RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 JULY 2019 by Patrick Armstrong

Russian flag

THE HEARTLAND. The problem with Mackinder's "heartland" is that moving around in it is so difficult: there are too many mountains, too many deserts and too much distance. Consequently, for 500 years sea travel has been both easier and, most of the time, faster; this reality has been a decisive power advantage for Mackinder's "islands". But China's working hard at overcoming that. Another link in the OBOR is starting – Russia has begun work on a highway on its section of the Shanghai-Hamburg route. High-speed rail in China is about a decade old: 29 thousand kms now. (California has several dozen kms. Remember when the West, especially the USA, did everything first?) The sea will probably maintain its advantage for high-volume items but OBOR will change everything else.

LIBERALISM. Putin's interview has stimulated some (more) silliness among people who probably haven't read it. "What is happening in the West? What is the reason for the Trump phenomenon, as you said, in the United States? What is happening in Europe as well? The ruling elites have broken away from the people. The obvious problem is the gap between the interests of the elites and the overwhelming majority of the people… Our Western partners have admitted that some elements of the liberal idea, such as multiculturalism, are no longer tenable… [the liberal idea] has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population." Well, what's incorrect? Putin has a better understanding than all the op-eds about populism. Western elites respond with a barrage of clichés.

CORRUPTION. "Nearly one in six Russian mayors have faced criminal prosecution over the past decade". Is that a lot of corruption or a lot of corruption detection and punishment?

SUBMARINE FIRE. A fire in, we are told, the battery compartment killed a number of rather high-ranking sailors. Speculation that it was a very deep diving submarine. Back to the cutting cables scare.

RUSSIA INC. Only last month the NYT told us that Russia's "economy suffers from flat growth and shrinking incomes", now Russia has "The World’s Top Stock Market". Hard to keep up, it is.

NEW NWO. The head of Rosobornexport says that Moscow has stopped using SWIFT or USD in arms transactions. So that's the number three export taken out of Washington's control, I don't know about the other two but I would be surprised in Russia weren't moving away from those as much as possible. India and Russia are talking about moving their trade to their own currencies.

DOUMA. How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA I. The Myth of Russian Media Influence by Larry C Johnson. More below.

AMERICA-HYSTERIA II. To Mueller's surprise, the IRA actually showed up in court. A judge has just ruled that Mueller's indictment "does not link the defendants to the Russian government". Once again, Moon of Alabama was far ahead of the mighty MSM: eighteen months ago, he said it was a click-bait operation; nothing to do with the Russian government or election interference.

S500. Being manufactured – adds an outer space defence capability to the family.

WESTERN VALUES. British media freedom conference bans RT and Sputnik but is held conveniently near Assange's prison. So he could attend. If he could.

PESKY RUSSIANS. Another whiny official document about how those nasty Russians are dissing the USA's impeccable position of respect in the world. (Usual pseudo-psychiatry: "Russia exhibits a deep-seated sense of geopolitical insecurity" and a whole new meme to accompany the "hybrid war" projectionism: "gray zone".) Here's the paper itself. I guess it must be that malign Russian influence that makes a fifth of the world regard the USA as a force for bad in the world.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. The EU mechanism for trade with Iran (INSTEX) is now declared operational. Too little, too late? We'll see. Berlin and Amsterdam reject Washington's request to send ground troops to Syria but London and Paris do not.

UKRAINE. Definitely some rumblings in Year Six of the Revolution of Dignity. First we have money movement revelations: Kolomoisky and IMF money; the Bidens, father and son. A documentary including Katchanovski's findings that the "heavenly hundred" were murdered by their own side wins a prize, but will it be quietly disappeared and never be seen? More Israelis notice: Israelis protesting arms sales to the nazi groups. Helmer discusses two interesting polls that show that Zelensky's party is way in front, and the Galicians way behind, in the parliamentary elections ten days away and that the population is sick of the civil war and wants settlement. US poll in May, Dutch poll in June.

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30 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 11 JULY 2019 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. JamesT says:

    I have a vivid memory of taking an overnight train from Warsaw to Moscow in 1998 – and stopping in Brest while they changed the undercarriage from the European track gauge to the Russian one. It took a while.
    Google tells me that both China and Europe share the same track gauge – so perhaps Russia will adopt this gauge for its OBOR rail lines, and then set up some NAFTA like border expedition procedures, so trains will be able to zoom from a Chinese industrial heartland right into the center of major European cities in under 24 hours.

  2. Cortes says:

    I believe that the Spanish gauge adapter technology is attracting interest…
    I recall tedious delays in rail journeys between France and Spain forty years ago. The gauge adapter put an end to that at latest by around 2000, possibly long before.

  3. Russia will also contribute the Northern Sea Route to China’s OBOR. I just saw an article today about Tonga joining OBOR much to the chagrin of Australia. China has been gaining influence in Tonga for quite a while similar to her efforts in Africa. OBOR is definitely going to reshape international commerce once it comes to fruition.

  4. In regards to the ruling referred to in AMERICA-HYSTERIA II, Sputnik interpreted the judge’s ruling all wrong. Concord asked the judge to hold DOJ/Mueller in contempt because the Mueller report emphatically stated that Concord/IRA conducted operations targeting the 2016 election at the direction of the Russian government. This is far more than what is alleged in the IRA indictment. As you correctly noted, the indictment “does not link the defendants to the Russian government.” Concord claims and the judge agreed that the conclusions included in the Mueller report and other government statements linked the defendants with the Russian government thus providing an “opinion about the defendants’ guilt and the evidence against them.” This violates a pretrial rule. However, the judge did not find the prosecution in contempt and denied Concord’s motion.
    As to the IRA activity being a mere click bait campaign, I offered the following as a response to Larry’s posting you also pointed to. “Recently read a Symantec study of the IRA’s twitter campaign based on the full data set of IRA produced tweets leading up to the 2016 election (3,836 Twitter accounts and nearly 10 million tweets). The campaign used 3,836 total fake accounts with 123 main accounts pushing out new content supported by 3,713 auxiliary accounts amplifying messages by retweeting content from the main accounts. This included the influential and infamous TEN_GOP which eventually had 150,000 followers and 6 million retweets, almost all from real twitter users rather than IRA auxiliary accounts. The full report is at:
    How much did this cost? Probably not a damned thing outside of employee costs. This was just the twitter part of the IRA campaign. They were also active on Facebook and Instagram. Comparing the cost of social media ad campaigns does nothing to understand the Russian campaign. However, is a good place to understand how social media was used in the 2016 election cycle and in other areas as well. Jonathan Albright has been a prolific researcher in this field and has published prolifically in Medium.”
    Another researcher collected a large collection of twitter and other social media postings of the actual IRA produced material including the notorious @ten_GOP account. Click bait, my ass.

  5. Eugene Owens says:

    At a memorial for those killed in the Losharik, an aide to Admiral Yevmenov is reported to have said: “With their lives, they saved the lives of their colleagues, saved the vessel and prevented a planetary catastrophe.”
    Shoigu and the Kremlin have said there was never any danger to the reactor.
    Who is right? Who knows? Even if true the reactor was only five megawatts, which is less than one sixth of one percent of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Not sure what a safety rating would be for that as the INES scale of the IAEA does not track military accidents or incidents.

  6. Mathias Alexander says:

    What does Putin understand the ‘liberal idea’ to be?

  7. That’s what I said — no connection shown say the judge.
    As to the rest, the fact that the accounts covered the ground is evidence to me of fishing expeditions to create the interest in the fake accounts. And what better place to fish than in a US election when passions are high. I stand by what I wrote here: it doesn’t make any sense

  8. Read the interview. I think lots of people would say he’s talking about “neo-liberalism”. But it’s certainly true that we in the West are throwing away our “liberal” freedoms as fast as we can.

  9. ISL says:

    TTG, if elections can be won (tossed, thrown, whatever) by spending nothing, then truly why do the politico’s spend all their time dialing for $$ (making them, by definition, sex trade workers) to hand the billions to the media companies? Wouldn’t the savy politicos hire IRA (or Bellingcat) to win their next election for a few thou?

  10. Fred says:

    This submarine sounds very similar to the NR-1 (now a museum piece), which I served upon many years ago. The book, “Dark Waters” has some interesting info on operations conducted long ago. I wonder if the Russian Federation is just repeating what was done in the cold war? “prevented a planetary catastrophe” to use Admiral Yevmenov’s phrsase, probabaly doesn’t refer to a reactor accident but an accidental war, which would certainly be catastrophic.

  11. John Minehan says:

    If it does.
    OBOR makes little economic sense. On the other hand, I think the overwhelming reason fir it is to promote stability in the PRC itself.

  12. Something I’ve wondered about too. As some of you know I do a lot of cruising and I’ve seen a lot of container ships mooching along with 2000-3000 containers on them. That’s a lot of high-speed trains. My assumption is that long-distance trade used to be high-value low-volume goods like silk, spices, precious metals. Nowadays it’s high-volume low-value goods. Perhaps the trains will do the former and ships the latter.
    But China has mountains of money and is an engineer’s playground. Books like Jeff Brown’s 44 days describe superhighways on stilts all over the place. So, you have the money, why not do it? And the USN can’t get at it.

  13. blue peacock says:

    “But China has mountains of money…”
    Indeed, they have mountains of Renminbi and can print that to their hearts content. And of course their banks can expand balance sheets too at will…in Renminbi. But….they don’t have mountains of USD. In fact they’re rather short of it currently. BRI requires lots of USD. Look at what is happening in Pakistan & Sri Lanka & Tanzania where BRI projects are not being funded as planned.
    If Trump expands the “trade” dispute to investment too by preventing US entities from financing any CCP linked entity that would be a world of hurt for Xi and his CCP politburo. China’s banking system as a ratio to GDP is something to behold. Of course the usual argument is that the working people can always bail them out.

  14. Johnb says:

    Being North American if you want to connect with other markets you have to look to seaborne trade, yet within North America it was the railroads that connected the interior to the sea board and external markets. China has historically traded at distance via land corridors, there was but one short period when significant ocean voyaging took place then was abandoned as policy. In our times strategically of course it allows China to expand its influence outside the reach of the US Navy. For Russia it means it becomes the centre of a whole new trading economy with the Chinese market at one end balanced by the West European market at the other. In effect the essential link between the two largest global trading economies. Container shipping will remain the least cost option but the new/upgraded rail corridors will be more time efficient for the markets of concern.

  15. Sure, but China has already done a thousand impossible things. Most of us in this group can remember when China built dams by getting a million people with a million buckets and spades. Long time ago. But really only 30-40 years.
    I wouldn’t make any bets against Baba Beijing.

  16. Eugene Owens says:

    Fred –
    It was not Yevmenov himself; it was his Aide. Maybe his statement was just meant to give comfort to the bereaved by hinting that their lost ones died saving the world?
    Or perhaps the statement was true and they were trying to recover nuclear tipped torpedo or cruise missile from the Kursk? Those were reported as recovered long ago but I recall there were some doubters.
    Or perhaps they were nosing around the K-278 Komsomolets which sank in 89 at a depth of 1680 meters. The Losharik could supposedly dive at least twice as deep as your NR-1. She, the Komsomolets, also was nuke weapon capable. But then Bear Island is a long way from Olenya Guba.

  17. JamesT says:

    It seems to me that shortening the supply chain time wise (with high speed rail) can provide a lot of economic benefits. When a customer in Germany buys something on, the order is electronically routed to a factory in China, the item is manufactured an hour later and put on a high speed train for delivery to that German city, and then placed in the customer’s mailbox a few hours later … the problems and costs of inventory carrying and management (which I was memorably taught by playing The Beer Game in University) are wrung out of the system.

  18. aleksandar says:

    You have to take in account others things
    1 – Security, train will be a more secure asset
    2- Trains can stop nearly everywhere to load/unload it’s more than a one way asset. As OBOR is also a development project, it makes sense to set up logistical hubs from Pekin to Hambourg.
    OBOR is ” inland ” from east to west,so you can all along send goods north and south.
    Speed has no importance, maritime way from china to europe is from 24 to 30 days.
    An average goods train (150 km/h & 18 hours/day -200 boxes )will need only 4 days from Pekin to Hambourg.
    24 trains per day = 4800 boxes
    What is OBOR ?
    A revolution, sir.
    Half of the world will turn theirs eyes from sea to mainland.

  19. Phil Espin says:

    One point not made here about OBOR compared to sea transport is that OBOR is sea level rise proof. Sea transport faces the inundation of all major facilities over the next 50 years, land transport across Asia, not so much. What are the chances that the required infrastructure investment to replace all port facilities will be found in the US when it cannot be found to upgrade your road infrastructure, particularly bridges?

  20. Fred says:

    I don’t think that companies in China are building to order for delivery hours later in Germany via a rail link 4,000 miles long that crosses multiple national borders. We also aren’t the only country with tariffs.

  21. JamesT says:

    Yes, multiple national borders – China to Russia to Belarus to Poland. Once you are in Poland you are in the EU and there are no more borders to cross. I watch the Russian news channel Vesti on youtube and they are talking about Belarus joining Russia. The “last dictator in Europe” is clearly not entirely keen, but I think it is going to happen. Once Belarus is part of Russia, that means there are only two borders to cross. If Russia and China set up the same arrangements that the US and Canada currently have to speed our border trade – then that will mean effectively only one border to cross.
    As aleksandar points out below, the maritime route from China to Europe takes 27 days. To travel 6600 km at 300 km/h takes 22 hours.
    When I bought my macbook on the website, it took a few days for it to be shipped – and when it was shipped it was done so by air straight from China to me here in Toronto. I reiterate my view that OBOR is all about supply chain modernization.

  22. Fred says:

    Toronto is not in Germany and that 4,000 mile rail line is single track in a number of places. I’ll be quite happy for the Germans who have money to buy built in China products shipped to their door in only hours. Guess that means the EU doesn’t plan on any industrial development in the poorer members states, which one would expect to affect available resident purchasing power, internal population movement – and a bunch of new social spending for the EUans who will be underemployed due to this great pro-Russian/pro-Chinese idea.
    “Once Belarus is part of Russia”
    Surprisingly I’ve heard of no movement in Belarus to join Russia. Are you talking about a trade deal? I think the Russians will have a harder time making a trade deal with Poland if it means those Chinese products get sold within their borders too.

  23. Barbara Ann says:

    112 Ukraine TV have announced on their English site the postponement and now cancellation of the Katchanovski/Stone’s movie Revealing Ukraine. I guess firing grenades at a TV station, death threats and neo-Nazi protests work, at least in Ukraine.
    The IMDB user reviews are hilarious; every one either 1/10 or 10/10. Looking forward to seeing it myself.

  24. Well, hey. Welcome to the Brave New World (1984 version) of Dignity and Human Rights. Also, someone with an RPG (one gun, one vote), stopped the TV channel that was going to have Ukrainians and Russians talking about things.
    I’m sure that Canada’s Foreign Minister will explain everything so that even dullards like us can understand).

  25. Thanks everybody for your comments on OBOR. Given me much to think about.

  26. JamesT says:

    Just to be clear – I am not saying that my scenario for ‘place an order in Germany and get it delivered 2 days later” is doable now … I am suggesting it is doable in the longer term and that it is what Russia and China are working towards. Certainly the Russian rail infrastructure, as it currently exists, is nowhere close to being up to the task. I took a train from Harbin to Vladivostock 10 years ago and it was … well I cannot use the necessary expletives in this forum to express how bad it was.
    As for the union between Belarus and Russia, I have linked to a Vesti report on the matter below (it has english subtitles that you can turn on if they don’t automatically appear). To be fair, the discussion has been going on for a long time now. I assume the only thing standing in the way of it is Lukashenko because he will become a nobody if it happens.
    The only people with power that will oppose closer economic integration between the EU and China is the US – because such integration will pull the EU out of the US sphere-of-influence towards the Chinese one. But the business leaders in Germany will be all for free trade.

  27. Fred says:

    So your original statement was both wrong and purposely misleading.

  28. JamesT says:

    My apologies for not being clear. I was caught up in my own enthusiasm about the long term implications of OBOR. The more I think about it the more merit I see in Mackinder’s ‘heartland thesis’.

  29. John Minehan says:

    But aren’t improved port facilities one part of OBOR?

  30. John Minehan says:

    Trains are fairly vulnerable, easy to derail, etc. On the other hand, trains are generally better for freight, they can carry a lot more than either a truck or a plane and are often faster and can than trucks.
    It won’t work as well as planes for passengers, but I’d assume the freight is the issue.

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