Streetwise Professor

May 25, 2012

Beyond Disgusting, But True to Form

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:52 pm

Russian military intelligence, the GRU, has solved the Sukhoi SuperJet crash mystery: The Americans Did It!  Of course we did.  Hell, we can bring down space probes with our mysterious radar facilities, so bringing down a passenger jet with our diabolical electronic warfare technologies is child’s play:

Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, suspects that US-inspired industrial espionage may have caused the May 9 crash in Indonesia of a Sukhoi Superjet 100 – Russia’s only hopeful entry in the civilian aviation market – according to Moscow’s leading tabloid newspaper, the usually reliable and officially connected Komsomolskaya Pravda.

While most Russian aviation experts contacted today dismissed the sabotage theory, they say there is a deepening mystery about how Russia’s most modern civil aircraft, with all its systems apparently functioning perfectly, came to slam into the side of a mile-high volcano during a routine demonstration flight.

“All the theories put forward so far are badly flawed, there is a shortage of hard information and there are a lot of irresponsible rumors,” says Roman Gusarov, editor of, an online aviation journal. “I am afraid that Russia is not going to emerge from this story without taking a black eye.”

Citing an unnamed GRU general, Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed that electronic jamming of the plane’s on board equipment is the most plausible explanation for how the jet, which was making a demonstration flight out of Jakarta airport with 45 people aboard, smashed into a mountainside even though an initial investigation has found that its terrain and collision avoidance systems were all functioning properly.

“We are investigating the theory that it was industrial sabotage,” the GRU officer is quoted as saying. He said that Russian intelligence has long monitored the activities of US military electronic specialists at the Jakarta airport.

“We know that they have special equipment that can cut communications between an aircraft and the ground or interfere with the parameters on board,” he said. “For example, the plane is flying at one altitude, but after interference from the ground onboard equipment shows another.” [Or maybe the plane’s electronics were defective.  Just saying.]

. . . .

“Maybe he didn’t see that the plane was heading straight at the mountain. On the other hand, we don’t rule out the possibility that this was deliberate industrial sabotage to drive our aircraft from the market,” an unnamed official at Sukhoi, the plane’s manufacturer, told Komsomolskaya Pravda. “Fortunately, we don’t foresee any loss of orders [for the SuperJet].”

This is self-satirizing.  Sick satire, but satire nonetheless.

Some notorious Russophobes criticize these paranoid ravings.  As for there being some sort of commercial motive for US sabotage:

Oleg Pantaleyev [another clever disguise!], an expert with [an infiltrator!], an online aviation news service, points out that the US does not produce this particular class of aircraft, and several foreign firms, including Boeing, have been involved in the SuperJet’s development and have big stakes in its success.

Another Russophobe criticizes Sukhoi’s oh-so-Russian handling of the crash aftermath:

Mr. [Roman] Gusarov [editor of] says that Sukhoi has handled the information side of the SuperJet disaster very badly.

“From the very beginning they developed this plane as if it were a secret combat jet rather than a civil airliner,” he says. “Now they’re putting out contradictory statements, and making all sorts of premature declarations. For instance, how can they assert that there were no system failures based on an examination of the cockpit voice recorder alone?

“Of course, all possible theories are bad. Either we have a fault with our newest and most hopeful plane, or with one of Russia’s finest aircrews. So, finding a scapegoat, putting out a story about some malicious external force bent on wrecking the SuperJet is just the thing they needed.”

Or, as Mr. Pantaleyev says:

“It’s this very lack of objective information plus low professional ethics that gives rise to all these rumors. They should be ignored.”

Hey, if some people didn’t have low professional ethics, they’d have no professional ethics at all.

My working hypothesis is that the American sabotage story is being put out there because the actual facts are quite embarrassing to Sukhoi and Russia, just as with Phobos-Grunt.

Actually, the most embarrassing thing is the reflex to place blame for disasters everywhere except where it belongs-somewhere within the boundaries of the largest country in the world.

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  1. What a hoot! As my mother says “You do not have to go to the theater to see a satirical play”. This country is doomed. Of course they’ll say it is all United States fault. Yes.

    Comment by voroBey — May 25, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

  2. All evil is from the devil outside, we had nothing to do with it! Any excuse will do: it IS hard to imagine that the old Soviet Union could be more forthright than the current gang of thugs – but in some ways it was – following Stalin there was some limits to how stupid they looked to the outside. Now they don’t even give a damn whether they appear ridiculous to the world at large – as long as they can keep a small motivated minority at home filled with hate, that is enough. with apologies to Lincoln they are appealing to their “better” devils.


    Comment by sotos — May 25, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

  3. Another good post, Prof.

    How about this an alternative working hypothesis:

    I’m not normally a big fan of Dylan Ratigan’s histrionics, but this is a pretty decent interview with Michael Ross, a prof at UCLA, who just published “The Oil Curse.” This is the latest addition to the literature on modern-day autocracies.

    When oil prices are high, it’s easier for the autocrats in these states to buy off or placate their natural competitors and the general population. However, that still doesn’t prevent the development of sub-cliques and alt-popular movements, which are continually plotting to seize control of the river of money generated by a given resource endowment. When prices weaken — either because the high prices have elicited a new round of resource development elsewhere, or economies substitute away from oil into, say, gas — these sub-cliques become more apparent in their threat. Then, the leader(s) of the dominant clique needs to either focus everyone’s attention on an outside threat (real or imagined), or kill off the competitive cliques.

    As sotos suggests, Stalin was a master at this sort of thing. He, like Mao, was indifferent to the body count. Succession issues in these states are never about longevity or loss of the office thru the ballot. They’re about who can hold off whom for the longest period of time, so as to extract the maximum amount of rent from the natural endowment they all find themselves sitting atop. Then the trick is to leave office with all of your organs and bodily functions intact so you can luxuriate in the rents you’ve seized.

    There’s a lot of news coming out of Russia. It’s a good bet that pot’s boiling for reasons other than what these sock puppets are pointing to.

    Comment by markets.aurelius — May 26, 2012 @ 4:21 am

  4. @markets.aurelius I believe those are all very good points. It is all about managing the rents and the conflicts they spark.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 26, 2012 @ 11:42 am

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