After finishing a bizarre novel ex-deputy NATO commander General Sir Richard Shirreff pens Atlantic Council propaganda so mind-numbingly awful it really should be published as a cheesy novel in the vein of his other work of fantasy
General Sir Richard Shirreff, author of the novel, 2017: War with Russia, has just co-authored a new report on behalf of the Atlantic Council. In Arming for Deterrence, he and Maciej Olex-Szczytowski that the threat to Poland from a “resurgent Russia” is now so imminent that the Polish Government must take immediate steps to prepare the country for forthcoming invasion (interestingly, Pan Olex-Szczytowski happens to be Adviser on Poland to BAE Systems, Europe’s largest company in the Defence Sector).
I confess that I haven’t had the time or inclination to read General Shirreff’s novel, but having seen a few excerpts from it, I am persuaded that it must be in with at least a fighting chance of winning some sort of award for outstandingly bad literature. Here are a few excerpts taken from a review in the
- “My strategy of increasing the flow of refugees into Turkey by bombing civilian targets in Syria and so putting ever greater pressure on the EU has worked better than I ever thought possible” – The Russian President
- “We’re lucky NATO hadn’t stationed any well-armed, permanent forces there [in the Baltics]. That could have changed things completely.” – A Russian General
- The US president is said to have “highlighted blonde hair” and likes to “emphasise her femininity by wearing skirts”.
- The British ambassador to NATO has a “flawless complexion”.
- A Latvian spook is “stunning”, with “ash-blonde hair” (in case we forget she is blonde, we are later reminded four times in the space of 20 pages).
- Then there is the GCHQ officer who boasts the “sporty good looks you’d expect from a former head girl of Cheltenham Ladies’ College”.
With such wonderfully evocative turns of phrase, I’m sorry that the General hasn’t continued penning his warnings of imminent Russian invasion in the same fictional genre, but has instead decided to publish them in the much more staid format of a 25-page document for the Atlantic Council. It’s a great pity on two counts: firstly, most of the stuff within the report properly belongs within a cheese-laden comic fantasy genre, rather than in an official-looking document which some poor souls might actually come to believe contains the truth. And secondly, by writing in this format General Shirreff has deprived us all of his amazing gift for prose d’fromage (prose of cheese).
I’d like to redress for this obvious error. The document produced by General Shirreff and Panis so mind-numbingly awful that it really needs to be given a good dose of wooden and cheesy prose. So here, for the benefit of those who don’t have the time or inclination to read Atlantic Council propaganda, is my attempt to incorporate the ideas contained therein with some cheesy prose that could vie with General Sherriff’s pitch for a bad literature award. For the benefit of clarity, phrases and sentences lifted from the Atlantic Council report appear in bold italics.
He hadn’t been told the half of it. Her beauty, that is. He’d seen her on the TV of course, and in the papers, but nothing had prepared him for this. In fact, now that he finally came face to face with her, he realised he’d probably only been told the quarter of it. A third at the most.
Her blonde hair hung over her smooth forehead the way that blonde hair often does over smooth foreheads. Her eyes were a bluish sort of grey. Or was it a greyish sort of blue? He couldn’t decide. She wore a skirt, rather than trousers, as if to emphasise the point that she was really a woman. A real woman. 100% feminine.
But it was her lips that really grabbed his attention. They stood proud of her face like two smooth, light-red peaches, though obviously they weren’t the same size or shape as peaches. He stared at them for fully 17 seconds before regaining the kind of composure that becomes a military man.
Her name was Monika Kowalska. She was Poland’s newly appointed Defence Secretary, and General Sheerlove had come to talk to her about the imminent threat of Russian invasion and the need for immediate action.
Before entering the room, he had wondered whether she would be a pushover. She was new in the job, and as a novice, he might be able to wrap her around his little finger like a child wrapping Sellotape around its finger in a game involving Sellotape and fingers. Then again, novices often have a need to prove themselves. Maybe she would prove to be a tough cookie — not the soft, chewy sort that were handed out to protestors by Victoria Nuland in Maidan Nezalezhnosti — but a real, tough cookie. Now here he sat across the other side of her desk and he was about to find out. Sellotape or cookie? Which was it to be?
“General Sheerlove, I’m very pleased to meet you. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
Her English was near perfect, except that she still couldn’t pronounce the word “apprenticeship” properly after nearly 15 years of trying. She also had trouble making the short vowel “a” sound distinct from the short vowel “u” sound. This was nothing out of the ordinary though, since the Polish language just doesn’t have those sounds and many Poles have the same problem. Unfortunately, the result of this mispronunciation was that General Sheerlove initially thought she’d asked him if he wanted a cap of coffee.
“Did you say cap of coffee?” he said with a somewhat bemused look on his face.
“No General,” she said smiling with her lips. “We definitely drink our coffee from cups and not caps here in Warszawa.” She said this really concentrating hard on sounding out the difference between cup and cap.
After pouring out the coffee, she beckoned him to begin his business.
“Ms Kowalska,” he said with a certain huskiness in his voice, the result of smoking too many Woodbines in his twenties and thirties.
“Please, General Sheerlove, call me Monika,” she said.
“Monika,” he continued, “I’ve come here today to warn you that you must take action. Immediately. You must understand that the Russians could invade at any moment.”
He tapped his watch to emphasise that it could happen within the next few minutes.
“Any moment?” she replied with a worried look playing on her sort of peach-like lips. “Are you sure? Can you be more specific?”
“Unfortunately not,” he replied. “The problem with the Russkies is that they are so darn unpredictable, yet at the same time they are highly predictable. One might almost call them unpredictably predictable. Or predictably unpredictable, if you like.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” she said with all the naivety of someone who just didn’t understand. “Please explain.”
“Russia rarely disguises its true intentions,” he said. “On the contrary, it has proclaimed them very publicly on various occasions, but, in general, the West has chosen not to believe Russia’s declarations and disregards its willingness to carry them out.”
“So they are predictable then?” she replied.
“Not exactly,” replied the General. “Whilst an attack is impossible to predict, what we do know is that it could be triggered by anything from NATO being distracted by another crisis to Moscow’s misperception of NATO’s activities and a miscalculation of the Alliance’s resolve. Even if Moscow currently has no immediate intent to challenge NATO directly, this may unexpectedly change overnight and can be implemented with great speed, following already prepared plans. The capability to do so is, to a large extent, in place.”
“You mean it could happen tonight?” she cried, her lips quivering alarmingly. “But what can we do?”
The General found himself having to restrain himself. He so much wanted to go and give her a big hug and tell her that all would be okay. But he knew he couldn’t. Firstly, hugging her would compromise his professional conduct. And even more than that, he knew it wasn’t true. Everything wouldn’t be okay. No, amount of reassuring hugs or group therapy sessions could change that.
“I’ll tell you what you need to do,” he said with a sternness that fairly shook her delicate frame to the core. “You need to strengthen the military, get ready to hit the city of Kaliningrad with missiles. Purchase weapons such as the US-made JASSM aircraft-launched cruise missiles. And shut down RT.”
“Shut down RT?” she said.
“Yes,” he replied, noting how her head was now bathed in the sunlight which was streaming in through the window, making her hair seen even blonder. “You need to delay and bog down the invading force and inflict unacceptable damage on it.
“But mightn’t that be seen as a little … shall we say … aggressive?” she asked. “Especially coming after Operation Anaconda, Rapid Trident, and the anti-ballistic missile system in Romania.”
“I’m not sure I follow,” replied General Sheerlove. “The idea that we could do anything aggressive is absurd. It’s all purely defensive. If there’s one piece of advice I could give you for your new role, Monika, it would be to never tire of using the phrase ‘Russian Aggression’. Do that and — with a little help from our friends in the media — everything we do can be spun as being defensive. I hope you understand me.”
“I think so,” she replied. “But is there anything else you think we should be doing?”
“Yes,” he said noticing that her lips had stopped quivering as she regained her poise, and they once again retained their usual peach-like qualities. “You need to purchase more multiple rocket launchers, attack helicopters, and UAVs.”
“More?” she said. “But that will cost us a fortune.”
“There’s always a cost to defence,” said the General. Then he added reassuringly, “I can introduce you to my friend Pawel. He’s an adviser to BAE Systems, Europe’s largest company in the Defence sector. Plus I have many contacts in the US Defence sector that I can introduce you to. I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige and cut you a deal.”
Monika Kowalska sat in silence for a moment or two, weighing up the General’s words. But one thing still puzzled her.
“General Sheerlove,” she said. “I hear what you are saying, but one thing still puzzles me. The Russians invaded Ukraine in 2014, right?”
“Indeed,” replied the General.
“Yet more than two years later, they’re still no further than the Donbass,” she stated matter-of-factly. “But if that’s the case, do we really have much to fear from them? I mean if they really did invade, but they can’t get any further than that, they can’t be very good, can they?”
“Monika,” he said looking at her in disbelief. “Surely you’re not about to question the established fact — established by satellite images, well not satellite images as such but Twitter and Facebook — that Russia has invaded the Ukraine?”
“No,” she replied. “No not at all. But I’m just curious how it is that on the one hand we are frightening the whole world with talk of Russian Aggression, yet on the other hand this fearsome military apparently isn’t even capable of advancing more than a couple of hundred miles. Something just doesn’t add up.”
“Monika,” said the General, now looking thoroughly displeased with what he perceived to be yet another example of appeasement. “Don’t forget who you’re dealing with. Remember Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008?”
“But I thought that even the European Union admitted that the conflict was started by Georgia,” she said.
“Remember the violent annexation of Crimea, where people were forced to vote at the barrel of a gun,” he stated impatiently.
“But I thought that the whole thing was done with no bloodshed, and that even subsequent opinion polls taken by Western organisations confirmed that the result was genuine.”
Without warning the General stood up impatiently. He’d had enough. For the first time he noticed that perhaps her hair wasn’t as blonde as he’d first thought. More mousey brown. And her lips? Peaches? He couldn’t see it any more. Prunes perhaps, but certainly not peaches.
“You know Ms Kowalska,” he said officiously, “I’ve seen it all before. Complacency, Ms Kowalska, complacency. Appeasement, Ms Kowalska, appeasement. The New Hitler embarks on rebuilding the Soviet Union, and all you can do is question the narrative we’ve worked so hard to control. But questions don’t win wars, Ms Kowalska, and unless you take steps now, including publishing a potential list of targets in Russia and purchasing much more weaponry, it’ll be curtains for you and your country, and we’ll all soon be carted off to Gulags.”
He turned to exit the room, but before he reached for the handle, a voice behind him implored him to come back:
“General Sheerlove,” said Monika Kowalska. “I’m so sorry if I’ve given you the wrong impression. I promise I’ll never deviate off the official narrative again. We’ll buy all those weapons, do all that you say, make all those threats. And I’ll say “Russian Aggression” over and over to myself until it becomes a habit and I’m never tempted to ask questions again.”
“Promise?” he asked.
“I do,” she said.
Suddenly she seemed more blonde and peachy-lipped than ever. And with that, General Sheerlove smiled before breezily waltzing out of the room to make a call to his friend Pawel at BAE Systems about the commission he could expect over the coming months.