HIATUS

I am going to pause this site and my other activities for a while until I see how things break out.

What was a post-retirement hobby – a continuation of my job of trying to figure out what was happening in Russia – has now led to accusations of being a Russian agent of disinformation.

Deviation from the approved narrative is to risk, at best, being accused of sowing disinformation and, at worst, of treason.

I’m too old for this.

WHAT I GOT WRONG AND WHY

I did not expect Russia to invade Ukraine. I was quite definite about it several times: “Russia will not invade Ukraine” I said. I envisaged several possibilities but nothing like what we have seen in the last weeks. My argument was based on the assumption that Moscow did not want to take ownership of, in Åslund’s words, “the poorest country in Europe“. I still do not think that it does – I believe that Moscow wants a neutral and de-nazified Ukraine that is a buffer between it and NATO. I am also coming to believe that Novorossiya, more or less in its historical borders as formed by Katherine when recovered from the Ottomans, will be independent. The chance that it would remain part of Ukraine has probably passed. As I wrote in 2014 “In short, the West broke Ukraine, it now owns it. Or, to put it more precisely, it owns that part that Moscow doesn’t want. And what part that is is entirely up to Moscow to choose“. Moscow is choosing now.

So why was I wrong? What did I miss?

I believe I missed three things – two I didn’t know about and one that I did but did not properly weigh. These are: the nuclear weapons issue, the planned strike on LDNR and the biolabs.

At the Munich Conference, Ukraine President Zelensky alluded to the possibility that Ukraine might make nuclear weapons. There is a widespread belief that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons after the breakup of the USSR but that is nonsense. Yes, some of the USSR’s nuclear weapons were based in the Ukrainian SSR, but they were no more under Kiev’s control than the American ICBMs in Montana are controlled by the state government in Helena. The West was delighted when Moscow undertook responsibility for the USSR’s nuclear weapons just as it was delighted when Moscow undertook to give Russian citizenship to any Soviet citizen left over, to move all USSR weapons and troops out of Eastern Europe and take on the USSR’s debts. Imagine if Moscow had said that it would only take on the RSFSR’s share (about half) of these things and Moldova, for example, should be responsible for its share. It was later that Moscow’s acceptance was re-purposed into accusations – we (and I well remember it) were very relieved at the time: no abandoned nuclear bombs or missiles, leftover weapons, ownerless armed soldiers, unpaid debts, people without citizenship. So Ukraine never “had” nuclear weapons. But Zelensky’s raising the possibility was seen in Moscow as a real threat: if not a fully functioning nuclear weapon, then surely a dirty bomb could have been constructed – there’s plenty of radioactive material at Chernobyl after all and Ukraine inherited a stock of Tochka missiles. So that was a factor. Whether Azarov’s assertion that NATO was actually planning such a thing is true or not, Moscow could not afford the possibility. Putin himself mentioned this as a factor.

The second reason for the attack was the assessment– and some documents have been said to have been discovered – that Kiev was planning an assault on LDNR in March. Definite proof has not yet surfaced but the fact that the bulk of the Ukraine Armed Forces were positioned to attack LDNR rather than to defend Ukraine’s borders is suggestive. Observing this, Moscow evidently decided on a pre-emptive strike. Putin has mentioned this as a factor.

I knew there were a large number of US biolabs around the world – indeed the whole world is now aware of the one in Wuhan and I think I was generally aware that there were some in Ukraine. In this respect the investigative reporting of Dilyana Gaytandzhieva is essential reading. A “conspiracy theory” only a week or so ago, none other than Nuland herself has admitted their existence. The story has therefore morphed from conspiracy theory, through a few benign labs to the Russians might make an attack with dangerous materials from them. I remembered the revelation some years ago that the US military had been collecting DNA samples of Russians. But I didn’t put these fragments together. How big an issue this actually was we should find out: documents are said to have been captured. Putin has referred to this issue.

So there are three reasons for an attack now: a pre-emptive attack to stop the possibility of nuclear or biological attacks and to protect LDNR. It is now evident that the “ultimatum” was a last chance: had Washington, the actual power behind the scenes, seriously addressed Moscow’s concerns – NATO membership for Ukraine and forcing Kiev to follow the Minsk Agreements – there would be no war today. Moscow evidently decided on Plan B sometime towards the end of 2021 and began preparations.

Then, as the war progressed, I forgot Clausewitz’ famous dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means and over-estimated the speed of developments. At the start, Putin put out the aims: de-nazification, disarming and no NATO. The first to be accomplished by killing them and by trials and exposure of the survivors, the second aim is mostly completed and the third has not yet happened (although Zelensky periodically hints at it). These aims can be achieved by violence or by negotiation (aided by violence – the “other means”). The Russian operation will continue until all three are accomplished. I do not foresee Russian troops advancing much into Western Ukraine: let NATO, Poland especially, have the joy of dealing with Galicia.

But, at the end of the day, there will still be something called Ukraine and plenty of Ukrainians next door to Russia. Moscow prefers that these Ukrainians not hate them and that requires careful and cautious movement and the least number of widows and orphans. Therefore, the first week was fast moving but since then there have been many pauses for talks – without much result as far as we know – pauses for humanitarian corridors and local ceasefires. As Colonel Macgregor says, the Russians are trying to minimise civilian casualties.

Russian forces have a good deal of experience in this sort of thing from Syria and we see the slow encirclement of cities and military deployments always with exit routes to allow civilians (and combatants who have lost their will to fight) to get out of the way. The Chechens in particular are skilled at this. (And not least because of their experience of fighting Russia in the First Chechen War. And who would have expected that turn of events?) Larry Johnson puts Russia’s advances in context here.

Therefore the military operation is in service to the politics and is slower than it would be if only destruction were the aim.

RUSSIA UKRAINE 2

TACTICS, STRATEGY AND OPERATIONS

So far the Russian military operation in Ukraine has been a reconnaissance in force preceded by the destruction of the supplies and headquarters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces by standoff weapons. The object being to suss out where the Ukrainian forces are, to surround them, to check existing Russian intelligence against reality and, at the same time, destroy known headquarters, air and naval assets, supplies and ammunition depots. And, perhaps, there was the hope that the speed and success (Russian/LDPR forces dominated an area of Ukraine about the size of the United Kingdom in the first week) would force an early end (aka recognition of reality).

At the moment they are readying for the next phase. The long column that so obsessed the “experts” on CNN is the preparation for the next phase. And that is this: “You didn’t get the hint, so now we have to hit you”. The fact that the column has been sitting there indicates that the Russians know they have complete air superiority. Secondly it is a message to the Ukrainian armed forces that it’s over, give up. (And one should never forget that the Russians/Soviets have always been the best at strategic deception, so who knows what’s actually there versus what the images show?)

As far as I can see they’ve created three cauldrons (encirclements). Probably the most important one is the one around Mariupol where the main concentration of Azov, the principal nazi force, is. Another is being established around the main concentration of the Ukrainian Armed Forces facing LDPR. And there appears to be another developing to the east of Kiev. A super cauldron of all three is visible. The nazis will be exterminated; the ordinary Ukrainian soldier will be allowed to go home. The nightmare question is how many ordinary Ukrainians will be free to choose.

The dilemma for the Russians is city fighting. They do not want to have a Raqqa in which every building is destroyed, every person killed and solitudinem is declared to be pax. They know that at the end of the day there will still be Ukrainians and they will want them to be friends: Washington can create solitudes far away, but Moscow cannot create them nearby. This greatly complicates their problem when they try to clear the nazis out of Mariupol knowing that the nazis are using the city’s people as hostages. The same problem exists, to a lesser degree, in the other cities of Novorossiya. My guess is they will surround most cities and hope that Zelinsky & Co come to their senses. But I fear that the Mariupol battle will be horrible.

There are some slight indications, on Day 8, that Ukrainian negotiators are realising that neutrality is something they have to agree to. I also see the realisation creeping up on the American side.

The ultimate Russian aim is not visible. By this I mean the ultimate strategic aim; we know what the grand strategic aim is. Are the Russians planning to create a Novorossiya which will be independent or are they aiming to create a Novorossiya which will be a bargaining chip with rump Ukraine? I think the answer depends on what Zelinsky and Kiev (and the locals) decide. In about a week’s time, an independent Novorossiya will exist and Russia will continue to have the hammer.

I would expect large-scale surrenders of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to begin in the next 24/48 hours (Chechen forces already claim one and have an impressive collection of “trophies” to prove it). A significant proportion of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is now surrounded and, as is usual (vide Sun Tsu) the Russians have left them an exit.

GRAND STRATEGY

The impotence of the EU and NATO is clear to everyone (Well, OK, not anyone on CNN, or in the US Congress or in the halls of power in the West. But they are not the whole world). In this respect, I recommend watching Riyadh – Abdul Aziz was very good at seeing how the wind blew and one can assume his descendents are too.

The 97, or whatever they were, fighter planes that were excitedly announced, are obviously not coming. The no fly zone can’t be “declared”. The Chechens have picked up a lot of MANPADs that NATO supplied. All that NATO support will get you is destruction when you fight the war it suckered you into and an extra special Christmas card when you’re defeated and ruined.

We are seeing the collapse of post Cold War triumphalism, “end of history”, “unilateralism” and all the rest of it. Reality is biting, and biting hard. All you have to do is watch CNN’s parade of talking heads and “experts” speculating about how crazy Putin is: they don’t understand, therefore he must be nuts. For the West, as it has been, it’s over. The confusion, the bullshit, the boasting, the hysteria, the bans: the West has nothing left in the locker. Pour Russian vodka down the toilet, fire a singer and director, change the name of a drink or a salad, ban cats or trees, sanction a Russian plutocrat and steal his yacht, wear a blue and yellow t-shirt. Pathetic. And don’t, under any circumstances, allow a Russian outlet to tempt the sheeple with “disinformation”. Just like the USSR but stupider. And who thought stupider was even possible?

Judo is about deception and using the opponent’s strength against him. Putin, the judoka, has judoed the West into suicide. Put your money in our banks, we can confiscate it; put your assets in our territory, we can steal them; use our money and we can cancel it; put your yacht in our harbour, we can pirate it; put your gold in our vault, we can grab it. That is a lesson that will resound around the world. A naked illustration that the “rules-based international order” is simply that we make the rules and order you to obey them. In 2 or 3 weeks everybody in the world who is on the potential Western hit list will have moved his assets out of the reach of the West. Xi will permit himself a small smile.

As to Western sanctions against Russia, I think there’s a very simple answer to that: last week 1000 cubic metres of gas cost $1,000; today it’s over twice that. Next week it certainly won’t be cheaper. Ditto for aluminum, potash, titanium, wheat. Russian airlines lease their planes; now what? Russian rocket motors. What the people in the West do not understand is the ruble is the currency the Russians use inside the country but the price of oil and gas is the Russian currency outside the country. I am astounded at the stupidity: they’re cutting their own throats and destroying their own economies.

Russia sits back and laughs: fly into space on your own broomstick.

The world order has changed. Week Two.

RUSSIA UKRAINE 1

I’m surprised both of the size of the operation and the type of operation. While I did expect standoff destruction of the nazi units and considered the possibility of standoff destruction of Ukrainian military assets I did not expect to see troops on the ground other than a few Spetsnaz. The operation is much, much more than I expected. Putin & Co surprised me too.

Had I been at home I would have read Putin’s speech earlier and understood sooner. What he is talking about is what the Soviet Union tried to do from 1933 onwards: namely to stop Hitler before he got started. This time Russia is able to do it by itself. In other words, Putin feels that he is making a pre-emptive attack to stop June 1941. This is very serious indeed and indicates that the Russians are going to keep going until they feel that they can safely stop.

I believe that I am starting to see the outline of what they’re trying to do. Bear in mind that the aims to de-militarize and to de-nazify are rather large. I believe Putin and Company have decided to do them thoroughly and that is the reason for the troops on the ground.

At the large end, the grand strategy, is the destruction of  NATO  and the so-called New World Order. Scott Ritter has explained this in his piece. The “new” new world order will be that as described in the joint Chinese-Russian statement I have discussed elsewhere.

It will be obvious that NATO is useless and its friendship worthless. In fact, NATO/Western support is dangerous because it makes you think you have something when you actually have nothing. In a week it will be clear to all who can think that Washington and its minions cared nothing for Ukrainians – they were a sharp stick to poke the Bear with. Many will notice.

At the next level down, the strategy, the aim is to make the Kiev government an offer it can’t refuse. Essentially the demand will be, as I believe Lavrov has outlined, a Ukraine that is neutral, the nazis removed from power, and with a serious degree of autonomy given to its many minorities. Failing that, I think we will see Novorossiya as an independent force and Ukraine subjected to periodic winnowings. On a more positive note, this would allow Zelinsky to become the president he was actually elected to be. Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that the Ukrainian Declaration of Independence states that it should be a neutral country. The desire to get into NATO is the result of Nuland’s 5 billion dollars of  “democracy assistance”.

Moving down to the operational level, I believe Mariupol is going to become very important. First it appears to be the main nest of Azov which is the most powerful nazi grouping. Second, with Russian forces coming from the east, LDPR forces coming from the west and Russian forces coming in the rear, there is the opportunity to form a cauldron. The forces trapped inside the cauldron (котёл) will be running short of supplies, have no air cover and have their command-and-control seriously degraded; they can be left to come to their senses and take the offer of putting down their weapons and going home.

Putin in his most recent statement has made it clear that he regards the Ukrainians as the victims of a coup and therefore innocent of the crimes. One would expect Russian intelligence to have a very good appreciation of who supports them and who does not.

Being in a hotel, I have the opportunity to waste my time watching CNN. I am truly fascinated by how completely clueless the so-called experts, generals, politicians, that they have on are about this. They have no understanding of the Russian motives, they have no conception of what is actually going on, and they can’t see what is in front of their faces. My personal favourite is the US senator that says Russia is running out of food because it’s a communist country and therefore needs to conquer more agricultural land. This is a man whose office is bigger than your house, has a staff of dozens with a huge budget and that’s what he thinks is going on.

The new new world order was born two days ago.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 14 FEBRUARY 2022

UKRAINE. I see no reason to change what I wrote in 2014: “Why Russia Hasn’t and Won’t Invade Ukraine” except to add that Ukraine has become even more ruined. But I do smell preparations for some sort of false flag event or goading the always excitable nazis to do something to provoke a reaction from Russia. (Note the Atlantic Council preparing the information battle space here: Why Azov should not be designated a foreign terrorist organization.). I’m sure Russian intelligence is aware of everything and ready. I would therefore not be surprised to see Russian action with stand-off weapons to obliterate the nazi formations and possibly, depending on the extent of the provocation and involvement of forces that Kiev actually controls, rear area Ukrainian military or leadership targets. The destruction of the military power of the nazi elements in Ukraine will change the power relationships there; all the boilerplate about how they don’t get many votes ignores the reality that they have lots of guns (tanks too). Take away their guns – and them – and it will be very different. A probable result is a series of revolts in Novorossiya and the collapse of any pretence of central power. In short: provocation leads to Russian response leads to delamination of Ukraine; probably pretty quickly. Again, I expect Russia to have all sorts of things prepared. On the other hand, no provocation or false flag and things will limp on. If there is one thing we should have learned in the last twenty years it’s that the Russian team is much, much more competent than the Western team. But – and this is news to most Western “experts” – the Putin Team’s primary job is looking after Russia, not saving Ukrainians from their nightmare; that they must do themselves. We reach the next stage in the destruction of Ukraine begun because Washington thought it could ignore The First Rule of Ukraine (although its Ambassador warned it.)

POTENTIAL SURPRISE. I don’t think Zelinsky’s stupid. He must realise that his “friends” are not his friends: “I think there’s too much out there about a full-scale war from Russia, and people are even naming dates. The best friend for our enemies is panic in our country, and all this information only creates panic, it doesn’t help us.” Is he starting to understand that there is only one player whose word he can trust? If he does, everything suddenly turns upside down.

READING. I can’t think of a better single source explanation of what’s going on in and around Ukraine than this by Scott Ritter: “The Ultimate End of NATO“. Pass it to people who are starting to question the organs of state propaganda.

RUSSIA/CHINA. The Russia-China manifesto is, I think, a very important statement. I cover some of the things that struck me.

PORTENTS OF THE END. Quite a few aren’t there? Truckers all over the place. China-Russia manifesto. Ukraine. The exposure of the futility of NATO and the so-called Rules-Based International Order. Incompetence of the Western ruling class. Inflation is gathering. Mysterious military accidents.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

OBSERVATIONS ON THE RUSSIA CHINA STATEMENT

“Joint Statement of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China on International Relations Entering a New Era and lobal Sustainable Development” 4 February 2022. (English) (Russian).

This document is the grand strategic manifesto of a new world order and there is much more to be said about it than what follows. I believe that 4 February 2022 will be remembered as the proclamation of a new disposition of world power and relationships.

It is a truly new order of things, not the old “new world order” which was based on US supremacy. And it is most certainly not the so-called Rules-Based International Order in which one side makes up the rules, breaks them when it wants to and orders everyone else to obey. (A perfect example of the mutability of the “rules” is that gay rights are very important in Russia but not at all in Washington’s new “major ally” of Qatar.) The old “new world order” was always about making them conform to us: “The foremost goal of US strategy should be to cause China’s ruling elites to conclude that it is in China’s best interests to continue operating within the US-led liberal international order…”

The Russian-Chinese document speaks much of “democracy” but it’s a different vision than the one common in the West. The West today is focussed on the process of democracy – was the voting up to acceptable standards? Did the opposition have a fair chance? were there enough candidates? was the advertising even-handed? were “administrative resources” used to shift the vote? and like questions. Never mind that the West is often hypocritical in its discussion – microscopes analyse the treatment of dissidents in Russia and but the house arrest and treason charges against opposition figures in Ukraine are ignored – these are the metrics used in the West’s assessment of whether a country is “democratic” or not. Now it may well be that fifty or sixty years ago concentrating on the process of democracy was appropriate but it is very questionable whether it is today. This one graph, showing the relationship between productivity and wages and compensation shows that all is not well. Up until the late 1970s, the two curves kept step with each other – the “rising tide” was indeed lifting all boats. Afterwards, however, they diverge until today there is a considerable gap between the two “Productivity has grown 3.5x as much as pay”. The rising tide is floating only a few super yachts. The richest one percent owned six times as much as the bottom fifty percent in 1989, now it’s 15 times as much. A Princeton University study in 2014 concluded “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose“. These findings suggest that, however good the process may be, the δεμος does not have much κρατος.

The Russian-Chinese document speaks of the results of democracy.

The sides believe that democracy is a means of citizens’ participation in the government of their country with the view to improving the well-being of population and implementing the principle of popular government.

Note the purpose: “improving the well-being of population”. Whatever one may say about the process of the governance of China or Russia, no one can doubt that the well-being of the population has mightily improved in both countries. We shall see for the future how this holds up but the document describes a different approach to democracy: don’t concentrate on the process and assume the results will follow – which they are not doing in the USA in particular and the West in general – but instead never mind the process, ask whether the are results desirable? Throughout the document – fifty times – we see the word “development” (“развитие” in the Russian version).

The sides believe that peace, development and cooperation lie at the core of the modern international system.

A world in which everyone has a chance to get rich. And who can doubt that the government in Beijing knows how to do that? We will see, in the coming world competition of ideas, which approach is more attractive and successful.

A second theme, repeated throughout the document is that all countries are equal and they have their own ways of doing things, it is their right to do this, no one may preach to them and no one may interfere with them.

The sides call for the establishment of a new kind of relationship between world powers on the basis of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and mutually beneficial cooperation.

This is what might be called a descriptive take on the world rather than the prescriptive take more common in the West. To explain what I mean, let us consider Soviet-Polish relations. Although it’s very unfashionable to admit it today, Warsaw, as the first country to form a non-aggression pact with Hitler’s Germany and by its refusal to allow Soviet troops into its territory to fight Germany, played a consequential role in the outbreak of the war. Poland suffered terribly, losing 20-25% of its population and was liberated by the Soviet Army after immense destruction. Stalin then designed a Poland which, for the first time in its long history, included all of the historical Polish lands and no irredentist minorities. Then imposed the blessing – or so Moscow saw it – of socialism and transformed Poland into a loyal ally of the USSR. Except that, the moment it became clear that the tanks weren’t coming, Poland quit the alliance, threw off socialism and turned to NATO and the EU. All the “fraternal, socialist, ally” rhetoric turned out to be empty declarations of people compelled to say them. In other words, the lesson is that you can’t change a country except temporarily by force or very slowly over a very long time. Moscow has learned this lesson. Hence my use of the world “descriptive” – countries, quite simply, are what they are and outsiders can’t change them; therefore outsiders have to live with them. It’s that simple: the prescriptive notion – we have the truth and you should follow it (we must make Beijing follow the “US-led liberal international order”) simply can’t be done. Therefore, the emphasis throughout the document that countries are as they are and are to be treated as equals is firmly based on reality. You can’t make a particular country go along with your notions of propriety but you still have to deal with it: treat it as it is. The West has long lost sight of this despite its numerous failures of prescription: even if the Western ideas actually were “better”, you can’t bomb Afghans into accepting them. Therefore, this position in the document is quite simply realistic and practical.

I have said before that Russia, in the communist days, was an “exceptionalist state” and so was China under Mao. They then regarded themselves as a pattern for others to follow – a pattern that others should follow – and the USSR imposed that pattern on many of its neighbours. Both Beijing and Moscow have learned that exceptionalism is a route to failure. Therefore, what I am calling a “descriptive” approach to world variety is the result of the failure of trying a prescriptive approach. This is not, therefore, a point of view adopted to gull people into acquiescence, it is one that is based on cold, bitter experience. It is a lesson that Washington has not yet learned: exceptionalism is a road to a blind alley, as Putin put it a quarter century ago. It is, in fact, something the West should remember: “Westphalianism” is the principle of cuius regio, eius religio adopted after Europeans had torn themselves apart trying to impose religion on each other. Not uniformity, but variety. The China-Russia manifesto is rooted on a truth that not only they, but Europe as a whole, have learned the hard way.

The Chinese-Russia relationship is described as follows:

They reaffirm that the new inter-State relations between Russia and China are superior to political and military alliances of the Cold War era. Friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ”forbidden“ areas of cooperation, strengthening of bilateral strategic cooperation is neither aimed against third countries nor affected by the changing international environment and circumstantial changes in third countries.

Time will show just what is meant by this but it is clear that it is a relationship both deep and wide. A complete commonality of interest which is not uniformity of interest. (It will be amusing to watch Western “experts” fail to get that distinction.) And not one to be easily split apart as some naïve people in Washington think. They trust each other and neither trusts Washington.

Finally, the new world order that they are calling for is described as:

The sides reiterate the need for consolidation, not division of the international community, the need for cooperation, not confrontation. The sides oppose the return of international relations to the state of confrontation between major powers, when the weak fall prey to the strong. The sides intend to resist attempts to substitute universally recognized formats and mechanisms that are consistent with international law for rules elaborated in private by certain nations or blocs of nations…

A new world order for all, not just those who accept “the better way”.

I would expect, as details are filled in at the “strategic” and “operational” level, that this “grand strategic vision” will prove to be widely attractive across the globe. Washington and its allies will, no doubt, concentrate on the many criticisms of its behaviour, but the manifesto is positive in tone.

People are attracted to success and the West doesn’t project that any more.

WHAT WILL BERLIN DO?

Answer to question from Sputnik. Actually made it this time.

Well, Russia is not going to “invade Ukraine” if for no other reason than it doesn’t want to be stuck with the bill. 

But it will smash Ukrainian forces if they invade the LDNR.

Where does this leave Berlin? Would that count as an “invasion”? An issue worth cutting the nose off to spite the face? Cancelling Nord Stream will only cost Russia money — and it has plenty of that — but it will really hurt Germany and US LNG cannot make up the shortfall.

Germany in particular and Europe in general are being forced to face a problem that they don’t want to face. And that is that subservience to Washington will be their ruin. 

Russia’s ultimatum has pushed them to this choice.

I know where their best interest lies but I don’t know what they will do — obedience to Washington  is hard-wired into Germany’s structures. 

Maybe Paris, by returning to de Gaulle’s policy, can get them out of the mess, but that’s two hypotheticals at once.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 3 FEBRUARY 2022

MY LATEST WRITINGS. THE WEST LEAVES MUMMY’S BASEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer