My Advice to the Maidan

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

I’m not a Euromaidan supporter. But if I was, and was interested in the junta’s success and a smooth transition to an EU-orientated Poroshenko Presidency…

–> First of all, it has to be realized that Ukraine is weakest precisely in the short-term. An election would give Poroshenko a democratic mandate to carry him through the coming years of austerity and economic hardship, after which the situation will inevitably start to look up again (conveniently just in time for the 2018 elections). The pro-Russian electorate is getting older, and is concentrated in the demographically weaker eastern provinces; all else equal, the political power of the European vector is bound to increase over time at the expense of the pro-Russian vector. Meanwhile, passions in Russia over Crimea will die down, and Putin will start becoming preoccupied with the next election cycle.

The primary challenge, then, is just to survive the next few months.

I am assuming that Russia does not want to annex Donetsk – what for? it’s a subsidized rustbelt – but to use it as a lever for federalization, the consequent development of tight links between the SE provinces and Russia, and eventually, possibly, their independence (Novorossiya) or outright annexation. This can be preempted by Kiev offering decentralization itself, but in a manner that minimizes the actual political autonomy offered to the provinces. Incidentally, this is EXACTLY what Yatsenyuk and co. are doing – they are not the naive, limp-wristed fools that many here take them for.

Since the current authorities do not enjoy legitimacy in the east, especially in Donetsk/Lugansk, using force now is a pretty stupid idea. Especially since the local siloviki have either defected, or are apathetic. I suppose Kiev can still use units from the far west or mercenaries, but that would be doubling down on the stupid. Let them occupy administrative buildings for the time being, while painting them as foreign agents who don’t represent the will of the people (which is, again, what is actually being done). Administrative functions can be moved elsewhere for the time being. Absolutely no fire orders to avoid giving Moscow any kind of excuse for more overt intervention. Take solace in the fact that, at least before February, the opinion polls showed that no more than a third of Donetsk residents – the most seccesionist province – actually wanted full independence/merging with Russia. In the meantime, all efforts should be focused on stabilizing the economy. If that doesn’t happen – worse, if Crimea flourishes against this backdrop – then Kiev might have to deal with a Maidan 3.0 before too long, and not in the east but on the streets of the capital itself. How to stabilize the economy? Short of the EU/US putting their money where their mouth is, it will have to open up serious discussions with Russia. And this will require concessions. You might not think that fair, but it’s a fact. At least for the time being, promise to halt EU integration, and pointedly ignore Crimea (don’t accept it as Russian, but also don’t make scenes about it). Yes, this will enrage the Maidan, but unless I seriously underestimate Right Sector’s power, the caretaker government should survive long enough to run the elections and hand the Presidency to Poroshenko.

Once that is done, and full control over the country is regained as the effects of cadre replacements make themselves felt, promises made before can be broken (they can say they were made under duress, and/or that they were made by Turchinov, and Poroshenko is another Preisdent). As Kolomoysky said, “Promise the scum everything, then hang them.”

Russian Federation Sitrep 2014.04.03

 

THE FUTURE OF UKRAINE. The Ukraine of six months ago no longer exists; it has been destroyed by the scheming of Brussels and Washington. If there is to be something on the map named “Ukraine” at the end of the year that in anyway resembles what was there six months ago, Moscow’s plan must be adopted. Autonomy for the regions so that one half can’t bully the other half; minority language rights; neutrality, neither NATO nor Russia. As to Crimea, it is part of Russia; that is done. If it offends you to call this the Moscow plan, you may call it the Kissinger plan. If these principles are not accepted, and fairly soon, then by the end of the year south and east Ukraine (known as Novorossiya – New Russia – for two centuries) will be independent or part of Russia while rump Ukraine will be in full economic collapse and even civil war (and eventual absorption by Poland?). The only thing left undetermined will be the border of Novorossiya and rump Ukraine. None of this was necessary; all of it was predictable. (Here I am in December. But I claim no special prescience: everyone who knew anything about Ukraine knew it was fatal to the project to force an all-or-nothing choice. The West did this twice: ten years ago with NATO and now with an exclusive EU trade relationship, with NATO in the background). So here we are: hard times ahead for the citizens of any conceivable future Ukraine.

RUSSIA’S INVISIBLE ARMY. Much about how Russia is “massing” its army along the Ukrainian border. These reports are so confused as to be valueless – read this one carefully for example, noting contradictions; note the rag-bag elements tossed together of this one. No “massing Russian troops” were found in a 200 mile trip by Daily Telegraph reporters; nor in a 500-mile trip by NBC reporters. But it’s still hyped by NATO. (Once upon a time I believed NATO over Moscow. No more. Kosovo wounded it; Libya killed it; Ukraine has buried it. From now on my base assumption is that NATO is lying.) There is no need for “massing”: Russian troops in Crimea (already there, which is why US int couldn’t find them) were welcomed by an enormous majority and 90% of the Ukrainian forces either joined them or quit. There is every reason to expect that the reception of the Russians would be the same in Novorossiya, as we should perhaps get used to calling it.

[Read more…]

Was Crimea Worth It?

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

Was Crimea worth it? [editorial tone – neutral/objective]

Pros
* Secures major Black Sea naval base; Ukraine no longer able to link it to gas discounts.
* Demonstration that Russia still counts to putsch leaders, pro-Russia elements in S/E Ukraine, and the West. From a realist, non-sentimental perspective, it’s better to be feared than laughed at.
* Massive surge in popularity for Putin and national unity.
* Has confirmed a fundamental wedge between the West and the “Rest”/BRICS on global politics. In particular, both China and India have tacitly supported Russia’s position.

Uncertain
* If it succeeds, it will serve as a beocon on the hill for Ukrainians. (In the same way that “free” and “democratic” Ukraine was supposed to serve as a beacon on the hill for Russians tiring of Putin’s authoritarianism, though that didn’t quite work out). If it fails, of course, it will create the opposite effect. But I think the former is likelier than the latter.
* Western sanctions are fairly moderate for now, mostly touching just a part of the elites. Arguably, some of these will actually have positive effects, with Russia forced to accelerate economic ties with East Asia and to lessen its dependence on Western institutions (e.g. a national payments system independent of Visa/Mastercard).

Cons
* Russia loses any talking points it might have had as a strict adherent to international law (but this wasn’t worth much in the first place). Ukrainians have become less positive towards Russia; in particular, support for NATO accession, always low, has recently soared. It’s unclear whether this is temporary or permanent. Considering the economic and political straits Ukraine is in, one strongly suspects that the Crimea/Russia issue will quickly move from the forefront in the next few months.
* Pundits might talk of Russia “winning Crimea, but losing Ukraine.” I disagree. Ukraine, at least as a unitary whole, was lost on February 22.
* Kicked out of G8, freeze on OECD accession, NATO cooperation – negative but of marginal import.
* Deficit territory in fiscal terms (but irrelevant in the big picture).

Overall
I think that this all adds up to a big overall plus. True, assigning different weights to these factors could move it down to a minor plus or a even a neutral position, but I just don’t see how one could possibly pass it off as a strategic error or blunder.

The Lavrov-Kerry Meeting

We do not have anywhere near complete information about what happened at the Lavrov Kerry meeting on Sunday.  That in itself is a good sign.  It almost certainly means that with the Crimean issue out of the way (and with the western powers having tacitly admitted that the Crimea is now part of Russia) real negotiations have begun.  Lavrov described the talks he had with Kerry as “very constructive” and a Russian diplomatic source has said that for the first time since the start of the Ukrainian crisis there was straightforward talking.  That suggests serious negotiations and that we have at last got past the point of grandstanding and positioning.
A few points:
1. We know what the Russian demands are: (1) federalisation (2) official status for the Russian language and (3) a binding treaty securing the Ukraine’s neutrality.
2. It is completely unclear what US demands are.  Obama has spoken about Russia withdrawing its troops from the Ukraine’s eastern borders.  These concentrations of troops do not exist and Obama has anyway admitted that Russia has the right to deploy its own troops on its own territory.  There are also references to the OSCE mission and to Russian troops in the Crimea returning to their bases.  These are holdovers from an earlier stage in the crisis when it was primarily about the Crimea.  The OSCE mission is now in place and does not include the Crimea whilst the demand that Russian troops in the Crimea return to their bases is now redundant.
3. We also know that the Lavrov Kerry talks began following a telephone conversation between Obama and Putin and that Obama in that conversation asked that Russia put its proposals in writing.  That together with the absence of any demands or proposals from the US side suggests that it is the Russian demands/proposals that are the basis of discussion.
Though the US has not made its demands clear there can be no doubt about what is the predominant wish of its European allies: an end to the crisis and the Ukraine’s stabilisation.  It has become utterly clear over the last few weeks that the Europeans have no wish to be drawn into a prolonged confrontation with Russia that would seriously harm their economies.  If only for that reason the pressure will be on to achieve a settlement that will bring this crisis to an end.  Given that the Germans have already made know that they are sympathetic to the Russians’ proposals that means that the pressure is on the US to compromise.

[Read more…]

Navalny and Sanctions

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

While Gorbachev supports Crimea’s return, Navalny is helping the EU to compile sanctions on those who made it possible (http://www.alde.eu/uploads/media/Crimea_list_FBK_ALDE.pdf).

All ideology aside, I really do think that this marks the end of him as a serious politician. (Note that I say this as someone who unlike most pro-Putinists predicted he’d get a high result in the Moscow elections).

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

Couple of quick notes:

(1) Agree with Alexander Mercouris that the US bought into its own propaganda of “Putin’s billions” and has visa banned/frozen the assets of Timchenko, Gunvor, Kovalchuk, Rotenbergs, and other businessmen seen as close to Putin. Looks like its following the lead of its media and Navalny on these matters.

(2) Speaking of whom, I’ve always thought those who said Navalny was a CIA asset conspiracy theorists. Considering the close correlation between his own suggestions in the NYT and those the US just sanctioned, I will now have to seriously reconsider. The only unusual thing is that it seems America’s asset is leading it by the nose, as opposed to the other way round (though this is by no means unprecedented, recall “Curveball”).

(3) At this point, it would be not only proportionate but also poetically just to visa ban those US journalists who spread the story of Putin’s billions.

(4) While noting that these steps are run completely afoul of the rule of law and due process that the West pretends to care about so much, it is my impression that the vast majority of Russians (including myself) either do not care or in fact support these sanctions. It will help Putin to nationalize the elites and (in the long-run) help Russia diversify its economy and its relationships with non-Western Powers.

Russian Federation Sitrep 2014.03.20

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 March 2014

PUTIN SPEECH. After the referendum (by the way, perfectly normal numbers for this sort of thing see Falklands Islands, Kosovo and others) the process of re-joining Russia has begun – Putin’s speech here. One of his points was the illegality of Khrushchev’s transfer in 1954 “What matters now is that this decision was made in clear violation of the constitutional norms that were in place even then. The decision was made behind the scenes. Naturally, in a totalitarian state nobody bothered to ask the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol.” He quoted the UN International Court ruling of July 22, 2010. If I were to pick two sentences to sum it up, they would be these: “Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right.” The second: “Are we ready to consistently defend our national interests, or will we forever give in,  retreat to who knows where?” But it should be read: again, read what he says, not what people tell you he says.

UKRAINE FUTURE. Putin said he has no intention of absorbing other parts of Ukraine but this must be considered conditional. The warning is here: “But it should be above all in Ukraine’s own interest to ensure that these people’s [ie Russophones] rights and interests are fully protected. This is the guarantee of Ukraine’s state stability and territorial integrity.”  If it gets bad, he will. Yatsenyuk has said he will disarm the extremists. Let’s hope that he does but I think he’s the von Papen of this revolution and I doubt he’ll be around in six months.

LIFE IN UKRAINE. Now that the Crimea issue has been resolved, maybe our intrepid reporters can find the time to turn their attention to investigating fake voting in the Rada, vigilantes “lustrating” doctors, press people being beaten up (congratulations to Huff Post for carrying this one), neo-nazi thugs parading through towns, ditto beating up passers by, ditto beating up cops, ditto smashing up buildings, the “heroes” shaking down a gas station, people in the east turning back Ukrainian armed forces, big pro-Russia demos. Then again, maybe not.  But they won’t have to go far or stay in uncomfortable hotels: this stuff is all over the Net and just has to be looked for.

 

UTTER FAILURE. Whatever the EU and Washington thought they were doing in Ukraine, it has been an utter failure. And there is more failure to come. Ukraine is broke, thousands and thousands of people in the south and east want out, some very nasty people hold the power in Kiev. The West’s absurd “sanctions” (parodied here) have been mocked by the whole Duma requesting to be put on the list. Is Ukraine more united? more democratic? richer? Is NATO stronger? more attractive? How about the EU? Does it look like a good bet for the future? Are Washington-EU relations stronger? Is Russia weaker? divided? poorer? Putin less popular? Do the people of Western countries think their leaders are smarter, more competent, more electable than they did a month ago? Do people believe their media outlets? (read the comments, for example, here). And they just keep digging their hole deeper. Just think, if Nuland, Ashton and the rest had kept their meddling hands out, Crimea would still be part of Ukraine and the tensions inherent in the Ukraine concept would not have burst open. But the concept has been broken and it will likely get nastier before it’s over. Biden may think that Russia is “naked and alone” but note Putin’s thanks to India and China. The world has changed;  a lot of people are glad to see the “West” humbled.

SEA OF OKHOTSK. The relevant UN commission has agreed that a 52,000 sq kms section of the Sea is part of Russia’s continental shelf giving it exclusive rights to what may be a lot of resources.

HMMM. There is a report that more than $100B worth of US treasury bills were shifted out of New York.

JIHADISM. The Caucasus Emirate has announced, without details, the death of its leader Doku Umarov. It doesn’t say when so it may be that Kadyrov was correct when he said earlier this year that he had been killed. He was around for a long time – I see my first reference to him was in a Sitrep in June 2006 when he became President of the Chechen Republic/Ichkeria. As the obituary says, soon after he “raised the banner of monotheism and proclaimed the Caucasus Emirate.”

SYRIAN CW. The OPCW announces that more than 45%  of the Syrian CW stockpile has been removed with 2 more shipments loaded at Latakia in the last week.

 

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ http://us-russia.org/)

Hyperlinks ought to work immediately but, if not, right-click, copy link location, put it in your browser.

 

[Read more…]

Five Myths about the Crimean Referendum

As voting gets underway – and by all accounts, it seems to be overwhelmingly heading for the pro-secession choice – it’s worthwhile to dispel four common but erroneous beliefs about it.

(1) The referendum is unconstitutional.

Where political power in Ukraine rests today.

Where political power in Ukraine rests today.

This is true enough, as all of Ukraine would have to vote on it. But there is one big catch: The Ukrainian Constitution has been null and void since around February 22, 2014, when the Kiev mob overthrew a democratically elected President and the opposition seized power.  If the new regime absolutely insists on constitutional niceties, then it should dissolve itself and bring back Yanukovych from Rostov. This is hardly going to be happening anytime soon, so the only conclusion to be drawn is that, as in much else, the new regime and its Western backers only discover legality when it suits them. And that’s just fine, it’s “people power” and that’s supposed to be great and all, especially when it’s happening outside the West… but unless one wants to proudly and openly embrace double standards, then the mobs in Crimea have just as much of a right to decide their own destiny as do the mobs in Kiev.

(2) The referendum can’t be fair because of the presence of armed Russian troops.

Of course, nobody is buying the official Kremlin line that there are no Russian troops – or at least mercenaries – operating in Crimea. That said, if we insist on going by this standard, then we’ll have to concede that all Afghan elections since 2001 and all Iraqi elections since 2003 will have to be likewise invalidated. For some reason, I don’t see Washington conceding this anytime soon.

(3) There is no choice – both options are, in effect, a “yes.”

cimeaHere is the form, which is printed in the Russian, Ukrainian, and Tatar languages. The two options are:

  1. Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation?
  2. Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine?

It is also clearly stated that marking both answers will count as a spoiled ballot.

So the option isn’t between joining Russia or joining Russia, but between joining Russia and getting more autonomy. Furthermore, there is a clear and democratic way to vote AGAINST any changes – boycott the referendum (as official Kiev and the Mejlis have been urging Crimeans to do). If turnout is below 50%, the referendum is automatically invalidated.

(4) Most Crimeans do not support independence.

[Read more…]

After The Referendum

If, as seems to be generally expected, tomorrow’s referendum in Crimea produces a substantial majority in favour of union with the Russian Federation, what will Moscow’s reaction be?

I strongly expect that it will be……

Nothing.

There are several reason why I think this. One is that Moscow is reluctant to break up states. I know that that assertion will bring howls of laughter from the Russophobes who imagine that Putin has geography dreams every night but reflect that Russia only recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Georgia had actually attacked South Ossetia. The reason for recognition was to prevent other Georgian attacks. Behind that was the memory of the chaos caused in the Russian North Caucasus as an aftermath of Tbilisi’s attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the 1990s. Russia is a profoundly status quo country – largely because it fears change would lead to something worse – and will not move on such matters until it feels it has no other choice. We are not, I believe, quite at that point yet on Crimea let alone eastern Ukraine.

Moscow can afford to do nothing now because time is on its side. The more time passes, the more people in the West will learn who the new rulers of Kiev are (finally, the news has reached the USA: “It’s become popular to dismiss Russian President Vladimir Putin as paranoid and out of touch with reality. But his denunciation of ‘neofascist extremists’ within the movement that toppled the old Ukrainian government, and in the ranks of the new one, is worth heeding.” Sanctions cut both ways. Driving Russia and China (and the rest of the BRICS) together is not a triumph of “smart power”; especially if they decide that US securities are not, in fact, a reliable investment. The cost of supporting even the western rump of Ukraine is one that no one wants to pay. Militarily the mighty West can do little short of starting a nuclear war which would evenly-handedly destroy everyone. Western populations have lost their enthusiasm for glorious little wars for human rights. The propaganda line is not selling as well as it did in 2008 and one can see this reading the disbelieving comments on news items: see here, here, here, here for recent examples. China is clearing its throat. The more time passes, the more Western elder statesmen come out against the rhetoric – the most recent being Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Kohl. The sniper phonecall intercept has now been bolstered by the testimony of the former chief of the Ukrainian Security Service. Because the story is still mostly on the Russian media, the Western MSM can continue to ignore it; but it may be too big in a week to ignore. For all these reasons, Moscow won’t lose anything by waiting a week or two or three.

 

Then there are the hollow threats. US Secretary of State Kerry is quoted as saying: “There will be a response of some kind to the referendum itself… If there is no sign [from Russia] of any capacity to respond to this issue … there will be a very serious series of steps on Monday.” But, typically, he is already backpeddling: “We hope President Putin will recognize that none of what we’re saying is meant as a threat, it’s not meant in a personal way. It is meant as a matter of respect for the international, multilateral structure that we have lived by since World War II, and for the standards of behavior about annexation, about succession, about independence, and how countries come about it.” Suppose, come Monday, Moscow says nothing at all. Then what? More threats unless Moscow stops doing nothing? The truly powerful never make threats; they make promises. There is simply no comparison between the competence and determination of Putin’s team and those on the American and EU side.

The fact is that Russia hasn’t actually done anything. It hasn’t “invaded” Crimea; why even the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff doesn’t have evidence they are Russian troops. It certainly hasn’t “annexed” Crimea. It hasn’t invaded eastern Ukraine or even threatened it. It has held some “long-scheduled” military exercises (one of which will probably come to a “long-scheduled” ending on Monday). It has issued statements (which are “promises” not “threats”) and refused to recognise the new regime in Kiev. It knows that the US/EU case is crumbling and losing support; it knows that to win, it need only do nothing and do it calmly and determinedly – a sort of zen judo.

If, on the other hand, tomorrow’s referendum produces a majority for staying in Ukraine, what will Moscow’s reaction be?

I strongly expect that it will be……

Nothing.

And the same for any other result.

Let the West fume and issue cheap threats, Moscow is in the stronger position.

The chickens light-heartedly thrown aloft by Washington and Brussels are coming home and no one can stop them from roosting.

In other words, if the Obama administration now finds itself in an awkward situation, having encouraged an anti-Russian revolution on Russia’s doorstep and now finding itself unable or unwilling, thankfully, to follow through, it is a problem entirely of its own making.

He [Schroeder] also claimed that the European Union appeared not to have ‘the remotest idea’ that the Ukraine was ‘culturally divided’ and had made mistakes from the outset in its attempts to reach an association agreement with the country.

 

Russian Federation Sitrep 2014.03.13

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP

13 March 2014

Propaganda. Watch for these news items in your local media outlet to indicate when it stops re-typing and starts reporting. Who is what in the new govt in Kiev; the sniper story; General Dempsey has no evidence the soldiers in Crimea are Russians; what the treaty allows Russia to have in Crimea; whether Yanukovych was deposed according to the constitution. There are others but these are a start. Most have had some mention in Europe but very little in North America. The Guardian seems to have the most even coverage. While waiting, amuse yourself by applying to the USA the US State Department method of getting rid of presidents you don’t like. (Number 4; no messy constitutions). Or enjoy the psychoanalysis of Putin.

“Remember the yellow water!” I steal this from Gordon Hahn: remember all the stories about Sochi? Many of them outright lies? Don’t be taken in again. Remember the yellow water. And everything worked.

Not selling. But the information war doesn’t seem to be selling. In the Ossetian War the West’s propaganda line was well accepted and it was only months later that the truth started to appear. This time however, I notice that many commenters spurn the standard line. On many websites 50% or more do not buy it. Why the difference? The New Media is more powerful and there are more alternate sources of information than your local media outlets; too many people have heard US diplomats stage-directing things; the rather flippant reaction by Ashton to the sniper story; words of sobriety from Kissinger, Cohen or Matlock. A few examples of these sceptical comments.

[Read more…]

What If?: Ukraine vs. Russia

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

I’m almost certain it won’t happen, but it’s always fun to consider these what-if military scenarios.

Namely, Ukraine vs. Russia.

In terms of numbers, it will be about 100K vs 150K – Russia has more, of course – 300K in the ground forces – but can only devote a certain percentage of its forces to one theater (so divide by two for air and armor too). Ukraine will of course try to call up reservists, but their military worth is negligible and in any case the reported response rate (1.5% from the Orange provinces) is minimal anyway. Most of Russia’s soldiers here will be kontraktniki; most of Ukraine’s soldiers are its last crop of conscripts, halfway through their one year draft, and a sprinkling of professionals.

As many people have pointed out, the loyalties of these troops – especially in the east – are questionable. Even a few cases of desertion can wreck morale across the board.

For all intents and purposes Ukraine now has no navy.

It has 120 modern fighters, but of these, only 40 can be classed as active. Russia has 500, of which almost all are active. Due to budget problems, Ukrainian pilots have enjoyed fewer flight hours than Russian ones, and as such will also be less experienced. Russia will have total air superiority after the first few days.

Tanks are the one area in which Ukraine isn’t totally outmatched. Ukraine has around 350 of what can be considered active, modern MBT’s. Russia has 1,300, plus a further 1,500 upgraded T-72’s. Ukraine also has many T-72’s, but they are all rusting away in storage and will be unusuable. It does have 700 active upgraded T-64’s, yet even upgraded, they are still rather obsolete.

The critical big unknown is Ukraine’s air defense. If it holds its own, then Ukrainian and Russian armor can clash on equal ground, at least for some time. Georgia’s air defense, likewise Soviet legacy, wracked up an impressive (for their small scope) set of kills in 2008. A lot will depend on whether the Russians have managed to draw lessons from that episode. If however it turns out to be ineffective, then Ukraine’s armor will consist of smoking hulks of metal within two weeks, and Russia’s entrance into Kiev within the month.

I am assuming no NATO intervention, which is politically very unlikely even in this extreme case. In any case, it will take months to effect the necessary buildup, by which time – even in the best case scenario for Ukraine – the campaign will have been long over.

#warnerd #armchairgeneral