COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

Vladimir Putin’s sabre-rattling over Ukraine is scuppering any chance we have of alien contact, a UFO expert has warned. Nick Pope – who investigated flying saucers for the MOD – believes ETs who keep a close eye on earth will view Russia’s escalation of tensions with its neighbour as “primitive behaviour”. And the UFO expert says sophisticated alien civilisations, who he reckons would be light years ahead of us, may see it as a reason not to visit us or get in touch. Nick said: “Highly evolved extraterrestrials probably regard warfare as something that only primitive civilizations engage in, so the Ukraine situation means we’re unlikely to get an invitation to join the Galactic Federation for the time being.”

Daily Star, 21 January 2022. Yeah OK, but they must think that this is within the, admittedly broad, parameters of their readers’ universe.

On the other hand, maybe he’s saved us from an invasion by giant bugs who want to lay their eggs in us.

Time will tell…

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…“.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20 JANUARY 2022

MY LATEST WRITINGS: RUSSIA, UKRAINE ET AL: WHAT NEXT?

ULTIMATUM. The EU is not in the picture – too weak and the US won’t fight for it; NATO ditto. Do Berlin and Paris start to see reality? London has invited Shoygu but is shipping PAWs to Ukraine. Russia keeps up the pressure – a not-very-reliable source says a nuke boat surfaced off the US coast. Lots of exercises – Guards Tank Army, social media videos of military equipment moving around. Live firing of the formidable Iskanders. Lost submarines in the Med. A representative tough-guy piece from a couch warrior (she of we have good int on Russia fame). It is now clear the US/EU/NATO are not going to fight for Ukraine – empty threats and futile sanctions are all Kiev can expect. But the SWIFT threat would be a big shot to the foot. Somebody notices that Russia is pretty sanction proof (Googlish from INOSMI). In short, Russia pretty much has the hammer. We see the fruits of Putin & Co’s long game.

DONBASS. It should be understood that the official position in Moscow at present is that the rebel areas are part of Ukraine and the Minsk Agreement provides a method for resolving grievances. (Note, BTW, given the constant refrain that Moscow must “comply”, that it has no obligation). But this position could suddenly change given that Kiev has never fulfilled any part (especially No 4) and that Kiev’s “allies” haven’t tried to make it. One of the many possible “Or Elses“.

GUNS. Improved Pantsir AD system coming. Completely modernised White Swan makes maiden flight. Three new subs this year. China-Russia-Iran naval drills start tomorrow.

TALK SHOWS. Russian TV loves long talk shows – Doctorow has an interesting piece on one of the most important. “Russian elites talk WAR: ‘Evening with Vladimir Solovyov,'”

PEDOPHILES. The Duma has passed a bill providing for life imprisonment for serial pedophiles.

HACKERS. Russian security is arresting members of the REvil hacking group at Washington’s request. They are thought to be behind the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline last year.

COVID. The Duma has postponed a bill requiring QR code proof of vaccination. There is a good deal of resistance to this in Russia.

NAVALIY. Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, close allies of Navalniy, have been added to the state register of extremists. Neither is in Russia.

RUSSIAN DOLPHINS OFF US COAST. For your amusement.

CIA TRAINING. We learn that the CIA has been running training programs in Ukraine since 2014. Moscow has a good deal of experience of dealing with Washington-supported nazi resistance in Ukraine.

GALICIA. Anybody know why Ioseb Bissarionis-dze decided to put it in the Ukrainian SSR rather than giving it back to Poland in 1945? An important decision as it’s turned out.

KAZAKHSTAN. That didn’t take long, did it? All the CSTO troops are back home. They say at least 225 (including 19 police and soldiers) died, about 4500 injured. A lot of people in the security organs have been arrested, starting with Masimov, the head of the National Security Committee, some defenestrated; so the plot ran deep. (Here’s a photo of Masimov with – of all people – Hunter and Joe). If this were an attempt by some part of the US deep state to answer Moscow, it only shows how profoundly out of touch they are. Nazarbayev appears, everything’s calm. Interesting take on what it was all about here.

LESSONS LEARNED. Little countries often try to play off the big guys against each other. But Kazakhstan and Belarus have just learned that this isn’t possible today because Washington wants total control. Others will learn from these examples.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. I don’t remember Soviet propagandists assuming their consumers to be as stupid as the creators of this do. Ummm – you told us that Putin tried to kill him, he’s completely in his power now: shouldn’t you at least spend a little effort coming up with some explanation for why he’s still alive to give interviews to you?

THE EMPTINESS OF FORMER FLAPS. ICAO supports Minsk on the Ryanair grounding last year – a few inconsistencies but no “air piracy“. And “Havana syndrome” bites the dust. Ah well, on to the next…

RUSSIA-IRAN. The two Presidents are meeting. The beginning of something big. Very Mackinderish.

SWEDEN. This week drones, last week the Russians were going to snatch Gotland. Years ago somebody in the Swedish security apparatus told me that these stories – “submarine sightings” in those days – were faked up by the people in the Swedish security organs who want it to join NATO.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 6 JANUARY 2022

MY LATEST WRITINGS. SOMETHING HOPEFUL FOR THE NEW YEAR – SORT OF

KAZAKHSTAN. Major trouble. Started, they say, with the doubling of the price of LPG but now clearly another “colour revolution”, complete with a “leader” who is out of the country. (Page 121 in RAND report). Korybko, Escobar and Bernhard worth reading. President Tokayev promises to be “as tough as possible“. CSTO troops already on the ground and very strong counter-actions underway. We’ll soon see if I was correct in what I wrote. But the authorities’ reaction is promising: lay down your weapons or be destroyed. Who wants to live in Ukraine. Libya, Afghanistan or other recipients of NATO’s democracy promotion? (Interesting speculation: “The best way to root out such problems is to let them unfold first as it reveals the actors.”) My guess is that the authorities will regain control pretty quickly.

TWO DIFFERENT LEAGUES. NATO likes to gas on about its quick reaction forces. Russian spetsnaz were in Kazakhstan 13 hours after Tokayev asked for CSTO help (agreed). More are coming.

PRESS CONFERENCE. (Rus) (Eng) Very much internally-focussed, not so much about garbage disposal as in the last couple of years (I guess it’s getting better) and markedly less of “Batyushka, can you fix my roof?”. Foreigners given less opportunity to pose, hector and interrogate. But those who did gave Putin a chance to put the Russian POV: “And you are demanding guarantees from me. It is you who must give us guarantees, and you must do it immediately, right now..”

A THOUGHT. I have long been puzzled why Putin has evidently fallen for the COVID hoax (yes, Virginia, there’s a disease there but it’s not very deadly and mostly kills people with one foot in the grave. I’m just a simpleton who looks at the data: check out Canada’s official data on ages of deceased.) I think that Waggaman is on to something here: Putin may be, as Atlas might put it, being “Trumped”.

GUNS. New things keep coming. The S-500 SAM tested in Arctic (I wonder how many of NATO;s weaponry has been). The S-550 is already in service. Volley-firing of Tsirkons. An American study finds that one little Russian ship has the same hitting power as two of the USN’s main destroyers. Palate-cleansers, so to speak, before the security talks.

DOESN’T MAKE ANYTHING. Another monster icebreaker: four-metre ice.

RUSSIA DOESN’T FORGET. Two suspects in the Khattab/Basayev 1999 invasion of Dagestan arrested.

BRITISH INTERFERENCE IN RUSSIA. Hackers – Underside – have released documents showing London’s investment in “democracy” “civil society” and so on in Russia. (Docs) (Docs) (Docs). All sounds very nice but it’s aimed at subversion. Imagine the reaction in the West if it had actual documents from Russian sources rather than invented nonsense like Putin weaponising humour.

MEMORIAL. Memorial International and Memorial Human Rights Centre have been shut down. Whatever Memorial was when it started (and I remember it from then) getting money from the UK for LGBT matters is some distance from its beginnings in the 1970s.

NOT JUST FOR KILLING PEOPLE. Tank art and – look down the comments – tank bartending.

WHAT RUSSIA WILL DO IN UKRAINE. My bet anyway. “Товарищи, отойдите подальше!” But only if it has to. And maybe Kiev is seeing reality: sees no troop buildup at the border now. But Kiev doesn’t control the Ukronazis. Lieven suggests “Finlandisation” for Ukraine: it’s a solution, but I don’t see it as likely these days. But Ukraine did start out with neutrality hard-wired into its Constitution…

A GOOD THING TOO: the P5 have just declared “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” Now if US/NATO would only understand that they can’t win a conventional war against Russia, maybe we could all calm down.

THOSE PESKY RUSSIANS. “Putin outsmarts EU as new China gas deal to pump ‘same amount’ as banned German pipeline“. The commenters are pretty scornful of the absurd headline.

THE DEATH OF IRONY. Make up stuff, get caught, whine.

TABAQUI REPORT. Just after saying only “winners” can demand, Borrell demands.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Poland next? Now, if only Warsaw could realise that, in terms of values, it and Moscow are singing from the same songsheet…

NEW NWO. China’s Excellent, Very Good Year.

UKRAINE NPP. I very much hope this report is not true.

THERE ARE NO NAZIS IN UKRAINE. The New Year’s march is becoming a Kiev fixture too.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

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.

THE MISQUOTATION

Translated into French

NOTE: Given that we’re going to hear this one a lot in the next little while, I have joined the two parts for ease of reference. I wrote the first in 2014, JRL picked it up and I got a lot of flak from flacks. But I proved my point in Part 2. Johnson sent me a lot of private messages from translators and interpreters saying that I was right. The essence of it is that English has three forms for adjectives: (big, bigger, biggest) but Russians have a fourth in between bigger and biggest. That’s the form Putin used and is so frequently misquoted.

Part 1 https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2014/07/30/deadly-quotation-part-1/

Part 2 https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2014/08/01/deadly-quotation-part-2/

PART 1

The idea for what follows came from a Facebook discussion. One individual, certain that Russia was to blame for the situation in Ukraine, said, among other things, that Putin claimed the biggest mistake was the collapse of the USSR and that he wanted to restore it. I said Putin did not say anything like that and challenged him to find the original. I was hoping to make a point and lead him to understanding something for himself. He dug up a number of statements from the Western media saying the Putin had called the end of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the Twentieth Century”. Not so hard to find examples: Google returns 15 pages of hits for that exact search, starting with the BBC and ending with it used as a put-down by a commentator on a mildly approving Polish newspaper piece about Putin. The phrase has now become something like what Pravda used to say when it wanted to spread a lie, but had no real evidence, как известно: as is well-known. Over and over we see it used as the triumphant final proof of the argument. “Putin wants a new Russian empire”; “Ukraine PM: Putin wants to rebuild Soviet Union”; “Putin longs to be back in the USSR”; “Putin’s obsession is the restoration of Russia’s pride through the restoration of its imperium.”

Perhaps the most interesting reference my correspondent pulled up, however, was this from an essay by Anders Åslund:

In his annual address in April 2005, Putin went all out: ‘the collapse of the Soviet Union was the biggest geopolitical disaster of the century…. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory…old ideals [were] destroyed.’ He presented himself as a neoimperialist.

What is interesting about it is that he actually footnotes the original source. I assume Åslund expected that no one would bother to look it up or be unable to find it. But it’s out there on the Internet.

So it is now perhaps time to see what it was that Putin actually said. Here it is: first in Russian, “Прежде всего следует признать, что крушение Советского Союза было крупнейшей геополитической катастрофой века.” and then in the official translation into English, “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” Hyperlinks take you to Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly on 25 April 2005 on the Presidential website. That is the “original source”.

Not the greatest; not the most important; not the largest of anything. Not Number One. Not the superlative. One of many geopolitical disasters of the century, but a “major” one. If you like, you could argue with Putin about whether it was “major” or “minor” – here are his reasons for putting it on the “major” side of the list; you put yours:

As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself. Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere. Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.

(Note, by the way, how deceptive Åslund was with his second ellipsis).

Certainly big; anyone would agree that it was a bad enough disaster at least for those who lived through it. But bigger than any other disaster? No, but Putin isn’t saying it was. It ought to be perfectly obvious what he’s talking about: not a desire to re-create the USSR but an accurate description of how miserable the 1990s were for Russians (and, actually, for most other people in the former USSR). But, read on. This statement was part of the orator’s pattern, after the bad times, things are getting better: “Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years…”. And so on. Ex tenebris lux, or something like that.

The message is plain: Putin thought Russia was over the worst and better things can now happen (he was right, wasn’t he?). To use this as “proof” that he wants the USSR back, or is a “neo-imperialist” is wilfully to misunderstand what he said.

But just think how feeble your assertion that Putin wants to re-build the empire would be if the only quotation direct from his mouth that you had to nail your argument down tight with was “Putin did say that the collapse of the USSR was a pretty big disaster because people lost their savings, a lot of crooks stole stuff and many other sufferings ensued”. Doesn’t have quite the same ring does it?

So, the point that I was trying to get my correspondent to understand is that you simply cannot trust Western media reports on Putin or Russia. There is so much distortion, mis-quoting and outright falsifications that nothing you read in your newspaper, see on your TV or hear from your politicians can be accepted at face value. This particular quotation was ripped out of its context and made to serve another purpose; then it was endlessly repeated to cap the assertion that Putin is the world’s enemy because he wants to conquer his neighbours. The history of its use is a perfect illustration that the default position is always antiPutin. No secondary source can be trusted, always go to the original: is it an accurate quotation? what is the context? If you cannot find the original (both President and Prime Minister have a site in English, by the way; it’s not that hard to find the original), then doubt.

But there is a greater point. The West, NATO, the USA and its followers, we are at war with Russia. A rhetorical war with economic aspects at the moment but it may already be a shooting war by proxy. It will get closer to a real war if the Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 is passed. The authors of the bill are quite certain that Russia is expansionist, aggressive and wishes domination over its neighbours. The famous quotation is not in the bill but it is alive in the US Senate:

“The reality, however, is that Putin is not concerned with international law or historical justice. His sole focus is on correcting what he considers to be the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’ by reassembling the Soviet Union.” (Sen Ted Cruz)

“He sees the fall of the Soviet Union as the ‘greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.’ He does not accept that Russia’s neighbors, least of all Ukraine, are independent countries.” (Sen John McCain)

“His grip on the Russian presidency is central to his designs to restore Russian dominance. After all, Putin once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe’ of the last century’.” (Sen Roger Wicker)

And it’s in the White House too: “‘He’s been willing to show a deeply held grievance about what he considers to be the loss of the Soviet Union,’ Obama said of Putin in that interview.”

An influential mis-quotation, wouldn’t you say? Creating and supporting anti-Russian propaganda since 2005. It would, of course, be wrong to say that we are creeping closer to war with Russia only because of a mis-quotation, but the mis-quotation has certainly played its part in the creep.

PART 2

A number of people have challenged my (and the official Kremlin translators’) choice of “a major” for “krupneyshey” in Putin’s famous sentence “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” I stand by what I said: he did not say that there was no worse geopolitical disaster in the century. Neither did he mean that he wanted the empire back.

1. Meaning of the word “krupneyshey”. I take my authority from Pekhlivanova and Lebedeva: “Russian Grammar in Illustrations”; Moscow 1994; p 161. Here it is stated “To say that an object possesses some quality in extraordinary degree, without comparing it to other objects, the Russian uses a special adjectival form ending in -eyshiy (or -ayshiy, after zh, ch, sh, shch). A footnote tells us “These forms are used more frequently in bookish speech”.

To express the meaning “the object possesses the quality in the highest degree as compared to other objects” the modifier samyy is used.

A photograph of that page of the book is below

2. There is the argument from common sense: no Russian would ever say that any “geopolitical disaster” was bigger than the Second World War. His tongue couldn’t even form the syllables.

3. One must assume that Putin chooses his words carefully and knows what they mean especially in a formal speech like his address to the Federal Assembly in 2005 from which the sentence is taken.

4. One must assume that the Kremlin English translators know what they are doing. They chose the word “a major” for “krupneyshey”. By the way, I read the speech when it was given and downloaded the text in Russian and English at the time. There has been no change since. (It occurs to me, given that, in Latin, “maior” is the comparative of “magnus” – big, or great – the translators by that word choice might have been trying to suggest some quality that was on the high side of the scale without being “maximus”; in short “krupneyshey”; not just big but bigger than most? The comparative meaning of “major” seems to be hard-wired: can you even say “more major” or “most major” in English without sounding illiterate?)

5. The context makes it quite clear that Putin is not talking about loss of empire or anything like that. Here is the text around the famous sentence:

I consider the development of Russia as a free and democratic state to be our main political and ideological goal. We use these words fairly frequently, but rarely care to reveal how the deeper meaning of such values as freedom and democracy, justice and legality is translated into life.

Meanwhile, there is a need for such an analysis. The objectively difficult processes going on in Russia are increasingly becoming the subject of heated ideological discussions. And they are all connected with talk about freedom and democracy. Sometimes you can hear that since the Russian people have been silent for centuries, they are not used to or do not need freedom. And for that reason, it is claimed our citizens need constant supervision.

I would like to bring those who think this way back to reality, to the facts. To do so, I will recall once more Russia’s most recent history.

Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.

Individual savings were depreciated, and old ideals destroyed. Many institutions were disbanded or reformed carelessly. Terrorist intervention and the Khasavyurt capitulation that followed damaged the country’s integrity. Oligarchic groups – possessing absolute control over information channels – served exclusively their own corporate interests. Mass poverty began to be seen as the norm. And all this was happening against the backdrop of a dramatic economic downturn, unstable finances, and the paralysis of the social sphere.

Many thought or seemed to think at the time that our young democracy was not a continuation of Russian statehood, but its ultimate collapse, the prolonged agony of the Soviet system.

But they were mistaken.

That was precisely the period when the significant developments took place in Russia. Our society was generating not only the energy of self-preservation, but also the will for a new and free life. In those difficult years, the people of Russia had to both uphold their state sovereignty and make an unerring choice in selecting a new vector of development in the thousand years of their history. They had to accomplish the most difficult task: how to safeguard their own values, not to squander undeniable achievements, and confirm the viability of Russian democracy. We had to find our own path in order to build a democratic, free and just society and state.

When speaking of justice, I am not of course referring to the notorious “take away and divide by all” formula, but extensive and equal opportunities for everybody to develop. Success for everyone. A better life for all.

In the ultimate analysis, by affirming these principles, we should become a free society of free people. But in this context it would be appropriate to remember how Russian society formed an aspiration for freedom and justice, how this aspiration matured in the public mind.

Above all else Russia was, is and will, of course, be a major European power. Achieved through much suffering by European culture, the ideals of freedom, human rights, justice and democracy have for many centuries been our society’s determining values.

It is bordering on dishonesty, to take that one sentence out of that context and use it as the capstone of an accusation that Putin wants to get the USSR back. It obvious that he is saying the Russian people are not doomed to become slaves or failures, they have come through this disaster and will grow again; freedom and democracy are possible for them. Ex tenebris lux.

Text of the speech in Russian (http://archive.kremlin.ru/appears/2005/04/25/1223_type63372type63374type82634_87049.shtml) in English (http://archive.kremlin.ru/eng/speeches/2005/04/25/2031_type70029type82912_87086.shtml)

6. More quotations.

Speaking of freedom and democracy, if one must quote Putin, why not this one? “History proves all dictatorships, all authoritarian forms of government are transient. Only democratic systems are intransient.” (“Russia at the turn of the millennium” 1999). Interesting point, isn’t it? Democracies will outlive dictatorships, no matter how tough the former appear at the beginning.

What’s he mean by “democracy”? “Authoritarianism is complete disregard for the law. Democracy is the observance of the law.” (Interview with reporters, 24 Dec 2000). Depends on the laws, of course, but not a silly or trivial statement, is it?

Or, if we want his opinion on the USSR, how about this one? “In the Soviet Union, for many decades, we lived under the motto, we need to think about the future generation. But we never thought about the existing, current, present generations. And at the end of the day, we have destroyed the country, not thinking about the people living today.” (Putin, press conference in Washington, 16 Sept 2005, White House website). The failure of the USSR was built-in from the start.

I could go on – I have a file of quotations collected over the years – Putin has said a lot about a lot of things. Almost all of it carefully considered and embedded in a deep and broad context. But I’ll stop at one more:

“Our goals are very clear. We want high living standards and a safe, free and comfortable life. We want a mature democracy and a developed civil society. We want to strengthen Russia’s place in the world. But our main goal, I repeat, is to bring about a noticeable rise in our people’s prosperity.” (Address to the Federal Assembly, 26 May 2004”.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 23 DECEMBER 2021

Happy Christmas, so to speak, as it were, sort of. Let’s hope.

ULTIMATUM. Moscow has had enough. “Do they really think we do not see these threats [угроз]? Or do they think that we will just stand idly watching threats to Russia emerge? This is the problem: we simply have no room to retreat“. Excellent backgrounder from Doctorow. Here they are: draft USA/Russia treaty and draft Russia/NATO agreement. Short summary: after enumerating all the agreements these people have signed up to (remember all the stuff about “Rules-Based International Order”?) the drafts flesh out the principle that security is mutual. Neither should make the other nervous; if one party feels threatened, the issue will be resolved by negotiation. Neither is to station nuclear weapons outside its territory (which means the USA will have to pull back); no further expansion of NATO. Or to put it another way, USA/NATO must formally commit in writing to what they promised back then: “U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous ‘not one inch eastward’… was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders… according to declassified documents…”. Maybe Washington hears. USN seems to get it. We stand at the edge.

OR ELSE. All ultimatums have an “Or Else” – possibilities that I see. Two points – Russia will not “invade” Ukraine – it is a huge decaying, lawless, collapsed, unstable liability and Russia doesn’t want to rescue it, pay for it or police it. (This has been clear to me for years.) But it will respond powerfully to any foolishness from the Ukronazis. Second, stopping Nord Stream only costs Moscow money (it has plenty: USD620 billion-worth) but it will cost Germany much more.

TREATIES. There were four key Cold War arms control treaties, negotiated with much effort. The CFE Treaty controlled conventional weapons. The INF Treaty banned medium range nuclear weapons. START regulated the big nuclear weapons. Open Skies, the least of the four, allowed inspection flights (Moscow withdrew Saturday). All that remains is a feeble version of START. For all their deficiencies they kept the lid on things and created a level of trust and interaction. All were killed by Washington (blaming Moscow of course). This is part of Moscow’s motive to force a re-start.

KENNAN saw it all coming a quarter of a century ago: “a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs”.

GUNS. Since last Sitrep: super anti-submarine torpedo, Okhotnik dropping PGM, RPV shooting down helicopter target, mass production of Tsirkon begun, two new SSNs and two new Airborne regiments.

CORRUPTION. University report suggests extensive kickbacks in state contracts.

JUST NUKES AND OIL. A large maternity centre opened in Khanty-Mansi Region.

PUTIN PRESS CONFERENCE. I’ll cover it next Sitrep. Summary from Sputnik.

BATTLE ON THE ICE MEMORIAL. Check it out. Powerful. Speaking of Russia’s attitude today…

RUSSIA/CHINA. The two presidents talk (Kremlin) (Beijing). Xi: “China and Russia need to launch more joint actions to uphold the security interests of the two sides more effectively. China and Russia need to step up coordination and collaboration in international affairs, be more vocal on global governance”. Washington should understand that Beijing is a co-signer of Moscow’s ultimatum.

MH17. The Dutch “trial” hops along to its pre-ordained conclusion.

WESTERN VALUES™. CSIS comes to call. Knowing what my American colleagues went through, and knowing that when Shere Khan growls, Tabaqui obeys, I informed SCF that I would stop writing for them and thanked them – always published what I sent, never tried to shape it, never changed a word and always treated me right. More from Ron Paul’s site.

NUGGETS FROM THE STUPIDITY MINE. This takes the cake – boy oh boy when we do a whole bunch of stuff that there’s no way we ever will, you’ll be sorry then, you nasty people!

RUSSIA-UKRAINE RELATIONS. A Levada poll shows some interesting results. (Googlish) To me the most important finding is that about half of each think relations should be those of separate countries but without visa and customs barriers. (I suspect the Kremlin gets its views about Ukraine from sources like this rather than opeds in the WaPo or Guardian. Where does the White House get its do you suppose?)

UKRAINE. Zelensky likes to live dangerously – he’s shutting down the largest opposition party, attacked one of the plutocrats and decided to charge his predecessor with treason. Whole thing will probably blow up soon. In the cold.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer