SUSTAINED AND ABSOLUTE INCOMPETENCE. Monday 21st: front page story on NYT “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia”, ah hah! proof at last!; a bit of doubt surfaces on Wednesday; entire story trashed Thursday: “Aftermath of Ukraine Photo Story Shows Need for More Caution”. When I was a kid, CIA confections lasted a lot longer than a couple of days. So, into the bin along with the Jewish registration letter, captured “OSCE observers” and soon to be followed by the new intercepts. All I see from Washington is desperation piled on incompetence: none of this has turned out the way it was supposed to and no one has any idea of what to do next. So turn the volume up, desperately clutch at any story, hysterically accuse RT of propaganda when all it’s doing is accurately quoting you, announce more sanctions based on the dopey assumption that Putin has billions stashed in the West and move military forces to irrelevant places like Poland or Romania. The Micawber school of diplomacy.

CONTAINMENT. “Containment” is the new mantra for dealing with Russia in Washington these days. But has anyone there read the original? (Original telegram, subsequent article). Apart from the fact that George Kennan was strongly against NATO expansion, which is one of the two Original Sins of today’s Ukrainian catastrophe, the conditions Kennan saw in 1946 simply do not apply today. In essence Kennan was arguing that the inner constructions and logical implications of the Marxist-Leninist ideology did not correspond well with reality and therefore, over the long haul, it would not survive. Assuming that the USA would survive because it was better connected to reality, he expected the USA to outlast the USSR, given patience and prudence. This proved correct over the next half-century. Who believes this to be the case today other than the few crazies who still think Marxism-Leninism rules in Russia? And, speaking of perception of reality, one might compare any statement by Lavrov with Slaughter’s article below or any bloviation from Kerry. Or, thinking long-term as Kennan did, who can be confident that the USA will be Number One in 50 years? Or 25? Or even 10? They say China is about to become the premier economy this year. Deng’s reforms began only 35 years ago… What will the world look like in another 35?

CRAZINESS. To give you an idea of the level of impassioned lunacy in Washington these days, read “Stopping Russia Starts in Syria”. Essentially the argument is that Obama should bomb Syria in order to show Putin he is serious about using force. Or something. “Striking Syria might not end the civil war there, but it could prevent the eruption of a new one in Ukraine”. Gibbering nonsense, eh? And incoherently erected on idiotic assumptions. But the author is not some bizarro from the outer fringes of the Net; it is Anne-Marie Slaughter, academic and quondam director of policy planning in the US State Department and now President of the New America Foundation. Mainstream madness.

KIEV’S WEAKNESS. Another US official visits, another “anti-terrorist operation”, another fizzle. This piece (rather poorly translated) gives a clue why. We have already seen in previous events that what remains of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are unwilling to get involved – even the supposedly elite airborne forces handed over their weapons rather than shoot. The so-called special forces are no better. The local police sympathise with the rebels. Now we see the ineffectiveness of the new “National Guard” made up of western Ukrainian nationalists: not even they, under-equipped, unfed and unpaid, are willing or competent. Kiev simply hasn’t got anyone to do its will no matter how much Biden and Brennan might prod it. And a couple of nights ago a riot between two different flavours of super-nationalists in Kiev itself. “Ukraine” no longer exists; Washington and Brussels have broken it in half.

NAVY. Russia has handed over to Ukraine 13 of the 70 Ukrainian Navy warships it acquired when their crews switched sides.

CONSEQUENCES. Debka (which I regard as not always wrong) claims Putin has approved the sale of the S-400 SAM system to China. Said to be pretty advanced; here’s some marketing porn for it. And other signs of closeness: big investment, naval exercise. The first fruits of the many unintended consequences of Victoria Nuland’s grand scheme.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (