Dean O’Brien on Ukraine’s “Kill List” and on Reporting From the Donbass

May 7, 2021

Eva Bartlett

The other day I spoke with Dean O’Brien, a UK photojournalist, on his reporting from the Donbass.

With World Press Freedom Day only having recently passed, our conversation about the Ukrainian “kill list” (essentially), which includes journalists who have reported from the Donbass and/or Crimea, was appropriately timed.

Both Dean and myself are on that list, for our crimes of reporting on how Ukraine’s shelling of frontline villages is terrorizing mostly elderly civilians, destroying their homes, and is generally ignored by Western corporate media and politicians.

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Eva Bartlett is an independent writer and rights activist with extensive experience in Syria and in the Gaza Strip, where she lived a cumulative three years (from late 2008 to early 2013). She documented the 2008/9 and 2012 Israeli war crimes and attacks on Gaza while riding in ambulances and reporting from hospitals. In 2017, she was short-listed for the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. The award rightly was given to the amazing journalist, the late Robert Parry [see his work on Consortium News]. In March 2017, she was awarded “International Journalism Award for International Reporting” granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951). Co-recipients included: John Pilger and political analyst Thierry Meyssan. She was also the first recipient of the Serena Shim award, an honour shared with many excellent journalists since. She has visited Syria 14 times, the last time being from March to late September, 2020. All of her writings and videos on which can be found here: and here: A more detailed account of her activism and writings can be found here:

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

April 28, 2021

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev Moscow, April 28, 2021

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

We have available video in Russian and transcript in English.

Transcript:

Dmitry Kiselev: Our relations with the United States are really “hell”. Personally, I don’t recall them being at such a low ebb ever before. This is even worse than the Cold War times, in my opinion. Ambassadors have returned back to their home countries. What’s going to happen next? What is the possible scenario?

Sergey Lavrov: If it depended on us alone, we would gladly resume normal relations. The first possible step towards this, which I regard as obvious, is to zero out the measures restricting the work of Russian diplomats in the United States. It was as a response measure that we restricted the operations of American diplomats in Russia.

We proposed this to the Biden administration as soon as it had taken the oath and assumed office. I have mentioned the idea to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. I did not try to press it; I just said that an obvious way to normalise our relations would be to zero out the measures initiated by Barack Obama. Several weeks before leaving office, he was so annoyed he virtually slammed the door by seizing Russian property in violation of all the Vienna conventions and throwing Russian diplomats out. This has caused a chain reaction.

We patiently sat back for a long time, until the summer of 2017, before taking any response measures. The Trump administration asked us to disregard the excessive measures taken by the outgoing Obama administration. However, Donald Trump’s team failed to normalise the situation, and so we had to take reciprocal measures. But the Americans have not stopped there.

We can see that the Biden administration continues to go downhill, although US President Biden said during his conversation with President of Russia Vladimir Putin soon after his inauguration, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told me that they are thoroughly reviewing their relations with Russia, hoping that this would clarify many things. However, instead they adopted new sanctions, which triggered not simply a mirror response on our part. Our response was asymmetrical, just as we had warned them on numerous occasions. It has to do, in part, with a considerable disparity in the number of diplomats and other personnel of the US diplomatic missions in Russia, which is way above the number of Russian diplomats in the United States.

As for the strategic picture of our relations, I hope that Washington is aware, just as Moscow is, of our responsibility for global stability. There are not only the problems of Russia and the United States, which are complicating our citizens’ lives and their contacts, communications, businesses and humanitarian projects, but also differences that are posing a serious risk to international security in the broadest possible meaning of the word.

You remember how we responded to the outrage that took place during Joe Biden’s interview with ABC. You are also aware of how President Putin reacted to President Biden’s proposal of a meeting. We have taken a positive view of this, but we would like to understand all aspects of this initiative, which we are currently analysing.

Nothing good will come out of this, unless the United States stops acting as a sovereign, as President Putin said during his Address to the Federal Assembly, accepts the futility of any attempts to revive the unipolar world or to create an architecture where all Western countries would be subordinate to the United States and the Western camp would work together to “rally” other countries across the world against China and Russia, admits that it was for a purpose that the UN Charter sealed such principles as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and sovereign equality of states, and simply honours its commitments and starts talking with us, just as with any other country, on the basis of respect for each other and for a balance of interests, which must be established. President Putin said this clearly in his Address, pointing out that Russia is always open to broad international agreements if they suit our interests. But we will harshly respond to any attempts to cross the red line, which we ourselves will determine.

Dmitry Kiselev: Would it be realistic to expect them to become aware of this and stop acting as a sovereign? Hope is fine, but the reality is completely different.

Sergey Lavrov: I have not expressed any hope. I just mentioned the conditions on the basis of which we will be ready to talk.

Dmitry Kiselev: And what if they refuse?

Sergey Lavrov: It will be their choice. This means that we will be living in conditions of a Cold War, or even worse, as you have already mentioned. In my opinion, tension did run high during the Cold War and there were numerous high-risk conflict situations, but there was also mutual respect. I believe that this is lacking now.

There have been some schizophrenic notes in the statements made by some of the Washington officials. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said just a while ago that sanctions against Russia would be continued, that they are producing, by and large, a desired effect, and that their objective is not to “escalate” with Russia. Even I am at a loss about how to comment on this. I hope anyone can see that such statements are doing no credit to those who are upholding and promoting this policy.

Dmitry Kiselev: I had a chance to hear an opinion – perhaps even a commonplace opinion, to some extent, in certain circles – to the effect that diplomats are doing a poor job, that we are constantly digging in our heels, that our position is inflexible and non-elastic, and this is the reason why our relations are poor.

Sergey Lavrov: Are you alluding to circles inside this country?

Dmitry Kiselev: Yes, inside this country.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I also read these things. Thankfully, this country protects freedom of speech much better than many Western countries, including the United States. I read the opposition’s online resources and newspapers, and I think that perhaps these people have a right to express their point of view that consists in the following: “If we refrained from disputing with the West, we’d have Parmesan cheese and lots more things that we are sincerely missing; but for some reason, they have cut short food purchases in the West [they do not even explain that this was done in response], they have stopped buying food and gone into import substitution, thus increasing the price of food.”

You know, this is a narrow, lopsided view taken entirely from the standpoint of creature comforts, a choice between a television set and a fridge. If they think it essential to accept US values, I would like to remind them about what US President John Kennedy, the greatest US President to my mind, once said: “Don’t think what your country can do for you. Think what you can do for your country.” This is a radical distinction from today’s liberal views, where personal wellbeing and personal feelings alone are the things that matter.

The promoters of these philosophical approaches, as I see it, are not just unaware of what our genetic code is all about, but are trying in every way to undermine it. For, apart from the desire to live well, to be well-fed, to be confident that one’s children, friends and relatives are well too, a feeling of national pride always played an equally important role in what we did throughout our one thousand years’ history. If someone thinks that these values are of no importance for him or her, as it is [politically] correct to say now, it is their choice, but I am certain that the overwhelming majority of our people have a different opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: Are you counting on a meeting with Antony Blinken? When can this meeting be held, and will it take place at all in the foreseeable future?

Sergey Lavrov: When we were talking over the phone, I congratulated him in keeping with the diplomatic etiquette. We exchanged a few appraisals of the [current] situation. The talk was, I feel, well-meaning, calm and pragmatic. When our US colleagues have completed staffing their Department of State, we will be prepared to resume contacts – naturally, on the understanding that we will engage in a search for mutually acceptable arrangements on many problems, starting from the functioning of the diplomatic missions and ending with strategic stability and many other things. US and Russian business communities are concerned with expanding their cooperation, something that the American-Russian Chamber of Commerce has recently told us. We have concluded by stating that there will be some joint multilateral events, on whose sidelines we will be able, as chance offers, to talk. But no signals have come from the US so far. Speaking about the schedule of events, Russia will be taking over the Arctic Council chairmanship from Iceland three weeks from now. An Arctic Council ministerial meeting is scheduled to take place in Reykjavík on May 20-21. If Secretary Blinken leads the US delegation, I will, of course, be prepared to talk with him, if he is interested.  Given that we will chair the Arctic Council for the next two years, I have informed our Iceland colleagues that I will attend this ministerial meeting.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is there any certainty as to who will definitely join the list of unfriendly states?

Sergey Lavrov: The Government of Russia is attending to this on instructions from President of Russia Vladimir Putin. We are participating in this work, as are other respective agencies.  I would not like to jump the gun right now.  We are reluctant to be indiscriminate and put on that list just any country that will say somewhere “something wrong” about Russia. Our decision will be based, of course, on a deep-going analysis of the situation and on whether we see opportunities to have a dialogue with that country in a different way. If we come to the conclusion that there is no chance of this, then, I think, the list will, of course, be periodically extended. But this is not a “dead” paper. As is only natural, it will be revised in tune with how our relations develop with this or that state.

Dmitry Kiselev: When will the public be able to read this list?

Sergey Lavrov: Soon, I think. The Russian Government has concrete assignments. We understand the criteria that are guiding us in this work. So, I think, the wait will not be very long now.

Dmitry Kiselev: Will the unfriendly states be banned from hiring local workforce?

Sergey Lavrov: There will be a ban on hiring any physical persons whether Russian or foreign.

Dmitry Kiselev: Is this the only measure with regard to unfriendly states or some others are in the offing?

Sergey Lavrov: At this stage, this is the concrete aim set in the executive order signed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

Dmitry Kiselev: Donbass is another subject. Tensions have continued to escalate there since early 2021, and it appears that they have subsided a little since US President Joe Biden called President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin. In my show News of the Week, I noted that US military guarantees to Ukraine had turned out to be a bluff. Nevertheless, shootouts continue, and they are using banned large-calibre weapons. It seems like this peace is not very different from war, and that the balance is highly unstable. Over 500,000 Russian citizens now live in Donbass. Will there be a war?

Sergey Lavrov: War can and should be avoided, if this depends on us and on the self-defence fighters, as far as we understand their principled approaches. I cannot speak and make guesses on behalf of the Ukrainian party and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky because, by all indications, his main goal is to stay in power. He is ready to pay any price, such as pandering to neo-Nazis and ultra-radicals who continue to brand the Donbass self-defence fighters as terrorists. Our Western colleagues should reassess the developments that have taken place since February 2014.  None of these districts attacked the rest of Ukraine. They were branded as terrorists, and an anti-terrorist operation was launched against them and then another operation involving “joint forces.”. But we do know for sure that they have no desire to make war on representatives of the Kiev regime.

I have repeatedly told our Western colleagues, who are totally biased in their assessment of current developments, and who unconditionally defend Kiev’s actions, that Russian journalists and war correspondents working on the other side of the demarcation line show an objective picture. They work in trenches there almost without respite, and they provide daily news reports. These reports show the feelings of the people living in these territories that are cut off from the rest of Ukraine by an economic blockade, where children and civilians are being regularly killed, and where the civilian infrastructure, schools and kindergartens are being destroyed. I asked our Western colleagues why they don’t encourage their media outlets to organise the same work on the left side of the demarcation line, so that the scale of damage there can be assessed and to see which facilities have been the hardest hit.

As for the recent developments, when we openly announced the military exercises in the Southern and Western military districts – we made no secret of that, you remember the shouts about the alleged Russian build-up on the border with Ukraine. Just take a look at the terms used: we speak about drills in the Southern and Western military districts, while they say that Russia is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. And when the drills ended and we made the relevant announcement, the West claimed maliciously that Russia had to back off, to withdraw. This is an example of wishful thinking.

This is reminiscent of the situation with the G7: every time they meet they announce that Russia will not be invited to the group. We have stated on numerous occasions that we will never re-join it, that there will not be any G8, and that this is a thing of the past. However, continued references to this subject, as well as claims that Russia has “rolled back” and has ordered its troops to “return to their barracks” shows, of course, that in this instance the West wants above all to take advantage of this situation to prove that it has the last word and the dominant place in modern international relations. This is regrettable.

The subject of a settlement in Ukraine has been discussed by President Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The other day President Putin spoke about it with President of France Emmanuel Macron. The issue was also raised during a recent conversation with US President Joe Biden. The situation is clear, as I see it. The patrons of President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and his team refuse to make him honour the Minsk Agreements, even though they are aware of the futility of trying to use military force; they have heard the signals sent from Donetsk and Lugansk about their readiness to defend their land, their homes and their people who refuse to live by the laws being enforced by neo-Nazis.

President Putin has said clearly that we will never abandon the people of Donbass, who are standing up to the openly radical neo-Nazi regime. President Zelensky keeps saying in his interviews that there are no problems with the Russian language or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and that he is willing to discuss all these subjects with President Putin. It is a shame perhaps that a person I have always regarded as clever says that the Russian language and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have no problems in Ukraine. I have no doubt that he is very well aware of the situation. Maybe nothing at all is being reported to him, but in that case he is living in a dream world. But the West has definitely sent its signals to Zelensky.

As you have mentioned, it would be senseless to pin hopes on US military assistance. This has always been clear to everyone. If anyone entertained such illusions, such advisers are good for nothing in any government, including the government of Mr Zelensky. Regrettably, the West continues to try to convince us that the Minsk Agreements should be mitigated and the sequence of the actions set out in them changed. Zelensky says he likes the agreements, but only if it is all the other way round, that they first take full control of these territories, including the border with Russia, and only then deal with the elections, amnesty and a special status for these territories. It is clear that if they did this, if they were allowed to do this, there would be a massacre. The West is unable or unwilling to force Zelensky to comply with the Minsk Agreements strictly in accordance with the sequence set out in them, which does not permit any double interpretation and has been formulated unambiguously from the first to the last step. Control of the border is the very last step to be taken after these territories receive a special status, which must be sealed in the Constitution of Ukraine, after free elections are held there and their results are recognised as such by the OSCE.

Of course, there must also be total amnesty. Not in the way envisaged by the Poroshenko government or the current regime, which only want to approve an  amnesty on an individual basis for those who are proved to have committed no crime. This is yet another misinterpretation. The Minsk Agreements stipulate an amnesty for those who took part in fighting on both sides, without any transitional justice process, which our Western colleagues are now beginning to discuss.

I believe that the brunt of responsibility lies with the West, because only the West can make President Zelensky honour the commitments which his predecessor signed and he himself signed in Paris in December 2019 when he, the presidents of Russia and France and the Chancellor of Germany reaffirmed the absence of any alternative to the strict observance of the Minsk Agreements, and he pledged to amend the legislation and the Ukrainian Constitution to formalise the special status of Donbass on a permanent basis.

Dmitry Kiselev: Many people are wondering why Russia fails to recognise Donbass. It did recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There is an inner “lobby” in Russia, even among my fellow journalists, who are demanding that we recognise Donbass – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic. Why are we failing in this?

Sergey Lavrov: You are right that there is an analogy with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But there is just one exception: no agreements similar to the Minsk Package of Measures were signed in those countries, when Saakashvili’s aggression against Tskhinval and the positions of peacekeepers, including Russian peacekeepers, occurred. The Medvedev-Sarkozy document was discussed there, and it implied a number of steps. But it was not signed by Georgia. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, after reaching an agreement with us in Moscow, took a plane to Tbilisi to ensure Saakashvili’s support for the document. Saakashvili signed it, but he deleted all the key provisions.  Mr Sarkozy attempted to represent this as a compromise, but everyone understood everything. It had a preamble saying that the Russian Federation and the French Republic, desirous of normalising the situation in South Caucasus, propose to Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia the following:  a ceasefire. Saakashvili crossed out the heading, leaving just the first and subsequent items. Since then, the West has been demanding that we comply with these agreements. This is just an example.

In the case of Donbass, the situation was different. The 17-hour long negotiations in Minsk involving the Normandy format leaders (President Franсois  Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Petr Poroshenko of Ukraine, and President of Russia Vladimir Putin) produced a result, which was endorsed, two days later, by the UN Security Council without any amendments or doubts that it should be implemented.

Today, the moral and international legal truth is on our side and on the side of the Donbass militias.  I think that we must not let Mr Zelensky and his entire team “off the hook,” writhing as they might. Mr Zelensky’s statement is a fine specimen (made when he had all but given up hope of turning the Minsk Agreements upside down) to the effect that they are no good, albeit necessary, because the saving of the Minsk Agreements guarantees that the sanctions against Moscow will be preserved as well. We asked the West, what they think about this. They just look aside shamefacedly and say nothing.  I think it is a shame and a disgrace, when an international legal document is held up to mockery in this manner.  The West, which has co-authored this document and supported it at the UN Security Council, is demonstrating absolute helplessness.

Dmitry Kiselev: President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky cannot get a call through to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, who is not picking up the receiver. Your Ukrainian counterpart, Dmitry Kuleba, cannot get a call through to you. What does this mean? Why is this?

Sergey Lavrov: This means that they are seeking to revise the Minsk Agreements and represent Russia as a party to the conflict even in this area of their activities.

Requests that came in until recently both from my counterpart Kuleba and President Zelensky dealt with the topic of settlement in Donbass. We replied that this [topic] should be discussed not with us, but with Donetsk and Lugansk, as you agreed under the Minsk Agreements.   The agreements say in black and white that the key stages of settlement should be the subject of consultations and coordination with Donetsk and Lugansk. When they say that a “nasty situation is looming large” at the line of contact and want to talk to Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin, they are barking up the wrong tree. Meeting with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in the Kremlin the other day, President Putin made it amply clear that if they wanted to talk about this, the address should be different.  If our colleagues, including President Zelensky, want to discuss how to normalise bilateral relations, they are welcome. We are always ready to talk about this.

Dmitry Kiselev: There is no reply or acceptance so far, is there?

Sergey Lavrov: I heard that Mr Zelensky instructed the chief of his office, Andrey Yermak, to come to terms on the timeframes. The location is of no importance, because each day of delay means new deaths.

Incidentally, let us take the fact that people are dying and what is happening at the line of contact. Over the last couple of weeks, Kiev has been insisting quite aggressively on the need to reaffirm the ceasefire. All of its Western patrons have also been urging us to influence Donbass so that the ceasefire takes hold in earnest. Speaking on the phone with President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, President Putin reminded them of the facts. And the facts are as follows: In July 2020, the Contact Group reached what was perhaps the most serious and effective ceasefire agreement, because it contained a verification mechanism.  It implied a sequence of actions, primarily each side’s commitment not to return fire immediately on the spot but report the violation to the top command and wait for its order on how to act, to wit, whether to respond in kind or to negotiate an arrangement under the mechanisms created for commander-to-commander liaison on the ground.   This agreement, as it was implied, was translated into military orders issued by the DPR and the LPR. These orders were published. Kiev pledged to do the same, but did nothing. Instead it started fiddling with words again. Instead of performing the obligation to report each shelling attack to the top command and get orders from them, they began replacing this clear-cut arrangement with confused formulas, although they were blamed for this by Donetsk and Lugansk at all subsequent meetings, and Russian representatives in the Contact Group, too, repeatedly said as much. The same happened in the Normandy Format.  This is what Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak has been doing all these months in contacts with his French and German colleagues. The head of President Zelensky’s Office, Andrey Yermak, was representing Ukraine. I read transcripts of their talks. It was like talking to a brick wall. They were at cross purposes: the Ukrainian leaders had obviously decided that it was necessary to revive the ceasefire story. It was shameful and unseemly.

It was a great pleasure to watch the Servant of the People series, when no one suspected that its main character would follow this path in real life. But he took the wrong path. If Mr Zelensky watched the series again today and tried to fathom the convictions of the person he had impersonated so well on screen, and later compared those convictions with what he is doing now, he would, perhaps, have achieved one of the most effective transformations.  I do not know when he was himself and when he underwent a transformation. But the contrast is striking.

Dmitry Kiselev: Another subject is the Czech Republic. What was it? How are we to understand it?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot speculate on this because I do not understand intellectually what they wanted. One can watch it like a not too elegant television series.

This story is full of schizophrenic components. Czech president Milos Zeman says it should be sorted out, not denying the possibility of a subversive act by foreign agents, but suggesting taking into account the story told by the Czech leadership, including the incumbent Prime Minister Andrej Babis (the then Minister of Finance, in 2014), that it was the result of negligence by the depot owners. President Zeman only suggested that consideration should be given to the case that has never been disproven over the seven years. He is accused of high treason now. President of the Senate Milos Vystrcil said that by stating the need to investigate all the leads President Zeman had disclosed a state secret. Is this not schizophrenia? A pure case, I think.

There needs to be an investigation into what was stored in the depot. The German media said that they kept antipersonnel mines prohibited by the convention signed, inter alia, by the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. A lot of questions remain.

Dmitry Kiselev: Indeed, how could it happen that a certain Bulgarian citizen supplying antipersonnel mines (by all appearances they were found there), controlled a depot in the Czech Republic which was not then under the control of the government?

Sergey Lavrov: It so happens.

Dmitry Kiselev: Maybe the Czechs would be better to start with themselves?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably. Or follow the example of Ukraine where too a vast number of armed people, weapons and ammunition are controlled not by the Ukrainian armed forces, but by “volunteer battalions.” It is a trend where the state proves its inability to ensure, if you like, its monopoly over the use of force.

Dmitry Kiselev: Ukraine is one thing but the Czech Republic is a member of the EU. It is bound by other international commitments than those of Ukraine and presents itself differently.

Sergey Lavrov: Above all, in addition to the aforementioned conventions (Ottawa Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention and the so-called Arms Trade Treaty, they are all parties to it), the EU has its own quite strict rules that do not encourage but rather prohibit any actions like supplies and sending forces to regions where there are conflicts.

Dmitry Kiselev: What do you think about the so-called British files? This looks like an orchestrated information campaign against Russia.

Sergey Lavrov: As before, the British continue to play a very active, serious and subversive role in relations between Russia and Europe. Britain has withdrawn from the EU but it has not slackened its activities there. On the contrary, it has been trying to exert maximum influence on the EU countries’ positions towards Moscow. This is not surprising at all.

You don’t even need to go very far back in history. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium. The inquest began in one way, and then the process was classified because it was necessary to analyse the materials of intelligence services. And then they announced the verdict, but the materials involved in the case have never been made public. As Arnold Schwarzenegger used to say, “Trust me.” I would rather side with Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify.” But they don’t allow us to verify; they only demand that we trust them.

In 2014, the Malaysian Boeing was downed. They formed a team comprising a narrow group of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine. They did not even invite Malaysia, the country that lost the plane. These four countries have agreed, as it has since transpired, that any information would only be revealed on the basis of consensus. Ukraine, where the disaster took place, was given the right of veto, while Malaysia was invited to join the group only six months later. The black boxes, which the self-defence forces provided to Malaysia, were analysed in London. I don’t recall them making the information public.

In 2018, there were the Skripals and the “highly likely.” Nobody knows to this day how the Skripals survived the alleged poisoning, why the police officer who worked with them did not display any symptoms of poisoning, and why the woman involved died while her partner did not get sick. There are very many questions.

In 2020, we had the case of Alexey Navalny. He was flying from Tomsk to Moscow, but the plane landed in Omsk. Nobody on board the plane or in the Omsk hospital got sick. A bottle of water [from his hotel room] was taken by Maria Pevchikh to Germany on the plane that transported Navalny – nobody knows anything. Doctors at the Charité hospital did not find any traces of poison, but they were found at the Bundeswehr. German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer demanded transparency in connection with our recent military drills in the southern and western regions of Russia. But we announced the drills beforehand, whereas the Bundeswehr, whose experts allegedly found traces of Navalny’s poisoning, is keeping information from us. Our request for the results of tests and biomaterials has been denied.

After that there was a long story involving the OPCW. It allegedly took part in collecting samples from Navalny. According to the remarkable information from Berlin, German experts were present during the collection of the samples, but OPCW experts are not mentioned at all. We are trying to sort this information out. Nobody wants to explain anything. Germany is directing us to the OPCW, which says that the request came from Germany and so we should ask them. It is a conspiracy of silence. We have seen this happen in crime movies about bandit groups operating all over the country after the war. This is regrettable.

Getting back to Britain, we can see that London is continuing its anti-Russia policy. Chief of the UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) Richard Moore said a few days ago that Russia is “a declining power” whose allegedly “reckless behaviour” needs to be dealt with. This is inherent arrogance and a belief that they continue to rule the world. They are sending “signals” to us and propose establishing ties. In other words, they are not against communicating with us, but they are trying to discourage others from doing the same. This could be an aspiration for a monopoly of contacts and a desire to prove that they are superior to others.

Dmitry Kiselev: Speaking about decline, Britain is a perfect example of a declining empire “on which the sun never sets,” a small island in the North Sea with clouded prospects. To return to the Czech Republic, opinions within the country on the latest developments are totally inconsistent. There is no consensus, and nothing has yet been proven, but diplomats have been expelled. There has already been a result.

Sergey Lavrov: They claim that this is not the reason why our diplomats were expelled.  Two statements were made on the same day. They appeared to be interconnected. Prague is now trying to prove that there is no connection between them. They have announced that the explosions were organised by Petrov and Boshirov, the ubiquitous Russian suspects. It’s like blaming them for the sinking of the Titanic. The same day it was announced that 18 diplomats would have to leave the country. The majority of people accepted this as “punishment” for the 2014 explosions. After that, the Czech authorities said they would track down Petrov and Boshirov and issue an arrest warrant for them. As for the 18 diplomats, they identified them as spies. They expelled them because they turned out to be intelligence agents. No proof that any of these 18 diplomats are guilty of illegal activities has been provided. It is not surprising that former Czech President Vaclav Klaus said that the country’s authorities were like a tiny pooch barking at a huge dog, hoping that the big boys (the United States and Britain) would throw their weight behind them. Do you remember a time from your childhood when local bullies waited until dusk to demand 15 kopeks from a smaller kid, and if he refused they summoned the “big boys.” The logic is very similar. This is regrettable.

We never schemed against our Czech colleagues. Why would we need to blow up that warehouse? Some people say that the Russians were angry that the Bulgarian planned to send munitions to Ukraine. This is a completely schizophrenic view of the situation. This is impossible to imagine. But the machinery has been set in motion. I hope our Czech colleagues will come to their senses after all and will take a look at what they have done. If reason prevails, we will be ready to gradually rebuild the conditions for our diplomatic missions to function normally.  If not, we will make do. We know how we will be working. We don’t have to ingratiate ourselves with anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: Working on what?

Sergey Lavrov: We know how we will be working in the Czech Republic and other countries. Pinpoint attacks are being made against Russia in the Baltics, Poland and, recently, Romania. Bucharest has added, though, that its decision was in no way connected to the EU’s position. This came as a surprise. They just decided to send that Russian diplomat back home. Why? They have not explained.

Dmitry Kiselev: It is notable that Germany has not supported the Czech Republic.

Sergey Lavrov: I have read the relevant statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He spoke like a responsible politician. It is not always that the German Foreign Ministry takes such a balanced and astute position. Many of its other statements have indiscriminately supported injustice, for example when Ukraine adopted sanctions against the Opposition Platform – For Life political party, its leader Viktor Medvedchuk and several of his associates, all of them Ukrainian citizens.  The German Foreign Ministry expressed its approval, saying that this was fully in keeping with OSCE principles. This is absurd.

Therefore, what Heiko Maas said the other day is a responsible political statement. It has not smoothed over differences but pointed out the importance of maintaining dialogue and looking for agreements, since we live side by side.

Dmitry Kiselev: Recently in China, you said we needed to look for alternatives to the SWIFT international payment system, and Russia was preparing for this. Is there a specific timeframe, and what stage of the preparations are we at?

Sergey Lavrov: Many have already spoken about this. This is happening because in recent years, the West has been looking for more ways of infringing on Russia’s legitimate interests. Now they are openly mentioning the possibility of disconnecting our country from SWIFT. Responsible politicians just have to think of ways to play it safe.

In addition to these statements, the United States is increasingly abusing the role of the dollar in the international monetary system, using certain countries’ dependence on dollar settlements to limit their competitive opportunities – China and other states they dislike. China, Russia, and Turkey are now looking for opportunities to reduce their dependence on the dollar by switching to alternative currencies, or even better – by making settlements in their national currencies. The responsible agencies, including in our country, are thinking about how to prevent damage to the economy and the financial system if some hotheads actually disconnect us from SWIFT. Russia launched a national payment card system a few years ago; MIR cards have been in use in Russia since then. The system is already developing ties with its foreign counterparts, as similar cards are being issued in China and Japan. It is also building ties with the internationally accepted payment card Maestro.

As regards the SWIFT system, specifically, the Central Bank of Russia recently introduced and continued to develop a system for the transfer of financial messages. It is quite popular. I think we need to support and strengthen this in every possible way to ensure we do not depend on anyone. Let me emphasise that we are not trying to self-isolate. We want to be part of the international community. Part of a community where justice and democracy work. We have discussed the problems of democracy with the West. But once they are asked to come to an agreement, to declare that democracy should triumph in international relations, too, they lose their enthusiasm. They are full of lectures on internal democratic processes, but when it comes to the international arena, we get raised eyebrows. Here, allegedly, there are established ‘practices’ that ‘Russia and China are trying to implement’ (it’s about this). But in reality, Moscow and Beijing only want to preserve the principles of the UN Charter, according to which everyone is equal and must seek agreement.

One needs to have a safety net in terms of payment systems and transfer of financial messages. We have one. I hope it will grow stronger and be able to provide a guarantee if suddenly, contrary to our desire to cooperate with everyone, the West discriminates against Russia, abusing its current position in the international economic and monetary systems, in this situation, we really cannot afford to depend on anyone.

Dmitry Kiselev: So the Central Bank’s system for transfer of financial messages is the budding alternative to SWIFT?

Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert. I don’t know how reliably and effectively it provides a full warranty. But the groundwork is already there. I am confident that the Government and the Central Bank must do everything to make it reliable and guarantee us complete independence and protection from more damage that might be inflicted on us.

Dmitry Kiselev: In a conversation with your Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, you proposed an initiative to create a coalition of countries affected by illegal sanctions. To what extent has this project progressed? What countries could join it?

Sergey Lavrov: I would not put it like that. We have been working at the UN for a long time to end the practice of unilateral illegitimate sanctions such as embargoes, blockades and other restrictions. We have been working for a number of decades to lift the embargo the United States declared on Cuba. The respective resolution is supported by more than 190 votes annually, with only the United States and one small island nation voting against it.

However, since this practice of unilateral restrictions began to be widely used (started by Barack Obama, expanded by Donald Trump, and applied to this day), a large group of countries voted in the UN to establish the position of Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and their impact on the civilian population and the socioeconomic situation in a particular country. Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan is a citizen of Belarus. This institution, created by the UN General Assembly, is working and circulating reports. I think it is a very useful step.

Another specific course of action is now being developed in New York to the same end, as you mentioned, to counter illegal unilateral measures. It is a group in support of the UN Charter. Nothing revolutionary – just in response to our Western colleagues forming flagrantly non-universal groups.

US President Joe Biden has put forth the idea of ​​holding a Summit for Democracy. Naturally, the Americans will recruit the participants and will judge who is worthy to be called a democracy and who is not.

Also, in recent years, our French and German colleagues have being making calls to ensure freedom of the media through the Alliance for Multilateralism, a group they announced outside the framework of universal institutions. They rallied more than thirty states under its banners even though there is UNESCO, where the same topic is discussed by everyone.

Or, there was an appeal in support of international humanitarian law. Law is universal. It is the responsibility of the UN bodies. But again, they recruited about 50 states.

Such appeals have nothing to do with universal bodies, but they cover the agenda that is discussed at a universal level. They place that agenda into a framework where they are more comfortable negotiating with those who obey, and then they present it as the ultimate truth.

This movement against illegitimate unilateral actions is much broader than just sanctions.

Dmitry Kiselev: Can this movement be formalised by membership?

Sergey Lavrov: The membership is in the UN. This is the difference: we are not creating anything against anyone. In the Asia-Pacific region, we would like to leave everything as it is. ASEAN has its partners, while anyone else can join security discussions. The logic of the West acts against this. They are implementing the Indo-Pacific Strategy with its declared goal of containing China and isolating Russia.

The same is happening at the UN. They create various partnerships on topics that need to be discussed as part of the UN agenda. We insist that everyone must fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter, not scatter the global agenda across their compartments, only to present it later as the international community’s opinion.

Dmitry Kiselev: A recent update: the Americans confirmed they had made efforts to prevent Brazil from buying the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Brazil indeed refused, even though the coronavirus situation in that country is simply awful. What is your assessment?

Sergey Lavrov: This does not surprise me. The Americans are not even embarrassed to do things like that; they are not hiding it.

When former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to Africa, he openly and publicly called on his colleagues at a press conference to cut off trade with Russia and China because these countries pursue selfish goals. Right, the United States trades with African states for the sole benefit of their peoples, of course.

As for the vaccine issue, a protest movement kicked off in Brazil against that decision. If the Americans have admitted they were behind it, that means they are true to their logic and believe everything is possible and permitted, and they can now openly dictate their will.

Not so long ago, French President Emmanuel Macron warned of a new type of world war, and that Russia and China were using vaccines as a weapon and means of propaganda. That rhetoric is now receding. Germany, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, is already seriously talking about the possibility of using the Russian vaccine.

We are not going to force anyone. I think life itself will set things straight. Vladimir Vysotsky said: “I always try to find the good in people. They will show the bad themselves.”

Dmitry Kiselev: A year ago, in an interview with our agency in the midst of the pandemic, you said you missed football. Are you back to sport yet?

Sergey Lavrov: In fact, I am. I did miss playing for a couple of weeks. We took a break and kept it low-key. But later, when we realised what precautions we could take, the games resumed. We play every Sunday.

What Just Happened in the Ukraine?

THE SAKER • APRIL 25, 2021 

Before we look into what just happened in the Ukraine, we need to first recall the sequence of events which lead to the current situation. I will try to make a short summary (skipping a lot of details) in the bullet-point style:

  1. Whether Ze initially intended to stop the war in the eastern Ukraine we don’t know, but what we do know is that he failed not only to stop it, in many ways his policies were even worse than Poroshenko’s. This might be the well-known phenomenon of a supposedly “pro-peace and happiness” politician being accused of being “weak” and thus not “presidential”; this politician has to show his “strength” is “patriotism”, that is acting recklessly on the external front. We see that from putatively “liberal” politicians such as the Dems in the USA and Labor in Israel. Historically, “liberals” are the most common war initiators. Ze showed his weakness almost from day 1, and the Ukronazis immediately seized this opportunity to engage in a massive multi-level campaign for war against Russia. This resulted in:
  2. A quasi-official repudiation of the Minsk Agreements and Steinmeier Formula by Kiev, followed by a sharp increase in bellicose statements and, most crucially a large scale move of forces (including tanks, heavy artillery, MLRS and even ballistic missiles!) towards the line of contact. At the same time Ukronazi politicians began making statements saying that a) the Ukrainian army was capable and willing to “liberate” all of the “Russian occupied” Ukrainian land thus, including both the Donbass and Crimea b) that Russia was going to attack the Ukraine anyway and c) that the consolidated West had to help the Ukraine because only the Ukrainian forces were keeping the asiatic drunken Russian hordes from over-running not only the Ukraine, but even the rest of Europe. Since the Ukraine simply has no agency, this begs the question of the US (and, to a lesser degree, the UK) rationale was for these moves. It is quite simple:
  3. Force Russia to openly intervene to protect the population of the Donbass from the inevitable genocide which the Ukronazis would have meeted out to the population of the LDNR.

How good was this plan? I would argue that it was a very solid plan which, for the USA, meant a win-win situation. Here is how it should have gone:

First, the Ukrainian forces would attack the LDNR, probably along three axes: one between the city of Gorlovka and Donetsk, one frontally attacking Donetsk proper, not to invade the city, but to tie down LDNR forces in protection of their capital, and one in the south with the aim of reaching the Russian border. This way, the LDNR defenders would have to defend their capital while, at the same time, risking envelopment on two axes. Remember that the LDNR has no strategic depth (Donetsk is practically on the frontline) and that the LDNR defenders could not trade space for time.

I have seen some “experts” saying that since the Ukrainians have laid down a very large number of mines they are clearly not going to attack since they would lose time – and possibly men – to cross these minefields. First, there is no way of knowing if these mines are real or fake (many mines also have a timer anyway) but, second, more crucially: an attacking force always wants to concentrate in one specific location of the line of contact, which means that the attacking forces has to not only attack, but also protect herself from enemy counter-attacks: minefields are very effective at providing this sort of protection. The “defensive” moves can, and do, in reality, form an integral part of any offensive plans.

Of course, The Big Question was this: could the LDNR forces stop the Ukronazis? There are those who say that yes, and those who say no. Rather than suggesting an answer, let’s look at both of these outcomes:

Option 1: the LDNR forces successfully stop the Ukrainian invasion:

That would be, by far, the best outcome for Russia, but for the LDNR this outcome, while better than a defeat, would probably result in a lot of deaths and destruction. We know that both the Ukrainian military and the LDNR forces have been profoundly reformed and restructured since 2014. Crucially, the LDNR forces went from being self-organized and disparate militias to a conventional military force capable of operational level combined arms operations. Would that be enough to stop a larger Ukrainian force? Possibly. But this is by no means certain, not only because war is an unpredictable thing to begin with, but also because we really have no way of knowing how well the Ukrainian military was reformed. If what they got was the same type of “training” as the Georgians in the years leading up to 08.08.08 then there is a good cause to doubt it. LDNR leaders, however, did not engage in bravado and silly flag-waving and they took the threat very seriously, which tells us that they were by no means certain of what might happen next. Now let’s look at option 2:

Option 2: the LDNR defenses eventually collapse in one or even several locations:

What if the LDNR forces failed to stop the Ukrainians? At this point, Russia would have absolutely no choice but to intervene to save the people of the Donbass (more than half a million of which already have Russian passports!). I won’t discuss here the options a LDNR+Russia counter-attack would have or how much Ukronazi-occupied land Russia could or should liberate (that is not the topic here). In this case, two things are absolutely certain:

  1. Russia would comprehensively defeat any combination of Ukrainian forces.
  2. The US/NATO would declare a state of quasi war with Russia and create something similar to the Berlin Wall along whatever line of contact would result from a Russian counter-attack.

In this scenario, the biggest loser would, of course, be the Ukraine. But the next loser would be Russia, because instead of “just” dealing with a nutcase Nazi regime next door, Russia would now face a hysterically paranoid and russophobic consolidated West. At the end of such a war, Russia would face something similar to what happened at the end of the Korean war: a ceasefire followed by decades of tensions.

The big winner would be the USA: its main instrument for the colonization of Europe (NATO) would finally find itself a purpose in life (stop the Russians, of course), NS2 and other cooperation between the EU and Russia would all but totally freeze, making the European economy non-competitive against the US, and the US MIC would have a great time selling very expensive, if not very effective, military hardware to all the the European countries. And that strategic US victory would not cost the US a single soldier! What’s there not to like about this?

Well, for Russia this would be a very bad outcome. Yes, Russia has the means to take on both the US and NATO militarily, but politically and economically, this would hurt Russian interests, not critically, but substantially.

Then, there is this: the Ukraine is a thoroughly deindustrialized failed state, worse than many African countries. While there was a lot of window-dressing going on both inside the Ukraine and in the West’s legacy media, the COVID pandemic and its horrible consequences inside the Ukraine became impossible to conceal or deny, especially to the Ukrainian people themselves. Right now, the entire Ukraine is like a vase in a store: if you break it, you own it and you must fix it. Even if we exclude an outcome where the Russian tanks stop at the western borders of the Ukraine and take a middle-of-the-road option where the Russians stop at the Dnieper river, this would have huge consequences for the Russians, including:

  1. The frontline between the Ukronazis and the LDNR+Russian forces would be massively stretched becoming much longer, yet every kilometer of that line of contact would have to be protected. This begs the question: protected by whom?
  2. The Russian side would suddenly inherit several large cities (Chernigov, Kharkov, Poltava, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhia, Mariupol, Berdiansk, etc.). Not only would the Russians have to clear these cities from Ukrainian insurgents and stay-behind forces, but Russia would also have to rebuild them and feed a population much larger than the current population of the LDNR.
  3. The Russian economy simply cannot bear the burden of what is currently a Nazi run Ukraine which has turned into a massive black hole sucking in huge ressoures and never letting anything leave (except emigrating Ukrainians). At best, Russia is currently investing billions of rubles to rebuild Crimea (which the Nazis always hated and neglected – except to build themselves mansions on the Black Sea) while barely keeping the LDNR afloat.

It is the consolidated West (US+UK+EU) which destroyed the Ukraine, and the Russians will capitalize on this by making the West responsible for fixing what it broke, and that won’t happen since the EU does not have the means to do it right now while the USA is not directly threatened by this situation and thus has no reasons to intervene beyond making sure that the regime in Kiev remains a) rabidly anti-Russian and b) totally under the control of the USA.

Thus, neither option 1 nor option 2 were desirable for Russia. So Putin created option three.

Putin’s option 3:

In response to the seemingly unstoppable escalation towards war was something nobody in the West expected: Putin used the pretext of regularly scheduled military exercises to quickly and dramatically increase the Russian capabilities near the Ukraine: Russia moved two Armies (58th and 41st) and three Airborne Divisions (7th76th and 98th) towards Russia’s western regions (including Crimea). The Russians also moved almost their entire Caspian Flotilla into the Black Sea. More Russian warships entered the Black Sea through the Bosphorus. Next, all six advanced 636.3 type diesel-electric submarines (possibly the quietest on the planet, at normal cruising speed they produce less noise than the surrounding environment, turning them into acoustic black holes) went on patrol. Finally, Russia deployed her coastal defense missile systems Bal and Bastion, turning the entire Black Sea into a Russian shooting range). And, crucially, Russia did all that very publicly, in broad daylight, officially announcing her military moves and not even bothering with any type of camouflage or deception.

To those ignorant of military realities this looked like Russia was “threatening the Ukraine”. This is absolute nonsense. All Russia needs to do to threaten the Ukraine is to remind the Ukrainians that Russian long range weapons are enough to obliterate the Ukrainian military and that Russia can use these standoff weapons without moving any forces at all. No, the real object of these Russian moves was not the Ukraine, but the West itself, especially any western force crazy enough to decide to enter the war and militarily help the Ukraine. Why? Here again, I will offer my view of how this situation might have evolved:

  1. First, the Ukrainians attack the LDNR. LDNR forces take the initial blow and try to contain the Ukrainian advance.
  2. The Russians declare a no-fly zone over the area of operations and strikes the advancing Ukrainian forces with her formidable firepower. The outcome here is not in doubt.
  3. NATO+EU nations decide to intervene, say by sending several Polish battalions into the Ukraine. US+UK forces conduct reconnaissance operations by flying near (or even over) the line of contact and by sending special forces. After a few warnings (or not), the Russians decide to shoot down one of these intelligence aircraft or drones. The West decides to “show solidarity” by engaging in cyber-attacks against Russia, imposing even more sanctions and by airlifting even more forces into the Western Ukraine.

At this point, the US+NATO+EU and Russia would be at the brink of a major war. But here is the crucial thing: by moving two armies and three airborne divisions (a huge force, way bigger and more capable than any combo of NATO forces!) so quickly Russia, proved to NATO that she can quickly achieve a huge numerical advantage anywhere any NATO force might decide to attack. Conversely, no NATO nation has the ability to concentrate its conventional forces so quickly and on any point along the frontline.

Comparing force sizes is engaging in “bean counting” and is useless. It really does not matter very much how big a force is, what matters is the force ratios along key sectors of the FEBA or the front (assuming there is a “front”, which sometimes does not really exist) and at a specific moment in time.

Also, keep in mind that, unlike most western airborne forces, Russian airborne forces are fully mechanized, they even have some tanks, plenty of armored vehicles, their own artillery and an ability to move very very quickly (remember the Rusbat in Bosnia going to Pristina almost overnight?). Western airborne forces are attack forces designed to enforce the western imperial hegemony worldwide, so they have to be much lighter. The Russians have no need to send airborne forces across the border, they need them to defend Russia and to be deployed within less than about 1000km from the main Russian forces. Thus, Russia “sacrificed” their strategic mobility of her airborne forces to give them a tactical and operational mobility and firepower which western airborne forces can’t even dream about. So what could these three divisions do in the context of a Ukrainian attack?

Well, they could do what they are mostly designed to do, deploy behind enemy lines, destroy (or hold) strategic targets (like bridges, power stations, missile bases, etc.) hold some strategic location or present a threat from the rear to the Ukrainains. But that overlooks the major reform the Russian AB forces have undergone. They are also really high mobility and high readiness forces which, for example, could be deployed to protect the Russian peacekeeping force in Transnistria (such a move would also be protected by the long range fire capabilities of both the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian Aerospace Forces). Russian AB units could also be deployed in the Ukrainian rear to create chaos and disrupt the Ukrainian supply lines. Finally, any Polish force threatening to intervene could be quickly attacked and destroyed. Again, that would enrage the Western politicians, and it is at this moment that the Russians could move her armies across the border to show that any combo of western forces would be annihilated. This would leave the West only two options: fold or go nuclear. And going nuclear does not seem to be an option the West wants to exercise, hence folding would be the only viable option. So far (things might change in the future, who knows how crazy NATO can act?).

Finally, Putin spoke directly to the West in his speech before the Federal Assembly when he said:

The meaning and purpose of Russia’s policy in the international arena – I will just say a few words about this to conclude my address – is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens, for the stable development of our country. Russia certainly has its own interests we defend and will continue to defend within the framework of international law, as all other states do. And if someone refuses to understand this obvious thing or does not want to conduct a dialogue and chooses a selfish and arrogant tone with us, Russia will always find a way to defend its stance.

At the same time, unfortunately, everyone in the world seems to be used to the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions and to certain actors’ brutal attempts to impose their will on others by force. But today, this practice is degenerating into something even more dangerous – I am referring to the recently exposed direct interference in Belarus in an attempt to orchestrate a coup d’état and assassinate the President of that country. At the same time, it is typical that even such flagrant actions have not been condemned by the so-called collective West. Nobody seemed to notice. Everyone pretends nothing is happening.

But listen, you can think whatever you like of, say, Ukrainian President [Viktor] Yanukovych or [Nicolas] Maduro in Venezuela. I repeat, you can like or dislike them, including Yanukovych who almost got killed, too, and removed from power via an armed coup. You can have your own opinion of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko’s policy. But the practice of staging coups d’état and planning political assassinations, including those of high-ranking officials – well, this goes too far. This is beyond any limits.

Suffice it to mention the admission made by the detained participants in the conspiracy about a planned siege of Minsk, including plans to block the city infrastructure and communications, and a complete shutdown of the entire power system in the capital of Belarus! This actually means they were preparing a massive cyberattack. What else could it be? You know, you cannot just do it all with one switch.

Clearly, there is a reason why our Western colleagues have been stubbornly rejecting Russia’s numerous proposals to establish an international dialogue on information and cyber security. We have come up with these proposals many times. They avoid even discussing this matter.

What if there had been a real attempt at a coup d’état in Belarus? After all, this was the ultimate goal. How many people would have been hurt? What would have become of Belarus? Nobody is thinking about this.

Just as no one was thinking about the future of Ukraine during the coup in that country.

All the while, unfriendly moves towards Russia have also continued unabated. Some countries have taken up an unseemly routine where they pick on Russia for any reason, most often, for no reason at all. It is some kind of new sport of who shouts the loudest.

In this regard, we behave in an extremely restrained manner, I would even say, modestly, and I am saying this without irony. Often, we prefer not to respond at all, not just to unfriendly moves, but even to outright rudeness. We want to maintain good relations with everyone who participates in the international dialogue. But we see what is happening in real life. As I said, every now and then they are picking on Russia, for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis are running around them like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along in order to make their sovereign happy. Kipling was a great writer.

We really want to maintain good relations with all those engaged in international communication, including, by the way, those with whom we have not been getting along lately, to put it mildly. We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone mistakes our good intentions for indifference or weakness and intends to burn or even blow up these bridges, they must know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and tough.

Those behind provocations that threaten the core interests of our security will regret what they have done in a way they have not regretted anything for a long time.

Putin very very rarely threatens, but when he does, people listen because they understand that his warnings are never a bluff and that when he promises something he has the means to realize his threat (in this case, 2 Combined Arms Armies and 3 Airborne Divisions, all backed by Russian long range and hypersonic weapons and, if all else fails, by the most modern and robust nuclear triad on the planet). As for what would be a Russian “red line”, Putin decided to deliberately leave this point ambiguous only saying that “I just have to make it clear, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence and certainty in our cause, as well as common sense, when making a decision of any kind. But I hope that no one will think about crossing the “red line” with regard to Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where it will be drawn.” The point of this strategic ambiguity is to leave the West guessing when it is safe to make a move and when not. This very simply maximizes the deterrent effect of the rest of his speech.

And, today, the Russians have “clarified” that the Kerch strait are not close to traffic, not even Ukrainian traffic. “All” that Russia did was to declare some exclusion zones for military exercises purposes, but traffic under the Crimean Bridge remains open. Right. And how long will it take Russia to (truly) re-close that strait? Minutes. This unspoken threat is primarily a threat to the Ukrainians, showing them how easy it would be for Russia to sever their lines of communications should they threaten Russia.

Yes, Putin did win this round quite elegantly, without a single Russian soldier dying. But the problem is that this undeniable Russian success really solves nothing. All the causes which led the Ukronazi regime to bring the entire region to the edge of the abyss are still present. Inside the Ukraine nothing has changed and, if anything, things are even worse: total censorships of opposition TV channels, political persecutions (including torture and kidnappings), the same warlike rhetoric. The economy in in shambles and Ukrainians are emigrating by the millions (both to Russia and to the EU), the Nazi deathsquads continue to enjoy total impunity, and, of course, the total COVID catastrophe (the West gives the Ukies lethal weapons to use against Russian, but no vaccine, and way more people are dying from COVID in the Ukraine than are dying at the frontlines! These are “European” and “Western” “values” at work…)

Sure, it does appear that a combination of European reservations and the risk of the members of the ruling elite in Kiev to be physically eliminated by Russian strikes, possibly combined with a realization by the “Biden” Administration that a total blow-up in the Ukraine would strain US-European relations (there will be plenty of blame to go around) resulted in the current perceived deescalation.

Sadly, and in spite of the current reprieve, some kind of war between Russia and the Ukraine is still probably inevitable. Right now, the bulk of the Russian forces are returning to their normal areas of deployment, with, probably, some staying. We can also be sure that the Russians will have a major after action review to find out what went wrong and what needs to be changed. As a result, next time around, the Russian will move their forces even faster.

But what about the US, it’s NATO proxies and the Ukronazi regime?

The US is still scrambling to try to retake control of an international situation which has clearly gone totally out of hand for the wannabe world Hegemon. Even more importantly, the internal situation of the USA is truly critical with many very serious crises occurring simultaneously. Yes, there is also a lot of window-dressing in the US media, but most people see and know what is really going on. Which means that the US is as weak as it is unstable. Finally, judging by the low intellectual abilities of US decision makers, we should always expect something silly or even dangerous, or both, from this Administration for and by Woke-freaks (especially since “diversity” has now completely replaced “competence”).

NATO and the EU are in a bind. While some countries go “totally insane” (the Czech Republic and the usual 3B+PU) others are desperately trying to keep things together (Germany). As for the regime in Kiev, it is barely holding on to power and has no other options left than doubling down over and over and over again. Crucially, the junta in Kiev will continue to blame Russia for absolutely everything and anything (about 99% of what the Ukie political class does nowadays is hate on Russia and threaten to defeat Russia militarily).

None of that qualifies as “peace” in any meaningful sense of the word (people die everyday, almost all of them civilians). Worst of all, the same causes can only lead to the same outcomes, and there is very little anybody can do to change this. Thus, at best, what we are seeing is only a reprieve. But as long as a gang of Neo-Nazi thugs continues to hold power in Kiev, war will be a quasi inevitability. True peace will only come when the Ukronazis are either dead, or jailed or back in Canada. Until then there shall be no peace, only degrees of war.

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

What about the deescalation in the Donbass? (OPEN THREAD #17)

April 23, 2021

The Saker

There is, amongst some, a strong sense of relief: Defense Minister Shoigu has declared that the formations deployed by Russia to western Russia will now return to their regular bases.  Of course, the Ukrainians claim that they “deterred a Russian attack” while the Russians say that “the West got the message”.  Is that so and, if yes, who is right?

Well, I think that we can dismiss the Ukie nonsense out of hand.  Nobody out there, except the Ukrainians themselves, seriously believe that Russia “blinked”, if only because destroying the entire Ukrainian military would take Russia less than a week.  In fact, the Ukrainians know that very well, they just won’t admit it.

Notice that while the Ukrainians claim that they deterred Russia, Russia does not claim to have deterred the Ukrainians, instead Russia declared that the Russian bear roared loud enough to deter the united West.  Right there we have an important clue as to what has really happened.

I, however, submit that the causes which triggered the initial Ukrainian move to bring a large armored force right to the line of contact are still here.  In other words, nothing has been resolved.

What happened is this: in response to the threat from both the Ukrainians and US/NATO, Russia simply demonstrated her ability to quickly concentrate a truly huge force (2 Armies and 2 Airborne Divisions) along her border.  She also redeployed the Caspian Flotilla into the Black Sea, brought in large landing ships and, generally, “flexed her military muscles” in order to convey a clear message to the Ukrainians, the Europeans and the US:

  • To the Ukrainians: attack the Donbass and you will die, as for the Ukraine, it will break apart into several new successor states.
  • To the EU: if a war starts, you will even lose the very little agency you have left and your economy will not be competitive against the USA.
  • To the USA: if a war starts, you will face a stark choice: lose face or start a full-scale war against Russia.

Yes, so far, this strategy has proved very effective.  The Ukrainians were clearly terrified and the EU showed no enthusiasm for that war (except the UK, which risks very little, and the Poles who specialize in stupid historical decisions).  As for “Biden”, he realized that a full scale war against Russia was suicidal.

So are we now out of the danger zone?

Absolutely not.  There is still one thing the West is determined to achieve: to fight Russia down to the last Ukrainian.  For the US Neocons, to see the two Slavic brothers kill each other is old dream come true.  Furthermore, the US still needs to bring the EU down to its economic knees to force it to buy energy, services and goods from the USA.  Last, but not least, the Ukraine has lost any appeal it might have had for the USA: the only thing which the Ukraine can still offer is to be a thorn in Russia’s side.

And then, there is the “Ze” regime in Kiev: not viable, not reformable, the Ukraine is has been comprehensively deindustrialized and now the Ukrainians are dying in huge numbers from the COVID pandemic: Banderastan is the ultimate failed state, worse than many African ones, in fact.

Yes, “Ze” was told by his masters to “cool it” and, so far, he has obeyed, but that solves exactly none of his problems.  Worse, there are a lot of well-armed Ukronazi deathsquads who still have the means to create some kind of incident which would reignite the whole thing again.  Also, it is worth remembering that the Brits and the Ukies both have a proven record of successful covert operations, which by definition include false flags.

In other words, nothing has really changed.  Yes, right now, Uncle Shmuel is trying to find out what his options are, and he will come up with a corrected plan (remember, Neocons are stupid, yes, but they are also clever in a short term, “horizontal” way).  Right now “Biden” is licking his wounds from the embarrassing faceplant with the attempt to kill Lukashenko and the (frankly silly) nonsense coming out of the Czech Republic.  There are some signs that at least the Germans realize what is really going on and who is truly trying to screw them over (while most of the German political class is corrupt to the bone, some German politicians are sensitive to the mood of the German business community).

Simply put: all we are observing today is a short term reprieve, nothing more.

The Russians know that, and it is safe to say that while some of their forces will demonstratively retreat, others will stay.  More importantly, now that this operational redeployment of key formations has been rehearsed, very publicly, the Russians have shown the US/NATO that Russia can deal with any military threat (in contrast, it would take NATO months to bring a big enough force to eastern Europe to represent a credible threat).

Finally, Ze has made a rather ridiculous speech telling Putin that they should meet.  Putin’s response was perfect: you want to meet with me to discuss our bilateral relations (which, incidentally, you have destroyed) – sure.  No problem.  But if you want to discuss the Donbass, you have to engage in direct talks with the LDNR, as the Minsk Agreement and the Steinmeier formula, which you have signed, stipulate.  In other words, back to square one.

This is a situation of not one, but two “thorns”: the Ukronazi Banderastan is definitely a thorn in the side of Russia, while the LDNR is a thorn in the side of Banderastan.  Make a guess, which side can put up with its thorn longer than the other side?

Many have forgotten it, but in a moment of anger, Poroshenko did tell Putin “take the Donbass if you want it!”, and Putin declined.  Since then, the Russians have shown over and over again that they do NOT want the Donbass.  At most, they might have to take it to save it from genocide, but even in this case the Russians have no intentions of invading the rest of the Ukraine only to have to deal with 1) Ukronazi insurgencies and 2) rebuilding this failed state from its current zero all the way back.  And that is the worst Russian threat not only for the Ukraine, but for all of Europe: Russia does NOT want, or need, the Ukraine and Russia won’t take it over, even in case of a full-scale war.  At most, Russia will repeat what she did in the 08.08.08 war: defang the Nazi regime by obliterating the Ukrainian military, and then let the regime naturally collapse.

Anyway, I will write a more detailed analysis of this situation next week, but right now I submit that all that is happened is a limited and temporary deescalation, not any kind of return to even semi-normality (and the Ukies are still murdering LDNR civilians every day, including with heavy weapons).

So, what do you think?  Back to sanity, or only a reprieve?

The Saker

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

Putin rewrites the law of the geopolitical jungle

April 23, 2021

By Pepe Escobar and first posted at The Saker Blog

Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly – a de facto State of the Nation – was a judo move that left Atlanticist sphere hawks particularly stunned.

The “West” was not even mentioned by name. Only indirectly, or via a delightful metaphor, Kipling’s Jungle Book. Foreign policy was addressed only at the end, almost as an afterthought.

For the best part of an hour and a half, Putin concentrated on domestic issues, detailing a series of policies that amount to the Russian state helping those in need – low income families, children, single mothers, young professionals, the underprivileged – with, for instance, free health checks all the way to the possibility of an universal income in the near future.

Of course he would also need to address the current, highly volatile state of international relations. The concise manner he chose to do it, counter-acting the prevailing Russophobia in the Atlanticist sphere, was quite striking.

First, the essentials. Russia’s policy “is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens and for the stable development of our country.”

Yet if “someone does not want to…engage in dialogue, but chooses an egoistic and arrogant tone, Russia will always find a way to stand up for its position.”

He singled out “the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions” to connect it to “something much more dangerous”, and actually rendered invisible in the Western narrative: “the recent attempt to organize a coup d’etat in Belarus and the assassination of that country’s president.” Putin made sure to stress, “all boundaries have been crossed”.

The plot to kill Lukashenko was unveiled by Russian and Belarusian intel – which detained several actors backed, who else, US intel. The US State Department predictably denied any involvement.

Putin: “It is worth pointing to the confessions of the detained participants in the conspiracy that a blockade of Minsk was being prepared, including its city infrastructure and communications, the complete shutdown of the entire power grid of the Belarusian capital. This, incidentally means preparations for a massive cyber-attack.”

And that leads to a very uncomfortable truth: “Apparently, it’s not for no reason that our Western colleagues have stubbornly rejected numerous proposals by the Russian side to establish an international dialogue in the field of information and cyber-security.”

“Asymmetric, swift and harsh”

Putin remarked how to “attack Russia” has become “a sport, a new sport, who makes the loudest statements.” And then he went full Kipling: “Russia is attacked here and there for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis [jackals] are running around like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan [the tiger] – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along and ready to serve their sovereign. Kipling was a great writer”.

The – layered – metaphor is even more startling as it echoes the late 19th century geopolitical Great Game between the British and Russian empires, of which Kipling was a protagonist.

Once again Putin had to stress that “we really don’t want to burn any bridges. But if someone perceives our good intentions as indifference or weakness and intends to burn those bridges completely or even blow them up, he should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetric, swift and harsh”.

So here’s the new law of the geopolitical jungle – backed by Mr. Iskander, Mr. Kalibr, Mr. Avangard, Mr. Peresvet, Mr. Khinzal, Mr. Sarmat, Mr. Zircon and other well-respected gentlemen, hypersonic and otherwise, later complimented on the record. Those who poke the Bear to the point of threatening “the fundamental interests of our security will regret what has been done, as they have regretted nothing for a very long time.”

The stunning developments of the past few weeks – the China-US Alaska summit, the Lavrov-Wang Yi summit in Guilin, the NATO summit, the Iran-China strategic dealXi Jinping’s speech at the Boao forum – now coalesce into a stark new reality: the era of a unilateral Leviathan imposing its iron will is over.

For those Russophobes who still haven’t got the message, a cool, calm and collected Putin was compelled to add, “clearly, we have enough patience, responsibility, professionalism, self-confidence, self-assurance in the correctness of our position and common sense when it comes to making any decisions. But I hope that no one will think about crossing Russia’s so-called red lines. And where they run, we determine ourselves in each specific case.”

Back to realpolitik, Putin once again had to stress the “special responsibility” of the “five nuclear states” to seriously discuss “issues related to strategic armament”. It’s an open question whether the Biden-Harris administration – behind which stand a toxic cocktail of neo-cons and humanitarian imperialists – will agree.

Putin: “The goal of such negotiations could be to create an environment of conflict-free coexistence based on equal security, covering not only strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, heavy bombers and submarines, but also, I would like to emphasize, all offensive and defensive systems capable of solving strategic tasks, regardless of their equipment.”

As much as Xi’s address to the Boao forum was mostly directed to the Global South, Putin highlighted how “we are expanding contacts with our closest partners in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the BRICS, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the allies of the Collective Security Treaty Organization”, and extolled “joint projects in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union”, billed as “practical tools for solving the problems of national development.”

In a nutshell: integration in effect, following the Russian concept of “Greater Eurasia”.

“Tensions skirting wartime levels”

Now compare all of the above with the White House Executive Order (EO) declaring a “national emergency” to “deal with the Russian threat”.

This is directly connected to President Biden – actually the combo telling him what to do, complete with earpiece and teleprompter – promising Ukraine’s President Zelensky that Washington would “take measures” to support Kiev’s wishful thinking of retaking Donbass and Crimea.

There are several eyebrow-raising issues with this EO. It denies, de facto, to any Russian national the full rights to their US property. Any US resident may be accused of being a Russian agent engaged in undermining US security. A sub-sub paragraph (C), detailing “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the United States or abroad”, is vague enough to be used to eliminate any journalism that supports Russia’s positions in international affairs.

Purchases of Russian OFZ bonds have been sanctioned, as well as one of the companies involved in the production of the Sputnik V vaccine. Yet the icing on this sanction cake may well be that from now on all Russian citizens, including dual citizens, may be barred from entering US territory except via a rare special authorization on top of the ordinary visa.

The Russian paper Vedomosti has noted that in such paranoid atmosphere the risks for large companies such as Yandex or Kaspersky Lab are significantly increasing. Still, these sanctions have not been met with surprise in Moscow. The worst is yet to come, according to Beltway insiders: two packages of sanctions against Nord Stream 2 already approved by the US Department of Justice.

The crucial point is that this EO de facto places anyone reporting on Russia’s political positions as potentially threatening “American democracy”. As top political analyst Alastair Crooke has remarked, this is a “procedure usually reserved for citizens of enemy states during times of war”. Crooke adds, “US hawks are upping the ante fiercely against Moscow. Tensions and rhetoric are skirting wartime levels.”

It’s an open question whether Putin’s State of the Nation will be seriously examined by the toxic lunatic combo of neocons and humanitarian imperialists bent on simultaneously harassing Russia and China.

But the fact is something extraordinary has already started to happen: a “de-escalation” of sorts.

Even before Putin’s address, Kiev, NATO and the Pentagon apparently got the message implicit in Russia moving two armies, massive artillery batteries and airborne divisions to the borders of Donbass and to Crimea – not to mention top naval assets moved from the Caspian to the Black Sea. NATO could not even dream of matching that.

Facts on different grounds speak volumes. Both Paris and Berlin were terrified of a possible Kiev clash directly against Russia, and lobbied furiously against it, bypassing the EU and NATO.

Then someone – it might have been Jake Sullivan – must have whispered on Crash Test Dummy’s earpiece that you don’t go around insulting the head of a nuclear state and expect to keep your global “credibility”. So after that by now famous “Biden” phone call to Putin came the invitation to the climate change summit, in which any lofty promises are largely rhetorical, as the Pentagon will continue to be the largest polluting entity on planet Earth.

So Washington may have found a way to keep at least one avenue of dialogue open with Moscow. At the same time Moscow has no illusions whatsoever that the Ukraine/Donbass/Crimea drama is over. Even if Putin did not mention it in the State of the Nation. And even if Defense Minister Shoigu has ordered a de-escalation.

The always inestimable Andrei Martyanov has gleefully noted the “cultural shock when Brussels and D.C. started to suspect that Russia doesn’t ‘want’ Ukraine. What Russia wants is for this country to rot and implode without excrement from this implosion hitting Russia. West’s paying for the clean up of this clusterf**k is also in Russian plans for Ukrainian Bantustan.”

The fact that Putin did not even mention Bantustan in his speech corroborates this analysis. As far as “red lines” are concerned, Putin’s implicit message remains the same: a NATO base on Russia’s western flank simply won’t be tolerated. Paris and Berlin know it. The EU is in denial. NATO will always refuse to admit it.

We always come back to the same crucial issue: whether Putin will be able, against all odds, to pull a combined Bismarck-Sun Tzu move and build a lasting German-Russian entente cordiale (and that’s quite far from an “alliance’). Nord Stream 2 is an essential cog in the wheel – and that’s what’s driving Washington hawks crazy.

Whatever happens next, for all practical purposes Iron Curtain 2.0 is now on, and it simply won’t go away. There will be more sanctions. Everything was thrown at the Bear short of a hot war. It will be immensely entertaining to watch how, and via which steps, Washington will engage on a “de-escalation and diplomatic process” with Russia.

The Hegemon may always find a way to deploy a massive P.R. campaign and ultimately claim a diplomatic success in “dissolving” the impasse. Well, that certainly beats a hot war. Otherwise, lowly Jungle Book adventurers have been advised: try anything funny and be ready to meet “asymmetric, swift and harsh”.

Are The British Behind Czechia’s Surprise Decision To Expel Russian Diplomats?

By Andrew Korybko

18 APRIL 2021

Are The British Behind Czechia

Czechia’s surprise decision to expel a whopping 18 Russian diplomats on alleged espionage pretexts reeks of British meddling behind the scenes.

Strategic Context

All of Europe is discussing Czechia’s surprise decision to expel a whopping 18 Russian diplomats on alleged espionage pretexts as well as their curious claims that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov of Skripal saga infamy were behind an accidental 2014 munitions depot explosion in the country. This follows hot on the heels of the US imposing its most intense sanctions against Russia since 2018, which itself occurred within the context of Ukraine’s unprovoked US-backed military escalation in Donbass. I posited that the purpose of the latter is actually to manufacture the political conditions whereby Europe’s possibly impending large-scale purchase of Sputnik V might become impossible, thereby indefinitely prolonging America’s fading hegemony over the continent seeing as how close epidemiological cooperation between Russia and the EU could in theory create the opportunity for an incipient rapprochement between them. I elaborated on this in my relevant analysis asking, “Are Vaccines The Real Driving Force Behind The Latest Donbass Destabilization?

The British-Russian “Deep State” Struggle In Europe

While a secret American hand obviously can’t be ruled out when it comes to Czechia’s surprise decision this weekend, it’s also worthwhile to explore the possibility that the British were meddling behind the scenes as well. The most obvious hint in this direction was the revival of the Skripal saga through Prague’s unsubstantiated allegations against Petrov and Boshirov. There’s more to it than just that, however, since I’ve been closely following British intelligence’s activities in Europe over the past year, as proven by the following analyses that I’ve published during that time which should be reviewed by interested readers:

* 30 April 2020: “The Czech Republic’s Russian Assassination Scandal Reeks Of The Skripal Conspiracy

* 3 June 2020: “MI6 Might Become The CIA’s Proxy For Stopping Europe From Moving Towards Russia

* 7 July 2020: “Britain Is Following Its Big Brother By Imposing So-Called Humanitarian Sanctions

* 22 February 2021: “Latvia’s Anti-Russian Hybrid War Exposes The Reality Of European Exceptionalism

* 24 February 2021: “Intrepid Journalists Exposed The UK’s Information-Driven Hybrid War On Russia

* 18 March 2021: “The UK Is Russia’s Greatest Security Threat In Europe Behind The US

To sum it all up for those who might not have the time to peruse those analytical pieces, the intelligence faction of the UK’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) is engaged in an active struggle against Russia all across Europe. The British are acting at America’s behest as its preferred “Lead From Behind” partner in this theater to facilitate their big brother’s divide-and-rule plans like they’ve traditionally done throughout the centuries (albeit before without doing so as anyone’s junior partner). In practice, this takes the form of information warfare and especially associated “spy” scandals such as the Skripal saga.

The Ukrainian-Belarusian Connection

The latest developments aren’t just tied to the US’ desire to obstruct Russian-EU epidemiological cooperation, but also to Ukraine and Belarus. Although Donbass remains a tinderbox, the prospects of all-out war there have seemingly somewhat diminished over the past week as Russia proved how resolute it is in defending both its border and fellow citizens in Eastern Ukraine in line with international law. For this reason, the US and its British partner might have thought to execute their back-up plan for dividing and ruling Russia and the EU via the latest “spy” scandal that their joint junior partner in Czechia just manufactured. Not only that, but Head of the Duma’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Leonid Slutsky publicly claimed that this latest provocation was timed to distract from Saturday night’s revelations that Russia detained two terrorists who were plotting to carry out a military coup in Belarus after assassinating President Lukashenko and his family. In other words, the Czech “spy” scandal is intended to kill several birds with one stone, thus making it a major Hybrid War provocation.

Concluding Thoughts

There’s little doubt that the US encouraged its junior partner in Czechia to manufacture the latest Russian “spy” scandal that erupted over the weekend, but observers should arguably investigate the supportive role that British intelligence might have also played in recent events. They, just like their American big brothers, have the desire to divide and rule Russia and the EU in order to expand their own influence in order to secure their economic intersts and especially those in strategic spheres such as the epidemiological one. Since Donbass has yet to explode like many predicted might have already happened by now (though such a worst-case scenario might still transpire in the coming future), it makes sense that the US and UK would initiate their back-up plan of manufacturing a major “spy” scandal just in case so as to continue advancing their interests despite the latest strategic setback (however temporary the latter might prove to be). Observers shouldn’t ever forget that wherever there’s an American intelligence footprint in Europe, there’s likely a British one not too far behind.

By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Russian amphibious options and how to debunk a Ukie lie (OPEN THREAD #13)

Russian amphibious options and how to debunk a Ukie lie (OPEN THREAD #13)

April 17, 2021 

Source

You probably have heard that Russian moved almost the entire Caspian Flotilla to the Black Sea, including quite a few amphibious assault ships.  What you might not know is that Russia also moved two Large Landing Ships (“dock landing ships”) through the Mediterranean, across the Bosporus, also into the Black Sea.  Right now, the Black Sea Fleet has strongly increased its amphibious assault capabilities.

Does that mean that Russia will attack?

Does that mean that Russia is planning an amphibious assault?

Not necessarily.

Of course, I am not privy to the Russian plans, but I can speculate about one interesting option: the real goal of these moves might be to force the Ukrainian to keep forces stationed along the coast to try prevent a Russian amphibious assault (not that I believe that any combo of Ukie forces could do that).  The more forces are guarding the coast, the less forces are available for an attack on the LDNR.  Also, since the Ukies (and the US+NATO) can easily track these ships, the Russian could decide to march them up and down the Ukrainian coast in order to a) keep the Ukrainian guessing where the supposed landing might be and b) to have these forces ready to support a LDNR or even Russian push towards Mariupol and further (Nikolaev, Odessa).

By the way, Russia has also closed the Kerch strait to military vessels until October, meaning that while the Russians have increased their mobility and options, they have also severely curtailed the Ukrainian options: the Ukie navy is basically a flock of sitting ducks expecting to be blown up in port.

Considering that there are Russian forces in Belarus too, you could say that Russia already a prepared a massive, country-wide, “cauldron” for the Ukronazi forces: the Ukraine is surrounded on 3 sides and that leaves the Ukronazis only one option open: run for their lives towards the west.  Finally, Russia does not need to physically block the one direction still open.  The Russian military can shut this potential cauldron on its western side not by using manpower but by using long range strikes.  This kind of use of fire in the Russian military doctrine is called “control by fire” and is much simpler and quicker to execute than a ground operation: all these notions of ground forces “pincers” having to reach towards each other is WWII type strategy; it was true for Stalingrad, but today there are much more advanced options and means to shut a cauldron closed.

One more thing:

The Ukies are saying that the Russians have concentrated forces on the Russian-Ukrainian border.  This begs a question: why are Ukronazi forces concentrated along the LDNR line of contact and not, repeat NOT, along the Russian-Ukrainian border?!  If they were really afraid and expecting a Russian attack, would they not concentrate their forces along the likely Russian line of attack?

So even common sense can debunk the Ukronazi propaganda.

But nobody in the West gives a damn.  There are no peace demonstrations, everybody (including the pretend “liberals”) keep their eyes totally shut and refuse to see ANY Ukie military moves.  Even when civilians are killed.

And then the West wonders why Russians have no respect and no use for it!

This exercise in what I would call “deliberate collective blindness and total hypocrisy” is a stain on every single country, entity or person engaged in it.  Shame on you all!

The Saker

PS: there is one more reason why the Russians would want their Black Sea Fleet as ready as possible to deal with any contingency: should anybody (Ukroz, NATO, US, Romanian) attack Transnistria, it would be the Black Sea Fleet which would have to stop the attack using standoff weapons (along with the Russian Aerospace Forces) and play a major role in any operation to deblock the Russian contingent in Transnistria (along with the Russian Airborne/Air Assault forces).  Again, this is all about having as many options to chose from as possible.

So Who Wants a Hot War?

So Who Wants a Hot War?

April 17, 2021 

by Pepe Escobar and cross-posted with Strategic Culture Foundation

It’s not by accident that the Hegemon is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash Eurasian integration by all means available.

It’s a scorpion battle inside a vortex of distorted mirrors inside a circus. So let’s start with the mirrors in the circus.

The non-entity that passes for Ukrainian Foreign Minister traveled to Brussels to be courted by US Secretary of State Blinken and NATO secretary-general Stoltenberg.

At best, that’s circus shadowplay. Much more than NATO advisers in a frantic revolving door in Kiev, the real shadowplay is MI6 actually working very close with President Zelensky.

Zelensky’s warmongering script comes directly from MI6’s Richard Moore. Russian intel is very much aware of all the fine print. Glimpses were even carefully leaked to a TV special on the Rossiya 1 channel.

I confirmed it with diplomatic sources in Brussels. British media also got wind of it – but obviously was told to further distort the mirrors, blaming everything on, what else, “Russian aggression”.

German intel is practically non-existent in Kiev. Those NATO advisers remain legion. Yet no one talks about the explosive MI6 connection.

Careless whispers in Brussels corridors swear that MI6 actually believes that in the case of a volcanic but as it stands still preventable hot war with Russia, continental Europe would burn and Brexitland would be spared.

Dream on. Now back to the circus.

Oh, you’re so provocative

Both Little Blinken and NATO straw man Stoltenberg parroted the same script in Brussels after talking to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister.

That was part of a NATO “special meeting” on Ukraine – where some Eurocrat must have told a bunch of extra clueless Eurocrats how they would be carbonized on the spot by Russian TOS-1 Buratino’s terrifying explosive warheads if NATO tried anything funny.

Listen to the sound of Blinken yappin’: Russian actions are “provocative”.

Well, his staff certainly did not hand him a copy of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu examining step by step the deployment of the annual US Army DEFENDER-Europe 21: “The main forces are concentrated in the Black Sea and Baltic region.”

Now listen to the sound of Stoltenberg yappin’: We pledge “unwavering support” to Ukraine.

Woof woof. Now go back to play in your sandboxes.

No, not yet. Little Blinken threatened Moscow with “consequences” whatever happens in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov’s infinite patience is nearly Daoist. Sun Tzu’s Art of War, by the way, is a Daoist masterpiece. Peskov’s answer to Blinken: “It is simply not necessary for us to go around forever proclaiming: ‘I am the greatest!’ The more one does this sort of thing, in fact, the more people doubt it…”

When in doubt, call the irreplaceable Andrei Martyanov – who always tells it like it is. The Crash Test Dummy gang in D.C. still does not get it – although some Deep State pros do.

Here’s Martyanov:

As I am on record constantly – the United States never fought a war with its Command and Control system under the relentless sustained fire impact and its rear attacked and disorganized. Conventionally, the United States cannot win against Russia in Europe, at least Eastern part of it and Biden Admin better wake up to the reality that it may, indeed, not survive any kind of escalation and, in fact, modern Kalibrs, 3M14Ms, as a matter of fact, have a range of a 4,500 kilometers, as well as 5,000+ kilometer range of X-101 cruise missiles, which will have no issues with penetrating North American airspace when launched by Russia’s strategic bombers without even leaving the safety of Russia’s airspace.

The Patrushev effect

The circus went on with the phone call from “Biden” – that is, Crash Test Dummy with an earpiece and a teleprompter in front of the phone – to President Putin.

Call it the Patrushev effect.

In his stunning interview to Kommersant, Triple Yoda Patrushev mentioned a very civilized late March phone call he had with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Of course there’s no smokin’ gun, but if anyone would come up with the face-saving idea of a Biden-Putin phone call that would have been Sullivan.

The spin from Washington and Moscow is only slightly divergent. The Americans highlight that “Biden” – actually the deciding combo behind him – wants to build “a stable and predictable relationship with Russia, consistent with US interests.”

The Kremlin said that Biden “expressed interest in normalizing bilateral relations.”

Away from all this fog, what really matters is Patrushev-Sullivan. That has to do with Washington telling Turkey that US warships would be transiting the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. Sullivan must have told Patrushev that no, they won’t be “active” in Donbass. And Patrushev told Sullivan, OK, we won’t incinerate them.

There are absolutely no illusions in Moscow that this putative Biden-Putin summit in a distant future will ever take place. Especially after Daoist Peskov had made it very clear that “no one will allow America to speak with Russia from a position of strength.” If that sounds like a line straight out of Yang Jiechi – who made shark fin’s soup out of Blinken-Sullivan in Alaska – that’s because it does.

Kiev, predictably, remains stuck in circus mode. After getting sharp messages from Mr. Iskander, Mr. Khinzal and Mr. Buratino, they changed their mind, or at least pretend to, and are now saying they don’t want war.

And here comes the intersection between circus and the serious stuff. The “Biden” combo never said, explicitly, on the record, that they don’t want war. On the contrary: they are sending those warships to the Black Sea and – circus again! – designating an envoy, Ministry of Silly Walks-style, whose only job is to derail the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

So the cliffhanger – like a teaser for Snowpiercer – is what happens when Nord Stream 2 is completed.

But before that, there’s something even more momentous: next Wednesday, on his speech to the Russian Security Council, President Putin will lay down the law.

It’s Minsk 2, stupid

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, has struck a much less Daoist note than Peskov: “The United States is our enemy, doing everything to undermine Russia’s position in the international arena, we do not see other elements in their approach to us. These are our conclusions”.

That’s stone to the bone realpolitik. Ryabkov knows the Hegemon’s “non agreement-capable” mindset inside out. So an added dimension to his observation is its direct connection to the only solution for Ukraine: the Minsk 2 agreements.

Putin reiterated Minsk 2 on his live teleconference with Merkel and Macron – and certainly to “Biden” in their phone call. The Beltway, the EU and NATO are all aware of it. Minsk 2 was signed by Ukraine, France and Germany and certified by the UN Security Council. If Kiev violates it, Russia – as a member of the UNSC – must enforce it.

Kiev has been violating Minsk 2 for months now; it refuses to implement it. As a faithful Hegemon satrapy, they are also not “agreement-capable”. Yet now they are seeing the – firepower – writing on the wall if they as much as think of starting a blitzkrieg against Donbass.

The open secret in the whole Ukraine/Donbass wilderness of mirrors under the circus tent is of course China. Yet Ukraine, in a sane world, would not only be part of a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) corridor, but also part of the Russian Greater Eurasia project. China specialist Nikolai Vavilov recognizes the importance of BRI, but is also certain Russia is above all defending its own interests.

Ideally, Ukraine/Donbass would be inserted in the overall revival of the Silk Roads – as in internal Central Eurasian trade based and developed taking into consideration Eurasia-wide demand. Eurasia integration – in both the Chinese and Russian vision – are all about interconnected economies via inter-regional trade.

So it’s not by accident that the Hegemon – on the verge of becoming an irrelevant player across Eurasia – is going no holds barred to harass and try to smash the continental integration by all means available.

In this context, manipulating a failed state to meet its own doom is just (circus) business.

The latest US moves against Russia (OPEN THREAD #11) UPDATED!!!

The latest US moves against Russia (OPEN THREAD #11) UPDATED!!!

April 15, 2021

Bad news all around today.  The US has just slammed provocative sanctions against Russia even though the US ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and clearly told that if the US imposes more sanctions there will be no meeting between Putin and Biden.

Then there is this: the US has informed the Turkish authorities that they will not send two USN ships into the Black Sea.  This is politically a good sign, but in military terms, this is what the US should be doing if they were preparing for war.  Why?  Because any USN ship in the Black Sea at the moment of the initiation of a conflict would be sunk withing minutes: not only do the Russians have formidable missiles – Bal and Bastion – they had SIX advanced diesel-electric submarines of the 636.3 class ready to “greet” them.  Keep in mind that engaging submarines without air cover is another form of collective suicide.

So, the phone call was a deception and the US is still going down the road towards war with Russia.

In my professional opinion, what I see is a joint preparation by the Ukronazis and the USA (along with the UK and Poland) to attack the Donbass and force a conflict upon Russia.

Considering the extreme nature of these developments, I am reopening an open thread.

The Saker

PS: as for the Ukronazis, they have just used their heavy artillery (banned by the Minsk Agreements) to murder another civilian in his home.  They were apparently trying to disable an electric station (a typical move by US-trained militaries before an attack).

It is very hard for me to see how a war could be avoided.

UPDATE: Biden has just declared a national emergency in the USA in response to the Russian threat.  He will make a special address to the nation tonight.

Biden Calls the “Killer”

Biden calls the “killer”

Source

THE SAKER • APRIL 13, 2021 

The big news of the day is that Biden decided to call Putin. Here is how the Russians reported this:

At the initiative of the American side, a telephone conversation took place between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the United States of America Joseph Biden. The current state of Russian-American relations and some relevant aspects of the international agenda were discussed in detail. Joseph Biden confirmed his earlier invitation to the Russian President to take part in the Climate Summit, which will be held via videoconference on April 22-23. Both sides expressed their readiness to continue the dialogue on the most important areas of ensuring global security, which would meet the interests of not only Russia and the United States, but also the entire world community. Moreover, Joseph Biden expressed interest in normalizing the state of affairs on the bilateral track and establishing stable and predictable cooperation on such pressing issues as ensuring strategic stability and arms control, the Iranian nuclear program, the situation in Afghanistan, and global climate change. In this context, the US President proposed to consider the possibility of holding a personal summit meeting in the foreseeable future. During the exchange of views on the internal Ukrainian crisis, Vladimir Putin outlined approaches to a political settlement based on the Minsk Package of Measures. It was agreed to give instructions to the relevant departments to work out the issues raised during the telephone conversation.

This is t he US version:

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. spoke today with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. They discussed a number of regional and global issues, including the intent of the United States and Russia to pursue a strategic stability dialogue on a range of arms control and emerging security issues, building on the extension of the New START Treaty. President Biden also made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to Russia’s actions, such as cyber intrusions and election interference. President Biden emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The President voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions. President Biden reaffirmed his goal of building a stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with U.S. interests, and proposed a summit meeting in a third country in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.

Why the difference in tone? Because the Russians don’t believe in loud statements before a negotiation and, unlike “Biden”, they are not insecure in their legitimacy (both the legitimacy of their policies and the legitimacy of their government). As for Biden, he just produces the exact same type of hot air which the Trump administration became so infamous for. I can tell you what most Russians think when they hear this. They think: “sure looks to me like the old man is desperately trying to encourage himself!”. I totally concur.

This being said, there is also some very premature triumphalism in Russia. A lot of “hurray patriots” are saying “Biden caved in first”. Their arguments go something like this:

According to Defense Minister Shoigu, the US/NATO have about 40,000 soldiers along the Russian border (ostensibly as an exercise) and about 15,000 weapons systems. In response to that threat, Russia deployed 2 Armies and 3 Airborne Divisions along her western border. That is something of the size of 200,000 soldiers. The US Americans saw this and understood that the Russian “fist” could smash them. This is why Biden caved in.

Well, I am not at all so sure that “Biden” caved in or “blinked first”. Why?

  1. “In the coming months” is too late to defuse the current risks of war. They might meet in the upcoming climate conference on April 22-23. But that is the wrong format.
  2. The first rule of military analysis is “don’t look at intentions, but look at capabilities”. This is even more true for “declared intentions”. And what are we reading into “Biden’s” supposed intentions? “Pursue a strategic security dialog” is the best I can find, and I am really not impressed.
  3. Let’s assume that they meet before a full-scale war breaks out, and so what? Did Trump not meet with Kim Jong-un – did that do any good?

Last Sunday, Margarita Simonian, the head of Russia Today, said something very interesting on a Russian TV show (I paraphrase and summarize here):

We will never be able to reach a real agreement (to coexist) with the USA. Why? This is a country built on violence from Day 1. This is a country stuck with several ideological doctrines, including the Doctrine of Discovery to the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny. All these doctrines say the same thing: “we have the right to do whatever we want and we have the right to rule over everybody else. This land was ours, but those Indian SOBs had the arrogance to live there. So we will massacre them all and then create a beautiful feast when we will celebrate that they taught us what to eat (Thanksgiving Day). This was true not only in the 17th century. I remind you of the year 1831 when we already had the Decembrist revolt while the USA was engaged in a massive ethnic cleansing operation (the Trail of Tears) under the personal supervision of

President Andrew Jackson (a Democrat, by the way!) who deported 5 Indian tribes which were settled, had their own schools and many were Christianized. He deported them to Oklahoma using methods which resulted in thousands of deaths (one tribe lost ¼ of her people. My family was deported by Stalin (we were Armenians) and I can tell you that the methods used by Stalin during his deportations were a “gentle ballet” compared to what the “democractic United States” did.

We will never reach an agreement with them because we cannot agree to collapse. We will never reach an agreement with them because we cannot agree to become paupers. We will never reach an agreement with them because we cannot agree to give up our nuclear weapons. We will never reach an agreement with them because we cannot agree to forsake all our national interests and we cannot agree to only do that which they tell us to do (including to the detriment of our own interests). We will never reach an agreement with them because we will never agree to forget our history and we won’t agree to have our next generations consider themselves as a totally different nation. We will never reach an agreement with them because we will never agree to any of that, and they will never accept anything less! (emphasis added).

Frankly, I can only agree. From the First Crusade on, the core value and even identity of the political West (in its various manifestations) has always been imperialism. This is true of the Latin Papacy as much as it is true about Hitler’s National Socialism, and it is still true for today’s main ideology of the United States. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. We can call these various manifestations of the united messianic West by many names (today I call it “Zone A”), but this changes nothing to its essence, nature and behavior: the pretextes (ideologies) change, the policies stay the same.

This is why I have been saying that Russia and the AngloZionist Empire are locked in an existential war from which only one party will walk away and the other one will be either destroyed (Russia by the USA) or profoundly change (due to the internal dialectical contradictions of capitalism and the unsustainable nature of the US society today).

And don’t assume that it is “only” Simonian who is “seeing the light”. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Riabkov, made the following statement about the USA:

“They talk about a high price, but they never mention it. What they have done so far, we have, firstly, studied well, and secondly, we have adapted. We do not believe that such terminology is generally applicable: price, payment, and so on. We simply defend our interests and the interests of our citizens, the Russian-speaking population, and we will continue to protect them”. “The question is what conclusions are drawn from this situation in Kiev and from Kiev’s patrons. These conclusions do not set up a positive mood, these threats only strengthen us in the belief that we are on the right course: the United States is our enemy, doing everything to undermine Russia’s position in the international arena, we do not see other elements in their approach to us. These are our conclusions”.

Pretty clear, no?

Years, even decades, of non-stop US threats against Russia have (finally!) achieved their full effect: the illusions which many Russians had for centuries about their western neighbors have almost completely disappeared from the Russian society and the Russian consciousness. What is left is a firm determination to survive, to live, to do whatever it takes to prevent the Empire from “assimilating” Russia.

Russians now also clearly see another truism of western policies. I would express it as so: it really does not matter whom Russia fights – it maybe even be Satan in person (and in many ways it is, let those with ears…), the West will always, always side with our enemy, even if it is Satan in person (again, let those with ears…). Let me just give you one example which says it all:

The USA claims that it was al-Qaeda which did 9/11. Fine. A high-school physics can prove the opposite, but fine. Yet that self-same USA totally backed “al-Qaeda” (all the various denominations and aliases included) in both Chechnia and Syria (and in Serbia too, I would add). And they are still at it.

Another example? Sure.

The West always supported the worst, most violent, rulers in Russia. Conversely, the very best rulers in Russian history are vilified, slandered and despised in the West, and they are, of course, described as obscurantist tyrants, even when compared to the western leaders of the same time period they look like saints (which some of them literally are!).

Want to try one more? Okay.

Let’s look at religion. In the history of relations between Russia and the West, we see something interesting: it does not matter which branch of western Christianity (Latin or Reformed) is in power, the rulers of the West will always side against their putative “Christian brothers”, even if that means siding with non-Christians! Not much has changed between the 15th century, the Crimean War and today: the West always created an ad-hoc “ecumenical coalition” to try to finally conquer Russia.

The bottom line is this: Simonian is 100% correct. The West’s “program for Russia” has not changed and it remains the same: Russia must vanish. Nothing else is acceptable for our western neighbors.

So where do we go from here?

Frankly, I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does. But I can express my hopes.

I hope that the current Russian stance (we are willing to take on the combined might of the USA+NATO+EU and “why would we want a world without Russia?”) to overcome the West’s delusional narcissism (We are almighty! Nobody can stop us! We will crush you!) and get enough folks back in touch with the “real reality” (as many were during the Cold War). Next, I really hope that the Empire will not unleash the Ukronazis in the Donbass (yes, hope dies last, and I have to admit that I currently don’t see how the Ukies could deescalate). I hope that the people of the EU will liberate themselves from their current colonial status, and that they will regain at least a modicum of real sovereignty. Lastly, I hope that the US society will defeat the Woke-freaks currently in power and that the USA will become a powerful, but normal, country (like so many empires have done it before). The slogan “we want our country back” has my total sympathy. But that is a lot of hope, I know.

Now for a pessimistic shot of realism.

First, Biden, the man, not the collective “Biden”, is in no shape to negotiate with anybody. Neither is his Harris. At best, he can do what microbrains like John Kerry or Josep Borrell did: meet with their counterparts, declare A, then fly back home and immediately proclaim non-A.

Tell me – why would the Russian be interested in this kind of silly circus?

What about the collective “Biden” then? Well, Blinken is definitely smarter that this arrogant imbecile Pompeo, but he sure hates Russia no less. Is that an improvement? Maybe.

I am afraid that this proposed meeting will never happen, I think that the White House sees this as a subtle ruse to try to lower the Russian defenses (both military and political). Won’t happen. It is too late for that.

Could it be that “Biden” is throwing in the towel and seeking some kind of arrangement with Russia. Never say never, but I find this exceedingly unlikely. Why? Because of the centuries long ideological messianic narcissism and sense of impunity of the US rulers: they simply cannot fathom that their “city upon the hill” has been placed in a kind of a “mate in three” situation by a horde of vodka guzzling asian barbarians (just like they can’t fathom how those evil “Commie Chinks” have built an economy vastly superior to theirs).

A famous leader of the “united West” also had a hard time accepting that he, and his putatively “invincible armies”, had been comprehensively defeated by Russian subhumans. Even while he could hear the sound of Soviet cannons in his underground bunker.

Truly, some things never change.

Incentives: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin possible moves – Donbass crisis.

Incentives: Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin possible moves – Donbass crisis.

April 11, 2021

By David Sant for the Saker Blog

Several analysts have written articles about how Russia is likely to respond in the theater to an offensive by Ukraine to restart the Donbass War. My purpose in this article is to look at the psychology and incentives of Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin and the possible moves that each of them may make in response to the Donbass crisis.

The Nature of the Dispute

It is fairly well established that two primary motives seem to be driving the Atlanticist pressure on Russia and continuing eastward expansion of NATO. The larger issue is that Russia, Iran, and China seem to be increasingly resistant to the rule of the Atlanticist monopolar hegemony enforced by the US Military and NATO. As someone recently said, the American empire is a currency empire sustained by forcing all energy transactions to be priced in US Dollars, and controlling energy transit points. By moving away from using USD for oil and gas transactions, Russia, China, and Iran pose a mortal threat to the empire.

The secondary issue, the one driving the timing, is control of oil and gas pipelines. In short the USA wants Europe to use American-controlled gas and oil, which means Saudi and Qatari oil, and American LNG. They want to create pipelines and delivery routes for American-controlled energy, and close or prevent delivery routes for Russian energy. The three current flashpoints are Syria, Ukraine, and the route of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, all three of which are current or potential pipeline routes.

Several years ago the US successfully pressured Bulgaria into cancelling the South Stream Pipeline through the Black Sea. However, US sanctions have been unable to deter Germany from allowing the Russians to complete the Nord Stream 2.

With the completion of the project only a few months away, the US seems determined to stop it at any cost. This appears to be the motive behind instigating the Ukrainian government to invade Donbass. If Russia defends Donbass, she will be demonized in the Western press, and this will be used to pressure Germany to cancel Nord Stream 2. From the American perspective, getting the Ukrainians to fight the Russians weakens both at no political cost to the US.

It is my opinion that the Biden Administration is making a major miscalculation by continuing this approach. For the past seven years, Russia has absorbed round after round of sanctions and provocations by the US government in Ukraine and Syria. The Biden regime seems to assume that if they instigate a war in Donbass now, that Russia will continue as they have before, to absorb the blow without striking back. I suggest that this time it will be different.

The History and Psychology of Biden and Putin

Vladimir Putin was handpicked by the Western handlers to replace Boris Yeltsin in 1999, largely because he was known to be reliable. However, Putin surprised those who appointed him by turning against the oligarchs and reigning in the chaos that was dismembering Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin enforced the law and cracked down on corruption, including corruption by the Western interests that put him in power.

Displeased by this turn of events, the West, led by Bill Browder, has spent the past fifteen years demonizing Putin. For example, when Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden in 2013, multiple US politicians used scripted talking points calling Mr. Putin “a schoolyard bully.” That analogy was rather inept, as Russia did not invite Snowden, but rather got stuck with him, as his passport was cancelled while in transit, making it impossible for him to board his flight out of Russia. Putin actually said that as a former intelligence officer himself, he did not view Snowden’s leak of classified information in a positive light.

The problem with demonizing one’s opponent is that it can lead to strategic errors if you make the mistake of believing your own propaganda. If we look at Mr. Putin’s past behavior we see four consistent characteristics.

First, he follows the rules. Whether it is the START treaty, the chemical weapons accord, or the Minsk Agreements, the Putin regime has consistently tried to keep the old treaties alive and to follow agreed upon UN procedures for conflict resolution.

Second, when Mr. Putin has taken steps to oppose the Atlanticist agenda, he has done so in a way that allowed his opponents to save face. When the US was preparing to invade Syria in 2013, Putin persuaded Assad to agree to eliminate his chemical weapon stockpile. This pulled the rug out from under the US invasion, but it did not make the US look bad.

When Russia entered Syria to fight ISIS, they did not publicly expose the fact that the US and Israel were the primary backers of ISIS. Putin went along with the ruse and said, if America is fighting ISIS we will fight ISIS too, and did so legally at the invitation of Syria. Russia’s work allowed Trump to take credit for defeating ISIS, even though it completely ruined eight years of CIA efforts to train and arm those terrorists.

Third, Mr. Putin keeps his word. When he draws a red line, he enforces it. He speaks quietly but it is wise to listen carefully to what he says. We have seen this in the way that Russia dealt with terrorist groups that agreed to deconfliction versus those that did not, as well as the ones that agreed and then went against it.

And, lastly, when all else has failed and the other party crosses the red line anyway, Putin punches fast, hard, and unexpectedly, and often in a different theater than where the provocation has occurred. We saw this when Russia destroyed the oil smuggling network that the US and Turkey had set up in Northeastern Syria. We saw it again when Russia saved Mr. Erdogan from a US-backed coup only thirty minutes before he probably would have been captured.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden loved to tell the story on the campaign trail about his interaction with a black gangster named “Corn Pop” when he was a lifeguard in college. They almost had a fight but Biden brought a chain with him, and they later became friends. The fact that he even tells this tale signals that Biden has no real experience against a serious enemy. Men with street credibility don’t need to tell stories. They are known and respected.

The reality of Biden’s career is that he has played second fiddle to stronger leaders and only appears to have gotten the presidential nomination because it was his turn and he was deemed to be controllable by his handlers. Biden obtained the presidency through a fraud seen so openly that he has one of the lowest presidential approval ratings in history.

Biden and Putin met for the first time alone in 2011 for talks in Russia. According to Mike McCormick, who was Biden’s stenographer, Biden was halfway through his talk when suddenly the microphone, cameras, and lights were turned off and Putin and all of the media walked out leaving Biden humiliated. Something similar happened to Biden in China a few months later.

This is probably what Biden was referring to when he recently said that Putin was “a killer” with “no soul.” That interaction tells us exactly what Putin thinks of Biden. He considers him to be a weakling with no substance.

Biden’s team is stacked with Russophobes who are motivated by the desire to finish what they began in Ukraine under Obama. They believe they can successfully use information war and dirty tricks to isolate Russia from Europe and control all the energy conduits. Whether due to hubris or ignorance, they do not believe Russia would dare to strike back at the real instigator of the war in Ukraine.

Biden’s response to a Russian strike would probably be a plaintive high pitched, “c’mon man!” However, if Kamala Harris is making the decisions the risk of escalating to a nuclear response is much higher. The problem is that both Biden and Harris were picked and installed by a “power behind the throne,” so it is unclear exactly who would be making the decision of how to respond.

The Imminent Danger of the Current Imbroglio

There is no doubt that the US intends to create a war in Ukraine before the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline can be finished. This will happen within months if not weeks. It is also clear that Zelensky is being placed under tremendous pressure to force Russia into defending Donbass.

Russia has drawn a red line around Donbass. Ukraine had agreed to a peaceful resolution through the Minsk Accords. But with US encouragement, Kiev violated everything they agreed to, making it now politically impossible to re-integrate Donbass into Ukraine.

If Zelensky invades Donbass, then not just Ukraine, but the USA and NATO will be viewed by Russia as having crossed an inviolable red line. Yes, Russia will be forced to defend Donbass, because Putin will not allow Russians to be subjected to genocide. Russia does not want to fight Ukrainians, whom despite the jokes, they view as their Russian brothers. They are frustrated and angry that the USA has forced them into this position.

For this reason, I believe that Mr. Putin will do something that the Biden regime is not expecting with similar psychological impact to the sudden turning off of the lights and cameras. He will find a way to inflict debilitating pain on the decision makers who have forced Russia into intervening in Ukraine.

In addition to defending Donbass, Russia may strike the USA in a different theater. But they will do so in a way that cannot be confused with a nuclear attack. Unlike the previous chess moves that allowed the US leadership to save face, this one will neutralize and publicly humiliate the USA and the Biden regime as a paper tiger.

The Narrow Window of Technological Supremacy

While the US was busy invading third world countries as part of the War on Terror, Russia was quietly developing their defense technologies. They have now achieved technological supremacy over the USA in three areas: air and missile defenses, hypersonic missiles, and electronic countermeasures (ECM).

In the area of air defenses the Russian S-400 is an extremely capable platform which the West has very little experience fighting against. Russia has the capability to impose a no fly zone within about 500 kilometers of its S-400 batteries, of which there are several from Crimea to Kaliningrad. Israel’s use of the F-35 to bomb Syria has given the Russians live data on NATO’s most advanced stealth fighter.

The S-500 space defense system is scheduled to enter service in 2021. Since the S-500 can defend against ICBMs it may affect the balance of power of mutual assured destruction (MAD).

The Zircon and Khinzal hypersonic missiles are currently in service and are the most effective anti-ship weapons in the Russian arsenal that we know of. Their standoff range enables strikes on enemy ships from 500 to 2,000 kilometers. This means that Russia has the ability to strike ships in the Mediteranean and North Sea using assets based on Russian soil, not even counting the assets based in Latakia, Syria. NATO forces currently have no defense against hypersonic missiles.

Russian ECM capabilities have been somewhat exaggerated by news stories about the 2014 encounter with the USS Donald Cook. The Donald Cook was allegedly shut down by ECM attack while an SU-24 overflew the vessel. However, more accurate sources noted that any ECM attack, if there even was one, would have been executed using ground-based equipment, not the Su-24 fighter. If this attack really happened, the US Navy has presumably hardened its vessels against ECM in the seven years since.

We do know that Russian ECM systems in Syria were able to disable the vast majority of Tomahawk Missiles fired at Syria in April 2017. Other than aircraft carriers, the primary American method of projecting power is Arleigh-Burke class destroyers such as the USS Donald Cook which carry about 50 Tomahawk missiles each. The 2017 exercise in Syria probably indicates that Russia is able to jam volleys of Tomahawk missiles with better than 90% success. The remaining 10% of the subsonic Tomahawks can be easily shot down by anti-aircraft batteries.

The question is whether the US Navy has found a way to harden the Tomahawk missiles against Russian ECM since 2017. If not, then given the much smaller size and number of missiles that can be carried by Navy attack aircraft, the US Navy’s primary weapon for ground attack has no teeth against Russian targets. Of course in any conflict, the first target of NATO’s “wild weasel” aircraft will be SAM radars and ECM equipment.

Conclusion – Biden has Created Strong Incentives for Russia to Strike First

The US is spending billions to catch up technologically, and the window of Russian supremacy may only last for two or three years at most. Russia can be expected to reach the peak technological advantage over NATO in late 2021 after the S-500 system has been fully deployed. However, the Donbass crisis may force Russia to act sooner than they are comfortable.

If Russia were to use the window of supremacy to attempt a debilitating strike on the US military the US Navy is the most likely target. Ships are the most exposed, are not located inside another country’s borders, and are also the primary means of projecting US power. However, I would not rule out a non-missile attack on DC. For example, there are many ways that the US power grid could be turned off without using missiles. The ensuing domestic chaos might prevent the US from responding.

This is a very dangerous situation for the world because it could easily escalate to World War III or nuclear war, depending on the Biden Administration’s reaction. Part of the problem is that it is not clear who is really in charge of the Whitehouse. A nuclear response to a devastating conventional weapons defeat would be a disaster for both sides.

Russia will only strike the USA if they believe they have no other choice. What they have learned from seven years of sanctions, attempted coups, fake poisonings, and other provocations is that the US will continue this behavior for as long as Russia continues to accept it, or until Russia is broken and conquered. In short, Biden’s team may have finally convinced Russia that they have no other choice.

President Biden has handed Putin the justification for a first strike by openly stating his intention to conduct a cyber attack on Russia “soon.” That is a public declaration of war. The fact that the Russian ambassador was recalled from Washington and has not been sent back should be a wakeup call to America that DC itself is on the potential target list.

For these reasons I believe that there is a high probability that Russia will strike first before NATO can fully put in place the forces for planned exercises for this Summer. The strike will probably be non-nuclear, focused against US forces only, and its purpose will be to delegitimize the US power in the eyes of the junior members of NATO, and to weaken or cripple the US ability to project power.

If China and Iran see Russia strike the US military, it would not be surprising if they also pile on using their own hypersonic missiles to destroy US Navy assets in the Persian Gulf and South China Sea.

The Biden regime’s underestimation of Russia and failure to heed Putin’s warnings have created conditions which make possible a sudden and humiliating defeat of the US Navy, which could effectively end the US ability to project power overseas.

However, wars are rarely short, and victories rarely decisive. For this reason it would be better for all parties to de-escalate the conflict immediately. Unfortunately, the Biden regime is the only one in a position to do that, and they have shown no intention of doing so.

Putin’s Ukrainian Judo

Putin’s Ukrainian Judo

Source

April 14, 2021

By Dmitry Orlov and posted with special permission

A terrible war is about to erupt on Russia’s border with the Ukraine—or not—but there is some likelihood of a significant number of people getting killed before project Ukraine is finally over. Given that around 13 thousand people have been killed over the past seven years—the civil war in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine has gone on for that long!—this is no laughing matter. But people get desensitized to the mostly low-level warfare. Just over the past couple of weeks a grandfather was shot by a Ukrainian sniper while feeding his chickens and a young boy was killed by a bomb precision-dropped on him from a Ukrainian drone.

But what’s about to happen now is forecasted to be on a different scale: the Ukrainians are moving heavy armor and troops up to the line of separation while the Russians are moving theirs up to their side of the Ukrainian border, a position from which they can blast any and all Ukrainian troops straight out of the gene pool without so much as setting foot on Ukrainian territory—should they wish to do so. The Russians can justify their military involvement by the need to defend their own citizens: over the past seven years half a million residents in eastern Ukraine have applied for and been granted Russian citizenship. But how exactly can Russia defend its citizens while they are stuck in the crossfire between Russian and Ukrainian forces?

The rationale of defending its citizens led to conflict in the briefly Georgian region of South Ossetia, which started on August 8, 2008 and lasted barely a week, leaving Georgia effectively demilitarized. Russia rolled in, Georgia’s troops ran off, Russia confiscated some of the more dangerous war toys and rolled out. Georgia’s paper warriors and their NATO consultants and Israeli trainers were left wiping each others’ tears. Any suggestion of arming and equipping the Georgians since then has been met with groaning and eye-rolling. Is the upcoming event in eastern Ukraine going to be similar to the swift and relatively painless defanging of Georgia in 2008? Given that the two situations are quite different, it seems foolish to think that the approach to resolving them would be the same.

Is it different this time and is World War III is about to erupt with eastern Ukraine being used as a trigger for this conflagration? Do the various statements made at various times by Vladimir Putin provide a solid enough basis for us to guess at what will happen next? Is there a third, typically, infuriatingly Russian approach to resolving this situation, where Russia wins, nobody dies and everyone in the West is left scratching their heads?

The Ukrainian military is much like everything else currently found in the Ukraine—the railway system, the power plants, the pipeline systems, the ports, the factories (the few that are left)—a patched-up hold-over from Soviet times. The troops are mostly unhappy, demoralized conscripts and reservists. Virtually all of the more capable young men have either left the country to work abroad or have bribed their way out of being drafted. The conscripts sit around getting drunk, doing drugs and periodically taking pot shots into and across the line of separation between Ukrainian-held and separatist-held territories. Most of the casualties they suffer are from drug and alcohol overdoses, weapons accidents, traffic accidents caused by driving drunk and self-harm from faulty weapons. The Ukrainian military is also working on winning a Darwin award for the most casualties caused by stepping on their own land mines. As for the other side, many of the casualties are civilians wounded and killed by constant shelling from the Ukrainian side of the front, which runs quite close to population centers.

The Ukrainian military has received some new weapons from the US and some NATO training, but as the experience in Georgia has shown, that won’t help them. Most of these weapons are obsolete, non-updated versions of Soviet armaments from former East Bloc but currently NATO nations such as Bulgaria. These really aren’t of much use against an almost fully rearmed Russian military. A lot of the Ukrainian artillery is worn out and, given that Ukrainian industry (what’s left of it) is no longer able to manufacture gun barrels, artillery shells or even mortar rounds, this makes the Ukrainian military quite literally the gang that can’t shoot straight. It’s a great day for them if they manage to hit a kindergarten or a maternity clinic and most of the time they are just cratering up the empty countryside and littering it up with charred, twisted metal.

In addition to the hapless conscripts and reservists there are also some volunteer battalions that consist of hardcore Ukrainian nationalists. Their minds have been carefully poisoned by nationalist propaganda crafted thanks to large infusions of foreign (mostly American) money. Some of them have been conditioned to think that it was the ancient Ukrs who built the Egyptian pyramids and dug the Black Sea (and piled the left-over dirt to build the Caucasus mountain range). These may or may not be more combat-capable than the rest (opinions vary) but, much more importantly, they are a political force that the government cannot ignore because they can quite literally hold it hostage. They have been known for stunts such as shelling the offices of a television channel whose editorial policies they found disagreeable and physically assaulting a busload of opposition activists.

It is these Ukro-Nazi zealots that stand directly in the way of any peaceful settlement of the situation in eastern Ukraine and an inevitable eventual rapprochement between the Ukrainians and Russia. There is a deep and abiding irony in that these über-antisemitic Ukro-Nazis are about to be ordered into battle against Russia by a Jewish comedian (Vladimir Zelensky, president) who got elected thanks to a Jewish oligarch (Igor “Benny” Kolomoisky). Are they going to be annihilated? Quite possibly, yes. Will their annihilation make Ukraine and the world a better place? You be the judge. To the Russians these Nazi battalions are just a bunch of terrorists and, as Putin famously put it, it is up to him to send terrorists to God and then it is up to God to decide what to do with them. But there is a more efficient strategy: let them remain somebody else’s problem. After all, these Nazi battalions have almost zero ability to threaten Russia. Eventually the Europeans will realize that the Ukraine must be denazified, at their own expense, of course, with Russia offering advice and moral support.

To understand where this Ukrainian nationalist menace came from without venturing too far down the memory hole, it is enough to appreciate the fact that at the end of World War II some number of Ukrainian war criminals who fought on the side of the Nazis and took part in acts of genocide against Ukrainian Jews and Poles found a welcoming home in the US and in Canada, where they were able to feather their nests and bring up the next several generations of Ukrainian Nazis. After the collapse of the USSR, they were reintroduced into the Ukraine and given political support in the hopes of thoroughly alienating the Ukraine from Russia. In the course of serial color revolutions and unending political upheaval and strife they were able to become prominent, then dominant, in Ukrainian political life, to a point that they can now hold the Ukrainian government hostage whenever it fails to be sufficiently belligerent toward Russia, to maintain strict anti-Russian censorship in the media and to physically threaten anyone who voices disagreement with them.

Russophobia and belligerence toward Russia are, in turn, all that is currently required of the Ukraine by its US and EU masters, who wish to portray the Ukraine as a bulwark against a supposedly aggressive Russia but in reality wish to use it as an anti-Russian irritant and to use it to contain (meaning to restrict and frustrate) Russia economically and geopolitically. To this end the Ukrainian school curriculum has been carefully redesigned to inculcate hatred of all things Russian. The Ukraine’s Western mentors think that they are constructing a pseudo-ethnic totalitarian cult that can be used as a battering ram against Russia, along the lines of Nazi Germany but with much tighter external political control, or, to use a more recent, updated CIA playbook, along the lines of Al Qaeda and its various offshoots in the Middle East.

The rationale that’s used to serve up all this is “countering Russian aggression.” But it is inaccurate to describe Russia as aggressive. It is much closer to the truth to describe it as, by turns, assimilative, protective and insouciant. It is assimilative in that you too can apply for a Russian citizenship based on a number of criteria, the most important of which is cultural: you need to speak Russian, and to do so convincingly you have to assimilate culturally. If an entire Russian-speaking region starts waving the Russian tricolor at rallies, singing the Russian anthem and then holds a referendum where a convincing majority votes to rejoin Russia (97% in Crimea in 2014), then Russia will annex that territory and defend it. And if lots of people in a Russian-speaking region individually apply for Russian citizenship, swear allegiance to Russia and are issued Russian passports, then Russia will try to defend them individually against attack.

All would be sweetness and light with this scheme of voluntary accession if certain Russian regions didn’t periodically start demanding independence or if the Russians themselves didn’t periodically shed their self-important and ungrateful dependents. As this has happened, Russia has granted them sovereignty, which, more often than not, they didn’t know what to do with. At various times, Russia has freely bestowed national sovereignty on a whole slew of countries: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, the Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Rumania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan… For some of them, it granted them sovereignty several times over (Poland seems to be the prize-winner in that category). The political elites of these countries, having become used to suckling at Mother Russia’s ample bosom, naturally look for someone new to invade and/or liberate them and then to feed them.

After the collapse of the USSR, their new masters naturally became the US and the EU. But as these newly sovereign nations soon found out, not as much milk has flowed in their direction from their new masters, and some of them have started casting furtive glances toward Russia again. The twentieth century was a confusing time for many of these countries, and many of them are puzzled to this day as to whether at any given time they were being occupied or liberated by Russia. Let us consider, as a mini case study, the three Baltic mini-nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. With the exception of the Lithuanians, who had their 15 minutes of fame during their brief late-medieval dalliance with Poland, these three ethnic groups never made good candidates for sovereign nations. They were first dominated by the Germans, then by the Swedes.

Then Peter the Great purchased their lands from the Swedes with silver coin, but after that they continued to toil as serfs for their German landlords. But then in mid-19th century the Russian Empire abolished serfdom, starting with Estonian and Latvian serfs as an experiment. It then introduced compulsory schooling, wrote down the local languages, and invited the more promising native sons to come and study at St. Petersburg. This started them on the way toward developing a national consciousness, and what a headache that turned out to be!

While the Russian Empire held together they remained under control, but after the Russian Revolution they gained independence and swiftly turned fascist. As World War II neared, the Soviet leadership became justifiably concerned over having little pro-Nazi fascist states right on their border and occupied/liberated them. But then as the Germans advanced and the Red Army retreated, they were re-occupied by the fascists/liberated from the communists. But then as the Germans retreated and the Red Army advanced, they were re-occupied/re-liberated again and became, for a time, exemplary Soviet Communists.

And so they remained, occupied/liberated, being stuffed full of Soviet-built schools, hospitals, factories, roads, bridges, ports, railways and other infrastructure—until the USSR collapsed. They were the first to demand independence, singing songs and holding hands across all three republics. Since then they have squandered all of their Soviet inheritance and have progressively shed population while serving as playgrounds for NATO troops who get a special thrill, I suppose, by training right on Russia’s border. Their political elites made a tidy little business of Russophobia, which pleased their new Western masters but gradually wrecked their economies. Having reached their peak during the late Soviet era, they are now hollow shells of their former selves.

And now, lo and behold, an embarrassingly large chunk of their populations is pining after the good old Soviet days and wants better relations with Russia (which, in the meantime, seems to have largely forgotten that these Baltic statelets even exist). Their political elites would want nothing more than for Russia to occupy/liberate them again, because then they could be rid of their noisome constituents and move to London or Geneva, there to head up a government in exile and work on plans for the next round of occupation/liberation.

To their horror, they are now realizing that Russia has no further use for them, while their new masters at the EU are sinking into a quagmire of their own problems, leaving them abandoned with no kind master to care for them and to feed them. They thought they had signed up to administer a vibrant new democracy using free money from the EU, but instead they are now stuck administering a depopulating, economically stagnant backwater peopled by ethnic relicts. In eras past, they would have only had to wait until the next wave of barbarian invasion from the east. The barbarians would slaughter all the men, rape and/or kidnap all the prettier women, and the naturally recurring process of ethnogenesis would start again. But now there are a dozen time zones of Russia to their east and no hope at all of any more barbarian invasions, so all they can do is drink a lot and, by turns, curse the Russians and the Europeans.

The situation is much the same throughout Eastern Europe, in a great arc of semi-sovereign, pseudo-sovereign and (in the case of the Ukraine) faux-sovereign nations from the Baltic to the Black Sea and on to the Caspian Sea and beyond. The many serial occupations/liberations have given their political elites a wonderful weathercock-like quality: one moment they are wearing Nazi insignia and heiling Hitler and the next moment they are good Soviet Communists reciting the 10 Commandments of the Builders of Communism. The Ukraine (getting back to it, finally) is no different in this respect but different in another: by no stretch of the imagination is it even a nation, or a combination, assemblage or grouping of nations; it is, strictly speaking, an accidental territorial agglomeration. As a failed attempt to create a monoethnic nation-state it is a chimera.

The following map, labeled “Dynamics of agglomeration of Ukrainian territories,” shows the process in detail. The toponym “Ukraine” (“Ukraina”) is most likely of Polish origin, meaning “border zone,” and it seems to have first become a thing in 1653 when the red-colored region below decided that it had had enough of Polish Catholic dominance and discrimination (its inhabitants being Orthodox Christians) and chose to rejoin Russia. The region became known as Malorossia, or Little Russia, and the yellow-colored districts were added to it over time. And then, after the Russian Revolution, came the big gift: Malorossia and neighboring districts were formed into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and to make it something more than just a rural backwater Lenin saw it fit to lump in with it a number of Russian regions shaded in blue. It was this mistake that paved the way to the current impasse in what is but by all rights should never have been eastern Ukraine.

Then, right before, and again right after World War II Stalin lumped in the green-shaded western districts, which were previously part of he Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its inhabitants were Austrian, Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian and most of the rest, though initially Russian, had spent five centuries under foreign rule and spoke a distinctive, archaic dialect that served as the basis for creating the synthetic language now known as Ukrainian, while the rest of what is now Ukraine spoke Russian, Yiddish and a wide assortment of village dialects. It was this alienated group that was used as leavening to fashion a synthetic Ukrainian nationalism. In turn, Ukrainian Bolshevik leaders used this faux-nationalism to fashion the Ukraine into a regional power center within the USSR.

And then came the final mistake when Nikita Khrushchev, very much a product of the Ukrainian regional power center, paid it back for helping to promote him to the top job by giving it Russian Crimea—a move that was illegal under the Soviet constitution which was in effect at that time and a prime example of late Bolshevik political corruption that was undone in 2014 with great jubilation.

There are those who think that the solution to the Ukrainian problem is to take the Ukraine apart the same way it was put together. Behold the following map. Moving east to west, we have the Russian tricolor over Crimea (the only factual bit so far), then the flag of Novorussia covering all those territories that were arbitrarily lumped into the newly created Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by Lenin in 1922. Further west we have the flag of the state of Ukraine. And to the west is the flag of the Right Sector, a nationalist party with distinct Nazi tendencies that is currently active in Ukrainian politics.

I believe that, with the exception of Crimea, this map may very well turn out to be complete and utter nonsense. It seems outlandish to think that the Ukrainian Humpty-Dumpty, which is in the process of being knocked off the wall most unceremoniously by just about everyone, including Russia, the EU and the US, is going to break apart into such tidy, historically justifiable pieces. For one thing, national borders don’t matter so much any more once you are east of the Russian border, all of Europe now being one big unhappy mess. With millions of Ukrainians trying to eke out a living by working in Russia, or Poland, or further West, the distinctions between the various bits of the Ukrainian territory they are from are just not that meaningful to anyone.

For another, all of the Ukraine is now owned by the same bunch of oligarchs whose fortunes are tightly integrated with those of transnational corporations and of Western financial institutions. None of them care at all about the people that once inhabited this region and their varied histories and linguistic preferences. They care about translating economic and financial control directly into political control with a minimum of diplomatic politesse. The Ukraine has been in the process of being stripped bare of anything valuable for 30 years now, up to and including its fertile soil, and once there is nothing left to loot it will be abandoned as a wild field, largely uninhabited.

But we are not quite there yet, and for now the only map that really matters is the following one, which shows the two separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, collectively known as Donbass, short for Donetsk Basin, a prolific coal province that was mainly responsible for fueling the Ukraine’s former industrial might, which to this day continues to produce anthracite, a valuable, energy-rich coal that is now scarce in the world. It is that relatively tiny but densely populated sliver of land along the Russian border, less than 100km across in many places, that is the powder keg that some believe may set off World War III.

The Ukrainian military has been massing troops and armor along the line of separation while the Russian military has pulled up its forces to their side of the border. Shelling, sniper fire and other provocations from the Ukrainian side are intensifying, with the hope of provoking the Russians into moving forces onto Ukrainian territory, thus allowing the collective West to shout “Aha! Russian aggression!” Then they could put a stop to Nord Stream II pipeline, scoring a major geopolitical victory for Washington and follow that up with plenty of other belligerent moves designed to hurt Russia politically and economically.

For the Russians, there are no good choices that are obvious. Not responding to Ukrainian provocations and doing nothing while they shell and invade the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk, killing Russian citizens who live there, would make Russia look weak, undermine the Russian government’s position domestically and cost it a great deal of geopolitical capital internationally. Responding to Ukrainian provocations with overwhelming military force and crushing the Ukrainian military as was done in Georgia in 2008 would be popular domestically but could potentially lead to a major escalation and possibly an all-out war with NATO. Even if militarily the conflict is contained and NATO forces sit it out, as they did in Georgia, the political ramifications would cause much damage to the Russian economy through tightened sanctions and disruptions to international trade.

Those being the obvious bad choices, what are the obvious good ones, if any? Here, we have to pay careful attention to the official pronouncements Putin has made over the years, and to take them as face value. First, he said that Russia does not need any more territory; it has all the land it could ever want. Second, he said that Russia will follow the path of maximum liberalization in granting citizenship to compatriots and that, in turn, the well-being of Russia’s citizens is a top priority. Third, he said that resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine through military means is unacceptable. Given these constraints, what courses of action remain open?

The answer, I believe, is obvious: evacuation. There are around 3.2 million residents in Donetsk People’s Republic and 1.4 million in Lugansk People’s Republic, for a total of some 4.6 million residents. This may seem like a huge number, but it’s moderate by the scale of World War II evacuations. Keep in mind that Russia has already absorbed over a million Ukrainian migrants and refugees without much of a problem. Also, Russia is currently experiencing a major labor shortage, and an infusion of able-bodied Russians would be most welcome.

Domestically, the evacuation would likely be quite popular: Russia is doing right by its own people by pulling them out of harm’s way. The patriotic base would be energized and the already very active Russian volunteer movement would swing into action to assist the Emergencies Ministry in helping move and resettle the evacuees. The elections that are to take place later this year would turn into a nationwide welcoming party for several million new voters. The Donbass evacuation could pave the way for other waves of repatriation that are likely to follow. There are some 20 million Russians scattered throughout the world, and as the world outside Russia plunges deeper and deeper into resource scarcity they too will want to come home. While they may presently be reluctant to do so, seeing the positive example of how the Donbass evacuees are treated could help change their minds.

The negative optics of surrendering territory can be countered by not surrendering any territory. As a guarantor of the Minsk Agreements, Russia must refuse to surrender the Donbass to the Ukrainian government until it fulfills the terms of these agreements, which it has shown no intention of doing for seven years now and which it has recently repudiated altogether. It is important to note that the Russian military can shoot straight across all of Donbass without setting foot on Ukrainian soil. Should the Ukrainian forces attempt to enter Donbass, they will be dealt with as shown in the following instructional video. Note that the maximum range of the Tornado-G system shown in the video is 120km.

And should the Ukrainians care to respond by attacking Russian territory, another one of Putin’s pronouncements helps us understand what would happen next: if attacked, Russia will respond not just against the attackers but also against the centers of decision-making responsible for the attack. The Ukrainian command in Kiev, as well as its NATO advisers, would probably keep this statement in mind when considering their steps.

The Donbass evacuation should resonate rather well internationally. It would be a typical Putin judo move knocking NATO and the US State Department off-balance. Since this would be a large humanitarian mission, it would be ridiculous to attempt to portray it as “Russian aggression.” On the other hand, Russia would be quite within its rights to issue stern warnings that any attempt to interfere with the evacuation or to launch provocations during the evacuation process would be dealt with very harshly, freeing Russia’s hands in dispatching to God the berserkers from the Ukraine’s Nazi battalions, some of whom don’t particularly like to follow orders.

The West would be left with the following status quo. The Donbass is empty of residents but off-limits to them or to the Ukrainians. The evacuation would in no sense change the standing or the negotiating position of the evacuees and their representatives vis-à-vis the Minsk agreements, locking this situation in place until Kiev undertakes constitutional reform, becomes a federation and grants full autonomy to Donbass, or until the Ukrainian state ceases to exist and is partitioned. The Ukraine would be unable to join NATO (a pipe dream which it has stupidly voted into its constitution) since this would violate the NATO charter, given that it does not control its own territory.

Further sanctions against Russia would become even more difficult to justify, since it would be untenable to accuse it of aggression for undertaking a humanitarian mission to protect its own citizens or for carrying out its responsibilities as a guarantor of the Minsk agreements. The Donbass would remain as a stalker zone roamed by Russian battlefield robots sniping Ukrainian marauders, with the odd busload of schoolchildren there on a field trip to lay flowers on the graves of their ancestors. Its ruined Soviet-era buildings, not made any newer by three decades of Ukrainian abuse and neglect, will bear silent witness to the perpetual ignominy of the failed Ukrainian state.

History is as often driven by accident as by logic, but since we cannot predict accidents, logic is the only tool we have in trying to guess the shape of the future. Rephrasing Voltaire, this, then, is the best that we can expect to happen in this the best of all possible worlds.


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All sides are “locked and loaded”: what comes next? (OPEN THREAD #9)

All sides are “locked and loaded”: what comes next? (OPEN THREAD #9)

April 10, 2021

By all accounts, all sides are ready for war. That does NOT mean that war is inevitable, only that there are no more objective factors making war impossible.

How long can this “neither quite here, nor quite there” situation last?

A long time, at least until the Fall of 2021.

Let’s not pretend like anybody is a prophet and can predict the future (all those who do are, in reality, clueless).

The most likely next phase would be a Ukronazi diversionary/terrorist attack, either in the Donbass, or in Crimea or even somewhere else in Russia.  Keep in mind that the Ukie special services have a proven track of successful clandestine operations.

So what I suggest for a topic today is this: what kind of diversionary/terrorist provocations (as opposed to purely military moves) could the Ukronazis pull off the provoke the LDNR (or even Russia) and then declare itself a victim of aggression?

Hugs and cheers

The Saker

RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN WAR: TRAGEDY FOR PEOPLE, CHANCE FOR ELITES

10.04.2021 

South Front

Russian-Ukrainian War: Tragedy For People, Chance For Elites
Illustrative Image

Against the backdrop of ongoing political provocations and bellicose rhetoric from all parties involved in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, military escalation is constantly growing. Local forces, as well as the OSCE observers, report about more and more ceasefire violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. There are daily statements on casualties on both sides of the conflict among the military and local civilians.

Now, when all the global media are closely following the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine, the international community is wondering whether Donbass will become the point of the next military conflict, and what its scale will be. The main question is “Cui Prodest”?

The answer is unambiguous: the administration of Ukrainian President is a real stakeholder in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. In the current Ukrainian reality, there are plenty of circumstances that determine the pattern of conduct of Volodimir Zelensky.

First, the current economic situation in Ukraine is disastrous. The Ukrainian state is on the way to lose the ability to fulfill its social obligations. According to the data for 2020, its GDP in real terms suffered about 4% drop. According to the IMF, this drop will be at least 7%. If for the United States, China or Russia, a 4% drop in GDP is a big problem, for Ukraine it is almost a disaster, as GDP indicators were low even before the crisis.

Secondly, the economic situation in Ukraine was aggravated by the coronacrisis. The number of those contaminated by COVID-19 per day there is one of the biggest among the European countries, and even in the whole world. The death rate is also disproportionately high. The country’s economy is suffering, as most regions are still under lockdown, and since April 5, restrictions have been tightened again.

The fall in national budget income was caused by a complex of reasons, including pure management of national economy and the extremely high level of corruption that caused the destruction of the industrial complex, drop in already low per capita income, accompanied by a decreasing revenue gained from gas and cargo transit from East to West.

Third, the Zelensky administration is now facing a rapid decrease in people’s support. The national disappointment in his political program is caused by the rejection of his campaign promises to stop the war in Donbass.

Fourthly, it is increasingly difficult for NATO allies to fuel Kiev’s anti-Russian hysteria in the absence of any actual changes of the issue. The military conflict in the Eastern Ukraine is already 7 years old, and the only alarming statements no longer contribute to the increase in financial support from the US and its allies.

The last but not least is a political request from a part of the American elite, who are interested in various forms of pressuring Russia. They support blocking of the Nord Stream 2 project by any means; destruction of bilateral relations between Russia and leading European countries, up to war outbreak along its borders.

On the other hand, such a policy of the United States does not fully coincide with the national interests of leading European countries. However, new war in Eastern Ukraine would define Russian status as enemy for years while the US will strengthen its weight in European security.

The position of the Zelensky administration and the interests of the United States represent sufficient set of reasons to outbreak war in Eastern Ukraine.

Indeed, official Kiev does not need to care about the actual result of the conflict, but its very existence.

There are only 3 scenarios of the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine.

  • The Ukrainian army wholly or partially occupies the territory of the DLPR.
  • The forces of both sides remain in their current positions.
  • The DLPR forces, with Russian support, advance on the Ukrainian territory for several dozens of miles.

There is almost a zero probability that Ukraine will suffer a crushing defeat and the DLPR forces will occupy the territory to the Dnieper River. Russia now has neither the strength nor the ability to gain control over such a vast territory, and the collective West, in its turn, would not let this happen.

If any of the above scenarios are implemented, Zelensky and his supporters among the US elites will benefit.

For many years, the US and European media have shaped Russia as the aggressor, the enemy of democratic values and the authoritarian tyrannical regime that must be contained. The idea of an external military threat, which being sequentially built up by the West, serves as a pretext for its increasing military funding both in defense industry and army itself amid inevitable unification under the US leadership.

In its turn, Ukraine, positioning itself as the Eastern European Shield against “Asian Barbarians”, receives significant and steadily growing support from NATO countries, gaining momentum to development and further nazi-like ideology originally rooted in Western Ukraine.

Unleashing the war, Zelensky has a chance to reclaim his status as the national leader. In case of the conquest of the self-proclaimed republics, or the preservation of the current troops’ positions, he will become a hero who saved Ukraine from “evil Russians”.

Even after having lost the war, he would claim that the entire country was saved with little blood and only a small piece of land that was temporary lost, taking on the role of a good strategist who defended the sovereignty in the furious fighting shoulder to shoulder with his NATO allies.

Zelensky’s policy can only fail if Russia captures half of Ukraine, which de facto is not possible.

Thus, almost whatever may happen during the conflict, Ukraine can be sure that it will receive stable financial flows from its Western allies for years ahead. Having become a “real” Eastern Shield of Europe, Ukraine may finally get the coveted NATO membership.

Finally yet importantly – the hot military conflict will undoubtedly divert public attention from the economic problems inside the country.

Unleashing a war in Donbass will allow Zelensky to solve his main problems, albeit at the cost of lives of thousands of Ukrainians.

Today, many analysts assure that there will not be a full-scale war, since Ukraine is weak, and Zelensky must assess country’s military strength in front of the Russian power. Let’s hope this is the case, while remembering who the beneficiary of the conflict is.

In its turn, the United States, at the cost of Ukrainian soldiers’ lives, can resolve a good part of its problems in the European region, while Russia seems to lose strategically in any of these war scenarios.

Definitely, the war in Ukraine will lead to the closure of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is already at the final stage of construction. Key contacts between Russia and NATO countries will be frozen, no more significant bilateral cooperation in economy will be possible.

A new war near the Russian borders that involves national armed forces will have an important impact on the internal situation in the country. It is not clear to what extent the Russian society, which has suffered the break of economic relations with Western countries and numerous sanctions, is ready to support the struggle for Donbass.

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Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

Russia ‘would really not want’ Cold War 2.0

April 09, 2021

The Triple Yoda, Nikolai Patrushev, hopes cooler heads can avoid sanctions such as the SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The Beltway was always fond of describing the late Andrew Marshall – who identified emerging or future threats for the Pentagon and whose proteges included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz – as Yoda.

Well, if that’s the case, then Chinese national security supremo Yang Jiechi – who recently made shark fin’s soup out of Tony Blinken in Alaska – is Double Yoda. And Nikolai Patrushev – Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation – is Triple Yoda.

Amid current ice-cold US-Russia relations – plunged into their worst state since the end of the Cold War – Triple Yoda, discreet, diplomatic and always sharp as a dagger, remains a soothing voice of reason, as demonstrated in a stunning interview by Kommersant daily.

Patrushev, born in 1951, is an army general who worked for KGB counter-intel in Leningrad, during the USSR days. Starting in 1994 he was the head of quite a few FSB departments. From 1999 to 2008 he was the FSB director, and led counter-terror ops in the North Caucasus from 2001 to 2003. Since May 2008 he is Russia’s top security advisor.

Patrushev rarely talks to the media. Thus the importance, for global public opinion, of highlighting some of his key insights. Let us hope the Beltway will be listening.

Patrushev clearly states that Russia does not want Cold War 2.0: “We would really not want that.” And he hopes that “common sense will prevail in Washington.”

Patrushev speaks

On Biden declaring Putin a “killer”: “I would not like to draw parallels, but exactly 75 years ago, in March 1946, Churchill delivered the famous Fulton speech in the presence of President Truman, in which he declared our country, his recent ally in the anti-Hitler coalition, an enemy. This marked the beginning of the Cold War.”

On Ukraine and Donbass: “I am convinced that this is a consequence of serious internal problems in Ukraine, from which the authorities are trying to divert attention in this way. They solve their problems at the expense of Donbass, while capital from the country has been flowing abroad for a long time … and Kiev is selling to foreigners – as they say now, at democratic prices – those remnants of industry that were able to stay afloat.”

On the first order of business for the US and Russia: It’s “the sphere of strategic stability and arms control. There is already a positive example here. It is our common decision to extend the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms, which was certainly not easy for the US administration.”

On possible areas of cooperation: “There is a certain potential for joint work on such issues as the fight against international terrorism and extremism … as well as Syria, the Middle East settlement, the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula, the JCPOA with Iran … It is long overdue to discuss cyber-security issues, especially in view of Russia’s concerns and the accusations that have been brought forward to us for several years now.”

On contacts with Washington: “They continue. At the end of March, I had a telephone conversation with the assistant to the president of the United States for national security, Mr Sullivan .… By the way, it was held in a calm, business-like atmosphere, and we communicated quite thoroughly and constructively.”

On having no illusions about US apologies: “The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan completely unnecessarily – although they knew perfectly well that the Red Army was starting hostilities against the Japanese grouping in Manchuria; they knew that Tokyo was ready to surrender. And the Japanese, and indeed the whole world, have been told for three quarters of a century that atomic strikes were inevitable … a kind of punishment from above. Remember what Obama said in his speech at the Hiroshima mourning event? ‘Death fell from heaven.’ And he did not want to say that this death fell from an American plane on the orders of the American president.”

On improvement of relations: “Given the unprecedentedly difficult nature of the internal situation in the United States today, the prospects for the further development of relations can hardly be called encouraging.”

On the US seeing Russia as a “threat,” and whether it is reciprocal: “We now see the main threat in a pandemic. For the United States, by the way, it turned out to be the moment of truth. The problems that American politicians were hiding from their fellow citizens became obvious, including by diverting their attention to the legends of ‘aggressive Russia.’”

On US bio-labs: “I suggest that you pay attention to the fact that numbers of biological laboratories under US control are growing by leaps and bounds across the world. And – by a strange coincidence – mainly at the Russian and Chinese borders … Of course, we and our Chinese partners have questions. We are told that there are peaceful sanitary and epidemiological stations near our borders, but for some reason they are more reminiscent of Fort Detrick in Maryland, where Americans have been working in the field of military biology for decades. By the way, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that outbreaks of diseases uncharacteristic of these regions are recorded in the adjacent areas.”

On US accusations that Russia uses chemical weapons: “There is zero evidence, there is no argumentation either; some speculation does not even withstand an elementary test … When chemical incidents occurred in Syria, conclusions were drawn instantly and based on the information of the notorious ‘White Helmets.’ The organization worked so ‘well’ that it sometimes published its reports even before the incidents themselves.”

On NATO: “The question arises: who is holding back whom? Are Washington and Brussels holding back Russia, or is it their task to hold back the development of Germany, France, Italy and other European states? On the whole, NATO can hardly be called a military-political bloc. Remember how in the days of feudalism the vassals were obliged to appear to the master with their armies at his first  request? Only today they still have to buy weapons from the patron, regardless of their financial situation; otherwise questions about their loyalty will arise.”

On Europe: “Engaging with Europe is important. But being together with Europe at any cost is not a fix for Russian geopolitics. Nevertheless we keep the doors open, because we understand perfectly well that there is a momentary situation that Western politicians are guided by, and at the same time there are historical ties that have been developing between Russians and Europeans for centuries.”

On multipolarity: “There are a number of problems in the world today that, in principle, cannot be resolved without normal cooperation between the world’s leading players – Russia, the USA, the EU, China and India.”

The SWIFT ‘nuclear option’

Patrushev’s insights are particularly relevant as the Russia-China strategic partnership is solidifying by the minute; Foreign Minister Lavrov, in Pakistan, has called for literally everyone, “including the European Union,” to join Russia’s vision of a Greater Eurasia; and everyone is waiting for a face-off in the Donbass.

Patrushev’s diplomatic finesse still cannot erase the uneasy feeling in chancelleries across Eurasia about the distinct possibility of an incoming flare-up in the Donbass – with some extremely worrying consequences.

Dangerous scenarios are being openly discussed in Brussels corridors, especially one that sees the US/NATO combo expecting a de facto partition after a short hot war – with Novorossiya absorbing even Odessa.

If that is established as a fact on the ground, a new harsh round of US sanctions will follow. Iron Curtain 2.0 would be in effect; pressure for cancelation of Nord Stream 2 would reach fever pitch; and even the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT would be considered.

Dmitri Medvedev, currently Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council, once called the latter “the nuclear option.” Patrushev was diplomatic enough not to address its volcanic consequences.

The US war on Europe: a continental 911? (OPEN THREAD #7)

The US war on Europe: a continental 911? (OPEN THREAD #7)

April 08, 2021

For anybody wanting peace, it is important to understand the logic of those who want war.  What I propose to do today is to list all the reasons why the US is waging war not only on Russia, but also on Europe.  This time again I will use a bulletpoint list (in no special order)

  • The Empire and Russia have been at war for years now, at least since 2013; until now, this war was 80% informational, about 15% economic and only about 5% kinetic.  Yet from its initiation, it was an existential war for both sides and it still is.  At the end of it all, only one party will remain standing, the other one will have collapsed and profoundly changed.  The above ratios are now about to change.
  • The “Biden” administration is a who’s who of the worst Russia haters on the US political scene, check out this excellent article by Andrei Martyanov which explains that.  You might also enjoy an article I wrote in distant 2008 entitled “How a medieval concept of ethnicity makes NATO commit yet another a dangerous blunder“.
  • Needless to say, the Woke and LGTBQ+ freaks (which are all over the “Biden” admin) all hate Russia for being (in their very mistaken opinion) both “White”,  “Christian” and “Conservative” (only the latter is mostly true).
  • So far, all the efforts of Obama, Trump and Biden have yielded exactly *zero* results.  Or, better, it did produce results, but not the ones it was supposed to achieve: Russia increased her sovereignty and economic independence, the Russia people rallied around Putin, and the Russian political scene became even more anti-western than before.  The US plan against Russia failed, true, but the Russian people (and politicians) all understood that the attempt was to destroy Russia as a country, a nation and a civilization.
  • After decades of incompetent and corrupt “leadership” by all administrations, the US is in terrible shape by pretty much any relevant metric.  You could say that the “imperial pie” which the US and the EU share has shrunk that, in turn, means that the US has to seize a bigger chunk of it.  Hence the US opposition to NS2 which does not threaten the 3B+PU nations, but threatens to make the EU more competitive (cheaper energy) than the US (more expensive energy).  Hence, NS2 must be stopped at all costs (“Biden” just appointed a “special envoy” to kill NS2: Amos Hochstein).
  • Up until now, the EU (mostly Germany) were able to resist the US pressure, but with a large scale shooting war in the Ukraine, NS2 will be instantly cancelled, this will be a political triumph for the US Neocons.
  • The Nazi Banderastan created by the US Dems (shame on you if you ever voted for Obama or “Biden”!) has become a black hole by any relevant metric and should a war break out, this will affect the EU far more than the USA, hence this is yet another chance for Uncle Shmuel to grab a bigger piece of the “western imperial pie”.
  • Next, even if the Russian forces stay behind the current line of contact, any overt Russian intervention in the Ukraine will result in an immediate war hysteria in the West, securing the total domination of the US (via NATO) of the entire European continent.
  • Also, if the Ukronazi Banderastan is ever allowed to join NATO (in whatever form), then NATO will have to deal with the largely anti-NATO population of the eastern Ukraine.  It is therefore objectively in the interests of the USA and NATO to simply get rid of the Donbass and incorporate in NATO only the pro-Nazi parts of the Ukraine while blaming “break-up” and “invasion” on Russia.  The only part of the Ukraine which the US/NATO really wanted was, of course, Crimea (an ancient Anglo fantasy!).  Putin made sure this will never happen and now this pipe dream will never become reality.
  • The political scene in Europe is undergoing a deep crisis: some countries risk falling apart (UK, Spain), all of them are hit hard by the pandemic, riots are taking place everywhere (even in “peaceful” Switzerland! in St Gallen cops shot rubber bullets at protesters) which, frankly, threatens the long term future of the EU (which itself is an instrument of US domination of Europe).  Triggering a war will completely change this landscape just like the 9/11 false flag changed the political landscape in the USA.
  • And then there is NATO itself, a fantastically ineffective organization in military terms, but an extremely effective one politically.  Since 1991, this organization had lost any purpose, a new war in the Ukraine will give it a (entirely fake) purpose for decades to come, thereby keeping Europe a US colony (which, of course, the “new Europeans” want, but of the “old Europeans” – no so much).
  • The fact that NS2 is something like 95% completed is a slap in the face of Uncle Shmuel and the “Biden” administration will want to show these pesky Europeans “who is boss”.  Since triggering a war will immediately stop NS2, it will punish the Europeans not only by denying them cheap energy, but also by the billions of dollars they already wasted on this project, and the more billions they will have to pay Russia in the future.
  • The Ukraine cannot enter NATO, at least officially, until all its border issues are resolved.  That is the official propaganda line.  But what if Russia intervenes in the Donbass, then I would not put it past the Poles to move a number of battalions to the Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk regions and that will de facto place the western Ukraine under Polish control and, thereby under NATO control and thereby US control.  And no need for any votes of referendums – it will all happen while the world will watch in horror the war in the Donbass.

I could go on, but I think the point is clear: for the “Biden” administration, the upcoming war will be a dream come true, a way of killing many birds with one stone and, most importantly, a way to really hurt Russia (that will be true in spite of the fact that Russia will easily prevail militarily against any imaginable combination of forces in the eastern Ukraine.

Of course, all of the above is predicated on the deeply mistaken belief by US politicians that Russia is weak and the US invulnerable.  Remember, while US politicians are long on chutzpah and narcissistic and messianic self-worship, they ain’t too knowledgeable about history (or anything pertaining to Zone B).

The bottom line is this: Uncle Shmuel is preparing a continental 9/11 PSYOP operation.  Even worse is that I don’t see what/who/how anybody could stop it.

Do you?

Kind regards

The Saker

Telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel

Source

Telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel

April 08, 2021

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/65325

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Federal Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Angela Merkel.

April 8, 202114:30

The two leaders had a detailed discussion on a number of topical international matters.

While exchanging opinions on ways of resolving the intra-Ukrainian crisis, the Russian President and the German Chancellor voiced concern in connection with the escalation of tensions in southeastern Ukraine. Vladimir Putin drew attention to the provocative actions of Kiev which is now deliberately aggravating the situation along the line of contact. The parties noted the need for the Kiev authorities to implement earlier agreements without fail, in particular those aimed at the launch of direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk and at legally formalising the special status of Donbass.

They urged the parties to the conflict to display restraint and to invigorate the negotiating process in order to fully implement the 2015 Minsk Package of Measures as the only legal foundation for a peace settlement. They reaffirmed their commitment to further close coordination of Russian and German efforts, including within the Normandy Format, between political advisers and foreign ministers.

Mr Putin and Ms Merkel continued to exchange opinions on the subject of Syria and noted the high priority of tasks to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria. The Russian party underscored the unacceptability of politicising issues as regards the provision of foreign assistance to the people of Syria, the restoration of the socioeconomic infrastructure and the return of refugees.

While discussing the situation in Libya, both leaders praised the establishment of interim national institutions of state authority in the country. They voiced readiness to help normalise the domestic situation and to facilitate Libya’s peaceful development. They agreed to continue coordinating their efforts in this direction.

The two leaders touched upon the situation in the Balkans and noted the importance of further well-coordinated steps to ensure stability and inter-ethnic accord, including with due consideration for the decisions of the Steering Committee of the Council to fulfil the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Dayton Agreement.

In connection with the interest displayed by the Federal Chancellor, the situation regarding Alexei Navalny was touched upon.

At Vladimir Putin’s initiative, certain matters regarding the activities of foreign media outlets and NGOs in both countries were reviewed.

It was agreed to maintain close working contacts through various channels.

THE DONBASS WAR OF 2021?

07.04.2021 

The Donbass War Of 2021?

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront.

Ever since assuming office, the Biden Administration has been probing countries it designated as America’s enemies for weaknesses through a variety of provocations. So far this approach has not had any successes. China plainly told Biden’s SecState Blinken to go packing, Iran is showing no eagerness to kowtow to Washington under new management, and Russia itself has stayed the course, brushing off verbal attacks and promising either in-kind or asymmetrical responses to any new chicaneries from Washington or Brussels.

That does not mean that Washington has acknowledged defeat. Unwilling to concede, it is liable to escalate a crisis situation elsewhere. Since Navalny’s perennial “poisonings”, “hunger strikes”, and “leg pains” have not had the desired effect on Western governments and his life and health are moreover quite secure in a Russian prison, so the prospect of a new war in Eastern Ukraine is back on the agenda, and the opponents of Nord Stream 2 now have two things to pray for: Aleksey Navalny’s death and a Russia-Ukraine war.

Zelensky on the Spot

The Russian government has made it clear on numerous occasions that it is adhering to the Minsk Agreements, will not abandon the Donbass, but at the same time will not escalate the situation out of the desire to minimize the damage to all concerned. In practical terms it means a continuation of “coercive diplomacy”. Russian military force will be used only if Ukraine attempts to create facts on the ground through offensive action. For that reason it is unlikely in the extreme that Russia will be the one to escalate first. It is worth remembering that both the summer 2014 campaign and the winter 2014/15 campaign were initiated by Kiev which first sent troops and bombers to suppress the then-peaceful protests against the Maidan and referenda to secede, and then to hope to quickly resolve the stalemate. Both operations ended in failure through the efforts of the hastily assembled and armed militias of the breakaway republics, with some “Northern Wind” military support that decimated Ukrainian forces.

Poroshenko survived the disasters that shredded the Ukrainian military thanks to the alliances he’s made with the nationalists while preparing for the Maidan. Zelensky’s position is considerably weaker and more vulnerable to the consequences of a military defeat. Having been elected on a promise to end the war in the Donbass, he has already badly disappointed his supporters on that score. But his transformation into a warhawk, perhaps best characterized by his awkward appearances on the front lines wearing an ill-fitting helmet and a remarkably short armor vest, has not earned him even grudging respect from the nationalists and neo-Nazis on whose shoulders much of Ukraine’s war effort rests. While Poroshenko could get out of many a tight spot with his “Cynical Baderite” jacket, Zelensky is now a very lonely person in Kiev, a hostage to the decisions of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council whose decisions he automatically signs, in contrast with Poroshenko who often simply ignored them.

In practice it means that Zelensky might be in process of being a scapegoat for Ukraine’s all-but-inevitable defeat at the hands of Russian forces hastening to aid the republics in the event of Ukraine’s military scoring early victories. Blackmail might be playing a role in Zelensky’s calculus too. There were persistent reports in March of an imminent release of a documentary implicating Zelensky’s office in the failure of Ukrainian intelligence operation to lure Wagner associates to Ukraine in order to imprison and try them. At the same time, if Zelensky sends his military to a defeat, his reputation will be gravely damaged, possibly to the point of forcing him to resign and even endangering his life. His nervous activity of the first week of April, including a total non-sequitur of a visit to NATO headquarters in order to plead for Ukraine’s quick admission to the alliance, is indicative of a man in a tight spot with no easy ways out.

Resistible Force Meets Immovable Object

Zelensky might be in a less anxious mood if he had a reliable military instrument to wield. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are not that instrument. While the Russian military entered 2014 rather unprepared for the prospect of high-intensity land warfare thanks to the Serdyukov reforms that made the brigade the main tactical unit, since that time much lost ground has been recovered through the reactivation of several divisions and armies, such as the First Guards Tank Army, and modernization of Land Forces’ equipment. Russia’s military today is a considerably more impressive force than it was seven years ago.

Meanwhile Ukraine’s armed forces stagnated. Unmodernized T-64 remains its most numerous main battle tank while production of light armored vehicles proceeds at a trickle. Considering that artillery has been the most active arm in the years of static warfare along the line of separation, Ukraine’s “god of war” remains in poor shape and is suffering from ammunition shortage. In the last decade, Ukraine has suffered seven major ammunition depot explosions, in addition to the tremendous expenditure of munitions during the 2014 and 2015 battles and the occasional escalations of shelling since. Since Ukraine is a failing state that cannot even maintain its crumbling civilian infrastructure, it is little wonder that it has failed to establish domestic munitions manufacture. It did receive some supplies of weapons and munitions from NATO member states which have stores of Soviet-pattern weapons themselves, most notably Bulgaria, but little in the way of heavy artillery munitions. Since Ukraine also does not manufacture artillery pieces, specifically the technology-intensive barrels, for either its tanks or howitzers, the existing artillery park is being gradually used up, and every shell fired not only diminishes existing reserves but also adds to the wear and tear of the artillery pieces. An effort to provide cheap indirect fire capabilities by procuring 120mm “Molot” mortars manufactured in a factory owned by Poroshenko did not live up to expectations. There have been several cases of these mortars bursting during live fire exercises, with dire consequences for their crews. And if a simple technology of a mortar cannot be mastered by Ukraine’s defense industry, what success can it have attempting more challenging tasks?

Nor is the human factor any better. To borrow Wellington’s characterization of his own soldiers, UAF rank and file are “scum of the earth, enlisted to drink.” Military service remains highly unpopular and attracts only those who cannot find lucrative employment in the civilian economy—or abroad. Draft evasion and bribery of military recruitment officials is widespread, leading the Rada to drastically increase penalties for such activities to include lengthy prison terms. Even if such measures do not result in an exodus of able-bodied males out of the country, they are hardly likely to fill the ranks with motivated recruits. In the first week of April 2021 alone, Ukrainian forces have lost on average one soldier a day to non-combat causes, which included alcohol and drug overdoses, careless handling of weapons, suicide, and murder. The single greatest killer of Ukrainian soldiers, however, are their own minefields, which have killed 57 soldiers and injured 126 between July 27, 2020 (the beginning of the last ceasefire) and April 3, 2021, a statistic indicating a very low level of training and discipline.

Units themselves remain understrength. Some of the brigades are short of 60% of enlisted personnel and 30% of officers. Troops’ low morale translated into not only irregular and erratic training but also into poor equipment maintenance habits. An inspection of the 59th Brigade whose results fell into the hands of Novorossia intelligence services revealed that as of March 2020, some 60% of the brigade’s heavy weapons and vehicles were either greatly behind their maintenance schedule or were altogether unserviceable. The brigade has not held any maneuvers because the fuel supplies delivered to its logistics units never made it to the actual tactical subunits, suggesting theft by brigade’s leadership.

Cossack Mace

For all of the above reasons, a Ukrainian military operation, even a limited one, seems unlikely in the immediate future. The very visible Ukrainian troop movements meant that no element of surprise could be achieved. The aim appears to have been to relocate sizable formations to the Donbass so as to provide them with an ability to launch a quick, almost no-warning attack in the future, after Novorossia’s vigilance has been dulled by months of alerts and provocations.

Unless other events intervene, the period of greatest danger will be the Cossack Mace exercise held during the summer of 2021. The aim of the exercise which will take place under British leadership is to practice repelling a “Russian invasion” and then launching an offensive to secure the Ukraine-Russia border which would mean the end of Novorossia.

The fact of British leadership is particularly worrisome, since that country seems to have undertaken the task of “dirty tricks” on Washington’s behalf. In this instance, the “dirty trick” could be using the exercise to rehearse invasion of the Donbass immediately prior to its execution or, equally plausibly, the exercise itself might turn into an invasion. Foreign command of the invasion would be consistent with the Ukrainian trend of slipping under direct control by Western powers, and reminiscent of the role of the Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) in the planning and execution of Croatia’s Operation Storm in 1995.

One can’t even rule out direct British participation in such an operation, since a British-supported Ukrainian offensive against Novorossia forces would not be an offensive against Russia. The Defence Review released in March 2021 stated that the British Army would stand up four so-called “ranger regiments”, or battalion-sized formations whose aim would be to train “indigenous forces” and, if need be, actually go to battle with them in order to pursue British interests as part of the “Global Britain” project. An addition of professional British soldiers, in conjunction with British planning and execution of the operation, would provide a morale boost to the UAF and increase the chances of at least moderate success. Once embedded within Ukrainian forces, British troops would also serve as a deterrent against a direct Russian intervention.

An Ounce of Prevention

It may well be that the sudden Russian troop movements, the reinforcement of Crimea, and even Belarus’ deployment to the border of Ukraine, indicate contingency planning to launch an enveloping counteroffensive that would trap Ukrainian forces in a giant cauldron between the Dnepr River and Novorossia itself. At the very least, their presence forces Ukraine to divert forces away from its offensive grouping on the Donbass toward the border with Russia and even Belarus. It is also possible that the snap deployment was intended to pre-empt Ukraine’s increasingly obvious moves to mount an offensive during the summer, an offensive with direct foreign military employment. Russia’s pre-emption may also include a changed status of the Donbass. President Putin’s declaration that the rights of 600,000 holders of Russian passports in Novorossia has become a priority for him. An official recognition of Novorossia, combined with the placement of a Russian peacekeeper force, would stop the Ukrainian offensive dead in its tracks and moreover render any British participation unsustainable, though at certain diplomatic cost due to the withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements it would entail. The forceful Russian response has already had the effect of knocking not only Ukraine but, judging by the panicky demands for Russia to “explain” its troop movements, all of NATO. It communicated that under no circumstances will Ukraine enjoy tactical, operational, or strategic surprise. Now the question is whether Russia and major European powers can craft a diplomatic solution that will allow Zelensky to back down in a face-saving manner, thus ending the danger of war against the Donbass.

British “ranger regiments” and “greyzone warfare”

Use of NATO forces directly vs. unrecognized republics is no the same as use of NATO forces against Russia. Recognition by Russia would, on the other hand, create an additional layer of deterrence, though associated with risks for Russia.

If LPR/DPR are formally recognized by the Russian Federation which then spreads the umbrella of “extended deterrence” which, it should be noted, is backed by a potent nuclear arsenal. It would also mean Russia’s formal rejection of Minsk Agreements and of the Normandy Four format, creating a legal limbo fraught with unpredictability. NATO countries which committed themselves to preserving Ukraine’s “sovereignty and integrity” could hardly be expected to ratify this move.

Major minelaying operations by Ukrainian forces, which may be part of the offensive preparations. The greater the extent and intensity of mines on a certain sector of the front, the greater the ability to concentrate forces on other sectors—suggesting that whichever  sectors of the front are not seeing a minelaying operations are being reserved as corridors for future assault, making them eligible for DPR/LPR defensive minelaying.

MORE ON THE TOPIC:

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity on Avoiding War in Ukraine

By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Global Research, April 07, 2021

Antiwar.com 6 April 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

***

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Avoiding War in Ukraine

Dear President Biden,

We last communicated with you on December 20, 2020, when you were President-elect.

At that time, we alerted you to the dangers inherent in formulating a policy toward Russia built on a foundation of Russia-bashing. While we continue to support the analysis contained in that memorandum, this new memo serves a far more pressing purpose. We wish to draw your attention to the dangerous situation that exists in Ukraine today, where there is growing risk of war unless you take steps to forestall such a conflict.

At this juncture, we call to mind two basic realities that need particular emphasis amid growing tension between Ukraine and Russia.

First, since Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Article 5 of the NATO Treaty of course would not apply in the case of an armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Second, Ukraine’s current military flexing, if allowed to transition into actual military action, could lead to hostilities with Russia.

We think it crucial that your administration immediately seek to remove from the table, so to speak, any “solution” to the current impasse that has a military component. In short, there is, and can never be, a military solution to this problem.

Your interim national security strategy guidance indicated that your administration would “make smart and disciplined choices regarding our national defense and the responsible use of our military, while elevating diplomacy as our tool of first resort.” Right now is the perfect time to put these words into action for all to see.

We strongly believe:

1. It must be made clear to Ukrainian President Zelensky that there will be no military assistance from either the US or NATO if he does not restrain Ukrainian hawks itching to give Russia a bloody nose — hawks who may well expect the West to come to Ukraine’s aid in any conflict with Russia. (There must be no repeat of the fiasco of August 2008, when the Republic of Georgia initiated offensive military operations against South Ossetia in the mistaken belief that the US would come to its assistance if Russia responded militarily.)

2. We recommend that you quickly get back in touch with Zelensky and insist that Kiev halt its current military buildup in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces have been lining up at the border ready to react if Zelensky’s loose talk of war becomes more than bravado. Washington should also put on hold all military training activity involving US and NATO troops in the region. This would lessen the chance that Ukraine would misinterpret these training missions as a de facto sign of support for Ukrainian military operations to regain control of either the Donbas or Crimea.

3. It is equally imperative that the U.S. engage in high-level diplomatic talks with Russia to reduce tensions in the region and de-escalate the current rush toward military conflict. Untangling the complex web of issues that currently burden U.S.-Russia relations is a formidable task that will not be accomplished overnight. This would be an opportune time to work toward a joint goal of preventing armed hostilities in Ukraine and wider war.

There is opportunity as well as risk in the current friction over Ukraine. This crisis offers your administration the opportunity to elevate the moral authority of the United States in the eyes of the international community. Leading with diplomacy will greatly enhance the stature of America in the world.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

  • William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
  • Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer & former Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (ret.)
  • Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)
  • Graham E. Fuller,Vice-Chair, National Intelligence Council (ret.)
  • Robert M. Furukawa, Captain, Civil Engineer Corps, USNR (ret.)
  • Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
  • Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator
  • John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
  • Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003
  • Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)
  • Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)
  • Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)
  • Pedro Israel Orta, CIA Operations Officer & Analyst; Inspector with IG for the Intelligence Community (ret.)
  • Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
  • Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
  • Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)
  • Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA
  • Sarah G. Wilton, CDR, USNR, (ret.); Defense Intelligence Agency (ret.)
  • Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)
  • Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

*

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Ukraine redux: war, Russophobia and Pipelineistan

Ukraine redux: war, Russophobia and Pipelineistan

April 07, 2021

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

Ukraine and Russia may be on the brink of war – with dire consequences for the whole of Eurasia. Let’s cut to the chase, and plunge head-on into the fog of war.

On March 24, Ukrainian President Zelensky, for all practical purposes, signed a declaration of war against Russia, via decree No. 117/2021.

The decree establishes that retaking Crimea from Russia is now Kiev’s official policy. That’s exactly what prompted an array of Ukrainian battle tanks to be shipped east on flatbed rail cars, following the saturation of the Ukrainian army by the US with military equipment including unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems, anti-tank systems and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).

More crucially, the Zelensky decree is the proof any subsequent war will have been prompted by Kiev, debunking the proverbial claims of “Russian aggression.” Crimea, since the referendum of March 2014, is part of the Russian Federation.

It was this (italics mine) de facto declaration of war, which Moscow took very seriously, that prompted the deployment of extra Russian forces to Crimea and closer to the Russian border with Donbass. Significantly, these include the crack 76th  Guards Air Assault Brigade, known as the Pskov paratroopers and, according to an intel report quoted to me, capable of taking Ukraine in only six hours.

It certainly does not help that in early April US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, fresh from his former position as a board member of missile manufacturer Raytheon, called Zelensky to promise “unwavering US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.” That ties in with Moscow’s interpretation that Zelensky would never have signed his decree without a green light from Washington.

Controlling the narrative

Sevastopol, already when I visited in December 2018, is one of the most heavily defended places on the planet, impervious even to a NATO attack. In his decree, Zelensky specifically identifies Sevastopol as a prime target.

Once again, we’re back to 2014 post-Maidan unfinished business.

To contain Russia, the US deep state/NATO combo needs to control the Black Sea – which, for all practical purposes, is now a Russian lake. And to control the Black Sea, they need to “neutralize” Crimea.

If any extra proof was necessary, it was provided by Zelensky himself on Tuesday this week in a phone call with NATO secretary-general and docile puppet Jens Stoltenberg.

Zelensky uttered the key phrase: “NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbass” – which means, in practice, NATO expanding its “presence” in the Black Sea. “Such a permanent presence should be a powerful deterrent to Russia, which continues the large-scale militarization of the region and hinders merchant shipping.”

All of these crucial developments are and will continue to be invisible to global public opinion when it comes to the predominant, hegemon-controlled narrative.

The deep state/NATO combo is imprinting 24/7 that whatever happens next is due to “Russian aggression.” Even if the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) launch a blitzkrieg against the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. (To do so against Sevastopol in Crimea would be certified mass suicide).

In the United States, Ron Paul has been one of the very few voices to state the obvious:  “According to the media branch of the US military-industrial-congressional-media complex, Russian troop movements are not a response to clear threats from a neighbor, but instead are just more ‘Russian aggression.’”

What’s implied is that Washington/Brussels don’t have a clear tactical, much less strategic game plan: only total narrative control.

And that is fueled by rabid Russophobia – masterfully deconstructed by the indispensable Andrei Martyanov, one of the world’s top military analysts.

A possibly hopeful sign is that on March 31, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, talked on the phone about the proverbial “issues of mutual interest.”

Days later, a Franco-German statement came out, calling on “all parties” to de-escalate. Merkel and Macron seem to have gotten the message in their videoconference with Putin – who must have subtly alluded to the effect generated by Kalibrs, Kinzhals and assorted hypersonic weapons if the going gets tough and the Europeans sanction a Kiev blitzkrieg.

The problem is Merkel and Macron don’t control NATO. Yet Merkel and Macron at least are fully aware that if the US/NATO combo attacks Russian forces or Russian passport holders who live in Donbass, the devastating response will target the command centers that coordinated the attacks.

What does the hegemon want?

As part of his current Energizer bunny act, Zelensky made an extra eyebrow-raising move. This past Monday, he visited Qatar with a lofty delegation and clinched a raft of deals, not circumscribed to LNG but also including direct Kiev-Doha flights; Doha leasing or buying a Black Sea port; and strong “defense/military ties” – which could be a lovely euphemism for a possible transfer of jihadis from Libya and Syria to fight Russian infidels in Donbass.

Right on cue, Zelensly meets Turkey’s Erdogan next Monday. Erdogan’s intel services run the jihadi proxies in Idlib, and dodgy Qatari funds are still part of the picture. Arguably, the Turks are already transferring those “moderate rebels” to Ukraine. Russian intel is meticulously monitoring all this activity.

A series of informed discussions – see, for instance, here and here – is converging on what may be the top three targets for the hegemon amid all this mess, short of war: to provoke an irreparable fissure between Russia and the EU, under NATO auspices; to crash the Nord Steam 2 pipeline; and to boost profits in the weapons business for the military-industrial complex.

So the key question then is whether Moscow would be able to apply a Sun Tzu move short of being lured into a hot war in the Donbass.

On the ground, the outlook is grim. Denis Pushilin, one of the top leaders of the Lugansk and Donetsk people’s republics, has stated that the chances of avoiding war are “extremely small.” Serbian sniper Dejan Beric – whom I met in Donetsk in 2015 and who is a certified expert on the ground – expects a Kiev attack in early May.

The extremely controversial Igor Strelkov, who may be termed an exponent of “orthodox socialism,” a sharp critic of the Kremlin’s policies who is one of the very few warlords who survived after 2014, has unequivocally stated that the only chance for peace is for the Russian army to control Ukrainian territory at least up to the Dnieper river. He stresses that a war in April is “very likely”; for Russia war “now” is better than war later; and there’s a 99% possibility that Washington will not fight for Ukraine.

On this last item at least Strelkov has a point; Washington and NATO want a war fought to the last Ukrainian.

Rostislav Ischenko, the top Russian analyst of Ukraine whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Moscow in late 2018, persuasively argues that, “the overall diplomatic, military, political, financial and economic situation powerfully requires the Kiev authorities to intensify combat operations in Donbass.

“By the way,” Ischenko added, “the Americans do not give a damn whether Ukraine will hold out for any time or whether it will be blown to pieces in an instant. They believe they stand to gain from either outcome.”

Gotta defend Europe

Let’s assume the worst in Donbass. Kiev launches its blitzkrieg. Russian intel documents everything. Moscow instantly announces it is using the full authority conferred by the UNSC to enforce the Minsk 2 ceasefire.

In what would be a matter of 8 hours or a maximum 48 hours, Russian forces smash the whole blitzkrieg apparatus to smithereens and send the Ukrainians back to their sandbox, which is approximately 75km north of the established contact zone.

In the Black Sea, incidentally, there’s no contact zone. This means Russia may send out all its advanced subs plus the surface fleet anywhere around the “Russian lake”: They are already deployed anyway.

Once again Martyanov lays down the law when he predicts, referring to a group of Russian missiles developed by the Novator Design Bureau: “Crushing Ukies’ command and control system is a matter of few hours, be that near border or in the operational and strategic Uki depth. Basically speaking, the whole of the Ukrainian ‘navy’ is worth less than the salvo of 3M54 or 3M14 which will be required to sink it. I think couple of Tarantuls will be enough to finish it off in or near Odessa and then give Kiev, especially its government district, a taste of modern stand-off weapons.”

The absolutely key issue, which cannot be emphasized enough, is that Russia will not (italics mine) “invade” Ukraine. It doesn’t need to, and it doesn’t want to. What Moscow will do for sure is to support the Novorossiya people’s republics with equipment, intel, electronic warfare, control of airspace and special forces. Even a no-fly zone will not be necessary; the “message” will be clear that were a NATO fighter jet to show up near the frontline, it would be summarily shot down.

And that brings us to the open “secret” whispered only in informal dinners in Brussels, and chancelleries across Eurasia: NATO puppets do not have the balls to get into an open conflict with Russia.

One thing is to have yapping dogs like Poland, Romania, the Baltic gang and Ukraine amplified by corporate media on their “Russian aggression” script. Factually, NATO had its collective behind unceremoniously kicked in Afghanistan. It shivered when it had to fight the Serbs in the late 1990s. And in the 2010s, it did not dare fight the Damascus and Axis of Resistance forces.

When all fails, myth prevails. Enter the US Army occupying parts of Europe to “defend” it against – who else? – those pesky Russians.

That’s the rationale behind the annual US Army DEFENDER-Europe 21, now on till the end of June, mobilizing 28,000 soldiers from the US and 25 NATO allies and “partners.”

This month, men and heavy equipment pre-positioned in three US Army depots in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands will be transferred to multiple “training areas” in 12 countries. Oh, the joys of travel, no lockdown in an open air exercise since everyone has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Pipelineistan uber alles

Nord Stream 2 is not a big deal for Moscow; it’s a Pipelineistan inconvenience at best. After all the Russian economy did not make a single ruble out of the not yet existent pipeline during the 2010s – and still it did fine. If NS2 is canceled, there are plans on the table to redirect the bulk of Russian gas shipments towards Eurasia, especially China.

In parallel, Berlin knows very well that canceling NS2 will be an extremely serious breach of contract – involving hundreds of billions of euros; it was Germany that requested the pipeline to be built in the first place.

Germany’s energiewende (“energy transition” policy) has been a disaster. German industrialists know very well that natural gas is the only alternative to nuclear energy. They are not exactly fond of Berlin becoming a mere hostage, condemned to buy ridiculously expensive shale gas from the hegemon – even assuming the hegemon will be able to deliver, as its fracking industry is in shambles. Merkel explaining to German public opinion why they must revert to using coal or buy shale from the US will be a sight to see.

As it stands, NATO provocations against NS2 proceed unabated – via warships and helicopters. NS2 needed a permit to work in Danish waters, and it was granted only a month ago. Even as Russian ships are not as fast in laying pipes as the previous ships from Swiss-based Allseas, which backed down, intimidated by US sanctions, the Russian Fortuna is making steady progress, as noted by analyst Petri Krohn: one kilometer a day on its best days, at least 800 meters a day. With 35 km left, that should not take more than 50 days.

Conversations with German analysts reveal a fascinating shadowplay on the energy front between Berlin and Moscow – not to mention Beijing. Compare it with Washington: EU diplomats complain there’s absolutely no one to negotiate with regarding NS2. And even assuming there would be some sort of deal, Berlin is inclined to admit Putin’s judgment is correct: the Americans are “not agreement-capable.” One just needs to look at the record.

Behind the fog of war, though, a clear scenario emerges: the deep state/NATO combo using Kiev to start a war as a Hail Mary pass to ultimately bury NS2, and thus German-Russian relations.

At the same time, the situation is evolving towards a possible new alignment in the heart of the “West”: US/UK pitted against Germany/France. Some Anglosphere exceptionals are certainly more Russophobic than others.

The toxic encounter between Russophobia and Pipelineistan will not be over even if NS2 is completed. There will be more sanctions. There will be an attempt to exclude Russia from SWIFT. The proxy war in Syria will intensify. The hegemon will go no holds barred to keep creating all sorts of geopolitical harassment against Russia.

What a nice wag-the-dog op to distract domestic public opinion from massive money printing masking a looming economic collapse. As the empire crumbles, the narrative is set in stone: it’s all the fault of “Russian aggression.”

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