neville Stern is a really high profile lawyer and he will greatly value his reputation. He won’t want it splashed about that he – and his wife – had some involvement in smuggling rich criminals Africans into Europe, and particularly Britain!”

Ivan: “But he was not actually doing it!”

Tom: “That’s not how I will spin it. Actually, I was going to ask if you could make the contact. Sent an email from Russian police, and threatening to expose him and Avigail. He will not want to be associated with Russian criminal activity.”

Ivan: “No. I can’t do that. If someone in my office finds out they will think that I know how to get some of this money – and they will also want some even if it does not exist! This is Russia!”

Tom: “OK. Can you at least print out the official information that you previously found on Michael, give it to me, and I will figure out a way to convince them to tell me where Jessica is now.”

Ivan: “OK. Let’s meet here tomorrow.”

Scene 31:

Tom with Dmitry Timofeev in his office.

Dmitry: “So, it worked?”

Tom: “Yes. Jessica is in Israel and I have spoken to her via with video. I will go there after the exam period is finished.”

Dmirty: “What will you tell her? Everything?”

Tom: “Yes. She should know who I am and what her mother is!”

Scene 32:

Tom is in an apartment in Tel Aviv with his daughter Jessica and her boyfriend Noah. It is clean, simply furnished with a large book case and some children’s drawing pasted to a wall. 

Jessica is quietly explaining what has happened in her life since she last saw Tom ten years ago. Noah is listens intently.

Jessica: “I wanted to meet you at the airport but I had a sever panic attack. I just cannot leave the apartment when this happens.”

Noah: “The tracking device on your phone contributes to this.”

Tom: “Tracking?”

Jessica: “My mother gave me her old iPhone when she got a new one. She registered me as a fourteen year old and I can’t turn the tracking off.”

Tom: “Why do you keep the phone?”

Jessica says nothing.

Noah to Tom: “After I get my next salary I will buy her a new one.”

Tom, talking to Jessica: “I am so angry! I knew your mother was violent, but I would never have expected what she had done to you. Why do you still communicate with her?”

Jessica: “She is my mother. I know that she is a narcissist, but I have forgiven her. She and Neville now have Rebecca. She is only ten but I care about her a lot and do not want to lose contact with her.”

Tom: “Does she treat Rebecca in the same way that she treated you.”

Jessica: “Noah and I sometimes discuss this. I don’t think Neville would let it happen to his own daughter. But sometimes I think that if I can get better then Rebecca would be better off living with me.”

Jessica’s iPhone lights up and she answers it. When she sees who it is she becomes very nervous. She looks at Tom and puts her finger to her lips signalling him to be quite.

Avigail’s voice on phone: “Switch on your video.”

Jessica obeys, making sure that Tom cannot be seen.

Avigail: “We have just arrived in Tel Aviv. I need you to look after Rebecca tonight while Neville and I go to a function with the president.”

Jessica: “Mum. I can’t tonight.”

Avigail, raising her voice a little: “Why?  I do all these things for you. I gave you my iPhone and Mac, but when I ask for help you say no!”

Jessica: “But Mum!”

Avigail’s voice: “Rebecca. Come over here where Jessica can see you. She does not want to care for you tonight because she hates you!”

Jessica’s face now shows great distress.

Jessica: “Alright! I will do it.”

Avigail: “Come at 5 o’clock! You will need to cook dinner for her.”

The conversation stops as Avigail has hung-up. Jessica just looks at the phone for a while saying nothing.

Tom: “Does she always do this when they come to Israel?”

Jessica says nothing, but is clearly distressed. Noah has a grim look on his face but says nothing.

Tom, is uncertain what do so or say, but the decides a change of conversation is required: “Jessica! You have a Mac computer. You might not remember but I have videos of us together in Australia on my iPhone. Can I air-drop them to the computer? It will be easier to watch there.”

Jessica nods.

Tom takes his iPhone from his jacket and air-drops a video. It is then played with the three of them watching it. The computer screen is not shown but happy voices are heard. Jessica initially smiles but then some distress is evident in her face. She stands up and quickly walks out of the room.

Noah: “A panic attack! The video is too distressing for her.”

Noah: “She gets very nervous when Avigail is in Israel. She sometimes starts to continually watch the door expecting Avigail to suddenly come here!”

Tom thinking: “How did she get to Israel from London?”

Noah: “Avigail and Neville got her Israeli citizenship when they lived in Tel Aviv for a while. Neville is often here on business. He claims that he is great friends with Israel’s president. This seems to scare Jessica.”

Tom: “How did you meet her?”

Noah: “We were both on a online poetry club. Her poetry was always dark, and I wondered why. So I asked to meet her.”

Tom: “Is she seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist?”

Noah: “Sometimes. The say she should stop having contact with Avigail. But this is not easy. Avigail is always trying to run her life.”

Noah points to some child colour drawings stuck to a wall with tape.

Noah: “See those? Rebecca did them and gave them to Jessica.”

Tom nods.

Tom: “Does Jessica know how I found her. What did you tell her?”

Noah: “Only that you saw a photo of Avigail and Neville on the internet and you contacted him to get information about where she lived, and that he gave you my phone number.”

Jessica now comes back into the room, and says directly to Tom: “I will cook dinner. Cooking helps me become calm.”

Jessica leaves the room. Tom moves closer to Noah and lowers his voice.

Tom: “Should I tell her about what happened in Russia. About Michael the black man, Victoria, my beating? How I convinced Neville to give me your number?”

Noah: “Best not to now. Let her get to know you again. She really wants to have a father!”

Tom: “I can see that this is going to be a long process. I must learn patience!”

Noah nods.

Russian-Ukraine lessons on China

Russian-Ukraine lessons on China

Ukraine is now being urged to make 2024 a year of consolidation of abilities before launching a new offensive in 2025. But the reality is that Ukraine will NOT force Russia out of its territory, and its time to draw some lessons in regard to Western policies toward China.

Put simply, the West – particularly with NATO expansion – boosted Russian fears of aggressive containment at the same time as Russia had a president who harbored ideas of restoring Russian greatness. The West cannot control the thinking of Xi Jinping, but it can refrain for boosting Chinese fears of aggressive containment.

Almost 6 months ago I wrote:

“It is almost impossible to imagine Russia agreeing to return Crimea to Ukraine – irrespective of how the war proceeds and irrespective of who is in power in Moscow – because of his historical and strategic significance (particularly naval base in Sebastopol) and the wishes of the local population.  It maybe in Ukraine’s interests to let Russia keep parts of Donetsk and Luhansk in order to avoid having a hostile Russian-orientated population within its borders. Anna Aruntunyan has written that “according to a poll conducted in April 2014 by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, over 70% of respondents in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine – where support for Russia was far less consolidated than it was in Crimea – considered the government in Kiev illegitimate.” There is little reason to believe that these numbers have since become more favorable for Ukraine. As for the other annexed regions of Zaporozhye and Kherson, they are not vital to Russia’s interests, but they may be vital determinants of whether or not Putin stays in power. If Russia can retain these, Putin will be able to spin this as a victory for the security of Russia. If these regions are returned – in whatever way – to Ukraine, Putin is unlikely remain in power because these are the only tangible things that his very costly ‘special military operation’ has achieved.”

See my on-line book about the Future of the Russian Economy: https://russianeconomicreform.ru

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stated on 19 January that Germany must consider that Putin may try to attack a NATO member in five to eight years, given threats from the Kremlin “almost every day.”

The reality is that Putin is not a great threat to NATO because his domestic policies are a threat to Russia. At this stage the Russian economy looks to be in a good position thanks to Western ineptness in its sanctions policies (even NATO member Turkey ignores them while American friend Saudi Arabia helps keep oil prices high to the benefit of Russian export earnings) and military spending, but looking out “five to eight years” a picture emerges of distorted economic growth caused by that military spending and productivity destroying economic nationalism in the form of “economic and technological sovereignty”, and political oppression. But, it will still have enough military power to defend the majority of its gains in Ukraine!

None of this is a satisfactory outcome for anyone and there will be many regrets, but it is a harsh reality brought about by both Western and Russian bad policy making. Stopping a war is much harder then starting one when attitudes harden on all sides.

But there is more!

I lived in Russia for many years until October 2022 (ten months after the February invasion of Ukraine) and for two years taught a Masters Degree course on Russian foreign policy in Asia at the Higher School of Economics (one of Russia’s most prestigious universities) and have spoken with numerous Russians and visiting Chinese officials. It was universally believed that US policies were pushing Russia and China closer together. There was little Russian interest in Iran and a preference to keep North Korea at arms-length, but we now see how the ideas of NATO expansion have ultimately had an unexpected cascading effect.

I also gave several university lectures in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Shandong) comparing Crimea to the South China Sea, which was enthusiastically welcomed by the students – although I was then officially told to do no more because the issue was sensitive!

See photo: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-schubert-81977092/overlay/photo/

Western countries should not put China in a position where its fears – justified or not – lead it to actions similar to Russian in Ukraine. For example, AUKUS may be a silly impractical idea – only an Australian idiot could believe nuclear submarines will be built in Australia — that will eventually collapse all by itself, but this does not mean that it will not be perceived as one additional threat and contribute to a tough Chinese response.

Me and Colin Rubenstein – an Australian “traitor”?

Me and Colin Rubenstein – an Australian “traitor”?

I first came across Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) in March 2001 – twenty three years ago – when I was involved in a debate with him about the proposed USA National Missile Defence (NMD) system at an event organized by the Australian Institute of International Affairs (Sydney branch).

Unfortunately, the paper that I prepared is no longer on the Institute’s internet site. However, it is still on my own site: https://www.jeffschubert.com/us-missile-defence/

After the event someone – a former senior government official – remarked to me that Rubenstein was a “racist”. The remark puzzled me because although Rubenstein had made some disparaging remarks about various countries in the Middle-East I did not see how our debate would have led to that conclusion. I surmised that it must be his general reputation!

However, it seemed strange to me that Rubenstein would have such strong views on US National Missile Defence (NMD) and push them in Australian media – particularly as he clearly knew little about Russia. His 16 January 2001, article in the Australian Financial Review (AFR), “Exploding Missile Myths”  is here: https://www.afr.com/companies/manufacturing/exploding-missile-myths-20010116-k0jqz

It was clear that Israel would benefit from missile defence systems, with the ever-aggressive US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, saying that the US was prepared to assist friends and allies threatened by missile attacks to deploy such defences.

But, I argued in the debate that Australia would not benefit the NMD because of the great danger of an anti-missile arms race involving the US, Russia and eventually China

Rubenstein had tried to counter this in his AFR article writing that “Russia is reportedly prepared to co-operate with the US in developing boost-phase and tactical systems which would not directly affect Russia’s nuclear deterrent”. I first went to Russia in 1991 and by the time of our 2001 debate had spent quite a bit of time there and met many Russians in various walks of life — and I had read a few history books!

What Rubenstein was saying was wishful thinking about Russia almost on a par with those people arguing that NATO expansion could not be seen by Russians as aggressively aimed at them. Come January 2024 and we now have a situation where general Russian security fears – some might even call it paranoia — which I covered extensively in my paper for the 2001 Institute debate, have led to the invasion of Ukraine.

Overall, it seemed to me that Rubenstein was more interested in providing security benefits to Israel than Australia.

On 15 January 2024 “The Australian” newspaper reported that Rubenstein “has blasted Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s decision to not visit the southern Israeli towns where the October 7 massacres occurred as disappointing and called for her to reconsider”.

Rubenstein is clearly interested in an emotional PR stunt which could be used to Israel’s advantage as he does NOT suggest that Wong go the northern part of Gaza to see the damage done by Israeli bombing!

Rubenstein also said: “Australia’s failure so far to join many of our most important allies – including the US, UK, Canada and Germany – in publicly criticising South Africa’s nonsensical and cynical case in the International Court of Justice alleging Israel is committing genocide in its defensive war against the Hamas terrorists, despite copious evidence Israel is going to great lengths to minimise civilian casualties under very difficult circumstances.”

There are many countries in the world besides US, UK, Canada and (guilt-ridden) Germany and it is hard to see how it is in Australia’s interests to support Israel’s actions in Gaza. We should remember that it was blindly following the US and UK that got us into the disastrous invasion of Iraq which was pushed by an ignorant cabal which included Donald Rumsfeld!

In fact, in April 2003 Rubenstein said the invasion of Iraq war was “just, necessary and very much in Australia’s national interest”. What he really meant was that he thought it was in Israel’s “national interest”. And, even here Rubenstein’s desire to please the US and bolster the defence of Israel has backfired. The debacle in Iraq strengthened the hand of Iran and consequently of organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Many people around the world, particularly in the so-called Global South, see Israel’s actions in Gaza as equivalent to – or even worse than – Russia’s actions on Ukraine. Moreover, while recognizing that Hamas carried out a very brutal terrorist attach on 7 October, many Russians that I spoke to (before I finally left Russia 10 months after the February 2022 invasion) have regarded Russian speaking people in eastern Ukraine has being terrorized for years by Ukrainian nationalists and see Putin’s actions as justified.

Is it in Australia’s interests for it to be seen as hypocritical?

I still do not know if Rubenstein is a “racist” (although I have my suspicions) but I am certain that if he was given a choice between the interests of Israel and Australia — he would choose Israel in a flash!