RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 16 SEPTEMBER 2021

EXERCISE. The Armed Forces hold big exercises every year, working their way around the compass. This year was West – Zapad. Back in the Day, every September saw big exercises in West Germany – REFORGER – in which formations drove around the countryside (I was on a couple myself and we just drove tanks anywhere we wanted to). The Russian ones, however, are generally restricted to exercise areas and, while they are said to involve, in this case, 200,000 troops, they count everyone involved in any way. But the alarmists make a big deal out of it – here’s can’t-find-Putin’s-speech Applebaum, for example. But they’re impressive nonetheless; two highlights this year: the night drop of a parachute battalion plus armoured vehicles and the appearance of some combat robots.

THEN AND NOW. There is a series of videos using Google Street view of Russian towns in 2010 and 2020. I mentioned Gelendzhik last time but here’s Perm, Sochi (booming, by the way), Arkhangelsk, Petrozavodsk. If you still believe the Western media’s rubbish about decaying Russia, give them a look: it’s not China, but it’s a lot of improvement.

HISTORY. Putin unveils a monument to Aleksandr Nevskiy. In the meeting room in the MoD in Moscow (where I’ve been a couple of times – maybe they meet somewhere else now) there are three decorative bas reliefs – 1941-45, 1812 and Nevskiy. The existential threat to Russia has always come from the West. Highly recommend Paul Robinson’s essay on the background and meaning of this.

NORD STREAM. The last pipe was welded on the 6th; apparently there are some legal details to be completed before the gas comes through. Kiev fulminates, Washington threatens. Meanwhile gas prices in Europe hit a record high.

INFLATION. At a five-year high – 6.7%. Food especially; but that’s a world-wide phenomenon.

NAVALNIY “POISONING”, John Helmer has much on how the story was created. (Still waiting for a Western “news” outlet that was insisting Putin wanted him dead to explain why he isn’t.)

DISEASE. Further evidence that Russia is thinking about biowar attacks: it is building a network of labs and testing facilities: “sanitary shield” they call it.

ELECTION INTERFERENCE. The US Ambassador was challenged to explain “irrefutable evidence” of interference in next Sunday’s election. (Video purporting to show observers coached to claim fraud.) As typical, the West will instantly condemn them; the object, as Korybko argues, being to block any attempts to better relations. This example shows how savagely such suggestions are beaten down and one can be sure that “yet-another-rigged-election” will be used to smear the next modest suggestion to improve American relations with a country that has 1) a close relationship with the number-one economic power, 2) the capability of obliterating the USA and destroying NATO’s military.

JUST NUKES AND OIL. Work on a Russian-Chinese jetliner begun. Big market, few suppliers (especially given the damage Boeing did to itself). Another medium-sized tanker launched.

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. CNN then “Authorities in Belarus have announced the arrest of 33 Russian mercenaries on suspicion of terrorism“. CNN now: “Ukraine spies tried to ensnare alleged Russian war criminals with a fake website, promises of riches and an international sting.” I didn’t cover the story at the time, correctly assessing it to be part of the colour revolution attempt against Lukashenka. (Why would CNN, not known for admitting to its propagandising, put this out? is Ukraine being “Afghanised”?).

LEARNING. General Hyten described a recent US exercise as a miserable failure – see my piece here. In a talk at Brookings he said “our goal is to never go to war with China and Russia.” He also said that the US military was moving too slowly and suggested that the USA wasn’t getting its money’s worth in defence. Very interesting, especially when said in such a citadel of the neocon world. On the other hand, he’s apparently retiring soon and will probably be replaced by a rah-rah type.

UKRAINE. Zelensky complains that Washington is still vague on NATO; possibility of war with Russia; has “no time to think about [Putin]” but wants a meeting. Ukraine is not Afghanistan; army “one of the most powerful“. Meanwhile Edward Lucas gushes about Ukraine’s success which is somehow a challenge to Putin. Stunning levels of delusion; second-poorest in Europe they say.

AFGHANISTAN. I’m amused by all the statements that Taliban must do this or that. No. USA/NATO were defeated. That means Taliban doesn’t care what they have to say and isn’t frightened by their threats.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

AFGHANISTAN: SAME, SAME; AGAIN, AGAIN

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation)

The lesson of Afghanistan is not that the US is washed up as a great power. The lesson is that the US is such a great power, militarily and economically, that it is continually tempted to try hopeless things that nobody else on earth – including China – would ever attempt.

David Frum gives new meaning to the expression “in denial”.

Don’t believe what you’re told by the generals, or the ambassadors, or people in the administration saying we’re never going to do this again. That’s exactly what we said after Vietnam. We’re never going to do this again. Lo and behold we did Iraq. And we did Afghanistan. We will do this again.

John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR)

Bill Ehrhart arrived in Vietnam in 1967 believing everything. His first indication that all was not as expected came when he wasn’t welcomed the way Allied soldiers had been in 1944. A couple of days later he was shocked to see “detainees”, bound hand and foot, casually tossed off a high vehicle by other Marines. This didn’t seem to be the way to treat people the Americans were there to help said he to his companion who told him to keep his mouth shut “until you know what’s going on around here”. And, he continues in this video, “it went downhill from there”. Every day patrols met “snipers and mines” but he saw hardly any enemy soldiers. He came to realise that the Viet Cong didn’t have to force people to fight the Americans; once a Marine patrol had destroyed its way through a village, they’d have all the recruits they needed:

the longer we stayed in Vietnam, the more Viet Cong there were, because we created them; we produced them… The Vietnamese people hated me and I gave them every reason to hate me.

The war he saw bore no resemblance to the optimistic stuff he read in Time Magazine and other mass media. So he hunkered down, stopped asking the questions of what and why – “the questions themselves were too ugly even to ask” – did what he did and waited for the date when he would go home.

This story is from Afghanistan but it fits Ehrhart’s conclusion perfectly. The first Americans into a valley in 2001 make contact with a local timber baron; he tells them his rival is a Taliban supporter; the rival is bombed; he loses his business, some of his family are killed and he does join Taliban. You can just imagine the locals, when these dumb and ignorant – but terribly destructive – aliens drop out of the sky, calculating how best to manipulate them. The Americans never think to reflect on Putin’s observation of five years ago:

The extremists in this case are more cunning, clever and stronger than you, and if you play these games with them, you will always lose.

Or try to answer his question: “who’s playing who here?

The scene shifts to Afghanistan as we move four decades ahead from Ehrhard’s observations. For example, in this account in the Military Times:

  • Expecting to be welcomed: “I just felt we were over there fighting an enemy who attacked America and liberating the people of Afghanistan from Taliban rule”.
  • They’re all the enemy: “It was such a complex war with more than one enemy, not just the Taliban… Sometimes it seemed like it was just some young, bored kids shooting at us”.
  • The happy-happy reports are all fake: “Seeing politicians use Afghanistan and Iraq as a talking points without any action, then seeing young men and women run through deployment after deployment until they have nothing left to give, only to be discarded and left to figure out how to cope…”.

What’s the difference between these American soldiers’ experiences in Afghanistan and their predecessors’ in Vietnam?

Ehrhart doesn’t talk about personnel rotation policy in Vietnam although there is an allusion to it: he knew to the day when his time would end and, as it happened, he was literally plucked out of a firefight and sent home. The practice was that junior officers were at the front for six months and other ranks for one year. Thus an individual infantryman might go through two or three platoon commanders with fellow platoon members appearing and disappearing as their dates came up. The effects of unit cohesion were devastating – indeed there was no unit cohesion at all. This rotation policy was argued to be one of the reasons for the defeat as described in this essay. A colleague of mine was peripherally involved in this discussion as he presented the British/Commonwealth “regimental system” in which units and subunits went in together and came out together. But what do we see in Afghanistan four decades later?

Hearts and minds sounded great on paper, but it was often seen as an empty promise to the locals… We would inevitably break those promises in one of two ways. First, the command may just up and move us to a different area, leaving those who helped us high and dry. Second, frequent deployment rotations meant personal relationships would only last, at most, a few months to a year.

And, of course, that great favourite of the American Way of War – bombing. Lots of bombing. In the Vietnam War the US is said to have dropped seven million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. I haven’t found tonnage numbers for Afghanistan, but there are numbers on “weapons releases”. This presumably includes bombs (but was each “dumb” bomb really counted?) and missiles but not artillery or – vide the destruction of the MSF hospital in KunduzHercules gunships. The numbers I can find say that there were, between 2013 and 2019, about 26,500 “releases” plus about another 21,000 going back to 2006. Another estimate puts it at at least 81,000 in total. It is generally accepted that 160,000 tons were dropped on Japan proper – a country with numerous shipyards, naval bases, aircraft and munition factories; few of which existed in Vietnam and none at all in Afghanistan. What were they bombing?

The next similarity is that reports in both wars were, to put it gently, doctored to make things look better than they were. The Pentagon Papers have their direct match in the Afghanistan Papers. From each it is clear that the authorities knew, from the first few years, that it was a failure; but they hid, lied and obfuscated. Each commander kicked the failure down the road for his successor to deal with. Official accounts of each war show plenty of “light at the end of the tunnel”, “turning the corner” year after year until the last corner was turned and the lights went out.

In Vietnam the enemy was moving under forest cover, so the US forces dropped immense quantities – tens of thousands of cubic metres – of defoliants to clear away the leaves they were hiding under. Few trees in Afghanistan so instead there was geological bombing “blasting away mountain passes and potential cover to limit where and how militants can operate”. An insane use of technology and destructive power substituting for tactical competence. And little to no effect on the outcome.

Accounts of soldiers’ experiences in Vietnam speak of patrols that, when they run into snipers or mines, call in artillery or airstrikes at vague targets – effectively saturation bombing – and helicopter out. We hear the same thing in Afghanistan. The only difference being that patrols in the former were on foot and in the latter in vehicles. It sees that the patrols had little purpose other than to show a presence: they’re not armies moving closer to Berlin or some other objective, they are just moving around. Something to do with “hearts and minds”, I suppose. But targets for the enemy and the opportunity for immense random destruction in retaliation.

Fake metrics are another similarity. Robert McNamara was US Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1966 – the very height of the Vietnam War. He had been a “whiz kid” at Ford and had had the knack of impressing his superiors with flow charts and numbers. His behaviour in Vietnam has led to an entire fallacy being named in his honour. The “McNamara Fallacy” is described by Daniel Yankelovich as the following four steps

The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes.

The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading.

The third step is to presume that what can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness.

The fourth step is to say that what can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.

In the Vietnam case the “easily measured” was the famous body count – number of enemy soldiers killed: the higher the number, the closer to “the light at the end of the tunnel”. According to this source, a rough calculation suggests that in 1965 there were more than five million males aged 15-39 in Vietnam and another seven million younger. That’s lot of bodies between the USA and victory. Secondly, if that’s what the boss wants to hear, that’s what we’ll tell him and the metric rapidly became GIGO. In Afghanistan, according to this account, it was dollars spent:

Perversely, because it was the easiest thing to monitor, the amount of money spent by a program often became the most important measure of success. A USAID official told SIGAR, “The Hill was always asking, ‘Did you spend the money?’…I didn’t hear many questions about what the effects were.”

Schools, hospitals, roads: hard to find, hard to measure (especially with widespread corruption) – bundles of hundred-dollar bills out the door easy to measure and so that became Afghanistan’s version of McNamara’s Fallacy. The make-believe precision measurement of nothing.

In a word, everything I’ve written about the American Way of War has been illustrated in the Afghanistan failure. The initial success feeding the appetite for further engagement and ever-larger aims. The assumption of free air movement and reliable communications. The obsession with technology. The self-replicating intelligence feedback cycle in which you only hear what you want to hear culminating in the final error of how much time was left to get out. The reinforcement of failure – bombing hasn’t worked, do more of it; can’t find the enemy, change the terrain. Worthless metrics. Inability to see things from the enemy’s perspective.

The only difference between the American performances in Vietnam and Afghanistan is that in the first, the vehicles were painted green and in the second, sand. They should sit out the next one.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 2 SEPTEMBER 2021

QUESTION. How many in the former USSR and Warsaw Pact now think that they made the correct bet in the 1990s? How about Western Europe? This will be one of the biggest geopolitical questions for the 2020s. The Afghanistan disaster will have very significant downstream effects; much more than the Vietnam defeat. That was one thing but this is another: in 1975 NATO had a purpose because the USSR was still there; China was poor and weak; the Shah still ruled. Afghanistan wasn’t just a defeat of the Washington’s neocon cabal and revelation of the duplicity of the military-industrial-media complex, it was the finish of post Cold War triumphantasies, moralistic finger-wagging, superior values boasting, NATO adventurism, “nation-building” and many other delusions widely shared in the West.

RESCUE. There are still a lot of NATO and Tabaquis left behind in Afghanistan – what do you bet they make their way to the Russian Embassy to ask to be helped out? And Moscow will do it – the propaganda value is too great to pass up: Russia – the reliable partner.

AFGHANISTAN. Another exercise on Afghanistan’s periphery: Combat Commonwealth-2021. Troops from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic will be involved. Mostly air defence which is an interesting choice.

WATCH THIS. They tell you Russia is a decaying rathole, check this out: Gelendzhik 2010 and now.

ELECTIONS. Duma elections will be held on the 19th and the pedestal party (United Russia) isn’t doing too well. The communists (KPRF) and Zhirinovsky’s party (LDPR) may triumph in some regions but most expect UR to keep a working majority overall. Putin – who’s not formally a member of UR – and other government people are out busily bribing the taxpayers with their own money.

NAVALNIY. A documentary takes a look at the “poisoning” and concludes it was likely a mishap from lithium. Meanwhile, in an interview from prison, he complains that the worst thing is official TV. (BTW, didn’t Western “news” outlets spend weeks telling us that Putin was determined to kill Navalniy and actually tried twice; why aren’t they wondering why he’s still alive? The answer of course – which shows you what Western coverage of Russia really is – is that details in war propaganda aren’t supposed to be remembered: they’re just made up and ignored as needed to create the enemy picture.)

IMPORT SUBSTITUTION. As everyone knows, Putin is skilled at judo which is the art of using the opponent’s strengths against him. When sanctions were imposed after Maidan, Moscow cleverly imposed counter-sanctions on food. This, plus government support, has resulted in Russia becoming pretty much food independent. Likewise many other industries have profited from import substitution. The next area is what you might call electronic independence. Even the Moscow Times has to admit that Russia has made huge improvements here too. Russia is gradually becoming a rather curious economic beast – a economically self-sufficient country with high-demand exports. Pretty strong position, I think.

PLUTOCRATS. Forbes (not that I take it very seriously – anybody remember when it put Chernomyrdin at the top?) has decided that Tatiana Bakalchuk and her husband are Russia’s richest. What’s interesting is that they didn’t use their connections to steal stuff in the 1990s but made it from their e-commerce company Wildberries. Banned in Ukraine, of course.

TANK BIATHALON. Loud and dirty things you can do in a tank.

GARBAGE. A subject that has featured in the last few Putin Q&A sessions is garbage dumps. It seems that the communists were pretty casual and the problems are building up. People complain of nasty messes near them and the Natural Resources Minister has warned that facilities in more than 20 regions will run out of space within the next two or three years. There is a plan and I expect that the problem will – as so many others have been – gradually be ameliorated. Plastics ban?

THE DEATH OF IRONY. “Ukraine Shuts Down Opposition Media – U.S. Ambassador Applauds ‘Daring Act’, Calls For Support“. What actually happened is that Medvedchuk’s party is more popular than Zelensky’s; so shut his news outlets down and put him under house arrest. Perfectly acceptable and praiseworthy because… Putin!

ENDING? Biden, in his end of Afghanistan speech said: “we’ve got to learn from our mistakes… This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries”. Does that mean out of Iraq and Syria too? Or is the key word here “major”? which in practice means no change (they all start as minor, soon-to-be-over victory parades.)

Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

WHAT TO DO? – THE EUROPEAN DILEMMA

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

According to hoary tradition, there are two obsessive questions in Russian history: who is guilty and what is to be done? This assertion is likely another Russophobic trope in which Russia was, is and always will be a mess populated by supine drunks slurring “Not me” and “Pass the bottle”. Nonetheless, good questions they are and ones that Europeans should ponder. Here are some circumstances that call out for doing something different.

European Union as an emerging superpower” – Wikipedia has a whole article on it. And, on paper, it is: the population, the economic power, the potential military power, the intellectual power and everything else necessary to become a significant independent player on the world scene – fully equal to any other major power. Except… it isn’t. Why isn’t it? Why did it follow Washington’s lead and sanction Russia? The sanctions have certainly cost it more than the USA and probably more than Russia; Washington, on the other hand, never sanctions Russian rocket engines or Russian oil. Why do the Europeans dutifully swallow it down? Many of them followed Washington into Afghanistan and other disastrous military adventures for a reward of failure and crisis. At least they’ve found the will to stop pretending Guaido is really President of Venezuela but they’re piling on Belarus at Washington’s command. Why? No kind of “superpower” on the geopolitical stage, the EU pretty well does what it’s told by Washington. There’s the occasional rebellion – Germany and Nord Stream 2 – but then the obsequious sending of a warship on a FON mission to please Washington. Hoping to cut the cost with a cringing attempt to placate Beijing. Are these the actions of a self-respecting independent country? What is to be done?

When a country signs up with the EU, it signs up to the complete package. Not just the diktats of the bureaucracy in Brussels but the ever-metastasising “human rights” package. I use quotation marks because, these days, human rights to the West appears to be concerned with nothing other than what Monty Python called “your naughty bits”; Assange is never to be mentioned and nor is Yemen. The LGBTQIA+ obsession sits poorly with some of the members. Against them the full vocabulary is mobilised – Poland’s victorious party is “right wing” and “populist”. Epithets that fall just short of Hungary’s “soft fascism”:

Hungary is a warning of what could happen when a ruthless, anti-minority populist backed by a major political party is allowed to govern unchecked.

Here’s Hungary’s Orbán defending himself. But so great is his sin that some say Hungary should be expelled from the EU. And maybe Poland too. The DM has a piece that is reasonably balanced, once you get past the obligatory insult (“ugly far-right”):

Instead of a serene and harmonious Europe of Tuscan villas, Provencal markets, German opera and Bavarian beer halls, we are witnessing rancorous divisions over migration, economic stagnation and incipient independence movements. And the bitter truth is that in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, there is now a stridently anti-Brussels, anti-migrant and anti-Establishment movement with the increasingly angry peoples of these nations convinced they are being treated as second-class citizens.

Hungary and Poland did not get out from under the diktat of Moscow to subjugate themselves to the diktat of Brussels. What is to be done?

When the Euro was introduced, each country produced its own coins; citizens could have coins from Spain, Greece, Germany and Poland in their pockets; each with its own language and symbols. An effective demonstration of unity. The paper money was an equally instructive, but contrary, choice. Architectural details: a Romanesque door, a Gothic arch, but no particular door or arch – generalised Romanesque or Gothic. Or, to put it rudely, architectural details from plastic buildings in Walt Disney’s Euroland. And that is where Orbán does not want to live: he wants to live in Hungary, the ancient homeland of Hungarians. He fears that Brussels is building a smushed together fake Europe: no Frenchmen, just baguettes; no Italians, just gelato; no Spanish, just paella. Consumed in buildings populated from people from somewhere else; in a décor with arches of no particular provenance. No history, no reality – a movie set. Orbán is the most prominent of those who think this way but there are many more in the real, actual Europe – AfD in Germany, LePen in France, Five Star in Italy: it’s a growing phenomenon; so widespread that the tired epithets of “far-right” or “fascist” or “populist” have a contrary effect. They are becoming the European equivalents of “deplorable” in the USA – because they so despise the insulters, the insulted take pride in being insulted. What is to be done?

Refugees/migrants. They used to pretend it was not a problem – even welcomed it – but that pretence is harder to support now. And, little by little, they notice. But where do these people come from? That’s easy – here’s the list: the leading three countries of origin are Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. What do these three countries have in common? A question that shouldn’t even have to be asked but, still, is unasked. The next two are Nigeria (partly connected with NATO’s destruction of Libya) and Pakistan which brings us to NATO’s destruction of Afghanistan. NATO’s GenSek flatulates:

When it comes to NATO’s role in addressing the migrant and refugee crisis, so NATO’S main role has been to address the root causes, the instability in the region and trying to help stabilize the countries where the refugees are coming from.

“Root causes” indeed: “stability” is, of course, NATOese for chaos. Ubi solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant. Here are pictures of the solitude NATO made and what preceded it. Is it surprising that the inhabitants want to leave that solitude and go somewhere else? Again Europe is paying for the consequences of Washington’s destruction of the MENA. What is to be done?

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was the result of a long and complicated negotiation between Iran on the one hand and China, France, Russia, UK, USA, Germany and the EU on the other. The agreement provided an inspection regime that would ensure that Iran did not develop nuclear weapons; Tehran agreed, it was adopted by the UNSC and ratified by the EU. But it was never ratified in the USA – Obama made it an “executive agreement” – which made it easy for his successor to abandon the “horrible” agreement and sanction Iran. Under the CAATSA law, sanctions are contagious: if you disobey them, you’re sanctioned too. And since Washington has great power over the world’s – West’s anyway – economies, its sanctions are potent. Washington has formally declared Iran a terrorist country; on negligible evidence, of course; but what matter? Europe must obey. Thus, after immense negotiation and general satisfaction with the result, Europe finds itself subject to the whim of Washington on its trade with Iran and forced to kneel. Biden promised to return to the deal but, thus far, American negotiators want Iran to make concessions: “The ball remains in Iran’s court” while Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei has warned against trusting the West and so the outlook looks poor. Europe didn’t walk out of the agreement and neither did Tehran, but they will be paying the cost of Washington’s walkout. What is to be done?

And then the protests. Ostensibly about COVID restrictions, fuel prices or migrants, they’re really protests against uncaring, unresponsive and incompetent rulers. On the last Saturday in July “Thousands upon thousands of demonstrators were seen in London, Dublin, Paris, Rome, Athens, and other cities across Europe“. The next Saturday “major mobilizations took place in several European cities including Berlin, Rome, Paris, Marseille and Lyon, among others”. Lithuania a couple of days ago. The protests have been met with considerable police brutality as Moscow delighted in pointing out in the video it handed out in February. But plenty more examples since then and more protests to come. What is to be done?

The UK finally left the EU. Who will be next? If the unthinkable happened once, it can happen again. And the history of referendums is not encouraging for advocates of the EU: France and The Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution in 2005. The name was changed and Ireland rejected the re-tread in 2008 but approved it on a re-run in 2009. If this sort of finagling happened in, say, Belarus, there would be solemn condemnations throughout Europe of Lukashenka’s undemocratic behaviour. In the actual Europe, Brussels has learned never to let the people anywhere near a decision again. What is to be done?

Afghanistan. What more is there to say? Many European countries, believing what Washington told them, trusting Washington’s competence and leadership, buying into and contributing to NATO’s gassy platitudes about its new role, spent years, lives and treasure in a futile effort. The final disillusion was the US President solemnly declaring they had months, when there were only days dwindling quickly to hours. Their soldiers and “nation-builders” are now now being “sent under the yoke” in Kabul. What is to be done?

Finally, why pay all that money to visit Los Angeles when you can stay home in Paris and see the same thing for free? What is to be done?

What is to be done?

Well, here’s a list of things that Brussels could work towards.

  • Aim for genuine independence: preserve that thought of a united Europe becoming an independent force in the world.
  • Russia is there, it’s not going away, it’s not getting weaker; forge relations with it, on Europe’s own terms, following its own, true, interests. Europe has to live with Russia, the USA does not.
  • Ditto with China.
  • NATO does nothing for Europe except get it stuck into disasters that – see refugees – see Afghanistan – see Libya – see Syria – Europeans wind up paying for; quit it; form a genuinely European independent defensive alliance.
  • Ukraine – another Washington project – will not have happy consequences. Change behaviour.
  • Washington is not really a friend; cut dependence on it and reduce the links.
  • Understand that lots of things in the world are a) none of Europe’s business b) nothing it can do anything about. Moralistic posturing is not a useful starting position.
  • Exceptionalism is a bust: Moscow learned it the hard way; Washington is learning it the hard way; learn from their mistakes.

But the depressing reality is that the chances of that happening are probably somewhere between none and a lot less than none. But maybe – maybe – the Afghanistan disaster will concentrate minds in Europe: things are not going as they should.

As to who is to blame? That’s for later.

AB INITIO: AFGHANISTAN

17 November 2015. I wrote this under a pseudonym when I was writing for Russia Insider (A site which has betrayed its intention and which I — AGAIN — refuse the right to reprint my stuff: something I deny to no one else). I am inspired to do this by this piece Fuller just wrote. Go and read it and then come back. We now see the utter collapse of the whole project. Forty years and thousands — hundreds of thousands — of destroyed lives later.

Bigger Than Big, Maybe Even Huger Than Huge

Almost like Brzezinski saying he got it wrong

When I heard of the Paris atrocities I thought: Oh no, here we go again. Fake sincerity, prayers “going out”, “attack on values”, “stand together”, flag overlays on Facebook, mounds of flowers, op-ed writers flogging their dead horses, solemn parade with linked arms (but will they invite Poroshenko this time?), T shirt slogans and all the rest of the sentimental bogosity. What there would not be is any consideration or discussion of Wahhabism, the US causative element, NATO and its activity in the home countries of refugees, “moderate rebels” or anything actually challenging. Just another wallow in false emotion and cheap threats. And, oh yes, some bombing. Always some bombing.

Never would there be any actual thought about causes and effects, how these things came to be and certainly not even the tiniest admission that we – we the exceptionals – just might have a responsibility. Nor would we hear about all the other atrocities in places that don’t get the full soppy treatment. Especially not Syria which has had four years in which every day is a Paris. And certainly not any thought that the explosives and weapons used in Paris might just have been supplied… by Paris.

Well, perhaps I’m wrong. And very glad to be too.

Read this:

I reach this view with much mixed feeling. Over the years I have grown increasingly convinced that western military interventions and wars to “fix” the Middle East have not only failed, but have vastly exacerbated nearly all regional situations. Washington has at the end of the day, in effect, “lost” every one of its recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere. The West has been as much the problem as the solution.

And now read this:

The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against [the Russians]. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.

Different guys, right? Nope. Same guy, different times.

The author is Graham Fuller. Here’s his bio on his website, and here’s what Wikipedia says. Details are sparse – of course – but he is widely regarded as one of the key people in the US support of the mujaheddin in the Afghanistan-Soviet war.

In other words, Fuller was one of the architects of the US policy to use jihadists in one part of the world expecting to put them back in the box afterwards. (The arrogance of the hyperpower: we’re the actors, you’re the puppets). Now he realizes they’re not puppets and they didn’t quietly go back in the box when the hyperpower was finished using them. Now he says:

The elimination of ISIS requires every significant stake-holder to be present: UN, US, EU, Canada, Russia, Iran, Kurds, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, Egypt and others. China, aspiring to a major world role, cannot sit this one out either. This convocation requires real heft and clout to impose some rough plan of action. Above all, the UN must head up future operations involving the indispensable future ground operations. If ever an neutral face was essential, this is it.

Which is exactly what Putin is calling for.

Speaking of Putin, I guess Fuller now agrees that

It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.” And “So, it’s a big question: who’s playing who here?

So, maybe the Paris atrocity will lead to some clear thinking. And, as there can’t be any real action without clear thinking…

But Fuller’s only one man, plenty more have to now come to the same understanding.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 19 AUGUST 2021

THE END. The unipolar moment is over and the hyperpower was defeated by a guy on a bicycle (with, note, a rifle the US taxpayer provided.) NATO’s brag of going everywhere and doing wonderful things pops like a bubble. Members learn that NATO membership is a ticket to death, humiliation, failure and abandonment. (Tabaqui, take note: Shere Khan doesn’t care.) The New American Century has ended – thanks largely to those who dreamed up the idea. (Would Zbigniew Brzezinski still say it was worth it? PS, here is the one time he got it right – their struggle did succeed.)

NEW NWO. Who were the first foreign officials Blinken called after Taliban took Afghanistan? China and Russia. Then the allies.

HERE WE GO AGAIN. The US is never defeated, it’s always betrayed. Watch everyone pass the blame to somebody else. One. Two. Three. Four.

ANGUISH. “However, many countries wonder what commitments the US has in return when it asks friends and partners to help it in this rivalry” worries the Jpost. “What does it say about NATO if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by the United States?” wonders Theresa May. The question of who will be the new international leader troubles Garten Ash. “What should I say to the Germans if 20 years of service in the Bundeswehr had been in vain?” asks Merkel. “Is America back or has it turned its back?” asks a “British official “. EU must step in bloviates Borrell. Will we be tossed next? wonders a Ukrainian MP.

TALIBAN II. Seems to be different: “when it comes to experience and maturity and vision, of course, there’s a huge difference between us, in comparison to 20 years ago“. The theme of a long press conference was pardon to all, inclusive Islamic government, no intention of moving out of its borders, no more narcotics. I noticed that its first advances were in the north which immediately suggested that it was no longer exclusively Pashtun. Also appointed a Hazara to a position. Therefore, at first glance, more inclusive and much more polished. A senior mullah condemns Wahhabism. But it will undeniably be a Muslim state – which notion includes a certain amount of variation.

SHIITES. Yesterday was Ashura, the Shiite mourning day for Hussein’s death. Yesterday’s Taliban was hostile to Shiites so their behaviour will be a good indicator. So far so good: a Taliban representative visited a Shiite area in Kabul to participate in one of the ceremonies. The day was subdued but not interfered with.

RUSSIA AND AFGHANISTAN. No victory lap for Moscow (or Beijing) – the US/NATO forces in Afghanistan soaked up a lot of jihadist activity that may now become be a problem for them. However, the embassy operates peacefully and Moscow’s representative, Zamir Kabulov, is busy (Googlish). But note that Russia has been holding military exercises with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And Russia and China just wrapped up a big exercise. Moscow’s interest can be simply stated – no spread of jihadism or instability. Recognition will follow in time.

SCO. It’s generally agreed that Iran will become a full member of the SCO. So all of Afghanistan’s neighbours will be members (Turkmenistan only as a “guest”); Afghanistan itself is an “observer”. This is the organisation that the new Kabul government will principally deal with.

TREASON. Another hypersonic scientist arrested. Curious: one was arrested last December. Is this arrest a result of new information or the wrapping up of a disinformation game? (US test failure.)

RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY. MacDonald is amazed: “how so many Western ‘Russia experts’ can’t seem to understand the simplicity of contemporary Russian foreign policy. Moscow wants good relations with those who want good relations with it. It’s not interested in ideology”.

PUTIN TEAM POPULAR. Why? Simple: they do what you hire governments to do. Check the graph – World Bank says GDP (PPP) tripled. And probably an underestimate. Meanwhile, in the West…

THE DEATH OF IRONY. Pussy Riot founder joins OnlyFans. Plans to titillate her way into the Kremlin.

BELARUS. The Emperor Aleksandr told de Caulaincourt that Napoleon’s enemies had given up too soon. Lukashenka followed his advice and the colour revolution is over as admitted by Protasevich: “Without the street, it is impossible to carry out a revolution.” (What he really meant, of course, the simulated street.) In short, they’ve figured out how to stop the outside-created overthrow – and part of the secret is to tough it out. Lukashenka says he will be going “very soon“.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

THE AFGHANISTAN DISASTER

(Response to question from Sputnik)

Every now and again, some crappy little country has to pick up the United States and throw it against the wall. It’s the only way Americans will learn to stay at home and attend to their swampy garden. Is this the moment they learn? We shall see; but American propaganda and self-delusion is strong.

Its allies, relying on Washington’s word, information and competence have followed it into another disaster that they will have to pay for because they don’t have two oceans between it and catastrophe. Is this the moment they learn? We shall see; but European propaganda and self-delusion is strong.

I don’t blame Biden much and he did have the courage to get out rather than kicking it down the road for his successor (although he did break the agreement Trump had made). In his much-mocked speech last month he was only repeating what rooms full of be-medalled and be-starred people told him. Is this the moment he learns? We shall see; but American propaganda and self-delusion is strong.

NATO’s nation-building, security-building, defence institution building piffle is exposed as delusory nonsense. Is this the moment they learn? We shall see; but NATO propaganda and self-delusion is strong.

A stunning and comprehensive defeat, worse than Vietnam. The “unipolar moment” ends in chaos and humiliation at Kabul airport: the hyperpower can’t even conduct a retreat.

(“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen.

CAN THEY LEARN? ANOTHER US WARGAME DEFEAT

First published Strategic Culture Foundation. picked up by ZeroHedge, Verity Weekly, scottadamsshow, usanewsguru, invest.smola.com, alltopcash.com, patriotnews, financial world,

(Note: by tradition, going back to the first Prussian Kriegsspiel, your side is “Blue”, the other side is “Red”. Soviets did it the other way round.)

According to David Halberstam, when Washington was considering escalating its presence in Vietnam, a wargame was held to test options. More bombing aircraft were put into airfields in Vietnam; Red attacked the airfields. Blue brought in more troops to guard the airfields; Red started attacking the supply lines for those troops. More troops to guard the supply lines; more attacks on their support systems. And so on: everything the American side thought up was quickly and easily countered by the Vietnam team. The results were ignored: only a game, not really real.

Forward to 2002 and a very large and complicated exercise simulating a US attack on – not named, but obviously – Iran. The retired USMC general playing Red – a no-nonsense experienced soldier who didn’t believe technology was the answer to everything (especially the projected wonders that the wargame granted to the American side), scorned business-school buzzwords like “network-centric” – thought outside the box and used low-tech weaponry. When the US high-tech took out his communications, as he knew they would, he went silent – his communications were by motorcycle dispatch riders, coded messages in Friday prayers and similar old-school techniques. He fired more missiles that the Blue side could handle and sank most of the invasion force and finished off the rest with swarms of small boats. “The whole thing was over in five, maybe ten minutes“. The invasion force was brought back to life, the rules were modified to reduce the defenders’ abilities – the Red force commander was on the point of destroying the reconstituted landing forces – and the US side “won”. He walked out when he decided that the game was too rigged for him to bother doing anything; as he said in a report: “this whole thing was prostituted; it was a sham intended to prove what they wanted to prove“.

Each of these wargames was supposed to be a learning and testing experience. The first was testing what to do and how to do it in Vietnam, the second, more ambitious, was supposed to test the whole package of the new US military in every aspect – it is said to have cost a quarter of a billion dollars and involved 13,000 participants. What was learned from the two? Certainly nothing was learned from the Vietnam wargame – Washington went ahead and put troops in – just a few at first but rising to an incredible 500,000 at the height and dropped a fantastic number of bombs; corners were turned, light was seen at the end of the tunnel but everyone knew it was a lost cause and no one wanted to say so. The enemy countered and endured everything and, at the end, the US went home defeated. The war game turned out to be a rather accurate predictor of the future. And it doesn’t appear that the US military have learned anything from the 2002 experience either. Certainly nothing in Washington’s behaviour towards Iran gives the impression that the US leadership imagines it could be defeated if it attacks Iran.

Nor, come to think of it, is there evidence that it learned anything much from the Vietnam reality either. Afghanistan was, in many respects, a replay of Vietnam: a determined low-tech force countered everything the US military could think up. In 2018, Les Gelb, the compiler of the Pentagon Papers said:

You know, we get involved in these wars and we don’t know a damn thing about those countries, the culture, the history, the politics, people on top and even down below. And, my heavens, these are not wars like World War II and World War I, where you have battalions fighting battalions. These are wars that depend on knowledge of who the people are, with the culture is like. And we jumped into them without knowing. That’s the damned essential message of the Pentagon Papers.

And now we move forward two decades. Last October another wargame simulated a US defence of Taiwan against a Chinese attack. Another test of some high-falutin war-fighting concept. (One might parenthetically ask how many of these concepts are actually business-school ideas given the predilection of US generals for MBAs. Probably the worst imaginable preparation for what our USMC “Iranian” commander called a “terrible, uncertain, chaotic, bloody business“.) General John Hyten, Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman, and MBA, reported on the wargame:

Without overstating the issue, [Blue force] failed miserably. An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us. They knew exactly what we’re going to do before we did it.

The first thing that went wrong for the Blue force was that it suddenly lost all its communicationsas I have been saying (and the Chinese and Russians surely know) one of the fundamental assumptions of the US style in war-fighting is constant, reliable, assured communications. All its “smart” weapons need to be “talking” to their controllers all the time: stop the “talking” and they become immediately “stupid”. Then the US force was hit with wave after wave of missiles. And the rear areas were hit with waves of missiles. And that was that. And, in another wargame in 2020, Poland was annihilated by the Russians: Warsaw was surrounded in five days.

What stood out for me in Hyten’s refreshingly honest presentation was this: “studying the United States for the last 20 years”. Washington officials are not noted for their ability to see things from the other side’s point of view, but he certainly got that one right. China (and Russia and Iran) know that they are on Washington’s hitlist. They have been watching Washington fight wars for two or three decades (winning none of them, despite the hype); they know how Washington fights; they know its strengths and weaknesses. They have put a lot of thought into it. One might also observe that, while Washington fights its wars safely overseas, China, Russia and Iran have very strong memories of wars fought on their own territory. This gives them, as Andrei Martyanov is always pointing out, a rather different view of war – it’s not some affair of choice far away over there, it’s a horrible, deadly, bloody, immensely destructive process in your own home.

The United States has zero historic experience with defending the US proper against powerful and brutal enemies. It is a cultural difference, a profound one and it manifests itself across the whole spectrum of activities, not just the respective military-industrial complexes. In other words, Russians MUST build top of the line weaponry, because the safety of Russia depends on it.

Losing for them is not the American way of losing – no walking away, explaining away and forgetting away: it’s life or death. They take war seriously and they put the effort into thinking about how to defend themselves against an American attack. They know that air superiority and assured communications are the necessities of the American way of war; they know the US military expects to accumulate huge forces undisturbed. They haven’t used these years idly; they won’t wait for the Americans to leisurely assemble the force to bomb them. That’s why they have concentrated on EW and lots of missiles. The US won’t have secure communications, free air power or safe bases: Beijing. Moscow and Tehran, if they have to fight, will fight to win. And do whatever it takes; no umpire will appear to “call foul” and re-float the fleet.

In the real world, Ukraine’s “de-occupation” boasting was silenced in two weeks by a huge Russian mobilisation. Surely somebody in the Pentagon noticed that. HMS Defender’s adventure off Crimea (incidently the only one of the six ships of its class actually fit for sea – not, in itself, a very impressive performance) may also have taught some lessons about the consequences of silly gestures.

Nothing was learned from the Vietnam or Iran wargames, what about this one? General Hyten said:

the U.S. has reevaluated the joint warfighting concept. He said the new strategy being developed is “not quite a clean-sheet approach, because you can never take a clean sheet of paper if you want to get between now and 2030, you have to start with what you have.”

That sounds good – “clean-sheet” – but you know that nothing will really change. Vietnam was supposed to teach a lesson (and the US Army certainly did improve) but, essentially, it did the same things all over again in Afghanistan. For twice as long. I doubt that this exercise will cause the full-scale change that he’s talking about. Complacency will probably return.

Even so, one would like to be a fly on the wall when US senior military brief the President: “failed miserably”, Afghanistan defeat (coming soon to Iraq and Syria), Russian and Chinese military power, hypersonic manoeuvring missiles, EW, layered air defence. The briefings can’t be too upbeat, can they? Could this be why the big exercise in the Black Sea ended so quietly? Could this be in the background of the decision to stop trying to block Nord Stream? Could this be a reason why Biden asked to meet with Putin? The couch-warriors will never understand this of course, but perhaps one can hope that the generals will – Hyten seems to have but, just as American wars are a sequence of one-year wars because each commander kicks the failure down the road for his successor to worry about, his replacement may return to the complacency of being at the top of “the greatest military in the history of the world“.

But, one can hope they’ll learn a little humility.

UKRAINE AND THE LONG GAME

(First published Strategic Culture Foundation)

But if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.

Madeleine Albright February 1998

No, you aren’t; no you don’t.

Putin or Xi, date and source unknown

The myth of Maidan Ukraine is that a corrupt, Russia-friendly president was overthrown in a largely peaceful revolt by the disgusted citizenry in 2014. After a massacre of the peaceful protesters by his security forces, he fled; democracy was restored; a new government elected; “reform” began “progressing”. But Moscow wouldn’t leave Ukraine alone: it seized Crimea, blessing its conquest with a fake referendum, and then started a war in the east. Et cetera. This narrative is widespread in the West.

It is almost completely false. Take for example a founding myth of post-Maidan Ukraine – the “Heavenly Hundred“. The Canadian scholar Ivan Katchanovski has shown in the most convincing way, after meticulous examination of the evidence, that the “the protesters were shot by concealed shooters from the Maidan-controlled locations“. For those who believe that cui bono is a pointer to motive, the massacre put paid to the EU-brokered agreement that had just been negotiated. In the immortal words of Victoria Nuland: “fuck the EU” and lo! Yats was the guy six days later. Nuland told us that five billion dollars from Washington produced a “European future”, “justice”, “human dignity” and “return to economic health”. She did not mention the US Navy tender for the Renovation of Sevastopol School #5: another cui bono moment.

Seven years later, Ukraine is a mess – I can think of no better illustration than this fact from Ukraine Business News:

Remittances by Ukraine’s labor migrants is forecast to reach $13.3 billion this year – 11% higher than the $12 billion recorded in 2019 and 2020. Labor is expected to remain above metals this year as Ukraine’s second largest export, after food.

In short, all the cheerful Charlie stuff about “the progress of Ukraine in carrying out the reforms” falls down on the fact that it is living off the Black Earth area and citizens working abroad for richer neighbours. Deindustrialisation is nearly complete – Antonov is gone, Yuzhmash struggles, Donbass has left, Black Sea Shipyard liquidatedhere’s a summary:

As you can see, from the republic of the USSR, which had one of the most powerful industrial potentials in the country and is able to provide itself and other republics with products of almost all industries, Ukraine has turned into a territory where only enterprises for processing agricultural raw materials or the same forest operate. Its complete de-industrialization is, in fact, completed.

Polling shows the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians regard the present situation as bad and a third expect it to get worse. Worse off in every respect. Food, remittances, Russian gas transit fees, IMF loans: not much of an economy there.

Nuland’s “justice”, “human dignity” and “return to economic health” were just words: the school tender reveals Washington’s real interests. The overthrow of Yanukovych was a replay of his first overthrow – the now-forgotten Orange Revolution and the even more forgotten Yushchenko. The aims were to separate Ukraine from Russia and by empowering the Galicians, ever nostalgic for their nazi glory days, to instil a strong anti-Russian sense. Gain a military position closer to Russia. A fertile propaganda source. Ideally, get Russia enticed into invading – more hostility, more sanctions, maybe even get it stuck into an endless war. But always a problem for Russia.

How has that worked out?

There is no doubt that Ukraine produces sudden crises to which Moscow must react. But this can work two ways. A very good example occurred this spring when Ukrainian President Zelensky declared that it was time to “de-occupy” Crimea and moved some forces east. Within two weeks, Moscow had mobilised two corps plus airborne formations. Especially impressive were the division- and corps- level artillery systems: 2S4 heavy mortars, 2S7 long-range guns, Iskanders and the ships from the Caspian Flotilla. NATO and Washington huffed and puffed, but the game was up and the crisis subsided. Tiresome for Moscow, to be sure, a distraction from things it would rather be doing, potentially dangerous, but there were benefits too. The mobilisation system got a real life workout and sensible people learned that Russia could mobilise, in two weeks, more lethal force than NATO could assemble anywhere in any timeframe. (And just after the “miserable failure” of a US wargame against China, too.) Sanctions imposed on Russia after its “invasion” of Crimea have been cleverly used to build up Russian food production so that, far from having to import half its food, as was said in the 1990s. it is now an exporter of food. Other sanctions have also benefited Russian domestic production. So, on the one hand a cost and an irritation, but on the other a benefit.

So, altogether, one can make the argument that Washington’s “Ukrainian Gambit” has failed in its intent – Russia has been hurt, but not nearly as much as the planners hoped. But then, what can one expect when the USA is run by people who say Russia makes nothing and its economy is nothing but nuclear weapons and oil? (The last said, incidentally, in the very week a Russian-made module docked at the ISS.) No surprise that they were wrong again; and, with the same people back, they will be wronger still.

Russia’s strategy has been patience – the long game. After, that is, the initial swift move to allow the people of Crimea to choose what they had wanted since 1954. That took Washington by surprise and checkmated any thoughts of Sevastopol becoming a US Navy base. But since then, the strategy has been patient – putting a thumb on the scale from time to time to keep the rebels on Donbass from defeat – but avoiding temptations. The Russian Armed Forces could overrun Ukraine in short order but at the cost of guerilla war in the west and parts of the centre; Putin’s team is too smart to fall for that.

From time to time Moscow puts down markers for a future when the mass of Ukrainians free themselves from the Galician-driven nightmare and return to a rational relationship with Russia. Investigators have been taking note of the numerous crimes committed in Ukraine and in July presented their case to the ECHR. There is no great expectation that the case will be investigated now – “human rights” today are one-way – but there may be a future in which it will.

Likewise Putin’s essay on Russia and Ukraine and his follow-up remarks are addressed to those Ukrainians not lost in the absurdities of Freud being Ukrainian, ancient gods born in Ukraine and the language from Venus. And how many would that be? A lot more than Washington thinks. A recent Ukrainian poll showed 41% of Ukrainians agreed with Putin that Ukrainians and Russians are one people; 55% disagreed. The division in Ukraine is seen here (as on every question) with a majority in the east and south agreeing with Putin. But the official line in today’s Ukraine is that Moscow “hijacked the history of Kyivan Rus’” and it’s no relation: “There are no indications of any connection of Kyivan Rus with the Finnish ethnic groups in the land of ‘Moksel‘”. But, Putin can hope, one day this will be cast aside and Ukrainians and Russians can make a future of cooperation. (Not necessarily unity, be it noted – he speaks of Germany and Austria, Canada and the USA, as very similar peoples living as different political units.)

So that’s been Moscow’s strategy since its swift move in Crimea. Many would prefer a sudden smash, but there are very good reasons why Moscow has learned that it’s better to be patient as I argue here.

So Moscow has, to a degree, been caught in the trap, how about the oh-so-clever plotters? Well, first there’s the money: Ukraine has absorbed a lot for very little return. In 2014, when expectations were high, the IMF was talking about $18 billion. In 2021 it was withholding the next tranche “because conditions haven’t been met“. Were “conditions” ever met? This sounds more like an announcement that the West is losing interest. But the debt remains and Ukraine has one last thing to loot, although it’s resisting: its farmland. But, vide Confessions of an Economic Hitman, that’s the point of the debt in the first place. Trump’s first impeachment was about something he did or didn’t do about Ukraine – no one remembers or cares any more, but it said to be very important at the time – and so the Ukraine imbroglio came home. Hunter Biden’s laptop – ignored by the Establishment media but nevertheless known – also brings the story home. Then there’s the question of the nazis in Ukraine – the West downplays their existence but the fact is that there is a well-armed group in Ukraine, an attractor for similar people, who, to put it simply, believe the wrong side won the Second World War. And they’re doing their best to produce another generation. What long-term effect will they have when Ukraine is rotted-out and looted-out? In 2014 Der Spiegel explained How the EU Lost Russia over Ukraine; does that look like a worthwhile exchange today? There are a lot of nuclear power stations in Ukraine: are we confident that they are well-managed and maintained? Washington would probably have opposed Nord Stream 2 as it opposed previous pipelines but the Ukrainian connection gave it another impetus; it eventually recognised reality and stopped blocking it but what did that cost its relations with Germany? Something else to add to the neocon failures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and the rest.

But these are only details. The most important entanglement is the thing itself. After the promises, aid, schemes, involvements and interferences, NATO, EU membership and the other withered carrots, Kiev has a seat at the table. Another anti-Russian voice that has to be placated; another actor that can start a crisis – even a war; more sanctions that hurt the sanctioner; an unresolvable item on every meeting agenda; another issue to compel subjects to bow to Washington. Another tail to wag the dog. And finally a political vulnerability at home: Biden’s Surrender to Merkel on Nord Stream 2 and Biden’s Gift to Putin scream the couch-warriors.

Of course Washington and its satrapies can just walk away from Ukraine (vide Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan et al); there will be a cost to their reputation for reliability but there isn’t much left of that. Russia, on the other hand, cannot walk away; but a Ukraine ruined and abandoned by its Western BFFs would be a different Ukraine. The long game, again.

There’s a Russian story about a thug holding a brick over someone’s head: Do you want to buy this brick? No thanks. You’d better buy it and not tempt fate. Who will buy the Ukrainian brick?

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 5 AUGUST 2021

HYPERSONIC WEAPONS. Are real game changers. Extremely fast and, at the same time, manoeuvrable, impossible to stop with present or imaginable technology. And certainly not by anything the USA has: “Patriot Missiles Are Made in America and Fail Everywhere“. Russia has systems fielded and more in the works, it is years ahead of the USA, the latest US test was a bust. What does this mean? In a word: everything within 2000-3000 kilometres will be hit. Every forward base; every assembly area; every logistics base; every airfield; every warship. Can you stop one? Probably not; but you won’t have to stop one: ten Kinzhals for one carrier? Good exchange. Stay at home.

ECONOMY. Russia’s economy is obsolete, ‘exhausted’ and has failed to transition to better, modern model, says ex-finance minister Kudrin. If you say so, but I don’t think a FIRE economy is a good idea.

LEVIATHAN. Russian movie: “But behind them – way, way behind them – stands the Leviathan of post-Soviet Russian politics, a figure who is never named and seen only in the official portrait on the mayor’s wall: Vladimir Putin“. Actually, a wholly American story. Never saw the movie but sure got the “only in Russia bit” from the reviews; didn’t knew the American source until Vladimir Golstein’s post.

ENGINES. Remember when Russian shipbuilding was doomed for want of Ukrainian engines? No more, done it themselves. Two years earlier, too.

BAM. A second tunnel is opened.

GRUDININ. His ex-wife ratted him out and he’s banned from running for the Duma.

OLYMPICS. The Country Which Must not be Named is third in the medal count. Whining.

RUSSOPHOBIA. Interesting piece by Alexander Lebedev about the anti-Russianism which even he – a rich and insulated guy – meets. One wonders whether he, or some other Russian plutocrat, funds Strategic Culture Foundation. Much more likely than Washington’s idea that it’s run by Russian security organs: Moscow still thinks RT is the way to go. Washington is, as usual, projecting and deflecting: it buys opinions, therefore Moscow does too.

STRATEGIC WEAPONS. US and Russian team met in Geneva. Martyanov discusses: the Russians are ready to talk about hypersonics et al but only later. Russia has the upper hand here and Washington will have to make real concessions. Something, as we see with the Iran negotiations, it doesn’t know how to.

FAKE NEWS. KGB takes over Russia and moves West. Or so the book said. The “Putin Whisperers” get away with all sorts of nonsense but in this case they guessed wrong. Russian plutocrats are losing patience and have the deep pockets to sue. Fridman and Aven forced one withdrawal. Abramovich will be next. Meanwhile, the author has been under-bused by her main source. (Nasty Russian bullies say her supporters.) Regard everything you see or read about Russia from Western authorities or media as wrong. You’ll be correct to do so much more often than not. And Browder loses a case in Switzerland.

SYRIA. Interesting video on Russian MPs in Syria and what they do. Many are Vaynakhs and everybody knows not to mess with them.

AFGHANISTAN. Russian exercises in Uzbekistan, deployments in Tajikistan. Taliban visits China.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. “[Putin] has a real problem — he is — he’s sitting on top of an economy that has nuclear weapons and oil wells and nothing else. Their economy is — what? — the eighth smallest in the world now — largest in the world? He knows — he knows he’s in real trouble, which makes him even more dangerous, in my view.” Biden to US Intelligence Community. Two days later the Nauka docked with the ISS. No wonder the US Establishment is surprised all the time.

EXPERTISE. Anne Applebaum is looking for the English text of Putin’s Ukraine essay. Incredible!

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Slow to be vaccinated? Blame Putin, the NYT does. Putin’s Long War Against American Science. A year ago but ever-young.

WARGAME. The US military is a paper tiger. A wargame in October simulating a Chinese attack on Taiwan ended with utter defeat for the US forces. “Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably… They knew exactly what we were going to do before we did it.” No kidding: China, Russia and Iran know they’re on the hitlist, they haven’t been sitting around. I’ll have a piece in Strategic Culture Foundation shortly on this and other US wargame disasters which presaged real-world military failures.

RUSSIA/CHINA. Russia-China military exercise in China. To counter terrorism. Of course. Video.

UKRAINE. Moscow’s long game.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer