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KREMLINOLOGY. I've been at this business for a while and one of the things I've learned is that "Kremlinology" is a waste of time: speculating about who's who and the meaning of personnel appointments is worthless. Why? Because we simply don't know: we don't know why X was given that particular job and not another, we don't know how X and Y get along together and how they interact with Z. In fact we really don't know very much about X, what he thinks, why he thinks it and how he reacts to new things. It's all a black box: we see some of what goes in and what comes out and have little idea of what happened inside the box. (We don't know these things about our own countries – was Freeland promoted or demoted? – so what makes anyone think that we know these things about far-away Russia?) So it's hardly surprising that Kremlinology has been a complete bust every move, including Putin's latest, surprises its practitioners. So I don't waste my time speculating: I don't know enough; nobody does. (The only worthwhile legacy of years of wasted effort is the HAT.)

NEW GOVERNMENT. That having been said, the new government seems to have a lot of ministers who are specialists in their ministry's field. We'll see how that goes. MacDonald gives names and backgrounds, Saker says the "Atlantic Integrationists" are weakened, Doctorow suggests it's connected with the feeble implementation of the National Projects. I say it's a step towards The Team's replacement with younger people who will carry the project on. I still expect that Putin will leave with a successor firmly positioned. Tennison, who met him way back when, thinks so too.

CONSTITUTION. Robinson doesn't see such a huge change. The usual outlets say Putin forever! (Can we pause a moment for a brief think? If he wanted power forever, all he had to do was drop clause 81.3. Nah, turn off brain and outgas: "some" "reportedly" and so on.) The other thing that we have learned is that Putin wants to make the two term restriction absolute.

DEMOGRAPHICS. A fall in the net population (immigration failed to compensate) because of the decrease in the number of women of reproductive age (fallout from the hard times of the 1990s.) Natural increase is expected to resume in three or four years. This month Putin announced a substantial increase in programs to encourage births and support families.

CORRUPTION. The (ex) policemen who framed Golunov will be charged. Not truly a case of protest forcing a change (although there were strong protests) but the system operating properly pretty quickly.

SANCTIONS. Russia now exports beef. (!)

FAKE NEWS. US Army liberated Auschwitz says the US Embassy in Denmark and Der Spiegel. Israel knows who did it, though. The US won the war; Hollywood told us so.

ANNIVERSARY. Saturday, as I calculate it, marked the day when the US and its minions had been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Soviets were. Record year for bombing, too.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. "There is … a strong possibility that all Steele’s material has been fabricated." I always thought it was a complete fake with no Russian input (except maybe Skripal's). I reiterate: there was no Russian interference and no collusion. It's a phoney story to explain away Clinton's failure.

ASSASSINATION. Did Pompeo threaten Russian and Chinese officials with assassination? Misreported say I (Veterans Today and – not a winning combination); don't see it in the actual speech.

NOT ON YOUR "NEWS" OUTLET. UNSC meeting on OPCW fakery. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. You decide.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. Schiff: Trump made a 'religious man' out of Putin. Pillow man, another of Schiff's nuggets. Reflect that his present career is based on his "knowledge" of Putin.

US DOLLAR. I'm interested that The Economist gets it (as the Mean Sea Level of conventional opinion, what it chooses to cover is significant): "But it is only under President Donald Trump that America has used its powers routinely and to their full extent, by engaging in financial warfare… They have in turn prompted other countries to seek to break free of American financial hegemony." If it's used as a weapon, it's no longer convenient. This man predicts the collapse of the USD this year. Russia has half a trillion's worth in its FOREX and gold kitty.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. UK approves limited use of Huawei; Pompeo not happy.

RUSSIA/CHINA. Donald Trump must split up Putin and Xi, the new odd couple. Not only does the author not realise that train left the station a long time ago, he's not even sure where the station is.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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25 Responses to RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 30 JANUARY 2020 by Patrick Armstrong

  1. Last one for about 6 weeks, BTW.

  2. How dare you refer to the Europeans as “REVOLTING.” Who do you think you are? They are not REVOLTING. I think it is more appropriate to refer to them as ANNOYING.
    (Sorry, couldn’t resist the opportunity to go full Rosanna Rosanna Danna on your excellent piece.)

  3. Bill H says:

    I think this is pertinent to the “Russian Sitrep” issue. Can one or more persons with a clearer view than mine comment on the constant rhetoric regarding Ukraine being “at war with Russia” and more specifically in a “hot war with Russia?”
    Likewise with the hold on the aid to Ukraine being an “endangerment to US national security” because it “encouraged Russian aggression in Ukraine.”
    My perception is that such talk is nonsensical, but both sides are using it and the endless repetion is beginning to make me question my own mind.

  4. Well, in a word, it’s BS. It’s a civil war (note where the shooting started in which both NATO and Russia have their fingers on the scales.
    But the Russia invaded meme is so baked in by now that no one can think outside of it. The neocons because Russia is in the way of their desires and the Dems because they are so committed to the Russia stole the election nonsense that they can’t say anything else either.
    Here’s a quickie to get started with

  5. Bill H says:

    Thanks, Patrick. I recall some time ago a Russian official (I believe it was Lavrov) being questioned about Russia having invaded eastern Ukraine and replying that, “If we had invaded Ukraine you would not have to be asking if we had done it.” IIRC, he went on to ask if anyone was wondering whether or not we had invaded Iraq.
    Is it known to what (if any) degree the Russian government is assisting the eastern separatists, and if so are they providing tanks? My understanding is that Russian individuals, many of them military veterans, are going to Ukraine as volunteers.

  6. b says:

    @Bill H
    The question if Russia was or is somehow militarily intervening in the Ukraine was recently put to the German equivalent of the Congressional Research Service (both have an excellent reputation).
    The ‘Scientific Service of the Bundestag’ did find lots of media reports but no factual evidence that any Russian military intervention had happened or is taking place.
    A report, in German, on the issue can be found here:
    That site is reliable. You can use Google translate to read it.

  7. Lyttenburgh says:

    Re: Kremlinology.
    I’ve said it a long time ago, that actual science (Political, Social, and in some cases – “Hard” one as well) had been replaced with the Shamanism by now. It’s latest iteration is no longer a perverse union of the Press and think-tank(er)s, but anonymous Telegram channel. Now, THEY know everything! Reliable insider, each and every one of them.
    None of them predicted the contents of Putin’s speech. None of them predicted who’d be a new PM (read this article and despair at the narrowness of their thinking:
    These failures of various “experts”/modern day Shamans, reminded me of some events in Russia’s past, that took place nearly a millennium ago:
    “Year 6579 ( 1071)… At this time, a magician appeared inspired by the devil. He came to Kiev and informed the inhabitants that after the lapse of five years the Dnieper would flow backward, and that the various countries would change their locations, so that Greece would be where Rus’ was, and Rus’ where Greece was, and that other lands would be similarly dislocated. The ignorant believed him, but the faithful ridiculed him and told him that the devil was only deluding him to his ruin. This was actually the case, for in the course of one night, he disappeared altogether…
    “A magician likewise appeared at Novgorod in the principate of Gleb. He harangued the people, and by representing himself as a god he deceived many of them; in fact, he humbugged almost the entire city. For he claimed to know all things, and he blasphemed against the Christian faith, announcing that he would walk across the Volkhov River in the presence of the public…
    “Then Gleb hid an axe under his garments, approached the magician, and inquired of him whether he know what was to happen on the morrow or might even occur before evening. The magician replied that he was omniscient. Then Gleb inquired whether he even knew what was about to occur that very day. The magician answered that he himself should perform great miracles. But Gleb drew forth the axe and smote him, so that he fell dead, and the people dispersed. Thus the man who had sold himself to the devil perished body and soul.”
    – The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian text).

  8. Lyttenburgh says:

    2 Bill H,
    Re: “Can one or more persons with a clearer view than mine comment on the constant rhetoric regarding Ukraine being “at war with Russia” and more specifically in a “hot war with Russia?””
    Ukraine is waging tireless, constant, unrelenting war against Russia… without declaring war against Russia, without closing borders with Russia, without severing diplomatic relations with Russia, without banning its citizens from travelling and working in Russia. And, of course, Ukraine dares not to hinder its oligarchs from earning money by trading with Russia. Yes, including Poroshenko. The scandal that erupted shortly before the elections, uncovered a scheme by his party member, which allowed to supply the mighty Ukrainian military with the sub-par spare parts made in Russia.
    Needless to say – Ukraine also trades with DNR and LNR. Rinat Akhmetov, in fact, became slightly richer since the victory of the Glorious Maidan Revolution of Dignity.
    Re: US military assistance to Ukraine.
    US military aid is so numerous, crucial and important, that a fetishistic love for the “Javelin” rockets became a meme. The Ukrainian military loves “Javelins” so much, that don’t give them to their frontline troopers. Most (not yet sold out by underpaid Ukrainian warrant officers) of the American hardware is placed in secure (ha-ha!) storage in the Western Ukrainian depots… that under the glorious reign of Poroshenko often suffered unexplainable explosive combustions mere weeks before expected revisions of their contents.
    So, yes, Bill H! Only American military aid helps Gondor-Ukraine to resist constant onslaught of Mordor-Russia! So, American taxpayers – gib more! And if not the Ukrainians, Putin will surely march to the English Channel. Any moment now. Juuuuuuust wait.

  9. rg says:

    Hey Larry, the Gilda Radner character you have in mind was actually Emily Litella. I made the same mistake once and was corrected.

  10. Bill H,
    We put out quite a few articles on Novorossiya and the war in Ukraine on SST beginning back in 2014. Patrick is absolutely right. This is a civil war between east and west Ukraine. When the coup in Kiev brought in the ugly ultra-nationalists of Pravy Sektor and Svoboda, these true deplorables called for eradicating the no good “Russkies” living in the eastern third of the country. The eastern Ukrainians only wanted to be fairly represented in Kiev and left to live their lives of Russian heritage. They were content to be Ukrainians. Civil war only erupted when the newly empowered fascists in Kiev moved to physically eradicate, or at least subjugate, the “Russkies” in the east. Those Ukrainians had no choice but to resist. It began as unarmed villagers blocking the passage of a few Ukrainian tanks here and there. As the Ukrainian Army slowly mobilized and the paramilitaries of Pravy Sektor grew, thing got more serious.
    Russia began providing aid to the rebel defenders of Novorossiya to give them the means to defend themselves. This aid grew into what became known as Voentorg (military trade or commissary). It appears to have been fairly robust consisting of a wide range of military equipment including tanks, artillery and plenty of ammunition for those weapons. However, these supplies augmented those military stores already present in Donetsk and Luhansk along with those stores captured from the Ukrainian Army by the rebels. Russia also provided training and organization to the fledgling forces of Novorossiya, but, again, the rebels were already trained on much of this equipment and how to fight from their time in the Soviet and/or Ukrainian Armies. It was only natural for Russian volunteers to come to the aid of Novorossiya. That happens in many civil wars. I know of no credible proof of Russian Army units fighting among the rebels.
    The Crimea was a different story. The Russian Army brilliantly moved to secure Crimea when they saw the West was making a move to seize Crimea for themselves. I still believe our ultimate goal was to see Russia lose access to Sevastopol and have it become a major sea and air base for the US and NATO. Russia would have been criminally negligent if she allowed that to happen. The Crimeans appear to be content with being part of Russia once again.

  11. oldman22 says:

    I don’t think the people of USA have any idea of the history of Ukraine, and the divisions within Ukraine (and Canada) today. Here is a review of some of this strange tale. I am not a historian, so if any differ from this narrative, I would appreciate hearing your view.

  12. Bill H says:

    Thanks for the input. I had been keeping up with current events, and what you are saying now is consistent with what I recall reading over the past few years. The sudden onset of rhetoric recently has been of a volume and consistency that it was beginning to make me wonder if I had missed something that had happened recently.

  13. Sid Finster says:

    Re: ZOMG Russian troops invaded Poor Widdle Ukraine ZOMG!
    1. There are approximately 500 miles of open border between Donbass and the tri-border area between Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia. Strangely enough, the “Russian hordes” do not seem to be pouring through this gap, even though Kiev is some 150 miles from the border.
    2. Ukrainian bullyboys shell Donbass nightly. Why? “Because Russians.”
    These same thugs, real heroes when it comes to terrorizing old people and women and also alcoholism, they dare not touch Crimea. Why? Because there really are Russian soldiers there.

  14. Sid Finster says:

    Not quite germane to Russia, but this should give you an idea of the caliber of people that the United States is using in its proxy war in Ukraine:
    “The Division of Children into “Three Kinds” Leads Ukraine to Nazism and Definitive Collapse”

  15. John Merryman says:

    My go to comment for shutting up Russiagaters is to point out we have had a joint space program with them for what, 25, 30 years. Would we have dreamed of having one with the Soviet Union?
    Which goes to the heart of this current impeachment delusion. As Deep Throat told Woodward, if you want to know what is going on, follow the money.
    When you sell your soul and reputation, it is hard to buy them back.

  16. Fred says:

    We did have those programs. The Apollo-Soyuz flights took place in the 1970s.

  17. anon says:

    Take a wander on google earth north of china.Huge areas of untapped resources.Russia with its negative population growth combined with global warming and the melting of the permafrost have made siberia a tempting target for asian expansion.The hordes are coming vlad.

  18. Lyttenburgh says:

    2 the agender userperson “anon”
    In the reign of the glorious emperor Qín Shǐ Huáng-dì there was a eunuch by the name Cáo Shi. It’s been found out, that he dared to spread libelous rumours about his Lord and emperor… and that said eunuch engaged in bestiality. In the passive form.
    For his crimes, which shook down with their stench both Heaven and the Underworld, said Cao Shi had been sentenced to the death by the most intricate machine – The Great and Pacifying Excrutiator of Yan Lo.
    I’m fairly calm about Russia’s and China future and forsee no trouble in years to come. Why? Well, primarily because there would be more intresting things in the future – feauturing you, dear Anon. For you share both the crimes and the letter “o” in your name with the late and unlamented Cáo Shi. This requires appropriate treatment in accordance with the set precedent from the Chinese history – and allowing every citizen of their country to take turn cranking the lever of The Great and Pacifying Excrutiator of Yan Lo.
    I know what you want to say in the way of disagreement – that the resemblance is too superficial for the historical precedent to apply to you. Well, in order to rectify it there is always “Hog’s Head” knife and… hmm… in your case, that’s gonna be a donkey.

  19. d74 says:

    “Ukrainian bullyboys shell Donbass nightly. Why? “Because Russians.””
    Ukrainian bullyboys aren’t fighting to take back Crimea. Why?
    Because there are REALLY the Russians.

  20. Patrick armstrong says:

    if Chinese want to live there
    if Russian population is and will be forever more declining
    if global warming is real
    then maybe

  21. David Habakkuk says:

    ‘Google Earth’ is a valuable research tool.
    Sometimes, however, it is more useful if one comes down from the ‘stratosphere’, and listens to murmuring voices on the ground which are audible, if you keep your ears open.
    A useful resource in relation to the issue you raise is the ‘Dragon Eye’ column in the ‘National Interest’, written by Lyle J. Goldstein, a ‘Research Professor’ in the China Maritime Studies Institute at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
    In addition to Chinese, he speaks Russian, and the close watch he keeps on what is being said in the technical military literature in both countries, particularly but not exclusively in relation to naval developments, can be very useful, particularly to those of us who are unfamiliar with both languages.
    (See .)
    You might find particularly interesting a piece he wrote in June last year, headlined ‘Chinese Nuclear Armed Submarines in Russian Arctic Ports? It Could Happen.’
    (See .)
    To see the point of what looks it could be a ‘trial balloon’ floated by a clearly technically expert Russian military analyst, you might go back to ‘Google Earth’, and compare the distances to American cities, from locations underneath the icepacks north of Russia’s arctic ports, and those from locations in or near China to the same targets across the Pacific.
    So, a possible deal: China gets, at bargain basement cost, a vastly improved ‘second strike capability’ from icebreaker submarines operating from bases in the Russian arctic, while some of the money saved can go to funding the development of the area. This includes opening up resources that it is likely to be more sensible for the Chinese to acquire by purchase than by conquest.
    Among other pieces that might interest you are one from December last year, headlined ‘Why China Wants Its Navy to Patrol the Atlantic Ocean’ and one from last month, entitled ‘The Fate of the China-Russia Alliance.’
    (See ; .)
    In these pieces, Goldstein sets out reasons why neither the Russians, or the Chinese, are likely to want the kind of formal alliance which risks circumscribing their freedom of action, should the other become involved in a confrontation with the United States over issues not of direct relevance to them.
    Likewise, both have had good reasons to try to avoid courses of action which might render it more difficult to rebuilt their relations with the United States, should that be possible on terms they consider acceptable.
    However, Goldstein also sets out very clearly the powerful pressures towards cooperation.
    On the Chinese side, a key pressure is their very great fear of their vulnerability to American naval power.
    As Goldstein has explained in great detail, this has given them very strong incentives to cooperate with the Russians, not only because of the long history of these in developing relevant technologies, but also because a great deal can be learnt from their three-quarters-of a century of strategic thinking about how effectively to counter superior American naval power.
    Equally important, however, fear of this power greatly strengthens other reasons why the Chinese should want what one might call a ‘Mackinderite consolidation’ of as much of Eurasia as possible.
    A little more time spent with ‘Google Earth’ might make clear to you why, in this enterprise, it is very much more useful to have Russia as a friend than an enemy.
    Of course, there are doubtless people in China who are fools enough to think that it makes sense to exploit Russian weakness to regain lands lost, when their country was itself weak, and that it is better to get resources by conquest than by purchase. To gamble on the ‘stupid party’ taking over in Beijing, as they clearly have done in Washington and London, however, seems to me reckless.
    At the close of his most recent piece, Goldstein attempts to strike a balance between pointing to the limits on Chinese/Russian collaboration, and outlining a future which is possible, if the pressures towards this are sufficiently strong. And he concludes:
    ‘Such a future is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. The combination of Russian weapons design genius with Chinese organizational and production prowess could be formidable, indeed. That will be another reason for states comprising the West to now exercise restraint, embrace multi-polarity, and seek to avoid a return to the 1950s “with Chinese characteristics.”’
    This amuses me, as in the course of a discussion of a post of Colonel Lang’s headlined ‘The Tabouleh Line Revisited’, almost thirteen years ago now, in which some of us anticipated the kind of development of Iranian precision-guided conventional missile capabilities we have seen demonstrated recently, I wrote the following:
    ‘One might have thought that keeping Russia and China apart would have been a strategic priority for the United States, among other things in order to avoid a coming together of Russian weapons design expertise and Chinese manufacturing capabilities. But it seems the Bush Administration’s motto is “come to the four corners of the world in arms”, and it is far from clear that the positions of the Democrats are really very different.’
    (See )
    You write: ‘The hordes are coming Vlad.’ But it could be that it is the ‘missiles like sausages’ that are coming, in the Atlantic and Arctic as well as the Pacific – for real this time, not as a bluff, as it was when Khrushchev coined the phrase.

  22. fanto says:

    quote from Bill H. above : “My perception is that such talk is nonsensical, but both sides are using it and the endless repetion is beginning to make me question my own mind.”
    Bill H takes words out of my mind about this constant meme of “we delayed help to ally at war” and “our security interests” (in regards to Ukraine) – these are not questioned by anyone who gets to voice their official opinion. Both parties are blowing the same horn. Nobody in the media, nor in the impeachment procedure, has asked “since when does USA have alliance with Ukraine?” My comment would fit the previous post by the Colonel “Is it not interesting?”.

  23. English Outsider says:

    David Habakkuk – the last link reminded me of an interview with General Soleimani in October of last year.
    There is a review of Colonel Lang’s lecture here –
    – but I have been unable to find a transcript or summary. I wondered if you had a link.

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