RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 JANUARY 2022 by Patrick Armstrong

ULTIMATUM. The EU is not in the picture – too weak and the US won’t fight for it; NATO ditto. Do Berlin and Paris start to see reality? London has invited Shoygu but is shipping PAWs to Ukraine. Russia keeps up the pressure – a not-very-reliable source says a nuke boat surfaced off the US coast. Lots of exercises – Guards Tank Army, social media videos of military equipment moving around. Live firing of the formidable Iskanders. Lost submarines in the Med. A representative tough-guy piece from a couch warrior (she of we have good int on Russia fame). It is now clear the US/EU/NATO are not going to fight for Ukraine – empty threats and futile sanctions are all Kiev can expect. But the SWIFT threat would be a big shot to the foot. Somebody notices that Russia is pretty sanction proof (Googlish from INOSMI). In short, Russia pretty much has the hammer. We see the fruits of Putin & Co’s long game.

DONBASS. It should be understood that the official position in Moscow at present is that the rebel areas are part of Ukraine and the Minsk Agreement provides a method for resolving grievances. (Note, BTW, given the constant refrain that Moscow must “comply”, that it has no obligation). But this position could suddenly change given that Kiev has never fulfilled any part (especially No 4) and that Kiev’s “allies” haven’t tried to make it. One of the many possible “Or Elses“.

GUNS. Improved Pantsir AD system coming. Completely modernised White Swan makes maiden flight. Three new subs this year. China-Russia-Iran naval drills start tomorrow.

TALK SHOWS. Russian TV loves long talk shows – Doctorow has an interesting piece on one of the most important. “Russian elites talk WAR: ‘Evening with Vladimir Solovyov,'”

PEDOPHILES. The Duma has passed a bill providing for life imprisonment for serial pedophiles.

HACKERS. Russian security is arresting members of the REvil hacking group at Washington’s request. They are thought to be behind the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline last year.

COVID. The Duma has postponed a bill requiring QR code proof of vaccination. There is a good deal of resistance to this in Russia.

NAVALIY. Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, close allies of Navalniy, have been added to the state register of extremists. Neither is in Russia.

RUSSIAN DOLPHINS OFF US COAST. For your amusement.

CIA TRAINING. We learn that the CIA has been running training programs in Ukraine since 2014. Moscow has a good deal of experience of dealing with Washington-supported nazi resistance in Ukraine.

GALICIA. Anybody know why Ioseb Bissarionis-dze decided to put it in the Ukrainian SSR rather than giving it back to Poland in 1945? An important decision as it’s turned out.

KAZAKHSTAN. That didn’t take long, did it? All the CSTO troops are back home. They say at least 225 (including 19 police and soldiers) died, about 4500 injured. A lot of people in the security organs have been arrested, starting with Masimov, the head of the National Security Committee, some defenestrated; so the plot ran deep. (Here’s a photo of Masimov with – of all people – Hunter and Joe). If this were an attempt by some part of the US deep state to answer Moscow, it only shows how profoundly out of touch they are. Nazarbayev appears, everything’s calm. Interesting take on what it was all about here.

LESSONS LEARNED. Little countries often try to play off the big guys against each other. But Kazakhstan and Belarus have just learned that this isn’t possible today because Washington wants total control. Others will learn from these examples.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. I don’t remember Soviet propagandists assuming their consumers to be as stupid as the creators of this do. Ummm – you told us that Putin tried to kill him, he’s completely in his power now: shouldn’t you at least spend a little effort coming up with some explanation for why he’s still alive to give interviews to you?

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. ICAO supports Minsk on the Ryanair grounding last year – a few inconsistencies but no “air piracy“. And “Havana syndrome” bites the dust. Ah well, on to the next…

RUSSIA-IRAN. The two Presidents are meeting. The beginning of something big. Very Mackinderish.

SWEDEN. This week drones, last week the Russians were going to snatch Gotland. Years ago somebody in the Swedish security apparatus told me that these stories – “submarine sightings” in those days – were faked up by the people in the Swedish security organs who want it to join NATO.

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51 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 JANUARY 2022 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. Russell Holmes says:

    Russia-Iran: They both have one identical problem, how to make sure the US sticks to its agreements. Russia and China repeatedly are saying the world must function according to the UN charter. Maybe Iran will add its voice to the choir, and they will think of some way to include the UN in a binding settlement. The last agreement with Iran also had the approval of the UN and the US tore it up. I suspect they may think of a way to make it more binding.

  2. Babeltuap says:

    Enemies of my enemy are my friends. A theocracy is not friends with godless countries. A temporary truce nothing more. I’m more interested in seeing how the CCP is going to manage their global pushout while projecting staunch nationalism. The combination of capitalism and communism kinda worked internally.

    I say kinda because it’s kinda failing right now. #1 train system in the world but it makes no profit, can’t transport heavy materials and people don’t seem to want to ride it. Same for their housing problem. Employed a lot of people building those structures but then C4’s many of them in a matter of seconds. All gone…meh. Is this their plan for the world? Build worthless trains and buildings. Might has well employ a billion people to paint pictures of Xi all day.

    • You should probably buy this book. Lots more evidence and arguments there. https://www.amazon.com/Coming-Collapse-China-Gordon-Chang/dp/0812977564

    • Mal says:

      China, China, China, always collapsing….yet never falls, turn off CNN.

      Cheers Mal

      • Sam says:

        Has any major power collapsed over the past couple centuries or even longer?

        Collapse and Armageddon are used to sell books and as clickbait. Not too different than the covidian hysteria.

        There is precedent however of countries who were anointed next economic super power who didn’t make it.

        • TTG says:

          Sam,

          Did you forget about the Austro-Hungarian Empire? It didn’t survive the First World War. Every nation in that region experienced major trauma over the last couple of centuries. They disappeared, came back, disappeared again, only to return once again. They weren’t major powers, but they still suffered national trauma. Many of us know people who experienced that trauma first hand.

        • ISL says:

          Ottoman Empire?

        • zmajcek says:

          “over the past couple centuries or even longer?”

          Ottoman empire, French and British empires, German empire, 3rd Reich short lived as it was, Japanese empire, Soviet Union, the list goes on.
          My hometown alone was a part of some 9 different states in the last 100 years.

          • Sam says:

            TTG, ISL, zmajcek,

            Ok. The Ottomans. And the next closest would be the Soviet Union.

            The Austro-Hungarian constituents, the British and French while not anywhere near the peak of their strength still punch well above their weight. They haven’t collapsed.

            The point really was it is very rare for a major power to collapse. They fade from their former glory. This was in the context of the books about China’s collapse or the collapse of the USD. Now as far as China is concerned they’ve got built-in instability as it is politically a totalitarian dictatorship. And increasing affluence puts the CCP on a collision course unless they reform as Deng did. Similarly, it is inevitable that the US will not have the same hegemony as it did post-Soviet Union, but that doesn’t mean it won’t carry any weight. Even France & Britain have the ability to pretty much destroy the planet.

            My personal opinion is the Russia boogeyman is silly. Russia has much in common with the west including religion and culture. We should be more allies and having a common security framework in Europe shouldn’t be that difficult. That means balancing the interests of Russia and their former vassal states who naturally have limited trust of Russian intentions due to their ugly history.

            On the other hand we have stark differences with the CCP both ideologically and worldview. They also have an expansionist mindset and as the CCP’s domestic power gets threatened they could create an external diversion which could get easily out of control as their neighbors like Japan, Vietnam and India don’t trust them at all.

          • Deap says:

            Hereditary monarch empires vs. US Exceptionalism Republics? May require different assessment about the sis and fall of empires.

            Had not Rome become a quasi hereditary monarchy when it grew fat, weak and lazy and eroded from within before its “fall?

            Can’t know if the same “empire” rules apply since the US is a case of first impression.

  3. Philip Owen says:

    Underlings tend to make positive reports to powerful bosses. Russia may not be as sanction proof as its leadership wishes to think. The financial sanctions imposed in 2014 were far more effective than either side expected. Russian farming, which depended on Western banks for seasonal credits (to everyone’s surprise) took a hammering because Putin’s close supporters owned them.

  4. TTG says:

    Patrick,

    Surely you know the background behind Stalin moving Poland westward. He wanted a bigger buffer between Moscow and Berlin. The Germans were uprooted and moved to the west as were the Poles in Galicia. Since Ukraine was fully under the USSR yoke at the time, it hardly mattered that Ukraine gained more territory. He never foresaw the breakup of the USSR.

    • Sure, but Comrade Stalin had a great sense of humour (as Bukharin found out). Wouldn’t it have been a lot funnier to have gifted the Galicians to Poland?

      • TTG says:

        In that case, he should have left Poland’s eastern border in place since the Galicians were already in Poland. Would have made a big difference in the makeup of an independent Ukraine. May have still been an orange revolution, but the Maidan mess may have been avoided.

  5. Leith says:

    “Anybody know why Ioseb Bissarionis-dze decided to put it in the Ukrainian SSR rather than giving it back to Poland in 1945?”

    Even in ’45 Stalin still had a sore pinga from his defeat by Pilsudski at the Battle of Warsaw. Bukharin’s purge & execution was due to his criticism of Stalin’s political gamesmanship during that battle that led to the Soviet defeat.

    Some other players during that war also tasted Stalin’s ‘humor’: Tukhachevsky, Kamenev, Bzhishkyan, Sollogub, Yegorov, Kork, and Lazarevich who had witnessed the inglorious performance of Stalin’s South-Western Front were also executed during the purges. And Trotsky who was head of the Red Army at the time of that disaster caused by Stalin also got a taste of that humor in the form of an Ice axe embedded in his skull.

  6. FkDahl says:

    As for Sweden and Russian submarines: over the years since I have reached the conclusion that several of the most infamous ones were NATO submarines, with the mini subs being Italian likely manned by SEALs. That is the only way to explain the not so obscure interference at critical moments to let submarines out, or emergency meetings with US and Italian officials. The operating frequency of the submarines electrical system is another detail, since it matched NATO but not known Russian conventional submarines. Source: https://www.jallai.se/2013/02/harsfjarden-1982-ett-landsforraderi/
    I see the end goal of being a huge psy-ops to increase the Swedish defense budget and move Sweden in a US-friendly direction

    • William M Hatch says:

      I was teaching DoD members in DC & during a break a group of us were discussing the “Soviet” subs being hunted in Swedish waters. The group included 2 US Navy sub commanders. One of them smiled & quietly asked, “What makes you think that they are Soviet subs?”

      Ironically, I had a friend who was a H-46 pilot who was in Sweden providing some technical advice. He wound up as a copilot of a Swedish H-46 hunting the “Soviet” submarine.

  7. Peter Williams says:

    Russians would prefer the reintroduction of the death penalty and application of Rule 5.56 for paedophiles. I witnessed their attitudes many years ago when my daughter and her friend were being bothered by a flasher. They didn’t tell me or any other adult as to them he was sick and a loser. Girls the world over seem to make the “loser” sign.

    He was caught one day by a babushka, who raised a hue and cry, and was pursued by the babushkas and dedushkas. They chased him onto the roofs of the sarai (sheds) in the apartment yard and were pelting him with rocks and half bricks.

    They then started breaking the ends of bottles and pelting them at him. I was worried that they would kill him and be charged with his murder. The response was very simple – “we’ll take the body into the forest up the hill and bury it. It will be many years before it will be found, and we’ll all be dead by then. You have to love the logic of the common man.

    In Kostroma recently, two paedophiles raped and killed a five year old girl. The community besieged the police station and demanded that the paedophiles be handed over for “community justice”. That’s the sort of justice that Russians want for those that hurt children.

  8. Ed Lindgren says:

    Mr. Armstrong –

    This is a bit long, but the following is the text of a letter I sent out just yesterday to my two U.S. Senators (Moran and Marshall, both R-KS). I doubt if they pay much attention to such things, but it allows me to vent my spleen over the nonsense coming from DC and the MSM…..

    Senator Moran/Marshall:

    Two questions….

    Has expanding NATO membership to the east of a reunified Germany increased the security of European nations and reduced the risk of a major war in Europe?

    Has expanding NATO membership to the east of a reunified Germany increased the safety and security of the people in the United States, and enhanced our freedom and liberty?

    The answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO!

    Why has Ukraine become an existential national security concern for the United States? Whatever the reason might be, talk of war is hanging heavy in the air. The Biden Administration is talking tough. And what might a war look like?

    A few points to consider:

    – Take a look at a globe of the world and notice where Ukraine is relative to Russia. Now note where the Ukraine is relative to the United States. Geography greatly favors the Russians in any war. And I would bet 98% of the people in America couldn’t even find Ukraine on a map!

    – We are told that Russia has 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. How long would it take the United States to move 100,000 troops from North America to Eastern Europe? During the run-up to Desert Storm, it took the United States six months to move the troops, equipment and supplies to the Middle East for that war. Saddam Hussein sat on his hands. Does anyone seriously think that Vladimir Putin is going to passively sit back and let us take six (or more) months to reinforce and resupply Europe for a war?

    – Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Article 5 does not come into play. How many of our NATO ‘allies’ are going to assist us with any war to defend Ukraine? The French, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks and many others will not be there. The Brits perhaps (but the British Army is a shadow of its former self; far smaller than during Desert Storm). Maybe mighty Albania? How about mighty Montenegro? Or mighty North Macedonia?

    Bottom line is this….the United States is not going to fight to defend Ukraine from a Russian invasion.

    What we will do if Russia attacks (according to the clown show that is Biden’s State Department) is enact ‘crushing’ sanctions on Russia. Well, ‘crushing’ economy-destroying sanctions are an act of war. The last time we did such a thing to a peer competitor (as opposed to minor players such as Cuba, North Korea and Iran) was in 1940/41 when we embargoed Japan and cut off, among other things, their oil supply. How did that turn out? Did we bend the Japanese to our will? No, the Japanese sent their fleet to attack U.S. naval and army forces in Hawaii.

    NATO enlargement post 1990 has been nothing short of a disaster both for European security and the prospects for world peace. Pat Buchanan is a recent column wrote that it is time for NATO expansion to end for good. Good advice! NATO expansion has done nothing to improve the security of the United States. It is little more than a jobs program for a bunch of worthless bureaucrats in Brussels. It might be hard to believe, but even Russia has legitimate national security concerns, but we are blind to them.

    Let me close with a final thought….

    Russia is not going away any time soon. It behooves the United States to find some way to get along with the Russians. A half century ago the U.S. and Soviet Russia practiced ‘peaceful coexistence’ and at that time the Soviet Union presented a far greater threat to the interests of the West than does the contemporary Russian Federation. Our current path is fraught with danger as we careen from crisis to crisis. If something does not change, one day a crisis will erupt into a war which will have no winners, only losers.

    Sincerely,

    E. D. Lindgren

    • Quattoro says:

      Superb observations.

    • JerseyJeffersonian says:

      Good on ya, Mr. Lindgren, but you are asking these people to sail into a headwind of long-established Russophobia. Like as not they’ll come about sharply, and sail before the wind.

      Surely there must be defense contractors in their state (along with all of those other states oh so incidentally also having defense industry contractors located therein; jeez, what are the chances of that? Serendipitous, surely…) who are instrumental to the local economy. Jawbs, jawbs, jawbs, for sure. Efficiency or effectiveness is not a prime objective, rather the opposite.

      For Russia, a nation that has experienced the horrors and devastation of continental warfare, national defense is not a jawbs program, but a true matter of national survival. They have been constrained by realities that compel them to focus on the central mission at hand, and this has led them to do more with less. It shows.

  9. Barbara Ann says:

    Patrick

    Re the split in NATO attitudes over Ukraine, did you notice that those RAF aircraft shipping anti-tank missiles there were avoiding German airspace? And as you report, Macron clearly has zero appetite for war with Russia. Also, the Germany press is reporting that ejecting Russia from SWIFT is off the table.

    It therefore seems to me that NATO itself has now become a huge target (not by accident I think). Should Russia want to call the Article 5 bluff in some small way it looks very much like (as David Habakkuk has here previously suggested) British forces may be the target. Vaporizing those proto NATO naval facilities the Brits are building would send a helluva message. The $64,000 question is which NATO countries would go to war with Russia over a such an event. Has this, rather than treaties re non-expansion been the Kremlin’s goal all along?

    • Sam says:

      Barbara Ann,

      Would Britain launch a few nuclear missiles and trigger nuclear Armageddon to avenge their loss of face? Or will they show a stiff upper lip?

      My best guess is that Putin is not that bold.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        Sam

        Britain would do precisely nothing except go crying to Great Uncle Sam and Great Uncle Sam is not going to end the world over a few dead Brits. Neither are France or Germany. The Brits have their asses hanging out over Ukraine and don’t seem to know it yet.

        I have no idea what Russia is planning, but the wider point is that disunity in a mutual defense treaty organization is exceptionally dangerous exactly because the adversary might be tempted by such opportunities to unravel it. This is exactly where we are right now IMO.

  10. Jim says:

    “The status of these territories”

    Following meeting with Blinken in Geneva today, Lavrov, met the press and in response to question on Donbass — on whither its future status — the Russia foreign minister said:
    1] Donbass voted independence//// around when Crimea did, following Feb. 2014 western-instigated bloody coup in Ukraine
    2] France and Germany, during Minsk talks that followed, said: that vote was impediment to Minsk accord, and so. . .there was a deal to accommodate F&G.
    3] That rescission –of Donbass 2014 referendum — Lavrov said today: conditional on implementation of Minsk accord.

    Lavrov, Jan. 21 2022: “As for Donbass, the referendum that took place . . . was seriously discussed . . . when the Minsk agreements were prepared. And the leaders of France and Germany were asking us to persuade the representative of Donetsk and Luhansk to put their signature to those Minsk agreements. As a matter of fact, they decided to accommodate . . .and they revert[sp?] their previous decision on independence[y?]. But, only under the condition that: Minsk Agreements would be respected. Namely, the autonomous, the special status, that had to be granted to those territories; special status had to be enshrined in Ukrainian constitution . . .and of course whole amnesty. And, once again, elections had to be held. But everything had to be done in coordination with Donetsk and Luhansk. Well, this is where we are, with the status of these territories. We spoke about that today.”

    See video, 28:15, at

    https://youtu.be/tQ2PG1myG5c

    He spoke about spheres of influence in response to another question.

    -30-

    PS
    Below is link to what became an open letter, circa 2016, to Canada’s Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs; from John Ryan, Retired Professor of Geography and Senior Scholar, University of Winnipeg

    https://newcoldwar.org/open-letter-to-minister-of-foreign-affairs-of-canada-on-ukraine-and-russia/

    ++

  11. Leith says:

    “RUSSIA-IRAN. The two Presidents are meeting. The beginning of something big.”

    In addition to the ‘something big’ that the Sputnik article alludes to, Iranian President Raisi also brought up in discussion the ethnic cleansing in Afghanistan against Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmens, and Tajiks by the Pashtun dominated Taliban. Raisi pressed upon Putin the need for an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

    So did Putin listen, and will he use his influence with the Taliban? Or not? I’m sure he is also getting an earful from Tajikistan’s President Rahmon and the other Stans.

    • JerseyJeffersonian says:

      Refugee floods are weapons of destabilization to those experiencing them. Our southern border, anybody?

      So, what kind of deal was cooked with the Afghan jihadis regarding the abrupt withdrawal and the abandonment of large amounts of viable military equipment? Maybe replacement parts and technical assistance from the US in exchange for ratfucking their neighbors, and fomenting exploitable instability along Russia’s and China’s borders as well as a free hand in sticking it to groups in Afghanistan not subservient to the Taliban? Already a color revolution in Kazakhstan was attempted, and likely refugee floods to follow. Looks like the outlines of a strategy is coming into view.

      One might hear it being said, “Oh, no, the US would never collaborate with the jihadists!”
      Oh, yeah? They were used as a weapon against the Soviets decades ago, and more recently in Syria, Egypt, and Libya. Rather, an old tool, ready to hand, useful to discomfit identified adversaries, it seems to me.

      • Leith says:

        JJ – My understanding was that US troops disabled and/or destroyed any equipment that they had to leave behind. The huge amount of still-viable military equipment that was taken over by the Taliban came from Afghan troops who fled their bases when their leadership abandoned them. That included 3600 M4 rifles now in use by Taliban Special Forces, 2500 Humvees, some MRAPs, and helicopters. We did the same 50 years ago when we left Nam. What we did not give to the ARVN we destroyed. In some cases we buried tanks, APCs, and trucks full of gear in pits, or dumped them into rivers or into the South China Sea. But the North Viets got all the ARVN arms and equipment. Some of those small arms are still in use by certain reserve units.

        There was no US deal with the Taliban other than the one negotiated by Fat Mike Pompeo.

        The poster of this SitRep, Mr Armstrong, said in a previous post that the US is giving ATGMs to the NRF in Panjshir to fight against the jihadis. I for one hope that he is correct. These NRF guerrillas are the sons of the Northern Alliance that we backed two decades ago.

  12. English Outsider says:

    From the link above – “Per Kedmi, that is a clear signal from the man closest to Vladimir Vladimirovich from among all his assistants that Russia will attack Ukraine, and not with tank columns and boots on the ground but ‘the American way,’ with high level bombing and missile strikes against the military infrastructure. And, per Kedmi, the casus belli will be not some Ukrainian attack on Donbas but Kiev’s overall disregard for fulfillment of the Minsk Accords.”

    https://gilbertdoctorow.com/2022/01/18/russian-elites-talk-war-evening-with-vladimir-solovyov-16-january-2022/

    Other scenarios put forward are on the lines of a more limited attack on the Ukrainian forces shelling the breakaway republics.

    But the form any military response might take is unimportant. Any major military action – Biden has stressed it would have to be major – would automatically lead to sanctions. Europe is here the “leverage”. That’s a term one has seen used in the States in interviews or comments. “Leverage”.

    Mr Armstrong. I don’t believe Europe’s “reluctant hegemon” (Sakwa’s term for Germany and it reflects the reality) is up for that. Panetta said recently that the most damaging action Germany could take would be to turn off the gas at their end. He was right but not in the sense that he meant. The Russians can’t not have already factored that loss of income in, but it would disrupt German industry, as would other measures suggested such as barring Russia from Swift.

    Like Barbara Ann above, I wondered about the flight patterns for the UK transport aircraft rushing arms to the Ukraine. It might be the normal route. I couldn’t find what route is normally taken when we supply arms or military assistance to the Ukrainians. Or it might be merely one of several indications that for all the talk Scholz, Sakwa’s “reluctant hegemon” of Europe, will be a most reluctant “lever” for the neocons as well.

    • Now that they’re faced with the reality of a potential fecal-ventilator interface, all these tough guys are thinking again.

    • David Habakkuk says:

      EO,

      Back in October, it was reported that the U.K. was negotiating with Ukraine to supply the – ‘state of the art’ – short-range ‘Brimstone’ missile, which could be deployed on the missile boats we are also providing. (It can also be fired from aircraft, but whether the Ukrainian air force has the requisite capabilities seems questionable.)

      (See https://tass.com/world/1353823 .)

      A few days later, a report appeared in ‘RT’ which opened:

      ‘Kiev is working on long-range missiles that can reach Moscow, and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin needs to realize that any attack on Ukraine could see his entire country obliterated, a top Ukrainian official has warned.

      ‘Speaking to the Dom TV network, Alexey Arestovich warned the Kremlin that his country would soon have the ability to hit the Russian capital with its missiles. Arestovich serves as an adviser to the office of Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky.’

      (See https://www.rt.com/russia/538367-zelensky-warns-kremlin-russia/ .)

      The actual possibility on which Ukrainians are ‘pinning their hopes’, I suspect, was not that Ukraine would develop its own longer-range missiles. Rather it was that, once it was established that they could with impunity acquire short-range missiles like the Brimstone’ from ‘NATO’ providers, they could obtain longer-range ones in the same way.

      So, between them the British and Ukrainian authorities had provided the Russian side with every reason to believe that the threats which could be posed from the naval base we are involved in constructing, at Berdyansk on the ‘Sea of Azov’, was little short of ‘existential.’

      In a later piece, Doctorow notes that they have brought Iskanders, which would indeed be capable of turning that base as well as many other Ukrainian military installations to rubble, and also S-400 missiles which could enforce a ‘no fly zone’, into the ‘theatre.’

      (See https://gilbertdoctorow.com/2022/01/22/blinken-and-lavrov-meeting-in-geneva-two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back/ .)

      On 13 January, an item appeared on ‘Tass’ which opened as follows:

      ‘Concrete possibilities for limits on the missiles of Russia and NATO should not be discussed publicly, since this will undermine the chances for success, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Thursday.’

      (See https://tass.com/world/1387915 )

      With the ‘HMS Defender’ incident, it seems that people in London, and Washington, may have thought that this was going to be a kind of combination of an ‘Operation Tethered Goat’, with an ‘Operation Paper Tiger.’

      As it seems to me to have been a rather striking demonstration of ‘geopolitical stupidity’ – Sir Halford Mackinder may be ‘turning in his grave’ – I cannot be confident that I understand the thinking behind it.

      However, my ‘SWAG’ is that the intention may have been to demonstrate that, when ‘push came to shove’, the ‘tiger’ would not dare come out of the forest, to go for the ‘goat’ – or at least to explore the former creature’s reactions, on the basis of the premise that it lived in mortal terror of the ‘marksmen’ around the ‘clearing.’

      In trying to make sense of the somewhat ‘overheated’ tone of the comments by Kedmi, Zhirinovsky and the presenter himself, in the ‘Evening with Vladimir Solovyov’ discussion to which you refer – in particular, the ‘General Turgidson’ impersonation done by the first of these – the need to ‘jolt’ this ‘mindset’ looks to have been a major element.

      Precisely because this kind of ‘grandstanding’ – on both sides – is very unhelpful if agreements are to be worked out, negotiations on limitations on missiles are best not carried out in a full glare of publicity, just as Stoltenberg – for once making some kind of sense – says.

      One then comes to other remarks by Kedmi, which actually, I think ‘point us back’ to dilemmas which I was already trying to ‘think my way through’:

      ‘According to Kedmi, Russia has not only delivered an ultimatum to the United States and NATO; it has delivered an ultimatum to itself. Russia cannot afford to fail in the coming confrontation. To fail would, in his words, put the government and the state in peril. It would show that Russia is weak, irresolute and incompetent. Therefore it is vitally important for Russia to win this fight, while for other countries, like the EU, it is just a matter of lost prestige.’

      How far, given the ways that the situation has already ‘escalated out of control’, Putin and his associates need the kind of publicly visible assurances that it will be difficult for Biden to give, and how far concrete agreements dealing with the kind of threats which concern military planners will suffice, seems to me a rather hard matter to judge.

      A perhaps fanciful analogy may however be helpful. It seems to me that post-Soviet Russia has emerged as a rather ‘Byzantine’ polity.

      This is not intended as a term of disrespect – far from it. Given the – manifold and manifest – vulnerabilities of the ‘Empire’, both the ‘logothetes’ and the ‘strategoi’ in Constantinople were very well aware of the immense dangers that a recourse to war could have. However, they were also aware that there were many circumstances in which ‘flinching’ from conflict could be as, or more, dangerous.

      According, to work effectively, the system needed ‘strategoi’,and ‘logothetes’, who could think, and also, they had to be able to ‘pool their expertises.’

      Another fascinating element of the edition of ‘Evening with Vladimir Soloyov’ to which Patrick links is the performance of Andrei Sidorov. With Mikhail Khodarenok, in an episode I discussed on an earlier thread, we had a representative of the ‘strategoi’, as it were, ‘cooling down’ the ‘hotheads’ – with Solovyov himself playing this role.

      In this edition, Sidorov – one might say, a representative of the ‘logothetes’ – is also I think cast as the voice of reason, and restraint.

      But – to develop the ‘Byzantine’ analogy, he is also responding to a criticism that, because the ‘logothetes’ are all fluent in Latin, and have had postings in Venice, and similar ‘Western’ places, they have ‘blinded their eyes’ to the ‘perfidy’ of the ‘Crusaders.’ Insofar as it was true, Sidorov appears to have been saying, appropriate measures have been taken.

      In my own case, I have long had difficulty imagining anything more sheerly stupid than persuading post-Soviet Russians that, really, the Cold War was not primarily about Communism, but rather a continuation of much older struggles.

      If indeed one allies with ‘Galicians’ – ‘Uniates’ in religion, for the most part – in an attempt wrest the whole of Ukraine, including Crimea, and Sevastopol, which were only incorporated in that country by Khrushchev in 1954, away from Russia, then one ‘courts’ two responses.

      One of these goes a long way back into history, harking back to the sacking of Constantinople by the ‘Crusaders’ in 1204, and the ‘Battle of the Ice’, in 1221. The conclusion: go to the ‘Lavra’, in what is now again called ‘St. Petersburg’, and ‘light a candle’ to ‘Saint Alexander.’ He had it right. It is always better not to be a ‘vassal’, but, if one has to make ‘hard choices’, the ‘Crusaders’ are always ‘out to get you.’ Better to ‘make terms’ with the ‘Mongols.’

      The other relates to more recent history. I know, because I observed it at close quarters, that there was a ‘narrative’ at the end of the Soviet period – probably there, under the surface, throughout the ‘Cold War’ – in which the United States featured as the admired wartime ally. Accordingly to this ‘narrative’, it was then gratuitously alienated, as a result of the nature of the Soviet system, and its ideology, and specific actions of Stalin.

      If one wanted to destroy this ‘narrative’, I can think of no better way of doing so than to ally with ‘Banderistas’ in an attempt to wrest the whole of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol, away from Russia.

      How people alike in Washington and London could have ‘perpetrated’ such an act of ‘geopolitical stupidity’ – the kind of thing that brings ‘empires’ to an ‘untimely close’ – I still have difficulty understanding.

      At the moment, I think, ‘Occam’s Razor’ points to the suggestion that Deng Xiaoping somehow acquired a ‘palantir’, and so ‘mind control’ of people in the West. I have tried to produce ‘rational’ explanations for what seem to be patently ’irrational’ actions, but not so far found any that seemed very plausible.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        David Habakkuk

        Yes, a jolt of mindset is very clearly on the cards. Should, for example, the ‘tiger’ suddenly sink its claws into one of the more brazen and swaggering ‘marksmen’ the premise would immediately be revealed as false. The ‘marksmen’ would at once learn that the ‘tiger’ has no interest in goats, no fear of them and is, in fact, a man eater. Perhaps it is taking the analogy too far, but my feeling is that the ultimatum issued in December represents a ‘clearing’ that the ‘marksmen’ themselves have been lured to with the express purpose of breaking up the hunting party once and for all.

        • JerseyJeffersonian says:

          Bingo. The dissolution of NATO is the great prize.

          It seems as if this could be a moment somewhat analogous to that a few decades ago when many of Europe’s citizens rose up against the installation of IRBM’s in their nations, sensing that they were clearly the ants under the feet of two belligerent elephants.

          If Europeans’ perception were to be that one of today’s war elephants is being ridden by a senile fool being egged on by a cabal of idiots fixin’ to potentially get THEM killed in their insane pursuit of some ancient ethnic vendetta, I should expect a similar revolt.

          But there is one potential caveat; the self-important nabobs of the EU have eroded some of the sovereignty of the constituent countries, and in the eyes of said nabobs its fortunes are clearly tied to service of a globalist agenda led by the US. Yet, as the EU is only a quasistate, significant pushback could still arise from member states. Those states with historical grievances against Russia are better off under a regime of diplomatic dialogue, rather than as parts of an aggressive consortium totally dominated by the US, a party which the Russians to a high degree no longer view as “agreement-capable”.

      • Sam says:

        David,

        While we rail against the irrationality of our leaders and I would add duplicity, there are in my mind many plausible reasons. Not the least being the groupthink orthodoxy among the laptop class which as we’ve seen with the covidians is directly proportional to the huge government funding. From the media pundits to the think-tanks and the political leadership spouting sound bites and cliches it is being part of the club that greases the wheels to wealth and social status.

        US Navy chiefs endorse war games that show the PLAN defeating the US Navy in defense-of-Taiwan scenarios (but strangely enough, they do not de-fund aircraft carriers). But ’tis irrelevant: if the Chinese sink ANY US ship, bulk carriers no longer arrive in Chinese ports …

        https://twitter.com/eluttwak/status/1484979271194099715?s=21

        The question is just like our leaders our general fuckups focused on their personal wealth & celebrity status generation, what mistakes are guys like Putin and Xi making? They’re also power-hungry types who have essentially wiped out anyone remotely possible as domestic opposition and for all intents & purposes established themselves as “dictators”.

      • English Outsider says:

        Mr Habakkuk – thank you for that. By chance I came across a Sakwa article recently, in which he examines the gradual Russian disillusionment with the West, a disillusionment that echoes the process you refer to in the second half of your comment. Russia is and has been for a long time an integral part of Europe and it was indeed “geopolitical stupidity” of the first order to so alienate it.

        I believe that of the two possible outcomes of the current confrontation, the first is that Washington refuses to budge and the Russians then resort to whatever “military-technical” measures they find appropriate. The Europeans, as piggy in the middle, perhaps now understand that the subsequent retaliatory sanctions would not damage the USA or the RF anything like as much as they would damage Europe.

        The second outcome is that they arrive at a behind the scenes settlement of the sort you suggested on the Colonel’s site a little while ago. Biden can then announce victory, in that he has “prevented” a Russian invasion of the Ukraine. And the Russians will have ensured that their key demands are met.

        Also as you pointed out a while ago, this allows de-escalation without loss of face.

        The extract from Tass you refer to – could that indicate that the second outcome is on the cards? –

        “On 13 January, an item appeared on ‘Tass’ which opened as follows:

        “Concrete possibilities for limits on the missiles of Russia and NATO should not be discussed publicly, since this will undermine the chances for success, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Thursday.’

        “(See https://tass.com/world/1387915 )”

        I hope that does indicate that the second outcome will come about. The Ukraine is itself the victim of the “let’s you and him fight” use made of that unfortunate country since 13/14. Mozgovoy said of those he was fighting and that at the height of the conflict, “If they knew who the real enemy was the fighting would stop tomorrow”. Time the Ukrainians realised they had been used by those not concerned for their welfare, and the country allowed space to set about the long process of repair.

  13. Deap says:

    This is a joke quote from the Leader of the Free World, right?

    ………..“My guess is he will move in, he has to do something,” Biden said Wednesday when asked about Putin’s military along Ukraine’s border………..

    • jim ticehurst says:

      What Free World..?? Leader..?? Scary as as an OxyMoron…Free Fom What…They do business with the Worst Tyrants in the World.With More Onions Buried in Many Killing Fields…So…My Guess Is..That Joes Handlers want to See How Well they can Pull off their Own Saddam..Scenario..Start something..Seems to Be the “Push” On the Table..Hvy Weapons Aid..Enough for a good Battle..or Tempt Putin to make a Move before any more arrive….The German Leg is beginning to Wobble. Too….Just Who Started This anyhow..Walked in The Bar and Put thier Cigarette out in somebodys drink..Well..I Am Sure Vladimer Putin is No “Corn Pop”..and this is not a Play ground game..

  14. Sam says:

    Germany just fired their Navy Chief for saying we need Russia on the West’s side to counter China

    https://twitter.com/jackposobiec/status/1484992991622221826?s=21

    Checkout the video in the link. This is my point dissent from the groupthink orthodoxy is not tolerated. Have the CCP also bought the German elite just like they’ve done here? The NBA for example will be all woke taking the knee but don’t actually care a rats ass about the Maoist “re-education” of the Uyghurs essentially under-cutting all their woke pieties.

    • Sam says:

      “In the third quarter of 2021, Podesta disclosed another $500,000 from Huawei to lobby the “White House Office” on “Issues related to telecommunication services and impacted trade issues.””

      https://twitter.com/julianku/status/1484725055795912705?s=21

      This Podesta is the brother of Hillary’s campaign chief Podesta. This is one of the ways lucre is obtained. None of this has anything to do with the best national interests.

      Juxtapose the above with this:

      In an unusual public statement, the British government said Saturday that the Kremlin was developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine and has already chosen a potential candidate, as President Vladimir Putin weighs whether to invade

      https://twitter.com/nytimesworld/status/1485062484771942408?s=21

      This story from the same publication that gave us Iraq WMD hoax, ran with the covidian hysteria and of course gave us the Hillary campaign’s fantasies laundered through Chris Steele’s British intelligence imprimatur. It is astounding how easily folks buy propaganda.

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