Russian Federation Sitrep 2014.04.17

KIEV ATTACKS. On Tuesday what remains of Kiev’s army, accompanied with threats of destruction, entered two eastern cities, Kramatorsk and Slavyansk. The soldiers soon switched sides (or as they say in Kiev “Russian terrorist sabotage groups have been captured six units of armored vehicles”), up went the Russian flags and St George ribbons and the townspeople fed them; I guess the American rations didn’t get to them. Interview. And another column stopped. Good news – especially when you think of what the rhetoric of easterners as “terrorists” and Washington’s enthusiastic encouragement could have led to. Today will probably tell: if the attacks fizzle out, there’s still hope for a federalised Ukraine. I look forward to watching Washington, Brussels (and Ottawa, I am ashamed to include) try and spin their way out of this shattering confutation of their fantasies. Reminds me of the Ossetia War when Wikileaks revealed that the US Embassy had uncritically transmitted whatever nonsense it was being fed by the Saakashvili regime.

TIME TO GO? Staff in Kiev’s power ministries are changing sides, refusing to attack the protesters, melting away; there are more dismissals in the power organs. Kiev’s new rulers have, apart from the uncertain loyalty of the most extreme, little force available (vide Kramatorsk). Moody’s has dropped Ukraine to “default imminent with little prospect for recovery”. Their sponsors in Brussels and Washington have kicked in only a sum that would about cover what China is suing Ukraine for. Meanwhile conditions worsen for the ordinary stiff. Large areas of the east ignore Kiev and demand more autonomy or a referendum. And where’s Right Sector? Disarmed? Mobilising? Or beating up presidential candidates and demanding resignations in Kiev? Can’t think Yatsenyuk will be around for much longer: no power, no money, no support. A visit from the CIA head isn’t much comfort.

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Russia’s Game Plan in Donbass

Reprinted from Facebook (2018/02/14):

Quick piece I scribbled off for RIA:

First off, an elementary observation: Donbass is not Crimea.

Crimea features prominently in Russia’s historical memory, having undergone two epic sieges over two centuries. It was only given over to Ukraine as a pure formality, to mark 300 years since the Treaty of Pereyaslav that was to usher in Russo-Ukrainian unity, and the overwhelming majority of Crimeans have wanted back ever since Ukraine became an independent state. It hosted Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and Ukraine hadn’t shied from using it as a lever to extract more favorable gas terms from Russia. Finally, though it needs major investments to lift it up to the level of neighboring Krasnodar, once that happens it can be reasonably expected that it will stop being a net drain on the budget and will become the major tourism center for all Russia that it was during the Soviet era.

Donbass has no such significance in the Russian cultural imagination – one doubts that a majority of Russians can find Lugansk, let alone Sloviansk, on a map. It was always part of Ukraine, or to be more precise, Novorossiya – though separatism is not entirely foreign to it (recall the short-lived Donetsk–Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic). Though it is nominally rich, the coal mines – the mainstay of Donetsk’s economy – are antiquated, and unlikely to survive far into the future; and in any case, they are not much use shorn from the neighboring industrial powerhouses of Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Poltava, where separatist sentiment is much more subdued relative to the Donbass. Though the latter provinces might support a federal Ukraine, they will almost certainly be very much against joining Russia outright. And Russia itself doesn’t need the Donbass, especially by itself.

Now, bearing this in mind, I will draw two conclusions:

1) Any help or coordination that Russia provides to the separatist militias in Donbass and other cities in the east isn’t a prelude any unification, as in Crimea, but is meant to exert pressure on Kiev to agree to wide-ranging federalization. Ukraine was “lost” to the Eurasian Union when the Maidan overthrew Yanukovych in their coup. The plan now is to win at least half of it back.

2) Short of truly massive bloodletting on the part of the Kiev regime – and I do not think it will come to that, though I have learned not to be surprised to the downside by those folks – the Russian Army will NOT intervene. The ball will be in Kiev’s court. It can either leave the separatists in control, and they will proceed to carry out referendums that Russia could then exploit to cajole Kiev into federalization. Or it will – inevitably, violently – try to wipe out the “terrorists,” which will totally alienate eastern populations that are already very much unhappy with it. Given the mass defections to the separatist cause amongst the eastern siloviki, and the fact that Kiev can only truly rely upon Western Ukrainian units, the chances of success are low. If it were to pursue this route, it may well truly get a civil war on its hands, as historical Novorossiya rises up against the regime.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

Russia Sees Ukraine’s Future in the Past

Kommersant found out why Moscow insists to return to the agreement, signed on February 21st

Original article here

Elena Tsjernenko, Kommersant, 05/03/2014

Translation by Nils van der Vegte

KMO_088197_176912_1_t218_212649

 

Фото: Zoubeir Souissi / Reuters

Yesterday, in Madrid, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed the events in Ukraine with the `Minister` of Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Catherine Ashton. Lavrov told Ashton that Moscow is not going to change its policy and criticized the EU and America for the failure of the previous agreements. A Russian diplomatic source called `B` confirmed: The Kremlin convinced Yanukovich to sign the now defunct agreement. Reporting from Madrid with more details is Elena Tsjernenko. 

The meeting the foreign ministers began in a tense atmosphere. Lavrov talked to Ashton at the residence of the Russian Ambassador in Madrid and offered her a plate with biscuits on it: `The biscuits are, of course, not from Maidan , but still`. Ashton refused: `I have never eaten cookies in my life` she said. There was an awkward pause after this. `It looks beautiful here`, Ashton said, trying to lighten the mood. `Yes, our ambassador has earned the right to work in such a place`, the Russian minister said but could not resist taunting Ashton: `Unlike some, we appoint people on merit, not on political beliefs.` He clearly hinted at the new government in Ukraine. Ashton started to objecting but then asked the press to leave the room.

The sarcastic remarks of Lavrov reflect the mood in Moscow, which now clearly harbors a grudge against Brussels. Not only in connection with the announcement of sanctions but also of events that transpired much earlier. A Russian diplomatic source confirmed the statement by Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski that it was Vladimir Putin who, during a telephone conversation on february the 21st, convinced Yanukovich to make consessions to the opposition. According to this source, Vladimir Putin urged Yanukovich to abbandon plans for a state of emergency and begin negotiations with the opposition to stop the bloodshed.

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