THE WEST LEAVES MUMMY’S BASEMENT

After years of behaving like a teenager shadow boxing in the basement of his mother’s house, playing out the fantasy of knocking out Ivan Drago in the 1985 movie Rocky IV, the US and NATO find themselves confronting the reality.

Scott Ritter

Being a member of NATO used to be pretty cost-free: fun even. You had a suite in the flashy new HQ, admired your flag with all the others, gloried in your excellent values. The biggest downside was that you were expected to provide a few soldiers to participate in the latest war in some dusty place. But, you could go home after destroying Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan and forget about it. Until the refugees showed up. And Washington really did insist that you buy some of its weapons and it was harder and harder to say no. And you started getting sucked into things that weren’t as much fun as you expected. But, overall, for the leaders anyway, it was an attractive deal. And most of you didn’t like Russia much, having edited your own communists out of the story and forgotten what the Germans did to you.

Russia was feeble and weak, going down, and certainly no match for “the greatest alliance in history“. But what happens when that teddy bear turns nasty? Blowing up countries from 20,000 feet, you had stopped paying attention. Lost wars in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iraq turn out to be poor preparation and the bear had been paying attention. But, you cry, NATO was supposed to protect me, not put me into greater danger!

And that is the dilemma that Moscow has been patiently preparing for you. On 17 December Moscow published two draft treaties. Here are the official English versions: Treaty between The United States of America and the Russian Federation on security guarantees and Agreement on measures to ensure the security of The Russian Federation and member States of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They should be read but, in essence, after reminding the USA and NATO of all the international treaties that they signed up to and ignored, they are asked to commit themselves again, in writing, in public. They must accept the principle that security is mutual. In addition the USA and Russia will not station nuclear weapons outside their territories – which will require the USA to remove some. Finally – and not negotiable – the USA and NATO must solemnly commit themselves to no more expansion. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov later explained why the drafts had been made public: “because we are aware of the West’s ability to obfuscate any uncomfortable issues for them… We have serious doubts that the main thing in our proposals, namely the unconditional demand not to expand NATO to the east, will not be swept under the carpet.” There is little expectation from Moscow that these demands will be taken seriously by the West. I outline my assessment of the “or else” here and again here. Others have done so elsewhere: Moscow has quite a range of options.

There were two rounds of talks in Geneva and a meeting with NATO. The US written answer was delivered on 26 January and, in Lavrov’s words, did not address “the main issue” of NATO expansion and deployment of strike weapons, although there were openings on “matters of secondary importance”. So here we are and we await the next step. It is, of course, quite certain that Moscow has the next step worked out and the ones after that.

Other events since December have been interesting. The CIA Director visited Kiev 17 January; the UK began supplying Ukraine with light anti-armour weapons (rather elderly as it turned out); the US is sending more and others are providing light AD systems; Canada sent some troops (mostly it seemed to help evacuate Embassy personnel); a senior German naval officer resigned after committing crimespeak; some US troops on “heightened preparedness”. The biggest laugh was the evacuate-or-not dance: Canada, USA and UK, the three most enthusiastic cheerleaders for war to the last Ukrainian, are running, the EU is staying.

Other developments worth noting. On 3 January the P5 declared “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Iran and Russia showed close cooperation. Russian and Syrian aircraft made a joint patrol of all Syria’s borders; these are to be regular occurrences. Agreements with Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua in a range of areas, including military collaboration. And China’s Foreign Minister advised Washington to take Moscow’s concerns seriously. Only a fool would think these were random coincidences.

There was lots of opinion, of course. Much of it stunningly idiotic. My favourite is An Aging Vladimir Putin Hopes War Can Make a Sagging Empire Rise Again. I must confess that when one sees “aging” and “sagging empire”, Putin and Russia are not the first things that come to mind. But these are memorable as well: How Germany’s greed for gas, and another grubby deal with Moscow, could plunge Europe into an abyss and Is Germany a Reliable American Ally? Nein: Berlin goes its own way, prizing cheap gas, car exports to China, and keeping Putin calm. A cry from mummy’s basement: Why threat to Ukraine from Putin’s Russia is exaggerated – Gwynne Dyer: THE geopolitical question of the moment is: how important is it to humour Russian leader Vladimir Putin? The answer is: not very. From another couch warrior: Russia May Underestimate Ukraine and NATO. And lots of threats: eighteen response scenarios; “sanctions like you’ve not seen before“; personal sanctions. The US State Department complains about “Disarming Disinformation” and burbles that it’s “United with Ukraine“. First he said “only winners” could make demands, then he complained he didn’t have a seat.

But Moscow doesn’t want to “invade Ukraine”; if it did it would have to pay for it. In any event, the way Ukraine’s population is melting away, in another couple of decades, it will be uninhabited.

More rational thinkers exist. Scott Ritter, no couch warrior, knows that America couldn’t defend Ukraine even if it wanted to. The troops Washington has put on alert may be from the storied 82nd Airborne but they’re only light infantry. NATO no longer has the heavy forces and their support in place. But Russia does. There is no credible military threat from NATO. Many understand reality: Biden’s Opportunity for Peace in Eurasia; The Overstretched Superpower: Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?; Opinion: Ignore the hawks, Mr. President. You’re right on Ukraine. People in RAND realise that the weapons being given Ukraine will be useless. Worse than useless, in fact, if they encourage Kiev to start something. This fictional account describes what a Russia-Ukraine war would really look like – over in a day and all with stand-off weapons, a few special forces and the local forces.

There have been some second thoughts. Washington and its allies have been booming the “Russian invasion” threat as hard as they can but Kiev is trying to to turn down the volume – it doesn’t want to scare its principal backers away. No signs on 2 January, or 25 January. Delicate job this, as we see here: you have to say not now but maybe later. Now even Washington is trying to dial it down – after all, Russia has been “about to invade” for three months now.

But the real second thoughts are forming in Europe. By addressing its demands to Washington, Moscow has shown the Europeans where they fit on the tree. It’s Europe that will – again – pay for Washington’s conceits. Washington is always careful to exempt itself from the anti-Russia sanctions – no shortage of rocket engines or oil or titanium – but Europe can’t. Amusingly, the EU is complaining to the WTO about the counter sanctions Moscow put on food which ended a profitable export market. The two favourite sanctions Washington is pushing for are stopping Nord Stream 2 and kicking Russia out of SWIFT. Neither of these will hurt the USA but they will be devastating for Europe. Killing Nord Stream will be a severe blow to German industry. And, absent SWIFT, how is Europe supposed to pay for Russian gas imports? No wonder Germany’s Scholz wants a “qualified fresh start” with Russia as the Foreign Minister calls for diplomacy. An Open Letter in Germany. France’s Macron thinks the EU should start its own dialogue. Hungary’s Orbán is going there for another reasons but will surely be talking about this. Croatia wants nothing to do with the adventure. Bulgaria wants out. One entertaining climbdown was the British Defence Minister’s invitation to Shoygu to come to London; instead he will go to Moscow. Even Washington and London are starting to learn that the sanctions won’t be off-stage after all. London has been warned there could be a big spike in energy costs and some big American companies have asked to be excepted. As for sending troops, Washington’s not that “United with Ukraine“. NATO won’t; UK’s Johnson admits no NATO country is capable of a large-scale deployment in Ukraine.

We are coming to the end of the story. All those people in the West who thought they could ignore Russia’s interests are starting to suspect that they don’t have the leverage they thought they had. Russia is pretty sanctions-proof. It is the closest thing to an economic autarky on the planet: lots of territory, lots of raw materials, lots of water, lots of energy, all the manufacturing it needs, self-sufficient in food, well-educated people, backed up government, armed to the teeth. It’s pretty impregnable and it’s not run by fools. And it’s very closely allied to the biggest manufacturing power and population in the world. Not an easy target at all and almost impossible to hurt without hurting yourself more.

And all this to preserve the so-called right of a country no one wants in NATO to ask to be admitted. What a principle to die for!

Time for Moscow to tighten the screws. How much will Europe and the other NATOites be prepared to pay for being in a security organisation that does nothing but get its members into disastrous wars and make them insecure?

Putin and his team can allow themselves a small smile: they’ve been planning this for a long time. He warned us in 2007 and here we are today.

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

I can think of no better demonstration of Washington’s bankruptcy than Nuland’s appeal yesterday: “We are calling on Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to urge diplomacy…“.

RUSSIA, UKRAINE ET AL: WHAT NEXT?

First published Turcopolier, picked up by Unz Review, JRL 2022/15/11, Sitrepworld,

To Moscow, Ukraine is not the problem, Washington is. Or, as Putin might put it: Tabaqui does what Shere Khan tells him to and there is no point in dealing with him, go straight to Shere Khan. That is what Moscow is trying to do with its treaty proposals.

For the same reason, Moscow is not much concerned with what the EU or NATO says; it assesses that they are Tabaquis too.

The current propaganda meme in Washington is that Russia is going to “invade Ukraine” and absorb it. It will not: Ukraine is a decaying, impoverished, de-industrialised, divided, corrupt and decaying mess; Moscow does not want to take responsibility for the package. Moscow is fully aware that while its troops will be welcomed in many parts of Ukraine they will not be in others. Indeed, in Moscow, they must be wishing that Stalin had returned Galicia to Poland rather than giving it to the Ukrainian SSR after the War and stuck Warsaw with the problem. This does not, however, rule out the eventual absorption of most of Novorossiya in ultimo.

The second delusion in Washington is that if Moscow did “invade Ukraine” it would start as far away from Kiev as possible and send tank after tank down a road so that the US-supplied PAWs could exact a heavy cost. That is absolutely not what Moscow would do as Scott Ritter explains. Moscow would use standoff weapons to obliterate Ukrainian troop positions, C3I assets, assembly areas, artillery positions, ammunition dumps, airfields, ports and the like. At its choice. It would all be over quite quickly and the Javelins would never be taken out of their boxes. But that is the extreme option as Ritter explains.

Unfortunately the Blinkens, Sullivans, Farkas’, Nulands and others who seem to be driving USA policy don’t understand any of this. They remain convinced that the US is a mighty power, that Russia is feeble and fading, that Putin’s position is shaky, that sanctions are biting, that Russia’s economy is weak and so on. And that they understand modern warfare. Everything in the past twenty years contradicts their view but they hold to it nonetheless.

Take, for example, Wendy Sherman who was the principal American negotiator in Geneva this month. Look at her biography on Wikipedia. Social worker, money raiser for Democratic Party candidates, political campaign manager, Fanny Mae, Clinton appointee to the State Department, negotiator with Iran and North Korea. Is there anything in that record to indicate any knowledge or understanding of Russia or modern war? (Or skill at negotiations for that matter?) And yet she’s the one on point. Jake Sullivan: lawyer, debate preparer, political advisor, ditto.

Perhaps there’s an American general officer who sees reality – certainly there are those who have spoken of Russia’s formidable air defence or EW capabilities; others understand how weak NATO would be in a war on Russia’s home field. But, as Colonel Lang points out, maybe not.

Overconfidence rooted on nothing is the problem. Moscow has made a proposal that is based on the undeniably true position that security is mutual. If one side threatens the other, then the threatened one will take steps to shore up its position and the threat level will rise and rise. During the Cold War both sides understood that there were limits, that threats were hazardous and that negotiating prevented worse things from happening. But Washington is lost in its delusion of everlasting superiority.

The so-called “Thucydides trap” is the name given to a condition when one power (Sparta then, USA now) fears the rising power of (Athens then, China and Russia today) and starts a war because it fears its position can only weaken. The brutal truth is that that point has already been passed: Russia+China are more powerful than the USA and its allies in every measurable matter – more steel, more food, more guns, more STEM, more bridges, more money – more everything. NATO/US would lose a conventional war – American military wargamers know this to be true.

In short, how can Moscow compel these people to see reality? This, in a word, is the problem: if they can see it, then something better is possible; if they can’t, then it’s the worse. For everybody’s sake – Washington’s too – Washington has to pay attention to Moscow’s security concerns and dial down its aggressions. Moscow has asked – demanded really – and it’s not yet clear that the attempt has failed. The negative reaction of the Tabaquis doesn’t matter – Moscow only talked to them as a matter of form – it’s Shere Khan’s answer that matters. And we haven’t had it yet.

Perhaps the aborted colour revolution in Kazakhstan was an answer from some portion of the US deep state/Borg but, if so, it was a swift and powerful demonstration of how poor an understanding of the true correlation of forces the US deep state has.

We await Washington’s final answer but the prospects are not very encouraging at the moment: the cheap threats and bragging op-eds pour out. So what is Moscow’s Plan B?

I have elsewhere listed some responses that I can imagine and others have done so too. I am thinking that Moscow has to do something pretty dramatic to shatter the complacency. I see three principal fronts.

  • The United States has not been threatened with a conventional attack on its home territory since 1814; Russia has several ways that it can do so. The problem will be to reveal the threat in a way that cannot be denied or hidden. A demonstration of Poseidon’s capabilities on some island somewhere followed by the announcement that a significant number are already deployed near US coastal cities?
  • Washington must be presented with a demonstration of Russia’s immense destructive military power that it cannot pretend away. Ukraine is the obvious field for such a demonstration. (See Ritter).
  • A world-changing diplomatic move like a formal military alliance with China with a provision that an attack on one is an attack on both. This would be a demonstration of the correlation of forces that not even the most deluded could miss. Mackinder’s Heartland plus population, plus manufacturing, plus STEM, plus resources, plus military and naval might joined in a military pact.

We shall see. The negotiations are not over and something better may come from them. Doctorow, a capable observer, gives some hope. But to get to a better result would require a pretty major change in attitude in Washington.

We can hope. The stakes are high.

SOMETHING HOPEFUL FOR THE NEW YEAR – SORT OF

The wise men of that Academy of Wisdom (aka The Atlantic Council) tell us “How to deal with the Kremlin-created crisis in Europe“. The piece is mostly codswallop, boasting, cheap threats and hot air but there is one good thing about it:

It doesn’t threaten war.

Never mind that Russia won’t “invade Ukraine” for a host of reasons which I (for one – I certainly don’t pretend to be the only person who can see the obvious) laid out in 2014: Why Russia Hasn’t and Won’t Invade Ukraine. These reasons are only stronger now because Ukraine has become more decayed, more poor, more nazi, more corrupt, more divided and more hopeless. It is a huge hostile expensive liability that Moscow doesn’t want to pay for and police. Let those who broke it, pay for it.

But these guys think “Moscow appears to be setting the stage for launching a major conventional assault on Ukraine”. The signers are the usual “Putin whisperers“; none very tightly connected to reality: the lead signer suggested that “Ukraine should invite the United States and NATO to send a fleet of armed ships to visit Mariupol.“. They’d better be pretty small ships – the Sea is very shallow. Especially near Mariupol. Another signer is the author of the ridiculous “Dragoon Ride”. Another is the expert in wrongness.

However pitiful their suggestions, one may take comfort from the fact that they do not suggest that the USA/NATO go to war with Russia if it “invades Ukraine”. The truth, of which one signer has a some dim awareness, is simple:

if USA/NATO get into a conventional war with Russia, they will lose;

if USA/NATO get into a nuclear war with Russia, everybody will lose;

therefore, there is no war solution for USA/NATO

What do they suggest? What are the “immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations”; “raising the costs”? Only worn-out repetition of past failures. One may be encouraged because it shows the paucity of thought among the warmongers but, at the same time, discouraged because it shows their paucity of thought. Stasis. Decay. Petrifaction. But never a reflective silence.

Here they are:

  1. “a package of major and painful sanctions”;
  2. “enhance the deterrent strength of Ukraine’s armed forces”;
  3. “NATO should act now to begin bolstering its military presence on its eastern flank”;
  4. USA/NATO should utter statements and hold consultations “to highlight the unacceptability…”;
  5. “the United States and its allies should continue to make clear their readiness for dialogue with Russia, to include concerns of NATO and other parties about Russian military and other aggressive activities”.

All that need be said about still more sanctions on Russia is that the EU is complaining to the WTO right now about the effectiveness of Russian counters to the sanctions Europe imposed on it because of past alleged sins. In a word, sanctions have made Russia stronger. Food is the most obvious example but there are plenty of others: the latest being forcing the Russian aircraft industry to home produce wings and engines for the MC-21. Past sanctions have given Russia a degree of immunity against future sanctions.

Of course these strategists of Laputa don’t miss this one: “prevent Nord Stream 2 from going into operation in the event of a Russian attack.” What they haven’t the wit to understand is that stopping Nord Stream will only cost Moscow money of which it has plenty but it will cost Germany much more. It’s a curious state of mind that threatens enemies by damaging allies. (Although George Friedman would suggest that that is precisely the point.)

The weapons they suggest are “Javelin anti-armor missiles and Q36 counter-battery radar systems as well as Stinger and other anti-aircraft missiles.” There won’t be a chance to use them – if the Ukronazis provoke a Russian reaction, it will resemble this story: “Товарищи, отойдите от своей базы подальше. У вас 10 минут“.

As to the threat of NATO bolstering its deployments to “its eastern flank”, taking the British Army as an example, cuts, not increases are the reality; as it is now, it has one fully-staffed infantry battalion. The US Army isn’t much better. Once a paper tiger, NATO is now merely a paper pussycat.

Nobody in Moscow cares any more about statements and consultations. And neither do they in Tehran and Beijing.

The withered carrot that makes up the final suggestion amounts to talk to Russia if it admits its sins. Too late: Moscow’s not in the mood.

Altogether the work of epigones.

But at least it’s not a call for war.

WE’VE SEEN THE ULTIMATUM, WHAT IS THE “OR ELSE”?

We are making it clear that we are ready to talk about changing from a military or a military-technical scenario to a political process that really will strengthen the military security… of all the countries in the OCSE, Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space. We’ve told them that if that doesn’t work out, we will create counter-threats; then it will be too late to ask us why we made such decisions and positioned such weapons systems.

Мы как раз даем понять, что мы готовы разговаривать о том, чтобы военный сценарий или военно-технический сценарий перевести в некий политический процесс, который реально укрепит военную безопасность <…> всех государств на пространстве ОБСЕ, Евроатлантики, Евразии. А если этого не получится, то мы уже обозначили им (НАТО – прим. ТАСС), тогда мы тоже перейдем в вот этот режим создания контругроз, но тогда будет поздно нас спрашивать, почему мы приняли такие решения, почему мы разместили такие системы.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko quoted by TASS

Moscow has issued an ultimatum to USA/NATO. It is this: seriously negotiate on the issues laid out here and here. Some of them are non-negotiable.

Ultimatums always have an “Or Else” clause. What is the “or else” in this case? I don’t know but I’ve been thinking and reading other peoples’ thoughts and some ideas/guesses/suppositions follow. They are the order that they occurred to me. Whether Moscow has such a list in front of it or not, it certainly has many “counter-threats” it can use.

Why now? Two possible answers, each of which may be true. US/NATO have been using “salami tactics” against Russia for years; Moscow has decided that a second Ukraine crisis in one year is one thin slice too many. Second: Moscow may judge that, in the USA’s precipitous decline, this will be the last chance that there will be sufficient central authority to form a genuine agreement; an agreement that will avoid a catastrophic war. (The so-called Thucydides Trap).

Of course I don’t know what Putin & Co will do and we do have to factor in the existence of a new international player: Putin, Xi and Partners. Xi has just made it clear that Beijing supports Moscow’s “core interests”. It is likely that any “counter-threats” will be coordinated. The Tabaquis have responded as expected but maybe (let’s hope so) Washington is taking it more seriously.

Other commentaries I think are worth reading: Martyanov, Bernhard, Saker, Doctorow. The Western media is worthless as a source of independent thinking (typical clichéfest from the BBC – bolstered by The Misquotation) but maybe the WaPo shows that the wind is starting to blow from a different quarter: “The Cold War is over. Why do we still treat Russia like the Evil Empire?

To my CSIS readers: the world is at a grave inflection point and the West had better concentrate its attention. Moscow and Beijing don’t depend on me for advice and I’m not talking to them: regard this as one of the briefing notes that I used to write. Moscow is serious and it does have real “counter-threats”.

MILITARY MEASURES

  • Moscow could publish a list of targets in NATO countries that can and will be hit by nuclear or non-nuclear standoff weapons in the event of hostilities. These would likely include headquarters, airbases, port facilities, logistics facilities, ammunition dumps, military bases, munitions factories and so on.
  • Moscow could station medium and short-range nuclear missiles in Kaliningrad and Belarus. The latter requires agreement from Minsk but Belarus President Lukashenka has hinted that it will be granted. Moscow could then make it clear that they are aimed at NATO targets.
  • Moscow could station Iskanders and have lots of aircraft in the air with Kinzhals and let it be known that they are aimed at NATO targets.
  • Moscow could make a sudden strike by stand-off weapons and special forces that destroys the Azov Battalion in Eastern Ukraine. Moscow would see two advantages: 1) it would remove the principal threat to the LDNR and 2) it would change the correlation of forces in Kiev. It would also be a live demonstration of Russia’s tremendous military power.
  • Moscow could remind the West of the meaning of Soviet Marshal Ogarkov’s observation that precision weapons have, to a degree, made nuclear weapons obsolete. A prescient remark, somewhat ahead of its time 35 years ago, but realised now by Russia’s arsenal of hypersonic precision missiles.
  • The Russian Navy operates the quietest submarines in the world; Moscow could could make and publish a movie of the movements of some NATO ship as seen through the periscope.
  • I believe (suspect/guess) that the Russian Armed Forces have the capability to blind Aegis-equipped ships. Moscow could do so in public in a way that cannot be denied. Without Aegis, the US surface navy is just targets. Objection: this is a war-winning secret and should not be lightly used. Unless, of course, the Russian Armed Forces have something even more effective.
  • Russia has large and very powerful airborne forces – much stronger than the light infantry of other countries, they are capable of seizing and holding territory against all but heavy armoured attacks. And they’re being increased. Moscow could demonstrate their capability in an exercise showing a sudden seizing of key enemy facilities like a port or major airfield, inviting NATO representatives to watch from the target area.
  • The Russian Armed Forces could do some obvious targetting of the next NATO element to come close to Russia’s borders; they could aggressively ping ships and aircraft that get too close and publicise it.
  • Moscow could make a public demonstration of what Poseidons can do and show in a convincing way that they are at sea off the US coast. Ditto with Burevestnik. In short Moscow could directly threaten the US mainland with non-nuclear weapons. Something that no one has been able to do since 1814.
  • Does the Club-K Container Missile System actually exist? (If so, Moscow could give a public demonstration, if not pretend that it does). Either way, Moscow could publicly state that they will be all over the place and sell them to countries threatened by USA/NATO.

DIPLOMATIC/INTERNATIONAL MEASURES

  • Moscow could publicly transfer some key military technologies to China with licence to build them there.
  • Moscow could make a formal military treaty with China with an “Article 5” provision.
  • Moscow could make a formal military treaty with Belarus including significant stationed strike forces.
  • Moscow could station forces in Central Asian neighbours.
  • Russia and Chinese warships accompanied by long-range strike aircraft could do a “freedom of navigation” cruise in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Moscow could recall ambassadors, reduce foreign missions, restrict movement of diplomats in Russia.
  • Moscow could ban all foreign NGOs immediately without going through the present process.
  • Moscow could recognise LDNR and sign defence treaties.
  • Moscow could work on Turkey, Hungary and other dissident EU/NATO members.
  • Moscow could give military aid to or station weapons in Western Hemisphere countries.
  • Beijing could do something in its part of the world to show its agreement and coordination with Moscow raising the threat of a two front conflict.

ECONOMIC MEASURES

  • Moscow could close airspace to civil airlines of the countries that sanction Russia.
  • Moscow could declare that Russian exports must now be paid for in Rubles, gold, Renminbi or Euros (Euros? It depends).
  • Moscow could announce that Nord Stream 2 will be abandoned if certification if delayed past a certain date. (Personally, I am amused by how many people think that shutting it down would cause more harm to Russia than to Germany: for the first it’s only money and Russia has plenty of that; for the second….)
  • Moscow could stop all sales of anything to USA (rocket motors and oil especially).
  • Moscow could announce that no more gas contracts to countries that sanction it will be made after the current ones end. This is a first step. See below.
  • As a second and more severe step, Moscow could break all contracts with countries that sanction Russia on the grounds that a state of hostility exists. That is, all oil and gas deliveries stop immediately.
  • Moscow could announce that no more gas will be shipped to or through Ukraine on the grounds that a state of hostility exists.
  • Russia and China could roll out their counter-SWIFT ASAP.

SUBVERSIVE MEASURES

  • Moscow could stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine (Novorossiya) supporting secession movements.
  • Moscow could order special forces to attack key nazi organisations throughout Ukraine.
  • Moscow could order special forces to attack military facilities throughout Ukraine.

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

But I’m sure that whatever “counter-threats” Moscow comes up with will be powerful and surprise the West. My recommendation is that USA/NATO take the ultimatums seriously.

After all, the Russian proposals really are mutually beneficial – their theme is that nobody should threaten anybody and if anybody should feel threatened, there should be serious talks to resolve the issue.

Security is mutual:

if all feel secure, then all are secure;

if one feels insecure, then none is secure.

As we now see: when Russia feels threatened by what USA/NATO do, it can threaten back. Better to live in a world in which nobody is threatening anybody and everybody feels secure.

George Kennan foresaw this a quarter of a century ago:

I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies. I think it is a tragic mistake. There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.

GOODBYE TO SCF

Just sent this to SCF

As you can see from this, the threats that have silenced many of your American contributors will be coming to Canada soon.

I will no longer contribute to Strategic Culture Foundation. Thank you for your honourable behaviour and honesty. I am sorry to do this but it’s a case of force majeure. I’m too old to want to fight it.

Please give any remaining honorariums to this charity supported by the Rotary Club of St Petersburg.

Thank you.

NOTE 18 Jan 2022. And they did, bless them. They couldn’t get it to that charity but they donated 22 thousand Rubles to a children’s charity in Moscow. Honourable and reliable to the last. Thank you!

CSIS COMES TO CALL

About 1000 Tuesday morning (14 December 2021) a ring on the doorbell. A man with ID from CSIS told my wife he wanted to speak with me. When I went outside he said he had some questions about Strategic Culture Foundation. Many of my fellow contributors in the USA have been hassled by the – as they used to call them in the USSR – Organs; then the US government imposed heavy penalities if they continue to write for it because it decided it was a Russian intelligence front (without any evidence – but who needs that these days?) So I was quite testy. No freedom of speech any more? No, no, he said, nothing like that, just want to ask a few questions.

The questions were these:

  1. Has SCF ever suggested I write something in a certain way? I told him they had three times asked me to write on a subject – “Real Crickets, Fake News” and “The Abyss of Disinformation Gazes Into Its Creators” – but the third time I said I wasn’t interested. In the two cases I had written what I wanted to and they had changed nothing.
  2. Had they ever changed or re-written anything I’d given them? No I said. Not even corrected typos. And, I said the moment they do, I will stop writing for them – I am an independent operator. He knew I’d quit an outlet before that so I guess he’s read this.

When I was working I was a member of an interdepartmental intelligence committee on Russia for about ten years. This gave me acquaintance with the various Canadian intelligence organisations that dealt with Russia. I was profoundly unimpressed by CSIS. Did they, I asked him, still do “scanning”? Not familiar with that he said – well, I replied, some extremely dull CSIS guy used to bore us stupid with the CSIS scanning program without ever telling us exactly what it was. We eventually decided that it must have been a newspaper clipping service. He hadn’t heard about the person who was fired for faking his credentials whom CSIS then hired. Another CSIS guy was just so tremblingly excited about the CSIS building (a pretty snazzy one – most of us were in office plankton cubes) – he, as I recall, had little to contribute to our discussions except a knowing sneer. Not an impressive organisation at all and to think, I said, that it was wasting its time on me. Surely they had better things to do. Like the Canadian possibilities of this, maybe?

He of course believed that there was such a thing as Russian disinformation – should have challenged him to give a few examples. Although I did ask him if he believed the Steele Dossier, speaking of what US intelligence had passed off as true. Mumble mumble he answered (I think he realised that that wasn’t exactly a great starting horse any more.).

Just an informal, private discussion, no hard feelings, said he. No intimidation. Did I have any idea who ran Strategic Culture Foundation? I did not but didn’t think it was the Russian government – not smart enough, I told him: they still think RT is all they need to do. Some of the writers I’d spoken to had speculated that it might be funded by some Russian plutocrat (this guy?) who was sick and tired of all the dangerous BS pumped out about Russia. Crap that was in danger of getting us into a war. But, as I said here (and he showed that he had read it)

Strategic Culture Foundation hasn’t created something that didn’t exist before, it’s collected something that already existed. What do we writers have in common? Well, Dear Reader, look around you. Certainly we question The Truth. Or maybe SCF is a place where people “baffled by the hysterical Russophobia of the MSM and the Democratic Party since the 2016 election” can find something else? Or maybe it’s part of Madison’s “general intercourse of sentiments“?

I said the Americans were dumb enough to think Strategic Culture Foundation was funded by the GRU which, I emphasised, was and always had been a 100% military intelligence organisation. He thought they’d said SVR (the Russian foreign intelligence organisation). (I checked – he was correct, they do say SVR – it was the GRU they claimed had been behind the Steele Dossier or the whatever-it-was in St Petersburg during Russiagate. I’ve forgotten the details – Trumputin was such a Gish gallop of rubbish that it’s hard to remember what was taken as absolutely true one day and forgotten the next).

I reiterated several times that I wrote what I felt like, when I felt like it, and so far they’ve published everything I’ve sent them. They can refuse something, but the moment they change what I’ve written, I quit.

So when I’d vented enough, he went away saying I could call whenever I wanted – we’re in the book – and wishing me a good day.

So, fellow Canadians who dare to write for Strategic Culture Foundation or similar crimethink publications, the day is coming when you’ll get a visit from our guardians from MiniTru too. And, eventually, our independent Canada will independently do what it’s told to and impose heavy penalties on us for crimethink.

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

Who does run Strategic Culture Foundation? They pay the writers so somebody is putting money into it. I don’t know. I asked once and was told “a foundation”; which didn’t tell me much. I doubt it’s the Russian government – I can’t see it thinking that it’s cost-effective to pay for another miscellaneous opinion website. And, as I told him, it seems to think RT is worth the investment. (As for me, I can’t figure out what the point of RT is.) I bet on the plutocrat theory. Here’s some of the usual speculation – somebody who’s associated with somebody who knows somebody. Whatever: they’re all Russians so they’re all connected somehow. If you check, you’ll find that most of its stable of writers have been writing exactly the same stuff for years in other places. As I said above – SCF has just gathered them, it hasn’t created them. It publishes a pretty wide range – some things I read, other things I don’t bother to; like every other site, it varies in quality. I don’t much care who’s behind it: I write what I’ve always written and they (and other outlets) publish it. They change something or dictate something, or if I think the quality is slipping, I’ll take my business elsewhere; I’ve done it before.

Once again I observe that in the Cold War, they spent a lot of money and effort trying to stop their population from getting alternate opinions. Today we do. Pretty easy deduction about which side is confident that truth and reality supports it, isn’t it?

Why do we do it in a Russian outlet and not in a home outlet? Why don’t the NYT or Globe and Mail snap us up? We write lots and we’re cheaper than their usual scribes. Oh, I know, Russian disinformation. We didn’t puff the Steele Dossier; we wonder why novichok on the doorknob means that the roof has to be replaced; we don’t understand how Russia keeps invading Ukraine but can never get past Donetsk Airport; we ask why, if Moscow really wanted to interfere in the US election it fired a weak gun too late to make any difference. Writers for those outlets swallow everything whole. So, I guess, we who write for SCF do have a certain commonality of viewpoint; but that’s not because those sinister Russians make us do so, it’s because we did before it and will after it goes. And, what I wrote in the government was much the same as what I write now.

My point of view hasn’t changed since then – and here’s how I got here. A war with Russia won’t be fun for anyone and that’s where the mono-view of the Western media is taking us.

So, yeah, I am a loyal subject of Her Majesty – I don’t want her realm of Canada to be obliterated in a war we got into because we only heard one side of the story. So I contribute my moiety to the other side.

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

I mentioned a couple of things to him and he said he hadn’t heard of them. Given that he will probably be reading this, here they are.

RCMP entrapment thrown out of court in BC

Piece in Reuters about the power of neo nazis in Ukraine.

Piece in Christian Science Monitor ditto.

A Canadian’s experience training the AZOV Battalion to NATO standards

THE RUSSIAN WAY IN WARFARE – THE BRUSILOV OFFENSIVE

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

An occasional series in which I attempt to illustrate, with historical examples, a “Russian style in warfare”. I have written about the “American style” here and here. In general, I believe that the Russian style is very effective while the US style is not.

The “Brusilov Offensive” is the name given to a series of attacks by the Russian forces between June and September 1916 against Austro-Hungarian forces in the territory of today’s Ukraine commanded and planned by Aleksey Brusilov. Very successful initially, the attacks faded out over time. The numbers of soldiers, powers of the defence, difficulty of movement and enormous stockpiles of munitions meant that offensives, on any front, petered out because of physical exhaustion, heavy casualties and outrun supply lines. In essence, the war went on until one side simply couldn’t take any more. That point was reached by Russia in 1917 and Germany at the end of 1918. The last hammer-blow broke them, not the second-last.

But Brusilov’s offensive offers some insights into the Russian way of warfare and, in particular, stands in great contrast to the British offensive on the Somme at the same time. Brusilov used tactics which weren’t used on the Western front until the Germans in the March 1918 offensive and the Canadian Corps in “Canada’s Hundred Days.” I will start with the British Somme offensive in order to show how advanced Brusilov’s tactics were.

Like many wars, August 1914 saw confidence that victory would be achieved by Christmas. But, when Christmas came, tens of thousands had been killed and wounded and the fronts were stalemated. The Schlieffen Plan had failed, Plan XVII had failed, the “Russian steamroller” had failed: it was clear that it would be a long war; a war that would need millions of soldiers, tens of thousands of weapons, millions of tons of ammunition. No one had anticipated the casualties and the ammunition expenditure. Barbed wire, trenches, magazine rifles and – above all – machine guns, had given the defence tremendous power and for the Allies, the problem was how to overcome the defence and regain the territory that the Central Powers had secured at the beginning stages of the fighting.

The British Army undertook an enormous recruiting effort which brought in about one million men by early 1915. And that was still not enough – conscription was begun a year later. Conscription raised about two and a half million men: altogether nearly 5 million British men wore uniforms: an unimaginable number in 1914. All these had to be trained and equipped. The new armies needed stunning quantities of weapons and ammunition and factories were built and hundreds of thousands moved into them to make war materiel: a gigantic war industry was erected on the very small base of 1914. This took a great deal of time and it was only by the summer of 1916 that the commanders believed that the British Army war ready for a big offensive.

On the Western Front, the retreat from the Marne had left the Germans holding ground better suited for defence than the Allies and months of preparation and experience of failed attacks in 1915 had made their positions even stronger. The British solution to the problem was artillery – the attack would be preceded by the most powerful artillery bombardment ever carried out. One million, seven hundred thousand rounds were fired on the German positions over eight days: 150 per minute. It was expected – tests had been done – that this thunderstorm of high explosives would cut the barbed wire, collapse the trenches and annihilate the defenders. The first wave of infantry would have little to do but occupy the smashed enemy trenches and were, accordingly, heavily laden with weapons, equipment and rations. But, up to a quarter of the rounds were duds (it’s difficult to make fuses when you’re just starting), the wire wasn’t sufficiently cut, there were enough defenders to man the machine guns when the cessation of the bombardment gave them the cue to move; the British Army suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day. The battle dragged on until November with minor territorial gains and over 400,000 British casualties. The characteristics of the British attack in July 1916 were a week-long artillery bombardment and massed infantry moving forward from the existing trench line. The catastrophe resulted from the failure of the bombardment to do what it was supposed to do.

On the Eastern Front there was a similar deadlock. The Russian offensive in 1914 had failed and, as in the west, although not as densely manned, there was a long line of dug-in soldiers facing each other. The Allies had agreed that simultaneous offensives would be carried out against the Central Powers in 1916 and the Russians were the first to go. Operationally the object was to attack Austria-Hungary, correctly seen as the weaker, knock it out of the war and bring Romania into the war on the Allied side. Secondarily it was to relieve pressure on Italy and France.

The attack began a month before the Somme attack and ended a month earlier. Russian casualties were similar to the British but Austro-Hungarian losses were at least twice German losses. Territorial gains were much greater – while the Somme battle moved the front line a tiny distance, Brusilov gained much more ground. But, in the end, it was “a piece of tactical genius that had limited strategic results“. It was another second-last hammer-blow. Ironically, Romania did enter the war on the Allied side, but performed so poorly that it took Russian resources away from the main effort. The offensive’s comparative failure after the initial spectacular success probably contributed to Russia’s dropping out of the war the next year rather as a similar disappointment did for Germany in 1918.

But, operationally and tactically it was a stunning success. There are several points of difference between this attack and the British one which deserve notice and give us a perception of “a Russian way in warfare”. The use of deception to create surprise; maximising the effect of artillery fire; the use of forward saps to reduce infantry exposure to fire; the use of specialised advance troops for reconnaissance and fire correction.

(The following quotations come from Dowling’s The Brusilov Offensive.) We will begin, because it sums it up well, this account by an Austrian soldier on the receiving end.

In the dugouts of the first trench of the 82nd [Austrian] I[nfantry] R[egiment], because one still had the echo of the drumming fire in his ear, it was already five seconds after the artillery was no longer directed at the first trench. In the sixth second perhaps a spirited defender cried: to the trenches! In the seventh second he ran into someone in the stairwell, and under a low-hanging balcony that was splintered and torn to pieces a hand grenade skidded after him. And in the eighth second a voice from above called down to the men in the cellar that they should give themselves up.

Quite different from the experience of a German soldier on the Somme who, if he had not been buried or driven mad by the week of shelling, had enough time to get up to the fire step and aim his machine-gun at the heavily-laden infantry struggling through the wire towards him.

While the British had fired a continuous bombardment, Brusilov had a series of short but intense bombardments:

The Russian guns opened up at 4:00 AM along the entire front as ordered, but the display was far from impressive. After three hours of steady, concentrated, but not overwhelming shelling, the Russian guns fell quiet again. The Habsburg forces rushed to man their forward lines, anticipating the attacks their intelligence had been predicting. The Russians, however, remained in their trenches while observers checked the damage done to the Austro-Hungarian positions. Only a few weak reconnaissance patrols emerged to challenge the Habsburg forces; after an hour or so, the shelling resumed-slow, steady, and deadly accurate.

Consequently, the Austrians never knew when the bombardment had really stopped and the infantry assault would begin. On the Somme the Germans correctly assumed that the end of the shelling meant the beginning of the attack but, as our soldier relates, the Austrians only knew it when the Russians were already in their trenches: “Confused by the pauses between barrages, the troops were increasingly hesitant to man the front lines”. Second, Brusilov had his soldiers dig trenches – saps – forward so that they would only have 50 to 100 metres to run: “Brusilov wanted the point of departure for the Russian infantry assaults to be no greater than 100 meters, and he preferred that the distance be 60 meters or less”; the British had the whole distance to cover. Third, light reconnaissance teams went into no man’s land to check the accuracy of each phase of the bombardment and direct the next.

Artillery is most effective in the first few seconds – merely lying down significantly increases the probability of survival. Brusilov also understood that the cessation of fire will be taken by the enemy as a signal that the attack is about to begin. This will be seen again in Soviet artillery use in the Second World War and is the reason for the Soviet/Russian development of MLRS which produce tremendous explosive fire in very quick times (the BM-21 Grad can fire 40 rockets in 20 seconds. To say nothing of this.)

And, fourth, Brusilov used every means of deception available to him to make the enemy think the attacks were coming somewhere else:

overwhelming the Austro-Hungarian forces with information and options… Brusilov mounted a counterintelligence campaign, sending false instructions over the radio and by messenger while specific instructions concerning the offensive were relayed verbally… false artillery batteries…

There does not seem to have been any deception attempts used on the Somme – and, indeed, the enormous piles of artillery shells were in the open for all to see.

In conclusion, the Brusilov Offensive shows

  • deception creating operational and tactical surprise;
  • maximising artillery effects;
  • reducing troop exposure;
  • specialised reconnaissance troops.

Further essays will examine these and other factors in Russian war-fighting.

COLOUR REVOLUTIONS FADE AWAY

First published Strategic Culture Foundation, in Spanish, picked up by What Really Happened,

Probably the first US-plotted “colour revolution” was the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893. The Hawaiian Islands had been united in the early 1800s and were internationally recognised as an independent country, but the native Polynesians had been outnumbered by outsiders who had acquired a good deal of the land and devoted it to growing sugar. The USA was the principal market for the sugar but, when domestic sugar producers prevailed upon Washington to impose a tariff, the producers in Hawaii saw their wealth threatened. The coup overthrew the Queen, proclaimed a republic and a few years later Hawaii became a US territory and the sugar market was saved. None of this was overtly stated in justification, of course: the coup, like later “colour revolutions”, was carried out for more highfalutin reasons than mere greed. A threat was “discovered”, “public safety is menaced, lives and property are in peril”, a committee of safety formed, simulated mass meetings were held. Conveniently a US Navy ship was in harbour and troops came ashore “to secure the safety” etc etc. The Navy’s presence was not a coincidence because the US President and Secretary of State were in agreement with the conspiracy and the US diplomatic representative, while pretending neutrality, was an active participant. All done quickly and the coup leaders proclaimed themselves to be the new provisional government. Wholly and obviously fake – there was no disorder at all and the “committee of public safety” was made up of sugar barons and their flunkeys – but it stands as a historically significant event because it was the first crude attempt at something to be perfected in later years.

A Congressional report in 1894 decided that everything was perfectly perfect but a century later the US Congress passed the “apology resolution” for the coup. Who can say that the Rules-Based International Order is not real after that? Has Putin or Xi ever apologised for anything he didn’t apologise for earlier?

The most recent successful “colour revolution” occurred in Ukraine in 2013-2014. Enter the “Non-Government” Organisations – the non-government part is a lie but they are certainly well organised; they prepare the way. Victoria Nuland, then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, admitted to spending five billion dollars to “ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine”: an enormous sum for a poor country. (One learns here what has changed since the Hawaiian “colour revolution” 120 years before: 1) the rhetoric is more syrupy 2) it costs more.) She was the John Stevens of the Ukrainian “colour revolution” – sent by the US State Department to hand out the money, make the decisions and direct the performance. And, as the phone intercept proves, to block others from involvement – “fuck the EU”.) I recommend taking the time to listen to some of Nuland’s speech here to see just how sugary the cover talk for these “colour revolutions” has become – democracy, human rights, freedom, reforms, Europe; the caravan of “Western values” is chained to the juggernaut of greed and power. None of these formerly estimable values are visible in today’s Ukraine; but the interests of Ukrainians (or Hawaiians) were never the point of “colour revolutions”: the sugar barons wanted to keep their entry into the US market, Washington wanted to make trouble for Russia and the US Navy wanted a base in Crimea.

But the day of “colour revolution” seems to be running out. The mechanics are noticed and countered. Observe, for example, the moment in this video of a protest in Sevastopol when the commenter – who had seen it before on the Maidan – points out the carefully spaced people, wearing red so they can recognise each other, directing the supposedly genuine and spontaneous protest. The organisers were trying to make the Crimean Tatar issue a fighting cause. (I wonder, by the way, how many consumers of the Western “news” media think the Tatars are autochthonous?) I well remember this documentary because it was the first time I saw the people on the receiving end of a “colour revolution” getting ahead of the organisers; up to this moment they had been reacting, always wrongly and too late. But many of the security forces in Crimea in 2014 had been on the Maidan and had ample opportunity to observe how “spontaneity” is organised.

The authorities and their security services are becoming proactive and are using social media – a good example was the recording of the organisers of the Hong Kong protests meeting with a US Embassy official. And we have the recording of one of Navalniy’s associates asking for money from a UK Embassy official; not, he assured the official, “a big amount of money for people who have billions at stake”. Sometimes it’s fortuitous and not the result of planning by the target’s security services. A civil airliner receives a (fake) bomb threat, it lands according to the rules, one of the passengers is a “colour revolution” operative, they arrest him, he sings. There is still some mystery in the Protasevich story, but the Western version is certainly not true.

And when it’s over and failed, Washington casually dismisses its tools. Where is Yushchenko today? Once the darling of the “Orange Revolution” in Kiev, today he is a non-person. Saakashvili, re-used and failed again in Ukraine, is in prison in Tbilisi today. No fuss is made about him. Áñez is in jail, Protasevich forgotten. We’ve seen many West-leaning democratic saviours come and go in Russia – Berezovskiy, Khodorkovskiy and Pussy Riot are in the past; today it’s Navalniy but he’s probably passed his best-before date. Just props in the “colour revolution” theatre.

And we come to another secret of beating the “colour revolution” – tough it out. The Emperor Alexander told the French Ambassador that Napoleon’s enemies had given up too soon, he, on the other hand, would go to Kamchatka if need be. He went to Paris instead. Maduro still sits in the presidential office in Caracas, Guaidó is reduced to begging; Brussels has stopped pretending but Washington holds fast to the delusion. Lukashenka remains. Beijing toughed it out in Hong Kong. On the contrary, in Georgia (“Rose Revolution“) Shevardnadze was unwilling to use force and in Kiev (“Orange Revolution” and Maidan) Yanukovych was unwilling to use force. Not, of course that they weren’t blamed anyway by the Western propaganda apparatus (which was unashamed to call these scenes in Kiev and Hong Kong “peaceful” and never wondered where all the orange tents came from). All designed of course, to incite a violent reaction by the authorities which would be packaged by the complaisant Western media as violence against peaceful protesters. Not at all the same thing, of course, in the Western “human rights” Rules-Based International Order construction, as anything going on in Melbourne, or Paris, or London. To a degree, “colour revolutions” are waiting games and the incumbent, if he keeps his nerve, has certain advantages.

But probably the strongest prophylactic against a “colour revolution” is to prevent it from starting. And here it is necessary to drive out the foreign “Non Government” Organisations before they get established. There will, of course, be much protest from the West but it is important for the targets to understand that their press coverage in the West is and always will be negative, no matter what they do, say or argue. It’s propaganda, it’s not supposed to be fact-based. And it’s often amusingly repetitive – the Western propagandists are too lazy and too contemptuous of their audience not to recycle yesterday’s panics. For example: remember when Russia hacked the Vermont power grid in 2016? this time it’s “an angry Chinese President Xi Jinping” shutting down Canadian power plants. Sometimes it’s sloppily idiotic: CNN tells us that Russia, China and Iran are all hacking away at the US election system; it then goes on to say that Russia likes Trump and China likes Biden; Therefore, as Sherlock Holmes would conclude, CNN must believe that that Iran decided the outcome. The target should not worry about Western coverage – if you’re today’s target, all coverage will negative. Vide contemporary excitement over “violations of Taiwan’s airspace” without mentioning this simultaneous event. Facts don’t matter: the Panama Papers were about Putin except that they didn’t mention him and therefore they must have been by Putin. The Pandora Papers give us the re-run.

Former successes – in recent times, Ukraine twice, Georgia – are becoming failures: Hong Kong, Venezuela and Belarus. The targets have learned how to counter the attacks. The essential rules for defeating “colour revolutions” are:

  1. They come from outside. So cut out the outsiders and get rid of the foreign “Non-Government” Organisations. This is probably the most important preventative: the “colour revolution” operators were quite unhindered in, for example, Ukraine.
  2. Remember Alexander’s advice: don’t give up too soon. Maduro and Lukashenka are still there. To say nothing of Russia, China and Iran.
  3. Don’t be afraid that you’ll be blamed: you will be anyway. The Western propaganda machine is not interested in facts.
  4. Be tough. There’s a rhythm to these things; if you interrupt them, its hard for them to get back on track.
  5. Be patient, as we saw in Hong Kong, the outrage is mostly artificial and will run out of steam.
  6. Learn the techniques of how they’re done, watch for them and counter them.
  7. And finally: time is on your side. The West is not getting stronger. What the neocons call “the axis of revisionists” is.

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, in Spanish,

(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.

PROJECTION AND DEFLECTION: RUSSIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE

First published Strategic Culture Foundation

One of my most reliable guides to finding subjects to write about in these essays is to see what crimes the West is committing. It’s a very good bet that Russia will be accused of them. If the US “accidentally” destroys an MSF hospital in Kunduz, then Russia must be routinely and intentionally bombing hospitals in Syria; if American officials pick the future prime minister of a foreign country, then Russia must be doing it more often and bigger; if Washington condemns reporters on dodgy evidence than Russians must do worse things. Likewise, Western deficiencies are minor at home but huge in Russia. (Admittedly it’s getting harder to say that – especially with the West’s dismal situation with COVID-19 but that doesn’t stop the trying; vide “US takes the top spot on Bloomberg’s COVID Resilience Ranking as vaccine rollout speeds up return to normal.”) And so on: it’s all projection to deflect your attention.

It’s a simple rule that works either way: see what they’re accusing Russia of and it’s a pretty good bet the Western pot is calling the Russian kettle black; note the West’s crimes and misfortunes and expect Russia to be called worse and, if at all possible, twisted to all be Putin’s fault.

Infrastructure is today’s subject and here is Victoria Nuland telling us that

[Russia’s] citizens have grown restive as promised infrastructure spending never appears, and their taxes and the retirement age are going up.

I have written about her pallid effort elsewhere, because it and its companion piece demonstrate the sensational level of ignorance of Washington’s supposed Russian experts and policy-makers. No wonder they get everything wrong and are always surprised: they are only experts in wrongness.

But they’re not alone. Here’s the hoary old chestnut “duraki i dorogi – fools and roads” hauled out: “After a thousand years, the Russian state still has not learned how to build safe and solid roads. Judge a government by its roads.” The rest of the piece is rather incoherent but the impression is left that Russian roads are still pretty bad. RFE/RL took the occasion of the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station in 2009 to tell us that “Creaking Infrastructure Evident From Siberia To The Streets Of Moscow” and “The accident has highlighted Russia’s faltering infrastructure and the government’s faltering attempts to deal with it.”

Others repeat that Russia hasn’t “reformed”, whatever that it is. (Parenthetically, in thirty years of hearing this, I have never ever heard anybody specify exactly what this “reform” is and precisely what Putin & Co have to do to do it. Other than resign, of course.) Today this “failure to reform” is often, following the “gas station masquerading as county” line, presented as failure to “diversify”. And, here we are in 2019:

While some might blame the vicissitudes of global oil markets, the real culprit is Putin himself, who has done little to diversify the Russian economy, or to tackle the rampant corruption that chokes entrepreneurship, investment and, ultimately, growth.

A variation on the decrepit gas station meme is that Russia is squandering money on weaponry instead of more useful things: Here’s’ the Moscow Times in 2015:

Against this background, Russia’s recent military spending binge is all the more notable, for it suggests that the government, desperate to retain popular support amid declining economic performance, is less interested in investing in the most modern equipment than in showing its support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, even at the price of further economic hardship.

More: Russia Chooses Guns Over Butter, Is the ‘World’s Deadliest Tank’ Bankrupting Russia? Russia’s Defense Industry Finds Itself in a Tailspin.

Poor old Russia: under Putin’s mismanagement, its infrastructure is “creaking”, its unreformed economy is not “diversifying” and it’s blowing its patrimony on guns. Russia’s pretty doomed. As usual.

Or maybe not. It’s not difficult to see the projection and deflection: “America’s Infrastructure Scores a C-“. “US manufacturing: Why 2020 was the bottom of a long decline.” “The spectacular and expensive failures of the U.S. military.” “How To Waste $100 Billion: Weapons That Didn’t Work Out.” As I said at the start: an enormous percentage of Western “analysis” about Russia is the mechanical projection onto it of the West’s “crimes, follies and misfortunes” in the hope that the audience will look over there and miss what’s right here.

So let’s have a look at Russian infrastructure – the military spending and its results are a subject for another paper but there doesn’t seem to be very much waste and ineffectiveness there: Russia has, in twenty years, stepped into the lead in a number of military areas as even Washington is starting to realise. But this spending has not been at the expense of infrastructure.

Let’s consider roads. An Awara report summarises the state of play as of the beginning of 2019. In twenty years expressways have grown from 365 kms to 2050 kms, the plan is that this number will have increased to 7600 kms by 2024. An impressive increase. Local and secondary roads have also seen great improvement. Russia is an enormous country and there is still much to do but no one can say that Putin & Co are ignoring roads. Even ten years ago things were better than the Western “experts” thought: two Russian men made a video of their drive from Moscow to Vladivostok; here’s the first day’s drive. Certainly not four-lane all the way but good two-lane for almost all of it (and where there isn’t, our drivers pass teams and equipment working on it). Roads need bridges and Russia has been constructing a lot of them too. Here is another Awara report on that subject with lots of illustrations. The Crimea railway/road bridge is the standout, of course, but there are plenty of other new bridges in Putin’s Russia. Here’s a list of the ten “most impressive” bridges – six of them built since 2000. If we are to judge governments by their roads, in the USA “40% of the system is now in poor or mediocre condition“. Projection and deflection. But who has the time to drive across such a huge country? Here’s the Awara report on all of Russia’s new airports. Moscow and St Petersburg of course, but also Kazan, Rostov and Sabetta.

Public transit has seen development too. Moscow’s Metro has seen a completely new line built in the period and construction on another new one has begun. Current rolling stock averages 15 years old and new trains are in process of construction. 63 new stations. The St Petersburg metro is also growing. Kazan has acquired a metro system since the fall of the USSR. (Even Russia’s fantasy metro lines are growing!) So there is certainly no lack of infrastructure renewal and construction in Russian’s underground transit systems (and many of them are remarkably decorated and immaculately maintained). Above ground, here’s a suburban train and one of Moscow’s spiffy new trams and not so spiffy trams in Nizhniy Novgorod.

The venerable Trans-Siberian Railway and the BAM line are both being improved to take more traffic at higher speeds: tonnage on the two is up about 50% since 2012. A century-long planned rail line to Yakutsk has opened making a train trip from London to Yakutia a possibility. The first high-speed rail between Moscow and St Petersburg has been operating for some time and a line is being built between Moscow and Kazan. Other links have been improved so as to be faster..

And that’s just transportation. We could equally mention the 19 COVID purpose-built hospitals, or the quick development of the Sputnik vaccine. Or the constriction of the world’s largest icebreaker, growth in shipbuilding, the world’s only operating floating nuclear power station. New power stations in Crimea – Russia’s “newest Potemkin village” as the usual “experts” call it. Housing construction has been about 80 million square metres a year for some years. Here’s a new housing development in Yekaterinburg. There’s a video series “Made in Russia“: it’s in Russian, but you’ll get the idea, Lots of things are going on. But enough enumeration: there is plenty of improvement and development of Russian infrastructure and Russians can see it. So much so as to make the America “expert’s” opinions proof that they are, after all, only expert at getting it wrong. But, as I said, it’s projection: “Amtrak’s flagship high speed service” averages 113.1 kph; the Sapsan averages 180 kph. (neither anything like China, of course.) Can’t have Russia doing better than the USA can we? Except, of course, for sanctions-proof rocket engines.

For those who are interested, there are lots of videos in which one can get an impression of the state of things. For example Spassk-Dalny, local Moscow store, “Russia’s poorest town“, a series on a small town Fryazino, a village store, a grocery store in Siberia. There’s a series of videos by an American Orthodox priest who’s moved to Russia and a blog by an American living there that talk about the situation they find. The picture is very far from a decaying clapped out and sagging structure in which the government, obsessed with buying guns, lets the whole thing decompose. Even the Moscow Times, when it’s not banging on about the “military spending binge”, “declining economic performance” and “further economic hardship” knows about “Russia’s Massive Infrastructure Overhaul, in 5 Examples“. Projection and deflection again.

Or we can maybe sum the whole thing up by saying that Putin drove a Russian-designed and -made luxury car along a newly-constructed highway.

Now this is not to dismiss the possibility that a good deal of what Russia is doing today is coasting along on Soviet left-overs. Anatoly Karlin argued, with much evidence, something along this line in 2018: Russia’s Technological Backwardness. Perhaps this is the case, but it certainly cannot be said that there has been no infrastructure built. We will learn over time whether Russia is just coasting along or gathering pace, but it certainly does seem that the West is slipping behind in infrastructure maintenance and construction – especially the USA. So, I repeat: when you see some Western piece saying that Russia is deficient in this or that, it’s wise, as a first step, to see it as nothing but a projection of the West’s shortcomings to deflect from facing up to them. These pieces are not really about Russia at all.