If you were in the real estate business in NYC, London or Toronto in the late 1980s, the 1990s or the noughties, there’s no way you could have avoided dealing with shady operators of Soviet or third-world extraction. I can’t tell if the cash inflow from the former USSR into UK and US real estate was greater than the combined investment from other sources, but I believe it was large enough so no major operator could avoid benefitting from it. Thus Trump’s dealings with people less respectable than Alex Shnaider: not a Trump-specific bug but a sector feature.


One slightly screw-loose intel guru says Christopher Steele’s report is a typical example of raw “humint” – human intelligence – and the gasping and handwringing reaction is only limited to greenies unfamiliar with the genre. For, as every initiate knows, this degraded humus will bring forth, contingent upon studious pruning, unsullied flowers of pure wisdom. As one of the profane, I wonder if there’s any value at all in this kind of “humint,” given its overall cost – wouldn’t a diligent journalist have done a better job? Or is it a case of tabloidosis albionis contaminating the Surrey fog over the spook’s $1.7-million mansion? (In plain English, is that ex-MI6 agent an overpaid charlatan akin to a tabloid hack?)

The pundit’s Le Carré parallel to the call girl episode is much appreciated, however. Chris LeCarray and Metastasia Steele. Way to go.


Around 1950, a Soviet poetess was reprimanded (if not imprisoned) for writing, approximately, “Stalin dreams of seeing the lights of Communism in his lifetime.” Was she implying, the accusers asked, that Comrade Stalin might actually die? Ambassador Burns seems to be hearing intimations of immortality from the high towers of the Sforza Castle Kremlin, but – as usual – we the profani tend to think Nature will force a transition upon us and strategists should have plans for longer than half a decade. If you ask me (you won’t), Russia should be eventually integrated into the global West (provided neither implodes or explodes by that nebulous eventuality), as should be Ukraine and Belarus. Russia (minus a few regions, perhaps) is a dysfunctional, backward, somewhat archaic, but essentially Western country and society, especially in comparison with China and most of the third world. So far the EU has preferred integrating the offspring of that world to the vision of a Europe from Slea Head to the Urals and beyond.

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