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Albrechtsen plagiarises Goebbels

Albrechtsen plagiarises Goebbels

In today’s “The Australian” (2 November 2005) Dr. Janet Albrechtsen makes comments about judges and the anti-terror laws that are very similar to those made by Dr. Josef Goebbels in a speech in 1942 as he tried to stamp-out any remaining judicial independence.

Albrechtsen writes: “It is curious that so many seem to assume that judges make better policy choices than elected representatives. That judges, lawyers and legal academics hold that view is hardly shocking news. After all, law students are trained from their first day at law school to treat judges and their decisions with reverence.”

“Unburdened by that myopic world-view, the rest of us have a sneaking suspicion that outside their narrow areas of technical expertise, judges’ egos outstrip their ability. ….judges are out of touch with what the rest of us think is the right balance between individual rights and national security.”

Goebbels, as related by H. W. Koch (“In the Name of the Volk”) put a similar view:

“Since its very beginning, he (Goebbels) said, the judiciary had been the object of public criticism. Even today, judicial decisions were criticised and dismissed as alien to the spirit of the people.”

“What was at stake here was something fundamental, that is to say the wrong attitude of some judges who were unable to liberate themselves from old patterns of thought. The blame for that, Goebbels told his audience, lay to a considerable extent in the wrong conceptual training received by German law students at German universities. It was an essentially one-sided education and later, when they were judges, they lived their enclosed professional lives without any real contact with the outside world. In short, judges possessed too little practical experience of life. However, decisions felt to be alien to the people had a particularly bad effect during wartime, so everything would have to be done to bring about a change ….”

Russian Adventures: Money, Sex, Violence & the Law

Russian Adventures: Money, Sex, Violence and the Law.

©  Jeff Schubert 2023

Note:  Some names have been changed to protect innocent people.

This is a true account of lies, manipulation, theft and multiple instances of violence experienced by Jeff Schubert and people close to him as result of his activities in Russia. 

In 2010 Michael Patton claimed to be a rich black American living in Moscow doing “Christian” work, while Avigail Stern claimed to be a loving mother in an Orthodox Jewish family living in London after moving from St. Petersburg. Both Michael and Avigail were liars and extremely manipulative people. While Michael’s personality projected calmness, Avigail left a trail of violence in three countries involving Jeff and people close to him beginning in 1996. Veronica Akhmetzhanova was a charming young lying and manipulative thief living in Siberia as of 2022.

Apart from his experiences with these people, between 1996 and 2022 Jeff was beaten unconscious in Vladivostok, attacked by thieves in the Moscow metro wanting his money – but did not get the $US50,000 in his coat pockets – and attacked by a crazy women who stole his passport after trying to gouge out his eyes with her long fingernails.

PART ONE:    MARCH 2010

Chapter 1:  Jeff and Michael Patton (the Blackman) – Millions of $  (Moscow, 2010)

Chapter 2:  Avigail,  the Jewish Mother and Wife (London, 2010)

PART TWO:    WHO ARE THE REAL JEFF, MICHAEL and AVIGAIL?

Chapter 1: Jeff

Chapter 2: Michael

Chapter :  Avigail

PART THREE:  LIES, MANIPULTION AND VIOLENCE

Chapter 1: Jeff, Lavelle and Finger-nails.  (Moscow, 1995-2013)

Chapter 2:  Michael the Blackman – with no money? (Moscow, 2010)

Chapter 3:  Avigail and Jeff – Family Court. (Sydney, 2002 to 2005)

PART FOUR:    SOME CONCLUSIONS

Chapter 1:  Jeff  (Shanghai, Moscow, Irkutsk, 2013-22)

Chapter 2: Jeff and Veronica  (Irkutsk, 2022)

Chapter 3: Endgame!

……………………………..

PART ONE:   MARCH 2010

Chapter 1:  Michael the Blackman – Millions of $ (Moscow. 2010)

It was the middle of March 2010 when Jeff Schubert climbed out of the white Humvee to come almost face-to-face with a German-Shepard dog held on a lead by a uniformed guard. But neither made any attempt to stop him as he walked towards the steps leading up to the huge white house.

Jeff had never been there before and no-one told him where to go. It was just there was no obvious alternative because he was now inside a compound surrounded by a high wall and the manned gatehouse that the Humvee had just driven through.

Sitting in the rear seat of the Humvee, Jeff had tried to keep track of exactly where it was going after it collected him from his apartment in the center of Moscow. He thought he was now in a housing compound on Lower Usovo Road in the very upmarket Moscow suburban area of Rublyovka about 15 kilometres to the West of the Kremlin. He had briefly seen the number 18 on the gate after earlier seeing a 3. So, maybe it was number 18, 3 Lower Usovo Road?

There may have been a bell to ring but Jeff did not immediately see it, so he knocked on the door which was opened by a slim black man of medium height aged about 50. Jeff’s immediate reaction was that he was some sort of servant that an ultra-rich “new Russian” had employed to impress his contemporaries with his wealth and sophistication.

The black man said “hello”, invited Jeff in, and led him through a door into a study on the right side of the large hallway. It was only when the man went to sit behind a busy looking desk and started talking that Jeff realized that this black man was the “Michael” who had called him several times over the previous week or so and had talked about banking. 

Michael now told Jeff that he wanted to create a new bank in Moscow in partnership with Raiffeisen, an Austrian banking group which already had offices in Russia, and that he wanted Jeff’s help in training staff.

Michael said that “Geraschenko has already been here” to discuss the issue. Jeff understood that Michael was talking about Victor Geraschenko, a Soviet-era banker who had later been head of the Russian Central Bank.

Jeff had put an advertisement in the English language Moscow Times newspaper saying that he was a former Australian banker who now taught business English in Russia. What Michael was proposing was immediately interesting to Jeff; particularly the prospect of again becoming wealthy! At the same time Jeff thought the situation odd, so he asked Michael what his background was.

Michael said that he had come to Russia years ago to “sell cement”, had made a lot of money, and now wanted to help poor Russians by supplying cheap prefabricated housing because it was the “Christian thing to do”. Jeff looked around the study as they spoke and apart from one desk, a cabinet, and a couple of chairs, there were only three large paintings on the walls. Each was of Jesus Christ with his disciples. They did not seem to be particularly good representations and, given the house that they were now hanging in, looked rather cheap.

Michael had not sounded particularly educated during the telephone conversations before the meeting, and this impression had not changed – although he found Michael to be quite charming in an unaffected way. Trying to get a better understanding of the situation, Jeff asked Michael what he did before coming to Russia, and Michael said that he had been in the US Army as a “communications specialist”.

Just then the door from the hallway to the study which was just behind where Jeff was sitting opened. He turned to see an attractive dark haired white skinned women – most likely in her 30s – walked in and then seeing Jeff she quickly retreated and closed the door. Michael continued the conversation as if nothing had happened.  

Trying to understand Michael’s bank investment intentions, Jeff asked: “Where do you keep your money now?”

Michael: “In houses.”

Jeff interpreted this answer as buying real-estate, but as the conversation continued, he realized that Michael was saying that he kept large amounts of cash in houses. If true, thought Jeff, this would account for the guards he encountered when arrived.

Michael: “I need my own bank”.

Jeff digested this strange situation for a moment and was about to ask Michael why he needed his own bank when a black women came into the study through a door near Michael’s desk with a small tray of food. After she left, Michael told Jeff that he worked “24-7” (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and that “they are always trying to fatten me”.

Michael did not touch the food and pushed the tray away. This was not easy because the desk was crowded with several laptops and piles of papers. Michael picked-up a closed laptop and repositioned it, saying:

“I have got a new computer and don’t know what to do with this old one”.

Jeff had recently purchased a new computer and faced the same issue, which gave him a slight feeling of empathy with Michael. In fact, Jeff quite liked Mathew who communicated in a matter-of-fact way with a relatively flat voice.

Further conversation in which Michael talked about his “big US corporation” did not help Jeff’s understanding of the situation.

Michael then said that his driver would take Jeff back to his apartment on Studencheskaya Street in Moscow which was not far for the Kievskaya metro station.

Michael led Jeff out of the study into a directly connected kitchen and then through another room back into the hallway and the front door. It was about 8 in the evening and sitting around the kitchen table were a number of black-skinned female adults watching equally black-skinned children frolicking in a large indoor swimming pool situated on the other side of a full-sized glass wall.

Michael offered no explanation for this scene. Of course, there was no reason why Michael was obliged to do so but the strange combination of the very expensive house and cheap paintings, unexpected variety of people – including the patrolling guards – and Michael’s unusual financial claims had Jeff totally intrigued. And then there was the woman who had briefly entered Michael’s study.

As he entered his two-room apartment Jeff felt some elation at the prospect a change in his fortunes. The previous decade had delivered a number of significant financial and personal blows to Jeff and he found his present situation as a lowly business English teacher embarrassing.

Michael had previously given Jeff his business card. It said:

“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

When Jeff tried to find more information on the internet, it turned out that the only information was some registered address in the UK of the type that was probably little more than a post-office box. There was nothing to suggest that Michael was head of a “big” US corporation.

When Jeff progressively searched the company names on the business-card he found that Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation had only been incorporated in the United Kingdom on 5 March — only weeks before, with Michael one of two directors under the name of “Michristly Gmichael-McPatton”, with a birth date of April 1964. His nationality was described as “American”, while country of residence was Russia, and address for correspondence was “H.2, Bld. 1/6, Arhangelskiy Lane Moscow, Ru, 101000.

“Michristly”! This was strange, but the “christ” part fitted in with Michael’s words about being a Christian and paintings on the wall in his study.

The other director listed was a Victoria Derbina, described as a Russian national born in June 1979 whose occupation was “investor”. Victoria’s address for correspondence was listed as Bolshoi Predtechensky St. 23-48, Moscow, Ru, 123022

Neither of these physical addresses were anywhere near the house that Michael was in. The other company names on Michael’s business-card gave much the same information about both Michael and Victoria. 

In addition, there were a number of Russian, British and American nationals listed as directors at various times, but Jeff could find no additional information about them.

Jeff was now impatient for Michael’s next call which only came a week later. This time a late model white luxury Mercedes Benz took Jeff to the same address as before. As on the first occasion, the guard in the gate-house raised the barrier when the car approached, suggesting to Jeff that both the Humvee and the Mercedes were well-known.

Jeff thought it odd that Michael used a different telephone number every time he called. Jeff later started writing the number of each new call on the back of Michael’s business card but gave up after writing down three: +7 909 959 5323; +7 964 708 4418; +7 965 145 1173

Jeff decided to ask him about this and had other questions arising from his internet searches, but Michael’s unusual request made him completely forget.

Michael wanted Jeff to “urgently” fly to New York and withdrawer “a heavy amount” of money from a US bank, buy a large house “just like the one we are in now” and live there with large amounts of cash in the cellar.

A stunned Jeff briefly imagined himself walking out of a New York bank with millions of dollars in cash, and wondered how far he would get before some criminal bashed him and took it. It would not have been the first time that Jeff would have been physically attacked while carrying a large amount of cash but he had never before walked on a street with the amounts that Michael was now suggesting. Jeff would need his own guards!

Jeff suspected something illegal, particularly given money laundering laws. Michael clearly did not like banks — or at least if the banks were not his!

Jeff wondered if Michael really understood what a normal bank was. Sure, it was possible for a bank to take cash deposits and leave it in vaults or the cellar. But generally the cash is lent to other people who pay interest at a higher rate than deposits so that the bank can cover wage and other costs and make a profit for share-holders.

But Michael and Jeff were in Russia! “Banking” in Russia was often little more than money laundering and fraudulent activities.  And, on that point, why would a reputable international bank like Raiffeisen want to want to form a bank with Michael?

But Jeff had two problems. He was able to truthfully tell Michael that as an Australian he needed a visa to enter the US, to which Michael simply and calmly replied: “I forgot about that.”

Jeff’s other problem was that he had been physically attacked and deprived of his passport and visa – he was now in Russia illegally!

Chapter 2:  Avigail, the Jewish Mother and Wife  (London. 2010)

Jeff did not know it, but at about the same time as he was attacked in Moscow and having meetings with Michael, a women named Avigail Stern living in an exclusive area in London was beating her daughter “Jessica” aged 14 – as she had done many times!

Now in her mid-thirties, Avigail had been a champion athlete in Russia – a sprinter – as a teenager, and now used her innate physical strength and aggressive disposition against her mild-mannered daughter. She punched Jessica in the face and when her daughter fell to the floor and screamed – Avigail kicked her!

The woman’s husband, Neville Eisenberg, did not intervene other than to say: “Fuck the shut up, the neighbors might hear.”

Neville was a very successful corporate lawyer born and initially educated in South Africa and Israel, but later in the UK. His generally pleasant personality and search for compromise in situations of disagreement and conflict, combined with high intelligence and workaholic approach had allowed him lead the transformation of a UK focused law firm to one with a significant international presence with the ultimate name of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

Although not particularly religious Neville understood the networking power of the synagogue and the Jewish community, and this is where he met Avigail – or more precisely it is where Avigail met him! Avigail had heard about Neville and targeted him at the synagogue.

It was impossible to know the extent of Avigail’s religious beliefs or why she had adopted Orthodox Judaism after a very non-religious secular upbringing in Russia. All who knew her, including her parents, recognized that she had a very narcistic personality and desperately wanted to be admired and considered special.

In truth Avigail was intellectually very talented in addition to her physical beauty and athletic abilities, but her high-handed and often nasty treatment of other people at school and university when she lived with her parents in Vladivostok had not led to popularity. Indeed, her violence had ended up costing her parents a lot of money in compensation and bribes.

Now that she was officially an Orthodox Jew, Avigail did not dress modestly as might have been expected. That would have been going too far, particularly as she sought the attention of many men. At the same time, she had a desperate need to have her conversion to Orthodox Judaism confirmed by marring a “real Jew” – and particularly one with money and status! 

Neville, who had never been married and was a little naïve about women, was now approaching 50 and had decided that he wanted children and was quick to propose marriage to Avigail who was about 15 years younger.

He had been surprised when she eventually told him about her background in Russia with the birthname of Elena, and her daughter who lived with Avigail’s parents who had now moved to St. Petersburg from Vladivostok. But by then Neville was hooked!

After their marriage Avigail had wanted to immediately go to Russia and collect her daughter but Neville, who highly valued education, suggested that 13 year-old Jessica be allowed to finish her school year in St. Petersburg and that Avigail rent an apartment there for a few months to allow this to happen.

The first beatings of Jessica had occurred in this apartment but Neville only saw it for the first time in London. He had been shocked and protested, but Avigail had sharply retorted:

“She is my daughter, not yours!”

Thereafter, Neville’s main concern was to try to ignore Avigail’s violence – although he sometimes said sympathetic words to Jessica and touched her in ways that made her nervous. Once he even followed her to a bathroom and stood outside breathing heavily as she showed. 

Jessica was beaten so often that she refused to participate in school sport because she did not want to change clothes and let other children see the bruises. But Avigail was still not happy. She needed even more control over Jessica!

On two occasions Avigail rang parents of Jessica’s school friends after looking at messages on her daughter’s mobile phone. One time to tell them that their daughter was expressing lesbian feelings in text messages to Jessica, one time to say that her “Jessica” was Jewish and would not associate with Muslims.

Jessica was eventually confined to home when she was not at school and deprived of a mobile phone. Her bedroom was on the third floor of the house and had what is often called a dormer window opening onto the roof. To escape the confinement, Jessica began climbing through the window onto the roof and using an external water-pipe to help her scramble to the ground.

On one of these occasions she began talking to and drinking with a group of young people in a park, and they became her friends. One of these friends bought Jessica a cheap mobile phone so that she could arrange times to meet them. 

Apart from these friends, Jessica felt very alone in the world. Avigail, with her phone calls, had destroyed school friendships. The people Jessica had loved before being brought to London knew nothing of her situation and she had no means to contact them. 

There was only fear in her life – fear of beatings by Avigail and fear of her stepfather Neville Eisenberg with his obvious sexual desires and continual bragging of his friendship with powerful people such as the president of Israel. 

PART TWO:  WHO ARE THE REAL JEFF, MICHAEL AND AVIGAIL?

Chapter 1:  Jeff

In November 1991 while working as a prominent economist in the Australian financial sector, Jeff Schubert went to Russia to see “end of communism” after becoming extremely bored with financial markets. He first went to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland and met many senior government officials with the help of Australian Embassy staff in those countries.

The three East European countries had many of the attributes of a country such as Australia, but Russia was totally weird! There was nothing charming or attractive – but it was fascinating to someone with both economics and modern European history degrees.

Here were people who looked like Jeff living in a strange alternative universe with nearly everything falling apart around them. Public telephone boxes were falling over and the streets were dirty with trash. The shop windows contained stacked empty drink cans and some food, although there was an occasional very expensive clothing shop visited by a few Russians with much money.

Against all this, the spartan but clean foyer of the Intourist Hotel not far from Red Square seemed a small piece of sanity. On his second day in Moscow Jeff met an American aged about thirty siting there. After various adventures in Eastern Europe this man had entered Russia without a visa by hiding in part of a train for no particular reason other than an adventure – or, even simply to see if it could be done! For a while he was stuck in Russia not knowing what to do.

This American eventually found someone who got him a Russian visa and employed him to take cash out of Russia. He said that he was still tired from trying to cope with Russian, so Jeff thought that he was glad to have some English conversation. The American got some alcohol direct from the hotel kitchen with the help of a for a small bribe, and he and Jeff spent several days doing things together including going to a large market to buy some souvenirs.

Jeff could speak or read absolutely no Russian and was always grateful when he found someone on a street who could give him directions in English. In one case it was 15 years old Kostya Orlov. He, and eventually his family who lived in a large apartment just across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, was often to be of great assistance to Jeff in later years.

Jeff was able to make contact with John Helmer, an Australian journalist who had already spent a couple of years in Russia. Helmer invited Jeff to lunch with a journalist named Mikhail Leontiev, an enthusiast for very liberal economic reform. Jeff was effectively lectured by Leontiev on the workings of a “market economy” and would not listen when both Jeff and Helmer tried to tell him that the market economy did not always work in the romantic way that he believed.

Years later Leontiev was very disillusioned with Russian economic reforms and threw in his lot with Igor Sechin, a close associate of Putin, to become spokesperson for the state owned Rosneft oil company. Over subsequent years, Jeff was to meet quite a few people whose disillusionment with the experiences of the 1990’s led them to become, in the end, supporters of Putin.

Jeff met foreign advisers to the Russian government, such as British economist Richard Layard, who had basically arrived in Moscow with no personal knowledge or experience of Russia and prescribed “shock therapy”:

“There was less than 50% chance of this working, but it was worth a try”.

But it was not only in economics that foreigners pushed reckless ideas onto Russians.

Jeff was in Moscow in 1993 when Boris Yelstin attacked parliament. He was staying in an apartment close to the Kremlin and awoke to the sound of large guns being fired. The previous evening Jeff and the young Kostya Orlov had made their way down the Old Arbat Street which had been almost completely closed by barricades hastily installed by people opposed to the USSR and supportive of more “liberal” people such as Boris Yeltsin.

Jeff was shocked when he realized that Yeltsin supporters were shooting tank shells at the White House where the parliament sat. He was even more horrified when drinking beer in a popular bar that evening he heard many Western foreigners hail the attack. Jeff thought that this stupidity by Yeltsin was part of a series of events that eventually would lead to a Russian dictatorship.

After returning to Australia for a while Jeff found work with Pacific Gemini, a fund manager which was mainly working in the Russian Far East. One morning he arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and – as agreed – declared $US50,000 of Pacific Gemini money to Customs because of concerns that it might be compensated if discovered undeclared. Jeff was asked by officials to count out the notes in the airport while being watched by many people standing behind a glass wall waiting to meet arriving passengers. Although a little nervous after this, he caught taxi to a Moscow hotel without trouble.

It was cold when Jeff left his hotel later in the day and he did not want to leave the money in his room where he feared it could easily be stolen by a hotel staff member. He put 10 packets of $US5000 in various parts of his clothes, mostly in his coat pockets.

When Jeff entered the heated metro transport system he unzipped the coat at the front with the result that it tended to flap as he walked. Suddenly Jeff was attacked by around a dozen gypsy-children, but they only aimed for his wallet in his right hip-pocket. He grabbed one of the girls (maybe around 10 years old) by the arm and yelled “thief” many times. A policeman eventually came and Jeff adamantly refused to let-go of the girl even when they were in the metro-station police post.

Jeff did not tell the police about the $US50,000 and kept his coat on and zipped-up even though the small metro police station was quite stuffy. About two hours later, the gypsy mothers came with Jeff’s wallet and all its contents intact and he let the girl go – and, he still had the $US50,000!

Jeff then spent some months based in Vladivostok working for Pacific Gemini which was managed by Andrew Fox and his Russian wife. Jeff impression was that Andrew, a very intelligent man who could be very charming, was playing fairly loose with the money which had been entrusted to him by Pacific Gemini investors. His wife was an accountant and a few years older than him and was probably the person with most influence on equity investment decisions. Andrew certainly was the marketer!

During this time Jeff formed a relationship with a young woman who was a law student at the Far Eastern University. Her name was Elena. During this time Jeff got to know her parents very well. They were very nice and intelligent people, but only her father spoke any English. Their apartment was small but comfortable.

Jeff and Pacific Gemini eventually parted ways over Andrew Fox’s determination to keep investment decision making power totally confined to himself and his wife. Jeff returned to Australia but obtained a commission from a very large Australian based international funds manager, Platinum Asset Management headed by Kerr Neilson,  to return to the Far East to do some investment research.

One morning Jeff walked out of his apartment building in Vladivostok and was confronted by a young man who asked if he was “Jeff Schubert”. The next thing that Jeff remembered was regaining consciousness as a doctor inserted stiches in his face. Jeff had been hit on the head with some heavy object and kicked in the face.

Jeff was to subsequently hear that Andrew Fox was telling people that he had been savagely beaten because of his research activities in the Russian Far East. Only later Jeff heard a story that his former girl-friend Elena had arranged his beating – apparently on the basis of some rumour that he had recorded some of their sexual activities!

Jeff finished his reports and returned to Australia. He was then offered a short assignment by a group of Australian businessmen to help investigate the possibility of activating a dormant electric blast furnace in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East.  

Arriving in the drab city of quarter of a million people, Jeff and the steel-production analyst with him were taken to a villa largely built from concrete blocks that had been especially constructed for a one-night visit by Leonid Brezhnev who led the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982. It consisted of a very large general living area and a number of connecting bedrooms and was functional rather than luxurious.

Jeff and the other analyst were taken to a large field about 20 kilometres away where there were hundreds of aging tanks neatly line-up in rows. Jeff assumed that these tanks were to be a source of metal for the electric blast furnace.

Jeff’s co-analyst turned out to be the very secretive – and even devious – type. He wrote with his right-hand and his left-hand positioned in an attempt to stop other people seeing what he was writing – just like a school child! He did not share any of his “electric blast-furnace” technical knowledge with Jeff, and Jeff only found out later that the furnace had been stripped of its electrical components; and that in any case, the armored steel of tanks was not suitable for use in an electric blast furnace. What was needed was more ordinary steel scrap, such as that from old motorcars and whitegoods.

After leaving Komsomolsl-no-Amur Jeff passed through Vladivostok where he again met his former girlfriend Elena. She subsequently went to Australia on a tourism visa and they eventually got married in 1997 and had a daughter named Maxine.

Chapter 2:  Michael

Jeff’s sometimes strange conversations with Michael Patton and his internet research after his March meetings had convinced him that Michael was a con-artist and not to be believed. But, wondered Jeff, how did this explain the expensive house where he met Michael? And how to explain the black women in the kitchen and children swimming in the pool at 8 in the evening – presumably they lived there!

On 28 March Jeff sent a short email to Michael on sovereigngroup@live.com – saying “just making contact” – to which Michael gave a short “OK” reply.

Jeff next heard from Michael in mid-April – again from a different telephone number — and Michael wanted to meet him near his apartment. Jeff waited near Kuklachyov’s Cat Theatre on Kutuzovski Avenue.

Michael arrived in a tan Mercedes station wagon that was probably around ten years old with a Russian woman – who was a decade or so older than the one he had seen enter Michael’s study during their first meeting. Michael explained that this tan Mercedes was his personal car as he did not want to draw attention to himself with a flashy car like the ones that had taken Jeff to his meetings with Michael. The women got back into the car and left with the driver. Michael later told Jeff that he had become “quite close” to this woman, leaving Jeff with the impression that other relationships had become frayed.

In his typical low-key way Michael requested that he and Jeff not stand on the sidewalk of busy Kutuzovsky Avenue but instead go behind some buildings because he did not want to be in a “public place”. Jeff momentarily had a vision of being shot at and readily agreed.

Jeff personally knew two Russians who had been murdered. One was the husband of a woman who was an executive in a start-up type economic consulting business that Jeff had establish contact with about the time of his $US50,000 experience in the Moscow metro. Her husband was a very personable and robust looking “businessman involved in construction” whom Jeff immediately liked. Sometime later his body was found in a forest tied to a tree. He had been tortured to death.

The other murdered Russian was Andey Kozlov, first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, gunned down in 2006. Jeff had first meet him when he was a junior Russian Central Bank analyst trying to understand and analyse financial markets and Jeff offered his assistance. Andrey was frustrated that he did not have a computer. At a chance meeting with a more senior official sometime later Jeff raised this issue and was sharply told: “He will have a computer!” Jeff last met Andrey a year or so before he was killed.

Standing behind an apartment building, Michael said he had some “temporary” financial problems and wondered whether Jeff knew of a bank that could lend him money until he could “sort things out”. 

Jeff was again surprised by Michael’s unreal view of banking. Jeff tried to explain that – in his new life in Russia – he did not know any bankers, and that even if he did there was no apparent reason for them to lend Michael money. 

Jeff then told Michael about his failed internet attempts to find out more about his “big US corporation” and the companies listed on Michael’s business card. Rather than trying to offer some explanation, Michael took offence at being thought “untrustworthy”.

Jeff decided to push the issue. “What about 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. She betrayed me.”

Michael then said he had to go and proceeded to make a phone call as he walked away. Jeff was tempted to follow him, but instead decided to follow up on an idea he had.

About nine months earlier at the end of summer Jeff had been sitting and drinking beer in an outdoor café not far from the covered Bagration pedestrian bridge across the Moscow River, which connects Kutuzovski Avenue to the main Moscow international business center with its numerous high-rise buildings.

Jeff eventually struck up a conversation with the only other customer – a blackman! He said his name was Adam and that he had come to Moscow from Chad decades ago to study at the People’s Friendship University where he was now a professor of chemistry. He had married a Russian woman and lived nearby. Just as they had finished exchanging contact details a Russian woman appeared walking towards the café and screaming at Adam, causing him to say goodbye to Jeff. She was clearly unhappy.

A few weeks later when Adam’s wife was visiting relatives, he and Jeff had another beer and Jeff was shown Adam’s nice apartment in a building on Kutuzovski Avenue. Jeff got the impression that Adam’s wife was bit of a tyrant, but the two remained quite devoted to each other as he explained that he was “waiting” for her to “return” from her relatives.

After the last meeting with Michael behind a building so as not to be seen in a public place, Jeff called Adam and explained the situation with Michael. He said that he quite liked Michael but really wanted to “solve the Michael mystery”. He suggested that Adam be introduced to Michael as a wealthy potential investor.

Given that Michael had called him from various telephone numbers, Jeff dialled the number from the most recent call.

Michael readily agreed and surprisingly arrived on foot at the agreed meeting place, a small park area not far from Adam’s apartment, a few days later. The meeting lasted about an hour and took a strange turn with Michael continually talking about the “need for air-conditioning” in Africa. As air-conditioning was nothing to do with any of his previous conversations with Michael, Jeff took this to be a pitch to Adam for money on an issue that might interest him.

Adam said that he would call a childhood friend who was now a senior official in Chad to discuss the issue. The meeting then ended up without a conclusion, with Michael saying he would later contact Adam.

“He is from Nigeria!”, Adam exclaimed as soon as Michael was out of earshot. Jeff was less sure. He had met several Nigerians during his years in Russia, mainly younger people who were working in informal jobs after overstaying student visas. Their English had some unusual characteristics which Michael did not have; although Jeff was the first to admit that he had little talent for languages – in fact, he thought he was rather bad!

After Michael later called, Adam told him about Jeff’s reason for organizing the meeting. Michael called Jeff one more time after this and wanted to borrow a very small amount of money to stay the night in a hotel – but Jeff declined. Michael then told Jeff that he was “dishonest” for claiming that Adam was a rich potential business partner.

Chapter 3:  Avigail

At birth Avigail was actually named Elena by her parents, but after she and Jeff divorced in Sydney in 1999 she and her second husband converted to Orthodox Judaism – and she had adopted the more Jewish name Avigail!

In 2002 Australian Family Court Justice O’Ryan wrote in a judgement on custody:

“I am firmly of the view that the child – Maxine (in the time before she became Jessica) – should spend as much time as practicable in the care of the husband”. Adding that if it were not for the amount of time that Avigail had previously spent caring for Maxine, he “would have no hesitation in ordering that the child reside primarily with the husband”. O’Ryan also directed that Maxine be added to the so-called PASS system managed by the Federal Police to prevent her being taken out of Australia.

There was no evidence put forward that Jeff was violent, but considerable evidence that Elena-Avigail was very violent – hitting Jeff on a number of occasions and then calling the police and claiming he had hit her.

A second Family Court case in 2005 led to a different result. Given the results of the 2002 case, and the large number of people prepared to testify about his very good relationship with Maxine – and the fact that Elena was representing herself (that is, was not employing a lawyer) – Jeff decided to save a large amount of money and self-represent.

A “family report” was prepared in 2005 by Family Court employed “mediator” Paul Lodge, a slightly effeminate man aged about 50 with greying hair. He was apparently regarded as something of a guru within the Court because he had written a paper and given a speech at an international conference on the subject of “child alienation” from one parent. He thus had a predisposition to try to both protect and enhance his reputation by fitting as many cases as possible into this intellectual framework.

Under cross-examination, Lodge said:

“The intense and chronic conflict between the parents has began to erode whatever attachment there was between Jeff and Maxine, as is entirely predictable given her age and intensity of the conflict”. Lodge claimed that Maxine “would not suffer serious consequences if she were not permitted to see Jeff again”, saying that “observations of Maxine with Jeff suggested that the relationship was not affectionate”.

This was despite an affidavit prepared by a woman at Maxine’s Sydney Rose Bay Primary School after-school care who wrote:

“In the afternoons when Jeff comes to collect Maxine she always runs up to him to meet him when she sees him and she will not let him talk to staff members or even sign her out. She often says during the course of the afternoon when Jeff is picking her up, in an exited tone: ‘Daddy’s picking me up this afternoon; Daddy’s picking me up this afternoon.”

Lodge had clearly succumbed to the Elena-Avigail playbook of “a woman is distress”, crying and begging for help from the claimed threats and intimidation by her older former husband. During cross-examination, Lodge unwittingly identified the ability of Elena-Avigail to lie and manipulate:

“It emerged almost volcanically in terms of distress, when we were talking about the impact on her of this ongoing conflict that had gone on for years and years. She inferred that this was an attempt to destroy her, and that it was basically emotionally, at least, succeeded in that. But she had had enough. She really just felt that she could not take any more. That is probably the best way of summarising it.”

Justice O’Ryan in 2002 – and the then Family Report writer, psychiatrist Dr. Caroline Quadrio – had recognized that Elena-Avigail was violent, but Lodge had no interest in pursuing such possible facts. In his mind, the only thing that mattered was his own superior judgement base on limited conversations and his theories of “child alienation”.

Elena-Avigail submitted affidavits from people saying that they thought Jeff was dangerous and a threat to the welfare of Maxine. These turned out to be forgeries.

The new husband of Elena-Avigail, Oleg Spiridonov originally from the Ukraine, had served nearly four years in a NSW prison in the late mid-1990’s for financial fraud, and had previously been charged with similar offences in Canada and Queensland. It emerged in the Family Court hearing that he was still actively using three different names on various personal and business documentation!

Justice Steele eventually said that he had no choice but to indicate in his final judgement that Elena-Avigail “she knowingly put forward the affidavit said to be that of Mr. … which was not signed by him and an affidavit of Ms. … not sworn by her.”

This could have led to a charge of perjury and jail!

In his judgement in May 2005, Steele wrote that Elena-Avigail “was an unsatisfactory witness”: “She appeared to present as someone who was uncertain and lacking in confidence and knowledge but seemed acute to any nuances which would assist the version of events which she was putting forward”.

In his final judgement Steele said Elena-Avigail could take Maxine overseas subject to a “payment of a $20,000 bond into a joint account” of Elena-Avigail and Jeff. He said that if Elena-Avigail were permitted to take Maxine overseas, he would “not expect Jeff to make significant efforts either in terms of time or money to see her”.

Jeff asked Steele to make an order to ensure that the Federal Police continued to observe the O’Ryan 2002 PASS order preventing Maxine being taken from Australia while he lodged a legal appeal. Steele refused the request and said he would only grant this after the appeal was lodged. When Jeff objected that “they could leave Australia straight away”, Steele said: “Probably. You better hurry up and get your appeal in”.

“Child representative” lawyers Jane Saltoon and Suzanne Christie (later appointed a Family Court Judge) said nothing in response to this. Days later when Jeff lodged an appeal, Steele told Family Court registry staff to delay the issue. Steele’s Family Court legal assistant (officially an “Associate”) then informed the Federal Police that the PASS order preventing Maxine leaving Australia no longer applied.

Unknown to Jeff, Elena-Avigail, Oleg and Maxine left Australia a few days later.

Jane Saltoon later suggested to Jeff that Justice Steele had “intentionally” frustrated his efforts to lodge an appeal, and thus allowed Elena-Avigail to take Maxine-Jessica overseas — and thus avoid both paying a $20,000 bond and a perjury charge! Saltoon seems to have regretted her – in her own words – “went along with it” approach.

It was later suggested to Jeff that Steele thought Australia would be better-off without “criminal fake-Jews”! This had led Steele to lie and bolster his judgement with claims that Jeff would in future make no effort in time or money to see Maxine.

A few months after Maxine was taken from Australia, Avigail called Jeff twice to ask if he wanted to talk to her. Maxine was not taking the new situation well. Some years later, Maxine’s grandfather was eventually to tell Jeff that Maxine had nearly always lived with him and her grandmother in St. Petersburg and that when for two years he read to her every night before bed, she would say: “I want to go back to Australia!”

Thereafter Jeff was allowed to talk to Maxine a few times, and Avigail tentatively agreed that Jeff could come to see her – and she gave Jeff some details of where they lived and where she went to school.

In June 2006 Jeff went to St. Petersburg and soon found that Avigail had lied about where they lived and where Maxine went to school. With some hard work and a little luck Jeff eventually found where Maxine’s grandparents lived, that she lived with them and that – according to a neigbour – Avigail was there only “sometimes”. No one was home, but Jeff was given a telephone number by the neighbour and was able to meet some of the teachers at Maxine’s school.

It was only when he was back in Australia that someone answered that the grandparents telephone number – it was Maxine! Regular telephone contact was then established with the support of the grandparents.

Thereafter Jeff decided to return to Russia as soon as he was able and did so in 2007. Jeff found work as an English teacher in Moscow and then regularly travelled to St. Petersburg to see Maxine. 

But such visits came to an end in 2010 when Maxine refused further contact with him – for reasons that Jeff did not fully understand until over ten years later – in 2021. The only further information that Jeff had in 2010 was from Maxine’s grandfather who came to see him in Moscow and told him that Maxine now lived with Avigail in St. Petersburg and had also pushed him and his wife out of her life. It distressed him – he had tears in his eyes –and his wife because they had been her primary career since she left Australia in 2005.

Only years later was Jeff to understand what had happened! Elena-Avigail’s marriage to Oleg Spiridonov eventually fell victim to the violence both parties displayed to each other and the inability of her husband to hold a steady job in Australia, in Israel – where they live for a time – and Russia..

After marrying Neville Eisenberg in London – her third marriage – Elena-Avigail reappeared in St. Peterburg in 2009 to claim her daughter who had for all of 13 years since her birth in Sydney been known as Maxine. Avigail immediately insisted that Maxine’s grandparents now call Maxine by a Jewish name — Jessica!

So, in this narrative she will now be referred to as Maxine-Jessica.

After temporarily renting an expensive apartment in St.Petersburg, Avigail was quick to begin beating Maxine-Jessica. When she fled to her grandparents after having water poured over her in bed and being threatened with a knife, Avigail took police to the grandparent’s apartment and demanded that Maxine-Jessica go with her. But she refused to go.

Maxine-Jessica’s grandfather then drove her to stay with friends in a nearby town to protect her from Avigail. This only enraged Avigail further who paid thugs to slash all the tires on the grandfather’s car.

When Maxine-Jessica eventually returned to school, Avigail paid two police officers (one a female) to go to the school, take Maxine-Jessica alone to a room and tell her that “something bad” would happen to her grandparents if she did not sign a document saying that she would live with Avigail.

Fearing the worst, Maxine-Jessica signed.

Maxine-Jessica was soon taken from Russia to London and prevented from having any contact with her grandparents.

Avigail could not understand why Maxine-Jessica was performing poorly at school. After all, Avigail reasoned, Maxine-Jessica was now lucky to be living in London with a real Jewish family – and a wealthy one at that – with a new father, Neville Eisenberg, and she should simply forget about her previous happy life.

“You have to move on”, she would say.

Maxine-Jessica lost weight because her depression caused her to lose interest in eating and she slept little. Unknown to her mother she began a diary which recorded her thoughts of suicide. She was taken to see a pediatrician. Realizing that there was some abuse happening, the pediatrician then referred her to Dr. Gary Townsend (of Nightengale Hospital in London) – a well-known psychiatrist who specialized in PTSD issues.

But Maxine-Jessica was afraid to talk about the physical abuse by her mother because Townsend was being paid out of the medical fund of Eisenberg’s law firm and she was afraid that anything she said would get back to Eisenberg and Avigail.

Townsend had once been in the air-force and suggested to Maxine-Jessica that she join the military to give “structure” to her life. She had Israeli citizenship and, with the help of Israeli government funding, moved to Israel to join the army for two years when she was 20. She “loved” the army because she was told “when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the toilet” etc. It gave “structure” to her life and protected her from Avigail and Eisenberg.

Maxine-Jessica eventually left the army with a hip injury caused during training which left her using a walking stick for a time. Aside from what she learnt in the army she had no formal educational qualifications and few prospects. Life was not to get better!

PART THREE:  LIES, MANIPULTION AND VIOLENCE

Chapter 1:  Jeff, Lavelle and finger-nails.  (Moscow, 1995-2013)

After working for a year or so with a company providing English lessons to Russian businesses in Moscow, Jeff went his own way and after a slow start found that he could not cope with the number of businesspeople wanting to pay for his English lessons. Jeff struggled to cope with teaching the intricacies of English grammar, but his students were more interested in his ability to engage in conversations on subjects ranging from management, to business taxation and finance, to Russian politics and corruption.

Overall, Jeff was impressed by the energy and intelligence of these people – both men and women – as they attempted to go about their business in a difficult environment. 

Perhaps the most interesting was a man who was CEO of a group of companies mainly engaged in health care activities such as dental clinics and maternity products. He spoke good French and some English. He had got started by importing two large pieces of earth moving equipment from China. In order to ensure delivery – and not be stolen – he had sat in the driver’s seat of one of the machines while it was in the cargo-hold of a large plane as it flew to Russia.

When Jeff encouraged him to speak English by describing his daily activities this man said his first task was to meet with his “head of security” to check on the “security of the business” – and he literally meant “security from gangsters” and not such things as sales or production reports. This, after all, was Russia!

Jeff’s Moscow apartment on Studencheskaya Street, and not far from Kievskaya metro station, was on the ground floor of a typical four-story red brick block and separated from a pathway by a garden with a few very large trees the large trunks of which did not obscure the view of who was on the pathway. Almost every day between 16.00 and 17.00 a middle-aged portly man – who seemed to have an extensive, varied and expensive looking wardrobe – would walk past with 3 small dogs.

Jeff eventually spoke to him when they were both in a nearby small shop where he was buying beer, and they became quite friendly for a couple of months.

Peter Lavelle had come to Russia after doing a PhD in East European politics and living in Poland, where he said he had carried cash across borders for the famous Kaczyński twin brothers. He had a bad experience in Moscow, having been drugged and found under a car with his feed so frozen that “I nearly lost them”.

After witnessing some of the chaos of the 1990’s, Peter had become an ardent Putin supporter saying: “I think he is a great man”.

Peter was host of a television show on RT (Russia Today) and explained that he was well-dressed because RT staff chose and purchased his clothes.

Over the years Jeff had met a lot of people in Moscow, mainly in business but also a few in official positions. Most were stunned when Jeff them about Michael Patton but none could provide further information on him – although one had called several of Michael’s telephone numbers and decided that Michael could not speak Russian.

But Peter insisted that he could get some information because he “worked for the state”.

This comment surprised Jeff given Peter’s knowledge of the USSR, Eastern Europe and communism. Jeff eventually realized that, at heart, Peter was an authoritarian! It seemed that Peter had been seduced by his newfound fame, money and – the possibly of – power. And, like Mikhail Leontiev (at the meeting with John Helmer) the disastrous policies of the 1990’s – implemented with Western encouragement – had led to a conversion from liberal ideas to support for Putin.

In personal life – as on his television program – Peter was very intolerant of people with a different view of things. Jeff was no fan of Putin, but he had experienced some of the 1990s and understood some of Peter’s perspective. After a couple months of friendship, Peter took offense when Jeff disagreed with him on a comparatively minor issue on an on-line discussion group and thereafter flatly refused to communicate with him.

Jeff’s possible informant on Michael Patton was gone!

However, Jeff continued to sometimes look at Peter’s RT internet site. For a while he seemed to conduct part of his personal life on-line and proudly announced – with photos – his marriage to a younger attractive Russian woman, saying that it was a mutual “love of dogs” that brought them together. About 2 months later, however, he was publicly proclaiming that his new wife would continually “disagree” with him and said he wanted a divorce. 

According to the wedding photos, Peter’s best man at his wedding was also one of his regular “guests” on his television show. Oddly, this Russian had at one time served in the US Navy in a lower-level technical capacity. But almost at the same time as Peter announced that he was getting divorced this regular guest no longer appeared.

One day walking on a Moscow street, Jeff found himself walking in the same direction as this man and introduced himself and saying he was once friends with Peter. When Jeff asked him why he was no longer on Peter’s television show, he got the following reply:

“She only married him for money and an American visa. I warned him about this but he would not listen. I was right and so now he will not talk to me.”

One evening in early March 2010 – a few days after his first meeting with Michael Patton – Jeff was browsing on a dating site when he came across a photo of a dark-haired woman proudly displaying extraordinarily long fingernails. Her other photos showed a very attractive woman with her profile saying she was 34. Jeff sent her a message and eventually they agreed to meet at Tsaritsyno Park, which is a very large and attractive place in the South of Moscow with many fountains and Tsarist-era buildings.

The woman, who was taller than average and of slim build, arrived with her very active son – aged about 8 – and an attractive blond female who was supposedly going to meet her boyfriend in the park. The blond actually seemed to have a nicer personality than the woman with long fingernails, and Jeff was initially happy that her boyfriend never showed up.

Jeff spent a couple of hours walking with them before they all went to a cafe inside the park. While they ordered food and drinks, the boy began making a clear nuisance of himself by running between tables and trying to take things off them.

Jeff went to the toilet which was situated in another small building close by. When he returned to the café there was a huge fight underway with – to his amazement – both women physically swinging chairs at other diners.

Jeff left the café when the two women did but got no answer when he asked what had happened. It was dark and pouring with rain and they managed to hail a taxi which took them to a nearby apartment. All four of them were totally soaked and Jeff stayed in the main living room while the others went into another room. Jeff took off his wet jacket and shirt and put his wet passport and wallet on a table in the living room to dry.

The boy suddenly came out of the other room and began randomly picking-up Jeff’s things. When Jeff tried to stop him, he began screaming. The boy’s mother came out of the other room and immediately attacked Jeff, trying to gouge his eyes with her long fingernails. Her female friend made some effort to stop the attack and said “sorry” to Jeff several times.

Jeff escaped from the apartment with his wallet, and banged on the door of another apartment yelling for help because the women had followed him and was still trying to gouge his eyes – and his passport was still in the apartment!

Jeff punched her hard in the face and she retreated to her apartment.

The police eventually arrived and took both Jeff and the woman to a police station. As Jeff explained what happened – including showing photos of woman on the dating site – he heard much noise and banging upstairs.

“Is it her?” Jeff asked. One of the police nodded.

The women denied having Jeff’s passport. Jeff was then taken to a doctor who applied some medication to the scratches on his face.

The next day Jeff returned to the police station but was told the women continued to deny she had Jeff’s passport and there was nothing the police could do about the situation.

After a couple of days when the scratches were less obvious, Jeff went back to the café in Tsaritsyno Park to ask what happened. He was told by a waitress that the son had been running around the café pulling things off tables and had been asked by one of the male customers to stop. When the boy persisted, the customer grabbed his hand. The boy had screamed and this led the woman with long finger nails to attack him with a chair. 

The waitress described the women with the long-finger nails as an “animal” who had also attacked a security guard and ripped his shirt with her fingernails.

Jeff later received a message from the woman claiming that he had molested her son and demanding money as compensation. This would have worried Jeff if he had not been back to the café to find out what had happened, so now he just ignored the demand.

But there was still the problem of the passport! Jeff offered to pay some money to get it back.

Over the next few weeks Jeff received more emailed demands for money which made no mention of the passport. There were no direct threats but the tone of the emails led Jeff to ask a Russian friend for advice. The only concern that this friend had was that the women with long fingernails might be able to get Jeff’s address which he had provided to the police – after all, this was Russia!

 Chapter 2:  Michael the Blackman with no money? (Moscow 2010)

In those days – before the Russian invasion of Ukraine – 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 large statute of Alexander Pushkin on Pushkin Square is a popular meeting place with good access to three connected metro stations. It was also a place for occasional political protests and there was always a bus full of policeman parked nearby to prevent this.

If Michael Patton wanted to hide somewhere, this was not the place., although were hardly ever police in Novopushkiinsky Park across the street from Pushkin Square.

On a warm June day Jeff walked through the park toward McDonalds and saw Michael sitting alone on a bench. Jeff went up to speak to him and found Michael polite but non-talkative. Michael’s bag was half open next to him and Jeff could see several mobile telephones.

Several days later Jeff again saw Michael in the park – wearing exactly the same light colored clothes as previously, suggesting that he did not have any other. Jeff sat next to Michael with the intent to finally solve the mystery of who Michael was. Michael remained silent until Jeff pulled out a $US100 note. Gradually, Jeff got a story from Michael – even if it was only partially true!

Michael said that “Victoria” – the woman whom Jeff had seen enter his study at their first meeting – had stolen all his money with her Russian partners. He said that he had first hired her to do some “interior decorations” and that she later became his business partner. She had now taken over his house and hired new security guards.

Jeff: “What about your money in the New York bank”?

Michael did not reply. Jeff did not really believe the story about money in New York – but had sometimes wondered what would have happened if he had been able to go there as Michael had requested.

 PART FOUR:   Some Conclusions

Chapter 1:  Jeff  (Shanghai, Moscow and Irkutsk, 2013-22)

Jeff eventually applied to the Australian Embassy for a new passport and obtained a Russian teaching visa with the help of a small private Russian university where he taught English part-time. Despite the sometimes bad experiences of Jeff in Russia, the people in this small university were very nice. Indeed, Jeff found most Russians over the years to be nice people.

While in Moscow teaching English to businesspeople, Jeff had started an Internet blog on Russian economic and business affairs and had emailed links to various people whose email addresses he had found on various university internet sites and any other possible places. This blog was to eventually lead to more interesting times and opportunities.

But these opportunities were to come after Jeff returned to Moscow after spending nearly two years living in Shanghai.

When Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, and Jeff was no longer able to contact Maxine-Jessica, he began learning Mandarin and eventually moved to Shanghai where he did work as a university and business researcher – including writing a report on reform of the Chinese financial industry for the Australian Chamber of Commerce which was launched at a lunch in Shanghai by Scott Morrison who was then Treasurer of Australia and later it’s Prime Minister. Jeff had never seen Morrison before this but was struck by his bombastic approach and lack of nuance in his speech.

Although the financial return from Jeff’s almost two years of in Shanghai was very low and his Mandarin never really made it past very basic, there was an upside.

Jeff’s internet blog on the Russian economy and business had attracted the attention of some influential liberal orientated Russians. He was offered work at two of Russia’s top universities – a full-time job at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) as Director of an Institute for Eurasian Research, and a part-time job at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) where he taught Russian foreign policy in the Department of Asian Studies. 

Jeff’s China experience had turned out to be worth something because he was now teaching HSE Masters-degree students about Russia-China relations!

At the same time there were people at RANEPA and other places who were clearly nervous about some of the things that Jeff had written about Putin – and this included his use of the term “annexation” in relation to Crimea!

But it was not only some Russians who were unhappy. A short series of university meetings and lectures in China had to be abandoned after three – in Shanghai, Beijing and Shandong – because Jeff compared the security implications of Crimea to the South China Sea for Russian and China respectively. The Chinese students loved the lectures because it appealed to their nationalist feelings, but some Chinese officials expressed their displeasure to RANEPA representatives.

Jeff kept building his knowledge of Russia-China relations by attending conferences and meetings – and sometimes found himself to be the only person in the room who was not from Russia or China where the lack of closeness in the relationship between the two countries was often very obvious.

But things moved on and one day while he was in his RANEPA office Jeff received an invitation to speak about the development of Russian technology for international markets. The occasion was a 4-day boat cruise down the Volga River devoted to the work of the Russian Technology Initiative (NTI).  

Towards the end of this “Foresight Fleet” river cruise – named after the forecasting methodology use – Jeff found himself drinking champagne with Andrey Bezrukov, the Russian “sleeper-agent” spy known as Donald Heathfield who was arrested in the USA in 2010 along with the more famous Anna Chapman.

Jeff and Bezukov had earlier disagreed in a working group discussion about the best way to develop Russian technology in business. At the time Jeff did not know his career, but over a few glasses of champagne Bezrukov opened up about his life as Heathfield in the US.

Bezukov did not strike Jeff as a particularly unusual either in intelligence or personality. He was just an ordinary man – and perhaps this was one of the reasons that Russia had selected him to be a “sleeper-agent” spy!

Not long after this, time an Australian delegation of self-proclaimed “greybeards” – to mean experienced and sagacious former officials – led by Paul Dibb arrived at the premises of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). Attending the meeting at the invitation of the RIAC, Jeff could not get a handle on what they hoped to achieve as the delegation’s “former officials” seemed to have little understanding of then contemporary Russia even though one of them had served as a diplomat in Moscow and spoke Russian. They did not understand Russia as an evolving society and economy.

It was the same sort of ignorance that led foreigners – such as Richard Layard – to give bad policy advice to Russia in the early 1990s, and eventually contributed to the rise of Putin.

After Jeff had spent about two years in Moscow a Russian friend from RANEPA, who had subsequently worked in China, had taken a senior university position at the Irkutsk National Research Technical University, near Lake Baikal in the middle of Siberia. Despite its name this was by no means a prestigious university, but some Russian officials had decided that Russia needed to actively push the BRICS concept and established the Baikal School of BRICS on the university premises. Jeff has always thought that the whole BRICS idea was a testament to the power of a silly PR idea to gain popular traction, but was open to a new experience.

Jeff went to Irkutsk to investigate – and stayed! The people he worked with – mainly from Russia, India, China and Iran – were highly intelligent, interesting and likeable. In fact, it was the best work experience of his life!

There were also a flow of visits by Chinese academics and officials and some interesting discussions. One Chinese official who was introduced to Jeff as a “leader” of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), laughingly told Jeff that Chinese understood the concept of “Greater Eurasia” because they read the writings of Russian polemicist Sergei Karaganov. He also thanked Donald Trump for pushing Russia and China closer together.

Jeff at one stage had an international business class of 70 Chinese students whose English was generally poor because Chinese students with good English would have preferred to go to where English was the native language. However, the students could add and subtract, so Jeff whenever possible used accounting data to illustrate what he was trying to teach them. Apart from a couple of students who continually tried to cheat, he found these students very likable – and nationalistic!

Unfortunately, when COVID19 struck nearly all of these Chinese students were temporarily in China for the Lunar New Year – and never returned to Russia.

Jeff’s blog about Russian economic and business issues had also attracted international attention, and in June 2019 he was invited to Bavaria in Germany by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies to talk about the Russian economy.

Various people who attended his talk in Germany were intrigued that Jeff was living in the “middle of Siberia”. “Why would you want to live there?”, they asked.

Indeed, Jeff was also surprised because Irkutsk had turned out to be much different than expected. Yes, it was very cold in winter – generally more than minus 20 degrees celsius and occasionally even minus 40 – but the sun always seemed to be shining during the short days. Summer days were long and often a balmy plus 20 degrees, and sometimes even approached plus 30.

All things considered Irkutsk turned out to be a very pleasant place to live with generally good infrastructure and modern shopping malls and good bars with music.

Mandated COVID19 health restrictions in Irkutsk were mild compared to Moscow and especially to the draconian situation Jeff read about in the Australian idiotic state of Victoria. University policy was that masks should be worn but Jeff refused and no action was taken against him. This may have partly been due to the university rector being required to take a COVID19 test before meeting a visiting Moscow official and recording positive while feeling totally fine while he continued his daily exercise routine.

The drying-up of work and the departure of some of his foreign friends led Jeff to seriously consider what he would do next in life. His thoughts turned back to Maxine-Jessica.

Over the next few weeks Jeff spent hours searching various social media sites looking for clues. One day he suddenly remembered the word “Wild”! He didn’t know why the word now became stuck in his mind – but he increasingly included it in his on-line searches.

When Jeff did find what he thought was certainly Maxine-Jessica on Instagram he hesitated to send a message. How would he cope if she did not reply? What if she blocked him? It was another two days before Jeff finally steeled himself to send a message.

To his great relief, Maxine-Jessica replied the next day. She said she was initially reluctant to reply to Jeff because Elena-Avigail had over many years painted him as a nasty and dangerous person who was best forgotten. Indeed, Maxine-Jessica had only vague memories of her past happy life in Australia, and even had largely forgotten most of the meetings with Jeff in Russia when she lived with her grandparents.

Maxine-Jessica was not in London, but in Israel!

Using on-line videos over the following months, Maxine-Jessica described to Jeff in considerable shocking detail the events of the previous 10 years of her life. Both cried many times!

Chapter 2: Jeff and Veronica (Irkutsk. 2022)

Once again on a dating site in Irkutsk, Jeff contacted a young attractive Russian woman. Veronica seemed very young and her WhatsApp messages and talk at their first meeting suggested that she was very intelligent but very poor. She said that she had a job as a waitress in a café in what was considered a down-trodden area in the northern part of Irkutsk, but it was not enough money to leave home and get away from her parents who were “always drunk”.

Few people would have regarded Jeff as a particularly “caring” sort of person and he was known for “calling a spade a spade”. But Jeff’s childhood had been very tough and he had later been through some difficult financial and emotional times in his life and could be quite sympathetic and generous to people whom he considered to really “be in need of help”. So, Veronica’s story had some effect on him. 

At their second meeting, again in a “Papa Johns” pizza restaurant near Jeff’s apartment, Veronica brought her “sister” which Jeff thought a bit odd but passed it off as inconsequential. It was nearly summer and Jeff suggested that they go to some holiday place together, and that she send him a photo of her passport so he could make an on-line booking. Veronica then sent him a photo of her passport which indicated that she was 21.

In reality Jeff was already suspicious about Veronica and wanted official information about her. He had no intention of paying for a holiday for her.

But Jeff was also sloppy!

Veronica never arrived at a third planned meeting, saying that she had been in a taxi which had a crash because the driver was drunk. She claimed to be in hospital and even sent a photo of herself lying in a bed. Over the years Jeff had been hospitalized twice in Russia and to him the photo seemed odd, but again he decided that the issue was not important.

Just fifteen minutes prior to their next meeting some weeks later, Veronica texted that she had to cancel because her two “cousins” would arrive from another city. Jeff invited them all to his apartment.

Wary of being drugged – as had happened in Moscow in the mid-1990s – Jeff drank only beer from a narrow top bottle held in his hand while the women drank red wine from glasses. Jeff thought that Veronica’s “cousins” seemed almost too nice – with much almost crocodile-type smiling but little conversation – and he began to wish he had not invited them.

For some reason Veronica and one of her “cousins” went together to his apartment bathroom. Jeff thought little of it until they did it a second time and he realized that his unlocked mobile phone – which he had used to take some photos – was no longer on the table. He tried to open the bathroom door but it was locked.

When they came out of the bathroom, Jeff immediately grabbed his phone and could see that some kind of transaction had occurred with his Sberbank account.

All three women then fled the apartment, although the “cousin” who had not been in the bathroom hesitated for a moment and Jeff later regretted that he had not grabbed her by the arm and dragged her onto the lockable balcony.

Running to another apartment, Jeff begged the occupants to call the police. Two officers eventually arrived, with one holding a Kalashnikov.  While he explained to two officers what had happened – a significant amount of money had been transferred from his Sberbank account – a third officer arrived unannounced and began rummaged through Jeff’s laptop. Jeff was then glad that there were no incriminating photos of any sort on it.

Soon a two-person forensic team arrived. Photos of both the apartment and Jeff were taken and he was both finger-printed and prints taken of both hand palms. Jeff eventually got to bed about four hours later, and the next morning went to a follow-up interview at a regional police station. There were a number of officers who came and went from the meeting at various times.

Some of the police seemed a little sceptical of Jeff’s story and he recounted what had happened to several different officers over the next couple of hours. It was around mid-day when one young detective sitting in front of a computer began smiling.

Thanks to a very efficient police communication network – and probably lack of separate legal jurisdictions – Veronica and her “cousins” had been arrested in a Moscow airport that morning after a 6-hour flight from Irkutsk. It turned out she was only 17 years old. Veronica had “photoshopped” the passport photo which she had earlier sent to Jeff to show that she was 21– the passport number had not been changed, only her birth date!

Veronica then spent a couple of days in custody in Moscow sending Jeff numerous WhatsApp messages offering some sort of compromise deal in which she paid the money over a period of time. Even though she quickly sent some of the money, she did not send even half of it so Jeff rejected a deal. Veronica was eventually returned to Irkutsk under police guard and was held in jail for several days while police investigated further.

Both Veronica and Jeff were taken back to Jeff’s apartment to re-enact part of the events while photos were taken. Jeff was surprised how cooperative she was but she also seemed a little shocked about the situation that she was now in.

After much work and several more meetings with Jeff, the police put together an impressive looking case brief around 2 centimeters thick. Jeff was asked to review it to check for mistakes and was very impressed with the professional approach. It was not the first time that he had been impressed by Russian police involved in low-level criminal matters.

A date was set for Veronica to appear in court several weeks later after she was released on bail. During the court hearing it emerged that Veronica had seen and memorized Jeff’s Sberbank access code in the App on his phone during the first time that they had met. What she then needed was access to his mobile phone when it was unlocked so that she could open the Sberbank App and make a transfer from Jeff’s account to hers.

This had clearly been a reason for bringing her “sister” to the second meeting and the “cousins” to Jeff’s apartment.

Strangely, Jeff admired Veronica’s audacity in transferring money from his Sberbank account to hers, even though such stupidity resulted in a “paper trail”.  

At one stage Veronica told the police that the money had been transferred in return for sex in – of all places – the bathroom while the “cousins” waited in the main living room. There was a single bed set against a wall in this large living room which was occasionally used by one of Jeff’s friends – who had his own door key – when he wanted to escape his wife and meet one of his girlfriends, and Veronica and her “cousins” probably assumed that this was Jeff’s bed. In fact there was also another room with a large double bed where Jeff slept.

The very young Veronica probably hoped to disappear into the vast Moscow urban space with little understanding of its monetary costs and consequences. 

The court date finally arrived and Jeff was present with an Russian interpreter from the university. The court room was a rather small room on an upper floor of a non-descript building although set out in much the same way as a typical Australian court. There was no barred cage as often appears to be the case on televised news reports of Russian court activities.

It was revealed that Veronica had a very extensive criminal history, with shoplifting and other stealing offences beginning at a very young age. In this case a very tearful Veronica admitted her guilt to the court, and her nose started bleeding – possibly from stress! Veronica’s mother – who had clearly been drinking – was present in the court and the female judge directed a lot of adverse commentary at her for being a poor example to her daughter.

Veronica promised to repay the money to Jeff and a separate future court hearing was planned that would consider Veronica’s intent and ability to repay the money. Jeff was so far pleased about how things were proceeding!

But it turned out that Jeff would need to prepare an official claim with legal assistance for this future hearing, which he eventually decided not to do given the cost and great doubts about whether any judgement in his favor could be enforced. Veronica might go to prison if she could not pay, but apart from revenge this was of little use to Jeff.

Moreover, Jeff was expecting to soon leave Russia!

Chapter 3:  Endgame!!

Jeff made a plan to visit Maxine-Jessica in July 2022, but in May again injured his back while exercising in his regular gym and was little more than bed-ridden for over a month.

During this time Jeff received an invitation to go to New Delhi in October to speak on Russia-China relations at an internal conference organized by the Centre for Contemporary China Studies, Indian Ministry of External Affairs. He was specifically asked to talk about the war in Ukraine and the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Jeff perceived the latter part of the request to be related to book he had written on dictators – “Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive suites of Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, Mao, Mussolini and Ataturk. 

Since the “annexation” of Crimea in 2014, Jeff had noticed a slowly increasing unwillingness of Russians to directly criticize Putin or the Russian authorities. Even when he was teaching Russian foreign policy in the Asian Department of the Higher School of Economics (HSE) some students would openly say “we don’t trust our government”.

But the effect of the officially announced “special military operation” (SMO or SVO) and banning of the word “war” was immediate and pervasive. People whom Jeff knew well would use the term SVO in private conversations with him even when he clearly referred to “war”. To Jeff it sometimes seemed to be practice to prevent them accidently using the “war” word when around someone who might report them at work or overhear a conversation in a café – or even see something on social media!

This is not to say that there were not SvO supporters. Jeff knew and met quite a few, and they were sometimes young and highly educated.  The ongoing violence in Eastern Ukraine since 2014 was regarded by many as a “terrorist” attack on “Russians” – and by extension Russia! For many of these people this was no different from a terror attack from Gaza on Israel.

Jeff thought – and even told Russians – that “Western” sanctions would have a very severe effect on the Russian economy. Some Russians hit back at him saying that Russians were historically used to hardship. Russians would stick together. There was little sense of panic or real concern.

Of course, Jeff was wrong about the short-term effect of sanctions, but Russia has got itself into a longer-term economic mess. This is now a story for another time.

After deciding that it was best not to return to Russia after his New Delhi speech Jeff went to Australia. In late November 2022 he then went to Israel – where Maxine-Jessica lived with her partner.

Cardinal Pell and David McBride

Cardinal Pell and David McBride

Why was Cardinal Pell convicted of sex crimes against a minor? And will McBride be convicted by the same “corrupt” Australian legal system?

The idea that Pell was guilty was pushed by gullible and biased journalists and commentators, such as Peter FitzSimmons (See left-hand column for his views on Pell) and accepted by a jury and a host of judges who lacked the analytical ability to see that some of the allegations were almost physically impossible while others were highly unlikely.

But, the core reason that Pell was convicted was that accusations were given in secret, and away from any member of the public who might be able to say they knew something about the accuser that suggested he was a liar.

The psychology of secret courts will almost always allow injustices. See:

Psychology of Secret Courts / Military Tribunals

We are now seeing the case of David McBride accused of leaking confidential military information to the media.

The first thing to doubt is the basic intelligence of the people in the so-called “security” community making the allegations. I have met people in the security communities while living and working in Australia, Russia (including spies), and China. On the whole they rarely have highly sophisticated minds. One only has to look at the low quality of the written work of most Australian security analysts after they find new employment as journalists or in think-tanks. And, then there are Australia’s Air Chief Marshal Houston (see blogs in left-hand column) and Major-General Cantwell (also see blog in left-hand column) –both men in powerful security positions displaying foolishness. And remember the fairy-tale about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The second thing to doubt is the ability of juries to grasp more than quite basic issues in life and put aside emotions. Most people are just too stupid! Anyone who doubts this has not lived!

The third thing to doubt is the quality of judges. I have already mentioned the Pell case. What about ACT Supreme Court judge David Mossop who is presiding in the McBride trial.

According to a 2 May 2013 by then ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, Mossop “was a barrister in private practice for 14 years, prior to taking up appointment as an ACT Magistrate. During his career as a barrister, his areas of practice were diverse and included constitutional law, commercial law, administrative law, tenancy law, corporations law, and human right and discrimination law. In his earlier years, Mr Mossop was a solicitor at the Environmental Defender’s Office (ACT) where he provided legal advice and community legal education on environmental law, and managed a small community legal centre. Prior to that he was Associate to then High Court Justice McHugh.”

This is hardly the sort of background that that would give Mossop any sort of ability to judge the truth or sensibility of what his accusers are saying. Indeed, Mossop might have his own biases and – given the secret nature of his court – and the opportunity to be dishonest.

Just imagine Houston telling Mossip that Australia and the US were winning in Afghanistan. Mossip would have believed every word!

According to 15 November 2023 SMH article, “on Wednesday morning, Justice Mossop said he would be directing the jury, which had been expected to be empanelled on Thursday, that McBride had no duty to act in the Australian public interest in circumstances where it conflicted with orders”. “Any duty contrary to law would not be able to be discharged,” Mossop said. “[It] could not be readily described as a duty at all.” Rather, Mossop said the scope of a Defence Force member’s duties were defined by legal rules applied to soldiers.

McBride’s barrister has argued that merely obeying orders “ignores Nuremberg”. Mossop is probably now looking up Wikipedia articles to find out about Nuremeberg. I can help him in this area, having read extensively about the psychology and thinking of defendants at the Nuremberg trials, when researching my book on dictators and the people who worked with them. Many high ranking German military officers – such as Field Marshal Manstein – refused to join a conspiracy to remove Hitler because of their duty of loyalty to the army. Mossop would probably applaud Manstein for this!

See: “Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao – www.jeffschubert.com

I would also suggest that Mossop try to find out about living in Putin’s Russia where most prosecutors and judges would totally agree with him. I can also help him here because I lived in Russia until October last year – 10 months after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The change in the willingness of all sorts of people to accept that they could do nothing to change the situation was chilling, with some proclaiming that supporting the Russian military was far more important than the truth or even the overall interests of Russia. There was a “legal duty” to NOT talk about “war” and any Russian atrocities – particularly for soldiers — but also a “duty” to only talk about a “special military operations” (SVO) and the elimination of the “Nazi regime” in Ukraine.

See: https://russianeconomicreform.ru

Jeff Schubert

 

Why I support WikiLeaks

Why I support WikiLeaks · 22 December 2010

In my book, Dictatorial CEOs & their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao, I wrote about the people who serve dictators. They are the same sort of people who are part of the worst side of the present Russian Government, and who are often found in democracies—where they mainly keep their views to themselves.

On 21 December I woke up in my Moscow apartment only to read on the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter commentary (https://www.lowyinstitute.org/) site that we have a similar individual working in the Australian Government who is a senior Canberra security insider.

In my view, the commentary of senior Canberra security insider has an underlying tone that suggests that he/she would make a good lieutenant to a authoritarian or dictatorial leader.

Bob Johnston, Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, wrote in the Foreword to my book:

Subordinates rarely rate more than footnotes in historical studies of such tyrants, but here motivations and actions of the lieutenants are extensively noted and compared. Once again there are commonalities that highlight the universal nature of human beings; and how desires and fears can lead people to serve a despot.

It is a pity that senior Canberra security insider does not have the courage to identify himself/herself but such is often the case with such servants to the power of others! I would welcome the opportunity to compare senior Canberra security insider with one of the subordinates/lieutenants in my book.

Here is the text of senior Canberra security insider on the Lowy Institute’s internet site:

Rory Medcalf’s Interpreter post on the real world fallout from WikiLeaks’ so-called ‘cablegate’ is spot on. Sure, there may be some positive consequences along the way, but the broader impact will be overwhelmingly negative. It will make the job of national security harder, and more expensive. Lives will be unnecessarily put at risk. One of the greatest contemporary challenges for agencies involved in national security (the number of which is growing) has been information sharing. The events of 11 September 2001 were avoidable if the right information had reached the right people at the right time. And as if we needed a reminder, it was only last year on Christmas Day that Northwest Airlines Flight 253 avoided by only the narrowest of margins being bombed out of the sky over the US. It was another incident that could have been prevented if information had been shared adequately, and acted upon. So how do government agencies and their people now respond to a world with WikiLeaks? They have no choice. Corporately, they must move to protect their information from wholesale disclosure on the internet. They’ll expend scarce resources strengthening information security and will need to monitor employees more carefully. They’ll need to ensure other agencies (including international partners) with access to their information can protect it, and in the meantime may well restrict access. Much needed efforts to strengthen information sharing and connect information systems will be reviewed, slowed or will stall completely. Any money available for information-sharing initiatives will be sucked into protecting existing systems. Lingering inter-agency mistrust will be given renewed life. And at a personal level, individuals will think twice before committing something to writing or sharing it with a colleague. This is why I find some of the ‘it doesn’t need to be this way’ comments in response to Rory’s article so misplaced. It is quaint to talk about a new era of diplomacy conducted in public. I’m not sure how that would work in practice. There’s a suggestion that confidentiality is not itself a problem and in fact is necessary in diplomacy but that governments haven’t got the calibration right between openness and confidentiality. But let’s be clear. This is not what WikiLeaks is about. WikiLeaks is not trying to reinvent statecraft. It is not trying to recalibrate government openness. It is not a whistle-blower. It is not practicing free speech. It is not just a publisher. It is not a media outlet. WikiLeaks has a political agenda that is anti-American and anti-government. And like most ‘anti-’ movements, it is not offering practical solutions, it is just against what other people are trying to do to solve problems. Why aren’t diplomats and other officials’ names removed from the US diplomatic cables it is posting to the internet? Because in WikiLeaks’ eyes they are the enemy. Any real world personal damage to them is collateral to the WikiLeaks political objective. So why do government agencies need to act in the way I describe? Because we don’t know what’s next. Yesterday it was tactical military reports, today it is diplomatic cables. Tomorrow it could be anything that WikiLeaks sees as promoting or defending its interests. It could be information from the Tax Office, the Federal Police, the Health Department, or any other institution of state or, for that matter, private enterprise. True colours are beginning to emerge. The Australian Government has displeased WikiLeaks and is now under attack, per Julian Assange’s thinly veiled threat in the Australian on 8 December. Who’s next? Amazon? Financial institutions that have withdrawn their services from WikiLeaks? It will be interesting to see. If WikiLeaks truly believed in transparency it would reveal all about itself, its decisions and internal deliberations, and each and every source of funding such an approach would certainly be consistent with the ‘scientific’ approach to journalism that it advocates, whereby the public can reach back to the source to judge for themselves what is true, and what is not. Even if WikiLeaks disappeared tomorrow, its damage is done. There is certain to be copy cats. What remains to be seen is the cause they summon to justify their actions. And the tragic irony in all this is that many of those who currently support or sympathise with WikiLeaks will be the same ones outraged when the next preventable security incident occurs. They’ll also argue for the right to privacy when there is some massive spillage of personal data onto the internet for that’s also a certain in a WikiLeaked world.

My response to the commentary of senior Canberra security insider is this:

I think that your true colours are pretty clear. I think that you would happily work for whoever has power. If I knew more about you I might be able to compare you with one of the subordinates (lieutenants) who worked for Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler or Mao. Are you a sometime lawyer, military officer, diplomat, politician, academic or spy? Do you have the courage to identify yourself?

I am not as conspiracy minded as Assange, but there certainly are conspiracies even in democracies!

I have some personal knowledge of one that was attempted a few years ago between very senior Treasury officials and the highest level of big business in the area of taxation. These people thought that they were acting in the public interest, and to achieve their aims they planned to put out to the public information that was not true. I actually nipped it in the bud with some well placed media leaks of my own.

Howard/Blair/Bush etc probably thought that they were acting in the public interest in the invasion of Iraq. On its very eve I appeared on Australia’s SBS television station to discuss the economic consequences of the war. When discussing weapons of mass destruction, one of my fellow guests (Dr. Chris Caton from BT) said: Who knows what he (Saddam Hussein) has. In response I said that it was pretty clear by now that he has none. It was a strong statement by me, but one that was not hard to make because I had been reading generally available information. The issue with Caton was that the pressure of work (as well as his particular interests) had restricted his reading and thinking. But the ultimate effect was the same: Caton was very susceptible to the connived propaganda of Howard/Blair/Bush.

Such ignorance of much of the population has been the source of empowerment to many a potential dictator. As Benito Mussolini put it, people do not want to rule, but to be ruled and to be left in peace. This is what attracted Albert Speer to Hitler and the Nazi party in the early 1930s: My inclination to be relieved of having to think, particularly about unpleasant facts In this I did not differ from millions of others.

Thus, the real value of WikiLeaks maybe that is makes it more difficult for the masses (and if it does not directly affect them, the non-thinking masses often constitute a majority of the population in most countries, including in Australia and Russia) to avoid the sometimes very obvious stupidity and lies of their leaders (who often feel themselves to be acting or the public good). Left unchallenged, these lies and this apathy toward stupidity can result in public support or, at least, acceptance of policies which are actually against the longer-term public interest. It is one thing for parts of the mass media in democratic societies to report supposed facts, but it is another thing to see them in an official documents. The direct effect on most of the non-thinking masses may soon wear-off, but in most countries such leaks will encourage a minority of the population which is willing to put some effort into finding out the truth and thinking about it and discussing it.

Amongst the important issues (for Australia at least) that seem to have been given greater expose by WikiLeaks are:
?the reality or not of Iran making an unprovoked nuclear attack on its neighbors (Australian intelligence officials think it not likely, but you would never believe this from listening to Gillard etc);
?Afghanistan (where the Government and the military would have us think that victory is within sight, even if not close);
?China, with both Rudd and Beazley being too ready to act as cheer-leaders for force no matter what the merits of issue.

Of course, senior Canberra security insider makes some good points about information etc, but whatever the WikiLeaks agenda, it is clearly to my mind about free speech. Yes, WikiLeaks may be an’anti-’ movement and not offer practical solutions to problems, but I personally do not have a lot of faith in the ability of the other people trying to to solve problems.

Tell us, who is this brilliant senior Canberra security insider problem solver?

I will conclude with a point about Russia and Australia. There is actually a huge amount of material available in the Russian printed media about the incompetence (leaving aside the issue of corruption) of much of the government. But, it is often suggested that because much of this does not get to appear on television (which remains the main news source for most Russians) it is allowed to continue for longer than if there were more public exposure. A WikiLeaks on Russia would bring considerable public benefit.

I am often amazed how much of what I read in the Russian printed media reminds me of aspects of government in Australia. This is another reason why I support WikiLeaks.

Wendi (Wendy) Deng

On Murdoch�s Wendi (Wendy) Deng & Zhang Yufeng · 25 March 2007

Most speculation about the future of News Corp misses a crucial point just as important as what happens to News Corp after the death of Rupert Murdoch may be what happens BEFORE! Wendi (Wendy) Deng is ideally placed to become Murdoch’s Zhang Yufeng.

Neil Chenoweth, in his article, Keeping it in the Family (AFR Perspective, 24 March), writes about life after Rupert and says that this has always been the question that News Corp investors have studiously avoided. Grant Samuel, a corporate advisory group, has recently written: It appears that most investors who invest in News Corp do so because they are backing Mr. Murdoch’s management and vision for the company and seem comfortable with his level of control.

What investors seem to be ignoring is the significant possibility that Wendi (Wendy) Deng will became a powerful gate-keeper separating Murdoch from most of his senior executives, in a similar way to Zhang Yufeng who became Mao Zedong’s gate-keeper. Murdoch is now 76 years old, and the older he becomes, the greater the probability of this occurring.

Apart from being his wife, Wendi (Wendy) Deng has the great advantage over others (including over other family members) of proximity and can whisper in his ear every morning; and according to Andrew Neil, who served as a Murdoch lieutenant for over a decade, Murdoch is highly susceptible to poison being poured in his ear about someone.

Time exacts a toll which cannot be ignored. Andrew Neil wrote that by 1994 Murdoch had become increasingly unpredictable, even whimsical, moving people about for no very good reason (spinning wheels was how one executive put it), except to satisfy his latest wheeze. He was even doing it to himself. Now over sixty, with intimations of mortality but still so much to do, he had become even more of a man in a hurry. He was moving executives around like pieces on a chessboard to suit whatever purpose obsessed him at that particular moment; regardless of the disruption in their lives they were expected to fit in, even if fundamental decisions risked being reversed only weeks after they were taken.

That was 13 years ago!

Murdoch has always been a loner, a Sun King who has adopted the classical dictatorial management style of someone like Mao who eschewed conventional management structures and hated delegating power. A person should depend on himself to do his work reading and commenting on documents, said Mao. Don’t depend on secretaries. Don’t give secretaries a lot of power. Yet, toward the end of his life, Mao’s did just this.

Li Zhisui, Mao’s long-time doctor, wrote that in 1973 Mao criticised Zhou Enlai for not discussing major issues with him, reporting only minor matters instead. Zhou’s position was awkward. He was still loyal to Mao. But Zhang Yufeng had become Mao’s gatekeeper and made it difficult for the two to meet because she was nearly always with him.

And it only got worse. One day in June 1976, when Hua Guofeng had come to see Mao, Zhang Yufeng had been napping and the attendants on duty were afraid to rouse her. Two hours later, when Zhang had still not gotten up, Hua, second in command only to Mao, finally left without seeing his superior.

Life after Rupert may be less interesting and important for News Corp investors than the remainder of life WITH Rupert.

US Missile Defence

US Missile Defense · 5 March 2001

US National Missile Defense (NMD), or mini-Star Wars

Jeff Schubert’s 5 March 2001 presentation to the Australian Institute of International Affairs (Sydney Branch)

(1)……………The Proposed United States NMD

The US NMD proposal at this stage appears to be for the deployment of several hundred missiles that would be able to shoot down missiles on their way to attacking the US. Initial deployment would be around in 2006.

The NMD is essentially a ground based limited version of the Ronald Reagan era Star Wars concept which was supposed to be able to handle a deliberate Soviet first strike in which thousands of warheads were launched against the US.

The rationale for the NMD is that the US is concerned about the ability of rogue states (governments) to acquire and use nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The US says that the NMD system is aimed at preventing an attack from such countries as Iran, Iraq and North Korea (the latter launched a long-range rocket over Japan in 1998).

US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has said that the US is prepared to assist friends and allies threatened by missile attacks to deploy such defences.

The NMD would appear to be in breach of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty signed by Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon. This allowed each side two ABM deployment areas so restricted and located that they cannot provide a national ABM or become the basis for one. Each country thus leaves unchallenged the penetration capability of the others retaliatory missile forces. One limited ABM system could protect the capital and another was to protect an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launch area at least 1,300 km away so as to prevent he creation of the beginnings of a nationwide system. No more than 100 interceptor missiles and launchers could be at each site.

In 1974, Brezhnev and Nixon signed a protocol limiting each side to one ABM site only, with the USSR choosing Moscow and the US choosing North Dakota. The North Dakota site is no longer in use, although the Moscow site is claimed by the US to still be operational.

Donald Rumsfeld has called the ABM Treaty ancient history and the US is now trying to persuade Russia to accept a modification of the Treaty to allow its larger scale NMD system to be deployed. The US can withdraw from the Treaty with six months notice.

The US is telling the Russians that the NMD system will never be extensive enough to prevent a nuclear attack by Russia because of the sheer number of missiles possessed by Russia.

At this stage the Russians are saying nyet, and have sought to divide the US from its European allies with a stick and carrot approach. The Russians have threatened to withdraw from other treaties (such as START I and START II) which still allow thousands of warheads. The Russians have also suggested an alternative European-Russian anti-missile defence system, which would also include the US. This alternative seems to involve mobile defensive missiles that would shoot down offensive missiles soon after take-off. The Russians say that their proposal would not breach the ABM Treaty.

The Russians may yet say da to the NMD as part of a complex trade-off involving negotiations on the number of attack missiles under the START treaties. Basically, the Russians want to reduce the number of their attack missiles to save money. They might thus be persuaded to do a deal in which they accept an NMD if it is accompanied by a massive reduction in US offensive weapons which in turn allows Russia to reduce expenditure on its own offensive weapons.

Some commentators have suggested that there is a Russian dilemna in that its nuclear arsenal is presently so dilapidated that after a first strike by the US its remaining lunched ICBM’s could be mopped up by a fairly limited US NMD system.

I know that the response to this by many commentators is that the US would never launch a first strike, but this may not be how the Russians see it and I want to come back to the issue of seeing things from the other side a little later.

(2)……………The Case For

The case for the NMD, or the case against the case against, seems to consist largely of four arguments:

(a) The first for is that any fears that the NMD might lead to an arms race is Cold War logic.

(b) The second for argument is the “missile defense has the potential to transform the logic of international security, and genuinely allow States to rely on defensive measures for their essential security needs”. This argument includes the idea that advanced technologies can be relied upon to secure the defense needs of the US (and its allies).

(c) The third for argument has been put to me by an economist in the following terms: The potential for NMD to trigger an arms race is actually one of the strongest arguments in its favor. Communism in the USSR broke down largely as a result of the expense of an arms race with the US. If China tries to up the ante on NMD it risks the same fate.

(d) The forth argument, which is an argument against the argument against, seems to
be along the lines of So what if Russia objects, it is so weak it will be able to do nothing.

(3)…………..The Case Against

In presenting the case against the NMD, I want to first address these four for arguments before moving on to other matters.

(a) Fear of an Arms Race is Cold War logic

In my view, the essential problem with the proposed NMD system is that it threatens to lead to another international arms race which will eventually move further into space. This will work to heighten the eventual nuclear threat to Australia.

While this arms race will essentially be about nuclear missiles, it will encompass all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, has written that much of the opposition, including some adverse comment in Australia, seems to be trapped in the Cold War logic of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. At that time it was argued not unreasonably that missile defense systems might encourage leaders in Moscow or Washington to miscalculate that a nuclear war with the other superpower was winnable or panic out of fear that the other side could launch a successful first strike.

US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld likewise dismisses fears of an arms race as Cold War thinking.

My counter to this argument is that arms races are not only Cold war logic. It is a universal logic based on historical experience. History shows that arms races can lead to fatalism that conflict is inevitable and so help bring it about.

World War 1 was essentially caused by mutual fear, which both caused and was nourished by an arms race. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand at Sarajevo in June, 1914, was only a spark an excuse for those who wanted to fight what they saw as the inevitable war.

In pre-WWI Europe, Germany regarded war with an increasingly powerful Russia as inevitable. This was probably the driving factor in the actual implementation of the Schlieffen Plan in August 1914—which saw Germany march through Belgium to defeat France before taking on Russia. The reason for fighting France was that Germany feared any war with Russia would inevitably lead France to seek revenge for Bismark’s victory in 1871 so, if Germany had to fight Russia, it also had to fight France.

Britain could have stayed out of WW1, but chose to fight because it feared both German domination of Europe and growing German naval power. Not surprisingly, this German naval build up had helped drive Britain closer to France and Russia and this in turn intensified German fears of a war on two fronts with Britain backing France.

The German naval build-up from 1900 had, in turn, been partly driven by Britain’s own naval dominance. In 1889 Britain had formally announced that it was keeping its navy at a scale that should at least be equal to the naval strength of any two other countries. While Britain thought this policy was justified by its small homeland army and the need to protect its colonies and trade routes, many in Germany saw it as aimed at containing Germany.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, British policy during the drawing up and enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles was to be concerned to not weaken Germany too much lest France come to dominate Europe.

The pre-WW1 arms race was not the first in history, but does nicely illustrate the point that countries have interests, and that big countries have big interests and that they will ultimately act to defend them. Moreover, it is not only government officials who think in these terms. Large parts of public opinion often do as well.

Thus, it is important when considering the possible impact of the NMD that we do not only look at it from the US perspective, but also from the perspective of others. Russia, China, India and others will feel that they also have great power interests. It does not matter whether policy makers in the US (or Australia) disagree with these views—the fact is that they will be there.

Unfortunately, the interests mean that the NMD proposals will indirectly lead to an acceleration in missile building in China, India and Pakistan.

China is particularly opposed to the NMD system because, unlike Russia (in the absence of a US first strike), it does not necessarily have sufficient numbers of attack missiles to overwhelm a US NMD. For China, this may be particularly relevant if the US ties to push them around (from their point of view) on the issue of Taiwan. To maintain its own credible nuclear deterrent the Chinese will increase their attack missile force.

India, which has sometimes had a tense and violent relationship with China, may respond by increasing its own nuclear forces. In response to this, Pakistan would surely do the same.

In his January AFR article, Colin Rubenstein accepts that the acquisition of nuclear weapons and / or long range missiles by India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and Iraq will mean that other states will react by seeking their own weapons of mass destruction. He writes the criticism that missile defense systems could spark arms races is an argument for good institutional arrangements for the deployment and use of this technology, not an argument for attempting to suppress it.

But why, I ask, should it be easier to control NMD’s than offensive weapons?

Colin Rubenstein also wrote about Russia’s possible cooperation in developing such systems. My view is that if Russia does cooperate it will be only because of the poor state of its finances. Once these recover sufficiently, Russia will be full on building its own extensive NMD and new offensive weapons to overcome the US NMD. China will be doing the same, as will a number of other countries as time goes by.

In contrast to the Russian ABM system deployed around Moscow, the proposed US NMD does not use nuclear weapons to destroy incoming missiles. Rather, it just hits them like you would by throwing a stone. However, other countries lacking US technology will certainly decide that their NMD’s will be nuclear. In turn, this may eventually force the US to do the same just in case the stone type does not work.

If they cannot match the US NMD with a least a nuclear version of their own, other countries may use so-called asymmetric responses. These may include arming existing missiles with multiple war heads, development of other (more basic) weapons delivery systems, assistance for friendly rogue states to develop missiles that can be used to tie down the defensive capacity of the US NMD, etc.

(b) Technology Will Solve Defense Problems

The US seems to believe that technology will solve its defense problems. President Bush has said, The best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our own terms.

Indeed, arms races are often about getting the technological upper hand.

But as French President Jacques Chirac has said: If you look at world history, ever since men began waging war, you will see that there’s a permanent race between sword and shield. The sword always wins. The more improvements that are made in the shield, the more improvements are made in the sword. We think that these systems are just going to spur sword-makers to intensify their efforts.

That the shield never wins is what has led to the development of ever better modern weapons to overcome better shields, just as the defensive power of the machine gun lead to the attacking tank in WW1.

The sword-shield problem is now compounded greatly because we are now talking about weapons that can obliterate whole cites not just parts of battlefields.

Once again, history has some lessons for us. While the Royal Navy appears to have had a tradition of not pushing innovation which devalued existing ships, things changed after the Battle of Tsushima in 1905 between Japan and Russian naval forces. Long-range fire power derived from big guns gave the Japanese victory and led Britain to design and build the Dreadnought battleship.

The Germans responded with their own Dreadnought type ships, and went from having the worlds fifth most powerful navy in 1906 to the second most powerful by 1914. Instead of allowing Britain to redefine war on its own terms, the Dreadnought caused existing fleets to be obsolete and everyone now started from scratch.

While the US may think that its technology will always win, diffusion of that technology inevitably occurs and may eventually benefit the other side. We just don’t know how another arms race will play out—- except that it would make conflict more likely.

(c) Destroying Communism

As noted above, the third for argument seems to be that an arms race is attractive because Communism in the USSR broke down largely as a result of the expense of an arms race with the US. If China tries to up the ante on NMD it risks the same fate.

Having spent quite a bit of time examining the Russia economy, industries, and individual privatised companies between 1991 and 1996, I believe that the arms race argument concerning the collapse of the USSR is too simplistic While the demand of Russians for goods and services was far from satiated, it was more than just the diversion of resources to bomb and missile building that brought down the USSR economy.

In my view, the industrially centrally managed economy was struggling to cope with the move toward advanced electronics, services (and information) activities. The gigantic factory approach of Russian central planners, workable for an earlier simpler age, was incapable of taking the Russian economy further.

But even if the arms race killed the USSR argument is largely true, I have to ask whether we want the large densely packed Chinese population to suffer the same fate as the population of the USSR. What would be the consequences for the people of China and China’s neighbors and eventually for Australia.

(d) Russia is so weak it can do nothing to respond to the NMD

This argument for (or perhaps case against the case against) is that it does not matter if Russia is opposed to the NMD because it is now so weak, or is falling apart in a way similar to the USSR, that its opposition is irrelevant.

Firstly, in my view, Russia is not falling apart. Geographically, Russia now is the same as it was when it was part of the USSR. Chechnya aside, there have been no serious attempt or movements to break from Russia. After the chaos of Yeltsin, President Putin is moving to reestablish considerable central control.

Secondly the country is rich in resources and talent and I think that it will post some surprisingly strong GDP growth rates over the next decade. For those who would simply extrapolate present conditions into the future, I suggest reflection on the 1980’s story that based on then current trends the Japanese economy was on the way to becoming bigger than that of the US. Or reflect on the differing pre and post WW1 British attitudes to the relative power of Germany and France in Europe.

Russia will eventually have an enhanced economic capacity to respond in similar kind to the NMD. It might take a decade or more, but it will do it. In the meantime, look out for the so-called asymmetric response.

(e) Seeing the issue from the point of view of the other side.

I want to come back to dwell for a moment on the point I made earlier about seeing things from the point of view of the other side.

Condoleeza Rice, the US National Security Adviser, says American values are universal. Their triumph is most assuredly easier when the international balance of power favors those who believe in them.

The other side to this is that Russia’s 145 million people generally have values that although similar to America have their own features. Russians are generally nationalist and can be somewhat xenophobic.

A legacy of its history is that Russia takes defense issues very seriously, and it will not feel comfortable when the international balance of power favors others.

Many Russians see NATO expansion as aimed at Russia (the Poles and Baltic countries certainly see it this way) despite NATO denials. I marvel at the words of George Robertson, Secretary-General of NATO, when he says that NATO enlargement to possibly include countries of the former USSR carries no threat to Russia and that NATO’s enlargement follows precisely the post-Cold War logic. (That term, Cold War logic again!)

Indeed, how would Americans feel if Cuba decided it wanted closer ties with Russia and if this included a much heavier (and possibly nuclear) presence?

The US, however, seems set on ignoring these Russian sensitivities. In the words of a liberal minded Russian journalist, while Clinton’s Washington uncritically endorsed everything that the Russian elite did, the Bush administration seems bent on criticizing everything. This may be because, also in her words, the new administration is staffed by people who know Russia primarily from the books of old Sovietologists.

Foolishly, in my view, the Who lost Russia? debate at the end of the Clinton administration has become a Who needs Russia? attitude in the Bush administration.

Some Australian commentators have expressed a belief and relief that the NMD does not mean that the US will become isolationist.

I agree that it is generally very desirable that the US remains internationally engaged.

However, from the NMD debate perspective it might be better for the world if the NMD is accompanied by increased US isolation. Other countries (eg China, Russia etc) will feel less threatened by increased US defense capability if they feel that a less internationally engaged US will not be out there causing trouble for them. That is, that US policy makers will not be sitting there comfortably in their walled home, coming out occasionally to biff the neighbors around the ears before retreating inside again.

International engagement is not always positive. In the decades prior to WW1, Britain attempted for as long as possible to combine an isolationist policy, which consisted of hiding behind its powerful navy and resisting strong formal alliances, with one which was prepared to take action to prevent domination of Europe by one country be it Germany or France. However, when Britain eventually abandoned this policy partly in response to growing Germany military power and entered into the Triple Entente with France and Russia, Germany’s fear of a war on two fronts was magnified and WWI hastened.

(f) Other arguments against include:

Expanded nuclear arms production that is stimulated in response to the NMD inevitably increases the prospect of leakage of materials and knowledge to other non-nuclear countries (and, ultimately, terrorists) the very thing the US says it fears. The US attempt to protect itself from rogue states may thus actually increase the number of countries capable of a credible nuclear threat.

The simple way for a nuclear rouge state to threaten another state and avoid any NMD system may be to simply land an aircraft carrying a nuclear device at a major airport and threaten to explode it unless whatever demands are carried out, or to carry out some other relatively simple delivery.

Remember that France built the Maginot Line of fixed fortifications along its eastern frontier in the 1930’s to keep out aggressors, and it was considered impregnable. At the start of World War Two the Germans simply went around it.

(4)…………..Consequences for Australia

The proposal to extent NMD protection to US allies is unrealistic as far as Australia is concerned. Australia is too far from the major geographical areas of US concern for any sort of NMD to be put in place. Apart from being technically difficult, the expense of putting such a system in place at the bottom of the world would be prohibitive.

An effective northern hemisphere NMD would leave Australia sitting like a shag on a rock. While it is not presently easy to conceive of rational reasons why a rogue state would want to threaten Australia with weapons of mass destruction, Australia would be a soft target unprotected and unable to fight back.

The US, comfortable and safe behind its NMD might be more inclined to help us. Just as likely, however, the people of the US might prefer to stay home behind their shield. They could form the view that if Australia wants protection, then it should build its own NMD.

Indeed, in my view, Australia’s support for the NMD is encouraging a series of events that suggest Australia itself should acquire nuclear weapons over the next few decades. Australia may need its own offensive capacity for defensive blackmail. This would be a sort of mini-MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).

(5)…………..Alternatives

This still leaves the problem of how to handle the threats that are there. I accept and agree with Rubenstein and NMD proponents that the risks from rogue nations are real, or will become real.

As discussed above, alternatives to the NMD include boost-phase interceptors stationed close to potential missile launch sites in rogue nations. For example, missiles launched from North Korea would be shot down by interceptors fired from ships stationed close to that rogue state rather than waiting for them to get closer to the US (or Japan etc).

While perhaps better than an NMD system in its arms race implications I have to admit that I find the idea of such quick fire all knowing defense systems a little unconvincing.

However, my view is that the NMD itself brings so many potential new problems that some drastic alternative international measures to counter the threats might be needed.

I think that the US should be putting the proposition to Russia, China etc that it will forsake its NMD if they agree to cooperate in enforcing (with non-nuclear guns and bombs if necessary) weapons control in “undesirable” countries such as North Korea, Iraq etc. While there are some unpleasant aspects to such a suggestion and many unanswered questions (like who is “undesirable”), they are better than the NMD alternative with its inevitable consequences.

A basic starting point may be that any country is automatically undesirable if it refuses to show its nuclear hand or is suspected of hiding one. This would apply to Israel as much as North Korea.

This approach would also attempt to tackle the issue of weapons delivered by more basic means such as ships, planes etc by eliminating the weapons themselves.

Tony Abbott

Confidence — Abbott and Gillard · 26 October 2010

The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, last week very strongly supported the military efforts in Afghanistan.

A good summary article is here:
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/gillard-moves-labor-closer-to-obama/story-e6frg6zo-1225942439405

Whether or not you agree with the military actions in Afghanistan, it is difficult to argue that either Gillard or Abbott know much about or are even interested in—that part of the world that does not speak English.

Here is Gillard’s entry in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Gillard

Here is Abbott’s entry in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Abbott

While both have recently made quick visits Afghanistan, their activities were confined to meeting Australian soldiers and a few meetings with officials with a set story to push.

There is no public (ie political) clamor for Australia to be part of the war in Afghanistan. So given their relative lack of knowledge and experience—where does the confidence of Gillard and Abbott come from?

In part, it comes from already being generally successful in politics. Louis de Bourreinne who was Napoleon’s friend and first secretary, wrote that intoxication which is occasioned by success produces in the heads of the ambitious a sort of cerebral congestion.

As a result, such leaders can all too easily begin to think like Mussolini, who in 1935 told a lieutenant: Too much ratiocination! We should rather concentrate on instinct! My instinct tells me that And that’s enough!

But instincts can easily be influenced by personal emotions. Emotions play a big part in all such decisions and the more complex the issue, the greater the role of emotion.

Indeed, the role of emotion is so important that even the best experts can succumb to it at least for a while!

I came across a striking example of this in an intense debate about business taxation reform which took place in Australia between late-1999 and mid-2002. The debate was about whether to move to a new system of taxing business income within a period by measuring the change in asset values (including cash in bank) between the beginning and end of the period. In theory, the new system eventually branded as the Tax Value Method or TVM—would have given the same result as the present method of directly measuring income/revenue flows and cost flows (including deductions such as depreciation) during a period.

One of the strongest proponents of TVM was a well-known Australian business taxation lawyer AND poet of considerable note. This unusual combination of very high level skills led to some compartmentalization of thinking at times but also provided some useful insights into human thought processes.

The lawyer/poet was very emotional when condemning the complexity of the existing business taxation system, and was desperate to see changes and he quickly supported TVM.

In September 2000 I organized and hosted a debate between some of the main proponents and opponents of TVM. The lawyer/poet was still in favour of radical change and spoke for TVM. Yet, he recognized that there was significant opposition and was quoted in the media as saying:

Eighty per cent of tax practitioners are opponents, and more than 80% of business leaders are supporters. Tax experts believe that Treasury (the originator of the concept) has done a snow job in convincing big business that TVM is the way forward. Business leaders reject this claim and believe the experts may be manufacturing a crisis where there is none. Behind the schemes, claim is following counter-claim.

About a year later the lawyer/poet changed his view and wrote a very detailed analysis that was extremely critical of the draft legislation for TVM.

I regarded the report as a brilliant example of taking a logical approach to a disputed issue. The lawyer/poet’s change of view was a turning point in the debate, and TVM thereafter died a slow death.

This lawyer/poet is the best example I have personally come across of someone allowing their powerful emotions (ie the poet side) to very significantly cloud their professional (tax lawyer) logic over a prolonged period of time. But over time—once the logic had reasserted itself there was a complete change their view.

One of the most prominent businessman supporters of TVM privately described the lawyer/poet’s critical analysis as turgid. But as the lawyer/poet’s quote above indicates, in the main it was NOT the tax experts who supported TVM; rather it was the non-experts looking for a silver-bullet to solve complex problems which, in the main, they understood little. The views of the non-experts were being led by their emotions.

If the views of most independent experts are any guide, that both Gillard and Abbott have such non-expert confidence—and that it is very possible that their expert advisers (military and non-military) may be allowing their emotional thinking to over-whelm their logical thinking.

I cannot more precisely demonstrate this in relation to Gillard (and do not know enough about the people who give her advice), but Abbott recently made a very revealing emotional comment about the recent election which led to Gillard becoming prime minister with the support of some independent members of parliament.

Abbott was quoted as saying: ‘’One of the things that so disappoints me about the election result is that I am the standard bearer for values and ideals which matter and which are important and as the leader of the Coalition, millions and millions of people invest their hopes in me and it’s very important that I don’t let them down. When I am unfairly attacked, I’ve got to respond and I’ve got to respond in a tough way.’’

Abbott’s comment is striking in its certainty. Abbott in his own view—is the standard bearer of the ONLY values and ideals which matter and which are important. In his view, the values and ideals of other people are not important.

In Abbott’s mind, there is little room for compromise. Abbott is a man who deals in certainties. He is more of an emotional poet than a logical tax lawyer. Whether Abbott is right or not in supporting the military effort in Afghanistan, it should be clear what the basis of his support is it is undoubtedly emotion.

As for Gillard, we will learn more about her over time!

Russia, NATO, Missile Defence

US Missile Shield: Technology & Psychology · 25 February 2008

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, says that missile defence technology has evolved and that the Government was now giving “careful consideration” to participating in US missile shield arrangements.

Yes Stephen, technology does evolve, but psychology changes little! And, military technology is not as benign as Santa Claus.

While the US claims missile defence is nothing but a shield, many other countries will see it as little more than a device to protect the US while it swings its sword where it wants. And the experiences of General Caulaincourt, Reich Marshal Goering, and ex-general Colin Powell, suggest that they have a point.

In 1812, General Caulaincourt, who had been French Ambassador to Moscow and had experience of the Russian winter, had a five hour conversation with Napoleon Bonaparte trying to persuade him not to invade Russia; many years later Hermann Goering had a conversation of similar length on the same issue with Hitler; and, according to Colin Powell, as Secretary of State he spent two and a half hours with the George W. Bush trying to persuade him not to invade Iraq: I tried to avoid this war. I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.

Leaders and countries sometimes do very stupid things when they feel that they have enough power to get away with it. Russia, no-more than any other country, cannot afford to assume that other countries will not abuse their power and there are many ways of doing this other than an outright invasion.

In mid-2007 I was in a park in Pushkin on the outskirts of St. Petersburg when a 10-year old girl pointed out to me that this is where the Germans were beaten (in World War 2). Several days later, in the evening, I hailed down a private car to take me to Pushkin. The driver, a lawyer looking for a little extra money by acting as a taxi for me, made the same point about the Germans.

Like most people in almost all countries, most Russians see things from their position and can find it difficult to see things from the other side. In a recent survey, more than 60 percent of young Russians said they sympathize with Putin’s calling the collapse of the Soviet Union the twentieth century’s greatest geopolitical catastrophe. Another survey has found that just 10 percent of young Russians think Russia should apologize for the Baltic occupation, and Estonia’s recent removal of a Red Army war memorial from its capital led to genuine anger in Russian.

Sometimes nationalism is no more than a political card in recognition that the majority of people in almost any country (including Australia) are emotionally, and stupidly, vulnerable to this but there can also be legitimate issues. This is where US foreign policy is so important.

The inability of the present American and Australian leadership to understand the nuanced feelings of people in other countries is the greatest friend that anti-democrats and rampant xenophobic nationalists in those countries have.

In 1812, General Caulaincourt tried to get Napoleon to see the view from the other side when Napoleon complained that Europe could not see that Russia was the real enemy: As a matter of fact, it is Your Majesty who is the cause of everyone’s anxiety and prevents them from seeing other dangers. The governments are afraid there is going to be a World State.

Perhaps Putin has read Caulaincourt, or perhaps he is just reacting like the Europe that Napoleon was complaining about. At the Munich security conference in 2007, Putin said the US has overstepped its borders in all spheres and has imposed itself on other states. This is a world of one master, one sovereign, he said.

The US has for some time being acting in a way that provides considerable justification for Russian fears (the invasion of Iraq being the most notable example). And, like Napoleon’s Europe, Russia will react in some way.

First Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov has, for example, suggested that Russia will retaliate to the placing of missile defense facilities in Poland by putting missiles in Kaliningrad. Russian defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer described Ivanov’s comments about Kaliningrad as an “empty threat” on the basis that Russia had no missiles with the right range to be fired from Kaliningrad and hit the proposed interceptors in Poland.

Felgenhauer misses the point. Arms races, which Ivanov is suggesting in a limited sense, are drawn out and unpredictable affairs. The lead up to WWI was a long time in coming, but was nourished by mutual suspicion and an arms race. Sarajevo was only a spark. This is not to suggest another war, but Russia (and not Russia alone) will react to US moves and that its reaction, supported by public opinion, will be to stymie US power in any way it can.

I made a presenation (listed on the left-hand side, “US Missile Defence”) to the Australian Institute of International Affairs (Sydney Branch) at the beginning of Putin’s time in power.

Putin, Gillard, Abbott, Medvedev

Putin, Gillard, Medvedev, Abbott · 19 November 2012

My internet site www.russianeconomicreform.ru has an implied theme that Russian economic policy makers could learn much from the approach of Australia over the last few decades.

While historical factors and in-place institutional arrangements place substantial limits on what leaders as ultimate economic policy makers can influence and control, their own personal psychological make-ups will influence their chosen policies and implementation.

This article briefly summarizes the personalities (psychological make-ups) of the two most important political figures in Australia and Russia, and the implications of these for the most crucial economic issues facing these two countries. In the case of Australia, I take the most crucial issue to be dealing with the rising economic and political power of Asia (in particular non-NE Asia). In the case of Russia, I take this to be dealing with internal economic reform and the wishes of the middle classes for political power.

In essence, my view is that at an intellectual and psychological level Russia presently has superior leaders to Australia. (I have written a number of articles (blogs) on each of the individuals, which can be accessed on this site)

Intellectually and in terms of a balanced personality, Dimitry Medvedev (despite his short physical stature) stands head and shoulders above Vladimir Putin, Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. He does not appear to have any personal basic pathological (read abnormal or diseased psychology) issues. He is very open to new ideas and experiences even if this enthusiasm includes a touch of naivety, and he has displayed excessive loyalty to Putin.

Vladimir Putin also does not have significant basic pathological issues—- his main problem is that too much time in power has begun to warp his thinking, and he now regards himself as much more indispensable than he really is. However, his basic psychological make-up (judging by his career and the way he has conducted himself while in public office) seems to have been defensive rather than a need to project himself to high office or deeds of greatness in order to prove that he is a worthy person. While intelligent, Putin is not as intelligent as Medvedev.

Gillard has a great need for personal achievement there is a pathological issue at play. Gillard lacks any sort of talent for originality or vision. For her, achievement is signified by power; only in this way can she prove to herself and others that she is a worthy person. Intellectually, she is several notches below Putin. However, like him, she is very self-disciplined in fact, even more so!

Abbott is intellectually superior to Gillard, but he lacks her enormous self-discipline when it comes to focus on issues. However, Abbott is no match for Medvedev in either intellectual terms or openness to ideas and new directions. He seems constrained by a personal system of beliefs (feelings) which will all too easily override rationality. Intellectually, he may in theory be the equal of Putin but Putin would always win a contest of the mind because of his self-discipline.

Overall, intellectual and in terms of psychological balance, Medvedev comes out on top while Gillard occupies the lowest level. In terms of overall capability, Russia presently has superior leaders to Australia.

Comparing Russia and Australia in these terms, one might be tempted to conclude that a semi-authoritarian political system is better for Russia than the likes of Gillard and Abbott. However, in Australian history the low-standard Abbott/Gillard act is probably a depressing aberration.

In terms of the implications for crucial economic policy issues the rising economic and political power of Asia for Australia and internal economic and political reform for Russian the signs are not particularly good.

Putin, Gillard and Abbott fear change.

While Putin has a need for control, his main fears basically derive for the chaos of the Yeltsin years. His view of internal Russian affairs suffers from this. However, he has a reasonably sophisticated world view.

Gillard’s fears have a more personal psychological aspect as do Abbott’s. Both are astonishingly ignorant people once they step outside the familiar areas of domestic politics and the Anglo-sphere. An example is the simplistic way in which they both talk about learning foreign languages (neither Putin nor Medvedev, who have put in the effort to learn a language or two, would be so clueless).

Neither Gillard nor Abbott has the desirable combination of intelligence, curiosity or emotional flexibility to handle the rise of Asia to the best advantage of Australia.

Putin has also become a negative factor for Russia. He understands the details of many issues, but his inflexibility and need for control will grow over time — and, even worse, will be accompanied by a decreased capacity/desire to work hard on details.

Medvedev is the most willing of all to consider and embrace change. With its better institutional environment, Australia would probably perform wonders if he was one on its leaders.

Putin’s dangerous reading

Putin’s dangerous reading! · 6 November 2011

Anatoly Sobchak, the reformist mayor of Saint Petersburg with whom Vladimir Putin worked after he left the KGB in 1990, once suggested that Putin might be Russia’s Napoleon Bonaparte. And, in a sense Sobchak was right, and much of what I foresaw in a March 2000 article has occurred (see “Putin in 2000” in left-hand column)

Now, in order to justify his impending return to the presidency, Putin has invoked the cases of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles De Gaulle and Helmut Kohl as men who held power for a long time and who have been treated quite well by history in contrast to Russia’s own Leonid Brezhnev.

Dmitry Peskov, his press secretary has said: Putin reads all the time, mostly about the history of Russia. He reads memoirs, the memoirs of Russian historical state figures.

This is dangerous reading!

Contrary to what Peskov and Putin undoubtedly think, such reading concentrated on Russian historical state figures adds to the evidence that Putin will increasingly become a negative influence on the development of Russia.

The reading selection is very narrow and unbalanced, particularly for someone who has little experience of a more liberal democracy, and will work to reinforce rather than moderate Putin’s natural psychological instincts. Putin will increasingly see Russia in terms of his own desires and needs, rather than the real desires and needs of Russia. He will unconsciously distort his views of the latter so that they fit in with the former.

Josef Stalin said to Sergo Beria: If you want to know the people around you, find out what they read. But we can also get a sense of Stalin from his own reading: he wrote in the margin of a biography of Ivan the Terrible: teacher teacher.

Mao Zedong, like Stalin, read a lot of pre-communist history for guidance. Li Zhisui, Mao’s doctor, wrote that Mao turned to the past for instruction on how to rule: Immersed as he was in Chinese history, and thus in the power struggles and political intrigues that were part of every court, Mao expected political intrigue within his own imperial court, and he played the same games himself. Even if aspirants to power told Mao the objective truth, he could not accept it because he saw conspiracies everywhere.

The reading of Stalin and Mao distorted their thinking. While I am not equating Putin with Stalin or Mao, Putin’s concentrated reading about Russian historical state figures suggests that he is beginning to see himself as such an historical figure.

Napoleon, Stalin and Mao during their times in power increasingly saw themselves as indispensible to their countries. And, in all cases the consequences of this were negative; although the negatives were greater in some cases than in others.

In 1812 Napoleon told General Caulaincourt that he was the only man alive who knows the French thoroughly, as well as the needs of the peoples and of European society. France needs me for another ten years. If I were to die there would be general chaos. Caulaincourt noted, that as far as any opposition in France to his policies was concerned, Napoleon paid little attention to it and attributed it in general to narrow views, and to the fact that few people were capable of grasping his great projects in their entirety.

In 1952, Stalin expressed his self-belief to the Communist Party’s Central Committee when ordering further investigations of Soviet citizens: Here, look at you blind men, kittens, you don’t see the enemy; what will you do without me? the country will perish because you are not able to recognise the enemy.

Mao was no different. His long-time chief body-guard, Wang Dongxing, noted that Mao considers no one in the whole of the Communist party indispensable to the party except himself. Dr Li wrote that Mao had an almost mystical faith in the role of the leader. He never doubted that his leadership, and only his leadership, would save and transform China.

The attitudes of Napoleon, Stalin and Mao were influenced by their success. In the words of Louis de Bourreinne who was Napoleon’s friend and first secretary: Intoxication which is occasioned by success produces in the heads of the ambitious a sort of cerebral congestion.

Of course, Napoleon, Stalin and Mao are not the only dictatorial personalities in history, and some have left a more positive long-term legacy.

One example of the latter is Kemal Ataturk of Turkey. In 1938, with tensions rising in Europe, the dying Ataturk said: If this second world war catches me when I’m still in bed, who knows what will become of the nation. It is I who must return to be in a position to take charge of government affairs.

Like Napoleon, Stalin and Mao, Ataturk saw himself as indispensible—and in a very positive light. In 1937, Ataturk explained his position in these terms: Man, as an individual, is condemned to death. To work, not for oneself but for those who will come after, is the first condition of happiness that any individual can reach in life. Each person has his own preferences. Some people like gardening and growing flowers. Others prefer to train men. Does the man who grows flowers expect anything from them? He who trains men ought to work like a man who grows flowers.

So, why did Ataturk have a more long-lived positive influence than the others? There are a number of reasons related to the circumstances of the time and their own personalities, but Ataturk was not obsessed as Mao and Stalin with reading about the influence of individual historical figures, and he was not obsessed as Napoleon in boosting the international power of his own country. Rather, he looked at Turkey with a much greater eye on the future than on the past. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew who is also reportedly admired by Putin was similar.

According to a 1 November Reuters article, Peskov said Putin had a keen interest in Tsarist Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin and Russian Orthodox philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who said Russia should plot an independent course between dictatorship and democracy. Putin has made no secret of his respect for Stolypin, who crushed dissent but also introduced land reform as prime minister from 1906 to 1911 under Czar Nicholas II. Putin said in July that a statue of Stolypin should be placed outside the Russian government’s headquarters in Moscow.

A true patriot and a wise politician, he understood that both radicalism of all sorts as well as stagnation, a lack of reforms, were equally dangerous for the country, Putin said of Stolypin.

In justifying rejection of radicalism Putin has the personal experience of the 1990s, but this along with his own personality has made him too fearful of change. Reading history is an excellent way of understanding the nature of people and their actions and reactions, but that understanding then has to be applied in a contemporary context with an eye to the future and not used to justify existing notions.

Putin would be well advised to read more widely; he has already read enough Russian history!