THE ANSWERS. Here they are. Not good enough; not serious; no grasp of reality. NATO says it’s not to blame for anything and Washington’s willing to talk but only about a few things. “We did not see our three key demands adequately considered: stopping NATO’s expansion, refusing to use strike weapons systems near Russian borders, and returning the bloc’s military infrastructure in Europe to how it was in 1997.” But, and this is the foundation for the next step in Moscow’s diplomacy offensive, both answers pretend allegiance to common security principles.

RULES-BASED INTERNATIONAL ORDER. The West is always gassing on about this. Moscow’s next move will demonstrate that what they really mean is that they make up rules, break them whenever they feel like it, and order the others to follow them. (A recent example of the mutability of the “Rules-Based International Order” is that gay rights are very important in Russia but not at all in Washington’s new “major ally” of Qatar). Moscow will invite every signatory of OSCE declarations (for example, Helsinki, Istanbul and Astana) to formally re-commit themselves. If they do, then Moscow will say “act on it now or we will”; if they don’t, then Moscow will say “we won’t either”. Remember R2P? If I were running Moscow, that’s where I would make my move.

THE BIG PRINCIPLE that Moscow is talking about is, quoting the 1999 Istanbul Summit, “(8) Each participating State has an equal right to security… They will not strengthen their security at the expense of the security of other States… (9) The security of each participating State is inseparably linked to that of all others.” Kennan saw it in 1998: “Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia“. Russia was weak then and NATO was strong; now it’s the other way round. NATO strengthened its security at the expense of Russia’s and now its security is weakened as a direct consequence of that very act. That’s the whole issue in a nutshell.

PLANNING. What we see today has been planned in Moscow (and coordinated with Beijing) over a long time. Did it start with NATO expansion in 1999? US quitting ABM in 2002? Putin’s 2007 Munich speech? The destruction of Libya in 2011? I don’t know but this is no sudden whim; it has 30 years behind it. The preparations are complete, Russia is ready for anything.

NATO UNITY is crumbling. Maybe Croatia and Hungary aren’t so important but there are signs that Germany and France are not happy. Europe has to understand that Washington is not its friend: it will sanction Russia to the last Euro and cubic metre of gas. But all we can realistically expect from Europe today are baby steps. It will take time for the unpleasant reality to sink in.

NATO WAR POWER. NATO’s a paper pussycat and so it is being shown to be. Ritter explains that it hasn’t got the military muscle to influence anything. All it can do is destroy third world counties and lose anyway. I wrote this seven years ago and I see nothing to change; do you? Afghanistan? Iraq? Anywhere? Moscow has the military power and, despite the boasts, NATO forces would be just a speed bump.

RUSSIAN WAR POWER. Russia can’t land an expeditionary force in Mexico and conquer the USA, or conquer Europe, or win a naval war in the South Pacific, or conquer Ukraine; its power projection capability is limited. But it can beat anybody at home. And that’s all its armed forces are there to do.

UKRAINE. It must now be plain to everyone in Ukraine that their BFFs will only fight to the last Ukrainian. Their biggest cheerleaders are pulling out their citizens and moving their troops back. Does Zelensky understand that there is precisely one actor whose word he can trust? Russia has been about to “invade Ukraine” since October and it’s amusing to watch Kiev try to strike a balance between “help me!” and “don’t ruin me!”: “at the moment, as we speak, this number is insufficient for a full-scale offensive…“. Washington is dialling it back too. Another glorious NATO victory soon to be declared! Of course, Moscow never intended to invade and be billed for the repair costs of that shattered polity.

RUSSIA/CHINA. Putin and Xi will be meeting on Friday. I expect a significant announcement. Beijing is perfectly aware that Moscow is fighting for it too.

AUDIENCE. The West in its more orotund moments likes to call itself “the international community”. It isn’t. Others watch and notice. Moscow is talking to them too.

PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. I like to say that nothing they can invent about Putin surprises me. And then they do: he’s the reason aliens haven’t phoned.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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44 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 3 FEBRUARY 2022 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. Barbara Ann says:


    Blinken could have saved all the verbiage. A two word answer would have sufficed – or one; “NUTS”. Here is the part of the response on the issue of Romanian & Polish missile bases:

    “The United States is prepared to discuss , in consultation with and, where appropriate with the consent of, Allies, a transparency mechanism to confirm the absence of Tomahawk cruise missiles at Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, provided Russia offers reciprocal transparency measures on two ground-launched missile bases of our choosing in Russia.”

    There is surely zero chance of Russia accepting such terms. So why did Russia issue a set of demands, in ultimatum format, which it can never have expected to have been met? This is not how Russia normally conducts its diplomacy.

    Re Russia’s naval exercise off Ireland that got underway today, retired Naval Intelligence officer J. E. Dyer has a fascinating theory for the seemingly strange choice of location (right above a seabed feature called the Goban Spur). You may have seen it:

    • I believe that we have seen only the first part of Russia’s initiative.
      PS Russian moved the area of the exercise at the request of Dublin which rather spoils the elaborate theory.

      • Johnb says:

        There is every appearance that we are in a new ball game Patrick and have yet to see the ball. Some information should come out of the VVP/Xi meet today in Beijing, VVP when he returns home has an address to the Federal Assembly as his next big speech. Clues are there with the closing of the DW office in Moscow, the removing of recognition as Press from their reporters and their likely listing as a foreign agent in response to the delisting of RT DE in Germany. Hungary’s Orban was received cordially and deals were done which alongside the positive conversations with Macron would seem to suggest a message to Europe. Syria has also seen changes this past week/10 days with prospects of more to come given the destination of some of the Russian Navy currently at sea. Looking forward to experienced and informed comment as things become clearer.

      • Barbara Ann says:

        If the analysis is correct (that the choice of location was a message) Russia made her point simply by declaring the exercise: “We know what is there and we can hold it at risk”. I find it persuasive, but would be happy to hear other theories as to why the original location was chosen.

        • This undersea cable thing has been boomed by the UK organs of state propaganda for some years. Just another accusation full of “coulds” “mights” and “mays”

          • Barbara Ann says:

            Did you read the whole thing Patrick? Yes the potential target is undersea cables, but not the vanilla transcontinental fiber-optic data cables which are the subject of so much speculation. The theory is it is cables connecting acoustic sensors (for Russian subs in the Eastern Atlantic) on the Goban Spur to a NATO data processing center at Joint Maritime Facility St. Mawgan in Cornwall, or similar facility at Brawdy in Wales.

  2. It is the height of irony that they should create a situation where Russia wins by not invading. Apparently some of our dear leaders were never told the story of the little boy who cried wolf, as children.
    It is almost on a par with Dr. Frankenstein telling us to be very afraid of the monster.

    • Easy peasey. The organs of state propaganda will simply say that NATO’s resolute action forced Russia to back down. The big difference between the West today and the USSR then is that Westerners are much less sceptical about what their organs of sp tell them.

      • Negative feedback loops.
        Yes, there is a substantial domestic audience that is invested in the narrative, but that is only preaching to the choir. Sort of like the Catholic Church sweeping priestly pedophilia under the rug, because, oh well, they are the church and they can do anything. After awhile, even the choir gets fed up. Not to mention all the other countries around the world, that know we are on the decline, but will keep milking us in the meantime.
        It seems the problem is those rising to the top of these large institutions have no grasp of any larger reality, or vision than the office politics of one upping the other guy.
        Unlike those countries in the Old World, the United States doesn’t have a culture with deep roots. What core national identity are we going to coalesce around, once the dollar hyper inflates? Look how much debt it took to get through covid. Don’t these people sense the ice is cracking?
        They want electric cars? The only way that will ever work will be to have charging lanes on the highways, especially for the long haul trucks, but spending the money on the F 35 is so much better.
        I don’t think a lot of them could pass the Turing Test.

      • The bull is power. The matador is art.

  3. Philip Owen says:

    The turning point was Bush refusing Putin’s offer of an alternative location in Azerbaijan for siting missile radars. Putin was already cooling to NATO and the EU following the FSB coup in February 2004. This seemed to be the last straw.

    • Mal says:

      He was inaugurated in May ’00, the Kursk sunk in August that year, if there is any truth that it was a collision with a NATO sub, (the Russians know), yeah, I’d be cool too, pissed, truth be told.
      Twenty odd years later…..the tables are flipped……maybe NATO has been the target all along.

      Cheers Mal

  4. ISL says:

    Dont forget the truck convoy in Canada is an expression of Russian power!

    Thanks for the summary – we all are awaiting the military technical response now the Washington has given a non-response response and tries to have it both ways at once (consistency is so passe)…..

  5. Sean says:

    What do you think about the Putin-Xi joint statement? My hot take is that it highly underwhelming, just we are Best Friends Forever, with zero initiatives or agreements announced. Sounds to me like Putin will be taking things slowly in Ukraine, and has a timeline of 1-2 years rather than 1-2 months.

  6. Sean says:

    What do you think about the Putin-Xi joint statement? My hot take is that it highly underwhelming, just we are Best Friends Forever, with zero initiatives or agreements announced. Sounds to me like Putin will be taking things slowly in Ukraine, and has a timeline of 1-2 years rather than 1-2 months

    • ISL says:


      It would be impolite to do announce anything overwhelming before the Beijing Olympics and overshadow them. I would await the end of the Olympics to see if there are any further announcements or if the sum total is anodyne (plus there could be agreements on matters with no purpose to announce to the media).

  7. English Outsider says:

    Mr Armstrong,

    I had assumed that the “Aegis Ashore” section in the El Pais leak, plus other material there indicating that something like Minsk 2 might be on the cards, ail showed that Russian security concerns were being addressed along the lines of the possible behind the scenes settlement set out by David Habakkuk in recent discussions on the Colonel’s site on this subject.

    Best outcome. For Biden the press releases write themselves. He stood tall and warned the Russians off. And the Russians get at least their most urgent security concerns addressed. All happy.

    The Russians are after more than that and could well get it.

    “Overextending and unbalancing Russia” is the Western watchword and has been since the Cold war. The Western attack on Russia relies on the West being more advanced, richer and with very much more manpower. We can afford more threat than the Russians can defence. Serious hostilities are best avoided. It’s the fear of them that tells. Just get 140 million people to spend money and effort on defence and near a billion can spend more until the poorer adversary collapses.

    Many believe it was such outspending that led to the Soviet collapse. There are many voices, particularly in the States, calling for a re-run of the same play.

    All the talk at the moment is of the Russians being militarily superior. Having more advanced weapons that give them the edge. I don’t believe a word of it. The Americans have strength in depth that the Russians cannot match. And technological superiority, if it is true and if it matters in this context, is always transitory. In a toe-to-toe conventional fight the Russians would lose.

    But the Americans aren’t there in force where it matters. Europe, and particularly the Eastern fringes. Nor are we Europeans of course. Due to our not having military forces of much account and certainly not in depth.

    We’re already seeing dribs and drabs of American reinforcements coming over. The Europeans are starting to take defence more seriously. The current war hysteria sees to that. The Russians merely need send some obsolete BMP’s to Belarus and the Western defence establishments start to gear up for an invasion of the Baltics or some such threat.

    So the neocon playbook’s working the other way. All the Russians have to do is get some real threats out of the way – as said, the El Pais leaks may indicate that – and then just sit there. While we run around in circles, impelled by our own manufactured war hysteria, devoting more and more resources to a threat we ourselves have invented.

    Seems “overextending and unbalancing” works both ways.

    • Sean says:

      In a WW2-style conventional total war lasting 4 years, yeah Russia wouldn’t stand a chance against the USA. But that is not the world we live in now. Any conventional war between significant nuclear powers will be short and end in a negotiated settlement. There will be no long march to Moscow or Washington. If the war drags on for any length of time or if one side gets ideas of total victory, it will go nuclear and everyone will lose. But in a short, sharp war, you do not fight with your industrial capacity, you fight with the military you have. And there is every chance (although nothing is certain with weapons systems and military doctrines on both sides that have never been tested against peer competitors) that Russia would win against NATO in a war centered in Eastern Europe and Russia (as it will be, since Russia has no illusions of global reach, and America has the abundant self-confidence to take the war to Russia).

      This is all a moot point in my opinion because Putin and the Russian leadership do not have the “Will to Power” to fight a large war against NATO. Putin is cautious and has even stated recently that his opposition to Ukrainian membership in NATO is based partly on a fear that it would trigger a wider Russia-NATO war.

      • English Outsider says:

        Well yes, you underline forcefully the stupidity of the whole thing.

        That undoubted American military superiority is of no use when it comes to considering a war on Russian soil. The Russians would go nuclear rather than lose. They have said that explicitly.

        Is that American military superiority of any use in a major war on European soil? That assumes the Russians would oblige with a major attack on Europe. Why would the Russians want to do that?

        Revanchism, is is said. The Russians want their Soviet empire back. That is the nonsense our politicians and media feed us. I don’t accept for one moment they believe that in the Pentagon.

        And does anyone, inside or outside the Pentagon, really believe that the Russians intend to invade and hold any country to their west? How would it benefit the Russians, having to devote great amounts of manpower to holding down a rebellious Eastern Europe? Or a fiercely rebellious Ukraine. The very notion is unrealistic to the point of farce.

        No, Biden’s aims are very much more modest than these apocalyptic scenarios. He wants Zelensky to attack or harass the LDNR. Any defensive action against that, whether from the Russians or the LDNR itself, can be portrayed as Russian aggression. That forces Scholz to go along with the heavy sanctions Biden wants.

        Since both Zelensky and Scholz seem most unwilling to play the parts expected of them it’s unlikely Biden will get his sanctions.

        Since the Russians clearly have local military superiority right now it’s quite likely Putin will get his security assurances. Interesting to see what’ll happen if he doesn’t.

    • Phodges says:

      Our bridges are falling down and Russian cities look like something out of a sci-fi movie. Our ships are covered in rust and theirs have lasers and hypersonic missiles. Your analysis is 100% inverted.

      • James says:

        Moscow looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, but every Russian city outside of Moscow and St Petersburg look like a backwater.

          • Eric Newhill says:

            And, IMO, Russian women in these cities seem to have a much better fox to hog ratio than Americans.

          • Peter Williams says:

            A better list is

            Even the little town (40,000) in which my family lives has drastically changed. It was a typical Soviet post-industrial town. Major employers bankrupt, maintenance non-existent. Streets consisting of potholes joined by tar strips.
            People shopped in dingy produkti or rynoks (street markets). Now there are multiple supermarkets, shopping malls, schools and kindergartens refurbished or rebuilt.

            Business disputes were once settled by grenades and gunshots, now by the courts. Even petty corruption, like giving small gifts for service is strictly punished.

          • Deap says:

            Videos Patrick provided of “Archangel” (Eng spelling) between my own visit a few years ago and the way it looks today were indeed surprising. Nothing looked more backwater, and actually is backwater than Archangel and its port on the often frozen White Sea. Yet it too got Putin’s attention. Peter the Great would be pleased.

            Now only to see today’s photos of Murmansk – which certainly had a dazzling array of new Northern Arctic passage icebreakers in its docks, but at the time I saw it was a typical grim caricature of Soviet potholed streets, Italianate public buildings in ice cream colors but with badly peeling paint, along massive rundown apartment blocks long associated with post-war Soviet Union.

            Lots of housing certainly needed to be built fast and cheap when there was a huge post WWII migration from the farm lands into the cities.

            Kudos for at least providing shelter virtually overnight after the extreme stresses WWII inflicted on Russia. So more kudos for funding its now long overdue and necessary replacement, decades later. Yes, the old Soviet images are changing. Sadly, just like our own images of post WWII “Motor City” Detroit have changed too.

            One can still do a selective photo montage to prove nothing has changed in Russia since its Soviet days, but it would not be a fair representation of the overall big picture today.

            At least from this tourist’s perspective, having visited Russia many times starting in the 1970’s and as recently as two years ago – several stops in Russia Far East.

            Didn’t intend to go there that often; it just happened. But it was a montage of change from height of Cold War, to one year before the end of the Soviet Union, to one year after the end of the Soviet Union to the new glitter of Baltic Russia to exploring the White Sea and the “Gulag Archipelago” and up to this third jaunt through Russia Far East again.

            Easier access to Russia Far East for those of us on US West Coast now makes opera season in the “new” Vladivostok a worthy travel enticement.

        • but every Russian city outside of Moscow and St Petersburg look like a backwater.

          You obviously haven’t been in Kazan, Sochi, Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and “other” Russian cities outside Moscow and St. Petersburg.

          • Deap says:

            Irkutsk was my favorite remote Russian city – it had a very special feel even before the end of the Soviet Union – visited on a Transiberian Rail journey. Wonder how it is doing today.

      • English Outsider says:

        Phodges – I should have said that the term “over-extending and unbalancing Russia” was taken from a Rand Corporation publication.

        There’s been any amount of similar material around, and on the same lines, coming out of the States. It’s really just a tidy shopping list of options that might be adopted in order to destabilise Russia.

        Such material will be read by the Russians as well and these items would have caught their attention had they not been aware of them already:-

        “Deploying additional tactical nuclear weapons to locations in Europe and Asia could heighten Russia’s anxiety enough to significantly increase investments in its air defenses. In conjunction with the bomber option, it has a high likelihood of success, but deploying more such weapons might lead Moscow to react in ways contrary to U.S. and allied interests.”

        “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine would exploit Russia’s greatest point of external vulnerability. But any increase in U.S. military arms and advice to Ukraine would need to be carefully calibrated to increase the costs to Russia of sustaining its existing commitment without provoking a much wider conflict in which Russia, by reason of proximity, would have significant advantages.”

        Those two Russian security concerns are currently at the top of the list of security concerns the Russians want addressed and as said above one hopes the EL Pais link shows there’s a chance they will be addressed. In previous comments on the Colonel’s site David Habakkuk and also Barbara Ann have examined how they could be addressed in a way that would result in neither side losing face.

        On sanctions the obvious is also stated:-

        “Imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions would also likely degrade the Russian economy, especially if such sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral. Thus, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness of other countries to join in such a process. But sanctions come with costs and, depending on their severity, considerable risks.”

        Calls for deep sanctions have been coming out of Washington and also, oddly enough, from the European Parliament. The EP does not have the powers enjoyed by most parliaments but the vote serves at the least as an indication of feeling among the European political classes – “EU countries must remain ready to agree swiftly on severe economic and financial sanctions against the Russian government to address immediate threats, rather than wait for another invasion to take place before taking action.”

        Odd indeed, the majority of European MEP’s voting for a resolution to cut Europe’s throat in the vain hope of cutting Russia’s. At least I believe it’s a vain hope. Economic warfare at that level would be resented by the Russian general public: Mr Armstrong asserts, and I believe him, that it would not in fact cripple Russia: and such sanctions would further drive Russia out of Europe and into the Eurasian camp.

        Chancellor Scholz is also not enthusiastic about sanctions. Sanctions at the level Washington and the EP are hoping for would result, among other things, in him having to shut off both NS1 and NS2 . Whatever that’d do to the Russians (Mr Armstrong – not much, they have strong currency reserves) it would certainly cripple German industry.

        This is a battle for Germany. If the Germans can be swung firmly into the neocon camp Biden’s objective is achieved. If they insist on retaining their Russia trade it is not.

        So a lot hinges on whether Zelensky can be persuaded, or forced, to attack or harass the LDNR. The unfortunate Ukrainians, living in a country already wrecked by Western intervention, are merely a lever in that greater battle.

        How I see it. If that’s a correct reading I believe that the question of whether the American armed forces are superior, not in any case a question I’m qualified to have more than an amateur’s opinion on, is not the central question here.

  8. Sean says:

    There were some other agreements signed in Beijing it turns out, but the commercial ones at least (all that I could find out about) were pretty minor. Some largish headline numbers but spread over 30 years, including just a continuation of an oil contract that was about to expire, so not much there. This is not what Putin would need or what many people expected if he were to make any big moves against the West over the next few months, so no big moves coming is my best guess.

    • Leith says:

      Sean –

      The agreements were secondary. VVP’s trip to Beijing was to show the flag for Russian Olympic athletes and perhaps to scout for a new main squeeze.

      • Here’s the text Read it. Ya got yer basic stratigeree then yer basic tatikuls. This is yer first

        • Sean says:

          The text is basically “I agree with you, you agree with me, let’s all be one big family”. Warm words and pretty anodyne commercial contracts. Beyond that, there were no significant commitments or announcements. Nothing that would offer Russia any meaningful help in its flare up with the west in the next few months. Forget about a mutual defense treaty which I never saw happening, but not even an announcement on the joint alternative to SWIFT, which I thought would be a given, the baseline. No mention or reiteration of previous announcements about the swift alternative even.

          In my opinion this is not a case of China “stabbing Russia in the back”, this is just a result of a misunderstanding of Putin’s motives. He is not trying to stir up some big stuff right now, in February or March. He is not looking to take down the USA and NATO as an organization in coordination with Xi. He has his gaze over the next years, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, taking the slow but steady steps that are his MO (Crimea and Syria were exceptions where he had his back against the wall, not the norm), to develop Russian Chinese ties over time, to give Russia an alternative to European trade, but also to keep European trade (meaning no big blowups) as an alternative to dependence on China.

          • Barbara Ann says:


            No significant commitments or announcements? That joint statement is the unveiling of Pax Sino-Russia.

  9. Leith says:

    Interesting development reported originally by Telegram Instant Messaging Service:

    “Major failure in Russian networks. Telecom operators and websites down, some foreign websites inaccessible .”

    So, is this a Ukraine cyber attack? Or is it a move by the FSB to shut down both Telegram and other US or Western networks within Russia? Or something else?

  10. @ Barbara Ann Yes indeed. It’s laying out the big picture with an implied invitation for others to sign on. Note also the suggested definition of democracy as a result, not a process.

  11. TTG says:

    I doubt China is ready to burn all bridges to Ukraine just to make Putin happy. China sees Ukraine as a key entry point into Europe for her BRI. The Ukraine route gives a route across the Black Sea that will bypass Russia altogether. Ukraine gives China options.

    Trade between China and Ukraine has also been picking up. China accounts for roughly 15% of Ukraine’s imports and exports. China now imports 80% of her corn from Ukraine. China retrofitted Ukrainian power plants to burn Ukrainian coal rather than Russian gas, invested in many other Ukrainian economic sectors and is building/improving Ukrainian port facilities. That’s part of the BRI.

    • zmajcek says:

      China also knows better than to get over reliant on a country that is heavily influenced by the US.

      Alternatives are being developed:

    • Fred says:


      “China sees Ukraine as a key entry point into Europe for her BRI.”

      Are you talking about a rail and road line or actual trade relations? For the later the EU nations have been outsourcing manufacturing and the associated jobs and wealth almost as long as the US.

      • TTG says:


        Ukraine-China trade relations are continuing to grow. The physical BRI into Ukraine involves ferries/transports across the Caspian and and Black Sea along with rails and roads. The entry into Ukraine will be through Black Sea ports which China is already developing.

  12. jim ticehurst says:

    Video of Putin…Eyes Closed….”Sleeping” as Ukraine Delegation Many World Leaders Not Attending…India Boycotted…Poland Attended…Most Gulf Oil and Gas Producers Attended..and Like Minded Third World States…Thats Interesting Data..TTG..Intrigue..Seems Russia would Just Give China same status..If They Do Control Ukraine. Tag Teams..It will Be Russian Corn for awhile..I Think Russia is Capable..and Smart..perhaps China is just setting Up The Ukraine for Russia..

  13. Barbara Ann says:


    The new Military Doctrine of the Union State and the updated Belarusian constitution, in theory, create legal grounds for the nuclearization of Belarus, offering Moscow a potent tool with which to respond to perceived threats from the United States. If the US will continue to host nuclear weapons on the territory of its allies, Russia will too. Moscow-based military experts have already begun to actively propose options for the deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus. (link)

    Belarus’ new constitution (to become effective February 27th) removes the wording both of its neutrality and nuclear free status. Failed color revolutions have consequences.

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