Why Russia Hasn’t and Won’t Invade Ukraine

These pieces are papers that I believe to be still relevant; they were published earlier elsewhere under a pseudonym. They have been very slightly edited and hyperlinks have been checked. NOTE 2017: I originally wrote this in November 2014. Breedlove has come and gone but a new American general is apparently believing that there are thousands of Russian soldiers in Eastern Ukraine. So this is apposite again.

https://orientalreview.org/2017/09/11/russia-hasnt-wont-invade-ukraine/

Here we go again. NATO is again – how many times does that make it? – echoing Kiev and saying that Russia has invaded Ukraine. Or so says NATO’s General Breedlove. “‘Across the last two days we have seen the same thing that O.S.C.E. is reporting,’ General Breedlove said at a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. ‘We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine.’” Well, here are the OSCE reports, read then and see whether you think Breedlove is telling the truth: columns moving around in east Ukraine, yes; crossing the border, no. Meanwhile, back at the Pentagon, the official spokesman has no “independent operational reporting that tells me that they have crossed the border”. But NATO has its own reality.

So has Russia invaded Ukraine? Of course, that all depends on your definition of “is” is, or some similar piece of deceptive hair-splitting, doesn’t it? But, for most people, “invasion” means regular troops and equipment crossing the border and staying there. Is Moscow aiding the rebels in the east? Probably. But that’s not what’s being claimed.

The neatest way to respond to these endless frothings is this:

If Russia had invaded, you wouldn’t have to ask; if you have to ask, it hasn’t.

It would have happened quickly and be plain for all to see. A thousand soldiers, a dozen or two tanks is not how it would have happened: it would have been big, it would have been sudden and it would have been over quickly. There would be no need for grainy satellite photos of combine harvesters or whatever they were; no need for reporters who forgot their cell phones saying they saw something: there would be Russian soldiers at the Dnepr certainly and maybe in Kiev or Lviv; Russian soldiers, guns, helicopters, tanks and aircraft all over the place. (Interesting to speculate, as it gets colder and armed thugs throw their weight around, how Russian troops would be received in Kiev today, isn’t it? But we’ll probably never know).

Or at least the first part would have been over quickly. Just like the US invasion of Iraq. Getting to the Dnepr, Kiev or Lviv would have been easy, but once there, the Russians would have found themselves surrounded by people who didn’t want them to be there. And that, as the Americans found out in Iraq, is quite a different thing. If one were to take a horizontal slice of Ukraine from east to west and ask the inhabitants to rate the presence of Russian soldiers in their neighbourhood from one to ten, one would get an answer ranging from ten in the far east to minus ten in the far west: flowers in the east, bullets in the west.

Russian troops in the centre and west would find themselves opposed by people who had had military training in the Soviet or Ukrainian Armed Forces, many of whom had military experience in Afghanistan. In other words, Russian invaders would be met with exactly the same response that western Ukrainian invaders found in the east.

Crimea was different: there it was all flowers, all the way and the borders are clear, distinct and obvious. Not at all the same in the rest of Ukraine. (NOTE 2017: And the Russian troops were already there, a point that Western accounts usually glide over.)

Yes, the Russian Army could get to the western border in a week or two without much difficulty but it wouldn’t be able to stay there.

So that’s why Moscow hasn’t and won’t “invade Ukraine”: it doesn’t want to find itself bogged down in months or years of ambushes, IEDs and all that. And then probably have to leave at the end, anyway. Moscow has watched the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, of course, it remembers its own experience in Afghanistan. Huge cost for a trivial and momentary gain.

The same reason, come to think of it, why Moscow, with its alleged desire to rebuild the empire or whatever, didn’t put Georgia into the bag in 2008. And why it won’t invade Estonia either. It could do it, but it wouldn’t be worth it.

Afterword: All this is predicated on the West confining its support to the discreet provision of training and weapons (something that Breedlove and the others don’t talk about much – the projection in this whole affair is enormous). Should NATO forces enter Ukraine and move east, then all bets are off.

MH17 For Dummies

According to this source, the US intelligence budget for 2014 was 67.9 billion US dollars. That’s about 130,000 kilometres of $100 bills laid end to end or about three times around the world at the equator. Which is quite a lot of money, even if a lot goes to administration, overhead and the like.

So, you’d think that if an airliner was shot down over an area that was being closely watched, all this money would have bought quite a lot of information.

And, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it did and here he is saying it: “we observed it” (1.15)

But, two years later we still await the US intelligence evidence.

Instead we have

Well common sense would suggest that, if we haven’t heard about the other stuff then

  • it isn’t there or
  • it contradicts what Washington has been saying.

QED. It’s not that complicated.

 

A Common Delusion, Ukrainian Version

Note: I believe that it was very commonly assumed in the USSR that the Russian SFSR was exploiting all the other union republics. As a consequence, most of the post-Soviet leaders expected their new countries to immediately become wealthier. But, the reverse was true: in fact the RSFSR was subsidising the others thanks to its energy reserves.

…like everyone else, I believed that Ukraine is so rich that it provided for the entire [Soviet] Union. It turned out that it is, in fact, rich. However, was it really a provider?

Leonid Kuchma, then PM of Ukraine and later President, Holos Ukrayiny, Kiev, 4 November 1993

Fracking, Slavyansk and War

Many people blame Strelkov/Girkin for the outbreak of serious fighting in the Donbass. I believe it is important to see the sequence of events. Chronology is always worth keeping in mind: it’s not necessarily cause and effect but it usually points to it.

*****************************************************

So, if I had heard that I was being called a “terrorist”, with all that that means these days, by some people who had pulled off a coup and driven out the people I’d elected, whose first action is to try and ban my language,  if I’d heard about the Korsun attack, if I got wind that a large company with foreign involvement might want to strip mine my place and move everybody out of the way, if I was already mistrustful of the new regime in Kiev, maybe I’d get some guns too.

Let’s Sanction Those Pesky Russians

Kiev’s envoy at the Trilateral Contact Group Leonid Kuchma says it is impossible to talk about elections or constitutional changes in Eastern Ukraine without resuming control over the Ukraine-Russian Federation border.

Here’s the text of the Minsk II agreement. (My italics) “9. Restore control of the state border to the Ukrainian government in the whole conflict zone, which has to start on the first day after the local election and end after the full political regulation (local elections in particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts based on the law of Ukraine and Constitutional reform) by the end of 2015, on the condition of fulfillment of Point 11 – in consultations and in agreement with representatives of particular districts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts within the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.”

Let’s blame the Russians for not sticking to the Minsk Agreement, shall we?

Malaysia left out of MH17 Inquiry

http://russia-insider.com/en/malaysia-left-out-mh17-inquiry/ri10711

“We could not view the aircraft and were not invited to attend certain meetings.”

The DSB report on MH17 is looking shabbier and shabbier. The latest is this from The New Straits Times Online of 24 October. When we add this to all the other omissions – radar data, Russian evidence of aircraft, damage to port wing and engine, the trivial number of lethal fragments – I realise that I was wrong to call it a “limited hangout“. It’s an incompetent limited hangout.

Responding to points made in the DSB final report on the incident, which stated that Malaysia did not extend its full cooperation in the initial stage of the investigation, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi said this was because Malaysia’s role was not honoured as it denied full access and privileges to the probe. He said the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) was not made a full member in the joint investigation and unlike other members, Malaysian representatives were only granted limited access. “We were the owner of the aircraft. How can we be prevented full access? “We could not view the aircraft and were not invited to attend certain meetings.” “In the end, we cooperated when they gave us full access after acknowledging our role. It even says so in the news report,” said Abdul Aziz, referring to a recent foreign news article alleging Malaysia’s initial reluctance to cooperate.

MH17 Final report is Not a Final Report; It’s Just a Limited Hangout: It tells as much of the truth as it has to. But no more.

http://russia-insider.com/en/mh17-final-report-not-final-report-its-just-limited-hangout/ri10575

JRL2015/2013/32

http://uk.makemefeed.com/2015/10/19/mh17-final-report-is-not-a-final-report-its-just-a-limited-hangout-patrick-armstrong-258969.html

http://ian56.blogspot.ca/2014/12/the-truth-about-mh17-is-beginning-to.html

http://protiproud.parlamentnilisty.cz/politika/2014-dukladny-rozbor-zpravy-o-mh17-pripad-kontrolovaneho-uniku-ktery-ma-zakryt-zjisteni-pravdy-nahodou-osleply-vsechny-radary-co-a-proc-vynechali-holandsti-vysetrovatele.htm

“Limited hangout” is spy jargon for a partial admission of the truth to attempt to control the exposure of a clandestine operation. The hope is that the partial truth will satisfy the questioners and they will look no further. The phrase came into popular awareness during the Watergate scandal in 1973 as the cover story unravelled. The Dutch Safety Board report on the MH17 disaster is an example. It’s a partial statement: something very important is left out; but it is not completely left out because there may be a later need for “reconsideration”.

The sources and abbreviations I use are below.

  • Russian MoD briefing July 2014 (MoD) (English)
  • Dutch Safety Board Final Report October 2015 Video (DSBV) Text (DSBT)
  • Almaz-Antey First Report June 2015 (AA1) (Video) (Almaz-Antey is the manufacturer of the Buk family of SAM systems which has been in service in many countries since 1979. Over the years, as is common with evolutionary Soviet and Russian weapons systems, there have been several different rockets and warhead designs.)
  • Almaz-Antey Second Report October 2015 (AA2) (Slideshow in English)

In August I published a piece at RI named “Questions a Real MH17 Report Would Answer“. The DSB report fails my test but it fails it in an interesting way: in a limited hangout way, in fact. I said there were four vital points that must be addressed:

  1. The “black boxes” will tell us where MH17 was when it was hit, what direction it was going in, what speed it was travelling.
  2. Analysis of the damage pattern of the wreckage will show where the missile was when it detonated.
  3. Backtracking from that point will show from where it was launched.
  4. Lethal fragments will show what weapon hit it.

The report deals with 1 satisfactorily, there is a question about 4 but it is in its answer to numbers 2 and 3 that we see the limited hangout.

The report was delivered by its Chairman, Tjibbe Joustra, [quondam the Netherlands’ National Antiterrorism Coordinator – is that significant? You decide, Dear Reader – and Chairman of the DSB since February 2011] who stated that it was not the DSB’s job to assign blame. The DSB’s conclusion was that MH17 was brought down by the explosion of 9N314M warhead as carried on 9M38 series Buk surface-to-air missile (SAM) (DSBT-9); other scenarios were considered, analysed and excluded. It offers an area from which it believes the missile was launched.

The Flight Data Recorder (both “black boxes” were in good shape) showed MH17 flying at 33,000 ft heading 115° at 293 kts (542kph). The recording stopped at 13.20:03 UTC at 48.12715N 38.52630538E (DSBT-47).

I begin with my principal conclusion that the DSB report is a “limited hangout”.

By ignoring the damage to the port wing and port engine, the Board was able to shift the approach route of the missile away from Kiev-held territory south of MH17’s route to rebel-held territory in the south-east.

The importance of leaving out the wing and engine

The Dutch Safety Board did not take into account the damage to the port wing and the port engine (see below). While it did provide a photo of the damaged port engine intake ring at DSBT-50, there is no other discussion of damage to the engine and I believe that the inclusion of the photo provides the DSB with an “out” should there be a need for a later “reconsideration” of the evidence. To summarise (see below): the DSB established a point at which the detonation occurred; the DSB understood the blast pattern of the warhead (DSBT-130 but see a better representation at AA2-35). But it ignored the fact that the existence of damage to the port wing and port engine proves that the missile had to have come from the side of MH17 and not from in front of it. That is the key point: everything up to that point in the analysis of the destruction of MH17 (leaving aside the rather small number of “bow-ties” – see below) is closely reasoned. The sleight of hand occurs when the wing and engine are forgotten. Concentrating only on the damage to the cockpit allows the path of the missile to be twisted from the south to the south-west as is required by the “rebels did it theory”. A launch point from the south rules that possibility out.

This is illustrated at AA2-21. Both Almaz-Antey reports calculated the firing point as being near Zaroshchenskoye while the DSB calculates it as being near Snezhnoye. AA2-21 shows a damage comparison: a Buk fired from Zaroshchenskoye damages the port wing and port engine, a Buk fired from Snezhnoye does not. The damage to the cockpit is similar in each scenario.

Because the damage to the port wing and port engine was ignored by the DSB report, they were able to make the approach line of the missile closer to the direction MH17 was heading, which allowed them to calculate the launch point so as to include rebel-held territory. Had they included the port wing and port engine damage, they would have been forced to accept a launch point farther south into Kiev-held territory.

In short, they told as much truth as they could without compromising the required answer. A “limited hangout” indeed.

But there are some other – less significant, to be sure – points that should be considered.

Missing Radar Data

The first point worthy of attention is the radar data or, rather, its absence. We are told that “The Ukrainian civil primary radar stations in the area were not functioning at the time of the crash due to scheduled maintenance. The military primary radar stations were also not operational. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence stated that this system was not operational, because there were no Ukrainian military aircraft in the sector through which flight MH17 flew” (DSBT-38). NATO had an AWACS aircraft in the air but that said MH17 was out of its range (DSBT-44). Thus only limited radar information was available from Ukraine and nothing from NATO.

This is not believable. Ignoring the “scheduled maintenance” stuff, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence statement that there were no military aircraft in the area is contradicted when DSBT-185 informs us that Kiev claimed that a military aircraft was fired at in the Donetsk area on that very day. That is less than 40 kms away from MH17. As to NATO, it is absurd to think that NATO had an AWACS aircraft up that was not looking at the fighting area. The DSB accepts these statements without comment.

Russia also provided limited radar information because, it said, as the crash occurred outside of Russian territory, it did not record the primary data (DSBT-42). The report spends some time chiding Russia for this.

Flight Path

Another of the points that I made in my RI piece was the change in the flight path as recorded in the FlightAware website. No mention whatsoever is made of that in the DSB report. I did notice, however, that the flight plan as shown at DSBT-212 shows a slight turn to the left at the Germany-Poland border and a slight turn to the right at the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan border. If we remove this slight deviation, we have a straight line flight path that goes over the Sea of Azov as the earlier routes did before they were changed on FlightAware.

I still believe that this is a point that has been insufficiently discussed and I remind readers of the screen shots taken of the FlightAware tracks showing previous routes well south of the track taken that day by MH17 shown here and here. I remember noticing the change at the time and thinking that the flight path of 17 July was the first question that had to be answered. Again, the DSB makes no mention of any other routes taken by this daily flight.

Fighter planes

As to the fighter plane story the flat statement is made that there are no aircraft shown on the Ukrainian radar tracks except MH17 and two other commercial flights (DSBT-114). No mention whatsoever is made of the Russian presentation (MoD 9th illustration) that showed a fighter plane close to MH17. (But note the careful statement that there is nothing on the Ukrainian radar tracks. Perhaps the DSB is leaving space for a later “reconsideration”.) The report rules out cannon fire because 1) there are too many holes in the fuselage for a limited number of cannon rounds; 2) the presence of “bow-tie” fragments (see below); 3) there were no military aircraft in the area (DSBT-126). It returns to the issue at DSB-131 where it argues that all penetrations of MH17 came from a single point.

Personally I do not find this very convincing and I do not believe that the presence of a fighter as well as a SAM is excluded, although it is clear that the SAM was sufficient to bring the plane down and kill the cockpit crew. But the DSB ought to have said something about the Russian statement that there was a fighter plane nearby. And certainly there are many holes in the wreckage that look as if they may be caused by cannon fire. And then there are the numerous claimed eyewitness statements of fighters in the area. All this should have been discussed and, if rejected, rejected with serious arguments and evidence.

The reconstruction and the damage

We now come to an analysis of the reconstructed aircraft. Or – and this is a point of great significance – the partly reconstructed aircraft. DSBV gives a good view of the reconstruction at 22:44. We see that the cockpit and part of the lower forward passenger section is all that has been constructed. Missing are the port wing and port engine. This is the key to the limited hangout.

DSBT-55 begins a long section detailing what parts were recovered and from where they were recovered. Everything is accounted for except – an important exception – missile parts consistent with an Buk 9M38 missile (DSBT-80). No location is given for them and there is no chain of custody given. Are these the parts reported to have been found only as late as August 2015? We are merely informed they were found “in the wreckage area”. Photographs appear at DSBT-82.

A long section analyses the sounds from the Cockpit Voice Recorder and establishes a source outside the the upper port side of the cockpit (DSBT-112) This is assumed to be the location of the centre of the explosion. This location is verified by analysing the holes (DSBT-124). All this is perfectly convincing.

About 75 fragments were found in the human remains. Some of these are argued to have come from outside through the aircraft skin; some photos at DSBT-89. Two of these (three?) are claimed to be “bow-tie” shaped (DSBT-92). These two – or is it three or four? – “bow-tie” shaped fragments are conclusive as far as the DSB is concerned: their assertion that it was a Buk warhead type 9N314M completely depends on these two or three or four fragments. John Helmer has argued that there is a suspicious amount of secrecy and national security about these vital pieces.

This is a point of contention with Almaz-Antey’s reports which maintain that the Buk used did not have a “bow-tie” warhead. AA2, which used a static test of a Buk with “bow-tie” (Almaz-Antey calls them “I-beam”) shaped particles in its warhead, argues that the resulting destruction pattern shows bow-tie/I-beam shaped holes (AA2-27) (which DSBT does not) and many more bow-tie/I-beam fragments – there are more than 2000 in that particular warhead design – in the wreckage than two or four. From this Almaz-Antey concludes that the warhead used was not the 9N314M (which has bow-ties/I-beams) but the B9N314 which does not. Their point is that this is the type of Buk in Ukrainian service but no longer in Russian service.

Launch point of missile.

DSBT-144 gives the estimated launch point for the Buk. It chooses a rather large area to the east of Torez more-or-less in front of MH17. In that area is a smaller one it claims to have been provided by Almaz-Antey and a still smaller one provided by the Kiev authorities. Therefore a missile fired from any of these positions would have been approximately head-on to MH17 (from directly head-on to about 30°). This is one thing to which I will return, but I must say I do not understand what the DSB is talking about when it includes an Almaz-Antey estimate of the launch point in this area: neither Almaz-Antey presentation gives an origin in that area. As we saw above, Almaz-Antey gives an estimated firing point that would place the missile launch point much more to the right of MH17 – at roughly 60° from its course. Which brings us back to the key point: ignoring the damage to the port wing and port engine allows the DSB to make the missile track more to the front of MH17’s course. Such an origin is impossible if the damage to the wing and engine are taken into account. The DSB report elides the issue altogether but does provide an “out” by showing a photo of the engine damage.

Conclusion

There are a number of questions that can be raised about the report: the lack of primary radar data from Ukraine and NATO is just not believable and the authors should not have blandly accepted it: there were Ukrainian fighters in the air and no one should possibly believe that NATO assets weren’t watching the area.

The report airily ignores the Russian MoD claim of a fighter plane near MH17 (although leaves itself an out by saying the Ukrainian data showed nothing).

The “flight route question” is completely unaddressed.

Too much hangs on the very small number of bow-tie/I-beam pieces.

By the main thing is that, because it has ignored the damage to the port wing and port engine (although leaving a photo of the latter in the report so as to provide an out), it is able to shift the approach line of the missile away from Kiev-held territory to the south of MH17’s route to rebel-held territory in the south-east.

So what happened?

I agree that we will probably not know until the regime in Kiev collapses or some Edward Snowden reveals something. (Although, as it now appears that the Kiev regime is actually questioning the official “heavenly hundred” sniper story, discussed here by Gordon Hahn, who can say what’s next?).

I would suggest the following possibilities.

The media dog is no longer barking

I would draw the reader’s attention to the media coverage. A media campaign blaming the rebels and Russia began almost immediately after the crash; on the other hand, the media has been very silent about the DSB report. The Daily Mail can serve as an example of both: “Anything to confess, Putin? Russian president in church as world leaders warn him you can’t ‘wash your hands’ of MH17 disaster” 18 July 2014 (“Amid growing evidence that the flight was hit by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile, launched from areas controlled by pro-Russian rebels in the separatist eastern regions of Ukraine, fingers have increasingly been pointed at Russian president Vladimir Putin, who denies involvement.”) and “Russian missile killed pilots and cut jet in half but passengers could have been conscious for up to a minute as plane plunged, reveals official report into MH17 downed over Ukraine” 17 October 2015 (rather neutral coverage full of “he said, she said”). And the story seems to have disappeared. A cynic might be excused for wondering if some central agency puts out the story line. I find this suggestive.

To watch

As for further developments I recommend Alexander Mercouris’ piece on RI – there are some legal cases coming up that may prove interesting. I also recommend John Helmer’s writings on the subject at his blog Dances with Bears. The story appears to be unravelling in several places at once. He also goes into more details on the tiny number of bow-tie/I-beams on which the DSB hangs so much of its case.

Stay tuned, there may be more to come.

Ukraine will Conquer Russia!

In someone’s alternate universe. Maybe.

I was struck by this quotation in a piece by Anatoly Karlin; it is by one Adrian Bonenburger writing in Forbes in July. I am certainly not going to waste my time reading the rest of the Bonenburger oeuvre even though there may be more keepers in it.

This is the greatest risk we face for World War III. Not that Russia defeats Ukraine and moves toward Poland and Estonia, but that Ukraine wipes out the Russians currently in Ukraine, and Putin is forced to take some drastic action to prevent further losses. After all, why should Ukraine not feel entitled to take some of Russia’s territory in return for their lost Crimea? And who will be there to stop them, save demoralized and confused Russian conscripts?

I don’t think “deluded” is a strong enough word. Bonenburger obviously believes that 1) Ukraine is soon going to be “Europeanised” 2) that “Putinism” is soon going to collapse and 3) that European armies squash Russian armies like bugs.

And, you know, he’s right. The Ukrainian juggernaut did smoothly roll over the pathetic rebels in the summer and Putin is said to be hiding out with his (only) friend in Pyongyang.

European armies do routinely crush Russia’s demoralised and confused conscripts. We’ve all seen paintings of Charles XII crowning himself in the Kremlin. Who has not admired Napoleon’s glorious summer house among the volcanoes of Kamchatka? Every schoolchild has heard of the historic Hitler-Tojo meeting in January 1942 in Sakhalin.

It’s rather fascinating that anyone would pay Bonenburger to do anything more complicated than lifting heavy objects.

Ukraine: Such a Disappointment for a Girl: Hope and change blasted and gone. What to do?

http://russia-insider.com/en/ukraine-such-disappointment-girl/ri9389

JRL/2015/169/11

Remember the girl who wanted lacy undies rather than the shapeless grey scratchy polyester bloomers that the puritanical Putin orders all his female subjects to wear? Although, come to think of it, given gas prices, gas shortages and gas thefts, something warm, no matter how unattractive, might be more practical for a Ukrainian girl today than frilly bits of silk. Well, anyway, apparently she, Olga Znachkova, is trying to get work in Russia. Things didn’t work out for her – or for millions of other Ukrainian girls – quite the way they were advertised, did they? (INSERT http://ruposters.ru/images/news/55155b86c7508_354.jpg) (Of course, she’s an actress and it is more than possible that she was hired for the job as was I’m a Ukrainian. But we can still feel for her letdown, can’t we?)

But spare a thought for another Maidan Girl – the Baker herself. (INSERT http://nationalvanguard.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/pyatt-nuland-cookies.jpg) What must she be thinking? She did the cookie thing in December 2013 and helped manufacture the new Ukrainian government over the next couple of months. What was she hoping for?

A smooth overthrow of Yanukovych followed by a smooth transition to her hand picked government; the smooth acquiescence of the whole country; an economy that you could pretend was smoothly improving; smooth reductions of corruption perceptions (remember Saakashvili and the traffic police? Something like that); a smoothly quiescent Moscow; smooth US Navy port visits in Sevastopol; smooth track into NATO; Joe Biden’s son smoothly getting rich on fracking. A victory for the US, good return on the $5 billion investment and a BIG loss for Russia. Smooooooth. All done and dusted long before today.

Instead, she manufactured another neocon disaster with nothing smooth about it at all. The US Navy won’t be visiting Sevastopol. When even Saakashvili says it will be years to get back to the pre-Maidan numbers, you know there is no pretending away the economic catastrophe. Russia is not cowed; it is cutting itself loose from the West. The Russia-China alliance, the worst possible outcome for US power, tightens day by day (speaking of port visits, I don’t think she had Chinese warships visiting Novorossiysk in mind). Ukraine will not be fast tracked into NATO. It is torn apart in war. The present government’s popularity ratings are rock bottom. The useful actors of the Maidan riots threaten to overthrow the government. The allies hold to the task but it takes ever more effort on Washington’s part. The sanctions against Russia probably cost Europe more than Russia: Russia can find new importers or make its own but the EU can’t find new markets. The US military is nervous about the prospects of a real war with Russia. The people who live in NATO states – as opposed to their suborned rulers and media outlets – have little enthusiasm for the endless cataclysm (and even less as the outcome of the neocon catastrophes in Libya and Syria arrive for extended visits in their countries). And it can only get worse. Well, on the bright side, Pussy Riot did humiliate a fictional Russian President. And Joe Biden’s son would be getting rich in the fracking business in Ukraine, if there were any fracking business left. Not much, is it?

Nuland still dreams, and never more than in her testimony six months ago: “even as Ukraine began building a peaceful, democratic, independent nation across 93% of its territory, Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine suffered a reign of terror.” Peaceful, democratic, independent (you, Dear Reader, are invited to Google the contemporary reality of these concepts). But the reality is different. While the Western media usually obediently types out the script it is given, every now and again something leaks through the barrier. Three recent examples: Demoralised Ukraine troops start to lose faith in Kiev, Kiev forced to fight its own fascist militia and Ukraine Is Too Corrupt for Debt Deal to Work.

Personally, I don’t think there was a Plan B. (By the way, has any one of the neocon foreign policy catastrophes of recent years had a follow-up plan or any – even fleeting – consideration of the consequences? I believe that ISIS is another outcome of neocon insouciance and I am gratified to see that the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency agrees.) One has to comprehend how profoundly ignorant Obama and his circle are about Russia: just a year ago we heard “But I do think it’s important to keep perspective. Russia doesn’t make anything. Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking.” No big deal, nothing to worry about unless “nuclear weapons are back in the discussion of foreign policy”. (Which, a year later, as it happens, they are). The Obama team has many other misconceptions. No wonder Nuland expected this feeble, failing semi state – this “gas station masquerading as a country” – to roll over.

So I don’t think there was a follow-up plan – the lacy undies and the naval base were a done deal, so to speak; all that was lacking was the completion of Plan A. (Here’s an interesting post from someone who did think about the consequences. Eighteen months ago. A lot more perceptive than anything out of Washington, don’t you think?)

I would go so far to suggest that the utter collapse of the dreams of Znachkova and Nuland and the lack of an alternative plan drives the increasing shrill statements and themes in the Western MSM. This was not supposed to happen: Nuland & Co, thinking it was weak, fragile and powerless, expected Russia to back down; it was all supposed to be completely over by August 2015. All they can do is to repeat themselves over and over again.

Hope louder! Russia, of course, has always been doomed (here’s Time in 1927) and it was altogether finished in 2001, but it seems that the intensity of the doom saying has been stepped up as if wishing so made it so. Has an ‘open society’ doomed Russia to fail? (September 2012); Russia Is Doomed (March 2014); Why Putin’s Adventure in Ukraine Is Doomed (April 2014); Putin’s Nationalism and Expansion Strategy Is Doomed to Fail (September 2014); Sorry, Putin. Russia’s economy is doomed (December 2014); Remember Russia? It’s still doomed (January 2015); Morgan Stanley thinks Russia’s doomed (February 2015). Shout louder! they can’t hear you in Moscow.

More threats and futile gestures! “Dragoon ride”; “A message to Russia” in Bulgaria – 4 tanks, 3 guns and 6 recce vehicles (!); “unacceptable to the international community“. It’s no wonder that some US military leaders are starting to get nervous.

More sanctions! A half century of sanctions didn’t bend Cuba but they will bend Russia – just one more round and Putin will come crashing down.

More hysterical assertions! Umpteen thousand Russian troops in or near Ukraine! MH17 tribunal! Another invasion of Ukraine strangely unobserved by the gigantic American intelligence apparatus! More submarines in Sweden! Dangerous air activities near NATO warships peacefully sailing in the Black Sea or Baltic Sea! Santa Claus! Giant hogweed! Corbyn! Brutal goat deaths! Nasty thoughts! Manufacturing slowdowns! Putin’s crazy!

Back in 2013 Olga and Vicky could taste it, wear it, phone it, see it. Where are the lacy undies? Why isn’t the US Navy in Sevastopol?