World Tension: Rising

Just a collection of completely random, not very important news snippets.

(1) Diplomats’ Dissent Bolsters Calls for U.S. Assault on Assad:

For now, the Obama administration seems inclined to agree. A U.S. official who did not sign the memo but read it told Foreign Policy that the document was unlikely to influence Oval Office policy due to the relatively low rank of the signatories. None of the officials have reached the level of assistant secretary and some are not directly involved in Syria issues on a daily basis — though the list does include the consul general in Istanbul and a Syria desk officer.

The Obama administration has also repeatedly made clear that it believes strikes would merely add to the bloodshed without improving the political situation on the ground, while potentially getting ensnared in a decades-long conflict. Despite stinging criticisms from Arab and European allies, Obama has expressed no regrets about his handling of Syria in public comments and there was no sign Friday that the White House was ready to radically alter its strategy or tactics.

In a briefing with reporters on Air Force One, White House Deputy Secretary Jennifer Friedman said Obama “has been clear and continues to be clear that he doesn’t see a military solution to the crisis in Syria.”

“That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be discussions or a variety of conversations and a variety of opinions,” she added, “but that fundamental principle still remains.”

Still, Robert Ford, the former ambassador to Syria who resigned in protest over White House policy, said the dissent shows that “there’s a very broad consensus among working-level people that are trying to address different pieces of the Syria crisis that … the policy is not succeeding and will not succeed, and that the administration needs to change course.” He noted that it is “remarkable” to see 51 signatures on a cable that rarely gets more than four. {AK: Remarkable indeed – assuming this protest was really as “grassroots” as it is implied to be}

The memo is also a vivid reminder that Secretary of State John Kerry and the diplomats who work for him have consistently pushed for a more militaristic approach to the conflict than their colleagues at the Pentagon. During closed-door meetings in the past year and a half, Kerry has repeatedly pushed Obama to launch airstrikes at Syrian government targets — calls the White House rejected. His pleas were so routine that Obama reportedly announced at a National Security Council meeting last December that only the defense secretary would be allowed to offer proposals for military strikes.

Obama and Kerry clashed in 2013 when the president pulled back at the last moment from threatened military strikes against the Assad regime over its use of chemical weapons, even though Obama had declared a “red line” over the issue. Kerry’s aides were miffed because the secretary of state just a few days earlier had given a muscular speech virtually promising a military response to Assad’s use of the weapons.

The protest memo appeared aimed not at the secretary of state but at the president and his aides who have remained steadfastly opposed to any direct confrontation with the Assad regime.

zhuchkovsky-no-putinsliv(2) There will be no “Putinsliv” in Donbass.

Morale amongst the NAF (Novorossiyan Armed Forces) tends to fluctuate amidst the flurry of contradictory signals the Russian official state tends to give them: Sometimes extending their full support, at other times extraditing NVF fighters to Ukraine and making noises about maybe pushing them all back into Ukraine for “humanitarian” reasons (these episodes tend to coincide with EU votes on the renewal of sanctions; speaking of which, they are 99% certain to be extended on Jun 28-29).

Well, a day ago Alexander Zhuchkovsky, an “insider” in the NVF and a generally reliable source, posted a most intriguing message:

Today I received an almost 100% guarantee that Donbass will not be given up to Ukraine (I say “almost” because Donbass will be surrendered in the case of a liberal coup in Russia, but I don’t think that will happen).

What kind of guarantee this is, I cannot say, but I write this post so that my readers and commentators could stop endlessly recycling this trope about the imminent return of Donbass with a nudge from Russia. All scaremongering about this topic will be see as either idiocy or deliberate intimidation of LDNR residents.

This does not imply that Donbass will soon be in for a bright future, and that one has to unconditionally approve all aspects of Russia’s policy towards Ukraine/LDNR. Unfortunately, today’s fragile and uncertain condition can well last for a long time yet, and from Russia we may once more hear outrageous claims that are at odds with our aspirations.

But that there will be no return of today’s LDNR territories into Ukraine under any conditions (except a hypothetical change in power in Russia) is an absolute, 100% certainty. I call on colleagues to bear this in mind, and opponents to live with this.

With this in mind in our rhetoric and our action we must actively propound the only possible and desirable solution – the incorporation of Donbass into Russia (at a minimum, at maximum – the return of all Novorossiya, which at this stage is a possibility that also cannot be excluded).

(3) RAND releases study calling for the rotation of 30,000 NATO troops into the Baltic states (which is the number that it calculates would be sufficient to deter, and if necessary hold up long enough, a Russian attack). This comes in tandem with the largest NATO exercises in Eastern Europe to date. Its pretty clear now that what little remained of the old American guarantees to the Soviet Union on NATO expansion are dead. Rest in peace, George Kennan. (We will see whether all this is more bark or bite during the Warsaw NATO summit on July 9).

(4) NATO explicitly adds the cyber realm to the domain of conflicts where Article 5 can be invoked. (In recent days, the DNC servers were “allegedly” hacked by Russians with state support).

(5) Russia begins bombing US-backed rebels in Syria (“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia isn’t entirely certain who it’s bombing in Syria because “moderate” forces are mixed in with “terrorists.””)

(6) The PNAC crowd have made their fealty to Hillary Clinton even more resoundingly clear – a candidate who unlike Obama will certainly be no break on their regime change ambitions.

(7) Meanwhile, China and Russia continue to draw closer, with Putin at the ongoing Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum even suggesting a Eurasian economic partnership.

This is not to suggest all these are interlinked, let alone part of some singular conspiracy, but the sheer mass of these largely under the shadows developments does suggest there’s a lot of intense reshuffling of the chess pieces going on behind the scenes.

For instance, Russia’s intervention in Syria has been very successful to date, but its forces there are very vulnerable. This will become germane if Neocons Inc. come to power again – establishing a “no fly zone” over Syria is fraught with the danger of escalation, considering the presence of the Russian Air Force. But whereas Russia is completely outclassed by NATO in that theater, it has local dominance in the Baltics. Add two and two. As such one possible way of looking at the RAND proposal is as a ploy to annul Russia’s range of feasible responses to getting squeezed out of Syria.

But where does the pressure then get redirected? It is of course a longshot, but maybe (2) is somewhat related.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Zhuchkovsky impresses me as someone who wouldn’t just make up having received some new and reliable information, but he isn’t revealing anything that anyone with brains in his head hadn’t figured out long ago.

  2. michael dr says

    What happens if the US attack a Syrian establishment and Syrian and / or Russian forces bring down a US plane? WW3 or a big US climb down?

  3. anonymous says

    What is with this obsession about Syria? Some of these people just can’t let go. The people of Syria have suffered enough yet here we have a group of people whose solution is, guess what, to throw some more bombs around. Human life means nothing to these fat cat war mongers who themselves live high on the hog far away from any danger. What is it that these people want, anyway? My tax money could be used to do us some good here at home yet we have no choice in the matter.

  4. (1) says very good things about the O man. The Nobel people weren’t entirely wrong.

  5. What happens if the US attack a Syrian establishment and Syrian and / or Russian forces bring down a US plane? WW3 or a big US climb down?

    US is already in a downward spiral militarily, it lost pretty much every war it fought since 2003 and with it lost a large portion of its soft power and is beginning to starve for resources. Add here an election year and an abysmal foreign policy record by Obama and his hacks and there you go–it is all about looking tough or providing “leadership”. This can escalate within conventional framework. Having said all that–during Cuban missile crisis USSR actually did shoot down US planes but then it is ridiculous to compare JFK–a WW II veteran and a serious power politician– to Obama, different political leagues. US is desperate for some military “success” which could be spun into political capital before elections. Judging by absolutely lunatic statements coming from US political and even military leadership–the situation is bad for the US. So, the possibility to do a stupid thing is there, but how probable is this? This is a one billion dollar question. US is receding and some people will be very desperate to do an unthinkable. I will, however, go on the limb here and will say that for now it is mostly about posturing, hopefully it will remain so.

  6. But whereas Russia is completely outclassed by NATO in that theater

    Russia is not outclassed at that theater for a single strategic reason–she can do there what US cannot–namely deploy within 48 hours 2-3 paratroop divisions. That will be Game Over very fast. One may argue that Putin said only about VKS and, of course, some will use ignorant “New Afghanistan” cliche, reality of such deployment, however, will be very different. In the end, paratroops are officially Fast Reaction forces. This is classic Fleet In Being strategic factor, which should be rephrased as Pskov and Ivanovo Divisions In Being. I think US military people understand that.

  7. What is with this obsession about Syria?

    They have invested too much of their time on Syria and do not want to have failed there.

  8. They have invested too much of their time on Syria and do not want to have failed there.

    They already failed there in attaining their most important strategic objective–removing Assad. Assad is there to stay. Many people in State Dept. and Administration are literally hysterical because of that. And then comes the most, albeit unsaid, issue–comparison to Russia. Comparison is not only irresistible but warranted, that is why so many claims that “Russia wants to humiliate US and its military” are floating around. The only thing US can do now is to deny Russia other successes and if it takes support of “moderate” terrorists (aka “rebels”, aka unicorns) so be it. Behind Syria towers an unmitigated military and political disaster in Ukraine. It is all interconnected.

  9. They already failed there in attaining their most important strategic objective

    The was is not over yet.

  10. I guess Obama is the least war-like US president since Carter. There’s been a lot of war on his watch, but “within the regime” he seems to have always pushed for peace.

    Carter didn’t like killing people for religious reasons. I guess that one reason that Obama doesn’t like using ground troops is that some of them will be Black, and he knows that Blacks don’t get anything out of these wars. Also, he could be a bit of a secular humanist.

  11. The was is not over yet.

    Agree, but its dynamics changed completely.

  12. Carter didn’t like killing people for religious reasons.

    Carter is a graduate of US Naval Academy–it sort of factors in here. On the other hand, he had Zbig as his National Security Adviser and we all know how well that worked out.

  13. Add two and two. As such one possible way of looking at the RAND proposal is as a ploy to annul Russia’s range of feasible responses to getting squeezed out of Syria.

    The “quality” of American think-tankdom was demonstrated fully in Ukraine. If to consider violent coup in Kiev as irrational act on US part ( and the case could be made) it is one, however unsettling, thing. But if to consider US being a rational player in Ukraine, the grade for all those RANDs, AEIs, other think-tanks, can only be F. They couldn’t predict sh.t, couldn’t foresee it, and, in general, which is my long-standing contention–are ignorant on the subject. Why it is so, it is a very long and quite fascinating discussion. I will reiterate, it took all those Russia (and Ukraine) media, intelligence, what have you, “experts” about two months to notice that people of LDNR wore St. George ribbons. Prior to Debaltsevo resolution, about which any 11-year old kid in Russia and LDNR knew, Jane’s published (I believe it was by this moron Galeotti, I could be wrong) piece on upcoming strategic victory for Ukraine. 99% of US “experts” is a collection of ignorant hacks with “egos larger than cathedrals” (c) Al Pacino from Devil’s Advocate.

  14. Verymuchalive says

    Your colleague, the Saker, often refers to Russian diplomats’ disdain for their American counterparts. The latter are political hacks, whose sponsors’ money has paid for their posts. They are completely ignorant, not only of the areas they are paid to deal with, but also lacking in a wider understanding of life itself. Many have been on what Philip Giraldi called, mockingly, the Neocon Cursus Honorum.
    If the first story is true, then the Saker may well be right.

    Yet Mrs Merkel has come to see that Mr Putin’s antipathy to her stems from weakness rather than strength. In a storied encounter with the chancellor a decade ago, Mr Putin, aware of Mrs Merkel’s fear of dogs, brought his black Labrador into the room. Mrs Merkel froze; Mr Putin smirked. A fluent Russian-speaker brought up in East Germany, the chancellor understood Mr Putin’s language. “I understand why he has to do this—to prove he’s a man,” she told a group of reporters afterwards. “Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.” A logical contradiction can be lived with, long and sometimes happily, in real life, and that is what Germany is doing with the objectives of a political integration of Western Europe and a reunification of Germany; but it cannot be rationalised, and that is what Helmut Schmidt, as a working politician writing a book, attempted to do and failed. In the end, however, the contradiction has to get itself resolved in real life: one imperative drives out the other. My bet is that German reunification will drive out Western Political unification and the EEC: some day, I don’t know how, or when, I think we are going to get … Reunited Germany v an entente between the EEC (less West Germany) and the Warsaw powers.

  16. Verymuchalive says

    Brilliant research, Mr Sean. 10 out of 10.
    Putin has kept Labradors for years and probably thought: I’ll bring the least threatening dog breed on the planet to the meeting. She surely can’t be frightened of my Labrador?
    Stronger willed women leaders – one thinks Lady Thatcher or Golda Meir – would have concealed this weakness and overcame it.
    All it shows is how deeply disturbed this strange little women is. The fact that she became Germany’s Chancellor will be regarded as a national disgrace, if Germany survives.
    She is Albericha, the dwarf-woman who gave away Germany’s treasure, rather than protecting it. No, worse than that, she wants to GIVE GERMANY AWAY.
    The Powell quote shows his amazing prescience. The problem was he was never a national leader. Had he been, he would have founded his own party and many malignant changes might have been stopped in their tracks. Sadly, he was a maverick, one-man band.

  17. German_reader says

    Don’t see how your Enoch Powell quote is relevant today…are you one of those people who still are opposed to German reunification and obsess about the German peril? Seems rather anachronistic to me…in any case Germany itself is set to be permanently dismantled (but iirc you believe Merkel’s open borders lunacy is some sort of plot for German dominance…).
    And Merkel’s reaction to Putin’s dog just showed what a deeply flawed person she is…that dog may have been rather large, but was totally harmless.

  18. Vendetta says

    That’s just throwing away three crack divisions if they can’t keep them supplied…

  19. That’s just throwing away three crack divisions if they can’t keep them supplied…

    Deployment does imply opening supply lines both maritime and by air–this is how Russian contingent in Syria is supplied currently. Russia has even whole Logistic War College named after General Khrulev dedicated specifically to logistic issues. You may have seen hot girls marching at the Red Square on May 9th this year, they were from this College.

  20. That dog was like Putin, might seem threatening at first, but all he really wants is to be your friend.

  21. US president always plays the role of a “brake”, this is not unique to Obama. It comes with the role of a president.

    Obama has actually been very ineffective in reigning in some of the more adventurous policies pushed by people who – at least theoretically – report to him. He gets some credit for stopping outright madness few times – massive bombing of Syria or a no-fly zone, attack on Iran, joining Kiev in its civil war in the eastern Ukraine – but in general he has let stupid militarism to flourish.

    Watching him once gets a sense of a guy who wants out, who is stalling. He is a tragic figure who realized too late that his role is to manage the pre-existing policies, not to make them. A stronger person might had been more effective in having some impact. But as it is, Obama is a by-stander who occasionally delays bad stuff from happening. But that has been the traditional role for most Presidents for a long time.

  22. ivvenalis says

    I actually think that Obama is wise enough to notice that a bunch of State Department weenies telling him to bomb Syria and his generals telling him no speaks poorly of the former. That it’s happening is quite alarming however.

    I don’t think NATO has seven brigades (3x armored) to spare. The US itself currently has 30 combat brigades (9 armored) and another 36 support brigades (thanks Wiki). However, the US has increasingly moved from stationing ground forces permanently overseas in peaceful countries to rotating them from the US mainland using roughly the same system they were using to place units into combat in Iraqistan. As a result each unit they place overseas now requires two more units back in the US: one recovering from its recent rotation and one gearing up to go. “Stationing” 30,000 troops in the Baltics would actually require ~90,000 troops “earmarked” for there. That’s addition to those already rotating through Europe, which might be difficult to manage on top of the other rotations the Army is currently running in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. I guess feasibility depends on how many troops the NATO allies are willing to cough up. Probably not many based on recent history.

  23. OT: AK, there’s news on a subject you previously touched on;

  24. Duke of Qin says

    Then the Russian diplomats are being foolish. American ambassadors maybe ignorant political appointments who earned their positions via campaign contributions, but they generally made their money the old fashioned way by working for it in the private sector, so they are much more capable than they appear. They are generally innocents who merely want to enjoy the prestige of the office and their semi retirements. The only other source of the US diplomatic corps is much much worse. They are the Washington Nomenklatura who incestuously bounce from think tank to executive bureaucracy and back again who have never left the confines of the DC bubble in their adult lives or worked on anything productive beyond lobbying for the iron hand of the State. This is where your Victoria Nulands, Ash Carters, and 51 signatories come from. The self styled experts. Compared to them, a man whose professional life before foreign service consisted of breeding Arabian show horses is a marked improvement. For one, he is neither evil nor insane, and can at least share hobbies with his hosts.

  25. The Soviets could have rolled through Checkpoint Charlie and faced nothing but a token force in Berlin. They didn’t because wherever it started, any fighting against US forces would mean a global conflict against the world’s most powerful economy, which is a war that Russia could not hope to win.

  26. What are you talking about?

  27. Verymuchalive says

    I was relaying the Saker’s claim and you substantiate it. American diplomats, according to S, are ignorant Neocons or they ‘re just plain ignorant. The latter cannot restrain the former.

  28. another fred says

    A war of conquest against any of the major powers is most probably a war that no one wins because it would escalate to a full blown nuclear exchange very rapidly.

    I take it for granted that some time this century two (or more) of the lesser nuclear powers will go at it – in which case life will go on, but pushing the major powers to the brink is MADness.

    /I think I won!

  29. What are you talking about by saying what are you talking about regarding my reply to your comments about Nato and whether Russia is outclassed by it? Though nobler in the mind to ‘take up arms against against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them’; it would be ‘the way to dusty death’ for Russia.

  30. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent to nuclear war, but if they deter conventional armed conflict, then someone should have let the Soviets and Nato on it, before they (especially the USSR) built masses of planes and tanks at vast expense.

  31. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent to nuclear war, but if they deter conventional armed conflict, then someone should have let Russia and Nato on it, before they built masses of planes and tanks at vast expense.

    Dude, you really need to stop writing delirium on subject of which you have no a slightest clue.

  32. Verymuchalive says

    Do you think that the US would have nuked Japan at the end of the war if Japan had nuclear weapons.
    Not even Harry Truman, a gobshite on the face of humanity, would have considered it.

  33. The Cuba crisis was largely because Khrushchev was terrified that if Eisenhower/ JFK’s plan to give W. Germany nukes went ahead Khrushchev would soon be evacuating Moscow as the German army closed in to take it (as Stalin did). The USSR had nukes so there you are. They make not a bit of difference if both sides have them. The brink simpley does not exist,

    Powell and much more recently Mearshiemer were thinking in terms of a security issue for united Germany in which it would be a threat to other countries and therefor have to re-arm in self defence (the tragedy of great power politics) but no one understood that Germany could go the other way and virtually disarm, while still being protected by the US.

    For the first time in its existence Germany is cocooned within a friendly alliance and it has even dismantled civilian nuclear tech so as to completely harmless from a military point of view (nukes are needed to fight a conventional war against a nuclear power). Don’t believe all the rhetoric, Merkel has not come to a Copernican realisation, for her the world revolves around Germany and she is positioning it to lead an superstate, her explicitly racial immigration initiative was along the same lines as abandoning any nuke potential–demonstrating Germany is harmless. She is not proceeding by military means and laughs at Putin flexing his missiles. Germany is going to sacrifice and pay but at the end of it it will be supreme in the EU, and nothing Russia does to defend its current reduced spheres of interest will prevent it. Germany in the Western alliance lacks any motive to move on Russia, which will grow weaker as time goes on.

  34. Do you think that the US would have nuked Japan at the end of the war if Japan had nuclear weapons.

    I usually do not like “what if” scenarios when dealing with military issues since a lot (and I mean a lot) has to be considered–each small tweak produces a number of contingencies. But the simple answer is–Japan didn’t have long range strategic bomber, the only delivery system for that kind of weapon in 1945, United States did. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent to any conflict as defined by national military doctrine. Latest Russian military doctrine from December 2015 describes a number of nuclear options for conventional conflict, namely when there is a direct real danger to Russian State as a result of conventional actions of the enemy. So, this statement:


    is basically ignorant. Just to give you an example, if one-two US Navy’s CBGs are conventionally destroyed (which is today not only possibility but a fairly high probability) in peer-to-peer or peer-to-near-peer framework, not only it is possible but it is highly probable that US would consider the use of nuclear weapons. The same could be stated if the US Army sustains serious losses which can lead to a conventional defeat, say in Eastern European theater. In the end, MacArthur was dismissed by none other than Truman for being to eager to use nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are, first and foremost, deterrents against attempts on the state which possesses them. Mutually Assured Destruction is one of number of doctrines which grow from that.

  35. Sir, you have a brain salad in your head and, in fact, I am not answering you–this post is for those who read this thread. It is impossible to answer some bizarre mix of military and geopolitical ignorance with anything rational.

  36. Here is my explanation of why the US and the USSR waste a lot of money on tanks that would have been nuked within hours of a war starting . They lied when they said an invasion might be stopped by nukes. The US had no incentive to go nuclear in any situation because it would always win in the end. Kissinger was brought in to educate Reagan about nukes and Reagan was told never use nukes on a conventional attack. No first use was the policy at the highest levels during the cold war. Get this into your head, no one blows their brains out to avoid taking a beating. Invaded countries can come back. Glass parking lots can’t.

    Although the EU was supposed to provide a level playing field, that playing field has long been quietly tipped in Germany’s favor. Thus while the UK has scrupulously opened its markets to other nations (not least to Germany), Brussels has turned a blind eye to German protectionism. Even as the UK has incurred ever greater trade deficits, Germany has racked up ever greater surpluses. So much so that Germany last year enjoyed a current account surplus equal to 8.5 percent of national income. This was one of the best performances of any major nation in history – actually little short of astounding (Germany’s surplus was nearly as high in money terms as that of China, a mercantilist nation with more than fifteen times Germany’s population).