UKRAINE-RUSSIA WAR. Lots of heavy stuff moving in Russia; especially big artillery systems: 2S4 heavy mortars, 2S7 long-range guns and Iskanders. (Powerful counter-battery fire would be both effective and semi-deniable). Stockpiles of equipment near Voronezh. Two armies (corps) plus airborne formations (probably more than NATO could field anywhere in real life; certainly never as quickly). What most impressed me were ships from the Caspian Sea Flotilla being transferred via the Volga-Don Canal. Never forget that the really important stuff is not visible – the Russians are the best at operational-level deception. A Ukrainian convoy by comparison – pathetic mix of civilian vehicles and elderly APCs. (Incredibly, despite all the genuine videos, CNN still fakes it.) NATO huffs and puffs; Blinken ditto; Berlin throws some cold water on Kiev. Ritter calls Kiev’s “NATO fantasy” a “suicide pill”.
AND THEN AGAIN, MAYBE NOT. Just reported that the two US warships will not enter the Black Sea; they are presently moored in Crete. Kiev changes its tune. Maybe the war hawks got the message: Moscow is determined, willing and more than capable.
BIDEN-PUTIN. At the US request, a phone call: White House take, Kremlin take. Biden talked tough (Ukraine, “cyber intrusions and election interference”), Putin mentioned Minsk agreement. No mention of Navalniy; I guess he’s passed his best-before date. Biden proposed a face-to-face meeting in a third country; I can’t believe that he will dare meet with Putin: look at his carefully scripted press conference. Probably won’t happen any way after this “national emergency” stuff.
INCOHERENCE. Killer, no soul but “stable and predictable relationship with Russia“; more sanctions (love the election tampering charge – they’re not even trying to make sense now) but mostly rational DNI report. Now a “national emergency“. The self-delusion in Washington is stunning: “Freedom and justice for all”. Who’s in charge? Whoever it is, Washington is not agreement-capable.
SPACE STATION. The ISS is coming to the end and Putin has signed off on plans to build a new one. I’ll bet China signs on.
ARCTIC. CNN excitedly discovers “huge Russian military buildup in the Arctic“; amusingly says “The Russian build-up has been matched by NATO and US troop and equipment movements.” Nope: Russia is far, far ahead of all the others: other than nuclear submarines, none has anything to compare.
SILENCE. Will be the sound that we hear in response to Lavrov’s call for a treaty banning weapons in space. (Not presumably to include the many communications and geo-locating satellites Russia and others already have up there. Bit of hypocrisy there: not weapons as such but necessary for many.)
HYPERSONIC. US test failure. The game of catch-up continues.
COVID. The EU’s vaccine rollout has been a dud and many countries are trying to obtain the Russian vaccine. CNN, for once, covers the issue reasonably evenly: reactions range from a welcome solution to the problem to those pesky Russians trying to divide us again. A German news outlet says Washington is trying to pressure Berlin and Korybko speculates that the tension in Ukraine may be related. One watches, somewhat dumbfounded – more evidence of things falling apart.
RUSSIA-TURKEY. I guess it’s time to teach Ankara another lesson: flights to Turkey have been severely restricted. Because of COVID; nothing to do with Ankara’s fiddling around in Syria or Ukraine. They say. Russian tourism is a big part of Turkey’s GDP. Moscow’s last shutdown brought results.
USA/AFGHANISTAN. Starting 1 May, all US troops to be out by 11 September. NATO’s too. Some questions: what about contractors, advisors, air power; but the biggest is how patient will Taliban be? – that’s another deadline passed. Neocons – Bolton, Haas, Boot – protest. The Pentagon too? We’ll see. Whether it happens then or later, the Afghans have defeated another mighty empire.
PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. 111 things Putin weaponised. Where does he find the time?
STASIS. We get closer to what Scott Adams foresaw: Biden in the White House, belief that the election was rigged. Rassmussen poll: “A majority (51%) of voters believe it is likely that cheating affected the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.” What happens if that number grows to, say, two-thirds?
UKRAINE/USA. Foreign interventions have a nasty habit of coming home. “Far-right extremists see the war zone there as a laboratory where they can gain actual combat experience to bring back home.”
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer